Today, I’m taking the “easy way out” again for blog day. Instead of rambling about some aspect of writing or my work, I’m going to share the first chapter of POSSIBLY, TEXAS.
Coming out in March, 2022, POSSIBLY TEXAS is about:
When his free-spirited mother decides he’s getting too old for a life on the road with her, sixteen-year-old Jordan Burke is sent back home to live with his stepfather in the quirky town of Possibly, Texas. Jordan hasn’t seen his stepfather in several years, and they don’t exactly hit it off immediately. Left to his own devices, he has nothing to do but reacquaint himself with the town his mother left behind years ago. Almost immediately, Jordan begins to wonder why his mother would want to leave Possibly, why everyone in the town is so weird, and what the boy with Poliosis is building in the barn by Susurrus Creek.*
*official blurb to come later
So, download, read, enjoy. I hope.
Let me know in the comments (or on the Twitter posts) what you think.
After this initial 3 part series ran at the end of PRIDE Month, I was thrilled with the reception it received. What came after was even more humbling. I’ve had quite a few older members of the LGBTQIA community reach out privately and independently with more stories. Reading them has been educational, for sure, but it has been humbling and heartbreaking and cheerful and…everything.
Today, with permission from the author, I bring you an essay from a 75-year-old queer man, Russ.
Russ is a reader I struck up an email friendship with during the pandemic. It has lasted almost a year now–and I hope it continues for a very long time.
Today, I will let Russ’s own words describe to you what it was like to be born and grow up during the 40s onward, to serve during Vietnam, and come out later in life. In his essay, he’ll explain how the COVID pandemic led to him suddenly voraciously consuming all of the gay media he could get his hands on.
It’s only 1250 words, so it’s a quick read–but so important.
Enjoy. But also, absorb.
Musings: June/July 2021
Over the last couple of years…and especially throughout the pandemic…I have been voraciously reading all types of gay literature, from the erotic to the romantic, covering the young and the old. I’ve also watched nearly every movie and TV show with gay content or characters during this time period. I haven’t enjoyed it all, but I have found it mostly satisfying and even inspirational occasionally. In doing so, I have virtually quit reading “straight” literature or watching “ordinary” TV. My best guess is that I have read over 100 of such books, either in Kindle or soft cover form. (It would be disingenuous of me to leave out that I have watched a fairly large number of gay porn movies, also.) Over this past week, I have begun to reflect on why this is happening to me, a 75-year-old gay man, who has spent most of his life and all of his formative years striving to lead the best straight life possible. What I’ve written below is my attempt to account for this fascination with all things gay. I suppose in some ways, this is a justification for my behavior, in spite of my new found defiance about not having to “explain” myself. Regardless, I should start at the beginning of my life in order for this to make the best sense possible.
Although I was born in 1946, my formative years really span from about 1950 to 1968. I lived in rural Michigan, where everyone was white, and nearly everyone was Protestant. Catholics were few and far between, and Jewish folks really were unheard of. There was one Jewish kid in my senior class of 255, and I honestly didn’t really understand what that even meant. We didn’t have even one black student in the entire school system when I graduated. In short, everything was white-normative, Protestant-normative, and absolutely hetero-normative. Norms dictated by these conventions were decades old and not ever questioned. My community was the perfect storm for white, Protestant, heterosexuality. The lines were sharply drawn, and while consequences for crossing them were never explicitly stated, it was quite clear that ostracism was the minimum punishment. (For example, I never told anyone that the Italian side of my family was Catholic. Just the word “Italian” was enough to cause suspicion.)
So, I grew up understanding the following: boys were supposed to date and marry girls; boys were supposed to be emotionally and physically tough; and boys never ever were supposed to touch one another unless it was in a team sport. All sex talk among boys was about girls, especially about their breast size and their willingness to “put out.” It was straight sex talk, which did not include discussions about kissing or any other form of intimacy. Although rarely mentioned, “queer” boys were considered abnormal and diseased. They were “sissies” and an aberration of all things male. Even when it was mentioned, there was no consideration for girls who might like girls. That was impossible! Gentler words such as “gay” or “bisexual” did not exist.
Making matters worse was the absence of any written or visual material which could help a gay kid find some understanding about same sex attraction and sexual urges. Even if there had been articles or books written, they were not to be found in the school or public libraries in my hometown.
However, there were a couple of reasonably enlightened experiences when I was in 9th grade and again when I was a senior. During the second semesters of those years, our school put us on buses and drove us to the county health department where we were separated by gender. Our all-boy group had a male instructor from the health department who really was quite good as I reflect back on this. He very patiently explained how our bodies, both male and female, were changing. He had slides to illustrate those changes. When he asked if we had questions, no one was brave enough to start the dialog. Finally, someone broke the ice, and an avalanche of questions ensued. I recall that the experiences for both years were instructive and positive. There were no lectures about the dire consequences of venereal diseases (the term used in the 60s) and unwanted pregnancies. Instead, the instructor gave us the information we requested without all the drama of religious prohibitions about sexual behavior. However, there very definitely was one element missing: what about boy-boy or girl-girl sexual behavior? There was no hint that that was even possible. While I found the classes positive and useful, I was still at a loss for understanding my particular sexual desires/needs.
So, there I was, stranded in sexual no-man’s-land with clear and uniformly enforced ideas about what was right and what was wrong sexually speaking, but with absolutely no idea about how to change or even if change was possible. I was stuck in utter isolation with only the rules of society to guide me. There was “The Normal,” and everything else was outside that box, making it deviant, undesirable, and probably illegal. (I’ve always loved Peter Shaffer’s play, “Equus,” because it so eloquently described how we constantly and without question make “sacrifices to the normal.”)
After my experience in Vietnam, I was concerned about the possibilities of PTSD, and there have been a few, which I mostly have overcome. However, it never occurred to me that growing up as a “deviant” in our culture was the strongest form of PTSD I might ever face. I’ve never heard that diagnosis applied to those of us who were forced to be invisible throughout our childhood and early adult years. However, I think it’s an appropriate diagnosis, and the consequences are certainly evident. I still hesitate and hold my breath a little when I tell someone I’m gay, and I am very selective with whom I share this information. I still find it difficult to hug another gay man except when behind closed doors. Holding hands or kissing in public even with my husband is probably never going to happen. I still find conversations with straight people asking about gay issues slightly uncomfortable, and I look closely to see if they are likewise uncomfortable. If so, I change the subject. I hesitate to go to gay themed movies with straight people because it always seems a little awkward and embarrassing. Secretly, I revel in gay men kissing and hugging, but I find it impossible to celebrate their easy intimacy publicly. I really hate that I’m like this! It’s the last vestige of internalized homophobia, and I can’t seem to shake it completely. Years and decades of being subjected to “The Normal” have shaped my soul. There is no surgery for this. Maybe the best I can do is to try every day to pave over the wound, but I still feel its sting.
And that’s why I voraciously read gay themed books and search out TV shows/movies with gay characters and why I even watch gay porn. It’s my own personal struggle with “The Normal.” I’m making up for early indoctrination, when I couldn’t even dream of a world like we have today, a world with gay literature, gay movies, and real live gay people, some of whom are on the public stage. I’m famished, and I aim to eat heartily until the pain of decades lost has been alleviated. Then, there will be a new “normal,” one of my own invention, not requiring sacrifices.
But the day for pre-orders is finally here! You can pre-order the book on Amazon here (paperbacks and hardbacks will be available to order a few days before the ebook drops).
BRIEFLY BUDDIES tells the story of Dustin Blanchard, an 18-year-old new adult who just graduated high school and is in his last summer before university, who has never been laid. One drunken night, he and his best friend, Miguel, decide that if Dustin couldn’t get laid through his own skills and swagger, he should turn to a professional. What ensues is a slight comedy of errors–heavy on the comedy.
This marks my first return to erotica since BULLY–so I hope my readers enjoy it just as much…or more! I definitely think it’s just as exciting and sexy!
To help you decide if it’s something you might love, here’s the official blurb:
Being a gay teen can be difficult, but for Dustin Blanchard, it’s been pretty boring, actually. In less than twenty-four hours he’s going to graduate from high school. His parents and friends have always given him their full support and unconditional love. He’s always had plenty of friends in school, he’s attractive, always gotten good grades, and he’s headed into a new chapter of life—university after his last summer of working at a local ice cream joint. His life has been…blessed.
There’s just one thing. He’s never had a boyfriend. Never gotten laid. Never even been kissed. Well, not like that, anyway. So, life has been good, but it’s been boring. When he came out, Dustin imagined his own rom-com, teenage, coming-of-age scenario playing out, finding a boyfriend in high school, and being crowned dual Kings of the Prom.
Nothing ever works out the way he imagines, though, and he’s getting pretty tired of it.
On the night of his graduation, Dustin and his friend, Miguel, come up with a plan while sharing a few beers swiped from the neighborhood barbecue. If you can’t get laid through skill and swagger of your own, you can always turn to a professional. All you need is the internet and a device.
So, buzzed from the beers, Dustin logs onto Briefly Buddies to find the perfect guy to help him achieve his first real gay experience.
And that’s where everything really started to go wrong…
BRIEFLY BUDDIES drops on August 6th, 2021 and will be available in ebook, paperback, and hardback formats.
A.J.: I really do feel optimistic about it. I think with increased visibility/understanding/acceptance, many people are opening their minds to the reality that there are LGBTQIA people everywhere, whether out or not. I’m especially seeing this in the younger generations, who will be the lawmakers, leaders, and influencers someday soon. Let’s get the Equality Act passed ASAP!
You can beat us down, imprison us, disown us, take away our jobs, homes, or even kill us. You won’t stop us. Ever.~ Allen
Allen: I do. I have faith in our LGBTQIA community leaders and community members that we’ll fight until there’s nothing left to fight for. Some days the world seems incredibly bleak for LGBTQIA people—especially in massively conservative countries. We’re a resilient people, though. You can beat us down, imprison us, disown us, take away our jobs, homes, or even kill us. You won’t stop us. Ever. I think it’s so important to listen to our LGBTQIA elders. Hear their stories. Learn our history. So we know how to continue to fight effectively for equality and to stamp out persecution in all of its forms.
Anne: I don’t know. I want to feel optimistic. But the discourse around PRIDE becomes more toxic every year. It’s heartbreaking to watch people from our community align themselves with the transphobic evangelicals to exclude trans people, especially trans People of Color and trans children. It’s like those who would make that devil’s bargain are blind to their own exploitation.
Charlie: Mostly, I would say I am very optimistic, although I think the Trump administration set us back big time, because it really brought out the bigots in ways that we have not seen in decades. It’s seems as it beyond ok to be so bigoted, that it comes across as the norm when it is not. I think we still have big progress we have to make, and especially in the arena of religious attitudes. There needs to be huge progress in regards to trans rights including but not limited access to surgery, medications and a myriad of issues so many are unaware of.
David: In the West, yes. Although the laws and acceptance gay people have fought and strived for over the past 50 or more years can easily be overturned by rogue authoritarian governments or influential people in power. In other parts of the world, where stigmatizing minorities as the harbingers of doom and all that is wrong in their societies, will continue until those regimes relinquish their grip and the wealth they cling on to is driven downwards and the lives of ordinary people are improved. In some countries the laws their governments use to implement homophobia are, ironically, based on old laws introduced by us in colonial times.
Dee: I do. There is representation for the community and intelligent upcoming speakers that speak change. Fact based education is flowing freely and that in itself will spark change.
But with every push we make, there is going to be a push back.~ Estebán
Estebán: Very much so. Just looking back over my life and seeing how far we have come. In my youth, I couldn’t even imagine us achieving what we have. When I was in my 20s, Civil Ceremonies were the thing. It felt like that was the best we were going to get, so we made it work. The idea that marriage between two women or two men was inconceivable. There are all these amazing out Trans performers out there being lifted up and supported. Granted there is still a lot of work there that needs to happen still. But, seeing a Transwoman receive an award in Hollywood is breathtaking. 20 years ago, I never thought something like that could ever happen. But with every push we make, there is going to be a push back. So, it won’t be easy and the further we get along, it will get tougher, because many people don’t like change. They see everything as an attack on themselves, when realistically, the things we want and deserve, really won’t have any impact on their lives. So yes, I do believe 10 years from now, things will be better than they are now, and 20 years will be beyond my imagination at this moment. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to experience that when I was younger, but I would not want those who come after me, to ever endure what we went through growing up.
Eugene: Yes. Politics is downstream from culture, and I believe that for the most part, the culture is changing in ways favorable to us.
…as trans people are in the crosshairs, our whole community is in danger, because none of us are free until we are all free. ~ Hadrian
Hadrian: I am cautiously optimistic about LGBT rights. A majority of the country now feels that gay marriage and many other basic rights are acceptable. But the current wave of anti-trans legislation shows there is a strong desire to persecute trans people. And as long as trans people are in the crosshairs, our whole community is in danger, because none of us are free until we are all free. There are many signs that democracy itself is under threat in this country, and if democracy is undermined by American fascists, the whole LGBT community will be in danger, because fascists will always hate queer people, because we undermine the rigid gender roles that are so important to fascism.
Jean-Christophe: Right now if I base my feelings on what’s going on in Europe, I can only be hugely pessimistic. No action was taken – except for private initiatives – to save Chechen gays who were assassinated right and left by Putin’s puppet there. No action was ever taken by the European Union in retaliation for this horrendous murders. No one reacted when Chechnya’s most celebrated pop star came out and was pushed from the top story of a building by his own family! Right now Poland and Hungary, two members of the E.U., have enacted homophobic laws (not to speak of dictatorial actions taken against their justice, media …). So far, neither the European Council’s Chief, nor the President of the European Union have had so much as a press release on those issues. The European Union is a waste and as we had as a community hopes that it would help us grow in a protected environment it is exactly the contrary that happens. In Nigeria gay hunting is a reality (and I won’t even report the horrendous way some are murdered). In Turkey, a French citizen has been imprisoned for drug possession … and was outed to the general population of the prison where he is. I let you imagine his ordeal. What did effectively Macron do? Nothing. He even went last week to kiss Erdogan’s ass. In Morocco it’s fine to spend hundreds of euros on street hustlers (and that’s a large part of the black maret) as long as you don’t make too much “noise” or else you are being sent to jail under some Islamic rules you’ve “broken” or trumped up charges. (Just as a reminder: some of the best known Persian poets of the Golden Age dedicated their work to boys and/or even celebrated gay love).
I admit that the Trump years and influence have scared me. ~ Kevin
Kevin: I admit that the Trump years and influence have scared me. It felt like we were maybe moving backward instead of moving forward. I am very hopeful, though, because of the generation coming of age now, who don’t seem to care if someone is LGBTQIA+. To my nieces, having a gay uncle was normal and no big deal.
Lyndizzle: Well, I’ve been pessimistic about it all my life, and I’m very aware that if fascism makes a comeback then we’re all very vulnerable. (Berlin was the gayest city in the world in 1929). But, there’s not much joy in worrying. So, I think I do feel optimistic. I never thought I’d see gay marriage, but here we are. Things have changed amazingly in my lifetime and I’m not even that old. Young trans people have the language to explain their feelings, and in many places can be who they are. People in the Pacific, Africa and other colonized regions are working to overturn colonial-era anti-gay and anti-queer laws. I’m aware, though, that in the UK and many parts of the US, backward steps are being taken. Things are still terrible for queer people in many countries. We need to keep standing together.
Marcus: As long as there are bigoted people out there (i.e. until eternity), there will always be setbacks, but at the end of the day I do believe the long arc of the moral universe bends toward justice.
Maestro: Yes. I think that the progress we’ve made will be difficult to turn back. But I do worry about the Supreme Court swing to the right.
Matt: YES. Because look at how far we’ve come in even just the past 10 years. A hell of a way to go still, but…. And KIDS: they are the future and a majority of them are accepting. The societal norm reinforces acceptance now (more so…), I believe we’re hitting critical mass on this.
Anti-trans laws have been passed, queer story books destroyed, and there is an overwhelming conservatism rampant with far-right movements which is going to make it very difficult for LGBTQIA youth to thrive.~ Maxime
Maxime: Possibly in some countries, but not where I live. Anti-trans laws have been passed, queer story books destroyed, and there is an overwhelming conservatism rampant with far-right movements which is going to make it very difficult for LGBTQIA youth to thrive. With the new law they have passed, young people under 18 will not have any access to information on LGBTQIA topics, and educating them on this is forbidden.
Melissa: I don’t. We have an election coming up and if the Conservatives get in, it’s going to be a shit show. Their leader is a Trump wannabe who thinks women shouldn’t have control of their own bodies and that conversion camps are a positive thing.
‘Nathan: I think it’s a long, ongoing, exhausting road and we will—as always—have to right for every step we end up making. I worry about the influx of TERF rhetoric within the community (as well as without) will harm our trans queer families. I worry about the way BIPOC queers and especially BIPOC trans queers are so often the target, and how many levels of systemic changes need to be made to make forward motion there. And I worry about queer people elsewhere, in countries where we are still killed just because we exist. So, “optimistic” isn’t the world I’d use, no, so much as I hope we can remain determined, focused, and retain the joys we have while not forgetting our anger, outrage, and how to use our power—especially those of us in places and positions where queer voices do have power—to keep pushing forward.
The kids are alright. ~ Owen
Owen: Yes. The Boomers are increasingly accepting and dying out anyway. The older Gen-X are sometimes bigots and are worryingly taking so many countries of the Global North down more problematic paths at the moment. But Millennials and Gen-Z are surprisingly queer themselves, and generally accepting and supportive when not. The kids are alright.
Phaeton: Oh, I am the poster child of hope for queer progress. We have come so far, I dare say that the social justice movement could take a page from our book of success. If this civilization continues, and there isn’t a major setback, we will reach equality, and transform the world into a better, more inclusive space.
It’s clear to see that the far right is preparing one last battle.~ Rob
Rob: I AM optimistic. I think we’ve passed the tipping point of general acceptance, but it’s clear to see that the far right is preparing one last battle.
Roberta: I do because history shows positive progress in furthering the rights of minorities. For instance, women and Black voting rights.
S.A.: Yes I do. The younger generations are starting to remove labels and restrictions on themselves and I hope that it is something that they will pass on.
Shai: Absolutely. The majority of people are realizing they know someone LGBTQ+ and that their friend/coworker/relative’s rights matter. There is backlash, but that is just the stage we are in. I am, unlike my younger friends, pleased by the corporatisation of Pride. I want to see that rainbow shit at Target! For me, visibility is a sign of acceptance. We are getting there. So much has improved from my childhood. This does not mean that there aren’t plenty of people in religious or rural areas who struggle just as much as I did. But now there are online communities. There is mechandise. And to me, that means the scale has tipped to where supporting queer communities is more profitable than rejecting them. And it absolutely was not always that way. And although the backlash is strong, trans folk are being acknowledged as existing. We are seeing people getting tired of “all rep is good rep” in movies and we are demanding our share of happy endings. So we are headed down the right path. It just takes time.
Urban: I do in the Western World, even though the US stands out here being so religious with all the bad implications of that. In Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa things are too bad or worsening.
Vince: I truly do!!! Just the changes I’ve seen since the 70’s have been amazing and it’s only getting better!! To be able to get married, openly serve in the military and to not be so easily discriminated against….we’ve come a long way, baby LOL
We must continue to hold our leaders accountable.~ W.D.
W.D.: Based on what I have seen in this country over the past four years, we cannot become complacent and take those rights for granted. We must continue to hold our leaders accountable. At the end of the day, this is a journey, not a destination. We may have come a long way, but there is still much work to do.
A.J.: Discrimination, violence and equal rights.
Allen: Two things – government and ourselves. It is so important for LGBTQIA people to seek out positions of leadership and power so that we can direct the course of our own destiny and stop people who would abuse their power to discriminate and persecute. Governments across the world don’t do enough to fight for and protect LGBTQIA rights, so we have to get in their faces and demand it all day every day. Additionally, the biases and prejudices we have in our own community must be addressed. The racism and transphobia are of the utmost importance. Most of our progress as a community can be traced back to Black Trans women, Black queer people, and Drag Queens. They deserve our respect and love. We cannot be truly free from persecution or seek equality in this world if we can’t first love each other for whoever and whatever we are.
Anne: The biggest issue facing the LGTBQIA+ community is the fracturing of the community surrounding intersectionality and liberation. We are so much stronger together. Our detractors, those who wish to see us ostracized and shut out of public life, are working to make us enemies of one another. But to make that happen in our community, each of us must recognize our privilege.We also must confront the systems within and outside of the queer community that reinforces oppression. We must learn when it’s our turn to speak and when it’s our responsibility to shut up and support those whose experiences need to be heard.
Twenty-nine trans people have been killed this year already and where is the rage?~ Charlie
Charlie: I think the trans issue is the one that needs addressed most, as most people tend to look the other way or not even want to address it. Twenty-nine trans people have been killed this year already and where is the rage? Where are the protests? I think what needs to have happen is something with the power that became ACT UP, or even the Compton Cafeteria Riot in San Francisco in August 1966, three years before Stonewall but was the very first “focused” gay riot in the US. Until something of that magnitude happens we have a real fight ahead of us and I think the majority of it is the lack of understanding about gender identity issues of the standard populace. It doesn’t help matters when someone involved with the Stonewall organization goes on Twitter and says that Trans rights are NOT gay rights. I mean seriously, does she think the T in LGBTQIA+ is invisible or what?
We need more independent LGBTQ+ bookshops and small presses, and exclusively LGBTQ+ spaces otherwise our voices will simply disappear, unheard.~ David
David: Its divergence into the mainstream and loss of our culture. Equality is great, don’t get me wrong, but we mustn’t let our unique queerness be taken over or watered down to fit a commonality that isn’t ours. Where have all the exclusive gay bookshops and small publishers gone? They have been sucked into the homogenized heteronormal. All publishers have a few openly LGBTQ+ authors on their catalogues, and the relative niche commerciality of such authors mean that publishers and agents do not need anymore. We need more independent LGBTQ+ bookshops and small presses, and exclusively LGBTQ+ spaces otherwise our voices will simply disappear, unheard.
Dee: I believe in God but organized religion that spreads hidden hate based messages can do a lot of damage. And they have. I think this is the biggest obstacle the Gay community faces.
Estebán: Religion. Now, let me clarify, I am not against religion. I understand how it can be important to people and a big part of their culture and identity. Where the problem comes is with specific people who use it to mask their agendas. Both politically and socially. This is not a new concept, look back at history. People in power have always used it to justify their actions, especially when it comes to pushing people down into submission.
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.~ Eugene
Eugene: Preventing our gains from being rolled back. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
Jean-Christophe: Being recognize for what we are: different, many, diverse … and not going anywhere now or ever! Not tolerated as you have to tolerate rainy weather, a flat tire or your cell phone battery dying on you.
Kevin: I find myself mostly concerned with the rights of my transgender brothers and sisters, and I am horrified by the killing of transgender women of color. I think there lies our current battleground.
Lyndizzle: We have a tendency to gatekeep, squabble and get up our own asses when we need to keep working together to make the world a) safe and b) wonderful for all queer people everywhere. If you are of European descent, that means also taking an active interest in supporting local people trying to overturn anti-queer legislation and practice that is a colonial legacy.
Marcus: Bigotry and a lack of unity. If you love your gay rights but don’t support trans rights etc., GTFO.
Maestro: Division among itself.
Matt: The vitriol still being spewed by religions and politicians, all currying influence. They keep finding new ways to try to poison minds.
Maxime: The same rampant hate and exclusion talk we get from “straight” people, and it is saddening. That you are not “queer enough”. As somebody in a “straight-passing” relationship, and being bisexual, I got a lot of discrimination if I came out to people, so I basically stopped. The constant bad jokes and the teasing are probably the worst. I am not hiding it though, and if somebody asks, I will give an honest response, but I got tired of justifying myself.
Melissa: The fallout that’s being felt around the world by Trump having been in office. It’s given the bigots more confidence.
‘Nathan: I can answer this with a lot of specifics, but I think all those specifics come back to the non-inheritability thing. When we come out as a queerling, we often don’t know what we don’t know. It feels like we’re inventing everything from scratch, because our history and our culture isn’t passed on to us the way it is in many other marginalized identities. And given how non-queer history tends to bury our stories, remove our voices, and even actively un-tell our truths (anyone who read queer obituaries in the 80’s and 90’s can remember well how biological families untold the most basic truths of so many lives) learning about what came before becomes a self-directed activity that’s hard work and endless and exhausting, especially when a queerling has to focus on the basics of survival, as so many of us do. So I think fighting past that exhaustion, making sure our stories are told, noting the difference between “there were no queer books when I was a kid” (which isn’t true) and “no one ever told me there were queer books when I was a kid” (which is the truth), for example, is a huge deal. We have to figure out how to tell our own histories, understand how our language and labels and movements and organizations got us this far, and build on what came before, even while we educate in the other direction as well, learning from these brilliant young queer people who are out and proud and doing the work—and maybe have no idea we even existed.
Owen: The religious right is pouring its money into fomenting transphobia as a wedge issue to divide cis-queers from our trans family — and into culture wars more generally. Particularly in the UK and US, this means that trans people are being driven out of the public sphere and having gender-affirming healthcare removed as an option. This can only lead to further trauma and, frankly, losing people to suicide.
The future of queer rights is dependent on democracy. We must defend it with our lives, for they depend on it.~ Phaeton
Phaeton: The same danger that threatens the Free World… conservatism. The political dissension that is fueled by nefarious totalitarian governments around the world (not in question, an unfortunate reality) using social media to divide and conquer democracies. The future of queer rights is dependant on democracy. We must defend it with our lives, for they depend on it.
Rob: We have a tendency to eat our own. This can mean just the simple way new people enter the community without mentorship, but it also means sometimes holding people to a much higher standard, which isn’t necessarily bad, but we do have much more dangerous enemies. Let’s eliminate them, then work on a progression to perfection.And addiction and mental illness are an epidemic we are not fighting strong enough
Roberta: One hundred percent, complete acceptance. Being able to fill out gender or family status on forms, seek medical treatment, any regular, day-to-day tasks, and not having one person question or give a negative look, or treat a member of the queer community differently from someone not queer.
S.A.: Rights will always be an issue.
This “not good enough” has transferred to people’s gender identity.~ Shai
Shai: Infighting. My son does not like being part of the LBGTQIA community because he sees Ace exclusion online and feels people are gatekeeping and undermining someone’s right to define their own identity. There are tough questions that still need to be worked through. When I was younger, it was the notion of “bicurious,” that to be bi you had to take action…attraction wasn’t good enough. This “not good enough” has transferred to people’s gender identity. Are they in transition, or just messing with what words “really” mean? Being agender, I don’t always get why it is so important. But I see this as the next battle already in progress.
Urban: The biggest threat to LGBTQIA rights is religious people of faiths/sects that are anti-LGBTQIA rights. They need to be liberalized and/or the societies secularized for big changes to happen.
Vince: Unfortunately I feel the biggest issue is and will be the Trans Community. They have everything the hardest! They’re even frowned upon by their own LGBT community in some cases and it seems most of the straight world has some sort of issue with them. It’s very sad and doesn’t seem to be getting better.
…the LGBTQIA community has yet to seriously address the racism within it, especially in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder.~ W.D.
W.D.: Many strides have been made in terms of support groups/organizations, Supreme Court decisions, and visibility, to name a few. However, as one who has experienced it, the LGBTQIA community has yet to seriously address the racism within it, especially in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Talking the talk is not the same as having those difficult conversations and walking the walk. In a town hall meeting held in Minneapolis last year immediately following George Floyd’s murder, the four steps whites must take in regard to anti-racism are: Read. Listen. Listen. Learn.
A.J.: Given the fact that no one really knows me, even some friends, this is a complicated question. I keep lots of things to myself mostly for self-preservation and also because of trust issues. I’m not out to my family, and even though they are mostly toxic to my mental health – incapable of unconditional love or any love for that matter – I’m not ready to completely give them up. Getting there though. I truly feel that having romantic love in my life is not in the future for me. I have trouble finding friends who are accepting for some reason, at least IRL, my online friends are the best though, and I treasure them! For someone to get to know me and understand me as a queer person, they would have to be willing to ask me the hard questions and stick around to understand and accept me after I answer them. This hasn’t happened yet, and I’m not optimistic that it will.
We all say the phrase “Love Is Love” but when a person who truly embodies that sentiment dares to be in a relationship that doesn’t necessarily look queer, we dismiss it.~ Allen
Allen: I’m married to a woman. I don’t necessarily label myself Bi or Pan, just queer. It’s the label that feels right to me. A lot of people don’t understand that I can be in my relationship and still be queer. I’m part of this community and pretty fucking vocal about it. To dismiss me as “ex-queer” or “not really queer” (though I do joke that I’m a “retired queer”) is insulting and counterproductive to what our community is about. We all say the phrase “Love Is Love” but when a person who truly embodies that sentiment dares to be in a relationship that doesn’t necessarily look queer, we dismiss it. “Queer” is not just Gay or Lesbian. “Queer” is about covering everything on the sexual and gender spectrum that isn’t 100% strictly heterosexual or binary. Learn it. Live it. Love it. My wife and I make each laugh all day every day. We care for each other. Support each other. She’s the first person I think of when I wake up each morning and the last person I think of before I fall asleep each night. People should simply wish that for each other and stop worrying if it’s “queer enough” to count.
…if you say you love me, then you love all of me, including my queerness.~ Anne
Anne: The most important thing to know about me, to understand my queerness, is that if you say you love me, then you love all of me, including my queerness. I don’t have space or energy for people who are not invested in the liberation of marginalized peoples. As a disabled person, I have just so much energy available to me each day, I’m committed to spending it on growth.
Charlie: First is this concept of full acceptance by those who are around us as either friends or family. Next is my commitment to my friends and “created family” as my blood family shunned me when my mother died four years ago, without my realizing she was the glue that made them civil. Next I think is when my friends and “family” need me I don’t give a cookie cutter response but this very broad based 360 degree response from all angles that is nonjudgmental, non-confrontational, and very open minded as who am I to judge l, anyone when I’m living in a glass house. I think the life I’ve lived and the things I’ve lived through also help me be that way as, henny, as they say I’ve been THROUGH it! But it gives me unique insight to anything anybody comes to me with.
David: As an older single gay man, I am still looking for that special someone. I have not given up, but I realize my opportunities for meeting a long-term partner are diminishing as the pool in which we swim becomes smaller and smaller. Getting older, i.e. beyond fifty, is a great life achievement in itself and I still have the same passions and interest in people, art, writing and life, as I always have – being gay is just a part of who I am. The vessel I’m sailing in is just not what it was. Gosh, when I look back on photos of me at 25, I cannot believe how unconfident I was in how I looked and what I had to offer. If I could go back and tell that kid anything, I’d say, don’t be afraid.
Dee: I think it’s important to understand that I have a honest love for my family and friends.
We would ask someone if they were family. Straight people wouldn’t understand, but LGBTQ knew what we meant. ~ Estebán
Estebán: Though I am sexually attracted to men, I love being around people. When I came out, people were still using code words and phrases to recognize each other in public. For example, today we use They/Them as pronouns for people when they ask us, which is great. But in my youth, we played the “pronoun game.” We used They/Them as code when we wanted to talk about our relationships, but were still in the closet and didn’t want to share that much information. But the code that held the most meaning to me then was “Family.” We would ask someone if they were family. Straight people wouldn’t understand, but LGBTQ knew what we meant. Because, when you came out, you would inevitably discover your new family. I have my blood family; they exist in this world. They are not all a part of my life, which is fine with me. But my family is those around me that I care for and care for me back. They are friends, they are blood, they are those who endured challenges along with me. Family isn’t a thrown-around word for me, family is those people who have come into my life and I love, with no judgment. Found family is a reoccurring theme in my writings.
Eugene: Like everyone else, I am a multifaceted person shaped by individual experiences, including, but not limited to, individual experiences that happened because of my sexual orientation. Being queer is not the sum total of my existence, any more than being cishet is the sum total of yours.
Kevin: The most important thing is that it’s not a choice. It’s not anybody else’s business who I love or how I identify. It’s also important that we’re not that different from each other, regardless of our sexuality or how we identify. We’re all human beings doing our best to live happy, loving, and productive lives.
Lyndizzle: I’ve always just wanted to be able to be ordinary but I strongly support the space for people to be wonderful if that’s who they are. Being queer has shaped my choice of career, whether or not I had children, and quite a lot of learnt behaviour, helpful and unhelpful. It’s also meant I’ve met loads of people I wouldn’t have met, and has given me a better understanding of why safe spaces exist and how to behave if you are invited into someone else’s. So… it’s been an important influence that has shaped who I am.
My struggle and experience of oppression is what has given me compassion for others.~ Maestro
Maestro: Being gay, although not the only defining factor of who I am, is inextricably bound to my life experience. Reticence to express love and affection in parts of the country and world for fear of violence remains a part of my psyche. My struggle and experience of oppression is what has given me compassion for others. It is what prompts me to pursue kindness in all I do. In that regard, being gay is a tremendous gift.
Matt: As with anyone/everyone, I am more than the sum of peoples’ assumptions, expectations, and what makes them comfortable.
Maxime: As I said, only a few select people know about me as a queer person. There is no point trying to explain any of this to my family, they would not understand. What people need to understand about me as a queer person is that this is how I feel fully myself, how I want to live my life, not lying to myself anymore. I lived in lies long enough. Whatever I have left of my life, I want to live it true to who I am. People need to know that I am loving, kind and accepting, and that I am just the same person they’ve always known. Just love and let people live their true life. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.
Melissa: I’m absolutely no different than a straight person deep down. I still get up in the morning and go to work. I pay my taxes and need to shop for groceries. HOWEVER…I do belong to a marginalized community that they will never understand.
‘Nathan: The freedoms of queerness are a strength I value so much, especially in how it lets me look at “how it’s always been done” or “tradition” and come to the conclusion, so often, that both are incredibly over-rated at best, or flat-out dangerous. Being queer cracked the glossy coat so much of our society puts on “the normal.” Family isn’t inherently good. Friends won’t necessarily—or even often—be lifelong. Love will not solve everything. None of those statements are jaded, or bitter: they’re good things: you should escape bad families, you should change and grow and sometimes let go of people who will be happier elsewhere, and putting the onus on love to heal trauma isn’t fair to anyone involved.
What I do not openly reveal to the people around me, is that my empathy is all-consuming within me.~ Phaeton
Phaeton: Being queer is not the only thing I am, but I will say it is the foundation of my consciousness. Not because I would have liked it to be this way, but because the world around me sculpted me into this shape, making me understand that as I stepped outside of the mainstream, I achieved a view that is rarified, and unique. What I do not openly reveal to the people around me, is that my empathy is all-consuming within me. I will bleed out to help people, but that is also a handicap in a world of vampires, whose needs will drain you past your reserves. I think many queer people will read this and understand it instinctively.
Rob: My gayness permeates all aspects of my life. It isn’t a defining factor in who I am, but it has shaped all those other factors. I choose the people in my life, be they family or friends. We are not obligated to have anyone around us except those we choose (yes, this speaks to my privilege).
Roberta: Everything about me is not typical. I’ve discovered truths about myself later in life, which means I may have made decisions in the past that weren’t authentic and that have lasting effects.
S.A.: I will always stand up for what I believe is right, even if that means I’m in the line of fire. We can only change when we become more comfortable with pushing our comfort zone and learning other’s stories.
Shai: Me? Probably that I am in the gray area on just about everything. I don’t always identify with a certain gender, romantic alignment, feeling regarding sexual activity. My family cannot understand not seeing everything in binary terms, and so little of my life is like that. They see gay people as someone with mixed up wiring. Not their fault, but not what it is supposed to be either. This is why I do not like “born this way” rhetoric. It implies no one would be gay if they could be straight instead. I simply cannot stand that logic.
Urban: That I am a man like many other men, a part of me just happens to be that I am married to another man; I fall in love with other men, I find other men attractive and when I have sex it is with another man.
Vince: Another tough one, damn you!! I fall in love easily (hence the Poly) and hard. I love my husband dearly and I love my friends almost as much if not more than my family. Straight or gay, it’s just the way I’m wired. I don’t think there’s a most important thing to understand me. I just am what I am and I happen to be gay while being me. I wouldn’t be much different if I were straight, other than probably having a wife and a few girlfriends on the side instead of all my partners being men!
W.D.: I am blessed to have a wonderful husband and son (yes, we are a modern family), a positive relationship with my family of origin, and even some LGBTQIA relatives. Know that I will demand respect. People need to know that where it counts, we are far more alike than we are different, and that comes from sharing our stories. It’s important not to judge someone before you get to know them, for what we give is what we receive.
You never have to prove your queerness, you are who you say you are full stop.~ A.J.
A.J.: Don’t worry about labeling yourself and then changing the label later if it no longer fits you. Gender and sexuality are spectrums for many people and can and do shift over time. You are NOT locked into anything, in fact you don’t even have to label yourself if you don’t feel comfortable doing it. You never have to prove your queerness, you are who you say you are full stop. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, it’s only for you to decide.
Allen: Move away from the gatekeeping—especially with labels and terminology. Focus on how you’re treated, not the terms used. Open your minds and hearts to the diversity of your community. The LGBTQIA community is one of the most diverse, most loving, most exciting, and welcoming communities to which you can belong. It’s okay to prefer certain terms and labels for yourself, but allow others the same privilege. Life’s hard enough, especially as a queer person. Don’t make it harder. Approach new relationships in the community with empathy, compassion, and 100% commitment to listening without judgment. You’ll be amazed at the humanity you’ll discover and you’ll make friendships that will last a lifetime.
Anne: Loving yourself and liberating yourself as a queer person is one of the most incredible journeys you can take, and it as terrifying as it is delightful. But most importantly, it is your journey. No one else can take it for you. It is a lifelong experience of change and growth.
Charlie: I think my biggest is something that Latrice Royale said on RuPaul’s Drag Race that in so many ways has become my mantra, “I want people to realize, it’s okay to mistakes, it’s okay to fall down, get up. Look sickening, and make them EAT IT!” Which says to me… be your self, be as fierce as you need to be and if they have an issue with it as my Gram used to say, “there’s the door, don’t let it you in the ass on your way out.” There’s no reason for their drama, and I realize that is the biggest issue to overcome but when we can then comes true freedom and release from all of this “stuff” nobody has any time for.
David: Don’t worry about losing people you think are terribly important in your life right now if you come out, because, chances are, even if you don’t come out, many of those people will disappear from your life altogether in a few years, and the ones that don’t will be the ones who will stick by you through thick and thin AND when you come out to them. They will love you for who you are, not who you happen to fancy.
You are exactly who you are suppose to be.~ Dee
Dee: Always stay true to yourself within yourself. Make the time to shut out the outside noise and appreciate your worth. You are exactly who you are suppose to be. When you choose to come out is up to your judgment and everyone has their own journey. I know the day is coming when coming out will no longer be a thing…you’re just who you are.
Estebán: Discovering who you are is not a simple process. It is an ongoing thing that never ends. Don’t feel like you arerequired to know perfectly who you are when you come out. Sometimes it is a process. Sometimes you learn new things about yourself and adjust. That is fine, just make sure you stay true to who you are and not what others want you to be. Pride at its core is about being yourself and standing up, being heard, and being proud of the person you are. And for those who think it is a daunting struggle, just remember my favorite quote from LM Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series. “Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
In case you find yourself wondering whether you are the only queer [fill in the blank], it is extremely unlikely that you are. ~ Eugene
Eugene: You are yourself and should be true to yourself. There is no one true way, and if being the “right kind of gay” does not come naturally to you, you owe it to no one to try to pretend otherwise. Queer communities can be as conformist as any others that you may have encountered, but you do not have to let others try to remake you in their own image. In case you find yourself wondering whether you are the only queer [fill in the blank], it is extremely unlikely that you are.
Hadrian: When you come out, don’t expect your parents and other loved ones to accept it right away. When you come out, you have usually spent months, if not years, processing and coming to terms with your identity. But for many parents, your coming out is only the beginning of their process. So they are where you were months or years ago. Your coming out may force them to rethink their ideas about who you are and who you will be, what kind of life you will have, and what kind of family you will build for yourself with a partner. So give them time to work through whatever feelings they may have and don’t expect them to fully accept your new (to them) identity. In an ideal world, they will get comfortable quickly and be able to show you that they still love and respect you, but our parents are not always ideal people any more than we are. So give them the time and patience that they need to fully process the news.
And for God’s sake–VOTE! ~ Kevin
Kevin: Life is short, so live it loud! Be there for each other. And for God’s sake–VOTE!
Lyndizzle: This is your life and your journey. Don’t be constrained by what other people expect or buy into a rigid orthodoxy of queerness. Love who you want, how you want, and stand with each other.
Maestro: Love yourself as you are. Don’t judge other LGBTQ+ people because they respond differently than you. Understand that we all have a unique story to tell, and we are the only ones who can fully understand our own journey. Know our history and upon whose shoulders you/we stand.
Marcus: Be yourself and love yourself. If you don’t love yourself, how can you expect somebody else to love you?
Matt: Don’t listen or give credence to voices that are anti-You. Being yourself is not a bad behavior like theft, it is not a sin like adultery. If you’re not hearing/reading/seeing pro-You messages, seek them out. There are a million people ready to talk. There are books, sites, groups, etc. For me books gave me a window to myself and made me feel seen and accepted before I ever said the words out loud.
Maxime: Just be you and be true to yourself. Even if you are not out. Deep in your heart, self-acceptance is the first step to live a true life. The only life you have.
Sprinkle some glitter on that shit and go be you!~ Melissa
Melissa: You’re exactly as queer as you’re supposed to be. Do NOT let other queers gatekeep you. Sprinkle some glitter on that shit and go be you!
‘Nathan: Once you’re safe, once you’re in the position, go find out the things you don’t even know you don’t know. It’s a never-ending quest, but start with your own country. Who was the first queer (fill in the blank) in your country? When was the first PRIDE (if there has been one)? Who organized it? And pay extra attention to who is telling you the answers, because so much of our past gets sanitized. Similarly, language—especially the words we use to describe ourselves—has changed a lot over the decades. Understand that queer people in their forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and older aren’t using the “wrong” words, they’re using the words they fought tooth and nail for. Queer. Dyke. FTM. These were banners we marched under, these were rallying cries and open arms for others like us. These were words often used against us in hate, yes, but the same could be said of nearly every word we’ve got, and while I understand some of those words might not be ones you’d ever use yourself, or maybe you even feel they’re the wrong word now, or that there are better words now, but they still matter, and they still have powerful meaning to queer elders.
Phaeton: Understand, you are the future of humankind’s evolution. You are the next step that will lead humanity to a new understanding in sociological interpretations of our potential development. Continue to challenge the boundaries of gender, for the conditions/restrictions placed upon humans to conform for no reason other than to fulfill the desires of others to oppress, is the profound lesson we are here to teach a future civilization.
You didn’t struggle through coming out to try to fit in or to change yourself to be like other queers.~ Rob
Rob: There’s no one way to be queer. You didn’t struggle through coming out to try to fit in or to change yourself to be like other queers. Be the best, authentic you that you can, and listen to yourself, because as time passes, that you will evolve.
Roberta: Do research and talk to other queer people because you may discover something about yourself you wouldn’t have otherwise.
S.A.: Listen to other’s stories, don’t seek to find something to add, just listen. Remind yourself that the most important relationship you will ever have is the one with the person you will have the longest relationship with: you.
Be unapologetically you. ~ Shai
Shai: People will find the stupidest reasons possible to not like you. There are people out there who won’t like you because your first name reminds them of their ex. Keep in mind that that is their problem, not yours, and do not change yourself for someone else. There are people out there who will like you as you are. More people than you think. Be unapologetically you.
Urban: Be yourself in all the ways you can be, safely, you don’t need to be in a certain way to be gay, they are just stereotypes that you don’t need to follow unless you want to or feel that it’s you!
Vince: Be true to yourself and be whatever you want to be, but only when you can do that comfortably and without risk of repercussions! It’s not worth the cracked ribs and bloody nose just cause you wanted to wear that dress out to the club!!!!
Always remember where you came from, and the people who were there for you from the beginning; cherish them.~ W.D.
W.D.: As a guest columnist for Wyatt O’Brian Evans, I wrote an article about what I could tell my younger self. Hence, the following:
It gets better.No matter how long it takes, never give up on your dream. It’s never too late and you are never too old to achieve it.God loves you. He knew you before you were even a thought, and He doesn’t make mistakes.Follow your passion. Your gifts will make room for you.Challenges and adversity can and will arise. The difference is in how you respond to it. If God can take you to it, He’ll take you through it.Treat people the way you want to be treated. What we give is what we receive.In kindness and success, find a way to help someone else. Pay it forward.Always remember where you came from, and the people who were there for you from the beginning; cherish them.