General

Don’t let National Coming Out Day pressure you into coming out

October 11 is National Coming Out Day and newsfeeds everywhere are filled with artistically themed rainbows, photos of same-sex couples kissing and heartwarming coming out videos. It’s a beautiful expression of pride and it’s enough to make any queer person want to announce their sexual orientation.

But you don’t have to come out today. 

If revealing your sexuality will put you at risk for violence, then don’t feel pressured into coming out.

If the thought of announcing your gender identity makes you want to hurt yourself, then don’t feel pressured into coming out.

If you’d lose your home or financial security due to your queerness, then don’t feel pressured into coming out.

If you just aren’t ready yet, then don’t feel pressured into coming out.

Only come out when you feel comfortable. It’s a highly personal and extremely delicate process that can never be rushed. Not all people are privileged enough to reveal their sexuality or gender identity but that doesn’t make them any less queer. You are not defined by the number of people who know you’re a member of the LGBTQ community. You are defined only by how you view yourself.

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It took me 21 years to come out to myself, 23 years to come out to my family and 27 years to come out to the world. In fact, this is actually my first time publicly celebrating National Coming Out Day.  I know how isolating today can be for those who desperately want to claim their queer identity but lack the ability to do so safely.

Continue reading “Don’t let National Coming Out Day pressure you into coming out”

History

Did homophobia cause the Salem witch trials?

Ugh, women. They can be real witches sometimes, am I right? 

I can just picture William Stoughton, the Chief Justice of the Special Court of Oyer and Terminer [aka where they prosecuted “witches” during the Salem Witch Trials], expressing this sentiment to his all male colleagues in the late 1600s.

Between February, 1692 and May, 1693, around 200 women and men were accused of practicing witchcraft. Instigated predominately by the strange behavior of Elizabeth “Betty” Parris, 9, Abigail Williams, 11, and Ann Putnam Jr., 11, intense paranoia seized the Massachusetts Bay Colony for 15 months. While only 20 people were actually put to death, 19 by hanging and 1 by crushing, the ramifications of the Salem witch trials completely transformed the village.

And internalized homophobia may have been a cause.  

Continue reading “Did homophobia cause the Salem witch trials?”

TV Shows

How Queer POC are Represented in Media

From oversexualization and being the neutered best friends to complete invisibility, people of color are often denied the multidimensional agency of their white queer counterparts.

There are characters here and there, but very few series are designed or centered around non-white queer folk. Additionally, people of color are rarely afforded the opportunity to head an entire program. Who wants to see that, right? Here, we’re going to acknowledge series germane not only to Queer people of color but, by proxy, to people in the LGBTQ community more broadly.

Noah’s Arc was the first scripted television show for the newly cemented, queer-focused network, Logos. It premiered in 2005, right after George W. Bush used his opposition to gay marriage to win the 2004 presidential election. Noah’s Arc redefined the way we tell stories of non-normative queer people.

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Created by Patrik-Ian Polk, an openly gay black film director and writer, Noah’s Arc followed the lives of four queer men of color: Noah, a sensitive writerly type working in Los Angeles as a screenwriter; Ricky, a promiscuous Latinx man who owned a clothing boutique on Melrose; Alex, a femme, married HIV/AIDS educator who served as the comedic center; And Chance, a stiff, elitist by-the-books economics professor with a blended family.

The series showed how they navigated love, career and friendship through the prism of their sexuality and the experiences it both afforded and kept from them. It touched on gay marriage, othering, being denied employment, the rigid world of Hollywood, straight-identified men who sleep with men, toxic masculinity, the Continue reading “How Queer POC are Represented in Media”

TV Shows

7 Best Bisexual Characters on TV

“Nobody is actually bisexual.” “Bisexual people are just not ready to accept that they’re gay.” “People are only bisexual now because it’s cool.” Unfortunately, these are real arguments that far too many bisexual people have been forced to endure. 

Bisexual people are often confronted with discrimination from both members of the LGBTQ community and the heterosexual community. My girlfriend is bisexual and I remind her constantly that her sexuality is valid. Just because she’s dating me doesn’t mean that she’s suddenly a lesbian.

We have to embrace our bisexual sisters, brothers and non-binary relatives in order to build a genuinely inclusive community. So, here are 7 of my favorite bisexual characters on TV!

1) Rosa Diaz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine

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This bad ass detective came out as bisexual in 2017 and all the queer girls swooned. While Rosa’s sexuality was immediately accepted by her coworkers, her family wasn’t as understanding. Both Rosa’s mother and father insisted that her bisexuality wasn’t real and that she’d end up married to a man in the end. Despite loving their child deeply, Rosa’s parents couldn’t understand the concept of choosing to be with a woman if you could be with a man.

2) Rich Dotcom, Blindspot 

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The TV show Blindspot is quickly becoming one of my favorites (and it’s not just because I find Jaimie Lauren Alexander stunningly beautiful.) The plot is riveting, the characters are diverse and sexual orientation isn’t seen as a big deal. This is most noticeable in the portrayal of Rich Dotcom, a notorious criminal, who is openly attracted to both men and women. When he’s not hitting on Jane Doe, Alexander’s character, he’s flirting with FBI agent Kurt Weller. Rich makes no attempt to obscure his sexual orientation and openly discusses his escapades regardless of who’s around. He’s unapologetically bisexual and I’m here for it.

3) Kat Sandoval, Madam Secretary 

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Sara Ramirez, who recently came out as bisexual herself, is no stranger to queer characters. She played Callie Torres on Grey’s Anatomy and now assumes the role of Kat Sandoval in Madam Secretary. Kat is a strong, openly bisexual woman who refuses to be limited by gender binaries. In fact, Ramirez says she hopes her character can “continue normalizing, strengthening, and celebrating these types of inclusive outcomes in the world.”

Continue reading “7 Best Bisexual Characters on TV”

Movies

How A Simple Favor Delivers on Queer Representation

I wrote a blog post earlier in the summer about how Ocean’s 8 was the gayest movie of the year, but I was wrong. I was so wrong. A Simple Favor is the gayest movie of the year.

Not only did this movie deftly navigate the fine line between comedy and suspense, it actually delivers on queer representation. Unlike other movies that hinge their promotions on queerbaiting (*cough* pitch perfect *cough*), A Simple Favor doesn’t shy away from depicting the sexual tension between Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) and Emily (Blake Lively).

Their chemistry is evident from the second the pair meet. Emily, sporting a three piece suit, walks in slow motion toward Stephanie, whose reaction is literally the definition of gay panic.

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It doesn’t take long for Stephanie and Emily to develop a close relationship that is laden with heavy flirtation and intense eye contact. (To be honest, if Blake Lively called me baby that many times in a 15 minute period while sipping a martini, then I would have literally burst into flames.) 

Continue reading “How A Simple Favor Delivers on Queer Representation”

General · Uncategorized

What does a bisexual man look like?

A little over a year ago, I met a guy who made me experience something I had never felt for another man before – attraction.

I was shocked, bewildered, and confused. I had never in my life even considered the possibility of being anything but straight. And yet, here we were. After accepting that I was a bisexual male, I began wondering if I should start presenting differently. 

I would frequently wonder, “How gay should I be acting?” “Is this gay enough?” “Is this too gay?”

This internal dialogue reminds me of a scene in Love, Simon. (Spoilers, if you somehow haven’t seen it yet) The main character, Simon Spier, is outed by a classmate during winter break. The morning he’s set to return to school, Simon finds himself trying on all sorts of different outfits, all while Googling “how to dress like a gay guy”.

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Simon’s trepidation and uncertainty on how to present, is reminiscent of the struggles bisexual men face on a daily basis. For me, I wanted my outward expression to convey my interest in men without convincing people that I batted entirely for the other team. Considering my bisexuality made me acutely aware of how I walked, talked, dressed, and even wrote. It was extremely difficult to find a way to present as equally gay and straight. 

But none of it really mattered.

Continue reading “What does a bisexual man look like?”

religion

Blaming the gays won’t end the Catholic sex abuse scandal

Pedophilia and homosexuality are not the same thing. Should I say it louder for those in the back? Pedophilia and homosexuality are not the same thing. I know this may come as a real shock if you’ve been listening to conservative news outlets lately, but it’s true. Most pedophiles don’t even experience any sexual desire for adults, but for those who do, the vast majority identify as heterosexual. 

Unfortunately, with the recent allegations of sex abuse within the Catholic church, this outdated argument has resurfaced. “It is time to admit that there is a homosexual subculture within the hierarchy of the Catholic Church that is wreaking great devastation in the vineyard of the Lord,” wrote Bishop Robert Morlino in a letter to the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin.

Really? You can’t do any better than the classic “blame the gays” excuse?

For decades, Bible wielding pastors have blamed natural disasters and terrorist attacks on the growing acceptance of LGBTQ people. These arguments are usually so absurd they’re almost humorous, but I refuse to laugh now. With more than 1,000 children reporting that they were molested by hundreds of Roman Catholic priests in just six Pennsylvania dioceses, we must contest all claims that this is a “homosexual problem.”

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As one America magazine writer explains, “using an abuse and accountability scandal to scapegoat Catholic queerness is not okay.” In fact, blaming homosexuality for sex abuse just enables the church to avoid addressing the actual problem. Attributing this issue to those evil, inherently disordered gays, is a far easier pill for certain religious people to swallow than confronting the fact that their institution has been complicit in truly horrific crimes and requires systemic change.

I personally witnessed the effectiveness of this destructive narrative last week. I have to be vague for the sake of privacy, but I will say that I was in a professional setting when

Continue reading “Blaming the gays won’t end the Catholic sex abuse scandal”

TV Shows

The Gifted on Fox seems really gay, so why isn’t it actually?

Shunned by loved ones, persecuted by religious groups and forced to conceal their true identities, mutants in “The Gifted” experience struggles similar to queer people today.

And that’s intentional.

Ever since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby first conceptualized the X-men comics, which The Gifted is based on, it has served as an allegory for the oppression of marginalized people. “The X-Men are hated, feared, and despised collectively by humanity for no other reason than that they are mutants,” explains X-men writer, Chris Claremont. “So what we have, intended or not, is a [series] that is about racism, bigotry, and prejudice.”

In the 1960s, this prejudice was predominately associated with the civil rights movement. The plight of the X-Men, who were discriminated against simply because of their genetics, underscored the importance of racial equality. However, as time passed, other groups began to identify with the baseless disdain mutants were forced to endure, including the queer community.

XLjYPIZaK5G136Y6KFbb_1082012401 “While LGBT people couldn’t be part of the X-Men’s text, the experiences of LGBT people came to dominate the X-Men’s subtext,” said Andrew Wheeler, editor-in-chief of Comics Alliance, a website dedicated to covering the comic book industry. Due to creative ambiguity and visual subtlety, queer people were given their first taste of representation in popular media. Suddenly, mutant was a codeword for gay and the queer themes strongly resonated with LGBTQ people.

Myself included.

giphyWhen I watched X-Men: First Class, the fifth installment of the film series, I couldn’t stop thinking about Mystique saying the phrase: “mutant and proud.” [And it wasn’t because I’m in love with Jennifer Lawrence…although that definitely didn’t hurt]. I found myself writing it on sheets of paper, whispering it at random and replaying it over and over in my head. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this phrase offered me the ability to safely contemplate my sexuality. I could look in the mirror and say that I was a mutant without fear of accidentally outing myself. To me, it was synonymous with lesbian but, unlike the latter, I could say mutant as loudly as I wanted. In fact, repeating it so often was the precursor to finally being able to write that I was gay and proud at the end of a 13 page coming out letter to my parents. [Can’t ever claim I’m not thorough…] 

Needless to say, I’m a huge fan of the X-Men. So, when I heard about The Gifted I binged all 13 episodes in a single weekend. (Judge me)

As expected, it was absolutely drenched in queer metaphors.

10 ways The Gifted is super gay:

The Gifted centers around the Struckers, your typical family living in a sleepy, nondescript American suburb. Reed, the father, works for a governmental organization that prosecutes mutants while Caitlin, the mother, works in the medical field. However, their perfect life is completely uprooted after discovering their son (Andy) and daughter (Lauren) are mutants.

The Gifted expertly evokes the confusion, sadness, elation and terror queer people oscillate between during the coming out process.

Just imagine these scenes a little differently.

1) When a loved one says something homophobic for the first time 

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It doesn’t even have to be malicious. Just an offensive joke, an offhanded comment or an ignorant observation, stings deeply when you’re not out. The night before I came out I had to endure arguments about how homosexuals are “just unnatural,” caveated by insistence that the argument wasn’t anti-gay.  In this scene, I can literally feel Lauren’s fear of being rejected by her family.

2) The terror you experience around religious extremists

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In The Gifted, purifiers believe that mutants are a threat to society and must be stringently monitored or eliminated entirely. Sound familiar to those religious arguments about how gay people are destroying the fabric of society? It’s no accident the purifiers are wearing massive crosses on their chest. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard people claim, in the name of God, that queer people are worthy of death.

3) Realizing your sexuality or gender identity during puberty 

Continue reading “The Gifted on Fox seems really gay, so why isn’t it actually?”

General

Domestic abuse in LGBT relationships: why aren’t we talking about it?

I was tortured for two years.

Not in the conventional sense. My tormentor wasn’t fond of physical restraints. Her fits of rage never left me with cuts, bruises or broken bones. In fact, there wasn’t a single visible sign of the pain she inflicted…and that’s the way she preferred it.

To an observer, I was completely free and yet I lived in utter captivity.

It’s no secret that domestic abuse is a pervasive problem in our society. Nearly half of all women and men in the US have experienced psychological aggression, or emotional abuse, by “an intimate partner” in their lifetime and emotional abuse is largely considered to be the most common form of abuse. 

And yet, after enduring two years of torment, I couldn’t help but wonder: how did I miss it? If it’s so common, then why wasn’t I able to recognize the signs?

They had been drilled into me since I was a child. “Don’t date a man who tells you what to wear, where to go or who to hang out with.” “Don’t let a man pressure you into sex when you want to say no.” “Find a nice guy, someone who respects you and treats you well.” 

And that’s when I realized it.

I was only prepared to recognize the hallmarks of heterosexual abuse. As a lesbian woman, who was raised by two heterosexual parents in an exceedingly heterosexual community, I had no reference for a healthy lesbian relationship. My knowledge of queer romances stemmed solely from fleeting displays of affection on TV. [Hands up if you remember Alex and Marissa on the OC]. 

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While these teen dramas were on the forefront of pushing LGBTQ representation in media, many inadvertently normalized toxic behavior. They depicted women as innately more emotional than men, so two women together was just a powder keg of uncontrollable emotion. As a result, intensity and obsession was considered to be romantic or desirable in lesbian relationships. The lack of positive, realistic and healthy queer romances left me with no idea of what abusive behavior actually looked like between two women.

It’s estimated that 1 in 4 LGBTQ people experience domestic abuse and yet it’s rarely discussed or reported. And I can understand why.

I didn’t discuss it myself. Not even when I was a crumpled mess, sobbing on the kitchen floor unable to trust my own thoughts. I didn’t tell anyone. I even made up lies about how well she was treating me.

Why it’s not discussed:

Growing up in a conservative Catholic environment, I was taught to believe that homosexuality was inherently sinful. Gay people, when acting upon their disordered nature, were “tearing their souls” from God. I even had a woman tell me that, “gay relationships only result in depression, drug addiction and suicide.”

When I came out, I vowed to prove them wrong. I wanted everyone to see how much happier I was being open and confident in my sexuality. I wouldn’t settle for anything less than perfect.

So, when my first serious relationship with a woman turned toxic, I refused to admit it. lgbt-4Despite desperately needing help and slowly drowning in a situation I couldn’t control, the thought of admitting the abused I experienced seemed so much worse. To me, it meant that I had failed. I was nothing more than another disordered, suicidal lesbian who got what she deserved.

Many months later, I discovered that this is actually one of the reasons LGBTQ people don’t report abuse. We’re afraid to show a “lack of solidarity” with other LGBTQ people. We view discussing this topic as a betrayal of our community because we think it’ll confirm society’s assumption that same-sex relationships are inherently dysfunctional.

But that isn’t true.

I wish I could scream it from the mountaintops. If you are being abused, then please seek help. It doesn’t matter if you’re straight, gay, queer, trans, cis, asexual, etc. You do not deserve to endure abuse.  You are not betraying your community by coming forward and ending abuse. Being controlled by an abuser is just another closet that you don’t deserve to be in. There is bravery in admitting that you need help.

My story:

I met my abuser shortly after graduating from college. I had a job I loved, lived in a gorgeous place and was finally comfortable with my sexuality.

And then I met her.

(For the sake of privacy, I’ll just refer to her as Grace.) She was everything I thought I wanted: interesting, kind, charming, bold and beautiful. She had been out since she was a teenager and I admired her ability to be so brazenly gay. Grace spent her days caring for those with severe physical handicaps, occasionally volunteered with the food insecure and planned on spending her life tending to the sick. She seemed perfect… right?  Continue reading “Domestic abuse in LGBT relationships: why aren’t we talking about it?”

TV Shows

How Timeless gave a voice to the LGBT community, POC and women

Writers on NBC’s Timeless could have easily allowed Agent Christopher, a senior Homeland Security field agent, to become a one-dimensional character. It’s something we’ve seen a hundred times: a brazenly confident leader, capable of making the tough calls until it comes to his own wife and kids. [Here’s looking at you Oliver Queen]. Agent Christopher is just one power pose away from falling prey to classic stoic white male trope…except she’s an Indian-American woman.

That’s right.

The show’s boss is a middle aged lesbian of color who is in a loving, interracial marriage with a black woman, Michelle, and has two children: Mark and Olivia.

LEsbian.gifSince the show’s conception, this time traveling drama has been intent on highlighting voices that are frequently overlooked in the history books. To rectify this problem, the show’s second season intentionally placed a strong emphasis on telling the stories of people of color and women. Co-creator, Shawn Ryan, addressed their desire to spotlight these hidden figures by saying, “so much of history as it’s taught revolves around powerful white men, and one of the things that was of great interest to us this year was to see if there was a way to explore history beyond that.”

In addition to learning about Wendell Scott, who became the first African American NASCAR driver to win a Grand National race in 1961, and Grace Humiston, a celebrated lawyer and famous New York detective who solved one of the highest profile disappearance cases in 1917, Timeless created a modern, beautiful queer storyline.

Typically, LGBTQ characters on TV are portrayed as young, white and unattached. In fact, according to the most recent data available on GLAAD’s 2016 and 2017 “Where Are We on TV” reports, 77% of queer characters on streaming originals were white and 72% of queer characters on broadcast and cable were also white. Focusing solely on the stories of queer white individuals is just as detrimental to societal progress as white feminism. It completely overlooks the difficulties unique to people of color and that’s a massive problem.

Luckily, Agent Denise Christopher is the solution.

Christopher.gifNot only is she a woman of color in a white male dominated field but she wasn’t forced to sacrifice her career in order to have a family. Agent Christopher was able to get the girl, the job and the respect of her employees. Essentially, she is the pinnacle of success for women, people of color and the LGBTQ community.

However, Timeless is careful not to gloss over the challenges that Agent Christopher was forced to overcome in order to earn her life.

Continue reading “How Timeless gave a voice to the LGBT community, POC and women”