General

Why I’m trying to love my mental disorder

Imagine this.

Your entire body is submerged in water. Ice cold waves are crashing over your head, forcing your torso downwards. The strength of the tide is causing your muscles to ache with exhaustion. You’re barely able to swallow a breath before the next waves comes. You’re absolutely certain you’re minutes from death.

Then someone manages to throw you a rope.

You look up. Your family is waving frantically from the shore, your friends desperately pleading with you to take the rope into your hands. Relief begins to flood your veins. If you just grab it, then you can pull yourself to warm, safe land. You extend your arm, realizing that this is your one chance to escape the torment. But then…

“What if the rope snaps and I end up worse than I am now?” “Can I even make it all the way to shore?” “Are those really my loved ones or are they trying to trick me?” You recoil and drop your outstretched hand. The rope sinks. And you continue to thrash desperately in the water.

For me, living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can feel a lot like choosing to drown. I can see that there is a way to escape the endless onslaught of thoughts, but sometimes I just can’t seem to grab the rope.

Since I wasn’t diagnosed with OCD until I was 24, I really struggle to determine whether my behavior is genuine or the result of an obsession. As a child, I experienced your stereotypical OCD symptoms (repeated actions, methodical behavior, counting) but, as I’ve gotten older, the vast majority of my symptoms have shifted internally.  Now, I present as a perfectly well adjusted person who can laugh, smile and work a room all while secretly engaging in my compulsions. 

Most of my friends are shocked when I tell them about my OCD. While they knew I had a tendency to fixate and had difficult dealing with change, my messiness seemed to preclude the possibility of actually having a disorder.  [Fun fact, not every person with OCD cleans compulsively or fears germs…we’re not all Emma from Glee]

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While some of my OCD does present in a visible manner (like having to walk in a specific way or laying out my clothes at night in the order that I put them on in the morning), I predominately deal with something called “Pure O.” It’s essentially OCD without the noticeable behavioral modifications. For instance, in high school I had a phobia of throwing up and all of my compulsions were centered around abating this fear.

I had three check points on the way to school where I had to think specific thoughts. “I’m fine,” I’d think as I passed the street in my town just after the first stop light. “I’m going to feel good” I’d repeat as I passed the old Krauszer’s building five minutes later. “There’s a metal slab in my stomach and it’s neutralizing any acid,” I’d envision as I rounded the jug handle at the base of my school. 

If I missed any of my check points, I’d have a near mental breakdown. This frequently resulted in me turning to my mom, before I could drive, and asking “Am I going to be okay today?” To which, she’d immediately reply “of course you are” and I got the answer I desperately needed to hear.

Unfortunately, these daily rituals and incessant reassurance seeking just reinforced the idea that I wouldn’t be okay without my compulsions.

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Since I spent decades believing that my obsessions and compulsions were integral to my health, unlearning these behaviors has been the single most challenging thing I’ve ever done. In fact, until this year, I never contested my compulsions. I always, without a single hesitation, believed that my thoughts were genuine and valid. However, due to some intensive therapy and meeting a particularly insightful friend in this last year, I began to question my own perceptions. 

Initially, and even partially now, I hated myself for the amount of time I wasted, the misery I caused and the relationships I ruined because of my OCD. I literally could not stop thinking about it, analyzing old behavior, chastising myself for not “being normal.” I was furious that I let my entire identity revolve around a mental illness. 

And then a friend asked me a very simple question today…”what have you really done to try and get over this?” Dramatic as always, I literally dropped to my knees and said, “oh my god…nothing.”

So, this is my first real attempt in shifting my mindset and embracing every single part of me. I’m no longer going to villainize my OCD. I’m going to do my best to approach my mental illness with gentleness and compassion. As Marsha Linehan, the creator of dialectal behavior therapy, said all people need to “completely and totally [accept themselves]” from the depths of our souls, with our heart and our mind.

[Shout out to this video, which was a near literal life saver for me today] 

Cover photo image credit

General

“So…How Exactly Do Lesbians Have Sex?”

“What is lesbian sex?” “How do two women have sex?” “What does lesbian sex look like?”

While these questions may sound like a horny teenager’s search history, minus the spelling errors, it’s actually something most queer women are forced to awkwardly google during their coming out process.

Because no one ever talks about lesbian sex. And that’s a massive problem. [Skip to the bottom if you want actual instruction on how to have lesbian sex] 

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By the time I was twelve years old, I was way too well versed in precisely how a woman and man made love. Thanks to extensive Fertility Awareness classes (or the clever name my Catholic grammar school used for sex education), I could recite exactly how two opposite gendered people came together, in the glory of God, to be fruitful and multiply.

I even had a general idea of how two men engaged in sexual intercourse due to the critique of sodomy from church officials. However, there never even seemed to be any discussion about women wanting to be intimate with other women. Even now, whenever the topic of lesbian sex comes up, the general public’s response is typically, “mmm…what?”

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Continue reading ““So…How Exactly Do Lesbians Have Sex?””

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.  

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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.

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.) 

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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?”