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”.
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.
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
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.
When 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
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
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
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.
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].
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.
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. Despite 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.
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.
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.
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.
Luckily, Agent Denise Christopher is the solution.
Not 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.
As any gay worth their rainbow knows, June is pride month. For the next few weeks our newsfeeds will be flooded with endless iterations of ROY G. BIV inspired products and LGBTQ inclusive advertisements. While it’s extremely tempting to lose ourselves in the rainbows, glitter and flamboyant unicorns, it’s important to consider why companies are marketing to the LGBTQ community.
Do they really care about the interests of queer people or are they simply capitalizing on pride to turn a profit?
With the influx of rainbow themed logos and commercials with same-sex partners, it’s not always easy to determine which companies are genuinely supportive of gay rights. Luckily, the Human Rights Campaign developed a reliable way to assess a company’s actual attitude toward LGBTQ people: the Corporate Equality Index (CEI). This index rates American businesses (between -25-100) based on their treatment of LGBTQ employees, consumers and investors. It gives invaluable insight into a company’s true intention when using gay pride to market their products.
Below is an analysis of companies who have used LGBTQ themes to market their products. It’s up to you to decide if they’ve earned it or not!
While Cook has definitely propelled Apple’s fight for equality through his personal commitment to gay rights, the tech company has a long history of supporting the queer community. In fact, few companies have consistently supported the LGBTQ community quite like Apple Inc., formerly known as Apple Computers Inc. In 2002, the year the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index began, Apple was 1 of just 13 companies to earn the highest possible rating (100.) And, every year since, Apple has managed to maintain that perfect score.
Even when the majority of Americans did not support gay rights, Apple prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, provided diversity training in relation to sexuality and gender identity and offered transgender-inclusive insurance coverage.
In the early 1990’s, Apple even refused to build an $80 million office complex in Round Rock, Texas unless their tax-break, which was rescinded due to the company’s pro gay policies, was reinstated. Residents had accused the tech company of “bringing homosexuality into Williamson County” and even took to wearing pins that expressed their disproval of the company’s commitment to equality. In response, Apple said, “that as a matter of both principle and economics the company would not build on the 128-acre site” unless they were reimbursed for the tax-break. Ultimately, the county folded and Apple broke ground on the project in 1994.
I mean Ocean’s 8. (Although, maybe they should consider a name change…) This fourth installment of the Ocean’s franchise, featured a diverse all-female cast who showcased intelligence, bad-assery and, if you exist for homoerotic subtext like I do, lesbian love.
While (tragically) no character was openly gay, there was a near painful amount of sexual tension between Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) and Lou (Cate Blanchett). [Slight spoilers ahead] From the second that Lou’s character is introduced, (in all her pant suit glory) she can’t seem to keep her hands off Debbie. In fact, after a ridiculously flirty exchange that occurs when the pair reunites after Debbie’s release from prison, Lou grabs her “friend’s” head and kisses it with a little too much passion. (Talk about muscle memory, right?)
As the plot begins to unfold, Lou and Debbie’s storyline starts to parallel a classic heterosexual romance montage that’s frequently seen on the Hallmark channel. Ready?
Here’s Debbie slowly and suggestively eating eating her food. [Side note: shortly after this, Debbie refers to Lou as “baby” and the pair make quips about getting engaged. #ClassicUhaulLesbian]
As the meal winds down, Debbie makes intense eye contact with Lou and insist on feeding her. You know, like all straight females friends do…. [Can we talk about the look of pure ecstasy on Lou’s face? There’s literally nothing good on that fork, girl. We know that’s not what you’re excited about.]
Here they are sitting exceedingly close together on a very, very large bench while Lou’s grip is obviously intended to frighten away possible male suitors.
Here’s Lou explaining how she easily seduced Debbie to their wildly confused friend.
And here’s Lou looking cocky AF the morning after (which I’m sure she earned.)
All joking aside, there are so many hints throughout the film that Debbie and Lou are way more than platonic friends. They refer to each other as “partners,” routinely speak less than an inch apart and clearly share a deep, affectionate bond. At one point in the movie Debbie literally says, “I don’t want a him, I want a her.”
June is the best month of the year because it’s also the gayest. In honor of pride month, I’ve compiled 21 of my favorite quotes about being queer/the gay community. Even if you don’t feel accepted by loved ones, the LGBTQIA+ community will always be there for you. Be proud and realize that tons of people love you exactly as you 🙂
1) “Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start.”
–Jason Collins, a retired professional basketball player. In 2014, he became the first openly gay male athlete to play in U.S. professional sports.
2) “All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”
–Harvey Milk, an American politician and the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, where he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. After serving only 11 months in office, Milk was assassinated on November 27, 1978. He was acutely aware of this possibility and is even quoted as saying, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”
3) “It takes some intelligence and insight to figure out you’re gay and then a tremendous amount of balls to live it and live it proudly.”
In the United States, Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who have died in service to our country. Social media will likely flood with images of widows and widowers mourning at grave sites, videos of soldiers reuniting with loved ones at airports and stories about selfless acts of valor. This somber, commemorative day is intended to evoke a deep sense of patriotism in all Americans.
But what’s missing from this picture? Would stories about military personnel mourning, rejoicing or sacrificing elicit the same sense of pride if the soldiers were members of the LGBT community? Unfortunately, the military has a long, complicated history with mistreating queer people.
Until President Obama repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011, being gay was grounds for termination from the military. This makes it nearly impossible to determine how many queer people made the ultimate sacrifice for our safety. But, being allies and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we have an obligation to remember these unsung heroes with vigor equal to that of their straight and cisgendered counterparts. This blog post is an attempt to highlight the service of these queer voices and depict the hardships they faced throughout history.
Sergeant Leonard Matlovich famously contested the armed forces’ discriminatory policies against queer people in 1975. Matlovich, who had served for 12 years in the Air Force, was a highly respected member of the military. He had received a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and shrapnel wounds during the Vietnam War. Simply put, Matlovich was an exemplary member of the military. However, when he chose to disclose his sexuality to his superiors, Matlovich was immediately discharged.
In September of 1975, his story made the cover of TIME magazine and prompted outrage in both proponents and opponent of gay rights. Some called him “a disgrace to the uniform of an honorable service” while others supported his bravery in challenging an outdated system. Tragically, Matlovich died of AIDS in 1988 but used his tombstone as a poignant and permanent reminder of the prejudice he endured. It reads: “A Gay Vietnam Veteran… when I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”
Despite the severe repercussions of homosexual activity, some members of the military still risked their lives to have profound relationships with members of the same sex. In 1939, Gordon Bowsher and Gilbert Bradley did exactly that. Before he joined the British Army, Bradley was already in love with Bowsher.
In fact, the two men were so enamored with each other that they exchanged hundreds of romantic letters throughout the war that were only recently discovered. Bowsher and Bradley risked imprisonment and death just to write about their desire for one another and fantasies for their future together. Unlike their heterosexual counterparts who could proudly discuss their sweethearts back home, these men were forced to hide their affection. The hopeful, albeit melancholic, tone of these letters is best summarized in the line: “wouldn’t it be wonderful if all our letters could be published in the future in a more enlightened time? Then all the world could see how in love we are.”
In discussing these letters, Peter Roscoe, a gay rights activist, explains that they serve as an important reminder that “there is a gay history and it isn’t always negative and tearful…despite all the awful circumstances, gay men and lesbians managed to rise above it all.”
Two decades after Gordon Bowsher and Gilbert Bradley penned these letters, Fannie Mae Clackum became the first person to successfully challenge her discharge on the grounds of homosexuality from the U.S military. During the late 1940s and early 1950s Fannie served as a US Air Force Reservist and developed a close relationship with fellow Air Force Reservist, Grace Garner. Due to the pair’s intimate relationship, they were suspected of homosexual activity. In an attempt to prove these suspicions, the Air Force arranged for Fannie, Grace and a fellow solider to stay overnight in a motel together. In a cruel act of deception, the fellow solider served as an informant for the Air Force. Shortly after their motel stay, and despite Fannie’s and Grace’s denial of anything romantic occurring, the two women were dishonorably discharged from the Air Force.
Once discharged, Fannie and Grace moved in together, under the pretense of better fighting their dismissal. After eight years of court hearings, the pair finally prevailed in 1960 and the Air Force invalidated their discharges. Both women were awarded back pay for the remainder of their enlistment periods. [It’s important to note that both women denied having a sexual relationship but, considering that they lived together and had a very close relationship, it’s highly likely they were closeted.]
An article written prior to the establishment of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” examined the role of allowing lesbians to serve in the military. The article cited a 1984 study in the Journal of Homosexuality that found gay women were “significantly more likely to have served in the military than heterosexual women” and referenced research that estimated 25% of all woman in the armed forces were gay. Unfortunately, this presumed prevalence of lesbians in the military made all women easy targets for discharge and dismissal.
In media, mental illness and romance pair just as well as strawberries and beans…a disjointed mixture that just ends up stinking.
Too frequently, people with mental illnesses are depicted as either 1) incapable of having healthy, positive and affirming relationships or 2) tantalizing their partners with the beauty of their pain. Make that love story involve two women and you have the perfect recipe for a thriller that results in a lot of awkward sex followed by unnecessary death. (The movie Chloe with Amanda Seyfried ring any bells?)
No, Amanda, it doesn’t.
This terrible representation of mentally ill people in love is why the relationship between Alice and Robin (also known as Tilly and Margot) on ABC’s Once Upon a Time is such a breath of fresh air. For those not familiar with the show, Once reimagines classic fairytales by bringing them into modern contexts. For instance, Tilly, the quirky daughter of the town’s detective, is actually Alice from Alice in Wonderland/Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland while Margot, the world traveling bohemian, is Robin Hood.
Prior to falling victim to a curse that forced them to forget their true identities, Alice and Robin were deeply in love. I’m talking literal wifey status. (Just look at how domestically adorable they were)
Watching them rekindle their forgotten love, as Tilly and Margot, has been my favorite part of this season. Their love story is depicted as genuine, honest and pure. Unlike the show’s prior attempts at portraying a same-sex relationship, which just came across as rushed and sloppy, Alice’s and Robin’s love is given the consideration it deserves.
However, their relationship isn’t all heart shaped beignets and intensely lingering eye contact. It’s complicated, it’s messy and it’s real. Alice, like her namesake’s character in the Disney classic, struggles with some unspecified form of mental illness. This makes her feel isolated and frequently unable to trust her own mind.
As someone who struggles with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), I couldn’t relate more to Alice’s feelings. I’ve had OCD as long as I can remember. In fact, some of my earliest memories consist of me repeatedly doing the sign of the cross until it felt “right” (…can you tell I was raised Catholic?) or absolutely losing my mind if someone disturbed the pillows I spent 20 minutes arranging. However, I was only officially diagnosed about two and a half years ago.
When you have a mental health issue, it sometimes forces you to act in ways that make absolutely no sense to other people. Why did I have to walk in a half circle, touch the door knob and then double back before I finally went into my house? Why did I have to constantly check my heart rate after the most minimal movement to ensure it’s “okay”?
It’s incredibly difficult to turn to a perfect stranger and say, “I’m so sorry, I have OCD so I have to do these ten rituals before I can get to what you asked me to do. Could you wait?” It’s always been easier for me to just come up with excuses to avoid admitting the truth. This has made forming romantic relationships ridiculously dramatic and, like Alice, I felt entirely alone.
For this reason, watching Robin lovingly interact with Alice after she had an episode during the “The Guardian” (7×18) brought me to tears. The pair was on a date, exploring the town and enjoying quality time together, when Alice suddenly begins hearing voices. Frustrated at their appearance, Alice hits herself in the head.