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”

Movies

Ocean’s 8 is the gayest movie of the year, let’s make Ocean’s 9 even gayer

This weekend I saw Ocean’s Gay.

Oops.

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]

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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.] 

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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. 

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Here’s Lou explaining how she easily seduced Debbie to their wildly confused friend. 

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And here’s Lou looking cocky AF the morning after (which I’m sure she earned.) 

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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.”

Continue reading “Ocean’s 8 is the gayest movie of the year, let’s make Ocean’s 9 even gayer”

History

Remembering LGBT voices in military history

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.

As you can imagine, it was difficult to be a member of the LGBT community while enlisted in the military. These brave women, men and gender nonconforming people were forced to lie about their sexual orientations just so they could protect and serve this country. In addition to risking their lives on the battlefield, LGBT service members faced potential violence in their own units and immediate discharge if their sexuality was discovered. In the 1940s, people with homosexual or bisexual orientations began receiving a “blue discharge” which made them ineligible for G.I. Bill benefits. During this time, service members suspected of queer orientations would receive an “undesirable discharge” while those guilty of homosexual activity (or engaging in “same-sex behavior”) would be “dishonorably discharged.” 

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.”

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Matlovich’s grave

It’s no secret that ever since the Revolutionary War people “have been drummed out of the U.S. military for homosexual acts.”  In 1919,  for instance, Navy officials encouraged some enlisted men to “entrap and seduce suspected gay sailors” so they could “obtain information and evidence pertaining to cocksuckers and rectum receivers.” During World War II, doctors even placed tongue depressors into patients’ throats to gauge their gag reflexes. The assumption was that men who performed oral sex on other men would lack this natural reflex.

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.”

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Letters between Bowsher and Bradley

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.]

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Fannie, Grace and other members of the Air Force

As time progressed, attitudes toward homosexuality began to soften. Interestingly, Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was actually intended to lift the ban on homosexual service. The policy, which went into effect on October 1, 1993, instructed that military personnel “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue and don’t harass” queer members of the armed forces.

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.

Continue reading “Remembering LGBT voices in military history”

TV Shows

Mental Illness and Lesbian Love in Once Upon a Time

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?)

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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)

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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.

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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.

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Continue reading “Mental Illness and Lesbian Love in Once Upon a Time”

TV Shows

How TV has made us all gayer

In American television today, shows like Marvel’s Runaways, Orange is the New Black, Modern Family and One Day at a Time are simply considered good TV. They’re full of complex characters with dynamic, well-developed storylines that are frequently shown to be the moral backbone of their show.

However, The Broadcast Standards and Practices Board would have once considered these shows highly indecent for the presence of openly gay characters. In fact, in 1997 Ellen DeGeneres threatened to quit the sitcom “Ellen” after ABC issued a parental advisory before airing an episode simply because DeGeneres’ character jokingly kissed her best female friend.  The producers at ABC defended their position claiming, “the promise we have made to our audience is to provide them with as much information as possible so they can decide what is appropriate for their children to watch.”

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This aversion to homosexuality and homosexual conduct has been ingrained in the media since its conception. Time Magazine expressed disdain for homosexuality in 1966 when it published an essay titled “The Homosexual in America” claiming homosexuality “deserves no encouragement, no glamorization, no rationalization, no fake status as a minority martyrdom, no sophistry about simple differences in taste-and, above all, no pretense that it is anything but a pernicious sickness.” Even the American Psychology Association included homosexuality in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) until 1973.

Naturally, during this time the percentage of gay, lesbian and bisexual people seen on television was practically nonexistent, forcing heartthrobs like Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter to conceal their sexual orientation to ensure the success of their careers.

However, today DeGeneres, Samira Wiley, Neil Patrick Harris and Keiynan Lonsdale are all successful, highly popular television figures who make no attempt to hide their sexual orientation. This shift toward acceptance of homosexuality is reflected in a recent Pew Research Center poll that showed 62% of Americans support same sex marriage as opposed to the 27% who supported it in 1996. Since then, same-sex marriage has become legal in all 50 states.

So, what is causing this dramatic shift in opinions, visibility and acceptance of homosexuality and homosexual people? One answer is the prevalence of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the media.

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According to a recent study of college students, an increase in exposure to gay, lesbian and bisexual people in media enables groups with opposing positions to Continue reading “How TV has made us all gayer”

Books

5 queer characters in the Harry Potter universe

We all remember the iconic moment when J.K. Rowling stunned crowds at Carnegie Hall in 2007 by admitting that she’d always perceived Albus Dumbledore, the wisest and most powerful man in the wizarding world, as gay. In the proceeding months, J.K. sustained hefty criticism from far-right, religious leaning people. They claimed her admission of Dumbledore’s sexuality was an attempt to indoctrinate children with the “gay agenda” by normalizing a sinful and disordered disposition. It was simply too liberal. Now, nearly 11 years later, J.K. is under fire once again… except this time it’s for not being liberal enough.

A few weeks ago, David Yates, director of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald, revealed that Dumbledore’s sexuality would not be explicitly explored in the upcoming film. Many fans viewed this as blatant queer erasure and were rightfully infuriated by the avoidance of their love story.  [Any person who has read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows understands how crucial Dumbledore’s feelings for Grindewald were in the development of the plot].

However, in an attempt to reverse this most recent erasure, I am drawing attention to five possible queer characters that already exist in the Harry Potter universe! (Besides Albus Dumbledore, of course) 

1) Charlie Weasley:

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Photo credit

First on our list is the second eldest of the seven Weasley children, Charlie. Buff, beautiful, nicely tanned and incredibly well-liked, Charlie wouldn’t need amortentia to ensnare fellow witches or wizards. During his Hogwarts years, Charlie was the epitome of popular. He was both a prefect and the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. In fact, his prowess as a seeker could have landed him a spot playing for England. However, Charlie never seemed interested in following in his parent’s footsteps by being fruitful and multiplying (over and over). Instead, shortly after graduating, he left for a dragon sanctuary in Romania. While there, he developed strong familial ties to friends but never married, had no children and seemed to lack any romantic or sexual desire.

According to J.K. Rowling, Charlie is “just more interested in dragons than women” Charlie is way more likely to be found chilling with a Hungarian Horntail than any partner. Even Rita Skeeter, the toxic daily prophet reporter, speculates about his decision to remain alone in her somewhat recent column on the 2014 Quidditch World Cup. She writes, “ Charlie, (dragon wrangler, still unmarried – why?)” 

However, J.K does an incredible job of portraying his identity as normal and healthy. He doesn’t need to be married, he doesn’t need to have a romantic interest for his life to be full and valid.

However, canonically labeling Charlie as asexual and aromantic would have been incredible for LGBTQIA+ visibility.

Continue reading “5 queer characters in the Harry Potter universe”

web series

A Christian, Gay Positive Lesbian Love Story

Is it possible for a gay person to be fully self-actualized while ascribing to the Christian faith? Is the phrase “gay Christians” inherently oxymoronic?

The Faith Diaries, a web series spin off of Lifetime’s “UnREAL” expertly challenges this dichotomy between Christianity and homosexuality. The series begins when Faith, a deeply religious woman, moves to West Hollywood with her more than best friend, Amy. These two women were raised in “God’s country” and lacked exposure to anything other than traditional, heteronormative relationships.

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This type of “God fearing” upbringing is common in the United States and up to 85% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people report being raised in a religion that is “homonegative.”  The natural solution for many LGBT individuals is to either abandon their faith or to suppress their sexual orientation. The Faith Diaries refuses to accept that Christianity and homosexuality are mutually exclusive.

Breeda Wool, who plays Faith, describes the series to Out Magazine as “a story about one person’s relationship to God and their relationship to love and discovering that those two things are not at odds.” This series is unique because neither Christianity nor homosexuality is portrayed negatively. Far too often, mainstream media treats “religion as a problem, and only as a problem” while most Christian programming refuses to show homosexuality as natural. However, The Faith Diaries manages to explore Christian themes, such as forgiveness and love, without negating the importance of accepting your true self.

When Faith and Amy first arrive in Hollywood they are two reserved “simple country girls” struggling with internalized homophobia. Neither woman can even utter the term “gay” let alone refer to the other as “girlfriend.” They were conditioned to view homosexuality as sinful and any expression of same-sex love makes them deeply uncomfortable.

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As the couple spends more time in Hollywood, they become infatuated with the freedom and vibrancy of the culture. “It’s like I’ve been living in this black and white world,” says Amy. “Now we’re out here and everything is in color.” Unfortunately, Amy experiences a kind of sensory overload that causes her to lose sight of her strict morality. She falls prey to the temptations of the big city and begins a relationship with another woman behind Faith’s back.

Continue reading “A Christian, Gay Positive Lesbian Love Story”

History

A history of same sex love: Greeks (1)

When I was 23-years-old I handed my mother a 13-page coming out letter. This letter read like a dissertation and I’m honestly shocked I didn’t include citations or a bibliography. It was structured linearly and I proceeded to argue my case for being a lesbian. I’m talking biblical references, well-developed ethical arguments (with counter-points and rebuttals), appeals to ethos, pathos and logos AND academic quotes. [Is it obvious I had just completed my first argument course?]

Needless to say, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (diagnosed) and an insatiable desire to learn.

Prior to coming out, this led me on a quest to consume as much information about homosexuality as humanly possible. I would like to share this information in case another could benefit from my extensive research when coming out to his/her/ their family.

I found a historical understanding of homosexuality to be especially important when conversing with people who claim it is “unnatural” or the byproduct of a liberal agenda.

Here are some facts about homosexual activity (the Greeks did not have a word for homosexuality as we understand it today) in parts of ancient Greece.

  • Pederasty was an important part of Greek culture where an older man (erastes) would teach a younger, most likely teenaged, man (the eromenos) all about politics, war, sex and essentials to becoming an ideal citizen
  • Homosexual activity is extremely common among the Olympian male gods
    • In fact, all primary male gods on Olympus had homosexual relationships attributed to them with the exception of Ares (the god of war)
      • Zeus kidnapped the beautiful Ganymede to be his lover and cup-bearer on Mount Olympus, Poseidon took Pelops, the king of Pisa, as his lover, Apollo is linked to several men but most notably the Macedonian Prince Hyakinthos, who was killed after catching a discus and Apollo turned him into the hyacinth flower.
        • Hercules, Dionysus, Hermes and Pan also enjoyed the company of men
      • Poets constantly wrote about same-sex love, attraction and affection. These included
      • Greek political leaders had consequential instances of homoerotic passions
        • Athens: Solon, Peisistratus, Hippias, Hipparchus, Themistocles, Aristides, Critias, Demosthenes, and Aeschines
        • Sparta: Pausanias, Lysander, and Agesilaus
        • Samos: Polycrates
        • Syracuse: Hieron and Agathocles
        • Thebes: Epaminondas and Pelopidas
        • Macedon: Archelaus, Philip II, and Alexander
      • Socrates, Plato and Xenophon spoke or wrote about the power of love between men (albeit denying physical expression of this love)
      • Stoics, or people who ascribe to self-control as a means of overcoming emotions, such as Zeno, Cleanthes, and Chrysippus lauded boy love
      • Phidias’s love for Pantarces was memorialized in marble.
      • In Plato’s Symposium, the character Phaedrus praises the “male eros.”
        • “For I know not any greater blessing to a young man who is beginning life than a virtuous lover, or to a lover than a beloved youth. For the principle that ought to be the guide of men who would nobly live—that principle, I say, neither kindred, nor honor, nor wealth, nor any other motive is able to implant so well as love.”

Many biographers and historians believe that, in Greek culture, “not to have had a male lover seems to have bespoken a lack of character or a deficiency in sensibility”. However, as time progressed the “sin” of the ancient Greeks was widely condemned. In fact, homosexuality became “the sin not even to be mentioned among Christians.” If it had to be mentioned it was limited to legal treaties or discussions of moral theology.

Why was there such a distinct and sharp change? I don’t have an answer yet but we’re on a mission to keep learning and discovering.

Ps the majority of this information comes from this book. I highly recommend purchasing it.

Uncategorized

Queer Ladies

I have been wanting to start a blog since I first saw Ashley seduce Spencer in South of Nowhere. Unfortunately, I have OCD (medically diagnosed not being insensitive) and have a really difficult time with posting writing that isn’t “perfect.” I get really obsessed with schedules and having a theme and everything consistent. So this blog is an effort to fulfill the dream of my gay, sixteen year old self and conquer a bit of my mental issue!

I was feeling particularly inspired by Alex and Maggie, more to follow 🙂