Sunday, August 21, 2011


During the summer months, while I'm home in Indiana, one of my only refuges from the toils of the retirement home and the routine boredom of being at home is my friend Helena. It should be noted that Helena is still without a driver's license, making it my responsibility to be her personal chauffer—this is my favorite thing about summertime. Actually, a lot of my friends at home are still not legally allowed to sit behind the wheel (they're just late bloomers is all), but Helena's house is always the last stop I make because we have a tendency to sit in her driveway for hours and talk about nearly everything. (Actually, we usually only talk about the people in our town, Cher, and gay rights—but really, what more is there to talk about?) During one of these late-night discussions on life, Helena asked me what I thought about "allies;" the "A" in the LGBTQIA acronym which designates those people who do not take a queer identity but support those who do. At the time, I didn't have much an answer for her, but the topic has been rolling around in my head for a while, and I think I now have an appropriate answer built up.
On a personal level, I think allies are a necessary part of the gay community. If we didn't have allies, we wouldn't have as much force in society as we currently do; we wouldn't have "safe places" in our schools and communities—basically, in my opinion, the gay community is heavily endorsed by allies. If you don't believe me, let's take a look at current hate crime laws.
In 1964, the United States government passed the original Federal Civil Rights Law, which prosecuted anyone who "willingly injures, intimidates or interferes with another force because of [their] race, color, religion or natural origin." Since this act was passed in a time when homosexuality was still seen as a mental illness (until 1972), the act was obviously not catered to the protection of gays and lesbians. This fact was overlooked until 2009, when President Obama passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (simply referred to as the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, or HCPA because I like acronyms). This act expanded the previous hate crime laws to encompass protection of people attacked because of their "actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability."
This act was spurred by Matthew Shepard, an openly gay man in Laramie, Wyoming who was brutally beaten by two men and strung up on a fence with chicken wire and left to die (he was found and taken to a hospital that morning, but never woke from his coma and died a few days later),  and James Byrd, Jr., a black man in Jasper, Texas who was dragged down a two mile dirt road chained to the back of a pickup truck and wrapped in a tarp until his body was found by state authorities a few days later. The HCPA is often more heavily attributed to the killing of Matthew Shepard because Shepard became a martyr of the gay community, receiving long-term press, while Byrd's murder was rather quickly forgotten. Though Shpard's death is usually earmarked as the "reason" for the new, gay-friendly hate crime prevention laws, the gay community, nor any group of self-identified "allies" had a hand in the passing of the act. The act was simply an addendum tacked onto the National Defense Authorization Act (for the Fiscal Year of 2010), almost as an afterthought, as if the government just said, "we should probably do something about that Shepard kid and the Byrd boy." Whatever it was the prompted them, I'm glad they acted on it.
This is what informs my opinion on allies—the government officials that formed the HCPA did not assert themselves as allies; they didn't have a "gay agenda." The same goes for President Obama, who passed the act; the president has made it clear that he has no gay agenda. However, because of these non-ally-identified people, the gay community now has one of the strongest safety nets we could ask for; though these laws don't guaruntee the prevention of hate crimes, they do ensure that those who commit hate crimes will have a punishment cruel enough to match the crime (as is the American fashion).
Allies don't have to identify themselves as allies—in fact, I get a little annoyed by girls who chronically throw themselves at the gay community proclaiming their love for all the gays. I don't need that kind of endorsement to my sexuality. What I want is a friend, like Helena, who doesn't mind talking about gay rights, who understands, accepts, and supports my sexuality, and who will defend me, when necessary, against the ignorance of homophobes. What I also want is a friend who can go through a conversation without throwing my sexuality back in my face—I know what I am, there's no need to remind me.
I think that allies are a vital resource to the gay community. I also think that some allies can be a little too outspoken about their place in the gay community, but then again it's often the outspoken ones who get their points across faster. But, in my "perfect world," allies do not have to wear their "A" loud and proud, in fact I would almost prefer that they didn't. I like to think that anyone short of condemning the gays to an eternity in hell is, in some way, an ally. I don't expect every one of these people to sign a registry, or start an email list, or even join their local GSA. I think people who accept the gay community for what it is are doing enough by just being themselves; accepting, understanding, and friendly; no "A" required.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Desperation Dot Com

     If you want to see where class and courtesy goes to die, and you happen to be single, I recommend you join a dating site—I’ve done it on three separate occasions, and am still happily single. I have also discovered exactly what kind of people I absolutely can’t stand. Whenever I leave a dating site and they ask for my satisfaction level with the site on a scale from one to ten, I usually give them an eight or nine, for teaching me what kind of chronic douche bags I should be watching out for in real life.
  What I’ve learned most from my dating site experiences is that dating sites, like any other website with “users,” is just as much a social networking platform as facebook. Users get their own little plot of the internet, and are allowed to customize it to their liking—dating sites always allow varying amounts of pictures, along with privacy settings so you may choose who you want seeing which pictures. You often get several spaces to write about yourself, your hobbies, or your job. In most cases, guys like to write about what they’re looking for in their trysts. Most sites even have side panels which allow you to see who’s visited your page and when. If any of your visitors pique your interest, you can then choose to send them messages, “winks” (the equivalent of “poking” on facebook. Coincidentally, I think “poking” is just as appropriate on a dating site). If things start going really well, you can even start IMing with someone. However, with the added ingredient that these sites cater specifically to gay men, the intentions of these social networkers aren’t always as innocent as the rockers of myspace or the hipsters of tumblr.
  Throughout my experience on dating sites, I have been offered money for sex enough times that I might start calling myself an amateur prostitute—I have been asked for, and given out, enough pictures of my nether regions that I feel like I’m already in business. I’ve been solicited by men as old as, or even than, my father, and boys who, by their profile pictures, are definitely not eighteen. Preferring to avoid banging to the rhythm of an oxygen tank or the possibility of going to jail, I usually politely ignore the messages from these men. Choosing instead the safe dating pool of guys between the ages of nineteen and thirty, I have met some real gems. I’ve met up with guys who assume buying me a cup of coffee will get me into bed with them. I’ve met guys who think my buying them a cup of coffee means I’ll also buy them lunch, dinner, or a box of condoms they don’t necessarily want to use with me. All this makes me beg one question: what the fuck happened to seduction?
  By seduction, I don’t mean writing out, in email form, every little thing you want to do to me with your (often more-disappointing-than-it-looks) piece of manhood. It doesn’t mean saying “I wanna fuck you so hard, baby,” over dessert nor does it mean grabbing my ass while opening the car door for me (although I must admit, that is a really sly move). I want to be seduced by intellect—by a guy with not just a charming smile, but also a charming personality. I want to be seduced by more than creatively taken pictures of their junk (sometimes I wonder how guys get the camera angles they do—who takes those pictures for them?).
  Don’t misunderstand me; though few and far between, I have met nice men. I have met the guys who buy my overpriced latte and don’t even think to grab my ass as I’m getting in the car. I’ve had guys invite me back to their apartments and, instead of asking if I’d like to go to their bedroom, ask if I’d like some coffee (yes please!). I regularly chat with men from countries not even remotely near the U.S; one man in Spain chats with me in Spanish on a regular basis, allowing me not only to keep up my language skills, but to learn more dirty phrases than ever before! Another man in Iceland is trying to help me learn Icelandic, a language I’ve been in love with for awhile. Although I can barely even spell my own name, he’s kind enough to keep trying, sending me the URLs of a couple really cool language websites.
  At this point, I am once again on a dating site. It’s become a sort of addiction, a sort of how-many-old-men-will-offer-me-money-this-week kind of challenge. When I really ask myself why I always end up back on a dating site, I get two answers; the sociologist in me says that, now that I’m twenty, I’m immersed into a society where everyone around me is coupling and, eventually going to marry, so I’m trying to give into the pressure and do the same thing. The English major in me says I’m just a hopeless romantic. I think they’re both right. Part of me keeps frequenting the online dating scene because I see everyone else around me in a relationship or about to start one, and I think, why don’t I have one? I should be good enough. Another part of me frequents the internet not because of entitlement to love, but because I want the lovey-dovey grotesqueries of love that my friends are currently experiencing.
  For now, though, it’s just politely ignoring messages from men old enough to be Hugh Hefner’s dad and trying to keep my cool. Maybe, eventually, I’ll find a guy my age who asks about my interests before my favored position in bed. Maybe I’ll really surprise myself and find a guy the old fashioned way—in public! Until then, I’ll keep learning raunchy Spanish and cruising embarrassing pictures of guys who go to my college (they think they’re being “discreet,” but they’re not), and that will be fun enough. I’ve learned some of my best lessons on love and dating from the men on these sites, and I’m sure I’ll learn a couple more.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Symbiosis of Raptors

(Sadly, not the extinct ones)

My parents went to a raptor shelter (raptors as in birds of prey, not dinosaurs), and learned a lot about the great horned owl, which is native to Indiana. I will distill the most interesting tidbits for you here:
  • Great horned owls are the strongest of raptors. Although they feed mainly on mice, if a great horned owl and a bald eagle got in a rumble, the owl would win.
  • The horned owl's claws are strong enough to grip the carcass of a baby deer, and they fly with enough force to lift it and bring it to nearby rocks, or other elevated areas, where it is safe enough for them to eat out of immediate reach of bigger, badder predators (coyotes, etc. Because sadly, the horned owl can't take on those beasts).
  • Great horned owls hunt by night, and since most falcons hunt by day, apparently if horned owls and falcons share a territory, they will also share a nest and help in raising each other's young. E.g., when the falcons go out by day to hunt, the owls will stay behind and incubate both their and the falcon's eggs, and the falcons will do the same for the owls when they go out to hunt. They will also watch over each other's young after the eggs have hatched by the same system.
  • Baby horned owls eat an average of ten field mice per feeding.
  • You can specially craft birdhouses for horned owels—they need to be large and open at two ends to allow enough room for the adult owls to travel through, and they need to be placed at the tops of tall, thick trees (coniferous work best!), but when the horned owls find them, they will roost there (it also helps if you live near open fields for the owls to hunt in).
  • And, on a completely unprofessional, uneducated note, I think Great Horned Owls are the sassiest looking of all owls.
If you happen to be an Indiana native like me, you should check out the Soarin' Hawk Raptor Rehab in Ft. Wayne! You can take tours and see birds!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

I wasn't always this out there.

This post has been triggered by a question that often gets asked me on my other blog; how I came out to my parents; how one should come out to their parents; what should be expected when coming out?

I'd like to start off by saying that I am by no means a professional on this subject. I am simply a gay man who lives my life openly to everyone around me; however, I was not, to Lady GaGa's chagrin, "born this way."

Coming out to my parents was, hands down, the most terrifying thing that I can think of having done in my life. It's a huge step in affirming your LGBT* identity; in my opinion, the biggest step you can take. With friends/peers, you can make it a "take-it-or-leave-it" situation—when you come out to them, you don't have to stay in their company if they don't treat you well, nor do they have to stay in your company if they don't like your sexual orientation.

But with family, it's an entirely different realm. No matter what happens, your family will always be connected to you, and that's a pretty big burden to bear.

A brief account of my personal coming out goes as follows:
I am one of those gays who claims to have known about my "differentness" for most, if not all of, my childhood. When I got to middle school, I learned the many definitions of "gay," and I finally had something to identify with. At first, as is the case, I believe, with many gay men, I claimed a bisexual identity, just to ease myself into coming out.
I started by telling my closest friends about being bi, then used it as a way to "correct" people who called me gay (it was sixth grade, it happened), and finally I told some of my closest teachers. After mostly positive reactions, I finally took my identity to my parents, coming out as bi towards the beginning of 8th grade. We didn't talk about it. My parents sent me to a therapist for a few sessions, but when it came to "family sessions" in which they would be confronted with talking about my sexuality, they even stopped sending me there. The ultimate goal of the therapist, my mom has told me since, was more or less to convert me back to being straight (I'm thankful things never got that far).
By high school I was openly telling everyone and anyone that I was gay. Maybe it was the new atmosphere, or maybe it was just "acceptance," but I wasn't scared of it anymore. By the end of sophomore year, I confronted my parents again and came out as gay. This time, there was no therapy. There was more talking. Over the years since, my parents have grown to accept my sexual orientation and are trying to constantly educate themselves on the LGBT* community.

Coming out is not easy, at all. Whether your parents are liberal or conservative, coming to terms with finding out their child is gay is hard. I like to put it like this; imagine having a baby boy. Imagine raising that boy for sixteen years dreaming of the girl they're going to meet in college, bring home for Christmas a few times, get engaged to, and have children with. That's what my parents did, for sixteen years; they imagined the life that society has told them I would have. Then I came in and "ruined" things with my change in plans; homosexuality. Being gay was not necessarily something my parents abhorred; it was something they had never imagined; it was sixteen years of history they had to re-create for themselves.

To the individual that spurred this post, here is my advice to coming out to a more conservative family:
——Don't do it alone. If you're worried your parents will have a negative reaction, have someone with you—a friend, teacher, school counselor—that already knows you're gay and can support you as you come out to your parents.
——Have a place to stay for a few days. Your parents may need some space from you after coming out, I've heard of parents asking their children to leave the house. Don't be left out cold; make sure there is somewhere you can go if you need to leave your house.
——Have information ready. If you're worried your parents are too conservative/don't understand the LGBT* community, have information ready for them; people become less hateful/fearful of people they understand. Some great places to start are AVERT and GLSEN.
——Make sure you're not in a vulnerable position. If your parents are paying for things you can't afford on your own (college, helping you out with an apartment, etc.), and you're worried they'll pull financial support, you may want to wait until you're in a more stable situation.
——Practice. I know it sounds silly, but it may make it easier to come out to your parents if you've come out to someone before them. Find a friend, sibling, teacher or counselor whom you trust and are comfortable with, and come out to them first. The experience will ease your nerves in front of your parents.
——Find community support. The GLSEN link I provided will show you local GLSEN chapters of GSAs that will be able to support you if things go bad when you come out.
——Don't get angry. Maybe your dad is like mine; maybe he'll get frustrated start yelling. Don't yell back. Do your best to keep a level voice and temper; adding your own anger will just escalate things.

Finally, don't psyche yourself out. Your parents will be surprised, yes. They may have a negative reaction at first, but you are their child, and they love you no matter what. It may take them a while to come to grips with your sexual orientation, but they eventually will.

Good luck to you, anon, and come back with any further questions!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Feminist in-and-out of love

It feels weird to initiate this blog with a post about loss of love, but that's what's on my mind right now, so here you go.
Tonight marks the end of a month and a half relationship that I had with a man we'll call "Mr. X."
Now, I know a month and a half is a blip on the radar of most relationships, and I'm not even going to try to deny that. However, big or small, I think every relationship manages to have a large impact on the people involved, if the right chemistry is involved. And believe me, Mr. X and I had the right chemistry.
Mr. X and I met online, which probably just adds to the downplay of this seemingly less tragic situation, but you can't knock what you haven't tried. Mr. X is, in my opinion, the model for the "perfect man." He's sweet, caring, and more than willing to make his partner happy (so you Florida bloggers better keep an eye out). He was one of the easiest people to talk to; long winded when I wanted to just listen, but silent when I just wanted to talk. Our relationship, however, has experienced a vast difference in goal-orientation. Probably the only downfall to Mr. X and I is that we have a six-year age difference, me being the younger one (and still in college). Mr. X is graduating beauty school in January, and has been offered, and taken, a job in Panama City Beach, Florida.
Now, some people may be thinking, If Mr. X is such a 'perfect man,' why let distance get in the way? To those people, I would say this: I am only a junior in college. I have grad school to think about, and a career that is likely to take me across the country; Mr. X wants to open his own salon, a business that ties the owner to their clientele, and their city. At this point in both of our lives, and especially his career, I think it's unfair for us to expect that either I to travel to him on school breaks, or for him to wait for me to finish my education settle down. I don't plan on settling down right after grad school, or even after my first job, and that would be completely unfair to a man whose bound to his city just as much as his career. Although I would confidently say that Mr. X and I had the potential to make it long-term, I don't think the circumstances were quite right.
For those who may be thinking, He's not moving 'till January; it's only June, I simply say that I don't want to be in a relationship with an expiration date. We had a really solid, really wonderful two months (including getting-to-know-you dates), and I don't want those to be marred by half a year of knowing our relationship would come to an end in January. I still plan on keeping in contact with Mr. X, I still plan on being his friend, and I still love him. I might not love him in the "let's get married and have kids" kind of way anymore, but that's not the only kind of love there is.