On the Orlando Massacre and the Religious Right

I’ve been looking for a way to put into words the complete lack of concern, lack of comment and lack of connection to the atrocity in Orlando I’ve seen from anyone in the (conservative Christian) community where I grew up. They were Paris; they were Brussels; but they can’t be Pulse. To acknowledge this tragedy is to admit that queer people exist, that they deserve to live(!) and that belittling their personhood or right to live out their truth is a direct cause of the hateful attitudes that lead to these extreme actions.

If they do decide to acknowledge it, it will be to make some brash denouncement of Islam and all Muslims, ignoring the fact that this shooter had more in common with them than he did with anyone fighting for ISIS in Syria.

Perhaps, at best, they’ll send their “thoughts and prayers.” They prayed after Sandy Hook, they prayed after San Bernardino, and they continued to clutch their pearls when anyone mentioned gun reform or requested respect for the queer community. I don’t want any more prayers. I want actions.

There is no excuse for the United States to have gun violence rates 20 times higher than any other developed nation. This is not about stopping people from hunting or protecting themselves. This is about human-on-human attacks that occur with extreme weapons meant to be instruments of war. We must change.

Furthermore, while I respect the solidarity of saying this was an attack against “all Americans,” this was, in fact, a targeted hate crime. This is was not an attack against a generic “America,” this was an attack against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and other allied folks who were celebrating their own existence. Do not erase that fact by framing this as an Islamic attack against the U.S. Do not use this as an excuse to hate, fear or disrespect Muslims.

Many reports suggest that the shooter’s rampage against the LGBTQ community may have been sparked by his outrage upon seeing two men kiss publicly in Miami earlier this year. In all likelihood (superficial pronouncements aside), this man had no real connection or affiliation with ISIS. Regardless of his affiliation, if you are more shocked by the thought of two men kissing (or a transgender person using your bathroom, or a Muslim praying next to you, etc.) than by the murder of 50+ people for being queer, you need to take a serious look at your values.

I am shocked, hurt and angered by the attack in Orlando. I am less shocked – but equally hurt and angered – by the response (or lack thereof) by the conservatives I’ve observed. Take a hard look at yourself and the world in which you live. Think about who or what the real enemy is. No good will ever come from hatred or ignorance. Practice love. Show compassion. And for god’s sake, have some common sense.



On Sex in Your 20s

I was not a slut in college. In fact, I could count on one hand the number of guys I’d slept with before my last (long-term) relationship.

I remember being maybe 20, maybe 21 years old and talking to an older gay friend of mine. I was lamenting how much I wanted a boyfriend and how I couldn’t understand how all these guys just wanted to hook up. And, more specifically, how he could profess to want a relationship but also troll for hookups at the same time. Wasn’t that a conflict of interest? Or intent? He explained that while he very much wanted a boyfriend, he also had an active libido, and had needs that needed to be met in the meantime. Starry-eyed me didn’t quite get it.

Fast forward 4-5 years to me in a loving, committed, mostly sexless relationship. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that we’d never had sex. I had some of the best sex of my life with my ex. But as relationships tend to do, ours had reached a point much closer to best friends/roommates than romantic partners.

I wanted sex.

And after my ex and I broke up, it was the first thing I looked for. Fresh out of a many-year relationship, I was not ready to jump back into something serious. I did want to get some ass. And as a gay man, I took full advantage of the wide array of technological tools at my disposal to that end. And it worked. I had lots of sex. Some good sex, some really bad sex, mostly okay to moderate sex.

When you are sleeping with random people you meet on an app or the Internet, there is very little grace involved. There is one goal at hand, and everything else is a roadblock to achieving that goal. Your body becomes a product listing on Amazon, which buyers scan and discard if they see any flaws. Things you could overlook in a person you admired for others reasons are dealbreakers in this arena. I am not placing myself above this. When you’re only looking for sex, you want to have it with someone you find… sexy! And with the immediacy of hookups, the physical trumps all.

The result is a lot of shame, self-doubt and frustration mixed with a moderate amount of mediocre sex. Yet, the drive remains. We are humans. We are hard-wired to want sex. It’s natural! I am not ashamed of this. I will not apologize or accept people’s judgement for wanting and enjoying casual sex. Slut-shamers be damned.

Fast forward again to today. It’s been quite some time since my breakup, and I’m ready for a relationship again (see also: drunk on OkCupid in my previous post). But while I work on that, I also want sex. My body has needs. And hookups are the quickest way to meet them.

When you start engaging in casual sex, you make a lot of decisions — some conscious, some not. Will I post/send naked photos of myself? Will I sleep with people I know, or who know people I know? Will I tell people my full name, what I do, where I live? In many of these cases, I chose “yes.” I also had to accept the fact that this also meant I may one day run into someone I’ve exchanged photos or hooked up with at a friend’s party or at a work function or (gulp) on the Facebook friend list of a potential boyfriend. And while I chose to accept that reality as part of the deal, it’s still somewhat terrifying.

My hope is that the (proverbial) person I’m interested in would understand that. He, too, may have a backlog of experiences that are waiting to come to light. Not surprisingly, a lot of the guys I see on OkCupid looking for relationships are the same ones who are in other places looking for sex. How can I judge them for that? I am doing the same thing. And I hope at the very least, a potential partner would be able to respect that. If he can’t, is he really someone I want to be with?

I finally understand what my friend told me years ago, when he was my age . Yes, I want a boyfriend. Yes, my body wants sex in the meantime. Yes, it’s complicated and messy. But maybe, just maybe it will all work out in the end.


A new beginning

It’s snowing, again, and my cat is squawking at the birds outside the window in the strange way that cats do – as if trying to speak the birds’ own language. It’s 1:30 p.m., but I’m only just getting into my “morning” coffee. I’m sitting in the recliner, rather than on the couch facing the TV, perhaps with the notion that small changes like these are what will eventually give me traction out of the rut I like to pretend I haven’t fallen into. In the moderate amount of time I spend home in my cheap but not that rundown duplex apartment, 90-95% is spent on the middle cushion of my slip-covered couch, staring back and forth between my phone, laptop or iPad and something on the TV.

Last night it was Golden Girls and OkCupid.

The holidays couldn’t end fast enough this year. I’ve always loved Christmas, but as my religious beliefs waned and cynicism grew, it became harder and harder to really get into the spirit. I’d have to ignore the words of the carols to avoid getting upset. Now not just “Christmas Shoes” makes me cringe and change the radio station, but constant references to the Savior and Newborn King and all other manner of praise that I no longer can cognitively remove from my frustration with organized religion and how the church has marginalized or fucked over me and countless others. This Christmas – the first after my dear Grandma died and my 3.5-year relationship with my boyfriend ended – was a double whammy. With Grandma gone, it felt like the last thread of spirit and nostalgia had vanished. And being alone over the holidays is a special kind of hell. I was cold and sad. My family noticed.

I had seen my ex, visiting town for the holidays, the night before I left to drive five hours to my parents’ rural home. We talked for hours, reminisced, discussed how hard it is to be single again and how every guy we meet will inevitably be compared to the other. We remembered how tough things were at the end, and how we didn’t say many of the things we should have. How we had had a great relationship, but needed to individually take the next steps in our life. We drank beer. We hugged goodnight. I cried five times on my drive home the next day. (This was only 1/3 the amount of times I saw a pro-life billboard or hand-drawn yard sign. I considered this a small victory.)

The holidays were rough. I’m glad to be starting 2015 on a new foot, even though I kissed a champagne bottle rather than a man to ring it in. Golden Girls reruns, a staple in my nightly routine, have once again replaced the sickeningly saccharine holiday movies on the Hallmark Channel (at least from 10:30-midnight, CST). Last night, I was the right level of one-beer mellow to attack OkCupid with vigor. Loose enough to message total strangers and attempt to sound charming, yet casual – and definitely not desperate – in two sentences, but level-headed enough to not slam my computer shut when I can’t find anything to relate to in your barebones profile but you’re cute and we’re an 87% match and what the fuck am I even doing on this site anyways?!

It’s been a really long time since I’ve written here. I’m starting again not because I really think I have anything interesting to share with the world, but because it’s helpful to put my stupid thoughts into words, and because it’s cheaper than therapy.

A few CliffsNotes® on the past few years: I was in a long-term relationship. Now I’m not. I’m no longer a recent grad. I no longer use the Oxford comma. I no longer have the same job. I am still The Office Gay.

I’ve grown up, to some degree. I’m still in my 20s, but that next decade is creeping closer and closer. I’m dealing with being a single adult, which is scary and exciting and exhausting. The stakes are higher, not just for dating, but with most decisions I make. As I read over my four-year-old posts on this page, I feel a mixture of nostalgia and hindsight wisdom. Some of the posts are so stupid I laughed out loud. Some still ring quite true. I’ve changed a lot, but beneath it all, I’m still me.

I have no idea what I’ll write here or how often I’ll post. I’m pretty bad at tweeting and I hate self-promotion. But if you’re still here with me and reading this: Hello, and thank you. Maybe we’ll figure it all out together.


If the Shoe Fits…

While shopping with a friend recently, I found myself struggling to settle on a pair of shoes to buy. My go-to pair have seen their better days (and their worse days, and the days beyond those, even…), so it’s time to suck it up and get a new pair. The problem was (is) that I can’t seem to decide what type to get. Do I stick with simple and casual? Go for something more professional? Maybe something daring and edgy? The pressure got too high, and I ended up leaving empty-handed.

About halfway through the struggle, I realized that what I was dealing with ran much deeper than simply my choice in footwear. The shoe dilemma was merely a representation of the deeper question I’m facing right now—who am I, exactly, and where am I going? I’m not really the casually shod college student anymore, with some loose threads and holes and smudges. But I’m not exactly ready to be the high brow, polished-loafer professional either. Then there’s the daring option—throwing caution to the wind, taking a chance on a whim,  blazing my own trail. Which will it be?

By refusing to buy new shoes, I’m prolonging my limbo state and avoiding the decisions that are plaguing more than just my feet. I’m not sure how long I can keep toeing the line without throwing myself fully in one direction or another, but I’m just as unsure which path is right for me. So for now, I go barefoot…


For Kind Souls Everywhere

You know that moment when everything is going wrong, and then one person shows you a small kindness and you want to hug them and cry and implode all at the same time? I’m sure this has happened to everyone at some point. You’re running late and hitting every red light and you have to stop at Target for God knows what, and the person with a cart of 50 items lets you go first at the checkout? Or you’re feeling crappy and didn’t have time to get ready, but a friend tells you you’re looking great anyways?

I had one of those moments this morning, after sleeping terribly and waking up tired and cranky and a facing series of other inconsequential but supremely frustrating events. I showed up at work (late) and found that one of my bosses had left me a gift for no reason—just because. I went to my office and nearly broke down. In that moment, it was the best thing anyone could ever have done for me.

It’s at these moments when we’re the most vulnerable that people’s actions can affect us the most. My boss, the stranger in line at Target, the person who smiles at you on the sidewalk—they all made a difference in someone’s shitty day and they probably didn’t even realize it. So thank you to the kind folks out there that have made life a little better. Hopefully I can be the same for you at some point. You never know when someone needs it the most.



Revenge of the Gums

You know that thing that happens when you floss your teeth after not having flossed for a long time? Your gums retaliate. When you wake up the next morning they’ve flared up, covering nearly half your teeth and making your whole mouth feel weird and uncomfortable all day long. Sometimes it takes even longer for them to go back to normal. I call this Revenge of the Gums.

The thing about Revenge of the Gums is that you know you’re doing the right thing for your teeth. Your parents, your dentist, and hundreds of TV commercials have told you over the years that you need to floss to keep your teeth and gums healthy. But then you don’t for a while, and then you’re resisting doing it because you don’t want to deal with their retaliation that will subsequently make your life miserable. It’s easier to live with knowing that you’re essentially destroying your teeth than to do what’s best for them and live with the consequences.

While dealing with a case of Revenge of the Gums today, I realized that this same principle applies to a lot of other areas of my life, especially when it comes to conflict or confrontation. I hate conflict and I hate having to confront people, so I avoid doing it regardless of how necessary it may be. Even when I know it’s the right thing in the end and will probably eventually make things better, I’m not ready to deal with the immediate consequences. Tempers flare up like angry gums, and it can take days or weeks for things to be comfortable again.

But with my teeth, I know that things will eventually go back to normal. In life, you never have that guarantee. Friendships, relationships, even the office environment can become tainted with conflict and never really get back to the place they were at before. Flossing pulls out a lot of shit that’s not really pleasant to look at or deal with, and confronting someone can stir up discussions and topics that are equally unpalatable. Is it worth it in the end? You never really know until it’s too late. Maybe the nasty gunk that’s stuck in your teeth/life will finally be released and you will move on to a healthier, happier mouth/life. Or maybe the consequences will end up making things worse than they were to begin with.

So. To floss or not to floss? That is the question.


Four Truths You Won’t Believe Until You Experience Them Yourself

In my relatively short expanse of a lifetime, I’ve come to understand that there are certain truths you will never understand until you’ve experienced them for yourself. People can tell them to you while you’re crying in their arms, you can read books about them or hear speakers talk about them, and you might even repeat them absentmindedly to others without really believing them yourself.

But then, it clicks.

At a certain point, it just hits you. You realize that the little nugget of wisdom you’d been told over and over was right all along, but you just had to figure it out for yourself.

For some reason, I feel like a lot of these truths relate to relationships and dating. And since I have several single friends right now who are struggling to come to terms with some of these facts, I thought I would share them with all of you (or the parts that I’ve come to understand, at least). Hopefully this will help it “click” for at least one person.


• No one else will be able to love you until you love yourself.

This one seems especially difficult for some, including me in the past. You’re low on self-confidence, but you think that if only you could find that one guy or girl, he/she would make you feel pretty or smart or full of worth. The fact is, you have tons of great qualities already that you don’t need anyone else to realize for you. But others can sense when you’re not comfortable in your own skin. Until you would date you, how can you expect anyone else to? You have to love yourself—the good and bad parts—before you can expect anyone else to do the same. It’s not easy and you won’t always get there 100%, but you have to start making steps in the right direction and helping yourself. Only then will you truly be able to let someone else in.

• Being in a relationship won’t solve your problems.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: your problems won’t disappear when you get a girlfriend/boyfriend. This isn’t to say that relationships don’t have their perks, but your shitty job, your money problems, or your issues with your family won’t go away just because you finally found “the one.” Yes, you will have someone to stand beside you and hopefully help you through the hard times, but he or she won’t make the world disappear altogether. And that person will bring certain issues or frustrations of his/her own. This leads to truth number three:

• Relationships take work.

Cursed be the movies and books that end with the amorous couple finally coming together and sharing a beautiful kiss as the happy music grows louder and the credits begin to roll. That is not real life. Relationships are great, don’t get me wrong. But unless you’re dating Jesus or Mother Theresa, it’s not always going to be easy. People make mistakes. People have weird quirks. Other people come in and shake things up. These are all parts of a normal, healthy relationship. Sharing your life with someone else involves giving and taking, making compromises and concessions. You will laugh, and you will cry. Love can be a beautiful thing, but don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy.

Finally, one more truth that’s especially true to my heart:

• It gets better.

This probably deserves its own post and will likely get one at some time in the future, but for now I’ll keep it simple. All these truths can be painful on their own, but even worse when compounded with being, say, a lonely gay teen growing up in a tiny Midwestern town. Being alone sucks. Watching other people in relationships sucks. And having people resent you for who you are sucks, too. But you must, must, must remember that there are people who love you exactly how you are—be it gay, straight, fat, thin, white, black, or anywhere in between or around. Focus on those people, and let them show you how to love yourself. No heartache is forever, and someday you will be able to look back at even your worst moments and see how you have grown from them. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, there are thousands of others who will tell you the same at ItGetsBetter.org.

I love you, and even if I don’t know you, I am here for you.