10 ½ Queer Docs To Get Woke On

Documentaries about queer culture and gay life hit all the right notes. They are historically relevant, dramatic, and usually pretty fabulous.What better way to while away a weeknight than to cuddle up with baeand learn something about your and others’ worlds. Here’s alittle list, in no particular order. Discuss…

1. A Bigger Splash (1973)

This amazingly layered documentary about the artist David Hockney, and his chic clique in ’70s London and LA, is one of the few docs that’s as formally dynamic as its subject. His fantasy life of chillin’ with naked boys in aqua pools of desire might make you want to move to LA.

2. Unzipped (1995)

Unzipped is one of the first really great fashion docs. This mid-90s artifact follows the openly gay MTV-generation guru and fashion darling, Isaac Mizrahi, as he does his thing. It’s nonstop Kate, Cindy, Linda, and Naomi—with regular cameos from a full-bloom Sandra Bernhard—but also a sharp portrait of a queer artist being his truest self.

3. The Celluloid Closet (1995)

The Celluloid Closet is one of those “Queer Studies 101” films. It’s a reading of Hollywood through the veil of homophobia and how the image of the gay man has been so terribly misrepresented. The film is mind-blowing and will make you rethink every film you have ever seen from a new perspective.

4. Times of Harvey Milk (1984)

If you don’t know who Harvey Milk is, you need to learn. Again, mandatory viewing; he’s like the gay community’s Martin Luther King Jr. Harvey was not perfect, but he was brave, strong, and outspoken in a time when it was very dangerous to be so. And he paid the ultimate price.

5. How to Survive a Plague (2012)

If you were personally touched by the AIDS pandemic and the devastation it wrought, it’s inspiring to see a film like How to Survive a Plague. This film tells the story of TAG and ACT UP, and how they fought valiantly for all our lives.

6. Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell (2008)

Matt Wolf’s paean to seminal downtown NYC musician Arthur Russell single-handedly introduced his music to a new generation. Every non-basic gay has Russell’s “That’s Us: Wild Combination” on their afterparty “molly” repeat playlist. This film is why.

7. Tab Hunter Confidential (2015)

Tab Hunter was the ultimate ’50s boy-next-door icon. For a time, he was more famous than James Dean. He was also gay and tortured for it by Hollywood’s homophobe overlords. The film is an inside look at the darkness of closeted fame. Plus, he was just freakin’ slammin’.

8. God Loves Uganda(2013)

Roger Ross Williams’s film is a searing portrait of how Western Christian organizations exported their homophobic agenda to Uganda and helped turn homosexuality into a death sentence. In a time when gay concentration camps are emerging, this film is required viewing.

10. L’amour Fou (2010) / Yves Saint Laurent 5 Avenue Marceau 75116 Paris (2002)

A doubleheader! L’amour Fou is a personal portrait of Yves Saint Laurent and his longtime business partner/lover Pierre Berge. It’s an honest rendering of what it’s like to grow old with your true life-partner. The second part of the doubleheader is an amazing fly-on-the-wall doc that shadows Saint Laurent as he completes his final show. Yves Saint Laurent His Life and Times/5Avenue Marceau 75116 Parisis a Proustian meditation on how queer sensibilities can translate into epic beauty.

10 1/2. Dance or Die (2017)

Dance or Die is a short doc about Ahmad Joudeh, a Syrian who dances despite the bombs and bullets in his war-torn homeland. I don’t know what Ahmed’s sexuality is, but his experience is queer and very moving. Check it out on Youtube.

We Met On Grindr: Jordan & Michael

About six years ago, Jordan arrived early for his date with Michael at a little dive bar on Chicago’s north side. The two had exchanged a few messages through Grindr, and Jordan, 24 at the time, didn’t expect much.

In the bar, they chatted about life; Michael talked about his grandma and his time as a graduate student in Women’s and Gender Studies. About 15 minutes into the date, Jordan said he sent his friend a simple text: “husband.”

“I was very into him,” said Jordan, “and three and a half years later we got married.”

Big cities like Chicago are densely populated with gay men and queer people in general. This hadn’t been the case for Jordan, who grew up in a smaller city where guys would show up 30 or 40 miles away from him. That’s just not the way it is in Chicago — it gets maxed out at about a mile.

“A lot of people know each other,” he said, “and that’s because they use those location apps to find friends, dates, hookups, or whatever they’re looking for.”

Jordan said he and Michael moved in together “pretty much right away,” and started to plan their wedding about two years later. They set the date for 2014, the year Illinois passed marriage equality. Then, a couple of months before their wedding, the Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality for the whole country.

Both of their families were excited and wanted to participate. They ended up having, Jordan said, about 163 wedding guests, which included Jordan’s young nieces and nephews. He said it was important for him to have the kids there because he didn’t necessarily know any queer men when he was their age.

“Only a handful of people there had been to a gay or queer wedding before,” Jordan said. “I think there’s something special about queer love, and there was a lot of emotion in the room.”

Jordan said he initially felt weird that his family might find out he met Michael on a location-based hookup app. It wasn’t the romantic, meet-cute he’d imagined.

But now, as online dating has become more accepted, and Tinder is a thing for straight people, Jordan said, “it should be more normalized because it is normal.”

“Realistically, that’s how most people meet these days,” he said, “and you still have to meet up with them in real life.”

In the nearly three years he’s been married, Jordan said he has felt a greater sense of security. He doesn’t have to wonder where things are going in his relationship. Jordan explains that he and Michael continue to negotiate their relationship, but in a much different way.

Jordan argued that apps get a lot of flak for being used for hookups, but they also provide opportunities to connect with people.

“I can’t imagine having missed out on the opportunity of having met Michael,” Jordan said.

Grindr Life is a series highlighting the weird, wild, or simply sweet experiences users around the world have from getting on the grid. Got a story you want to tell us? Drop us a line at [email protected].

These Are The Men Turning Your Instagram Thirst Traps Into Art

A nude sketch of PaulRaymond716 from Instagram by John MacConnell, done in ballpoint pen.

Social media has found a way to weasel its way into almost every aspect of culture, so it’s little surprise that it has become a bed of inspiration for a new generation of artists. A few weeks ago, sexting was the focus of an art festival in New York, and every day, illustrators find themselves turning some of the most alluring of Instagram thirst traps into art.

“[When I was young,] I was drawing superheroes,” illustrator and New York-based art director John MacConnell told INTO, over the phone, in a recent interview. “I was really into comic books that I was reading and the characters that I was watching on my cartoons.” But now, in their place, MacConnell finds himself rendering likenesses of Kyle Kreiger, Anthony Forte, and Justin Schlabach, all popular users on Instagram.

Image via  Instagram

Kim David Smith sketched by John MacConnell.

John MacConnell standing in front of his in-progress oil painting “Ed.”

After studying illustration as an undergraduate at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and getting an MFA in illustration and visual essay from the School of Visual Arts in New York, MacConnell bagged a job working at Shahid Company. His full-time work for that agency allows him free time to pick up private work revolving around portraiture and male nudes. “That’s where my Instagram came from,” he explained. “I was attending different drawing groups in the city. I started posting that on my Instagram, from that I started getting interest from people who followed me on Instagram and were interested in being part of my work.” And now, the artist sits with one live model a week for at least a 20-minute session for sketches. But MacConnell isn’t the only one.

Sketch of Taiwan-based user Ysswim by Ivan Natas.

Ivan Natas, an illustrator based in Amsterdam, also finds his inspiration on the platform. While MacConnell almost exclusively creates works of users who reach out to him and then meet for an in-person sketch that sometimes gets broadcast live, Natas does his work remotely. “I like to surprise them, so I have never asked for permission,” he wrote via email. “Luckily their reactions are always positive.”

For Natas, the work generally starts with a connection with the subject. “It all started really simple with a couple I follow, a post of them happily kissing,” Natas explained, noting that his work typically centers around people of color, as well as diverse body types and appearances. “I wanted to try to capture this little bliss of happiness.” That first sketch has turned into an ongoing series, which has seen Natas sketch not only popular figures but works surrounding social and political movements like Transgender Day of Visibility, International Women’s Day and World AIDS Day.

Shane Ortega by Ivan Natas.

Michael Wright and Steve Cerqua by Ivan Natas.

Of course, Natas and MacConnell aren’t the only ones. Other artists who post on Instagram like Henry Chang and Martin Bedolla join this grouping, though Chang asserts his work is less about the platform. “I mostly work with live models,” Chang said. “I don’t really look at their Instagram. Sometimes the models just happen to have a lot of followers, but I don’t really care whether they do or not.” Bedolla also only uses guys from Instagram occasionally to source for his work; having looked to the likes of Orlando Luca, better known as Freddy Krave, Jorge Zavala, and Nathan McCallum.

Watercolor of model and popular Instagram user Mitch by Henry Chang.

In progress sketch of photographer Orlando Luca, known as Freddy Krave, by Martin Bedolla.

Depiction of model and dancer Steven Rodriguez by Henry Chang.Sketch of the Mexico-based user Jorge Zavala by Martin Bedolla.

But the connection to the platform can provide artists with an autonomy they weren’t traditionally afforded before. “I haven’t necessarily needed a gallery at this point to get where I am,” MacConnell says, adding that Instagram has provided him with sales, patrons, commissions, exposure, and a ready audience. Currently, he is working on larger scale oil works, like a recent one based around Instagram hottie Black Jasper, that would be more targeted at galleries. His 130-page book of sketches is also due out this summer but available for pre-order now.

serpentwithfeet is putting himself (and his music) on blast

Early on in his career, serpentwithfeet, the moniker for 28-year-old Brooklyn-based artist Josiah Wise, longed to be an opera singer. “I spent a lot of time wanting to be the next Lawrence Brownlee or the next Ian Bostridge,” he admits. “I wanted to be this really respected tenor.”

This urge came after spending years in the Maryland State Boys Choir and time studying classical music at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, so it’s understandable that as serpentwithfeet, Wise’s music contains flecks of that rich musical pedigree. It’s also influenced by the gospel music of his childhood (Wise grew up in Baltimore and was introduced to music through the church) and draws influence from the RB singers he discovered as a teenager. It’s an arresting and playful combination that’s almost exclusively his own; a sound he once described as “pagan gospel,” although that’s not necessarily how he sees it now.

“I’m definitely not here to shit on past iterations or past skins that I’ve had,” Wise says. “But I think I’ve been able to get clear and focus on what it is that I love. A lot of the ideas that I used to take influence from four or five years ago, I still use now. There are some songs that I do love that are the same chord changes that I used five years ago. I’m really into recycling, so I guess those two words I just haven’t felt the need to recycle right now.”

Part of this recycling, of course, comes in the shape of mining past experiences. Wise explores the minutiae of relationships, sexual encounters, and domestic life with a Proustian level of detail and reverence; it’s where he says the magic of life can be found. “I think it’s in the domesticity; I think it’s in the backyard; I think it’s in the house; it’s in front of the church. I think that’s where the magic is. It doesn’t always need to be, like, in outer space in another time with aliens,” he jokes. “I think the magic is happening at every moment. When we kiss our boyfriends. When we kiss our mothers. That’s where, for me and in my life, I find the spark and the whimsy.”

While thematically serpentwithfeet’s music is focused, sonically it purposefully lacks definitive structure. The songs ebb and flow like the tide; lapping moments of calm juxtaposed against ominous waves of strings and percussion, with Wise’s devotional melodies buoyed by his fragile vocal delivery. And while the injection of classical influences might, on paper, feel disconcerting, they’re not. In fact, for Wise, they complement the lyrical themes. As he half-jokingly explains, the politics of classical music mirror the politics of his dating life. “With a lot of classical music and a lot of operas, you’ll find that the music is so melodramatic.”

Taking a deep breath, he shifts gear, suddenly becoming serious. “Classical music can take an idea and just amplify, amplify, amplify. The themes are just pushed to the edge of the universe, and I love that. That’s how I am in my dating life. I really enjoy the idea of taking that small little thing and blowing it out of proportion. Sometimes that works in my favor and sometimes not, but I really enjoy the idea of hyperbolic love and hyperbolic music. I think I am often brought back to classical music because of the permission that is given there to just amplify things all the time.”

On his five-track EP, the emotionally charged and honestly queer blisters, this becomes increasingly clear, as Wise moves a magnifying glass over his history, giving it an intense and melodramatic quality. Songs like “bisters” and “four ethers” are visceral and poetic, and his music is steeped with unwavering candor. And while the lyrics touch on topics of suicide, love lost and gay shame; the songs, Wise says, are a celebration of his experiences. “I think it’s a privilege to be able to identify things because for a long time I wasn’t able to identify what I was feeling; I wasn’t able to identify what didn’t work. To be able to say, ‘I want to be small today’ or ‘I want to exercise smallness, and I don’t want to be a big person today’ is exciting for me. I love that I’m able to say that, to name a thing, as that’s really the beast.”

This power, however, doesn’t give Wise a universal knowledge of all of life’s complexities. As a queer person of color, he understands how his body is politicized. “It’s interesting, but I’m not really sure exactly where I stand with it,” he admits. “But what I do know is that I’m going to be a full person. It would be easy to try and become a warrior or to feel like I need to not be expressive because I’m fighting this other power. But I don’t think that’s where my wonder lies. I think my wonder lies in being honest and open. I think that’s where I stand.”

Instead, Wise doesn’t necessarily view himself as an activist. “It’s not because I don’t feel like I am, but I guess my work is about reminding us all to leave the room a little softer,” he suggests. “After people listen to my songs, I want them to feel like they have a few more tools to be a bit more vulnerable or a bit more honest. I guess that’s my activism.” As he adds later, “I’m just out here playing. I’m frolicking, enjoying my body and what I can do.”

It’s evident that by being able to play with and take ownership of his, Wise has found an envious sense of liberation. But that doesn’t mean that he’s finished his journey trying to figure shit out, he’s just doing it now with a more sophisticated and focused energy.

“You know, I’m really into the idea of theme and variation. So, I think I’m constantly doing the same thing, but just variations of it. I have a lot more to say about the minutiae, and I really enjoy domestic life. I enjoy being in the house; I enjoy cooking, I enjoy candles, I enjoy making my own perfumes,” he says, emitting a childish joyfulness.

“I enjoy the quaint and the cozy; I just think there’s so much to explore there.”

serpentwithfeet’s blisters EP is available now via Tri Angle. You can catch him supporting Perfume Genius on his U.S. tour.

Refresh Your Feed: Best Ways to Find Someone on Grindr

You’re winding down after a long day, so you open up Grindr to see who’s around. And you see the same people who were around yesterday — and the day before. Because your apartment is in the same location it’s always been. And unless the apartment next door suddenly gets a new occupant on the first of the month, chances are everyone around you is still in the same place they were yesterday and the day before.

Seeing the same people on your feed day after day can get exhausting and boring. It’s what makes you close the app and not check it again until the next time you find yourself drunk and horny.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are things you can do to refresh your feed and find a whole new crop of guys — or see the ones you encounter on your feed every day in an entirely different light. So instead of giving up on Grindr just because the blonde down the street is still looking for “fun 24/7,” just not with you, try some of these tips on for size.

  • Move — Not literally. You don’t have to give your 30-day notice or put your condo on the market. But try checking Grindr when you aren’t at home. Do it at work (on your break — not when you’re talking to Amy from accounting in the kitchen). At the coffee shop. On vacation. Heck, grab a book, hop in the car, go to a new neighborhood, open your app, and watch the messages pour in. Just like you’re ecstatic when a new guy shows up on your feed, they will be too. So go somewhere new and remember how it feels to be fresh meat again.
  • Try the “Fresh Faces” feature — That scroll bar at the top of your app? That’s new. It’s a feature Grindr added because (shock) people like seeing fresh faces on their feed. So be the “Welcome Wagon” for those that are new to the app. Strike up a convo, share some pics, and find out what they’re looking for. Make that your first stop before you dive into the sea of regulars.
  • Change your profile pic — This may seem like an odd suggestion, but just like you’re sick of seeing the same faces, they’re sick of seeing yours. So give them a new option. One pic is not a lot to go off of, and when you switch up your look (trade “beach bum” for “dressy” or “sporty” for “laid back”), you get a whole new crop of people hitting you up. And they’ll share more pics. And who knows? The guy down the street you’ve been ignoring for months might actually turn out to be just your type.
  • Adjust what you’re looking for — You shouldn’t have to abandon your sense of self to chat with a new crop of people. But if “only looking for fun” isn’t turning up many results, loosen up. “Friends and fun” or “open to suggestions” might seem less intense. “Serious about dating and conversation” doesn’t need to be so “serious.” “Chat, friends, dates and more” is a lot more open to interpretation. Add an Instagram link, and maybe some fun facts to make the whole thing a bit more relaxed. Meeting men online should be fun, not a full-time job.
  • Adjust who you’re talking to — Some of the best convos I’ve ever had online have been with people I might not typically chat with because our interests differ or they aren’t my “type.” But step outside of your comfort zone and hit a couple of guys with a “sup” or a “how you doing?” Then follow it with something with a bit more substance. You never know what the guy you’re chatting with is looking for at that moment, and you just might connect with someone you’ve overlooked in the past.

Grindr Asks: Coming Out to Parents in Colombia

For many of us, what our parents will think is an extremely pressing question when we start to consider telling people about our sexual orientation or gender identity. Our parents’ reaction can have tremendous impacts in our life. On the positive side, reassuring us of their love can help in our own process of self-acceptance. On the other side, their rejection can be devastating to our mental health and even have financial or other material impacts.

“Mis padres celebraron mi orientación sexual.”

This week we wanted to get a sense from Grindr users in Colombia whether their parents knew about their sexual orientation, how they found out, and how they reacted. We set up a poll of gay, bi, and trans people logging into the app across the country’s 32 Departamentos as well as the Capital District and got responses from 3,567 users.

Some respondents critiqued the question, saying that in the culture of their region or even the culture of their individual family, “coming out” looks very different. Some said they never needed to talk about being LGBTQ at home for their parents to understand and accept it. Still, almost three-quarters of those who answered the poll said their parents knew.

Unfortunately, many people never get the chance to tell their parents because they’re outed in some other way, which can be a traumatic experience. It strips the LGBTQ person of the chance to make an empowered decision about who gets to know what and when about their journey. Most people in this poll (60.5%) said they told their parents themselves.

Regardless of how they find out, parents can have a wide range of reactions. Of course, we would like to see a world where all parents accept that their children could be gay, bi, or trans before they’re even born, but it was encouraging to see how many respondents here got a positive reaction.

It was particularly exciting to see how many people said their parents had a negative reaction, but have become more open since then. It’s good for all of us to remember that life is long, and people do grow and change.

“Colombia is a fairly advanced country in terms of LGBTQ visibility. I have lived in Barcelona and London, and now I reside in Medellin, and I see the same gay here in Colombia.”

It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t a survey built on any kind of statistical model. We’re not putting it out there to suggest that the percentages here reflect the exact truth of what’s going on with gay, bi, and trans people in Colombia or even with all Grindr users in the country. But it does paint a general picture, so those of us in the rest of the world aren’t under the false impression that our counterparts in Colombia never come out to their parents or that their parents don’t accept them. As one respondent said: “Telling my parents I’m gay opened up a whole new life to me; everything I’ve achieved since then was made possible by their love and support.”

The Fine Print

This survey was fielded in Spanish between Monday, April 10 and Sunday, April 16, 2017. Respondents were recruited by way of an in-app message sent to Grindr users logging in from the country of Colombia. All percentages in this article are rounded to the nearest tenth.

72.3% of respondents said they live in big cities, 22.0% in a medium-sized city or town, 4.5% in a small town, and 1.2% in a rural area.

Jack Harrison-Quintana is Director of Grindr For Equality for Grindr and was recently named one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business.

Starbuck Off!

If there’s one thing everyone has the easiest access to in the world, it’s the Internet and a Starbucks, so you’re probably all familiar with Starbucks’ latest marketing ploy, the Unicorn Frappuccino. Carefully concocted in a lab by 11 basic white girls for their gay BFF’s, the unicorn frap is getting mixed reviews. Let’s help the addictive fast coffee chain come up with several new drink ideas for for the gays who love them.

1. The Glitter-ccino

Flavor: Glitter, cotton candy, and Elmer’s glue.

Just one cup of this and you’ll be sparkling in that porcelain toilet for day! Perfect for that person who likes things to always been sparkly and beautiful. The Elmer’s Glue really helps make everything stick together. Those OCD gays, ya know?

2. The Britney-ccino

Flavor: Cheetos, chewing gum, and conservatorship.

Each drink is topped with a mini pink bob and Cheetos. A Starbucks employee has to watch you drink the entire thing, just in case you’re having an off day and you’re within arm’s reach of hair shaving utensils or umbrellas.

3. The Twink-uccino

Flavor: Ex-lax with a pineapple floater.

Perfect for the customer who loves to bottom but doesn’t always have time to swing by Rite-Aid for a disposable douche. The pineapple floater helps with making everything a bit sweeter. Smooth boys from all over the globe are sure to line up around the block for this one.

4. The Basic Bitch-uccino

Flavor: Mascara, vodka soda, lip gloss with optional crushed Valium sprinkles.

Perfect for that basic bitch girlfriend BFF who gets a little too extra when she’s drunk at the club, cries and tries to make out with 3 dozen gay guys. The optional Valium sprinkles are for when you know she’s going to be way too out of hand because her crush didn’t text her back in the past hour, so you take precautions so Kelly can sleep comfortably in the coat closet of the club, instead of hearing her ask “Do you think I’m pretty?” all night.

5. The Hungover-ccino

Flavor: Advil and grease.

For the day after a full on night of being turnt, everything you’ll need comes in one cup. The taste is that of the candy shell on Advil tablets with drizzled grease throughout! Topped with bits of Advil and a single mozzarella stick. You’ll never need a diner at 4am again, just a 24 hour Starbucks!

6. The Bey-Tea Lemonade

Flavor: Iced Tea Lemonade (Aka tastes the same, just slapped Beyoncé’s name on it…)

Beyoncé has conquered music, film, fashion and now STARBUCKS. She couldn’t handle people being addicted to Starbucks more than her so she had Blue Ivy drive her to the Starbucks corporate where she demanded her name be put on the drink. They both agreed to the Bey-Tea Lemonade because Yoncé fans will be anything that has to do with the queen of their Bey-hives.

Zander Hodgson Wants To Know Where He Stands

Jumping the pond and eager to get in front of the camera, Zander Hodgson, 26, is navigating LA while doing anything he can to earn the coveted status of being “up and coming.” Obviously, American audiences will probably never get on board with strictly British fare like, Coronation Street, but no living person anywhere on the planet can deny his sun-kissed coif, naturally pouty lips, and his ability to Instagram himself shirtless (frequently, and sometimes with less on).

We took a deep dive with him on his new life, dating stories, and how Americans just aren’t like the people he grew up with.

Grindr: So what kind of things would we recognize you from?

Zander: You wouldn’t recognize me from anything out here yet. I’ve done some TV shows in England.

What were they called?

Coronation Street – which is like this famous show in England. My mom was crazy proud because I grew up watching it with her. She was calling all of her friends when I was in it. And then Hollyoaks is one I did mainly for teens, and there’s Shameless.

What was your favorite role out of the three?

Probably Coronation Street, because it was something that my family could relate to and it was something that, all around, everyone was proud of. Everyone knew that was more of a big deal.

Good for you! Which role do you think you relate to the most? Or not relate at all, and it was totally crazy?

Also probably Coronation Street because [my character] was a bartender in the show, and I was bartending at the time of the shoot.

Were you similar to that character?

Yeah, I guess so.

What are you working on for the future? Do you have anything coming out?

I’m working with acting classes, deciding which kind of a track I want to go on. I just signed with a new manager, and he’s helping a lot with that. I’m excited about what’s to come.

Do you like modeling?

Yeah, I do. I like it more when you get to act a bit. Or they want you to show your personality more on the camera, or they have a story that you can imagine and create something with.

Have you had to do any crazy shoots?

I had one shoot where they were firing paint at me. It was powder paint and they had some sort of contraption – almost like a slingshot. That was fun and very wild. I wasn’t living in London at the time, so I had to travel back on the train and people were looking at me like, “What is going on?”

Did you have an awkward first kiss?

Yeah, my first kiss was at the town park in the small countryside town that I’m from. She probably doesn’t even know that she was my first kiss. But I remember the whole time I was thinking, “Oh my god, is this too much tongue?” But then afterward she told me I was a really good kisser. I acted cool about it, but secretly I was like, “So I’m a good kisser now? That’s good!”

Do you have any embarrassing date stories?

One time, a girl turned up really drunk. She tried to act like she wasn’t, but even the waitress noticed. My date drank the paper wrapper off the top of her straw. It was really awkward.

So what’s something that England does better than the US?

I like that the British people that I know are a lot more straightforward. Here, everyone is friendly, which is great, but it’s not always what’s really going on. I miss knowing where I stand with people sometimes.

What would be your ideal date if you didn’t know the person at all?

I went to Disneyland yesterday. That would be kinda fun. Or you know what would be really fun? A water park. I love water parks! And then you’re not so embarrassed about seeing each other like, half-naked already. It would be fun if it was a nice, sunny day and you were doing things that were a bit scary together. It just sort of breaks the ice.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

I hate when people say that they’re going to do something but don’t follow through with it. I like to be dependable, and I hate flakiness, you know?

What is something that you like in a partner or a friendship even?

I like people that are up for adventure. People that don’t focus on the negative too much, that you can grow with, and are interested in finding new things to do, not just sticking to the same old regimen

Body Image Issues: When Screaming, “I’m Beautiful” In A Speedo Isn’t Enough

I’m waiting to meet a queer man who has zero body image issues. A guy who 100% loves his body from head to toe, and embraces all his physical flaws and limitations. He’s completely fine with the fact that he will never have a six pack, an ass that rivals Kim Kardashian’s, a jawline like Liam Hemsworth, or cheekbones like Benedict Cumberbatch.

I’m waiting to speak to a gay man who read a piece online about learning to love his body, and then suddenly, he did. He wore a Speedo to the beach, embraced his love handles, and as if by magic, realized his flaws don’t make him less attractive, they make him… him. Leaving him no choice but to embrace them!

Now I’m all for the body positivity movement, but I don’t think vague, feel-good axioms are enough to help queer men struggling with body image issues. Screaming, “I’m beautiful and worthy of love” from the highest rooftop isn’t going to change diddly-squat.

We’re simply too embedded in the gay beauty culture. A culture that idolizes a certain bodily aesthetic: white, masculine, muscles, and so on. It teaches us that our value as a person (or at least a lot of it) is derived from how we look. This means we aren’t deserving of love or a healthy relationship if we don’t present a certain way. Or conversely, some of us think we are worthy of love, but will never find it, since we’re competing against men who look like Greek gods.

And while that may sound ridiculous, it does seem like a number of gay men actually have obtained the perfect body. I was in Provincetown last summer at a pool party on the 4th of July, and I was in pretty decent shape. But honestly, I was one of the handful of men there who didn’t have a six pack. I was in shock.

I was also recently visiting my family in LA. All it took was going out to one gay club in West Hollywood to make me feel terrible about my body. Even in Boston, where I live now, I go out and see, in abundance, men who look like Adonis.

So these men really do exist, and it seems like they’re all over the damn place. What’s more, they’re getting a lot more attention and love prospects than the rest of us (or so it seems).

This is why someone preaching, “You need to learn to love your body,” isn’t going to transform that person into someone who actually does.

That’s not to say we should give up and become a slave to the gym, beauty products, and our physical insecurities. I simply think it means we need to change how we approach our relationship with our body.

Here’s what I’ve done regarding my body image issues.

I’ve embraced that I have them, and no longer feel an ounce of remorse. I’ve realized that I’m not one of those queer men who’s going to learn to love his body fully. There will be days, lots of them, where I pinch my body fat and find myself gross. There will be days I get anxious because I can’t make it to the gym, and will immediately spiral into a negative feedback loop of, “I’m going to lose muscle, get fat, and nobody will love me.” There will be days where I stand in front of the mirror and point out every single thing I hate about my body.

And that’s okay.

Ironically, in embracing my insecurities, I’ve at least been able to get over the judgment and resentment I harbor towards myself for acting “shallowly” or obsessing over something minuscule. I no longer think something is wrong with me for not being able to embrace my body. I’ve simply acknowledged that I drank a little too much of the gay Kool-Aid. Because of this, I’m never going to have the healthiest relationship with my body.

Is this ideal? Absolutely not. But is it okay? Yes, it is. And at this point in my life, I can’t hope for a complete transformation in how I view my body, but I will gleefully take this form of harm reduction. Any bit helps.

With that said, I’m off. I need to make a protein shake and head to the gym.

Taiwan Comes Closer To Acceptance

As a 36-year-old gay man, I’ve witnessed great changes in Taiwanese society’s attitudes towards LGBTQ people. I realized I liked boys around age eleven, but back then homosexuality was still a taboo topic, and I didn’t dare tell anyone. I was quite popular in school, but I often felt that my classmates didn’t know the real me. I was very lonely and even considered myself a freak.

Only in 2000, when I started participating in a gay student club at my university and met other people like me, was I truly able to accept the fact that I was gay and start the process of coming out. At the time, the LGBTQ movement in Taiwan was thriving, and I had the opportunity to take gender-related courses in college, volunteer for LGBTQ organizations, and take part in LGBTQ events like pride parades.

But, while my gay life became richer and more colorful, life at home was still a completely different world. I tried to come out to my mother, but she believed that I’d read too much and asked me not to think about such things. For a long time after that, we didn’t mention the subject again. I felt like I was living a double life, active in the outside world but unable to say anything once I was home.

In 2002, I started to volunteer for the Taiwan Tongzhi Hotline Association (台灣同志諮詢熱線協會) and became a full-time staff member in 2011. Since then, my personal mission has been to contribute to the LGBTQ community and make Taiwanese society a friendlier place, so younger generations won’t experience the same difficulties that I did.

In 2004, we passed the Gender Equity Education Act (性別平等教育法), allowing us to enter school campuses and share with younger students our life stories and the concepts of gender diversity. We are also engaged in social education across the country. With these efforts and thanks to the many LGBTQ-friendly teachers in schools, Taiwanese society has indeed become more welcoming to us, especially among younger generations, which I am very proud to have been a part of.

I am also responsible for HIV/AIDS education and advocacy. I’m working on issues of HIV stigma, which are often even more severe than the stigma attached to homosexuality.

These days, marriage equality has taken center stage in the country. In 2016, because President Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文) stated during her campaign that she supports marriage equality, and due to the suicide of a prominent gay professor in the country, marriage equality became an issue that everyone in the country was paying attention to. Legislators from different parties proposed three amendments to Civil Code. My organization, along with other groups, formed a coalition to work with friendly legislators. The marriage equality bill passed its first hurdle, a review in committee, on December 26, 2016, and it is currently waiting for a second reading. In the meantime, the Supreme Court is expected to deliver a ruling regarding whether the current Civil Code is unconstitutional.

But this journey has not been entirely smooth. Our opponents, many of whom say it is their Christian faith that drives them, have mobilized their communities and spread rumors and fear. It has also pushed them to attack other areas such as gender equity education, HIV/AIDS, and transgender rights.

To raise public awareness and support, we organized three large-scale events in one month at the end of 2016, the biggest of which attracted more than 250,000 individuals to rally and show their support for marriage equality in front of the Presidential Office Building. We can even thank Grindr for getting involved and encouraging all Taiwanese users of the app to participate. This was the largest demonstration for LGBTQ issues Taiwanese society has ever witnessed and, of course, it also attracted many of our heterosexual allies to participate.

The marriage equality movement has also empowered me personally. I finally decided to come out to my family. I shared relevant information in our family social media group and invited them to the rally at the end of last year. Although my parents didn’t join me that day, they told me to stay safe, and, to me, that reminder was worth more than anything.

The marriage equality movement has not just been about our ability to get married. It has also been the greatest moment of social education about LGBTQ-related issues in our history, as well as an important step for the democratization of Taiwan. I truly hope that the marriage equality bill will come to pass this year. Either way, my colleagues, volunteers, and I will continue to fight for LGBTQ human rights.

Sean Sih-Cheng Du (杜思誠) is Director of Policy Advocacy at Taiwan Tonzhi Hotline Association (台灣同志諮詢熱線協會). He leads the organization’s HIV/AIDS education and international collaboration programs, as well as serving as a member of the marriage equality advocacy team.