Malaysia Offering Conversion Therapy Courses to Help Transgender People ‘Return to Normal Lives’

A regional government in Malaysia is slated to begin offering courses in 2018 designed to “cure” transgender women of their gender identities.

The state of Terengganu announced this weekend that trans people in the eastern coastal territory would have the option of enrolling in a voluntary conversion therapy program, one that will include experts in psychology, medicine, and religion as part of its curriculum.

“Transgender women are part of our society,” Ghazali Taib, a member of the Terengganu executive council, told Agence Presse-France. “They are our responsibility. […] At the end, it is up to them to make a choice. The government’s concept is not [to] force. [We] give them a path to make the best choices for their lives.”

Also known as “reparative therapy,” the practice of treating LGBTQ identity as a curable psychological condition has been condemned by every leading medical association in the United States. It has frequently been likened to torture.

Taib claims that the course will include testimonials from trans women who found success in similar programs and have “returned to normal lives.”

Local LGBTQ organizations lambasted the statement as ill-informed and dangerous.

“If you ask someone not to be themselves that will have an adverse impact on the health and wellbeing of the person,” Thilaga Sulathireh, co-founder of the trans advocacy group Justice for Sisters, told AFP.

“Corrective therapy violates everyone’s rights in so many ways,” claimed activist Nisha Ayub in an interview with the French press corps.

“[W]e the community are not the problem, but it’s the system that they created that causes the problems to the community,” she said in a public statement posted to Facebook. “This is not the matter of religion, but it’s a matter of being inclusive towards your citizens from different diverse backgrounds towards the developments, health and economical point of view.’

Ayub added that the program would “create more harm to the community.”

A 2014 estimate suggested there are at least 24,000 transgender people currently living in Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation of more than 31 million residents.

LGBTQ people face extreme obstacles in the religiously orthodox country where 80 percent of the population believes same-sex activity is unacceptable. Homosexuality is illegal, punishable by a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. The prohibition of “cross-dressing” under Shariah law was successfully struck down in a groundbreaking court ruling three years agobut that verdict was overturned on appeal.

This week’s announcement isn’t the country’s first controversy over conversion therapy. Health ministers in Malaysia announced a contest in June 2017 inviting citizens to submit videos suggesting ways to “prevent, control, and seek help” for “gender identity disorder.”

The reward was a cash prize of $935.

These Portraits Of Panama’s Omeggid Community Gives Them A Voice

In the islands of Panama live the Guna (formerly known as Kuna), a community of indigenous people. Amongst other things, they are known for their creation of molas, applique textiles generally handmade by the women while men fish or otherwise work.

But of some of the most skilled mola creators are the Omeggid, the community of trans people in Panamanian society.

“When they call me ‘Omeggid,’ I say ‘Thank you,’ because it is what defines me.” Jackie

In his latest series, portrait photographer Robert Kalman gives voice to both the Omeggid community as well as the trans community of Israel. Over the span of 17 images, Kalman shoots and interviews them, finding that though their cultures are different, there are similarities in their experiences.

“I have great interest in [queer] themes because my sister was a lesbian and my mother rejected her,” Kalman tells INTO. “The experience of observing my sister’s life gave me a great deal of empathy for people who have a difficult time making their way through life.”

While that interest was first put on display when the photographer exhibited a series of portraits of lesbians in 2016 alongside their own statements, it now is represented in this new series titled “I’m Not a Woman and I’m Not a Man. I am Simply Myself.”

“Why do I feel so alone? I’m not 100% part of life. It’s not really about being a trans person; it’s just about being a person.” Gaya

Kulman first discovered his Panamanian subjects on a trip to document the Guna. When looking over that series, he found a few that “obviously” seemed to be queer.

“I started researching general homesexual life in Panama once I got home,” Kalman says. “You know, it’s not easy because Latin American can be very homophobic.”

During that research Kalman found mention of the Omeggid.

Like other indigenous cultures, the Guna’s understanding of gender is not binary. The Omeggid, like the meti of Nepal, muxe of Mexico, or the hijra of India, are an additional gender.

“They don’t call themselves transgender,” Kalman says, negating the notion that they are in some way between male and female. “They consider themselves a third gender.”

It’s from that idea that Kalman’s series got its name.

“I want to show that Omeggid are people, like everyone else. That is one reason I am working so hard to raise my daughter and be respected.” Debora

The experiences of the Omeggid are varied. On the islands, in the seclusion of their own communities many, according to Kalman, are accepted. Omeggid are born male, and when there are signs that a child might be Ommegid, the child is then raised as female, growing up to fill roles traditionally performed by women. But some of the Omeggid emigrate from their own communities into cities where they are not generally accepted.

Kalman paired nine Omeggid portraits with eight portraits of trans people from Israel. Despite their being two very culturally different societies, Kalman finds some similarities.

“What startled me was that many of the things the Omeggid said to me, the Israelites said to me,” he says, particularly pointing at not being accepted by society and their own families.

“I came out as a man at 16, but I was drafted into the army as a female. When I took the oath it was as a man. I felt very proud.” Ofer

Kalman is currently working on a 50+ page photo book featuring portraits of the Omeggid. Most striking is the diversity of experiences the community has, from being starved by parents to simply coming to understand how they want to move through the world It’s a work that stresses the importance of visibility for this community. Quotes include stories of having cans thrown at them, to just coming to terms with the term Omeggid.

“I want the world to know that the Omeggid are just like everyone else,” says Shayna, an Omeggid, who hopes Kalman’s book will help others understandher community’s hopes for simple things like access to marriage, children, and respect. “We have feelings, too.”

“I’m Not a Woman and I’m Not a Man. I am Simply Myself” is on view at the Soho Photo Gallery from January 5 to February 3 2018.

Michele Bachmann Is Asking God Whether She Should Run for Al Franken’s Senate Seat

Are you there, God? It’s me, Michele Bachmann.

Former scary-eyed evangelical Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who was also a failed 2012 presidential candidate, may want to run for Democrat Al Franken’s senate seat. First, she has to check in with the Big Guy Upstairs.

Bachmann told a conservative news blog that several people contacted her urging her to run for Franken’s vacant seat.

Bachmann said she would run to bring Christian principles back to Washington. For the record, Bachmann is anti LGBT and part of her Christian beliefs include that God would destroy America for sanctioning same-sex marriage.

“I fulfilled the calling that God gave me,” Bachmann said, talking about her 2012 run. “So the question is, am I being called to do this now? I don’t know.”

During the clip, Bachmann also claims that she was the first major Republican to take the “repeal” stance on Obamacare and that her stance ultimately became the stance of the Republican party and the will of the American people.

Except, people overwhelmingly like Obamacare.

Maybe she should ask God to give her an internet connection so she can look up some stats before she opens her mouth?

Photography: Getty Images

Transgender People Can Now Enlist in the Military, Trump Will Not Appeal

New Years’ Day marked an auspicious first for the armed forces. On Jan. 1, transgender people were finally allowed to enlist in the military following a months-long battle with the Trump administration.

Per Pentagon guidelines, trans applicants will be permitted to join if they have “been stable in the preferred gender for 18 months.” The regulations state that transgender troops must have “completed all medical treatment associated with [their] gender transition” or demonstrated that they have “been stable on… hormones for 18 months,” along with certification from a medical professional.

Trans individuals were originally slated to begin enlisting on July 1, 2017 following a 2016 order from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, but that start date was delayed after a series of tweets from President Donald Trump opposing transgender military service.

He tweeted in July that the Pentagon would “not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity,” citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

Although the president would sign a directive in August putting that proposed policy into effect, it was blocked in a series of federal court rulings. U.S. District Judges Marvin Garbis in Baltimore and Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington D.C. both ruled against the ban. In a November decision, Garbis argued that preventing trans military service “cannot possibly constitute a legitimate governmental interest.”

After another federal court ruled against an emergency motion to delay transgender enlistment on Dec. 22, the White House claimed it would stop appealing the verdicts.

“The Department of Defense has announced that it will be releasing an independent study of these issues in the coming weeks,” an anonymous official within the administration claimed in a statement. “So rather than litigate this interim appeal before that occurs, the administration has decided to wait for DOD’s study and will continue to defend the president’s lawful authority in District Court in the meantime.”

The president had ordered Gen. James Mattis of the Department of Defense to issue him a plan to implement his policy by March 23.

Mattis has said that the military will continue to comply with court orders. “We’ll obey whatever the law says,” the Secretary of Defense told reporters last week. “It’s a court case right now. […] The Department of Justice is handling it.”

A 2016 RAND corporation study, which was commissioned by the Pentagon, found that allowing transgender people to enter the military will entail “relatively low” medical costs, as well as having a “minimal” impact on unit cohesion and troop readiness. The independent research group found that between 1,320 and 6,630 trans individuals were already serving in active duty.

Making Queer Magic

via GIPHY

I’m unsure when my obsession with magic first took root, but I blame my mother.

I vividly remember how she handed me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the playroom of a McDonald’s, a gift she’d bought on recommendation from a People magazine. After years of mental review, this moment still seems the most likely beginning.

I could also blame my dad, who signed me up for my first library card in an effort to reduce the constant trips to Barnes and Noble. For several years, I woke up every Saturday morning, rode my bike to the closest branch of the public library, and spent hours tearing through their section of Young Adult Fiction.

Or maybe there’s nobody to blame and I was merely a casualty in fantasy’s post-Harry Potter cultural resurgence.

Whatever the reason, the fact remains that I was, from an early age, obsessed with the occult; the otherworldly, the magical. As I grew older, my interest sprawled outwards, off the pages of books. Anything that resisted immediate comprehensionaliens, cryptids, vampires, ancient anomaliescaptured my imagination. I began spending time in the New Age/ Spirituality sections of bookstores, surreptitiously reading Wiccan manuals and biographies of Aleister Crowley. A few friends and I began calling ourselves a coven and spent afternoons discussing the properties of crystal and candles and the phases of the moon.

Of course, none of this went unnoticed. Initially, adults encouraged the constant reading, but my slow transformation into a tiny occultist caused visible concern. The teachers at my Catholic school were wholly unequipped to deal with my requests to do reports on the Salem witch trials, the fact I spent reading periods poring over astrological almanacs, or, most glaringly, the time I was caught bringing a spell doll to school in an attempt to hex a bully into oblivion.

My father, in particular, developed an aversion to my newfound interests. Always suspicious of my femininity, my sudden transformation into a full-blown witch seemed just a shade too strange for him to handle. He began refusing to buy specific books for me and aggressively encouraged me to join the football team. Things came to a head one afternoon when, in the midst of a meltdown I was having about being picked on at school, he informed me that if I continued with all the “witch shit,” then I shouldn’t be surprised when people teased me for being weird.

As I got older, my interest in the fantastic changed somewhat, tempered by the knowledge that many of the things I’d once considered make-believe were, for some people, real spiritual practices. When I moved to Seattle after college, I was suddenly surrounded by people, many of them queer, who practiced witchcraft, wrote natal charts, read tarot cards, and proselytized the virtues of crystals. Their reasons for their practice varied, but they were all earnest.

Almost overnight I realized that my fascination wasn’t unique. I wasn’t a freak. In fact, it seemed almost a given that most people I encountered in my day-to-day life had at least a passing interest astrology or divination. A few months ago, an acquaintance, a queer person themself, created waves by taking to Facebook to announce their mistrust of astrology. The practice, they argued, was nonsense, unfounded and unsubstantiated by science. The response was swift. The overwhelming majority jumped in to defend their belief in the power of the stars. Several people argued that their belief in astrology represented a personal rejection of patriarchal monotheism and its historical atrocities.

Others pointed out that astrology provides a rough framework through which to contextualize human behavior. A few just liked that it was counter-cultural.
It was a fascinating discussion because it seemed to mirror a debate in which I had participated for years. On one side, those who eschew the mystical. It can’t be substantiated. It’s a waste of time, they argue. On the other, those who have found some kind of solace in something larger than themselves, even if they understand that something to be fictitious.

Unsurprisingly, I ally myself with the second group. How could I not? When I was young, imaginative, and deeply unhappy with my surroundingsthough I couldn’t have articulated it thenthe fantasy worlds I found in books allowed me to escape the tyranny of religion, and school, and my turbulent home life. God wasn’t supposed ro be a fan of people like me, and I had doubts about him anyway. My belief in the magicalcobbled together from things I read in books, things I found on the internet, and things I completely made upallowed me a level of personal agency that until that point felt out of reach.

I suspect this is the same reason why many of the queer people I meet seem to maintain at least a casual interest in some variety of mysticism. Or why so many queer people are fantasists of one sort or another. Gaymers, drag queens, artists, club kids, musicians, writerswe’re all trying to create a world better than the one we’ve got. When the world around you lacks the imagination to perceive you clearly, you have to make up the difference.

The past year has shown that, despite what many had hoped, there is still so much for queer people to escape from. Magic and fantasy are a kind of radical world building that allow us to escape the onslaught of depressing cable news chyrons and envision a place in which we are safe and powerful. It could all just be make-believe, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. The revolution will not be televised because it must first take place in our imaginations. I suspect that most of us have understood this for a long time.

So every week I check my favorite astrology blogs, I burn spell candles, and I perform small rituals for success. I’m not sure that these things do anything, but they make me feel less nervous and more like myself. I remember that these things that once made me feel strange now make me feel connected, in a small way, to my friends and community. For a a little bit the world feels slightly more manageable. To me that feels like magic.

Last Call in the Ozarks: Inside the Closing of Joplin, Missouri’s Only Gay Bar

It was last call for the only gay bar in Joplin, Mo. this weekend.

Equality Rocks, known by locals by the initials “E.R.,” closed out a two-year run in the Ozark hamlet with Hollywood glamour. Themed like a red carpet event at the Academy Awards, town residents were invited to wear cocktail dresses and suitsringing in the new year with an air of somber decadence. The business announced it would be closing earlier this month, unable to keep up with exorbitant air conditioning bills in the summer season.

Located on the bottom floor of a three-story building in the city’s petite nightlife district, Equality Rocks opened in downtown Joplin in June 2015. It took over for Pla-Mor Lounge, a gay bar housed in the same space.

Brett Mason, who worked in both establishments, says that operating a gay bar in small-town Missouri is a matter of eternal recurrence.

“The typical lifespan for a bar in Joplin is three to five years,” says Mason, who served as the general manager of Equality Rocks. “Typically a bar comes in, it does really well for awhile, it starts to decline, and it closes. There’s a short break where we don’t have one, but then another one opens and starts the cycle all over again.”

But the world of queer nightlife is very different from the one Equality Rocks sashayed into two years ago. Since 2006, over half of London’s gay bars have closed. There are reportedly only 36 lesbian bars left in the entire world.

If the bar hopes to make a comeback, it will have to attract customerswhich appear to be in short supply.

Mason cites all the usual culprits behind the siphoning off of clientele. With the advent of social platforms like Tinder, Grindr, and OkCupid, millennials don’t view gay bars as vital to building community in the same way earlier generations of LGBTQ people did. Many of the customers who commented on the bar’s Facebook page to express shock at news of its closure hadn’t visited in months, he says.

“It’s hard to operate a business for people who only want to support it a couple times a year,” Mason claims.

But one factor was unique to the struggles Equality Rocks faced: the enormity of casinos in the area. Owner Rodney Plott estimates there are “more than 20” within an hour’s drive of Joplin. These establishments offer free live bands and drinks at a marked discount from what an independent gay bar can afford to charge, Plott says. Casinos make most of their money from slot machines, not gin and tonics.

“What [casinos are] doing to the LGBTQ community is taking away its ability to have a niche business,” Plott tells INTOover the phone. “Equality Rocks cannot compete with the quality of food service and quality of entertainment.”

Although Plott is heterosexual, he says running a small-town gay bar became a passion project for him after Pla-Mor shut down in February 2014. The 55-year-old had never operated a bar before, but he saw a financial opportunity in an often-underserved demographic. Joplin has several LGBTQ-friendly businesses on the same strip, but to visit a full-time gay nightclub, residents would have to drive to Tulsa, Okla., Springfield, Mo., or Fayetteville, Ark.

Plott claims the experience has been eye-opening. Employees told him they had extremely few spaces in rural Missouri where they could feel safe and comfortable going out with their same-sex partners without fear of harassment.

The owner claims Joplin’s LGBTQ community is often “hidden.”

“They have to be quiet in the workplace [or] when they’re eating out in public at a restaurant,” Plott says. “In these very small communities, you can be seen and not heard. My passion is to give [LGBTQ people] a safe place to go, be themselves, have a good time, and forget that they live in a small town with backward people.”

“They should feel respected and loved,” he continues.

When INTO inquired as to how the Missouri town had responded to Equality Rocks, Mason and Plott told very different accounts.

Mason spoke in rose-colored tones about the local community coming together during times of tragedy. After an apocalypse-level tornado destroyed an LGBTQ-affirming church in its $2 billion path of calamity, the queer community opened its doors to Joplin residents in 2011. Pla-Mor held drag benefit shows to raise money for the recovery effort. It also offered coffee and phone charging stations to those without power or shelter.

After last year’s Pulse shooting, Mason claims the love was returned with an outpouring of support from local government and the police department.

“We had a candlelight vigil at one of the parks in town and we had people from the city council and pastors from area churches come and show their support,” says Mason, who calls the community “accepting and amazing.”

But Equality Rocks has experienced its share of struggle. Just days after the bar announced it was closing, a burglar broke into the building after climbing onto the roof and entering through a hatch. Prior to the break-in, the intruder posted a rambling, expletive-laden Facebook status in which he compared homosexuality to having sex with dead people and transgender people to animals.

“You got people thinking it’s cool to be a dog and that that’s what they were born as,” he wrote. “[…] What’s happening to our world? Not every single thing is acceptable. Let’s just f***ing legalize necrophilia in every state next why don’t we (sarcasm). Then let’s use the gays to back up our obsession with f***ing dead people.”

“Isn’t it pretty f***ing clear what humans are born to be?” he continued.

When Plott tried to find a local videographer to film a short documentary about the bar, he had several companies turn him away when they found out Equality Rocks primarily serves a LGBTQ customer base (although Mason emphasized several times that all are welcome).

“Once I tell them who our patrons are, they’re out,” Plott says. “In a tiny way, I’ve felt the discrimination the community feels.”

Despite the challenges of keeping a gay bar afloat in a county where 72 percent of voters cast a ballot for Trump in 2016 election, Plott is determined to keep fighting for his adopted community. He’s currently looking to purchase a building in the town outright, which gives the business greater leverage than leasing from a landlord.

But Mason believes the next iteration of Equality Rocks needs a new business model if it hopes to outlast the built-in expiration date of Joplin bars. He envisions an atmosphere that’s part-pub and part-cabaret, built around good food and great entertainment.

While the LGBTQ community figures out what’s next, Joplin will have scant resources for its queer and trans population. Jo Mo Eq (short for “Joplin Equality”), a youth support group, meets twice a month. Masonwho is on its boardsays the network is a crucial lifeline for young people who may be in crisis. But having a dedicated refuge to find shelter, be surrounded by people like yourself, or even to hear your favorite song is simply irreplaceable.

“It’s disappointing now we won’t have a place for ourselves,” Mason says.

“I understand bars aren’t always for everyone,” Mason continues. “Some people don’t drink, some people don’t go out, [and] some people don’t like the loud music. But it’s important for any communityno matter how big or smallto have a space.”

Images courtesy Rodney Plott

Kiss My Astro: Your Horoscope for January 2018

Aries

2017 may be over, but you can’t put it all behind you yet. This year brings you back to a lot of the choices you made and asks you to consider their consequences. If you’re thrilled about the changes you’ve been makingsaying no to toxic dynamics, exploring something new and exciting, getting more in touch with your true desiresthis won’t be a bad thing! But if in your rush to start over and feel more alive you’ve neglected or wrecked a few important relationships, this month helps you take stock of what you can do to make amends and be more careful in the future.

Taurus

Finally, it’s happening for you. This year begins with a strong dose of realism in your love life, but don’t worryyou need to take stock of where you’re at before you can get where you need to be. Your mantra for this year is to dream big and then plan small: identify and commit to the small things you can do to have the kind of love or sex or poly family you desire. Whatever it is you’re looking for, this is the year you’re learning how to recognize it when you’ve found it. Don’t be afraid to actually get what you want!

Gemini

Baby, you’ve got nothing to do right now but let go and give up controlunless, of course, domming is your way to unwind. But this is one of those beautiful months when you get to exhale deeply and hit the snooze button a few more times, preferably while snuggling up with some hot guy who doesn’t mind you pressing your cold feet against him. 2018 will be a gentler, easier year for you than the last few have been, so take this time to acknowledge that you are fully done with a lot of that chaos and bid it a fond farewell!

Cancer

Your sign is known for being cuddly and sensitive, but you’re tougher than you look. This year, you’ll get to show the world that you mean business. But first, you’ll need to toss out any outdated ideas of what kind of “man” you have to be to get respect, to be hot, to be taken seriously. You can act like Don Draper all day long, but only if it turns you on to play that role. If not, remember that sensitivity and strength aren’t mutually exclusive, and hold out for lovers and partners that understand that, too!

Leo

What’s missing in your love life right now? Is that really easy to answer (“duh, I haven’t had a good date in years!”) or is it harder to definelike a vague feeling that you’re not really lovable, desirable, or able to have the kinds of relationships you want? Whatever insecurity or anxiety you have about romance right now, take a good look at it and get ready to say goodbye. This month, you get to see yourself and your love life from a brand new perspective.

Virgo

Sweetie, it’s time for you to have some good loving in your life. Last year was a hot mess in a few wayswhile some really good things have come out of it, you’re ready for everything to calm down a little. Luckily, that’s exactly what’s in the stars for you right now. Just watch out for your tendency to overthink everything, spinning it into best-case or worst-case scenario without a lot of evidence. Slow your roll a little, be patient, and you’ll see that things are better than you feared (if not quite as perfect as you hoped).

Libra

You can leave your house this month if you really want to, but wouldn’t it be nice to just keep ordering takeout and staying cozy? One thing you’re looking for from love right now is a sense of belonging, and if your dates don’t feel like the kind that you can take home and integrate into your world it’s time to start looking for a different kind of man. Next time you’re at the bar or swiping left, ask yourself: is this someone I could feel deeply at home with?

Scorpio

Repeat after me: you don’t need that old, tired nonsense anymore! As you ring in the new year, say goodbye not only to 2017 but to every bad date, flaky acquaintance, disappointing lover, friend meltdown, and general relationship drama. This year won’t magically teach everyone how to do better, but you do get to choose exactly how much room you have in your life for anything that drains you more than it feeds you. Most importantly, once you free up a little space in your mind and heart, you’ll start meeting the people who you won’t be glad to be rid of come 2019.

Sagittarius

Take some time this month to pour yourself a tall glass of your favorite beverage, put on some triumphant music, look at yourself in the mirror, and make a toast to how badass you’ve become. If your love life is a gym, this year has seen you lifting some serious weights. Whatever your actual body looks like right now in the dead of winter, you’ve got built up some major strength when it comes to knowing how to be a caring, honest, thoughtful, and respectful partner. And guess what? Now you get to drop those weights, flex those muscles, and show that you still know how to have a good time, too.

Capricorn

Whatever it is you want most right now, it’s time to take that seriously. Don’t let shame or a fake sense of realism (“someone like that would never be into me”) block you. You get to create the life that actually helps you thrive, and if there’s a missing ingredient, you have to find it. Begin by trusting that it’s possible and that you deserve it. Next step? Learn how to recognize the right fit, even if it means saying no to close-but-not-perfect options for a little while.

Aquarius

If you think you know exactly how you want your life and relationships to look, get ready to be surprised. Whatever choices you’ve made so far, this is a year for experimentation. Especially in the second half of this month, you’re getting a whole new outlook on what might feel good to youpossibly by having a few “oh hell, no!” moments along the way. Stay curious, treat it all as useful information, and remember that you don’t have to know right now where you’ll end up!

Pisces

This year, you get to be the gay agent of change you wish to see in the world. Tired of the scene being overly focused on appearances? Go on some dates with people you wouldn’t have chosen just for their looks. Wishing someone recognized how deeply incredible you are? Begin by falling in love with yourself. And when you have the love you want, remember not to be stingy with it.

New Year, New You? Hmph. Here’s Some Better Advice

In this week’s Hola Papi!, the advice column by writer, Twitterer, and prolific Grindr user John Paul Brammer, a reader writes in asking for help with his resolutions for the next year.

While 2017 was a flop for most of us, this dear reader feels he really scraped the bottom of the barrel. No good dates. No man. No memories. So he’s asking for help to plan out the new year so 2018 doesn’t look like the last.

If you want his advice, just email him at [email protected] with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start out your letter with Hola Papi!

_____

Hola Papi!

I know it’s basic as all get out to have New Year’s resolutions. But you seem like the person to ask about these things, so I’m going to lean in anyway.

In 2017, I didn’t find a boyfriend. I didn’t really go on any good dates. I had some good memories, but mostly, Papi, I was a complete flop. The world kind of fell apart too, along with democracy, but let’s focus on what matters here!

Papi, what is your advice for being even gayer, more adventurous, and happier in 2018? What resolutions would you suggest for a better year?

Signed,

Happy New Queer

Hey there, New Queer!

Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of New Year’s. Champagne isn’t really my color, and there’s all this undue stress to have a good time.

Worst of all, December 31st tends to be a day that gets trapped in amber. Everything feels so permanent. If we don’t go out, if we don’t spend the evening among friends, if we’re not having fun, then we’re bound to have a bad year. Because, omens, I suppose.

Meanwhile, everyone you know is posting roundups of their year on social media. Strictly the highlights, of course: trips to exotic places, shout-outs to the boyfriend, shirtless selfies (if they’re self-aware, they couple these with a journey of some kind, a caption saying they still have a long way to go), perhaps some pictures of parties they went to.

So many parties! Where are these parties happening, New Queer, and how have I never seen one in person? Pool parties with bluer-than-blue water, those giant inflatable swans every homosexual has ridden but me. Who takes these pictures? It’s always such an affair in my world, getting someone to take a picture. And yet, here they aremid-leap, hovering over the pool, sunglasses on, swim trunks perfectly positioned to show off legs and bulge, an image of perpetual happiness.

Do these people ever get sad? Do they ever get bored? Do they ever get jealous? Surely they must, but it’s difficult to imagine.

Let’s imagine things anyway: Behind you, it’s possible, is an underwhelming, inadequate year of lukewarm half-relationships, meh-inducing hookups, some goals you didn’t quite reach, and some you did, and maybe they weren’t everything you wanted them to be, or maybe they were.

And then, in front of you, all the things you want to do, an abstract outline of who you could become if you dig in your pumps and put your mind to it: adhere to a diet, sweat enough, go to the right events, and meet the right people.

This is all hypothetical, of course, because we’re dealing with intangibles. Your past can’t be changed. Your future isn’t right here in front of you. That’s what’s so frustrating about New Year’s, at least to me. Nothing is real, but everyone is insisting it is, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

We find ourselves in the startling middle of it all, a little too conscious of the passing of time to be comfortable. Many cultures consider this a holiday, by the way. That’s nuts!

On the other hand, it does present us with the opportunity to reflect and to set goals. Let’s take you, for example. You want to be gayer. You want a boyfriend. You want to be more adventurous.

Do these things have shape? Can you see your boyfriend’s face? What color is his hair? What does it mean to be gayer? Will you find yourself clubbing in the early hours of the morning more often? Will it be something you’re wearing, or something you’re feeling? Is it a place?

I think that’s the issue with this whole thing, New Queer. Days like these make us see everything as a matter of moments: Moments ahead, moments behind, frozen and definite, everything boiled down to the highs and the lows.

And you will have those in 2018. Sad moments, happy moments, sunlit and rainy, frustrated and overjoyed, moments where you suffer and moments where it’s OK. It won’t all be in equal measure, but it will be there, because life breathes, and it moves, and so do you.

In that spirit, I have no resolutions for you. But I do have an ask, if you’re open to it.

I ask that you don’t try too hard to get those moments you’re jealous of, the moments you want to have because someone else had them, and you think having them made them happy: a picture with a boyfriend you haven’t met, a party you haven’t attended and weren’t invited to, a body you don’t live in.

They’re not yours, and they’re not real.

What’s real is the stuff in between, the stuff that gets cut out of stories because it’s boring and doesn’t photograph well. The living with yourself, the way you see the world as you move through it, the people you surround yourself with. You don’t “have” these things. You inhabit them.

What I mean is, to practice contentment right now is a more worthwhile exercise than making a list of goals. If you can figure out how to do that, the rest will fall into place.

Papi.