Coming of Age at Camp

I don’t want to write about camp.

Well, I do want to write about camp. I’m scared to write about camp. Even 17 years later.

I can write about the beautiful tie-dye shirt I made that summer. Yellow and green and blue and pink splattered together.

I can write that it was 2001, and I was nine years old, gay as can be, and didn’t know it yet. Others did.

I can write that I was wearing a large blue T-shirt on Visiting Day and posed with my mom and sister for a photo during lunch. All of our hair is blonde and we are smiling. A perfect family. My mom is wearing a name tag. She is an adult. Her identity is formed.

It is amazing, then, isn’t it? How a handful of photos can tell us so much about each other, about ourselves, but how they can’t actually tell us anything at all?

Because these photos don’t bear the most remote resemblance to what I experienced that summer.

The summer that altered my perceptions of sex.

**

I wrote a letter to Marco before camp started. He was my bunk pen pal. I’m sure they called it something else but that’s what I’m going to call it.

I was going through a phase of experimenting with every font Microsoft Word had to offer. Fonts that curved obnoxiously. That wasn’t something most boys did at that age. But I didn’t do many things most boys did at that age. I wanted to act, wanted to sing, wanted to dance — theater. That’s it. I didn’t understand that it was different, and my parents didn’t do anything to dissuade me from pursuing it.

My mother will tell you that she had an inkling of my feminine tendencies from a young age.

I was part of a playgroup of Jewish boys and girls when I was about a year old. In the beginning, my mom says, there isn’t too much interaction between children. It’s called “parallel play.” We all played within the same area of the room but didn’t interact with each other. Picture a singles mixer, except with blocks instead of cocktails.

We met once a week for a few years. When I was closer to two years old, and interactions began, it was clear I favored the girls over the boys. “You weren’t interested in the more aggressive play,” my mom tells me as we’re walking on a brisk November morning in suburban New Jersey, an awkward time as any to be discussing the events of 25+ years ago. “You weren’t interested in the ball play.” Oh, Mom, with the word choice.

Anyway, I wrote Marco this long letter, which I don’t have now, and can only assume was talking about how excited I was to meet him and be friends at camp. I included a graphic of some kind of performer – perhaps an opera singer? – mouth agape, bursting into song off the page. Like me.

That was my first mistake of the summer.

**

Camp Lohikan was – and still is – a sleepaway summer camp in Lake Como, Pennsylvania for girls and boys ages six through 15. Its mission statement: “Camp Lohikan is a warm, welcoming community of children and adults who come together summer after summer to experience the FUN and personal growth of ‘camp.’”

I wonder if they know that the experience was anything but warm or welcoming for me. That the scars of my experience have yet to fade. That my brain is like a broken etch-a-sketch – no matter how many times I try and shake it, I’m stuck with the same design that can’t erase.

My mother kept letters I wrote home then and those written to me. They’re in red and white envelopes, covered in star and rollerblading stickers and aged postage marks. They’re in the best condition they can be for what they are.

I empathize.

The letters tell a story – several stories, really. But there’s a lot missing. The tye-dye shirt is missing.

As 9-year-olds our minds were still so malleable – more like tar, instead of concrete. Whatever appealing thing anyone said to us, or told us was right or wrong, would stick to us and stain our brains.

We didn’t know the consequences of our actions. I didn’t know the consequences of others’ actions. Of my actions. Of my inactions – not telling my parents what was really going on.

A sample letter:

Dear Everyone,

Sometimes, we get to sleep ‘till 8:15! Otherwise 7:15.

This actually sounds great.

Today, I went horseback riding. It’s very cool. I learned how to control a horse!

A bit of a stretch there.

Here, we have something called canteen. It’s where we get two pieces of candy for free! As in (M&M’s, Nestle Crunchbars, etc.)

… OK this sounds like a lot of fun, why wasn’t I having fun again?

My camp bunkmates are nice.

There it is. Lie.

There is Matt – (MY BEST FRIEND)

Chris – (HE LIKES TO READ)

Marco – (HE’S SEXY)

Chase – (Loves “Skating & Skateboarding”)

Matt E – (He likes COMICS)

Jordan – (HE’S NICE)

& Cody – (THE ANNOYING ONE)

The nice counselors are Dan, Alex, Alex, and Ben. I still love and miss you!

It’s time I filled in what was missing.

**

Marco and I didn’t talk about my letter, or if we did, it wasn’t anything meaningful. Most nine-year-old boys wouldn’t think to discuss the virtues of fonts, like Curlz MT vs. Arial (ugh) vs. Comic Sans (double ugh).

But at some point, Marco and I did talk about something. I called him “cute” and everyone heard.

I must have been goaded into saying so, or trying to take part in the conversations about sex that were swirling around me that summer.

My parents tried to tell me about sex before I left for camp. They plopped down on my tiny twin bed and brought me a picture book. They often read to my sister and me at night so I didn’t think much of it. Except for the fact that it wasn’t bedtime yet and my sister was purposefully not in the room.

They opened the book and there they were: Naked male and female cartoons. Hair over body parts I didn’t know could have hair. Bushy, curly, like the hair on my mother’s head.

GROSS.

“I don’t want to talk about this,” I recoiled.

They didn’t push. We never talked about it again.

I should have let it be awkward and let them tell me things. Why didn’t I?

Maybe a part of me didn’t want to know, because it would’ve been confirmation of what I knew somewhere in the rainbow recesses of my mind. Maybe I wasn’t ready to know.

My admission that Marco was “cute” led one of my bunkmates to accuse of me of wanting to have sex with another bunkmate. I didn’t know what sex was, and here someone was telling me I wanted to have sex.

“You think Marco is cute. You want to have sex with Jordan,” Chase, this red-headed, heavyset bunkmate told me. He looked like a typical bully.

I don’t know what his intentions were. Why do little boys say things like that? Why does a bully say anything at all? Was he really a bully or was he being a boy? What did it mean to be a boy? What does it mean to be a boy? Is it OK for boys to make fun of other boys over the fact one of them might be gay? Boys boys boys boys boys.

It’s easy for me to say that he was malicious. That he took something from me.

But I don’t know if his thoughts were that concrete and intentional. It’s more that homophobia stuck to us like an invisible tar.

Chase passed it on to me.

He changed how I thought – and still think – about sex. That now when I think of sex and relationships I don’t think of myself and what I want, but I think about what he wants. He being any man, any partner.

His attempts to shame my supposed sexual proclivities worked two-fold. I learned that thinking boys were cute was wrong, and that I was incapable of exerting any kind of sexual power of my own.

I never went back to camp. But it always went with me, even though I didn’t realize it.

Any inkling I had of any boy from that point forward I scrunched up like a wad of notebook paper.  I rationalized away jealousies I had when a guy friend I had in middle school started dating a girl (why was I jealous? I liked him too). I rationalized away everyone thinking I was gay in middle school by asking girls out, and rationalized away my own lack of experience in high school by doing the same. No one said “yes.”

I rationalized away my first kiss to a woman early in college, which wasn’t even a first kiss but me ending up with a clump of her hair in my mouth. I just told everyone it was my first kiss to say that I did it.

I didn’t even know there was porn to watch because I didn’t know I could seek it out. One of the chief reasons I came out at all is because I finally did away with rationalizations, gave into feelings and let myself feel pleasure for the first time. It wasn’t until then that my memories about camp came bubbling to the surface – a reckoning of my past I had to deal with, unleashed in tandem with my sexuality.

It took me even longer to actually have sex, partially out of safety concerns but more so out of a fear of rejection and otherwise weakness. I had the power to come out, but would I have the power to come on my own terms?

Yes, it turns out. And even more now that I’ve channeled Chase’s taunts from my past into something self-affirming instead of self-deprecating.

**

I became an outcast. A walking gay cliche.

No one in my bunk talked to me much after all this occurred. I kept busy with the camp circus (yes, really), which involved me balancing on a bike with campers and trained performers. Otherwise, I was mostly interested in art. Mainly because I could cry there.

I spent most of the summer crying to the art teacher, who felt so bad for me that she awarded me third place for art at the end of the four-week session. Out of the whole camp.

My stick figures don’t have necks or ears. I didn’t deserve this award.

I didn’t need to be pitied. I needed a friend. A real one.

I sought escape by observing other people. I watched this cute boy Teddy sit in front of me during our camp’s version of the X-games, and talk to two girls smitten with him. Kids were doing tricks while Teddy skated on the half-pipe of pre-adolescent romance, sliding back and forth between these two and praying he wouldn’t slip.

He bumped into one of the girls in the cafeteria once, a “meet cute” straight out of a Nora Ephron film. Trays collided, food fell all over the floor. Everyone stared and laughed. Both leaned down to pick up the remains of their camp dignity, awkward and embarrassed.

I wanted that. I wanted Teddy. I wanted the meet cute. He would never talk to me. Look at me. Would anyone?

That was never going to be me. But I didn’t know it was OK to want that to be me.

Was that all because of Chase? No. Was it partially because of Chase? Yes.

It would be easy to blame him for everything, but I can’t. He was acting the only way he knew how, and so was I.

**

I made a tie-dye shirt that summer. Yellow and green and blue and pink splattered together.

I was walking with some fellow campers back to my bunk. We passed by some newly paved blacktop, the tar still fresh and black, black, black.

It somehow got on my shirt. A small spot, but a spot nonetheless. I was still a 9-year-old after all.

My rainbow tie-dye shirt, stained with tar. For as long as I had it, even years later, the stain wouldn’t come out.

My Fatness is Not a Winter Fad

I love the winter, particularly the cold air. I love the way the cold kisses my warm skin. When the icy breeze numbs my fingertips, my pockets provide them with satisfying warmth.

Putting on my coat, hat, and scarf reminds me of my late grandmother. Once the air became slightly cold, she started decorating the house in Christmas lights and garlands. Every day, she prepared the sweetest, thickest cup of hot chocolate and said, “Don’t ask me for no more later.” I always did, and she always gave me another cup.

In middle school, my mother dressed me and my little sister in baggy bubble coats and heavy boots. “I look like a Tellytubby,” I’d say. “My clothes are too baggy, mommy.”

Her response was always as cold as the air that froze my windows. “Shut up, you look fine. Baggy clothes are the latest fad,” she would say. She wasn’t wrong. It was the late ‘90s and everyone wore baggy clothing. In 1997, Tamagotchi keychains were the fad. In 1998, baggy denim was in. In 1999, everyone wore those elastic colorful wristbands.

I never would have guessed that my fat body would become a 2018 winter trend. And personally, I’m not at all excited about this. If you didn’t get the memo, winter time is “big boy season.” That’s right! After three seasons of being called fat, sweaty, and unhealthy, thinner people summon fat guys to keep them warm throughout the winter.

A few days before Thanksgiving Day, it got cold. Some guy on Grindr messaged me and said, “It’s cold outside. Come keep me warm, big boy.” By this time, I had already grown bored of the whole ‘big boy season’ thing. So, I respectfully asked him what he enjoyed about larger men.

His response was nothing short of racial fetishization and assumptions about my fatness. “Black guys have big meaty cocks, and big boys produce more body heat,” he says. “I love big boy sweat dripping all over me.”

Just like that, he made four terrible assumptions about my body. He assumed that I’m well-endowed because I’m black. He assumed that I’m not anemic and can produce large amounts of heat like a radiator. And he assumed that I sweat profusely because I’m fat. But most importantly, he assumed that I would give him the time of day because he is a conventionally attractive guy flirting with a fat guy.

After declining his advances multiple times, he replied “Your loss,” like I fumbled an opportunity to do something I wanted to do, then he blocked me—but not before reminding me that I’m fat.

What about my body communicates desperation for sexual attention? What about my body relinquishes my right to tell someone thinner than me that I am not interested in them? What about my body says that I’m supposed to be grateful that someone finds me attractive for 83 to 93 days?

I receive lots of unsolicited butthole pictures. I receive lots of “I love fat guys” messages. I am offered sex at least five times a day. Most of those offers are from thinner guys and girls who assume that I’m a sex-crazed fatty who should never say no.

Fat people can and should always say no. A fat person like me says “no” regularly. I say “no” to dieting. I say “no” to exercise. And I say “no” to just about anyone who begins a conversation with crappy nudes or requests to keep them warm when it’s cold. That’s my right. That’s everyone’s right.

In an essay in The Establishment, an anonymous author raises an important question: “Why don’t we hear fat women’s #MeToo stories?” The writer, a fat queer woman, writes about her personal experience with sexual violence and connects it to the idea that sexual predators believe that larger women should be grateful for any form of sexual attention.

“The menacing ghost of gratitude followed me everywhere,” a writer whose pen name is ‘Your Fat Friend’ wrote. “I was queer, which meant I was expected to be sexually flexible, unfettered by boundaries and unlikely to say no, available to be posted in any scene or position needed for men’s gratification. And I was fat, which meant I should be grateful for what I got. Even if it was violent. Even if I didn’t consent.”

It’s important to recognize that being thin doesn’t give one agency over larger bodies. When I gained weight, I learned this for myself. I’m ashamed to admit that I, too, was someone who believed that larger guys should be flattered that I appreciated their bodies. Now, if I ever decided to lose weight, I can never unlearn how it feels to be considered a winter fad.

It hurts like hell.

Queer Abby: I’m Going Through a Breakup

Dear Queer Abby, 

I was in a fairly serious relationship that went south. 

Long story short, we had a non-monogamous agreement, but in practice, it led to struggles, hurt feelings, and finally a loosely defined couple month “break.”

That break started four months ago. 

I cared very deeply about this person and wanted to keep them in my life, but after a couple of months, I sent an olive-branch email that went unanswered. I’ve realized I’ve been a little preoccupied with thinking about this abrupt and unresolved ending, going back and forth between sad and grumpy. 

What’s the healthiest approach at this point? A) move on, forget they ever existed and get rid of everything that reminds me of them, B) keep trying to reach out and establish a friendship? or C) something else?

Signed, 

Sad in Santa Fe

Dear Sad, 

I’m sorry to hear about your recent break/up. My opinion on the matter? I think you need a combination of options A & C. 

You need to accept that no response *is* a response. Anything that’s not a “yes” is a “no.” The relationship, for now, is done. 

It doesn’t mean this person didn’t care about you; it doesn’t mean they’ve moved on. It only means that they are not engaging with you right now as they once did. They’re no longer showing you that side of themselves. 

It could be that their feelings for you were so intense that they can’t even look at them right now because it makes them too sad. It may have something to do with their own inner demons or sense of worth. We may never know. 

One thing we do know is that ruminating on it and obsessing over what they may or may not be thinking is not helping the situation. 

You can reflect on your own actions and come to a place of taking responsibility for your part in the relationship’s demise, but you can’t solve another person’s silence. ESPECIALLY because you are doing so in an echo chamber, through your own particular filters. 

A romantic relationship can bring up old, ancient stories we have about ourselves and what we deserve or get to have. I would wager that any lack of interaction with this person is creating a vacuum that, when left to your own devices, you are filling with your own narratives that are tainted by your very particular, tarnished mirror. 

What can you do? I think you should write out your thoughts and feelings completely. Include the things you admire and adore about this person. I want you to write this out as thoroughly as possible in a journal or a word document, then let it sit for a week. 

In the meantime, be as generous to yourself and the memory of this person as you can. Try and find some gratitude for what they brought to your life. Meditate on the idea of this person having all the things you would want for yourself. Do you want them, ideally, to find love and support and acceptance and light? Think about that. Imagine them being as happy as you would like to be. Imagine yourself, too, having an abundance of love and support. What would that look like and how can you imagine yourself receiving it? I want you bathed in warm light, dear reader! I want a chihuahua licking your face as you drink a soy latte. 

Come back to your letter when you are feeling grounded and calm. Extract anything that is blaming, shaming, or defensive. Use all of your lesbian-processing training and employ “I” statements. Take responsibility for anything you think you did in the relationship that you’re not proud of. Let them know how you feel, how you felt about them, and what you wish for them or for your friendship moving forward. To use some dog terminology, roll over. If this person has been kind and trustworthy, show them your underbelly. 

Don’t try to extract interaction from them, just use this as a final statement, then (and this is perhaps the most important part) let go of what happens next. 

This approach is about keeping your side of the street clean. No matter what happens, I want you to know that you acted with integrity and were faithful to the most generous, loving, and honest side of yourself as possible. 

You are only in charge of 50 percent of what happens in any relationship, so after you lay this letter down, please know that you’ve done your part for them, and more importantly, you’ve done your part for you. You showed up for yourself. 

Some things in life are just meant to be temporary, no matter how much you’d like to hold on. 

I’m so happy this person brought you some light while they were here, but now it’s time for you to shine that on yourself. 

Turn the page. 

Queer Abby

Surprise: Lesbian Porn Tops the Pornhub Charts, and Women Are the Ones Watching

Just one week after Tumblr announced its new ban on adult content in a move that caused widespread queer despair, and a Facebook sex ban appeared to block everything from posting about being LGBTQ to discussing body parts like breasts and butts — here comes Pornhub, swooping in to remind us all that free (and subscription-based) online porn is alive and stronger than ever.

Pornhub’s 2018 Year in Review shows that adult content isn’t going anywhere, and that interest in queer sex is growing.

For the fourth year in a row, ‘lesbian’ was the most searched-for term on the world’s most popular porn tube site. Pornhub saw a staggering 33.5 billion visits to its website over the course of the year, and 92 million visits a day — which it points out is the equivalent to the populations of Canada, Australia, and Poland all combined.

Pornhub even created a handy map to show which parts of the world like to watch lesbian porn the most. The map also doubles as an illustrated fantasy world for those who want to pretend queer women have taken over most of the earth’s most powerful nations (it’s bound to happen).

Pornhub 2018 Year in Review map. Image via Pornhub Insights. maps-pornhub-insights-2018-year-review-most-viewed-categories
Pornhub 2018 Year in Review map. Image via Pornhub Insights. maps-pornhub-insights-2018-year-review-most-viewed-categories

Dr. Laurie Betito, sex therapist and director of the Pornhub Sexual Wellness Center, explained in the post why ‘lesbian’ continues to reign as the most searched-for porn term — turns out, women are the ones driving its success.

“Women continue to favour lesbian porn. They get to see acts they enjoy on themselves – that’s why ‘pussy licking’ is popular,” Betito told Pornhub. “They also seem to enjoy simple eye candy (‘solo male’) performing just for her, perhaps in her ‘fantasy.’”

That might surprise a lot of queer women, many of whom find mainstream ‘lesbian’ porn neither realistic nor appealing. The tropes of lesbian porn created to entertain straight men strike many lesbians as too unrealistic to get off from; while some queer women do enjoy scissoring, it’s just rare enough to make its prominence in straight-helmed ‘lesbian’ porn feel a little bizarre. And while mainstream lesbian porn has improved to feature women who often genuinely seem to be into each other, the classic trope of two high-femme blond Barbies stabbing at each others’ vaginas with pointy acrylic nails is a little scary; while lots of queer femmes manage to have sex with acrylics, there’s usually a latex glove filled with cotton balls or something similar to lessen the chance of injury.

Queer women turn to alternative porn run by queer creators for a reason; sites like The Crash Pad Series, Queer Porn TV, and Pink Label were all founded by queer women committed to diversity of gender, race, bodies, abilities, and sexual kinks. Statistics on the kinds of porn preferred by queer women aren’t easy to come by, but the 2015 Ultimate Lesbian Sex Survey of over 8,500 queer women conducted by Autostraddle found that while only 30 percent of queer women watched straight ‘lesbian’ porn, 65 percent said they watched queer porn created by and for queer people.

But this year’s stats show that mainstream lesbian porn is indeed attracting more women viewers. ‘Lesbian’ was the top-searched term among female viewers, but only the sixth for male viewers, who preferred things like ‘Japanese’ and ‘milf.’ Searches went way up for ‘lesbian strap-on’ at an increase of nearly 400 percent, suggesting that either more queer women are turning to Pornhub, or more queer-curious women are using it to learn how to have sex with another woman.

Searches on Pornhub also went up for lesbian-adjacent categories like ‘tattooed women’ and ‘outdoors.’ Now we just need ‘flannel,’ ‘vegan,’ and ‘breakup sex after processing’ and the lesbian takeover of porn will be complete.

Lesbians weren’t the only winners on Pornhub this year. Searches for ‘trans’ went up in 2018 by 167 percent, Pornhub reports, with an even higher increase among people of all genders over the age of 45. Trans porn was also the fifth most-searched category among users aged 45-64. Which begs the question: What on earth was Victoria’s Secret CEO Ed Razek talking about when he suggested this fall that trans women aren’t “fantasy” material and thus aren’t included as models for the brand?

This year’s overview includes helpful stats on what gay users are searching for in the company’s Pornhub Gay portals, too. In 2018, the most searched terms on Pornhub Gay were ‘Korean’ and ‘Japanese,’ followed closely by ‘black,’ ‘daddy,’ and ‘straight.’ Some of the more specific search terms in the gay porn section were pretty amusing; the game ‘Fortnite’ reigned supreme, with phrases like ‘dick robber’ and ‘remote control’ not too far behind. In terms of overall categories, ‘straight guys’ was the section users flocked to the most.

Queer pornstars did well on Pornhub Gay, too, but with a twist: it was women visiting Pornhub to search for Chris Crocker, Diego Sans, and William Seed, even more than male users.

Hopefully, the FOSTA legislation that killed off Tumblr porn and entire websites like Backpage won’t touch Pornhub, which appears to be the last major bastion of sex positivity online. For now, the company’s year-end stats present a glimmer of hope in an increasingly anti-sex internet landscape.

Living ‘The Bi Life’

The Bachelor. The Bachelorette. Love Island. Beauty and the Geek. Rock of Love. Flavor of Love. The Cougar. All these reality dating shows have many things in common, but an overarching, unavoidable theme is their focus on heterosexual relationships.

The highly problematic reality series A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila was 10 years ago now, and since then, there has been little visibility for queer people on dating shows. In 2016, gay men had Logo’s Finding Prince Charming, and the UK’s First Date has featured some LGBTQ cast members. But it’s only recently there has been an embracement of bisexual-identified people on television. Desiree Akhavan’s series The Bisexual recently premiered to praise from the LGBTQ community for its accurate portrayal of a woman exploring her bisexuality, all the while battling and dismantling the stereotypes associated with her sexuality. But that was fictional — where was our dating show?

E!’s The Bi Life, hosted by Australian drag queen, pop singer, entertainer, and Celebrity Big Brother winner Courtney Act. The show, which premiered late October, followed nine bisexual-identified millennials as they summered at a villa in Barcelona, getting to know each other and sharing their bisexual experiences. 

This isn’t a Big Brother or Survivor sort of show with challenges, alliances, and backstabbing to get ahead. There’s no competing for the heart of another with the result being kicked off or engaged a la The Bachelor, either. Think of The Bi Life as if you were hanging out with a bunch of friends, but it’s televised You’re observing their summer getaway as they discover one another and parts of themselves. Courtney Act advises the cast members on being an out and proud, offering advice and listening to their concerns. She plays part host, part guidance counselor.

“I couldn’t think of a single bisexual role model growing up, and so to have that now, to be able to see real people having real problems and most importantly talking about bisexuality is so important,” The Bi Life cast member Irene Ellis told INTO.

The Bi Life

Ellis, who identifies as pansexual and hails from Chichester, England, says she applied to be on the show after seeing an ad — a pure act of spontaneity.

“Seeing that there was going to be an LGBT show on TV, I just kinda felt drawn to it,” Ellis said. “I thought ‘You know what? My dating life is also getting a bit stale — maybe a TV show can help me find someone.’ And deep down, I still had that nagging feeling that I wasn’t being as open and as confident as I wanted to be with my sexuality, so maybe this might help that.”

An introvert and self-professed nerd by nature, Ellis was nervous heading into the house, but says her fears were quickly abated when she met her castmates. The cast is as wide and varied as bisexuality is. There’s Daisie, a fraud prevention officer from Manchester; Kyle, a support teacher from South Wales; club promoter Leonnie; an international swimmer named Michael; and London-based makeup artist, Mariella.

“I felt like I knew them all immediately, and we all just wanted to talk and learn about one another,” Ellis said. “One of my favourite things was that we all had breakfast together, often Matt … or Mariella would cook and we’d sit at the table chatting. And between filming, we’d be seen trying to catch up on telly together — often cuddled up on the big sofa inside.”

It was a big happy bisexual family, a positive and relatable space. Ellis said she felt comfortable being herself, explaining her love of cosplay to a very bewildered, but ultimately fascinated Matt. She also showed off her bee tattoo — an ode to her love of Sherlock Holmes to Ryan, a fitness influencer from London.

“Everyone just completely accepted me for who I was,” Ellis said.

As much as a bisexual Barcelona abode may have seemed like a dream vacation, they were all there for a specific reason.

“We would often have conversations in the villa about what might happen after we finished filming, and what people might say,” Ellis said. “However, we all said that the one thing we wanted was to have a mainstream show out there that just normalized being bisexual/pan. We considered that if we could make even one person feel like less of a stereotype, feel less like they had to justify themselves, then that would be one of the most important things we’d done.”

Judging by the immediate and ongoing reactions to the show, they’ve done their job.

One viewer, @Little_Ms_Wise, tweeted, “I’m really excited about #TheBiLife reality series on @e_entertainment it seems like it’s opening a lot of eyes and outing a lot of stereotypes about the #LGBTQ population.”

While there are the inevitable negative comments, they’re not in the majority. Ellis says that most people are “really just excited to see bisexual/pansexual people on their screens.”

“A lot of people messaged us and asked how we’d come out, and to thank us for being the guinea pigs, as it were, to go out and be the first faces of a show of this kind,” she said.

Her favorite reaction came from an Instagram DM she received from a viewer. “She let me know that watching The Bi Life with her parents made it a lot easier for her to explain her sexuality,” Ellis said.

Still, there’s’ room for improvement: Ellis is the only pansexual-identified person on The Bi Life, and the show has faced criticism for every castmate identifying as cisgender.  Those additions would only add more benefits to a show disseminating information about bisexuality that is ultimately helping to normalize it. There is a concerted effort to break down “the complexities” of being bisexual, moreover, the fact it’s not complex at all. Viewers are watching a television show about people who are sexually attracted to people of all gender identities. The conversations the cast mates have with one another both break down the barrier and inform the viewers, as conversations range from coming out of the closet to being told their sexuality wasn’t as important as a gay woman’s, the latter having been an early experience for Ellis.

“Bisexuality is completely valid,” Ellis said.  “You’re not sat on a fence, you’re not undecided, and you’re certainly not greedy. You just like both, and that’s perfectly okay. You can define to what percentage or level or whatever that is, but that’s yours to own.”

The Bi Life has helped Ellis to become more confident in herself and how she identifies, as dealing with bisexual erasure was something she’s struggled with. Even at Pride, she felt like she didn’t belong, with people telling her she was only there for the party; that she wasn’t “gay” enough. She said she was closeted in school because she saw how her bisexual classmates were called greedy or manipulative, people saying they didn’t know which side they were playing for. It stuck with her for years.  

“It’s only really since being on the show and finally talking about those experiences and those discriminations that I now feel proud to be who I am, and no one else can shame that,” Ellis said.

While The Bi Life has had an important impact on LGBTQ viewers, it’s also a show heterosexual viewers can enjoy and learn from.

“By watching the show and being a little more educated about LGBTQ+ issues, you’re going to become an ally that someone you know might really need,” Ellis said of straight viewers. The more people hear about the show and watch it, that’s “. . . one more person in your life that understands you and doesn’t judge you, [it] can make the world of difference,” she added.

“I certainly would have felt a lot more comfortable coming out at a younger age,” Ellis said. “Even if just to say yeah, well, I’m not weird, there’s a whole TV show about people like me!”

The Bi Life airs Thursdays at 9pm on E! UK & Ireland and is also available on heyu.

The Beauty in the In-Between: Reclaiming My Multi-Dimensional Identities

I am a nonbinary queer transracial Honduran adoptee with a physical disability. Try saying that 10 times fast.

No, don’t. You did, didn’t you?  

I am a nonbinary queer transracial Honduran adoptee with a physical disability. My intersecting identities make me who I am. They don’t exist without the other. I don’t exist without them.

At times, my identities are privileged and at times they are oppressed. Benefiting off of white privilege as a transracial adoptee is confusing and often imposed upon us. There is the “privilege” of not having to disclose having a disability because you pass as able-bodied. Living as a nonbinary person who passes as their sex assigned at birth could also be seen as a privilege. But is it a privilege to never have to speak up or be asked to share your opinion about being Latinx or disabled or queer in America because no one suspects you are?

Part of me felt safe hiding with my closeted identities. It’s only recently that I’ve started to reclaim my identities, and learn how to navigate discussions based around the intersections of race, disability, and queerness. My identities are dynamic and sometimes feel very evolutionary as I learn more about myself and how I relate to the world. But the truth is I still search for belonging. I still search for myself.

For the longest time, I saw my identities as in-between. It was neither this or that. Rather, my identities were the “or” –I felt caught between worlds, unsure if I belonged; -unsure of how to enter;  unsure if I had the right to enter.

I grew up as a visual minority in Portland, Maine in the ‘90s. I didn’t really identify as any race. Many adoptees document not growing up talking about race or having the opportunity to talk about race and how it relates to them. My curiosity about my race never really lingered. Within the white community I grew up in, I was perceived as being “tan all year round.” Imagine your racial identity being taken away from you before you understand what it is to be a racial being. Each time I made an effort to connect with someone who shared my ethnic background, I felt like I got dismissed very quickly. I was an outsider. I did not belong to my own race. I was not sure how to negotiate my existence, to live in a world where my identities were multidimensional.

I am often asked to justify my disability; asked to provide evidence or proof to the able-bodied world. Within the disabled community, I held a sense of privilege since I could “pass” as able-bodied. “You don’t look like you’re disabled,” able-bodied and disabled people would say to me. I frequently felt uncomfortable disclosing that I had Cerebral Palsy because my CP was so mild. Who was I to talk about disability or take up space?

Again, I felt very stuck in-between two worlds. Even though there was a sharp longing, a sense of curiosity, an intense feeling of wanting to belong, there was a backdrop of an emotion that said, “Hey, dude, it’s cool, just sit back, get comfortable. Be part of this in-between town. I mean, you could be mayor of  Mayor of In-Between Town if you wanted.” And so I stayed and appointed myself Mayor of In-Between Town, population: me. The only problem was, I wasn’t sure how to leave.

In addition to having CP and being a transracial adoptee, I knew that another part of my identity was different. Within the heteronormative community I grew up in, it was assumed everyone was straight and cisgender. But for me, I had fallen in second-grade love with my soon to be third-grade teacher’s daughter. I wasn’t sure how I felt about my gender but I knew that I wasn’t a girl. I didn’t exactly feel like a boy, either. My mom embraced it. And I embraced my very limited understanding of what it meant to be this identity that I had no language for.

I decided to stay in the closet. Looking back, I wish I had treated myself with more tenderness and had the courage to embrace who I was. But I also wish that I lived in a society that embraced identity rather than pushed people to conceal their authentic selves for fear of ostracization or worse.

Because of my “passable,” in-between, invisible disability, nonbinary identity, I was able to exist in-between worlds. But existing was not living. I was able to successfully suppress my ever-churning questions of my own gender identity. I was able to suppress my feelings of inadequacy in an able-bodied world by using humor as a crutch. I was able to ignore the fact that I was, indeed, a racial being. But here’s the thing: suppressing something is never a success. It’s a double-edged placeholder. It’s a bandaid that gives us just a little more time before we implode.

As I grew up being perceived as able-bodied, I hid my weaknesses behind my strengths. I was too scared to be honest. I was already being bullied for being adopted, having a single mother, my physical features (the physical features that made me Honduran), and much more. I didn’t really want to add more to their laundry list of insults. So I kept it to myself. I kept everything to myself.

In my early twenties, I met a girl in Thailand. As our friendship grew, her trust in me grew and I began to meet her family, one by one. One day she invited me to sit with her family in the back room of the bar they owned. She introduced them as her siblings. I immediately saw something in them that I saw in me.

I pulled my friend to the side and asked if they had Cerebral Palsy. She said yes in a soft voice. Without looking too excited, I told her I had CP, too. She smiled.

Soon, I shared with her siblings that I had CP. Their eyes lit up. I saw myself in them and they saw themselves in me. Maybe this is what I was looking for all along. If I had grown up with representation, perhaps my early beginnings would have been different. Maybe I could make it different for them.

I don’t know if there is a place called In-Between Town, but I know that I felt that I was a citizen of it before I realized that all of my identities have a place in the world and I am part of this world. I want to honor and make space for my identities. I want to reclaim my identities and be the author of my own narrative. There is power in that; there is beauty in that.

Lane Moore On Queer Loneliness, Trauma, and Nostalgia

Lane Moore is an award-winning comedian, actor, author, and musician whose original show Tinder Live! has traveled across the country to sold-out crowds and whose debut novel How to Be Alone is an Amazon bestseller. And she’s only getting started.

In her first book, Moore digs into the difficulties of finding connection both with others and ourselves, especially in reckoning with the trauma and triumph of growing up queer. INTO spoke with Moore about the book, sharing her most vulnerable moments, and what re-energizes her in the wake of an ever-isolating online and IRL culture.

photo by Amber Marlow

You’re a hardcore hustler. You’re everywhere and doing everything right now: acting, writing, performing Tinder Live!, producing music with your band It Was Romance. How did you find time to write How To Be Alone?

Lane Moore: I definitely had to make the time, but I’d wanted to write books since I was little, so it actually gave me even more focus to have deadlines and due dates. So much of the work I do, I’m providing my own deadlines and due dates, so there’s a little flexibility there, but with the book it was like, “Yeah, this is just straight up due on this date, so.”

So much of the book takes you back to your childhood and growing up queer — the tragedy, and triumph, and everything in between. How did you go about the process for recalling these memories and preserving these experiences on paper?

LM: They’re very fresh in my mind because I’m a super nostalgic person. I think about and relive and rewrite in my head all the time, so I’m kind of, for better or worse, constantly reliving my past and trying to wring out every bit of lesson or perspective I can in whatever happened then.

Who do you hope picks up and reads How to Be Alone?

LM: People who know all too well that you can have people around you who were technically there, but you were still totally alone, and how that almost hurts even more than if there was no one there at all. People whose childhoods still feel unresolved. People with too many feelings.

Your book is being featured on a number of Best Books lists so far. Congratulations and well-deserved! As a queer woman writer, what is that feeling like and what do you hope for the future of representation in storytelling and publishing?

LM: Thank you! I’ve really loved the queer people who’ve told me that reading the book made them really vividly remember similar queer teenage experiences and I think that’s so amazing. We don’t read a ton of queer perspectives, especially if they’re bisexual or fluid, so the more people are able to see their world reflected, or parts of themselves reflected, the less alone people feel. Being seen in any way is truly so comforting.

What have the reactions been so far to the book — are there any that stand out and affirm your motivation for telling your story in such a way, or vice versa?

LM:  Every single response is so beautiful and means so much to me. One in particular that meant a lot to me was a friend of mine who just started reading the book texting me, “I understand already why this book took so much out of you.” While I was writing it everyone around me was like, “Yay you’re writing a book you must be so happy!” and in reality I was the loneliest and saddest I’d been since I was a child, it was so painful. But I knew people were only being so casual because they didn’t know what kind of book I was writing. So to now have friends read it and say, “Wow, now that I’m reading this, I know why you’ve been in so much pain” feels so validating.

Your Twitter is a place where I think a lot of people feel like they get to know a lot of your thoughts and feelings, and people really feel like they really know you. What can people who know you expect to learn about you from the book?

LM: That my life has not been chill, to say the very least. It’s a tough balance to strike for sure because I think some people who know my humor writing in The Onion and the New Yorker might be expecting a straightforward humor book, and it definitely isn’t that because I didn’t want it to be. Like a lot of comedians, my backstory and my life off stage has been really, really intense and painful, and I’m grateful we live in a time where people can hopefully see, “Ohhhh, I’m actually super interested to hear someone who’s really funny talk about more serious issues, while also being funny, but maybe also giving it the resonance it needs because these issues are important, and maybe even a big reason why this person is funny.”

There’s a lot of bad news out there right now and plenty of justifiable reasons for feeling lonely. Is there anything that you find hope in that energizes you in the face of all this? Big or small.

LM: My dog Lights, absolutely. I look at her happy little dog face and it always cheers me up, every single time. I dreamed of meeting her pretty much my whole life and no matter what’s happening, I know she loves me and supports me and is proud of me. It’s an incredible feeling and dogs are magic.

Couple Mark and Rey Talk About Falling in Love at First Sight in ‘Queer Love’ Episode 2

Romeo saw Juliet from below her balcony. Mark and Rey saw each other on Instagram.

The latter may sound less romantic when you put it that way. But if there’s one thing we know about love in the 21st century — particularly queer love — it’s that it can happen anywhere. And watching personal trainer Mark and actor Rey speak about each other and interact in this week’s episode of Queer Love makes it clear: these guys are head over heels.

It may never have happened, though, if Rey hadn’t been brave enough to reach out first via DM. They hung out shortly after, but it didn’t take long for their connection to become permanent.

In the second episode of Queer Love, Mark and Rey give us the details on how they fell in love — including a connection through eyesight that couldn’t be ignored.

Watch the full video below.

And if you missed the first episode of Queer Love, featuring girlfriends Cairo and Aminah, you can catch up by watching it below.

Queer Abby: Can A Butch Be Toxic?

Dear Queer Abby, 

Toxic masculinity is awful and can be so deeply ingrained in us, so I work really hard to be able to spot it within myself and work against it. 

As a MOC/butch female person, it sometimes feels like I am in trouble with more feminine queers just by default on account of my masculinity. I don’t want to feel guilty all the time just because that’s how I present and feel comfortable in the world. How can I assure femmes that I’m not a bad guy? Will it just take repeated positive encounters and time with each person?

That’s a very #noteverybutch question for you

Signed, Quizzical in Quebec

Dear Quizzical, 

I’m going to give you my advice, and I’m going to give you my opinion. 

My advice is don’t act like a gross bro. That means, treat women with respect, act with integrity, be a good listener, admit when you’re wrong, and challenge misogyny around you, whether it is coming out of the mouth of a homosexual or otherwise.  Be a feminist. Act like you respect women and queer people. You don’t need to carry around your GLAAD award for femmes to understand you’re an ally, you just need to be patient and honest. The right people will suss you out. 

That’s my advice

My opinion is: Butches are not the enemy. 

There was a “trust no butch” movement a few years back, in which jilted queer femmes made performative enemies of the masculine presenting people around them. I’m not sure what this was about, other than a perceived dating scarcity and some heartache that calcified into horizontal oppression. It brought about some femme unity, which I’m generally all for, but I’m not certain that doing so by objectifying and vilifying the less societally-privileged among us was necessary. 

That’s right everyone, I’m saying femme-presenting women have more privilege in society. 

Where’s my MacArthur Genius Award? 

While it may seem glamorous to be chased out of bathrooms in fear for your life and threatened with violence as a woman, a gender traitor and a homosexual all at the same time,  in truth, outside of our metropolitan areas (or even one step outside of the queer club scene), it’s not always so wonderful!

Walking around as a masculine woman comes with its own very unique set of challenges that do not add up to enormous privilege that needs to be torn down or put in its place. 

Truly, butch and MoC people do sometimes have social or romantic cachet on their side in queer communities, but that doesn’t make them untrustworthy. 

There are people on every point of the gender spectrum who inspire exasperated eye-rolling in me, but it’s because of their bad personalities and decision-making, not their human form. 

Make it a meritocracy, my femme friends. Judge a butch on the content of their character, not the hue of their Carhartts. 

We, as femme-presenting people, can stand for ourselves without standing against our fellow queers. 

We are all going to end up in the same internment camp in Trump’s America, so why not extend some compassion in the meantime? 

I hope you have a nice holiday. 

Sincerely, 

Queer Abby

Being Stealthed, and Not Having the Words — Until I Tried Stand-Up

Lately, I’ve been trying to get on stage more often to tell jokes because I’m still mad at the University of Hartford improv troupe Stop Laughing Mom! For making me sit through a 90-minute show.

On stage and in my writing, I can force people to listen to my TEDTalk about Casino Royale, James Bond, and post 9/11 constructions of masculinity, or how the second most popular reason why I’m blocked is because I hate Call Me By Your Name, and the first is for being Asian.

And here, maybe I can reconcile with my own sense of mortality and trauma, because if you’re not doing it publicly, then how is Twitter ever going to validate you?

The second summer I spent in Provincetown, I knew what was coming — on my face. Everything gets easier with practice, and after the first summer, I felt better prepared for whatever the east coast queer mecca could throw at me: shit stained sheets, Bear Week, a former Drag Race winner drunkenly asking me to go home with her.

During the Fourth of July period, what we in town call “Circuit Week” — because I would rather drop a blowdryer in the water while I’m in the tub than have to talk to any of those cretins — a familiar face popped up on my Grindr. The chirp of the notification sound revealed an older guy, bald, a gym selfie. I was not especially interested in him. Not because of the bad lighting, but because the last time I had had a threesome with him the year before, for the totally not shallow opportunity to sleep with his much younger boyfriend, was mediocre. It was like school cafeteria pizza. It was, like, still pizza? We went through the motions of the conversation:

Hey.

How are you?

What have you been up to?

Do you wanna mess around again?

Maybe?

Do you do raw?

No, Jan, we’ve had this conversation before, I only use condoms.

You liked it raw last time.

Charles, what now?

“You liked it raw last time?” I barely like raw fish. I spent the majority of my life ordering hamburgers well done. Saying I liked the French cannibal movie Raw took a great amount of willpower. As far as textual messages on Grindr can convey, he seemed surprised at my surprise: “This is a total surprise to me that you did not know we were fucking you without a condom!!”

And I’m like: “This is not what we agreed to!! You had a condom on last time I checked, I thought! This is not the time for a disappearing condom act!! My word!!”

I had, thankfully, already been tested in the time since, and I was negative on all counts, but it was so annoying to me that I was kind of violated without knowing it and I had to find out a year after it happened. These things have deadlines! I do not usually spend my life sitting around waiting to be told that my personal boundaries have been transgressed so that I can write personal essays about them. That just fucks up the pitch process between me and my editor.

It was an inconvenience. I was, at the time, galled in a “my word” sense, and it wasn’t worth expending the energy to find them at the inn they were staying at a couple blocks down from where I was working/living to yell at them and say, “YOU AND YOUR HOT BOYFRIEND ONLY LASTED 7 MINUTES ANYWAYS. I KNOW BECAUSE I COUNTED. THAT IS ⅓ OF AN EPISODE OF 30 ROCK AND I EXPECT BETTER FROM YOU GAYS.” I put it out of mind.

Mostly, I’ve begun to conceptualize a lot of cis queer men as kind of annoying in that regard, increasingly bad at communication. When I moved to New York the following autumn, I had a boy over in January-ish, and we had sex and it was fine in the way that I had no notes for him as a director because it barely registered. Sometimes you want something and then you order it on Seamless and then by the time it gets there you’re like “Oh, okay.” Pizza.

What I was not prepared for was that he was going to stay the evening. I still only have a double mattress, which works fine for me because I still have the body of a 12-year-old. A double mattress does not fit a 12-year-old and a 26-year-old. I don’t think we talked much, but we went to bed relatively soon after. I was not, am not, used to people staying over. I am much more used to kicking people out after they’ve cum on me or besmirched the name of The New Yorker. It’s not that I’m scared of intimacy; I love the idea of intimacy and closeness. I crave it like I crave eating a tub of mashed potatoes by myself in my room while watching The Ice Storm on Thanksgiving. Just not with randos. And also, if I had intimacy problems, why would I be obsessed with Stephen Sondheim’s Company?

So I lay there awake most of the night. My body was stiff, unable to relax, unable to sleep. I tried counting sheeple. Ann Coulter, whose audiobooks I would listen to at bedtime in middle school. Julian Assange. Tucker Carlson. Bill O’Reilly. I felt movement on the other side. A grinding. I was not in the mood. So I continued not sleep sleeping. A hand was used to try to yank my pants and underwear down, and an attempt at thrusting began. I did my best possum impression and played dead. He tried for a few minutes to fuck me while I was trying to sleep, which is a sentence no one wants to say, second in place to, “I did eat the baby because I was trapped on a mountain and they are free of toxins and fatty.”

He stopped at some point, I fell asleep, and I kicked him out the next morning. I told a friend that this had happened, and I was also reminded of the time that the couple in Provincetown had told me too late they had removed the condom during sex. And I was reminded of another incident in Boston a few years earlier with a guy I had dated for two and a half weeks, where he, too, tried to fuck me in my sleep, and after ignoring him wouldn’t do, I relented and gave him a blow job so he would shut up.

I told a close friend about that guy in PTown and his boyfriend, and about the time this guy slept over and tried to fuck me in my sleep, and about the time this guy tried to fuck me in my sleep and then I relented and blew him to shut him up, all in a very nonchalant way. She was rather concerned. I wrote them off as boys being inconsiderate. She thought there was something more at play. And I think, now, there was.

I prefer to use whatever traumatic experiences I’ve had as a vehicle for self-deprecating humor, because I’m a sadist and a masochist, a great buy-one, get-one-free deal. My set opener is “my dad is hotter than your dad because he was cremated”, which I also once told an Apple store employee. It’s easier to write it off as funny than to linger on the details, to mire myself in the consequences, or subject them to anyone else, because, not unlike Bette Davis in All About Eve, I detest cheap sentiment.

I thought what was happening to me, in a rule of threes way, was annoying. Rule of threes means I can hex them all. But what was more irritating was that people had seemingly gone out of their way, impulse or otherwise, to transgress a boundary, and moreover, that I did not really have the language to describe how I felt about it. To admit that there was some greater implication, personal or political, to what had happened felt like I would be allowing myself to become weaker, to be changed irrevocably and cast in a light that I did not want or deserve. What happened didn’t look or sound like the stories I’ve heard, it didn’t seem severe or traumatic enough to warrant the language I was familiar with.

A news report about the term “stealthing” entering the cultural discourse was published earlier this year. Working off of a recently published paper by Alexandra Brodsky, a fellow at the National Women’s Law Center, “stealthing” was described as when a penetrative partner removes a condom during sex without telling the receptive partner. Reports suggested that gay and queer male communities had been using the term as early as 2014. And, reading these pieces, recognizing them in a way, I thought to myself, “Agh, shit.”

Framing myself in the context of trauma or sexual violation is foreign and only exciting when I’m being paid. I am the kind of person who, in their personal essay unit my freshman year of high school, responded to the essay prompt of “What was your worst day?” with the following: “The first is when I had to watch the Transformers movie over the summer with friends, a garish spectacle devoid of understanding space, time, and characterization; a nightmarish hodgepodge of nonsense. The second is when my father died in September. At least I got a lasagna dinner and a Wallace and Gromit DVD out of my father’s death, which is more than Michael Bay can say.”

When being stealthed has come up since, like when I get bloodwork done and consider converting to heterosexuality, I don’t know what to say exactly. “UH, I was kinda sorta sexually violated, I guess?” It’s this grey, awkward area, with barely any vocabulary to describe it (the first draft had the word “annoying” 12 times) and even fewer legal resources or recourse. The way many of us are told, trauma like that is supposed to be a package deal: I’m supposed to feel all these things, the change is supposed to be dramatic and life-altering, I am supposed to assume some kind of archetypal experience, but all I felt was annoyance and confusion and the desire to not really talk about it again. It’s like being a queer Asian transracial adoptee: great and failed expectations. Its impact was ephemeral, eliding immediacy.

I think the way I negotiate trauma, what it is and how it manifests, especially in art, can be blamed on my mother, which is to say I avoid it. I have muted the word “trauma” on Twitter, as well as the words “bussy,” “toxic masculinity,” “Mercury is in retrograde,” “Antoni,” “self-care,” “Swifty,” and “Bernie would have won.” I saw my mother as a strong and resilient person whose trauma, the details of which I do not know, heavily shaped her. She and I have a very complicated relationship, and in my efforts to not be her, that may have meant not addressing trauma. I think because I didn’t want to be changed by it the way it had changed her.

But now we talk. Not about this, she doesn’t know about this yet, I’m saving that for Thanksgiving, but the intricate folds to our incredibly complex and tumultuous relationship are being unearthed again. I am continually learning how to use my writing as a way to work through things, because finding a mental health professional in this city is literally worse and more expensive than dating. (Don’t worry, I am working on it.) I’m experimenting with comedy, which, despite making me want to vomit, allows me a certain sense of control that I wish I had in the past. A certain kind of agency.

I joked to a friend once that getting a haircut gives me more anxiety than being stealthed; that at least I don’t know that I’m losing control when being stealthed and that was much more convenient to my schedule of sitting on my butt and watching Danish musicals about Björk being arrested for manslaughter. With a haircut, the consequences and the humiliation are way more immediate and, like, expensive. The table at which I went on this mini-rant laughed, and a regrettable idea popped into my head.

So I wrote a set comparing being stealthed to getting a haircut, talking about the politics of consent. I long had found solace in writing darkly comic essays in a David Sedaris vein (like this one!), but I thought it would be an interesting challenge to work in another format. I didn’t know if I would ever perform it, and it sat on my laptop for a couple of months, but I saw that there was a queer open mic called Open Flame in Bushwick. I thought, if I could perform it here and it did okay, then I can do something with it. If it doesn’t work, I’ll never do anything again. I performed it at Mood Ring, framing it around the New Yorker short fiction story “Cat Person” by Kristen Roupenian, a story predicated on sex and power and ambivalence. And it went well.

My two favorite jokes from the set:

I had sex recently, thank you, and I’m thankful because he gave me back issues of the New Yorker. Before we had sex, we were talking, and he wanted to talk to me about cultural appropriation. And then that conversation turned into one about colonialism. And then that turned into a very…. hands-on demonstration.

And:

Obviously, one of the many side effects of being socialized in a male-dominated society is that women, and some queer men, are taught to be deferential, to fit within a kind of mold where we are less likely to challenge maleness or male authority. I want to dismantle the patriarchy and white supremacy, but I will apologize like a thousand times while doing so. “I’m so sorry,  I just wanna dismantle patriarchy, like FUCK BRETT KAVANAUGH, but sorry, excuse me.”

For the first time, I felt like I could confront and reclaim something that existed in the liminal spaces of our understanding of consent and power. I could play with the language itself. I created tension, for you Nanette fans, but something in me felt washed away.

I mean, yes I still need a therapist, and if any of you know anyone who takes Aetna let me know. But for the time being, I could tell my own story, I could use my own words, I could get concerned looks from audience members with my joke about colonialism and sex with white men. I think that’s all what anyone really wants in life: autonomy, agency, and the mutually understood power of telling someone where to cum.

Image via Getty