Entertainment

Tips From A Queer Man About Living Your Most Authentic Life

It’s 2018. The old ways of looking at queer culture are crumbling and fading away. We’re not all the way there yet: there are still plenty of haters out there, and some, well, weird portrayals of queer men and queer culture out there in the media. But the world’s most fabulous alternative lifestyle is giving all that noise a quick up-down, and moving on. Despite the odd stragglers, a lot of true queer culture is getting mainstreamed and a clearer picture of the culture is emerging. LGBT culture is being recognized as creative, devoted, hard-working, hard-playing, courageous, and just utterly fabulous. Ally or enemy, curious or furious, there are a lot of things about gay culture that can help the straight man be way more fabulous. Read on for advice, from gay men to straight men, that will enrich your life, make you more secure, improve your communication, and grow.

Be Your Truest, Most Authentic Self

Credit: To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar/Amblin Entertainment/Universal Films

Be your truest and most authentic self. Many gay men know what it’s like to live a lie, to pretend to be something you’re not, or pretend not to be something you are. For most, the journey out of the closet was a ceaseless uphill struggle against obstacles outside and in. We’ll never forget the time we spent rejecting who we really are, and will never ever go back. And coming out is only half the battle: portrayals in the media, even positive ones, make it difficult to embrace an authentic identity: promiscuous, feminine, educated, creative, loud: these aren’t true of the queer community in general, but, as with many stereotypes, are true of some. How to separate the wheat from the chaff? Easy: Be the definition of yourself, and reject all other definitions. 

Be That Self in All Your Relationships

Credit: Glee/Fox Broadcasting Company

Be your true and authentic self in all your relationships, especially romantic relationships. Most people, gay or straight, give and give early in relationships. That giving is usually returned. But it’s not unusual for one or both of the partners to fall into a role that isn’t authentic, to be a satellite to the other person, and to abandon much of their truest self. Don’t let that happen: it’s destructive to your identity and destructive to your relationship. The healthiest relationships grow and see each partner grow as well. Be sure that you have everything you need in yourself. That’s not to say that a relationship shouldn’t be a source of support and stimulation; just make sure that other other person isn’t rounding out your identity for you, because it won’t really be your identity.

Be Around People Who Care

Credit: The Rocky Horror Picture Show/Michael White Productions

Be around people who care. About you, obviously, but also about something, anything. Be with warriors, with knife-fighters for what’s right. Be with the fearless, people who have your back not just because they need but because you’re doing what’s right, and so will they. Gay men don’t associate with the apathetic too much. No time for that. 

Define Your Relationships

Credit: Brokeback Mountain/Focus Features

I see this with my straight friends much too often: a relationship that isn’t defined, or where one partner wants something very different from what the other wants. One wants a long-term relationship, the other just wants some one-and-dones. Or neither knows what the other really wants. If it’s just sex, there’s nothing wrong with that. If the idea is to build something that will last and grow, that’s great, too. But you’ve got to be clear, and be kind. Gay men tend to be pretty upfront about what they’re looking for, and it saves a lot of time and grief.

Don’t Lock Anyone Out, Don’t Burn Any Bridges

Credit: Rebel Without a Cause/Warner Brothers 

This doesn’t really apply with haters, but straight men have to deal with them a lot less than gay men. You don’t have to let everyone in–in fact you’re better off not to; but make sure there’s room in your life, even on the surface, for everyone. For gay men, this hasn’t really been a choice: most people are not gay, and even some of our closest friends don’t agree with some parts of our lifestyles. We can cut off very few people without ending up totally homogeneous, or even isolated. And don’t forget that people can change: don’t burn a bridge that someone will want to get back across someday. 

Talk to Women Like They’re Friends

Credit: Rent/Revolution Studios

The derisive terms for women who are close to gay men come from how threatened straight men can be by those friendships. It doesn’t have to be that way. The reason gay men are so close to straight women is that we don’t distinguish them from our male friends. They’re just friends: we have great laughter, companionship, and support with them. We want to tell them about us and we want to hear about them. I find many straight men struggling to have these kinds of relationships. Don’t focus on the one thing you want: you might not get it. Your chances are better if you actively pursue a friendship.

Swing the Bat

Credit: Mysterious Skin/Tartan Films

That said, I find many straight men hesitating to talk to women at all. That’s a tough field to cross. Consider this: before a gay man approaches a man they’re interested in, they have to know or guess whether they’re gay or straight. That can be pretty scary. Swing the bat: you have nothing to lose and so much to gain. Chances are she will be polite and kind, willing to talk and learn more about you, and won’t reject you outright unless there’s a really good reason, like a current relationship or a different sexual identity.

Value the Circumstances and People Around You Right Now

Credit: Torchsong Trilogy/New Line Cinema

It’s okay to strive for more in life, work, and relationships, but don’t lose track of what you do have. You worked hard for it. Many gay men grew up with their very identities at stake, and continue to face the prospects of losing friends and opportunities because of who we are. So we value the friends, the life, the work that we have right now. 

Style: Make Some Decisions (or at least look like you have)

Credit: Boys in the Band/Cinema Center Films

Style is intimidating. It can be costly (but doesn’t need to be), and it opens you up to judgment. But making decisions is easy and free. Many of the cultural role models for gay men, plus our mothers and sisters and aunts, have shown us what it’s like to make decisions. So if you’re heading out to a job interview or a matinee of La Boheme with your double-breasted navy suit jacket with the gold buttons, wearing khaki pants, a black belt, and brown shoes, you haven’t made any decisions. If you’re throwing a lavender comforter on the bed in the room with the powder blue walls, you haven’t made any decisions. Design some color schemes and stick with them. Just make it clear that you’ve tried, and haven’t just thrown around whatever is available.

Learn a Little About Food and Wine and Non-Pop Music

Credit: Will & Grace/Warner Brothers

It’s a stereotype, for sure: not all gay men are educated, cultured, and refined. But many are. We expose ourselves to new and better things, refine our tastes as much as we can, and strive to learn about the finer things in life. It doesn’t take much effort to slowly introduce a little bit of that kind of finery. It’s really just a lot of very pleasant experimenting. There is so much more to life beyond the boundaries we grow up with.

Beards Yes; Moustaches, Goatees, Sideburns No

Credit: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One/Warner Brothers

Very few men, straight or queer, can make moustaches, goatees, or sideburns work for them. If you don’t know if you are one of them (it’s unlikely), err on the side of caution and try a full beard: it makes up for a lot. A beard can hide blemishes and scars, help to shape your face and define cheekbones, and add a little maturity to even a very young man. Just keep it neat. And clean. Remember, though, that if your partner doesn’t like it, all bets are probably off.

Design Your Life

Credit: Call Me By Your Name/Sony Pictures Classics

Don’t settle, and, if you can help it, don’t build your life around your work, relationships, or social connections. It should be the other way around. This is pretty much Life 101 for gay men, who can’t be in a place that rejects them. We do our best to be in situations where we can grow. This includes everything from work to relationships to the part of the world you live in and more. You don’t often find gay men settling for anything, but always making things work for them and fit into their lives.

Develop Positivity and Positive Habits

Credit: Moonlight/A24

There’s a lot of noise in being gay, both in person and from the media: the endless stereotypes, even the best-intentioned ones, can drag you down and leave you feeling negative. Gay men try to block it out as much as possible, and straight men should, too. Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum: negativity is everywhere. Trying to limit exposure to negative people and situations only goes so far. It’s important to learn to be positive in a negative situation and with negative people. Develop your own positivity about things, and positive habits. Learn to see challenges as opportunities. The positivity you earn this way feels better, goes deeper, and lasts longer than simply cutting negativity out of your life.

Be Fearless

Credit: Philadelphia/TriStar Pictures

It’s getting better now, but there was a time when a gay man was taking a risk every time he stepped outside. Giving in to that kind of fear would have been worse than death. It’s a lesson learned, but not easily: Be intimidated, be anxious, be frightened, be worried, but don’t let those things stop you. Courage is retroactive: you get the bravery to do the crazy-scary thing after you’ve done it. I know it should be other way around, but that’s how it works. Trust me. You’ve just got to be made out of something more than flesh and bone. Something that can’t be broken.

Be Honest with Yourself

Credit: Milk/Focus Features

Lies are a currency that too many people pay with. Lying can seem inevitable, but it’s not. Learning to accept yourself no matter what society thinks is a key to being an honest person and it’s a step most gay men have had to take at some point. Be honest with yourself in all things. Don’t deceive yourself about who you are, about the people around you, or about what you want. Find the truth and live it fully. 

This Woman’s Poetry Got Twitter Fired Up

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This Woman’s Poetry Got Twitter Fired Up

@2shotsofmely / Twitter

We all know how annoying family can be, nitpicking and offering opinions about how we choose to live our lives. Sometimes, though, our relatives’ perspectives are more than frustrating—they can be hurtful, causing us to question and doubt our place in the world. For many of us, it may be really difficult to address these issues with our loved ones, and we might often need to process these complex situations on our own before we can make any progress within our relationships. For Twitter user Hot Girl Scholar (@2shotsofmely), art was part of this process. She addressed some deep family conflict through poetry, and y’all, Twitter was shook.

According to her pinned tweet, @2shotsofmely and her family emigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic when she was seven years old. In May of this year, she graduated cum laude from Clark University with a BA in English and a minor in Education, ecstatic to dedicate her degree to immigrant and first-generation students. By embracing her role as a “hood girl, educator, and undercover poet,” @2shotsofmely is “living [her] mama’s wildest dreams”—although the poems that have electrified Twitter focus on some hard-to-swallow cultural viewpoints, reiterated by su madre y su abuela.

In poetry, the author of the poem is not always the speaker of the poem, but because of the caption in @2shotsofmely’s post (“Heard it so much I wrote poems about it”), it is clear that these poems—displayed on the walls of Elevated Thought, a Lawrence-based art and social justice organization—are written from her perspective. 

In one poem, “Negra Yo, Pero El No!,” @2shotsofmely acknowledges the hypocrisy (and the shadowy nature of racism and colorism) that defines how her mother reacts to a hypothetical boyfriend: based on the title, we know that @2shotsofmely’s mother is black, yet she proclaims that if @2shotsofmely ever dated a moreno, he must have a thin nose—la nariz fina—green eyes like @2shotsofmely’s grandfather, and “good hair.” In other words, he must not have black features. Why? “Because hay que refinar la raza.”

In the other poem, “LGBTQue?,” @2shotsofmely explores the cultural stigma attached to LGBTQ identities, affirming that her grandmother would “prefer [we] open [our] legs for all the men in the barrio before we walk around with a sister in our arms.”

The original tweet has garnered over 2.3k likes and 900 retweets—people can’t stop gassing @2shotsofmely’s badass display of honesty, the simultaneous pride in and critique of her roots. Several people expressed solidarity, citing events from their own lives that mirrored @2shotsofmely’s poetry.

This Twitter user really related to @2shotsofmely’s experience on the receiving end of her mother’s words.

This Latina responded in Spanish, explaining that her own grandmother married a white man para “mejorar la raza,” but affirmed that it wasn’t her fault—this point of view, according to @ditasea88, is a remnant of colonization.

This Twitter user applauded “LGBTQue?” for its resonance and truth.

Her poems even moved some folks to tears.

Although each of these tweets suggests a common experience which is largely negative, the response to @2shotsofmely’s poetry was rich with compassion—not only for those other Twitter users who share that experience, but for the madres y abuelas whose lives were very different than ours, and who had to make different decisions as a result. History is complex and difficult to synthesize without a broad contextual understanding, and @2shotsofmely’s work draws attention to how cultural patterns from the past can leave a dark impact on the present. However, alongside the criticism and pain at the core of these poems, there is something else: a sense of defiance and hope.

Now, in the midst of the political chaos within our country, it is especially important to celebrate the victories of individuals and groups creating supportive platforms for folks—particularly people of color—to express themselves. It is always exciting to see expressions of Latinidad—from art to poetry to a bomb Insta selfie—spark conversation and communion, even if people are relating about moments that have left them hurt or bruised. In a way, this type of conversation creates a sense of camaraderie, amistad—a feeling of familia.  

And although a lot of Latina familias struggle with antiquated viewpoints (like those presented in @2shotsofmely’s poems), times are changing, and cultural expectations are becoming more inclusive to Latinx people with a range of diverse identities. Often, the more difficult aspects of our upbringing lead us to create meaningful work and connect with others who can relate to us—@2shotsofmely’s poetry is a great example of how intergenerational trauma can produce beauty, connection, and personal growth when you honor yourself and your dreams. @2shotsofmely, you go, girl!

Here’s How Students At A Catholic High School Reacted When School Officials Threatened To Out Their Fellow Gay Peer

Things That Matter

Here’s How Students At A Catholic High School Reacted When School Officials Threatened To Out Their Fellow Gay Peer

Buzzfeed Twitter

Students at a Catholic high school in Los Angles staged last week in unity with a gay classmate who says shows harassed by the school for her sexuality. 

According to a recent report published by Buzzfeed, officials at the school threatened to out high school senior Magali Rodriguez. Following Buzzfeed’s report, which was published last Thursday, students at Bishop Amat Memorial High School, staged a walkout on Friday.

Bishop Amat students organized a walkout protesting the alleged actions of officials at their school on Friday.

According to Buzzfeed, Rodriguez attended Bishop Amat, for three years. The high school senior said that the incidents began to occur during her freshman year when she first began dating her girlfriend when the school’s dean confronted the couple and claimed that students had “complained about their relationship.”

 During her time at the school, Rodriguez claimed that she had been subjected to various disciplinary meetings and counseling sessions. She was also kept from sitting beside her girlfriend during lunch hours. In the report by Buzzfeed, Rodriguez claimed that school officials had threatened to out her to her parents if she refused to comply with their rules, which were not forced onto the straight students in relationships at the school. Rodriguez claims that though she was never publicly affectionate with her girlfriend at school, she felt constantly monitored by officials at the school. In one incident, Rodriguez said that a staff member approached the two teenagers during summer school and told them that they would both go to hell and that “she was trying to get them expelled.”

At the time, Rodriguez had come out to her peers but had not yet come out to her parents. 

Ultimately, Rodriguez’s grades and mental health took a toll until she decided to write her parents a letter and come out.

“Rodriguez, a high school senior, tried to stay positive and get through it, but after more than three years, she was at breaking point,” reported Buzzfeed. “She was crying every day before school, her grades suffered, and spending time on campus brought intense waves of anxiety. So she decided to speak up — first to her parents and now publicly.”

Ultimately Rodriguez’s parents withdrew her from the Catholic school. Speaking to Buzzfeed Rodriguez’s mother  Martha Tapia-Rodriguez condemned the school for how they treated her daughter saying, “They took it upon themselves to parent our daughter, to counsel her, to lecture her.”

When news of the way the school had treated Rodriguez went public, her former peers decided to stage a walkout.

The walkout took place during the student’s seventh period on Friday and lasted for an hour and a half until the school day ended. 

Several students BuzzFeed News spoke to Saturday said they hadn’t heard about Rodriguez’s experience prior to the article, and were shocked to learn how she was treated. One anonymous student who took part in the walkout spoke to Buzzfeed about the incident saying, “I never would’ve imagined Amat to be an environment like this… Once I started to read about the article I was in full shock. I decided to walk out to stand up for her.” This same student claimed that while teachers had commented on the situation saying that there were “two sides to every story” none attempted to put a stop to the protest.

According to the unnamed student, the school’s principal made an announcement before the school lunch bell that they were aware of the Buzzfeed report and had offered counseling services to students who had concerns. 

Two hundred students took part in the walkout, and according to the student interviewed by Buzzfeed, students chanted prayers for Rodriguez. Some called her via FaceTime to show what was being done. 

“I decided to walk out because I wanted to take a stand,” another student told Buzzfeed. “I didn’t agree with what the administration did with the situation and I feel like it was a good idea for the student body to stand as one to show our support for Magali.”

According to a tweet shared in response to BuzzFeed News’ original report, the school has said that it is not intolerant of LGBTQ students.

“Bishop Amat High School is committed to providing a supportive and inclusive learning environment for all students, irrespective of their sexual orientation,”  Bishop Amat said in a statement.

According to a tweet shared in response to BuzzFeed News’ original report, the school has said that it is not intolerant of LGBTQ students.

“Bishop Amat High School is committed to providing a supportive and inclusive learning environment for all students, irrespective of their sexual orientation,”  Bishop Amat said in a statement.

According to a tweet shared in response to BuzzFeed News’ original report, the school has said that it is not intolerant of LGBTQ students.

“Bishop Amat High School is committed to providing a supportive and inclusive learning environment for all students, irrespective of their sexual orientation,”  Bishop Amat said in a statement.