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Firsts

Firsts Travis Crockett

They gave me a navy folder with
a packet of information twenty pages thick,
the first page titled “Day One.”
But there wasn’t a first day. A first month perhaps,
a memory salad of molding dread and sharp panic.

There was the first cut,
in public of course,
my hands fumbling a sharp piece of junk in a Good Will.
The high school clerk did not
appreciate my urgency for a Band-Aid
while blood—horror movie red
ballooned—from the tiny wound.
I bought the trash and took it home.
My first trophy.
There was the first education,
a confiding one-sided script.
People will say anything
in safe company.
He had put his
“health at risk, you know?”.
Truth shared under the assumption of a common status.
That was the first silence as well.
I was still learning how to speak; I could not yet teach.

There was the first rejection, but that only deserves one line.

There was the first doctors appointment.
The first blood draw.
The first results.
The first time they took my blood pressure
they had to take it again,
and again,
telling me I had to calm down,
that this was not
the first time someone had been in my position.
That was the first time I heard white coat syndrome.

Your new obsession becomes the first of many.
A refreshed interest in books,
things you said you would learn some other day,
or perhaps movies, foreign films,
you devour them, amass so many of these titles
you must buy a new book shelf,
you start looking at new TVs with better resolution,
you find a new couch to better hold you in these
delicate moments of escape.

I bought plants.
I bought so many,
willed my thumb turn from black to green,
surrounded myself with as much life as
I could fit on my south-facing patio.
To see the humble arc of beginning,
flourishing beautiful middle, and
graceful, lingering end, was my first recovery.
The next year I only bought five.

The first plant I bought lived
all through summer and into fall.
I buried it in wet November mud
next to a creek and
did not think of myself.


TravisCrockett-300x300 FirstsTRAVIS CROCKETT considers poetry to be a fourth alternative to Albert Camus’ options for dealing with the absurdity of life. Instead of willful denial through religion, suicide, or a total embrace of absurdity, poetry permits his desire for something greaterthan himself, acknowledges the terrors of being alive, and shakes hands with l’absurde. Travis considers poetry to be a way to wink back when the abyss get awkward and stares too long. He lives in Texas with his boyfriend and his dog.

No Strings Attached

Grindr Tinder no strings attached gay sex dating

Are Grindr and Tinder ruining good sex and preventing gay men from meaningful relationships? 

Online dating has transformed romance into yet another product of the digital age in which we live. Just like ordering a pizza or looking for shoes to match the season, people can now find a customizable lover through online dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, and Bumble. These quick taps on our phone screens have created a new etiquette in dating where the individual connection has been replaced with a single swipe to the right and a nonchalant “what’s up” sort of intro. With instant connections on the rise, it seems as though the lengths of traditional relationships have shortened, as well. With many people bypassing the work of a relationship, they’ve now sped straight into an expedited sexual connection. This creates different types of connections that occur within this new era of social media speed-dating, whether people are out looking for Mr. Right, Mr. Free Booze, or Mr. Right Now. The latter has become the most common, due to our newly-adopted, quick, digital attention span. Hook-up culture has made it possible for people who are only exclusively looking for no strings attached sex to enjoy sexual satisfaction without the connection of another human being’s emotional attachment. As the idea of monogamy dies away, this placeholder has become a common trend. Soon, will everyone be left single? Is it possible that these unemotional and pure lustful relations could be deteriorating the traditional relationship titles of boyfriend, husband, wife, girlfriend?

Grindr is one of the largest hook-up apps. Most of these hookups are strictly “no strings attached.” User’s profiles can be straight to the point, announcing that they are looking for a right now rendezvous. Terms like hosting, travel, DDF, blow-n-go, and many others have generated a brand new language in gay dating. It breeds an aberrance not before experienced in dating: people giving out their addresses, sending genital photos, and looking for gratification without attachment. Instant connections are something that our current generation of gay men use as a means of courting. Yet, no matter how much of a connection there may be through our cell phones or online, is it as good as meeting someone new in person? With marriage equality being only a few years old, the definitions of gay relationships are just being reconstructed as society is now accepting them, especially as we enter a renaissance of relationship titles and gender roles.

Furthering this hindrance in our community is the unveiling of racism in online dating. Pride parades give the illusion that gay culture is open and inclusive. Yet profiles on Grindr show a population of those who maintain prejudices and subdued racism. Profiles which identify as discreet want to make a connection, but would rather nobody know of their orientation. Chappy, which fancies itself the “anti-Grindr,” introduces profiles that are combative of prejudicial taglines: masc only, no fats, no femmes, no [insert various racial prejudices]—which has the least to do with human connection—and rather allows users to only seek sex. Is this our old-world, subliminal heteronormative thinking? Are we still existing under the subconscious belief that homosexuality shouldn’t be placed on display in a heterosexual world? There are many reasons men want to remain discreet while looking for sex, such as the thrill of anonymity, being married or in the closet, or perhaps coming from a culture where homosexuality is still looked down upon. Perhaps being gay still is still not completely normalized, and these individuals do not feel comfortable showing their sexuality as a relationship to society. It extends beyond aps, though. Some married gay couples still remain in the closet. As much as being gay no longer seems to be a big deal, Main Street USA would still be uncomfortable with two guys holding hands or showing affection in the public, as has been made clear by the uprising in disapproving opinions during the current presidential administration. Gay stigmatization still exists, even in the dawning of 2018.

This type of atmosphere is inducing a population of men who are seeking male sexual attractions, but removing it from the forefront of a greater portrait, keeping everything out of society and into the bedroom. The down-low Casanovas typically are looking for someone who is masculine and doesn’t fit the stereotype of gay identification. But there are many people who find these kinds of interactions to be a fantasywanting to meet an individual for anonymous sex where  identity plays no importance, often even when one of the individuals is found in a scandalous situation like being blindfolded, handcuffed, face-down on the bed without ever looking up, etc. Conversely, it would seem that the act of no strings attached encounters provides an easy way to bypass societal stigmatization while being able to fulfill sexual gratification. But there are many people who find these kinds of interactions to be a fantasywanting to meet an individual for anonymous sex where  identity plays no importance, often even when one of the individuals is found in a scandalous situation like being blindfolded, handcuffed, face-down on the bed without ever looking up, etc. When a person has multiple partners without an emotional attachment, most bypass safety screening and are open to believe a person’s status for only knowing them within minutes, jaded by their own lustful desire. This alone begets sexual irresponsibility, especially when people fail to disclose their status with disease, drug use, and preventative drug use (i.e. PrEP).

Yet, unprotected sex is on the rise. And with that, these factors make such preventions even more necessary.  Taking the precaution allows a person to feel safe, even when taken without the availability of a condom., Still, PrEP is only used to deter HIV, and leaves gay men open for other diseases. Other health risks are involved with attachment-free sex. For instance, online dating now serves as a digital bathhouse, connecting men who are only looking for no strings attached sex. Like bathhouses online hookup apps help users who are seeking anonymous sex with more than one person to frequent, perhaps to fulfill some form of fantasy. These environments are often free of supervision or provide little only for the purposes of preventing drug use. Therefore, they serve as a breeding ground to spread virus and disease for individuals who do not use protection. Which the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein has noted “Because these are closed pools of people in limited geographies [using dating apps], it means that infections can spread more easily.”

Hopefully, as society continues to wrap its hivemind around the acceptance of gay culture, the need for discretion and unsafe practices will dwindle. Maybe some day people will even be able to express their sexual orientation without the stigmas that come along with being gay, eradicating the need to hide your face behind your phone screen. Still, bathhouses, hook-up apps, bar meet-cutes are often seen as gay rites of passage. While clinically discourageable if not practiced erring on the side of caution, many gay men look at them as a part of the lifestyle, something their friends have all done that they wish to experience, or even just a good story to tell. After all, apps like Grindr have also made it increasingly easy for people to meet for sex. It’s the intention of the app, with many men just have chest pics as their profile picture, whether that be to remain anonymous or simply to attract sexual partners. And yet, while there are people who claim they are looking for a relationship on these apps, for the most part, it would appear that most are only looking for sextheir Mr. Right Now rather than their Mr. Right.

What Is a Fetus by Any Other Name?

Trump CDC transgender fetus science
A sign marks the entrance to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Oct. 8, 2013. David Goldman / AP file

Are the scientists of the CDC pandering to the right in order to gain congressional approval? And if so, what could be next?

OPINION: Today, as I was scrolling through Facebook to pass the time, I came across an article written by The Hill. I didn’t think much of it at first, but after the first read, I found myself frantically searching the web, hoping that it wasn’t true. After getting the same information from the Chicago Tribune and AOL, I had to admit that what I was seeing was, in fact, real.

What was being reported is a direct attack on the first amendment to the constitution. This amendment grants protections in respect to establishment and the exercise of religion, the right to peacefully assemble, the freedom of the press, and even the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The one protection that most people remember, however, is the one the article threatened: freedom of speech.

On December 14th, officials with the CDC circulated a list of words that they are now forbidden to use in official budget policy documents for the 2019 year, which is due to be released in February. These words are: evidence-based, science-based, vulnerable, entitlement, fetus, diversity, and transgender. According to the articles, these banned words may also be excluded from official documents in other branches of Trump’s health department.

An analyst who attended the CDC meeting told the Washington Post that the CDC was given alternatives to some of these words. In place of “evidence” or “science-based” they were instructed to use the following: “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes”.

It is widely known that the Trump administration is doing everything in its power to stifle the media. From calling reports that aren’t flattering “fake news” to denying the smallest of facts when confronted, great lengths have been taken to keep us from the truth. Even the repeal of net neutrality is a way for the people to only see what the government wants us to see. By allowing corporations to control our access to the internet, then the decision of what we learn is left in the hands of those that can profit from our ignorance. For them to directly ban words like this is a direct contradiction to what the first amendment protects. How far will Trump go to change the way we think? If we no longer call an unborn child a fetus, will it be easier to ban abortion? If we no longer refer to research as science-based, will it be simpler to replace the truth with what they want us to believe? Already we see Republicans citing the bible as if it were verified fact, and as if we all should believe as they do. If we don’t openly use the word transgender, then how will we ever receive equal treatment in life?

First, official documents in the CDC. What’s next? Modifying scientific facts our children are taught in their science classes? Many people want to believe that we possess an awareness of the world around us and the current events in our country. In the end, however, how can we know that the news we hear every day isn’t information that has been filtered and edited to be more palatable?

Update: A memo sent to NBC News from CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald stated that no words had officially been banned from the CDC. The statement read:

“The CDC remains committed to our public health mission as a science- and evidence-based institution, providing for the common defense of the country against health threats. Science is and will remain the foundation of our work … As I have said previously, there are no banned, prohibited or forbidden words at the CDC — period.”

Dr. Fitzgerald went on to explain that the discussion of verbiage had been a topic of discussion at a staff-level meeting to find the best way for 2019 budgets to pass the Republican-led Congress. However, as Dr. Sandro Galea, who serves as dean of Boston University’s School of Public Health, stated to the Associated Press, “If you are saying you cannot use words like ‘transgender’ and ‘diversity,’ it’s a clear statement that you cannot pay attention to these issues.” This could be seen as applicable, even if the words are simply be dismissed from budgetary discussions to win a right-sided vote. 

Diary of a Limpy Dick, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 4

They say that it happens to every man at some point in his life — that it isn’t uncommon. Maybe you’ve just had a little bit too much to drink that night. It could be that it’s too cold and you have poor circulation as a result. It is possible that the new antidepressants you’ve been taking per your licensed primary care physician — who takes no issue in prescribing you pretty much anything of which you ask — have negatively affected your sex drive.

For me, it was none of those things. I was stone-cold, stupid sober and hadn’t had a drink since the night Ezra had all but said he could never love me (or, at least, that’s how I’d heard it). I was a bit chilly, but I’d warmed up against the body heat of the gorgeous man lying on top of me. And all the pills I was on were ones I’d been taking for years with no such result.

Yet, there I lie, naked from the waist down with this Herculean man from Grindr on top of me. He was absolutely perfect. To say that he was the man of my dreams might be too literal, as he felt familiar to me in a way I could only recall as if I’d created him myself. Everything about him was perfect. His ass. His dick. His face. His slight facial hair. The way he held my left hand with his right. And as he kissed me, I ran my hands down his well-muscled arms, which had just reached down to find my penis … flaccid.

Sure, they say it happens to everyone … but it had never happened to me. And I couldn’t help but furiously try to imagine why it would happen when I was engaged in sex with a man who was quite literally the hottest man I’d probably ever sleep with.

Well, that is, if I’d been able to get it up.

What the fuck was going on with me?


Over the last three months, I’d been in something of a dry spell. No boyfriends, no Tinder or Grindr (not that I was particularly fond of either). Nothing.

Only, it wasn’t the kind of dry spell you hear your best friend talk about when their boyfriend they’ve been with for five years, have been engaged to for three, but still aren’t married aren’t having sex. It also wasn’t the sort where a person enters their mid-forties, suddenly finding themselves repulsed by what they see in the mirror for no real reason, and gives up on love altogether.

No, no. This was a self-induced dry spell … sort of.

It had been a day like many others, with Hayden and I drinking wine on the patio of Barnaby’s well before dark like good gay men, with plans of walking to Ripcord as soon as we’d polished off another bottle. At the time, I’d still been silently obsessing over Ezra and had just begun to feel comfortable talking about my feelings for him. This, of course, was well before my drunken party in which Ezra had mentioned how disinterested in me he was (I’m paraphrasing).

It was a particularly unpleasant day, as I’d just learned that Ezra had been reading my gay sex column and now knew the ins-and-outs of every sexual experience I’d ever written about since it’s inception into the literary world. These encounters included, but were not limited to, a threesome I’d had with an artist and a drunken bear (not the animal, obviously) from Grindr, my first Grindr hookup in which the bear from the aforementioned threesome took it upon himself to pee on me while I was kneeled down to give him a blowjob, and a gay orgy I’d attended on Coyle St. that ended with me fucking a professor from the University of Houston who claimed to be there as part of an “anthropological study.”

I relayed this information to Hayden with great haste.

“Okay, so here’s what you need to do,” Hayden explained as he yanked a cigarette out of his mouth and blew smoke in my face. “You’re going to have to stop sleeping around.”

“What do you mean I have to stop sleeping around?” I asked him. “You make it sound like I’m the Gay Whore of Babylon.”

“Given the current state of the world, I wouldn’t be surprised if you were and this were some kind of Revelations-esque nightmare.”

“Great. Thanks,” I sighed. “It’s not like this is about me being slutty. I mean, true, I kind of am. But this is moreso about the fact that it’s kind of my job. I can’t just stop doing that. I need the money.”

“It’s not that I think that you’re slutty. You’re a twenty-three-year-old, for chrissakes. But I’m also one of your best friends, and I know you well enough to know that you’re just doing this sleeping around for —”

“For validation,” I interrupted him with a shrug and another bite of my burger.

Hayden sort of looked around the patio for a moment before saying, “I was going to say ‘for fun.’ But you may actually want to talk to someone about that.” He shook his head and looked up to the ceiling while he puffed his cigarette. Without looking back at me, he went on. “You don’t have to stop writing your column, obviously. That’s your job. But you do have to stop sleeping around so much.”

“Oh, this coming from the man in an open marriage whose Grindr alerts go off like a crazy coupon lady at the cash register who’s just been told she can’t double-up on Nabisco coupons.”

Hayden leered his eyes down at me. “If you don’t stop doing that and if you don’t stop binge-drinking every time you feel like you have something to celebrate, he’s never going to take you seriously or be able to look for a partner in you.”

I didn’t want to acquiesce to what I believed to be Hayden’s ridiculous demands. However, I had to admit—though I never would—that he had a point. It wasn’t all me. I’m not that slutty; and I’m not currently on Grindr; and I don’t troll the bars looking for someone to go home with. A lot more of this particular point rested with Ezra.

You see, Ezra was something of an anomaly in gay culture. While he was very much attracted to men, and while he himself admitted on more than one occasion that he didn’t mind jacking off to gay porn from time-to-time, Ezra was, more or less, asexual.

I know … gay anomaly. Though we’d discussed it more than once, I’d never felt too eager to ask him for many details regarding the situation. My understanding was that he just didn’t have the motivation to actively go out and have sex with men very often and that when he did, it often proved to be rather lackluster. And yet, like how he and I first connected, that didn’t keep him off of Tinder, nor Grindr, or other gay hook-up apps.

Not that it was my place to ever doubt him or how he felt about his sexuality, but I often pondered over whether or not this was a product of Ezra never having had really good sex. One night while at one of Stephen’s parties, my friend Courtney and her girlfriend, Jennifer, had asked me “what the deal was” with Ezra and I, to which I quickly replied that there was no such deal. I wasn’t all that comfortable talking with Courtney and Jennifer about Ezra. It wasn’t as though I believed that they’d do anything to upset him. I just felt that some things weren’t meant to be shared, even amongst friends.

Still, with my lack of responsiveness, Jennifer reeled the conversation toward Ezra’s aversion to sex, but also found it interesting that he enjoyed masturbation.

“Maybe he’s only had lazy boyfriends or bad Grindr hook-ups, but I just don’t think he’s ever had good sex,” Jennifer—a therapist—said after I, again, didn’t respond.

Although I did find it comforting to know that I wasn’t alone in this idea, I stepped away without another word, shying away from the two of them to find Stephen and Leo inside. I understood Courtney and Jennifer’s intrigue; don’t get me wrong. Still, it wasn’t my sexuality to be discussing and I didn’t feel comfortable doing it with those in which he had confided.

Nevertheless, I always knew that if anything ever became of Ezra and I, I’d have to be okay with a minimalistic sex life. Funnily enough, it didn’t take me long to accept that. In fact, Hayden’s no-sex challenge could have served as good practice for what might have someday ended up being the rest of my life.

As it turned out, the practice proved unnecessary when Ezra killed any dream of us ever being a happy, adorable, gay couple that I might have had.

Just a couple of weeks after the death of that dream, my pent-up sexual frustration was nearly pushing my hair follicles out of my skull. I’d abstained from having sex several times over the course of more than three months.

The time had come for me to … well … come.


Continue to part II.