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Gay People Like Babies, Too

Gay couples, gay men, surrogacy, men having babies
An MHB couple with their newborn babies

Men Having Babies executive director, Ron Poole-Dayan, talks his nonprofit, surrogacy, and … well … babies!

Beginning Friday, March 2nd, and going through the weekend, the now-national nonprofit, Men Having Babies, is bringing their traveling conference to Austin. The nonprofit hosts these expos in numerous cities from San Francisco to NYC to Brussels and beyond. MHB not only assists in the process of educating and helping gay male couples start families through surrogacy, but also aids them in the financing of their family-planning. Now here in Texas for their current expo, MHB executive director, Ron Poole-Dayan answered some of our questions about their organization, what they do, how they started, and what couples seeking to start families can expect from MHB.

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MHB board at the “Planning your surrogacy journey” workshop (NY 2017)

Let’s start by learning a bit more about how MHB came about to begin with

The origins of the organizations date back to 2005 when I asked the LGBT Center in New York City to create a monthly workshop for men who are interested in biological parenting. We began having monthly meetings, which we still have to this day, where we invited in people who could answer our questions. Over time a few men joined me to help facilitate the meetings, and that later became our first board. We organized our first modest seminar and someone suggested calling it “Men Having Babies.”

In 2012, we left the NYC LGBT Center and created an independent nonprofit organization, primarily since we wanted to create a financial assistance program, which was beyond the Center’s mission. Over time we started having larger events, and also in new locations: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Barcelona, Chicago, Dallas, Tel Aviv, Brussels, and this year adding Austin and Miami. The program has evolved to a two-day format with many more sessions, speakers, and topics.  Now we are consistently attracting packed auditoriums, and many of the attendees fly from far away to attend the conferences. Our membership now includes over 6500 future and current gay parents worldwide.

What’s the main draw to surrogacy v. adoption?

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Scenes from MHB’s 2017 Chicago conference

I have my own insights, but actually just recently a study came out by a team from several universities (including Columbia from NY and Cambridge from the UK) about “Gay fathers’ motivations for and feelings about surrogacy as a path to parenthood.” In fact, MHB assisted in recruiting a large part of the parents who participated in the study. The short answer is that, “most fathers chose surrogacy because they considered adoption to be a less desirable and/or accessible path to parenthood.”

Adoption may be considered as less desirable due to the challenges associated with the process (often private adoptions where the birth mother gets to choose the adoptive parents, subjecting us to scrutiny and approval by agencies or even teen mothers from middle America), or with the more difficult parenting challenges associated with older or special needs adopted children. And of course there is the universal desire for genetic offspring. In short: gay men choose surrogacy over adoption, if they can afford it, for the same reasons heterosexual parents (who can even more easily adopt) choose biological parenting over adoption.

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Jose Carlos and Jeff, recipients of MHB’s GPAP grants.

Having said this, it is important to stress that MHB does not advocate for surrogacy over adoption. In fact, some of our conferences — including the Austin one — feature adoption agencies alongside surrogacy resources. We just want to help the men make an informed decision about their path, and empower them to take that path in the most effective, mindful and affordable way.

We are gay parents and surrogates who got together to make the dream of parenthood a wider reality to more gay men — and in the process we believe we make society a better place for all of us.

What’s the success rate of MHB, as far as couples who actually make it to the finish line?

We know from feedback that many of our members become parents, but we do not track every single conference attendee — so we do not have the statistics. In general, I can tell you that once people actually embark on the journey — namely engage an IVF clinic to make embryos and an agency to match them with a surrogate — the vast majority have children. Indeed, surrogacy, while expensive, has higher success rates than adoption, and even heterosexual reproduction. We use technology that was developed for infertile people, with medically optimized gestational carriers and egg donors. It works and it is safe.

You are a father of a child of surrogacy, I’m told. What was this process like for you and your family

We did it many years ago, our twins are 17-years-old. We just assumed it should be possible, and luckily knew someone who knew someone that helped us find a lawyer in Boston who knew how to find a surrogate. We had very little guidance and resources, which is why I felt so strongly that something like MHB is needed.

How did MHB begin helping with the financial side of surrogacy?

As mentioned, our concern about the fact that surrogacy is beyond the [financial] reach of most people was a major motivation for establishing the organization. We knew that if we truly wanted to make a difference, we had to help people financially achieve the dream of having a family.  We wanted to give this opportunity to people who would otherwise not be able to afford surrogacy.

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Ryan and Blain, recipients of MHB’s GPAP grants, with their son

The first thing we did was to create the “Surrogacy Advisor”— a directory and ratings table for agencies and clinics populated by hundreds of actual reviews from parents who went through the process. The goal was to promote transparency and affordability by empowering prospective parents with unbiased reviews and statistical data on satisfaction levels, success measures, and real cost figures. This allowed future parents to save thousands of dollars by identifying affordable, effective providers they would otherwise not have heard about.

But the major achievement is the creation of the Gay Parenting Assistance Program (GPAP), which for the last four years has gotten to the point that it annually provides dozens of prospective parents with over a million dollars worth of cash grants, discounts, and free services from more than fifty leading service providers.

Do you think that the importance of your nonprofit has increased in the recent political climate?

Of course. And, in particular, helping gay men form their families would contribute not just to their happiness, but it also drives much social change. Gay men with kids are extremely visible and help many people see us for who we are, human beings who want happiness like everyone else. And the surrogates who help us are all effective social change agents, as they become outspoken about equality — often in small middle-America communities.

If you could tell everyone in the world one thing about the services MHB offers or something that you feel they just really need to know, what would that be?

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Board member Michael Wetson, from Dallas, TX, (NY 2017)

Due to biological and social constraints, gay men as a category face the most obstacles in their quest for parenting, not the least of which is financial. Until MHB was established, there was not a single organization to assist gay men, who are not considered “infertile” even though they need substantial third party assistance in order to become parents. At MHB, we believe that when done correctly, surrogacy can be a positive, affirmative, and all-around empowering arrangement for everyone involved – and we are very active in creating ethical and practical guidelines to facilitate this. We are gay parents and surrogates who got together to make the dream of parenthood a wider reality to more gay men — and in the process we believe we make society a better place for all of us.

If you’re going to be in the Austin area this weekend, you can register for the expo and conference here.

Magic in Montrose: The Broad’s Way

One of the most underrated drag/live singing performances in Montrose is at Michael’s Outpost every Monday night.

(HOUSTON) — After leaving an event last night, I went out into Montrose waiting for something to happen. I wasn’t sure what it was I was waiting for; but I knew that if I could be patient, it would manifest. Was it that I was going to meet a man? Would I run into some old friends I hadn’t seen in years? Or was it just that I might get drunk and find myself having a good time amongst strangers? I couldn’t ascertain the specifics of this premonition, but I knew that if I could wait it out, something magical would happen.

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Regina Blake-DuBois

So, I made my rounds. I started first at Guava Lamp, where I had one drink and chatted with a few friends. Fun, but nothing particularly magical about it. I jumped over to Ripcord, where—as per the usual—the Monday night crowd was light and quiet (just the way I preferred my bar scenes). I had another drink there before deciding I was barking up the wrong tree. Nothing unusual was taking place in Montrose proper; and I therefore forged my way toward Richmond for a glass of Cab at Michael’s Outpost.

And that’s where it happened. It was there that I found myself sitting in a half-full bar where before me stood a trope of entertainers performing songs from some of Broadway’s seminal hits throughout the recent decades.

Be still my beating, gay boy heart.

Hosting The Broad’s Way was the lovely Regina Blake-DuBois, a drag queen I’d seen perform a handful of times and whose performances I’ve always enjoyed. Rolling out the remainder of the cast was singer Scott Lupton, drag king Richard Long, songstress Chaney Moore, and queen Mia Opulent Love, each performing showtunes from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s.

Let me just interrupt myself to say that while, yes, this is a drag show, it isn’t just a drag show. It’s actually the only show in Houston that incorporates drag queens, kings, and live singers. And when those performers and doing the best of Broadway, there’s nothing more that a theatre-geek gay boy who has seen Wicked onstage nine times like myself could ask for. (Pause to add that I was disappointed I didn’t catch Regina on one of her Wicked performance days, as she states they are frequent).

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Chaney Moore

I entered late in the show, with Blake-Dubois entertaining her group that seemed to consist of many regulars. Her hosting style is on-point: she’s funny … but doesn’t mind roasting herself when a joke falls flat or a line doesn’t quite work. And she knows how to keep the audience paying attention (even if that means jokingly reminding them that her phone number is carved into the wall of a bathroom stall). What’s best about her as a hostess, however, is that she really knows her shit. Blake-DuBois’s own theatre nerdiness packs into each joke that she tells the audience.

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Richard Long

Now, to say that I almost lost my shit more than once last night would be a bit of an understatement. After all, when Chaney Moore (who last night joined the show as a regular performer) pulled out a show-stopping rendition of “Living in Hell” from Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens, I was done. TAKE MY MONEY! Granted, I only had three one-dollar bills on me, so I had to make sure they lasted (they did not). Her voice is so clean and smooth. The way she jumps into her upper-register sounds effortless, only to come back down and belt out a note bigger than the bar itself. I was certain that none of the other performers would be able to follow her up. Then came the glitter-beard king, Richard Long, with his comedic take on “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from Les Miserables. Who knew that Enjolras could make me laugh with a song of revolution in 19th century France?

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Scott Lupton

Of course, I would be remiss if not to mention Scott Lupton’s rendition of “We Beseech Thee” from Godspell. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting when Lupton took the microphone, but as someone who was previously unfamiliar with his powerhouse voice, I was completely blown away. A song that is often sang with breathy haste was well-paced, lively, interactive, and downright extraordinary. Even when it came time for the key change (which Lupton funnily made sure to mention to the viewers), the entire song was flawless. As for Mia Opulent Love, the queen in her beautiful green wig danced away to a number from Sweet Charity (a favorite show of mine), which she took the liberty of not only making into a fun, vibrant performance, but one that was tinged with just a bit of her trademark sexiness that she brings to every performance.

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Mia Opulent Love

And as the show was winding down, Ms. Blake-DuBois had taken to the back to change (as Love took the mic and regaled us with improptu stories of how someone had asked her if her green hair was natural). When she returned, she donned an effervescent pink coat and knee-high red boots. I knew then, for certain, she could only be bringing to life one of two characters—Glinda the Good of Wicked, or Elle Woods of Legally Blonde. Whether she’d be tackling “Popular,” “Positive,” or any of the other numbers from either musical, I’d be pleased.

Alas, she made a point of mentioning she would not be performing from Wicked, but that she’d be doing a number that was, in her words, “a little more legal.”

Thus came her finale performance of “So Much Better” from Legally Blonde: The Musical, which opened on Broadway in 2007 scoring seven Tony Award nominations, including Best Original Score of a Musical, and Best Performance by a Leading Actress for Bundy as Elle Woods. The show would go on to tape a live performance for MTV, host a reality show in which actresses competed to be the next Elle Woods, and has seen international productions and tours.

lb Magic in Montrose: The Broad's WayIt was also the very first musical I ever saw live right here in Houston when the first national tour came through the Hobby Center stage, brought to us by Theatre Under the Stars. That year (2009), the lead actress, Becky Gulsvig, had broken her toe while on tour, and Broadway’s leading lady, Laura Bell Bundy, had stepped in to fill her shoes. It’s one of my best memories and the musical holds a very special place in my heart. So, when Regina Blake-DuBois took on the task of lip-syncing and dancing the choreography to “So Much Better” (the act one showstopper that is considerably one of the hardest numbers in Broadway history to sing, right up there with “Defying Gravity”) I knew I’d found my Montrose magic. Hell, she even demonstrated the difficult Elle Woods high-kick at the end of the song (which once ended in Bundy launching her shoe into the audience). And, as luck would have it, I’d run out of ones at that point.

What got me about this production was that, while there was a good number of people there to see it, Michael’s Outpost wasn’t quite as full as I’ve seen it for its many other wonderful shows. From Eye-Cons to Cabernet at the Cabaret, Michael’s is usually good about packing out its seats for performances. Maybe it’s just the luck of having a Monday night show, or maybe the night was just slower than usual. Either way, everyone in the neighborhood that loves the theatre (and I do believe that accounts for a large demographic of LGBTQIA people) should make the time to head to Michael’s Outpost to catch this incredible cast put on one helluva show. With a new Broadway-centric theme each week, Regina and her chorus of talented entertainers put on a fun, audience-interactive show that brings the Broadway stage right into Michael’s Outpost every Monday night. And no matter when you make it out there to see it, The Broad’s Way is certain to never disappoint.

Michael’s Outpost is located at 1419 Richmond Ave. and is open 7 days a week with shows (some drag and some live piano) every night.

The Men Having Babies SOUTH Surrogacy Conference & Expo is coming to Austin

After two successful events in Dallas, our 3rd Texas conference will be offered in Austin on March 3-4, 2018. It will offer gay men from Texas and beyond step-by-step guidance in their parenting journey, access to two dozen service providers from the USA and Canada, and information about financial assistance.

AUSTIN, TEXAS – Men Having Babies (MHB) is a non-profit organization, led by parents and surrogates, that has helped thousands of gay men worldwide become biological parents since 2012.

Our Austin conference is one of six annual conferences held by Men Having Babies worldwide (menhavingbabies.org/south), with other conferences taking place in Chicago, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Brussels, New York and San Francisco.

This two-day conference brings together medical and legal experts, current and future parents, and surrogate mothers. Prospective parents will benefit from practical and personal peer advice, and have opportunities to meet a wide range of leading providers from the USA and Canada at the Gay Parenting Expo, in breakout sessions and in private consultations.

“Similar to other conferences, this one draws people from far beyond the Austin area,” said Ron Poole-Dayan, Executive Director of Men Having Babies. “Among the dozens who have already registered are gay men from all parts of Texas, several states across the south and west, and even attendees from the East Coast who prefer not to wait for our Florida and NY conferences.”

The conference kicks off with a panel discussion comprised of gay surrogacy dads and the surrogates who helped them in their journeys. Two workshops will be offered on planning the surrogacy journey and a mindful look at surrogacy, based upon the accumulated knowledge of hundreds of gay men who have already gone through the process. Other sessions will cover the latest studies about gestational surrogacy, and insurance, budgeting, legal, medical and psychological aspects of surrogacy.

300x600AustinAd-1-150x300 The Men Having Babies SOUTH Surrogacy Conference & Expo is coming to AustinProceeds from sponsorship and exhibiting fees will benefit MHB’s Gay Parenting Assistance Program (GPAP), which annually provides dozens of prospective parents with over a million dollars’ worth of cash grants, discounts and free services from more than fifty leading service providers. The majority of the exhibitors at the Austin conference are supporters of GPAP, including platinum sponsors Simple Surrogacy and Fertility Center of Texas, as well as Gold sponsors: Worldwide Surrogacy Specialists, San Diego Fertility Center, Circle Surrogacy, Western Fertility Institute, CReATe Fertility Centre, and Family Source Consultants.

Over the last four years, GPAP has helped more than 500 couples and individuals achieve their goals of becoming fathers. “If we truly wanted to make a difference by establishing Men Having Babies, we knew we had to help prospective parents financially achieve their dream of starting a family, and the GPAP program does just this,” said Anthony Brown, MHB’s Board Chair. “We want to give the opportunity to people who would otherwise not be able to afford surrogacy”.

26731317_1608696742547374_5327007581474349067_n-300x186 The Men Having Babies SOUTH Surrogacy Conference & Expo is coming to Austin“Simple Surrogacy is Honored to be the Platinum Sponsor of Men Having Babies Austin Conference,” said Kristen Hanson, Executive Director of Finance and Contracts of Simple Surrogacy. “As one of the earliest supporters of the MHB Gay Parenting Assistance Program, we are delighted to see its growth. We feel very lucky to be a part of Men Having Babies’ continued stewardship in creating families!”

“We are honored to participate in the Austin MHB conference as it provides an excellent opportunity to share information on the path to fatherhood.” Said Dr. Jerald Goldstein, Founder and Medical Director at Fertility Specialists of Texas. “As a fertility center, we strive to provide intended parents with the expertise and resources, including financial assistance, that can help make this dream a reality.”

23472421_1543552455728470_6397939950245042469_n-300x225 The Men Having Babies SOUTH Surrogacy Conference & Expo is coming to AustinThe event will take place on March 3rd, 3:30 p.m. – 8 p.m., and March 4, 9:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. at the Austin Marriott South. In addition, MHB is offering a post-conference happy hour party at Austin’s Sellers Underground bar on Saturday, March 3, 8:30-10:30pm. The event is offered in cooperating with local and national LGBT organizations, and is open to the Austin LGBT community at large.

Go to menhavingbabies.org/south for registration and additional information.

Note: while the event is organized by a gay parenting organization, non-gay prospective parents are also welcome and will no doubt highly benefit from the information provided.


Press inquiries: Contact Ron Poole-Dayan, executive director of Men Having Babies ron@menhavingbabies.org / 646-461-6112. Interviews with parents, prospective parents, surrogates and experts can be arranged by request.

About Men Having Babies

With over 6500 future and current gay parents worldwide, the international nonprofit Men Having Babies (MHB) is dedicated to providing its members with educational and financial support. Each year over a thousand attendees benefit from unbiased guidance and access to a wide range of relevant service providers at its monthly workshops and conferences in NY, Chicago, Brussels, San Francisco, Dallas, Austin, Miami / Fort Lauderdale, and Tel Aviv. The organization’s Gay Parenting Assistance Program(GPAP) annually provides dozens of couples with over a million dollars worth of cash grants, discounts and free services from over fifty leading service providers. Collaborating with an advisory board made of surrogates, MHB developed a framework for Ethical Surrogacy that has received endorsements from several LGBT parenting organizations worldwide. In addition, MHB offers extensive online resources, a directory with ratings and reviews of agencies and clinics, a Surrogacy Speakers Bureau, and a vibrant online community forum.

More information: www.menhavingbabies.org

Let’s Talk About Consent, Baby

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Grindr

Less Than Butterflies, No. 7

I was in Indianapolis for a conference the same weekend that Mike Pence was attending for the 49ers v. Colts game he left after witnessing the players kneeling during the National Anthem. Of all the things I associate with that weekend, Pence being in townand subsequently delaying my flight home due to his abrupt departurestands out the most to me. The second thing that stands out to me about that weekend most is being in a gay bar (I believe it was called Metro) where nearly everyone from the conference had gathered on our last night in town for last drinks before we all parted back to our separate citiesHouston, Coppenhagen, Chicago, Denver, Athens, and so many more.

As I stood at the bar after drinks with new friendsTamara from D.C. and Micah from St. Petersburg, and hand touched my shoulder. I flinched. It was a natural reaction, as I’m not a person who likes to be touchedodd, given my sex-positive lifestyle, but true nonetheless. Even being in bed with another man I want to sleep with always leaves me with an initial full-body tension and sensitivity to even the slightest touch. So, when I whipped around to see whose hand was on my shoulder, I was confused to see a face I didn’t recognize staring drunkenly at me.

“Can I buy you a drink?”

The man was older than me, maybe in his mid-thirties, and not bad to look at. Still, I held my vodka-cranberry up to his eye-level and said, “Thank you, but I’m okay,” before turning back to Tamara and Micah.

We chatted a bit more, laughing and drinking as we celebrated a mildly successful conference and several nights of good times drinking and eating and dancing. Still, the feeling of eyes piercing the backside of my body never evaded me. I could feel them like a hand under a lightbulb over my neck, the small of my back, my ass. Then, when the hand returned to my bodythis time on my waistI froze. I took in a heavy breath and I could feel my pupils dilate and my eyelids race apart. And for what felt like the longest time, I couldn’t let the breath out of my lungs, nor could I draw in another. Not as the stranger’s hand ran down my backside and over my slacks. Not as he put the other hand back on the shoulder he’d initially targeted. Not as his fingers crawled like a spider’s legs up just over my waistline and down inside my pants.

I was frozen and I was afraid.

It wasn’t until someone snapped, “Hey!” at the stranger that I was able to finally exhale. Maybe it was Micah from St. Petersburg, or Tamara from D.C. or one of the other new friends I’d made that week in Indianapolis. I couldn’t tell. Everything sounded the same, like being underwater and not knowing how to come up for air, vision blurred and eardrum pounds drowning out sound. But the call had been enough to scare the man away. His hand left my body, but still my muscles could not loosen from their tension and the hairs on the back of my neck refused to lie down.

And of all the pieces I remember about Indianapolismy phone crashing, buying a plush souvenir for my friend, Ezra, the party at an old church called the Sanctuarythe two things I remember most about that entire week are Mike Pence and that moment in the bar called Metro.

Because that’s how you remember sexual assaultin pieces. You’re so struck, so frozen, that the detailsthe sights, the sounds, the smellsthey all turn to grey and bleed together like melted wax until they fall over you, hot and thick, and begin to solidify around you, trapping you in a chrysalis you enter into as a butterfly but leave as a caterpillar.

And if it had been the first time it had happened, maybe I would have been able to fight his hand away. If it had been the first time, maybe I would have run, or screamed at him, or thrown my drink in his face.

But it wasn’t the first time some stranger had touched me without asking, my body nothing more than something with which they could entertain themselves.

It wasn’t the first time, and it certainly wasn’t the worst of it. This singular occurrence may have seemed like nothing to some people, may have been some begotten result of decades of blurred lines and gay bar culture or a misinterpretation of me not being clear enough. But for me, it was a reminder of a much darker moment in my lifeone in which no one had been there to shout, “Hey!”. One in which the hand hadn’t pulled back. One in which I’d not frozen, but woken from one nightmare into another.

Dylan and I had been participating in some very spur-of-the-moment Tuesday afternoon sex about a week back. And while we were neither a couple nor dating, sex with Dylan was always an intimate experience. He was gentle and giving, the type that whispered to you and took his time. He even did this thing that I would have laughed at had I seen any other two people doing it in which he traced the tip of his nose around mine, then down around my lips before he would kiss me. He was a hand-holder almost every step of the way, except, of course, where hands were required. He had an ass that begged for faces to fall into it and shoulders so strong you couldn’t help but believe he was so gentle. He was Adonis, a man’s man, a remarkable beauty that was downright intimidating, yet somehow inviting.

But as he pushed my legs apart and glided in between them, the tension it had taken me so long to get rid of around him returned. My shoulders tensed. My back arched like a frightened cat. My fingernails clawed into the back of his hands. And my ass shut down for business.

A flash flew past my eyes. Dylan was gone, and replacing him was nothing but darkness and a blurred light coming from my peripheral.

Something dinged in the background, and that sound was followed by something like a cartoon bird, chirping, “Cuckoo. Cuckoo.

Uh-uh,” I cooed as my legs tightened around him.

He stopped, never too persistent.

I could hear him, his breath slowing; and I could almost feel his eyes looking into mine, though mine had gone off into the distance, searching to see where that now-imaginary light was coming from. And when they shifted back up to face him, Dylan was gone. There instead was the pale, sweating face of a memory I’d tried to forget. It was something I hadn’t revisited in a while, something I’d found a way to live without, at least recently.

There, where Dylan should have beenwhere I knew he was—stared down the face of a man long gone from my life, but one that for so long had stood in the darkest corners of any place I’d ever been.

I was nineteen-years-old, and at the time I was not yet out of the closet.

I knew who I was—what I wasbut a long history of homophobia and bigotry that ran rampant in my family would keep me in the closet for another two years.

I was spending time with an old friend, someone I’d known from school, and we had been drinking alcohol he’d bought at the corner store near where we’d grown up that hadn’t carded us since we were seniors in high school. As far as I knew, Joseph wasn’t gay. Still, in all the time we’d known one another, there had been a certain attraction between the two of us that had been nearly undeniable. Joseph was the first boy I’d ever kissed, but that was the extent of how far I was willing to let things go. After all, I may have been gay, but I was neither out nor comfortable enough with my body nor my sexuality to participate in anything more than that.

Joseph had obtained a good job out of high school. Without a degree, he went into oil and gas, and was living alone not far from the house I’d lived in my senior year. I don’t remember a great deal about the way his apartment looked, other than the fact that it was mostly bare with nothing on the wall near the kitchen but an old, wooden cuckoo clock that had gone off a few times since I’d been there without pattern. And I was there because I missed my friend whom I rarely got to see due to the demands of his new job. But at a certain point, I had to stop drinking. I was only nineteen, after all, and I couldn’t get into the car shitfaced to drive the forty minutes back to my own house in the middle of the night. I knew better than that.

Still, as Joseph regaled me with tales of the women he’d most recently slept withconquests, in his way of telling ithe tried again-and-again to get me to drink more.

And this, my friends, is where the story begins to break into pieces.

I remember yawning, though I’m not sure why that particular yawn sticks out so much in my mind. Maybe it’s the dialogue that it sparked, with Joseph saying something to the effect of, “You can spend the night here, if you’re too tired to drive home.”

I considered it for a moment. The drive was very long; and despite the fact that I didn’t feel drunk, I was feeling very tired.

And then Joseph stood on his knees from the floor where he sat across from me, crawled toward me, and kissed me on the mouth.

It was a nice feeling, about that I cannot lie; yet my body still tensed when he did it.

“I’ll get us one more drink; then when we’re done, we can go to bed. I’m pretty tired, too.”

I think I may have nodded.

I can’t recall how long he was gone, as the clock on the wall clearly wasn’t working, but Joseph seemed to be gone just a moment too long. I stood to my feet, and tiredly trailed into the kitchen to find him. There, I found him standing over two fresh glasses of gas station pinot grigio, texting someone on his phone. He must have heard me, as he looked up and said, “Sorry,” flashing his phone to my face. “I got distracted.”

I think I chuckled and turned to walk back to the living room.

I don’t remember finishing the wine.

I remember seeing the bottom of the glass as I finished the last of it.

I remember because my mouth was so fucking dry.

I remember standing up to find the restroom, because I felt like I was going to vomit, and then tripping over my own feet.

I remember nearly falling asleep as I sat down to pee.

If I’m not mistaken, Joseph might have said, “I’ll be in the bed.”

I do remember fishing around on the wall for the lightswitch, but inevitably leaving the light on as I walked through the door.

The sound that brought me back to consciousness was unmistakable.

Cuckoo. Cuckoo.”

I don’t think the pain set in immediately, but when it did, it was like nothing I’d ever felt before. It was like someone was tearing me apart from front to back. And the feeling kept changing. With each thrust came a new wave of it. In or out, I couldn’t tell the difference.

Out of the peripheral of my eyesight, I could see a light glancing through a partially-closed door. But my eyes turned the moment something wet dripped down on my forehead. I wanted to reach my hand to see what it was, but my arms didn’t move when my brain told them to do so. My eyes, however, did. And as I stared up over me, I found Joseph, pale and sweating, veins bulging in his shoulders and forehead.

I became nauseated again, but when my mind told my body to fight him off of meI was bigger than he, after allI couldn’t move. I wanted to shove him. I wanted to punch him. I wanted to scream. But all I could do was lie there, waiting until it was over.

Waiting until Joseph finally passed out on top of me.

Waiting for tears which never came.

I was nineteen-years-old; and I was being raped.

“I fell back asleep; then I woke up again the next time I heard that clock; and then I left.”

Dylan looked down at the bed on which we sat.

“I’ve never told anyone that before,” I muttered.

He reached for my hand. He didn’t say anything, which was probably for the best. After all, what does one really say? Instead, he laid back down, and he tugged at my hand inside of his. Then he let me go as I began to lie down on an outstretched arm against the pillow for me to rest in.

I didn’t mind it when he held me, or when he kissed me nurturingly atop my head. I wasn’t crying. I wasn’t shaking the way that I used to when I thought about that night with Joseph. Instead, I just laid there, letting this man do the only thing he knew how to comfort me. And it was working. I felt safe, not pressured, not judged.

I mean, to be honest, I’ve heard other stories from other survivors. I’ve listened and hugged them. And I have kept myself from saying a word about my own experience in the hopes to not minimize what that person has gone through. And maybe that’s wrong. Maybe those others needed to hear that someone else had been through it. But this sort of pain, this sort of torment, it’s incomparable from one experience to the next. While all sexual assault is wrong, you never want to make a victim feel like they are less than they already feel they are by accidentally making their situation about you.

So, you hesitate. And you wait. And you extend to them your love as best you can.

And Dylan didn’t ask me why I’d never told anyone. He didn’t ask me why I hadn’t gone to the police. He didn’t go on about statistics or studies or court cases. He was silent. He listened, and he seemed to be understanding of what had stopped our sex so quickly. And not for a second did I take for granted what a rarity that actually was.

I wasn’t sure if it was the sex that had brought the memory rushing back. After all, I’d bottomed with him before. Maybe it was all the stories I’d been hearing over the last few months about these disgusting men in Hollywood taking advantage of young actresses and actors. Maybe it was just seated so deeply inside of me, like a volcano lying dormant for too long, that it finally erupted at the hand of the slightest irritation.

Regardless of why it came about, the memory had; and I had laid out all my crap on the table for Dylana man I was neither coupled with nor datingto see.

And in the time that had passed since Joseph, I’d had men put their hands down my pants like the one did in Indianapolis, and grab me by the wrist and pull me into an unwanted embrace, and kiss me without asking, and try to bed me after buying me a drink or engaging me in meaningless conversation.

And that’s the problem with these men. They think that the people they want to sleep withand most of the time, those people are women (whether they be trans or cis)are objects. They think that they are born with some right to put their filthy, disgusting hands on us and fuck us for the three minutes they can keep from ejaculating while they strip us not just of our clothing, but of our dignity and our self-worth.

And while I will never endure the kind of sexual harassment on a day-to-day basis that women endure, I can sympathize.

Because I am a survivor of rape.

And the life that follows is one stained and tainted by something that can’t be simplified down to an ugly memory, because it’s so much more than that. It’s a piece of your soul that is not lost, but that is stolen from you and hidden away in the hopes that you never find it. It’s a chunk of your life’s timeline that is ripped out and scattered into pieces that you try and try to put back together, but only feel sick over as the bigger picture becomes more clear. It’s a loss of self-worth that is unprompted and unwarranted as you watch some stranger run into the foggy night with something as valuable to you as your arm or your leg, except that it’s your heart and your soul.

And though no survivor is lucky given the circumstances, I am fortunate enough that I have been able to reclaim my sexuality and use it the way that I want to when I consent to do so. That does not make me exempt from the eyes that follow me around the bars. It doesn’t exclude me from the unwarranted dick pictures I get on Grindr. It doesn’t make men any less disgusting and it certainly doesn’t change the way they speak to me for the first time or the intentions they have.

But not everyone has gotten there yet. And that’s okay. And, yes, women, cis and trans, have it harder than gay men do. They walk into it at work. Stand behind it in line at the grocery. Drink across from it at the bar. It’s on television and in the movies. It’s in the lyrics to some of the world’s most popular music. Sexual assault is prevalent and alive. And I am so very fortunate to be alive in a time where so many strong peopleagain, namely womenare standing up and saying that this sort of behavior is not okay. Because without them, no matter their celebrity status or who their assailant are, I may not have been strong enough to sit down and tell this story.

To you or to Dylan. I easily could have run out of his apartment and never looked back and let him think I was insane or damaged or dramatic. I mean, I am all of those things. But not for this reason.

Because my rape story does not define me. I am not comprised of the pieces of this one particular moment in my life. I am many things, and while a survivor is one of them, it is not the only one.

So, yeah. Me too.

And time’s up.

Because, while this memory, this horrible, awful thing is remembered to me in pieceswhether those pieces be cuckoo clocks or Mike Pence, the time for sexual assaultfor me and so may othersreally is up.

And to all the filthy, vile, loathsome, evil little men out there who have perpetuated it and taken part in it and who have victimized innumerable innocent people and then tried to turn it against those victims, you should be afraid.

Because we aren’t putting up with it anymore.