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Tricks and Treats, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Halloween

Less Than Butterflies, No. 2

It’s no secret that Halloween is gay Christmas. It’s not as though we’ve ever needed an excuse to dress up in costume or drag and attend some hedonistic party in Montrose where someone will certainly be distributing ecstasy in the bathroom while remixes of every song by every pop icon are blared in the dark, trembling background. But Halloween poses a different sort of spectacle than every other party in Montrose. Inhibitions are lost; time seems to slow; and there’s an affection for our friends that provides a kind of high not brought on by bathroom ecstasy or specialty shots.

Plus, we get a little bit sluttier. At least I do. I being the person who puts the ‘trick’ in ‘trick or treat.’

There’s no logic or rule that dictates why Halloween puts us in such good spirits. Maybe it’s something psychological. Maybe it’s all hype. Or maybe, just maybe, there is something truly magical about Halloween.

Even in my exhaustion after two long weeks with work-related affairs, I couldn’t move myself to peel away from the idea of attending my friend Stephen’s boyfriend’s Halloween party. It was an annual event—or it was at least becoming one—that had the year before proven to be like any other gay Halloween party: a genus of twinks in brightly colored underwear donning body glitter and angel wings. This, mind you, was at an American Horror Story-themed party. Stephen’s apartment was small and the air conditioning was hardly working. An hour in, everyone was sweating and trying to escape into the 90-degree outdoors just to catch a breath.

This year, however, Leo (Stephen’s boyfriend) had relocated the party to a friend and co-host’s townhome off Washington. The theme? Netflix’s GLOW—appropriately retitled as the Gays and Lesbians of Wrestling.

As per the usual, I was dateless. I’d invited Ezra to accompany me, but he was to visit friends in San Antonio for the weekend. Luckily, my friend Carter tagged along with me. Carter and I hadn’t been friends for long. Like most of my friends at the time, we’d met through Pride. Carter was 30, single, and sweet, and not at all my type. Still, he was a good friend and an intent listener and the kind of person who would do anything for anyone.

We drank a bottle of wine at Barnaby’s before heading toward Washington for the party. Upon arrival, it was clear that Stephen had already been drinking well before our arrival. My friend Courtney and her girlfriend, Jennifer were also there, dressed from neck-to-ankles in incandescent Lycra. Just as the year before, a large portion of the attendees had taken it upon themselves to ignore the theme of the party—myself included, as I was not sure I had the body type to be wearing fabrics with such elasticity.

That’s not true. I was sure. I was certain that I did not. I did, however, dress nice enough and put on some black lipstick just for the hell of it.

Stephen grabbed me by the wrist just after I’d made a drink and dragged me to a wet bar in the living room of the townhome. “Let’s do a shot!” he suggested with all the charisma of a Beyonce drag impersonator. But like with all things when it came to Stephen—shots, bottles of wine, valid points in a heated debate—one shot turned into several shots.

My background with Stephen was relatively short, but fast-paced in some rights. He was one of the very first people I’d met at Pride Houston when I was a first-year volunteer. To be completely honest, when we first met, I thought Stephen was cute. True, he was gross and sweaty from working all evening in the sun and was about 15-pounds underweight. But in his glasses and seemingly-nerdy disposition, I was initially attracted to him. For a while, my friend Alice and I couldn’t figure out his last name and took to referring to him as just Hot Stephen.

But much like books, a boy should never be judged by his cover. As I transitioned into my role as the volunteer chair for Pride, Stephen and I encountered each other more frequently. Real Stephen was vastly different from first-impression Stephen. He wasn’t as tightly wound and I don’t think I ever saw those glasses again. True, Stephen was a pretty boy, but he was also a boy who was spoken for and whose personality—regardless of whether or not he’d ever admit it—was too much like mine. Opinionated, mildly neurotic, a little slutty, and often drunk.

As my first year as a chair dragged on, Stephen and I saw a lot more of each other. Pride events and workdays eventually turned into drinks at the Eagle or numerous bottles of wine at Barnaby’s or birthday and dinner parties. The conversations that had once just revolved around our work with Pride grew inclusive of similar interests. Soon we’d become friends.

After a few more shots, I found myself standing outside on the balcony smoking a cigarette with some strangers from Mexico. One of the two was in medical school and in Houston for her internship. The other was presumably her boyfriend. A moment later, Stephen found his way outside to the patio.

“I knew you’d be out here smoking. I’m gonna lock you out,” Stephen said before engaging with the medical student and her boyfriend. When their own cigarettes were finished, they made a quick exit and Stephen and I had changed the topic to the busy week we’d had with Pride work, the party, and our friends inside. It wasn’t until the tail-end of the conversation that Stephen asked, “So, how’s Ezra?”

“I think he’s fine. He’s in San Antonio right now, if I’m not mistaken.”

He took a sip from his straw while gulping down some vodka as he goes, “Mhm. Mhm.” Once he’d swallowed and removed the straw from his mouth, he asked, “And what’s the deal with that?”

I paused just long enough to roll my eyes. “Nothing . . . ? We’re just friends.”

More, “Mhm. Mhm,” until he was slurping what remained of his vodka out of bottom of his Solo cup. “I’m gonna go get another drink. Have fun, though!” he told me as he slipped back inside. However, before he’d closed the door, Stephen poked his head back through the threshold and said, “You know, I’m really glad we became friends.”

I couldn’t help but smile a bit. Formerly Hot Stephen I knew nothing about had graduated into Close Friend Stephen, which turned out to be a good fit for him.

“God. You’re so gay,” I told him as I rolled my eyes, relatively unable to ever reciprocate kindness. He stepped back onto the balcony for a second and pointed to his cheek. I laughed, then gave him a kiss there, leaving a large, black lipstick stain under his cheekbone.

“You’re my favorite person in Pride,” he told me as he slid through the door and closed it behind him.

That was gay Halloween magic at its finest—bringing two very unlikely people together to be friends . . . even if both were extremely drunk.

Oddly enough, however, Stephen’s momentary mention of Ezra made me wonder what he was up to. I nearly pulled my phone from my pocket to text him, but realized it was late and that I shouldn’t bug him while he was out of town with his friends. I could gather, however, that Ezra probably wasn’t at some rager in San Antonio like I was in Houston. A part of me missed him. 

Regardless, I resolved to wander back inside and drink through it like a grown-up.

Although, as I turned to open the door back into the townhome, I made an attempt to turn the knob, rattling and shaking it until it became increasingly clear that Stephen had, in fact, locked me out on the balcony.


Read Part II here.

Intersex Awareness Day 2017

Intersex Awareness Day 2017
A graphic created by Anthony Ramirez for Intersex Awareness Day 2017.

Everything you need to know about what it means to be intersex on Intersex Awareness Day

(HOUSTON) — For many in the LGBTQ community, there’s a tendency to forget that the spectrum doesn’t stop at the Q. In fact, the acronym often includes a + at the end, to maintain inclusivity of all the people who aren’t abbreviated in the acronym. However it is seldom remembered that LGBTQ+ is actually LGBTQIA: lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, and asexual.

Many of these terms have been imbedded into our memory by now. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual are the most simple to understand for people outside the community, with trans seeming new to straight, cis-gender people (it’s not new, by the way). Asexuality could be perceived as simple explain to anyone who has no grasp on the subject. But when the word ‘intersex’ is thrown around, most people (including many in the LGBTQIA community) don’t have a clear understanding of what being intersex means.

Today, October 26th is National Intersex Awareness Day. The date marks fourteen years since the Intersex Society of North America (which ceased operations last year in 2016) first commemorated of the event back in 2003. The significance of October 26th, however, comes from that very date back in 1996 when the first public demonstration of intersex awareness was made in Boston by the ISNA. Despite the dissolving of the ISNA, October 26th (as well as National Intersex Day of Solidarity on November 8th) are currently maintained and promoted by the the Intersex Day Project, headed by Morgan Carpenter and Laura Inter since 2015.

Still, the question remains for many people within and outside of the community: what exactly is it to be intersex? Many people (wrongly) associate being intersex with being trans. This is not the case. In fact, it’s completely different altogether. So, to help spread awareness and clear up these misconceptions about being intersex on Intersex Awareness Day, I’ve compiled a list of facts about being intersex that will hopefully serve to create a better understanding of the subject.

  1. What exactly does intersex mean?

The trouble with that question is that being intersex has several aspects. In fact, the term is an umbrella for many variations of similar body types. According to IntersexDay.org, “Intersex people are born with sex characteristics that don’t meet medical and social norms for female or male bodies.” This can many any number of things, with innumerable variations of genitals and reproductive organs that don’t correlate to binary standards.

  1. Is being intersex the same as being a hermaphrodite?

No. For years, hermaphrodite was used synonymously with intersex. This lasted until the mid-20th century, but modern medicine has since begun to segregate the two from one another. By definition, a hermaphrodite is a living organism with both male and female reproductive organs. However due the complexity and presentation of intersex genitalia, including the varieties in which the reproductive organs present, the two have become medically disassociated with one another.

  1. How common is intersexuality?

According to the website for for the Intersex Society of North America, calculating these numbers can be tricky and often controversial. To let them better explain, we have provided a link to their FAQ page where the topic can be summed up in more detail, which can be found here

  1. What happens when intersex is identified at birth?

When identified at birth, many parents make the decision to take medical action to assign their child one binary gender. However, due to the the medical complexities behind intersexuality, a child who is assigned a binary gender at birth may not grow up to identify with the gender they were assigned. Intersex pertains not only to the presentation of the person’s genitalia, but also to the hormones the body produces and the functions of the body—which often are neither male nor female, but instead sometimes somewhere in between. One intersex person—who identifies as female—said in an interview with Cosmo that while she identifies with female and presents with fully-functional female reproductive organs, her body does not produce natural estrogen. This is just one of many ways that intersex can present itself in the human body.

  1. How do intersex people identify in terms of sexual orientation?

Just like with all other people, gender and sexuality are mutually exclusive of one another and are fluid. Intersex people are just people! They’re sexually active and enjoy dating just like all other people. Just like all the other important members of the LGBTQIA spectrum, it’s important to recognize that no matter with which gender or orientation intersex people identify, they were born who they are.

It’s time for people on and off the LGBTQIA spectrum to start being more cognizant of intersex people and to be more inclusive of them. A great starting point is with Intersex Awareness Day, and Intersex Day of Solidarity on November 8th. Ignorance on the matter only leads to exclusivity, and just like all other people—straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, cis, and asexual—intersex people should be recognized and celebrated.

After all, they’re only human. They just want to be treated as such and seen by the rest of the world.

So, today, celebrate an intersex person in your life. If you don’t know anyone who is intersex, celebrate the entire intersex community. Show your support and lift them up. Explain to someone who doesn’t know what it means to be intersex. Spread awareness so that intersex people don’t continue to be swept under the rug.

For more information on intersex awareness, visit IntersexDayProject.org or ISNA.org.

Op-Ed: Beacon of Hope for Trans Community

(Houston) — Identity, or gender, sexual orientation or the connection to one’s own race or ethnicity — plays a pivotal role in all our lives today. It is especially crucial to those who have earned the right to express it.

The right to one’s own identity is something still being fought for in many marginalized communities, and when something so precious as one’s identity is reduced to something solely desired for sexual pleasure, it can be painful. This is what can happen when a transgender person encounters a “chaser” — someone who has a “fetish” for transgender bodies.

Those who fetishize transgender bodies are participating in a culture of transphobia that deems our bodies as important solely when they’re sexualized.

The act of “chasing” is, indeed, rooted in a cultural assumption that the only reason someone would want to be with a trans person is that of a sexual fetish. When cisgender male celebrities like rapper Tyga and NFL player Hank Baskett have been “caught” with trans people, it’s been treated as a “scandal,” with the media and public assuming it must be because they have a “thing” for trans bodies.

When Houston native, Valentina Mia, a 24-year-old graduate of the University of Houston finally came to terms with being trans, she set out to show that being trans was not a fetish or something to be feared and belittled. Coming from a family of mixed political views, Valentina says she has received nothing but love from her family and friends. This is not always the case for many transgender people.

Not only does Valentina have a BS in Economics with a Mathematics minor and a MA in Applied Economics, she is also an up and coming entertainer in the adult film industry. Valentina says she first decided to start webcamming in October of 2015. She then went on to do her first real porn shoot in early 2016.

Since then Valentina’s career in the adult film industry has been on the rise. She has taken being trans and shown the world that they no longer get to define what it means to be trans or treat being transgender as just a fetish.

Because of fetishes, in general, have a long history of being demonized, it may be tempting to view conversations surrounding this fetishizing as just another crusade against non-traditional sexual preferences. But this accusation couldn’t be further from the truth. Sexual fetishes cover a broad spectrum — from foot worshipping to spanking to sploshing — but when someone says they prefer men, they say they are straight, not that they have a “fetish” for men.

This is because we typically understand general sexual orientation as an attraction that can encompass a desire to know and love that person beyond the realm of the physical. Chasing, by reducing an individual’s gender identity to sexual fixation, doesn’t move beyond the purely physical realm. And it is, as such, dehumanizing. Yet, sadly — because of how much transphobia permeates our culture — trans women are often made to feel as if they should be grateful for any kind of attention they receive, even if it’s as reductive as this.

Until we decide to have a real conversation about the fetishization of trans bodies, stories like Mia Isabell’s will continue to make headlines as a “scandal,” and trans women like Valentina will keep encountering people who try to tell them that they should be grateful for the leftover libido of chasers — as though that paradigm could ever be equal to a loving relationship built on mutual respect.

To our trans community both near and far, remember that you are more than a gender, sexual orientation or fetish. You are a human being who deserves to be loved. You are our mothers and fathers. You are our brothers and sisters. You are our classmates and teachers. We love all of you and are fighting with you.