Less Than Butterflies, No. 13
“I’ve done the merry-go-round. I’ve been through the revolving door. I feel like I’ve met somebody I can stand still with for a minute and … Don’t you wanna stand still with me?”
One might be privy to believe that after chasing the same man around-and-around in circles for a year, being rejected by him not once, but twice, finding out he is not only asexual, but also aromantic (a then-new term to me), and bearing my soul to him on a very-public forum, I might be tired and heartbroken and over it. Well … I am tired. Exhausted, actually. And I am over it, please believe me when I say that. And, last but not least, my heart is broken. All that “time heals all wounds” bullshit is just that … bullshit.
So, yeah. Tired? Check. Over it? Check. Heartbroken? Quadruple check. Done? … apparently not.
It isn’t as easy as it sounds, you know. Saying I am moving on and actually moving on are two very, very different things. As much as I wanted to, I was trapped by the knowledge that for the first time in my adult life, I’d actually met one of the good guys. Like … one of the really good guys. One of the guys who doesn’t get upset with you over trivial matters; one of the guys who doesn’t make a big deal out of it when you have to cancel plans; one of the guys who knows about your (very sordid) sexual history and isn’t judgmental; one of the guys who isn’t rude to you and doesn’t put you down (even if he doesn’t always think about what’s coming out of his mouth before he says it); one of the guys who isn’t spending time with you because of some ulterior motive and genuinely just enjoys your company.
That’s right. I’d found him. That one in a million. And his name was Ezra Rochester (it’s a ridiculous name, I know. But try to stay with me here).
Only, as stupidly deep as I’d fallen for him, Ezra’s love for me extended only as far as … well … friendship.
Whomp, whomp, whomp.
I know. It sucked. Hell, it still sucks. But, to his credit, after an emotional and regretfully public admission of my own love for him, Ezra had come out of the closet for the second time in his life. This time not as a gay man. No, no. He’d done that before many years ago (Ezra’s actually four years older than me, and, by default, kind of a crotchety old man who is set in his ways). This time he’d come out as something I, at the time, didn’t understand people had to come out as:
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the hits really do just keep on coming. So, as you can imagine, there’s more. An extension of Ezra’s unfortunate (in my case) asexuality was that he was something else, as well—something I’d really never heard of before he’d told me:
Yeah. So, now you’re all caught up. Cliff’s Notes version: Anthony Ramirez is a sad, lonely nymphomaniac who uses sex and alcohol to mask his actual feelings for someone who is actually incapable of falling in love with him back.
What a fucking shit show.
But, honestly, for a short time I didn’t feel that way about it. I was happy for Ezra. He’d finally come to grips with something he’d been trying to figure out about himself his entire adult life—longer even, probably. And it couldn’t have been such an easy thing to do. As the LGBTQIA community continuously is in divided on whether or not asexual and aromantic are even identifiers that should be recognized in our acronym (they are, mind you; these people matter just as much as everyone else), being something that may not be accepted by a community you already belong to has to be a bit scary. Although, if Ezra was content and finally accepting of who he was on a larger scale than just being gay or straight or otherwise, then I had conceded to be content for him. In fact, I’d even come to a place where I was able to stop crying over the fact that there may be something totally unlovable about me and realize that it wasn’t about me at all. In that moment, I was finally able to accept that maybe, just maybe, it was just as fulfilling to be one of the most important people in his life—a friend that he cherished in the highest regard, considering that there wasn’t going to be anything else romantically that he’d ever really be able to have.
But like all moments, that moment was … well … fleeting. And while I’d love to chalk it all up to my own crazy and irrational emotions just getting the better of me, I can pretty much certainly say that for once my histrionic reaction was justified.
That’s right, folks. The man I’d been boasting as “one of the good guys” to everyone I’d ever mentioned him to, even if he wasn’t necessarily my good guy, kind of fucked up … in a big way.
The date was April the 21st, and it was the day before my 24th birthday. To celebrate, my friends Max, Karlee, Alice, and the man of the hour himself, Ezra Rochester, were kidnapping me for a not-so-surprise trip to Austin for a day where we could day-drink and worry about absolutely nothing.
I was thrilled by the idea. It had been quite a long time since I’d been on a day trip that wasn’t for work, and the idea of not having to pay for any of my meals, drinks, or activities was nothing short of appealing to me. Better yet, getting a little alone time with my friends, especially Max and Karlee whom I didn’t often see, was going to be fun. There was, however, the awkward incident of Ezra and I wearing nearly identical outfits that day, which I guess was mostly my fault. I had, after all, accompanied him on a shopping spree the weekend before and helped him pick out a new wardrobe that included jeans that fit and shirts without words or superhero logos across the chest. In fact, we’d gotten him a lot of nice new clothes, and to be frank, when he wore them, he was hot. (Keep this shopping spree thing in mind. It will come back up later).
Regardless, as soon as we got in the car and stopped at the gas station, I pulled a tiny plastic bag from inside my Louis Vuitton wallet and my car keys out of my pocket so that I could do a bump of coke. I’d been up late working the night before and then couldn’t sleep much after that from all the excitement. If I was going to be awake and alert enough to really enjoy the day, I was going to need the uppers. Max and Karlee both disapproved of my backseat drug use, while neither Alice nor Ezra really batted an eye. Alice had grown so used to my bad behavior that she was almost completely unfazed by anything I did; and Ezra wasn’t going to judge me when he’d already agreed to do Molly with me at the day’s close, which I’d already tucked away safely in my bag.
The next several hours were spent driving to Austin from Houston, listening to whatever playlist Max had selected on her Apple Music, while we avoided any restroom stop that might pose danger to two gay men and three people of color.
Arriving in Austin, the weather was a bit dreary, which served fine for me, as I preferred rainy weather to the typical heat of the early Texas summer. We hit up lunch at Uncle Julio’s, had prosecco mimosas at Max’s Wine Dive, narrowly managed to escape one of the challenges at the Austin Panic Room, went on a temporary tangent about stalking out Tiffany Haddish who was in town doing stand-up, and resigned to Gloria’s for more alcohol. At the end of it all, most of us were slightly inebriated—save for Max who kept her faculties about her so that she could make the three-hour drive home—and I noticed that my friends were all getting along cohesively.
I’d been concerned about this initially, you see, because that did not always turn out to be the case. Karlee—who was one of my oldest friends since we’d been freshman in high school, much like Alice—didn’t always like my newer friends … often rightfully so. She had met Max their first semester at the University of Houston where the two instantly hit it off over their love and adoration for Demi Lovato. Karlee had brought Max to meet me at my Halloween book signing back in 2014 when my second novel had been released. A few days later, Max and I began spending time together. I’m not sure why it happened, but I could tell then that Max—who was new to Houston—needed friends in this new city where she knew few people, and I wanted to make Karlee feel like we were accepting Max as if she’d been our friend all along. And it worked out, too, because Max and I got super closer super quickly. She and I turned out to have a lot of things in common—even a boy, once, but we’ll save that story for another column. And while the friendship outside of our relationship with Karlee did tend to irk Karlee to her core at times, it turned out to be a really great thing for all of us.
Still, Karlee (and now Max) could be a bit overprotective when it came to who we all befriended outside of each other … especially so when that person happened to be a man. We’d all been fucked over by men in the past, and we’d all watched each other have our hearts broken at one point or another. Both these women knew that Ezra was just as much a character archetype in my story as all the men before him. They’d heard me gushing over him after we’d first met, had heard the stories of all the not-dates we’d been on, and even saw me give up on the idea of a relationship with him, only to fall for him again later. They’d witnessed my grand gesture letting him know that I had feelings for him I wanted to pursue if he did, and they’d also watched the aftermath when he’d revealed his asexuality and his lack of romanticism for me.
And that’s why it meant so much to me that they were getting along. Outside of Max’s Wine Dive, while Ezra was inside using the restroom, Max turned to me and exclaimed, “Omigod. He is so handsome.”
“He is,” I agreed with a half-smile, staring at the hollows in my cheeks beneath their bones. I’d been losing a little weight as of late—probably in part to do with the cocaine, but also from a supreme lack of sleep and regular meal intake. I saw my own smile saying something to me. It was hard to tell exactly what it was saying, but it was hopeful, happy somehow.
“He’s much cuter than he is in photos,” Karlee agreed. “Like … his profile picture doesn’t look like him at all.”
“He’s had Lasik since then,” I informed them.
“I think he’s just one of those people who doesn’t know their angles,” Max added. I chuckled and shrugged.
“I really like him,” Karlee told me with one of her hard-to-come-by approving smiles.
I looked back at my reflection, a bit saddened by the fact that I’d finally found one of the good guys that my friends actually approved of, only to have to acquiesce to the fact that we’d never be anything more than friends. “I do, too,” I agreed as Ezra came out the door.
After leaving Gloria’s and stealing a fantastic parking spot on the street from some stranger by standing in it so that she couldn’t take it, the entire group of us wandered into a CVS, bought a giant box of Franzia, and made our way down to Zilker Park on the south side of Austin. Along the way, I pulled the bag containing the Molly out of my pocket, handed one to Ezra, smiled, and said, “Happy birthday to me.”
We popped the capsules into our mouths and swigged down giant chugs of water—which probably wasn’t a bad idea considering that we’d been drinking alcohol all day without intermission. We drove to the park, windows down and blaring hip hop loudly through the city as Max drove recklessly through Austin’s streets. It was the most Houstonian thing we’d done since being out of Houston, save for stealing the parking spot. And though the Molly hadn’t hit yet, I was feeling amazing. I had the good fortune of spending my birthday weekend with some of the people I loved most in the world, and those who loved me most in the world, day-drinking and solving riddles in an escape room. We’d laughed so much that my cheeks hurt, drank until we were speaking in cursive, and ate delicious food at one of my favorite restaurants in the entire state of Texas. But most important, and the thing I knew Karlee and Max had been thinking of when they’d planned this surprise, was that I’d escaped not only the city, but the problems that existed there for me at work, with Pride Houston, and in my personal life. For that one day, I wasn’t Anthony Ramirez the volunteer coordinator, or Anthony Ramirez the editor-in-chief, or Anthony Ramirez the man who drinks and makes jokes instead of coping with things.
I just got to be Anthony, or … Markus, my legal first name by which Karlee and Max took to affectionately calling me. That was a nice feeling. But as the Molly sunk in, as we sang with the cast of Rent to “Seasons of Love” on the grass in the park, as the conversation turned to boys and sex, my stomach began to tighten some; the goodness wasn’t where it had been earlier. In fact, I was starting to feel it less-and-less as the minutes ticked by.
“Oh, yeah,” Ezra said at one point. “This stuff is good. Way better than last time,” he said of the drugs. “My vision just blurred.”
I chuckled while Max went on to talk about the cute Asian guy from the escape room.
“He was cute,” Alice agreed.
“Oh, yeah,” Ezra added. “I would’ve fucked the shit out of him.”
I swear to God I think my face slid right off of my skull.
In wanting to take Molly and wanting Ezra to do it with me so I wouldn’t be rolling by myself, it hadn’t occurred to me that the drugs might make the asexual wonder feel a little … well … sexual.
In an effort to divert from the topic, I turned the music up, then stuck my phone down inside a Solo cup to amplify the sound. Apparently between five Millennials, not one of us had thought to bring a portable speaker. A moment later, Sam Smith played and Max made a comment about how good looking the pop singer was. I made mention that I didn’t find him all that attractive.
“I thought you loved him,” Ezra commented.
“As a vocalist and a songwriter, yeah; but I’m not attracted to him,” I added. Although what I was telling Ezra and the others was true, I typically made a point of not talking about boys in front of Ezra, even silly celebrity crushes that would never be more than that. I’d done it in the past, before I’d ever been truly frank with him about how I felt about him. Back then, my friend Gwen had warned me that doing so might make him take me less seriously as a potential partner, and since then I’d made a point of not striking those sorts of conversations. For one, and regardless of his own feelings, I never wanted Ezra to think that my feelings for him were somehow on par with the little glee I got from the other men in my life or the ones I had sex with. I was sure even then that it probably wouldn’t matter to him whether or not I was vocal about my own sexual escapades and short-lived romances. But there was another part of it that was simply that I secretly didn’t want to warrant him talking about other men. I was, and always have been, a jealous creature, and one whose feelings are easily injured. Had it been Taylor Kyle or Jeremy or Stephen or Dylan or any of the other men I’d crushed on or slept with, I probably wouldn’t be so careful. Those feelings never really ran quite as deep as these did.
After sitting quietly and singing along to the music, darkness fell over the park, and everyone’s stamina for the day had run out. We piled back into Max’s SUV, dashed to the nearest gas station we could find to pee before leaving back for our hometown, bought milkshakes at In-and-Out, and proceeded home. I was trying not to let my own weird, internalized fears of Ezra talking more about men ruin my Molly trip, and after getting a milkshake (which I took two sips of before forgetting about), I had nearly stopped thinking about it at all. But as we were pulling out of the In-and-Out, Ezra began talking again.
“Has anyone seen my phone?” he asked as he looked around the floorboards under the cabin light for it. I looked around for it, as well, but found nothing.
“Did you leave it in the park?” Alice asked from the backseat.
“I hope not. But knowing me, I probably did.”
I slid my hand around the seat between us and found his phone nestled beneath the arm rest. “Here,” I told him as I handed it over, beads of sweat pooling down into my brow as the Molly really took affect. That’s the thing about Molly: it makes you sweaty as fuck; and for someone like myself who pretty much sweats all the time, anyway, that can be disgusting. But the other thing about it is that if you aren’t actually in a good place when you take it, if you’re already bothered by something or battling some sort of undefeatable internal demon, it has the power to heighten that anxiety and fixate you on that problem … especially so if you’re trapped in a car for three hours with a boy you like who says things like:
“Oh, good.” He took the phone from me. “Especially since I’m having a conversation with this cute guy on Grindr.”
I swear to God I nearly shat myself.
I didn’t respond to him—hell, I wasn’t sure what to say—and turned my head instead to look out the window as we left Austin and traveled up-and-down over hill-after-hill through central Texas back to the Gulf Coast. All the while, Ezra could not manage to shut the fuck up. He was talking everyone’s ears off. I asked Max to turn up the music a few times, to which she obliged, but I could still hear Ezra talking through it all about the boy from Grindr.
“He’s gonna come over on Tuesday night and we’re going to watch Steven Universe.” He paused and looked thoughtful. “I don’t think I’ll fuck him,” he said to no one in particular at one point. “Or maybe I will. I don’t know.” As this went on, he engaged Alice in a conversation about how important it is to find the right man to have sex with—Alice was and is a virgin, but by choice, not because of something stupid like religion. Many times, the temptation to scream, “What the fuck do you know about it?” crept up on me, but the mixture of Molly and sheer humiliation kept me silent. It didn’t hurt that I was still swigging down glass-after-glass of Franzia leftover from the park.
But more than the Franzia and the Molly, it was just the humiliation. There I was just after midnight—now my actual birthday—in a car with two of my oldest friends, one of my friends I’d only known a few years but felt as if I’d known forever, and the man I stupidly fell in love with who had softened the blow of breaking my heart by telling me he wasn’t capable of having sexual or romantic feelings. Only, now, he was spouting off fact after fact about some random stranger from the a hookup app he may or may not be having sex with in the near future.
Even in writing a sex column for the last year, I had never felt more like Carrie Bradshaw than I did in that moment. Maybe there was some hallucinogenic effect from the Molly, but I suddenly pictured myself as Carrie Bradshaw in her gorgeous Vivienne Westwood wedding gown as I drove away after Mr. Big—Ezra in this hallucination—had stood me up at the altar. Then, when he’d stopped the limo next to mine, getting out and apologizing for breaking my heart, “I’m asexual. I’m incapable of feeling sexual or romantic. You helped me figure this out about myself,” (I’m paraphrasing), I took my bouquet of magnificently arranged flowers and began beating the living shit out of him with them.
“I am humiliated,” I screamed as Carrie, tears and snot running down my face as that weird peacock feather in my headpiece wiggled loose. Then, coming from the limo, in their three differently colored bridesmaid dresses came Karlee (Miranda), Max (Samantha), and Alice (Charlotte) to pull me away from him before I was charged with battery right outside the New York City Public Library. People were staring, Ezra was explaining; flower petals glided through the air in slow motion as Karlee and Max pulled me off of him. And then there was Alice, also in tears, holding up her bridesmaid dress and pointing a finger at Ezra as she shouted, “NO! No!” while she pulled me by the shoulders and put me back in the car.
When the dream sequence was over, I looked around and found Alice had finally fallen asleep in the third row, Karlee was snoring lightly from the front passenger’s seat, Max was humming along to the music, and Ezra was staring at me while “Take It Like a Man” from Legally Blonde The Musical played over the speakers. The whole sequence in the musical is Elle Woods taking her new friend Emmett shopping to sharpen his image and gain the respect of their boss. It was sort of like Ezra and I the weekend before when I’d been helping him pick out new, more stylish clothes.
He seemed to think so, as well, because he said next, “This was literally us last weekend,” with a slight chuckle.
A bit relieved that the subject had changed, I chuckled without looking at him and agreed, “Yeah, I guess it was.”
But Ezra on Molly was unrelenting and unable to really be stopped. He went on by saying, “Although I think it meant a little more to you than it did to me.” I sighed and shook my head, still looking out the window into the darkness. “Do you wanna talk about it?”
My head snapped around so fast I could have given myself whiplash and the scour on my face was noticeable even to me, who could not see it. “No, I do not want to talk about it, Ezra. Not here. Not now. This is neither the time nor the place.”
“Okay, okay,” he muttered somewhat apologetically. Nevertheless, he persisted. “I’m just saying that I’m not usually up for the sort of deep conversations and if you wanted to talk about it, the best time to do it might be while I’m on Molly.”
“We can talk. When we. Get home,” I grunted through gritted teeth.
We pulled over at a gas station so everyone could pee and reup on water or snacks. Alice slept in the back seat. Max and Karlee stared ahead into the store in the front while I sat watching Ezra meander around the convenience store inside.
“I cannot believe he’s talking about some guy he wants to have sex with in front of you,” Max said.
“I cannot believe he’s still talking,” Karlee added sleepily.
“Like, if he needs to get laid that bad, why won’t he just have sex with Anthony?”
“I do not want to have sex with him,” I snapped. And that much was true. Especially not right that second. In fact, in all the time that I’d had feelings for Ezra, sex had always been the furthest thing from my mind. And that, honestly, came from a place of having had sex with so many men that all I want and had wanted then was and is a relationship with someone who is kind, and who makes me laugh, and who I don’t feel weird hanging around for hours on end because I enjoy just having them next to me. When it came to Ezra, all those qualifiers were checked off the list. He wasn’t someone I thought about when I was having sex with someone else or when I was masturbating. Had the idea crept through my mind? Of course. But it was locked away in a trunk inside my brain. Padlocked. Chained. Key swallowed. Because I knew that if ever that day were to come, it would probably be beyond my expectations. It would certainly be beyond his. He has no idea just how good I am at sex. I’ve made grown men scream in a soprano in the past.
Sex was never the point. Sex to me, from someone who had been through his fair share of men and who was capable of catching a dick whenever he wanted one, was becoming less-and-less exhilarating the longer I went without having it with someone I genuinely cared about. And besides, it felt disrespectful to Ezra to think about him that way knowing full and well that our feelings were different for one another.
As we got closer to Houston, more music played, and most of it brought me to silent, ugly tears. At one point, “On My Own” from Les Miserables hummed through the speakers—a song all-too-fitting for that situation.
“I love him, but when the night is over, he is gone, the river’s just a river. Without him the world around me changes. The trees are bare and everywhere the streets are full of strangers. I love him, but every day I’m learning all my life I’ve only been pretending. Without me, his world will go on turning. A world that’s full of happiness that I have never known.”
“This song is beautiful,” Ezra said, clearly not understanding the present irony of the situation. “Listen to those lyrics. They’re poetry.” He zipped through his phone a little more, typing something and then coming back up for air. Even if he’d just been on his phone and not talking to some vapid, mindless twink on Grindr, I probably still would have been irritated. Even if it had been Alice or Max or Karlee. My biggest pet peeve in the entire world is being surrounded by your friends, especially those you don’t see often, and having their eyes glued to their phones.
Sam Smith played some more, this time “One Last Song” from his newest album, and I sang the song along with him because I felt like everyone needed to know that I could sing that very difficult song and sing it very well. And soon, without talking to Ezra anymore, we’d arrived back at my house. Everyone hugged and the girls parted ways, but Ezra and I traveled into the house after I’d smoked a cigarette. He was still far too high to be driving home, and instead we got into bed.
My tarot cards were sitting somewhere nearby, and as a way to just alleviate some of the tension inside of me, I shuffled the cards and read what the future had in store for me. There was nothing terribly interesting there. Work stuff, mostly. But as I finished, I caught Ezra watching me, and I asked him if he’d like me to read his, as well.
He nodded, and I gave him the deck to shuffle. As a Jewish Mexican who isn’t necessarily religious or spiritual but was raised in a Southern Baptist church, there are still some things that I do believe in. I practice folk witchcraft in my private time, read tarot cards and palms for friends who want to know if they’ll ever find love, cast spells for safe travels over friends going on vacation like I had once for Ezra, and even hex a motherfucker every now and again if I’m feeling vengeful enough. I instructed my friend to hold the cards in his hands and close his eyes before shuffling them, then asked him to think first of his happiest memory, and then of his saddest. To me, the cards needed to get to know the person being read in order for the read to be accurate.
I never told him this, but as soon as he handed the cards back to me after shuffling them a bit and cutting the deck in half, I too held them close and reflected on my happiest memory. Only, my thoughts needed to be more specific. I chose my happiest memory with Ezra—the night we laid in bed watching movies that I realized how much I actually cared about him—and my saddest with him—earlier that night. And I did so not because I wanted to interfere with his reading, but because I wanted to know just where this friendship would end up down the line. That feeling I got around him—those butterflies—only intensified as time went on. I hated it, but it was true. And while most of the time I could pretend it wasn’t there and act like a friend who wasn’t swooning over him, nights like tonight made that more difficult. I mean, for fuck’s sake, it wasn’t as if I’d ever be able to go Ezra’s wedding. Depending on who I ended up marrying, I’m not even sure any future spouse of mine would be comfortable letting him come to ours. There were so many milestones that we, as two extremely good friends, would probably have to miss because I was dumb enough to go and fall in love with him. I was culpable for that, I guess. So, I just wanted to know what was in store. What was to come.
I clutched the cards and chanted something in Latin on the duvet as Ezra returned to his phone. But as soon as I laid down and saw the very first card, I snatched it up and put it back on top of the deck.
“I can’t do this,” I mumbled to myself as I snatched the deck up and slid it in my pocket.
Ezra nodded and said, “I understand,” while he laid back against the pillows. I took a moment to turn on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, then excused myself from the bedroom to go smoke a cigarette. Only, I didn’t go and smoke a cigarette. Instead, I went to the kitchen, flipped on the lights, found a bottle of tequila in the top of the pantry, took a giant gulp of it, and then laid the cards out in a Celtic Cross spread on the counter as they would have been laid had I drawn the rest.
In the center and upright was the card I’d seen earlier—the Lovers. It’s a card that is … well … pretty self-explanatory. Lying over it was the King of Cups, the ultimate man of love, compassion, and caring. Together these cards represented a union with … well … one of the good guys. In the cause spot sat Judgement in the reverse position, which read that if there was a relationship that was to unfold, it wouldn’t happen until both parties began to listen to the inner voice in their heads and due to a lack of preconceived ideas about the relationship or the other person. In the past position was the Nine of Wands, the card of past damage, abandonment, and hurt. In the attitudes space was the Ten of Wands, a card that appears unfortunate and traumatic, but one that usually represents, in terms of ideas, making something out of nothing and letting small tragedies rule one’s life. In the near future position was the Wheel of Fortune. Again, self-explanatory. In the seventh space representing how we see ourselves came the Five of Pentacles, which reveals a person who is exhausted, tired, depressed, experiencing hard times, and even rejected. Above it, the space of the outsider’s perspective, was the Four of Wands, the card of celebration and excitement. Next was the key factor, the Ten of Wands—burdens, overworking, overextending oneself. It symbolized how life at the time was tougher than it normally might be, and how jading and daunting that could make anything seem. And then there was the last card, the final outcome—the Empress—the card of my birthday. The Empress is indicative of the joys of life in all its forms, especially so in those things we make new. She is the reminder of where your roots are planted and that what is most important to us is usually already surrounding us. She is, in conjunction with the Lovers, a card that represents fulfillment of the heart.
“Bullshit,” I muttered as I swept up the cards and threw them against the wall, lighting a cigarette inside the house and then venturing out to the front porch. The reading could have been about the two of us together. Then again, it could have been about me somehow soon moving on from Ezra and learning to just be his friend. Who knew? That’s the trouble with trying to see the future. It’s subjective. It changes with every action we make or thought we have. Nothing, not really, is written in the stars.
When I returned inside, Ezra was less talkative and probably coming down off the Molly some.
“I’m trying to get better at being a person,” he said quietly and without prompt. “That’s why I wanted you to take me shopping for new clothes. That’s probably what I’m doing with this boy from Grindr. I’m just trying to try new things.”
Instead of getting mad at him for bringing up that stupid little twink troll from hell again, I instead asked Ezra for his hand.
“Are you gonna put a spell on me?” he teased.
“No,” I sort of laughed. “Just give it to me.”
When he did, I laced my fingers between his own, and I rubbed my thumb gently against the side of his. Then, at a volume at which he couldn’t hear me, I whispered, “There’s no reason to worry about being a different person than the one you are. There are people, me likely most of all, who met you as you are and wouldn’t want to change that person, even if we could.”
And then I just held his hand a bit longer, just because it felt nice. Comfortable. The hands fit well together, even if the people they belonged to never would. But I gave it back to him before he freaked out and laid there in silence while the movie played. Soon, he was ready to go home, even though I knew he still shouldn’t be driving. And as we hugged goodbye and I watched him scurry to his car from my perch on the front porch, I lit another cigarette and called to him.
“Ezra,” I said just loud enough for him to hear me. He turned and I took a few steps nearer to him. It was hard, and at first my mouth just hung open while my brain and my heart tried to shove the words I needed to say out of it. But soon enough, I was finally able to mutter, “In the future, I don’t think you should talk to me about boys from Grindr.” It was succinct and summed up enough about what I needed to say. Not nearly all of it, but enough for now. Then, I turned around, flicked the cigarette off into the yard, and went to sleep quite quickly.
A few short hours later, I woke and immediately began to cry. The MDMA had likely stifled my ability to really feel what I needed to feel, and the lack of serotonin after taking it was probably only making it all the worse. I cried for hours, unable to get up or to talk to anyone about what was going on.
Soon, I had to retrieve Ezra’s laptop bag he’d left in Max’s car and take it to him. Even upon arriving at him apartment, I struggled to get out of the car for fear that when I saw him I might begin bawling again. I kept the conversation short, not even passing through the threshold into his house. But as soon as the door closed behind me, I ran back to my car and flew back into hysterics over the boy who was not able to love me.
After a while, I trekked to Gwen’s house, far away from the people who had witnessed my humiliation and in need of someone to talk to about it, in spite of the fact that I wasn’t ready to do so. She asked me what was wrong, and multiple times over I told her I wasn’t quite ready to talk about it. Instead, we went into her recording studio and for a few hours we played instrumentals from YouTube and I belted songs of sadness between glasses of wine as I fought back tears. I sang them as if I meant them—and I did. Especially so when I sang a transposed version of “On My Own.”
“On my own, pretending he’s beside me …”
And soon, we retired to her back porch where we sat in hanging hammock chairs as I downed the remainder of the wine in my glass and finally brought myself to tell Gwen everything that happened the night before. And then, when I was done, I could only sit there crying again. I was heartbroken. Understandably, Gwen was livid.
“He did what?” she asked through gritted teeth. “Does he not understand why that isn’t appropriate? Did he not realize who he was talking to or that it was your birthday for chrissakes?”
“You know,” I said through sniffles, “I have so many issues with men already. My father left me when I was a child. He would come in and out of my life at his own fucking fancy. The first man I ever loved loved me, as well, but is marrying a woman. All of my exes have either been philandering whores or can’t commit to me or tell me that as much as they do care about me, they just don’t see our relationship going anywhere. And here I am, in a place where I’ve found someone who really makes me happy, someone who really has been one of the good guys—even when he told me wasn’t in love with me. And I was okay with that, because he was a good guy. Because he wasn’t like the other men who had broken my heart.” I paused and poured a new glass of wine. “And then he did this.”
“You have every right to feel this way,” Gwen said as she shook her head and clucked her tongue.
“It’s more than just the heartbreak,” I told her. “Yes, I love him—I’m in love with him. But I could have dealt with the heartbreak by itself. I’ve done that more times than a few.” I shook my head and lit a cigarette, staring off into the distance. “What gets me—what really is tearing me up inside is that I feel lied to. And that wasn’t something I was expecting from him. In fact, he was the last person I expected that from. And what was all of this about me dressing him in a brand new wardrobe, by the way? Was that just so that he could feel good enough about himself to go out and flaunt his newfound self for the world to see so that he could meet boys? For fuck’s sake, this is the man who first told me he wasn’t going to date while he was living in Houston, because he knew he’d be moving soon anyway; and then told me he was an aromantic asexual. I don’t—I just—I don’t know what to believe.”
“I get it,” she agreed. “You went out on this fragile fucking limb and made this grand gesture toward him, expressing your love for him for the entire world to see, and he told you that as much as he did love you, he wasn’t able to experience romantic or sexual feelings. And then he turns around and does this so soon after. You could have existed knowing that he couldn’t have a relationship with you, because he made it sound like he’d never have one with anyone. And you got to at least be one of the few people he loved most in the world—”
“But that’s just it,” I managed through huffs and heaves of my own breath. “I don’t think he was lying, but it doesn’t change the fact that his actions say otherwise. And I go through this thing with myself where I am constantly working to be a better person. I am constantly making myself more available to people who need me. I am constantly fighting against my own inner-monologue that tells me that there is something wrong with me—that I am not good enough to be loved. And this—” I gasped. My body was trying to fight back words I wasn’t ready to verbalize just yet. “ … is there something wrong with me, Gwen?” Tears and dignity fell down my face in streams of hopelessness and defeat. “Am I really not lovable?”
Gwen cried then, too. And turned her chair to face me and demanded that I look at her.
“You listen to me,” she said. “And I’m not bullshitting you here, and I wouldn’t tell this to just anyone. But there is nothing unlovable about you. You are one of the smartest, kindest, sweetest, funniest, most accomplished, and most lovable people that I have ever known. You give so much of yourself to others in everything that you do and give your love to a lot of people—and many of them do not deserve it.”
I lost my shit there. Compliments had never been something I was good at receiving.
“But you need to understand that you are wise beyond your years and you have grown up faster than most people your age. And you’re ready for love. But Ezra? He’s not. Do I want to rob him of his identity as someone who is asexual and aromantic? No. But it does feel a little bit like a cop-out right now. It probably isn’t, and the Molly probably made him say a lot of the things he said last night. But there’s one thing that I do know based on knowing you and having followed this story since the beginning. And that’s that you have been ready to receive love for a very long time, and he’s just not there yet. And maybe that will change, but you cannot make yourself feel culpable for what someone else did to you. All you’ve ever tried to do was give him your love. You don’t have to feel upset with yourself or feel like there’s anything wrong with you just because he can’t accept it. Because someone will be ready to accept it eventually, and probably soon. And there may come a day when he is ready to be loved, and he’s going to realize what an amazing thing he missed out on.”
I exhaled a heavy breath, sniffling again, and unsure of what to say.
Gwen had only one last piece of wisdom to share with me. Advice, really.
“He owes you an apology. And, when you’re ready and have sorted through your feelings, you need to let him know how badly this hurt you, even just as your friend. Because friends don’t do this sort of thing to their friends. No matter if they’re in love with them or if they just love them platonically.”
I didn’t get out of bed much for the next week. Stupidly, I’d agreed to keep Ezra’s dog, Dorito, while he went to visit friends out of town. But unlike the times I normally sat with Dorito, my visits were short and with a mission. I was there to feed the dog, take the dog out, spend a little time with him, and then I had to go. I couldn’t make myself stay in his house any longer than I had to or sleep overnight in his bed. It was too much. In my head, all I could hear was Ezra talking about the little sugarplum twink fairy he may or may not have had sex with right there on the sectional, or around the corner in his bedroom.
I felt haunted.
So, I made the visits short, and then I would leave and return to my bed. I didn’t go to work. I didn’t answer phone calls or text messages unless they were of the utmost importance. I spent a solid week away from the world, crying because I felt like some disgusting creature incapable of being loved, and waited until I had the guts to face him again.
I’d been dating since high school, been cheated on, pushed around, lied to, left to plant another seed in the field of broken hearts. Then, I’d finally found someone I wanted to get off of that vicious merry-go-round with, to stand still with, as Carrie once said. I just didn’t understand why he didn’t want to stand still with me. Moreover, I didn’t understand how someone who loved me even a little bit could put me through that in front of my friends and on my birthday.
Still, I knew Ezra Rochester was not a bad guy. In fact, I knew him still to be one of the good guys. Even if he hadn’t then apologized and still has not, everyone fucks up once in a while. Mistakes are made. And to not accept that someone has made a mistake is self-righteous. Even the best of the best of us fuck up every now and again. This one lapse in judgment didn’t undermine all the good he’s done in his life, nor did it take away from the sweet and caring friend he’d been to me. But that didn’t change the fact that I was defeated and unsure of how long it would take me to get back onto my feet.
As it turned out, it was going to take a while … and it wasn’t going to be a healthy coping ritual.
Dile a Trump, ‘Gracias’
Nunca Pueden Quitar Esto, No. 1
What more could possibly be said of the now-infamous 45th President of the United States? What could we possibly have from him to be thankful for? When I think about the current state of the nation, I remember the feeling we all had right after the results of the election were announced. I remember wandering the city searching for an answer or reassurance that all this was happening for a reason. Then, as time passed, I and numerous others witnessed the nation’s slow relapse into bigotry and paranoia; and we began to ponder, ¿Qué está pasando aquí?
Leading up to the election, we fought hard — I fought hard — to not only influence others, but to educate them on the values of each candidate and the importance of voting. In one corner: a sure winner, a dedicated, passionate, and inspirational woman, who had been painted by the opposition as a ‘criminal’, as a ‘cheater’, and a ‘murderer’. It appeared to some that she was doomed from the beginning — presumably ‘tainted’ by more than a decade of public spotlight. But to us, she was cooperation; she was opportunity; and she understood. We eventually all sat and watched as she admitted defeat and gave her final concessions, We watched again as her voice shook the air and ricocheted angrily towards that glass ceiling — como pegandole a una piñata con un palo débil. And as much as we all wanted progress, she did not break that glass; that piñata still hangs from a rope tied to the roof. And that piñata is still manipulated by the hands of un Tio Sam. But now we see its cracks; we see that it is slashed to pieces; and we can see the candy spewing from its crevices. That piñata will eventually succumb to the crowd — a crowd con bolsas listas — ready to reach and grab from the air, or to pick modestly from the ground, but always to pass and to share amongst each other the dulces that we were promised when our family came to this land.
“When our family came to this land …” — those words never really sat comfortably with me. In fact I often catch myself wincing at phrases such as, “When they came over the border …” or, “When they came here …” The reason behind my reactions lies in the emotional response felt behind each of those words and the implications of them. These phrases imply that the speaker and the subject had existed in two locations, but also reek of isolationism. Words like “us” and “them” also create this familiar sentiment of non-connection. How can we allow for people to continue to alienate us on our own land? Culturally, Latinos rarely owned land; but as the New and Old World met, our hardships helped grow strong opposition to the state-owned agricultural system employed by the Spanish. Many Mexican revolutionary figures fought and died in insurgencies against issues such as these; and it saddens me that, still to this day, many indigenous people are still exploited, still displaced, and, most horribly, turned away.
Emiliano Zapata is one such leader. Zapata was a revolutionary leader who rose from an agrarian background in Northern Mexico and inspired the indigenous campesinos of Morelos to fight along the Northern border. Zapata experienced first hand the sting of inequity and exploitation. This eventually led to his fight against the agricultural system known as haciendas. In the New World, the Spanish crown first granted haciendas to the Spanish. Paving the way for the exploitation of thousands of indigenous people into forced labor and out of the possibility of any land ownership. His fight eventually led to Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, which states that all land, water, and mineral rights in Mexico at first belong to the Nation, and are therefore transferable to private citizens of Mexico. This, in turn, establishes private property as a means of keeping Mexican property in the hands of Mexico’s people so that it is subject to public interest. If Zapata spoke any truth by saying, “La tierra es para quien la trabaja,” then it should be known that it was our ancestors who worked the seasonality and bounty of the Americas.
Yet, here we stand in complete awe as tables turn and focus shifts to us. Now we are the accused — the “rapists”, the “criminals”, and the “terrorists”. They ignore our people’s plight, our hard work, our potential, and our dedication to nature and family. They turn their backs, deny entry, and create complications for residency within imaginary lines; and they do so in contempt of scientific knowledge gained through the study of ideal genetics and immunology: the more a population is isolated, the more vulnerable it is to new threats — the more susceptible it is to disease. This plays out no differently in humans.
Yet, it was our parents and grandparents that moved our families from farm to farm — and with children working alongside — earning just a fraction of minimum wage so that they may afford our people’s frutos year-long.
Yet, it was our ancestors who eventually harvested corn and beans from the grasses, bore cocoa and coffee from small beans, and sustained hardship with potatoes and cassava roots pulled from the earth. It was our minds and our perseverance that unlocked tomatoes, chiles, peppers, squash, legumes, and quinoa to feed our children.
Yet, it was we who came here with knowledge of our land but still learned “their” land, it was we who learned “their” language and kept ours in the hopes of preserving our people’s story; and it was we who learned “their” history and culture — all while maintaining our own customs and beliefs.
Unsurprisingly, this issue is further complicated for those who identify as queer Latinx struggling to fit the mold of an Anglo, heteronormative society. Of what do they have to be so afraid? Who truly is at the disadvantage: us or them? Don’t they know that Cesar Chavez said, “La preservación de la propia cultura no requiere desprecio o falta de respeto hacia otras culturas,” or, “The preservation of one’s own culture does not require hate or disrespect for the other culture.” Our queer culture recognizes the perspectives of not just one people — neither just one sexuality nor gender — but all people. How do you teach both heteronormative Anglo and Latino societies that there is importance in variability and diversity?
Growing up queer — growing up queer in a foreign place — we adapt by learning the behaviors and languages unique to each place. In doing so, we not only lose ourselves, but we also evolve to become entirely new beings. Because we are both Latinx and Americans. We are both Spanish- and English-speaking. We navigate and blend within the Queer and the “normative”. We know the codes for understanding the cis and trans world. We may know how to order Starbucks pero nosotros tambien sabemos cómo hacer un Nescafé. We become both, but still, we are also neither.
This sentiment is best described in Gabriel Ojeda-Sague’s “Jazzercise is a Language”, when he describes the pervasive biracial sentiment felt by not only queer communities, but also by first and second generation Latin Americans:
“[…] the pivot of an argument: I am much less latino when I am with latinos and I am much less white when I am with white people: I am much less a man when I am around men and I am much less a woman when I am around women […]”
This sentiment is a contradictory dichotomy of both isolation and belonging within our home society, as well as that of another. Whether it be a separate country, gender, or sexuality, feelings of isolation are often magnified by a painful realization that we’ve ended up here yet again: being not only both, but also neither.
At first, our stark differences from society seem debilitating, especially when immersed in monocultured environments. History has shown us countless times before that survival is often granted by accepting and following diversity; and though demonizing and ostracizing can appear to hinder us temporarily, it will make us stronger in the long run. To live through hardship is to conquer it. We may be diverted from our full-potential for a period of time, like storm clouds diffuse and hide our gaze of the moon. Yet we always recover and with us: a beautiful sunrise breaking through clouds with unmeasurable beauty and differentiation. We too benefit from every hardship endured and nosotros siempre emergemos mas marviosos y fuertes. A newly hatched butterfly, una mariposa maravillosa, must nonetheless struggle with its prison, its cocoon, and practice to gain the strength by using the prison as a tool and assuring flexibility and circulation in its wings.
This is what I see, what the “woke” see, what I hope we all see: that beneath your feet … the ground is moving … it’s shaking — calling you to rise, calling us all to create and to inspire. A Chinese-American feminist, Grace Lee Boggs, once stated, “A revolution that is based on the people exercising their creativity in the midst of devastation is one of the great historical contributions of humankind.” Like Lee Boggs’ time, Queer Latinx people facing adversity from the Trump Regime are living amidst devastation; yet here we boldly resist and create beauty and art that sometimes only we understand. We, as Queer Latinx-Americans, have our own codes, culture, and customs, and so I offer this column to illuminate our beauty, our art, our voices and our fight for equality, representation and, above all else, our dignity.
Por que le corres cobarde trayendo tan buen punal.
My people, my sisters,
mi gente, mi raza —
we are not cowards.
We emulate both beauty and art.
This column is for us and it is for all to see.
Thank U, Next
Less Than Butterflies, No. 28
“So are you gonna write about me?” Ricky asked as he pulled the sheet off of me just a little bit more and ran his toes up my calf beneath it.
Sheepishly I turned my face toward the window and pulled the bedsheet back a bit. “What do you mean?”
Ricky laughed — loudly, incriminatingly — as if he were in on some secret I wasn’t. Only … I was. “In your column,” he went on. “Don’t think I didn’t do my homework before bringing you home.” He slid himself upright and reached over me for a bottle of wine on the floor next to me before taking a sip and handing it to me. “I know who you are.”
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
“What’s it called again?” he asked. “Butterflies?”
“Less Than Butterflies,” I corrected him.
To my knowledge, I’d never slept with a man who’d read Less Than Butterflies before that night. Or, at the very least, I’d never slept with one who’d read it and had the nerve to bring it up. I tried to wash the terror from my face and distract him with a laugh; only he wouldn’t take his eyes off of me until I answered. So I reached into the pocket of my jeans on the hardwood floor beside me and grabbed a pack of Marlboros and a lighter, placing one between my lips and rolling my eyes.
I pulled the sheet back toward me to cover my mid-section, embarrassed about how I could have lost so much weight and still have felt fat. “I don’t know if the sex was that good.”
I blew a puff of smoke in his face and laughed.
🦋 A Week Before 🦋
I sat in the Starbucks at Montrose and Hawthorne filling out paperwork and editing articles while also making eyes with a 30-something-year-old man sitting at a table adjacent to me that kept looking up from his pretentious copy of the New York Times so that his jawline could poke out over the scarf he unnecessarily wore inside — Lemme see that neck, daddy. I’d heard him order a tea at the counter while I sipped a peppermint mocha and I swear to Satan he would have been less conspicuous if he’d just cut two eye holes in the goddamn paper. After suggestively nodding my head toward the bathroom when our eyes met and watching him dash off that way, I packed my personal effects into my messenger bag and swiftly exited the building without any intention of meeting him in the restroom. I’d find myself down the street at the Half-Price Books where I’d avert my gaze from the collected works of Jane Austen — have you ever read Jane Austen, guys? Where men were at least kind of chivalrous even when they were breaking hearts — and a cute young man squatted down on the ground looking at a book at the bottom of the same shelf. Feigning clumsiness, I let the book slip out of my hands and down beside him, then dropped to the ground at his eye level to pick it up. He turned and caught my eye as I slid the book back into my hands and smiled at him. “Hi,” I muttered, to which he smiled back and introduced himself to me.
That’s right, y’all. 2019 had officially begun, Peter was a distant memory of my past and I was officially back on my bullshit. I wasn’t making resolutions, I wasn’t trying to lose more weight, I wasn’t promising to go back to the gym, I wasn’t even going to work hard at giving up bad habits like smoking or falling in love. 2019 brought with it only one new rule, which was more a rule for the men in my life than it was for me:
Don’t fuck with me.
“I’m moving on from sadness and being in love so that I can go back to my old ways,” I told Jackie on speaker phone later that night as I struggled to try and sync my work email to my iPhone.
“Exactly,” I went on. “I do not need a man to — damn it!” The email server, once again, failed to connect to my phone. “I don’t need a man in my life to be successful or to get anything done.” I tried syncing it once more. “I am completely independ— motherfucker!” Yet again, it failed to connect.
“What are you swearing at?” Jackie asked.
“I’m trying to get my phone to sync to my work email, but I can’t figure this shit out. Peter was supposed to do it for me the last 80 times I saw him, and then we both kept forgetting, and then he treated me like shit, and then he left me at a bar, and then he left at a club, and then we fought, and then I never heard from him again because he disappeared from my life without ever taking the fucking time to set my email up on my phone.” I sighed. “Fucking bastard.”
Jackie hesitated. “What was that you were just saying about not needing a man to help you do anything?”
I dropped my phone on the counter. “Fuck off, Jackie.”
It was the best of times … it was the worst of times. I was pleasantly surprised with just how well I’d been dealing with the loss of what was probably one of the greatest loves and romances of my life; but a constant disappointment in men will help one cope with these things quicker as time goes by. After all, it started off at a young age when my father left me alone with drug-addicted mother to develop some deep-seated daddy issues, and it landed here with me falling in love with and having my heart broken by a man I called ‘daddy’.
Jesus I am one fucked up individual.
Nevertheless, she persisted; and she was me, in this particular instance.
Of all the resolutions I wasn’t making in 2019, I had compiled a list of rules I was laying down like infants for a nap that would from this point on be applicable to all the men I dated in the future:
I am the Whore thy Gay, which have graced thee with my presence, and who will hopefully get thee to participate in bondage.
- Thou shalt have no other guys before me.
- Thou shalt not make any graven image (i.e. making less money than me or being in the closet)
- Thou shalt not have better looks, talents, or wisdom than the Whore thy Gay who is vain.
- Remember my birthday and keep it holy.
- Dishonor my father and mother.
- Thou shalt not kill my roll when I do Molly.
- Thou shalt not commit adultery or even suggest the idea of an open relationship, because if thou wishes to date more than one person, I’ll go off my meds and you’ll get to meet all sorts of new people.
- Thou shalt not get mad when I steal thy credit card.
- Thou shalt not bear adult ADD.
- Thou shalt do cocaine, but not to the point of addiction.
I mean it — I’d given up on men. And why shouldn’t I have? If this stupid column indicates any sort of track record, signs would point to it being time for me to stop trying. I mean between Parker who could commit and Dylan who voted for Trump and Ezra the asexual and Peter who was just an all-around raging douchebag from his own circle of hell, it seemed as though the Universe of the Fates or the Gods or the Dark Lord Satan was telling me to give the fuck up. And did it even really matter anymore? At this point it was fuck off or get fucked over, and most encounters seemed to end in the former, at least in my experience thus far.
But then I met Ricky. And from the time I’d dropped that book in front of him at Half Price Books to the first time we’d hung out one-on-one — as per the usual — all that internal training on how I should be interacting with men in the new year seemed as impossible to reach as a baseball thrown over the neighbor’s fence.
I walked into his Montrose-adjacent apartment expecting what I usually did with my one-time hook-ups: traipsing dog hair, a lack of furniture, and not a book in sight. But what I found was quite the converse — it was like an island oasis in a sea of gay sharks who couldn’t get their shit together. It was like walking into a den of spirituality, a Mecca of literature, and a congress of apropos, grown-upisms.
“So how was the date with Ricky?” Gwen asked the next afternoon in the hammock chairs on her porch.
“It wasn’t a date,” I told her with a roll of my eyes. I grabbed the Bic sitting on the table between us and lit the cigarette between my lips.
“Hoookay,” she replied as she rolled her own eyes and chuckled a bit to herself.
“The not-date was lovely. We hung out, drank a little vodka, smoked a little weed,” I laughed and took a hit off the joint she’d rolled. “And then he played a song on his guitar he’d been writing and my heart melted a little and that was enough to make my pants dematerialize altogether,” I confessed. “God, the sex was good.”
Gwen could have exploded with all the laughter she’d been holding in, weed smoke spewing everywhere. “Praise Satan!” she exclaimed.
“Praise Satan, indeed,” I agreed as I took another hit. “He did ask me something that made me a little uncomfortable, though,” I told her.
“I’ve told you that you’ve just got to learn to be more forthcoming about you STDs.”
“I don’t have any STDs! Shut up!” I shook my head. “No, he asked me whether or not I was going to write about him in my column. Apparently he did his homework.”
“And he still invited you over?”
“So this wasn’t a date. Huh?”
I grinned a little. “Fuck off, Gwen.”
“Play another,” I requested as I laid against the hardwood and sipped the Pinot Grigio from my stemless glass. His apartment looked like the type of place I wouldn’t mind spending the rest of my life, which is a largely important factor for me when vetting potential suitors. Solid wood floors, bookshelves lining every wall, artwork hung that seemed to be glaring at me as I passed. “I’m high. I could do this all day.” Ricky was strumming his guitar — in the nude, nonetheless — and I was lying on the ground in a sheet like Carrie Bradshaw between her Mr. Big punctuations.
It was a weird thing — fucking on someone’s hardwood, living room floor and sipping iced vodkas from stemless wine glasses while he played me music on his guitar. It was the kind of not-date I’d never had with a man … and I’d had a lot. Something that started as a casual book drop — okaaayyy; not so casual considering I’d basically just created my own meet-cute —had turned into hours of fucking against the cold, January floors and me not accidentally shouting out Peter’s name. But more than that, it was nice to be around someone and not have to give a shit about whether or not we were on a date. It was a breath of fresh air to not have to fish for topics to discuss with a man; it was a relief to not feel self-conscious as a man stripped me of my clothing; and then to just be done — and to not feel the obligation to stay or leave — as the smell of candles wafted in and out of my nose and fingers traced the small of my back between songs … it was nice.
“So are you gonna write about me?”
And after the what do you mean? and the I know who you ares and the poking fun at him, telling him the sex wasn’t good enough, and the tugging of the sheet back to cover my midsection, I finally giggled out, “Yeah … I’m gonna write about this.”
As I sat at the bar later with Hope and some friends I didn’t get to see often enough, I thought of Ricky and the fun I’d had with him. I thought of his question and his music and I thought about whether or not it would turn out to be anything. Even if it didn’t, the reprieve and reminder that I was a desirable human being had been nice. I wasn’t feeling as if I should push my luck, because I kind of just wanted to see where things went. But a moment later, all of that was interrupted, when a push notification came to my phone and I found myself staring at a Facebook comment in which Peter had tagged me. It was a joke, an olive branch extended after weeks and weeks of not speaking to one another and after an uncertain lack of closure. And it made me mad — the whole thing made me mad. The fact that he had the nerve to think that I’d just be so willing to jump back to the way things were — snide comments and funny banter — after what he’d done, after he’d neglected to apologize because he didn’t see anything wrong with the way he’d behaved — it was fucking insulting.
So as I debated on whether or not to even dignify his comment with a response, I was at that very moment greeted by first an email from my now-synced work account and a text message from Ricky.
And I smiled, double-tapping the home button on my iPhone to close my Facebook app, and whispered to myself, “Thank you.” I opened Ricky’s text message. “Next.”
Giving a ‘Heartbeat’ to Lesbians
Queer Guy in the Public Eye, No. 3
One of the most bizarre things to me is the way that straight men fetishize lesbians. Maybe not necessarily ‘lesbians’, but most definitely girl-on-girl action. Website Pornhub released the most searched terms on their site organized by state in January of 2018, and “lesbian” was the most searched term in all but eight states in the United States. As much as lesbians are fetishized or interesting on a sexual level, we rarely get to see them do the things that we all do – interact on a platonic level, go grocery shopping with their partner, fight over what to watch on television, etc. Even as we move further-and-further into seeing queer people in the spotlight and more queer characters in film and television, there seem to be a disproportionate amount of gay men as compared to lesbian characters. If you’ve been following this column, you’ll remember that All in the Family brought us our first gay character in 1971 and The Jeffersons had the first transgender character in 1977. There were a few lesbian moments on television in the 70’s and 80’s, but the biggest break came with the short-lived television series Heartbeat, which ran for two seasons from 1988 to 1989 and was the first television series to feature a leading lesbian character.
Heartbeat was a medical drama that centered around a medical center, Women’s Medical Arts, which was founded by three women who weren’t pleased with how women’s health concerns were treated in a field that was dominated by men. It was featured on ABC for only 18 episodes; but even with a limited run on television, it received a great deal of attention for the inclusion of a lesbian couple, Nurse Practitioner Marilyn McGrath and her partner, Patty. The sexuality of Marilyn and Patty was revealed in the fifth episode of the show, when Marilyn’s daughter informed her that Patty would not be invited to her wedding. It was the first time that a primetime television show featured a lesbian character.
People ran an article prior to the debut of the show titled “Is Prime Time Ready for Its First Lesbian? Gail Strickland Hopes So – And She’s About to Find Out” in which they interviewed the show’s creator, Sara Davidson and Gail Strickland, the actress who played Marilyn McGrath. In the interview, Davidson explains her decision to wait until the fifth episode to disclose Marilyn’s sexuality, saying “We wanted people to see her as a terrific person first […] then find out she has a private life that at its core is no different from anyone else’s.” The general public was so afraid of gay women that the creator of the show felt like she had to spend four episodes painting a picture of how good of a person the character was before she could reveal her sexuality.
As far as Gail Strickland’s decision to take the role, shock value wasn’t one of the deciding factors in her decision. “It’s not often actors get to play parts that might make a difference,” she told People, “the fact that somewhere, somehow, someone’s perspective might be softened is important to me.” She went on to say that Marilyn was a loving mother who had been in a solid relationship for four years and that is the kind of character she wanted to play, regardless of their sexuality. Strickland’s only fear was that the network would pull back when they started to see retaliation from viewers. This was, after all, not a singular episode of a television show like I’ve written about before, but instead an entire series in which we would see a lesbian on screen week-after-week. Her reservations proved to be legitimate, as the network did scale back the lesbian moments slowly as the series went on with her partner, Gina, only appearing on screen in five total episodes of the series.
While overall the series was important in showing lesbians in a positive light and helped to change attitudes toward lesbians, there were a couple of major downfalls that ultimately hurt the impact of the series. The biggest downfall was that other than eye contact and an occasional hug, there was no contact between the two characters. I’m not arguing that a full-on sexual encounter should have been broadcast on primetime television, but even the small interactions that couples have – hand holding, cuddling on the couch while watching TV, crying in the arms of your partner when you’re going through a particularly hard time – are all absent from any scene in the series. The two characters live together and talk about being lesbians, but it all but stops there. It would have been unsurprising if the series had featured the women sleeping in parallel twin beds, a la Lucy and Ricky in I Love Lucy. Ultimately, I think that this hurt the attempt to “normalize” lesbians. The other characters in the show have intimate moments with their partners, but the lesbians just look at each other and hug sometimes which ended up leaving more questions than answers.
The wardrobe was also a poor choice for the lesbian characters. While the characters dressed feminine and didn’t dress like along the lines of the stereotypical, lumberjack lesbian, they were never dressed in anything sexy. Obviously there was a huge part of the show that was filmed with the characters in scrubs and lab coats, which aren’t particularly “sexy” pieces of clothing, but all of the clothes that the characters wore while being shown outside of work were very conservative. This isn’t my way of saying that women have to wear clothing that accentuates their sex appeal. But if the straight characters in the show were allowed to dress themselves up a bit, why weren’t the lesbians? Showing the lesbian characters as nearly asexual while the straight characters were allowed to be sexual on screen created a weird image of lesbians..
The personalities of the two lesbian characters were also a little troubling. They were both stereotypes of what gender binary, females – super emotional, always troubled by something, never assertive, and almost always submissive. It’s troubling for any female character to be portrayed this way, but especially when showing a lesbian couple. There were no dynamics to the relationship because they were both based on the same stereotype of what a woman should be rather than exploring the idea that any two women could possibly have different personalities. I imagine if there were to be a scene written where they were deciding what to have for dinner we would just watch 45 minutes of each of them saying “I don’t know, you decide!” to the other. It would have been nice to see a little more depth to the characters here.
Ultimately, poor viewership caused ABC to pull the plug on Heartbeat in the middle of the second season of the series even after a nomination in 1989 for the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama and a tie with L.A. Law (which coincidentally would go on to also feature a lesbian character) for the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Drama. Though it had it’s faults, Heartbeat was definitely a turning point in normalizing lesbians and bringing their stories to the homes of millions of Americans. It was certainly a risk for the creator Sara Davidson to include a lesbian in a storyline that wouldn’t have been affected much if she’d written the character Marilyn as a straight woman and Heartbeat really set television up to continue to feature prominent queer storylines in the 90s.
Trump Admin Fights Against HIV Research
Politics Is Personal, No. 2
The Trump Administration has ordered the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to thwart progress on HIV-related experiments due to the use of human tissue. This move is an affront both to modern medicine and to the millions of people who have suffered from HIV and AIDs at the hands of Republican administrations.
Scientists at the Gladstone Center for HIV Cure Research in San Francisco have been working on lessening HIV’s ability to stay in reservoirs of the body. If their research were to continue, society could eventually see a drug that would make PrEP — the current treatment of prevention for people at risk of contracting HIV — a short-term drug instead of a lifelong medication. This sort of change would be a massive step forward in both the convenience and cost of HIV treatment, bringing us one step closer to a true cure for the disease. In their experimentation, the scientists have been combining the genes of lab mice with human fetal tissue to have a more accurate representation of the human immune system.
Now, in a sweeping move affecting medical research across the country, Trump’s administration has banned NIH facilities from obtaining any more fetal tissue for their experimentation. The move was led not by medical researchers but by anti-abortion activists who claim that the use of consensually-given aborted human fetal tissue is immoral. This news comes only a few years after the uproar over a heavily edited video claiming that Planned Parenthood illegally sold aborted fetal tissue parts. Although this new “pro-life” regulation does nothing to limit abortions themselves, it does prohibit life-saving medical research from advancing the cure for HIV. It could be seen as ironic if it weren’t so terrifyingly cruel to those suffering from the disease.
Although the NIH was ordered to cease the acquisition of tissue in September of 2018, the news about the HIV experimentation is just now reaching national headlines. It’s the latest in a long string of similar actions by the current White House. While the President will often tweet long streams-of-consciousness about the Mueller investigation, many policies are changing in a quiet and sinister way. Other recent examples include the resumption of family separation at the border, loosening of radiation regulations, and the removal of LGBT+ people from the U.S. census. LGBT+ people in particular stand to lose decades of progress if research on HIV/AIDS treatment continues to wither.
The Trump Administration is not the first US Presidency that has halted progress on a cure for AIDS. Most notably, Ronald Reagan and the recently-deceased George H. W. Bush both stalled progress on AIDS research at the height of the AIDS crisis in the late twentieth century. At the time, the disease was highly stigmatized and viewed as a condition that only affected gay men, often called the “gay plague”, while HIV/AIDS itself was for years referred to in the medical field as GRID, or Gay-Related Immune Deficiency. Homophobic policies and ignorance stunted research on the disease for decades, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths in the United States alone. The LGBT+ community lost nearly an entire generation of gay activists, leaders, performers, and family members. Only now are activists such as Javier Muñoz of Hamilton beginning to undo the harmful prejudices against people with HIV/AIDS.
History seems doomed to repeat itself if work on the cure for HIV doesn’t resume soon. A postdoctoral student involved in the Gladstone center research, Thomas Packed called the cessation “a travesty for the outlook for HIV research… Blocking this significantly hurts our chances of finding an HIV cure.”
There is no word yet on how or when work on the cure for HIV will be able to resume.
Politics Is Personal is a weekly column written by staff writer Rachel Abbott. New entries appear Monday nights at 7.
Everyone I’ve Ever Voted for Has Lost
Politics Is Personal, No. 1
Politics Is Personal is a new column by Rachel Abbott, covering local and national news as it affects LGBTQ+ people. This column abides by one principle: that politics is never just a difference of opinion but a system of moral beliefs that influence our lives, liberties, and pursuits of happiness. Marginalized populations are particularly endangered when politics go awry.
I was driving home from my mom’s neighborhood in Spring, Texas the night that I heard Beto O’Rourke lost the race for US Senate against Ted Cruz. We had been out celebrating my birthday, and I vowed not to check my phone all evening as the results began to roll in. I’m both a person who loves politics as well as a person with an anxiety disorder; and the two go together like ammonia and bleach. I wanted to stay away from both the politics and the anxiety so that I could enjoy my birthday celebration with my mom. Therefore, I’d put my phone on silent and shoved it into the bottom of my bag. All night while we were out shopping and getting sushi at a local dive, I had felt the weight of my phone pulling my phone nearer to the ground like bricks in the proverbial sack. . The vibration of every single notification threatened to pull me out of the moment I was fighting my own anxiety to enjoy.
I had avoided my phone for about five hours in an effort to be present and practice some birthday mindfulness. But when our night out came to a close and I needed to drive back downtown, I was forced to pull out my phone to put on some music and to get directions. Even as I tried to avoid the news updates, my eyes canned the headline at the top of the screen — “Beto Concedes Race to Ted Cruz”. That was that. As disappointed as I was, I mostly felt exhausted. Beto was the latest in a long string of candidates that I supported and rooted for only to watch be defeated.
I remembered the first time I felt that sense of loss and frustration. I had been just a few days too young to vote for Barack Obama’s re-election, but I registered as quickly as I could. Soon I voted for Wendy Davis in the primary elections. Then I voted for her again in the gubernatorial election of 2014. At the time, there was no doubt in my mind that Wendy Davis would win. She had filibustered magnificently — hell, she’d filibustered at all. She ran on a platform all about empowering bold, Texan women. She was young, she was charming, and she cared about education and minority populations. Yet she lost to Greg Abbott.
Then there was Bernie Sanders, whom I’d voted for in the primary elections in the 2016 presidential race. He ran on a platform of promoting economic equality, of affordable college tuition and free healthcare. His tax plan read as European and elegant, and he had decades of experience. He had marched with Martin Luther Fucking King Jr., for chrissakes. These bricks that build the Great Wall of Bernie all sound amazing, I thought. And Hillary already lost a primary once before. Surely Bernie is our candidate. Yet he lost to Hillary Clinton.
So I brushed off the dust, and I threw my support in for Hillary. Was she perfect? No. But God she was so much better than the alternative that it seemed laughable. Even when I wasn’t on fire for her policies, it was easy for me to support her. She was professional. She was poised. She had years of political experience and the education to match it. I was ready for the first female United States president. Beyond that, I felt like she had the bare minimum of human decency. She neither made fun of disabled reporters, nor boasted about sexually assaulting people. She didn’t call immigrants rapists and criminals. The bar set by her opponent seemed impossibly low. The bar was literally buried five feet under ground; you would have to dig your own grave to miss that bar.
Well, we all know how that turned out.
All of this is to say: I am used to my candidates losing, but I’m still sick of it. In a country where we tout a representative democracy, I have yet to vote and see my views represented. It feels, on a fundamental level, unfair. And it sounds whiny when I say it like that, but it doesn’t make it any less true. If the point of an elected official is to represent the views of their governed body, and your views are eked out year-after-year … what’s left to do?
It would definitely be easier for me to sit with the disappointment if this were a matter of mere opinions. For instance, if the greatest thing at stake in any election were how much tax funding went to road repair versus the city bus system, I probably would not care all that much about the results. However, that’s not how our elections work. One representative supports my right to marry my partner; one thinks our union should be illegal. One representative will allow transgender people to receive the healthcare and support they need; one wants to define them out of existence. One representative would end border camps for children; one supports the destruction of families. When the stakes are this high, everyone should care. Everyone should care about these policies on a visceral, emotional level.
The baffling truth is that many people don’t feel that way. I’ve tried to figure out what’s going on in the minds of my close relatives and family friends who vote red time-and-again. Their beliefs are now reflected in our governor, both of our senators, our president, and the majority of the Supreme Court. But what, exactly, are those beliefs that they hold so dear? These are the same people who will assure me that they love me, love my partner, can’t wait for our wedding. Then, in the same day, they’ll post on Facebook that they’re voting for Ted Cruz or that they’re trying to “Make America Great Again”. It gives me emotional whiplash. And for what? What belief is it that my own family could hold more dear that my right, as their sister or niece or cousin, to feel happy and safe? I want to shake them — physically shake them — and ask, Why don’t I matter enough to you?
Beto O’Rourke lost by just a little over 2% of the vote. That means that nearly half of all Texans support liberal policies, yet both of our senators are conservative. I believe — and hope — that Beto will run for another political office one day, maybe not the presidency yet but something. His campaign invigorated the Texas Democrats in a way that I’d never seen before. I would be really proud to be represented by a candidate like Beto O’Rouke. But it’s too soon for me to think about all that — too soon to excite myself again.
Wendy Davis. Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton. Lupe Valdez. Beto O’Rourke. My political mind holds something of a memorial to these people who ran on good, decent platforms but lost. There will be more candidates. I have no doubt in my mind that in a few months we’ll begin to ready our battle paint for yet another round of primaries and yet another round of general elections. There will be shiny and wonderful new democratic candidates who will reignite the spark of hope that us voters in the South carry in our hearts. After all, Senator Cornyn’s seat will be up for reelection soon, and then there’s that thing about the President. I hope these new candidates will win. I really, really need one of these new candidate to win. For the first time, I need someone that I voted for to win.
In the words of Wendy Davis: “I fucking hate to lose.”
Putting the ‘Family’ in ‘All in the Family’
Queer Guy in the Public Eye, No. 1
In queer culture, there’s a lot of fun and often campy terminology that gets thrown around, even if many of us don’t know where it comes from. Today, it’s not as shocking to hear a gay person use the word ‘queer’ or ‘homo’ amongst one another, but these weren’t always terms of endearment — and often they still are not when coming from people who are not LGBTQ+. One term many of us are familiar with is ‘family’. You know … like when you and your friends see that attractive person sitting across the straight bar you’re visiting and you try to assess whether or not that person is “family”, meaning whether or not they, too, are LGBTQ+. Because that word carries so much meaning within the community, I thought looking at another family to begin a conversation about how queer people have been presented in the media — for better or for worse — might be a good place to start by looking back at an episode of CBS’s 1970’s sitcom, All in the Family.
Some might find it to be an interesting choice to begin chronicling queer presence in pop culture with a show that was – at least through the lens of where we are societally in 2018 – extremely problematic. However, for the sake of at least beginning this journey throughout our pop culture history, as well as in an attempt to assess the amount of progress – or lack thereof – that has been made, I believe that the perfect place to dive into an introspective account of how queer people were viewed in and represented by the media is with the 1970’s sitcom, All in the Family.
All in the Family premiered on January 12, 1971 and ran over the course of eight seasons until April 8, 1979. In true 1970’s television fashion, it spawned five spin-offs, including, but not limited to, Maude, The Jeffersons, and Archie Bunker’s Place. The show broke a number of records and was one of the first shows to blend the sitcom format with topical issues, many of which had never been discussed on television. In a time of “fireplace television” — when families had one television set in the house and only three channels to choose from — All in the Family was consistently one of television’s most watched shows.
The show centered around a bigot longing for the “good old days” names Archie Bunker, his airhead wife, Edith, and Gloria and Michael Stivic, the Bunker’s more progressive daughter and son-in-law. The fifth episode of the first season – entitled “Judging Books by Covers” — tackled an issue that wasn’t present on American television at the time: homosexuality.
Now, just because the show addressed homosexuality does not mean that they celebrated it. In the episode, a friend of the Stivic’s – Roger – comes to visit them at the home that the Stivic’s share with the Bunker’s. Archie is immediately upset by the news that Roger will come to visit them and Michael gets into an argument with Archie which ends with the following exchange:
“Just because a guy is sensitive, and he’s an intellectual, and he wears glasses, you make him out [to be] a queer.”
“I never said a guy who wears glasses is a queer. A guy who wears glasses is a four-eyes. A guy who’s a fag is a queer.”
Throughout the entire episode, the word ‘fag’ is used three times along with other slurs, including ‘pansy’, ‘fairy’, and “queer as a four dollar bill.” Interestingly, the words ‘gay’ and “homosexual” are completely omitted from the episode. In a time when “family-friendly” television was at the forefront, it’s interesting that ‘fag’ could be included into a script multiple times but that the writers wouldn’t dare include the word ‘gay.’ The punchline to every joke that Archie made throughout the episode was about how feminine Roger was and the studio audience couldn’t get enough. Initially, it seemed like the writers of the show broke down a barrier and introduced homosexuality simply to use queer people as a punchline or to make them out to be a joke.
Frustrated with Roger’s presence, Archie goes to the local bar to meet up with “the guys” and have a beer. One of Archie’s friends is Steve, a former professional football player and a “real man”, according to Archie. Michael and Roger come into the bar where the bartender pulls Michael aside and asks whether Roger is “you know”, which in the language of 1971 television translates to ‘gay’. Michael replies that as far as he knows Roger is straight, and the bartender tells him that he’s fine with Steve because he doesn’t come by very often, doesn’t invite his “friends” with him, and doesn’t “camp it up” with his sexuality. It takes a second for Michael to realize that the bartender is telling him that Steve is an out and proud homosexual.
When they get back to the house, another argument ensues between Michael and Archie and Michael ultimately tells Archie what he’s learned about Steve. Archie doesn’t believe Michael, because Steve is the textbook definition of what a “man” is to Archie – tall, muscular, and athletic. Eventually Archie confronts Steve; and after the dialogue skates in circles around the question of “are you gay?”, Steve reveals that, in fact, he is. Of course, Archie is dumbfounded as he heads home. The episode ends at the house with Gloria and Michael accompanied by a friend who isn’t facing the camera, but is masculine-presenting from the back. Archie walks in and addresses the third person, who Gloria introduces as Gerry, who turns around and is actually a female with a short haircut, which prompts an eye roll from Archie as the episode ends.
Let me give you a bit of a retrospective so that we can make more sense of what the landscape of America looked like for LGBTQ people in 1971: In preparation to write their book “The Nixon Tapes”, Douglas Brinkley and Luke A Nichter re-visited and created transcripts of all 3,700 hours of tapes recorded in the Oval Office during Richard Nixon’s presidency. In the tapes — many of which weren’t decipherable until modern technology helped clean them up — Richard Nixon bashes All in the Family in a conversation with his chief domestic aide, John Ehrlichman. In the conversation with Ehrlichman, Nixon says:
“The point I make is that, goddamn it, I do not think you glorify, on public television, homosexuality! You don’t glorify it, John, anymore than you glorify … uh … whores. I don’t want to see this country go that way. You know what happened to the Greeks. Homosexuality destroyed them. Sure, Aristotle was a homo, we all know that. So was Socrates.”
Richard Nixon believed that an episode of a television show that consisted of using homophobic slurs rather than simply the words ‘gay’ or ‘homosexual’ even once was a show glorifying being gay. Interestingly enough, in a separate conversation recorded a few months after the episode aired, Nixon in heard saying that he is the “[…] most tolerant person […]” and that gay people are “[…] born that way […]” but that he doesn’t think that they should be allowed to be “[…] Boy Scout leaders, YMCA leaders [… or] teachers.” Despite all of this, he still wouldn’t “[…] shake hands with anybody from San Francisco.”
1971 — the year this episode first aired on television across millions of American homes — was just two years after the historic Stonewall Riots. States were just beginning to decriminalize homosexual activity between two consenting adults and perceived sexual orientation was still a valid reason for discrimination across the country, regardless of whether or not someone was truly gay or not. In a nutshell: 1971 was far from a gay-friendly time. The slurs and jokes that appeared in this episode wouldn’t make it past the FCC and onto broadcast television today (although cable and streaming networks wouldn’t bat an eye); but the writers of the show did something that was unprecedented 47 years ago. No, they weren’t “glorifying” homosexuality; but for the first time on extremely popular and well-watched (as well as well-received) TV show on a major broadcast network, a character came out as gay. And that wasn’t all; in fact, the flamboyant, feminine character was straight, while the masculine, ex-football player was the character who turned out to be gay. The show didn’t stop at just introducing a homosexual character, they also began to break down the stereotypes of what gay looked like. At a time when All in the Family was the highest-ranking television show in the United States, this was a huge first step in the fight to show the world that not only do gay people exist, but that our stories deserve to be told. Sure, no one in the Bunker-Stivic clan may have been a part of our family; but certainly there’s something to be said about what the household of All in the Family did for the future of our queer family in such a seemingly small, while actually quite bold, way.
Sexual Harassment Has No Place in My Career
About Feminism, No. 3
It has become evident to me that the world I’m entering is not the one I expected it to be. Or maybe it’s just that one asshole has ruined everything and now I’m entering the entertainment industry with a hand over my eyes, expecting the worst.
From a young age, I have wanted to be a writer. A novelist, a comic book writer, and now a television writer. I have bounced around between the ideas of them all, just trying to find a place where I settle perfectly. And recently, I have found that place. Or, at least, the place where my talents, skills, and self fit best right now. The trouble is that in that place I wish most to be and am working my ass off to get to, there are a few scumbags. Before even truly entering the world of entertainment writing, while still acquiring new knowledge and preparing to escape into that world, there has been one particular scumbag that has tainted this new adventure for me. He has started my path out on something bitter and terrible rather than what it should be: new, hopeful, and exciting.
It is because of this one person that I have been doubting myself. I have been told things like, “Oh, that’s just the entertainment industry,” and “If you want to go into television, you have to thicken your skin.” And to the people saying these things I would just like to say that all of that is complete and utter bullshit.
Sure, the entertainment industry has been known for its terrible past— one that has historically reduced women, queer people, and people of color to nothing more than stereotypes, extras, and people to take advantage of sexually. More so now than ever before in the past, we’re seeing the entertainment industry begin to do at least something about this issue. But it isn’t just applicable to the entertainment industry, nor should this issue be treated as though that’s all it’s applicable to, because there are bad people everywhere. There is sexual harassment in every field, in every state, in every nation all across the entire world; and for someone to sit down and tell me that just because I want to go into this particular field that I want to work in to create entertaining content for the masses and to discuss issues that often get swept under the rug, I have to what? Get used to it? I have to smile and nod when a man suggests inappropriate things?
I would also like to say that I am not someone that can be easily silenced. I will not go into this industry with a small voice that could easily be shut down by the people above me, nor will I acquiesce to the perversions of men who refuse to control themselves around women. I will not be stepped on or closed off by anyone because I make the choice to say ‘no’ to something that has nothing to do with my career and that makes me feel unsafe. And maybe I’m just saying this because I need to hear it be said. I need to hear myself think of myself as someone who is strong, if that makes any sense. Because, when you go through something like this, all the people around you, all the people who care about you, they all come in and tell you that you’re amazing. They tell you that you’re strong. They tell you that everything you’re doing is great and wonderful. And I appreciate that. I really do. But it’s time that I have to learn for myself.
In fact, it’s time that we all, as a society, learn that for ourselves. We need to start thinking of ourselves as tough, as women who won’t take any shit, as human beings who deserve to be treated like human beings and not sex objects. Because, honestly, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of letting men in powerful positions walk all over me. And while this has been the worst instance of a situation like this, it hasn’t been the first. And while it’s awful to say, I’m sure it won’t be the last. Because, friends, this is the universe we live in; and, I say that as a fact, but I do not say that as an excuse. Just because this world is terrible and corrupt and full of deplorable men who abuse their power does not mean that it’s okay.
To brief you just a bit on the situation, I was offered an opportunity. A good one. A really, really fucking good one. It was offered to me by someone who is well-known in the entertainment industry, someone who has clout and connections; and it was an opportunity that realistically could have done a great deal for me as a television writer. But here’s where the problems began: this man hadn’t ever read my writing. He didn’t know if I was even good at writing, or if I was just another kid with a pipe dream I wasn’t working toward. But you know what he did think? He thought I was hot — and he told me that part, that he was attracted to me — so why not give me a chance?
I’ve had teachers tell me, “Use what you’ve got to your advantage”; but that was more specifically devoted toward filling a diversity quota. Production companies, especially writers rooms, are looking for diverse people. At a 2016 talk-back and book signing at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, The Mindy Project creator and star (as well as former The Office producer), Mindy Kaling, offered advice to a young woman who asked what she could do to break into television writing, and Kaling told her just that. She let her know very clearly that writers rooms were looking for young people who were different — especially women, as statistically writers rooms have a large gap in the margin of male-to-female writers. But, with that being said, I will not sacrifice any part of myself, nor should you sacrifice any part of yourself just to fit into a box previously checked by someone else.
We are stronger than this. We know better than this. And if we keep sitting down, if we keep crying behind closed doors and letting things happen, then we are never going to make any progress in this industry. Because sure, the entertainment industry — while slowly but surely making small improvements — sucks. It’s all about power. The power our superiors hold over us, the power that we want to have, the power to make decisions to bring content that will exist forever thanks to the Internet and that will live in the hearts of millions for years to come. Look at the television shows that aired years — some decades ago that are still in syndication: Friends, Cheers, Bewitched. Look at the ones that aired all that time ago that are being remade or rebooted: Charmed, Will & Grace, and even the Roseanne reboot-turned-spin-off The Conners. And this world is on the cusp of major change, but the change we want to see in ourselves is reflected our own actions. We can’t move forward as a society if we’re not personally making our own changes in ourselves
This has been something that has been going on for a long time, and that will likely continue for a long time, as well, while Hollywood slowly weeds out and turns away the bad people. The entertainment industry has always been a problem since even the time that it began. In the recent years — months even — people have been standing up and saying what has happened to them, which has inspired others to do the same which is exactly why men like Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein and Jeremy Piven are beginning to be held accountable. People who have been abused have stood up, spoken their truth, and paved the way for those ahead of them to not have to suffer the same trials and tribulations, even if that isn’t quite the case just yet.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is this: don’t let people walk all over you. Be the strong human being you’re capable of being; and when shit gets hard, don’t let people tell you to remain calm. Get angry. Speak up. Don’t accept this as normal, no matter how many people tell you it is.
Welcome to Dumb Bitchery, Pt. II
Less Than Butterflies, No. 26
Though the evening — at least for Bertha and me — only lasted a few hours, the three of us became quick friends and managed to cover an array of topics that would have given the women of The View a run for their shitty, daytime television money. As if we were college (dropout) roommates catching up after having settled down with Plain Janes and having three kids we couldn’t afford a good Christmas for due to our drinking problems, we covered every topic imaginable. We discussed important topics like the issues of the infighting that plagued our community, and even more important topics like the comfortability of a beard when having your ass eaten. In this beautiful reprieve from my own previously-unquelled anxieties (which were some kind of cocktail made up of not being loved by the man I loved and missing my best friend and whether or not I’d ever get caught up on all the work I was so frighteningly behind on), I was for the first time in weeks able to just … exhale.
With Matt eventually switching to water and Bertha claiming time-after-time that she was on her last drink, we schlepped our way from the Eagle back to JR’s where the flighty, overly-Adderall-ed, sort-of-still-new-to-town bartender bought our first round of drinks. Between the three of us, we each ran into a handful of people we knew — some in common, others not — and still managed to find something to discuss at every turn. More than once the topic of Peter was brought up; although I quickly changed the subject each time. I wasn’t going to bog my newfound friends down with my drunken emotions, nor was I going to divulge a personal situation that was still fresh. And for the time being, the only persons it involved were Peter and I and that’s how it needed to remain. I’d even begun purposely neglecting to share details about our bad and good times with Gwen simply because — in a rather rare moment of maturity on my part — I’d come to realize that putting any of our close friends in the middle of our chaotic friendship hiccup wasn’t fair. If I needed to bitch about something Peter had said or done, what good would it have done me to tell the people we were both close to? They’d been his friends first. And, sure, I had the luxury of spending more time with them than he; but it would be childish to try to momentarily encourage anyone to my side of an argument when we were both in the wrong on nearly each and every account — both too stubborn and emotional to acquiesce to the other’s needs, no matter how similar they may have been.
As it got closer to nine o’clock (mind you, I’d only started drinking just after six), I had already had upwards of half a dozen vodka cranberries, two Fireball concoction shots at the Eagle, and a Rumplemintz shot that some man who was “courting” — and I do use that word in a sense just as loose as the hungry butthole seeking penetration — had bought rounds of for us. Bertha had Ubered herself home because, as she put it, “Talk to me once you’re over thirty-years-old”; and I was well on my way to needing some cocaine to be able to drive later that night. The stranger who had bought the shots of Rumple asked me questions a bit aggressively about the magazine, my column, and my relationship to Matthew. I wasn’t sure whether or not he was under the impression that I was trying to sleep with the pocket gay — which, to be clear, I was not. However, I took note of the change in the intonation of his voice once I’d made that clear, after which he immediately began to share with me some oddities I wasn’t completely clear as to why he felt he needed to share with a complete stranger.
“You know,” he said as we stood next to the bar while Matt was in the restroom for what began to feel like an eternity the longer this man spoke to me. “I kind of have a love-hate relationship with Matt,” he explained.
“Uh-huh?” I said with a cluck of my tongue.
“Like … it’s weird. I love him to death … but I also really want to hate-fuck him.”
If the blowback of my head wasn’t enough to give me whiplash, the speed at which I craned down to the bar to slurp up the rest of my drink might have.
“Well …” I muttered when I came back up for air. “That is … that is an interesting little fact to share with a complete and total stranger.” The man then laughed, proceeded to apologize and explain that he was drunk, and then gave me an all-too-comfortable hug for someone I’d just met.
Soon enough, my recently-lovelorn friend Chance texted me to let me know he’d be hosting a show at another bar that night with our other BFF and drag queen royal, Ava. Drunk and not quite ready to go home yet, I coerced my last-standing companion and his new boy-toy to Lyft to the other bar with me for a bit. They insisted on driving — likely so one could blow the other in the car before arriving — but I opted to make the best of all the free Lyft rides I’d been collecting for no apparent reason. I wasn’t really in a place in my life where I was ready to mark off the DWI box on my Gay Bingo card; plus the time to the next bar, the time spent there, and the time Lyfting back would hopefully prove long enough to sober myself so that I could drive home later.
I did not sober, in fact.
Who could’ve predicted that?
At the next bar I drank three cosmos and someone bought me a shot of tequila after I gave him a cigarette on the patio and let him put his hand down the back of my pants for what I’m sure could have only been research. Or … I don’t know … reach-around-search. [shrugging emoji]. I’d lost Matt somewhere along the way, although he finally found me (likely by standing on someone else’s shoulders) and alerted me to the fact that he and the JR’s stranger we’re going home to fuck. I applauded this as I drank more and finally found Chance and Ava in the DJ booth. I chatted drunkenly with Ava for a moment, but soon I couldn’t contain my sentiment anymore.
Between Gwen, Peter, Ava, Chance, and myself, we had over the last year become our very own version of the Plastics from Mean Girls. Each of us was — to varying degrees, and myself being the least of which — relatively known in our community and had jobs that weren’t the type just anyone has, as we all worked in some sort of intersection of media and entertainment. We had affectionately dubbed ourselves The Tap-Taps, an inside, Molly joke that sort of just stuck when we’d changed our group chat name to it in our iMessage thread. Rarely were all five of us ever in the same room — and luckily so, as I’ve heard that to be the Seventh Seal of the Apocalypse. Still, this Fucked-Up Fab Five was sort of the perfect bunch. Chance and Peter had been inseparable friends for years only to be torn apart over a boy, and finally to come back together; Chance and Ava worked together several times a week; Ava and Peter had known each other for a while, but had really only gotten close after hosting a show together a little over a year ago; Ava and Gwen had been good pals for years that also worked together semi-regularly; and Gwen and Peter had run in the same circles for years, but were only just now approaching the one year anniversary of their first real hang-out.
I’d admired Gwen from afar for a while, only for her to sort of demand we become best friends; Gwen introduced me to Peter one night while he was fucked up at Guava, where we began to establish a professional relationship that later turned into friendship; I’d gotten to know Ava through mutual encounters with her alongside both Peter and Gwen, truly only hanging out for the first time the night that I’d met Chance, the same night I’d learned of his then-defunct friendship with Peter. I was the baby of the family — and I mean that near literally. All of these people were upwards of 28; I, however, rung in at a mere 24. They had histories with one another, no matter how sparse or convoluted, that I probably would never have with them. Yet, for the first time in my life, I felt as though I’d found my people. I loved them. Regardless of the task, in that year they’d all proven to be the people who showed up and showed out and helped to make dreams come true, which is the very thing I wanted to do for them, too. And by my third cosmo, I was missing Peter, again. But I was also missing Gwen — who I knew I’d see the next morning. And even with them standing right there, I missed Ava and Chance, too.
It was such a strange feeling. The idea that my friendship with Peter was only being held together by a thread that could at any moment be pulled away frightened me, because it might have meant that I would lose the rest of my family, too.
But with that fear, with that potential for a heartbreak even greater than the sort a man could ever do to me, I was also elated. I mean, for fuck’s sake … how lucky of a fag was I? Not only did I belong to a grown-up clique of cool kids, but on the very night when I stood upon a precipice that could catapult me into losing these deep, magical, meaningful friendships, two people who were nearly strangers to me had been kind and thoughtful enough to sweep down from the sky, scoop me up, and give me the one thing I’d been needing most — and not just since Peter and I had taken a break. It had been the thing I needed since the moment I realized I was in love with him months ago:
A reminder that no matter what happened, there were always going to be people in my life that cared about me.
I kissed Ava on the cheek and hugged Chance goodbye, Lyfting to a Starbucks near the car where I could sit and sober for a while as I flipped through my mental Rolodex of alcohol-induced sentimentalities. Even in my own anxiety-fueled paranoia, I was grateful for Bertha and Matt for being so kind to someone they’d only really just met. And that gratitude served as a reminder that, yeah, sure, things may not have been great for Peter and I right at that moment … but that this too would come to pass. I may not ever fully get over the feelings I was having for him, but I knew — as history showed me with Ezra, and Parker, and every other man before them — that I’d learn to live with it. Was the situation with Peter different? Yeah. Vastly so. But the bottom line was that we were two friends who cared enough about each other and about ourselves to take a breather.
I knew after that moment at the bar — and after seeing that he’d peeped at my Snapchat and realizing he was sending messages in our Tap-Taps group thread — that we would eventually be okay; and my fear that I’d lose my other friends over this, too, finally began to subside. It would take time before we could ever be the people we were to one another, and likely it would never be quite the same. But that’s the great thing about having friends who are just as queer as you are:
They’re all we have.
And no matter how many there might be — a Bertha, an Ava, a Gwen, a Chance, a Matthew, a Peter, and all the others — each relationship is individualistic and unique. Each is — like all other things in life — energized and alive, capable of being damaged when its dropped, but mendable with the proper care. And if it had been anyone else — Parker, Ezra, Taylor, Adam, [insert every other ex or love interest here] — I probably would have something to fear. But the core of my relationship with Peter — as well as with the other three — is the kind of love that only comes from two friends who truly want to be in one another’s lives because of how good the friendship is.
These friends of mine, new and old, they’ve made me who I am today, even in such a short amount of time. They truly are all I have, because I wouldn’t be me if not for the handprints they’ve left on my heart.
🦋 🦋 🦋
Having made it home and in bed before midnight, I woke from a peaceful dream at five AM. It was a dream that had been recurring since September, and maybe one day I’ll share it, too. As of late, however, I’d not had it in several weeks; and I welcomed it back with a smile on my face as I woke.
That smile faded, however, the moment I realized it was still dark outside.
I reached for my phone and found a few messages from Bertha and Matt in a group chat. As it happened, everyone was craving Chicken Minis from Chick-Fil-Hate, Bertha wanted her hungry butthole hate-fucked like Matt, and Matt had been sourly disappointed with the stranger from JR’s, leaving him to go back out and then to the home of another man … and then another. (more…)
Welcome to Dumb Bitchery, Pt. I
Less Than Butterflies, No. 26
Gay men understand what’s important: clothes, compliments, and cocks.”
— Samantha Jones
🦋 🦋 🦋
Ladies and … gaydies …?
I know I make a lot of statements in this column, many of which you may agree with, many of which you may not. My turn-ons are not necessarily the same as or even similar to your own, my bad sex experiences might be so humiliating that you could never imagine sharing them with someone else if they’d happened to you, and maybe you actually know one of my exes personally and think he’s a good guy. You’re … you know … wrong. But … whatever. It’s fine. Anyway! It’s fine to have differing opinions; it’s what makes the world colorful and beautiful and interesting. But I do think that if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s this:
Men. Are fucking. Insane.
But there is some respite from the eternal woes of men — do they love you? Do they not? Are they going to text you? Should you text them? Will they compliment the outfit you spent hours picking out just because you knew you’d be seeing them later? Why didn’t he invite you out with him and his other friends? What does their last text mean? Is he just your friend? Or did that one night you almost slept together and all that other sexual awkwardness mean something else is going on?
Don’t fucking look at me like that.
The fact remains that men are insane and unpredictable and sometimes a little selfish and act without thinking about how their actions are going to affect other people. I should know, and not just because I’ve slept with most of the world’s population of men, but because I too — even if debatably so, at times — am one. And as much as I like to point it out in others, there is not a doubt in my mind that I am just as bad as (if not worse than) all the others.
Surprisingly enough — as it would seem that the majority of my friends that get mentioned in these stories are women — many of my friends are this way, too, as they as well are men. Mind you, 98% of them, like me, are flaming homosexuals. If you lined 9 of us during the winter, one could easily confuse us for a menorah lit for the last night of Hanukkah. But it’s that brazen disregard for what is culturally seen as what it means to be male — from the flapping of fans to the beat of some trashy, pop remix on the dance floor right on down to the ass-eating — that makes gay men special. Now, don’t take that to be a gloss over everyone else in our community; it’s not. People on every end of the LGBTQIA spectrum are just as special. It is our perceived aberrance — our sparkle that stands out to straight, cis-gender people that they’re too irritatingly blinded by to see its beauty — that attracts us all to one another.
Because — at least, in a sense — we’re all that we have. That’s not to say that our straight and cis allies aren’t good to us, that they aren’t advocating for us. But no matter how hard a person advocates for the rights of people who have been culturally and socially stigmatized all throughout history in a way they have not — that is to say, if they don’t share that history or if they haven’t suffered their own plight — being an ally is only nominal. This is not me detracting from the importance of our allies. We’d be nowhere as queer people if there hadn’t been straight and cis people listening to what we need, then going to battle for those things, swords wielded and shields tossed into our arms to protect ourselves. Still, the celebration and commiseration that can only be shared by people who have been through it as well can only be found in our community.
And that, friends, is why there isn’t anything more exciting — at least, not in my opinion — than the ardor that comes from befriending people like you.
🦋 🦋 🦋
Peter and I were on a break from our ever-complicating friendship because, as I mentioned before, men are insane. And as a surprise plot twist I may regret ever admitting, I must confess that the insanity I’m speaking of here is my own.
Yeah. I’m fucking crazy. If you’ve been reading along this far into the series, you’ve probably picked up on that by now. I can’t pin this one on the dude, but more on that another day.
Peter, for those of you who have been following along, was up until this point referred to as Pistachio at my friend Gwen’s insistence. I could only take myself seriously for so long by naming a man after a nut — although, as aforementioned, men are fucking nuts. So now, nineteen columns into this season of Less Than Butterflies, I’ve elected to change his name for the second time. And for those of you who have not been following along, Peter makes a great segue from my former point about friendships into the story to come. He was someone I’d grown incredibly close to over the course of only a short year, but someone whom I’d fallen in love with by accident after a series of intimacies and resultant misfortunes (not to mention tantrums on my part). Our friendship had been struggling in the small span of time since, and eventually I will get around to telling our full story from beginning to end. But not today; not while I’m still trying to understand it completely myself coupled with trying to not be a lunatic.
That said, as our once-wonderful (albeit delightfully hateful) friendship had hit a rocky road — feelings tight, tensions high — we’d found ourselves in a place where we were taking a bit of break from one another. It sucked, considering the holidays were quickly approaching and many of the plans we’d made not only with one another, but with all our other friends, were intersectional. But even just a few days apart had already done us some good. Or, maybe I should say that it had done me some good. I can’t speak for him, but I can only assume it had also served him some much-needed space to clear his head and to get a little freedom from my affections and psychotic reactions he’d never signed up for. But as much good as it was doing me, even just a few days in … I really missed my best friend.
When I felt that melancholy at first — maybe it came when I found a meme I’d wanted to share with him or when I saw his texts in our group chat that involved many of our closest friends — I noticed that the root of missing him didn’t stem from the romantic feelings that I had. Sure, those were still there; but what I was feeling was a seemingly-perennial void that came from not having my friend to annoy and talk to about stupid shit all throughout the day. I tried everything to shake it off. Over the course of three short days, I’d made myself zero in on my work — not a difficult thing to do when that’s all I ever do anyway — begin meditating first thing in the morning and before I went to bed, brushed-up on my long-since-used Italian, and even get back into the habit of exercising every day (kill me; JK — the exercise is going to do that for you). Still, as much as I was happy with the these little additions to my daily schedule, a chunk of the day didn’t pass that I had to remind myself as I was picking up my phone to text him a joke that we were on a break from one another.
So, in an effort to fill some of that empty space, I had resolved to embark upon the only proven method of treatment that had ever worked for me in these situations in the past:
I was going to spend time with some of my other friends. Even better, I was going to have a girls’ night with all of my queer friends that weekend before he and I would check in the following Monday to see where we were at and at which time I would likely apologize for being a psychopath in the hopes that we could at least cordially spend the holidays together with all our friends.
Immediately I put out the call for anyone who wanted to partake in a girls’ night with me, accompanied by my ever-handy “Find Our Sisters” American Horror Story GIF. It was going to be a day for any and everyone who equally needed a day of doing anything we could to relax, enjoy ourselves, and (most importantly) talk about anything that we wanted to so long as the conversation did not revolve around our most recent love interests — good or bad. I had no clear idea of what this would look like, mind you. Maybe we’d start with brunch at Baba Yega, move on to mani-pedis, spend a few hours in the living room of someone’s shitty, Montrose-adjacent apartment watching some mildly-misogynistic romantic comedy, go out drinking as the bars and clubs began to populate, flirt with people we truly had no interest in, and then round it all off by dancing at Rich’s. Or, conversely, maybe the plan would flop and we’d all just end up crying and eating our feelings. I hoped the latter wouldn’t present itself as the more likely option, but knew that after a few glasses of Cabernet on the back patio of Barnaby’s, I’d end up crying and rushing to the bathroom to fix my face before dodging questions about what was wrong with me and smiling stupidly to placate my worried, drunken friends.
Immediately after sending out an open invitation on Facebook, requests to partake came flooding in. The excitement of making this come to life was thrilling me. I wasn’t the only sad, heartbroken queer in Houston; though one could argue that I was the most pathetic of the bunch. Why shouldn’t I stand myself at the helm of a fun, senseless day that could end up making us all feel fantastic or at least alleviate our woes for a few hours? And what more effective method was there? Historically, each and every time I’d had my heart broken, this was the only method that worked.
When I’d made a conscious decision to put a little space between Ezra and I after he’d broken my heart (albeit unintentionally), the only thing that ever made me feel better was the kinship I shared with my friends like Gwen and Chance and, yes, even Peter! Maybe even especially Peter. Definitely so especially Gwen. I’d have died without her by my side those hard months. When I’d cut myself out of the canvas of the world after being raped, I was only resurrected from my internal purgatory because I had those same people surrounding me. When my ex-boyfriend, Parker, and I had broken up — and even when I recently found out he’d just wed only a year after telling me he wasn’t the marrying type — my friends were the only thing that carried me through the shitstorm that ensued within my mind.
So, why shouldn’t I call on the #girlsquad to come and distract me for a while? And why shouldn’t I be there to do the same for them if they were struggling, too? Before I’d even finished rationalizing the logic to myself, friends from grade school expressed their interest in such an event; closer friends like Gwen and Alice came ushering in to show their support; members of my clique from high school popped up offering to bring edible treats — likely cooked in marijuana butter; even a few folks I hardly knew at all began springing up and wishing to join in on the festivities. It appeared as though the weekend was going to prove to be successful for my little heartbroken and/or supportive coven. Only, when I woke on Wednesday from a short nap after staying up all night working, it appeared that #girlsquad time would be happening sooner than I’d expected.
In Houston’s LGBTQIA community, everyone who is someone — and really, even those who aren’t — seems to sort of know everyone after a while. There’s the indoctrination phase, which usually happens after befriending one social gay and being invited into one friend circle before being dragged by the hand into another, creating some big, gay Venn Diagram. Then come the seemingly-vapid rites of passage, like staying up until the sun wakes doing cocaine at some after-party in Midtown or Eado, or shoving ones down a stripper’s jockstrap at Tony’s Corner Pocket, or maybe even witnessing your first patio blowjob at Ripcord. Finally comes the ‘I-met-one-person-at-an-event-and-now-have-a-hundred-friend-requests’ phase. Maybe you’ve just befriended a drag queen with a great deal of clout like the reigning Miss Gay Texas America, Regina Blake-DuBois, after watching her lip sync a number from Wicked at her show, The Broad’s Way. Maybe you bumped rompers with one of the Pride Houston chairpeople while sipping Bellini pitchers at Rosemont. Maybe you’ve attended your first Pride Portraits photoshoot or Montrose Center fundraiser. Or maybe you’ve just spent three-and-a-half minutes arguing with Brenda Rich as to why you had to pay the seven dollar cover at front counter of Rich’s [insert obligatory: “That’ll be seven dollars” here].
The point is that everyone seems to know everyone else. And if one person overhears a rumor about another person that they don’t know, the chances are that they’re separated from one another by only a few degrees; and the person on the receiving end of the rumor will go out of their way to get to know that person. After all … the gays are a nosy people.
So when I awoke from my nap to find a work-related text message from a relatively new acquaintance whom we’ll call Matthew inviting me to meet up with him at JR’s, I jumped on the opportunity. Because, as he put it, “Bertha and I are gonna be on our dumb bitch behavior today if you’re not busy and want to be mildly entertained/driven to drink.”
Naturally, I replied, “Yesgodwhen.”
By the time I’d had time to shower, find an outfit, and fight inner-loop traffic, an hour had passed and the dynamic duo had moved on from JR’s to the Eagle, where I stood on the patio finishing a Marlboro before joining them inside. Before I’d even had time to extinguish the cigarette, a voice from behind me chirped, “Oh, heeeey.” I turned to see Matt poking his head out the old French doors and waving before weaving back inside. When I joined them, Matt and Bertha sat perched at the bar discussing how, just the night before, Matt had been traipsing around the bar flashing a photo of his penis to all the patrons around last call. Bertha — or Bertha Bored — was Matt’s drag queen best friend who was notorious amongst the gays for being one of the most outrageous caricatures I’m sure most any person would ever encounter in their lives. Today, she was out of drag and hanging out as one of the gay boys. Although, in spite of her cis-ness, Bertha still answered to Bertha full-time and seemed to take no issue with feminine pronouns.
Truth be told, I barely knew either of these people. What I did know of them was based solely upon what I’d heard from other people — truly all good things — and the interactions I’d seen them partake in on social media. Patrick was a local bartender and pocket gay that, in spite of his butch presentation, epitomized a few too many gay stereotypes. Bertha, on the other hand, was equally outrageous, although far less so in more quaint settings than she portrayed herself to be while working or on Facebook. That last part, as it happened, seemed to be something we all had in common. While not a single one of us now sipping from tall bar glasses could get away with saying that we weren’t boisterous or over-the-top, it could be easily read from spending time with the three of us that we weren’t actually as slutty or as drunk or as loud as we led other people to believe.
Don’t get me wrong, the three of us were all of those things; but the public personification was far more exasperating than the gay men behind the curtains.
“So what’ve y’all been up to?” I asked as I sipped from a vodka cranberry that Matt had taken the liberty of putting on his tab.
“Well,” Matt began, “I texted this one earlier …” he motioned toward Bertha, “… and told her that I was bored and wanted to do something. But I told her I really didn’t want to be a dumb bitch today, but that it’s really the only thing I’m good at.”
“Right, right,” I agreed with a single nod.
“And then when I was messaging you, I sort of was like, ‘You know, Anthony said that he was wanting to do a girls’ night thing. Why don’t we invite him to hang with us?’.”
“And here we are,” I added.
“Being dumb bitches,” Bertha concluded as we all raised our glasses in cheers to Dumb Bitchery, new and old.