overdose.

None of this fucking matters.  I worked my ass off for four months over a music video and for what?  It tore me apart, down to my last strand.  I had my first panic attack in two years, in the middle of a work shift, because of all the pressure that kept heaping on.  I was in over my head, I exhausted myself to my breaking point, I'd officially crossed that line between ambition and "you're doing too much."

And in the end, I got a bunch of compliments and 1,000 views that took three weeks to get.

$3,500 out of my bank account.  Weeks I didn’t sleep.  No time to go to the gym, and gained back half of the weight that I spent a year shedding off.  Constantly wondering if I was good enough.  Obsessing over the theoretical reactions of everyone around me on set and after. Watching every single music video that’s come out and comparing myself relentlessly.

I was fucking hallucinating on day two of our set.  It was the second day in the row I had gotten less than two hours of sleep followed by 12 hour days, and I was having actual fucking hallucinations.

And for what?  What does it even matter?  I wanted to be great so badly, but at what cost?  This self-indulgence threatened to ruin me, and I don’t even have it nearly as bad as so many.

*****

The phrase keeps running through my head in the cruelest repeat cycle.

“heroin overdose, heroin overdose, heroin overdose.”  

I feel so helpless.  How can you love someone so much, yet be so fucking far from them?  I was dealt with the biggest hero’s complex from day one - a self-proclaimed savior as early as five years old when I came across a girl being bullied by an older boy at the park, and I boldly intervened, like I was one of the Power Rangers that I had been so obsessed with back then.

And then I loved this girl so much when I was sixteen years old and was a front row witness to how she tore herself apart over her dwindling self-esteem as she struggled to love herself while feeling so inadequate next to all of our peers, and I was determined - in all my plucky but naive goodness - that I would save her.  I boldly told her that I’d get her to change her mind about herself, and devoted countless hours one summer, combating every single one of her self-critiques.

Our friendship deteriorated a year later for a myriad of reasons.  The week after it officially ended, I found out that she was bulimic.  I hadn’t stopped loving her.  I had never felt so helpless in my entire young life.

All dissolutions of friendships went ignored as we had one last conversation on AIM a few days after the news had gotten around to me.  She had been assuring everyone else that she was okay, that it would all be fine, that she’d get through it.

But then I asked her if she was going to be okay.

“I don’t know,” she told me honestly.

I had wanted to save her so badly.  But I couldn’t.

It wasn’t until 4 years later that I realized that it wasn’t ever up to me to save her.

That epiphany coincided with two personally notable occurrences, during a productive summer of solitude in New York City before my senior year of college:

The return of that girl I had loved, back in my life for the first time since high school, leaving me with a lot to reckon with as far as loose ends and closure,

and the start of my deep investment into the life of one Demi Lovato.

Because everything about Demi kept harkening me back to those high school days as I watched the girl I love deteriorate in front of me.  The nuances of Demi’s mannerisms, these little striking things in her behavior, in her energy - I just knew something was off, and it drew me in like a moth to the light.  

Maybe I thought I could somehow find redemption from how I thought I had failed my high school friend in Demi.  Maybe it was just the sheer familiarity of it all, but I could feel it in my gut.  I knew Demi was hiding a struggle, I knew deep down she was faltering, I could just tell, because I had been so acquainted with it before.  I knew exactly what it looked like.

So when Demi checked into rehab that Fall, I wasn’t surprised.  But it hit me hard, because this was high school all over again, especially with the media outlets reporting that she had been institutionalized for an eating disorder (this was before her substance abuse and addiction came to light).

I felt so helpless.  Over that summer as I had gotten more deeply acquainted with the person that Demi was, I saw more than just a troubled girl.  I also knew so deeply that she was a beautiful person with the biggest heart.  I could see it so clearly, felt so convicted of it.  Because it was the exact same story I had already been through.

So I had come to love her, more than I had before.  She was my favorite.

To care about someone, even if it's a celebrity you’d never met but felt connected to nonetheless, and not being able to do a damn thing to help them is the worst feeling in the world.  I still hadn’t shed my age-old hero’s complex, after all.  The news of her rehab wrecked me on so many levels.

Today was like deja vu.  I saw the headline, and it felt like the world was spinning around me.

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But like in 2010, I wasn’t surprised.  You don’t follow someone closely for 9 years with the sort intuition that I’ve been blessed with and not know when something’s wrong.  I’d been so worried about her over the past couple of weeks.  And now here we are.

It fucking wrecked me to see that headline.  My best friend Nina texted me with a somber and stoic “chanelle. it’s serious. it’s about Demi” and my heart stopped.  My mind immediately went to the worst - the absolute worst.  I knew it was an overdose before the link loaded, and any sigh of relief I managed when I saw that she was still alive was quickly overtaken by that fucking word.  Heroin.  She’d OD’ed on fucking heroin.

I was shaking so badly that I could barely type.  I hardly ever feel genuine fear, but this left me terrified.  Was she going to be okay?  What if she didn’t make it?  And even if she did, heroin is a fucking beast.  It’s so hard to shake, so so hard to shake.

****

Two years ago, almost exactly, a week before my 27th birthday, it felt like the universe was trying to tell me something, because out of nowhere, all of these celebrities who had died at age 27 - members of the infamous “27 Club” - kept randomly appearing in my life.

It started with Kurt Cobain, and this entirely random urge to listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” - a song I hadn’t listened to in at least a year.  I’m obsessed with Wikipedia, so of course I soon after ended up on the Nirvana page, then his page, and found myself a little shaken when I saw that he had died at age 27, and there was a whole phenomenon surrounding others that had also died at that age, because I was turning 27 soon.

Kurt didn’t die from heroin, but he was addicted to it.

Then the next day, an Amy Winehouse song came on on a Spotify playlist I’d been listening to.  I hadn’t heard an Amy Winehouse song in literally years.  And for some reason, it stuck with me in that moment.  So then I ended up on her Wikipedia page.

She’d died, too, at 27 years old.  

A few days later, I decided to watch the documentary about her.  It was near the end that I realized that I had coincidentally watched it on the 6 year anniversary of her death.  5 days before my 27th birthday.

Amy didn’t die from heroin, but she had overdosed on the drug before.  She ended up dying from alcohol poisoning.  

The kind of person I am, this launched me into a preoccupation with this mythical “27 Club” and every person who was a member of it. 

Janis Joplin is also a member of the 27 Club.  

She died of a heroin overdose.

Fuckin’ heroin.

I was just thinking about all of this two days ago, in the shower, remembering my brief preoccupation with the 27 Club, two years ago, the week before my 27th birthday.

I’m thinking about it again, today.  

Addiction is beast.  It claims so many.

****


I slaved so hard for months over a music video in some shallow attempt for public affirmation and a misguided notion of success (it certainly wasn’t purely for the art or for the sake of creating or in an attempt to change the world - I wanted to fucking prove myself) and felt no happier when it was all over.  Worse than my hero’s complex is my ego, and this urge I’m constantly fighting against to be the best, and this honest belief that it’s not worth it if I’m not.  No matter how many gushing compliments, praise and reviews I get for that music video, it’s never enough.  I look at it and only see flaws, only think about all the ways it could be better as I compare it to what else is out there and feel so incompetent. 

It’s an issue I’ve been well aware of, that I consciously spend a lot of time fighting against, and I see my mindset shifting as I wage a war against my ego.

But days like today really solidify it, put it all in perspective suddenly:

None of this fucking matters.  As in, this pursuit for affirmation and renown and success and to create something that’s “the best.”  It’s completely meaningless.

One of my favorite people in the world is in the hospital because of a heroin overdose - there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it - and I spent so much of my year so far on 1,000 views, a deep sense of dissatisfaction and a well of bitter resentment.

What have I been working for? Fame and wealth is a farce - don’t you see how it destroys people? I know this, and I dwell on this constantly, but today it barrels into me so starkly. 

I’d give all of that up if I could make sure every soul out there was okay.  So much of my recent pursuits seem so self-involved suddenly.  For the past six months, it’s been “How do I get to the place I feel like I need to be?”

But I think I wanted to remember that idealistic 5 year old turned idealistic 16 year old turned idealistic 21 year old with that hero’s complex that never died who wondered above all else, “How can I save the world?”

I’m old enough now to know that I can’t save the world.  Not on my own, no.  But it doesn’t mean I’m entirely helpless, even when I feel like I am.  And just because I do feel helpless sometimes doesn't mean I'm hopeless. Maybe I can’t save the world, but I can dedicate my art, my livelihood, my energy into making it a better place.

Because does it matter if my art is the best, just as long as I can help someone feel a little less alone, a little more understood?  If I can lead people towards empathy, encourage us towards love, join in the fight for justice - that’s what matters.

If I could somehow help create a world where young girls don’t feel so insecure that they develop eating disorders…

If I could somehow help make for a world where no one has to go through the traumatic pain that leads them to such desperate, rash measures as a way to trying to cope...

If I could be apart of the building towards a world where black lives truly matter, where LGBTQ people have full rights, where poverty (and wealth, while we’re at it) is eradicated, and everyone just genuinely fucking looks out for each other…

These past 4 years have knocked a lot of the idealism out of me.  Now I want it all back.

I’m so scared, though. Those word still keep circling treacherously through my head.  

Heroin overdose. Heroin overdose. Heroin overdose.

It feels like a claw is sinking deeply into my heart.   I’ve loved her so much, for so long.

It scares me that I can work my entire life, doing all I can to make this world a better a place and there still could be someone who I can’t save.

I love you, Demi.  I hope you get through this.

10 Men of Color Who Should've Been People's Sexiest Man Alive Instead of Blake Shelton

Did you know that in the 32 years that People magazine has been running doing their “Sexiest Man Alive” issue, only two men of color have ever graced the cover?

Two.  Literal billions of men of color in the world, and only two have ever made this list.  

Yet this year, People Magazine decided they needed to go with Blake Shelton, the actual definition of “white man.”

“But we just had a brown man on the cover last year! God, you people are never satisfied,” a chorus of white voices shouted into night at once upon reading that above sentence.

Sure.  But Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, last year’s honoree, was the first man of color to be featured in 18 years.  Before that, it was Denzel Washington in 1998, which was 13 years after People started making this mostly bizarre and mediocre list.

This is indicative of the prevailing problem in our culture that posits whiteness as the standard while considering all else just exceptions to the rule. This belief has been subconsciously influencing the racist undertow of our country for too long, and though we have begun to see some success in diversifying media, this People debacle shows that there is still a long way to go.

Since People seems to only think that Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Johnny Depp exist (they’ve all been named Sexiest Man multiple times) and have forgotten about men of color, I’ve decided to help them out.  So here ten men of color who should’ve been named “Sexiest Man Alive” instead of Blake Shelton.

Idris Elba

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Starting with the obvious.

If I didn’t include Idris, I know it would ruin the entire legitimacy of this list. In fact, every single comment on an article about Blake Shelton being named sexiest man alive essentially boiled down to this:

“But IDRIS ELBA! I’m so wet just typing his name.”
 

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And he’s more relevant than Blake Shelton, who I always just assume was a white boy who went to my high school every time I see his name. This Fall alone, Idris had two movies out - one you probably didn’t see, which was essentially “Titanic” in the mountains but with Elba instead of Leonardo DiCaprio, and that very popular Marvel flick we all rushed out to see.

And even in “Thor: Ragnarok”, a movie so saturated with hotties that it wasn’t fair to any other movie that came out in 2017, Idris still managed to stand out. He’s the only person in the world who can make you forget that you’re watching a movie that’s supposed to revolve around Chris Hemsworth.
 

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I don’t even have to list nine more men. It should’ve just been fucking Idris Elba. But for listicles’ sake, I’ll keep it going.

Taiki Waititi
 

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Is this list making you Thorsty yet?

Bad pun, but the director of “Thor: Ragnarok” is a treasure of a man! A silver daddy with a sense of humor! An auteur committed to honoring diversity in his films! A fuckin’ family man! C’mon, People!

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Also, let’s not forget how well he pulled off this matching pineapple outfit:

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Blake Shelton looks like he owns just three pairs of underwear, but sure, let’s rob fashion guru Taika of his rightful distinction of the sexiest man alive and give it to a reality show judge instead.

Jason Momoa
 

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After Idris, this was the name that popped up the most in the “WTF BLAKE SHELTON?!” comments as a favorite for the sexiest man alive (which in itself shows that so many want diversity in their sexy - takes notes, People).

It makes sense.  Momoa is so sexy that my mind has a hard time even comprehending it.

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I’d be remiss not to mention that Momoa has made some troubling, problematic comments in the past, and though he did apologize, I was admittedly hesitant to include him on this list, because I do absolutely condemn his careless, awful words.

But at face value (see what I did there), not only is he sexier than anyone that’s ever been on a “Sexiest Man Alive” cover, he’s sexier than most people on earth (Lisa Bonet knows what’s up), so it really is puzzling when you think of all the underwhelming white men who have gotten to wield People’s title before him.

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Johnny Depp’s awful ass got his face on that cover TWICE in the 2000’s alone. So we’re not even talking “21 Jump Street, Gilbert Grape” Depp, but “Rango, way-too-many-Jack-Sparrow-movies” Depp. We haven’t even seen Depp’s actual, unaltered face on a movie screen in over a decade, but okay People, keep doing Jason Momoa dirty like that.

Colin Kaepernick
 

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More like Colin Baepernick.

(I’m sorry, but his last name makes it too easy.)

Woke is sexy, and Kaepernick fits the bill. He sacrificed his career to make a statement, launching a crucial conversation across America about social justice, police brutality and the treatment of black lives while revealing even further the racism that resides in the heart of many people in this country.

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In our social media, slang saturated era, the word “iconic” is overused (just about every 10 second viral meme sensation has gotten that distinction), but Colin is truly an American icon - someone who cares enough about this country and its people to actually do something about it, no matter what the cost.

And that, my friends, is sexy.

Dude got a good face, too.

Godfrey Gao

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Do y’all know Godfrey?

Well if not, you’re about to.

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This Taiwanese-born Canadian actor and model (who was the first Asian male to model for Louis Vuitton) is clearly very deserving of the “Sexiest Man Alive” honor.  I know the argument will be that People wanted someone more “widely known” and “culturally relevant” to feature (as if The Voice isn’t a show only watched by the moms of everyone reading this article and the 7th graders who bought four copies of Taylor Swift’s new album so they could get early access to concert tickets), but when your face looks like that, do you really need to be a household name?

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Besides, it isn’t “The Most Recognizable Name Alive” issue.

Gael Garcia Bernal

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Sexy can come in any size and at any age, which is exemplified by Mr. Gael Garcia Bernal.  Sure, he doesn’t spend his nights in a rotating chair, sitting next to the most overplayed voice on the radio while telling people if they can sing or not, but he does have some things going for him.

Like a Golden Globe, for starters.  And credits such as "The Motorcycle Diaries", "Y Tu Mama Tambien" and "Mozart’s Jungle" for an illustrious acting career that has spanned decades.

Also, I’d take the Bernal/Diego Luna bromance over the Shelton/Adam Levine one any day.  

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Daveed Diggs
 

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If you don’t know Daveed Diggs, then you’re probably one of the seven people who didn’t have a problem with this year’s “Sexiest Man Alive” cover.  But he’s one to watch out for, and there are so many ways to witness this man’s sexiness. From everybody’s favorite musical “Hamilton”, to everyone’s favorite woke sitcom “black-ish”, plus this Fall’s “Wonder”, which is surprisingly getting good reviews despite debuting the cheesiest trailer of 2017, Diggs is a multi-talented super star in the making who would’ve made a good choice for this year’s cover.

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Riz Ahmed

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Emmy winner.

Rapper.

One of .3 people of color to step on the set of “Girls.”

These things in itself would be enough for British-Pakistani Riz Ahmed to catch anyone’s attention.

But then he has to be so sexy on top of that?

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People Magazine, you really dropped the ball.

Michael B. Jordan

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Have you seen the “Black Panther” trailer?  I have. Twenty six times.  And even my mostly gay ass drools every single time Michael B. Jordan struts onto my screen.

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Don’t get me wrong - Chadwick Boseman ain’t nothing to scoff at either, but Michael. Michael!  He also deserves some recognition for being able to rise from the ashes of “That Awkward Moment” and “The Fantastic Four.”

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He’s so hot, though, that he probably made those ashes himself. Is it professional to include a string of fire emojis in a published article? Because God, it’s tempting.

Dev Patel

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Honestly, Dev Patel’s hair alone could be a contender for the sexiest man alive. Like, can we just take a moment?

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Also, he had the best glow up of the century.  

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His moving performance in last year’s “Lion” earned him well-deserved acclaim and nominations, and I truly believe that looking into his brown puppy eyes could melt even the coldest heart of stone (so can he challenge the entire presidential cabinet to a staring contest, please)?

Donald Glover

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Donald has literally done everything but been named People’s Sexiest Man Alive, so they might as well just give him this so he can also claim his title of most accomplished man alive.

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Between the critically acclaimed, award winning “Atlanta” which he both created and starred in, all the way down to being one of the best parts of this summer’s “Spider-man: Homecoming”, the past year has undoubtedly belonged to Donald.  And with more “Atlanta” on its way along with his upcoming turn as a young Lando Calrissian (a.k.a. the only reason most are gonna bother to see the honestly needless Han Solo origin movie, cleverly and imaginatively titled “Solo”), it looks like next year is going to be his too.

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And he is so fine. Though that doesn’t seem to necessarily be a requirement to be considered the sexiest man alive these days.
 

So there you go, People Magazine - you’re set for the next ten years.  You’re welcome.

A Love Letter to Los Angeles

Much like its signature palm trees, not much is real in Los Angeles.

Cobblestone side streets, paved with gloss, cover the abject poverty just miles down the road.  Nearly every motive leads back to self.  My worth measured in Facebook likes that you didn’t give until other people started to deem me “important.”

“Oh, she’s flirting with success.  I guess she’s someone who I should want to know now.  Then once she’s made it, she won’t forget me.”

People show up at their convenience and never follow through.  They’ll throw you under the bus without hesitation, then run you over with the back wheels so they can get to where they need to go.  You think, “This person could be my best friend!” then a month later, they’ve already moved onto the next, their only remnant bound in an Instagram post you’ll come across in a few years and chuckle at ironically, thinking, “Oh, if I’d only known…”

This is LA, who sells you with glamorous panorama shots of the Hollywood sign in the Hills, and then you show up to find that it’s actually saturated in smog.  LA, who boasts of its oceans and beautiful sunbathers, but you stick your toe in to find that the water is always too cold, and the pretty will only look at you if you’re as pretty as them.  Where you cease to be human, but just an image that you edit and filter obsessively until it matches the right kind of aesthetic that people want to share.

LA is bullshit.
LA is the greatest.
LA is what you make it.

LA is silhouetted palm trees in the waning golden sunlight, set against houses in the distant hills for a view that never, ever gets old.

LA is the low-key karaoke bars that don’t look like they’d ever belong in the city, where strangers celebrate each other, and the drinks are startlingly cheap and the night ends with the sturdy and steady lingering remnant rushing the “stage” for the last song, to sing and dance together, with smiles that can’t be wiped off.

LA is ending the night at a taco truck when you’re still a little bit tipsy and nothing has tasted better in your life, and you’ve never loved anybody more than the people beside you.

LA is when your Lyft driver lets you rule his radio and takes 7 of you home, even though he can really only fit 6 in his car, and when “Hot in Herre” by Nelly comes on as he pulls up to your house, you and your friends pile out to have a dance party at 3 AM in the middle of your street, and your driver lets himself be pulled out to join y’all for 4 unforgettable, glorious minutes.

LA is the hidden haven up the road that curves into a path by one of the more impressive parts of the city’s otherwise pathetic river, just as you hit your stride during your neighborhood run, and you become enamored as water flows to your right and a train sits to your left and cars speed on the freeway up ahead, just in front of the mountains - a perfect blend of city meets nature.

LA is morning matinees by the beach, and the stretch of the shore just out of the reach of the tourists, where you just sit, watch the waves and think, or where you end up having a fun “best friends photoshoot” on a random evening with the person you’ve been through it all.

LA is dancing along to the street performers on the Venice Beach boardwalk then turning around to see that Vanessa Hudgens is doing the same, exact thing.

LA is starting the day on the Santa Monica sand and ending it on a rooftop in Los Feliz with a distant view of the downtown skyline.

LA is stepping into your backyard and seeing the most glorious array of homemade fireworks spiral across your neighborhood’s warm skies on the Fourth of July.

LA is the view of the city from the Griffith Observatory at sunset, but it’s also the Rite Aid a mile away where you and your friends eat their ice cream in the parking lot before having a spontaneous dance party so that it’s “twerking in a Rite Aid parking lot” that becomes more synonymous with LA than any tourist hot spot ever could.

LA is legalized medical marijuana - not as a habit, but, you know, as a treat every once in awhile.

LA is the mutual acquaintances you met in passing 3 years ago during one of the worst times of your life, who ended up unexpectedly becoming some of the most important people in your life.

It’s always having a friend who will want to spend a day making a piece of art with you and only needing a camera and a little bit of gumption to do it.

It’s the litter of tiny feral kittens hiding in your backyard and the gutsy neighborhood cat who will march right into your house like she belongs, then leave you behind just as you’re starting to get used to her.

It’s grilling veggie dogs on the fire pit in your backyard with people who somewhere along the way stopped being just your roommates and turned into your best friends.

LA is a Saturday afternoon in North Hollywood with your absolute best friend in the world, her boyfriend who’s become your good friend too and their kitten. You laze about on their couch as Netflix turns their TV screen into an aquarium and Kendrick Lamar plays on vinyl.  You cry laughing, watching the stupid videos you and your best friend made together 7 years ago.  You let your egos soar, watching the hilarious videos the two of you made together 4 months ago.  So much around you has changed, but who the two of you are with each other hasn’t.

The boyfriend fondly rolls his eyes and the kitten naps as you two talk - tongue only a little bit in cheek - about how obsessed you are with yourselves as an entity, as these goofy, ridiculous, but determined best friends with dreams enough to propel them across the country and land them at that very moment. And still, you two keep dreaming of what’s to come.  

As you drive home, you think about how it’s exactly one week until the anniversary of the day the two of you moved out here, five years ago.

LA is the quaint, 3 bedroom house in the northeast corner of the city, tucked away from the quiet, but colorful family street, that you return to that evening, where you eat vegan cheese and drink red wine with another best friend while binge-watching a British fantasy series on Hulu.

Before bed, you think back on the day and realize that LA is the greatest, if only for the beautiful friends you’re so fortunate to have alongside you.

LA isn’t grand milestones towards fame and success, people knowing your name, the perfect outfit for a night out in WeHo or finally consistently getting double-digit likes on your Instagram posts.  

LA is small, meaningful moments with the ones you love, in a city that finally feels like home.

LA is what you make it, and what you refuse to let it make you.

God did something real good, putting this dream in me 11 years ago.  Did something real good indeed.

I Just Wasn't Made For These Times

At my most detached, music often fills in the blanks, becoming the understanding that I otherwise lack.

After a brief spring road trip to the beach in 2011, where my best friend rotated a Beach Boys’ Greatest Hits CD as a part of our soundtrack, I found myself easing into their discography for my own.  It was a burgeoning love that exploded during that summer, when I was mere months away from making the most pivotal move of my life: from North Carolina, out to Los Angeles, California.

The Beach Boys were California personified for me, naturally.  How could they not be, with their surf anthems and the classic “California Girls”?  I’d open my sunroof and slip on my shades as I drove through the streets of High Point, NC, imagining where I’d be in just a few months - cruising along the PCH with the top down, obviously underestimating the traffic, the practicality of driving by the beach to get where I needed to go, and how much money I’d have.

At first, I thought of the Beach Boys as something like the One Direction of their time.  I mean, none of them were cute, let’s be real, but they harmonized “happy go lucky” pop that lifted the spirits in moments, but didn’t seem to do too much for the mind.  I was only familiar with the anthems featured on every mix of kid-friendly pop songs from “way back when” that would be featured in heavy rotation at summer camps I had gone to.  I also have a bizarre story from when I was eight years old, when I had attended a weeklong performing arts camp that culminated in an awkward performance of kids wearing leis, singing the Beach Boys’ Kokomo with cringe-worthy swaying choreography.

But being the person I am, who often gets lost in trails for hours on Wikipedia because my mind becomes fixated on something, and I need to know absolutely every single detail and explore it fully until I’m satisfied, my brief affair with the lighter Beach Boys’ fare led me to the surprisingly discovery that they had put out what is widely considered one of the greatest albums of all time:

Pet Sounds.

This was around the time that my love and obsession for The Beatles had begun to solidify, paired with the swell of my ambition as I prepared for a move that would hopefully launch my dreams fully into action.  I wanted to create the best, and so I became utterly fascinated with the best.

I had already downloaded a Beach Boys’ greatest hits collection, but soon after, I added Pet Sounds to my discography.

I didn’t get it at first.  Of course I was naturally drawn to songs like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” and “God Only Knows”, because those were the songs I’d known before, that everybody knew.  But the rest of the album left me barely affected.  I’d force myself to listen to it, hoping be infused by and understand its apparent genius, but I just didn’t like the album.  I mean, I never thought it was bad, but you see, The Beatles, I got.  Sgt Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band, I got.  Abbey Road, I definitely got.  But Pet Sounds...it eluded me.

And yet, I kept on coming back to it.  And I don’t come back to everything.  Like, The Rolling Stones just don’t do it for me.  They just don’t.  I thought Pet Sounds didn’t do it for me, and yet I kept revisiting it.

I don’t remember exactly when Pet Sounds finally clicked for me, as a whole.  There probably wasn’t a very specific moment, but eventually it started to dawn on me that Pet Sounds was an album that understood me.   So cohesively whole in tone - musically and lyrically - Brian Wilson had managed to weave the essence of my soul into an album.  The longing, the melancholy, the ever-present feeling of detachment.  It’s the work of someone who feels like they’ve never quite belonged, but was desperate to feel understood.

That’s historically me, but that was especially me in 2012, when I started to begin to feel like I was drowning in LA, wondering if I had already made a failure of myself, at least psychologically.  And so there were my fears, laid out before me in “That’s Not Me”, coming off of the dissolution of a feature film that I’d put months of blood and sweat into and into the isolating chaos of being the very church-involved Christian, finally forced to come to grips with the fact that she was attracted to women.

There was also the escapism of “Let’s Go Away for Awhile”, the tainted romanticism of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “God Only Knows”, then refreshing lightness of “Sloop John B”, the regret of “Caroline No” - it all enraptured me, leading effortlessly from one track to another, taking me to a new place - not that I could escape the realities of my life, but I could at least for moments be fully understood in them.  From that point and till this day, I still can’t listen to Pet Sounds without immediately listening to the album again.  

But the most resonating anthem of Pet Sounds for me was the striking I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times.”  

Every little thing I’d felt since I had to awkwardly navigate elementary school as the odd one out was caught up into a sentiment that I still fell into so powerfully, over a decade later.  

Beyond anything else, that was the song that understood me.

And so it became my refuge during the most emotionally difficult and isolating times of my life.

*****

I don’t tend to sleep well as it is. It was even worse during the few weeks I was really started to reckon with my sexuality and that reckoning’s aftermath, circa late summer, 2012.

There was one night in particular, where late night bled into early, early morning, and I lied restless on my bed all throughout, caught up in so many thoughts, fears, questions and uncertainties.  I had gone through an adolescent’s worth of changes and revelations in just a month, and in so many ways, it was so overwhelming.  Though not going through it entirely alone, there was definitely a sense of detachment, because I was out of arm’s reach from anyone who had also gone through what I was trying to crawl through.  I had to figure this all, all for myself.

As my insomnia mingled with my inner turmoil, a story began to form in my head.  Vivid sightings of detailed scenes, starting right from the beginning and unfurling effortlessly from there.  Hastily, I fumbled through the dark for a notebook (I shared a bedroom with my best friend at the time, and I didn’t want to disturb her), and spent the rest of the night scribbling a screenplay into it by cellphone light.

I don’t know if I slept at all that night.  I wrote until I could, then dragged myself out of bed for an early morning at work, before returning home to pick up where I had left off.

With no prior forethought or planning, I wrote an entire feature length screenplay, linearly, in a notebook, in just three days.  It was my therapy - I crafted a fictional narrative around the very real things that I was experiencing at the time.  Picking and pulling from my own consciousness, then embellishing and elaborating, all through the eyes of my seventeen year old protagonist who was slowly stumbling her way through her sexuality and out of the closet in the same way I was attempting to.

The title seemed obvious: I Just Wasn't Made For These Times

It was the song my psyche had been latching onto during the emotionally tumultuous prior weeks, and so it was the song that my protagonist latched to during her own.  Its thematic influence infiltrated the entire essence of the screenplay I had just completely.

That is probably one of three experiences, directly related to the narrative of coming into my sexuality, that makes me so certain that there is a God, flowing throughout us all.  Don’t get me wrong - I’m a great writer.  I know this, I’ve been told this, from the second I could hold a pencil, it has come very naturally to me.

But never quite that naturally.  I had written two feature length screenplays prior to those three nights, both of which requiring extensive planning and outlining and tweaking, especially when it came to make sure the narrative structure flowed exactly right in a way that made sense, built in the right places, and accomplished with sense the themes I wanted to convey.

Yet with this screenplay, there was none of that.  It quite literally came tumbling out of me like a river bursting through a dam, leaving me just to go with the flow and let it happen before me.

Something about it was so supernatural.  Like something outside of me was flowing into me and through me, then onto those pages, the truest sense of collaboration.  I just can’t feel God in church anymore.  I really can’t.  But in writing that, the divine was there.

After I had written it out on paper, I came back to it a few days later to transfer it to my computer, amazed by how much it actually made linear sense.  There were no gaps, no inconsistencies.  These characters were real, and their hearts beat through the pages.  It wasn’t perfect, no, but it was solid.  It was good.  Especially for a screenplay I spat out randomly in the middle night.

That was about four years ago.  I wrote it in three days, then let it sit there forever, moving on to different projects with the idea that I’d come back to it eventually, for revisions in the stuff.

It was just six months ago that I truly unearthed it - to apply for a screenwriting lab that my script fit perfectly for.

I fear that this has become a bit self-involved, and perhaps I’m the most contradictory Leo out there, because I really don’t like talking about myself (generally, at least), and especially not about my accomplishments (ask anyone how hard it is to get me to say I graduated from NYU unless I’m putting it on a resume or am directly asked), but I can’t help but be kind of amazed by this screenplay.  Because in its first draft, I had gotten so much right.  Of course I made some changes with many more to be made, but still four years later, and it’s mostly in its original form from when I wrote it down hastily in a notebook.  The story structure is entirely the same - I mainly just had to tweak dialogue and expand on some scenes, but it sort of blows my mind.  

And not even in a self-congratulatory way, but it’s incredible what the human mind is capable of us, especially when infused in what I believe was a bit of divine help.  It’s amazing what the depth of human emotion and experience can breed under pressure.  What art can come out of pain and processing.  That the whirlwind of my coming out experience was able to be translated into such a therapeutic work of art.  The beauty of creativity is mind-blowing.

Even more mind-blowing is where that experience and that little screenplay has taken me now.

It still leaves me flabbergasted, that I was one of the five chosen from 250 applicants to participate in the Outfest Screenwriting Lab last month.

But even more dumbfounding is the fact that a portion of my screenplay will be performed in a live staged read tonight by professional actors as a part of the Outfest Film Festival.  More than anything, it’s humbling that somehow I have been given this absolutely amazing opportunity.

I think back to that freshly 23 year old, lying painfully awake in the bedroom she shared with her best friend, absolutely assaulted by her emotions as she tried to make sense of herself and how she now fit into the world, trepidatiously unsure as to if she’d ever make it through all this okay and doing the only thing she knew to do in that moment - write.

Back then, I thought the world was going to end if I ever came out publicly as gay.  Back then, I was questioning if I had actually ruined my life by moving out to Los Angeles the year before.  Back then, everything - including myself and certainly my social standing - seemed to be in question, and I had no idea how to answer it.  

But damn, everything ended up kind of okay, huh?  

And that’s absolutely astounding to me. Four years ago, I was at one of my absolute lowest.

Now, I’m here.  I also just unintentionally paraphrased a Drake song, I think.

I don’t know.  It just all feels meaningful and significant.  Sometimes I get frustrated with things, but stuff like this reminds me to be grateful, and to appreciate the journey a bit more.

It’s easy to forsake the idea of hope when the darkness starts to close in around you, but I guess I’ve found that even in the midst of my doubts, things do get better.  I don’t mean this thing to be completely self-involved.  I really hope that that others can grasp something out of it.  It takes time, and often times you look ahead and can only see darkness.

But past that, there’s good to come.  It gets better.

 With the other 2016 Outfest Screenwriting Lab fellows!  Check us out at the DGA tonight! https://www.evensi.us/screenwriting-lab-live-stage-reading-outfest-los-angeles/180300886

With the other 2016 Outfest Screenwriting Lab fellows!  Check us out at the DGA tonight! https://www.evensi.us/screenwriting-lab-live-stage-reading-outfest-los-angeles/180300886

How Can I Title My Grief?

I’ve tasked myself with expressing my profound sadness.  Maybe for catharsis.  Maybe so I can say something and not feel so helpless about it.  I don’t know.

There’s a sort of disconnect that happens when highly-publicized attacks occur that target someone(s) of a very specific demographic.  It happened with the Pulse Nightclub shootings a few weeks ago, and it’s happened again with the killings of Alton Sterling, immediately followed up by Philando Castile.  All of the good people, and even some of the sort of shitty people are remorseful, they’re saddened.

But there’s a certain language of mourning for us who fit into the groups that were targeted.  It’s embedded deeper, it’s sown more sorrowfully.  There is no sense of removed sadness for me like there is in other instances, when my mourning stems from empathy and my general investment in humankind.

Because when you’ve killed one of mine, it feels like you’re trying to kill me.

People will throw out terms and phrases about how we’re ultimately all one, and one person’s suffering is another’s because we’re all humans living in this world simultaneously and together - there’s validity in that, and I speak those words all the time.  But some may use this reasoning to deride the so-called “segregation of my mourning.”

Yet in a society that has forcibly categorized us since the dawn of time and treated certain groups drastically differently because of it, there is no getting around it - at least not right now.  There’s a very unique sadness, apprehension, fear that springs from being black and watching other black people slain mercilessly with no real justification.  It’s the same with being queer and watching those in the LGBTQ community killed.

I live my life openly as these identities.  I embrace these identities.  There’s no escaping these identities.  

And when these attacks happen against others who shoulder the weight of these identities, it hurts.  It hurts selfishly.  But it hurts beyond just my person, because they’re killing my brothers and sisters, and it hurts viciously.  

My brothers and sisters because we’re all humans in this world, yes, but even deeper than this, my brothers and sisters because together we’ve all had to bear the burdens of white supremacy and heteronormativity.  We’ve been disenfranchised together and only had each other to truly understand the way we must live and operate in this oppressive world with its dehumanizing systems.  We are immediately connected by our shared identities that breed shared experiences and unfortunately, shared oppressions.

They’re family immediately in a way that’s admittedly not quite there with those outside of us.  Power had made the world be as such, and we have to operate under that.

It's like when I'm out in public in a predominately white space, and my eyes cross paths with the one other black person there.  Even though we've never met before, we immediately bond without saying a word, because something separates us and thus connects us.  We have a whole history before us that is silently understood and brings us together in that moment.

So we nod to each other, greet each other, like we've known each other before, though we actually haven't and maybe won't ever speak again.  Because we're both black in a white space, and we gravitate to that in implicit solidarity.  We might not know each other, but we know where we've come from.  And we know we're treated as outsiders in this world.

This distinct mourning is like that, but magnified.

But no, I don’t have to justify my heightened sense of pain and sadness to anyone.

 

There’s a privilege of detachment, even when they’ve genuinely engaged themselves as allies, that the straights have, that the whites have.  I can’t imagine that these things affect them as viscerally, as presumptive as that is.  Not that they are incapable of feeling sad, but it seems to be a different kind of sadness.  The sort of sadness that I feel when someone who’s close to one of my friends, but not close to me dies.  A removed sadness - certainly sincere, but nowhere near the sort of pain my friend feels.

Twice in a month now, I’ve felt the kind of profound sadness, spiraling through days and days that slows every inch of me down into a heavy lethargy.  I feel like I’m trying to move through a thick haze.  Like there’s a large stone resting on my chest, its pressure overwhelming as I try to breathe.

I’ve transcended sadness on the behalf of another.  This sadness has become my own.

Around two years ago when these police killings of black men started to receive unprecedented media attention, I was full of words.  With each new tragedy, I had a passionate Facebook post immediately at my fingers, not just expressing my pain, fury and disappointment, but as a preaching call to the masses to pay attention and understand.

Almost two years after the killing of Michael Brown and perhaps the first time I took to Facebook to express my emotions at these police killings of black people, I have nothing left to say.  I can’t find my words.  And what can I say that I haven’t already said, time and time again, like a song that’s been playing on repeat for decades?

I’ll share the words of those who still can find them as my own elude me, vaguely aware that they’re still saying the same things, too.  And some people are listening, but nothing seems to change.

I subscribe to hope heavily.  I believe things can change, and I believe things are changing, even when it isn’t visibly noticeable, even if it’s just in the undercurrent.  

But right now, more than anything, I’m just really sad.  I’m so affected that it awes me how I’m expected to keep going along with my days, like nothing has happened.  I’m amazed at the evidence of people who can do such with ease.  Those who can say “that’s a shame” then continue on as usual, without the poignant heaviness sticking to them miserably, living with a permanent cloud shrouding their entirety.

I had just shaken off the depression of the Pulse shootings.  And now this?

So for right now, there’s not much more I can say than this. I’ve said so much, so many times, and I still stand by all those words.  But for right now, I just need to grieve.

And I do appreciate so much the empathy, support and allyship of my vocal non-black (and in regards to the Pulse shootings, my straight) friends.  This was not meant to diminish anyone’s own personal sadness - I certainly recognize it as genuine.

But man, this feels so personally affecting right now, in ways that I don’t think everyone can quite understand.  So to my black brothers and sisters - I feel ya.  I'm right there with y'all, and I feel y'all.  Know that if no one else around you seems to understand, that I certainly do.

The Hope in Pride

Today has been discouraging, then elating; energizing yet exhausting. To wake up to the news of a massacre targeting the LGBTQ community, a community I have been celebrating as and with all weekend, just an hour before I was slated to go to the largest LGBTQ event in LA of the year, was daunting and scary, to say the least. But I knew that made my participation all the more important. There are people out there bent set on silencing us, who don't think we deserve to exist as we are and love as we do, and I was not about to let fear conquer our prerogative to be who we are and to be proud and open with it.  We must stand strong in the face of hate, not bow down to it.

And that we did. I had the privilege of walking with Buzzfeed today for the Pride parade, and I had the absolute time of my life. There is nothing like dancing in the middle of the streets of West Hollywood to Beyonce with all eyes on you, surrounded by so much positivity, affirmation, acceptance and love. Two years ago at my first Pride parade, I watched from the sidelines, overwhelmed in the best way by awe at the vibrant community around me and the long-sought and finally received freedom to be myself.  Today felt very symbolic of how I've healed and grown since then - in both my queer identity and as a human being, overall.

There's contrast to be found everywhere, and depending on how you look at it, it can be discouraging...or hopeful.  I saw this contrast all throughout today.

Inevitably as we danced down the street, proudly brandishing rainbows and stickers that said "hella gay", I caught sight of the small band of protesters that had gathered off to the side of the streets, wielding the most atrocious signs in "the name of God", deriding us and banishing us to hell without a single conversation with any of us.  And sometimes, I can brush that sort of thing off, dismissing it as extremists who really do make up a small portion of the population.

But today it was particularly maddening, and I can't just dismiss it as "extremists being extreme." The man who murdered 50 people and injured even more is an extremist, but he is bred of a culture that has derided the LGBTQ community for so long. A culture that has picked up that cue from religion. Not every Christian may be using weapons to kill, but every word that has been used to say that gay people are deviant, gay people shouldn't be who they are, that same-sex attraction and romance is disgusting and should be eradicated has contributed to the sort of climate that makes for these acts of terrible violence against the LGBTQ community.  Any sort of sentiment that isn't accepting of the LGBTQ community for who they are is absolutely complicit in this.  We are not just murdered by hateful gunmen or harassed by extreme protesters - we are harassed and killed by these prevailing attitudes that say we are less than for who we are and who we love.

But then there were the congregations of churches, mosques and synagogues marching alongside us in the parade, blowing us kisses as they wielded signs that said things like "God is love", and you can feel that these aren't just empty sentiments for them. So many Christians will say "I love you, no matter who you are" with very distinct undertones of "but I think who you are is wrong and needs to change", not realizing that those hidden sentiments are just as dangerous and damaging as brazen homophobia.

But these religious folk participating in the parade weren't like that, and it was the smallest gesture that bred the most hope. It touched me like a pinpoint on my heart, but spread effervescently throughout me with a warmth, and seeing them there, I truly felt the love of God through them, and that was amazing to witness in the midst of a day like this.

And then the outpouring of sympathy, support and love from the allies on my news feeds, truly outraged and saddened by the violence faced by our community today. To see it from people who are not LGBTQ themselves, but feel the gravity of the pain and tragedy all the same in solidarity to us was incredibly uplifting and a much needed reminder that despite the heinous attitudes of this world and the horrid acts they breed, we can still come together as one, consider each other's burdens as our own, and remember that ultimately, we are all humans and we are all in this together. 

I'm also so appreciative to my best friend Nina, who texted me to make sure I stayed safe today and to my mom, who reached out to make sure I was okay - not just physically, but holistically. I'm surrounded by so much love, and that's the biggest "eff you" that can be served to these acts of hate.

It's comforting to know who stands with us. The outpouring of love has lifted my dampened spirits.

This day has been a whirlwind. Man, this weekend has been one, too. And it's so easy to be discouraged by the such obvious evil in the world that can sometimes seem insurmountable.

But I'm telling you, it's not.  Instead of going back into the closet that society seems to have never wanted us to come out of to begin with, my diverse and beautiful and strong community came out and stood out today. We mourned together but then we celebrated together. We were unabashedly ourselves. We laughed together, dance together, hugged each other and refused to let hate dictate us. We certainly refused to let hate have the final say. 

Today, we were faced with hate.  But we contrasted it with love.

So ultimately, it all boils down to two things I took from today: 

There is too much hate for me to live in anything but complete love. 

And in a world marred by this hate, I was reminded that love conquers all.

Happy Pride.

My Lifestyle Choice

Can someone please tell me what makes a lifestyle choice "gay", why it's so disagreeable and why no one uses "lifestyle choice" in regards to heterosexuals?  Because I don't get it.

Like, you wanna know my lifestyle? I live in a house in Northeast Los Angeles with two great friends. I wake up in the morning, eat toast with unsalted creamy almond butter and honey and drink hot green tea. I take a shower then go to my full time job. I come home, write a little, then repeat.  On the side, I write, direct and produce film.  On weekends, I try to reserve one night to myself, watching a movie or laughing at internet memes.  On the other night, I hang out with my friends and pray that doesn't entail actually leaving my house, or at least doesn't involve being in a crowded, night life-esque space (though sometimes it does ugh but very sparingly). I rarely drink, I don't eat animal by-products, and every few months, I work out consistently before inevitably falling off the wagon.

And oh, when I get a crush, it's on a woman.

So when you refer to my innate, default sexuality as a "lifestyle", it's a little off-putting and alienating.  Say that I live a vegan lifestyle because nothing I put in my body contains animal by-products, sure.  Say I live a nerdy lifestyle because more time and money that I'm willing to say goes to Harry Potter, Star Wars and the like.  But I don't understand what a "homosexual lifestyle choice" is supposed to entail.  Is it because of how many snapbacks and flannels I own? It's totally that, isn't it?

Look, I've only ever heard the term "lifestyle choice" used with negative connotation, used to demean the existence of people who are gay. No ally or queer person themselves has ever been like, "my lifestyle choice is gay!" unless they were inundated since birth with the homophobic doctrine of the 40s (or the modern day South, let's be real - I grew up there so don't even start with me). It's implying that we've made this very conscious decision to pursue what detractors consider to be a deviant path and thus live an entirely different life from the straights, solely defined by our sexuality as a result.

And if it seems like the queer population is more invested in being queer than straights are being straight, it's because we're reclaiming our identities after they have been demonized and kept from us for so long! When you struggle your entire life with a part of yourself that you've been constantly told is negative, so you do everything you can to hide and deny it, when you've finally gotten to the point where you can embrace it as something positive, you want to celebrate it! You want to be with people who understand your experiences because theirs are similar.  When you are forcefully denied something for so long, then of course the second you're allowed to have it, you're going to go to the utmost with it - at least at first.

So if there is a gay lifestyle, it was created by straights. But the term still seems absurd for me, because spending time with other queer people and celebrating your own queerness hardly constitutes an entire lifestyle.  When it comes down to it, the way I live my life is defined more so my geographical location, income, age and career - not my sexuality.  

But I will say, in a vacuum, I would literally have no problem with the term "gay lifestyle" because there's nothing wrong with a gay lifestyle! Just coming from a diction perspective, the term just seems a little inaccurate, but there's also the fact that very few people ever use it to mean something good. But you know what? If I'm living a gay lifestyle, then heck yeah! If being in a relationship with a woman automatically means that I'm living a gay lifestyle, then okay! Sign me up. But I know y'all be using "lifestyle" to invalidate the beauty of my relationships, so that's where my main problem comes in, because y'all ain't looking at Mr. and Mrs. Jones and commenting about their “straight lifestyle choice.”

And I promise you the average lifestyles of a gay couple and a straight couple in the same demographics look very similar except for who is in the couple, so to use that term to distinguish one versus the other is absurd.

So as much as I actually kind of do want to yell out, "Hell yeah, I'm living a gay lifestyle and there's nothing wrong with that!", I feel like it's a sort of mute statement, because the way I live my life doesn't seem all that different than my straight friends. We just use different dating apps.

No matter what, though, the "choice" part is still a little weird to me because it's inaccurate. I feel like I'm needlessly hammering in an already argued point, but the only thing I chose in all of this is to embrace it and be out with it, but I assure that if I didn't choose those things, I'd still be very gay and living a very miserable, suppressed, dishonest and closeted life. But you know what, fair enough, maybe I did make a lifestyle choice by deciding to be out and authentic to myself and the world instead of trapping myself in an awful sham of a marriage to a man who I couldn't emotionally connect with and whose penis I was disgusted by and in that case, I'm glad I made my choice because ew.

But I didn't choose to be gay, which the same kinds of people who regularly use terms like "lifestyle choice" tend to not realize, so I'd appreciate people stop referring to my life as a "gay lifestyle choice" to imply that I made this very conscious decision to be the way I am, as if it's a path straight to hell that I willingly embarked on.  It's not any of that.

But. If being gay was a choice, I'd still choose it (except for when I'm going through exceptional cases of heartbreak - then I'd choose to be asexual and aromantic). I absolutely would, because there's nothing wrong with it! It's not easy, but the empathy, community and character that comes with being apart of a marginalized demographic is invaluable and integrates you into an immediate family in a way that I wouldn't have otherwise experienced.

Jk I'm black and a woman, I would totally still experience it, but the more communities I'm in, the more empathy I have, the better. Bring it on! This is my lot in life, and I will embrace it. And I believe it's only ultimately contributed to the person I am in a positive way in the long run.

Also, women are amazing, so.

I really went off course with this post. Just be mindful when using "gay lifestyle choice" because words have more meaning and connotation than we often realize. At least know exactly what you're saying and implying before you say it, and make sure it's accurate because words have power. Don't disrespect them.

april 4th.

Three years ago, on this day, I came out of the closet.

It feels weird to think it was such a big deal at the time.  I legitimately felt like I was walking up to a cliff’s edge, that the world could possibly end if I took one step forward.  I braced myself, fully expected it, yet knowing strangely that for better or for worse, I’d still be fine.

It seems like it almost will be “controversial” to both sides for me to say this, but what sticks out as I think back to my actually relatively brief coming out journey (8 months from the moment I came out to myself to the moment I came out to the world) is God being throughout it all.  From being able to even accept that I was gay in the first place, to those closest to me that were around me at the right time, to the conviction that I couldn’t stay buried in the back of my closet forever, trying to be the gay Hannah Montana who sloppily navigated two identities and finally, to the actual push of courage that allowed me to spring out from that closet.

There was so evidently something outside of myself, giving me what I needed to be able do what I had to do.  I couldn’t have done it on my own.  I was a very prideful person at the time, finding a haven in the reputation I had worked hard to cultivate.  I was also someone who took my faith very seriously.  I spent all of my time in religious circles across the board, and here I was, about to hand everyone an opportunity to invalidate me in their minds, because I was embracing something that everyone around me said was wrong.

That was one lesson I learned throughout all of this: pride ain’t shit.  Authenticity is, though.  Because pride will come crashing down with the slightest of pushes, but if you’re true to yourself, you have a foundation to remain standing on, no matter how shaky it may sometimes feel.

Pride is also a prison.  Authenticity, however, has been the most freeing thing I’ve ever been able to experience.  The luxury to just be myself brazenly, carefree to what whomever may think, has been absolutely invaluable.  I’ll never go back into any closet again.  I’d relive every strenuous, heartbreaking, insecure moment, just as long as it lands me right back here.

I remember the day - April 4, 2013 - and its sensations clearly, actually.  It was a beautiful, Los Angeles day.  You know, a SoCal Spring that’s the equivalent to an “Anywhere Else Summer.”  There had been a slew of inciting incidents leading me up to this exact date that I had purposely chosen:

First, a guy from work asking me out.  I had immediately panicked and given him my number in response, but then felt guilty for even leading him on even that much, because I wasn’t interested in him at all to no fault of his - he was just a man, and I was just gay, but no one but me and a few friends knew. This man certainly didn’t.  So I awkwardly told him that he shouldn’t get the wrong idea about having my number, because I wasn’t into men...if he knew what I meant.

It was the shittiest situation, and I never wanted to go through it again if I could help it, so I could feel the pressure being turned up.

The other inciting incident:  this church service, about a week and a half before I came out.  When I started writing this post, I couldn’t remember specifically what the sermon had been about - I just know that it honestly felt like a sign, an overwhelming call from the heavens, screaming “IT’S TIME TO LEAVE THE CLOSET!”

I just tracked down an old journal entry, knowing that I probably had written specifically about that sermon, and sure enough, on March 24, 2013, I did.  The title of that sermon?

“Going Public.”  The notes that follow?

“The power of people’s opinions can have control over your life.  We’re concerned we might be rejected: so what?”

I can’t help but chuckle a little bit at the irony.  Not many people would expect that a Christian church sermon would be the catalyst needed for someone to come out as gay.  Yet, that’s what it was for me.  It officially jump-started something I had been putting off and avoiding for months - suddenly, I couldn’t escape the conviction.

You just know - well, at least I just know - when it’s the right time to do something that’s been lingering there for awhile.  I knew when it was the right time to move out to Los Angeles after wanting to for years, and I knew it was time for me to step out of the closet - I could feel the pressure closing in from all angles.  Not in a panic-inducing way, but it was so clear that it was time for me to fully live this new chapter of my life.  Mostly, I know it was God whispering in my ear, “It’s time. I got you.”

So April 4, 2013.  I escaped my insufferable apartment in favor of the Coffee Bean down the street - a bourgie ass one in Brentwood with a gorgeous patio with heat lamps and umbrella shades.  I parked there for an hour with my journal and Bible, regurgitating all of my thoughts and fears on to the page and countering them with courage and hope.  I re-read my planned coming out message a hundred times, tweaking it to perfection, then prayed so fervently that it kind of reminds me of when you’ve been vomiting so much that you’ve run out of food to throw up, but that doesn’t stop you as you move on to liquid, then stomach lining and then dry heaving.  That’s the point I got to with prayer.  Dry heaving prayers.

It was what I needed.  I don’t think the fear would’ve ever fully dissipated, nor would the constant swarming of all the possibilities of what could happen as soon as I took this step ever stop completely. But it honestly gave me a bed of peace and assurance.  It left me knowing this was what I was supposed to do, and that if I did, it would be okay.  I would be kept okay.

So set steady and kept well, I left the Coffee Bean and walked to the public library, because at the time I didn’t have a computer, so I had to use the ones at the library.  It was there I typed up my personal essay on my tumblr page, my official reveal to the world at large that I was, yes, a Christian, but I was also gay, and that I was embracing both fully.

I read it over.  I took several deep breaths.  I posted it.

Then I shared it on my Facebook page.

To hundreds of people.

Most of them Christians.

There is this unique sensation you get after you’ve done something nerve-wracking, but necessary.  Though you walk away from it a little shaky, you’re immediately overcome with this presence, this energy, this sense of relief.

For me, right then, it was also freedom.  

And comfort.  I did this, and the world might end, but it was going to be okay.

Spoiler alert: the world didn’t end.

Bolstered by my two best friends - Carmen and Nina, who had been with me for every step of the way and knew I was unleashing my coming out on that day, I knew I’d at least have their support on my post and so it gave me the further courage to check my Facebook notifications regularly for the reactions.

There was Carmen’s like and comment first, which was to be expected.  But then there were the ones that followed, like after like, comment after comment, some from the most surprising of places, all of them affirming, all of them supporting, all of them loving.

None of them from the people I was currently going to church with, who I had been going to church with for the past nearly two years lol

But perhaps most comforting was the unabashed, overflowing comments of support from every single person I had served on leadership with in the Christian club that I was very active in in college.  There wasn’t an ounce of condemnation, or even the sense of “we love you, but...” embedded in there.  They knew me, and so they trusted me, and even though I hadn’t seen them in almost three years, they loved me no matter what, and they let me know that.

When I get bitter over Christians and the church, resentful by the way Reality LA seemed to subtly oust me out and turn against me because I was gay and I owned it, I need to remember that that really isn’t indicative of all Christians.  And maybe it was living in New York City, a place where you’re constantly surrounded by so many different types of people and perspectives that you can’t help but be changed and affected by it, or maybe it was that my friends there took the time to actually know and understand me on a authentic, genuine level as opposed to the “I’m extending my friendship and being nice to you because God wants me to” sort of attitude that I’ve often encountered out here, but my friends from Cru responded just as I needed them to, and that will always mean the world to me.

It’s strange to think that was ever an issue that remained in contention - how people would react to the fact that I’m gay and furthermore, actually caring about their responses.  I am who I am, and I am so glad that I get to finally fully exist in the freedom of being such, without a single care as who how anyone may react to it.  That transcends past my sexuality, and into who I am as a whole these days.  I think by coming out as gay in a potentially hostile situation (being heavily involved in a conservative-bent church at the time) and surviving that in the end set a mold for me to feel more at ease to be just as open and authentic in all aspects in my life.  It’s a good feeling.

I came out, and the world didn’t end.  Nope, instead, the world began for me.

Sometimes it seems trite to celebrate this occasion (I didn’t even acknowledge to anyone but myself last year), and sometimes I wonder if maybe I’m just using it as an excuse to get my friends to come karaoke with me, but as much as I realize I’ve honestly started to take it for granted, it really was a huge event in my life.  Important enough to honor in some way each year.

Each year, the date falls around the same time as Easter, and I’m starting to realize how fitting that is.  From the darkest depths of my own internalized prison, I was resurrected into new life.  It feels like that sometimes.

I don’t have some tidy way to end this.  I guess there are a couple of things that stand out about this whole coming out thing:

Freedom is invaluable.

I’m surrounded by so much love, and have the best family and friends ever.

Everything did end up being okay.  I’m so grateful for that.

I think if there’s anybody out there maybe a little apprehensive about coming out, at least keep hold to those things.  You really find out who really loves you when you come out, and man, that love is everything.  This is a pretty upbeat post, and I can’t at all say that everything about coming out was easy - there were definitely consequences, there were definitely pains that I’m just now starting to heal from.  But despite those things, I wouldn’t have done it any other way, and if freedom and authenticity and love cost those things I suffered and lost, then it’s worth it completely.

I can’t say it all turned out fine in the end, because I haven’t reached the end - not by a long shot.  But I know it’s all okay now, and that’s something.

And if you want to read my original coming out post, you can check it out here.


 

 

"I'm Chuck Bass" - At Least In My Dreams

I’m a daydreamer, so quite often I find myself lost in my own theatrics, all staged in my head.

In today's performance, I'm playing Chuck Bass. Yes, the strangely appealing (despite his oddly rectangular head) manipulative bad boy from the television series that defined a generation: Gossip Girl.

Because of my creative license, I make changes to the character that I feel appropriately caters to the story and theme. So in this fantasy world, I'm lesbian Chuck Bass.  

His brooding swagger, mixed with my chilled out charm, paired with a hopefully good hair day where my attempted coif reaches Bieber proportions, is a bear trap for the ladies, at least in the scenario in my mind.

I'm playing mysterious indifference well, sauntering through a too hot night club on ladies’ night. There are a million places I'd rather be - mainly on my couch, in my living room, planted underneath my ceiling fan in a cotton shirt I've owned since I was 17, sprawled out with Netflix.

But there's one person I'm there for - the person who makes the skinny jeans and splash of make-up worth it. And I'm about to go Chuck Bass on that ass!

My apologies. That was an awful character break.
And just an awful thing to say in general.

Anyway, this woman. She's surrounded by a brood of pale, skinny women with hipster tendencies, their threads an androgynous wardrobe dream.  Their flippant flirting is constant, set against this woman’s blaze giggling. I'm wholly unimpressed and when the last clone traipses off for an overpriced, watery cocktail or to wait 15 minutes to use a cramped, urine stained bathroom, I cooly make my way over, sliding up right behind her - almost, but not quite touching.

"Why are you bothering with all these Bieber body doubles?" I ask in the smooth, low tone of Chuck Bass that can only be described as having the texture of silky chocolate fondue. If a voice could have a smolder, it would be that of Chuck Bass's.

"I'm so much cuter," I finish as she turns around, appraising me with an amused eye twinkle and a sly smirk. My mouth barely quivers, but I pray my eyes entice.

"What are you doing?" she'd ask, sitting somewhere between humor and intrigue. The corner of my lips upturn but I refuse to let teeth show in a display of my practiced smirk and my "you know you just might want this" eyes.

"Channeling Chuck Bass." I shamelessly tell her, because why would I ever be interested in anyone who couldn't recognize and appreciate a reference to a TV show that ended 3 years ago and was geared towards the demographic below us? I use that gravely, chocolately inflection again, and it does all that it needs to do. I get her laughter and her full attention.

"And seeing those other girls flirt with you bothers me a lot more than it should," I continue, allowing just a slip of vulnerability to show through the quirk of a well-groomed eyebrow and the ever so slight quiver in my otherwise velvet voice.

"I can give you so much more than any of them. Let me show you."

She'd naturally be enraptured and compelled. With a silent smize, fingers would lightly intertwine as the power of [lesbian] Chuck Bass would prevail again.

In the production in my head again. And nowhere else.

I could never authentically be so effortless in my game, after all. Especially since that would mean having game to begin with.

The low, rich vocal tones and the nonchalance suaveness - that will never be me. And if I ever did manage to pull off that facade in real life, then maybe in my most ideal scenario, the woman would smile kindly at me after my whole Chuck Bass spiel and tell me that I don't have to try to fit into that persona, but rather just be myself because that's who she'd actually prefer. That's exactly who she wants.

Sometimes, though, I can't help but think that that's more fictional than some elaborate fantasy where I'm possessed by the irresistible spirit of Charles Bart Bass.

Because when it comes to this - this botched up lesbian dating game - a lot of times who I am doesn’t feel good enough.

If only "I'm Chanelle Tyson" would have the same effect as “I’m Chuck Bass.” Unfailingly kind, subtly nerdy (that first adjective was a reference to Harry Potter after all - the movie, though, which is blasphemous, I know), wholly pleasant, charmingly goofy and quite witty (a proclivity in puns counts as wit, right?). Smart and conscientious and all these qualities that justify my parents' bragging on Facebook, the kind of person people always want to have around, but never want to spend the night.

I mean, unless it's for a totally platonic friendly sleepover gathering, of course. I'm popular at those.

It's this strange conundrum of really liking the person I am, while simultaneously feeling like that person isn't good enough.

Like that person isn't good enough to "get the girl."

I wish who I am could be good enough.

But I’m slowly learning not to care about that or even further, to believe differently than that.  Everything before this current paragraph I wrote about eight months ago and just found it in the depths of my iPhone notes.  It was too good to pass up.  

In the eight months that have passed, not only have I gradually started to shake myself out of such a self-pitying mindset and stop seeking romantic validation for the person I am, I also have started to at least try to grasp onto the sliver of hope that one day, to some special girl, the person who I am will be good enough.  And it absolutely won’t matter, every time before where I’ve tried and failed.

It’s like what the Beach Boys sang in That's Not Me: “I could try to be big in the eyes of the world; what matters to me is what I could be to just one girl.”

Even that trivializes my self-perception and acceptance, however - to still have hope to find eventual validation from the mutual affections of some woman.  Ultimately, I shouldn't find validation for my self-with from that at all. It’s a hard struggle to navigate with its daily high and lows, to not get myself down because of insecurities that try to creep up, but I have to know that it doesn’t matter if anyone ever sees it or not - the person I am is enough.  I’ll embrace me, I won’t change me, and I certainly will stop fantasizing about being a fictional bad boy from a teen soap opera.

 I will say, I do pull off Chuck Bass pretty well, if only in aesthetics. 

I will say, I do pull off Chuck Bass pretty well, if only in aesthetics. 

 

 

The 6 Dudes Who I Used As My Beards Growing Up

For those unfamiliar, a "beard" is essentially someone that a closeted queer person uses to make everyone think they’re straight.  So for example, if a lesbian dates a man to try to fit into heteronormative standards, then that man is a beard.  It’s pretty shitty.

Unofficially, before I came out to even myself, I had my fair share of beards in the forms of celebrity crushes - a slew of men that I said I found attractive, even though I kind of actually didn’t...because I was gay.

As I approach the 3rd anniversary of my coming out, I decided to highlight this ridiculous array of men.

Hayden Christensen (circa 2002)

 Those frosted tips, tho.

Those frosted tips, tho.

In 7th grade, which is the onset of puberty for normal people, my hormonal girl friends were obsessed with every remotely attractive male imaginable.  And for the life of me, I just couldn’t understand it.  I attended at K-12 school at the time, and before One Direction was even a thing (or born, probably), my friends would fan girl out over the senior boys.  I’m talking with a fervor that landed them a lecture about lust by our Bible teacher.  Like, they expressed their love with the kind of stuff that restraining orders were made of.  One - the alliterated Brent Bennett - walked into our homeroom one morning, and so overcome by her loins, I guess, my BFF Carmen licked the spot on the floor where he had stood.

In short, my friends were lowkey stalkers.

I, however, was completely unfazed.  I let my boy-crazed friends know this too, because being a pre-teen Leo, I took pride in being unaffected by the mania while standing out against the grain.  This was especially the case when it came to their obsession with Josh Hartnett, which I still don’t get.  He looks like a hodgepodge of incomplete features, thrown onto a face, but whatever, I’m sure he’s nice.  We’d watch his movie Pearl Harbor at every one of our sleepovers (as if being a middle schooler at a private, Christian school full of the meanest white people wasn’t torturous enough), and I’d sit there in horror as my friends would kiss his face when it appeared on screen, leaving unflattering smear marks on my parents’ TV.  My lips, however, would stay firmly in their natural place, not understanding why I would ever want to place them on any part of that man.

Also, Carmen’s AIM screen name was literally JoshHOTHartnett.  

 And y'all thought I was kidding.  Also, sorry Carmen. Love ya! 

And y'all thought I was kidding.  Also, sorry Carmen. Love ya! 

At some point, though, I guess I started to feel left out as the only one in our 7-girl clique who was not obsessed with some older dude. But if their preoccupations were going to men, then mine were going to Star Wars, so I figured it would be natural to meld the two together.

And thus I landed on Hayden Christensen, the star of the impending "Star Wars: Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones" that was being released in theaters that Spring.

 I guess he'll do?

I guess he'll do?

Because of my Star Wars obsession, I was well-acquainted with him, so it saved me the trouble of having to search hard for something I wasn’t really disposed towards. I was able to recognize him as attractive, which was confirmed when I showed him to my friends, who clearly knew better than I did.  So then finally, I had my own man to fawn over!  Finally, I could understand what my friends were experiencing.

Sort of.

Because it didn’t quite feel natural to me.  I could feel myself forcing it, exaggerating it, every time I’d bring out pictures of him to gush over with my friends.  Sure, he was cute, but I didn’t feel passionate about it.  I didn’t feel it in my head or my chest or my heart or my stomach.  It felt...off.

I even went as far as printing out a collage of photos of him (most of them featuring a Padawan braid), and my friends and I would sneakily write things like “HOTHOTHOT!” and “HUBBA!” on his pictures instead of paying attention during class.  We got written up during a band concert for doing this once, but even I could see the appeal of Hayden Christensen’s face over listening to 13 year olds mediocrely play uninteresting songs on their clarinets.

(No shade to clarinet players - obviously, because I was one.)

 That Padawan braid, tho.

That Padawan braid, tho.

But even as I wrote those innocently suggestion words over his Canadian mug, I could still feel myself playing up the fervor so I could fit into the more genuine exclamations of my friends.  In reality, I felt strained when I entertained the thought of finding Hayden attractive.

I ignored the sensation, though.  Eventually as the years went on, I stopped pretending to be attracted to Hayden Christensen, but that was not courtesy of any actual self-awareness, but because other beards sprung up to take his place…

Howie D. of the Backstreet Boys (circa 1999-2001)

Honestly, with his long hair, he looked like a woman from the back, so that makes sense.  But my “crush” on him clearly was just so obviously the result of a young, unknowingly gay me not being sure which one of the Backstreet Boys was actually attractive, so I shrugged and picked Howie.  Stuck with it, too.

And that’s not even the half of it.  Lance Bass was my NSYNC crush.  Taylor Hanson was my Hanson crush.  Do you see a pattern? Are things making a lot more sense now?  Every time I tell someone that I think Taylor is the cutest Hanson brother, without fail they will retort with, “He looks like a woman.”

Yeah, well.  I like what I like!

 Whatever, I still say she's the cutest Hanson brother.

Whatever, I still say she's the cutest Hanson brother.

But also, I stand by my assertion that Howie D was cuter than Nick or Brian (who were the common ‘heartthrob’ choices of my peers)!  It’s not my problem that those pasty white boys weren’t doing anything for me! And AJ isn’t cute.  He just isn’t.  Kevin was my second favorite, though.  I’m not sure why, seeing how his older pictures kind of look...serial killer-ish.

 "I'ma sing you to sleep, girl...then murder you."

"I'ma sing you to sleep, girl...then murder you."

Back to Howie, he currently has a company called "Sweet D, Inc", which is surprisingly not a male escort service.

Lil Bow Wow (circa 2002)

The Summer of ‘02 was a magical one, indeed.  Freshly thirteen, I turned on BET and promptly felt my infatuations flare...with Lil’ Bow Wow.

I’m not sure if it was because he was a common crush for a lot of girls my age, including my cousin who was the poster child of heterosexuality, but I found myself in the beginning stages of...puppy love.  Well, no, not really - I just wanted to use that horrible pun.

I did see him in concert, though, when he was a staple on the infamous "Scream Tour" - a show specifically crafted to usher girls into puberty, with boys who were maybe a little too young to croon vaguely sensual R&B tunes.  The 2002 iteration of this tour also featured B2K, and though I could never play straight enough to find Omarion even remotely attractive, I did have another brief beard in the tragically underrated Lil Fizz. I guess I had a penchant for the lil ones with ridiculous monikers and long hair.  Hmm.m

 Lil Fizz.  Yeah, I don't really get it either.

Lil Fizz.  Yeah, I don't really get it either.

My only real memory about the entire experience, other than missing the opening act and having to squint to make out an already diminutive Bow Wow from our not-quite-close seats, was daydreaming that I’d somehow be given the opportunity to meet Bow Wow backstage.  Despite the fact that I had awful social anxiety and still hadn’t shed all of my baby fat, he would think I was cute, and we’d proceed to have a long distance relationship where we’d correspond mainly by letter.

How gay do you have to be when you fantasize about writing letters to your celebrity crush?

To be honest, especially in Like Mike, Lil Bow Wow looks like a lot of the lesbian girls I used to play basketball with.  So this one makes a lot of sense.

 Lil Bow Wow, or Sasha from my AAU Basketball team? Who knows! 

Lil Bow Wow, or Sasha from my AAU Basketball team? Who knows! 

Matt Cohen (circa 2005-2006)

Who? Okay, I know this is super obscure, but this is actually a pretty interesting story, and I honestly couldn’t think of any other male celebrity I had a crush on during high school (it was 2003-2007, though - there weren’t all that many beard options).

But in 2005, a new show premiered on “The-N” in the slot that came on after Degrassi, so naturally I began watching it.  It was called South of Nowhere.

And though they didn't initially advertise it that way, It became clear pretty quickly that South of Nowhere was about lesbians. Oh.

 The only lesbian couple that will ever matter.

The only lesbian couple that will ever matter.

I was inexplicably so drawn to this show, which I often times snuck around to watch, because I felt weird about my parents knowing, as if I had something to hide (hmmm).  I couldn’t quite pinpoint why I had become so invested in this show about lesbians, but to justify my interest (to myself, to my friends, to whomever may have cared), I honed in on the guys on the show.

One of which was Aiden, played by Matt Cohen.

I couldn’t even tell if he was hot at first.  I just had the inkling that he was supposed to be, but I couldn’t quite tell.  Referencing my trusty, boy crazy best friend Carmen (yes, the same Carmen of ‘JoshHOTHartnett’ fame), she quickly confirmed that Aiden was indeed super hot.  Satisfied, I magically became excited about his apparent super hot masculinity too, and he quickly became my pseudo-focal point on the show.

 But, like, wait a second - he actually is the hottest guy I've posted on here so far.

But, like, wait a second - he actually is the hottest guy I've posted on here so far.

Retrospectively, it’s baffling that I ever had to get a second opinion from Carmen, because he is just clearly so incredibly good-looking.  Even being the closeted homosexual that I was, I’m not sure how I wasn’t able to figure that one out on my own.

 Um, he is adorable.

Um, he is adorable.

Like, real talk right now, he is a beautiful man.  Like, so cute.  This is why I’m a Kinsey 4.5 sometimes when it comes down to it.  The fact that his features are quite pretty, though, doesn’t hurt.

 Okay, okay, that's the last one.

Okay, okay, that's the last one.

Though I’m kind of down with his good looks now, back in 2005, Aiden/ Matt was definitely just a beard.  Sure, his picture graced the background of my Myspace page, but in all actuality, I was covertly obsessed and utterly infatuated with Ashley Davies.

Played by Mandy Musgrave, Ashley was one of the lesbians on the show, and I was utterly fascinated by her character - this independent, bad ass with snark and wit that masked her troubled emotional depths.  She was nothing like I’d ever seen in my real life, and so much of what I wanted to be...except for the whole gay thing, of course.

 Y'all, she was so hot.

Y'all, she was so hot.

I told myself that I wanted to be her best friend, but my feelings definitely pushed the bounds of platonic and lasted me all the way to college, where during the last season of South of Nowhere that aired during my freshman year, I started to imagine what it would be like to date Mandy (who said in an interview that she was a lot like the character of Ashley), because I mean, everyone has that one person they’d go gay for, right?

hahaha

Interestingly enough, Matt and Mandy got married in real life, crushing both the dreams of my bearded “straight” self and my closeted lesbian self.

 Ugh.  This one hurt worse than Demi and Wilmer did.

Ugh.  This one hurt worse than Demi and Wilmer did.

Tim Tebow (circa 2011-2012)

 Y'all, it was so hard finding a picture that made me go, "Oh, okay, I can see why he used to be my beard."

Y'all, it was so hard finding a picture that made me go, "Oh, okay, I can see why he used to be my beard."

When I tell most people that Tim Tebow used to be one of my celebrity beards, they usually give me the strangest, most confused look and, while looking a little bit nauseous, ask, "Why?!"

But as a Christian “straight” girl, that was who I was supposed to like, right?  He was inoffensively good-looking (I mean, in the most blandly generic way, but in some pictures, he’s objectively good-looking), shamelessly unspoken about his faith, and thus had become the Christian Posterboy of 2012.  He was easy to namedrop in my church circle during those bizarre grown adult women sleepovers we would have, and that made me feel like my hetero game was on lock, like I actually had some semblance of a way to fit in with these women who I often inexplicably just felt detached from, like I couldn’t quite connect to.

Most importantly, if I did ever find myself in the unfortunate situation of dating Tebow, he wouldn’t expect sex from me, which would be great, because otherwise, ew.

Thing was - I actually wasn’t particularly interested in dating him.  He was just an easy fallback for a acknowledged crush amongst my friends.  I was even conscious of the fact that I was exaggeration my “attraction” to him - for the sake of humor, because if there’s a joke that always lands in Christians circles, it’s saying in a goofy, sultry voice that so-and-so's "sex appeal" is making you “stumble.”  Works every time.

Tim Tebow definitely did not make me stumble.  I was definitely walking quite steadily when it came to thoughts of him.

He also holds the distinction of being the only beard I kept up with after I finally realized I was gay, halfway through 2012.  I just sort of chooe to let people believe that I was still all about Tebow until I officially came out eight months later.  Shamefully, I can’t say I was privy to this charade during my entire Tebow stint, however.

 Why did 8 of y'all like that?! I'M GAY! Also, told you stumblin' was a thing.

Why did 8 of y'all like that?! I'M GAY! Also, told you stumblin' was a thing.

Also, please forgive me for ever using the phrase “wifed up” in reference to a man and not meaning it ironically.

Nick Jonas (circa 2010-2011)

I mean, present day, he can definitely get it - I’m not gonna deny that.

 I really wanted to post that spread of him grabbing his junk, but this will do. Yes, this will do.

I really wanted to post that spread of him grabbing his junk, but this will do. Yes, this will do.

But not in 2010! He was a CHILD!

 In what world did I think I was attracted to this infant?!  A cute infant, but still an infant.

In what world did I think I was attracted to this infant?!  A cute infant, but still an infant.

Besides, back then, I wasn’t making one-off comments about how “yeah, Nick Jonas tips my Kinsey scales a bit” - I was legitimately claiming him as my future husband.

Got a little nauseous writing that.

This one’s juicy, because as I was posting all over social media about how I wanted to be Nick’s boo thang, I was secretly drooling over Demi Lovato constantly.  I went to a concert they did together in 2010 and gushed all over facebook about Nick, Nick, Nick, when in all actuality, it was Demi who I was blown away by, who I couldn’t keep my eyes off of.

 I saw them on this day, and okay, both of them are cute, but LOOK HOW CUTE DEMI IS! (My inner monologue both in 2010 and right now)

I saw them on this day, and okay, both of them are cute, but LOOK HOW CUTE DEMI IS! (My inner monologue both in 2010 and right now)

If I would’ve been famous as this was happening, I’d be fake-dating Nick Jonas but hooking up with Demi behind closed doors.

 An actual facebook profile picture that I had at one point.  Whyyyyyy?! Ewwwwwww!

An actual facebook profile picture that I had at one point.  Whyyyyyy?! Ewwwwwww!

Back when I thought I was straight, I used to have the most boring fantasies about Nick Jonas that were pretty much just us being famous together and holding hands.  I had absolutely no desire to kiss him whatsoever, so that would never happen in my day dreams.  I figured I’d just need to actually get to know him for real, maybe fall in love a little, before the urge to pucker up came upon me.

And I definitely didn’t want his penis anywhere near me.  But I figured that’s something a good Christian just magically started to desire once she got married.

Turns out, I was just super gay.  This became clear when my “friendship” daydreams about Demi Lovato started to peculiarly always end with us making out - I wasn’t even consciously acknowledging my attraction to her, and that was still happening!  It is now obvious that I was way more into Demi, even when self-closeted, than I could ever be into Nick.

 I mean, duh!  Look how cute she was in 2011!  (We already know how fine she is now.)

I mean, duh!  Look how cute she was in 2011!  (We already know how fine she is now.)

You made a good beard though, Nick Jonas.  But my closest friends weren’t fooled, because as fervent I was about you, my closet fervency for Demi still managed to shine through even more.  As my best friend Nina told me after I came out to her, “I mean, I wasn’t that surprised, because of how you love Demi Lovato.”  Oops.


Nowadays, however, if I had to choose a dream threesome, Demi and Nick would be a top contender.  Because let’s be real - they both can get it.

 Actually, let me rethink that, if solely because of these outfits.  Why do they look like they run an underground drug ring based out of Candy Land?

Actually, let me rethink that, if solely because of these outfits.  Why do they look like they run an underground drug ring based out of Candy Land?

 Sorry, she's been looking so fine in her Snap stories lately that I had to end with a 2016 picture of Demi not dressed bizarrely.

Sorry, she's been looking so fine in her Snap stories lately that I had to end with a 2016 picture of Demi not dressed bizarrely.

Honorable Mentions

Joe Jonas
Bill Clinton
Tommy the Green/White Power Ranger
Leonardo DiCaprio

From Coming Out to This Point Right Now - A Quick Tale About My Dad and Me

When I came out to my dad, it got messy for a moment.  He seemed okay at first, but his true feelings came spilling out a few days later, launching a bitter debate that lasted a week.

I sat in my parked car in Burbank one evening, a half hour late to work, eyes drowning in tears, yelling at my dad, just trying to get him to understand.

There’s one thing he said to me that I remember most clearly:

“You know I’ve always supported your film projects, but if you ever did a ‘gay’ project, I could never support that.”

Never.

That was three years ago.

Today*, things blew up in the best way with a project I’m working on called “Calling All Lesbians.”  It’s a documentary that started casual, but has suddenly turned into such an important, meaningful thing that people have already connected with, and we haven’t even started the main bulk of production yet.  This morning, Pride.com published an article written by my good friend and the producer of the project - Chanel - and it exploded.  500 likes on Pride’s facebook page, then hundreds of likes on Out Magazine’s and The Advocate’s facebook pages as well.  We’ve been getting random messages from supporters all over, so glad that we are doing a project like this to bolster the visibility of queer women, to address the issues that face us and to just tell our stories and feature our faces.  Our Instagram hit 1000 followers (I’m a millennial and that’s oddly important - sue me), and the connections are starting to feel endless, in the best possible way.   I spent all of my day at work both elated and distracted, overwhelmed by how everything seemed to take off at once.

On a whim, I decided to check our recently launched Indiegogo page, satisfied to see that we had gone from the $50 we had the night before to $90.

Less than an hour later as I continued to witness how our article was taking off on social media, I decided to check Indiegogo again on another whim.

The amount of money we had raised had gone from $90 to $340!

I only had access to my phone at the time, which wouldn’t let me see who the backers were, so their identities were shrouded in mystery, but I imagined they had been some of the many women who had connected with our article.  Finally tonight, I had access to a computer and was eager to see what strangers I should be eternally grateful and indebted to.

At the very top of the list as the most recent donor, having donated $250 was my dad.

It’s been a long day.  I worked from 8AM to 6PM, outside on my feet, walking through uneven terrain and lifting film equipment, and then I went straight from work to meet up with Chanel to further discuss and plan Calling All Lesbians.  I got home at 10:30PM - 15 hours after I had left my house.  I have felt the full brunt of the best emotions in addition to all the work I’ve put in, so I’ve weathered down to my barest.

So it’s finally starting to settle in, what it meant seeing my dad’s name as our biggest donor.

This man told me in one of my weakest moments that he could never support anything I do that had to do with part of my identity.  A part of me that had taken so long for me to accept, that would from that point on always to some extent define who I was and how I existed in the world, which would naturally influence the art I created - he blatantly stated his refusal to support it.

Yet today, he contributed to a campaign in support of a project that has come to mean a lot to me, that I’ve been working on constantly - a project that is blatantly about my queerness, that has “lesbian” in the title!  In one of my best moments, he brazenly supported it.

He supported me.

And so here I am, tears threatening my eyes again at his hand, three years later, but for an entirely different reason than before.  It’s so meaningful on so many different levels that I cannot even begin to unpack it right now, but I feel the full brunt of it all the same.

People change.  And love really does conquer all.  And I am unbelievably grateful for the way my life has turned out so far.  I am so glad to have been brought to this moment.  A little battered, sure, but okay.  I’m okay.  I have great people around me who love me, and I’m okay.

 My dad and I, pre-coming out (2012) and post-coming out (2015).  Glad that no matter what, he loves and supports me all the same!

My dad and I, pre-coming out (2012) and post-coming out (2015).  Glad that no matter what, he loves and supports me all the same!

*February 18, 2016

love...i guess? maybe? idk.

#1

I didn’t have to perform with her, is the thing.  I didn’t have to be the funniest or the craziest or the most unique.  I didn’t have to wear my humor and antics as a shield, as the sum of my worth.  For her, I was me.  That was all and that was enough.  

I craved attention and did whatever I could to get people to give it to me.

But her attention, I didn’t have to work for.  I guess I had to act out to feel worthwhile in everyone else’s eyes, but who I was at my root was all she needed to give me all she had.

#2

She was my first real solace.

I was in two existences - the life circumstances that I hated and kept me miserable, and then her and how she slowly turned my sullen around, just by being her, with me, every night.

Every night, I used to stay up until awful, lonely, late hours, wanting to postpone starting another day I’d dread.  But then, she began to give me something to look forward to.

We were so different, yet we worked, and though she didn’t always understand me, she always accepted me - fully, for who I was, and that was something.

She ended up hurting me worse than any other human ever has.  Ironically, it had nothing to do with the lines our interactions crossed then blurred.  She just ended up being an objectively shitty friend in the end.

#3

She was everything.  But we ended up being nothing at all.  Yet somehow I still got almost all that I wanted.

God, that was such melodramatic, embellished bullshit.
I’ll start over.

She’s things I can’t write yet and questions I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to answer.  She was the worst thing to come at just the right time.  She was exactly what I’d been waiting for, and what I don’t expect to get again.  

We’ve all had our tangos with seeming perfection.  Sometimes when the song ends, it bursts into flames.  For me, it slowly sizzled out until embers remained that won’t ever quite burn out.

This is grade A proof that I romanticize when I really just need to realize.

(some things come, then go, and that’s okay.)

How Karaoke Helped Me Overcome My Social Anxiety To Actually Talk To the Cute Girl At The Bar

This is a brief tale in how for the very first time, I made a move on a woman who I’d never met before that night.  This is for all of my socially-inept, gameless females out there who have low-grade social anxiety attacks when even entertaining the thought of approaching any stranger - no less an attractive one.  Know that there is hope.  You might have to wait until you’re almost 27 years old, but there is hope.

I have what I like to call “game over time.”  I don’t tend to be legitimately interested in people unless I’ve gotten to know them for awhile and a certain chemistry between us has been established.  Then once we start to flirt a little bit, I’ll pull out the guns, turn up the charm a little bit, send a couple of intentional text messages garnished with emojis and try to get a hang out going.  I’ve never attempted to pursue a woman who I hadn’t known for at least a couple of months.

It’s an entirely different story with it comes to attractive strangers in bars.

When it comes to making moves on women in bars, I have a tried and true* method: stare and make ‘em stare.

(*this method does not work)

It’s simple, really.  I hone in on the girl who I find attractive that night and cast furtive glances from afar, hoping to strike eye contact.  If I’m lucky, she’ll happen to look in my direction, our eyes will lock for an incredibly awkward millisecond in which I surely look like a gaping zombie, and then she’ll go back to scoping out women with a much better fashion sense than me.

Or in most cases, she’ll go back to being, you know, straight.

The second fold of the attack is taking over the dance floor, amping up the theatrics, and busting out a few of my signature moves as my friends holler and laugh. Similar to Starkiller Base, absorbing this attention just makes me more powerful, intensifying my dramatics until I’ve created a true spectacle of myself.Occasionally, the fact that I am willfully making a fool of myself for the entertainment of my peers will attract the attention of the woman who I’ve been eying, who will then be incredibly amused, and we’ll make smiling eye contact that actually isn’t awkward, giving me a gateway to flash her a charming grin before I spin on my heels and shimmy my fingers.  Then never actually talk to her for the rest of the night.

Or the woman will roll her eyes at me, and that’s that. But I keep on dancing anyway, because I don’t do it for the ass, I do it for the people!

This method has gotten me approximately zero numbers.  But it has landed me many a stranger’s snapchat, so I guess I’ll take what I can get.

With a deft ease that never ceases to amaze me, some people can approach a woman they are interested in without having a miniature social anxiety attack.  As someone who has dealt with social anxiety disorder since she was eleven, this person is never me.  It’s an interesting dichotomy, where I have no problem with creating a spectacle of myself for strangers to watch, but the second actual social interaction is involved, I’m prone to completely shutting down.

Needless to say, I have never approached a woman at bar or a club, engaged her in flirtatious small talk before offering to buy her a drink or asking for her number.  My heart rate literally increased just by typing that sentence.  At best, with a few drinks, I’ve managed to approach a woman on a friend’s behalf, but even that has happened maybe twice and after at least two beers.

That all changed last weekend.

I’ve been working on a truly life-changing experience these past couple of months called “Calling All Lesbians”, which is a documentary film where my friends and I are exploring the lesbian community and culture in six different cities.  This past weekend, we officially embarked on the first part of the road trip segment of this journey and spent the weekend in Long Beach, CA and San Diego, CA.

Our Long Beach adventure brought us to Club Ripples, a gay bar that hosts a ladies’ night on Fridays called “Syrens.”  More importantly, they have a beautiful bartender with a great smile who immediately won the hearts of most of our crew with no effort on her part.  

Most importantly, they had karaoke.

Not to brag, but I’m a karaoke kween.  I shed all shame to give an impassioned, dramatic and hilarious performance from my repertoire of karaoke klassics.  Because I’m not a particularly good singer (I’m not bad, but no one would turn their chairs for me on The Voice), I find that there’s a certain freedom in karaoke where it’s not about trying to impress anybody.  It’s about unapologetically just being who I am, having a fun time with my friends, and most importantly, giving something for other people to enjoy.  I just want everybody to have a good time, ya’know?

Karaoke is something I’ve been doing regularly for the past eight years, and at this point, it’s honestly not just a hobby: it’s a passion.

I am also an apparently rare breed of person who does not have to be drunk to do karaoke.  Actually, I have never been drunk when I’ve done karaoke, because the thrill and joys of delivering a slightly differently-keyed cover of a beloved song gives me the only buzz I need in that moment.  Karaoke just be my kalling.  

So the second I saw that Club Ripples had karaoke going on, there was no question that I was definitely going to be taking the mic multiple times that night.  When I karaoke in a new place, I have a signature song that I always go to as sort of my official introduction, because I know that it without a fail never misses its mark.  It has all the qualities that I think makes for a great karaoke anthem: it’s widely known, but isn’t a downer; the song selection in itself will make people laugh, and it’s easy to turn into a comprehensive, entertaining performance because of the nature of the song.

This song is The Thong Song by Sisqo.  A truly ridiculous song that I’ve been slaying since 2011.

 Performing The Thong Song at by best friend's birthday in August 2015, where people were so moved by the performed that they rushed onto the stage to twerk on me 

Performing The Thong Song at by best friend's birthday in August 2015, where people were so moved by the performed that they rushed onto the stage to twerk on me 

People really get into The Thong Song.  It’s weird, considering how one of the lyrics is “she got dumps like a truck, truck truck” and that line is repeated multiple times.

Naturally, it was a hit at Club Ripples, solidifying me as a karaoke force to be reckoned with and leaving me amped to keep the adrenaline going.

Meanwhile, my friends were swooning over one of the bartenders who apparently was really cute, but since I was caught up with highly scientific process of choosing my next karaoke banger, I didn’t really pay that any mind.

But karaoke is a emotionally and physically exhausting activity that deserves all of me, so naturally I had sweated out half of my body weight during my performance of The Thong Song and needed to hydrate.  So looking like a sweaty mess, I went up to the bar to get a water.

And then I saw her. The bartender.

She served me a water, and I immediately fell in love, as one would.  That smile!  That presence!  I had to interact with her more!  

But how? As previously established, initiating actual conversation - especially with flirtatious intent - is a good way to give myself an anxiety attack.  And there was only so many times I could get water, especially since I wasn’t drinking alcohol that night.  I tagged along pointlessly when my friend Claire went to order a drink, hoping I could silently but charmingly grin my way into this bartender’s heart, and though I was graced with a little bit of a laugh as I ended up ordering a Sprite, it still wasn’t enough.

I had to make my mark.

At the beginning of this year, I decided that I was going be 100% okay with embarrassing myself, because I was sick of subconsciously seeking out validation from other people. I wanted to be okay with failing, of having eyes rolled at me, for not getting reactions that I want, as long as I’m being authentic and not doing anything for approval.

Entirely sober (but definitely underslept, which makes for a different kind of uninhibited loopiness), and running off of a karaoke high and cute bartender induced adrenaline, I decided to put this into practice.

I turned to Claire.

“I’m going to dedicate a karaoke song to the cute bartender.”
Claire’s eyes lit up.
“YES!”

So it was settled.  I was gonna do it.  I was finally going to openly declare my romantic interest in a stranger at a bar, but in the most brazen (and potentially mortifying) of ways.

First, I had to select the perfect song.  It had to fulfill all my usual requirements. It had to be smooth as hell, because duh.  And it had to state my intentions (“I want to get to know ya, girl”) without coming on too strongly (so “Let’s Get Married” by Jagged Edge wouldn’t be the best choice in this case, though in other situations it would be a karaoke hit).

After asking my friends, the ultimate choice was given to me:

“Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber.  

Immediately, I knew it was the perfect selection.  Plus it’s a song that I’m well-acquainted with because I’ve used it as a serenade for many a love interest.*

*It’s a song that I’ve belted out the lyrics to as I sit in traffic, imagining that I’m singing it to some girl I have a crush on.

Next, I had to find out the name of the my bartender, because there were a couple of them - all brunettes and at least two with an “alternative lifestyle haircut” (the bartender of my affections had one side of her head shaved, making her look very similar to Demi Lovato circa 2014, which only served to fuel the fire within). I didn’t want there to be any doubt as to whom my song was for.

Thanks to Claire, who was all for the cause and did some subtle snooping for me, I found out that I would be dedicating the Justin Bieber classic to Danielle.

Our names rhyme.  It’s fate.

One of the many perfect things about Club Ripples was that it wasn’t overcrowded, so I didn’t have to wait endlessly in-between karaoke performances.  In what felt like no time, I was called up to take the mantle once more.

Ignoring the urge to vomit all over the mic, as the DJ music softened and the karaoke instrumental started to fill, and I took a deep breath and faked the shit out of my confidence.

“I’m going to dedicate this song to the cute bartender over there, Danielle.  This is for you.”

As my friends cheered and the DJ made an amused, impressed comment, I snuck a glance over to the bar, where Danielle was in the middle of pouring a drink and seem to be very confused as to what was going on.  

Cool.

But I was already up there, mic in hand, so I had to go through with it.

“If I was your girlfriend , I’d never let you go.”

The crowd went wild, which seems like a very ridiculous thing to say in regards to a karaoke performance, but it happened.

All in all, I was relatively satisfied (though I couldn’t quite say ‘hello’ to falsetto in the way Bieber can) with what I had done, and especially satisfied with the way the people around me were reacting.

But to my disappointment, Danielle was not staring at me with googly eyes from behind the bar, waiting for my marriage proposal.

Considering it a romantic fail, but glad I had taken the risk regardless, I let it roll off of my shoulders and started plotting my next karaoke move: “My Heart Will Go On.”

Yes, the Celine Dion masterpiece from the greatest cinematic venture of all time, Titanic.  

Not even ten minutes had passed, and I was back in the center with the microphone again, not in hopes of seducing a bartender, but to return to the roots of karaoke: a good time.

I may have just delivered one of the best karaoke performances of my life that night.  And I’ve done at least a hundred karaoke performances, but everything came together in that moment.  The crowd was perfect and involved, as bar-goers starting waltzing behind me.  My friends were so invested and vocal, hollering and singing along like true friends do.  My voice was surprisingly on-pitch for the vast majority of the song.  And my dramatics game was on point, because an anthem like that needs to be performed with passion.  I’m talking about twirls, dropping down to my knees, clutching the table, randomly quoting Titanic lines during instrumental lulls sort of passionate dramatics.

I collapsed amongst my friends afterwards, very satisfied, but still wondering about the whole bartender situation.  She wasn’t casting alluring looks in my direction, disappointedly enough, but at the goading of my friends, I decided to send representatives on my behalf to scope out what Danielle was thinking.

They returned with surprisingly pleasing news!

First off, Danielle had no idea what was going on during my “Boyfriend” performance, because I  had announced my dedication in the middle of her taking an order, so she ended up missing most of it.

She did, however, catch “My Heart Will Go On” in its full glory and said that it was very impressive.

BRB buying a U-Haul and ordering “save the dates.”

Fine, okay, it wasn’t a blatant declaration of love, but it wasn’t a complete failure, either.  Encouraged, I gathered up the last bit of confidence not spent on my karaoke triple-feature and dragged my friend Monica to the bar to me so that I could do the unthinkable:

Actually initiate social contact with an attractive stranger at a bar and have it not be under the pretense of ordering a drink!

It’s funny - I had just performed “The Thong Song”, “Boyfriend” and “My Heart Will Go On”, ripe with average vocals and ridiculous antics and didn’t think twice about it.

Yet having to approach the bar and talk to this woman nearly unraveled me in anxiety.  But I clung to my unofficial New Year's resolution: I was going to be okay with potentially making a fool of myself.

So I talked to her.  For a good ten minutes. We laughed a little, bantered a bit, talked about Calling All Lesbians, found out that we were both vegans, and then I delivered the hook, line, and sinker.

I gave her my business card.

I know, I know - the epitome of smooth.

Okay, fine, I know that’s a cop out, and I know that it could’ve easily read as the douchiest thing in the world, but luckily I was in town specifically for “Calling All Lesbians” work, so it made sense to give her my “Calling All Lesbians” card that just happened to have my full name and, you know, phone number on the back.

Ultimately, I don’t think anything beyond a nice conversation with a cute girl will come of it, nor did I really expect it to.  I mean, she lives in Long Beach - that might as well be a long distance relationship. I wouldn’t deal with that commute and traffic for Selena Gomez herself.  Plus when it comes down to it, I would still prefer to date someone who I’ve already known for at least a few months.

But my experience on Friday night wasn’t about trying to get the girl.  It was the fact that I was able to do something that I had absolutely never done before, that I usually balk at the thought of doing.  I put myself out there in a way that I’m not used it, and the world didn’t end.

Rejection is a bitch, but it can’t be a dictating force in my life.  And if the most I have to lose is a bit of pride, then I say it’s worth the risk every time.  But ironically, I gained a little bit of pride on Friday.  It sounds minute and ridiculous, but I’m proud of myself for initiating a move and making my intentions known.  I still wouldn’t say I have game, but it’s at least a start; it gives me a bit of a confidence boost moving forward.

Part of what drew me to “Calling All Lesbians” was the ideas of spontaneity, experience and adventures.  That one little moment on Friday embodied all of that for me: I’m doing things new things, not overthinking them, and enjoying what comes of it.  I think that’s how life’s supposed to be lived, and I look forward to embracing that more as the journey of CAL continues.

Also, I got to sharpen my lack of game a little, and came out of it with a revelation:

When your body has a metaphorical allergic reaction to flirtatiously engaging with strangers of your preferred gender, you have to get unconventional in your methods.  This can work to your advantage, because your originality - for better or for worse - will make you stand out to your object of affection.  Attractive people are used to being hit on, so use the fact that you can only hit on people if you are literally running into them in true awkward glory in a crowded bar to your advantage and serve up a little something different.  If anything, it’ll leave you with a good story to tell that just may become legendary.

And I’m determined that one day, karaoke will get me the girl.  Now that I have this new method of karaoke dedication in back pocket, you best believe I’ll be pulling it out more.

 

 

The 5 Women Who I'd Accept as My Celesbian Bae

If you’re going to be a celesbian in 2016, you’ve got to have a handle on two things: the slang used primarily by the generation beneath you (26 is way too old to use “on fleek”...unless you’re lowkey famous) and your love life.

There’s nothing that people love more than theorizing, gossiping and idealizing the love lives of complete strangers that they will likely never meet (and if they do, it’s an uncomfortable ten second interaction that results in an awkward selfie).  So in order to fully answer the call of celesbianism, my bae game needs to be just the strongest.

This is especially imperative in the lesbian community, where we love to just ship together every pair of women who even look at each other for a little too long, so our fervor is especially great for confirmed, famed lesbian couples.  Whether fictional or actual existing people (it’s hard for me to tell sometimes - I get way too invested in my shows), there’s nothing more satisfying then gazing upon positive example of beautiful lady love, because there’s not enough of it out there (and thanks to the patriarchy, it’s often solely sexualized in media, leaving out the human heart and love that actually characterizes queer women relationships).

Fortunately, there have been more and more queer couples for us lady loving ladies to look up to, and it’s so poignantly affirming to know that they exist in a cloud of perfection, providing a vision of what a relationship between women can be.  Let’s take a brief moment to appreciate some of the celesbians who have paved the way before us:

Samira Wiley and Lauren Morelli

Cara Delevinge and St. Vincent

And for throwback thursday: Lindsay Lohan and Sam Ronson

 RIP 2007

RIP 2007

As previously established, “celesbianism = influence” for me.  I want to be able to be a role model of queer.  Something that would’ve helped validate my identity as a tragically in-denial youngin’ growing up is seeing more examples of thriving, wonderful lesbian relationships.  Just more examples that would’ve assured me that it was okay to be with a woman, to even just to let me know that such a thing could exist, would’ve been invaluable to me as a teenager, growing up in a conservative, Southern town.

So naturally, in order to be the best role model and queer woman advocate I can be...I need to be bae’d up.  It’s a great sacrifice, but I’ll take one for the cause.  You’re welcome.

Just one issue - I’m single.  In order to remedy that, though, I’ve decided to compile a list of five potential baes.  I’d gladly court, romance, get into petty arguments, and be dragged around on boring, endless shopping trips with any of these women below. Putting this shit out into the universe, then waiting patiently for one of the women below to show up at my doorstep, because that’s how that works, right?

Yeah, I think so.

So I now present to you: Bae Watch

1. Keke Palmer

Keke Palmer and I had a very fun interaction at the Macy’s Thankgiving Day Parade in 2009 that involved us making eye contact, dancing and me making her crack up.  Through the years, that moment has stayed with me.  I think about it a lot.

I then fell totally in love with her this past year as I watched Scream Queens, so imagine my delight when she proclaimed that she didn’t want to label her sexuality and released a vaguely queer music video on top of that!

Look, Keke, we have history.  We’d be a bomb ass couple of color.  Lemme bae you up, girl.

 Same.  Minus the daddy part, because ew, I'm not referring to anybody by that except my actual father.

Same.  Minus the daddy part, because ew, I'm not referring to anybody by that except my actual father.

2. Selena Gomez

Like most everyone on this list, Selena and I have history.  And by history, I mean I met her once in 2010, told her that I respected her, name dropped the fact that I went to NYU’s film school and got the most sincere smile and “good luck!” in response.  Say what you want about me, but I know how to make the most out of my ten seconds with celebrities.

Is Selena queer?  Well, that’s debatable.  But I’ve compiled a short presentation that brings up some good points:

Exhibit A 

You can’t be a woman attracted to features that delicate, that supple, that strikingly pretty and not be at least a little bit gay.  Especially since every time I ask a lesbian if there’s a man they would be okay with sleeping with, they always answer “maybe Justin Bieber” (or “Ew, no.”)

Exhibit B 

Cara Delevingne  - notoriously queer - looking like she’s posing for prom with Selena.  I’ll let that speak for itself. (Also just google image search “Cara Delevinge and Selena Gomez”.)

Exhibit C

Selena Admits She’s “Absolutely” Questioned Her Sexuality.

I don’t know if everybody questions their sexuality, Selena.  Just the queer ones.

Exhibit D

Is no one gonna talk about the fact that in one of her music videos (1:43 into it), Selena ditches her responsibilities and runs off to a lesbian night club? #metaphors #readbetweenthelines #nottheplaceforhashtags

Selena, if you're really sick of that same old love, then I can give you a little somethin’ different.  So how ‘bout it, bae?

3. Kendall Jenner

No, stop, don’t X out!  Bear with me here!

First off, one of them has to be gay.  It’s not Kris, though that haircut likes to state otherwise.  It’s definitely not Kim. Khloe doesn’t ping for me, either.  Kourtney looks great in a suit, but I don’t know many lesbians - no matter how closeted they may be - who would put up being in a relationship with Scott Disick.  I pray to God it’s not Kylie - we’ll let the straights have that one.

And then there’s Kendall.  Arguably already the anomaly of the Kardashian-Jenner bunch.  There’s a slew of theories and rumors that actually didn’t originate with me (it was actually my not-gay best friend who first brought my attention to the possibility) that I won’t get into, not to mention that the only dude she’s really been linked to is Harry Styles who I regularly mistake for a woman, much to my own sexual confusion.

Then there’s her queer BFF, the aforementioned Cara Delevingne.  I mean, the odds could be worse, but I’m not gonna claim anyone’s sexual identity.  They gotta come out with that themselves.

Kendall is the most down-to-earth, chill one of the bunch, is hella cute, and she’s also a published author of a book I got a record-setting two pages into before I never touched it again.

Would being Kendall’s bae be worth having our relationship micromanaged by Kris, though? Probably not.

But I’d be North West’s aunt, so I’d be down if not solely for that.

4. Leighton Meester

Look, everyone has their pipe dreams, and this one is mine.  

And, in the words of Nelly, “I’m not the type to break up a happy home”, but I also wouldn’t mind helping her raise her child.  We’d give Adam Brody the appropriate visitation rights, don’t worry.

Plus, have you seen Life Partners, where Leighton plays just the most perfect, absolutely cutest lesbian?

I also was fortunate enough to see her perform for “The Blind Date Project” a few weeks ago, where she once against flawlessly played a lesbian, and then made all of my sapphic dreams come true by making out with a woman, mere feet away from me.  And Leighton was totally into it.  Like, she could definitely lowkey be a solid Kinsey 3.

At least, she definitely could be in my dreams.

Look, just consider it, Leighton. After all, you know you love me.  xoxo Gossip Queer

5. Demi Lovato

Demi is a...mixed bag for sure (and I say that with the utmost respect), but she was the woman who gave me the final push I needed out of my self-imposed closet.  Despite her newfound tendency to be occasionally problematic, she does do a lot great advocacy for a number of important issues, has unapologetic bold sass that I just love, and looks good in a bow tie.  So I’m game.

Not to mention, I brazenly hit on her once, and not only did she reciprocate, she found my witty charm so hilarious, so #soulmates.

And oh, remember how she rocked an alternative lifestyle haircut for two years?

So, Demi - you sure you wanna be cool for just the summer? How about we be cool for all four seasons, bae?

I think with any of these women, I could have the definitive celesbian relationship.  Get your hashtags ready for our future Instagram selfies, which in addition to stroking our egos will also hopefully give young, queer girls something to look up and forward to.  Granted, that can certainly be accomplished without celebrity involvement, but you know, might as well aim high.

Disclaimer: I have to emphasize that I am not making conclusive claims about any of these women’s sexualities.  I don’t know these women, I just read their tweets and like their selfies. This wasn’t meant to be a “I think this celebrity is gay!” post by any means.  Also my blogging style likes to border on tongue-in-cheek humor, so just take all of this with a grain of salt.  Actually, take it with the whole salt shaker.

 

 

 

A Brief Vacation to High School Queerness

I wonder what it would’ve have been like to be so self-assured in my sexual identity as a high schooler, instead of fervently swallowing back any inclination that I could’ve possibly been gay, constantly in denial.  Part of me feel like I was robbed of a crucial part of my adolescent self-development, because while everyone else was beginning to discover feelings and sexuality and the like, I was feigning mine.  Psyching myself into liking certain boys because that’s what I felt like I was supposed to do while dismissing my clear fascinations with certain girls around me as just being…

Well, I don’t know what I thought they were, but I refused to seriously entertain the thought that I was gay.

I mean, there were moments, of course.  I had a brief friendship with a girl in my Honors Chemistry class who was one of the few purported out bisexuals in my grade.  She was average-looking, quirky, and not necessarily spectacular, but she thought I was really cool and would kind of get affectionate with me sometimes.

My internalized homophobia  - that was all for gay people until one hit on me - made me feel uncomfortable with her small affections...at first.  But the Leo in me ended up winning out when it came to being showered with attention.  Beyond that, though, I started to find myself intrigued by this girl’s sexuality.

It was my way of exploring my own latent sexuality without confronting it.  I let myself flirt, let myself be okay with her brief touches and brushes and compliments, and sometimes - if only for a millisecond - I let myself be attracted.  Second period had become my refuge.  The one time that I let myself trepidatiously explore the things brimming below my surface, thanks to this girl and the crush I wouldn’t quite let myself acknowledge, but clearly had on her.

I was socially deceptive, contradictory throughout most of high school - the bold, (sometimes inappropriately) funny girl full of shenanigans, who would never shut up during class because it was her mission to make everyone laugh with absurd, smart aleck quips...but who otherwise never broke a single rule.  I took every possible AP class there was to stack my schedule in collegiate preparation and aced them all.  I got away with my in-class antics because academically, I was a dream student that never actually did anything wrong.  I wore the class clown title well, but I was actually a goodie two-shoes.

But the one time I was a rebel will forever stick out in my head, when the queer girl in my Chemistry class convinced me to sneak off campus with her to grab Wendy’s for lunch.  As juniors, it was strictly forbidden that we leave the school for lunch - it was a privilege reserved for the seniors - and I would be the first to condemn any junior who broke that rule and thus potentially ruining it for the rest of us come the next year.

But that one day, there was something so alluring about brazenly rebelling with her.  She was my open door into all that I wasn’t supposed to have.  And when the lunch bell rang after second period, and she took my wrist to lead me in a brisk run through the hallways so that we could sneak out to her car undetected, for once I felt like I had a taste of everything that had been shut off to me.  Yeah, it was just a quick trip off campus to get some real food for once, but it felt like so much more.  I barely confronted it within myself, but I could feel the effects of the symbolism all the same.  I was breaking the school’s rules, but by letting myself be caught up in adventure with this girl that represented the sexuality I wasn’t allowed to embrace, I was sort of breaking society’s rules, too.

We made it to her car undetected, and she drove us to Wendy’s while blasting “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want” by Rihanna, jokingly serenading me with the lyrics of  ‘if it’s lovin’ that you want, then you should make me your girl, your girl.’  I felt a little awkward, but I grinned nervously and let it happen, caught up in the adrenaline rush of it all.

If this had been some indie teen movie, we probably would’ve ended up making out in the back seat of her car.

Instead we got back to the school without a hitch, bags full of French fries that we ate in the hallway outside of the cafeteria.

It was the only real taste I ever got in high school of being something different than what was expected of me, the closest I had ever been to embracing the fact that I liked girls.  Like, really liked girls.

Retrospectively, though, I realize not letting my sexuality push to the surface was an unconscious defense mechanism.  As utterly confusing and occasionally miserably wrestling against myself inside of the closet was as a teenager, I know it would’ve been much harder had I been unashamedly out in 2005 at Southwest Guilford High School in High Point, North Carolina.  Granted, it wasn’t the most hostile environment that could’ve existed against the LGBTQ community, but I hardly think “not as bad as it could be” is hardly any consolation for hostility existing in the first place.

To state it lightly, I wouldn’t have fit in as a lesbian at my high school.  

Then again, I don’t think there was a day of my life where I ever really fit in during grade school, except maybe during a very brief period at the beginning of my junior year where I briefly gained a fashion sense and normalized myself, which ushered in a certain degree of popularity I hadn’t been accustomed to before, but left me mostly miserable on the inside from the inauthenticity of self.  No, more than a fear of not fitting in, I think it was the cloud of a conservative, traditional religion and its stance on homosexuality that loomed threateningly over me, with those closest to me for also adhering to such a viewpoint that kept my subconscious clinging to the closet.

I can’t help but wonder, though, without all those external influences that plagued my perception of sexuality and caused me to keep mine so latent for so long, how different things would’ve been.  Beyond just my own personal identity crisis, what would it be like if everyone around me also fully affirmed queer without question?  Would I be whispering in giggles to my friends about my crush on the senior girl on the basketball team?  Whose posters would’ve been featured on my bedroom walls in the lieu of Lil Bow Wow and B2K and Chad Michael Murray (ugh, yes, Chad Michael Murray)?

And how differently would things had played out when I actually started to develop feelings for one of my girl friends, something that became so big of an internal presence that I had to acknowledge it, though I kept it safe by assuring myself that she was just an exception to the rule, and I was straight otherwise?  I can just imagine bashfully confessing to my best friend in an IM chat that I had a crush on one of our own and having someone else available other than my journal to help me analyze every single interaction between my crush and me.

Maybe if I would’ve had that back then, I wouldn’t have stumbled so haphazardly through dating attempts in my early 20’s once I finally did start to get a full grasp of my queerness.  I wonder now if that’s why I had the tendency to fall so hard at once for any woman who showed me the slightest bit of flirtatious interest - if it was a pathetic attempt at making up for lost time.

I can’t help but feel like I was robbed of something in my adolescence.

 

 

My Path to Celesbianism: An Introduction

celesbian - noun  
a portmanteau of “celebrity” and lesbian”; a woman famous specifically within the lesbian community

In 2016, I’ve decided to become a "celesbian.”  Why?  How?  Wait...what?
Well, allow me to explain.

First, a little backstory.

I used to really want to be famous - ever since I was eleven years old, and I started a Backstreet Boys cover-band called “BSG” (an acronym for “Backstreet Girls” - so clever, I know) with four of my 6th grade classmates.  Keep in mind, I didn’t even have enough vocal talent to be chosen for the middle school choir, but I knew every nuance of the Millennium album, so I figured it was good enough.

High school for me was characterized by doing spontaneous dance performances on lunch tables for tips and cheers, getting requests from strangers to perform my funny “Black Redneck” rap, and being called out by teachers in class for my antics and jokes which all culminated in me landing a “Class Clown” superlative upon graduation.  I have always been a performer, always trying to get the laugh, always felt in my best element when the attention was on me.

May 2007, when I was selected to perform my hit single "Black Redneck" for my high school's talent show
(Disclaimer: I was 17 and this was meant to be satirical, but yes, I realize now how problematic in parts this was.  Oh, youth.)

I moved to New York City for college, and when I was eighteen years old, I finagled my way onto TRL.

For those younger than me, TRL used to be a pop culture staple on MTV where they’d spend two hours every afternoon, counting down the most popular music videos at the time, in a pre-VEVO era.

The show’s popularity had significantly dwindled by 2007, which was probably why they featured the cast of Degrassi, a Canadian teen melodrama, probably best known for giving us Aubrey Graham a.k.a. Drake.  

Brandishing a sign that said “I’d Do Whatever It Takes To Meet The Cast of Degrassi” (clever, because that directly referenced its theme song), I stood on the streets of Time Square outside of the MTV building for a few hours before I caught the attention of the producers, who brought me up so I could be on the show and meet the cast.    

October 2, 2007 will forever be known as the day that Drake kissed my cheek.   

This is also the day I (foolishly) decided to make fame into a career path.

 "You da, you da best" - now you know the true inspiration behind Drake's song "Best I Ever Had"...me.

"You da, you da best" - now you know the true inspiration behind Drake's song "Best I Ever Had"...me.

The reception and response to my appearance on TRL was admittedly addicting.  People came out of the woodworks to reach out to me, saying they had seen me on national TV.  It was a hot story in my small hometown for a few weeks, and I loved every second of it.

See, I’m a Leo, and I know it’s the most obnoxious thing in the world to attribute my personal character traits to where the sun was positioned amongst the stars on the day I was born, but it truly is uncanny how I fit the bill for Leo so well.  I’m fiercely loyal, am certainly not lacking in pride, but perhaps most notably - especially in my younger years - I love being the center of attention, and so I often find myself thrust into that position.  People watch me, and I love being watched.

That sounds awful out of context.  Please don’t stalk me.

So my stint on TRL and the very brief taste of fame that it allotted me launched me on a quest for fame that at times seemed like it would actually be successful (such as when me and my best friend - also a Leo - made a comedic rap called “Nick Jonas” that got several thousand views in a couple of days), but ultimately left me frustrated.

The now infamous "Nick Jonas" rap where my best friend and I dressed in drag to rap about a then underaged Nick Jonas and got 20,000 views for it.

It took a couple of years, but I eventually realized that seeking fame is not only a fruitless pursuit in most cases, but also a pointlessly shallow one.  Now don’t get me wrong - my pursuit of fame was as genuine as it possibly could be.  Yes, I loved attention, but ultimately, I just loved being able to make people laugh, to leave them feeling good, and I did sincerely want to use a platform of fame to positively reach as many people as possible.  I honestly wanted to do good with it.

Still, I found the raw pursuit of fame to ultimately be misguided and grossly self-centered.  Being motivated in my work by the idea of millions of people seeing and validating me did nothing but demean my comedy and art, so by the time I was 21 years old, my mindset had totally changed.  I no longer cared about being famous - I just wanted to positively impact the world and affect people with whatever it was that I did, with absolutely no care of if I ever got personal credit or recognition for it or not.

That was a much better place to be.

So let’s fast-forward five years - I am now 26 years old.

Over the past few months, my friends and I have started to become involved in the lesbian community in Los Angeles.

And when I say that, I mean we occasionally attend the few monthly events that exist for lesbians in Los Angeles.  Though fun, most of them are in tight venues filled to the brim, with EDM pumping awfully in our ears as we take a long sip of our drinks every time a Draco Malfoy lookalike walks by as a coping mechanism.

 Awkward, yet charming selfie of "the squad" during our first official group foray into the lesbian nightlife. 

Awkward, yet charming selfie of "the squad" during our first official group foray into the lesbian nightlife. 

These forays introduced us to the idea of a “celesbian” - these dapper, untouchable women who were behind these events, dripping with instagram followers liking all of their perfectly filtered selfies.  They’re the Rat Pack of lesbians, the queens of the scene, basking in the limelight as us peasant lesbians (lezzants, if you will.  Pesbians?) watched with googly eyes from the sidelines.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration, because I was ultimately unfazed by this mostly whitewashed lesbian elitism, but I couldn’t help but ironically esteem the idea of being a celesbian, because that word and its concept are just so funny, but oddly apt.  

Disillusioned by these very few lesbian events that all seemed to be the same (not very diverse, mostly in overwhelming nightclubs settings, devoid of any hip hop music - what is up with the lesbian fascination with EDM?!), my friends and I began to brainstorm creating our own alternative - the ideal lesbian gathering by our definitions.

This snowballed into jokes about intertwining this with a quest of becoming “celesbians” ourselves - something we’d say with total self-awareness and a lot of tongue-in-cheek, but the ultimate idea behind it had merit: we wanted to host a space for queer women that provided something different to the current climate.

And honestly, deep down, the ideal of accidentally becoming “celesbians” was a little appealing, if not in a humorous way.  If anything, it gave us an excuse to update our wardrobe.

But that’s the thing!  All of these instagram famous lesbians are so stylish, and I, first off, just don’t have that money, and secondly, wouldn’t be able to justify such purchases even if I did.  It feels incredibly trite - for me personally - to spend excess money on clothes when I have all the clothes I need, and there are so many people out there who don't.  

Of course that means my wardrobe is always usually about 3-5 years behind in fashion, which does suck a little bit. because I truly love the style that has become popular right now - especially queer, androgynous urban style.  

So jokingly, I decided that one of my 2016 New Year’s resolutions would be to become a celesbian, solely so that clothing companies would give me free clothes to wear and feature on my Instagram.

I just literally never want to pay for a snapback or a pair of joggers with my own money ever again.

It’s funny how you can spend three years legitimately trying to become famous and fail, but when you jokingly make it a goal, it starts to happen within two months.

Along with my friends, I have suddenly and surprisingly found myself climbing up the lesbian ladder, well on my way to this pipe dream of celesbianism, which has been absolutely insane.  February hasn’t already ended, and we’re already being sent free clothes by companies.  Like...what?

I literally have no actual interest being famous, but I’m taking this as a sign from God and just going with it, because why not and also, free clothes.

Also, though I have no interest in fame, I do honestly have a lot of interest in being influential. I want to create important art constantly.  I want to reach out and connect to people through my art.  More than anything, I want to see this world changed for the better, for the sake of humanity, and I want to be apart of that process as much as I can.

And so celesbianism just may be my gateway to that.

And also, free clothes.  

Okay, but for real, though.  At the beginning of the year, my friends and I very briefly dabbled on this app called “Periscope”, where people essentially watch you livestream.  We turned our channel into a lesbian-centric stream, letting people watch us chill on my couch as we talked about gay stuff  - both the trite (games of FKM) and the meaningful (what it was like coming out).  To our pleasant surprise, a lot of people loved it.

I love attention, and even though I don’t actively seek it out as much, the fact that I love it will probably never change.  So admittedly, I got a thrill of fifty people wanting to watch me entertain them.

But that wasn’t the ultimate value at all of my Periscope experience.  It was the fact that several people thanked us, because they were queer in a small town with no other queer people around them, and it was refreshing for them to see us, interact with us, and not feel so disconnected and isolated.

It’s the thought that I come back to as I work on “Calling All Lesbians.”  There is a girl out there, probably in the South or the Midwest, who has no semblance of queer community whatsoever around her, and she’s struggling to feel validated and affirmed and understood in this vacuum where no one is like her.

That girl needs presences and media featuring faces and voices and identities like hers - the sort of thing I wish I had more of when I was younger that would’ve helped me come to grips with who I was much sooner and much easier than I did.  

More than anything, I don’t want anyone to feel like they’re alone.  I don’t want them to feel ostracized and outcast and like they aren’t valuable because they don’t fit into whatever bullshit standards that society tends to esteem.  

Crazily enough, in these first two of months of the year, I’ve found myself serendipitously and so gratefully involved in something that has helped to give a source of encouragement and validation to girls and women in situations like that.

Through “Calling All Lesbians”, we’ve gotten similar messages and sentiments to those we received on Periscope.  One in particular put this project into the best perspective for me, from a fourteen year old girl in the UK who had found us on Instagram and told us she finds it hard to be herself, but that what we were doing was helping her feel more like herself than she was able to in real life.

I saw that and thought to myself, “I only ever want to make art as important as this.”

So that’s what celesbian status is to me - constantly creating something that will positively reach and affect people.  My name, my image, my own personal validation means nothing here.  I just so badly want to be apart of a movement that takes away burdens, helps heal pain, and allows us all to live happy, equal, freeing lives.

The free clothes aren’t too bad, either.

And so I start this blog to record the journey of my facetious New Year resolution turned legitimate venture, but really it’s a blog from a queer woman, hoping to reach out not only to other queer women, but anyone really, because we’re all in this together, right?  That wasn’t meant to be a High School Musical reference, but I’m definitely fine if you take it as one.

So I present to you...My Path to Celesbianism.  If this goes well, maybe I’ll make a smartphone app a la Demi Lovato’s “Path to Fame.”

 A picture that Demi Lovato and I took on her "Path to Fame" app lolz Also, is it just me, or is Demi undressing me with her eyes?

A picture that Demi Lovato and I took on her "Path to Fame" app lolz Also, is it just me, or is Demi undressing me with her eyes?