Don’t stay trapped in the closet.
(this originally appeared in the print edition of the Campus Carrier in September 2013, as well as on vikingfusion.com here)
College is about reinventing yourself. It’s about doing things you would never do and discovering yourself for the first, second and even a third time. I reinvented myself by entering Berry as an out gay man, and I’m going to leave Berry as an out gay man.
If you’re like R. Kelly and you’re trapped in the closet, Berry is a pretty good place to start getting out lonely place. I’m not saying you should immediately come out, because that is an incredibly personal struggle that everyone should do on their own time. But let me tell you — coming out is single-handedly the most scary yet freeing thing many of us will ever do.
The scary part is the fact that you can never know what someone’s reaction may be to your closely-held secret. I look at the act of “coming out” as causing four possible reactions.
Leaked celebrity nudes are cyber sexual abuse
(this originally appeared in the print edition of the Campus Carrier in September of 2014, as well as on vikingfusion.com here)
Over the weekend, a flood of nude pictures of various female celebrities were leaked by some hacker(s) and posted to the wretched dregs of the internet: 4chan. From 4chan, they spread like wildfire, and the hacker(s) charged people bitcoins for access to the photos. Eventually these photographs ended up on Reddit, and it became known as “The Fappening”.
It’s as if nude pictures of these women were placed on billboards around the country against their will, but these billboards are actually well-lit screens and everyone has at least two of them on hand at all times. Even more dire is the context in which these photographs were taken — intimate, private moments of extreme vulnerability with their respective partners.
Stereotyping ignores individualities: “Hipsters”
(this originally appeared in the print edition of the Campus Carrier in April of 2014, as well as on vikingfusion.com here)
Relevance, as a social construction but also as a measuring stick for socially-dependent ideas of self worth, has been one of my primary concerns since 2007. In 2007, a little blog started called Hipster Runoff, more commonly known as HRO. Over the years, Hipster Runoff has been an incredibly poignant and striking critique of “hipster” culture, which existed, ironically, far before the word “hipster” was invented in the 1940s. Being a “hipster” is consciously going against mainstream influences and appreciating things that mainstream audiences do not normally expose themselves to. It’s a counter-culture, but the awareness isn’t always on purpose. That awareness might come out of an honest lack of appreciation of widely accepted ideas or trends.
living with OCD, anxiety, and sensory overload
a short story written by me a few months ago
he crashed through vegetable selection and substitution, straight through the rough of his recipe. he googled dill weed and decided that the only way to continue changing his life was to have it in his spice rack. the old him would never have even looked at a recipe. he somehow didn’t feel convinced that his life was changing himself or if he was changing his life, and he dealt with this every time his eyes got hit with mist in the produce section because he stays there too long. grocery shopping, like life, makes him crave cigarettes and like life, the cigarette check out lane had already closed for the evening.
with the immediacy of experiencing automatic sliding doors, he pushed his cart filled with a bunch of choices towards his car. the sky opened up in front of him, and jet plane trails shredded it at every angle. “there’s a strip mall at the horizon”, he thought.
he piled his groceries haphazardly into his car and watched a team of short-haired women in boots smile at him as they returned carts just like his. people carried their choices in carts, and these women carried those carts. he returned his cart to the store, notably, because he didn’t use a cart return. “that’s a rather sterile way to treat that which was burdened by my choices”, he thought but only in more uncertain terms.
he returned to his car, and stared downwards, choosing accidentally to not participate in the rotting of his groceries in the 89 degree car tomb. things had frozen in him, to a degree, and he felt sadly happy. duke called that feeling “sentimental” but he thought it might have been a sick nostalgia. sick in the way you might feel after too much sugar or alcohol, where you feel the worst JUST after the most fun parts of your life. he saw the ladies moving more carts around and they didn’t notice him in his car. people kept passing him to get in their cars and return to wherever they came from. he wanted to cry and listen to sad songs, and to never fight the overwhelming beauty of being surrounded by living beings and never ever combat the dusk sky no matter how many times a jet plane cuts it’s skin — all of this because he’s at the grocery store.
he thought about going home, and how going home might require passing through lanes of seemingly automated traffic, operated by probable shells of organic matter. he thought about how hard it is to imagine every human being on the planet having just as much epistemological strife as he, so often times he operated as if the rest of the world were hardwired and mechanized to live their lives, and it wasn’t hard for them like it was for him… because he looked into eyes and saw depth and couldn’t stop seeing depth; the depth of their pains and the heights of their happinesses — wait that latter part reminded him of when he read kahlil gibran and gibran wrote
"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
and how gibran planted in him the golden grain of self acceptance. he felt the winds pick up as he opened his windows to the setting sun and drove out of the black hot parking lot. he nodded at a pedestrian crossing the street in acknowledgment and felt relieved.
he held back tears for how long he waited to see beauty infinitely without being so, so frightened of his incredibly obtuse, widely cast net of empathy to the point of death;
and he finally did.
one of my facebook friends posted the above link and i responded to her friends who dissented with Christian faith-based opposition to marriage equality.
i posted this comment:
We live in a country where the government (state) and religion (church) are incredibly separate. That is literally said in the constitution. Marriage as an institution has existed in many different forms throughout history, and has largely symbolized an exchange of lands (dowry) or cross-familial partnerships in feudal times. At this end, marriage is hardly just a christian thing, and whether it is or not doesn’t matter in this country because religion cannot influence policy.
Even if that line of reasoning doesn’t satisfy you, take a second and read this: I’m a gay man, and I was raised southern baptist. My parents never forced my brother nor I to go to church. We never really wanted to. My brother, who is 29 (I’m 21) goes to church with his family now because he chose to do so. I don’t have any interest, but I have plenty of christian friends and especially christian family members. But when I came out to my parents, I faced the whole “hate the sin love the sinner” thing. That doesn’t really work, you see, because in the same way that being straight is apart of your identity, being gay is apart of mine. At first, I heard my parents saying “We love you, but that’s unnatural/immoral/wrong/etc”, I was relieved to think that they still loved me despite how ‘wrong’ my sexuality seemed to be. There’s something commendable about the Christian faith when it comes to committing to your beliefs and faith when you face adversity, but we are all people trying to occupy the same space and find happiness and meaning in life. Not allowing a large group of people in this country to get married might seem like a small thing, but when you think about the journeys that almost everyone in the LGBT community has had to traverse, including me, when we come out to family or friends and we are met with “hate the sin, love the sinner”, and we reach a point where we can’t distinguish between our “sin” and ourselves, it doesn’t matter how much our loved ones say that they love us.
Now, imagine if the people who raised you and told you that they loved you their entire lives all of a sudden sounded disingenuous? That no matter how honest they seemed when they said those 3 words to you, that there was a part of you that they could not and will not accept or at least try to understand?
All we want in the LGBT community is for people to just love us the way that everyone else is loved. Some of us need marriage to be legalized for us to feel that way, because that means society writ large may be ready to accept or try to understand us. or in the very least, acknowledge us with friendship. Some of us need our parents to finally come around despite their faith. I may be agnostic, but I believe there isn’t a God in this world worth believing in who would refuse one of his children that.
So when you look upon your brothers, sisters, and transgendered kin, try to find the sorrow in their eyes from parental and/or societal rejection and the internal demonization of their sexuality based on external responses they receive. Forget what they do in the bedroom, forget who they can fall in love with (and possibly be most hurt by), and realize that they are just walking through life in tandem with you, and you can help make them smile.