gay

What Adults Can Learn from LGBT Youth

Recently, I attended a conference for the LGBT community. It was an enlightening experience and I encountered LGBT people of all ages and from all circumstances, including differences in race, home life, religious beliefs, and more.

I was most impressed, though, by the LGBT youth I met there. This is you

You are so strong and so bold to be living your life as authentically as possible. I suppressed my feelings about being a lesbian for many years and came out as an adult. You, however, have chosen to branch out, find yourselves and express your true self. It was simply inspiring to see such a strong group of young people.

I also met family members who fully supported their LGBT children of all ages in their life's journeys. I hope this is the case for you, too: that your loved ones treat you with respect and love you just as you are.

~~~

Let me share a few things I, a lesbian adult, learned from you, an LGBT teen, at my recent conference visit.

1.   It’s okay to believe in who you are.

You’ve inspired me to be me and believe in that. I am a strong individual who can be like you and love myself. 

2.     I don’t have to be closeted and alone.

I watched so many LGBT youth at the conference interacting and forming new friendships. Not that you were in cliques, but you were loving and accepting of each other. I saw you being “out,” coming together, and making connection so you don’t have to be alone on your journey.

3.     Strength comes from within -- and it's infectious.

So many of you exuded strength beyond anything I have possessed. You encouraged and showed others how to be strong and how to share that strength so others can feel and grow from it.

4.     I can live happily in the LGBT community no matter how old I am.

I was so impressed how comfortable you were in your own skin. I loved watching your happiness and how it spread. It showed me that in my journey as an adult, I can be happy just the way I am ,and that many of you already are living happily just as yourselves.

In the end, I found that you, as youth, are a driving force in forging the LGBT community's way forward. You are strong, new pioneers opening up the way for many others to express their sexualities and gender identities.

You are the new generation who will lead and create a brighter future for us all.

 

Photo courtesy of Kevin Dooley / Flickr.

Must-See TV For LGBTQ Youth: 'RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE'

I was embarrassingly late to the party with RuPaul’s Drag Race.

I finally arrived on a visit to Toronto to see my best Canadian friend Shih-Ming Yao. We were lying in his bed, recovering from a big night out.

“Let’s watch some Drag Race?” he suggested. I knew of RuPaul’s Drag Race -- the reality TV show hosted by drag icon RuPaul -- but I’d never invested any time in watching it. Ming, though, had several seasons ready to go on the hard-drive of his MacBook.

I was hooked from the first episode.

~~~

Drag queens are entertainers, so it’s fun watching them do anything. Ming jumped around the various seasons, showing me some of the best episodes, the most sickening lip-syncs, and the fiercest death-drops.

When I got home I was on the case, catching up on all the seasons (except Season 1, which I’ve only seen glimpses of); I even watched the spin-off series Drag U. By the time the most recent season of RPDR came around (Season 6, won by Bianca Del Rio) I was a total aficionado. I'd watched nearly every episode, the Untucked behind-the-scenes companion piece, the YouTube updates, and even the AfterBuzz panel discussion following each episode. RuPaul’s Drag Race is simply great TV.

But RuPaul’s Drag Race is a lot more than just a zany reality show. It takes you behind the scenes, behind the make-up, the wigs, the costumes, and the huge personalities that go into being a drag queen -- which is one of the toughest jobs in the entertainment industry.

There is a lot of drama, a lot of tears, and personal stories shared, but ultimately the show’s message is one of empowerment, self-belief, and self-worth. One of RuPaul’s many mantras is: “If you can’t love yourself - how in the hell are you going to love somebody else!”

It sounds straightforward enough, but if you’ve ever tried to analyze what went wrong in a failed relationship then you’ll know that looking in the mirror is the first place to start.

~~~

The winner of RPDR Season 3 was the uber-stylish Raja. Towards one of the final episodes of the season, each of the contestants was asked what winning the competition would mean to them. For me, Raja’s answer perfectly encapsulated everything that I had been feeling for years but never found a way to express:

“In winning this competition, I would like to be a role model for all those little boys who are teased, who are bullied, who don’t know how to express themselves creatively yet. I wanna tell them, ‘It’s okay to say f*** you, and do whatever you want to do.’”

“The power of ‘f*** you’” said RuPaul, nodding and smiling.

RuPaul’s Drag Race has become so successful that the contestants from the show are now some of the biggest names in entertainment - world tours, sold out shows, guest appearances at Pride events all over the place.

Entertainers. Role Models. People. The queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race are the living embodiment of the power of “f*** you.”

 

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Every Gay Guy I Knew Wanted to Be Someone Else...And That's Not OK.

I'm coming up on 30 years of age.

With that milestone, comes some thinking about life and love and relationships. A little self-reflection as I reach this life passage. And with that in mind, I turn my thinking to the body image issues that have come to define a good portion of gay culture.

It seems we are always striving to be someone else.

We want to be skinnier, we want to be more muscular. We want to be hairier, we wish we weren’t so hairy. All this lies in the thought that if we aren’t these things, if we don’t fall into these categories, or look a certain way, we will not find the connections we want so badly. We will be outcast, set aside, and live a life of loneliness.

The truth is, though: Everyone is different. That’s for sure. But of course, not everyone thinks this way. I look at some of my friends, and I see a lack of confidence in who they are. I've seen it consistently over the years: in boyfriends, in acquaintances, in countless others.

~~~

In New York City, every gay guy I knew wanted to be someone else. You walk into the bars, and it’s a sea of up-down looks, men sizing each other up, and deciding if you were good enough for them to deign to speak to you.

We don’t respect ourselves enough.

I think that’s the thing. Gay men put these prerequisites on each other, these pillars you have to reach. You aren’t heavy enough for me, you aren’t skinny enough for me. If you want me to like you, you’re going to have go to the gym and get that belly toned. You need to change the way you dress. 

And we don’t just do it to our partners, we do it to our friends. We constantly compete. We're constantly judging each other. It’s rampant, and in fact, it’s toxic.

What’s the goal? What are we running to? What do we get out of this? What is all this really doing for us?

I would argue it is doing very little. It’s squashing our self-esteem, it’s killing our confidence. We walk on eggshells, as that is too often the only life we know.

~~~

Think about how you are in your friend groups. Are you guys talking about real issues, really trying to understand each other? Are you arguing, debating, sharing your passions? Or do you spend more time fixated on clothes, and bodies, and the surface of it all?

Look at your relationship. The guy you’re dating -- does he love you for you, or is he constantly asking you to change things about yourself?  Is he glad you’re with him, or is he looking elsewhere?

This is, of course, a larger issue, but it’s worth beginning that dialogue. Be who you were born to be: that’s my advice to you you. If you don’t like it, then by all means, change it. But ask yourself why you are changing. And ask yourself who are you really changing for.

Is it the man in the mirror? Or is that guy you’ve been dating for three months? Or is your friends who don’t believe enough in who they are?

If you love comic books, cargo shorts, and science fiction, then love it, and don’t make any apologies for it. If you have a couple extra pounds on you, who cares? Love your body as it is.

Everyone wants to be noticed, to be loved. I think we can all agree on that. But that doesn’t mean you have to change. The guys I know, the ones who don’t worry about their bodies, they are the ones who are the most secure.

Love your body. Love who you are. Love the things you like. Change if you’re not happy. But don’t change for a guy. Don’t change for anyone but your own self.

 

 Photo courtesy of Ming Lee / Flickr.

 

Gay YouTube Comedy: More Than Just Good for Laughs

In this digital world we now call home, it’s fascinating to see the role that online video plays in our lives. Videos resonate with us. Videos make us cry, make us think, provide us looks into worlds we never knew. And at times even, they can move us into action. Online video is an incredible, up-to-the-minute way of reaching the masses, and for getting information out into the world. 

But today, I'm more interested in, online video's other purpose: To make us laugh.

With this new trend taking shape, let’s take a minute to spotlight some of the notable artists in the LGBT world who are bringing their content to the masses.

    Billy Eichner of Billy on the Street - a loud, manic, over-the-top gameshow, both lampooning and idolizing celebrity culture

 

   Sassy Gay Friend - one of the early adopters of the online video format. Second City brought gay humor to online media, and melded it with classic Shakespearean texts

 

    DWV: The hilarious Drag Queens of RuPaul’s Drag Race - Willam, Detox, and Vikki Vox - three one-of-a-kind artists who put a truly fierce spin on song parodies

 

    Day Drunk Gays - a short form online video series of four friends chatting over Sunday brunch

 

    Davey Wavey - one man who has found a way to get his musings on life, love, and dating, out into the online world

 

    Where the Bears Are - a hilarious, tongue-in-cheek sitcom following the misadventures four hirsute friends

 

    Gay of Thrones - an over-the-top hairstylist rehashes every episode of Game of Thrones for your viewing pleasure

 

These are just a few examples of amazing LGBT artists who are putting their comedic skills to good use. They are being heard and they are making news. And best of all, they are finding new avenues to get their voices out into the world.

Further, their work speaks to the larger issue of connection and communication. Online video provides a platform for artists who, you could argue, wouldn’t have the chance to display their skills on mainstream network television. But with online video, there are no limits to what you can do. If the networks don't want to hear your voice, then who cares? You do it yourself. You make it happen for yourself.

I love this. Online video is the place to bring comedy and drama into the forefront of the public conscious. Artists are putting their work out there. And in doing so, many facets of our community are represented, all bringing forth their own personal style. It doesn’t matter what you’re into, there is content out there for you.

It’s easy to watch these videos, laugh, and neglect to see the power that this content wields.

When you’re an established, out and proud young adult you may not see the true impact these videos have. Instead, think about the men and women who aren’t out. Think about the teenagers who are still struggling with who they are.

These videos, I'd argue, provide a real service, even if that’s not their direct intention. These videos give that man or woman on the other end a real respite from their daily lives. They are funny, heartfelt, and endearing. People see these lives on the screens, and maybe, they don’t feel so alone in the world.

I hope a kid watches this content and takes solace in knowing that there are folks out there like him. People see that there is hope for them. You show different lives, and maybe these folks don’t feel so alone in the world. The next phase to this online platform is to show a little more of everyday lives of gay men and women. Get the characters out of the big city, and throw them into smaller towns. But for now, these guys are making great work, and that’s what is most important.

They aren’t afraid of being who they are. They aren’t worried about what people may say. They know they will find an audience. They are putting their hearts into their work, and they are letting their voices sing.

 

When's the Last Time You Saw a Queer Trans Man Onscreen? Time to Re-Watch 'ROMEOS.'

Editor's Note: This article contains movie plot spoilers.

I usually have to brace myself before taking on a film about trans life. Partly because there are so few stories with trans characters, but also because such narratives likely inform many peoples’ views about trans folks.

Further, how often do you see depictions of men who are not only transgender, but gay? If you’re in the right crowds, you can get to know such amazing folks, but representations of queer transmen in mainstream media are few and far between. Here to raise one hand, thankfully, is Romeos (2011), a light-of-touch yet gritty drama featuring a twenty-year-old German trans man named Lukas.

When Lukas goes to a gay club one night and realizes he’s attracted to a cis man, Fabio, the feeling turns out to be mutual. Their relationship goes on to blossom like any other, sweetly, bit by bit, as they get to know each other. Nevertheless, Lukas constantly covers his still-full chest. When he’s reluctantly taken to a lake to swim, he remains fully clothed, visibly anxious, worried that he might reveal he’s trans. Lukas only goes into the water when Fabio pulls him in. 

Lukas, like many marginalized people in real life, is antagonized by forces bigger than any one person. When he is outed as a trans man before he’s ready, Fabio reacts crudely and transphobically, saying he isn’t into “trannies.” This reaction hits the core of many trans peoples’ fears: that we’ll be rejected and remain unloved because of ignorance, fear, and cultural hangups.

Granted, not everyone reacts this way, but when it happens with someone you like or maybe even love, it can be extremely painful. There’s no easy way to deal with this. In time, though, as increasing numbers of narratives emerge, trans people will become more and more visible. Eventually, one hopes, transphobia will become less of a barrier to connecting with people. 

While Romeos feels a little like Trans 101 at times, addressing medical transition in a tone that assumes one is not familiar with the process, the film is ultimately is the story of a young man's personal growth. Lukas doesn’t stand in for all trans-masculine experiences, but he does wear the tribe’s emblem.

For many people, this movie will be a partial mirror in a world with very few sensitive, complex reflections. For many others, it will expand their sphere of empathy to include a new understanding of how a person can be.

Lukas reconciles with Fabio in the last part of the film, but the movie doesn’t end by focusing on their relationship, avoiding the implication that his self-worth hinges on a cis man’s “magical” validation. Instead, in the final take, we see Lukas at a beach before a camera, presumably held by a friend or a lover — maybe Fabio, maybe someone new. Our hero Lukas smiles, shyly taking off his shirt to reveal he’s had top surgery. Then, lifting up his arms in triumph, beaming like the happiest guy on earth, Lukas runs over the dunes to the far shore, alone.

Ultimately, Lukas — as a trans man, as a man — is more than enough.