New Year Resolutions

I have a gym buddy that I meet weekly.  In the past, we’ve gone to the gym on my campus, which allows one accompanied guest for free.  Given my recent graduation, we’re scrambling to come up with new plans.  This last week, we ended up at somewhere that wasn’t exactly a gym…

Me: (Snapchat to Girlfriend: Selfie of me smirking, tables in background, captioned: We definitely made it to the gym…)

Girlfriend: That looks like a bar…

Me: (Snapchat pictured below:

Snapchat of gym friend, captioned: No, definitely a gym

This is my gym friend.

Girlfriend: That’s the barriest looking gym I’ve ever seen.

Cheers to setting expectations at a very attainable level for 2016!

S-E-X

Let’s talk about sex.  Here’s a story from a woman at work that I heard during our holiday party yesterday:

My kids aren’t allowed to say “sex” or “sexy” or any of that.  But they’ll find it in games — I don’t know why, it’s always the games — and they’ll come running, “Mommy! Mommy! This game has a bad word in it!  Should we take the card out?” […]  And then [child] the other day was like, “Mom, what does S-E-X mean?” and I was like Oh, crap! “It means like whether you’re a boy or a girl.”  [Co-worker asks how old child is.]  He’s 8.  Seems a little young to know about all of that.

It is not my place to tell you what to teach your child and when to do it, but you’d better believe I am going to judge.  This poor child is going to be sexually mature within the next decade, and he will have spent at least the first decade of his life thinking that “sex” and all things associated with it are bad and forbidden like other (actually) bad words.  Talk about baggage.  In some part of his mind, that’s going to stick with him for decades.

There are definitely things you are slowly initiated into over time, like your knowledge of sex.  My family was one in which your questions were answered.  Anatomically, with hand-drawn diagrams of various organs that could take over the dinner table, food half-forgotten.  I really appreciate that in retrospect.  Sex was what brought about babies.  I could understand that.  I could understand the body parts I had and the body parts male bodies had and how they worked together, which at least made sense logically, although it did seem a little sketchy where motivation was concerned.

I do remember, though, one Christmas when one of my cousins was in town and she was telling a story and stopped suddenly and was like, “Wait, do your kids know about sex?” to my mom.  And my mom answered, “Yes, but they think we’ve only done it three times.”

My mind was blown.

The idea that people would have sex to have sex and not for babies was confusing.  And I had previously believed all sex lead to a baby, so I was not sure why I only had two siblings if my parents had had sex more than three times.

I remember the “Joy of Sex” books on one of our bookcases, although I’m not sure I ever pulled them out.  I remember trying to look up “oral sex” in the dictionary with a friend because I had a puberty/sex book that mentioned but did not explain it.  I remember totally wanting to avoid the topic completely for most of my teens because I knew I wasn’t thinking about sex in the same way as everything had informed me I would (spoiler alert: totally gay).

Everyone has a different journey growing up and learning about sex.  But I really feel for that 8-year-old, who either doesn’t know how to pronounce S-E-X as a word or feels so much shame around it that it must be spelled.  Puberty is going to hit that kid hard.

25 by 25: Completion

Today is my 25th birthday. I would like to report that I completed by 25 by 25 list.  Here is a post giving evidence to that fact.

A few reminders about this: not everything happened in the last year.  This list is half a bucket list for my 24th year, half a bucket list for my first quarter-century of life.  Additionally, the list changed a little throughout the year, especially in the last six months as it became apparent that some things would be impossible.  I never replaced a task with something I had already done, so I think that’s legal.

1. Go streaking

This happened senior year of high school.  We were having a senior marching band girls sleepover.  We may or may not have wound up naked on the marching band field, performing our show (singing, no instruments).

The singular almost-proof picture

The singular almost-proof picture

 

2. Go skinny dipping

Eh, this one is almost a freebie.  This has happened a couple of times.  I’m convinced it’s inevitable when you spend large amounts of time next to and on a lake.

 

3. See Pacific ocean

When I wrote this list, I was in a job I didn’t like and I intended to stay in that job until the summer, quit, take a month long road trip that would involve a train to Seattle, a leg down the coast, and coming back up Route 66.  That was how I was going to see the Pacific ocean.  Instead, in October, I quit my job.  A week or two into unemployment, I had a new offer, so I took an impulse trip to visit my friend Gwen in Vancouver in my remaining unemployed time.  Vancouver happens to be on the West coast.

Not the ocean, but from the same trip

Not the ocean, but from the same trip

Recently, my dad informed me that I had already seen the Pacific ocean on a vacation we took when I was in 4th grade.

 

4. Take a road trip

In a desperate attempt to cram everything in prior to today given a lack of time off, I decided to make Labor Day weekend a Road Trip weekend.  My dad came with me, and it was awesome.  We went out to the Badlands and Rushmore and the Black Hills.

In the Badlands

In the Badlands

 

5. Get a cat

I guess I had two cats when I wrote this list, but one of them was very new to me.  And the other one is my heart cat.

Seriously, how can you resist?

Seriously, how can you resist?

 

6. Lose the v card

Check! (2010, for those who question whether it was a this-year goal.)

 

7. Learn to wakeboard

Wakeboarding is my absolute favorite thing to do in the world.  There is no way it could not be on this list.

Tearing it up

Tearing it up

 

8. Learn to drive

Yeah, I did that.  I just remember the whole process being painful.  Explicitly, I remember driving to the lake with the whole family in the car one night in the pouring rain and having a stubborn match with the parental whose side of the family is known for stubbornness.  First, I wanted to quit and the parental wanted me to keep going.  Then eventually with much yelling and crying and stuff, the parental wanted me to quit and I wanted to keep going.  I don’t really remember the details.  I just remember being relieved when I was switched out of the driver’s seat.  Plus, like, I learned to drive, so water under the bridge, you know?

Me and Ted, my car

Me and Ted, my car

 

9. Go to casino

I went to the casino in like late winter/early spring, and I came back with a return of 110%.  How?  I played a slot machine until I won, no matter how small, and quit.  It was great.  I won like a buck on the ten I put in.

Winnings voucher!

Winnings voucher!

 

10. Go to valley fair

Valley Fair is the Six Flags of Minnesota, since apparently it is not cool enough to have its own Six Flags like every other part of the country.  I went with my friend Emily this summer.  It was fine and stuff.  Average theme park.

Cats should be allowed at theme parks.

 

11. Go to concert

Prior to this year, I had never been to a non-classical concert.  My friend Jen and I went to see The Backstreet Boys.  Which always should have been my first concert.  Just maybe 12-14 years ago.

We were instructed to "Scream like you're 15 again!"

We were instructed to “Scream like you’re 15 again!”

 

12. Make french silk pie

My friend Brian and I made a french silk pie when I visited him in March(?).  It was disgusting.  I will never be using that recipe ever again.

All pie except that pie. That pie we made was gross.

 

13. Go berry picking, make jam

This was a thing I did right before my 24th birthday, so it practically counted, right?

Yummy yummy

Yummy yummy

 

14. Buzz head

Again, technically I did this just before my 24th birthday, but my 24th year involved actually living with that buzzed head and all the growing out phases following that.

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15. Go to (college) homecoming

My first year out of undergrad, I missed it so badly that it was too painful to go back to campus until the spring, and even then, the few times I did go down there, I mostly met up with friends in town rather than actually hang around campus.  So for my 25 by 25, I made it a goal to go to the formal Homecoming Weekend.  It was a lot of fun.  I enjoyed being on campus in a new, graduated adult role.

Um Ya Ya!

Um Ya Ya!

 

16. Go to Mount Rushmore

This happened on my road trip with my dad.  Admittedly, it determined the location goal of said road trip.  Anyway, Rushmore’s pretty cool.

Four heads?  I think it needs a fifth.

Four heads? I think it needs a fifth.

 

17. Get published

I have been published twice.

Once, in middle school, I submitted an article about a friend of mine for New Moon magazine’s (link: https://www.newmoon.com/magazine/) Beautiful Girls issue.  It was selected.  This has been a huge embarrassment both then and ever since because 1) they did not keep a single word of what I actually wrote and 2) I was soooo crushing on this friend and had no idea, but I knew then that it wasn’t normal, so it was weird then, and it’s weird now because it’s one of my cringe-worthy early gayball stories.

The second time I was published was in the Electronic Journal of Linear Algebra.  You can read (or try to, anyway) that article here:

MY MATHEMATICAL CONTRIBUTION TO THE WORLD

 So FYI, I am a published mathematician.  For now and forever.

 

18. Finish quilt

I finished my t-shirt quilt in junior(?) year of college.  It was a huge endeavor.  It took me many years.  I am very proud of it.  Somehow, despite the 42 squares on this quilt, I still have too many t-shirts.

No bed has these proportions

No bed has these proportions

 

19. Play ukelele

I bought a ukelele this year and learned to play it.  I love it.  I have tried to have skype jam sessions with two people now.  Those are less successful than the ukelele in general.

Ukelele involves singing. Cats are not invited.

 

20. Wildcard – anything you’ve never done before

I have no idea what I intended for this.  Here are some things I did for the first time this year: go to a Dakota, take ownership for a database, join Instagram, tweet, run a 5K without walking, buy a bridesmaid’s dress, use a 3D printer, hire a house-sitter, and break a bone.

Radial neck fracture.  And a busted up face.

Radial neck fracture. And a busted up face.

 

21. Visit Megan

I visited Megan on a whim in April and then again this summer after her surgery.  Both times we got Brahm’s.  I have concluded that the presence of Brahm’s is Texas’s greatest redeeming factor.

Brahm's, bitches

Brahm’s, bitches

 

22. Go to Europe

Did this prior to this year.  I went to London in high school with band, and then studied abroad in Budapest in college.  I also visited Prague and Amsterdam on the study abroad trip.

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23. Do a shot

I had never done a shot prior to this year.  DO NOT MOCK ME.  There is nothing wrong with not being stupid.  Anyway, I had some purple thing the same night I went to the casino with Jen.  It was fine.  Nobody died.  I see no reason to avoid or repeat the experience.

This is what I drank.

This is what I drank.

 

24. Make a real live used webpage

I think this was a late addition, because that job I started in November was doing web development.  And I wanted to be useful enough on the team that I was actually developing web stuff.  My first application got released sometime this spring.  Unfortunately, it is behind a login that y’all don’t have access to, so I can’t show it off.

Workin’ hard. Look at that 25-year-old maturity.

 

25. Ride a motorcycle

My friend Jen (boy, she was quite the accomplice for this list) said she would take me on her motorcycle.  It was terrifying.  And exciting.  Mostly terrifying.  I think I prefer jet skis — same effect, lower risks.

Riding into year 25!

Riding into year 25!

All the Feels

This is the song stuck in my head today:

 

 

It has been a very melancholy day.  Which is odd, because mostly today I read, snuggled some cats, and cleaned.  But I mean, this song kind of demands that you adopt a little-bit-depressed demeanure.  WordPress is trying to tell me that’s not a word.  But I googled it, and various dictionaries say it is.  They also say it’s obsolete.  This confuses me.  I know lots of people that say demeanure.  Unless I’m thinking of a different word.

 

Sigh.

 

 

Parade Day: 90+ Degrees

Today Governor Dayton signs the Freedom to Marry act into law in Minnesota: I am real today.


That’s inaccurate — I am real every day.  Today, and yesterday, and Friday, the people that hold the power in Minnesota (well, the majority of them, anyway) recognized that I am real.  My reality will be validated today, and in a good way.  In a way that stands up to do something about it: 515 rights in the right direction.


Shortly after my sister and I started blogging, my mom talked about wanting to blog, and how she’d want to write about some of this gay stuff and how it has impacted our family and me and really made things tough at times.  She said she wouldn’t want me to read it because of this, which is silly, because I know as well as anybody what my end of puberty demotion to second-class citizenship has meant.  It has changed every single aspect of my life: being gay shouldn’t make a difference, which is another way of saying it does.


A year into my adult life, I know more people personally impacted by this law than I ever have before.  I know adult couples that don’t trip on the word “partner” after 5, 10, 20 years, and hold marriage licenses from other states or countries (Vancouver seems to be a popular wedding destination).  Queerspawn, the kids raised by same sex couples, are a growing staple in my classes and friend groups.  And there are my peers, fresh into adulthood, holding on to our Millenial sense of justice and equality, expecting to be right, and we are stubborn: we will be right.


But first, we will take a moment to celebrate.  Because despite everywhere we have to be quiet (at work, at school, at the supermarket, at the doctor’s, in the mall), we have spoken up, and most importantly, others have spoken up on our behalf.  So despite the sudden heat index spike, it’s time to take a breather and look at progress: time to party.



Why Visibility Matters

Let’s talk about the red Human Rights Campaign logo that is making headlines.

This thing, that’s all over your Facebook newsfeed

I broke a personal rule yesterday: I responded in anger to an ignorant post on Facebook.

The post was from a high school acquaintance, and it said:

“I wonder how many people on facebook are against marriage equality, but don’t feel the need to post or share a picture about it. The red equal sign is stupid and annoying, and I’m sick of it.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, opinion sharing on Facebook is certainly annoying at best.  Almost as annoying as all of those statuses where people share their opinions on how annoying sharing opinions on Facebook is.

Here’s the thing with gay rights though: it is not about red vs. blue or which pop star is the best or even who used the latest meme incorrectly.  No, rather,

When one group is the oppressor and another group is the oppressed, we’re not dealing with a difference of opinion.  We’re dealing with a system of discrimination.

Which is what I said, only not as kindly.

“Not that we’ve talked in years, but I, and I’m willing to bet a lot of other people, don’t give a fuck about how you feel about seeing views other than yours. And before you call me hypocritical for going off on your view, let’s get one thing straight: your view does not just differ from my view. Your view oppresses my life.

Do you live in a society where you can’t visit your significant other on their death bed, where you can get fired for explaining who a picture on your desk is, or where people daily get beaten to a bloody pulp for being like you?

I didn’t think so. A lot of red might annoy you, but so many of us can’t even start to care — we’re too busy writing you off for ignorance and discrimination. Plain and simple.”

Granted, when I joined in, just over twenty people had already commented (pretty evenly split between for, against, and random jokes), the best of which was the very first, sarcastic comment:

“Civil rights are overrated”

So I didn’t need to get involved.  And my general rule is not to touch such things — deep breath, hands off.  Because I do really and truly believe that quick words born in anger are not the solution.  We’re fighting for love, and the best way to do that is with love.  I really value the times when you can sit down with somebody, and have a full-fledged, two-sided conversation, speaking from your heart and hopefully to theirs.

But sometimes, when the next guy to post after you goes on about how homosexuals have the same rights he has because he can’t marry a man either, you just feel compelled to say,

“Must be great to be a straight white Christian male! You guys have all the answers, and they just seem to come to you without ever having to think at all!”

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about when we’re obligated to speak up.  I often find myself resistant to putting myself out there, even when I know I’m standing up for the humanity in us all.  My first thought is too often, “It’s not my problem, let it go” or “do I have to?” even when it really is my problem and directly impacts my life — as a gay individual, if nothing else!  Fortunately, this second thought is never far behind, because it is so, so important that we don’t let our doubts and misgivings and other obligations keep us from knowing and doing what’s right.

That’s a funny thought, that maybe changing my profile picture to a red HRC logo to show my support for marriage equality might be exactly “what’s right,”  when actually speaking up with the words that come to my head (too often, “Wow, you’re a moron!”) is clearly not right.  But it highlights what I’ve ultimately come to realize:

I feel compelled to scream constantly, with every power I have, because it is so hard to be heard, not just over the hate, but over the silence.  Silence means nothing changes; silence means accepting a place as a second-class citizen, without deserving as much, like and amongst so many others.  I have to put myself forward and keeping hollering and pushing what I know to be right, because my own silence feeds my own demise.  Just like yours does.

But my figurative screaming is just as ineffective towards real change as literal screaming so often is.  So what to do?

The only answer I’ve got to this is Stand Up.  Scream with your actions — know when to speak, and know what silence means.  Take time for tough conversations.  Volunteer.  Give what you have, whether that’s time, money, smiles, or just your profile picture for a week.

Yesterday I broke my rule, and as the rule states, with angry words in a poor forum, nothing changed.  Except my fury level and the renewal of my conviction to keep having the tough conversations, volunteering where I can, and changing my profile picture whenever it feels right, no matter who it offends.  If I could have one more word on the worthless spat I’m leaving behind though, it would be:

Dear Moron,

Me and all these other people with the red pictures?  We’re glad it annoys you.  We’ve done it precisely because it annoys you, and what an awful thing, to hate love.  We’re standing up for something we know to be right, in what was a small way but has suddenly turned massive, because so many of us have chosen to stand.  How could I possibly be sorry you’re irritated by so many people taking just a few seconds to say they recognize the humanity in all of us?  And you know what?  When we stand, we’re looking down on you.

Why I Walk

I originally started doing the Minnesota AIDS walk because I was looking to be involved in my college’s GSA, GLOW! (Gay, Lesbian, Or Whatever), and they promised it was fun and I would get a popsicle at the end.

Don’t get me wrong, it is a pretty phenomenal popsicle, and there’s also a playground with a real jungle gym, so the perks are nice, but that’s no longer why I do the MN AIDS Walk every year.

When I started walking, I knew HIV and AIDS played into my community — that being the queer one — as a sort of historical happening.  Tragic, but something that happened before I was born, like the Cold War.  So the first change that happened was an understanding that history matters and still matters today.  I read more, learning the extreme fear the initial outbreak created, the simultaneous outrage both towards the gay community (viewed as guilty) and within the gay community (feeling wrongly blamed and abandoned).  I talked to people that lived through the 80’s as part of the GLBT community, something I couldn’t do before college because I knew no openly queer adults.  I will probably never forget the night that our faculty advisor for GLOW told us, “Just about everybody I dated or wanted to date when I was your age is dead now.”  That really hit me.  I learned more about how HIV/AIDS impacted the gay rights movement; I am still learning about this, and I think it’s fascinating.

The next thing that happened was that I really grasped that this was not a gay disease.  I don’t think I ever formally held that belief, since it was 2000 by the time I really knew anything about STDs, and HIV was included alongside chlamydia — you know, abstinence is the only thing that will save you.  Which also means anybody can be a target.  Furthering this were new statistics, about new HIV cases being on the rise, especially in young folks – overall, not just gay.  Young folks are also my community.

The final thing that happened was that HIV showed up in my actual, people-I-know community.  Put simply, that was frightening, because it was the last straw and final understanding I needed in order to get that This is Real.  This is Now.  This Matters.

So in May, I will be walking, yet again, alongside many strangers, to whom this is also real.  For some of them, it is much more real to them than it is to me.  And ironically, we’re all walking so that maybe someday, this can be less real.

And then we will eat our popsicles, because the simplest pleasures in life still reign, despite all.

If you’d like to donate, you can do that here.  If you’d like to join me, shoot me a note.