Category Archives: Queer

Thoughts on Weekend

I’ve been meaning to see the film Weekend for a few years now and I just finished watching it. It’s a 2011 British film about two men who meet at a bar on a Friday night and share a profound weekend that stays with them.

The most intriguing aspect of the whole film was its dedication to realism. It almost feels like a documentary. The blueprint for 2013’s Blue Is the Warmest ColourThere is zero romanticized melodrama. No Hollywood shimmer. No love-lorn filters, no soundtrack, or any music to tie it all together. It’s all in the organic performances, the direction, the editing. (I would say the writing, but the actor said most of it ended up being improvised.) It’s as if someone decided to record their entire life with a camera and just happened to capture this one beautiful weekend with a man they had just met. It feels like real life captured on film. Even Blue had low key radiant cinematic vibes.

It raised a lot of questions for me as a gay, hopeless romantic. I identified with both characters’ personality wise. I’m confident, crass, and open in the way Glen was, but I’m also shy, romantic, and I have self doubts like Russell. I keep my private life private mostly because I’ve always been single.

When they first made eye contact with each other at the bar, Glen dropped his gaze and went to the bathroom. Russell followed him there. When I saw that, I thought “That’s me. That’s exactly what I do.” But not quite. It becomes evident that Russell followed Glen to pursue a hook up. I don’t follow men to the bathroom. I don’t follow men in the club hoping to hookup. I follow men because I want to initiate conversation with them and get to know them. When I see someone who catches my eye, I ponder the possibilities of their curiosity for me. I like to follow and see what happens, hoping they see my value. Maybe one of us would be brave enough to start speaking with the other.

Seeing how swiftly their relationship manifested over the course of a single weekend made me wonder if I would ever experience anything similar in my adult life. I know it’s not something I can muster, rather something I would have to experience and stumble into. Like Russell, I want to be in love. I want to be in a relationship. I believe standing up and proclaiming my love for a man is a radical act of love and a “fuck you” to naysayers.

I’m 24 years old, wondering why love is so elusive. I don’t go on dates because I’m not asked on any. In my experience, it never works out when I initiate and ask a guy out. Typically, the guys who make me want to initiate, are the ones I feel are out of my league— guys I feel like I need to prove myself to. It’s a subtle chase and overspending of energy, rather than a balance of mutual interest. When I’m asked out, there’s a comfort in knowing they’re interested enough in me to make the first move and see what else there might be.

I’ve been trying to stay in my own lane, work on myself, and just let it happen when it’s supposed to. But I still struggle with letting go. I’m slowly learning the art of patience, which to me means no more swiping, no more texting, no more making the first move. Move along and let him come to me. Weekend is a stunning film that shows how unexpectedly powerful a connection can be, even for just one weekend. Thank you for the beauty.

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Good news! I’m STD Free!

Yesterday I faced one of the most nerve-wracking moments one could endure. I received my STD and HIV test results at a local clinic. I tested negative for everything, thank God, and thank you to everyone that sent me love and prayers during that whole process. Every time I find myself in that position of getting checked and being worried, I turn to my friends for support. The last time I was tested was August 2014 and I only had one partner between then and now. Nonetheless, I was still terrified about the possibility of contracting something, HIV in particular. As a member of the gay community, I still have that underlying fear towards AIDS. I’ve noticed that the LGBT community is more pro-active about sexual health and getting tested. Many of my LGBT friends have been tested before. But shockingly, many of my straight friends have never been tested even once. What I want to know is why isn’t there a larger discussion about getting tested? And why aren’t straight people as wholly pro-active?

For weeks on end, I developed an obsessive superstition to the numbers 2 and 11. When you take a rapid HIV finger prick test, if the result shows one line, you are negative for HIV. If the test shows two lines, you are positive for HIV. Thus I became heavily wary of those numbers and any sign of doubling. When I looked at a clock and there was a 2, I would keep looking back at the clock until it was no longer there. Whenever I did my Insanity workout, I wouldn’t look at the screen if I knew there were two seconds left. If the time displayed double digits like 7:44, I looked away as quickly as I could. Looking at the pause button worried me. Ironically, when I stepped into the room where I was tested, the person who tested me noticed an extra chair in the room. “Why do I have two chairs in here?” he wondered. After taking one of them to the side, he said “I have two garbage cans too.” Two, two, two, I thought.

My mind had been plaguing itself since my hookup in December. Underneath everything I was experiencing, Christmas, New Year’s, my birthday, looking back at the semester, re-igniting my love for the Walking Dead and catching up on Glee, my fear of HIV lingered. I never had a completely free moment because underneath it all was this possibility that I had something. Although I was sure my one night stand was protected, not all parts of it were and I could never be sure of my partner’s true status. It gave me comfort to know that he had gotten out of a 6 year relationship (I stalked his Instagram to confirm) and that he was just as paranoid as I was about getting sick– he asked me nearly 6 times if I had anything and I assured him I hadn’t.

Being a gay man, I worry that the idea of HIV will always haunt my sex life; paranoia will never cease weaving in and out of my sexual experiences. HIV/AIDS has become so synonymous with my identity as a gay person, that once I let that fear creep in, once I start getting paranoid about having something, or questioning if the condom remained intact, it permeates throughout my conscious being. No matter how many times my friends tell me that I’m fine and have nothing to worry about, I still submit to the fear produced under the connection between HIV/AIDS and being gay. If I was straight and didn’t have sex with men, I would feel much more confident about not having contracted something. If I was a woman that practiced safe sex, I wouldn’t feel half as fearful as I usually do even though the intercourse I had was protected. I don’t know if gay men are statistically more promiscuous than straight men or women, but I know that as long as a vaccine or cure has not been developed for HIV, it will remain a problem that the gay community will feel uniquely tied to.

I think I have to accept that for the rest of my life, I will always be scared of contracting HIV; that taking an HIV test will never not be a source of anxiety. Being a part of such a sexually charged community only exacerbates the dichotomy of being sexualized and living by flesh and sparkling vanity, and the fact that we are more susceptible than any other population (besides the transgender community) to be infected with HIV. The gay community worships SEX. We worship feeling worshipped. We treasure feeling beautiful. We treasure the beauty of gay sex. But at the same time, we must also treasure our sexual health. We must treasure feeling sexually empowered and sexually responsible. Because of this intense focus on sex, I oftentimes feel alienated from the gay community. On some level, it reflects some part of me, but I also experience contradictory dissonance. I desire to feel desired, but I also revel in the remaining fragments of my innocence– the pieces that make me unique. What I’m hoping for is that no matter how much our society likes to shove sex down our throats, we remember to always play safe.

HIV Does Not Discriminate

Whoever you are reading this, if you are sexually active, you have a responsibility to yourself and to your partners to know your status. Taking the test takes real courage, but if you have been stressing out over getting tested, you owe yourself peace of mind. Plenty of universities have free rapid HIV testing events. Go to them! Bring your friends or your partner(s) and take the test together. I remember when President Obama and his wife got publicly tested for HIV in an effort to reduce the stigma of getting tested. Although we may be afraid of taking the test because we fear the unknown, it’s important to develop support systems among friends to make something as formidable as being tested into an action that promotes love and taking care.

Top photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/london/75148497

Kuhl Leila (poem)

We are all tragic hearts
Lost in the desert night,
Broken from centuries of pain and I’m afraid there’s no cure.
Your loving can’t heal me,
But it’s a first step,
To feeling the way I deserve and the happiness I never found,
Not in the simple pleasures of shai or smelling your jasmine.

The movements in the ocean and glimmering of the stars
Beg me to return,
To the land of the cursed and the burned.
But I left with their matches
Before they could light me,
And the tears fell like waterfalls
When I saw it was my family, who held the flame,
To restore our name and reclaim drops of fame,
In the skies with angels, pools of champagne.
They swirled me lost and they lost me,
For I realized who they were:
Prosecutors of my love.
Saints for freedom but jailers of mine.

Shim el yasmine and pour its scent on my heart.
Rub it in my skin and soak it in my hair.
Because the nights that I need you are when I hurt the most.
And I need your naked on top of me,
To shield me from the ghouls of home
That terrorize when I’m alone.

Habibi, shim el yasmine
And the perfumes that pour from the holes of my heart
By the bullets of Israel, and of my father and my brother.
My own tears cannot forgive
The pain stolen from my mother’s eyes,
When I left the house in the dark of night.

The truth is that I’m scared
And only you can understand,
Because no other heart knows me like yours.
When I meet your parents, I’ll hug them with my hello,
Embracing our new world.
Slowly uncover me, falling into you.
Habibi, bidi iyak kuhl leila
Kuhl leila bidi iyak.