To celebrate Pride month, Daniel and I have been catching up on some of the iconic gay movies of the 1990s, many of which were pivotal in my life as a gay teenager.

trick
Trick, 1999

These films were campy, often with cringe-inducing dialogue delivered by colorful characters based heavily on stereotypes. Although the movies may have not been worthy of an Oscar, they are still significant to our history.

The 1990s was the first decade in which we really saw LGBT characters in mainstream cinema. Previous decades were dotted with them here and there, and homosexual subtext dates back to the very beginning of film-making. But now they were finally out and proud. Homosexuality was the focus of the films. Previously we usually just saw gay people as the quirky sidekick who delivered a few lines and then disappeared.

But the thing that’s really surprised and disappointed me is how difficult it is to attain these movies if you want to view them today. Many of them have not been converted to Blu-ray. They aren’t available to stream digitally on Netflix, or purchase on iTunes. Essentially they have died with the DVD copies, which are often out of print.

I signed up for Netflix’s DVD service because it was the easiest and most cost-effective way to view them. Many of them arrived on battered and scratched discs, which I shudder to think they may be the last copies in rotation.

One movie that really has a special place in my heart is Trick. I think it’s one of the first gay-themed movies I ever rented at Blockbuster. (Sidenote: Remember when you had to rush to Blockbuster on Friday to snatch up the good New Releases before they were gone?)

Trick is the story of a young gay man looking for love in New York City, who ends up hooking up with a go-go dancer. Will they fall in love, or will our protagonist end up heartbroken and alone in the morning? This movie has drag queens, fag hags, musical theatre references, and any other cliche you can think of. But it’s a charming movie which has received several DVD releases, but has never been remastered for digital, which means it’s doubtful future generations will get to see it.

Another fun one is Boys Life. It’s three stories about young gay men coming of age and coming out in the early 1990s. There are red ribbons, Silence = Death shirts, and an entire storyline built around the phrase “Friends of Dorothy,” which was the gay equivalent of a secret handshake. These are all elements that were deeply integrated into our culture back then, captured in cinema.

I hope someday these films will be given a proper transfer for the digital age. As silly as some of them were, they gave us hope, especially those of us who grew up in a small town. It was the first time I saw characters onscreen who were struggling with the same problems I had, and I felt a little less alone in the world.

Pulse Black RibbonSometimes I really hate the mainstream news media.

I blame them for catapulting Donald Trump to the top of the Republican primary, when he should have been written off from day one. The media gave him free exposure 24/7 for a year, so it’s no surprise that he became the presumptive nominee. That’s how marketing and psychology works. When you’re exposed to a candidate day after day, he’ll become familiar and likeable to you, no matter how much you disagree with him.

And now it seems the news media is manipulating the narrative of what happened in Orlando, less than 48 hours after the shootings occurred.

This was an attack on the LGBT community.

There is no way around it. 49 lives were claimed, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. And it happened because the patrons were at a gay club.

This needs to be the focus on every news program and in every article. Those victims were targeted for their sexuality. It is homophobic. It is discriminatory. And it is simply hateful.

But the dialogue has quickly shifted, and now the media is focused on ISIS, on terrorism, on Islam, on gun control, and what it all means for the safety of Americans. These are all valid talking points, but I’ve noticed that journalists and news casters are shying away from the words “gay” and “LGBT.” They don’t seem to want to say those things. Perhaps it’s far more comfortable and familiar to talk about terrorism than it is to acknowledge the gay community.

Well it’s time to get uncomfortable people! Because it’s real and it happened to gay people on U.S. soil. Gays were the victims. Gays were the target. Gays died because even in 2016, we still live in a culture of hatred and homophobia.

Religious groups have contributed to this hatred. Politicians have contributed to this hatred. And yes, even the news media has contributed to this hatred of the LGBT citizens.

So don’t you dare try to take this away from us. The men and women who died that night deserve to be acknowledged. And can we please stop showing those goddamn bathroom selfies of the shooter?! Let’s focus on the poor victims whose lives were cut short, all because of who they love.

It was all because they were gay.

We recently went back to Nashville and were able to experience the city we once lived in after being away for over half a year.

The place is really booming. I often see articles that suggest Nashville is one of the top 10 “it” places to live, and it was easy to see why. There’s been so much growth and there’s so much to do at any given time.

The people were much friendlier than they are here in California. I miss that a lot. The food was delicious. We ate a lot of BBQ and drank a lot of Sweet Tea.

If you’re not from the South, Sweet Tea is not the same as regular tea with sugar in it. It’s made with a thick syrup that’s probably on par, if not worse, than regular soda as far as how unhealthy it is. But it tasted so good. The funny thing is that when we lived in Nashville, I rarely ever had BBQ or Sweet Tea, but something about being back in the city as a guest made me crave the local favorites.

Gay rugby teams from around the world were in Nashville for the Bingham Cup. When we went out to the bar with friends, the place was filled with tall, husky rugby players and I suddenly found myself feeling like an ant trying to navigate a place that used to be familiar territory. Admittedly, Daniel and I didn’t go out much after we were married, and even less after we became Dads. So it took awhile to adjust to the loud, crowded atmosphere, especially with the additional rugby teams taking over the place.

Funny story though: As we were sitting in a booth with our friends, we saw a guy standing at the bar just casually getting finger banged underneath his shorts like it was no big deal. The guy doing it was sipping a drink with one hand while he probed with the other. And then the recipient of the fingering (the fingeree?) reached over and started fingering another guy under his shorts.

Meanwhile, several feet away, two other rugby guys were standing at a table talking, and one had his hand down the other’s shorts, giving him an aggressive hand job. Their faces were all casual, just having a conversation. What could they possibly be discussing in the middle of a jack-off session—the stock market, politics, the season finale of Scandal?

In all the years we lived in Nashville, I can honestly say we never witnessed finger banging and hand jobs being casually and openly served in the gay bars. At least we witnessed something unusual to tell a story about.

We had a fun trip and it made me happy to see our family and friends. It was certainly a visit we won’t forget.

Our baby boy is very charming and social. He loves to smile and coo at people when he meets them, and he’s good with eye contact. My heart swells with pride every time someone comments on how sweet he is.

In the midst of all this huggable, kissable sweetness, Daniel and I have noticed that a lot of women speak variations of these phrases:

– “Ooh, he’s going to be a lady killer.”

– “He sure is going to break a lot of girls’ hearts someday.”

– “Awww, he’s found himself a little girlfriend.” (Spoken if he merely looks in the general direction of a baby girl.)

Huh? Our baby sometimes falls asleep face down in a pool of his own drool. In his spare time, he enjoys laughing at his own farts. I’m not sure he’s advanced enough for people to start making assumptions about his love life.

I realize no harm is intended, but we think it’s kind of creepy. Let’s start with the fact that he really is just a baby. He’s still discovering his feet, and I’m skeptical that he has any romantic notions about the little girl in the stroller next to him.

The other thing that’s so surprising is the assumption that he likes girls. How would you know if he likes girls or boys—or both? It will still be years before we know that. Yet even as a baby, he’s already being conditioned about what the “correct” attraction is. Boys are supposed to like girls. That’s the way you’re supposed to be, little guy. If you feel differently, there must be something wrong with you.

I was surprised that assumptions were made this young about children. It made me wonder what effect that had on me, and if my childhood could have been a little bit easier if every stranger I met didn’t try to remind me I was supposed to like girls.

My earliest memory of liking a boy was somewhere around age 5. I don’t remember much, but I know I wanted to hold his hand, and I distinctly recall the feeling that I was wrong to want that. I’ve often wondered how I could have such internal guilt at such a young age. Now that we’ve witnessed what people say to our son, it all makes sense. No wonder the LGBT community has such a difficult time with our childhoods! Look at how young we start being shaped by the expectations of others.

Let’s look at things from another angle. Say I’ve just met a straight couple and their baby boy. I look at their son and say, “Aww, he sure is going to break a lot of boys’ hearts.” Or maybe better yet, I’d say, “Oh, I think he’s going to be my son’s first boyfriend!”

I don’t care how liberal the other couple was—if they were straight—I suspect most of them would act shocked and offended. How dare I make assumptions about their son! How dare I imply he’s gay! I must be pushing my homosexual agenda onto their child.

Oh, but wait. Wouldn’t it be fair for me to say they were pushing a heterosexual agenda on our son? They’d find some reason to disagree. “It’s not the same,” they’d argue. Things would probably erode pretty quickly from there.

Bottom line: Let’s stop assuming the sexual orientation of children. It’s pretty ridiculous. If a child is gay, you’re only going to make it more difficult for him to “come out” because it goes against the social cues he’s observed since the day he was born. Let’s be neutral and inclusive of all children, and stop worrying about who they’ll date when they’re older.

“As a gay dad, do you ever get harassed for raising your child without a mom?”

That’s a popular question many gay dads are asked, and my answer is YES—but we’re not harassed by the people you’d expect.

So far, we’ve never encountered any problems from straight people. When we’re out with our son, it’s very common for strangers to ask us, “Are you his dads?”. We always smile and tell them yes, and they say something nice, such as, “Well he’s so cute” or “Congratulations guys.” Heterosexual strangers have always been very supportive of us.

But within the gay community, it’s a different story. At some point, almost all of our friends have made a joke about one of us breastfeeding, or called one of us “mom.” Some friends are persistent about it too, teasing us almost every time we see them. (Time to get new friends, perhaps?)

This is an ongoing problem that many gay dads deal with. If you go to any gay parenting forum, you’ll find that a lot of men report the problem, and really hate it. We have a dream to be fathers and it may take years to accomplish. When we finally get there, we just want to enjoy the title of “Dad”, and yet the people who are supposed to be part of our own community want to force a maternal stereotype onto us.

Two men really are raising a baby—without a mom. We’re not “playing house” or being “mom substitutes.” We’re two dads.

I’m working on clear and concise ways to convey the point to gay people when they make a mom joke. When you have a baby there in your arms, usually squirming or grabbing nearby objects, it can be a challenge to make a firm point to someone. This will be a work in progress.

Mika Goes to Church

Jun 17, 2015 / Filed in Gay, Music / 0 Comments

Mika

The first time I saw Mika perform in concert was in 2008 at Terminal 5, a music venue in Hell’s Kitchen, NYC. The 24-year-old singer was alive with an infectious energy and passion for self-expression. He was colorful and loud, with so much to say about everything. The stage was filled with larger than life props and characters, many of which spilled out into the audience, breaking down an invisible wall that usually exists with performers.

Mika and Nathan, 2008I was lucky enough to meet him after the show, although just long enough to shake his hand, tell him I loved the show, and take a picture with him. I was surprised at how reserved he was, with a bit of a shy quality. I guess I imagined him to be surrounded by a legion of friends, laughing and carrying on, making plans to go to some big after-party that involved glitter and drugs. But he wore a modest white t-shirt and black cardigan, and seemed more likely to be returning to his hotel room to eat take-out and watch TV alone.

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pride

June is Pride month and it could make history if the Supreme Court rules in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples everywhere in the United States.

It’s an exciting event to witness and we are hoping for good news this month. But even if the time isn’t now, it will be very soon in the future.

I’ve been thinking about this lately and what it will mean for the future of Pride. Even when marriage equality passes here, there will still be struggles with discrimination, as there is with any minority.

But the cornerstone of Pride has always been the fight for equality. And once marriage rights are equal here, it will lessen the impact of the marches, the parades, the loud and proud banners and waving rainbow flags. We’ll essentially become like everyone else.

I’m excited that future generations will never have to fight as hard as we have. I’m happy that perhaps they will be able to grow up with love and acceptance, in a way many haven’t. But I’m also a bit nostalgic to think that 30 years from now, Pride events will probably be obsolete.

This year’s Pride may feel like the last dance. I’m honored to be sharing it with my husband Daniel.

Queer as Folk, 14 Years Later

Mar 4, 2014 / Filed in Gay, TV / 3 Comments

I still remember when Queer as Folk premiered on Showtime in the year 2000. I was sitting in my living room watching it on my 15″ GE tube TV, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Men were having sex and relationships—with other men! Women were raising babies together.

qaf

Before Queer as Folk, the most shocking thing I’d seen on TV was Ellen DeGeneres saying “I’m gay” into a microphone at an airport. Oooh, scandalous! But that’s really the way it was, and just saying those words out loud was enough to start a war. Nobody had ever made a U.S. TV show like this before.

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In Defense of Flaming Queers

Feb 24, 2014 / Filed in Gay / 1 Comment

emmett from queer as folkA massive shift is taking place within gay culture and it’s putting part of our community back in the closet. The target is “flaming” gay men, and not only are they outcast by straight people (as they’ve always been) but now they’re being shunned by other gay men.

It’s easy to notice. When we were at dinner with a group of (gay) friends this weekend, I overheard this: “Ugh, I don’t like those girly gays, running around with feathers and boas.”

The comment annoyed me because I have plenty of girly gay friends and I think they’re fine the way they are. So I turned to the guy and said, “If they like feathers and boas, they should wear them. People should do what makes them happy.”

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There seems to be a shortage of good gay cinema. It’s very rare that Daniel and I see a movie worth mentioning. Most of them have the same tiresome stereotypes and plot lines. And it’s really a shame because I know there has to be talent out there. Gay people are so diverse, complex, and interesting. I wish more movies explored our community with more depth.

But this weekend, we were pleasantly surprised by a movie titled Going Down in LA-LA Land, so I thought I’d write a small review about it. Granted, this film probably isn’t the best example of depth (it’s about a young man who gets mixed up in escorting). But the actors really do a good job, and that makes the film worth recommending.

The movie is based on the novel of the same name, written by Andy Zeffer. It stars Matthew Ludwinski as Adam, an aspiring actor who moves to Los Angeles to pursue a career. (Okay, okay, I know… But stick with me on this.)

Adam quickly discovers how difficult it is to get noticed in a town where everyone is an actor. Struggling to make ends meet financially, he gets mixed up in the dark underworld of sex and escort services. (Again, I know… But the director, Casper Andreas, handles the topic carefully so it doesn’t turn into amateur porn.)

All of this changes when Adam gets involved with the closeted star of a popular sitcom, played by Michael Medico. That’s when things really begin to get interesting as lines are drawn and boundaries are pushed.

It’s a pretty good film, thanks in large part to Ludwinski as the leading man and Medico as his love-interest. They’re both likeable and good at expressing the various emotions the characters struggle with. This is a particular talent that seems to be absent in many gay-themed movies, where the characters can be one-dimensional and are usually annoying or painfully stereotypical.

The supporting cast pulls their weight too, even Allison Lane, who is placed in the usual role of female sidekick. Every gay movie has them, it just comes with the territory. She holds her own, and is quite funny in some scenes, although I found her character a bit more difficult to sympathize with. I think that’s how it was intended, though.

Casper Andreas is the director, and he also plays the role of Nick, an important antagonist in the movie. Andreas has done a handful of gay movies. You may be familiar with The Big Gay Musical from 2009. I hope that Going Down in LA-LA Land opens new doors for him, because I’d like to see what he comes up with next.

If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you can watch the movie instantly. You can also rent or buy it on Amazon.

If you’ve seen it, or decide to watch it, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought.

Here’s the trailer:

About Nathan

I'm a happily married gay man, writing about my life as a new father and sharing our adventures with a side of snark.
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