50. HIV Positive. Queer as Fuck. And Proud.

Discerning Daddy

Recently, I got a comment from someone on Instagram. “Why do you always feel the need to show your ass or be shirtless? How is anyone supposed to take you seriously? You are just another pathetic, queen desperate for attention. You write about anonymous sex and being a slut, and then you wonder why you are all alone and sad and depressed. There is a reason why men like you are all alone.”

That is an extreme version of a fairly common criticism I get: “Why are you showing your ass all the time” “Why do you write about sex all the time”, etc.

Trust, me these are questions I ask myself. A lot. I have had friends tell me I “don’t need to show your butt in every post”. I even had a friend tell me I needed to be more “serious”. These are the kinds of thoughts and insecurities that run through my head all the time.

As gay men, we are told our whole lives that there is something inherently wrong with us. As a sexually active, HIV Positive gay man in my 50’s, that sense of inherent wrongness can become poisonous.

Recently, on my Instagram account, leavelljeff, I posted a video of me showing my ass (I post a lot of videos of me showing my ass). I wrote, over the video, “50 Years Old. HIV Pos. Proud.”

A guy I had been chatting with on Instagram (chatting = showing our dicks and butts to each other) wrote to me: “No!” in a comment on my story. I responded: “No?” “This is not possible. I am so devastated. Please, tell me it’s not true.”

I told this guy that it was, actually, very true, and really, way less devastating than he was making it. Not that I am minimalizing my HIV status, but…ok, maybe I am minimalizing it.

When I first found out I was HIV positive the second person I told, after my husband, was my father. What he said to me probably saved my life. He said,

“Ok. I’m sure that’s scary. So be scared. But in the morning wake up and find a doctor and then go to that doctor and get on meds so you can be healthy and go about your life. This will only define you if you let it define you.”

What I wanted to say to that Instagram guy was that, I’m ok. HIV has only defined me as much as I’ve let it define me. I’m in control of that. I might not be in control of much else, but I am in control of that.

So instead of devasting me I allowed it to empower me. Make me stronger. Finding out I was HIV positive, in many ways like deciding to be sober, made me a better man.

“I cannot talk to you anymore. I am sorry. I cannot be with a man with this terrible sickness.”

This dude lives over 7,000 miles away. And I already have a man. We were never going to fuck. I was infuriated. I wanted to yell at him, decimate him. Suddenly, without warning: what he thought of me and my “terrible disease” became what I believed to be true.

And then I remembered what my mother once said to me: “Fuck them. Fuck anyone who tries to tell you that you are wrong or not enough. Fuck them and go live your life even bigger, even better, fuck them and then go be the best Jeff possible.”

So this is what I do. I live my life. Because in the end that’s what it is, right? Mine. No one else’s. And I try my hardest to support everyone around me as they do their best to live their lives.

I say this all the time, and I plan to keep saying it: I am a 50-year-old HIV Positive Gay man who loves to fuck and travel and chat with hot guys and show my ass off and take millions of selfies. I like who I am. I worked fucking hard to like who I am.

And I want every queer person out there who is HIV positive, who doesn’t fit into that perfect queer-gay body mold, every single person over the age of 50, all of us to know: we have nothing to be ashamed of.

Think about it: we are fucking miracles. Do you know how many of our peers died from this disease? There was a time when our own government wouldn’t acknowledge AIDS.

Maybe what I should have said to that Instagram guy is, “Hey Dude, it’s 20-fucking-19. The only person infected with a terrible disease is you. Get educated and stop being a dick.”

Instead what I said was, “Hey, I get how scary HIV can seem. But I’m ok. I’m happy. My life is exactly what I want it to be. If you ever want to talk, or have any questions about HIV, feel free to message me. All the best.”

So when any of us are out there talking shit about another queer person, or judging them for how they live their lives, or their bodies or their age or HIV status, their masculinity or femininity or race: we should remember: We are all fucking miracles. We grew up in a world that believes we are inherently wrong. Diseased. A world that often believes being gay or transgender or gender-fluid is a choice, and not an essential part of our DNA.

We are fucking miracles and we are special. And we should treat each other like miracles.

Because trust me, the rest of the world won’t.

So I’ll keep showing my ass. And talking about sex. And fucking. And loving. And living this life as large and as loud and as proud as I can.

Because if I don’t who will? This is mine and I’m gonna be as true to myself as possible.

So if you wanta take some butt pics or shirtless selfies but feel insecure, hey, send them to me. I love getting ass pics and dick pics and selfies!!!!! I’ll make sure you feel extra sexy!

And go be your queerest, best, self. And live your life as big and as loud and as proud as you can.

And hey, go check out my book, Accidental Warlocks, on Amazon. Support Queer Artists!

CANNIBALISM, GHOSTS AND JERKING OFF: AN INSPIRATIONAL, LIFE AFFIRMING STORY

Accidental Warlocks, Discerning Daddy

I am sitting on a Norwegian Dreamliner plane, flying from LA to Berlin, to spend the next 16 days, with my boyfriend, Noah. I was watching movies. I will confess: I actually cried watching Geo-Storm. Don’t judge me. I’m in an emo-feeling kinda feeling lucky mood.

When I was in third grade my teacher, Mrs. Darlene Sacco, gave me a tape recorder. Because I told stories. That was her very kind way of saying I made up elaborate lies.

In second grade I told my whole class, teachers, and school guidance counselor ,that my parents had died in a fire and I was left alone to care of my 6 brothers and sisters. I think I was 8 when I told this story. At the time I only had one brother. My parents were, and still are, alive.

Instead of just calling my parents the school sent child services.

It was an embarrassing moment, but I remember my mother, almost proud, saying, “Well, lying is bad, but boy, you must have lied good. You’re a real story teller.”

My father said, “If you’re going to be a liar you might as well write them down and get paid for them.”

But it wasn’t until Mrs. Sacco gave me that tape recorder that I actually felt like a real writer. I would walk around school, or during lunch, with that tape recorder, recording all my ideas and thoughts and then I would write them down.

My favorite stories involved turning my mom and her two best friends, Sue and Vi, into Charlie’s Angels. They solved all kinds of mysteries. Mostly about witches and vampires, and mafia-zombies. In some of them my mother was a hybrid of a much cooler Samantha from Bewtiched and Farah Fawcett (It wasn’t till I got older that I really learned to appreciate Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith.

I basically dropped out of school in sixth grade. I just stopped going. I would just walk out and go home and sit in my room and write long and fantastic stories. I wasn’t really a happy kid. And I was a pretty miserable teenager. Life never seemed big enough to me. The world was devoid of color. But writing, stories, those worlds in my head, felt endless and beautiful, full of hope and meaning.

I come from a long line of story tellers (liars?). I once listened to my mother tell my grandmother, her mother, Sadie, about how at the local grocery store they were decapitating customers and selling their body parts to witches. It was a strange and frightening story, told late at night, at the Heart of LaGrange Hotel, which Sadie owned. The three of us had been doing the Quija Board most of the night, and my mother and Sadie had been arguing about witches. And evil. And the meaning of good.

I was ten, I think. It was hot out. All the windows were open. A breeze blew the humid night air, full and sweet, around the room.

My mother insisted that the local grocery store was selling headless bodies to witches.

“Well, Beverly,” Sadie began, her voice thick like honey, her eyes furious, her hands wrapped tight around her Jim Beam on the rocks. “What the hell are they doing with the heads?”

“Eating them,” my mother said. “They are eating the goddamned heads.”

And she stormed out, leaving me with my drunk and furious grandmother.

I remember Sadie looking at me, and then she began to laugh. She laughed long and hard.

“God, your mother is the best story teller I’ve ever known. Eating the goddamned heads. Well, shit, what else would they be doing with them?”

Sadie used to tell my brother, Damon and I, that my uncle Bruce was a shape shifter, and she belonged to a coven, and that my mother slept with demons and leprechauns. She told me how late at night, as a young woman, my mother would stand outside, alone in the moonlight, conjuring spells and demons and sending them to do her bidding.

I come from a long line of story tellers.

Though, to be honest, a part of me still believes Bruce is a shape shifter, and Sadie was a witch, and my mother, I’m absolutely certain she has consorted with a few demons, and probably some angels too. She’s that kind of woman. Full of southern charm.

For most of my adult life I have been a drug addict. Heroin was my drug of choice. When I was high on heroin the world felt suddenly beautiful, the kind of world my little boy self would have loved to live in. Full of magic and wonder. Full of a quiet, beautiful, loneliness.

Seven years ago, at 43 years old, I found myself broke, jobless and homeless, I did the only thing left to do: I got sober.

I bought a bike and road it all over Los Angeles. I used to go on long rides late at night from Silverlake, through Hollywood, all the way to the beach. I would stand at the water and scream at whatever gods were out there in all that darkness. I was full of fury and fear. I was lost.

And then I began to tell stories again. I started on Facebook. I would tell stories of my mother and of Sadie, of boys I had loved.

And people actually read them. They messaged me, thanking me for being so honest (which is a strange thing for a man like me to hear, someone who rarely knows when he is being honest and when he is lying).

When Vice agreed to publish a story about my three-way relationship with my husband Alex, and our boyfriend Jon, I couldn’t believe it. Why would anyone care about what I had to say?

All I was doing was just telling my experience. I was trying to make meaning out of my life. I was trying to find the beauty and the magic I had always felt lacking.

And then I decided to take those stories and turn them into a book, Accidental Warlocks. It took me almost two years to write that book. For much of that time I was broke. I was going to AA meetings. And I was riding my bike.

When Lethe Press said they wanted to publish my book I started to scream with excitement. I couldn’t believe it. Someone else was going to publish my fucking book!

I went into the bedroom, where Jon (I’m not going to go into the whole story of Jon and Alex and I…you can find tons of stories about my poly-triad marriage all over my blog or just follow the link) was, sleeping (Alex was away working on a TV show at the time). I was sobbing. He woke up, and I think at first he was scared,

“What’s wrong, baby?” he asked me.

“They are going to publish my book,” I said, and he was out of bed, wrapping his arms around me, holding me.

Jon died before Accidental Warlocks was published. He read every chapter I wrote, every word. I made him sit up for hours as I talked to him about ideas I had, making him tell me what he thought about what I had written that day.

There were nights when I woke him up at three in the morning to make him listen to pages. He never complained. He never told me no. He just said, “Baby, I love it. It’s so beautiful. I know it’s going be amazing.”

Here’s the thing: all I ever wanted was to be a writer. Nothing else in the whole world. I honestly believe there is nothing else I’m any good at. It was either be a writer or fail.

And I haven’t gotten rich. And I’m scared all the time. And sometimes I’m stunned by the fact that Jon died never seeing this book come to life. And maybe there is a part of me that doesn’t really believe that. I come from witches and shape shifters, my mother has fucked demons and angels into doing her bidding: I have a long history of talking to the spirits. So, I know, Jon is with me all the time. Just out of sight, helping me, laughing with me and loving me and so fucking excited by this amazing and beautiful life I get to live.

I am on a plane from LA to Berlin. To see Noah, my gorgeous German boyfriend. I will sit in cafes in Kreuzberg and write. I will go for walks along the canal and through the City. I will tell Jon stories, sometimes forgetting not to talk out loud because people start to look at me funny: the crazy guy talking to his dead boyfriend.

What’s the point of all this? Simple: I am a liar. I am a drug addict. I am an HIV Positive queer man in his 50’s. My best friend and lover died 8 months ago: but he loved me. He believed in me. And he taught me I can be and do anything I want, and you know what? He is right.

And for those of you who are wondering what happened to Alex and I: while we are no longer “husbands”, Alex is my brother. My best friend. If being in a poly triad taught me anything: it’s the value of holding on to the people you love. No matter what. Even when the nature of that love changes.

Jon once told me that the three of us were destined to be together. That we had been traveling through multiple lives together. That we were old souls on a long journey together.

And I think I now know what he means. I think I believe him.

There are a lot of people I think I have been journeying through time with. After losing Jon this idea appeared before me as the only thing that really made any sense about life.

Life has been this strange and violently beautiful experience. More beautiful than anything my little-boy -elf or my high-as-fuck-on-dope-self could have believed.

I know this is a rambling piece, tying together lots of pieces that maybe don’t always add up, but there is a point here, something I want to say:

When you are feeling scared, or when you feel lost, or that maybe you chose the wrong path and you don’t know how to find your way back, remember: it’s ok. If I can do this you can do anything the fuck you want. I swear to God. If there is one thing I know it’s that.

It might not be easy. And life will still be life, there’s no changing that. And people we love will die, and we will get older, but, and I wish I could scream this as loud as possible all over the fucking world: it’s better to fail at something you loved than succeed at something you hated. Those are words my mother told me, and they changed my life.

Cus look at me: I’m on this fucking plane. Writing this blog. And some of you will read it and it will mean something to you. Some of you might even think: Fuck, if he did it I can.

And it’s true. I swear to god. I am screaming it so loud right now.

This is my cheesy, inspirational post. Because I’m feeling fucking mind blowingly lucky.

I would love it if you went to Amazon and bought my book. Because, yes, I want to get paid (getting paid is an admirable thing, I’m trying to remind myself that every time I pitch this book out into the void), but I also really want to hear what you think.

Because I don’t get to wake Jon up late at night anymore. So, it’s you guys I turn to now.

And while I didn’t talk about sex, just know, after this Ima go to the bathroom and jerk off. I’ll probably do it twice. Cus I’m on a fucking plane to Berlin!!!!!

Hey, Noah, I hope you’re ready for me! Ima be rubbing my stink all over you! Noah really is the fucking sexiest, cutest, sweetest guy in the world. I’m really sorry I’m so stinky! But I think he might kinda like it!

TAKING PrEP DOESN’T’ MAKE YOU A SLUT…TAKING PrEP MAKES YOU A HERO

Discerning Daddy

I recently received an email regarding my blog entry, The Beauty of Being a Slut. The guy wrote, “People like you should be ashamed. This is why no one takes gay people seriously. Instead we are nothing but whores who show our asses on Instagram and give everyone AIDS and herpes. It’s people like you that make gay men think taking PrEP and having unsafe sex is ok. You should be ashamed, you worthless piece of shit.”

I try to take all the comments I get seriously.

So let me fucking get to addressing this one.

First, what is PrEP: PrEP stands for Pre-exposure prophylaxis. PrEP is the use of drugs that can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout the body. Meaning, that people who take PrEP are effectively protecting themselves from HIV while also preventing the spread of HIV.

So this should be a no-brainer, right? PrEP protects people who are negative from getting HIV and is one of the ways we can stop the spread of the virus. So PrEP is good, right?

Well, like all things dealing with sexuality, and queer sexuality in general, it’s more complicated than that.

I think the root of that complication is simple: we are ashamed. We are ashamed of our bodies, we are ashamed of our sexuality, we are ashamed of our queer identities. We have, on some level, bought into the lie that has been taught to us our whole lives: that there is something inherently tainted about us, as queer people, something not right: that we are somehow flawed.

If you question the validity of this statement, let me give you some facts: according to the recent Human Right’s Campaign’s “Growing up LGBT in America Survey” four out of ten LGBTQ youth say that they are living in communities that are not accepting of LGBTQ lifestyles, and 92% of those LGBTQ youth surveyed responded that they have heard negative messages about LGBTQ people, at home, at school and in their communities.

The Trevor Project, which is committed to ending suicide among LGBTQ youth, reported that LGBTQ youth are five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.

Our whole lives we have heard this message, that who we are at our core is somehow wrong, not worthy. It is debated by our politicians, by our religious leaders, by our parents and our schools: we are continuously told that who we love, and how we fuck, that who we are as humans, is not deserving.

But before we can take on how “They” talk about us, we have to begin to tackle how we talk about Ourselves, about each other, and about our community.

There has been a smear campaign against PrEP since day one. Some leaders in our own community have insinuated that PrEP is a party drug leading to hedonism and sexual debauchery. That PrEP is to blame for rises in syphilis and gonorrhea, that it promotes promiscuity and will be the downfall of respectable gay culture.

The Politics of Shame.

But let’s get real: human beings fuck around. And they suck at wearing condoms. This has been true since the beginning of time. And if there is a pill out there that can help protect us from at least one of the more life threatening STI’s than I think that’s something we should be celebrating and educating everyone on.

Most of us, queer, straight, where ever you lie on the sexual spectrum, are going to find ourselves at times acting a little promiscuous, or not making the best choices in regard to our safety. Instead of judging each other, or ourselves, why not arm ourselves with all the tools available to maintain our health?

I don’t care who you fuck, or how many people you fuck, I just care that you are healthy. So again, PrEP would seem like a no-brainer, right?

I think it’s time we start getting honest. If you are taking PrEP, whether it’s because you are in a relationship with someone who is positive, or because you just want the extra added protection, or because you want to go out and take all the loads or fuck all the asses: you’re a fucking hero. You are part of the solution.

I’m done with the rhetoric of shame. With being quiet, or the polite and good faggot, with being the sexless TV counterpart, or the campy and over the top best friend. I am done with playing into their stereotypes and being told how to behave and what is acceptable.

And I am done being told by members of my own community that the only way to legitimacy is by appropriating hetero-normative values.

Fuck that. I like being gay. I like the freedom, the outrageousness, the sex and the wonder and the amazement. I am constantly in awe of how strong we are: at how we have found a way to survive and thrive, at how we have fought and struggled for basic human rights and still maintained our dignity and our beauty in a world that is determined to tell us we are sick.

The fact that we even have to prove our worthiness is offensive to me. The fact that we have to demand that we be treated as equal, or that we be allowed to live our lives how we want is ridiculous.

So I say fuck it. Go out and be you. Be the loudest, queerest you there is. Wear it on your sleeve. Proclaim it to the world. And fuck anyone who tells you you aren’t deserving.

And for all your guys taking PrEP, thank you. You are heroes in our community. And if anyone tells you different, or implies that your morals are somehow not intact, take it as a compliment.

Who wants their fucking morality anyway?

And for the guy who called me a worthless piece of shit: I’m not here to make you happy. And I’m not here to show straight people how polite and legitimate queer people are. I’m here to say, as loud as I can, that we get to be whoever the fuck we want to be, and how we live our lives is nobody’s fucking business. I am a 50-year-old man, and I am way beyond apologizing for who I am. The only responsibility I have is to be good to those I love, and to treat my family and friends and sex partners with respect and kindness, and to try to live in the world in a healthy and whole way, and to be as loving as I can be to anyone who comes into my life: and to remember, that they get to live their lives how they want as well.

Imagine this world if we stopped condemning each other and judging each other and hating each other and just tried to let each other be.

Maybe I’m naïve, but I just think, life is really hard, but how much easier it would be if we all supported each other and took care of each other: if we kept each other safe?

And hey, you can now go check out my new book, Accidental Warlocks, on Amazon! Your support would be amazing!

The Beauty in Being a Slut

Discerning Daddy

I’m a slut. A total fucking slut.

I don’t like to think of myself as a top or a bottom. I’m 100% versatile. I seriously love it all. I love to fuck, I love to get fucked, I can get dom or I can sub out, I like intimate sex and nasty sex, I just love queer gay ass sex.
I don’t say this to be provocative or to make your dick hard (though, if it does…that’s awesome)…I say it because in this day and age, being a faggot slut is political. It is radical.

And being an HIV Positive Faggot Slut is like totally fucking punk rock.
I love when bottoms love it so much they can’t get enough and when tops are so into their dude’s ass they will do anything to make that boy moan. I love the guys deep into kink and the dudes who love vanilla sex, I love guys who only whore out for their boyfriends and the ones who wanta take on ten guys at a time.

For the record, for all the trans, lesbians, gender queer and cis-gendered women sluts…this is for you too…owning our sexuality, owning our desires and our bodies is radical. And if anyone tells you it isn’t…fuck them. Seriously fuck them. There is no God, there is no legal or political system or moral code that should ever have the right to deny us our sexuality.

If I want to go out right now and take all the loads, or fuck all the sexy butts why does that say anything about who I am as a human being as long as I treat my partners with dignity and respect?

I wrote an article for Vice Magazine a while back about Slut Shaming. A “muscle bear” in LA, who actually knows me from out in the bar scene left a comment, “You deserve AIDS. Why don’t you go drink bleach and die?” All because I said that I had fucked over 3400 guys (I have a very complicated mathematical equation for this in the story) and that I wasn’t ashamed. I actually had fun.

Because sex is fun. And who doesn’t want to have fun?

And no one deserves AIDS and no one should drink bleach and die because they like to have fun. That’s just stupid.

You know what else I like? I like showing my ass on Instagram. I like when people tell me I’m sexy. It feels good. I don’t think that makes me thirsty. I mean, fuck, I love when a hot dude shows his body off on Instagram, or tumblr. I also like seeing guys’ gym selfies. Why the hell not? If you don’t like it, then don’t like it, just keep scrolling, why talk shit? Some of us like looking at hot guys, and some of us didn’t always think of ourselves as hot. Some of us felt fat, and unwanted, and were ashamed of who we were, so it’s kind of awesome to be able to post pictures and have dudes tells us, “Hey, I think you’re hot.”

So if you want to see my ass, you can find it all over Instagram.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, why don’t we all just shut up and stop judging each other and instead try to support each other? I do it too. All the time. I talk shit and gossip, but honestly it doesn’t make me feel good, and it certainly doesn’t make me a good person.

So go out there and be you. Be a slut, or don’t be a slut, make out, show your ass (I for one would love to see all your asses), and if anyone gives you shade or talks shit, or tries to make you feel bad: that shit has nothing to do with you. It’s all them. Their shame, their self-hate, and their internalized homo-phobia.

There are way more important things right now that matter then who and how we fuck. I actually think fucking each other, treating each other kindly, enjoying each other, being intimate (even in the most no strings attached dark room fucking there can be a shared intimacy), being loving and supportive with each other is the one way we get to say fuck you to anyone who has ever told us we aren’t deserving, or good enough, or worthy.

I don’t want to live a hetero-normative life. I think it’s awesome if you do, but I don’t. I want to be queer as fuck. I like being queer. And I really like queer sex. A lot. For all our messiness I think we are fucking amazing. Our whole community, the whole LGBTQ rainbow.

And seriously fuck anybody who tries to tell us how to live our lives.

You can check out my book, Accidental Warlocks, At Amazon! Your support would be amazing!

We Are All Beautiful.

Discerning Daddy

I grew up in and around New York City in the 80’s and 90’s. Some of my mother’s closest friends were gay men. Most of them have died from AIDS. When, at 45 years old I found out I was HIV positive, regardless of what I knew intellectually, I felt the devastation of all those men my mother had loved who had died. I felt afraid, alone, suddenly cut off from the rest of my community.

Of course the truth was very different. I sero-converted in the age of PrEP and Treatment as Prevention, an age where more and more of my community understood what being positive meant, the age of the Undetectable Status.

But I was now a 45-year-old man. My age and my HIV Status, the way I felt about my body in a culture obsessed with body image: these things fuck with your self-worth. It is easy to feel undesirable, it is easy to begin to feel like life is coming to a close, to start looking back and saying: what the fuck have I even accomplished?

Who the fuck am I?

In May I turned 50.

For most of my life I never liked the way I looked. I was too short, too stocky, too fat, too skinny…always too something that amounted to never being quite enough.

We live in a world that tells us, through advertising and fake news and PR campaigns, that we aren’t pretty enough, happy enough, successful enough: that nothing will ever fix us until we buy or try or wear or eat or fuck this one thing. Our worth and our acceptance is contingent on this product, service, whatever.

Because, they tell us, we are broken.

On Saturday night I went to my favorite underground warehouse party in LA. Severino from Horse Meat Disco was DJing. We arrived at 1:30 in the morning to an old warehouse behind a large parking lot in downtown LA.

Ushered from the street inside, we stood in a large waiting area, kids in colorful outfits and masks, horror movie and glamor make-up, drag queens and muscle bears in leather and jocks, girls and boys, genderless and gender queer, the music could be heard from inside, people were already dancing as we waited to be allowed entry.

On the dance floor the music pounded: Disco mixed toward a darker edge, then flowing back into that ecstatic memory of my childhood when my mother and her friends would dance wildly in the living room to Parliament and Donna Summer, bottles of red wine and joints, laughing and howling at the possibility of a future. They would scream into the night, they would hold each other and cry, my mother would do Tarot Cards and channel alien entities, she would cast spells as she held court over these men, and I would hide, quietly under the table, allowed to watch as long as I stayed in my little hidden fort.

I remember my mother saying to a friend of hers who had lost so much weight he seemed to be disappearing,

“We are all beautiful. Every single one of us. We are like these great shining lights, gorgeous and magical and full of existence.”

Underneath the disco ball as it captured and sent transcended light back to us as we danced, I closed my eyes, feeling the heat of the room, my body drenched in sweat, the floor shaking underneath the weight of us, bodies pushing against me, touching me: fans clapping loudly, people cheering with each new shift of the music: lost for a moment in the infinite possibility of who we all might be.

In that room I took my shirt off, no longer trapped by all the hateful shit that swirled in my head, no longer caring: I was more than my body, more than my HIV status, more than my age or my gender or my sexual preferences: in that room, underneath that disco ball I was part of something that extended way beyond myself, way beyond any of us.

It is easy to feel scared. It is easy to look at someone who appears beautiful, or of a different race or gender, someone with more money, someone with more power, and to think they are not scared. It is easy to be divided from each other, to forget that we are all human, and that we are all scared.

Before leaving the party I wandered into the Dark Room. I watched as a muscle man in a jock strap was bent over a chair, men taking turns on him, a shaved headed boy covered in tattoos knelt sucking the dick of a short, slender, gorgeous person, their shimmering black dress pulled up, golden high heels reflecting what little light was in the room.

In the middle of it all stood a tall vision dressed in white-netted cloth that reached up over their neck, covering their face, obfuscating them. They stood silently watching: as all around us men took turns fucking and sucking, jerking off onto each other, making out and laughing, talking quietly, moving to the music.

As men moaned, as someone said, over and over, “Fuck me harder, please, fuck me harder,” the white dressed obfuscation raised their glass, as if in toast, as if in blessing, and then turned and walked out of the room.

I followed them out, but I lost them. I looked everywhere but they were just gone. Maybe they had changed clothes, now walking naked through the party, or maybe they had left, walking out onto the street, or maybe they had come, just for a few minutes, to celebrate with us, to dance and fuck and laugh with us: blessing us before fading back into whatever strange and beautiful existence they had appeared from.

It’s easy to take all the hate and shame and fear I have and turn it on someone else: to judge them, to categorize their flaws, to hate them: it is easy to forget that, like my mother said, we are all beautiful, and we are all afraid.
I don’t want to be afraid anymore, to judge myself as if I am somehow flawed, not worthy.

I like to think of that white clad creature extending their drink over all those fucking men as some kind of angel come to say, “You are beautiful, and we love you just as you are. You are absolutely fucking perfect just like this.”