I met Ivan in Berlin a year ago. We had been chatting on Scruff for a few days and finally decided to meet at Populus Cafe on the canal in Kreuzberg.
At the time Ivan was in Berlin studying Political Science for a year, before returning home to Russia.
Ivan was 22 years old. He had come out when he got to Berlin. But he was still careful on social media, didn’t show his face on the apps, never sent out any sex pics with his face in them.
Because he was afraid.
Being gay in Berlin was a lot different than being gay in Russia.
“It would destroy my mother.” He said to me. We were sitting at one of the tables outside. People rode bikes, they walked hand in hand, drinking beers and flat whites, laughing. The City was alive with summer. “My brothers would kill me.”
“When do you go back?”
“Three Weeks. I’ve been looking for a job here, but it isn’t easy. My Visa ends. I’m not an EU Citizen.”
We walked along the canal and made out on one of the many bridges. He held me tight. He ran his hand down my back and grabbed onto my ass.
“I wonder if I’ll ever be able to do this again.”
“Make out with a guy?”
“Like this. Out in the open. Not caring what anyone thinks. Not being afraid.”
We spent the rest of the day at his apartment in Mitte. We fucked and made food and watched bad horror movies and fucked some more.
A week later I returned to Los Angeles. Another city where you can make out and hold hands and love whoever you want.
In May, right around the time of my birthday, Ivan messaged me on Instagram.
“I am in Amsterdam visiting a friend for a few days. I tested HIV Positive. I am afraid. I don’t know what will happen if I go back. I am afraid to go to the doctors. I am afraid to tell my family. I keep reading your stories about being HIV Positive and they give me hope. You make me feel less alone.”
A few weeks ago I was with my boyfriend, Clay, in Hollywood. We were picking up movie tickets on Hollywood and Highland. Swarms of tourists. Families from all over the country taking pictures with Spider Man and Darth Vader and Michael Jackson.
We were holding hands. A father gave us a look of disapproval and he said something to his little boy. The boy laughed. For a moment I thought about pulling my hand away, avoiding any conflict or embarrassment.
Instead I held on tighter. I got on my tippy toes (Clay is six feet to my five five so I have to reach high for kisses!) and kissed him.
Because this is my city. My world. And no one gets to tell me I can’t hold my boyfriend’s hand on the street.
And who the fuck knows? Maybe that little boy will grow up into a big ole queer teenager and he will remember the two guys making out right there, in the middle of the street, not giving a fuck what his dad or anyone else thought.
And that’s the point. That’s why. Every time we hold hands in public. Every time we kiss those we love (or just like or want to fuck) on the street. Every time we say I love you or show intimacy and affection, we are making a statement to the world: That we are here. And you are not alone.
I got an email a while back regarding a story of mine:
“I read your blog piece, “Getting Pissed on Taught me the Secret to Being Free”. You and your partner should be ashamed. I am a gay man. I do not live in liberal California. I believe in Jesus and in restraint and monogamy. It is gay men like you, sexual deviants and predators, who are teaching the straight-normal world that we are all amoral perverts. We will make America Great Again, and there will be no place for men like you.”
He’s absolutely right. I am a sexual deviant and a pervert, and I do not give a fuck what straight, normal, gay, or anyone else thinks about that. This is my life. My sexuality. My relationship. And I live according to my values.
To be kind and loving. To be honest (or as honest as I can be). To be open. To try to grow. To be tolerant. To have compassion for myself and those around me.
And to be visible so those who can’t be will know they aren’t alone.
I write about getting pissed on and group sex and getting fucked in public. I write about falling in love. I write about my struggles with jealousy and fear and intimacy, about getting sober and being HIV Positive. I try to explore all of who I am openly and honestly because I can. Because I will not be jailed, I will not be beaten, my family will not turn their backs on me.
I think those of us living in places like LA and New York, San Francisco and Chicago, have an obligation to be visible. Whether you’re two dads or two moms raising a family, trans or gender fluid, a slut or asexual, open or monogamous, we need to be seen: all of us. The whole spectrum.
Because there are people out there like my friend Ivan who are afraid that they will die if they express their truth.
So for them, I’m gonna keep screaming it as loud and as graphically as I can.
And I’m not gonna back down for anyone.
If you’d like to read more of my writing check out the stories on my blog or my book, Accidental Warlocks, on Amazon.
Your support means everything to me. We are in this together.