Excuses

Sometimes I feel like there is something wrong with me. That is a ridiculous statement, because of course there’s something wrong with me. I’m an alcoholic. I’m gay. I am many things that people would view as a liability rather than an asset. And they’re things that I myself have viewed as flaws. It took me time to accept myself as gay, to accept myself as an alcoholic. But eventually I did. And once I did, I never looked back. These things were no longer sources of shame for me, but rather things that made my life interesting and unique. Things that colored my perception of the world, and gave me my voice. I wouldn’t change them for anything in the world.

But still, sometimes, I just can’t help but feel as though there is really something wrong with me. I do things, and I don’t know why I do them. I bite my nails. I organize. I clean things at work that no one asks me to. I ignore the things I need to do in order to make sense of things that do not matter. I have always had a slight tendency towards compulsion, of course. But only when it served me. Only when I needed it. Lately, however, I’m starting to feel as though it’s becoming more of a liability. I feel numb. I feel powerless over many things in my life. And instead of using the tools I have available to me, or making small steps towards getting my life together, I am choosing to expend my energy into a bottomless bucket that leaks out into the universe like some sort of shitty entropic metaphor.

Sleep is something that has loomed over me my entire life. It’s the beast I can never conquer, the root of all my problems, the epitome of excuses. I can’t write, I’m tired. I can’t exercise, I didn’t sleep well. I can’t go to class, I need to sleep more than I need a good grade. Sleep has always been something I’ve abused, but now it is one of the few things left that I have to use to escape the things I don’t want to feel. There is nothing I dread more than the idea of sitting with my feelings, and being okay with them. I feel as though I have to keep moving at all times, like if I stop to process I won’t ever get up again. Everything will fall apart. I will descend into a void of sheer terror and finally realize that none of it’s worth it.

Maybe I will realize that. Maybe I will realize that I have nothing to say. I’ll be sitting at home one day, working hard, and I’ll stop. I’ll look around, and I’ll realize that everything I have ever done is a waste of time. I’ll cry a little, then make myself cry harder for my imaginary audience (because if you don’t go all the way, how will you get the Oscar?) Then I’ll wipe the tear from my eye, and like Natalie Portman at the end of Black Swan, I will leap off of the edge of the nearest tall building. Only I won’t land on a mattress. I’ll keep falling, and falling, down down through the center of the earth. I’ll pass galaxies, planets, and entire universes. I’ll transcend time and space, passing through all of the dimensions man ever thought possible. Until suddenly I come to a stop in nothingness. And there, I’ll be left alone with nothing but myself.

What a terrifying thought.

Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll actually put in the effort, and realize that I do have something to say. I’ll realize that I can write, and I can work hard, and I can succeed. I can make something that I’m proud of, and I don’t need to judge it every step of the way. I think I can do that.

-Theodore Dandy

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How To Be Frugal So You Can Waste Your Money In A Different Way

I am currently on a plane flying home to Virginia Beach, VA, to attend a cousin’s wedding in South Carolina. My parents asked me back in January if I wanted to attend. I initially said no, because I didn’t want to take the time off work and not earn the money I knew I would need to pay my rent. But, I figured since life is short and every experience teaches you something new, I would go ahead and attend. My parent generously booked me a ticket and I requested the week off of work. About a month later, I started dating my current boyfriend.

Having a boyfriend is expensive. One might think it saves you money, because you have someone who can buy you dinner and helps out with groceries and cooks for you and has a car so you don’t have to Uber everywhere when you get tired of biking and miss the days when you had a car yourself.

But in reality, it is more expensive. This is because, when you are in a relationship, you do a lot more. There is less alone time, less nights spent doing nothing, sleeping all the time, and wondering why you never write and instead sleep 12 hours a day when you’re not at work.

You go out to eat. 

You take day trips to Santa Monica to break the monotony of West Hollywood.

You go to 24 cafes at 1 am because you really really want some espresso with ice cream and if you don’t get it at right that moment then you just might murder your boyfriend.

You get hungry all the time, because you are always awake.

Gone are the days of going to bed at 11. You guys have to make dinner and watch House of Cards until 2 am.

Gone are the mornings of sleeping in till noon. He wakes up at 7 am and doesn’t know how to make coffee by himself.

Eating was so much simpler when you were single, because you could force feed yourself unseasoned tilapia for dinner with frozen vegetables and there’s no one to judge you. But hey, at least you’re looking skinny. Now that you have a boyfriend, you’re buying fresh vegetables, and cooking lavish meals, and eating bread. And even though he tells you you look amazing, you know you’ve gained 5 pounds and are noticeably bigger. But hey, at least he’s the only one who sees you naked.

To make a long story short (too late), it is expensive to date someone. But it is a hell of a lot more fulfilling than what you were doing before.

You’re living life, making memories. You’ve also picked up a new addiction to stealing the furniture people leave out on the street and bringing it inside your home, hoping there are no raccoons in it. At least this addiction you might be able to sell on Craigslist to fund your newfound ice cream addiction. Your boyfriend also shows you how to be frugal, how to save money whenever you can so you can splurge on those memories. Even though you’re still asking yourself why you’re not writing. But you’re living your life! So it all evens out in the end.

By the time this wedding has come, however, I am very much poor. I have blown through my savings, and am about to take a week off of work, which means my next paycheck will be cut in half. It also doesn’t help that I only worked 3 days last week, since I left early one day because I was feeling anxious and needed to call my mom and talk to her about organ donation. To make up for that, I volunteered to cover 2 shifts at work this week on my two days off, meaning I have worked the last 9 days straight. By day 7, I had had enough. I began to wonder if I was going insane. Could I take any more? How long could I go before my body began to physically deteriorate? Before my mind finally left me, and I was rendered a mindless lobotomized shell that could only steam cappuccinos?

Luckily, by the grace of God, I made it through. And, thanks to my discarded furniture collecting habit, I now have a new dining room table, 4 dining chairs, a sofa chair, a lamp, a rug, another sofa, a desk, a desk chair, a dresser, and the stand to a table that only needs glass for the surface. Then, last night, I had another brilliant idea- why not list my place on Airbnb while I was gone? I live alone in a one bedroom apartment, and it would be a great way to make cash. My boyfriend could let the guest in while I was gone, and after all, what are boyfriends good for if not to let strangers into your home?

I took some nice pictures of my apartment and made the listing last night, then went to sleep. This morning, I woke up to a text from Airbnb telling me someone had booked my place for two nights! Huzzah! Unfortunately, I also woke up to a missed call from my coworker. I called him back to find out that the shift lead that day hadn’t showed up and they were struggling opening the store. So, for the 10th day in a row, I got on my bike and headed to work. But who am I kidding- this was the perfect fuel for my savior complex.

After helping save the day at work, finishing the last bit of packing before my flight, and heading to the airport, I shared a passionate kiss goodbye with my boyfriend while he groped me in front of strangers. Every girl’s dream.

I don’t know if I’ll end this month having enough money to get by. I may have to make sacrifices. I may have to cut out some serious expenses, train myself to be painstakingly frugal when I want to splurge. But for this moment, I don’t have to worry about money. Because in this moment, I am living my life.

-Theodore Dandy

Like A Fashionable, Selfish Mother Teresa

I am currently undergoing an overload of empathy. I have always prided myself on being an empathetic person. I am sensitive, I don’t like hurting people, I try and make everyone else happy, often to the detriment of myself. On the other hand, I am incredibly selfish. I do good things almost like I am putting money in some sort of karma bank that will then allow me to be selfish later. I try and do as many good things as possible so I can try and fuel this idea I have of myself that I am a good person and the world owes me. Everyone owes me. And when people interact with me like I’m a normal person, rather than the generous beautiful child of God that I am, I get resentful. Shouldn’t they know what a good person I am? Shouldn’t they try to accommodate me? I’m basically Mother Teresa. Minus the whole telling people they’re going to hell for using birth control, but still.

The truth is, I just want to be a decent person. I do want to help people, and do good in the world, and be a force of positivity against all of the pain and cruelty that exists. But my obsessive mind makes that hard for me to do. Instead of focusing on what I can do to make the world a better place, I drown in thoughts of all the things in the world that are wrong. These thoughts invade me at any time- before work, as soon as I wake up, walking down the street. They devour my mind and leave me spinning in a cycle of powerlessness and self-pity. When I am lost there, of course, I can help no one. How can I transmit something I haven’t got?

I hear a lot about how I shouldn’t focus on what needs to be changed in the world, but on what needs to be changed in me and my attitude. And I know in my heart that that’s right. But there are so many times where I just can’t handle the state of the world. Syria. North Korea. Gays getting tortured in Chechnya. Trans people being villified and marginalized in America. Politics in general. I try not to get involved much politically, because it only ever brings me pain and frustration at my lack of power to do anything. And that powerlessness causes me to lash out at those closest to me. Why doesn’t anyone care as much as I do? What are you doing about Syria, Mom? Nothing! Do you even care? Why doesn’t anyone care? If only everyone in the world was as caring and sensitive as I am, none of this would be happening. (This is the kind of annoying insanity that attacks my mind on a frequent basis).

Powerlessness is a funny thing. It causes me to attack myself, to ignore every good thing in my life and to only see the things that I cannot change. But I am not powerless. I might not be able to save the world, but I can at the very least save myself. And being the best person that I can be is the only way I’ll ever be of real service to anyone else. I can’t fix the whole world, but if I take care of myself, and continue to try and spread positivity and love, and have my voice heard, then I can at least be another force of good. And that means something.

-Theodore Dandy

How I Fell In Love With A Conservative

Never one to waste time, in the ensuing months after losing my virginity, I proceeded to hook up with 17 men in a 30 day period. Now, if that sounds like a lot of people, that’s because it is. I went wild. With reckless abandon, but always using protection, I dove into the world of sex headfirst. I went from spending the first 23 years of my life as a virgin to becoming the town slut in a matter of weeks. It was an interesting experience. And I don’t regret it. Thankfully, since I was smart and I was safe, I was prescribed Truvada in order to not contract HIV, and I got tested so that I could know my status. I felt like I lived the plot to every season of Sex and the City in a matter of days. And then, as quickly as it began, it ended.

As I stated previously, I had no desire to be in a relationship. I did not want a boyfriend, I did not want commitment, and I did not want to be tied down. I just wanted to have fun. I wanted to meet fun people, hang out with cute guys, do what I wanted with my body when I wanted it. And it was all good and well. Most of the guys that I hooked up with were fun, positive experiences. A couple of times, I wasn’t as into it as I would have liked. It was probably because I was overdoing it a bit, which I will admit. But when have I ever been one to take things slowly?

At the end of the day, I decided, I did not want to be in a relationship with someone. I did, however, want someone who I was compatible with, who I could be friends with and intimate with, no strings attached. Someone I felt comfortable with, but did not have to devote myself to. I wanted a friend with benefits. So I continued going on dates, and hooking up, and living my life how I wanted to.

That’s when I met Wyatt. We met on Tinder, because of course. He had bright red hair, was gorgeous beyond belief, and funny to boot. He told me that my freckles were adorable. I told him that my mother told me I was kissed by angels, and that my father told me it was cancer. He told me I looked like a boy who should be kissed against a kale stand at a farmer’s market on a summer day. I laughed. I liked him.

We made plans to meet later that week for coffee, which turned into fries and soda water after I got off work one night. I was standing outside Carney’s on Sunset, marveling at a billboard for Ryan Murphy’s new tv show Feud with the incredible Jessica Lange, when Wyatt walked up. He was taller than me, and had a goofy grin on his face with a shock of red hair that matched his personality. We went inside and ordered, and sat at a table to talk.

The date went well, and there was an instant connection of excitement and humor. I forget exactly how, but somehow I brought up Milo Yiannopolous. For starters, I do not like Milo Yiannopolous. I think he is a racist, transphobic, conservative troll. He is someone I have to pray for on a daily basis to relieve my resentment against him. When I brought him up, Wyatt’s response was, “Oh, I love him!”

I was taken aback. Love him? That was a joke, right? It must have been a joke that I just missed both the setup and the punchline of.

“I just think it’s funny that you have someone arguing against trans rights while wearing makeup and a string of pearls,” Wyatt said.

Okay, that was something I understood. ‘I love him’ felt like a bit of a stretch, but at least Wyatt and I were in the same vein when it came to trans rights.

“You’re not a Twink for Trump, are you?” I asked jokingly.

“Well, I’m not a twink,” Wyatt said.

My heart stopped. What did that mean? I mean, it was obvious what it meant. But it wasn’t accurate, of course. ‘Ignore it,’ said my mind. So I did. We talked about other things. He made me laugh, and I told him about my experiences with ex-gays and my pilot. He was very interested. I liked him. I was a bit confused when he said things like ‘Ann Coulter is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,’ but I let it slide. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure how I managed to not pick up on everything he was saying. Perhaps it was because the thought of a gay Trump supporter seemed so ludicrous an idea to me that I didn’t think it possible.

After Carney’s, we continued the date at my place and he ended up spending the night. He was the first person to spend the night at my house since my previous relationship. That surprised me. The next morning, we were talking, and finally it started to dawn on me that I had hooked up with a conservative. Finally, it was so overwhelming that I had to ask the question.

“Who did you vote for in the election?” I asked.

“Isn’t it obvious?” he said. My heart dropped. “I voted for Trump!”

I stared at him, mouth agape. It was true. I had hooked up with a Trump supporter. Who was I? Who had I become?

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I didn’t want Hillary Clinton to win,” he said.

“But Trump? Really?” I said, incredulous.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “He’s going to burn through all the corrupt political institutions.”

“You don’t support the Muslim ban, do you?” I asked.

“I don’t think it went far enough!” he said.

I groaned in disbelief. He laughed.

“I love blowing your mind!” he said.

I walked him out to his car and he kissed me goodbye passionately. I have never been more confused in my life than I was in that moment. What had just happened? Who was this guy? What was I doing? What was I going to do? Was I a bad person? I immediately walked over to my neighbors house. I knocked on the door. He opened it and I walked in and sat down, silent.

“What’s wrong, honey?” he said.

“I hooked up with a Trump supporter,” I said.

“Oh dear,” he said.

I was still in shock. “What do I do?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” he said.

“Do I see him again?”

“Well, do you want to date him?” he asked.

“Well, I don’t want to be in a relationship with anyone,” I said.

“So what’s the problem?” my neighbor said. “You can have different political beliefs from someone.”

“But a Trump supporter?” I asked.

“They’re people too,” he said. “Shocking, I know.”

I still didn’t know what I was going to do. I couldn’t stop thinking about Wyatt. I ended up texting him a few days later. We made plans to meet that Friday night. On Friday, my curiosity got the better of me, and I ended up stalking his Facebook page. Boy, was that a mistake. Almost every post was a political one, and every one was something I vehemently disagreed with. When I got to his post about how he liked Azealia Banks, that was when I had to stop.

I went over to my neighbor’s. I asked him what to do. Wyatt was coming over in an hour, and we were going to get dinner. I didn’t know if I would even be able to be in the same room as him, let alone get dinner with him. “Just be kind, clear, and direct,” my neighbor said. “Tell him kindly that you don’t think you’re a long term match.”

“Should I bring up politics?” I said.

“No,” said my neighbor. “The reason why doesn’t matter. You’ve only been on one date. Just have it come from a place of kindness. How would you want to be treated?”

I went downstairs and waited nervously for Wyatt to arrive. He got to my place and I went outside to help him find parking. He kissed me. He was going to make this difficult. After we parked the car, we walked back to my place. It was a little chilly. “You must be freezing,” he said.

“I’m fine,” I said.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said as he took off his sweatshirt and put it around me. He was going to make this REALLY difficult.

We got to my door and sat down on the couch. “Where do you wanna get dinner?” he asked excitedly.

“Well…” I said. “I need to tell you something.”

“Okay,” he said.

“I’ve been thinking, and I really like you, and you’re really funny, and I really like hanging out with you, and I’m so attracted to you,” I said, losing my train of thought.

“Uh huh,” he said, smiling.

“But… I don’t think that we’re a long term match. And I don’t want to be in a relationship.”

“Okay,” he said.

“But I really like you,” I found myself saying. “And I wanna keep hanging out with you.”

“Great!” he said.

“What are your thoughts?” I said.

“I mean, I’m not really looking for a relationship either,” he said. “Let’s just hang out and have fun!”

“Okay, awesome!” I said. “I’m glad we’re on the same page. And one more thing- we can never talk about politics. Or Trump. Or Milo Yiannopolous. Or Ann Coulter.”

“Okay!” he said.

We ended up going to Whole Foods and then he spent the night. What had I done?? This was the exact opposite of what I was supposed to do! I was supposed to dump him! But I didn’t! What did I do!

“It’s okay,” I thought. “We’ll just be friends who hook up. It’s not like we’re dating. I don’t want a boyfriend anyway. What does it matter what his political beliefs are?”

We hung out a couple more times after that. We didn’t talk about politics. I didn’t ask, and he didn’t tell. For a week, we made plans to see each other and then found we couldn’t wait that long and ended up seeing each other a day earlier. We were together every other day. There were small moments of intimacy. We held hands for a moment after sex one day. Then when he left we stood there and hugged each other close. It felt very intimate. It scared me. It was strange- here was someone I was sleeping with, and yet hugging him felt like the most intimate of acts. I wanted to know more about him, but I was terrified of what I might find out. I certainly didn’t want to know whatever political beliefs he had. So I started with the small stuff.

I asked him when he came out. Right before I asked, I realized I might be assuming he was gay when he could be bisexual. Thankfully, I asked which he was and he told me he was bisexual. This threw me for a bit of a loop. I guess my first thought when I’m dating a guy is that he’s gay. I typically just assume. But I realized that’s not always the case. It certainly wasn’t the case with Wyatt. He told me that he’d come out the previous summer, and that he was from Fresno. That explained a lot to me. He told me that he wasn’t seeing anyone else, which shocked me. It’s not like we were exclusive. We weren’t dating. Why was he only seeing me? Did I want to only see him? I had no idea.

We still stayed away from politics, although little  bits began to sneak into our conversations. I still treated him as just a sex partner, but found myself being drawn to him more and more. As the week went by, I wanted to see him more and more. What was going on with me? Why did I feel this way? I never felt like anyone the way I felt about Wyatt. We made plans to meet on Friday night for dinner. This was clearly becoming more than just sex. And it scared me.

Again, I decided to do a little digging, and I found his blog shortly before we met for dinner. Again, it was highly political, and was everything that I had been trying to avoid. I found myself becoming frustrated again. But then I stopped. I paused, and I thought. Who was the man that I was seeing? What did I know about him? I knew that he was funny. I knew that he was nice to me. I knew that he was sweet, and that I liked him a lot more than I cared to let on.

We went out for dinner at Jones’ on Santa Monica. On the walk from the car to the restaurant, he held my hand. Who was I kidding. This man was not a friend with benefits. He was far more than that. As we sat down at the booth, I knew what had to happen. I couldn’t deny what was going on between us. I didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t know how it happened, but I was absolutely head over heels for this guy. So we needed to talk.

I put an end to the silence on politics. I wanted to hear it all. Did he hate the environment? Trans kids? Muslims? Was he a psychopath who didn’t care about anyone besides himself? How could he think these things and support these people and still be an empathetic human being? More importantly, how could I be with him and still be an empathetic human being? So I asked him. I asked him all of these questions. I was emotional, I was afraid, I felt very vulnerable. And he smiled. He laid out his thoughts to me in a calm and objective manner. And I was surprised. I was surprised at the man that was in front of me. He was intelligent, he was thoughtful, and he was not the caricature of a conservative that I had in my mind. We disagreed on many things. I thought my way was the more effective, compassionate way. He thought his way was the more effective way. But what I realized was that we both wanted the same things. He didn’t care about transgender people any less than I did. He didn’t hate the environment. He just had a different opinion than me on how the law would best tackle these issues. And although we disagreed on the politics of it all, our heart was in the same place. And in that moment, I finally saw him as a person. I saw Wyatt as a smart, kind, funny, caring, flawed, beautiful man who I was so intensely drawn to.

I told him that I didn’t know what was going on between us. I didn’t understand the things I was feeling, or why I was feeling them. I had told him that we weren’t a long term match. But I didn’t feel that way anymore. I didn’t know how I felt, but I knew that I had never felt about anyone the way I felt about him.

The next few days I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I was so excited, so full of joy and happiness at the thought of being around him. He dominated most of my thoughts and my conversations in a given day. I friended him on Facebook, even though I knew that his posts were not going to make me happy. But we were growing closer every day. We continued to hang out, and I was infatuated. I was riding the wave of infatuation, trying to stay above water and not get dragged under. I googled infatuation, to try and gain some sort of control over the things I was feeling. Surprisingly, it didn’t work. Instead, I read about all the negative sides of infatuation, like jealousy, and fear, and obsession. That terrified me. What was I putting myself through? I didn’t want a boyfriend! I didn’t want to not be in control of my feelings! Anxiety and fear began to creep in. Could this even work? How could I date someone so different? What about the trans kids?

I confided in him all of these things I was feeling. I told him about my fears, about the things I was holding back, about these feelings I was afraid of. And he felt the same. We were both so passionate for the other person, it scared us. I was surprised by this connection we had. It was strong, it was powerful, it was completely out of left field, and I was totally under its control. But I wanted to be smart about things. I didn’t want to let my head run away with the things my heart was feeling. He told me he was grateful to have met me, that I came into his life at exactly the right time. I felt the same way. It was funny, this was the one time in my life I actually felt like I absolutely did not want a relationship, did not want to date this guy, did not want to be tied down. But I literally couldn’t help it. I couldn’t help feel about him the way I did. I liked him so much, even though he liked Ben Shapiro.

We joked about me going to the NRA charity ball. He told me about his mentor, Andrew Breitbart. He talked about his desire to change the media, to have his voice heard. He had conservative ideals that I admired, and even when he tried to rile me up, I knew that behind his love of controversial humor, he had a good heart and sincerely cared. I ended up seeing a TED talk from a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church, and she talked about engaging in dialogue with people who have opposing points of view from you. The first thing she said was, “don’t assume bad intent”. I realized that that was what I had been doing this whole time. I had assumed that everyone who had voted for Trump was a bad person, that conservatives were bad people who didn’t care about anybody but themselves. I had never stopped to think that perhaps humanity isn’t as black and white as all that. We are complex people, and we are neither entirely bad nor entirely good.

Wyatt’s conservative ideals don’t make him a bad person any more than my empathy for trans kids make me a saint. We are neither as good or as bad as we think. And it wasn’t until I started listening, without judgement, without assuming bad intent, that I started to see the humanity in the other side. It took falling in love with a conservative man to help me realize the prejudice I held in my own heart, and I grow more and more each day that I continue to date this wonderfully complex, beautiful human being. Who knows what the future holds? Who knows if this is a forever relationship? It doesn’t matter. I have never felt more in the moment or more connected to others and to my higher power than I do right now. And loving Wyatt plays a large part in the man that I am becoming. I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now, but for now, I am in love, and I am happy. Who would have seen this coming?

-Theodore Dandy

The Lonely Homosexual Virgin Diaries

The older I get, and the more I experience in my adult life, the more I realize how little I really know myself. I thought that I had an excellent conception of the person I was. I knew myself- my wants, needs, and dreams. But the things I wanted yesterday are not the things I want today. I feel as though I am constantly changing. From one day to the next, I am trying to make sense of the experiences I have and the things I feel. I try to put my feelings into a box, and say for certain where I want my life to go and who I want to be. But all I find is uncertainty.

Growing up, I always wanted to be in a relationship. I thought I would never be happy until I was in love. I wanted to meet someone, fall in love, lose my virginity in the perfect romantic setting, live happily ever after. So I kept to that plan for my life. I treated my virginity as a prized possession, something that would be the greatest gift I would ever give. I was still driven by attraction and a desire for physical intimacy, so it’s not as though I was celibate. But I still held back from fully relinquishing myself sexually to another man because I felt as though it was something that I would give away and never get back. A friend of mine described to me losing her virginity as “not the Seventeen magazine moment that I thought it would be, but rather, one like any other.” I was surprised by this, and it stuck with me in the back of my mind. How would it be for me? Would it be perfect? Awkward? Exciting?

It turned out to be all of those things. Looking back, I am absolutely satisfied with how I lost my virginity. I decided to sleep with my boyfriend, someone who I cared deeply about, and still do. And when it happened, everything felt right. It was awkward, and it was funny, and it was nice, and it was painful, and it was not the Seventeen magazine moment that I thought it would be. But I was okay with that. Because I finally felt like I was at a point in my life where I was okay with the person that I was. I like myself, I like my body, and I feel attractive and confident with who I am. None of those things have ever been true for me. This is why I am glad that I waited until I did, because when I had sex for the first time, it was because I wanted to do it with someone I cared about, not because I felt badly about myself and wanted to feel validated.

Soon after losing my virginity, I realized that sex was something that I very much wanted to keep doing. It was exciting, and complicated, and frustrating, but ultimately worthwhile. I began to figure out who I was a sexual human being. The things I liked, the things I didn’t like, how to communicate effectively, how to make sure my needs and the other person’s needs were being met. Sex was an adventure, and I was ready for it.

When my relationship ended, sex was something that stuck with me. It was something I still desired, even though I was not in a committed relationship anymore. But I didn’t know what to do. I had grown up thinking that sex was something I would do with someone I loved, and while I cared deeply about the person I had sex with, we had not fallen in love. But what was my criteria for sex? Where did I draw the line? What did I need in order to feel comfortable having sex with someone? Did we need to be in love, be dating, be exclusive? I didn’t know the answers to any of these questions. But something had changed within me. I was no longer the person I was before I lost my virginity. Whether or not virginity is real or simply an artificial concept we carry in our minds, having sex for the first time changed me. It was like a door had been opened that I didn’t know existed, and I was free to make whatever decision I wanted.

I think that I had attached an unfair moral stigma to sex, as though if I were to have sex with someone I wasn’t in love with, that would make me a bad person. Like having sex would be something I would regret for the rest of my life, and I would never be able to go back to the person I was before. In some ways it was true- I can’t go back to the way I was before. But I realized that sex is not as complicated as I made it out to be. It’s like anything else. It’s not good or bad, it simply is. And as long as I’m being safe, and taking care of myself and my needs, then sex is whatever I and the person I sleep with want it to be.

Hook up apps were something I would use occasionally when I was drinking, and feeling like I needed validation. But I no longer needed validation. I simply wanted to explore my sexuality, and I figured the best way to do so would be to use something specifically designed for it. I downloaded an app, and I started on my journey. I felt a lot of judgement at the things I was seeing- how open these men were about themselves and what they wanted sexually. I could never be that crass! But then I checked myself- why was I judging? Who was I to judge? Were we not all there for the same reason? Why is there anything wrong with a person being honest about their wants and needs in a safe forum to do so? Perhaps my judgement came from my frustration at my lack of ability to express myself in the same level of honesty.

I spoke to a few people, and it was going fine, and then one man asked to meet me. He was very attractive, and I was both thrilled and terrified at the thought of having sex with him. How would I do that? Could I do that? Was that possible? To just have sex with someone you were attracted to that, before an hour ago, was just a stranger? I had only had sex with one person. Would I regret having sex with this person? But then I realized, it didn’t matter. I wouldn’t know until I did it.

Say I did go to meet this person. And we did have sex. And afterwards, I felt unhappy. What then? Would my life be over? Of course not. It would just be me trying something, and then realizing I didn’t like it, and not doing it again. I was attaching a morality to this act that did not actually exist.

So I met him. I went to his place, and I brought protection, and I had sex with the second person that I had ever slept with. And it was fantastic. It was easy, and it was fun, and I was incredibly attracted to this man, and afterwards I felt great. It was like jumping into a cold pool, and I was now acclimated to the feeling. I felt powerful. I could do anything I wanted! As long as I was being safe, I had the power to shape my sexual life however I chose.

What had happened to the person that I thought I was? The lonely homosexual virgin, enticed and terrified of sex. I was someone who put it on an unhealthy pedestal, revering and loathing it. Now who was I? That’s a question I still don’t know the answer to. But I finally feel as though I’m on the path to finding out. Before I felt like my options were limited, and the inability to express myself sexually was something I didn’t realize had been frustrating me as much as it had. But now that box that I put myself in is gone. My future feels open and limitless. I feel like it’s okay for me to make mistakes, to put myself out there and be vulnerable.

Maybe one day I’ll change my mind. At some point, I might realize that this is not what I want. I might want to be in a committed relationship, and save sex for the person that I’m in love with. And that’s okay. Because that will always be an option. But, as I’m finally realizing, it is not the only option. Right now, I don’t want to be in a committed relationship, and I don’t want to only be having sex with one person. And that doesn’t make me a bad person. It just makes me human.

-Theodore Dandy

An Open Letter To My Boyfriend

Tanner,

I told you once that I was going to do something for you because of what you’ve done for me. I was waiting for inspiration to strike, but I realized that nothing in the world happens unless you make it happen. And you, Tanner, are all the inspiration I need.

I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling like I wasn’t whole. I thought that maybe if I were in love, or if I just met the right person, that that feeling would go away. It took me a long time to realize that being in a relationship with someone is not about making each other whole. It’s about two fully realized, fully unique individuals coming together to create something new. It’s about bringing the best out of each other, not fixing each other.

I don’t know how to let someone care about me. I don’t know how to truly put another person’s needs before my own. I don’t know how to be the perfect boyfriend, or say all the right things. To share just enough, to need you but not be too needy, to care for you but also take care of myself. And that’s terrifying. I live with a constant fear that I am going to mess this up. But when I stop, and I think about you, how I feel about you and how you make me feel, I realize that none of that matters. Because you are someone who I want to make mistakes with. Who I want to be vulnerable with, and say the wrong things to, and annoy with my character defects and my eccentricities.

You are one of the sweetest, most passionate and sincere men I have ever met. I promise to always be honest with you, because I care about your happiness just as much as I care about mine. I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I know that no matter what, I’ll be okay with it. Because I’m already a better person for having known you.

-Your loving boyfriend

How I Fell In Love Going Undercover In Reparative Therapy

Two months ago I made the decision to turn my play “Play The Gay Away!” into a television pilot. My reason for writing this was to bring awareness to the issue of Reparative Therapy, especially the fact that in 45 states it is legal for a parent to force their child under the age of 18 to attend reparative therapy against their will. In expanding on this topic and making it into a show with real authentic characters, I knew that I wanted to gain an even greater understanding of what it’s like to go through this. It’s one thing to read about it online and watch documentaries- it’s another to actually experience it for oneself and talk to people who have been through it.

I decided to look again at the initial sports camp that I had been inspired by. To my surprise, the camp is alive and well, and in its 17th year. I learned through my reading that it was actually part of a larger group, modeled on the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. There were meetings in hundreds of cities across the world, including one in Los Angeles. I immediately emailed the person in charge requesting to attend a meeting. If I was doing this, I was going all in. I had already once gone “undercover” in an ex-gay group in college, so I felt prepared to do it again. This time, however, I was not going to do any damage.

My plan was to simply listen and observe. I was there to gather information, to better understand, and above all else, not to interfere. I made a promise to do no harm. The group was a Catholic support group for people experiencing Same Sex Attraction, or “SSA”. It was meant to help people with SSA to live a chaste celibate life in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church.


I dressed for the meeting in plain khakis and a button down blue shirt so as not to draw attention to myself. Underneath my plain outfit I wore a jockstrap that I had bought on Amazon because I wanted something fancy. Today I was wearing it as a form of silent protest, and also because I knew it would be absurd.

I arrived at the church early and was greeted by the man leading the meeting. He introduced me to several of the men at the meeting. I was surprised to see that they were all significantly older than me- I was the only one there under 50. The meeting began with people sharing about their struggles lately with SSA, and after everyone had shared it was going to be my turn to tell them about myself.

It was at this point that he walked in. An older man, in his early 50’s, who was incredibly handsome and had wonderful arms. I was immediately attracted to him. He shared about his struggle with SSA lately and his despair that his sister was voting for Hillary Clinton. Next, I gave a several minute spiel about where I was from and fudged the truth about why I was there. I didn’t want to tell them I was there for research, but I didn’t want to be completely dishonest, either.

Afterwards, everyone went upstairs for confession with the priest. I was given “Spiritual Advice”, since I am not Catholic. He asked me what I wanted to talk about and I asked him about what advice he would give me for how I would be able to feel whole and fulfilled as a person while not acting on my sexuality. He told me to seek out intimate yet platonic male friendships to fulfill my need for intimacy, and that sexuality was fleeting, unless it is in the bond of marriage between a man and a woman. I wanted to ask why that could not be true for marriage between two men, but I held my tongue.

I then sat through my first non-wedding related Catholic Mass, attempting to sit and stand at all the right places. I felt awkward being there, considering I was there under false pretenses. I didn’t want to be blasphemous or disrespectful, but I figured if I just kept my mouth shut I wouldn’t do anything wrong. During mass, I kept looking over at the handsome man sitting next to me, who was smiling at my feeble attempts to follow along.

After the service was over, I asked him if people were going out for fellowship. He said he was going to an Italian festival in Hollywood and invited me along. I agreed, and we drove there together in his convertible. His name was Bill, and I glommed on to him immediately. He offered to pay for my entry to the festival, which I vehemently refused. I wasn’t going to let a man pay for me when my basis for knowing him was a lie. He insisted, however, and told me that he’d let me pay for my own food once we were in. I agreed, feeling guilty.

We perused the stands and tasted all sorts of italian foods, and had a wonderful time. He told me about his experiences with SSA and with the group that we had been to. He told me he had been through reparative therapy in the 90’s.

“We were sold on this lie that eventually we would become straight. When that didn’t happen, a lot of the guys lost hope,” he said.

I felt so bad for what he had gone through. The idea of dealing with this for your entire life was heartbreaking to me. I enjoyed talking with him, though, and was looking forward to seeing him again. He dropped me off at home and hugged me goodbye. My heart fluttered. Then it dropped when I saw later that he had friended me on facebook. There was no way we could be friends on facebook- I am unashamedly gay there! I immediately changed my profile pic, cover photo, and blocked his profile. He texted me later asking if I wanted him to tag me in any photos he was going to upload to facebook. I told him I had deleted my facebook after the festival because of the conversation we had had about it being a time waster. (We did talk about that, and I mentioned at the time I might delete it because I was afraid of this exact scenario and wanted to create an excuse ahead of time). Luckily he believed me and we made plans to get dinner the next week.

I was overcome with guilt for lying to Bill, and for presenting myself under false pretenses. What happened to not interfering? To doing no harm? I was supposed to be there to observe, not to make friends and lie to people. I felt awful. Before this had all been theoretical, it was just something awful and horrible and evil that happened that I was trying to stop. Now, actually meeting a real life person going through this, it became a lot less black and white. Things were real now, no longer an image in my head. Bill was a real person, with real experiences that I will never have. I sought advice from my friends and my parents. They advised me that I should be honest with Bill. But I knew I still wanted to attend those meetings. I knew that I hadn’t finished what I had come here to learn. So I reasoned that I would be as honest with Bill as I possibly could, without hurting him and telling him I was only there for research.

We met for dinner near my place, and I wore a tank top because I thought my shoulders looked nice. It was an intimate restaurant and it felt like we were on a date. Clearly, we were not. We talked more about his experiences in reparative therapy and he told me about another group in Los Angeles. This one, he said, was more based on reparative therapy than the Catholic group we had been to. This one believed that you could go from gay to straight, whereas the previous group was simply for people who wanted to be celibate and not act on their same sex attraction. He offered to go to the next meeting with me, and I agreed. Date number 3 was already in the works. I told him that I was there to get a greater understanding of this, and that I had grown up in a more gay affirming family and church and that I wanted to know what the other side was like. Mostly accurate, although I didn’t tell him that I had no intention of joining his side.


I went to the second Catholic group meeting with him, and this time there was a woman there. During the shares, she talked about a friend of hers who told her that her son had come out to her and she didn’t know what to do. In that moment, I was overcome with an intense feeling of rage. Here was a kid, coming out to his parents, and the people that his parents chose to seek advice from on how to respond were people like the ones in this room? I was disgusted. Before I was able to listen to them talk about how society has gone so far downhill, how Rupaul was to blame for so much graphic content on television, how any gay affirming Catholic groups were lying to people. None of that affected me. But thinking of that kid, being so open and vulnerable with his parents, and the idea of them telling him, “Don’t worry, there’s a group for you! All you have to do is repress this huge part of who you are, and if you do that, then you’ll be all right with God.” I spent the rest of the meeting with my hands clenched tightly. And the worst part of the whole thing was looking over at Bill, nodding along. How could he buy into all this bullshit?


The next week we went to the reparative therapy group which was all the way out in Glendora. I met Bill at his house, and we drove to the meeting from there. I was impressed with how nice his house was, and a bit overwhelmed at the sheer number of Virgin Mary statues that adorned pretty much every part of the house. There was a cross on almost every wall, and some form of Catholic paraphernalia in every room. Still, the neighborhood was just lovely.

When we got to the meeting, I was again the youngest person in the room, although this time there were some guys in their 30’s. I spoke initially with a man who reminded me of my father. He was around that age, and mentioned his wife and two teenage children.

“It’s nice being at this meeting, because I can’t really talk to any of them about this,” he said.

I felt so bad for him. I imagined what it would be like if my dad had to go through something like that and didn’t feel that he could tell me.

The group was set up with a guest speaker, who started things off by asking all of us when was the last time we felt drawn or attracted to someone. For starters, his was an uber driver he’d had earlier in the week who was very muscular. Most of the men mentioned some man that they’d encountered, while Bill apparently was attracted to every barista at the Starbucks we’d been to before the meeting.

Next the leader asked us to go around the room and look at each of the men, up and down. Then, as a group, he asked us what we found attractive in the other men.

“For example,” he said, “Youth.”

Keep in mind, I am the only one under 35.

It was like a brainstorm of sexual attraction.

“Testosterone.”

“Bone Structure.”

“Calves.”

“Big Biceps.”

“Facial hair.”

This whole thing was bizarre to me. I honestly couldn’t believe this was happening. The leader then basically gave us a spiel about how we were confusing our needs as humans as sexual attraction.

“We all have needs,” he said. “Touch. Warmth. Stimulation. Affection. Stability. And we confuse these needs as sexual attraction.”

I sat back flabbergasted. All of the strange Freudian logic I was hearing did not justify to me the absurd drive to upset everything in your life and try and inhibit your sexuality in an attempt to live the way you think God wants you to. Listening to the men sharing was the most heartbreaking and depressing thing I have ever experienced. Many of the men were married, and had children. The rest wanted nothing more than a wife and kids. One man shared about how he used drugs because he hated being a homosexual. He hated the way he felt, having to confront it, and he wanted nothing more than to marry his fiancée who he had recently proposed to.

I wanted to die. I felt so horribly for him. I related to him so much, with the substance abuse and hating who you were. I was lucky enough that my sexuality never really tied into that, but here was someone who was just like me, stuck in this system of circular logic and pain. I wished beyond all else that I wasn’t there under false pretenses. Still, I approached him after the meeting and told him my story. I got his number to stay in contact with him. I told him I would pray for him. I needed to do something.

I left the meeting feeling very discouraged. I did not enjoy being there, and the excitement of being around all of this absurd drama had turned sour in my stomach. I was beginning to let it get to me. When we got back to Bill’s, I scheduled an uber home.

“My uber’s coming in 10 minutes,” I said.

“Oh, that’s not enough time for a dip in the hot tub,” Bill said.

I swear to God, that man was sending me mixed messages. I ubered home, wishing I had just canceled it and gone in the hot tub.


Later that week, I decided it was time. I was going to tell Bill the truth, as much of it as I could. We made plans for dinner that weekend, and I knew that I was going to tell him then. After the hot tub.

Getting ready for dinner felt like getting ready for a date again. I had splurged again and bought several more jockstraps on Amazon. I debated whether or not to wear one. I knew it wouldn’t make a difference, because clearly nothing would happen. But I wore it anyway.

I ubered to his house and he drove us to dinner. We had dinner at a nice Italian restaurant and it was lovely. We chatted at length about his water filtration system, while I built up the courage to make my speech. We went back to his place, and I suggested a dip in the hot tub. Of course, I had brought my bathing suit. We went out to his hot tub, and settled in for a nice nighttime soak. It would have been perfect, but I knew what I had to do. I knew why I was really there, and what was going to happen. It was time to get it over with. The fantasy of this flirtationship that I had with Bill had to come to an end. I had to tell him who I really was.

We talked about the meetings we had been to, and I told him about what a greater understanding I now had of this topic. I told him how important it was to me and that I was glad to get to learn so much from him. He began to ask me a question, and I knew it would lead to me telling him the truth. I didn’t want to do it in the hot tub, however, as romantic as that would have been.

“Can we go inside?” I asked.

“Sure!” he said.

We went inside and he got us towels.

“I’m just going to change out of my bathing suit,” he said.

“Okay,” I said, sitting on the couch.

He came out 30 seconds later only wearing a towel.

“You have got to be kidding me,” I thought. This was a lot worse than telling him in the hot tub.

He sat on the couch next to me. I took a deep breath.

“I have something to tell you. I’ve made a decision,” I said.

“Okay,” he said.

I looked at him. I didn’t know how to phrase it. I closed my eyes.

“I’m gay,” I said. I opened my eyes. He was looking at me.

“Okay,” he said.

“And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t think it’s a sin. I don’t feel any shame or guilt surrounding it. Everything in my life tells me this is exactly who I’m supposed to be, that this is normal, and that I’m capable of having a romantic relationship with another man just like a heterosexual person can,” I said.

“Okay,” he said.

“I just wanted to tell you because I wanted to be honest with you. And your friendship is very important to me. It’s the most important thing I’ve gotten out of this. But I don’t think I want to go to the meetings anymore,” I said.

“Thank you for being honest with me,” he said. “I’m not surprised you’re telling me this, a lot of the things you said seemed to indicate you felt this way. I’m a little surprised you came to this conclusion this quickly, though.”

“I think my mind was made up more than I realized before I came here,” I said.

“Well thank you for telling me,” he said.

I paused for a moment. I had to do it.

“There’s a part 2,” I said.

“Oh?” he said.

I paused for about 30 seconds, staring at the ceiling.

“I’m just going to say it,” I said. I paused for 15 more seconds.

“I have feelings for you.”

Wow. That was the first time I had ever told someone I had feelings for them. I felt incredibly vulnerable. But at the same time it was easy. Because I knew in my head that nothing would happen. I knew that he wasn’t capable of being with me the way I wanted him to. But still, I hoped. I couldn’t help it.

“Okay,” he said.

My heart sank. He said nothing. I wanted to be anywhere but there.

“I’ve enjoyed being friends with you and I felt like I had to be honest with you,” I said.

“Thank you for being honest with me,” he said. “I mean, that’s flattering. A handsome young man tells me he has feelings for me. That gives me a boost.”

I think he was trying to compliment me, but to be honest, I don’t think he could have responded in a worse way. I wished I had just said nothing. I didn’t even know what I expected. Did I really think the man with a billion statues of the Virgin Mary was going to go for me? I felt so naive. I have never felt more like a child than I did in that moment.

“How do you feel?” he asked me. I paused.

“Disappointed,” I said. “I mean, I know what the reality is. We’re on very different paths. And neither of us is going to fundamentally change. So nothing can happen between us. But still, that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.”

“What did you want to happen?” he asked. “Did you want me to say, ‘Oh I agree, I love you, let’s be together?'”

Yes. I did.

“It crossed my mind,” I said. “But like I said, I know who you are and I know who I am.”

“We grew up in very different times,” he told me. “When I was in college, first dealing with my SSA, I was in a fraternity. One day the Founder of the fraternity was caught giving a blowjob to another member of the fraternity. Everyone in the fraternity voted to kick him out. And they voted to make me go to his room and collect his stuff. And when I went in, I saw him sitting there on his bed, and he looked like the saddest person in the world. And I thought, ‘that could be me if anyone knew.'”

I sat there stunned. Why was he telling me this horribly depressing story? What was this supposed to accomplish?

“Maybe if I grew up nowadays, I would have chosen the same path as you,” he said.

I wished so badly that he would choose the same path as me. I mean, didn’t I get into all of this to help people? To tell them my story so that they would know that you can be gay and believe in God and you don’t have to change anything about yourself? Yet here was one person, right in front of me, and I couldn’t even help him. I felt so stupid. But part of me knew it was just my pride and ego that was hurt. That I could still do good, and help people. That all was not lost. But at the time, all I wanted was to change his mind.

I didn’t want to get into a discussion about homosexuality and morality, but somehow we did. He talked about how he could never really accept same sex attraction because he felt it went against natural law, about sex being meant for procreation and unity. I asked why the aspect of sex as unity didn’t apply to same sex couples. He said he didn’t think it was what God intended. I said that I thought whatever happened was what God intended to happen. I knew I was not going to change his mind, but something in me continued the conversation.

“To be honest,” he said, “and this is just my belief, but I think that the reason that same sex attraction exists, is similar to cancer. Not that they’re the same, but I don’t think God designed us to have same sex attraction just like how some people are born with birth defects or get cancer. I think it’s because of the Original Sin. Because we live in a fallen world, that threw nature off balance, and that’s why things like SSA exist.”

I stared at him. I couldn’t say anything.

I mean, are you fucking kidding me?

The twisted logic behind that, the utter sheer absurdity of that belief was so unbelievable to me that there was no argument. I suddenly realized how delusional I was. There was no way that there was ever going to be anything here. Not when he has grown up being indoctrinated into a belief like this. There was nothing I could do. How could I have ever thought any differently?

I started to feel very uncomfortable. I wanted to leave, immediately. It was 1130 at night and I had to open at work the next morning at 630 am. I was exhausted, drained emotionally and wanted to be alone. I said goodbye to him. He said he hoped we could still be friends. I agreed, although I knew it would be a while before I would be able to be around him again. On the uber home, I flashed through the night over and over again in my mind.

“What did you want to happen? Did you want me to say, ‘Oh I agree, I love you, let’s be together?”

But weirdly enough, I couldn’t stop thinking about that kid in his fraternity. Sitting there on his bed, alone. And I wondered. Bill had said that everyone in the fraternity had voted to kick the kid out. Did that mean that Bill had voted to kick him out, too? That thought disturbed me more than anything else.


None of this is what I expected when I decided to continue my research into reparative therapy. I didn’t expect to get so emotionally invested. I didn’t expect to meet Bill. And I certainly didn’t expect to develop feelings for him. But regardless, all of that happened. And now I am left wondering what to do next. First, I had to write all of this down. Because I had to process it, and I knew this would be cathartic. I can already feel it has been. And even though I normally am willing to write about things that are personal to me, I usually do not include anything personal about anyone else. But this is different. No one I know will ever meet this man. They will not attend these groups, and the anonymity of the people in these groups will be maintained. But the things I have learned from the groups, from the people in them, and from Bill, have profoundly affected me. I can honestly say that I have a much greater understanding of what it means to spend your whole life repressing such a large part of who you are, and the characters that I will write will be fully developed, honest characters who will represent the kind of people I have met and encountered in these meetings. Because the most important thing to me is honesty, and although I was not honest about who I was to the people I met, I hope to be honest from here on out with what I write and what I have to say.

– Theodore Dandy

 

National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming Out Day.

Naturally, as someone who spent a very uncomfortable 4 years in the closet, this day means a lot to me. Now more so than ever. If you had told me when I was in the 7th grade, first starting to go through puberty and realize I was gay, that 12 years later I would be out and living in West Hollywood, I would not have believed it. When I first knew I was gay, my only feeling was annoyance. I was annoyed at God for adding one more thing I had to deal with to what already felt like a very long list.

At first I thought that maybe it would just go away on its own, that it was a passing phase. But the more time went on, the stronger it became. There was no denying I was attracted to men, and any fleeting attraction I had had early on towards women was nonexistent now. So, I just decided to put it on hold. I told myself, “This is a problem for future me.” And I spent the next four years very unhappy and very much alone.

It wasn’t until I began to make real, true friends my sophomore year of high school that I eventually felt comfortable enough to share that part of myself with people. And once I did, things in my life got exponentially easier. Virtually all of my friends accepted me, my family was nothing but supportive, and even my church was accepting.

I recognize, however, that this is not most people’s story. In fact, I might say that I had one of the best coming out experiences that I could have possibly had. And I am grateful for that- I am grateful that the path for me to be true to myself and honest with those around me was open and easy, and that I was supported every step of the way.

So I have to ask myself- What do I do with that? How do I take the immense luck and grace that I experienced, and use it to help other people? I know that I can’t make everyone’s coming out experience a positive one. I know that you can’t force someone to believe what you believe, and that homosexuality is never going to be something people can look at objectively. Because the reality of it is, a great many people out there view it in a negative light because of the religion that they were raised in.

I personally was raised Presbyterian, and in church every Sunday I was taught that there is a loving Creator who gave His only son to die for our sins, so that He could have a relationship with us. To me, faith has always been about being in relationship with God. But for many people, it’s not. There are rules, there are restrictions. One of these restrictions that feature prominently in many religions is the condemnation of homosexuality. Having taken classes on the Bible in college, studying it from an academic and historical perspective, I believe that those verses are taken out of context. I believe that the Bible does not condemn homosexuality. But that is my belief. It is not provable, because nothing in faith is provable. That is the very nature of faith.

So how then, do I pave the way for other LGBT people to make their coming out as easy as possible? I think it’s by telling my story. I think many of the people who view homosexuality as a sin do so from a theoretical perspective. They view homosexuality from an outsider’s perspective. They think of it in terms of Sodom and Gomorrah, in terms of the AIDS crisis, promiscuity. When they think of homosexuality, they don’t think about the kid they know in church who sits there every Sunday cringing whenever the Pastor brings up “the gay lifestyle”. They don’t think about their friends and loved ones who deal with being “other” every single day of their lives, for whom discrimination and being treated like a second class citizen is a part of their daily lives.

I want them to know. I want them to know that when they talk about loving the sinner and hating the sin, that they are pushing away their son or daughter who is waiting for the right time to tell their parents something that may or may not destroy their relationship with them. I want them to know what it entails when they advocate for things like conversion therapy for minors. I have met so many gay people who have been told that there is no place for them in the church. People who have been raised to believe that there is one God, and He does not accept homosexuality, so how could He accept them? They have been sold on this lie that they don’t have a right to believe in whatever they choose, and they must either choose to live in accordance with the teaching of the Church or they cannot have a relationship with God.

I do not think it is one or the other. I think it is entirely possible for someone to grow up being taught about faith, and to come out to people who accept them wholeheartedly. And I know it’s possible because that is my story. And the more I can write about this, the more I can show people that faith and homosexuality are not mutually exclusive, the more I think people will come to understand, accept, and love people just as they are, not how they want them to be.

I thank God for all the gifts that I have been given in my life. But I know that with that, comes a responsibility to share that gift. Because the only thing someone should hear when they come out to another person is “I love you no matter what.”

-Theodore Dandy

How To Lose An Uber Driver In 10 Minutes

Uber has been a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I was once driven across LA with such speed and comfort during the height of rush hour that by the time I was dropped off at work with more than a few minutes to spare, I was ready to propose to the driver. On the other, I once had an uber driver who had no air conditioning on the hottest day of the summer and told me that global warming was caused by a spaceship in the Antarctic. Please, just get me to my destination.

Still, I use the ride-sharing app a lot more often ever since my car was totaled, and each ride brings a new experience to add to my roster of ubers. Will my driver be a foreign man who doesn’t speak to me? Or will it be someone with snacks, who asks me about my life? Some days I prefer one over the other. I tend to enjoy riding in silence, but with the right person, a conversation could be nice. I also pool with other people sometimes, and they can be just as if not more interesting than the drivers.

I once rode with a driver who worked on music videos for a lot of famous people. The man who I was pooling with promptly began networking and asking if the guy could pass along his music to the people he worked with, playing his music aloud for the car to hear.

“It’s not really like that. Nobody notices me- I just sit in the corner and work on the computer,” he said.

When I worked at the pizza place, I would often take home pizza and offer it to my uber drivers. Quite a few of them accepted. The people I pooled with also tended to accept, awarding me with drunken compliments.

“Did you just come out of the closet?” one guy asked me. “Gay men are never this nice.”

I’ve also recently started using Lyft, since everyone told me it was cheaper. The first time I tried it it was a dollar cheaper, so I took a lyft instead of an uber. Then, when I got there, I saw that you could tip on the app, which basically meant I ended up paying what I would have paid for an uber. The next time I took an uber, my driver, Ejajul, adds a 50 cent extra fee charge for an extra seat, because he thinks that a friend I’m saying goodbye to is coming with me. I figured it didn’t really matter but still made the ride a bit awkward.

On the ride he asks, “Why is your uber rating so low? You only have a 4.6.”

I’m like “I don’t know, Ejajul!”

So then I spend the rest of the ride googling why my uber drivers wouldn’t like me, which made me carsick from being on my phone in the car. Apparently, what I’ve found out, is that while you don’t have to tip using uber, you can tip via cash, which I had not been doing. Perhaps that is why my rating was so low. Either way, I was now intimidated away from using uber due to my low rating of 4.6, and figured lyft was cheaper anyway.

However, on the last uber I took my driver was an older man who was also taking a female passenger named Teodora to her destination. He asked her if her name meant anything.

“No,” she said, “It’s just a name. It’s historical. Like a Byzantine princess or something.”

“So it does mean something,” he said.

“I mean, I guess. But it doesn’t translate to ‘poppies’, or anything like that.”

I began to count how long it would take to get me to my destination. I was setting up my gas utilities, and this was my first human interaction of the day. I was not enjoying it.

“Are you on your way to an audition?” he asked Teodora.

“Yes,” she said. “Me and another person are actually auditioning together, so I’m meeting him.”

“Ah, you’re getting discovered,” he said.

“That’s the plan,” she said. She then turned to me. “Are you trying to get discovered?” she asked me.

“Kind of,” I said. “I’m a writer.”

“That’s the most important part,” the driver said. “If you don’t write, we don’t have words to speak, the director doesn’t have anything to do, there’s no show.”

“That’s right,” Teodora said as we pulled up to her stop. She got out of the car.

“I hope you get discovered,” she said to me.

“Good luck on your audition!” I said.

“I’m just kidding,” she said. “I don’t believe in getting discovered.”

She shut the door and we drove away.

“Actresses are weird,” said my driver.

He then continued to drive me to my destination, while telling me about his experience as an actor in Los Angeles. The part of me that doesn’t like interacting with other people and prefers to keep all small talk to a minimum wished he would stop. But the other part of me was fascinated by what he had to say. He talked about drive, and passion. He warned me not to get mixed up in Scientology, which is always good advice. Then he told me about his wife, who was a stand up comedian.

“Would you like to see her?” he asked.

“Sure!” I said, thinking he would take out his phone while driving and show me a picture of his wife, however dangerous that might be.

“Just type her name into Youtube and her stand up will come up. The audio isn’t great but she’s still excellent.”

I begrudgingly pulled out my phone and proceeded to watch his wife’s stand up, which was actually pretty funny. She talked about being a pastor and how for one person’s funeral they had a decoration of flowers surrounding a phone that said “Jesus Calling”.

“To this day,” she said, “the phone will ring and I’ll scream ‘Don’t answer it!'”

We got to my destination and I got out of the car. Before he let me go, however, he had a bit of advice for me.

“Just keep writing,” he said. “And never stop pursuing your dream, no matter what.”

Sometimes I’ll take an uber, and have an experience that makes me think I was meant to be in that car at that moment. I often find myself looking at someone and judges them on face value. I think there’s nothing I can learn from them and I dismiss them. But I know that that comes from fear. I choose to limit a lot of my interactions with people I don’t know, because I’m afraid. I don’t know what I’m afraid of, exactly. Mostly I just don’t want to say the wrong thing. When I choose to look past that fear, and just listen to other people without feeling pressured to be anything other than myself, I tend to hear some pretty wonderful things. And, if nothing else, I experience enough strange shit that I can then write about. So it’s a win-win.

-Theodore Dandy

Play the Gay Away!

I have an idea. That’s all it is right now, an idea. But I feel as though it is the most important idea that I will ever have. The idea first came to me when I took my first playwriting class in college. I had always enjoyed writing, but had never really understood how to craft a story structurally. In many ways, I still don’t, although I have gotten a lot better. Still, I had never assumed that writing would actually be something that I would seriously consider as a career until I actually sat down and wrote my first play.

The first play I wrote was based on a writing prompt I received the first week of class. The prompt was to write a play based on a “disrupted ritual”. To me, ritual was Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve was my favorite day of the year, spent trying to recapture the feeling of excitement and joy from when I was younger. Naturally, this meant forcing my family to go to the Christmas Eve bell service, even though they insisted it was “just for kids”. Each year I would try and recreate the Christmas Eve’s of my childhood, only to fail and realize that, try as I might, I could not stop time from passing, stop myself from growing older, and return to a time of youthful naiveté.

The play I wrote was a short play about a father and daughter celebrating Christmas Eve a year after the passing of the mother, Eve, in a car accident. Ingenious naming. The dinner is interrupted by their grief over the mother’s death- more specifically, the daughter’s guilt over the last things she said to her mother before she died. I was inspired by the scene from Lost where the character Claire speaks to her mother, who is left in a coma after a car accident in which Claire was driving. She apologizes for the things she said, an apology which I may or may not have included almost verbatim in my play during the daughter’s recounting of the accident. I’m not exactly sure how I was not aware that this was blatant plagiarism, although at the time I thought it was genius.

I believe I also named the daughter Claire.

I presented the play in class, and was shocked when I did not receive solely praise and commendation. People were critiquing my characters, giving notes on improvements to the dialogue and form of the story. Naturally, I was appalled. I was sure that, after reading my play, the classroom would burst into tears with one person leading the rest out in a slow clap before carrying me out of the room on their shoulders. Imagine my surprise to learn that I was not, in fact, all that.

The next play I wrote was based on a prompt about 2 characters whose conflict is created by their environment. I wrote a short play about a man and a woman in an underground bunker after a nuclear attack. I was inspired by a scene from an episode of 24 where a man convinces Jack Bauer’s daughter that a nuclear bomb has gone off outside, and that they must wait it out in the bunker. She later learns this is not true, and must escape from the bunker. Again, not sure how writing a play about something that has already been written about in pretty much this exact way is not plagiarism. At least I didn’t name the woman “Jack Bauer’s daughter” this time. I was shocked years later when I saw the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane, which appeared to have the exact same plot as my play. How could they have copied my idea? The nerve.

This brings me to the next play I wrote, which began the formation of my idea. The prompt was to write a play based on a newspaper article. I was browsing Queerty, the gay news website, when I came across an article titled, “Catholic run sports camp seeks to convert gay teens through athletics”. I instantly knew I had found my play. What better to write a play about than that? It was rife with comedic potential, and something that I cared deeply about. I went to the camp’s website and read all about it. It was run by Father Paul Check, and it had testimonials from boys with names such as “Louis. Jim. Steve. Eric.” They said things like, “Sports camp is way cool!” and, my favorite, “There was one guy who intimidated me, but after I made a touchdown, he gave me a sweaty, shirtless hug. I really felt like one of the guys.”

I immediately set to work on a 7 page play about an Evangelical sports camp. I changed it from Catholic because I knew a lot more about Evangelicalism than Catholicism and figured the less specific the denomination the better. The camp in my play was ran by Pastor Paul and followed the story of Louis, Jim, Steve, and Eric. All 7 pages were innuendo and there was little to no plot. It was basically 7 pages of gay jokes, with the title, “Play the Gay Away!”. The class enjoyed it, although criticized the lack of plot. I put the play away and quickly forgot about it.

The next year, I decided to continue playwriting and I took Advanced Playwriting. Each week we would bring in 10-15 pages of whatever we were writing and the class would read it. I decided I wanted to take “Play the Gay Away!” and make something more with it. I began to rewrite it with realistic characters this time, modeled on the types of people I had met in the Queer Student Union at the University of Virginia. I had heard many stories of kids who had been forced by their parents to go through conversion therapy, designed to make them straight. The thing that surprised me the most was how ignorant most people were about the topic. Most people didn’t know that conversion therapy was a thing, or that it was perfectly legal in almost every state for parents to force their children to attend ex-gay therapy against their will.

I think what drew me to the topic the most was the absurdity of it all. The idea that there was something that existed that was so absurd, so ridiculous, and so deplorable, and yet thousands of people actually believed that it had value and was an effective treatment for homosexuality. I didn’t have to write the comedy- the comedy wrote itself. All I had to do was listen. I listened to the experiences of my friends who had gone through ex-gay therapy, and read online about people’s experiences and thoughts on the subject. I wanted to understand what would drive someone to willingly enter such a program, what would make a parent believe that is best for their child, what would lead a person to think that this is God’s will. Of course I had had personal experience with the topic during my brief “undercover” infiltration of an ex-gay student group. But I had barely scratched the surface. I wanted to know these people intimately, I wanted to show every side of this topic.

This play became my baby. I would think about it all the time- before I fell asleep at night, in the shower, on the way to class. I would mull these characters over in my mind. Who was Louis? What drove him? Was he a version of myself? Was that arrogant, to write myself as the main character? Of course. But that didn’t stop Ben Affleck from casting himself as the Mexican-American lead in the movie Argo. I wanted these characters to represent the kinds of gay people I had met, to show the vast difference of experience. There was Jim, who was angry at God, at religion. He hated everything he had been told about who he was, and ran as far away from God as he possibly could. Then there was Steve, who was in all respects the opposite. He was weak, terrified of his sexuality and certain that if only his faith was strong enough would God remove this temptation from him. Naturally, Jim and Steve were hooking up. Then there was Erica. I decided to include one girl, because in everything I had read about ex-gay therapy, it was all directed towards men. All the resources were for men, most of the participants were men, the programs were all for men. After all, sexism is the root of all homophobia. So who was Erica? The girl who everyone ignored, whose opinion never mattered. What did she think? Why was she here? And what about Louis? I wanted to show the relationship between Louis and his parents first and foremost. What kind of parents would put their child in such a camp? Were they bad parents? Or did they truly believe this was what was best for their son?

I mulled this play around in my head for months, writing it out bit by bit. Finally I had finished the play. It was good. Not great. I reread it. It was awful. Cliche, no form or substance, everything was surface. I put it away. But still I thought about it. Because it was important to me. I wanted to make it good. No, I wanted to make it great. I wanted it to be the best thing I had ever written. I wanted it to be my Magnum Opus.

Eventually I moved out to Los Angeles, to act and to write. I realized, as time went on, that my voice had always been first and foremost in my writing. Anytime I had the opportunity to write, I was always much more excited than when I was acting. Acting was my face, my body, but someone else’s voice. Someone else’s story. Writing, however, was me. It was my story, my words, my experience. Writing was how I found my voice.

And still I had this idea. About this camp, about these kids. But I didn’t know what to do with it. I knew it wasn’t meant to be a play- my writing has always leaned towards shorter scenes, moving from place to place quickly. I had always loved television- the serial format, returning week after week to the same set of characters, developing them and their stories over hours and hours, becoming so well acquainted with them that the end of the show felt like a death. I knew that “Play the Gay Away!” had always meant to be a tv show. But how could I write it? I didn’t have a writing job. I wasn’t a Showrunner. I wasn’t Ryan Murphy, nobody was going to give me money and airspace to create a tv show with me as the head writer and guiding the creative vision. So I put it on the back burner. It was almost torturous, to have these thoughts in my head that I couldn’t act on. Why was I having these ideas now, and not 10 years from now when I could actually do something about it?

Art to me has always been about telling a story, whether it’s theatre, television, painting, whatever. What has always drawn me to art is the idea that through it I can experience something I would never otherwise in my life experience. That through art, I can send a message to people and have them hear me. That I have a voice that needs to be heard. This is the message that I want to send to the world. This is the most important thing that I want to say. The idea that you can be gay and you can have a relationship with God, and you don’t have to change anything about yourself to do so. That whether or not you consider yourself a believer, there’s someone out there who made you, who cares about you very much. And yes, I did steal that last line verbatim from the tv show Kyle XY. But just because I plagiarized it doesn’t make it any less true.

-Theodore Dandy