Beastly went dark for Pride month, and for most of July after. The world was talking so I stayed quiet.
Well, I tried. I wrote a slideshow about the importance of same-sex public displays of affection for my Sexy Beast column, but when it ran I felt guilty.
Nobody wants to read what I have to say about Pulse, just as nobody needs to hear what luminaries like Dan Savage or badass social critics like Stephen Colbert or even Barack Obama have to say. What can anyone say?
When it happened, everyone offered up prayers and God characteristically turned a deaf ear, while the work of good, everyday activists saved lives with blood donations and volunteering — far more lives than any slideshow, any article.
Maybe, I thought, I should be on the ground, giving my un-giveable blood, raising money or maybe starting that gay paramilitary militia Bill Burroughs was always talking about.
It was the moment Beastly almost stopped being Beastly. I almost went from a writer to that man with a doomsday sign screaming in the streets. I wanted to be. What else would work? For the first time in my life, a tragedy shook me on par with LGBTQ-targeted tragedies of the past, the ones experienced by people older than me, people who remember when Reagan ignored our deaths and lovers got slaughtered in the streets by cops. I have never experienced something like that, and suddenly I was unsure what to do.
I started this post many times before deleting it. I still don’t think it’s right. The opening is flat. This whole blog, with its antagonistic tone, hardly seems like the place to mourn. So instead of writing, I gave up and went out to get fucked.
Nothing strange there. I have spent the past eight months since my breakup having every kind of hot, intense, anonymous sex possible.
But one night almost a month ago, after a failed attempt at writing this post, I felt differently. I was laying in the public sling at a local bathhouse taking loads when I suddenly started thinking about my friend Brent. (I got his permission to use his name — and all ensuing details about him — before publishing this post.)
Suddenly the sling wasn’t so comfortable. For the first time in eight months, I wanted to be somewhere else — in his bedroom, cuddled up next to him.
I’ll be honest, I had started thinking I would never have a crush again. I believed I had hooked up too much and enjoyed too many wild nights. “Dinner and a movie” no longer seemed part of my life.
So when I suddenly felt a little romantic and a little blue, it was a big fucking deal. Brent recently moved to Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, and everybody who knows him in Atlanta, from guys like me who’ve only known him for a couple months to the friends he’s had for years, is collectively mourning his loss. It seems everywhere I go, with every new Atlantan I meet, his name pops up. “You should have met my friend Brent,” people say. “You’d like him. He just moved to New York.”
“Yeah, I actually met him,” I say. “Briefly.”
I’m not a placid person. I have my “bad spirit.” William Burroughs called it that — the urge some folks have that drives us out on a Friday night to be naughty and get dehumanized and dehumanize others; to fuck like dogs and find new, exciting people we won’t remember on Sunday.
My bad spirit is always there, lingering in the anteroom, coming up every now and then to push boundaries and give me awesome nights. Someday I will be tied up in a Berlin dungeon getting gang-fucked and tortured and fisted, surrounded by a small army of horny, fucked-up homos, because that part of me exists. But that night in the sling, my bad spirit lifted for a moment — long enough for me to see I had no one to cuddle.
I showered and left. En route home, I realized I had a crush. Admittedly, it was not just a crush on Brent, but rather a smattering of crushes on a small handful of people who have all come into my life around the same time over the last few months.
I started thinking about the people in my life I would like to know better. I felt lonely and bruised and was kicking myself for being such a wild man.
A good crush is not a possessive feeling. When I have a crush on you, it means I think you’re awesome. I think you’re a light going through the world infecting other people with crushes and making their lives brighter.
I think good things about Brent. I haven’t known him very long, but he’s a kind-hearted goof who likes to show off and sometimes he stumbles over his words because he starts talking before he realizes what he wants to say. He’s one of those guys you befriend because you know you’re going to be depressed someday and in your low moment he’s going to text you with something stupid — a GIF of copulating turtles — and it will make you laugh.
Brent and I inhabit the same world, the world of leather and kink and circuit parties, daddy hunting and fast fucks, so this is something he would understand: The full spectrum of love between gay men is weird and complex and difficult for those outside our community to grasp. It’s even difficult for many inside our community to grasp.
Regardless, it’s my favorite part of being gay. Your loves and your friends and your playmates all blur after a certain point. They become part of this fluid, lifelong experience. It becomes no less a privilege to be a slut in a backroom taking loads than it is to love someone for two years.
I think this fluidity, this overlap between crush and lover, husband and friend, is a beautiful thing. That is why gay bars and gay spaces are so important to us, because the full spectrum of our relationships happen within them: We meet friends, we fuck, we dance, we fall in love, we fall out of love, and on and on.
Gay spaces are sanctuaries for us. They were for me, as they are for countless others, and they were for 49 people last June.
I first met Brent in a gay bar, the same gay bar my last boyfriend used to dance in, the same gay bar I have kissed countless men in. We got drunk. We danced till closing time. This was in Savannah, Georgia — a mere five hours away from Orlando. We survived. The lights came on and we left.
49 people didn’t live past closing time two months ago, but we did.
We stumbled back to my place, did poppers, and had amazing sex. He actually managed to fist me (perhaps not the smartest activity drunk — don’t try this at home) and then he wanted to get fucked.
As most everyone knows, I’m not a top. But you don’t often have beautiful guys in your bed, and when you do, you rise to the occasion. I wanted him to feel good, so I got behind him and looked at his long, white back. His furry butt leads up to a pair of absurdly broad shoulders.
I pushed my cock in his hole and it was dirty. He said he didn’t care — he didn’t mind shit.
This threw me for a momentary loop. I have spent my life terrified of having a dirty butt, and I over-clean and take daily fiber regimens to make sure that never happens.
This fear comes from a dark part of my coming-out story, one I simply don’t have the mettle to retell here — read about it in The Advocate — and before that night I had never been with someone who simply “didn’t care.” His acceptance of the body was a freedom I had never experienced before, and it was very sexy.
I fucked him. I fucked his lovely butt until that gorgeous, guttural moan broke from his lips. We stopped, showered, and fell asleep.
When I think of the small handful of people I would like to be cuddling — Brent among them — it is not a selfish or sexual thing, at least not the way I understand it: I need them, just as they need me. We need to hold each other as we go into this dark and unfamiliar time.
When I think of all the men that have laid next to me, I wonder how many of them are dead. I wonder what their sufferings are, what they struggle with, where they are now. Many of them amounted to little more than nightly playmates, but some of them were men I will never forget. If I could pull them back to me — my exes, my friends, each one — I would tell them all how much I love them, and how honored I am to have slept next to them.
To those that call for our annihilation, I want to leave you with that image of me and Brent. To the politicians and leaders that celebrated Pulse as an act of god, I wish you could smell our sex and hear my shaking bed and listen to his lovely, animal groan on repeat, reminding you that in the face of your cowardice and hate, we are still fucking.
Even in the height of the AIDS epidemic, when death was everywhere and no one in power wanted to do anything about it, our desire was stronger than death. We kept fucking, bare and brutal, in every corner of New York and in every country on earth. You will run out of bullets and your churches will crumble and burn and there will still be homos screwing like dogs.
Suck on that. I love my dirty boy.