I went dark for Pride month. I’ve been on a writing freeze. I don’t know how to write about the Pulse massacre. To date, it is the bloodiest anti-LGBT hate crime in American history, even though various news outlets, Republican lawmakers, and conservative pundits have tried to claim it was not a hate crime at all.
When it happened, everyone offered up prayers on Facebook. Writing anything seemed empty and useless. People in Florida were giving blood donations and volunteering. Many businesses and organizations gave money to the Orlando LGBT center. Maybe, I thought, I should be on the ground, giving my un-giveable blood, raising money or working for a charity.
This was the first great tragedy of my life, the kind of thing that queer people of past generations experienced. It wasn’t on par with AIDS, I didn’t lose everyone I loved, but thinking about 49 people gunned down in a place I’d likely visit in Orlando — a gay dance club, the kind of place I can usually be found on most weekends, fucked up and cruising the dark corners, tossing back drinks and drawing attention — reminded me that my safety bubble, my micro queer community here in Atlanta, has no shield. Anyone can come in and shoot us down, and there are people out there who want us dead.
Was I next? It could have been my go-to gay bar, my weekend dance club, my dark backroom. I could be one of those bodies on the floor. Those people are my family, people I might have kissed and danced with and loved.
I started this post many times before deleting. What can I say? This whole blog, with its antagonistic, give-no-fucks tone and its hell-bent mission of throwing sex positivity in your face, hardly seems like the place to mourn. After every attempt, I closed my computer and went to have sex with strangers, a common thing I do when I need to take my mind off the world.
A month ago, after a failed attempt at writing this post, I felt differently. I was laying in the sling at a local bathhouse, wearing a blindfold and getting fucked by whoever wandered into the dark playroom, when I started thinking about my friend Brent. (I got Brent’s permission to use his name and all details before publishing this.)
Suddenly the sling wasn’t so comfortable. For the first time in eight months, I wanted to be somewhere else — in my bedroom, cuddled up next to him. After my last breakup, I thought I would never have a crush again. I had hooked up too much. Too many wild nights had barred me from the conventional practices of dates and romantic evenings. All that was not for me. I had chosen a savage life, a dark life, a life of slings and anonymity and intensity — all the things I wanted.
Yet here I was, feeling a little romantic in this dirty, dingy place. Brent moved to New York City not long ago, and everyone in Atlanta seems to be mourning his loss. Everywhere I go, his name pops up. “You should have met my friend Brent,” people say. “You’d like him. He moved to New York.”
Am I capable of love? I know that’s a silly question because everyone is, but I wasn’t so sure about me. Maybe I was different. I have a bad spirit — that’s what the writer William Burroughs called it. His bad spirit made him write his dark and demented novels. It also made him shoot his wife in the head. For me, my bad spirit is the urge that drives me out on weekends to take drugs and get dehumanized and have risky sex and not care about the consequences. My bad spirit makes me feel locked out of love and romance. It makes me feel as if those things must be forfeited in order to do what I enjoy.
I showered and left the bathhouse. I had a crush on Brent, and that was something I needed to talk about, needed to tell him. A good crush is not possessive. I don’t want Brent to be “mine.” People don’t belong to people. But I want him to know how great I think he is. I want him to know that I’m thinking about him in New York, and I’m hoping he’s having the same effect on people there that he had on me.
Brent is a light, a funny person who likes to dance and experience life without holding back, and I admire him for that. I want others to see that spark and participate in it. I want others to fall in love with him like I have. Someone like him should never be restricted to one person, just as I never should be. People like us were made to be shared. We are animals of the night, the kind of gay men who would never survive the plague years. We were the ones down by the docks, on the Christopher Street pier, fucking our brains out, oblivious to the encroaching disease.
I think the best people are often the ones who burn out quickly. Lingering in the world requires restraint, and we have little of that. If Brent and I share anything, it’s that — our passion for living, our reckless ability to want everything.
This is what it’s like to be gay. Your lovers and your friends and your playmates all blur together after a certain point. They become this fluid, lifelong experience. Boyfriends become exes who then transition to playmates. Friends become fuck buddies, then partners. Long-term partners become best friends.
This is why I weep for those 49 people, and why I can’t do anything but weep. They were not just 49 people. Each of them was a network of others, of lovers and friends who woke up the next morning to find parts of their lives ripped away. If Brent was gunned down in a club in New York, it would feel no less brutal and wrong than if a bullet ripped through me. Those were my people.
I first met Brent in a gay bar, the same gay bar that my last boyfriend, Jose, used to dance in for $25 a night plus tips. Every Saturday night, I was at the bar, supporting him, watching people stuff dollars in his underwear. On slow nights, he’d step off the box early and dance with me. We’d get drunk. We were together in our little city, five hours from Orlando. We survived every night. The lights came on and we left.
Jose wasn’t there the night I met Brent. I found Brent on the dance floor. We talked, we danced, we stumbled back to my place and had amazing sex. He actually managed to fist me, and then he wanted me to fuck him.
I got behind him and looked at his long, white back. I started and realized his hole was dirty. He wanted me to keep going. He said he didn’t care — he had no problem with shit.
I have spent my life terrified of my butt. Before sex, I clean too much and take daily fiber to keep messes from happening. This debilitating fear comes from my father. When I came out, he told me, “It’s poop. That’s all gay sex is. Poop. You’ll live in an apartment someday that smells like stool, and you won’t even notice it, because you’ll live in it.”
I was sixteen. The shame I felt at that moment has never left me. Before that night with Brent, I had never been with someone who simply “didn’t care” about shit. His beautiful acceptance of his body was a freedom I had never experienced. It’s been a long time since anyone made me feel so free.
When I think of all the men that I’ve had sex with, I wonder how many of them are dead now. Most of them were quick hookups, faces forgotten and lost. If I could pull them back to me, I would tell them much of an honor it is to be their comrade, to share with them this strange and terrifying world.
To the people that call for our extinction, I want to leave you with the 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 the lovely animal roar coming out of his mouth. Even in the height of AIDS, when death was everywhere, our desire was stronger. We kept fucking in every corner of New York City.
You will run out of bullets and your churches will crumble and there will still be gay men fucking like dogs. I love my dirty boy.