That Girl Is What Freedom Looks Like

Chris Ritter

When I was living in Los Angeles and struggling with coming out two years ago, my friends often said to me, “Who cares what other people think? You don’t have to explain anything to them if you don’t want to. You don’t even have to tell people about your past.” I understood what they meant: You don’t owe the world anything. It is OK. You have permission to do what you want and to be yourself. But I was fearful. Through my college years, I had dated men whom I genuinely cared about as partners and friends. I felt that if I cared about these men, then how could I also identify as a lesbian?

Even now, in New York, when I meet new people, gay or straight, I am hesitant to share this part of my past. I fear once people know, they will call me a liar, tell me that I am not really queer; when I lived in Los Angeles, this fear always kept me from coming out as a lesbian. It is true that I loved some of these men. But, most times, when it came to sex, I would grow frustrated and angry with them. It is a normal and healthy urge, I realize, for a man to want to sleep with his girlfriend, but back then I thought of sex as a selfish act. In my mind, sex was something they wanted or simply expected from me and that I did not want to give to them. I would lie in the crack between the bed and the wall and become flooded with a feeling of want. I didn’t know what the want was, and so the feeling bloomed into emptiness. There were times when I thought there was something wrong with me, that I was some kind of sociopath. Why couldn’t I love these men the way that they loved me? Why wasn’t I capable of that?

Looking back, it is easy to recognize the countless crushes I had on women over the years. “It is normal,” I told myself in high school and college. “I merely admire them.” Growing up, there were, maybe, two lesbians and one gay man in our small town. The only time I heard their names was when they were gossiped about. The queers were presented to me as “the others,” and so I repressed the queerness in myself. As a child, I masturbated, not to women, but to sexless, faceless aliens who kidnapped me in the night and rattled me from inside out. What turned me on was the lack of control. If my hands were tied above my head, then I remained innocent. I didn’t have to reach out and touch what was unknown.

It took me a long time to recognize my attraction to women for what it was, but I remember very well the spark that set it off. I was visiting a boy I had been dating up in San Francisco. We spent many nights at his apartment playing poker with his friends and drinking glass bottles of thick, woody beer that made my eyes water and my throat grow raw. It didn’t matter that I drank more than my body could handle, to point of vomiting when his friends had gone. As long as I fit in, I was happy. As long as I could keep up.

One night, one of the boys brought his friend to the poker match. Her name was Syd, and she was a lesbian. She had bleach-blonde hair cut short and spiked around her head, rainbow earrings swirling up her cartilage, and a silver hoop curled through her bottom lip. I wasn’t shy around the men. I would tell jokes and laugh, say whatever I wanted to them. But when Syd walked into the room, my entire body prickled with sweat. She held her cards and smiled at me, confident. My cheeks became warmer. I was hot and then cold again. I stumbled over my words to the point of apology. I was too aware of my body, my hands, every sentence that spilled so awkwardly from my lips. What was stranger to me was how I sat there, quiet, imagining Syd having sex with women. Where would she put her hands? Her mouth? I wanted to know what she would do to them, and later that week, I made myself come imagining what she would do to me. In this fantasy, my hands were not tied above my head. My queerness was not obscured by darkness or aliens.

I saw Syd only twice in my life, and I was usually too nervous to say anything that made sense. And though it feels strange to admit this now, she did unlock something inside of me, some spark that I recognized as the attraction I could never before feel, the lust. I was so thankful to really experience lust, to want to look at someone closer, to open them up, be inside of them, and smell their skin and feel their sweat. When I began dating women, I found I could love and lust after them.

There are still days when I sit alone in my apartment filled with anxiety and self-hate over my past. Self-hate for being frightened, for lying to others and myself, and for hurting others and myself by doing so. Even now, as I try to write the truth about my experience, I fear there is a man out there reading this, who calls me a liar, who remembers how I loved him, or maybe there is a woman who remembers how weak I used to be, how hesitant and frightened I was, and who doesn’t accept or believe me. There is still a part of me that wants to please other people, to have their love and acceptance. Every day is struggle to be myself, to tell the truth, and to love myself for who I am, and even for who I used to be.

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19 Things You Didn’t Know About The Movie “The Birdcage”

1. Director Mike Nichols required that Nathan Lane and Robin Williams film at least one take of each scene sticking to the script before he would allow them to improvise. / Via Nichols Film Company

2. Hank Azaria realized shortly into filming that he had actually based the voice of Agador Spartacus on his grandmother’s. / Via Nichols Film Company

3. The screenplay was based on the 1978 French film La Cage aux Folles. / Via Nichols Film Company

4. The two-minute-long opening sequence seems like one continuous shot when, in fact, it comprises three separate shots combined later through editing:

Shot one began in a helicopter and ended over the street in Miami’s South Beach area.

Nichols Film Company / Via

Shot two began on a crane, with the Steadicam operator being gradually lowered to the ground before walking across the street. The last shot, in the interior, was filmed on a studio soundstage.

Nichols Film Company

5. Originally, Steve Martin was cast as Armand and Robin Williams was slated for the role of Albert. Scheduling conflicts forced Martin to drop out.

Jason Reed / Reuters

Nichols Film Company


6. Robin Williams turned down the part of Albert; having recently starred in the film Mrs. Doubtfire, he decided he would rather play the more subdued role.


7. In the movie, Calista Flockhart’s character is “not even 18.” Flockhart was actually 31 at the time of the filming.

Dan Futterman, who played Val, was 28. / Via Nichols Film Company

8. The original working title of the film was Birds of a Feather, and the preliminary versions of the script still show this title.

Nichols Film Company

9. According to IMDB, Robin Williams’ fall during the kitchen scene was not planned. Williams really slipped — you can see Hank Azaria hold back a bit of laughter.


The other falls? Totally planned.

10. Hank Azaria wore a tiny thong in the original movie, but it was digitally covered for the TV version.

11. Robin Williams and Nathan Lane appeared on the cover of Out magazine in March 1996 to promote the film. / Via OUT

12. With $18.3 million, the film had the highest-grossing weekend opening with an openly gay lead character until Brüno in 2009.

Nichols Film Company


13. Mike Nichols had the cast study footage of drag queen performances prior to filming.

The drag queens in the film, who were all professional dancers, had to learn to perform in heels.

Nichols Film Company

14. Armand describes “Mother” to Sen. Keeley as the “girl from Grover’s Corners.” Grover’s Corners is the fictional small town in Thornton Wilder’s famous play Our Town.

Nichols Film Company


15. During the rehearsal scene, the pianist is wearing a T-shirt with Maria Callas on it. This picture of the famous operatic soprano was taken after a performance of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.”


16. Nathan Lane based his drag look for Mrs. Goldman off former First Lady Barbara Bush.

Pearls on pearls, people. / Via Nichols Film Company

17. The song that Albert rehearses during the gum-chewing incident is entitled “Little Dream” and was written specifically for the film.

18. Robin Williams’ nickname for Gene Hackman in drag: “Betty White on steroids.”

Nichols Film Company

19. Finally, during the “toast schmear” scene, director Mike Nichols was laughing so hard he had to be covered with a blanket.

And really, can you blame him?

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High School Senior Comes Out To His Entire Class, Gets A Standing Ovation

In front of 300 of his fellow classmates, a high school senior in New Jersey accepted his award for “Class Actor.” He used that occasion to tell them all he was gay.

3. For those who can’t watch the video right now:

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19 LGBT Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis

Inspired by this photography project about racial microaggressions, Kevin Nadal, associate professor of psychology at CUNY’s John Jay College, asked some of his friends to share the microaggressions they’ve experienced as members of the LGBT community.

Kevin Nadal

Borrowing from the scholarship of Columbia University professor Derald Sue, Nadal defines a microaggression as:

“The everyday encounters of subtle discrimination that people of various marginalized groups experience throughout their lives.”

Nadal, who has researched and written a book about LGBT-based microaggressions, spoke to BuzzFeed about the inspiration for the project:

I started this project because I wanted the concept of microaggressions to be discussed in more meaningful ways and to be made available to all kinds of audiences. It’s a concept that is heavily discussed in academic circles, social service organizations, and among college students. However, people in general society may not be aware of the term at all. We need to teach more people about microaggressions, in order to educate people about how hurtful microaggressions are and how they negatively affect people’s lives. We need to people to be mindful of their language and the little things they do and say that harm people’s lives.

Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
Kevin Nadal
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Kevin Nadal

In his research on LGBT microaggressions, Nadal has found:

All of these microaggressions have a significant impact on people’s lives. While some of these experiences may seem brief and harmless, many studies have found that the more that people experience microaggressions, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression, psychological distress, and even physical health issues.

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Inside The Oldest Gay-Owned Bookstore In The South

Follow my 15-day road trip exploring the Queer South at

When I say that it’s a relief to push open the forest green-painted door and step inside Faubourg-Marigny Art and Books, I first mean “relief” in the sense that it’s wildly hot outside and the bookstore is quiet and air-conditioned. But it’s also “relief” to have found that a bookstore like FAB, as its frequently known, is not just a figment of my heat-addled imagination. Before my trip to New Orleans, I’d read accounts of visits to the “oldest gay-owned bookstore in the South.” There are even YouTube videos of current owner, Otis Fennell (who has been running the store since 2003), meandering through the store he rightfully considers to be more a cultural institution. But, just like so much of New Orleans and the Queer South, you really just have to see it for yourself. FAB is about as far from the conventional idea of a bookstore as New Orleans is from the conventional understanding of an American City.

The shelves and piles and stacks of original paintings, photography, new, used, and vintage books, old porn magazines, and erotica are overwhelming only until you wind your way — straight lines of movement are all but impossible here — towards the cash register where Fennell sits on a makeshift throne in front of an electric fan, surrounded by a collage of posters, postcards, Mardi Gras beads and more books. “It’s Not Just Porn,” a poster just over his shoulder reminds us, and as Fennell talks, it’s clear that this store isn’t just about selling books either.

“It’s a one-man operation, so I don’t have a crew to come in to do filing and making it look pretty,” says Fennell, running his hand over a pile of books waiting to be shelved. “It just sort of happens. But I like the style. I like it funky and I like it as it was.” The “was” he’s referring to is the 1970s, during which ten or twelve gay-owned bookstores opened across the country, among them the famous Oscar Wilde Bookshop which opened in 1967 New York City and Giovanni’s Room Bookstore in Philadelphia which opened in 1973.

Fennell, who worked in the tourism industry before taking over the bookstore, traveled frequently during that time, visiting some of the bookstores across the States and Europe that would inspire FAB’s New Orleans founders to open the bookstore in 1977. Fennell says the store’s aesthetic is an attempt to hold on to part of how those first few bookstores, most of them now closed, felt in the seventies.

“They were not organized as normal bookstores, but had all the content that a gay or lesbian reader wanted to review. So, I wanted to make that happen.” As such, a hardback copy of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, Tom of Finland postcards, used copies of novels by John Waters and Tennessee Williams and anthologies like The Best of the Best Meat Erotica find equal footing in a store that quietly defies the prevalent American obsession with “correctly” labeling and categorizing books and the people who write and read them. It takes a little getting used to, or rather, it takes a guide, like Fennell, to find the book you’re looking for, but — I’d argue — that’s part of the point. It takes time for you to find what you’re looking for in FAB, so much so that you’ll likely give up on looking for a specific book and instead find something you didn’t expect.

“I just do it so I’m happy… ‘cause I’m the one who has to live here,” says Fennell.

He lets out an easy laugh when asked whether or not the store is thriving. “The definition of thriving is an open definition. I don’t know. I’m just morally committed, and spiritually committed to making this space work, so it’s not a profit-loss decision to me, which it should be, but it’s more of an institution.”

It is easy, perhaps, to think Fennell is laying it on a bit thick, unless you remember walking into Crossroads Market, the gay-owned bookstore in Dallas, Texas, for the first time when you were fifteen or sixteen. You saw men holding hands, sipping coffee in the café, and pulling books off the shelves. And, even if you didn’t know it at the time, many of those books were going to save your life one day. But Crossroads Market closed it doors a few years ago, as did Outwrite Bookstore in Atlanta, as did Oscar Wilde Bookshop in New York.

And so, somewhere between nostalgia and heat-induced hopefulness, I’m wandering Otis Fennell’s cramped little store with a copy of Dancer From the Dance by Andrew Holleran in my hands while Fennell takes a break from our interview to chat with someone who “just wants to say hi.” This happens pretty frequently during my visit. A man cracks open the door, peeks to see if Fennel is at his perch, then moseys in with a few used books to trade or just some mid-afternoon gossip about the neighborhood. When his most recent visitor says goodbye and steps back out into the heat, Fennell sees the Holleran novel in my hand and says “Ah, that book is pretty close to how things were then. A little exaggerated, of course. But Holleran gets it.”

Straight tourists come in too, quietly usually, meekly most often. There’s no need to by shy, though. FAB is a neighborhood bookstore just like any other — except with an extensive gay porn collection if you’re so inclined. “I really have no limits in that when somebody’s kind enough to visit with me here, I accept whoever they are. I accept them equally with everybody else, and that’s just the way I’ve always thought in my mind about people, or tried to. So when people come in, they’re maybe a little shocked, and I try to engage them in conversation, make them feel a little comfortable.”

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The Powerpuff Girls Could Have Replaced Your Gender Studies Class

Alright, the Powerpuff Girls were made in the most stereotypical way ever:


But the Chemical X turned the three Powerpuff Girls into ass-kicking machines, and started breaking down our expectations of women and men alike.

1. There was a lot of gender-switching and drag.

The Professor dressed up as Bubbles:

And Bubbles dressed up as Mayor:

This dude dressed up as Blossom and no one noticed:

Seriously, everyone thought he was Blossom. I guess the people of Townsville just weren’t shocked by body hair on a woman.

He looked great as Sara Bellum.

And Mojo Jojo fit in perfectly with the Powerpuff Girls’ friends when he snuck into their sleepover.

2. The girls were careful to keep open minds about gender.

And questioned each other about their assumptions.

Bubbles, chill.

When this guy tried to teach the girls about gender roles….


This happened:


And then:


This was especially great because Bubbles is seen as the most girly of the three. And yet she still does the manual chores because she’s awesome.

3. The villains also paid no mind to gender expectations. Sedusa was a fierce fighter:


As was Sara Bellum.

Because although Sedusa was disguised as a sweet, docile Ima Goodlady, she was hardcore.

Femme Fatale pointed out serious problems with the patriarchal superhero industry:

And Him was incredibly fabulous:

Presumably, Him was a man. He had an ambiguous voice, pranced around in a tutu, and wore makeup. He was amazing.

Seriously, he (they?) was brilliant.


And of course, the Rowdyruff Boys had a nontraditional upbringing,

4. The girls were always sure to set people straight when they underestimated them.

And they discovered that men were far too obsessed with perceived manliness.

Whenever the Rowdyruff Boys did something that seemed “unmanly,” like hurting themselves, they literally shrunk, which was a pretty cool metaphor.

In fact, men needed the Powerpuff Girls for literally everything:


5. But the Professor let the girls experiment with fashion on him:

Because Professor Utonium was a great, caring, SINGLE DAD.

6. And The Powerpuff Girls, who were small, feminine, sweet girls, were the most formidable opponents any villain could go up against.

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Miley Cyrus Had Some Lesbian Moments In Her New Video

1. When she and this girl booty slapped in the bathroom:

2. When she twerked for her friends:

3. When she made out with a doll:

4. When she sweetly hugged this girl in the pool:

5. When she had a great time grinding on this girl:

6. When she did this:

7. When she grabbed this girl’s but while grimacing:

8. When she wrestled that poor purple-haired girl to the floor:

9. When she grabbed her friend’s boob while licking her shoulder:

Is this the same purple-haired girl that she was previously so violent towards?

10. When she was extremely surprised to find this girl standing behind her:

Almost positive that’s the purple-haired girl.

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21 Times Rickie Vasquez From “My So-Called Life” Spoke Directly To Your Heart

1. When all he wanted to do was hang out in the girls’ bathroom.

2. And when he danced around that bathroom as if he didn’t have a care in the world.

3. When he watched porn with an investigative eye.

4. When he expressed what we’re all feeling, all the time.


5. When he outed himself as a loner.

6. When he proved he was a fiercely loyal friend.

7. And when he was super cuddly, too.


8. When he deftly pointed out key personality traits.

10. And then when he wore it again with ANOTHER outfit.

Forget Angela, Rickie was the true fashion icon of the ‘90’s.

11. When he made you cry over Rayanne with him.

Even though she WASN’T WORTH IT, RICKIE.

12. When his desperation to be “normal” broke you into tiny pieces.

13. And when that didn’t work out, he gave this consolation prize.

14. When he was the sassiest person to ever attend high school.

15. When he did a great job of side-eyeing misogyny.

16. When his body language directly related to how you feel all the time.

17. When he shared his unlimited expertise on how girls date.

18. And he provided expert boy advice.


19. And makeup advice.

Let’s face it: Rickie pulled off makeup better than anyone else on this show did.

20. When he facilitated two people coming together in love.

21. And, of course, when he demonstrated literally the best dance moves in history.

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Mormon Family That Supported Prop 8 Discovers Their Son Is Gay

1. Wendy and Tom Montgomery are devout Mormons from California:

2. They fiercely supported the passage of Proposition 8 back in 2008, which banned same-sex marriages:

3. At the time they didn’t know that their now 14-year-old son, Jordan, was gay:

4. This family’s struggle to balance their faith, while also accepting their son’s sexuality, is at the center of a new film Families Are Forever.

6. Wendy Montgomery discovered the truth through an entry in her son’s journal. She said of her reaction:

“I felt like what I saw his life would be – what I expected his life to be – as a Mormon boy was now gone. I saw him preparing for a mission for our church – gone. I saw a temple wedding – gone. I saw him being a father – gone.”

8. Jordan struggled with his place in the Mormon community as well:

10. His mother told him, “‘Jordan, this changes nothing. You are perfect in our eyes. We will figure this out.”

According to an ABC report, Jordan is now a Boy Scout working toward his Eagle Scout badge. The Mormon church has accepted the BSA policy to allow openly gay youth. Because Jordan is not sexually active, he holds “an Aaronic priesthood in the church, which means he can pass the sacrament in a ceremony akin to a Catholic communion.”

11. Watch a clip from the documentary:

Video available at:

12. The short film is part of a series from Family Acceptance Project. They describe the films on their website:

These videos are based on our years of research and relationships with diverse LGBT youth and their families […] These videos – and the others we want to make – includes some of the family accepting and rejecting behaviors that we have studied. Our research shows for the first time how these family accepting and rejecting behaviors affect an LGBT young person’s health and mental health, including risk for suicide, substance abuse, HIV, self-esteem, etc.

Check out more here.


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