shh, be quiet, hush, finger over lips

Things to Consider when Giving Advice

Let me be completely clear: I am not against people protesting unfair policies, speaking up against discriminatory behavior, or rallying for a change in conditions that would benefit everyone. I am in full support of it. I have done it myself.

I would be a hypocrite considering that being outspoken (sometimes standoffishly so) paid my way through college and landed me several opportunities I would not have otherwise had. In fact, I take it even further in saying that in many cases I was encouraged by others to speak up.

In this article, however, I am speaking out against encouraging people from vulnerable populations to take huge individual risks in the name of “the greater good” without responsibly discussing the risks of action taken. I’m not talking about cases in which a person is being abused or horribly bullied, I’m talking about for principles. I think it’s irresponsible, and if you aren’t planning to compensate them for what was lost, simmer down and let them be in charge without your pressure.

Revolutionaries are Hot, But Chill Trying to Make Everybody a Rebel

I always see people urging others to challenge and stand up against racism, queerphobia, transphobia, etc, at work, school or home and frankly, it’s selfish beyond a certain point. They encourage them to make these grand “last stand”-worthy statements and ultimatums, evoking in their minds the iconic image of the man standing up to tanks at Tienanmen Square.

“You need to take a stand or else who will?” you say to them in a your motivatingly inspiring voice.

“You’ll inspire a movement that will usher a culture of anti-oppression the likes of which this company has never seen or ever will see again,” you say with rousing conviction, the ghosts of past revolutions swimming in the shine of your electrifying and totally original speech.

They speak this beautiful and inspirational advice of liberation and leadership until they’ve liberated their friend right out of a job and led them straight out of a home. It’s especially ugly when someone of relative privilege says this to a more vulnerable person.

Nowadays, whenever a friend asks me what they should do about a situation at work, school or home, I find it very hard to tell them to all-out protest or do anything that might jeopardize their livelihood or ability to have a place to stay if they aren’t in immediate harm. Given the rates of [poverty] homelessness and unemployment in queer and trans populations in general, let alone when it comes to still more youth of color in queer and trans populations, I cannot–with a clean conscience–advise anyone to make a stand in these environments without a fallback plan, or at the very least an understanding of the stark reality that jobs and homes do not grow on trees, do not fall from the sky, and are not granted by magical job and home fairies.

In retrospect, I was fortunate to have never been in the situation. I took risky steps and was fortunate enough to have people who cared. The same is not true for everyone.

Risk Some, Risk All


Someone I knew who was somewhat wealthy and from a conservative family decided to rally for change in his upper crust private school. Another acquaitence rallied for change in his public school. Both were expelled and both found themselves without homes.

One found himself with a bimonthly 1k “allowance” and connections to live in a in Midtown condo at a discounted rate because his parents knew the landlord. And the allowance didn’t count as “essential money” that paid rent, utilities, food, gas, etc. He also found himself in another, more progressive private school with a new car to get there. The other young revolutionary had to couchsurf until he could find a shelter and he was fortunate enough to stumble upon one that focused on queer youth. He had to begin working and eventually went to get his GED.

While I wasn’t the one who gave those two the advice to try starting GSAs in their schools or start rallies, had they asked my opinion at that time I might have told them to make those grand stands.

I say this in reflection of my own activism and my pig-headed advice to others. It was pig-headed because when people told me about their hesitations with coming out to family, with taking a stand, with not feeling comfortable, I was all: “an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere” and “if you don’t come out, how can you be yourself?”

So now when people ask my advice, I tell them to do the best they can with what they have. I also try to guide them in thinking about their specific individual situations (as opposed to media portrayals) and the potential pros and cons of any decision they make and whether they are willing to risk the possible outcomes. There is nothing more sexy and safe than a well-informed decision. Or a condom. Though while wearing a condom you can still be hit by a bus, so watch out.

Community Ties

Advising someone to risk their community/social relationships is something I also can’t do. As many of us know, mainstream LGBT communities can be pretty exclusionary for non-cis and non-white and disabled people. Leaving the relative safety and comfort of our religious or ethnic communities is akin to cutting off the only lifelines we have to core parts of our identities–even if those communities have nasty practices and rhetoric. The lesser of two evils.

I know a man who says he would rather be around the most homophobic West Indian people he can find (he is a first generation mixed-race West Indian) than gay white people (especially men). His reasoning is that he feels stronger ties to his ethnic and regional identities than to folks that frequently see him as “exotic brown spice” and “day laborer”–everything but human. And when “no Asians, no Blacks, no fems” is the frequent recurring line in digital space while side-eyes and microaggressions in physical places, who can blame folks who feel that way?

Choosing not to protest for principles in cases like these are forms of survival. It’s living between things that mean to hurt you and choosing the one that won’t send you to the hospital–or worse.

Shades of Standpoint

Levels of privileged standpoints often inform the advice we give others because we are generally speaking from what works for us. We don’t put ourselves in the shoes of the person we are helping all of the time–we sometimes project ourselves into their situations and wing it from there.

One of my best friends is a trans woman that, when we hung out at my house, never wanted to go to the bus stop alone. And when we hung out at her house, never wanted to walk me to the bus stop when it was time for me to leave. (“I don’t think I look good,” she might say. Or “I’m just suddenly really tired…”)

It had always been my opinion that she should just stop being so lazy and hypocritical and that she shouldn’t worry about what other people thought.

Knowing me, I probably would have said something boring like, “If you’re confident and fierce, nothing formed against you shall prosper.” Or “let me help you come out of your shell and be as confident outside as you are with me”.

I would only discover a few visits later that she had anxiety about going outside alone because, as a trans woman, she knew that stares and “well meaning small talk” could easily become physical violence and harrassment. From that point on I insisted on going with her almost everywhere.

I am glad that I never shared that piece of unsolicited “advice” also, though I know her to be smart enough to school me if I ever dared.

What Have We Learned?

Be careful when you are giving advice. This isn’t to scare you into thinking that you should never guide anyone, but I hope to have made you think about ways in which you can help others while respecting the agency and circumstances of other people.

Barring 50 shades of shit that could totally ruin humanity’s day forever, the world isn’t going much of anywhere. We’re all just trying to survive and some have to scrap more than others and it doesn’t do well to put the weight of the world on the shoulders of people just trying to make it through the day by shaming them because they aren’t ushering in The Gay World Order between 9-hour shifts and heavy coursework.

This doesn’t mean individuals can’t become big heroes, just that it isn’t your place to force that on them.

5 Queer Holidays You NEED to Know!

All communities have observations that are symbolic, so why should queer folk be any different? Globally, we have reached a critical turning point in so many ways so quickly that it’s pretty mind-boggling. There’s still a LOT of work that needs to be done, but between all of our strides for liberation, there’s time to recognize our triumphs and remember those who’ve been lost on the way. So without further ado, here are 5 queer holidays you need to be on top of!

International Transgender Day of Visibility

On March 31, folks raise awareness of trans discrimination and, more importantly, celebrate trans people–their lives, their experiences, the promise of a bright future. It was founded in 2009 by Michigan activist Rachel Crandall who lamented that, until that point, there had only been Transgender Day of Remembrance, which served to mourn the loss of trans lives. ITDoV celebrates life, living, and the future.

Day of Silence

Typically observed on the third Friday of April, Day of Silence is observed in solidarity with youth who were and are being bullied by remaining silent. In my experience, this has been in addition to wearing buttons or handing out cards explaining the reason for your silence. Typically the cards come with a call to action, telling them to go to a website to find more information or attend a local/campus event.

LGBTQ Pride Month

queer pride month, lgbtq,You know what this is! Pride Month is celebrated in June. It’s basically a build up to the main event: The Pride Parade. It’s meant to show everyone “we’re here, we’re queer!” And that’s about as far as most agreement goes for it. For some people, the parade is too out of hand and showy. For others, it’s served its purpose and should be terminated. For others still, it’s celebratory for all the wrong reasons. But that’s an entire post in and of itself.

Queer History Month

Observed in October (February in the UK), Queer History Month is a month-long remembrance of our collective historical narratives and triumphs. It’s also a time to go out and learn more. You can learn to complicate your understandings of history, broaden your scope to learn about struggles in other communities in your country or internationally, and discover how the past has shaped the present and what you can do to contribute to the future.

Intersex Awareness Day

intersex symbol, intersex pride,According to the now-defunct, IAD is observed on October 26:

Intersex Awareness Day is the (inter)national day of grass-roots action to end shame, secrecy and unwanted genital cosmetic surgeries on intersex children.

“Intersex” refers to a series of conditions where a person’s genetalia is “ambiguous” and the person can’t be “neatly” defined as male or female. Intersex is  shrouded in misinformation and ignorance by the larger society (but it doesn’t have to be) and many intersex people are subjected to controversial “treatments” that include surgery, hormones, and in some cases sterilization. The holiday is about bringing visibility to a spectrum of people fighting erasure and battling misinformation in all its forms.


We kept this list short for the sake of brevity, but there are plenty of other observances out there. And remember: All these holidays started because of community action and the need to honor, respect, and advance ourselves. What holidays would you add to this list and which “established” ones would you recommend for the next list?

ouran high school host club, gay, queer, transgender

Wanna go to Ouran Academy?

Ouran High School Host Club is an anime series revolving around a group of male high school students that formed a “host club” to entertain and charm women they refer to as “guests”. Called a “reverse harem” by one of the toddler characters in one episode, the series follows the misadventures of these characters as they adopt a male-presenting girl into the club. Silly, comedic, and super self-aware of itself as an ongoing series that relies on cliches while pointing them out at every term, this (debatably) subversive anime is coded queer. And the way it makes fun of rich people is kinda hilarious.

So if you were like me in college, you watched every episode of Ouran High School Host Club a few years back when they had the entire season on Youtube. It’s also the kind of ridiculously campy and over the top universe you’d love to live in. Here are my reasons!

Fancy Living

ouran clock tower gif flying birdsI’d be a liar to say that I wouldn’t like to live the high life for a few lifetimes days–to see what life is like from the top of the economic elevator. Of course, I’m only talking about for the more frivolous aspects and having other folks worry about the things I don’t want to. Jus’ sayin’. Swerve with all the responsibility of having to run multiple multinational Fortune 500s and whatnot. Thank goodness the show never ruins the “rich people being rich” mood by showing us the characters doinghomework or anything else that actually requires responsibility and isn’t related to the Host Club. So I want all that, and the fancy tuna that comes with being rich.

Anime Tropes

As I said earlier, this show makes a lot of fun of the anime/manga genre and if you’re knowledgeable about characterization in that genre (or any type of animation/media product honestly), you’ll get a huge laugh at how stuff is subverted and played straight for laughs. And whether you want to be a host or be seduced by one, there’s someone for everyone!

who's who, who's your type
Image courtesy of AquaWaters|DeviantArt

The Prince

This role is taken by Tamaki and he presides over the club as Daddy. At first glance, he is the noble prince–upstanding, regal, and kind in a polite manner. But just under the surface is a wild guy driven by emotion that completely turns his royal characterization on its head.

The Cuties

Boy Lolita

The obvious one here is Honey, who plays the role of the “boy-lolita”, or innocent, cutesy youngster (despite being older than most of the cast). He is much more powerful than he lets on, but his love of cakes and sweets and cute things masks that scary interior.

The Natural/Bookworm

The male-presenting female protagonist might be among the few who actually plays their characterization straight (no pun). Haruhi is level-headed and astutue, often a slave to the antics of her boisterous co-members and often finds herself face-palming and sighing at just how out of touch everyone around her is. She’s a cutie because whether or not she chooses to go along with the craziness, react against it, or act in accordance, she’s adorable doing it. Not to mention she’s the romantic interest to many of the guys around her.

The Stoics

The “Actual” Stoic

Mori is the tall and handsome gentle giant (the fold to the cutie Honey who he’s always around). He’s muscular, strong and decisive and has the kind of reassuring effect that many of the shy guests that come into the club appreciate. He also has the “watch me take my shirt off and not even care” charm we see in one episode, but frog + teacup.

The Cool One

We all know the cool one who doesn’t waste words and who doesn’t let much get past them. In this case, it’s Kyouya. He’s a mix between heartless tax collecter, shrewd businessman, and puppetmaster, prompting his friends to give him the nickname “Shadow King”. They’re also (rightfully) a little afraid of him.

The Mischevious Guys

The Hitachiin twins take the cake with this one. Named Hikaru and Kauro, these redheads are almost the devil incarnate with their wily pranks and sharp words. But like everyone else in this show, their demeanor hides a complex past that shapes who they are and how they present themselves to the world. While in the Host Club, they walk the line of taboo, showing a brotherly affection that straddles the line of implied twincest to (somehow) make their female guests’ imaginations run wild.

Elite High School Experience

ouran-campusThis may as well go back to the first reason of wanting to be filthy rich observe the lives of the wealthy from the inside, but I would specifically love to have gone to a high school where the school lunch made the Ritz Carlton’s food look like dog food.

I would love to have gone to a high school that had not only musical instruments, but state of the art music rooms with spacious halls. A school whose administration understood when you simply had to leave school to Fiji for a while. A school where everything stopped because you and your friends had to have a misadventure.

Of course, I’m sure actual elite high schools are different (minus the Fiji and instument bit), but in the Ouran universe, the sky is the limit.


So do you love Ouran? DO YOU LOVE IT?! Leave us a comment telling us about your favorite character or episode! Also, do you think it’s a good show or a disgrace to its genre and a mark upon the world of animation that would take centuries after an apocalypse to scrub off?

queer steven universe, trans, lgbt, non-binary gender

Queer Fusion in Steven Universe

Steven Universe is not your mama’s cartoon. Unless she’s into shenanigans and femme-centric genderqueer storylines.  Then it’s your mama’s cartoon.

Steven Universe is the story of a half-human/half-alien boy named Steven Universe who lives with his three alien guardians (known as The Crystal Gems) in Beach City to learn more about his Gem (alien) heritage and powers.

One of the many animations of recent years following a 10-11 minute format and seemingly written for an audience that is both childish and adult at the same time (Childult?), Steven Universe will easily remind you of Adventure TimeThe Regular Show, and others of its ilk. The colors are bold and in your face at times while sitting next to softer hues to create a unique look for the wacky character designs and beautiful landscapes (both alien and on earth).

But Steven Universe is so much more than just a self-aware program with shapes and fun alien violence; it’s a fun story with cute messages of various types of diversity and queer overtones. Here are my reflections on some of those queer readings.

SPOILER ALERT: ALL THE SECRETS! (But seriously.. This post tells everything about major plot points. You’ll be sorry…)



At first, fusion in Steven Universe seems to be a throwback to Dragon Ball Z–one of the many self aware homages the show pays to the well-known programs that came before it. You do a dance, you try to mash into one another, and it goes horribly wrong or awesomely successful. But as the show goes on, we learn that there’s more to fusion than first meets the eye.

Seriously. Spoilers. You’ll be sorry…

When Pearl and Amethyst fuse to create Opal, we learn about the practical aspects of fusion in the Stuniverse. It’s presented as a cool advanced level technique Gems can do to increase their powers. And we see it again when Garnet and Amethyst fuse to create Sugilite and when all three gems fuse to create Alexandrite. In all of these instances barring Alexandrite, fusion was used to increase strength to fight and enemy or do something that required massive physical strength.

When Steven and Connie accidentally fuse to create Stevonnie we learn about fusion as a bond between two people, the stability of the fusion relying heavily on the connection of the people involved. As Connie and Steven share a close friendship (some say a crush or longing for one another) the fusion stayed relatively stable.

In the case of Garnet, we see that bond in action as she has been stable for 5-6,000 years or more. We also see that the Gems that constitute her (Ruby and Sapphire) are in love and, when captured and isolated, want only to know about the others’ wellbeing.

The Gems themselves are not physical beings, so when they fuse they aren’t creating a being that’s “more physical”, instead they’re creating an experience.

“You are not two people, and you are not one person. You are an experience! Make sure you’re a good experience! Now go have fun!”

-Garnet, “Alone Together

The way I see it, fusion is a flexible metaphor—used to represent the wide variety of queer experiences for us as viewers. Fusion is symbolic and metaphoric of the following: Solidarity, toxic relationship, same-sex/authority-despised queer love, conformity, and trans/non-binary narrative.



opal, pearl, amethyst, fusion, queer, steven universeIt functions as the bond between different people working together to complete a task. We see this in Opal, the fused form of Pearl and Amethyst. They are both headstrong in different directions but must work together to achieve a goal that is bigger than the both of them. When they fuse Opal, they demonstrate putting their differences aside to create united front. Noticeably, however, their differences are strong and the fusion is therefore unstable.

Toxic Abusive Relationships/Self-Sacrifice


The fusion between Jasper and Lapis Lazuliis one that I believe is a hideous look at the toxicity of abusive relationships. Jasper forces Lapis into a fusion against her will, the resulting fusion was Malachite, a powerful and hideous aquakinetic monster intent on destroying the Crystal Gems. Despite despising fusion as “a cheap tactic of the weak”, Jasper forces it on Lapis for the motive of gaining enough power to overcome the Crystal Gems (in particular Garnet so to avenge an ass-whuppin). Perhaps because the fusion was forced and Lapis is so strong-willed, she retained control over her water-controlling abilities and used them to restrain the fused pair, dragging them down into the sea as revenge. In this act, she also sacrificed herself for the sake of Steven (It’s my belief that she doesn’t care either way about the Crystal Gems). It is as though Malachite is the representation of a person staying in an abusive relationship to protect another person.

Same-sex/Authority-Despised Love


In the case of Garnet’s fusion, it functions as the bond between two people very madly in love. It is a universal message that can be read as many things, but the most likely reading is that of a same-sex coupling. The character Jasper is disgusted with the idea of fusion in the way a bigot might be with a same-sex relationship. We see Garnet singing about this in a very self-aware and BOMB song “Stronger Than You.” In this analogy, Garnet is a symbol of a strong love between two people overcoming bigotry and opposition.


alexandrite, pearl, opal, garnet, steven universe
Courtesy of Onsaud @ Deviantart

When it comes to forcing a non-nuclear unit together into a “perfectly normal nuclear family”, Alexandrite’s fusion (Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl AND STEVEN!) is the best symbol. Alexandrite is monstrously huge and obviously out of this world. Aside from being fantastically barely humanoid, Alexandrite takes on the worst of the Gems’ personality traits as she tries to be a convincing “wife” for Greg (Steven’s father). It demonstrates the ugliness of trying to conform into something you aren’t—I mean, have you seen the body horror that is one face, two mouths?!

Trans/Non-binary Narrative


In the case of Stevonnie, fusion functions as the bond of a strong friendship, but I believe that it is supposed to be read by the viewer as a carefree positive trans experience. Unfused, neither Connie nor Steven are stereotypically feminine or masculine respectively, but instead both display wholesome existences in being relatively comfortable in their skins unhindered by “normative” standards. Stevonnie’s short-lived journey shows a gender-neutral kid/teen that I believe reads as a trans/non-binary gender.

In our world, trans and nonbinary folks don’t get to see positive carefree images of themselves—especially kids of color. At worst, they are dehumanized objects to mock as punchlines (often times punching bags as they’re the recipients of horrible violence). At best, there are messages of resistance and social-political struggle. Trans/nonbinary narratives are shaped as resistance to the status quo rather than shaping themselves according to their agents—trans/nonbinary people—and they are ultimately forced to be statements. Even my writing about this right now is a statement! The Stuniverse presents viewers a chance to pause and review the narratives they’re familiar with and, ultimately, presents the people who live similar realities to rewrite them.


My reading of the function of fusion is only one of countless many from an infinite number of queer folks around the web and around the world. For me,  it represents a myriad of bonds between people that range from practical to intimate to abusive and sacrificial.

What did you think? Leave a comment below and let us know!

*All images featured in the body of this post are from the Steven Universe Wikia unless otherwise noted in the caption.

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Exploring Contemporary Queer Black Men

When we talk about the narratives surrounding queer people or the narratives surrounding Black people (specifically men), we rarely do justice for the people at the cross-section of both axes: Queer Black men. It is as though all queer people are white and all Black men are homophobic heterosexuals. Ironically (or perhaps not), when we do talk about Black queers, it is often in humiliating and dehumanizing ways–a fertile ground for colonial-era stereotypes of exotic others and tired media tropes of innate criminality, both dripping with portrayals of a hypersexed Black body.

In a storify, I’ve compiled relevant tweets (almost all) from those who have used the hashtag #NotYourPornhubCategory to share their experiences, make a stand in resistance, and affirm one another. I also contextualize its beginning and respond to well-meaning criticism while using the concept of microaggressions to further contextualize the hashtag. Read More

Support Queer Businesses for Stronger Community

If you don’t take care of your body, it dies. The same thing happens to your community.

Communities are held together by commonality and protection of values against larger groups, but they are further empowered by business ownership and supporting businesses in your community. While discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, race, gender expression and identity are a few of the obstacles that are not easily overcome, concerted community effort and standards help queer businesses survive, if not thrive.

When you support queer businesses, you stand in solidarity with those who risk standing up to corporate producers on your behalf, you encourage small business growth and livelihood opportunities for your community, and you play a role in helping your community thrive.

black business owner, queer business support
Image courtesy of

Solidarity with Mavericks

By actively creating a business—especially in our social and political climate—queer business owners risk it all by daring to leave the relative safety of established employment. The risk is even more high stakes when we consider ethnicity and gender factors into who gets the business loans they apply for. (Hint: Being white, cis and “straight acting” helps a ton.) At any rate, these brave maverick heroes put their creativity and ambition to the test in the real world and we should support them.

When I lived in Atlanta as a younger man, I lived in Midtown (also known as the gay ghetto). There were several queer small businesses concentrated in the area, and I tried to go to the ones I knew were owned by queer folks. I had ignored them at first—we’re all equal so I should go to any place, right!?—but I eventually realized that the reason there was such a strong sense of community and safety was because of the presence of the business owners making a stand to carve out space.

Growth and Cohesion

It’s one thing to run a Mom&Mom’s shop that engages favorably with the community. But when that Mom&Mom’s grows to become a Mom&Mom&Us’s, it’s a sign of strong community support. Also, when businesses grow and expand, so does the need for capable and hardworking staff. That’s when members of the community benefit in another way.

When I was a junior in college, I was sponsored for a paid internship at the Atlanta Voice by members of the community. The Atlanta Voice had a small staff and my contribution helped lessen the workload on them. It also allowed me to gain journalism experience in my community and go to places I never would have. The sponsors were a great couple I had become friends with because we both supported the same queer bookstore some years earlier.

Perspective: The summer where I couldn’t find a single paid internship or paying job, I found a place to learn immensely valuable skills and get paid simultaneously because people invested their time and energy back into the community.

black business leader future, queer businesses

We Came to Thrive

When you support queer businesses, you help the community thrive. This in turn does a number of things: It creates employment opportunities and allows us to set the example for awesome workplaces that understand our concerns, it raises the quality of life for the people in the community who get to know the money they’ve spent is going to someone who is just as invested in your community, and it turns the heads of corporations who only speak the language of money and tells them we are important and if they want our continued business they’ll have to get on board.

As I mentioned earlier, I lived in Midtown. There were several businesses owned by hetero people and also several chains. Two in particular had vastly different business practices: One made an effort to be a part of the community and encouraged its employees (queer and not) to make meaningful connections. The other allowed its employees to be homophobic under the guise of free speech and did the bare minimum in the way of accommodation. Guess which business closed after two months.

When to Not Support Queer Business

queer businesses thrive
In the beginning of this text, I waxed poetic about the nature of community and the beauty of supporting our folks. I stand by that. But I also stand by the idea that business owners need to be responsible and held accountable. If a business owner is prejudiced, exploitative, or otherwise shady, you shouldn’t feel obligated to do business with them.

I was once in a café and overheard a couple talking about the discriminatory practices employed by the owner of the very restaurant we were in. Apparently he was fifty shades of anti-nonwhite when it came to hiring. I Yelped the place and found some comments that mirrored what I heard the couple saying. As I was in college and in my RAH-RAH! activist phase, I texted my date before his arrival and asked him to meet me at the restaurant next door instead. It was not queer owned, but we had a great experience anyway. (For the purposes of full disclosure, the bad restaurant has since come under new management and now hires all stripes of women and men.)


It’s necessary to support our communities for our own prosperity, but also to show people in wider society that we will not put up with being second and third class citizens. It’s also necessary to demand standards from the businesses in our communities. Where I lived, there were very few businesses owned by queer people of color (I typically supported them online if I could find them), but damned if I was going to support a queer business owner that was racist or xenophobic.

At any rate, spread the word about supporting queer businesses!