Why the gay community hasn’t embraced Colton Underwood with open arms

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On the surface, Colton Underwood’s story seems like it should just be a minor celebrity footnote. A former Bachelor contestant comes out, gets some press and we move on. LGBTQ+ visibility is beautiful and vital, so, sure, let’s welcome another person in the public eye into the community.

But it’s not that simple. In fact, Underwood’s story gets right to the heart of issues of race, masculinity, and privilege. Because while it seemed as if the media and most of the straight world fawned over his coming out from the start, the gay community has been less effusive with our…

Dreams of pixilated bullfrogs

Photo by Marc Clinton Labiano on Unsplash

There used to be a boy in my dreams.

He moved away in the sixth grade, but he’d return to me some nights, long after the sun had set on our friendship. He’d return five years later, 10 years later, surprising me at my high school, at my college, telling me he was back.

I still miss those dreams, and the sweet joy they brought.

Sometimes the simple fact of his return was enough to carry me through the night. …

Part V: Starting Life Anew

I was told more than once that in addition to being a horrible person, I was a horrible gay person. I agreed with him. Now I’m marching in Pride parades.

I’d finally found the strength to kick my ex out of my life.

But what now?

By the time I cut ties with the man I’d once loved with a fierceness that hurt, I was exhausted, wounded, and lost. And though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was also traumatized.

Seven years were just… gone. In many ways, I felt like my life was finally starting. I’d gone from the shelter of small-town life and small-college life to a relationship that had chained me in place for far too long.

I didn’t know quite how to go about…

Part IV: Never Letting Go

The Crow after. Over time, my ex’s wounds became my own and grew harder to hide.

Let’s just get one of my biggest shames out there from the start

I slept with my abusive ex almost the whole time we were “friends” after breaking up. He’d ended things with the promise that we’d still be in each other’s lives. And we were, inextricably, for nearly four years.

I slept with him as he dated someone else, at first not knowing he had met another guy because he kept it a secret, then not caring because he’d complain about this new boyfriend all the time. And we loved each other.

I didn’t tell anyone else, and I don’t think he did either. At least not until he told his boyfriend…

Part III: Toxic Love

The Crow during. I learned to treat love as a constant show of strength in the face of struggle.

Staying stoic in the darkness was true devotion.

The dark, I told myself more and more, was where I belonged. I had been an angsty teen. I liked horror movies and stories, listened to industrial music when I was in a bad mood. I was one of the few people equipped to handle a man like my ex.

My first relationship started out bright and happy, as most relationships do. But as more problems crept into that early warmth, I convinced myself this was just a part of how love would be for me.

We’d started spending almost all our time cuddling at my place, hanging with my…

Part II: My First (Only) Serious Relationship

The Crow before. My cosplays help to explore the mix of emotions I’m still trying to untangle.

I learned to see myself through the dark mirror my ex presented.

By the end of our relationship, the hang ups I mentioned in the previous section had become a part of me. But that took time.

Things with him started out sweet. That’s obvious. We don’t end up in these situations because we meet someone horrible.

I’d dated other guys before him, but never for very long or in any serious way. I was young, he was young. I met him shortly after moving out on my own for the first time. I had a job, a (shared) apartment…

Part I: Mapping Out The Trauma

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I broke a map yesterday.

It was a big, beautiful, antique map with a gorgeous frame and its own ornate stand, around which I’d wreathe garlands and fall leaves depending on the season. I’d been trying to hang it in my new apartment because I just didn’t have room for a floor stand.

Too heavy for the wall, it fell and shattered. I’d thought that could be a possibility but I hung it anyway, a part of me almost daring it to fall. It would look amazing if it held. It wouldn’t survive if it didn’t. It didn’t survive.

The map itself, I discovered, was…

The Crow. Cosplay helps me express myself. I’m a geek hiding behind masks, but my darkest feelings feel safer filtered through a layer of unreality.

Writing that title was harder than I thought.

I figured telling my story would be the worst part. Or maybe publishing it. But that’s the fun thing about trauma. It always surprises you.

I think I first spoke out about sexual assault thanks to Trump. In a gross way, we can thank the Access Hollywood tape. When it came out, it took me two days to find the resolve to speak up. It was the first time I became aware of my own triggering.

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Over the past few weeks, as a reckoning with police brutality and racial injustice have exploded across the country, I’ve been struggling with what we’re supposed to do as white people.

Not with the big stuff. That’s all easy enough to understand. There’s a litany of ways to help. Listen to Black voices, donate money, donate talent, donate time, show up at the protests, vote for the people willing to push back against inequality, racist policies and harmful institutions. That’s all great, but it felt… incomplete.

It felt like there was an aspect to all of this that I was…

Can we talk? Okay, I know, starting with that puts you on the defensive. I am sorry, because I really want to have a conversation and figure out how I can help you better understand what I’m about to get into. But I’m also going to be honest. While I’m trying to write this calmly, there’s going to be a lot of anger seeping through. Gay rights is an intensely personal issue for me.

Maybe it’s a more casual issue for you. I’m guessing you might know a gay person or two. Maybe your cousin. Your aunt. Your nephew. Maybe…

Curtis Harding

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