Lesbian News

How Do I Explore Casual Sex If I’m Demisexual?

How Do I Explore Casual Sex If I'm Demisexual?


“My idea of how I’d enjoy expressing my sexuality the most is at odds with me being demisexual. I’d love to be a person who can enjoy any type of “no strings attached” activity (sexual, kinky or both simultaneously) in the name of exploration and joy in experiencing each other, but me being demi implies that there are always strings attached when I’m attracted to someone (namely, emotional connection).

I’d like to know in what ways my definition is too narrow and how I can honor this in the future. All of my experience has been me being a pan cis woman partnered with straight cis men in long-term monogamous relationships, and the dominant narrative of what “emotional connection” means is hard to unwire. Romance isn’t mandatory for me to have this connection, but most of the people I’ve known are of the “friends don’t fuck with each other, romantic partners do” mindset and seems to be the only thing I can internalize, despite having read otherwise from fellow queer people. That said, I feel jealous of people who have FWBs, to mention a non-romantic example.

If it helps for nuance, there are other factors going on, namely “if desirability was a scale, I’m usually put at last place in queer spaces”. It feels like I’m not even read as a sexual person, least of all a person worth connecting with in this specific sense. I also struggle at signaling my intentions for fear of being seen as “predatory” or “too much” or to have my already pathologized struggle at social skills exposed, but on the flip side, I end up with the assumption that I’m aloof. That, in combination with me being demi, feels more like a wall than another aspect of my sexuality I can work with.

Tl;dr: how can I make demisexuality work with me instead of against me?”


There are multiple questions within this question, and I want to honor them all. First, it sounds like you’re feeling curious about the limits of your own sexual expression, but you’re struggling to clearly identify your desires. Let’s start there! Then we’ll move on to the part where you put yourself out there and experiment.

Labeling different aspects of our sexuality can help us identify our desires, share our desires with others and find community. In some parts of the LGBTQ+ community, pushing against the boundaries of those identifiers is expected and encouraged. Of course, there are those infuriating, dangerous people who insist that “real women” are assigned female at birth and that being a “gold star lesbian” is some kind of high acheivment, but the rest of us understand that some labels — especially those that pertain to gender and sexuality — are not fixed. We can subvert those identifiers. We can expand their definitions. And sometimes, if we want to, we can change them.

So is your definition of “demisexual” too “narrow?” Maybe. Definitions of “demisexual” reference a strong “emotional” connection in order to feel sexual attraction, but an “emotional” connection doesn’t have to be romantic. And you can still have “no strings attached” sex with a friend or someone else you care about if the “strings” are romance and the expectation of exclusivity. If you’re feeling sexual desire for friends or if you like the idea of a “friends with benefits” situation, then it seems that most widely-accepted definition of “demisexual” still encompasses your experience. But the more important questions here are: what do you want and why do you want it?

In order to uncover those answers, let go of “demisexual” as an identity word for the sake of a mental exercise. I’m asking you to do this because while identity words can be playful and fun, they can also be suffocating and prevent us from recognizing our true wants and needs. You might find that you’ve been repressing some of your desires to fit demisexual expectations, or you might find that the “demisexual” identifier fits you perfectly. You might decide to continue embracing a demisexual identity while simultaneously exploring aspects of your sexuality that stretch the fabric of the demisexual umbrella. There’s no right answer to any of this. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your sexuality and feel free to embrace your desires in healthy, satisfying ways.

OK — now that the way you feel desire is label-free, it’s time to use your imagination. You said you’d “love to be a person who can enjoy any type of no-strings attached activity.” When I refer to “no strings attached sex,” “casual sex” or “FWB sex” throughout this article, I’m referring to sex that happens with anyone who is not a romantic partner. When you picture yourself engaging in casual sex, how do you feel? Do you feel turned on? Excited? Anxious? Curious? How do you feel in your body? Do you feel floaty? Buzzy? Sweaty? Then ask yourself why you want to be a person who enjoys casual sex. Would it fulfill your curiosities? Would it make your life easier or more exciting? Would it grant you some kind of social currency?

Sit with these feelings and investigate them. That investigation might look like journaling, masturbating, talking to a friend, talking to a therapist or just thinking. Take your time and trust your gut before deciding how you want to move forward. Maybe you’ll decide, “Nope! No-strings-attached sex is not for me — I didn’t want it for the right reasons,” and that’s ok! Maybe you’ll decide, “I definitely want a FWB” or “I actually want to try having casual sex with total strangers.” That’s ok, too! Of course, your gut might not give you a clear answer, especially if you’re a hands-on learner, so in that case, you just might have to try some “no strings attached” flirting and/ or sex and see how it feels. If you’re looking to try something new, read on.

Since you said that your friends aren’t down for FWB arrangements, I’m assuming that you’ll be seeking new friends with whom you can share some sexy benefits. But if you find an existing friend who’s down for some sexual exploration, approach the situation with care caution. Mixing sex and friendship can blow up in your face if you don’t communicate clearly about the arrangement. I highly recommend Carolyn’s article “How To Be Friends With Benefits” for tips on how to pull this off without losing a long-term pal.

But let’s assume that you’re seeking some “no strings attached” sex outside of your existing social circle and you’re not sure how to initiate it. First, it’s ok to feel awkward and lost! Since your sexual history happened in the context of long-term, monogamous romantic relationships, this is new for you. It can be hard to try something new in your sex and dating life, especially when you don’t feel desirable. Well, you’re in luck — being sexy and desirable isn’t some magical inherent quality. It’s a practice, and you can choose to embrace that practice whenever you want. For tips on how to do just that, I’ll steer you towards one of my favorite advice pieces in Autostraddle history — “Assume Everyone Thinks You’re Hot, I’m Serious,” in which Vanessa reveals how to put your sexiest foot forward. Vanessa reminds us that we might have to “fake it til we make it” sometimes, but the practice still works.

So let’s say you’ve taken Vanessa’s advice, you’re full of bravado and you’re ready to hit on all the hot queers (or maybe just one hot queer). You said you’re worried that you’ll come off as “predatory” if you express your desires. You can get your flirt on and avoid predatory behavior if you follow these rules:

1. Be clear about your intentions

Somehow we decided that flirting has to be vague. Wrong! Tell the person you’re flirting with you think they’re a babe. If you’re silently hanging around them or staring at them across the room while you attempt some kind of sexy telepathy, that’s creepy. Plus, if you’re upfront about your interest, it gives the other person an opportunity to turn you down if they’re not feeling it.

Also, be clear about the fact that you’re not looking for a romantic partner (and make sure this person knows that before you have sex). If you think you’re getting casual sex with this person and they think you’re on the road to marriage, then feelings are going to get hurt. If you’re seeking FWBs on dating apps, include that in your profile so that the folks who swipe right on you know what you’re looking for in advance. It might also be a good idea to lay out exactly what a “FWB arrangement” means to you, since FWB expectations vary from person to person.

2. Don’t get attached to a particular outcome

Flirting and FWB arrangements might not go the way you expect. The other person might be into it at first and then change their mind. Maybe you’re ready for sex right away and the other person needs to take it slow. Maybe they decide that they only want sex but you’re craving an emotional connection. Maybe you’re already in an established FWB situation and one or both of you catch feelings. If the situation doesn’t meet your expectations, don’t pout about it. Accept that your desires don’t align and move on.

3. Pay attention to all forms of “no”

When you initiate flirting, a “no” isn’t always going to sound or look like a “no.” A “no” might sound like short answers to your questions. A “no” might look like physically leaning away from you, avoiding eye contact, directing their attention to their friends or going days without answering questions in your Tinder chat. This kind of behavior usually means that the person is trying to let you down easily or they’re scared that a firm boundary will seem rude, but it can be really confusing! If you notice any form of “no,” back off, and if you’re not sure if this person is signaling “no,” it’s ok to ask for clarification.

Remember that your sexuality is yours. It can shift and change and grow, and experimentation can be really rewarding! Ideally, we can all get to a place where we feel sexy, confident and comfortable asking for what we want, and I hope you can find that sense of ease within yourself.

You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot


One of the most notable things about her is what she wears: untailored suits. She's short, and her pants are typically too wide and too long.

Now I have a visual image of what the short butches here are struggling with, and why it's brought up quite a bit here. I'm 5'8" and have never really struggled to find pants that properly fit me.

submitted by /u/FatBlackKat

Lesbian In One Day – Once Upon a Journey

Reykjavik In One Day - Once Upon a Journey

Reykjavik In One Day - Once Upon a Journey

Want to see Reykjavik in one day and don’t know where to start? This guide contains all you need to know for how to spend one day in Reykjavik perfectly.

If you’re visiting Iceland, there is a very high probability you will arrive and depart from Reykjavik. It is Iceland’s capital, the most northern capital city in the world, and the home to many of the top things to see in Iceland.

But Reykjavik is more than just a gateway to see the rest of Iceland, it has much to offer too. From architecture to rainbow street art, coffee shops to museums, there is something to do in Reykjavik for everyone, no matter the weather or time of year!

When you’re planning your trip to Iceland, add (at least) one day in Reykjavik to your Iceland itinerary. And with the many day trips from Reykjavik, museums, and tours on offer, you could certainly stay longer than a day in Reykjavik if you wanted to as well.

Full Story at Once Upon a Journey

Iceland Gay Travel Resources

Glenn Greenwald is being dragged for suggesting Matt Gaetz has a right to commit statutory rape / Queerty

Glenn Greenwald is being dragged for suggesting Matt Gaetz has

Glenn Greenwald is currently taking heat on Twitter after he suggested that Matt Gaetz is legally entitled to have sex with whatever “consenting” 17-year-old girl he pleases.

As you’ve likely heard by now, the Florida lawmaker is currently ensnared in a teen sex/prostitution scandal involving a 17-year-old girl and $900 transferred on Venmo to an accused child sex trafficker who is currently sitting in a jail cell.

None of Gaetz’s Republican colleagues are sticking up for him, except for Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan, who is currently ensnared in his own college wrestling gay sex abuse scandal. And even Fox News wants nothing to do with Gaetz.

But for whatever reason, Greenwald, who is openly gay, has decided to come to the antigay congressman’s defense.

“If you don’t think it should be legal for 17 year-olds to have sex with anyone they want, go write to the governors and legislatures in 37 states & the District of Columbia which made it legal,” Greenwald recently tweeted while defending Gaetz.

There’s just one teeny tiny problem with this. And by “one teeny tiny problem” we mean a glaring omission of some pretty important details about age of consent laws.

Raw Story notes:

[Greenwald] failed to note that many states that allow 16 or 17 year olds to have sex require that both consenting partners be of similar ages. For example, Virginia has a close in age exemption that allows teens between 15-17 to have sex with each other. At age 38, Gaetz could not legally have sex with a 17-year-old girl in Virginia because the de facto age of consent is 18 years old.

Another important detail Greenwald neglected to mention is that the age of consent in Florida is 18, meaning a 38-year-old man having sex with a 17-year-old girl would be considered statutory rape under state law.

In a followup tweet, a defiant Greenwald wrote, “I think consenting adults should be able to do what they want in their private lives and those who try to control them or restrict their choices or impose judgments on moral grounds are creepy sexual morality police similar to the Moral Majority & Pat Robertson of the 1980s.”

And we would tend to agree. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with consenting adults having sex with one another. It happens all the time, and sex is a beautiful thing. The problem is, in Gaetz’s case, that doesn’t appear to be what happened.

Also missing from Greenwald’s defense of Gaetz was any mention of the sex trafficking accusations being made against him or the allegations of illegal drug use.

Gaetz insists he is not guilty of any wrongdoing and claims to be the victim of a $25 million extortion plot.

Here’s what folx on Twitter are saying about Greenwald’s deeply flawed defense of Gaetz…

Graham Gremore is the Features Editor and a Staff Writer at Queerty. Follow him on Twitter @grahamgremore.

Leslie Jordan can’t ‘go near a gay club’ anymore because he’s too famous

Leslie Jordan in his new sitcom Call Me Kat

Leslie Jordan in his new sitcom Call Me Kat. (FOX via Getty)

Will & Grace star and queer legend Leslie Jordan has explained that he can’t go to gay clubs anymore because he’s too famous.

Jordan, best known for playing Beverley Leslie on Will & Grace and later starring in American Horror Story, reached new heights of fame during the coronavirus pandemic, when he became an unexpected Instagram sensation.

Speaking to NME, he said: “People think I’m an overnight success, but I’ve been doing this for 40 years now.

“In the past I’ve had certain levels of fame – especially with Will & Grace – but it’s nothing compared to how it’s been lately.”

Jordan said that while he used to “love sitting in Starbucks with my tea and four different newspapers”, these kind of outings have now become impossible.

“People come by and ask for a picture, and I’m so gracious that I’m not gonna say no,” he continued.

“Everywhere I go now, it’s like a tiny little public appearance, but it’s what I’ve wanted my entire life.

“When I first moved to Los Angeles, I remember thinking: ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to walk into a gay club and have everyone know who you are?’

“Well, I couldn’t go near a gay club now – it would be a nightmare!”

Leslie Jordan likes his life “very quiet”.

Leslie Jordan, who currently stars in the sitcom Call Me Kat, also explained that although his Insta-fame means he can’t go to gay clubs, he probably wouldn’t want to if he could.

The actor, 65, said: “When I first moved to Hollywood, Hugh Hefner was living in the Playboy mansion with seven blonde playmates.

“I thought: ‘That’s what I want, but with seven blonde boys.’ I figured we’d sit around all day having brunch because that was the hot new thing then.

“But the other day I realised that if I was living in the Hollywood Hills with seven giggly boys, I’d jump off the Hollywood sign.”

He added: “My life really is very quiet: I’ve made it that way because I like it. At my age, you can’t be in the club showing your ass – it’s like, ‘Honey, get off the dance floor, you’re 65 now!’”

How to tell if a wedding vendor is LBGTQ+ inclusive

How to tell if a wedding vendor is LBGTQ+ inclusive

You deserve the perfect wedding day, and that means working with inclusive, respectful vendors who will honor your LGBTQ+ identity and your vision for the celebration.

Planning a wedding is stressful enough without having to deal with judgment or ignorance from vendors. While it feels like it may not always be easy to determine if a vendor is LGBTQ+ inclusive right off the bat, here are a few surefire ways to tell:

Their website and social media includes LGBTQ+ representation

A good first move is to check a vendor’s website, social media and other marketing materials. Is there LGBTQ+ representation in these materials? Does it seem like the vendor has experience working with LGBTQ+ couples? Does the vendor follow and interact with LGBTQ+ wedding publications like Equally Wed on Facebook and Instagram? If the answer is yes to most of these questions, that is a great sign.

Vendors may also choose to include statements of inclusivity on their websites. If you can’t find one, you can always ask if one exists or if the vendor has a specific policy or approach to inclusivity.

They do not use gendered language in their paperwork

Vendors who are truly inclusive will avoid using gendered language on their intake forms. In place of “Bride” and “Groom,” they may ask for the names of “Partner 1” and “Partner 2.” Instead of bridesmaids and groomsmen, they may say “wedding party” or “attendants.” Inclusive vendors will ask about your future spouse instead of husband or wife.

As you probably know, these small shifts in language go a long way in making LGBTQ+ couples feel welcome and comfortable. Gender neutral intake forms are likely a good sign that your vendor works hard to honor all couples.

Charming wedding inspiration with pampas grass and lush florals | Amanda Dyell Photography | Featured on Equally Wed, the leading LGBTQ+ wedding magazine
Amanda Dyell Photography

They ask respectful questions

Whether on their forms or in conversation, inclusive vendors will know to ask for your pronouns as well as the title you would prefer to be called for your wedding (bride, groom, marrier, celebrant, etc…). They won’t ask invasive or judgmental questions, and they will also be genuinely excited and happy to work with you.

They advertise in LGBTQ+ publications

Vendors who advertise in LGBTQ+ publications are actively looking to work with LGBTQ+ couples. Of course, you want to make sure that their excitement to work with you is genuine and not simply to check a box to show that they are inclusive. But if they advertise in these publications and also do some of the other things on this list, you know they are the real deal.

Tropical destination white beach wedding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico two grooms linen tailored suits tradition whimsical kiss
Joann Arruda Photography

They are certified Equally Wed pros

When perusing a vendor’s website, look for the Equally Wed Pro Certified LGBTQ+ Inclusive badge. This means they have taken our intensive certification course on how to be the best, most inclusive vendor they can be. Vendors who have taken this course are not only serious about inclusivity, but are also armed with all the tools they need to successfully work with LGBTQ+ couples.

They are recommended by other LGBTQ+ couples

One of the best ways to know if a vendor works well with LGBTQ+ people is to speak with LGBTQ+ people they have worked with in the past. See if any of their online reviews are written by LGBTQ+ couples, and if you can’t find any, ask them to connect you with any past LGBTQ+ clients.

Also, if you know any LGBTQ+ couples who have gotten married in your area, ask them which of their vendors they loved most!

Intimate, rustic summer garden wedding at Josias River Farm LGBTQ+ weddings small wedding nonbinary queer wedding
Elizabeth Ivy Photography

Spread the word! : actuallesbians

Spread the word! : actuallesbians

A place for discussions for and by cis and trans lesbians, bisexual girls, chicks who like chicks, bi-curious folks, dykes, butches, femmes, girls who kiss girls, birls, bois, aces, LGBT allies, and anyone else interested! Our subreddit is named r/actuallesbians because r/lesbians is not really for or by lesbians–it was meant to be a joke. We’re not a militant or exclusive group, so feel free to join up!

“The Girls” and “The Boys” Show the Power of Lifetime Friendships Across Difference

Mombian - Sustenance for Lesbian Moms Since 2005

One of my favorite LGBTQ-inclusive picture books from the past few years has largely flown under the radar here in the U.S., so I’m mentioning it again just as a follow-up book comes out. The first book looks at the power of female friendships as it follows the intertwined stories of four girls from childhood into adulthood; the second follows four boys and gives us insight into not only male friendships, but also societal pressures around masculinity. There are queer characters in both, along with a message of unconditional allyship.

The Girls, by Lauren Ace and illustrated by Jenny Løvlie (Rodale Kids), introduces us to four girls, “as different as they were the same” and “the best of friends.” The girls differ not only because of their racial identities (one is Black, one South Asian, and two White), but also because of their interests and personalities: one is adventuresome, one practical, one a performer, and one full of ideas. Nevertheless, they shared “Secrets, dreams, worries and schemes.” While sometimes a joke went too far, “They knew how to say sorry and learned something from every falling out.” Even as they matured and changed, they supported each other through hardships and celebrated each other’s successes in school and beyond. The softly cheerful illustrations and spare text show this playing out as the girls experience romantic breakups, career moves, and starting families of their own.

The Girls

On one page we see all four friends marching together in a Pride parade and we read that they “always took pride in their friendship.” It’s not even clear from this image which, if any of them, are queer or just allies, but on a later page we see Sasha, the Black girl, in a relationship with another woman. There’s no big coming out moment, though; the girls just naturally support each other in their romantic relationships as in so much else. After so many children’s books in which the non-queer characters tease or don’t understand the queer character, it feels like a breath of fresh air to see this image of active support by the friends, where their support isn’t even a question. We also see Sasha, who was always ready with a Band-Aid when someone fell out of a tree, later becoming a doctor; she is more than just her queer identity.

The Girls won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in the Illustrated Books category in 2019, and it’s easy to see why. It’s sweet and thoughtful without being cloying, offering a view of female friendship through life’s ups and downs that feels both true and hopeful. (It beat out Julián is a Mermaid for the Waterstones prize; I’m not going to debate the relative merits of each book, since I like them both; I point this out merely to offer some idea of just how good The Girls is, since I’m guessing my readers (who are mostly in the U.S.) may be more familiar with the much-lauded Julián.)

The Boys (Caterpillar Books/Little Tiger) similarly follows the lives of four children—boys this time—with very different interests and racial identities. The story isn’t a mere gender-swapping of the same narrative, though; as Ace said in an interview at The Bookseller, she “drew on works about toxic masculinity” to show how messages about masculinity might have impacted her male characters and their relationships. We watch the boys in childhood as they became friends and “were a team,” then drifted apart as they developed separate interests and sometimes competed against each other. “For a little while the boys enjoyed standing out on their own,” we read. Yet “without the others, each of the boys soon felt as though he had been swept out to sea…. The boys knew they had to be able to talk about their feelings… but it wasn’t easy.”

The Boys - Lauren Ace

Eventually, though, they “learned to be patient and kind with one another again,” even as each charted his own path. The boys, now men, are there to lift each other up when one is sad; we see three of them comforting the fourth upon the death of a pet. We also see one of the men marrying and starting his own family with another man; the other three friends have active parts in his wedding as we read, “And although their lives had taken them to different places, the men came back together to share their happiest times.” A final scene shows them all playing together at the seashore with their own children.

This is a lovely and perfectly understated examination of masculinity and friendship. As in The Girls, their support for the one who is queer is unquestioned and unremarkable (which actually makes it rather remarkable). In addition, one boy is the son of Sasha and her spouse from The Girls; this isn’t stressed, but careful readers will recognize the moms in one scene.

Both books also offer something else rarely found in books featuring LGBTQ children: a glimpse of a positive future as an adult. The queer characters grow up to have careers and families just like the others. Not that all queer people should feel pressure to have families; but it’s good to see this portrayed as a possible path. Similarly, while we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the obstacles that LGBTQ people (and marginalized people generally) may face in education and employment, not every story has to be one of struggle and oppression.

With insightful and inspiring looks at lifelong friendships across many kinds of difference, these stories should be valued by queer and non-queer readers alike.

The Girls, originally published in the U.K., is available in the U.S. through Amazon, Bookshop, and other online (and offline) retailers The Boys is unfortunately not directly available in the U.S., though it may be bought from the U.K. via Amazon.co.uk or Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery). My sources tell me that the U.S. publisher of The Girls, Random House Children’s Books (which owns the Rodale Kids imprint), has not yet picked up The Boys for U.S. publication. If you’d like to see it sold directly in the U.S. (so it can more easily reach readers here), drop them a note: you can find them on Twitter or Instagram.

(As an Amazon Associate and as a Bookshop Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Major League Soccer investigating Sebastian Lletget for homophobic slur

Sebastian Lletget

Sebastian Lletget during the Italy v USA International Friendly in 2018 in Belgium. (Pier Marco Tacca/Getty)

Major League Soccer has launched an investigation into LA Galaxy’s Sebastian Lletget over a homophobic slur in a video he posted to Instagram.

The 28-year-old, who began his career at West Ham before returning to the US in 2015, admitted he “messed up” in sharing the video on Friday (9 April).

In the clip Lletget approaches his teammate Julian Araujo from behind, slaps him on the neck and calls him by the Spanish slur “puto”, referring to a gay man.

The offensive term has a long history of being sung as a chant by football supporters from Latin American nations. FIFA, the world governing body for soccer, has repeatedly sanctioned the Mexican soccer federation over its fans’ use of the insult.

Araujo also posted the video on his Instagram account, but it has since been removed by both players.

Major League Soccer immediately distanced itself from Lletget and confirmed it would be reviewing his conduct in an internal investigation.

“We have no tolerance for discrimination and prejudice of any kind,” the league said in a statement posted on Twitter.

“We are aware of the use of a homophobic slur by an LA Galaxy player. MLS has begun a formal investigation regarding the language used by the player and more information will be provided as soon as it becomes available.”

In a statement to Outsports, Lletget said he wanted to “address [the] impact” of the video, “not hide from this,” and thanked for the website for holding him accountable.

“I take full responsibility and ownership of what was an extremely poor and ill-thought phrase and have no excuse for my actions,” he wrote.

“I want to be part of the solution — not part of the problem — and continue to be an advocate and an ally for the LGBTQ+ community. Those who know me know my character and heart. I will remain outspoken in my support and advocacy. My error doesn’t change that.

“Thanks for your accountability. I need to do and be better.”

LA Galaxy were early supporters of the LGBT+ community within US football, according to the LA Times. In 2013 the team signed Robbie Rogers, the first professional player in US soccer history to come out as gay, and the team has hosted annual Gay Pride nights at Dignity Health Sports Park.

Quiz: What “Riverdale” Subplot Are You?

Quiz: What "Riverdale" Subplot Are You?

Every single Riverdale subplot lives in my mind rent-free, and while that is helpful when it comes to writing weekly recaps of the show, it is also my cross to bear. There have been five seasons now, and if you have been on this wild journey, then you know that no show does soap-opera-noir-gothic-horror-camp-absurdity quite like Riverdale. Take a walk down memory lane and find out which subplot speaks to your truest self.


Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a writer and critic currently living in Miami. Her fiction is upcoming in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. Her pop culture writing can also be found at The A.V. Club and The Hollywood Reporter, and she wrote the webseries Sidetrack. You can catch her on Twitter and Instagram.

Kayla has written 266 articles for us.

What my green shoelaces taught me about surviving in a violently antigay country / Queerty

What my green shoelaces taught me about surviving in a

The following is an excerpt from Queerty columnist Jeremy Helligar’s second book, Storms in Africa: A Year in the Motherland, available on Amazon. Follow him on his Medium blog or on Facebook.

I was anticipating the unexpected. I was fully prepared for some twists in the roads and bumps in the nights ahead (preferably unrelated to nocturnal lions!).

You have to be psyched for anything when you’re spending ten days truck-trekking from Dar es Salaam on Tanzania’s Indian Ocean coast up north through Lushoto and Arusha to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro region, then farther onward and upward to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city.

It’s a long, rocky road, though not one less traveled. If you momentarily lose your open mind or misplace it wherever you stuffed your malaria pills, any good tour company will keep encouraging up-and-ready-for-whatever alertness until you’re expecting the unexpected in your sleep.

Yet, something that happened while I was on that road fulfilling a lifelong dream (going on an African safari) with seventeen fellow tourists took me thoroughly and unexpectedly by surprise. It wasn’t discovering my thing for lions, especially those positively puppy-like baby cubs. That was a development I didn’t see coming, especially considering my general distaste for house cats. As a gay man who had been proudly out for more than twenty years, I was floored even more by how uncomfortable I was feeling in my own gay skin.

It must have been the place. I didn’t expect East Africa to be a bastion of welcoming open-mindedness when it came to gay people. I had been warned by the gay media, the mainstream media, and well-informed and well-meaning friends to be careful how I expressed myself there. Even my mother, who had become accustomed to my traveling to parts unknown and occasionally choosing to live in them, was concerned.

“Is it safe there … for gay people?” she asked when I mentioned my travel plans during a Skype chat several days before my departure.

Leave it to mom to get me worrying … and overthinking.

If I was exercising too-extreme caution when I arrived in Tanzania and started mixing with the locals, I couldn’t explain how it ended up extending to Westerners who normally wouldn’t have caused me any gay angst. Perhaps my situational self-imposed de-outing for the benefit of potentially homophobic East Africans unlocked all of those insecurities I’d left stuffed on a shelf in the closet all those years ago.

Every time I opened my mouth to talk to locals or to other foreigners, I found myself wondering what they were thinking about what I was saying and how I was saying it. Was I setting off their “gaydar,” if such a thing even exists?

It wasn’t as if anyone in my tour group gave me the slightest reason to feel ill at ease about my sexuality. Indeed, there was a gay twosome among the four couples, as well as four solo men, three solo women, and an aunt-niece pair from Holland. But still, there were so many moments when I felt like that gangly, awkward, insecure kid in middle school who was always one of the last ones picked for the sports teams during gym class.

So I overcompensated, occasionally playing the village idiot to shift the focus to something else.

“A cow antelope? Do cows and antelopes really have kids?” I asked, hoping to elicit a few laughs and drown out the nagging insecurity in my head while staring at my first hartebeest.

I wasn’t sure humor was the right answer, though, when I was standing face-to-face with a man from the polygamous Maasai tribe outside of Arusha who had just asked me how many wives I’d bagged. (“I have two,” he offered. “But I’m still young.”) Was he being as serious as his stern gaze, or was he trying to out me? Before I could answer, one of the Serengeti guides in the circle broke the awkward silence.

“Look at his shoe strings! He has no wives!”

Then he repeated himself. I tried to determine whether they were laughing with me or at me, unsuccessfully. I hung my head and looked at the pale-green shoe strings on my gray Nikes. Was I that obvious?

I hated myself for caring and for replaying in my head the comment that one of my fellow travelers, a woman from Perth, made when I declined to join the fifteen-dollar tour of a Maasai village in the Ngorongoro region.

“Jeremy, you might find a few wives there … or husbands,” she joked.

Was the addendum her way of saying “I know” (and letting everyone else at the table in on it, too), or was it her way of saying that one shouldn’t just make straight assumptions about anyone? Would she even have bothered going there if I had been more “straight-acting” (to use that dreadful phrase frequently used by homophobic gay men)?

Eventually, probably halfway through the Ngorongoro safari game drive, as I sat in one of dozens of 4x4s lined in front of and behind another group of lions, I realized that nobody was paying as much attention to me as I was. My fellow travelers were too enraptured by the feline scenery, and I was pretty sure most Tanzanians had more pressing concerns, like feeding their families.

My discomfort was mostly on me. But it did get me thinking, about why I had turned into such insecure mush, about whether it was a sign of a new me emerging (dear God, I hoped not!), about being gay in a straight world.

Most importantly, it got me thinking about those who had it so much worse than I did, including LGBTQ people living in countries and cities where they weren’t just imagining that everyone was looking at them, whispering, pointing, and disapproving. Being based in Cape Town, a gay mecca in a country where same-sex marriage was legal, I lost sight of how badly gay people elsewhere in Africa had it until I exited that comfort zone.

I could have done so much better than spend my time in Tanzania mired in self-doubt, but my over-awareness of my own sexuality and how others might have been interpreting my every move there led to a new and different awareness of how others who aren’t free to be live every day of their lives.

It was so easy to forget and to judge gay shame when I had lived most of my adult life in gay-friendly metropolises like New York City, Buenos Aires, and Bangkok. I could dismiss guys with faceless Grindr profiles in those cities as cowards, because, presumably, no one was risking his life by revealing who he was on the grid.

But in East Africa, the closet was more about survival than cowardice. Returning to mine was probably a mix of both, but after a week in the dark, I was starting to see daylight again — unfortunately just in time to return to Cape Town.

After years spent dreaming of East Africa and finally getting to experience her nature, I’d learned something about my own nature, too. I would leave humbled but once again proudly walking in my own shoes, green laces and all.

Related: What do white people say about Black people when we’re not around?

My local church rocking LGBT flags :) : actuallesbians

My local church rocking LGBT flags :) : actuallesbians

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