Why I'm Obligated to Be as Gay as Possible in Trump's America

In the face of hatred and political regression, my life is inherently political. And that means I have no choice but to love and have sex as much as I can.

by Jeff Leavell
06 January 2017, 5:00am

As a gay man, it's sometimes hard not to see my whole life through a political lens. Everything from who I love to how I love them and how many of them I love, who and how I fuck, the number of men I have sex with—all the ways I live my life have suddenly become politicized. Maybe it was always this way, but now, weeks before Trump's inauguration and on the eve of our new Congress, it all feels so unavoidable.

I am an HIV-positive, polyamorous-oriented gay man in an open triad relationship. And that feels normal to me. It's surreal to know these things that feel integral to the man I am are antithetical to the newly emboldened political and religious institutions out to demonize people who live lives like mine.

I often find myself under attack for the choices I have made, as if my life is somehow inherently wrong. It doesn't just come from right-wing fanatics, either—I see plenty of hatred from gay men, who call me greedy and selfish, amoral, a danger to the fight for gay equality. They tell me that my life stands as proof of every ridiculous fantasy conservatives have advanced about the queer community. It fascinates me, because all along, all I've been trying to show people is that it's OK to be who you are, to live the life you want and love who you want. It's OK to fall in love as much and as often as possible, to fuck who you want as often as you want, to be OK with your HIV status and how you look and act and all the other ways people will try to stigmatize your body in this world. It's OK to be who you are, and if that's not "queer," I don't know what is.

I have a friend in his early 20s from a conservative, religious, Trump-supporting family in rural America. He recently went home for the holidays, and before he left LA, we had discussed his plans for finally telling his family that he's gay. But the first night back home, he texted me: "I can't do this. My father is saying 'who cares about George Michael dying, he was just a faggot with AIDS.' How do I tell them about me?"

I recently went Christmas gift shopping with another friend, buying presents for his brothers and sisters, and I was struck by how carefully he tiptoed around buying anything that could be perceived as anti-Christian—nothing Harry Potter–oriented, nothing that had anything to do with magic or science fiction. He told me he's not allowed to talk about being gay to his family if he wants to spend time around his siblings.

I've been lucky to live my life in a bubble of progressive liberal values and tolerance. After my husband, my father was the second person I told I was HIV-positive. I remember exactly what he said to me: "I love you. Go to the doctor, get on meds, and live your life. This is just the beginning of something new. It isn't the end."

The idea that a parent's love could be conditional on something like who their child loves is foreign to me, to put it lightly.

And in a world where we're gunned down and targeted based on that fact, one where fighting for our basic right to express our partnerships and unions became a hellish political battle, and one where our transgender and gender nonconforming peers are routinely denied basic human dignities, being lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and queer is without a doubt a political act. We are at the outset of what looks to be a monumental political battle

The question, then, is this: Do we have an obligation as members of that community to behave in certain ways? To be aware of how conservative or straight people perceive our lives and lifestyles? Do I, as many of those who read my work seem to imply, have an obligation to behave in a certain way?

In response to my writing, I've been told that open relationships aren't "real" relationships. That I clearly don't love my husband; why else would I need not one but two boyfriends? I was once told that I "deserve AIDS" for being such a slut, and that I should "drink bleach and die" because my lifestyle was a direct attack on morality. I have been told that I am the problem with gay men.

The obligation I think I have is to live my life in the opposite manner that my attackers would seem to believe I should. It's an obligation to be the truest self I possibly can be. I believe, in my heart, that I need to be as gay and proud as possible in my life and writing for all those who can't. I believe I should fuck and love and enjoy my life as much as possible, and that in the face of hatred, the only logical response is to fall madly in love and find happiness—to be as greedy as possible, because I want every fucking thing that life has to offer. And I want queer people everywhere to know that they can live the life they want, too. Because even if their lives aren't like the one I've chosen, they deserve to live them however they want.

Why should any of us be obligated to live our lives according to someone else's idea of how that life should look? If I want to be the sluttiest, piggiest, faggot in the world, why the hell can't I, without fear of persecution or judgment? As long as you're true to who you are, then live the life you want. And if you can, live it as big and as loud as possible. Live it in the face of persecution and hate.

Friends of mine aren't shy with their frustration on how to make meaning of the election—how to react and behave. But I think that if our sexuality and gender are political, we have an obligation to throw it in the faces of those who would rather see us die and show them that we will not back down to their rules and constraints on our lives.

The only obligation I have is to honor who I am, and that means being the gayest fag in America. It's an obligation to treat those I fuck with respect, to hold those closest to me as tightly as possible, and to scream their names as loud as I can, to let the whole world know that in the face of hatred I choose love. Because who I love is radical and who I fuck is political. I suppose I'm condemned to hell, so fuck it. Let's make the most of it while we can.