Most of my work at ET covering Caitlyn Jenner’s transition was as an editor, guiding and shaping language and story choices through months of public discussion up until Jenner sat down with Diane Sawyer. But along the way I ended up reading and watching and obsessing over every piece of archival material I could find that charted Jenner’s incredibly long and complex relationship with the media. This story was the most tangible result of that research.
Why we didn’t wait for California, and how our home states finally caught up
February 1, 2008: Our first date.
June 16, 2008: California begins issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples after the Supreme Court rules the state ban unconstitutional. I’m on staff at OUT magazine but get loaned out to The Advocate to help edit the flood of news stories about weddings. I’m in the middle of work when my parents arrive for a long-planned visit to Los Angeles and meet Jessica for the first time. Everybody cries and points at the TV a lot.
October–November, 2008: We each consider asking the other to marry her, even though we’ve only been together about eight months, but (we later confess) while we are both sure This Is It, we’re also wary of rushing the best thing that’s ever happened to us just because of possible political outcomes.
November 4, 2008: Obama is elected president. Proposition 8 passes in California, once again limiting marriage. Everybody cries and points at the TV a lot.
February 1, 2009: On our one-year anniversary, I ask, “Do you wanna get married?” She says, “But — I have rings! I was going to ask you!” We are at a hotel; her rings are at home, tucked away in her dresser drawer. I win.
May 9, 2009: In order to add Jessica to my health insurance, we do the paperwork for a California domestic partnership. It’s notarized by a guy named Howard at a Mailboxes Etc. in Malibu who never removes his Bluetooth headset. To mitigate the dumb humiliation of the whole mess, we drink champagne and eat cupcakes on the beach, then get tattoos.
October 10, 2009: In our Silverlake backyard, aided by several dozen friends and family members who insist on helping, we put on the best goddamned wedding-slash-party-briefly-interrupted-by-a-ceremony that anyone’s ever been to. There’s a spontaneous sing-along during the vows. Everybody throw glitter and blows bubbles. We don’t talk about politics at all, but we do get drunk and sing backup for our friends’ bands. The cops come because we’re too loud, and we just barely remember why it’s a bad idea to offer them Jell-o shots. For months after, people who were there will greet each other by yelling YAY BEST DAY EVER. Which it was.
August 4, 2010: U.S. District Court Chief Judge Vaughn Walker says Prop 8 violates the Constitution’s due process and equal protection clauses.
December 25, 2010: Jessica cuts her hand while cooking for a potluck. The ER staff say, blithely, that of course I can sign all her paperwork — I’m her wife. It is the best Christmas present I have ever gotten. It is overwhelming, and then depressing again.
2011–2013: Being married is awesome, but people are always asking us if we’re married-married, and the answer never gets less stupid or complicated or painful. We know we met each other at the right time to fall in love more easily and quickly than either of us had experienced before, but if it’d been a few months earlier we probably would have gotten in under the wire. We’re glad we didn’t wait for California or a court to tell us when we were allowed to get married, but we agree we won’t wait a minute longer than we have to when this bullshit is finally over to get all the rest of the paperwork done. We talk about our wedding all the goddamned time, partly because we’re smug and happy and annoying and partly because we know the more appealing it sounds the more outraged straight people tend to get when they realize we still need notarized, signed powers of attorney and have an always nagging fear that at the worst possible moment we won’t be able to convince someone in some stupid low-level position of power to agree we’re already fucking married.
February 7, 2012: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds Judge Walker’s decision.
June 26, 2013: The Supreme Court rules that parts of the broad federal law known as the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop 8 are unconstitutional. Back pointing at the TV, except this time Jessica is at a work retreat in New York, so we’re both on the phone crying.
June 28, 2013: The stay on same-sex marriages in California is lifted and marriages begin. Because it’s late on a Friday afternoon, Los Angeles County officials announce that its clerks will open Monday morning with full service to all couples.
June 29, 2013: Dress shopping! We agree it will be the one and only time we wear matching outfits, mostly because the forecast predicts very hot weather and we have somehow found a mutually flattering dress made of the lightest possible material.
July 1, 2013: We wait in line with a bunch of couples on their way to work at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, then come out the front doors to a flurry of photographer flashes and news crews. We have a brief ceremony in a West Hollywood park. There is a lot of crying and this time we are the ones on TV.
October 6, 2014: Same-sex marriages begin in Virginia, Jessica’s home state.
October 9, 2014: Same-sex marriages begin in Nevada, my home state.
October 10, 2014: Five years. FIVE YEARS. Life is long when you spend it with the right person. So far so good.
By the time I’d finished working on my outofficial story about Matt Bomer and HBO’s adaptation of The Normal Heart, I’d been convinced—by him and Ryan Murphy especially—that rather than seeing “the Glee generation” as hopelessly uninformed and uninterested in HIV, from current prevention efforts to the epidemic’s earliest history, that they might be especially interested because of this movie to want to learn more, more, more.
That said—as much as I thought it was an amazing adaptation of a very important play, it was all based on a very small part of the story of AIDS, and even a very small part of the story of the early epidemic among gay men in New York City.
One thing I especially love about Tumblr is how good people (aka “kids these days”) are at teaching each other things everybody might not know about history, or just life. There is more enthusiasm to LEARN EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW in online communities like Tumblr than I’ve ever experienced anywhere.
So, in anticipation that at least some of our friends and followers might hear about and have some questions or be interested in a deeper dive into AIDS history, my old friend michelet and I pulled together a Tumblr-based teach-in, kind of a mix of old-school DIY activism and new media strategy.
We wrote some posts, reblogged some of the many other backgrounder pieces done by other media, accepted submissions, and tried to answer as best we could some questions about the AIDS epidemic and its long, important cultural and political impact.
It was an unexpectedly intense and cathartic experiment.
Here are a few of the pieces I had more of a direct hand in:
The X-Men director on not really coming out, the queer allegories of superheroes and the power of Ellen Page
A little backstory: I interviewed Bryan Singer in late February 2014 and found him smart, intense, intimidating, passionate, candid and self-aware. I was excited to talk to him for OUT because the X-Men franchise is among the biggest movie series ever and has an undeniably queer allegory at its heart. (According to Singer, even Stan Lee agrees with the metaphor.)
This article was originally slated to accompany Singer’s appearance on OUT’s Power List, in the May 2014 issue, but got bumped to June/July because of space limitations. The issue was just being finalized when the lawsuit against Singer alleging he’d sexually assaulted a teenager in 1999 was announced. Singer has denied the allegations and declined any further comment to OUT.
These are serious allegations, and there are a lot of conversations to have about Singer’s presumed innocence or guilt, and about the outdated and homophobic language that is being thrown around even now by news outlets covering this lawsuit. There’s an even bigger, and vitally important, discussion that we all need to keep having about consent, sober consent, informed consent, enthusiastic consent, and how it is impacted by the age and/or relative power of the people involved. None of that is addressed in this article, but not because I think we should stop talking about it.
On fame, his gay uncles’ legacy, and how the best thing for his ‘Hunger Games’ character might be a threesome
Josh’s quotes—including his matter-of-fact description of himself as “mostly straight”—were reported on by thousands of outlets, including People, a CBS This Morning segment and this viral Tumblr post, which garnered half a million likes or reblogs.
We’re a clingy couple with no kids—so why does moving to a smaller, cheaper house feel like a step back?
It’s easy to say, we’re trying to get back to a simpler way of life. We need a fresh start. We don’t need all this space. And all of those things are true.
It’s a lot harder to resist all the value judgments we—especially we Americans—attach to the idea of downsizing, even if we’re doing it to ourselves.
There are three main reasons we decided to move:
1. For the living situation we have now, we’re overpaying. We really like our landlord, who lives in the back house on this same property. In the almost three years since we moved in, she’s met a serious boyfriend, gotten engaged, he moved in, they got married. We like him too. But now it’s much more like living in a duplex than it is a house with a very quiet and seldom seen young landlord, and if that had been the situation coming in, we might not have been willing to pay so much for the house. We weren’t digging ourselves into a money pit with this place, but we definitely weren’t able to get ourselves into a better financial situation. In order to pay down our debt, our biggest fixed expense needed to come down as much as possible.
2. We have more space than we actually need. When we moved out of our last house, we’d been married for almost a year, together for more than two, and we were ready to live as a married couple without roommates, no matter how much we loved them. The longer it took to make that transition, the more I think we began to crave space. Lots and lots of space.
So we ended up in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house. We have a guest room that occasionally hosts our out-of-town (or in-town but inebriated) friends. It has a huge desk I once loved so much I loaned it out rather than get rid of it in a too-small apartment but now never use. It has a full-sized treadmill my wife does use regularly. There are not one but two half-empty closets, one in the guest room and one holding coats we never wear because, oh right, we live in Los Angeles. Having a second bathroom is a nice luxury but far from necessary. We have cabinets in our huge kitchen and in the laundry nook that been gathering dust since we moved in. We have two dining room tables (one serving as a game table in the back of our enormous living room which I now occasionally use as a desk). We have a bar with three drawers filled with junk and two cabinets of liquor we barely touch any more. (There are not one but two kitchen drawers filled with junk, which somehow offends me so much more than having just one.) And because of #1, we have a backyard patio with a barbecue that we almost never use any more, even though we used to all the time.
Also of note here: we are not that couple who likes to be in different rooms doing our own thing. We are that couple who gets confused if we are out of eyesight of each other. We are those people who don’t want a king-sized bed because then we don’t touch during the night. We’re awful and you hate us already but basically we’re clingy as fuck and feel better when we’re nearby.
3.Living in the house where your dog died just plain fucking sucks. There’s all the usual ghost-like haunting memories on top of the creepy trauma. In the month since he died, this has begun to suck only marginally less (like maybe 10 percent, like I can walk in the door sometimes without bursting into tears) than it did that first week. So while maybe after a year of feeling terrible about it (which sounds terrible) it would have gotten better on its own, given #1 and #2, we actually started looking in a more timely fashion instead of just whining about possible change.
But now that we’ve found a place—a smaller, cheaper, cozier place—it’s really, really hard not to feel like we’ve failed. In finding this place, we actually overachieved at our stated goals. It was our first true day of open-house hunting, eliminating weeks of hauling our asses around town, getting overwhelmed and stressed out and dispirited. The landlord is a mensch who told us stories of fighting housing discrimination in the 1960s and then gave us a really good deal. (I call it the sorry the world isn’t as excited as they should be that you’re gay discount. We’ll take it.)
And, well, the place is small. It’s by far the cleanest, most well-done renovation we’ve seen in any apartment over many years of looking at places here in LA. There is a large outdoor rock garden that I’m already really inspired by. But it’s not by any stretch of my overactive imagination big.
And why should it be? We’re a clingy couple with no kids who are trying for really the first time ever to be super-responsible financially and make decisions based on more than just creature comfort.
This is what my mom, and also the Lorax, calls a problem of biggering. In that hippie-kid Dr. Seuss book (a beloved in our home), the Lorax battles an industrialist named the Once-ler, who wants to use the forest’s beautiful truffula trees to make ever-more garments whether anyone needs them or not. As the Once-ler says (in the 1972 animated TV special):
Ha! You speak for the trees? Well I speak for men, and human opportunities! For your information, you Lorax, I’m figuring on biggering and biggering, and biggering, and BIGGERING, turning MORE truffula trees into thneeds! Which everyone, everyone, EVERYONE NEEDS!
Calling us out for biggering was my mom’s way of ending whatever lose-lose arms race my brother and I had gotten ourselves into. And though I believe this was truly a philosophical and moral lesson, it was also a practical one: we were pretty poor. I spent a good deal of my childhood living in a trailer, or a euphemistically named mobile home. We couldn’t afford to keep on biggering.
This was a lot easier to remember when I was a kid, no matter how jealous or intimidated I was of my classmates’ wealth, either relative or true.
Now I’m all grown-up and it’s hard not to give into the easy American equation that bigger is better. Bigger house. Bigger lawn. Extra bedrooms. Extra bathrooms. This is what we fought for! A grand foyer is what everyone, everyone, everyone needs!
Instead we are obsessively inventorying every item we own. We have to get rid of stuff. Stuff we probably don’t need, but some stuff that we might want or wish we could keep even if it mostly sits untouched and unread and unused in another room. We are struggling, even on paper, to fit some antique furniture my wife got from her family into this new living/dining room.
We are struggling, mostly, to shed the idea that this downsizing, this un-biggering, means that we have somehow failed. Even though it’s been a fucking awful year full of dead friends and animals and big changes and anxiety, and even though we somehow made it this far, it’s tempting to see this next move as a step back. A regression.
Dr. Seuss’ Oh The Places You’ll Go is a popular gift for graduating college students, full of wonder and optimism for every special snowflake. But maybe once we’ve gone those places, what we really need is to get back to The Lorax.