1. My coworker incorrectly tells me that 50% of gay people have AIDS. She is a biology student and they recently covered this in one of her classes, she says, so she’s more informed than me. I am gay, I tell her, so I have a better idea of what these numbers look like. She is persistent that it is 50% until I tell her to look it up, then she is not so sure if half of my friends have it or if the statistic actually refers to Africa or Europe. I tell her that more straight people have AIDS than gay people. She is caught off guard. They didn’t cover this in her class.
2. The auto shop doesn’t think I know better because my shorts are too short and I talk with a lisp. They tell me my car will be $800 to fix and will be ready in a week. I take it to a friend who does the job in 30 minutes for $50.
3. The day after the Pulse shooting. The local blood banks in Orlando lift a ban on collecting blood from gay men, but just for the day. The following morning, my blood is back to being useless.
4. Another coworker sends me a text, “Gay or not, what happened at Pulse is a tragedy.” I want to ask her what she means by “or not?”
5. I am 15 and lost at the airport. I spot someone my age by himself who seems to know what he is doing. “How are you getting home?” I ask him, genuinely trying to figure out How to Adult. “Get the fuck away from me,” he yells, backing away in a huff. Years later I realize he thought I was hitting on him.
6. My AP Government professor thinks it will be fun to debate whether gay couples should be allowed to adopt. He asks students who think gay couples should have this right to raise their hands. I am the only one who does. For the next hour, my professor silently watches as a 16-year-old me, still a child, argues that people like me are not bad role models to children. He does not catch on to the irony.
7. I am having dinner with an uncle who doesn’t know of my queerness yet. A gay couple is sitting a few tables away. One of them looks my way, maybe recognizing something in me, but probably not. “Don’t look over there,” my uncle tells me. “That’s what they do,” he says between sips of his oysters, juice trickling down his chin. “They stare.”
8. A friend gives me a pair of pajama pants as a birthday present. They are red with a cutesy pattern of cartoon frogs batting long lashes. Three months later, I find them hidden between my mom’s mattresses along with a pink shirt of mine and orange socks. Things that are too girly for her son.
9. “I would have never thought you were gay. You don’t act like it.”
10. In college, I send a guy my address on Grindr. He sends back a laughing emoji. “Yeah, I know the place,” he writes. “My girlfriend lives there.”
11. I tell a friend that as much as I love it, I stopped watching Gilmore Girls because of all the gay negative jokes. “What jokes?” she asks. I realize we are not watching the same thing.
12. “I don’t mind what you do as long as you don’t do it in front of me.”
13. “All of our friends are turning gay,” my best friend in the 9th grade observes. “Promise me you won’t be next?” he asks. I promise.
14. It is my grandmother’s 65th birthday party — really just an excuse for my uncles to get drunk on her behalf — I steal a few minutes for myself in my cousin’s bedroom. One of my uncles comes in and sits on the bed next to me. “Are you gay?” he asks, just like that. “No,” I say. “Good.” He goes outside to sing happy birthday.
15. “That’s so gay!” What is? Chapstick, skinny jeans, hair gel, tennis.
16. “So, who’s the girl in the relationship?”
17. Today’s topical morning talk show topic is “What would you do if your child came out as gay?” Another in a series of light, entertaining subjects as long as you don’t really have to deal with them.
18. I am at a bar with a straight couple. My friend excuses herself to use the restroom, leaving me alone with her boyfriend. He’s a friend, too, but still he takes a step back, suddenly noticing something on his shoes he can’t take his eyes off of. We get along well, but without his girlfriend around, he doesn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea.
19. “Are you like Will or are you like Jack?”
20. My girlfriend is having a sleepover. All the girls are invited and so am I, I think, except I find out that boys—even gay ones—aren’t allowed to come. Even though her parents claim to love me like their own, I can’t spend the night because they’re scared I might be faking being gay so I can have sex with their daughter.
21. I get pulled over for a run-of-the-mill traffic violation. Still, the way the cop looks at me, I feel obligated to make up something about being late to meet my girlfriend.
22. “How do you know you’re gay if you’ve never had sex with a girl?”
23. A little boy stares at my nail polish. I smile and wave. His dad grabs him by his hand and storms out of the store.
24. “Oh my God, did you see those two gay guys kissing?” a coworker asks. “Disgusting,” she continues, answering her own question. Heart pounding, I tell her I’m gay. She changes her mind. It’s not the kissing that’s disgusting. It’s the public display of affection. It’s not me, she tells me. I’m not like “them.”
25. A straight man is cast to play the gay lead in a film, again.
26. I am told that I am too sensitive for pointing things like this out, again.
27. “No homo.”
28. Someone scolds me, saying I should be grateful to have such an accepting mother. I could write a hundred lists about why she is a great parent, none of which include loving me “despite” being gay.
29. I tell a friend I am driving from Orlando to California. They have made this trip before and tell me from experience which cities I shouldn’t stop at because I won’t be able to get a table at a restaurant, much less a room.
30. “Be careful,” a friend texts me when she gets news of the Pulse attack. I understand where she’s coming from. She just wants me to be safe. But when am I not being careful? When I’m gay?