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Out and Proud in Korea

Out and Proud in Korea

Growing up in a very conservative Christian, very controlling home meant often hearing how revolting my parents (my mother specifically) found homosexuality. Any signs of homosexuality—whether it was from people or bumper stickers—always brought a disgusted sound and remark from my mom. I went to a small, private Christian university and didn’t realize I was gay until age 22. Because of this, I planned on being celibate for the rest of my life. I came out to my mom, my siblings, and a few close friends soon after, but kept it to a few, unless it came up in conversation with people I trusted.

It wasn’t until I came to Korea, ironically enough, that I really started living out. After a few years here, I left Christianity and started dating. I hadn’t dated anyone before, I hadn’t been kissed before, and I most certainly had never had sex before. For the first few months, I felt out of place. I can’t tell you how many guys saw me as a freak for being 25 and a virgin. It was maddening because I just wanted to find someone and no one was giving me a chance. Not to mention that I live in a country that is obsessed with image and a long-haired, hairy, fat guy was just not what anyone in or around my city was looking for (plus the whole virginity thing). I have received messages during my time here asking me to shave my body hair for a hook-up (That’s way too much work!) or telling me that I would look better without a beard and with short hair (gurl, bye).

No

It wasn’t until I went to Singapore for a short vacation that I met this amazing guy who was not only super fine but also didn’t look at me like I was a freak for never having been kissed before. We spent every day of my vacation together. The third day I was there, he took me to my first gay bar. It was amazing being there and being able to kiss and talk in a safe place. I remember a lot of things about that night and of being with him for that week. He was my first—in every sense of the word. We were sort of together for a year and he even came to visit me in Korea. Those two weeks that I spent with him were two of the best weeks I have ever had. He had his flaws and our whatever-it-was had its flaws, but he taught me that I am someone who others can be attracted to.

It was another year before I got into the gay scene in Seoul. I went to a few events where I met some amazing people and started hanging out more often in the city than I ever had before. Every queer event that I attended brought me new friends. I had only spent a little time up there because I live an hour south in Cheonan, which is close enough to visit, but far enough away that it can be annoying.

A photo posted by Nick Holmes (@nickthehottie) on

Arriving at my first Korean pride festival in 2015 was pretty intense. When we (some friends and I up from Cheonan) got to the event, the borders were surrounded by anti-LGBT “Christian” groups protesting. They were dancing, singing, shouting condemnation, crying, praying, and holding numerous signs telling us how wrong homosexuality is. Once I entered the area, though, it all melted away. There was so much love. My favorite part of the whole day was marching in the parade. It was one of the most empowering and inspiring things I’ve ever been a part of. Just days before pride, SCOTUS ruled that same-sex marriage was legal all across the US. It was so great to see how far sexual minorities have come in both Korea and the United States.

This year’s pride event was also amazing. The protesters seemed to be less in number and volume. There were still a few points around the outside where they were holding signs of hatred in Korean while spewing words of “love” in English. I spent the day with some friends drinking, walking around to some of the booths, getting free stuff, dancing, and getting rained on. I thought the rain would deter people from coming, but the square in front of city hall was packed by the time they started directing people out onto the streets for the parade. We marched around downtown Seoul (same as last year). People were holding signs, dancing, drinking, and being merry. The crowds watching the procession had varying responses. Many were joining in the celebration, some were crying/wailing/praying, others were calling down damnation, and the rest just watched in confusion.

Pride 2016

It wasn’t until last year that I realized how important pride events are. Queer rights in Korea are basically non-existent. This country has such a long way to go to get where they need to be when it comes to human rights—but I have seen some changes. It’s been wonderful watching those of the younger generations embrace their queer friends. A really good friend of mine, who is getting married to another dear friend and moving to the US, came out to all of his friends and they were all accepting of who he is and who he loves. Another friend and I just threw him a bachelor party with all of his best friends and we all had a blast together.

As a gay foreigner in this country, I have it so much easier than my gay Korean friends. I’m out to everyone I spend my time around here—Korean or foreign. I have a great support system among the friends I’ve made here and have even been able to come out to a few coworkers over the years.

In order for Korea to move forward, more Koreans need to lead that charge. I understand the hesitation to come out, though. Queer Koreans with enough courage and strength to come out to their friends and family face ridicule, exclusion, and being forced out of their homes. I feel like this is a Catch 22 (is that the right phrase?) because things won’t start changing until there are more visible queer people here, but, for Koreans, coming out can have such dire consequences.

Flag of South Korean LGBT (source: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure where I see the queer community in Korea in the future. You know that feeling when you’ve been complacent and unsure for a long time, but you just know that something is going to happen soon—for better or worse? That’s where I feel like Korea is right now in regards to queer rights. I am hoping that something wonderful will happen, but that is up to those within the community itself: those who are out of the closet and those who have yet to leave it. Both this year’s pride festival and last year’s had the highest numbers of attendees than in years past. But, there has also been a lot of pushback. May those who are fighting continue to do so, regardless of how people respond.

Thanks Nick for sharing your story. I am super honored to have you be the first person ever to guest post on my blog and so grateful to have you as a friend.

Hugs and hugs,

Peter

Nick (the author) and Peter (Mustafa Jones)
Nick (the author) and Peter (Mustafa Jones)
I convinced myself that I’m HIV positive

I convinced myself that I’m HIV positive

My sex life is nothing to brag about. Although I do have some good stories about a Turkish Airlines flight attendant whose name means “dolphin” and a guy who literally ran out of my house pre-hookup, my sexy times aren’t great. Like any good Midwestern boy, I pledged my virginity to God until I started dating a dude. Since then, I’ve had some short-term relationships but mostly one-time things that happen after nights out. My special friends and I don’t really end up doing too much sexually. I typically am really tired at this point in the night and gay sex requires so much preparation! Not something you can just do spur of the moment, in my opinion.

I never really thought too much about contracting something from my limited sexual encounters. I always used protection and went to school in a college town in Oklahoma. There are a fair amount of homos in Norman, but the group is quite incestuous so if you’ve slept with one person, you’ve indirectly slept with everyone. Of course, STDs and HIV exist even there, but I thought that my standards would help me avoid ever contracting one of those diseases/viruses/skin conditions. I didn’t meet up with people from Grindr, Adam4Adam, or Craigslist. That was too risky for me. So, I thought that I was, without a doubt, clean.

My sexual promiscuity peaked during my year-long study abroad in Turkey. It was nice to be in a city of 15 million people where I got more attention for being a foreigner. This was all fun until I came back to the U.S. While I was at home for the summer, I decided to get my first STD/HIV test to make sure that I hadn’t picked anything up. While I waited two weeks for my results, I convinced myself that I was dying from AIDS. I remember watching a movie where there was a funeral. I started bawling because I thought of how embarrassed my family would be burying me (after I had died from AIDS) knowing that I had contracted HIV most likely by having a mediocre one-time sexual relation with someone whose name I couldn’t remember. I didn’t want to die in general, but death by AIDS seemed to be the absolute worst scenario at the time. On the day I was to pick up my test results, I was babysitting my 11-year-old sister and decided to take her with me to the clinic. To my relief, everything came back negative. I celebrated by taking my sister to Wal-Mart and letting her pick out whatever she wanted as long as she didn’t tell my parents where I took her. She chose chicken nuggets.

After that, I pushed my fear of STDs to the back of my mind for a couple of years. I returned to Norman to finish college , dated a couple of guys, hooked up with a couple more, and didn’t think twice about it. I wasn’t sick. I didn’t have pus coming out of my penis. Life was ok.

After graduating, I moved to DC and thought things were going to look up for my sex life. A new study from Gallup found that 10% of DC residents identify as LGBT. I had been going through a dry spell of almost a year and wanted to get some action. Like a prepubescent girl, I still hadn’t gotten over the last guy I was seeing the summer before. My drought finally ended, but not in DC.

I went to Puerto Rico for Labor Day weekend by myself to take a break from everything and randomly booked a hostel online. Later on, I learned that all of the staff there were gay. What luck! I then kind of hooked up with the hostel manager in a back room on a nasty-ass mattress. “Live a little,” I thought.

But once I returned, paranoia set in that my tropical tryst might have been riskier than I expected. Although most of this was the result of my anxiety, I also blame the epidemic levels of HIV in the city I live in. Although this article is a little old, it shows how DC has HIV/AIDS Rates Higher Than Some African Countries

WHAT?!?!

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I also have met (not in the biblical sense) more people here that either live with a sexually transmitted disease or virus or have been treated for one. I’m scared that it’s inevitable that I’ll get one too.

So, I am 100% in favor of HIV/STD testing and prevention but it seemed like an omen that I started noticing a million signs for HIV testing and living with HIV all over DC. I could brush my paranoia aside for awhile but after a month, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to know. With trembling hands, I went to the local community health clinic after work one day, sweating bullets. What if I was HIV positive? Could it really happen to me? While waiting, I saw all of the other gay guys checking Grindr. I don’t use that, so I should be fine, right? When my number was finally called, the nurse drawing my blood had to use a smaller needle because I was so nervous that my veins had constricted. I tested negative that time as well, so I audibly breathed a huge sigh of relief and patted myself on the back. Then the nurse told me that there is a window period of 1-3 months where HIV antibodies develop. This means that I couldn’t be sure that I was HIV-free until December. Wait…what?

As I celebrated my negative status by treating myself to (read: gorging on) frozen yogurt, I started to realize that for two more months, I would be living in sexual purgatory. I would sit at work and look up all of the symptoms of HIV: flu-like sickness, rash on the chest or back, night sweats, mouth sores, weight loss. Then I would go home and convince myself that I had these symptoms. So, I would get tested again. And again. Over the last four months, I have been tested for HIV EIGHT times. I went to two clinics twice, bought two home testing kits from CVS (took one in the bathroom at work), and got tested by my doctor twice. I was a mess to say the least.

And the condoms! Everyone wanted to give me condoms. One lady gave me a bag with 62 condoms and 28 packets of lube. Really? I doubt that I’ll have sex 62 more times before I die at the rate I’m going.

Here are some photos to guide you through this terrifying time of my life:

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Paid $40 for this HIV test at CVS. Thank God for that coupon.

Photo on 1-9-14 at 10.23 PM #2 Photo on 1-9-14 at 10.23 PM #3 Photo on 1-9-14 at 10.23 PM

What am I supposed to do with all these condoms???

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This is what 62 condoms and 22 packets of lube look like
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This is what I look like wearing 62 condoms and 22 packets of lube

All praise be to Jesus, all 8 tests came back negative for HIV and I’m well outside of the three month window period. I can now return to my normal DC sex life of not having sex because no one is interested and because it scares the shit out of me.

But in all seriousness, HIV and STDs are scary things that I do not wish to ever have to deal with, either physically or emotionally. I’m pretty sure that I’ve traumatized myself just by thinking that I have something, so I cannot imagine what it would be like for that to be a reality. But for a substantial amount of people, it is. This little scare episode led me to learn a lot about these health conditions as well as to accept that an STD or HIV is not the end of the world. HIV affects men seeking men disproportionately more than heterosexual men and women, so it is a real concern, especially in a large, gay-friendly city like Washington, DC. But, along with all of these statistics that I can now spout out in my sleep, I’ve learned that tolerance is just as necessary as education. Before all of this, I had assumed that all HIV-positive people slept around and were dirty. If I were positive, people would probably start to think the same about me. But this isn’t true and it isn’t necessary. People are people are people. Some are black; some are white; some are purple. Some are HIV-positive and that’s ok. Not ideal, but ok.

Another big lesson I took away from this is that it’s alright to be picky about who you have sexy times with. I always thought that I had been, but there are nights when I definitely lowered the bar and went home with some questionable characters. And no matter how desperate I was for a some sexual healing, I now know that a one-time hook-up can have some serious consequences. So, be safe. If you need a condom, I’ve got 62 that are up for grabs.

Birthday. No Sex.

Birthday. No Sex.

I really hate my birthday. It’s not something I look forward to. Every year’s the same. I’m still single and still not famous, just another year older. But, although I try to avoid it, it keeps happening. So, I suck it up and usually find some way to celebrate with friends. It’s pretty much impossible to coordinate all of my DC friends’ schedules, so being the goober I am, I made an online survey for my closest friends to fill out to decide whether I should have a party at all and if so, when. I got a kick out of some of their responses.

What is your favorite type of alcohol?

  • Vodka or rum

  • I want to drink all of the alcohols with you but I will be on a plane to koala land!

  • Tequila, gin, whiskey, rum. Just NOT VODKA. (You kno dis.)

  • Rum pumpumpumpumm. Also cider.

  • All of the above

  • Bourbon

  • Champagne!

  • vodka!

  • Doesn’t matter, cheaper/trashier the better

  • gin and tonics!

  • Tie between vodka and gin. But really I’ll drink anything 🙂

What kind of snacks do you want?

  • Dip baby!

  • Pickles are always a hit. You can also use the juice for shots!

  • Pizza?

  • All the snacks. Except for hummus and shit like triscuits.

  • Cookies and goldfish (live ones) Jk

  • Chocolate

  • I’m not picky

  • Whatever you have for me

  • dont care

  • Diabetes inducing

  • BIRTHDAY CAKE

  • Cheese and crackers, potato chips, hummus, any of the above.

  • Bourbon

Do you want to have a good time or are you going to be a lame ho?

Good time: 12 people (92.31% of respondents)

Lame Ho: 5 people (38.46% of respondents)

What should the theme of my party be?

  • ANTM

  • Mammals & grandmas

  • … Gay… Stuff? Idk, Heather. I’m not good at themed stuff. Although if you provided me with an excuse to wear heels that would be p cool.

  • Cats.

  • Celebrate Peter time?

  • Sex. No babies.

  • Chelsea’s sad she can’t be there

  • Let me think on this

  • Diva Day–everyone dress up as their favorite Diva! Wish i could come 🙁 I will be out of town–leaving Dec. 11th. buttt have so much fun!

  • Celebrity mugshots or the whole party is the rupaul challenge where they’re celebrities

  • ANTM, and you are TYRA.

  • “Congress Can’t Shut Us Down”

  • good times with lame hoes

If you read my last blog post, you know that I went to Oklahoma for a weekend trip and lost a few good friends during my travels. I came back the week before my birthday and wasn’t feeling too excited about throwing this party that I had already made a Facebook event for. But you only turn 17 once, so I figured that I should follow through and make the best of things. Over twenty people came to a party put on ONLY BY ME and no one was a dick, which warmed my heart a million times.

The turnout to my birthday party as well as the presents and special messages I received on my birthday really blew me away. I value true friends a lot, so I get really upset when one of my friendships seems to crumble like it did in Oklahoma. However, my birthday made me realize that there are some people that truly care about me, and those are the people I need to surround myself with. Advice: Don’t fixate on asses that just waste your time and emotions.

Sappy conclusion:

I care about people in my life a great deal and am fortunate to have made so many happy memories with them. They all inspire me to be a better person and keep chugging along when things get tough. A big thank you to everyone that has played a part in my life so far and sent me a shout out on my birthday (even if it was a simple FB wall post). I hope that your life is filled with love, happiness, and cats. May the spirit of Oprah bless you and your loved ones during this holiday season and lead us all to success and (in my case) fame.

Blessings,

Pita Mustafa

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Oklahomos

Oklahomos

This past weekend I went back to my old stomping ground of Norman, Oklahoma. Although I hated going to college there at first, I grew to like the town and made a lot of close friends and happy memories that I hold dear in my heart. I hadn’t been back since the summer after graduating, which was actually one of the most fun times I can remember. When I wasn’t working, I spent all my free time hanging out. And because I didn’t have any classes to worry about, I could actually loosen up and have a good time. I even started seeing a guy that I REALLY liked.

Right as I was hitting my stride that summer, I found out that I had been offered an internship with the UN in Armenia. I had been waiting for news like this for a while, but when it finally happened, I was hesitant to accept it because I didn’t want to leave everything behind and be so far away. I got the email one morning when I was lying in bed with this boy. It was a little awkward to share the news with him because I knew that my good fortune would mean the end of our short relationship. Even after my internship, I probably wouldn’t move back to Norman. And he showed no sign of leaving, so distance seemed to be the factor that would ultimately end what we had. However, we continued seeing each other until I left and didn’t really break things off.  He even said he’d wait for me.

I think that if I had still been in Norman, things would have turned out differently. But, despite trying to use Facebook and email, he eventually gave up talking to me after I had left. (I seem to attract boys who like to stop talking to me after stringing me along). It was harder for me because I was alone in Armenia and hated my internship, the country, and how I couldn’t find a paid job. I knew he was still hanging out with our old friend group because I saw pictures. It was sad seeing that everyone had moved on, but I knew that my friends still cared about me (or so I thought).

I came back to the U.S. in January and immediately starting working and living in Washington, DC. It had already been six months since leaving Norman, but I still missed my friends and wanted to go back to visit at some point. I was confident that everyone would be happy to see me, even this boy despite the fact that we had moved in different directions.

This past weekend was my long-awaited homecoming. I had only told a few friends that I was coming because I figured they’d let everyone know and I also love a little element of surprise. I was nervous about what was going to happen with this boy! Would he still think I’m attractive? Would he be nice to me? I spent most of the week preparing myself to tell him that I have a rash on my junk (not an STD) so sex would be a no-go but other stuff would be ok. I knew he was still hanging out with my best guy friend. I saw their pics on Facebook. But they’re just good friends, right?

WRONG. VERY WRONG.

As soon as I got in my friend Selina’s car at the airport, I found out that they’ve been dating for months and are pretty serious. They even live together in the same room. Ouch! That hurt. Oddly enough, this isn’t the first time this has happened to me. While I was studying abroad in Turkey, I found out through Facebook that my ex-boyfriend and best friend were dating. I was hurt not that they were together, but that neither of them felt the need to tell me. Isn’t that friend etiquette? Ask your friend before you go out with his ex? Nope, Oklahoma gays have proved to me that there is no code of conduct and that hos always come before bros. I mean, even before I left for Armenia, we all talked about this scenario happening again. And I made it known that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if they got together, but please please have some consideration and tell me so that I don’t look like a fucking dumbshit.

But there I was on my first night back in Oklahoma, and I already wanted to turn around and go back home. If these guys didn’t have the decency to tell me that they’d been dating probably ever since I left a year and a half ago, were they really people I cared to associate with anymore? I figured that I’d see them at some point during the weekend and that they’d want to see me. I even brought them presents. I just wanted to first state that my feelings were hurt but that I didn’t have a problem with them being together (even though inside I did. I’m taller and better looking than my friend so why the step down?) I thought once we moved past that, things could be ok and we’d just hang out and have a good time.

WRONG AGAIN

I only saw my “friend” once at a bar with a bunch of other people. (The boy hid from me the entire weekend.) It wasn’t really the best time to talk so I didn’t bring up anything substantial. We were just hanging out in a group, but then I would have a thought cross my mind like “You lost your virginity to my ex” or “I wrote you a fucking poem when I was in Armenia and this is what I get?!” After that encounter and some consulting with my friends, I decided to ask to have a talk the next day. He ignored my texts and made FB statuses and tweets like “idgaf” and “frankly u can ess my dee.”  Who could he be referencing?… APPARENTLY IT WAS ME!!!

Selina hinted a couple times that this friend had some major baggage that he now felt toward me. I don’t know the exact details (because no one can communicate) but apparently, he is completely fine not having any sort of relationship with me. Really? Look through your friend group in Norman and realize how many of your friends you met THROUGH ME including your current boyfriend. I wish I could give all the examples of things that we did that exemplify how close we were, but it’s kind of useless now. Although I know I shouldn’t fixate on the loss of friendship because I am a sexy young professional in DC and they are college dropouts working minimum wage jobs in Oklahoma, I do feel like a loser. I mean they have someone to cuddle with every night. They share cats. They’re even going to California together. And I come home every night alone to write on my blog and brainstorm ways to get my own TV show. I mean, financially I’m way better off, but emotionally, I’m empty.

This experience has also caused me a lot of trauma because these weren’t just average friends. I loved one with all my heart and I cared a lot about the other as a friend and as more. The lack of any sort of compassion for the situation I was in this weekend really threw me. I felt bullied by my friend, who now claims that I was a shitty person to him throughout our friendship. Do all my friends think the same thing? Do I have any friends? Does anyone love me? Does Oprah still love me? I’m a big mess right now. So, if you’re reading this, feel free to let me know if we’re still friends or if I should delete you from FB too. Also, hugs are appreciated.

TL DR:

I went back to Oklahoma to hang out with my friends who I thought were still my friends. It turns out my ex-love interest and (now ex) best friend are dating and living the perfect life of poverty with their fucking cats. Neither of them and none of my friends felt the need to tell me. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. And I guess that I was a terrible friend because my ex bestie thinks I treated him badly and wants nothing to do with me. I want to call him something creative, vulgar, degrading, hurtful, and insulting but I can’t because in my head, he’s still a friend. But, somewhere between last summer and now, he drank some Kool-Aid that completely tarnished his opinion of me. Now, I’m confused about everyone and everything in life.

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