QUEER VOICES
12/29/2016 09:12 am ET

27 Must-Read Queer Essays From 2016

Conversation-starting pieces from the last 12 months you need to read.

A lot can happen in twelve months. From the Pulse nightclub massacre to the controversy over transgender people using public restrooms, 2016 was a challenging year (to say the least) for the queer community. Many LGBTQ people spoke out about these events in hopes of clearing their minds, starting conversations and finding progressive paths forward.

Below are excerpts from 26 of the best queer essays published on The Huffington Post in 2016 by contributors to the site. The topics tackled include the big news stories of the year as well as smart and personal takes on issues like kink and masculinity that are all too frequently ignored. Check out a sample from each piece and then click through to read the full essay.

  • I Am Gay. I Will Not Be Tortured Again. By David Michael Conner
    "Our Vice President-elect, Mike Pence, is the same kind of person who populated my middle school and high school. I can&rsquo
    Steve Pope via Getty Images
    "Our Vice President-elect, Mike Pence, is the same kind of person who populated my middle school and high school. I can’t say whether he is one of the abusers who called me a faggot, who kicked me, flicked my ears, pinched and punched me in the locker room, and who ultimately caused me to read the suicide textbook 'The Final Exit' and stockpile pills throughout my youth as an emergency escape hatch. I can say that he is now the vice principal of the school: he is the authority who not only ignores but who actively encourages abuses against people because of their sexuality..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • 15 Sexuality Terms That’ll Make You Smarter By Mikki del Monico
    "Some may wonder: are labels necessary at all? I think so. Labels can feel validating — as well as limiting — but
    Yuri Arcurs via Getty Images
    "Some may wonder: are labels necessary at all? I think so. Labels can feel validating — as well as limiting — but what labels really represent is the fact that most of us want to feel like we belong somewhere. We want others with whom we can connect. So for myself and for those of you who don’t understand or even know about the rapidly changing “word world” of sexuality, here’s a primer on the subject..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • I’m So Glad My Husband Told Me She Was A Woman By Amanda Crose
    "I had to figure out what to do: leave, stay, or live together as friends? One of the hardest things about a breakup for a tr
    Leren Lu via Getty Images
    "I had to figure out what to do: leave, stay, or live together as friends? One of the hardest things about a breakup for a trans couple is that they usually want to be together but can’t. They don’t hate each other; most often, they are still in love.

    I definitely loved my husband. I didn’t want a life without this person I cared so deeply about, or a life with someone else. The only choice I could possibly make was to stay.

    But could I be happy living with a woman?"

    Read the full essay here.
  • Is My Friend Still Bisexual? A Handy Guide By Rachel Charlton-Dailey
    "I’ve been openly bisexual for the last four years now, but for three of those years, I was in a relationship with a ma
    bluecinema via Getty Images
    "I’ve been openly bisexual for the last four years now, but for three of those years, I was in a relationship with a man. Despite bisexuality meaning that someone is attracted to male and female folks, this confused a lot of people around me. When I became single again in February, I pretty much had to have a second coming out. Because I’d been with someone of the opposite sex for so long, many people had decided I’d “gone straight again.”

    I should have been baffled by this, but it’s something I’ve had to deal with for a long time. Even though it’s right there in the LGBTQ+ umbrella, people of all sexualities and genders still don’t believe bisexuality is real..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • It’s 2016 And Two Men Kissing Is Still A Stunning, Terrifying Sight By Noah Michelson
    "We can pass all the laws we can to secure our equal rights and still, none of it matters when fundamentally we are still see
    Pacific Press via Getty Images
    "We can pass all the laws we can to secure our equal rights and still, none of it matters when fundamentally we are still seen as less than, other than, sick, deviant, twisted, immoral and evil. 

    I’m trying to imagine what it must be like to see two human beings exchange a brief intimate moment and respond with disgust. How does someone get programmed to react that way? And how do we deprogram them and our culture?"

    Read the full essay here.
  • An Open Letter To Straight People On The Pulse Massacre By Connor Doherty
    "If you are a person who believes “tolerance” is enough, you are contributing to the problem. You don’t nee
    OLIVER BUNIC via Getty Images
    "If you are a person who believes “tolerance” is enough, you are contributing to the problem. You don’t need to beat up an LGBTQ+ person to commit a hate crime or encourage another person to do so. If you misgender Caitlyn Jenner, say problematic and incorrect things about bathroom equality, cringe at the thought of gay affection, or use phrases like “no homo” or “that’s so gay” you are contributing to the culture that fostered this crime..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • When Toxic Masculinity Gets Under The Skin: Confessions Of A Tenderhearted Butch" By Julie Netherland
    "Maybe it’s the absence of butch role models that leads me, like others, to fall back on traditional forms of masculini
    TommL via Getty Images
    "Maybe it’s the absence of butch role models that leads me, like others, to fall back on traditional forms of masculinity. Even though I have always known better — somewhere along the way, my butch identity got wrapped in ideas that were unhealthy for me and those close to me, like: I shouldn’t cry or be emotionally expressive, I shouldn’t be vulnerable or emotionally available, I should avoid asking for help at all costs, I should not seek medical care unless death seemed imminent, I should work my guts out, and I should never ask for directions. Being butch meant being brave and tough. Ridiculous. I know. And beyond being ridiculous, a set-up for a life far harder and less fulfilling than it needs to be..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • I’m In An Open Relationship, And There’s Absolutely Nothing Wrong With It By Otto Fong
    "What I am about to say is probably going to earn me a lot of hate. But I believe it’s time someone in the gay communit
    DRAGONIMAGES VIA GETTY IMAGES
    "What I am about to say is probably going to earn me a lot of hate. But I believe it’s time someone in the gay community address the elephant in the room that is open relationships. Because this is a conversation that we can all learn a lesson or two about diversity from.If gay people see different ideas of relationships as alien or something shameful, how can we ask straight people to see gay relationships differently?"

    Read the full essay here.
  • The Phrase Gay People Need To Stop Using By Raymond Miller
    "'<i>I</i><i>&rsquo;m not defined by being gay</i>.' <br><br>It&rsquo;s time we retired this phrase. There are a few reasons
    Rob Lewine via Getty Images
    "'I’m not defined by being gay.'

    It’s time we retired this phrase. There are a few reasons why it’s said, and a few (and much stronger) reasons why we need to no longer say it..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • Dear Caitlyn: Stop. Please. Stop. By Laura A. Jacobs
    "In aligning yourself with a politician and a party that espouse discrimination and violence (subtle and overt) at a time whe
    Axelle/Bauer-Griffin via Getty Images
    "In aligning yourself with a politician and a party that espouse discrimination and violence (subtle and overt) at a time when transgender people are still vulnerable, you have scorned the majority of your community. (See HERE and HERE, though there are countless more.) Do you genuinely believe any of your tourbus ‘friends’ will join behind hatemongering bigots who would eagerly eliminate services, marginalize all ‘others,’ and impose ‘religious freedoms’ to force our return to the shadows?"

    Read the full essay here.
  • Dear Creepy Heterosexual Men Guarding Our Bathrooms By Kasey Rosehodge
    "If you&rsquo;re telling me that there are high volumes of boys and men out there, in schools or in general, who are just wai
    Stuart Gregory via Getty Images
    "If you’re telling me that there are high volumes of boys and men out there, in schools or in general, who are just waiting for a “loop-hole” to sexually assault girls and women, we have bigger problems on our hands than bathrooms. The first problem would be your apparent lack of knowledge of how often it happens OUTSIDE of bathrooms, with no “loop holes” needed. This isn’t about transgender bathroom access. This is about you not trusting the boys and men in your communities and/or fearing that they’re all secretly predators. Why do you have this fear?"

    Read the full essay here.
  • Redefining What It Means to Be a Gay Black Man By Donovan Thompson
    "There lies an untapped potential within the black gay community that I believe needs to be unveiled and activated. Every tim
    NYCSHOOTER VIA GETTY IMAGES
    "There lies an untapped potential within the black gay community that I believe needs to be unveiled and activated. Every time I come across a think piece or Facebook post from some douchebag who writes about the agenda to turn black men gay, it reminds me that there are people that desire to erase us. What’s even more disturbing is the innate need many of us have to oblige them..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • Save Your Sympathy. You Are The Problem. By CJ Prince
    "The thing we need to get straight is that when politicians fail to support equality and instead pass discriminatory legislat
    Orlando Sentinel via Getty Images
    "The thing we need to get straight is that when politicians fail to support equality and instead pass discriminatory legislation or when they refuse to speak out against that discrimination, they are helping to foster the climate in which LGBTQ people are feared, scorned, hated and, ultimately, targeted. And then, when we are tragically reaping what they’ve sown, they offer their empty thoughts and prayers like so many crocodile tears.

    It’s time we say: enough..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • It’s Just a Bro-Job. No Homo. By Albert Serna Jr.
    "Being wanted is also one reason some men might have sex with other men. John said that one of the reasons he hooks up with d
    Adolfo Tigerino
    "Being wanted is also one reason some men might have sex with other men. John said that one of the reasons he hooks up with dudes is the feeling of being wanted. 'I think it attests to getting your heart broken by a chick and you’re just devastated. And you seek out whatever you can find I guess. You want to feel wanted, and why not feel wanted and get amazing head?'”

    Read the full essay here.
  • Welcome To My Life As The Nation’s First Transgender Teacher By Karen Topham
    "Everyone told me this wealthy, conservative suburb was the last place I&rsquo;d be able to make this sort of thing work. But
    JGI/Jamie Grill via Getty Images
    "Everyone told me this wealthy, conservative suburb was the last place I’d be able to make this sort of thing work. But I thought: Might as well try. One of the gay math teachers, when I told him what was going to happen, said, “Well, I guess that takes the pressure off of us!”

    Read the full essay here.
  • If You’re A Minority In America, The Terror Of This Moment Is Overwhelming By James Michael Nichols
    "Waking up today felt like waking up from a fever dream.Over the past 18 months, minorities have endured an immense amount of
    ANADOLU AGENCY VIA GETTY IMAGES
    "Waking up today felt like waking up from a fever dream.Over the past 18 months, minorities have endured an immense amount of collective trauma throughout the course of this long, arduous presidential campaign. Many of us have faced threats to the very core of our identities and beliefs, compounding the pain of this moment even more. And now, the man who lobbied all of those threats against us is set to hold the highest office in the developed world..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • I Do Sex Work So I Can Look At Myself In The Mirror By Angel Archer
    "I entered the sex industry because I lacked access to health care.<br><br>In the industry, it&rsquo;s common for women to us
    Angel Archer
    "I entered the sex industry because I lacked access to health care.

    In the industry, it’s common for women to use proceeds from their work to fund cosmetic procedures. It’s an investment — increase the market value of sexual labor by modifying one’s body in accordance with popular sexual aesthetics. Breast augmentation, facial surgeries, and gluteoplasty are all procedures commonly sought out by escorts, strippers, and porn stars.

    For transsexuals, this often has another dimension..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • Here’s What Happens When Women Refuse to Be Masturbation Sleeves By Jenny Block
    "Sex is the pursuit of pleasure. It is not the putting of Tab A into Slot B. That is reproductive intercourse. It certainly c
    Andy Batt via Getty Images
    "Sex is the pursuit of pleasure. It is not the putting of Tab A into Slot B. That is reproductive intercourse. It certainly can feel nice for a woman. But for more than 98 percent of women — it is not the road to orgasm.As a girl who used to sleep with boys and now only sleeps with girls, actually one girl in particular, I am now grateful for how much easier and more rewarding it can be to explore pleasure when the “how-to” is not prescribed. Figuring it out might seem daunting. But the truth is, as a queer girl, I do what feels good. I seek pleasure. And that is what sex should be defined by..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • The Taboo On Being Gay And Old By Peter Field
    "In the coming years, the LGBT community will continue to increase in visibility and in power. As society changes and becomes
    DAVIDS ADVENTURES PHOTOS VIA GETTY IMAGES
    "In the coming years, the LGBT community will continue to increase in visibility and in power. As society changes and becomes more open and accepting, it is likely that life for aging LGBT people will change for the better as well. But this will not happen until gay people themselves end the taboo on becoming old.

    As long as we maintain a dismissive attitude to older gay people, we will continue to fear the aging process, and we will continue to make those uncomfortable beds upon which we ourselves will one day have to lie..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • When I Told My Wife I Was Transgender, Our Whole Marriage Had To Change By Emily Crose
    "After I told her, we sat for a moment in silence, with tears in our eyes, wondering what was going to happen next. Would we
    bilderlounge/bilderlounge via Getty Images
    "After I told her, we sat for a moment in silence, with tears in our eyes, wondering what was going to happen next. Would we stay together? Could we even be friends from this point forward? What would the future hold for our 1-year-old son? Would I transition surgically, or socially, or at all? These questions posed a profound threat to everything that she and I had built as a couple. If we were going to stay together, it would be the hardest thing the two of us had ever done..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • Why Masculinity Needs a Makeover By Alexander De Luca
    "If we&rsquo;re going to redefine masculinity for those positive traits mentioned above, they must be accessible to all peopl
    JORGE GONZALEZ
    "If we’re going to redefine masculinity for those positive traits mentioned above, they must be accessible to all people, women, queer, trans, and nonbinary included. On that note, men can and should feel comfortable openly identifying with their feminine traits as well. It’s safe to say that all people have varying degrees of masculine, feminine, and non-gender-specific traits that make up who they are. No two people are alike. We should celebrate that, not try to bar people from expressing their true selves..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • Here’s What It’s REALLY Like Having A Transgender Parent By Ellie Tannehill
    "All together I feel that Maddy&rsquo;s transition was good for the family as a whole. Don&rsquo;t get me wrong, my parents a
    Brynn Tannehill
    "All together I feel that Maddy’s transition was good for the family as a whole. Don’t get me wrong, my parents annoy me to no end, but the ways they irritate me are the usual reasons why you would expect a teenager to be mad at her parents. My reasons for annoyance vary from being forced to clean my room to folding laundry, to insisting I be nice to my sister. Worst of all is how they’re always embarrassing me in front of my friends..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • The Uncomfortable Language Of Kink By J.A. Rock
    "Kink is about fantasy, yes, but people also base their play on some very harsh realities. From rape play to Nazi fetishism t
    Hans Neleman via Getty Images
    "Kink is about fantasy, yes, but people also base their play on some very harsh realities. From rape play to Nazi fetishism to slave auctions, to extreme scarification, gun play, bone breaking, domestic abuse scenes, prison beatings, and plantation retreats — events where black “slaves” go to actual plantations to serve white “masters” — kink is no stranger to ideas and activities that are potentially offensive and triggering..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • When I Told My Gay Son 49 People Died For Being Just Like Him By Amelia
    "I wiped my cheeks and said, &ldquo;A lot of people died, baby. &nbsp;And they shouldn&rsquo;t have. &nbsp;It&rsquo;s really
    HINTERHAUS PRODUCTIONS VIA GETTY IMAGES
    "I wiped my cheeks and said, “A lot of people died, baby.  And they shouldn’t have.  It’s really sad.” As I read through the accounts, my thoughts went to all those other mothers.  Those mothers who would never look into the bright eyes of their children again.  I cannot imagine that pain.  And I don’t want to..."

    Read the full essay here.
  • The Pain That Most Transmen Are Ashamed To Talk About By Virginia Soave
    "Immediately after hearing my partner&rsquo;s diagnoses, we both took to the internet to find other transmen who have experie
    HTU VIA GETTY IMAGES
    "Immediately after hearing my partner’s diagnoses, we both took to the internet to find other transmen who have experienced this type of pain and what they did to ease it. After hours of looking, we couldn’t find anything. Literally, there was nothing. No information on others like my partner with pain, what we could do for it before surgery, not even what transmen experienced during hysterectomies. Nothing. We were left feeling isolated and lost. Was he the only one having this? Is it life threatening? Does it go away eventually?"

    Read the full essay here.
  • 19 Reasons Middle-Age Gay Men Need to Get Over Their Midlife Crises By David Toussaint
    <strong>4.</strong> Because older gay men are as attractive as all get-out. You are the last generation of gay death and the
    Richard Drury via Getty Images
    4. Because older gay men are as attractive as all get-out. You are the last generation of gay death and the first generation of a new gay life, and that experience makes you more beautiful than any bicep bulge or flat stomach. And should anyone call you a “tired old queen” or “past his prime” or, in the immortal words of Jethro Tull, “too old to rock and roll,” their ignorant words should only make you grateful you know otherwise.

    Read the full essay here.
  • What It Means To Be A Gay Teen In A Jewish Ultra-Orthodox Community By Leah Lax
    "LGBTQ+ kids in fundamentalist societies have secrets to keep from a young age. They feel different when everyone around them
    GILDAROTTMAN VIA GETTY IMAGES
    "LGBTQ+ kids in fundamentalist societies have secrets to keep from a young age. They feel different when everyone around them is supposed to be the same. They are often shy, insecure, and crave love, and have no one in whom to confide. Abusive people can target kids like that, which is why LGBTQ+ kids in religious communities suffer very high rates of sexual and physical abuse, and a great deal of homelessness and drug addiction. And suicide. The rate is completely shocking..."

    Read the full essay here.
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