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Trevor Hoppe

By Trevor Hoppe
Trevor Hoppe is currently a graduate student in the joint PhD program in Sociology and Women's Studies at The University of Michigan. He hails from North Carolina, where he spent four beautiful years at UNC Chapel Hill before moving to San Francisco to get his Masters in Sexuality Studies. He has a long history of LGBT activism, which continues today with his work on HIV prevention and gay men's health. You can find his website here.
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y gender has always been markedly different from most boys I’ve known. Even when I was eight, I remember being much more content playing at my friend Becky’s house with her dolls than playing t-ball with the neighborhood boys. At school, I was always the proverbial last kid picked for sports. I didn’t really mind. I hated sports. Nothing scared me more than a small, spherical object hurling towards my face. Of course, I kept all of this to myself. Even then, I knew that others would disapprove of my not-so-masculine preferences.

After faring well academically in elementary school, I decided to ship myself off to an “International Baccalaureate” public middle school program to further my academic pursuits. I was, admittedly, a bit of an overachiever. This accelerated program, almost entirely white, was housed in a neighborhood school where 99% of the students were Black. My mother, who taught science at a nearby public elementary school, dropped me off on her way to work. It took about 30 minutes to drive from our home in the wealthy, predominately white suburbs of South Charlotte to my new school, tucked away in a working class neighborhood just a few minutes from I-77. Strip clubs and long-abandoned drive-in movie theatres peppered our daily commute.

I was a happy-go-lucky little boy, unabashedly feminine in the way that young boys can be when masculinity isn’t yet quite so hegemonic. I would run and jump and skip on my way to class, unaware that this was no longer appropriate for boys in middle school. After a few days of 7th grade, a few of guys came over, laughing, and asked me if I could dance for them again. They were referencing my playful way of skipping and whistling that had become habit. Sheltered in the suburbs, I had no way to comprehend my new environment, clouded by racial tension and a kind of masculinity regimen. Middle school was bad enough as it was; the stark segregation between the school’s programs didn’t help matters.

Not too long after the dancing debacle, I was crouching down at my locker, fiddling with my books and deciding whether or not I needed my protractor, when a class began to file out of the room to my immediate right. As they began to walk past me, I heard some of the guys in the group laughing. I didn’t think anything of it; I had already gotten used to kids laughing at me – which, in middle school, is what you assume anyone is doing when they laugh with your back turned to them. Without warning, one of the guys kicked me square in the back, knocking the wind out of me and slamming my forehead against the metal locker. Shocked, I looked up as the guys were walking away laughing, mumbling something about “Yea, he’s a total fag.” Out of what was I’m sure a combination of both kindness and pity, one of the girls walking behind them stopped to let me know I had something on my back. It was a yellow post-it with “Kick me if you think I’m gay” scribbled on it in black felt-tip ink.

At this time in my young life, I was a confused conservative child who argued with his seventh grade English teacher about abortion – a product of my father’s penchant for Rush Limbaugh. I didn’t actually understand any of the arguments, but I was familiar with the talking points. Similarly, I had heard many people use the word “gay” to describe people, but I had no way to comprehend what that meant. From what I had heard on the radio, it seemed that being “gay” had something to do with having sex with animals, pedophilia, and generally being morally bankrupt. It came as something of a surprise then, when I found a sticker attached to my back that labeled me as such.

I was quite sure that I wasn’t interested in sex with animals or children. I did, however, feel a peculiar attraction to other boys. When I was 12, my mother stumbled across my collection of steamy man-on-man porn pictures that I had spent hours downloading and printing out on our home computer while my parents were out. I kept them stashed in the lining under my cat’s pink bed. Needless to say, such a thing is hot when you’re alone in your bunk bed, but decidedly not when you see it dangling between your mother’s fingertips. The photos were, shall we say, well worn. My personal favorite was a picture of a hot three-way going on in front of a fireplace. All the men were dripping wet with sweat as they fucked each other silly. Now, clutched in my mother’s hands, even the sexiest picture looked dirty and shameful.

My exploration of the Internet was not curbed by her unwelcome discovery. Since I had first happened upon them while cruising around Prodigy (one of the first dial-up Internet providers in the US), I had been fascinated by “M4M” (men for men) chatrooms. I was so fascinated, in fact, that I had logged countless hours reading the endless chit-chat that scrolled down the computer monitor. When two of my friends came over to spend the night, I decided to divulge to them my experiences with these strange cyber-rooms filled with mysterious men. Why I thought it prudent to share with them my curiosity, I’m not sure. As if discovering my porn collection wasn’t enough for the mother of a 12-year old to try to wrap her head around, dear old mom overheard our entire late-night conversation. When she approached me a few days later to talk about it, I managed to negotiate my way out unscathed by telling her that we should simply cancel the service. Out of sight, out of mind, I hoped. Confronted with the damning nature of my actions, I was just as freaked out as she was... (continue reading)

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Jason Dilts said:

"Gender, at least as it is currently understood, makes free expression nothing short of impossible – for all of us."

WOW!! This line struck me more than anything-- and there was a lot about this essay that I really connected with. I think that even within the gay community, gender plays a terrible constricting role. Your examples of the Boston "bigwigs" who wanted to parade out the "acceptable" homosexuals is one way this plays out within our community.

With this project, and your writing, I'd say you are well on your way toward becoming a role-model and opinion leader for gay men, much in the grain of Eric Rofes. Sullivan, Savage, and the Queer Eye Cast don't got nothing on you, honey!!

Posted at: May 21, 2008 9:58 PM

Trevor Hoppe said:

Jason -- thank you for your kind words :)

Posted at: May 22, 2008 12:33 AM

Proud Mary said:

beautiful essay.

I'm an MTF transsexual, and I live in the Philippines, so I can't say that I identify 100% with the experiences that you'e described. Still, the article is touching, and it is scarily illuminating: much of the gay culture that I've come into contact with seems all to eager to shun minorities within the subgroup that are "embarassing" or "contrary to the cause".

I loved it, keep up the good work : )

Posted at: June 2, 2008 4:54 PM

Jeremy said:

What you wrote was interesting but I really don't get what you plan on doing with your life. This and seem more like a hobby than anything else. I would assume your are living off of your parents money to fund everything. I don't see what purpose any of this serves. Sure growing up gay is difficult. It's not accepted as normal anywhere in the world. I know it is normal because i'm gay. You have to learn some things on your own.You are feminine and so are a lot of other guys but there is not as far as I know any reason to study it. Thats what gaydar is you can pick out some hint of being feminine. What difference does being gay have to do with anything anyway? It's who you like to be with or have sex with. Try getting a job where you need to work for a year and them write about how a rich kid actually worked for a year. Paris Hilton you aren't.

Posted at: September 1, 2008 8:13 PM

Burgess said:


You have impressed me greatly. Who would have ever thought after our first one or two meetings we'd still be in communication.

Although I know you think I'm the most egocentric person you ever have met, I foresee great promise and future in all of your endeavors.

You're a great man Charlie Brown. Please keep me informed of any and all published work you have forthcoming, I truly enjoy reading it all.

I miss our fights and those long lectures.... Don't tell anyone, but I may not vote R this time...

Hope you and your family are all well.

Much Love,


Posted at: October 14, 2008 11:52 PM

Daniel Reeders said:

This is great, I loved it. It captured something I really regret about my own life - hardening up, developing sharp edges, and feeling ashamed of the gentle self I was as a child.

I'm interested as well by the response of the commenter Jeremy (above, 1 Sep 08), as it reminds me of responses to my own work on sexual racism. It seems quite strained as he labours to construct a class difference he can invoke as a reason to hate 'on' you. He really, really doesn't want anyone to ask these questions, does he? For some, the indeterminacy that we've learned to cherish is a frightening place they're keen to leave as far behind them as possible.

Posted at: October 21, 2008 11:49 PM

Trevor Hoppe said:

Daniel -- Yes, the comment from Jeremy is disingenuous at best. He makes some big assumptions about me and my life, without hesitation. I guess I never responded out of some shame that I am an academic, and a recognition that that comes out of a place of privilege. I'm not sure when the idea came around that arguments from anyone with privilege are worthless, but its surely pervasive in feminist / queer / anti-academic circles (those are separate but overlapping spheres). But one thing is clear: he had no interest in engaging the arguments, and instead decided to write a hit piece on me. That's all too often how we engage.

Posted at: October 23, 2008 7:59 AM

Tamar said:

Hi Trevor,

That was a very eloquent essay and I was truly touched by it. Although my experiences so far in life have been very different from yours--I'm a young woman who has grown up in very open-minded communities in the North and who now identifies as "interested in people" (what most people would call bisexual)--you articulated a lot of things that have been on my mind recently and that I've discussed and tried to express with my friends. Thank you for giving my feelings words.

I just found this website and I really like the essays and messages. Good luck with everything you do in the future.

Posted at: November 16, 2008 2:39 PM

Trevor Hoppe said:

Thanks, Tamar! I hope you enjoy the other essays in the collection! And please do spread the word! xoxo

Posted at: November 17, 2008 7:00 PM

Eve said:

Amongst other things, as someone formally interested in web design, I wanted to say how wonderful the design of this website is. It reminds me of google in its concept- clear, clean, simple, effective, accessable- which makes it all the more beautiful. The one thing I would suggest though is that the essays themselves are inside an iframe, as to reduce loading time.

Posted at: December 10, 2008 9:30 AM

Paolo said:

I have a slightly different interpretation of those days. However, it was interesting to read about how you perceived who I was. Your perception is very valid and made me giggle, though I feel it paints a picture that is not all that close to my actual reality at the time. Not to say that I wasn't going through similar hardship, but I think I was coming from a very different place and I took a very different path. I haven't finished the article, busy trying to memorize music, but I will finish it soon and would like to talk about this later. Cheers!


Posted at: December 2, 2009 12:33 PM

Chris Clampitt said:

I thoroughly enjoyed this great essay. Perhaps this is a cheap point, but it reminded me of the pain and humiliation individuals face when they fall outside of gender boundaries. It's those individuals I need to be fighting for, even more so than myself.

Posted at: June 9, 2010 2:45 PM

Oliver said:

As an 18-year-old feminine transgender man who's interested in activism and the intersections of oppressions, I'm having a hard time finding inspiring queer male role models who critique society in the way that you do. This site--and your fantastic essay--makes me hopeful. Thank you.

Posted at: December 19, 2010 4:56 PM

Trevor Hoppe said:

Aw thanks Oliver :) I'm glad you're finding the collection useful! xoxo

Posted at: December 20, 2010 1:00 PM

David Perl said:

Trevor, wonderful piece! You are a brilliant writer with a great voice. I agree with your closing comments that as the more extreme forms of homophobia shift to the background of our culture, they have a disproportionate impact on poorer and more rural gay populations. You are right on in your fear that the big cities may become complacent and less likely to shake the status quo. But why the attacks on Dan Savage and Andrew Sullivan? Aren't they good examples of queer, "out-there" people who are fighting for gay marriage, comprehensive sex education, and acceptance for gay youth via the "It Gets Better Project". I wouldn't paint them with the same heteronormative brush just because they've gone mainstream, they still have a lot to offer to the conversation on gender and sexual equality.

Posted at: June 7, 2011 2:38 AM

Trevor Hoppe said:

Hey David, thanks for your comment. I've mellowed out a bit politically since writing this piece. But Dan Savage I think has really repugnant politics when it comes to deviant sex, and it frustrates me. The "It Gets Better" campaign was pretty incredible - though I'd like to see half that energy put into actually getting legislation changed. But I understand that cultural campaigns like that can often have powerful effects, sometimes moreso than legal change.

Andrew Sullivan has all but repented for his neoconservative years. The work he's been doing on immigration equality has been tremendous.

Anyways, glad you've enjoyed the piece. Hope you enjoyed other ones here! xoxo

Posted at: June 14, 2011 8:38 AM