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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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That’s the thing about being a fag in the heterosexist South – it kind of makes you the unintelligible “other.” I clearly read as male, but my limp wrist and dramatic vocal inflection fell far outside the bounds of masculinity. Whether I liked it or not, my mannerisms were something of a slap in the face to the genteel Southern way. I was reminded of this often in the glaring eyes of passersby or the condescending tone of my teachers in school. They desperately wanted to put me in my place, to straightjacket my faggotry.

Far outside of the edge of acceptability, all of the niceties that the South is known for were largely cast aside. Such barefaced sissyphobia and heterosexism radicalized me, just as historically other disenfranchised communities have been mobilized by oppression (e.g. Blacks in the South under lynching, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina). It left an indelible mark on me, fundamentally changing the way that I navigated the world. Femme guys in the South, and other parts of the country, know what I’m talking about. It’s that ever-present feeling of impending danger, not terribly different from the fear that many women describe having when walking down the street alone at night. It’s my hesitancy to rely and trust others, particularly straight men.

Perhaps a story might better help to illustrate this. For the first year that I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I found myself living in an expensive private dorm called “Granville Towers.” A prissy fag through-and-through, I was lured in by their included room cleaning services. I never considered that the culture that went with such an elite, exclusionary dorm might not be entirely homo-friendly. My suitemate quickly came to exemplify that culture. He was a handsome, beefy Italian guy in the ROTC who came home violently drunk most evenings to pound his fists against the stall in our shared bathroom while screaming incoherently about some faggot or bitch that had pissed him off that night. Despite his rabid sexism and homophobia, I couldn’t shake my attraction for him. He had military cropped black hair, soft tan skin, and round muscles that I fantasized about grabbing onto while he moved on top of me.

During one of the first weeks of school, I found myself standing next to him in the fluorescent-lit elevator on our trip to the 7th floor. He was shirtless. The rational half of my brain implored me to mind my own business and stare straight ahead, though I was admiring his well-sculpted frame out of the careful corner of my eye. My prostate, however, demanded that I steal a quick glance to my right. Neither I, nor my prostate, was prepared to find him staring right back at me, rubbing his weighty crotch with a sneer on his face. Fuck. My eyes immediately dropped down south to his crotch. His athletic running shorts were glistening from the sweat dripping down his chest. Holy, holy, holy fucking shit. I jerked my hungry eyes away as fast as possible and concentrated on the elevator door. I knew better than to show any sign of interest. If this were an erotic story, I’d follow him to his room and he’d greedily fuck my face while telling me I was his cock-sucking bitch. He’d probably even spit on my all-too-eager face. But this wasn’t someone’s fantasy. This was desire laced with real danger. Was it a trap? I wasn’t willing to find out. I hurriedly left the elevator and locked myself in my room. I think I must have masturbated twelve times that afternoon.

It wasn’t long thereafter that I found out more about this Joe character. I was, as was oft the case, sitting at my desk chatting with folks online, when I heard him yapping on the phone with someone. This wasn’t terribly out of the ordinary; Joe was a loud guy, he made his presence known. And then he said the word “drag queen.” My ears perked up. “Dude! I didn’t know he was a fucking drag queen.” A few moments of silence. “Yea, whatever. So I guess I had sex with a dude. But, I mean, I didn’t know!” I was, at that point, leaning back in my chair with my legs pushed up on the desk; I almost fell backwards as I tried to digest this new information. There was more to Joe, it seemed, than met the eye.

Months later, I was typing away at my computer when my suitemate and a few of his friends came home drunk and angry. Joe stormed into the bathroom, spewing homophobic verbal diarrhea while banging his fist against the door to my room and rattling its handle. It was locked. My body froze with fear. This was nothing like his usual drunken homecomings. “LET’S FUCKING BREAK INTO THAT FAGGOT’S ROOM! ARE YOU IN THERE, FAGGOT?” Things began to move slowly. I tried to get up but my legs remained defiantly in place. “THIS IS THAT FAGGOT’S SHIT, LET’S PISS ALL OVER IT. YOU HEAR THAT FAGGOT, WE’RE PISSING ALL OVER YOUR FUCKING STUFF?” He hit the door, threatening to break it down.

Apparently my queerness had offended Joe’s sensibilities. I grabbed the scissors at my desk, not knowing what I would do with them if he somehow managed to break in. Stab him? Puh-lease! I had a hard enough time pricking my finger for my at-home HIV tests. But his rage was uncontrollable; his conflicts with his own desire were clearly tearing him apart. Luckily for everyone involved, the door withstood his beating.

I moved out of the private dorm and into University housing the next day. Despite the many people around to see (and hear) his tirade, my attempts to bring honor court charges (bringing charges in a university-run court system) against him were fruitless. I found out later that Joe was himself a member of the honor court. Call me jaded, but somehow I kind of doubt that the investigation was altogether thorough.

Whether or not Joe was “really” gay isn’t particularly important. What is important is how he impacted my life. Joe vividly illustrated to me just how fucked up and explosive this thing called masculinity could be, especially when threatened by my effeminate, queer desire. He cemented what the boys in middle school had tried so hard to tell me. To them, I wasn’t gay. Gay was too proud. I was a measly little faggot. A sissy. A bitch. I was worthless, God damn it. Why couldn’t I get that through my thick skull?


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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