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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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It was only through the company of other faggots in Chapel Hill that I was able to deal with Joe’s jarring attack. I stumbled upon my new posse of homos at the local coffee shop on a particularly slow evening in September. A boy named Andre quietly passed me a note that read in jagged handwriting, “Power House – You know.” I didn’t “know,” but I was quickly whisked 10 miles away to the Waffle House in Durham with Andre and two of his friends. They had officially invited me into what would soon become my new queer family in Chapel Hill. After a sweaty night of dancing and debauchery at the gay bar, we’d head over to the sleazy 24-hour eatery with a laptop, order greasy food and coffee, and sing songs by Fiona Apple, Whitney Houston, or perhaps even a tune from the musical Rent.

At each stage of my young life, I have been blessed with friendship groups of queer men like this who nurture, inspire, and motivate me. While not all of these men have necessarily been a caricature of femininity, we have all dabbled in the art of camp together to create a kind of collective identity. All of us had struggled as outsiders in a culture obsessed with an image of masculinity that we did not resemble. Being in the South only exacerbated this feeling of alienation.

It was this feeling of alienation that facilitated coming into my political consciousness. Growing up in a household rife with “GOP” political commentary (my father would insist on making us listen to conservative talk radio on family road trips) had, early on, familiarized me with the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that is 21st century American politics. I launched my career in activism in high school, when I directed and performed in a Broadway Revue with a group of my theatre friends that raised nearly $1000 for the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. In a North Carolina public school, AIDS was the closest I could come to doing anything in the realm of queer activism. It was also something of a slap in the face to my high school, where I was the only openly queer person.

It wasn’t until college, however, that I really began to find an intellectual space to challenge the culture that I had always viewed with suspicion (and, likewise, that had always viewed me with a healthy dose of suspicion). Though I was lucky enough to have a US History teacher in high school who assigned Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States, the vast majority of my teachers never asked us critically examine American history or, for that matter, American culture. Not even the local LGBTQ youth group asked these kinds of questions, settling for just making sure we didn’t get AIDS or kill ourselves.

My professors in college, on the other hand, demanded that I do so. I was particularly drawn to feminist critiques of culture for the way that they challenged norms of gender. I had a lifetime in training in understanding the grave shortcomings of the gender binary. Women’s Studies classes with professors like Sherryl Kleinman, Karen Booth, and Pamela Conover, all gave me new critical tools with which I was able to build a queer political consciousness. We read from authors like Suzanne Pharr, who eloquently made clear the links between homophobia and sexism, and Kate Bornstein, who has with great wit and humor made the case for actively disrupting the notion of the gender binary. Women’s Studies was the only academic space at UNC in which I could have these kinds of conversations.

With a foundation in feminist analyses of gender, critically examining how race and class structure our world was made easier. My experiences in the predominately white program in middle school had already primed me to understand the kinds of privileges that came with my white skin and wealth. Feminist critiques of race and class from folks like bell hooks and Patricia Hill Collins challenged me to more closely examine how my skin color and class had lubricated my movement through life. I was called to ask questions about my life and American culture that I had never before considered.

It was with this understanding of identity that I eagerly founded the Unity Conference at UNC-Chapel Hill during my sophomore year. I wanted to put together a program that would explore where sexuality and gender identity intersected with other kinds of identities like race, class, ability, and age. I searched for speakers who could make those links evident – from the Black lesbian activist Mandy Carter to the wonderfully theatrical activist and performer Nomi Lamm. I also looked for inspiring political thinkers who could help inspire political action, like former National Gay and Lesbian Task Force director Urvashi Vaid, who keynoted the first conference.

After directing the conference for three years, it became increasingly clear that the political leaders that I sought were almost exclusively woman-identified. During my junior year at UNC, I wrote an editorial for the campus queer magazine, LAMBDA, expressing my frustrations in finding queer male mentors. It was appropriately titled “Where the hell are all the feminist queer men?” While feminist women had certainly given me the tools to understand my own life as an effeminate queer man, I was finding few resources from other men who shared my experiences and politics.

At the same time, I found myself more and more disillusioned with the national LGBTQ movement that, it seemed, was less and less interested in radical change. I spent a summer in Boston working for one of those national organizations, hoping to find a movement that made room for all kinds of queer people. Instead, I found myself in big-shot meetings of Boston’s major LGBTQ nonprofits that were focused on planning events that highlighted the experiences of those who were more “marketable,” while desperately trying to keep the rest of us out of the photo album... (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