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Hola Papi,
I am from India, where you might know that homosexuality is regarded as a crime. While we hope and wait for acceptance in our country, what's more agonizing is that we ourselves (LGBTQ crowd) are yet to accept each other.
So there is this guy I met via Grindr. We chatted for a few days, and a week later I went to his house for what was supposed to be a coffee date. But one thing led to another, and it ended up as a hookup (without any intercourse).
What I thought would be a one-time fling turned into frequent meet-ups. But even though I am a so-called “straight acting guy” (god knows what that means), he is scared to even let me go in front of his roommates. I feel like I have committed a theft when I go to his room. But then again, he seems to be so caring.
I am totally sick of this and I want to never meet him again, but the fact remains that he is the only guy who has compassion and isn't like the typical fuck-and-forget crowd. I don't know what is happening. I feel like a fool.

I’m going to be honest with you, Nameless. Your email has been haunting my inbox since I received it. Every once in a while, between online shopping, reading nuclear missile updates, and exchanging (extremely wholesome) pics (of my face only) on Grindr, I would think of your letter. And I would think of you, out there in this confusing relationship, and I would worry about you.

The truth is, I can’t pretend to know the first thing about your situation in India, or about your country’s views on LGBTQ rights and identity. I can do my best to learn, but it will never quite match up to what you know from walking around in your shoes every day.
And so in the moments when your letter surfaced in my mind like the shark from Jaws, I thought to myself, “What if I give him the wrong advice?”

I could tell you that you deserve a man who is proud of you. That would be true. I could also tell you that there are men out there who would be all too happy to introduce you to their friends. That, too, would be true. But I would be saying those things perched in a coffee shop in a progressive city where homosexuality isn’t a crime.

What if, in my American ignorance, I gave you advice that hurt you, or hurt this man?
These were my worries, Nameless. You’ve stressed me out quite a bit, as you can see. But I did not launch Hola Papi! to complain. Though I would love a column where I only complained. Give me a word limit and a decent rate, and I’m there. No, I am here to help you as best I can. And when I read your letter, funny as it might sound, I saw something so heartbreakingly familiar that I knew I at least had to try.

I know how that distance feels, Nameless. I know what it feels like when he moves his hand away from yours when someone walks by. When he introduces you as just a friend, or doesn’t introduce you at all. When he scoots ever so slightly away from you. The distance can be so small, but it doesn’t matter. It’s an emotional distance. An abandonment, of sorts. It says, “I’m ashamed of you.” And it hurts.

It punched me right in the gut when you said that you feel like you’ve committed a theft when you leave his room. Oof. That’s not a feeling anyone should have to feel. And yet, I know so many of us have felt it.

Isn’t it wonderful and strange and sad, Nameless, that we can have similar experiences and yet be so far away from one another? That, without even knowing it or thinking about it, someone on the other side of the world is feeling what you’re feeling? I suppose that’s the magic of our community. Or the magic of Grindr. Or both, why not?

But I noticed something in your letter that I’d like to push back on a little because I think it might help you contextualize what’s going on here. You say that we LGBTQ people are waiting for acceptance, and yet we haven’t accepted each other. That can certainly be true. I know plenty of gay men who are downright nasty to one another, and gay men who only care about the capital G in this acronym of ours. But, Nameless, in situations like yours, it’s also often the case that it’s a matter of someone not accepting themselves.

The pain you feel from this otherwise kind, compassionate man not accepting you, I reckon, is similar to a pain he probably feels as well. When he doesn’t claim you in front of other people, do you think it’s because he’s rejecting you, or is it because he’s rejecting himself?

It’s a vicious cycle, Nameless. It truly is. And it’s unfortunate. But in a world where we are taught that there’s something wrong with being who we are, it can be a long, difficult journey to self-acceptance. That rejection sits inside of us, and is fed every single day; when a friend makes an off-color joke, when we hear a slur, when people we care about say things like, “I’m just not comfortable with it.” It takes deep root and it germinates. It can make us hate and reject ourselves. It can make us ashamed.

That is what I believe this is about. And so, the question then becomes: Are you willing to navigate that with him?

I must reiterate that, at the end of the day, I don’t have to worry about the criminalization of homosexuality in my country. I am a big dumb American whose ridiculous head is filled with Cheese Whiz and John Cena memes.

But nonetheless, I do know this much: Every relationship comes with its unique set of challenges, and every relationship requires some level of compromise. We have to be willing, however, to take a thorough inventory of what we’re able to give, and determine how much is too much.

So I want you to put it all on the scales, Nameless. I want you to, on one side, weigh the pain of being hidden. Weigh all the times he hasn’t claimed you, and all the times you’ve been hurt. And then, on the other side, I want you to weigh the things you like. Weigh the fact that he’s compassionate, and the way you feel around him when things are good.  

And then, on one of those sides, Nameless, I want you to weigh yourself. You. Your happiness, your well being, your limits of what you’re willing to wait for, and your reasonable, measured expectations of how this is all going to turn out. If you do that, and it comes down to a place where you find yourself having to choose between him and you, well, count me in as a humble advocate of “you.”