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  • “It was the worst thing you could be called as a high school boy. It was interchangeable with stupid, or ‘things we don’t like.’ Math homework was ‘gay.’ Gym class was ‘gay.’ So I grew up feeling that if people knew who I really was, they would find me disgusting and unlovable. And that extended to my own family. My parents never spoke about sexuality at home. The few questions they did ask would project straightness onto me, like: ‘Do you have a crush on any girls in your class?’ But for the most part there was silence. And in some ways the silence was worse. Because it suggested the subject was too taboo, too tainted, to even bring up at the dinner table. My parents were liberal. They’d let me read whatever I wanted. They took me to R-rated movies. We could talk about murderers and terrorists, but we couldn’t talk about that. So I kept it a secret. Until the age of seventeen when my sister read my diary, and told my mother what she’d found. I felt powerless. Caught. I pleaded with them to let me tell my father. He was the one who coached my little league teams, and encouraged me to watch action movies, and showed me pages from the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. So I was most afraid of his reaction. I walked into his bedroom at 3 AM, and shook him awake. I couldn’t even bring myself to say the words. ‘Remember my friend Sean?’ I asked. ‘He doesn’t come over anymore because I told him I have feelings for him.’ What happened next is kind of a blur. But I remember my father holding me, and telling me that he loved me as I was. It was a nice moment, but the next morning I couldn’t even look him in the eye. I tried to sneak out the garage door, but he called me from the top of the stairs. ‘What I told you last night stands,’ he said. I’d always thought that coming out would be the end of the work. From the little you see in movies, and how it’s spoken about—it’s supposed to be the ‘happily ever after’ part of a gay person’s life. But for me it’s when the hard part really started. I had to look in the mirror, and ask: ‘What did all this conditioning do to me?’ My father had just looked at me and said: ‘I love you unconditionally.’ Why couldn’t I say that to myself?”
  • “The technician quickly told us that it was a girl. But then she started taking longer, and finally she asked us to step into another room. Our doctor delivered the news gently. But then she sent us to a specialist who wasn’t so gentle. ‘The measurements are all off,’ they told us. ‘We need to know how you’d like to manage the pregnancy.’ It was surreal. I was firm in my decision, but I can empathize with women who feel like they have no choice. Because in that moment I doubted that I would ever be able to meet the needs of my child. She had a condition called ‘skeletal dysplasia.’ Her bones weren’t growing like they should, and she might not even survive. I’m usually a fairly private person, but this time was different. I didn’t care how many people knew. There were prayer chains and Facebook groups. My friends got together without me knowing, and they prayed over us. We received letters from so many people: family overseas, people we’d lost touch with, people we’d never met. We hung them all in the bathroom until the entire wall was filled. But a few weeks before our due date, we received the worst possible news: Elliana’s chest cavity hadn’t grown enough, and there wasn’t room for her lungs. I asked the doctor to give me the odds, but he just shook his head. We began to plan for her funeral. I could feel Elliana kicking inside me as we chose her urn and filled out the paperwork. I remember wanting to stay pregnant forever so that she’d always be safe. On the day of her birth, the waiting room was filled with people who loved us. They prayed from 10 AM to 5 AM the next day. I still keep a picture of that waiting room hanging in our hallway. And it’s my favorite picture, because it reminds me of all the people who petitioned for Elliana’s life. And we got our miracle. I struggle with it sometimes, because I know so many people lose their babies. But Elliana came out breathing on her own, and the doctors were in awe. Eight years later—they’re still in awe. Our story has a happy ending. But even when it seemed like a tragedy, I never felt alone. I never felt like the story was my own. Because in my darkest moments, a community of people chose to share my burden.”
  • When you build your home on social media, there’s a feeling of impermanence. An awareness that things can end at any moment. An algorithm might change. Or people might move on to newer, or brighter, or shinier things. So I’ve tried to prepare myself for that. With every story that hits just right, and reaches millions of people, and causes them to feel something—I try to remind myself that all of this is a massive privilege. And I should never take it for granted, because it can disappear at any moment. But I’ve been telling myself that for ten years. And for ten years you’ve kept showing up: for the stories, the series, the fundraisers, and the events. You’ve had patience with my failed artistic experiments, and you’ve supported my successful ones. And in the middle of a pandemic, and an election, and a hundred other things, you’ve once again helped a HONY book become a #1 NYT Bestseller. (With a significant assist from our mutual friend Stephanie.) So thank you for that. And thank you for everything. If it all disappears tomorrow, I’ll live the rest of my life in gratitude for everything that’s happened. But here’s to hoping we have another ten years together. And another. And another. Because for me at least-- every year seems better than the last.
  • “I started having problems my second year of college. At first it was a lot of pain, and vomiting, and fatigue. Ben and I were doing long distance at the time, so he’d drive up on the weekends to take care of me. But during our visits, I’d always think: ‘He doesn’t have to be here.’ I wasn’t that fun girl anymore. The one he met while dancing on a table in Mexico. We could no longer do those things. And during one particularly long hospital stay, I decided to help him break away. I was going to write him a long letter, and pack up my things, and disappear. But I was never able to do it. Because I got too sick and needed him around. We ended up eloping in Las Vegas so that I could qualify for health insurance. And ever since then it’s been years of -isms and diseases. I’ve had eleven surgeries. So much of our relationship has been dictated by my health. We have three beautiful children, and there are days when Ben has to do everything: the cooking, the cleaning, the homework. But he still promises me that I’m a good mom. He never mentions the things I can’t do. He always reminds me of the things I’m able to accomplish. It’s always little stuff. He’ll say: ‘Don’t forget that you paid some bills today. And you colored a picture with Julian. And you read a bedtime story.’ There are times when I’ll withdraw completely. It’s normally after we have to cancel a vacation. Or Ben has to take off work. And I’ll start thinking about how he could be living a completely different life. I’ll go to a really dark place. But he’ll remind me that he chose this life. And he continues to choose it. Ben has been writing me letters for our entire relationship. He keeps them all in a safe. And they’re so important to me, because written words are easier to accept. You can read them over and over. The last one was a couple months ago. I was having a particularly bad day. And Ben came back from getting groceries. He sent the kids into my room with some flowers and a little note. It said: ‘I believe one day the mountain is going to shrink off your shoulders, and it’s going to be amazing. But life is not for waiting. I love you with my whole being, but I need you to love yourself too.’”
  • Thanks to everyone who tuned in last night for our event to benefit independent bookstores. I thought it was a pretty magical conversation. And it was certainly a nice boost for the participating stores. But I know the stream got overloaded and many people were unable to get in at 8 pm. (Or the stream was almost unwatchable.) Everyone should have immediately received the full video upon completion. But I know many of you were kicked back with a glass of wine, and were in full watch party mode. So if the frustration killed your buzz, and you no longer want your book for any reason, you can get a full refund by reaching out to [email protected] Speaking of frustration, I know that many of you who preordered were feeling left out. You ordered a book early to support me. At a time when money is tight for a lot of people. And you paid the same price or more as people attending the event. So I’ve gotten permission from the event company to offer the video to anyone who has paid for a book. All you have to do is forward your receipt to [email protected] If you bought in a store— a picture of your book will work just fine. (Please remember to check your Spam folder if a response isn’t received shortly.) This is perhaps an imperfect solution, but I’m hopeful that this is the choice that will leave the most people feeling happy. That was certainly the intention of the event. A lot of you have been supporting HONY for years. (It will be a decade next month!) And last thing I would ever want to to do is step on the toes of my biggest supporters.
  • Thanks to everyone who tuned in last night for our event to benefit independent bookstores. I thought it was a pretty magical conversation. And it was certainly a nice boost for the participating stores. But I know the stream got overloaded and many people were unable to get in at 8 pm. (Or the stream was almost unwatchable.) Everyone should have immediately received the full video upon completion. But I know many of you were kicked back with a glass of wine, and were in full watch party mode. So if the frustration killed your buzz, and you no longer want your book for any reason, you can get a full refund by reaching out to [email protected] Speaking of frustration, I know that many of you who preordered were feeling left out. You ordered a book early to support me. At a time when money is tight for a lot of people. And you paid the same price or more as people attending the event. So I’ve gotten permission from the event company to offer the video to anyone who has paid for a book. All you have to do is forward your receipt to [email protected] If you bought in a store— a picture of your book will work just fine. (Please remember to check your Spam folder if a response isn’t received shortly.) This is perhaps an imperfect solution, but I’m hopeful that this is the choice that will leave the most people feeling happy. That was certainly the intention of the event. A lot of you have been supporting HONY for years. (It will be a decade next month!) And last thing I would ever want to to do is step on the toes of my biggest supporters.
  • Stephanie has already donned her ‘grand entrance outfit,’ but there is still time to get a ticket for our virtual ‘Humans’ book launch tonight. Stephanie and I will be in conversation for about 45 minutes. You can purchase a ticket through the link in bio. Every ticket comes with a copy of ‘Humans,’ and every book will be sourced from an independent bookstore. The show begins streaming at 8 pm EST. But if you’re unavailable at that time, you can access the video later using your ticket. See you tonight!
  • It’s publication day! ‘Humans’ is officially in stores everywhere. Today I stopped by the Barnes and Noble at Union Square to sign all their copies, and visit with my favorite manager Lesley, who said: ‘I was hoping you didn’t forget about us. Because I’ve been slinging your books for a decade now!’ Of course I didn’t forget about you, Lesley—bookseller without equal. And neither did I forget about the special, limited edition version of ‘Humans’ available only at Barnes and Noble. Featuring exclusive endpapers and fancy gold lettering on the cover. You can pick up a copy at your local B&N. And if you see Lesley, tell her Brandon sent you. And he appreciates her slinging his books for the past ten years.
  • During normal times, we’d celebrate the release of a new book by having a launch party at the Union Square Barnes and Noble. Our previous launches have been hosted by HONY luminaries such as @rickysyers The Puppetmaster, Blackwolf The Dragonmaster, and Bala The Philosopher. But desperate times call for desperate measures, so our ‘Humans’ launch party is going virtual. And by launch party I mean Stephanie and I will be shooting the shit for an hour in a rented studio, with ‘Humans’ prominently displayed on a coffee table. She’s already selected a leopard print outfit. Though she may ‘change her mind later.’ We will be talking about the new book. But I know a lot of people, including Stephanie, would rather hear about Stephanie. So I’m going to spend a good bit of the time interviewing her. Every ticket comes with a book, and every book will be provided by an independent bookstore. The event is Thursday at 8pm, and you can purchase a ticket through the link in bio. If you are unable to make it at that time, your ticket will allow you to screen the video at a time of your choosing. See you Thursday!
  • “We didn’t talk about it much at her funeral. There were only about thirty of us there, and we all knew the story already. But we did place her Star of Courage on the coffin. It’s the second highest civilian honor in Australia—and its awarded for bravery. But my mum was no daredevil, believe me. She wasn’t the kind of person who would jump out of an airplane, or anything like that. And she had a terrible fear of spiders. After everything went down, she told us: ‘If it had been a spider, you’d have been on your own.’ She was already sixty years old when it happened. We were camping on a beach in a remote area of Queensland. The night was pitch black. There wasn’t even a moon. And we woke up at 4 AM to the sound of blood curdling screams. I immediately grabbed my gun and ran out into the dark. Mum and Dad were coming out of their tent at the same time, but none of us could see what was happening. Then somebody clicked on a flashlight and everyone saw it at the same time. A 14-foot crocodile was dragging our friend by the leg, trying to pull him into the ocean. Dad ran back toward his tent to grab an axe. And I reached for my gun, but I never even had a chance to aim. Because Mum jumped right onto the crocodile’s back. He began thrashing violently and threw my mum on the ground, then he turned around and bit a huge chunk out of her arm. That’s when I ran over and put two bullets into the back of his head. It was over in a split second. Mum was airlifted to the hospital, and ever since that day she was known as The Croc Granny. She got to meet Steve Irwin. She made a few TV appearances. And at first she seemed embarrassed by all the attention, but over time I think she began to enjoy it. A local museum reconstructed the skull of the crocodile, and presented it to her as a gift. She hung it on the wall of the living room. Right by the television set. And that’s where it stayed for the rest of her life.”
  • “The tumor had a very complicated name. At first they told us three to five years, and that it wouldn’t be painful. We tried to keep living. We tried not to think about what could happen, and just function as normally as possible. It wasn’t so bad when we were together. But the alone moments were wrenching. When we were falling asleep. Or waking up. On the one hand it’s dark and silent, and you feel calm. But there’s always this gaping hole of fear in front of you. During the day you can cover it up. You can get busy, and focus on work, and think about other things, but the moment the distraction passes, and it’s night, and quiet again, the gaping hole returns. It’s always waiting for you-- the fear that you might lose the most important thing in your life. Her name is Dobrochna, which means ‘The Good One.’ And few names in Polish are so literal. She trusts everyone the moment she meets them. She wants to believe the best about the world. She’s wise, she’s funny, she’s sexy. And we think alike: I finish her thoughts, she finishes mine. We’re so much alike that it can sometimes seem like we’re a whole being. Whenever she’s not at home-- if she’s presenting a paper at a conference or something-- my life changes to functioning. I get up, I cook breakfast. If I’m bored I might go to a gallery or a concert. But to be honest, I don’t really enjoy these things. My only pleasure is that I’ll tell her about them later. I feel like nothing else could exist in the world, and the two of us could be fine. We move here, we move there, we visit new places, we meet new friends, and all of them are wonderful and wise and clever, but with all respect and love—they are temporary. I could survive without them. But I couldn’t survive without her.” (Warsaw, Poland)
  • ‘Humans’ is being released in five days. I gave Stephanie an advance copy—and showed her the pages which feature our initial interview together. Then yesterday I asked her if she could maybe read through it and send me a review. She wrote back: ‘Hell no! I already know my story is the best, so I’m not reading the rest.’ Then five minutes later she sent a follow-up email. Subject line: ‘LOL!!!’ The message had no further content. For those of you inspired by Stephanie’s review, you can order the book through the link in bio.
  • “The combination of Stephanie’s story and your open heartedness led to an astonishing $2.65 million being raised for her trust. Some of you may have noticed that Stephanie’s apartment looked a little brighter yesterday in her portrait with Mitch. That’s because she received a surprise visit from some of the children of ABC, which is the charity Stephanie selected as the beneficiary of her trust upon her death. The children brought her ‘Stephanie-themed’ artwork and photos, which are now hanging all over the walls of her apartment. ABC’s founder Gretchen Buchenholz also delivered a three-page handwritten letter to Stephanie expressing her gratitude. I’d like to share a small excerpt: ‘I started the Association to Benefit Children in the early eighties,’ she wrote, ‘when so many thousands of homeless children were hidden from sight. Today we serve over 5,000 of the city’s most vulnerable children, and our mission is to champion the right of all children to have enough food in their bellies and a place to safely lay their heads, to hear a voice they know—a song, a time for tenderness, or a moment to spread some jelly on toast. Thank you for reaching out to our children and giving them the opportunity to know and love you. Not only do they know you, but they have called you by your name, and have become a part of you. Your compassion comes from a place of enormous empathy. And I believe that’s the stuff that binds us one to another, and each one of us to that child within each of us.”
  • (33/32) If there’s anything that’s clear from Stephanie’s story—it’s her candor. But one condition of her storytelling has always been that we respect the privacy of her two children, and not include details about their lives. (Yes, there were two.) Many of you asked what happened to Stephanie’s first son. They have had a relationship for almost his entire life. Sometimes distant. Sometimes close. But by the time I met Stephanie, she had not spoken to him for a few years. This was clearly a source of pain for her. But Stephanie has that particular habit of people who have been hurt, where at the slightest hint of conflict, she’ll reflexively withdraw— so at least she can be hurt on her own terms. This is what happened with her son. I’d always wondered about Mitch. And during the course of our story, some determined readers discovered his Instagram account. I reached out to him and we had a long chat. As it so often goes, Mitch and Stephanie’s estrangement was based on a misunderstanding. There had been a particularly bad argument, and both were convinced that the other did not desire a relationship. Stephanie asked me to give Mitch her new cellphone number. And a couple days later they spent a wonderful afternoon together. It was the happiest I’ve seen Stephanie. ‘It hasn’t always been easy with my mother,’ Mitch explained. ‘But I know her story. And I understand her traumas. So I have nothing against her. It’s taken a lot of work—but I’ve arrived in a place of positivity. My worldview is this: ‘At all times, people are doing one of two things. They’re showing love. Or they’re crying out for it.’
  • (32/32) “I was walking down the street last winter. I don’t remember what I was thinking about, but I was crying so I couldn’t see much. And I slipped on a patch of ice. I wasn’t on the ground for very long. Somebody rushed over and lifted me off the sidewalk-- but I haven’t been able to walk since. Not much goes on in this apartment. Nothing really changes but the TV channels. So after awhile I started thinking that maybe the show was over for good. And to be honest I was kinda ready. It’s not like I could go anywhere. And nobody was coming over to see me. It was starting to feel like everything that was going to happen to me had already happened. There was nothing left but a bunch of stories. And those aren’t worth much when there’s nobody to listen. But then I got this one last gig. Right as the curtain was coming down, I get this one last chance to be on stage. One last chance to be Tanqueray. And I haven’t forgotten how to do it. Maybe I can’t wear my heels anymore, but I can put on my make-up. And I might not be able to dance but I can talk like I need to talk. To make people smile. And laugh. And to keep them looking at me—so I can feel like I exist for just a few more minutes, before the lights go out for good. It’s just a few minutes. That’s how long you’ve got to hold em’. It’s not very long at all. But if you’re doing it right—it can feel like forever.”