Tag Archives: coming out

Coming Out Anniversary Post: The Need for a Relationship

Going to Hell Tee ShirtIt’s April 1st once again.  For those who have been following my blog for a while, you know that this is significant in that it’s the anniversary of my initial coming out.  Eighteen years ago, I quit denying that I was attracted to other men, quit claiming it was “just a phase,” and quit trying to change myself.  (Well, where my sexual orientation is concerned.)

I don’t commemorate or blog about the event every year (See the bottom of this post for links to older anniversary posts), though I decided I wanted to again this year.  This year, I want to consider how my attitude about dating has changed since I came out.

When I came out, dating was extremely important to me.  This is partly because part of the reason I finally came out was because I was tired of being alone.  I was tired of suffering, thinking I may never be able to find — or even allow myself to find — someone I could deeply care about and build a lasting relationship with.  So when I came out, finding someone to love was of grave importance to me.  To put it quite frankly, I was rather desperate at the time.

Consider that I was walking away from years of belief that being gay was bad and that the kind of relationship that appealed to me was strictly prohibited.  Consider that rejecting that belief required me to give up a lot of my identity (being an evangelical Christian — and most evangelicals still insisted that the phrase “gay Christian” was an oxymoron and an abomination at the time — was a huge paart of my existence and idenity) and to strain many freindships and relationships.  So the idea that I’d give all that up and still end up alone was terrifying.  So I ended up putting a lot of energy into the idea that I had to find someone.

It’s a mentality that lasted for years, over a decade and a half in fact.  In time, though, it’s a mentality that began to fade and is now more or less gone.  That’s not to say that I don’t want to find someone to build a life with.  Dating is still important to me.  Having a loving relationship is still important to me.  It’s just not my single-minded obssession anymore.  Now, it’s just something that I’d like to achieve when the time is right and I meet a great guy I’m compatible with and mutually attracted to.

I think I really began to notice this change a few months ago, when I ended my most recent relationship.  I ended it because I just couldn’t see myself being with him long-term, which was something he was definitely looking for.  In general, I’ve found myself far more picky about the guys I date and continue to invest time in, which I think is a positive thing.

I think part of this is due to the fact that once I quit spending so much time and energy figthing with myself over my sexual orientation, I was able to slowly build myself back up.  With the question of how my being gay affects my identity and worth, I was able to more fully explore my identity in all areas of my life.  I was able to build up who I saw myself as, and where I found my sense of worth and emotional strength.  As a result, that idea of a relationship quit being the life-vest I clung to out of desperation.

But that’s something that could only develop once I came out and accepted that one part of myself.

Previous Anniversary Posts

Also, be sure to check out Journey to Queerdom.

Musings on Torn. A Kindred Spirit.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’ve been reading Justin Lee’s book, “Torn:  Rescuing the Gospel From the Gays vs. Christians Debate.”  I have a little less than 100 pages (out of the total 259 pages) to read.  While there are some things in Justin’s book that I take issue with — such as his tendency to fall into the trap of focusing on showings how Christianity stands out from all other religions — there is much in the book that I like.

In truth, there’s much in the book that I can identify with.  I can relate to the whole concept of being “God Boy” (though no one called me that and I don’t think I was quite as outspoken as he was) and “having a secret” while growing up.  I resonated greatly when he started talking about his initial reactions when he first started discovering his feelings for other boys.  Justin puts it thus:

At first I had ignored the feelings.  Puberty is a confusing time, after all, so I assumed these attractions to guys were just some sort of weird phase I had to pass through as I matured.  I’d heard Christian authorities such as radio host Dr. James Dobson say that young teenagers sometimes went through a period of sexual confusion, and this seemed to be the proof.

I too remember telling myself that I was just going through a phase when my sexual feelings for other boys first started surfacing.  And yes, I seem to recall various religious experts — most likely including James Dobson — saying things to encourage that kind of thinking.

In some ways, I can also related to his awakening to the realization that he had no sexual interest in girls as a teenager.  Justin writes:

As teenagers, my guy friends had become interested in girls in a different way, and they talked eagerly about their eyes and lips and breasts and legs.  I avoided these conversations, telling myself that the reason I didn’t lust after women was that I was a good Christian boy.  Lust was a sin, so I convinced myself I just didn’t objectify women the way some of my friends did.  That wouldn’t have been Christlike, after all.

I remember a couple of boys in my class that began talking about girls’ anatomy and “humping” them (I’m sure that latter part was all talk) as early as the fourth grade.  And at the time I took my failure to have any interest in such things — like Justin — as simply a matter that “good Christian boys” didn’t think about such things.  (In some ways, I still feel that was true, given just how young we were at that time.)

However, as time went by, I became more keenly aware of just how uninterested I was in girls and just how bizarre this really was.  I remember one night when I was in high school, I lay in my bed and actually tried imagining kissing the female classmate that I was allegedly interested in (in fairness, I did think she was a great person and would have loved to spend more time with her as a friend).  Not only could I not imagine doing so, the thought left me feeling cold and a little bit disturbed.  And that realization left me feeling even more disturbed.
I think that was one of the first times when I really began to wonder what was “wrong” with me.

So in many ways, while there are some things that I don’t agree with Justin on — and there are one or two things I’m still waiting to see how they play out in the rest of the book before I express concerns — there are many ways in which I find myself nodding along as he recounts his experiences.

In many ways, I think that’s a good thing.  One of the central themes of his story seems to be that no one was there who understood, and that’s a theme I can relate to.  I think that’s a theme that many LGBT people — and especially those who grew up within evangelical Christianity — can relate to.  In many ways, Justin’s book is a way of letting those who may now be going through those experiences know that they are not the first and there are those who can relate and understand.

I’m not sure whether Justin’s goal of rescuing the gospel from the “gays vs. Christians” debate will be met, but that sense of offering understanding and camaraderie to those who came after both of us strikes me as something that makes his book priceless.


Generally speaking, I do not “officially” come out at work.  It’s not that I deny or hide the fact that I’m a gay man, and I suspect that most people who see me at work at least suspect or even assume that I’m gay, given the number of stereotypical characteristics I happen to exhibit.  But after becoming the “office curisiosity” at my first job, I otherwise tend to not discuss my sexuality or my love life on any job.

But like I said, I don’t hide who I am either.  In fact, I don’t even think about what it would take to hide who I am, as my experience yesterday so aptly proved.  For various reasons, I decided to bring my iPad in to work with me.  As much of my desk is covered with computers and equipment for my job, I placed my beloved device on the safest space still left clear on my desk:  The corner that’s right next to the walkway through my work area.  I then started taking care of my work and didn’t think of my iPad again until around 2pm (five hours later).

That’s when it occurred to me that I had, as is my custom, laid my iPad so that the screen was face down and the cover was facing upward, visible to anyone who walked by and happened to glance down at my desk.  That cover happens to look like this (except it has a few stains on it now):


Well, if people at work didn’t suspect, they surely do now!

Personally, beyond being somewhat embarrassing and a sign of how little I think about these things these days, this really isn’t a big deal for me.  I’m very fortunate — even privileged — by the fact that I work in a field (software engineering) that (in my experience at least) tends to be fairly tolerant of those who fall outside of many societal norms in exchange for the work done by such people.  Plus, I’m privileged enough to live in a state that includes non-discrimination protections based on sexual orienation.  (We’re still working on getting non-discrimination protections based on gender identity and gender expression, though.)  As such, I can rest comfortably in the knowledge that, unlike someone who works in a less skilled job and/or has the disadvantage of working in a state that permits hostility toward and workplace discrimination against non-heterosexual people, the worst thing that will happen to me is a bit of embarrassment.

While I’m grateful for that, I also want to take this time to advocate for those who are not as privileged, who might face much more severe consequences if it became known in their workplace that they were part of the QUILTBAG community.  If you live in a place that doesn’t offer non-discrimination protections for QUILTBAG people, please advocate for such protections.  Here in New York State, the Empire State Pride Agenda is still pushing for the passage of GENDA, and I’m sure other states have organizations pushing for such policies.  Please consider supporting them with your voice and possibly your money.

And don’t forget the national organizations that help with these fights not only on a federal level, but with assistance on state levels as well.

Privacy, Coming Out, and Anderson Cooper

Originally, I had planned to spend this evening reading the next chapter of Alissa Harris’s book, “Raised Right:  How I Untangled my Faith From Politics” and resume my series of posts discussing that book.  Those plans changed when Alvin McEwen mentioned that Anderson Cooper officially came out to the world today.

I ran over and read Cooper’s email to Andrew Sullivan in which he admits to Andrew (who I believe already knew),  Andrew’s readers, and the rest of the world that he is gay.  It’s a wonderfully worded letter and I highly recommend reading it.  Right now, I would like to focus on a part of Cooper’s email in which he explains his rationale for not coming out until now:

I’ve always believed that who a reporter votes for, what religion they
are, who they love, should not be something they have to discuss
publicly. As long as a journalist shows fairness and honesty in his or
her work, their private life shouldn’t matter. I’ve stuck to those
principles for my entire professional career, even when I’ve been
directly asked “the gay question,” which happens occasionally.

On the surface, Cooper’s statement makes perfect sense.  When he is acting in his capacity as a journalist, his religion, sexual orientation, marital status, race, and any other personal characteristic should be irrelevant.  And I salute Cooper for wishing to make sure his sexual orientation doesn’t effect how people perceive how he does his job.

The problem is, we don’t live in a world made up of what should be.  We live in reality.  And the reality is that being gay, being a member of a minority religion, and several other personal characteristics or private matters do become an issue if they come out in the open.  There are those who will approach Cooper’s reporting with (more) suspicion now that it’s known that he’s gay.  (Peter LaBarbera has already suggested that Cooper should refrain from covering any LGBT stories.)

The thing is, this mentality unfairly targets LGBT people and minority groups.  No one would question the journalistic integrity of Barbara Walters if she officially announced she was a heterosexual.  No one would have questioned the journalistic integrity of Walter Kronkite or suggest he shouldn’t cover certain stories after mentioning in passing that he had a wife.

The system we currently have does not make sexual orientation irrelevant.  The system we have punishes sexual minorities by treating them with suspicion.  Keeping one’s sexual minority status out of the picture encourages the latter, not the former.  It’s simply giving tacit acceptance and approval of a system that says that people who do not fit the characteristics that society has determined makes a person a default human must either hide their differences or face the penalties.

If everyone plays that game, then the system will never change.  And I’d like to think that this is what Cooper finally realized.  Because the only way the system will change is if people challenge that system.

NCOD Humor

Yesterday, I did a serious post about National Coming Out Day and cominng out of the closet.  Today, I want to share a fun little video I did.  I figure coming out is scary enough, I might as well find humor in it where I can.

I do want to take a moment to issue an apology, however.  After I made the video, I realized that I flubbed up and said “transexual” instead of “transgender.”  I should have used the latter word, for countless reasons, such as the fact that gender identity issues delve into far more than physical sexual characteristics.  Normally, I do a better job than that.  But rather than trying to explain why I used the wrong word, let me just say this:

I fucked up.  I am sorry.  This is just proof that I need to work even harder at being a better ally to the transgender community.  I hope that the transgender community will give me a chance to do exactly that.

Thank the Gods for Option Three

Logo designed by artist Keith Harring.

Image via Wikipedia

I’d rather be hated for who I am rather than loved for who I am not.

I ran across the above saying on a tee shirt a couple years ago.  It’s always stuck with me, and it’s a principle I try to keep in mind when I live my life.  It’s an important principle when faced with the decision of whether or not to live as an openly gay[1] man.  It’s a principle I want to discuss as a part of my contribution to National Coming Out Day.

One of the big hurdles to coming out — whether in general or to specific people — is the fear of rejection.  There’s that fear — and sometimes, it’s a well-founded fear — that friends, family members, bosses, and other individuals will reject us, stop loving us, and even make our lives miserable.  Personally, I’ve often found it far easier to come out to a perfect stranger.  After all, if they reject me, I’ve lost no relationship or support.  However, I maintain that remaining in the closet in order to get someone to continue to love and accept me isn’t a good reason to stay in the closet.

I wish to be clear on what I am saying there, lest it be misconstrued.  Staying in the closet so that someone loves me is not the same as not coming out to my parents because I’m financially dependent on them.  Nor is it the same as hiding my sexual orientation from my boss so that I don’t get fired.  In those cases, I would not be staying closeted in order to get the people in question to continue loving me.  I would be doing it in order to survive.  I could survive without my parents’ love[2] relatively easily — sadly, some kids do it all their lives.  But there was a time when it would’ve been much harder to survive if my parents quit buying me food and clothes or stopped providing me with a place to sleep and keep warm.[3]

The thing is, there are billions of people on this planet.  And a great many number of them will love me and accept me for who I am, gay man and all.  I’ve been fortunate in that over the years, I’ve found and built friendships with plenty of them.  Indeed, I’ve made far more new and incredibly supportive friends than I have lost old friends.

So I see no point in remaining in the closet to keep those “friends” who refuse to accept me for who I am.  Truth be told, if I have to lie to them to keep them as loved ones, then they are not truly loved ones at all.  I learned long ago that as much as it may hurt, I’m better off letting such people go and finding people who will not only accept me for who I am, but actually prefer me to be authentically me.

So yes, I’d rather be hated for who I am than hated for who I am not.  But I have a third, even better option. I can find people who love me for who I am.


[1] And I’m pretty sure it would apply to other QUILTBAG people too.

[2] I am fortunate in that this was never an issue for me.  While it did take my parents time to adjust, they never rejected or disowned me.  Sadly, not every QUILTBAG individual has been so fortunate.

[3] Note, also that came a going when I no longer needed my parents’ financial support.  And that’s the thing about valid reasons to stay in the closet:  they are more often than not temporary and something that can eventually be overcome.  Granted, finding a new boss who isn’t homophobic in today’s economy may seem like a near-impossibility….

Coming Out Considerations

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...

Image via Wikipedia

I came out to myself and my best friend at the time on Monday, 1 April 1996. Today, 1 April 2011 marks the fifteenth anniversary of that event. In honor of that, I’ve decided to do a series of posts on the topic. This is the third one.

Given the fact that I came out on 1 April, I often like to make the following joke when discussing that night:

If you find it necessary to start the conversation with “This honestly isn’t an April Fool’s Day joke,” then you probably picked a bad day to come out.

This year, it’s particularly funny because Merion commented on the fact that I really did start with that disclaimer.  However, this year, the joke has me thinking about the practical matters of coming out and timing.

Truth be told, there is such a thing as a “bad time” to come out.  For example, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) cautions students to think about their financial and emotional safety when struggling with questions about whether to come out — coming out may prove to be a mistake if you’re one of those unfortunate souls who will find yourself homeless as a result.  I’ve also seen others caution against coming out to family during holidays, family reunions, and times of great stress.  After all, it’s important to consider how the other person’s or people’s states of minds at the time may shape their immediate response, or even their overall attitude.  So yes, there really is such a thing as a “bad time” to come out.

However, the rest of the message needs to be considered, too.  When I make that joke about my own “bad timing,” I also like to point out that I had to come out the day I did because I was in crisis.  I had reached the point where waiting simply would have continued to leave me in a state of mind and bondage that could have very easily led to my total self-destruction.  Plus, there’s the fact that Merion — the one person I knew would support me — was only going to be on campus for a limited time.  A day or two after I came out to her, Merion was back on her way to her new college (and her incredibly cute roommate, though I didn’t meet him until the following year) in New Paltz.  If I had delayed coming out that night, I’m not sure when I would’ve gotten another opportunity.  And then, I’m not sure what would happen.  (I shudder to think of what might have been the most likely outcome.)

So while it’s important to think about many factors in considering when the best time to come out, one should always remember that some factors are more important than others, and that sometimes, a sense of true urgency could override many pieces of otherwise good advice about when it might be better to wait.  In the end, only the person coming out can make that call, though.  That’s the person who has to live with the decision and whatever consequences might come of that decision.

The Path Left Behind

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...

Image via Wikipedia

I came out to myself and my best friend at the time on Monday, 1 April 1996.  Today, 1 April 2011 marks the fifteenth anniversary of that event.  In honor of that, I’ve decided to do a series of posts on the topic.  This is the second one.

As I said in my previous post, the night I came out to Merion in that little alcove was the beginning of a new journey to self-acceptance and personal discovery.  However, the start of that journey meant the end of a different, darker journey.  The journey that ended that night, the journey towards “freedom from unwanted same-sex attractions,” was a painful and self-destructive one and one I’m glad I left behind.  And yet, this anniversary would not be complete without talking about it at least a little.
Truth be told, I can’t cover that journey — which lasted for roughly eight years — in a single blog post.  I hope to restart A Journey to Queerdom soon, and I will explore it more fully there.  For this post, I hope to tell just enough to capture a glimpse of the emotional chaos that overshadowed me as I came to that fateful April Fool’s Day night.
At the end of my sophomore year in college, I had finally admitted that my feelings for other guys was more than “just a phase.”  It was a very real part of my psychological makeup and it was there to stay unless I took some drastic measures.  So I started trying to turn myself straight.  Granted, I didn’t go to any sort of therapy or ex-gay ministry — fortunately, I wouldn’t have known where to find such help in Selinsgrove of the surrounding area.  So instead, I simply tried to go through the process of praying for healing on my own and asking friends I could trust to also pray for me.*
Asking for friends’ help actually created a cycle of increasing frustration.  I would admit my “struggle” to each of them separately — a frightening prospect in itself each time, as I was never sure how they might react to the experience and there’s a lot of shame in admitting you like members of your own sex in evangelical and fundamentalist circles, even if you make it clear that you don’t want them.  They’d pray with me and for me, and I’d feel better.  I’d get an emotional boost and would feel like I could take on the world.
But the emotional high would eventually wear off while the feelings of attraction would persist.  My frustrations and sense of shame over feeling the way I felt would return, often magnified by the sense of added failure that somehow I had lost forfeited the “spiritual help” I had gotten and failed yet again.  So I’d decide that I needed more help, and that meant telling another friend and seeking further support and help.  And there, the cycle would begin all over.
The thing is, dealing with one’s feelings is ultimately something one has to do alone.  No one can feel those feelings for you.  No one can take them away from you.  No one can do anything other than support you through it all, and no one can give that support 24/7.  I found that late at night, laying in my bed, I was left all alone to either face my desire for love and intimacy with another man alone or repress it alone.  It was my burden to carry, and the more I fought it, the heavier that burden got.
One of the things that drove me to the breaking point on Saturday night, 30 March 1996** was the fact that my loneliness was driven home when my closest friends and my biggest supporters all ended up spending that night with their respective female love interests.  I realized that night that this really was my burden to carry, because when push comes to shove, they got to go to their God- and church-approved girlfriends (or potential girlfriends) and find some degree of intimacy and the promise of full intimacy sometime down the road.  That realization, and their unintentional acts of rubbing it in my face, pushed me into a full tailspin that night.  I spent over half an hour considering and even planning to end my own life.
I’m not going to describe that night.  I think I’ve described it well enough elsewhere.  But what I will say is that in that night, I wanted to die because I realized that I could never “beat” my sexual feelings and romantic desires.  There was no going straight for me.  I had tried and failed.  If I continued down that path, the only thing waiting for me was depression, loneliness, and shame.  And I couldn’t face that path.  If that path was my only choice, I knew it would be better to end my life.  So I seriously contemplated it.
And at some point, that realization horrified me.  So two nights later, I chose to walk another path.
* Given the number of ex-gays who talk about going to therapy, support groups, or even residency programs, I felt out of place at first.  I was quite relieved when I discovered that the bXg community had an entire group for people who went through self-guided attempts at becoming ex-gay.
** I’ve searched every aspect of my memory, and everything convinces me that the truly terrifying dark night was two nights before I came out on April Fool’s Day.  Curiously, this means I surived in some sort of in-between state for a full day on Sunday.  I have no idea what that day was like or how I managed to survive and not find myself with the same dark thoughts that night as I had entertained the night before.

In a Small Alcove at Susquehanna University

Rainbow flag flapping in the wind with blue sk...

Image via Wikipedia

I came out to myself and my best friend at the time on Monday, 1 April 1996.  Tomorrow, 1 April 2011 marks the fifteenth anniversary of that event.  In honor of that, I’ve decided to do a series of posts on the topic.  This is the first one.

My mind floats back fifteen years ago — almost to the day — and a few hundred miles away.  I can still remember what it was like that night, sitting in the cloth-covered chair with wooden arm rests that sat in the tiny alcove of the first floor of Seibert Hall.  I never knew which professors had their offices there, but the place was familiar.  I chose that place to meet Merion because not only was it relatively secluded from the bustle of campus nightlife (or what passed for campus nightlife on a Monday night), but it was a place both of us knew well.  It was the same tiny alcove that the Bible study we both attended — and I eventually became coleader of — met once a week the year before.

I needed that familiarity to help calm my nerves.  It didn’t work, because I was a complete wreck.  I think it took me over five minutes to build up the courage — that is, to grit my teeth hard enough — to utter those two words:  “I’m gay.”

I hadn’t said those words prior to that moment, and that was a big thing.  Oh sure, I had admitted that I was attracted to guys.  I had even told a number of people.  But I had mostly said “I’m struggling with homosexuality” or something like that.  Up to this point, I had made it clear that I didn’t want to feel this way.  The closest I had come to those two words were a few weeks earlier when I told my friend, Joyce, “I think I might be gay.”*  Even then, I had left myself the escape hatch.  I may have started to realize I was losing the “ex-gay struggle,” but I hadn’t “conceded defeat” yet.

That night, sitting in that chair and facing Merion in the the chairs twin to my right, I made that concession.  And it was hard to do, because I knew exactly what I was doing.  It was terrifying to do it, even though I knew that Merion would be completely supportive, as she had already came out to me as bisexual** about a year earlier.

I think by the time I said it and for the first several minutes after I made my confession, I was actually shaking.  I was that worked up.  Merion was wonderful though.  She was encouraging.  She was supportive.  She was incredible.  I don’t really remember much of what she said to me, other than the fact that she told me how honored she was that I chose to tell her.  The rest of the details, however, blur into the emotional chaos I was going through at the time.

But that also marked the beginning of the end of the emotional chaos.  I escaped the prison of fear and shame that day.  I ran out screaming — almost literally.  And while things didn’t get instantly better, the process of improvement began.  It’s taken me years to clean up the mess I was left with, and in some ways, I’m still cleaning it up.  (I’ll talk about that more tomorrow.)  But that moment moved me into a place in my journey where I could face that task, no matter how daunting it seemed at times.

* And Joyce, in her well-meaning but less-than-helpful way, glibly responded by saying, “It’s about time you figured it out.”  Seriously folks, I know sometimes you can tell that a loved one is gay before they’re able or willing to admit it to even themselves.  But this is not the way to respond when they finally confide in you.  If you must tell them you already figured it out, do so in the gentlest way possible.  Otherwise, it can come across as you dishonoring their choice to be completely open and vulnerable to you in a way which was probably took a lot of courage on their part.

** That night, Merion clarified that she was a lesbian.  She was one of those people who originally came out as bisexual because it was easier to take that as a step towards coming out as strictly gay.  And no, that does not mean that everyone who says they’re bi is doing so.  There are authentically bisexual people out there, too.  The fact that there are some people in the gay community who refuse to accept that is a personal pet peev of mine.

Movie Review: Shank

I’ve watched a number of movies that have dealt with the theme of young men coming to terms with being gay.  However, it is the rare movie that explores that theme with the intensity and rawness as Shank, the British film directed by Simon Pearce.  In this film, Pearce gives us a glimpse into the life of Cal, a teenage gang member who is trying to hide his sexual orientaion from his fellow thugs.

The movie quickly introduces us to Cal, who copes with his feelings by engaging in random sexual encounters, drug use, and gang violence.  The first few scenes show the gritty nature of his life in the gang.  However, Cal’s life suddenly changes when his best mate, Jonno, and their de facto leader, Nessa, decide to pick on poor Olivier, a French exchange student who is stereotypically and somewhat flamboyantly gay.  In a moment of conscience and fear — and perhaps seeing too much of himself and his potential fate in Olivier and the treatment he receives — Cal stops the pair from beating the French boy, allows him to escape, and then abandons his fellow thugs to apologize to Olivier and offer him a lift home.

Cal attempts to return to his gang’s hideout later, only to discover that he is not only unwelcome, but an acceptable target for his former comrades’ anger and violence.  Cal escapes and returns to Olivier, and the pair soon get involved in a rocky, tenuous relationship.  However, Nessa and the other gang members discover Cal’s secret and begin to hunt down the pair.

This movie is a masterful blending of grit (to rival FAQ’s and Ethan Mao) and tender sensuality, demonstrating the storm of emotions that Cal experiences as he is tugged in different directions.  All of the actors play their parts well, filling each scene with emotion through words, tone of voice, body gestures, and expression.  Even characters like Nessa, whose deeper motives for her anger and rage towards Cal are beautifully fore-shadowed toward the beginning of the movie, are given a great deal of attention and depth.

One particularly interesting piece of cinematography in this movie was the use of the cell phone video footage. The gang always recorded their acts of violence via cell phone, and this fact was used in the movie to hint at violence to come at times.  It was an interesting way of adding a bit of suspense at critical moments.

My one criticism of this movie would be that there’s a bit more synchronicity in the movie than is really reasonable.  For example, it’s entirely too convenient that the first sexual encounter Cal has with the movie is with Scott, who later turns out to be one of Olivier’s university instructors.  There were other coincidences involving Scott, which I will not go into, as it would reveal too much about how the movie concludes.

As a final note, I would warn readers that this is a very violent movie and even includes sexual violence.  Those who are bothered or emotionally trigger by such things should either skip this one or take appropriate precautions when sitting down to watch it.