Celebrating Queer Love With Benito Skinner & Terrence O'Connor
To close out our June Pride month coverage, Milk contributing photographer Corbin Chase captured Benito Skinner and Terrence O’Connor and got the tea of what makes their love so damn special. Hear from all three creatives below.
Pride is extremely personal and special to me. Growing up in a Pentecostal Church in Texas didn’t quite set the stage for a loving and accepting coming out sitch. Even in a community as liberal and loving as New York it can still be (and very often is) difficult to be open about “deviating from God’s plan” for my life—but!—community has wrapped around me in all different forms, allies, fellow queer brothers and sisters, mentors, old friends from Texas, and I feel the immense and deep love that so many of these beautiful people commit to putting out into the world. However, I was feeling a bit down this year as June creeped closer & closer and I was still recovering from a heavy dose of heart break—it was then I remembered one of my favorite strategies of all times that I learned from a mentor while working with my start up: take your biggest weakness and turn it into your biggest strength. Ok ,ok, so I’m feeling hella sad about this boy I’m madly in love with. What am I gonna do here? And it hit me, instead of mourning the loss of my partnership (I’ll get back out there!) I wanted instead to showcase the beautiful healthy loving queer relationships that inspire me, and should inspire us all, because not only does it get better, not only will you find a community of loving and accepting individuals with shared values, if you so choose there are partners, lovers, etc, out here that will encourage you to push further, be better, and love harder. I didn’t have to think too long before I knew Ben and Terry were going to be my first example—if you ever get the chance to meet someone for the first time by interviewing them about the hardest experiences they had in therapy, well I highly recommended it. Their honesty, their optimism, their no bullshit, their gorgeous concern and care for one another, well damn, I think I might have fallen in love with them that very moment. I didn’t even know just how talented and accomplished these folks are at first meet-cute—which only made me love them more. Check out Ben’s IMPORTANT contributions to comedy, beauty, queer issues, breaking stereotypes here, and Terry’s seriously inspiring point of view in both photography and painting here. Meet these cuties, read how they met, then get out there and be your own Ben or Terrence or go out and find them. Be kind and happy Pride, losers.
When I first met Ben I firmly decided I didn’t like him. My friends and I were all throwing a birthday party and had no idea who he was or why he was there (he had been invited by a friend of a friend and spent the whole time sitting in the corner of the house, away from the rest of the party). At the end of the night, he gave us all huge hugs and gushed about how much fun he had and how amazing it was meeting all of us. We hadn’t spoken to him once—I hated the joke.
The next morning our friend Zoe explained that no, he was really great and actually made these really funny videos we should see. We all started watching and (of course) he was hilarious. At that point I hadn’t yet fully processed what he looked like and was sort of alarmed by how handsome he was. I followed him on Instagram, he followed me back, and for the rest of the summer I developed this crush on a person I only met once, who seemed so perfectly funny and kind and beautiful and who I assumed was straight.
Back then I had a painful habit of falling in love with people who couldn’t love me back—Ben was another seemingly impossible, far-off dream. Then one day Zoe and I were catching up on the phone and she said, “Oh by the way, it’s so funny—I found out Ben’s gay.” I can’t really remember if it felt like my heart just dropped or if it was immediately in my throat (or both), but I remember feeling dizzy. The improbable chance that this person could maybe one day love me was overwhelming.
I met Terry almost two years ago during the summer. I was hanging out with my best friends when one asked if we would be down to go to a party hosted by her friend from high school. We went and when I walked in, I saw Terry immediately. I was like, “DAMN, who’s mans?!” My friend who brought us to the party immediately started talking to him AND DIDN’T INTRODUCE ME. I was so salty. For the rest of the party I stayed very close to my friends and didn’t speak to anyone, including Terry. But best believe I was LOOKING, and praying that he was gay. Before we were about to leave I was like fine, I better make an impression on this guy. So I said, “As always, SO nice seeing you guys!” and gave him and all his friends massive hugs.
A few days later, Terry started following me on Instagram and I was convinced it had to do with my grand, dramatic exit. HE LIKED WHAT HE SAW. And likes shared back and forth on social media were pretty much the extent of our relationship for that summer. Until one night in July when our shared friends resulted in group drinks. I was so nervous when I found out he was going to be there. I think I changed my outfit 10 times. But then, as if heaven sent, my friend picked a dog friendly bar for us all to go to. I COULD BRING MY BROTHER’S BULLDOG. GAME. OVER.
When I made my grand entrance, I sat down next to Terry and melted. He was so handsome, kind, and liked all the same movies and music I did. The gap between his two front teeth had me in a puddle. I had just come out that year, and had been on a few terrible dates and had grown to loathe dating apps. But as I sat there talking with Terry, I felt lucky to be gay for the very first time. And that feeling hasn’t left me since.
Stay tuned to Milk for more gay love.