lgbt history

sunday kind of love….. gil scott heron

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pouring polka

Grief is neither a disorder
nor a healing process;
it is a sign of health itself,
a whole and natural gesture of love.
Nor must we see grief
as a step towards something better.
No matter how much it hurts –
and it may be the greatest pain in life –
grief can be an end in itself,
a pure expression of love.

– Gerald May –

what a very sad day in america. the deaths of 50 souls in one sweep have been jettisoned to the next level at the hands of an angry citizen. the lgbt community is targeted and wounded during pride month in a southern state and the southern anti-lgbt rhetoric continues to pour out like a geyser in yellowstone.



dancer from the dance

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We had all see Malone, yet going home on the subway no one spoke of him, even though each of us was thinking of that handsome man — and he had seen us. What must he have thought of us at that time. What queens we were! We had been crazed for several years already when we danced at the Bearded Lady that winter. We lived only to dance. What was the true characteristic of a queen, I wondered later on; and you could argue that forever. “What do we all have in common in this group?” I once asked a friend seriously, when it occurred to me how slender, how immaterial, how ephemeral the bond was that joined us; and he responded, “We all have lips.” Perhaps that is what we all had in common: No one was allowed to be serious, except about the importance of music, the glory of faces seen in the crowd. We had our songs, we had our faces! We had our web belts and painter’s jeans, our dyed tank tops and haircuts, the plaid shirts, bomber jackets, jungle fatigues, the all-important shoes….Andrew Holleran

it’s a saturday and i find myself reminiscing a bit about my 1970’s. it was a decadent and tumultuous decade to say the least. i left home at 16 in 1974 and moved to chicago from the burbs. i worked as a rent boy and a gogo boy until i landed a job as a bartender at 18. i shared an apartment with a puerto rican drag queen early on and learned how to speak with a spanich(ha) accent. i also developed an emotional rhythm sequence that embedded itself deeply into my psyche. 

i assimilated to 1970’s gay culture through osmosis. music, fashion, attitudes, tastes, and beliefs all were shaped by our mysterious cultural norm. it was urban, it was rogue, it was survivalist, it was guerilla, and it was inventive. i don’t remember making conscious and thoughtful choices about these things as much as i can recall intense peer pressure and a need to belong- after all this urban landscape accepted my twisted  ternderness much more thoughtfully than my family of origin had. 

i was able to hide even further from my nature as i immersed and lost myself in the choreography of that decade. there were parties, drugs, laughter, theater, short romances, and galaxies of anonymous sex. it was the decade which allowed me to say “yes” to pleasure- which i did to excess. platform shoes, low-rise hip-huggers, afros (well.. perms), disco, acid, mdma, sid vicious, the sex pistols, vivienne westwood, radical faeries, harvey milk, the bus stop, the bump, the introduction of middle class cocaine, my only live-in relationship, sparks. and on and on.

the 80’s rang in a whole new act in this dance of our culture. but those 1970’s were specific and boutique. there may never be the same intersection of indulgence and ingenue on our cultural landscape- mostly because those was the first years after stonewall. maybe my introduction to lgbt culture during that time has allowed me the grace of believing beyond what i know. i am not clear that the generations behind me have that same capacity. i may be in the last of our kind to undestand suppression and to understand freedom  from the outer edges of the pendulum. 

By year

  • 1972 – Sweden becomes first country in the world to allow transsexuals to legally change their sex, and provides free hormone therapy;[8] Hawaii legalizes homosexuality; In Australia, the Dunstan Labor government introduces a consenting adults in private type defence in South Australia. This defence was initiated as a bill by Murray Hill, father of former Defence Minister Robert Hill, and later repealed the state’s sodomy law in 1975; Norway decriminalizes homosexuality; East Lansing, Michigan and Ann Arbor, Michigan and San Francisco, California become the first cities in United States to pass a homosexual rights ordinance. Jim Foster, San Francisco and Madeline DavisBuffalo, New York, first gay and lesbian delegates to the Democratic Convention, Miami, McGovern; give the first speeches advocating a gay rights plank in the Democratic Party Platform. “Stonewall Nation” first gay anthem is written and recorded by Madeline Davis and is produced on 45 rpm record by the Mattachine Society of the Niagara Frontier. Lesbianism 101, first lesbianism course in the U.S. taught at the University of Buffalo by Margaret Small and Madeline Davis.[citation needed]

Gay rights protesters in New York City, protesting at the United States’ 1976 Democratic National Convention

Original eight-color version of the LGBT pride flag

  • 1979 – The first national homosexual rights march on Washington, DC is held; The White Night riots occur, Harry Hay issues the first call for aRadical Faerie gathering in Arizona, and Cuba and Spain decriminalize homosexuality;[citation needed] A number of people in Sweden called in sick with a case of being homosexual, in protest of homosexuality being classified as an illness. This was followed by an activist occupation of the main office of the National Board of Health and Welfare. Within a few months, Sweden became the first country in the world to remove homosexuality as an illness.[8]…. 
timeline reposted from wikipedia…

the only exception

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“My turn now. The story of one of my insanities.

For a long time I boasted that I was master of all possible landscapes– and I thought the great figures of modern painting and poetry were laughable.

What I liked were: absurd paintings, pictures over doorways, stage sets, carnival backdrops, billboards, bright-colored prints, old-fashioned literature, church Latin, erotic books full of misspellings, the kind of novels our grandmothers read, fairy tales, little children’s books, old operas, silly old songs, the naive rhythms of country rimes.

I dreamed of Crusades, voyages of discovery that nobody had heard of, republics without histories, religious wars stamped out, revolutions in morals, movements of races and continents; I used to believe in every kind of magic.

I invented colors for the vowels! A black, E white, I red, O blue, U green. I made rules for the form and movement of every consonant, and I boasted of inventing, with rhythms from within me, a kind of poetry that all the senses, sooner or later, would recognize. And I alone would be its translator.

I began it as an investigation. I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable, I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still.” 
― Arthur Rimbaud
there has been so much hubbub about the supreme court hearings around doma and prop 8. rightfully so, too. this could be another monumental achievement which will affect the lives of so many gay men and women- both in relationships currently and all the downline duos yet to be. 
love is so very under-developed in my culture. it was something that we dared not speak its name just a few decades ago. now it seems as if half the country- including the sequesters with the black robes who are vested with the task of interpreting  the language and the intent of those who came before us.
i am quite simply gobsmacked by the prospect of this momentous  removal of stigma from the landscape of same-sex lovers. it has proved an albatross and a handicap that so many of my contemporaries have had to trudge through life carrying in their backpacks. it has been the source of so much shame-based trauma which in turn has probably created generations of spiritual nomads- wandering through their lives never believing they had the right to settle anywhere. my brothers and sisters for generations have wandered with their deserted hearts living lustfully for the moment without much expectation of a connection which might last more than a season or two. yet here i sit tonight in quiet awe at this current wind which may blow this drought out of our lives forever. history could be made.
i have to admit that i see so many other issues in my culture- specifically derived from the nomadic nature of our hearts that i struggle strangely with being happy about the prospect of marriage equality. but this is my stuff. there is no magic cure. some of us will not assimilate or perhaps every really feel lovable- no matter how beautifully bright and colorful the celebration glows. 
but maybe there is an exception.

the past is practice

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image credit….

last july, we (the staff of a small agency)  visited the 18th precinct probation office to discuss a new meth recovery group (MRP) we planned to start at a small agency in englewood. it would consist of 3 evening groups m-w-f which would focus on 3 different parts of recovery- MET- motivational enhancement therapy, CBT- cognitive behavioral therapy, TSF- twelve step facilitation- more realistically connection to sober communities.

we were received with reservations and went on our way. in august we received our 1st referral from a different probation office entirely. since that time we have had 10 referrals, we have 1 client (our 1st client) has been clean since his 4th week. the 18th precinct has sent us several of those and their dui referrals have increased as well. englewood is a small suburb of denver which has a reputation and a history of substance abuse especially meth. when i was starting the mile high meth project (now the mile high recovery project) in 08, we consistently got a volume of calls  from englewood’s social services about individuals (specifically parents with small children) who had ongoing and agonizing meth issues. i was well aware of this unmet need going into beginning our MRP.

last night as we talked about what recovery means for each of us, i talked about the real miracle that comes with sharing experience with others.and i also talked about the idea that i get to do “this” meaning working with others who find themselves on a similar path. a participant indicated somewhat sarcastically that “get to” might be disingenuous. but as i consider it all, it is real. i do feel incredibly lucky to spend my time with an activity that holds meaning for me. damn, it has been a journey, with loadz’o twists and turns, but i am certain i am here and i am with enjoyment. life continues to move forward, definitely sometimes with more twists and turns.

the vibe of the agency that my friends had purchased left quite a bit to be desired in my opinion. it has been part of my mission to help it leave the 70’s and come into the 21st century. brown faux wood paneling everywhere and rust/beige carpeting.  finally the makeover is underway- we have painted the bathroom, the main group room, and just finished the main office areas. and we acquired some show room carpet tiles that will be a welcome relief from the rust and brown. there is certainly quite a lot more to do, but i am thrilled at the prospect.
me circa 1980…

my cousin gave me a journal that i left at his home after i moved to colorado in 1988. the 1st entry is dated 4/2/1981 and it goes through 1989. i didn’t do a very consisted job of writing entries, but it did take me on a trip back in time… there is an obvious void from 1984 until 1988 as that is when hiv really starting hitting my friends and my own life. my drug and alcohol use became its own animal and went on a nasty tear.moving to colorado in 1988 seemed to change the course of my journey. i drank heavily for 12 more years, but drugs were not as accessible here as they had been.

 following is an excerpt dated…10/12/1983… (it could be titled “morning at the golden nugget”.

i wonder if it really is as much a time of restraint as it seems.outwardly people really do seem to be much calmer and more conservative yet they remain the same. what is to become of pent up emotions? they surely do not just fade away, do they get put on the back shelf and collect dust? perhaps they were in the window but faded to pale and matter little. just memories. either way time continues. so i sit at the counter at the pancake house at 5:30 am after having walked here in the rain. what really brings me here? it’s entertaining certainly, but i am sure that’s not why. so up walks Regan- a very bold and sassy trannie, to say hey, ask for my phone number and a few spare dollars. she drinks my water, takes it with her, drinks some of my coffee, leaving magenta beeswax behind like pigeon droppings.

j edgar- a meandering stream

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i have been mulling over what i might write about the film j. edgar. i saw it on sunday afternoon and was fairly gobsmacked for some reason. it has taken a day or so for me to ascertain what that might be about. the film is like a mountain stream in late august. it flows gently from here to there and back again. there are no visible rapids and what surprises exist are due more to the invisible depths than what is evident to the eye. that makes sense because john edgar hoover was much more than met the eye. he lived a dual-storyline his entire career. eastwood seems to mirror this with the tale that he spins rolling back and forth between the decades and the insanity( or do i mean drive?)that became hoover at the last years of his life. leonardo is sublimely eloquent. his expression of this historic character is loving and studied, directing me to both understand and empathize with j edgar’s duality. as he dons the makeup that is the elder g i man, it is seamlessly natural to forget who is the actor. perhaps i gush a little too much here, but i honestly can’t remember a performance that took my breath away quite like dicaprio’s hoover. it was really like my first slice of rhubarb pie- both sweet and tangy with both of those seeming dominant.

what is there to say about armie hammer. he again has cashed in on his blue blood demeanor to present a 1920’s poof, who only needs a green carnation to complete the stereotype. the tension between the two actors seems real, as does the overly cautious and entangled relationship that they boarded to ride together as j edgar shaped a federal bureau of investigation for america. typically i don’t like blondes, but somehow he stirs something in me that finds his silver spoon aesthetic not only endearing but attractive.

and when these two characters reach a tipping point in their relationship, i was achingly reminded what it was like to be closeted. there is such a struggle between fear and desire.  i don’t know how true to history this story is. i should care, but frankly i don’t. i do understand that here is another tortured gay couple’s story being played out on the big screen as directed by a heterosexual man. to pretend that lgbt love was without strife seems ignorant. to pretend that our predecessors were flawless is childlike and denialist. gay lives were taut and tenuous most of the time.  clint’s position is one of not assuming too much. he believes they loved each other. he believes they feared detection. he implies others knew about them. he insists the viewers find empathy or not. he insists we think about it.

i wish there were more gay directors who could be as deft with telling our stories as mr. eastwood and mr. lee. lgbt culture is indebted to these men. they respect without much embellishment. and they let viewers make their own opinions. i felt pride in seeing gay men love- even if it wasn’t wholesome, because i know we love. and i know we have tasted tragedy. i also know we have lost and we have won. both sides of this truth are evident in this storytelling. it gently rolls to and fro and a love seems to whisper in the breeze

as a post script- judy dench again shines here. she is understated, yet supports much of the first hour of the film. her most powerful line for me- “no son of mine will be a daffodil” embodies the stigma the stigma that homosexuals endured for the 1st 3/4 of the 20th century.

i am changing

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image credit…. paul mahder 

All of my life I’ve been a fool
Who said I could do it all alone
How many good friends have I already lost?
How many dark nights have I known?
Walking down that wrong road
There was nothing I could find
All those years of darkness
Could make a person blind
But now I can see

i didn’t really watch the glee project much this season. it seemed contrived and i have been preoccupied and in quite a bit of transition this year. my primary job is shifting, my finances have shifted, i left my second job (which connects to the prior), the funding for ryan white is beginning to shift, and i think that some of the dreams i have for my life have shifted as well.

it’s been a tough couple of years, actually. as i grow in my clean years, i continue to unearth old bones that need to be handled. self-esteem issues, ptsd, inner child crap, a small yet very persistent and annoying porn fixation, internalized homophobia, shame based trauma- just to name a few. damn- it continues to make sense that i chose to get high… who in their right mind would want to deal with this list of cuckoo?

but deal with it i try. and as i try to ride out the current state of mercury in retrograde with almost white knuckle precision, i tuned in for the last couple of segments of glee project. and the very last show captured my fascination. what a complete (yet short) birds’ eye view of young adults realizing their dreams. no doubt they will not turn out as they dream, but they are connected to these dreams of theirs and weaving in the reality of glee to create a tapestry for themselves. at 18 -22, life is so very less complicated. so very more concrete. the possibilities and experiences tend to be rife with black and white, not yet revealing all the shades of gray that more years of living unveils.

so i watched, captivated, as alex did his rendition of “i am changing”. i felt stunned as a deer might as he is caught in a set of headlights. i confess i watched the performance several times because it made me feel comfortable or safe in a way i couldn’t really pinpoint.

but then i thought back to the 1st time i heard that song. i was living in chicago, working at an after hours club, and partying exponentially, avoiding grief and fear, and nano-recovering as needed. there was a gay video bar on halsted named sidetracks which was unequivocally popular from its inception. i really dug the vids, but i didn’t care for the nipple pony, jock-a-like clientele. gay men offered me my first real taste of shame based trauma. i just didn’t realize it back then. anyway, dreamgirls had been playing in new york for a season or two, when the vid of jennifer holiday hit the circuit. i first beheld her linebacker-like choreography and drank in her complete command of words and melody in that song at sidetracks. and i first noticed that the people who were actually lip syncing or singing along were the buffed-up jockabees and the muscle boys. that particular irony is with me still.

i found all that broadway show tune business uber-syrupy back then. i couldn’t connect to similarities in the guys who listened to this music, or the clones in the gay community and myself then. i was certainly queer, but i had also branded myself as alternative and worked hard at maintaining boundaries about home, in bars and social settings,  i had heard and  felt the sharp tongues of gay men steeped in self-loathing and it had pierced my heart and left a dark empty space. i carried that wound for many years. it was toxic. it had made me wanna run for a long time.

i remember that when i first heard it, and i saw so many cute butchie-boys celebrating their inner dreamgirl, i became less afraid and felt just a little less apart that night in sidetracks. but as i listened to it today, with that sweet and complicated young man standing on stage in 9-5 drag, i understood that my heart is in a very different orbit.

i believe in possibility today. i am with fear, but not swimming in it. today i work to see an individual’s human qualities first. i continue to struggle with sharp tongues, but mostly my own. i want others to succeed, even if i don’t. i continue to struggle with many of the same issues, but now i struggle- i don’t ignore.  i am so happy that things are different. and blessed. i certainly found life very frothy when i was young, but i know things are in a much better place now. happy birthday to me (friday).

and to alex newell…. work it..