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.
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.
- 1970 – The first Gay Liberation Day March is held in New York City; The first LGBT Pride Parade is held in Los Angeles; The first “Gay-in” held in San Francisco; Carl Wittman writes A Gay Manifesto; CAMP (Campaign Against Moral Persecution) is formed in Australia.
- 1971 – Society Five (a homosexual rights organization) is formed in Melbourne, Australia; Homosexuality is decriminalized in Austria, Costa Rica and Finland; Colorado and Oregon repeal sodomy laws; Idaho repeals the sodomy law — Then re-instates the repealed sodomy law because of outrage among Mormons and Catholics. The Netherlands changes the homosexual age of consent to 16, the same as the straight age of consent; The U.S. Libertarian Party calls for the repeal of all victimless crime laws, including the sodomy laws; Dr. Frank Kamenybecomes the first openly gay candidate for the United States Congress; The University of Michigan establishes the first collegiate LGBT programs office, then known as the “Gay Advocate’s Office.” The UK Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was recognized as a political movement in the national press and was holding weekly meetings of 200 to 300 people.
- 1972 – Sweden becomes first country in the world to allow transsexuals to legally change their sex, and provides free hormone therapy; 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 Davis, Buffalo, 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.
- 1973 – The American Psychiatric Association removes homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-II), based largely on the research and advocacy of Evelyn Hooker; Malta legalizes homosexuality; In West Germany, the age of consent is reduced for homosexuals to 18 (though it is 14 for heterosexuals).
- 1974 – Kathy Kozachenko becomes the first openly gay American elected to public office when she wins a seat on the Ann Arbor, Michigan city council; In New York City Dr. Fritz Kleinfounds the Bisexual Forum, the first support group for the Bisexual Community; Ohio repeals sodomy laws. Robert Grant founds American Christian Cause to oppose the “gay agenda“, the beginning of modern Christian politics in the United States. In London, the first openly LGBT telephone help line opens, followed one year later by the Brighton Lesbian and Gay Switchboard; the Brunswick Four are arrested on January 5, 1974, in Toronto, Ontario. This incident of Lesbophobia galvanizes the Toronto Lesbian and Gay community; theNational Socialist League (The Gay Nazi Party) is founded in Los Angeles, California.
- 1975 – Homosexuality is legalized in South Australia; homosexuality is legalized in California due to bill authored by and successfully lobbied for in the state legislature by State Assemblyman from San Francisco Willie Brown; Elaine Noble becomes the second openly gay American elected to public office when she wins a seat in the Massachusetts State House; the first National Homosxual Conference is held in Melbourne, Australia; Panama is the second country in the world to allow transsexuals who have gone through gender reassignment surgery to get their personal documents reflecting their new sex.
- 1976 – Robert Grant founds the Christian Voice to take his anti-homosexual-rights crusade national in United States; the Homosexual Law Reform Coalition and the Gay Teachers Group are started in Australia; the Australian Capital Territory decriminalizes homosexuality between consenting adults in private and equalizes the age of consent; and Denmark equalizes the age of consent.
- 1977 – Harvey Milk is elected city-county supervisor in San Francisco, becoming the third out American elected to public office. Dade County, Florida enacts a Human Rights Ordinance; it is repealed the same year after a militant anti-homosexual-rights campaign led by Anita Bryant.Quebec becomes the first jurisdiction larger than a city or county in the world to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in the public and private sectors; Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia and Vojvodina legalise homosexuality. Publication of the first issue of Gaysweek, NYC’s first mainstream gay weekly.
- 1978 – San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone are assassinated by former Supervisor Dan White; a protest commemorating the Stonewall Riots leads to many arrests, with commemorative protests the following year known as the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras, later Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras; The rainbow flag is first used as a symbol of homosexual pride; Sweden establishes a uniform age of consent. Samois the earliest known lesbian-feminist BDSM organization is founded in San Francisco; well-known members of the group includePatrick Califia and Gayle Rubin; the group is among the very earliest advocates of what came to be known as sex-positive feminism; The International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) is established. Theatrical release and television broadcast of the feature documentaryWord Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives, and publication of the book transcribed from it.
- 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; 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.….
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
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.
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.
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 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 this.at 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..