once in a while i become aware that the flow of life is really happening without my input. the sun rises, the sun travels across the sky, and the sun recedes from the sky and not once have i been consulted or my opinion sought out.
the thought of this used to frighten me immensely, but now it’s a reality that gives me comfort. it connects me to the knowledge that i am only a part of the painting that is life not the painting itself.
it’s such a big relief to not be in charge.
sometimes there are experiences that create a shift in perception. and other times there are underground tremors that shake up everything around me without noticeably jostling the earth. and sometimes a fog lifts revealing something in the landscape that has always been there but i have never seen previously.
today i had all three of these experiences all at once. i can’t tell you why and and i cannot really tell you how. i just know that as i sat in the dark theater as these brilliant performances slowly revealed themselves, i detached and reconnected in what might be a whole new way.
the simplicity of this small story is profound enough for me to relay with confidence that we will move beyond the appropriateness of same sex relationship to the inclusion of them as normal and everyday emotional baggage. it’s not the gayness of the characters that deliver the drama. it is the character’s relationship to the world that creates the storyline.
this small shift, apparently insignificant, actually holds a universe of meaning for me. i have said on many occasions that i don’t support gay marriage to emulate other culture’s marriages. but i do advocate for the inclusion of same sex relationships into our culture’s agreement field. “love is strange” illustrates this idea with effortless and inspring style. the writing is impeccable. simple and impeccable. and the performances are understated and filled with clarity.
run- don’t walk- to catch this film. it’s humanity has given me hope for the future.
and here is my other recent obsession- taylor swift’s newest offering to the pop music world. i saw her on the vma’s and found myself intoxicated with her bravada. way to go girl….
one thing i forgot to mention in yesterday’s post was the scene in “the normal heart” with the lesbian estelle who came to volunteer at gmhc after her best friend died. she cried and declared that her lesbian friends all told her “what have they ever done for us?” but she didn’t care. estelle wanted to do something. it was for her friend.
this is very much a part of my 80’s memories. gay women became the glue that held our emotional bandages together. they brought food, ran errands, went to protests and marches, helped us believe we could survive, and gave gay men love when there were very few others doing this.. even ourselves. and in the process, they carved out a completely new lgbt community and agreement field.
instead of strictly separatist living, we began to learn that were stronger together and also that maybe we just needed each other.
so in a way, the gay cancer created the space for our community to heal. and the lesbian community- the beautiful and buxom and butch and lipstick and country and city lesbians were the the thread that connected our torn and tattered rainbow flag.
i love lesbians. always have. always will.
memorial day weekend 2014, hbo brought us ryan murphy’s film adaptation of larry kramer’s play “the normal heart”. memorial day indeed.
1981 heralded in what is the most prolific alarm of my lifetime; a mysterious gay cancer that was leveling the souls of a once small number of gay men in american urban meccas with the voracity of weed whacker on a summer day on cul-du-sac. the real difference however was that the force behind the whacking seemed at once mercurial, invisible, and personal. and as hiv machete(d) a path through our lives those early years, it left deep and cavernous scar tissue that remains tender now and will remain so most likely to our end of days.
the first in our circle that i can really recall was john bennet. and i behaved like a complete ass towards him. he was a friend of blue’s and he was whispering in a loud darkened corner of the manhole about his diagnosis. i remember reacting to the news with complete and caustic judgement. how dare he pick such a place to disclose? so inappropriate. john slipped away within weeks. i saw him a couple more times and silently screamed at the horror of his weight loss and the onset of a death mask that became so damn common in our circles.
the biggest trauma for me was twofold. my bestie paul had moved to nyc to attend columbia. he was such a cutie-pie; handsome, intelligent, funny, awkward, and loving. he was buff and beautiful. he was ready for the 80’s. 2 years later he moved back to chicago having lost 1/3 of his body weight while learning to cope with constant diarrhea and thrush. we had become friends through restaurant work and soon moved on to food nerds and wine snobs as well. i remember upon his return going to dinner at a new tapas restaurant on halsted and witnessing his tears as the food we shared seared into his über delicate tongue like a branding iron.
i tested positive the same year paul died. the war front atmosphere of life for this gay man became too much to even pretend to handle. cocaine and vodka acted like a key to the door of my cellar of ignorance and i went there as often as i could. please don’t read this as “oh woe is me”. i don’t know many gay men and women who don’t still carry trauma from those years. it was much like that movie inception where the world starts to fold up on itself like a fold up chess board but with us as the pieces still remaining in play. that sort of experience takes time to comprehend, let alone move beyond.
i found the hbo production to be a beautiful gift. i think it is enormously thoughtful and detailed. it captures the essence of that time for me. i remember viewing actup the same way i reacted to john bennet. with judgement and avoidance. frankly, i don’t do conflict well. i learned early on that tuning out was my drug of choice and so faced with these hard realities, i did the only thing i knew.
but thank goodness for larry kramer, actup, and the revolution. i am so indebted to their ability to be present in that amazing crisis. i cared for people who needed it, but to have the where-with-all to scream at injustice like a scene from “invasion of the body snatchers” seems prolific and monument-worthy. as a culture, we were not prepared for any of this. we snapped and bitched at each other out of terror. it took years to find common ground and resolve. it took thousands of memorial services, funerals, and volunteer hours.
it was a complete loss of innocence for our people. there was a very short and immensely beautiful adolescence before we were thrust into adulthood. then there is ptsd, chemo-like medication, survivor’s guilt, repressed anger, and aging. don’t get me wrong. i love my life today. i love being sober. i love my vocation and being able to offer support to others. but i do still miss those days and those beautiful souls. and i would step back for a minute. even knowing what was coming.
Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunder-storm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols… Thomas Mann
thank you larry kramer. thank you peter staley. thanks to so many of you for guiding the ship while i threw up over the side. i honestly regret not seeing your inner light back then. i needed you. we needed you and never were able to recognize it, let alone appreciate how important expressing our anger would be and how far that would help us travel. and we helped our community and our world step into a new century with insight and understanding beyond imagination.
there has been much deserved press for a speech by irish drag persona panti bliss. i must say i have listened to it about 10 times or so and i find it to be plugged into the very soul of the conversation about lgbt rights in the 2nd decade of the 21st century of our human culture.
there is very little blame or projection about the responsibility of the oppression still felt among a good portion of our community. for me it really touches upon some basic construct of the modern gay male psyche at least those over 40. it seems a cycle we grow up feeling shame about who we are or how we are we are, then we are grown and we often go crazy and taunt each other and watch each other trying to shake that very shame. and that feels oppressive.
i have blogged often about shame and shame-based trauma. this is the cornerstone of many men’s foundation. as is lovingly laid out in alan downs’ short book “the velvet rage”. the ongoing process of being different, loved ones realizing we are different and slightly turning away we, in turn, feeling that turning away and internalizing it, knowing that our loved ones are treating us differently, which causes some of us to feel unlove-able which we also turn inwards to hide, and then spend a good deal of the rest of our lives playing out in a myriad of phases and dramas trying to erase that unlove-able, working through the anger of distancing, and coming to terms with being different and letting go of feeling unlove-able.
the advent of gay marriage is perhaps the next biggest gain for the lgbtq community. no we shouldn’t create an ideal to model heterosexual relationships and that is not the only aspect of marriage equality. what matters is that we are love-able, and that the world at large accepts and insists that we are love-able even if we are different. and then perhaps this ongoing dance of being different and slightly being rejected by our family and friends can come to an end. we can be accepted as we are and fight different internal battles just like our non-gay contemporaries.
i absolutely love the chutzpah that panti lassoes in her talk in the theater. i have gratitude and respect for a truth coming so quietly and so candidly.
here is panti bliss’ speech that has been set to a rhythm track a la the pet shop boys. i adore this just as much.