people drift into and out of our lives for a plethora of reasons and an even more a variety of seasons. velvet was one of those sweet gifts that life offers.
the first time i remember seeing him was in the late 1970’s on the dance floor at an after-hours club called Chicago 161 West. He had on a beaded vest with no shirt underneath and a pair of baggie hammer-type pants (long before mc hammer ever came along) he was dancing to a frankie knuckles mix and was rotating his right hand like he was winding up big ben or churning butter while standing up. he was a gypsy. he was magical. he was a muse for several of us.
his life was relatively fleeting. he died of aids in 1989- one of the earlier ones to go although he passed long after my friend paul. it must have been the drugs that he did. they must have stunted the virus. or perhaps his joie de vive was so potent that it kept viral replication at bay. or perhaps he was just a slow progressor.
velvet was not complicated. he was forthright. he spoke his mind. he was often tactless.
he was a warrior. he was fearless. he was fierce. he said “yes” to pleasure.
velvet taught me about acceptance. he showed me a side of loyalty that was intrinsically independent. his sense of tribal survival was reminiscent of my own gypsy tribe of origin.
and he was part of the wind beneath the rainbow flag long before it was created.
as i look upon my lgbt tribe of today, their homogenized demeanor, their fear of individuality, their toxic internalized homophobia.
i miss the days when scag drag was avant and the drag queens and the butches were recognized and heralded for having led the way to freedoms in high contrast to the current trend to dismiss them because of the very idiosyncracies that afforded us progress.
i mourn today not only for the loss of a dear friend those 25 years ago, but also the loss of our permission to be a vibrant color on that flag instead of purchasing a bumper sticker. today most gays and lesbians know some bits and pieces of our magical faerie history but few really invite them in our weddings, dinner parties, or family celebrations. this part of our history seems to have become museum pieces that may be most at home in a cultural museum. like rotary phones and model-t’s.
“girl- he told me my hole was like velvet”
Oh don’t get me wrong
It’s not that I knock it
It’s just that I am not in the market
For a boy who wants to love only me
Yes, and I ain’t saying you ain’t pretty
All I’m saying is I’m not ready
For any person place or thing
To try and pull the reins in on me
So good-bye I’ll be leaving
I see no sense in this crying and grieving
We’ll both live a lot longer
If you live without me
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.
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.