It’s Been A Rough Week, So…

I thought I’d share a cute video by Steve J Boyle called “I Hit Send, or Modern Meltdown“. It’s a poetry reading about Steven’s first crush, post-coming-out.

Some of the language may not be appropriate for all audiences, but it’s adorably funny.

I figured a little light humor would be good thing after such an unbelievably bad week.

Enjoy!

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Pay It No Mind: Marsha P. Johnson

 

This feature-length documentary focuses on revolutionary trans-activist, Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson, a Stonewall instigator, Andy Warhol model, drag queen, sex worker, starving actress, and Saint. “Pay It” captures the legendary gay/human rights activist as she recounts her life at the forefront of The Stonewall Riots in the 1960s, the creation of S.T.A.R. (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) with Sylvia Rivera in the ’70s, and a New York City activist throughout the ’80s and early ’90s. Through her own words, as well as interviews with gay activist/reporter Randy Wicker, former Cockettes performer Agosto Machado, author Michael Musto, Hot Peaches founder/performer, Jimmy Camicia, and Stonewall activists Bob Kohler, ,Danny Garvin Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt, and Martin Boyce, Marsha’s story lives on.

This documentary screened in 2012 at the IFC theater in New York, the British Film Institute in London, and La Mutinerie in Paris France.

I met Marsha Johnson in 1985 while visiting New York’s Gay Pride Parade with my first boyfriend. I was just twenty years old, it was my very first Pride celebration, and needless to say, Marsha made an huge impression on me.

I didn’t really know Marsha all that well, but feel fortunate that she and I chanced meeting twice again before she mysteriously died. Her joy for life was contagious.

I believe that people like Marsha, these innocents if you will, are put here to make the world a better place.

Happy Pride Month Everybody!

Harvey Milk – “Hope”

In honor of Pride Month and the issuance of the Harvey Milk US Postage Stamp, here’s a short clip from the award winning 1984 documentary “The Times of Harvey Milk

This short yet inspiring speech is something everyone should hear. Milk asserts that LGBT Rights, Civil rights, Women’s Rights are all connected. We need each other to succeed. Together we are strong.

Milk insists that we not forget the LGBT youth who are struggling with their identity. Give them hope for a better tomorrow.

“Without hope, life is not worth living.” – Harvey Milk

Dear LGBTQIA…BCDEFG Community,

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex… I’m confused. Is the A for Ally or Asexual?

Can we please do something about this ever expanding alphabet soup of an acronym that we have come to embrace? It’s getting a little confusing and frankly, a little ridiculous. Seriously, every time I turn around it seems like we’ve tacked on another letter! I understand that it’s all part of the inclusiveness that our community is supposed to be embracing — and that’s a beautiful thing — but all it really does is confuse everyone except for those whose letter is represented.

How about choosing one all-inclusive word to encompass everyone? I liked gay but it’s become synonymous with homosexual men. So, it isn’t really all-inclusive anymore.

“Sexual minority” is all encompassing, though probably a little too clinical. You could maybe shorten it to the “SM” community but apparently, there already is an SM community.

Way back in the 1990s, some of the kids reclaimed “queer” but that word still holds negative connotations to me. It’s just as bad as that six letter F word. No, we need something optimistic, something bright, something trendy and cool. Like… The Rainbow Community!” …No? You don’t like it? To be honest, neither do I. It brings to mind Rainbow Brite, My Little Pony, or worse… the Smurfs! Come to think of it, Papa Smurf does have that ‘daddy bear’ vibe. He’d probably fit right in at your friendly neighborhood leather bar.

The thing is, members of the LGBTQIA community come from all walks of life. Every ethnicity and socioeconomic background is represented within our community. We are a microcosm of the world! As such, each subgroup needs to be represented so that young LGBTQIA people don’t feel isolated within their own communities. It’s simpler than it sounds. Growing up gay, lesbian, or trans* can be a very lonely thing. Isolation leads to depression. Depression often leads to suicide. When you recognize the importance of representation, suddenly the alphabet soup doesn’t seem so bad.

So, I guess I can live with the ever expanding, all inclusive, acronym that has come to represent our equally varied and colorful community.

parada gay

 

They say variety is the spice of life.

It certainly makes life more interesting.

Happy Pride Month Everybody!

“Hiding in the closet isn’t going to cure you!”

Dr. Lauren Boullard (Leslie Caron) searches her apartment for the very confused Paul Chadwick (Rock Hudson) in A Very Special Favor (1965)

ASpecialFavor1

Intentional or not, that wink at Rock Hudson’s sexuality is a typical example of Hollywood using homosexuality as the butt of a joke. But the gay jokes are subtle compared to the blatant sexism which was the main attraction in this movie.

In A Very Special Favor, Michel Boullard (Charles Boyer) fears that his daughter, a 30 year old Psychiatrist, is destined to become a lonely spinster. — It doesn’t matter that’s she’s a successful doctor. She’s 30 and single. Shocking! In an effort to ensure his daughter’s future happiness, Mr. Boullard cooks up a crazy scheme with handsome lady’s man, Paul Chadwick (Rock Hudson). Dr. Boullard does get the upper hand, but not without a few cringe worthy moments.

It’s a cute move that’s worth watching. It will make you laugh and, like Mad Men, give you a glimpse at a time in American history when, no matter how much a woman achieves, she couldn’t be happy unless married and pregnant

Happy Birthday Bette Midler!

In honor of Bette Midler’s birthday, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite Bette songs. You won’t find Wind  Beneath My Wings or The Rose on this list. They’re both great tunes, but we’ve all heard them a million times. Instead, I’d like to share some of the lesser known, but equally good tracks.

I didn’t really pay attention to Bette until I heard a radio interview sometime in 1980. I was a lost fifteen year old. I had few friends because I had no social skills. During this interview she recited the following quote…

“What’s underneath the mask isn’t as important as the mask that you choose to wear. That’s the true indication of your imagination and your spirit.”

That quote gave me the courage to be the person I wanted to be. I started making new friends, I got my first part-time, after school job, and a year later I came out. Surprise! 😉

My unofficial introduction to Bette Midler was her 1972 remake of Bobby Freeman’s “Do You Want To Dance”, which appeared on her debut album, “The Divine Miss M”. The slower tempo gives it a more sultry feel than the original. It wasn’t until I was much older that I understood the deeper sexual themes of Bette’s version. It remains a favorite.

The third cut on Bette’s debut album, which also includes a beautiful cover of the Ethel Waters standard “Am I Blue”, is a percussion heavy, 1960s style  rock/soul tune called “Daytime Hustler”. It’s the style of song you’d expect to hear from an artist like Tina Turner. With lyrics like, “Fancy money doesn’t buy my love. Flashy Cadillacs won’t make me f❇k. I’ve been hustled by the best of them, and you ain’t nothing but a crazy, crazy man…”  It’s a fun song.

“Skylark”, from Bette’s 1973 self titled second album, is probably the most under-appreciated interpretation of the 1941 Johnny Mercer/ Hoagy Carmichael American pop classic. According to wikipedia, The yearning expressed in the lyrics is Mercer’s longing for Judy Garland, with whom Mercer had an affair.

On the other end of the spectrum from Skylark, is “Breaking up somebody’s home”, also from Bette’s second album. This is one of those little known gems that got buried in the past. It’s bluesy, raw, and more than a little bit sexy. You probably won’t hear this song at a wedding reception. …at least I hope not.

Bette’s fifth album, Thighs and Whispers (1979) contains her disco hits “Big Noise From Winnetka” and “Married Men” and a decent cover of Johnny Bristol’s “Hang on in There Baby”. Although “My Knight in Black Leather” did well in gay clubs, it never became anything more than a camp classic.

The real gems from her fifth album were “Cradle Days” and her beautiful, sad cover of James Taylor’s “Millworker”

“Cradle days” is an aching plea to first love. We’ve all been there. Bette’s voice is powerful in this emotional rock ballad. It’s my favorite tune on that album.

From Bette’s little known fourth album, the one that nobody bought, called Broken Blossom, came “Empty Bed Blues“, “Paradise“, and a really cool duet with Tom Waits called “I Never Talk To Strangers.”

The economy of 1970s was pretty much as it is today. Bette’s aptly named Songs For The New Depression contains a campy cover of “Marahuana” — originally sung by Gertrude Michael in the pre-code “Murder at the Vanities” (1934)

Bette was sick during the filming of Divine Madness, You can hear it in her voice. But the cameras, lighting and sound equipment were already paid for and the auditorium was booked. Canceling production would have cost millions. So they pumped her up with Vitamin C and sent her on stage. Yet, in my opinion, the Divine Madness performance of “Stay With Me Baby” is the best.

Happy Birthday Bette!

Thanksgiving Memories

Thanksgiving inevitably leads to trips down memory lane. Random memories of family and friends that you thought you’d forgotten pop up out of nowhere. This year I found myself thinking about my father, and about a young woman from India whom I met way back in the 1980s. Two somewhat unrelated memories whose only connection is Thanksgiving, and maybe fathers.

In the summer of 1987 I was introduced to a young woman whose father had brought her to America to fulfill an arranged marriage. The problem was that her father didn’t know she was a lesbian. I hope you’ll forgive me if I can’t remember her name. It was 25 years ago. My friends and I spent the summer respectfully trying to help and support her throughout her coming out process. It was emotionally exhausting for all of us. I can’t imagine what she was going through.

As Thanksgiving approached, I asked how her family would be celebrating. She said “We don’t believe in thanksgiving.” I tried to explain that Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday. I pointed out that Thanksgiving is about showing gratitude for what you have. It’s about family, friends, etc. Still, she insisted that her family did not believe in Thanksgiving. I reluctantly submitted to her opinion and we continued along with other conversations. It never occurred to me that, in my insistence that she understand my point of view, I might be behaving just as stubborn as her father, and incidentally, my father.

My father and I had a rocky relationship. I spent most of my life distancing myself from his chauvinistic attitudes. (Notice I didn’t say misogynistic.) Dad wasn’t a bad person. He just had the misfortune of living precariously between two eras. He grew up in the 1950s, when men were kings of their castles. By the time I came along things had changed drastically. Racial equality, women’s rights, and gay liberation turned his world upside down. It was difficult, but he made an effort to change with the times. Dad’s limited education and preconceptions about the world often led to awkward interactions. He couldn’t understand why people didn’t always see things from his point of view. Sound familiar?

As I get older I catch myself doing and saying things that remind me of my father, especially around the holidays. Carving the turkey always returns me to my dad’s last Thanksgiving. His health was such that he couldn’t securely grasp and control a large knife, so the honor of carving the bird was passed to me. This was a very big moment for both me and my dad. He watched silently as I showed off my skills. I was proud. He was proud. Even my stepmother was proud. It was a very surreal moment. It took a lot for him to concede the duties traditionally held by the head of household. It was a ridiculously small gesture by today’s standards, but it wasn’t about the knife or my carving skills. It was a small example of the many changes that had occurred in my father over the course of his life.

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I’m not sure what made me think of that young woman. I understand she moved back to India with her family the following winter. I never did find out how she resolved her coming out issue, but I hope she followed her heart. I hope she stayed true to herself.

I’d like to think I’ve achieved some personal growth since the last time I saw her, but I still see a bit of my dad in myself. But that’s okay. He did the best he could with what he had. He was human. He made mistakes.

Maybe, just maybe, if we all just accept that we’re only human, and give each other a little wiggle room, and a chance to make and learn from our mistakes, the world might be a better place.

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 Don’t let life pass you by. Enjoy the time with loved ones while you can.