#ThrowbackThursday “Spring Fling ’86” The Birth of Penguin Place. (The William Way LGBT Community Center)

In 1986, I had the pleasure of working with some very special members of Philadelphia’s LGBT community to produce a “Spring Fling” fundraiser for what was to become Penguin Place. At the time, ours was a Community Center without walls.

Penguin Place 1

Spring Fling was held at the Mask and Wig Club (located on south Camac St.) I will never forget the Spring Fling or the months of planning that led up to it. Each of us made a special contribution. We had battling DJs, planned “spontaneous” entertainment that seemed to manifest out of nowhere (think “flash mob” but with jugglers, magicians, and musicians), and brilliant slide show presentations that were revealed on a rear projection screen behind a beautifully painted stage backdrop.

I was working as an AV technician at the time so my contribution was the rear projection screen, the slide projectors, lenses, and animation fader which I borrowed from work.

I have always regretted that I didn’t get to know Bill Way better. In our short friendship, he was very supportive and encouraged my creativity.

Shortly after Spring Fling, I left Philadelphia for a new job out west. By the time I returned, Bill had died. Penguin Place was a reality and had a permanent facility just two blocks north of the Mask and Wig Club. The New organizers had taken Way’s dream to the next level and was serving the community.

That the William Way LGBT Community Center has been in it’s permanent home at 1315 Spruce St. for nearly two decades is a testament to the work and dedication of the community.

I think about William Way and that odd bunch of people who inspired me to get involved in my community. It was a very brief moment in my life but it reflects the very best of the LGBT community. As we just saw with Marriage Equality, when we work together the possibilities are endless.

Post Cards from the In-Laws: or (What are you trying to say?)

My in-laws went to California for a wedding and sent this postcard.

Postcard from mom frontPostcard from mom black out

And no… it wasn’t a “same gender” wedding! 😁


This postcard brings up a few questions.

  1. Did they leave the wedding to tour Alcatraz?
  2. Are they comparing marriage to maximum security imprisonment?
  3. And what are they implying by, “You guys would have loved San Francisco”?

What are they trying to say? I’m so confused. 😛


Actually, my in-laws have accepted me into their family. To them, I’m not just my other half’s “friend”. They recognize that we are two men in love. They just don’t talk about it, which is why this postcard is so funny to me.  😊

While We Celebrate LGBT Pride, LGBT Ugandans Fight for Their Very Lives.

“People’s willingness to believe the most outlandish lie in exchange for a promise of salvation never ceases to amaze me.”
I watched an Independent Lens documentary called “God Loves Uganda”  on PBS the other night and was utterly disturbed by it. — Not so much by the movie itself, but by the extent to which white Christian missionaries have gone in order to spread their Anti-Gay hatred globally.

Produced by Roger Ross Williams, “God Loves Uganda” shows the senseless violence that LGBT Ugandans are now faced with because of the vicious lies and hateful propaganda spread by Christian missionaries like Scott Lively.

It’s pretty horrific.
In one scene, we see a pastor tell the crowd that homosexuals hunt and rape children. In another, the pastor shows the crowd pornography depicting anal sex. In yet another, the pastor tells the crowd that President Obama is forcing women to have abortions.
Unbelievable, right?
This all can be traced back to the beginning of the AIDS pandemic, when the US began sending much needed medical and financial aid around the globe in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. Then, during the GW Bush administration, strings were attached to that funding. Suddenly, instead of an overall approach of condom distribution and education, American evangelicals demanded “Abstinence-Only” education. …and we all know how well that worked out for the US Bible Belt.
God Loves Uganda is available on Netflix streaming.
The thing that bothers me most about all of this is the utter disregard for human life. Christian missionaries like Scott Lively will stop at nothing to achieve his goal of demonizing LGBT people around the world. Even lie! His lies have created a dangerous atmosphere for LGBT Ugandans. These pastors don’t understand Ugandan culture. So when they spread lies, perpetuating the myth that gay men are child predators, the locals believe it and take the law into their own hands. Countless LGBT people have been murdered. Many more have gone missing. If God exists, I don’t think he’d approve of hunting LGBT people for sport. Scott Lively, and pastors like him, have blood on their hands.

proxy
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If you get a chance, “God Loves Uganda” is worth a look-see. It’s a little rough at times but does shine a light on the dishonesty used by Christian fundamentalists who are, in my opinion, no different than any other religious fundamentalist. — Including those vicious animals who have stolen the name of the Egyptian goddess of magic and creator of life, Isis.


As we here in the US celebrate hard won victories in the advancement and acceptance of LGBT rights, I’ll be thinking of those around the world who continue to struggle simply to exist. Especially those whose suffering is a direct result of American interference.

#InternationalHolocaustRememberanceDay Remembering Gay Victims of the Holocaust

“In 1928 there was an estimated 1.2 million “out” homosexual men living in Germany.  As Adolf Hitler rose in power, gay organizations were banned and scholarly books regarding homosexuality were burned. Hitler’s racial state ideology branded homosexuals not only as “parasites” and degenerates, but as enemies of the state. In 1935, the Nazi government significantly expanded the criminalization of homosexuality.” via Stop Homophobia

If this doesn’t sound familiar, perhaps you should take a look at the rising anti-gay hysteria going on in Russia since Vladimir Putin enacted the Russian LGBT Propaganda Law which claims to “Protect Children from Information Harmful to Their Health and Development” but in has since led to an increase and justification of violence against LGBT people. To be clear, these laws have nothing to do with family or children. These laws are meant to scapegoat gays in very much the same way Germans scapegoated Jews and other “undesirables”.

The following is a collection of quotes and links compiled from around the web that shine a light on the forgotten victims of nazi terror.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Mug shot of a homosexual prisoner in Auschwitz. Pink triangles were used to designate homosexual inmates. State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Oświęcim, Poland

Mug shot of a homosexual prisoner in Auschwitz. Pink triangles were used to designate homosexual inmates. State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Oświęcim, Poland

“In Nazi Germany, homosexuality was persecuted to a degree unprecedented in history. In 1935, the National Socialists issued an order making all male homosexuality a crime; the provisions governing homosexual behavior in Section 175 of the Criminal Code were significantly expanded and made stricter. A kiss was enough reason to prosecute. There were more than 50,000 convictions. Under Section 175, the punishment was imprisonment; in some cases, convicted offenders were castrated. Thousands of men were sent to concentration camps for being gay; many of them died there. They died of hunger, disease and abuse or were the victims of targeted killings.” — Travels of Adam

By now, most people are familiar with the Pink Triangle which, along with the Lambda and the Rainbow Flag, is a symbol for LGBT pride. But it has a dark history, one that isn’t taught in school. I remember a teacher talking about nazis exterminating millions of Jews and “others“, as if the others were an insignificant footnote of world history. When pressed, he explained that the ‘others’ were made up of gypsies, socialists, deviants and political prisoners.

triangle key2

Nazi Badge Chart identifies prisoners according to “offense”

 

Under the direction of SS head, police drew up “Pink Lists”, and embarked on a vicious crackdown on homosexual men and women. Many were sent to mental hospitals, others were castrated by court order, and 100,000 of these men were sent to concentration camps.The pink triangle (now a symbol of Gay Pride) was placed on the prisoners to mark that they were homosexuals. An estimated 55,000 were executed.

Heinz Dormer, spent nearly ten years in prisons and concentration camps. He spoke of the “haunting agonizing cries” from “the singing forest”, a row of tall poles on which condemned men were hung: “Everyone who was sentenced to death would be lifted up onto the hook. The howling and screaming were inhuman, beyond human comprehension”. source

Here is the badge chart translated to English

Here is the badge chart translated to English

The vast majority of those forced to wear pink triangles didn’t survive.

The Nazis believed that male homosexuals were weak, effeminate men who could not fight for the German nation. They saw homosexuals as unlikely to produce children and increase the German birthrate. The Nazis held that inferior races produced more children than “Aryans,” so anything that diminished Germany’s reproductive potential was considered a racial danger” — US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Eventually, the LGBT community took back the symbol of oppression.

LGBT reclaim the Pink Triangle (1980s)

 

Nazis interested in finding a “cure” for homosexuality expanded this program to include medical experimentation on homosexual inmates of concentration camps. These experiments caused illness, mutilation, and even death, and yielded no scientific knowledge.– source

“There are no known statistics for the number of homosexuals who died in the camps.”

I don’t know what it’s like to have family members that have survived the horrors of Auschwitz. It’s something for which I have no frame of reference so I would never assume to put myself in the same category as those with a direct familial link to nazi persecution. But I can identify with those who were singled out for something that is innate, especially when I look around and see history repeating itself.  I can honor forgotten victims.

Nazi Holocaust – The Forgotten Gay Victims

The fight against fascism and bigotry must also incorporate the defence and support of the Gay and Lesbian Communities. The message needs to be made loud and clear, and repeated often; ANY form of discrimination, bigotry or oppression must be fought and defeated in the 21st Century!!! — PNW

 

When we say “Never Again” we’ve got to mean it for everybody. It’s the only way to ensure that we are all safe from persecution because, if they come for one group they will come for yours too.

For more on Gays and the Holocaust…

#WAD2014 – #Reagan, #AIDS, and ACT-UP

For those of you who don’t understand why I dislike Reagan so much, here’s a poster from 1987 protesting our president’s silence on the deadliest virus that America had seen.

AIDSGATE, 1987, posterThink about that for a minute. Hundreds of thousands of Americans were sick and dying, and the American president was silent!

Ronald Reagan’s silence led to the organizing of LGBT protest/action group, The AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, or “ACT-UP”. Their slogan, “Silence = Death” is based on Reagan’s silence.

AIDSIntroPicSilenceDeathSo the next time a conservative talks about how great a president Reagan was, ask them if they think it’s okay for an American president to ignore the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Ask them if they ever wonder how much closer we might be to finding a cure for HIV had Reagan actually done something.

If it sounds like I’m angry it’s because I AM angry. A whole generation of gay men from artists, writers, athletes, and teachers to doctors, lawyers, friends, lovers, and family, an entire generation was lost because of the callous attitude of Ronald Reagan and his successor, George HW Bush. Those of us who survived watched the ones we loved die all around us.

Gran Fury, The Government Has Blood On Its Hands, 1988, posterBoth Ronnie and Georgie Sr have blood on their hands.

I am dedicating World Aids Day 2014 to the fighters, the people who stand up for justice. From ACT-UP to protesters in Ferguson, we are all fighting for our lives. Never stop fighting. Sometimes shouting is the only way we’re heard.

Remembering the Everyday Heroes of September 11th

The thing I remember most about that Warm and Beautiful Day in September is people’s unconditional willingness to help one another.

I spent most of the day today trying to come up with something brilliant as a tribute to the memory of the many lives lost in, and those affected by, the 2001 terrorist attacks. I wanted to say something about America’s resilience. But looking back at the past four years of childish political posturing, and the increasing frequency of racist violence perpetrated by those entrusted to protect and serve, it’s hard to imagine that we ever all stood together as one United States.

But we did! I saw it with my own two eyes. People with absolutely nothing offered total strangers food to eat, a place to get cleaned up and rest, or just a safe place to sleep for the night. In my own city, which was not directly affected, everyday people did whatever they could. Some traveled to affected areas to join the rescue effort. These were everyday heroes.

Then on September 13th, just Two Days Later, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson appeared on The 700 Club and claimed that God smote America because of all the “Pagans, Abortionists, Atheists, Feminists, Gays, and Lesbians, the ACLU, and People for the American Way”. What a vile, evil thing for two purported men of God to say.

Why must Americans be so ugly to one another every chance we get?

For a few months following the September 11th attacks, most of us stood together and pitched in where we could. We did it because we cared. We did it to help heal the open wound. We did it because it was the right thing to do.

But why does it have to take a tragedy for us to treat each other like human beings?

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!

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!

What About Protection For LGBT Families??

*Note: this piece has been sitting in my drafts folder for almost a year. Since then the U.S. Supreme Court has deemed The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and several more states have struck down their anti-same sex marriage laws. A lot has changed since I wrote it, but the sentiment remains. I’ve witnessed the damage that happens to gay couples because they didn’t have the legal protections afforded to their heterosexual counterparts. This isn’t about hurting straight couples. This is about protecting LGBT couples. Nothing more.

lineAnyone who has lived through the height of the AIDS crisis understands why Same Sex Marriage is necessary.

I’ve witnessed countless gay men lose everything as the families of their deceased partners swooped in like vultures, devouring everything in sight. It reminded me of the peasants picking through Scrooge’s things in the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. These family members weren’t close to the deceased. In most cases they had disowned their gay son. Some were so fearful of AIDS that they refused to come visit their son or brother in the hospital, leaving the survivor to care for his sick partner alone. — Strange. Where was their fear of HIV/AIDS when they were picking through the dead man’s belongings?

It pissed me off to no end seeing these cowards walk in after the fact and claim property simply because they were family. Where was their “Family Values” when their relative was sick??

One woman had the arrogance to tell a friend of mine that his 15 year relationship with her brother was nothing more than playing house. “My husband and I have been married for ten years,” she said. “You two may have lived together, but it was not love.” WHAT?? Was she out of her friggin mind??

One of my friends challenged his deceased partner’s family. The father, who was a lawyer, told his son’s partner, “I have infinite resources. You will go bankrupt if you try to challenge me.” My friend’s case never made it to court. He was forced to move less than a year later.

Those are just two examples of the complete disregard for and discrimination of LGBT families. Did you know it is legal to fire someone simply because he or she is Gay in 29 states? Twenty-Nine States! That’s the reason ENDA is so important. AND… Gays and Lesbians can be DENIED housing in another 29 states. What the hell!

“But what about the children?”

Yeah. Conservatives love to hold children hostage over every issue they don’t approve of. For some reason, they think legalizing Same-Sex Marriage will somehow interfere with the raising of their children. I don’t understand the resistance to educating children, in an age appropriate way, about the world around them. Besides, what of the Gay and Lesbian couples who are raising children? Where is the protection for their families?

If the foundation or your marriage so fragile that it would crumble under the weight of another couple’s happiness, I feel sorry for you.

Here’s the thing. Same Sex Marriage is a conservative idea. It’s personal liberty. It’s “Family Values”

Fifteen years ago, when the idea of Same-Sex Marriage was in it’s infancy, I may have settled for Civil Unions, but Civil Unions are NOT equal to Marriage. A Marriage grants you 1,138 federal rights, protections and responsibilities   A Civil Union does not.

Depending on which state you live, it will cost you between $50 and $100 for a Marriage license. In order to acquire some of (but not all) those rights an LGBT couple must hire a lawyer and spend hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars. Why do I need to make a lawyer rich just to enjoy the same rights as any two strangers can get just because they said, “I Do” at a Las Vegas Drive-Thru wedding chapel?

lineIt heartens me to see that we have accomplished so much since I first drafted this post. At this moment nineteen states and the District of Columbia have given the ‘go ahead’ to same sex marriage. We still have a long way to go, but I cannot overlook the accomplishments of just this last year. LGBTs and their allies have much to be proud of.

Happy Pride Month Everybody!

I don’t understand the Christian obsession with homosexuality.

On Sunday Morning, I read a post by twowisegals titled, Jesus Christ’s Super Star? … #CarlLentz … #HipsterPastor about this new hip pastor from NYC and his apparent waffling on the subject of homosexuality. It stuck in my craw. Seriously. Why is the first question asked of a religious leader always about homosexuality?

Here is my question to all Christians. It’s been nagging at me for decades and I’d really like an answer.

Why are Christians obsessed with homosexuals? Truly there must be things more worthy of your attention. Hunger, poverty, and war, are just the first three that come to mind.

Christians quote scripture from Leviticus, and they love Sodom and Gomorrah, as examples of God’s distaste of homosexuals. The trouble, besides faulty interpretation, is that these passages come from the Old Testament which is essentially the Hebrew Bible, The Torah, if you will.
Anyone who has read the New Testament knows that Peter and Paul spent a great deal of energy convincing the masses that there is a new way, essentially separating the new Christianity from the Hebrew, or Jewish, faith.
So the question arises. Why are Christians following the Hebrew text instead of the teachings of Christ?

The Christian obsession with homosexuality borders on mania. It’s almost entertaining until you realize the damage they are doing all around the world. Thanks to American Evangelicals, Homosexuality is punishable by death in much of Africa. The Reverends Scott Lively and Rick Warren are directly responsible for Uganda’s new “Kill The Gays” law.
Is this the kind of thing Christians want? The genocide of homosexuals worldwide? Was one Holocaust not enough? — It’s not much of a stretch to say that Putin’s use of homosexuals as scapegoats reminds me of a German madman who did something similar almost century ago.
The fact that Christians are obsessing over sex, instead of protesting the terrorization and murder of fellow human beings, is shameful!
I don’t think Jesus Christ would approve.

~ end rant ~

Now, get your butts over to the twowisegals and see what they’re all about. Their blog is interesting and entertaining and worth your time. 🙂