#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…

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“All Hallows Eve” – a short story.

By 10 pm the last of the trick-or-treaters had come and gone. I gazed up and down the street for stragglers before closing and locking the front door for the night. I put away my empty glass and gathered discarded candy wrappers for the trash bin. Then, turning off the lights, headed up to bed. Sleep came without a fight.

I can’t tell you what roused me, but I suppose it’s not really important at this point. I was wide awake. It was the middle of the night. The curtains had been drawn together tightly, preventing even the tiniest sliver of light into the room. I stared into the quiet darkness, listening. The beating of my heart ticked away the minutes. In the distance, I heard the faint sound of a lonely train clickety clacketing it’s way to parts unknown. My eyes searched for the dimmest of illumination and settled on the dim pattern of moonlight filtered through the trees and dancing on the wall just outside my bedroom. I watched the shadows of the leaves shimmer and then fade, as a cloud shrouded the moon, leaving the room enveloped in blackness. I counted the moments until the moonlight returned, briefly, then disappeared again. My eyes stared into the empty space where light once was, waiting. To track time I counted heart beats. One minute. Two. Three minutes. Four. The minutes ticked by. My eyes strained to make out the faintest light. Then, as the moonlight slowly returned, there it was.

On the wall just beyond the bedroom door, a shadow; an almost human form materialized. I don’t know how long I watched, waited, wondering. I stared, unblinking at the spectral form. I dared not move a muscle. My eyes glued to the ghostly shadow. Was I dreaming? We’ve all had those moments between sleep and wakefulness when our imagination plays tricks on us. But was this real? Was I awake? I bit down on my tongue and winced at the sharp pain. When I opened my eyes, the ethereal image was still there.

I was terrified. The drum beat of my pulse echoed in my ears. I fought to keep my breathing steady. In. Out. In. Out. I could hear him breathing, or was that me? No. The rhythm is different. Time to take stock of the situation.

I needed to keep my head, perhaps literally. If there’s someone in the hall, more than likely he thinks I’m asleep. There must be a reason that’s important. Why else would he just stand there? Then I had a thought. What if there’s more than one of them? My brain was in overdrive. My options were limited. It’s so deathly quiet, even the smallest move is bound to be heard. If he’s armed, any sudden movement on my part could be fatal. I was in a tough spot. So I watched, and waited, while the moon danced among the clouds, creating a slow, hypnotic rhythm of light and dark.

fullmoonSleep must have returned because the next thing I knew it was morning. Early sunlight washed away the haze of the night before. I chalked it up to a bad dream and made my way to the bathroom for my morning rituals. That’s when it happened. As I passed through the door to the bathroom a dark shadow enveloped me. The oppressive darkness squeezed the air from my lungs. Gasping for breath, I tried to pull myself out from under the impossibly dark veil of doom which had me in it’s death grip. This can’t be happening! This can’t possibly be real!

My oxygen deprived lungs burned. My vision dimmed. With one last ditch effort I screamed, “Please! Wake up! Why can’t I wake up?” But no words escaped my lips. In fact, nothing was heard from me again.

 

Bubbling Anger, a plea for sanity.

Everyone is angry.

I’m sure that you have noticed.

We are all angrier than usual these days.

Everyone is talking.

Loudly.

No one is listening.

Eyes glaze over.

The volume increases.

The cacophony fades like static into the background

as we scream

and shout

desperately seeking to be heard.

But still

no one is listening.

It’s almost like we’re living in some alternate reality

created by Springer

and populated

almost entirely

with Mamma Grizzlies and gun crazy Hee Haws.

Self centered righteous indignation

leads to anger.

Anger breeds more anger.

No one is immune.

Even I have become angry.

It’s scary.

Sometimes I can’t identify the source of my anger.

That makes me uncomfortable because,

if I can’t determine the cause, I risk taking it out on the innocent.

And that is just not right.

So I withdraw

from life

from social interaction

just so I don’t inadvertently unleash my aggression on some poor unsuspecting soul.

Fresh air helps.

…a little.

Music helps.

…a little.

The political climate does not help.

…at all.

Everything

is blown out of proportion.

Everything

is a scandal.

Everything

is an emergency.

How are we to identify real crises when everything demands our immediate attention?

News is no longer balanced.

Facts are twisted.

No one reads past the headlines.

Everyone has an opinion based often, on assumptions.

Never mind discourse.

Never mind trying to understand

another point of view,

another person’s experience

Never mind accepting

another person’s existence.

There’s little common courtesy.

It’s my way or the highway.

If your opinion differs, then you are the enemy.

And every day we get more angry.

So stop!

Please.

Clear you mind.

Breathe.

Turn off the TV.

Put the phone away.

Power down the electronics.

And Listen.

Carefully.

Before

it’s too late.

“Reality…What A Concept” Remembering Robin Williams

The news of Robin’s death was such a shock. I’m still having a difficult time believing that it’s true.

There are people who touch our lives in such profound, undefinable ways. Robin Williams was one of them. He made us laugh, but he also made us think. He made us question things while we were laughing at them.

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” – Robin Williams

Like many Americans, I first saw Robin Williams in an episode of Happy Days called My Favorite Orkan. My six year old sister was madly in love with Henry Winkler’s Fonzie so we never missed an episode. So when Mork and Mindy debuted the following fall, it was naturally added to our viewing line up.

31CY4KZFFELWhile my family was gathered around the tube watching the weekly adventures of Robin and Pam Dawber, my friends and I were memorizing the jokes form the “Reality…What a Concept” LP, a live recording of Robin’s 1978 Roxy performance.

Through the years, Robin Williams has brought us nothing but happiness. News of his death was a complete shock. I still can’t believe it.

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” – Robin Williams

 Rest in peace, sir.

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!

One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show

…or, How a 2:AM distraction became an obsession.

I have been in a foul mood all winter. It hasn’t helped that Mother Nature also seems to have been in a pissed off mood. Seriously. It’s almost May and we’re still dealing with temperatures as low as 30°F a few nights this week. Will someone please make Ma Nature a cup of espresso or something?

When I’m in a foul mood, I tend to stay away from people. It’s a lot better that way. Otherwise I wind up snapping at folks for no reason. It’s not pretty. Like so many others, when I’m in a bad mood I turn to music. What usually works for me is Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1979). For some reason, the Waters, Gilmore, Mason and Wright classic has a way with working out my aggression. It’s amazingly therapeutic. But I couldn’t seem to shake it this time. The winter was brutal. I still have a cold that just-won’t-go-away. On top of everything, cancer took three close friends within a two month period. It’s essentially why I haven’t been writing very much. Three funerals in such a short amount of time sends me right back to the early 90s, when everyone I knew was dying. I sat at my keyboard on more than one occasion to try to express the feeling of loss, but it was too overwhelming. I’d start a draft but then lose focus, which is what this post is about to do if I don’t guide it back to the point. 😉

On a mindless surf though YouTube, I stumbled onto Bette Midler’s cover of ‘One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show’ (Rose Marie McCoy, Charlie Singleton) It’s an old favorite. In this video, she’s performing it at the 1998 Billboard Awards.

It’s a fun song. Bette’s Studio version is better but, as with all of Bette’s live performances, there’s something about the attitude she projects on stage that brings a song to life. I guess it’s the same for most singers.

Because Bette Midler is a vocalist, she’s introduced me to many great artists. I’m always searching for the original singer of composer of any particular song she might have made popular. So of course I wanted to know the who, what, where, and maybe even the why of One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show. The earliest version that I was aware of is the one made famous by the truly wonderful Big Maybelle.

Truly, Big Maybelle doesn’t get the attention she deserves.

My appetite whetted, I wanted to know more. Who was this Rose Marie McCoy? Did she record a version of One Monkey?  So… I checked everyone’s favorite source of misinformation, Wikipedia!

According to the Wiki page, One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show was “recorded by Stick McGhee and His Buddies in 1950, credited to McGhee, released on an Atlantic Records in 1951″

Hmmm… It’s not at all like Big Mabelle’s version. It’s good in it’s own right, but where Big Maybelle’s classic is about a woman tellin’ her man, “Buh bye! Don’t let the door hit ya on your way out!”, Stick McGhee’s version is about making your way through life without letting things get in your way. The themes are similar, but… Now I was on a mission.

According to Wiki “…another version was recorded by Joe Tex in 1965. In 1966 it was covered by The Animals.”

Here’s Joe Tex…

…and here’s The Animals.

It’s hard to choose between the two. I can see the appeal of The Animals but I like the rawness of Joe Tex. The most glaring thing so far is that now there are three completely different versions of this song.

But wait, there’s more!

“In 1972 the all-girl group Honey Cone took its altogether different version to number five on the R&B singles chart” – Wiki 

Here is Honey Cone on the Sonny Bono Show

If those funky outfits aren’t enough, there’s a coked up DISCO version by Jessie Rogers. I’ll spare you. If you really want to hear it, you’ll have to click the link. I think it’s a little too peppy, If you ask me. 😐

So, what does the phrase “One monkey don’t stop no show” really mean? To me it’s fairly obvious. It’s another way of saying “Life will go on” or “This too, shall pass”. But could there be more? One could find himself deeply entangled within the interwebs, searching for a deeper meaning, but I gave it a go.

Curiosity killed the cat. …and kept this blogger up all night.

In their wordpress post, Yeah, But do you know what that song is actually about? #1 The guys at Old School Record Review put it perfectly. They wrote in part, ““one monkey don’t stop no show” is a perfect lyric for pop music because it shares so much in common with the music itself. It is ambiguous, emotional, catchy and supports introspection and interpretation.” They’re right, of course. Music is art and art is open to interpretation.

But what’s all this have to do with my pissy mood?

Haven’t you figured it out yet? Winter is over. We’re almost halfway through spring. Love and I are shopping for new plants for the tiny patch of concrete behind our tiny South Philly home.  With spring comes a new chapter. Hopefully a little brighter than the last, but it’s new. Life goes on.

PS: You really should navigate on over over to Old School Record Reviews and see what they’re up to. They did and excellent job exploring the meaning of One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show lyric. I would have abandoned it here had it not been so essential to the point I was trying to reach.

Bonus Track! Here’s Bette’s Studio version, just for fun. 🙂

.

EXTRA BONUS!

Pink Floyd The Wall (Full Album) 😀

 

The Cardinal Came To Visit Us This Weekend…

Nope, not THAT Cardinal!

We have a family of cardinals that live in a nearby tree. They like to drop by every day for the sunflower seeds we put out during the winter.

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After missing a few opportunities, we started leaving the camera by the window. When I heard the cardinal Saturday (pictured left) I grabbed the camera for a rare photo shoot. 😉

He was looking for left over seeds from the Ferris Wheel Feeder that was tipped over and left draining after the previous day’s rain.

You might have seen the Ferris Wheel Feeder video that I posted after the last snow storm.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAIf you follow me on twitter, you might recognize the image on the right. It’s the very first picture I took of the cardinals in my neighborhood. It was a huge surprise for me to discover we had cardinals in South Philly. Seriously, I’ve lived in (or around) Philadelphia all my life. I have never seen a cardinal in the city.

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This last picture is my favorite from Saturday. The border around the image was not added. I was shooting the cardinal through some house plants. I also had the blinds down because I was trying not to scare the cardinal away. The final result is pretty cool.

There are some superstitions surrounding birds that appear after the death of a loved one. Some believe that birds “sometimes appear as envoys from the spirit world — fleeting emissaries of loved ones who have passed on to the other side.” I like that idea. It would be nice to think that my friend Fran was just dropping by to say hello. Most likely, it was just a member of a family of cardinals picking through the debris, looking for sunflower seeds to feed his family. Either way, it was nice to see him.

As the adage goes, it’s the little things in life that sometimes make you the happiest. For me it’s true. I may not win the Powerball anytime soon, but as long as the cardinal comes to visit once in a while, I’ll be happy.

Oh, and I took a short video too! 🙂