Thursday, December 31, 2009

Decade

Onward
Ten years ago I was spun out, dancing wildly in patchwork pants and waiting for the sun to come up over the Everglades of Florida at Phish Millennium. I hadn't been with a guy yet, certainly no beard and clenched, as everyone else did, under the suspense of Y2K.

It's been ten years. Ten years and I feel like I've lived three life times by now. Ten years of life, adventure, experience, regrets, mistakes, men, sex, parties, dates, relationships, single life, bars, states, countries, cities, money, no money, gym, lift, fat, skinny, healthy, sick, angry, happy. So much can happen in ten years. Had you grabbed me by my hemp necklace then and told me all I'd experience by now, I'd have laughed in your face (and then probably offered you a brownie.)

I'll be 38 on December 31st 2019 and I have no ability to predict what will happen between now and then. I'll be a man. A full grown man. The point of no return so far from visibility. A distant memory of the days that were. A buoy in a fog so excruciatingly dense. The thought alone makes me eager and terrified. Life just keeps pushing forward. There's no stopping it - you just have to go along for the ride.

In ten years I went from young to younger to man. The full scale of my blind evolution so blatantly clear now in hindsight. My heart splits at the vision. I grasp at the ghosts of that child but as much as I may try, I will never hold that boy again. He's gone, now molded into what you have before you. Oh young man, from where have you come and where will you go? Forward, the only direction, the past, stones on which we walk.

Life is so fragile. So wretchedly fragile and in 100 years we'll all be dust. Is it not this fact alone that is this planet's greatest invitation for us to live our lives? To be the man we want to become? To live as freely or as wildly or as sane as we'd like? This Earth will keep turning, and turning, and turning, with or without us. We are a speck in a broad stroke of history. A tiny, worthless crumb on the table of time and when the time comes, and it will indeed come, we will be bones in the ground or ashes to the sky and yet this Earth will still turn and turn and turn. So live as you live and accept this next decade with an open chest. Allow light to beam through you offering whatever it may be. Be open, for anything else would be a simple, silly waste of time. These years are blurred at best. A flimsy, horse-haired bow of an arch between then and now, and now and then. The future so weighed down by tangibility yet light and translucent like the very air we breathe. We know it exists but we just can't see it!

So strong this younger self I shed, each passing day, each step erasing the previous. Five steps now, ten and I'm ancient.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Cars Drive so Fast Here


The Cars Drive so Fast Here

The cars drive so close to one another here you would think accidents happen more often than they already do. I forgot how much of a car city Los Angeles is and my friends drive wildly. Their swerving, speed and cursing at other drivers make me nervous and force me to slam the break that doesn’t exist on the floor by the passenger seat. Every driver has either a gadget or a wire dangling from their ear allowing them to talk to people on their way to work or the gym or while they’re stuck in traffic. I truly forgot how much one needs a car here. I’ve been out of LA for more than three years and part of me can’t believe that I used to live here for two. I too had done the same as everyone else; driving, talking, swerving. But by how I react to my friends’ driving you’d think I’ve never been here at all.

I sat at the Starbucks on the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Santa Monica Blvd., just a few blocks north of where I used to live and sipped an iced coffee while I watched the cars zoom by. Every time a car would fly through the intersection I would startle and tense up because they were just missing, by mere inches, the cars on the other side waiting their left turn. I couldn’t believe the speed of some of these drivers. Everyone seemed so busy, speeding terribly and half talking on their “no-hands” gadgets. I forgot too, how expensive and new looking so many cars were and that also left me puzzled about the drivers’ seemingly desperate need to speed. Wouldn’t they want to be more careful? Wouldn’t they want to slow down, just a bit, to ensure the safety and condition of their cars? After all, it’s just a matter of inches between safety and collision. Four inches making all the difference between smooth sailing or a body flying through the windshield. Inches. Just inches and seconds. Life and death. Everybody’s got to go somewhere, sometime, I guessed.

The intersection of Santa Monica Blvd. and Fairfax Ave. is just on the edge of gay-town West Hollywood. That said, the fence sectioning off the outdoor patio of Starbucks where I was sitting was painted rainbow. A blue SUV with 3 men in their mid-twenties stopped at the light and snickered, pointing at the rainbow colored fence. Maybe it was the traffic, the sound of the cars driving by or maybe even because of the book I was reading but I drifted off into a terror-fantasy world, thinking that if these men wanted, they could pack their car full of explosives and detonate it right here at the edge of the fence. The impact would obliterate me in milliseconds and everything would be over. There would be nothing left. I would be dead. Finished. Gone. All of it happening before the smoke even had a chance to clear.

The fantasy reminded me of the time Eric-the-Roommate and I were driving down Beverly Blvd. and talking about terrorism.

“Really, the bombs are all for show,” he said driving west past the Beverly Center, a huge urban mega-plex of a mall. “Terrorism can exist in any form. The bombs are just sudden and impactful but really anyone can stick an Uzi in each hand and walk into a place like the Beverly Center and just mow people down.”

The light turned green outside of Starbucks and the blue SUV drove past pulling me out of my memories. I sat in the sun for a while, thumbing the pages of my book but not wanting to open it. It was too noisy, the sun just a little too hot and I was distracted.

An elderly woman walked across Santa Monica Blvd. and without ordering a drink or even stepping inside pulled up a chair at the table next to me. Earlier a homeless woman with stringy blond hair and pants falling below her waist had bummed a smoke from a seated customer so I assumed this was a frequent sit-and-rest for the wayward and destitute. The elderly woman took a few breaths and popped open an umbrella to shield herself from the sun. I studied her briefly. At first I thought she was a bag lady but after further scrutiny realized she was simply an old lady with an arsenal of shopping bags and a pushcart. The elderly were frequent in this neighborhood. This neighborhood is one of the rare walkable areas of LA and so it was littered with old age homes and retirement centers. She noticed me noticing her and smiled through decaying teeth to say hello. I said hello and turned my head back to the street. I felt her studying me.

“What book are you reading? Are you enjoying it,” she asked. I wasn’t really in the mood to talk with anyone, especially an off-the-street crazy, but I smiled and said, “I don’t know if enjoying would be the right word but yes it’s very good. It’s called Afterlife by Paul Monette.”

“Oh is that something you’re interested in – the afterlife?”

“I suppose, but the book isn’t about that after life. It’s more about the lives of people after someone close to them dies.” I just went for it. “The book is about the 1980’s, set right here in West Hollywood, actually and everyone is dying of AIDS.”

“Oh yes,” she replied quickly, “I remember those times. They were very tough. I remember asking, “how long is this going to last?” I was surprised at her response. How she had said everything so casually as if the time period and the subject matter of the book was something that was just yesterday for her. Maybe she too had lost a friend, read the newspapers or was in someway affected. Despite her verge of bag-lady appearance it was clear she had more of a mind than I assumed.

“I just lost my husband a few years ago and oh, the grief is so hard! It takes forever to get over. Sometimes you just don’t think it will end. I had no idea what I was going to do without him. But time goes by and slowly things get better. Life writes itself. But the loss, the loss is never filled. That’s the part that stays with you.”

I absorbed what she was saying. She closed her umbrella and began to get up to leave. “You just make sure you live every day to its fullest. You appreciate what you have.”

“I always do,” I said, “I have shoes on my feet and water when I want it and a roof over my head which is more than I can say for millions of people on this planet. I should only be so lucky to have a problem, right? Life’s too short so I appreciate it very much."

“That’s right, my dear.” She smiled and left.

As I watched her leave I thought about grief. About how I dip into and out of it like a familiar friend I choose to hang with from time to time. I know this feeling. This comfortable sense of loss, of mourning. Holding the book in my hand and staring out at the cars I couldn’t decipher which I grieve more. The dent in our community caused by AIDS, the deaths of all those men and the havoc I wasn’t able to experience. Or is that indescribable black heavy pit of our community’s nonchalance toward those times that were, how we seemed to have learned nothing and in some ways are denying AIDS’ very existence.

I thought about the first sentence of the book: “If everyone hadn’t died at the same time, none of this would have happened” and, later on, “he knew they were laying in comas all over the city.” I swirled in my grief. Hello friend. How have you been? Is it that loss, that unforgettable unfilled crater or is it where we are now?

Just the other night at The Eagle’s wet underwear contest while the contestants were doing the Q&A portion of the show someone from the audience yelled out, “Bareback or condoms?” The MC ignored the catcall by casually giggling. But the man who had yelled the question was hoping that one, if not all four contestants, would say bareback as if in today’s world this revolution against the condom, against the very thing that protects our well being, should be celebrated as something cool or edgy or fringe. This is where we are now - our bright hopeful future.

I felt the buzz of my cell phone in my pocket. Bret was finished with the gym and he was ready to pick me up. He pulled up to the corner of the intersection and I climbed into the car. He flew through the intersection like the other cars I had seen and as we drove home I felt my fingernails digging into the rubber door handles.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Some Queens: David B. Feinberg

"Some Queens"
from David B. Feinberg's book, Eighty-Sixed:

"Drag queens, size queens, shrimp queens (toe-sucking), rice queens (Orientals), Potato queens (Occidentals), Fire Island Queens, circuit queens (Fire Island/gym/disco circuit), cha-cha queens (Latinos), rice-and-bean queens (Mexicans), Queens for a Day (married men from New Jersey who go to the baths), face-sitting queens, fist queens, dish queens, Astoria Queens, dinge queens, beanie-boy queens (Orthodox Jews), salami queens (Italians), salami-casing queens (uncut Italians), leather queens, opera queens, tearoom queens, smoke queens, popper queens, enema queens, personals queens (likes long walks on beaches), glory hole queens, tattoo queens, butthole queens, studio queens (Studio 54 similarly, Disco Dollies), snow queens (cocaine, or blacks who like whites), fag hag queens, hyphenate queens (actor-model-dancer-waiter), stress queens, roller derby queens (wheelchairs, etc.), alfalfa queens (macrobiotic), diesel queens (men who dress up like dykes), chicken queens, diva queens, screen queens, seafood queens (sailors), Souvlaki queens (Greek action), crepe Suzette queens (French action), Perils-of-Pauline queens (thrill seekers), blue jean queens (Calvin Klien, Gloria Vanderbilt), teddy bear queens, cherry queens (deflowering virgins), Crisco queen, smut queens, ice queens (diamond stud earrings), banana queens (curved dicks), Jimmy Dean queens (Levi's, Elizabeth Taylor and Rebels without a Cause), Lean Cuisine queens (perpetual dieters), mean queens (S & M), twisted queens (deranged), pee queens (watersports), team queens, unweaned queens (sucking on tits - - also known as dairy queens), magazine queens (addicted to glossies and press releases), railroad queens, locker room queens, mile high club queens (making it airplane johns), rubber queens, dildo queens, beet queens (future farmers of America back in High School - - see also: "yam queens"), dream queens (GQ types), scream queens ("faaabulous!!!!"), palace queens (Leona Helmsley), tuna queens (male lesbians), pesto queens (into garlic), egg cream queens, fashion victim/style-police queens (beyond therapy), hostage queens (fantasies of being taken hostage in a foreign American embassy and being brutalized by idealistic young university-student revolutionaries), vanilla queens (into vanilla sex: basic sucking and fucking, no fantasies allowed), matzoh meal queens (reformed Jews), Wuthering Heights queens (hopeless romantics), skin queens (uncircumcised), peeled queens (cut), designer queens, steroid queens, beach queens, smack queens, Ma Bell queens (phone sex), Tom Thumb queens (small dicks), Uniform queens, piano bar queens, salad queens (rimming), bottle queens (alcoholics), flea queens (sex in run down hotels), bull horn queens (politicos), flab queens (AKA chubby chasers), evil queens (approximately ninety percent of the above), therapy queens (electro shock queens, Bellvue queens, couch queens, Valium queens, etc...) condo and co-op queens (the landed gentry in Manhattan), and closet queens."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

8,700 Miles

Life across America
I suppose the best place to begin is the very beginning itself. In late August I was hired for what would become the job and adventure of a lifetime. A job, which during two and a half months, would take me over 8,700 miles, 20 states and land in cities with names I've never heard of. Paducah, Arkadelphia, Corinth, Tuba City, Manchester...

I'm no stranger to the road. Before this trip I had driven across the country twelve times. I've seen the way the land changes from green to yellow to dry to sea all to come back to itself again. I have felt the surging rush of freedom upon realizing the control we have over our own lives and destinies. As long as we have the courage we can hit this open road which disparately calls our names, encouraging us to be whoever we want, wherever we want, whenever we want. But what I would learn on this trip would be something much more - something I never thought I was capable of experiencing. A compassion I never thought I had.

When driving across the country you don't see much: Applebee's, strip malls, Waffle Houses, cheap hotels, grease, fried, fat, obese, Jesus and Red, White and Blue. But, there is a cliche that rings true; that beauty is within the detail and it is only when you pull off the main roads that you'll find the little gems within this huge nation.

I never thought I belonged in the South - what's a born and bred East Coast gay Jew supposed to think? But now, after my travels I have an understanding, appreciation and respect for the land I thought had no desire for my kind. Here in NYC in our ivory bubble it's easy to cast stones. After all, it is we who live in an multi-cultural urban megaplex! It is we who are so attuned to art and culture and life but unfortunately, it is we who often believe our own assumptions as to what this nation is and who our neighbors are. The South really isn't that different. It is not as backwards and red neck as we assume it is and in the end we're all just Americans and none of us are really that far apart from one another. We all want the same thing. Money and happiness. Or, at least enough money to afford us happiness. That's it. Throw in a few close family members and friends, a hobby or two and what do you have? An American.

In this city I have been pushed and shoved and rushed and shushed. I have had eyes rolling at me, breaths exasperated at me and in turn I have done it all back to someone else. Just a few days ago I nearly karate chopped an elderly woman for going down the subway stairs too slowly causing me to miss my train. Did she have to walk right down the center of the stairs? Why is she even taking the subway anyway? I fumed these thoughts as I shuffled the little bits of trash off the platform and onto the tracks. Then I thought there is not this rush elsewhere in this nation, this is just a tax for living in this city.

In the South I was never pushed or rushed or shushed. Life moves at a slower more temperate pace there and thus the need for the "me first!" mentality is limited. Neighbors say hi, communities work together and the lady selling boiled peanuts on the side of the road genuinely wants to know how you're doing. Yes *some* Southerns have different views on race, religion and sexuality. Yes, many of them do not support what we call our liberal free lifestyle but in the end how accepting are we of them? How willing are we to be dismissive when we hear someone say that they're from Overland Park, Kansas or Lynchberg, Tennessee or that they go to Church every Sunday? Besides, isn't it this great big urban melting pot that denied me and my friends our right to marry just yesterday?

Throughout the Southern states I experienced a level of hospitality and compassion I never knew existed. At every turn I was offered a hot meal, a great handshake and there was always, always, an extra room at a house if I needed to stay. And trust me, they knew. In the end, I'm not that butch and really I'm only one quick google search away from total exposure. Some people in the south may say that they hate the sin but love the sinner and whatever the case may be they have the right to do so. But for the people I met and the eyes I looked into I felt we shared one common bond; that of being human. I didn't wave a flag, I didn't stamp my feet, I didn't scream at the top of my lungs. I was simply just myself and appreciated I was.

So after 8,700 miles, 20 states and now back to my home in NYC where does this leave me? Who am I now? I never considered myself a "blogger" or an "activist" rather, I just liked being someone who was interested in things I cared about. Sure I screamed, sure I was opinionated, sure I was a blind-talking anti-republican rantivist, and for sure, I've certainly made my stance on safe sex, HIV/AIDS and barebacking clear. But as I've said before, blogging is like a homework assignment that is always due and never done and what makes doing that assignment even more laborious is when you spend time fighting for a community so willing to tear you down. Throughout my posts I've been called "belligerent," "stuck on my high horse," "judgemental" a "hypocrite" and the list goes on. Mostly I've used that as fuel to extend my middle finger even higher but I've tried very hard to pander to everyone and I know that is just not possible. I'm sure right now the commenters on gay blogs or Joe.My.God are slaughtering one another with exclamation marks and bold face font about how stupid everyone is and how stupid the last protest was or how much conservatives should suffer or how ineffective the latest grass roots campaign was. Everyone's a fucking genius, right? Everyone is wrong - YOU have the correct answer, right? Sure, whatever. Eat each other alive, it seems to be what we do best.

So here's my plan: I'm just going to continue being human and being myself. I'll post when I want to and say what I want to. I am going to try to find that human compassion in all of us and continue walking down this road which keeps unraveling itself before me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Kansas


Friday, September 11, 2009

8 years Ago Today

Tucson, Arizona- September 11th 2001: Between 6 and 7AM

Nokia original sized cell phone ringing on my night stand. Don, "Eric, we're under attack. The Twin Towers have been hit! Call your sisters! They live in the city, right?" I couldn't get through. Not for several hours but Mom said they were fine.

After watching TV I wasn't sure if classes were canceled for the day but I walked to campus regardless. A ghost town. Whispers, muffled noise and even an more desolate, dried and thirsty Tucson. A University devoid of youth.

As far west as Tucson, AZ one of the first things I remember seeing was a fellow classmate, outside the English Lit. building, alone and draped in an American flag.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fact or Fiction: Roxy Reopening

Let me see you put your hands up!
Well the rumors have been circulating for well over a year now. Does anyone have the cold, hard skinny on this? Is the Roxy going to reopen this winter?

I can only hope so! In my opinion NYC gay nightlife took a harder hit than expected when The Roxy closed. Things certainly haven't been the same. Smaller venues, less dancing. Blech! It's a sad era in NYC when the gay men here have no arena sized dance floor to call our own nor a means to represent our enormous presence here in this city.

Whether you went there or not, often or hardly at all, The Roxy was a place where on any given Saturday night you could lose yourself in a sea of men and a throbbing beat that kept you dancing til dawn.

Stepping on to that dance floor made you feel like - - - like you lived in New York City.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Moments

It's just the little things in life:


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Work

Monday, August 3, 2009

Israel: Saturday August 1st 2009


"Once a year, spokespersons on behalf of the gay community are requested to explain why we insist on the pride parade; so here is the answer. There are those who fan the flames of hatred and homophobia, and the outcome may lead to gunfire. Here is your answer, this is the reason: Because they shoot at us. At times they use words, and other times they use bullets."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

PodCast: IML Bareback Issue

Brian and David B. over at The Occasional Fag hosted Will Clark and I on their Pod Cast to talk about the IML No-more-bareback-issue which recently came down the pipes.

I thought we had a great conversation. We touch upon a lot of topics surrounding this current event and other talking points which are inextricably entwined to the unsafe bareback sex topic.

Listen in: Click here for the pod cast.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Guest Post: Eric the Roommate

Eric the Roommate and I have known one another since we were 10 years old. We went to elementary school, Junior High and High School together. We've lived in Los Angeles together for two years and now New York for close to three. He's the closest thing I've ever had to a brother and low-and-behold he's straight! He's my best friend in the world and he wanted to contribute a little straight perspective to KnuckleCrack.

Also please note that Eric's band, Xylos, was featured in L Magazine as one of the "8 New York City bands you need to hear." Xylos is playing tonight at Mercury Lounge.

Dear Blog,

Hi, I'm Eric the Roommate. You can often spot me strolling the streets of the East Village with KnuckleCrack, en route to brunch or a early-evening cocktail or some other urban locale. And more often than not you would assume that I am the gay one and that KnuckleCrack is your salt-of-the-Earth, flat-tire changing, football-watching, beer-shotgunning butch American straight guy. But alas, you would be mistaken, for it is I, Eric the Roommate, that prefers the ladies (despite the cut-off shorts and wife-beaters I've taken to wearing).

Having lived in close company to one of this city's (and Los Angeles') most loudly growling cubs for over five years, I have learned quite a bit about the gay lifestyle, when it comes to sex (not from firsthand experience, mind you, but rather via KnuckleCrack's sagas of courtship and love).
And, as a straight man, I can say confidently.... I'M JEALOUS!

What am I jealous of, you might ask? I got the good looks (so he tells me.) Sick-tight gym body, check. Loads of money, check (I wish!) Razor-sharp wit... oh yes, my friend. But yes, I am jealous. Jealous of the manner in which gay men can circumvent the hackneyed social conventions of mating and dating and, when appropriate, revel in guilt-free carnal delight. And, as such, I have attempted, on occasion, to try my hand at the "direct approach," which has invariably yielded unsatisfactory results. For some reason unbeknownst to me, girls don't like to be asked, "So, wanna go have sex?" after leaving a bar. And this is what baffles me. Look at two scenarios:

1) It's 2:30am, Maggie (named changed to protect the innocent) and I are leaving the bar after a spontaneous, yet enjoyable hour of flirtatious talking. We get to the corner (very close to my apartment) and I ask, "So, wanna come over and have sex?" And I could tell by her reaction that she wanted to.... but, societal convention prevailed, and she responded, "Sounds fun, but maybe some other time."

2) It's 2:30am, Maggie and I are leaving the bar after a spontaneous, yet enjoyable hour of flirtatious talking. We get to the corner (very close to my apartment) and I ask, "So, want to come over for a glass of wine and to see some photos I took on my recent trip to the Amazonian rain forest?" "Sure!"

Scenario one... failure. Scenario two ends the next morning with French Press coffee, poached eggs, and English muffins.

The lesson? There is none... but if I were gay I wouldn't need to lie about having gone to the Amazonian rain forest. She never even asked to look at the photos anyway!

As KnuckleCrack says, "Be safe/have fun."

Love,
-Eric the Roommate

P.S. All the most beautiful men and women in NYC (KnuckleCrack included) will be at the Mercury Lounge tomorrow night to see my band Xylos. It's gonna be a sexy good time... myspace.com/xylos

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

1 in 8,000,000

1 in 10 - 1 in 8,000,000
The New York Times is doing a new Photo/Audio project entitled "One in 8 Million" where they follow the life stories of individuals living in and around New York City. Recently, One in 8 Million did a feature on Ra Ruiz, a 22 year old queer youth who identifies as one of the Christopher St. Pier kids. Her story is both brutal and inspiring.

View the project and listen in: It will give food for thought about the Pier Kids and the issues facing them and their surrounding residential West Village community.

Also, click here for a post I wrote last year entitled, "The Importance of the West Village and those God-Damned Christopher St. Kids" on the same subject.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sex in an Epidemic

Sex in an Epidemic, a documentary by ACT UP'er Jean Carlomusto, was shot years ago and it's now finally making a release on youtube.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Unbuckling Straps: An undoing of the NYC Leather Community

Past or present?
A week ago the decades-old organization of Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA) of New York put the kibosh on their twice a month meetings and community. Over the years numbers of attendees dwindled from hundreds to just a handful and as the letter below states, "there are simply not enough men who are willing and able to step forward to lead the organization."

The letter below was dropped in my inbox a few days ago.
I recently attended the final Wednesday night meeting of Gay Male S/M Activists (GMSMA). That’s right, I said “final.” Finished. Done. It’s over. The organization’s annual meeting on Wednesday, June 17, 2009, was billed as a “celebration of GMSMA." What’s happening is that after decades of being a vibrant, thriving organization of gay men interested in learning about safe, sane and consensual s/m, GMSMA is now “transitioning” into a non-profit foundation. There will be no more Wednesday night programs.

During its heyday, GMSMA had hundreds of members from not only New York City but from across the country and even from overseas. Regular meetings were held twice a month, and it was not uncommon for the third floor meeting room of the gay community center on West 13th Street to be jam packed with dozens or even 100 or more men eager to learn and to socialize. One night the topic might be how to tie up your boyfriend in really good rope bondage, another time you could learn all about flogging and whipping, or how to put together a really kick-ass cop or firefighter uniform....

GMSMA was also an activist organization. Its leaders were instrumental in securing a place at the table for the leather community in groundbreaking gay civil rights marches in our nation’s capital. It was also the first s/m organization to include “S/M” in its title. That may not sound like much of a big deal today, but when GMSMA was founded back in 1981 those who engaged in s/m activities were often looked upon as freaks or deviants — even by those in the larger gay community. Believe it or not, GMSMA had to fight to be allowed to meet at the gay community center. In later years it became one of the center’s biggest financial donor organizations.

There were about 45 men in attendance at the last meeting in June, including a leather top who brought a very sexy and shirtless tattooed slave on a leash, who greeted the men he was introduced to by getting down on his hands and knees and licking their boots. Most who showed up were old-timers — one came in on the train from northeastern Connecticut. A few who came were newer members. At least half — including me — were former board members of the organization who had put in years or in some cases even decades of service to the community. But when the official business of the meeting got under way and the remaining officers announced the sad plans to effectively shut down the organization, only one man in attendance raised an objection.

It was painful for many others as well, but the unfortunate fact, what everybody knew — and what ultimately led to the end for GMSMA — is that there are simply not enough men who are willing and able to step forward to lead the organization anymore. The current board was down to just three members (a fourth signed on to help in the coming months with the transition). They were over-worked and under-appreciated. The harsh reality is that the organization simply could not continue to exist in its current form without more manpower.
It's unfortunate when an organization such as this, where gay men can come together and learn "safe, sane and consensual" ways to broaden their sexual horizons comes to a close.

I'm not a leather guy and I suppose that's just the problem. Very few men hovering around my age range and younger seem to be interested or know or know-to-care or care-to-know anything about the leather community or the meaning and history behind it. Sure some of us have our Sam Brownes and harnesses for events like The Black Party and Folsom Street East, when leather is acceptable and down-right dress code but by no means is there a trend going toward the leather lifestyle. Older friends tell stories of what leather truly means. That it is much more than fashion, accessories, more than "Masc and solid," more than butch and mean. Leather is a means to discovering the deeper connections two men can have between one another. A bonding experience. An exposure and measure of trust and vulnerability. Still, maybe for those of us whose closet doors were left ajar rather than bolted shut there isn't that search for sexual comprehension or need for fetish-based sexual fulfillment. Sex is here. It's now. It's out, it's open. It may not be talked about as much as it's happening but it is happening. The analogy of leather, no longer, necessarily applies? Maybe if play spaces and dungeons were more widely available, established or more culturally/socially accepted leather would be more current or stand a greater chance? Yet even though I'm one of those casual street event, Folsom-based leather guys it strikes me as a loss, a changing of landscapes, a shifting of wavelength when communities such as these meet an end.

Is it all be too far gone? The men of true leather are either dead or significantly older and the few still proudly fastening chaps and strapping harnesses, outside of commercial scenes, are seeing their beloved, sought out organizations closing. I suppose it's all fitting. What place does leather have these days? Here in NYC. New.York.City. We have only The Eagle, which is rather leather-light and The Lure and Spike are long gone, gone, gone. If International Mr. Leather and Mid Atlantic Leather are major events, then where are the pockets of that in other urban/rural areas? Have we become lazy or casually unconcerned?

Will we see a resurgence in leather and this community? Will men step up and lead or will this be yet another relic of our past?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Single Rope Action


Whatchu' know 'bout me?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Still, 40 Years Later

"Gay Americans aren’t just another political special interest group. They are Americans who are actively discriminated against by federal laws. If the president is to properly honor the memory of Stonewall, he should get up to speed on what happened there 40 years ago, when courageous kids who had nothing, not even a public acknowledgment of their existence, stood up to make history happen in the least likely of places."
The quote above comes from a terrific Op-Ed entitled, "40 Years Later, Still Second Class Americans" by Frank Rich from the New York Times, June 27th 2009.

The next day, June 28th 2009 - the exact date of the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a group of squealing pig cops "raided" a Fort Worth, TX gay bar and beat the shit out of a man drinking a bottle of water. The victim is left with severe brain injuries. A full scale investigation has been launched into the case.

Fuck that. Fuck calling your senators. Fuck sending emails. Fuck signing petitions. Fuck the "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Homophobia has got to go" chanting and let's start fighting BACK again.

I know I'm not in Fort Worth so yes it's *easy* for me to say this- but I think the Fort Worth LGBT Community should march to the front door of the police precinct responsible for this "raid" and throw some eggs against their front door. Let them know, somehow, some way, just like the kids at Stonewall, that we're not going to take this shit anymore. We should show them we're not the limp-wristed faggot pushovers they think we are and we refuse to let our heads be bashed in any longer.

Stonewall didn't become history through chanting, through sign making or "full scale investigations." It made history because cops got punched back, bottles were smashed and trash cans lit on fire.

Cars were burned out during the White Night Riots. The glass of SF City Hall, smashed.

We deserve better. Now.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Life's Checklist

Bring Mom and Dad to PrideCheck!

(Thanks again, M & D, for everything)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Pride 2009

40 years later
Ordinarily I'd try and write some lovey-dovey, all inclusive post about Pride. I would probably make it more difficult on myself by trying to write in prose, be dramatic and aim for the tear ducts. I'd struggle to tap into that root source of what all the love and visibility and pride truly mean. But I don't feel like it this year. I know what it all means. I know how love and visibility and pride twacks my heart and stirs my consciousness. I don't need to convince myself any further.

All I can say is that from the Drag March to the Dyke March to the Pride Parade to the Pier Dance I saw thousands of faces that are all special, all important and deserve to be heard and respected.

Walking with Drags, the Dykes and the entire community one bewildering question came to mind repeatedly, "How can anyone hate our community? Why would anyone want to detract from this color, this vibrancy, this diversity, this joy?" Never have I seen a greater celebration of life than within these marches. It's all so motivating, so inspiring: the fight, the cause, the oppression, celebration, tragedy and romantics that is our lifestyle. All of us together under the same banner. A community. The thought alone drives light into my body, surging through my veins and beaming out of my pores.

We are so much to this nation. To this world. To humanity as a whole. We'll wait for our marriages to pass through the bureaucracies. We'll let our politicians argue endlessly over something as stupid as "Don't ask don't tell." They can take it. Go ahead -have at it, clowns.

But all I really want is my god-damned thank you. We, the gay community, are responsible for so much beauty, art, color, life - our threads are inextricably woven into the fabric of humanity and for that I want my appreciation. I want my thanks. How dare anyone deny us of anything when we contribute so much?

I'd fight a lifetime just for that.

Dyke March:



More to come...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Countdown to Pride: Dyke March 2009

Not a parade but a protest march!
Tomorrow at 5PM is the 17th annual NYC Dyke March. It'll be my 4th year in row to attend the Dyke March. I love supporting and showing love for our lesbian/queer sisters and I suggest you do the same. Besides, it's a helluva lot of fun!

Meet up is Saturday June 27th 5PM sharp at Bryant Park.

Click HERE for everything you need to know.
It's the time to hit the streets! Make some noise. Be visible. Be heard. Demonstrate, agitate, liberate! Bring signs, banners, drums, giant puppets, flags, hula hoops, or just be there! And if you really want to make things happen - be a marshal (check out ACT-Up’s marshal training for what marshals do during a march).

The Dyke March is a protest march, not a parade -- we don't ask for a permit, because we have the right to protest. As lesbians, we recognize that we must organize amongst ourselves to fight for our rights, our safety, and for visibility. Thousands of dykes take over the streets every year in celebration of lesbians and to protest against ongoing discrimination, harassment, and anti-lesbian violence in schools, on the job, in our families, and on the streets.

My Amazing friend Rich Weaver pointed me in the direction of some old Queer Nation fem-based Artivism. I'm posting them below to get your feminist anger to a raging boil!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On to the Next...

I can't fucking believe it!

Twenty-Eight
XXVIII
28
Today!

Oh man!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

It's Just a Drag March

I had the chance to sit down with TheOccasionalFag.com's Brian Griffin and learn about NYC's annual Drag March and what to expect this year:


Friday June 26th 7PM
Tompkins Square Park

Monday, June 15, 2009

View from your Pride: Shanghai, China

Over the weekend Shanghai, China held it's first ever Pride Event:

New York Times reports:
SHANGHAI — It was shortly after the “hot body” contest and just before a painted procession of Chinese opera singers took the stage that the police threatened to shut down China’s first gay pride festival. The authorities had already forced the cancellation of a play, a film screening and a social mixer, so when an irritated plainclothes officer arrived at the Saturday afternoon gala and flashed his badge, organizers feared the worst.

After some fraught negotiations, Hannah Miller, an American teacher who helped put together the weeklong festival, agreed to limit the crowds, keep the noise down and, most important, “not let anything happen that might embarrass the government,” she explained after returning from the impromptu sidewalk meeting. “That was a close call,” she said.

Crisis averted, the party continued.

And so it went for Shanghai Pride week, a delicately orchestrated series of private events that revealed how far China’s gay community had come, and how much further it had to go. In the 12 years since homosexuality was decriminalized in China, there has been an unmistakable blossoming of gay life, even if largely underground. Most big cities have gay bars, and social networking sites ease the isolation of those living in China’s rural hinterland. Antigay violence is virtually unheard of.

But official tolerance has its limits. Gay publications and plays are banned, gay Web sites are occasionally blocked and those who try to advocate for greater legal protections for lesbians and gay men sometimes face harassment from the police. For years, movie buffs in Beijing have tried, and failed, to get permission for a gay film festival.

This month, public security officials forced Wan Yanhai, a prominent advocate on gay issues, including AIDS, to leave Beijing for a week because they feared he might cause trouble during the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

“Sometimes I feel like we are playing a complicated game with the government,” Mr. Wan said. “No one knows where the line is, but we just keep pushing.”

We've certainly got our battles here in The States but we're still further along than some many people and so many places. This should not be taken for granted.

"...With Liberty and Justice for ALL" (unless you're gay, of course)

This has been stewing within me for the last couple of days...


Alright, O'Reilly at the 0.15 mark you state that "if you oppose gay marriage some far left people will try to hurt you." Hurt you, Bill? Did I hear that correctly? Because although the gays may go tit-for-tat with you it is only to defend our names and families from people like you who incite bigotry and hate against our community. How many bashings need to happen? How many stories do you need to hear before you realize that the platform you take and the words you speak fuel anti-gay zealots to feel absolutely vindicated in the actions and prejudices they take against the gay community? When was the last time you heard of a group of gay people beating or killing a straight person for the mere fact that they were heterosexual? The thing is, Bill, I think you know exactly what you doing and you get a kick out of keeping gays as second class citizens and targets for abuse.

The pledge of allegiance, the quotes which you so desperately cling to, state "with liberty and justice for ALL," and then at the 3:45 mark you so proudly claim that the bogus accusations you have against the gay community are "not the American way" and "un-American." You love considering us "Un-American" and unpatriotic because of our "non traditional marriage" but my question to you is, who are the real patriots of this country - those of us trying to uphold the idea of "liberty and justice for all" or those of you who are trying to deny it?

I would have a lot more respect for you, Bill O'Reilly, if you just put all the bullshit aside and stated simply that you hate gay people and want to keep them as a segregated community apart from the rest of the world. You have enough balls to incite the murder of a Pro-abortion Doctor - where are your old wrinkly, loathsome balls on this one?

Let freedom ring.

40 Year Old Table

'69/'09
On Saturday The Ali Forney Center hosted a panel discussion on the involvement of queer youth during the 1969 Stonewall Riots. The panel consisted of two actual Stonewall Riot participants, Martin Boyce and Tommy Lanigan Schmidt as well as Ali Forney Center Executive Director Carl Siciliano and four of today's LGBT youth, all in their early twenties, answering questions relating to the ever changing now vs. then Queer spectrum.

The youth, two of whom were transwomen came across as confident and sturdily self possessed when discussing topics like being gay in today's world, coming out and how history serves as a backdrop for today's sense pride and personal identity. As a whole the four seemed ambitious and spoke to their current lives and potential futures as though their identity and diversity serve only as an asset to who they are and who they hope to become.

40 years down the table Thomas Lanigan Schmidt and Martin Boyce, who were both twenty somethings during the summer of 1969 spoke of gay life during that time, their experience, struggles and triumphs and being the first in history to step out. Lanigan Schmidt talked about realizing his attraction to men when a best friend protected him from a local bully and Boyce described a New York where gay bashing was a city sport and electro-shock treatment a consequence. Yet still there was much talk of celebration, of life. A jukebox at the Stonewall, the rage in a queen's eye.

Below Martin Boyce sets the stage for life as a queen living in NYC in 1969 and at the 4:30 mark describes being at the Stonewall Inn the nights of the historic riots.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

NYC Day of Decision Rally

The cops were surprised by our numbers. Nice turn out.
Learn how to lobby your NY Senator by going here: www.meny.us
And don't forget about Queens this Sunday.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Washington Square Park Face Lift

The fountain was successfully moved and now you can see the water from any point North, East, South, West. The new benches are nice and the ground has been leveled. Good job, NYC.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Contrast

The contrast between two marriage rallies yesterday in NYC couldn't have been greater. In the early part of the day I jumped uptown to attend an anti-marriage equality rally organized mostly by a group of Hispanic and Latino church goers who despite their insistence that Jesus loves us feel very strongly that gays do not deserve equal rights.

The number of people defending the gay name and standing up for marriage equality was small if not minute. A smattering of the usual faces with a dab of young lesbians. Small signs and a few banners. We were outnumbered 10,000 to 30. We stood at our barricades, mostly in silence, and held our signs as men and women, old and young, many accompanied by a small child yelled, "One man and one woman!" "Read the bible!" "Jesus loves you!" and "God bless you!" As a Jew, all this Jesus/God bless you stuff is always hard to stomach but when you see first hand the degree to which these people truly dislike you and use God's name to defend their twisted logic it leaves the feeling of a sucker punch to the soul. Their "God bless you" and "Jesus loves you!" reeked of being inauthentic and that was later proved when the sound of their mass applause carried up several blocks into our ears. It sounded like an army preparing for a battle. Combative, charged and ghastly. It's been a long time since I felt that kind of hate. It was ugly and simple in it's color. Black and white. The people rejoicing in their efforts to keep gays as second class citizens were bleak and boring, scared and traditional. Old world. They showed nothing but commitment to keeping this world as colorless and dry as possible. As I write this I'm still trying to shake the shiver of hearing their roaring applause traveling upwind. It was clear sooner than later that this was an anti gay rally and had little to do with marriage.

But the protest ended and those of us remaining shook hands and went our separate ways until the pro-marriage rally later in the day. Weighed down by what I just experienced I was craving a distraction. Some reminder that despite the mass of people I just witnessed that there are people who love us, who care for us and would like to see us equal. I ran into Elmo in Time's Square and he helped cheer me up. We both thanked Governor Paterson for supporting marriage equality and a smile returned to my face.

At 5PM at 45th St. and 6th Ave. a mass of young and old, gay and straight, white, Black, Asian, Latino, Everything gathered in celebration of equal rights and marriage. Immediately the crowd was everything the morning crowd wasn't. We were full of life, optimism and energy. Color flowed out from everyone as did hugs and handshakes, smiles and "how are ya's." Our signs were smart and creative. This is when everything started to feel a lot better because I was reminded what gay is and why we're fighting for equal rights. Because we matter. Because our color and contribution to this country, to this world, matters and I'll be damned if the color we bring to the fabric of humanity goes unnoticed and remains unequal. While the morning's anti-marriage rally featured men in suits and black clothing ours featured vibrancy and singing and the perfect combination of comedy and anger. It was all a very nice moment and to have our Governor and Mayor speak to us, in support of us, gave a certain validation that things are going to change. Those people at the morning's rally will be on the losing end of this fight. We aren't going anywhere any time soon and I know we will keep rallying, keep screaming and keep bringing color to this world until our voices are heard and our lives and families appreciated.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Blogfather

"Don Corleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your home..."
I suppose it was around March of 2007 when I was working in a Midtown East post-production house supervising edits of promos and googling my day away when I clicked a link and stumbled upon Joe.My.God.

I was originally looking for Michael Fierman music but what I suddenly found was this whole online discussion from men who through their blogs were discussing and meeting and caring and giving a shit and not a giving a shit and seemingly having a great time doing it all. I was hooked!

I had been searching for this community for a long time. Where were the activists? The voices of our time? Where was the whole big gay discussion going on? And here it was like a treasure chest beneath the sand.

This isn't to say that Joe.My.God is the gay blogging community. He's not, by far, and I realize that there is a vast spectrum of LGBT blogs who represent all the colors of the blah blah blah.... but he was my first! He popped my blogging one and zero and through following him I realized that the activism and conversation, the yearning and caring and need, the community gathering it was all still happening. It never disappeared and in it's own way seemed to be just beginning.

Now two years later I'm sure of that...

Last night Wayne and I went to hear Joe speak at The Center on the topic of "Queering the Blogosphere." Joe and Bradford (founder of Queerty) and Oriol from Poz and Erin Mulrooney a, Research and Planning Associate at NYC’s LGBT Center sat around and talked about how they got involved in blogging and what their experience has been like and the role gay blogging plays in today's community.

During the discussion somebody used the word "pedestrian" to make a case about facebook. Actually the person was saying that she felt Facebook was too pedestrian now that everyone feels like they have a voice or thinks they're funny or has the next best thing but it dawned on me that in the end it's that "pedestrianness" which might be the catalyst that dissolves closet doors all over this country.

We're all walking on a digital highway these days. Make no bones about it. If you're on facebook or read blogs or simply sign in you're getting a feed to everything, what everyone is doing- now. Facebook and blogs especially. Signing in is lacing up your shows and being in is walking down the sidewalk with everyone in that community. No longer does that isolated person in North Dakota not see ("on the street") a gay person. It's inevitable. Personal collisions are almost unavoidable these days, even if it is online. If you want to seek something or someone out you can and will and even if you don't want to seek something or someone out you can and will!

The chances that we collide and see one another "on the street" is becoming greater and greater and soon, if not already, we'll be able to gather in moments. At the drop of a hat. On the hit of publish. Sooner, not later, we'll be unstoppable.

The future is literally ours - we're making it right now.

In the 1980's ACT UP used phone trees to call members and friends about the where and when of their latest action. In a few day's time they would be able to assemble 500 or a 1000 people at most. Now, using the Prop 8 Protests as an example, which could be considered the first massive digitally organized protest rally in history, we know that with the right push we can organize 10's of thousands of people in a few days if not a few hours.

It was the afternoon of Saturday Nov. 8th when Corey Johnson alerted me to the Facebook Event Page for the NYC Prop 8 rally. When I clicked "attending" the numbers were still in the double digits. Then the bloggers got the word out and by the time I went to bed that night there were 300 people attending. The next day the facebook status updates began - by Wednesday night we had 12,000 people (young, older, male, female, black, white, Asian, Latin, straight) marching from Lincoln Square to Columbus Circle.

Think about the iPod for a moment. It began as a hunky, clunky heavy iPod and went to an all encompassing, everything in your hand iPhone in what - Six? Seven years? Now apply that rate of growth, that speed in technology, that change of culture to blogging, social network sites and what this means for the gay community. It's only now that we seem to be uncovering the hugeness of what this all is.

The playing field has completely changed. We're limitless and it's only just the beginning. We're here and we're in numbers and we're not going to be silenced nor ask for your permission any longer.

And by the way, there's a rally this Sunday.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Saturday's Jump


Still a little rusty with catching the rhythm but getting better.  The second attempt is much better.  This is becoming a heavy addiction of mine.  Once you get it, you just can't stop!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sex +

Quad Cinema - NYC, NY 6/12/09
Unfortunately I can't embed the trailer because the option has been disabled but here's the link to the official trailer.

Here's the official Website

And here's a little synopsis and comment from Richard Berkowitz:

SEX POSITIVE explores the life of Richard Berkowitz, a revolutionary gay S&M- hustler-turned-AIDS activist in the 1980s, whose incomparable contribution to the invention of safe sex has never been aptly credited. Berkowitz emerged from the epicenter of the epidemic as a community leader, demanding a solution to the problem before anyone else would pay attention. However, it was not Berkowitz' voice alone that sparked contention.

Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, a controversial virologist and AIDS doctor, postulated that AIDS was more complicated than just a new virus. With Sonnabend's theory in tow, Berkowitz fought, alongside beloved activist and musician Michael Callen, for safer sex practices without giving up on sex altogether.

SEX POSITIVE explores the explicit bravery of this unrecognized triumvirate, and their dire quest to save lives in the midst of unwavering dissent. Now destitute and alone, Mr. Berkowitz tells his story to a world who never wanted to listen.

Through the eyes of Mr. Berkowitz, the audience is made witness to a graphic testimony of sex, death, and betrayal, while placing the invention of ‘safe sex’ in a fresh and compelling context.

From Berkowitz:
I always hoped that my book Stayin' Alive: The Invention of Safe Sex would spark interest in a new generation--I just never expected it would come from a young guy who happens to be straight.

The Bush years have been a trying time for many Americans, but for those concerned with HIV prevention, it has been a disaster. Ever since George W. Bush took office in 2001 and replaced safe sex education with abstinence programs, HIV infection rates have climbed as reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Unfortunately, the past two years, 2005 and 2006 have been the worst. If anything good can come out of this tragedy, it would be that we now have ample evidence that abstinence programs do not work.

The media has barely taken notice, and I'm hoping that SEX POSITIVE will sound the alarm. If the media needs a hook, here's a great one: May 2008 marks the 25th anniversary of the invention of safe sex.

Unfortunately, these aren’t good times for those involved in safe sex education. It doesn’t bode well that even though everyone has heard of safe sex, hardly anyone knows where it came from. Safe sex came from activists, porn stars, sex workers and their community driven efforts. That's what we've lost over the years and that's why I'm hoping people will learn from this very timely film.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

200 Steps

The underground transfer between the L Train and the 123 Trains is approximately 200 steps. I made the mistake of counting one day as a means to pass the time during my every morning commute. Now those steps are all I can think about.  Every morning I'm plagued with the thought of how I am going to spend those 200 steps.

"How today will I spend these steps?  What will occupy my time? What will I think about? What will I ignore? Will I pay attention to my walking, every step and beat of the way, or will I reach the end without even realizing what all I have traversed?"

There is no skipping them.  No fast forwarding.  They are an every morning constant and those steps never become more or less than what they are: 200 in total.

To take my mind off the 1 to 200 count I've created games that I play with an unknowing public. I'll jump off the train in haste and clamor up the steps before anyone else.  My game is to remain the first person up the stairs and to remain the leader of the pack from all who have just gotten off the L Train and are making the same underground transfer to the 123.  Other times I'll give someone I've spotted a lengthy head start and try to catch up with them, if not beat them all together, before the 200 steps are out.  

Then there are those days when I put my body on auto-pilot and let my mind dream wildly.  I'll find myself in the heart of a zombie Apocalypse, dodging those who have been recently infected and walk briskly to my desperate point of escape.  Other times I walk past the advertisements, roll my eyes and cringe at the world around me.  Often, I'll take in the graffiti, wonder about who left it there and why it tickles me so to see a moustache painted over a sickeningly thin female model or the words "I smile because I'm complacent" written over Scarlett Johansson's face on the He's Just Not that Into You movie poster.   I'll dream about the movies I want to make (but never will,) the books I want to write (but won't get to,) the blogs I want to post (but I have work!) the world I want to save (but why?)  When the 200 steps expire, these thoughts will become ghosts.  There one moment - gone the next.

There are the mornings when I study people.  The way they walk, the swagger in their step, the shoes they decide to wear.  How women can spend lifetimes walking in high heels and how people regard or disregard the man selling poetry and the youth strumming his guitar.  I'll half cruise the men walking against me.  Men wearing suits or dirty jeans and work boots.  There are those who still carry lunch boxes, possibly still sitting on steel beams, overlooking an ever expanding city and there are those still carrying briefcases - what these days cannot fit on an iphone, I don't know - yet the briefcase remains in hand, a trench coat flowing behind them.

I have teased myself with the thought of counting the number of fluorescent lights or the number of lightly tainted, now off-white tiles but it all seems too much.  200 steps in addition to an umpteen number of fluorescent lights and the ungodly amount of tiles stretching across the transfer is overwhelming enough, let alone knowing the count.

In 200 days I will have left a younger version of myself behind for every step of the way. So strong these evaporating thoughts, my younger self. Five steps now. 

Ten and I'm ancient. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

High Holidays

Not your Rabbi's Purim Party
Although Purim isn't considered one of the "High" Jewish holidays, DJ Josh Sparber and I have a history of throwing gay jew parties just for the chutzpah of it.  This time around we've wrangled in our other brother from another mother, Benji Solomon, to help us host the Jewcy event:
Wednesday March 11th
Eastern Bloc
10PM
Groggers, Kippahs, Free Manischewitz shots and your favorite chosen people
*No, you don't have to be Jewish to go.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lest We Forget...

...This man is an overweight ex-Oxycontin addict.

Really, that's the best you got?

Some more on this here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Today's Yesterday, Today

Left out of textbooks and any sense of educational history, I often feel as though Bookstore literature is the only window gay people have into our actual, cultural, factual history. It's also remarkably uncanny how certain threads of yesteryear's struggles are still so boldly woven within today's fabric.

The passage below is from Alan Helm's Young Man from the Provinces:

"...The summer after my junior year in 1958, I remained in New York doing test shots and putting together a modeling portfolio; otherwise, I spent my time exploring the gay world. It was such a different world, and now such a vanished one, that it's not easy to explain. Intensely secretive and hidden, it went on mostly at night behind the unmarked doors of the bars and in apartments where the shades were always drawn. The 415 Bar on Amsterdam Avenue was typical: you walked in, saw a few locals talking with the bartender, and figured you'd made a mistake. But through an unmarked door and in the back and down a flight of stairs, you entered a cavernous basement teeming with hundreds of gay men who were dancing and laughing and cruising and kissing and drinking and passing out in the johns. No wonder that during my two years with Dick I'd not had the slightest suspicion such a world existed. It was determined to remain as hidden as possible.

The men were too. Everyone I knew was more or less closeted and spent a lot of time in the workaday world passing for straight. Save for a few artists and hairdressers and decorators and dancers, we were all terrified of being found out. Gay men regularly married for the sake of appearances or inheritances and just as regularly committed suicide. If you heard that a gay man was seeing a shrink , it only meant one thing: he was trying desperately to "go straight," which sounded more like a road sign than a way of life. Parents routinely disowned and disinherited their gay sons or had them committed to mental hospitals where they were subjected to shock treatments and lobotomies and a popular therapy of the day called "aversion therapy": "by means of hypnotic suggestion and conditioning, the author has been able... to create deep aversions in the male homosexual to the male body." How do you do that? "Suggestions of filth associated with the male genitalia of their partners were implanted in their subconscious and reinforced periodically during the hypnotic trance." Psychiatrists published abominations like that with pride and impunity. In their view, which was mainstream America's view made professional and scientifically unassailable, homosexuality was an abnormality to be corrected at all costs; the most barbarous treatments were justified in the name of destroying such pernicious tendencies. There were gay men walking the streets of Manhattan in those days who had been rendered incapable of sex or had their memories obliterated by electricity. For some, it would take years to put their minds back together again; for others, the effort was hopeless. Of all the enemies we had, psychiatrists were among the most dangerous. And our parents, of course. I never met anyone who was out to his parents; you had to be crazy to do such a thing.

There was no place in public where it felt safe to be gay. Even inside the gay world you weren't secure, since bars and parties were raided all the time. You'd be having a beer and a chat with someone in a bar when suddenly the police would appear at the door screaming "Stay where you are, this is a raid!" Fear would sweep over the place, followed by a stampede for the back door, people falling over each other and jamming the exit in their panic to get out. During one of my own terrified escapes, I was fleeing out the back when I saw a fat man I knew wedged in the bathroom window leading to the alley. The next day, his name appeared in the papers along with the names of the other men arrested in the raid- a couple of dozen all told, an average take. He was fired of course and evicted from his apartment, and there was nothing he could do about it. There were no legal aid societies or political action groups for gays in those days, no gay weeklies or bimonthlies to publish his plight and raise money for his defense. What defense? Firings, evictions, arrests, entrapments, blackmail, muggings, murders- they happened all the time, they came with the territory.

At parties, you knew the instant the police had arrived. The room would fall silent and without even turning to look, you knew a couple of New York's finest were at the front door, "Fuckin' Faggots" scrawled all over their faces. Sometimes they told us to keep it down and they went away; other times they told us to break it up and then stood at the door as we filed out between them like guilty things caught in a shameful act. I never once heard anyone protest or ask why we had to break it up. We just did as we were told.

Except for the drag queens, bless their sassy, revolutionary hearts. But they always got beaten up and arrested and thrown in jail, over and over again. "Such masochists," we said. "They're really sick."

Whenever our world came into conflict with the straight world, group loyalties crumbled. Threatened with arrest or blackmail, thrown out of a party, chased down a midnight street by a gang of fagbashers, it was each gay man for himself, running for fear, lost in panic to save his own skin. We didn't have much political awareness, partly no doubt because our enemies were so often invisible: cultural opinion, legal precedent, psychiatric theory, social convention, religious stricture- nothing you could insult or demean or punch in the face in return. The most pernicious enemy of all, and the most invisible, was our own self-hatred.

Almost all of us bought into the straight notion that there was really something wrong with us, something abnormal and perverted and ultimately pathetic. It still astounds me to think how many derogatory names the straight world has invented to designate gay men: fags, faggots, pansies, perverts, inverts, aunties, flits, queers queens, cocksuckers, nellies, sickos, homos, sodomites, pederasts, sissies, swishes, fairies, fruits, and the list goes on. The reverberations of that lexicon sounded even in our dreams, inducing a kind of concentration camp mentality. We were disposable, the scum of the earth, living crimes against nature (thank you, Thomas Aquinas), and we knew that socially, religiously, legally, psychoanalytically, and in every other way that mattered, we were beyond the pale of what was considered acceptably human. I don't remember that we talked about the sense of shame the straight world bred in us, but it was pervasive in our lives, and I don't know anyone of my gay generation who's ever been able to shake it. I certainly haven't. You can still see it in the timid gestures toward self-exposure of a John Ashberry or Jasper Johns, and in the furtive, guilty cruising of gay men in their fifties and sixties.

With so much fear and danger hedging our lives it's no wonder we were a wildly romantic bunch. Mainstream America was too, of course. My parents had grown up in a world fed by Hollywood fantasies of romantic love, and the lyrics of popular songs urged a desperate, eternal monogamy: "Once you have found him/Never let him go," and then the repeat in case you weren't paying attention the first time. In 1957, 96 percent of adult Americans were married, if you can imagine such a statistic. Heterosexual marriage was the only model of adult life that existed at the time, so gay America was busy coupling in the imitation of its masters.

Since romance thrives on obstacles (Tristan and Isolde, Romeo and Juliet, Cupid and Psyche, Antony and Cleopatra), there was no more fertile ground for romance in those days than the gay world. I don't think I ever made love with a man without first convincing myself he was a potential long term lover, and if the first date went well, which invariably meant the first night of sex, I was ready next morning to shop for monogrammed towels. All the frenetic cruising and partying and sexing had as its goal the paragon lover, a gay knight on a charger who would sweep us off our feet and make everything all right, compensate us for the oppression we had to put up with and for the pervasive sense there was something lacking in us that only the right man could supply. We fell in love a lot and conducted our mostly brief affairs with operatic drama-passionate avowals of eternal devotion, fits of jealous rage, wrenching breakups replete with nervous breakdowns and threats of suicide. The few of us of sustained affection managed successful relationships, but most of us got "married" and settled down for a brief while, then broke up and broke down, then grieved and cruised until we met the next candidate for our troubled affections, and thus the same round all over again."