Posts Tagged ‘gay’

A Friend Indeed Is Now In Need

August 18, 2012

Update January 4, 2013: Keith’s battle ended on September 18 when he passed away.  I have deleted the links for donations for his health expenses.  I am grateful to all who read this post and who contributed in any way, with prayer, good thoughts, or donations.

Keith’s memory lives on.  His closest friends will be releasing his ashes at Mardi Gras 2013 in New Orleans, his beloved longtime home.


I seldom write here these days, having been called away by more pressing concerns.  One of those pressing concerns now brings me back to this space.

For the last twelve years I’ve worked with my friend Keith Griffth on his web sites.  Since the 1990s in his sites, and in other ways for years before that, he has been a shining example to the gay community.  His work has provided a waypost  for those on journeys of adventure or self-discovery as well closeted or non-gay-identified men who seek a path in a difficult world.  As one who worked for HIV/AIDS causes and for sex-positive issues, Keith has done much to raise awareness, fight negative self-images, and yes, even save lives.  He has always been a fighter.

Now fighting lymphoma again, Keith is in his final battle.  And now he needs your help.  Not having health insurance, his expenses for hospice and health care are mounting.  Your contribution, even a small amount of five, ten, or twenty dollars, can make a tremendous difference.  It all adds up to a community of care.

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Bronksi Beat: Smalltown Boy

February 18, 2009

Featured on JMG today.  I remember when this Smalltown Boy came out in 1985.  How sad it was, how lonely, how perfectly it captured the sense of growing up gay in a particular place and time.  I bought the album, bought the follow-up, bought the Communards’ album, too, which featured Bronski lead singer Jimmy Somerville.

Listening to it now takes me back, and I can feel it all.  I feel chills.

On Gay Behavior, Wherever

January 15, 2009

The AP is reporting that a Vatican study shows less gay behavior in seminaries.  Interesting: I wonder how they measured that?  The article doesn’t address their methodology, although it does note that diocesan-run seminaries were more “successful” at preventing gay behavior than were seminaries run by religious orders.

But what is “gay behavior” anyhow?  They probably are thinking about sex between men.  For me, you don’t want to know how long it’s been since I had sex.  My “gay behavior” is more about cooking a great dinner and having a passing knowledge of high and low culture.  My “gay orientation” is a matter of the heart, not the sex organs.

But what do I know?

Back in the day — I’m talking about the 1980’s here — I knew a few gay seminarians when I lived in the Washington, D.C. area, and I knew a few gay priests, too.  I’ve often thought that if I had been born ten or twenty years earlier, I might have become one, too.  Joining the military, like some of my siblings, was not an option.  Back in a certain place and time the priesthood was an especially viable alternative for young gay Catholic men.  After all, you didn’t have to explain to anyone why you didn’t have a girlfriend, or why you never got married…

Curiously, “Father Tony” reports that he first heard the expression “to read one’s beads” (or variants) back in the seminary in 1972.  That was toward the end of the era of gay men finding refuge in the Church.  I remember “Father Chris” appearing as celebrant at a Diginity Mass sometime in the 1980s in satin pink robes for the Third Sunday of Advent, asking the rhetorical question “Do you like my drag?”  The congregation answered in a very loud, “Yes!”

I think I first heard about those “beads” when I read John Rechy’s City of Night.  Another place, another time.

Knowing about the “beads” is a gay behavior, even if you don’t use the term.  But a lot of gay people don’t know this.

A lot of us don’t even know any men who call other men “girl,” “sister,” or “Mary,” although my partner does at least two of those things regularly.

Gay behavior.

Really.

Every Single Day Must Have A Gay

December 9, 2008

Tomorrow has been announced to be a “Day Without A Gay.” From their web site:

The worldwide media attention surrounding our massive grassweb efforts for gay rights has been tremendous. Join the Impact was a HUGE success and will continue to thrive because of our efforts.

We’ve reacted to anti-gay ballot initiatives in California, Arizona Florida, and Arkansas with anger, with resolve, and with courage. NOW, it’s time to show America and the world how we love.

Gay people and our allies are compassionate, sensitive, caring, mobilized, and programmed for success. A day without gays would be tragic because it would be a day without love.

On December 10, 2008 the gay community will take a historic stance against hatred by donating love to a variety of different causes.

On December 10, you are encouraged not to call in sick to work. You are encouraged to call in “gay”–and donate your time to service!

I understand that the organizers of the event were inspired in part by the “Day Without Immigrants” protest on May 1, 2006. Judging by the state of immigration reform efforts since then, I would say that the 2006 “Day Without,” while gaining attention, ultimately failed to accomplish meaningful change.

I know that many, many people are frustrated and angry about last month’s passage of California’s Proposition 8. The “Day Without” web site also mentions the ballot measures that passed in Arizona, Florida, and Arkansas, but clearly the focus of attention is California. No such movement arose after the 2004 ballot measures in Ohio, Texas, and numerous other states. Somehow, right now, the energy and anger are coming to a head because of California, and many people need for an outlet. They want to “do something” and “make a difference.”  People want to act.

I cannot believe these good intentions and this energy will go to waste. However, in the same manner as the 2006 “Day Without,” I expect that the “Day Without A Gay” will not ultimately effect change. So much more than this is required, every single day.

On this particular day, those who are not already out will probably not “call in gay.” Those who are “out” and who have gay-supportive workplaces may actually hurt their allies by doing this, unless they are encouraged to work with their employers in advance to use scheduled time off. And of course, those of of us who self-employed like me, or who work in gay-owned businesses, are simply shooting ourselves in the pocketbook.

What troubles me most, though, about the concept is the very title. I can almost hear the homophobes hearing about the slogan and cheering: “A Day Without A Gay” is what they want to have every single day.

We cannot give them that satisfaction.

Speaking for myself as a gay man who has been out of the closet for a quarter century, I would rather see gays every single day.

I would rather see gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transgendered persons, and other members of sexual minorities claim their freedom to be honest about about their identities every single day.

I would rather see people perform acts of charity, mercy, and service every single day.

And I certainly do not wish to participate in a “tragedy.” Every day in my life is a day with love, and I try to bring that love in ways big and small to everyone I meet.

Every single day.

Do you want to help the effort in ways other than opting out or “calling in gay?” The “Day Without A Gay” web site has alternative suggestions.

I would add that the single most important thing is simply to be out.

Be yourself, with everyone.

Every single day.

Richard Rodriguez: Churches, Families, Mothers, Children

November 24, 2008

Salon has an interview with Richard Rodriguez ostensibly about the reasons prompting many churches to target same-sex marriage and GLBT rights.  He sees it as a marker, even a scapegoat, for the problems churches face understanding their role in light of the increasing breakdown of traditional families, the increased social roles and opportunities for women over the last generation, and the increased numbers of divorces and families headed by women.  The “desert religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — are male religions,” says Rodriguez.  Their perception is that God is a male god and Allah is a male god.”

Some, we are told, need a simple explanation, or at least, someone to blame.  The cognitive dissonance between a male God and an increasing feminized world must be explained.  Perhaps, perhaps not.  I don’t know, but it’s a fascinating subject.

What interests me most, though is his description of the ties and the love between mothers and their gay children, and the ties and the love he sees between gay children and their elder parents and neighbors:

…I suspect the revolution will come not from the male church but from how women treat their children, and whether or not women are willing to reject their children. I don’t think they are. I saw too many times during the AIDS epidemic that when death came and the disease took its toll, if one parent was there, it was almost always the mother and not the father. That bond is so powerful.

I also think about the role of gays as caregivers to the elderly parent while siblings are too busy with their children. At the Most Holy Redeemer Church in San Francisco, which is the gay Roman Catholic parish, a number of old Irish women essentially adopted the gay parishioners, and were adopted by them, because their children had moved to the suburbs, or Pennsylvania, or Orlando, and were no longer in a position to care for them. That’s a bond that no one really talks about.

I’ve seen this many times.  In my own life, with my parents.  With my current partner and his parents.  With my former partner and his parents.  With my former partner’s other partner.  And so on.

Sometime soon I hope I have time to ponder this and write something more about the subject, my own observations and thoughts.

Milk and Moving Forward

November 24, 2008

The new bio-pic about Harvey Milk premiered a few weeks ago and opens in limited release this week.  Milk, of course, was our first openly gay elected official, the subject of books and profiles.  A gay hero and pathbreaker, he was assassinated along with Mayor  George Moscone thirty years ago in  the San Francisco City Hall where he served as supervisor.  Their killer, fellow Supervisor Dan White, was acquitted of murder charges but found guilty of manslaughter, serving five years of a seven-year sentence.  White later committed suicide.

Supervisor Dianne Feinstein, now a U.S. Senator, succeeeded Moscone as Mayor.  She was quoted in the New York Times yesterday by Maureen Dowd:

Dianne Feinstein is not sure she’ll ever be able to watch the movie “Milk,” even though she’s in it.

There is 1978 footage of a stricken Feinstein in the opening minutes of the new Gus Van Sant biopic of Harvey Milk, her colleague on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the first openly gay elected official in American history. (Sean Penn soars as Milk.)

“I was the one who found his body,” the California senator told me Friday, on route from the airport to her home in San Francisco. “To get a pulse, I put my finger in a bullet hole. It was a terrible, terrible time in the city’s history.”

Dowd’s piece continues with reflections on same-sex marriage and equality from Feinstein and from longtime gay activist Larry Kramer.  I rarely quote Dowd, because her ascerbic tone so seldom sits very well with me.  Dowd restrains herself here, allowing Kramer to take that voice.  It’s worth reading.

Here in Houston, we have two lesbians elected to city-wide office.  One, City Controller Annise Parker, is widely seen as a likely candidate for Mayor.  The other, At-Large Concilmember Sue Lovell, is a member of the Democratic National Committee.  Their sexual orientation is a feature, but not the overriding fact, of their public life.

Thirty years, and a world of difference.

Harvey Milk led the way.

Now That’s What I Call “Change”

November 18, 2008

As noted on Towleroad, the Obama transition folks have updated their Civil Rights Agenda with specific proposals for LGBT Americans.  Although the introduction addresses us, specifically, the language is inclusive of everyone.  From my perspective, it extends to me, a gay man, the same promise that any other American has:

“While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It’s about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.”

Specific proposals are listed regarding Hate Crimes, Workplace Discrimination, Federal Civil Unions and LGBT Couples, the repeal of the misnamed “Defense of Marriage Act,” the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, Adoption Rights, and HIV/AIDS prevention in general and specifically for women.

The only thing really missing here, for me, is additional specific emphasis on racial and culturally appropriate HIV/AIDS prevention and education programs.  The largest rates of increase in infection are among persons of color, who often are left out of programs designed by or for white gay men like me.

What I most appreciate is the inclusiveness of Obama’s approach.  These aren’t “special rights.”  They are, in essence, the same rights that everyone else has.  It doesn’t take anything away from anyone or damage anybody or anything.  It simply tries to ensure that we are treated the same.

Kate Clinton: Big Gay Slowdown

October 31, 2008

California votes on anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 on Tuesday.  I love Kate Clinton’s take on what to do if it passes, especially this part:

If we do not defeat Prop Hate, I say November 5th we call for a general gay work slowdown. Decorators will do deliberately bad, possibly dangerous feng shui. Hairdressers will mistakenly lay hot curling irons down on ears. Social workers will give bad advice, “Your father sounds like a great guy. Show him some love.” Salespeople will ooze, “Oh, that looks great on you.” Waiters will serve cold food and suggest the wrong wine. Flight attendants will put ‘out of service’ signs on bathrooms midway through long-distance flights. Some nameless malaise will dim Broadway.

Since my main client is a gay-owned business. I can’t screw with my work.  Instead, I’ll just stop being witty, charming, and polite.

Robert’s Lafitte Carries On

September 21, 2008

I’m not at all surprised to read this news:

As Galveston told its remaining residents on Monday to leave the Texas island devastated by Hurricane Ike, Robert’s Lafitte, a gay bar, was planning a pre-curfew drag show and Tina Turner sing-along.

The first of two bars to reopen after Ike’s onslaught on Saturday, Robert’s Lafitte is a haven in the storm — for gays, straights, anyone who needs a place to drink and find comfort.

“You can see there’s not too much worry and stress on people’s faces,” said Dixie Monroe, a transgender barmaid who wore a tiger-print cowboy hat and a low-cut top…

The establishment, if it can be dignified by that word, is one of the oldest gay bars in Texas.  Located in a unprepossessing brick building just up the street from the crippled Flagship Hotel, It’s know for the holiday events where Robert, the owner stages a drag “puppet show” Punch-and-Judy style with another performer.  Both of them are gentlemen “of a certain age,” as we say of aging queens and divas.  The show is first-time hilarious, second-time old, third-time a tradition.  It is not to be missed.

There’s a lot of colorful history with this bar.  I had read that when Robert Durst was living as a fugitive on the Island, sometimes disguised as a deaf woman, he used to frequent the gay bars there.  He smoked quite a lot — a kilo of marijuana was found in his freezer when he ran off from Galveston after the murder — and one time in the bar he set his wig on fire.  I always pictured that happening at Robert’s Lafitte, maybe in the dark main room near the small stage, maybe on the back patio where assorted characters gather on lazy afternoons to pass around a cigarette of dubious repute.

The regulars are a hard-living, hard-drinking, and, well, hardened crowd, but nonetheless warm and friendly, if you don’t mind them pickled.  Typical of old-time Galveston’s sin-city ways, they’ve washed up from assorted origins, and they’re here to stay.  They’re not the sort to evacuate, and not the sort to let a storm, however fierce, blow them away.

Finally, A Gay Topic

August 10, 2008

I’ve been writing here several months now.  Most of my words have been about my parents, going through memories and emotions after their deaths last year.  Some has been politics, some the garden (which is also tied back to my mother), and some just daily life.  Like that actor on Grey’s Anatomy, I suppose that I can say that being gay is not the most interesting thing about me.  It’s not what I think about or write about most, although it is central to my identity.

I read a number of gay blogs.  There was one post Friday on Joe. My. God. which has had a long comment thread.  He had displayed this image from a condom ad in Argentina and invited discussion on their take on a safer sex promotion:

Argentine Condom Ad Evokes Dia de Los Muertos

Naturally, the comments have been animated.

After seeing there some comparison and contrast of the situation of persons who have HIV with those who have diabetes, I was moved to post the following.  It was at a moment when Freddie was taking a nap, having worn himself out trying to fix the lawn mower.  He naps, almost every afternoon, and sleeps eleven or more hours a night.  He is very weak and fatigued these days.  Anyhow, here’s what I wrote, albeit with minor editing for grammar.  The link puts in context.

…here’s a different perspective on your discussion of HIV and diabetes: My partner has both. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 1970 at age 12. He tested positive in 1984 when the HIV test first came out. Now at age 50, he is a long-term survivor of both diseases.

The following is just his own personal experience. It’s not meant to be an opinion for anyone else nor to provide guidance, but perhaps it will help you to understand better the “manageability” of both diseases.

In his case, the diabetes is much worse than the HIV. He has always told me that his HIV will not kill him, but the diabetes will. We met in 2000 when he had been on the cocktail for awhile. He also takes insulin and checks his blood glucose level constantly. His diabetes is very “brittle” and he has low blood sugar reactions several times a week.

He has diabetic retinopathy and has had numerous laser eye surgeries over the years; he is, at this time, legally blind. He can see fairly well most of the time, but there have been episodes when he lost his vision completely.

I expect that he will die years, possibly decades, before I do.

It is hard to say which disease is the cause of some of his symptoms and conditions. Perhaps the diabetes and HIV in combination, along with the long-term use of retrovirals, are also a factor. He has coronary artery disease, peripherial neuropathy, avascular necrosis. His fatigue and weakness are such that he spends most of the day, many days, in bed. His life is that that of someone twenty or thirty years older than his chronological age.

Of course, HIV in itself can be devastating. Both of us have lost dear friends, particularly back in the 1980s. Others are progressing into this “limbo” of premature aging while in their 50s or 60s, but none so deeply or early as my partner. Others with HIV are still doing well, living active lives. I don’t know if it’s a matter of lifestyle, attitude, or luck of the draw.

I’m glad to see the HIV prevention message out there for young people, who seem to be contracting it in increasing rates. I have to keep reminding myself that the message isn’t meant for me (though I am negative) and if it seems presented in a tasteless or over-the-top manner, I’m not going to complain. I’ve heard it before, over and over again, for the last quarter century. If anything, I had to deal with “safer-sex-education-fatigue” years ago. Instead, I can just move on and leave this message for it’s intended audience, wishing them the best.