He Is A Dancing Queen…

“I’ll be wearing a suit, but don’t be fooled, deep down I’m a queen.”  Sergio Garcia you are an utter fool.

Just two weeks ago the mainstream media was aglow with reports of “progressive” Los Angeles Fairfax High School electing a gay male as the school’s Prom Queen.  What started out as a stunt has grown, and hopefully faded, into what I think is probably the worst solidification of gay stereotyping since the sitcom-ification of the gay best friend.

You’re a queen, Sergio?  Really?  How about that?  I hope you enjoy that decades old derogatory name, and don’t feed me some line about how it’s taking the power of the word back, it’s not.  I find this the “crowning glory” of what has become an increased acceptance and anopsia of stereotyping which has grown so large that we as gay men are akin to minstrels of old.  We demand equality and acceptance, and yet we don’t speak out when one of our own plays so handily into the conservative’s deck. We act as if it is our job and destiny to be the entertainment.  Our inexcusable silence implies approval. What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. do?  What would Alice Paul say? Without a word from a gay community leader, Sergio and all the other stunt makers out there, for one brief moment, become the face of the gay population.  We cannot allow this to continue.

We have no great leader of the gay liberation movement.  Hell, do we even have a movement?  Who speaks for us?  We have a lot of people speaking out against us.  Without any clear direction of where we’re going or any leader to take us there, the media gloms on to any fool who’s own “prank” garners any sort of response.  Where is our great, civic leader? Who can the media turn to, to answer questions like “Is this prom queen issue a good thing for the gay rights movement?”

Maybe this is why our demand for equal rights has progressed so little.  Maybe this is why we’re still seen is mere entertainment.  Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em shine, but don’t you dare for one moment assume you’re going through the front door.  It may not be as transparent as it was 60 years ago, but we are most assuredly ushered in the back door of our own country.

I have no animosity towards Sergio Garcia.  He set out to achieve something, which he thought was right, and he did it – that’s the least that any of us can do.  I blame ignorance and lack of leadership.  Did Sergio think for one moment what the repercussions might be?  Did he have any knowledge or a leader of our movement to help direct him to an answer?  No.

Instead we’re expected to bounce around, like lost ships in this great expanse, hoping that we don’t run into one another or sink.  It will be by sheer luck that we reach any set destination, for we are a people of great number, and great power that are content to allow ourselves to go to great waste.

The best is he who calls men to the best.  And Those who heed the call are also blessed.  But worthless who call not, head not, but rest. – Hesiod

Are You Proud Now?

Gay liberation is getting old.  Soon we’ll be drag queening our movement into its 40th year.  As any movement will, ours has grown, shrunk back, and changed the way it attempts to gain equality for the estimated 31 million Americans that identify as gay.  Given the current state of the economy, the country’s attempt at a massive change in its current direction and the sense of fear and confusion permeating throughout the world, I think now is a great time for us to once again change the way we’re attempting to gain equal rights.  More to the point, I think it’s time for us to question what have we done today to make ourselves proud.

We’re all working very hard in this economy to make ends meet and to make sure that we keep the jobs that we do have, it’s a very stressful and confusing time so instead of our usual tactics of vodka, brunch and shopping as stress response, how about something that actually works:  helping others in our community.  If you think that the economy has hit you hard, just image how much more difficult it is for those who had even less to begin with.

There are plenty of people in Houston who need your help.  They’re not asking for your money, just your time.  Places like the Montrose Counseling Center are in need of volunteers in the gay community for jobs as simple as a safe sex advocate to answering phones or the Human Rights Campaign where you can help nationally, on a local level.  Why should we leave all of the work we want done to someone else?

There are 15,000 homeless individuals in Harris County alone and 500,000 people served yearly by the Houston Food Bank.  We’re one of the least effected cities by this economic depression, yet every day I pass by a soup kitchen with a line out the door and around the building.  There are even individuals who are still experiencing hardships from Hurricane Ike.  Charity is always easier for the donor than it is the recipient, it’s time we started taking care of each other.

Sure a lot of gays may be successful professionals, earning gobs of disposable income, working hard to achieve our goals, but the true measure of a person is how they treat someone who can be of absolutely no help to them.  If we show our country that on top of fighting for our rights that we are exemplary additions to our communities – and no, refurbishing blighted neighborhoods does not count – then we will win doubly.  We will have helped our neighbors, and we will have shown our countrymen that we are positive assets to any community.

There’s a lot of talk about pride coming up.  It’s always a big celebration, but what are we celebrating?  What have we done besides sit idly by and watch the world occur around us?  I say it’s time to put some pride back into pride.  This year, let’s all give something back, help our community, someone up who’s down, and realize that any little help can make a huge change – then we can truly be proud.

My Name Is…

Well I’m finally getting my life together in Houston, and all it took was two years! Everyone thought I was crazy to pick up and leave New York City for Houston, Texas in all of 24 hours, but I’ve landed a fantastic job, I volunteer in the community and I even have a column in the Montrose Gem. I’m proud of me…though it seems like I’m the only one who is.

Recently I was asked by my own Mother to stop using my given name for fear that someone, somewhere would find out that – gasp! – she has a gay son. All it took was a one-line email to plummet me from cloud-nine back down to Earth. That got me wondering; at nearly 30 years old, why would someone, over 1,000 miles away, have such an effect on me? Are we all, underneath all of our superficial charm and wit, just aching for the unbridled acceptance and love of our parents?

Before you turn the page or leave my blog disgust, hear me out. So many of us – in fact a great majority of us – faced harsh criticism or in some cases outright rejection over our sexuality from the very people who were supposed to love and nurture us. So what is my point? What is to be deduced from something that may have occurred decades ago for some of us, or just months ago for others? It all depends on the maturity of our minds but one only needs to read a list of issues suffered by gay men to understand where this rejection often leads us: high rates of smoking, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and eating disorders.

What’s the one thing all of these diseases have in common? They’re all self induced methods of destruction. If you ask any logical person if they would choose to destroy themselves you would receive a resounding “No!” So then, why this overwhelming epidemic of  gay men destroying themselves over the rejection of a few closed-minded fools? Why do we choose to give more value to the words of our family then to the crazies of the Westboro Baptist Church?

It all comes down to two words; supposed to. Our family is supposed to accept us, the Westboro Baptist Church is supposed to hate us. Really? Who made those rules? It’s nice if things fall into our supposed beliefs, but they’re our beliefs, not everyone else’s. My mother isn’t supposed to ask me to hide my given name, that’s my belief but it’s not my reality. So this supposing on our behalf only causes us to create a lot of frustration, anger and disappointment that our supposed suppositions didn’t succinctly coincide.

So what are we to d, rejected by family with a propensity to self destruct? Well one answer would be not to self destruct, we’ve seen where that’s gotten us. The other would be to realize that by having those suppositions, we are doing to others exactly what we’ve asked not to be done to us; assuming we know all about someone. There are a million different nuances that go into the creation of a human being, and just because we share DNA with some of those humans doesn’t mean that they are required to be like us or to even to like us.

There is no difference between the people on the street and my mother or yours. Families and streets are filled with thousands of different ideas and ideals just like our world. If we expect tolerance in society perhaps we need to learn, first, to tolerate the microcosm of the world that is our family.

I Do….Iowa?

Well this whole gay marriage thing certainly is moving along faster than I thought it would; Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Oregon all recognize some form of gay union or another, and I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two. But now Iowa, a state with an entire population only slightly larger than our own quaint Houston, has ruled that a law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Gather up your overalls and threshers, America’s Corn Belt has gone liberal!

Iowa? Really? I don’t see gay people flocking to Iowa for some reason. Is there some underground phenomenon I should know about? Would now be the time to establish a cute little coffee bar in the middle of nowhere? Is this really a victory in a state that has on average fewer than 10 people per square mile? I smell a conspiracy!

Iowa’s been sneakily reinventing itself and pushing its economy into new and sustainable businesses. Not being content with the titles of Food Capital of the World and the buckle on the Corn Belt of America, Iowa had to go and transform itself into a diversified economy of advanced manufacturing, biotechnology, and green energy production! C’mon Iowa, wasn’t it good enough being one of the safest states to live in, did you have to go and “gay up” your industry too?

It’s working, they’re growing in gays. Year over year, Iowa’s population and diversity has grown, not just from interstate immigration but international immigration. Who moves to Iowa!? Are the drug wars in Mexico that bad? The weather isn’t particularly attractive, with lows of 6 in January. SIX! Iowa, I’m on to you! You’re trying to lure the gays into your woefully under-populated state, create your cute, quaint towns, and redevelop your rundown manufacturing districts. Then, just when we’re comfortable and property values peak – BAM! – in come the yuppies, just like in Montrose!

You may have your progressive industries, Iowa, and you may have some of the largest green-energy production in this country, and the most literate and best-educated population as well, but…wait…progressive industry? High literacy rates? Highly educated population? Iowa hasn’t gone gay, Iowa’s come out of the closet!

All kidding aside, this is a fantastic move in the right direction towards equality. This is just one more feather in the cap of a state that has been at the forefront of civil rights through its history. Iowa rejected slavery in 1839, in 1868 Iowa schools were integrated, and in 1869 Iowa became the first state in the union to allow women to practice law. Who knew that we had more than just the East and West coasts fighting for our equality? For 170 years Iowa has been the quiet and powerful gentleman leading the way forward for the Midwest of our great nation.

You, Sir, Are My Better.

Julius’ birthday is coming up and so it is my duty to get a party organized, I’m not complaining.  I received a list of guests that Julius would like to be at his birthday party, I entered all of the data into Evite, not noticing his friend Jason was on the list.  It wasn’t until Jason RSVP’d “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” that I realized he was invited.

Crap.  I didn’t want Jason there.  There’s nothing wrong with Jason, he’s a perfectly lovely individual.  Smart too, a doctor.  I’ve enjoyed hanging out with him the two times that I have.  Oh, did I mention that Jason is Julius’ ex?  It creates a world of difference to me, though it shouldn’t; Jason is just a regular humanbeing.  However, I somehow got it into my head that he’s better than me.  I don’t like that feeling, coming face to face with someone who you believe to be better than you.  It’s actually what I’ve been experiencing ever since I met him.  It’s an awful feeling that you’re seated next to someone who is so much better than you…or is it?  Up until 40 minutes ago I thought it was.

40 minutes ago I was on the train, coming home after a rather uneventful and most forgettable day at work.  There was a disheveled, rank, homeless man next to me.  He babbled something to me about cell phones being able to track you and the Government.  I immediately tuned out and though “this is why people don’t like taking mass transit in Houston, the damned homeless are on it.  At least in New Jersey NJTransit is usually too expensive for the homeless to climb on during rush hour.”

I tried to ignore him, realizing every time I did that, that I was treating this equal humanbeing next to me as something less than me, and then I felt it.  I felt that horrible feeling in the pit of my body, the same one I feel when I think about or am around Jason.  I was actually dumbfounded.  I didn’t feel like this guy was better than me, in fact I was feeling like and acting like I was better than him.  Ouch, I’m a jerk. Then I saw the man across from me reach into his bag and pull out a banana and hand it to the homeless man next to me.

I knew at that moment that, that man giving him the food was my better – by far.  He looked this man in the eyes, treated him as an equal and without pause gave him food.  But more than that, he gave him recognition, recognition that he was human and worthy of caring, as we all are.  Seeing this gentleman and recognizing that he was in fact better than I was at that moment actually made me feel good.  Here was someone doing the right thing, even if I didn’t.

Then it hit me.  I wasn’t anxious or afraid of this caring man.  I recognized he was better than me and yet my heart still spilled over with joy for him and being in his presence.  Therefore why should I ever be afraid or anxious about someone being better than I am?  To borrow a quote from Ogilvy, if we surround ourselves with people better than ourselves, soon we will be in a world of giants.

Anyone Heard About AIDS Lately?

By the way the news media treats it, you would think that HIV/AIDS doesn’t exist, that there’s been a cure and it’s something of a distant worry like polio or smallpox – but it’s not. In fact, the United States is the only country currently working on HIV/AIDS research that doesn’t have an AIDS strategy, however we do demand that other countries develop one. The real outrage is that there is NO outrage! There isn’t even any discussion, and that has created a great stunting in our growth as a society around those affected by HIV/AIDS.

While an estimated 270,000 individuals in the United States are HIV positive and unaware of it what about the 800,000 others who are wisely and courageously facing the battle head on? Our discussion around HIV/AIDS has been so stunted by the assumption that it is a manageable disease and the lack of comprehensive education that only focuses on prevention and the physical and completely ignores the psychological. We all know the ways of prevention, but what about the ways of living with individuals that have HIV/AIDS in our society. The 1990’s gave us so much information and so much education on not just the disease, but the people affected by it, perhaps creating the pinnacle of AIDS acceptance in our society. As of late this acceptance has turned into straight-out denial. How many among us could honestly say that we would date somebody with HIV/AIDS?

It is heartbreaking to hear the real plight of individuals with HIV/AIDS. A common theme is the need to constantly hide their HIV status or risk being treated like a pariah. Why? It’s disgusting. If instead of AIDS someone had cancer what then? They would be a hero, an unjust victim of their circumstances offered countless amounts of support. What is it that creates this trigger of fear when, in reality, HIV/AIDS is not that easy to catch. Without an identification of the trigger we have no hope of quashing this unjust stigma.

I asked a young man who is HIV positive if he could give me a better perspective on the situation:

“The amount of stigmatization I feel and have throw at me, in most cases, is much worse than my battle with HIV. Gay or straight. You go ask gay men how many are really willing to date a positive person, then divide that number by ten. The painful things I hear from the general public are much more harmful to my quality of life then any treatment I get. By the way, could you please not include my name in this, it’ll just make the witch hunt easier.

“Ya know, when you’re ill, the last thing you need is to have to protect yourself from the world around you. It seems as if the doctors, the researchers doing their amazing work, that they’re the only ones that actually look at us as people.

“The bottom line is, if I had cancer or diabetes my teachers/employers and even my friends would understand. When you’re in constant fear you can’t explain your condition due to the way people always have to put you into little boxes and categorize you.  Having to suffer all of this fear and ignorance is more likely to make me feel sick or depressed and that’s worse than any side effect from any antiretroviral or lack of a cure.”

It’s heartbreaking and sickening to think that in 2009 we haven’t moved much from the first days of the AIDS crisis. Sure, we’re addressing the physical needs and attempting to solve them, but in the process we’ve ignored the person and stressed the disease. Instead of supporting those in this struggle, we’ve turned them away. We still act as if a single sneeze or paper cut is going to get us sick all under the guise of protecting ourselves. These are people they’re not your damned statistic.  Instead we are like Plato’s allegory of the chained cave dwellers, unable to truly comprehend what they see, since they are prevented from grasping its true source and nature. It is time that we break our chains, climb through the torturous passage to the surface, and escape the cave, able to appreciate the full variety of the newly-discovered world.

Can You Hear Me Now? Shut The Hell Up!

Every morning, as I catch the Light Rail to work, there’s this woman who arrives to the platform in scrubs.  There’s only one reason someone wears scrubs outside of a medical building – they want you to know they work in a medical building.  Think about it, scrubs get all sorts of materials on them from blood to unmentionable, why would anyone wear them in public?  They wouldn’t, clearly this woman has a cache of clean scrubs in her house that she wears to work.  But I digress.

She arrives to the train platform, phone glued to her ear.  Normally this wouldn’t be even worth mentioning, except for the fact that you can hear her coming, guffawing and basically shouting into her phone like some deaf mute.  Despite her wearing scrubs and talking into her phone as if it were a tin can on some string, she also has what has to be the worst haircut I’ve ever seen.  It’s asymmetrical in front, and tapers into a ducks-ass in the back – it all serves to give her a rather footballish shaped head, which I would be more than happy to punt.  The train silently pulls up and the doors slide open.

We all rush in like cattle to try and get a seat.  With a  “whomp” who do you think lands next to me?  Ms. football-headed-phoneshaped-ear-deafmute.  I turn up my iPod and crack open my book.  If I could live on a street where firetrucks and police cars raced and blared their sirens, then I could live next to this woman for the next 20 minutes.  Some new music I purchased came on….cut in by

“Oh, GURL!  I KNOW!  GURL!  You don’t have to tell me!  GURL!”

Really?  I mean, are you serious?  Does she have turrets or something?  Does she have to blurt out “gurl” every few seconds?  Maybe I could develop it and blurt of bitchwhorebadhair….maybe not.  I turn up my iPod more and try to focus on my new book, Kruchev’s Cold War.  We arrive at the next stop and because we’re on a single train instead of a double, the train is already full of passengers.

“Oh I KNOW!  I can’t believe she DID that.  I told her, I DID! BWA HAHA!”

Oh c’mon now, please, who doesn’t know that it’s against mass transit etiquette to speak loudly on your phone, or to even be on it at all!  I look out the window, we’re just now getting to the other end of downtown, I have at best 10 minutes with her, at worst, 20…who the hell decided the train should stop for stop lights?

I give up on my iPod, any louder and I’ll start going deaf.  I also give up on the book, I just can’t get into it when I have to hear every detail of Charlie Brown Head’s conversation.  I look out the window…then all hell breaks loose.

“Now I TOLD HER, yes I DID!  I TOLD her not to be goin’ out with no married man!  I KNOW I set them up, but I didn’t know!  She know better!  Now she’s all angry with me and…”

“Oh that’s terrible.”

She ignores me.

“I can’t believe she’d do that, and blame you for it!”

Still ignoring me, so I turn to her.  She goes on.

“Well my son, he was askin’ what’s wrong with Auntie Lorane, what’s wrong with Auntie Lorane, it was so cute.”

“Oh yes, that’s just adorable, your son is wondering why your sister is committing adultory.  That’s just SO CUTE!  Have you any pictures of him?  You know, to put a face with a name…GURL.”

That got her attention.

“Hey, can you hold on a minute,”  she says into the phone, “excuse me, but I’m having  a private conversation here.”

Oh that’s rich.

“Really?”  I ask, “Because I could hear every damned word you said, didn’t sound so private to me.  Here’s a tip, don’t talk on your phone in public places unless you want your conversation to be heard.”

“Well, I would think someone would have more manners than to listen to my….”

“One, the manners that are lacking are yours and two, I’d be hard pressed not to listen to your conversation.  I’d be willing to bet most of the people around us could chime in about your sister and the married man you happened to set her up with!”

My stop comes up and I stand up to get by her, she stands as well as an automatic reaction – I know it’s not her stop, so I feel safe continuing.

“If you want a private conversation, then have it in private.  And stop wearing those scrubs on the train, you look like a damned fool…not that your hair hasn’t already contributed greatly to that.  Stupid cow.”

I walk off the train and to my office.  That felt good.