A Near Epic Journey Through a 50 Year LGBT Epoch

ImageI could hardly allow a glorious day to pass in total silence. DOMA rocked  and Same-Gender Marriage rendered legal (again) California. It’s a state of affairs only dreamed of just a decade or two ago. I will let others speak to the intricate legal issues or pour their hearts’ happiness gleefully across the blogosphere. Tonight clearly belongs to LGBT families and those who labored so long for them. I only wish my friends lost to AIDS, substance abuse, and assorted illnesses who also labored and created families were still here.

DSC01533Still I cannot help but feel oddly proud it occurred during my 50th year. My favorite college professor, Stanley Balis, always taught societies cannot appreciate a major epoch until 50 years passed. It was why books on WWII exploded in the 1990s as survivors finally opened up. Its a phenomena repeated throughout historiography. Being part of a generation who moved from ” a love that dared not speak its name” to one “that will simply not shut up” was both glorious and painful. In other words an epoch (whether I view my politically active stages or my downtime on the proverbial sidelines).

Just the week I came home choking back tears and smiles after a bus ride home on Sunset neighborhood bus. As I told my brother, “we (meaning my LGBT community) already won.” Why? I watched four high school age boys giggle and flame all over the bus about their planned dates and summer jobs. Yet no one moved to censure or mock them. Having grown up in the Sunset my brother and I knew this would have been a near death sentence in the 1970s and 1980s. Yes, our neighbors included Sunset punks who carried their hatred on baseball bats they wielded in the Castro.DSC00864

Nor was it confined to Irish Catholic communities in San Francisco. I can recall my very first day  of (yes) Catholic High School in Southern California. In not so whispered tones folks talked of a boy stomped in the showers that morning for allegedly having an erection. I still can see the principal (actually a decent priest and very straight) running around handling it. Few expressed sympathy and all stated the obvious “he will have to leave now” [and he did]. It’s a memory which lingered in my consciousness and helped bury my nascent sexual orientation further into my soul’s recesses. I can’t help but wonder if other 14-year-old Catholic boys and girls suffered similar reactions when our Archbishop pompously characterized today as a great tragedy. Nah; this is now, not 1977 – the Church has zero credibility. Image

But time to banish those bad memories for tonight. It’s a joyous celebration belonging to all of us gay or straight.

Liked the Lucky Framing

Let me extend my love and heartfelt thanks to my brothers, parents, ex-in-laws, aunts, uncles, and cousins who cast aside generations of institutionalized bigotry to embrace me. Not only did it allow me to live my life like any other boring, middle class product of parochial institutions, it comforted many of my friends and acquaintances. Kudos to my countless LGBT fellow travelers who also reached out to their families (regardless of the results; y’all tried). Thanks to my supportive coworkers and political colleagues who endured the “strident years.” A deeper thanks to everyone for not falling victim to the AIDS hysteria and locking us all up.

Those boys wouldn’t have traveled safely and the Court would not have made its ruling without each and everyone of you. Hug yourself and everyone near you in gratitude. It’s a blossoming of all the love held fast through the losses.  Image

The Ecstasy of the Everyday

ImageMost of us exist in a dream state. We chase after our greatest desires, or fend off our current challenges, without giving real thought to what matters. “What” being our connections to loved ones.

DSC00814

Collective tragedies like the Sandy Hook Shootings,  the Boston Marathon Bombings, and the Waco Plant Blast jolt our delirium. Instantly we morph into a community vicariously facing our greatest fears as we sit transfixed near flickering screens. During this collective outpouring we will hug our loved ones closer and dig deep to send what comfort we can afford. In time the closeness will pass as everyday life and loved ones reassert themselves, but painful memories defining generation remain. Dates like November 1963 or 9/11, remembrances of past wars, genocides, or plagues (AIDS), and the seemingly endless mass shootings will drag us back to the original horror.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

DSC00764However, nothing prepares us for the loss of a truly loved one. Even if anticipated the loss brings us to our knees. If we are fortunate, friends and family help pick us up. Still it remains a journey each of us must walk alone. A bleak journey designed to get us to accept a seemingly unbearable loss. Time helps but memories matter more (once we pass the ones loaded with regret). In time hopefully we regain strength enough to once again pass along the love so generously bestowed on us.

Before a torrent of losses of persons both known and unknown, I might have admonished everyone to grab a hold of their loved ones. (Obviously I recommend this approach on all possible occasions.) However, much like the now cliché quote from the movie, we can’t handle the truth” we can’t handle the ecstasy accompanying the emotion. Truly grasping what losing a dearly loved one means would render us besotted, unable to leave their side.  Most likely we would lose them along with our ability to continue as a species.

Still we must train our senses to capture the ecstasy when it arrives (often by surprise). It’s not the big events I remember spending with my mom, loved ones lost to death, or  former friends and lovers. Often its an ordinary day spent doing ordinary things or perhaps a silly day where responsibilities got tossed. At the time it filled me with happiness but didn’t register large in my life. Now these moments are a lifeline. Pay attention to them and soak them for every bit of  available joy. God knows we will be back in front of our flickering screens soon enough.DSC00704

The Kindness of Kindred Spirits

Image

Growing up with a Canadian mother brought me great joy and profound insights. I learned life survives ferocious winters, hospitality trumps even the most mean-spirited, and no person arrives on earth better than anyone else. As the Canucks among you can tell, my mom came from the Western Prairies (a bastion of both radicalism and independence).

Her greatest gift lay in teaching me to seek out kindred spirits. Inspired by her favorite book Anne of Green Gables this meant looking inside a person to find their core values and beliefs. In the process you disregarded differences in race, class, and gender. Looking back on my mom’s amazing life she never faltered from this approach however far it drove her from the path planned out for her. As a result she created a beautiful extended family which still benefits us long after her passing. Image

It hit me again tonight as I visited other bloggers’ sites. Like my mom, WordPress gathers a pretty diverse bunch. These bloggers write for various reasons: to capture beautiful images all around the world; to save souls through politics or religion; or to share their hard won  knowledge and experience (without payment). At their core, each seeks to bring beauty where perhaps none currently exists or wants to show the beauty our busy eyes currently disregard. Image

One of the cool things about aging is you really grasp how little trappings matter. You have been fooled once too often, survived losses you once assumed insurmountable, and humbled by how the little things make you the happiest. It’s truly what the cliché “youth is wasted on the young” means. But of course, the cliché disregards the lessons one must necessarily learn to get where light shines through darkness. Image

It’s late so I’ll wrap up now. However, let me give a shout out to kindred spirits in my life (both real and virtual). Most importantly let me say love you to the woman who got me out of bed to write it. Miss you Mom. Here’s  one of your favorite places (SF Japanese Tea GardenImage

 

Going Home Again (Briefly) To Seek Peace in a Post-Election World

Can you go home again? And even if you could, should you?

Anti-Chen Protest Day 32 - Million Men March
Anti-Chen Protest Day 32 – Million Men March (Photo credit: My Hourglass)

Most of you are shouting “HELL NO” because past experiences discourage such a fanciful exercise. Returning to small classrooms remind us how it felt being small and powerless. Class reunions trigger old insecurities and disappoint dreams of rekindling old bonds. Family get-togethers rife with  tension inspire endless novels, plays, and films skewering the underlying hypocrisy and pain.

Rome visit, June 2008 - 57Yet the enduring truth about family – be it is biological or created – is no one knows you – or rather past parts of you – better. Conversely you know them. It explains why nothing hurts worse than a searing conversation with a past lover, estranged family member, or classmate with an overly good memory (yes they exist, even in my age group :)). Wisely many of us avoid  these conversations  (not only do we suffer but we inflict suffering in return). Too often funerals drive home the painful finality of this choice. Still most of us have moved on to create new families and/or communities so we generally even survive this horrible guilt.

Listen ... Rape is a polictically volatile top...However the very items sowing the seeds of emotional terror also support the bridge to honest communication. Despite conventional wisdom – and millions spent to reinforce it – deep down no one carries more credibility than someone of our own background. (Yes, we can all name favorite pundits, celebrities, and ball players. But I said DEEP DOWN.) The same bridge(s) among us also provides refuge when things get really bad (pride be dammed) financially or emotionally. Past closeness and ever-present DNA spawn obligation deeper than the eye can fathom.

The Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, CA a...

Its this ever present obligation – and past bonds – which prompt me to post the following election advice to old friends and classmates.

Curitiba - O candidato do PSDB, José Serra, co...
Curitiba – O candidato do PSDB, José Serra, começa oficialmente a campanha na capital do Paraná (Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, it hurts to lose campaigns. I have spent most of life supporting losing candidates and causes because either conscience (liberal) or identity (lesbian) demanded it. Afterwards I spent my free time fighting those new administration’s policies on war, poverty, or civil rights. Similarly, each year I came up with money I didn’t have to fight nearly annual  referendums designed to prevent the LGBT  community from holding jobs or keeping our families and relationships safe. I don’t begrudge the time or the money, especially since each seems to be paying off. It’s the same reasoning prompting me to respect those former friends, classmates, and family members still pushing for a conservative movement. Hopefully this mutual respect will allow us to find common areas of agreement.

However I must address a disturbingly large fringe of you. (Mind you, though, it truthfully surprises me who among you ended up on this fringe.)

Grow up people. Quash the racist imagery (you know who you are). Quit mocking poor and disabled folks (especially when some many of us remain a paycheck or diagnosis away from joining them). Quiet your inner demons demanding you see each darker skinner person as a criminal non-citizen (especially when as a child most of you resisted this temptation). None of you either came from – or even married –  the fabled 1%. Many of you – like me – lack the racial purity necessary to truly belong to Aryan Nation. Even choosing a conservative parish won’t save you when the forces behind most organized religions decided to jettison you (besides how many of you really want your life run by an Ayatollah of any stripe?).

Anti-racist-rally-Sydney-2005-Dec-18-small
Anti-racist-rally-Sydney-2005-Dec-18-small (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The world changed quite some time ago.

This election merely gave voice to the pre-existing New Diversity. Most of your children will move on to embrace it either economically (it makes good business sense) or romantically (to paraphrase a brilliant writer: “the best racial integration is horizontal” — why, it builds family). They will leave you behind much like many of us turned away from our grandparents’ overt racism. You will also find yourselves increasingly isolated both at work or online.

2011 Diversity Conference
2011 Diversity Conference (Photo credit: OregonDOT
Shh
Shh (Photo credit: Jasmine Hutcherson)

If you really can’t hold it together right now, then step away from the keyboard. Many of us are watching appalled and with growing anger.  Even if you want to cut off all our past connections, remember what you type stays somewhere. Make similarly stupid remarks at work and you will find folks scouring for other racist comments when they sue you. Most importantly, a time-out might also let you remember how we all once wanted to make the future a better place.