Thursday, December 23, 2010

An Anti Personal Ad

WARNING: Vitriolic, mean, and spiteful, written out in a moment of frustration and annoyance after yet another bit of online coitus interruptus thanks to and the people who use them. Actually tried to post this, but CL's new log-in and password policy is so bloody opaque and hard to use, that I didn't get it out there. So, here it is. A bit of creative snark. Mind the gap.

An Anti Personal Ad

Don't bother.

I'm tired of being accomodating towards others when they're not towards me. Guys only want to get together with me when they feel like it, not when I do. So when I don't feel like it, don't bother. Your timing and your schedule are not actually more important than mine.

Don't bother with those responses to Craigslist ads when you're married and want me to be "discreet." Even more so, don't bother when you didn't tell me that up front, but only revealed it later on. And don't expect a repeat visit. I don't play with married men. Even if you ARE the only men out here in the wilds of Wisconsin who bother to reply to personal ads, I'm sick of you.

I may be horny, but I'm not desperate. Certainly not as desperate as you are. Why did you ever get married in the first place, if you still want boyz on the side? Live honestly, or don't expect me to have anything to do with you. You need to grow up, be honest, and live with some shred of personal integrity about your sex lives—or I can't be bothered.

And if you haven't been out of the closet for at least a few years—long enough to have gotten through the "kid in a candy store" phase and the "finding myself" phase—then I don't want to date you. I don't want to be your teacher, your therapist, your guide, your guru, or your one-night stand. When you get past those early stages of coming out, when you've found some balance, when you've settled down a little—call me then, and we'll talk.

While I do indeed enjoy men who are exploring their gayness for the first time, while I do enjoy younger men, oh yes indeed I've had some great sex with younger men, I'm nobody's daddy or sugardaddy, nobody's guru, nobody's therapist. While indeed I've done my share of sexual healing while having sex—both mine, and yours—and had a good time opening up that way, I'm not your healer. I want to be your partner. It has to be mutual, and reciprocal, and it has to go both ways.

See, I have the same problem with most gay subcultures: most of them, with only a couple of rare exceptions, even now remain appearance-based. Even Bear culture is appearance-based, it's just a reversal of the usual buff or smooth gay stereotypes. Most of the worst aspects of gay culture—those ways which we beat each other up—remain shallow and appearance-based. Not liking what you see, and being too fucked up to be tolerant of it because of your own internalized homophobia, is the root of sissyphobia, of ageism, of looksism, of every little discriminatory snipe and snark with which you deride each other, mercilessly and without compassion. In a community supposed to be tolerant of diversity, intolerance is the rule. And it's alll very shallow.

It's ALL drag, whether it's boy drag, or girl drag, or businessman drag, or naked drag, it's ALL drag. That's the most profound truth of gay life: Everything is a performance. You can perform whoever you want to be, and you can change several times a day, and nobody has the right to tell you you're wrong. But neither do you have the right to tell others they are wrong—because if you demand respect for yourself, for just being who you are, then you must offer the same respect in return. Or it's ALL meaningless.

So if you don't like me because I don't look like your ideal fantasy image of what you want, fuck you. Or rather, UNfuck you. Who'd want to fuck you, anyway, if you're that shallow? So if you don't like the things I have to say, or how I say them, unfuck you. If you're so self-centered that you only want to nookie when it's convenient for YOU, and you can't be bothered caring about the feelings of your partner, then you're only in love with yourself, you narcissistic little wanker, so unfuck you.

The definition of love that works pragmatically and practically, all romantic and sentimental bullshit aside, is this: You love your partner if you care more about their feelings and their highest good then you do your own. Real love can even mean letting them go, so they can be free to be themselves. Yes, it hurts to let them go, and when will it ever be YOUR turn to be happy and fulfilled? Yes, that can suck. But that's what love is: The heart that is open to risk, and to being hurt, and to taking chances with your own feelings. take a chance! The closed fist can never hold onto anything anyway.

It may all be role-play, it may all be drag, but the drag that I want to role-play, and have done so for years, is to be the most authentically myself that I know how to be. I won't pretend to be anything other than myself for you, and I won't offer anything other than everything I have to give, honestly and totally and completely with full authenticity. I won't hold anything back, I'll give you everything that I am, and if that freaks you out or intimidates you or makes you run away, that's YOUR problem. Accept me as I am, just as I accept you as you are, and no games, no bullshit, no headgames of mindfucks, and we might make something magical between us. I give as good as I get, just you wait and see.

Lose the dirty talk during sex. It pulls me right out of my body and into my intellect, and shuts me right down sexually, when you're being verbal like that. Grunt, moan, tell me it feels good, tell me to keep going, but that dirty talk shit is major turn-off. I love hearing what pleasure I'm giving you. I love hearing the animal sounds that men make when their ecstasy has taken them past all words. You can roar, and moan, and sigh. But enough with the dirty talk. Enough with the narratives. Enough with the porn dialogue. It's all bad dialogue when it's porn dialogue. If you think what you see and hear in porn is real and not just some fantasy, I pity you.

If you're easy-going about most things in life but passionate about those things you really care about, and passionate in bed, then I want to hear from you. Because I'm an intense, passionate person myself. I've scared people with my intensity, I've intimidated them with my unintentional wacky Zen brilliance, I've freaked them out with my weird sense of humor. I don't care. Take me as I am, or don't expect the same in return. Make it mutual, or piss off.

If all this was too long for you to read, or get through to this far, you have the attention span of a gnat and I don't want to meet you anyway. If you DID make it this far, gimme a call, and we can take it from there.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

AIDS Sutra (Vajrayana)

(sections of the AIDS Quilt, Madison, WI, 1989)

AIDS Sutra

and I remember the one and only time I ever visited The Quilt,
laid out in partial display, less than a quarter of its total weave,
but still enough panels to cover the floor of the Field House in Madison,
     temporarily displacing the basketball team,
     whose players stayed away that weekend;
it was a Sunday. The day before we had marched through downtown streets,
a blustery afternoon’s hike, shouting slogans and singing—
some of us had drums despite the cold, and the living procession
throbbed with noise—and I remember how warmed I felt
by the outpouring of strength and love from all those queers, and from all
the friends and loved ones who marched with us, in sympathy and kinship;
and I remember how I still felt different, alien,
     more queer than queer,
alone even when immersed in the throngs of shouting, different folk;
and I remember the quiet people walking amongst The Quilt’s bright panels,
quietly reading, taking photos, talking in low funereal voices;
and I remember the white-clothed Quilt attendants walking on patrol,
bearing kleenex tissue boxes, swarming in on private griefs
     whenever some wanderer broke down in tears,
white-clad leeches like intrusive psychic vampire vultures feeding off the pain
and leaving our grievings sucked out, shallow, and diminished—
and I just wanted to tell them to go piss off
     and leave us all alone;
     can’t a person just have a good cleansing cry without you horning in?
And I was afraid of all the loose emotion in that space,
so I shuttered down my nascent impenetrable walls, bearing silent witness,
playing the dispassionate ethnographic observer, until,
the purity of one graceful message
struck through my shields and split me open:
the simple remembrance of a man
who had sown his lover’s favorite blue jeans to a panel—
faded denim on pink—and a simple “I miss you”
with a name;
and I broke down and cried,
and took a photograph—the fish that finally caught me—
and wondered if the war would ever end;

and I remember how alone I felt all through the years of public school,
and I hated that bitter loneliness,
     when I felt so different and unknowable,
     more alien than “queer”ness alone could encapsulate:
     I was doubly queer because I was a smart kid, and triply queer
because I had grown up without radio or television, in a foreign land;
and I remember lusting after every barechested
     adolescent boy I ever saw—
     myself still adolescent, shy and scared—
and never got to touch or kiss;
and I remember swimming naked during boys’ gym class
     in the junior high school pool in 7th grade—
all the boys who didn’t have their suits on any given swim day
     swam naked for an hour—
and sometimes I’d deliberately forget my suit at home,
passing nude from locker room to shower to pool
     to shower to locker room again,
and never wanted to get dressed, I felt so comfortable
     in my skin;
and I have come to forever love the water,
     the healing of the waves,
     the river’s flowing kiss,
     the envelope of liquid grace on my naked skin;
but I never got to kiss or touch or lick or suck
     those other naked boys,
even the ones who probably wanted it as much as I did
     but were just as scared of the ultimate rejection
as I was, scared of being so alien, so queer, so unloved,
instinctively knowing we’d be hated and scorned and branded forever;
I thought I was the only boy who’d ever had these feelings;
and I remember being afraid of getting beat up again—
     this time not for being a sissy, a weakling, a four-eyed
     pale-bodied book-reading teacher’s-pet goody-two-shoes,
     but because I was the queer little faggot—
by all the boys who were bigger and tougher than me,
     which was nearly all of them,
if they ever found out what I felt inside;
and I never got to love them all,
never got to lie together close and naked
     and make love;
and so I both hated and loved those gym classes,
     because I was ashamed of my puny little body,
but I loved going shirtless and rubbing shoulders with the other boys,
or going naked in the pool, pretending I couldn’t swim
     so some bigger boy would hold me by the hips
     while I flailed at the dark, warm, chlorine-flavored water;

and I’m still angry, angrier than ever,
     at all the missed opportunities that echo through my life,
     all the times I was too timid,
     all the times I was too shy to seduce or be seduced,
     all the times I seemed to choose the wrong man to love;
and now I’ve found the bottomless volcano of my anger,
     the dragon rampant on a darkling plain,
     the shapes of the warrior inside me rising like the wind;
and I still get pissed at the thoughtless cry of the sheep,
     the autonomic rage against bigotry and banal, brainless hate;
and I am just angry as I ever was, and I don’t suppress it anymore,
but my tactics have changed: now,
     I turn my anger into these hard words,
     I fling it at the world in packets of knife-edged music,
I put myself out in little flames—
I change it into heartfelt art and dance and song;

and I remember my activist days, still believing we could make a difference,
     the meetings, the arguments, the discussions over ice cream,
     the plans to change the world, to educate our enemies,
     the endless endless talk, the speakers’ bureaus before dim prejudice—
and I am just angry as I ever was, and I don’t suppress it anymore,
but my strategy has changed: now,
     I live the life I’ve chosen, I am walking the good red road,
     I live as the visions lead me to live, and otherwise
I live my life just as I wish, and harm no-one:
being true to yourself is the best revenge.

And I remember the worst violation, the final pointless insult:
     just as I was ready at last to go out and experiment with sex,
     just as I felt ready to endure the hate and look for a lover,
     just as I felt strong enough to have a relationship with some other boy,
          or at least have sex,
AIDS appeared on the horizon, looming like the rats of the plague,
frightening us all into retreat or death, exacting a mounting toll
     that grew to rival—then surpass—the deathcount of boys
     destroyed by the Vietnam war, which thank the gods had ended
     before I was old enough to have to choose between the draft or dodging.
AIDS, you terrified me,
AIDS, you gave me a reason to retreat back into my shell in fear,
AIDS, you gave my long-standing fears their final torch—
just as I was ready to come out and act like a man, a queer, a full-bodied fag,
AIDS, you gave me an excuse to be celibate and timid again.
And I remember falling for it, hell,
     I fell for it completely, retreating with my tail between my legs,
     not Lee at Appomattox but the baffled generals in ‘Nam,
falling for the ultimate black hole joke:
     the game is rigged, folks, you don’t know the rules,
     the dice are loaded, you haven’t got enough to stake you in,
     and there’s no way in hell you’ll ever win, or even leave the table alive,
so why even try to play.
That’s what AIDS said to me.

But that’s no more rich or rare than any other curse.
I’ve lived through too many days of dislocation,
too many words of hatred flung my way,
     to miss how nothing’s really changed:
life must kill you in the end.
It’s how we choose to live—
keeping to the rules we’re given, or breaking them if we can search them out,
or making up our own, or playing—not to win
but to keep the game in play—

that’s the only way,
the only way,
the only way
to play this game.

Originally written circa 1994, and revised a couple of times since, this poem is part of the book Sutras: Spiritual Exercises. It's an unpublished long book, more a personal credo than a book of "fine art poems." I long ago decided, after presenting some of the Sutras to a workshop critique group, to mostly negative responses, that it was more important to me that the Sutras are honest, spiritual, and reflective, rather than "perfect" poems. So I make no apologies for the emotion in this poem, or its anger. I write these Sutras as, indeed, spiritual exercises; some are in poetic forms; some are more like prose-poems; and some are not defined in terms of form.

This Sutra on AIDS speaks for itself. At some point you have to look around, and express your grief. Sometimes grief can seem like anger, but really it's grief. Don't try to block it. Just let it rain. As Paul Monette once wrote, "Grief is a sword, or it is nothing."

World AIDS Day

I wanted to write something for World AIDS Day, yet I find that my friend prairiemary has already said almost everything I might want to say. So I'll just encourage folks to go read what she wrote.

And I'll leave my own silent comments via my artwork:

Sacred Heart Labyrinth

Burning Phallus Labyrinth

Shiva Dancing in the Labyrinth
(from Spiral Dance)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Against Bullying: Some Resources

Still think bullying is the victim's fault? You really need to get over that. Anyone, particularly any gay man on a gay men's website, who denies that LGBT youth are in peril in today's society needs to have their cranium removed from their rectum. Yet I have seen plenty of such comments in recent weeks. That's either denial or veiled self-hatred, or both.

I heard more via email from friends in the gay men's chorus in San Francisco about the bullying/suicide connection. One of them passed on information about The GLBT National Help Center, support website with helpline phone numbers. Even though they're based in San Francisco, they are a template for many similar regional support services.

Some relevant facts to be found via The Trevor Project:

Additional Facts about Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth

• Nine out of 10 LGBT students (86.2%) experienced harassment at school; three-fifths (60.8%) felt unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation; and about one-third (32.7%) skipped a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe (2007 GLSEN National School Climate Survey).

• Almost all transgender students had been verbally harassed (e.g., called names or threatened) in the past year at school because of their sexual orientation (89%) and gender expression (89%) (2009 GLSEN: Harsh Realities, The Experiences of Transgender Youth In Our Nation’s Schools).

• LGBT youth in rural communities and those with lower adult educational attainment face particularly hostile school climates (JG, Greytak EA, Diaz EM – Journal of Youth & Adolescence 2009)

• Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents are 190 percent more likely to use drugs and alcohol than are heterosexual teens (Marshal MP, Friedman MS, et al – Addiction 2008).

• It is estimated that between 20 and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender (2006 National Gay & Lesbian Task Force: An Epidemic of Homelessness). 62% of homeless LGB youth will attempt suicide at least once—more than two times as many as their heterosexual peers (Van Leeuwen JMm et al – Child Welfare 2005)

Living as I do in a rural area, I see that third bullet point all the time. Most gays in my rural area are not out. Every time I post an online personal ad hoping to make a date with someone, fully half of the respondents are married men who want "boys on the side." I delete those responses without replying, since I don't want to tangled up in that kind of drama. (Nor am I interested in being part of someone's coming out process, being their therapist or guru, or whatever. Once they get past the initial few years of being out, maybe we can talk.)

Living a gay life in rural America is living in a mostly hostile environment.

California supports bullied young people. In early October 2010 a bill was signed into law:

SB 543 — Mental Health Services for At-Risk Youth — is an historic bill that allows youth 12 to 17 years old to receive mental health care without requiring their parents’ consent. LGBT youth across California who are fearful that their families could become abusive or kick them out if they come out—or refuse to consent to their obtaining mental health services—will now be able get the help they need, before it’s too late.

Equality California and Senator Mark Leno made this bill a priority to address the hostile environment too many of California's young people find themselves dealing with everyday, the kind of environment that has led to bullying, hate crimes and several recent tragic and heartbreaking suicides. This bill is one critical step to provide support for LGBT and questioning youth. But we have a long way to go to end the climate of terror that those who oppose equality and promote hatred have created.

I hope this law does start a trend. I hope that it does go federal, eventually.

But of course there will be the usual wingnut outcry against it from the right, which will no doubt label it as creeping socialism. Which of course it is not. But that's what keeps happening when the extremist ideology of individual liberty trumps the desire to maintain the social fabric. In fact, of course, the idea that kids can go seek help without their parents' consent is a triumph for individual liberty. But how many will perceive it that way? Wait and see.

I'm all about stuff we can DO, not just talk about, to counteract the effects of bullying and prejudice and hate. And sometimes words are the tools we can DO something with, too.

If you're a queer writer, or a queer artist, here's something else to do, to make it better: The Better Book Project, edited by Eric Nguyen:

Deadline: 30 December 2010

I think for any living queer (past high school) this is very hard to deal with. Our community is falling apart here. Our tribe is dying. It is definitely better now to be queer than in the past: but it’s still hard (I can go onto a whole sociological analysis of all this…but that’ll be like dissertation size, with a lot of unanswered questions [until I can get research done ] so I won’t). Obviously.

I am not part of any nonprofit organization. I can’t say that I’m an activist in that I stay in an office and do work to help past laws. (After many interviews, I don’t think I can truly be an activist in an office). But what I am is a writer. I am a part of culture. I am culture. (All writers and artists are). As a writer, I am doing what I can. I’ll do the only thing that I can do. Write. And edit.

Thus, my Better Book Project.

Inspired by Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project, this is a project for the queer literary community. It is our chance (it’s our duty), to use our words to their full extent–to save lives, to communicate to our distant selves.

Think about yourself as a teenager. What story, what poem, what words would’ve made things better, in the face of bullies and unapproving family members, in a small town without a car perhaps, with no visible community? What would you tell them?

I am looking for words– stories, poems, essays, short memoirs–for an anthology tentatively titled BETTER: Stories, Poems, Essays, Words for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Teens About Growing Up, Surviving, Living, and Thriving. Publication is set for Summer 2011. Publication will first be through Lulu. All profit from this will go to a nonprofit that supports queer youth. Therefore, sadly, no payment. Think of it as a literary donation. No word minimums or limits, but remember that this is an anthology. Will seek publication through a publishing house for larger distribution (I’m thinking about where this book can be physically avaliable to kids, and public libraries don’t buy self-published titles), but we’ll see then.

Send all submissions to by December 30, 2010.

More (but not too much more) info at:

The genuinely positive side of the Internet: ending isolation for people who have no other easy way to connect with like-minded people, or others who are going through similar problems. The supportive connections are powerful and very helpful.

Here's something extremely cool:

An anti-bullying website for and by youth, gay and not, focusing on telling their stories, making a positive message, providing help, telling it like it is, and even a poetry contest. I've often said that making art is the best revenge, meaning that it's the best way to talk back, to stand up and be heard, and to survive. In my own darkest hours, making art, making music, is what has kept me alive.

This is one very good way to start making a difference, and getting out the anti-bullying message:

A Million Miles from Anywhere

A message from Sarah Silverman on bullying, and she just about says it all.

From The White House: It Gets Better

From The White House Blog, video clips of President Obama and Vice President Biden addressing the recent spate of suicides caused by bullying. It impresses me that the President spoke out on this, with his own view that it does indeed get better. There are also several links provided on the blog to resources about the suicide and bullying of gay issues.

It's good to see The White House throw their weight behind this issue. No matter what anyone thinks politically about whoever inhabits, will inhabit, or has inhabited The White House, it's really good that the Executive Branch has taken notice and said something about bullying and suicide, because this is an issue that affects every citizen, one way or another, beyond all political posturing and debate.

Ft. Worth, TX, City Councilman Joel Burns speaks out that It Gets Better. I found this video deeply moving. Maybe there's hope after all, if the younger generation of politicians, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum, can be more like Joel Burns.

Pass this clip on to a troubled LGBT kid if you know one. It's sure to be helpful.

My Son Is Gay

What a super mom! Her attitude is the best anti-bullying tonic possible. What a great mom.

Some of the comments are shocking, though, in context. But these serve only to speak better of Supermom, who by contrast with those benighted souls is a shining light of heroic love.

Bullying & What It Leads To

I have not been an activist about any LGBT issues for some time. I used to be an activist for LGBT rights, marched in the streets, went and gave presentations to groups for the purposes of education, participated in and led forums and seminars and open classrooms. All of that and more.

For the past several years, I've been letting my artwork be my activism: my writing, my visual art, my other creative work. Everything I did was infiltrated with my sense of social justice, of human community, of equal rights. Some people noticed, most did not. Yet even my more personal, spiritual art has occasionally been recognized as political for merely existing: some topics, some issues, some imagery, by merely being addressed in art, and acknowledged in art, becomes political. If not overtly, than quietly.

There have been a lot of articles in the news in recent weeks and months about suicides by kids, gay and straight, who have been bullied. I find this horribly upsetting, and infuriating, and want to do something about it.

For example, the suicide of Tyler Clementi has galvanized gay rights grouped, and received significant coverage in the press. ironically, most press coverage of gay rights issues for the past few years has been mostly negative, reporting the erosion of rights or the ascendance of various homophobic religious and political groups, not excluding the so-called Tea Party.

Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish blog has also been active on this subject, which is great, since that's one of the most-read blogs out there, especially by conservatives.

This current run of suicide stories tells me that this is the issue we really need to be working on.

People are dying. People are getting bullied for being gay, or just for being different, for being suspected of being gay, and there have been several suicides. For every one that reaches the attention of the national media, you can correctly assume there were several others that got no attention at all. And in the current political climate, which has swung far to the political right, many people who might have kept their prejudices silent before now seem to feel empowered to loudly broadcast them, and to act on them.

In my opinion, gay marriage comes a distant second as a gay rights issue—not that it shouldn't also be worked on diligently. But people are dying out there. We need to keep gay rights issues in perspective, that there are other issues besides gay marriage that are really more necessary, more urgent, and potentially more outright life-threatening to our people. (Don't even get me started on assimilationist vs. diversity movements within gay culture, and why they've become the way they are.) As long as kids are killing themselves for being different, gay marriage is frankly irrelevant.

I applaud Jon Savage and his It Gets Better project, and everyone else working to let the younger generation know that it does get better. That's where I'm going to be putting my limited activist energy, for now. I am working on a video and musical contribution, which I hope to complete and post soon.

And I strongly feel that the gay men's chorus that I sing with, and all such LGBT groups that present a positive public face to the world, have a real powerful message of self-acceptance and self-esteem to present, and keep presenting, and keep building on, till suicide is no longer the option taken by so many of the younger generation still being bullied just for being different.

I was severely bullied when I was a kid and well into my teens (and have written about it several times), and I made it through that hell to where I am now. Sure, it left some scars (chief among them being an innate distrust of most authority figures), but overall I've overcome it. Nothing would please me more than to see an end to bullying, not only against LGBT kids but against any kids who are seen as different. It does get better.

And don't try to tell me that the cultural environment in general, and the culture in school, are innocent in all this. At best, they're ignorant about bullying; at worst, they're complicit. Anyone who is willfully ignorant of the effects of bullying, because they can't be bothered, or because they think they're helpless to do anything about it, is complicit, even guilty of tacit support of bullying. That was the truth of my experience, and I see no evidence it's changed.

And the bullies will do their best to convince you that it's not happening, that there's nothing going on, and that we should all just "move on." This is also the message coming from many elements of the political right wing, who would like to see this all just go away. Is this merely coincidental, or a symptom in kind of the social environment that empowers bullies?

I remember Matthew Shepard at times like this. I've stood at that fence line overlooking Laramie, WY, and thought long and hard about what to do about it.

What groups like the gay men's choruses and other groups do, simply in being ambassadors of diversity and self-acceptance, goes a long way towards healing this horror. May we all continue to do so, as best we can.


There's a lot of denial about bullying still out there. It shows up even on gay online forums and dating sites, among those gay men who also tend to express anti-sissy, anti-femme preferences. The one thing bullies never do is take personal responsibility for what their actions and words do to others. When to comes to talking about bullying there's usually a ringing silence.

I am supportive of the gay marriage rights push, of the right of those who wish to get married to do so. I support the repeal of the military's ridiculous Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy—although since the US military is an institution riddled with bureaucratic homophobia, I'm not holding my breath. (Meanwhile, the militaries of several of our allied nations in Europe are laughing at our military's policy, and rightly so.) I support the rights of gay parents to adopt children, to participate in the Boy Scouts (another case where I'm not holding my breath), and to openly go to as parents to PTA conferences.

The priority, however, is to stand up against the forces of hatred, no matter where they turn up, no matter when. To stand up to them and to tell them that they're wrong. No more children need die because of being bullied.

Young people being bullied, being targeted. Think about it.

At that age, who isn't confused and "overly emotional" most of the time. It's a very tough and turbulent time of life, and getting pushed over the edge is not just a matter of personal choice, it's a matter of being pushed by circumstances beyond what you can stand anymore.

At that age I was definitely living in fear. And the loneliness. Which can be so powerful, so hard to overcome. And which, if not relieved by finding a supportive community in which to counteract the effects of feeling isolated and lone, can become fatal.

Blame is not easy to fix. Yet there plainly does exist a hostile social environment that makes kids feel bad about themselves. Those forces that create such a hostile environment are what the fight is against, in the long run: that's the social-justice level of the fight, which cannot be overemphasized, even while we deal with the individual level of the fight and do our best to help those who have been put in our paths to help.

I've said for many years, in many ways, that we will only have achieved our goal of equality when it becomes true that being gay is No Big Deal in any way, shape, or form. We've a long way to go, still, before that's true.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Untitled by David Wojnarowicz

Untitled (One Day This Kid. . . ) by David Wojnarowicz, from 1991

This seems particularly relevant to post these days. And to remind everyone that this great, disturbing artist once lived, who made controversial art about his own sexuality and that of other gay men, and who died of AIDS. This piece has become famous as a postcard, and it seems like it's time to send it out to the world as a postcard again. Now more than ever its message needs repeating.

Update, just a few days later:

Interesting story: I reposted Wojnarowicz' art as here, along with the above, and other, comments about the artist, elsewhere on a gay social network website, and got some real flak for it. From New York City fags who believed it was old-fashioned and irrelevant to the present day! When I pointed out the continuity between this and the current spate of gay suicides around bullying, it created a firestorm.

It's like people already want to forget about bullying. Which is something I've written about before: the bullies shout loudly that there is no bullying, and try to shut you down if you say there is. But only the bullies want to "move on" from the bullying and suicide issues. (And why are so many of them avowedly conservative and/or Republican? Just a coincidence?) The fact is, the suicide and bullying issue is one that needs to stay in the public eye. I haven't been an activist in awhile, and I find myself becoming one again, lit on fire by this very issue.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Question Remains

The news media cycle is already moving on.

People are still talking about the recent spate of stories in the media about gay teen suicides, and suicides due to bullying, outing, and so forth. And the news is already moving on.

People are already forgetting the urgency, outrage, anger and despair they felt only last week. Well, you can't live in those feelings forever. But you can't just move on and pretend nothing ever happened.

The topic of bullying is one that people mostly want to avoid. People will go back to wincing around the topics of bullying and suicide, because it's something they'd rather not think about, unless required to. Wincing, often, because they feel helpless to do anything about the situations that lead to those outcomes. Some may wince even at the fact that I'm not going to let this issue just fade away back into life's background noise. Yet silence is complicity: if you avoid talking about it, it just goes back into the closet.

So the question remains: What to do about it?

Bullying and suicide are issues I care about a lot more deeply than gay marriage. I think gay marriage is largely irrelevant as an issue by comparison to those issues wherein people are dying, or losing other parts of their lives to outside attacks. Addressing gay teen suicide is more urgent. Repealing DADT is more urgent. Keeping the civil rights already earned, such as domestic partnership laws in some states, from being eroded is also urgent. Bullying and suicide are on my radar. They will be for a long time to come the main points of activism that I focus my energies towards changing.

So the question remains: What to do about it?

I know what I'll be doing about it. I'll be counseling every gay kid I know, or am introduced to, that it gets better. I will talk to every kid I see being bullied or attacked or ostracized or verbally abused, just for being different, that it gets better.

That's a tough sell. Kids who have been bullied very wisely don't trust most adults, especially adults in positions of authority. If adult authority actually meant anything, they'd have the power to stop the bullying. Bullies are often stupid, but they're also often sly, or crafty.

But it's worth the effort to make the sell, even to kids who find it hard to trust you. How do you get them to trust you? By being congruent with your words and actions. By never lying to them, even when you'd like to lie because it would everyone's tender feelings. By never pretending things are other than they are. By being true to your word; if you can't do something, you say so, and you don't make promises you know you can't keep. You can't promise to protect someone against every harm they will ever encounter; you can only promise to do your best to be with them, and do your best to help them overcome.

And by telling them your own stories: How you were bullied and verbally abused, just for being different, or just for being gay, and how you overcame it. Maybe you still have a few scars, and you don't try to pretend you don't. Maybe being bullied changed you for life. And you tell those kids, who find it hard to trust, how you turned that into a blessing, into something positive, turning your scars into badges of honor, into memorials and blessings, into tools for overcoming.

And not every person can be saved. For some it's already too late.

So the question remains: What to do about it?

I know what I'll be doing about it. I'll be speaking out against anti-intellectual dumb-down political rhetoric designed to control people by triggering their fears. I'll be speaking up against political, verbal, and peer-pressure coercion, all of which are kinds of bullying. I'll refuse to be silent in the face of abject stupid hatred, just to avoid offending anybody. I'll be speaking truth to power. I'll be refusing to stay silent in face of lies, distortions, small misunderstandings that lead to big conflicts, and the like. I'll speak my mind when there's something worth saying, or someone worth defending, and otherwise I'll be silent.

I'll also be bringing whatever beauty into the world that I am able to, in my own tiny individual way. I'll be writing music that no-one asks for, and no-one wants. I'll be making photographs that no-one cares about. I'll be writing poems that no-one asked me to write, and no-one wants to read. And each of these will be one more reason to stay alive, to live one more day, to remember that ugliness and hatred are not more true or real than their opposites.

Every ripple in the pond matters. Enough ripples coming into synergy can create a tsunami.

People complain and complain about how there's no unity and thus no effective political power in the gay pseudo-community. People bitch constantly at each other about they're mean to each other and argue over the slightest little catty points while never getting anything done. People try to verbally shame each other into agreement, which only creates more divisions. People forget that there are problems that can't be solved simply by thinking about them, or even by trying to verbally whip each other into caring about them.

So the question remains: What to do about it?

You find those points that you CAN agree on, and that you DO agree on, and you come into alliance to address them. You find common cause. You set aside your other differences, for awhile, and focus on what you have in common. You come into alliance, if only temporarily, to address issues like bullying and suicide, and yes even gay marriage, while they need to be worked on together, after which we can all go our diverse ways again.

You collect your individual waves into a tsunami.

It doesn't have to be a permanent wave.

And stop beating each other up for being different—that's what the bullies do, beat us up for being different. The whole culture is a bullying culture, because it has managed to get us to bully each other, so the bullies don't have to.

The LGBT world is theoretically built on embracing and celebrating diversity, and yet we so often beat each other up over our differences. Doesn't anybody see the incredible irony in that? We do the bullies' work for them, when we beat each other up for being different. Think about it.

What then must we do?

We can start by stopping the bullying. And we can start by stopping bullying each other. And we can start by labeling bullying as what it really is, whenever we see it, as a way of becoming aware of the problem. You can't solve a problem till you've become aware that it exists, as a problem.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Outsider's Viewpoint

Steve Paulsen (interviewer): Your book, Big Trips: More Good Gay Travel Writing, is your second anthology of gay travel writing. What does gathering together gay voices add to the classic travel narrative?

Rafael Kadushin: I think travel writing is a quintessentially gay genre. If you look even at the history of travel writing, so many of our best travel writers—even if they were closeted people like Bruce Chatwin, and Jan Morris, and Christopher Isherwood again—were gay. And I think that’s not an accident. Gay people are always a foreigner even in there own land, even in their own home. And that’s true even today. Even, you know, as things evolve. I think gay kids grow up learning to be almost natural ethnographers, in the sense that they really have to read their own culture very closely—to be safe, to really protect themselves. So they become very savvy, very smart, at reading the culture the way a traveler or an anthropologist would. So that really I think they develop almost a second sense, this real talent which the travel writer and the good traveler needs. You know, that sense of detachment, of objectivity, of really being sensitive to what defines a culture, and how to read a culture, and what is unique about a culture.

—from the Public Radio International program To the Best of Our Knowledge, the “Travel” episode, aired 27 June 2010

This very insightful comment brings home to me how, ever since my graduate study years, I was always focused on the insider/outsider interface: on the Other. Mr. Kadushin’s comments about being the other, being a natural ethnographer in one’s own culture, becoming an objective observer—these all ring true to my own experience. If I were to be simplistic, this could also account for my own studies in anthropology, folklore, and ethnomusicology—if I were being simplistic.

In fact, my interest in foreignness, in other cultures and their arts, is just as likely to be rooted in my childhood experience of having grown up in India. I was an ethnographic fieldworker from a very young age, no more strongly than when our family returned from India and I was unceremoniously plopped into American elementary school.

“Coming home” was the most traumatic, dislocating experience of my young life. We came home to the USA from India, taking all summer to do it, arriving in the month of August. For many years in my life, the month of August often had problems for me, perhaps in echo of that young trauma.

Coming home was a crash course in observing a foreign culture, as I had literally nothing in common with my new schoolmates—theoretically we had the American-English language in common, but even that had its pitfalls—I had never seen TV or listened to pop music on the radio. I knew nothing about the culture into which I had “returned,” and that culture had no clue about how my early childhood living in South Asia had affected me. Let’s call it mutual fieldwork. It took me many years to feel like I fit in.

Actually, I never fully felt that way. I was always an insider/outsider in most situations; I only fit in certain small groups of like-minded outsiders. Small groups of other global nomads, or small groups of Radical Faeries, or other categories of small groups. I’m never more than a provisional insider. This has marked me for life.

But as Kadushin says, it has also given me insight, and the ability to step outside a situation and look at it both objectively and from angles at the same time. I can be detached when others cannot. in emergency situations, I discovered by accident some years ago, I keep my wits about me while others crumble. (Of course, later on, when it’s all over, I tend to have a nervous breakdown. It’s just that I seem to wait till everyone’s taken care of, before I collapse into a puddle of quivering goo myself.)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teenage Years Triptych

(Maps courtesy of USGS. Click on each image for larger version.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Milk & Kisses

Some movies you just can't be objective about—assessing the structure of the script, the texture of the cinematography, the timing of the editing, the skill of the actors and directors. Some movies you just have to take in, absorb and appreciate.

Recently I watched Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which I can only describe as a film noir screwball comedy. The bodies pile up, and you laugh out loud because you can't believe they actually did that one thing that was just the next step past insane and absurd. It's a movie that carries some gay themes, but it also uses every element of character and script and plot to just completely derail your expectations into something much further out there than you ever imagined. I have a fondness for dark humor in movies—Grosse Point Blank is a favorite, for example—but it's rarely done so well, so effortlessly, so absolutely screwball nutty.

Then I watched Milk, and I'm not ashamed to say that I dropped everything I was doing, got totally absorbed, emotionally engaged, and cried at the end. I had been composing a piece of music, and it had been hard to get through the section I was working on, because it was all grunt work and copying, not very exciting once I've sketched it out, just lots of details to fill in. I put the movie on thinking I'd sort of half watch it while I got a few more pages of musical grunt work done. Well, I only got a page done, because the movie was so compelling, and increasingly so as it went along.

I'd actually bought Milk on DVD a month or so previous, but had not had a chance to watch it. I was catching up on my stack of movies I hadn't seen. I bought it because I knew I'd want it, I knew it would be good—but until I watched it I didn't know how much I'd be affected by it, or how much seeing San Francisco like it was in a time warp back to the 70s would be both exciting and spooky. This was, after all, that whole "free love" period between Stonewall and the onset of AIDS awareness. And it was a time social activism on many fronts; there are several rallies, marches, and a riot or two accurately recreated in the film. The silent candelit march from the Castro to City Hall, after Harvey was assassinated, was re-enacted just as it had happened, and filmed that way. And there were many extras in the crowd who had been in the original march.

It doesn't hurt that I am fond of watching films made in San Francisco; the City itself is often like a character in each film. In the year and a half or so I lived there, plus the many times I'd visited it before and after actually living there, I absorbed so much of the scenery and history, that watching Milk was spooky. I've stood on exactly those street corners and avenues and on the steps of City Hall where the movie was shot, and where the original events took place. It's really resonant how accurately they recreated everything. The movie isn't just a tribute to Harvey Milk, or a biopic, it's a dramatized history of actual events, intercut with a lot of period footage—Anita Bryant spreading hatred, for one, Walter Cronkite reporting the news, for another—and the original footage is scruffy and improvised enough, a signature of director Gus van Sant's directing style, that it all looked completely authentic to the period. I've lived there: I know how those streets smell, how they look in the fog, in the afternoon light, all that. And the film brought it all back.

I hear a lot of younger gay men saying they really don't get it, get what the big deal was all about, don't understand the history, why these things are really important still. Well, watch this movie: there's so much history in, factual and emotional, that you'll come away with a much deeper appreciation of what has been won, and what is still yet to be won. The movie's themes remain very timely—because it's all happening all over again, and we need to have hope all over again, and fight for our rights all over again.

Hope was Harvey Milk's constant refrain in many of his speeches. Hope was something we all need in order to live. Hope is something I personally struggle with, often feeling little of it, personally, in my own life. This film gave some hope back to me.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, Allen Ginsberg

Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does.
—Allen Ginsberg

A memorial for Peter Orlovsky, Allen's longtime companion.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Being a Bitchy Queer Is Not Innate

Being bitchy, catty, and so forth is not innate. Sure, there may be hormones involved, but it's mostly a learned behavior. In some cases it's even a safety valve on the pressure cooker of other feelings: people are often bitchier when life is fucking them up in other ways.

And sometimes it's a good thing to let out your dark side to play, for an afternoon, or a day. You can't let your dark side take over, or possess you—and it's not about Control, it's about mastery. Frankly, some drama queens I know are so completely unaware of their own feelings that they ARE possessed.

There's a vicious circle around feeling abandoned and zero self-esteem, then being a bitchy queen that drives everyone away because it's a defense mechanism to be bitchy, then feeling abandoned. Being bitchy is a kind of armor, that keeps people from being able to hurt you: you hurt them first, so everybody's armor is up all the time. When's the last time a bitchy drama queen of your acquaintance was genuinely able to express to you feelings that were not corrosive emotions? Bitchiness is armor. People are afraid of getting hurt, of letting themselves be vulnerable, of being soft enough to be vulnerable enough to express real feelings and risk getting hurt. If you think it's all about their hormones, it's because they let it be all about their hormones. All women carry estrogen, but not all of them are bitchy.

It's not innate. It's learned. Defense mechanisms are learned behaviors that start hardening into armor at a very early age. We use those behaviors because we learn that they can protect us—at least in the short term. The problem is, when we grow up, and no longer need such protection, letting go of the learned defense mechanism is often the biggest challenge most adults face, the hardest thing that there is to do. It's a lot easier to keep going with what you already know (inertia, momentum) than it is to learn to do things differently (genuine change). When we're adults, those learned defense mechanisms often no longer serve us well—in fact, they often keep us feeling lonely and abandoned and isolated. Unlearning them is seriously hard work, for most people, and can take a long time.

The saying "You cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven unless you become like little children again" has two meanings: From the mystical direction, it means letting go of ideologies and theologies that block you from experiencing the direct encounter with the Divine—which is everybody's birthright—because the Kingdom of Heaven is supposed to be Right Here, Right Now, not in some unknown afterlife. From the psychological direction, it means shedding all those learned defense mechanisms so that we can see like little children again, before we started building our defenses, like little children who see the world with wonder, magical vision, and joy in all things. Young children, before we start beating hard lessons into them, already live in the Kingdom of Heaven; our job is to unlearn all out defenses, and get back there. We already know what it feels like—if only we would let ourselves remember.

No one is born hard, bitter, bitchy, and corrosive to those around them. People become what they are through experience, through lessons learned, through armor added on because we got hurt. The hardest thing I know of is taking off the armor and learning to trust again. People say they have faith in God—but most really don't, because they don't really trust God—because when it comes to entering the Kingdom of Heaven trust, surrender, and faith are all the same thing under different names. I struggle with this myself. I finally reached a point where the lesson sank into me: Trust that which I already know to be trustworthy, and let go of the rest. (And whole books have been written about theodicy, the question of why bad things happen to good people, and why God has a dark side. I won't go into that here, because it's too big a topic and frankly most people let it go right over their heads, and I don't want to get into it right now.)

And sometimes you have to let out your dark side, to play, in small amounts, like a steam release valve on a pressure cooker. You let off a little steam at a time, so that the whole system doesn't self-destruct. That's actually healthy. The best way I know how to do that is to do it as play: make a game of it.

There was one Radical Faerie Beltane Gathering at Short Mountain in TN that I went to—not my frist gathering, not my last at the Mountain till now—when I made good friends with a few guys who'd driven down for Gathering from Montreal. One of them was deaf, who taught us all how to swear in Sign. There was a pack of about four of us, and we hung out a lot during Gathering. On the last day, after the big celebrations and rituals and events and dinners, when everything was winding down, it was a rainy, dull day, and we were all tired. We'd had a great Gathering, and tomorrow we'd pack up and leave.

But that one last afternoon, because it was rainy, because we had all had some very amazing uplifting and powerful experiences, we all decided, as a pack, to spend the afternoon being bitchy. We wandered around camp being completely judgmental, mocking everything and everybody, being the nastiest, cattiest, most evil queens we could be. it was the most fun I had all Gathering, and it was a huge release of pent-up feelings.

We didn't do this in any way that anybody knew what we were doing. It was all remote mockery, from a distance. Telefactored dissing. Robot-probe-on-alien-planet mocekry. Nobody got offended, and we hurt no one. We did it all under our breath to ourself, to our pack, and at least partially in Sign. Often we burst out in guffaws at a particularly rude judgment, and heads turned, but no-one ever knew what we were laughing about.

But it was tremendous fun, and we had a great afternoon. And no one got hurt.

We let out our dark sides, our bitchiest queen sides, and had a ball.

And then we were done, and we hugged and kissed our goodbyes the next day, and drove on. Oh yeah, and we did meet up one last time to have dinner together near Mammoth, KY, on the way north. And there wasn't a queen bitch moment during dinner, not one. We'd gotten it all out of our system. And we laughed really hard, both at everyone else that we had been mocking all day, and at ourselves.

Release valves.

The thing is, we chose to be bitchy all day. It was a conscious choice to have fun being bad. We even talked about it among ourselves.

None of this shit is innate. It's all something we learn, it's all something we still have a choice about—we can choose to do it differently, each time it comes up. No one is condemned or fated to be a bitch. That's a choice. If they can't control their bitchiness, then they need to look into their shadow, because they've been possessed, and aren't in control, at all. But even that can be worked with. Unlearning a bad habit is just like learning a good habit: all it takes is repetition and practice.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Notes Towards a Personal Ad

Gathering thoughts into focus, scattered from months of being unsatisfied. Mostly settling on what doesn't work, and what I don't want to do anymore. Realizing that nobody's perfect, and nothing is likely to come of it—not saying that out of cynicism, but out of exhaustion. I've been sick and tired so long that I'm sick and tired of feeling sick and tired—I mean that literally, not metaphorically. All the poems in the world don't stand up to one long musical interlude.

Of All Things Most Yielding, the album

Have to be Taoist about it. Have to realize that going with the flow means letting go. I trust that which I already know to be trustworthy, and let go of the rest.

Of All Things Most Yielding

Tired of doing all the work. Tired of looking. Tired of waiting. Tired of being overlooked.

Tired of even the good encounters that lead to nothing enduring. And there have been good encounters. One time events, one time get-togethers that led to a few ecstatic hours, never to be repeated, no matter how often it's been tried. Schedules, desires, personal needs, narcissistic self-centered impatience. The good encounters never seem to want to come back. The ones I didn't get much satisfaction out of seem to want to.

Tired of driving a few hours to meet someone for unsatisfactory sex, then having to drive home. Or, worse, pick him up then drop him off again. I'm the older, sicker one, yet I still have to do all the work? Is it worth it? Not but rarely.

Tired of men who are constitutionally unable to be honest with themselves, and so spend most of their time and energy dancing around the volcano rather than leaping in. Tired of picking up the pieces. Tired of putting up with their dances of denial, plus seven veils. Let's cut right to the bottom line, since I can see through the veils, anyway, as though they weren't there. That probably scares some men away at the start, because they can sense it on some level.

Tired of living rural and isolated. Everybody wants to just be friends.

Well, when I was trying to hang out my shingle as a bodyworker and energy worker, I never had any repeat clients, either. Lots of clients came to me once, had an amazing experience on my table, sometimes life-changing, sometimes visionary, and never came back again. Not even for a follow-up when they needed it. So I'm used to one-time-only visits, on many levels.

And you tire of it. There's no satisfaction in things that never endure.

Tired of sex without love, even good sex without love. Not going to say No to good sex, anytime soon, because in truth I'm told I give great sex. Maybe it's the energy work skills, the Tantric experience and training, and I'm told I blow minds. Maybe it's too much. Maybe it blows fuses, and is more than they want to deal with. Maybe that's why they never come back.

The energy work clients never came back, either. Maybe it's because they really weren't ready to change their lives. No shame in that: most people aren't. Most people would rather cling to the bars of the hellhole cage they know rather than squarely face the Unknown. I used to be that way, too, till the bars got taken away and I started to live for real. But maybe not that many people are ready for that. So I blow minds, so I blow fuses, so I'm intense to be around—all things I've been told.

At the end of the say, the shaman doesn't live in the village. He has to live on the hill nest to the village, because he's too scary to be around, or so the villagers feel. Too much Weird Shit happens around him.

Still, it would be nice if the occasional young men came to visit.

Tired of feeling alone, for whatever reason. Maybe it's all your fault; maybe it's an energy thing; maybe it really is that you're too intense. It doesn't matter when the end result is the same: another night alone.

Tired of being hypersensitive and hypersensory. If you could turn it off, you would. Or maybe not. There's pleasure in the extra senses, not just Work, not just Professional encounters. There's joy in being of service to others.

Tired of attracting broken men for their healing (and not my own). Tired of being the sexual healer. Tired beyond belief of being put on whatever pedestal is in season this year. Tired of being everybody's guru and nobody's boyfriend. Tired of unequal relationships. Tired of being a magnet for men who need to be fixed, who once they're fixed fall out of love with me and vanish. Tired of being the Dragon Finishing School for Men's Sexual Healing & Personal Growth.

Tired of not being with peers, with equals, with someone you could talk to about mutual interests on the same level. Tired of meeting men who are frankly cute but dumb. Tired of the lack of dinner conversation that isn't about sex or other aspects of gay life.

Extremely well-educated, but living in Coventry is getting old. Extremely willing to go out of my way to be with the right man—but no longer willing to do so without some reciprocity. No longer willing to exhaust myself doing all the work of either meeting up or being in a relationship in general. You can come to me. I have a nice private place, which is warm, comfortable, and always clothing-optional.

Tired of the offensiveness of pit given by those who think it's all about the sex, and not about the companionship. Tired of men who don't want to grow old in a relationship with any other man mostly because they're terrified of growing old, period. Tired of the narcissism of youth culture, even when it's expressed by older men, or conversely damned by them. Older men who don't get younger men aren't showing their maturity when they demand an impossible perfection. They should know better. You can't force anyone to be what you want them to be, even if what you want them to be is good for all involved. You can't make people be better than they want to be; they have to want to, and it's their choice.

Tired of men repeating their same relationships mistakes because they lack the self-awareness to notice and break their own bad habits. Tired of people who prefer to live unconsciously because they think it's easier, even when it's not. Tired of the lack of personal responsibility that people take for their own lives.

I'm just tired.

I have a lot to offer. I like what I like. I like guys who are heart-smart as well as intellectually smart. Nothing bores me like insincerity. And I usually can read your mind, because most people are transparent to me, always have been. What interests me is someone who knows who he is already, is comfortable living in his skin, and doesn't need me or anyone else to complete his life or make him feel more like a whole person. Looking for a man who's already a whole person, who already likes himself. The poet Rilke once wrote that love is "two solitudes meeting," which means leaving space for each other. I love spending time with the people I love; and I also love my solitude. An hour of silence and solitude every morning is the best anti-depressant I know; I'm better off with it than without. As much as I would love spending time with you, even just sitting reading in the same room together, not talking, exchanging few words, the sense of your presence would anchor our lives into the bedrock of Home. There's no place like Home.

Friday, April 2, 2010


I look at some of the people I know who are living with HIV, with AIDS, with cancer, who live with these and other life-threatening illnesses and situations, and I want to say to them:

You're a survivor.

You're tougher than you ever imagined you were, or needed to be. You've proven yourself to be tougher than you thought by your quiet action of living through what has killed so many others. You might not feel like a hero, but you are.

Maybe that's small comfort, some days, yet it's what gets us through. The difference between a hero and a coward is that a hero runs towards the battle, not away from it. Think about that, on those darkest of days.

Adam, from Spiral Dance

I've had some serious dark days myself, and I have had been down some similar roads. I've come close to my personal extinction, and I live with a (non-AIDS) permanent chronic illness, that takes a huge toll on my lifeforce and energy. Comparisons don't really matter, though. What matters is that we survive, and live, and thrive. Sod anybody who tries to pull you down to their sordid and sorrowful level. Those who try to drag you down do so because they can't stand being reminded that someone might get out of the black hole they call home. They've forgotten a really important lesson:

Why do we fall?
To learn to pick ourselves up again.

Beach Prayer (2005)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Visual Poems

Some Wordle word clouds made from the writings here, and a poem or two about Whitman. Just for fun.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Gay Warlords

In these days when the US military's standing policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" supposedly allows gays and lesbians to serve in the armed forces, so long as they keep a low profile, we need to remember that the original form of that benighted policy included "Don't Pursue," yet thousands of servicemen and women have been pursued, discriminated against, and expelled from the US armed forces: pursued, even though they hadn't been asked, hadn't told. So now the Joint Chiefs of Staff are being told to review the DADT policy. Some are in favor of reviewing it; others are benightedly coming up with ever more irrational and arcane reasons to support their prejudices against gays openly serving. Of all the NATO allied nations, the so-called First World, all the nations allow gays and lesbians to openly serve in the military, except the United States, Russia, and China. The so-called superpowers, current and former, are the most benighted about this issue.

But let's turn back the clock a bit, to the days when the DADT policy was first into place, in the mid-1990s. Amid controversy and acclaim, the US policy was instituted with much fanfare and many attempts to claim that it was an enlightened policy.

Probably the smartest, if most ironic and sideways, response to this came from science prophet and science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke was one of the most influential writer-scientists of the 20th C., with numerous visionary books and films to his credit. He was a genuine out-of-the-box thinker. He was also the last survivor of the great Golden Age of science fiction, outliving his friends, and friendly rivals as SF authors, Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. In several of Clarke's novels of the future, bisexuality is taken for granted, and with hardly a comment, as the rational recognition of the truth of human behavior. Clarke was an avowed logical positivist, yet many of his most memorable short stories contain some of the most original thinking about God from the 20th C.; enough to have earned him a theologian's credit, should he have desired it.

In his massive 1999 volume, Greetings, Carbon-Based Bipeds!, Collected Essays 1934-1998, Clarke included a previously unpublished ironic piece about DADT. The essay is titled "The Gay Warlords," and is an ironic and scathing indictment of the sense of unreality surrounding the debate. Clarke's essay is therefore worth excerpting at some length, below.

It is astonishing that the most important reason for keeping gays out of the armed forces has never beeen widely publicized, despite the fact that even the most casual student of history knows their bloodthirsty record. (Okay, I confess, I'm a closet pacifist, having had a very peaceful war in the Royal Air Force. . . .) [One might add that as an engineer during WWII Clarke made an essential contribution to the development of radar.]

Those archetypal warriors, the Spartans, proudly boasted how they maintained their esprit de corps, with accent on the corps. And Julius Caesar's popularity with his men, who chanted, "Every wife's husband, every husband's wife," after him, was undoubtedly enhanced by his enthusiastic swinging in both directions: vide his youthful affair with the king of Bythinia. However, like most of his coldly calculated actions, this was probably motivated by politics rather than passion.

There's very little of Caesar's ambidextrousness about the two other greatest military leaders of antiquity, Alexander and Hadrian. The seem to have been hetero only rarely, and then entirely for reasons of state. For details, see Mary Renault's The Nature of Alexander and Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian.

Jumping forward a thousand years or so (and with only a passing glance at the unproved allegations against the Knights Templar), we come to that amazingly well-matched pair of military geniuses, Richard I and Saladin. About Richard's predilections there is no doubt: one of the most piquant incidents in the history of British arms was the occasion when Eleanor of Aquitaine berated the aptly named "Lionheart," in front of his own troops, for his failure to give her a grandchild. (He never did.)

As for Saladin, though he did produce a few offspring, there is considerable evidence that his main interest was elsewhere. . . .

It must be admitted that England's most celebrated royal gays—Edward II and James I—hardly fit the militaristic mold. When James succeeded Elizabeth, the courtiers remarked (out of his hearing), "Once we had a queen who was a king—now we have a king who is a queen." And Marlowe has told us all too graphically how Edward's death reflected his life: I've often wondered how they stage the last act of the play, but don't really want to know. . . .

But the classic textbook specimen of the brutal, brilliant, and pathologically antiheterosexual warrior will be found not in Europe or Asia, but in Africa. During the last year of the—literally—reign of terror that created the Zulu nation, Shaka the Great executed any woman found pregnant, together with their husbands. Nice guy. . . don't know how he expected his empire to continue. But it did, even after his inevitable assassination, and us Brits a lot of trouble. . . . Much of this was self-inflicted; it was in one of these wars that the dead British gunners were found with their fingernails torn out—by themselves, in a desperate attempt to open the ammunition boxes. The storekeeper had forgotten to send the keys; doubtless he was promoted, in the best military tradition of "reward the guilty, punish the innocent."

How/why did I get involved in this grubby line of research? (Thought you'd never ask.) Well, it was triggered by recent revelations about certain multi-decorated Royal Air Force Command war heroes, which reminded me of a long-forgotten scandal here in my adopted country of Sri Lanka. . . .

At the turn of the [20th] century, the commander in chief of the Ceylon forces was a very remarkable man, Sir Hector Macdonald. Winner of his country's highest military award, the Victoria Cross, he was known as the bravest soldier in the British army and had achieved the astonishing feat of being promoted all the way from private to general.

Alas, to the great embarrassment of the local Brits (and doubtless the amusement of everyone else), Fighting Mac was caught in flagrante with some Colombo schoolboys—not the natives, by gad!—at least they were burghers (upper-class Eurasians). Whitehall recalled the general prontissimo; he got as far as Paris, and shot himself. . . .

Maybe the equally brave General Gordon (read between the lines of Lytton Strachey's admittedly biased Eminent Victorians) was lucky: he died at the siege of Khartoum (1885) and so became a national hero. Ditto the widely suspected Lord Kitchener, though his fate was somewhat less valiant; he drowned when his flagship was torpedoed in World War I.

But enough: I consider my thesis proved beyond doubt.



They're too bloodthirsty and warlike. We need gentle, compassionate soldiers, in the peaceful new world we hope to build.

—Arthur C. Clarke

One might add T.E. Lawrence of the Arabian conflict during WWI, among others, whose tastes were definitely towards men and boys. And several homo-warriors.

Reading this Clarke essay was a pleasant surprise; I had no idea till now that he'd ever written anything on the subject. But it oughtn't be a surprise, I suppose, as he was a great writer on a great many topics. Thank you, Sir Arthur.