Halloween 1984

You may have seen a link making its way around Facebook titled, “My Son is Gay,” by a mother whose 5-year-old son wanted to dress as Daphne from “Scooby Doo” for his school Halloween party.  It’s a wonderful, inspirational story about a mother’s understanding of her son’s own gender identity and the repercussions of society on her allowing him to express himself freely.

I just read that post, and was suddenly reminded of my own experience with a similar situation.

I was in 8th grade.  It was around Halloween and my school– a very conservative Catholic school— was holding its Halloween Party for the school kids.  Keep in mind that at that time, 8th grade was considered part of the elementary school, so this party would be for grades 1-8.

The year was 1984– Michael Jackson and Madonna were hot costume ideas.  But I decided that I wanted to something a little different, albeit a bit less current.  I put on one of my mom’s old wigs, an old dress (or it might have been a caftan, I don’t remember exactly), and then put on makeup.  I was no artist, but I did the best I could.  I found a pair of nylons and a pair of her shoes.  Then I found some of her “costume” jewelry and completed the look.  I wanted to go as “Tootsie,” the 1981 Dustin Hoffman character.

I showed my mom what I had done.  And do you know what she did?

She said, “I think it’d be fun!”  I asked her, “Do you think the kids would make fun of me?”  She replied, “It’s Halloween.  You can go as whatever you want.  It doesn’t mean anything… it’s just for fun.”

So then we showed my dad.

That didn’t go so well.  Aside from his surprised reaction, and maybe a little bit of yelling, he didn’t have a massive tantrum (as I expected).  He was definitely shocked by my appearance, but he was more gravely concerned about what would happen if I went to the party dressed this way.  You see, only a few years prior, I had left my original grade school because of incessant teasing from the other kids.  I don’t think the teasing was ever about my being gay (or the possibility thereof, as I certainly hadn’t come out yet); but because I had such a rough time at the first school, I think he was worried that this would set off a lot of problems for me at this school.  Granted, I was in 8th grade and we were going to be graduating soon anyway– but I understood why he was so concerned.

He didn’t say that I COULDN’T dress as “Tootsie,” but he encouraged me to reconsider my choice– for my own sake.

So after some long talks about it, we decided that I would change courses and go as a greaser.  (“The Outsiders” was also a popular movie and book at the time– so instead of going as a woman, I pretended I was Rob Lowe.  Or Tom Cruise.  Or Tommy Howell.  Because I had a crush on each one of them.

In any case, I nearly became that kid in the recent blog post.  I just didn’t have the guts to follow through with it.  My choice had nothing to do with my sexuality, or even my gender identity.  I have never considered myself feminine, and to this day I think I make one hell of an ugly drag queen! (Which is why I’ve only done it once.)  I just was playing around with my mom’s stuff, came up with a funny costume, and thought it’d be fun to go as that character.

What touches me most, as I recall that day, is how bravely my parents dealt with it.  There were no knock-down, drag-out fights like I expected.  Just some serious discussions about whether or not it was best for me to do it.  And I especially love my mom for encouraging me to do whatever I wanted.  She never said no.  And she still doesn’t to this day.

 

 

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Aaaarrrrrrrggggh!! I can't take it anymore!!!

OK… OK! I have been silent long enough.

I didn’t want to make a big stink, but I just can’t help it. I have to say something, and if I don’t do it soon, I’m gonna friggin’ explode.

OK, my Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans, and Questioning brothers and sisters… I am talking to you.

We’re not a happy bunch right now. Any visit to the news, or to blogs, or to chatrooms, or to Facebook or Twitter will tell you that. We are an angry bunch. We want what we want, and we want it NOW!

We want Gay Marriage. We want a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. We want a repeal of DOMA. We want Anti-Discrimination laws. We want Anti-Defamation laws. And don’t forget about Gay Marriage…

Yes, we really do want what is rightfully ours, and really, who can blame us? We’ve been an oppressed group for as long as we’ve been around. Other groups have got their rights, why can’t we?

Well yeah, I agree… and I want those rights, too. But did it ever strike you as odd that we’re demanding EVERYTHING to happen RIGHT NOW? Right now, when our country is still just barely recovering from the worst economic crisis it has seen since the Great Depression? Right now, when we are still fighting a war in Iraq and still trying to find the mastermind of 9/11? Right now, when the entire world is unstable, both economically and politically, and we are relying on our country’s leadership to ATTEMPT to keep everything together?

Did you ever think that maybe RIGHT NOW is a little TOO SOON?

I have, and I have said so and thought so since before Barack Obama got himself elected. Sure, he’s made some mistakes (that DOMA brief really did suck), but I truly have to believe, in my heart, that he wants to help us out. We just need to understand that, just like Rome was not built in a day, LGBTQ rights cannot be applied to us in 24 hours. It takes time, and it takes making the right moves and taking the right steps.

Our impatience comes from years and years of pain, sorrow and neglect, and I feel that pain, sorrow and neglect just as much as the rest of you. I understand why we are angry, and I understand why we want action. And I understand why we want to yell and scream and carry on when we feel we’ve been maligned.

But at what point will our voices blend in with the rest of the background noise? How long will ranting and raving and screaming work to get our country’s attention? And will it work at all?

I’m trying to find the answers, because I don’t know what they are. I’m just suggesting that we are going about it in the wrong way, and I’m concerned that our voices will not be heard, because those who we want to hear us are just going to plug their ears to drown out the noise.

It took this much animosity for me to break out of my blogging funk and write again… maybe it’s time we all try to do the same. Pick up the pen, or turn on your computer, and write your feelings. Send them to those who you want to hear your thoughts. Think out your grievances before airing them, and put them into context. Make them understand why you are so passionate about what you want.

Screaming will just make you hoarse. Intelligent thinking will get you heard.

Change is here… hopefully!

This should be the happiest moment in many years for all Americans.  

We have just inaugurated a new president.  The air is filled with a spirit of hope and change, and all of that is for the better.  The prospects of a happy and healthy future for America look better than ever, and that has nothing to do with Republican or Democratic politics; but everything to do with a fresh outlook and a new, positive direction for our country.  

But as with every change, there is sure to be resistance.

Naturally, I am seeing resistance from staunch Republicans who think that Barack Obama’s policies are “a lot of talk that will cost us a lot of money.”  They are sure that he will fail, and that America will not step up to the challenge to come together and work for a better future for our country.  And while I respect these people for having their opinions– because they are certainly entitled to them– I wish they would just step back and give Mr. Obama a chance to prove himself before they declare him a failure.

The most frustrating thing about this whole situation is, the same can be said for many of my GLBT brothers and sisters. 

I have spent the past few weeks being a relatively silent observer to the historic events taking place around me.  

When Prop 8 passed in California, I, like many other GLBT people across the country, felt the sting of disappointment.  I wanted to join the protests but couldn’t; yet my feelings on the situation were the same as everyone else’s.  The GLBT community voiced its disappointment with a resounding and unified cry– the likes of which has not been seen since the days of Harvey Milk or the outbreak of AIDS.  It was inspiring and exciting to see.

However, in recent weeks, I get a sense that we as a community are going way too far… to the point where we could be called “The Community Who Cried Wolf.”  

Since that first group of protests, there have been at least 4 other organized protests around the country, including here in Chicago.  Those protests started out with clear goals – one was in protest of the Cinemark theatre CEO, who supported Prop 8; one was demanding that Obama repeal the Defense of Marriage Act– but when the protests actually happened, they were paired with other, much more obscure measures– measures that I had never even heard of.  Instead of unifying our voices to one cause, we began spreading ourselves too thin, and our voices became muddled.  I decided that I would not participate in any of these protests unless they were for clear and completely understandable goals.  

This spirit of anger has also begun to permeate into the support of our new President.  We have grown entirely too gun-shy… too skeptical of every move he makes; and most of the criticism came before he even took the oath of office.  

When friends and acquaintances bemoaned the selection of Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church, to give the Inaugural invocation; I kept my opinion to myself until I got all the information I could on the selection.  At that point, I decided that his selection was probably not the best move, but the message it sent to people on all sides was a message of inclusion for all- even differing viewpoints.  Later, when Bishop Gene Robinson was selected to give the invocation at this past Sunday’s “We Are One” event, I felt that the gay community’s concerns were alleviated, and we got the reperesentation we needed by our incoming President.

But when the broadcast of the event occurred, and Robinson’s invocation was cut, immediately the community started crying “Foul!” and “Betrayal!”  Granted, I was disappointed that his invocation was cut, but once again our community started laying blame before we got the whole story.  I’m sure protests against HBO and the Inaugural committee are sure to follow.

The point I’m trying to make here is:  We have a new president, with much more progressive ideas and beliefs than our former president.  As his new whitehouse.gov website outlines, he is planning to do more for our community than has ever been done before.  I just wish that our community would give the man and his administration time to find their footing and get the ball rolling before we start condemning him.  Besides, there are much bigger fish for them to fry than our concerns anyway.  They have an economy to rebuild, two wars to manage and hopefully end, and countless wrongs from the past to hopefully right.  Our concerns are just a few of a great many.  Will they all get addressed?  Probably not.  But let’s see where things go before we pass judgment.

The Parade-less Pride

This past weekend was Pride Weekend in Chicago.

I was really looking forward to the weekend’s festivities.  In addition to the parade itself on Sunday, there was the CGMC concert on Saturday night, and my friend Tracy in Sweeney Todd at Loyola University on Friday night.  It was definitely looking to be an action-packed week and I was ready for it.

The show on Friday was wonderful.  Tracy was awesome and I hung out with her afterward and met some of the cast.  Later I joined the Feast of Fools boys at Big Chicks and we did a bar crawl through Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater that ended with me getting home late and a bit drunk, but still happy that I had a great time.

Saturday was recovery day (thanks to Friday!) but I was still able to get out and do a little shopping.  Then of course, Saturday night was the CGMC show, which was absolutely wonderful.  The chorus changed its Pride concert venue from the Athenaeum Theatre to Lakeview Presbyterian Church for this show, and it allowed the chorus to perform “Naked” – without any audio enhancement.  The result was a rich, wonderful show that the audience (and chorus) enjoyed immensely.  I wished I could be up there singing with them.

I joined a group of the chorus members out for a drink or two after the show and we were all psyched for the Pride Parade.  I was planning on joining them as we marched our annual march from Belmont Street to Diversey Parkway.  The Chorus was teaming up with the Illinois Lottery this year and we were planning on bringing 100 people to not only show our support but to sing out, loud and proud.  It was to be very exciting.

But for me, this was not to be.

When I awoke on Sunday morning, I felt my chest burning and my lungs heavy.  It was difficult to breathe.  I started coughing continuously. And the more I did to try to get ready, the worse it got.  I knew this feeling, and I knew it well.  I was having an asthma attack.

Foolishly, I thought maybe I was just hungry, so I started making breakfast.  I drank some orange juice and things seemed to settle a bit, but as I kept working and preparing my food, it got worse again.  I had another attack.

Defeated, I grabbed my Albuterol inhaler and took a couple of puffs.  The attack subsided but my heart was racing.  I knew this was a bad sign.  I ate my breakfast and tried to calm myself down, but it was too little, too late.  I had another attack.  So I puffed again and sat down.

By now I was running late for the parade, but I also knew there was no way I could do it in my current condition.  I sent messages to our chorus General Manager and another fellow member, letting them know I couldn’t make it, and got back into bed.  I slept for about four hours.

This was the first time since I attended my first Pride parade in about 1993 that I didn’t attend Chicago’s Pride parade.  If I had a different excuse I suppose I would feel better about it, but I guess my health is as good an excuse as any.  One thing  I knew for sure- my asthma is no longer just something I “might” have to worry about in the future.  It’s something I definitely need to worry about — NOW.

My mom had asthma throughout most of her life but let it go untreated and unchecked until it was almost too late.  Granted, she smoked throughout most of her life, too– but chances are she would be in the same boat she’s in today — with COPD/Emphysema— whether she smoked or not, simply because she let her asthma go for so long.  I don’t want to end up like that, and I know she doesn’t want me to end up that way, either.  So I’m doing something about it today.  I’m calling my doctor and we’re going to get me scheduled for a pulmonary exam.  I can’t deny the obvious any longer.  Asthma is a hereditary disease.  I have it.  I have to live with it.

I just want to live with it — and not die because of it!

So my pride weekend was a bit marred; but it wasn’t without its good moments.  And if I had to take something away from the weekend that was positive, it’s that I learned something important about myself and I will do something about it.  I guess that’s part of taking pride in living your best life.

Sex and the City? Sex IN the City? How about just SEX?

Sex and the City castEver since Sarah Jessica Parker first strode upon our screens in her mile-high stilettos and poufy, crazy outfits, I’ve trying to figure out why everyone is so crazy about Sex and the City.  

I have friends who have seen every episode.  Twice.  Some have seen it even more than that.  They quote lines and recite scenarios as if it happened to them just yesterday.  They rave about the fashions and the sex and the boyfriends and the dialogue. I honestly think they believe they are living the lives of these four women at times; and certainly if they aren’t living their lives, they WANT to live their lives.

So when the Sex and the City movie was released this past weekend, it was as if the second coming had occurred.  All over Chicago, “Cosmo Parties” were being held in celebration of the event.  Women are said to arrive at the theaters showing the movie in stiletto heels and wearing bright pink.  It’s as if the red carpet were rolled out across the land and Kim Cattrall were stepping out of a limo.  

And today I was with some friends who had seen it and they were gushing– literally GUSHING– about the fashions, the hairstyles, and the shoes.  They talked of crying more than once during the film.  

Crying. Really? 

Folks, I don’t really get it.  I mean, it’s a cute show, and I’m sure it really is a good movie.  I’ve always enjoyed it, but it was never required viewing for me.  When it first started (when I lived with roommates) I watched it fairly regularly, but after I moved into my current apartment I went for about 3 years without HBO or any sort of cable, so I fell out of practice with all cable shows.  As everyone started buying the DVD sets, I stuck to good old fashioned TV.  

It’s not that I don’t relate with these four horny ladies.  I mean, I like sex as much as the next guy or girl.  I like it a lot.  But watching someone else get laid on a semi-regular basis when I’m going through a dry spell is not my idea of fun.  It just makes me bitter, and honestly, I’m tired of the bitter scene.  

So I’m on the fence about whether I want to see the Sex and the City movie.  I suppose I’d better make up my mind quickly or else I’m going to have to shut myself off from the rest of the gay world for a while.  Either that or I’m gonna have to get myself laid, and soon.  

Or maybe I should see what all the fuss is about and actually start watching the show.   Hmm…