Who Loves You, Pretty Baby?

6 Jul

My mother came to visit New York this weekend and I took her to see Jersey Boys, which she had wanted to see for a while. Jersey Boys is your typical jukebox musical whose success is firmly established in the familiarity of the songs used, in this case, Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons. The story around the jukebox musicals never matter, what matters is that you, as a fan of he Four Seasons get to experience the music live on Broadway with a bunch of other enthusiastic fans.

Probably why they’re written for the cheap seats. I’m surprised there weren’t more fart jokes. It’s that type of art–low brow but still enjoyable. Halfway through the show a recognizable character-type sauntered out, a stock Liberace, prancing sissy record producer who lisps dramatically but also cruelly challenges Frankie Valli’s band to be better before he puts them on a record. He’s the product of lazy heterosexual writing as documented in Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet. It’s important that the sissy is sissy enough to elicit knowing laughter from the audience, but not sissy enough that we accidentally witness his sexual urges, because if a prancing queen grows a third dimension then straight sexuality might just crash and burn.

Every good little homo student knows this, studies it, identifies it in popular culture and cringes at it. I would too, especially with my mom right next to me, but I didn’t this time. I smiled at this character, laughed even. To the show’s credit, he wasn’t violently dehumanized, he had a lot of snappy lines, made a lot of pertinent points about the survival of the band too.

Still, it wasn’t that this was a good character, it was really a matter of who i was and what time it was. Post-gay pride, post-gay marriage ruling, post-a week of gays of all types and colors getting “uppity” and political. My mom pointed at her playbill and asked me “what is this?” I thought she was referring to the rainbow flag laid on top of the usually yellow header on the front of the bill but she was simply referring to the word Playbill. The Playbill itself was a Pride issue, full of interviews with Broadway and Non-Broadway gays. She tucked it into her bag for safekeeping.

Did it matter how my mother had come to this point? Flown to New York to meet my fiance, Anthony. To spend time with me? What really mattered was that she had talked to my fiance, shared stories about me being a kid, laughed together. Mom told my little sister she read my article in Slate and that she agreed with me about the limits of our love, but that she felt she loved me unconditionally, and maybe this trip was her way of showing that.

The sissy character from Jersey Boys re-emerged in the later act of the musical, but what I found even funnier this time was the construction around him. How the actors on stage would speak their parts, and as their spotlights dimmed, they’d bend forward into the shadows and scurry off stage pushing pieces of furniture with them so that other actors could push pieces of set on stage, land on their mark, and speak their lines as aggrieved-wife or pissed-off-Frankie-Valli. It was almost as if this musical was a concoction of the Gays, a means to an end, to get the straights to come to experience the extreme fagginess of a musical, but to do so by easing them into it, by playing up a sissy type. I laughed because I truly pitied heterosexuals who could buy into this so easily. It was funny because I never felt that pity before.

I was sure of who I was. Were they?

I didn’t trick my mom, I told her, bluntly, that I was getting married this year, and she showed up and met my fiance and she did her best. I think we had both done our best, and in doing our best we achieved something more important than Revolution, we achieved Peace. Peace can’t be something that lasts forever, not how I feel it now. It feels like something we’ve worked on, and then achieve it, it plateaus, then ends, and all we have is that moment that we associate with song. In my case, these silly and stupid Four Seasons songs now hold a new nostalgia.

It was raining outside the Jersey Boys theater and we had one umbrella. I opened it and my mom took my arm and said “no te preocupes, solo necessito tu mano mientras pasa esta lluvia” (Don’t worry, I only need your arm while this rain falls). She said it as if I would be embarrassed to have my mother on my arm. She didn’t understand that this never bothered me, and that–in fact–I never wanted to hold my mother’s arm more than I did at that very moment.



30 Apr

An unemployed Baltimore mother whoops her son for attempting to join a riot, and conservatives think she’s great while liberals cringe at the show of force. The riots themselves caused a groundswell of support from liberals, while conservatives decry the destruction of property.

In both cases, acts of violence don’t really belong to the perpetrators of the violence, but are held by the community standards  of thinkpiece writers and Fox News reporters. Brown/Black violence isn’t complicated in the popular imagination, it’s not even necessarily real (notice that no one offers a trigger warning for this sort of violence). Dark skin violence is either a metaphor or innately cultural or a reflex; a bit like the doctor hitting your knee with a tiny rubber hammer.

Whenever riots erupt, especially race riots, the event serves as a blank slate for intellectuals of all types and races to fill in.  If riots are the language of the unheard, then we’re a nation of translators chomping at the bit to be the first to draft a clear statement of fact from a foreign speaker.

In Defense of A Riot, or Shame On A Riot, they’re both sides of the same coin, reducing a complex local community into bodies of instinct, action and reaction, and isn’t reduction the original sin of American bigotry?

Being gay sometimes means you have to be cruel

23 Mar

“With less than half an hour to go, nobody else had arrived and Matthew began to worry. In the distance he could see a burial taking place. “I went over and asked one of the officials where Nazim was being buried,” he said. “She said, ‘I’m really sorry – they have already buried him…Nazim’s family had apparently given him the wrong time for the funeral.” The Guardian

Nazim sounds like a sweet man, which might have been a problem. Lots of gay people are sweet, and it’s the sweet thing to do to care what your family thinks of you. This care can be abused, families can turn cold, abandon you, or suggest you change an innate part of who you are.

The Guardian paragraph struck me: in the case of my death, would my own family do what Nazim’s family did? Would they turn my partner away, or give him the wrong time for the funeral?

I couldn’t answer.

Maybe I can’t afford to be sweet anymore. I’ve crossed a threshold, I’m getting married, and everyone wants to know if my mother will be there. Maybe it’s time I let them wonder, because I no longer care.

Being gay means that sometimes you have to be cruel, but cruelty is in the eye of the beholder. Heterosexual relatives might find it cruel when a gay relatives cease communications, or distance themselves, but what they should understand is that gay people can’t afford to be too sweet or too caring to bigots. When you have an opinion about gay people, gay people often strategize as to how hard they can push you out of their life with the least amount of resistance. If this is the cruelty I must pay for a sound mind then I’ll gladly pay it because my relationship with my partner means too much to me.

Gay Ole Time

24 Feb


(Source – Slate)

So what had happened was…

I get a call on Sunday from my aunt, who hasn’t talked to me in years, spilling every feeling she has about my wedding; where is it? When is it? Excitement! Oh and also come fly to LA to talk to your mom because she’s sad.

Why is she sad?

Because I’ve locked her out of my life. I owe them all a “conversation.”

Being gay means that the people you love accuse you of doing things out of malice that you did out of necessity. My mom and my aunt were anti-gay all my life, but now in their elder age (and on the eve of my big gay ass wedding) they’ve forgotten. They made peace with who they were without telling with me. Meanwhile, I made the  independent decision to shut them out of my personal life for fear of losing them totally.

If I had let them in at the time, and if I had heard their homophobia in real time, and regarding me, I think I might have cut them loose forever. I didn’t want that.

Being gay means the entire world gaslights you, not just one person. The gaslighting is for your own good, and for the good of the family. No one has malice in their hearts, but they all question why you responded so cruelly to your gas-lighting (as if it was good for you). My aunt characterized my her and my mother’s views as “old fashioned” but they are both single mothers who had children out of wedlock, and here I am getting married and in a monogamous relationship.

I don’t mean to bring that out to call-out my aunt, or to score points, or to win. I say that in hopes of expressing plainly the psychological torment it takes to hold two opposing thoughts at once:
1) That I love my family, always
2) That they are wrong.

Being gay means you carry all of the above with you on Monday morning when you hear that a person won an Academy Award for writing a movie about a famous gay man that involved stripping him of his sexuality, the very reason he was persecuted. This means you hold these thoughts while Azalea Banks, Antonin Scalia, and others talk and talk about your type, and you desperately hold on to your temper with the steel focus of a Vulcan.

This means that I find it difficult–sometimes–to feel when I am deficient in character as opposed to when I am strong. This is the root of the problem with life as a gay person. The noise in your head, the one that involves moral leanings and rightness, is deafened with static. I can be castigated and honored in one breath. My moral failings can be pitted against my survival tactics and the result can be overseen by a judge who could never know what my life was like.

Sounds like a lot? It’s nothing. Just one point in my life along with every single thing every other normal person is worried about: A future. Kids. Money. It’s just a gay ole time.

Antonin Scalia, Catholic Blowhard

18 Feb

Antonin Scalia recently claimed he wasn’t anti-gay, which is like Satan saying he’s not anti-Christian or anything like that. Antonin Scalia is not only anti-gay, but primeval anti-gay. In every possible reality and dimension, Scalia is the personification of Western Anti-Gay second only to the Catholic Pope maybe. He might not be as anti-gay as the American evangelicals who are attempting to export homophobia to various other countries, but that might only be due to the fact that he’s lazy.

One’s homophobia is only as strong as ones conviction to get up and move around and do something about gays, but Scalia has had a lot of luck in that department and is content to sit on his ass all day in one of the highest seats of power in America where he’s happy to just repeatedly bludgeon homos.

It’s important to note Scalia’s Catholic-based bigotry for what it is: an evolved form of “love the sinner hate the sin.” The edict comes from the Christian belief in a separation of the body and the soul. You see the body (sin) wants to do bad things (eat, suck cock), while the soul (sinner) is the inner light that lives on in immortality. Because most Catholics are straight bros they invented lots of “outs” for when their body wants to do things to besmirch the soul, which is why, in order to put P in V you need to get married and pledge your soul to Christ. Putting the P in the V was important for Christianity to colonize–((cough))–I mean–“spread” throughout the world, but the world’s overpopulated now isn’t it?

Problem here for Scalia, he believes he’s not anti-gay, and I believe he believes that. As civilization moves away from Christianity, folks like Scalia get left holding the sins of the father A funny thing happens when the world shifts towards secularism and away from spirituality, you start to put so much faith in your faith that you lose sight of God.

The Banality of Azaelia Banks’ Homophobia

12 Feb

Make no mistake I think she’s talented.. I enjoyed Broke with Expensive Taste more than the Pinkprint (fight me!)

It’s surprising then, that such a creative person would have such a boring view on gay men and femininity. 

Why do people of diverse backgrounds seem to evoke the same script when they attempt to talk about their feelings towards gay men? Why do people who don’t know transgender people all refer to them as “transgendered?”  Ever thought about that? I do.

There’s virtually no difference to Banks’ views on the word fag than there is to a spoiled 12-year-old XBOX user. Contrary to what white gays use to believe–I find no difference in what Banks is saying and what white people say. The chorus goes: Fag does not mean gay, it means this other thing. There’s nothing wrong with homos at rest, it’s when they do/act that we have a problem.

It’s almost as if this script is identifiably Western, Conservative, and Christian. Almost as if this isn’t just what you think but what you are repeating.

Banks is right to understand that her views will go punished while others will go unpunished, which means she recognizes the relative sameness of the script she’s reading. Strange then that she would keep reading from that same script, but such is the power of the crowd.

PC Gone Wild: Brian Williams Losing His Job

10 Feb

Brian Williams is feeling the hot fire and I can’t help but think of Brendan Eich, partially because conservatives won’t let that name go. They hiss his name around the campfire. “Remember Eich, remember when they fired one of us for having an opinion!”

Brian William’s lied, or maybe he misremembered. At any rate, his trustworthiness is blown, and it’s a legitimate concern that this impacts his anchor job. Brendan Eich not only had an opinion, he donated money to Prop 8. Both men are being punished for the actions they took. Brian Williams lied and Brendan Eich donated, and yet one pitchfork mob is honored and the other isn’t.

Lying is universally reviled, but working to limit gay equality is still–alarmingly–debatable. The only thing separating the two is the size of the population. Gay people hate lying too, of course, but not every single straight person wants for a smaller population (gay folks) to limit their options, even if some of those options are hateful and detrimental to gay lives. The difference between PC going wild and justice is the size of the outrage.

Straight Outta Compton

9 Feb

I watched this trailer for the Straight Outta Compton film with a mix of want and revulsion. I was only a kid during that era, and because of that proximity I couldn’t make sense of it. Everywhere I looked there was hyper-violence and men so masculine they were outlandish.

It occurs to me, years later while watching this trailer, that NWA’s impact was more of a salve. Their music offered an orderly fantasy to the fucked up chaotic hyper-violence of the time. This was on a local level, but on a national level, that was lost. Any sort of national appreciation of NWA veered dangerously towards macho grandstanding. What the hell would anyone at Rolling Stone understand about growing up in Compton? And yet they lauded NWA.

Sissies, trans women, “dykes,” “fags,” that was the worst thing you could be in 80’s nu-violence. Important to point out that gangsta rappers rapping about those types were talking about brown and black queers as a reference point, ie. the local queers, ie: me.

Read between the lines of any homophobic gangsta rap lyric and you’ll see that it’s only the obvious most “rapey” of queers who are unwanted. Hewing closely to Catholicism and mainstream gay acceptance, gangsta rappers were actually pretty simpatico with what most people of that generation felt. If you were in the closet, and cool, you had a pass.

And yet, the impact that NWA had on brown gays must have been astounding. I can’t speak for everyone, but the climate in South-Central LA was noxious, full to the brim with know-it-all gangbangers, wannabe gangbangers, friends of friends of gangbangers. You couldn’t really tell who actually-was-in-a-gang and maybe that was the point. A mob of hyper tough no-faggy scary brown and black folks could maybe fend off the police? Maybe protect the women folk? Maybe carve out a decent but short life in LA? Imagine being gay during all that, and having no money or direction to leave. There is no Weho in Compton or Inglewood for good reason.

Years later and we’re still dogged by this. Still finding each other through the internet, still bearing our straight outta Compton scars, sacrificed by our own people, thrown away into a holy kiln while the rest of the tribe continues to weather the exact same curses blighted onto them from the 80’s.

That trailer was something. That time was something. It wasn’t all bad, it was also home.

More – Black Trans Woman Killed in Compton

My Husband Is Not A Bad Christian

13 Jan

It’s a sign of just how far gay rights have come in America that TLC would be called out for even acknowledging a worldview that isn’t fully accepting of gayness. These objections aren’t about winning legal rights, or enfranchisement, or even civility; they’re about winning total cultural acceptance of homosexuality. – Emma Green, The Atlantic

Wrong, of course, on all counts. A total cultural acceptance of homosexuality would be impossible for a nation that can’t even agree on whether someone (or anyone) is actually racist, so nobody really expects a total cultural acceptance of homosexuality or homosexual acts.

What people do want is accountability.

My Husband is Not Gay is an American television show about how whacky and screwed up Mormons are aired in a nation whose Christians are more than happy to send their own children to ex-gay reparative therapy centers. TLC wants to have their cake and eat it to, to show the ridiculousness of ex-gays but to also do their best not to to blame Christians for their participation in institutionalized reparative therapy.

Christians, and many other religions, groom ex-gays. They teach gays and trans people into self-loathing, then magically offer the cure. The miracle here is that gays exist despite the grooming, but it seems religious people are the least prone to identifying miracles.

Accountability, not total acceptance, would be nice. It would be nice if TLC was honest and wanted to actually critique ex-gay institutions across all religions. It would be nice if Christians accepted their part in the ex-gay movement and threw their voices in supporting ending–not only reparative therapy–but anti-gay anti-trans grooming.

Or we could call them extremists and wash our hands of any responsibility. This is a religious problem. Not a gay one.

Erasing Extremists

9 Jan

What an interesting time to be alive and flooded with thinkpieces. Interesting because for the first time in a while few of these thinkpieces agree with each other, and the ones that do agree with each other make strange bedfellows. The dividing line cracks right down the center of murder of 12 people in Paris by alleged Muslim terrorists (at the time of writing this very little has been verified).

No matter what you think about the tragedy there seems to be two ideologies forming.

1) This act of terror is a aberration and the work of extremists

2) This act was a tragedy but was a long time coming due to oppression

I have little interest in critiquing Islam. It isn’t my place. As an American and an ex-Catholic I am more than happy to spend the rest of my life tearing that particular religious wall of bullshit down, but I am interested in the two ideologies above.

1) This act of terror is an aberration and the work of extremists

This is supported by mainstream Muslim organizations (collected here and here) and seems to be most polite way of going about this. It’s also a very traditional way of responding to religious-based violence.

2) This act was a tragedy but was a long time coming due to oppression

This is the more interesting of the two because it points to a darker reality than the one above, and it erases extremism without people realizing that it does so. This op-ed by a radical Muslim cleric expresses the pains of consequence, not aberration, not extremism. This op-ed makes the tragedy universal, and puts forth the idea, again, of historical oppression having consequences, driving people towards sad ends.

Here’s the thing, the above two articles are by Muslims, one radical one not-so-much, but a large number of mainstream (and independent twitter) lefty voices agree with the sentiment. Slate on Charlie Hebdo’s and Parisian racism, and this Joe Sacco cartoon.

Think about any acts of terror or extremism done in the name of people you belong to. It doesn’t have to be murder, it can be stalking, gamergate with nerds or the college rape epidemic and men, riots, the death of the two NYPD cops in New York, really think about these and consider the two ideologies above.

Which do you believe? You can’t believe both. Either the work of extremists defy the stated wishes of your group, or none of us are extremists, we are all just powder kegs waiting for enough push to go off one day.

If extremists exists then we must live with their possibility at all times–and our work will never be enough to truly keep the peace. If they don’t exist then we are all responsible to put in the work to keep the peace, and any disruption to the peace is a collective failure.

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