Who Run the World?

Generally I’ve always liked women more than men. On the surface, this would seem ironic for a gay man. On closer inspection, it’s really not.

When I was growing up it was just easier to be closer to the gals. I didn’t like traditional “guy” things like playing sports, though I did collect baseball cards and loved the NY Yankees in particular. In fact, I actually knew (and still know) their entire starting lineup from 1966.

OK.. and their smiles didn’t hurt either

Oh, don’t be so surprised. I’m certainly not.

We’re all a bit of an imperfect puzzle and if you’re homosexual those imperfections feel that much more complicated, especially to mainstream America.   Yes, even still.

But let’s table the rainbow soapbox for the moment and stick with women. I did for decades in every which way but sexually. They shared my interests in the arts, or even if they didn’t they liked hearing about it. They really listened to me when I spoke, liked to engage in discourse and seemed to generally care even when the world didn’t.

Not to mention, they seemed receptive to my opinions, so much so that at one point towards the end of high school and all through college there were almost too many women in my life to handle.

Yep, that’s me!

I remember late one afternoon my stepfather being absolutely flabbergasted at the beautiful young woman who had come over to hang out with me for the first time (Note: In retrospect, she was pretty stunning. And smart. I looked her up on Facebook recently and she has become a respected lawyer).

But even at the time I knew he couldn’t fathom how this short, slightly less than macho, snide young man he had lived with for the last five years could EVER attract the attention of the gorgeous creature he couldn’t stop staring at in our entryway.

A John Hughes rendering of the situation

It amused me to no end that I had the secret that would always elude him, and too many straight men, especially in the late sixties and early seventies.

I was actually INTERESTED in her. Instead of being interested in HER.

I won’t go into the Mika Brzezinski/Joe Scarborough brouhaha this week (Note: This can fill you in. Or this.)…

…Other than to say when the current ELECTORAL POTUS insults you on Twitter with bon mots like crazy, low I.Q., dumb as a rock and his requisite reference to any attractive female who challenges him – their BLEEDING from one orifice or anotherwell, you know you’re doing something right.

You’ve gotten under his skin.

Shakespearean in scope

Still, what’s gotten under my skin this week is Friday’s UNANIMOUS ruling by the 9-member Texas Supreme Court reversing the city of Houston’s decision to extend health and life insurance benefits to the spouses of city employees in same sex marriages.

Instead of these benefits being an automatic right based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling two years ago legalizing gay marriage across the country, these Texas judges want a trial in Houston where this issue can be fought out in court. Though how this can be anything but a waste of time and taxpayer money is beyond me since same-sex marriage is the law of the land.

It is interesting to note seven of those nine judges were men. Two were women. All were Republicans. I maintain if any one of the many women I grew up with – especially the now adult aforementioned woman in my entryway who stepdaddy stared at all those decades ago – were on the court the ruling would surely not be unanimous. There would be at least one dissent. Which would be a start.

Let’s not forget that Wendy Davis is a proud Texas woman. #theydoexist

Still, I grew up in NYC and not Texas so perhaps mine is as irrelevant and regional an opinion and argument as the one coming from the Texas Supreme Court ruling will (hopefully) eventually be.

Fortunately, there will be THREE women from my neck of the woods – all of them from the various, glorious boroughs of NYC – on the US Supreme Court when later this year they hear the case of the Denver baker who in 2012 refused service to a gay couple that merely wanted him to bake them a wedding cake.

Yes, that one’s actually going to trial.

Even though on a recent episode of The View the baker, Jack Phillips, said:

I don’t judge people when they come in. I try and serve everybody.

Summon some Alice realness right now #eyeroll

Still, he chose NOT to try and accommodate the two about-to-be married young men, previous customers of his establishment, when they merely asked for a cake for their wedding reception. In fact, he told them it was against his religious beliefs. Even though it is against the law for a public business like his to refuse this service.

I can only imagine what Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor will make of this. Actually, I intuitively KNOW what they will make of it based on decades of experience with women like them – women who have spent years making their voices heard to those who choose to listen – or not – to them.

YES. YES. YES.

These are women who, in turn, have devoted their entire adult lives listening to others in an attempt to level the playing field for many who have come after them and have, for various and nefarious reasons, also not been heard and valued for what they had to do or say.

The trouble is there are once again NINE Supreme Court justices and this time a full FIVE of them are straight white males (and the other is Clarence Thomas). Not to tar them all with one brush.

I mean, it is 2017.

Cmon man, get with the times!

Who in their right mind would do that to someone based on their sex, or sexual preference, even if they have said things and done things in the past and present with which they vehemently disagree?

Well, certainly not anyone in their right mind. Certainly, no one in the highest echelons of the court.   Or the government.

Which begs the question of just when WILL we elect a woman president and how much worse IT (Okay, HE) will have to get before we finally come to our sense and do so?

“Respect” –  Aretha Franklin

Advertisements

When We Rise… and Rise and Rise

screen-shot-2017-03-05-at-8-53-35-am

There was a moment in this past week’s When We Rise – ABC’s 8-hour miniseries retelling the gay liberation movement through the personal and professional travails of four real life activists – where one realizes that it is only when the political becomes personal that a true activist is born. Or perhaps it’s the other way around – meaning it takes something awfully personal to happen to us before we muster up the energy to try and save the world.

8 hours well spent #chairreview

8 hours well spent #chairreview

Of course, no one can truly save a world, despite what politicians, billionaires or real estate moguls will tell you, and sometimes in the body of the same person. And moreover, that moment when it all clicks in and causes action is different for all of us.

A noteworthy screenwriter friend of mine named Anna Hamilton-Phelan once wrote a script on the women’s movement called The Big Click and it is only now – 25 plus years later – that I truly get what she was talking about. Oh sure, I’ve been politically active over the decades and understood the basic meaning of what she was saying. Who could argue with the idea that there are episodes in all of our lives when something goes from simply bothering us to pissing us off so royally that we are moved into action. Or from understanding in hindsight that unknowingly there were reasons ingrained in us from childhood that causes us to be passionate about an issue rather than merely just sympathetic towards it.

There are some parents in need of a medal for this gem #girlpower

There are some parents in need of a medal for this gem #girlpower

The gay heroes in When We Rise had many motivating factors but the commonality that clicked in for me was that at least one parent rejected them from an early age because of their sexual orientation and that these brave men and women had the strength to know that the problem was not with themselves and the temerity to devote their lives to enabling the world to see the truth. What this translates into was being a part of a movement to change the world even though, at its basic core, all they were really doing was standing up for freedom, equality and honesty.

This seems easy but it is anything but when the world at large, not to mention your close circle of friends and relatives, informs you in every way through words, deeds and general point of views, that you are wrong. As a gay person it is always chilling for me to revisit the outward hostility and rejection of gay people as any sort of normal through my lifetime by mainstream society.

When I was a boy in the sixties and a young teenager in the first part of the seventies, the notion of showing a same sex couple making love on a major network was as likely as, well….NOTHING. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone at the time who would have considered it a viable notion.

Well.. at least we had Charles

About as gay as it got on TV #thankyoucharles

Certainly no one in the early eighties could have imagined the full pandemic of AIDS or the experience of literally watching your friends and lovers drop dead all around you as the mainstream forces of government and religious institutions turned its back on you or leaned in with hateful condemnation and we told you so indifference.

Yet, like the leaders of civil rights and women’s liberation and so many other movements for social change these people remained undeterred, motivated in some part by the very injustices that they were consistently met with, and often from a very early age.

Horrific as the AIDS era was for our community (and others), I have always believed that without it the country never would realize so quickly that almost everyone in America knew and loved (or very much liked) a gay person. Compared to DEATH, or at least WATCHING DEATH, the onus of coming out began to feel almost laughable at some point.

Amen to that

#Reality

But then quite strangely and surreally this begat the slow opening of the door to what the majority of mainstream society now accepts as normal – gay marriage. How odd that our forbearers had to die in order to achieve it. And yet, when you look at the history of our progress towards racial equality – how obvious that this would be what it would take to achieve.

Of course, none of us should be fooled into thinking that as we progress we have achieved anything near equality in either of these areas – or many others. In the case of the LGBT community, there is currently an international brouhaha that the upcoming Disney release of the new Beauty and the Beast even features a gay character.

THE HORROR!

THE HORROR!

A movie theatre owner in Alabama pulled it from its schedule, publicly noting in a statement that: if I can’t sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me then we have no business showing it.

This is followed by threats to Disney that Beauty might entirely be banned from Russia for essentially the same reason. A prominent lawmaker there has publicly called for its culture minister to screen it in advance and then bar it if he finds elements of propaganda of homosexuality. 

Never mind that the gay character in question is (and has always been) named LeFou, is merely a sidekick that has a crush on the male lead, Gaston, and that the gayest thing he reportedly does is dance a little too enthusiastically with a friend. When it comes to Disney the gay thing is still sacrosanct, in several if not many more corners.

I mean.... do we not remember Scar? #letsbereal

I mean…. do we not remember Scar? #letsbereal

Certainly a gay Disney character is not the most burning issue in LGBT freedoms but with our new administration rescinding an executive order to disallow transgender students from using the bathroom of their choice, and new religious freedom laws brewing nationally and in many statewide government offices to override other existing gay civil rights rulings in other related areas, any blanket normalcy of the community seems as far as it’s ever been.

Aside from being gay I’m also Jewish and the rise of anti-Semitic crimes of defacement and violence in the US is still in line with the ongoing history of persecution we Jews have endured through the centuries. Sure, it’s been a long time since 6 million or more of us died in Nazi concentration camps (or has it?) but as everyone in any minority group knows just when you think you and yours might be primarily safe is the very moment when you need to pay attention. And this does not necessarily mean solely watching out for members of one’s immediate minority group but to those in others, be they Black, Muslim, female (even though they, like those who voted for the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, ARE in the majority), Mexican and…(fill in accordingly).

Pretty much sums it up right now

Pretty much sums it up right now

I’d like to say members of my particular minority groups are already doing this (and perhaps they are) but the most recent evidence I can provide is this news story about two Muslim-American activists who raised more than $20,000 in over two hours in order to repair the massive damage done last month to more than 100 headstones in an historic Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.

“…Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America,” read the crowd-funding webpage started by Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi

The recognition that hateful actions towards ONE of us are hateful crimes towards ALL of us feels like 21st century activism. Ever personal, ever angry but rooted in problem-solving, progress and the united hope for a better future, along with the knowledge that, like it or not, it’s both an individual AND a group journey.

A Rare Bird

Screen Shot 2016-07-03 at 12.59.02 PM

To be an LGBT person is to acknowledge that you will always be in the minority. This seems likely even taking into account all present and future advancements in reproductive science.

I long ago came to terms with this and I can’t say it’s entirely un-pleasurable. In fact, in my more philosophical and egotistical moments it makes me feel a bit more exotic – like something to be particularly appreciated because it is so extraordinarily unique.

Yeah, I know the quest is to be treated as equals but still there are moments when I wax nostalgic for comedian Sandra Bernhard’s tart comment in the nineties:

I thought one of the benefits of being gay is that you didn’t have to get married or be in the military?

I’m paraphrasing, of course. Nevertheless there was a moment in time when this was particularly appealing.

It has its perks!

Of course, I’m also Jewish, which makes me a double minority. Though I didn’t realize the latter right away despite how much they used to try to drum it into you in Hebrew School in the sixties:

Rabbi: Always remember, the Jews have been the most persecuted people in the history of the world. We must stick together. 

Me (to myself): Really? Somehow this doesn’t seem right. What about the Civil War and slaves? Oh, we were slaves? But still… And as for sticking together, I like my Italian friends very much. Not to mention they seem to have so much more fun around the holidays. I wish I could celebrate Christmas.

Yes, I really did think like that, though not always to myself. Though of course, I am once again paraphrasing.

After all, Ol' Irving was a member of the tribe.

After all, Ol’ Irving was a member of the tribe.

When I brought myself to Hollywood and fully felt comfortable to live as my double minority self I considered it a great personal victory. Though truth be told this didn’t fully happen until somewhere in the mid-eighties and all I could think about was:

Well, I’ll show ‘em now. I’m gonna make up for all the wasted time!

Then the weight of the whole truth hit me like a ton of bricks. A gay Jew in Hollywood who wanted to be a writer was about as unique as…nothing. You could open up a window and find one. Or ten hundred. Though that’s not entirely true. Because seldom do many of us even go outside, at least in the daytime. Allergies, ya know.

homosexual-lesbian-edgy-cool-gay-pride-month-ecards-someecards

Clearly, I’m marketing a bit in cliché. But what is a cliché at all if it doesn’t contain more than an ounce of truth. I mean, I have an All About Eve poster on my living room wall and I like Bette Midler and Judy Garland. So draw your own conclusions. But don’t also forget that I never totally got Sex and the City, am obsessed much more by politics than Ru Paul (though will fight to the death for her), hate massages, and was a die-hard New York Yankees fan as a wee lad. Okay, I couldn’t play for shit, but everything about the latter is an entirely different story and will no doubt one day be the subject of an entirely different post.

Though I'd never be caught wearing vertical stripes #notflattering

Though I’d never be caught wearing vertical stripes #notflattering

The point here is no one is ALL or NOTHING, especially when it comes to their own sexual, religious, ethnic or physically specific stereotypes. Are all blondes bubble-headed? Certainly not!! Though I have met (and dated) a few, though not all of them natural. On the same token, there are a few terrorists that are Muslim – though a speck among the one billion plus Muslims in the world. And yeah, another speck of them come from the Middle East.   So what is that you’re saying?????

Twenty plus people died when terrorists took over a popular restaurant in Bangladesh on Friday. Isis/Isel/Dash is taking credit for it and who knows, maybe it was them/they/it. Though clearly it was terrorism. Three college students were among the dead, one of them from UC Berkeley. (Note: Not that it matters where they’re from but somehow the latter does matter to us, doesn’t it?). Five of the terrorists are dead and one is captured or dead, depending on which reports you believe. Forty people were wounded in and around the area and thirty-five people were held hostage overnight and then some.

Of course, these are just the latest examples of hundreds upon hundreds of terrorist incidents and fatalities in the last several years worldwide. In Bangladesh in particular, this incident specifically follows the murder of the editor-in-chief of the country’s sole LGBT newspaper, along with his lover, by six fundamentalist men who broke into his ground floor apartment with machetes and guns and hacked the pair to death.

Yes, the flip side of being a rare, spectacular exotic bird is that you’re a perpetual target from all sides for your “difference.” Though these days it is often other minorities who are doing the shooting, hacking and blowing up.

Le sigh

Le sigh

Oh wait, can you say these terrorists are a minority when there are more than a billion Muslims in the world? Well, just like not all gays like Sex and the City or prefer Ru Paul to politics, not every Muslim is a crazed fundamentalist terrorist. In fact, I’d safely venture to say that percentage wise there are more Muslims who ARE NOT insane terrorists than there are LGBTs like me that are non-SATC fans with a penchant for too much MSNBC. No, I can’t prove it. It’s based on anecdotal evidence and a life well lived, though sometimes not. So you’ll just have to take my unique, non-objective word for it as we all do with far too many sources on so many various things.

Elie Wiesel, the great writer and Holocaust survivor who died on Saturday but did manage to teach the world to never give up yet always remember, once said:

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.

This always made a lot of sense to me. It’s quite easy to be angry and spew out venom towards heinous acts or events beyond one’s understanding. And surprisingly easy after while, and after so many, to go on with one’s life, or barely acknowledge or ignore them.

What’s exceedingly difficult is to keep fighting and loving in your own unique way.

... but I can still hate this person right???

… but I can still hate this person right???

Think of it like this – when I was a movie critic back in the day my peers and I would fully acknowledge it was a helluva lot easier to write a mean, nasty review than it ever was to douse a film in unmitigated purple prose of praise. And a helluva lot more fun.

Yes, I’m mixing metaphors and analogies that probably should never be co-mingled. But that doesn’t make the above statement any less true.

There’s a very powerful tribute video that just came out from producer Ryan Murphy and the Human Rights Campaign that brought me to tears. No, really. Celebs list each name of one of the 49 deceased, mostly LGBT people, at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, who were shot down by yet another gay-hating and, from what we know, perhaps sometimes himself same sex-attracted and Muslim – though the crazed radical kind – terrorist.

Whether he was or wasn’t any one of these things or who specifically he hated (or did not hate) is not the ultimate point. These kinds of things will happen alternately to any of us rare, exotic birds – which means pretty much all of us – and the people who love and/or hang out with us (which pretty much means the rest of us) if any of us manage to be in the right place at the wrong time.

The question remains: In our own ways – grand or small or somewhere in between –what can we do about it and how do we avoid indifference or hate? Since at some point, and given the wrong or right locale, we all, each us, will be in the minority.

 

That Ole’ Time Religion

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 11.31.30 AM

This will be brief.

Kim Davis, the county clerk from Kentucky who went to jail for contempt of court rather than to do what her job required her to do – issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples that bear her name and job title – was released from jail on Tuesday. To a big crowd of supporters waving large white crosses and chanting hymns. And in the presence of both her lawyer and the potential Republican presidential candidate and former AK Gov. Mike Huckabee. The latter could be seen standing behind Ms. Davis, lightly touching her shoulder periodically as she stood next to her attorney, lest anyone not be entirely sure of his unyielding support.

Oh, and this was all done as Eye of the Tiger played in the background.

What a world we live in.

giphy

I watched this late Tuesday morning from the chair in my dentist’s office as he was preparing to finish doing a root canal on a badly infected tooth I came in with last week. My dentist, whose family is from the Middle East and who has a Muslim background, was too busy taking care of his two Jewish patients – myself and the woman who came in right after me – to notice what CNN was broadcasting. When I brought it to his attention he shook his head in disgust and said, you know this is all the same – Christians, Muslims, Jews all have these reactionary people who think they have the answer and have the right to dictate to everyone else.

I’ve heard my dentist’s thoughts uttered many times – by ME (not only a Jew but a gay Jew to boot). I have the sense that the straight Jewish woman in the next room – with whom I exchanged eyeglass stories with only minutes before – has also spoken similarly. As have numerous observant Christian friends of mine (Note: Imagine that, I actually have some observant Christian friends). Not to mention a few Conservative people I know and like who have gone out of their way to say this kind of stuff to me – lest I think even for a second they’re buying the nonsense Ms. Davis and Mr. Huckabee are peddling.

Can't fight the facts Ms. Davis

Can’t fight the facts Ms. Davis

This fight is not about religious freedom, try as they might to make it so. It is about an obstinate, publicity-seeking woman whose archaic point of view has been marginalized to the point of being irrelevant to the more inclusive changing tides of American society. This, of course, is being shrouded in knee-jerk reactionary rhetoric by Ms. Davis, her like-minded, dwindling minority of compatriots and political opportunists like Mr. Huckabee and current Texas senator and otherwise presidential candidate Ted Cruz. (Note: He was also at Ms. Davis’ rally but was iced out of her nuclear family photo-op circle by Mr. Huckabee’s advance team).

I know I’m on the winning side of a fight when I find that the views of myself and other liberals – which in this case are as mainstream as a Spielberg movie – coincide with yet a third potential Republican presidential candidate – the quite conservative Carly Fiorina.

saywhat

I actually contributed money some years ago to the senate race in California for Barbara Boxer just to ensure in my small way that there was no way she could lose to her challenger, Ms. Fiorina – a woman whose views on finance, labor and pretty much everything in the world at large I loathe. Still, anyone can surprise you at any moment and I certainly was surprised when I heard Ms. Fiorina say that Ms. Davis’ issue came down to whether or not she would do the job she was hired to do.

To paraphrase – and this is me taking the ball from Carly – Ms. Davis’ religious beliefs are irrelevant here. Her employer is the government and she was elected as county clerk to uphold government laws. The law of the land is that gays and lesbians are allowed to get married across the U.S., including in her state and district, and thus her office is in charge of issuing marriage licenses to them. These official licenses require the signature of the county clerk so Ms. Davis has two choices – to do her job or not to do her job. If she believes she is unable to fulfill the duties of her office then she needs to find another employer – not sue said employer for requiring her to do what she was hired to do.

Societal laws are fluid and always changing. Presumably, so are we as human beings. This is the nature of life. If Ms. Davis finds this not to be in her nature, this does not make her a courageous warrior in the name of God. It makes her an intransigent, irresponsible bigot who refuses to live in reality and prefers to hold the rest of her state – and country – captive in the name of a false idol. Herself.

 

A Rainbow of Emotions

Screen Shot 2015-06-28 at 12.44.10 PM

In a moment where the nation reels in our own yin and yang versions of pain and pleasure – from the continued assassination of innocent Black people by White racists or the passage of marriage equality by the Supreme Court that ensures LGBT people can now legally tie the knot in all 50 states – it seems reductive to compare life to a Pixar movie. Yet it feels like no karmic coincidence that Disney has just released Inside Out – one of its most thoughtfully psychological animated films ever – not to mention one that in particular deals with how our upbeat innermost emotions must always co-exist with the ever present darker feelings not so way down deep in our soul.

Of course, none of us have the vivacious voice of Amy Poehler to personify our Joy (Note: Perhaps not even Amy herself) nor do we have the gleeful rantings of Lewis Black to substitute for our own virulent misdirected Anger at the world. Or even the pathetically depressing tones of Phyllis Smith, a former assistant casting director who we know as the frumpy, humdrum, monotone-voiced Phyllis on The Office, to so brilliantly express our own inner Sadness.

Lest we forget Mindy Kaling as Disgust and Bill Hader as Fear

Lest we forget Mindy Kaling as Disgust and Bill Hader as Fear

What we do have is real life – which is never as entertaining as the best or even very good Pixar movie. But it can be if we think about it just a little more than we indulge in our own pity or happiness parties (depending on our moods) without a thought to the karmic realities that comprise what we like to refer to as the rest of the/our worlds.

Full confession – I’m more guilty than most of not following the strategies I’m putting forth here for Living Your Best Life (Note: Trademark Oprah).

Say what now?

Say what now?

Not to be a giant buzz kill but on the day SCOTUS ruled on marriage equality most of what I thought about were gay friends who contributed to the struggle but didn’t live to see this day. This was due, in no small part, to the double whammy of the ruling coinciding with the nationally televised funeral for Clementa Pinckney, the senior pastor of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston who was one of the nine assassinated last week by a 21 year-old White supremacist after the latter had spent the previous hour in a Bible study class praying with them in their own aforementioned house of worship.

Pres. Obama eulogized Pastor Pinckney, also a state senator representing Charleston, and led the mourners in his own very compelling acapella version of “Amazing Grace” – certainly a first in POTUS history. Previously he and others have talked about the idea of reaching a state of grace and spreading that out into the world to others. Presumably this includes the forgiveness of those who have done a person wrong and nowhere were those teachings more apparent than from the mouths of the next of kin of the recently slain who only days before faced the accused murderer of their loved ones. Without exception they all forgave him to his face, or at least chose not to dwell in the bile he had elicited by looking backwards at the loss of all their relative or forward to all the blessings that would never be in the future.

This idea of grace, the ongoing struggle, the bright future – no matter what has happened to you and where it lands on the fairness scale – it’s a wonderful and noble thought, one that is an undeniably positive and useful goal. But full confession: It works for me only some of the time, and even then barely. Part of my personal fight is also fueled by anger and the quest for fairness – the idea that one is not roused to action until one – okay, me – is more personally impacted by the issue at hand.

This was a reason to think about all of the dead of the LGBT community, most especially the thousands from the AIDS epidemic, when marriage equality was announced. For, and this is my own personal belief, the movement would not have gained the steam that it had if not, in great part, due to the AIDS epidemic. Certainly, it wasn’t the only motor but just as certainly it clearly sped things up.

What would Vito think of today?

What would Vito think of today?

To be clear: we would all trade marriage equality in a nanosecond if we could wipe away the Plague and bring back those that fell – meaning died – in its wake. Clearly, we can’t. But what we also can’t do is to deny that the fact that this awful pandemic forced gay people to make themselves publicly known, many times against our own will or perhaps choice, and this inadvertently contributed greatly to forcing people to know us – the real us – rather than the sanitized version groups usually choose to present (or not present) to society at large. And that – along with a lot of grass roots work – is primarily what accelerated change and led us to where we are today.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg – or Aunt Ruth as I like to call her – said as much in an interview last week – and I immediately surmised, in a moment of total self-indulgence, that these thoughts must ‘run in the family.’ Though I (and perhaps she) have been thinking this for years it’s hardly an original idea. I heard the filmmaker/novelist Clive Barker say pretty much the same thing about gay rights five or 10 years ago on Bill Maher’s Real Time (or perhaps it was Politically Incorrect – who can remember which fabulous liberal spewfest it was) – and clearly he is no relative of mine. The hair, the body, the horror – not a Ginsberg in his gene pool, let’s be honest.

Not a Ginsberg (but he's welcome anytime)

Not a Ginsberg (but he’s welcome anytime)

Still, that doesn’t mean it isn’t clear that brother Clive (who has been out and proud for years), Aunt Ruth, myself and perhaps many of you don’t share something. And that is the recognition that the world is very much about the good and the bad each informing the other – the yin and the yang. That just as it seems one’s world is going to end, and perhaps in some ways it does, it is simultaneously the birth of something else.

caglecartoon

‘nough said

One supposes this is just our mutual human condition – one of many aspects of humanness we have in common, though so often we don’t want that to be the case. Still, it’s important to remember when the next big civil rights issue arises – that civil rights of all kinds for all people are intertwined. Charleston, Stonewall, Israel, Iraq, and ad infinitum back and forth through time. How often one writes about this (or performs it or films it) and how even more frequently the message is ignored, the world goes on and we continue with our days as if it’s all new to us or, even worse, in that particular case it doesn’t really apply. Bitchy, twitchy, witchy, kitschy and all else in between.

It’s important to recall our collective history and our mass behavior when one is feeling down – or perhaps even too hopeful. Not in so much a fatalistic, sad way but an inevitably accepting, understanding and eventually life-affirming way. Dark and light, light and dark, dark and light – neither of them lasts – certainly not forever – nor would you probably want either of them to on their own. If you really think about it. The folks at Pixar obviously thought about it for the six years it took to bring Inside Out to the screen and simplified it so even a CHAIR could make sense of it and use it to understand the current events of the day.

Go figure.

Lawfully Wedded Chair

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 1.01.41 PM

Guess what? The Chair got married! After 28 years of being a “partner,” the Chair now takes on the title of “husband.” Below, both the Chair and the Chair’s husband explain why after all this time they made it official. Each wrote their blog entry in separate rooms without ANY INPUT OR EDITING from the other.  Judge for yourself whether these two people belong together. (Duh, of course they do!)

GAY MARRIED

Written by the Chair

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I’d get married. But like James Mason once told Judy Garland in A Star Is Born – and I’m paraphrasing here – the trouble with some dreams is that they’re not big enough.

Referencing a Judy Garland movie is not the only reason I got gay married after almost 28 years with the same guy.   Still, it certainly feels apt. Especially for someone like me who has truly always believed that among the benefits of being gay was the fact that you a. didn’t have to get married and b. weren’t required to join the military.

Well, clearly I’m a dinosaur.

After much talk over the last few years about what the heck we were going to do about the marriage thing, as we called it, my guy and I decided to make it legal on May 5 in the upstairs room of our house, overlooking the cloudy L.A. skyline, in front of two witnesses listening to words said by a friend we work with who marries people in his spare time. It literally took less than five minutes. (almost as fast as the slideshow below)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We had planned various incarnations – some bigger and some much bigger – of this event. But it quickly became apparent to each of us that there was no way to keep it sort of smallish and the bigger it got the more anxious we both felt. Thanks to another good friend who years ago had a big wedding she and her husband paid for by themselves, we decided instead last year to blow our wedding money on a two-week trip to Italy and consider it our illegal honeymoon. All I can say about that is – cash REALLY well spent.

Yet here we are 12 months later, still dragging our feet on the legal front.

What pushed me over the edge was buying a house and the part where they ask you how you want your title – single, domestic partners, married, blah, blah, blah. That followed several prior medical experiences over the years where forms and people asked what is your relationship to your sick spouse and you find yourself realizing that legally, well, you have none. Not to mention the endless questions asked by others that boil down to phrases like: So, when? Or What are you waiting for?

Me to everyone for years

Me to everyone for years

Truth be known I really do HATE the government or any part of the public sector involved in my life in any legal sense, but most especially when it comes to my love life. Is it because my parents were divorced – well, maybe? Could it be because as a gay person I realize how crazy the U.S. government can be when dealing with our issues and I didn’t want to give them the privilege of legislating our love in any way, good or bad, at all – absolutely?! Would another reason be that I found the whole thing tedious, tiresome, sort of corny and didn’t want to be bothered with it –MOST CERTAINLY AND DEFINITELY, ABSOLUTELY!

Please know this is not a put down to any married person out there, especially since I am now one of you. It was just never one of my dreams. Of course, neither was living outside of New York City or getting my driver’s license but somehow I learned to love navigating a convertible through the windy canyons and gridlocked roads of L.A.   Well as John Huston told Jack Nicholson in Chinatown, You may think you know what you’re dealing with but believe me you don’t… OR as Jack Nicholson told the world in A Few Good Men, You can’t handle the truth!

I think my sister, who served as one of our two witnesses, summed it up best when she told me point blank on my wedding day: You just hate doing anything where you think people are giving you permission. It makes you feel like somehow they’re telling you what to do and you hate being told what to do. In fact, you’ll do the opposite just to show them.

giphy

Wow, how did she get so smart?

Does it feel different? Slightly but not much. I mean, it’s awkward to suddenly call someone your husband. As if something has changed. Nothing has really changed in our relationship. And I had finally gotten used to the word partner.

But each person we tell – relatives, friends, acquaintances, business associates, even strangers we have just met where it comes up in conversation – are absolutely thrilled. Seriously, you should see the smiles on their faces. It’s as if to say – we love you, we support you, we don’t know you but want to support you because we think the fact that marriage equality is even a question is ridiculous and we want you and every friend you have who faces this same issue to know that. My god, the last time I saw this many people so happy about something I’ve said or done is, well….NEVER. Not even my bar-mitzvah came close because truly, what person at a mortgage company or doctor’s office would really care???

Everyone has suddenly become this Kristen Wiig character

Everyone has suddenly become this Kristen Wiig character

Well, there is one last thing worth including but I guess I’m, as we’re all so often taught to do, saving the best for last. I got married because, well, I love my husband. Not to mention, I think anyone who has had the perseverance to spend almost 28 years with me deserves something official. Which is also why community property exists and why he can have a divorce any time he sees fit and take half, if not more, of everything I own.

Oh, don’t groan – he’s used to this from me. He loves me both for it and in spite of it. Though no, he didn’t marry me for it. And yes, that’s from Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which the playwright has always said is NOT about a gay couple but well, may as well be and certainly will be at some point generations after Mr. Albee dies – if for no other reason than the normality of marriage equality. Which I guess is, in itself, reason enough to get hitched.

Yes, there are other reasons. Many, in fact. But those are between me and my guy. I mean…husband. Wow. Make that, double wow.

 

WHY I (THINK) I GOT MARRIED

Written by The Chair’s Husband

il_fullxfull.448713088_nx26

Since the day back in August of 1978 when I realized I am gay (I think it was on a Saturday), I realized there were three things I would no longer have to worry about in my lifetime. While some gay men at the time thought of these as drawbacks to not being a member of the heterosexual majority, I always thought of them as advantages (let’s call them “perks”). My list of things “I don’t have to do” included:

  1. Serve in the military. When I had to register for the Selective Service in 1980 in order to receive my government-issued college loan, I wrote “Conscientious Objector” on the form. I wanted to write: “I’m gay, suckers.”
  2. Get married.
  3. Have children.

#1 is no longer an issue (yes, I did pay back my loans).

#3 would take an act of divine intervention, which means it’s NEVER going to happen.

As for #2, well, on Tuesday, May 5, 2015, at approximately 5:25 p.m. (PT) in a very private ceremony in our upstairs media room, I removed Get Married from my list and uttered, “I do” to the man I love.

Ever since San Francisco starting issuing marriage licenses in 2004, we were each asked separately and together, “So when are you getting married?”

Neither of us ever had a “straight” answer to that question, because we weren’t entirely sure if we actually wanted and/or needed to get married.

Oh is that not polite?

Oh is that not polite?

It’s not that I’m anti-marriage (some of my best friends are married), but I always thought no matter where you happen to fall on the Kinsey Scale, getting married should be a choice, and, if you decide to get married, it should be for the right reason(s).

I realized immediately after the moment I said “I do,” I was overthinking this whole thing. It’s actually quite simple. We got married because we love each other.

f450c2d859bf6eaa50bdeac16b34bcaa

I don’t need the State of California’s blessing. Or even a license from the City of Los Angeles (which took 30 minutes on a line to get to a window next to the window where you took care of unpaid parking tickets).

I think the fact I am married is really going to hit me the next time someone hands me a form to fill out and it asks me to check my marital status. Now I can check “married.” I am no longer a Conscientious Objector.