Oh Mary

The fastest selling book in Simon and Schuster’s almost 100 year history debuted this week and it was written by — Mary L. Trump, Ph.D.

It is entitled Too Much And Never Enough, How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man and in a very brisk 225 pages it gives us the unvarnished details of what it’s like to grow up in the extremely dysfunctional and just plain mean Trump family.

We ready

It also sheds light on why she believes our current president is a mentally ill sociopath with an inability to care about anyone but himself.  The book contains an enormous amount of stories about the endless string of Donald lies, Donald incompetence, Donald bullying and, well, pretty much every other type of anti-social behavior any Donald could display short of murder, from the time he was very young up through the present day.

Ms. Trump, 55, is the niece of our current POTUS, Donald J. Trump, and a clinical psychologist who spent quite a lot of time around Donald, his siblings and his parents (Note: Her grandparents) growing up.  So she knows whereof she speaks.

She is also a lesbian.

Gasp!

Well, to be fair, in the late nineties she was married to a woman for an extended period of time, they had a child together, later divorced and she now raises and lives with their teenage daughter.

So at the very least she is a member of the LGBTQ community.

This in no way is an outing of Ms. Trump, who rightly neither hides her sexuality nor dwells on it in her best seller.

But in watching and reading the myriad of coverage about her life and the book roll out, it’s impossible not to notice that the one person in the extended Trump inner family clan strong enough to make a full and healthy break away from all that immorality and, umm, financial dysfunction – and live to come clean about it to the world – is gay.

Perhaps made even more impactful while being interviewed by Rachel

We gay people certainly have as many faults as anyone but the one thing we do know how to do is open a closet door and let the truth come out.

Our very lives are an embodiment of the old adage the truth will set you free because for the vast majority of us it has.

For those of us of a certain age (Note: Ms. Trump is younger than me but still of my generation), and still, for some, of any age, this has not always been easy.  But once we realize it’s not the end of the world but the beginning of a brighter new one, we’re far less likely to be the keeper of anyone’s dirty little secrets, especially when they cross us.

Run Tippy, Run

In short, the Trumps were f-ckng with the wrong person when Mary finally found out after many, many decades, that Donald and his siblings had financially f-cked her and her brother over to the tune of many tens of millions of dollars.

(Note: Buy the book and google her in the NY Times and you can read endless articles about how the family undervalued the size of her grandfather’s estate and threatened to withhold health insurance from her brother’s very sick baby until she and her brother capitulated for a pittance of their inheritance).

Still, this does not appear to be the primary motivator for why Ms. Trump wrote her book, which sold ALMOST 1,000,000 copies in its FIRST DAY.  Rather, it was Donald playing out the same type of lies he had perpetrated upon her and other family members to enrich himself from his father’s estate on the entire country that tipped her hand.

Just a litttttttle bit late, Mary

Watching him lie and deny the plan to put immigrant children in cages or expound on the virtues of KKK members instead of defending the Jews and people of color they wanted to exterminate, was an all too familiar playbook.

In the Trump family, you did what you were told because to not do so would cost you your standing in the inner circle.  To maintain the power, the protection and the position – even if all those brought you were scraps – you kept your mouth shut (nee lied) or risked being thrown out and DESTROYED.

That is what Donald did through the years to all his rivals and perceived enemies (nee EVERYONE), especially Mary’s alcoholic father, Freddy, who died broken and penniless at the hands of the family and Donald at the age of 42.

Again, all of this is recounted in very readable stories throughout the book in ways that are surprisingly even-handed and, even a bit sympathetic, towards Donald.  It’s what gives Too Much and Never Enough its power, and its undeniable ring of truth.

Plus it’s mega ratings

Still, while most readers will no doubt linger on all things Donald, and how his equally sociopathic father Fred, Sr. preyed on each member of their clan and then the outside world to their maximum personal benefits, it is the moment that Mary Trump finally owns her power to us as an LGBTQ woman that most stood out to me.

All through her life, Ms. Trump watched as her father Freddy was shamed into believing he was a failure by the only family that she or he knew, one that they were led to believe they were beholden to (Note: Because they indeed, were; see the above DESTROYED) for personal survival.  Yet many years after Freddy died, Mary still remained close to her grandfather, Fred, Sr., and her grandmother, who she called Gam.

It is with this history she recalls the last two weeks of her grandfather’s life in June, 1999, and how some of the family (Note: Though not Donald) gathered around the dying Fred, Sr.’s hospital bed.

More tea cometh

Her grandmother, Gam, sat in a chair, an aunt held his hand, while another aunt stood to the side with Mary, bemoaning the fact that she and her husband (Fred Sr.’s youngest son / Donald’s youngest brother) would have to postpone their London trip with Prince Charles because of Fred’s likely passing.

He invited us to one of his polo matches.  I can’t believe we had to cancel, her aunt noted in an exasperated and too loud voice that others would likely hear yet, in true Trump fashion, not react to one way or the other.  At which time Mary reveals the following to us:

I could have topped that story.  In a week I was supposed to be getting married on a beach in Maui.  Nobody in the family knew; they’d always been spectacularly uninterested in my personal life (when necessary, I asked a guy friend to accompany me to any family occasion that required a plus one) and never asked about my boyfriends or relationships.

A couple of years earlier, Gam and I had been talking about Princess Diana’s funeral, and when she had said with some vehemence, ‘It’s a disgrace they’re letting that little faggot Elton John sing at the service,’ I’d realized it was better that she didn’t know I was living with and engaged to a woman.

Seeing how serious my grandfather’s condition was, I had a terrible feeling that when I got home, I’d have to break the news to my fiancée that, after months of planning and overcoming logistical nightmares, our mostly secret wedding would have to be postponed.

As it turned out the wedding was postponed and Fred, Sr. died several weeks later.

Sums it up

The entire Trump family attended the funeral, including Mary, yet Mary was the only one to escort Gam, her grandmother, home and sit with her for several hours more in the house she had shared with her husband for more than 30 years so she wouldn’t have to be alone.

Any number of LGBTQ people from dysfunctional families will read the above passage and recognize a familiar scene. The single young thirty something with no discernible life taking care of the elderly relative the straight, married siblings don’t quite want to be bothered with or can’t be because they have a family.

But equally familiar to some will be the scene some 30 pages later when her Gam also turns on Mary once Mary and her brother realize they are not receiving their own father’s share of his inheritance from Fred, Sr.

Will we be shocked by any of this?

Apparently it was Donald’s edict that unless Mary and her brother disavowed their claims to their share and let Donald and the remaining siblings have the many more millions, her brother’s permanently disabled baby, would lose his Trump family health insurance, which he was guaranteed to in perpetuity and, in fact, needed in order to be able to survive with round the clock care.

Now not quite sure of what to do, Mary gets a call from Gam who not only tersely tell her off amid Mary’s protestation, but to pound her point home, admonishes her with these choice words: Do you know what your father was worth when he died?  A whole lot of nothing.

 Not knowing what to say, Mary pauses.  At which point there is a click. Gam had hung up on her. In fact, Gam never spoke with her again.

It took awhile but after all this time Mary Trump is finally talking back to the entire Trump clan, most especially about their leader, and ours, Uncle Donald.  Like many in her community, it’s taken almost a full lifetime for her to embrace her voice and the entire truth about who she is and where she came from full throttle.

Now that she has it would behoove us, ALL OF US, to listen.

Sly and the Family Stone – “Family Affair” 

Robby and Me

So 31 years ago this month I spoke to a guy I didn’t know on an actual landline.  No, it wasn’t like that.  He was a friend of a friend who was new to town and he had the soft, sexy voice of a young Robby Benson.

For those who don’t know – Robby Benson was a big film and TV star in the seventies with great hair, impressive acting chops and endless boyish charm.  Extremely smart and fun loving with a talent for playing often troubled though never irredeemable characters.

NOT ROB LOWE. #better

Anyway, I agreed to take Robby’s voice to a party because It/He didn’t know many people in town and when he came to my door I was taken aback.  He not only looked a little like Robby, by way of Italian heritage, but was smart, fun-loving and far LESS TROUBLED than any of the people he played.

This was Robby as you wanted him to be.   Or so I thought.  And it turns out I was right.  That night turned into that morning and more than three decades later here we are, his voice still intact and my crush now my husband.

and they lived happily ever after #AWWWWWW

It is important to remember Robby my husband and I met in 1987 in the height of the AIDS crisis.  The idea of finding a person with whom you could survive with 31 years later seemed…well, no one was thinking that far ahead.  About a week or two was all you could manage, and even that was pushing it.

We were ending the horrible Reagan years where gay people were branded nationally as diseased sinners whom the public at large needed to be protected from.   It wouldn’t get too much better in the four years of George H.W. Bush, though one of my favorite political moments of that time was when a former boyfriend gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention nominating Bill Clinton that chastised Bush, Sr. for willfully ignoring so many of the sick (nee gay) members of his (Note: Bush, Sr.’s that is) American family.

That boyfriend is long dead but his words linger in my mind.  I think of him and so many others often, though not in tragic terms.  I wonder – what would they make of Ellen coming out nationally?  Will and Grace and the return of Will and Grace 15 years later?  Could they have imagined RuPaul would not only have a high-rated show but win an Emmy and spawn a nationwide trend towards EVERYONE workin’ it 24/7 by simply being your true self?

Preach Ru

This is to say nothing about gay marriage in the age of Grindr, gay parenting, #ItsGetsBetter, gays in the military and, well, pretty much gay everything, anything and in any way possible if you so choose.

Exhibit A  #heyantoni

That does not mean there are now zero consequences from family members, neighbors and the world at large for one’s choices.  But pretty much every choice we make has consequences.

The fact that there is even this much of a level playing field felt like a quaint pipe dream in 1987.   Kind of like your parents saying you were not even a twinkle in your mother’s eye five years before you were born.  (Note:  Okay, maybe my family were the only ones who spoke this way but nevertheless the star metaphor feels apt).

It is in this context that I tuned in NBC’s The Voice this past week and saw a gay male couple in their 30s – one African American, the other lily White but both super hot – talk about meeting, singing together, falling in love and forming their own singing group.

They then discussed their parents and siblings, families who were finally face to face for the first time at this about-to-be televised audition.  Amidst all this we were also told they had an upbringing steeped in the church, information that would have been the whole point of their appearance even a decade or two before.  Assuming, that is, they would have even been let on TV as their true selves, which they wouldn’t have been.

Never mind that I thought their musical act was kind of corny, albeit sweet – sort of Up With People trying to mix with vintage Temptations music.   What was being broadcast here was in PRIME-TIME NETWORK TELEVISION.  More than their music, their story had reduced their four heterosexual vocal coaches/International music stars to sighs of admiration and tears.

YES IT IS LISA #exceptyourlips #help

It was also pre-determined by a corporately held network, owned by a conglomerate, that this would similarly tug at the heart strings of America’s heartland. Why else make them the lead off act in the 8:00pm family friendly time block?

Heck, I wondered, what does my sometimes still stuck in the eighties self make of that?  What would any of my friends, particularly the musical ones and specifically those who were long gone, make of it?

Answer – most of us around these days don’t think of it much at all.  Those not around couldn’t think of it as real.  At least that’s what I and my husband concluded.

None of this is a reason to pat ourselves on our collective backs and break out in cheers as a nativist movement sweeps the country and the world, imperiling minorities everywhere and even thumbing its nose at some MAJORITIES, nee WOMEN.

OK OK Stay with me!

It is only to say, sometimes one has to look at where they came from as well as from where they started in order to gain perspective and energy about where they are now and in what way they are to proceed.

This year there are dozens and dozens and dozens of LGBTQ-themed films already or about to be released.  Click here for a list

Sure, we are still a niche audience but so is pretty much EVERY audience these days.  In 2018, it’s all about niche music, niche TV, niche radio, niche….don’t get me started.  So much to catch up on, so, so little time.

I’m sorry Sarah.. there is literally no time #AHSApocalypse #netflixIguess

But ultimately it’s more about subject matter and the lens within that niche.  In the seventies and eighties it was acceptable for straight male characters to make “fag” jokes without retribution.  The notable major LGBTQ crossover releases in 1987 were Maurice and Prick up Your Ears – two period pieces about a time when gay meant sick and in the shadows, and lesbian love or BTQ existence were barely an onscreen flicker.

It would be five years before Neil Jordan pulled off an international gender hat trick in The Crying Game.  This was 23 years before TLC aired its first episode of a reality show focusing on a transgender teenager, I Am Jazz.

We’ve learned that the point is the lens from which something is viewed.  We are offered the travails of a white suburban gay kid coming out in films like Alex Strangelove and Love, Simon (Note: L-O-V-E) and the oppressiveness but ultimately unapologetic victories young gay protagonists can have when their parents try to convert them to straight in movies such as The Miseducation of Cameron Post and the upcoming Boy Erased, all of them 2018 releases.

YAS. YAS. YAS

This doesn’t erase the tragic last days of Oscar Wilde in Rupert Everett’s The Happy Prince, now out at theatres.  As its star, writer and director, Mr. Everett effectively reminds us that this literary giant served TWO YEARS hard labor for engaging in gay sex (aka sodomy) with the man he loved at the turn of the century and was damaged beyond repair, not to mention shunned by society, in the few years he had left after he got out.

Yet in 2018, it’s an openly gay artist telling the story about an iconic gay artist from the past to a world that in the great majority, at least in the U.S., are on HIS side.   If that weren’t the case, you can bet Sony Pictures would have NEVER picked up the film for distribution.   

We’re not exactly to Avengers level, but good on them.

Nor would a gay Black man co-write the screenplay to his own autobiographical story, Moonlight, and then watch his story become 2016’s surprise best picture Oscar winner.

So as we all deal with the Trump America of it all, the international Nativism that could be our ultimate destructions, not to mention the latest U.N. report on climate change and the tragedy of global warming that threatens the extinction of the human species, it’s nice to remember history, progress, regression, revolution, resistance and more progress is our legacy.

It’s a roller coaster of emotions, dear.

History can turn on a dime, either way, and many of us have lived through periods where all fights seemed in vain and the best we hoped for was simply getting through.

What we didn’t know was that the future could be brighter than we imagined, BLINDING so DAZZLINGLY as to be rendered un-seeable, with only inevitable dollops of dark.

And that dream Robby Benson can appear at your doorstep just when you thought there was never a chance.

If this last thought seems too LGBTQ Hallmark, check out what one member of our new generation just unabashedly posted on his YouTube Channel.  Colin O’Leary you are 2018 Robby – reincarnated.