Friday, May 30, 2008

The 20th Anniversary Lambda Literary Awards

As the guests began to file into the Silver Screen Theatre at the Pacific Design Center, I was first felt somewhat unsettled, unnerved and unworthy; there were so many people arriving that I didn't know. Had I become that removed from the LGBT publishing world so thoroughly?

Fortunately, it only took but a few familiar faces in the crowd to get comfortable. Later during the show, it was clear to me that there was probably no audience I'd rather be in than among the writers, publishers and other litteratti present from the literary community.

I was not only among them, I am one of them. I was, after all, an invited presenter. Not until the following day did I realize that few in the theatre knew as many of those present as I did (considering that I'm not formallly a member of the Lambda Literary Foundation).

The internal feeling transformed from dread over what I had not done in recent years to the re-energizing to write, with so many of my literary heroes, mentors and peers together in one place.

To have known so many of those honored much less present is a most rarest of gifts and an indescribable inspiration.

The thrill to be in the company of this comunity could not be easily described in words --so counterintuitive given that is words which bind us.

The past, the present and the future of are --at this moment, at least-- all connected.

How often and when again, will I sit next to Patricia Nell Warren, dishing in the back of the theatre? How many of those most respected in attendance had I worked with over the years; introduced, hosted, interviewed?

I coud even be amused when Michael Corbett, the master of ceremonies, pronounced my name incorrectly and read my
bio wrong, identifying me as a "founder" of BLK magazine. Only a few in the audience might have been in on that private joke, fortunately.

I was not only in attendance at this event, and among my peers, but invited to sit at the captain's table, as it were. And I belonged there.

There was a sense, later, that I was looking forward, as opposed to being in danger of becoming Lot's wife by loooking over my shoulder. The overwhelming number of pioneers honored in memoriam --and the scattered grey-hairs in the crowd, along with the fresh faces-- added a sense of immediacy in ensuring that I get my work completed.

Does every writer have this self-imposed sense of isolation? How do we create a sense of community, when there are so few occasions when we are all gathered together? It's been a long time since a writer's conference on the West Coast, or a less formal gathering of so many attending.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

So, Bank of America claims, "We saved the redwoods!"

The Bank of America claims in a commercial that, "we saved the redwoods!" Out of 135,000 acres of old-growth redwoods in California that existed before becoming part of the United States, only 4.4% remain. That's saving?

McCain says we need more nuclear bombs

Photo by Corp. Frank Rodgers

The cathedral in Nagasaki, 1945. The nuclear blast killed two-thirds of all the Roman Catholics in Japan in one split second, along with American POWs.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes" --Maggie Kuhn

Since I can't sleep, I'm going to tell you about last Thursday, when we went to the LA Convention Center with Massimo to his naturalization swearing-in ceremony becoming an American citizen. A record 18,000 people were all sworn in on one day --a record!

We laughed, we cried, we laughed
some more....

That's not why I can't get to sleep, though. It's because I can't erase the images from my mind of what could and would happen to people like me if I wasn't an American.

Most of you (not all) who were born here don't get it
quite the same way that those of us who weren't feel how it means to be an American.

I can't ever erase the images of faces like Jesse Helms or the Rev. Fred Phelps, that do their damndest
to make sure that people like me would end up like this.

It isn't enough just to be an American citizen to be safe, either. Even here, it's possible to lay in bed at night unable to sleep, gripped with the knowledge that there are those who are persecuted, intimidated and
threatened with the consequenses that even Steven King never writes about. After all, he's a straight white male, born in the United States of America.

No matter how much he might try to imagine it, that isn't the same as knowing that it could happen, that it does happen.

Yet, on Harvey Milk's birthday, of all days, there we were, thousands and thousands of us all deeply wrapped up in the moment, assured that this is the home of the free;
our home. Our country.

With the knowledge that we possess the right, the priviledge, the responsibility to ensure that the world is as safe as I can --with everyone else-- make it to be.

Any moment, the first light of day will appear over the Atlantic coast. In Miami, it will already be warm as the sun slices through between the sea and sky, and slowly begins too rise up on its daily trek across the continent.

Right now, in this moment, I can rest assured that I am safe; that others have watched over me as I will in turn do my part to assure the well being of others.

And with that, I can turn off the lamp, and sleep, perchance to dream.

The swearing-in photo is from the Associated Press. The Harvey Milk vigil photo by Daniel Nicoletta. The sunrise is by J. H. Riley.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Which came first: the heat or the egg on the face?

The LA Times reported a clarification by Acting Registrar/County Clerk Dean C. Logan that no civil service employees have actually indicated any reticence in fulfilling their duties (before or after District Attorney Rocky Delgadillo sent a stern warning that civil service employees are bound under the law to provide assistance without prejudice); supervisors had merely requested contingency plans should the situation have come up. Similar rumors appear to be floating all around the state.

Come June 16, when the paperwork from the state Supreme Court has been finished, the county clerk's office is preparing for an onslaught of applications. The SF Chronicle noted that weddings officiated in Canada are already legal.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Love makes a family... and the human race, too

There is a presumption --even among heterosexual supporters of same-sex marriage-- that marriage has had but one exclusive definition that never evolved throughout history.

For some twenty thousand years or so, relationships among indigenous peoples in California did not require a license from the county clerk's office (nor did divorce). Some groups of peoples allowed for various forms of same-sex couples, others did not. It's the same basic history in Africa and much of the rest of the world. Until relatively recently, men and women weren't even allowed to marry who they wanted to; that was up to the tribal elders or parents. Actually, arranged marriages are still the rule for several billion human beings worldwide today.

If anything, this notion of societal recognized relationships consisting of state-sanctioned marriage between one man and one woman is quite a recent development in human history.

There wouldn't even be an Anglican Church if the Pope would've granted Henry VIII the right to divorce he wanted --and a few women could have kept their heads. Slaves in America weren't allowed to marry in some states, nor freedmen and slaves in others; until the 1967 Supreme Court ruling on miscegenation there was a patchwork quilt of state laws as to who could marry who. And don't get me started on cousins. It is still illegal in some communities for any unmarried people to co-habitate: whether they be caregivers, friends or roommates just splitting the rent. It was not so long ago that the Nazis (and the Americans) would put couples of different religions or races into concentration camps, irrespective of whether they were opposite sex or same-sex couples.

One could even argue that the world has pretty much started to slide to ruin since people codified the only recognized relationships as those sanctioned by the state between one man and one woman.

In the LA Times on Friday, after the historic California Supreme Court ruling, acting LA County Registrar-Recorder Dean C. Logan stated that plans were underway to accommodate county employees uncomfortable with officiating same-sex marriages. There might be a conflict with non-discrimination statutes there. Even if not covered specifically, it opens a nasty bucket of worms. with many of the world's organized religions not recognizing each other, as well as those who still harbor antipathy for people of certain races, ethnicities nationalities body size-- this could cause chaos in government if civil service workers could chose who they would or or wouldn't assist. Would county lifeguards let people drown? Would the fire department respond only to the fires they desired?

What of those not in any kind of committed relationship? Over a thousand statutes favor state-recognized marriages while penalizing single persons --not just at tax time, either. A married person who survives their spouse gets screwed over, too. ln some cultures, the wife is obligated to be thrown onto her husband's funeral pyre. This is the established custom for more people than live in all of Europe --scarcely a radical fringe.

Nobody wins by continuing to maintain a prime meridian oriented on the one-man-one-woman nuclear family axis, even if we ourselves are pledged (or resigned to) not follow it. Even the staunchest, shrillest proponents of this conviction as the fundamental keystone upon which civilization is built, or worship as some golden calf at the heart of all humankind, fail to account for all of the insurmountable evidence that disproves their dogma. They themselves have shown --despite their recent claims to the contrary-- that they themselves aren't as devoted heart and soul to this myopic construct. After all this time, no society has succeeded at permanently stamping out the "world's oldest profession," have they?

Everyone belongs to the human race, all people in all the relationships that we live our lives, whether we live them as we would have it by design or by default. We all contribute and draw from the whole. Every breath of every human helps provide the oxygen which sustains life --even those full of hot air.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Someone really ought to let CSU Fullerton know that the USSR doesn't exist anymore

Another day, another loyalty oath scandal. It would appear that California is hellbent on ensuring that their universities are churning out graduates unable to function in the 21st century.

The latest loyalty oath mess suggests that CSU Fullerton isn't keeping up on what is happening around the rest of the state.

One wonders how recent their textbooks must be. Are they still using rotary phones?

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Big Sunday got even bigger

Lest anyone thinks all I do is grumble and complain (and eat chocolate), let me remind you that this Saturday and Sunday are Big Sunday '08, with volunteer opportunities all over Southern California! Click on the header at top for more information.

Friday, May 02, 2008

You think you're fearless? I'll show you fearless!

There was a cute story on NPR this morning about Oberlin College having a publicity campaign organized around the expression that their school was fearless.

Now, this is what fearless looks like.

Did they not know that fearless was appropriated as black gay slang, or did they have a black drag queen working at their advertising agency? Anyway, for a school that was a stop on the Underground Railroad, I would guess that calling Oberlin fearless is okay by me.

If you're gonna go after Rev. Wright, then you better go after Rev. Hagee

Sen. Barack Obama is taking a hit in the polls as the far right continues to bash him for his ties to the Rev. Wright, even though Obama has denounced his controversial remarks and taken great pains to distance himself from the minister.

Strangely, though, the same media are giving Sen John McCain a Get Out of Jail Free card in regards to the Rev. John Hagee, who he has had to distance himself from under similar circumstances.

Rev. Hagee has, among other things, repeatedly claimed that hurricane Katrina was God's wrath on the sinners of New Orleans for their support of homosexuality.

I have yet to hear an explanation for why the incompetence of the Federal government could be interpreted as God's wrath, not to mention the sheer scope of the devastation Katrina caused.

Rev. Hagee should not only have to face the citizens of New Orleans for his remarks, but he really ought to explain himself to the folks who were affected by Katrina in the communities of Beaumont, Bridge City, Nederland, Orange, Pinehurst, Port Arthur and Vidor, in Texas; Abbeville, Amelia, Avery Island, Baldwin, Barataria, Bayou Vista, Belcambre, Bell City, Bertandville, Bohemia, Boothville, Bourg, Buras, Burrwood, Calumet, Cameron, Carlisle, Centerville, Chacahoula, Chauvin, Cocodrie, Crowley, Crown Point, Creole, Dalcour, Davant, Diamond, Donner, Dulac, Eden Isle, Empire, Erath, Esther, Franklin, Gibson, Galliano, Garden City, Golden Meadow, Grand Chenier, Grand Lake, Gueydan, Hackberry, Hayes, Henry, Hickory, Holly Beach, Holmwood, Houma, Indian Bayou, Intracoastal City, Isle Jean Charles, Jean Lafitte, Jeanerette, Jennings, Jesuit, Bend, Kaplan, Lacassine, Lacombe, Lake Arthur, Lake Charles, Leeville, Louisa, Mandeville, Maurice, Meaux, Montegut, Morgan City, Morse, Myrtle Grove, Nairn, Naomi, New Iberia, Oak Grove, Patterson, Pearl River, Pecan Island, Perry, Phoenix, Point a la Hache, Point-aux-Chenes, Port Fourchon, Port Nickle, Port Sulphur, Poydras, Reggio, Saint Bernard, Slidell, Sulphur, Shell Beach, Theriot, Tidewater, Toomey, Triumph, Venice, Vinton, Welsh, and Yscloskey in Lousiana; and Bay Saint Louis, Biloxi, Diamondhead, Gulfport, Long Beach, Lyman, Moss Point, Nicholson, Ocean Springs, Pass Christian, Pearlington and Waveland in Mississippi.*

Okay, I'm mad enough now that I'm gonna have to go eat a chocolate coffee pudding. And it's all Rev. Hagee's fault.

*My apologies to any towns I inadvertently left off. I'm sure there were more.