Wednesday, December 31, 2003
The new steps up to the hot tub were a great success--I built them in the scenic shop at MIT and since the tub is perfectly round, there was a bit of a trick to get the unit to wrap evenly around the curved side of the unit. Out under the stars with temperatures in the high 30s it was just delightful.
Last night was movie night with the lovely gay-themed French movie "The Adventures of Felix." The chanteuse Patachou, now a handsome older woman, is featured in one episode of Felix's journey from Dieppe to Marseilles and gives a fine performance. The movie isn't all sweetness and light--Felix gets bashed for being an Arab and for being gay in French society, but his kind, open nature takes him through and his hot boyfriend isn't a liability either. Recommended.
Tonight is the big New Year's eve dinner and a talent show leading up to a dance that will take us to midnight and beyond. I am going to do my first little bit of drag in the form of "Adelaide's Lament" from the musical GUYS AND DOLLS,
a wonderful comedy number. And there are other kinds of stuff going on. We hooked up the new DVD player my partner and I were given for Christmas and played one of the "Personal Trainer" DVDs one of the guys brought. These are Bel Ami videos featuring glowing young men--he has several others from the series with him.
Happy New Year everyone!
Monday, December 29, 2003
December 29, 2003
Gay Cultural Evolution From Closet to Market
By FELICIA R. LEE
In the ebullient cartography of the imaginary Queer Street, the cross streets include Attitude and Camp, Jewelry and Lipstick. It is inhabited by everyone from World War II veterans to Bette Davis to Nietzsche, and rendered by the narrator "Queer Temperament" or Q. T., who calls the place "all out of sequence and Oz-like willy-nilly."
As he adventures in the gay cultural wonderland, Q. T. channels T. S. Eliot, James Baldwin, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal and offers lists of gay bars, bathhouse scenes, film essays and theories on homosexuality.
Q. T. also mirrors the real author James McCourt, a novelist and short-story writer, who just published his first nonfiction book, "Queer Street: Rise and Fall of an American Culture, 1947-1985: Excursions in the Mind of a Life" (W. W. Norton). As the long-winded title signifies, it is as much a vision of gay culture right after the war as an adventure in the mind of the 62-year-old Mr. McCourt. In 577 pages "Queer Street" combines memoir, essays, bits of dialogue, lines from movies and walk-ons in an attempt to describe the social and cultural evolution of gay life in the 20th century.
Mostly, Mr. McCourt said in a recent interview, what changed in the years between 1947 and 1985 is that gays went from being hopelessly outside the margins, creating a world that was at once sad, elegant and creative, to being marketed to and marketed by the never-ending machinery of commerce.
"Your people are in," Mr. McCourt recalled a writer telling him fairly recently, indicating some deep cultural shift in the way gays are seen. Maybe, Mr. McCourt said. But pop culture can feed on cliché (like the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" television show, he said), while truth is a lot more complicated.
"It's more possible now that kids will have friends who are gay," Mr. McCourt said, sitting in the living room of the apartment he keeps in New York. But, he said, "you know from the get go that even if your family loves you, you just know that something is deeply strange," at least when contrasted with the still-prevalent heterosexual ideal.
In Washington, where he lives most of the time with his partner. Vincent Virga, a picture editor, he talks often to young people. "I know how difficult it is in the inner cities and the small towns," he said of gay life outside big cities like New York, where he grew up.
Mr. McCourt, who wears big, crooked wire-frame eyeglasses and speaks in long, digressive sentences, said that this book was his chance to be at the podium, to speak to an imagined audience of film buffs, urbanites and people who love books more than television. He uses "Queer Street" to tell all those stories about the people and the places — the Metropolitan Opera as well as the "tea rooms" (public restrooms where gay men have sex) — to bear witness, to give voice, to heal wounds.
"When you are a writer either you have a wound yourself or have an identification with that wound in human nature that seeks to be healed by stories — comforting or tragic, it doesn't matter," he said.
Mr. McCourt said he considered "Queer Street" the back story to "Time Remaining," his 1993 novel that a Publishers Weekly review called "the best novel about AIDS."
Critics have generally loved this book as well. "A fierce critical intelligence animates every page of "Queer Street," wrote Maureen N. McLane in a Dec. 14 review in The New York Times Book Review. "Its sentences are dizzying divagations."
A Library Journal review called it a "glittering mirror ball of a memoir," adding, "Despite the ponderous language and the need for an unabridged dictionary by the reader's side, McCourt's book brilliantly captures queer New York life just before mainstream pop culture came nipping at its heels to swallow it up."
While the vertiginous pace of "Queer Street" leads you to expect someone a bit on the wild side, Mr. McCourt is animated but well-behaved, avuncular, kindly. He dropped out of the Yale School of Drama but is adept at using his voice to make words italic or boldface.
He was the middle of three boys in an Irish Catholic family from Jackson Heights, Queens. Their mother was a schoolteacher, their father a timekeeper on the docks. Mr. McCourt never officially "came out" to his parents. His mother read a letter from a boy who loved him and they had lots of fights. His father said "I don't understand it." But they both accepted him and loved him and grew to like Mr. Virga, too, his partner since 1965.
After his mother died last January, Mr. McCourt melted down a big signet ring she had given his father and had it made into two gold bands. He said that he went to Mr. Virga and said, "Close your eyes and stick out your hand." Slipping the ring on his finger he said, "Now you're married." He supports the legalization of gay marriage, but worries that gays — like straight people — might someday marry just for the sake of being married.
Both he and Mr. Virga are high-maintenance, he said. "I'm hard to get at at any one time because I might be thinking three things at once," he said. "And I don't talk about what I'm writing."
The subtitle of "Queer Street," which talks about a culture's rise and fall, also speaks to what is lost and what is gained with assimilation, with a new idea of what the group is and how it fits in.
"By 1985, it was kind of gone, those guys who were dressy and sophisticated and part of the bath scene," Mr. McCourt said. "Everyone was in the street, evidently queer, after Stonewall. The culture changed into something else, something more marketable."
"Then there were drugs and dance, and all that relentlessness as a political statement became part of the culture," he continued. Mr. McCourt, who considers himself an idealist about America (which he partly attributes to his July 4 birthday), believes the pregay rights culture, when few were openly homosexual, was more idealistic because gays then believed that the old, more conservative America would ultimately accept them. By the end of the 60's, just about everyone had already transgressed and rebelled. It wasn't a big leap at that point to believe that anything was possible.
"As it happened, the homosexual became integrated into the culture anyway," Mr. McCourt said. "With AIDS, everyone realized that someone they knew could get it. People learned more and got a little more decent."
Sunday, December 28, 2003
This is a familiar concern heard also from commentators among many of the racial and ethnic groups that have struggled successfully--or are still struggling--for their fair share of the American pie, legally and economically. However as I asked some relatives from my mother's side (the English side) of the family who lamented the passing of defineable Italian urban neighborhoods in many of our major cities, "how long do you expect Italian-Americans to hang around in crowded, barely modernized inner city tenaments, speaking bad English and running restaurants and selling tacky recreations of 'Sicilian Carts' for the amusement of tourists?" In other words, with full social empowerment comes a great variety of choices and personal agendas that don't involve remaining demeaningly "picturesque."
Hard line gay commentators often espouse the view that we must all remain single, way out on the edge sexually and politically, in pursuit of trick after trick in perpetuity, and housed in urban gay ghettos in order to remain gay. Myself, I think this is a form of sexual identity fascism, one that denies the diversity of the gay experience and its manifestation nationally across a broad range of regions, cultures and economic situations. A quick check of the web will reveal gay men and lesbians running farms in Montana, driving trucks across the U.S., engaging in every profession imaginable and living a wide variety of lifestyles. Isn't the ultimate goal of any civil rights movement the freedom to choose exactly how one will live and with whom, without the soul-destroying restrictions and prohibitions placed on the oppressed by a society and government allowed to practice legalized discrimination?
I realize that assimilation is a hot button issue from the history within my immediate family. My father was born here but his Italian and French parents weren't. He hated the epithets thrown at my grandfather --wop, guinea, greaseball, wallyo--in the streets and wanted to change the family name to something far more Anglo. He married into an English immigrant family, cut connections with the vast majority of his relatives and changed his middle name from Napoleone (in honor of his grandfather) to Charles. It was drastic and it caused a lot of scars within the family. Everyone else came along far more slowly, evolving into American culture at a more natural pace
that allowed them to retain a defineable Italian sensibility as a rich and welcome part of their strong American identity. I really don't believe that gays and lesbians will someday be so absorbed into the mainstream of American life that they lose their "gayness." I do believe that they will take their gay sensibility into the full and essential possession of their Constitutional rights for which we must all still fight. It isn't our acceptance into American society under the law we have to fear, but any complacency that stands in the way of our finishing the great work we still have to do to get there.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
GLAD and other gay organizations are preparing briefs to submit to the Supreme Judicial Copurt here in Masachusetts. The Court has asked the Legislature what progress it had made to facilitate same sex marriage in Massachusetts and been informed that the Legislature will go for Civil Unions. The Court has now opened itself to briefs from all interested parties and has said there will be no open court arguements entertained, just a ruling handed down. The legal experts are all saying that the thing is NOT negotiable, that the Court spoke clearly mandating gay marriage and only gay marriage. Given the uncertainties around the actual beginning of the gay marriage process here and our family schedules, etc., we have picked two possible dates--the July 4 weekend and the August 14 weekend.
Monday, December 22, 2003
"How do you know it is night time by the clock at the Cardinal's residence?" "When the big hand touches the little hand."
"What did the Pope say to Michael Jackson?" "One more set of pedophile accusations and I'll have to make you a Bishop."
I asked him how morale is and he said it is terrible, as if the entire institution is living in post traumatic stress.
It gets worse for gays in any area of the Church all the time now but another friend, a former Seminarian who got out before he took Vows, sent the following this morning, indicative of a revolt starting among priests in the Chicago area. His personal statement appears at the end. By the way, all the recent national polls show an anti-gay backlash in full swing. We will have to remain very firm and united.
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE HIERARCHY OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH REGARDING THE PASTORAL CARE OF GAY AND LESBIAN PERSONS
As Catholic pastors, we have become increasingly disturbed by the tone and, in some cases, content of documents and statements from the Vatican, bishops’ conferences and individual bishops on issues categorized under the heading of
“homosexual” or gay/lesbian.” We respect the teaching authority of the Church. Because of this, we find particularly
troubling the increase in the use of violent and abusive language directed at any human person. Such language is inappropriate. This is especially so when addressing members of the community of the faithful. These divisive and exclusionary statements from the Church are contrary to sound pastoral practice.
The life journey in faith is unique and sacred, including the personal integration of sexuality and spirituality. Condemnations leveled at sincere Catholics attempting to make sense out of their journey are inappropriate and
As priests and pastors we are speaking out to make clear that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are all members of God’s family, brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus and deserving of the same dignity and respect owed any human being. Recognition of the inalienable dignity of the human person is the only path toward justice and reconciliation. We affirm the goodness of all homosexual persons. We root ourselves in the U.S. Bishops’ statement ‘Always Our Children.” Additionally, we reaffirm the understanding of the goodness of the human person as put forth throughout the papacy of Pope John Paul II. Further, we want to state clearly that ministering to and with our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters is mutually beneficial, as is all ministerial activity.
Pre-judging where any believer’s journey will take them is inappropriate. Walking with them, as we do with our heterosexual brothers and sisters, is the appropriate Christian response.
In the recent past, individual bishops, bishops’ conferences and the Vatican have assumed a tone of such violence and abusiveness toward these sons and daughters of the Church, we can no longer remain silent. Has any other group of people within the Body of Christ been so assaulted and violated by such
mean-spirited language? Examples from the most recent Vatican document show all too clearly the demonization of these children of God, referring to homosexuality as a “troubling moral and social phenomenon,” “a serious depravity,” “the spread of the phenomenon, approval or legalization of evil,” “a grave detriment to the common good,” “harmful to the proper development of human society,” “intrinsically disordered.” Does anyone consider
this vile and toxic language invitational?
For many gay and lesbian Catholics, this most recent series of attacks has
forced them, out of self-respect and self-love, to withdraw from active
participation in the Church and question how they can remain members of a Church they experience as abusive. It is not possible to minister to and with the needs of our homosexual brothers and sisters with language of this tone as a
The Catholic Church is most catholic when it is inclusive and embracing, and
least reflective of the gospel of Jesus when it is exclusive and rigid. For this reason, we also want to affirm the many pastoral and positive statements by
certain bishops and bishops’ conferences (e.g. “Always Our Children”).
The Church’s theology, including her moral teaching, is always in dialogue with the broader lived experience of her members, which shapes and rearticulates
the ancient deposit of faith. We encourage a new atmosphere of openness to
dialogue which includes the lived experience of many Catholic members. We recognize the blessings of countless homosexuals in a variety of relationships. We believe their experiences must be listened to respectfully.
While we do not know the reasons for the increasingly violent and abusive
language, we deplore it as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ and ask that
it stop immediately. Furthermore, we request that all those in official positions of teaching authority in the Church refrain from any more statements directed AT the gay and lesbian members of the Body of Christ, and instead begin an
earnest dialogue WITH those same members of the Body of Christ.
For our part, we pledge to treat all who seek to continue their faith journey with us with respect and dignity, regardless of their sexual orientation.
We join the countless men and women, heterosexual and homosexual, who seek
justice, mercy and compassion in and through the Catholic Church.
We extend an invitation all who share our concern to duplicate this letter, sign it, and send it to their pastor, local bishop, National Bishop’s Conference or the Vatican.
(Parish names are listed for identification purposes only.)
Rev. David Baldwin St. Benedict the African-East Chicago, IL
Rev. Daniel Cassidy St. Mark Chicago, IL
Rev. Dennis Condon St. Marcelline Schaumburg, IL
Rev. Lloyd Cunningham, S.V.D. Catholic Theological Union Chicago, IL
Rev. Nicholas Desmond St. Aloysius Chicago, IL
Rev. Brian Fischer St. Gregory the Great Chicago, IL
Rev. Donald Headley St. Mary of the Woods Chicago, IL
Rev. Robert P. Heinz St. Alphonsus Liguori Prospect Heights, IL
Rev. Michael Herman St. Sylvester Chicago, IL
Rev. Thomas Hickey St. Clement Chicago, IL
Rev. John Hoffman St. Teresa of Avila Chicago, IL
Rev. Richard Homa Sacred Heart Palos Hills, IL
Rev. Terry Johnson St. Francis Xavier LaGrange, IL
Rev. Patrick Lee
As far as I am concerned the officialdom of the Catholic Church addressed in this letter are not worth the time or the paper it takes to communicate with them. Respect must be earned. Abuse does not warrant pleading communication that even acknowledges their authority or significance. The officialdom of the Catholic Church has in my opinion earned its rightful place on the trash heap of history.
P___ A_____, A.B. St. John's Seminary, 1968.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Surprises abound. Strom Thurmond, one of the very last hold outs of the Old South (and its politics and attitudes on racial relations in this country) had a mixed race child by a family maid in his youth. Thurmond died an active (rather somnolent actually, but still in office) U.S. Senator at age 100 a year or so ago. His secret daughter, now in her late 70s, has "come out" in order to stop living with a false identity. The story is something of a parallel to Thomas Jefferson's "secret" family by Monticello slave Sally Hemming, except that Jefferson established his liason with Sally late in life and Thermond's came early. The Thermond family has apparently recognized the lady (the late Senator's wife is still alive) but she couldn't mask a certain bitterness in some of her revelations.
She has been interviewed on TV by Diane Sawyer and has a lovely and very dignified manner. She revealed that she got support checks regularly from her father althought the amount decreased somewhat after her marriage. She steadfastly refused to talk about the amount of those checks and one senses a finer feeling for discretion and personal privacy than is common in the People Magazine generation.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
If any of you are actually reading this, the situation with Dell is still frustrating. For the record, I loved the machine and I loved the price and flexibility of putting the package together. The problems are all with technical support and the fact that there is simply no place to go, no Dell service center to take a machine to and get someone to give you the big picture. I was assured on the phone this AM that if yet another session on the phone tonight during which we are supposed to run a diagnostic disc proves the machine is simply not repairable, a whole new computer will be sent to me. THAT's the first reassuring words I have heard since this entire mess began!
Saturday, December 13, 2003
That is interesting, but I am still looking at a one year old computer that is a wreck. He and I will talk about this again Monday morning. In the meanwhile I have gotten through to Dell's Customer Service who consulted my service files and admitted that their tech support people had probably contributed majorly to my computer's complete collapse. But this does not guarantee me a new machine--it has all been referred up to supervisor level and "someone will call" me once a decision has been made.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Seems to me that an Admiral and two Generals coming out sends a strong message that it is possible to rise to the highest ranks in the military, serve with distinction and be gay at the same time. Yes, I know they were not out; it is strongly hinted, if not stated, that they may well have remained celibate during their military careers out of fear of exposure. Yes, it would have been even more powerful had they in some way maintained relationships and been in a healthier place as gay service men as part of their coming out story. Still, the point is made that gays are throughout the military, not just in the lower ranks, getting weeded out whenever they are discovered and before they have a shot at command positions in which these three men obviously served with distinction. I just hope some of the Neanderthal sensibilities in the military establishment think about this revelation and, instead of a witch hunt for "the others," take a moment to realize how much three gay men have contributed to the cause without all the dire consequences we have been warned of should gays infiltrate the military.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
But plumbing is an issue. I should have another bathroom as the house now has five bedrooms (it had three when I moved in but I built two in the attic level for my daughters. That way, they could have their own space where I would'nt have to deal with their noise and chaotic homework hours). The design of the house makes it extremely difficult to find a place to develop a second bathroom-- even a small lavatory. I had to build several closets into rooms and part of the downstairs hall as it was.
But it is a great house, a true New England Gothic but without the cut-out decorative work as it was a farmhouse rather than a city residence. Of course, the city has engulfed it with the course of time.
Monday, December 08, 2003
An Iowa court has granted a divorce to two women who had joined in a Vermont civil union. Doesn't this court realize such a decision threatens the very institution of divorce in our nation? It's nothing less than an attempt to defame the sanctity of divorce.
We’re digging our way out of between 20 and 30 inches of snow. I live in a heavy snow zone south and west of the city center and to top things off, we in the Roslindale/West Roxbury area have pretty much been abandoned by the city’s plowing dispatcher. It was not pretty yesterday and I have only the greatest gratitude for a couple of neighbors who own snow blowers and are very generous with their machines and energy in helping others after they have done their own properties.
Saturday, December 06, 2003
The City of Boston has NOT done a great job of plowing the neighborhoods. I live on an important if not major road and we didn't see our first plow until some 14 hours into the storm. My seven mile drive to MIT was done at 15 mph all the way and that was with four wheel drive and killer tires. Things are very bad here; it has the same feeling about it as in the 1978 blizzard when the area was under military control for a week, all driving was forbidden except to emergency vehicles, there was four feet of iced up snow blocking the streets and the cities of Boston and Cambridge-- among others--essentially hung out a "Closed" sign.
The guys from Seattle made it into town OK because they got in just before the storm hit. Can't wait to see them tomorrow. The guys form NYC, however, have had to scrap their plans to join us because road conditions are just too treacherous. I am not afraid of winter but am hoping that this will prove to be the most severe storm by far that we have to endure this season.
Friday, December 05, 2003
The sports reports are filled with all the off-season trades and other deals by which ludicrously over-paid athletes of often highly questionable intrinsic value become even wealthier and demand more and more perks. This is America in the twenty first century, boys and girls. People in this country are dying without proper medical treatment because of the obscene cost of health care and health insurance. The unelected bozo in the White House is proposing to send $millions to help Africans with AIDS but nothing to help those in this country with AIDS/HIV. The elderly have to buy prescription drugs in Canada because they cannot afford them here. PLEASE somebody establish some sane priorities for this country.
We in America are almost wholly dependent on imported oil, mostly from countries hostile to us and whose petroleum reserves are not infinite. "Detroit" continues to turn out massive gas hogs across all automotive brand lines and has hooked the American people on the worst kind of vehicle for fuel consumption, the SUV. This ia a major crisis, boys and girls, as we send billions of dollars to countries that harbor those who would destroy us in an international situation that demands we develop alternative sources for power and wean ourselves away from imported oil. PLEASE somebody get our government or corporate research and development interests dedicated to wind, solar and garbage-fired sources of energy production.
Does anybody remotely near the sources of political power in the U.S. actually CARE?
Thursday, December 04, 2003
My partner's face is healing nicely. As we live an hour or so away from each other due to deeply established and unchangeable professional lives, we talk at least twice and often seveal times a day by phone and email. We are preparing for the arrival this weekend of dear friends, a couple from Seattle, the brother of one of the partners and his best friend--all gay. The last production of the first term opens here tomorrow and I am looking forward to getting away for the weekend, kicking back and having as great and disreputable a time with all these guys as I can possibly manage.
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
We try to remember sun screen and/or hats for him whenever we go out into the sun to hike or garden but unless he were to live permanently in a beekeeper's headgear, there is really no way to give him the kind of ultimate protection he needs; he is genetically English/Irish and his skin just cannot take a lot of sun.
I'm a real mongrel and proud of it. My paternal grandparents were Italian and French and my maternal grandparents Welsh. Two generations before me, everybody was an immigrant in the great wave that came from Europe in the thirty years both before and after the turn of the 20th century. It made for an interesting and rich, culture while growing up. However many in the family, my father included, wanted to assimilate as quickly as possible and consciously decided to drop as many of the trappings of their parents' old lives. My father even proposed changing the family's name to something "American" (anglo-saxon, actually) and nearly got himself thrown out of the house for the suggestion.
A couple of years ago I inherited something like three cubic feet of mostly unannotated family photos and documents. I knew a great deal about the family but not nearly enough. I've been researching and calling everybody who is left with any connection to the grandparents' generation for help. In the process I have uncovered a couple of delightful family scandals and looked on the faces of people going back into the 1870s I had heard of all during my childhood but never known. Their stories are emerging slowly and are actually fascinating.
In the process I have constructed what is now a six generation family tree from the great grandparents down to the generation that will one day perhaps include my grandchildren, and that now consists of my first cousin's granddaughter. I am including dates of birth, death, marriage (when available), date of arrival in the U.S. (the online Ellis Island records have been a treasure trove), name of ship and ports of departure from Europe and arrival in America. Gradually, others in the family are becoming interested in the emerging document and lending great support. I had feared we might all pull apart and lose touch as we descended through the generations, but this family tree is proving to be the agent of reunion for us all.
Monday, December 01, 2003
Worse, in preparation for World AIDS Day today, the Vatican issued a statement reinforcing its ban on the use of condoms with the absurd statement that they don't guard against the transmission of HIV, the virus being so small as to pass easily through the condom. Chastity, they say is The Only Way. Several of the international AIDS organizations went into fury over this dangerous and deceitful statement, and for good reason. Based on its long-standing ignorance in matters of sexuality, its continuing bigotry toward gays and lesbians, its absurd insistence in trying to control the sex lives of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and its disgraceful, dishonest behavior in the pedophile priest scandal, the Vatican and the Catholic Church in general have no moral authority over the lives of any gay man or lesbian. In my opinion, no moral authority, period.