The Valentine’s Day Broken Heart Countdown – Spoiler Alert…it didn’t end well…
SPOILER ALERT! That comic story I’ve been telling for the past decade or so…it didn’t end well.
You know how the game is played in grade school…right? First base, second base, et al. These days I think of it more along the lines of Kurt Vonnegut’s three strike rule. Well…he didn’t exactly call them strikes. What he said according to his daughter was…
“I think you’re allowed to be in love three times in your life.”
I’ve had my three strikes. Strike three was the boy I met in church. Strike two was when a very pleasant mutual closeness with a straight friend dropped me into a pit lots of gay kids probably find themselves in when they start crushing on a close but thoroughly straight friend. Decades later I’m still not ready to look back on that time.
Strike one was the boy I met in school…that other place which in a better world I might have hoped to find that magical first crush and first date and…dare I imagine it…going to the prom together and all that magical Disney-esq stuff boy and girl couples get promised as a part of growing up. He’s the Tyler (TK) Anderson in A Coming Out Story and no, that’s not his real name. I’ve changed all the names in that cartoon, in part because I don’t want to tell other people’s stories for them, but mostly because the story isn’t about him and it’s only tangentially about me: it’s about growing up gay in 1971-72 America, and what that did to a lot of us and why grownups need to give gay kids a break. I’m telling it with a sense of humor because I can still manage to look back on all that with a sense of humor, and because even after everything that’s happened to me, or not happened as the case may be, I still feel it deep down inside as a magical Disney-esq period in my life. The stars really did shine a little brighter, the sky was a little more blue, the birds really did sing a little more sweetly, I walked with a lighter step. Life was good…wonderful even. You’re allowed to believe it three times in your life.
My first time began as it had to with a couple gay kids, but with the added layer of us both being somewhat nerdish (me Way more than him). First comes a lot of stunned gawking at each other. Gawking turns to smiles, smiles turn to hellos, hellos become brief chats that turn to longer and longer ones. In our case it was the school library where we often met. Talking shyly turned to touching. First in safe pretense that it was accidental. Then it became a thing. The touch of hand to arm. Then meeting each other at the end of the day and walking together out the school door became a thing. From there we went our separate ways. We lived in different neighborhoods. One day on our walk together he put an arm around my shoulders, gave me a quick little squeeze, and before I could say anything rushed out the door with a see ya later. I swear I lifted off soared into the stratosphere right then. Later that evening I could finally admit to myself that I was in love, and oh by the way, gay.
Things developed from there in that thrilling and terrifying way it was for gay kids in 1972. It’s something I still have to think more about how to talk to in my cartoon. But I’ll give everyone a major spoiler now because, why not: It ended abruptly after I made plans with him to go on a camera hike at Great Falls.
I mean…come on… I’m old and single and that we didn’t become a Disney happily ever after couple can’t be much of a spoiler. No, it didn’t work out. But happy Disney endings were on short supply for gay kids in 1971-72. In some places here in America they’re still nearly impossible to find. In some places elsewhere you get thrown off a building or honor killed.
I’d talked him into a tentative interest in photography. Looking back on it if I’d had half a brain, which teenagers don’t, I’d have taking an interest in his interests. But he was into things like tennis and skiing and I am not the sporty type. One day he brought one of his father’s nice Leica cameras to school and I told him what I knew of how to use it. We agreed to go on a hike with our cameras the following Saturday along the towpath at Great Falls. I asked for his phone number so I could call to let him know I was coming. Then the plan was we’d take a drive to the Great Falls park and wander the towpath looking for some good shots. This would also allow us to be alone together for a while, and so I was hoping, get a bunch of stuff out in the open between us that by then was getting ridiculous not to openly acknowledge.
You need to understand…this was spring of 1972. The torrent of abuse gay people got from the world around us back then, from Every Direction, is probably hard for some of you to understand today. And what I didn’t appreciate enough was what would happen when his family found out. I…perhaps stupidly…never thought twice about bringing him home to mom because I just knew mom would have loved him. He was bright, hardworking, decent, the kind of guy I might have hoped to meet in church or in school in some other better world. And mom would have loved him too…right up to the point she found out what my interest in him actually was. What I probably didn’t appreciate enough until decades later was how what happened next may have saved me from that major heartbreak way too many gay kids know all too well: what happens when the parents find out.
We’d agreed I would call at 11 on Saturday. So all morning Saturday I was on pins and needles waiting for the appointed time. When the clock struck 11 I jumped on the phone and dialed. I got an answer, but it wasn’t him. It was an older male voice.
“Yes…is Tyler there”?
Tyler comes on the phone. First words out of his mouth are…and I’m not kidding: “Why are you calling me!?”
His voice was terse, irritated. For a second I didn’t know what to say. Like an idiot I began to remind him of our plans for a Saturday morning camera hike.
“I never agreed to that.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about”
“I never said I was going anywhere with you.”
…but…yes you did…
“I don’t know why you’re calling me.”
That was pretty much how it went.
If I’d had half a brain, which teenagers don’t, I’d have realized something was going on at his end and I just needed to play along…oh sorry…this has all been a terrible mistake, please accept my profuse apologies… But now in addition to the massive letdown I’m feeling I’m also getting a bit irritated at being called a liar and by him no less. So I stupidly pressed on…yeah we did…we were going to go to Great Falls..
“No…I never said anything of the sort..”
…with our cameras…
“I just don’t know why you’re calling me.”
Finally in desperation I said, “You gave me your phone number!”
And he says… “Well I didn’t think you’d use it!”
Which must have gone over well with whoever was at his end listening in.
After that, he kept me at arm’s length for the rest of the school year. I figured I would just wait it out, whatever it was, and eventually he’d start talking to me again. But it wasn’t long after that the family moved away, and for the next three decades I wondered what had happened, where he’d gone.
I moved on and yet I didn’t. Isn’t that how it goes? But straight kids had the possibility of getting a little closure afterward. Why did this happen? Why did I get dumped? Father doesn’t like you. Mother says you’re a bad influence. You’re from the wrong neighborhood. You have the wrong religion, color of skin, income level. Gay kids get reminded not just of how much their culture hates them, but also of how badly the need is to erase us from existence. The beloved gets hospitalized and the scared and terrified other gets told they don’t belong there with them and security escorts them out the door, while the family that hates them both is allowed the bedside. The beloved dies and the one left behind is denied a place at the funeral while the family that hates them both changes the locks on the doors to their home and removes their belongings to distribute amongst themselves. You have no rights. It isn’t just you don’t belong here. It’s you do not exist.
I kept searching for him. There were other guys, other attempts at just getting a date, strikes two and three came and went. I never stopped trying but I never stopped searching for him either. At first I just wanted to know what had happened and hoped against hope that we could begin again, and maybe this time it would go better. Then came AIDS. I visited the Names Project quilt the day it was first displayed on the Capital Mall, and for years afterward had nightmares of wandering among the panels and finding the one with his name on it. So I kept searching. I had to know.
I eventually found him. I’ll write about it someday. It’s not a happy Walt Disney ending. Those are for the happiest place on earth. But for your gay neighbors of a certain age, that ending is the rare and wonderful exception. We did not exist back in those days. Thank goodness you’re only allowed to learn that three times in your life. I don’t think I could handle a forth.
New York Times Magazine Publishes “What It Means To Be A Homosexual”: 1971. The Harper’s October 1970 cover screed by Joseph Epstein — the one where he called gay people “an affront to our rationality” and were “condemned to a state of permanent niggerdom among men” — generated an outpouring of anger in the gay community, which resulted in a protest inside the offices of Harper’s (see Oct 27). Gay activists demanded another article to give the gay community equal exposure, but the Harper’s refused the request. Its editors also refused to apologize. The outrageous insults in the piece become something of a second, lesser Stonewall in the way it brought out even more gays and lesbians who decided it was time to become more involved publicly.
Among them was Merle Miller, a former editor at Harper’s who was also a novelist and biographer…
You should go read the whole thing…Jim’s “Today In History” posts are worth reading every day. But this one always helps remind me of the times I grew up and passed through adolescence in.
Ah…adolescence… That magical, wonderful time when we are discovering what desire and love are all about and all that icky holding hands and dating stuff the big kids were always going on about was all about. Well it should have been the most magical, wonderful passage in our lives that is…but for some of us, condemned to a state of permanent niggerdom, it was deliberately made into a nightmare so that others could feel appropriately righteous. That was more the fact for others than for me, thankfully, or I might not even be here now to type all this. But the atmosphere of hatred and contempt I grew up within did its job on me too. In 1971, the year before I graduated from high school, the year I experienced my first crush and fell madly in love, Joseph Epstein wrote, “If I had the power to do so, I would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth.” He couldn’t of course, but there was always the next best thing. You could make sure whenever it was in your power to do so, that a gay kid never had that chance to know what it was to love, and be loved wholeheartedly in return.
Without a doubt Epstein did just that whenever he got the chance. His howl against the homosexual in that Harper’s article almost certainly became a dagger in the the hopes and dreams of young gay men and women back then, reassuring parents, teachers, clergy that it was no sin to put a knife in the hearts of teenagers in love, that if they were condemned to live their one life in loneliness and heartache that was merely the Curse Of Homosexuality, not their own bar stool arrogance and cheapshit prejudices that did it to them. Bobby and Johnny are getting just a little too friendly aren’t they…let’s pack them off to the psychiatrist quickly now…or to some nice church camp somewhere far away, where they can pray their unspeakable sin away…
Ah…Valentine’s Day…when all the lonely hearts ponder writing new songs about the one that did them wrong. I have a different thing in mind. How about stories of that which might have been, but for the cheapshit prejudices of the world we were thrown into.
I have a few stories of my own to tell. Pull up a chair. Sit a spell. Love is in the air. Let me pour you a drink. There is a box of Valentine’s Day candy over there on the table, pieces like the moon rattling hollowly inside…angry, angry candy…
by Bruce |
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December 23rd, 2016
Brought me to tears, this. Especially since the company that produced this ad, Kodak, has been such a big part of my life and they’re struggling now to hold on in this digital age (note that the filmmaker shot this in 35mm). They could have just kept silent but not only did they not do that, they went far beyond simply making a boilerplate statement of diversity: they showed us all a film about love. And now…when so many people need it so very much.
I think this may just be the best Christmas present ever. Thank you so much Kodak: from a gay guy who’s been an amateur/sometimes professional photographer since he was a teenager back in the 1960s-70s (who still loves his film cameras very much). I wish I could have grown up in the world your filmmaker shows us here…but I am glad that other gay kids will now…thanks to folks like you.
December 15, 1971…Sometime around twilight I took a walk from the apartment mom and I shared, up Parklawn Drive to Twinbrook Parkway, then across the railroad tracks and to Rockville Pike. I sat down on a curb near the Radio Shack and watched the twilight deepen over Congressional Plaza. A classmate I was madly crushing on, but could not admit to myself that I was crushing on, had put an arm across my shoulders as we walked together down a school hallway to a side exit where he always parked his little motorcycle, and given me a quick little squeeze, and my head went into the stratosphere and I’d been walking on air ever since. I was watching the colors in the sky deepen, but all I could see was his face, and all I could think about was how it felt to have his arm around me.
Eventually I could think it: I’m in love. And then I could think the rest of it and not be afraid or ashamed, because nothing had ever felt so wonderful. And from that moment on I was never afraid or ashamed. Life was better than I’d ever thought possible. The days after that, winter into spring, then into summer, really were like a Walt Disney movie. The birds really did sing a little more sweetly. The stars really did shine a little more brightly. I walked with a lighter step. Life was wonderful. Everything was wonderful.
Forty-five years ago…
by Bruce |
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November 28th, 2016
The Man With The Power
Those interesting little intersections between my gay heritage and my science-fiction geek child heritage. On a Facebook page I follow, dedicated to Retro Sci-Fi good stuff, someone posted the trailer to the George Pal film version of Frank M. Robinson’s novel, The Power. I wrote in the comments…
If you haven’t watched this, see if you can find the novel it is based on by Frank M. Robinson and read that first. It pulls a pretty impressive rabbit out of the hat at the end that you don’t see coming and the movie had a hard time giving it the same kind of impact. Pal gave it his best shot but he went for the science-fiction visuals and the book reads more like a dark cinema noir detective story.
I’d bought my copy whilst browsing the paperback shelves on the basis that it had been made into a George Pal movie and I was a fan of his. But it was better I read the book first, because as I say there it really throws you a very clever plot twist at the end that you don’t see coming, but it retrospect it was all there. Robinson played fair. And as I said, it read more like a dark cinema noir detective story than a science fiction thriller about a man with superhuman powers of mind over matter. It’s a good read…I highly recommend it.
While googling more about it I discovered this, from Robinson’s obituary in the New York Times…
Frank M. Robinson, a well-regarded science fiction writer whose credits include a novel adapted for the 1974 blockbuster film “The Towering Inferno,” and who was also a speechwriter and adviser to Harvey Milk, the San Francisco city supervisor assassinated in 1978, died on Monday at his home in San Francisco. He was 87…
He made his name as a writer on the basis of The Power, and got screen co-credit for two Irwin Allen blockbusters and with that money settled in San Francisco where he met Harvey Milk and worked for him as a speechwriter. He had a small role in the movie Milk and its star Sean Penn interviewed him extensively about his memories of Harvey…
Mr. Robinson had little or no dialogue in most of his scenes. But at one point he improvised a line, standing at a window to shout a profane coming-out announcement about his sexuality. “I’ll tell my brothers!” he said. Mr. Van Sant liked the moment well enough to film it a second time.
Mr. Robinson had never told anyone in his family that he was gay, neither his parents nor his four brothers. And though the scene did not end up in the film, saying the words had made him tremble with emotion, he told The Chicago Reader. It had been his coming out.
“I suddenly realized I was saying goodbye to all that baggage.”
Power, power, who had the power…? You did Frank. Well done.
by Bruce |
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A Memory of Love And Romance
You reposted one of those Facebook chain post things…this one was where you ask people to post something they remember most about you and then repost it to see what people remember most about them. But I can’t post this to your page because…well…you know. So I’m posting it here. It’s actually something I posted back in the Usenet days, on alt.romance. Some moron wrote in there that gays don’t really love so there couldn’t be any such thing as gay romance, and in a way of fighting back at that crude prejudice I posted this. It’s been a while so I’ve edited it a tad.
It’s as close as I ever came to it, for a while I believed I was living it…finally, so the memory is very heavily tinged with sorrow and regret. But you gave me a chance to revisit it tonight and for that I am grateful….
In the mid-90s I began dating a guy I’d known since we were both boys growing up in a suburb of Washington D.C. He came from a very anti-Gay fundamentalist family and things he’d experienced had wounded him deeply. But he had a kind and gentle heart and he was a survivor. We’d dated briefly some years before but after coming out to his family he felt he had to break it off. I still vividly remember the hurt, but also my determination to let him go his way without playing the angry jilted lover. Whatever else happened between us, I was not going to become another leash on his collar. I loved him, and I wanted him to have at least one person in his life, willing to let him be free. But god it hurt.
Eventually I moved from the Washington D.C. suburbs where we’d both grown up to the Baltimore suburbs where I’d found work as a software engineer. During that time he went to chef’s school and moved shortly afterwards to Hilton Head where he’d done an internship at a big restaurant. He said later he found he liked the island and that it was good to be living at least one day’s drive away from his parents. One day several years after he’d broken off the relationship with me he called me up, and then later that year came up to visit me. Almost at once we began to rekindle the affair where we’d left off. Two weeks later I went down to Hilton Head to visit him.
We’d known for years that we had a lot in common, both in experience and temperament. We grew up Baptists, I in a more traditional Baptist church, and he in a southern Baptist church. Religion permeated our lives while growing up and we had both had our share of family pressures. We knew what it was like to have to fight every second you were around certain family members, to protect our self identities. We knew how rare and how important it was, to have someone in your lives who loved you who trusted you, and could be trusted unconditionally.
We lived in separate professional worlds; he was working as a cook, trying to make his way to chef, and I had stumbled into a career as a software engineer from teaching myself how to build my own personal computers and then teaching myself how to make them do tricks. He was still struggling to earn a living, and I was making a pretty good one. But as we would talk about our professional lives it became clear to us both that our attitudes about work and the art of what we both did, fitting the process cleanly and elegantly to the job at hand and leaving your mark on everything you do by how well you do it, were just about identical. We were birds of a feather.
When I walked into his apartment on that first visit we discovered a common interest in things 30s and 40s. Big band music, old radios and radio shows, deco and such. As it turned out, he had some friends who owned their own bar and restaurant, which they’d fashioned into a WWII Pacific GI hangout. That evening he took me to their place and we had dinner. It was situated near one of the main public entrances to the beach. Just outside the door a speaker played big band music from the times. Stepping inside was like stepping back in time. Behind the bar was a picture of FDR flanked by two 48 star flags, newspapers from the times, and an old refrigerator. Mounted on the wall was an period black bakelite telephone and below it on a stand stood a period radio which was hooked up to a CD player stashed under the counter playing the music I’d heard outside the door.
We had a great time and afterwards we went back to his house and settled in for the evening. As he was flipping channels he found one that was showing Jimmy Stewart in The Glenn Miller Story. He said that was a good one to watch so we settled in and almost instantly discovered another little bit of common ground: we both liked watching movies on TV while sitting on the floor, backs up against the sofa, snacks placed strategically around us.
It turned out to be a tear jerker at the end. I’d forgotten that Miller died in a plane crash before the end of WWII. The film focused on his struggle to make a living as a musician and the deep bond of love between him and his wife. There’s a running gag about the song “little brown jug”, which she loved and he hated, that runs throughout the film and I won’t give away what happens at the end in case anyone here hasn’t seen it, but it had us both crying, and he’d had already seen it several times. Another piece of common ground: we both like tear jerking romances from Hollywood’s golden age. After the film we talked about our favorites. Mine is Casablanca which to my amazement I found out he hadn’t yet seen. I resolved that when I went to visit him again I’d bring down a copy for us to watch together.
It was getting late and instead of turning in we decided to take a walk to the beach knowing there was a good chance at that hour that we’d have it to ourselves. It was the end of December but all we needed were light jackets. Hilton Head is nearly a tropical paradise but tourist season was still a few months away and the streets were nearly empty. We walked past his friend’s restaurant, the speakers mounted outside the door playing the White Cliffs of Dover as we walked from the pavement to the sand. Apt, I thought, since I felt at the time like I was trying to conduct a romance in a war zone. South Carolina isn’t exactly gay friendly territory.
There was no moon, and the beach was almost pitch black. It was low tide, and at low tide the beaches at Hilton Head become huge. There were no clouds in the sky though, and the night was bright with stars. Not as intense as I’ve seen out west, where the sky fairly blazes with them, but it was a denser field of stars then I usually get here in the Baltimore suburbs. To the east a calm sea seemed to stretch forever toward the bright flickering stars on the horizon.
We walked down to the water’s edge, and turned south. At some point I put my hand in his, something we could never have done there in broad daylight, without risking assault, and possibly even arrest. No love story I’ve read so far has quite fully captured the feeling of how that simple, beautiful, elegant gesture of taking your boyfriend’s hand in yours can be both deeply soul satisfying, and fraught with danger.
But on that shore the night not only sheltered us from hostile eyes, it made us a little paradise. There were no tourists. The locals were all home and we were alone. To the many condos crowding the edge of the dunes we would be two vague figures walking along the beach. The air was cool but not cold and a gentle breeze came ashore with the waves breaking one after the other it seemed as if to the beat of our hearts. We walked for a mile or so down the shore, turned, and started walking back, not speaking a single word, rapt in the simple company of one another like two strings spanning a single instrument vibrating in harmony. I am a fast walker and all my life friends have complained at me to slow down a tad when we’re walking together. I have to think to walk at everyone else’s pace and it’s work. That night he and I kept a slow easy pace with each other that just happened like breathing, and in the back of my mind a slow, easy big band song began to play itself over and over as we walked together.
Eventually we approached the public beach entrance again and we stopped not wanting to return to the real world just yet. We stood on the shore and I put my arm around his waist and he put his head on my shoulder and we looked up at the stars. I love star gazing and began pointing out this and that constellation to him. Orion was high in the sky, his sword pointing toward the sea. I was pointing out the three blue giants that made up the belt when a meteor shot across it. He shivered, and I think I did too, and for a while all we did was stand there silently watching the heavens and listening to the waves breaking nearby.
In the parking lot on the other side of the dunes a car radio briefly blared out some loud music and drove away. When it was quiet again I remarked that I’d had a big band tune dancing in my thoughts all that time, and he just nodded his head, “Moonlight serenade…right? Me too.” I like to think that even if it had been broad daylight in that moment I would have still drawn him to me and kissed him.
We stood there in each other’s embrace for the longest time. Eventually we slowly walked back to the public walkway. The little bars and restaurants nearby were all closing and there were people in the parking area. As we walked onto the pavement our hands parted. We were back in the world. Somebody beside one of the parked cars was having a loud argument with his companions about who should drive. He looked drunk and I hoped he didn’t end up winning the argument. In the distance I heard somebody’s car alarm start warbling for a moment. We crossed the parking lot, and walked around the traffic circle to the road leading back to his apartment. On the way we passed his friend’s restaurant. It was closed, but the outdoor radio was still turned on and it was playing Moonlight Serenade.
[Update…] Our little fling didn’t last long. It was a long distance relationship when we started it up again, with me in Baltimore and he in Hilton Head, and he eventually dumped me for a guy he’d met on AOL messenger, who I guess he just liked better than me. They’ve been together 17 years now. I was a contract software developer back then and my company had offices close to Hilton Head and I was making plans to move closer to him when I got told. We were chatting on AOL messenger when I asked him straight up if he was seeing someone else and he said finally that he was. So I stayed here in Baltimore and eventually got the job at Space Telescope and a house of my own, which he actually visited once, so I could say it all worked out I suppose. But like that character in Heinlein’s Job – A Comedy of Justice, I’d have washed dishes forever to have had him to come home to. So it didn’t work out, it just happened the way it did.
by Bruce |
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October 30th, 2016
Can you paint with all the colors of love…?
Back from another much needed Walt Disney World vacation. Guess which Mickey pin you can’t find at Walt Disney World anymore…
And no, they’re not gone because I bought every one…although it may look like that here. After the Pulse shootings they were everywhere around Walt Disney World. They had a giant sized one near the entrance to the pin trader’s hutch in Disney Springs last July, but you couldn’t find any of the pins. I figured they were just out of stock. But no, they’re not selling them anymore.
Granted, this isn’t the gay rights movement rainbow. That’s a different set of colors. I knew that when I first set eyes on one of these. It’s called the Peace Rainbow. But it’s close enough that many of us just started wearing it, particularly around Gay Days. Nobody expected Disney, in it’s nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean, relationship with its LGBT guests to actually produce a rainbow flag Mickey. But it was close enough that if you wore one, everyone pretty much knew what it meant. I wore mine back in July, after Pulse, and got a lot of sympathetic comments from the cast members.
This time around I mostly wore my Tomorrowland pin (and got some friendly comments about that too). But on my last day I wore a rainbow Mickey and as I was being checked into Epcot the security lady who went through my camera bag said “I like your pin…I have one at home”. This is how we wave to each other.
So…the reason I have so many of these is I would go to Walt Disney World and forget my rainbow Mickey and just buy a new one while I was there. They were that ubiquitous. Now that they’re not selling them anymore (I asked, and was told I might be able to find one on eBay…(sigh)) I might have some collectibles now. I’m guessing the reason is ever since Pulse and the sudden explosions of rainbow Mickey’s all over the parks the jig was up and now Disney can’t sell them anymore because…well…
And it’s not even the LGBT rainbow. Be nice if they actually did produce an actual rainbow flag Mickey. They make them for other nations and ethnic groups after all. But you can just hear people bellyaching about Disney bringing sex into a Family Friendly theme park, sexualizing Mickey, a children’s cartoon character forever ruined, if they did. That relentless dehumanization of gay people is another topic, for another day. It’s the reason why you can see images of Disney lovers everywhere in the parks, in all the shops and character meets…and they’re all exclusively opposite sex pairs. Opposite sex coupling is love. Aren’t they so adorable?
A rainbow Mickey couldn’t be about all the colors of love. Because homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.
by Bruce |
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October 20th, 2016
At The LGBT Film Festival…
Posted to the NBC News website…which says something about how far we’ve come…
More than 100 features and short films are being shown at NewFest: New York’s LGBT Film Festival this year, and the slate includes the largest offering of international films in the festival’s history.
“More filmmakers around the world are interested in telling LGBTQ stories, and they’re doing them better than ever,” NewFest Executive Director Robert Kushner told NBC OUT.
NBC OUT…wow. Back when I was a gay teenager I would never have expected to read those words on a network TV publication.
18 countries are represented in the film fest. The article singles out 11 films to watch. This one…immediately caught my attention…
Would you risk it all for a second shot at love? That’s what “Esteros” explores. In the film, Matías and Jerónimo reunite more than a decade after their attraction first became apparent as teenagers. When family judgment got in the way, Matías was forced to move to Brazil. And while Matías has now returned to their hometown in Argentina, he’s brought his girlfriend along with him and complicated matters further. The men’s chemistry, however, remains. But whereas Jerónimo is a confident and out gay man, Matías has barely allowed himself to question his sexuality…
Yeah…there are elements to this story obviously that punch me right in the gut. But on the other hand it helps more than I can say: It means I am not alone in having this sort of experience. It’s real easy these days to be both delighted at how far we’ve come, and bitter that the point of all of it shot right past me…and so many others of my generation. This film looks like it speaks to that. I’ll be looking for it on the DVD circuit.
by Bruce |
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September 26th, 2016
What Love Can Do
So every now and then I dig back into my photo archives from the high school days, looking for reference material for A Coming Out Story. It’s the little things, like how the doorways were and the tile on the walls next to the floors. How those old metal desks looked, and the desk/chairs for students. How the window frames looked. Stuff like that. And as I go through the photos looking for reference material, I also see stuff that I think would be fun to share on our high school Facebook page. So periodically that page gets a photo dump from me.
And then the real fun starts, when my classmates start chiming in about who’s in the shots, and various memories start happening. And what really strikes me almost every time is hearing about who was dating, or had a crush on who, because I was such an oblivious little nerd back then. And I read things and my jaw drops, but in a fun way.
Part of the story I’m telling in ACOS is how unaware I was of what was happening to my peers, hormone wise, because I was so unaware of what was going on with me. In episodes 17, 18 and 19 I tried to describe why that was, how the awful sex ed class I had in junior high filled my head with so much ignorant junk about gay people that I became convinced that I couldn’t possibly be that, even as I was crushing massively on a classmate.
Just a little while ago one of my classmates posted a comment on one of my photos about how she got butterflies whenever she saw one of the guys in that shot. That would happen to me too, whenever I caught sight of the object of my affections. But thanks to that sex ed class, and the relentless stream of abuse hurled at gay people in the popular culture, I could never really see that for what it was. I know that’s probably hard to believe, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m doing my story.
So I spent most of my teen years absolutely hating the whole idea of dating and everything to do with high school romance. And whenever the topic came up I did what I learned so well how to do in Vacation Bible School…I tuned it out and disappeared into my own private thoughts about something, anything, else. Now at least I get to finally see what was going on with my classmates back then, even if it’s 45 years after the fact. It’s kinda fun in a way, to almost feel like I’m walking those halls once again with them, but this time not quite so completely oblivious.
Eventually, almost at the last minute of my school days, I woke up to it. This December 15th would make it 45 years since that moment when I finally had to admit to myself what I was feeling. And luckily it didn’t destroy me like it did so many other gay guys of my generation. Because I was in love and it felt like the most wonderful thing in the world. It was stunning. It was magical. And I knew right then and there that everything my gym teachers had said about gays in that sex ed class was bullsh*t.
Love will do that.
by Bruce |
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August 8th, 2016
Some Of Us Will Always Be Living In A Time Of AIDS
Time passes, the universe expands, science does its thing, and where once a diagnosis of AIDS was a death sentence, now it is a largely manageable illness. Treatments are out there that can reduce a person’s viral load to undetectable levels. And there is even PrEP, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis…a little blue pill that us HIV negative folk can take if we’re still sexually active, that can reduce the risk of HIV infection by over 90 percent.
But AIDS still has the power to make me cry, even now, so many years after it first began taking people away from me, so many years after the worst of it. Friends I’d made on the GLIB BBS (the Gay and Lesbian Information Bureau), gay folk I’d come to know in other settings, artists, musicians, people who made life beautiful. I used to have nightmares of walking among the Names Project quilt panels and suddenly coming upon a name I really, really didn’t want to see there. It seemed like it would never stop. And it hasn’t really. Just yesterday I learned a classmate from high school, Rocky, had been taken, back in the late ’80s.
I’d had no idea. We weren’t friends back in Class of 1971-72, but he was in the Drama Seminar and as student newspaper photographer I got to watch him in rehearsals, and capture something of him on stage. And Rocky just came to life on the stage. I still vividly recall a moment when, during a rehearsal of “Beggar on Horseback”, after one of the characters delivered a dark, melodramatic line, Rocky suddenly ad libbed running across the stage laughing maniacally, flapping his cape behind him. Everyone laughed. The director said, “Keep it.” And that was how they performed that scene.
When I got my film developed I showed him some of the shots and he asked for copies. These two of him on stage below, are my favorites of him. And all these years later I’m still kinda proud he liked them. He was really something special on stage, and when another artist like that gives your art some respect it lifts you up.
In retrospect I should have seen it, but it’s testimony to how naive and clueless I was back then (years later at a class reunion I was clued into some student gossip of who was doing who back then and you should have seen my jaw dropping). I was posting to the Woodward 1970s Alumni Facebook group the other day, I began to remember, and wonder, and I asked if anyone knew what had become of him. And yes, I asked with a touch of apprehension. You had to have lived through it to understand how reflexive that flinch is. And…I was told.
And it all comes back…all the misery. It just keeps on happening. He was a sweetheart, and so very talented and alive. Way more than I ever was or could be. Here’s to you Rocky…and to everyone who loved and was loved by you. If I could have one hour of time to go back to, I would spend it back then on the Woodward stage with my camera, being the student newspaper photographer, watching you and all my other classmates in the Drama Seminar. We had so much fun and we didn’t even know how much.
by Bruce |
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August 3rd, 2016
A Coming Out Story #20…Please Stand By…
Actually managing now to get some work done on ACOS #20 and the start of its next chapter. Here’s the first row of panels in progress…
by Bruce |
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August 2nd, 2016
That Feeling You’ve Done All This Before…But Differently…
Facebook has this memories thing where it shows you all the posts you’ve made on this day, running back to the beginning of your Facebook account. Here’s what came up in mine today…
It was prescient…I watched Gollum fall in with it last spring. But he was happy at last, so there’s that.
It would have been ten years this October 6. Now I just wait for the boat to take me to The Undying Lands…
by Bruce |
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