COVID-19 Came In Like a Wrecking Ball.

PRIDE Month became an after thought this June as COVID-19 took over our lives

It was sometime after June 5th. I don’t know how we got it and at this point it doesn’t really matter to us, speculating on it is a waste of energy. All I know is that my husband started developing symptoms first, then I followed shortly thereafter. He knew in his gut it was COVID-19. I tried to hold on to the hope that is was the usual summer cold that we’ve both been known to come down with. Then the tests came back, I couldn’t have been more wrong, we both had it. The next three and a half weeks were going to be long and scary, we were going to find out the hard way just how badly our bodies could betray us. 

My husband will get a fever even if he develops a mild cold. When he came home from work complaining that he didn’t feel good I took it in stride. This happens almost every summer. He took his temperature later that night and it was slightly elevated, nothing to write home about. Also, he’s been known to be somewhat of a hypochondriac over the years, so I didn’t rush right out and contact the CDC. The next day I started feeling “off.” My eye sockets started burning and my energy level was non-existent. Unlike my husband I am not prone to fevers. I’ve been known to be sick with the flu, sinus infections, or what have you. Rarely do I run a temp. When I saw that I was running a 102 fever I knew it could not be good. Unfortunately that was only the tip of the iceberg. 

I’m 50 years old and to say that I’ve never been this sick in my entire life is telling. At one point I wanted to board our dogs and voluntarily go to the hospital, only to be told that they don’t want us. You only go to the hospital when you cannot breath and your turning blue. You basically only go there to get on a ventilator or die. The only other time in my life when I was so scared that actually being dead was a possibility was when I was the manager at a video store in the early 2000’s and two men came and put a gun to my head in a robbery. 

We were so sick that nothing mattered anymore. Not my social media projects. Not the podcast that I produce and co-host. Not PRIDE month. Not my beloved video games. Not being at the beach on Sunday with our friends. Nothing. I didn’t talk to anyone other then my mother. I didn’t want my friends to know or anyone else to know what had happened to us. I didn’t want people stigmatizing us. I talk to my friend Cory as least every other day, finally after not hearing from me for three weeks I got a text asking if I were alive. Writing this blog is hard and uncomfortable for me. I wasn’t going to do it, but I’m trying to reach people. I’m trying to show you that this is not a hoax, stunt, or just some government conspiracy to try to take away your rights by making you wear a mask. I can’t believe I need to even say this, but if the government wanted to control you, they would NOT do it by trying to make you wear a surgical or any other kind of mask. First of all facial recognition software doesn’t work if your picked up on camera and you have a mask on. Isn’t facial recognition just one of the ways the government is trying to control us? The government would try to control us with microchip under our skin, tattooed bar codes or soldiers on every street corner brandishing a gun. NOT surgical masks. You might as just admit it, you don’t want to wear a mask simply because you don’t want to wear a mask. I mean I get it no one wants to wear one but on the other hand what happened to the times when we pulled together as a country in crisis? What happened to the times we all did something none of us wanted to do for the greater good of our community?

People who really know me know that I’m not an alarmist, I don’t panic and I’m not being overly dramatic for no reason. So many people, especially on social media say that they should not have to wear a mask just because other people are scared. Rightly so, I’m scared. I am not scared for me though, I’m scared for you. I’m scared for your kids. I’m scared for your family. I’m scared for your pets. If you go to the hospital and never come back they won’t know why. I’m no longer scared for me, I survived the most painful body aches I’ve ever had. The shortness of breath and the pain I felt in my kidneys and the fever. The intestinal pain. I even had swollen and bleeding gums. I’ve lost 30LBS because of lack of appetite. If anyone tells you that COVID-19 is just a bad flu they are dead wrong.

My husband has made a full and complete recovery, he’s back to work and we are trying to navigate the financial hardships that this has caused for us. For me though there are lingering effects. As a child I was prone to bouts of pneumonia and ended up in an oxygen tent more then once, so my lungs are already damaged. I continue to have a cough. It can be mild or it can be so violent that I hack to hard and dry heave and gag for minutes on end. Minutes do not sound like a long time, but they are when your coughing and can’t breath. I use an inhaler now because I’m short of breath. My appetite still hasn’t fully recovered and neither has my energy level. Cognitively my recall has suffered, sometimes it takes me a minute to think of a name or access the right words to describe a memory. Writing is something that usually comes easily to me, that’s now somewhat of a challenge. Since COVID I find myself to be irritable. The least little thing will set me off. I kind of got into an argument with my friends on social media over something stupid. These were not acquaintances or people I do not interact with on a regular basis, these are people we see and hang out with, people I consider friends. Needless to say I have not been myself. 

I was scared that my life would not be back to normal, but I found an article by English journalist Richard Quest who also suffered from COVID. It turns out that he is still suffering from long and short term side effects of the disease as are a lot of people. For some people when the test comes back with a negative life goes on and gets back to normal, whatever that is. For other people COVID leaves side effects and scars. Those scars can be a lingering cough, cognitive issues, or financial stress from not being able to pay your bills or your rent. We found out the hard way that COVID-19 is no joke and it’s something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. 

I’m putting myself “out there” by writing this, even more then I usually do. I have no doubt that I’ll be ridiculed by my more conservative friends. Like everyone else I wish this would just go away, but how can it when half of us are fighting to end it and the other half of us are enabling the disease and living with the illusion that we’re the ones in control.

Five Years In, Thanks for Following

It’s a milestone anniversary, but we’re only just beginning.

I missed our anniversary. On April 12, 2020 OUT in Michigan City turned five years old. COVID-19 has us all distracted. I was aware that the anniversary was coming up and I wanted to throw a huge party with our logo on everything. I had hopes of raising money for Michigan City PRIDE Fest 2020 by making our anniversary party a fundraiser. Yet here we are, like for so many people life is on hold. It’s like we’re fly’s stuck in amber watching the world go by without us. PRIDE events all over the nation are being cancelled including the iconic San Francisco and New York PRIDE events. I haven’t heard what’s going to happen in our hometown but I don’t have high hopes.

John M. Livelsberger interviews LGBTQ rights activists Steven & Joshua Snyder-Hill. Photo Jack Foos-Gordan

I started OUT in Michigan City five years ago after a visit to Indianapolis. My husband and I traveled to Indy so I could get an interview with LGBTQ rights activists Steven Snyder-Hill and his husband Joshua for an LGBTQ online news magazine based out of Chicago and we participated in a protest march during the weekend of the NCAA playoffs. The march was in protest of the newly signed Religious Freedom Restoration Act. I had never marched in protest before, but what I found in Indianapolis was a community that pulled together. The energy and love in the air moved me and was so palpable you could almost reach out and touch it. By the end of the day I got my interview with the Snyder-Hills but I brought back to Michigan City so much more.

We have a large LGBTQ community here in Michigan City and in the surrounding communities, yet why weren’t we organized? So I started OUT in Michigan City. I wanted our community informed on what law makers in Indianapolis were doing. I wanted us to have a sense of community and I wanted us to support and love one another. Lot’s of city’s have a “gayborhood,” Michigan City is one big gayborhood and it was long past time that we pulled together as a community and showed our PRIDE in our city and each other.

From Left, Jayda Pill, Wilma Fingerdo, and Dena Richards. Photo: Facebook

In the five years since we went live others in our community have had the same idea. Michigan City’s LGBTQ community has arrived and we’ve become an oasis in Northwest Indiana where we can live and love openly and I could not be anymore prouder of my adopted hometown. We now have LGBTQ friendly business’s, those businesses are suffering because of the social distancing restrictions, yet there’s hope. Drag queens Wilma Fingerdo, Jayda Pill, and Dena Richards are helping support Fiddlehead Restaurant and it’s employees by running take out orders to waiting cars on Saturday afternoon. Because of them giving a few hours of their time Fiddlehead sold out of food they last two Saturdays and can remain open and pay their employees. There’s the love and sense of community I was looking for five years ago, as I figured it was right in our backyard this whole time.

Protesting RFRA in Indianapolis. Photo: John M. Livelsberger

Despite what’s going on in the world OUT in Michigan City is going to keep growing along with our LGBTQ community. We we first started we were just a Facebook page. Now you’re reading this on our website outinmichigancity.com. We’ve also started a podcast called The Bent Edge. It’s the Region’s first unapologetically gay podcast. Where as OUT in Michigan City is news oriented and serious The Bent Edge is irreverent and witty where no subject is off limits. So, to the over 1,655 people that ‘like’ or ‘follow’ us on social media, thank you, we hope you stick with us for the long haul, our story is just beginning.

Please give OUT in Michigan City a like on Facebook as well as The Bent Edge Michigan City only unapologetically gay podcast with new episodes weekly. The Bent Edge can be heard on Apple Podcast, Spotify and other platforms.

Coronavirus, The New New Normal.

A health crisis that could have been handled in a competent way at it’s onset, instead President Trump is carrying on the Reagan legacy.

I’m having a hard time finding balance. I want to be there for my community in a positive way during this health crisis but the other part of me is very angry. OUT in Michigan City has over 1600 followers on our Facebook page. People from all over the world have visited our website and we just launched our podcast “The Bent Edge.” I want readers and listers to be informed and entertained. I would like nothing more than to make people laugh or give someone something thoughtful to think about. I want to make people feel good no matter who they are. We would like to be a positive voice in the darkness. Yet, I can’t seem to get over my own anger right now and I don’t want it to bleed into other peoples lives and bring someone down even further. So, I’m going to get it out. I’m going to do what I always do, exercise the angry demon that invades my soul from time to time by writing it out.

President Trump addresses concerns about the Coronavirus pandemic.

One of the reasons I’m angry is because I just got into a war of words with a Trump supporter, which is not unusual. This particular Trump supporter did not like it that I called the president a “low life con-artist,” referring to his handling of the pandemic in which we find ourselves. This man was offended by my opinion of the president. He claimed, “That low life con artist has done more for this country since I have been voting than any of the other idiot presidents.” My knee jerk was to tell this person to fuck off which I kind of did, but my other reaction was this. I calmly explained that two years ago President Trump dismantled The National Security Council’s Pandemic Response Team. I then pointed out had the President not taken this action we may have been able to avoid the pandemic. He’s response was; “I am sure he thought it was just another worthless government agency collecting paychecks.” Really? That’s your defense of President Trump? I have no doubt that the government has overspent for agencies that we don’t or didn’t need in the past, but an agency that is in place to protect the health of the American people from a global pandemic is not one of them. The Pandemic Response Team is like your home or car insurance, you pay the fucking bill every month and hope you don’t need it. You don’t cancel it because your house has not burned down yet.

AIDS Activists protesting then President Ronald Reagan’s handling of the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s

I’m also angry because this is taking me back to the 1980’s during the onset of the AIDS epidemic. You notice that you don’t see a lot of gay men especially the older generation freaking out over this. I was a teenager in the 80’s and in my early twenties in the 90’s when AIDS was still a death sentence. Coming out of the closet can be scary, but in those days if certain people found out you were gay there was a good chance you would be made out to be a villain because of your sexuality. All the sudden people who didn’t understand what being gay meant thought that all gay men had AIDS. Lot’s of these men were beaten in violent confrontations or ostracized from there families. After being diagnosed many of these gay men were disowned and left alone to die. Can you imagine, alone in the hospital or worse in a back alley somewhere homeless and abandoned dying of a disease that no one understood and that had no cure. At the time this was “new normal” for the gay community. This new normal was all encompassing. Our government didn’t care that gay men were dying. 

President Ronald Reagan and his administration did everything thing they could to ignore AIDS. The government did NOTHING to help the sick. 39 million people have died of AIDS since the onset of the epidemic in the early 1980’s. Right now at this very moment everyone now knows what it’s like to be living with a virus that has no cure and coping with incompetent government leaders, and a current president that claimed during it’s onset that this pandemic was a hoax conjured up by political enemies. As I write this Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that the state has had it’s first death because of COVID-19. Had the Reagan Administration did the right thing during the AIDS crisis, which was to protect Americans that just happen to be gay, whole communities may not have been wiped out. President Trump is taking us all down the same road that the Reagan Administration took the gay community down. I had hoped that road was closed forever. 

I can’t speak for the entire gay community I can only speak for myself. As a proud gay man, I don’t wish the gross incompetence, neglect and fear that our community experienced on anyone. COVID-19 IS NOT AIDS and some people will recover others may not. As with the AIDS crisis I blame the mishandling of this crisis on an incompetent president with no understanding or compassion for the people he’s supposed to be serving. No one deserves to live through this uncertainty once. Some of us are living through it twice, first with AIDS and now COVID-19. 

We will not get through this as a LGBTQ community or a straight community, we will get through this as a human community and when the dust settles and it’s all over we will hold those elected officials responsible. 

Be safe and be kind to each other and remember we will come out on the other side of this, hopefully as a better and kinder community.

Peace, Acceptance, and PRIDE

We arrived at the bar Saturday night and the first thing that hit me was the crowd. There was really no one there that we knew, DJ Mark was setting up but that was about it. I had expected to see some friends or people I recognized hanging out having a cocktail or two while they waited for the show to start. Then I got a really good look at the crowd. There was a group of guys in their twenties, one of whom was wearing a pro-gun rights hoodie. I gave my husband a sideways glance as DJ Mark came up and sat at our table to chat. “I’m a little concerned with the crowd,” I said, “Do they know there’s a drag show tonight?” Mark nodded in agreement, but what was there to do? 

Welcome to the Other Sides Kane Richards. Photo: John M. Livelsberger

Soon Jayda Pill, that evenings drag queen and Kane Richards that evenings drag king arrived in full face and started working the crowd. Selfies were being taken and the mood in the pub quickly turned up a notch. Welcome to the Other Side, our local drag troupe were doing a spotlight show that night. Since we have no local gay bars anymore when the “straight” bars really want a amazing weekend turn out they go to the group and ask them to perform. About every other month they have a “spot light” show where two of their six members will perform small sets and in between numbers DJ Mark keeps the crowd pumped as he spins music that everyone can dance to. 

By 10pm when Jayda hit the stage for her first number the bar was packed and our friends had arrived. I took a minute to take a look around, there was no tension or animosity, gay people and straight people were interacting and dancing together peace and love where in the air, a far cry from a few short decades ago. Michigan City had come along way in the 16 years that I moved here. This was originally supposed to be a two year layover as I worked at the local casino and saved my money to move to Chicago. I had no intention of staying here, then when I least expected it as often happens to people, I fell in love. First with this city then with the guy I would end up marrying.

Jayda Pill performing at Creekside Bar & Grill. Photo John M. Livelsberger

Over the last couple years Michigan City PRIDE Fest has helped bring the whole community tougher and bridge a lot of gaps. No matter who you are Gay, straight, bi, questioning, you’re welcome at PRIDE and the sense of belonging is just paid forward through out the rest of the year. 

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is going into it’s third year and we’d like to invite you everyone one to come out and celebrate your lives and celebrate living your truth, no matter what it is.

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 20th, 2020 from 1pm to 9pm at the Guy Foreman Amphitheater in Washington Park, Michigan City Indiana.

Welcome to the Other Side can be seen at RG’s Bar & Grill, 9954 West, US-6, Westville, IN 46391, Saturday March 7th, 2020

Welcome to the Other Side will be performing a all ages drag brunch at Fiddlehead Restaurant Sunday, March 22, 2020 at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. Click here for reservations.

“First Name Mayor, Last Name Pete”…Why Running for President Mattered.

On Sunday Mayor Pete suspended his presidential campaign, but in running for president he changed perceptions and started a conversation.

On June 26, 2015 Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend Indiana published in op-ed in The South Bend Tribune called “Why Coming Out Matters,” effectively letting all his constituents know that their mayor was a proud gay man. Since coming out Mayor Pete and his husband Chasten have lived openly and proudly sharing their lives with the City of South Bend and the rest of the state of Indiana. Last year he announced that he was a candidate for President of the United States. Building a grass roots momentum as the only gay man to ever run for president he was able to out raise campaign funds of other more established candidates that have been on the national stage for years. After winning the Iowa Caucus but showing a poor performance in the South Carolina primary the New York Times and other media outlets reported on Sunday that Mr. Buttigieg has suspended his race for president. Stating in a speech given in South Bend Sunday night, “The truth is that the path has narrowed to a close, for our candidacy if not for our cause.” Mayor Pete’s popularity and visibility comes on the heels of the damage that now Vice-President Mike Pence tried to do to Indiana’s LGBTQ community by signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)

Governor Mike Pence signing RFRA

On March 26, 2015 the state of Indiana gained national attention when then Governor Mike Pence signed RFRA into law behind closed doors and surrounded by local religious “leaders” thus sparking national outrage and drawing protests to Indianapolis. A year before that the LGBTQ community were fighting HJR-3, a proposed law that would change Indiana’s state constitution stating that legal marriage was only between one man and one woman. The LGBTQ people of Indiana were not just fighting for the freedom to have our relationships legally recognized we were fighting for respect. We were fighting to show all law makers both Democrat and Republican that our lives and relationships mattered, they mattered just as much as the cis gendered straight couple getting married in that small town church on any given Saturday. 

Over the years so many of this states LGBTQ youth have left to make their way in Chicago, New York, or other “big” cities, leaving their home towns because they were either disowned by their own families or they felt like more accepted more in a strange city. How many amazing and talented people have we lost because they felt unaccepted?

In the 1980’s and early 1990’s so many gay men were vilified by the HIV/AIDS crisis. Gay men were portrayed in the media and television and effeminate or as joke, never to be taken seriously. In Mayor Pete we have an example of what could be accomplished. Mayor Pete’s political agenda aside, in running for president and proudly embracing his home town of South Bend, Mr. Buttigieg has set an example for not just the LGBTQ youth of Indiana but to the entire LGBTQ community. As a solider in the military he showed the world that a gay man could be brave. When he was still Mayor of South Bend he was deployed for active duty. In the time he was gone he did not take his mayoral salary, in this he showed the world that a gay man could be honorable. While running for president he talked about his Christian faith and how proud he was of it. He showed the world that you could be a gay man of faith. 

Pete Buttigieg in Arlington, Virginia. Photo: CNN

Mayor Pete will not be the president elected in 2020 and that’s okay. What he did do though was change the playing field. When he stood shoulder to shoulder with the rest on the candidates during debates or in interviews, when you saw him on television or in your news feed unashamed to embrace his husband it started the conversation, it set an example. Pete Buttigieg showed that whoever you are, however you identify and no matter where you’re from it’s not the bigots or the homophobes that define who you are or where you choose to live, it’s you. Pete Buttigieg showed us all that it’s okay to be exactly who you are and that is not something the Donald Trump’s or Rush Limbaugh’s or the Franklin Graham’s of the world can ever take away from us.

Thank you Mayor Pete, job well done.

Feeling the Love, at Michigan City PRIDE Fest

Michigan City PRIDE Fest isn’t just a party, it’s where you find your tribe.

The inspiration to start OUT in Michigan City came from a Religious Freedom Restoration Act protest march that I attended in Indianapolis in the spring of 2015. When I arrived I experienced first hand what a close nit LGBTQ community Indy had. The love and support in the air was so palpable you could almost touch it. I started to wonder why we could not have that kind of love and support in Michigan City and the rest of the Region.

Fast forward to January, 2018 when a group of people came together to form the committee for what would be the first annual Michigan City PRIDE Festival. It was my honor and privilege to serve on this committee. They say that nothing worth doing is ever easy. They were right, we worked hard and making this event happen took over my life as well as the lives of the other committee members. PFLAG, the host of the event, this publication, and drag entertainers Welcome to the Other Side, volunteers, and local businesses would all come together to make Michigan City PRIDE Fest a success. What a success it was. The committee expected maybe 400 people to attend and 2000 showed up.

As is turned out we filled a need, the community was hungry for a PRIDE festival and it was an amazing day. For the first time the LGBTQ community and our allies came together in Michigan City and in the region the love and support in the air was just as palpable as it was that day in Indianapolis. We made people happy and it was worth the blood, sweat, and tears we all poured into the event. 2019 festival saw 3000 people and now we are gearing up to do in again for 2020.

OUT in Michigan City was asked to help with the social media campaign this year and of course we jumped at the chance. This year is a little different though and I blame the toxic political climate and the up coming election. I’ve gotten messages on how straight people need a PRIDE event or why even have PRIDE in this day and age. Someone said that PRIDE should be reserved for the accomplishments in ones life not celebrating who they choose to have sex with, which is NOT what PRIDE is about. Despite the progress that the LGBTQ community has made in the last 10 years, coming out can be hard and in some cases life treating. Sometimes someone has to hide who they are to protect themselves both mentally and physically. Michigan City PRIDE Fest isn’t just an all ages drag show, food, entertainment, and vendors. Michigan City PRIDE Fest is a safe space you can come, let your hair down, or maybe put it up. It’s a place you can be yourself, even if it’s for just one day. It’s a place where you can find the resources you need for support, in a safe environment. It’s a place where you can find your tribe. Please join us on June 20, 2020 at the Guy Forman Amphitheater in Washington Park and feel the love.

If you need a safe space before June 20th then you as well as everyone is welcome to attend PFLAG monthly meeting the first Wednesday of every month at the Holdcraft Performing Arts Center, 1200 Spring Street, Michigan City starting at 6:30 pm.

A Time To Honor, Educate, and Love.

As violence against the Transgender community is at an all time high, it’s more important now then ever to love one another for who we are.

This year, Transgender Awareness Week takes place Nov. 13 through 19. The week culminates with Transgender Day of Remembrance, a deeply important observance to honor the memory of those whose lives have been lost to anti-trans violence, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019.

Transgender Awareness Week serves as both a reflective and celebratory time to raise the visibility of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and to shed light on issues our community faces.

Observance to honor those who have lost their lives or experienced violence because of their gender identity or gender expression. We honor those who continue to experience violence and recommit to changing hearts and minds in order that all people are free from discrimination, hatred, and violence including transgender people.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred, prejudice, and violence. Transgender Day of Remembrance serves to raise public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, as well as to publicly mourn and honor the lives of our community members who might otherwise be forgotten.

Societies that forced many of them into working in occupations and participating in activities that society has deemed illegal in order to survive. So many died in a way that confirms society’s uncaring attitude: shot multiple times, stabbed, mutilated, burned, drowned, left to bleed to death, and ultimately dumped like trash, the ultimate and unfortunate metaphor of a society that considers trans people, especially those on the trans feminine spectrum, to be nothing but trash.

Who knows how many trans people have truly been killed? I’m sure so many crimes haven’t even been reported and who knows the exact number of how many trans people have committed suicide thanks to suffering these injustices?

These injustices persist because of the images of trans people that pervade the media. Jokes and slurs are made with the typical jokes about “tranny hookers” and “spotting the tranny.” These jokes and images are conflicting by if a trans person does not blend in to society’s satisfaction, they will be treated like trash and maybe given a death sentence just walking down the street.

During this time, lets stand TOGETHER! The transgender community and its allies, in sadness for the too many that have died (Do not forget for they are all somebody’s child), and in hope, that the future for our young generation will bring with it greater compassion, understanding and acceptance.

We are NO different from you! We deserve to be here just as much as you do!

Angelique Munro Miss Trans USA Indiana 2020

Age is Only a Number, Just Like Herpes is Only Cold Sore, The Musings of a Gay Man & Middle Age

Getting older can be hard, especially if you celebrating a mile stone birthday. This is my tongue & cheek way of dealing.

Gay Men over 35, raise your hand if you’ve heard this one, “No one over 30,” or “if you’re old enough to be my father I’m not interested,” then there’s the classic “old dudes don’t even try it.” These are just some of the profiles seen on Grindr or Scruff any other gay “dating” app out there. People are attracted to who they’re attracted too, but blatantly dismissing someone just because of age is not only hurtful, it makes you an asshole. Besides ‘old’ is relative, what’s old to someone might not be old to another. 

Playing devils advocate for a minute, yes there are creepy older guys out there that troll younger guys for whatever reason. In a lot of cases if the older guy has money that would be an incentive for younger gentleman to date someone older. Besides, when an older guy is with a younger guy it can help them keep ties to their own youth thus easing their own insecurities about getting older. That older gentleman will then turn into the ever mythical ‘sugar daddy.’ Trust me they are real. Having a sugar daddy was never my thing, but I never judged the guys I knew who had one. In other cases the older guy is just a perv and he’s trying to live out some weird daddy son fantasy to fill the void his emotionless alcoholic father left imprinted on his psyche. But that’s a whole other blog, today I want to talk about agism, gay men and getting older in what some might say is a community that’s obsessed with youth and looks. 

John M. Livelsberger, Photo by Martin Navejas

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a subject that’s easy for me to talk about, I’m just trying to put my best foot forward. I look in the rear view mirror and I see my own mortality catching up to me faster then scared suburban Evangelicals running into the arms of white Jesus or Mike Pence, who I assume are the same person. Kind of like Superman and Clark Kent they’ve never been seen in the same room together. 

My biggest worry about aging? I worry about who’s going to run my Facebook page when I’m gone. Which is a sick thought in the first place. Most people worry about the legacy they are leaving behind, but all I can think about is if the person posting under my name is still sharing edgy borderline offensive posts that will either piss off Republican’s, Evangelicals, or my mom. If you can piss off all three at the same time you get bonus points. 

Apparently, and no one really told me, this aging thing happens to everyone, even aged obsessed gay guys. Some of these “men” don’t emotionally mature past the age of 20 maybe 25, 30 if they are lucky. We’re out at the clubs, at the gym, or on Grindr jumping from bed to bed or in relationships for a very short time. You do the walk of shame exiting the bath house at 7am coming down from molly, coke, weed, or whatever drug your disco pharmacologist prescribed to you the night before. Then without warning it dawns on you that today is your 40th birthday. You think to yourself, “I was only 25 when I checked in last night. What the hell, how long was I in there?” 

Where does the time go? I look in the mirror and I’m lucky I guess, I still recognize myself. I really have no wrinkles. My hair is pretty much the same. I’m not balding, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Bald guys are hot. I keep in pretty good shape and I’ve been told that I look like I’m in my mid-thirties and I should be able to tell people that I’m in my mid-thirties. I mean what’s the point of looking like you’re in your thirties if you can’t lie about your age? Except for the fact that my husband who never seems to age outed me to everyone. Even though he’s as insecure about his age as I am mine, he’s much better at dealing with the reality of age and much more mature about it. Also, our daughter is 27. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not above dragging her into my vain and narcissistic illusion that I’m still in my thirties. I’m not proud, I’d totally throw $50 bucks at her to tell people she’s my sister.

John M. Livelsberger, Photo by Martin Navejas

Would you believe that there are people out there that don’t have a problem admitting how old they really are? These people will proudly tell anyone who asks them, they’re called lesbians. Since the Hubz outed me our lesbian friends along with everyone else we know, knows my real age, so when I try to lie about it they go after me faster then free tickets to an Indigo Girls concert. Thankfully, the lesbians in our group of friends are also environmentalists, so at the point when we are all at the bar together and I’m getting the lecture on how gay men can be so self serving and age obsessed I put a plastic straw in a nearby cocktail and watch all hell break loose. Soon my age is all but forgotten as I watch them berate the guy who suddenly found a plastic straw in his drink. I almost feel sorry for the poor bastard as he’s told that because he’s using a plastic straw he’ll usher in the end of days, but just to make it look good I join in on the berating. I mean what’s my age matter if we’re all gonna die anyway. 

I’m part of a coven of catty gay men, we tease each other incessantly. The teasing is out of fun and camaraderie, we laugh at ourselves as much as each other, never taking it so far that it’s insulting or hurtful. Among various other things we tease each other about our ages. Most of us are in our thirties and forties, some of our friends are in their twenties and sixties, so our group isn’t agist or anything else. Basically, if you want to be our friend just don’t be an asshole and know how to take a joke. Some gay men are so superficial, to be part of their lives you need a great body, money, nice things, and an attitude that’s a combination of bitchy queen and vacant cheerleader. These are the guys that have the hardest time realizing the party is coming to an end and not knowing who they are because that is how they’ve defined themselves since their twenties. All the sudden they are on the other side of Grindr reading the profile that says if you’re over 30 don’t even try it. 

John M. Livelsberger, Photo Facebook

Staying relevant in an ever changing social media and technological landscape can be a challenge, it’s easy to feel old when you remember when refrigerators didn’t have TVs on the door and you know how to dial a rotary phone. When I was a kid I promised myself that technology would never be a stranger to me. I also promised myself I would know the difference between getting old and getting older and the difference between being alone and being lonely. Sadly some of us are so busy being superficial, living out the never ending party, always being careful to never get to close to anyone and looking for that next good time, we wake up one day realizing that our lives have suddenly passed us by. Middle age has set in and lot of gay men find themselves old and very lonely. I used to work with this older gay gentleman when I was a bartender in fine dining. His name was Walter and he was about three days older than God and so incredibly bitter that he hated just about everyone, especially other gay men who were happy. Years later my husband and I went to that particular restaurant for a cocktail. I had put my arm around my him, nothing lewd I mean it’s not like I shoved my tongue in his mouth, just my arm around his shoulder. I could hear Walter snarl from behind the waiters station, “hummmph, this IS NOT San Francisco.” I think Walter is dead now, I know for a fact he’s been dead on the inside for years. 

So, Monday November 4th is my birthday and instead of celebrating my 38th birthday for the 10th year in a row I’m going to celebrate my 50th. I was born at the tail end of 1969, the same year as the Stonewall Riots, the moon landing, and Sean Hayes (Jack) from “Will & Grace” was born. For some reason that makes me feel kind of empowered. I’m a proud part of Generation X. We’re Right in the middle of Boomers and Millennials. We’re the generation with a sense of humor and a sense of irony. We take things just seriously enough but have no issue telling the over sensitive or the over reactive to get over themselves and sarcasm is our weapon of choice. 

John M. Livelsberger, Photo by Martin Navejas

My secret to staying young? I keep laughing. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my heart broken so bad I never thought I’d laugh again and family disfunction so messed up it makes the Manson Family look like the Brady’s. The dysfunctional family dynamic and toxic people that used to be in my life should have made me feel ‘old’ years ago, but that’s not who I am. I don’t let the hurtful things that life can throw at a person or my sexuality define me, so I’m sure as hell not going to let my age do that. Just like those other things, my age is only a small part of who I am. So, if you’re a gay man or anyone for that matter and you’re feeling your mortality here’s what I do. I laugh a lot and I find humor in the absurdity of life. I also find humor in myself, don’t ever be afraid to laugh at yourself, no one is perfect and sometimes we do dumb shit that’s funny. Surround yourself with good friends, but make it friends that will tell you like it is, not what you want to hear. Embrace your sexuality. Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you can’t sneak off when you’re at a boring dinner party and shag your husband or a guy you just met at said dinner party in Phyllis’ walk in closet. So you got a little cum on her Louis Vuitton Call Back Pumps. Phyllis has always been kind of a bitch anyway and besides she throws boring dinner parties. Remember to always embrace your youth because just like your inner child it will aways be there.

Stay young my friends and let me leave you with a parting piece of advice from someone far wiser than myself.

“Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, and reminds us to cherish every moment because they’ll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important how we lived.” Captain Jean-Luc Picard, USS Enterprise, NCC-1701-D.

Undetectable = Un-transmittable, Getting Over the Stigma of HIV

Recently I was asked if I was still single would date I someone who was HIV positive but undetectable. My answer was a resounding yes. If the chemistry were there and I loved that person I would date them if they were undetectable or detectable. I don’t usually write articles about HIV/AIDS, I leave that to our columnist Danial Ashely Williams, since he is HIV positive he has a perspective that I don’t. In this case maybe as someone who is HIV negative, I should share my perspective on dating someone who is HIV positive. All though there is no real cure yet, drug advancements have come so far that with daily treatment HIV can become undetectable in the body and undetectable means un-transmittable, that means you can’t pass on the virus through sex. NOW, don’t get me wrong I’m not saying not use a condom, that is a personal choice. I’m just saying HIV can’t be transmitted to a sexual partner if it’s undetectable in the system. That being said, what do we have to do as a community to make the stigma of HIV undetectable and un-transmittable?

The AIDS epidemic during the 80’s and early 90’s wiped out whole communities. Major Cities like New York, San Fransisco, L.A., and Chicago were not the only places devastated by the virus. The gay community in smaller cities in the mid-west were all but wiped out. Calumet City IL for example. Cal City had a thriving LGBTQ community. Now there’s just a gay bar or two left and the community has never fully recovered. All around the globe, gay or not the world lost potential artists, entertainers, scientists, doctors and people lost loved ones. What if we lost the person who could have actually cured this disease.

Now with the advancements in drug therapy the healing has started, at least for the people who are HIV positive. They have a new lease on life and yes of course the potential that they MIGHT develop AIDS will alway be in the back of their minds, but at least now they have hope. They have the hope that they will live a long normal life and the hope that they will maybe date, fall in love, Netflix and chill on a Sunday afternoon with someone. In the 80’s and early 90’s hope was a luxury that a lot of gay men couldn’t afford.

Life returns to semi-normal if you don’t count the expense of the drug costs and the daily doses of medications, these are things that become routine. Now that HIV positive gay men are living longer what do they hope for now. Obviously I can’t speak for all of them or really any of them, but I imagine that some of them want a heathy dating life. Some may want to find a boyfriend settle down get married get that house with a white picket fence, maybe have a couple of kids and a dog. Live the “American Dream,” but I bet for SOME HIV positive men it’s hard for them to even try.

How many times has someone who’s undetectable started to get close with THAT guy? That crush from the office or the guy who stands next to you in line at Starbucks every morning. That guy you’re finally making a real connection with. The innocent flirting and the unmistakeable chemistry, not being able to concentrate because THAT guy is on your mind all the time. He’s sending all the right singles and admits that he feels the same way. You go on the date you’ve been waiting to go on with THAT guy. The flirting gets to that next level and you finally gather up the courage and tell him you’re HIV positive but undetectable, he pretends not to be taken aback, but you see it in his eyes. You finish your date on a positive note yet he declines the offer to come back to your place claiming he has an early day tomorrow. The next day you don’t hear from him, then three days go by then five. You don’t see him at Starbucks anymore. He doesn’t return your texts, but you knew all along he wouldn’t. You’ve been ghosted, and it fucking hurts like a symptom of the disease you don’t even have.

Look I get it, people get scared. HIV/AIDS has wrecked havoc on a community struggling for acceptance and just when it was starting to happen gay men started dying. The Reagan Administration did nothing at the time to address the epidemic and wouldn’t even utter the word “AIDS.” Lack of response or even acknowledgement from the Reagan White House only made the sigma of HIV/AIDS worse. Like a lot of people I lived through that time. As a teenager in the 1980’s who was growing up in a town so small we only had one traffic light, I automatically thought being gay was a death sentence. I fought my sexual identity until I couldn’t anymore. It was a fight with myself I’m glad I lost. Now there’s another fight happening, the fight to rid this community of the stigma of HIV.

In plain simple terms everyone can understand, if someone’s viral load is undetectable in their bloodstream then they are NOT able to transfer HIV to sexual partners. If you are one of those gay guys that have an issue with HIV positive guys get the fuck over it. They are just as much a part of the LGBTQ community as anyone else and just like our trans brothers and sisters or that kid who has been shunned by his family for coming out or any other person in this beautiful and tough community that we live in all HIV positive individuals need support from us all. HIV positive individuals also need the encouragement that we give everyone else in this community to live their truth.

The best weapon we had during the hight of the AIDS epidemic was education. People had to educate themselves that they couldn’t get AIDS from a toilet seat or drinking out of the same glass or even a kiss. Education is essential. I dated someone once who had cerebral palsy, I read up on what it was and how and what to expect and how to deal with certain things IF they came up, which they didn’t. If you get asked out by a guy who is HIV positive and he’s undetectable educate yourself on what that is and what to expect. Do it for yourself especially if you like him. But, even after everything that I’ve said if you still have an issue and you don’t want to go out with a person who has HIV, don’t ghost them. Have the courage to admit that you just don’t have any courage, it’s the least they deserve. Besides people living with HIV are forced to be brave everyday even when they don’t want to be, they deserve friends and lovers that are as brave as they are.

Our Anniversary in the Hospital and the Story of Post Op PRIDE

As we navigate a health crisis together we rediscover the real meaning of PRIDE and love.

John & Chris at Barker Pub

It’s a little after midnight, the clock has turned and June 26th, our anniversary is upon us. We’ve been married for five years together for 15, yet it seems like only five minutes. I look up and I see him in his hospital bed rolled over on his left side, it’s the only way he can get comfortable, laying like that is the best way to not get his IV tangled. “Hey it’s officially June 26, happy anniversary.” He rolls over just so slightly and wishes me a happy anniversary and he tells me he loves me. Chris rolls back over, puts his phone down and finally succumbs to sleep. He’ll wake up every so often to look back at me, to make sure I’m still here.

John M. Livelsberger (right) and his husband Chris.

Room 513 has been our home now since Saturday afternoon when they transferred him from the ER and it’s going to continue to be his/ our home for three to five days after his surgery. I’m the only one who gets any relief, I at least get to go home for a few hours a couple time a day to let the dogs out and play with them. Tomorrow they are going to take my husband to an operating room somewhere in the bowels of this hospital and remove part of his colon and re-sect it. For me and for our friends time will stand still and a two to three hour surgery will seem like forever, for Chris though no time will pass and if all goes as planned he’ll wake up in the recovery room and the healing can start. That’s the best case scenario. We’ve been dancing around the ‘C’ word all day today. We meaning us, the doctors, our friends, our parents. Cancer. We’re being told by medical professionals, “Oh I’m most certain that it’s not, but we will need to cut out the blockage and do a biopsy, just in case.” Or my favorite “We’re 95% sure that considering the type of procedure this is that we won’t need to attach a temporary colostomy bag.” I mean nothing ever goes wrong in with a major surgery, right? What me worry?

He’s scared and who could blame him. He’s having major surgery on his intestines and we really don’t know why or how this happened. All of the answers we need are inside of him. In all the years we’ve been together I’ve never seen him in such incredible pain. There’s been CT scans, x-rays, enough pain killers to knock out an elephant. Honestly I thought we wold have been here two days tops, but things are not good. I’m scared, but I have to be strong for him and he needs the strength and even though I’m exhausted, emotionally drained I’ll give him everything I have and let him take more, because he’s my husband. He choose me. If you ask me he got the short end of the stick.

PRIDE this year has two very important mile stones, 50 years since the Stonewall Riots and five years of marriage equality being legal in across the nation. Marriage is a journey, two imperfect people choosing to be a part of each others lives forever, or so that’s the plan. Our marriage comes with passion, baggage from our childhood that we both carry around, fights over trivial things and fights over important things. Marriage comes with, at least in our case, lots of laughter. There have been lean years and prosperous years. There are people who have came into our lives who we loved like family. Then they broke our hearts when they left. Most of all our marriage has been full of dreams and possibilities. It’s been about supporting the other person when they just want to give up. It’s been about supporting our friends and chosen family, but most of all our marriage been about love.

So we canceled our plans for PRIDE 2019. We will be in this hospital dealing with whatever gets thrown at us like we always have. Sure, we’re both disappointed, but PRIDE isn’t just about parades, corporate sponsorship, drag queens, dykes on bikes, or go go boys on the back of floats. The first PRIDE was a riot, a spark of violence that caught fire and became an inferno. PRIDE is all those things. PRIDE is also staying by your very sick husbands hospital bed, praying that he’s going to be okay, because you can’t imagine your world without him. PRIDE is sacrifice, PRIDE is lending comfort to others, Pride is about your friends, PRIDE is our struggle to get and hold on to our rights. PRIDE is our soul and PRIDE is our hopes and dreams, PRIDE is our broken hearts, PRIDE is love.

Happy PRIDE

Happy Anniversary to my Husband