A Brief History of Gay Superheroes and Other Musings

Batwoman by artist J.H. Williams.

Last month The CW, the television network responsible for “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” and other live action superhero shows announced that a “Batwoman” series was in the works staring Australian model, actor, VJ, recording artist Ruby Rose as the title character Kate Kane/Batwoman. For those of you who have never heard of the character the original Batwoman was created in 1956 as a romantic foil for Batman amid concerns that a hot rich guy in his early 30’s who dresses up in a bat costume and who had adopted as his ward and crime fighting partner an orphaned circus trapeze artist who he dressed in a mask, a cape, and tight green short shorts might just be a homosexual. Go figure. The Batwoman character only lasted until the early 1960’s when DC Comics took the Batman in a darker and grittier direction. In a true sense of irony DC Comics brought back Batwoman in 2006, only this time as an ass kicking superhero who just happens to be a lesbian and is also Jewish. The Jewish part will become relevant shortly.

Detective Comics #233 (July 1956) Batwoman’s first appearance.

I read a lot of comic books growing up, actually I still do. When I was a kid comics like “The Uncanny X-Men” were a metaphor on the treatment of people who happened to be different. The title started out as creators Stan Lee & Jack Kirby tackled racism by using the metaphor of teenagers who were born with special powers into a world that hates and fears them. By the time I got around to reading “The Uncanny X-Men” it seemed to me that maybe the metaphor had shifted to how the LGBT community was treated, especially in the in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. The X-Men and other books would go on to show how bad humanity could be. The book also showed how noble people could be by going high when ignorent people filled with hate go low. Lessons that we can still learn from today.

Northstar by John Byrne

But the actual debut of a gay character especially a major character was years off. Writer/artist John Byrne who created the Canadian super hero team Alpha Flight always meant for their member Northstar to be gay, but he couldn’t come out and say it in print so there were lots of hints dropped. Northstar didn’t end up coming out until “Alpha Flight” No. 106 that hit the comic shops in 1992. Byrne also created Captain Maggie Sawyer of the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit for the Superman comics that he went to write and draw in the 1980’s. Again, it was heavily hinted at that she was a lesbian by drawing her in a way to show it in her mannerisms but not actually coming out and saying it until the mid-1990’s. Gays in comics had always been a hot button topic since 1954 when the book “Seduction of the Innocent” by Fredric Wertham, M.D was released. In his book Dr. Wertham would argue that comic books had a negative effect on children and by exposing America’s youth to the medium was the cause of sexual perversion and juvenile delinquency. This book became a best seller and it energized Congress to start an inquiry into the comic book industry. Thankfully over the years Congress has moved on.

Now we have out and proud gay superhero’s in comics. DC not only has Batwoman in her own comic but the Superheroes Midnigher and Apollo. The X-Men’s Iceman who has been around since the early 1960’s just “came out” in the last couple of years. The previously mentioned Northstar’s same sex marriage was published in “Astonishing X-Men” No. 51. Now we finally have an out and proud superhero getting her own show and it’s not a lame character like the Pied Piper from The Flash comics. Batwoman kicks serious ass in the comics and from what I’ve read the show is not going to be that much different. So you would think that comic book nerds both gay and straight are excited. But wait not so fast, there’s dumb fuckery afoot.

Captain Maggie Sawyer by artist Tom Grummett from Adventures of Superman #498

So apparently hyper masculine nerds are pissed because the actor cast to play Batwoman, Ruby Rose who is a real life lesbian is not “gay enough” to play a lesbian superhero and she’s not Jewish. After a backlash of angry Tweets with the hashtag #RecastBatwoman towards her Ruby Rose deleted her Twitter account and stating in her last Tweet “When women and minorities join forces we are unstoppable.” Let’s break this down to common sense. Ruby Rose is an actor cast to play a part. Acting is when you play a part in a TV show, movie, or play. You are pretending to be something you are not. As a Jew I have no issues with a non-Jew playing a Jew. It’s called acting. Actor John Hillerman, who played the British character Jonathan Higgins in the 80’s TV show “Magnum P.I.” (not the 2018 reboot) was born and raised in Texas and is not really British. It’s called acting. Sir Patrick Stewert who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard in “Star Trek the Next Generation” is actually British and not really from France were Picard grew up. It’s called acting. Eric Stonestreet who won a Prime Time Emmy for his portrayal the gay character Cameron Tucker and on the TV show “Modern Family” is not really gay. Again, it’s called acting. Although Gal Gadot gave the definitive performance as Wonder Woman, should this “logic” have been used in the casting the part of Wonder Woman? Instead of casting Gal Gadot who is Jewish and from Israel as Wonder Woman then maybe Warner Brothers Studios should have tracked down an actual daughter of the Greek God Zeus and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons or depending on which Wonder Woman origin you prefer maybe they should have tracked down an actress who was formed out of clay and brought to life by the Greek Gods. Sounds kind of ridiculous doesn’t it? Don’t stop to think about it, it’s ridiculous.

I needed a gay superhero when I was growing up and so did a lot of other kids. I needed someone to tell me that I could be a good guy and that I wasn’t a bad guy just because I was gay. Batwoman is coming whether you like it or not. I’m guessing if even after reading this you have an issue with a lesbian superhero swinging over the streets of Gotham City maybe Batwoman isn’t the superhero for you, maybe a gay supervillian is more your speed, may I recommend Milo Yiannopoulos?

That my friends is my view from the other side of the lake.

Get Over It

So it was mentioned to me on Friday that a local radio station was having a discussion with their listeners on why we need a PRIDE Festival or more specifically why we shouldn’t have one. Just this morning before it was deleted on a local Michigan City community Facebook page someone said they didn’t understand why ‘you people’ needed a PRIDE Fest.                         

Jeanne Manford founder of the support group that would eventually become PFLAG marching in an early gay pride parade.

Here’s the deal, Michigan City has always had a large LGBT community. This community pays taxes here, spends money here, and CHOOSES to live here. NOT Chicago or Indianapolis or other big city with a ‘gay neighborhood’ but here. In fact I got news for you haters the WHOLE city is a gay neighborhood. I can’t swing a stick and not hit a LGBT person in my community. The LGBT community in Michigan City is no longer sitting on sidelines. Also we are no longer going to someone else’s city to celebrate PRIDE and why should we have to?

A more unified LGBT community is what I envisioned three years ago when I started OUT in Michigan City. Our Facebook page and eventually our website was started after my husband and I attended a RFRA protest march in Indianapolis and we witnessed first hand what a united LGBT community could accomplish. I wanted the same thing  here and now it seems we are heading in that direction. As of this writing OUT in Michigan City had 1095 ‘likes’ and followers so we must be reaching a few people in Michigan City and the surrounding communities.  

Honestly when I started our page and website I thought I was alone, but thankfully I’m not. Other like minded people have started their own projects like the La Porte county LGBTQ Alliance or the LGBT support group at the high school. The local PFLAG chapter here offers support to parents of gay, trans, bi, and questioning people and to any queer person in need of support. Real support for real people in need.

One of the things that attracted me and my husband to this city was it’s diverseness and inclusiveness, Michigan City for at least in the time I’ve been here, has been a haven for people from all different walks of life and for that I am thankful. I’m also thankful for the unwavering support that the PRIDE Fest  Committee has received from The City of Michigan City.

Since we started the process of planning the PRIDE Fest I’ve been expecting a little blow back, but at less then a month before the event all I have to say is what took so long? For those of you though who ultimately just don’t get it. For those of you who have never had the word ‘fag’ screamed at you from a coward in a moving car as you are trying to carry groceries into your apartment. To those straight guys out there who have never been fired from a job simply because you are gay or had to suffer from any sort of disrespect or discrimination, yet you have the  audacity to ask “Why can’t we have a straight Pride parade?” To those of you who just don’t like us, I’ll put it in a way you will understand in a terms used since the first gay PRIDE parades dating back to the 1970’s….

WE’RE HERE! WE’RE QUEER! GET OVER IT!

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake.

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 30th 2018 at 121 W. Michigan Blvd (Next to City Hall) in Michigan City’s historic Uptown Arts District

Roseanne, Trump, Twitter and the Age of Hate

Roseanne Barr

Roseanne Barr could have helped heal the divide and for a minute there it looked like she or at least her writers were trying to. With her show “Roseanne” she had the ability to take the fears and misunderstandings that plague lots of people in the country and show them through laughter that their fear and ignorance was unwarranted. That’s what she did in 1990’s when she  tried to be a friend of the LGBT community when it was not fashionable to be one. Little did I know at the time it was just the ‘LGB’ and not the ‘T.’

The original run of the show featured one of the first gay weddings in a sitcom and a controversial same sex kiss, a first on primetime television. Roseanne Barr had to fight hard to maintain her vision of her show. She had to fight against the Hollywood elite who thought a television star should be a size zero. She fought for the equal rights that men in show business had enjoyed for decades. Roseanne Barr was a champion for women’s rights, so why on Earth would she support an egotistical womanizing megalomaniac like Donald Trump? I still can’t wrap my head around that, but Roseanne Barr has always been a contradiction and has lived in a storm of controversy.

Lots of us grew up in a blue collar families. Families in the Midwest that would get free cheese and milk from the government. Families who worked hard to make ends meet. That’s why old episodes of “Roseanne” would resonate with me. The show was art imitating working class life. Not everyone’s life but a lot of people’s. Watching the new season of “Roseanne” I saw an accurate portrayal of older former “liberals” or Democrats, working class Americans disillusioned with their economic status. John Goodman’s Dan Conner is still hanging dry wall and Roseanne Barr’s Roseanne Conner is driving for Uber, their characters well into their 60’s. Neither one able to afford proper heath care so they voted for a presidential candidate who promised to “shake things up” a presidential candidate who promised to help them. A presidential candidate that used their economic status and fears to con them. These characters reminded me of people that I know in real life who were also conned. Because of the people who voted for Donald Trump for whatever reason, this country has been pushed to the brink with pent up racism. Racism that Roseanne Barr’s Tweets seem to endorse.

As the season continues “Roseanne” the TV show tackles not only economic issues but social ones. From the Connors gender non-conforming grandson to having an interracial granddaughter. The subject of opioid addiction is tackled as is the subject of local jobs going to undocumented workers. In one episode Roseanne has to ask her Muslim neighbors to use their internet password. Thinking all Muslims are terrorists she goes to their front door with a bat and her sister Jackie as backup. She ends up getting schooled on what it’s like to be a Muslim family living in the Midwest in the age of hate. Roseanne Barr started using her platform to educate her over 18 million viewers in a cool and subliminal way. Again she could have helped heal a divide but instead for reasons known only to her she took to Twitter not to heal but to reopen old wounds that have not even begun to heal properly.

Roseanne Barr is not Roseanne Connor and the actor that plays the character is not a working class woman in her 60’s but a rich out of touch actor who embraces ridiculous conspiracy theories right out of “Info Wars”and Tweets things that embrace the ugly side of this country. From members of the transgender community to Marie Osmond, whose son committed suicide, anyone or anything is fair game to Roseanne. There doesn’t seem to be a conspiracy theory too small. On Tuesday May 29, 2018 those hateful anger filled Tweets got Roseanne Barr fired from her network ABC and 300 people through no fault of their own lost their jobs.

Classic episodes of “Roseanne” always seemed to mirror real life and Roseanne Barr held up that mirror so American’s could see themselves and find laughter and some comfort in their shared experiences. Somehow over the last 20 years Roseanne Barr started looking at life through a funhouse mirror and the only thing you can really see are distorted visions of a hateful paranoid America that lives in a distorted reality, a reality I don’t want to know. And the hate goes on….

And that’s my view from this other side of the lake.

Why We Need Gay PRIDE Festival

I have it on pretty good authority that Michigan City is going to have its first gay PRIDE festival this summer. Why this summer? Why now and not years ago? Why do it at all? I mean can’t we just go to Chicago for PRIDE? The answer is simple, yes we can but why would we want to or better yet why should we have to?

PRIDE month means different things to different people, just ask the Michigan City PRIDE committee, a haphazard group of people thrown together to make the impossible possible. A group consisting of a reluctant drag queen, a PFLAG mom, a gay husband and father, a straight alley, a politically incorrect smart ass who thinks he can write and his husband the social worker with little patience for things like committees. I’m the politically incorrect smart ass if you were wondering. I can’t say what PRIDE means to the other committee members, I can hazard a guess, but I can only speak to what PRIDE means to me and why the time has come for Michigan City to let its freak flag fly.

For many years I made it a point to go to Chicago for PRIDE. It started with an ex-boyfriend in 2000 and his friend Jeremy who ironically is now my friend. Jeremy and I always had a sort of frenemies type relationship. We could both be back biting and borderline insulting to each other, at first out of general annoyance of each other but now it’s out of love. It was one of Jeremy’s back biting antics that got me on the Channel 9 news my first year of PRIDE after he had heard one of the last things my mom had said to me before we embarked on that particular adventure was “I better NOT see your ass on the news.” Jeremy saw the news crew interviewing bystanders and quickly called them over screaming “OVER HERE, OVER HERE, SHE WANTS TO BE ON THE NEWS!” That was the beginning of many years of fun and debauchery at the Chicago Gay PRIDE Parade. Over the years my life had changed, but the one constant was going to Chicago for PRIDE the last weekend of June.  Oh, and my mom was not pleased that I ended up on Channel 9.

The last Chicago PRIDE that we actually attended was June 24, 2012. Our best friend came home from Florida. That weekend in Chicago was perfect. We partied all weekend and watched the parade from the street in front of our hotel. It was as if the fates knew that this would be our last PRIDE in Chicago, our favorite band Scissor Sisters played at the Vic (it was to be their final tour) right there in Boystown after the parade. It was the perfect PRIDE at least for me and then I was done, there would never be another PRIDE weekend like that one.

For many years gay PRIDE weekend started out as an excuse for me to party. As the years went on it became so much more. Seeing gay soldiers march in uniform for the first time after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed or LGBT affirming synagogues and churches march along with PFLAG. Gay parents marching with their children or gay children and their supportive parents. That last year was the first year that I actually watched the parade from start to finish from the street, not on live on TV from inside a bar. I found out that the gay PRIDE Parade was more than just half naked GoGo dancers or dykes on bikes (not that there’s anything wrong with that). For the first time I was actually paying attention, PRIDE was about real people with real lives out celebrating their right to love and marry who they wanted.

Michigan City has always had a large LGBT community most likely dating back to 1861 when Harriet Colfax took over as the Michigan City lighthouse keeper. According to digthedunes.com, when Miss Colfax moved into the lighthouse her friend and longtime companion Ann C. Hartwell moved in with her. They lived there together for the rest of their lives. As I’ve reported before in an article I did a couple of years ago featuring local drag troupe Welcome to the Other Side, the Williams Institute ranks Michigan City fourth in Indiana for the highest percentage of same-sex couples. I like to tell people that I can’t swing a stick in this town without hitting a fellow homo. That being said Michigan City’s PRIDE celebration is long past due and with our town right on the lake and all the other amenities we have to offer we can definitely hold our own when it comes to throwing a party. For those people who are undoubtedly going to try to compare our PRIDE to Chicago’s and say things like “It’s not like it is in Chicago,” I’m going to tell you now that it’s not supposed to be. We’re taking this celebration and making it our own so thank you Chi Town for letting us come over and join you for your PRIDE celebration it’s been fun, but this year we got this.

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake. Happy PRIDE!

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 30th, 2018 from 1-9pm in the historic Uptown Arts District. 

 

Roseanne Barr and the Reality of Being “Roseanne”

The cast of Roseanne top left to right: Laurie Metcalf, John Goodman, Sarah Chalke, Bottom left to right: Sara Gilbert, Roseanne Barr, Michael Fishman, Lacy Goranson

 

On March 27th the groundbreaking sitcom Roseanne comes back t0 television and we get the chance to peer into the lives of the fictional Connor family 30 years after the show premiered on ABC. We have a chance to see how the Connor’s have moved on in life, and it may very well mirror so many of our own lives. What made Roseanne so groundbreaking was the fact that Roseanne Barr and John Goodman’s Roseanne & Dan Connor were larger than life, both in personality and in their physical appearance. Never before had working class American been portrayed by people who looked like what a lot of middle America looks like. The Connor’s three children could be brats. In some cases episodes were not wrapped up neatly after 30 minutes as real life issues were talked about, issues that most sitcoms didn’t even come close to touching. You certainly wouldn’t find Alan Thicke schooling Mike Seaver on the evils of domestic abuse on Growing Pains or little Vanessa Huxtable approaching Phylicia Rashad on The Cosby Show to inform her that she thinks it’s time to start birth control. Roseanne was ground breaking in many ways, especially the way it handled gay characters. In the show, we met Martin Mull as Leon Carp. He was Roseanne’s boss then her business partner and frenemy. She threw for him and his partner one of television’s first gay weddings. There was Nancy, played by Sandra Bernhard who came out as a lesbian in the show then as bisexual. Then there was the lesbian kiss between Roseanne’s character and guest star Mariel Hemingway, a scene that caused a lot of controversy even before the episode aired.

Roseanne Barr unapologetically introduced middle America to gays and lesbians. Roseanne the TV show made working class people in the mid-west come to grips with the fact that they probably knew someone gay or had a gay person in their family. If Roseanne Barr through her character Roseanne Connor brought visibility to the LGBT community then why are a lot of people in that same community not happy the show is coming back? Well as it turns out Roseanne Barr is a supporter of one Donald J. Trump.

Never one to shy away from controversy Roseanne Barr did indeed vote Trump for President and her character Roseanne Connor will be portrayed at a Trump supporter in the new revival of the show. Roseanne, who said in the June 6, 2016 issue of The Hollywood Reporter, “If I were president, a majority of my cabinet would be poor because that’s true representational government here in America,” Roseanne is many things including a living breathing contradiction, especially since Donald Trump and most of his cabinet are so rich that they can’t possibly relate to working class middle American. I’m sure U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin never had to choose between buying food or buying medicine for a sick child. That same article reports that Roseanne is friends with Michael Moore one the biggest anti-Trumpers around. Comedian Whitney Cummings, also not a fan of the current occupant of The White House is acting as one of the show runners of the revival.

Long before the ‘Me Too’ movement Roseanne talked in public about difficult subjects and fought everyone from network executives to her own writers and producers to bring to life an accurate representation of working class America. Why would a strong independent woman like Roseanne Barr vote for someone who has the reputation of treating women the way Trump does? From bragging about grabbing women by the pussy to paying them off to keep silent about alleged affairs. Or the way he treats women who disagree with his policies, calling them ugly or pigs, comedian Rosie O’Donnell comes to mind.

In Roseanne Barr’s mind the explanation is simple, “4 Those who wonder-back in the day when I was called a ‘liberal by journalists, I used to answer-I’m not a Liberal, I’m a radical’ & I still am- voted Trump 2 shake up the status quo & the staid establishment,” in a Tweet reported by The Washington Post on January 11 of this year. In the same article Roseanne goes on to state that her show is about a working-class family and “it was working-class people who elected Trump.” Show runner Whitney Cummings thinks the show will give families on the opposite side of the political spectrum a chance to heal and warns against those who only expose themselves to one sided political beliefs instead of trying to see the opposite point of view. “If we aren’t disagreeing with someone, that probably means we’ve only surrounded ourselves with people we agree with. Although I’m the first to admit that’s a comfortable place to be, from what I understand about how societies work, it’s also a very dangerous place to be,” Cumming’s told Vulture. But where does the “healing” come in? Cumming’s observes that as it “turns out, many Americans never get to know or even meet people who aren’t like them, so putting them on a flickering box in their living room-full of vulnerabilities, problems, jokes, and dreams-is a great way to develop empathy toward a type of person they may normally not cross paths with. This show is not about Trump- it’s about the circumstances that made people think Trump was a good idea.” Maybe a good year after the general election some of us can start to mend fences with family or friends, maybe it’s time for forgiveness.

There are some people in the LGBT community that loved the original run of Roseanne because the show brought an awareness and an exposure that our community didn’t have in a time when it was not fashionable to do so, and many of those same people in our community won’t watch the revival of the show because they can’t forgive Roseanne Barr for voting into office Donald Trump. Is forgiveness even possible, not just for Roseanne Barr but for the people we know and love who voted the same way. Honestly, I don’t know but maybe it’s time to start trying or even better yet maybe it’s time we start listening to each other because not listening is probably what got us into this mess in the first place.

And that is my view from the other side of the lake.

Rosanne airs on Tuesdays on ABC starting March 27, 2018 at 8:00 p.m.

Queer Eye for the Soul

When Netflix announced six months ago that a new retooled Queer Eye, (formally Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) would premiere on the streaming

The All New and All Different Fab Five from left to right, Bobby Berk (design), Karamo Brown (culture), Jonathan Van Ness (grooming), Antoni Porowski (food & wine), Tan France (fashion)

service a lot people including myself were skeptical, why did we need a new Queer Eye? Always the optimist I had high hopes that the series would not only stay true to the original but give us new reasons to keep watching it.

The original series premiered on BRAVO 15 years ago and would help the channel become the premier network catering to women 25 to 54 and gay men of all ages. The premise was simple, the show would showcase five gay men, each with an X-Men like superpower which included grooming, interior design, fashion, food & wine, and culture. (For that last one see Aquaman on the Superfriends.) These five gay men would find an unsuspecting straight guy nominated by a friend, family member or girlfriend to give them a “makeover.” So at the end of 45 minutes the disgusting caveman who leaves his unpaid bills in a wicker basket along with his dirty underwear and lives in squaller  would in one day become a sophisticated and polished metro sexual that said girlfriend would actually like to spend time with. At the end of the episode we would see our real life superhero’s chilling with a cocktail in their secret headquarters watching their subject on a monitor as he groomed, dressed, and cooked for himself, and telepathically talked to fish…I mean did something cultural in his new professionally interior decorated apartment.

Fab Five Classic, from left to right, Thom Filicia (Design), Ted Allen (Food & Wine), Carson Kressley (Fashion), Kyan Douglas (Grooming), Jai Rodriguez (Culture).

The show worked on bridging gaps between gay men and straight men by breaking down the barriers of what it means to be masculine. Just because you cared about the way you looked it didn’t mean you were any less of a man and the show set an example to gay men, just because you have certain mannerisms or a certain tone of voice you are not less of a man but more of one by embracing your truth and creating your own identity living life on your terms. Usually at the end of an episode the show left me feeling good and empowered.

In the new show we find an “all new all different” Fab Five. A new team of superheroes picking up where the first team left off. No longer based in the comfort zone of New York City the new Fab Five is based in Atlanta, Georgia and it’s suburbs. Not only are they making over their nominated subjects but changing attitudes and perceptions of how men in red states perceive gay men and how gay men perceive men in red states often making a very real impact on lives beyond a new wardrobe or hair style.

The impact they have on some of these men is so touching it can bring a tear to the eye. Like in episode four the Fab Five are sent to meet A.J. Brown, a civil engineer and closeted gay man who dresses very plain with no sense of style for fear of appearing ‘too gay.’  A.J. desperately wants to come out to his step mother and publicly acknowledge his boyfriend, yet caves into the fear of rejection. The moment he comes out to his step mother is a powerful testament to living ones authentic self, you can almost see a vail being lifted as she sees who he really is for the first time. The cameras in the room capturing this deeply personal event leave the audience feeling almost guilty for eavesdropping on a private family conversation and you can almost feel the sad regret A.J. has because he isn’t able to share his life with the father that passed away but finds redemption in the eyes of the woman that raised him like her own son.

At the start of the first episode of the series the ‘all new all different’ Fab Five tell us that the original show was fighting for tolerance and the new show is fighting for acceptance. Not just acceptance of queer people but of the acceptance of all people from all walks of life, like Cory a nascar loving Trump supporter from deep inside Georgia. The Fab Five find common ground, camaraderie, and dare I say friendship with a man who is deeper then just a political choice or a sport, just like a gay man is deeper then just his sexuality or finding the next trick on Grindr.

In a world where life long friends and family members are divided over politics or social issues or both, this incarnation of Queer Eye is about more than showing one person how to feel good about themselves, it’s showing all of us how to find common ground and to feel good about our common interests focusing not on what divides us but what brings us together.

And that is my view from the other side of the lake.

Season 2 of the all new ‘Queer Eye’ priemires June 15 on Netflix Season 1 now streaming. You can catch classic episodes of with the original Fab Five on YouTube. 

 

 

Growing Older, Will and Gracefully

The cast of “Will & Grace,” from left to right, Megan Mullally, Eric McCormack, Debra Messing, and Sean Hayes

Last Thursday four old friends dropped by our place. We haven’t seen each other in over a decade, and as with true friends who grow out of touch for a long period of time we managed to pick up right where we left off. They stayed for about 20 minutes more or less not counting commercial interruptions.

In the late 1990’s I had discovered a little TV show called Will & Grace very much by accident. I was channel surfing and stopped on the show because I thought Sean Hayes, who plays the character Jack McFarland was cute. Within five minutes I realized I was watching a sitcom that featured gay leading characters. This apparently was on purpose, color me impressed. At that time in my life I was in my 20’s. I knew I was gay but I didn’t know how to come out and live openly. As Jack said to Will when he was struggling to “come out” on the show, “You bought the short shorts but you’re afraid to wear them.” I not only bought the short shorts I bought the glittery disco ball shirt and matching jock strap, the hard part was putting them on. Eventually I put them on, then I changed into something more sensible.

To encourage people to vote in the 2016 general election the creators of Will & Grace Max Mutchnick and David Kohan brought the original cast back together for a YouTube election special simply titled “Vote Honey.”  That 10 minute video with over seven million views proved so successful that NBC ordered a ninth season of the show after it had been off the air for 11 years. On September 14, 2017, Brooks Barnes wrote for the The New York Times   “ Will & Grace Is Back. Will It’s Portrait of Gay Life Hold Up?” Barnes addresses the pros and cons of bringing back this often, at times, politically incorrect sit-com in what he calls “the age of hate.” Eric Marcus, a historian who helms the podcast “Making Gay History,” said of the revival that the “world had moved on” and goes on to say, “I’m left wondering what story lines these characters can possibly explore as middle-aged people that will seem as fresh as the original series.”

Let me answer that question by saying that there are lot’s of story lines that these characters can explore that are fresh and exciting. As a gay man in my 40’s my life is different then it was in my 20’s & 30’s but my life is still exciting and fun and as gay men who are aging with grace (one hopes) we have a whole new set of problems to explore. From the fears that some of us have about growing older to breaking up and finding oneself single and in mid-life. Then there’s the subject of dating much younger guys, that in itself is comedy gold. Or two gay men living in a actual marriage, something that’s either very comforting or very terrifying depending on the couple.

We find with being older and being married that it’s not so easy to break up with someone for shallow reasons or when they annoy us. Just because someone did something annoying like leaving their clipped toe nails in the bathroom sink or if you want to get it on with that twink you met while cruising him in the produce department of Meijer. You remember the one, you thought if you pretended to be vegan you might somehow magically end up back at his place and without your husband finding out. There is actual divorce now and real consequences for being an idiot in a relationship (believe me I know) like the splitting of assets. It’s terrifying to think who would get custody of the iTunes account. Would one of the ex-husbands have to re-purchase everything in it?  These are just some of the ridiculous scenarios that we face as older gay men and are perfect fodder for a sitcom.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s Will & Grace showed those of us living in the mid-west that it was okay to be who and what we were, and they did it in prime-time on the night of the week when America was watching TV the most. I mean lets face it, Thursday’s were called “Must see TV” for a reason. They showed us we can be fun, flamboyant, laid back, and outrageous. Now 11 years later Will, Grace, Jack and Karen are still showing us that we can be all of those things no matter how old we are.

That my friends is my view from the other side of the lake, October 5th, 2017.

New episodes of ‘Will & Grace’ can be seen Thursday nights starting at 9 Eastern/8 Central Time on NBC. 

 

I’ve Never Been a Rainbow Guy…Seriously.

Limited edition PRIDE Dr. Marten’s.

To be clear I’ve never been a “rainbow guy.” You know the guy I’m talking about the “rainbow guy,” we’ve all seen him. The older middle aged guy, he was in his 20’s or 30’s in the 1970’s or ’80s. They have the rainbow bumper sticker on their Honda Accord or the “ball chain” necklace with the five rings in the PRIDE colors hanging from it. Or maybe the polo shirt with the PRIDE flag embroidered on it in the place where an alligator should go. Some of us including yours truly have given those guys a sideways glance or an eye roll. I can hear one of my more judgmental friends saying, “Look at that old poof with the rainbow bumpersticker, like she needs to advertise.” So you can imagine the good natured ribbing I’ve been taking from my friends because I purchased a pair of limited addition Dr. Marten rainbow colored eight eye boots released for PRIDE 2017. My husband was appalled. “Rainbow Dr. Marten’s, those are hideous.” he said with disgust. Dr. Marten’s are to me what Manolo Blahniks were to “Sex and the City’s” Carrie Bradshaw always in style and always fabulous. Yet when I got the e-mail urging me to buy them even my first thought was these might be too much, even for me.

The Rainbow flag, designed by Gilbert Baker who passed away eariler this year was meant to be a symbol of not only the diversity of the LGBT community but of our strength and our beauty and it still is. You go into any “gayborhood” around the country and there’s the PRIDE flag in its various forms. From the rainbow pylons that line North Halsted in Boystown to simple PRIDE flags that adorn proud LGBT owned businesses in Indianapolis. There are even some PRIDE flags hanging from homes right here in Michigan City and Northwest Indiana. So when did it become a joke to show your PRIDE or even wear the rainbow? I mean I bought a pair of rainbow colored Dr. Marten’s because I’m proud of who I am, my marriage and my community. It’s not like I wore a t-shirt with a silhouette of a baseball player that says “catcher” to a child’s birthday party. Don’t laugh I’ve seen it happen. Then there’s the haters. Years ago when I was a bartender one of the wait staff who worked with me told me that she used to love the rainbow, until the gays “stole it.” For the record we stole the rainbow about as much as Neil Armstrong stole the moon after he planted the American flag on it. The moon as well as the rainbow still belongs to everyone, we were just the ones that got to it first.

As much as President Donald Trump is attempting to dismantle Presidents Obama’s legacy piece by piece he is also trying to limit our visibility and silence us. A man with five children (that we know of) from three different marriages who said that he prefers “traditional” marriage is trying to put us back in the closet and he’s doing it by cutting funding to HIV/AIDS treatment programs. He’s doing it when he tweeted that the military will no longer allow transgender soldiers to serve in any capacity in the military and he’s doing it when he caters to the Evangelical base. Evangelical’s who would rip our marriages and families away from us without a thought for our happiness, our rights or the rights of our children. The same Evangelicals who would expose LGBT youth to harmful conversion therapy and claim pro-life but turn a blind eye to the high amount of gay and transgender teenagers and young adults who commit suicide or deny services homeless LGBT youth in their “Christian” shelters. These are Donald Trump’s supporters and these are the same people that would like to see us go away yet they don’t seem to mind when the chief executive grabs the occasional pussy.

I refuse to let the Trump administration erase our legacy and I refuse be invisible so I bought the damn boots. Wearing them is just one of the little things I can do to fight back against the hypocrisy of this administration. Maybe in the end I became the middle age “rainbow guy” who I used to roll my eyes at. In retrospect maybe the “rainbow guy” had a point, maybe that rainbow bumpersticker or the ball chain necklace was just his way of not being invisible. Come to think of it we would not have the legacy that we have now if it was not for “the rainbow guy.”

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake, August 7, 2017.

A portion of the proceeds from the rainbow Dr. Marten’s go to The Trevor Project to stop bullying. You can get your own pair at drmartens.com

 

 

 

 

 

2:02 a.m.

On June 12, 2016 at 2:02 a.m. we lost our safe space. 49 beautiful people were gunned down at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. As we all know Pulse was a gay club and the gunman a radical Islamic terrorist who as some reports  will confirm was not as ease with his sexuality. So in the name in Islam and shame 49 innocent people had to die in the worst terrorist attack since 9/11 by a single gunman.

On this day a year ago I was sitting at this same desk 1000 miles away. We had nothing but the news on and throughout the day the body count kept rising. Watching this unfold in real time was chilling. Wasn’t it June? Wasn’t it Pride month. Who would do this?

The shooter, who I refuse to name, in this op-ed claimed allegiance to ISIS, yet there are reports that he was a closeted gay man who was angry that he may have been unwittingly exposed to HIV. The reports came from someone who dated him and others who had witnessed him out at Pulse. It was also reported that he was known for being on Grindr and other ‘hook up’ apps. His first wife claimed that he was gay and struggled with his sexuality. He witnessed a gay couple kiss in public and was enraged because his young son witnessed an act of affection by two men. The F.B.I. could find no evidence that he used gay dating apps or was a closeted gay man.

I think of Pulse frequently. I think that could have been me or any one of my friends. It could have happened at any bar at any Pride event over the years that we attended in Boystown. The people who where at Pulse a year ago were there to dance, meet that person they had been talking to on line or go on a date. Maybe some of them had a bad week and just wanted blow off a little steam. The victims had plans afterward. Maybe go out to breakfast before going home or sleeping until one o’clock in the afternoon cradled in the arms of their boyfriend or girlfriend. Maybe they had to work that afternoon or had plans to hit the beach. Those plans stopped mattering at 2:02 a.m. when a terrorist born in this country started killing for reasons that in the end are only known to him and all that’s left are the last moments of the victims frozen in time forever.

I pray that this doesn’t ever happen again to any community marginalized or otherwise. The man who did this was a coward and a sick coward at that. From the reports I’ve read and from witnesses who knew him the shooter was angry. He didn’t not like black people, gays, or Jews and his anger and hatred twisted his soul. So today we remember the victims of PULSE, we pray and think of their families. We also think of the survivors especially those who are wrestling with survivor’s guilt. Brandon Wolf went to Pulse that night with his two best friends. They were killed by the gunman and Brandon who survived the assault without a scratch is left plagued with nightmares and survivors guilt. Proving that pain isn’t only skin deep. ‘What Survival Means’-Brandon Wolf.

To the victims and survivors we remember you, people like me who you do not know are today celebrating your lives and in the month of June we will celebrate PRIDE in your name.

  • Stanley Almodovar III, age 23
  • Amanda Alvear, 25
  • Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
  • Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
  • Martin Benitez Torres, 33
  • Antonio D. Brown, 30
  • Darryl R. Burt II, 29
  • Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24
  • Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
  • Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31
  • Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
  • Luis D. Conde, 39
  • Cory J. Connell, 21
  • Tevin E. Crosby, 25
  • Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50
  • Deonka D. Drayton, 32
  • Mercedez M. Flores, 26
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
  • Juan R. Guerrero, 22
  • Paul T. Henry, 41
  • Frank Hernandez, 27
  • Miguel A. Honorato, 30
  • Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
  • Jason B. Josaphat, 19
  • Eddie J. Justice, 30
  • Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25
  • Christopher A. Leinonen, 32
  • Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49
  • Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35
  • Akyra Monet Murray, 18
  • Kimberly Morris, 37
  • Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
  • Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
  • Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
  • Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera, 36
  • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
  • Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
  • Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
  • Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
  • Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24
  • Xavier E. Serrano Rosado, 35
  • Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25
  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
  • Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
  • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22
  • Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37
  • Jerald A. Wright, 31

 

 

They Can Turn Off the Lights but They Can’t Turn Off Our PRIDE

It’s June and it’s Gay PRIDE month and more then ever we need our PRIDE. For the first time in eight years there will be no PRIDE celebrations in the White House, don’t expect the people’s house to be lit up in rainbow colors or Vice President Mike Pence to be running the halls carrying a PRIDE Flag the way former Vice President Joe Biden did. The only things that are running in The White House this year are the PRIDE Colors, running like they were hit with bleach spray and all we are left with is bland and angry white. Transgender protections have been rolled back. HIV/AIDS funding is being cut. Violence and harassment of all marginalized communities is on the rise. Even on a local level I experienced a disrespect from my employer in regards to my sexuality and my marriage. That disrespect from someone I trusted led me to leave my job, a final straw that not just broke the camels back but left him paralyzed and angry.

This blog was originally going to be the story of what happened to me and what led up to me leaving the employ of a well known local attorney. After two weeks of writer’s bloc and apathy, after two weeks of not knowing what to do with my newly unemployed self and not knowing where to start I’m continuing with the work I’m most proud of, this web-site and our own LGBT Community right here in Michigan City and Northwest Indiana.   “The Beacon” and our sister page OUT in Michigan City & NWIN on Facebook have been a little lite on content these last few weeks, for that I am sorry, I was licking my wounds so to speak. I had put my all into a job and a boss that who was so disorganized, so socially awkward that I thought I could “fix” him. I just thought that maybe he didn’t have the right kind of help in the past, maybe wasn’t the right kind of help. Who knows? I do know this, there are just some things that can’t be fixed. The end came when he not only insulted me, a proud gay man but worse he insulted the integrity of my marriage and made light of my husband.

So I’m done moping, I’m done morning for a job I liked but the baggage that came with it made it not even worth it, especially at the end. It’s PRIDE month and it’s time for us to shout, fight, and let Northwest Indiana, the Statehouse, the Governor’s Mansion and the nation, especially the Trump administration know that we are still here.

President Trump can keep the colored lights turned off, he can refuse to acknowledge PRIDE month. He can refuse to issue the LGBT PRIDE proclamations that have been issued in the month of June for the last eight years, and he can cow tow to Mike Pence and the religious right all we wants but WE ARE STILL HERE. OUR VOICES WILL BE HEARD and WE WILL BE RESPECTED and WE WILL NOT BE IGNORED and WE WILL RISE again and again so long as our lives, our marriages, and our families are being disrespected by an administration that lives in darkness and lies. I encourage you all to go to PRIDE events. Little ones, big ones. Hold them in your back yard or your living room. Invite friends over. Go to the PRIDE events in the park or in the streets of Chicago or Indianapolis. BE PROUD and BE LOUD because the fight is not over and it’s not going to be over until we say it is.

That my friends is my view from the other side of the lake on this June 1, 2017 Gay PRIDE month. Be Proud.