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

50 Years After Stonewall, PRIDE Riots On

50 years after Stonewall, it’s the PRIDE of our lives.

Chicago Gay PRIDE Parade

PRIDE. Pride is a word that can mean different things to different people. You can take pride in your work, your home, your family, and yourself. For a lot of people taking pride in themselves can be the toughest. Sometimes it seems that despite the progress that the LGBTQ community has made, especially over the last 10 years, finding pride in oneself can be elusive and inconsistent. For many people self esteem comes in waves, sometimes you’re riding high on the biggest wave of the ocean, everything is going your way, other times you keep falling off the surf board and retreat to land thinking that you’ll never have the self confidence to try again. For others there are challenging times for sure, but they always seem to land on their feet and walk through life with a never ending confident stride.


Left: View along Sixth Avenue as hundreds of people march toward Central Park, June 26, 1975. Right: A couple kiss on Sixth Avenue, June 26, 1975. Allan Tannenbaum / Getty Images




People who are LGBTQ face a unique set challenges that can effect our self esteem. Issues ranging from acceptance of family and friends to discrimination. Health and mental health issues not to mention the disproportionate suicide rates among trans and queer youth. Homeless rates among LGBTQ youth are also disproportionate. Depending on who you are the reality of coming out as LGBTQ can be one of the single most stressful times in a persons life. So, if you are able to navigate any of these challenges in life you are brave.

Take coming out for example, we don’t come out just once, we come out all the time. We come out when we meet new people or start a new job and talk with our new co-workers the conversation will most certainly turn to ones spouse or partner. That happened to me recently. I started a new job and had two days of on boarding with another new employee, we were sequestered in a small office belonging to the human resource manager. The HR manager is an older man probably in his late 60’s and uses terms like “golly gee,” “heck,” and “swell.” As we were going over the companies benefits package I mentioned the low insurance rate compared to what my spouse was paying for both of us to be insured. He asked me what my wife did for a living. Of course I polity corrected him and said that my husband is the director of social services for a long term care facility. It seemed that the awkward silence lasted longer than what it actually did, but the on boarding resumed like nothing happened.

The New York City Pride March reaches a police line, 1971. Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

There’s always that fear, the fear of the person that you’re interacting with might get insulting or maybe even violent. I didn’t know either of the people that I was in that small office with, so when I “came out” there was a certain amount of awkwardness. Those awkward moments will continue to happen for the rest of my life. Even though we’ve made progress those of us who are LGBTQ will always be living with a certain amount of uncertainty. This uncertainty straight cis gendered people will never have. Straight people never have to think twice when they share with others who they love. They will never have to worry about getting fired from a new job or any job because of their sexuality. They will never have to worry about discrimination. Those of us in the LGBTQ community who are living our truth live with these harsh facts everyday of our lives.

This year is the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots, arguably the start of the modern day gay rights movement. The riots led to the start of the first gay pride parades and festivals around the country. To get where we are now the patrons of The Stonewall Inn exploded into a violent protest after the police raided the bar. At the time raids of gay bars were common practice, but finally the people had enough. The riots became so violent that the police hid in The Stonewall Inn, afraid to leave for 45 minutes. The LGBTQ community has been clawing its way up ever since. Those early protesters were not just brave, they were fearless in finding the courage to fight the New York City Police because they were sick of being treated like their lives, their loves, and their dreams didn’t matter. Just this year The City of New York issued a formal apology to the city’s LGBTQ community for the way that community was abused at the hands of the people who were there to serve and protect all citizens.

The cis gendered straight white guys that are organizing “straight pride” events because they feel threatened that their little world is becoming too diverse, those toxic people want nothing more than to feel better about themselves by taking away our power to feel good about ourselves and undermining the achievements of our community and individuals. Don’t let them.

If you’re LGBTQ and still in the closet, if you’re not ready to come out, that doesn’t mean that you are not brave. Just coming to terms with who you are is one of the bravest things you can do, don’t ever feel pressured to come out. If you’re out always remember, just like those first protesters who took on the police during The Stonewall Riots your lives, loves, and dreams do matter.

So, on the 50th anniversary of The Stonewall Riots think of the sacrifices and hardships queer people had to live through everyday, think of those who succumbed to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s and early 90’s. Know that with people like Harvey Milk, Martha P. Johnson, Jim Obergefell, just to name a few we wouldn’t be where we are today. So, honor those who came before and know that they would want you to honor yourself, live bravely, love passionately, don’t be afraid of getting your heart broke, dream big and don’t ever let the world dictate what your truth is. And as always dance like no one is watching.

Happy PRIDE!

Michigan City PRIDE Fest is June 29, 2019 in Washington Park at the Guy Forman amphitheater from 1-9pm.

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.