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.

 

 

I’m Harvey Milk and I’m Here to Recruit You!

San Francisco City Supervisor Harvey Milk

1960s San Francisco became well known as a mecca for the “counterculture,” hippies, musicians, artists, and those of the LGBT community and for a time it worked. As the years rolled on and the 1970’s arrived a much more conservative attitude took over. Gay men coming from around the nation that wanted to make a home in the city’s Castro District found themselves being discriminated against by not only the the city of San Francisco but by the police who were sworn to serve and protect everyone living in the city by the bay. Gay men often times were subjected to brutal police violence. Yet, as the decade wore on gay men kept moving to The Castro. One of those men was a New Yorker named Harvey Milk. In his 40s equipped nothing but a bull horn Harvey brought together the gay community living not only in the Castro, but in the city itself. Harvey would bring along change that is still felt today.

Harvey used not only his voice to unite the LGBT Community, he used their economic power as well. It was not easy for Harvey to bring about change, he ran three unsuccessful campaigns for city supervisor, finally in 1977 he won. He won by shifting peoples perceptions, he won by becoming a leader and uniting the LGBT community of that time. He won by standing up for the abused and disenfranchised. In a time before social media and instant communication news trickeled out to the mid-west of the gay man who won political office in a major city. The news of Harvey’s success reached those living in the closet afraid of their sexuality afraid that there might be something wrong with them. Harvey Milk gave gay people all over this nation the one thing that was very scarce in the 1970’s, he would give them hope.

Harvey Milk at a rally in San Francisco

“MY NAME IS HARVEY MILK AND I AM HERE TO RECRUIT YOU!” was the rallying cry he used to get not only the attention of the city government. It also got the attention of anti-LGBT conservatives by turning their own false rhetoric against them. Conservative Christians would often claim, and some still do that gays and lesbians recruit children and “confused” adults into becoming gay. Harvey took their lies and propaganda and made it his own and by doing so he united a city. The only thing Harvey and his followers were trying to recruit was equality. Harvey Milk served only 11 months in office until he was assassinated by Dan White a fellow city supervisor. Anne Kronenberg, Harvey’s campaign manager said of him, “What set Harvey apart from you or me was that he was a visionary. He Imagined a righteous world inside his head and then he set about to create it for real, for all of us.”

Harvey Milk: photo by Jerry Pritikin

I’d like to think if Harvey were alive today he would be amazed of how far we’ve came in such a short time. I also think that in today’s uncertain political climate Harvey would continue to rally our community. He would want us to not give up or get too comfortable in our own skin because despite our successes we still have a long way to go, we still have a fight on our hands.

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake, Harvey Milk Day 2017.

‘Liberal Outrage’ and Knowing When to Pick Your Battles

Stephen Colbert, Photo: Rolling Stone Magazine.

On Monday May 1st, 2017 “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert’s monologue  was a well thought out continuous ‘take down’ of President Donald Trump. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert May 1, 2017, It was laugh out loud funny and on point. Mr. Colbert called out the President’s (bad) behavior on the Sunday Morning Program “Face the Nation” and how during the interview with host John Dickerson Mr. Trump not only insulted Mr. Dickerson but the show as well calling it “Deface the Nation.” The President abruptly and rudely ended the interview when asked about his false wire tapping claims against former President Barack Obama. In his monologue Mr. Colbert referred to Mr. Trump’s mouth as Vladimir Putin’s “Cock Holster.”

Obviously conservatives are ‘out raged’ and are demanding that CBS fire Mr. Colbert over these comments. That’s to be expected. Most conservatives I know do not have a sense of humor about anything or more typically they can dish it out but can’t take it. I mean it’s apparently within acceptable social norms for radio host and sleaze bag at large Alex Jones to claim that the former President Barack Obama was gay and former First Lady Michelle Obama was transgendered and in an attempt to look ‘normal’ kidnapped the Obama children since they could not reproduce naturally. Really? Real people believe this, real dumb people.

What is surprising is the some in the LGBT community and some liberals are “outraged.” Some are even calling Mr. Colbert’s monologue homophobic.  Seriously people? You are outraged by a liberal, straight, late night talk show host whose always been an alley to our community calling him homophobe, just because he used the term “cock holster.” I say this with love in my my big queer heart, GET OVER YOURSELVES.

Speaking as a practicing homosexual I’ll just say this, when Mr. Colbert said that I laughed my ass off. To quote Karen Walker from “Will & Grace,” “It’s funny because it’s true.” There is nothing wrong with using that term, it was funny. Just so you know I’m not a self loathing homosexual, I don’t hate myself, I’m not a cutter. In fact I’m into being gay so much so that on National Coming OUT Day I posted on Facebook that “I love the cock.” As you can imagine my mother was very proud. What I am is a humorist which means I have a sense of humor and if we are going to survive the next 4 years of this administration may I suggest that the rest of you bitches get a sense of humor too. If we do not learn to laugh, especially at our self’s then people like Donald Trump and Mike Pence have won already.

May I suggest that the”fake liberal outrage” or any other outrage that you are harboring, you channel into doing everything you can to resist, educate others, and fight this administration all the way to the polls in 2018 and 2020. Hold on the your anger because you are going to need it. If we get pissed off at every little thing that we think harms us we not only run the risk of burning ourselves out but we leave ourselves open to ridicule from the right. As members of the LGBT community we don’t need it. It’s not easy being gay we’ve already proved that we’re tough, we are not ‘snowflakes,’ so let’s stop acting like it. We need to pick our battles and those battles need to be important ones like the one we will be facing on May 4 when President Trump, using his mouth to holster Vice-President Mike Pence’s penis as he signs the “religious freedom” executive order that will basically give anyone the right to discriminate against our community so long as they invoke the mighty ‘right’ of religious freedom. Or how about being angry and horrified for the gay men in Chechnya that are being murdered in concentration camps by their own families. As a gay man and a Jew this not only outrages me but scares me to my very core. Or let’s get pissed about the lawsuit going on right now against the Picayune Funeral Home in Picayune Mississippi that refused to cremate the remains of 86 year old Robert Huskey when they found out he was gay and married to his partner of 52 years.

I’m just saying that there is a lot to be pissed off at folks, but Stephen Colbert ain’t it. We need to stay focused on the big picture and not get mad at the people who are in our corner because of some imagined slight.

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake this 3rd day of May 2017.

“I’m Gay,” How Two Simple Words Changed Television & Lives

Ellen DeGeneres on the cover of the April 14, 1997 issue of TIME magazine.

This weekend marks the “milestone” of Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office as P.O.T.U.S. There is also a another milestone happening this weekend, a more helpful more tangible milestone. The milestone I’m talking about continues to influence peoples lives and it changed the face of American television forever. A milestone that continues to empower the LGBT community of this country. A milestone that set the stage for not only TV characters but real life celebrities and everyday people to ‘come out of the closet.’ 20 years ago today, April 30, 1997, Ellen Degeneres came out not only in real life but in her sitcom “Ellen.” Ellen’s TV personality on her show, the character Ellen Morgan was the first main character of a TV show to come out. A show that was about her and named for her, during a time when there was no “Will & Grace” or “Modern Families” Cameron and Mitchell. This was a first for American television.

To commemorate the occasion I watched the episode in it’s entirety on You Tube. In quirky Ellen fashion it was entitled “The Puppy Episode” “The Puppy Episode” part one“The Puppy Episode” part 2 and it brought back bittersweet memories and emotions. Emotions and memories that I thought buried long ago. As with a lot of people my own coming out was not easy, but whose ever is?

Some of what made coming out so difficult was my own doing. I’m famously known for my procrastination or just simply not dealing with things that I don’t want too. I didn’t want to ‘deal’ with being gay and as Ellen put it when her character came out on the show, she thought these feelings “would just go away.” My “gayness” for lack of a better word didn’t just go away and neither did Ellen’s. In the show her character  couldn’t even say the word “gay,” but as the show progressed she said it and the world was listening. This was one of first times that I realized that art can imitate life. I couldn’t say the word either, until I did. At some point I came out to a close friend. I said, “I think I’m gay.” My friend looked me dead in the eyes and said to me “That’s okay, YOU ARE OKAY.” Amazingly lighting didn’t come from the heavens to strike me down and at that point that’s when I really knew that I would be okay.

The cast of “Ellen.”

 

“I’m gay.” Those two simple words uttered on a sitcom, simple words that changed the world of television forever. Simple words that have changed and will continue to change the world of the person saying them no matter who they are. After I said those words my world changed. I’m not going to lie and say it’s always been easy but it hasn’t always been hard. I’ve had my ups and my downs, but doesn’t everybody go through ups and downs in life, gay or straight? I will say this, the victories in life are a lot sweeter when you are living out of the closet, living your authentic life. At the same time life’s journey can be a lot harder to navigate if your are continuously watching over your shoulder worried that someone might figure out your secret. Carrying a secret burden can keep you just two little words away from the chance of happiness.

I don’t know if in 20 years anyone will remember what Donald Trump did in his first 100 day milestone, but I do know that on this same day 20 years from now we will be once again be looking back at how Ellen came into our living rooms via our televisions and told us all what most of us already knew about her and ourselves. She gave us the “OK” to say “I’m gay.”

And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake on this 30th day of April 2017.

John M. Livelsberger will be talking about his own coming out on the podcast “The Coming OUT Lounge” airing on May 10th, 2017.

 

Holocaust Remembrance Day, Try and Remember Not Let it Happen Again.

For those of you who do not know, today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.
What is there to say? Millions of Jews, men, women, and children died in   the holocaust, but it goes beyond that.

Gay prisoners in concentration camps are made to wear the ‘pink triangle’ so that they are identified as gay. A symbol that the gay community owns now and that’s still in use today as a symbol of freedom and remembrance.

Sharing their fate were homosexuals, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anyone who was different. Millions of innocent people who had done nothing wrong except be themselves were murdered. There are just no words and my words will fall short of conveying the scope and the pain of what happened to these people, these families, these friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers….children.

                                                                                                                                     A lot of people are scared that under the current administration we are heading down the same path. It is not an over exaggeration, people are scared and they have good reason to be. Since the election hate crimes are on the rise. We have an administration that would rather give the people of this country ‘alternative facts’ and cut off a government agency’s communication to the people that they are suppose to be serving. We have an administration that is rallying against the free press and is playing ‘slight of hand’ with the truth. Then there is Russia. Russia with a leader so homophobic that you can’t even so much as have a rainbow bumper sticker, because if you do you might be arrested for spreading ‘homosexual propaganda.’ Russian President Vladimir Putin is not a friend to the LGBT Community and he has literally made people ‘disappear’ for criticizing his polices. With unsubstantiated rumors that the Russian Government interfered somehow with the election and the fact that there may indeed be a some information that can be used to blackmail the President of the United States of America, one would think that at this time our nation should keep a respectful distance from Russia until we can sort things out. No, not this administration, both Trump and Putin are supposed to speak over the phone any day now.

Children of the Holocaust

I digress, this was not supposed to be about the political climate of the 21st Century. This was supposed to be about the millions of people who were murdered, NOT died, murdered in the Holocaust. These ‘different’ human beings were murdered, tortured, and some were put through horrific experiments. They were taken from their homes, some in the middle of the night but, most disturbingly in broad daylight. With their ‘friends’ and neighbors, neighbors that Jewish families lived next door to for generations, neighbors that did not lift a finger to help them as German Soldiers shot them and they fell into mass graves one body on top of another, again in broad daylight. No one spoke up. Let that sink in.

Believe it or not Berlin had a thriving gay community in the 1930’s. When Hitler came to power that came to an end. Hitler had to blame someone for the sorry economic state Germany was in and it behooved him to blame the Jews, the gays, or anyone else that was not in the theological Christian norm. It behooved Hitler to view their differences not at diverse or as different people bringing the best of themselves to the table, but to use those very differences as a spring board to hate. He spread hate, misunderstanding and ‘alternative facts’ to achieve a climb to power that the world wold not see again until November 8, 2016. Hitler’s appeal to the disenfranchised common man was a strong and powerful tool, a tool he used to his full advantage. I mean if you think about it, Hitler was so popular that he could shot someone in the middle of Time Square and get away with it. All of this sounds so familiar, I was not alive in the 1930’s when Hitler came to power, yet I’m having the weirdest sense of de’ja’ vu.
 
Do I think that the Holocaust could happen again? Absolutely I do. Yet we have something the people did not have back then, we have better windows into the past. We can look at films, interviews with survivors, and by acknowledging the past we can make sure it does not happen again. Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it, that’s a cliche’ I know, but it’s a true cliche’. We also have the internet, a way of communicating with each other and to the world. From our smart phones we can go ‘live’ and share things like the women’s march on Washington. People who actually work for the government can create new tweeter accounts and Facebook pages to let the public know what’s happening when the President orders a ‘media blackout’ of those agencies. We can hold a corrupt government accountable in real time. We can do all of these things, well until Donald J. Trump turns off the internet.
 
To the families, the men, women, and children who died scared and alone in the Holocaust,  you are not forgotten, may your memories be a blessing.
 
And that my friends is my view from the other side of the Lake today, January 27th, 2017.

Has HOPE Left the Building?

Donald Trump’s election has literately torn families apart in a way that hasn’t been seen since the Civil War. Maybe that’s a little extreme, but I certainly have never seen anything like this in my lifetime.
 
My family is no different. My younger brothers support Trump. My mom, my daughter, my husband and I disagree with them on a very fundamental level. There is no easy fix for this, it’s not something I can ‘just get over’ or even forgive, at least not now and maybe not ever. It goes beyond simple politics, it hits at the root of racism, misogyny, gullibility, and common sense. I love my family I especially love my bothers and I have always supported them, they have never done anything to ever make me ashamed or be disappointed in them, until now. Their support of a reality TV star, who is proud of the fact that he feels he can do whatever he wants to women because he is successful not only leaves me disillusioned with my brothers, but with half of this country. I accused one of my brothers of loving his addiction to ‘White Privilege.’ His response was “if working hard to raise a child and paying my bills is white privilege than yes I have white privilege.” After that statement, I simply asked him, “When was the last time you were pulled over for driving while Caucasian?”
 

As a typical Trump supporter he did not ‘get it’ nor will he ever because he and a lot of other Trump supporters, or should I say insecure white guys. Insecure white guys who want to go back in time and live in a world that never really existed. The idyllic world of post World War II 1950s where woman were women and men were men and there was not a person of color in sight and no one had ever heard of a same sex couple. They want a world where Bruce Jenner is still Bruce Jenner, where he’s on the cover of the Wheaties box and pees in the men’s room. They want a world that if a President of the United States visits Japan he would shake hands with Japanese Prime-minister. As is Japanese custom the Prime-minister would bow to a visiting dignitary. President Obama in showing respect to that countries people and culture while visiting Japan bowed to the Prime-minister. Angry white guys didn’t like that, “American’s bow to no one, especially the President!” 

PHOENIX, AZ – JULY 11: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses supporters during a political rally at the Phoenix Convention Center on July 11, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. Trump spoke about illegal immigration and other topics in front of an estimated crowd of 4,200. (Photo by Charlie Leight/Getty Images)

There is such a thing as ‘healthy fear’ and ‘healthy shame’. Healthy fear protects us and others from engaging in behavior that doesn’t get us or others hurt or killed. Healthy shame keeps us out of jail. You can find both of these qualities in leaders. Mind you I said leaders, NOT bosses. All leaders are bosses but not all bosses are leaders and right now Donald J. Trump is going to be sworn in NOT as America’s 45th President, but as America’s boss and anyone who does not follow the employee hand book is going to be written up, written off, and fired.

Donald Trump has never had to fear anything or feel ashamed of his behavior. I do not think that at his core he is able to feel or understand those concepts. That does not make him a strong leader, that makes him a dangerous leader. When leaders have no fear, shame, humility, and no conscience, people die. Real leaders set examples and earn respect. Bosses give orders and expect unquestioning blind obedience.

I want to believe President Obama with all of my heart when he said at his final press conference, that he believes we will all be okay. ‘It will be okay.’ That sounds suspiciously like something your Dad would say if you had to go to the hospital for surgery as a kid. You KNEW deep down it would be okay, but you also knew that recovery was going to hurt like hell.
 
Eight years ago at this time I felt hope. Eight years later hope has left the building, it left the building  when intolerance and uncertainty showed up.
One of the last things my brother told me was that I was ‘everything that was wrong with this country.’ I’ll own that, and I’ll wear it on my sleeve like I do my heart and my attitude. In the mean time an ‘Amber Alert’ has been issued for ‘HOPE.’ I don’t think it will be missing for long, just long enough for us to miss it. 
And that my friends is my view from the other side of the lake.

CLOSING TIME! WHERE DID THE NEIGHBORHOOD GAY BAR GO?

We seem to be at a cross roads in the gay community, with marriage equality becoming the law of the land and positive roll models, major celebrities, and even athletes coming out, our lives, like it or not, have become main stream. Straight families seem to be moving into our ‘gayborhoods’ and living and working side by side with us. For most of us, but not all, our friends and families have accepted us and some of us are starting our own families. As more and more of us come out that line that divided us seems to be getting thinner and thinner, so thin in fact you almost can’t see it anymore. It seems that when you gain more than what you had, you end up giving up ‘something’ or that ‘something’ becomes less and less relevant. The ‘something’ I’m talking about in this instance is your friendly neighborhood gay bar.

Here in North West Indiana and most specifically in Michigan City, we’ve lost the majority of our gay bars. As we are welcomed into more all inclusive establishments our community is split on whether we even need one. In the past, gay bars were a refuge from the main stream that we were not welcome in. For to many years it was not was not safe for a lot of people to come out, they would risk getting fired from their jobs or endure any number of negative reactions to living a life that was authentic to them. The gay bar was the outlet in which we could be ourselves, talk with other like minded people, see entertainment unique to our community, laugh with our friends or help them through their drama, and maybe find that companion to spend the rest of the evening with or in some cases a life. My memories of these places are bittersweet, I’ve had some good times some not so good times. I’ve had a lot of laughs in these places and yes my share of ‘hook ups.’ I was even introduced to my husband in a gay bar. It seems we’ve been together ever since.

There are a lot of different opinions why we don’t need a gay bar, but the most prevalent one seems to be the most obvious of reasons, we don’t need one because it’s so easy to ‘hook up’ these days. In an age where instant gratification enables us to ‘order’ a companion on-line as easily as you would order a Domino’s Pizza, you can have a (hopefully) hot guy over to your house in 30 minutes or less, and hopefully they are using a current profile pick. Grab your phone and hit the icon for your favorite ‘hook up’ app of choice, GRINDR, SCRUFF, ADAM 4 ADAM or the inevitable PENIS TRACKER app. and you can get that awkward, sexual hook up delivered right to your door, and if you are already having cocktails at home you are exercising good judgment by not driving, you don’t even have to leave the house to lose your self-esteem.

For those of you who don’t think we need gay bars anymore for that reason, I respectfully disagree. When you turn 21 it’s a right of passage to go into a bar for the first time, it seems even more so for that 21 year old gay man, going to see his first drag show, maybe locking eyes with that hot guy across the bar. Wrestling with the dilemma of going home with said hot guy or staying with your best straight girl friend the rest of the evening, I guess it would depend on who drove. Gay bars are needed for that one guy, we all know one. He was in a very long term relationship and managed to get through a bitter break-up. After 3 weeks of self imposed exile his friends drag him out to the bar, maybe on stripper night. He has a few drinks, someone pays for a lap dance and all the sudden he finds the strength to laugh again at least for the moment, he can go back to being depressed tomorrow. When you needed to dance, or wanted to dance. If you couldn’t dance the liquid courage would take over, you find that your body is not only following the rhythm of the music, but the rhythm of the person’s body who is suddenly grinding up against you. The older generation, the guys that were around when Stonewall happened, the start of the modern gay rights movement. Lot’s of these gentlemen are not on line, and that’s okay, but like lot’s of people they still need companionship. Sometimes just a conversation or a ‘how have you been?’ is enough, sometimes its enough because it will help another human being be less lonely for awhile.

The gay bar is and should be still be that place where we go. It should support our community just at the community supports it. To many gay bars took from the community and never gave back. I think in this age of gay centered Television shows, Campbell’s soup commercials, and marriage equality the thing that should not disappear from our collective conscience is THAT place, our place. The place with the pool table, the dart board, the place where your best friend knocked over that flaming shot of rum and almost set the table on fire. That place were the Gay Pride Flag flew proudly. That place were you would meet your friends after work.

“So when you get off later just get there. We’re all going to be there and first drink is on me, oh and I heard from a pretty credible source that guy you like is gonna be there too. Maybe you will finally ask him to dance. Anyway, we are waiting on you.” I know I’ve been waiting for my gay bar to make a come back, I have a feeling I’m waiting in vain.

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