Inside my new memoir: Drama Club
During the summer between my junior and senior year of high school, Bart and I attended a ballroom dance camp held on the campus of BYU. In our shared dorm room, my life realigned after our first kiss and I no longer had thoughts of killing myself.
“Only two months earlier another boy had my heart soaring through joy filled fantasies of a perfect future together. “You look like Superman,” I said looking directly into Bart’s eyes as we lay facing one another on a tiny dorm room bed. We were dressed and ready to head out to dinner with our ballroom dance teammates, but had found we shared more in common than our fashion sense. “Shut up!” He giggled, looking away, and just as quickly turning his face back to mine. Our eyes stayed locked together. I heard the sound of my own heart pounding in my ears. The smell of his Polo cologne was intoxicating, and our knees were touching sending bursts of passion through my entire body.
When he stopped smiling, panic gripped me. Was he going to freak out? And then, as if we were two celestial bodies caught in each other’s gravity, we moved together and kissed. Our lips touched, and a surge of truth and ecstasy rushed into me. The kiss that was supposed to be so wrong simply wasn’t, and if it was wrong, it was worth risking everything.”
These photos were taken in the wedding reception hall we used for ballroom dance rehearsals in the Pocatello. Bart is in the Micky Mouse shirt and I’ve forgotten the names of two girls.
In my opinion and maybe the article’s author as well, the ugliness that must be corrected is a shift in American values:
We moved from worshiping love and character to worshiping fame and money.
We moved from being citizens to being consumers (the man with the most toys wins – why isn’t it the man who has provided the most service to his family and community?)
We moved from celebrating character (a man who will help you harvest your crops or stay to true to his word) to celebrating personality (a man who will tell you what you want to hear and be the life of the party)
We moved from identifying with our values to identifying with our possessions.
I’ve used the male pronoun because, as a white man, even if I’m a gay liberal white man, I can empathize with the pain many of us elite liberals are ignoring.
How will they react? Will it embarrass them, make them proud, or some mixture of each? Since they are in it, I wanted them to see it before the rest of the world starts reading it.
As if the rest of the world is going to read it. There’s that too. More fear. The fear that no one will want to read it.
So why do I write? One word: survival.
It was a solace when I was a teenager and continued through the tough years of my young adulthood. Putting pen to paper (that’s what we did back then) conjured magic. The angst inside my heart became lighter as words fell from my pen onto the paper. I felt legitimized and relevant. It was a message in a bottle to a distant future, a place where people were allowed to love who they love and be honored for expressing their passions for art and beauty.
The message made it. I’m here. And after a phone call to my parents letting them know the books are waiting for them – even as they drive back from their time working in their local Temple – I know, and more importantly, I feel the unconditional love I had hoped against hope would be found if I just wrote it all down. Let’s hope they feel the same way after they’ve read it.
For my LGBT family and allies:
Like the chaos created by the Kennedy assassinations, 9/11, and AIDS, the world around us has fundamentally changed because of this election. We will forever talk about the way life was like before the Trump Presidency. Years from now you’ll most likely be telling the young gays in your life what life was like before Trump, what you did to fight the right wing attacks on our community during his presidency, and how we prevailed in the end.
Yes, I really believe that.
I’m a 51 year old gay man, so I’ve seen a lot of stuff. If you’re lucky enough to be LGBT, or an ally, you can rest assured that your queer DNA has the strength, intelligence, and resources to face whatever is coming our way.
Read that again. It’s fucking true.
Your queer family tree is bursting with wonderful examples of strength. Let the history of your forbearers fortify your confidence.
Under fire, our diversity bonds together elements to give us superhero-like capabilities. Back in the 90’s one of our religious enemies lamented, “If we do nothing they come out. When we fight them they come out screaming.” Pressure has a great way of helping us make good choices for our gay selves.
For those of you who have never had to fight for your LGBT rights, I’m sorry for what is most likely coming your way. Really, it saddens and angers me. Your elder gays did not want you to be faced with the threat of legitimized bigotry, hate, and violence. We were hoping you’d be spending all your time doing something other than fighting the government.
We thought maybe you’d be hosting fabulous brunches, choosing the perfect outfit to wear to a party, and growing old with your husband. Or maybe you’d be curating queer history, building community centers for queer youth and queer seniors, or maybe you’d be running for President.
But we’re here instead. Who says we can’t do it all? In fact, fighting the fight has led us to where we are today.
If it wasn’t for gay men dying horrible AIDS deaths while the world watched, the consciousness of the nation most likely would not have expanded as rapidly as it did. Queers would not have invested as heavily in our political organizations and our LGBT centers. We most likely would not have same sex marriage, beds for homeless youth, or the respect we actually do enjoy, even if it’s given begrudgingly.
Take a look. Here are some pictures I took when we were pissed about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in 1993. We were some pissed off queens! And rallies like this became a regular occurrence. This was after we rallied for ten days straight, both here in in San Francisco, against Governor Pete Wilson for equal protection at work. All the rallies in this intersection are the reason Councilmember John Duran has often suggested we mark this intersection a historical monument. Perhaps it will become active once again and we can revisit that thought?
Here’s what they almost never tell you about what it’s like fighting for your liberty: It can be scary, but it’s often really fun and centering. You meet good people, many of whom are sexy as hell, and you make the world, YOUR world, a better place for you and those who come behind you.
Check out the boy in the “Fight Back Mary” t-shirt carrying the “ANGRY FAG” sign. I always wondered what happened to him…
Today we are sad, angry, and grieving the outcome of this election. But we are even stronger today than we were when we took on AIDS, Regan, Jerry Farwell, the CDC, the FDA, and many others. We have the experience of our elders and the energy of our youth to draw upon. We are uniquely qualified and naturally inclined to face this.
Take all the time you need to honor your grief, feel your anger, and release your sadness. There is work to do. It will be hard, but you will also cherish the experience. And when it’s over, and we no longer fighting, you may long for a young gay who is willing to hear the story of how you fought and won.
Last night, twenty-five gay men gathered for the monthly TRIBE Gay Men’s Discussion group to discussion intimacy. Enthusiasm was high in the room and several discussions started on their own before the meeting even started. Maybe it was the fact that we were back from a two month break so we could attend the two Pride meetings held next door during our regular time slot. But I think it was the topic. Many regulars who have been coming for years and some brand new faces were all very eager to dive into a topic men are often accused of avoiding.
At least we know he’s out of immediate danger. Dad is looking and sounding much better.