Drama Club: He loved and protected me

My stepmom called me from Idaho to give me the news of R.L.’s death from a brain tumor. She didn’t know who R.L. was, or why his mom had called her and asked her to share one of R.L’s dying wishes with me, but my mom obliged the request. Standing next to the phone (they were all land lines in 1985) in San Diego I received the news that my mentor of six years was gone.
When other men would not talk to me, I’m guessing because I was so young and therefore illegalR.L. shed light on the realities of life for gay men in the late 70s and early 80s. The law, STDs, and queer vocabulary were just some of the subjects he coveredHe was a mentor, a lover, a Wikipedia of information. I needed all of it to mitigate the risks of navigating the secret world I’d found by reading the writing on the walls of public bathrooms.

He loved and protected me. I loved him and broke his heart. He continued to love me anyway. He hosted me for a secret three day stay in Cheyenne so that I could attend my first Gay Pride March in Denver Colorado, before rendezvousing with my non-gay friends in Cheyenne. 

This photo was taken then. It shows the hubris of youth; the admiration and concern of experience. I learned about my own selfishness that weekend. With love, R.L. pointed out how unattractive it can be. He softened the lessons I had to learn in the School of Hard Knocks. And for that, I will be forever grateful.  

More experiences with R.L. are in my book new book Drama Club. 


Drama Club: Message in a bottle

Why do I write? The question becomes really important now that three copies of my memoir are setting on my parent’s porch. One for mom, one for dad, and one for my sister Candra. A book cover with two boys kissing in front of the Salt Lake City Mormon Temple. All the details I’d hidden from my family during high school – details about love and sex that have been only half-explained over the years are now in print ready for them to peruse 

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.  

No Cross Talk

How much is too much to share? Four hours there and four hours back. Just mom and me in the car, Omaha, Gothenburg, return.

The basics covered and so much more – details of her life her gay son will never share with his nonexistent children, only his offspring of thought, written and launched into the social stream, attended to by nothing more than faith, not knowing where or really even why I’m sharing them. Her stories end, she quiets, and it becomes my turn. How much do I tell mom about my life?

Was the talk of marrying my boyfriend too much? Our ideas on fidelity? Why gay men need a discussion group in West Hollywood? I know my politics rail against the notions shared by the right wing women who occupy her chair as she regularly rebuilds what is left of their hair in her private beauty shop.

I think she is biting her tongue, uncomfortable with my upload. Then she reminds me that she would like to see more of me. That my gaps in communication make her worry. I know the absences pain her.

Do I spend so much time out of this culture that I don’t know how to speak to her? Is this what all adult children go through or is it a gay thing? Oh if only I had the lives of my children to drone on about so we wouldn’t have to look at our relationship with each other!

MikelGerle.com

The Talk of Shame

Hello Shame. We need to talk.

Why don’t you sit your veil ass down over there in your favorite chair by the fire – the fire of my mind – that fire you had convinced me the world was not ready to see.

Yeah, it’s bright and beautiful isn’t it?

Shush! You’ve had your say. And there are plenty of others out there still convinced that living without you will leave them rudderless – drifting in a life with no meaning. Just shut up, listen, and then you’re free to go.

No, I don’t need the protection you’re offering. I’m not falling for that again. That’s not power or stability. You lie. That tool you offer is just a sea anchor you use to dredge up flotsam only you can feed off while the rest of us starve and spiral deeper into our own individual voids. I see what your protection has done, and worse, what it has NOT DONE for my mom and her sisters, and their mother as well.

Your coaching to find fault and ability to twist a knife in others only leads to a sharper blade that feeds your ability to bleed the soles of those who wield it. You foster nothing but their ability to scar the lives of those they love the most.

The feast with this family is over Shame. I will not feed you! It is over. And hear me on this, I am watching you with a vigilance tempered by the forces of love and dignity. Your prowling in this arena will only leave you wanting.

Yes. I agree. You should definitely be going now.

suspended between two worlds

Airplanes, like the one I’m flying in now, used to be places where reality was suspended between two worlds. They bridged the gap, the chasm.

I was a son to my step-mom Patsy in North Platte, NE, only to get off the plane and be a son to my bio-mom DeLene in Tucson, AZ.

I was the gay ballet dancer in San Diego, only to get off the plane and be the fabricated version of a boy they had known before I moved away.

The plane was the only place I was neither and none of those things.

How strange it is to be on a plane being all of those things at the same time – closer to being whole than I’ve ever been – ready to share all of me with the bio-family I truly don’t know, and ready to accept all they are willing to offer.

Gay Men vs. Gay Men

This article is indeed, food for thought. Gay Men vs. Gay Men It makes me sad because I believe that most of it is true. As gay men, we do attack each other with alarming frequency and vitriol. I try to remember that the queen and/or gay bully spewing the venom is simply mirroring the world he has known his whole life. He believes, either consciously or not, that gay men should be torn apart, that a show of strength or status comes from tearing down the queer. With very few exceptions, gay men are raised in a non-gay culture that is usually hostel to our very existence. We’re just doing what feels natural.

Our challenge is to step into an entirely new paradigm where we see gay men as our family, our tribe, and our responsibility. When the tearing down happens we need to change the subject, challenge our brothers to operate at a higher standard, or just walk away.
When the cool kids are the ones NOT tearing other gay men down, things will change. But sometimes you need be the freak who challenges the status quote. And if you see someone else challenging the mean girl paradigm, buy them a drink, join in their dialog, feed their message.