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. 


Gay Political Empathy

TRIBE Thoughts

Once the room is organized and a sign is posted on the sliding glass entry door inviting men to “come in”, the room we meet in for the monthly TRIBE Gay Men’s Discussion Group always feels to me like sacred space. We come in from the common world, a culture that generally is not focused on our interests and come into an uncommon space, one where most of the people in the room mirror our identity back to us.
It’s like a ship at sea ferrying us from point A to point B where, for an ephemeral span of time we enjoy being the dominant culture, speaking in our own idioms of shared humor, hopes, and fears.
Fifteen men started watching the live debate at 6pm and by the time the discussion started ninety minutes later we had nearly thirty men in the room.  
This group was decidedly pro Hillary. No surprise. And everyone was fairly happy with their favorite’s performance in the debate. The tenor of the TRIBE discussion regarding Trump was not simply against his policies, it was seriously fearful of the country’s ability to survive his presidency and their own personal safety as gay men should he be elected president.
While no one in the room admitted to being a republican or pro-Trump, one man did share his dilemma of meeting a sexy guy with a great ass that he’d like to see again even though Sexy Ass was voting for Trump. He asked for advice on reaching this guy. Not only did he think this guy was hot, but he also thought we should find a way to reach people on the other side rather than mark them as unredeemable and cut them out of our lives.
Sex, or even just the promise of it, obviously has the capacity to open people minds. I think this is one of the reasons why gay men are generally more empathetic than our heterosexual counterparts. Since gay men are born into every demographic conceivable, and we eventually look for connection in a relatively small pool of options, we need to become amenable to men of different class, race, religion, and maybe even political background. Or go without sex. What do you think most men do in that situation?
We also talked about the political “gay agenda”. To some it seems to have evaporated. “I went to a big fundraiser and all of the focus is was on transgender rights, which I support, but no one seems to have a vision for gay Americans after we’ve achieved legal equality.” Our institutions that once championed “gay rights” now maintain a self-conscious silence regarding the future of gay men’s culture.
I was just happy to be in a room full with men who get me. Even the ones I’d just met that night understand me in a way my non-gay friends and non-gay family ever can. We laughed, we listened, and we took each other’s fears seriously. Much was discussed. Many hugs were shared. And when we departed our sacred space, we went back into the larger world a little bit stronger and a little more at peace than when we’d arrived. 

29 Gay Men Murdered in Fire – “The Lord had something to do with this.”

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the largest gay massacre in America. I did not know that until I saw this post on Facebook today. In June of 1973 I was enjoying the summer break between my 2nd and 3rd grade years in grammar school. Forty years have gone by and not one of my educators mentioned this massacre. I have worked and lived in a gay city my entire adult life and I have not heard about his until today. How is that possible?

Tomorrow the SCOTUS is going to announce their decisions on marriage. If it goes our way, do we just say “thank you” and blend neatly into hetro-normative society forgetting all the hate? Do we continue to bury this type of history because it makes the middle class assimilationists uncomfortable?

I’m just asking here, because the burial of this story for forty years – the story of my people being hideously murdered in mass – is outrageous.

Again, how is this possible?

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

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.