CLE PRIDE “Wrap Up” 2014

Today (actually yesterday, at this point) was the 26th Annual Gay PRIDE celebration in Cleveland, Ohio. As with a number of years past, I was unable to attend due to work obligations and just general “grown-upp’ed-ness.” It is Sunday morning, 12:52 AM as I write this, and I know “the clubs” are still teeming with post-PRIDE revelers, riding the high of a day spent just “being gay,” fueled by inspiring speeches, I’m sure an electrifying performance by CLE PRIDE headliner Debra Gibson (the former “Electric Youth” Debbie Gibson of my early/mid 20’s), an army of female impersonators, gender queers, gay families with kids, gay families with dogs/cats/iguanas, LGBT vets, Gay and Gray groups, etc.

And The “Beer Garden,” the most popular attraction at any gay PRIDE celebration.   😉

PrideParadeRainbowBannerI found this image on BING; if you know the source/photographer, please let me know so I can credit it properly.

As for me? I just woke up beside three piles of clean-but-yet-to-be-folded laundry on my bed. It appears I have slept thru another PRIDE…

I mean no disrespect, and have actually enjoyed the images/status updates that have peppered my Facebook page all day. Cleveland PRIDE is 26 years old, one of the oldest continual PRIDE celebrations in America. That fact alone is a source of PRIDE (get it?) According to Cleveland.com (see link above), early estimates place PRIDE attendance this year at around 32,000 people. Not bad, CLE, not bad. Is it the 500,000 that Capitol PRIDE (Columbus, Ohio) boasted, or the over one MILLION said to attend World PRIDE in Toronto a week or so ago? Not even close – but I am PROUD of our PRIDE here in Cleveland, and thankful for its continued presence in our community.

I wish I could have supported PRIDE this year, but as so often happens, life and responsibilities got in the way again. For years I attended PRIDE and felt connected to a much larger community than was typically my day-to-day existence. For one day, for those few hours, we ARE all just one people – the barriers of sexuality, gender, race, class, age and ability all seem to fall away and for those few magical hours, we are all the same. I think THAT is the true magic and meaning/purpose of any PRIDE event. I never thought of it as a coming together of all these diverse groups within our own community, our community just being one diverse group within the much larger context of the general population; instead, I always likened gay PRIDE to a pride rally in high school – you know, the event before a big game where all the sub-groups of school (jocks, nerds, The Plastics, the every mans, all of them) just come together under one, singular umbrella to celebrate and build spirit. That is what PRIDE feels like to me – a gathering of many different people with one common goal – to celebrate all the facets of the LGBTQQIT/SA experience (we have WAY too many letters now, LOL!)

So, CONGRATS Cleveland, on another year of PRIDE! I hope the “party” goes beyond the next few hours, after the bars close, and continues for days, weeks, months and years to come. If “The Gays” know one thing, it is how to throw a party – let’s keep the spirit and purpose of this one going for as long as possible…

Look How Far We’ve Come

Last night, my beloved Martin and I enjoyed a post-Valentine’s Day dinner and movie night with our besties, Joe and Scott. After dining on melt-in-your-mouth filet mignons, roasted fingerling potatoes, oven-roasted asparagus, delicious spiral-sliced zucchini and the most mouth-watering, fresh-from-the-oven rosemary sourdough bread ever (Joe and Scott are gourmet cooks – I love them and am intimidated by them at the same time, LOL!), we enjoyed the 1980 gay cult classic, “Can’t Stop the Music,” featuring the Village People. It is a cinematic time capsule and unintentionally shows just how far America’s LGBT community has come since its release:

I remember seeing this film in a theater in Columbus, Ohio in 1980 (on one of the three days it probably survived in theaters!) I can remember sitting in the dark, a reasonably-out-for-the-time 22 year old “gay” and smiling at all the inside jokes in the movie that I was sure only “the gays” would understand, things like –

A male performer (in gold lame hot pants, no less!) twirling two fire batons, the actor credited as “James the Flame” at the end of the movie. James’ one big line in the movie? “James is my name, flaming’s my game.” 

Then there is the goodbye scene between actors Paul Sand and Valerie Perinne, where Perrine’s character leads on/flirts with ex-lover Sand through an extended goodbye that is a string of song titles, the passage ending with Olivia Newton John’s “I Honestly Love You.” So clever…

When complimented on her outfit, character Sydney Channing, owner of THE leading modeling agency in NYC, calls out the designer layers of her apparel as “…Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci” – a clear reference to the lyrics from “He’s The Greatest Dancer” by legendary disco group, Sister Sledge.

And finally, there are the Village People themselves. The G.I. The Construction Worker. The Leatherman. The Cowboy. The Indian. The Police Officer. Iconic gay male stereotypes. I remember thinking they were kinda’ “hot” in 1980. Last night? They looked like bad sitcom caricatures of gay men. I mean, Glenn the Leatherman’s big line in the movie? “Leathermen aren’t supposed to cry.”

We all laughed and guffawed as we watched. The acting is wooden. The plot is stupid. And – speaking of stupid? Did ANYONE in 1980 actually think those six poof-tahs in the Village People could possibly be straight?

villagepeople-1No offense, gents, but looking back at the film now? You look like a bad girl group, prancing around on stage, probably opening for someone like Miley Cyrus.

Listen, I am SO happy that the Village People “blazed the way” (another flaming reference) on the way to LGBT equality. But last night, sitting watching that movie with my legally-wed husband and our best friends that have been partnered for like a zillion years, well, I was reminded how far gays and lesbians have come in my lifetime. And while The G.I. has probably been replaced by The UPS Man, and The Construction Worker has probably been replaced with The Heart Doctor, I acknowledge and thank those men and women who were brave enough in 1980 to make that movie. While we still have a ways to go, we have indeed come a long, L-O-N-G way.

30 Days Already

Number 30Today is the one-month anniversary of my marriage to Martin – 30 days since our “big fat gay wedding.” It has been an awesome month for me, all-in-all, and I think my Sweetie would agree. I feel like I should do a small re-cap of our first thirty days of wedded bliss, an accounting of events since we “tied the knot.”

Let’s begin by looking at what has happened every day since Martin and I got hitched.

To begin with, the sun has continued to rise every day; in fact for me, every day has been even better and brighter…

SunriseWe get up every morning and have coffee together to start the day…

Coffee Foam ArtIt never really looks like that but we keep trying. After our coffee, I usually go to work…

time clock… and Martin heads off to school.

school suppliesBut it’s not all-work-and-no-play for us. Sometimes we take in a movie or two…

movie theater…and we frequently get together with our friends for dinner and/or just to hang out.

Buffet TableSo, yeah, all-in-all, our lives went from being pretty great to near fantastic. We are gathering resources for the next step in our journey but we have a clear picture for our future and are very excited and happy to be married.

Next, let me tell you what DIDN’T happen because we got married.

Life as we know it did not cease to exist…

WorldSomehow – mercifully – our love did NOT unleash The Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse,

The Four Horsemennor did our marriage cause the world to crash and burn…

World in FlamesSo that pretty much sums it all up; no end-of-the-world moment, things stayed essentially the same or got better and every day is bright with hope for our future.

I guess I just cannot understand why marriage equality continues to be such a big issue in Ohio, and in America in general. If someone can explain that to me, I’d appreciate it; till then, I’m going back to being on old married fuddy-duddy.

 

 

 

HRC and Me – Ramblings of a Former “A” Gay

Tonight is the Twentieth Anniversary Gala of HRC Cleveland. For those unaware, HRC is shorthand for Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest civil rights organization lobbying for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) equality. I feel like I should be at the anniversary celebration tonight but, as always, I have an issue with big fundraising events.

HRC Gala Date

Don’t get me wrong – this boy LOVES a throw-down party as much as the next guy. And I also acknowledge that people working tirelessly for social change sometimes need to get together and celebrate their efforts, bask in the love and support of others and just have fun. The thing is, I guess that in my heart of hearts, it all seems like a big, expensive pat on the back for the organization – and I am DEFINITELY not singling out HRC with that remark. But – to buy two Gala tickets at $175.00 each, plus rent two tuxedos (I know, I know – I should own one by now), the evening is already at $600.00 without valet tips, cash bar, silent auction item bids, etc. I have always had a personal issue with that – if one really SUPPORTS the goals and mission of an organization, why not just DONATE the $600.00 directly to the group? That money would go a LOT farther (and you wouldn’t have to suffer through some dry salmon or boring chicken dinner).

Salmon DinnerI guess maybe am slightly jaded with the whole “not-for-profit” thing. A decade or so ago, I was an “A” Gay – I went to every fundraising event for every LGBT-focused organization that I could. I supported as many different organizations as my wallet would allow. I was, to borrow the nickname from my dear friend Jan, a “professional gay.” I was out and about and, with each new event, each new dinner, ANOTHER cause emerged, ANOTHER organization came courting my support (dollars). That’s probably when I should have bought that tux, LOL!

After a while, I needed to step back and recharge, both my bank account and my emotional batteries. And of course, priorities change. I will admit that for the past five years or so I have been essentially a one-issue activist (LGBT-inclusive immigration reform), with a slight undercurrent of support for marriage equality as well. Those issues, especially LGBT-inclusive immigration reform, seemed to take a back seat to the larger issues of LGBT employment discrimination, DADT repeal, bullying, transgender rights and and hate crime legislation. So, I stepped out of the “A” Gay spotlight, moved a bit underground and lobbied as hard and as long as I could for issues that really mattered to me personally. Again – I TOTALLY support the work of HRC National and ESPECIALLY our outstanding local Cleveland chapter but they weren’t a good “fit” for me at the time…

So here we are today/tonight – Section 3 of DOMA has been repealed, I married my longtime partner (five years) a little over two weeks ago and now immigration law applies to us just like any other married couple. Whew. And who’s to say that HRC didn’t play a huge part in the DOMA piece? Anyway, regardless, I find myself sitting here now, wondering if Martin and I shouldn’t have tried to make that dinner. I hope the evening is glorious for everyone.

Will I ever be an “A” Gay again? I doubt it, or at least in the same way I was before. I used to think that being an A-Gay meant throwing a lot of money around, being out, visible and “PC” in public. I have come to understand, finally, that being an a-gay (lower case on purpose) is not about being public, it is about being committed and driven, giving money as well as other resources (time!) to support social change for LGBT peeps. Maybe instead of striving to be an a-gay, I will instead aspire to be a more well-rounded i-gay: involved, invested and immersed in the battle for social change, specifically as it applies to LGBT people but also as it applies to ALL people. Now that is a label I could get behind…

I think my hero, Hillary Clinton, said it best:

Gay Rights are Human RightsWow! Now I see the connection: gay rights are human rights, human rights = HRC.

Honoring the True Meaning of Memorial Day

I guess I have never considered myself to be super patriotic and, if you have been reading my posts lately, I am currently pretty disillusioned with the whole United States political system in general. That said, days like today give me a chance to pause, reflect and re-engage.

America is still regarded as the greatest country on the planet, with the best overall standard of living, the best educational system, the best/most stable economy – the best place to “simply be.” America is the country where “Dreams come true.” Our country was founded on the notion that all men – and women – are created equal. We profess to have the greatest civil liberties of any country on earth yet America’s gays and lesbians are, by and large, still treated like second class citizens. Oh sure, we endure “polite” elevator speeches about gay and lesbian rights and equality but the fact is you can still be fired from your job just for being gay or lesbian in many states, less than 20% of the states offer some form of marriage “equality” for us homos and we STILL cannot sponsor our foreign partners for immigration. Those are just three of the hundreds of rights currently denied gay and lesbian American citizens.

Memorial Day. A day of remembrance, honoring those men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. Sounds noble and pretty, right? Here is a photographic reminder of what Memorial Day’s “ultimate sacrifice” really represents:

Draped CoffinsAccording to web resources, Memorial Day is a national holiday to honor those brave men and women who have died in the service of our country, protecting all that makes America great. I definitely cannot speak for any of those soldiers, nor do I want to put words in their mouths but I imagine quite a few of them would be disappointed with the America we have today – which, in my opinion, is NOT the idealized America they died defending and protecting.

I was fortunate to be spared military service but feel I have contributed much towards making America a great country. I do all the things every American should do – obey the laws, pay taxes, rah-rah on patriotic holidays. But I also believe in the American ideal enough to have opened a small business, to have invested in the local and national economy and to be the best “ambassador” I can be for my city, state and country to the world at large. I am politically-involved and work very hard to make sure that eventually ALL Americans, regardless of age, race, ability, gender or sexuality, are treated fairly and equally. I feel we as a country are doing these fallen soldiers a great disservice by STILL quibbling over gay and lesbian equality/rights. These men and women died so ALL Americans could enjoy the same rights, treatment and privileges under the law, including gays and lesbians.

Today has re-energized my spirit to pursue that same goal, albeit in a non-combat setting. Or maybe not – I sense a huge battle coming in America. Maybe I have been a soldier all along, training and waiting for the big battle yet to come…

 

 

So sorry but…

day offSorry friends – today has been a big news day, politically-speaking, and my eyes are fried out from reading so many things online. I mean, it is kinda’ hard for me to even type this – so, a “nothing post” for today (sorry).

I promise to be back tomorrow full of witty bon mots and such. Ciao!

 

Discouraged

The older I get, the more discouraged and disillusioned I become with America in general and the “American political system” in particular. To say that I am discouraged with recent events and announcements would be a slight understatement…

Discouraged

Discourage – To deprive of confidence, hope or spirit.

I mean, I often joke that if I did MY job as poorly as most of our elected officials, or if I blatantly disregarded the wishes and requests of my clients like politicians dismiss mine/ours, I’d be unemployed and living under a bridge. The just general paralysis happening in Washington, combined by the fact that too few politicians have any sort of compassion, or moral compass, is crushing to me. Our country has become one of many, manipulated by a few. And that sucks…

I won’t “soapbox” here about the one issue in particular that has me steaming at the moment – more on that in a future blog. But, I will say, America still does not treat EVERY citizen equally. The BS and buck-pushing that has happened, and continues to happen, is so repulsive to me that I often wonder if a solution is achievable. When polls and surveys show that more than 50% of American citizens are in favor of this or that, WHO THE HELL are politicians or Supreme Court Justices to decide otherwise? I am calling bullshit on that, right here, right now.

The only thing WORSE is to alternately offer some promise of a solution or remedy to the grievous and long-standing civil rights violations here in America, but to make those remedies so convoluted and complicated, so labyrinthine that it renders the mechanism almost useless. I do not know why some of the proposed legislative proposals are not collectively called the Catch-22 clauses.

I am finding it increasingly difficult to continue to hold out hope that America will live up to its promise and the ideal that we are ALL equal. Yet, as I was searching for the image above for this blog, I also came across this meme:

never-give-up

Winston Churchill – widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century.

Now I am no Winston Churchill fanatic, nor do I even really like history in general. That said, I did find these five simple words pretty inspiring and renewing, at least for today. It would seem that surrender would be fairly dismal – I just wish we had a few more victories along the way…

I also think it might be time to start takin’ names and kickin’ some ass outta’ DC.

 

LGBT-ers: Let’s get serious about Marriage Equality

OK – so this post is probably NOT gonna’ win me a lot of fans but I feel obliged to write it…

To ALL my LGBT brothers and sisters – PLEASE get serious about demanding marriage equality. And PLEASE begin by, literally, getting serious…

I am partners in a small business – not bragging here, just being honest. So I like to think I have some idea of how promotion and “branding” work to make my business successful. The same ideas must apply to social change, correct? Anyhow, here’s what has been driving me INSANE for the past 24 hours…

As any LGBT activist knows, The Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) began hearing oral arguments yesterday regarding DOMA reform and Prop 8 out of California. Needless to say, this is a significant moment in the evolution of LGBT rights. I mean, we are finally poised on the brink of having our relationships validated and recognized by the federal government, if all goes as I – and millions and millions of other LGBT citizens, both here and abroad – hope. So, as a sort of visual “rallying cry,” the good folks over at The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) modified their standard equal sign logo to a red version:

HRCand asked everyone to post this as their profile image on any social media site, to get the word out/show that they personally supported marriage equality. Great, right? From a business and branding perspective, this was BRILLIANT! Here was a well-recognized symbol (the HRC logo) personalized for a specific, historic moment in time. This symbol would definitely galvanize the troops and get everyone together. The red color? Whether it symbolizes true love, passion about equality or anger over the injustice of the federal government’s denial to America’s gay and lesbian married couples of the 1,138 rights granted to heterosexual couples by marriage – whatever the reason it was red – the logo was fantastic! “Kudos” to the graphics team at HRC. Here was an image that would represent how seriously we all desired marriage equality and how committed we (LGBT American citizens) were to attaining it. Again, from a branding perspective, A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Then, about three/four hours after The Supreme Court began hearing testimony, the whole thing derailed (again, from a business perspective). These began appearing all over the internet –

First, the white slash version:

white slashes

Not sure why the image changed but, as I was wondering, the “Twin Rings” began appearing:

Rings

OK, not too bad – at least the rings echoed the original intent and message of the original logo. Still, the message started to degrade a bit. Then I saw this one – the “True Blood” version:

true-blood-equalityThis vampire version makes all LGBT-er’s look like “Marriage Equality Twi-Hards” but I think maybe the “bacon version” is even worse:

bacon-equalityI mean, sure, bacon is the “it” food of the moment but does it have anything to do with the passionate pursuit of equality? I think not. And I haven’t even shared the matzoh version or the version with wiener dogs. However, all those images aside, it got worse. Someone had to create this image:

liberty and JusticeAs always, we have to take any LGBT issue to some sort of graphic sexual place, as if THAT is what we are all fighting for. Really – why DOES any gay- or lesbian-related issue ALWAYS seem to come down to sex? Honestly, the word “sex” has such a negative connotation to the vast majority of people and then to combine it with “same,” as in same-sex marriage well, a lot of straight people just “Ewwww!” and shut down. Two guys or two girls “getting it on” maybe still creep them out (a bit). But this image took the prize for me:

grumpy-cat-equalityFor the uninformed, this feline is internet sensation Grumpy Cat, famous for always saying “NO” to everything. Again, I get it – it MUST be “right” if Grumpy Cat says “Yes.” I personally LOVE LOVE LOVE Grumpy Cat – but now, an image that started as a symbol of a committed, galvanized effort to bestow marriage equality to America’s LGBT citizens had been downgraded to a funny meme.

To all my amazing LGBT brethren and all our amazing, supportive straight allies, PLEASE, I beg you: get serious about marriage equality. Unify and appear prepared to do the work it takes to make marriage equality a reality in America. PLEASE refrain from making our movement a viral joke…

Listen, I am not some huge Debbie Downer, or a boohoo-er, or some bitter old curmudgeon. I am just a gay guy that wants the best not only for me and my partner/our relationship but for each of you as well. We CAN do this if we all get serious about this issue.

Please don’t hate me – think about what I have suggested. I think you will agree that we need to buckle down and keep our poker faces on as we enter this high-stakes game. Thanks!

 

 

 

Today, America went “all in…”

Today I had the luxury of watching a huge block of The Presidential Inauguration – mostly in the morning – leading up to The President’s actual swearing in around noon. I saw James Taylor and Kelly Clarkson perform. (I liked James Taylor. Kelly Clarkson? Not so much…) I haven’t yet had the chance to really process all The President’s later remarks and speeches, although the internet seems abuzz with every group, every minority, every “we-are-all-supposed-to-be-equal-but aren’t-treated-that-way” faction claiming a personal victory in The President’s remarks, sure that this word specifically referenced them and that another word was meant for another group.

I haven’t reviewed it all yet. I don’t quite know what to make of it but I do know – HOPE – this:

Image

President Obama? You are the last chance America has for true equality and greatness in my lifetime. I’m not sure why you were chosen for this role but I feel you are totally capable and worthy of it.

PLEASE follow through on your promise for complete and true equality for all people; manifest your personal evolution. Make America realize and fulfill the rich promise our forefathers envisioned, a country where everyone created equal is finally TREATED and RESPECTED equally under the law.

It’s now or never, Mr. President. I don’t really gamble but in poker I believe the term/move/action is called “going all in.” Please, Mr. President, be the leader I know you are: Go all in. Make America the best country it can be.

I promise I will help support you in every way you ask, and in every way I can. Thank you in advance…