June always reminds me of the protest that my fathers, decked out in drag, had the courage to bring to the public. A collection of “queers” written off by the world as a group of freaks and deviants. Living between the margins and eking out mostly non upwardly mobile lives. The ones who were accepted were the best of the liars among us and could hide in places like corporations or public office and pass themselves off as straight with an unloved wife, possibly kids and then tricks and boyfriends in the shadows. My respect always aligned with the freaks who had the self respect and fire to show their true faces to the world.
Every anniversary of the Stonewall Riots gives me pause to think about all of the challenges we’ve faced as a collection of sub-cultures. I believe that it is the sheer diversity of the GLBTQ communities and all of the variations that we bring with us that makes us truly beautiful. It’s funny. I’ve been that obtuse guy arguing among gay male friends. The topic became “just because you can have a sex change does not mean that you should.” I argued that it was, on the surface no different than the identity that we shared which compelled us to come out as homosexuals. That for a trans person gender identity was just a real as our sexual identity. They were annoyed but I held to my argument.
Toxic masculinity and stereotypes pop up in all sorts of places. As I said before the GLBTQ community is, historically, a collection of sub-cultures. We had to be. With our allies in the straight community we’ve made great progress toward equal rights. I’m not just talking the homo-normative marriage equality either.
While that’s great we have a mountain of work yet to accomplish. We need to be OK with the woman transitioning to become a male as a coworker peeing beside us in a stupid bathroom as that is what his gender role demands. We need to support GLBTQ at risk youth who are still being expelled from families because of who they are and then finding themselves on the streets or in self destructive circles. We need to be able to allow for the sexual and personal exploration without shame or ridicule simply because it’s not guy on guy missionary position. We need equal protections. We share some of this with women and people of color as seen with their own battles and we should support those parallel fights at every chance we get. It’s one of the places where the Civil Rights Movement failed. We are stronger together. We are weaker when we stand alone or become divisive from within.
When I came out my father totally accepted me and, in a surprise move, physically embraced me. We weren’t really close. I think it was the sharing of something personal with him from across the divide that had been built that moved him to do this. That and love for his adopted son. Mom struggled a bit with the revelation. And that’s OK, I understand that it’s sometimes difficult to overcome prejudice especially when it comes in the form of your oldest son. Truth be told, I struggled with it too and was only able to find the courage to come out gradually between the years of 17 and 21. In fact the very first person I told, was a straight guy named Ernie back in High School while we were in Cleveland for a journalism conference. How he handled it gave me the emotional building blocks I needed to begin to stand on my own and choose a life that did not involve lies. I’m truly indebted to him for how he treated me as a friend both before and after I came out.
I thought of this post while reading a local not for profit groups blog last night. All of the posts were about GLBTQ children. It made me think about the group of men that disappeared from the face of the earth as part of the AIDS epidemic. These guys would have been my mentors had they survived. They didn’t. It made me think about my responsibility to our youth not as a father but as someone who could offer some sort of positive reinforcement in the form of a monthly donation to support the efforts of the Kaleidoscope Youth Center.
This year, 2017, when I think about how Columbus Ohio celebrates what has become known as “Pride Month,” rather than the celebration of the Stonewall Riot, I put all my hopes in all of us as the same collection of rich and diverse subcultures who are not afraid to be who we are in the face of rejection, judgment, shaming, loss of income and sometimes violence. Columbus is a great City and we have a strong presence in the red State of Ohio. Ohio… She’s not usually a leader given all the rural and post industrial pockets who long for a return to it’s glory days. People who need re education and career training not empty promises of a return to steel and coal. These folks are hurting and they are angry and afraid. They need help and compassion. Especially now since they are under the spell of a populist liar in head office who sings them Pied Piper style songs.
Together we can help become the leaders that Ohio needs. Together as drag queens, trans men/women/and many classifications along the arc of gender identity, leather folks, the manimal ilk including bears/otters and any number of character analogies, lesbians and the rich culture they have developed, bisexual men and women, pansexuals, all the hanky codes, Queers and all sorts of truly creative expressions of human life out there like stars hanging in the night sky together burning brightly and casting our light as if to guide human culture to new and better ways to live.
June reminds me, most of all, that we have and always will be a revolution of Love because of our diversity and ability to shatter norms together.