Semantic Wars and Excedrin Headaches

Posted in LGBT Issues and Stuff on April 16, 2014 by scottsteaux63

Yesterday I shared the following meme on Facebook:

AMERICA

Short and to the point, right?  There is an undeniable irony in a nation in which two people of the same sex who love each other wanting to get married is somehow a threat to “our entire way of life,” while out-of-control and unregulated purchase, ownership, and use of guns in all shapes and sizes is seen as a fundamental American right.  And it’s usually the same people shrieking about both topics:  they look to the Bible to bolster the first argument and the Second Amendment to bolster the second.  The fact that the Bible has virtually nothing to say about LGBT persons as we know them today does not stop them, and neither does the fact that the Second Amendment does not say that everyone who wants guns should be allowed to have as many of whatever kind they choose.

So imagine my surprise when a Facebook friend, a fellow Gay man, decided to nitpick over the use of the words “assault rifle.”  And I made the mistake of mentioning Sandy Hook, which he took as an opportunity to “school me:”  apparently the weapon used there was a 9mm.  

I know little about such things:  I can fire a shotgun, a rifle, and a pistol, but I wouldn’t know the difference between a Winchester and a Glock if my life depended on it.  But what I DO know is that “assault rifle(s)” as such really were not the point and I could not believe this guy was making an issue of something that completely missed the point of what the entire sentence was trying to convey.

Being that we were Facebook friends and that I had never exchanged so much as a minor disagreement with this man in the years I have known him, I was frankly shocked at the way he dug his heels in; not only did he refuse to give any ground, the longer the conversation went on the more he began to sound like someone who would have given George Zimmerman a medal for murdering Trayvon Martin and in the end I unfriended and blocked him.  I didn’t know what else to do; I attempted to back out of it and he would not let me, and as I am not accustomed to giving people what they want just to get them off my back, I told HIM to get lost.

I am not happy about how this turned out.  I wish we could have at least agreed to disagree.  But he was clearly getting really hot under the collar really fast and nothing I was saying was cooling him off.  I wish it could have ended differently.

I am not sure what lesson there is in what happened.  I do know that I would never have expected such a hard line from a Gay man on the issue of guns, but that wasn’t even what happened here.  He objected to the words “assault rifle” which I did not compose and about which I could do nothing.  And even if the Sandy Hook shooter didn’t use an “assault rifle” his victims were just as dead.  I certainly didn’t expect this guy to turn into an “Obama is coming to take your guns” Libertarian before my eyes but the more I see of such behavior the more I think maybe taking away some people’s guns isn’t such a bad idea.

I don’t mind blocking people who annoy me if they are not friends of mine; the Block feature is a good way to get rid of anyone who gives me headaches.  But I hate unfriending people.  There’s a sense of disillusion and also I wonder if I might have handled it better even though I soft-pedaled it as best I could and he was the one who became aggressive.

I guess the lesson is “Be Careful What You Post; It Can Bite You In The Ass.”

Fortunately for me Excedrin relieves pain there too.

 

6 April 2014

Posted in Uncategorized on April 6, 2014 by scottsteaux63

Today I am fifty-one years old. Once the coffee kicked in and I could think, I realized that I don’t feel much different than I did yesterday when I was still fifty (all things being relative of course).  And since it’s Sunday and I won’t see my husband at all today (he’s a church musician and Sunday’s a twelve hour day), I don’t mind at all that I have to wait until tomorrow to celebrate.  Of course, the fact that we’re going to my very favorite restaurant makes that easier!

When you’re a kid, birthdays are a big deal; most people of my age can remember the rather ridiculously elaborate parties, sometimes with a clown or a puppet show (Good God, Dad, how could you let Mom spend all that money?), that were thrown for us.  Our friends were usually there, but sometimes we’d have to invite our entire class from school so there would be kids in my house that under other circumstances I would have set the dogs on (if we had had dogs).  And let’s be real:  the only thing any of us remembered for any significant length of time after all that hoopla was the loot, presents being the raison d’être of the entire overblown afternoon.

I forget at what age the parties ceased, but I am sure it was not to soon to suit my Dad, who was a rather frugal man (a child of the Depression, I don’t think he ever quite recovered from his early poverty).  And Mom was probably relieved at having one less occasion when she had a bunch of people in her nice clean house (it was different when it was family, but only to a point).  Instead of all the fuss, Mom might cook our favorite dinner (or as my brother and I got older, we’d go out), and we’d get one nice gift.  Later on the dinner out was itself the gift.    And then my Dad retired and my parents moved to Florida while my brother and I remained in New York.  Birthday cards arrived, usually with a check inside (always much appreciated).  My brother and I both married and the four of us celebrated birthdays together a few times, but more often just dinner out with our spouses was sufficient.

Then my parents died, my marriage broke up, my brother and I had a falling out that has never been mended, and I fell ill with a chronic condition that remains with me to this day.  I had to apply for Social Security Disability, a degrading process that took more than three years, put me through hell, and cost me nearly everything I owned.  Four birthdays passed almost unnoticed; alone and unwell, I “celebrated” by splurging on a bottle at the liquor store and getting drunk.  I didn’t become an alcoholic, but I definitely skated right up to the edge, and probably avoided it only because I didn’t have the money to drink that heavily that often.

Then on 28 April 2002, a friend of mine introduced me to a man he thought I would like, and my whole life changed.  I had never believed in love at first sight, but I shook John’s hand, took one look into those baby blue eyes, and the rest is history:  we went from “Nice to meet you” to “How about going out sometime?” to “I love you” to “Will you marry me?” in about a month.  We got married on 21 December 2002 at the Unitarian Church of Summit NJ.

The point of my apparent digression is that for several years I virtually ignored my birthdays.  Using them as an excuse to get shit-faced is hardly “celebration,” and really, I was practically homeless so what was to celebrate?  But not too long after John and I got married, my SSD case was finally approved and I not only had a decent income to bring to the marriage but I got three years back benefits and could pay all of my debts and even get a decent car.

So I think it was then that I understood why we celebrate birthdays.  Sure, you don’t go to bed feeling fifty and wake up feeling fifty-one (?!?), but you’ve survived another year of a life that is often unfair, unpredictable, and painful.  But that part isn’t what you celebrate.  What you celebrate are all the parts that were joyous and uplifting and beautiful, and since 2002 my birthday prayer has always been “God, please grant me many more years with this man; it took me forty years to find him, and my one wish is to be with him as long as we can.”

(Okay so I probably throw in a wish for more money, but that one’s more than half a joke and I think God knows that.)

So tomorrow we will enjoy a delicious meal and drink a toast of thanks that we have lived this long, that we have each other, and that we may have each other for a long time.  For me, there’s more of a reason to celebrate birthdays now than ever before.  Perhaps because the more we have, the fewer we are going to have, we grow to appreciate them that much more.

 

And They Say We Can’t Be Monogamous

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13, 2014 by scottsteaux63

Today The Advocate ran the story of  Lewis Duckett and Billy Jones, who got married last June in Harlem’s Riverside Church, after forty-six years together.

Forty-six years.

As the country moves ever-so-slowly in the direction of marriage equality for LGBT persons, we are seeing more and more stories of couples heading down to City Hall to make their unions legal after decades together.  My own husband and I went to our City Hall in July 2011, just four days after the law went into effect in New York, and made our union of nine years legal (we just celebrated our eleventh anniversary in December).

Questions of legality aside, this is not my first marriage.  My first marriage lasted from 1984 to 1999.  It wasn’t exactly a bed of roses:  despite being only twenty-one I had a lot of baggage, mostly anger issues, and I discovered much later that he had Borderline Personality Disorder.  Untreated.

So we vacillated from Tennessee Williams to Mart Crowley to Edward Albee, but there must have been love there else we would not have hung in there as long as we did.

So now, I have a question for the Religious Right:  What were you saying about LGBT persons not being able to be monogamous?  For sixty years and more, that’s been one of the weapons you’ve bludgeoned us with, along with calling us sick, dirty, broken, diseased, and identifying us by the SEX syllable in the word “homoSEXual.”

Yet here we are, couples in the thousands, who have been together for years, some of us for decades, and we want the same respect that you give to every heterosexual couple.  The same recognition, the same rights, the same responsibilities; in short, we want you to honor our relationships:  you can think it’s wrong, you can think it’s “icky,” but that does not give you the right to treat us differently than the rest of the world.  The Constitution forbids it, yet you will blithely ignore that fact as long as you can.  

Well, I have news for you:  the day is coming when we will achieve our goal of full equality.  And no, we won’t force your churches to perform our weddings if they do not wish to, because as it happens, the Constitution forbids that too.

We are not going away.  So grow up, stop whining about persecution that does not exist, and live your lives and let us live ours.

Churchquake ~ A Month Late, But Still Important

Posted in Uncategorized on October 14, 2013 by scottsteaux63

I have been meaning to post about Churchquake, the Reconciling Ministries Network Convocation that John and I went to over the Labor Day weekend, ever since we returned.  Unfortunately I’ve been sick, first with a sinus infection and bronchitis combined, and now with colitis that apparently was caused by the antibiotics I took last month (the wonders of modern medicine).

The Reconciling Ministries Network is a group of congregations within the United Methodist Church that is working towards full inclusion of LGBT persons in the life of the Church.  The United Methodist Book of Discipline, while it does call homosexual persons “persons of sacred worth,” also says that the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”  This is what we in the RMN are working to change.  The church I attend, and where my husband works, became the first Reconciling Congregation in what is now the Upper New York Annual Conference (formerly the Wyoming Conference, don’t ask me why lol).  That was more than thirty years ago.

I have only been to one previous convocation, back in 2005.  They are held every two years.  2007 and 2009 were too far to travel, I did go in 2011 but went down sick the second morning and missed almost all of it, so when Churchquake came along and we discovered it was to be held in Chevy Chase, MD, a little over five hours’ drive away, we jumped at the chance.

How to describe a church convocation…worship service every morning (lots of music and of course we both joined the choir), workshops and focus groups on different issues which one may attend or not as one chooses, Bible studies (on this occasion led by the great Peterson Toscano, a performance artist whose theology has a distinct LGBTQ twist and whose Bible studies were provoking, energizing, and exhilarating), and on one day a series of trips to the local sights of one’s choice:  we chose the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and it was a deeply moving and sobering experience; our only regret was that the visit was only two hours long, because one really needs a couple of days to do justice to that museum.

The final event of the last day was the worship service, with a brief but fiery sermon and music that left us literally soaring out of there on eagle’s wings.

I will take a great deal away from that weekend, but the one thing I will remember the most is the love.  There were some familiar faces there, and more that we probably had met before but did not remember, and naturally some we did not know at all, but I cannot describe the feeling of love for everyone there that I experienced.  Perhaps it was partly being in a Safe Zone.  But I think it was more close to this:  for those few days we were very nearly the Beloved Community that Jesus spoke of so often.  A disparate gathering of souls, committed to one idea:  that in God’s kingdom no one is unwelcome.

Amen and Amen.

Still Trying To Convince Myself That It Really Happened

Posted in Uncategorized on June 27, 2013 by scottsteaux63

I slept late yesterday, having had a rough night.  So I was awakened by my husband’s usual “I’m coming home for lunch” phone call.  I mumbled something that I thought sounded like “Hello?” and heard my husband’s voice, so excited I could barely make out what he was saying:  “DOMA is DEAD!”

A tad bit befuddled, as I always am in my uncaffeinated state, I made a noise that sounded something like “ohuh?” and he repeated what he had said a second time.  This time it sank in, and I sat there on the edge of the bed.  John was still talking, elaborating on the SCOTUS decision and the concurrent ruling regarding Prop 8, but I couldn’t make much sense of what I was hearing.  For one thing, as I said, I had not yet had my caffeine ration, and in that state even “good morning” can sound like ancient Aramaic to me.  But the other thing keeping me from hearing him was that I was suddenly choking back tears and trying not to sob out loud into the phone.  John asked me to boot up his laptop and said he’d be home in a few minutes, then we hung up and I took several deep breaths, put on my robe, and went to make the coffee and boot up our computers; the usual morning routine steadied me a bit and by the time John got home I was actually able to talk about it.

Yet even now as I type these words, my mind is still racing with the magnitude of what just happened.  I have lived to witness history.  For the first time in the fifty years I have been on this planet, I heard the highest court in the land tell me that I was no longer a second-class citizen.

For most of my life, the idea that the “institution” (God I hate that word; sounds like getting married is the equivalent of being hospitalized) of marriage would ever be open to me was about as foreign as one of those bizarre flavors of ice cream that I understand the Japanese are so fond of (octopus gelato, anyone?).  Despite this, I was married to all intents and purposes from the time I was twenty-one.  He was manipulative, passive-aggressive, and could be extremely cruel, but I was no angel either:  I had inherited my mother’s hot temper and on more than one occasion our fights broke out into outright brawls.  And yet we stayed married for fifteen years, in spite of our problems and in spite of the fact that we had no legal document tying us together.  We lasted longer than many of my straight high school classmates did in their first marriages; most of them were filing papers before the fifth anniversary and none of them made it to the tenth.

So we never used the words “married” or “husband;” we usually referred to each other by the generic term “partner” which sounds rather passionless but which I preferred to “lover,” which sounded like a passing fling, and “longtime companion,” which looked good in the AIDS obits and made a great movie title, but as a term to be used in casual conversation it was much too cumbersome to ever catch on.  But on the rare occasions when we actually talked about it, we agreed that we considered ourselves married; like many LGBTs of our generation, we told ourselves that we did not “need” that piece of paper to validate our relationship (heterosexuals were doing the same thing, but for such different reasons that I really do not count them here).

So after fifteen years I found myself single and on the slippery slope to age forty.  I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and looked round to see what I ought to do next.  The thought of dating made me ill, but I’ve always been a social person, so when I was not out with friends, it was perhaps inevitable that I would go to the local gay club, a place called The Den that in its heyday had three main bars:  one on the dance floor which was closed off by heavy doors from the large central bar where the music emanated from a jukebox and people could at least communicate even if it did require shouting, and a small, cozy bar in the center of the square building, also with doors that closed, that was my favorite of the three because there a person could actually have a conversation with another person, even if all that was said was “Your place or mine?”  Not that that was said all that often anymore; for one thing, I was not the cute young thing I had been when my first husband and I met; for another the AIDS pandemic had put the kibosh on casual sex for many of us (but of course by no means all).

Unfortunately, the Den had by this time removed the doors that separated the three bars; I was never to find out why, but the effect this had was that the entire place vibrated with the sounds blasting from the dance floor and there wasn’t a single place in the entire establishment where people talk without having to shout (and that included the rest rooms). 

Still, it was all we had in the section of central New Jersey where I lived, and they did have happy hour from five PM to eight PM on Thursdays, where food was served and the music was mercifully cut off.  But it did not take me long to realize that the bar scene was no longer the place to meet a potential partner.  Not that I was actually looking, mind you, but when I compared it to the bar scene of sixteen years earlier, it was not too hard to figure out.

In the end I stopped going; it got boring, and worse, no one seemed to want to talk to anyone anymore.  It was as if each person was walking around in a protective bubble with a “Keep Out” sign on it (or at least “Keep Your Distance,” which amounts to the same thing).

So I turned my attention elsewhere.  Moving from the town where Dennis and I lived to a place closer to my job also entailed changing doctors, and I soon found myself at the Ryan White Clinic in Somerville NJ.  The Clinic had a weekly support group, which I joined, and I was encouraged by the Nurse Practitioner who ran the place to get involved in the Ryan White Planning Council.  Which I did, but that is a topic for another day.

I made the colossal mistake of going out on a few dates with one of the guys from the group.  I should have known better; it was too soon, and it was not long before I was in over my head.  I was not ready, and I realized that the relationship was not going to go anywhere, but he had gone and fallen in love with me.  I had to let him down gently, but I felt almost worse than when I had been the one getting rejected.

Then one day a friend of mine from group mentioned a friend of his that he thought I might like to meet.  I was wary, but I thought, “What the hell, at least I can make another new friend,” so I agreed to meet the guy.

Well I certainly was not prepared for what happened.  I always thought “love at first sight” was a device of bad romance novelists and B movies, but I took one look into John’s baby blues and it was something very like it; my knees actually went weak.

We went from “Nice to meet you” to “Would you like to go out with me?” to “I love you” to “Will you marry me?” in a little over a month; our friends thought we had taken leave of our senses, but I had never seen anything so clearly in my life as the fact that I wanted to marry this man.

So we located a Unitarian Church, at the time one of only three denominations that were performing same-sex unions (the others were the United Church of Christ and of course the Metropolitan Community Church), and on 21 December 2002 we got married.  It was not legally recognized, but when we slipped those rings on each other’s fingers and clung tightly to each other, I realized that I had actually done something I never thought I’d be able to do.

Then came the summer of 2011; we were in our ninth year together (and had moved to New York in 2005) when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed marriage equality into law in New York State.  Four days after the law went into effect, we went down to City Hall and made it legal; the really great moment of that day was the large group of people from our church who came to celebrate with us.

Our anniversary is still 21 December; as far as we are concerned we’ve been married going on eleven years.  The law is finally beginning to catch on to the fact that equal means equal.

It has been a long time coming, but if anyone had told me thirty-five years ago, when I was a fifteen-year-old crying himself to sleep at night in terror of the prospect of life as a Gay man, that some day I could marry the man I loved, without shame and with the full recognition of the State, I would not have believed it. 

Miracles do still happen.

12 May 2013: Happy Mothers’ Day Mom; Happy Birthday Dad

Posted in LGBT Issues and Stuff, Uncategorized on May 12, 2013 by scottsteaux63

My parents have both been gone for many years, but today I find myself thinking of both of them.  Because it is Mothers’ Day, of course, but by coincidence this year it also falls on 12 May, which was my Dad’s birthday and if he were here to celebrate it this would have been number eighty-five.  I miss them both very much; to this day there are those “gotcha” moments when I almost reach for the phone to call them.  I don’t suppose those moments will ever end completely. 

I was not the easiest kid to raise, I suppose:  I inherited from my mother a quick temper and a mouth to go with it, and from my father a dogged sense of who I was and what I wanted that made me nearly impossible to turn from a path once I had chosen it.  The only excuse I can make about these flaws in my character is that I came by them honestly.

Ultimately, however, their biggest headaches came from something outside the home:  from the first day I stepped foot on the schoolyard, I was the “class faggot” and was treated as such right up to and including my freshman year of high school.  Why it stopped then, and as abruptly as it had begun, I shall never know.  What I do know is that it would color everything I did for the better part of a decade.

Unable to fight on the schoolyard, I came home and took my anger out on my younger brother.  And when, in middle school, the bullying and abuse became unbearable, I simply stopped going to school.  The thought made me physically ill, and it took more than a year of therapy to bring back the strength I had lost.

So it might seem odd that I chose to major in Drama at University.  I had ambitions to become an actor from the age of five, and had been studying both piano and voice privately for some years.  It was in Drama in high school that my talents finally gained me a measure of respect from my peers, even from some of the jocks, who may have thought what I did was “faggy” but who could not help but respect the talent and dedication it took.

Of course Mom, being a Mom, thought everything I did was wonderful; once when I spent a year touring with a kids’ musical at schools around the Metro New York area, she followed me everywhere and I think never missed a performance.

Dad took some more convincing.  Oh, he knew I was talented; he also knew that I was proposing to enter an industry that is cutthroat to the point of nastiness and in which the competition is so fierce it can eat you alive.  I think he was waiting more to see if I had the balls to follow it through:  I had already showed that I had the talent, though up to my junior year at University nothing I did really stretched my abilities.

Then along came a play, written by a member of the playwrighting class, a long one-act, one-set character study about four inmates of a nursing home, trapped not only in the institution but in their own aging bodies (my character was eighty and the makeup alone took three hours to get into) and failing minds.  I shall never forget the opening night of that play.  My parents were as usual in the audience, and the lights came up on a stage that was empty except for a cafeteria dining table and four chairs.  My character entered first, barely moving, using a walker; I had been specifically instructed by the director to make the walk to my seat the longest walk I could make it.

That play has always remained one of the most intense experiences I’ve had; certainly the most intense one of my student days.  But it was after the curtain fell that the significant moment happened for me.

My father was not a man who gave out praise easily; he was somewhat in awe of my musical talent because he had always wanted to play the piano but he grew up in the Depression and there was no money for lessons on an instrument the family could not have afforded anyway.  My acting was somewhat more doubtful; while it had always been an inside joke in the family that I would grow up to be an actor and Dad would be my agent, he did not see me really give a performance until that evening.  And he told me point-blank that he had not been sure until that night that I could act, that I had what it took, and that he was now convinced.  After that both of them bore a slight resemblance to Mama Rose in GYPSY; Mom had the big mouth but Dad was the sharp-minded business man to whom I could always turn when I needed advice.  It might not always be pleasant, and he never minced words, a trait which I came to value because I could always count on him to tell me the unvarnished truth.

So as I think of both of them today, this Mothers’ Day and what would have been Dad’s eighty-fifth birthday, I remember that in spite of whatever heartache I may have given them, they spent most of my life celebrating me.  Celebrating not only what I could do, but who I was.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  Happy Birthday, Dad.  I love you both and I will always miss you.  God truly blessed me when He gave me you two as parents.

Ramblings of a 102° Fever

Posted in LGBT Issues and Stuff, Uncategorized on May 8, 2013 by scottsteaux63

I am a bad patient.  No, scratch that:  I am a TERRIBLE patient.  Women are always saying what big babies men are when they are sick, and my conscience forbids me to deny the obvious.

The only thing that partially redeems me, I think (you’d have to ask my husband), is that when I am ill I tend to hide.  I crawl into bed, pull up the covers and basically surround the entire perimeter with “do not enter if you value your hide” vibes.  You know, cheery stuff like that.

My husband, naturally enough, IS the stereotypical bad male patient.  He lies in bed groaning while I do the fetch-and carry.  I don’t really mind, but it was rather funny when we BOTH got sick at the same time once.

Anyway, this upper respiratory thing I have has made the rounds of the town of Oneonta this time every year four years running and it usually decimates the entire population for at least a week and sometimes two. I’m on Day Four; we shall see how long it is before I start calling the doctor begging for a Z-Pak.

You would think that after twenty-four years of HIV/AIDS and almost twenty with Bipolar Disorder, a respiratory bug wouldn’t faze me.  And it wouldn’t if not for the fever:  my normal temp runes exactly one degree low (97.6°), and last night I spiked at nearly 103°. That’s enough to make anyone miserable.

Oh well, rant over.  We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming.

 

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