30 April 2009

Unabashed Slice O' Queer Life: Sex Clubs

I'm downright ecstatic to have a piece featured in the Love/Sex part of the Advocate Magazine website.

Please read my article, And They're Always Glad You Came.

25 April 2009

Unabashedly Queer Lifetime Achievement: Bea Arthur 1922-2009

In memory of my favorite Golden Girl, Bea Arthur, I am re-posting a piece I wrote in 2006 about a day I spent with Bea:

Adventures in Bea-Bea Sitting

While searching for my favorite underrated blacktress, Nell Carter, on YouTube, I came across one of those rare gems that makes you praise Allah that the Internet exists. It was a clip from the 60th anniversary celebration of NBC and all of my favorite 80s sitcom maternal figures were involved. Barbara Eden opens the scene saying how proud NBC is of its current family programming and quickly moves out of the way to let the real star, Nell Carter, begin her song while pretending to clean up around the modern minimalist home set:

From Genie and her bottle, to father knowing best, Cheers to Punky Brewster, Family Ties and all the rest. Each week they’ve entertained us, proving life is just a game. Now, each situation differed, but the sprit was the same.

Then Nell bursts into “We Are a Family” from Dreamgirls. After fixing some flowers and setting them down in a new location, the torch is passed to kooky Charlotte Rae who continues the song while carrying a tray of cookies from the kitchen. Cue Bea Arthur who barrels through the front door setting shopping bags on a table and sporting enough shoulder pad to play for the Raiders. Then comes my favorite part where Nell Carter goes up some stairs and passes Marla Gibbs saying, “I love your new show” to which Marla returns the compliment, “Not only do I love your show, child, I love your singing.” I only wish I could have been a part of that staged conversation.

It was all so genius! The leading ladies just walking around that modern home set pretending to clean things and fix dinner and console Punky Brewster as they sang. I sent the link to my former boss and sitcom producer, Maxine Lapiduss, knowing she would appreciate it. Maxine responded by telling me she was interviewing Bea Arthur that coming weekend on a radio she hosted and would I be interested in picking Bea up from her home and bringing her to Maxine’s. Oh G-d, yes please. Does she need a mani/pedi too?  A vinegar douche?  I'd do it. So of course I said yes.

I put together a really cute outfit. Some Jordache cut-off jean shorts, a threadbare vintage tee, a pair of Marc Jacobs canvas slides and a vintage scarf for a headband. What kind of music would I play on our forty-five minute commute together? As an experiment would I play the theme songs from “Maude” and “The Golden Girls” on a constant loop and see if she caught on? I decided to play Joni Mitchell at a low volume--surely that would be unobtrusive. I called Bea on the way to her home and asked if she wanted anything from The Coffee Bean.  I really just wanted to dial her phone number and hear her phone voice. "COFFEE BEAN," she shouted not knowing what it was.  I clarified, "I'm getting some coffee, would you like some," to which she responded, "Oh, no, darling, I've been up for days."

When I arrived at her home in the hills of Brentwood she was wearing a white terrycloth jumpsuit that matched her snow white hair (I'm a poet and that's a metaphor).  She peaked outside and said how sunny it was, covering her very red eyes with shades.  Now, I had heard stories about Bea Arthur's feet and they did not disappoint.  They were mammoth and her overgrown toenails were shades of yellows, browns and greens exposed in flip-flops.  There was a tissue lovingly stuck to the heel of one foot.  I suggest she opt for a closed-toe slide next time.  But you know what, she's 85 years old and a star--she doesn't need to impress anybody.

Being the mensch that I am, I tried to help her down the steps to my car but she refused--you know that old person "I can still take care of myself, thank you very much" thing.  Winding down her country-like road, I explained to Bea that we had met before at the Comedy Central Roast of Pam Anderson and she was like, "Oh that thing."  She mentioned how horrible comedian Jeffrey Ross was making that joke about not even wanting to fuck disease-ridden Pam with Bea Authur's dick.  Bea said she was just there to help out PETA and wouldn't have gone had she known they were going to be so harsh with her.  I said that I had been there with my then-boss who was a comedian and she was all, "what did you do for him" and I was all, "I was his assistant," and she was all "What's an assistant?"  And I was all in my head, "OY she is having dementia and doesn't know what that word means."  So I said, "You know, a personal assistant."  And she continued, "I've never heard of that."  And so I replied, "You know I did all the errands and things he didn't want to do." and she says, "Oh, you were a flunky."  Charmed!  So I tried to be cute and say, "I liked to think of myself more as a Girl Friday."  Silence.

She then pointed out that she didn't even have an agent muchless an assistant and I thought that was super fierce because to me she was saying, "In my day, we didn't need assistants or agents.  I woke up at 5:30, taped an episode of my hit TV show, picked up the dry-cleaning, went grocery shopping, negotiated my contract, cooked dinner and had sex with my husband.  Woke up and did it all over again every day for THIRTY YEARS."

Painful conversation creations:

"What do you during the day, Bea?" 
"Oh, I read and go to doctor's appointments."  Silence.

"Did you always live on the west side of town?"
"We lived wherever Norman Lear's wife told us to."  Silence. 

I asked her what kind of music she listens to and two minutes later she told me she likes a guy who was formerly in the band, Deep Purple.  Silence.

I asked her if she had grandchildren.  "Yes," was the answer.  Now, what old person doesn't go on about their grandchildren?  Rude.  Silence.

She then brought up "Dancing with the Stars" and told me that every time that show comes on it makes her wanna throw-up, she hates it so much.  Now that's the spunky Dorothy Zbornak I know and love!

I made one bad mistake that made me look like a total fool when I asked her if she did Vaudeville in the olden days.  I didn't say "olden days" but I sure said "Vaudeville."  She was none too pleased. 
"Oops. I'm so sorry--I didn't know."  Silence. 

She made some pleasantries.  She commented that I didn't have a southern accent and I told her that it might be because I went to boarding school at fifteen. She asked where, so I proudly said "Northfield Mount Hermon," my beloved Alma Mater.  She got agitated and above normal volume shouted, "NO, WHERE," and I was like, "Oh, Western Massachusetts."  Silence.  The burst of agitation scared me.

Every five minutes she asked how much longer the car ride would be and I kept apologizing for the traffic. She assured me it wasn’t my fault.  I made the mistake of momentarily gazing at the directions and she said, "So you don't know where we're going.” Now she was just annoying me so I didn’t respond and changed the subject.  "Have you ever been to Silver Lake, Bea, that's where I live."  I spoke slowly and deliberately like I was speaking to an intimidating child. She knew about Silver Lake and said she heard it had fabulous restaurants. Then she asked me if Lily lived there.  "Lily, who," I asked.  "Tomlin," she responded.  "I'm not a map to the stars homes, Bea," I didn't say.

When we finally arrived at Maxine’s house, all Bea wanted was to see Maxine’s dogs.  Her perma-frown face turned into a sunny smile the moment the dogs came barreling toward her.  She was tickled by the sight of them and then talked about how her dog died of bone cancer and that she didn't want to get another for fear that it would outlive her.  Honey, lighten up.  One of my favorite things she did all day was pull a tissue out of her purse and slip it into her sleeve before she went to do the radio interview.  I just like the idea of putting things where they don't belong.  A tissue in a sleeve.  A dick in an ass.  
After the interview, Maxine, who is like the best Jewish daughter ever, doted over Bea and insisted that she take some of the catered meal home with her, fixing her a plate of middle-eastern food.  Everything was fine until Bea saw Maxine start to put some rice in the container and she screamed, "NO RICE!"  Another agitated outburst.  Whoa.  We went outside and took photos together and Bea commented on how I was as tall as her and Maxine, which really isn't that surprising since I'm a five foot eleven inch man but I didn't think much of it then.

I didn't think much of it until we were approaching her home and she said to me, "Do you need to come in and use the ladies room?"  At first I thought that was so nice of her to invite me in and maybe it might lead to a tour of the home.  The more I thought about it, though, the more I began to think, "This bitch thinks I'm a woman."  It made sense.  My outfit was rather ambiguous and I did refer to myself as a Girl Friday.  And the way Bea marveled at how I was as tall as her and Maxine. I would be tall--for a lady.  Yep, she definitely only thought I was a chick. 

As she got out of the car she said, "I'm sorry, what's your name again?"
She looked perplexed. 

Bea Arthur is a kind, extraordinarily talented woman and apparently so am I. 

13 April 2009

Unabashed Real Man: A Response from the Author of the Esquire Piece

Tom Chiarella
April 12 at 6:01pm
I'm not sure what you want me to say, but I don't really blame you for being angry. Wasn't my favorite assignment ever, I can tell you and there was much wrestling on the edits. The presumptive heterosexuality of the world must get a little maddening. Obviously it does, hence the website (The Unabashed Queer) I suppose.I liked my first draft of that piece a lot better than what ran, and what ran on yahoo, with those stupid categories just infuriated me. The piece says nothing about "real men" I promise. That's just some stupid headline yahoo made up.What can I say? It'd be a little two faced to apologize, since I can tell you I was sensitive to a lot of this stuff going in. I knew I would take my hits. I had no idea it would go up on yahoo. Personally I love the word snatch however-- why is that disgusting?-- and the word cock was edited out, which just pissed me off. So, what does that add up to? I don't know; I just want to say point taken, made, whatever. Sometimes love the idea of writing something complex in a short space, other times I think that job just sucks. Maybe the link is enough, and maybe you've said your piece but I'm happy to converse about it. Feel free to write me back.Tom

The Unabashed Queer
Today at 11:39am
Thank you for your thoughtful response, Tom.Yes, my website is a response to the mainstream, the heteronormative. I'm always eager to read something about the meaning of a man, or qualities a man should have, etc. Especially when it comes from a heterosexist source (such as Esquire). It's not two-faced to apologize. I understand writing a piece as a job--I guess it's akin to an attorney who represents a client she believes is guilty. My problem with the word "snatch," personally, is that it seems like a close cousin to cunt. Coming from a presumably straight white man makes it even more questionable. It doesn't sound like a term of endearment by any means. The kind of discourse in your piece adds fuel to an already raging fire of misogyny, one that looks at women as objects and encourages men to adhere to certain standards lest their manhood be threatened. I know it is never easy or pleasant to read a personal attack so I appreciate your understanding and sensitivity. To me, that kind of sensitivity, the ability to identify with those of varying identities is the true mark of a man (or woman or anything in between). Instead of what makes a man a man and what makes a woman a woman, aren't we really asking what makes us adults? When do we leave the ignorance and irresponsibility of childhood behind and step up to the plate?

11 April 2009

Unabashed Str-Hate Part II: Esquire Tells Us What a Man Is

I cannot trust Yahoo! News to give me important information. Admittedly, I was pleased to see that Stevie Nicks told Lindsay Lohan to “Stand Back” re: Lohan portraying Nicks in a film biopic. Sometimes Yahoo! News includes world events but mostly it is littered with Cosmo Magazine-like headlines: Stars’ Salaries Revealed, Six Things You Say to Ruin Your Date

While innocently checking my email last night I see this newsworthy morsel: “Columnist’s Take on the Qualities of a ‘Real Man.’” Oh yes, I thought, this should be rich.  The link took me to an Esquire Magazine article written by  Tom Chiarella who is the Fiction Editor at Esquire. “What Is a Man," the titles asks, "Characteristics of the Ideal Man."  The subtitle says: Read this. Print it. Thumbtack it to your desk. Thank us later. (And pick up the "How to Be a Man" issue in the meantime.)  There is a fucking “How to Be a Man” issue? I am going to buy a copy, wipe my dirty post-sex ass with it, and send it to the editors.

“A man carries cash,” the piece begins. That explains why the magnetic strip on my debit card is worn out and nearly unreadable. What follows is a list of things a man can do: cook eggs, find anything to watch on TV, "sneak a look at cleavage [without caring] if he gets busted once in a while."  Sigh.  Big gay, dick-eating, sigh.  Maybe Tim Allen is writing under the pseudonym Tom Chiarella.

Here are a few of my favorite parts:

A man loves the human body, the revelation of nakedness. He loves the sight of the pale breast, the physics of the human skeleton, the alternating current of the flesh. He is thrilled by the snatch, by the wrist, the sight of a bare shoulder.

Did this motherfucker just say “snatch?” He’s thrilled by the sight of a “snatch?” What self-respecting "snatch" is letting Tom Chiarella take a look at it? Is he married or just banging hookers? Disgusting.

“When his woman bends to pick up her underwear, he feels that thrum that only a man can feel.” 

So basically he’s turned on watching “his woman” clean up. His woman.  Where is Julia Sugarbaker when you need her to read a chauvinist?

You can tell Chiarella thinks he wrote something really profound and poignant. He goes off on tangents about standing on a street corner “watching stuff” and how he’s like a zoo animal “both captive and free.” Well, I’d like to help him feel like a zoo animal by putting him in the state pen for a few days so he can really get a taste of what a man is when some great, big motherfucker turns him out and makes him take it up the ass.

This is a heinous piece full of misogynist, auto-fellating, self-congratulatory sentiment.  I hate straights.

10 April 2009

Unabashed Queer of the Week: Alan Cumming

Alan Cumming has long been a fantastic example of an Unabashed Queer but his recent Newsweek article entitled "What Is a Gay Icon," makes him my Unabashed Queer of the Week. Cumming succinctly includes an array of issues such as the importance of identifying with our tribe, gay assimilation, and how even straight people can be queer.  

02 April 2009

Unabashed Love Making: A Gay Porn Actor's Delusions

Now, this man here--the one with the bubble butt and the carefully parted blonde hair--he says he makes love when he fucks for money in front of the camera.

I sat down with Dallas Reeves (worst fake name ever), the 2009 GayVN award winner for"Best Group Scene." Read my interview here.

31 March 2009

Unabashedly Lecherous Legend: Bruce Vilanch at the Gay Porn Awards

This man here--the one with the pussy pouch, titties, and innertube of skin jelly around his jaw-- is a lecherous legend in Hollywouldn't. He's very sweet but he will fondle your junk, have no illusions about that. I've met Bruce a few times, we even had dinner once a few years ago. I paid for him to eat an Argentinean speciality--a plate of melted cheese--and then scarf down a steak. After dinner he asked if I wanted him to eat my ass and I said, "Bruce, haven't you had enough to eat?"

I sat down with him on Saturday during the run-throughs for the 2009 GayVN Awards. GayVN is the gay part of the AVN Media Network--Adult Video News--cause there's so much news to be covered in the porn industry. Whatves.

Read my interview with Bruce Vilanch, who, even post-molestation, I still love.

26 March 2009

Unabashedly Asian Edina

Excuse the shitty iPhone photo but I had to snap one of this In-N-Out customer wrapped in her faux Fendi scarf and mismatching everything. This really doesn't do her justice--you can't see her pink high-heeled sandals and the multi colors of her leggings. Maybe when they do a crappy "Absolutely Fabulous" remake in Korea, she can play Edina.

19 March 2009

Unabashed UCLA Students: No on Franco

I'm going to give a big unabashed fuck yeah to students at UCLA who are banning together against James Franco being named their graduation speaker. They get it: successful actor does not equal sage.

Just smile and look pretty and fake fuck Sean Penn on camera. Shit.

You can support their efforts to prevent star-fucking by joining the Facebook group: UCLA Students Against James Franco as Commencement Speaker.

15 March 2009

03 March 2009

Unabashed Queer's Fear: John Quinones is Lurkin'

You see your best friend's man kissin' on another bitch...
What Would You Do?
Teenage hoodlums are fucking up a car in a parking lot...
What Would You Do?
John Quinoes and his camera crew are monitoring and filming your reactions to uncomfortable situations only to air them on primetime television...
What the hell would you do?

This queer is in a state of fear. ABC News reporter (and the Eric Estrada of the news world), John Quinones and his "What Would You Do Team" (or, as I like to refer to them, the What Would John Quinones Do Team), are scouring the nation (but mostly the tri-state area) with a big moral compass leading the way just waiting to call your ass out on camera.

The WWJQD Team is staking out your local restaurants, gas stations, and parks, paying out-of-work actors to provoke unsuspecting you to react to "dilemmas" (as my TIVO Program Description says). When said dilemma has reached its sweltering peak, out springs John Quinones and the WWJQD Team from behind a fucking fern to let you know it was all a "social experiment," also known in academia as a mind-fuck.

I ain't taking any chances. From this point on I vow to live each day as if the WWJQD Team has planted a line-cutting decoy to provoke me at Trader Joe's.

I'll be over-compensating all over the place, offering up money to the beggars in front of the CVS on Glendale Boulevard. I will dump my purse out on the dirty sidewalk, sifting through my shit just to give them the half a Xanax and lint-covered gum at the bottom. I'll just give them my purse. Do they take VISA/MasterCard? Diner's Club?

If I spot an elderly woman hobbling unsteadily to her car, I will wrestle her keys out of her arthritic hand and hold her until the police arrive. I don't need some Sociology Professor from Brandeis University analyzing my behavior on network television.

John Quinones, you hunk of a man, I am offering my services to the WWJQD Team so you can get a taste of some raw, organic, all-American hatred. No need to provoke anyone. Follow me into any airport where I am uncouthly gawked at by passers-by, jaws dropping, children crying, pointing, laughing at me, as if they have never seen a man carrying an over-sized hot pink lined bag with "ISAAC MIZRAHI" emblazoned all over it. Or JQ, if Black Jack is your thing, follow me and my other unabashedly queer friend to Las Vegas, the bastion of civilized culture, where, in a 24 hour period, we had "faggot" yelled at us nine times. No need to have us kissing or fondling each other, our mere unabashed presence is enough to insight the common people.

While I enjoy parts of this million episode series and occasionally well up with tears at people's compassion, it is only one step above Tyra Banks going undercover in a fat suit to document the public's unabashed rudeness. And when did John Quinones become the moral police? He loves to call a bitch out or give them kudos. Doesn't he know that Tyra is a sworn-in moral police officer? What has he done for fat people and trannies lately? She made them models.

After multiple episodes of this shtick, I, for one, am ready to call it a day. How about some new episodes of Dateline NBC's To Catch A Predator. Let the entrapment begin!

26 February 2009

Unabashed Gay Face-Off

My friend and former co-worker/drudge to Arianna Huffington, Adriana, always keeps her eyes peeled for me for news of the queer while she's blogging for Takepart.com. Adriana tipped me off to Scientific American blogger Jesse Bering's recent piece about a study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology regarding the human ability to distinguish men's sexual orientation based solely on their face.

In a series of experiments, starting with full faces and dwindling down to only the eye and mouth regions, participants were more often than not able to identify the sexual orientation of the man whose face or facial feature they were viewing. I find it easy to identify a gay man's face cause there's usually a dick on it.

The scientists who conducted said experiments suggest this innate knowledge is an evolutionary tool for women to know which men "aren't worth the trouble and for men to know who's not really a sexual competitor." While perusing UrbanDictionary.com, Bering comes across two definitions for so-called, "gay face." One suggests that us gay men have mongoloid features which Bering quickly dismisses as derogatory and having no evidence although I hear Corky from Life Goes On knows how to work that tongue. The second Urban Dictionary definition begins with a twinge of possible logic:

The use of certain expressions can become ingrained in the musculature of the face over time. Since effeminate gay men utilize similar facial expressions as women, they develop female aging and muscle contraction patterns in their face.

But quickly veers off course:

For example, gay face includes tightness around the mouth from pursing the lips, a facial expression common to gay men and women—but not to heterosexual men. Also, gay men are more emotionally expressive, leading to a general 'tightness' and muscular activation throughout the entire face. Gay face includes an eye expression that is both surprised-looking and predatory. Eyebrows are usually arched higher than that of straight men, and eyebrow hair is manicured.

Now I resent that. That is not a shocked or predatory look on my face, that is me smiling with my eyes. I'm not thinking of little boy dick, I'm thinking of bunny rabbits and rainbows. Furthermore, I love a natural brow on a man. I discourage the manicuring of one's eyebrows unless you're Fyvush Finkel or Gene Shalit. Now if I could just learn to smile with my mouth. And suck dick.

See also: Physiognomy

24 February 2009

Unabashed Bromance Makes Me Wanna Die

This movie makes me want to rip my face off, stick needles in whatever is left, and then fuck it. I hate Judd Apatow's films, I hate the name Judd Apatow, I hate the fat guy with the curly hair, and I hate Paul Rudd.

Watch a scene from this bunk-ass movie.

16 February 2009

Unabashed Whoa-Oh-Oh: What's Trans Got To Do, Got To Do With It?

Ohio Wo-Man Kills Husband With Exercise
"Woman" Exercises Husband to Death

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for female killers. The lovely ladies featured on the Oxygen network's, Snapped, for instance. Aileen Wuornos--love her. Lorena Bobbit--she didn't kill but she might as well have--adore her. And now I can add Christine Newton-John to my list.

Last week, Mrs. Newton-John (more on her name in a second) , 41, pleaded guilty to reckless homicide of her 73 year-old husband by forcing him to swim in the pool of their apartment complex past exhaustion, resulting in a fatal heart attack. Security cameras caught the entire episode and police counted 43 times that Mrs. Newton-John prevented her husband from leaving the pool. Swim at your own risk, girl.

Many major media outlets played up the fact that Mrs. N-J is transgender and ran that as part of their headline. The fact that she had sexual reassignment surgery in 1993 is much less fascinating to me than the fact that she changed her surname to Newton-John in honor of Olivia. That is fierce (and not in a Tyra kind of way). Even more interesting is that she "exercised her husband to death." That's a headline. That we haven't heard before. If anything, she's creative.

People love to hate on a tranny. In a piece for the Advocate entitled, "My Sisters," Patrick Moore eloquently states that trans people are at the core of the queer struggle because they "challenge both gay and straight ideas of respectability."

The media seems to be perpetuating an idea that trans people are cuh-ray-zee and freakish. Unlike my last post about the transgender mafia boss, while it may be an interesting factoid, Mrs. N-J's gender is inconsequential to the story.

14 February 2009

Unabashed Queer of the Week: Kitty, The Real Bella Mafia

Now this is a real Unabashed Queer Bee-otch. A male-to-female transgender mafia boss. Fuck yeah.

Today, UK Newspaper, The Sun (a tres tacky New York Post for the Brits), dropped the story of a male-to-female "transsexual" mafia boss who goes by the name Kitty. Born Ugo Gabriele, she is only 27 years old which is almost as remarkable as the fact that she is the ill tranny boss bitch in the notoriously misogynist Italian mafia.

The newspaper rudely refers to her using male pronouns throughout the entire article. That's okay 'cause she'll get out of jail and everybody knows when you get scratched by the kitty it goes from ear-to-ear jugular style. Can I get a "Queer Power" up in this piece? (Queer Power.)

We be showing up everywhere poppin' bitches' heads off. Salud, Kitty!

13 February 2009

Unabashed Late-Night CVS Lust

I remembered that I had no Ambien at 10:30 last night so I threw on a housecoat over my bra and panties and shlepped to CVS. "Dollah-fifty for good night sleep" said the pharmacist in broken English referring to my $45 bottle of Ambien.

On my way out I noticed two handsome men perusing a shelf together so I made sure to spy on them. Ah-ha! I knew it. Personal lubricants...and pregnancy tests. It was the lubricant/pregnancy test shelf.  I don't know which one they were looking for but I sure was turned on.

10 February 2009

Unabashed Str-Hate

"QUEERS READ THIS" is a leaflet passed out at the 1990 Pride March in New York City published “anonymously by Queers.” It is a manifesto meant to empower, enrage, and fire up complacent gays into action. The leaflet's final section is entitled “I Hate Straights," an epithet that enters my mind on a regular basis.

After seeing an all-gay cast in a performance piece last weekend, I commented to a gay friend that gay people are more talented than straights. "I don't know about that," he said with his brow furrowed. So, in the fine art of Matt Siegel, I took it to the next level and said, "I hate straight people."

"A lot of my best friends are straight," he said as if trying to raise my awareness.

Didn't he know he was simply supposed to agree with me, not try to teach me a goddamn lesson? My absurd comments were meant to bring us together as gay sistas. Gay people rarely say that we hate straights. We rarely turn the tables and try to exclude them and deny their basic human rights. That is the fun in saying the shit.

My biological father's mother, the dreadful cunt, used to say, "You don't hate, you dislike." I hate her. Hate is not a strong word. For instance, I hate when people say, "It is what it is." I hate the Overstock.com commercial with the country couple singing to each other. Levels of hate vary. If it makes you feel better, replace hate with resent. I resent straights unless they are obese--the fats know our pain. I especially resent straight men. I especially, especially resent straight, white men.

A winter day in L.A., 68 degrees and sunny. We all have Uggs and mittens on. I’m discreetly crossing the street toward Quiznos Sub shop. Walking in front of a cop on his motorcycle I think about how I detest the pigs.

"GO BACK WHERE YOU ARE. DO NOT CROSS,” I hear over a loud speaker.

Looking over my shoulder, I see an embarrassed man return to the sidewalk. I giggle to myself pondering what I would be like as a cop with access to a loud-speaker. I would definitely be shouting every chance I got, alternating between black woman ("YEAH I GOT YOU. I GOT YOU ON CAMERA. YOU ON CANDID CAMERA, NOW. YOU AIN'T KNOW THAT.") and Faye Dunaway-as-Joan Crawford voices. “I’LL TELL YOU WHATCHA YOU’RE GONNA DO. YOU’RE GONNA MARCH YOURSELF BACK TO THE GODDAMN CURB AND STAY THERE UNTIL I SAY SO.”

Standing in line for a veggie “Sammie”--no mayo or mushrooms, add honey mustard, please--I notice a man around my age, taller, white, with glasses perched atop his head like a lady. He is nice-looking in my quick glance but I don’t ogle as a general rule. As my Sammie makes its way through the conveyor belt toaster, the tall man speaks to me. “Do you work in the Hollywood Production Building? What show do you work on? Where’d you go to college? Where are you from? Cut or Un-cut?” (No, he didn’t say that.) It turns out that he also works in my building so we walk back together. As he rifles through his wallet to give me his business card, he says, “Oh, by the way, I’m not gay.”

I feel my face flush. One cheek embarrassed, the other angry.

“Neither am I,” I say.

“Oh really,” I hear him stammer.

“No, I’m kidding.”

“Well, we should sit down and get coffee some time,” the straight says.


I'm not sure what to deduce about this incident because the truth is I probably would have let him S my D. With that said, I never indicated any interest in him whatsoever and for him to clarify his sexuality like that is very typical straight male behavior. It's kind of along the same line of thinking that every gay man is a pedophile, that we cannot help ourselves from sexualizing everything we come into contact with.

I hate straights. It feels good saying it. It rhymes. I really hate the straights who think they're so fuckin' liberal cause they have a gay sibling or a gay friend who they accept. Or cause they support "No on 8." I hate straights who think they are down with me and my struggle so they can make jokes about HIV and AIDS. I hate straights who imitate effeminate gay men or use the term "flamer." I am not on fire, I don't need to be put out. I hate straights who think the gay struggle is over, they say, "oh it's so much better these days." IS IT? An effeminate fourteen year old boy was murdered outside of Los Angeles just a few months ago for being faggoty. Mainstream heterosexual press barely covers the hate murders that take place every year in this stinkin country. I hate straights who think they can identify in any way with my oppression. Your parents getting divorced when you were five years old is not equal to my oppression. I want to start a fucking Black Panther Party for queer people. You might catch me on the street with a megaphone shouting "KILL STRAIGHTY."

Anyways, if you want to have coffee with a dreary, assuming straight man, here is his business card (name blurred out cause all I need is a straight man suing my gay ass).

30 January 2009

Unabashed Uggghhh Who Cares? : Fuck the Superbowl

It's Superbowl Sunday Weekend. Don't feel compelled to front like you give a shit.

22 January 2009

The Unabashed Heklina Interview : Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Queen

Trannyshack’s satellite show in Los Angeles took place this past New Year’s Eve. The performances were, in a word, inspiring, each one as good as the next. In fact, I was actually moved by many of the performances, proud to see my queer sisters and brothers onstage in such a raw, unabashed, unique way. The often abstract numbers blended drag performance and performance art illustrating what being queer is all about to me—modernity, progression and revolution. With no ulterior motives, I emailed Heklina, the founder and hostess of Trannyshack, to tell her how impressed I was with her production. Shortly after I happened to book a trip to San Francisco and requested an interview with Heklina which she kindly granted.

As we all know, I pride myself on my unabashedness and my authenticity, and I wanted to get to know the real Heklina—Stefan Grygelko, as his license reads. In preparing for the interview I scoured the internet for information on my subject. Every interview with Heklina was promotion for Trannyshack with the same questions: How did you get the name Heklina? How did you come up with the name Trannyshack? How did it begin? How long does it take you to put on your makeup? In this interview, we delve into his childhood, cruising for sex, addiction, gay assimilation, and of course, Trannyshack.

[Who was the first gay person you were aware of growing up?]

One thing I watched as a child on TV that had an influence on me was Cabaret. I was alone at night in Iceland, I think I was 12, watching TV and that scene came on with Michael York and the other guy where they kissed and I immediately got an erection and that was back in the day when, you know, any kind of reference, we would search for it. And the other thing was a movie about Quentin Crisp with John Hurt, The Naked Civil Servant. I remember watching it and just being fascinated with it.

[Did you know at that point that you were queer?]

I think so. I remember being like five or six and being in the bathroom playing with my penis and thinking about Captain Picard from Star Trek.

[Were you effeminate early on?]

Yeah I wasn’t good at sports, I got called fag…

[Was your father in the picture?]

No, my parents were divorced when I was six. I lived with my mom and would go visit my dad in the summer time. But actually just now I’m starting to get a relationship with my dad again. We were not speaking for a long time. He worked for the post office. A blue collar thing. He worked there forever. He is very masculine. Very macho. He hunts. Which is one thing when I go to visit him and he talks about hunting all the time—hunting deer, hunting duck—you know, he makes his own jerky out of deer meat and he gives it to me and I have to pretend like “oh thank you” and then I take it with me and I always throw it away. So I think he had a hard time dealing with his drag queen gay son for a long time.

[Was there a disconnect between you and your father because of your femininity?]

Well I remember he told me he had a discussion with my mom when I was like five or six. He’s like, “that kid's gonna come live with me. You’re turning that kid into a sissy." And I guess he caught me looking in the mirror brushing my hair like a girl.

I left home when I was 17 and I never looked back. I lived a very independent and nomadic existence for a long time. When I moved to San Francisco I decided to make this home and I lived a very nomadic life here and a very kind of--I was very taken with the quote “underground” and the quote “performance” scene. I just really loved San Francisco and the aesthetic and the sensibility and then Trannyshack happened and that was very organic and very much of an accident that defined me for the next ten--it still defines me.

[And does that bother you?]

No, I’m very grateful for it. I had some trepidation and some resentment of it for a while like most successful drag queens who feel like they’re pigeon-holed into being this person. I know that Lypsinka’s been through that, RuPaul, where like they want to become a serious boy actor known for their boy stuff but people look at them and they’re like uhhh no. People want to see the drag thing. I think I went through that. For a year I hated doing drag and I hated the Trannyshack audience and then finally you get through it and you realize, “I’m really lucky ‘cause I’m not sitting in a cubicle. I’m not working a nine-to-five job. I’m getting to do what I love for a living and people seem to really like it." So you just get used to it and then enjoy it.

[Did you ever think you’d be inspiring people via Trannyshack?]

Tons of people told me that they were moved and inspired over the years especially when I decided to end it. I mean it was never my plan that I would start this legendary nightclub. It happened very by accident. While I was doing it I was never like, "Oh I’m doing this amazing thing," it was just there in front of me to do. I guess my existence is so queer and alien to the nine to five world that I never considered what I was doing extraordinary. I was like, "I’m just doing a show." And because I had not grown up around traditional drag shows or watched traditional drag shows, I didn’t see how different Trannyshack was. I was just like this is my sensibility, this is the sensibility of my friends. So I think it was refreshing for other people who were seeing that.

[You didn’t set out to inspire. I saw an interview with a man who said he used to be shy and Trannyshack helped him to come out of his shell. Does that make you feel warm and fuzzy?]

I’m not a warm and fuzzy person so I can appreciate it but I don’t like to, I guess—the emotional things… I don’t know. That’s a hard question.

[I wonder what that’s about.]

I don’t know. I literally just came back from Hawaii and dealing with my adopted father’s death. I just got back into town this morning and I’m still not even dealing with that emotional stuff. I think what it was with Trannyshack is that I never looked back cause I always had to look forward to the next week. So I never really reflected. I’m not a nostalgic kind of person so I don’t get warm and fuzzy when I look back. But people do—because they have memories from over 12 years of Trannyshack—they walk up and say to me that they met their husband at Trannyshack or this happened during a performance and it meant so much to them, you know what I mean? It is very gratifying to hear that but because I’m not wishy-washy or anything like that. I’m not going to trumpet it or talk too much about it.

[Are you proud of yourself?]

Oh yeah, yeah, I definitely am. I just never sit back and look back at what just happened. My thing—and maybe this is something that I need to work on—but when something’s finished, it’s totally finished and then I’m onto the next thing. You know if there’s a project that I’m doing I’m completely immersed in it. During that project I am totally living and breathing that project and then the minute it's finished it's over.

[So there’s a detachment. Are you in therapy?]

No. There are other things I do besides therapy.

[Are you sober?]

Yeah. Since ’94. Alcohol and drugs. And I know that I’m a sex addict. But part of the 12 steps are character defects. I know its one of the character defects I have I’m just not willing to let it go right now because, I don’t know, it’s like maybe I haven’t hit a bottom with that yet. I definitely hit a bottom with drugs and alcohol. I’m compulsive about work. I’m compulsive about sex. Thank god I’m not compulsive about food. Cause that would be a torturous thing to go through.

[Shopping, food, and sex addictions are very similar in that you can't just put those behaviors down forever.]

I was having a talk with a really good friend of mine in LA. She’s in OA (Overeaters Anonymous) and she lost a whole person off of her body. She knows I’m in recovery from alcohol and drugs and I was eating with her once and she was eating this Caesar salad with chicken, no croutons, and then she reached across and took a French fry off my plate and ate it 'cause she wanted to try one. And I said, “isn’t that a relapse?” and she got really annoyed with me and she said, "Well how would you feel if you were only allowed to drink one thimble full of vodka per day? And you had to control your alcohol?" And I was like, "hmmm that would be difficult." She’s since gained all that weight back. That would be so torturous. It was miserable eating with her. When she was on her diet you could tell she resented you for eating what you wanted to eat and when she was off her diet all she could do is talk about the fact she was off her diet.

[Were you ostracized growing up?]

Yeah and I was moved around a lot. So there were some areas that I moved where I had friends and then I would be moved out of there to a new area where I didn’t get along with the kids so it always kind of changed.

[What was the best move for you in terms of open-minded community?]

I guess Rochester, New York. I lived there for years, had lots of friends.

[Where was the worst?]

Winchester, Massachusetts.

[What was your first sexual experience?]

When I was thirteen. With a man in his forties. I remember being so freaked out by it. But I wanted it. I definitely wanted it 'cause I was so horny. I was so hot for the bullies in school. Those same ones that called me faggot. I was so hot for them. I met the forty year old at a swimming pool in Iceland. He was gross.

[How do you cruise for men and what kind of guy do you like?]

I don’t really go on boy sites anymore. I have a lot of sex as a drag queen with quote straight men unquote. I find that I get turned off cruising for gay sex because so much of them are on drugs. I am attracted to straight men. Maybe that’s damage in a way but that’s just how it is. I wouldn’t want to fuck a drag queen. I’d be lying if I said that I wanted to be with a very effeminate man. I don’t. I want a butch man who's gonna slap me around and whatever.

[So when you fuck men in drag is it more natural drag? Do you tone down your drag?]

Oh yeah. It’s one wig I use. It’s much lighter make-up, smaller eyelashes, smaller breasts, no hip pads. Much easier. Panty hose with the crotch cut out of them. Panties. Just that kind of stuff. Turn the lights down very low. Light some candles. That kind of thing.

[So it's about the illusion?]


[Do you use your dick with these men?]

No I make it very clear I’m not into that.

[You don’t want them touching your dick?]

Right. Well most of my friends who are tranny hookers--99% of the guys they date wanna get fucked by a chick with a dick. So I am not into that but of course I’m not charging so I can say what I want. So I make it very clear, you know, don’t reply to this if you want to do anything other than get your dick sucked or whatever.

[I keep hearing you're a Rim Queen.]

(Laughs.) Yeah that’s something I became famous for very early on. I used to do it onstage but I’m not so much into it anymore. I still like to do it but not as much as I used to. That’s so funny.

[How has cruising for sex evolved for you?]

Well when I left home I moved to California—I was 18, 19—and back then, when you’re a young white boy and you’re 18 years old, you don’t have to go far to get picked up and um I’d have sex every day. I wouldn’t even have to cruise them, I’d just sit in the park and people would come cruise me. And I was kind of a hustler, into drugs, very much of an on the edge lifestyle until I moved to Iceland in my early twenties. There’s nothing going on in Iceland so when I wanted to get away I’d go to Europe, Berlin, or Amsterdam or London, and you know that was before the Internet so if you wanted to cruise you’d go to a park. All the bars in Europe had back rooms. When I first moved to San Francisco it was cruisy everywhere. Buena Vista Park, Dolores Park…nobody was on the Internet. It didn’t exist, it was actually phone lines back then. And sex clubs like Blow Buddies were big. So I think the Internet has really killed classic gay cruising as we know it. In America anyways. Not as exciting as it used to be. It is true that sex is like a drug. It’s like getting a rush when you go out and look for drugs. It’s like you’re always looking for that perfect high, someone whose gonna be as good as that guy you had five months ago.

[Are you having sex out of drag at all these days?]

Not so much. Although I’m going to London so I’ll probably go to the bath houses. They have great bathhouses there. It’s different than in America, it’s more of a cultural thing. Guys actually go there after work. Not everyone’s on crystal meth.

[Have you ever had a relationship?]


[Were you ever in love?]

I think so.

[Do you have any desire for love?]

Not at the moment. People ask me that. They ask me like there’s something wrong, they go, “really??” like they feel like I’m not telling the truth. And I’ve looked at it and it has been a while, just too much into my work and not mentally there to be in a relationship. But it’s kind of like I don’t ever think about it until somebody asks me. I don’t ever think that’s weird until somebody asks me.

[It's not weird but I wonder when you’re having sex in drag is it intimate? Is there passionate kissing?]

No. I don’t want it to get like that. And guys will ask me if I kiss and I say no 'cause I don’t wanna kiss 'cause it just gets my lipstick and makeup everywhere. Of course rimming somebody does too.

I feel like there is a hole inside me where I don’t really take things inwards. I think there’s definite fear of intimacy. When I got sober--and it started around the same I started Trannyshack--that became my focus and the times I’ve dated over those years, the minute anybody is like relationship-y with me or they call me and they’re like "where were you last night I tried to call you," I immediately get like, "okay back off I don’t want any of that.” I think I did see in my childhood both my parents in a lot of relationships just for the sake of being in a relationship no matter how sick those relationships were. 'Cause they were so afraid, both of them, of being alone. I think I’m totally fine being alone.

[How often do you feel lonely?]

Um I don’t even know if it’s lonely. Sometimes I’ll get bored and I’ll go do something with friends. Usually if I’m in a position when I’m at home and the phone is not ringing it’s a good thing. I’m seldom at home for long periods of time.

[When you were fucking out of drag were you butching it up while you were cruising?]

(Laughs.) Yeah, I guess so. Butching it up meaning you don’t talk. And hopefully the other guy won’t talk, too, so you don’t automatically ruin the fantasy. Gender is all drag--the whole masculinity thing. If you go to one of those dances and everyone is all pumped up and wearing leather—it’s such a forced masculinity. Those guys are probably bigger queens than me and you both combined. These are the same guys that are gonna go home and take a fist up their ass. And snort a bottle of poppers. Even when I did poppers I was detached.

[Where does that come from? Which parent?]

Probably my mom. She always was drawn to men who abused her. And then if she ever had any man in her life that was good to her she treated them like shit. Very fucked up. And one loser after another. I just can’t see that. I can’t see why you would want some loser in your life. Then I see my friends in relationships and then when those relationships break up they’re so miserable and they want to talk to me about it and all I can say is, “Honey I could have told you.” Relationships don’t work. I’m very cynical about relationships. I have seen some relationships where it really looks like it’s working but I think a lot of those are non-sexual. Like marriages where it’s been like long-term and it’s a partnership.

[Is it harder to find a man as a drag personality because the average gay man isn’t accepting of that?]


[What would it feel like if there was a guy who really appreciated your work and supported you?]

I don’t know. I’ve seen some of my friends it's happened to and I think it’s weird. If somebody is a fan of Heklina--I’d almost rather date someone who didn’t know what I did. Or that knew but didn’t care or ask about it. Sometimes it can become tedious to talk about it. Maybe I’m just so done with it at the moment because of ending Trannyshack. I did so many interviews. And I'm so tired of talking about it. But still when I go to dinner parties or go out with friends they still wanna talk about it.

[What do you want to discuss? What does your future look like?]

I don’t wanna discuss that either. I’ll discuss anything else. News. Everybody asks me what’s coming up.

[So what’s next for Heklina?]

(Laughs.) The reason I’m not so nostalgic about Trannyshack at the moment is that it hasn’t been that long. It was only five months ago that I gave it the big Kiss-Off.

[Do you appreciate the fact that you’ve affected gay history in San Francisco?]

Oh absolutely. When people ask me what I hope my legacy is I say I hope that Trannyshack has defined an era of nightlife in San Francisco. That people will look back at the mid and late nineties as the Trannyshack years--shaped how people look at drag. That would be gratifying if that was the case.

[Who is a good representative for the gay community?]

John Waters. I just saw him and he said you know what we should do if Prop 8 passes is just make heterosexual divorce illegal. Because if what you’re fighting for is the sanctity of marriage then the next step is making divorce illegal. That will really shut them up. If it’s so sacred how can you get married and divorced the next day?

[Would you ever want to get married?]

Probably not. I wasn’t that passionate about Prop 8 and I got a lot of flack for it because they wanted me to post things on my Myspace but I wouldn’t do it. Of course I voted against Prop 8 but I don’t feel—I think one of the worst things that ever happened to the gay community is when it became mainstream. I remember back in the eighties we were all diseased pariahs and we were all freaks and I really prefer that. I don’t want this white picket fence normalcy. Whenever I go visit my family in Minnesota or Idaho and I look around at the suburbs I think, "This is so horrible who would want this lifestyle?" And eighty percent of America lives like that. And these are the same types of gays—A friend of mine was in drag leading a protest against Prop 8. She got so much hate mail from gay people saying you are bringing us down by being in drag. I’m like you know what, fuck that, that’s why I’m not going out of my way to support "No on 8" because you just wanna be like everyone else with their white picket fence. And every year at the Freedom Parade they say its about diversity but gay people are some of the most closed-minded people around. Absolutely wanna be like lemmings. The truth is eighty percent of straight people are tired and eighty percent of gay people in the world are tired. They just are. They don’t have any desire to be any different from anyone else. They all want to drive the same car, watch the same TV shows, sit around the water cooler talking about those TV shows. They wanna vacation at the same place, buy the same clothes. And before I came to San Francisco I was so despondent because everywhere I would go in the world I would go out to gay bars and I would feel so alien to everybody else. When I moved to San Francisco I thought, "thank god there are people here who are trying to do something different and be themselves."

[Does that still exist in San Francisco?]

Yeah definitely. Unfortunately HIV killed a lot of those people off. Everybody I was influenced by when I moved to SF--they all died in one year right before Trannyshack started and that was a really dark year. And you would literally see somebody on the street, talk to them, and a week later you’d see them on the street and not recognize them. They’d look so different. And a week later you’d see their obituary in the B.A.R. (Bay Area Reporter), the local gay paper. So it was very scary. You’d turn to the obituaries and it was literally four pages full of obituaries every week. Now there are no obituaries. It’s a different time. It was a very hard time.

[I think there's ambivilence on the part of gay youth about everything our previous generations went through. Where's the respect? Do they care? It's like they're not cognicent of the people who paved the way for us.]

Yeah, I mean, I don’t think about that too much.

06 January 2009

Unabashed Lifetime Preview: Prayers for Blah-bby

Oh Christ. After two months of hearing Nicole Sullivan and Carson Kressley squeal "Falalala Lifetime," the preview for Lifetime's "Red Carpet Event" and new gay suicide sad film, Prayers For Bobby, starring Sigourney Weaver, seems to be on a constant loop .

I watched the preview on mute: Two teenage boys walking down train tracks. Que Origanale! Shivers down my spine. The bigger boy is giving the other a noogie. He is hot. They are brothers. Next shot. Little brother sitting forlornly on a train platform as the train goes by. "I wish I could be on that train. I don't care where it's going just get me out of this godforsaken town." Next, a close-up of Sigourney, thin-lipped and angry at a crying son, perhaps, just maybe Bobby? Uh-oh, Bobby is on an overpass looking down, tears streaming. Cut to Sigourney at a 1970s kitchen table praying. Now she's screaming. Now she's walking through a crowd wearing a rainbow button on her lapel with people protesting, elaborate signs that have the word "GAY" crossed out. Now she's speaking passionately at a podium. White people clap for her. I think I get it. The end.

28 December 2008

Unabashed BFFs: Melissa E. + Rick W. 4EVA!

Celebrities are getting their chance to mouth-off in Huffington Post blogs more and more these days: Jamie Lee Curtis (a diatribe about Paris Hilton's mother's lack of parenting), Alec Baldwin (an angry rant on fathers' rights and direct hit at his ex-wife). The HuffPo perpetuates the idea that celebrities have something important to say solely due to their celebrity status.

In her very own Huffington Post blog, blah-ly entitled "The Choice is Ours Now," Melissa Etheridge, as our gay high priestess, begs us to make the right choice: convince straight people that we are nice and socially acceptable. In a series of clichés, Etheridge talks about that "mountain" us gays have been climbing to freedom of identity. Speaking solely for myself, I have been busy spelunking in a cave of societal shame, not climbing any mountains. As gay spokeswoman, Melissa pens so eloquently the hurt we felt after the high of Obama's win when Prop 8 was passed. "Still sore and angry we felt another slap in the face as the man we helped get elected seemingly invited a gay-hater to address the world at his inauguration." Seemingly? Not seemingly. He did invite a known gay-hater, Melissa, it's a fact. Think of it this way--you are seemingly a spokeswoman for gay people.

"As I was winding down the promotion for my Christmas album (apparently still winding down that promo conveniently mentioning it in this piece posted just three days before Christmas)," she describes her planned performance for the Muslim Public Affairs Council. The MPAC, Etheridge says, "tries to raise awareness in this country, and the world, about the majority of good, loving, Muslims." And here she is trying to raise awareness about the majority of good, loving, gays. [As an aside be sure to run out to your local gay sex club and pick up my Christmas album which includes the hit, O Cum All Ye of Little Faith.] It turned out that the keynote speaker of the MPAC performance was to be none other than Pastor (T)rick Warren, gay-hater. Melissa reports that she first considered canceling her appearance (you should always go with your gut) but instead she instructed her manager to "reach out to Pastor Warren and say, 'In the spirit of unity I [Etheridge] would like to talk to him.'"

This is my favorite part from Melissa's piece: They gave him my phone number. On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids. He told me of his wife's struggle with breast cancer just a year before mine.

Melissa apparently succumbs to flattery easily. If Fred Phelps was overheard humming Come to My Window does that make him less of a gay-hater? She should have asked Slick Rick to name one of her albums or even just one song if he's the fervent fan he claims to be. The saddest part, perhaps, is that like most politicians, Warren told Melissa everything she wanted to hear and she fell for it head over boots. She's just not savvy. The mention of his wife's breast cancer was so over-the-top and manipulative. I can just hear one of his advisors now, "Be sure to get that breast cancer thing in there, she's really into that." Slick Rick was clearly pulling out all the stops. Now go back to your people, Melissa, and tell them I am an open-minded, gay-loving preacher.

Melissa seems to have taken a page from her new BFF, Rick. "Brothers and sisters, the choice is ours now," she says, sounding more and more like a sermon. "We have the world's attention. We have the capability to create change, awesome change in this world, but before we change minds we must change hearts. Sure, there are plenty of hateful people who will always hold on to their bigotry like a child to a blanket." Like a child to a blanket? "But there are also good people out there, Christian and otherwise that are beginning to listen. They don't hate us, they fear change." I disagree. They do hate us, but, yes, that hate is fueled by fear. I would point Melissa and everyone else to Michael Bronski's genius book, The Pleasure Principle: Sex, Backlash, and the Struggle for Gay Freedom. "Gay hating," Bronski explains, "derives less from a feeling about particular people than from a profound attachment to maintaining the existing social order. This helps explain why vocal antigay politicians are sometimes capable of maintaining cordial relationships with gay friends or family members." Melissa, you got duped.

Melissa suggests that instead of "marches and boycotts, perhaps we can consider stretching out our hands. Maybe instead of marching on his church, we can show up en mass and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world. Maybe if they get to know us, they won't fear us." Now she sounds like a child holding onto her idealism "like a blanket." It is not that gay-haters are incapable of having friendly relationships with gays but, as Michael Bronski says, "it is the idea--the concept of homosexuality--that is, sexual pleasure without justification or consequences--that terrifies the gay hater." It doesn't matter how many gay people gay-haters personally get to know and like, the concept of our sexuality will always terrify them.

"I know, call me a dreamer," Etheridge says, so self-aware. Okay. Dreamer. I don't want Melissa Etheridge acting as spokeswoman for the queer cause. This is the problem: we don't have a leader for our movement. We turn to gay celebrities to speak for us. I don't want Ellen, Lance Bass, Doogie Howser, or Clay Aiken speaking for me. My vote, as usual, goes to Sandra Bernhard.

For more, read this NY Times Op-Ed piece.

18 December 2008

Unabashed Abashedness: The Other Matt Siegel

While perusing a friend's Facebook page a few months ago, I noticed a comment left by a man with my exact first and last name--almost. His last name had a few letters switched but otherwise it was a funny coincidence. Since he was a mutual acquaintance I sent him a message (re: Look at our names!):

Matt Siegel
August 6 at 12:29pm
you are the reason people misspell my name

The Other Matt Siegel*
August 6 at 12:45pm
OH - I've heard of you! You live in LA also, which makes this even more strange. We should probably be in the same room at some point, just to confuse people.
"Siegel" is more common than mine, so I argue that you cause my misspelling?

Matt Siegel
August 6 at 1:51pm
If we were in the same room I would address you as Matthew See-glee.

*I am referring to him as "The Other Matt Siegel" in an effort to protect his identity as much as possible without losing the point of the story.

It also turned out that he was attending graduate school with an artist friend of mine. We had a nice exchange--seven emails back and forth. From the way he was engaging me I suspected he was gay.

It is a common notion that artists have as many social graces as someone with Asperger's. With that said, my dearest friends all happen to be visual artists. On a recent Saturday night, said artist friend took me to a holiday party at one of his classmate's homes. The first seemingly-gay-but-straight art student hipster I met with his oversized, attention-seeking, red, Sally Jesse Raphael eyeglasses, looked down at the floor and away upon introduction. Charmed! My friend informed me that the other Matt Siegel was at the party so I told Sally Jesse that I would catch him on the flip-side, that I was going to meet the other Matt Siegel, and perhaps he would look me in the eye. (To his credit, Sally Jesse apologized to me later. And to his parents' credit, he was hot.)

I jauntily approached the other Matt Siegel, looking forward to revealing my unexpected presence. "Matthew See-glee," I exclaimed, making reference to our email exchange just a few months earlier, "I am Matthew Siegel." His endearing dimpled chin and strong jaw fell. I looked him in the eye like an adult awaiting some response. All I got were a bunch of "Whoa's" while his shoulders tensed up and he stammered away. Utilizing my stellar communication skills, I pulled the conversation out of murkiness referencing our mutual Facebook friend and the conservative Ivy League college they attended together. I commented that he must certainly be a fellow Hebrew with that name of his--our name--but he promptly thwarted my assumption. He was a Protestant, 100% all-American WASP. In fact, he spent some of his teenage years as a missionary spreading the gospel or whatever they spread. [For extra credit: This Matt Siegel (meaning me), spent some of my teenage years spreading a. my legs b. Chlamydia or c. A & B?]

Things became quiet after the WASP flew out of his nest so I resorted to interview mode asking questions that might indulge his ego. It didn't work. The other Matt Siegel was shell-shocked. It was as if I had just informed him we had been switched at birth à la Big Business (one of my favorite movies but probably not one of his). He was examining me from head to toe -- surely he was admiring my navy Nom De Guerre short trench and accordion boots. I was mystified as to what might be irking him. It seemed that in 5-4-3-2-1, blood would spurt from his ears. To my surprise, he acknowledged his strange behavior. "You're going to have to give me a minute to take this in -- I just need to adjust." Take this in? Adjust? To what? What's there to take in? We have the same name, there's nothing to take in. With silence befalling us and my interest waining, I bid the other Matt Siegel, adieu.

I tried to shrug off his reaction unsuccessfully. How did this meeting that should have been delightful at best and uneventful at worst, result in a seemingly embarrassed and shaken other Matt Siegel? I walked back through the scene in my head. There we were, face-to-face, the two gay Matt Siegels. He was a handsome man, not visibly queer like me. I, too, handsome, but the man part debatable. That was the most striking difference. He wore a basic sweater with one wacky accessory, some shoes he probably considers risqué. My effortless style reeked of gayqueerfaggotry as usual. It has since I was a child, pairing my mothers navy blue silk skirt with American flag-like stars on it, a red cashmere sweater that accentuated my sock bosoms, and twirling around in her closet. An Independence Day outfit. The other Matt Siegel stood rigid and controlled while I moved like Stevie Nicks tramping about like a gypsy on acid. Artists spend their entire professional lives trying to make a name for themselves and here, in front of his disconcerted eyes, was another faggot, close in age, with his same name -- almost -- living an unabashed queer existence. I was his worst nightmare.

The devil on my shoulder closely resembles Bette Midler in a huge hat and lizard pendant on her lapel. Initially, I began devising a plan to drag our name through the gay dirt. Visions of masquerading as the other Matt Siegel, skipping through the streets of LA filled my head. I, too, would be a missionary, spreading the queer word under the guise of the other Matt Siegel, the WASP grad student, the one who feared the defilement of his name via me. I wanted to exorcise his gay shame. And maybe we could fuck afterwards.

After working on this blog for the past week, I happened to run into the other Matt Siegel last night at a party. I caught his eye and he turned away. Very carefully I approached him--not at all jaunty this time. He gave me a labored hello. Getting right to the point I inquired as to why he had reacted to me the way he did that night. "Well," he said, "you just came up to me and mispronounced my name. I thought that was kind of rude." Now, my jaw hit the floor. It was my turn to be flabbergasted and dismayed. "Are you serious," I said getting heated, "I was nothing but warm and friendly toward you." He gave me a half-assed apology, "Look, I'm sorry if I came across as rude but--" and proceeded to tell me since he apologized to me, I should apologize to him for mispronouncing his name. I declined his request.

More times than I care to remember, I have heard gay men bitch that their sexuality does not define them and to that I say it does define me. It's not some tiny part of me that only takes place in the bedroom. I don't desire straight approval or some verification that I am "normal." I was never the status-quo. My gayness and queerness proceed me naturally. It affects all of my feelings--my loves, my hates. The most infuriating bigotry I face on a regular basis is from other gay men who are embarrassed by my organic, unabashed queerness.

The other Matt Siegel stopped me on my way out of the party and sincerely apologized and took responsibility for his behavior. "Look, I don't want there to be bad blood between us. In fact, I'd like to be your friend. I was being an ass that night." That meant a lot to me. Finally, more than simply posing as a man, he was acting like an adult. After that I began to question whether or not I should even publish this piece at all. After all, he had apologized and I have no interest in causing strife for him or being a jerk. I realized, though, that this piece is less about him and more about my struggle for acceptance within my own people and myself. And though I firmly believe his initial problems with me run much deeper than a simple mispronunciation of his name, I am reminded that a name is only what you make of it. My name--our name--means very little to me. I'd change it tomorrow if I came up with anything better. Over the years my name has been marked by slander, infamy--I take credit for some of it--and as I evolve I hope it will carry new meaning: compassion and authenticity.

Sandra Bernhard Questions Change

by Sandra Bernhard

I am sitting today in New York City in disbelief.

After the past eight years of twisted lies and cynical abuse by the Bush administration. After the long hard fought campaigns of Clinton, Obama and McCain. After Obama’s victory and the euphoria of the election… here we are once again stunned by the shock and awe of total stupidity.

How can Barack Obama, the first black president of the United States of America, invite one of the most divisive religious leaders in the world to invocate his inauguration? This is the day the world was supposed to change, for the better, the more compassionate, inclusive, forgiving, thoughtful.

To choose Rick Warren, who actively fought the gay communities legal right to full protection of our constitution is completely reckless. This is a person who compares gay marriage to that of a brother and sister union. This is a man who vocally diminishes the legitimacy of gays.

The inauguration is no place for this religious fundamentalism in any way shape or form. We can have that conversation later in the proper setting. This is the day that is supposed to restore the true meaning of brotherhood and the rights for all Americans. To lift the veils of secrecy and hatred and the ugly legacy we have left behind! This is how Barack Obama chooses to begin his legacy?I am deeply angered and terribly disappointed at this turn of events. I think Mr. Obama needs to reevaluate this decision immediately.

It is unacceptable!

06 December 2008

Unabashed Milk Spillage

I have pondered whether or not I should put my two cents in regarding Gus Van Sant's Milk considering how much press it's getting. Who cares about my two cents? Then I thought, "Matt Siegel, you have a unique perspective. Spill it."

I was nervous about seeing the film. I have spent many a year feeling sad and angry, so why spend money to feel that way? I'm such a jew-ess. Give it to me for free and I'll see it immediately. I made a date to see Milk with my friend, actress, Jill Clayburgh. I mention her by name because, to me, she is the ultimate mother and nurturer, on-screen and off, and I wanted someone safe to go with me.

On our way into The Grove, I mentioned how I wished an out gay man could have played the title role in Milk and Jill got pissed, calling me pigheaded and asking me if I would prefer that the movie not have been made at all. Mama, why are you being so firm with me? I understood her point, it was a big Hollywood film and needed a major name attached to it. My feeling about the casting had more to do with the fact that in such a gay industry, many, many, many actors are in the closet for fear of not getting jobs as a result. Where has Rupert Everett been since he came out years ago? One shitty movie with his faghag, Madonna, is where he's been. It is common knowledge that once you come out, casting people and executives believe it is too difficult for audiences to see you as anything but gay. I began running through out gay actors in my head as alternatives to Sean Penn but the prospect of Doogie Howser playing Harvey Milk made me want to go back in the closet. With that said, I liken the casting of Sean Penn in Milk to Anthony Hopkins playing a light-skinned black man in The Human Stain.

I was also freaked out to see Milk because Gus Van Sant, like any red-blooded, American gay male, likes to cast pretty boys in his films. He loves finding those other-side-of-the-tracks bad attitude twinks, and turn them into actors, as he did in Elephant. I guess he's drawn to their untainted, virile, boyishness. Me too, Girl, me too. I accompanied a friend to the Milk open casting call in San Francisco a few years ago, and Gus was sitting at a table cruising/casting. I don't blame him. So when I saw that James Franco had been cast to play Harvey Milk's lover, I was not surprised but I was bummed. I find really hot guys distracting and annoying on-screen and off. You won't catch me cruising any male models along Santa Monica Boulevard. I refuse to give hot people more unwarranted attention than they already get. Plus I want to reject them before they can reject me. Do you see how real I am? Who else would admit that?

Perhaps as a result of my psychoses, I found Franco's depiction somewhat uninspired. I think he was really proud of himself for playing a fag. He's so open! Just like Jack Black and all of those other actors who came out to support Prop 8 after the fucking election. Thanks for that. That whole Prop 8 musical just reeks of self-congratulation from those hetero actors. Put a dick in your mouth and call me in the morning, please.

Emile Hirsch was solid, if a little affected, and his opening scene with Sean Penn was memorable. His curly wig and pedophile glasses reminded me of several trans hipster boys I know. Allison Pill, the only female supporting character, in a leather jacket and a bad perm, held her own as the only lesbian and only woman in the bunch. I applaud the brief depiction of gay male misogyny. It is an important, oft overlooked prejudice in the gay male community. Jill and I agreed that Sean Penn's performance was absolutely top notch. There was not one second where I found myself skeptical of his Harvey Milk. It was brilliantly nuanced and utterly committed.

Spoiler alert, spoiler alert! Believe me, you want this part spoiled. I was shocked to see a really fuckin cheesy story line. A very hot, butch, gay teen from Minnesota calls Milk as he is rushing out of his apartment to a possible riot situation. The gay teen says he's gonna kill himself, his parents are sending him to a mental institution the next day and he had seen Milk in the newspaper. So Milk is like, "get on a bus tonight and go to LA or New York or San Francisco" and the hot, gay, suicidal teen is like, "that's the thing. I can't. I'm in a wheelchair" and the camera pans out to show him in a wheelchair. My eyes rolled out of my head and into the popcorn under my chair. And, hello, why couldn't it be a fat fuckin' femme calling Milk up? A young Bruce Vilanch, perhaps? Because it's not pretty enough. And to bring shit full circle, the kid calls Milk a year later, conveniently and unbelievably while election results are coming in, and tells him he's alive and well in Los Angeles. Useless bullshit, Gussy. PS...I took Bruce Vilanch to dinner at an Argentinean restaurant a few years ago where he ate a plate of melted cheese, did not try to pay for the meal, and when I was dropping him off at home, offered to eat my ass. Didn't you have enough to eat tonight, Bruce?

Amongst gay youth there is great apathy and rampant ageism towards our predecessors. The value of this film may lie less in educating ignorant heterosexuals and more in educating ignorant homosexuals.