Monday, November 24, 2008

Marriage between brother and sister

Medieval Christian wedding feast
(Notice groom on horseback chasing bride with dogs.)

Adulterer Newt Gingrich on religious values
and the reply of his sister Candace
followed by a few innocent suggestions by me

"I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion.

And I think if you believe in historic Christianity, you have to confront the fact. And for that matter, if you believe in the historic version of Islam or the historic version of Judaism, you have to confront the reality that these secular extremists are determined to impose on you acceptance of a series of values that are antithetical, they're the opposite, of what you're taught in Sunday school." — Newt Gingrich

"Dear Newt,

I recently had the displeasure of watching you bash the protesters of the Prop 8 marriage ban to Bill O'Reilly on FOX News. I must say, after years of watching you build your career by stirring up the fears and prejudices of the far right, I feel compelled to use the words of your idol, Ronald Reagan, 'There you go, again.'

However, I realize that you may have been a little preoccupied lately with planning your resurrection as the savior of your party, so I thought I would fill you in on a few important developments you might have overlooked. The truth is that you're living in a world that no longer exists. I, along with millions of Americans, clearly see the world the way it as—and we embrace what it can be. You, on the other hand, seem incapable of looking for new ideas or moving beyond what worked in the past.

This is a movement of the people that you most fear. It's a movement of progress — and your words on FOX News only show how truly desperate you are to maintain control of a world that is changing before your very eyes.

Then again, we've seen these tactics before. We know how much the right likes to play political and cultural hardball, and then turn around and accuse us of lashing out first. You give a pass to a
religious group — one that looks down upon minorities and women — when they use their money and membership roles to roll back the rights of others, and then you label us 'fascists' when we fight back. You belittle the relationships of gay and lesbian couples, and yet somehow neglect to explain who anointed you the protector of 'traditional' marriage. And, of course, you've also mastered taking the foolish actions of a few people and then indicting an entire population based on those mistakes. I fail to see how any of these patterns coincide with the values of 'historic Christianity' you claim to champion.

Again, nothing new here. This is just more of the blatant hypocrisy we're used to hearing. What really worries me is that you are always willing to use LGBT Americans as political weapons to further your ambitions. That's really so '90s, Newt. In this day and age, it's embarrassing to watch you talk like that. You should be more afraid of the new political climate in America, because, there is no place for you in it. In other words, stop being a hater, big bro." — Candace Gingrich

[Doric Wilson: It occurs to me that the Christian right may in fact be right. That the whole institution of marriage is indeed under attack. I suggest a few steps to bolster and defend it:

Divorce must instantly be prohibited. Divorced couples who remain single must be forced by law to return to their prior cohabitation. Divorced couples who have made other "adulterous" marriages must be removed from their so-called "new" families and reunited with their original spouse. By force if necessary. And this only after a sensible period of confinement as punishment for displaying such a fascistic disrespect for the sanctity of matrimony—say two years.

Children from such unholy unions should be declared "inauthentic" (along with those who actually are little bastards) and must be housed in special institutions where they can be segregated from spiritually healthy society for the rest of their lives. Any person contemplating, let alone committing, either adultery or pre-marital sex should face a mandatory 20-year minimum prison sentence, no parole. Chemical castration might be considered.

People with a history of multiple marriages and numerous affairs should have their employment opportunities seriously restricted. We would not want them teaching impressionable young children. (They could be used to staff the Institutes of Illegitimacy) And should same-sex-marriage somehow become the law of the land, gay couples must face up to exactly the same regulations. If you want it bad enough, you must be willing to pay for it.

Not only will my suggestions strengthen the American family, just think of the effect on our economy. All the Prisons of Impurity to be built and maintained. All the investigators that will be needed to enforce the anti-adultery provisions. All the staff required to detain millions upon millions of illegally conceived children. We may even have to consider importing a foreign work force. And with marriage back on safe and sacred grounds, we should then take a long close penetrating look at pornography.]

[TOSOS member David Stern adds: There must be retroactive fines for parents of children who divorce for failing to set a proper example, plus late and non-marriage penalties (as per the Emperor Augustus's laws against bachelors). Since the institution of marriage is now to be considered to have rights in and of itself, any media that tends to denigrate or undermine the institution should be sued for libel by the state, with special fines for "hapless husband" comedies and imprisonment for "fulfilled singles" dramas. Playwrights who write about alternative lifestyles that do not conclude with an epilogue at the gates of hell are to be publicly impaled.]

And for your viewing pleasure:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Art for the artist’s sake

Richard Taddei, self-portrait - 1996

My roommate back in the 1960, the composer Walter Torgerson (1940-1986), introduced me to Richard Taddei in the fall of 1967. For years Richard has been central to the gay art community. His paintings have been in countless group and one-person shows and he is widely collected ( . He is a design consultant for TOSOS, providing the graphic for Mark Finley’s The Mermaid. He is also a member of our honorary board.

Recently a montage of his paintings has been posted on youtube: . Accompanied by Leslie Ritter singing "When The Night Spills" (click "more info" for lyrics and how to purchase CDs). This is a beautiful introduction to Richard’s work. (remember to click "high quality" to fill the screen)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride

(Mom and me - Gay Pride March - NYC - 1974)

The two rallies last week in Manhattan in support of same sex marriage were both much larger than anyone anticipated. Wednesday night so many people gathered in front of the Mormon temple at Lincoln Center, they quickly overran the area set aside by the NYPD, forcing the cops to turn the event into an impromptu parade down Broadway to Columbus Circle. Steven (Confessions of a Mormon Boy) Fales described it as "beautiful men with creative posters." Susan* (my favorite Isolde) kept bumping into Whoopi Goldberg.

I joined pal Susan on Saturday afternoon at City Hall Park. This was a coordinated event, with similar rallies planned at the same time in cities all over the country. Here in NYC the rain had been pouring down all morning, but just as the rally started, the sun came shining through in a show of support. (Exactly as it did almost forty years ago when the first Gay Pride march stepped away from the relative safety of Christopher Street in the Village to proclaim ourselves out and proud to midtown Manhattan.) Again the crowd was far too large to be contained and the cops spent most of the afternoon moving the barriers to make room for more and more and even more people.

As to how many people were actually there, who knows. I have spent far too many years in too many under- and over-counted demonstrations to pay much attention to official numbers. Just say it was a very large crowd. It was young and old, and male and female (and all gender gradations in between), black and white and tan and yellow and pink (and perhaps even a purple)—a true rainbow coalition. And committed like I have not seen since the early 1970s. There may be a new movement afoot. The more or less perfunctory coverage the New York Times gave to the rallies is ultimately the proof of the importance of this day.

Starting in the late 1950s I spent a lot of my life marching and chanting: Ban-the-Bomb, Civil Rights, anti-Vietnam, the Women’s Movement, and ultimately, Gay Rights. As the infighting of political correctness in the late 1970s began to pollute the politics of liberation, I decided to drop out from dropping out. I stopped marching and chanting. Except for the Matthew Shepard vigils, it had been a lot of years since I joined the "madding crowd." Instead I decided to concentrate on what I do best, so I formed TOSOS and dedicated my career to queer theater.

But when Susan and I arrived at City Hall Park, a weird thing happened to me. I was suddenly no longer in the here and now. Suddenly I was surrounded by the ghosts of other times and other demonstrations. Billy Blackwell, Jim Owles, Mama Jean, Miss Martha Johnson, Bob Kohler, Morty Manford, Rollerna, Vito Russo, Jerry West, Waylan Flowers, Jack Logan, David Vangan (and Coco, the chimp), Ruth Truth, Jerry Fitzpatrick, Nancy from the One Potato, Rex and Sy and Tom Ross from the Roadhouse, Ty from Ty’s, Lou Thomas from Colt—the list is endless. Not all dead, but they were of another time come back, it seemed, to haunt me. And at my age it is not nice to find yourself up to your neck in ectoplasm.

To quote from my new play, "gay history is last week, but only if it’s longer than 7 inches." These were some of our true heroes, and for the most part they remain either forgotten or as footnotes. I haven’t felt so very alone in a long time. Nor so sad. Nor so out of it. Later that night after a reading at TOSOS, I was asked if I planned to write about the rally. I answered that I was still too spooked so to speak to write. That these manifestations seemed to be all about loss and friends and times long gone. Someone suggested I was looking at it all the wrong way. And I suddenly realized they were right. I had not gone back to the past, but the past had indeed come forward to join and support us.

And indeed there was that sort of feeling in the air. And for all the seriousness of the situation, there was a certain joy and a new sense of hope. And a new belief in the ability to effect change. Amazing what can happen when you elect an intelligent and caring man as your president. The two guys in front of me stood with their arms around each other’s shoulders, the ease of their affection impossible when I was their age. They seemed somehow so certain of the future. Next to Susan stood two young women with a wonderful dog and an obvious and equal commitment to each other and determination to move forward.

I have to admit when it comes to "gay marriage," I personally am a lot less than convinced. The atheist in me is very suspicions of religious "sacraments." The French (thanks to the Napoleonic Code) have a much better system. All contracts between couples are first and foremost civil. After you are joined together by an appointed official, you are more than free to find some church to bless you union should you want (and assuming the fun-loving Christians don’t toss you butt first out the door). The right to be a family should not depend on some primitive ceremony designed by a patriarchal society primarily to protect a husband’s control over the property, life, and very body of his wife. If civil unions do not cover all the necessary issues, then laws should be expanded to make them do so.

But matrimony is really not the main issue here. The passage of Prop 8 puts a spotlight on two far more important principles: the separation of Church and State and the idea that the majority can vote to limit the freedom of any minorities it finds distasteful. People should really watch out what they wish for. Majorities change. If Mormon fecundity procreates a population explosion, are Catholics really safe? Will the huge broods of full- and half- and out-of-wedlock born-again Evangelists multiply in sufficient numbers threaten to abort the very advance of science? When Hispanics become the majority, will they vote to replace Thanksgiving turkeys with tacos? (Actually, I’d vote for that!) There have been complaints about the tenor and bitterness of the demonstrations. Seems we should all go sit quietly at the back of the bus. Some people just don’t seem to get it. How polite and patient will our detractors be when their lives and families are threatened? (As I recall the election sparked a run on gun sales)

I have always suspected the real reason that separation of Church and State made it into our constitution was the keep the government from curbing the excesses of organized religion. God has always been big business in this country. And oversight and regulation is anathema to corporate entities however holy. As has been recently proven, the golden rule is "keep your eyes on the Good Book and out of my account books." The tax-exempt shearing of the faithful sheep has been funding political subversion and bigotry for more than a century. Sure wish Henry VIII would come back and dissolve our religious cartels. Think of all that money actually going to some good or useful cause, instead of wasted on eye liner, or a room in some warm sheet motel, or for theme parks that make the Flintstones seem downright educational. If we don’t watch them guys, we will be living on a flat earth again. And paying for it with our taxes!

One thing is for certain. Thanks to the Internet (the most important technical advance since the Gutenberg bible) the word is out. The times indeed are a’changin’. The recent election and the rapid way the Prop 8 rallies were organized proves the fat lady has yet to sing! And when she does, you will hear her loud and clear on youtube. Were I younger, I might seriously consider giving up playwriting in favor of becoming a gay divorce lawyer, all the Sturm und Drang of drama but a lot more lucrative. In fact gay divorce lawyer will probably replace hair dresser as the standard gay stereotype. As my friend David Stern says, "we should listen to the Mormons: marriage is a sacred institution between a man and several early adolescents."

Guess maybe I am not so alone after all. In fact what with the past and the present, and new friends and old, my days are pretty full.

(*not to be confused with the other Susan who is much much older and legally prevented from singing)

Speaking of youtube: some random rally site: Chicago (courtesy of AK Miller) and Charleston, S.C. (courtesy of Kathleen Warnock)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Gay National Holiday

Halloween used to be my favorite holiday. My first Halloween in this city I won a prize as the "Red Shoes" - don't ask - at a "come as a film title" party thrown by Howard Richardson (one of the playwrights of Dark of the Moon). It was my first and last time in drag - and it was gender-fuck far before its time!

My Latino upstairs neighbors are not the hot and sexy "Jonathan Cedano" types. They are short, round, and heavy of foot (and very loud of mouth!) Living under them is the punishment I suppose I deserve for my obscenely low rent.

And last night in honor of the Gay National Holiday they were even heavier of foot and in high heels. As were the thirty or so friends they brought home with them after the Village Halloween parade. At 5 this morning they rang my bell to get in the building. When someone finally buzzed them in, I stood at my door to eager confront the — what is the Spanish for "little darlings?"

I am not sure which was more frightening, the smeared and tattered and bedraggled leftovers of their splendorless drag or me in my less than attractive sleepwear with my hair askew and teeth out and seven nasty looking bandages on my face (thanks to my most recent visit to the skin doctor.)

It was ugly meets uglier. The Japanese could have made a film. When Faggots Collide! It is now past noon and they are still up there stumbling around. And thanks to the "boys" upstairs, I still have not had sleep. And I am not all that fond of Halloween any longer.