I was asked to direct this movie, or a movie like it, ten years ago.
It was a script based on the autobiography of Liberace’s lover Scott Thorson.
I read the script, I met the producers, I met Michael Keaton who was, at that time, attached to the project.
Now, I don’t remember the script, I don’t remember the producers.
I remember meeting Michael Keaton in an obscure room in Santa Monica. Michael was very quiet, not at all enthused.
I remember asking myself why he would want to make this movie. I remember sharing ideas about performance and parameters.
He didn’t want to do an ‘impersonation’.
Another script about Liberace arrived, a more dynamic, dramatic and excessive script. It piqued my interest.
It began with Liberace’s final moments in the back of a limousine.
Liberace is often damned for claiming he wasn’t gay, for never admitting to his HIV status. That those around him at the end of his life went to extraordinary lengths to hide that he died of AIDS.
Of course, there are still people, (living people) who never admit they are HIV positive.
Such is the shame around HIV and AIDS.
But equally there were many people at the time of Liberace’s death who went to extraordinary lengths to reveal that he died of AIDS.
They exhumed his already buried body to prove their point.
There were too many people eager to shame him. For that’s what they wanted to do. Shame the gay man.
Liberace never said publicly that he was gay. He denied it. Again and again.
I sympathise with his denial. It was his choice, a choice we now condemn.
In these prescriptive times if you are not willing to say you are gay… someone else will.
Liberace was a brand.
It’s understandable that Liberace lied on oath. He had everything to lose.
In those miserable homo-ignorant times there were plenty who would have delighted and profited from his downfall.
Reading the reviews for this film a theme emerges: Loneliness.
There are countless other references to this ‘lonely’ man Liberace. His ‘lonely’ mother, his ‘lonely’ boy friend Scott.
Scott was ‘damaged’, Scott was a ‘gold digger’, Scott was a ‘lonely soul’. Scott was ‘played too sympathetically because he’s in jail for burglary’.
It seems like the prophecy of fearful mothers comes to pass in this movie, that their gay sons with end up alone, abandoned, unhappy.
The relationship between Scott and Liberace may seem familiar to any powerful, older man who lets a younger man into his life:
“They establish a bond that is a blend of romantic love, father-son affection, brotherly playfulness, and prostitution.”
Liberace, like Brokeback Mountain before it brings into hard focus the lives and loves of queer men.
There is the obligatory delight and revulsion (in equal measure) of the kissing. Two men kissing.
Two men kissing seems to remind many straight men that a tender intimacy can exist between men and that may very well interfere what they imagine we do.
The gay butt fucking they imagine… immediately… after meeting one another.
Men kissing, like men getting married, seems to inflame the homophobe.
I’m wondering why Steven Soderbergh wanted to make this movie, why a gay director wasn’t chosen?
Did he do it because it seemed like a cool thing to do? A straight man, so comfortable in his own skin that he can work with queer subject matter?
It still feels to me like straight boys (actors and director) getting together to prove a point.
With so many talented and extraordinary gay directors in the world how did this end up being made by a bunch of straight guys?
Was Liberace too difficult and distasteful and potentially divisive for a gay director?
When ever I have stood before a queer audience with my queer films (confirmed by other queer, male directors) the audience who have the most problems are those who want to say: I didn’t see me.
Gay man are desperate to see themselves and their lives as they live them in TV and film. It is perfectly reasonable for them to expect this.
Rather than the gay freak, the gay priest, the comedy gay… they, understandably, want to see themselves fairly represented. They want to see gay detectives, gay wedding crashers, gay teachers, plumbers, gay undocumented workers.
Many reviewers of Liberace: Behind The Candelabra smirk at the foolishness and naivety of the straight women who swooned at this obviously gay man.
I once researched a documentary about fag hags. All the women I spoke to who identified as fag hags felt adored and listened to, appreciated, respected by a man. Even if that man was gay.
Those women provide the clue to Liberace’s denial and downfall.
Liberace wasn’t lonely. He was a performing artist who found solace and validation, like many do, on the stage.
Every night he performed he bathed in the glory of his screaming fans. The unconditional love of his audience.
An adoring audience of many thousands will never be any match for the love of just one man.
I remember saying that to Michael Keaton as I sat there in that small room realizing who Liberace was.
Ha. Don’t hold your breath.
Will you tell your grandchildren that you remember a time when nearly all top jobs in industry and government were taken by white men and your grandchildren raise their eyebrows in disbelief?
Will you tell your grandchildren that you remember a time when a gay man was shot in the face in the middle of the most liberal city in the western world for being a faggot and your grandchildren raise their eyebrows in disbelief?
A thousand years from now? Maybe that’s the kind of incremental change brown people, women and queer people expect?
When will you fight for more? Why do you put up with the status quo?
Fight for marriage and all things are equal? No. Fight for white men to stop taking everything, determining the agenda and we might get somewhere.
I wouldn’t like to hang around in gay bars right now. Not with all these emboldened haters amongst us.
Thank God I don’t drink.
I am wearing my pink shoes. People understand what I am when they look at my feet.
I’m trying to jettison ’straight acting‘, I’m trying to abandon my invisibility but I know what that means. It means hostility from gay men and straight men.
I like it when they describe drag queens as fierce. That’s what I have spent life being: FIERCE. Of course, this has been perceived as angry or anti social or… can I explain something?
Anger is an emotion related to one’s psychological interpretation of having been offended, wronged, or denied and a tendency to react through retaliation.
Anger management? The management of justified anger.
Listen to this. I have been reasonably angry for a long time.
I was a kid and I knew I wanted to fall in love with and have sex with men (and women) but the man part of my desire was outlawed, derided.
I fell in love at school. I fell in love and explored men’s bodies.
I remember when I was 14 I was walking along the beach in Whitstable. I met a man. I lay on the sea wall with him. Furtive. Illegal. I never saw him again. I wonder about him.
They hated us for something we could not change. I ignored them. I parried the blows.
I lived in a dream world because living in that reality was simply too painful.
Margaret Thatcher didn’t want me and men and women like me… she didn’t want us to exist.
I’ll tell you what makes me angry: Brown people not getting a fair trial. A third of all black men in the USA are in jail. Women in the military being raped and sexually abused. Drag queens damning trans people. I am angry that some people are denied bail. I am angry that my lover left me when I found my tumor. I am angry with myself for falling in love with men who could never love me back. I am angry that the breast cancer gene is privately owned, that innocent brown people are still being held in captivity in Guantanamo Bay. I am angry that gay men think that marriage is the answer. I am angry that I grew up with an angry step father. I am angry that Monsanto kill bees. I am angry that my neighbors park in front of my gate so I can’t get in and out of my house. I am angry that two young girls are criminalized for falling in love. I am angry that most agents (realtors and talent) are sociopath. I am angry with gay men and straight men for over simplifying sexuality.
How do you live with that?
I set it aside. The anger. I find peace wherever I can. I pull weeds. I walk the dogs. I feed the fish.
I forgive them for their sexism, their murder, their bullying, their insistence that they WIN. At all costs. Like the bees. Winning the market means… killing the bees.
When I buy something at auction the others applaud. They congratulate me. They tell me that I have won. I didn’t win. I just paid the highest price. It’s not hard to do.
So. Today I am wearing my pink shoes. There you go. ’Nice shoes,’ they scoff.
Oh, I’m wearing them because I’m queer and I really want you to know. Because I exist somewhere between Liberace and Jason Collins but I’m still trying to work it out. Working out what kind of man I am.
I don’t think I’m alone.
Men make their own history but they do not make it as they choose.
It started with a short message and ended up with a whole bunch of choices I never expected.
Not in my wildest dreams.
I’ve read what you had to say. Now it’s my turn.
Stepping away from the mess. It’s not so messy. It seems like it was planned.
This pantomime. Look at the cast of unusual, freakish characters. Look at them.
Boys and men, trans and women.
Young girls. Yes. They are here too.
So you wrote me a poem. No title… of course.
We were connected .
When it expires we are expired.
The order? It was a good idea. It was a great way to formalize the end of our association. I can only imagine that you feel much the same way I do.
I wish we had never met.
Don’t you shudder whenever you think about it?
I understand why you needed to rewrite the narrative.
I took advantage of you?
You had far more to lose by telling the truth.
When assigning blame, I take full responsibility. I should have walked away.
Everyone I trusted advised me to do so. Everyone I trusted.
Instead, I pinned my hopes on you. I found your interest in me all at once baffling and inspiring.
A romantic relationship was impossible.
Because I am a broken, sick man. Incapable of intimacy.
You sold me:
A big fat lie.
Yet, we never talked about my lies. Yes, I lied to you about almost everything.
Lies I had held onto for a very long time.
This man is a liar. Just like me. Did you ever think that?
The last time I checked, and that was some time ago, you seemed very happy wearing your new clothes, your relationship, your job and your family.
I am delighted. You will make a much better job of being a gay than I ever could.
Your ability to form and maintain relationships will mean that you’ll have everything you always wanted. Everything you ever dreamed.
The questions I wanted to ask… I have no reason to ask.
The truth set you free and I am very proud of you… even though I have no desire to set eyes upon you ever again.
May 6th 2013
When did you have time to write that? Was it really meant for me?
Did you wonder if I should reply? Did you think I could?
There are no words left.
The storm rattles the house, thunders down the drain pipes. Torrents of rain over the mountain. Hammering down onto the wide, new leaves.
Make some toast and lime marmalade. Boil some eggs. Stand naked in the warm rain.
In the separate but equal ‘gay voice’ section of the Huffington Post yesterday there was another ‘outraged’ homo article about the Pentagon censuring LGBT web sites like Towelroad but not ‘hate speak’ web sites Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter.
The Pentagon, like many large companies that control internet access, have deemed that LGBT sites are mostly inappropriate for work place viewing.
Why? The gays scream. Why do you censor us and not Rush Limbaugh?
A quick comparison.
Rush and Anne, although not my personal cup of tea, do not illustrate their ‘hate speak’ web sites with images of copulating straight people.
In hetero land hard core pornographic images are rightly limited to porn sites.
In homo land we are subjected to random pornographic illustrations (or advertising) on sites purportedly aimed at debating current queer affairs. Images that I would not want to share with my co-workers.
Today, in the reputable queer news site Towelroad, well written articles about Bradley Manning run along side a pornographically illustrated story about the death of a gay porn star.
Interestingly, the porn star died of HIV related complications.
Something that supposedly doesn’t happen any more.
Even though every recent statistic sadly proves that HIV is on the meteoric rise in the bare back obsessed gay community… to say so out loud is deemed homophobic/selfloathing.
As for hate speak? Have any of you read the hate filled rhetoric on most homo web sites… aimed mostly at other gay men?
As I have written many times: queer men willingly take up the cudgels to beat and bully fellow queers where their supposed hetero persecutors dropped them.
BTW Gays… a differing opinion is not hate speak.
The separate but equal ‘gay voice’ section of The Huffington Post is filled with either outraged queens claiming homophobia or cooing doves describing a gay kiss on net work TV.
A reflection on the vapid, with us or agin us culture so many of you subscribe to.
As usual we refuse to look at our part in the problem. We claim: They are doing it to us. They are to blame. We are blameless. We do not deserve scrutiny or self-examination.
The Elmo guy is not a pedophile. He’s a persecuted, misunderstood gay man hounded by the straight media.
In the separate but equal ‘gay voice’ section of the Huffington Post there is a story about an angry ex ‘gay for pay’ porn star who claims that the devil comes out of his ass.
Why? Why is this story about straight insanity in the ‘gay voice’ section? Surely it should be on the ‘crazy white hetero’ page along with all those crazy white, straight mass murderers.
By the way, I’ve never understood why it isn’t ok to be ‘separate but equal’, sometimes it’s just easier.
Like being a Hasidic Jew, I want to be separate so I can get on with my business and enjoy my culture without prying eyes.
Of course I need to be equal, however, so I don’t live in resentment.
As a charming postscript I wanted you to know that after my ‘i am not gay piece’ the other day, the gay and lesbian Legacy Project contacted me and as a result my films will not be burned by jack booted gay men… but all of my queer themed films will now be archived (with pride) at The Legacy Project.
As for the film I am currently making? Let me tell you. We have come a long way in 20 years. A very long way.
When a black straight producer wants to make your white queer film… that’s what I’m talking about.
Nope. Not any more.
I AM NOT GAY. I am OUT.
My New Years resolution: don’t call me gay.
I am The Other. I am simply… Out.
I have resigned my gay membership. I renounce the word GAY.
The Other is different from you. He is neither superior nor inferior.
He is not alone. He is out.
Are you kidding? I still like sex with men… but I’m not interested in being gay.
Do you understand what I’m saying… gays? Yes you. I’m talking to you.
I’M TALKING TO YOU! Yes you, the gay in the bar, on the street, editing his Grindr profile.
Let’s face it. This separation will work out just fine for both of us.
I loathe you and you hate me.
I know, amongst other things, what galls you… you (particularly) don’t like when men in their fifties own up to having a rich and varied sexuality:
I’ve been called a ‘dirty old man’ by more gays than I ever have by straights for wanting or having beautiful younger men in my bed.
The gays write it anonymously. They post it all over the place, whenever they can. As If I should be ashamed?
You, you who have cornered the market in nihilism, immorality, homogeneousness, bitchery, selfishness, self-aggrandizement, self-obsession… in fact anything with the self prefix… apart from self-awareness.
I am peeling off the parade. I am letting the party wend its way elsewhere.
They told me at Triangle House in LA when we were making our documentary about older gay people: they say that old gay people end up going back into the closet because… it can get ugly… it can get dangerous.
They say that gay men are more likely to end up homeless than in any other demographic… because they have no community.
You gays are the very worst at hating yourselves. But you reserve more venom for the elderly homosexual than any other group.
It is a sickening idea to many young gays, that we (the elderly) exist.
Some young gay people believe that past 50 our penises shrink appropriately into our bodies. Retract.
No longer a threat to anyone.
I thought that when I became old… I would start wearing women’s clothes.
Where do young gay men learn how to be dignified old gay men?
I learned from older men in AA how to be an older man.
The respect that AA old timers get, applauded for their contribution to the community of AA stands in stark contract to the respect that older gay people don’t get from younger gay people.
Unless, of course, they are famous… or comical freaks… or rich enough to buy the boys they used to get for free.
Young gay people don’t want to be reminded that the party comes to an end.
I resign my membership. I am no longer a true believer. I’m handing back my awards, my medals, my history, my pride.
It’s yours not mine. Take it.
I renounce: gay pride, gay film festivals, gay beaches, gay basketball, gay bars, the gay ghetto, the gay plague, gay marriage, gaybies, gaydar.com, gays in the military, gay cruises, cottaging, felching, gay news, gay voice, gay face, the gay sub section in the book/video store/Huffington Post.
I’m praying the gay away!
The terms of this divorce:
You can keep it all. The gay plays I made, the gay films I directed, the gay art I painted/etched/sculpted.
Take everything I ever made in your honor.
If you don’t want it? Burn it.
When I offered our award-winning film catalogue of gay films to The Legacy Project (the gay and lesbian film preservation project) based out of UCLA… the gays turned it down.
Even though AKA had won the LA Outfest audience award and opened (and closed) many gay film festivals all over the world with all of my films.
The Legacy Project said no to the free gift. They wanted me to disappear.
They don’t want any evidence that I existed. As a man or an artist.
“He’s trouble.” ”He’s angry.” ”He’s a parasite.”
Gays! Look at what you’ve become!
Examine, for just one goddamned gay second…. the mediocrity! Your righteous indignation! Your mock elegance!
Being with you is like drowning in cold tea.
I don’t drink or take drugs. Tom blew weed into my face. He put vodka into my virgin mary. That’s how the gays bully one another.
Try wearing something unusual when your companions just want to be invisible.
“Who does he think he is?”
Their artificially deepened voices. The plaid shirt, the super hero tee.
The cloak of invisibility.
Tom asked incredulously, “What are you wearing?” A man who wears nothing but ugly jeans, ill-fitting t-shirts.
Tom has an ‘opinion’ about individuality: He doesn’t believe in it.
These gays are terrified of being seen. Gripped by the politics of invisibility.
At least that grotesque, lying freak I used to date… he and his boy friend have some sartorial audacity.
Even if it is TOTALLY misguided.
Who are these gays? These invisigays?
Like Tom, they may appear normal:
How can a gay man expect to age with dignity when nobody gay wants to age at all?
I saw it in LA… my destiny. If I chose to take it.
At first, Adam looked just like any other confident gay man claiming to be 48.
His gay parties are the talk of the town. Richer than most of his friends, though not very well connected … not to the real gay power in LA.
Adam invented the heart valve.
At one of his parties (to his chagrin) I photographed every single one of his guests.
A snap shot of LA gay life.
He has never been elegant, he has never been a great beauty. He will never be tall.
He is, however, manicured, botoxed, his teeth reinvented, his flawless skin, his demeanor… (that only great wealth lends you).
It was at that last raucous party I attended (as a plus one) I saw him upset (rattled)… why?
He looked like an old, vulnerable man.
“What happened?” I asked the gays.
They told me imperiously (as if it were obvious) that the young, chiseled boy he imported from NYC just wanted him for his money.
Adam looked… beaten. Crest fallen. His frail hands shook, the delicate skin around his eyes failing.
The gays stood around helplessly as their host fell apart. They stared into the plastic cups of vodka. They played with their nipples.
The pimps and the whores waited silently by the sodden beer pong.
He turned the music off. Finally, he threw everyone out.
They lined up on the steep drive. A hideous parade of grotesquely young boys, graded online or in public bars for their sexual prowess, their social fallibility, their youth.
The man who invented the heart valve, it seems, suffered from a broken heart.
Take the gay man who gave up his 160k surrogate child for adoption because she had a small birth defect on one of her legs.
Yes, you heard me.
When we interviewed the doctor who makes hundreds and thousands of gay dollars from the gayby industry… he told us that the gays want perfection. Nothing less will do.
Take it all… this gay culture. This gay community. Take it.
Take the video of Bryan with 25 Bel Ami boys jacking off over him.
Moisturized with Czech sperm.
Or the man/boy with the huge cock who they pay to sleep with a hooker and unbeknownst to him… tape him.
This tribe of entitled, elitist gays clinging to gay marriage and their smart phones.
I had lunch today with a 30-year-old man/boy who just came out. ”Why did it take you so long, ” I ask, “To tell the truth?” He said, “I didn’t… (he paused dramatically) …I mean I still don’t… I don’t want to be gay.”
“That’s ok,” I reassured him. ”You can describe yourself however you want.”
When, as frightened teens, blooming… prepubescent boys… infants… when we understand that we want to fall in love and fuck and suck and slide into another man… what choices do we have? To describe ourselves?
Gay is the only way.
And if you don’t know what you are. The gays will tell you exactly what you are.
The gays are so prescriptive.
He’s gay, they claim conspiratorially. They claim anyone ‘hot’ is gay. They all know someone who had sex with Tom Cruise or Hugh Jackman.
“He’s fucking his ‘assistant’.”
Oh Yes! He’s had sex with a man… he’s gay. He’s experimented… he’s gay.
Hollywood does not lend itself to morals.
CAA agent Kevin Huvane. When you first meet him, he shakes your hand and pulls you toward him. Trying to pull you off-balance.
The first time he met me… it worked (I was rocked) the second and third times I was prepared and we set to a gay tug of war, an argy bargy, him attempting to pull me and me attempting to pull him.
The fourth time I let him pull me onto him. I crashed into him. His tiny frame overwhelmed by 6′ 2″ me. He landed in a heap beneath me. ”Oh sorry,” I said. ”You pulled me toward you. I lost my balance. Sorry… Kevin.”
He’ll put you on a ‘list’ they told me. ”I’m on so many lists.” I murmured. ”More lists than Cathy Griffin.”
He wasn’t far from the truth.
At first, I was outraged by their attempts to isolate, malign and lambaste me.
They had tried for years. Without success. Every time they try… they fail.
This last time… the jail. What the hell did they expect? That I would buckle?
Those who throw rocks at me are seldom innocent of that which they accuse.
The Gays, have become so… bourgeois. Do you understand what that means? Let me refresh your memory:
Marked by a concern for material interests and respectability and a tendency toward mediocrity.
When I was young… gays like you knew their place.
They stayed in the closet. I mean. Coming out of the closet was brave! Now anyone can do it and become a fucking hero.
Gays… why are you killing yourselves?
You kill yourself because you can’t take a joke, because you can’t hold your liquor, because you can’t say no to crystal… because you don’t want to be gay.
I don’t remember young gay people killing themselves in the UK.
It gets better?
What gets better?
Better than death?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled when any oppressed group gets a bit of equality… but what will the USA gays do with their equality?
I’ll tell you.
They will make it even harder for the rest of us to be different.
There is a hideous conformity to which these young gays feel they must adhere.
Gay life in the USA. A blushing desire for ‘straight acting’ has become a tsunami of heternoramativity. The foundation on which this miserable gay monolith now stands.
Who are you?
A greek god, perfectly muscled, forever young… dressed to be ignored, as bland a personality as he can effect.
He is Peter Pan, he is Hercules, his personality as glittering as the Pillsbury Dough Boy.
Do you care about anything other than marriage equality? No.
He eats what his parents eat. He would vote republican if they could only find it in their neo con hearts to see that the gays are perfect conservatives.
So. We are divorced. I am no longer gay. I’m OUT. I’m out of here. I’m out but I’m not gay.
Happy New Year!
With a last moment, radical change of plan the boy and I found ourselves in Woodstock, two hours north of NYC.
An effortless drive with Amelia and Stephanie.
He had arrived from Toronto the night before… looking even more beautiful than I remembered him. His flashing green eyes, his perfect pale skin.
The house is cozy and beautifully decorated. The land around it manicured.
The kitchen well designed for making huge dinners for many people.
We drove into the quaint town of Woodstock for Santa’s arrival. We arrived too late.
There are very many, odd-looking people in Woodstock. This seems to be the place where hippies come to die. During their twilight years communing with the ghosts of Jerry Garcia and Janice Jopling.
We gawped in awe at the Hippy Alternative Santa with his bearded female companion.
We wandered the tiny shops that sell scented candles and argyle mittens.
In one of the curious hippy shops an old man wearing a black robe… playing a long flute asked Stephanie riddles. She looked askance. ”I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She said.
It was a bit too Lord of the Rings for me.
A few too many gardenias painted on the clap board.
Christmas Eve we ate gigot, a traditional French Christmas eve treat. We sang Christmas tunes in the kitchen as Mary (our hostess) cooked.
A late night. The boy curled around me. The dogs at my feet. The night before Christmas.
We woke on Christmas morning to a light dusting of snow. Thrilling!
We ate toasted panatone and coffee for breakfast.
The boy and Stephanie made cookies… they tasted divine.
After Christmas dinner we checked our tarot cards by a roaring fire. It caused Stephanie a certain amount of comfort and tears.
Amelia suggested that we celebrate the solstice with pagan rituals. We burned the past in the fire and toasted our good fortune.
Late last night we watched The Impossible which made us all sob.
Occasionally we (he and I) would sneak away from the party and… well you know the rest.
Here you go:
Sunday 23rd 2012.
New Harris tweed trousers. They are so thick and keep the cold wind from whipping around my legs.
I had two very different experiences on Friday.
The first, an unfortunate spat on Facebook with a Canadian writer called Michael Rowe.
I think you know, those of you who read this regularly, that I struggle with marriage as the means by which gay and straight people find parity.
That marriage in of itself doesn’t seem to work for many of the people who sign up for it… so why do so many men and women in the LGBQ community want it so badly?
Is it just because they want the ‘benefits’?
I thought about it a great deal this week.
For those of us gay men and women who are now in our early fifties marriage was never an option. I never hankered after it, nor cared to think about it.
I read this in a British newspaper.
British MPs are planning to create an “exception” in marriage law for same-sex couples and will not alter the definition of adultery.
Either they don’t take us seriously or we don’t take us seriously?
Perhaps gay marriage is indeed separate from straight marriage because we can’t be trusted with monogamy?
Those I respect seem to value marriage equality… so I have been posting thoughts and feelings on my Facebook page.
I am perturbed by how many angry responses I get whenever I write about my marriage equality concerns.
If marriage equality was all we needed or wanted are we selling ourself short? Are we like any cultural minority that lives side by side the majority needing to be tolerated rather than nurtured? Do we need to be understood? Do they need to learn our language? Or, like Hasidic Jews do we evolve separately once we are ‘equal’. Somehow this is not attractive to me.
This question incensed Michael Rowe.
Where are you getting “all we needed or wanted” from? It’s a basic right. That’s not “tolerance,” that’s equality and strength.
The conversation continued privately.
Talking to Michael was like talking to a Zionist. Realizing that his problem with what I was saying was more about me than the conversation I decided to tread carefully. He is the sort of man who believes that any gay who comes out of the closet is an unqualified hero.
I’m not an intellectual, nor am I particularly bright… but I am willing to listen… and I am desperate to understand why I am so conflicted about marriage equality.
Because, I think, it doesn’t seem like equality at all.
So, why am I bothering to fight for something I simply don’t believe in?
It feels like another way to join another elite gang. A gang that will, if given half the chance, bully you mercilessly.
I’ve seen straight women do this. Brag about their married status to their unmarried friends. Causing those unmarried women to burst into tears when they are far enough away from their persecutor.
I asked Michael what he thought marriage would do to our gay culture. I said, I really want to understand your position.
Not sure what there is to “understand.” Until there is no foundation of complete legal equality for LGBT people, the rest of it, worrying about “our culture,” is frosting with no cake. That’s my position.
Our gay culture is very important to me. Even if it is on a separate page, in it’s own section at the book shop or the video store or on Netflix. I enjoy the separation. You see, I’m not very interested in what straight people make of me or the culture that has sprung up around me.
What will marriage equality do to the gay community?
How will these huge changes affect us and our behavior toward other gay man and women.
If a gay man tells his straight friend that he is getting married will his straight friend feel a flush of envy?
I asked if Michael felt ‘more equal’ than his American friends? He said:
Of course I do. I have approximately 300 more rights than American gay couples whose relationships are not legally recognized, rights that have financial and legal implications.
And no, I don’t feel sorry for gay couples who aren’t married by their choice, but I do feel sorry for those who don’t have that choice.
I don’t think that screaming about how proud you are not to be married carries a lot of weight when that right isn’t even on the table.
Like employment protection. Or do you also feel that a law that protects LGBT Americans from being fired also hurts “our culture?”
Oh dear, Michael was watching the NRA press conference at the time so his irritation may be excused.
He is, as you know, a very important Huffington Post blogger.
A ‘gay voice’. In the separate but equal ‘gay voice’ section of the Huff Post.
There is a great deal in this last quote that may make you wince… as I winced.
I come from England where Tony Blair gave Waheed Ali carte blanche to equalize the lives of hetero and homo sexual people.
I remember eating lunch in Malibu with Waheed who explained to me how the legislation was written.
He explained that the word Marriage may have been attractive to some but perhaps a little too divisive. They chose civil unions as the way forward.
Total equality (excluding the word marriage) was a great incremental step in the right direction and one that the majority of my gay friends in long-term relationships were happy to embrace.
Michael is not so sure.
“Civil unions” aren’t marriage, and they’re not equality.
He continued inaccurately:
They weren’t “chosen,” they were all they could get because no one would allow them to be married, with full marriage equality, including the rights of citizenship for spouses.
Just to be perfectly clear: the British do have rights for citizenship for spouses and UNMARRIED partners.
Now, that’s what I’m talking about.
After many years of legal parity, the British gays… from a position of strength are asking for the word marriage and asking a very conservative government to boot. They are certain to succeed.
Civil Union may be the best incremental baby step on offer?
What are the incremental baby steps that seem to get American gays no closer to federal recognition of same-sex marriage?
Married Michael Rowe is very proud of his life.
He has achieved what his parents probably wanted for him all through his childhood. The dream of a heteronormative existence.
The rest of the conversation disintegrated into name calling. He called me tiresome, I ended up calling him a cunt and he blocked me on FB and that was that.
If I were in my early thirties I might think that this is a golden age for gay men and lesbians. That I could enjoy a fully ‘out’ existence, meet the man of my dreams, marry him, buy some surrogate children and live happily ever after.
That is a perfectly lovely dream to have.
But I am still in two minds. Shouldn’t we all be fighting for something more than marriage, that marriage should not allow those who are to have so much more than those who are not?
This is not equality.
Some married gay men (like Michael) are already behaving like my mother and grandmother behaved toward their spinster/old maid/barren friends. Looking down their married noses.
Do I feel cheated out of different sort of gay life? If I had grown up around gay men getting married would I have thought differently about the men I dated and the future we could have had?
I have, undoubtedly, missed the man/man marriage boat. Joe and I talked about it briefly.
When I was growing up the thought of marriage (one man to another) was simply not a consideration. Like an orthodox jew would never think about eating bacon. I didn’t really think anything of not being married.
Being brought up in a small town where the majority of my straight peers had children but no marriage… marriage seemed Victorian and absurd. The people who were getting married were not… cool. They were… boring.
My straight friends who remained unmarried with many children did very well for themselves. They ran successful businesses. Their children went to great universities. They struggled and excelled equally along side those children who came from married families and broken homes.
There really was no difference between them and any other child.
The emphasis on family values seems to have gripped the gays as firmly as the straights.
What ever family means we don’t want to be left out of the explanation.
We all have a family of sorts. Some have blood relatives, others have an extended family of strangers.
Obviously, I have invested in the latter and have never been let down.
Which brings me to the final part of my blog today.
Sitting with the dogs on Franklin outside my coffee shop of choice I met a young Rabbi.
Charming, Cambridge educated and very enthusiastic.
He invited me to Shabbat the following Friday night.
I had, of course, enjoyed many a Friday night with the Cohen’s in LA. David, his wife and their 6 children. 40 people for pot luck dinner around a huge table on the lawn then talking about world events with a talking stick. It was perfect.
This Shabbat was very different.
There were several rabbinical students. I arrived mid prayer. For an hour we prayed.
The most exquisite boy with the most beautiful voice (and a baby) sang something on his own before the others joined in. When he started singing I began to cry.
They prayed and sang (they sang in Hebrew) and faced East, my rabbi friend was particularly enthusiastic. I sat beside him and he kept apologizing for everything, as if it were a trial for me to be there… when in fact it was beautiful.
I sat there thinking about the gays. After my run in with Michael.
I wondered if they would have confused my thoughts about how beautiful the singer was with wanting to fuck him. That most of my gay friends wouldn’t have just enjoyed him, they would have wanted to fuck him. ”He’s hot…”
We ate a huge dinner. We washed our hands ritually. After the dinner and conversations with truly wonderful people (I avoided talking Palestine) we sat together for more prayers and a fascinating chat about the Torah.
The young rabbinical students and scholars discussed in a really modern and interesting way what I had been taught was the Old Testament.
Jacob, Joseph and the blessing of the Pharaoh:
My years have been few and difficult.
They talked about other things.
A young man with thick, raven black hair told us he had just visited Sandy Hook. To offer ‘solace’.
At first I was irritated by the apparent intrusion, it seemed so arrogant.
I was wrong.
He explained that the town was packed with people from all over the world. That he had witnessed a funeral of one of the murdered children and the parents of the dead child were holding up signs in the car that said, very simply: ”THANK YOU.”
I found him after dinner and thanked him for reminding me that it’s easy to let other people do the difficult tasks.
If Sandy Hook had been an isolated incident then I might have felt differently but Sandy Hook is part of a macabre American theme and we must all, collectively… own it.
It is our responsibility.
That young Jewish man and his five friends had taken responsibility and travelled to Sandy Hook.
By doing so, they had a spiritual awakening. They were thanked by the parents of dead infants.
They understood (unlike those of us who did not go) something more about America, about bravery, about priority, about consequence.
The two parts of my day could not have been more different. The childish spat with an entitled gay man and the spiritual warmth of new family offered me by a group of heterosexual strangers.
Inclusion versus exclusion.
Last night Lady Rizo and I had dinner with Winston Churchill’s granddaughter. I was not the only gay at the dinner for 50. I avoided the other gays.
I have nothing to say to any of them.
There is a week of mayhem to report. A week of extraordinary conduct. A week of moving back east.
I can’t show you his face.
Only in NYC.
Then, I meet a woman who KNOWS all about my film. I mean, she knows the story like an urban myth. But it’s not a myth. It’s the sad truth.
“Oh, I know this story,” she said. Her eyes sparkling with anticipation. ”I think he’s my friend on Facebook. Yes, look…” she pulls out her smart phone and there he is. I push the phone away. I shouldn’t be looking at that.
“What was he thinking?” she roars with laughter.
Women love my film. It confirms everything they think they know about men. The injustice of men.
Dead five-year olds. 20 of them.
The children are shot dead by a crazed, entitled white boy. The little bodies buried this week. Lined up against the wall and executed. You know they didn’t have a clue. You know they did as they were told.
I thought about the little dog facing the lethal injection.
A horrific pendant: ten Afghan children are splattered into the mud by a drone.
Somehow their little brown faces are missing from the media. Somehow the little white children in Connecticut are worth more.
We asked you to vote for him, now he’s letting us down all over again. Surprise, fucking surprise.
I saw a man being mugged on the 5 train. Into Manhattan, a stealthy, tall, nimble black man rips an iPhone 4s out of an asian man’s hands leaving him with his ear phones on his head. The rest of us sat amazed.
The white people urged him to call the police but he said, “I’m already late for work.”
I’m buying a parker. It’s lined with blood-red shearling. Like the monkey they found in Ikea.
Dinner in the neighborhood, dinner at the Mercer Kitchen with Courtney, dinner at the Standard Grill with Brock.
Dinner with Cristina who I have not seen for 30 years on the floor of her palatial Upper East Side home. It was as if all those 30 years just melted away. That we were friends again from last week. Funny, compelling, brilliant, beautiful Cristina.
Dinner with new gay AA friends in cheap diners.
Dinner at Mary’s Fish Camp with Benoit. We stop at Boxers (gay bar) on the way home. There’s nothing for us. Benoit peels off leaving me on the street and as I wait for the green light a handsome green eyed man says hello.
At first I wonder why. Why is this stunningly handsome 27-year-old man saying hello to me.
Then we’re in Barracuda kissing each other.
I’m wearing that huge fur hat.
I can’t kiss him any more. I can’t suck any more spit out of his mouth. I can’t look into his green eyes.
I am so overwhelmed by him I walk through the rain until I am soaked to the skin. Wondering how it happens? Wondering how it ends up like this?
All the way home I’m humming Nature Boy to myself.
In the morning my room smells of damp fur.
We ate stewed pear salad, grilled chicken and for dessert they served a strange, solid cake.
Of course the work I have been contributing to was just part of what was projected. I was incredibly proud to be asked to stand in front of the 1000 or so people and introduce myself.
Will Ferrell, Jay Roach, Ermin Chemerinsky and Jane Lynch all spoke beautifully on behalf of the ACLU and their various causes and friends.
During the interval both Usher (the singer) and Scooter Braun (2 million twitter followers) took the time to introduce themselves and congratulate me.
Of course, as usual, not one gay person, including honoree Jane Lynch made themselves known to me. The chasm that exists between me and the gay community in LA was even more evident than usual at this event.
Only last week the gay ‘director’ Guy Shalem texted me telling me that I deserved to be in jail… mocking the time that I had spent there, telling me that I only had friends I made in jail.
Guy Shalem is a gay Israeli fame-whore who lives in Los Angeles. I met him at some grimy gay party in the Hollywood Hills last year and he subsequently invited me to Griffith Park for a walk the following day.
The conversation on the mountain centered around his visa problems, his inability to make relationships work, his celebrity friends and his desire for younger boys.
He complained that Outfest were sniffy about his short film. When I saw it I understood why. ”Bruce Vilanch is in it.” He boasted, “They should love it.”
After all, he’s obsessed with celebrity… why shouldn’t Outfest?
So, it was mildly shocking to see Guy at the ACLU event. Wearing a bad suit and even worse shoes.
He had seen the video lauding the work we are all doing for those held on spurious ICE holds.
He heard the applause I received when they asked me to stand.
He heard Hector Villagra, head of the ACLU talking publicly about my personal bravery and commitment to the ACLU.
Guy is the perennial plus one to any gay celebrity. Last night, yet again, he was with Jane Lynch. He saw me, headed toward me and shook my hand. Apparently forgetting the vile things he said last week.
I told him in no uncertain terms how and what I felt about him coming up to me.
He motioned to his ugly short gay friends lawyer Aaron Rosenberg and his ‘husband’ that this was worth watching. They snickered, like vile bullying children, behind my back.
Let’s face it, Guy was only there for the free dinner and to stand with his famous friend and hope to ensnare other famous people with his puppy eyes and his maudlin sob stories.
The point of the evening was completely lost on him.
After I walked away from Guy other honorees came up to me and offered their hands.
One of them, an elderly female philanthropist said, “We are like kindred spirits, you and me.” I was so touched by her generosity.
So many kind people… not one of them gay.
Dude, my fat red dog ran away as fast as he could. The Little Dog stayed beside me as loyal as any dog can be.
I probably should have seen a doctor but, like my Grandmother and my Mother, a visit to the doctor is the last thing I do willingly.
It took an hour or so to persuade Dude to come back to me. For the rest of the day he looked at me differently. Like I was a stranger.
December 2nd 2013. Just one year away.
I didn’t stay at home last night.
I sat quietly. I am wearing my black pantaloons (Miu Miu), a Stetson, raspberry colored hand knitted socks with sky blue trim.
They were rudely spouting one ill-informed cliché after another, rudely condemning: green solutions, ‘cripple’ access around Santa Monica, the ‘fiscal cliff’ etc.
The old white men are stuck in another age, another time… baffled by a changing world… still unable to comprehend how Mitt Romney lost the election they were convinced he’d win.
I wanted to ask them questions but I knew nothing they had to say would tell me anything I didn’t already know.
Their fears laid bare: Black leaders, electric cars, marriage equality.
“They’ll all cry that they voted for him.” they convinced each other.
I felt like I was on the winning side. Their Schadenfreude didn’t feel dangerous… it felt old-fashioned.
On the way home I listened to something on NPR about a group called LA Jews for Peace.
A group of Jewish Americans committed to peace in the Middle East through a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, and opposition to American militarism, imperialism, and exceptionalism.
Their spokesman bemoaned America’s UN vote against Palestine.
America, like the old white men at the coffee shop, seems unable to comprehend or adapt to the changing world.
What the white men at the coffee shop don’t seem to acknowledge: they have more in common with their President than they seem to realize. I mean… Obama is only half black, raised by white folks… cup half full lads? Surely?
Obama owns his whiteness in the Whitehouse and flays his blackness on the stump.
Barry Goodman (old white jew), unfriended me on FB the day the UN recognized the Palestinians right to statehood.
Just nine nations voted against the Palestinian Authority’s upgrade to nonvoting observer state status, which passed the General Assembly 138-9, with 41 abstentions.
Voting “No” on Thursday were Israel, the United States and Canada, joined by the Czech Republic, Panama and several Pacific island nations: Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau. The Pacific nations typically support the U.S. and Israel at the U.N. on key General Assembly resolutions.
In the face of this terrific news self hating jews like Barry Goodman reacted like spoiled, entitled children.
In a unanimous resolution passed Sunday, Israel’s Cabinet said it would not negotiate on the basis of the General Assembly’s recognition of a state of Palestine in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.
Astoundingly, he bleated:
“The only way to Palestinian statehood and peace is through direct negotiations with Israel.”
Then he told the rest of the non compliant world he was going to hold onto money that was owed to the Palestinians and build all over their shit.
I don’t trust any of the gay men I meet in LA. Industry men.
I had lunch with one of Bryan’s boy toys yesterday, the second in one week. I met a technician Bryan works with, Bryan says, “I don’t want to direct movies, I want someone else to direct them and I critique their results.”
After I started defending the Palestinians during the Israeli bombardment Guy S (second rate Bryan sycophant) tells me that they all hate me. That’s like music to my ears.
I call Tom. Tom denies what I already know to be the truth.
They know, they all know that sooner or later I’m going to write everything down.
Hollywood Babylon style.
It’s just a matter of time.
December 2nd 2013. Just you wait Henry Higgins, just you wait.
Margate is famous for being the birth place of conceptual artist Tracy Emin.
Margate was a derelict, regency ex-holiday resort. Butlins had closed, Pontins was on the way out. British people wanted to go to Spain where sunshine could always be assured.
The sweeping, majestic Palladian mansions were being torn down or turned into multi occupancy dwellings for the unemployed.
The crowd at the gay bar, run by morbidly obese Shirley was divided in two groups. Two distinct crowds: older, local men who had stayed local and younger men and boys who were using bars like this to spring-board into a metropolitan gay world.
The older men were routinely described as ‘bitter old queens’ by the younger men and there was indeed something bitter and suspicious about these older men that intrigued my teenage self.
Always the contrarian I hung out with them rather my teen peers and learned about these older men, their lives and their failed ambitions.
Older provincial gays who had been mocked, beaten and subjugated.
In Britain Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1965.
To me those old queens seemed incredibly brave for staying loyal to their home town communities.
To my younger ‘friends’ these men were simply stuck or foolhardy for not moving to the big city where their gay dreams could come true, their gay lives could be lived fully, openly and without fear.
My interest in them proved fruitless. They may have been older but they were not very wise, stripped of ambition by soul rotting low self-esteem.
They wanted to be like everyone else.
I wanted to be different.
They mocked me as they had been mocked, they chastised me as they had been chastised, they still do.
Hanging around the local ‘cottages’ (public restrooms) waiting for straight boys to unload. Playing an endless game of cat and mouse with law enforcement.
“So and so was sent to prison for cottaging.” So and so would emerge a year or so later, jaundiced, older looking.
It seemed to me that these men had every right to be bitter. They had every right to harbor resentments against a cruel society that deemed them criminals even after they weren’t.
The swinging 60′s, the sexual revolution, the progressive explosion, the post war boom really only affected my generation who grasped hold of the bucking bronco and held on for dear life until, of course, AIDS came along in the 80′s and we were all thrown far, far away.
The AIDS pandemic. Fear in men’s eyes. Disco dancing queens learning to dance to a different tune.
If I had taken pictures of those old gay men in the late 70′s they would have looked defiant, like those pictures of native Americans by Edward Curtis. They were fat and badly dressed, their teeth were rotten, they were working class, they were left behind.
So, it amuses me now when I am described thus: A Bitter Old Queen.
The advent of gay marriage, the normalcy of children for gay men (if they can afford it), the regular inclusion of gay men in prime time TV shows. All of these changes have heralded a new acceptance, a new normal, a new peace of mind for young gay men.
Or has it? A new generation with a new set of fears and anxieties. ”Will I ever earn enough to buy a surrogate child?” ”Am I pretty/handsome enough?” ”Should I be totally hairless?” ”Is my penis big enough?” “Am I ‘straight acting’? Will I get married?
A generation of gay men comparing and despairing.
What of us? My generation? Those of us who survived the great epidemic. It seems that many gay men still feel left behind.
Last week I met a 55-year-old man who told me he was recently diagnosed with HIV even though he had, he assured me, never indulged in risky behavior.
He told me that older gay men were being revealed to be HIV positive because of a latent strain of HIV that only makes itself apparent after the age of 50.
A strain that has been there all the time, undetected.
I was shocked. Perhaps I hadn’t dodged the bullet after all.
The man way lying. I researched the claim. There was nothing. I asked my friends on Facebook if they had heard of this anomoly. They had not. They scoffed at the idea.
No, I reasoned, this man is a well-respected gay advocate. As it turns out you can be a well-respected, well liked gay advocate and not be at peace with your HIV status.
Being gay for many men remains a hard task.
If I ever think of my ex boyfriend I still wonder what is was that kept him in the closet for so long. Even now, after the revolution. Why he created and maintained such an illusion? Risking his girlfriends health? Lying to his family?
Then I wonder if we are all illusionist?
How easy is it in 2012 to tell the truth about being gay?
There seem to me like there are so many dirty little secrets that we hold onto. That we continue to live shame based lives… even the youngsters, even when there is no reason to hide?
I wondered what we were striving for? To join the military, to get married…
I got to thinking about David Petraeus resigning because he had an extra marital affair. Adultery is illegal in the military but would those rules apply to serving gay men? Would we, once married, be held to those same strict hetero rules? Is this what we want?
Today I posted something about Israel. Like most Europeans I find myself erring toward the support of the Palestinians. I find the Israeli treatment of these falsely imprisoned people abhorrent and ironic.
What is the difference I ask myself between The Warsaw Ghetto and Gaza?
My American gay friends react with comments like: all muslims are terrorists.
Just like I was told when I was a child that all homosexuals are pedophiles.
Those older, less educated, less principled, men were from a different time. Embittered by circumstance, godless, hopeless. Drowning their sorrows in great vats of beer, their greasy faced pushed against the window of life without ever joining in.
“No kissing at the bar, dear.” Shirley would tell her clientele. ”No kissing at the bar.”
All this talk about bullying.
It’s not just the gays who get bullied….
homophobic/racist/classist/fatist/ginger/glasses/smelly/poor/good grades/bad grades… all reasons kids are bullied.
Go on add to the list…
I’ve done my fair share of bullying. On set. Within relationships.
Probably to my detriment.
Yet, the worst bullying in my life occurred after I left school from other gay men. Especially as a youth. Bullied into sexual liaisons.
Vicious bitchery. Cruel and catty.
Yet somehow forgiven because it was meant to be funny.
My body image shot to pieces by gay men. Having to subscribe to their standards of beauty.
Ultimately… as my granny said: what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
I embraced my curly hair, my gangly legs, fought off the men who tried to shame me into sex or told me to lose weight, shave my head and balls, go to the gym…. and carved my own little niche which ended up being quite a crowded place with other like-minded people.
On October 1st I will be 16 years sober.
That means that I have not had a drink or a drug for 16 years.
I got sober and I didn’t relapse.
Gay men find it impossible to stay sober. They relapse again and again. The reason is clear: sex. Sexual addiction. I am not suggesting that all gay men who claim that they are alcoholic are in fact sex addicts but most gay men who can’t stay sober cite sex as the primary reason for relapse.
The simple fact of the matter is that most of the time, readily available anonymous hook ups quickly take the place of alcohol and drugs. When a sober man walks into the apartment of a super hot man doing crystal meth, sobriety is quickly flushed down the toilet along with HIV status.
I hear the story over and over again. Yet, as a community, we think we can get away with this risky behavior. It is an arrogant vanity.
Gay AA is a sad affair. I go periodically—mostly when I flee the super charged straight stag meetings because I find the straight, young newcomers too triggering.
While many straight sober people create a new life with AA that involves abandoning bars and other locations that might lead to relapse, gay sober men often want a sober version of the life they had before, complete with dance parties, bars and gogo boys. Any reason to have a party will do—including the absurd “three-month anniversary.” Or, as one galling invitation I received said, “Help Joe S. celebrate his one-month anniversary.”
Forgive me if I’m wrong but anniversaries are a yearly celebration.
Many of these sober parties are indistinguishable from their non sober equivalent: scantily clad men line up for espresso machines manned by disco short-wearing super hot straight guys more used to shaking cocktails than dispensing coffee to gay guys jacked up on caffeine. Unable to attend drug-crazed gay circuit parties, many gay sober men in LA flock to the sober circuit parties, such as Hot ‘n Dry, which is held annually in Palm Springs. These events are more likely to take someone out than any other reason I’ve ever heard in gay AA. Yearly, after this event, bedraggled gay men turn up at meetings, their eyes blazing from excessive drug use, taking newcomer chips. Should I be surprised? After all, the Hot n’ Dry ticket salesman had assured me that it would be “a sex fest from the moment you arrive at the Ace Hotel.”
The absurd idea that we can behave like we have always behaved as long as we have a deluded and lackluster understanding of the 12 steps just doesn’t work. Two years ago, after I appeared on Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew, I suggested that within the gay community, we might have a sexual unmanageability problem and was flooded with vitriol. But that’s not going to stop me from sharing what I believe to be serious issues.
The other serious issue within gay AA, in my opinion, is the resistance to God or a Higher Power. Most of my gay sponsees are understandably wary of God. The Christian God—the religious God—hasn’t made them feel very welcome in the past and has actually steeped them in shame and misery. To find that at the heart of AA is a God—even if it’s one of their own understanding—is anathema to most gay men. From what I can determine, most gay men just ignore the God part of the 12 steps—a relevant fact when the God part, in my estimation, accounts for roughly 90% of recovery. Working through the God options with gay men can be excruciating. Why bother looking for spiritual validation when they can get immediate validation on Grindr?
I used to love AA in LA; my love for it was actually the reason I first moved to LA. Now I hate it. It’s like a cult—sober grandees ruling over desperate men, the film industry providing the sickest of backdrops: men flaying themselves before agents and film executives in the hope of catching crumbs from the sober table I see this everywhere from the straight stag meetings, where misogyny and homophobia are expressed freely, to the sickest meetings of all: Gay AA in LA.
For all of these reasons and more, last November, after nearly 16 years, I stopped going to AA meetings. I was exhausted, disillusioned and utterly miserable. My last meeting in LA, at the iconic Log Cabin on Robertson in West Hollywood, was a gay meeting attended by 300 gay men.
I couldn’t walk away fast enough.
And yet yesterday, after a nine-month hiatus, I walked into a co-ed meeting in Park Slope, Brooklyn. I was an hour early. I helped set out the chairs in ten neat rows and then I made the coffee. During the meeting, I shared my resentments and my fears and afterwards, a tiny woman called Dianne came up to me and let me have two full barrels of her tough love wisdom.
“It’s time for you to get fucking humble,” she said. “Come back and do fucking 90 in 90 like a newcomer.”
She was right. After months away from AA, I felt spiritually bankrupt. I stopped fighting and did what we are all meant to in the rooms of AA: I gave in.
Later that evening, the young man I helped set up the meeting took me for dinner. We talked recovery. This morning, we had sex. There I was, doing the walk of shame, doubled down. I had once again fucked a newcomer, counting days. It’s my story in AA. The younger men find my honesty irresistible and I can’t say no.
When I first got sober in London, the only gay men I met in AA were old queens at the Eton Square meeting. I met a couple of gay men in NA but within the deluded gay community, at that time, there was a mantra I heard over and over that “quitting was for losers.” Several years later, after celebrities like Boy George got sober, the rooms of AA and NA filled quickly with what we now recognize as gay recovery.
Back then I was accused, by my drinking friends, of being a contrarian—of rocking the boat and spoiling it for the others. As it happened, I was in the vanguard. I remember being hounded by drunken gay men who were outraged that I might, just by being sober, challenge their powerlessness and un-manageability. Of course those very same men now thank me for introducing them to the 12 steps.
After a few months away from AA, I am ready to start again but, as Dianne said, I’ve got to get humble, forget all those years of sobriety and do 90 meetings in 90 days. For the first time in a long time, I value my life. I should have left LA years ago but I’m a tenacious old queen; I didn’t want to let go. Just one more meeting might fix me. Just more line, one more Vodka Tonic and the crazy opera playing in my head might stop.
Walking back into AA in New York was a relief, a joy—just like it used to be. I want to be sober. The only problem getting in the way of that is me. But I know that if I’m going to be able to do it, I’ll have to learn how to say no to sex. As a single gay man, the consequences are dire if I don’t.