When your friends take time to ask what is wrong, what’s going on.
They offer considered advice. A theme emerges amongst your most trusted accomplices… one must take stock.
One must take the time to address the concerns of others.
It is obvious that I have been in a very dark and negative place for some time.
A place where paranoia, conspiracy and resentment take root like black, toxic mould blighting paradise.
The windows have been closed. The curtains dawn, the taps left dripping and the fire is on.
I withdraw. Excited to meet new people for the briefest moment. I only want a few old friends around me.
You must be very pleased with yourself that you caused all of this. Mining the weakness… manipulating me.
Then, when the dust settles, you tell everyone that I took advantage of you.
The irony must not be lost on you.
Let me describe what I see. how the light has gone. How the day is dim.
Last night I read my work in a small room. The jail story. It was well received. It was the first time since I wrote it that I had read it.
Evocative and startling. I had buried it. Exhuming it was a spiteful thing to do.
It’s my birthday tomorrow.
I thought I might write about marriage equality today. Marriage, fidelity and misogyny. I may write about that tomorrow. Instead, I’m going to post some boy pics, something from the garden and tell you all about meeting my long lost lesbian sister.
Yes. My little sister has turned up. Of course I knew about her. I had been told about her. Perhaps Natalie or Jessica or Rebecca told me… I can’t remember. All the stories I heard about my father have melded into one. From one sisters mouth. All the stories about him spewed out of one mouth. So, I knew about Roya and finally she revealed herself.
She has lived with her girl friend for the past three years. She doesn’t drink much. She can speak Farsi. She came out when she was 11. She has a sweet voice. Her mother was a singer in one of the clubs my father owned. She is perhaps the most forthcoming and inquisitive of all my siblings. She doesn’t like being called a dyke. She’s a lesbian. She insisted that my brother James tidy our father’s grave and replace the headstone. She told me that I had a small inheritance. She told me that my father had mentioned me to her mother. That was the sweetest gift of all. That he spoke about me to someone he cared about. That he remembered.
So all the other stuff, the gay marriage stuff that haunted yesterdays news… well, I had my own gay news and she was it.
Of course there was the usual vitriol about anyone who doesn’t agree with SCOTUS from the gays… and I took time to placate my rabid gay brethren and remind them that the way we treat the vanquished will determine our victory.
The day of the decision I took myself down to Weho with the dogs to watch the crowd. Everyone looked very happy, quietly jubilant. Sort of fatigued. You know, after a fight is over.
Now what? The war is won. American gays will have to work out what it all means… this equality. They have redefined marriage, will they redefine morals? Will they mock the single man like straight people do?
For those of us who are single we enjoy the peace of mind that being single affords us.
I urge you not confuse single for lonely… or lonely for single.
This morning, before dawn, I began wondering about the Supreme Court DOMA and Prop 8 outcome… as the sun rose over the mountain I considered how important the result seems to so many people.
Marriage Equality. Something I had grown used to ignoring. The idea. The idea of getting married. An alien notion.
Yet, many ordinary American people seem to really care very deeply that people like me can get married.
Gay men tell me, those most affected by DOMA… that they feel like second class citizens. How is that so? Will they feel like first class citizens now? As we acquiesce into existing institutions.
I wondered about the justices. Our elders. Those making sweeping decrees about our lives in this litigious country.
Congress and the Senate hog tied by dogma, unable to make any sort of decision.
They announced on the morning news that DOMA was overturned. Eight white people stood on the steps of the Suprem Court and held their hands up jubilantly… victoriously. Melissa Etheridge said she was proud to be an American. A white man said that this would change the lives of gay people ‘all over the world’. Don Lemons took his camera crew into a gay bar. ”If you’ve never been inside a gay bar before, this is what it looks like.” The cameras ambled in. There were a few white lesbians in their mid fifties and a drag queen playing a piano.
I started ranting on Facebook and Twitter.
I said: ‘I’m remembering queer hero Bradley Manning. He will have to get married in jail. The issues of privacy, hegemony and cruelty remain. Monsanto et al can breathe a sigh of relief as this gay issue deflects attention from them. This may be a great day for lgbtq Americans… unless you are black or a woman. Those inequalities still remain.’
I quoted a friend from Arizona: ”I’ve felt second class or less than my straight contemporaries every day of my life growing up in the US. Guess you would have to have been born and raised here to understand Duncan”.
There seems to be a great deal riding on this DOMA decision. Self Esteem, A First Class Life, Equality.
He was, however, the first person to confirm what I always feared. That some gay men compare their lives to the lives of straight people and despair… they despair that they are not as valued as straight people. It made me sad.
I knew in my heart that DOMA would be overturned. ”You’ve got to give them hope.” Harvey Milk said. This is the hope. After a week of catastrophic decisions for those interested in civil rights: the evisceration of voting rights, work place bullying condoned, Monsanto unchallenged. It has been a catastrophic week in America for whistle blowers… for the truth… for the constitution. In Florida it’s a bad week for young black men gunned down for no good reason.
Today was a great day to be pink washed.
A great day to set aside your disappointments for a moment and celebrate.
I was 15 when that album was released.
I sat on the terrace listening to the piano echo through the canyon. I celebrated my single life.
I am not, any time soon, going to get married. I am not, any time soon, going to propose to anyone. I am not, any time soon, going to sweep another man off his feet.
Whilst so many around me are.
After a day of fury yesterday I feel much calmer today.
The great thing about anger management? Legitimate anger. I have good reason to be angry.
Yesterday was a very angry day. The neighbors started building their un-permitted retaining walls at 6am. They are meant to start at 7am. This isn’t the first time I have been woken by them earlier than they are permitted. I stood on the deck and screamed. The white contractor called me an asshole. I said, “This asshole is going to shit in your face.” The Mexicans laughed. The white guy looked horrified. ”Where’s your permit? ” I demanded. They downed tools until 8am.
I drove to Venice. I was knocked into by a young woman eager to get to the counter at GTA. She apologized but it wasn’t good enough. I said, “This is what’s wrong with your country, you’ll knock over anyone to get what you want.”
The perfectly revolting British Tara Summers arrived for lunch. Her friend asked me to move my car. I threw the keys at her and told her to move it herself.
My lunch arrived. Pork Belly sandwich. I sat opposite a 30′s something guy in a suit with his 60′s something dad. They were enjoying the day. I prayed that they didn’t speak to me but they wanted to talk about the dogs. I kept my answers short. Then the personal questions came. Where are you from? What do you do? How long have you lived here? So, knowing that I was not in the best mood to have any conversation I asked what he did here in LA. He was a public prosecutor.
I couldn’t believe my luck. There was the father and son, a young black man sitting on his own and me with the dogs in the court-yard eating our lunch.
I couldn’t help myself. I asked if he knew the corrupt and rabid prosecutors I had to deal with. He did not.
I told him that I knew a prosecutor called Todd R (now an entertainment lawyer) who would get blown by hookers at lunch time when he was prosecuting in court. Leaving the courtroom to break the law. Prosecuting others then breaking the law himself.
His father laughed.
I looked directly into the younger man’s eyes. ”Have you got morals?” I asked him.
His father said, “I used to spank him.”
“You might have spanked him for not wanting to join the KKK.” I said. They laughed. They thought I was joking.
The lawyer was intrigued. ”Why do you ask?’
“Because 80% of the prison population are black.” I said. ”I wonder how you live with yourself.”
“How do you live with yourself when you know the jails have become mental hospitals nursed by sadists?”
Then I started a tirade that lasted a good five minutes. I covered as much ground as I could, including work place discrimination and the essential difference between the rights of straight and gay people. I asked him if he had ever considered the differences? I asked him if he had ever considered anyone other than himself and his own needs?
I ended with, “I’ve been radicalized by your country.” He looked taken aback, “Are you a Muslim?” I smiled into his dumb, entitled face. ”No. I’m queer. I am a radical queer.”
I met a boy on Grindr. We had coffee.
I can’t remember where I went next but we all ended up (me, Lily and Chuck) in Duke’s eating $3 tacos.
There are so many straight people on our side. There are lots who are not.
Remember gays and lesbians. We would not have won this battle without the help of others. People with no stake in this fight other than your happiness.
Now, go help those not so fortunate as they have helped you.
My inaugural letter from America is sent at a time when American secrets and lies take center stage.
I’m staying in Petrolia, Northern California, eleven hours from my home in Los Angeles with Daisy Cockburn, the daughter of Emma Tennant and political journalist and contrarian Alexander Cockburn who sadly died last year.
I am writing at his desk overlooking his wild and beautiful garden.
Alexander Cockburn, like his friend Noam Chomsky, would have slammed the US government for the actions of the NSA recently revealed by Edward Snowden.
Whilst I am amused by the audacious lengths government will go to hold onto its own secrets while harvesting yours… he was not.
Like this present generation of internet babies… I have never valued secrets. I am an open book. I have always believed that everything I am is yours.
Do you remember the biggest secret you had to keep? You know, the queer secret?
When I realized I was different, that my sexual/social narrative did not correspond with those around me, I was baffled as to how I should make the difference known. I was just a child.
I did not ‘come out of the closet’. I didn’t understand why I should make a big emotional announcement. I decided that I wouldn’t tell anyone. My actions would speak louder than words. It was up to them, those around me, to frame the reveal. Not me.
It was obvious that being queer, telling people that I was queer during the 1970′s… was like letting off a bomb. It was an act of terrorism.
For some, it still is. Holding my lover’s hand in the street… a rebellion.
So, instead of having a difficult conversation with my secular loved ones about my sexuality, I spoke openly about my same-sex desires, my plans and my heroes. They looked askance but they got used to it… or else. I was a teenage whistleblower.
There is nothing more honorable than being a whistleblower.
This month, two extraordinary whistleblowers are top of the news. Queer hero Bradley Manning and straight hero Edward Snowden.
Manning is currently on trial in a semi-secret military kangaroo court and unlikely ever to be released. The other brave whistleblower, Edward Snowden, a fugitive in Hong Kong, unlikely to see his country of origin ever again.
My gay brothers and sisters in the USA have, on the most part, turned their back on Bradley Manning citing his law breaking as treasonous. Maligning his motives, distancing themselves from his gay story.
Manning’s narrative is bound up with the recently abandoned DADT, a messy ‘coming out’, Manning’s extreme family poverty and the witnessing of cruel and illegal horrors that no man should ever see.
Manning has unwittingly created a schism in the LGBTQ community, cleaving the queers from the gays. The queers have on the most part embraced Manning, his activism and conscientious objection. The gays have not.
Queer supporters of Manning held demonstrations, crowded a Pride board meeting and packed a community forum all with the hopes of seeing Manning reinstated as a grand marshal. The Pride board has not budged.
Why are the majority of USA gays so repulsed by Manning?
Perhaps if Manning had been a muscular, army guy of the gay-for-pay porn star variety so popular amongst the gays, they may have ‘evolved’ a different point of view.
Manning is not that guy. He is small and slight and wan. He joined the army to get an education and ironically ended up educating the whole world.
He is lauded by Michael Moore, Vietnam Vets, heterosexual politicians/presidents and liberal intellectuals all over the world. His actions are widely credited with hastening an American withdrawal from Iraq and the Arab Spring.
To many across the world Bradley Manning is a hero.
Yet, the gay establishment ignore Bradley. He is routinely ignored by the HRC and GLAAD. He is viciously bullied on anonymous gay, online discussion boards. GLAAD would rather honor a homophobic, straight film director rather than one of our brave own.
Many of the USA gays who publicly hate Manning are upper middle-class, affluent white men. They seem embarrassed and angry by his openness, his honesty, his despair. They call him impertinent, arrogant and narcissistic.
Yet, had Bradley Manning been a bone fide journalist with a fancy ivy league degree he might have become a hero… or like Edward Snowden who currently enjoys the support of over 100, 000 people on the White House petition page demanding a full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he may have committed related to blowing the whistle on secret NSA surveillance programs.
There is no such petition for Bradley Manning. Bradley was not well-educated… he’s a white trash gay kid with ideas above his rank.
His detractors, formerly closeted gay men, have their own relationship with the truth. By necessity, after years of experience, they have become slick liars, natural spies, covert experts. In their every day life they create the illusion of perfection: socially, physically and sexually. A tribe of American gay men who have an overwhelming urge to be over-achievers. They are clean-cut and conservative in appearance, they throw themselves into their jobs with the same fervency they got through school.
They champion marriage and the military rather than the end of LGBTQ jobs discrimination. They have no interest in helping others in the coalition of oppressed minorities cobbled together by President Obama because they do not consider themselves an oppressed minority.
Why should they? They are white, affluent and male. What’s not to be proud of?
Since I arrived in the USA I have (rather proudly) been subject to not one… but two gagging orders imposed on me by white gay men.
Both ex-intimates, both terrified of having their secret gay lives revealed. Professional white men, a 32-year-old and a 45-year-old. The younger man works for a famous publishing house and is perhaps the most interesting because he supposedly respects the first amendment. The other, a rich businessman caught lying and cheating.
The former was well ensconced in his comfy closet when I first met him, about to be married to a women, living a double life. When I found out about his deception I told him, ”Either you tell the woman you are deceiving… or I will.”
When I tell white gay men this story they are outraged. They blame the deceived woman for being dumb. Their thinly veiled misogyny revealed.
“How stupid of her to not realize he was gay.” they scold.
One Saturday morning two years ago he told her he was living a double life. After he came out of the closet he had a great deal of sex with many men then settled down with the man he intends to marry. Free from her sociopathic ex she is now in love with an honest heterosexual. Of course… he demonizes me. She probably does too. No good deed goes unpunished.
Like a lot of over-achieving well-closeted gay men, the publisher operated under the “Best Little Boy in the World” syndrome, a term from Andrew Tobias’ seminal coming-out autobiography of the same name, published in 1973, describing a certain type of middle-to-upper-class gay man.
Gay men are still terrified of the truth: personal or public. Their worst fear when growing up was having their gay truth revealed. We all want to control the message. Nobody wants to be told that they are queer ahead of their own declaration.
Many gay men still behave like small boys grappling with who and what it means to be gay. Scarred by shame, they loathe any queer person who draws negative attention to him/herself in case it tarnishes them or the gay corporation.
They loathe Bradley Manning for outing the nation.
When gay men are ready to tell the truth about being gay they demand recognition and plaudits for doing so. A heroes welcome for coming out of the closet. Yet, after this initial flush of candor, their honesty only extends so far.
Beyond the great revelation there is a darker side to being gay that the gay white elite doesn’t want you to know.
They have gone to extraordinary lengths to make you think we are JUST LIKE YOU. They are still placating their heterosexual parents, school mates and the straight friends who don’t mind them being gay… as long as you don’t do anything gay around me.
The gays don’t want you to know about the meningitis epidemic, the continuing HIV epidemic, they don’t want you to know about their loneliness, their propensity for STDs, the unreasonably high gay adult male suicide rate, the sexual unmanageability, drug taking, racism, sexism, classism, narcissism and ageism that blights the gay ‘community’. They don’t mention how they routinely commodify women’s bodies/reproductive labor so they can have children. They don’t want you to know just how hard it is to be straight acting, to be ‘masc’ or to find themselves remotely attractive when they look in the mirror.
They don’t want you to know that for many LGBTQ… it doesn’t get better.
Manning broke the first rule of the white gay American elite: Don’t rock the boat.
The gay businessman’s gagging order expires early next year and he will, inevitably seek to extend it. The publisher will do the same. The problem is: as they know all too well… the truth is eventually revealed.
I met a man. A medical doctor. He was well put together, handsome, the president of a large gay organization that supposedly represents the interests of the gay community. Our trusted servant. He couldn’t stop crying. Under his well cut trousers he had a permanent needle in his leg for jacking meth. He begged me not to write about him.
I couldn’t make that promise. He is the perfect white gay American metaphor.
In modern America secrets both public and personal are simultaneously considered defending and deflowering at the expense of the constitution. At both micro and macro levels this secretive bipolarity has come to define my stay in the USA.
You know, I just drove 700 miles from Petrolia to LA. I listened to the radio as much as I could bear it.
Not one of them from one man to another, one woman to another.
Whilst we may be addressing our visibility in tv and film we are woefully represented on the radio… especially the love songs where I never hear my love mentioned.
Why is this so? Is the music industry a harder nut to crack than the military or sports?
I remember when I fell in love with a woman the songs on the radio seemed to make more sense. They had meaning and relevance.
Why do I have to re-imagine every love song to include me?
The love between two men is implicit in George Michael‘s work but not explicit. It is obvious in Joan Armatrading‘s work but her songs have not been played for a very long time. Elton John is gay but mostly wrote the music for Bernie Taupin’s heterosexual lyrics.
When I hear queer love songs, lyrics that speak to my condition, on the radio… I will know for sure that things have really changed for people like me.
My final days in Petrolia. I’m home now. The exhausting 11 hour drive.
Stopped in San Francisco for lunch.
We must have climbed the steep hill to Alexander Cockburn‘s Tower ten times a day, getting ready for Daisy’s first paying guests.
Giving succor to the inner butler that lurks within.
Here is the sculpture that decorates the path:
Here are the fossilized fish that decorate the bathroom:
Here are random pictures I failed to publish earlier:
Driving through the last remaining Redwood Forest in California. Sequoia. Only 5% remain. Strange birds calling out to each other, echoing… high above us. A vast cathedral of magnificent trees. The oldest living things on the planet. Awed by the spectacle. Out of the car. 8am. I touched one of them. I expected it to speak to me.
Whose idea was that? Even POTUS looked a little incredulous. Obviously I don’t have any problem with 3rd graders manning the barricades but… perhaps we can have kittens next time… or puppies… or fluffy yellow chicks… or a new born foal?
The gays are in Pride party overdrive.
Circuit parties, sex parties, pride events, bear parties, underwear parties, mourning parties, party parties.
When Joe and I lived in The Pines on Fire Island we went, over the years, to various high-octane, drug fueled, over lubricated, semi-naked circuit parties. Yet, however many drugs I took, however great my body was… I still felt alienated. I still experienced a strange, out-of-body disconnect from those men around me. You see, I remember thinking quite clearly that they… GOT IT… and I didn’t. I thought back then… they understand something more about homosexuality than I did… than I do.
Don’t get me wrong… I wasn’t looking down my nose at them. I wasn’t feeling superior. I would love to have connected with those men. Like I used to feel connected (high on E) in my mid twenties exploring London (straight) club land.
The same heaving mass that miraculously included me. Joyfully, willingly abandoning self, self consciousness terminal uniqueness and dancing as one with a thousand others.
That is what I felt then. This is what I feel now: To have ones life defined by gay circuit parties is simply revolting.
Some people prepare for weeks for Pride, in the gym, tanning, organizing parties, getting the right tickets for the right events. Making sure the drink and the drugs are pre-ordered. Leaving nothing to chance.
The last ‘pride’ parade I attended I saw a drunken man defecating in the street. It was not the enduring image of LGBTQ solidarity after which I was hankering.
There is a hideous disconnect between the civil rights we demand and the public face of ‘pride’.
A parade of semi naked gyrating narcissists.
How can anyone take that seriously?
Pride simply reinforces the difference between me and them: I do not drink or take drugs. I am not driven (compelled) by my homosexuality.
The parade terrifies me. Aesthetically.
The corporate floats lack ingenuity and wit. The rent boy/sex worker float lacks class. The thongs, the swagger, revealing the lie of Pride.
The near identical bodies in various hues. Searching, begging for tiny differences between each naked, muscular physique that may determine the uniqueness, the individuality of just one of these men.
Of course, I am excited to see so many out men. But they are all the same.
I look at them and, as much as I want to be, I am not attracted to them. I am not attracted to their essence… to their remarkable lack of ego.
The Pride parade is a celebration of sexuality. First and foremost.
And I, absurdly, want to fall in love.
You see, I proved it.
They wanted sex… and I didn’t. I wanted to fall in love… and they didn’t.
“I want to tell you how much I love you.” I whispered.
When I have sex. I tell them to say… I love you. It turns me on. ”Even if you don’t mean it.”
I was useless then and I am useless now to those gay men at those gay circuit parties because I didn’t want to have sex.
I wanted to fall in love.
I didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t and they knew it. They could see by the look in my eye that their sexuality terrified me, baffled me.
I wanted to fall in love.
That man I loved. After he came out… he told me about the sex he was having with many, many men. He was really good at meeting strange men and having sex with them.
His priorities shifted. When we were together and he was in the closet he told me he loved me, he was emotional… the moment he came out he threw his emotional interest in men away. In favour of sex.
I wanted to fall in love.
It was my fault. I had this sex genius at my disposal and couldn’t work out how to use what he was brilliant at.
When we made love I felt the same disconnect. Out of body. Away.
Pride is a tough word to have appended to any celebration because it means so many different things to so many different people.
Mardi Gras implies celebration. It doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. Even though it eschews the word Pride, on the several occasions I attended… I felt really proud. Proud to be just like them. Just like you.
I looked for the similarities and not the differences at:
The silly Mardi Gras community events, the Mardi Gras parade, the film festival, the theatre festival, the LGBTQ city art tours… even the leather cruise… something I would never usually do seemed fun and interesting.
It was a gathering of the LGBTQ clan and made no mistake by calling itself something it isn’t.
The parade and the party. Mardi Gras was so different from London Pride.
London Pride in the 1980′s, was a sombre affair. Men and women. Simply being seen. It was originally held during the miserable months of the British year. Overcast skies. Rain.
London Pride has evolved from a bunch of angry gays and lesbians marching through Westminster (Margaret Thatcher’s back yard) denouncing the infamously homophobic Section 28 to right now and a profoundly different landscape for the LGBTQ community. We have enthusiastically embraced the Blair (credit where credit’s due) government’s equality overhaul and the introduction of legal parity for all citizens of the UK regardless of gender.
London Pride is a deserved celebration… but it was earned.
It’s not my cup of tea. But it was earned.
If it isn’t your cup of tea… what is? What does this old queer want?
Somewhere between the seriousness of a civil rights march and the celebration of Mardi Gras there is a parade I want to attend. There’s a parade I want to join where all men and women are respected and nurtured regardless of age, sexuality and religion.
Let me know if you find that Parade because I’ll be there… to hold your hand.
I let the dogs out into the beautiful garden. The Little Dog caught and killed a large rat in the orchard. Dude tore it out of his mouth and shook it until its guts were all over his red fur.
They looked very pleased with their murderous selves.
Daisy and I huffed and puffed up the steep hill to The Tower.
Her father collaborated with local craftsman to build this beautiful space.
Originally built to disguise two ten thousand gallon tanks fed by spring water this tower can now be rented (click here) on Airbnb.
Alexander died less than a year ago. It is a strange and wonderful experience living in his comfortable home.
We have been exploring.
All weekend we dropped in at community events: private and public parties.
The Mattole River Restoration cookout and dance, a wonderful wedding anniversary party where they made their own Grappa in a copper still. A young cook from Oakland roasted pig and served it by an open fire under white canvas awnings.
The following day they called us to taste the gin they had just made in the same still.
Last night a local intellectual cooked us home-grown free range chicken and home-made pink grapefruit sorbet.
On Sunday morning we bought basil mayonnaise, catnip and tomato starts from the Petrolia Farmers Market.
Remote beaches backed up by steep cliffs and mountains.
King’s Peak reaches an elevation of 4,088 feet only three miles from the Pacific Ocean.
The land on the North American plate is being piled rapidly upward.
Its grey crumbly sandstone creating beaches of pristine, black sand.
On the beach we meet a few passers-by. We meet hikers who, by law, keep their food in locked plastic containers. Bear proof. The containers looked like the barrels atomic waste is stored in.
We needed cleaning supplies. We drive an hour to get them.
The road from Petrolia to the Victorian town of Ferndale is perhaps one of the most beautiful roads I have ever traveled.
Hogweed, ancient ferns and Douglas Fir.
Ferndale was founded by Danish settlers. The 19th century houses are really well-preserved. The history of the town inextricably linked to tinned salmon and logging, both of which have gone forever.
The trees cut down, the salmon extinct.
We saw two huge trucks loaded with old growth tree trunks but apparently they come from small ‘sustainable’ forests.
Daisy’s father said:
Start with the word “sustainable.” These days fund-raisers and grant-writers string it round each sentence like an adjectival fanny pack, bulging with self-congratulation. Mostly, the term is meaningless or a vague expression of hope. In the case of timber, it’s a haphazard and often highly debatable designation that amounts to little more than a vague pledge that the timber is not virgin old growth.
We stop in at the lumber yard to buy laminated boards for Daisy to paint. We are served by a fresh-faced youth.
I ask him if he’ll ever leave Ferndale. He says, he’s a small town boy. He doesn’t want to leave.
I understand why.
I promised that I wouldn’t write about where and who I was staying with… it just feels like boasting.
But… here I am.
Her house/compound is too perfect. Filled with unusual and beautiful things. It was left to her by her father.
Her father, Alexander Cockburn was a famous and magnificent political writer.
Alexander died last July.
He collected the most extraordinary ceramics, eclectic paintings and built a tower on the hill that I have not yet visited.
The ceramics are mostly by LA based ceramist Jim Danisch.
I drove from LA. Through San Francisco. The last 60 miles along perilous roads in the dark. Tarmac Roads that suddenly give out to treacherous gravel. Past the magnificent redwoods that even in the dark… are extraordinary.
I slept in a huge bed built on a wooden platform. I slept like a giant redwood log.
At night, I can hear the Mattole river moving quickly over tiny gray pebbles.
This morning we all… dogs too… swam in the cold clear water.
More pics tomorrow.
A U.S. diplomatic cable made public by WikiLeaks provides evidence that U.S. troops executed at least 10 Iraqi civilians, including a woman in her 70s and a 5-month-old infant, then called in an airstrike to destroy the evidence, during a controversial 2006 incident in the central Iraqi town of Ishaqi.
The perception of most Americans is that Bradley Manning is a traitor.
More so, I imagine, than the man who shot 17 Iraqi women and children as they lay sleeping in their beds.
If a journalist with a degree had uncovered this information I believe most Americans would be ok with that.
His expensive education would somehow allow him the privilege of exposing the wrongs of the nation.
We are shooting the messenger because the messenger is poor white trash… who the hell does he think he is?
That’s what I’m hearing. That’s what’s really going on here.
It is a black day for the international LGBTQ community.
He is presently kept alive by a tangle of opalescent tubes.
In Russia activists are targeted by government sponsored bullies.
In London intellectuals are beaten to the ground by members of the EDL.
Trans people are murdered every day all over the world, often without investigation.
Have you heard? There is, amongst the general population, a perceived inevitability about LGBTQ equality.
Some amongst us are becoming complacent. Bloated on the success we think we have.
Basking in the support we think we get from the President. In fact we are silenced by him.
His words over deeds have silenced us.
We must speak up. Continue to challenge. Continue to be seen.
We must not shirk our responsibility to queer martyrs like Clément Méric.
Speak up. Heckle.
I congratulate Ellen. Finally, a voice for the queer poor heard over the screaming voices of the queer rich.
Listen to me or you can take the mic, but I’m leaving. You all decide. You have one choice.
Remember. As we strive for parity there will be those with equal and opposite views.
There will be violence.
There will be those who will kill an 18-year-old queer boy because they can.
The women’s movement of the 1920s, side-tracked for a generation until the 1960s, with so many needlessly broken lives and life expectations as a result.
Queer people are being attacked all over the world: Paris, Moscow, New York, London by increasingly emboldened haters.
As we demand equality in the workplace, the home and in the establishment these attacks will become more frequent.
We must, whether we like it or not, form a true LGBTQ alliance not only in name but in practice.
It is too late for fear to drive us into the shadows. We are out. We are visible.
We need to be more fearless and more visible.
This means YOU.
This means ME.
Reading about Clément Méric this morning, looking at his sweet, boyish profile… I began to question my own behavior.
I have, of late, let resentment toward the gays shape my own kind of homophobia.
For those of you who have read my blog these past couple of years the provenance of this loathing may seem understandable.
Today, I need to jettison those resentments.
If I truly believe in this fight… I have to accept those I detest as my queer brothers and sisters.
There is an endless stream of ‘good news’ on Facebook. The parties, the marriages, the births, the home renovations and the ubiquitous instagramed plates of delicious (and not so delicious) breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The grandiose exclamations of joy and delight. The boasting, the dressing up… the glitter and sangria.
In between the nihilistic leather soirees and endless travelogues come occasional glimpses of the pain and suffering most of us endure but seldom want to admit.
At least… not on social media. Not to those who seem to be having the time of their lives every single day.
Two deaths this week. One old lady I never knew and one young man I did.
Sandwiched between bottles of french wine and exotic vacations on the French Riviera is the truth.
The young American who can’t stop drinking and the miserable single woman who can’t get the man to stay.
They say, when I post my bits and pieces, that I am angry… lonely… sad.
When I don’t agree with a theme they say I am a sullen contrarian. When I post expressions of joy I am inundated with ‘likes’ as if my happiness needs affirming.
My friend’s mother dies peacefully in the hospital bed. He updates us by the hour. Her final words remind us of our own mortality.
I am so grateful he tells us so.
I learn so much more from her last words than a another blurry picture of enchiladas posted at some obscure Mexican restaurant where my ‘friends’ boast of the wonderful time they are having.
I have stopped posting pictures of parties, of other people in their gorgeous homes. I have stopped reporting which celebrities I have seen and what they were doing.
Of late I have been concentrating on injustice. My own and others.
The realtor who engages his powerful friends to incarcerate.
We are getting to the bottom of that mucky situation. The way the rich use government institutions to their own ends.
Corrupt district attorneys, prosecutors and law enforcement.
We are getting to the bottom of that one.
Slowly, like archeologists gently removing layer after layer of dirt… getting to what was so carefully buried.
For every corrupt official there is another eager to help.
For the time being I have to be obtuse. That will end… sooner or later. I am patient . I can wait.
Bradley Manning, queer hero, his trial starts today. Although I doubt we will get the outcome we desire and that boy will probably spend the rest of his life in jail for doing the right thing… he will not be forgotten.
Bradley Manning will not be forgotten.
Paul, my white gay friend, the talent manager. I saw him yesterday.
Their reaction was as expected… they hated it. They didn’t see what Liberace had to do with their lives.
You see, they complained… they wanted to see themselves.
Paul couldn’t understand why Scott Thorson (who he knows) had his story told.
He described Scott as a ‘user’. He said he thought it was ‘unfair’ that Scott’s story was told rather than a ‘gay hero’.
Who? I asked. Which gay hero?
His brow furrowed. He’ll get back to me with the answer.
Then it occurred to me why a bunch of boys under the age of 25 drinking free booze in the house of an older Hollywood oligarch might not like the film Liberace.
Rather than not seeing themselves… on the contrary, they all saw themselves exactly and hated what they saw.
Like on Facebook the ugly truth is sometimes sandwiched between the glitter and sangria.
No matter how deeply it is buried.
Holding onto the past. Cluttering up the present.
As I listened to him tell his story I thought a great deal about other people I had known who lived as adults in the closet.
Collins was not involved with a woman when he came out.
He was single.
For those gay men who are married or engaged to women when they come out the trauma this causes the woman cannot be underestimated, yet somehow their trauma is ignored.
The woman from Connecticut hoards craft materials she intends to use. She never uses it. Her house is uninhabitable.
Her husband left her for another man.
A lie is revealed. The life of the lie is shared. Often those who have lived unwittingly with a liar also feel that they have lived a lie.
He made fun of her for ‘not realizing’ Collins was gay. Not realizing that she was living with a lying sociopath?
My friend is a gay man who has had sex with women and dated women yet he can barely disguise his misogyny.
Like so many gay men he is, whether he likes it or not, a separatist.
Carolyn is an intelligent, kind and articulate woman who was duped by a liar.
I listened to Collins wondering how this man was cast as the hero?
He’s not the first athlete to come out of the closet, many women came before him and some men.
The Collins cocktail of gay, black and startlingly good-looking is somehow more intoxicating than remembering that Martina Navratilova had come out decades before.
Collins hopes that his coming out will ‘make it easier’ for others to do the same yet… it seems unlikely.
Is his coming out really a coming out at all?
He will only really know how it feels to ‘come out’ once he is back on the team.
At the moment he is cushioned by celebrity and an American media fascinated by his ‘bravery’.
Is he brave?
He is not a normal black kid from the ghetto.
He is not the normal black kid at the local church.
He is not a kid. He is not normal.
Celebrity assures him of that.
If you identify as LGBTQ then every coming out is circumstantial.
There will never be an easier time to come out because most everybody wants to fit it. To fade away. To avoid the glaring spotlight even if that spotlight is no longer hostile.
No one wants to say: I am different. Not today, not in America… where individuality is scorned.
Jason’s parents look suitably loving on the TV. They know they’re going to ‘love him no matter what’, they’re going to ‘get through it’.
I wonder sometimes what the expectation is for those new, enlightened parents who suddenly have a gay son or daughter to dote on.
Judging by those who now look sweetly at me and my partner whenever I am brave enough to hold onto my lover in the street… their reaction may have changed but the feeling I have remains the same.
They look at us… like I look at a particularly fluffy puppy. “Ah, how sweet.” They want to say. “How fucking adorable.”
I know they want to stop us and tell us how fucking adorable we are.
Those people who gawp and smile supportively are just as irritating as those who glare disapprovingly.
I don’t want you to have an opinion about us as we walk in the street.
I have no opinion about you.
Jason Collins coming out also poses questions about others who have not come out sooner.
I mean, If Jason Collins can do it… why can’t you? Why is it an issue? How could you not tell us the truth?
They are ‘proud’ to call Jason their friend.
Well, Jason Collins and those other gay people I allude to… they are adults. They came out as adults.
They can control the outcome.
They are ‘straight acting’ there was ‘no clue’, no tell-tale fabulousness, no lisp, no prepubescent flamboyance.
He was never harassed, he was never told ahead of time what he was before he knew himself.
Jason Collins comes from a ‘close and loving’ family.
Like other gay men who came out late in life… if their family was so close, so loving…why couldn’t they come out sooner?
What did they think they would lose?
The closer the family the harder the riddle.
The fantasy that one has for ones children, the perfect future… the wedding, the christening… cannot include a same-sex partner?
Well, no… not if you have invested in the lies your adult child told… again and again.
Lied to those very same people who now bathe you in their unconditional love.
Obviously, my ‘coming out’ as a teen… was very different.
Having no real option… was all at once a blessing and a curse.
I was brought up in a different age.
My coming out was an act of terrorism.
I threw it at them like boiling water and told them to get used to the burns.
Meanwhile, there’s a teenager in Northern England struggling with his decision to reveal the truth.
He saw me on TV and sought me out.
He told his family he was gay… face to face.
He told his friends on Facebook
Tonight he told everyone how miserable he feels. How dark this place is.
Feeling different, facing a new world… not as an adult but as a child.
Things don’t get better… because he now has the prospect of British parochial gay life and all that entails.
He has predatory men to deal with at the local bar, he has rampant desires that remain unfulfilled.
I think he regrets not waiting.
It’s a big deal coming out when you’re a poor kid a long way from the big city.
It always will be… however many athletes steal the limelight from boys like him.
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.