Friday, January 20, 2012

GOP and Proud?

This story was original published here in Instinct Magazine Online on Monday, 07 November 2011..
Gay Republican?! The thought exasperates even the more moderate of liberal thinkers. It’s like a screen door to a submarine or an ejector button on a helicopter! Or is it? Our political experts have cracked open a few history books and mapped the political landscape and we think something’s amiss. Perchance we’re playing the devil’s advocate, but we’ve got a sore spot for the plight of the underdog. So come out, come out, where ever you are, Mr. Gay Republican. Hear us out, because we think there’s more to your story. 
Gay Republicans are the ugly ducklings of the LGBT community. They are chastised and driven back into their political closets, grappling against a loud and liberal base that sling accusations of self-loathing and challenge their identity. As the Republican Party has traditionally spent a great deal of its energy oppressing the LGBT community, perhaps this anti-gay Republican abuse is deserved. On the surface, it would seem that they’re chomping at the bit to vote away their own rights and equality. But beneath the surface, the idea of identifying as a gay Republican may just be a little more complicated than that…
Since the dawn of time (or more accurately since the creation of the “Grand Old Party” in 1854) Republicans and Democrats have been butting heads like a pair of bighorn sheep vying for a female in the throes of heat. The positions and the parties have each met with their fair share of transformation and these days it seems the divide is in particularly hot water. In the blue corner are the eat-the-rich, abortion-cheering, gay-marriage, “freethinking” liberals. In the red corner are the gun control, corporate kingdom, tax cutting, religious conservatives. And somewhere in between this squabbling duo is our poor, disfigured country, dangling like a beaten piñata.
But the world is changing and hope, perhaps, lies in a new era of global identity encouraged by young people who are forging a new political landscape. In the United States, the millennial generation will be the first ever to inherit a nation in decline and consequently are out of jobs, without health insurance, buried in debt and sick of partisan politics. As the world advances toward social acceptance (see gay marriage and black President) the Republican Party, in particular, is going through a major identity crisis, which leads the way for the proud emergence of the Gay Republican.
If you can, travel back in time to the foggy shores of 2009 when the Republicans fragmented to the tune of the Tea Party movement. The editor-in-chief of Gallup Polls, Frank Newport, called the Tea Party movement a rebranding of the traditional Republican policies. While many Tea Party leaders will argue their dissatisfaction with the Republican Party, they vote red in enormous majority. Another dissatisfied splinter started in 1971 and called themselves the Libertarian Party. The Libertarians have similar sentiments to the Tea Party concerning small government, but while the Tea Party asks for the Feds to stay out of their bank accounts and gun closets, the Libertarian will throw in bedroom, abortion clinic, pot farms and gay sex clubs.
Fast-forward to 2011 and in walks possibly the first openly gay candidate for President of the United States—long time Republican Fred Karger. While he’s a long shot for the oval office, Karger’s existence forces the Republican Party to acknowledge their position on gay rights and other social issues like abortion and marijuana legalization—if he can muscle his way into one of the national debates, that is. Karger considers himself an “Independent Republican.” He tells Instinct that being a gay Republican is “difficult at times, but the Republican Party that I grew up with was very different and I am determined to moderate it.”
Historically speaking, the Republican Party wasn’t always the socially conservative nightmare that it is at present. Even its formation was largely to oppose black slavery, which was unanimously supported by the Democratic Party. Abraham Lincoln was, after all, a Republican. Karger says that his hero, President Theodore Roosevelt, was the last progressive Republican President—and he served about 100 years ago. It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that the Republican Party, thanks to its support by the growing evangelical Protestant movement in the south, started to become a social conservative powerhouse.
Karger’s not the only gay Republican in the limelight. Ken Mehlman, a senior member of the Republican Party who managed George W. Bush’s re-election campaign, came out publicly in August 2010, accordingly changing his position on gay marriage. The Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), who endorsed the McCain-Palin ticket back in 2008, is an organization of gay Republicans who report on their website that they “believe in low taxes, limited government, strong defense, free markets, personal responsibility and individual liberty.” A similar splinter LCR organization formed in more recent years known as GOProud focuses specifically on federal issues, supporting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act, but takes no position on statewide marriage issues.  Neither the LCR nor GOProud take a position on abortion rights. (Chickens)
Suddenly the term “Republican” is sounding very vague as, perhaps, is the party itself. How the GOP deals with this divide between fiscal and social issues will make or break the future of the Republican Party. And it seems that more and more Republicans are starting to lean more socially liberal.
Perhaps recognizing their oncoming defeat on the issue of marriage equality, Republican politicians signing on to gay marriage is becoming a trend. Just this year, New York State passed a marriage equality bill with a Republican-controlled senate. The charge to overturn California’s odious Proposition 8 is currently being led by the powerful Republican attorney, and former United States Solicitor General under George W. Bush, Ted Olson.
So come voting day, imagine the predicament: How can you justify voting for a candidate for any political office who is willing to ship your equality down the river for the price of lower taxes? It’s sporting to be a multi-issue voter, but along which lines do you vote? If a gay voter chooses to not make marriage equality their primary voting decision point, does that make them any less gay? After all, many gay Republicans voted for Barack Obama. And many voted for John McCain. The identity and position is far more intricate than assuming that gay Republicans are merely self-hating and brimming with internalized homophobia. They are a byproduct of a changing political panorama.
In our constant struggle to be accepted in this world, gay Republicans should be given the same tolerance we would seek from others. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Understanding is a two-way street.” In a world struggling to unearth a future of global social tolerance, perchance a conversation with a gay Republican, the famed black sheep of the LGBT community, is just the ticket. Despite our name as Democrat, Republican, Socialist, gay, transgender, bisexual, black, brown or white, we are more than our labels would suggest.
So go on, with your bad self, Mr. Gay Republican. Break free of your political closet, and stand proud as the brazen fiscal conservative you are. Let the haters go on hating. We got your back.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Homosexual Agenda

This article was originally published here on on May 26, 2011
Social conservatives speak with terror about ahomosexual agenda. As a practicing homosexual, I can confidently tell you there is much to fear. On a political spectrum, no greater agenda was set forth than the one during the National Equality March in October 2009. A quarter of a million people gathered on the steps of Congress chanting, “Equal protection under the law in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.” On a social and cultural spectrum, the agenda promotes acceptance and normalization of non-heterosexual relationships. For some people, this is pretty scary stuff.
Whether you agree with the agenda or not, history is being made. Social organizing via the internet is in young people's hands, and it is growing fast. Patterns in popular culture and a new generation’s involvement are prime examples of how gay normalization is becoming a reality in our society.
Your television became a queer secret agent when, in 1998, it started spewing Will & Grace into your conservative American living room. Even with all its gay stereotypes and clichés, the show was digestible and amusing. Today, the trend is exploding. Everything including Lady Gaga, Glee,Brokeback MountainSix Feet Under, Logo, Ellen, Elton John, Milk, the Simpsons and thousands of others are making a younger generation more equipped to organically grow into their sexual and gender identities. Popular music is telling kids that they are “…on the right track, baby, you were born this way…” and “…baby you’re a firework…” and “…raise your glass if you are wrong in every right way…” and “…words can’t bring you down.” Even popular video games, like Fable andMass Effect, are now giving options for same-sex romance in their story lines.
In the past year, the media exploded with coverage on the tragic stories of queer youth suicides and bullying. To be clear, however, there was not a rash of gay suicides; there was a rash of media finally doing something about it. Even President Obama made a video for the It Gets Better Project, wherein he tells gay youth “you are not alone … your differences are a source of pride, a source of strength.”
And the kids are listening.
Constance McMillen received international attention when her small-town Mississippi high schoolbanned her from bringing her girlfriend to prom. In Arkansas, 10-year-old Will Phillips receivedmedia recognition when, in school, he refused to say the pledge of allegiance to a country that discriminates against gays. There are thousands upon thousands of more untold stories like these.
Young people are defining their sexual identity as one above labels. They are developing feelings that are above the feeble-minded stereotype that we are required to be a certain word for people to understand and accept us; they know they're not alone either, because everything tells them so. They also know they must be brave in their struggle against a conservative society because everything they read, watch, and experience tells them so.
And the outcome is pretty close to gay global domination. The new generation will use popular culture and the internet to deliver this big, terrifying homosexual agenda to every lonely and troubled man, woman, and child still living alone in their closet. They’ll tell you to love yourself unconditionally, welcoming you and asking you to join them. As Harvey Milk once said, “Burst down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight.” 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Piloting the Los Angeles Gay Bar Scene – Silver Lake vs. West Hollywood

This article was originally published in on May 5. Check it out here.

Having lived here for almost five years, I can confidently tell you that gay men in Los Angeles are a curious bunch. To be fair, Angelenos are a peculiar bouquet en masse and while everything you’ve heard about us is completely true, there is the occasional well-kept secret. Geographically speaking, the city is wedged between the desert and the ocean and is really more like a sprawling suburb than a bustling metropolis. The ubiquitous queers are spread out with rainbow flags flying in every quadrant. In fact, there’s so much gay in Los Angeles that for a newbie, navigating the scenes can prove a bit daunting. Where to go? What to do? And, heaven, what to wear?

While visiting our fair shores you’ll certainly enjoy sporting speedos with the boys at Will Rogers Beach or billiards with guys at The Rooster Fish in Venice. Perhaps two-stepping with the gents at Oil Can Harry’s in Studio City? There are, however, two dominant gay scenes on either side of town you’d be remiss to miss: West Hollywood and her easterly sister, Silver Lake.

West Hollywood and Silver Lake are two houses, both alike in dignity. Dissimilar as they are parallel, they each boast their own diverse gay nightclub scene often sneering at the others antics, actions, and tricks. Either way, the menu is quite attractive and interesting: West Hollywood boasts cliquey muscle boys, shaved chests, and coiffed tresses in a vodka soda sauce garnished with a touch of disdain. In easterly Silver Lake the suits-by-day daddies mix with the hipster queers in a manly aromatic foam-party dance-off breaded with bearded armpit romance. There is very little in between. Among the natives, there are the occasional Romeos who manage to cross the line and play both scenes, but for generalization’s sake, you’re a Shark or you’re a Jet. You walk and talk and dance with the lionesses of your pride.

I’m cynical by nature, but it’s all quite fun if you’re drunk enough. I also firmly believe that there is more to being gay than bar stools and Long Island Iced Tea, but I can’t seem to remember what that is at the moment.

If you’re vacationing in LaLa Land and you enjoy tapping your toe at the odd disco, you should certainly check out both scenes.  Make sure to get a hotel near the scene you think you’ll prefer because public transportation in Los Angeles is a touch dodgy, cabs are expensive, and drinking and driving is so 2007. The token night you do venture more east or west of your hotel to meet the other scene queens, remember that they make look, act, and smell differently, but they all kiss the same. So buckle in with your Jack and Coke and enjoy the fabulous delusion that the Los Angeles gay bar scene has to offer.

Monday, May 2, 2011

I Did Not Kill Osama bin Laden

The facebook machine told me of Mr. Osama bin Laden’s death. I picked up a New York Times to read the details. When the news spread late last night, people began to rejoice and I understand their reaction. Outside of the White House people chanted “U.S.A. U.S.A.” and sang the Star Spangled Banner. A woman in Times Square said, “You can’t mess with the United States for very long and get away with it.” A close Rank and File in New York went down to the World Trade Center site to see the hoopla.  He facebooked about the revelers who were throwing around beach balls, the college aged students in “American costumes” and the American flags – one with Marilyn Monroe on it. Today is a day for patriot slinging. I get it.

But another good friend and Riff Raff called me upset.  She understands the revelry too. But only sort of. Celebrate death? How? As Americans we are trained to act as one. We are all Americans. But I don’t buy it. The actions of my government are not my actions. I do not shoulder any of the congratulations or, perhaps, any of the guilt. I did not kill Osama bin Laden.

I do not judge the happiness that people take away from Osama bin Laden’s death. I merely comment on its complexity.

Harry Waizer, a World Trade Center survivor, says “If this means there is one less death in the future, then I’m glad for that… But I just can’t find it in me to be glad that one more person is dead, even if it is Osama bin Laden.”

Friday, April 8, 2011

Kath and Kim and Fate?

When I was about 17 I remember thinking secretly that I could name three very specific things that I believed would improve my life: having an Australian accent, being able to play the guitar, and knowing how to cook. Partly because they are admittedly silly goals and partly because I’ve never been much for self-improvement, I didn’t actively pursue any of them.

When I graduated from high school, my parents gave me two very rad graduation gifts. My dad, ever the outdoorsman, took me canoeing on the Merrimack River. My mom, who in bygone days was the lead singer of a band in Germany, gave me her guitar. She’d had it since she was twelve (or something like that).

A few years later I found myself living in New York City and in love. He was (or rather “is”, but since I’m talking about the past, I’ll commit to past tense - if that’s okay with you) Australian. And with the lovely Australian came this bit on unknown culture shock:

When I saw Kath and Kim for the first time, the skies opened up and poured heavenly angels unto me. Australia’s delicious self-deprecation mixed with brilliant writing and hidden jokes... it was the perfect brand of comedy for me. Kath and Kim is the reason I still have a VCR player. I’m now officially their Number One Fan – and am Sharon Strezlecky’s second best friend, odviously. The relationship ended, but the accent lived on.

Years later and I still couldn’t cook. Once, I almost burnt down an entire dormitory of high school girls by attempting to toast bread – so I start to think it’s possible I could be been working through a PTSD block. I had three roommates and countless friends who would try and teach me how to cook and still nothing. When I watched Julie & Julia for the first time, I was seething with jealousy.

And then one day, I woke up and knew how to cook. I don’t know how to explain what happened, but all of the information that everyone had tried to impart upon me flooded my soul as I slept – and I woke up and made Eggs Benedict. And then I made Fried Chicken, and Mushroom and Tofu Pot Pie, and Ratatouille and Vegan Stuffed Peppers and Enchiladas Molé and met a man and fell in love.

And now I cook for him. I’m still a beginner when it comes to the guitar, but I can play a handful of songs and what I know, I play for him. The accent is now a habit, which he pretends to be annoyed by but obviously loves.

If I had known definitively that in only 10 years, I’d obtain the three things that I could name and want at that moment in time, perhaps I’d ask for something else. Cheesy and cliché as it is, I imagine the first would be to meet the person of my dreams. It seems instruments, and accents, and ovens brought me to the same place. Funny how circular, how invisibly musical this life can be.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Duo Daddy Dilemma

This article was originally published in the April edition of Diversity Rules Magazine, which you can find online here.

In 2011, the option for gay parenting is alive and well. And thank goodness, because even though my beautiful beau and I are far from having babies, I make no secret of wanting to be a daddy. Including all of the major decisions and responsibilities that involve parenting, gay men in particular, have another significant determination to weigh when it comes to having a child. Adopt or Surrogate - pitting theories of nature versus nurture in the Duo Daddy Dilemma.

On the one hand you’ve got adoption. (Unless you’re in Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, or North Dakota in which case what the hell are you doing? Move.) Everywhere you look, there are orphaned children that are in need of a home and some may argue that gay couples are in a unique position to offer them a family since biologically they cannot reproduce on their own. That argument makes sense to a degree. But if we are to consider that all parents (gay and straight alike) are equally capable of raising a child – which on the whole I do, and that is not to say that just anyone should raise children – then as equals, they are each equally justified in wanting their own biological child and therefore equally positioned to adopt a child. The line of reasoning to which the world is over populated only argues that all parents should adopt and not that only gay ones should.

On the other hand, there’s the option of surrogacy. From personal experience, I can testify for simply wanting biological children. Perhaps this is a paternal yearn to see one’s seed continued on. My beau commented that his biological yearning (which sounds revolting) simmered once his brother had genetic children. Or perhaps, there is something more socially selfish about wanting to raise your genetic child. Is it narcissistic to want offspring that have your eyes, your hair, or your sense of extro- or introvert -which, yes, is genetic.

If you should come to the conclusion that adopting is for you, then one must consider options of ethnicity, sex, and the age of your child. On the question of gender, are two men more fit to raise a boy and are two women more fit to raise a girl? This question shakes the very foundation of gender stereotypes. On the question of race, I’m personally against “blending in”, whether in sexual orientation or race, but I cannot deny that some people consider it an important factor when adopting children. On the question of age, adopting a baby versus a ten-year-old involves challenges that require a different and specific set of goals, perspectives, and investments.

If you should come to the conclusion of surrogacy, firstly you’ll need to decide which daddy’s sperm do you use? Chances are that one of you has the perfect eyes and an uncle who’s an alcoholic but the other has gorgeous hair and a family history of narcolepsy. I believe there is a procedure in which the two men mix sperm and let the faster swimmer win, but eventually, a couple has to realize which daddy the babe most resembles. Right? Perhaps you pull a Juliette Moore & Annette Bening and have two children, each the other’s biological, just to make it fair – though that seems like a bad reason to have two children if the original plan was only one. Once the sperm is decided upon, choosing an egg comes with it’s own emotional game of genetic guessing. Will your Baby Mama be a bosom buddy or a Jane Doe? And, of course, one must also find a surrogate and manage that delicate relationship.

Two mommies have other queries and choices to make, but there you have it, the Duo Daddy Dilemma.

Whichever choice you choose, surrogate or adoption, the real meat and potatoes of child rearing comes next. Somehow, while maintaining a modicum of sanity and financial stability all parents are expected to provide a nurturing upbringing with an emotional foundation that will prepare the young individual for the long haul of life. It’s such a magnificent responsibility that it seems appropriate that all couples consider and prepare in as much depth that is required of gay parents. While some people manage the tall order of parenting with flying colors, it is not new to suggest that many do not measure up to the demanding expectation.

Does the Duo Daddy Dilemma offer a conclusion? Oh, not really. Eventually, either decision to adopt or to find a surrogate is easily justified by logic’s standpoint and then shadowed by the enormity of actually raising and unconditionally loving a child. Make decisions that feel right for you and your growing family. Always remember to listen to others but at the end of the day free advice is worth what you paid for it. Most of all, I consider myself fortunate to be weighing these options at all. I eagerly await the great honor of being a daddy.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Poem Blog: On a Bird of Steel and Souls

Taking off at night in the rain.
Dissolving into dark to leave
the drops beneath you.

Sleeping beauties snore on
condensation collecting up
on plexi making up our
bird of steel and souls.

Sitting next to strangers
munching on their peanuts
wrapped in crinkly paper,
lulling you to sleep to sleep.

While pilots care for buttons
that drive us into darkness
o'er moisture falling to the earth
you sleep and sleep and sleep.

And the boy who's wearing Converse
is the stranger sitting. Simply
put, he's noticed all the sleeping and he's
watched you sleep for hours.
He'll catch your eyelid flutter
and he'll dream about your dreaming
while tunneling through darkness
on a bird of steel and souls.

And you are one and he is one
and nothing will be done about the
souls that hope that buttons work
and eyelids flutter to the tune of
crinkly paper held by sitting strangers
who are one and one and one.

All while just dissolving.
Dissolving into darkness
on a bird of steel and souls.