Coming Out Again, More Coming Out, Coming More Out

I came out as gay to my family and the world (well, the readership of the Chatham Daily News) late in 1977. Although I’ve always reserved the right to decide whether or not to tell people I come in contact with, not saying anything has been rare. My paternal grandmother was never told, to honour a request from my family as recounted in My Coming Out Story.

Over the years I’ve learned that it wouldn’t take much effort to pass as a ‘straight’ (i.e. heterosexual) man. Just editing stories and being careful of what I say. Of course it would’ve cost me my Soul so it was never really an option. My parents gave us kids many blessings; self-awareness being one.

Likewise, I know that with but a few tweaks I could pass as “nearly straight” – generally a middle-class, white gay male with a spouse, kids, pets, mortgage and other hetero-normative accoutrement. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. If you want to ‘live the Murican dream’ go for it. Heck, I’ll even marry you (once SCOTUS brings full marriage equality to Ohio). But that is not my dream. Never was; probably never will be. All I want, need, demand, is to be accepted as I am. And so I now self-identify as queer – indeed I have for many years.

During the early ’80s I, along with my partner at the time, discovered our interest in the leather/fetish world. My conversations and connections to much of that world are conducted with a ‘handle’ or ‘nick’ (nickname or screen-name). This is not to shield the world-at-large from knowing that aspect of me, so much as to protect me and my household from specific less well-balanced members of society. Despite the growth in acceptance of people ‘playing’ in the leather/fetish space, (think ’50 Neutered Shades of Gray’) actually living it still seems to shock and offend some people. Far too many tv shows (dramatic or comedic), improv and stand-up artists consider it an easy and shallow plot device. You know, something to pull out when ‘cross-dressing’ has been over-used. As much as I try to live an open and authentic life and tend to give ‘TMI’ answers to questions, that aspect of my life will not be discussed in any detail here. Period.

Many queer folk reject any organi- er institutional religious tradition. Between the far-too-common rejection (if not outright hatred) queer folk experience in such places, and a sense that no gawd worthy of worship would permit such atrocities to stand, why should we even try to participate in such groups?

I was baptized in the United Church of Canada as an infant and again in The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto as a young adult. The first is a mainstream Canadian denomination that has a strong track record of acceptance. MCC was founded in 1968 “to provide a Christian sanctuary for LGBT people” and is now “an international denomination committed to radical inclusivity in all areas.” They are both great places for LGBT Christians to congregate. However I’ve studied a wide variety of spiritual traditions; nature-based ‘pagan’ as well as ‘major world religions’. I now identify as a nontheistic spiritual humanist.

The final revelation for today is one that, upon reflection, lumps me with various people of fame (and plenty of us ‘civilians’) who don’t actively and widely ‘come out’ while not exactly hiding their full identity. To the point that anyone who is connected to me at The Book of Face (as my Friend, or the Friend of a Friend) already knows.

Another aspect of the complex, complete individual that I am was also brought out in the early 80s in Toronto. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence was founded in San Francisco in 1979. As their website notes: “Since our first appearance in San Francisco on Easter Sunday, 1979, the Sisters have devoted ourselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and to promoting human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment. We believe all people have a right to express their unique joy and beauty and we use humor and irreverent wit to expose the forces of bigotry, complacency and guilt that chain the human spirit.

The Order arrived in Toronto in 1981 and in 1983 I was accepted into the Order as Sister Flagellation of Forbidden Fruit to recognize the leather/fetish counterpoint to my Sisterly vocation. In 2014 I engaged in a time-honoured OPI tradition of adopting a new Sisterly name. I am now Sister Flirtatious Romanovsky of Middlesex. This name honours two pioneering gay musical groups that long have influenced my life and continue to bring joy:
# The Flirtations; an a cappella group active (with various members) from 1988 to 1997;
# Romanovsky & Phillips; gay folk duo active from 1982 to 1999.

Well, I think that is it for today.

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Thoughts on 2 Books by Oscar Moore

(This post includes recurring themes from my blog, and expands upon a post earlier today on my Facebook profile)

Fundamentalism. Traditionally used only in reference to religious world views it is now often applied (by me if no one else) to other spheres; politics being perhaps the most common. I’ve elsewhere described it thus: “Fundamentalism is any approach to complex issues (spiritual, political, sexual or any other) that attempt to offer a single, universal solution.

People often say “forget the past- don’t look back, just ahead.” While I agree that it isn’t helpful to be ‘stuck in the past’ to ignore our past and how it continues to impact our present pretty much guarantees that it will continue to inform (and perhaps interfere with) our future. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” (George Santayana, ‘The Life of Reason’ 1905). Totally forgetting our past would mean constantly relearning skills and losing all the experiences of people, places and events that give our time here meaning and richness. Fully understanding our past often helps us move forward; while allowing us to enjoy the pleasant memories. Forgetting details of negative experiences while retaining relevant lessons learned is a useful balancing act. And ‘balance’ is the key to so much of life.

The books by the late Oscar Moore* are both good reads and important ones. Clearly the world of (western gay male) PWA- people with aids- is vastly different today than from the one Oscar Moore experienced. To a large, if lesser, degree the world of casual sex, recreational drugs, and sex work that he recounts in his novel is similarly historical. Yes many gay men still engage in some or all of those experiences (vice is far too judgmental) but not to the same degree. Or at least it appears not by as many. Perhaps some of those who do imbibe in such worldly pleasures are driven to excessive discretion due to the reactionary shaming and guilt that arose in the wake of the aids crisis of 30 years ago. Sadly such judgement and shaming contributed to the spread of the disease.

Outside our communities the label “gay disease” meant reduced resources, discrimination and attempts at segregating/ quarantine.

Worse (in my not-so-humble opinion) was the shaming and judgement within our communities. Slut-shaming was around long before gay pride, of course, but we’ve all-too-often adopted bad habits from the broader society as our own. Worse because we should know better- taking on the hatred of the oppressor means we haven’t collectively fought as hard as we could- should- for the true freedom of full self-expression.

This is a big part of why I now self-identify as Queer rather than as a gay man as I did when I came out in 1977.

The slut-shaming and judgement all too often kept people from talking about their actual sexual history. And that led far too often to people repressing their desires… until they popped out (up?) ‘under the influence’ of alcohol or other chemicals. With the resulting lack of clear thinking. And greater risk. More infection, more transmission, more shaming… and the cycle went on. Goes on.

Related Posts

Nearly Straight
NCOD 2013
Early Morning Thoughts #3
Am I A Relic Of The Past?

Books by Oscar Moore

(These are affiliate links; I will earn a few cents should you make a purchase)


This semi-autobiographical novel has been compared to Rechy’s City of Night. Too-often called unapologetic (it is- but should that be noteworthy?) for its honest exploration of a life full of ‘worldly experiences’.

A collection of columns from The Guardian newspaper from 1994 to Oscar’s death in 1996, age 36. ‘Brutally honest’ and devastatingly witty. Gallows humour at its finest.

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eBooks of Selected Blog Posts

Take This Blog and Save It
Want to save some of my blog posts to read off-line? I’ve assembled two Kindle-compatible eBook collections of blog posts. Don’t own a Kindle device? There’s an app for that. Each collection is available at the incredible price of US$0.99 – mere pennies a page. This isn’t about making money; but about sharing my thoughts, concerns and suggestions. Provoking thoughtful discussion about ideas & issues is my goal.


The eBook Queer Blog Posts contains most blog entries posted in the LGBTITQQ2S category from 2009 through January of 2015. Some were written to submit to one or another college class, others were written in response to happenings in my own life, and some comment on the world around me.
While these posts contain specifically gay content, everything I feel or experience is inevitably processed through the filter of my being a queer man of a certain age. Excluded posts generally have a video or large image with limited text. Certain posts are shared annually; duplicates have been eliminated when content is unchanged.

 


The eBook Queer (Political) Blog Posts contains most blog entries posted in the Politics Plus category from 2009 through 2014. I am not formally trained in Politics but have been a keen observer of political creatures (and their creations) for much of my 55 plus years on Earth. All opinions expressed herein are my own unless credited to another source and accurately reflect my belief and understanding at the time they were first published.

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Nimoy, Tovey and Stereotypes

Leonard Nimoy worked hard to escape a future limited by his being typecast as Mr. Spock; arguably the most iconic character from the Star Trek universe. He struggled to express other aspects of his personality, interests and talents. Of which he had plenty. It is quite possible (certainly ‘common wisdom’) that such effort made the resulting output (photography, books, music, tweets, and plenty more) all that much richer: art through struggle, art through striving. The image of the suffering artist is another stereotype. I don’t think that a life filled with poverty, death and disease are essential elements for creative output but it sure seems they often assist us in reaching the deepest reaches of our true Self.

His first biography is entitled “I am not SPOCK” and a later one is “I Am Spock” – I suspect the truth is that he was “Not Just Spock“. Certainly his Author’s Page at Amazon is filled with diverse titles.

As I understand it, a tenet of Buddhism is that ceasing to struggle against, to accept, what ‘must be’ is a path to peace. As with so much advice I think it’s a mixed truth. Too quickly ceasing to struggle against death cuts a life short- denying friends and loved ones the full measure of a life and who knows what other achievements. Surrender at the right moment and perhaps experience a peaceful passing. The secret seems to be balance; perhaps best summed up with the iconic Serenity Prayer.

But I didn’t intend to dwell on death. Rather the thoughts prompted by the passing of “Mr Spock” are how we as queer folk, we creative types, may benefit from achieving a balance of the stereotypes often applied to us: queer, gay, Top, bottom, feminine, masculine, flamboyant, normal, closeted, withdrawn, anal-retentive… Rather than saying “that’s not me” perhaps we need to accept- nay, embrace- that many of these are (to a greater or lesser degree) a part of us. Despite the best efforts of marketing and political ‘experts’ to reduce each of us to a single, simple target demo we are rich, diverse, complex beings. Fundamentalism is any approach to complex issues (spiritual, political, sexual or any other) that attempt to offer a single, universal solution. Life is far too rich for such restrictive world view.

As I was finishing up this post the following story crossed my Facebook feed: it seems that openly-gay actor Russell Tovey (now in HBO’s Looking) said that “I feel like I could have been really effeminate,” but thanks his Father for “not allowing me to go down that path” (as reported at Fusion.Net). I respect his right to speak his mind- so long as my right to speak my reaction is also respected.

It is worth reading the full Guardian article for more background; Tovey was bullied for not presenting a ‘sufficiently masculine’ appearance. While I can appreciate the fear such an attack brings up (I’ve been assaulted, gay-bashed, more than once) his reaction is the less-empowering ‘identifying with his attackers’. If he has to remind himself that he can only love himself because he fooled others into thinking he’s butch, isn’t that an admission that his inner Self really wants to “relax, prance around, sing in the street,“?

Sadly that pseudo-masculine, nearly-straight machismo he is so proud of seems to have led him to issue a series of non-apology tweets that just reinforced my opinion that he truly believes his machismo somehow makes him ‘better’ – not, “more suited to his career” or “better fit to his internal sense of self” but ‘more of a real man’. And that is offensive.

We must never forget:
The Stone Wall
To those who came
        before me
Stood tall and proud
(Sometimes on their knees-
        but still proud)

Spoke out against oppression
(Sometimes in whispers
        but still speaking)

Fought the good fight
Beaches, bars and, at times,
        on the street
Stood up and said
        Enough!

Never took the ‘easy way out’
Finally took a stand
        inside the stone wall.

© Copyright 2011 Brian Gryphon All rights reserved.

And of course I couldn’t let this Tovey thing pass without a quote of relevant lyrics from Romanovsky & Phillips:
” ‘Straight-looking Marine seeks straight cop to please’
How straight do they look when they’re down on their knees?
It’s a taste that I’ve never been able to savor
This preoccupation with sexist behavior”

Give Me A Homosexual” from ‘Emotional Rollercoaster’
music & lyrics ©1987 Ron Romanovsky – All rights reserved.

 

Related Posts:

Fey Gay Tops
Nearly Straight Gays
Me and The T

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