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Gay Valentines, 1980: Comedy or Revolution?

Gay Cupid

Eons ago in my undergraduate days at the University of Cincinnati, I decided that Gay students needed to organize themselves; I was in social work school, and the origin of the profession lies in community organizing (howdy, Barack!). So I founded something called the UC Gay and Lesbian Alliance to fight for our rights; David Packer and David Giesler were two of the early leaders. The group continued for decades, and over the years added B’s, T’s and Q’s to its name, until it’s now subsumed in an official university-funded LGBTQ Center, which you can find here.

Well, it’s one thing to have meetings and organize yourselves, but the question soon arose, What shall we do? We decided to have a dance for Valentine’s Day.

We reserved a room in the student center, arranged for some music (disco, no doubt), made up flyers and sent out announcements; no one comes to a dance they don’t know is being held. There was no Facebook or e-mail in those days; we posted flyers in the bars and sent out press releases hoping to get four lines in the community calendar of the student newspaper.

I didn’t give this project a great deal of thought; it just seemed like a fun activity – until the TV cameras showed up.

I don’t recall having a boyfriend at the time, though I was never long without one in those days. I knew I could find someone to dance with; meanwhile let’s make sure the decorations are in place and we’ve got something to eat and drink, right? Wrong.

As the president and founder, I was the one reporters sought out for interviews. Fine, I thought, this will put us on the map and let the university know we mean business. (UC already had a non-discrimination policy.) Besides, as one of the first two people to come out publicly in the city – with full real names and everything, in the Sunday paper the year before – I was comfortable being in the media.

They all wanted to know if we were trying to “take over” Valentine’s Day.

Our dance floor was about this crowded.

Our dance floor was about this crowded.

I was, to put it mildly, nonplused. “Since when do heterosexuals own Valentine’s Day? We came here to dance.”

You’d have thought I was a Gay Panther, armed and dangerous. The reporters were all paranoid; I didn’t expect that.

Valentine’s Day is a “cherished institution,” they said. (Where have you heard that before?) Lovers look forward to it every year; the stores are full of chocolates and roses. “I know; I bought some.”

Meanwhile the TV cameras were busy taping people dancing – forty people, tops, counting the wallflowers.

My view of the TV shot was Look at all this empty space on the dance floor. We were a new organization, lucky to get the few people we had. Most of our efforts up to then were focused on gaining university recognition as an official group, so we’d qualify for the right to reserve a room.

Reporters demanded whether this was a sign of Gay student militancy at the university? “I think it’s a sign that there are actual Gay people here, and that we dance like anyone else.”

All their questions were variations on this theme; reporters couldn’t get their heads around the idea that Gayness and love are connected – I suppose they all thought that “Gay” meant nothing but sex in the bushes, not actual romance – while I couldn’t get my head around the fact that they were so clueless.

Soon enough the videographers had all the tape they needed of half a dozen people pretending to have fun to Donna Summer and the Village People, and the reporters ran out of new ways to ask the same thing, so they packed up and left. As I recall the party did not greatly improve on their leaving; the wallflower caucus remained the biggest group.

We made the news that night, though; we usually led off the second segment, after the anchors used us as a tease going into commercial, “Queers hold a Valentine’s dance at UC, stay tuned!”

The reports on the different stations all looked the same; Josh the talking head, music playing in the background, then video of half a dozen souls bravely bobbing up and down. I didn’t regard it as a great triumph, and I don’t think the president of UC broke a sweat over us either. But at least we got on the teevee.

Two nights from now, the LGBTQ Center and Colors of Pride will sponsor a Valentine’s Day Mixer on Friday, February 15 in the same student center where we held our forlorn little party 33 years ago; maybe the exact same room. I hope they get a better turnout than we did. I don’t suppose reporters will swarm.

And in a few weeks the world will learn whether the inclusive prom at Sullivan High School in Indiana will be successful, or the bigot prom at another location will rival it. Special education teacher Diana Medley, demanding a Straights-only prom, has equated LGBTs with the developmentally disabled (!) and says Gay people “have no purpose.”

Special ed teacher Diana Medley says you're retarded and have no purpose. But she doesn't even work at Sullivan High School, so she's obviously dipping into an issue that doesn't affect her.

Special ed teacher Diana Medley says you’re disabled and have no purpose. But she doesn’t even work at Sullivan High School; she’s obviously dipping into an issue that doesn’t affect her, so she can get TV time and proclaim her love for Jesus.

The pastor at the First Christian Church in Sullivan, which hosted the Straights-only prom meeting, has disavowed it, saying all he did was let some people use a room. Other Christian leaders have come out affirmatively for the inclusive prom. It looks to me like that’s the one that will succeed. If so, the bigots will tell each other that Christians are being victimized again.

Thank God for today’s students. For those at Sullivan High School, the upcoming dance is certainly revolutionary. As for my little Valentine’s Day gig, I’d have to call it comedy; no matter what I tried I couldn’t peel the wallflowers away from their wall.++

"Are Gay people trying to take over Valentine's Day?"

“Gay people are trying to take over Valentine’s Day!”

 

New Year’s Madness

Leonardo Ricardo/Len Clark: Feastival pot.

Leonardo Ricardo: Feastival pot.

There are times I am astonished at my own greatness.

Isn’t that the most ridiculous line you’ve ever read?

I want this essay to explore what it’s like to wake up one day and find yourself with talent.

A million people have that experience; “Hey, I’m Peyton Manning.” Or Julie Andrews, Barack Obama or Yo-Yo Ma.

Then they get up and go to the bathroom, the same as you or me.

Isn’t life crazy? You’re Frank Lloyd Wright, and then you get up to take a leak.

How do they stay sane? I do not know.

Of course I’m not Julie or Barack or Peyton. I’m not even Leonardo Ricardo, who is a certified genius and all his friends know it.

I’m not Stephen Helmreich. He’s the actual genius I’m closest to, and he’s so much smarter than I am it’s not funny.

But I am Josh, and that is good, and hello, 2013.

Think about “the hardest-working man in show business.” Who is that to you? Sammy Davis, Rich Little? The term has been applied to several performers.

What it actually means is “He’s not that talented, but he uses all he’s got.” They try to express their total admiration, “Look at how good this guy is!”

But “Everyone’s a genius on Skid Row.” A social work supervisor told me that in 1984 at Gay Men’s Health Crisis. I didn’t much like her, but I’ve always remembered what she said.

Using what you’ve got, instead of peeing it away, is the name of the game.

“I’m John McEnroe! I’m Diana Butler Bass! I’m (fill in the blank)!”

Fame is public recognition that a person has talent and uses it, in public.

That takes courage, to do your thing in public; Emily Dickinson was very, very lucky. She was private, but she managed to attract a few devotés who loved her poetry and made her well known. Without them, I’d have to come up with a new example for Ms. Dickinson. In her lifetime she wasn’t famous at all.

But a few key people recognized she was a soul of uncommon beauty. So they talked her up and now we know her name.

Fame is happenstance. I bet right now you can name a hundred people in your life who are all-stars.

Few of them are famous, though. The set of people who are {famous} ≠ those who are {talented.}

Fame itself is not a thing one ought to pursue. (Kim Kardashian is pregnant! Who exactly is Kim Kardashian?) The person who is wise as well as talented pursues her talent, not her fame. She can’t help it; Susan Boyle was born with that voice, and she has to sing.

She would die if she could not; the people on Skid Row have voices but prevented themselves from singing.

God makes more talent than “men” make famous.

It’s kind of a scary thing. But then you look at a bowl by Leonardo Ricardo and just go, “Wow.”

How did he do that? And why? “It takes so much patience,” that pointilism of his. He’s in fucking Guatemala; who gets famous in Guatemala? But the place is teeming with talent, apparently.

He doesn’t need to be famous; he’s famous among his friends, and that is good enough.

If someday he becomes actually famous, won’t that be a joy. (Or not; it can go wrong.)

I do not know why I am not famous – except that I come from a particular place, which might as well be Guatemala, and I’ve never pursued fame, especially compared to Kim Kardashian, and “talent” I think probably seeks its own level and finds it.

If, years later, you go back and watch Susan Boyle’s introductory video on “Britain’s Got Talent,” you’ll see that whatever she lacked in looks, she made up for in chutzpah. She walked out on that stage prepared. She knew what her talent was, and that if she could get a chance to sing, she could bring down the house.

They gave her a chance and she brought it down. Instant worldwide fame.

Most of us don’t know what she’s done since, but she’s still got that voice inside her body. She still can make, and always will make, that sound.

I’m no Susan Boyle. I don’t even carry Doug Blanchard’s water. I’m just Josh, and that’s pretty good.

I’m happy with my life, this first day of 2013. I’m singing. It’s what my body needs to do, so I’m doing it.

What prompts these musings? Why am I yammering on here? Several things which fuse in my mind.

• I looked over ten days’ worth of posts from dailyoffice.org. This is the public performance I’m best known for now; Morning and Evening Prayer, plus graphics I select, with an occasional prayer of my own composition. I’m happy with my posts, with the art and little comments. It’s some beautiful stuff, and my site’s had two million visitors. I like what I’ve done, and I’m pleased to have a following. Every day, a thousand people get e-mails with my stuff. It’s mostly about God and not about me, but people sign up because, well, I deliver them God.

Leonardo does too; Stephen and Doug and Diana and Grandmère, Robert and Malcolm and Sara. We all do this; we all deliver God, which is a really fun thing to do.

But the other day some friend of Leilani’s posted a hurtful comment. She re-posts my stuff on Facebook for her followers, but FB gave her trouble with the link, which she mentioned in frustration, and some guy wrote, “Go to Mission St. Clare, it’s much better!”

That’s the competition, and no, it isn’t better. It’s run by a machine and not a person. But it’s good, and I’m happy to acknowledge it – because God is good, who you kiddin’? – and anything or anyone who delivers God is doing right. Still, I wondered if that guy knew how hurtful his Christian comment was. “Josh is bad, St. Clare is much better!”

Oh yeah? Sez who?

• I put out a book last fall, The Gospel According to Gay Guys. It’s extremely long, starts out with graphic Gay sex, and it’s not going to make me famous, but I’m proud of it. It distills everything I think I know.

It’s sold enough to pay my electric bill for a few months, and my genius friend Stephen raved about the first couple of chapters he read before life made him put it down. I was pleased by his excellent reaction.

This book has one reader-review on Amazon. It’s one star; I haven’t read it. I just know the person hated it.

I do have the ability to piss people off. Usually I don’t even know when I’m doing it; I make a simple statement, some truth that is evident to me, but whammo, I’m in big trouble.

The few times that Jack, my late beloved done-me-wrong, raised his voice to me, I rushed to stop what I was doing in the latest pissoff. But I can’t do that with strangers, and even Julie Andrews ain’t gonna win ’em all.

• Some part of me is glad I have that pissoff factor. The same thing led me to march for Stonewall in 1974, when sidewalk gawkers outnumbered Pride participants; in 1980, when I led a student rebellion at college; in 1982, when I founded AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, the world’s second-oldest AIDS services organization. Prophets get stoned; I’m proud of my battle scars.

But I don’t like bad reviews, when I’m trying to deliver you God here.

• I’m engaged today in a mini-debate on The New York Times website. They ran an article about Lincoln and Walt Whitman, part of their Civil War series. I commented on Lincoln’s Gay sensibility, which I see dimly between America’s Poet and America’s President. This got some Likes, as well as a chorus of dissenters. A hundred and fifty years later, after three states have voted in Gay marriage, Lincoln’s hetero defenders still turn out in force. That’s fine, I’m not surprised by this, but it does get old after awhile. I don’t claim the fact that he slept in the same bed as other guys while circuit-riding in the wilderness proves he was Gay; for that I look to his relationship with Whitman, distant but respectful. Those two loved each other, but America still doesn’t want to hear it.

God cannot possibly be Gay.

• But God is Gay to those of us who are, and Straight to those who swing the other way, and female if you need her to be; Jewish, Arab, Christian, Black and utterly Japanese. What else would God be but Black or Japanese?

I do not whine; I’m not famous and never will be. Some people hate my books, my sites and my life. Some people like them, too, and for that I’m very glad. They enable me to keep singing by their belief.

Leonardo, down in volcanic Guatemala, keeps on making his bowls and pots and tables and entire house with pointilistic perfection, and if you ain’t been there it’s your tough luck. His doggies snuggle up; he’s got a Juan Carlos, too. The garden blooms, the feasts get made and he lives happily ever after.

Not famous, just talented. Happy New Year.++

To Luke I'm the center of the universe - or at least the guy with crunch food twice a day.

To Luke I’m the center of the universe – or at least the guy with the food twice a day.

Christmas Is Better When We Keep Advent First

The words of the great Advent hymn tell us plainly: Christ hasn't got here yet.

The words of the great Advent hymn tell us plainly: Christ hasn’t got here yet.

Today is the 3rd day of Advent, the four-week season of preparation before Christmas. I find it’s my favorite time of year.

The best way to observe Advent is to avoid doing Christmasy things before December 24th; and to use the time in other, better ways.

This isn’t easy in the United States, or people think it isn’t; they feel an invisible pressure to run around and buy things, or go to Christmas/”holiday” parties, and generally be in a rush to “get everything ready.” Meanwhile they’re not getting ready on the inside, only on the outside.

This is mostly because of television, the great amplifier of commerce. But Christmas isn’t about commerce, it’s about the birth of a Savior.

Babies come when they get here, and no amount of preparation truly gets us ready. So why are we kidding ourselves? (Because somebody can make money by stoking our anxieties, then seeming to offer relief in exchange for money.)

I don’t watch TV; I gave mine away. That by itself eases the pressure by 90%. I take Advent at a slow, relaxed pace that allows me to think and feel.

I feel sorry for people who run around this time of year. I want to tell them, “You’ve got plenty of time!” But they don’t see it that way.

I wouldn’t be caught dead going shopping on Black Friday. Some people do wind up dead that day, trampled to death at Walmart. What a wonderful Christmas their survivors must have, thinking about the big-screen TV that never came home.

The world is upside down. That’s the Bible message in a nutshell; how we live is completely screwed up.

This hasn’t changed since the Scriptures began to be written down at the dawn of history. Everything we think is important is actually trivial; the things we take for granted are the most important of all.

People don’t want to hear this now anymore than they did 6000 years ago. Still, some of us persist in broadcasting the message, or at least trying to live by it.

I can’t make people stay home on Black Friday. All I can do is to stay home myself, and do something thoughtful and fun.

AdventLighting

I always start with an Advent wreath, which is just some evergreens arranged in a circle with four candles to light, one for each week until Christmas gets here. It helps us to mark the passage of time – and not get ahead of ourselves. That’s the temptation in December, always to get ahead of ourselves. The Advent wreath reminds us not to do that. Expectant parents don’t start the party until the baby gets here. Then it’s time to break out the gifts and have a feast. But not before.

The last few years I’ve had to make my own wreaths. I have a circular frame, arrange greenery around it and stick four candles in their holes. Make dinner, put the food on the table, light the candle(s), say the Collect of the Day, then eat. In the Gospel stories Jesus was always eating with his friends; they were a hungry bunch.

The wreath, and the waiting it enables, gives me the annual structure of Advent. I do the same thing with it every year. But I also do something different every year, because I’m not in the same mental place as before. Advent 2012 is new this year, and I want to be aware of what here and now is like. My circumstances have changed, so I ask myself what feels right for now?

This year I am writing, and publishing on my prayer sites visited by millions all over the world, a short, simple prayer for every weekday of Advent. I got the inspiration this year from seeing a photo on Facebook of my friend Cresta’s little boys making homemade Christmas decorations. This brought back memories; when I was a child everybody made little items to decorate their tree. Before there was plastic tinsel manufactured by heathens in China, people used to string together pieces of popcorn and drape that around their tree.

A big needle to pierce the kernels, some yards of thread; baked orange slices and some coarse ribbon - far better than store-bought. (Ladybird Cottage)

A big needle to pierce the kernels, some yards of thread; baked orange slices and some coarse ribbon – far better than store-bought. (Ladybird Cottage)

The Book of Common Prayer, from which I get the content that goes on my prayer sites, does not contain prayers for each of the weekdays of Advent, only for the four Sundays. So here’s tomorrow’s example of my little daily scribbles. You can see it’s just a thought or two.

[A Homemade Prayer for Wednesday of Advent 1
by Josh Thomas

Dear Lord and Friend, this world doesn’t make it easy to keep Advent. We live in a culture where the buildup is more important than the event. But you were a stranger in a strange land too, so help us be cheerful as we go quietly about our lives. Amen.]

My friend Stephen surprised me this year with an animated, online Advent calendar by Jacquie Lawson. Traditional Advent calendars are printed things you buy at the Hallmark store, with little cut-out doors for kids to open, one per day, showing and telling the Christmas story. I don’t have kids, so I don’t do Advent calendars anymore, until now. Ms. Lawson’s little product is a great way to start each day; every one is different. Her theme this year is “Alpine Christmas” and features her familiar dogs, cats and whimsy; she’s not religious because she wants to sell a lot of calendars, but a snowman’s a snowman and you can build your own with a variety of tools she supplies. Today she has a skiing bear who takes a spill at the bottom of the mountain.

I am also doing one other thing this year: I never decorate my house until Christmas Eve. I don’t believe in it; I believe in waiting instead. But this year, in case that feels too rigid, I go down to the basement every morning and pick out one little trinket to display. My house will gradually fill with signs of Christmas until the day finally gets here. On Monday I brought up my Christmas kitchen towels, because Monday is laundry day for me, and today my kitchen counter has a Santa Claus cookie jar right next to the flour and sugar. I am looking forward to finding my downy fawn tabletop, which always goes on an end table in my living room, as well as my miniature trumpet in its little black case, lined with red velvet. Christmas is a time for music, the making and singing of it, not just the listening. I don’t listen to Christmas music until December 24.

Yesterday I went to Murphy’s grocery and got subjected to the Muzak version of “We Three Kings.” Which isn’t even a Christmas song, it’s for Epiphany instead, but nobody knows that anymore except Episcopalians.

I like to host 12th Night parties on the Eve of Epiphany, but I probably won’t do that this year. Do you know what merriment people in England used to have on 12th Night? Jesters, fools, people in drag – like having a Gay bar right in your house!

Cast of "12th Night," Capitol Shakespeare, Bismarck, North Dakota, 2008.

Cast of “12th Night,” Capitol Shakespeare, Bismarck, North Dakota, 2008.

You do whatever feels right to you; my only advice is to think about it and be deliberate. Maybe you’re one of millions who doesn’t like Christmas, religious or secular, because it makes you feel lonely and depressed. (I’ll write an Advent prayer about that, too.) If so, feel free to ignore what the world is doing. Jesus is in favor of taking care of yourself.

But if you love Christmas, as I do – the carols sound so much better when you wait for them and sing them at midnight mass – enjoy this time of year, wherever you find yourself physically and mentally. Christmas practices vary from place to place and person to person. I remember the pleasant shock I felt once, seeing a Gay-themed movie from Australia, which had the characters picking out their Christmas tree in the summertime, with everyone wearing shorts instead of bundled up like we are in the North. If you have a loved one, or several, I visualize you gathered with them, having some wonderful times. If you are alone, and aging like me, you can also enjoy the season, picking and choosing what to participate in and what to pass up.

This year I am glad to be who I am and where I am, safe and warm at home. I find my Christmas is better when I keep Advent first.++

(Kerr Pelto, caligrapher)

(Kerr Pelto, caligrapher)

 

 

I Hate Halloween

Preparing tomorrow’s Daily Office prayers (Oct.31) turned out to be remarkably difficult. In the morning we observe two obscure but noble Asian bishops, Paul Sasaki of Japan and Philip Tsen of China; there’s only one picture of Sasaki on the whole dang internet, and none at all of Tsen. Since I operate a blog called The Daily Office East for the Asia-Pacific region, as well as one for the Western Hemisphere, I can’t ignore these guys. China had a long history of Western missionaries trying to drum up support for Jesus Christ, while the Japanese Anglican church is unique as the first homegrown, indigenous missionary effort, supported by The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Church of England.

I know nothing about these Asian churches except what I read online, so it’s difficult to tailor a “product” for them; the blog is in English, not their native languages, and most of the traffic we get (and it isn’t much) naturally comes from Australia. I’m always on the lookout for art and photographs that depict Asian Christians, but that means relying on Google and Wikipedia in English, both of which leave a lot to be desired. At any rate I finally got Morning Prayer done for East and West (the content is almost identical, but the East is many hours ahead).

Then at night, I have to make a slight nod to secular Halloween, while the Church celebrates the Eve of All Saints (which is what All Hallows’ Eve really is). I have only one great painting of all the saints, by Fra Angelico, which I have to save for the real day on Thursday, plus a dozen pictures of All Saints churches, of which any one will do. Then I’ll run the All Saints’ Day Collect again on Sunday, when most parishes will actually observe the feast day. In My Ideal World™, Episcopalians would actually observe All Saints’ Day like it’s supposed to be done, with a big celebration this Thursday and no concession whatever to ghosties and ghouls, trick-or-treat and Texas chainsaw massacres. I hate what Halloween’s become.

Then there’s what Gay people do to it, which is the most appalling of all.

I’ve never found drag amusing. I don’t oppress the people who engage in it, but it completely leaves me cold.

Halloween turns me into a mean old man, a curmudgeon. I have “no sense of humor.” But I don’t know what’s funny about drag queens, or leathermen wearing eye shadow, or guys going naked in public, or blood-soaked skeletons on the eve of a religious holiday.

I’m not fond of the Mexican Day of the Dead, either – and I don’t think it should be observed in churches.

You can buy “Jesus Malverde,” patron saint of Mexican drug traffickers, right next to conventional Catholic statuary on Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, New York. They’re equally popular, says The New York Times.

All Saints’ Day is one of the highest holy days of the year, according to the Book of Common Prayer, a “principal feast” which takes precedence over any other day or occasion. There are only seven such days, with Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Christmas and the Epiphany. Further, All Saints’ is so important it now has a popular “extension” the next day, called All Souls’ Day, supposedly for unrecognized saints, and more popularly for deceased friends and family, even though the word “saint” means any member of the Christian community, past or present. I’m a saint, you’re a saint, we’re all saints here. But most people don’t see it that way, they think saints are always heroic figures, so now we’ve got an extra day to remember Aunt Gertrude too.

You can tell I lack a sense of humor about this – though when I was a kid we actually did tricks along with our treats, which was great fun, especially for a “nice” little boy like me. In town we “soaped” windows, which meant buying a cheap bar of Ivory soap, then going out at night to rub it on the windows of neighbors’ cars and houses, whether we liked them or not, then running like hell so we didn’t get caught. To little boys, the most fun part was showing that mean old man on the corner what we thought of him.

Now I’m the mean old man. Country kids would knock over neighbors’ outhouses. We’d have done that too, but in town everyone had running water.

Today towns and cities designate a day and an early time frame for kids to go out, invariably with their parents, to beg for tooth-rotting treats. It can’t be nearly as much fun, but everyone’s paranoid these days about apples and Snickers bars with razor blades in them. I doubt anyone ever stuck a razor blade in a Red Delicious, but today you’d get arrested just trying to give a kid a piece of fruit instead of a mound of candy.

So, bottom line, I am old and curmudgeonly, and I’d like to observe All Saints’ Eve and Day in peace.

When I first moved back to smalltown Indiana in 2005, I eagerly bought bags of mini-Snickers and Butterfingers; no one came, leaving me with 80 little candy bars to get rid of. The next year I didn’t buy anything, so kids knocked on my door; I gave them coins instead. Now I just act like nobody’s home. I haven’t had my windows soaped once. You can’t even find a picture of it online.

The idea of a night for adults to dress up, act silly and have fun does appeal to me. But don’t do it on the eve of a holy day, it’s insulting to my religion – even though the Church chose November 1st to be All Saints’ Day deliberately to co-opt and Christianize the old Celtic/Druid festival. It turns out people are more interested in celebrating death than life, which shouldn’t surprise us at all. Now we’re stuck with it and I don’t like it.++

 

But this guy in drag was plenty funny. (Blake Edwards)

Put Grandmère Mimi among the Wikipedia Notables, Where She Belongs!

It has come to my attention that Wikipedia contains a glaring omission. It has no listing for June Butler, aka “Grandmère Mimi,” among the Notable Natives in its entry for Thibodaux, Louisiana.

WANTED: Suspicion of blogging.

I am sure Jimmy Wales, founder of the free online encyclopedia, never intended such a shameful oversight. Grandmère is a Distinguished Personage in any city – in every city – much less the capital of Lafourche Parish, there on the banks of the bayou.

So I am appealing to all my friends, followers, and my very large Entourage to correct this mistake immediately.

Now the good news is that Mimi’s entourage is even bigger than mine. Yes, that’s hard to believe, but hey, she’s got white hair and looks harmless. But do not be deceived; she’s notorious.

She always returns to the scene of the crime.

For many years Ms. Butler has masterminded a criminal enterprise called The Wounded Bird, from which her influence has spread worldwide. She was among a handful of shadowy operatives who prevented the Church of England from adopting the Anglican Covenant, along with her accomplice, one Jonathan Hagger, who goes by the alias MadPriest. Together these  anarchists have sought to undermine all Anglican Stuffiness and Pretense™,  which is all that keeps those old English bishops from crashing over at the slightest puff of wind.

Ask yourself, people: what institution will she try to topple next? The CIA, the Stock Exchange, the Jane Austen Lending Library & Tourist Trap plc?

Mind you, this so-called Mimi (which in English means, “Me, me!”) got started innocently enough; for years she cultivated her image as a charming, inoffensive Church Lady. But one fateful day, she got introduced to a life of crime, and let it be a lesson to you all. Ms. Butler took her first bribe.

Ten years ago she accepted the offer of a free, all-expenses-paid vacation at a palace in the American Southwest, where she rode around in limousines and ate like a queen – despite knowing that her hosts were charter members of the International Gay Cabal (known to the CIA as the “Gay Agendists”). These subversives succeeded in beginning her conversion to warped ways.

Experienced spies will tell you that everyone can be seduced to The Other Side. For some it’s sex, and for all we know that may have been part of her downfall. But for others, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” Those Gay tempters must have taken her to the top of a mountain and shown her, “All this can be yours!”

She signed right on the spot, happily entering a life of sordid degradation.

Within a few years, Ms. Butler published a four-part series called “Confessions of a Recovering Homophobe.” It’s still in print today. Even worse, she began undermining all standards of propriety in the Diocese of Louisiana, particularly concerning a man referred to in official publications as “the practicing homosexual Bishop of New Hampshire.” (Co-conspirators know him only by his code name, “Gene.”)

From there Ms. Butler infiltrated a very popular blog run by one Terry Martin, a purported Episcopal priest using the alias “Father Jake.” This gave her access to a vast worldwide network of radical ne’er-do-wells and brilliant criminal minds, known to occupy key positions in the misty Anglican Mafia. She rose in the organization by mild, reasonable-sounding comments on events in the underground war on the Establishment, and occasional jokes she blamed on the patently fictional “Doug.” Fellow travelers took her to be a sweet, kindly old Southern lady who was no threat to their positions. But the bodies began piling up quickly behind her.

The Bishop of Pittsburgh – disappeared! The Bishop of Fort Worth – kaput! San Joaquin, even Quincy, Illinois, no town was too small to escape her wicked bloodletting. She became the de facto ecclesiastical authority (though she modestly calls herself merely Ordinary) in every section of the country.

And then, my friends, she went after The Mother of Them All – yes, Canterbury itself.

She triumphed a few months ago by reducing the Anglican Communion Office to rubble – though no photographic evidence exists that she actually burned the Anglican Covenant in a pagan ceremony under the ancient fig trees at Lambeth Palace. One source reported that instead of singing the hymn St. Anne, as any proper Anglican would do after burning effigies at the stake, the rebels danced instead to Dixieland jazz, in defiant violation of three known rubrics in the 1662 Prayer Book.

(Another report, since discredited, maintained that while the Covenant remained unlit, Ms. Butler oversaw a deliberate burning of the steak – known as “blackening” in south Louisiana. An eyewitness reported, “That wasn’t beef, ya’ll, that was largemouth bass. Them’s good eatin’.”)

The Foreign Office confirms that Ms. Butler’s passport shows multiple trips between Thibodaux and Heathraux. Her dossier in MI5 is six inches thick.

THEREFORE, as one of the many secret acolytes of our High Priest and Grandmère, and yes, a card-carrying subversive myself, I call upon all hippies and yippes, Gayboys and Dykegrrls, friends and relations, and everyone who knows anyone to join our Amalgamated Queer Entourage and rectify this horrible oversight in Wikipedia at once. Way-farers of the World, Unite!

As they say down in Cajun country, “If Grandmère ain’t Notable, Thibodaux don’t knaux Notable.”++

Treat her nice and she might let you kiss her ring. (revdlesley.wordpress.com)

What Is a Bishop Supposed to Do?

Getting older every day.

Someone on Facebook told me that the Pope popped off at Castel Gandolfo again about how “marriage and the family” must be preserved, and suggested that Gay people are not whole human beings.

Here’s a link. The writing is a bit skewed past the point of logic, trying to reiterate that Benedict is an anti-Gay extremist, but in fact his language is sufficiently moderate to allow for multiple interpretations – if you ignore the giant insult that he’s a human being and I am not. That isn’t Christian, denying another person’s humanity. It is anti-Christian.

Whatever it says on that website above, it’s true that past statements this Pope has made were plenty extreme: the whole world will come to a crashing end if Lesbian and Gay people can get married. Civilization is at stake!

I wish internet reporters would stick close to the facts. The Huffington Post is terrible at this, with yellow-journalism headlines that promise more than they deliver. But HuffPo’s in a battle for clicks, and is every bit as commercial as any other news source; that’s how Arianna makes her money. She’s a nice woman and a talented political analyst, but she sold her soul to the devil a long time ago. Stick to the facts, honey. You don’t need more moolah, you’re already rich. The question is, what about the Pope?

What about this claim that civilization will collapse if Gay people get rights, including the civil right to a civil marriage? Will the world end???

Uh, no. There aren’t enough of us to make the world end.

Nor is current Gay culture so attractive that we’ll make all Straight people turn Gay.

Homosexual behavior is quite attractive, but that’s a different issue than the current low state of Gay culture. And make no mistake, heterosexuality is a very strong attraction too. Billions of people are committed to it; there’s no chance that it will die out, just because a few guys or gals marry each other.

The Pope diminishes his office with this Chicken Little act. The sky is not falling.

God’s principal concern is love, not the birth rate – which is plenty high. In the next century the earth will host another two billion people, thanks to all those heterosexuals parading their nasty bits.

I blame the Pope, but Protestants are just as paranoid about LGBT people. “If we don’t stamp out homosexuals, the whole human race will die!”

It’s nonsense; Straight guys are as obsessed with sex as Gay guys are. And that’s a good thing overall. Gay people aren’t battling for market share, and Straight parents consistently produce millions of Lesbian and Gay kids.

Straight sheep produce Gay lambs; it’s part of the plan – to stop overpopulation.

God’s very smart. S/he really doesn’t want this planet to overheat.

So I can take the Pope’s latest insult with a grain of salt. It isn’t the first time Popes have sought to diminish my humanity or make me a scapegoat. I don’t get angry at Popes anymore. I condemn their latest stupidity, urge people to convert to the Episcopal Church – then ask myself, what are bishops supposed to do?

(In English, the name of the Episcopal Church is “the Church of Bishops.” The Presbyterian Church is “the Church of Priests,” although they’ve gotten so far away from that they’re not priests anymore. These names have to do with governance: who runs the church? In the Episcopal Church, the bishops do, though we’ve put in effective checks and balances. In the Presbyterian church, the presbyters (ordained ministers) do.)

I belong to an Episcopal church; we still have bishops, whose office is much the same as the Pope’s. So I wonder, what is the correct, proper role of a bishop?

Episcopalians elect ours; the Pope appoints his own. That makes us very different, because Episcopal laypeople are in charge of the election. But what is any bishop supposed to do? What exactly is the correct job description?

It’s to be Defenders of the Faith. That is, they are the guardians of the tradition, handed down by Jesus and illustrated in the Bible. It’s a very important job, and as a Christian I want the bishops to perform it. I want the Christ I follow to be the actual Jesus who once walked in Israel.

Defend the faith from all the cultural changes that might alter it. That’s what I want bishops to do; it’s why I support them. Episcopal bishops do defend the faith.

But they also change. And that’s the crucial distinction.

The Pope’s bishops try to prevent all change; Episcopal bishops try to create more of it, for the things that need to change.

We even have a formula for this: “the historic episcopate, adapted to local circumstances.” And the fact we have a Prayer Book to tell us how to perform the sacraments and how to pray guarantees that the essentials don’t change, although the externals might. It’s a good balance.

I am forever wishing that the Episcopal Church would catch up to this century, but in fact we’re open to change. We’re slow, which is in keeping with that competing desire that Jesus doesn’t change; but we eventually kind of catch up to the times – because “the times” matter. People learn things; society develops.

Churches must keep up with the times. They also must consistently deliver the message of Jesus 2000 years ago.

So here I am, a Gay guy in 2012, watching the Pope spout off again, because the new French socialist government is going to legalize Gay marriage, yet I belong to an “episcopal” church run in part by bishops. What is the proper role of these fathers- and mothers-in-God?

It isn’t to prevent all change, as the Popes believe. It’s to find what the essentials of the Christian faith are and hold fast to those, while embracing what humanity has learned in the 2000 years of learning since Jesus walked here.

The Popes say that since Jesus only chose men as his apostles, we can’t have women priests.

Episcopalians call that misogyny, sexism and the oppression of women – which we have slowly learned is offensive to God.

Jesus relied on women constantly; they were his most consistent supporters, spiritually and financially.

They paid his bills, so he could walk around Galilee preaching and healing. The women did the work that allowed Jesus to do the work.

In modern times Episcopalians have found that there is nothing in the nature of priesthood to prevent a woman from being ordained. They’re just as good at it as men are, so the Episcopal Church has ordained women priests since 1974. We have more priests than we know what to do with, because so many men and women love God.

The Pope thinks otherwise and sits around watching his all-male, “celibate” priesthood (it never has been celibate, and never will be) disappear, because he thinks that’s his job.

Roman Catholic women are begging to be ordained; so are married men. The Pope doesn’t give a damn. So the priesthood withers, and here in my Indiana home town, one priest has to serve three parishes.

What do I want bishops to do? What is their actual job?

It’s to preserve the faith while drilling down to the essence of it.

The Pope seems to think male superiority is the essence of it, and I disagree. “In Christ there is no male or female.” Jesus called himself a “mother hen.”

The Pope seems to think heterosexuality is also the essence of it, and again I disagree. Straight people are very, very good at being fruitful and multiplying, which is the Pope’s stated concern. Indeed, they’re too good at it, like rutting deer who destroy state forests.

If Jesus were here today he’d preach at Gay bars. And the Gay people wouldn’t always like what he said, but they’d give him a big listen. He was enormously charismatic, with a physical presence about him as well as a huge spiritual aura.

I want the bishops to preserve the essence of what he said and did and was, while discarding the prejudices of the past. The world was not “created in seven days” –  not even the Genesis writer thought that. What s/he wrote was a meditation on sunrise and sunset, the holiness of the Sabbath (which is why the poem is geared to seven days); the passage of time, the magnificence of God’s creation, and the sacredness of living in the now.

“Wo-man” was not created out of “man.” There is no man without a woman; if you disagree, show me one.

The creation myths are lovely (and true in spiritual ways), but they’re not science. We go on science now, and reinterpret the old myths. They’re quite beautiful, but they’re not the end of the story.

Jesus doesn’t care who you make love to; what he cares about is how you treat that person. That’s what he would say in Gay bars, and that’s why he wouldn’t be entirely popular. There are users in Gay bars and online, and he condemned all who sought power over others.

Meanwhile we’re left with a Pope who says Gay people aren’t really human beings. In the words of Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a woman?” Ain’t I a man, Benny?

Who the hell are you? And why do you besmirch the Christian religion by claiming that some people are not human beings?

The whole point of Christianity is that God loves us so much he became one of us. Don’t deny that, or I will deny you.++

Jesus and Friends; David LaChapelle.

Homophobia’s Built Into Us, but Let’s Learn Some Male Love

A Gay woman resists the cops at the Stonewall Inn, 1969. (Bettye Lane)

I tried in my latest book, The Gospel According to Gay Guys, to write a novel with no homophobia.

It’s a difficult task. I didn’t want to write a book in which homophobes are the bad guys, because there are already too many books like that, and it’s too easy a story to tell.

Of course homophobia is bad, and the people who promote it, whether men or women, are bad guys. But we’ve seen that movie already; we’ve lived it. We don’t need to see it again on the big screen or the iPad. It doesn’t teach us anything; it doesn’t show us a world beyond the one we already live in.

I also didn’t want to write a book in which the Gay characters hold anti-Gay attitudes. That was a much harder task.

I didn’t want characters calling each other bitches at the first sign of conflict. I didn’t want them undermining each other’s masculinity. Because the one thing I think I know – the one thing I’ve learned in 40 years of activism and 60 years of life – is that we are men who are Gay.

We have more in common with other men than we do with women; that is my belief and my experience. I love women but I’m just not one.

We are incredibly diverse, from football stars to drag queens, and the ways we’re different from each other are as important as the ways we are the same. But I see us primarily as men who are Gay.

So I tried to write a positive book about guys who like men, without a single line that puts down anyone else.

I do have one minor homophobe, but Kent’s Uncle Robert is pretty much a token, to acknowledge that there are idiots in every family and every walk of life. He’s the family banker, and Jamie fires him once he gets control of the bank. (He also brings him back later in a diminished role, to illustrate the importance of forgiveness. I have had a terrible time with forgiveness, but Robert gave me a chance to learn a little generosity.)

I probably include way too much talk about how butch and handsome my main characters are – but that’s because I find us butch and handsome. Maybe I illustrate all this at too great length. I wrote, but cut out, a long scene of Kent and Jamie playing football; Kent is far the better athlete, but Jamie wins the game, and I decided late in the editing that a summary would do better than the play-by-play. The Gay fans of my previous books have always complained about “so much sports,” so I decided to spare them this time. I can’t help including sports, though, I was raised on them; most of us were. We’re men. We like competing at games, even if we don’t think our entire self-worth is determined by who can toss a ball.

There’s nothing wrong with sports, if you play them Gay. So I tried to this time. I hope that’s all right with my readers.

My big butch stereotype is that Kent’s a cop; he’s also a full human being. That’s what I think is important.

In the prequel, Murder at Willow Slough, he killed a bunch of guys to save Jamie’s life. He didn’t like doing it, but he also didn’t look back.

They both like Broadway musicals. They both like to fuck and get fucked. That’s how we really are; why not say so?

Still, I give them a dominant-submissive relationship, because that’s hot sex, and it’s what we really think about, and it gives me a chance to say some things about what I think is really going on in our relationships.

Kent calls Gay life “a cult of masculinity,” and that’s what I think it is.

What’s fascinating is that the masculine leader in one situation is probably the masculine follower in another.

We are all followers at some times and leaders at others.

It isn’t masculine to follow or lead; it’s human. In a Gay relationship, sometimes you lead and sometimes you follow. Kent learns to enjoy both.

His formulation is that he “leads the physical and Jamie leads the mental.” But they’re more complicated than that; Jamie teaches Kent that he’s Gay.

That is, he likes dick too.

They get on wonderfully after that, and the conflict in the story comes from the outside. Inside their house they’re pretty congruent.

Still, the challenge was to write all this without reference to the stereotypes of male and female. And without the usual putdowns that equate submission with women. Women aren’t submissive, and Gay guys aren’t women; what stupid ideas.

It’s all over Gay porn, though. You’re either a stud or a bitch slut whore.

That isn’t good for our mental health. We’ve been taught to sexualize homophobia.

So I tried to write a book that doesn’t do that; a positive book where two guys groove on each other and celebrate male sexuality.

I don’t know whether I succeeded, that’s up to readers and critics, but that’s what I tried to do.

A great deal depends on cultural context; what is “mainstream Gay” in one culture is “way butch” or “way not” in another.

The year I turned 23 I lived in three different towns; West Lafayette, Indiana, a Big Ten college town (Purdue); New York City; and Charlotte, North Carolina.

It was weird for me; I went from mainstream Gay, to innocent Midwestern bottom, to Big Bad Butch in the course of a year.

I was still the same guy! In West Lafayette I was just Gay. In the leather scene in New York, they thought I was a little virgin pussyboy waiting to happen. In Charlotte the queens had fistfights, I was so butch.

Me??? It was disorienting. (I did like Charlotte, though. Me, butch all of a sudden, whoo!)

My point is this: most Gay men (and most Gay books) spend too much time comparing ourselves to heterosexuals.

It isn’t a proper comparison. Indeed it’s kind of homophobic.

If you like to get fucked, okay, you do; this doesn’t make you a woman.

We are not women. There are a lot of reasons to enjoy getting fucked, and none of them have to do with being women.

You are not a pig, a slut, a bitch, or any other epithet just because you like to get fucked. You’re a guy who likes to get fucked!

If you turn on to men, why wouldn’t you like sucking dick?

If you’re a man, why wouldn’t you like getting your dick sucked, especially since Gay guys can learn to be so good at it?

If you’re a man and you’ve got a pretty ass in front of you, why wouldn’t you fuck it?

I am totally appalled at the heterosexualization of homosexual sex. Yet that’s what porn pushes 24/7.

They want us to internalize homophobia, because they think that’s what gets us off.

This homophobia is built into us, by the hateful culture we grew up in. But change the culture, from West Lafayette to New York to Charlotte, and you change the homophobia.

I have looked at a great deal of pornography in the course of writing this book, and I don’t apologize for it. I was “doing research”! I was educating myself.

I was trying to write the hottest, sexiest, shoot-off love story ever – and then to put it in a context of love and even the Christian story of self-sacrifice, because I believe as Jesus said, “No greater love does a man have than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Jamie laid down his life in Murder at Willow Slough; then he lays down his life again for the hero who saved him – though in truth it was Jamie who saved Kent as much as the other way around. Jamie saved Kent from a life of empty heterosexuality, mostly because Kent didn’t know any better.

Then he takes one look at that little blond ass and everything changes.

You are not a bitch, you are not a whore; you’re a smart guy who likes dick. Who wouldn’t?++

(Tom of Finland)