Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stonewall



One of my first childhood friends was gay. We both spent a lot of Saturday nights at our babysitter Betsy's house where her disturbed grandson Leland often exposed himself to us and locked us in closets until someone heard us crying and let us out. Besides the obvious downsides, these nights were pretty fun -- we watched "The Lawrence Welk Show" and "The Dukes of Hazzard" while waiting for our dinner of instant mashed potatoes and Hamburger Helper, followed by bowls of ice-milk sprinkled with Nestle Quik. We both adored Betsy, and I loved my friend whom I will call R, but I wasn't surprised when my dad took me aside and told me he wasn't like the other boys, that he would probably grow up and like boys instead of girls and that was fine, that there were a lot of people in the world like that, but that most people didn't understand and could be cruel. R was five at the time and already had a theatrical sense that could rival Liberace. My dad was a kind, sensitive man and thought R was great, especially when he told jokes or sang Hall and Oates' "Private Eyes" while floating around in the baby pool.

Today marks forty years since Stonewall, the riots at a bar in NYC that marked a beginning of sorts for gay rights. Other groups like the Mattachines had been around for a long time, but had taken a more secretive, conservative approach. Stonewall meant fighting back against police oppression (homosexuals were routinely rounded up in bars and arrested not so very long ago). So much has changed since then; when I began teaching, I had one extremely brave student who was "out" and read his paper about his sexuality in the heart of redneck Texas to a class composed of many football players while I hoped and prayed that nobody would say anything hurtful. By the time I'd been teaching for a decade, almost all of my classes had students that were out. Even so, I take this time as a call to people to show more love, more live and let live. The first time I went to San Francisco, I saw a poster about safe sex with two men kissing. You'd never see that in Texas, I thought. When I returned that night, someone had scrawled Faggots in blood red ink over the poster. Classy. What a great use of someone's time and energy. Or my personal favorite, the so-called religious protesters at funerals with compassionate signs that read -- God hates fags or Your son is burning in Hell. As a person of faith, I find this especially disgusting. I think back to those nights in front of the television with R, watching the goings on in Hazzard County, debating who was cuter, Luke or Bo Duke. For us, Daisy never even entered the picture.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law." James Baldwin

Cocktail Hour
Working on a mojito video -- my favorite rum drink! It's very difficult to make, so if you guys have any tips, send them along.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday!

10 comments:

the walking man said...

I tried unsuccessfully to find the quote of one of the leaders of the Stonewall rebellion who died last year but the gist was

"Just because we're in dresses with nice hair and fingernail polish doesn't mean that we aren't men underneath the fine clothes." She was one who proceeded to kick some blue ass during those six days.

Funny thing about the Stonewall bar is it was actually owned by the Genovese crime family. They didn't care who drank there, especially since they intentionally turned it into a gay club. No liquor license was always the cops excuse to go in even though they were getting their envelopes every week.

Another one of those turning points in time that during the moment no one realizes what the effect is going to be.

"Even so, I take this time as a call to people to show more love, more live and let live."

One person at a time practicing it towards one person at a time is the only way it will happen.

Be Well

realbigwings said...

It's always great to read your stuff, Michelle. I love the image you paint of your dear 5 year-old friend singing in the baby pool. :)

Anonymous said...

IF MORE PEOPLE SENT OUT LOVE TO THE WORLD INSTEAD OF HATRED IT WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE.

Anonymous said...

Come on people now... Smile on your brother ! :)

Anonymous said...

Grouchies recites' Pascals quadrangles''--Short bus and Special

jodi said...

Honey, loved the post! Had a similar friend growing up who did not have it easy in northern Michigan. We used to love to dance and sing to Diana Ross. Now we love to "vogue!" Isn't it time we collectively acted like humans? xoxo

Shawn said...

Could I love you any more?
No I could not.
xoxo Bamms

Scott said...

Michelle,

Nice post...yeah, you wuld never see that poster in Texas...or the Midwest, I'd bet. I recently read the book 'Death Makes A Holiday',about Halloween, and there was a chapter about how gays made it their holiday, and the prejudice they faced back in the day, which was even worse than today. I admit, when I was kid, I wasn't very tolerant, but once I met and worked with gay/lesbian folks, I realized that they were people just like the rest of us.

A rum drink?? Aww, you listened, you little darlin', you. :) Can't wait to see it!

Wil said...

OK, Michelle was not digging the Daisy. I'll cross that fantasy off my list.

Wil Harrison.com

meet me in the red room said...

your dad sounds like he was way ahead of his time- kudos!