December 01, 2005

Melancholy Holiday

I had the most disturbing dream recently...

I am celebrating my last Christmas Eve with the people I love, for the next day I have to go away, never to return. I’m not for certain why I must leave, but in this dream that doesn’t seem to be my chief concern. What is important to me is being able to get to all of the significant people in my life and say goodbye to them, with only a few short hours to do so. They say that life happens when you’re making plans, so of course in my dream things start to fall apart and I become derailed from what I have to set out to do. I am running out of time. No more I love yous, no more goodbyes. I start to panic. All I really want is to see my Mother. Then all of a sudden…

I wake up, sweating profusely, anxious and filled with dread.

I mentioned this to a friend of mine while holiday shopping the other day. He pointed out that dreams are seldom literal. Most of the time they’re only your mind’s way of processing all of the little shit floating around in your head. Of course I know this, but still, it was unsettling.

I have come to the conclusion that this dream of mine is most likely one of those jacked up mind metaphors representing a bigger issue I have in my life. If I had to put money on it, that issue would be change.

And nothing shows off just how much things have changed in life than a good old-fashioned holiday get together.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the holidays are responsible for my hang up. I must confess I happen to love Christmas and all that it involves. How I love decorating and shopping. Even more I love the idea of tradition. I have spent many Christmas Eve’s and mornings with my “other” family, close friends that are such an important part of my life. Every year my best friend’s mother still pretends she’s Santa Claus and spends all night putting together stockings and presents for all of us “kids”. She’s crazy as hell, but I love her to death. I then spend Christmas Day with my parents, where we do the food thing, presents, and of course, more of the food thing. It’s just a fun filled 24 hours. I love being around these people. There’s just something about holiday togetherness that exudes love and goodwill for me.

Given all of that, why does this metaphor for not liking change have me so riled up, and why does it threaten to overshadow an otherwise festive time for me? I think I know the answer to that as well.

With every passing year, it gets harder and harder to keep the dream alive, so to speak. I mean, realistically, how long can a tradition really last? Everyone is or has started to move on. One day we will all be affected by time and space, which unfortunately can limit ones options. The older we get, the farther we drift away from what we used to have and be. Nothing lasts forever, right? And I’m sorry, but sometimes that concept just sucks. I miss not having my best friends near me on a regular basis, before we all got too busy or moved away. I miss not seeing my Mom and Dad everyday. Granted they only live fifteen minutes away, but that’s usually time already obligated to something else.

Yet, I have this dangling carrot. For one day, Christmas, I get all of these things I want, unencumbered. But that’s the catch, you see. You only get one day. And you find yourself thinking, “remember back when we could do this and that, before our lives CHANGED?” It’s depressing.

So yes. I have big issues with change, though it is inevitable. I just want more time to say and do the things I feel I have left to say and do. I want more time with the people in my life. Don’t we all?

This Christmas, in spite of these insecurities, I’m going to try really hard to let my heart be light again. I refuse to fall under the spell of negative thinking. I don’t want to waste my time longing for how things used to be. I would rather focus on the importance of today and that feeling of peace and love that this time of year is supposed to be about.

I resolve to make the most of this upcoming holiday season. I’m going to spend as much time as I can telling the people that populate this crazy, bleached blonde existence of mine how much I love them and how important they are to me. Though they may not be physically near me come next Christmas, they will always be a part of me. And no amount of time or space will ever change that.

Essential Download: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
Artisit: Judy Garland

Available On: Meet Me In St. Louis

Originally published in the December 2005 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.

November 01, 2005

My Rainbow's End...

I must confess that to me, like so many of my peers, the journey to self-acceptance means rolling with the punches and marching on. Best to keep moving forward, it is often said. No use in looking back. But in the quest to become who you are meant to be, sometimes you hit a wall where certain aspects of your life just beg for reconciliation. So many of us have spent so long running from bad memories, or where we come from, such inner peace seems impossible.

One of my best girlfriends, Maura, once explained to me that sometimes you have to end a relationship for something new to happen or for something good to come out of that broken relationship. I had always thought this advice pertained to romantic entanglement. Recently, with a lot of thought and reflection, I have come to find that it applies to any kind of relationship, whether it be with family, friends, or yourself.

I thought a lot about Maura’s words on a trip to visit my extended family in Rogersville, Missouri last month. I had not seen most of these people in 10 years. So yes, I was more than a bit nervous.

I had gone from being an awkward boy who was angry at the world to being a grown man who was very comfortable in his own skin, every obscenely bleached and flame-burning ounce of me. And you know as well as I do, we all have preconceived notions about the Midwest. The Bible belt doesn’t exactly scream GAY PRIDE.

The bigger pill I had to swallow, though, was the memories I still had of living in Missouri. Needless to say, they weren’t the warm fuzzies greeting cards are made of. My parents were on the brink of divorce (Tommy Lee and Pamela Anderson looked like the Cleavers in comparison), my brother skipped town and found solace in drugs, and I, all of 11, felt like I was left holding the bag. On top of all of the family drama was my starting to realize that I wasn’t like all of the other boys. It felt like war on every level. You grow up fast in situations like that. So really, everything about this particular portion of my life went into that toxic waste dump we all tend to use growing up. Forget about it and move on. And as the bad memories were being tossed away, unfortunately, so were some of the good ones.

After such a long period of “being over” that part of my life, I found myself realizing just how much I had walked away from. I was over doing the Sunday dinner thing with my parents when I became aware of the fact that my cousin Shauna was getting married the weekend after my birthday. A strange sensation came over me. “How could I not know this? She and I are like three months apart and we were so close growing up!” All of the years of running towards a different life came smacking me in the face like a bag of Trojans. “Duh…you dropped off the face of the Earth, you dumb fuck,” I finally admitted.

Well, nothing fuels action more than being pissed off, so I randomly called my Aunt Diane and told her I was crashing her daughter’s wedding. With her delight and encouragement I had decided I was going to cart my big ass back to see the family in Missouri, even if I had to whore myself the whole way down there. Fortunately, my parents (who, by the way, after 20 years of fighting, morphed into a strange little couple on their way to celebrating their 35th… don’t ask… I think it’s something in the Rochester water supply that mellowed them) were intrigued by my spontaneous about face regarding “back home” and decided to road trip it with me.

The visit to my former life as I call it had such a profound and unexpected effect on me. It was great to see my cousin. She’s as beautiful as ever, and her innate sweetness had her picking up with me as if I had never been gone. Being able to reconnect with my grandparents was something I will cherish for the rest of my life. The more time I spent with my Grandmother, the more I started to understand the drive I have and where my ability to keep marching on comes from. She’s been doing it all of her life. I felt loved and needed by every single one of them the entire time I was there. And about those preconceived notions? My family could care less that their cousin/nephew/grandson is as queer as a three-dollar bill. They might not get it, but they love me, unconditionally.

But the best part of the trip had to the emotional truce I called with my Mom and Dad. I had to let go of the past and the resentment I had towards them regarding my youth. And really, after 18 hours in a car with both of them, it was either get over it or leave them stranded out in a field somewhere in the vast state of Ohio (my Mother will vouch for that threat). In all seriousness, what Maura had said was true. It was only when I put an end to the negative relationship and memories I had, was I able to start something new and special with them. And because of that, I am able to fully embrace the new and improved relationships I have with my parents and the rest of my family.

Driving back from the trip, I was listening to the new Wynonna Judd CD (when in the country, do as the county people do!). There’s a line in her song “Dream Chaser” that captured my experience in Missouri so brilliantly. “I’ve always known I’d come back home when I found my rainbow’s end.”

I had found my rainbow’s end, indeed. And what a beautiful place it has turned out to be.

Essential Download: "Dream Chaser"
Artisit: Wynonna Judd
Available On: Her Story - Scenes From a Lifetime

Originally published in the November 2005 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.

October 01, 2005

Angels In America Approaches Nazareth College...

The Nazareth College Department of Theatre Arts is kicking off its 2005-2006 season this fall with Tony Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Angels In America, Part One: Millennium Approaches. For those not familiar with it, the play addresses the sexual, racial, religious, political and social issues confronting the country during the 1980s, as the AIDS epidemic spread.

Angels in America is one of the finest plays written in the last half of the 20th century,” says Director Lindsay Reading-Korth. “Like all important scripts, it transcends its contemporary period. On the other hand, it does speak to contemporary issues” — issues such as sexuality and HIV/AIDS, which the play is well known for tackling.

As Korth explains, “No, we are not still in the first horrific throes of the AIDS epidemic, though AIDS is frighteningly still more present and more dangerous than we our complacency as a culture would indicate, but we are still desperately at odds as a nation with regard to homosexuality. If anything, the gap between the perspectives of the right and the left in this country have widened in the past 13 years. Kushner’s play focuses on and gives character to this divide, making the complexity of our American identity come alive.”

With the strides made in the fight against the disease in the last decade, some wonder if a play like Angels is still relevant to today’s generation. Korth thinks so. “AIDS hasn’t gone away. Not only is it destroying Africa, it hasn’t gone away in this country either. And because people living with HIV can, with proper medication, lead relatively normal lives, we’ve let our guard down.”

To sophomore Matthew Wegman, who plays the character of Prior, Angels is also a play about basic humanity. “Of course AIDS is a major aspect of the show, but there are also so many more themes in the piece,” he says. “Love, betrayal, sexuality, sex in general, drug abuse, religion, the human will… the list continues. That’s the beauty of this show. The audience can find different underlying themes in every scene.”

Though written more than a decade ago, the value of Angels In America is clear to the production team as well. “I believe that, while it is somewhat dated by its references and content,” explains Set Designer Scott Dahl, “it is one of the few modern plays which will become part of the dramatic canon of acceptable classics among scholars and historians of the Theatre.”

Costume Designer Katherine Columbine, a senior, feels there is much to be learned from this production and its take on human survival “Whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together and there is no excuse for a lack of compassion in this world.” She goes on to explain, “I am comforted in the fact that there are some who will leave with an exposure to homosexuality and AIDS that will make them more well-rounded, open-minded and accepting human beings.”

Technical Director/Lighting Designer Beth LaJoie sums up the play’s relevance in one statement. “Education… plain and simple.” She also feels that this play does much in the way of representing everyday life. “Kushner has given us an important and powerfully written work of art with which to reflect our life, the events we experience in life, and sadly, the tragedies we experience.”

“I hope the audience will take away acceptance and tolerance,” says senior Kara Addington. Addington, who plays the titular Angel, also feels strongly about the other humanistic qualities this play has to offer. “I hope they (the audience) will see that they have commonalities with each and every character. They might not be drag queens or Jewish or Valium addicts, but they are mothers and wives and sons and lovers and friends. Maybe this could be their eye-opener.”

Korth adds, “I want the audience to recognize the tensions that flow through every individual and certainly through this country of ours can produce disaster, but that they can also provoke us to grow and to change, as individuals and as a nation.” She continues, “I want the audience to feel more alive, more awake and full of wonder after they (leave) the theatre than when they came in.

Essential Download: "Angels"
Artisit: Robbie Williams
Available On: The Ego Has Landed

Originally published in the October 2005 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.

September 01, 2005

Cue the Pulse To Begin...

I have to confess something. When Showtime’s Queer As Folk ended after a five year run, I got really depressed. Actually, that’s probably the understatement of the year. You would have thought Brad had just left me for Angelina the way I carried on.

“It’s just a television program,” a friend offered, trying to comfort me.

And she’s right. It was just a television show. But, as I asked her, could you imagine what it would be like to live on a planet where it felt like there was no television aimed at your demographic?

Sure… we can. The gay community has been feeling this way forever.

I think that’s why I’ve always been surprised at the gay community’s reaction to this series. I know there are people who see Queer As Folk as a disservice to the gay community.

“Oh, it’s about nothing more than fucking around and using drugs.”

What? For one, that’s not even remotely true, and two, even if it were, those things don’t exist in our community? Do we live in the same city?

“But why do we have to focus on those elements? Society has a hard enough time recognizing us as real people with real lives to begin with, without that being flaunted in their face.”

These are usually the same people who get in a snit when people dress in drag at a Pride rally, and I don’t really know how to deal with that. We’re on the same side, aren’t we? Haven’t we figured out that exposure and everything that entails is the biggest tool we have towards acceptance? I, for example, may not personally identify with the leather community. But I support them for who they are and what they stand for and welcome them along side me for who I am and what I stand for. We are celebrating and drawing focus to the same cause, acceptance.

That’s how I have always felt about QAF. Sure, sometimes it was hokey and superficial, and the characters could be a little extreme, but I was just grateful to see something on television that dealt with certain aspects of my life in a thought provoking and engaging way. Something a bit more tangible than being regulated to funny sidekick or some sort of deranged fashionista. QAF made me laugh. It made me cry. Sometimes it just plain pissed me off. But the one thing it always did consistently was stimulate conversation and thought.

Yes, sex was an important part of the show. And I don’t think television has or ever will see gay sex quite the same way again. That’s the interesting thing. While most people were shocked by the graphic nature in which these character’s sex lives were portrayed, I think in the course of 83 episodes, that wore off and gave way to something much more meaningful and personal. For all of the naysayers who bitched about it being stereotypical, vulgar, and at worst, ridiculous (and I will admit, there were moments where I would scream at my television set, “that’s not Pittsburgh!”), there certainly were more moments that were much more relatable. Pos/Neg relationships. Gay marriage. Raising a family. Human rights. Not wanting to grow up. Not wanting to accept change. The impact being gay has on us and our loved ones. No other show on television has covered this much ground in one place.

And whether we admit it or not, we know people like the characters on that show. I don’t know too many Wills or Jacks, but I am surrounded by Michaels, Brians, Emmetts, and Teds. I may not identify with them all the time, but I know them. And although I’ve yet to come across a carbon copy of Debbie (who doesn’t love Sharon Gless?), I think most gay men, or a large percentage of them anyway, would tell you that our mothers are just as loyal and protecting. I know mine is.

For as many people who write it off as a silly gay soap opera or worse yet, a plague, there are many more people who enjoyed it and were affected by it in a good way. With the current political and social climate, I’m going to miss its unique voice. Maybe one day Queer As Folk will be seen as quaint and conventional and somewhere down the line a new show will come along and take the gay community to a different level. My guess is it depends on how things go in 2008. But I don’t think there will ever be a show quite like QAF again.

Thank God for DVDs.

Essential Download: "Proud" (Peter Pestra Finale Mix)
Artisit: Heather Smalls

Available On: Queer As Folk, The Final Season

Originally published in the September 2005 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.

August 01, 2005

The Other Side of the Mirror...

I absolutely dread the end of summer. No. I won’t miss the heat (and I don’t care what they say, this summer in Rochester has to be one for the record books) and God only knows my hair won’t miss the humidity. But as we move in to the fall, my spirits kind of sink. Before you know it, August is gone, September is half over, and bam, there’s the first week of October staring me in the face. Why does the idea of October make me recoil?

The first week of October signifies another passing year in my life. That’s right. My birthday. And every year I have to smile and nod when the people who love me try and celebrate my life, when in reality all I want to do is hide under the covers and wait for the whole thing to blow over. You see, like many people approaching the end of their twenties, I constantly fight myself as to where I am at this stage of my life. We have such lofty dreams when we’re younger, don’t we? I’m going to be wealthy. I’m going to have the partner of my dreams, the nice house with the picket fence, the kids and the dog running through the yard. I’m going to have that great job. I’m going to be loved by everyone who meets me. Hell, everyone who meets me is going to want to be me.

And then, as time passes you by, you wake up and realize that this may not happen for you. And this is where the vicious cycle of bullshit begins. You go from dreaming big to doubting even bigger. I’m never going to get ahead financially. I’m never going to fall in love again. Everyone and everything is going to pass me by. I’m going to die alone.

Why do we do this to ourselves? I’ll tell you why. It’s because we have constantly drilled into our heads the difference between success and failure all of our lives, and worse yet, there doesn’t seem to be any in between, at least as far as society goes. And by society, I mean gay and straight alike. I know I’m not going to win any popularity contests with the moral right. That’s a given. Quite frankly, I’m a little bit too loud and little bit too over the top for their taste. But I find sometimes the attitude among my own tribe, if you know what I mean, just as damning.

When did we start judging each other? I got into a huge debate the other day with a friend of mine because I refuse to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to supporting gay marriage. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t support it, but realistically, that’s not part of my life right now. The first boy I ever loved committed suicide because he, like so many of our youth, thought not living had to be better than living with this gay thing. It’s been 10 years since that happened and I’m still not ready to let that one go. Likewise, I have run out of fingers to count the people I have lost to disease, illness, or drug use in such a relatively short amount of time. How can I possibly wrap my head around domestic bliss or furthering the gay movement when I can’t even keep the people I love in my fucking life.

I’ll level with you. The only agenda I have is to try and get through another day on this earth, loving myself and the people around me just a little bit more and being the best version of Robby I can be. Sometimes dealing with myself seems more daunting than dealing with any kind of social cause. We have to stop this constant judging of ourselves and holding ourselves up to standards that we can not possibly conform to. And the biggest challenge of them all is to do this and not feel guilty about who or what we are at the moment, regardless of how people think we rate.

All I can hope is that in the next few months and with my birthday staring me in the face like some evil demon from a Clive Barker film is that I stop nitpicking my life to pieces and feeling shame for not being “successful” enough or for not feeling like the “right kind” of person and instead, embrace what accomplishments I have had, feel blessed for the life I do have, every unconventional moment of it, and be OK with the reflection in the mirror. I wish the same for everyone. I don’t know about you, but inner strength and confidence will be the first tools we need to make this a better world.

Essential Download: "Wouldn't It Be Good"
Artisit: Nik Kershaw

Available On: The Essential Nik Kershaw

Originally published in the August 2005 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.

July 01, 2005

I've Still Got My Pride...

I’ll never forget my first Gay Pride. It was just a few summers ago.

“A few summers ago? You’ve been out for years, though. Didn’t you come out in 199…?” Shhh! A diva never reveals his true age in public. But alas, yes, I had managed to go through several years of being out, loud and proud without stepping foot into a gay festival or parade (unless you count that wet underwear party a friend of mine threw in his dorm room, but that’s neither here nor there.)

It’s not that I never had an interest in going to one, you see. Every year something seemed to take precedent over me actually attending. You know the drill. You’re either working, sleeping (preferably with some hottie), or working. And besides, I really didn’t need to go to a park to hang out with a thousand gay men and lesbians, did I? Isn’t that what college life was for?
Well, the summer of 2003 was the year all that changed.

My best friend was in the process of getting married, and after nearly a year of helping her plan her special day, I was suffocating on, no offense, the straight fumes. I was dying to be among my own tribe. My salvation came in the form of a work assignment. I was friends with a pair that happened to own and run a local gay themed business. And like many local gay merchants during Pride, they closed the store those days, and took it on location, setting up booths at the festivities. My friends asked if I would be interested in tagging along and helping out. I couldn’t think of a reason not to, so I said sure.

So there I was that bright, sunny day in July, decked out in my flashiest summer wear, a bright red sequined shirt, jean shorts that gave the illusion that my ass is not as wide as the Grande Canyon (just the illusion, mind you, I’m not totally oblivious to the truth), pride beads, and my blonde hair piled high up on my head, curled, teased and sprayed within an inch of its life, topped off with a rainbow scarf. To some, I could have been mistaken as one of the floats traveling the parade route, but I didn’t care. I had gotten myself pumped up and was exited to be there.

My excitement was only rivaled by amazement. I had no idea just how spectacular Pride really could be. To see so many of my gay brothers and sisters out there celebrating was quite a sight. And so many different facets of gay life as well. Big, small, old, young, nelly, butch, black, white, what have you. Everyone was represented and it was a beautiful thing.

I danced along to the thumpa-thumpa blasting from the speakers. I sang along with the drag queens performing on the main stage. I laughed and frolicked through the sea of smiling gay faces around me. I met new friends, and ran into some old ones I hadn’t seen in a while. I even managed to actually help the friends that invited me. It was such an uplifting experience.

At the end of the day, I found myself sitting on a bench, drenched in sweat, my big blonde hair shot all to hell from all the heat and activity (note to self: humidity, hairspray, and bleached hair can only lead to bad, bad things), smoking a cigarette, beaming from ear to ear. I finally understood what all the fuss was about. I couldn’t help but regret that it took me so many years to be a part of it. If I had only known, I would have made attending Pride a priority.

Some people might not understand what the need for Gay Pride is. You often hear the joke, “What about Straight Pride?” Well, considering we live in a world built for straight folk, what about it? I think my straight counterparts have reasons to celebrate everyday. It’s not my fault they choose not to.

The reality is, Gay Pride is not just a party. It is and can be a personal celebration. I will choose my right to celebrate the Pride I do have for myself and the group I am proud to be among. And in doing so, not only might I feel a little better about myself, I will remember and acknowledge the gay men and women before me that risked their lives to provide me such an outlet. To me, that is need enough.

Essential Download: "As Long As He Needs Me"
Artisit: Judy Garland.
Available On: That Old Feeling

Originally published in the July 2005 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.

June 01, 2005

Is There Hair Color In Heaven?

“God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” We’ve all heard the religious right protest this at one time or another. It has always bothered me.

You see, before I moved to Rochester and became the fabulous diva you read before you, I was a little boy living in the Bible belt of Missouri. This meant more than a few Sunday school visits and Church sponsored summer camps. Looking back, I don’t remember much in the way of scandalous man on man action going on in the bible, because, trust me, if there had been, young Robby might have paid more attention. All kidding aside, what I did learn then, something that is still quite relevant now, is how subject the bible is to interpretation.

The Adam and Steve thing is quite irksome. I don’t think when Genesis was written, it was meant to imply anything about Adam and Eve‘s sexual orientation. Sure, the whole snake-forbidden fruit-temptation thing is a brilliant foray into metaphor, but tell me, why the instant homophobic retaliation? Does the scripture say something about Adam being tempted by the White Party? Am I missing something? Who makes this shit up?

I would love for anyone to show me just how he or she took the “Steve” leap from what was actually written. To me, Genesis is about what it says it is, God’s period of creation. I always thought Adam and Eve were included to represent examples of, rather than definitive versions of, man and woman. To me, they’re nothing more than models filling in the beautiful scenery. Kind of like the cast of The O.C. So yeah, it is Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve, but I hardly think that had anything to do with the blasphemy of homosexuality. Maybe there was a Steve, but maybe they ran out of tablets and had to cut his part. The same thing happened to Anne Francis in Funny Girl.

I’m also rather annoyed with the whole concept of equating the “evils” of homosexuality with the tales of Sodom and Gomorrah. Again, my bible study days taught me that those places were destroyed because its people were morally deviant and not charitable to others. Sure, the phrase “to know man” is a direct reference to sexual acts, but I’m more disturbed by the offering of two virgin daughters, which hardly seems to raise an eyebrow. Blatant prostituting of your own children or vague references to same sex action? Hmmm? Which one sounds more morally deviant to you? And the reference to same sex acts written there are those of violence and humiliation, which, for the record, don’t have anything to do with being gay, in my opinion.

Leviticus contains the oft-mentioned line, “Thou shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination.” It seems whenever someone gets a little too homo for comfort, this is what most bible beaters throw out to thinly disguise his or her contempt. I really want to send these people back to the fifth grade and hand them a dictionary. Abomination means to detest. Detest means to not like. Nowhere in either of those explanations does it say, “Robby, stay away from that penis or you’ll burn in hell.” The way I read it is, “God would rather you not do that.” Well, I’m sure Martha Stewart would rather I not alter one of her recipes because I’m too damn cheap to buy fresh ingredients either, but I hardly think I’m going to burst into flames over it.

I just find it aggravating how quick religious zealots are to throw their righteous perceptions of the bible on to us members of the gay community out of misconception and fear. I personally don’t put too much stock into the written scripture, because when my days on this Earth have come to an end, I don’t think I’m going to be having that great big one on one with a book.

As turn around is fair play, I propose to end this vicious cycle of perception of convenience with a few convenient perceptions of my own. Have you heard of The Ten Commandments? Yes, it was a brilliant movie by Cecil B. DeMille, but that’s not the one I’m talking about. I’m referring to those little guidelines we were raised on. Two of them seem extremely relevant to the topic at hand. “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain”, and “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour”. My perception of these? Don’t use God as an excuse for uneducated rhetoric and hatred and don’t judge my lifestyle solely based on a limited interpretation of what he (or she) may have supposedly said. I think we all know whom we ultimately have to answer to… and it’s not each other.

Essential Download: "If You're Ready (Come Go With Me)"
Artisit: The Staple Singers
Available On: The Best of the Staple Singers

Originally published in the June 2005 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.

May 01, 2005

Darling, I'm Your Auntie...What?

Once upon a time in a land not so very far away, there was a young man who thought he was the center of his queer universe. He knew all the right people, went to all the right places, and stood out in a crowd with his hair bleached within an inch of its life, and if it was covered in leopard print or sparkles, he found some way to wear it.

He was infamous for his naughty but fun ways. Girls adored his bubbly and campy personality, and boys envied his sexual freedom and his ability to be secure in who he was, without having to resort to the same old macho bullshit every other man around had to. Yes, he was the quintessential gay boy in a big city… and everyone loved him.

Well, I’m not quite sure when it happened, but somewhere between the ages of 22 and 26, I went from being that crazy gay kid having all the fabulous adventures to becoming the wiser elder gay all the other young crazy gays came to for advice and guidance. Yes kids, yours truly had become a modern day Auntie Mame.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this newfound role did not go over so well initially. I tried to handle the change with dignity and grace… OK, now I’m blatantly lying. I reacted like Joan Crawford in a dirty bathroom. I completely flipped my shit.

This isn’t happening to me! I’m young and fabulous! How can I be a washed up has been? I’m not even close to 30! Screw this! I’ll show them all! I’ll get botox! No. I don’t like needles, so no botox! I know, I’ll use those tape things, the ones that pull your eyelids back to your asshole. No. I can’t do that either. I’d probably end up looking less like Janet Jackson and more like Janet Reno, and how the fuck does that solve my problem?

Eventually, after several more conversations with myself, marathon viewings of Beaches, Steel Magnolias, and Terms Of Endearment (a trilogy of terror if there ever was one!), and a good old fashioned pity party, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and decided, in spite of my new position in the gay hierarchy, to go out and reclaim my life, no matter what version of my life I found myself in.

Things took an interesting turn a few weeks later. One evening while sitting with my friends, indulging in Cosmos, I noticed a young man sitting all by himself in the corner of the bar. His name was Jacob. Through other people, Jacob and I had become good acquaintances about a year prior. He was looking a little uncomfortable and little bit sad sitting there all alone nursing his beer. This troubled me.

“Hello Jacob darling!” I exclaimed, making a beeline for his corner table.

“Oh, hey Robby!” he lit up upon seeing me. “I haven’t seen you in a while. Where’ve ya been?”

Well, I’ve been dealing with a bit of a nervous breakdown the last three months because every year it gets a little bit harder to compete with you Abercrombie boys with your toothy grins, your perfect hair, and your tight little asses that look like they were carved out of marble.

“Well, you know. Busy writing and being fabulous!” I answered routinely. “How about you? What’s a sweet, pretty little thing like you doing all by yourself in the corner?”

“Oh nothing, really,” he offered glumly. “I don’t wanna ruin your night.”

“Oh don’t be ridiculous,” I protested. “Move on over and tell your Auntie Robby what’s going on.”

Did I just say that? Out loud?

Over the next hour, poor little Jacob poured his heart and soul out to me on the troubles of being one of the young, pretty ones. This kid was dealing with some issues. How everyone’s expectations of him were too high. How he wasn’t experienced enough in dealing with people, personally or professionally. He was also completely worked up about where he was on the gay scale. Was he 100 percent straight? Was he 100 percent gay? And what about his girlfriend?

“I feel trapped,” Jacob said.

“Trapped by what, honey?” I asked.

“All of these questions and the fact that here I am, 22, and have no freakin’ clue what I’m doing with my life,” he answered. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“Well for starters, do you honestly think all of these things running through your head are going to be taken care of in a day? Jacob, cultivating relationships, whether they be with someone you work with or someone you play with is a skill you will work on for the rest of your life. There is no one simple way to deal with people. The more you put yourself out there, though, the easier it becomes.”

“How do you put yourself out there, as you say, when you’re not even sure of who you are?” he asked.

“That’s the million-dollar question, honey. How much are you willing to admit to?” I asked. “Cause if you can’t admit to having certain attractions or tendencies, you’ve bigger issues to deal with.”

“I’m…um…you know…attracted to guys. And I’ve fooled around with some guys. I just don’t think that makes me completely gay. I mean, I do love my girlfriend.”

“I know you do," I reaffirmed, “First of all, being attracted to a member of the same sex does not mean you are gay. Trust me. I’m attracted to chocolate. That doesn’t make me a candy bar. And secondly, it’s perfectly natural for someone your age to be curious or maybe even to experiment a little.”

“What if it’s more than a little?” he inquired.

“Well, that can mean a few different things, too," I opined. “For some people, yes, that’s a pretty good indication that they’re not entirely straight. For others… well… you’re a 20-something and horny. Girl, boy, pillow, watermelon. It never seems to matter if your hormones are out of control.”

“I just wish I were as confident as you,” he said. “You seem so together and so sure of yourself. It’s hard for me though. I don’t know how to be like you. Everybody loves you. And you’re so much braver than I am. You’ve got the gay thing down pat and I can’t even make up my freakin’ mind! It’s so confusing.”

“Well, thank you for saying I’ve got the gay thing down pat (what does that mean exactly?), but I hate to burst your bubble, honey. It’s not like I sprang forth from my Mother’s loins singing Bette Midler with a rainbow boa sticking out of my ass (shut up Mother! I did not!). I’ve had a long time to deal with some of these issues. I bet I have a decade on you (note to self: do not use words like decade in public, they age you!) when it comes to dealing with some of this stuff. I’ve had my share of breakups, fuck ups, and triumphs. That’s just life in a nutshell. Gay or straight. You’ve got plenty of new adventures and experiences ahead of you that will most likely work all of this stuff out. Give yourself some more time to think about all of this. Remember, you’re only 22. You aren’t expected to have all of your shit together at this point. That would make the next 70 years of life quite boring, don’t you think? And don’t you worry too much about being like Robby here. You just work on being the best Jacob you can be and I promise you’re life will figure itself out.”

“Thanks, Robby,” Jacob offered sweetly, giving me a hug. “I’m glad I have you to talk to. No wonder everyone loves you.”

OK. So maybe this Auntie Mame thing isn’t so fucked up after all. It’s kind of nice being the one who seems to know everything for a change. God knows it feels better than all the stumbling it took to get here. My only request? Please let me be the Rosalind Russell version of Mame. Lucille Ball’s gives me heartburn!

Essential Download: "Popular"
Artisit: Original Broadway Cast
Available On: Wicked

Originally published in the May 2005 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.

April 15, 2005

Don't Get Me Started: Part II...

It’s been the same story all of my life.

“All you ever talk about is sex,” my best friend Aaron constantly admonishes me.

“Does everything about you have to be so sexual?” my girlfriend Amy asks.

Even Bertha, my long suffering Mother, has an opinion on this subject. “Nuthin’ you say could blow me outta the water. You’ve always been racy.”

That’s right, kids. Yours truly is racy! I feel like a modern day Mae West!

Let’s consider the facts for a moment, shall we? First of all, I’ve been a practicing gay since before the days when showering was mandatory after gym in high school, so the topic of sex in general has been part of my vernacular for at least 15 of my 27 years on this planet. Secondly, pop culture is a huge part of who I am. I’m a product of the 80’s and 90’s, which means I grew up with the images of Boy George, Madonna, George Michael, and Prince expressing themselves with their sexuality all over the place. These people defined the words controversial and provocative for my generation. These two details are related in the sense that the latter was instrumental in making the former less traumatizing for me when I “came out". In other words, Hey, that Madonna has some set of balls and doesn’t take any shit from anyone. Maybe I can be that way too!

Sex has never been a dirty word to me. I see nothing inappropriate or shameful in having it or talking about it.

"But why must sex be the center of your conversation?" I can still hear some of you asking.

Well, quite frankly, that question is the number one reason why I just won’t let the damn thing go. First off, who the hell is anyone to question my right to speak about anything, period? That’s a big pet peeve of mine. If I want to run up and down East Avenue screaming the words cock gobbler, you bet your sweet ass this big bitch is going to (I have never actually done this...really, I haven't!). What most people don’t seem to understand is that the people who take the most offence to my general inappropriateness are pretty much the people I’m targeting in the first place. And why am I targeting these people? That’s simple. These are the people that need to get over me talking about sex and 1) worry about the bigger issue (which I will get to in a moment) and perhaps 2) fucking have some already and stop taking their insecurities regarding the subject out on me just because of my progressive attitude towards it!

The biggest reason I'm so headstrong about the issue of sex is that so many of my younger brothers and sisters are hurting themselves because what they are feeling is considered socially immoral and their fear of rejection keeps them from expressing themselves and talking about it. If we all had a little bit more of a relaxed attitude regarding sexuality, Little Christopher might have grown up not thinking he was disgusting and maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't have thought dying was somehow better than living in sin.

"Have you lost your mind? Relaxed attitude about sex? What? What? What? Are you asking us to promote sexuality? What about teenage pregnancy? What about the rise in STDs among teenagers?"

Um...well, yeah. There you go being part of the problem again, not a part of the solution. Maybe you should spend less time telling a crazy faggot like me that my subject matter is wrong, and more time with Little Jimmie telling him that although you would prefer he not have sex, if he does, there are things called education and protection that may save him some trouble down the road. Same goes for Little Susie. What better way to celebrate her sweet 16 than with a brand new car and some social enlightenment. Have that talk you've been putting off!

I’m not saying to hand the keys to the sexual castle to your children. I’m just saying that if the world were a little less freaked out about the topic of sex, people (kids specifically) wouldn’t be sneaking around doing God knows what, God knows where. I’m sure the idea of having a frank conversation with a parent or a kid over this is a bit intimidating and perhaps a bit embarrassing, but wouldn’t you much rather deal with that kind of feeling than the alternative? I would take my son or daughter telling me they were thinking about becoming sexually active and the ensueing conversation over them telling me they had contracted some awful disease any day.

It is my sincerest hope that one day, me being me and a phrase like wild, crazy, butt boy will hardly raise an eyebrow. Someday, people will share a laugh, and then we can shift our focus to issues that I think should really be disturbing people more like the atrocity of art and music programs being cut from public schools, taking care of our world so future generations can enjoy it, or who has the bigger penis, Tobey Maguire or Hayden Christensen? Fuck. Oh well. I guess we can’t expect things to change over night now can we?

Essential Download: "Human Nature"
Artisit: Madonna
Available On: Bedtime Stories

April 01, 2005

Don't Get Me Started: Part I...

Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in an endless sea of propaganda and symbolism. No, I’m not talking about what lunch would be like with Condoleezza Rice. I’m talking about everyday life. Everywhere I go it’s a constant barrage of what I like to call a case of the causes.

Did you ever stop and actually think about how many social causes people are supposedly really up in arms over these days? No. Of course you didn’t. You don’t have to. Fuck educating people or raising financial support, now days, we don’t really need to actually discuss these issues or do anything tangible to support them. Apparently all you really need to do is wear a ribbon. Who knew!?!

And what a crafty affair picking a ribbon has become! There are so many colors to choose from! You’ve got your red ribbon to support AIDS awareness. Pink is used for breast cancer awareness. Orange ribbons signify culture awareness. Yellow is used to promote the support of our troops. Green can be used to raise organ and tissue donor awareness. Tsunami relief supporters are wearing blue ribbons. If you want to raise awareness for domestic abuse, religious tolerance, eating disorders, sarcoidosis, or Alzheimer's, purple would be your color of choice. There are even rainbow pride ribbons to promote gay rights.

BUT WAIT! Tired of having to color coordinate your cause ribbon of choice with your wardrobe or hair? You don’t even have to wear the ribbon anymore! Instead, for the ultimate convenience, they make bumper sticker ribbons now. That’s right! Right next to your PROUD PARENT OF A STEPFORD HIGH SCHOOL HONOR ROLL STUDENT you can proudly display your sticker ribbon of choice, such as the red, white, and blue patriotism awareness sticker ribbon!

Now before all of you start sending me hate mail, or worse yet, send me to exile with all the other political radicals (although I wouldn’t mind meeting Jane Fonda, Barbra Streisand, or Susan Sarandon, who I share a birthday with, I’m not going within 12, 000 miles of Alec Baldwin...or any other Baldwin brother for that matter!), please understand something. I’m not trying to be flippant about any of these social causes.

Have you ever cleaned up the sick from someone suffering from a complication because of his or her HIV status? I have. Do you make it your business to get to know people that aren’t carbon copies of yourself? I do. Have you ever written a letter to a man or a woman serving our country, in spite of your own personal feelings regarding the war on terrorism? I have. Have you ever spent your free time sitting in a hospital with an elderly person who is undergoing cancer treatment because, with their advanced dementia, you happen to be one of the few people they seem to remember consistently? I have.

My issue is not with the people who do donate their money and or their time to all of these social concerns. To those people, wear that ribbon with pride if you must. My annoyance lies with certain people who throw on a ribbon or a bumper sticker because they think that it's the politically correct thing to do, with no regard to actually dealing with the issue they are so called “supporting”.

I feel obligated to bitch as loudly as I can in protest about how society seems to think that by having a ribbon or a sticker this somehow implies that they have done an incredible service to the world, like they deserve some sort of award for doing or saying the right thing. Hell, if that were the case, I would be first in line for a humanitarian award just for dealing with some of these fuckwits without being led away in hand cuffs. But do you see me asking for one? No. And I’m not wearing a ribbon for it either (although... if I were, it would be teal and it would promote society ignorance awareness What? Teal is already being used to promote other cancers and substance abuse awareness? Really? Interesting).

It has been said time and time again that actions speak louder than words. When I think about what I have actually contributed to raising awareness and supporting certain social concerns, in my heart I know my accomplishments. And for the record, I don’t need a fucking ribbon to acknowledge that.

Can you say the same?

Essential Download: "Trouble"
Artisit: Pink
Available On: Try This

March 01, 2005

The End of Civilization As I Know It...

I hadn’t talked to my girlfriend Rosie in quite some time. One night, when I was done saving the world for yet another day (actually, I had been touching up my roots, but believe you me, with one less person roaming the streets with fucked up looking hair, I feel the world is a much safer place), I decided to call her.

“Hey honey, can I call you back? I’m watching Survivor. Someone’s getting voted off the island!” she squealed.

“Um...sure,” I replied

A few weeks later, something similar occurred with my best friend Louise and her husband.

“Hi Robby. Can you call us back after ten? Rob and I are watching The Apprentice.”

“Um...sure,” I replied.

The next day I was having lunch with my friends Andrew and Steven.

“So you guys wanna go see The Phantom Of the Opera with me next week?” I asked, between bites of my salad.

“That would be cool,” Steven answered. “What night?”

“Wednesday,” I said.

“Shit, we can’t,” Andrew spoke up.

“Oh damn, that’s right,” Steven continued. “They’re having finalist week on American Idol. Sorry.”

I almost choked on my food. If a fork were a deadly weapon, I would have seriously considered using it on both of them at that moment.

When did people stop living their own lives just to turn around and watch people live their's on national television? It doesn’t make a whole helluva lot a sense to me.

“I bet if it was a gay one you’d be a watchin' it,” Big Bertha countered when I posed this question to her at our weekly family dinner. Big Bertha, by the way, is my Mother. This is the alias she has chosen in the event that she made her way into my work. As she is the woman who coined the phrase “I look like mousey under the tub,” when I introduced her to highlighting, I thought, one, how could I not write about her, and two, Big Bertha? With everything else she says and does, why not? (For the record, if anyone knows just what the fuck “mousey under the tub” means, please e-mail me! I’m morbidly curious).

“There are gays ones, Mother, and they don’t interest me either. I mean, really. I’ve got better things to do with my time than to watch five grown men prance around playing fairy godmother to a hapless straight dude. I do that everyday. Where’s my television show?”

“Well, when you was younger you used to watch that Real World. Remember? It had that nice homosexual on it. What was his name?”

“His name was Norman, Mother. And I was 12. Besides, the only reason I watched that show was because the other roommate, Eric, had a great body, not to mention a fantastic ass.”

After making the sign of the cross, Big Bertha turned to me and said, “Well, to each his own I always says. Maybe you ain’t suppost to understand why people watch 'em. Hell, I don‘t understand why people do half the shit they do. I reckon' its their own damn business.”

Was my Mother actually on to something? Or was she clearing a blockage? It’s often very hard to tell with her. Not being the kind of person to let something be, I decided the only way to find out what the appeal was to all of these reality shows was to sample a few myself. And let me tell you, kids, the results were not pretty. My opinions will be fast and furious.

Donald Trump can afford better hair. How about he hire a hairdresser first, then someone to run one of his companies? Of course, they’d have to call Somebody Do His Fucking Hair, not The Apprentice, and something tells me NBC wouldn’t like that. Oh well. It’s their loss. The blonde from The Bachelorette? It’s funny, really. During the entire hour, whenever she went to open her mouth, all I could hear was the ocean. The Biggest Loser. I just assume serve my ass up on golden platter at the local prison than to talk about my weight on national television. You couldn’t pay me enough. The appeal of Survivor was lost on me as well. I go camping every summer in Canada with my friends. They’ll be the first to tell you that being stuck in the woods for three days with me is hard enough. Fuck this whole being stranded on an island bullshit. They wouldn’t have a show. I would have gotten pissed off and would have just eaten everybody at the first opportunity. And American Idol? I don’t need the aggravation. I get exasperated with Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson as it is. And they have legitimate record deals. And speaking of American Idol, when did Paula Abdul become an authority on singing? That would be like me having Dick Cheney as my wedding planner. Now who the fuck thinks that’s a good idea?

And that’s just plain old regular network television. The amount of reality based programming that’s popped up on cable damn near staggers me as well. My Mother mentioned MTV’s The Real World. What about it? It’s never been as great as it was the first two years (yummy Eric who I mentioned before and Season Two’s resident diva/fabulous bitch Tami!), so why bother? I have caught a few glimpses here and there of the most current season and I have to tell you, save for the blonde, buff, damn, I want to eat his ass M.J., the rest of the show is about as tolerable as the Q-tip test at the local STD clinic. But I digress. A&E has Growing Up Gotti. I couldn’t even get through the first five minutes...and I love Victoria Gotti! She’s a tough, take no prisoners kind of broad, and I can relate to that. But would someone please call her and tell her to get control of those ridiculous hair extensions, not to mention those obnoxious brats she calls her children (okay, I’ll admit it, in a few years, all of her boys are gonna be fine as hell, but Christ almighty, for the time being, can someone just tell them to shut the hell up, stand there, and look pretty?).

I was less annoyed with TLC’s offerings, but not by much. I can’t deal with Trading Spaces. I’m sure host Paige Davis is a terrific person, she certainly is perky enough. But I’m almost certain that anyone whose voice can trigger seizures should probably be avoided. On the flip side, designer Barry Wood can redecorate my house anytime he wants. He’s so cute! Host Evan Farmer and handyman Jason Cameron from While You Were Out have the same effect on me, and trust me, they are the only reasons to watch that show. In a Fix gets a few points because I think crewmember Greg Carey is just hysterical. But the only show I would actually watch again is What Not To Wear. Fashion gurus Stacy London (Girl, I love you in those shoes!) and Clinton Kelly (Girl, I love you in those pants!) are two of the cattiest bitches on television. They will tell you exactly what they think of you! And I live for that shit! But even still, I’m not going to shut the world out on a Friday night just to watch the damn thing. That’s why we have VCRs kids (and for those of you living in the future, insert DVDR in place of VCR.)

This whole reality television craze has led me to one conclusion. God, this country is starved for real culture and entertainment. I'm so thrilled to be able to point this out to you! My advice? Turn off the television, return those phone calls to the people you blew off in order to watch all of this crap, and then do something stimulating. It's called reading a book. Or, at the least, keep reading my columns!

Essential Download: "Why Do the Wrong People Travel"
Artisit: Elaine Stritch
Available On: Elaine Stritch: At Liberty