December 01, 2007
But sometimes I do need something to guide my spirit. There has always been one thing that gets me through beginning a fresh new year and it doesn’t involve drinking special bottled holy water, wearing a red string on my wrist, or worshipping L. Ron Hubbard. It’s The Serenity Prayer. No longer solely for twelve steppers, this prayer gives hope and strength to the, well, hopeless and the strength-less, and anyone else for that matter willing to take it into consideration (ahem, Miss Spears?). I know in my many moments of uncertainty and upheaval, I take comfort in the prayer and try to remember it and how it applies to my life.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...”
One of the biggest issues I’m facing in my life right now is one of identity. Anyone who’s making that jump from young adult to full-fledged adulthood knows what I’m talking about. My priorities sometimes feel like they fluctuate as much as Oprah’s weight. Things that didn’t seem to mean a whole lot to me before (“Mom, calm down. You just saw me a week ago!”) now have some new found strange importance (“Mom, I’ve called you twice today! Why didn’t you answer?”). The same can be said for the opposite. Once upon a time I couldn’t imagine going a day without talking to my close circle of friends. Today I’m not always exactly sure who they are anymore. It’s the circle of life I suppose and there’s no stopping it. I’m trying to accept that there are certain things in life that go on in ways you cannot predict or alter. It’s bittersweet, often terrifying one moment and exhilarating the next, but absolutely necessary into order to grow.
“… courage to change the things I can.”
On a larger scale, I struggle, like most of our community, to deal with the fact there are people and forces in this world that would just as soon I shut the hell up and go away than acknowledge my existence. Well, I’m a loud mouthed, flamboyant, up in your face queen and steadfastly refuse to go gently into that good night. What I have to say may not be earth shattering, but one, I have a God given right to say whatever the hell I want to say and b, if every member of the LGTBQI (and whatever other letter we have co-opted this month to be all inclusive) stood up and said their peace, wouldn’t that really be something? Okay, it would probably be a little psychotic, but go with me on this. I don’t care who you are, what you do or who you do, everyone needs to speak up for what they believe in and support it. And not just when it’s convenient, but everyday, without question. Especially when it comes time to decide who’s running our towns, cities, states, and country.
“…and wisdom to know the difference.”
Many years ago, while in the midst of some good old fashioned growing pain angst, a good friend of mine gave me a wonderful piece of advice: pick your pain. It’s taken me the better part of decade, but she will be relieved to find out I finally get what she was saying. I have come to realize that no one is destined for eternal sunshine and happiness. If they are, they will probably be hit by a truck or have a house drop on them. Some days, life can seem a bit overbearing and not worth facing. I have those moments, more times than I care to truly admit. Sometimes all I want to do is pull the covers over my head and block the world out. Wouldn’t that be easier than having to face people at work when you’re not in the mood? Wouldn’t that take the sting out of feeling like you’ve been rejected by the people you love and have spent a lifetime with when you realize their lives have moved on without you? Wouldn’t isolating yourself completely protect you from feeling like a one in sea of twos? Sometimes I think it would, but I know in my heart that there are always at least two answers when you’re faced with a choice. You can ignore reality and suffer alone OR you can muster up whatever ounce of self-esteem and strength you have left to stare such depression in the eye and deal with it. Neither is easy and both are painful, but you must choose. I choose to pick myself up, dust myself off, make sure the mop of unruly hair attached to my head isn’t too devastating, and face these challenges head on. I may moan, I may grumble, but damn it, I live. Because somewhere along the way there will be a good day at work, new friends to be made, and perhaps, another one looking to be a two with me.
However you choose to embrace your New Year, I wish you much love, success, and best wishes in all the things that mean something to you!
Essential Download: "Full Of Grace"
Artisit: Sarah McLachlan
Available On: Surfacing
Originally published in the December 2007 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published LGTB newspaper since 1973, through the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
November 01, 2007
I’ve been fully invested in this little group ever since.
Now if only I would invest in a watch.
“Sorry I’m late,” I called across the café, ushering myself to my waiting table.
“What was it this time? Or should we ask who?” Dylan, a late twenty something, recovering frat boy turned educator inquired about my usual tardiness with a smirk before sipping his usual hot chocolate. Because he actually has quite the flair for writing poetry and, well, he’s pretty (I’m a complete sucker for anyone with blue eyes and curly blonde hair); I tend to overlook his snarky demeanor. Almost.
“You better be careful,” I cautioned him. “That drinks gonna go straight to your ass and in a few years, that’s probably all you’ll have left, so be kind to it.”
“Clever,” he bellowed. “Hey, there’s an idea for your next column. Serial Blonde and his time of the month.”
“Okay boys, enough,” Chandra, our group’s ringleader piped in, “put them away. You’re both huge. Speaking of huge, I have some very exciting news.”
“That was the most awkward segue way ever,” I replied. “But do tell.”
“My friend Rachel has asked me if I would like to guest lecture her creative writing class,” she began.
“That is quite exciting,” Yue Ying responded shyly. She arrived in the states from her native China less than a year ago to continue her education. She often feels like the odd girl out. I think she’s fabulous.
“If this works out, this could be a great opportunity for the more qualified members of our little group to do the same. This is why we write, after all.”
“To bring people together through use of the written word,” Alexander faithfully offered. Sweet, loveable, slightly nerdy Alex. Sometimes I just wanna hug him, most of the time I wanna mess his hair up a little bit, tear the glasses off his face and plead with him to live, just live. Kind of like Mame did with the Gooch.
“That’s great honey, but qualified?” Chandra’s fiancé Nicolas asked.
“She means her, me and Blondie,” Dylan offered dryly.
“Huh?” I stumbled, nearly spilling my delicious fruit smoothie.
“That’s what she means by qualified. We’re published. We have more experience to share,” he explained in his usual deliberate, pretentious manner.
“Let’s not over inflate that already bulbous ego of yours,” I recovered, dismissing him. “I’m proud of my column but I’m not going to stand up in front of a class and act like I’m hot shit because of it. Besides, Chan’s got the book deal. I’m merely an amateur.”
“If I had two years of published columns to my name I wouldn’t be so blasé about it,” Dylan fired back. “Quite a bit of my poetry has won contests and have been published several times. I think that’s worth bragging about. There’s no room for modesty in this world. Writer’s can use all the positive attention they can get.”
“Perhaps if you spent less time bragging you might actually get some positive attention.”
“Um, guys?” Alex meekly interrupted. “That’s kind of putting the cart before the horse, don’t you think? Chan’s not even given her first lecture yet.”
With that, dear readers, like the Dallas Cowboys against the Buffalo Bills, the geeky kid in the corner put the kibosh on any chance of either Dylan or myself winning this particular pissing contest.
“Okay, we’ll revisit this topic at another time,” Chandra, who at this point had a face on her making her look like she was standing next to Bambi’s mother when she was shot, attempted to move things forward. “Right now I believe Yue Ying’s ready to share some of her writing with us.”
“Yes, thank you,” she answered. “Before I read to you what I have written, Blossom in a Field of Wheat, I have a question for Robert. What does it mean for one to act like hot shh…” at which point the poor girl covered her mouth and turned about twelve shades of red.
Nicolas hid a smile. Dylan of course smirked. Chandra glared at me like Satan was sitting on my lap feeding me grapes. Curiously, the only person who didn’t react was Alex, who could hardly take his eyes off Yue Ying.
“You are too much,” Nicolas chuckled half an hour later walking me to my car.
“I think your bride to be is gonna kill me.” I replied.
“Are you kidding? She loves you. She thinks you’re a hoot. She just doesn’t want you and Dylan scaring people away.”
“She should actually be concerned about me scaring Dylan away. I’m this close to telling that blowhard to….”
“Oh stop,” Nicolas interrupted. “Leave the poor little straight boy alone. He puffs up and gets all haughty because you intimidate him. He’s not that bad a guy. Chandra grew up with him and she's a pretty good judge of character.”
“Since when is narcissism good character?” I asked.
“Well, I put up with Nic,” Chandra answered, joining us.
“And I love you almost as much as I love myself honey,” he kidded, kissing her forehead.
“PDA’s are so passé,” I admonished them.
“You know, I thought you were supposed to be sweet and funny,” Chandra joked.
“Sweet like battery acid,” I replied, to which Nicolas laughed and nodded.
“Oh, pooh on both of you,” she replied. “Until next week?”
“Until next week,” I answered climbing into my car.
Rather a motley crew of personalities this group has turned out to be, but isn’t that what I wanted? I think so.
“Catch you later, Blondie”, Dylan mumbled, walking by my car.
On the other hand, maybe I should reassess how broad I want my new circle to be.
Essential Download: "What Is This Feeling?"
Artisit: Idina Menzel, Kristen Chenoweth & Company
Available On: Wicked
Originally published in the November 2007 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published LGTB newspaper since 1973, through the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
October 01, 2007
So of course the minute my cell phone chirped with the text message confirming Miss Hot Mess 2007 Britney Spears had secured the much coveted opening number of this year's MTV Video Music Awards, I was positively giddy. I live for these kinds of career altering moments. I would, for the sake of supporting another well-loved diva whose stock has plummeted, of course clear my schedule and tune in. With all this girl has had to contend with this last year or so, surely it was the least a fan could do. And yes, I’m not ashamed to admit it either; I am a huge Britney Spear’s fan.
I still remember the first time I heard “Hit Me Baby One More Time”. It was the summer of 1998 and my then twenty one year old self was completely blown away by this ambitious sixteen year old girl dressed up as a slutty school girl, singing her hear heart out and dancing her ass off. But it has not always been easy. Have you seen Crossroads? Gay fan boys can be a prickly and judgmental bunch when pressed. We hold our idols on very high pedestals and not surprisingly, our expectations of them are just as high. But we are also extremely loyal and will defend our divas with every ounce of our beings, sometimes to the point of ridiculousness (guilty). We make excuses for their questionable behavior with statements like, “She’s under so much pressure! It’s so hard to be her”, with the same conviction someone might say, “He didn’t really mean to hit me. My face just got in the way!” With the Brit becoming more associated with the phrases loser ex-husband, bad mother, and train wreck, I was looking forward to seeing her put all the nastiness behind her, give a big screw you to the critics and nay sayers, and remind the world what multimillion album selling and metric butt load earning star power is.
So, there I was that Sunday night, 8:59pm, sitting on the edge of my seat.
The clock struck 9:00pm, I held my breath, and the show began.
"It’s Britney, bitch!"
And as we all know, the world did a collective, “what the hell was that?”
At approximately 9:03pm, my cell phone rang. My eyes were still glued in horror to the television screen and I was too numb to answer. About an hour later, when I regained the use of my limbs, I finally checked the awaiting message. It was my best friend Shannon.
“Hey. I just watched Britney’s little comeback there and I have one very important question. Did Kevin Federline fuck the dancing skills right out of her?”
Oh no. Here we go. This was not going to be pretty.
The headlines and news stories the next few days were all vicious. My diva loving defenses immediately kicked in overdrive.
“A drunk-looking Britney Spears bombed in her comeback attempt at the MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas.”
I don’t think she looked drunk. The poor thing looked nervous. Of course…a lot of people do drink they’re nervous.
“The ex Mrs. Federline aimed to bring the house down when she opened the MTV VMAs, but instead, she just looked like a house.”
Now that’s just mean. Okay, so she did seem a little thicker around the waist and she was sporting some extra junk in the trunk, but come on! She’s not a teenager anymore and she has had two kids in the last three years. People make it sound like she blew up like Aretha Franklin or something (no offense to the Queen of Soul). And seriously, if that girl is fat, then I’m a goddamn school bus.
“Spears poorly lip-synched her way through her show-opening performance of her new single "Gimme More”, wearing an ill-fitting sparkly black bikini and even more ill-fitting blond weave. Cuts to the audience revealed fellow artists rolling their eyes. 50 Cent looked like he might have just thrown up in his mouth, and Rihanna was flat-out laughing to a table guest.”
Heartless bastards, I tell you. So it wasn’t that great, but it wasn’t that bad either. Okay, except the hair. Her extensions were really, really bad. I can say this because I personally know the woe that can be frightful looking fake hair. I have on more than one occasion (okay, often) sported some pretty fugly looking ones myself. But I digress. The amount of hateful criticizing and shredding she is getting over a three minute performance is a bit much. What ever happened to rooting for the under, ahem, dog? And on a side note, as far as Rhianna is concerned…go ahead and laugh, girlie. You’re weave may be fierce and your song may be catchy, but you’re not Beyonce. So there!
I know. I’ve reached crazy. I do that a lot. It’s just that I want so badly for Britney to climb back to the top of her game. I want the media to be kissing her ass again, like they used too. This is what I expect from my divas. If they can rise above it, turn it around, and work it until they are loved and successful, then maybe the common folk, like me, stand half a chance to make it in this world filled with competition and disillusionment.
Just in case, perhaps I should save some energy for Mandy Moore’s musical comeback. She’s not gone off the rails, has she?
Essential Download: "Gimme More"
Artisit: Britney Spears
Available On: Britney Spear's Forthcoming Untitled CD, to be released November 13, 2007.
Originally published in the October 2007 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published LGTB newspaper since 1973, through the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
September 01, 2007
No, I’m not becoming a gay republican. I’m turning thirty.
Go ahead and ask it. Don’t you mean twenty-nine, again? Wink. Nudge.
No. I’m turning thirty. The big 3-0. Three decades old. Ass over teakettle over the hill I go.
In spite of what gay mythology supposedly teaches guys like me (that any man over twenty-nine may as well be put down and out of his misery), I really am okay with it. In fact, I haven’t been this excited about something since that night in high school when I got drunk with that boy from the lacrosse team who unbuttoned his jeans and asked me to…well…never mind. But seriously, I have waited all my life for this moment. And damn it, no one is going to rain on my parade. Not even myself.
When I think about turning thirty I can’t help but travel back to the years that have passed by. When I think about those times I tend to envision a giant road sign saying CONSTRUCTION ZONE AHEAD, or more often than not, DISASTER IMMENINENT! TURN BACK! Too bad I didn’t see those signs then. I was probably too busy fussing with my hair. Some things never change. In any case, if life is a work in progress, for the longest time I was the world’s shittiest employee. And it all started from day one.
My childhood was not a simple one. My family moved around a lot. My parents fought a lot. My brother disappeared a lot. I was left to my own devices; you guessed it, a lot. There’s nothing like starting your life where the glass is not just half empty, but the glass is shattered beyond repair kind of mentality to really set the stage for excellence.
As a teenager, I became sexually active with a boy my age from the neighborhood and we sort of bungee jumped into this whole new world called gay without knowing a whole helluva lot about it. We stumbled through the ups and downs of coming out, clumsily explored our way through sex (yes, even I at one point in my life have uttered the phrase, “You are so not putting that thing in there!”), and longing for acceptance. Unfortunately, there was so much more we never got to see through. He committed suicide and was buried on my eighteenth birthday. Now isn’t that just a ducky way to ring in adult hood?
And speaking of adulthood, please. My twenties were a nightmare of epic proportions. A series of disasters one right after the other, including, but certainly not limited to, me finding myself on the wrong side of the law, more than a few love affairs that went nowhere (or at least nowhere I wanted to be), watching more people in my life die, almost dying myself (most people go on vacation, I spent spring break 2003 quarantined to the hospital hooked up to machines unable to walk. Woo hoo!), and feeling like the most pathetic, useless failure allowed to walk on two legs. I wandered around with no direction or responsibility and became nearly impossible to be around lest you wanted to be taken down with me. Britney Spears is an amateur compared to who I was back then. Quite frankly, the only thing that didn’t suck ass occurred in my mid twenties, which was the day my therapist diagnosed me manic-depressive. I could have danced a fucking jig around his office with that newfound piece of information. Actually, seeing as how I spent most of those years in a blur alternating between one extreme mood and another, I probably did dance a jig around his office. But at least now I had an excuse.
So what the hell does any of this have to do with taking that giant leap over the hill you are probably asking? The answer is surprisingly simple. If you have ever felt disillusioned, broken, or aimless like I have, you may find yourself one day, if you’re lucky, face to face with the stunning realization that you can choose to be a victim of circumstance and trudge through the rest of your life pissed off and bitter, you can continue to embark on paths that lead you to nothing but headaches and horseshit, OR you can wake up and say enough is enough and get your ass in gear and turn things around. There’s no one stopping you but yourself. At least that was my case.
I choose to look at turning thirty as a fresh start because my eyes are finally open to the endless sea of possibilities that are all waiting for me and I’m ready to store a good deal of my emotional baggage in the overhead compartment. It in itself is a milestone I got this far to begin with, so why not celebrate and embrace it. It really is about time I got over that broken glass thing and just got myself a new one for God’s sake.
And besides, turning thirty surely guarantees me a kick ass party.
Essential Download: "Something Good"
Artisit: Elaine Stritch
Available On: At Liberty!
Originally published in the September 2007 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published LGTB newspaper since 1973, through the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
August 01, 2007
But, lo and behold, there I was standing in line in my pajamas, purchasing a ticket to the midnight opening of the latest Harry Potter film alongside hundreds of what I call the Stepford families and various other types that I generally avoid close contact with.
I must tell you, in case you’re one of the three people left on Earth unaffected by this particular madness, these Potter-heads are crazy as hell. People plan their entire lives around Harry related activities. Book release parties are penciled in and chunks of time are blocked off like major surgery. The books themselves are preordered and reserved months in advance (God help us all, the initial print run is only 12 million copies!). Opening night of the films spawns itineraries. If only this amount of precision were used in dealing with cultural affairs.
But I digress.
When I approached the ticket counter, a weary young man with glazed over eyes wearing a Gryffindor scarf routinely asked, “May I help you?” Why do they ask that? Am I really in a position to say no? Seizing the moment, I of course replied dryly, “Yes, one for Sicko, please.”
He didn’t laugh.
While waiting in line for a cold beverage, I zeroed in on a handful of conversations going on around me.
“This is like going to be so cool!” a heavily made up teenage girl, who by the way, was wearing an outfit consisting of approximately one square foot of material, shrieked to her coterie of baby Paris clones. Eeek.
“Yo dawg! Just get me some popcorn. If I get a drink I’ll need to piss before this movie gets out, yo,” a frat boy hollered to his, um, homies. And speaking of frat boys, fellas, if you’re going to insist on wearing your pants down around your ass, just do us all a favor. Save us the trouble and just take them off and paint a target on your cheeks. At least then I would be amused.
“Yes Mason, we will sit up front if there are seats available,” a Mother kept repeating to one of the six children she had glued to her hip. “Molly, get off of Michael’s cape. You’re going to rip it.” The man in this family was staring off into space. Perhaps he was wishing he had invested more in birth control than J.K. Rowling’s fortune. Again, eeek!
I found myself growing more and more resentful to these horrendous people who were here daring to watch the same move as I. Surely, I was above all this. By the time I took my seat in the crowded auditorium, I could feel a Robby moment coming on (which, for those you unfamiliar, is an emotional state I can only characterize as being what happens when my mind starts to race with bewilderment and rage, thus manifesting itself into a full blown Joan Crawford-scrubbing-the-bathroom-floor outburst.)
“Why the hell am I here?” I thought to myself. “Surely there has to be more enlightening and productive things I could do with my time. But no! I’m sitting here with 180 crazies all for the sake of a sixteen-year-old wizard who’s got a screwed up life. Well, get in line pal! Whose life isn’t! Curse you Jo Rowling. And you too Warner Brothers for sucking me in.”
Just as the froth from the foaming of my mouth was starting to make its way down my chins, I glanced over to next section of seats and noticed two women holding hands. Sitting on one side of them was an elderly couple with two children. On the opposite side was another woman sitting between two men, one of whom happened to be wearing a PRIDE necklace.
Praise the Lord! My people have come to save me from suburban overkill! Impulsively, I grabbed my things and barreled my big ass over to the vacant seat next to them.
“Is this seat taken?” I asked, trying to regain composure.
“Not at all. Have a seat,” the man in the PRIDE necklace answered.
“Thanks,” I replied.
“Are you here by yourself?” he asked.
Am I being picked up at a kid’s movie?
“That’s smart. I had to bring everyone I know,” he continued warmly.
“Been there, done that,” I answered back. “Last week you would have thought I was organizing a global summit trying to get my friends to commit to Transformers.”
“My name’s Bryan, by the way,” he offered. “And this is my best friend Jennifer, her boyfriend Adam, my cousin Liz, her girlfriend Sam, their kids, and our grandparents”, he shared.
“I’m Robby,” I smiled and waved to the row of people.
The Queen of England has nothing on me.
They all waved back, except for Grandma, who looked confused. I don’t think the poor dear knew whether she was at a movie or, with the inclusion of yours flaming truly, a gay pep rally.
Bryan and I continued chatting for the next several minutes. In between testing our individual Potter knowledge, the fierceness that is Dame Maggie Smith, and gay life in Rochester (I embrace it, he thinks its non existent), my sour mood began to lift and I started to think maybe this night wouldn’t be the catastrophe I anticipated.
As the night progressed, Bryan and I ended up whispering comments to each other all throughout the movie. We booed and hissed Dolores Umbridge. We laughed out loud at the Weasley Twins. We even debated whether or not Hermione Granger would make a good fag hag (me thinks so).
Crazy people be damned, it ended up being a pretty fantastic outing after all.
Now if only I had paid more attention to the movie.
Essential Download: "Feels Like I'm In Love"
Artisit: Kelly Marie
Available On: The Ultimate Collection
Originally published in the August 2007 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published LGTB newspaper since 1973, through the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
July 01, 2007
“You’re a good balance of being opinionated and witty. I USED to think Rosie O’Donnell was both, but I’m not so sure anymore. She seems to have grown hateful and angry. Sometimes I wonder just who the hell does she think she is? What do you make of Rosie?”
Get a drink and snack, kids. We’re going to be here a while.
I think it’s safe to say that Rosie O’Donnell is a multi-faceted individual. She’s often funny and good-natured. Her enormous fan base supports this. On the other hand, we’ve all seen her grows horns and spit fire when debating issues ranging from politics to religion, from The Bush to The Donald. Through her many sides, one thing is consistent. She is always passionate.
And I say more power to her.
We should all be so lucky to be strong enough to use our stature and prominence in society to address issues we think are important to provoke conversation and thought. Regardless of what the popular opinion is, Rosie does this, sometimes effectively, sometimes like a bull in a china shop, but damn it, at least she does it. I would much rather listen and watch her foam at the mouth over something that concerns, insults or offends her than deal with the alternative, which are the blank, vapid expressions and statements made by the likes of say a Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan, who God bless, couldn’t string together a point of view between them if their fucking lives depended on it. Even at her most pissed off and angry, I’ll take an aggressive point of view over the sound of dead space between your ears any day. Even if it means picking on that sweet little Kelly Ripa.
And what about Rosie’s anger and bitterness? I’m always perplexed at why anger is such a foreign phenomena to people. Maybe it’s because half of us are dependent on mood stabilizers (guilty) or just too jaded (also guilty) to feel outraged about the funkiness that clouds our world anymore that we all get in a snit when someone dares to blemish our cool collected facades with cold hard facts or personal ideas. And to be perfectly honest with you, if you allow yourself to think about it for just a second, aren’t the things she’s angry and outspoken about WORTH BEING ANGRY OVER? What about the atrocities being bestowed upon the Iraqi people, here and abroad, allegedly all in the name of fighting the war on terror? What about the lack of equality among people in our country because of our differences in gender, race, or sexual orientation? How can you not feel something? You or I may not always agree with her particular point of view, or the manner in which she chooses to get her point across, but I think anyone with half a brain cell left in their head would agree that yes, these things deserve to be addressed in some fashion. At least angry and bitter prove she has a conscience and pulse.
Though being opinionated and marching to the beat of one's own drummer is also my forte, my real admiration for Rosie stems from the things about her that don’t make the headlines or get worldwide attention. The side of Rosie that doesn’t impress so called critics and journalists: the sincere one.
Take for instance her much talked about coming out publicly in 2001. Though hardly anyone was shocked (I always just assumed she was in our family), the media (including the gay press) had a field day running with why it took her so long to do it. Was she ashamed? Was she under pressure to hide it? No. She simply didn’t think it was anyone’s business or worth the commotion. Instead, she was eventually prompted to come out publicly to lend her name and support to an important cause she believes in: the welfare of children.
That year, addressing the state law in Florida banning gay adoption, Rosie, who at the time had a foster child, said openly “Come to find out, in order to adopt this child, I would have to perjure myself, would have to sign a document that says in the state of Florida that I am not bisexual or homosexual. The fact that I was unwilling to sign that document meant the child was removed from the house.”
Though her stature and financial security enabled her to adopt her first three children (unrelated to the Florida ban) and live a life few LGTB people have the opportunity to, she stood up and spoke out for not only herself, but those who were being unjustly and negatively affected by this ban.
But no talks about this.
In 1997, Rosie O’Donnell launched Rosie's For All Kids Foundation, a nonprofit charity dedicated to helping disadvantaged children and low-income families through grants that provide early childhood care, education and other essential programs. Through money raised by Rosie-sponsored products and events and public donations, her organization has raised approximately sixty million dollars for its cause.
No one talks about this either.
So to answer my reader’s first question, the things I’ve mentioned are probably a better description and indication of who the hell Rosie O’Donnell thinks she is.
We just don’t hear about it.
Given this, as far as I’m concerned, Rosie O’Donnell can say whatever the hell she wants to who ever the hell she wants to. I’d even put up with her head spinning around like Linda Blair in The Exorcist with smoke shooting out of her ears, because plain and simple, the woman’s actions have always spoken louder than her words (though she would probably be the first to deflect that and say no, she can be pretty loud.) She, without fanfare and glory, does more than anyone will ever truly give her credit for. But this doesn’t matter to her. She’ll continue dish it out and take it in her true Rosie style, all the while modestly doing the work that means the most to her.
So, to answer my reader’s real question (just in case I haven’t knocked you over with my point of view yet!), what do I really think of her?
I think Rosie O’Donnell is one helluva fan-fucking-tastic human being. Flaws and all.
Essential Download: "I'm On Fire"
Artisit: Marianne Faithfull
Available On: Kissin' Time
Originally published in the July 2007 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published LGTB newspaper since 1973, through the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
June 01, 2007
I had settled down on the couch with some popcorn, a beverage and my trusty notebook (to write down ideas I get from Ms. Divine Design). At the first commercial, I picked up the Lifestyles section of the newspaper and started reading. I tend to do things like this during program breaks to keep my mind stimulated. Unfortunately, sometimes when I do this, I end up less stimulated and more all riled up and aggravated. This was one of those times.
So what ruined my fantastic evening of decadent home improvement viewing and stole my peace? A headline and it's related story illustrating the ongoing frustrating point that people are no longer allowed to freely think and be responsible for themselves. The headline: “GROUP RESPONDS TO MPAA ADDING SMOKING TO FACTORS IN FILM RATING.”
“The recent announcement from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to consider smoking when rating movies does nothing to stop the proven impact that the depictions of smoking in movies has on the health of children and teenagers. The American Medical Association Alliance (AMAA) and the American Legacy Foundation have urged the MPAA to rate any new movie with smoking R, an evidence-based policy solution that would reduce youth exposure to film smoking.”
If it weren’t for the fact that I had a lit cigarette dangling from my mouth while reading this, you would have thought that the smoke was coming from my ears.
Now those of you who know me are probably thinking, “Poor Robby, you’re getting all worked up because the world is closing in on your dirty little habit.” I admit I smoke. I’m neither proud of this, nor am I ashamed. Kind of like my preoccupation with having blonde hair, my ongoing challenge that is my body image, and my penchant for dating guys that aren’t necessarily gay, more hetero-flexible; good, bad, and indifferent its part of who I am right now.
No, I’m much more concerned about the larger theme presented here.
I’m extremely bothered by the idea that the MPAA is being encouraged and is taking even more authority to judge, label, and essentially censor films. And let’s not pretend that that’s not what they do. While I agree that a rating system is a useful tool to point out content and themes of a work, I believe there is a huge difference between pointing out that, for example, TransAmerica contains language and themes that are of an adult nature...as opposed to TransAmerica should not be seen by anyone under the age of 17. Imparting useful information good! Seeming to make a decision for me bad! Real bad. And let’s be honest. We all know that the MPAA’s guidelines for making their decisions are flawed and often appear hypocritical. Tits, ass, and beaver are okay. Dick is not. Blowing shit up and glorifying violence is okay. Honest portrayals of sexuality are not. It’s ridiculous and, to use a word I’ve been using a lot lately, arbitrary. Check out the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated by filmmaker Kirby Dick if you need more enlightening.
Now groups like the AMAA want to throw their two cents in.
It makes my head hurt.
I can state emphatically, growing up, I didn’t see people in the movie smoking and go, “Hmmm…that looks cool! I’m gonna be a rebel and smoke, too!” I thought Batman was cool, but I didn’t try to emulate him either (Batgirl was more my style, personally.) And even if I did, I think my parents, especially my Mother, would take issue with the MPAA, the AMAA, the CIA or whatever hell blah-blah-blah AA trying to step in and be my parent. Where were they during the thirty-seven hours of labor and the episiotomy, she’d probably be interested in knowing? Unfortunately, that’s the kind of climate we live in. Apparently we all need Big Brother to guide is through life because we can’t be trusted to fuck it up enough on our own.
In truth, all of this is just another example, a metaphor if you will, of the battle personal rights continue to face.
I’m just so irritated with the alarming number of reoccurring cases of imposing boundaries, limitations, and regulations on things that don’t really need them. I’ve said this more than a few times in my column lately that I really, really, detest the notion that someone thinks that they need to monitor and police things that I may hear or see. I am really, really opposed to some random individual thinking that they and their followers need to protect the interests of every man, woman, and child on the planet. And I really, really despise the idea that we are supposed to be okay with not being able to be free thinkers and responsible for our own actions without a committee telling us how to live, behave, and how to be entertained.
I’m irritated that creative expression, integrity, and thought continue to be subject to approval and acceptance and mass hysteria.
If only Candice Olson could makeover everything.
Essential Download: "What's Up?"
Available On: Bigger, Better, Faster, More!
Originally published in the June 2007 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, 2007
What I find there occasionally makes me want to go back to bed.
Take for instance the most recent controversy involving radio personality Don Imus. For those of you who avoid radio and television (smart people), all hell apparently broke loose on his April 4th broadcast, when he referred to the Rutgers University Women’s Basketball Team as “nappy-headed hos.” Within days of this, fueled by a pubic outcry (and not to mention the threat of losing the support of major companies and their advertising), Imus was fired, and his show, Imus In the Morning, after nearly thirty years on the air, was canceled.
Not only do I want to go back to bed, I’d like to do so on another planet.
I know with that last comment, you’re probably wondering, “Robby, that surely doesn’t mean that you feel sad for and support those heinous remarks by that wicked old man?”
No, I don’t support vindictive name-calling or hate speech that is degrading and insulting. And no I don’t really feel especially sad for the man, considering his age and the longevity of his career. We should all be so lucky to have a career that spans decades. He will always have his fans and supporters, accumulated wealth, and his legacy. I’m sure he will be just fine.
What does make me sad, and actually it pisses me off more than anything else, is the long-term implication of this messy affair and our society’s arbitrary rules and regulations regarding freedom of speech.
I fear that as a society we are lurking in dangerous territory when it comes to ridding ourselves of the people and the opinions we don’t agree with. If I condemned every person who has said something offensive or hateful to me in my lifetime, there’d be but a dozen people left in this town. Hell, I’d be history. My fear is that we start with the likes of Don Imus and his ill conceived and offensive remarks…and tomorrow? Anything and everything that anyone and everyone finds personally objectionable is subject to annihilation.
Let me throw some names at you. Ann Coulter. Rush Limbaugh. Bill O’Reilly. Michael Savage. Laura Schlessinger. Howard Stern. At one point or another, these people have also, in one form or another, said things that could be interpreted as demeaning, discriminatory, racist, sexist, and sometimes, in my opinion, just plain fucked up and wrong as what Don Imus spouted off. And though they too have had their hands slapped by various social groups and causes, ultimately they all still have their jobs.
And I say, without a trace of hostility or sarcasm, God bless them and congratulations.
“Now Robby, surely you jest,” you may cry. “For crying out loud, Ann Coulter called John Edwards a faggot and you’re saying God bless her? Have you become asphyxiated on the bleach fumes?”
No, I assure you, I’m not losing my mind, nor am I member of the Ann Coulter fan club. And of course I don’t support anything she or any of the other people I mentioned say or do. BUT, being an open minded, give and take, rational human being, I cannot argue with their God given right to say whatever the hell they want to whomever the hell they want to say it to, even though I personally find what they say and stand for personally reprehensible.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again, to be an advocate and partake in this luxury we call freedom of expression and speech, you must be willing to stand up for it for everyone. To silence the opposition means that you and the work of those you do support too could be silenced. For every Ann Coulter there is a Kate Clinton whose work I support and commend. For every Bill O’Reilly, a Jon Stewart. For every Howard Stern there is a Roseanne Barr and Margaret Cho. And I can think of a handful of editors, columnists and writers whose points of views the world would sorely miss if they were erased from the social consciousness.
The world does not spin on any one point of view; no matter how much we may protest certain ones, good, bad, and indifferent. Though we would probably have a more peaceful existence if certain people were not permitted to speak (or think) and if certain words or phrases were struck from our vocabularies, this is, so to speak, the boat we row and what we have to work with.
Selfishly, I need people like Don Imus and the rest of the sordid bunch. I need people to say and do things that make me pause and go, “now what the hell was that?” or “what a limited perspective” or “God, what an asshole!” Difference of opinion creates debate and dialogue, things that are productive to growth and change.
Just something for you to sleep on.
Essential Download: "Better the Devil You Know"
Artisit: Kylie Minogue
Available On: Ultimate Kylie
Originally published in the May 2007 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 01, 2007
Art. It’s such a small word in print. Yet those three little letters combined encompass something so much bigger than any of us could ever fully explain in person or on paper. But as an opinionated writer, you know I’ll try. My personal take is that art can be anything creative that provokes and engages thought, conversation, and feeling. Of course, art and what qualifies it as such is subject to interpretation. Because we live in a world with billions of different people with billions of different points of view, such interpretation often creates conflict.
Earlier this year, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks had a thing or two to say about the goings on at the Rochester Central Library in regards to the library’s Internet policy. For the three of you who may have been vacationing in a warmer climate, it seems a WHEC Channel 10 special investigation “uncovered” that at the library anyone over the age of 17 has open access to any materials they choose to view via the internet on the public computers, which are in full view for all to see, including children. In one instance, explicit materials were being viewed by a probationer previously arrested for child endangerment on computers near the children’s section. Consequently, an alarmed Ms. Brooks took immediate action writing a letter to the library’s director sharing her dissatisfaction with the whole scenario and insisting changes be made.
“I am demanding that our Central Library take immediate action to halt the public viewing of pornography and other graphic materials,” Ms. Brooks wrote. “Should the library choose to ignore this reasonable demand to protect our community’s children, I am prepared to exit the annual agreement with the City of Rochester, and defund library operations at the earliest possible date under the terms of the agreement. Simply put, I refuse to allow any further County tax dollars to flow to a facility that has failed to protect our children.” (Ms. Brooks’ letter, in its entirety, is available to the public online at www.monroecounty.gov.)
I have so many things to say about this predicament.
On one hand, I’m in total agreement that something should be done to discourage public displays of things that one would consider private behavior. I can’t even comprehend why anyone would walk into a public library, plunk down on a public computer and look up adult oriented material. Talk about a red flag on questionable choice in venue. I mean, doesn’t common sense mean anything anymore? Besides…HELLO! We have stores where you can buy and rent such material to enjoy in the PRIVACY OF YOUR OWN HOME! Trust me. I think I know a thing or two about this (wink, wink).
On the other hand, my rights as an individual are jumping up and down and screaming foul.
Every time something morally or socially questionable comes up, it’s always “what about the children”? With all due respect to the parents of the world, why is it that I should be compelled to govern my habits, interests and lifestyle because other people choose to be fertile? In Ms. Brooks letter, she refers to these children I’m supposed to be considering with every waking breath eleven times. Eleven doesn’t really fit with the number of people I’m actually responsible for in life, which is one. Myself. I’m not saying it’s not my responsibility to make sure my action do not harm or infringe on others (again with the common sense thing), but likewise, someone having kids shouldn’t infringe on my rights.
But my biggest concern in this brouhaha is the effect it could possibly have on how society views the various things people call “art” and how their views can sometimes censor and shape it. Before you look at me with raised eyebrows, don’t worry. I’m not going to go into a lecture defending the merits of adult material and I’m not going to call it art. I will say I personally detest the word “porn” and its variations because by definition they imply that the things it describes are “offensive” and “indecent”, neither of which I think materials designed and geared towards consenting adults are. When people start throwing around words like graphic, inappropriate, indecent, obscene, offensive, and pornographic, one question always pops into my head. By whose standards? Don’t all of those words, like art itself, fall clearly into the classification of personal interpretation? Do I really need someone making these distinctions for me? With her words, Ms. Brooks’ has. Now she has demanded the library follow suit. So now we have more people applying labels and judgments. Hmmm. Today: “No more to adult materials that may be objectionable to some adults and not suitable for children”. Tomorrow: “I just don’t know about this Robby character. He used the word fuck in his last column. He’s always saying inappropriate things. I think he may be too gay for people to handle! THE CHILDREN! THE CHILDREN!” I know what you’re thinking. “Now, Robby. Even for you, don’t you think that’s being a bit extreme?” No. I don’t. It could potentially be the end result of arbitrary choices being made my arbitrary people about not so arbitrary things. I’ve seen American Idol.
I don’t trust or need society, God bless them, to judge or interpret things for me. Do you?
In a perfect world, artists and other creative people will continue to provoke and engage, the general public will use more common sense in how they behave beyond the comforts of their own private domain, librarians will not be substitute Mommies, and political figures who mean well won’t be forced to make potentially misinterpreted judgments regarding important causes and issues based on a few ignorant people’s actions.
And, if I’m lucky, I’ll always be here to tell you about them in my own special way.
Artisit: Georgia Brown & Cast
Available On: Oliver!
Originally published in the April 2007 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
March 01, 2007
Some days, you just don’t want to leave the house. Instead, you need a day to yourself.
For me, a perfect Robby day this time of year would go a little something like this: sitting in front of the fire with a hot bowl of home made tomato soup, wrapped in my favorite blanket, listening to the soothing sounds of a variety of divas from years gone by. Of course, perfection and my reality are currently not speaking to each other so I have to compromise a space heater in place of a fire, an I’m sure it has long since expired can of Chef Boyardee, and settle for being wrapped in a mangy and musty smelling bathrobe that should have been put to sleep years ago. And my soothing divas? Being too lazy to actually charge and update my iPod, my options of kind of limited. Thank God for the one compact disc I have kept in my possession through music’s technological advances: Judy At Carnegie Hall.
This of course made me laugh to myself, because it just so happened to be another not leave the house day that first introduced me to this particular divas.
It was a cold winter evening some years back. My then Boyfriend decided we should scrap a date outing and instead go back to his place and hang out for the night. As any red blooded American gay boy would assume, I thought going back to his place and hanging meant it was time for sex.
Imagine then, to my horror, when instead of whipping out his, well, you know, he pulled out a Judy Garland record. An actual vinyl Judy Garland record.
Though I don’t mean to be insensitive with my language, it was perhaps the gayest moment of my life. And that’s not a compliment.
“What the fuck is that?” I blurted out.
“You have to hear this!” he exclaimed proudly. “It’s my favorite!”
He put the record on the turntable ever so gently and joined me on his couch, where he proceeded to hold me and sing along simultaneously. It was kind of cute in a goofy way. As the record played, you could physically see him transported to another time, another place. It was a beautiful moment, but secretly, and selfishly, I wanted our adventures with “Dorothy” to end our adventure of a condom hunt to commence.
But that was not to be. Sex would not happen this day.
Instead, for two hours, we sat there, holding each other, he holding on to Judy’s every word, every syllable, and me...well...I was just trying to hold my tongue.
“Isn’t she amazing?" he asked me, sincerely. “It’s like you can actually hear her own heart breaking with every line she sings. She doesn’t just sing a song, she lives them!”
The song, by the way, was “By Myself".
Ironic really. At that moment as I was losing patience, all I wanted was to be by myself.
“Honey, I don’t know how else to ask this,” I began, “but what’s the big deal about the girl who did The Wizard of Oz like a hundred years ago?”
So there it was. I had laid it out on the table. The phenomenon known as Judy Garland was completely lost on this gay boy. But instead of looking at me like I had just cut one at temple, he simply clutched my hand and offered, “One day you’ll appreciate her. And you’ll have me to thank.”
Of course now I was on a mission. Screw one day. My impetuous self wanted to know now! What was the freakin’ fascination gay men have with Judy Garland?
Legend has it the passing of Judy Garland precipitated the Stonewall riots of 1969. I can just hear it now. “Jesus, first the police treat us like shit and now the good Lord has taken Judy away? Somebody hand me a brick!” Funny, but an insult to the men and women that started the fight for gay rights.
I even pondered her status as the queen of the musical from the golden age of MGM to rationalize the fixation. Cause you know us gays love our musicals. But even that was stretching it. I think she’s more famous for her behaviors during this era than her actual body of work. Really. How many of you have actually seen The Pirate? Anybody? How many of you knew she got kicked off of The Valley of the Dolls because for being undependable? Okay, I hear some murmuring. How many of you have heard she popped pills to get through her day the way most of us use coffee? I see hands. I rest my case.
Somewhere in the middle of what I dubbed Judy-Gate, then Boyfriend unceremoniously dumped me. And he did this in a voice mail. I was blindsided. Have I already called him a bastard yet? And say? Didn’t MGM do something similar to Judy when they let her go after all of her years of loyalty and service?
Of course after the initial shock and anger of being left faded, I became a basket case. I would drive around for hours passing by our favorite places, all the while listening to the mix CDs he had made me during our time together. Self torture. Isn’t it divine?
And then, a stunning revelation. There I was driving up Monroe Avenue, alternately bawling my fucking head off and scanning though CD tracks, when suddenly I heard the voice. The song? "By Myself".
The lyrics and her powerful phrasing hit me with such clarity I have not seen since.
“I’ll face the unknown…I’ll build a world of my own…I’m by myself alone.”
Strength over adversity. What other reason would a gay man need to idolize this fantastic force? The condescending bastard was right. I now did appreciate her and I did have him to thank.
So here I sit listening to Judy on my Robby day. Still no real fire. No homemade tomato soup. But I’m relishing the peacefulness of being alone, by myself.
Essential Download: "By Myself"
Artisit: Judy Garland
Available On: The Essential Judy Garland
Originally published in the March 2007 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.
February 01, 2007
“Happy New Year, darling! How is my should-have-been-husband?” I asked my dear friend Tom at a recent gathering of friends.
“Just swell, Buttercup,” he answered. “I have news.”
“Praise Jesus! You’ve seen the light! Does this involve you switching teams?” I asked playfully.
The thing is, you see, Tom is what I call the perfect male. He’s funny, super smart, and cute. He’s also straight. But he’s the good kind of straight, in my opinion. Not threatened by diversity, extremely open minded, honest, and loyal. I lovingly refer to him as the man that got away, he lovingly refers to me as Buttercup, and then we talk about life, politics, and sometimes, women.
Stop smirking. I can talk women just as well as the next fella. I watch Sex & the City and The L Word. But I digress.
“No, I’m still painfully straight,” Tom answered. “But I am moving to California.
“Wow…um…that’s really great! I know you’ve been itching to get out New York. That’s…um…really cool,” I answered.
The truth is, dear readers, this news left me feeling anything but cool. I felt depressed and disappointed. Even as Tom went on to explain the details surrounding his move, a million different questions swirled through my head. Is something so terribly wrong with New York State people are being driven 3000 fucking miles in the opposite direction to find peace and contentment? Why would someone move across the country when their whole world is HERE? Don’t the people in your life count for anything? Is it so easy to just grab your shit, head for the door and holler, “See ya later!” And the biggest question of all: why Robby, do you care so damn much anyway?
Once I had calmed down and found my happy place (this involved Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, Wild Cherry Pepsi, Kool 100s, and a marathon of The Judy Garland Show Collection), I realized there were legitimate answers to those questions, which were: perhaps, because they can, usually, seldom, and the kicker, because I still live in a land where love, camaraderie, and goodwill are enough to keep things the way I think they should be.
I know. Poor, sad Robby. Do you hear the world’s smallest violin playing?
I confess I have a strange relationship with my friends. At some point, they stop being just friends and become as close as family. A number people, hetero and homo alike, find themselves cut off from their biological families, whether it is estrangement or, as in my case, distance. I didn’t grow up around my extended family. They live in the Midwest. I’ve spent most of my life on the east coast. My older brother moved out when I was 11. It was always just my Dad, my Mom, and I. Always.
Doesn’t really scream growth and development does it?
So in lieu of a “real” family, I did what any creative, self-reliant isolated queer boy would: as I got older, I “built” my own. The close friends I have made through my years in school and work have become the family I grew up without. And it’s no coincidence the people I’m drawn to (emotionally speaking) practice the very same philosophy.
Unfortunately, I never stopped to think about the reality of this happy little scenario of mine. As our twenties give way to our thirties, I’m seeing a lot of my friends pick up and move on. Friendships mean a whole lot more when you have nothing. But when careers, lifestyle, and other relationships start to fold into the mix, realistically speaking, just being someone’s friend doesn’t carry the same weight.
I think about my friend Tom and how his move will impact my “family”. I don’t mean to sound selfish. I mean, after all, no matter how much you care for someone, you can’t live their life for them (if only!). I mean, the rational voice in my head says, “You go with your bad self!” cause it takes balls to shake your life up in order to better it. And God know he’s more than likely dealing with his own set of insecurities that come with picking up your life and dropping anchor so many miles away. Conversely, the other voice, the not so rational one (you know, the one that convinces me my hair doesn’t look like an abandoned nest), tells me to tackle him, pin him to the floor and sit on his head until he says this whole moving thing is a joke (and while we’re in this position…um…well, never mind). But I know that’s not going to happen. First of all, no matter how hard you try, you can’t stall change. People have got to grow and change on their own accord. And second, well, no offense to myself here, but if I were to throw myself on Tom, he would be critically injured.
So though I want to be a more mature and accepting person when it comes to the people I love and their life plans, I also need a similar amount of reassuring. It’s important for me to know the people in my life know how loved they are and how much they are needed. Of course I want them to feel the same way about me. No matter where any of us are or where our journeys take us, these bonds are not so trivial they have to erode because of distance or circumstances. I want to hear that just because you’re moving doesn’t mean that it’s out with the old and in with the new. I NEED to know I still count for something, because no matter where my friends are or what they’re doing they will always count to me.
Thank God for free nights and weekend minutes. I’m going to need them.
"How Long Has That Evening Train Been Gone?"
Artisit: Diana Ross and the Supremes
Available On: Love Child
Originally published in the February 2007 issue of The Empty Closet, New York State’s Oldest Continuously-Published GLBT Newspaper, published since 1973 by the Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley.