Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Anna from Queens

When I was a kid - like, a REALLY YOUNG KID...maybe 8 or 9 - my grandfather found a copy of Valley of the Dolls, and gave it to me. It had the word "dolls" in the title, and he figured it was a book for girls. And he knew I liked to read. So I read it. My parents, who knew it was NOT a book for little girls, didn't stop me from reading it. They let me read anything in which I showed an interest. I loved it. This led to me watching the movie, which got regular air play on NYC's 4:30 movie.

I was delighted that the role of Neely was played by Patty Duke, who I knew from The Patty Duke Show (which I watched in reruns, and loved, because it took place in Brooklyn Heights, which was just a spit away from Park Slope) and The Miracle Worker, which also got regular play on the 4:30 movie.

I was too young to know the word "camp," but certainly not too young to understand the concept that, sometimes, things are so bad, that they're excellent. After that, it was ON. I never missed Valley of the Dolls when it aired.

I was quite a bit older when I realized that Patty's performance as Neely was adored by queer people the world over, and older, still, when I found out that she embraced this fandom with all her heart. She was OUR GIRL, from way back. Anna - this outer-borough girl who loved her gays as much as we loved HER...who was ordained as a minister for the sole purpose of being able to officiate at same-sex weddings....who would speak at screenings of Valley of the Dolls at The Castro because she loved us and we loved her...who opened up about the hell her childhood had been and the mental illness she had lived with for so long...who fought for research into mental illness, and public understanding of it, and an end to the taboos we have around it.

People who only knew her as one of the identical cousins might find it difficult to believe she was radical, but she was radical as fuck. And she was ours.

Rest in peace, Anna.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Not Like The Others

When I was little, my best friend was this little girl whose parents were really racist. They'd say to her (right in front of me), "Don't play with any of the niggers or the spics on the block, except Lana and her sister. They're not like other spics." And then she would come to my house and play, and call my grandma "abuela" and we would pretend we were sisters. My parents would tell me to ignore her folks because, they said, "They're just ignorant."

These days, I find myself thinking about my friends who are white, "He/she isn't REALLY white. I mean, he/she is white, but not anything like actual WHITE PEOPLE are white."

Friday, March 4, 2016

White Histrionics- A Site of One's Own

White Histrionics has its own home on the web, now. Check out the dedicated blog for a new White Histrionic reminiscence, every day for the month of March and, possibly, beyond.  And remember, THE WHITE STRUGGLE IS REAL.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Co-Opting Racism

On this date in 1996, Margaret Hemsworth requested that her monthly shift requirement at the Park Slope Food Co-Op be permanently waived, enabling her to devote more time to Bikram yoga. This request was denied, resulting in a flare-up of Ms. Hemsworth's self-diagnosed fibromyalgia. The struggle is real. 


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Rosa Parks, Move Over

On this date in 1978, Chad Mathews of Darien, Connecticut was required to produce photo identification when attempting to cash a third-party, out-of-state check at a Bank of America branch. He wrote a strong letter to BoA's main office, describing the injustice he had suffered. The teller, an African American woman who had been employed by the bank for 16 years, was subsequently fired. Mathews is recognized as a pioneering freedom fighter for the civil rights of white men with money. 


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

White Histrionics Month: The Kick-Off

White Histrionics Month kicks off, today. Let's start it right with a look back at white suffering through history.

On this date in 2011, Dr. And Mrs. Walter Darrow of Berkeley, CA, missed All Things Considered, due to a 73 minute power outage in the SF Bay area. The day came to be known as The Berkeley Atonement.
Support White Histrionics Month by using the hashtag throughout March: #WhiteHistrionicsMonth

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Who Am I to Judge?

When same sex marriage became legal in the USA, less than a year ago, it woke up feelings I'd had about being gay which I'd long ago tucked away, because there really wasn't anything I could do about them, except get on with life as well as I could, on my own terms.

The death of Antonin Scalia has done something similar. For all those who think the public jubilation over his death is inappropriate, I have one message: this was a man who worked really hard, for a very long time, to create a world where people like me would be considered less than human. This was a man who not only considered homosexuality a crime, but compared it to murder. A man who believed that banning homosexuality was no different than banning child pornography. A man who argued that all faggots and dykes should do was stop having sex with people of the same gender, if they wanted to be treated as human beings with rights.

No one was born in 1967 hoping to be homosexual, or trying to be homosexual. Why would any of us? But a hell of a lot of us in 2016 embrace who we are, have no shame about who or how we love, and make no apologies for the way nature made us.

I think it's safe to say that every homosexual is well acquainted with fear - a kind of fear that heterosexuals will never know, can never know. The kind of fear which leads us to pretend our partner is actually our cousin, while traveling in less-than-safe places to be gay. The kind of fear that keeps us from even mentioning we have a partner, because it could cost us a job or an apartment. The kind of fear that leads us to allow others to set us up on blind dates with people of the opposite sex, just to be on the safe side, and not raise suspicions. The kind of fear that makes us lie to and hide the truth from family members, friends, neighbors, doctors, employers, clergy, bank loan officers, the police, store clerks, and maybe even the mailman. The kind of fear that makes people choose their clothing carefully, and not get that haircut,  or buy that shirt, because they might be dead give-aways - give-aways of a truth that is not safe to live out in the open with.

This isn't hyperbole. It's all real. These are all examples of reactions to the fear that has come with being a homosexual in America that I have either experienced, myself, or had close friends experience. One woman I know locked herself out of her car and, instead of calling the local sheriff to slim-jim his way in, so she could get her keys in a matter of minutes, opted to wait a full week, until the friend who had a spare set arrived in town. Her reason? There was a copy of a lesbian novel on her passenger seat, and she couldn't risk having local law enforcement notice it and figure out she was gay. It would have made her life in that town unsafe. She lived in fear.  To a certain extent, I know this fear. For the most part, I've managed to ignore it, but it's always been there - dormant, but not dead. Scalia's death has woken up not the fear, itself, but the sensory memory of what that fear feels like - what it feels like to travel in America with another woman and ask for a room with two beds, just for show. Just to be on the safe side. Just to make sure nobody would figure out the truth and make us pay for it. That's a horrible feeling.  It's not just fear, but humiliation.

Antonin Scalia liked that homosexuals lived in fear and humiliation, and fought to make sure things stayed this way, or maybe even got worse. I don't care that he was a human being who was alive and is now dead, or that he left a widow and children and grandchildren: he was a bad person. He was the enemy.

In fact, I'm really glad he's dead. I hope he realized he was about to die, and that it scared the hell out of him. I hope he knew, for even just a moment or two, what true fear really felt like. I won't even pretend to wish that he rests in peace. I hope that overwhelming fear was the very thing which surrounded him during his last moments. That would be true justice.

Monday, January 11, 2016

A Love Affair With The Lens

Let me preface this by saying I have never been a fan of Bowie's music. Just not my thing. He had a few very radio-friendly songs that I liked but, by and large, I found his music to be grating. And that's not a personal affront to him or to his fans. People like different things, for reasons which cannot be explained in black and white terms. This is why art is art, and not science. That said, the guy was incredibly likable and had great presence. If musical performance Bowie didn't do it for me, I liked nonfiction Bowie: the guy who turned up on talk shows or variety shows and chatted with the host was charming and clever as all get-out. And, during the last half of his life, he sure could wear the hell out of a good suit.

I'm the daughter of a photographer, though. For me, Bowie will always be that long, lean, immensely photographic figure whose portraits by some of the best in the business often landed in the magazines and journals and annual anthologies my dad would bring home and allow me to scour. The camera loved him. In a lot of ways, I grew up not even knowing he was a rock star, so much as a fashion and photographic icon. Not unlike Grace Jones, in my mind.

He looked like no one else. The camera will never love anyone else as much as it loved him. He seems to have had a life well lived, and provided for his own everlasting peace, in his own, humble way. Most excellent, Mr. Bowie. The camera will miss you.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: The Year in Review

Once again, in no specific order.

Most worth celebrating: Same Sex marriage became the legal throughout the USA. I won't soon forget seeing this on my feed moments before I left for work, or sharing a virtual toast with several dozen friends from around the globe to mark the occasion, or the flood of unexpected emotions this Supreme Court decision caused in me. It still chokes me up a little to think about. Love wins.

Biggest Signs of Life in the World of Publishing: A new novel by Toni Morrison, a new-to-the-world release of an early work by Harper Lee. 

I haven't read Go Set a Watchman, and probably never will, but the stir it's caused does my heart good. It's forced people to discuss not just literature and the nature of intellectual property, but race and the American tradition of white-washing our racial struggles in such a way that Whitey always ends up not just a good guy, but a bona-fide hero. I love Atticus Finch as much as the next guy, but does that even make any sense? 

I have, on the other hand, read God Help The Child. Is it Morrison's greatest work? Not by a long shot. But it's still an excellent read, and we should all be on our knees thanking the forces of nature that this 84 year old genius is still putting pen to paper, and telling stories that no one else can or will tell. She is a treasure. 

Proof of How Doomed We Are as a Society: Idiots continued to fight for no regulations on firearms, even as gun violence became a daily occurrence, and people in law enforcement abused their power to an alarming degree. 

Further Proof We're Doomed: This racist, misogynist, xenophobic idiot became a serious presidential candidate. 

But, You Can't Do That on TV: The Wachowskis and Netflix flipped traditional TV the proverbial bird, and brought us Sense8 which, in turn, broke half a dozen tv taboos during one scene in just the first episode. It also brought us America's first true action hero who is an Asian woman. It's all about Sun. If you're not watching, you're truly missing out.  

The End of An Era: This one really stung. For so many of us who grew up with TOS, Nimoy and Spock WERE Trek. 

Our Short Memories: We, as a people, seemed to forget that we're all refugees, at some point. The human race should be ashamed of itself. 

Hollywood Ain't Dead, Yet: Star Wars was everything and everywhere. The Martian, Mockingjay, and Age of Ultron reminded us what celluloid heroes one could cheer for look like. Mr. Holmes showed us the man behind the hero. For my money, though, 2015 saved the best for last, with Todd Haynes' Carol. Heart-wrenching, beautiful, and true. It is what film-making and story-telling are all about. See it in a theater where, like me, you will find yourself holding your breath, and then find, when you all let out an audible sigh, that everyone else in the room has done the same. That sigh - it's of relief, happiness, sadness, grief...you name it. If this movie does not fill you up, check and make sure you still have a pulse.