Category Archives: Gay Things

Finding Our Pulse

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Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.

Mark Combs, a friend of mine from way back, posted the above Voltaire quote.

I like the line quite a bit, even though I consider words like “guilty” and “good” to be counterproductive and ultimately vacuous, as are their antonyms, innocent and evil. The problem with such words is that they can too easily draw people into a cycle of focusing on assignation rather than pushing them forward into personal action.

And action, really, is at the heart of Voltaire’s words. A call to action.

A call to the realization that not taking action is an action in and of itself. A realization that there is no middle ground. A realization that you have a choice to act and that “if you choose not to decide / you still have made a choice.

With the Orlando massacre, there are analyses of cause by both professional and armchair intellectuals.  There are conversations about prevention ranging from passing stricter gun laws to saying everyone in the nightclub should have been armed.

But I want to approach it a wholly different way. Approach it at the individual level; at the level I go to on a daily basis.

What part did you play in the massacre? We all should ask ourselves this question, and ask it often.

And you did play a part. Of course you did. Remember: there is no middle ground.  So, phrased another way, did you play the part of someone trying to make things better for all?

Passing bathroom bills and engaging in other forms of hate speech is the antithesis of better. And doing nothing amounts to the same.

When I hear about violence, I tell my husband how much I love him. When I hear about animal abuse, I hold my critters close. When I hear about child abuse, I think of all the kids I work with and how much I want to protect them.

And then I expand that circle: say hi to a neighbor, pet a stray animal, think of another way I can help kids.

So phrased yet another way, at this precise moment, with your finite life running out, what “good” do you have left to do.

And what are you waiting for?

Two Foxes

Hi, there. I’m JD Fox.

And my husband of nearly twenty years, as of today, is Gary Alton Fox.

I am moved by this in multiple ways, including simply being touched and honored that he has taken my name. But I also can’t help but think of it in terms of queer history and its significance.

Non-queers have both the luxury and burden of a privileged status that already has rules of convention in place for not only what a marriage looks like but what happens to the names. This is not to say they are good norms — they are quite sexist in fact — but just that they exist.

They can be followed or not followed, but they are there nonetheless.

Gary and I got married at a time – 1996, the year of DOMA — when we weren’t recognized legally as such. We even battled with our religious organization over using the term marriage in our wedding ceremony; of using the term wedding.

The kind of battle where people take sides and our side was the minority; only a fraction of people showed up to our wedding, compared to a full house and unilateral support for non-queer unions.

But we got married, considered ourselves married, and winged it, having to create what it meant to us from scratch with little social support and no real point of reference other than our love for one another.

When we legally married in 2013, we kept our names. After all, we’d already been married in our hearts and faith for 17 years. So that year’s Justice of the Peace visit and subsequent paperwork was just a bureaucratic formality, right? Just a way of getting those 1000+ benefits…

Yet it didn’t feel like just a formality. Far from it. The kind of far that I’m not sure a non-queer person can truly appreciate. The kind of far that has little to do with matters of benefit and more to do with matters of heart.

We deliberately chose to be with each other all those years ago and reaffirmed that decision in 2013, winging it as well. We talked about names and hyphenated names without a convention to either go with or go against.

At the time, we each decided to keep our name.

But that was then and this is now, and Gary, by his winged choice, is now a Fox; we are Mr. and Mr. Fox.

Has a nice ring to it, don’t it?

Fostering Useful Labels

Labeling JD Fox (a blog video supplement)

There is a current nonsensical mantra in the queer and questioning community that chants some variation of “Don’t label me.” Like its equally imbecilic sibling “Don’t discriminate,” it has obvious good intentions with its attempt at breaking down assumptions:

Sexuality is fluid, so don’t make assumptions about my orientation; gender and gender expression are fluid, so don’t make binary assumptions about my gender; my identity is my own, so don’t make assumptions that you know me.

All certainly laudable goals; however, the “don’t” command is misinformed about human nature, misguided in its efforts to improve society, and ultimately self-defeating.

The catalyst for this particular post is the character Jude (nicely played by Hayden Byerly) in the TV series The Fosters. There are many wonderfully ambiguous yet queer positive scenes with Jude expressing his individuality (nail polish) and drawing homophobia out with specifics (what if I was gay?). However, I saw a scene the other night where Jude gave his friend Connor the don’t label me speech that is so common nowadays and walk away like he has made some major higher-ground point.

Such rhetoric misses an important fact about labeling — that we cannot help but label – and takes the conversation into an absurd territory: one of trying to not label rather than one of trying to develop the skill of using labels more wisely and realizing when we are not doing so.

Considering our evolution in simplified fashion helps illustrate this.

A one cell-organism “labels” (in quotes because no neurons yet to actually “think” this) its immediate environment as “hospitable” or “hostile”. Based on this label, it either stays put if the former, or, if the latter, tries to move to a different environment to the extent that its rudimentary locomotive ability allows.

Add some cells to give more specific sensory input. Such inputs have value because of the labels they encourage: In a hostile environment, the original “hospitable” label as being “a point away from here” becomes modified to distinguishing “Over there A” from “Over there B” with one or the other being assigned a label of “better”; i.e. more hospitable.

Onward we move up the life scale. Some of our first labels were sweeping, diametrically opposed ones: Edible, not edible. Will try to eat me, won’t try to eat me. Something I want to screw. Something that wants to screw me.

Over time, neural networks became more sophisticated, allowing labels like good worker, dependable, or that boy over there is hot. It also allows us to see how others might label us and act accordingly: if I do x, my boss will label me as a good worker; If I do y my neighbor will label me as dependable; or if I do z, that boy over there will label me as hot.

We are labeling machines by construction with discerning eyes and discriminating tastes. Our ability to simultaneously make fine distinctions and grand generalizations is one-half the trademark of our intelligence, allowing us to thrive.

The other half, which likely came much later, is the ability to continually revise both. Revision is key to everything. For revision is what allows us to recognize our labels for the expedient means they are and not mistake them for some sort of permanent truth.

Mistaking a label for truth is at the heart of racism, homophobia, transphobia, and any other type of labeling gone awry. It is not the labeling itself, but the inability – whether deliberate or otherwise — to revise such labels in a productive way that is problematic.

Connor, being human, will continue to label Jude in multiple ways, well beyond gay or not gay to encompass labels like “doesn’t want to discuss his sexuality” or “is touchy about his sexuality” or “someone who gets mad at me for trying to understand him” (just like Jude, also being human, will likewise label Connor as “homophobic” or “someone with a father who is homophobic” or “someone who is invading my personal space.”)

When conversations end like the one Jude had with Connor, the labeling doesn’t stop; it can’t in fact stop, which is the main point of this post. But the fruitful potential for revision does indeed get truncated.

What if instead, the conversation played out something like this:

Jude: Don’t label me.

Connor: Okay, okay. Sorry. I wasn’t trying to… it’s just… how do you feel about me?

The conversation – and subsequent label revisions – could go a hundred different ways from this new point of departure. The best path for revision is reversing label direction, going from the original generalization to the specific.

For you can’t tell me that Jude’s adversity here to being labeled by Connor means that he does not have internal labels of his own, such as one classifying Connor as a boy he likes in that certain way or doesn’t like in that certain way.

It is no longer the generalized label of “gay” or “not gay” but instead the specific label of “that particular boy” or “not that particular boy.” Out of such specifics new labels get built or old ones revised. That is why exposure to diversity and conversations about diversity and learning about diverse people transform our thinking — our label making — in positive ways.

“Don’t label me” is as useless as it is moronic. Far better, far more useful, is “Be cautious with your labels as you might mistake them for truth and lose your ability to revise them.” But that is not as sound-bitey as the former.

So maybe we should phrase it another, more inviting way:

“Hi, there. I’m JD. Tell me about yourself.”

Queer History on Display

 

Queer History Display, Pride Vermont 2014

Queer History Display, Pride Vermont 2014

For Pride Vermont this year I created a display on Queer History. I thought I’d give it some additional life by posting it here along with the content I wrote for it / in it. That specific content can be found by clicking on Queer History Display near the top of this Web site.

As a bonus for weird people like me who think about creativity and how the mind works — particularly the somewhat happenstance  way the mind works — I’ll end with some comments about my creative process in putting it together.

First, though, it’s overall structure was this:

Center Panel: Pictures and text from past Prides, photocopied from old issues of Out in the Mountains, which are archived at the Leahy Library of the Vermont Historical Society. Pages are in chronological order, taped by top edge and overlapping. This allowed a page to be viewed and then lifted to view the page (i.e. the subsequent year) underneath.

Left and Right Panels: Selected Dates of Queerness I thought were important. My husband helped identify some key items I should include, like specific landmark court cases, and provided great insight into past events. His knowledge of queer history was (and remains) invaluable to me and any egregious errors that may be present in the copy I wrote describing such events are mine alone.

In the front of the three panel display, I had three sheets, each highlighting something of significance. Each had props, too!

LIKE SPORTS talks about queers in sports and the good news of more players coming out. Props were originally a basket full of miniature sports balls of all sorts, but people kept thinking they were to take, so I settled on a football taped to the table.

LIKE OUR TROOPS talks about queers in the military and the vileness of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Props were originally four toy jets circling the page, but people kept thinking they were to take, so I settled on one plane taped to the table.

LIKE SMARTPHONES talks about the absolutely horrible post-war treatment of the incomparable — and queer — Alan Turing, who, as father of computer science, laid the foundation for all computer technology. The prop was a toy smart phone, just the one, but still people kept thinking it was for taking, so it got taped down as well.

As far as creation goes, I originally intended to cut up the pages from Out in the Mountains, and tape them in an aesthetically appealing arrangement. But I was loathe to lose the year indication and other information inherent in the pages when kept as a whole. Cutting up the pages was also a more permanent move that I was hesitant to begin. The overlapping pages was an alternative that in hindsight I think ended up being the right decision.

I got important dates from Gary and a host of other sources, then wrote my own copy of such events in my own words. I tried to format such information in a way that was both logical and eye-catching, adding a few images here and there that seemed to fit.

The props — and indeed the stand-out pages — were an eleventh hour thing. Gary and I went to the Dollar Tree store (“Everything a dollar”!) so I could get the 3-panel display, markers and tape for the display. I wandered around the store and saw party favors, like the jets, and that got my mind thinking of doing some one-pagers. I found the balls as well as the phone, there. Or rather Gary found the phone.

I originally hoped to find a toy laptop, but failed to do so. Gary said why not use a cell phone, and it turned out that even makes more sense, as now we live in an age where phones are actually computers. How fitting for it to be used for a prop on a sheet on Alan Turing.

The point of all this creative talk is the consideration that creation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Sure, I had an idea, but the idea then got shaped and reshaped by the materials I gathered, which sparked other ideas and so on.

This is extremely important, I think, as sometimes potential writers will sabotage their creativity by saying something like I try to write, but I can’t think of anything to say. But such comments put things in the wrong order. Only the truly gifted start out with a specific — and presumably wonderful — something to write. I believe that most of us start out with a more vague notion of that something and write to clarify what that something is.

And we hope that it ends up being wonderful. Or at least readable.

Million Years Start

Okay, so i went to a retreat recently for persons living with HIV and I intend to blog about it, but in the meantime this is a sort of how I write post revolving around a little exercise I did there that hopefully will end up being a completed short story at some point in the near future. it’s fairly complete in my head, but there are so many other stories going on in there at any given point in time that I’m not sure when exactly near future will be.

During one of the workshops I attended, we each took a different writing prompt from a pile and saw what we could do with it in a short time-frame: the goal of reading it at the talent show that night what we had written earlier that day (which we all did). My time got shorter as I went on a hike. I almost stayed at the inn and kept working on the story, but I wanted to do as many retreat things as possible… time always requires a trade off.

My prompt was Never in a million years did…

I dropped the “did” and started writing in long hand, but soon switched to my easier to read typing. I wrote the dialogue first, as that is always what I hear the most clearly and gives me the best sense of my characters. I’m lousy with setting, physical description, and other grounding items. I have to work hard on adding such things during revisions.

I usually “see” the story via the back and forth conversations of the characters in my head, then build the full text story around that framework. I feel characters — that is, sense what they are feeling when they speak — more than have an external visual of them as I write. I sometimes will have some specifics in mind with regards to how the character (or setting or house or city or whatever) looks, etc, but the emotional context is always the primary starting point and is what drives the story for me.

During revision, as I work on completing this as yet unfinished story, I will change decapitating as a member of the audience kindly pointed out afterwards that the word doesn’t go with fingers; an embarrassing oops…

I also will have to research the two movies mentioned as in my initial conception of the entire story, which at first only included mentioning One Million Years, I was mixing their plots up.

That said, I thought I would go ahead and post unaltered what I read at the talent show, flaws and all, some already mentioned and others to come out during revising:

————————————————————————————————————

“Never in a million years,” Marcus said.

“Why not?” Donnie asked, right hand hanging over the top of his best friend’s open locker. It’s color, blue, marked his grade, as did Donnie’s, also blue, as if the lockers already being in the least cool wing of Plankton high didn’t scream their ninth grade status loud enough.

The gym, cafeteria, and parking lot full of cars of kids old enough to drive lay a social grand canyon away at the other end of the school. Cars like the black 1986 Firebird driven by the boy front and center of their current back and forth.

“Well, for one thing, he’s a senior.” Marcus said, pulling out his English Composition book. “He’s not going to be interested in going out with some stupid little freshman.”

“I’m not stupid. And I’m not little”

“Oh, gee whiz, don’t be such a geek. You always take things so literally. I didn’t mean you specifically, I just meant freshmen in general… though, hmm, come to think of it, you are more towards the puny side. One thrust and he’d probably split you in two.”

“Haha, you’re so funny you’re not. And besides it’s not like I’d be asking him to sleep with me…”

Marcus snorted and glanced at Donnie.

“At least not till a second date, eh?”

“I’m serious, Marc.”

Marcus clicked his tongue and slammed his locker, nearly decapitating Donnie’s fingers.

“I am, too. Hello, Earth to Donnie. Think who the hell you’re talking about. He’s not just any senior, he’s Jacob Alexander Rivington III, for Christ’s sake.”

“So? I’m Donald Alan Johnson the first.”

“You can’t just call yourself ‘the first.’ That doesn’t even make any sense.”

“Sure I can and sure it does.”

“Whatever,” Marcus said, invoking their usual one-word conversation ender and starting to walk towards class. But Donnie wasn’t finished and continued as he fell instep beside Marcus.

“It’s not like I have bad breath or cooties or anything. I’m intelligent, halfway-attractive, witty, and—“

“and still way, way out of his league. We both are. Not just other side of the tracks, but a whole other railroad. Get over it. Over him.”

They took their seats.

“It could happen. Be like a John Hughes movie. Like Pretty in Pink.”

“Molly Ringwald with a dick? Now there’s a vivid image.”

“Well it could, and you know what I mean,” Donnie said, studying the chewed-up pencil in his hand, running a finger along the myriad indentations; a pencil that had fallen out of Jacob’s backpack earlier that day during a rare juxtaposition of their respective lunch paths. “I just need to find the right approach to give this back to him.”

Marcus glanced over at him.

“Oh, yeah, nothing says go out with me like here, I found your spit-covered, gnawed-on piece of wood.”

“I wouldn’t say it like that.”

“How would you say it then? It’s just a stupid pencil. I don’t think a boy whose family lives in Chester Heights and who drives a frigging firebird to school gives a damn about losing something like that.”

The bell for class rang.

Donnie frowned, Marcus’s words causing reality to infringe on fantasy; he now envisioned approaching Jacob and Jacob laughing at him. Or worse, Jacob not laughing at all; just taking the pencil with a socially polite Thank You while giving him a pitying look, or maybe even scrunching up his face in way that said What a weirdo.

“You’re probably right,” Donnie said, shoving the pencil into his pocket and trying to forget about it.

#

But he couldn’t forget about it.

Or about Jacob.

That night at home he gave up on trying to concentrate on Math, History, or any of the other utterly unimportant to him at the moment things he was supposed to be thinking about. He didn’t tell his parents this, of course, but said he was going to study in his room.

Door closed and TV volume low, he tried to distract himself with video games, MTV and much later with Channel 4 up all night. The latter proved the most successful with a prehistoric double feature, a movie with Raquel Welch called One Million Years BC and another one, a comedy, starring Ringo Star as a caveman.

Fireworks against a Stone Wall

Cause baby, you’re a firework
Come on show them what you’re worth
Make them go, “Oh, oh, oh”
As you shoot across the sky

Props to the folks from Vermont PRIDE who made the Third Annual Stonewall Commemoration happen. A nice blend of music, history, and personal reflection, it beautifully celebrated – and remembered – the night 45 years ago when some drag queens in a dive bar were being harassed yet again by the police, as they had been harassed time and again by pretty much all of modern society, and said “fuck this.”

They fought back. And inspired, on that significant queer night, for others to join them. Fought back and reclaimed a little piece of themselves that no one else has the right to take: their pride.

There is more to that night, of course. A lot more. And there’s more history before it, more after it, and the writing of such pages is ongoing. But I’ll save parsing of significant events and analysis to my political scientist husband who graduated summa cum laude and did his honors thesis on the gay rights movement.

For this little blog, and with the little time that I have before I go to work, I wanted to focus on just one aspect of the amazing, moving event: the opening song.

Trevor, an Outright Vermont youth, played an incredible acoustic rendition of the song Fireworks by Kate Perry.

I’m not a Kate Perry fan. Heck, I didn’t even know who she was till he played the song and mentioned her as being the songwriter. Afterwards, so touched by that song and it still resonating in my thoughts, I found her original version on You Tube.

I wouldn’t have thought that one could have a lyric like “Make them go, “Oh, oh, oh”” in a song without it sounding insipid. In Kate Perry’s version, I was right. So I clicked Perry off in mid “oh”, closed my eyes, and heard Trevor’s soft and soulful “Oh, oh, oh”; a voice that brought out the meaning of the lyrics – and here I will give props to Mrs. Perry for penning them — in a way such that tears came unbidden to my eyes.

Right now my current situation is very difficult and I feel oppressed, depressed, and stressed.

Perhaps ironically, being queer is the one thing in my life that isn’t brutally marked by those three things. Sure, oppression is still there; of course it is.

But what I mean is: I am now legally married to my spouse of 18 years and live in a progressive state. I am also out 24/7 and do not put up with homophobic bullshit. So although there is still much – much — work to do with regards to queer rights – especially for Trans folks – I feel mostly safe and secure in my sexuality. Maybe not yet safe as houses, but safe as at least a decent tent.

Right now it is poverty that is causing me the most anguish. I am one of the working poor: I work over forty hours a week at a low-paying, physically-demanding job and feel trapped; locked in an economic closet, as it were.

So trapped, disillusioned, and full of worthlessness, I almost didn’t go to the Stonewall Commemoration.

But Gary and I did and I heard Trevor sing.

The song is about being queer. It is about being poor. It is about being in any situation where you feel like others are in control; a song about feeling worthy no matter what others say or do. About knowing that you are inherently worthy despite circumstances that might make it seem otherwise. About showing that worth no matter what.

My writing is my attempt at showing.

My writing, though, hasn’t been as consistent as I would like it to be; that is, I haven’t been writing consistently. Hard financial circumstances and emotional exhaustion tends to dampen the fireworks of creativity despite the mythical and romanticized view of the starving artist.

My story thoughts have been disjointed and jumbled, all mixed together with trying-to-make-ends-meet ones; the latter casting doubts on the story ones being worthwhile at all. I have had a lot of starts and stops of new stories, fizzling out not because of no story left but because of the fire going out; extinguished by the dark water of despair that insidiously advised me that I wasn’t getting anywhere.

I recently installed the trial version of Scrivener to try to regain some order. It is a writing tool that allows for disjointed thoughts for when the linear is too overwhelming. With it, you can worry about coalescence and cohesiveness later; it encourages you to run with whatever story thread you have at the moment.

This morning I was thinking about how I could best use it when it occurred to me that one of those fizzled stories could have another view added, which would take it in a fresh direction. Using the flexibility of Scrivener, I could start working immediately on some scenes involving that view and worry about compiling them into the whole later.

But I’ll save the immediately for tomorrow, when I have a day off. For now, with the time counting down to the start of my shift, I will let this minor post be a little spark across the sky.

Drivin’ the Point

So okay, Gary and I recently saw a couple of movies at Sunset Drive-in: Godzilla and The Amazing Spiderman 2.

Godzilla is a movie about the famous giant lizard. This version opens with a man losing his husband at the nuclear plant where they work. In effect, he causes his husband’s death because he has to seal off part of the plant to protect others from the fallout during a breach. So of course he is tormented by this throughout the movie…

Oh, wait, just kidding, that didn’t happen. He had a wife, as is typical of Hollywood, which is actually quite conservative despite the ridiculous claims otherwise.

And Spiderman 2, of course, is a movie about the famous spider-like human. In addition to fighting evil-doers and being an all-American champion of the people, this superhero has an on-again, off-again, tumultuous relationship with his boyfriend…

Oh, wait, just kidding, that didn’t happen. Because Spidey has a girlfriend.

During the same week we saw the movies with their “blatant” and “disgusting” displays of heterosexuality, Michael Sam celebrated his getting picked by the Rams by kissing his boyfriend. I’m not kidding here, as that did happen, as he does have a boyfriend.

Though I am just kidding about “blatant” and “disgusting” as I would never say that about displays of either heterosexuality or homosexuality, as at their cores they are both natural expressions of being human.

But some folks think otherwise, using a different standard for evaluation. Upset by the Michael Sam kiss, they are going on various and nonsensical tirades about it. The Russell Report remarks on this perpetual – and ironic — double standard:

Others want gays to keep it in the bedroom, which isn’t entirely true. The couple in Lawrence v. Texas were arrested for gay sex despite keeping it in the bedroom.

The thing is, though, sexuality is never kept in the bedroom. Certain physical acts, yes, but certainly not the attraction component of it, which is “on display” everywhere. We are social animals by nature. As such, we are constantly forming bonds with one another and expressing those bonds in different ways.

A nod, a shake of hands, a pat on the back.

A smile.

A penis and vagina, a penis and ass, or no penises at all.

A kiss…

Those in a tizzy over Michael Sam probably watch movies like Godzilla and Spiderman and barely register the heterosexual content. They live in a world of privilege, validation and reinforced assumptions of their reflected world that make such registering unnecessary.

But I register it and I point it out. And I counter it.

Not by telling the makers of Godzilla and Spiderman to keep it in the bedroom. But instead, I write about it. Sometimes directly in blog posts such as this. Mostly, though, I prefer to drive the point more subtly by simply writing stories with queer protagonists that reflect my world.

My world which is their world which is your world too: our shared world of hugging, nodding, kissing, fucking, talking, touching, listening, loving, and just plain existing.

New Year’s Gay

Yes, this is another gay-affirming post. But it is also about dark matter, hyperloops, giant drill bits, collecting dung, and English as the dominant language for science.

I just wanted to mention the gay part upfront so that any homophobes who may have unintentionally stumbled upon this blog can flit away to the safety of their sandboxes where they can bury their heads and wait for Fox news to come on.

This post started at the Laundromat.

Well, technically, significant parts of it started way before that, but I will say it started at the Laundromat just for the sake of narrative clarity. Regardless, I found myself stuck there with the horrible misfortune of not having brought anything to read.

Now the nice thing about places that often require a great deal of waiting is that they tend to have reading material strewn about. It may not always be the preferred choice of such things, but it is there. As such, I can typically make do, having an eclectic enough yearning for learning that I can find things of interest from a variety of sources.

Just the other day, I read a most fascinating article by a biologist on the abnormal shift in the rutting patterns of deer. This was at the Mazda dealership, in a hunting magazine outside my usual perusing of periodicals called North American Whitetail.

As luck would have it, the Laundromat had something more straightforwardly in align with my tastes: the November 2013 issue of Popular Science.

Sad to say, I’m not smart enough to do science, or at least do it justice. Lot of the math behind the cutting edge leaves me in question mark land. But I can usually — somewhat — grasp the significance and implications of, say, a discovery, even if some (much) of the technical part goes over my head. If nothing else, I can go “ohhh” and “ahhh” as my understanding, dim as it may still be, is illuminated.

Dark matterDunkle Materie — is an entire intellectual orgasm worth of Ohs and Ahs. If you study philosophy and/or religious studies, you should want to pay some serious attention to it. Basically, it would seem, based on things like galaxies rotating faster than what would be expected and other gravitational effects that would require more mass — more material — in the universe than what is visible, that something is missing.

Something that takes up about 85% of our reality.

Another way of putting this would be that we are woefully ignorant — in the dark, to squeeze in a lame pun — of 85% of the universe. That’s a mind-tripping large amount of an invisible something making up the vast majority of, well, everything.

The way the article describes the current hunt for the elusive dark matter is too good an analogy not to share. It is like going after the invisible man. Say the invisible man were a jogger. You believe he is likely to jog down a certain street that has other joggers on it. So you watch the street. Watch and watch and watch. Because it is probable that at some point at some time during his daily jogging, he will happen to bump into another jogger, thus giving evidence of his presence.

You watch, and hope, and pray for that bump.

Other articles didn’t leave me quite as spellbound, but were nevertheless fascinating:

The fifty-seven foot wide drill bit tearing into Seattle ground with a force that would bring tears of joy to Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor’s eyes.

A proposed Hyperloop transportation system that seems like something straight out of science fiction, but is close to becoming reality. I could be wrong in my imagining here, but I’m thinking of the contestants in The Running Man traveling down those high-speed tubes and ejected onto the stage.

Profiles of some of the worst and best jobs for scientists. Worst were things like Dead Moose Dissector and Bush-Meat Market Data Collector (i.e. collecting dung). One of the best, and my personal favorite, was Extreme Product Tester, which should be self-explanatory.

The short bit on English being the current international language of science made me think how we evolve as a human race and how easily it could go in some other direction. We who speak English as a native language tend to expect the world will always understand us. What if we suddenly found that to be taken seriously as thinkers we had to write in Chinese?

Okay, so, that’s the science bit of this post, and on to the gay content.

But a prelude to the gay content is straight content, as the contents are linked. And it’s from the same magazine I’ve been talking about here: Popular Science.

As I flipped through the pages I came across an ad for Lee jeans. Now this was Popular Science, not GQ or Sports Illustrated, so the heterosexual context was more low-key. But still, in the picture, hanging on to the male model’s arm, was a woman, looking up at the jeans-wearer with adoring, relationship eyes.

They were not doing anything sexual, yet the image clearly indicated a heterosexual predisposition. A predisposition subtle enough that people with a similar predisposition might not notice it any more than right-handed people regular notice that the majority of desks in classrooms are designed with them in mind.

But I notice.

And I try to remember this when my culturally-instilled self-loathing tries to emerge and tell me I’m “too out” or “flaunting it” or in some other way acting in a fashion deserving of restraint. I try to remember this and think “Are you kidding?”

If anything, I’m not out enough, not forward enough, not yet bold enough in my proclamation of self.

We soak in heterosexuality. It is flaunted in subtle and not so subtle ways. So much so, it is not recognized as the flaunting that it is, or even that it is. Instead, it is typically absorbed without awareness into our subconscious and sweated out in policy-making that might seem at first glance — which is far too often also the only glance — as neutral, objective even, but actually isn’t.

So what is to be done about this? What can be done? What should be done?

Well, for starters, we of the LGBTQ community can speak out more. I don’t mean speak out more against the status quo of heterosexuality or against the subtle pervasion of homophobia. Although of course we can do those things, and we have been doing those things, and we should continue doing those things.

Rather, I mean we need to speak out more for ourselves.

We need to move away from being a persecuted class into being that of a liberated one. We need to become less concerned about how others view us and more concerned about how we view ourselves. Acceptance by others is a benefit, but acceptance of ourselves is a requirement.

These are not unrelated or incompatible notions. For the more rock-solid view of ourselves we have — and the more we assert our natural right to express it — the less damage the fickle weather of the majority can cause us. What does a mountain care about either sunshine or thunderstorm?

My 2014 goal is to market my writing, and myself, with the artistic honesty and integrity both deserve. With that in mind, I have created New Business Cards.

New Business Cards

Let the New Year begin!

Buying Life

What matters most is
how well you
walk through the
fire.

The Dallas Buyers Club features an unlikable protagonist.

He is a misogynistic, homophobic, drug-using, straight piece of white trash who is kind of proud of being those things. But there is something about him that makes him likable. And to me it’s not because he eventually has a (slight) human revolution that softens his views of others, although that helps and is part of the based-on-true-life story.

Instead, it is his uncompromising view of — and confidence in — himself that makes me nod in affirmation and admiration, much in the same way I do when I read and reread the late great poet and professional drunk Charles Bukowski.

The general story:

Ron Woodruff (played exceptionally well by Matthew McConaughey) learns he has AIDS, a disease which he had previously thought only affected homos: a “faggot disease“. How would he have thought otherwise, considering the apathetic response of the nation?

At the time the movie takes place, during the reign of Reagan where that misnamed great communicator’s greater silence permitted many to die and many more to get infected, accurate information was not widely disseminated.

The only treatment for AIDS in the US was high doses of former cancer drug AZT, originally shelved because it didn’t work on cancer and had high toxicity. Human trials started being rolled out, and you may or may not have gotten access to even this drug that may or may not work.

There were other things being tried in other countries, vitamins and other supplements as well as different medicines, but they were not FDA approved. They were also difficult to obtain and some of them were even illegal to buy/sell in the states.

But not to possess.

So Ron traveled abroad. He bought them, used them and discovered they sometimes worked. They sometimes didn’t. And they sometimes caused problems. But sometimes they worked. And compared to the known-to-be-toxic AZT, the working / not working ratio proved worth the risk.

A risk he rightly wagered others would likewise be willing to take.

Ron didn’t sell such non-FDA-approved formularies, which would have been illegal. Instead, he sold memberships to the Dallas Buyers Club, which entitled members to have access to the vitamins/medicines/supplements for free. See the clever distinction?

Not everyone agreed with such technical splicing of legality, and much of the movie revolves around that disagreement.

But far more interesting than the basic plot is Ron’s determination to always be the author of his own life. It reminds us that ultimately we are the only ones with a truly vested interest in ourselves. For:

The pharmaceutical company had a capitalist orgasm over bringing AZT back on the market. Exorbitant pricing and rising stock prices made rich people richer. It was a happy, profitable time for the drug manufacturer and its stockholders as they reaped obscene benefits from this latest exploitation of another person’s tragedy.

Doctors might care, then and now, but the nature of research necessarily tempers such caring. In a trial, a certain population gets a placebo. That’s the only way to be sure of efficacy. Like it or not, the most efficient way of determining if something works is for the control group that doesn’t get that something to, well, die.

Death is a good measurement for such things.

Oh, sure, there is surely at least some minimal altruism there that would keep the above two goals — profit and research — from being the only driving forces for the people swept into those two broad categories. I’m not trying to diminish that important aspect of human nature and I certainly wouldn’t be one to go all Ayn Rand.

But there is never just one goal involved. We are far too complex, far too evolved, for it to be otherwise. We all have multiple goals, and more importantly, cross-purposes. Our hundreds of daily interactions and tasks both major and minor reflect that. It is fine for others to champion us, and it is certainly welcome when they do; however, we ultimately should be – and we actually have to be if we are going to survive and thrive — our own, most vocal cheerleader.

When adversity comes your way, do you glance left, right, and maybe upwards praying for a rescue that is always outside your realm of control? Or do you cast your eyes forward and take another bold step, letting the coals burn your feet as they may beneath your smiling face?

Becoming a Vermonter

IMG_20130813_171755

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

Okay, so I need to get in the habit of regular blogging. I mean that’s what you are supposed to do, right? No one just works on stories and poems any more. You need to ensure your social platform is regularly infused with new content to stay visible.

Often what happens, though, is my brain is so regularly infused with new content, and the subsequent new new content that comes from that then old new content getting processed a half-dozen different ways, is many things that might at the moment be cool (I think) to blog about end up getting buried instead.

But at this moment — and that’s all we ever really have — I feel like it might be cool to talk a little bit about our new place and new city and maybe even throw in a why or two, even though why questions by their very nature can be dangerous in the hands of the philosophically careless and any purported answers to them should be handled with kid gloves if handled at all.

But such thinking is for later posts — unless that thinking gets buried and stays buried — and at this moment I’m thinking of Gary and me both having places to work in our new place. The picture at the beginning is my particular work area and shows the table where I did my current paying work today of checking papers submitted to Public Library of Science, ensuring metadata is accurate and that the manuscripts are formatted correctly and so on.

And yes, there is an empty box there at the back and also a swath of brown paper on the floor near the front. What can I say? Our cats love boxes, especially from Amazon. As for the brown paper, it is the special kind of packing paper that you sometimes get in those empty boxes when they aren’t empty yet.

Amber, our young female cat, goes nuts over the crinkly, crackly claw-friendly stuff. She plays with it in all sorts of self-entertaining ways. She covers herself with it, dives into it, and hides things under it. She nestles it, shreds it, and in general has a right good time rearranging it like it is all the cat’s meow this side of feline origami.

So we keep it and an empty box or two at the expense of looking a little trashy.

As you probably can guess from that, my space is shared space.

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But there is enough room that it isn’t too bad, as Amber frequently finds other places to be.

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As far as that goes, and it goes pretty far, our oldest cat hangs out in the shared space, too, loving the couch. But he also finds other parts of the apartment to his liking.

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As far as outside our apartment, the best way to describe it is green. Mountains and green with small towns separated by miles and miles of this incredibly beautiful mountainous green. So beautiful I’m thinking at this moment that it maybe should be a post in itself, along with talking about what all is within walking distance of us now that we are living in the smallest capital in the nation.

So I’ll just jump forward to a blog-entry-ending why. Although there are many why‘s, as there always is, one of the most significant why‘s is answered by something we didn’t think we would see in our lifetime.

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With section three of DOMA struck down and the visit to the Justice of the peace that we took soon after moving here, our well over 17 years of marriage is now a marriage that is not only legally recognized by Vermont and 12 other living-in-the-twenty-first-century states, but Federally recognized as well.

The importance of this ruling is huge.

Huge enough that it totally changes the why question. It is no longer just a Why should we move to Vermont? Instead, with Indiana being as legislatively hateful as it was, is, and continues to strive to be, it is Why on earth would we stay?