Last night I was lucky enough to be able to attend a GAY-la celebrating the anniversary of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. It was truly magical, to say the least, uniting two of my most favorite things: gays and celebs. The really magical parts included gays that were ALSO celebs, which really packed a wallop in the gut-wrenchingly-awesome category of life. I got to brush shoulders and briefly hobnob with many of my long-time favorites. Lilli Tomlin, Perez Hilton, and Jane Lynch, to name a few. Perez thought we had met before and I wondered for a second, like an idiot, "Can he see me through the computer screen?!" Lilli Tomlin dropped her clip-on earring and I got to pick it up and give it back to her, and Jane Lynch told me I smelled nice. Those things alone pretty much wrapped the night up in a gossamer bow for me. BUT, those things aside, the night also helped me deal emotionally with a few themes that have been painting my life-colored-glasses for the past while.
The center's CEO Lorri Jean spoke and was particularly inspiring. Not only did she fill my already wine-warmed heart with hope, but also with validation. It was so nice to have someone give a damn good speech about the reality of not only how far the gays have come in this world, but she also touched ever so gently but effectively on the subject of the still-very-real-and-harsh reality of how far the gays have to go STILL. Not to be a Negative Nancy, but I feel like that is one of the most important things a community can give anyone. The spoken validation that a.) You/I/Hypothetical You or I are/am NOT CRAZY for thinking that the world is still annoyingly tense and scary. And b.) I/You/Hypothetical You or I feel the same things. Empathy. It takes breaking down the walls of communication, and by that I mean the plexi-glass Disney-cartoon painted walls the world likes to put up around problems, to feel comfortable opening up, let alone celebrating, the success the queer community has worked so hard to enjoy.
Jane touched delightfully on the subjects of narcissism and laziness, and spoke sardonically about how these things keep her from being an activist, per say. She reminded us all that she never intended her life to be a political statement, but lo and behold, her being an out gay person has been extremely important to her career. Like Lilli Tomlin and so many others, simply by being herself, she has become not only a Hollywood icon, but a political icon as well. In a way, many people I know are political icons simply by being who they are. At least they are to me. I can think of quite a few queers who have been so deeply, deeply inspiring to me throughout the years and have paved the road for me, so to speak, and inspired me to come out of my own stuffy closet. I still feel shy congratulating those people and thanking them for what they have meant to me, and if I didn't know better now than to out people, I would sing their praises from the rooftops, mountaintops, any kind of top, really. (Heheh.)
And I wouldn't sing the praises of gays only, dear Lord! I would sing the praises of many a sexual people who have been brave enough to talk about sex as if it were a real and important and extremely relevant issue at all times. I would sing to those who have a sense of humor about it, one that was strong enough to have me belly laughing about my own sexual self. I would sing the praises of those who have been survivors of sexual assault/rape/molestation (because statistically and in my experience, almost EVERYONE I know has suffered some sort of violation of this type, MYSELF INCLUDED) and have spoken up about it, made it known so others could feel comfortable claiming their own survivor-status in the community of others like themselves. Sexuality and sex have and always will be extremely RELEVANT issues.
I have to remind myself not to be ashamed every day. It's okay to be QUEER. It's okay to be sexual. And it is okay to talk about it. It's okay that others feel uncomfortable with me and my sexuality and perhaps my openness about those things because that is ultimately their problem, though it may feel so heavily like mine sometimes. It's okay to want to hang out with other queers a lot of the time and to feel validated by the conversation, community, and style they offer. It's okay to have felt pain having come out of the closet and to continue to struggle. It may feel so subtle at times...too subtle and too carefully blanketed by mainstream society's need-to-normalize, to comfortably speak about it or to call the world out on it.
I don't really feel like an activist, either, though I have had my glory days putting together Take-Back-The-Night rallies and leading Menstrual Pride clubs in my undergrad days. Those days were so deeply important, wickedly fun, and empowering as all hell, but I do feel like I have other fish to fry in terms of career moves. But I will never stop caring about good, real, and important activist work, and I will never stop being grateful for those who work so hard to make the world better for others. As I told my brother Pat before he left for the Ukraine to work for the Peace Corp, I think giving so wholeheartedly to others in the form of direct action is pretty much the most honorable thing a person can do.
I say all this today, in this here blog, because homophobia has been in my life as of late. Well, it has always been in my life, but I think I hit a special grace period in Seattle when it felt like queers were finally normal and homophobia was only an occasional weirdness. Just the other week I was telling my friend, who is struggling to deal with his family's "intolerance" of his sexuality, that his family would come around, just as people in my life have... And now I feel the awkward pain and confusion all over again. But homophobia is something that lurks in all of us, isn't it? It is kind of contagious. Once people I care about feel it and express it to me, I start to feel homophobic and ashamed myself, because it has been so deeply embedded in my wrinkles of time.
Validation or not, I have to set aside my internalized homophobia. Rather than set it aside, I have to burn it in effigy every so often, as I do my other struggles and fears, because it is not something to dwell on or be given any power. Though it will always be there, it must always be fought. And though it may seem gone from time to time, I, and my community, should be prepared to fight it again and again and again.
Talk to each other, people, but be careful and aware of what is coming out of your mouth. Ask yourself what your problem really is...if you have one. Homophobia is so, so often internalized first and then directed towards others, if you get my drift, and most out and proud gays know this.
For the questioning
For those who might just need a sexier sex life, solo or not...
For those who might need a sex convo starter...
Susie Bright is really smart...
For those who need cheap but awesome counseling (I mean, don't we all?!)<---(for Seattle-ites.) For those who live in Los Angeles, this is what I've got so far. I have yet to get the tour...
For those readers of mine living in or around Seattle who might need a sexy pick me up, check out the burlesque scene! It's huge, it's chalked full of talent, and it's amazingly sex-positive and affirming. You could take a date, just watch by yourself, OR you could try twirling your own tassels! People of all ages, shapes, colors and creeds are sexy, sexual people...and can do burlesque! Also, the Center For Sex Positive Culture is in Seattle and is an amazing resource for EVERYONE. I miss the culture of Seattle deeply, and a lot of that is due to the amazing and colorful community of support and awareness the people there have concerning sexuality and gender. Take advantage!!!
As was pointed out to me again so thoughtfully on last week's episode of Glee, prejudice is just ignorance. We all have the responsibility to educate ourselves, for the sake of ourselves, and the ones we love. We all have the capacity to love each other and ourselves. My favorite yoga teacher in Seattle, Molly at the Samarya Center, inspires me, when I remember to think of her words, to grow MORE capacity for love as I get older, not less. In no way do we need to become more confined as we get older, and there is almost always a way out of that hole you've dug yourself into, though you might have to ask for someone's help to do so.
Peace and Love to you all.
Another GAY fundraising event tonight! Stay tuned...