Sunday, June 26, 2011

Equality Sucks!

From 2002 until 2007, I had the privilege of being a member of the Visions Collective. The Visions Collective was an intentionally intersectional group of artists, academics, and organizers that spanned broad racial, gender, sexuality, and age demographics. The genesis of the group was a discussion series held by the now defunct Freire Center in Minneapolis, which brought a group of folks together to discuss a number of topics, one of which was Israel/Palestine. The second intifada was in full swing, and a question was raised about suicide bombing attacks as legitimate acts of resistance versus acts of terror. The room was divided but the majority consensus was that when there is such a terrific and terrible imbalance of power between two peoples and when one people holds enormous and overwhelming military might that suicide bombing can be and has been used as a legitimate revolutionary war tactic.

For the lefty Jews in the room this triggered a deep and irrational reaction tied to political Zionism as practiced in Israel (which is distinct and different from the original aims of the Zionist movement). The outcome was that we realized that there were no spaces where we, who all identified as somewhere on the spectrum from progressive to radical, could come together to discuss and learn how to navigate what we termed "the places that stick." On the Left the issue of Israel/Palestine is perhaps the single most divisive issue because of the history of the Holocaust and the rhetoric of the Israeli government. But the fact remains that as allies to each other on the Left, we needed to develop a space to conscientiously and purposefully jump into those "places that stick," and figure out how to justly engage with one another in those hard places.

For five years, the Visions Collective met roughly monthly. Our only goal was to be intentional with one another and to talk about those hard places. We were not an organizing collective, we published no papers, and we had no agenda other than to build with one another over food and friendship. The collective was comprised of some amazing folks: Sara Leedom, Coya White Hat Artichoker, Juliana Hu Pegues, Ricardo Levins Morales, Nikki Kubista, Jeff Nygaard, Lisa Albrecht, and me.

I will never forget the day when Ricardo said:

When asking for equality, we must ask the question, "Equal to what?"

What a tremendously simple and overwhelmingly profound statement. It made me think, for the first, time, about it means to ask for equality whether that be racial equality, gender equality, or, the hot button issue of the day, marriage equality. At its foundation, in the United States, asking for equality really means to ask to be equal to and have the same opportunites as white, straight, wealthy men: aka the right to oppress others, the right to make enormous wealth on the backs of others, the right to degrade the environment for profit, the right to colonize and control the developing world, the right to amass private property, and the right to participate full as oppressors in the most heinous and oppressive neoliberal systems at the center of how the world operates.

No thank you.

Let's look, for a moment, at the institution of marriage. We are asking to be equal participants in an institution that was designed to subjugate women, perpetuate clan based power structures and preserve wealth within a kinship network with the specific caveat that the wealth, property and power be controlled by men. We are asking to be equal to a system that promotes and elevates one type of family structure, hold it up as sacred, and provide it with overwhelming benefits that are not accessible by either individuals that choose to live their lives singly, are forced to do so my circumstance, or choose to construct families and relationships on models that blow up the one person/one person binary paradigm.

No thank you.

Don't get me wrong. I absolutely beleive that any two people that wish to join together in marriage should receive the benefits that are available to a "straight couple." But I want to be clear in articulating what it is we are ACTUALLY asking to participate in and what it actually means to prop up the institution of marriage (plus, we all know just how wonderfully marriage actually works...).

The word equality is disgusting. I'd rather be called a nigger than be called equal.

I learned from Ricardo and the other folks in the Vision's Collective that what we REALLY want and what we REALLY should ask for is marriage justice, racial justice, relationship liberation, economic justice. The difference is very simple: justice and liberation require that each individual be supported, loved, upheld, and valued as a whole and perfect instrument with personal autonomy, sovereignity and integrity while also REQUIRING that personal power and privilege be balanced against not only ones immediate community needs and requirements but also against global needs and requirements. Economic justice means that everyone on the planet has food, water, clothing, shelter, education, and recreation before anyone else gets to have EXTRA food, EXTRA water, EXTRA clthing, EXTRA shelter, so on and so far. And by extra I mean more than the abundance needed to live your life well, wholly, and fully. No one should starve so that someone else can eat, but we should all eat what we need and not beyond excess because we believe we have a right to it based on our privilege.

Justice and liberation also require that we deconstruct misguided oppressive notions of what is or is not a valid union between peoples; if everyone involved is a consenting, informed, supported, and liberated adult freely choosing to participate in whatever type of relationship configuration, as long as it is loving and sustaining that relationship structure should enjoy all the rights and privileges of any other relationship structure that enjoys government sanction. Justice helps us understand that my liberation supports your liberation and blows up the notion that if somehow I should earn my freedom you will lose yours...we all get to be free. How sweet is that?

Equality sucks. I want no part of it.

Justice and that I am down with.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Kick Ass Parents Award: Susan Raffo & Rocki Simoes AND M'Bwende Anderson & Jaime Grant

I had a fucked up childhood.

Let's just be real about that.

My Mom did the best she could being a survivor of some not so great parenting moments from her childhood...but she spent a good deal of my young life being severely beaten by men, and there was a good chunk of time were I was beaten right along with her. My Dad and my Mom divorced while I was very young, and while both of my parents are amazing and have walked their own paths, we didn't get to walk much of it together.

So, when I come across parents that are raising their children in some of the most transformative and brilliant ways, and when I have first hand had the chance to meet and learn from their brilliant and gifted children or from the stories that I have read about the ways in which these little people see the world, my entire being is filled with love and hope and appreciation for the parents and the children.

So I decided that I would start an occasional award to recognize parents that are raising their chidren intentionally, using a model of parenting that instills a sense of self worth and social justice in their children. There are a number of parents that I expect to recognize, but I am starting off with two sets of parents that make my heart smile.

The Kick Ass Parents: Susan Raffo and Rocki Simoes

It's hard to believe that I have known Susan and Rocki for 14 years. Yep, you read that correctly, 14 years. I met Susan when we were students at the University of Minnesota in 1997. Since then, Susan has been my colleague, boss, collaborator, co-conspirator, emotional support, mentor, and family. I met Rocki shortly after meeting Susan, and Rocki has been all the things Susan has been (including being the boss of me when I had the honor to serve on the Host Home Program advisory board), and Rocki is family as well. About a decade ago, Rocki knocked up Susan with some sperm from a gentleman I like to call the Lesbians Baby Daddy of South Minneapolis (Yay Capper!), and nine months later along came Luca "Peluca Head" Raffo-Simoes.

Susan and Rocki were the first folks to model for me what it looks like to raise a child with a level of intentionality that recognized this child as a little person while teaching her to move through the world consciously and conscious of power, privilege, and the impacts of oppression.

I will never forget the first time I was with the family and Luca interrupted the conversation in order to ask us to explain what we were talking about as she didn't understand what was going on. Susan and Rocki have always given Luca permission to interrupt adult conversation when she is present if she doesn't understand the content, and with love Susan and Rocki both have modeled how to explain adult conversation appropriately but directly and without condenscension.

Oh how I love this family. I have been to about half of Luca's birthday parties, we have grass fights in the Summer, and she even sat in on a workshop I gave this last spring at a queer youth conference. Thank you Rocki and Susan for bringing Luca into the world, and thank you for giving her the tools to live her life with love, conviction, and intentionality. You can't protect her from all the things that will go bump in her life, but she has all the tools she'll need to get over them and without so many of the childhood wounds that I know many of us of a different generation have.

The Kick Ass Parents Award: Jaime Grant and M'Bwende Anderson

It is no conincidence, I think, that the two families that came to mind immediately when I thought of this award were two queer families. The second family is also led by two people that I worship from afar: Jaime and M'Bwende.

I met both Jaime and M'Bwende 11 or 12 years ago when we were working in the youth movement. I was a youth organizer as was M'Bwende and Jaime was an adult ally. Both M'Bwende and Jaime met each other and I met them through the National Youth Advocacy Coalition (rest in peace NYAC). From the gate, I loved both of these human beings. I loved Jaime for her fierce brilliance, consummate nerdiness, and lovely sensuality and sexuality all wrapped up in one person. I wanted to be M'bwende. They were beautiful, intentional, confident, and powerful...the type of person of African descent that every black person in this country should have in their young life....and damn sexy too! Both of them, like Susan and Rocki, work in the justice movement, raise their families using intentionality and direct honesty, and they talk about the struggles and the beauty openly. It's inspirational.

Jaime and M'Bwende have two children: Reilly and Ella. I haven't had the privilege of meeting Reilly, and I've only seen Ella a couple times as a baby. But the stories that Jaime shares about these amazing children often times makes me die laughing and fly with the fierceness of their being. Reilly is an anti-racist avenger, stomping down on oppression and has an analysis of the way the world works and how it should work that took me until sometime during college to even begin to have. I am failry certain Ella is going to form a feminist collective that will one day rule the world.

How I love this family and the people that lead it. How I love that Ella and Reilly are moving through the world already. How I deeply appreciate, as a multi-racial person that grew up in a black/white home, how this black/white home is a model for multi-racial families. Thank you and love to you both.

I am super happy to highlight these four amazing people....Rocki, Susan, M'Bwende, are all KICK ASS PARENTS!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Same Gender Marriage: My Analysis

Yesterday I posted my first guest blog at My Feet Only Walk Forward, and I am mightily glad that I did. Some of you loved it, some of you hated it, some of you agreed with it but didn't like the style in which it was presented. I will make this comment that the person who wrote it is brilliant and has a right to their rage, anger, and disappointment with the topic of marriage. That person also has a right to use profanity, and I believe did so in a hilarious way. But the reality remains that so many of those with money or those that make decisions about the priorities of the movement for LGBTTSGNCSGL/Queer justice have pushed, cajoled or plainly forced those of us with a broader and more substantial agenda for change into their cubbyholes. It is not cool at all and displays the underlying power, privilege and oppression present within the queer community.

Today, an article appeared on the Huffington Post stating that Obama has had a reconciliation with the "gay" movement largely because of the myriad of ways he really has been an ally to queer folks and has used both legislative and executive avenues to push forward various issues important to various segments of the queer and trans community. The article would have been fantastic if had stated that and stopped there. But oh NO...the first couple of paragraphs were right on and then the rest of the damn article was about marriage. And that right there is the problem. Let me restate.


The article clearly reflected its sources. Ask most folks at the HRC, The Task Force, Freedom to Marry, and Equality Matters and you would end up with a priority list with marriage at or near the top. Ask the Stonewall Democrats and the Log Cabin Republicans, and you'd probably get the same thing.

Now trot your ass down to 24th and 7th and ask FIERCE (Queer youth of color organization), Audre Lorde Project(LGBTSTGNC people of color organization), Sylvia River Law Project (trans criminal justice organization), or Queers for Economic Justice, and marriage won't even hit the top ten. Ask Unid@s and it might be in the top five but it won't be number one.

Let's examine's pretty simple. The first batch of organizations largely represent middle or upple middle class white heternormative individuals with tons of privilege and a narrow view of what a "gay" issue is.

The second batch of organizations works with working class, poor, vulernable and homeless populations that are largely people of color and include a huge number of immigrants.

So the math is pretty simple, those with the most need and are facing the most urgent issues that relate to life and death, food, clothing and shelter are those with the least means to force recognition of that need onto the national stage. Those privileged individuals that fund the national organizations have the means and do prioritize their narrow desire and do so without regard and often times concern other than a general recognition of queer and trans folks of color and working class queer and trans folks.

Thus marriage assumes a level of focus and importance way beyond its actual potential impact and ability to change lives broadly.

And I get even more angry because it forces an internal division between my politics and the impact on my friends. My politics are clear: marriage is not a priority nor should it receive the resources it receives. My reality is clear: many of my friends are in loving committed monogamous relationships, many with children, and would benefit from the economic and immigration rights that come with marriage. My friends Susan and Rocki would never have had the stress of worrying about Rocki's green card. My friend Karly and her partner Laura are currently living in England, where Laura holds citizenship, because Laura's visa expired and though they are married she can not petition for citizenship as a straight couple would be able to do. For them, marriage would be life changing but not life saving. Though it sucks beyond suckage, and I want them to be here in the United States, neither of them worry about food, clothing, shelter, access to HIV and other medications, addiction treatment, or any of the other broader and more impactful issues within the queer and trans community that can and often do mean life or death.

That's what we are talking about here people: quality of life versus life or death. I want all of my friends that wish to celebrate their love for one another and have it recognized by the state to have that right without reservation. I also live with HIV and I want a cure. I want their to not be a waiting list for ADAP insurance for positive individuals. I want their to be housing for people living with AIDS and hospice care for those for whom the medications no longer work and they are transitioning out of this life. I want any young person that runs away or is kicked out of their home because of being queer or trans to know, with certainity, that they can walk down the street to the nearest youth service organization and there will be supportive housing available to them free of charge. I want any addict anywhere (and at least 25% of queer folks suffer from some form of addiction) to have instant access to rehabilitation services in a queer affirmative environment by simply asking for it.

Since 1996, somewhere around $1 billion has been spent on the marriage fight. $1 billion dollars could have made any one of those other issues right up in that last paragraph a reality or have gotten us so much closer to making them realities.

Next month I will be in Los Angeles at the wedding of a dear friend of mine who is marrying a beautiful man. I will be there with joy for them, but I won't lie, there will be some part of me that is bitter that they can get married wherever they want in the world and have it recognized by the world. I don't have that right. But, I am personally willing to sacrifice that right for now, for myself, in order to heal much deeper and broader and life threatening wounds in our community.

And there is also a part of me that wants to end marriage for everyone entirely. I currently have a partner and am seeing another wonderful man. Even with a win for marriage, my relationship structure choice will not be validated nor will folks that are single be included in the awarding of the economic privileges that go along with heterosexual style marriage.

I am not in opposition to marriage and I understand why many find it to be so important, it is the place it holds and the resources it has appropriated in this fight that make me so very upset. But I am also a realist when I have to be. We are winning this marriage fight despite the laws on the books federally and in so many states. The courts are siding with queer folks. Popular opinion has swung in favor of allowing same gender marriage.

I will continue to critique marriage loudly and openly. I will continue to support fights AGAINST amendments like the proposed constitutional amendment in Minnesota limiting marriage to one man and one woman---those are direct attacks on us and should be resisted rigorously---I wrote the largest single charitable contribution check that I have ever written to a single organization last year...the organization was formed specifically to unseat Senators in New York that voted down a marriage law last year...and I believe that politicians with fucked up positions should pay for their votes with their seats. But I won't be writing a check to any organization that has as part of its agenda active advocacy and organizing FOR marriage in the absence of a attack on marriage rights. Let the courts keep the legislatures in check...that's why we have a system of checks and balances.

But, also, I am so tired of the fight in general, and I know, eventually, that we are going to win, so I would like us to get to right we can move on to the issues and concerns that are truly going to radically change the lives of millions of queer folks in this country. I too am Beyond Marriage.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Jomama Jones: Endless Summer Live

I love my friend Kenyon Farrow for so many reasons, but one of the gifts he has given me is introduce me to a tremendous human being by the name of Daniel Alexander Jones and his alter ego Jomama Jones.

Last January, on a night so cold I thought my left nostril was permanently frozen shut, I got a call from Kenyon saying that he had an extra ticket to see Jomama Jones' play Radiate. What he didn't tell me is that it was a rock opera soul diva funkadelic glam extravaganza with Jomama Jones who, when I walked in, I thought was Miss Lena Horne come back from the dead.

Radiate blew my mind.

Even more amazing was that I ran into my friend from Minneapolis, now a professor at Hampshire College, Djola Branner sitting in the lobby. Djola revealed to me that Daniel was once a part of the Minneapolis theater community, and we have tons of friends in common.

Well when I found out that Jomama was back with a summer concert, I almost lost my mind.

And when you hear this beautiful performer take the stage backed up by the Sweet Peaches, you are going to love her as much as I do.

The show is running Tuesday June 21 and Wednesday June 22, four show times, and you can buy tickets here. I will see ya'll there.

And for those of you NOT in New York betta call somebody you know and book Jomama in your hometown.

A house of our own: drag balls spark a movement to create safe spaces for queer youth of color. (Intelligence Making Change).: An article from: City Limits

Fuck Gay Marriage: A Guest Blog

I received an email today from an old and dear friend from back home in Minnesota that is a brilliant political strategist and deeply committed to the community. This friend asked me if I would post this blog on their behalf anonymously. Anonymously because of the position and space they hold within the movement. Because I share many of the critiques of the marriage movement and what it has meant to our community and who it excludes and the resources it has sucked away from many more important issues and the way it has defined and excluded broader conversations and work for real social change in the LGBT Movement, I have agreed to post this blog anonymously.

Get ready.

Fuck Gay Marriage
by Anonymous

Fuck marriage.

That's right, I said it.

Fuck marriage.

To be more specific, fuck all of you who are going to spend the next fucking year fucking yabbering on and on and on about how important it is that you and your partner of a couple gazillion years be able to get a fucking little piece of paper so you can get access to all the privileges given to straight people who get married.

Don't get me wrong, I'm going to fight like fucking hell against the fucking amendment. I can guarantee all you fucking model same sex couple, with your 2.5 bottle-bred babies and your cozy fucking rambler with the fucking organic garden in the back that I am at some point going to go batshit crazy after you have explained for the fucking 100th time how you need to be able to see the fucking “love of your life” in the hospital or be able to co-sign the mortage.

Yes indeedy, I am about to spend the next fucking year defending your fucking marriage while I sit at home eating a fucking Lean Cuisine and talking to my fucking cat, by myself.

Fuck it all, let's start having singles only events against the fucking amendment so we can sit around and just fucking bitch about you all in the vain hope that we aren't tempted to slash the fucking tires on your fucking Hybrid Mini-van.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Everyday Heroes: Victor Cole

So I was supposed to post my newest award: The Awesome Parents Award...but that is going to require a little more set up, and I am feeling extremely lazy today

But there is someone that I have been meaning to love on publicly for some time. His name is Victor Cole, and he is my Everyday Hero.

Let me tell you why.

I met Victor aka Titi five years ago, in the fall of 2006. I was dating a man that played on the gay softball league, and I went with him to a fundraiser at The Saloon in Minneapolis. There I met a number of his friends that played on a team called the Slammers.

These fools were crazy as Hell. I fell in love with them instantly.

Over the next few months I got to know the BNO Crew (Boys Night Out crew), and I began hanging out with them. When the Spring came around, Titi invited me to join the team. I had never played softball in my life, in fact, I was terrified of organized sports (except for volleyball, which I'd grown up playing, and soccer, which I played on the weekends in the summers as an adult). But to play on an actual league brought forth all kinds of childhood terrors.

Joining the team changed my life completely. It changed it for all of the reasons that research says that organized sports are great. But also, I gained a community of queer men (and one fantastic woman), largely queer men of color, that acted like a family (including some dysfunction but what family doesn't have that?). While Ramon was the heart of the family, Titi was the head (with a big old heart to boot).

Let me tell you, I have gone through some things in the last few years. Read this blog and most of it has been written about here. I have been in my own stuff and lost some friends because of it. But Victor, always giving good love and sometimes giving tough love, would find me in my dark places and reflect back to me the love and light that is constantly around me. He has a gift of seeing people as they are and maybe even as they are meant to be. I believe there are times when your community steps in to love you when you can't quite love yourself, and Victor Cole has loved me more than once and held me up when I was stumbling and not able to love myself the way I deserve.

Victor is brilliant. He is an educator. He is a proud Hawaiian that loves his people as he loves his community. He lives the aloha spirit and has carried it with him wherever he has lived. I've heard stories from so many folks that know and love this man. He isn't just a hero to me.

I love him. It's pretty simple. He's offered his love freely, and it has been received with an appreciation that I don't think I will ever adequately be able to communicate.

Thank you, Titi. You are one of my most loved Everyday Heroes.

PS Please don't punch me in the face for posting this blog about you. Thanks in advance.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pull My Trigger(s)

Last night I wrote a blog when I was highly triggered...I deleted it this morning.

I received lots of awesome feedback, constructive criticism, and sassy love. I appreciate all of it. Some of you sent me some deliciously inappropriate pictures with offers of salacious deliciousness....I'll get back to you ;-).

I deleted the post for two specific reasons: 1) Some folks were confusing my emotional response with the person that triggered the response--which was my fault...said person was the focus of my rage but not the cause of it, and 2) one of you good people wrote, with much love, and said the fact is that I really do not know what happened to said person and that I might just be confusing gay boy rudeness with my own personal soft spots, which is true enough that I realized that I could have been highly unfair in how I posed my blog last night, so here I go with a broader and more appropriate response.

The best part of being a real live human being is that you get to have other real live human beings give you some perspective when you are unable to have it for yourself.

First let me explain what I mean by triggers. Triggers are those moments, experiences, and situations that sometimes can be avoided because you are conscious of their impact on you and what they bring up from your personal and historical past. Sometimes you find out, the hard way, when they summon up a Hell storm of emotions that ransack your body and take your mind and spirit hostage for a time. For addicts, triggers can often send folks into a relapse with a lightening quickness. But the bottom line is that once one is triggered the best possible scenario is to get to a safe place or let someone you know and love that may be with you in a place that has suddenly become unsafe that you have been triggered and then find a way to ride out the emotions. For me, most often, this means that I run to my laptop and start typing a blog or I go to the gym, as I did this morning, and work my body through the emotions. Some people take a shower, other folks journal or sing or take a walk but it is important for anyone that has never experienced severe physical, emotional or sexual trauma that a person that has been triggered is not going to be in a necessarily rational state of mind for a period of time (sometimes the triggered moment begins and ends in seconds...sometimes it last for hours or a day).

It is also important to know, and listen closely here, that the situation, person or thing that acted as a trigger is not ACTUALLY the problem. Take last night, for example. While I had every right to be annoyed and upset that I was stood up without any communication, the only fact that I had was that I had been stood up without any communication. Any response directed towards that person should have been limited to, at most, "I am pissed off/annoyed that you weren't where we agreed you'd be when we agreed you'd be there." That's it. That's the most that I would have done with any friend that didn't show up, it's what I would have done for any colleague or business appointment if said person didn't show up. But there are two situations when I am now aware that I need to be prepared to find safety and quickly when a person does show up: if a parental figure/authority figure that I respect particularly if it is a black man or someone to whom I have disclosed my HIV status and in whom I have some sort of interest.

I have the parental figure thing on lock....but it wasn't until my 30th birthday when two friends of mine, both of whom happened to be black men and both of whom were/are people to whom I looked up weren't able to be at my birthday party that I discovered I had a deep and unexamined issue. I fired off a couple of self-depricating and passive aggressive text messages to them that did not respect what they were doing and where they were. One person is still a good friend, another was so offended that he disengaged with me. It wasn't until my friend Victor, who knew all of us, brought it to my attention that what he observed and thought was significant was that I only got upset when the two black men that were my friends didn't show up that I had such a deep response, which he actually shared with those two folks. And as soon as Victor (aka Titi) shared his observation with me, I knew it was truth. It made total sense. My birth father was in the military and was unable to be around when I was growing up and then we had a couple of experiences in our relationship where he was unable to be around even though he was in the country. The man who raised me that was extremely physically abusive but for all intents and purposes was the father with whom I bonded emotionally. When I was a child, he was constantly failing to show up and follow through leaving me feeling abandoned and "less than". I was disappointed that Larry and Ramon couldn't be at my party but all the feelings past that were really my deeper core feelings of being abandoned by black men that I love. Both Larry and Ramon were working and working hard and really couldn't be present. But all I got from them not being present was: unworthy, less than, unloved. Our filters can be such mindfucks. I had no idea that was what was going on until after I had been triggered and acted out.

Last night I discovered a second trigger when the gent didn't show up. Instead of it just being that something came up, or he was just being rude, it became about feeling unwanted, undesirable, and untouchable because of my HIV status. My response and my reaction last night was not actually about him, it was about me and my own issues that I am aware exist, and I work on them daily, but last night was a new situation for me. I have had men share with my honestly that they can't get past the HIV status and so choose not to engage with me, which I respect. And in those moments, I might feel sad or a bit of those deeper feelings, I know how to manage them appropriately. Last night, I was taken off guard, and so my feelings were able to rise up and punch through and put me into a tailspin before I could give myself the space to process them appropriately. Instead of it being that the dude didn't show, it was: untouchable, undesirable, other. I repeat...our filters are mindfucks.

And anyone that knows me knows that if I get to that emotional state the Devil Himself stays the fuck out of my way. I am my Mama's son sometimes...and that woman is crazy as Hell (love you Mama). And now that I have 200lbs of muscle on this here body...I start to feeling like Bruce Banner up in this piece. "You wouldn't like me if I'm angry." HULK SMASH!

Last night was a rough but necessary lesson for me to take in. It wasn't at all about this other person (who I did hear from, finally, today...I am still annoyed). It was also a moment for me to process openly, particularly since not everyone has to deal with such intense triggers in their life, but everyone knows someone that does.

And lord have mercy I am glad that I had the sense not to name names or I would be eatin' crow like a mo'fo today.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


No, this blog post is not about the Irish Republican Army (though I support their right to armed resistance!)...this post is actually about the other I.R.A., I Require Attention, also know as Attention Deficit Childhood Disorder (ADCD) could also be called HANS--HIV Attention Need Syndrome.

Once the AMA (American Medical Association) or APA (American Psychiatric Association) makes a decision and it is listed in the DSM IV, I will let you know. (I kinda just wanted to see how many acronyms I could fit into the first few sentences in this blog).

But back to the topic at hand. In college, my good friend Kjersten dubbed me an IRA. Anyone that has ever met me knows that I am a bit of a clown, and while I have my quiet moments, I am generally the one trying to get folks talking, laughing, or somehow engaged. I try to be cognizant (at least at this point in my life) of how much space I am taking up (unless I've had a couple of G&Ts then all bets are off)...but the fact remains that I thrive on the attention of others. I am an extroverts extrovert and I start to go a little crazy if I am isolated from folks for too long.

In fact, one of my personal character defects is that I equate a lack of attention with a lack of love, which is super selfish. I have a ton of amazing love from so many people, and folks have their own damn lives. It doesn't mean that they love me less if they haven't had the time to see me lately, but in my own head/mind/spirit, if someone I care about hasn't checked in for a while or hasn't made an effort to get together, there is an arbitrary alarm clock inside of me that starts to sound an wakes up my abandoment issues and next thing you know I am sending passive aggressive notes on Facebook.

Oy vey.

But I have noticed that there is a new twist to the game lately. In the past, part of my showmanship was to keep people laughing and keep them from looking too closely. I didn't want them to notice that I was hurting, using, unhappy or whatever it was that I wanted to keep people from seeing. Trust me on this my friends....isolation tips people off...if you want to hide whatever crazy you are going it by making folks laugh and being a clown...they will never ask questions, think you are fun, and never really get to know you. Ahhhhh safety in public anonymity.

(Or to use one of my favorite metaphors of my own devising: the pitchers mound is the loneliest place in a softball game. You are right there for all to see but absolutely alone when it comes to letting that ball go. Once you let it go, other folks can help you get to your goals, but YOU have to first get that ball to a place where it can be of got to get it across home plate....and then your teammates can step in.)


Lately I have noticed that my need for attention has multipled exponentially. Part of it, I think is simply loving the looks that this new fangled body of mine engenders. That part of it is fine. I appreciate the appreciation. But, I have noticed that now I spend half my workout trying to see if other people are looking. That, right there, is an issue.

Part of this is that living with HIV and having some some rejection(s) and hiding inside myself, staying away from the gym for long periods, and using all of my clowning and performance skills to keep people at a distance kept my inner child attention starved. It's sort of like dying of thirst while in the middle of the ocean...there was plenty of water but it wasn't the kind that could sustain life.

As I have worked very hard lately to keep my addiction in check, as I have begun writing and living much more openly about HIV, and as I have been working on my physical goals as well as my professional goals, I am becoming more comfortable with myself and who I am. As I am becoming more comfortable my attention starved inner child that has been hiding for so so so many years wants to be seen.

And I mean really seen. But instead of just wanting to be present and loved for all of who he is, my inner child is starting to throw temperantrums and demanding that everyone and all eyes look towards him.

I am about to give him an ass whooping.

Growing up poor, overweight, brown, queer, and then testing positive have left redonkulous scars...but just like the easy scars I get on my skin, they start to fade over time...and the new skin that emerges is pink and vulnerable for a needs care and nurturing...and it doesn't want to be hurt again. That is exactly what Billy (that's my childhood name and what my family calls me)....wants to be protected, loved, and seen.

Now the work is to give him and myself the attention we all merit as human beings without it becoming pathological, overbearing, egotistical, or harmful.

Sometimes I just hate usually means I got a whole bunch more work to do.

Guess what. I do.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Rest in Peace Grandma Huxtable

Folks the world over, from 1984-1992, tuned in on, I believe, Thursday nights to watch The Cosby Show. For the first six years of the show, I am fairly certain that I didn't miss an episode. The anniversary episode where my favorites. In fact, in season two, the entire clan gets together to lip synch a song to Grandpa and Grandpa Huxtable: Ray Charles' Night Time.

When that episode aired I laughed so hard I literally fell off the ottoman in our family room. I was living on Agnes Street in Kansas City, MO. When Rudy took the stage, I seriously had never seen anything so damn hilarious in my entire life. Of course, I was only eight at the time, but still, that shiz was hilarious. Though I was fairly young, I can see myself in my head absolutely clearly. That is how much of an impact that The Cosby Show had on my young life.

For those very formative years of my life, from age seven to 14, the Cosby Show was a staple of my ocular consumption. The positive and non-gangsta-glorification depiction of a successful black family was, at a time of the emergence and mass consumption of West Coast gangster rap and all of its accompanying media spawn, a welcome depiction of a different type of black experience. I wanted to be a part of the Huxtable family. I wanted to bash Too Short in the head (and, as Murphy's Law would have it...a few years little sister ended up dating Too Short for a time...sigh Sigh SIGH!).

Today, I heard the sad news that Clarice Taylor aka Anna Huxtable, the woman that played Bill Cosby's mother, passed away from heart failure at the age of 93. This brilliant woman had a career that took her from Broadway to Sesame Street. She was a familiar, graceful and brilliant figure in the lives of black Americans from the 60s until her death. Her contributions to the education of young black children have been invaluable. At 93, she has lived a full life surrounded by success and love, but her loss is a generational loss. She will be dearly missed.

Thank you Miss Clarice for giving of yourself and loving your community enough to defy stereotypes. You have passed on but you achieved immortality before you left. Much love to you Mrs. Huxtable. Sleep well.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

One Liner of the Week Award: Will McNair

I have a new friend that I absolutely adore. His name is Will McNair. He and I met working on a project with the fabulous Bebe Zahara Benet. When Will first walked in he looked all quite and homosexual. Once that fool got warmed up, I felt like I was on Def Comedy Jam getting Punk'd.

A couple of weeks back, Mr. McNair had himself a birthday. On the night of his actual birthday, we went out for a little spin around Chelsea. We stopped in first at G Lounge where Will was able to indulge his artistic appreciation for go go boys and crisp dollar bills.

While sitting and debating the merits of thongs versus jock straps as traditional gay go go regalia and discussing dating possibilities for Will he said,

"I am educated. I got money. I am a white woman of color."

I about shit a roll of nickels.

And that, ladies and termites, is the One Liner of the Week.