Groundhog Day Again

(First posted four years ago; still applicable)

One of the reasons I decided to leave Toronto 19 years ago was the overwhelming sense of loss I felt. The first ‘real’ relationship had ended, the job I thought would be my career was gone, and I had lost so many, too many, friends, acquaintances and tricks to what was first labeled GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency).

There is (or was) a magazine distributed free at gay bars and the restaurants and coffee shops frequented by we gay folk called Xtra. Near the front was a section entitled “Proud Lives” to remember those we had lost. I still recall the day I opened the newest issue to see that, for the first time, there was absolutely no one in that section that I knew, or knew of. There was a certain sense of relief; until I realized that all the people listed were younger than I was at the time. And I was in my thirties!

I was a volunteer with ACT (the Aids Committee of Toronto) and sat with friends at Casey House (Hospice) or helped them in their homes but had stopped attending funerals; I just could not do that anymore. I finally decided that I needed to leave the city. At least for awhile; my intent is to retire there and, at some distant time, expire in the city of my birth. Every time I return to Toronto I stop at the permanent Aids Memorial. It is a mixed blessing; so many names in one place. Too many names. Too many familiar names. And yet, I can ‘visit’ with them all there.

It’s not that I need to be there to remember; at any moment something I read, or hear, or see, may bring up a memory of someone from that list. But it is comforting to have a time when I remember and honour all of them. It isn’t on December 1st (“World Aids Day“) as that is, for me, about keeping up the fight against aids, and against the hatred and bigotry that helped the disease spread. And it’s not February 14th- although as the unofficial Canadian gay celebration “Pink Triangle Day” that date is dedicated to celebrating and honouring the love in our lives.

Every year, for some time now, Joe Jervis has re-posted his entry I Will Hold You Ten Times on February 2nd as a memorial to “Daniel Johnson, who threw the most kickass Groundhog’s Day birthday parties for himself” – I think that today, as we look eagerly forward to spring and new growth, is the perfect time to put aside a few moments to celebrate those who’s lives were cut short.

To allow ourselves to grieve, to remember, and to mourn. Lest we forget…

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February 2015 is all about Love

What (if anything) do you celebrate on February 14th? For some the day is just another corporate-driven excuse to spend money; as the credit card bills from last year’s Holiday season are coming due. There are many queer folk who tune it out as a very hetero event; far too similar to legal weddings that, for so long, has been denied us. Another reminder of our fight for respect and equality. Such feelings were no doubt part of the reasoning behind the 1979 declaration of February 14th as Pink Triangle Day by the membership of the Canadian Lesbian & Gay Rights Coalition.

Although still not an official holiday, some of us continue to celebrate the holiday, and the sentiments behind it. Whether you focus on challenging the “heterosexual dictatorship” or celebrating and honouring the love in your life, February 14th does not have to only be known as Valentine’s Day. Each year we create a new design to mark the occasion; available on t-shirts & sweatshirts as well as various gift ideas from our print-on-demand shops.

For those wanting a more traditional style of gift that is also new and fresh, I recommend the 3-D “I Love You” Rose- with a personal message on each of its five petals- from the folks at JustPaperRoses. It is important to note these are not produced overnight; place your order now to be sure your custom Rose arrives in time!

And don’t forget to check out the rest of their web-site; they offer great anniversary gifts from paper to leather to whichever traditional material year you are celebrating. Jeff and his team are very happy to help same-sex couples celebrate our anniversaries; whether or not they are officially recognized.

One of a number of designs for Pink Triangle Day 2015 available at CafePress.
We realize that this date, February 14th, has traditionally been celebrated as St Valentine’s Day and dedicated to the expression of heterosexual affection. We take this opportunity to challenge what Christopher Isherwood has called the “heterosexual dictatorship” by affirming for ourselves and for the world, the existence, the strength, and the beauty of gay love.
“We therefore proclaim February 14th as an annual Canadian Gay Holiday, to be known as “PINK TRIANGLE DAY.

Resolution passed at the annual meeting of Canadian Lesbian & Gay Rights Coalition, July 1979

“Your 3D printed rose is PERSONALIZED on each of the 5 open petals! The I Love You Rose™ is created, one tiny layer of plastic powder at a time, fused by laser, until the rose head is finished complete with your personalization.

“The I Love You Rose™ is 3″ in diameter and we put it on a standard floral stem, anchored in a small terra cotta pot and the overall height is about 9″. Personalization is limited to about 15 characters including spaces. The text is raised (rather than recessed). We can print a different message on each of the open petals. At this time we are shipping ONLY WITHIN USA and shipping is FREE USPS Priority Mail.”

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Fey Gay Tops

Just had a short discussion on The Book of Face regarding a recent article at entitled People Who Should Come Out In 2015 (But Probably Won’t). One of the comments was that Richard Simmons (mentioned in the above-named article as presumed gay) “could be powerful advocate for gay rights yet isn’t.” And there is some truth to that- refusing to talk about his actual orientation people not only presume that he is gay, they also assume that he is ashamed of it. Others are more charitable and say it probably reflects a defensive reaction to the well-documented bigotry so common in the previous century.

I commented “I agree that, in general, people coming out (wherever they fall on the queer spectrum) is a good thing for furthering acceptance. However there is an argument to be made that Richard (or any other fey man/ butch woman) being open about that aspect of their nature is an argument that being fey/butch is acceptable regardless of who one sleeps with.

“Certainly one of the reasons that many people are hesitant to come out is stereotyping- that all gay men are swishy, but also that all swishy men are gay. I would be just as happy if people were accepted for being a flaming queen whether straight or gay. Perhaps that would also reduce the number of MSM (‘men who have sex with men’) who are terrified of self-labeling as gay.

“The grandiose dream goes on to find acceptance of fey gay tops – since butch boy bottoms are ahead in that.

I have blogged a few times about Coming Out (as gay or queer) and how it remains not only relevant but important to one’s Self and the world which surrounds us. That belief has not changed.

At the same time I have long fought against the insulting use of the term effeminate to describe a fey man; strong women are described as masculine. Such terminology perpetuates the theory that somehow a fey man is ‘less‘ while a butch woman is ‘more‘. Such misogyny (and perhaps a natural desire to blend in/ be accepted) clearly influence the phenomenon of nearly straight gay folk. The last line in my FB comment addresses another symptom of gay folk adopting the stereotypes and value judgements of the larger society- that being an expressive, fey, flamboyant (etc) man limits (and more, should limit) someone from being the dominant person in a sexual situation.

Our freedom to be as proudly queer as we truly are can only exist when all our permutations of gender, gender-identity, sexual orientation, personal style (and its glorious expression), level of intro/extroversion, choice of partner(s) are celebrated.

Judge not, lest ye be judged

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
Love like you’ll never be hurt,
Sing like there’s nobody listening,
And live like it’s heaven on earth.”
William W. Purkey

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My Word of the Year for 2015

Inspired by this post by my friend and hero, I have decided to bend a bit on my “no resolutions” policy. Because choosing a Word of the Year is to commit to being resolute on something. Of course we are or should be resolute on our morals and core values- but those should never be a word or flavour of the year.

One of the highlights of 2014 for me was being able to reconnect with (and be warmly received by) the world-wide communion that is the Order of Perpetual Indulgence. Balancing the desire to enjoy fond memories of our past (and remembering lessons learned) with the appreciation that the future does not have to be (often, clearly should not be) mere repetition is tricky. And so I wallow in the luxury of having great memories of The Toronto House, OPI while being able to experience the current Sisterhood. What began as small groups of gay men in a few cities around the world (San Francisco USA, Sydney, Australia and Toronto Canada) has blossomed into (without a word of exaggeration) a thousand members; gay, straight and otherwise- of all genders- in Houses and Missions in North and South America, Europe and Australia.

The core tenets of Perpetual Indulgence are three:

  • the promulgation of universal joy;
  • the expiation of stigmatic guilt;
  • service to the local community;

For a variety of reasons (which I’ve often posted about here and on the Book of Face) I have not felt universal joy in my life in 2014. Or for some years now. Wrapped up in my own drama, and trying to avoid the harshest of the drama in the world around me, I have not been prolific in my promulgating. That changes here and now:

I Choose Joy

I Choose Joy

Update: January 3, 2015

The above image is available on cards and a blank journal- with or without the text- at one of our CafePress shops. That shop also has an expanding selection of items with our Choose Joy theme.

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