Monday, June 25, 2012

"Please Don't Act So Gay, You're Embarrassing Me."

When I was much younger there was this guy I was dating who said "I don't know how you do it, being out and still have a successful career? I mean, you're so GAY!"   It was one of those baffling comments in my life.  I mean how else can I be? I don't know how to be "less gay."  Why would being "out" preclude failure?  How would I be less "gay"? Would mean sleeping with men less? Or sleeping with women more. Maybe just saying "no" to penis or just closing my eyes should one come within my field of vision. 

Recently I was volunteering at very gay event, and a fellow volunteer, a young acquaintance, said to me "Please don't act so gay, you're embarrassing me." Lately, I seem to be encountering this attitude among many of the gays under 30 that I know.  There seems to be a fetishism among them for "straight acting men" or "masculine men". In my opinion, masculine is anyone who has a penis (or wishes that they do). But whatever, if you think a guy who grabs his crotch and spits tobacco is "masculine" you're free to ask him out on a date. However, I refuse to fit into some adolescents view of what masculinity is about. 

What I do have a problem with is the active, vocal disdain they show for those of us who are "too gay".  The active discussions online about "how those fairies at gay pride embarrass all of us." and "how straights will never accept us if some of us act like women and wear drag."  You know, there will always be people who for whatever reason cannot or choose not to conform to societal standards.  Trust me they are fully aware that they do not "fit in" to our societal norms of masculinity, gender or heterosexuality.  This idea, that if we're all "good little boys" wearing Banana Republic khaki's with polo shirts, with freshly scrubbed faces and a pair of oxfords, that all of sudden gay people will stop getting bullied and we'll be welcomed into society as "normal" people.   

I have lived my life out in the open since it was safe to do so after high school.  I am not the most masculine guy in the world, nor am I particularly effeminate, (not that there's a problem with that.) What I am, and what most people understand after they meet me is that I'm a big GAY.  Not in an in-your-face kind of way, but in an accept-me-as-I-am kind of way.  I work hard, I am a professional, but I do not hide who I am in order to achieve status in my career or in my community.  So to have some 20 somethings think they can take us all back to some defeatist, loser high school mentality is absolutely ridiculous.  

"If we look like them and imitate them they'll accept us." Well, trying to look and act like "straight" men is a self-defeating tactic. At the end of the day, whether your dress in drag or not, straight people will see you as gay and will act according to their own judgments and biases. This idea of trying suppress those of us who fall outside normal gender norms to make heterosexuals more comfortable is really just another type of closet, and just as unhealthy and suffocating. 

Come on people!  Gay is about the "fabulous".  It's about being in the know about things that make our lives better: art, food, friends, culture, travel. It's about living outside societal norms and shopping at funky stores instead of buying furniture at Rooms-To-Go. It's not about a pair of Bass Weejuns but a John Varvatos Chukkah.  Why would I want to be like straight guys with their wrinkled button downs and surfer shorts? Why would I want to be like my oppressors?  Gay is about the freedom to "be" without having to carry the stifling baggage the straight guys have to.  As gay men we can choose whatever gender role we want and never have to prove our  masculinity.  We are masculine because we define our own masculinity whether it's wearing khakis, leather or glitter wings.

On a final note: what difference does it to you make if I act too "gay"? I have earned my rightful place in my community.  I watched a generation of men die because of government indifference. I have been arrested for being just being "gay." I have been told by a majority of fellow Floridians that "you cannot marry the one you love."  So don't tell me I need to be less "gay."  I am going to the biggest, homo around, and I'm going to love all my gay brothers in all of their rainbow varieties!  If you don't like it, I'm sure Rooms-To-Go can make a very boring closet for you. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Afro-Cuban deities are swirling all around you and you don't even realize it.

So I am sitting in the office of a potential client and a casually look at shelf above the cubicle and notice two little statues and a wine glass half filled with water.  Now it would be disingenuous of me to to say I didn't recognize Santeria when I saw it. While I was not entirely clear whether I was looking at Santa Barbara(Chango) or La Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre(Ochun), what was weird was that I found it completely normal to see these deities in their Catholic disguises. Just chalk it up to another day in Miami. 

As you live and work in Miami there are small signs of Santeria everywhere. Last night at the gas station in Coral Gables, I saw man dressed entirely in white linen. Young, handsome, Latino, stylish? No. Not stylish but a Santero in a new Lexus celebrating the summer solstice. How could I tell? Stylish guys can wear all white....but the white shoes will always give a Santero away. The rule my grandma said about white shoes: no matter what outfit you wear them with, even naked, all they'll remember are the white shoes. 

Do NOT Eat, it's for Ochun!
You can breezily live in Miami and not see the signs of Santeria everywhere: walk along almost any sea wall along Biscayne Bay and look into the shallows. Chances are you'll offerings to the saints in the form of plates, filled with coins, candles, and silverware. By Mercy Hospital it looks like the china set of the Andrea Doria washed ashore, along with the coins from the penny arcade. I've been tempted to refill my coffers with the money offered to the saint since the money is cast directly behind the Ermita De La Caridad del Cobre, 3609 S. Miami Ave. She is the patron saint of Cuba and another guise for Ochun: the Yoruba Lady of Love, Beauty, and Sexuality, and Spirit of Fresh Water.
These are not paperweights.
There are little rituals you may notice: a dead chicken with candles on a sidewalk in Coral Gables, a person sprinkling rum and blowing cigar smoke in a new accounting office on Brickell or an 8 foot statue of San Lazaro (Babaluaye) in the foyer of a McMansion in Doral.  In Miami you see these things, process them and move along.  Initially, when I took my son for a sleepover at house mentioned above, I mentioned to my husband, "how sweet, they have a statue of Joseph in the entryway. They must be good Catholics." I got a kick in the shin and the sleepover ended at 11PM. 

In any case, we Miamians are often accused of superficiality. That we are a city of "bad values" raising up material goods above those of the soul. That we are city of sinners and sexual libertines. That god wears Gucci here. But I can guarantee, in many corners of our homes, offices and public spaces the Yoruba gods are watching over us. They are Miamians and blessing us with beauty, sunshine, love and happiness. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Run Gurl, it's a Hurricane, not a Cannibal.

Ok, I know we're obsessing over cannibals and zombies and stuff and I'll admit those weren't part of my emergency preparedness plans. However, hurricane season is decidedly early this year and a few of my friends who have moved here recently have asked whether they should really be prepared for a storm. They ask whether hurricanes are really a "big deal".

I just want to say in one word: yes. But not for the reasons that 'hurricane virgins" might expect.  

Hurricane virgins picture themselves strapping themselves to palm trees in hopes of not washing away by the massive storm surge and super-powerful winds that promises to scrub the sand of those evil sinners on South Beach. 

Those of who have experienced actual hurricanes understand what they really mean: a load of discomfort and headaches. Discomfort in the idea that there is no potable water,  electricity, TV, cable, internet, cell phones, A/C, fresh food, or ice anywhere from a day to several weeks after the storm.  In some cases your neighborhood has been so altered that you can't find your own home because of the destruction. In a worst case scenario you have no home to come back to.  I know that doesn't compare to being eaten by a cannibal on South Beach but it pretty much sucks. If you become a zombie, then I think homelessness is just part of the job description. 

So I have a few suggestions about hurricane survival.

1. Traditionally, in areas that were swampland prior to development, i.e. New Orleans and Miami, the oldest neighborhoods are tend to have the most height above sea level.  Hence, Downtown, Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, City of Miami, and Miami Shores.  These areas are also, surprisingly, the wealthiest areas. It seems also that the oldest homes tend to fare better in hurricanes. So my primary advice is: MAKE A FRIEND WHO OWNS A BIG OLD HOUSE IN A WEALTHY OLD NEIGHBORHOOD. This usually applies to anybody who lives a southern coastal area threatened by hurricanes. 

2. Spending a week with a wealthy friend in a lovely Coral Gables Manse is nice. Make sure that friend you choose is not annoying.  Because if they're the slightest bit annoying with power and water, imagine them without A/C and hungry. DO NOT SHELTER IN A HOME WITH AN ANNOYING PERSON. 

3. If you find you don't have a local option. Find a friend in a nearby area that is not in the "cone of probability".  Learn about the "cone of probability". Basically LEAVE TOWN and stay outside the "cone".

4. OK, if you think the idea of sleeping in a cot (if you're lucky) in a high school gymnasium is your idea of a good time by all means evacuate to a local shelter.  Be fully aware that nursing homes, the incontinent, people with no friends, annoying people, smelly people, will all be there. I promise you it's no party. When the storm hits, you get locked in and there is a sheriff there to keep you there until "the emergency has passed".  You are on lockdown for a minimum of 12 to 48 hours. FIND A BETTER PLACE TO STAY THAN A SHELTER.

5. Easiest thing to do: STAY IN A BIG HOTEL IN ORLANDO.  The turnpike is wide open and there are no tolls charged during an evacuation. Relax, get a massage and go to the buffet.  I hear the Country Bear Jamboree plays right through most storms.

Good luck people and hope all the storms just head on up to South Carolina or Alabama (they have God to protect them.)