Wednesday, February 27, 2002

"For 30 years I've been struggling and fighting, and I still feel like an outcast in the gay community"

A pal sent me an email, reminding me of Sylvia Rivera's funeral & Memorial Procession. He was planning on going to the procession, which was to start at the Stonewall Inn, carrying her ashes by horse-drawn carriage along Christopher St. to the Hudson River. Last week he first mentioned this, and while I had no specific memory of her, the group of us who were out briefly chatted. Stonewall veteran, transgender activist, the word fierce come up a lot. Today's email, simply "if your interested, meet me at 9" kinda got to me. First reaction was: naw, don't want to do a funeral, don't want to go through all that emotional upheaval, thinking about all the previous funerals in 41 years, don't want to deal with people who go to it as an "event" either, that bugs me.

But, as I do alot, I sat on my fat ass and did some web searching for more info, and within minutes I was feeling sad, and guilty. I eventually found this NPR obituary, which is not bad. But the first article that I read was about a demonstration, and City Council hearing last year regarding amending the city's anti-discrimination law to include transsexual, transgendered, and gender-variant New Yorkers. And what hit me was her concern for kids, "street youth", who don't fit the usual expectations for males or females and are thrown out in the street by their own parents. Sure it's easy to get all misty-eyed when thinking about kids struggling, and the folks who are there to help. But it's more than that, really, to me. We all know the obligatory statements we hear, and say, around Gay Pride every year about the "street queens" who were at the forefront of the movement. But what about the often unacknowledged debt, what we hardly ever talk about, that these "shock troops" are owed?

I don't really know what was going thru my parents minds as I was growing up, and the growing realization that their son was "different". I came out in my early 20's, in a long letter to my Dad, and his easy, eager, in fact, acceptance was wonderful, but not really surprising. Since then they've met many gay friends, and 2 of my boyfriends have gone "home" with me to visit (one came to my sister's wedding, the other spent a Christmas; both met members of the extended family ). Actually, for me, a fairly easy go of it. But I wonder about that "phewww, thank god he's not that way!" feeling that maybe they felt, and certainly lots of folks must feel. And how often have I felt that relief, that i'm only a bit "different". How much I joke, but really mean it, when I say "when did it become LGBT?" The discomfort I feel about bisexual men; the snickering at nighclubs, when its ok to be entertained by the likes of Amanda Lepore (yes, we love our entertainers, don't we), but to still have those "why did she do that" kind of thoughts......... I dunno, I'm starting to ramble, but i guess the point is, how much do we (I) actually do to support the notion that folks should be free to be whoever they are, period. Don't add some obligatory phrase about "as long as they're not hurting anyone" - as if crap like that needs to be said ("It's okay for those lumberjacks to wear plaid, as long as they're not hurting anyone") And someone shouldn't have to be a part of a history or movement that benefits me to be deserving of that, either.

........ as my mind gets tried of trying to express myself............ A really good website called Sound Portraits has this radio documentary from 1989 - Remembering Stonewall, plus a piece from a NY Times article nearly 3 years ago, a brief interview with Sylvia Rivera: "So there's a lot of joy in my heart to see the 30th anniversary of Stonewall. You know what was beautiful about that night? To see the brothers and sisters stand as a unified people. But I do get depressed when this time of year comes around: for 30 years I've been struggling and fighting, and I still feel like an outcast in the gay community."