Number 160 Winter 2015 $9.95
Differently Abled Folk
RFD 160 Winter 2015 1
Issue 161 / Spring 2015
Submission Deadline: January 21, 2015 www.rfdmag.org/upload
This is calling to Fae people who have life
of Mother Earth herself in her promiscuous
experience in Rewilding. What the fuck is
fecundity. How as a community can we
rewilding? Please share your stories, personal
engage with these primal forces in our inner
lessons, art, poetry, recipes, and journals
joys that is expressed in outwork actions?
entries to empower and inspire the larger Radical Faerie community in this fundamental
This is a call for changing the way our
change and reclaiming of the way we relate,
community relates to humans ability to be
interact, and live on the earth.
with the earth in a symbiotic and nurturing way; changing the level of awareness of our
Our relationship with the earth that we have
impact on the environment, how our culture
been told is a lie. Humans were meant to be
has taught us to interact with the earth, and
a part of the earth, not apart from the earth.
the reality that we are a beneficial species
Civilization is all we have known, and it is a
when we are living in symbiotic relationship to
used-up path of death. We are recreating the
ancient future for the beings of tomorrow. We hope to hear in these entries a concise communication of our understanding of what this is, and how this moves in us. The word Rewilding was coined in the Earth First organization as a term for reintroducing parts of an ecosystem that were important for that systems healthy continuance. The term has been taken up and passed about spawning inspiration for a movement of people returning to direct connection and symbiotic life ways with the earth. We are interested in how our radical freedom expressed in our sex experiences can be a call to rewilding our psyches, especially for those living in urban environments. We are curious between the links between inner sexual ecstasy matches the erotic abundance 2
RFD 160 Winter 2015
Issue 162 / Summer 2015
OUTRabbit’s FOR HIRE Foot
Submission Deadline: 21, 2015 Vol 41 NoApril 2 #160 Winter 2015 www.rfdmag.org/upload
the Linesfor how you shape your own Often queer people are engagedBetween in a challenges process of leading a separate life when personal economy? In what ways has the it comes to their orasked how our they bringto explore largerhow gayliving community shaped your emIn this work issue we readers with a disability money into their lives. We want to hear ployment choices or shifted impacts their lives and influences how “ability” shifts over time. We were your thinkthrilled bybeing the variety the diversity of what the submissions. We options from you about how partofofresponses the anding in terms were viable hope you enjoy reading about how being differently abled impacts people gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender for surviving financially and spiritually? our GLBT community. communitieswithin has shaped how you make money or earn living. But we’re also forAnyouearly the gay movement was We your also have a number of interviews in thisidea issueofcelebrating a range interested inofhow integrating your queertake it home with you meaning live your topics from the influences of coming from a deaf family on a performer, shifts in an author’s perspective on rural life and how Bearout culture ness fits into your economic life. politics. Being wasisashaping way to shape a poetry in a new anthology. As always we’re thankful to Franklin Abbott for does that healthy balanced life. But how the diverse range of people he chooses to interview for these pages. Obviously, we’re not all earning our interface with our work world? We’re money in gayIn/our queer only issue contexts more “out” atRe/Wilding work, butthe does it work upcoming - we’rebut asking our readers about envi“out” for us? in some wayronment our identities at times and how the environment and how we interact with it is returning us work to a “wild” less dependant on technology. We hope you will coninfluence our but state, we atone times also sider writing or sharing your artwork, as RFD is a work our reader’s influence our work environment. Inever what ways haveofyou helped in createxperiences and ideas. ing a queer economy? Sorta along the So how doesWe your self reflect on in ourlines of unit “Shop have you sought are queer still negotiating the boxes storage and Locale” collating the back your work? issues Does to being queer at work to network with other like minded LGBT have them scanned and we hope to have news about the scan for of theanext issue. Meanwhile, we’ve embarked on a economic new endeavour break down project the idea mainstream people to create opportunities. to make some of our back issues available digitally. So we’re adding the back world? Or are there big distinctions We’ve all played the role of fundraiser, a website where you can view RFD online, you can share the issue / barriers toissues howto“out” you can be at community booster but for some of us with friends or via social media. The website is at http://issuu.com/rfdmag. work? it’s meant a career as a “promoter”, a DJ, working a gay organization, or emSome folks have written asking about Brothers Behindin Bars and we want to let folks the program closed since Myrlin from business. Another approach to know this theme is is officially ploying people in aretired gay owned shepherding the project for so many years. The collective in New England is asking if being an LGBT person has not in a position to continue to project but we urge our readers to consider impacted the type of job you sought out. Ultimately, how does being a LGBT person reaching out to our queer friends behind bars by exploring other projects— Beyond the stereotypes theis kinds you toofbring riches a great place toof start to look of at Black empower and Pink’s website resources for to yourself. employmentLGBT gay people take on what This obviously means many things to all prisoners—http://www.blackandpink.org/resources-2/national-prisoner-resource-list/. has being out and gay / queer meant in of us—actual cash wealth or earnings, a terms of your spiritual career path? happy work environment, work to survive From a snowy to a slushy New England… but flexibility to enjoy life, or working in —The RFD Collective Has being gay or trans identified meant an environment which creates change in getting by, becoming richer, or created your life or the lives of others.
RFD 160 Winter 2015 1
Submission Deadlines Spring–January 21, 2015 Summer–April 21, 2015 See inside covers for themes and specifics.
For advertising, subscriptions, back issues and other information visit www.rfdmag.org
RFD is a reader-written journal for gay people which focuses on country living and encourages alternative lifestyles. We foster community building and networking, explore the diverse expressions of our sexuality, care for the environment, Radical Faerie consciousness, and nature-centered spirituality, and share experiences of our lives. RFD is produced by volunteers. We welcome your participation. The business and general production are coordinated by a collective. Features and entire issues are prepared by different groups in various places. RFD (ISSN# 0149-709X) is published quarterly for $25 a year by RFD Press, P.O. Box 302, Hadley MA 01035-0302. Postmaster: Send address changes to
RFD, P.O. Box 302, Hadley MA 010350302 Non-profit tax exempt #621723644, a function of RFD Press with office of registration at 231 Ten Penny Rd., Woodbury, TN 37190. RFD Cover Price: $9.95. A regular subscription is the least expensive way to receive it four times a year. Copyright © 2012 RFD Press. The records required by Title 18 U.S.D. Section 2257 and associated with respect to this magazine (and all graphic material associated therewith on which this label appears) are kept by the custodian of records at the following location: RFD Press, 85 N Main St, Ste 200, White River Junction, VT 05001. Mail for our Brothers Behind Bars project should be sent to P.O. Box 68, Liberty TN 37095.
On the Covers Front and Back: Drawings by Josh Turk
Managing Editor: Bambi Gauthier Art Director: Matt Bucy Interviews: Franklin Abbott
Artists in This Issue Josh Turk Covers, 2, 23, 30, 35, 36, 38, 43, 46, 59 Charles F. Gustina 4 artboydancing 5, 25, 32 Adam Marsnik 6 Wave 15, 16, 17 James Elmore 28
Josh’s drawings and artwork appear throughout. “The invention of photography challenged painters to move beyond what exists or could be captured on a two dimensional surface. Thusly, cubism and surrealism challenged their viewers to expand their limited perspectives. Today, technological advances have shifted the way we interact with people, and consequently the human form. In part due to Facebook, Instagram, text, email, and twitter---to name a few--our personal interactions have become two dimensional. It is with the theoretic perspective I create portraits that revisit ideas of cubism, seeking to capture the human form from multiple vantage points. These neocubist portraits challenge their viewer to navigate the blurred lines and distortion created in order to see the subject in their entirety.” w
RFD 160 Winter 2015
Drawing by Josh Turk.
CONTENTS Letters & Announcements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Community Building. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Raymond Luczak (Finger) . . . . . . . . . 7 The Stygian Wolf Rape-Tape A Tanka Sequnce. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Richard Witherspoon . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 The Fluidity of Wave. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Wave . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Deformed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jennifer Brooke . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 A Differently Abled Radical Faerie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Floral Pearl . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Where You Are. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Foudatz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Spiritual Emergence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hijinx Bandersnatch . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Diffabled: Reclamation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . KaĹĄ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Physical Healing by Swimming in the Psycho-Spiritual Ethers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nova S. Dara. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Munsters. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . James Elmore . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Love and Loss at a Mental Health Clinic. . . . . . . . . . . Justin Samuels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Fundamental. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kanji . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Thoughts on Being Queer and Disabled. . . . . . . . . . . Mark Ellis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Framelight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Michael Sano . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Communes Funded by Aid to the Totally Disabled. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Voyager . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Interview with Brandon Kazen-Maddox . . . . . . . . . . Franklin Abbott . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Interview with Allan Gurganus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Franklin Abbott . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Ron Suresha Interview. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Franklin Abbott . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54 For Better or Worse. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Donny Ingraham . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 Opening Address to the Western North Carolina Pride Week. . . . . . . . . . . Gavin Geoffrey Dillard. . . . . . . . . . . 58 Savages. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Finger. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 Cocoa Mango. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Angela Sterling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 The Leidenfrost Effect. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . David George Demers. . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 17â€”from Wrestling Starting Position. . . . . . . . . . . . . Winthrop Smith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
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LETTERS & ANNOUNCEMENTS BC Radical Faerie Camp 2015 British Columbia Radical Faerie Camp will be held May 15-18 at the Evans lake Forest Camp, near Squamish, BC (about 75 km northwest of Vancouver). Details of the gathering, including the Call and registration form, can be found online at www.bcradfae.ca after Feb. 1. Registration is limited to 80, so folks are encouraged not to delay!
Fifth Annual Philly Faerie Gatherette Yooo-hoooo. Save-the-Date!! January 29th through February 1st, 2015! These dates have been set for the 5th annual Philly Faerie Gatherette! Change your calendars—it’s later this time. The organizers-that-be have consented & agreed, that this year, we will celebrate Imbolc together, and welcome the returning light & the approach of Spring. And weave Faerie magic into Every-thing! www.facebook.com/groups/phillyfaeriegatherette/
Sister Soami’s Corrections From Issue #159 In my article for the 40th Anniversary of RFD issue the “Vera” I referred to on page 15 was not Dan Vera but Vera/Bob Fish, one of our dedicated editors back then. He and not Jan Nathan Long, as I wrongly surmised, was also the author of #76’s collective editorial. My article was far from comprehensive in celebrating the many generous contributors and I was pleased to see our Facebook site received praise for art director Dwight DeLight who served RFD so well at both Running Water and Short Mountain until we lost him to AIDS. Another omission of the article was any mention of a stellar photographic contributor, Charles F. Gustina, whose images graced several numbers and the covers of two popular and now rare issues: #92 & #134 (below). —in sisterspirit all ways, Soami
Other Gatherings Happening Round the World Faeries Finding Financial Freedom, Saratoga Springs, CA, Jan 16-18, 2015 Asian Faerie Gathering, Thailand, Jan 29-Feb 8, 2015 Winter Breitenbush Gathering, Oregon, Feb 12-16, 2015 F7 Gathering at Amber Fox, Ontario, Canada, Feb 13-16, 2015 Featherstone Castle, Northumberland, UK, Mar 20-30, 2015 For more info on gatherings see www.radfae.org Billy Midwinter Visioning gathering. Held at Saratoga Springs, February 26 – March 1, 2015. Billys and Billy Kin welcome. http://thebillys.org/
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RFD cover photographs by Charles F. Gustina.
“Being Without” by artboydancing.
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“My Many Faerie Name Signs”, by Adam Marsnik.
Community Building by Raymond Luczak (Finger)
hobble with my cane down the crooked forest path from the Love Canopy. I’ve candy-striped my cane with ribbons and topped it off with a carnation corsage. I wear an old wide-brimmed hat with a price tag that says FREE sewn on. I wear a paisleyprint toga that I’ve made myself. Everyone says I look fabulous as Gaudy Gandhi, which is my faerie name for the week. But no one gropes me amidst the flash orgies in the Love Canopy. Radical faeries think they don’t discriminate. But they do. Oh, how they do! Most faeries who’ve come to this retreat are too young to remember Minnie Pearl, the comedienne who sported a hat that showed the price tag of $1.98. She always was something of a huckster with her hillbilly humor, especially when she was on the TV show Hee-Haw. The humor was thigh-slapping oh-gosh-golly as if these strange folks were meant to be misunderstood and shrugged off with a chuckle. But I do remember. I refuse to be called Pity Pearl.
or a long time I never wanted to be near freaks. Kids were shushed when they saw how the freaks gimped, rolled, and stuttered. Freaks were zoo animals let loose. They were all lumped together as a single species. Never mind the fact that each freak is never a generalization. Us freaks are to be avoided. After all, what little they’ve known of us comes from observing us at a very uncomfortable range. They can’t imagine living the way we do. The question of us is a very painful one to answer. Yet their superiority allows them to gawk at us. Sometimes we inspire them with Internet memes that get shared on Facebook and retweeted on Twitter and reposted on Tumblr. Do these memes make us feel any better? No. We have been reduced to sight-bites designed to make able-bodied people feel better about themselves. If an armless man can change a baby’s diapers, which seems like a miracle to anyone except to those who’ve adapted their toes as fingers, their own lives may not be so bad after all. We cripples are put on this planet to make everyone else feel better about themselves. We’ve seen too many people apologize for their unthinking behavior, and yet they rarely change. They figure they’ll never have to deal with us again.
Even though I’ve got a perfectly functioning penis with plenty of love spooge for anybody who wants it, it’s as if we cripples are supposed to stay asexual. No one ever asks us how we can fuck if our bodies aren’t the same as theirs. No one asks if we want to date and have boyfriends. There are times when I’ve the urge to create a T-shirt that says, I CAN STILL WALK, with a cane below, and AND I CAN STILL COCK, with the same cane flipped upward like an erection. But I don’t have enough balls to wear such a shirt in public. It’s too incendiary, and I’m afraid of turning off a prospective boyfriend. I know why we are unpopular with the cool faeries, including the ones who claim to be very accepting of everyone. It’s too hard to bullshit with us.
aeries argue with me that there is no such thing as an A-list faerie. “Everyone’s different, but they’re all equal,” they say. “Really? Then why do I feel like a pariah? Can’t someone give me a little lovin’?” They stare at me as if I’ve suddenly become too selfish for my own good. I want to remind them of what they’d shared in our heart circles over the past few days: how they’d expressed doubts about their own physical attractiveness and their fears stemming from loneliness. But we cannot refer to what we’ve learned in the circle. What’s shared within the circle stays in the circle. The faeries with the more beautiful bodies are the ones who get more sex than anyone else. I should know. I’ve hung out in the Love Canopy and jacked off listlessly while I watched. Once in a while an older faerie will offer himself to me, and of course I’ll go down on him. But is it always reciprocal? Rarely. I’m somehow too freakish for him. I’m a confirmed masturbator. It’s not what I want to be, but when you get told most insistently in so many ways that you are not desirable enough, you have to make do. I’ve thought about walking about completely naked and showing off my dick, but I think about the scars that sprawl all over my legs. They look like gnarly saplings with some skin. That’s why I wear leggings as part of my outfit. But here’s the thing. I don’t have a large dick and it doesn’t get big when it’s hard. I see other faeries RFD 160 Winter 2015 7
prance about with their short dicks when they’re soft, but I’ve seen them hard in the Love Canopy. I can see why they have nothing to be ashamed of. They’ve done the comparing thing, and they know they’re A-OK in that department. That’s what gives them the courage to strut about naked. I bring all this up in our next heart circle. Even though it’s not easy to do so, particularly because I want more than anything to be loved as I am, I look at each faerie in the eye as I share my concerns about the relative lack of sex in my life. It hurts when each one of them breaks eye contact with me. All twenty-seven of them! It’s like I can never win with even one person. Damn. I had planned to remind them that I’m no different from them, but in the middle of my pointed outpouring, I forget. They are left with the bitter aftertaste of a crippled faerie’s rant doled out with a carefully modulated voice. Afterward, a few come up to me and whisper, “You’re so brave.” The tone of their voices is patronizing. It’s as if I’m supposed to be a child even though I’m fortyeight years old with a high-paying job. I don’t point this out. Instead, I say, “Thank you.” In all honesty bravery had nothing to do with it. I thought that we were supposed to be as authentic as possible.
hen I first heard of the faeries online, my first reaction was: Why? Why would anyone want to sport a moustache, sprinkle glitter onto their pancake makeup, and strut around with a society lady’s hat? They weren’t drag queens trying to pass; if anything, they wanted to remind you that they were still men. Yet there was something about them that drew the moth of my heart to their flames of ecstasy and rebellion. In their world, there were no compartments. They strived to be whole within themselves. When I decided to try a heart circle that winter, I was relieved to find that it was held on the first floor in a house that had rainbow spirals still spinning on its porch. Just a few steps, and I was in. That evening I joined a circle of only five men. They all regarded me with a look of equal interest and suspicion, but they did say hello. I never learned their legal names, but I learned they were Firehawk, Watusi Wasabi, Smurfina, and Jolly Fixins. They didn’t look like what I thought faeries were supposed to look like: effeminate and equipped with a bitchy sense of humor. They looked quite bland with their clothes. Maybe it was just winter, and 8
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they needed to dress warm. As they took turns to share the deepest of their ongoing concerns, I came to see that they were human beings. Of course, I’d known that we were all human beings, but until my first heart circle, I’d forgotten that simple fact about ourselves. I didn’t have a faerie name then, but I knew I’d found something that I could call my own.
very day at the retreat there’s a workshop or two. I go to all of them. There’s always something to learn from just listening to others, but over the last few years I have been feeling antsy. This retreat hasn’t been what I’d hoped it would be. There have been too many people, and most of them are young and genderqueer. I don’t have a problem with young people, but I dislike it intensely when they treat me as if they have no connection with me whatsoever. I can see in their eyes that they’re still feeling invincible from the rosy blush of their youth. One of them is Pansy Fedora. He looks attractive in his own way: tall, clean-shaven, and baleful gray eyes. After having been among the faeries for the last ten years or so, I’ve come to recognize certain kinds of faeries like Pansy. They are the ones who’d felt like total misfits all their lives, so once they discover our community, they get so into being faeries that they somehow feel entitled to be considered “experts” on the faerie experience even after only a few years. I love faeries, but those grand duchesses can be quite annoying. It’s astonishing how some of them have already forgotten that the elders might have something equally valuable to contribute to the ongoing dialogues within our community. I just grit my teeth and say nothing, because their fervent evangelism will always drown me out no matter what I say. They don’t seem to appreciate the fact that I, a faerie who’s been one much longer than they have, have been willing to listen to their viewpoints. This morning Pansy Fedora is giving a workshop about community building. I go after my breakfast of honeyed tea and grapefruit. This should be interesting to see what an arrogant twenty-something thinks.
’m sitting in the Big Tent where Pansy is giving his workshop. I listen to him lecture about the importance of connecting with each other through a number of shared activities, and I try not to roll my eyes. He’s actually suggested a communal hike as an option, and I’m sitting right there in front of him. Has my flowery cane become invisible already?
I raise my hand. “It sounds all great, but what about faeries with disabilities? You need to remember that some of us can’t walk as well as you.” He gives me a tight smile. “Well, like I said, it was only a suggestion.” “Exactly. If you weren’t ableist, you’d have thought first whether an event was accessible before suggesting it. For instance, what if a wheelchair person wanted to join in? How would you—” “It was only a suggestion!” “Right.” I glare at him. “You just don’t get it, do you?” I lift my cane and slam it on the ground. “You’ve been talking about using activities based on the assumption that everyone will be able to get around as easily as you can. That’s ableist privilege.” “Well, I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intent.” “Good. Carry on.” He falters for the rest of the workshop. I can see the fear in his eyes that he’ll offend me. Good. He needs to be more mindful. You see, I don’t deal very well with bullshit. I’m just telling you as it is. If you don’t like it, well, it’s because you can’t deal with the possibility of ending up like me one day.
ot all is dreary in my part of the world. The reason why I’m such a tough little soldier is because of Hank Vernon. He was my first love. He was an Iraq War veteran diagnosed with PTSD. He had nightmares that flashed on the insides of his eyelids when he dreamed, and he sometimes begged me to keep him awake as long as it was still dark outside. The tranquilizers didn’t always help. His therapist suggested that I talk about everything but the war over there. When we talked about everything else, he was a magnificent angel. We met in a hospital room. Isn’t that funny? Me, on my last visit to the hospital. I was there for one more surgery, and I needed lots of pills to calm my nerves. God, I had come to hate doctors and nurses and surgeons by that point. Didn’t matter if they were so kind and compassionate. I simply had one botched operation too many over the course of my life. By then I had had seventeen surgeries on my legs. It got to the point when I involuntarily vomited each time before I was to undergo surgery. I hated being fixed over and over again. I couldn’t understand why I had to be “repaired.” I got along fine, I thought, but no, I wasn’t walking right. Too much weight on my weak knee, so I had to have that fixed. Then my other knee gave out. It was as if my surgeon was a car mechanic always tinkering with his dream car. I was a dream ongoing experiment. The
pain in my legs throbbed so much I couldn’t think of much else. I wanted to be a morphine addict more than anything. The pain faded away, but the fear of hospitals never did. When I woke up in my room after the surgery, I was alone. The same familiar grogginess that prodded me slowly out of anesthesia returned. I thought, Hm. Morphine time. The prospect filled me with the only kind of pleasantness I could find in these places. My mother was in the bathroom when a nurse came in to check on me. “Hello. Are you all right?” She had her name ERIKA WOLK engraved on her plastic badge pinned to her white dress. She gave me a smile as she searched into my eyes. “Yeah,” I said. “I’m . . . water?” As she poured some ice-filled water into a cup, I closed my eyes for a moment. I held the cup to my lips and looked at the door opened to the hallway. There, a handsome man with piercing blue eyes and a thick army jacket chanced to walk by, and in that moment, he simply stopped and looked at me. It was as if his entire soul was taking a single snapshot of my entire life. His eyes took in the pulleys that kept my knees in mid-air. He was honest with his curiosity. All that day, as my mother hovered nearby, I prayed that he would return. I needed to stay there for a few more nights before I went home. The next morning he did pop into my room. “How are you feeling?” “Fabulous,” I said. He burst out laughing. “I hate these places, but I just had to.” He looked suddenly shy. “I just had to see you.” I held up my hand. “Now you’re seen.” We shook hands, and we couldn’t stop talking and carrying on. It was wonderful. He confused my mother because I never had friends come by to visit, and he was a new friend? No matter. It wasn’t long before we were sixty-nining each other in my apartment. Beautiful cock. Perfect-sized for my mouth, really. Weeks later, when the bandages came off my legs for good, he asked to see them. I didn’t want to, but I was so in love with him, and at 25 I was feeling invincible. His reaction shocked me. He didn’t turn away from my body completely naked there on the bed. He gazed at the crisscross of old and fresh scars that mapped all over my legs and whispered, “Fuck. That’s so hot.” I didn’t know what to say. I had heard of disability devotees before, but it wasn’t until then I finally connected the dots around Hank. He had talked RFD 160 Winter 2015 9
a lot about visiting his wounded army buddies in make-shift clinics out in the field, and how helpless he’d felt in wanting to take better care of them but couldn’t because he was just another soldier. He climbed onto my bed and knelt before me. I thought he was going to give me a blow job, but he tentatively licked all over my scars and moaned heavily as he jacked himself off. Aside from my mother, he was the first non-hospital person to touch, and explore, the valley of my legs. I was grateful for his affections, but I didn’t know what to make of them. I couldn’t believe that anyone could develop a fetish for scars or deformed legs, but as long as I closed my mind to the idea that he was treating me as an object of his fantasies, I felt loved. He did give me everything that I hadn’t known until that moment was due me. He gave me a lot of courage. He said I was worthy of having lots of friends. He held my hand on the sidewalk and stroked my thigh when we watched the Pride march together. He really didn’t care about the looks we got when he leaned over and kissed me on the lips. He taught me the most important lesson that anyone ignored in this world needed to learn. I was worthy of love and so much more. The beginning of the end of our lives together started with a simple comment when I put myself into a taxi before he closed the passenger door: “God, sometimes I wish you were in a wheelchair so I could help you out more.” “No,” I said. “I prefer to be as independent as possible.” In our three years together we didn’t have arguments or anything; we never fought. Ever. That night our lovemaking took on a different tone, an unsteady rhythm. I had disappointed him, and he had disappointed me. But in the end, it didn’t really matter. The darkness came anyway. Up until that frightening moment of his scream next to me, he had hidden the fact that he was taking a fair number of psychotropic drugs. I knew he was on antidepressants, which explained his occasional failure to get stiff, but I didn’t begrudge him for that. He’d forgotten to pick up his meds for one or two days, and having him there wailing and crying and screaming in my arms frightened me. I was afraid his legs thrashing about would dislocate my knees, but by morning he calmed down. I went through his stuff and saw how many pills he had to take. He wasn’t suffering from just depression. That night he ran naked out of our apartment, 10 RFD 160 Winter 2015
screaming incoherently about the Big Gun Eye aiming to kill us all. I tried to calm him down, but I couldn’t keep up with him. He ran down the street and stopped the traffic at the intersection of Main and Johnson. The police had to be called in. The next few years I had to overcome my fear of hospitals when I visited him every day in a psychiatric ward. Some days he looked and sounded coherent; then he looked absolutely frightened as a cat and needed to curl up in a corner somewhere. The emptiness next to me each night in bed made me cry. When his psychiatrist conceded that there wasn’t much else they could do but to keep him hospitalized for the foreseeable future, I cried. I still visited Hank, but he eventually had become so medicated and blank-eyed that he didn’t know who I was half the time. I was so crushed. Weren’t true loves supposed to recognized the spark in each other no matter what happened? Eventually I had to tear myself away until I stopped going. The sleepless nights I got after each visit weren’t just worth it. By then he had begun haunting my dreams. I didn’t scream or anything. I just wanted to lie there on the bed and have him lick all that had made me ugly in the eyes of the world. I missed his tongue. I still do.
he older I become, the less patient I’ve become. I want to tell the coordinators of the retreat that they simply do not get it about us crips. Making the few rustic buildings fully wheelchair-accessible or hunting down an ASL interpreter for the lone Deaf faerie at the heart circle is only half the equation. People are the other half of the equation, and they are the ones who are so good at failing us freaks. It’s time to stop the assumption that we freaks must always accommodate the able-bodied world. It’s time that they be forced to think about our needs on a regular basis much like how we think about theirs. Naturally, they’ll protest, “Nobody’s perfect.” But what they don’t realize is how much they live according to its corollary: “But most people will always be more perfect than you.” Of course, the able-bodied feel offended when I shame them, but they don’t seem to understand that each of us freaks, especially with physical defects from a young age, have been shamed far more relentlessly all our lives. We are the ones who’ve been told from day one of diagnosis that we must change for their sake. They are not expected to change for our sake; it’s their turf. We are the
abnormal living in a world of normals, therefore we must eradicate the prefix “ab” from deep inside ourselves. It is our job to inspire the able-bodied community when we conquer the odds to be “normal” again. Of course, the great cosmic joke is that no one is ever normal, but no one is willing to concede to this fact. We are all closeted pervs. The sooner we remove the word “normal” from our vocabulary, the better off we will all be. I’m so tired of explaining why they need to change their attitudes. I don’t mind living with my knees for they are what they are, but I do mind having to explain myself over and over again. Can people be unthinkingly dumb? Yes. Sometimes I want to hit them on their heads with my cane. You know what else I hate? The maxim that people use on fat women: “Someone will recognize you for the beautiful person you are inside.” They say that physical beauty is ephemeral, but the beauty of soul is eternal. The trouble is, no one has eyes to enable them to see beyond the skin. I want a man to love me as I am. I don’t want to hear him say, “Maybe if you tried just one more surgical procedure, things would improve.” I don’t want to hear him say, “Is it okay if I dance with someone else?” I simply want to hear him say, “I love you because you’re the most perfect man I’ve ever met.” Is that so hard for anyone to ask?
often visit the Love Canopy early in the morning because the light is strong. I can see where I’m walking. Some tree roots that crisscross the path there are hard to climb over in the dark. Sometimes when I am alone in the Love Canopy, I jack off and imagine myself to be everyone’s object of lust. This morning the empty slings sigh slightly from a quiet wind. I am surprised to find Pansy naked and lying down on a blanket. He has been masturbating himself but with no passion. He looks startled when he realizes my presence. “Sorry,” I say. “It’s okay.” He lets go of himself and sits up. “Can you join me?” I come closer. “Why all of a sudden?” “Please.” “I don’t want to be your pity fuck.” “No. It’s just . . .” “I’ve seen guys like you pontificating about things they don’t know shit about. That’s why I had to speak up.” “I’m sorry.” I roll my eyes.
“What? I’m truly sorry!” “Then change.” “What do you mean, change?” “You didn’t ask any of us to share our experiences with community building.” “Well, it’s supposed to be a workshop.” “It wasn’t a workshop. What you gave was a lecture. You can’t have a lecture about community building and not have input from the community.” “Well, sorry.” “Don’t say that word anymore. Just change.” He looks at me. His eyes are bloodshot. “I thought maybe you . . . we could . . .” He points to his cock. “No,” I say. “I don’t want to be used to make you feel better about me.” He looks about himself. “I’m sorry.” He gets up and leaves. A moment later I detect the sound of a man crying. It’s not loud, but as someone who used to cry himself to sleep, I’d know that sound anywhere.
ater that day I spot Pansy sitting at one end of the table in the cookhouse. He’s been avoiding me all day. But it’s dinner time, and I must eat, and there’s an empty space at the end of the other bench facing him. I sit right there in front of him. I scoop up a smattering of salad greens and drizzle vinaigrette all over it. I roll a steamed ear of corn onto my plate. He averts his eyes as he eats. I butter all over the ear. He looks away when I pick up my corn and assiduously pick at the cob with my teeth. It feels like the longest meal of my life. I want so much to say something, but I have no idea how to start. Bits of corn are wedged between my teeth. I take a toothpick and scrape carefully. He is still talking to others around the table and pretending that I’m not there. When I am done with the toothpick and clearing my plate, the sky dims through the screened windows. Soon the dark invades our muted conversations around the table, and soon candles are lit. I haven’t said a word to anyone all evening. I simply look at him. The fact that he’s looking away from me tells me everything I need to know. He’s ashamed of himself. He’s not the first person I’ve shamed. I want to tell him that a wellintentioned heart will always be forgiven, but how do I tell him that without sounding remorseful? When he catches me looking at him, I don’t hide RFD 160 Winter 2015 11
my feelings. I show him flickers of understanding, forgiveness, a pleading. I feel more naked than ever in my entire life. I want to break down and cry, but I will not. I am stronger than this. I will show him that I forgive him. I want to tell him that I understand what it feels like to be ashamed of not knowing any better. I want to hold him and tell him that he is a beautiful man. I want to turn the table over as if I’m a strongman, take off my shirt and cushion my knees as I kneel before him and show him how a man can easily forgive another. Forgiving is easy, but being the first to forgive is the hardest thing in the world. But he still averts his eyes and talks quietly with Pandora Cox sitting next to him. They are talking about sharing the cost of gas when they drive together to Breitenbush next February. I want to tell them that I own a van that could easily accommodate six faeries or that I love to drive for hours on end. The road and I are best friends. Maybe it’s because I’m never where I’m accepted, and there’s a small hope deep inside me that if I get out on the road, I’ll find that one place where I’ll be loved as I am. I still say nothing. I am okay with this. I’m used to being ignored and seen as part of the scenery. Finally, one candle after another flickers into the black. Flashlights are turned on, and everyone murmurs good night as they leave the cookhouse and search for their tents out in the woods. But he hasn’t left. We are alone. “Hi,” I say. A moment passes. I can’t see him very well. Just his silhouette created by the soft moon spreading its faerie dust outside. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to—” There is a thickness in his voice. “Hush. Give me your hand.” I place my hand on the table. He finds my hand, and I grip him. I slowly knead all over his hand for a long time. Could’ve been a minute or an hour. I can’t tell. I am so into mining the core of himself through the subtle ways his hand responds to mine. The stiffness in his fingers evaporates. His breathing slows down. He is somehow not a human being; more of a shadow ready to break free of his body. I don’t say a word the entire time. It’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever done: this constant kneading while allowing all sorts of thoughts, both 12 RFD 160 Winter 2015
sexual and spiritual, to circulate throughout my body. I find myself erect. My arms, having been stretched over the table, start to feel sore. I give a deep sigh to warn him and let go. But I am surprised when he grips my hands with his. “My arms are sore.” I watch his shadow get up from the bench and walk around the table. He climbs over the bench next to me and takes my hands into his. He massages my hands aggressively at first, but he eventually finds a rhythm that feels just right for us. My breathing soon matches his. I close my eyes. As long as he touches me like this, I could sit like this forever. Eventually he says, “Can you, um?” “Um, what?” I feel his arms reach forward and pull me into his arms. Even though he is a tall and lanky faerie, he feels surprisingly solid. I am afraid to breathe. I am afraid to ask more, expect more. I have never felt this scared of anyone before. Then he stifles a sob. “It’s okay, Pansy. I forgive you.” He starts to heave tears. I join him, but this time I pull him to my chest. I stroke his back. I think of swans moving gracefully across the water. Our tears at last spent, he cradles my face and kisses me full on the lips. I am stunned. It’s not what you think it is, that because I’m disabled and therefore undesirable, I’d be content with the little crumbs of affection that fly my way. It’s not that at all. It is how startlingly intimate we’ve become through our hands touching and needing each other. Even though I’ve heard the word “intimacy” many times, it feels suddenly new. I respond with a kiss. We open our mouths to taste each other’s tongue. His hands roam my chest, shoulders, back, and what little hair I have left on my head. I map him also. His voice is thick with desire when he tries to speak: “How can I make it easier for you? Because I really . . .” I shush his lips with my finger. I am afraid he will say that he wants to apologize. I don’t want him to break the spell that’s overcome us. I hesitate. Walking in the dark is always a bad idea for me, and yet my cock needs him. I crave him worse than
a man lost in the desert aching for a few drops of precious water. What should I say? “Tomorrow.” “What?” “I have to . . .” “Do you have a flashlight? I can take you to your tent.” Everyone knows that I have a huge tent. I don’t do too well in tiny spaces, so it’s easier for me to stand up and move around with my cane. “Okay.” He turns on his flashlight, and I turn on mine. I hobble after him. He is walking much slower than usual. Bless his heart. Everything green looks oddly full of color in the crisp swaths of light crisscrossing in front of us. We hear the sound of crickets in the distance. I swat at the mosquitoes that try to nibble at my arms. At my tent I unzip one side. “You go in first.” I step in right after him and zip up the tent. “Hold on.” I zero my flashlight onto my unzipped sleeping bag. I don’t tell anyone this, but it’s always a struggle to zip my bag for the night by myself. I’m afraid to break the magic that’s lingering in the air between us, but I must. “Do you want to stay the night?” “I thought that was the general idea.” “Okay. I’ll get into my bag, and you can . . .” “You want me to zip up after you? That’s gonna be a challenge.” “No, you know what? I’ll get in, and you zip me up. You just slide right in.” I take off my sandals and set down my cane when I push myself to my side of the sleeping bag. I am surprised to see that he is taking off all his clothes. He catches the look on my face. “Is this okay?” “Yeah,” I smile. “You look beautiful.” He suddenly seems shy as he discards his underwear. He is about to zip me up when I say, “Wait.” I sit up and pull off my toga. I am totally naked except for the leggings. “I’m ready.” He zips me up. He angles himself with his backside to me when he tries to snuggle down into our cocoon. I am afraid to touch his body even when he is fully against mine. He turns off the flashlight. As he turns around, we negotiate our arms and legs until we meld. Our cocks touch as we press fiercely against each other. We grind. We kiss. Our grinding is endless like the sea.
Then suddenly—our bodies quake. I’m afraid that he will fly away, so I hang onto him. He too grips me. We don’t say a word. Our gasps have enough language. Our sticky bodies whisper to each other as if they are negotiating a truce behind closed curtains. We fall asleep without learning the agreed upon terms.
t is mid-morning when we at last awaken. “Hello, gorgeous,” I say. “Oh, hi there,” he says and gives me a kiss. We cuddle for a bit. “I gotta pee,” he finally says. He pushes himself out of our sleeping bag and leaves the tent. I hear the sound of his urine splashing against a tree nearby. When he returns, he says, “Are you hungry?” “Yeah, but . . .” I pat the empty space next to me. He surprises me when he unzips our bag and spreads it apart. He reclines against me and looks at my warped legs for a long moment. “Can I see your, um?” I know what he wants to see. I am a car accident waiting to be rubbernecked. I sit up and pull down the leggings. This is a make-or-break moment. Soon he will see how ugly like tree bark my legs are, and he will lose all desire for me, and he will apologize for what happened last night, saying that he didn’t know what he was doing when he stayed behind with me. The usual excuses. I avert my eyes from his face. He finally says. “I thought they would look worse than that.” I turn to him. “Oh, thank you!” I am stunned to see him smiling so awkwardly. I know that expression too well. It means that he’s crossed a line where society had expected him not to compliment someone who is supposed to be ugly. He plumbs the depth of my eyes with his own. I notice they are brown as chocolate. He finally says, “Tell me about community building.” I smile. “First, you hold a man’s hand for the longest time and tell him, without saying a word, how much you want to understand him.” He moves closer to my body and grips my hands. “Tell me again.” For the first time in my life, I’m too happy to say absolutely nothing. w
RFD 160 Winter 2015 13
The Stygian Wolf Rape-Tape A Tanka Sequnce
perfect under the hand-stand sharp breath in black leather outstretched darkling brother under a protean masking tape quadrangle a red mat stretches a perfect relationship sweaty pull-ups defiant rape-tape pungent sweat airborne Stygian wolf outstretched g-force a studded belt suspends over microphoned thuds black racing gloves fully extended bold crew-cut darkling brother open wooden floor eager full-body slam strenuous “at ease” half-twist after full-plange naked dusky seducer handcuffs-right, the Stygian wolf runs off left crude full-squat against forceful g’s black t-shirt falls stoic wooden floor silence stretches buoyant in their strength grey lycra – rape-tape merge dark lovers —Richard Witherspoon 14 RFD 160 Winter 2015
The Fluidity of Wave by Wave
n my early twenties, I did damage to my autonomic nervous system while making a move across the USA; basically, I was stuck in Arizona during the summer. While working outdoors in 110-120 degree heat, I experienced mini heat stokes and thereby altered my (upper) body’s ability to sweat. It’s now common for my temperature to climb to 103 1/2 degrees if I’m too active. Eventually, I had to let-go of being a carpenter who enjoyed working in open air under the beauty of the sky and ever-changing weather patterns, mostly in gorgeous landscapes. With two years of focused studies and internships, I became a physical therapist assistant, acquiring the skills to empathize and motivate others to move through their challenges and improve their functional abilities. I worked with many “differently able-bodied” individuals: kids with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, developmental delays, Downs syndrome, cystic fibrosis, autism, Fragile X syndrome, Williams syndrome, and adults with muscular sclerosis, Gillian Barre, muscular dystrophy, strokes, orthopedic hip and knee replacements, traumas, heart attacks, and head injuries. Less than a decade into this career, though, I had a hidden genetic abnormality beginning to express itself. Within two years, my ability to work was compromised to the point that I dropped below twenty hours per week and lost all employment benefits. Having my productivity quotas relaxed during this decline was helpful but then I was on the cusp of no-longer being able to augment therapies with valuable handson techniques, I resign on ethical principles and applied for disability benefits. I also knew that trying to make financial ends meet would exacerbate my condition. This happened just two months after my lover died from HIV complications, and one week after my 40th birthday. Happy Birthday!! This rare condition (PFK deficiency) effects all of the voluntary muscles. If there is too much weight, misplaced power, or prolonged tension with an activity, I can strain or fatigue the muscle and remain injured for weeks and months; an absurd length of time. I had to rethink my approach to every active movement and execute with caution. So with mindfulness, I go for “strolls” not power-walks or hikes. I skip bagels altogether, eat only half, or chew slowly and gently. I’m sexually Versatile, so I find plenty of
Photograph by Wave.
RFD 160 Winter 2015 15
positions that work for all of us, flip my role, or invite other subject|subjects or subject|objects to play. It’s a good thing I’m born a triple Gemini; we love to explore possibilities and ways-of-being. What now my love? What’s next? I took time for deeper contemplation and reached-out for Community partnerships, both humbled and proud. My experiences with passion and loss (of careers, lover, and physicality) was rich and profound, delving into the very depths of life, death, and rebirth/renewal. My journey took me from sissy-teen to college drop-out, to butch blue collar working-class Faggot, to thirty-year-old. Nontraditional student, to pink collar middle-class gay male therapist, to unemployed with an application to receive Social Security. My immediate sense was
one project keeps me active and helps to avoid using the same muscle groups. I mindfully stop often to stretch; can be more or less ambitious with the scale, or consider having a minimalist or conceptual approach. When available, having the right equipment is fantastic, too! Easels, tripods, hydraulics, come-alongs, pulleys, and everything adjustable and on-wheels! But Community collaborations and consensus is by far more complex with time-outs, heart circles, listening skills, labyrinth walks, shrooms, potions and spells, patience, flexibility, cross-pollination and compassion as useful practice(s). While at the end-of-the-school year picnic, on my final day working for an educational collaborative, someone asked me about a sunrise I etched into the stubbles at the nape of my neck. The person
that I was given this temporary “time-out” to grieve and become more than my career and more than a Lover in an all-time fabulously satisfying and deliciously pleasurable monogamous relationship. Our time together raised my awareness and continues to impact my sensibility, as do others. Luckily, just prior to this infliction, I was introduced to art marking and Faeries. Being unable to keep-up physically or financially with peers, I retreated into self exploration and alternative communities. Finally, disability benefits kicked-in…and so did funding to purse art. With art making, being playful and exploring is key. Playing in a variety of medias with more than
thought it was a symbol from the Kabbalah. Long story short, I was identified as Shaman; specifically a wounded healer, according to some traditions. Factors that helps me to believe this are the three occasions that I had my aura read. Each time (years and cities apart) the machine produced an image with only two colors, besides my skin tone: deep blue wraps outward around my head, signifying peace; and deep purple bans run down both sides of my body signifying Healer. The readings also show (clear) transparent pockets around my neck, signifying degrees of intuition. I was experiencing altered-states-of-being during art-making, move-
16 RFD 160 Winter 2015
Photography by Wave.
ment meditations and Shamanic journeyingâ€Śand also with ecstatic dance, drumming, chanting and ritual. These indicators, in addition to having a few mystical experiences and the life experiences (stated above) helps me to realize that above all else, I am a peace maker and advocate of the healing arts. I am like an antenna or conduit: a vibe watcher, called upon to address the energy of communities as a gobetween with calming energy or as a sacred clown
(aka coyote trickster), summoned by the fractions of society that have diverse demographic combinations, to illuminate the tension beneath the surface. Personally, I like to play my part in movement and resolutions, physically and metaphorically. I say that Movement is everything to me, but realize that itâ€™s the stillness or hesitation between the breathes, notes and movements that give birth to ~WAVEs, e.g. Nina Simone and Antony Hegarty. w
RFD 160 Winter 2015 17
Deformed by Jennifer Brooke
hat part of ‘deformed’ do you not understand?” the first surgeon offered bluntly, growing noticeably exasperated at my questioning his insistence that I needed surgery. I was at the hand specialist (as they say in New York)—however the top guy wasn’t available, so this authoritative opinion was coming from another doctor in the practice. He said, that in his experience, people with as bad a bone break as I have, who opt not to have the surgery, come back after the cast is removed and say, “You didn’t tell me how deformed I’d be”—and he’s, frankly, “sick and tired of it.” The first surgeon went on talking—the surgery he was urging me toward was entirely for “aesthetic reasons.” If I chose to let my hand heal without surgery, I would still regain full functionality—all range of motion, strength, and flexibility would be unchanged from before the accident. And yet, the first surgeon was emphatic I should have surgery—he could not imagine I would choose unnecessarily to be deformed. “Deformed” is such a severe word, like a verdict for a crime I hadn’t committed. I had simply had an accident—tripping over a large box, which was left where it wasn’t supposed to be, and falling awkwardly onto my hand. It’s not like I was being told I’d be “altered slightly.” The first surgeon was decisive, I was not just going to be “different” without surgery…my hand would be ugly. My excellent friend Dr. Jill told me that if I went with the surgery, she’d get the guy in the practice to perform it. Dr. Jill has that sort of power: Dr. Jill is the cardiologist in New York. But I didn’t want a higher-level surgeon performing my surgery. What I wanted was not to have surgery at all. So Dr. Jill made another phone call and got me an immediate second opinion with the other top guy in New York. And I called my partner, Beatrice, and got her to drop whatever she was doing and meet me for that appointment. It was my fault that Beatrice hadn’t been there for the appointment with the first surgeon. She had wanted to come, but I had insisted it was ridiculous, since it wasn’t a leg or eye injury (as in, I could walk and see), so her presence wasn’t required. “I’m an adult,” I protested, joking “I don’t need you there holding my (good) hand.” But when I said that to her, I hadn’t known I’d be given the unpleasant 18 RFD 160 Winter 2015
option of surgery versus deformity—I really was going to need my partner to help me make that choice. I should maybe express how much I hate the idea of surgery. I joke that I’m “practically a Christian Scientist” as a means of informing various medical practitioners, through the years, just how strongly I believe in my body healing itself. I’m actually not a Christian Scientist at all, and I have been known to take aspirin on numerous occasions. But I never entertain anything as extreme as an eye job, or as mild as a chemical peel. If I wore glasses, I probably would eschew LASIK. If I had been consulted when I was four, I would still be the happy owner of my tonsils. My partner knows my disdain for being sedated, cut into, sewed up, and she generally shares the sentiment. And yet, I wasn’t sure what she would say at the thought of the woman she spends her life with being deformed, disfigured, made grotesque. The second surgeon explained the process more gently, but still used the “deformed” word. His use of it confirmed that it was medical nomenclature, rather than overstated pessimism as I had hoped. Specifically, my accident had not only caused me to fracture and displace my fifth metacarpal bone, its impact was severe enough to jam violently the last knuckle of the finger attached to that bone deep up into my left hand. Without surgery my bones would heal, but my knuckle would be forever visually lost. When I made a fist, there would be three, rather than four, knuckles showing. I queasily asked the second surgeon, “How noticeable would it be?” He said it was “unlikely anyone could spot it from across a busy street.” We were having dinner with another married couple, Jason and Maria, and I was explaining the dilemma of surgery versus deformity. Maria, a very attractive blonde, said without a hair of hesitation that she would choose to have the surgery. “Definitely.” Jason enthusiastically nodded. He would want her to have the surgery, “to be made whole,” but wasn’t sure whether, if it were his hand in question, he would do it. Jason ruminated aloud about unexpected complications often accompanying surgery, and then admitted how much more he valued preserving his wife’s physical
beauty than his own. awaited our verdict. I asked her and double-checked So was this a gay-woman decision my partthat her response was thoroughly thought through. ner and I were making? Meaning, unlike straight In the end I chose not to have the surgery, and Bewomen, gay women are far more free to examine atrice supported me in that choice. Holding my good what version of female attractiveness they wish to hand, she said, “Don’t do it.” My future disfigurement embrace. Straight women are often forced to cusis still concealed by a hard white cast while my bones tomize their looks to what straight men; the media; knit in seclusion. I haven’t let anyone sign, doodle on, most magazines, movies, ads, etc. deem attractive. or otherwise adorn the cast. I avoid luring attention There may be some crossover between straight and to my current camouflaged appendage in hopes that gay women, and of course exceptions in both cases, I am somehow warding off future scrutiny. I’m not but it’s simply not the same. If Beatrice were a man, supposed to lift anything heavy or use two of the would she definitely want me to have the surgery? five fingers on my healing hand while the cast is on. Or what if Beatrice, for personal reasons beyond Beatrice has been a flawless partner throughout this, conventional concepts of beauty and perfection, had doing 100 percent of things we traditionally go 50-50 wanted me to have the surgery? Should I undergo on—driving our kids, cooking and cleaning up after the additional pain, anesthesia, recovery, and inhermeals, making our bed, doing our laundry. She has ent risk simply to please my partner? also taken over a bunch of stuff I generally cover: What does it mean, body-wise, to be married? shoveling snow, stacking our firewood, carrying all Not every spouse asks the sorts of heavy stuff. I am other if he or she should grateful and fortunate to get a haircut, but many have a spouse like this. do. I have a friend who Doesn’t she deserve as My partner knows my shaves her pubic hair into a much flawlessness as I can narrow triangular formaoffer her? disdain for being sedated, tion her husband prefers. Even as I feel my cut into, sewed up, and Admittedly, I wear the hand healing beneath the she generally shares cologne Beatrice likes, and stiffened gauze and rigid the sentiment. And yet, I only wear the plaid trouplaster, I find myself silently sers with the tiny lobster speculating about whether I wasn’t sure what she motif I’ve owned since colI should perhaps have unwould say at the thought lege, which she doesn’t like dergone surgery so as not of the woman she spends (but I can’t bring myself to to burden Beatrice with the her life with being discard), when she’s not deformed version of me I’m around. Although we share currently forming. deformed, disfigured, a toothbrush and a bathWill it be distractingly made grotesque. robe, I find private time weird for her to hold my and space to clean my ears, changed hand in the movclip my nails, and tweeze ies? Will it somehow feel hairs growing where I wish different when I touch her they wouldn’t. When I walk back to bed after using with my permanently mangled self? Will I shift pothe bathroom in the middle of the night (I sleep sitions more often to duck my bad hand under tanaked), I inhale my abdomen just slightly in case blecloths, jackets, scarves, and will she notice this she’s awake and looking in my direction. In other and find it irritating over time? Will I start wearwords, I’d like her to find me attractive and to be ing my wedding ring on my right hand so I call as attracted to me as often and as much as possible. So, little attention as possible to my left, and will that when exploring the option of deformity, shouldn’t I bother her? I simply don’t know and neither does care even more than I care about hair and wardrobe she. For now I’m just trying to imagine that I won’t what my partner thinks? Although it was my flesh look that different when the cast comes off. What which would be cut into, my bones which would be part of “deformed” do I not understand? w bolted to one another, my brain which would navigate the anesthesia, it just never felt like this, oddly, was my decision alone to make. So I looked carefully into Beatrice’s eyes while the second surgeon
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A Differently Abled Radical Faerie by Floral Pearl
’m deaf. That is, small d deaf. I have some hearing, just enough to participate more or less in the everyday world with the assistance of hearing aids (HAs). Purple ones. I’ve been deaf from birth, but it wasn’t until about ten years ago that you could get HAs in colours other than beige. My first coloured ones were dark blue. Deaf, with a capital D, refers to people who are generally severely deaf, culturally identify with other Deaf people and society and use sign language for communication. I’m not Deaf. Just deaf. I don’t know New Zealand Sign Language, though I am learning some. I put on my HAs and I am part of the hearing world. I take them off, and magically, I become part of a deaf world. So I “walk” back and forth between two worlds, a complex path, well worn, through a door separating the two. That of being deaf, and that of the hearing. It’s lonely being deaf. There’s relatively few others with whom I share my experience of being deaf. It’s an intensely personal experience, a singular place. And I am not really a member of the hearing world, so I’m lonely there as well. I struggle with conversations, and even though I have very powerful HAs, I sometimes struggle with one on one conversations. The hearing world is an exhausting place for me, tiring (because you have to concentrate very hard to ‘hear’), full of confusions, but surprising patches of joy and warmth. By its sheer size and weight, I must participate in it. But that door/path is what I know, and know best. It’s a gifted place to be on that path between these worlds, and I’ve developed strong abilities over the years in being in this place; I have to be acutely observant, for safety reasons, and I notice lots of things. This silent observation while not wearing HAs is extended to the world around me, and I notice all sorts of things, patterns and trends. Couple with a strong intellect and I find myself oftentimes thinking outside the box, freed from the strict conventions of the hearing world.
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I’m also Radical Faerie. Being radfae is an attitude of liberation for me. The formal idea is relatively new in Aotearoa, but I suspect New Zealand has always harboured Radical Faeries of all kinds in years past. I can spot some of them in a wonderful book that features early photographs by a (strongly suspected) gay photographer. In late 1880s small town New Zea;amd, these faeries posed for photos in private. Today however, we have a loose tribe that gathers two times a year. At those gatherings, I find myself. I frock up sometimes, I wear pearls most of the time. Heart circles challenge and soothe me, a subject-subject consciousness permeates the group and opening/closing rituals create the space within which I and others can simply and quietly be. But this tribe is hearing. I am to my knowledge, so far, the only deaf Radical Faerie in Aotearoa, New Zealand. I find myself walking that complex path through the door even within Radical Faeries; it’s a hearing place after all. But it’s through putting on pearls, in the same way that I put on and take off my HAs, that I discover a commonality in transformations; wear pearls, become a Radical Faerie, take them off, you slip into the muggle world. One delightful outcome is a sense that that door/ path, that place I find myself in, can be given a little magic, a little sparkle and light by putting on pearls and I can bring that spirit back to the hearing world when I wear HAs. Being radfae has made it possible for me to try bring a little comfort and joy (thanks James Broughton!) to the muggle world, a world so clearly thirsty for it. Another outcome is knowledge that putting on pearls and/or HAs and taking them off creates different worlds that I can play around with and explore. It’s an interesting place to be, and makes my life that much richer. I find myself in a marvellous space to explore at length. Being differently abled is gifted in so many ways despite the challenges of being deaf. Sparkles and light! w
Where You Are by Foudatz
Sometimes you may forget about it, what happened to you as a child, for a few minutes, no more than that, leaving you different, with a “bad leg”. you can forget it if you get drunk, read poetry, get high, spend time with your queer friends, doing queer things. Maybe not forget, maybe just not care, but it never goes away, it’s your closest friend. You get to be different, you are different, pick up the queer badge, without trying queerest of the day. Most people are very polite, but someone always manages to bring it up, maybe to put you in your place, maybe to remind you what you are, maybe just to be helpful, kind, but you don’t want it, help. Help is an intrusion, a show of power. You see, they don’t know what you’ve lived, you just want to be normal take a pill, be normal, not a victim, not a hero, not a movie star, not objectified, just normal, just someone who can take their pants off without explaining what happened.
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Spiritual Emergence by Hijinx Bandersnatch
am disabled and while I use that word, I have misgivings. I left work at the beginning of July, and have not returned. There are lots of bottles of pills and supplements on my dresser. There’s a banker box filled with medical records dating back to 1998 that I was wise to keep from the last time I was on SSDI in 2009. Afraid of what it means to be disabled, and still quite ill, I went back to work then. This time, I am still uncomfortable with what it means to be disabled, and I have no plans to return to work. I accept that I experience nausea, dizziness, visual disturbances, fatigue, pain, and suicidal ideation on a daily basis. I accept that my ability to work at a full time job is gone. It is the word disabled with which I have issue, not my illness. Indeed, illness has been an excellent spiritual teacher. I now inhabit the void that is depression when it visits, and use that time for rest and reflection. The pain of cluster headache, aptly named suicide headache, while something I’d avoid given the option, is often ecstatic and unlocks the mysteries of Rumi. I rather like it now when the lines between the senses blur in the synesthesia that comes with the auras I experience. Death is when the illusion that anybody or anything is separate vanishes and there’s wordless oneness. That I learned during a particularly bad bout. I returned, I suppose, to tell you about it. I resonate with atheists. It is the spiritual emergence that happened during painful moments of my illness that caused me to think differently about disability. Although I often feel ill, I feel more aware and capable than ever. It as though wisdom came in to make up for the craziness. I trust my intuitive side more. I have become gifted at bodywork with no training. Achieving a trance state is easy now, and I spend plenty of time in an altered state of consciousness. That’s a gift in itself. I was never good at meditation before. In other cultures, I would be considered gifted, not disabled: the one who heals, not the one to be healed. In other places and times, the sensitive people are the ones looked upon to heal society’s ills. These sensitive people—the mentally ill in our sense of things—are seen as healers because we sense stuff others don’t. I admit I am odd. In cultures that embrace medicine such as sacred clown and shaman22 RFD 160 Winter 2015
ism, the aberrant behaviors of the shaman—that which we view as pathology within the individual— is more accurately seen as a reflection of society’s ills, and the shaman is consulted for healing. That which heals the shaman heals society. The process I’ve been through over the past two decades—of being treated as mentally ill and failing to respond to all treatments including some forty rounds of electroshock therapy—has led me down this path of disability and shamanism. I feel as if I fell down a rabbit hole into another reality. I’m doing better mentally than any time I can remember, even if my nervous system is damaged from HIV. I take no prescription psychotropic meds now, I worry less, live in the moment more. Both my physician and therapist in Seattle have stated that my mental illness suggests a spiritual crisis and not traditional major depression with psychotic features. A few years ago I might have thought them crazy, but there’s something to what they are saying. You see, my therapist has been able to help me stabilize the impulses for self harm. We have been successful where every conventional treatment failed previously. The biggest difference in my care is that my providers see me as a person and not a pathology. Another difference is that my therapist is not unlike me with the depressive stuff, and he healed when his care team did for him what team is doing with me. He was suicidally depressed for years, and when they supported him in his spiritual journey he got better.
rior to Seattle, I lived in Detroit, where I received more traditional psychiatric care. That care involved taking multiple antidepressants and antipsychotic medication simultaneously. It did little to help, and made my suicidal impulses stronger. I was hospitalized several times, and underwent electro convulsive therapy to help stop the constant desire to kill myself. It helped a bit, but I remained severely depressed and suicidal. The seed to try a different approach was planted one frigid February morning as my neuropsychiatrist was checking the placement of the wires running to my head prior to a shock-therapy treatment. The electrodes on my forehead had to align with my eyes, so there was always a moment when I stared into the
eyes of my psychiatrist. Due to the severe suicidality, I received bifrontal treatments. I was already in a vacant state to accept that in a few minutes I would be put to sleep, paralyzed, my breath dependent on others, and a grand mal seizure invoked by electricity running across both hemispheres of my brain. The anesthesiologist had left the procedure room to get my anti nausea medication. Alone, looking in my eyes, the physician who had seen me piss myself during an earlier seizure, asked me if he was helping, and when I told him that it made things less awful, he quietly admitted that psychiatry was likely harming me and suggested psychedelics. That brief moment of realness ended with the return of the anesthesiologist and a gaggle of folks to assist. That interaction, as brief as it was, catapulted me to the Pacific Northwest, in search of folks experienced with psilocybe cubensis and cannabis. I accepted a job in Seattle and moved my entire life across the country in search of healing. I wasn’t better when I returned to work, just driven to heal myself. Returning to work meant losing my SSDI, but the risk inherent in that was less than the risk of self harm if I did nothing. One of the top neuropsychiatrists in the world suggested psychedelics, and that recommendation, along with plenty of reading, convinced me to try. Both cannabis and psilocybe cubensis mush-
Drawing by Josh Turk
rooms have helped me to heal, but not only in the ways I expected. To be sure, both substances helped with nausea, pain, muscle spasms, and depression. What I didn’t expect was that psilocybe cubensis mushrooms made my head feel clear, my thinking sharp. It was the first time in my life that movement was easy, my vision not impaired by zig zag lines. Cannabis has a similar effect that grounds me and enables me to be present in my body. With cannabis, I can pay attention and sit still for things like heart circle. I formed a close relationship with both substances, and both are medicines my medical team supports. There is no prescription medication for cluster headache. Psychedelic mushrooms like psilocybe cubensis are the treatment that works for most cluster heads. If you are not familiar with a spiritual emergence, what I described contains the elements of one. I fell quite ill and nothing would help. A part of me seemed to die. I confronted my own death. I began to journey with drums and rattles. I developed relationships with many healing plants. I have visions and dream lucidly. I acquired body work skills out of the blue. It is miraculous to me to be writing this. I don’t feel disabled, I feel blessed. It’s high-time we begin to use more accurate words to communicate that someone’s abilities differ from our own. w
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Diffabled: Reclamation by Kaš
hat does it mean? To be different is to own What does it mean? Most people do not ask distinction. To be different is to defy definifor gain through loss. It just happens. It creeps tion. Off-center. Mobilized, rather than jeopardized, up on us and queers the way we encounter the by some alternate corporeal or metaphysical experi- world. Sometimes it’s our proprioception that must ence. Because to be in a center means to function recover and find new, nuanced ways of engaging without a perspective of alterity – to never leave a with others. Sometimes it’s our identity. Rather than wake, a trace of creative knowledge on living. What defining how we belong here by our abilities, lets good is presence without play? step back and look to our differences. Build bridges What does it mean? To be blind is to sharpen, by agitating and inciting “failure.” Because it only hone. See with your elbows, constitutes failure, or lack, see with your ears. Learning if it does not generate for to witness through touch. those who control the center. Read through taste. Light is But when you live off-center, no longer the source of life. these diffabilities manifest Most people do not Warmth creates relationships. appreciation, spark creativity, Smell depicts a landscape. and resist conformity simply ask for gain through Eyes now accessories that because most of them are perloss. It just happens. work as mirrors, rather than manent. But we don’t have to It creeps up on us and windows, to the soul. Never let these qualities control us. queers the way we relaying an absent gaze, just Perhaps they should enlighten one that does not privilege or strengthen us. And then encounter the world. itself over other sensuous permeate beyond our skins to pleasures. do the same for others. They What does it mean? There have the diffability to queer would be no gain without the normative and grant anyloss. The molting of sameness one insight into the ways that allows us to breathe without lungs, digest without our current paradigm actually fails itself. They can stomachs, create without minds. Our abilities are contribute to the necessary knowledge of difference actually never aligned with each others’. Homogene- that allows everyone to function simply because it ity does not and will not ever exist. But for some it must exist for the center to exist. Acknowledging brings a comfort of conformity, conservatism, cohe- and appreciating this fact connects us through (mis) sion. Great minds think alike. But do they? understanding – a failure to ever be able to experiGreat bodies act differently. They show possibilience the world as you did before. ties beyond practicalities. Easy becomes relative and What does it mean? Infinite expansion. w uninteresting. Soft is nice and can lead to dreams. But it also stagnates and plateaus. Eventually it normalizes. Hard reawakens and makes us know life.
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“Self Defense” by artboydancing.
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Physical Healing by Swimming in the Psycho-Spiritual Ethers By: Nova S. Dara A.K.A. the Cosmic Cheshire Clown
normally don’t write articles like this one. I don’t always feel the need to justify or rashilze my being differently abled to folks. But when I read the call for differently abled fae folk, spirit moved me to share some things with you. I was born out of extreme trauma that was done to my mother while she was seven months pregnant with not just me but my twin brother Samuel Xavier. Out of that one event came chronic health conditions for me to overcome in life and then the knowing that my brother never made it to exist in this plane like I can for he didn’t survive. My physical health has always been a crazy roller coaster. From surgeries to correct my hearing (I was born mostly deaf and they didn’t find that until I was almost six) to test after tests to figure out what causes my heart to have an irregular heartbeat. That puts me at risk for heart failure and causes me not to be as physically active as my ambition wants to be. A total of 32 years and they still don’t have the answer to the cause of my heart problem. I believe that it just works differently than what western medicine is used to seeing due to the loss of my twin in the womb next to me. I’ve been told three times now in my life from my heart doctor that I need a heart transplant or I’d die by a certain age, and so far I’ve proved him wrong. I still won’t allow him to operate on me. My belief in healing the body is quite different than his, and why fix something that’s not broken but just needs a different way to operate. For I believe that when my spirit/soul is sick or hurts it’s manifested into my physical body. I also have a couple more conditions that affect my daily living. I was born with a genetic calcium deficiency that seventeen years ago turned into rheumatoid arthritis that’s had a possibility of turning into a bone disorder later in life. But the one I want to share is being born intrasexed, not quite male, not quite female. Why am I sharing this with you, you might be wondering? I share because it affects my life in not just a psycho-spiritual way but in a physical one. Well at the age of nineteen I was told by the doctors that I had ovarian cancer, and my right ovary would need to be removed for me to live. After they removed it they learned through more tests that in 26 RFD 160 Winter 2015
fact my ovary was really a testicle. Because of a misdiagnosis, they took something out of my body that I didn’t even know I had, and in all honestly I could have lived with. Wow, what a brain fuck at a young age to know that I was born an internal hermaphrodite. After surgery, my health declined, I was hospitalized and my immune system was compromised to the point of crashing, which caused even more issues with the arthritis and forced me to be walking on a cane by the age of twenty-two. That’s about the time that I found the fae and knew that I was home. Years went by, life moved on, and my health got better, so I thought, but I’d really just found ways to cover it up. I learned how to walk differently to compensate for the hips/pelvic bone being out of alignment and just didn’t talk much about my heart or the intersex. Which in the long run caused even more issues. There was this one gathering that I was talking about being an ally for trans-gendered folk and found myself being yelled at and even was told how would I know how to be an ally if I’d never experienced was it takes to transition from one gender to another. Right there I just shut down, because of one fae’s closed-mindedness. That was also the gathering that I had an episode with my heart and knew that I could no longer be in Tennessee during the summer. So I started spending my summers in New Mexico. After one of these summers did I spend the following winter in deep mediation around my health. I realized that I could no longer live in my home in the Tennessee mountains and it be healthy for me. So by that March I packed up and moved to New Mexico to have a healthier existence. And here I am almost three years later with a new health flare-ups but with healthcare this time. Back in May I found that my body was going dancer down in a huge way. I was forced to quit my job at the Ancient Way Cafe, due to my body losing all of its functioning physically speaking. My major joints started locking up and freezing and giving out unexpectedly at random moments, causing me to fall at any moment, so I spent the next two to three months on and off bedridden. Every movement caused extreme pain and my nervous system was shocking my body when I moved in certain ways.
So with so much time on my hands and reluctance to see a doctor in July decided to go to the gathering in August. My landing into gathering was physically rough and I realized that what I was capable of doing was quite different than ever before. I couldn’t walk without my cane. I had several sessions with some fellow fae healers that helped not just my body but my soul. And things moved on. I’ve never had a session that caused so much laughing, cackling and snorting to come out of me. So later on the Cosmic Cheshire Clown (a professor for the Sacred Clown Mystery School) portaled in to host the Know Talent Show/Auction Combo Nite, with the rest of ClownTown. Then next morning waking up still wearing my strap-on dick! I only noticed that I was still wearing it after walking up (without cane) to the main house for coffee. Thru out the rest of the day noticed that I was walking differently. A couple of weeks went by, and I fell a few more times due to my hips giving out and the continued shocking of my body by the nervous system. For five months on and off I’d been in a place where I just couldn’t function daily without some major help, so I chose to stay on after gathering and to step into the stewardship program at ZMS. With so much happening with my physical body for five months and joints just not working right I began to get even more frustrated and desperate. And after a night in the kitchen that both legs stopped functioning at the same time, did I remember that moment during gathering that I noticed that I walked differently wearing my dick. So then I became curious and the month of September became an experiment of body and soul. I started wearing my dick at different times, during different activities and situations not being between the sheets with a lover or a performance piece on stage. Because up till September those were the only two reasons for me to wear my dick. In the last couple of weeks with all the analyzing questions, moments of pure confusion and the love, support, space-holding by my roommate and fellow sanctuarians, I noticed that when wearing my dick I can function again in my daily living to a degree. But then on days that I don’t wear it I’m like an 80-year-old woman who needs help out of my chair. Between the harness of the strap on and the weight of the dick, wearing it with a chest harness realigns my pelvic bone to the point that I don’t hobble while walking and I can do things
for myself that I haven’t been able to do in over five months. So things in my cobwebbed confused brain started making sense yet again. Intrasex half man half woman in one body. I’ve identified with being a two-spirit all of my adult life. I just hadn’t fully realized what the universe would have in store further down the path for my spirit. For me to continue healing my physical body I’d have to dive even deeper into psychospiritual healing. The psych-doctor is in! Being able to live at and visit fae sanctuaries has given me the space to really look at the deeper parts of my soul. What it needs to thrive, to live and exist in a place outside of society to be able to experiment with different ways to heal one’s wounded soul, mind, and body has been priceless. There’s not many places that a queer twospirit can exist with boobs and wearing a prosthetic dick and be supported to thrive and accepted on the scale that my fellow fae hold me so I can continue my spiritual life path. I’ve recently, in the last couple of weeks, started seeing a doctor again to find out what’s going on within my body. Until tests come back to verify I’ll just continue my experiments on my spirit body. Because for the first time in a while I am able to function again in my daily life in a way that I haven’t been able to in a long time. And maybe one day I won’t have to depend on folks for so much help. Being differently-abled can make one feel like a burden on loved ones and on the community, which in the long run can cause mental issues throughout the healing process. I believe the more I continue the psycho-spiritual healing the easier it will be for my body to support my soul without completely breaking my body apart. I may not be able to have a job again in the outside world but for now that’s just fine for I’ve found a way for me to function for this moment in life. I have often felt like a cosmic joke in my life, a freak show walking upon humans but I’m just human and years of accepting myself, what I am, and what I’m able to do in the now has given me an empowered rich soul-life. I would not be as bodily abled without queer spaces that mirror just how to heal not just my body but my two-spirit soul. Letting the freak flag fly and listening to that what the kween says the shaman says. Blessed be! w RFD 160 Winter 2015 27
Munsters by James Elmore
The Munsters was a black-and-white television comedy from the 1960’s. Mother and Grandpa were vampires, Dad was clearly Frankenstein and son Eddie was a werewolf. They lived in a haunted house and kept a dragon under the stairs for a pet. They also had a niece, Marilyn, a kind and beautiful blond, who lived with them. The joke about Marilyn was that the entire family feared she’d always be a spinster, since she was far too plain to ever find someone to love her. Marilyn also believed this about herself. For some of us, being gay is like being Marilyn. There never was anything wrong with us, it’s just that we were raised by monsters who told us there was and we believed them.
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“Cosmic Wish” by James Elmore
Love and Loss at a Mental Health Clinic by Justin Samuels
merican Hustle cemented the reinvigoration appeared not to be like that. of my life. When Sydney Prosser felt she was I ended up returning to the university to comscrewed over by Irving Rosenfield and she had been plete my studies. I graduated. I returned to NYC. I busted by the FBI agent Richie DiMao, she said she had settled in my life in NYC. My friendship with would take that pain and anguish and produce the the musician picked up. But inapplicable, he would hustle/act of her life to get out of that situation. That disappear for weeks and not return my calls. He one line is the ultimate line for any writer or artist. would then say he liked someone else. But then he Some years ago I struggled with depression and would like me again and want to talk to me again. interruptions academically and professionally. I Then he didn’t like me. Then he did. In 2012, I wasn’t able to work and had to take medication for moved to the Rockaways. It was a dream for me depression. The medication I took was Wellbutrin. as I’ve always loved the ocean. Unfortunately I lost I drank quite a bit in those days as well. I was on everything in Hurricane Sandy and in the followpublic assistance. I decided that my life had to go ing months went into a deep depression. After my back on track. In order so called friend played to return to my studies games with me in 2013, and complete them, I it was the last time. I had to go get six months exploded. We fell out and These organizations are of therapy. It was hard didn’t speak to each other primarily concerned about to get into an outpatient for awhile. I nastily conincreasing the number of program at a hospital, fronted him and we had clients they have, so they so I called community some arguments. In the organizations. I ended last time he played the I can get more funding from up going to Manhattan liked you but I’m seeing the government. They assist Mental Health Services, someone but I liked you and enable drug addicts a community non-profit. game, he revealed to me to get on welfare and stay They were willing to do he was working off the the six months of therapy books at multiple musion welfare for decades, I needed. While I was cal gigs while collecting without having to work at Manhattan Mental welfare and working part ever. Health Services, I met time at a college. I went and fell in love with a to his shows so I know musician. He was in he was paid in cash. I therapy for whatever reported him for welfare mental illness and drug use. We got closer as fraud and posted his welfare fraud online. The tale friends, but when I would suggest doing something of his fraud is the first entry listed when one google’s fun like going to a party he would talk about how his name. His reputation was ruined and as a result much work he had in rehearsals. I admired this he is currently working as a street musician (perparticular person because he seemed to work and forming on the street for cash). While its true I was have it together. Manhattan Mental Health Services being vindictive, a part of me was upset that he had and other gay community organizations, and the learned very well to exploit government programs hospital structure encourage welfare dependency to enable his addiction. He had learned this very among the mentally ill. These organizations are well at Manhattan Mental Health Services. primarily concerned about increasing the number of clients they have, so they can get more funding from n the aftermath of my reporting him and callthe government. They assist and enable drug addicts ing him out online, I began to make changes in to get on welfare and stay on welfare for decades, my own life. No longer would I associate with drug without having to work ever. My musician friend addicts or welfare cheats. I crossed all people who
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made excuses for how bad their lives were off my list. I will never again set foot in organization that I know are dedicated to mooching as much money off the government as possible, while keeping their clients dependent on welfare. Unfortunately that is all that organizations like Manhattan Mental Health Services and the other so called gay organizations care about, mooching off as much government money as possible. The former CEO of Manhattan Mental Health Services was fired right after taking a three-month sabbatical after she cut Manhattan Mental Health Services services, all while she padded her pockets with taxpayer dollars. Nor would I ever live in a run down neighborhood with a bad element. I began reorganizing my life professionally.
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I attended a number of film networking events at IFP and at Tribeca. I began reviewing my screenplays. I made plans on traveling out of the United States. I am going to Latin America and Asia to teach English overseas and academic work. So all while finalizing these plans, I watched American Hustle. Then I saw where Sydney Prosser made her famous line. That line hit me at the core of my soul. I hadnâ€™t written a new screenplay in a while. What if I incorporated elements of my story of betrayal into an all new screenplay? I did. I finished my ninth screenplay and I am now pitching it to producers. Now Iâ€™m working on my tenth screenplay, which also has themes of betrayal. w
Drawing by Josh Turk
Fundamental by Kanji
hatting tonight with Sugar, a sweet faerie and most probably shouldn’t even try to explain. I brother!, I explained to him a little of my introcame back from the coma journey with some inforduction to faerieland and it’s residents and how I mation that revealed to me a view of the Game that’s eventually became a fairy. I was born, as a vast perunequivocal (in regular person-earthen terms). centage of beings on this planet are, with the alien I was an addict—yep it’s true. I’m a recovering DNA commands intact. Growing up hetero exposed pussy addict to put it bluntly and however crudely. me to all the pitfalls of a “normal” life – as well as Recovering from a drug may be more pervasive the joys and the lessons. and far-reaching than heroin (the DNA command When I was eleven I went to stay with my grandin action). I just typed “herion” on my I-pad and it parents, who were the “house-parents” at a hostel broke the word up into “her ion”! Interesting experifor seventeen intellectually disabled residents. I ence, this planetary game!—and so subtly directed think my interest in “different abilities” was sparked in all the dubious spots. Maybe that’s part of the while I was there. reason for incarnating here. Among all the many inAt the age of twelve I dividual and personal readeveloped an interest in sons, the satisfaction that spirit and consequently I comes from the totality of became a seeker of sorts, knowing an experience. which led to drugs and Living now as a gay the excessive use thereof. man, in a body that’s still a Two-and-half-weeks-inDuring that time, my little bit wired (dare I say teenage rock-n roll years, it) for the opposite gender, a-coma later, and with the I entertained a fourthis definitely a challenge. heroin drained from my dimensional entity that Maybe airing the wound body, I began the process was apparently driven, will help it heal? It’s a chalof learning to walk and like a particular hierarlenge to bring consciouschy on this planet, by the ness to my programmed talk again and then… need to gratify the flesh. idea of self, the lines being re-creating my life. (I know some gay bodies blurred in the connection can have huge appetites; between real self and the it just seems to manifest physical. So why try to be differently.) This contingay when I wasn’t born ued until I found myself that way? Apart from the recovering from a car acobvious, insofar as general cident at age of twenty-one. At the time I was living functionality is concerned, I think this was the best the life of a wanna-be rock star that used as much way to go if my abilities were to truly blossom and drugs as possible to bolster (or blur) the vision. That function at a level where some degree of mastery is, until my girlfriend at the time and myself hit a could be achieved. tree at 120 km/h. Guess which one of us forgot to I love men. I love the spirit that’s engendered wear a seatbelt? Two and half weeks in a coma later, when they get together. When we get together! I and with the heroin drained from my body, I began love women too, but not in the same way. First law the process of learning to walk and talk again and of the universe: Like attracts like. Actually, I just then…re-creating my life. It turned out to be much love Spirit, whatever the body it expresses itself like a system re-boot. All things considered, the through. That’s all. The real reality. Am I preachmost major of blessings. ing to the choir? A choirboirboy preaching to the Now, eighteen years and a bit of internal (and ex- Angels? In my search for reality I found the faeries ternal) work later, I’m finding the magic of the soul and consequently, after a year or so of going out to manifest in my daily life—something I really can’t Fairyland and spending time with them, I became
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one. Surprise, surprise. This piece is a “coming out” of sorts, a declaration of being a queer man now wholly aligned. On my correct path and in the process of fine-tuning as such. At the age of twelve I was seeking something, I don’t know what it was, something intangible, something mystical—maybe it was knowledge for knowledge’s sake. It was around the time I discovered Seth, a multi-dimensional consciousness/ teacher channeled by New Yorker Jane Roberts in the 1970s, who consequently opened up to me to a whole gamut of comprehensions. Eventually some information “found” me, about the game and the spirit I apparently had been waiting for. Addressing experiential loops and then breaking them—thus propelling one to the next level of experience—seems a universal stage of growth. It can be totally transformative in its result. The Fire of Self
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that breaks the oppression of ancient control finds itself growing new wings of liberation and ability. I was so sick of recovering from being dizzy. I think I used to make myself dizzy so I wouldn’t have to face breaking the loops! Crazed, mentally polarized and somehow perfectly normal? Ha! Breaking the loop would be a lot easier if you knew what was on the other side of it. I’m learning how to use my wings most effectively now. As much as I like to move, I also like sitting down. Some of the best work has come to me on (and sometimes in) my arse, so to speak. So, throwing paint up in the air, flapping my wings to create air flow, and thrusting free-hand art splatter makes my journey— and the learning to fly bit—a little more exciting! And fun. “The endless way of bliss,” which is how I recently saw the life journey described in an occult book. I like some of the mystical lines of thought.
“Power Invoked” by artboydancing.
Spiritual insight was definitely my motivation for “switching teams.” Probably, it was astrological also. It’s the physical side of things that I’m enjoying now, and learning to enjoy fully. As you may well totally fathom! My journey has definitely been a rocky one and it didn’t magically get easier when I decided to sleep with men. Its taken time to understand a different way of relating, its taken time to understand myself. Healing takes time, and initially it hurts. Proper healing that is. I think faeries are some of the most complete beings here, which is why I aligned with such a fabulous community. As I evoke healing in myself with the intention of sharing it, the power of attention and its faculty of manifestation begin to sink in. Coupled with intention, I’m equipped with a magical and powerful tool kit with which I’ve (re)built myself and can weave the web of my experience—or at least deal with any circumstances that are beyond my control. It definitely pays to know what you want, what you’ve got to work with and what you need to make it happen. About a year after the car crash I started going to bush parties. As my spirit was slowly waking me up, I noted the dysfunction of being attentive to girls as opposed to the functionality of boys (let alone the pros and cons of touch). Now I don’t even touch the other gender! The short-circuiting of myself that happens when I physically touch them is enough to not go there anymore. I don’t know why it happens, it just is that way. Though I do hug my mum and my grandma! Sometimes I’ll even kiss them, but it’s got to be a special occasion for that! I wouldn’t be where I am (in myself ) had I remained on the path I was on.
Follow Your Path I’m writing a different article at the moment for another magazine, on the topic of integrating the soul with the personality. To tell the truth, in a lot of places it’s hard to see where one article finishes and the other begins. (Except for the hot swarthy hog-tied sections. Sadly, I’m joking.) Sex involves some level of soul contact. Even with anonymous encounters, sometimes the most surprising (and non-physical!) things happen in a darkened room. For instance, my first memorable psychic experience was in a swarming mass of hot sweaty men. With my reasons for becoming a faery being very much rooted in the spiritual context, my emerging faery boi is actually an integration of my personality and the soul, a sprinkle of Higher Self? My real Self.
I’m finding different and varied abilities coming to the surface now, sometimes surprising me. Abilities I knew I had but had forgotten, abilities I don’t have a label for as many of them are unique to a given situation. Different in the sense that they’re not acknowledged by most people, and in some case all the more valuable for being secret. Hidden powers seem to grow when shared with others similar to you. Preparing a meal in a fae kitchen, chopping veggies and accessing a collective high-vibratory slipstream of consciousness. Maybe it’s soul functioning on its plane? Like the passage through a portal, into a density where information is accessed instantaneously. Other levels of healing are engaged the more I consciously activate my connection to faerie spirit! Activating this spirit has turned on (and tuned in) my soul in immeasurable ways. I wouldn’t even begin to fathom the ways in which she has led me to my real self. It’s something of a fairy tale! Journeying inwards (I’m an introvert, can’t you tell?) and onwards, the magical carpet ride of self-discovery is such a natural thing made all the more invigorating with a harmonic lover! The internal realities that interface with the external experience are more amazing the more I let go into it, out of the world of thoughts and into the dreamscape of soul. I think your abilities, especially your latent ones, are more easily accessed in that space between the brain hemispheres. The Zen of meditative cohesion. Higher self driving. Your body, the chosen tool of expression. Spirit, the cosmic load in your pencil. And the third-dimensional plane: the soundboard of the impact. Life’s like writing a novel or painting a picture. Allowing the co-creative happenings to materialize, the Path unfolds like a movie would—if only you (or me) would let it. Oh my, it’s taken a while to get it and still I continue getting the gist of it. I’ve taken off the training wheels now! Finally! Oh how to wield Love... To create with the real you is really something! Writing this piece is somewhat of a psychological workshop for me! A workshop of soul integration, an education in itself. Tuning in and sharing these parts of my journey feels like real soul liberation. Now I can create healing, magic and peace with myself and my brothers. Thanks, RFD. This is for all of the brave souls, with love. w
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“Three Adam” by Josh Turk.
“Seated Max” by Josh Turk.
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Thoughts on Being Queer and Disabled by Mark Ellis
The wound is the place where the light enters you. —Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī
ver the past few years I have come to see the world differently. Part of this different way of seeing has to do with getting older. Part is due to the loss of my mother, whom I cared for during her decline. Part is due to my son’s leaving for college after a childhood struggling with a very hard to understand processing disorder. And part of this new way of seeing the world happened through my coming out around a year ago. I should perhaps explain my circumstances because I haven’t really met anyone whose life has followed a course similar to mine. I have known that I am gay for about as long as I have been disabled. To begin with the disability, when I was ten years old, several boys and I were playing on a riding lawnmower at a neighbor’s house. I fell or jumped off, and everyone else did the same. I must have been stunned by the fall, because after seconds or minutes, the mower without a driver circled around and ran upon my right leg. Writing or speaking about this event still creates a physical reaction, and I remember everything very vividly—the sound, the extreme then dull pain, the way the mower sprayed blood and human tissue across the yard, the moments after the mower was pulled off of me when I saw an artery spurting blood into the air. A neighbor ran from across the street , took off his belt, and made a tourniquet saving me from bleeding to death. I also remember trying to awaken myself from what I thought was a nightmare. The mower shaved the flesh off of the outside of my right leg down to the bone, severing the peroneal nerve, a branch of the spinal nerve, damaging the growth zones and rendering my leg useless. The doctors wanted to amputate it, but my mother begged them not to. During the intervening years there have been times when I wished that the doctors had not relented. From the fifth grade onward I had many operations to repair the damage. I was in a number of hospitals and was unable to attend school for several years, although I managed to keep up through homebound schooling and graduated with my class. I went on 36 RFD 160 Winter 2015
to college, graduate school, started my career, was married and had a son. At times I was able to hide the effects of the injury, until about twenty years ago when my knee began to collapse leaving me with the option of a cane or a full leg brace. There is of course much more I could say about the physical and psychological effects of the accident, but these are the basic facts. Like many other queer men, I always knew that I was attracted to men. (I choose to refer to myself as queer rather than gay because I could be called bisexual, I have a disability that effects my life, and I have a lot of unconventional interests that defy labeling.) I was also attracted sexually to girls and women from an early age, so that I can’t honestly say that I have an exclusive sexual attraction to other men. Perhaps as an outsider, not able to attend school, from a family that had moved often (my father was a pilot in the Air Force.), I never considered my same sex attraction to be abnormal. It was just part of me. Until I went off to college, I didn’t understand that there was a gay culture, separate from the mainstream. Living isolated from my peers during high school, I didn’t have the opportunity for sex with either males or females. I satisfied myself with whatever pictures, pornographic and otherwise, that I could find or draw myself. In college, I knew other men who may have been gay, but my friends were straight, and it meant so much to me to be with other people my age that sexuality didn’t come to the fore. Graduate school, however, was another matter entirely. I also lived in Europe for two years during that time, and was propositioned often by other men. Yet I still didn’t have sex with any of them, I don’t really understand why, except to say that I was very naïve and idealistic, and my romantic ideas were not fully formed. After graduate school, I began my career and eventually married. It has always intrigued me that I came the closest to having a gay relationship shortly before meeting my wife. But I met her, fell in love, got married and put the queer feelings on the back burner, though it was always something I knew about myself and considered. I enjoyed sex with my wife, and fathered a son. Our lives were what you might consider “normal” viewed from the
outside. On the inside; however, there were family problems, the difficulties my son had with school, the difficulties of caring for an aging parent, and my mixed sexuality, although I didn’t view that as a problem. In one area of my life I have had some longstanding confusion—my spiritual life. I can safely say that I have always been on a spiritual journey. When I was a child, particularly after my accident but also before, I worried that I was somehow bad and that God would judge me. I don’t really understand this, because my family was far from being fundamentalist, and we didn’t live in an area dominated by religious fundamentalism, yet I carried this guilt and worry with me from the time I was a small child. As I grew older, I tried different forms of Christianity, and either they didn’t engage me, or I became disillusioned with the people in a particular church. By the time my mother died and my son left home, I was exhausted with many facets of life, including traditional religion. I was ready to move along a new road in my journey. At this point, you may be wondering what all of this has to do with disability within the gay community. Well, I have to say it has everything to do with it. In some ways having a disability parallels the queer experience. The first thing that comes to mind is the shame that many people with disabilities feel. In my case, for many years I went to great lengths to conceal my disability. I never wore shorts. I avoided situations where anyone might be able to detect it. For example, because I have PTSD and a hand tremor, I refused to go to any kind of professional dinner where the shaking would be more obvious. You must understand how deep seated the shame is, going beyond embarrassment. It can even be called an existential shame. Much of it has to do with the loss of privacy, being dependent on others, and the experience that one is different or ugly in some way. When I was a child, I avoided being seen on crutches. In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Tiny Tim says that he went to church to remind others who “made blind men see and lame beggars walk.” I can’t tell you what an enormous affect this line had on me as a child. I always refused to be seen at church until I was walking unaided. Another parallel is the sense of being set apart from others. I still have that sense. While I can function professionally, when it comes to making friends at work or at social events, there is always something holding me back. I require some kind of deeper level of acquaintance or intimacy to
build a friendship. I often found this deeper level in college, but it doesn’t happen very often now. I seek to become part of a group, but it is difficult. I would also have to say that I have an equally difficult time with gay men in groups. Somehow I don’t fit in unless I try very hard to assimilate. But then I usually feel like I’m pretending and not being true to myself. I often feel unheard, almost invisible. A sense of guilt is another parallel. I have learned through therapy that the guilt of a person with disabilities, particularly if it comes through an injury, often cannot be connected to an act or a reaction of another person. It too is existential; it loses its connection with its cause and becomes an element of anxiety. Feelings of physical pain can increase or lessen feelings of guilt. Guilt and physical pain are strongly connected psychologically, in our culture, and in our religious traditions. What may surprise some of my fellow gay or queer men is that the shame, the isolation, and the guilt of a disability can actually make coming out easier, particularly if you come out as a mature individual. I don’t speak for others, but I can honestly say that any shame I might feel at being queer is minor compared to the shame I bore growing up with my disability. While I don’t reveal my sexual orientation to just anyone, I can be more open about it than I can about my disability. Nor do I have guilt feelings about being queer. It is hard for me to understand gay men when they say they feel guilt. I suppose it has a lot to do with my upbringing and my view of sexuality. Perhaps the part of being queer that I find most difficult is the isolation. It adds to my general sense of isolation, and I haven’t experienced a difference in acceptance by the gay community. In fact, both hetero and gay worlds seem to function along the same lines. There are rules and boundaries to learn, people who seek control, cliques, the popular, the unpopular, false and genuine, friendly and unfriendly, biased and unbiased. If you break a rule or you cause a problem, you usually have to pay a price. I would have to say that the gay community is no more accepting of people with disabilities than the society at large. You really just have to decide to be yourself and deal with the consequences. In two areas I have discovered wonderful gifts as a queer man. These areas are spirituality and creativity, and I have found them to be linked. Of course it is possible to understand your spiritual side and to realize your creative impulses in other ways, but when I took the steps toward better RFD 160 Winter 2015 37
understanding my queer self, I immediately opened my heart to a true and tangible spirituality. It can’t really be explained unless you have experienced an awakening yourself, and I believe that we are all capable of this awakening. There are many ways to come to it, many guides and many allies. After my spiritual awakening I experienced a creative awakening. Accepting myself, my queer life, my disabled life, brought me a greater appreciation of poetry, of art, of dreams. At that time, I began to copy poetry into a journal, then write down my dreams, and then to write my own poetry. Since
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then I have felt compelled. I have to write, and I love to share it with other people. I prefaced my story with a quotation by Rumi, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” I found this line when I began to look for explanations for my spiritual awakening. The line holds great meaning for me, not merely because a wound led to my disability, but also because I think that we are all wounded and waiting to allow the light to enter us. We have to accept our wounds, accept other people, accept our community, our world and realize that we are beautiful. w
“Emily” by Josh Turk.
Framelight by Michael Sano
lianna woke up nervous. Her first breaths came in a little short. Her stomach twisted inside itself. She imagined her intestine like a rope wrung tight. Her breaths slowed and she imagined that rope unwinding and flattening over her spine. Her eyes closed, she lay on her side. She tried to remember what she had been dreaming but only conjured a feeling of anticipation. Tonight, she thought. Sheâ€™d be on stage. She hated this feeling but loved what followed. She turned her face up toward the window and enjoyed the soft glow of draped sun on the back her eyelids. She imagined its warmth spreading across her face, over her chin down her neck onto her chest. The warmth settled there, on her breast, like a pair of searching hands, clammy but comforting. She breathed in wide, and sighed inside. Alianna shifted her hips. She rolled away from the window and felt the cold sheets hit her right shoulder and the small of her back. She shifted her hips again, waiting for her legs to follow. She waited. They did not move. Dammit, she thought and let out a gruff breath. She tried again but her legs did not turn. She opened her eyes and curled her neck so she could look upon her body. She pushed the sheets and blanket down past her chest, under her waist, tossing them at her knees. She reached down and gripped one leg. The hair on her thighs prickled her palms. She shifted it over and then down. The cool relief of untouched sheets met the back of her thigh and calf. The air between her legs tickled her skin. With her hands she shifted and flattened the other leg. Alianna lifted the covers back up to her shoulders. She shut her eyes for another moment of repose before her day would break. Not today. I need your help today. She said the words inside her head. She imagined her words traveling the contours of her body toward her legs where they were absorbed in the divots just above her knees. Her skin soaking in her intentions, the way a clam breathes underwater, invisibly drawing its strength. Tonight she needed her whole body to cooperate. Tonight she would perform. She said to herself: you are strong. You are rooted like a tree. You might sway but you will preside. She said it again. And though doubt crept
in the back of her mind like a shadow ready to cover the light on her eyes, she said it again. And again: you are strong. You are rooted. To get out of bed today, Alianna needed to use some strength. She reached her arms above her head as far as she could. Her arms were bent at different angles and her efforts stretched different muscles in each arm. The tension felt good. She gripped her headboard with one hand, lifted her back off the mattress with her shoulders and extended her other arm further. When her fingers met the wood they crawled over until they too gripped the headboard. She pulled herself up and back, careful with her speed so that her head slid up the headboard slowly and her neck remained firm when it passed the edge. She pulled again. She was sitting now. One at a time, she swung her legs over the edge of the mattress with her hands, letting her feet hit the carpet with a soft thud. When she was facing outward she could reach the arms of her wheelchair. Its frame boxed her into this seat on the bed. Reaching her hands forward, one fist-length at a time, she slowly raised herself and stood. The sun was still warm on her body and she felt a thin layer of sweat spread across her chest. She looked down at the seat in front of her, turned and settled. She swung her chair and pushed herself toward the bathroom. The shadow of her wheelchair created a frame around the space she entered. As she moved across the room she entered that frame again and again and again. She left it to bathe and wash herself new, but entered it again as she dressed, as she arranged and packed and prepared for the day. The hours at work dragged by the minute. Each time Alianna checked the time it seemed to be moving slower. And she had arrived late today. Two busses had passed her at her usual stop this morning. She had sat in her wheelchair next to the awning and waited, like she normally did, with a book in her hands. When the first bus approached she had craned her neck to see how crowded it was. Through the front windows she saw a mass of bodies. A crack of light from the opposite windows shifted between raised arms and scowled faces. She continued reading, not even bothering to prepare to RFD 160 Winter 2015 39
board. She knew this bus wouldn’t stop for her. She used to that by now. She settled inside her cube and knew too, that the members of the mass inside who booted up her computer. She opened her music spied her on the sidewalk would be relieved when files and put her headphones in. She would listen the bus continued rolling by. Some might feel a to the same song all day. She was still preparing for twinge of shame at recognizing their relief, but most tonight. She knew all the words by heart. She knew would simply be satisfied in gaining a few moments each beat and pause, knew when to linger on a note, of convenience over her presence. when to whisper sing and when to vibrate her uvula. Often, when she boarded a bus she heard quiet Convincing the audience she was singing wouldn’t groans and saw eyes rolling. The crowd annoyed by be hard, they wanted to believe, but they also knew the extra minutes her body the truth, and the slightest demanded of them. Usually, mistake in her imitation at least one or two riders would remind them. would de-board through Don’t know why, her the back door as the platmouth hung open on the Convincing the audience form was lowered for her. last sound, as if the note she was singing Sometimes they waited a from the back of her throat bit longer, and left while she were filling the cube around wouldn’t be hard, they struggled to maneuver the her. There’s no sun up in wanted to believe, but wheels of her chair among the sky. When the notes they also knew the all the feet into their proper stretched, her fingers lifted truth, and the slightest place in the seat cum parkfrom her keyboard and ing spot at the front of the spread, as if they too were mistake in her imitation bus. She wondered someproducing music in front of would remind them. times if those passengers her to fill the air and lift her who left her would wait limbs higher. Her shoulfor another bus or would ders hung to at a diagonal, walk to their final destinacaught mid swing by the tion. She wondered if they drama of the note. Stormy thought about her or simply made calculations in Weather. Since my man and I ain’t together. Here their heads: minutes plus steps, blocks divided by her top lip curled slightly as if she were pushing the bus stops. She made the same calculations every lower note to her feet or to the feet of her audience. day. Every decision to use the bathroom or cross the Life is bare, gloom and mis’ry everywhere room or meet a friend involved the metrics of time Stormy weather and distance and expended energy. Joseph Alianna made one such calculation as she waited Just can’t get my poor self - Joseph - together for the second bus. It was a nice day for walking. I’m weary all the time - Joseph The sun was out, but the air was cool. Now that she Her neck snapped towards the voice behind her. was a little late the sidewalks were less crowded. She quickly reached for her headphones, snatched She wondered if she could make it to the subway them out of her ears, and held them against her faster on her own wheels than those of the bus. Her chest, hoping whatever tinny music escaped from book was getting good, though, and she had decided them would be suffocated by her sweaty palm. Her to stay and keep reading and embrace the small boss didn’t like them to wear headphones in the convenience afforded her by the luxury of public office. Too isolating he said, not team minded. She transportation. couldn’t turn her neck enough to see his whole face. Then the second bus passed her before she evenHer heart beat a little faster against the fist clutching tually noticed it had approached. She swore. At it, at at her breast. She stretched her neck a little more, her book, at the other riders, at her calculations, at annoyed that her boss wouldn’t move to be more in the feet behind her as she backed up and prepared front of her. He stayed just outside her cubicle. to make it on her own all the way to the subway. When will you have that report edited? When she had finally arrived at the office she had She gulped. Finishing up right now, she said her been at least relieved to find that no one was waiting voice felt quiet, whispery almost. She hadn’t meant for an explanation from her. She had missed the to speak so softly. She hated sounding meek. In her morning meeting, but her boss and colleagues were head she had just been singing loud enough for the 40 RFD 160 Winter 2015
whole audience to hear, the whole office, half the block maybe. Her sorrow-filled notes reaching ears connected to faces she couldn’t even see and didn’t even imagine. Good, thanks. He started to turn away but then said, And Joseph? She shut her eyes, opened them, waited to be chastised for the headphones. The last report was excellent. I want that caliber. If you need more time, let me know. It’ll be fine. I mean good. It’s coming together well. Dammit. She hated stumbling on her words like that. Out of the corner of her eye she saw her boss nod and walk away. She turned back to her computer. She still clutched the headphones in one hand though her fist had drifted down to her abdomen. She played the conversation with her boss back over in her head, berating herself for being so clumsy and then she imagined the interaction again, as it could have been. No headphones this time. The music fills the whole office and her voice floating with it through the air. Her boss calls her name, and she turns to him, swings her chair around. She doesn’t miss a beat, just keeps singing and gives him a look that says: who are you talking to? It’s a different song this time. She imagines herself standing to greet him, the folds of her dress falling to the floor. She extends an arm to her boss as if she’s inviting him to dance or join her on stage. But she’s just gesturing, just singing down her arm at him. She wouldn’t take a step. She waves her hand with the guitar riff. You don’t stand a chance I’m the leader of this dance Don’t even try to understand I’m not who you think I am And he turns and walks away. He recognizes this is her show, not his. She’s in the spotlight, she gets to choose the song, the dress, the name. She decides how the act plays out. Suddenly, she realized she was staring vacantly at her computer screen. Her hand still a fist but only loosely. Her headphones slipping slowly out of her grip. She shook her head at herself a little, tosses away her daydream. She’d never sing in here, never out loud. She wouldn’t talk back, she will always swallow before she answers. Still, she wished she had been a bit more composed. The day drags on until finally its time to head home. She waits for her co-workers to leave. She doesn’t want to be the last one to arrive and the first one to go home. She has stopped working but her headphones were still in, attached to her phone
though for a quick escape. The song fills the cube around her, pushing against the frame that boxes her in daily. She closes her eyes and whisper sings to herself. Keeps rainin’ all the time Keeps rainin’ all the time She was glad it wasn’t raining when she arrived at the club. They sky and forecast had threatened showers. A gray cover had stalled at the edge of the sky all afternoon, but as the sunset breeze moved over the city, the bank dissolved into a soft and still indigo. When she left her house she was relieved to find clear skies. It made her trip to the club easier, but more than that, she didn’t want the audience to think she was being opportunistic in her performance. Her song was constant, not dependent on the day. Getting backstage was always a bit of a process. Alianna didn’t want to call too much attention to herself before her performance, but the path along the bar was narrow, and no matter how early she arrived or how empty the bar was, at least a few guests were always mingling in front of the curtain to the dressing room. She kept herself covered as she entered the club and rolled along the bar’s edge. She wore a black shawl that draped her head and shoulders and crossed her body so that it rested in folds on her thighs. Below her knees she revealed fishnet stockings and the heels she had twisted her feet into. The shawl was pulled forward over her forehead, creating a veil of shadow over her makeupped face. She kept her gaze down on the folds of cloth on her legs and the ground just beyond the line created by her toes upon their perches. Bottles passed the corners of her eyes, lit from behind, just above the crown of her head, her chin just below the edge of the bar. When she was just a few feet from the dressing room curtain she stopped moving. Her eyes wandered up the legs in front of her, gold tights, sheer tights, jeans, to the torsos they belonged to, bare midriff, black lycra, faded t-shirt, then to their chests, stuffed, real, flat, and their faces, painted eyes, sculpted cheeks, beard. She knew these three from other nights but in this moment had nothing to say, not even excuse me or sorry or hello. She met one pair of eyes with a shadowed smirk and received a wink. An arm pushed the air between them, graceful in its gesture and the bodies parted while the arm pulled back the curtain and she moved beyond that barrier. RFD 160 Winter 2015 41
She looked around the dressing room. Mirrors lined the walls, the biggest propped under a row of circular light bulbs; a crack divided one corner of the glass in a jagged line. A shelf was built along one wall below the mirrors and above a few chairs, tools scattered on its surface: eyelash curler, lip pencil, comb, tape, glue, glitter. She lifted her chin to catch her reflection in the mirror just in front of her. She pulled her shawl back and turned her face side to side. She puckered her lips without emotion, looking for smudges. She closed one eye at a time, pushed a piece of hair across her face. She was satisfied. The other girls would be arriving soon, filling this tiny space with their pre-performance nerves and laughter. They would primp and preen and poke one another. They would zip and fluff and smooth for one another. They would wait, sometimes holding hands lightly, sometimes folding arms and casting gazes blank, approving, with judgment. But she would wait alone, cradled among the curtains at the back of stage left. From her nest she could look down at the dressing room or out at the stage. But she couldn’t move forward an inch or else she would expose her toes and her presence. Any move backward and she would hit the wall that bordered her from behind. She wanted to get up there before the others arrived. She wanted to find her spot among the curtains without any pushes or guidance. These girls had guided her enough. Tonight she wanted to be independent. She wanted to stand on her own in the spotlight and in the shadows. She turned and faced the ramp on stage and slowly made her way up it. She inched upward, very conscious of the moment her feet would first reveal themselves past the curtains bordering the stage, followed by her knees, her waist and body. She would turn quick as she could, hoping that no one would notice her now, she wanted her presence to present itself in a precise moment. Then there would be no rolling in slowly or with warning. There would be only Alianna on stage. Slowly, surreptitiously, she crept her way along the curtain’s skirts and found her hideaway. She settled in and waited. The other girls arrived in pairs and threes. Their perfumed scents mingled and mounted and met Alianna in her burrow. She listened to them chatter and encourage one another. She gazed down at them and met a few pairs of eyes among the wigs teased and twisted and twirled. She smiled and they waved their fingers. In the same moment she 42 RFD 160 Winter 2015
felt both one of them and apart from them. They were the only ones who could understand her and yet, she thought, they never would. She closed her eyes and felt the soft embrace the curtains created around her, heavy and secure. The noise of the crowd grew and crept up to the stage, reaching and rising insider her refuge. Her eyes still closed she imagined the audience crowding the stage, filling the small room from wall to wall, glasses in hand, their attention towards each other as they wait for something to drink in off the stage. Some of them wait to critique, others to analyze, some to record and archive and many not sure what to expect, what to want, only feeling that here they believe they belong however awkward the fit may feel. Music starts and the crowd settles to a murmur. The MC enters the stage and talks to the audience. Alianna can see her back and the edges of her profile, how she holds the microphone close to her mouth and dangles it before the crowd when she asks them a question. The curls in her wig bounce with her steps, her gown sways even after she stops. Her heels are only revealed when she moves and then only for a glimpse. Like Alianna in her chair, the MC keeps her legs mostly covered. The acts begin and Alianna watches from back stage. There is the tall, leggy queen, all leotard and tights who dances like she’s a competing gymnast. The audience howls when she hits the floor in a split and bounces right back up as if her thighs were made of rubber. There are the classic queens. One is soulful and sassy as she saunters through a number by The Supremes. Another croons the crowd with an old show-tune, stuffing dollar bills under her neckline with long, sequined arms. There is a duet flirting with more abstract performance art, approximating an avant-garde drag. Some of the audience is awed or at least impressed with their experimentation and others are bored or confused, or a little of both and leave to get new drinks from the bar. There is one pop music number, a song Alianna is fairly certain just came out last week, and probably betrays the young girl’s ability to lip sync well and to have fully completed her crafted look. But the crowd loves the excuse to sing along to their new favorite song. They sing united, each voice escaping a throat to join a chorus it does not know. They make a music rough with desire and disregard. Alianna is next. The last act before the closing act. How did she score this place in the line up? The club is packed full. A humidity rises from the sweat of limbs and bodies and hangs among them thick
and palpable to the tongue. Her own tongue hangs over her lip as she prepares to enter the stage. She pushes the shawl back off her head and swings it off her shoulders. She bunches it up from her legs into her lap and lifts the pile into her hands. She catches some girlâ€™s eyes in the dressing room below and tosses the wad of fabric at her. She sees it unfurl and float a minute before the girl catches it in her chest like a wide receiver catching a pass. Alianna hears her name and moves forward, edging toward the spotlight. At its rim she pauses. She looks down at her heels, pushes one leg forward so that the tips of her shoes are even. They are shiny, black and pointed. She follows the fence of fishnet stockings up her legs, she keeps her knees close. She can see just the band of the thong she wears above her thighs, the rest of her hidden under her haunches. The skin on her stomach looks particularly white in this shadow, and for a second
â€œDownward Spiralâ€? by Josh Turk.
she considers how it will look in the spotlight, all that skin bunched up above her waist and below the black lace bra that covers her chest. The white of her neck is covered partially by a leather band. She switches her attention away from her concern, to her confidence. She is all white and black and red, skin and clothes and makeup. She runs one finger along her chin, trailing her neck, down over her chest to the divot above one knee, under her stockings. She whispers to it. She moves forward into the light and stands before the audience. She gazes over their bodies to the darkness behind them. She peers into that darkness looking for the man she sings to, imagines him there in the shadows, his figure dissolving into the void around him, that darkness that circles the crowd, the club, the light cast on her body. She looks into the darkness and lets the light look upon her. Surrounded by the light, by the eyes, she shines. w
RFD 160 Winter 2015 43
Communes Funded by Aid to the Totally Disabled by Voyager
reak subcultures—gay, countercultural, hippie, genderfucked, dyke, artist, acid drag queen, trans, punk, gender-bending, mystic—have depended and continue to depend on histories of disability assistance. These entitlements, public welfare, and state assistance have supported homes and land conducive for queer spirit to flourish. Extensive commune networks in San Francisco and California have historically been funded by Aid to the Totally Disabled, a form of state assistance to the permanently disabled. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the hippie enclave in San Francisco, also referred to as the “drop-out scene,” consisted of a 300-household urban commune network, concentrated in the Haight-Ashbury district. Hunga Dunga was one commune which called their operation “The Food Conspiracy.” Participating communes would pool their cash, food stamps, and Aid to the Totally Disabled checks to purchase bulk food for distribution. This fed not only members of Hunga Dunga but any commune that wanted to participate. Delivering produce and food in wooden boxes for city-wide distribution, people worked for absolutely no money. There was a childcare and mechanic commune. The Cockettes and Angels of Light provided community theater.1 Through interdependence and creative use of state aid, communes performed vital services for the community at no cost. Many received Aid to the Totally Disabled checks who were not disabled. They were eligible through creative performances in interviews or by committing fraud on paper. They did so with the ethical defense that commune services for the community justified the means to the end. After Ronald Reagan was elected California governor for a second term, he worked with the Democratic majority in the state legislature to enact major welfare reform in 1971. This reduced the number of people who could receive state aid while increasing the benefits of those who remained eligible. It severely diminished the commune network. The Diggers grew out of radicalized San Francisco Mime Troupe members. They were actors who used street theater, anarcho-direct action, and art happenings in an agenda of creating a Free 44 RFD 160 Winter 2015
City. They provided free food distribution in parks, thrift items in Free Stores, homemade whole wheat bread in coffee cans at the Free Bakery, services at the first Free Medical Clinic (a precursor to the Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic), tie-dyed clothing, and communal celebrations of Solstices and Equinoxes. Two radical traditions in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1960s informed this group’s practices: 1) bohemia, underground art movements, and local theater scenes and 2) the New Left, civil rights organizing, and anti-war peace movements. They borrowed their name from the English Diggers (1649-1650), a group of landless commoners who seized land outside of London, prompted by the rise of English capitalism and Puritanism, who also advocated the equivalent of “free love” during the English Civil War.2 In early 1968, the Diggers changed their name to the Free City Collective. In a manifesto, they called for an urban coalition of “free families” to pool resources in a network that could sustain long-term revolutionary effort. The Free City Collective formed alliances with street gangs from Latin and Chinese neighborhoods in San Francisco and worked with the American Indian Movement and the Black Panther Party. After three months of protest on the steps of City Hall, addressing police harassment, the illegalization of LSD and the expanding Drug War, and ecological concerns as political issues, the collective dissolved on the summer solstice of 1968.3 Between 1969 and 1972, the Cockettes blurred everyday life and art, launching camp spoofs of 1930s musicals while unleashing gender anarchy. Martin Worman, a theater historian and former member of the Cockettes, said their art “was political, but no one among us verbalized it. We had no need of rhetoric. We were madcap chefs cooking up a storm, and the ingredients were magic and tribal anarchy.”4 Joshua Gamson describes the Cockettes as: one particular intersection of gay life and hippie life. The Cockettes were soldiers of ecstasy, but not the study-group kind…if communes, hippies, drugs, homosexuals, and drag queens were increasingly unremarkable in San Francisco at the time, the Cockettes nevertheless combined them all into an
unprecedented stew. Allen Ginsberg described Cockettes productions as “part of a large-scale spiritual liberation movement and reclamation of self from the homogenization of the military state.” On the Palace Theater stage and in the living rooms of run-down, funky Victorian flats, they were mystics liberating fantastical images from the realm of imagination, who actualized the spectacles on stage, irreverently birthing surreal pop culture interpretations with a queer sensibility. Whether these visions involved a female impersonation of a big-bosomed Jayne Mansfield, the necromantic channeling of Billie Holiday for falsetto blues renditions, or the unintelligible bricolage of 1930s glamor found in third hand stores and free boxes against glittery psychedelic accoutrement, these stylistic innovations of gay hippie “freaks” were forms of self-determination. These practices of the self could not be imagined and cultivated without the support of a larger community. In the case of the Cockettes and other post-hippie, pre-punk renegades, the San Francisco commune network was a significant space for support. John Waters considered the Aid to the Totally Disabled check to be “‘a grant, actually, from the government, to continue your insane lifestyle in San Francisco.”5 For the Sutter Street commune, their service entailed the publication and dispatching of the intercommunal newsletter. Hibiscus helped distribute this paper as a “Kitchen Slut” until he left the Sutter Street commune to participate in communal living among the Cockettes and Angels of Light. When conflicts occurred between Hibiscus, Angels of Light, and the Cockettes, Rosenthal published an editorial entitled “Against the Stars” in Kaliflower that explains how he saw the Cockettes betray the philosophy of free: The Cockettes are stars who came out of our own communal scene. They are Kaliflower’s very own abortion, loosely speaking. They started free, and sold out to gold-digger dreams of riches and stardom, and instead of playing for dropouts or touring the West Coast communes to bend the minds of real men and women, they chose to play for the paying flabbies, and so settled for now the possibility of an outrageous, communal sexo-revolutionary theater.6 The Angels of Light collective in San Francisco performed well into 1981, staging magical, fableoriented shows for free. Most people in the house received Aid to the Totally Disabled checks—a package of $300 per month, food stamps, and Medicare. About $50 were allocated for rent, $100 for the
commune’s food budget, and the rest for miscellaneous daily purchases and theater supplies. In 1971, eighteen lived in the house, which had a sewing room and kitchen on the first floor, a dance studio on the second, and bedrooms on the third. They had a bus transfer collection with color-coded, transfer slips for the MUNI public transportation system, an illicit collection that allowed members of the house to go virtually anywhere in the city for no fare.7 Most shows were performed at 330 Grove Street, a city owned warehouse ran by United Projects, an African American empowerment organization. It also functioned as a gay community center that also housed the Black Panthers on the first floor.8 Benjamin Shepard describes the Cockettes and Angels of Light as a queer tribe, an example of “the diverse models of family constellations and alternate kinship networks” that exist in a pluralistic democracy. Queer tribes branched out throughout the 1970s to create new community spaces for those who did not fit into mainstream U.S. culture. 9 Rainbow Gathering, Michigan Womyn’s Festival, and the Radical Faeries are some examples of these tribes. The Free City Collective’s use of the concept “free families” for commune houses and free institutions anticipated this conception of tribes. Hibiscus transitioned to express a gender nonconforming, flamboyant persona in a strict and structured commune, on the streets of San Francisco, on theater stages, and in the Haight Street Cockettes’ commune. This is an example of queer self-determination possible in hippie and associated youth countercultures prior to the full flowering of the gay liberation movement. Disability assistance is essential to the history of how gay liberation spaces flourished and continue to grow. Historians don’t often attribute the failure of communes to the elimination of social services and welfare. Rather, they cite dependence on state money as evidence of a commune’s failure. This innovative use of state entitlements challenges how late 1960s and early 1970s hippies have been remembered as self-centered Baby Boomers obsessed with self-gratification. At the rate in which entitlements are diminished and gutted in the U.S., this funding model, to support communes and intentional communities by pooling together the state assistance of individuals, will soon be obsolete. We must envision more strategies of mutual aid and funding that do not rely on the mercy of the neoliberal state. I hope this history will inspire the work and dreams of anarchist and radical communities that don’t depend solely on state assistance yet make use of the entitlements which remain. w RFD 160 Winter 2015 45
Endnotes 1 Weissman, David and Bill Weber, The Cockettes (2002) 2 Shepard, Benjamin. Queer Political Performance and Protest: Play, Pleasure and Social Movement. New York: Routledge, 2010. p. 17 3 Lee, Martin A. and Bruce Shlain. Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond. New York: Grove Press, 1985 (1992). pp. 192-193. 4 Tent, Pam. Midnight at the Palace: My Life as a Fabulous Cockette, Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 2004. p 137.
46 RFD 160 Winter 2015
Gamson, Joshua. The Fabulous Sylvester: The Legend, the Music, the Seventies in San Francisco. New York: Picador, 2005. p. 49-56 6 Tent, Pam. p. 19—21, 118-119. 7 Brooks, Adrian. Flights of Life: My Life with the Angels of Light. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008. p. 66 8 “Pickup’s Tricks: a film by Gregory Pickup with Hibiscus, The Cockettes, The Angels of Light, and Allen Ginsberg.” pickupstricks.com, April 2005 <http://www.pickupstricks.com/> 9 Shepard, Benjamin. p. 42-43. 5
Collage by Josh Turk.
Interview with Brandon Kazen-Maddox by Franklin Abbott
randon Kazen-Maddox is an American Sign Language artist, acrobat and dancer who lives and works in the Bay Area. He grew up in a family where his grandparents were deaf and ASL is his first language. He has created a new art form, American Sign Language Acrobatic Dance. You can find videos of Brandon on YouTube and on his Facebook page body.language.productions . He has a fascinating story about how he has made his differences work for him as an artist and in service to his communities. You have created a new art form, American Sign Language Acrobatic Dance (ASLAD), that merges sign language, dance and acrobatics. Could you talk about how those three things have come together so powerfully for you? Through my involvement with the Deaf community, I have learned that one person can start a movement, but it takes a community to create a change. For me, this movement began at the start of my acrobatics career at the tender age of four. I attended gymnastics classes on a weekly basis, and remained focused on the activity until the age of nine, when the cost of classes became too much for my family to maintain. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school that I dove into a new physical art form: Dance. I auditioned for the lead role of ‘Anything Goes’ by Cole Porter and was given the role of Billy Crocker, a singing, tap-dancing, lighthearted lead character. At the age of sixteen, I joined my high school dance team and was given
Photograph courtesy Brandon Kazen-Maddox
the opportunity to learn a blend of contemporary, jazz and swing dance while being able to incorporate my gymnastics skills in various tumbling passes and partner acrobatic tricks. The following year, I joined my high school’s cheerleading team, along with three other men, and was thrilled to be able to tumble any and everywhere I could, all in the name of school spirit. At the same time, I enrolled myself in a competitive All-Star Cheerleading program launched through a local athletic club. This was my true introduction to what I call ‘Acrobatic Dance’… And I fell in love. This style of dance was fast-paced, intricate, jazzy, and included gymnastics skills such as back-handsprings, back-tucks and partner stunting with other cheerleaders. After high school, I began my college career at the University of Washington where I cheered for the Huskies. In this program, I was able to continue to employ my acrobatic tumbling skills, but was pushed away from dance, as it was labeled a ‘female-only’ activity. This was very disheartening, especially because I knew I was indeed born to dance. After two years on the team, I decided to leave the cheerleading world to do some soul-searching. That is when I found Teatro ZinZanni and my life was forever changed. Teatro ZinZanni is a dinner-theatre restaurant that began in Seatlle, Wasghinton. Guests would start their evening by perusing the antique-filled, peacock feather-adorned boutique, then enter into an antique Belgian spiegeltent where a five-course meal would be served and a theatrical, immersive circus experience would take place. I was fortunate RFD 160 Winter 2015 47
enough to become part of the Waitstaff at TZ, sign language as your first language? How has where my colleagues and I would dance each of the that changed the way you think about and move courses out to the guest, becoming a part of the in the world? show they were watching. After a year of this kind of work, the professional performers and I became In the Deaf community, there are many good friends and eventually, I asked them how in acronyms: SODAs are Siblings of Deaf Adults, the world they got to where they were. Knowing KODAs are Kids of Deaf Adults and CODAs are that I had a gymnastic, dance and cheerleading Children (who are now adults) of Deaf Adults. background, some of the performers recommended Since my grandparents are both Deaf, my mother that I go to circus school in San Francisco and learn is a CODA and I am, technically, a grandchild of how to become a professional circus acrobat, which Deaf Adults, which can be called a GODA, but is is exactly what I did. After graduating from the normally still referred to as a CODA. University of Washington, I said my goodbyes to my American Sign Language is my grandmother’s, Teatro ZinZanni circus family in Seattle and said mother’s and my first language. I would say that hello to my brand-new growing up with ASL life as a student in circus as my first language has school in San Francisco, been hugely beneficial California. I enrolled in for me in many respects. the Professional TrainI find I communicate Growing up, ASL always ing Program in Chinese with people very easily, felt a bit like a superpower. Acrobatics at the San am very articulate and Francisco. Throughout knowledgeable in regards I could communicate my time in circus school, to vocabulary and have from far distances, I trained various acrobatic an innate need to use my through windows, in noisy art forms such as Teeterhands while speaking. environments, all in a board, Chinese Poles, and Spelling has always been Partner Acrobatics, but a strong suit of mine and, silent, what felt like almost I knew that something like my mother, I find telepathic, language with was lacking: Again came when I am spelling a word my family members and the word ‘dance’. Towards in any language, I must fellow ASL-speakers. the end of my first year of first fingerspell it out with the Professional Training my hands in ASL. AcaProgram, I was instructed demically, I have always by my teachers to begin possessed a natural ability creating my very own to recognize patterns, circus act. As as dancer and acrobat, I knew that I systems and grammar and have always excelled in wanted to keep both these elements as part of my language arts. I began studying Spanish at the age of act, but I had no idea where to go from there. Then, twelve and ended up graduating from the University it hit me: combine my knowledge of American of Washington with a major in Spanish Language Sign Language with acrobatics and dance and build and Literature with a focus in French language. I a new art form. That is how American Sign Lancurrently speak four languages fluently: ASL, Engguage Acrobatic Dance (ASLAD) was born. Today, lish, Spanish and French. the Deaf community understands the title as ASL Due to the facial grammar that accompanies Acrobatic Dance, which I believe rolls off the hands American Sign Language, I have always been told a bit easier. I have started a production company that I am incredibly expressive and that I wear my called Body.Language.Productions that focuses on emotions on both my body and my face, which I creating American Sign Language Acrobatic Dance believe is a natural byproduct of a visual-gestural music videos. You can find these videos on the links language as one’s native language. listed below. Growing up, ASL always felt a bit like a superpower. I could communicate from far distances, You grew up in a home where you were raised through windows, in noisy environments, all in a by deaf grandparents which makes you a CODA, silent, what felt like almost telepathic, language Child of Deaf Adults. What was it like to learn with my family members and fellow ASL-speakers. 48 RFD 160 Winter 2015
Going to the grocery store or a restaurant with my grandparents was always fascinating, as people would stare and gawk at the sight of a seven-year old child interpreting for his middle-aged grandparents. I always felt very special for being able to share this bond with my intimate family members and various strangers I would meet on the streets who knew ASL. Regarding my way of thinking and moving in the world, I would say that I am very aware of and empathic to those individuals in our society who are judged negatively for possessing a distinct cultural or physiological difference from the majority. Personally, I identify as a mixed-race, gay, male, Child of Deaf Adults (CODA). Many members of my family have faced painful times of discrimination throughout their lives and I have learned both first-hand and vicariously that out of adversity does indeed come strength. How has being culturally different in various ways, CODA, multiracial and gay influence you as an artist? Tell us a little about how you perceive gay people through body language? Since I was first able to perceive the societal variety that the world possesses, I have been aware that Photograph courtesy Brandon Kazen-Maddox
I am a minority and have felt both emotionally and physically different from the majority of the people with whom I grew up. During childhood, I was made very aware that I looked and acted ‘gay’. My eyelashes have always been very dark and full, and since elementary school, and unfortunately throughout all of middle school, I was constantly asked if I wore eyeliner… And not in an admirable way. Because I was a visibly ‘Black’ individual, my childhood was filled with internal cultural struggle; Am I not as white as the kids I’m going to school with? Am I not black enough to wear a certain brand of clothing? There have always been cultural faux pas, expectations and limitations placed around being a young, gay, black man and I do believe they will continue to exist throughout my lifetime. I recently heard from a teacher and mentor of mine that ‘As American black people, our history dictates that no matter how intelligent or successful we are, we still must try harder in life than the white majority that surrounds us.’ If that isn’t fuel for the vehicle of art, I don’t know what is. INTERNALIZE and EMBODY American Sign Language has a grammar that is defined by five linguistic parameters: handshape, movement, location, palm orientation and non-manual markers, also known as facial expressions. When RFD 160 Winter 2015 49
considering these facets of the language, it becomes apparent with ASL that much of the communication lies within the carriage of the body and the intention behind its movements. Deaf people are very visuallyoriented and tend to develop a keen sense of visual receptiveness over the course of their lives. They are known as ‘The People of the Eye’ and I am blessed to be born from these visually-oriented individuals and have been fortunate to inherit their natural sensitivity to the aspects of life one takes in with the eyes. My perception of gay people over my life has been an interesting one. I identify as a gay male, and have long considered it my duty, in a way, to have pretty darn good ‘gaydar’. As a young man in college, I seemed to be exceptionally adept at identifying those individuals who had a curiosity or attraction to the same sex, whether they knew it at the time or not. I have been told that in some Native American cultures, it is believed that homosexuals are actually dual-souled individuals, and should be revered. As a homosexual with Native American Blackfoot Indian blood, I have always felt a dualism to my spirit. I believe I identify with the emotional cycles that women experience yet I am still bound by the testosterone-driven physical processes of my male body. In my romantic life, I have found that my attraction is strongest to those who possess these dualistic qualities themselves, and my heart is given to those who represent those qualities loudly and proudly. You talk about your art as embodied energy. Tell us more about how you feel language. In my life, I would like to play a part in altering the manner in which we humans experience the concept of music. I want to highlight the idea that music should be felt with the entire body, and not limited only to the cilia of the inner ear and nerves that surround it. We should pay attention to the rhythm of music, its bass that vibrates our souls, and its harmonies that can be relayed as waves of energy through the body rather than merely waves of sound through the air. I think it is important that our society begin to integrate into our cultural framework new ways of feeling and creating music. In my artistic intentions, I use the mediums of air and space blended with the dynamic tension and flexion that the body can cast as carved paths of motion. I strive to embody the spirit of the message behind the motion of the music by using the physical properties of dance, acrobatics and American Sign Language. I want to teach others how to feel this movement; how to cast their own paths and how to create new ways to experi50 RFD 160 Winter 2015
ence the concept of music using expressive methods that transcend traditional ways of music-making. I believe that everyone can be inspired by movement and I intend to carve out many more inspirational paths, upon which others will hopefully feel compelled to dance their hearts out. One of your goals is for meaning to be found rather than lost in translation. What do you offer to deaf and hearing people in your audiences? For my Deaf audience members, I feel I offer a strong linguistic foundation in American Sign Language and the ability to utilize this foundation to create meaningful and culturally knowledgable translations of the spirit of the music to which I move. For my hearing audience, I focus on spreading the message that ASL is its own language with its own proper grammar and a unique set of cultural aspects. After performing for both Deaf and hearing audiences, I realize that the dance and acrobatic components of my art form are a major draw and positive experience for both Deaf and hearing individuals. To me, it is fascinating that the two areas of dance and acrobatics both involve the entire body and essentially have nothing to do with being able hear. They both, however, have everything to do with the human experience. Humans sense, create and are attracted to vibration. We need movement in order to survive. In the Deaf and hearing worlds, fusing art with kinetic motion is a natural occurrence, and I enjoy investigating new and innovative ways to add to the artistic repertoire of both of these worlds. I work to biculturally and bilingually mediate both the worlds of Deaf and hearing people. My mantra in life is ‘To affect as many people as I can in the most positive way possible’ and I believe that the works of art that I create by fusing American Sign Language, acrobatics and dance is a wonderful way to do just that. I will continue to make this my art form for as long as my mind and body are able, and I hope to work with many more Deaf and hearing individuals throughout my performance career, and look excitingly forward to each and every one of my future projects. w
Interview with Allan Gurganus by Franklin Abbott
I met Allan Gurganus at this year’s Decatur Book Festival where I had the honor of introducing him when he read from his new book of novellas Local Souls. Being a fellow Southerner and a fan of Allan’s earlier works he felt familiar to me. We had breakfast at Pastries-a-Go-Go and talked like old friends. Allan is one of the most gifted writers of our times. France’s LeMonde called him the Mark Twain of our age. He is not only popular with English readers but his works have been translated into many languages. His themes are Southern, small town and gay reflecting his own life experience. But his broader theme is that of the human community which accounts for his universal appeal. His current book includes three stories about a small town he created based on the small North Carolina towns he grew up in and how lives in. The residents of his mythical Falls, North Carolina refer to themselves as the Fallen. They are we and we are they. Allan has a gift for writing each of his characters from the inside out. He is a genius of empathy. Our conversation at Pastries-A-Go-Go felt more like catching up than exploring the deep themes of literature. Later that day we met again before his reading to a standing room only crowd in the courtroom of the old Decatur Courthouse. Allan seemed nervous to me before the reading which surprised me given that he is an old hand at reading his work before crowds. And then he read riveting, funny section of his novella Decoy and all that nervous energy flowed into the character he was presenting. He held us in rapt attention and when he ended we had all been present with his character as he navigated a natural disaster. To say more would be to ruin the story. Allan lived in Manhattan as the AIDS crisis was unfolding and wrote two books about those times, Photograph courtesy Allan Gurganus.
Plays Well With Others and The Practical Heart which won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction. His short story, “Minor Heroism” was published in The New Yorker in 1974 (the year RFD began publishing) and featured the first openly gay character ever to appear in the pages of that magazine. His most popular novel, a modern masterpiece, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, turns twentyfive this year. Allan answered some questions for me to share with the readers of RFD. I hope this will introduce those of you who don’t know him to hours of good reading and those who do to deeper insight about this gifted writer. Your short story, “Minor Heroism,” published in The New Yorker in 1974 brought a gay character to those pages for the first time. You were just twenty-six. How did you summon forth the courage to write about gay themes when you were so young and being gay in the mainstream media was rare? Harold Ross, founding editor of the New Yorker, wrote a 1920’s memo to his staff, “As far as this magazine is concerned, there are no homosexuals. ” Tidy, that. Of course, I could not ignore a Gay Presence, having very little else. When I started writing, I did not know how my first story would appear in The New Yorker ushering in its first gay character. I was too busy working out my own destiny on the page. I knew I could not write about anything else till I worked through the subject of a straight father and his gay son. In “Minor Heroism” I tried to tell both sides of the story. The Dad was a country club Republican with a minor drinking problem. The son lived in Manhattan, had a boyfriend with black nail polish, and wrote dance reviews. The battle between Dad and Son was for RFD 160 Winter 2015 51
the highest stakes. My sponsors at the magazine were my teacher-mentor John Cheever and the editor William Maxwell. Both were bisexual men who had married and had kids. I sprung from a luckier generation that did not run for cover. Whatever minor heroism came from my writing about the life and struggle I knew—it was very minor, indeed. Most of the mail I received after the story appeared came from straight guys who felt they’d been frozen out of their fathers’ lives and regretted it so much. I think this, my first published story, still ranks among my best. It’s both funny and a cry from the heart. If its Father proved set in his ways and deeply conventional, his son was half-hysterical, always self-dramatizing, equally stubborn. “Empathy” is an essential element of all fiction worth rereading. And I rewrite to be reread. Before you turned to writing you studied painting. How did you make the shift and how has your training as a painter influenced your writing? Yes, I attended art school for a year. The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Film director David Lynch was a classmate. We all seem to have applied paintings’ lessons to other pursuits. Both a painter and a writer, people were all ever that interested me. I wanted to depict people, not abstractions. I’m not drawn to a painted landscape without some human references, even if only a wheelbarrow or one man-made stone wall. From an artist like Rembrandt, my favorite, I learned that one homely face can be painted with such knowledge, love and care it can come to represent every face that’s ever lived. Rembrandt’s physique most resembles that of W. C. Fields. Hunky? No. But, by painting himself—spared the expense of an outside model—Rembrandt told the story of mortal humankind. Something of a miracle. From Caravaggio, I learned how to organize and present a crowd. The eye can move over a hundred people and still find the few central actors that 52 RFD 160 Winter 2015
matter. I continue to draw a lot and I’ve illustrated some of my books. Finally I think I’m a better writer than I would have been a painter. But oh, I would like to see the kind of paintings I’d be doing today had I continued at the easel daily. You have gay characters in many of your novels and stories. Can you talk about one or two of your favorites and how you developed them?Can you talk about the impact of AIDS on your work and your life? I think that being gay is a kind of license to imagine anyone-everyone else. It’s a passport across all assumed lines of race, class, and gender. Gay people grow up as secret agents in their own culture. I can write as a fifteen year old girl on her honeymoon with that fifty year old husband trying hard to end her virginity. I know the terror of being chased around the room by a loving would-be rapist! Older women sometimes ask me how I know so much about having sex with men. I fall silent with my multitudinous memories. Two of the leading characters in my novel “Plays Well with Others” are gay men. Robert Gustafson is a beautiful Midwesterner of Swedish ancestry, a gifted composer living in artistic Manhattan of the late 1970’s. Hartley Mims, a southern boy and would-be novelist, arrives in the city seeking his fortune. Hartley falls for Robert, along with about twelve hundred other young men and women of the period including both Mick and Bianca Jagger. A third partner arrives, a brilliant painter named Angie “Alabama” Byrnes. She also fixates on Robert. A unit is formed. This artistic striving and going without meals occurs just as HIV makes its first horrible chess moves into entry-level New York. The novel chronicles the ingenuity and care that friendship can inspire. Especially friendship during those horrible years when Reagan and Jesse Helms did everything they could to block AIDS
research and any palliative care. The gay community became heroic by default. If no one else wanted to touch AIDS patients, well, their friends would. Friends had to. Now that Ebola is loosed upon the world, many of us who miraculously survived remember. We know how many years of our own lives we lost to those lost lives we loved. We’ll never forget how strong a besieged community becomes when it absolutely must. We know how much refinement and beauty died with that generation perished while just starting. The novel is a celebration. It is about an interrupted party, but one marvelous party nonetheless. I felt that my dead friends were the book’s most generous collaborators. Your new book, Local Souls, is set in small town America. You grew up in a small town and live in one now. Can you talk about how that is for you as a gay man then and now? Small town life used to be more restrictive and censorious than it is today. There is still a stigma attached to those of us judged too damned visible, too opinionated. There is a code in villages. If you don’t make over much noise, don’t dye your hair pink, if you come to the neighborhood picnic and bring something delicious, if you dog doesn’t kill the cats next door, that’s the start of an understanding. Also, if your family founded the town, that helps. Manhattan is actually just a great aggregate of various small towns all glommed adhesively together. I am fascinated by community. I think my work, all my work, celebrates that. It’s what we have visibly in lieu of an invisible God. Love and work and community. What else is there? My favorite literary character is The Village. My present North Carolina town has a population of six thousand. To me that seems the perfect size. It is always a single if highly complicated organism. A sneeze in one part of town brings forth a “Bless you” in another. Your book, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, has been hailed as a modern masterpiece. This year marks the 25th anniversary of its publication. Can you talk about how your relationship with your main character, Lucy Marsden, has changed over the years?
upon the wife of its final surviving soldier. We know all about PSTD. That’s been variously called “Shell Shock” and “Battle Fatigue”. It had accompanied every survivor limping home from war since Homer. That aftermath contains the seeds of war itself; it can allow battles to be played out again on wives, children, horses, employees. When I wrote the book a quarter century ago, its ninety nine year old narrator seemed ancient as Troy or old Sparta. Now that I am closing in on the age of seventy, it does not seem quite so ancient or improbable. If my publisher and a few writer friends had not intervened, I would likely still be writing that same book in Lucy’s unstoppable homemade voice. She continues to teach me lessons and send me inspirations through her wit and vast compassion. I admire and emulate her long, long patience. You are at work on a new novel on the sex lives of members of a rural Baptist church. How are you doing research for this new work? My new novel in progress is called The Erotic History of a Country Baptist Church. It explores that fundamental Fundamentalist confusion between ecstatic religious experiences and the similar solar-plexus enticements of orgasm itself. There is a reason so many tent-preaching healers have fallen into lively sins of the flesh. The more we open ourselves to a possible God, the closer we draw to other worshippers, to the fall-back surging consolations of the body itself. By warning young Baptists against the evils of their own sexual urges, deacons only make the poor kids hornier. Baptists never do stop talking or thinking about fucking. That accounts for the church’s popularity. I am finding this artificial division between the spirit and the flesh a veritable Viagran treasure trove of stimulation. There is the old joke: Baptist preachers discourage married couples from having sex in the standing position since it might lead to dancing. Some of rule-making’s insanity is touched on in such pointless terror of our sexual natures. We have so many reasons to unlatch, unzip and enjoy these too-few sexed-up years on earth! w
Yes, Lucy Marsden is still my friend as well as my best-known character. My Widow has helped support me. Lucy is derived in part from all my talkative wise aunts and grandmothers. I tried imagining the results of our Civil War as visited
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Ron Suresha Interview by Franklin Abbott
Ron Suresha is the author or editor of more than a dozen books about gay bear culture, bisexuality and Turkish folk tales. He has received many awards for his books and is active in his local poetry scene in western Connecticut where he lives with his husband. He is cofounder of Bear Bones Books and is editor of a new anthology of bear poetry, Hibernation. Can you tell RFD readers more about what Bear culture is? Thanks kindly for asking. I’m delighted to share this with RFD, a magazine I have enjoyed for the better part of two decades. It may be easier to understand Bear community as being a group of older and maturing gay/bi/queer men; Bear culture is the environment in which these urban and rural men relate and participate in larger gay culture. Part of the origin of Bear culture has to do with how the Stonewall Generation of young gay and bi men survived through the AIDS crisis and lived into their forties and fifties and sixties, but much of that is forgotten in today’s bear culture as experienced in most bear communities. Still, one feature of Bear culture that has always drawn my attention is its creative wordplay, with its typology of furry woodland critters, such as cub, otter, wolf, polar, panda, and so on. Though initially descriptors, these terms have become terms of identity. And this unusual wordplay is apparent in bear communities around the world: for example, the word “husbear” in Spanish is esposo (spouse +oso means bear in Spanish). So this playfulness with the language is a feature of Bear culture that lends itself to poetry. How did you find your way to become part of Bear culture? I happened to move to the San Francisco Bay area in 1986 just as the original Bear magazine was taking off, and I knew both the publisher and photographer. I was also 54 RFD 160 Winter 2015
involved with the original Lone Star Saloon and the Rainbow MC in SF. I interviewed for the position of Bear’s first editor, but turned down the job. Then I got romantically involved with Chris Nelson, the original lensman for the magazine; we were boyfriends, on and off, for more than two years. Around that time I met Les Wright, who would eventually ask me to contribute to both volumes of The Bear Book anthologies. In 2002, I published Bears on Bears: Interviews &
Discussions, and a fiction anthology, Bearotica. In 2008 I cofounded Bear Bones Books, an imprint of indie GLBTQ publisher Lethe Press, to offer books written by and for men of the bear community. At present BBB has published 23 titles, all of which are available in paper and digital formats, and seven audiobooks on Audible.com. What inspired you to create Hibernation? Around 2005, while compiling one of the Bearotica anthologies, my friend and former Lambda Literary Foundation director Charles Flowers sent me a poem that took my breath away. It wasn’t right for a fiction anthology, but at that time the seed was planted for what was to become Hibernation. It wasn’t until I read that poem that I understood, “This is a bear poem,” and in that moment I knew I wanted to eventually compile a bear poetry anthology. It took several years more before I could really initiate the project with Bear Bones Books and put out a public call for submissions, and several years more to edit and bring it to print, but
the end result is 100 outstanding poems by 40 bear bards from all over USA and Canada. The contributors constitute a veritable Who’s Who in Hirsute Gay Lit, and it’s been such fun having book readings with some of them. Every anthology I’ve done represents a different community, often with writers overlapping from one project to the next. This is especially true for Hibernation with so many contributors from various backgrounds and geographic locales. Perhaps because poetry is more intimate, more personal, I feel a closeness with the writers in this book that I haven’t felt with the contributors to my short story anthologies. It’s a great feeling, and especially gratifying to share with the contributors the accolades for the book thus far, such as being named a Rainbow Book Award Finalist and receiving two honorable mentions (one judge gave the book a perfect score!). I worked really hard to bring this book to light and I hope that RFD readers get the book, because I am certain they will enjoy it. (Poems from the collection follow). w
Hibernation I prefer cave-like spaces, narrow, dark, spiced by the breath of other sleeping mammals, places where the clocks drip seconds like underground streams the seed of stalagmites rising from the floor, where dreams can feel at home, expand or shrivel into tiny pods that like bats who can take flight at a moment’s notice, thwacking their boney wings. I want the taste of honey on my lips, my shaggy arms locked around your shaggy chest. —David Bergman
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Young Soldier Straight lines make for masculine features, modified I notice by curves at the cheekbones. Feeling, though, converges on his eyes, blue-green landing lights that beam a private confidence out from an overhang of black eyebrows, the left one playing the rôle of circumflex. Beard equally black, just the lower lip exposed — plump, biteable, sherbet pink. But I can’t for long evade his rock-steady gaze, glimmering with the faintest spark of amusement. Which comes from knowing why people blink and sort of gasp — as he must have done the day his dialogue with a bathroom mirror confirmed his ugly-duckling years were over. I always wondered how it would feel to look like a drawing-class model, broad-shouldered, arms articulate, a sculpted chest with fine charcoal pelt penciled in by let’s say Eakins. Well, here’s the opportunity to ask: but he shakes his head, says he never much thinks about it. Instead, turns the tables: “So, Mr. Poet, why don’t you tell me what it’s like to be able to write the way you do?’ Dang. “Sorry, can’t really answer that one. Maybe we should just shut up and get to work?”
— Alfred Corn
Morning Too Fast A cheek on moist hirsute fair, With silence, but the daybreak light, Hibernate, these two have dwelled, In arms of strength, and whispers slight. Stave that which so must come, The time of parting, the day looms fast, The bliss’s doom is nigh, so nigh, Let it for one more loving moment last.
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Big and Brown All the Way Down I’m big and I’m brown all the way down. I eat my meals with five tortillas whether or not it needs it. I order two large pizzas one for lunch and one for dinner with a diet two-liter because I have to watch my girlish figure. I drink lots of water like I oughta I walk and take the stairs and park my car far out there.
But my size 48s tell it straight: I’m worth the weight. You abs may be flat but so is your ass and you’ll never be as beautiful as my smile. I don’t need your looks to tell me I’m big I don’t need you laughs to tell me fat. I don’t need your attitude to alter my mood. Because I’m big and I’m brown all the way down.
— Miguel M. Morales
For Better or Worse by Donny Ingraham
n oath people promise to honor their mate in sickness and in health. Among the gay community here in Florida those such promises within the commitment of marriage has yet to be a reality. This means if something happens to our partners, we can easily wash our hands with the situation and walk away. But as for myself that isn’t so. My partner Roy and I have been together for six years and during that time we have had our share of ups and downs. Many times I even thought about walking away from it all. But through hard work, we were able to work pass the difficult moments of our relationship. During those hard times it has made us stronger as a couple. Over the last two years, Roy had been losing his sight due to diabetic retinopathy. It added on to his being hard of hearing. When Roy finally lost his sight, we left Wilton Manors because it was too expensive to live there on my income alone. We moved about one mile away into what was a bigger place. The only down fall about the apartment was that it was on the second floor. I
thought everything would be fine, but while at work one day, Roy fell out of the bay window. He spent almost two months in the hospital recovering from his injuries. Because the second floor apartment was no longer an option. While Roy was in the hospital I spent time searching for another place to live while fighting the at that time the present landlord. Cooper Properties charged me $1,670 to break the lease. Since not having efficient money to break lease and find another, I took out a loan from the bank. Because of having limited funds, we had to move away from gay friendly communities due to price. After finding a place in Pompano Beach, Roy was discharged for the hospital. Our new house worked out perfectly for me because there was enough money left over to provide Roy with a caregiver while I was at work. Even though money maybe a little tight but we are happy. Through the many struggles we have faced, we have a stronger relationship and have become stronger. Only time will tell what happens next. w RFD 160 Winter 2015 57
Opening Address to the Western North Carolina Pride Week by Gavin Geoffrey Dillard
ood evening Asheville! I’ve been invited to offer a viewpoint not so much contrarian, I hope, as simply…expanded. In 2004, my dear friend Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institute wrote a famous book on the politics of gay marriage. Jonathan has fought tirelessly for gay marriage. And while I admire his bravery and his fortitude, and agree with the essentialness of his politics, I disagree with him on most everything else. I am not an assimilationist; I am an unabashed radical. This assimilated “poem” came out of our recentmost correspondence:
ear Jonathan, When I am in public with my bed-mate, Andrew, people, gay and straight alike, ask me if this is my “partner”. It is assumed now (in 2014) that all gay people have partners (and are good boys and girls). I have come to not like this term, any more than I like the bland term “gay”. When I was coming out in the ‘70s, we aspired not to be the “same” as straight folk, we wanted to be better; not equal, but better. Sameness is problematic in that it inspires mediocrity. Betterness, of course, has its own pitfalls. Why must a person or group be either? what’s wrong with simply “different”? There are people in this life who find their “soulmates”. I’ve met a few; they are rare. Most people simply “make do.” If they get bored or unhappy with a relationship, they move on. They break their vows— making themselves liars. They have children that become casualties of their aborted contracts. Humans are by nature tribal; I personally have never subscribed to the limitations of monogamy. Right for some, not for all. Youngsters who did not have the advantage of growing up before the dubious “liberation” I fear have been brainwashed. One does NOT have to be in love, have a boyfriend or girlfriend, or get married and adopt 1.5 Chinese or African babies. This is not a requirement and does not make one complete. You can fly solo, you can be a whore or a monk, a crazy poet like me, or find an extended family of undefined borders. Get a pet, they’re cheap and constant. The issue then is of choice, of free will, of the right to pursue happiness. And of the simple nature of Truth. And of the simple truth of Nature. Politically, equality MUST be a given. But equality need not be a cell and shackles. We shine best in our 58 RFD 160 Winter 2015
uniqueness. Nature intends that there be wild cards: every tribe needs a wanton slut; every child needs a crazy auntie or uncle: the pablum of society needs seasoning or it becomes stagnant and unpalatable. It was an epiphany in the 60s when Cicely Tyson wore the first afro on national TV. I was delirious when I met my first tranny, and was horrified and ecstatic the first time I shared a bathroom with a drag queen. Life expands and takes on new meaning when you travel to places where your native tongue is not spoken (this is the true “liberal education”). I have no soul-mate in this incarnation; I will never marry. Fitting-in has never been my MO; I relish the rare. Should I be less “equal”? It is my very queerness that makes me most valuable as a member of society, and it is my differences that I humbly cherish most, for they are Goddess’ greatest gifts. If I believed in man and politics, the way you do, I might be inclined to behave (the way you do); but my thoughts are all of God and Spirit, which tell me not to behave at all. I went to schools that taught me the myths of history and intellect, was raised by a family that taught me the myths of family and love, went to churches that taught me the myths of a god that no one could touch. It has taken me a lifetime (or ten-thousand) to pull myself out of that sniveling darkness. No, I am no longer willing to behave, any more than I am willing to believe; you can do my hair and nails, dress me up in the uniforms-du-jour, feed me from machines and medicate me within a stitch of my life, but I will not be tamed. I know too much. I know everything. I feel the pulse of the cosmos raging through my nerves and sinew; I will not be tamed. You can measure my genius. My creativity. My Allegiances. My sex. But still I will not be tamed. God dances with me. Touches me. Embarrasses me and giggles when I fall; I will not be tamed. This dance requires feet without fetters, clothes without fabric, a voice with no impedance; my life is a poem with no translation, a song that cannot be transcribed, a testament to the spontaneous tracelessness of Infinity: I will not be tamed. w
“Geometric Figures” by Josh Turk.
RFD 160 Winter 2015 59
Savages One day when even we deaf people can hear due to the miracle of genetic reengineering, you, like everyone else, will celebrate. Joy: oh, what unimaginable joy! We will have no need for sign language. We will grasp the full brilliance of music long denied us after centuries. We will be able to carry conversations with anyone without the aid of interpreters. Each day heathen miracles will never cease. Even Beethoven would’ve wept at the sight of us! But there in the darkest of our dreams we deaf people will find ourselves pondering the spaces right in front of us. Did we just see the pale ghosts of what we could’ve been, never been? Our voices never feeling quite right, we will walk forever wounded, searching for our phantom hands never quite there but never quiet. In time you hearing people, too, will long for us savages, communicating in grunts and gestures, if only to remind you that you are God. It is in your nature to seek imperfections, rout them out. After all, you must have something to do.
60 RFD 160 Winter 2015
Cocoa Mango Cocoa Mango entwined tango kissing you is like dripping dew from a morning haiku off with our glasses lashes to lashes scent of your skin our veils so thin until bare again our smile-growing roots and their wrinkled offshoots Artists giving birth your heart, my earth our thumpbeating hearth Find me; don’t take so long to liberate my bamboo wind song wanna be your Dreamland bliss gong salt inside your ocean swimming thong the lucky breeze under your sarong 1001 Charmeuse silk memories strong nekkid, margarita sippin’ ping pong moonlight dancing with you lifelong star gaze chanting our Cocoa mango singalong skipping to the wild hearted home where we belong… So leaving a breadcrumbs trail for when you come along —Angela Sterling
RFD 160 Winter 2015 61
The Leidenfrost Effect Not impossible to put together broken glass. (but then, you never really can fix a broken mirror). Tortured pictures of nonlinear haggard faces. That’s what’s shined into these eyes. Walking away from the bathroom, I pause. Thinking about broken glass; broken memories. These memories put together like broken glass, tortured and torturing; distorted and distorting. Deep wells full of frigid thoughts, razor claws on writhing bodies, making themselves known. Bubbling ice liquids, dense, but everywhere now. Liquid abandonment. Gasseous despair. Solid failure. My mind in transition. Looking for something like home. I’ve been looking so long it’s staining my eyes, walking so far it’s stopping to hurt. A scientologist posing as a microscopist, a white man on a long walk from a red-ghetto. Still distorted, torturing, distorting, tortured, - remembering broken mirrors. Feelings of home so warm, I can feel them even at great distances. It wants to touch me, I want to be touched smiling. So warm. It’s all I want. The Leidenfrost Effect. I can pretend the meaning away but those words still play. Troubled meaning to troubled thinking. Troubled living. Darkness, my new home has been the darkness. Violently flattened, evaporated by the light and the warmth, only getting so close, but, never to touch. The old home repels me. Threatens to boil me. I’ve gone too far, into the darkness. Stayed too long, out in the cold. Looked too close, into my mirror. The difference too great now, from what is the old. Sigh... Walking back into the bathroom, I pause. Washing hands, secretly pretending the meaning away. I can never go home. I can never go home. Look into the mirror - pretty face, broken mind. (broken mirror). Those words, still play. —David George Demers
62 RFD 160 Winter 2015
17—from Wrestling Starting Position Fractured, bleeding, needs stitches, Feels a failure- it hurts to Lose- returning with nothing, Sent from octagon: fighting; Tired of dating, the ever Changing, negative men who ‘Like’ me- LIKE me- then change their Minds, next day or next weekend; Tulips, peonies, lillies... Car in front with expired Sticker, gutters detached, and Someone pulled all the shades down; ‘We,’ he said, thinking ‘us,’ no Expiration date. Didn’t See the use by or throw out. Calls stopped. Logs on, ‘Still looking!’ On the market again, the Cheater gone with his baggage, In recovery, druggies, Drinkers, losers avoided; Shed collapsed, trim’s paint flaking, Front door blocked by a tree limb, Did they speak to their neighbors? Pack up boxes and walk out? No regrets, if the right guy Turns up, internet porn not Cutting it, I am trying, Have to get in beneath my...
more at http://wrestlingstartingposition.blogspot.com/
RFD 160 Winter 2015 63
Issue 161 / Spring 2015
Submission Deadline: January 21, 2015 www.rfdmag.org/upload
This is calling to Fae people who have life
of Mother Earth herself in her promiscuous
experience in Rewilding. What the fuck is
fecundity. How as a community can weto MonEy wEllnEss
rewilding? Please share your stories, personal
Build a financial world that works engage with these primal forces in our inner for you and those you love,
lessons, art, poetry, recipes, and journals
joys that is expressed in outwork actions?
A diffEREnt AppRoAcH
for Radical Faeries and their friends.
entries to empower and inspire the larger
Radical Faerie community in this fundamental
This is a call for changing the way our
change and reclaiming of the way we relate,
community relates to humans ability to be
interact, and live on the earth. Advertise in RFD It really helps
with the earth in a symbiotic and nurturing
keep this magazine in production! We offer affordable rates and that a growing Our relationship with the earth we have subscriber base. If you have questions been told is a lie. Humans were meant to be about advertising, please contact Bambi a part of the earth, not apart from the earth. at email@example.com or visit our website Civilization at www.rfdmag.org/advertise.php. is all we have known, and it is a
used-up path of death. We are recreating the
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way; changing the level of awareness of our
impact on the environment, how our culture has taught us to interact with the earth, and
for Five or More
the reality that we are a beneficial species www.rfdmag.org
when we are living in symbiotic relationship to the earth.
ancient future for the beings of tomorrow. We hope to hear in these entries a concise communication of our understanding of what
34th Annual Midwest Menâ€™s Festival this is, and how this moves in us.
July 21-30 2015; NE Kansas An ongoing experiment in intentional The word community. Rewilding wasMore coined info: in the Earth Firsthttp://midwestmensfestival.com/ organization as a term for reintroducing
parts of an ecosystem that were important for that systems healthy continuance. The term has been taken up and passed about spawning inspiration for a movement of people returning to direct connection and symbiotic life ways with the earth. We are interested in how our radical freedom expressed in our sex experiences can be a call to rewilding our psyches, especially for those living in urban environments. We are curious between the links between inner sexual ecstasy matches the erotic abundance 64 RFD 160 Winter 2015
ALL: A James Broughton Reader GAY SPIRIT: Myth & Meaning OUT SPOKEN: A Vito Russo Reader Reel One and Reel Two www.whitecranebooks.org/catalog.html Coming in 2014: A reissue of Witchcraft & The Gay Counterculture with previously unpublished materials from the original lecture series, Moon Lady Rising.
Issue 162 / Summer 2015
OUT FOR HIRE
Submission Deadline: April 21, 2015 www.rfdmag.org/upload
Often queer people are engaged in a process of leading a separate life when it comes to their work or how they bring money into their lives. We want to hear from you about how being part of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities has shaped how you make money or earn your living. But we’re also interested in how integrating your queerness fits into your economic life. Obviously, we’re not all earning our money in gay / queer only contexts but in some way our identities at times influence our work but we at times also influence our work environment. So how does your queer self reflect on your work? Does being queer at work break down the idea of a mainstream world? Or are there big distinctions / barriers to how “out” you can be at work? Another approach to this theme is asking if being an LGBT person has impacted the type of job you sought out. Beyond the stereotypes of the kinds of employment gay people take on - what has being out and gay / queer meant in terms of your spiritual career path? Has being gay or trans identified meant getting by, becoming richer, or created
challenges for how you shape your own personal economy? In what ways has the larger gay community shaped your employment choices or shifted your thinking in terms what were viable options for surviving financially and spiritually? An early idea of the gay movement was take it home with you meaning live your politics. Being out was a way to shape a healthy balanced life. But how does that interface with our work world? We’re more “out” at work, but does it work “out” for us? In what ways have you helped in creating a queer economy? Sorta along the lines of “Shop Locale” have you sought to network with other like minded LGBT people to create economic opportunities. We’ve all played the role of fundraiser, community booster but for some of us it’s meant a career as a “promoter”, a DJ, working in a gay organization, or employing people in a gay owned business. Ultimately, how does being a LGBT person empower you to bring riches to yourself. This obviously means many things to all of us—actual cash wealth or earnings, a happy work environment, work to survive but flexibility to enjoy life, or working in an environment which creates change in your life or the lives of others. RFD 160 Winter 2015 65
RFD Vol 41 No 2 #160 $9.95
66 RFD 160 Winter 2015
a reader created gay quarterly celebrating queer diversity
"Rabbit's Foot Dopplegänger" / Differently Abled Folk