Number 170 Summer 2017 $11.95
Issue 171 / Fall 2017
BRING US TO YOUR HAPPY PLACE Submission Deadline: July 21, 2017 www.rfdmag.org/upload
With all of the fracas going on postelection, the culture war seems to have upped the ante in terms of anxiety we’re all facing. With the daily grind of Trump tweets, alternative facts, erosion in our rights across the board not just as GLBT people but also people of color, women, differentlyabled people and people with nonChristian beliefs we need to resist but we also need to ground ourselves. With that in mind where do you find your queer happy place? Is it simply a time spent sipping tea and reading, a favorite walk in the woods, a meeting of fellow travelers against Trump, a retreat or gathering, a great sex date? We’re all needing to recharge for this tough road ahead. What helps recharge your batteries for battling for justice or merely undoing the anxiety that these times have imposed upon us. Tell us how your routine is helping shape your path not the larger events surrounding you. Another aspect of this is what has become a sanctuary for you to regroup—physical places, groups of people, simple tasks in your day, practices and prayers, and especially how do you then reconnect back to your day, to working for yourself and engaging in community with meaning and power for yourself and others. In these days of retrenchment to assert our rights how do your personal happy places include others? Or is a bit of solitude what’s best for you in the short term? In essence how do you find inner strength before taking on all the shit going on? Tell us how you plan to take action to care for yourself and others Let’s all breathe, relax, and shape our journey—hopefully together.
Sidney Justin Lambert at New Orleans Mardi Gras, 2007. Photograph by Matt Bucy
Ruddy Faced Dreamers Vol 43 No 4 #170 Summer 2017
Between the Lines As spring draws to a close and we enter glorious summer—we’re spending some time reflecting on the life of Charlie Murphy, a name familiar to most long time RFD readers but to many his work and legacy is new territory. With his passing last year we felt we needed to show some of his terrain through shared words and pictures from those who knew him, worked with him or were graced by his love and friendship. Charlie came to our attention as an out gay folksinger, the person who linked our social, political ideas with spiritual concerns. But he also engaged in another form of activism driven by a desire to reach out to youth of all kinds to enrich their experience through art, creativity and sharing. We’re thankful to Covelo for suggesting this theme and most grateful to our readers for responding so positively to the theme. Also kudos to Stephen Silha and Eric Mulholland for sharing their stories about Charlie and urging others to do the same. The crew at RFD is a pretty laid back, casual but committed to seeing RFD thrive, so on a sunny afternoon we poured over our finances and came to some realizations about our future. Sadly, like most of the small press we run a tight margin but with some costs either constant or continuing to rise we have to consider ways of stemming the slow erosion of our bank account. We have a committed readership which on average has 60% giving above a base subscription to help other readers afford RFD and help us cover fixed costs like internet, storage for back issues, and keeping up with printing and postage costs. All the while, we’ve not raised our base prices in more than a decade. So your donations help. Every bit counts but we may have to consider increasing our prices to cover the cost of production of the magazine and keeping our small overhead expenses from eating away at our limited reserves. We’ve reached out to you in the past about this and, to be honest, the best way forward is more subscribers. Consider who may be interested in RFD—consider a gift subscription, send us leads for bookshops that may be interested in carrying us, and above all else renew your subscription and as always thanks for your interest in RFD. —The RFD Collective
RFD 170 Summer 2017 1
Submission Deadlines Fall–July 21, 2017 Winter–October 21, 2017 See inside covers for themes and specifics.
On the Covers Front: Painting by Street Candy
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
RFD 170 Summer 2017
01035-0302. Non-profit tax exempt #62-1723644, 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. First class mailed issues will be forwarded. Others will not. Send address changes to firstname.lastname@example.org or to our Hadley, MA address. Copyright © 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.
Managing Editor: Bambi Gauthier Art Director: Matt Bucy
Visual Contributors artboydancing.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Devin Mohr.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49, 54 Stephen Mead.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Brett Lindell. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
Charlie Murphy painted by youth at a Culture Jam in Eugene the weekend Charlie died.
CONTENTS Announcements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Playing with Charlie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Interview with Jami Sieber. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Stephen Silha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Gay Spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Charlie Murphy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Singer/Songwriter And Youth Mentor Charlie Murphy Has Died . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Eric Mulholland. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 My Husband, My Teacher . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Eric Mulholland. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Culture Jamming. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Stephen Silha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Charlie and Partners for Youth Empowerment. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Peggy Taylor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 You Rock, Charlie Murphy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kate Thompson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Weaver, Weaver. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Starhawk. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Stranded . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Charlie Murphy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Teaching Youth in Ways That Can Be Heard. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Robert Croonquist aka Covelo. . . . . . . . . . . 24 The Creation of Queer Youth Leadership Awards in Santa Cruz, California. . . . . . . . Hammer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Queer Youth and the Santa Cruz Radical Faeries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kwai Lam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Queer Youth In Massachusetts. . . . . . . . . . . . . Jaybird / Jay Warren. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Dear Anita. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Street Candy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Working with Our Future Leaders. . . . . . . . . . Wil Fisher . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Feeding the Circle: Giving to Our Next Generations of Queers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sister Bhakti Shakti. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Radical Faeries: Good to Great to Fabulous! . Equus a.k.a. Gregory T. Wilkins. . . . . . . . . 41 The Youth Hermes and I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nathan Bailey Prince. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Fence Walker . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Devin Mohr. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Don’t Go Back to Sleep: An Interview with Franklin Abbott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bambi. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Mirror of Youth. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . e.c. patrick. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 Priapus’ Lament. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Flaming Salamander. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .55
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Simon Perchik. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Images. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Stephen Mead. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 A Resurrected Adam (Part 3) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Adam. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Remembering Stuart Timmons. . . . . . . . . . . . . Eugene Salandra / Peacockfaerie. . . . . . . . 60 Walt Cessna. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brett Lindell . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
RFD 170 Summer 2017 3
ANNOUNCEMENTS STORES THAT CARRY RFD
As you probably know, gay friendly bookshops and other places that carry gay friendly magazines like RFD are few and far between. Below is a list of shops and places that carry RFD. Please frequent them and buy RFD. Alley Cat Books – San Francisco CA (*) Antigone – Tuscon AZ Bound Together Books – San Francisco CA Crazy Wisdom – Ann Arbor MI Dog Eared Books – San Francisco CA (*) Easton Mountain – Greenwich NY Elliott Bay Books – Seattle WA FAB Faubourg Marginy – New Orleans LA Leslie-Lohman Museum – New York NY Powell’s – Portland OR Quimby’s – Chicago IL Rubber Library & Flower Bodega—New Orleans LA (*) (*) A new shop – please check them out and thank them for carrying RFD. If you know of a place that might be interested in carrying RFD, please be in touch with us via email – email@example.com with “Bookstore” in the subject line. If you can show off how cool RFD is and a shop decides to carry us we’ll send you a one year subscription as our thanks! You can always see who carries RFD by checking our website—rfdmag. org/bookstores.php.
Zuni Mountain Zuni Mountain in Ramah NM is holding it’s Queer Spirit gathering in September this year. The dates are September 1 to 10, 2017. For more information contact ZMS at www.zunimountainsanctuary.org
Queer Spirit Festive in UK The Second Queer Spririt Festival is happening July 20 - 30, 2017 in Thoulstone Park, Wiltshire, United Kingdom. For more info contact them at www.queerspirit.net/festival/tickets
Summer gathering in Isreal Friends in the Middle East have sent word of a gathering happening from June 21 to 25, 2017 in Israel. For more information contact them via www. canaanfaes.org
Twin Oaks Gathering While Twin Oaks is not specifically a queer community, we’re hosting our first Queer Gathering August 4-6, 2017 in Louisa, VA. More info available at twinoaksqueergathering.org
RFD 170 Summer 2017
Playing with Charlie Interview with Jami Sieber by Stephen Silha
ellist Jami Sieber speaks with Stephen Silha about Charlie Murphy’s days as one of the first openly gay singer-songwriters in the U.S. Charlie and Jami collaborated musically for fifteen years, first as a folk duo, and then as co-leaders of the band Rumors of the Big Wave. Stephen: What was it like when you first met Charlie? Jami: I met Charlie Murphy at a coffee shop. I was in nursing school at the time and not even considering music as a profession. My friend Nina had told me about him, his songs about love of the earth, the witch burnings, men against violence and gay empowerment. I was young and couldn’t imagine being a lesbian then. He was sitting at a coffee shop in Seattle’s University District with his lover, Firefly. When Nina introduced me to Charlie, he said, “I can’t talk right
Charlie Murphy and Jami Sieber. Photo by Geoff Manasse.
now. I’m having an argument with my lover.” I was stunned. He was so clear, direct, present. I had never met anyone like him. We went away, and later he came over to talk. He said, “I’d love to play with you. I hear you play cello. I’ve always wanted to play with a cellist.” I didn’t know what to think. He was so different. He had a little braid on the back of his head, a “fairy tail.” I was really attracted to his spirit and way of being. A few weeks later, I went to his place on Capitol Hill with my cello. We started improvising. I had only done that once before. It was magic. We played his songs—“Burning Times” especially hit me deeply. Our creative and musical differences seemed to melt together and became a creative pattern. Wow, you met Charlie a few years before I did. But I also had the sense that this guy was a world-
RFD 170 Summer 2017 5
changer. And I was one of your biggest fans. I think I heard you first at Bumbershoot 1980, but maybe before that. We met in ’79, and did our first concert on the full moon in March, 1980. John Mifsud was part of it. He did poetry. Dan Greenblatt played saxophone. I had never really been exposed to gay culture and had never hung out with a gay man. I was fresh out of the Midwest. I was engaged in nursing school and Charlie blew my world open, which he’s really good at doing. He’s still doing it. You got that right. He still inspires me every day. I hear Charlie saying, “What’s new?” and “What do you REALLY want to do?” At Charlie’s memorial, all these young people got up and gave testimony to what Charlie did for them, and I thought, “That was me at twenty two!” He gave me permission to think thoughts I may have had, but never expressed. He inspired new thoughts that I wove into existence. It was a challenge to be around him, in the best of ways. Yeah. He could be scary in that he wasn’t afraid to throw plates against the wall. He could get mad, and get over it. Whereas, I would repress and smolder. What was it like the first time you performed with Charlie in public? I was really nervous at that first concert. It was packed. But I felt it was where I needed to be. At that time, gay men and lesbians were not working together. Charlie and I experienced this as we traveled the country. We were bringing gay men and lesbians together for the first time. It was revolutionary. Some people felt really healed by it, some felt pushed by it. It was very high energy. There wasn’t a lot of public gay performance going on. I hadn’t even come out yet. I never really thought it was possible for me to be a lesbian. It was so far beyond my world, my upbringing and what was expected. I can relate. I had heard your concerts, but I first met Charlie at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival in 1982, which included a theme on “Men’s Music.” That included men who were responding to women’s liberation with a men’s liberation from patriarchal patterns. Because the article I wrote for The Christian Science Monitor mentioned men celebrating homosexuality, they refused to print it. It may have been a closeted editor, or just a social construct, but I don’t think most young queers can imagine what it was like then. Did you ever feel danger as out gay artists? Well, Charlie and I were in this bubble. As art6
RFD 170 Summer 2017
ists, you just play your heart, you just do it and don’t think about ramifications. We were bold. I think I was really naïve. Then there was the time Charlie got maced in Vancouver. Yes, I was there, but that wasn’t until 1990 at the Vancouver Gay Games and Culture Festival. It was bizarre. Charlie and I had witnessed the International Fireworks Festival, and had met these gorgeous men from Montreal who gave us martinis on their blankets on the beach. We thought we were in heaven. Then, walking up to Davie Street, this teenage kid said to us, “Are you San Francisco queers?” Charlie laughed and said, “No, I’m a Seattle queer,” and one of the kids sprayed him in the eyes with some toxic substance. We went to the hospital, and he had to wear eye-pads or sunglasses at your gig the next night. But I also remember the fears when AIDS started happening. That was a constant danger in the background. We were never picketed. We were taken care of by local communities around the country. Yes, but you also provided them with Good Fairy Productions guidance on Producing a Cultural Event. I noticed that in 1982 you and Charlie charged “$400 plus 50 percent of profits if possible.” And you estimated travel expenses at $50-100. Yeah. (laughing) My dad sent me these letters I had written years ago when Charlie and I were first performing together, and I was ecstatic when I got $75 for our first gig. We did it because we had to. It became a cultural cause for Charlie and me. What did he mean when Charlie said he was a cultural worker? He was a cultural worker. He was part of changing culture. That’s what his goal was – to engage culture in a shift. He tried to do that through his music and his speaking at our concerts. What was it like co-creating with Charlie? It was so much fun. Charlie and I laughed our way through every crisis that came our way. We would go away for weekends. We came to your house sometimes. We’d go into a work space of improvising together. A lot of the music we came up with would invoke lyrics from him. We collaborated a lot. That collaboration made him a stronger songwriter. And it helped me be a stronger musician. We fed off each other’s talent, created something better than either of us could have done alone. Charlie was one of those rare, reflective human beings. You could talk to him about anything. Even
if he was initially defensive, he would open up. He Yes, and we also traveled around the country, really encouraged honesty. He wanted relationand to Russia, China, Nicaragua and Canada. We ships to be deep and honest. played the 1993 March on Washington for LGB I learned a lot about the art of collaboration, Rights. and about staying true to what it is your artistic The band played lots of music with gay content, desires and goals are. but it was not a “gay band.” Was there a sense of ritual in your concerts? True. As Charlie matured, gay was just part of Oh yeah. There was a lot of care and thought who he was, instead of always talking gay rights. that went into how we crafted a show. To bring But you did play that wonderful concert called together spirituality and politics at that time was “Across the Lines” with the Total Experience Gospel very new. The two didn’t mingle; you were spiriChoir, that was broadcast on KIRO-TV in Seattle. tual, or you were political. We wove them together. It was a bold, beautiful, powerful event. We sold “Burning Times” was always the apex of the out the Paramount Theatre. There’s so much to show. The performance space turned into a tribal learn about race, still. We learned a lot, including hall. Then there were the Spiral Dances we did with how not to make assumptions about how things Starhawk and the Reclaiming Collective. It was a should be done. Co-creating isn’t always easy. huge performance ritual. And then there was the time you got booed at the And, Thunder Cloud Opera House for singing an (the Ojibwa faerie/shaanti-Gulf War song. man) was part of Good Yes, “No Heroes” Fairy Productions. He and pushed some buttons: Riva and another two“Hang your head down spirited man did rituals America / you know not Charlie was one of those to call the spirits into our what you’ve done / you’re rare, reflective human concerts. This was right still looking for salvation beings. You could talk in line with the earth-cen/ through the barrel of a to him about anything. tered music. gun.” Oh, how did people During wartime, it’s Even if he was initially respond? a very tender time for defensive, he would open Audiences that came many people. Their family up. He really encouraged together were so ready to members may be off in honesty. He wanted hear the message, and to the service. You end up hear their own passions redefending what may not relationships to be deep flected in music that they be in your heart to defend. and honest. could dance to. We played We got booed, but not by a to people doing Central lot of people. Amercian sanctuary work, Why didn’t Charlie fighting nuclear arms (like write any more songs? the “Give Peace a Dance” He just got consumed events), working to save the environment, and with his work with young people. When he went Anti-Inaugural Balls. into something, he got so focused. He was always People who were doing this political work need- working. He knew how to play, too. But the work ed an infusion of culture, dance, and spirit. Really, was always on his mind. I think it was driven by music is spirit. Audiences would get so high, from the fact that he deeply loved whatever he did. the music and from being in community. What advice would you give to queer artists Charlie and I were a folk duo for five years… based on your work with Charlie? and even then people started dancing to our muJust speak your truth. Find comrades so you’re sic. We decided to form a band together, and make not alone. less money. (Laughs.) That was Rumors of the Big Find your network of friends and other creWave, Charlie’s name for the band. ative artists, and incite the best and most honest Rumors was huge in Seattle in the ‘90s. It seemed response in what you’re trying to say. ❂ like you guys were always on the bill – especially for politically charged events.
RFD 170 Summer 2017 7
RFD 170 Summer 2017
Photos courtesy John Misfud
Gay Spirit By Charlie Murphy
When we were born they tried to cover our eyes Then they tried to tell us all what to see We are discovering that did not work For we were born to be free It’s a Gay Spirit singing in our hearts Leading us through these troubled times It’s a Gay Spirit moving ‘round this land Calling us to a time of open love When we were born they tried to put us all in a cage Then tell our bodies what to feel We have chosen to feel all the truth That our bodies do reveal It’s a Gay Spirit singing in our hearts Leading us through these troubled times It’s a Gay Spirit moving ‘round this land Calling us to a time of open love We are not strangers to all the pain That comes from fighting for our love We are the outlaws in a love-sick land Whose crime has only been to care It’s a Gay Spirit singing in our hearts Leading us through these troubled times The Gay Spirit moving ‘round this land Calling us to a time of open love You run and tell that old patriarch We are no longer blind to his ways You run and tell him that we’ve stolen all the keys To the prison he has made Tell him that there’s a Gay Spirit moving round this land Leading us through these troubled times A Gay Spirit singing in our hearts Calling us to a time of open love Sometimes it gets to hard to feel all the joy In the face of all the pain we see But there’s a healing place within our hearts It’s comin’ alive in you and me (refrain) There’s a Gay Spirit singing in our hearts Leading us through these troubled times It’s a Gay Spirit moving ‘round this land Calling us to a time of open love
RFD 170 Summer 2017 9
Singer/Songwriter And Youth Mentor Charlie Murphy Has Died By Eric Mulholland
• Early gay bard and lead singer of rock band Rumors of the Big Wave • Co-founder of the arts organizations Power of Hope and Partners for Youth Empowerment, serving over 1 million youth
harles “Charlie” Joseph Murphy Jr. passed away at the turn of midnight on August 6, 2016, after a brave journey with Bulbar ALS. Charlie is survived by his loving husband Eric, his parents Angela and Charlie, his siblings Diane, Mary, Betty, Paul and John, and his many nephews and nieces. He is predeceased by his youngest brother Steve. Charlie was held in the loving embrace of his beloved community on Whidbey Island, his wider family circle, and his many friends across the world. Charlie was born on July 4, 1953, in Baltimore, Maryland. The third of seven children, he grew up as a happy child, who from an early age instigated much of the mischief in the household. Charlie’s mother Angela, a dedicated nurse, instilled a sense of service in her children, and his father, Charlie Sr., a hardworking court stenographer, encouraged them to pursue work that they loved and to reach for the stars. His family describes Charlie as very bright, funny, and curious. His engaging personality and outgoing manner made him popular among his peers. He was a member of the debate team, starred in school plays, served in student government, and won Catonsville, Maryland’s teenager of the year award. Growing up during the civil rights and anti-war movements, Charlie decided as a teenager to devote his life to social change. His conviction was fueled by his experience at Camp Claggett, a summer camp led by a group of extraordinary adult activists who were also involved in the human potential movement. He worked as a camp counselor throughout his college years while studying sociology at Loyola University in Baltimore. He also received training in group facilitation at the Center for mid-Atlantic Trainers, where he became their youngest facilitator. After college, Charlie chose to work with youth through the Roanoke Virginia mental health services. Charlie soon discovered, however, that he was being asked to help these young people to adjust to a world in turmoil rather than to empower 10 RFD 170 Summer 2017
them to take an active role in making things better. So, he left the world of mental health and chose to express his passion for social change through music. From an early age Charlie loved music and played the guitar. This unleashed a passion for writing and composing songs.
n the mid seventies, Charlie toured the country as a folk singer, inspiring audiences with a passion for social change. He was a pioneer of the men’s movement and sang openly about gay rights, making him one of the few out and proud gay singer/songwriters of his day. He appeared on the landmark 1979 album “Walls to Roses”, that featured both gay and straight men who supported the struggle against sexism. In the late ‘80s, Charlie founded the award-winning band, Rumors of the Big Wave, with creative partner and cellist Jami Sieber. His AIDS anthem, “I Choose Life”, landed the band a spot as featured artists on a Barbara Walters special commemorating the 20th anniversary of the AIDS crisis. Rumors of the Big Wave played with notable artists like Ziggy Marley, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart, and Midnight Oil. They traveled nationally and internationally and produced several awardwinning albums. One of Charlie’s most well known songs, “Burning Times,” which the band played at the LGBT March on Washington in 1993, was beloved in the women’s movement and scaled the the Irish pop charts through a recording by Irish rocker, Christy Moore. When he turned 40, Charlie became increasingly concerned about the challenges young people were facing in today’s world. He left his musical career intent on using the creative tools he had learned as a group facilitator, artist, and activist to help youth find meaning, purpose and joy in their lives. He took a job as Cultural Coordinator and then Training Director of the Earth Service Corps, a YMCA national youth environmental program which exposed him to the lives and challenges of youth throughout North America and several countries around the world. In 1996, Charlie and Peggy Taylor, a journalist and creative development specialist, founded a creativity-based youth development organization called the Power of Hope: Youth Empowerment
Through the Arts. Their Creative Community Model for integrating the arts into youth development, quickly caught fire and began to spark a transformation in youth work. In 2005, Charlie, was awarded an Ashoka Fellowship in recognition of his life-long achievements as a change maker and for his groundbreaking work in the youth development field. In 2006, Charlie and his husband, theater-artist Eric Mulholland, began traveling internationally, leading Creative Community-based youth programs and trainings in Uganda, South Africa, Italy, and the UK. Three years later, with Peggy and UK-based entrepreneur Ian Watson, Charlie formed PYE Global: Partners for Youth Empowerment to further spread the international work. Charlie and Eric spent several years developing an international network of PYE partners and facilitators dedicated to bringing creativity and hope into the lives of young people. With over one million youth impacted to date and 30 organizational partners in 15 countries on 5 continents, Charlie’s influence continues to grow and promises to flourish in years to come. Charlie’s personal life was a rich tapestry of love and connection made of friends from around the world. The loving relationships he had within his
home community on Whidbey Island, WA were among his most treasured. He was surrounded by love his entire life, and especially during his journey with ALS. In 2002 Charlie fulfilled a long-held dream of meeting the love of his life, Eric Mulholland. Charlie and Eric were married in 2006. They built a life of great joy, creativity and adventure, and have shared a deep and enduring love. Charlie’s relationship with Eric was his greatest source of joy.
harlie Murphy was one of a kind: activist, musician, facilitator, teacher, mischief maker, good friend, and loving husband. He had an ability to inspire the best in people and to draw out a person’s hidden wholeness. People who were touched by Charlie’s charisma were forever changed. He was a lover of life, a magnetic leader, and a bringer of joy. Charlie loved a good time and throughout his life said, “people who do good work in the world throw the best parties”. And indeed, he was right. He will be missed, but his loving presence will forever abide in the hearts of all who knew him. A celebration of Charlie’s life will be held at 6 p.m. September 1 at the Whidbey Institute, Clinton, WA. In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to the Charlie Murphy Legacy Fund at: www.pyeglobal.org. ❂
Light Is Returning Light is Returning Even though this is the darkest hour No one can hold Back the Dawn Let’s keep it burning Let’s keep the light of hope alive Make safe our journey Through the storm. One Planet is turning Circle in her path around the sun Earth Mother is calling Her children home. —Charlie Murphy
RFD 170 Summer 2017 11
My Husband, My Teacher By Eric Mulholland
n September 2006, I embarked on my first journey to Africa, just two days after I married my beloved, Charlie Murphy. We were heading to Uganda for a “Honeymoon of Service”, as Charlie named it. He was curious to know if the camp model he co-created with his longtime work partner, Peggy Taylor, would have the same profound impact in Africa as in North America. Peggy had traveled to Uganda a year before and offered a few short workshops for various groups of people participating in an economic uplift program for women living in poverty called Bead For Life. She was convinced that a camp for youth was possible in Kampala. So when the opportunity arose to travel and work abroad, Charlie jumped at it. I remember him asking me, rather nonchalantly but with a grin behind his eyes, “So, you want to go to Africa to do a camp?” I had grown accustomed to his thirst for adven12 RFD 170 Summer 2017
ture ever since our love story began in 2002. By then, he had already led a colorful life as a singer/ songwriter, first as a solo artist and then as co-leader of a popular band called Rumors of the Big Wave. He sang about human and environmental rights and traveled to many places in the world with his music and then with the YMCA as the cultural coordinator with the Earth Service Corps. Charlie had opened my eyes to a world of heart-centered good work being done by people from all walks of life in many places around the world. His own brand of love work at the time was an arts-based youth empowerment program he co-founded with Peggy Taylor called The Power of Hope. That work sprang from his lifelong passion for changing the world through music, poetry, art and community. I had assisted and co-led trainings and camps with Charlie all over the Pacific Northwest since the Photos courtesy author.
time we met. He introduced me to teaching artists from Canada to Oregon, all doing amazing work in a variety of communities. I could tell these artful facilitators greatly respected Charlie and felt grateful for his impact on their lives. Charlie had that special something we all yearn for; an ability to inspire and make things of great significance happen. Nothing could have prepared me for that first foray into working with hundreds of young Ugandan’s living with HIV. Charlie had a knack for putting us in challenging situations that he knew we’d ultimately thrive in.
n our first full day of camp in Kampala, we did an exercise with the teens where they were to imagine that they were holding a microphone with the whole world listening and deliver their ultimate message. The youth expressed a variety of messages from a desire to see an end to the stigma of HIV to ending poverty around the world. The messages were pure, simple and sincere. Each young person spoke so eloquently from the heart, I was fighting back tears at each message. One beatific young girl about thirteen years old spoke her message to the group, all of us standing full of attention waiting for her message of hope. She said, in a clear strong voice, “if I had the microphone and the world was listening, I would ask the government to get rid of all the homosexuals.” I stood there wide eyed as half of the youth and half of the Ugandan staff, made up of doctors and social workers, clapped emphatically. Had I heard her correctly? I looked over at Charlie and cocked my head as if to say, “Some honeymoon!” He grinned and I could tell, this was the opening he was waiting for. That moment he always loved when a group showed its shadow.
Charlie was so skilled at using whatever was expressed in a group, contextualizing, and giving it back to them with a personal challenge to expand their view. He reminded all of us of the damage that is done when anyone is stigmatized. And though we’d made the conscious decision not to be open about our sexuality so that our relationship would not become a distraction from the work, his point was delivered, and a strong learning took place. The group dropped into a real place; compassion replaced opinion and we moved gracefully into the next phase of the journey as a community. I tell this story because when I think of the many years of loving Charlie as his husband and work partner, exploring the world together through our shared passion for youth work, I’m flooded with countless memories like this one. Memories of our times working with young people from inner city Birmingham and London in the U.K., with young people in Brazil, Italy, South Africa, Canada, and more. We loved being together in any context doing just about anything. Charlie was my beloved, my husband and my best friend, but more importantly, he was my teacher. I’m not sure if the young lady in Uganda even knew what a “homosexual” was when she expressed herself during the exercise and it doesn’t even matter to me now. Charlie is gone from this world and nothing can change that. Words seem to have little luster to me at this tender time. I’m navigating new territory alone, trying to find my way without benefit of Charlie’s vision and grit to help guide me. It’s a hard road but like the many other challenging life experiences Charlie brought into our life together, I will learn from this and grow. Charlie wouldn’t have it any other way. ❂ RFD 170 Summer 2017 13
14 RFD 170 Summer 2017
Above: Karen McQuivey, Charlie, Thunder Cloud, Stephen Silha, Billy Franz, Bobbi Birleffi. Below: Charlie and Stephen. Photographs courtesy author.
Culture Jamming By Stephen Silha
Bringing creative energy to youth-adult partnerships
very time we gather, we create culture. It doesn’t matter how many of us there are… if we’re alone, with a friend/lover, or a community meeting, when eyes meet—we’re creating culture. I became aware of this when I volunteered to help with a week-long Power of Hope workshop for teens and caring adults in 2000. When teens and adults consciously create culture together, a magical synergy of hope and experience, innocence and potency emerges. I’m convinced that without creative partnerships between elders and youth, we humans will self-destruct. It’s part of evolution’s call that we co-create our future. Yet, as Power of Hope’s co-founder, Charlie Murphy (yes, the gay singer/songwriter who wrote “Burning Times” and “Gay Spirit”) says, there’s a silent apartheid between youth and adults in today’s culture which makes true partnerships challenging. “Adults project their despair about the future onto the young,” he says. “They smother them with material things and overactivity, which means they don’t get a chance to develop their interior side.” I’ve been doing work with youth for many years—in journalism, in community service, and most recently in a series of youth-adult dialogues on Vashon Island, near Seattle, where I live. The essence of the youth-adult dialogues, which we (a group of youth and adults from my community) learned from going to Whidbey Island and experiencing a Power of Hope dialogue, is creating a field of common creative play as a predecessor to conversation. “Youth thrive in the company of adults who are passionate about life, alive to their own creativity,” Charlie says. Gay men, in many cases, are ready to create these partnerships. It’s not easy with all the built in stereotypes and prejudices we and they carry about the “other.” (This includes sexual stereotypes on all sides of the equation.) Why not apply some of the principles that underlie Radical Faerie culture to relationships between youth and elders? For example, subject-subject consciousness.
What does it look like when neither the youth nor the elder is an object—both are subjects… of their own lives, of the community, of their relationships? Or as Tony Kushner might say, what if we look at each other (across the generations) as prophets? “Adults need to pursue their own calling so youth can do the same, appropriate to their stages in life,” Charlie suggests. “Education could change from a dead one-way street—fitting kids into roles—to a vibrant conversation, where everybody is finding their calling. We need to create a zone where we’re all on our creative edge.” Using creative writing, theater improv, visual and verbal art, youth and adults can create together, raising their voices and putting out visions of a future that’s fun, heart-centered, whole. Why not acknowledge the inner life? Of ourselves, of each other. A little silence welcomes those inner voices. The way of the heart circle—speaking and listening from a deeper place—can enrich even one-on-one encounters. Charlie has found that “young people are deeper, more caring than we generally give them credit for. So much so, they don’t realize it themselves.” This is also true of the young parts of ourselves, which are awakened and enlivened by creative contact with youth. Another faerie principle that might help with intergenerational communication is “askance”—looking at things sideways, from different angles, with a dose of humor. I was amazed when I helped a group of kids at a Power of Hope summer camp create a “Zine” which they called “Rising.” Instead of asking people to write articles, they created graffiti boards around the camp, in bathrooms and other places, where people felt free to express themselves. The Zine was filled with wisdom and silliness from those graffiti boards—a new news source in the future? As we reinvent various aspects of our culture that need fixing—health care, communication, transportation, governance, relationship to spirit-collaborations between those who’ve “seen it all” and those who “see a better way” will make it possible. For more information on Power of Hope, see www.powerofhope.org. ❂ RFD 170 Summer 2017 15
16 RFD 170 Summer 2017
Good Fairy Productions statement of purpose, 1980s, courtesy Stephen Silha.
Above: Eric and Charlie in Baltimore, courtesy Eric Mulholland. Below: Charlie and Eric, Vashon Island, 1993, courtesy Stephen Silha.
RFD 170 Summer 2017 17
Charlie and Partners for Youth Empowerment by Peggy Taylor
harlie Murphy believed that all young people should have access to transformational experiences that expand their belief in their potential. This dream took shape when we ran our first Power of Hope Camp in July of 1996. We scrabbled together twenty nine teens from diverse backgrounds and a mostly volunteer staff of fifteen teaching artists, social change makers, rabble rousers and other switched on adults that we believed youth would benefit from knowing. We camped together at the Whidbey Institute, a retreat center on Whidbey Island, twentyt miles north of Seattle. “This week, let’s become creators of culture, rather than passive consumers,” Charlie challenged the group the first night of camp. And that’s exactly what happened. Everyone made music together, danced, told stories, played theater improvisation, explored the woodlands, splashed in Puget Sound, and sang around the campfire. But the special sauce was Charlie’s profound understanding of what makes groups tick and what helps young people and adults go deep—deep into their hearts, deep into their emotions, deep into their hopes and dreams. He knew how to weave the youth and adults into a supportive community where we felt brave enough to take creative risks. The motley crew who had come together at the start of camp, left with stars in their eyes, ready to take on the world. Charlie and I knew we were in this for life. We spent the next ten years building our organization the Power of Hope: Youth Empowerment through the Arts. Youth thrive when they have real-life adventures, where the outcome is a surprise. Charlie thrived on developing programs that provided a creative adventure like Hip Hop Hope, where youth would write and record original pieces with the support of creative mentors; Dance the Salmon Home, where youth learned about the life cycle of salmon and created a multi-arts street performance for Seattle’s Freemont Fair; or Cross the Lines, where youth learned to cross lines of difference of culture, age, and life situation. 18 RFD 170 Summer 2017
In 2006, Charlie and his husband Eric were invited to lead a Power of Hope Camp for youth living with HIV/AIDS in Kampala, Uganda. This kindled Charlie’s desire to take the Power of Hope model international. We started PYE Global: Partners for Youth Empowerment as a vehicle, and Charlie and Eric introduced the work in the UK, South Africa, India, Brazil, Turkey, and Italy. By the time Charlie’s symptoms began to develop in 2014, the work was strong enough to move beyond him. We have an international community of hundreds of practitioners, and thirty robust partner organizations. Together with our partners PYE has a transformational impact on over 250,000 young people each year. I spent many hours with Charlie in his final months, celebrating the impact he has had on this world sharing story after story of new ways the work is manifesting in the world. For information on PYE Global see www.pyeglobal.org ❂
Above: Charlie and Peggy, photo courtesy author. Right: Cover of Peggy and Charlie’s book.
Photographs of Charlie in Uganda courtesy Peggy Taylor.
RFD 170 Summer 2017 19
You Rock, Charlie Murphy by Kate Thompson
urrounded by art, in his home, with friends and youth, in meetings that is where you would always find Charlie, his hand on his heart he would tap out the rhythm of the songs he taught, to help us transition from one activity to another or just for fun. I believe he is keeping an eye on us and that we are all better if we remember to open our hearts, and take action with heart and meaning in the arts and with our precious youth. Together let’s take a moment to make a wish, set an intention and celebrate our youth by envisioning what is possible when you love deeply, purely and create and change the culture by throwing a better party. You Rock Charlie Murphy, now we rock too ♥.
20 RFD 170 Summer 2017
Above: Charlie Murphy courtesy author. Below: Covers of Charlie’s album, Catch the Fire, courtesy Stephen Silha.
Weaver, Weaver by Starhawk
remember the excitement in the Bay Area Witch community every time Charlie Murphy would come around. In the early 1980s, when both Witches and LBGT folks were just coming out of our closets, hearing an openly gay Pagan man rocking it with powerful social messages was always a thrill and made for a good dance party, too! I was privileged to join with him and Jami Sieber, the wonderful cellist, to do a rock and roll ritual in Seattle once, where all the invocations were songs and the heart was a trance-journey with musical backup. Charlie was a sensitive musician with a powerful voice on every level, but more than that, he was a deeply caring human being who ended up devoting his life to working with young people and helping awaken their creativity and power. A few months before Charlie died, I was visiting the Seattle area and friends helped organize a healing ritual for him. It was a great honor to witness his courage, his humor, and the incredible support of his warm and loving community and his partner Eric Mulholland. I know he died surrounded by love, and that is because he himself was such a source of love and caring for everyone around him.
Weaver, weaver, Weave his thread, Whole and strong Into your web. Healer, healer, Heal our pain, In love may he Return again.
RFD 170 Summer 2017 21
Stranded i overheard the gods I could barely understand them they followed us around dancing blind on the edge with us, they said: we see you stranded in loneliness stranded in the universe alone from the past alone from the future you look up at us through treetops dazzled at the pitch of stars the wideness of this spectacle beggars your imagination our secrets make a mockery of reason everything you strive for is still a stain upon silence the searching of insomniacs for signs of significance scanning your only sky, wondering if evolutionâ€™s a game of solitaire Your temples may be empty but your hearts are overcrowded your stories take the shape of all your longings you alone wake to a world that has surely gone to pieces you alone will try to but it back together with your maps and metaphor your dogs are not the only ones chasing their own tales the star filled sky mirrors the largeness of spirit without the earth there is no heaven no gods no priests no conclusions everyone can find a place at this table with just the badge of humanity for who else on earth could sing the songs of creation â€”Charlie Murphy
22 RFD 170 Summer 2017
Charlie Murphy promotional photo courtesy John Misfud.
RFD 170 Summer 2017 23
Teaching Youth in Ways That Can Be Heard by Robert Croonquist aka Covelo; In Memory of Charlie Murphy
Part 1: Theory The Radical Faeries grew out the human potential movement of the 1970s. We came into being during a moment in American history that was immersed in Eastern philosophy, emerging theories of psychological and social development, peace, social justice and environmental activism and indigenous cultures. My way of walking in this community was nested in the communal living movement and the teachings of Anna Halprin, Joanna Macy, Clyde Hall and Harry Hay. I was a student at Stanford from 1966 to 1970 when Joan Baez married our student body president and Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters parked their psychedelic bus on campus. I worked briefly at the Peninsula School, an alternative elementary school based on Summerhill’s pedagogical theory
that children best learn when given tools, ideas and guidance and the freedom to explore. Our high school, The Pacific School, had student-constructed domes under the auspices of Stuart Brand and Buckminster Fuller and our fundraising benefits featured Baez and a band called the Warlocks who later became The Grateful Dead. From the late sixties throughout the 1970s I lived communally, first in a spiritual commune in Palo Alto, then in a commune of anarchist feminist gay 24 RFD 170 Summer 2017
liberationists at 529 Castro Street on the same block as Harvey Milk’s camera shop and an arts commune known as the Hula Palace, and finally in a Digger commune in the mountains of eastern Mendocino County. All of those communities governed by consensus. At the commune on Castro Street, sometimes called the Ho Chi Minh House because of the North Vietnamese National Liberation flag hanging out our front window, we believed the way to gay liberation was to reach out to other oppressed communities to build a broad coalition that worked hand-in-hand with one another against a common oppressive patriarchal system. We were an anti-imperialist, pro-feminist collective who used art, agitprop and street theater to make our issues known. We formed alliances with the women’s movement and as delegates to the first UN International Year of the Woman conference in Mexico City in 1975 we opened up our workshop space for women to testify of their tortures under the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. As a result we formed an organization called Gay Solidarity with the Chilean Resistance. I studied with Anna Halprin in San Francisco in 1970 at her Dancers Workshop on Divisidero Street. She taught us that, as T.S. Eliot wrote in Burnt Norton, “At the still point of the turning world . . . there the dance is.” Anna’s method begins with creating a safe container in which we are free to listen closely to our bodies and to pay attention to what they have to teach us. We then respond to our movement with art and analyze what our art tells us about our bodies. When we reach that still point we are free to go forward and use our healed selves, as she says on her website, to “address social issues, build community, foster both physical and emotional healing and connect people to nature.” My ten years with Harry Hay and his Circle of Loving Companions and Sex Magick workshops were centered around the circle process, or heart circle as we call it. We all know the basics of the circle. We sit in a circle with a talking stick. Whoever holds the stick, and no one else, has the right to speak. No one may interrupt and no one may speak out of turn. There is no cross talk. What is said in the circle stays in the circle. Without disclosing too much about the workshops, I feel free to say that Hay used circle process as a way to “shed the ugly Clyde Hall and students, photo courtesy author.
green frog skin of heterosexual conformity” and to develop rituals of healing to enable each of us to go forward into the world in service, which he believed to be the highest expression of our true nature. The fundamental purpose of the circle process was to create a safe container of trust to allow for personal transformation. At that time I was also an active participant in the Dance for All People led by Clyde Hall, a
two-spirit member of Shoshone-Metis tribe. To quote the Dance website, “The Dance For All People comes from a tradition of the Great Basin/Plateau peoples that has been revitalized by Native people to perpetuate the healing and renewal of Mother Earth and all her beings.” Again, being respectful to not disclose too much of the process, I believe I can say that the dance is grounded in gratitude and begins with each participant stating his or her intentions while standing in circle around a tree that is Gabriel Q and students, student masks, photo courtesy author.
the vessel for our prayers and our gratitude. I was simultaneously introduced to the work of Joanna Macy, which is where my work and Charlie’s had the most in common. Charlie and Peggy Taylor were both students of Joanna Macy and her teachings gave shape and form to their organization, The Power of Hope. Macy’s Work That Reconnects prepares individuals and communities to make the Great Turning from the industrial growth society to a life sustaining society. Its goal is “to help people uncover and experience their innate connections with each other and with the systemic, self-healing powers in the web of life, so that they may be enlivened and motivated to play their part in creating a sustainable civilization.” (Coming Back to Life) Through a set of interactive exercises participants share with one another their feelings about the present condition of our world, learn methods by which we experience our interdependence with and responsibility to past and future generations and other life-forms, and learn to support each other. With the Work That Reconnects Joanna has created a map that enables groups to tap into the vitality and determination we each possess to take part in the healing of our world. The work is perceived as a spiral with four primary nodes, beginning with gratitude, then honoring the pain for the world, seeing with new eyes and finally going forth. In summary, the human potential movement gave us what we called back then “gay consciousness”. The fundamental principles I gleaned from that movement: As a disenfranchised people, gay people have a responsibility to reach out in solidarity with other oppressed people The circle process is an essential component in creating a safe container for communication and transformation We have a responsibility to awaken to our innate caring for one another and the earth upon which we live. Our work is grounded in gratitude.
Part 2: Practice For twenty years I taught at a large, comprehensive high school in the borough of Queens as part of a program of The City University of New York that prepared students for college and careers in science, medicine, health, engineering, biology and teaching and which strived to redress the problem of underrepresented minorities in those fields. I would bring artists from our community—Beaver Bauer of the San Francisco Free Theater troupe, The RFD 170 Summer 2017 25
Angels of Light, artist Paul Wirhun, photographer Janis Lewin, puppeteer Gabriel Q of the Vermont faeries, and Clyde Hall and Laine Thom of the Great Basin tribes—into the classroom for after-school arts workshops. Out of that grew Youth Arts New York, a notfor-profit whose mission is to provide experiences in the arts and sciences that engage youth in build-
ing a peaceful and sustainable future. For ten years Youth Arts focused on a program called Hibakusha Stories, which has brought atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to approximately 35,000 youth in an oral history and disarmament education initiative. We are presently developing two new initiatives—SPEAK OUT! Women and Incarceration in partnership with the YWCA 26 RFD 170 Summer 2017
Brooklyn and Sustainable Hudson Atlantic—Education from River to Harbor. We have initiated an oyster restoration station with the Billion Oyster Project (my personal pronouns are oy, oys, oy) and sails with Pete Seeger’s Hudson River Clearwater Sloop around Indian Point, the nuclear power plant twenty five miles north of the Bronx, where we introduce students to the concept of nuclear guardianship as exemplified by the women’s peace camp at Grantham Common. Two basic tenets guide my work. Speak the truth in a way in which it can be heard. Ana Roy, feminist metaphysician and liberation theologian, taught me that long ago. One of the great challenges we encounter in our work is bringing spiritual practices into secular classrooms. Therefore I am very careful to frame my work with youth in the public sphere in secular vernacular. A fundamental responsibility of teaching is to create a safe container that allows for personal transformation and growth. In the high school where I taught 3% of the students identified as white, 60% black, 17% Hispanic, 20% Asian and other. 33% of the students were over-age for their grade. The number of suspensions per 1000 students was 125 where the citywide average was 58. Police department incidents per 1000 students was 11 where the citywide average was 6. The percentage of recent immigrants was 14%. The solidarity I had with my students, primarily minorities, was authentic because it grew out of the work of the early gay liberation movement and the solidarity of our commune at 529 Castro with other oppressed minorities. In addition to three classes, I had two groups of twenty five students each who participated in the CUNY program. With fifty students at each grade level, the 200 ninth through twelfth graders had their own guidance counselor and program director. They took core classes throughout their four years in high school, so it was important at the onset to build a safe container for them to grow. The course I taught was a ninth grade global literature and culture class that used Joseph Campbell’s journey of the hero to explore global literature and culture, from Navajo creation myths to Chinua Achebe, Pablo Neruda, Arabian Nights, the Ramayana and the I-Ching to Yukio Mishima. It was in conjunction with this class that Gabriel Q facilitated a maskmaking workshop. Students masks represented an element of nature that spoke to them. They made beaded pouches with Clyde Hall and Laine Thom, made shields with Beaver Bauer to protect the ele-
Students sail on Pete Seegers Hudson River Clearwater Sloop. Photos courtesy author.
ment of nature they had chosen, and then batiked eggs with Paul Wirhun as the gift the hero brings back to the community after a year-long global journey of discovery. With the room filled with masks and shields, the room was like a sacred lodge. In essence I created a room charged with spirit in a secular format for fourteen year olds from around the globe to explore the world’s belief systems and
their common thread that we have an innate caring for one another and the earth upon which we live and that caring is an essential part of belief systems and throughout cultures and time. To build that community I introduced the circle process several weeks into the first term. We called it the talking circle. I began with very innocuous topics—basic introductions, where they went to elementary and middle school for example. Slowly we
moved into questions about their favorite music and foods and on to deeper topics like their emotional well-being and their plans for the future. In these circles students grew as a community of friends and scholars and now several decades later I see through Facebook that many have remained best of friends. One year I conducted a series of closing circles for the Advanced Placement seniors, most of whom I had taught in the ninth grade. Even though it was the week after prom and seniors were harder to come by than fish in the desert, the class was overflowing. An African American school safety officer and a Russian custodian joined in. It had been an impossible year. We had experienced the destruction of the World Trade Center and a protracted transportation disruption due to anthrax and bomb scares. A talking circle in December almost broke my heart. Every single student was depressed. One student who had to commute two hours each way from the Bronx said her mother, who worked with the intake of Youth at Rikers Island, was coming home in the middle of the night after bagging body parts from the twin towers. The college office was missing deadlines. Families had no more money to pay endless $75 fees. Many were in two or three AP classes and working at jobs twenty hours a week. They were doing everything right, and everything was going wrong. I wanted to weep. By June, they were on their way to Columbia, NYU, Binghamton, Howard, CUNY, SUNY, York College, Queens College and other institutes of higher learning. But there was still an edge. Finally during the talking circle one girl said, “Everybody knows I had a falling out with someone here. I just want that person to know that although everything is still not all right, I do love you and you are my friend.” “Hug! Hug!” the kids rang out, “We think a hug is in order.” A minute later, a girl stood up, walked across the room and hugged the speaker. An audible sigh spread through the room. The school safety officer and the President of the Senior Class, both of whom were outside witnesses, became misty eyed. The circle had done its job. These fine young people were leaving school and heading out in the world as members of a community forged in the crucible of public education. After I retired from teaching in the public schools, I continued with Youth Arts. Joanna Macy introduced me to Kathleen Sullivan, who asked
Student from the Radiation Detectives project of Youth Arts New York laying paper cranes on the stage at Eiko Otake’s Remembering Fukushima at the Catherdal of St. John the Divine, March 11, 2017, NYC. Photos courtesy author.
RFD 170 Summer 2017 27
if Youth Arts would host atomic bomb survivors in the classroom. We devised an oral history and disarmament education initiative called Hibakusha Stories. Hibakusha is a unique word created for those who have survived an atomic bomb. We visited more than a hundred schools over a tenyear period and we used Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects as our pedagogical framework. Our interactive sessions would begin with a gratitude practice. Students were asked to close their eyes and think of a place in the world where they are most happy, to feel, smell, taste, hear and see it. And then to think of what makes their hearts sing. What gives them joy about being alive. Then we would let them know that all those things are threatened by nuclear weapons. By positing our work in gratitude we awakened students’ innate caring. After hearing the harrowing first hand testimony of survivors of nuclear weapons, students saw how these survivors turned their horrific experiences into serving the greater good, transforming historic hatred into friendship and working tirelessly for a world without nuclear weapons When I heard of Charlie Murphy’s untimely passing I was prompted to write the RFD collective and propose that RFD dedicate an issue to Faeries and Youth. The collective graciously accepted my suggestion. I worked with Charlie just once. During my sabbatical I participated in five day Power of Hope camp in Bellingham, Washington. The experience brought together everything I value as an educator. At the onset, students gathered in circle and wrote their intentions for growth and transformation on slips of paper they tied to a tree in the center of the circle. They participated in arts workshops for two days and mid week created a sacred space where, in the dark of night, they entered the circle one by one and told the stories they needed to tell in order to move on with their lives. They then joined up with an artist or performer with whom they had developed a strong bond, went deeper into the work and regaled one another closing night with an evening of performance of the work they had created during the week. I was in awe. Young people began their journey at The Power of Hope with gratitude, then honored their pain, saw with new eyes and went forth with new vision and affirmation. I, too, was transformed. Charlie, I lift my drinking cup and extend my hand. ❂
28 RFD 170 Summer 2017
Above: Beading Workshop with Laine Thom, 2006. Photo by author. Below: students on Clearwater River Sloop, New York. Photo by author.
The Creation of Queer Youth Leadership Awards in Santa Cruz, California By Hammer / firstname.lastname@example.org
n 1997 HIV infection rates were rising the fastest among younger queer men of all races in the United States. Alarmingly fast. Half a generation of elder queer activists had died from AIDS and the other half was still exhausted and in recovery from the peak death years. The epidemiological data suggested that younger queer men were at risk of alarmingly increased infection rates very early in life, between the ages of seventeen to twentytwo. Before many of these younger men were fully integrated into the larger queer community, they were already exposed and infected by HIV. “HIV education” was not effectively reaching high school and junior high school boys in their prime naive and vulnerable early forays into the joys of gay sex. There was also plenty of back-lash thinking regarding the miraculously effective protease inhibitors and medical “cocktails” supporting a widespread believe that HIV was just another manageable disease. Combined with the mainstreaming of LGBT life with such programs as Will and Grace and other dramatically increased media visibility, younger people knew their own desires earlier and earlier. This combination of events made anti-HIV cam-
Photo by Kwai Lam.
paigns even more difficult. In 1997 a group of concerned queer social service activists, led by Radical Faeries, in Santa Cruz County California, invented the Santa Cruz County Queer Youth Leadership Awards as a way to combat the many risks to which young queers were vulnerable. Risks such as isolation, invisibility, rejection by family, school-mates, and churches, educational institutions rife with active and institutional homophobia, drug abuse, bullying, self-loathing, shame, suicide, mental health challenges, homelessness, poverty and of course HIV infection. But most mainstream educators and social service providers already knew the risks LGBT youth faced. They could have recited them to us backwards. What they didn’t know and we didn’t know—was where are the LGBT youth and how do we support them? What we had in mind was fourteen to twenty-two year olds. Some of the youngest boys and men in our emerging community. When reaching out to many local school administrators, we repeatedly got feedback they only knew of a couple of queer kids in the entire school, if any. This was the crux of the problem we faced, in RFD 170 Summer 2017 29
a school of 1,500 we knew there were more likely thirty to forty-five queer youth at least, if not more. How to get greater visibility for these young people, and more services, support and positive attention? What these young people did NOT need- was more stigma. They did not need to be perceived as the most vulnerable, potential carriers of disease, messed up problems waiting to implode. Highlighting the risks and possible problems, which everyone knew about, actually served no one, especially the youth who already suffered under the weight of perceptions of not being “normal”. So we opted to reverse the image and concept of queer youth at risk with the model of Queer Youth as Leaders and role models. We created an intervention that would highlight the strengths of queer youth, bring greater visibility to the population as whole, hold up and highlight successful, strong, articulate queer youth. This was to be a “strengths-based” model. This was creating and living into the change we sought, as a whole community. Now, twenty years later, the Santa Cruz Queer Youth Awards has become an annual county tradition. Over 450 individuals and organizations have been nominated over the last two decades for consideration as queer youth leaders, or allies of queer youth. Organizations especially supportive of queer
30 RFD 170 Summer 2017
youth can be nominated as organizational allies and also receive awards. Such ally awards have gone to special teachers or counselors who have acted as needed faculty sponsors for campus queer youth and allies organizations on high school or middle school campuses. Or local health organizations like Planned Parenthood working to improve competent care to trans youth, or even special young people not identified as queer, who have gone out of there way to take a stand against LGBT bullying in the schools. Over one hundred individuals and organizations have been celebrated at the annual banquet with an award, an opportunity to give a short speech or performance, and sometimes a small cash stipend for scholarship or any purpose the award winner deems worthy. The banquets are usually held in one of the local middle school or high school auditoriums or cafeterias and often sell out. Audience participation runs from 250 to 500. Gay business owners and patrons often purchase banquet tables of eight to ten. The ticket sales and program advertisements alone support the entire event. Although seed funds or small grants have helped carry the event from year to year. Also generous donations of catering, deserts, foods, services and many volunteers make it a true grass roots community event. It is not about how fancy the banquet is, as much as it is
Photograph by Kwai Lam.
experiencing the palpable love, support, and pride the community expresses for their queer youth. And the opportunity to reverse the notion of queer youth as being at-risk for failures and problems and highlighting successes, leadership, and tomorrows champions of queer civil rights. Usually the Queer Youth Awards Banquet includes performances of song, poetry, film, dance, music and stories of various achievements of queer youth during the past year. Award winners and nominated individuals are honored in local newspapers and in school settings. Many parents and community leaders attend. The audience is about half very young people and half caring adults. Often a dance for the young people follows the banquet. It is in short, a festival and celebration of honor. One strikingly important element of this community wide intervention includes the awards committee process. It is always chaired and steered by two adult local queer folks of high regard who invite five to seven additional non-queer community leaders as judges. So annually seven to nine community leaders review many detailed personal stories of local queer youth who have been nominated and spend at least one evening together sitting, reflecting and talking over, “what does it mean to be a queer youth leader? What stresses do queer youth face in our county? What supports and services are we offering?” Judges have included city mayors, county supervisors, police chiefs, sheriffs, judges, school superintendents, school principals, grant makers, PTA chairpersons, directors of substance abuse and mental health programs and the like. If some community leader has been suspected of being anti-gay or homophobic in some way—they are often invited to be a judge and spend the night with other community leaders reviewing the nominations and making selections. If they turn down the invitation, local queer activist know whom they need to work with to advance the safety and services of local queer youth. The Queer Youth Awards nominations are sought for three months prior to the cut off deadline and the visibility of queer youth, especially as leaders, is trumpeted widely through out the community and in local media. The idea “we don’t have many queer youth in our schools, youth programs, community,” is no longer the status quo in Santa Cruz County. This program was in large part a community intervention lead by the Santa Cruz Area Radical Faeries and can easily be replicated in any community in the US, with a bit of inspiration, lots of volunteers and effort and strong leadership. ❂ Photos from Queer Youth Leadership Awards, by Kwai Lam.
RFD 170 Summer 2017 31
Queer Youth and the Santa Cruz Radical Faeries Text and Photos by Kwai Lam / Edited by Shaynala
rganizing a youth camp experience was suggested by Bartina at a circle,” says Shaynala. “That must have been in early 2002.” A few months later, the Santa Cruz Radical Faeries put on the first Queer Youth Camp in Santa Cruz, CA. Wawona, a youth at the time, remembers Shaynala’s visit to their youth center. “Shaynala was shining brightly, so open and solicitous in asking what we wanted” and everything manifested at the Camp,” says Wawona. “The camp was magical!” As faeries, we often talk in the abstract about how we are put here on the earth to serve the wider community, in spirit and in teaching. The Santa Cruz community has been known for walking their talk regarding serving the community, especially for supporting queer youth. They have done this in a number of ways over the years, camps, chaperoning and decorating faerie-style at youth dances, facilitating youth groups, and organizing drag fund raisers for money to donate to queer youth needs in our local community. Elsewhere in this issue, Hammer writes in detail about the Queer Youth Leadership awards while here we are focusing on the Queer Youth Camps. “Tie Dyeing, No-Talent Shows, heart circles, a ‘drag’ race, gender creative expression, dancing, art circles, faerie wand making classes, that’s the kind of thing we had at Queer Camp,” remembers Shaynala. The camps were community efforts: Shaynala was the camp manager, Cobra and Sandy led tie dyeing playshops, Joe Canon led yoga, Kwai did photography, Jasmine Tea was head chef, we all (including the youth) pitched in to cook and 32 RFD 170 Summer 2017
do dishes. “We ended up organizing these camps for several years starting in 2002 and then the Diversity Center took over,” recalls Shaynala. “’Remember the Sloppy Joe Revolt?” asked Jasmine Tea when I interviewed him for this article. It was one of the camps at the Quaker Center, where they had a vegetarian kitchen so we didn’t have any meat (all our gatherings were vegetarian during that time period as well). The kids revolted, they made signs and chanted “We want Meat, We Want Meat” during a meal. So we sent someone to the store to get some meat and made sloppy joes on a camp stove outside. It was so fun and radically different for them to have their creative talents and voices heard by adults and role model who they knew honored their queer spirit. Wawona remembers the camp as “a place where we could fully be. Be fully celebrated wherever we were, at different places in live or in ourselves... I never got to be myself before, and then to explore as far as I wanted, and be totally accepted. In a lot of ways that probably saved my life.” Wawona continued. “The Faeries gave us freedom to explore gender, talk about sex without shame, and feel community.” Putting on their first dress and wig, and having Shaynala do their makeup led Wawona to seeing their feminine spirit for the first time. “These were the summer camps we never had,” remembers Shaynala, “we wanted the queer youth to experience what we wished we could have had when we were young and needing to be accepted unconditionally as queer people.” ❂
Above: camp tee shirt. Below: Shaynala and Wawona; photos by Kwai Lam.
Queer Youth In Massachusetts by Jaybird / Jay Warren
am fortunate enough to live in Massachusetts, that bastion of progressive thinking and, for the most part, progressive policies. Two local activists, Abe Rybeck and Jeff Perrotti, have been involved with youth-oriented outreach programs that serve as national models for innovative ways to promote positive self-worth and real, long-lasting systemic changes that serve to empower and create safe spaces for the queer and trans youth of today and tomorrow.
True Colors: Out Youth Theater Abe Rybeck started The Theater Offensive in 1989 which initially worked to produce and promote theatrical works that spoke to queer experience and which were not likely to be produced by your typical community theater. The Out on the Edge Theater Festival, as it was called, brought to Boston original plays or one-person shows that spoke to the diversity of queer lives. Abe’s vision always seemed to be to help make the invisible visible and I suspect he recognized back then the power of theater to embolden the writers and performers by showing the reality of their lives to an appreciative audience. Simultaneously, the audience themselves either saw their experience reflected in the work or were educated about the lives of queer people whose experiences may have been different from their own. A win-win for both artist and audience. It was a logical leap for The Theater Offensive to take their recognition of the transformational power of theater and bring it to queer and trans youth as a means of self-exploration and self-development. Abe and his colleagues began working with queer and trans youth from around the Boston area in 1994 and the True Colors: Out Youth Theater Program was launched. Every year, a group of local trans- and queer-identified students and straight allies aged fourteen to twenty-two work as a group to write, develop and perform a play that tells stories from their lives. The troupes are predominantly made up of youth of color who come from low-income and immigrant families. The collected works are written by the youth with the guidance of experienced teaching artists and activists. The plays are performed at school assemblies, to groups of helping professionals, to community centers—any
one interested in hearing from the youth. Nick Bazo is the Associate Director of Programs for The Theater Offensive and spoke about the combined roles of being both a theater director and a youth worker: “We are there to create a play but we’re also there to support the youth in dealing with the stuff they’re dealing with every single day. Whether it’s school grades or college applications or being kicked out of homes or being bullied at school.” The youth of the theater troupe also provide a provisional support system to each other through their workshop experiences and friendships that develop as a result of their participation. In recent years The Theater Offensive has expanded beyond the troupe in programming to include the True Colors Creative Action Crew (an advanced touring ensemble), True Colors Studio (a drop-in workshop series) and a youth advisory board, The Leadership and Inclusion Council. In 2016, True Colors was one of twelve programs awarded the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award in a reception at the White House attended by then First Lady Michelle Obama. It was the first LGBTQ organization to achieve such recognition. A documentary video, The Year We Thought About Love, was released in 2015 and it follows one troupe of True Colors through a year of workshops and performances. It is a moving reflection of a year in the life of the program. In it, one youth celebrated the openness she found while participating in the troupe: “When we go to True Colors all labels are gone… and you’re just ‘you’. ” To view a trailer for the film check out: vimeo. com/115107944. For more about the film: www.theyearwethoughtaboutlove.com/ The Theater Offensive also operates the Pride Youth Theater Alliance with twenty seven member groups around North America. PYTA overcomes queer and trans youth isolation by connecting programs across vast divides like geography, race and class. Half of PYTA member groups are in states that voted for Donald Trump. Along with large urban sites like The Theater Offensive in Boston, PYTA’s incubator program has helped start programs in places like Lexington KY, Waterville ME, Wausau WI, and Youngstown OH. They all come RFD 170 Summer 2017 33
together through exchanges, shared resources and an annual conference. For more about True Colors: www.thetheateroffensive.org/true-colors/youth-programming For more about the Pride Youth Theater Alliance: www.prideyouththeateralliance.org/
The Safe Schools Program Jeff Perrotti has been working with school systems to address the concerns of queer students since 1993. He is the founding director of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Safe Schools Program for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Students, an anti-bullying initiative of the Department and of the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth. He works with schools to increase their comfort and confidence in supporting LGBTQ students and in responding to biasbased bullying. He is often called in to consult with schools who are dealing with situations where queer students are being mistreated by their peers, and sometimes by their families. Surveys have repeatedly shown that queer youth are at significantly greater risk for suicide, substance abuse, sexual risk-taking, skipping school, and being bullied than their heterosexual cis-gender peers. While the presence of gay/straight alliances and an increase in social acceptance has been beneficial for many queer students, the health disparities that remain are still significant. Jeff noted that the disparities for trans and gender-non-conforming students are even more alarming, and that supporting transgender students and their families has become more central to the work. One of the reasons for this is that the topic of gender identity, including the national debate around which bathrooms transgender students have the right to use, has been increasingly more visible. Another reason is that schools are reaching out for resources to help them support these students. One of the major challenges Jeff cited is getting the parents of transgender students on board to support 34 RFD 170 Summer 2017
their children. He noted that “research has shown that once a young person has parental support, their risk for suicide, substance abuse and even bullying goes down dramatically. Helping to educate and to bring parents along is an important part of our work.” It is challenging because some parents think that by withholding support they are acting in the best interests of the child, not realizing that they are actually adding to the child’s struggle. Once these parents become educated and, importantly, begin to see models of other parents who are more accepting, they are much more likely to support their child. “If parents can be just a little bit less rejecting and a little bit more accepting,” then their children are more likely to fare well in the long term. Another challenge affecting queer youth is social isolation. That problem is particularly relevant for rural queers. Lack of access to support groups and lack of transportation increases isolation and fails to provide access to supportive peers and role models. To help address this, Jeff is engaged with helping educators in rural communities in Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts to develop resources to help queer students. Increasing visibility and conversations in the form of gay-straight alliances, faculty workshops, and community forums where school staff, parents, and students come together to talk about supporting queer youth, are all working toward reducing risk and creating positive outcomes. Resources: The Massachusetts Department of Education’s web site for the Safe Schools Program: www.doe. mass.edu/sfs/lgbtq/ Outright Vermont www.outrightvt.org Portland Outright portlandoutright.com Seacoast Outright www.seacoastoutright.org For research on the family’s role in developing strength and resiliency in queer youth: familyproject.sfsu.edu/ For a survey of risk factors facing queer youth compared to their non-queer peers: www.mass.gov/ cgly/2015%20YRBS.pdf. ❂ Photo courtesy author.
Dear Anita by Street Candy
have been teaching hand-building in clay to children aged seven to twelve for over twenty years on the Outer Cape and no one could be more surprised than me. Why? Well, I fancied myself the louche libertine, too bawdy and sarcastic for tender blossoms. Turns out the kids were plenty bawdy themselves, especially when working with something as suggestively elemental as moist terra-cotta. Just last week a star pupil stood at the kiln room door, pretended to wipe her ass, and then handed me the mock turd pile she’d fashioned at her desk. “Is this yours, too?”, I asked , showing her another already drying on the shelf and significantly diminishing the intended shock value. How has being gay/queer/a faerie quean—whatever we call ourselves these days—influenced my time as a teacher? For a start (and a big f.u., Anita Bryant, whose Save the Children campaign was at its apex the year I graduated college) I have never had to pretend to be anything other than what I am. Not to the kids, the parents or the administration. In fact, one boy was acting out in a homophobic way in his other classes, and the principal came to me to see if I had received any flak. (No.) They were concerned for me. That said, I’ve never had to discuss my personal life in school. The kids never ask about my wife or children. Maybe they know I don’t have them, or maybe they don’t care. It’s all about them when I’m there, and they are my children when we’re together. One did ask, “Are you a grandpa?” “No, I said”. “Well, you look like one”. Out of the mouths of babes. I like to think I add to the diversity of the teacher/role model situation at the school. Simply by being a man, I do that. But by being an openly gay man, I’ve tacitly set an example for 1) the young gay kids, and 2) given flesh to the sometimes phantom notion of what a gay person is. For the rest of their lives, they will never be able to think, “oh, those pathetic edge of society ineffectual pansies”. They’ve seen me in action, and have been under my influence. For this, and for the trust placed in me by the parents and the school, I am very grateful. I will have an impact on the next generation. I already have. There’s something very special about getting the
Photo and drawing courtesy the author.
unbidden love of a child. Like animals, children can sniff out the bad ones. I had to help a first grader with her Easter bunny last week and, tiring, needed to sit down. “I’m going to steal your stool, Nina”, I said. “That’s o.k.”, she responded—and before I knew it she was in my lap, warm and weightless as a loving, trusting bird. I was so honored. But I was also happy that there was another adult to witness the event. That’s teaching today. ❂
RFD 170 Summer 2017 35
Working with Our Future Leaders By Wil Fisher
s a feminine, queer boy living in suburbia in the early 90’s, my youth was one of the most challenging times of my life. I’ll never forget the excruciating blow of losing all my friends, and my status as a “popular kid” in one fell swoop. During the 8th grade, I had stayed home sick one day and two girls used the opportunity to spread gay rumors about me. The next day, my life was completely different. My friends since kindergarten refused to sit by me or talk to me. Suddenly, I was alone, vulnerable and scared. I suffered through the next two years before changing schools so I could have a fresh start. 36 RFD 170 Summer 2017
I often attribute this trauma as a source of motivation for my life-long dedication to LGBTQ youth. I remember feeling so helpless and hopeless, without resources or awareness of anything LGBTQ, without allies or role models, or anyone to talk to about what I was going through. As an adult, when thinking back to that miserable time, I couldn’t stomach the thought of others going through something like that. I wanted to do my part to protect and support those who I consider to be the most vulnerable members of our communityLGBTQ youth. Having worked with homeless LGBTQ youth for Photo courtesy author.
the last decade, I’m aware that my story, as traumat- not have the privilege to access it. Art is similarly ic as it felt for me at the time, pales in comparison healing, and watching the young adults create art to what many queer youth have gone through and in the woods each year at camp was beautiful. The continue to experience today. Working at the Ali process also created safe space for the campers Forney Center which provides housing and services to let down their fortified walls, built up over the to homeless LGBTQ youth in NYC, was an eyetumultuous years spent trying to survive in a world opening experience. During my time there, I heard that didn’t value them. As walls came down, they countless stories of young adults who were rejected began to connect with each other, bond, and form by their families simply for having the courage to be community. who they are. Queer youth literally thrown to the streets, beaten, abused, and discarded as worthless t Easton, I also founded a youth program called damaged goods. Once on the streets, homeless LGthe Easton Mountain Leadership Academy BTQ youth often continue to face discrimination (EMLA). This program invites queer youth (many for being LGBTQ as many of whom are at risk) to shelters across the counparticipate in retreats try are run by religious throughout the year that organizations that turn a focus on leadership traincold shoulder to the needs ing, including advocacy Nature is so healing, of this population. As a work, activism, grass roots and so many people do result, LGBTQ homeless organizing, facilitating, not have the privilege to youth often find the street public speaking and more. access it. Art is similarly life to be a better alternaWatching the young adults tive, and frequently end up grow in tremendous ways healing, and watching the resorting to survival sex during their time here young adults create art to provide resources for is awe inspiring. Hearin the woods each year at food and shelter. This horing them tell their stories camp was beautiful. rific scenario is happening and speak their truths every day, and it is crucial has touched my heart in that more LGBTQ adults ways I will never forget. I become aware of it, and do remember a twenty-year something to make a difold homeless queer youth ference. It’s astounding to me that 40% of all homewho arrived with stories of sleeping on the train, less youth are LGBTQ. It’s also astounding to me going on ‘dates’ in order to eat, and using drugs to how many LGBTQ adults are completely unaware deal with the pain of it all. Over the long weekend of this tragic epidemic. he slowly started to relax, and open up. On a nature Although the shadow side of this story is what hike in the snow he got inspired to climb a 200-yearinitially inspired me to serve LGBTQ youth, there old oak tree we call Grandfather Oak. Grandfather is much light, love and hope in this work as well. Oak held him in his branches as the young man LGBTQ youth may be vulnerable, but they are also connected with his innocence, his joy, and with life resilient, creative, resourceful and strong. Working itself. Two years later he is now a resident at Easton with LGBTQ youth has taught me so much, and Mountain and serving as the sous and pastry chef inspired me in extraordinary ways. there, with intentions to start culinary arts school After working for several years for the Ali next year. I’m so proud of him, and so many others, Forney Center in NYC, I headed upstate to live and for their tremendous strength, courage and persework at Easton Mountain, an LGBTQ community, verance to make something of their lives despite the sanctuary, and retreat center. I had the pleasure to hardships they’ve faced. work with artists Hunter Reynolds, Quito Ziegler, The LGBTQ youth I work with remind me that and others on an arts camp we created for atwe must work harder in the face of oppression risk queer youth called Arts in the Woods. It was towards creating more justice in the world. They inamazing to see young adults who had never been spire me to be joyful and creative despite troubling outside of the city step onto the 180 acre property times and circumstances. They give me hope for an deep in the woods without a building or highway exciting, progressive, and fabulous future. They are in site. Nature is so healing, and so many people do our next leaders, and I’m grateful. ❂
RFD 170 Summer 2017 37
Feeding the Circle: Giving to Our Next Generations of Queers by Sister Bhakti Shakti
ow often do we faeries think of giving back to our next generations? For decades we queer folks have been unjustly accused of being sexual perverts and child molesters as political scare propaganda, which I believe made many LGBTQ organizations necessarily shy away from actively developing outreach and programming for queer teens and youth. We had our hands full accessing the levers of power and pushing for our tribes’ basic equality under the law, without also mustering resources to challenge the unfounded fears many of our fellow Americans have had about our motives in working with queer teens. Fortunately, things have changed over the past ten to fifteen years, and largely this barrier has melted away. Yet too often we older queers are not actively engaged in supporting queer teens and in creating building blocks for their success in society. GLSEN (Gay Lesbian Straight Educators Network) was among the earliest LGBTQ organizations committed to improving things for queer youth, by making it their mission to make schools safer places for them. They continue to be in the forefront leading the way, and have a very good GSA (Gay/ Straight Alliance) organizing manual, with lots of step-by-step guidance for starting, developing and re-energizing queer student clubs. Anyone can download it for free, by going to www.GLSEN.org, and typing “Jump Start” into the search box there. And ever since youth such as Aaron Fricke, who in the early 80’s challenged his school by bringing his male date to the senior prom, queer youth themselves have been playing a role in making things better. It sometimes seems to me that homeless queer youth are the only queer youth our movements are aware of. Since the early 90’s social workers have documented the hell that our young people who have been kicked out of their home go through. In major urban centers there’s often one (or more) organizations focused on helping homeless queer teens, including the Ali Forney Center in New York City or the Los Angeles LGBTQ Center, and national programs such as Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors Fund. Inspired by the short film “Trevor”, since 1998 38 RFD 170 Summer 2017
The Trevor Project has provided a hotline 24/7/365 for queer youth to call who need help, or just someone who will listen. Even so, there is so much more to do, since LGBTQ teens are still 40 percent of the homeless youth population, as many as half being queer teens of color. As important as helping homeless queer teens is, it’s important to also help queer teens who aren’t homeless. In my city of Seattle, the number of homeless youth (generally categorized as being up to age twenty-four) and those who do not have secure housing (i.e. who are serial couch-surfing) is estimated at about 1,000, with 400 being LGBTQ. However, the 2010 census of my city’s population of just fourteen to eighteen year-olds is about 36,000. If we use the figure that 10 percent of the population may be LGBTQ, that means there are possibly 3,600 queer teens in the city, which includes the probably 400 homeless queer youth. If we include population data from the greater metro area, the possible number of LGBTQ teens jumps to 5,400. Just because a teen is not homeless does not mean they are free from abuse, or that they have the resources and opportunities to grow into being a successful self-loving adult. Some queer youth have supportive parents, schools, and friends. Too many do not. They may not be homeless, but they are struggling due to attitudes about their sexual orientation and/or gender expression imposed upon them by family, school staff, and friends. Regardless of how many LGBTQ youth there are in your city or area, and regardless of how many may be homeless or housing insecure, they all need our help. Queer youth are coming out ever younger, and they and their families are requesting services and accommodations that meet their needs in ever greater numbers. Even so, on average LGBTQ teens experience depression, miss days at school, and attempt suicide at rates two to five times higher than their heterosexual peers. Can we help? Yes! Giving money is almost always helpful. I’m confident you and people you know can come up with a fun way to hold a fundraising activity to benefit a local program that serves queer youth. A good way to start finding specific resources
and potential community partners in your area is to I have been very blessed by having partially been find out if there are any LGBTQ community organigiven, and partially having created, an opportunity zations in your area, and any organizations that foto develop programs for queer teens through my cus on providing programs for LGBTQ teens. Most job. For about five years I was tasked with developevery state has at least one central LGBTQ commuing engagement of, and programs and activities for, nity organization, and most major cities have one or LGBTQ youth mainly of high school age. more. Call them up and start a dialogue. I did not have previous experience working with But is there more that we can do? Without a teens of any sort, and I turned to experienced peodoubt, the answer is Yes! ple and organizations to help ease me into underI think because of how queer people have necesstanding what policies and procedures would best sarily been socialized in the U.S—as others and outguide me. Working side-by-side with people who siders—we do not have a heightened awareness of, were comfortable and seasoned in creating structure and routine ways of giving of our time and ourselves and establishing boundaries for age-appropriate to, queer teens. I came out in the early 80’s when I behavior was essential. After all, I am seen as “one of was about twenty-three or -four. Like virtually all of the adults in the room.” us, I came out into an adult community of queers, It is important to have power or authority when and learned queer culture from people who were for working with young people, because they are still the most part generationlearning and developing. ally my peers, or slightly There are both safety issues older. In mainstream sociand just a general underety, the process is different standing of how things and there are numerous work that can make a No matter how loving social institutions that proprogram or activity more and giving, heterosexual vide both adult-to-youth successful. But I found that mentoring as well as youth learning about adultism adults can’t share the peer-to-peer mentoring opand the numerous social experience and help queer portunities that are easy to norms that belittle and teens understand, love find and connect with. Indisempower young people and own their queerness stitutions such as schools, based on nothing about extra-curricular groups them as an individual, but in ways queer adults can. like the girl and boy scouts, just on their chronological … I strongly believe that sports leagues, church age, is key, and also fits well more queers should make youth groups, school clubs with my faerie perspectives time in their lives for of all sorts, and the list goes about life (such as poweron. with rather than powerhelping queer teens. Do we queer folks give over, and both/and rather enough of ourselves and than either/or). our time to queer youth? There are many ways I and virtually all of us young people themselves participated in opportunities such as after-school can contribute to the success of an experience. clubs, or scouts, or sports, and benefitted from the Acting from an authentic place of mutual respect mentoring inherent in them. But these opportunirewards and increases the benefit a teen will receive, ties, however helpful they may have been, did not and also benefits me. There are numerous resources support us in our queerness, at least not when I that work from a youth empowerment model. The was growing up. No matter how loving and giving, late Charlie Murphy, well known to us faeries as the heterosexual adults can’t share the experience and composer of “Burning Times” among many songs, help queer teens understand, love and own their shared his decades of experience working with queerness in ways queer adults can. While not youth in arts-centered programming in the book every adult—either queer or straight—decides to “Catch the Fire: An Art-full Guide to Unleashing the volunteer to work with teens, and frankly not every Creative Power of Youth, Adults and Communities.” adult is a good fit, I strongly believe that more In the past several months, I’ve experienced an queers should make time in their lives for helping unforeseen new wrinkle in my interactions with queer teens. queer teens. Towards the end of each year I visit
RFD 170 Summer 2017 39
each of the nearly twenty high school GSA clubs in our side, when we had very few allies, and when the my city (many now are opting for the more inclusive President never even said the word AIDS. term of Queer/Straight Alliance). As difficult as the And I can talk about how we created one of the election and its aftermath has been for me and all most powerful forms of activism born of necesof us, I realized that all of the young people I am sity and rage, and how we changed the health care talking with had only known system, the national debate the preceding eight years of about being LGBTQ, and the the Obama presidency, with world. I can share that there all of its long-time coming, are those alive today who I realized I have a ground-breaking changes: the did this, who know how to history and a message repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, do this, and who are reachthe legalization of marriage ing deeply into ourselves that could help, a equality, and the Department to resurrect our skills and history and message of Education’s memo recomstrengthen our will, and who that, like many, I mending transgender students are preparing to resist and do not talk about use the bathroom that aligns who refuse to go back or with their gender identity. And let our country be dragged partially because of they are experiencing discombackwards. And I can say we the lingering grief and fort and fear in ways they had are more than willing to share rage. not previously. all this with our next generaI realized I have a history tions of queers. and a message that could help, There are things that we a history and message that, queers can and must give to like many, I do not talk about partially because of ourselves, to our tribe and to our queer youth. Will the lingering grief and rage: I can talk about my own you join me and others in this, in making yourself experience of coming out in the early 80’s, near the and your time available to our younger generations, start of the AIDS crisis, and about my lived experiand in listening them? Yes, young queers do need us ence during the 80’s and 90’s when so many of us and the things we have learned and can do, and yes, died, and also how we survived and thrived during we older farts need them too, just as much. Because a time when we had no branches of government on it is the way the circle of life works. ❂
40 RFD 170 Summer 2017
Photograph by artboydancing.
Radical Faeries: Good to Great to Fabulous! by Equus a.k.a. Gregory T. Wilkins
n Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, the opening sentence of his first chapter states, “Good is the enemy of great.” In education, we are in the business of doing good work; how often to do we push ourselves to do great work? After all, a “C” meets standard; it may not be perfect, but we are at least in the running. Too often people are more interested in getting by versus exceeding expectations. Good work does not get us fired, but what if we were in the business of doing great work, setting the standard for excellence, being a catalyst for change, moving beyond the ordinary and being extraordinary in all that we do? As mentors modeling behavior, Radical Faeries have the responsibility to encourage youth to reflect how words, actions, and deeds can affect change. As Queers, our engagement allows others to witness differentness, to ask important questions, and to know that we are everywhere. This is especially true when working with youth. Minutes matter and moments count. We are granted 525,600 minutes in a year, but with our time are we engaged as active participants or wait passively along the sidelines? Some do not jump in because fear stops them. Others remain silent afraid their ideas and feedback will be frowned upon, and there are some who jump in without reflection. As elder Radical Faeries, we have lived through history and seen the power of our engagement. Our experience can help shape the path for others. In the United States, Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell may no longer be the order of the day in the military, LGBTQ partners can legally marry, and the visibility of Queers may be more accessible in the media; however, our work is not over. We are doing good work, but when have we as a community ever rested on mediocre? We have only just begun. We cannot sit on our laurels and believe all is well. Housing, medical care, and employment discrimination are still all too real. Queer youth need us now more than ever as poverty increases, homelessness is on the rise, and sexual and mental health issues grow. These concerns are for not only Queer youth but also young people in general. We must continue to strive toward greatness; after all, fabulous is our middle name. As a university educator, I work daily with young people. They may be electronically connected, but
they are emotionally disconnected in meaningful relationships with their peers, family, and acquaintances. A personal break-up may happen merely with a click of a button on Facebook. A video can go viral spiraling out of control. Friends are counted by likes and emojis. While “connected”, youth are emotionally disabled. They text before speaking on the phone because they do not know where conversation may lead. I find young people reacting before critically thinking about their response often times regretting their response and wishing they could take back what they initially blurted. As elders, we can assist young people to find their voice, listen to their fears without judgment, and work with them to find meaning. We can model the way. As engaged community members, some may have learned social cognitive theory that behavior is the person times the environment (B = f (P ,E) ). (Lewin, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Lewin) As life-long learners, we have the responsibility to grow, question, and evolve. Opportunities where we are able to push ourselves and ask difficult questions will result in us being more informed and making better decisions. Behavior is a direct correlation to environment and the person who holds those truths. Impact on one influences the other. Some things to consider: • Doing matters. We all do busy well, but what do we have to show as evidence? Time slips away by the seconds. By being strategic and having a plan, one is able to reflect and assess growth. As elders, encouraging youth to plan helps create a firm foundation. Begin with the end in mind, be proactive. • Cooperation and collaboration is celebrated. It is what many strive for in community; however, community equals conflict. Conflict should not be feared; it should be revered, as it places our core values into action for continual dialogue. Think win-win. • Competition is not something to be feared and placed an arm’s length away. Rather, it is an opportunity for members to come together and work toward a specific goal or task. Forming together as a group provides fairly predictable stages of development: forming, storming, norming, and performing (Tuckerman, 1965). Put first things first. • Learning is important as organizations grow. As Senge (1990) and others (Kline & Saunders, RFD 170 Summer 2017 41
1993; Watkins & Marsick, 1993) note, learning at the personal level must be supplemented by learning at the team, organizational, or societal level. As stated by Komives, Lucas & McMahon (p. 219), “The concept of team learning underscores the need to consider leadership as an on-going process rather than an end result or product. Just as team members are constantly engaged with each other in learning new approaches or methods, leaders must be continually engaged in dialogue with members of their organizations.” Seek first to understand and then to be understood. Robert K. Greenleaf in his 1970 essay, “The Servant as Leader,” in which he coined the term “servant-leader”, describes a leader as servant first. The process begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. The servant-first persona ensures that other people’s highest priority needs are being served. While competition may move someone to compete toward a goal and recognition, it may lead to lifestyle changes in the future that may benefit others. For example, reducing energy from the grid may lead to gains but it may also make a person more cognizant to turn off a light in the future. In his second major essay, “The Institution as Servant”, he articulated his “credo.” He said: “This is my thesis: caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built. Whereas, until recently, caring was largely person-to-person, now most of it is mediated through institutions - often large, complex, powerful, impersonal; not always competent; sometimes corrupt. If a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both the capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them.” In developing a community where people are empowered to affect change, interactions occur among members that embrace the collective vision. This becomes part of the larger workings of the organization. Seasoned members pass down the traditions to members. Komives, Lucas & McMahon (1998) state, “Through their work together, community members develop a shared culture that is concerned about new members. Effective communities realize they are not insular but are in constant, dynamic interaction with their broader environment. Binding all of this together is the awareness that a group is a community--the shared culture 42 RFD 170 Summer 2017
may reflect that spirit of community. The spirit of community makes many other relational processes possible (p.230).” It is through this relational processes and formation of community that decisions are made to affect behavioral change. People value relationship and meeting, if not exceeding, community standards. When a community holds specific core values, celebrates their success, and encourages them to flourish, it holds members accountable and creates opportunities for dialogue to ensure that they are met. As Radical Faeries, our work in community and with youth is important. We have a direct impact in our local and global environments. We see life through a different lens, and that experience has powerful influence on community. Radical Faeries shape the conversation from good to great to fabulous! ❂ REFERENCES Collins, G. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap and others don’t. HarperCollins. Greenleaf, R. K. (1970). The Servant as Leader. Greenleaf, R. K. (1996). On becoming a servant leader. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Kline, P. & Saunders, B. (1993). Ten steps to a learning organization. Arlington, VA: Great Ocean. Komives, S. R., Lucas, N. & McMahon, T. R. (1998). Exploring leadership: For college students who want to make a difference. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Lewin, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurt_Lewin. Senge, P. M. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday. Tuckerman, B. W. (1965) Developmental sequence in small groups. Psychological Bulletin, 63, 384-399. Watkins, K. E. & Marsick, V. J. (1993). Sculpting the learning organization. San Francisco: JosseyBass.
The Youth Hermes and I by Nathan Bailey Prince
Author’s note: In the tradition of A. A. Milne, all capitalized words are essential, and Not Mistakes.
ne of the most subtle events that helped heal and make sense of my life as a gay man was becoming a Therapeutic Respite Worker for “at-risk” youth. This was almost twenty-one years ago when I was working two jobs to pay for classes at Rock Valley College. I was introduced to the program through a sociology course and the guest speaker, Colleen, later become my immediate supervisor. I remember Colleen speaking about adolescent boys and girls who needed someone who was not a parent, nor a counselor, nor a psychiatrist or social worker. The youth (whom she called clients) already had these as part of a team assisting them, but they were missing someone who would just hang out with them. Some of the other sociology students pressed Colleen for details on the role of a Therapeutic Respite Worker, and as I watched her struggle to convince them of the importance of this role, it was clear as crystal to me. These youth had no Pan. They had no Apollo, no Hermes, no Chiron, and the teams that had been assembled to help these youth only had the aid of 3 letter acronyms like ADD and ODD. No wonder these youth were at risk. Immediately after the class ended I signed up and began work the following week. The training for the role lasted only three hours and was very simple: do not take photos of the client, keep their confidentiality, report any bruises or signs of my abuse to my supervisor, and try not to spend more than $3 a week on each client. I did not always obey that last rule, especially when it turned out that one of my clients had their lunch money stolen at school or that another client’s mother had been out all night again getting drunk instead of coming home with groceries. Looking back, both the youth and I were at a crossroads. They were on the cusp of what would have been an initiation into adulthood, had they been born into an indigenous culture or during ancient history. I myself was just beginning to take my place as a man in the world, to develop the skills and get the education needed for the career that
was calling. Yet this crossroads had a deeper level that was immense in its intensity. The youth were not only coping with hormones and changing physiology but also wrestling with being in that place that is neither boy-nor-man. It was something terrible and awkward, where they knew the truth but had great difficulty expressing it at all times, unless it erupted in outburst or was coaxed out in unfinished sentences over a period of weeks (to do this technique requires good summer weather, a creek, and crawfish.) While the youth were in this arena, I was trying to leap out of the cauldron of finally admitting my sexual orientation to myself and the world. As if this was not enough, it seemed that I had to go shopping for a new God. The Baptists had tried to kill me, several times over, and I knew the only real way out of that deep cauldron was to grab onto the wings on Hermes’ sandals the next time he sped by. I say this metaphorically, but there is an altar to Hermes on my wall that includes a giant snapping turtle shell. This turtle shell reminds me that there was a Mystery at work that wove its way independently and somewhat collectively through the lives of the youth and me.
he very first day I worked as a Therapeutic Respite Worker there was an almost audible voice commanding: get that boy out of the city and into the woods. As I write this and then read it, it is almost shocking. We, as queer folk and faeries have an indelible birthright and ancient memory of the wilderness. It has been our classroom, our sacred hut, our mother and father and all-embracing wardrobe (Warding-robe.) However, the shocktrash of our hyper masculinized and women-fearing modern culture paints queer folk as monsters. Where do monsters want to take children and cannibalize/ destroy/abuse/mutate them? Of course, the wilderness. Well, like a good fag, I did what was life threatening and lifesaving at the same time. I listened to that spiritual command and drove Michael, my first client, to Rock Cut State Park. It was well within the bounds of the Therapeutic Respite program to take RFD 170 Summer 2017 43
clients to the park, to fairs, and arcades, but Rock or canoe, we can hike or make a fort, we can look Cut State Park was not a tiny neglected park within for deer tracks…” the urban jungle. It was a good twenty minute drive I waited a moment, hoping he would relax from Michael’s home on the rough west side, all the and realize that this was something we would do way into the country where there were farms growtogether. He folded something in his hands over and ing corn and apple orchards. over, probably a gum wrapper. A long time seemed I remember Michael being in a bit of a daze for to pass. I looked out over the lake and began to the first ten minutes after we had arrived. He had think of what to say next, and he asked very timidly, never been camping nor stepped foot in a giant “What do you want to do?” wooded area. We parked by the concession buildI grinned the biggest grin I could and replied as ing at the lake. There were many cars and families seriously as I could, “Let’s catch crayfish!” around, some unloading picnic baskets and others His eyes grew big and his little frame shifted, as if securing their boats. As I spoke, his eyes betrayed a he would step back. “What’s a crayfish?” bit of confusion and trepidation, as if he were won“Have you ever seen a lobster?” dering if he could perform at the level that would “No.” guarantee a lack of ridicule. I turned and started back Michael seemed at every to the parked car. “We need moment as if he were trying a bucket.” Unfortunately, I to make himself smaller and had not brought a bucket so Watching this quiet he wasn’t a tall or large boy I replied, “Well, I guess next city boy pounce on for his age. He was not at time we’ll remember to bring that time, as they say, “in his a bucket.” This began the those crayfish, sloshing body.” habit of trying to say “we” inthrough the water and “This place,” I said, sweepstead of “I” during the course slapping mosquitoes ing my arm grandly, a bit of our time at the crossroads was an eternal nervous myself and wonderwith Hermes. Whenever an ing if he would go home object was missing that was moment. That had been that night and complain to needed in our future advenme, and that had been his grandmother how bortures, whether it be fishing someone else before ing the outing had been, “is lure, small spade, flashlight, me, all the way back to where I spent thousands and or tracking guide, it became thousands of hours when one of Our missions to prothe first man and the I was your age. My mom cure it. We not only needed first boy in the first would take us here when she to procure the essential item, creek hunting the first needed to get us out of the but We needed to learn crayfish. Michael began house, and she would let us Where to go, and Why, and go explore by ourselves.” When, and How Long That to learn the inaudible He looked up at me, Would Take, so as to underlanguage of Our Great trying to understand if that stand how much Crayfish Mother. meant I was going to abanTime would be left. don him. He looked away as I tried to make eye contact, ere I have to interrupt and it was obvious that he the story. When the call was used to adults not wanting his company. My was put out to write articles about working with heart almost broke. I knew that feeling, that I was a youth, I jumped, because this experience was so bother, or that whatever I loved and discovered was valuable. Now, writing these thoughts down, it beonly special to me. comes apparent how much healing I received doing The only thing I could do was to wait until he all this as I was coming out of the closet. Being cast made eye contact and instantly smile right at him. “I away by family and old friends for finally telling the had so much fun here growing up. I still come here truth had been so terribly bloody and exhausting. on the weekends.” I felt my smile growing larger and There were so many pieces of my life being ripped larger and added, “There is always a lot to choose away, and daily I wondered what part of me was from. We can go fishing, we can rent a paddleboat next, what else would be taken.
44 RFD 170 Summer 2017
The Gods, in their Grace, are marvelous. As so many things were being taken from me, without my consent or permission, I was in the act of passing down family traditions and blessed adventures I had shared with friends who now were in the very act of rejecting me. I would never catch crawfish again with my brothers, or their future children, or old friends or their children. It was daring against hope that I would ever have children myself. But here Michael was, jeans rolled up to his knees, trying not to fall into the creek as we slowly waded upstream, always stopping a ways before the big rocks and trying to see if a giant crayfish lay underneath its shadow, not yet spooked. Watching this quiet city boy pounce on those crayfish, sloshing through the water and slapping mosquitoes was an eternal moment. That had been me, and that had been someone else before me, all the way back to the first man and the first boy in the first creek hunting the first crayfish. Michael began to learn the inaudible language of Our Great Mother. His reactions to the unhurried creek, to the sudden rrrrerrr-BIT of the bullfrogs hidden in the cattails, to the sudden brilliant flash of the red and yellow as a redwing blackbird zipped by were tiny, measured, and perfect. The Mystery had taken him, and would guide and protect him, just like it had for me, though at that time I could not see it. I only see it remembering watching him and what Rock Cut Creek felt like. I was there somewhere in the credits, between Production Assistant and Motion Capture Artist, but The Great Mother was doing the real work, and Hermes had the scripts. He had Michael’s and he had mine, for there were many layers happening at once during the periods we spent at the crossroads in the wilderness. A couple of weeks passed after the first outing. Michael loved hunting crayfish. On the drive to Rock Cut, he would ask, “Which area are we going to? We didn’t see any big ones by the lake last week, and on Saturday they weren’t at the S bend creek.” He was learning the magic of Naming, that part of us as faeries that comes alive and stays alive, dragging us along with It as we go to and fro about the Work, looking, twirling, laughing, and righteously nodding the next time a Naming occurs. We would always find a new body of water, and most of the time the crayfish were waiting. Michael always wanted me to catch the first one. If I didn’t try, the whole afternoon would be off. I had to engage the Forces, and he had to See That. Then he would take over, as if he were born to it, going from one dark red crayfish to the next. He would pick
them up, especially the biggest ones, even when I warned him, and yell with the greatest joy every time he got pinched, hollering, “Darn it!”
few more outings passed, and then one afternoon we had more than thirty crayfish in the bucket. We stopped wading in the creek for them. I don’t know if Michael lost interest because he had caught so many, or if it was because he caught a glimpse of a turtle before it plopped off the sunny log into the dark water. I do know that Michael’s head whipped around so fast I thought it would pop off. He looked at me, exclaiming, “Was that a turtle? That was really a turtle? Did you see it? It was a turtle. I know it was a turtle. Did you ever catch a turtle, Nate?” I just grinned. He whooped and fled across the grass, closer to the spot where the turtle disappeared. I caught up with him and he asked me what kind of turtle it was. “I think it was a painted turtle, but there are other kinds here. There are snapping turtles, and other kinds.” “What other kinds?” “I don’t know exactly, but there is one that has a red line around its shell.” “What’s it called?” Michael was obviously taking his role as Lost Boy quite seriously. He gave me a look. I felt at once both on-the-spot and slightly ignorant. Michael was making it quite clear that he had risen to the task that the Wilderness that set for Us, and that I needed to keep up. “We have to get you a library card. Next Saturday, We are going to the downtown library and Checking Out Books on turtles.” He frowned, hands in his pockets. “Can we go… now?” So it has been since the old times. The youth set about to discover, to remember while the mentors pretty much do the same thing. There was so much I was in the midst of discovering as a gay man coming out, and so much I wanted to remember again through Michael’s joy, as I dealt with the religious fallout. I also wanted to discover if it was safe to tell Michael that I was gay. Four or five months had passed, and now and then he would ask me if I had a girlfriend, or wanted to get married. I always said something like “I’m too busy with two jobs and college,” or just changed the subject. He was merely cautious in his questions, as he was with every question. Speaking openly to me was still a very different experience for him, yet the volume in his voice had steadily increased over time, RFD 170 Summer 2017 45
and I no longer had to strain to hear him or ask him somehow perish. How absurd, how limiting, and to repeat himself. how damaging. This is not what was happening with Still, I was very afraid of coming out to Michael. I Michael at all, and that idea about initiation conthought I would lose my job, because in 1997 in Illifuses indigenous survival skills and protocol with a nois, there were very few laws protecting queer folk projection of monotheistic dogma and colonialist from discrimination in the work force. All of the gay superiority. schoolteachers I knew were closeted at work, and Because I was gay, I never asked Michael to prove rightly so. Some of them were up for tenure, and his masculinity or made him jump through hoops though I could find another second job, my greatest to merit my accepting of his presence standing next fear in coming out to Michael was being rejected by to me. He was completely free, at the age of twelve, him. to learn how to return to being in his body, in the This was completely irrational, but at the time, as presence of another person. He was safe. The wilI was losing the support of people I had counted on derness asked nothing false of him, and neither did my entire life, something felt different in the possiI. Because I was not related to him in any way, there bility of losing Michael. I felt (also irrationally) that I was no history of performance or familial testing he was the only person in his life truly listening to him. needed to worry about. Our mutual association was Now I realize that I was the only person holding the the wilderness. Our association was not the same gate of that unique initiation open to him, and that home, and we did not know the same people with no one else would be able the same wounds. That part to do it the way he needed is crucial. during that exact time. I was However, a year had I do not remember if I not the only person listenpassed, and I was not being adequately apologized for ing to him, I was actually honest with him, and so my part of his social work team role was incomplete. Miwaiting so long to come out and at some subtle level I chael had made great strides to him, but I do remember felt this. So this teamwork, in his attitude, physical knowing in all likelihood this being needed in a group demeanor and speech. I had he was straight, and that to fulfill a role, was also not changed as much as he something I feared losing. had. I was stifling the Mysin his development as Also, I was only twentytery and trying to control a young man, the only two. I can understand all it with the very puritanical thing I needed to do was this now, but looking back, reins I was trying to free not question or doubt his if I had been straight, or myself from. related to Michael, the gender or sexuality. Mystery would not have ometime after we had been able to do the Deep perfected the art of HavWork. Remember that this was a duo, yet separate ing Both Library and The Woods On Saturdays, I initiation. I was coming out and finding my footing came out to Michael. I remember the afternoon as if as a pagan, and Michael was being greeted and welit happened last week. Michael’s mother had moved comed into the wild lap of the Great Mother. I don’t from the west side to the east side, and he was in a say the lap of Orion or a great hunting male god on good neighborhood free from gangs. I picked him purpose. There is this whole dangerously backwards up, and we drove to check out the new middle school narrative being perpetuated by the chauvinistic, aca- he would be attending this fall. He wanted to see if demic, professional mythologists that the primary it was close enough for him to walk (he hated taking purpose initiation of the young man is so that he the bus, which was an uncontrolled bully zone.) must learn how to kill, how to dress the deer, how to The school was only a few streets away and would skin, and protect the clan. Similarly, the girls must be an easy walk. After we parked the car, I suggested learn how to weave baskets, endure childbirth, and we get out and walk into the building to check it out. memorize the healing herbs. “Can you do that?” he asked, gripping the seatbelt That version of initiation is terrified about losing as if we were going to break the law. the concept of gender based on a set of skills or acts. “Certainly. There are already teachers here getIt’s as if every generation must ensure that the next ting ready, see those cars? If we just do a quick walk knows what its gender is, or we will all forget and through, you’ll know your way around the first day
46 RFD 170 Summer 2017
and it’ll be easier.” I suggested. His whole body relaxed and after we had walked a couple of halls I said in a low voice, “I have something important to tell you and I am concerned how you will feel after I tell you. I also want you to be honest with how you feel, even if you think I won’t like it. That’s What We Do.” He nodded, too quickly, and blurted, “You’re going to quit.” “No.” I shook my head, then waited a moment and said, “I’m gay.” “Oh.” he said. Then, “OH!” and he smiled very big, pushing his little shoulders back and relaxing. He resumed his normal jaunt. I suspect this confident jaunt had come into his life via the Crayfish, but never said anything. He looked at me with his head turned sideways, without breaking stride, “You are the first gay person I know.” Later that afternoon, in the middle of a bite of hamburger and totally off the subject, he said matter-of-factly, “I think gay people are cool.” That was one of the holiest things I’ve ever heard, and I thank All The Forces every time I remember him saying that. Our conversations after that went to the final layer that Hermes had constructed. It had taken the wilderness, turtles, wild rabbits, and library books to get us to remember the secret unspoken oath we had taken at the beginning of this journey. It was just understood that we needed to respect each other, to listen and not scoff, to ask and not demand, to tell the truth in the face of possible rejection.
do not remember if I adequately apologized for waiting so long to come out to him, but I do remember knowing in all likelihood he was straight, and that in his development as a young man, the only thing I needed to do was not question or doubt his gender or sexuality. These matters are deeply personal and private, especially to an adolescent, and trying to pull them out or apart for the sake of curiosity is dangerous, foolish, and arrogant. Michael, as a young man, needed to explore those subjects without scrutiny or pressure, and I needed to do the same. We shared the same gender but different sexuality. We didn’t discuss matters of sexuality, and even if we had been the same age and friends instead of in a social work setting, I don’t think it would have come up. There is nothing wrong with openness, but a giant part of both of us really needed to just be a guy and not have to prove anything. The wilderness provided the perfect place for us to just be guys, to learn how to fish, canoe, hike,
track animals, and so on, without a competition that stifles instead of encouraging. Two decades have now passed and queer people are coming out of the closet now more often at an early age. We all know we are queer at an early age, but this sacred process of coming out is not exclusive to queer people. By being a man who did not teach Michael through a verbal series of questions laced with doubts as to his masculinity, I performed the role of a healthy gay male mentor. He never heard me say, “Buck up, stop crying (which was the state he was in sometimes when I picked him up) or ‘Crying is for girls,’ or ‘Don’t be a sissy, put that worm on the hook by yourself,’ or ‘Don’t be afraid of getting in the canoe. Be a man.” There is a very sacred and irreplaceable Mystery when queer mentors work with straight youth. I encourage any queer person, who feels a call from Spirit and wants to mentor youth, to do so. Just being who you are at that time in their life will do more than we can fully understand. It also lets us, the mentors who had to learn that dreadful and unwanted art of being-alive-and-not-authentically-living learn how to reconnect with our old soul parts of that age and begin to ask the necessary questions, in our own spiritual path, of how to repair that damage. Initially it may not seem significant watching a youth be outrageously happy as they catch tadpoles or learn how to work a jig to catch a bass, but there is at his incredibly appropriate pride at knowing this youth will learn through direct experience that queer folk are not monsters waiting to cannibalize/destroy/ abuse/mutate them. We all, as faeries, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans, questioning and every color in between carry the scars of that negative projection. Queer people, because of their unique energetic resonance, do quantum amounts of healing just by being present and not closing, threatening, or damning the energies of gender and sexuality of those in their life’s sphere. If anything, we celebrate our unexplainable differences, and sometimes do so with great pomp and splendor. This is appropriate for adults. As time changes, our wilderness-divorced culture may allow for this honoring to spread to younger generations. The beautiful thing about being a gay mentor is that we all remember our youth and the biological bewilderment that it was. We can witness without ignoring, we can listen without judgement, and we can speak without shame. That is our homework, but ironically, as Hermes is teaching me, it is also the best technique for mentoring youth. ❂ RFD 170 Summer 2017 47
Fence Walker by Devin Mohr
y sometimes snappy surface reaction to young people is something like, “Yeah, they’re ok if they’re properly cooked.” I often hear their conversations and observe their insular worlds and think of it all as a dithering while Rome burns. But that’s just me being a cranky middle-aged man. Truth be told I was lost and selfish and myopic in my own formative years. I was a very effeminate young man. Not an easy row to hoe growing up in rural Texas. I emerged into my young adulthood with some hefty baggage from an extremely abusive childhood. As I see it, there is a dynamic experience imbued in those who cannot hide their essence or assimilate - in a believable way - into straight culture. I might as well have been walking around with my head on fire. Add to that the elements that make a wounded person clearly marked and you have a recipe for being easily targeted. So after many traumatic episodes and with much effort I learned to camouflage my look and twist my voice into something that might be passable as a normal man. Of course after so many years of this endeavor I can see that somewhere along the way I have lost my authenticity, if I ever had it. Also, I am somewhere on the spectrum between Autism and Aspergers. So now at 49 years old I am quite functional and can maneuver social situations well enough, but definitely not with grace. I am an artist now. The bulk of my work is portrait photography. Although I think it would be a better description to say that I am an artist that uses a camera. My shots are never people in regular life scenarios, they always have an aspect of fantasy if not total fantasy. But I am still very compelled to reveal truth. It is not surprising that my favorite kind of muse is the fence-walker. The ones who have both sexes strongly present. I relate to these people. My friends daughter is one such individual. I lived with this weird family for three tumultuous months in Jessheim, Norway. This young girl, who quietly told her mom once that she likes girls, has had many challenging episodes already in her young life. Her older brother died and her fathers neglect and abuse is a shocking tale of cruelty. Her mother is her saving grace and she showers her with support and af48 RFD 170 Summer 2017
fection. Still there is something in her countenance that reveals a deep sadness. This mixture of hardships is channeled into her art and poetry and many times I am stunned by her artistic prowess. Her dark visions are shocking sometimes. She has an obsession with taxidermy and many of her drawings have a ghoulish quality. I’m not sure if young people are receptive to my self-appointed mentorship but I find myself doing it anyway. I think that sometimes I am a little too brash expressing what I think is just an honest opinion and I always wish afterward that I had been softer. I think unconsciously I have an energetic barrier that keeps people at a slight distance. Which is the opposite of my true desire to connect in a meaningful way. Another young gay friend asked me to review a novel he had just completed. I’m not sure if I expressed, in a balanced way, the good aspects as well as my criticisms. He is another young person with this same quality of being a fence walker. He is bisexual but his girlfriend tells me he leans a bit more towards being gay. He has both elements of male and female and what I find interesting is that they are both very visible. His body is tall and strong while his skin is pale and porcelain. His face is like a cherub surrounded by long locks of curly golden brown hair. His girlfriend and I had started a series called ‘The Queer Muse’ where I create the original image and she paints, in her masterful way, a large painting of my photograph. He was to be the subject in this portrait and I had him sit in a loving pose with a skeleton in an homage to all gay friends and lovers lost. In a very shocking coincidence, the Orlando massacre happened the following day. This world is especially brutal for the fence walkers. It is easy to become disillusioned and depressed. The feeling of ‘not belonging’ is hard to bear. And we are not well adjusted to this world. But like the writer Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” So, in many ways, as an outcome of our hardships, a kind of stress inoculated resilience is created. It may not make for a comfortable and easy life, but it produces wonderful art. ❂
“Complexity” by Devin Mohr. See page 54 for another image by Devin.
RFD 170 Summer 2017 49
Don’t Go Back to Sleep: An Interview with Franklin Abbott Interviewed by Bambi
ranklin Abbott, a long time contributor to RFD, has produced a CD collection of songs and a CD of his poetry. The collection is called Don’t Go Back to Sleep: New Songs and Selected Poems. We’re thrilled to interview Franklin on his own work for a change as he’s often selflessly the one asking others about their work. Readers can order his CD by visiting store.cdbaby.com/Artist/FranklinAbbott. Also from iTunes, Spotify, Amazon. For more on the CD including notes and lyrics: www.tenminutemuse.wordpress. com to listen to a sample of songs and poems: soundcloud.com/user-732711277 You have a number of poetry books under your belt, including one published with RFD Press in 1999 called Mortal Love and your most recent book of poetry, Pink Zinnias came out in 2009. What inspired you to take up making music from your own poetry as well as that of other poets? I have always enjoyed singing and have presented concerts singing songs by other composers I admire— Antonio Carlos Jobim, Billy Strayhorn, Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim. A few years ago I worked with Bob Strain, Janet Metzger and Sam Hagan to sing Ludar’s songs composted with lyrics by James Broughton for the Broughton Centennial celebration in Atlanta. My voice teacher Janet suggested it was time to learn some new material. A dear friend, Russ Brooker, had just died suddenly six months after he retired. I was 64 at the time and decided if I was ever going to record my own songs it was time. I had carried the Rumi songs, the Blake song and most of the others in my head for decades. I approached a friend who is a fine jazz pianist, Jez Graham, and we worked on the songs for a year and 50 RFD 170 Summer 2017
a half. During that time I wrote a couple of other songs including the Shakespeare song and “Everything Is Connected” with words by James Broughton. I hear music in some poetry and I am drawn to it. This is a double album and one CD is of songs I wrote and the other is of poems from bothPink Zinnia and my first book published by RFD Press, Mortal Love. Working as a poet is often seen as a reflective, solitary experience so what was it like to collaborate with others on this project to take words on a page and transform them into song. I came to the project with the melodies but wanted to do a jazz recording. Jazz is a conversation between the instruments. My voice was one of the instruments. One challenge was to render new melodies and then improvise on them. My musicians were phenomenal. Jez on piano, Vlamir Abbud on bass, Emrah Kotan on percussion and Ken Gregory (who also mixed and mastered the cd at his studio, 800 East) on trombone, guitar and trumpet. They admire each other and enjoy playing together. I also chose them because they are really wonderful human beings. So we had lots of fun. Recording is expensive and all of the songs are first, second or third takes except the Shakespeare song which was recorded live at our concert in December. Here is a link to that performance: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=mpsegf5eLKI&list=PLpc0_SobBtGMrZBaEec__I2u8vcsy5zju You made a number of interesting choices in selecting the work of other poets to put to song. What
guided you in your selections? Serendipity guided me. I found myself at a song writing workshop thirty years ago and I had the first slender volume of Coleman Barks’ translations of Rumi and a small Brazilian hand drum. I used those two things to create the five Rumi songs that are the heart of the album. “Long Tongue” is the title poem of a book I bought on a trip to Ireland thirty years ago. The poet Ann LeMarquand Hartigan gave me permission to use it. The Shakespeare poem “Sonnet 36” was assigned to me to read in a celebration of the bard’s 400th year death anniversary. It was a tongue twister and as I practiced it I found I could do it much more easily if I sang it and the melody just came from that experiment. The Broughton song “Everything Is Connected” was written a couple of years ago when I was in Ghana. I was staying with my friend Nuumo Gbelenfo III, high priest of the Ga tribe, in a big house he had just built but not furnished. There was a two story open atrium tiled in marble which made a wonderful echo chamber. I had a little book of Broughton poems called “Twirl.” I wanted to find a poem that Ludar had not used in his recording and “Everything Is Connected,” a birthday tribute that James wrote to his friend Imogen Cunningham for her 90th birthday popped out. One of your choices was James Broughton’s Everything is Connected. What drew you to that poem? How was Broughton an influence for your own poetry? The poem is about the circle of life and the songs on the CD are also about the circle of life. When I performed the songs in December I both opened and closed with that song. James was a California faerie mystic and his observations on life and love often resonated with me. I was lucky to know him quite well. He and his partner Joel Singer traveled to Atlanta several times and I visited them in both San Francisco and Pt. Townsend. James taught me more about being a poet than writing poetry. He was a unique poet impossible to imitate. He was also an open, loving presence who delighted in camaraderie and revelry. His nickname, Big Joy, describes his perfectly. Stephen Silha’s wonderful film on James is titled Big Joy and spells out James amazing adventures in film and poetry. You also selected a number of Rumi poems for this CD. Why do you think Rumi is such a universal
voice given he lived in the 13th century? How does his poetic vision of simplicity and living in the senses inspire you personally? Rumi’s poems and his story are compelling. He finds the divine through the beloved. For him the beloved manifested in three spiritual friends. He lived at a time when same sex friendship was the most intimate form of relationship. I have only learned details recently from Brad Gooch’s excellent biography, Rumi’s Secret. Highly recommended. Coleman Barks, the best known translator of Rumi, is a lyric poet himself. He writes in the tradition of Whitman and he brought that to his Rumi translations. Rumi’s poetry, accessible through Coleman’s fine renderings in English, is penetrating. It goes into the atoms of things, into the chambers of the heart and the spaces between life and death. We yearn for such knowing but it is rarely articulated so profoundly or so beautifully. This issue of RFD is dedicated to how queers help young people as an honor to Charlie Murphy, singersongwriter and activist. Do you have a favorite Charlie Murphy song? I knew Charlie in the late ‘70’s when the faerie gatherings at Running Water Farm on Roan Mountain in North Carolina were happening and also through the Men and Masculinity conferences of the 80’s. Charlie was one of the first and few openly gay men to perform as a singer songwriter. He was very courageous and very creative. His song “Gay Spirit” was an anthem of the movement. My favorite was his “Goddess Chant” which we sang over and over at faerie gatherings at Running Water and Short Mountain. It still rings in my head, “Isis, Astarte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali, Inanna.” You have worked in a number of ways to foster poetry and literature, have you had the opportunity to mentor a younger person with their own work? About a decade ago I co-founded the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival. Part of our mission was to give LGBTQ writers a platform to present their work. Many of these writers were young people performing in front of an audience for the first time. Many were also elders who hadn’t experienced public appreciation in a long time if ever. AQLF continues and we continue to reach out to younger writers. I had a similar experience when I was poetry editor for RFD decades ago. I was delighted RFD 170 Summer 2017 51
to be able to publish the first poems of many of our contributing poets. I work to make sure I have room for younger people in my life and the mentoring goes both ways. My young friend Paul Nguyen mentored me through all the technical processes involved in getting the CD produced and my young friend Kilian Fisch was my videographer. Mentoring can be a two way street between world wise elders and tech savvy millennials. In closing, what’s next for you after releasing this CD? Will you be performing live? I do hope to perform again with the musicians I recorded with here in Atlanta. I am open to invitations to perform in other places and harbor a secret ambition to perform in the part of the world that Rumi came from. I am not a wandering troubadour and performing music is like running a marathon for me. I have to train and practice to be ready to perform especially with top tier jazz musicians who make music for a living. It is a joy for me to bring jazz and poetry together and perhaps I have discovered one of my callings for this third chapter in life. Poetry and music are part of all cultures and communicate across cultures. Poetry is incantation and jazz is communion. I hope in exploring where these two rivers come together to find something that is both profoundly human and also transcendent. Art and music are how we humans evolve. ❂
52 RFD 170 Summer 2017
Above: Calligraphy by Cal Gough. Below: Vlamir Abbud, Jez Graham, Emrah Kotan, Franklin Abbott center with sunglasses Ken Gregory, photo courtesy author.
The Mirror of Youth
You crow so loudly, lately So bold So proud So you. I should revel in your youth Your joy But, no. It’s just not true. I see the other side of this. I see myself in you. The lessons hence Are cruel They’re harsh I know, I’ve been there, Done it, too. Were I to say a word, You’d say “You’re jealous” “Wrong” “And bitter.” You’re blind to it There is no light And so I wait as it plays through. You’ll come to me Eventually You’ll weep You’ll cry And mourn. I’ll recognize The lesson won But never, ever claim I knew. I’ll take your hand And empathize Listen Soothe And let you see That in this youth In these rough days You build a deeper, better you. —e.c. patrick
RFD 170 Summer 2017 53
54 RFD 170 Summer 2017
“Alex” by Devin Mohr.
Priapus’ Lament That I were Eros, not fluttering in the heavens raining ruin on the fragile hearts of Gods, it’s above your prized cock with my soft breath I would be training. I long for love as any creature, but love’s blindness might explain modesty as pride, obscuring our desire. Oh, Eros can keep his immortal fire, I could not endure it. But I have eyed Eros’ touch and his arrows I covet, they would be divine to spring on you. (after Rousseau’s Wish) —Flaming Salamander
RFD 170 Summer 2017 55
What was siphoned off the sun could just as easily be this tree and each branch carried out struggling with moss and faraway –who can tell it’s not this tree’s last chance to sort the light as if going somewhere was still possible that love too is possible –all this wood even in winter arriving to gather you up as leaves, shining, smelling from dew already beginning to blossom, impatient for arms and shoulders and the fire. * It was a birthday gift, sent alone the day before your heart leaves for a place that’s safer –a book on travel, what to listen for, by yourself in walls that let you look back while your shadow is taken away –it’s too soon! the ribbon is still splendid will spend the night the way a sailor learns to tie huge sails between each arm stretch out, not yet rope, clinging to a sea from a boat that’s lost, is closing while you embrace the dark gray pages. * Even the night was made from wood has sheets, a gown, the kind brides wear only once though you pace in front the bed the way mathematicians mull over chalk scraping it against something black that could be pulling the room apart with the faint sound from dust coming by for what’s left and the corners –vaguely you can hear her lips breathing into yours setting on fire the stars that would sweeten your mouth with the never ending hum emptied from wells and springs for smoke, no longer knows how to talk how to glow when side by side as planks and weeds and this pillow.
56 RFD 170 Summer 2017
* You become a shell, this time hardened by so many times though the dress is empty –your arm around the Earth lets nothing brush against the sleeves except the soft dirt that remembers clearing out a place for snow to be scattered the way you dead give way to the great weight pressing against your wish that everything be as it was and you no longer broken apart by those stones you let pass through your fingers –it’s all uphill and grass is everywhere struggling to bring you to the surface with nothing in your heart :a buoy taking the lead as it used to beginning to fill with air and marble. * And though this door is locked it leans into the evenings that hollowed out the place for its marble and grass where you still hide, afraid make the dead go first –they already know what to do when the corners are no longer enough and with your finger become the sudden breeze filled with moonlight and distances opening the sea holding it over the fires –pilings are useless here, these great walls cringe from the cries rain gives off where a morning used to be and you are following it alone as if there was a light in the window waiting for you to come by. —Simon Perchik
Images by Stephen Mead.
RFD 170 Summer 2017 57
A Resurrected Adam (Part 3) by Adam
his past August, while visiting my mother and step-father along the Lake Michigan shore, bounded by the funeral pyres and sublime celebrations of Varanasi and anticipating a shock of a ground-breaking round in New York City, I learned that Bryan Higgins—a force of an aura from a yearned-for, bygone era—had been brutally beaten, then taken off life support. There was no sensemaking of the taking of his luminously lived life. Bryan, who I used to call “Kalamazoo’s It Kid,” with his fluid movements and airy manner—who had fiery fits that interrupted his all-embracing, down-to-earth approach to every One and every Thing. Cool as could be, he would warmly breeze through a room and shake things up—this shambolic wonder who would, after his K-zoo exodus, accept the Radical Faeries of San Francisco as his tribe—they who encompassed his affinity for the revolutionary. And a self-conferring “Feather Lynn” would—all joking within and aside—jive in gender pronouns in (un)reliably bipolar Facebook posts, year after year, of Timelined lifetimes—poking fun at the patriarchy in deconstructing its binaries in playful, broken prose—amusedly collapsing the dichotomous in crippling depressiveness and co-opting the so-called this and/with the self-called that in manic musings. “Her” and “Him” at whim, she burned as brightly as I remember him in her frustrated effusiveness in prior times. Rapaciously, desperately desirous—more random in her actions the more in tandem they were with his causes. Absorbing a given minute as a God-blessed bidding to others with an appetite that appealed to a continuance of connectedness. Feather—who I first met, and only ever knew, as Bryan—at the Zoo Bar that jubilant July of a zealously pursued 2001… both barely legal, dancing imitation twinks, his ears pricked in melodiously precocious recognition, with our God-awful under-21 wristbands on… then, at Brother’s Beta Club, crooning karaoke-style, craned necks to cruise and serenade and wink at applauding patrons with stamps on our hands, spirits committed with wry smiles on our lips, hip at untamed 18 to unlawfully-snuck sips in the men’s room. Off and
58 RFD 170 Summer 2017
on, as it goes… …To those years—22-24—of smoking weed, as a CD of Sufjan Stevens’ Michigan spun, and we were somewhat seedy in a sort of torrid torpor, his humble beginnings laid low as we lied over the sheets on his bunk, unlikely hunks of humanly shared Beingness, side by side, lit up to push into the night, shirts pulled, blazing bong and grazing organically in his bedroom in his mother’s basement… maturing as men—as though truly unsung Sons of God—slowly, in piercing spite of it. He would poke my slender side, mistrustful of my thrusted sincerity. Bryan Higgins. Ever-alluring, forever-liberated in the heated middle of a moment he needed—me, then, pomp-filled and past-opposing, existing in an occasion’s commencement and conclusion. His prettiness and his presence, his ease in the fleeting incited joy in me one instant and inflamed pettiness and jealousy the next—fascinated as I was in my frustration, with an irregular chemistry I cannot quite comprehend in the same ways I flounder in recognizing myself. We were compelling—carried in a numbed panic, puffing to parry our potential. So I grabbed his fibrous thigh, doubtful of his desire. One twinkling in this hallowed space of inner tremors, sprinkled time fagged like glittery stars on my mattress pad in my apartment, veil torn, bodysnatched, behind locked doors, fully clothed and above the covers, taking turns toking—choking on smoke to take in THC—we talked about our overall estrangement and around a trifecta of absently disenchanted fathers. Sufjan’s and James Allen’s son’s absolutely in Alanson, Bryan’s resolutely some elusive elsewhere closer to an alleged home. Man, in our fallowed waste, I would awkwardly touch his cockscomb of hair and he would help himself to an unfastened dong-drop—flopped! in mid-air—to show off his leafless, hairy hung-ness before groping my behind, shaped afore gawkily girlish giggling ensued so as not to consume what might mean something and to neglect reflecting
on a presiding paternal rejection that we kept from passing ourselves into an openness to all the unprecedented acceptance we inspired in our eclectic community. Tortured momma’s boys with tormented mothers and nurtured daddy complexes, hounding our own distant, cock-blocked foxes—silver and contrarily, we wore the feminine as we emasculatedly bore our respective crosses—boyishly dragging out a minute as he flitted through me and we lackadaisically flirted in our drawn-out, drugged-up foolish hardiness. This gentle man and I merrily, verily lost our genuine selves to lose our genius minds—more present to the moment we were in in our absence of motive—only to fumblingly connect to invaded cores while stumbling upon a bumbling Bryan and an adamant Adam in the innermostness of instances, past and pervading.
Now, with heavy lids, the living who love him wear the weightiness of mortality. But in re-acts that awaken consciousness from short-sightedness discouraged by reactions which unearth—I get back to that sparkle in the plumage and feel the featherweightedness of immortally cosmic kinship. How the passed on live on so we won’t pass over an under-lived life! Yes—Feather, thus embedded in my mind, imprinted on this spirit, is Bryan freely embodied in Life as it’s fully lived in vigilant, joyous attentiveness!
Digging our growing up as underdogs, we unknowingly belied our gayness as designating us within society’s underbelly. On this wavelength, a someday-Feather would take me under her wingwidth and father me as he did folks from all walks of life as we talked up what required fixing and discussed what called for finding.
Every now and then, amid slumber and this lumbering wakefulness, I trace his transience and hold electrifyingly healing hands so holy they send currents from my hole to the crown chakra (“Chi! He! Me!”—write that down too!)—smallheadedness obliterated in this full-bodied, heeded soul-wholeness!
Strung out as we’d string out with disappointed tails and swelling mid-sections—hung up in a swelteringly resigned hostility as the one to the other hung around this slight city we were designed to flee. HAHA! “Write that one down! You nailed it, girl! That’s pure fucking poetry!” Grounded, stoned in our sky-highness, we’d roll away into a toking and joking and riding the night into days of hazily, lazily journeyed-to nothingness.
Higgins met Death like Daisy did—harbored among the arborous, then whisked away the way of a byway—headlong and heartstrong. Unceremonious as unsuspecting as animal inclination to automobile and animated confrontation to fists and kicks, the dignity of the enthusiastically authentic lives that foreshadowed such a hasty admittance into AllThatIsness ensures that these figureheads remain in the foreground.
We were everything to one another in our touch and go, go—gone-ness.
In my most alive moments, their absence is a painfully present reminder of those very minutes’ brevity and a call to bravely, painstakingly strive toward an animist transmittance of their essence through a humble, humanistic acceptance of who we are in accordance with one another as a lingering mental retention of fur between fingers and a featherlight feeling up points my attention to the Almighty Now. ❂
We were dirty-stuff-to-star-dust, eternally a shooting of time and space as we, spaced out, shed our timed selves—sniffing each other out, mounting an existential axis, sneezing and sniffling, slapping asses that smacked—half-way—of a flash!—nosing the cracks and holes of the whole, wholly devoted to furry, fuzzy flashbacks. “Dammit!” Blast it! Volatile, short-lived Feather, who came to be in a time evidently not his own in a world she could only float by in. Vague, uncontained, an agile
wounded-soul-of-a-willing-spirit—she came to juxtapose a posing me—and this beautiful smattering of beings was beginning to believe she boundlessly belonged when the buffer was battered off and s/he burst into All That Is!
The first parts of this blog can be found at simplyadam.com/blog/a-resurrected-adam-part-one/
RFD 170 Summer 2017 59
Remembering Stuart Timmons by Eugene Salandra / Peacockfaerie
The unfolding and flowering of my Radical Faerie nature began around 1990 in New York City. That same year, my dear friend and NYU mentor, John Canemaker, recommended a new book entitled The Trouble with Harry Hay by his friend Stuart Timmons. I devoured the book, along with Gay Spirit (Mark Thompson, 1987), The God of Ecstasy (Arthur Evans, 1988), and Another Mother Tongue (Judy Grahn, 1984). These books expanded my inner vision, and propelled my soul journey forward in wonderful and unforeseen ways. Imagine my delight, barely six years later, to be sitting beside Stuart in a Radical Faerie heart circle at the Silverlake home of Craig Collins in Los Angeles. We took an immediate liking to each other, and Stuart in his charming, impish way embraced me, and offered to show me the wonders of Hollywoodland. We became fast friends. It was through Stuart that I came to know Harry Hay and his beloved John Burnside more intimately. Although I had met and walked with Harry at the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation in 1993, it was during many visits with Stuart at their home in West Hollywood, and later in San Francisco, that I was able to spend time in the presence of Harry and John, and listen to their stories. These were the stories of my people. Stuart was himself a masterful storyteller, and continued his work illuminating the stories of the LGBT community in his ground-breaking 2006 book Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians, co-authored with Lillian Faderman. Stuart was born in Minnesota, and raised in northern California, but his home was Los Angeles. He loved the city and its lore, and he was committed to telling the stories of Los Angeles, particularly regarding the roots of the LGBT movement. Stuart continued this important and unique work in three LGBT walking tours, one of Down60 RFD 170 Summer 2017
town Los Angeles, one of Silverlake (where the famed Mattachine Society was born), and one of West Hollywood. The latter tour was later fully produced by local faerie Jason Jenn, with funding from the City of West Hollywood. Stuart’s passion for politics and social justice moved him to do other community work, as well— most notably with the Center for the Study of Political Graphics and the ONE Archives Foundation. He was a community advocate, an environmental champion, and a deeply committed lover of our Mother Earth. His righteous anger on behalf of others could be intense, but I rarely heard him complain on his own behalf. During a brief monastic sojourn in 2008, I came to find out that Stuart had suffered a debilitating stroke. When I returned to Los Angeles in 2010, I was blessed to spend a good deal of time visiting with Stuart. His body was diminished poststroke, but his mind and humor were sharp as ever. It was frustrating for him, because he was relatively young, and had great mental acuity, but he was confined to a wheelchair and living in care facilities among much older and sicker people to whom he could not easily relate. The faerie community, friends, and family rallied around Stuart during his final years. He was fully involved in the staging of the West Hollywood tour, and he knew how much we all loved him. As we prepared last weekend for the third annual Stuart Timmons LGBT Mobile Tour of West Hollywood, the first without his physical presence among us, I could not help feeling deeply moved. Stuart’s absence and presence were simultaneously palpable, as our bodies and voices kept his work and words alive. Thank you, Dearest Stuart, for the gift of your friendship for over two decades. I love you. I miss you. I know you are with us in spirit. Merry meet, and merry part, and merry meet again. ❂ Stuart and Eugene/ Photo courtesy author.
Photos courtesy author.
RFD 170 Summer 2017 61
62 RFD 170 Summer 2017
Walt Cessna by Brett Lindell
CREATE a global community
an international an International gathering Gathering of of
faeries Radical Faeries, and Friends and friends Allies
With a Global Symposium on Queer Culture Around the World August 8 through August 17, 2017 | Featherstone Castle | Northumberland, England www.albionfearies.org.uk/global-gathering-2017
RFD 170 Summer 2017 63
Advertise in RFD It really helps keep this magazine in production! We offer affordable rates and a growing subscriber base. If you have questions about advertising, please contact Bambi at email@example.com or visit our website at www.rfdmag.org/advertise.php.
64 RFD 170 Summer 2017
Back Issue Sale!
20% off for Five or More
Issue 172 / Winter 2017
KEEPING THE CENTER Submission Deadline: October 21, 2017 www.rfdmag.org/upload
“Nearly all creators of Utopia have resembled the man who has toothache, and therefore thinks that happiness consists in not having toothache.” —George Orwell, Can Socialists Be Happy
We’re asking our readers to reflect on how we delve forward being inclusive—but inclusive without being dogmatic about how we do that. Getting at the purpose of self-direction and autonomy with an open society, how do we meet the concerns of those who feel marginalized while also being able to speak to the needs of the larger community, agency and purpose? How do we speak from our own core values when
those values do not seem to agree with the current models of intersectionality, safe space, and inclusivity? If the goal is community that allows for difference, then how do we challenge emerging orthodoxies, challenging ourselves and others when need be, but also being aware that being uncomfortable is different than harm, and that fear is not the same as violence?
RFD Vol 43 No 4 #170 $11.95
a reader created gay quarterly celebrating queer diversity