In case anyone didn't read last month's letter, October is lesbian and gay history month. I think it's important to look at the road we have traveled to get where we are today. It helps you to realize that we have made amazing progress in some areas and some are still a problem.
Personally, I've been having gay history year, as I've been obsessed with Oscar Wilde. I still have about six more books that I've purchased about him and haven't read. I find Wilde fascinating, because he was unapologetic about having same-sex relations in the 1890s, and he was also a literary genius. The scary part is how little the argument has changed in a hundred years, and how many of things Oscar said are still true today.
Another recent book purchase was "We Must Love One Another or Die, the life and legacies of Larry Kramer." Kramer is the reason I have nothing to celebrate on National Coming Day on October 11, when the rest of the world is supposed to be more open about their sexuality or even come out to someone in their lives. When I was first coming out 7ish years ago, I started reading columns by Kramer and Michelangelo Signorile and their words touched often on the importance of coming out. So I did. To everyone. No one left. This past year, a newspaper column in my hometown in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. wrote about the fact that I, representing Oasis, was an ACLU plaintiff. The first line in the piece was "Jeff Walsh is a queer." So, whomever didn't know back home now does...
Kramer is someone else I think is an important leader for the gay community. He's been attacked forever, as being sex-negative, just because he thinks gay men need not sleep with everyone. His book, Faggots, was written in the 70s, and (aside from not referencing the AIDS crisis) hasn't aged poorly at all. Kramer is always painted as the angry gay prophet of doom, but there are important messages in what he says. I also know there's a lovable little teddy bear under all of that rage. He lets it out in his plays, which are also brilliant.
The GLAAD Website, and the PBS site (link in the News section), are both running areas for history month, so check them out. While it is easy to just get lost in your own life and dramas, it's important to pull back and see how much the world has changed since the Mattachine Society and Daughters of Bilitis first organized in the 1950s. And how the drag queens, who many teens vilify as exactly what they don't want people to think about when they tell people they're gay, are the people who fought the Stonewall riots over a quarter century ago that paved the way for the freedoms we now take for granted.
I also think the trans movement, which is making amazing headway now, is in the middle of a historic time of change. A lot of PBS stations will run special programming for history month, and A&E is looking at the trans movement (details in the news section). Watch some of these shows. Watch Out of the Past on PBS, which fuses Kelli Peterson's recent struggle against her Salt Lake City high school with images of gay history. And while the movie serves as a triumphant tale, pay attention to the beautiful happy boy in some of the GSA shots. Jacob Orozcko (I hope I spelled his name correctly) killed himself after the film was made. He was the head of the GSA after Peterson graduated. So, we still have work to do...
Take this month as a chance to pull back from wondering if that guy that's giving you mixed signals is gay, whether your mother will clue in that the girl you're e-mailing is the girl you love, and put your problems in a bigger perspective. Focus on what unites us as gay people, rather then the petty differences that we're more apt to focus on regularly.
And, cliché as it is, take this month to realize that you are not alone. That you are not sick. And that your life can be as rich and fulfilling as you ever thought it could be.
PS: Work has me bouncing around lately, so if you're in NYC, Chicago or DC and want to meet, drop me a line.