A phenomenological exploration of what happens to me when I see a Bad Drag Show.

…in which I lay bare my internalized homophobia and other stuff I’m not allowed to talk about.

I didn't want to offend any actual drag queens, good or bad. So, I figured no one likes Rudy Guiliani.

I didn’t want to offend any actual drag queens, good or bad. So, I figured no one likes Rudy Guiliani.

I had the honor of seeing a Bad Drag Show the other night. Before I begin, I want to say that it was for a worthy cause and I applaud this. I also enjoyed the company of the person with whom I attended the show. Heck, I even tipped the performers. That said, I most definitely did not enjoy the show itself.

Also, I am not calling all drag “bad.” This is not that.

My knowledge of phenomenology has been entirely gleaned from an article I used to assign to my students in a class I taught called The Mechanics of American Retro. The article was entitled “The Dislocation of Time: A Phenomenology of Television Reruns.” All I really remember about it was the notion that even the most serious television drama devolves over time into “an intense comedy of obsolescence” where the viewer just mocks funny lapel widths.

But basically phenomenology is looking at how a something affects the subject, who in this case is me. Therefore, I’ll be looking at what goes through my body and mind when I see what I consider a Bad Drag Show. I will not be analyzing any specific show; instead I will be constructing a generic show for the purposes of this exercise. However, it should be noted that all Bad Drag Shows are pretty much the same.

I will be the first to admit that a drag show needs to clear a pretty high bar with me before I will consider it something more than really bad. Don’t get me wrong, I have seen some amazing drag (and gender-fuck, etc.), but I feel those folks were entertainers first and foremost. For example, I am sad I will not be in Provahncetown to see the legendary Dina Martina this week.

Here goes:

  • When I enter the venue and I realize that there will be a drag show, my shoulders slump, I sigh, and I feel a tightness behind my sternum. When I am not expecting a drag show and then realize there will be a drag show from which I cannot escape for whatever socially-mandated reason, I feel trapped. I begin to do breathing exercises. I continue to focus on my breath throughout the evening.
  • When I see the tackily hung rainbow PartyCity detritus, I ask myself, “We’re in a gay bar, is anyone really gonna forget that they’re gay? Do they think I’m stupid?” I try to remember all those other things that remind me I’m gay, like the dude-lust, the coming-out struggle, and furniture with the clean modernist lines.
  • I cringe when the mistress of ceremonies grabs the microphone and shouts into it in a voice that naturally does not require amplification. The tightness behind increases due to the physics of the soundwaves upon my person.
  • Minor anger wells up behind my left eye when she welcomes the crowd by calling them “BITCHES!” I wonder where all this hostility is coming from.

Continue reading

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Pride Thought 2015: Your Brick and Mortar Pride

Photo by Stonewall Columbus

Photo by Stonewall Columbus

The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.

–Justice Clarence Thomas (Yeah, I just quoted the second biggest judicial prick on the planet, and I realize that the above was surrounded by thought turds of the highest order. Please bear with me.)

STONEWALL NYC

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Copyright: ME

Yesterday as soon as the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges came down, my Facebook feed exploded into rainbows. Friends –the gay ones, the straight ones, and the ones whose whatever they do is none of my business –were busy expressing their approval. Rainbow filters got a work out, from profile pics to some idiot who decided the American Gladiators needed gayulating. As ton of my FB friends are gay guys who live in NYC, by far the most common setting for pictures was the street and park in front of the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in the West Village.

But for all the pictures with the bar’s facade in the background, not a single one was taken on the inside.

Zero.

Earlier this week the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission declared the building that houses the Stonewall Inn an OFFICIAL LANDMARK™. Apparently, this is the first building to be designated as such for its role in the struggle for LGBT rights, even though I’m told Fraunces Tavern regularly featured men in wigs and made a killer appletini back in day. If you are reading this, and you are not aware of the significance of the Stonewall Inn, stop right now and look it up.

It is incredibly heartening that Stonewall Inn is being recognized for its importance. Civil rights never move forward in a slow, steady fashion. There are flashpoints, and these physical flashpoints need to be preserved. Tearing down the Stonewall building and putting up condos called The Lofts at Stonewall would, for me, be the equivalent of tearing down the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma and putting up Marty K’s Alabama River ZipLine Adventure in its place.

People need a physical place to rally and remember.

But don’t believe anyone who tells you that the bar called “Stonewall Inn” that has nested inside the building that held the bar involved with the Stonewall uprising has anything to do with pride. It may be a big part of PRIDE, but there is little pride inside. I do not hesitate to say that it is probably the shittiest gay bar in NYC. It’s cramped inside. Continue reading

Photo 101, Day Ten: Mystery & Lighting Effects

Last night I attended my first Pride event in Columbus. Last time I lived in Columbus, I was a frightened high school kid who couldn’t even possibly imagine that someday he would be walking around being gay, gay, gay without threat of being shoved in locker.

I happened to attend the Pride Festival in Goodale Park at Magic Hour. Unfortunately I didn’t have my new Sony A5000 because I thought I’d be going to the bar afterwards. So, all of these pics are taken with my iPhone 6 (a little to a lot of tweaking afterwards on some)…

March

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…in which the author attempts to figure out where he fits on the spectrum, er, rainbow.

New York City

I insist that I had an awful Pride Parade that year. Sure, we were all supposed to be happy about the Supreme Court striking down DOMA. But the ruling came down in the middle of the week. That Wednesday afternoon, I had a Stoli Oranj and soda at Stonewall on Christopher Street and then a burger and another Stoli at Julius, a gay bar even older than Stonewall. Got my gay history on. But by the time the Parade rolled around on Sunday, it seemed all the DOMA decision meant was that “couples” –the kind that always have to remind you that they’re a “couple” –could make out with a leaning impunity, slurring things like “Our love is legal.” Because before Wednesday, the feelings you felt for this person were subject to a $50 fine and a summons. I, in turn, made plans to die alone in a bizarre DVR mishap.

Not everything was bad. I did get to boo at that mayoral candidate I disliked as she rode by looking like Cleopatra on her way to open a PathMark in Luxor. And I got to boo at that other mayoral candidate for his inability to take a decent junk shot. But after a while, it just felt like I was being pandered to by politicians and corporate outreach programs.

And the centerpiece of the Chipotle float was a skinny twink in a cowboy outfit riding a bucking foil-wrapped burrito. That appealed to many of my baser instincts involving jack cheese and bucking. But on every other float, the standard issue twink was provided with a whistle with which he could toot along to the Katy Perry vibrating out of rental loudspeakers.

And, it’s always nice hanging with friends at the Parade. My friends and I have a great place that’s not jammed up against a building, goes into the shade early, and is only a block from Julius where it only costs you the price of drink to use the bathroom. But one of the things about hanging with people is punctuality. People all need to be at the same place at the same time in order to hang. Texting does not count. Two friends, a “couple” crashing their way quickly from casual acquaintances towards being blocked on Facebook were over two hours late because of “train problems.” We all have “train problems,” but when I have “train problems,” I don’t answer a “getting close?” text with “stoped 2 get a beer.” No, you better show up winded and apologizing profusely for ruining the gay.

When a drunk Lesbian-of-a-Certain-Age tried to choke me with my Pride beads, I decided it was time to go.

Budapest

But at least I got to actually watch the parade, which is a far cry from what was afforded me when I showed up in Budapest in September 2009 on their equivalent of Pride. In NYC, we like say our parade is a “march,” with all the attendant meaning that goes with that word, but twink riding burrito. In Budapest, it’s so much a “march” that they don’t call it a “march” –it’s the 14th Gay Dignity Procession! Two years earlier, in 2007, far-right unfortunates attacked the 12th Gay Dignity Procession. Police then tried to cancel the 13th Gay Dignity Parade in 2008, citing “traffic.” The gays sued. They marched. Far-right unfortunates attacked the 13th Gay Dignity Procession. So for the 14th Gay Dignity Procession, the police came up with the perfect plan….

Berlin

Now you need to understand at this point that I prefer to travel alone. Continue reading

Grindrin’ and Growlrin’ Me Down

[In which I apparently date incorrectly]

My delete screen from Growlr.
My delete screen from Growlr.

I went and checked out a different bar in Columbus Thursday night. I didn’t bring my book into the bar. This was new territory, and I didn’t know if it would have a good place to flash the glittery raccoon. [No, this is not a euphemism. Click on a link once in a while, people.] Needless to say, I was bored almost immediately. So, out came the phone. Thank god for Instagram and the endless twiddle-worthiness of its filters, or I would’ve been tempted to re-up with any one of the several “location-based dating apps” that used to litter my phone. I cannot go back to having things on my phone that make me feel bad about myself. That’s what the rear-facing camera is for.

A few weeks prior to my move from Brooklyn to Columbus, I deleted my profiles in those various apps and sites that supposedly would help me find a geographically convenient guy with whom to do anatomically inconvenient things. They go by names like Scruff, Manhunt, Recon, Grindr, Growlr, Lepr, Regrettr, Alienatr, etc. It’s too easy to just mindlessly scroll thru the endless parade of thumbnail photos of body parts, judging people based on pictures smaller than one-inch square. And if I’m judging, I know I’m being judged right back.

In all of these, I am very specific that I am not interested in a random hook-up. I need some connection before the depravity begins. I also add something along the lines of: “There is no greater aphrodisiac than a complete sentence.”

So, I would obsessively flip between the apps, allowing that weird repetitive behavior aspect that’s somehow part of my bipolar to take over. Of course I never actually initiate contact with people because then they might actually respond. So I wait. The replies of course are slow to come in because, despite my childlike demeanor and that cement truck full of Just For Men I regularly back up onto my face, I refuse to lie about my age.

But eventually replies trickle in. Continue reading