Out Of The “Movie” Closet

Shortly after I officially came out and met the person that was probably my soul mate, I was introduced to a great many things. One of them was LGBTQ cinema and no I am not just talking about porn. I had never known there were movies that dealt with people that felt the same things I did. The small town I grew up in, I wasn’t even truly aware if there were others like me, in retrospect there were probably far more than I will ever know. My first love had what seemed an extensive library of LGBTQ films, though they did skew more towards gay male perspectives.

Today’s LGBTQ kids may have not even heard of many of them. Oh sure, you cant turn on the television without seeing the Birdcage still. VH1 still shows the Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and you cant go a full year without seeing Too Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar. But these are mainstream because just as many heterosexuals find them entertaining. Much like the Kevin Kline travesty “In & Out.” Most of these have one big thing in common, they do not show LGBTQ life in reality but as we are seen by heterosexual people. Sadly, most of the movies from that boundless library he had were filmed with straight men and many were a little campy, none the less they are still in our history. And there are a few that are my favorite, so bear with me as I give you a list some of them.

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The first film that we watched together was It’s My Party (1996), a movie that dealt with the very raw subject of living with AIDS. This film hit me hard because it was based on the true-life party of Harry Stein, an accomplished architect and designer. His real-life partner, Randall Klieser, directed the film and the party that was the topic of the movie took place in 1992. It hosted some big names, as well as some up and coming names, like Eric Roberts, Gregory Harrison, Olivia Newton-John, Bronson Pinchot, and Margret Cho. Nick Stark is the main character of the movie and decides to host a two-day party where he invites him friends and family over to celebrate his life and them being apart of it, at the end of the party Nick would take his life. Nick had contracted a disease that would leave him in a vegetative and memory lapsed state hooked to a machine to keep him alive. He had watched many of his friends die from the same disease and did not want to endure. The movie is about the struggle of a couple whose relationship died due to the disease and was reconnected because of it, as well.

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Next would be the movie Jeffrey (1995), which stars Steven Weber, Michael T. Weiss, Sigourney Weaver, Kathy Najimi, and Patrick Stewart. Steven Weber Plays Jeffrey who is a gay man who loves sex at the height of the AIDS epidemic. He had been used to night after night of men and sex until he noticed the trend of his “tricks” asking for proof of his HIV status. This spirals him into disarray as he decides he is going to swear off sex. He then meets Steve (Michael T. Weiss) who is attracted to Jeffrey, but Steve has a secret. It’s a movie about a guy who is afraid of falling in love with someone who has AIDS and watching them die only to be left alone. It was a movie that challenged my perceptions and allowed me to grow. Sure that is giving this movie a lot of credit, but the cameos in it are hilarious and the story is on point about loving someone for who they are and not what they may have.

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Love! Valour! Compassion!(1997) Okay, this started out in 1995 as a play, but its tour on Broadway allowed it to become a movie in 1997. In it you will find Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) and John Glover among others. The movie takes place over three summer holidays in a lakeside house in upstate New York. The main character is going through a gay midlife crisis about his creativity and worth and surrounds himself with his friends that are directly tied to his artistic career. The course of the three holidays leads the group run the gamut of topics like infidelity, soul searching, AIDS, life and death. This leads to skinny dipping and flirting with the grand finale being a dress rehearsal of Swan Lake in drag.

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Torch Song Trilogy(1988) Another movie that was adapted from a play, written by Harvey Fierstein. This movie included Harvey Fierstein, Anne Bancroft, and a young Matthew Broderick as the star line up. The play spanned four hours, but New Line cinema insisted that it be edited to a two hour running period. The play was written about a female impersonator named Charles Pierce, who was a noted Betty Davie impersonator. Harvey created the lead role, Bertha Venation, aka Arnold Beckoff, for him to portray. The story starts in 1971 where Arnold meets his first love Ed while being dragged to a bar after a night’s show. After meeting Ed, who is still battling accepting being gay, leaves Arnold for a female named Laurel. Two years later in 1973, Arnold meets the love of his life Alan, played by Matthew Broderick. Ed has married Laurel and invited Arnold and Alan to the country for a weekend visit. This proves to be awkward but reinforces the commitment between them. They move in together, plan to adopt a gay child, and get an apartment. On the eve of their first night in their new place, Alan is killed by a group of gay bashers, This leads Arnold into a spiral that climaxes when Arnold’s mother comes for a visit. For me, it is one of the few that shows the struggles of being LGBTQ in a world that still doesn’t fully accept us as we are.

There are others, more modern films that also fall into my favorites list, but these listed are from the library of what I devoured when I met Shawn. These are ones that have had huge impacts on me, in various ways. They will remain a part of my history and are ones I always recommend to people who have never seen them, the same way Shawn did for me. If you haven’t seen them, please check them out. Let me know if you enjoy them.
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Cruise Control

“Knock three times on the ceiling, if you want me. Twice on the pipe if the answer is no…” The art of cruising has evolved so much over the years. The signals gay men once used to express interest are all but a lost art form. Mention hanky code and most may think you mean some kind of public acceptance of wiping your nose. With the onset of technology, we are able to dial down someone within a few hundred yards as opposed to carefully displaying ourselves and watching to see if there is interest. Taking a look at how we meet and even entertain ourselves seems important now that Tumblr is disappearing.

Our world today is fairly easy. We can whip out our smartphones and pull up the most recent iteration of a cruisy app to find other gay men around us. From there we can plan a hookup or possibly start a relationship. In the recent past it was a bit more convoluted. The 1920s was an era of decadence, one that had many bars and clubs owned by gay and lesbian men. As the economy crash and the Great Depression of the 1930s happened, many things changed. Many felt that the openness and experimentation of the 20s led to the current state of affairs. Laws were put into place that prohibited any gay person from congregation in public places. The once bars, restaurants, and cabarets ran by so many were not put in jeopardy. Establishments that employed them or allowed to them to gather where threatened with losing their liquor licenses. Movies were no longer allowed to show gay characters or themes.

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Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

During the 1930s, you also saw in increase of New York City Police using a 1923 statute that made it a criminal act for one gay male to invite another to have sex. This started the sting operations that haunted gay men cruising for sex for so long. These changes forced us to try to find new ways that we could meet each, adopting modes of dress, speech and even style. So how did that happen, you may ask. Well jewelry was a big indicator, wearing a single ear piercing in a certain ear was one of the easiest. Also the adoption of a pinky ring was another means to let others know. Around the 1960s, the Hanky Code was invented. This was an elaborate system of color, patterns, and what pocket to wear it from, all to give the viewer the knowledge if you were a top or a bottom or if like liked a certain fetish.

While these were great, sometimes it was not conducive for all men who were looking to hookup. So places became popular. The term “cruisy spot” was used to indicate a place where men who were looking for sex could meet other men. These places were prone to police raids and also became targets for violence. Bathhouses became other areas for this type of activity. Here you could carry your key or towel a certain way to show others your interest. Video booths were also popular places for the quick turn of trade. Video booths gave the added ability of purely anonymous sex and created a larger fetish scene of glory holes.

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During the 1960s, mainly in Britain, the language of Palori was used as a means of speaking to other gay men without being detected. One would be able to carry on a whole conversation or be able to use is sparsely so that others may be able to pick up on it. Many of the words used during that era have stayed with us through the ages. Butchto mean masculine or masculine lesbian, Chickento mean young person, Cottaging to refer to sex in public restrooms, and Fruitto mean gay man. Our very history has been shaped by the means of the past.

 

As the modern era approached, we saw the Internet start to become a large presence in the lives people. The LGBTQ people were quick to embrace it. I harken back to the days of the AOL chat rooms as a means of finding guys in a specific area. It was great if you were in a new town, you could log into a regional area or even city room to meet up. This lead way to sites like MySpace, LifeOut, and other early social media sites, becoming popular means of meeting and hooking up. The days of Craigslist were not far behind, gaining popularity and growing across the country. This caused many of the earlier means of identification to pass into memory, leaving things like the Hanky Code to be used in bars or leather clubs.

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Photo by Chrysostomos Galathris on Pexels.com

As technology improved and became smaller, our phones became the way for hooking up. Combining the GPS feature and mobility allows members to find like-minded people anywhere they are in the world. Even today we still see usage of terms like bears, twinks, tops, bottoms, bully dyke, baby dykes, acdc, and bibi. Many apps have come and gone over the years, leaving the tried and true like Grindr, Scruff, and Growlr to serve most gay men on the go. Even these platforms are starting to change and evolve more.

We have also used the web and apps as a repository for our arts, history and porn. Apps like Tumblr allow members to curate content they like and share it with an audience that follows them, whether it be content they have found from other places or their own productions. As with much of our history, it is often times viewed through the outside lens of being obscene and many of these sites have very short life spans. Tumblr was started in 2007 to be a micro blogging platform. Allowing bloggers to post multimedia and short posts in a more bite sized consumable format. Tumblr gave an open format for blog owners to post adult related material, but if it was substantial amount posted that their blog be labeled as adult. The terms of service always stated that sexually explicit videos would not be allowed, but embedding code as a redirect could easily circumvent this.

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It is stated by outside sources that 22% of all traffic in and out of Tumblr has pornographic related content and that 16% of the blogs were solely NSFW related. While these numbers seem relatively small, they are the largest focus for the heat the site takes, As of December 17, 2018, Tumblr has issued that all adult content will be removed from their site, with a few exceptions/explanations to this rule. This comes from the long-standing battles about the amount of adult content and recent allegations of child pornography on the site. Adult content aside, this will be a pretty significant loss to the LGBTQ history. Tumblr was useful for many transgender people posting information about the process and life.  It was a means for many LGBTQ artists to showcase their art and express their views. Many of these will fall into the guidelines that Tumblr is now enforcing and will cease to exist on a social platform.

We have changed our ways of identifying ourselves throughout the years, we have adapted to society and technology as our needs saw fit. We have left outdated methods behind us or incorporated them in to new ways of usage. The lesson is that we will adapt to the changes, it may be difficult but we always find a way. How will the future change our interactions?

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Warmer Thoughts

Today is a more chillier day in Cleveland and my canvas kilt is a bit more breezy than I thought it would be this morning. So in retaliation, I am posting to pictures I took last spring with my best friend Tammy McFarland Mellert. You can find her on YouTube, where she does reviews about camera gear and shares her photography adventures here in Ohio. You can also check out her webpage Tammy Mellert Photography. So give her a look over and while you are here, you can look at my pictures.

 

 

You Had Me At The Swing Of Your Kilt.

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What can I say; I love a man in a kilt. Perhaps that’s why I always wanted to wear one or maybe it was due in some small part to my heritage being Scottish and Irish. It may also be that I have been jealous of women being the only one to wear something like that, this was before I knew about Scottish people wearing them. Regardless, a man in a kilt can cause your heart to skip a beat and dance to a Scottish song. Need proof, I give you Gerard Butler (see below). And he is only one; David Tennant, John Barrowman, Graham McTavish(also below), Ewan McGregor, James McAvoy, and Billy Boyd.

In an article on Quora by Janie Keddie titled “Why do Scots wear kilts?”, she says “Men look and feel fantastic in kilts. You see them stand differently and develop a swagger. It’s extremely attractive! ” It’s true, I see it in myself. Wearing one elevates your confidence and definitely puts a bit of strut in your walk. When the pleats swing in time with your walk it is utter hypnosis to the masses. Not to mention their functionality is amazing. Confidence is an amazingly sexy thing, so when a man wears a kilt it just adds to that. Sure it’s a bit strange the first few times you see it, but you have to admit that your eye lingers a bit longer on a man who is wearing one.

As amazing as they make me feel and as much as I love seeing a man in one, there are some frustrations with them. Sitting down in a kilt  can frustrate me to no end because I still have not mastered the smoothing of the pleats. They always seem to get bunched and with a cargo kilt style, the box pleats combined with the material can leave the pleats folding awkwardly. And you gain a new found respect for women learning how to sit and maintain their modesty. I have been asked on more than one occasion about the fetish aspect of wearing a kilt. I have seen the images and videos out there of sex in kilts and it even is intriguing, but that can be said for any garment that becomes fetishized. After all, there are leather fetishes, jean fetishes, shoe fetishes, and the list goes on and on. I love my kilts for the fashion aspect, the comfort levels, and how they alter my confidence.

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So history time, kilts have been worn since about the 16th century and are a variation of the Great Kilt (feileadh Mòr). Before that time Scottish men wore long tunics and cloaks of wool. As the fabrication and availability of wool became easier, that style started to mutate into the great kilt. Traditionally it was two bolts of cloth stitched together to make the garment. The lower half was folded into pleats and belted at the waist while the upper half remained looser to wrap yourself in to keep warm and prevent wind. Wearing the tunic underneath afforded the kilt more modality so that it could be taken apart and used as a structure or a large blanket at nights.

Around the 17th or 18th century, a much simpler version was created called fèileadh beag.It was reduced to only one bolt of cloth that was belted at the knees and the pleats were stitched in for ease of wearing. This also made it much lighter to wear and easier to march in. No longer was it able to be used for shelter or blanket and lending more to ceremonial or daily wear. This is the version of the kilt that survives today. Using what is called a fly plaid and a brooch you could achieve a similar effect to wearing the full Great Kilt, but with much less weight and greater ease.

I don’t post about kilts often because part of me feels that talking about it cheapens it in some way. If I just wear them as I would any other garment, it becomes less of an issue. After all, how often does someone write a post, or talk about wearing pants? Not very often, unless its a fashion piece or about a specific designer. Simply put, I really enjoy wearing them. They are comfortable, unless your pleats bunch up. Not everyone wears them, so it does create a talking point. They are vastly multifunctional. Thrown on a t-shirt and a kilt for knocking around the house or town, pop on a polo and loafers or boots to dress it up for dinner, or add a waistcoat or blazer, a button down, and a pair of oxfords and  you have a nice looking piece for meeting people, business settings, or fancier engagements. Lets not forget about formalizing it for wedding and etc.

I may not be Gerard Butler or Graham McTavish, but I do think I look damn good in a kilt. People notice mine often and comment accordingly. Similarly, I love seeing men in a kilt and wish more would take up the trend. It is nice that they aren’t common because I do like the attention and talking to people about them. My heritage doesn’t change or accentuate my love for wearing them. I encourage you to also take a chance and try one on. Remember that we have Kilted Bros close by who can  help you out with all your kilted needs. AND fine YOU GOT ME, it was also a ploy to be able to post hot guys in kilt pics and who can’t appreciate that?

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The Dye Has Been Cast

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

Like many others today, I made my way to the polls to make sure my voice was a part of the cacophony we call democracy. Many view it as a chore but it is also our given right. It’s the chance for us to be a part of a larger collective, to show the government we will be heard and we do matter. This was also my first time voting in Ohio, so there was that added stress. Apparently, not all of Ohio uses the same means for residents to vote, it is county specific. Take Cuyahoga County for instance, we use a scantron method for our votes to be taken. That created its on moment of high school examination dread, when I opened the folder for my ballot.

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Queue the flashback sequence, a la Wayne’s World (party on Garth, Party on Wayne). It would be more apt to say… Pictures it Montgomery County, Virginia November 1992, a small town gay boy makes his way for his first time of entering the booth. Now before you get all pervy on me, I am recalling my first time voting in an election, not a video booth. Sheesh, maybe if you are good we can recount that story, spoiler alert I have never been in one of those booths. Anyway, back to the young boy, going through high school civics/government class we all had training to help man the polls and learn how to use the machines. At that time, Virginia was still using the punch ballot. You essentially would put your card in this machine, line it up, choose your candidates and using a pin push through the paper, and when you were done you would pull a lever to cast your ballot. The machine would reset for the next person. Think slot machine without the payout.

That was nerve-wracking back then, thankfully Virginia now uses an electronic system. Being a Gen X-er, we grew up watching technology evolve, so merging into that type of system wasn’t a hard migration. Moving to Ohio I was unsure what to expect and they didn’t let me down. I decided to vote before work and managed to get there about an hour after the polls opened and took my roommate along for the ride. Of course I grilled him about how it would work, since I hadn’t used a paper ballot since high school. I was expecting a large turn out and it wasn’t bad. The lines moved very quickly and since I screwed up one of my forms I was even able to retrieve a new one and recast in fairly quick time.

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What’s that you say? How could I have screwed up my vote? Well I did mention earlier the flashback to high school examinations with scantron sheets. Early in the morning my eyes haven’t adjusted and have a bit of double vision, combined with this season’s allergies. So, like a good child is known for, I colored outside of the lines. Apparently more than the machine would tolerate. I could joke about an attempt but saying that could be misconstrued and I wouldn’t want Big Brother showing up at home this afternoon.

All in all, we were in and out quickly. Nice to see that things were under control enough to make them move that effortlessly and thank you for the patient people that had to endure me not understanding the intricacies of Cuyahoga County Voting. I just hope that it wasn’t an indication of low voter turnout. I haven’t checked any information for Ohio, as of today, about early turnout versus showing up on Election Day. As of now at 10 am, it’s a bit too early to see any kind of results as to what may be happening. The fate of the country rests firmly in our hands and it’s time to remember that the government should fear its people and not the people who should fear the government. If you haven’t yet, get out there and vote, no matter who or how you choose to vote. Make your voice be heard.

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Sing it from the mountains…

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I can’t stress enough the importance of voting. Recent elections have shown us that deciding factors can be really close and sometimes a few extra votes can swing things wildly. This year is just as important, with it being midterm elections. How we decide to vote, as a people can vastly change how the remaining two years of this Administration play out. For the LGBTQ community, much of the stage for how our rights may be affected hinge on these elections. Many more communities and states are offering up ordinances for the protection of job status for the LGBTQ people and our votes will greatly impact those decisions.

Tomorrow, November 6th is the day to vote. Please make sure you exercise your right to be heard. No matter how you choose to vote, just do it. We live in a word where the very people who run it are trying to pass legislature that will take away basic rights of every individual. They will decide what you can do with your body, what options you have in healthcare or lack thereof, how laws will affect you in the future. Look at each and every item on the ballot for your area and think how you feel about them. If you are unsure of the wording seek help.

Remember, it is important that each of us get the opportunity to exercise our rights to vote. If you are heading to the polls, take someone along with you. Go as a group and make an event of it. Become educated on the issues so you know how and what may affect you. Let your voice be heard. Remember Thomas Jefferson once said, “When government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” Don’t let this administration that is so keen to publicly spouse hate rhetoric be the only voice that is heard. It is time we speak out, in unison, to let the government know that we are here and we need to be heard.

The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California
The annual Pride Parade is replaced with a Resist March as members of the LGBT community protest President Donald Trump in West Hollywood, California, U.S. June 11, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

 

History is Family

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As National LGBTQ History month comes to close we should reflect back on the many important people and events that have came before us. They are important because it is what makes our family. My very first boyfriend gave me the most important lesson I still carry with me to this day. It was this, “as LGBTQ we have the special ability to be able to choose our family when the one we are born into turns away from us.” It gives us the ability to leave the pain that may be caused by the people that are supposed to love us unconditionally and find one that will lift our very souls upward. To do that we have to make one simple choice, which is to love ourselves.

Each post I have made this month has been about finding your inner strength through our history. That inner strength promotes pride and love of who you are and want to be. That sense of pride and love in turn forces you to choose a community that accepts you and you in turn hold that community to a higher standard that reflect the very things you hold important in yourself. That community, hopefully, takes those lessons forward to create unity and strength to battle those that would sooner rob us of our very existence. These actions turn into a movement that says we will not be satisfied with being held down any longer and we demand to be seen as equal. With hope and strength, this movement will shape the change for the future to create the better place that those of us who are coming out in the future will be safe in.

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It all comes from you, though. You who are reading these very words are the ones to shape those images into reality. How you choose to take these words and plant them in your heart and soul. How you choose to share your feelings with others. These first steps are always hard trust me, I know. Looking at yourself in the mirror and knowing that you are perfect the way you are and the feelings you feel are completely natural. The strength and love you have in yourself is enough to make you stronger than anyone who tries to tear you down.

I say to you, from the very bottom of my heart, that I am your family. I support the person you know you are deep inside. I see your value and know that you are a beautiful sole. I am here to listen to you when you think no one else will. I am just like you, even though you feel you are the only one. You may not see it at this very moment, but you are strong, stronger than anyone will ever fully understand. Love yourself, forgive yourself, and never give up the fight.

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