We Are More Than A Party

When I first realized I was gay I was 17 years old and terrified.   Although I was sexually attracted to other men, I was frightened to become a part of the stereotype I saw on television and magazines.    Of course times were different and what you saw on television was exactly that, a stereotype.    As I began to meet other gay people I realized we were a diverse crowd of Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics and any other ethnic category you could find on a college application.   We celebrated our diversity because we needed to, our sites were set on fighting the AIDS epidemic, acceptance and equal rights.    I quickly realized the scary images I saw in my youth were no where near the Gays and Lesbians I had come to know.

As a young adult I began to explore the community, culture, and what it had to offer.   My first long term relationship of almost nine years ended in my late twenties and I was eager to experience a part of the gay world that was previously off limits… the club scene.  Still filled with enough crazy hormones to fuel lots of stupid mistakes, I was introduced to this sub-culture and its not so wonderful characteristics.    Only this seemed different because it felt somewhat threatening to me.   I was surrounded by groups of men that all wanted to fall in love, but didn’t seem to want any of the Ozzie and Harriet style of relationships their parents lived through.    In fact, I would say they completely rebelled against these established norms, I’m guessing because they experienced much judgement and hostility due to their sexuality from those that practiced them.  Fair enough.  If there’s any stereotype of the gay world that’s close to being true, it’s that we never do anything low key, so gay relationships became completely polar opposite to mom and dad’s.  However I really wanted that sense of normalcy, real or perceived, in my life. After all, that’s what I had told everyone around me…that I was normal and just like everyone else.

Scenarios from the “Blue Oyster Bar” depicted in the hit movie “Police Academy.” Examples of the extremely limited and often stereotypical views of the gay world I had access to as a teen.

Years went by and I started to become fairly bitter with the gay world.    The level of shallowness and self centered behavior I was seeing just seemed to be getting worse.  There were even websites that sprung up with the immense popularity of the Internet, which re-enforced these qualities.   We were now posting profiles on websites like bigmuscle.com, which contained statements like “looking only for other good looking muscled men to make friends and hang out with.”   Wow!  Seriously?  I didn’t want any part of that!

Until I did.

I started going on “all gay cruises” back in 2001 during a short lived relationship with someone that grew up surrounded by the party and gay scene.   The experience was utterly miserable for me and I swore I would never do it again.   I was completely immersed in gay music, gay television, campy gay comedy… gay everything for seven very long days.    I was force-fed gayness and I wanted to puke.   But then, a couple of years later, I was convinced to try it again by my partner that I would share almost 10 years of my life with.  Even my therapist thought it was a good idea.  It actually turned out completely different in every way and I enjoyed the solidarity immensely.    Gay rights was starting to be a huge deal, the Constitution of the United States was about to be modified to define marriage between a man and a woman, for the sole purpose of denying us rights and recognition.   We so needed the support of each other as a community!   What better way than to pack three thousand of us on a boat for a week!  Yay!  Not to mention that I was starting to bulk up with some serious muscle, and although we were monogamous at the time, I was getting lots of attention.   This was really fun!   Why didn’t I do this sooner?    It was even time for me to get my own profile on bigmuscle.com!   In retrospect, it’s very clear to me that I started to become assimilated into the very lifestyle I had such a distaste for… by the looming presence and fear of a shared threat.  I wanted to belong because I was scared.

Every day, twice a day,!! Atlantis passengers gather on deck, or below, to participate in one or more dance parties.

As years passed and more gay cruises came and went, the climate of the country completely changed.    Gays were only years away from being allowed to be married, many companies and local governments started enacting domestic partnership benefits, and there was this cool show on television called Glee.  Gay youth and teens now had a place in society and role models to look up to.    It was a pretty amazing time for Gays and Lesbians, but something else started to happen.    The cruises I loved so much started becoming less and less about community and more about the “party.”    With technology becoming more advanced and cruises becoming more and more popular, the ships got bigger and so did the on-board dances. As anything that keeps growing in size, there comes a time where critical mass comes into play and a good thing becomes unsustainable.  Gay cruises aren’t any exception and in 2011, on the largest gay cruise on the largest cruise ship in the world, the Allure of the Seas was raided by US Customs and passengers were arrested.   I remember seeing all the dogs and agents on-board and thinking something very serious was up.    A member of the Atlantis staff, the charter company that booked the cruise, lied completely and told a group of us that it was a case of mistaken identity with one of our fellow passengers.    We didn’t know the entire story until we got back home and saw the coverage on CNN and other media outlets.     It wasn’t really a surprise since multiple times a night we’d hear the call go out on the ship’s speakers, “alpha, alpha, alpha,” the maritime signal for a medical emergency.    For Atlantis passengers, it was code for drug overdose.    The stories of passengers collapsing and defecating on themselves during dances didn’t seem so far fetched after all.

Accelerated by the events on that last voyage, my love affair with gay cruises and the gay scene began to diminish rather quickly.  The sense of community I had once witnessed had become a complete mess and practically non-existent.   I went on a couple more cruises, even tried different brands like RSVP, but they weren’t much different.  The drugs weren’t as prevalent, but the campy gay comedy and stupid jokes every time the automated elevator voice with a British accent announced “deck 8″ were getting old.  I was tired of eating breakfast and hearing men discuss their conquests from the night before.  I guess that’s called “growing up.”

Today, I still enjoy cruising with my partner Eric, celebrating diversity once again, albeit with straight and fellow gay passengers alike.  Who knew that in all those prior years I had put myself into a social box, doing exactly what conservatives and the religious right wanted,  and at the same time fighting so hard against.

I look back at my journey in and out of the gay scene and realize it was a real learning experience, one that I shouldn’t regret or even deny.   The gay world is continually evolving, but I’m not sure in the right direction at the moment.   Pride events are becoming less of a celebration of unity, and more of a promoter’s opportunity to pull another all night party.   At least in the old days, I’m old enough to say that now, we had something we were focused on…a goal, a mission, which helped ground us and provided a type of social lighthouse when we went astray.    Much of the binding properties of the gay community are gone for the first time in our history.    Our friends aren’t dying of AIDS and we basically have the rights and recognition we wanted for generations.   Where we will go without the guiding principles that glued us all together?    What we will do with this new found freedom which carries with it new responsibility?

There’s a new sub-culture I see emerging with young gay men and it’s not a healthy one.   Unlike so many negative stereotypes, this one is very much encourage in pop culture and social media.    It’s evolving into a mindset, one of no-consequence and “go fuck yourself if you don’t like me.”  We’re being encouraged as a community to be as loud and as crazy as we want to be, since we’ve been restricted for so long and it obviously still makes straight people laugh.    The balance part of the equation seems to be left out though, and we’re not checking ourselves to see if we’re going too far.    Our community used to be so much more than a party, and now it seems so many gay men just live for it…or die.   I think it’s time to take inventory of what’s truly important, especially with recent events in our nation’s political climate.   Perhaps another shared threat is exactly what we need, a common cause to keep us focused on the individual lights in our community, and not the ones on the dance floor.

 

 

 

Wake Up – Your Thumbs Won’t Save The Planet

 

It’s a rainy day and you’re sitting comfortably on your couch, wrapped up in a snugly blanket you bought from an ad on your Facebook feed… a nice cup of chai tea latte is right by your side.   All is well in your world.   Suddenly and without warning, your eyes magnetically focus and zoom in on the horrible video displaying on your screen, your heart begins to palpitate as you rush to un-follow or block the person that posted this gruesome message regarding animal abuse in a land far far away.    They have succeeded in not only invading your cozy little space and destroying your perfect zen moment, but they have also damaged you temporarily as you struggle to get these images out of your head.    Their reasoning?    You should sign on an online petition and stop what you just witnessed!  Yes!  How dare you take one more sip of that chai tea latte, while animals suffer needlessly, before your thumbs do all the work of filling out that digital roll call of those with moral and just values.    Jumping into action might also help erase what you just saw, and you can return to your kindle, tea, and life of ignorance…yes this thought actually crosses your mind.  But did you ever realize what’s actually occurring behind the scenes of these online petitions?    Do you think someone actually manages servers and technical infrastructure for free?  Of course not. Hang onto your chai tea latte because online petitions are actually a multi-million dollar business and those ugly videos are helping people to make some serious money.

Yulin is a city in China with a population of almost seven million people according to Wikipedia.     Tourists flock there to bathe in hot mineral springs and the city is rich in natural resources.    Part of their economy is agricultural based, growing everything from tea, bananas, oranges, mangoes, pigs, chickens and dogs.   No that wasn’t a typo, yes, they raise dogs for food.    Relax, there will be no gut wrenching photos or vivid descriptions in this article, in fact, the exact opposite.   What you need to know is that there’s a business model here for people to react, and when they do, money is exchanged.    Yes, your emotional response is generating income for a company that has little or no control over anything that happens in China.   If you can get past the gruesome video to change.org, or any other petition based website, the advertisements you see, and subsequently click on, generate revenue for the company.  This sort of model is pretty universal on the Internet, everyone uses it because it works. But it doesn’t stop there.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, your email address has an ROI (return on investment) of %4,300.    That means for every dollar spent on email marketing, you will potentially earn $40 in return as described by the marketing website justuno.com.   Yeah, that’s a really nice return!   When you’re emailing the right people about the right things, it’s a cash cow.    I bet you didn’t realize how much money crazygirl30513@aolbiz.com was worth, did you Cathy?

So in general here’s how it works.    A charity or cause pays a petition website to show gruesome videos or imagery on FaceBook in the hope someone will respond.   Many of these sites, including change.org, are for profit companies (as explained in the change.org FAQ), yeah no 501c there people.  They treat these “promoted petitions”  just like advertisements.  Same deal as promoted tweets on twitter…. it’s free unless you want mass exposure.   As part of their contract, the charities are “given” your information.  Makes sense right?   You’d want to know the name, address and email of every person that supports your cause.    Only now the charities or organizations can also sell your contact information and make more money, something you’d should feel comfortable about… right?   After all, it’s for charity.   Think of the dogs folks… works doesn’t it?

Okay so now you now that dogs in Yulin help make people rich in the United States.    Who cares right?    As long as your petition can effect change!!! But where does that petition go?  We hope some huge official in Yulin will see that petition sent to his inox and won’t delete it.    Perhaps it’s actually mailed in a big box?  I bet he’ll take that stack of paper out to the streets and shut down the entire dog eating thing right then and there.   Or maybe he won’t.    Maybe he eats dogs himself and thinks it’s pretty yummy, especially with some American BBQ Sauce (don’t tell his parents, they always made fun of him for eating KC Masterpiece).  At the very least I’m sure they’ll stop killing chickens, pigeons and goats in “religious” sacrifice…oh sorry that’s Miami… you know in Florida?  Yeah there’s hundreds of “Botanicas” that sell these animals for that very purpose, Google it for the one nearest you.    Bet you didn’t know that either.  Where’s the petition to make that stop?  Take a sip of your chai tea latte, you’ll feel much better… or maybe you won’t.

The simple fact is that signing these petitions usually does little unless there’s plenty of national or international exposure to go along with it.    It’s icing on the cake of something big, it’s not the ignition switch to effect change.  What it is doing, is making a whole lot of people lots of money.  And then there’s those decrepit humans on Facebook that are actually getting a rise from spreading these videos, knowing that your chai tea latte is gonna lose all the attention it worked so hard to deserve.   They don’t care about the dogs, the cats, the whatever… they only care about ruining your day.   It’s masochistic and your reaction fuels their desire to do it even more.

The way to effect change is to hit people where it hurts the most, their wallet.    So you go to Wikipedia like I just did and you research the country that’s known for their dog eating and you don’t go visit their fabulous springs.   You send a receipt of all the money you just spent in the neighboring prefecture to their head of tourism and explain why.   Yeah you actually have to write a letter and mail it as opposed to taking 4 seconds to auto-fill a petition.  You tell your friends and neighbors about it, you knock on doors.  Yeah you actually have to get off that couch, stop drinking your chai tea latte and do something!  Imagine that? Eventually, someone there in Yulin might notice they’re not getting as many visitors, losing lots of cash and do something about it.   Do your part.  Your thumbs aren’t going to help dogs in a country half way around the world, with folks firmly grounded in their culturally accepted practice… which is actually a huge festival.   This is like someone trying to shut down the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade because they love their pet turkeys over in you know where Egypt.    I’m not saying give up the good fight.  Just fight in smarter ways, that actually make a difference, and stop creating a market for what you hate.   That’s how you really help your furry friends.

 

Taking A FaceBook Vacation

Sunset in the Florida Everglades

When’s the last time you had a vacation?  Before you start describing your most recent trip to a far off place dotted with palm trees or ancient buildings, let me be more specific… when’s the last time you vacationed from FaceBook?  You know, that wonderful destination you hold in your hand that you escape to while on the train, laying on the couch or even dare I say in the bathroom?  When’s the last time you dared to disconnect from all the noise, the pictures of friends enjoying dinner without you, the cat videos, the ads for things you’ll never use, the secret data miners collecting analytics designed as clever surveys, and the people you didn’t realize were Trump supporters?   Have you ever even thought of it?

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The Piscean Prison

Being a Pisces can be a bitch.   Plain and simple.    As I get older it seems it just gets harder and harder to deal with the outside world and all of the horrors available to us through social media and news outlets.   Pisces are idealistic lovers, we quite literally love love.    We love everything about love and everything about being in love.    We love people we don’t even know and we can smother those we do with so much love that they run away.   And it doesn’t stop there.    Since we love to spread love so much we become paranoid when we may have not spread the love inadvertently.    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost sleep thinking I said or did something to someone that hurt their feelings or pissed them off.     The idea of intentionally hurting someone, or stepping outside of the “love” zone really turns our world upside down.

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Experiencing Homophobia Overseas

Living in the United States can and will make you pretty spoiled.    You become accustomed to life as you know it, and take everyday occurrences completely for granted.    Many of us here in Miami are reminded of our abundance as a nation when we share the experience of someone that recently immigrated from Cuba, and see their reactions to to a well stocked produce section at the local grocery store.     It’s an all out emotional meltdown at times, something neither person is prepared for.    While economic prosperity is something that’s relatively easy to appreciate and witness, individual freedoms are not.    Most people vacation in areas of the world where they are welcomed with open arms, but even in the most beautiful and serene locations, the gay tourist has to be mindful of their destination in a different capacity… their personal safety.  There are many parts of the world where being homosexual is against the law, and I’m not referring to some distant land on the other side of the planet, I’m talking about enjoying the beauty and splendor of the Caribbean.   It was there that my partner Eric and I became very appreciative of the security and liberties we now enjoy in the United States.

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Activism and the Lightworker

Many of us that identify as lightworkers often feel as though they are tasked with a very important mission in life.   This mission, sometimes still not understood or realized fully, is at the core of their being and perhaps even led them to the discovery that they are lightworkers themselves.    The term lightworker, usually refers to someone that’s of high vibration, uplifting, and has a desire to spread this sense of well being around the globe.    What happens though when a lightworker’s mission in life contradicts with this practice of spreading light, and literally does the opposite?   What if in the process of activism, a lightworker brings “to light” acts of humans which are disturbing to others,  in effect, lowering their vibration?   Can a lightworker successfully fulfill their destiny and at the same time make others feel a sense of love and worthiness?    I often struggle with these questions myself and present them to you for your feedback and point of view.   Perhaps we can both learn a thing or two and help each other out at the same time.

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Constantly Seeking Approval

“Please like me.”

“Please like what I have to say.”

“Please love me.”

“Why do you only like what I have to say, why didn’t you love it?”

“I think you suck for not liking me.”

Looks sort of mental doesn’t it?   Did some emotional crippled person write this before going into a manic episode?    Didn’t Glenn Close say this in Fatal Attraction?

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Being A Leader, A Follower, Or Both

I have a friend that sometimes annoys the hell out of me when she says:

“That person is such a follower, they’re not a leader, they just do what ever that other guy wants.  They can’t think for themselves.”   

The names have been removed to protect the innocent.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before and sometimes I even question myself and wonder where I fall in this scenario.    Am I a leader?  Or a follower?   Do I just take orders and advice blindly, or do I put some thought into it first?   Most recently, while pondering the cracks in my ceiling before falling asleep, (okay there are none, but it sets a mood) I realized it’s beneficial to be a little bit of both.  We should know when it’s best for us to let our inner leader shine and take command, and know when to let someone else do the driving, be the follower we need to be, and learn a thing or two.  Sometimes we might even realize that we’re following to a point that we’ve stopped thinking for ourselves, and that’s not a good thing.   When we do that, we give up a part of who we are, a slice of our identity, a hand it over to someone that may or may not know what’s in our best interest.  That sort of following can be seen in many areas of society, most notably in religious organizations and political affiliations.

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The Need To Control

I was looking for parking the other day at the local grocery store and immediately located a middle aged man, with just a few groceries, loading his vehicle.    This was probably the most simple and mundane of tasks, not requiring much effort since the amount of plastic bags he had in his cart was probably fewer than twelve.   Yet he seemed to relish in the idea that I was anxiously waiting for him to finish and leave so I could park my car.    Clearly he was in control and he milked the opportunity… so much so that another person came, loaded their vehicle and left before this guy finished.    I ended up taking that spot instead, with some level of satisfaction that the guy with control issues never got to achieve a power-play orgasm.   Clearly he would have climaxed while backing out ever so slowly, suddenly stopping for traffic that wasn’t there.  Still, I was completely pissed off at this obvious and pathetic need to control.

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Why Are Gay Men So Damn Needy?

I’m sure it’s happened to you before.   You get home after a nice date with a handsome guy, he looked just like his pics online, so that’s a plus right out of the gate.    Sex was pretty much a slam dunk so he’s definitely getting a second try and you’re actually looking forward to it.   You get the usual text message accompanied by some cute emoji…

tonight was really great, thanks for being so cool.”   

 You smile and drift off to sleep as you contemplate how dating really isn’t that bad after all.

The next morning you wake to the familiar routine of shutting off the alarm on your phone, oversleeping, and suddenly realizing you’re late for work.    As you rush to get yourself together and out the door, you notice you have a text message on your phone which must be from the office reminding you of a meeting you’re late for.  In what has become a very automatic set of movements for your fingers, you navigate immediately to your texts and retrieve the poorly timed piece of information…

“thinking of you.”

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