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Contemporary Metrosexuality IV. Le Mort Chic: Epithalamion, Epitaph

In Art, film, Freud, Gender Studies, Lacan, LGBT, Literature, Masquerade, Performativity, Philosophy, Politics, Queer Theory, Sex, The End of Heterosexuality?, Transgender on January 1, 2015 at 11:31 am

The Final Article in our series: “The End of Heterosexuality?”                                         

Dixon Miller, New Orleans, 1996

Dixon Miller, New Orleans, 1996

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by Michael Angelo Tata

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If the edifying Versace Bildungsroman has taught us anything, it is that fashion evokes and invites death, that to be chic is to court death as the lusty courtesan flashes the inflamed King, that death is the ultimate reward for being fashionable, for being fashioned, for being able and willing to be made and remade time and time gain in the kinds of self-fashioning that epitomize the restless self of capital, eternal shopper looking to alienate his subjectivity in just the right foreign material, perhaps even arriving at the point when, as if emulating a pop princess whose psyche has circled back upon itself one too any times, he is finally able to claim he has renounced identity altogether in the pursuit of pure egolessness, the greatest illusion of territoriality.

Beverly Kills “Dee, when your gluten allergies act up, take out your nose ring!”  (Daily Mail)
Beverly Kills
“Dee, when your gluten allergies act up, take out your nose ring!”
(Daily Mail)

True, the death of Gianni Versace is a morality tale on almost every level, but the lesson to be learned from his demise is not a homophobic story about vulgarity and sexual favors in which demented gay men reap what they sow, as Maureen Orth presents in her facile exposé Vulgar Favors, but instead a larger and more genetic lesson about the implicit connection between fashion and death, the one tied inextricably to the other like a sparrow stapled to a shadow or a cinderblock roped to a cankle, the effect being that the more we embrace fashion, the louder we call out to death, who awaits the sound of our voices and finds us all the quicker simply by following the light reflecting from the embellishments of our surfaces (yes, this is also how the sun finds the moon). For it is only via the stuttering, chatterbox language of ephemerality that we may communicate with death and by embracing the transitory that we turn our bodies into so many transistor radios searching for just the right frequency to deliver a message that can never be recalled once its syllables achieve telepoetic status, radiating out into space along with every other radiowaved record of human civilization broadcast to the furthest reaches of the cosmos.

Maurice Blanchot has much to say about the chatterbox in the essays grouped joyously under the title Friendship: for him, the one who chatters paradoxically redeems the “idle talk” (Gerede) lamented by Heidegger in his Being and Time as discardable stage along the path to authentic Da-sein, at its best a productive social obstacle that must be superseded yet another trap put forward by the world to ensnare a being-there which is really a being-here-and-now (what I refer to as Spacetime Da_sein), preventing it from coming to a knowledge of itself through the simple, seductive ruse of distraction.

Little Miss Blanchot rawrzammm to infinity & beyond <3

Little Miss Blanchot
rawrzammm to infinity & beyond ❤

 Like Blanchot, I’ve always found a charm in idle talk, in particular as I discuss in my work on Existentialism at the Mall, myself unsure that discourses priding themselves on clarity, like logic or the philosophy of mathematics, ever go beyond the strange circularity of idle talk, this infinitely recursive yet clueless and a-discursive stammering that is first and foremost a playing for time, as in the title of Perf Art troublemakers Kiki and Herb’s smash 2000 show. In Blanchot’s words:

This is, as it were, the point of departure, an empty need to speak, made of this void and in order to fill it at all costs, and the void is himself having become this need and this desire that still treads only emptiness. A pure force of sorts, of melting snow, of drunken rupture, and often obtained under the cover of drunkenness, where the being who speaks find nothing to say but the flimsy affirmation of himself: A Me, Me, Me, mot vain, not glorious, but broken, unhappy, barely breathing, although appealing in the force of its weakness (“Battle with the Angel,” 131).

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One from the Other

In Art, film, Gender Studies, LGBT, Literature, Performativity, Politics, Queer Theory on August 25, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Picture 3(A still from David Wojnarowicz’s film, A Fire in My Belly)

by Kevin McLellan

Preface

Before the acronyms HIV and AIDS were established, there were these acronyms: the 4H disease (Haitians, homosexuals, hemophiliacs, and heroine users) and GRID (gay-related immune deficiency). Did this precursory nomenclature further contribute to the stigma for the gay community in the early 1980s? For those within the gay community not only diagnosed with what would be named HIV/AIDS? Were there other forces that divided the negative gay community, if you will, from the positive gay community? Was fear one of those forces?One from the other by no means directly addresses these substantial questions, but rather in its compression attempts to touch upon the underbelly of a post-breakup phone conversation between HIV+ Kris and HIV- Anthony in 1998, on the heels of breakthrough medicinal therapy. Yet the psychological and sociosexual impacts for those living with an HIV/AIDS diagnosis prior to 1996 had already been set into motion.

The title of this play, One from the other, correlates to something Kris says to Anthony, “It’s killing you. The alcohol and your relationship with your mother. I can’t determine one from the other.” The intention of this dialogue, and consequently the title, is by no means to demonize mothers/motherhood, but rather to use (this particular) mother as metaphor for HIV/AIDS and how the virus has control over the body like the mother has control over her son.

Kris mimics Anthony’s mother, “Why do you speak to me that way? You know that I’m not going to live for very much longer.” This language in conjunction with Kris’ claim, “You speak with her nearly every day and fall for her guilt” is not only an attempt to set the stage for Anthony and his compromised relationships (with his mother, an ex,  and alcohol), but alternatively to fashion germane language for those living with HIV/AIDS in 1998 if they were to address the virus itself.

So, ultimately, this play is attempting to support the creation of a metaphorical conceit (a mother lode, if you will) in order to address directly or indirectly various kinds of division: within the gay and straight communities, between a positive and a negative gay man, and between sons and mothers.

One from the Other

Picture 5A still from David Wojnarowicz’s film, A Fire in My Belly

 

Cast of Characters:

KRIS, a thirty-something gay man who is HIV+ and recently separated from Anthony.

ANTHONY, an alcoholic forty-something gay man still in love with Kris.

The play takes place in their respective apartments, opens with a phone conversation in progress, one evening in the year 1998. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Prose Poems as Psychological and Therapeutic Objects

In Art, Freud, LGBT, Literature, Poetry, Queer Theory on August 27, 2012 at 8:11 am

By Don Adams

Author’s Forward

When I look back on it, it seems to me that I have spent a significant part of my conscious adult life in the active and sometimes arduous process of being gay.  The prose poems below have been a part of that process.  From a personal and perhaps generational perspective, these poems, written over a period of years, seem to me as much historical documents as aesthetic objects.  For generations of the future, being gay may well seem, one hopes, a mere fact of life, like being American or Chinese, tall or short.  But for young men and women of my generation, and in many situations of course still today, being gay was and is a predicament.

Psychology can help.  In graduate school I pored through Freud and Jung and their disciples in an effort to explain to myself my inclinations and identity.  Modern psychology admittedly has a long and sad history of being used in the service of bigotry and oppression.  But at its best, psychology is an effort at understanding, and “to understand is to pity and forgive,” as Somerset Maugham, a once celebrated and now critically neglected gay writer, assures us in his nearly forgotten autobiography.

Maugham is a case in point in regards to the at times torturous evolution of gay identity in recent history.  When he was writing his drama and fiction in the first half of the 20th Century, Maugham was compelled by societal prejudice and indeed legal stricture to omit any direct reference to homosexuality.  But when we read him by today’s standards and assumptions regarding sexual identity and awareness, his work all too easily appears the product of a hopeless closet case.  To comprehend that work sympathetically, we have to recreate in some measure the assumptions and prejudices of the society in which it was appreciatively received, and which it in no small measure condemned and critiqued.  For in its broadest existential sense, to understand is not only to pity and forgive, but to accept that one has an ethical duty to challenge and attempt to change.

Maugham’s work takes up the challenge of changing a bigoted world in a courageous but necessarily coded way that requires some teasing out.  The poems below, written in a less dire time for sexual minorities, are correspondingly less circumspect, but they exhibit nevertheless many signs and symptoms of the cultural and psychological closet from which they were attempting to emerge.  When I read them now, some years after composition, and from the relative security of a less bigoted world, it seems to me that they were attempting to compel an ignorant, indifferent, or even hostile reader into sympathetic comprehension.  Perhaps they were addressed in some sort of unconscious way to my parents (who conspicuously appear in them but never to my knowledge read them), kind-hearted individuals who were compelled into psychological cruelty toward their gay son by religious stricture and societal prejudice.  But the crucial audience for the poems as psychological and therapeutic objects was even closer to home.  For it is true, as Maugham said as well, that there is no one in greater need of one’s sympathy, or for whom it is more efficacious, than oneself.

WHEN I WAS A CHILD

I thought like a child, a simple fact.  At the dime store once, my hippie cousin bought us hats.  I chose a floppy denim number with orange and yellow flowers embroidered on the crown.  When I got home with the prized purchase, my mother, glancing up from her recumbent position on the couch, pronounced a casual curse upon it, “Why are you wearing a girl’s hat son?”  Seeing my face tragically altered by the fact, she said to my cousin, “You know what he is going to do now, don’t you?”  And there were tears beneath the brim.

Some years later the young man’s mother, driven to distraction by repeated rebuffs, took the matter in hand one night while riding home with her son in the car, “You think you’re better than us now, don’t you?”  She got, as usual, no significant response.  His thoughts on the matter he was keeping well under the ubiquitous brim of his hat. Read the rest of this entry »

“The Conference”: an excerpt from Gender’s Hourglass

In Gender Studies, Lacan, LGBT, Literature, Transgender on July 13, 2012 at 12:49 am

by Cybele Marcia Carter

Editor’s Introduction

        In her previous excerpt from Gender’s Hourglass, “The Institute”, Cybele Marcia Carter explored a fantasy that nearly all queer individuals share—the desire to go back in time to relive one’s adolescence armed with the knowledge of and security with our sexual and gender identity from the present. For Carter, this meant traveling back to a formative moment in time in 1972 when she was institutionalized for being transgendered. Carter writes in her introduction to the first installment:

 What I was (and still am) may have been diagnosed as a disease in 1972, but is accepted as (mostly) routine today – a transgendered female.  Neither my doctor, who recommended institutionalization, nor my parents or sisters at that time, understood what gender dysphoria (feeling born and trapped in the body of the wrong gender) or Gender Identity Disorder (GID) were.  They could not know that, while born as a boy, I had always lived with the certainty that I was female and should have been born and raised as a girl.

What fascinates me about Carter’s story is its testament to how gender and sexuality are discursively constructed. Most queer coming of age novels of the 20th century include some variation of a scene in which the character sees the word “homosexual”, “gay”, “lesbian”, or any term of queer identity in a novel, a dictionary, or encyclopedia and suddenly becomes transformed by access to textual authority. Just as an infant in Lacan’s mirror stage is born into the symbolic through the misrecognition of the self as a whole that must be maintained, I believe that this event of textual discovery for a queer youth is its own moment of misrecognition, an instance of being born into an identity category expected to wholly define the self that one must constantly strive to fit and resemble.

“Gay” is both a description of one’s self and an aspirational model to pursue for the self that subjects the individual to all of the expectations and limitations of that identity category. We are given language to inform the self, but it has an inherent, impersonal lack that can never satisfy the desire for psychic wholeness. A child born into the symbolic feels an inherent lack in themselves, and when a queer child first learns of a word for his/her gender or sexual feelings, they are deceived with a second moment of misrecognition that could make them believe that the feeling of lack was caused because they did not know they are this thing called “gay” and that by now knowing they are “gay” they have a wholly explanatory term for their self. Thus, part of maturing into a queer sexual or gender identity means realizing the inadequacy of all categories of identity, and developing strategies for signifying the self that use common terms and discourse to others in order to make one’s self legible without being reduced to a one-dimensional figure.

Carter’s story understands the importance of a queer youth to have access to language, knowledge, and discourse on gender and sexual identity. Yet, instead of having some enlightened clinician from the 70s to inform her teenage self, she supplies it herself from 2012. Her teenage self is not just given the message of “you are transgendered and that is okay”; she is granted all of the experience of growing into her gender identity over the course of the next 40 years. There is something in “queer experience” and living queerly between the lines of male and female–the lasting affect of navigating gender that informs gender identity in ways that the signifier/signified system of language excludes.

The Conference

The Gran mal conference would be, I felt, the make-or-break point of my efforts here at the Institute to form a new life; a new past, present, and future for myself.  If my explanations were convincing enough regarding my being born transsexual, and needing to live as a female being as important as breathing itself, then I would have the medical community here behind me.  And that was important in persuading my parents to let me remain Cybele and to begin taking female hormones.

But if I couldn’t persuade Kilroy’s colleagues to back me, I wondered if he would in turn back off from supporting me.  Nobody likes to swim against the tide or to go it alone, as I myself knew quite well.  Still, I knew I could count on Miss Williams’s support in any case; and perhaps she would convince the others on their own terms.

Miss Williams led me down the hall to the south side of the ward and used her elevator key to take us down to Level 1.  This was where a long hallway took us down into the actual hospital, with its own maze of corridors; until we found the conference room.  I was lost myself; but Emily had been there before, it seemed.

Now as for the room: perhaps you’ve seen, in old or classic movies such as Young Frankenstein, something called an “operating theater”.  This is a large room like an auditorium, or a small amphitheater: with banks of seats rising tier by tier so that all the attendees can get a good view of a platform, or stage, upon which a physician would perform an operation.  Or, in this case, introduce a rather unique patient.  As we entered through a set of double doors, I almost backed out.  Every one of the 50 or so seats in the theater were filled with white-coated physicians, psychologists and graduate students.  All eyes turned to me as I came in, blushing and flushed with my natural shyness.  Dr. Kilroy was standing beside a raised podium to my left, upon which a microphone was planted.

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A Jungian Exploration of Thoreau’s Sexuality

In Gender Studies, LGBT, Literature, Queer Theory on June 13, 2012 at 11:03 am

by Chris Snellgrove

The goal of my larger research concerning Thoreau is to use Jungian psychoanalytic techniques to examine Thoreau’s Walden, which helps to explore the connection between Thoreau’s notion of transcendence and the Jungian notion of self-actualization. This subsection focuses primarily on the Jungian anima archetype (in Jungian terms, this is the feminine aspect of man, and the avenue by which he accessed his soul, or spirit), and how Thoreau, existing in relative physical and sexual isolation, encountered that archetype during his time at Walden Pond. The ultimate goal of both Jungian therapy and transcendentalism is that of actualization, in which a person has accessed their unconscious mind and found truths concerning both themselves and the larger world around them. The importance of the anima to this process cannot be overstated, as it represents man’s ability to access his own unconscious mind—essentially, to begin the entire process.

Such self-actualization can be understood in terms of removing a mask: Jung considered an individual’s persona as a representation of how they wished to be viewed by the world: individuals can only wear one mask (and, thus, embody one aspect of their personality) at a time, limiting not only their interactions with others, but their ability to access their unconscious mind. Self-actualization occurs when an individual eliminates the need for the persona at all, finding a way to dynamically embody the entirety of their self—as Thoreau emphasizes so powerfully, when an individual is able to revere both their spiritual and their savage side, they are more fully actualized than if they limit themselves to one perspective. Before they can embrace savagery, however, they must first pull back the veil of their unconscious world by accessing their inner femininity.

The Anima

The anima of Thoreau and his subsequent re-contextualization of the feminine is a central idea to this work, as an analysis of Thoreau’s “repressed” masculine side necessitates an examination of his anima. This Jungian examination offers a fresh perspective to the heterosexual/homosexual binary that splits critics, and unites several disparate elements of Walden—the carnivorous bloodthirstiness of Thoreau in “Higher Laws,” for instance, seems to have little to do with John Fields’ wife, until one considers the spirituality Thoreau sees in bodily taking what he wants from the land, as opposed to those whose adherence to capitalism keeps them poor.  Fields’ wife is portrayed as urging her husband to define success in worldly, material terms; the trappings of civilization are, to Thoreau, actually trapping civilization within a feminine framework.  The counterpoint, then, is masculine abandon, such as eating a live woodchuck; from a Jungian standpoint, Thoreau balances the best aspects of femininity and masculinity—forsaking the capitalistic repression of Fields’ wife while retaining his own sensitive appreciation of the natural world. Similarly, he does not condemn nor regret the urge to eat a woodchuck, yet implies that such beastliness is a necessary precursor to spirituality, just as hunting is ironically necessary to teach children to value the natural world (Thoreau. Walden 214). This exercise—liberating restrained femininity and restraining masculine abandon—allows Thoreau to perceive transcendental truths without being held back by his persona; in Jungian terms, he is individuating himself by overcoming his own mask.  The Persona is best understood as the aspect of Thoreau that helps him integrate into the collective consciousness—the so-called “mass of men” in Concord who Thoreau seeks to impress even as he distinguishes himself from them.  This is significant in this analysis, because the notion of such a mask extends to both the public realm of perception (how Thoreau desired others to regard him) and the archetypes of unconsciousness controlling how he views himself—one can actually view the process of Thoreau’s individuation by reading the transition between the teacher/student dichotomy of Walden’s first chapter and the open arms with which he greets a fraternity of free-thinkers by the close of the book.  By this point, the mask of superiority has genuinely dropped; a fully individuated Thoreau is presented as a changed man.

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A Brief Chronicle of the Long Life of a Nobody

In Art, Gender Studies, LGBT, Literature, Mythology, Poetry, Uncategorized on May 29, 2012 at 11:30 am

by Jim Elledge

Internationally-recognized, self-taught artist Henry Darger lived in utter poverty his entire life. Not long after he was born in Chicago (April 12, 1892), his impoverished parents moved out of the respectable, blue-collar neighborhood in which they had lived for several years into a coach-house apartment behind 165 West Adams just west of the Loop. That address was at the threshold of Chicago’s most notorious vice district, called West Madison Street after its chief thoroughfare.

Henry’s father went into a tailspin after a string of tragedies blind-sided him. His second son, Arthur, born a year and a half after Henry, died when he was only five months old, and then his wife Rosa died giving birth to their third child, a daughter. Almost sixty years old, too old (he felt) to be taking care of both an infant and a toddler, he immediately put his daughter up for adoption. The loss of his wife and children was too much for him, and he abandoned himself to drink and Henry to the dark streets—and even darker denizens—of West Madison Street.

Henry’s experiences during his earliest days in the vice district were, in a word, horrific as his autobiography, The History of My Life, reveals. He purposely knocked down children younger than he; sliced his teacher’s face and arms with a knife he carried when she punished him for an infraction; flung ashes into the eyes of a little neighborhood girl; committed arson to get even with a neighbor man; was nearly kidnapped by a homeless man; had a relationship with a night watchman; and was removed from his father’s house by authorities who institutionalized him in Dunning among the insane, indigent, and mentally ill—all before he was eight years old. Henry’s anger, violent behavior, and early sexual activities are symptomatic of child sexual abuse. Small for his age, Henry was an easy target.

In 1900, embarrassed by his eight-year-old son’s conduct and unable to cope with him, Henry’s father pawned the boy off on the priests who ran the Mission of Our Lady of Mercy, where he would live for the next four years. After more behavioral problems, which included being involved sexually with at least three other boys at the Mission, the priests told Henry’s father that Henry had to go. By then, his father was living in St. Augustine’s Home for the Aged, had no money with which to help his son, and had no room to take him in. Instead, he contacted a doctor, told him that Henry had been masturbating since he was six years old (another symptom of sexual abuse), and asked him to examine the boy. After meeting with Henry on two separate occasions, Dr. Otto Schmidt helped Henry’s father to fill out the form that would allow them to exile the now twelve-year-old to the Illinois Asylum for Feeble-Minded Children in Lincoln, IL. On Thanksgiving Day 1904, Tim Rooney took Henry by train to the Asylum.

Institutionalizing children for “self-abuse” (the term that was most often used for masturbation) was entirely legal and ubiquitous at the time. Physicians across the country supported institutionalization, and some even went so far as to recommend castration. Henry wasn’t the only boy sent to the Asylum for self-abuse. In fact, four other boys—three, twelve, thirteen, and nineteen years old—were admitted within of a month of the day when Henry arrived, each because of self-abuse.

As it turned out, the Asylum was a hellhole. While attendants had many techniques that they used to control the boys in their care, they were fond of strangling boys until they were close to blacking out, their tongues protruding and their faces turning blue. In such a condition, the boys were unable or unwilling to resist whatever the adult had in mind for them. At the same time, the prisons in Illinois had been filled to capacity, and the courts decided to send the overflow of male criminals to live—and sleep—among the boys at the Asylum. The smaller, weaker boys were at the mercy of the larger, stronger boys and men in the beds beside them.

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“The Institute”: an excerpt from Gender’s Hourglass

In LGBT, Literature, Queer Theory, Transgender on May 8, 2012 at 9:24 am

by Cybele Marcia Carter

Author’s Introduction

When I was just 13 I had already seen my first psychiatrist and was committed to a private mental institution for six weeks in San Francisco.  I was not actually mentally ill, neither acutely neurotic nor psychotic.  What I was (and still am) may have been diagnosed as a disease in 1972, but is accepted as (mostly) routine today – a transgendered female.  Neither my doctor, who recommended institutionalization, nor my parents or sisters at that time, understood what gender dysphoria (feeling born and trapped in the body of the wrong gender) or Gender Identity Disorder (GID) were.  They could not know that, while born as a boy, I had always lived with the certainty that I was female and should have been born and raised as a girl.  As such, the “therapy” I received in the institute was misguided, focusing only on “male-bonding” with my father and improving my socialization skills with other adolescents on my ward.  The result was years – decades, actually – of misery, on my part; of trying, and failing, to either fit into the role in which I was cast, or to break free of convention and live true to myself.  I have lived, until now, a mostly hidden or “closeted” existence.

In my actual life, here in 2012, I am finally escaping the bonds of familial ties, guilt, and shame over being a transsexual.  But it occurred to me – what if I could travel back in time, to 1972, with the full knowledge and experience of the past 50 years, and change what was to what I wished it to be?  With the help of my clinic’s medical staff, could I have convinced my parents to allow me to begin living as a girl; as a daughter and sister; and even to help me take appropriate hormones and finance eventual sexual reassignment surgery (SRS)?  And if so, how different would my life have been up to now?  Would I be happier or filled with even more regret?

I have thus combined my actual memoirs of that critical year of 1972 – the year I first started high school, and met my first girlfriend, who would later bear my daughter – with a story of what could have (and should have) happened.  The settings and most of the characters are as real as I remember and speak and act as I believe they would have or do now.  The scientific and medical information I “bring back” with me in time is completely accurate and accepted as of the present.  Naturally, I also bring back “memories” and knowledge of my past future – that is, of the future I already lived for 50 years – which I refer to as my “first time around”.  But my story emphasis is the choices I make and the changes to my life in this, my “second time around” – in other words, a “do-over” of my adult life.

Mine is neither the first nor the last story of its kind.  I am indebted to my predecessors such as Daphne Scholinski and Susanna Kaysen for their inspiring memoirs of their experiences in private mental institutions.  Ms. Scholinski’s book, The Last Time I Wore a Dress, falls on the opposite end of the gender spectrum from my own, but my tale has some similarities.  My complete book, Gender’s Hourglass, could almost be considered a blend of truthful memoir and fiction.  I based it on my own real experiences and people I’ve known and loved, though I’ve changed their names and used artistic license in crafting composite characters and dialogue.  The opinions and convictions I, as protagonist, express are indeed my own.  I hope this story may inspire others to stand for themselves in expressing who they really are.

The Institute

It was 1972.  Late February or early March I think.  The place was San Francisco, California.  And the author, myself — Mark, at that time — was there.  There in a hospital.  A mental hospital (or institution, if you prefer).  Specifically, the McAllister Neuropsychiatric Institute, within a wing of St. Margaret’s Hospital (now Medical Center) located on the corner of Stanyan and Hayes Streets in the Haight-Asbury District.  Five years after the Summer of Love; and right across the street from Golden Gate Park.   At that time my home was in San Bruno and I was in my first years of high school.  My first year of madness.  But I’m getting ahead of myself — an easy thing for a time-traveler to do!

The McAllister Institute, which still exists but is in 2011physically separate from the old St. Margaret’s hospital – now a cancer center at 2250 Hayes St. – and the much newer and larger St. Margaret’s Medical Center, uphill along Stanyan past Fulton.  The building is drab; a light industrial shade of grey.  Near the Institute’s rear, or northwest side, the ward I was on – for children and adolescents – was at ground level; but as the adjacent Grove St. went downhill from there to Hayes St., part of my ward became Level 2 with a first level below. The adult ward was above us on Level 3, with its dreaded shock therapy room (which we were all shown at least once), and bars on the outside of all the windows that are still there in 2011.

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Growing Up Gay and Amish in America

In LGBT, Literature, Polymorphous Perversity, Queer Theory, Uncategorized on April 17, 2012 at 8:41 am
by James Schwartz

Leaving the Old Order Amish community equals leaving everyone and everything you know. Any Amish that identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or gender questioning will be met with condemnation and  Scriptures (Leviticus, always a classic).

They will not be handed a complimentary copy of ‘Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality’ by John Boswell.

Where traditions and heritage run deep there is little choice but leave or live a lie.

Most Amish are of German descent but we are of Swiss stock, my Mom passing when I am 9, thus my upbringing with my father, a model of Swiss tolerance.

I don’t join the church and will not go back.

I go clubbing in Indiana and Michigan.

At 22 I step onstage, making my drag debut at Brothers Beta Club (Kalamazoo, MI) Closet Ball pageant and perform at The Zoo Bar.

I would exchange the cabaret for the poetry slam circuit in my mid 20s and seriously began writing with stars in my eyes.

The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America collects my poetry, writings from 2005-2010 with a few early poems.

THE BEGINNING

 The black garbed men cluster by the shed

 As the morning sun burns mists away

 The unharnassed horses away are led

 To the barns stuffed with hay

 The men kiss in the Spirit of the Lord

 As Christ once kissed his band

 Across the green a rushing stream

 Serenades the countryland

 Only the brethren greet with a kiss

 I am but a child yet know

 What today I am to miss

 And how far I have to go

 To find redemption at the border

 Of new beginnings and the Old Order.

 

INDIANA 2 AM

I was such a queer thing.

Even growing up.

Sexuality is not a choice.

Listen to my femme voice.

Even throwing up…

I was such a disco boy.

Spinning through school.

Twirling in my first disco.

The Seahorse Cabaret 2.

Indiana 2 a.m.

He stares at me and smiles…

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