faggots, bulldaggers, queens, and queers

40 years ago, to be gay was to be illegal. Get found out? Lose your job, lose your family, lose your home. There were laws against wearing the clothes of the opposite sex. Being attracted to those of your gender was a mental disorder - gays were literally sickos, perverts. Get busted in one of the regular police raids on gay bars, the only meeting place open to "the love that dare not speak its name"? Lose your freedom. Lose your human dignity when the cops raped or beat you. Lose any right to life and love, damned queers.

These days, a man can marry a man in some states. Lesbians pop up in car ads and become America's sweethearts. The president himself has to face mainstream accusations of not doing enough to advance gay rights (I happen to agree, but that's not what I want to talk about today).

40 years ago yesterday, in the wee hours of the night, the NYC police department went to raid a mafia-owned bar called the Stonewall Inn. A true dive, it catered to the least respected even of the gay world - the stone butches, the drag queens, the homeless queer kids that lived in a nearby park. Folks who drank and danced there (it was the only gay bar in NYC that allowed dancing, by the way) came from all ethnic backgrounds - when you are hated for whom you love, racial issues can become less pressing.

40 years ago - when Michael Jackson was 10 years old and was already an old hand at touring, when Farrah Fawcett was 22 and graduating from the University of Texas, a week after Judy Garland went to that big rainbow in the sky (and don't think that didn't have something to do with the angry mood that night) - 7 cops stepped up to the front of the Stonewall Inn, which didn't even have a back door or fire exits. As they did more than monthly, they announced, "Police! We're taking the place!" One of the officers called for the vans and backup, and they began to force the 200 patrons into lines. They ordered everyone to present ID, and those suspected of being in drag were told to follow a policewoman into the bathroom for a gender check.

40 years ago - not that long at all - those queers started to say NO. They refused to let the cops in their pants and under their skirts. They refused to show ID. The paddywagon was slow in coming that night, and people were already pissed. Revolution - on so many levels - was in the air in those years, and the "sexual deviants" had been through enough. That some of the cops were groping the lesbians under the excuse of a "pat down" sure as hell didn't help. Think about that - 7 or 8 officers in a room of 200 abused, bullied gays and the police were secure enough in their dominance that they went right on ahead molesting and harassing. That's how low on the social totem pole queers were those days.

About a third of the bar patrons were cut loose, shoved out the door to slink away and count their blessings. But they didn't. They started to taunt the police, snarking away, gathering a much larger (and mostly gay) crowd. As the wagons finally pulled up and the cops tried to get people into them, someone - god bless 'em - shouted "Gay Power!" Others began to sing "We Shall Overcome." A cop shoved a drag queen, and she hit him with her purse. Someone yelled back that those inside the bar were being beaten. The crowd reached into their pockets and pulled out the only ammo they had - pennies, bottle caps - and started throwing them at the police. Those were followed by bottles and rocks.

A butch dyke was dragged out of the club in handcuffs. She fought with four of the cops for long minutes, unwilling to be shoved into the van, bleeding from where she'd been struck in the head with a billy club. Finally, she turned to the crowd and asked, "Why don't you guys do something?" and the place fucking erupted. They battled back and forth, the crowd throwing bricks and garbage cans, turning over the paddywagon, slashing the tires on the cop cars. Do you understand? For the first time, the police were forced to retreat in the face of the queers they'd set out to brutalize and dehumanize.

All night, fighting raged in Greenwich Village. The queens set up kick lines, taunting the cops with songs and insulting rhymes, fading back when the officers attacked them with clubs and fists and firehoses, only to start up again when they moved down the street. The police chased a handful of young gay men around a corner, only to find themselves in full flight when they suddenly faced a wall of angry homos shouting, "Catch them!"

The next night was the same. Many people who were there say that they remember, as much as the riot itself, that suddenly people were kissing in the streets. Gays and lesbians were openly being physically affectionate to one another, not hiding in bars where you had to give your name at the peephole to get in. Allen Ginsberg was there that night, and, walking home, he said "Gay power! Isn't that great!... It's about time we did something to assert ourselves," and, "You know, the guys there were so beautiful—they've lost that wounded look that fags all had 10 years ago."

40 years ago, the entire gay rights movement burst into life. Oh, there were inklings and struggling starts before, of course, and brave men and women who fought hard for change. But it was that night, when the queers fought back, that pushed it out in the open and started the boom. In their fight for the right to marry and the right to join the army, the mainstream gay movement would be wise to remember that it was people like Sylvia Rivera (a transsexual woman who began living in a community of drag queens on the streets at the age of 11, when kicked out of the house for being effeminate and who was there that night), that it was working class bulldaggers and homeless sissy fags and limpwrists and stone dykes, that led the charge.

So here's to those who fought back that night, the ones we know and the ones we don't, some nameless but none of them hopeless. Here's to kicklines in the face of police brutality, and swinging purses, and bleeding - if that's what it takes - to be able to love freely. 40 years. Truly amazing.



Standing around the practice space last night as the sun went down, sipping drinks out of cans and plastic cups, we told each other lies about the weather.

"It's not as hot as it has been!"
"Feel that breeze?"
"I'm pretty sure it's cooling off some, what do you think?"

Until it turned out to be the truth, and suddenly the wind kicked up some and bright lightning flashed in the purple-black grey clouds that came crawling across the sky. Between songs, the lead singer asked us, "What are y'all all looking up at?" He couldn't see it from inside the storage space, but we sure could. Staring up at it, thunder lost in a double bass beat, smooth-bottomed force of nature come to wash us clean.

Next thing you know, we're getting hit with those fat Florida raindrops, like getting pelted with acorns or pebbles that splash when they land. Wet dust smell jumped up off the asphalt. We protected our beers but not our heads, letting the storm wash off a heat wave's worth of sweat and exhaustion. The driveway between rows became a still river, soaking your shoes and pants' legs before you even realized you'd stepped into the water.

Man, we needed that.


up and down the river

For my birthday and general kicks, my folks and some friends and I went down the river on Dad's boat. My sister May wrote beautiful things about it and my mama shared her pictures and thoughts here. Go get the backstory!

Dad and Mama in front of the boat, up in the yard in Lloyd.

"Is it so nice as all that?" asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

My sis May (in front) and one of my best friends, T. This was maybe T's second time on a boat smaller than an aircraft carrier.

"Nice? It's the only thing," said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing," he went on dreamily: "messing—about—in—boats; messing—"

The Anni Sue, a massive barge, passed along our port side. I took 5 photos on it, one after the other, as it came - that's how long it was. Look at that guy - King of the River!

"Look ahead, Rat!" cried the Mole suddenly.

A pink sailboat with a "yard" full of purple flowers. If I could spend my life on the water, I would.

It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.

Dad, Mama, and my sis Jess making like an otter. Leaves fall from the cypress and other river trees, filling the river with tanic acid, making it look like good sweet tea. Cold, too, but perfect in the heat of the Florida June sun.

"—about in boats—or with boats," the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. "In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not. Look here! If you've really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it?"

May and T again. You should have seen T's face when dad hit the throttle and we sped into the wind!

The Mole waggled his toes from sheer happiness, spread his chest with a sigh of full contentment, and leant back blissfully into the soft cushions. "What a day I'm having!" he said. "Let us start at once!"

(Wind in the Willows)


at May's request

I got my septum pierced a million years ago, when I was 21, in Atlanta's Little 5 Points. It's the only piercing I have left (used to have my ears full of rings) and the only jewelry I wear. I do a few stupid tricks with it, usually when little kids state at me in public - "disappear" it into my nose, take out the horseshoe I wear and run other things through the hole, that kind of stuff.

In response to yesterday's picture, my sister said: "Now put something else in your nose, 'cause that shit is hilarious." So, two pictures of something else in my nose:

4 or 5 years ago, at a baby shower. Novelty diaper pin. I don't want to tell you what other piercing holes this thing got stuck through after I was done with it.

And just now, in my office, a small punch tool.

Fun times!


gimme money

Waiting on my paycheck to go through. Waiting on my paycheck to go through. It must be an alternate Thursday, because I'm singing the Waiting on My Damn Paycheck song.

Why do I toil here in the salt mines, waking up at the ungodly hour of 7 am to support the unlucky and unstable of Florida? It ain't so I'll develop state worker ass. It ain't for the chance to rise in my field and shine like the brilliant star that I am. It ain't even for unlimited office supplies.

Okay, it's partially for the unlimited office supplies. I do love 'em. (See above picture.)

No, it's for the paycheck, of course! It ain't much, but it's steady. I've been skin broke all week, and now I've got visions of cold beer and a fully gassed car, a meal that doesn't involve soup and a new pair of cargo pants from the army/navy store. Next week is my vacation, and I'll spend it locally, sleeping in my own bed, having adventures where I can. And what little is left after rent and updating my car insurance will make for a good time indeed.

When you make small change, it's good to recognize simple blessings.


put it on paper

I am a man of appetites. I hunger for good food and good words. Stepping away from the music-based publications I've been writing for the past few years, I recently finished a small zine about grub. It's got recipes. It's got a personal story or two. It's even got a poem, and I just don't write too many of those these days.

Want a copy?