Stamp Out Discrimination

imagesLFSLV43XMy cousin makes fun of me; she is certain I am the last man alive in these days of e-mail and Face Time that still makes use of the post office. But I use it all the time. I still send letters and postcards and thank you notes and Valentines — I always need a stamp for something. And the first time I put a Harvey Milk stamp on a letter, I was surprised at the emotions it stirred up. Seventy years ago they put us in concentration camps for being gay; fifty years ago they still put us in jail; thirty-five years ago they binged on Twinkies and assassinated us for daring to participate in city government. Now George Takei rules the internet, Ellen is the darling of daytime TV, and they put Harvey Milk on a stamp. Much to the dismay of some Republican lawmakers, we have arrived. It’s enough (apparently) to bring a tear to the eye of a boy who came of age at the height of the AIDS crisis with the fear that just being gay would literally kill him.  So when the Finnish post office announced their plans in 2014 to release Tom of Finland stamps, I had to have them. As in, I priced air fare to Helsinki so’s I could go stand in line at a post office and get some.

If you must know, Tom of Finland has never been my favorite artist. I like a nice round butt in tight pants as much as the next guy — probably way more than the next guy, actually — but for the most part his men are too muscled, mustachioed, and leather-daddy-ish for my tastes. Do they all have to wear that hat? But the fact that a whole freakin’ country could recognize Tuoko Laaksonen’s contribution to world culture (the gay part of it, anyway), and celebrate an erotic artist by putting some of his erotic art on stamps, without people feeling the need to rise up and pass a bunch of grandstanding retaliatory laws (one has a butt!)  reinforcing their Jesus-mandated prerogative to, I don’t know, use different stamps — or not mail wedding pizzas with them or whatever — was huge, and I wanted in. And only recently did I learn that my friend in New York called her friend in Sweden and asked her, Hey, next time you’re in Finland, could you scoop up some stamps for my friend?  A request her pal graciously fulfilled (Tak, Pernilla!), and I got my set in the mail a few weeks ago. They’re gorgeous and kind of sexy and subversive in a history-making way, and they deserve a fate better than getting sifted to the bottom of the pile of crap priceless memories here next to (and on top of and underneath and behind) my friend’s old dining room table desk, and so off I went with them to Michaels to see about getting a mat cut and getting them into a frame.

slide_345601_3618742_freeTo the extent that what I’m about to say could serve any purpose beyond perpetuating stereotypes, I present as gay. Like, as way gay. I look like I’m gay, I talk like I’m gay, I wear pashminas and toenail polish and, because I live with a drag queen, there are days that I leave an actual trail of hot pink glitter in my wake as I flounce through places like Michaels. And in case the people working in the custom framing department weren’t the type to pick up on not-so-subtle social cues, yesterday I was also waving around a sheet of stamps emblazoned with a naked guy and his butt saying “Frame these!”. First an unflappable young man offered help. When I told him I was hoping for a custom-cut mat to fit a ready-made frame, he assessed my artwork without comment, suggested a nice blue, and then produced a stack of mats from which to choose. While we were weighing the options, his co-worker approached the table. She saw what we were working with, and sure enough, she had something to say about it. Continue reading

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Hello, Kitty!

HKEvaAirTakeOffI have recently returned from a short trip to Japan, the land of the glamorous hot bath, pork cutlet curry, and (alas) millions of varieties of instant coffee. It was a work trip (ostensibly), and my “sightseeing” was limited mostly to the sights I could see from my hotel room window (namely the Narita airport, and typhoon Phanfone as she blew by), and yet at the end of six days (there was some Guam involved…) I was so loaded down with mementos I could barely zip my suitcase.

Why, you ask? Because, as you know, Japan is the birthplace and home base of my Souvenir Hero, Hello Kitty, and if she’s on something, I buy it.

We had a Sanrio store at the U-Hills Mall here in Denver when I was growing up, where you could get Hello Kitty pencils and weird candy, but even as a pretty fruity kid, the appeal of some expressionless cat sitting still in her overalls escaped me. It wasn’t until I started running around Japan as a grown man that she revealed herself to me as kind of a bad-ass. Continue reading

Tattooed with a Nude

OnlyJudyCanJudgeMeSo I’m on the airplane yesterday, the last leg of one of the more irritating months of my flying career. This family’s in the last row, bottle-blonde mom, kid in a car seat, chunky, hunky husband in a t-shirt and shorts. He gets up out of his seat to get who-knows-what out of the overhead bin and I clock the naked-lady tattoo on his calf with an inward eye-roll. How classy, I groan, if only to myself. She must be very proud. What kind of woman, after all, runs around with the kind of jackass that parades around town with porn on his body? He was pretty cute, mind you, and they’d both been above-average friendly, but my knee-jerk impulse was not just to judge them, but harshly. They were airplane passengers, after all — they must have been doing something wrong.

I mean, it only took about five seconds — which can seem like a long time when you’re right in the middle of it — but the other shoe did eventually drop. My husband has a tattoo of a naked guy. A big one. Oh wait — have a tattoo of a naked guy. On my calf. And it drives me crazy when people react to it like it’s porn. “You have a penis on your leg!” No I don’t; it’s Michelangelo’s David, for Heaven’s sake. It’s not a penis, it’s Art! Heed the Bible verse referenced by another of my tattoos: Don’t judge me! (“Luke 6:37,” as my left ankle will tell you.) Oy, the irony…

Naturally, as someone who has one, I don’t really have a problem with naked tattoos. I was even moved to write Jared’s (color and shading to come) a little backstory. And because it’s in my favorite little 100-word format, I’m sharing it here. I’m sure this guy’s topless Waikiki wahine has her own story, too. I didn’t ask to hear it, but if its moral is “Give people a break,” she should consider her message received.

J's PHX Tat2Rising from the ashes is one thing, but exploding in flames hurt, dammit, and this had been a tough recovery.  His strength trickled back so slowly when he mourned a mortal lover, and he languished being earthbound.  His wings took forever to regenerate, and waiting, he was a prisoner of his muscle-heavy body, clumsier every day as gravity mocked his lavishly furled tail feathers.  Finally today, the anxious rustling of impatient wings had woken him.  He stayed for an extra minute to savor the lust for freedom — suddenly delicious, its quenching imminent — and then took to the sky.

 

In the Church of the Boys and Mind

Church has never really been my scene. At least not “Church” of the Tuck In Your Shirt, Be Quiet, Now Kneel Now Stand Now Sit Now Kneel variety. Not that I’m against sharing wine and bread as a way to pass the time on a Sunday afternoon, you understand, but I’m gonna want a lot more than one sip, and probably some cheese.

Dane Thorn Birds AlsoIt’s not like I didn’t give it a chance. I rode my bike to church like six Sundays straight when I was in college. Mostly because I had the major hots for Father Greg. He’s handsome and there’s donuts?  Try and stop me. Like every other gay boy who ever saw The Thorn Birds, I even toyed with the idea of becoming a priest. Of living in Rome and talking in Latin; of sharing an ivy-shaded stone dormitory with other mild-mannered, bespectacled youths. Well, you know, mild-mannered until lights out, when they would naturally drop their black robes to the floor in a puddle and let the moonlight trickle down the ridges and pool in the curves of their milk-fed, muscled bodies. Farm-raised bodies from across the world, in every hue of brown, of gold, of pert-bottomed pink… It was Passion that drew me to the priesthood alright, but not one for going to church.

I certainly believe in the Wonders of the Universe, and have seen too many blossoming cherry trees, spewing volcanoes, and giggling babies not to believe that a Creative Force is hard at work in the world. I’ve just never been convinced that the best way to glorify this Force and to celebrate these Wonders was to gather inside a boring old building once a week and struggle to stay awake through Reverend Lovejoy’s lecture on Constancy, sweet constancy.

Not that all churches are boring, of course. Gaudí’s unfinished Sagrada Familia, while not the most interesting of his Barcelona buildings, is certainly eye-catching, and La Sainte-Chapelle is widely renowned as one of the jewels of Paris (if one of her fakes, seeing as how it’s mostly glass…). And then, of course, there’s Powell’s City of Books. Continue reading

A Little Romance

The other night, prompted by something or other he’d seen on Facebook, my husband turns to me and asks, “What’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever done for you?”  Easy, I think, because obviously the most romantic thing he’s ever done for me will leap to the front of my memory and right out of my mouth.  An awkward silence ensues, followed by hemming and hawing, until eventually, and visibly disappointed, he says, “Well, whatever it was, it must not have been that romantic.”

popeyes biscuitsIn truth, our daily life is not exactly a series of Grand Romantic Gestures.  And your friend who acts like hers is?  She’s lying. But I find romance in the little things.  In the occasional springtime bouquet of irises he’ll bring me, which he knows are my favorite flower because they are purple.  In coming home from a trip to a candlelit apartment and a glass of wine.  Hell, I think it’s super romantic when he brings home Popeye’s without me asking him to and he gets my order exactly right; for a writer of gay romance, I’m not especially hard to wow. Continue reading