Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What We Talk About When We Talk About Bill Clinton

High school was a bitch. Everyone says it, and everyone means it.

High school. "Jesus," we think for the rest our lives. "I can't believed I survived."

Whatever horrible things befall us, we still think: "I survived high school. How bad can it get?"

A lot, of course, is the answer. We could be President.

But still.

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During high school, I kept a suicide note in my sock drawer and a knife underneath my stereo. True story! I'd look at the knife sometimes. I'd talk to it. After a terrible day, I'd run the dull blade along my arms, leaving dry white lines on my forearms because I was undermoisturized.

I'd also revise my suicide note, which was more of a suicide directive.

"Give my books a good home," the directive advised. "Complete all my half-written stories using the notes provided," it continued. "Play 'You Can't Always Get What You Want' at my funeral."

Then I'd revise the note. "Play 'Last Midnight.'"

Obviously I had no suicidal intent. I was just a trope in search of a TV show.

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Here's where I should mention what it was like being gay in Alabama. Here's where I should mention how it felt to be gay and alone. Here's where Dan Savage should throw in that 'It gets better.' Blah.

It does get better. And worse. It gets different, is what Dan Savage should say.

Gay people are like straight people, btw: some people, no matter who they want to fuck, have nice lives. Other people just have lives. The trick to having a life is to have it.

Don't let it have you.

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Anyway, so while I was having the life of a young gay kid with a knife under a stereo and a constantly revised suicide note in a sock drawer, there was this: I had a President who wanted to let gays serve in the military.

Bill Clinton made it a point of saying that, under his Chief of Commanderism, he'd make sure all willing volunteers--regardless of sexual orientation--would be allowed to serve in the US military.

Calloo! Callay! Put the knife away! The President himself was so sure that my existence was worthy that he was willing to trust I could serve in the US Military. Except of course I couldn't, really, because my eyes had already disqualified me.

Still, though, if my eyes weren't so terrible, I could serve as a gay man (surely I'm gay? surely I'm a man? My high school self still questioned both qualifiers) in the military, and be recognized as an actual useful citizen of my country.

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Quick history of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell': Bill Clinton ran on the intention of opening up the military for gay/lesbian service. He failed. He failed because he announced his intentions before he had the ability to make his intentions real. DADT consumed the first few months of Clinton's first term--vital few months--and to shut up his critics, Clinton signed DADT into law. Don't ask, don't tell.

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When Defense of Marriage Act happened, I was in college.

Fun fact: the knife had long since been returned to the kitchen drawer, and the suicide directive torn up. The suicide directive was as directional as I was, and ended up scattered in pieces in the wind.

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Don't Ask, Don't Tell was a horrible way to deal with gays in the military. DOMA--Defense of Marriage--was a terrible way to deal with marriage.

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Recently, I was asked by a friend what my thoughts were on Bill Clinton's recent op-ed about DOMA. Here are my thoughts: fuck Clinton.

Yes, I get that Clinton was dealing with a hostile Congress, and was living in a different time, the same time I was rubbing a knife along my arm and hoping I'd be validated as a citizen.

Yes, I understand that Clinton didn't really mean for DADT and DOMA to be longstanding law, no more than I intended my high school suicide note to become a directive.

But. Seriously. 20 years later, we're still dealing with Clinton's signature on those laws. Signatures, like elections, have consequences.

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DOMA! When Clinton signed DOMA into law, he was face-fucking an intern. He was inviting a 23 year old woman to use her vagina as a humidor. And he was telling me--and other gays--that our relationships were less important than any relationship he may have with his wife, or any service to our country we might attempt is lesser to his own service to the country.

Rather than a rainbow flag, I think the gay community should wave a stained blue dress during Pride Parades.

Because no matter how true or false the stories of Clinton's adventures with that woman--Miss Lewinsky--are, the falsehoods told about same-sex couples are far more vicious.

Bill Clinton in 1992: President.

Me in 1992: Not seeing a future.

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Bill Clinton had a chance to be a leader, and decided to be a follower. It has taken him decades to admit his failure. In those decades, he has enjoyed the privilege of a married man, and fucked around. I hope he doesn't keep a knife under his stereo, but I do hope he keeps revising his Will.

The man wrote an autobiography that Ben Johnson would deem 'a bit much'. He barely touched on DOMA and DADT.

And just now, when it is safe and sound, is Bill Clinton pushing for equality.





Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Duck Dynasty

Here's what it is like to go in just before visiting hours: there's a lobby. And it is like every lobby you've ever been in, with people sitting in chairs, and a desk, and more people sitting in chairs behind the desk.

The people sitting in chairs on one side of the desk are poorly dressed. They are wearing clothes they threw on at the last minute and both the people and the clothes seem anxious, full of angles and baggage.

The people behind the desk are more organized. They have on clothes that are neat and organized. Uniform. Uniforms.

And you meet with the Uniforms for a moment. You explain why you are there, and hope the Uniforms don't comment on your angular clothing and your baggage. You are told to come back in 15 minutes because no one with angular clothing is allowed in until 6pm, which is odd because just last night--and for most nights for nearly a decade--there have been no time constraints. You've been with him whenever you wanted. "He's just right there," you want to say. "Behind those doors at the end of the hallway." But you turn from the desk and from the Uniforms, and find a seat with the other angular clothes. You find a discarded AM New York, and pretend to read it. The clock moves. You don't.

When 15 minutes pass, exactly 15 minutes, you get up and do as instructed: go to the guard, show your ID, explain you're there to visit.

And the guard doesn't look at you at first. He tells you to sign in, and gestures to the paper clipped to a board on his podium. When you reach for the board, you notice a pack of Crystal Light beside the guard's Walkie-Talkie and computer. You say this: "I haven't done this before." That becomes a mantra to you in the next 10 minutes, as you pass through security. "Here's my ID," you say. "I'm new at this. I don't know what to do."

Also, you say this, to the guard: "You don't look like the Crystal Light kind." You say this while scribbling your name onto the sheet that makes you a valid visitor. You say it because you need to be more than valid, more than a visitor. You say it because you not only want yourself to be more, but you want [Person] to be more.

The guard looks up. Looks at you. Then looks down at the packet of Crystal Light. "That shit is awful," he says. "I don't know who that thing belongs to."

Then he does a kindness, and shows you where to go. Then he does more kindness, and leads you on a short cut. "See, you normally would have to go all the fuck around there to get to where you need to go," he says, "but really, you just need to go through here." And he walks you through the doors behind him, and into a hallway. He points generally to the left. "Go over there."

You go over there. Over there is another set of doors. You'll notice the sign over the door when you leave an hour later, and you probably notice the sign now but can't process the words. Spoiler: You won't remember what the words on the sign say. You'll just know what they mean: Emergency Psych Ward.

And you'll think of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." And before you notice the sign or after, you'll be scared shitless of what you will see when you go in, go out, go in.

You go in. Another lobby, much smaller, no waiting. Rather than wait, you're asked by a Uniform--who is sitting behind bank-teller glass-- for your reason for being there. "Why are you here?" Uniform asks, and you think how loaded a question that is, and wonder if there is a couch to lay upon to answer the question. Instead you mutter a name, show your ID, and are buzzed into another room where you are stripped of your precious iPad, phone, keys, and your signature. Again.

And you say, again: "I am new to this. Just tell me what I should do."

"The thing you can do is give me anything sharp in your pockets," Uniform says. Then Uniform hands you off to Nurse, who leads you past another desk housing more Uniforms, and past an alcove of Others who are now your brothers.

The brothers are sitting around a television. They are wearing angular clothing, and teal socks with white spots along the soles.  They all have angular hair. One of them acknowledges you as the Nurse leads you around the desk. "We don't get visitors," Nurse tells you. "Go into the waiting room and I'll send [Person] out." Then Nurse is gone. There is the desk. There is the alcove of brothers with angular hair matching your angular clothes. There is 'Duck Dynasty' on the television.

There are two bathrooms.

One bathroom is labeled 'Patients Only,' and one is labeled, 'Men Only.' You err on the side of caution, and go into the Men Only.

There is no lock on the door where you'd expect to see a lock.

There is some graffiti.  Scrawled in what you hope is a brown Crayon is, "Didn't do it." As you pee into the toilet, you reflect on the many things you didn't do, 'it' being the most not-done thing of all. And when you emerge from the bathroom, Nurse is there. "THERE you are," she says.

"I went to the bathroom."

"You're not supposed to go to the bathroom."

Then, you think, don't label the bathrooms as "Patients Only" or "Men Only". Also, where are women supposed to not go?

Nurse leads you into a room, and there is a television, and there are tables, and eventually [Person] joins you. You hug [Person,] who is also wearing angular clothing, and teal socks with white nubbins on the sole, and looks as if he's been on a terrible sea voyage captained by William Bligh's second cousin.

[Person] says this: "Why did you come here?"

And you say this: "Why ask me that?"

And Nurse says this: "I don't have food for both of you."

And at the desk, a Uniform says this: "Just stay calm. 'Duck Dynasty' will be over in a bit and we'll change the channel."

You say to [Person]: "It's okay."

After a while, [Person] agrees. "I was close. All of this could've been over, and I was so close. It has to get better."

[Person] puts his head on your shoulder, while you sit in a plastic chair that is facing a television. 'Duck Dynasty.' And there is another person sitting in the room, an angularly-dressed man in teal socks with white nubbins on the sole, and that man--his hair ragged--suddenly shouts, "It gets better!" Then he says, "That's the punchline, right?"

Dan Savage would weep.

You remain with [Person] until well after visitation, and then the Uniform at the bank-teller window expresses surprise that you are still in the Ward, even though the Uniform has your bag full of iPad and phone and sharp objects. You kiss [Person] as you leave, and say to Uniform, "Take good care of him."

Uniform replies, "You too."

"You too" is, of course, not the proper response. But the doors have shut, and [Person] is now away from you, and there's nothing to do but go back through the lobby full of angular-clad persons and out into the night. There's a dog to hug. There's a life, etc. etc.

Another spoiler: You get [Person] back. But you also get kind of scared.

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