Thursday, July 31, 2008

some thoughts...

This is a little post that came up in response to an Open Forum question over at Queers United about whether "any press is good press." I think that (brace yourselves) it depends. Yeah, it's that balance thing again. In some times, and for some groups, negative press is better than none. For most of the various groups under the big queer umbrella these days, I don't think that's necessarily true.

We don't need truly bad publicity in the sense of news stories covering queer people misbehaving. We had that all along, really, and it never worked to desensitize people. In fact, for many years the only time the word homosexual appeared in the press was if it came up in the course of a criminal investigation. That's what the coming out movement was meant to address. We created the first positive media images for ourselves by acting like our normal selves and making it public that we happened to be gay.

I think that the big queer umbrella gets as much negative publicity from the radical acts at Pride as the Christians get from real nutcases like Fred Phelps & Family. Most people are going to laugh that off as the work of a few extremists, and maybe take steps to distance or protect themselves from the crazy venom. People who are extremists themselves are going to use it against us as evidence that we're all flagrantly immoral. Just like the extremists among queers use Phelps as evidence that all Christians are ignorant bigots.

I don't think we can expect the news media to do their job as documentarians while simultaneously expecting them to be our PR spinmeisters. It's a conflict of interest. Let the media do its job of showing what's out there. They will always seize upon the extreme because people find the extremes interesting, and thus, pay money to consume media about them. If we want our press to be mostly good, then we have to make sure that we take it upon ourselves to do good things and make sure there's a local reporter covering it when we do.

Then there are the gray areas... publicity in the sense of mass entertainment media. Do we have to demand only "good" representations in fictional media, or should we allow "bad" ones on the grounds that any publicity is good? I think 10 or 20 years ago, that might've been valid. It was so rare to see gay characters on TV or in movies that I was grateful for any depiction, be it the most caricatured negative stereotype possible. These days, with Logo TV and "The L Word" and "Queer As Folk" and many other media outlets showing gay people in realistic settings, I think the standards need to go up.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I have about five minutes to write this while some stuff i'm doing for work makes a long, tortuous slog from Texas to Quebec and back, by way of Pennsylvania. It's going on the intarweb, so it ought to be reasonably fast, but i imagine all the firewalls, VPNs, routers, and Snuffleupaguses between here and there are going to slow it enough for me to peck out a few words today.

I'm getting married Saturday (in Canada). Officially, technically, it doesn't "mean anything" since Texas doesn't recognize gay marriage in any way, and the US in general doesn't, either. Even if they did, my understanding is that two American citizens living in the US cannot go abroad to marry and transfer that home. However, the closer I get to the date, the more it settles in my heart exactly how much this really does "mean". I started down this path because I thought it was important for my family to see me get married. I know exactly what my relationship to Rose is, what it means, how serious and good and committed it is. But until I marry her, my family doesn't know that. I don't talk about my feelings very much at all, and unless someone asks a direct question, I don't volunteer. Even if I could single out every person in my family and friend network and tell them exactly what Rose means to me -- and I didn't die of an emotional hemorrhage from talking about my feelings that much -- even then I'm quite sure it would not have the same impact that simply getting married has. Culturally, the act of getting married says something to people that I doubt I could put into words.

Does it matter what other people think? On one level, of course it does not. I know in my heart, mind and soul exactly how I feel, think, and relate. None of those things changes because I've promised out loud in front of witnesses to continue to do so. But on another level, it does. My life is not lived in a vacuum, it's carried on in the mesh of my entire community of family and friends, acquaintances, co-workers, and strangers. Saying "I'm married" makes it immediately obvious to people how they should relate to me, where my significant other fits into my life, and how they should relate to her if and when they meet. It's cultural shorthand, and I like shorthand, especially when it comes to discussing my emotions. That's it! I'm getting married so I won't have to talk about my feelings so much! heh. Okay, maybe not...

In the sense that I'll be able to utilize that cultural shorthand in explaining that piece of my life, going through with this ritual does indeed mean something. In the sense that it will make it easier for my extended family to take in and deal with the immediate family I'm starting, it also "means something". That's probably not sufficient reason to do all the things involved in getting married. Heck, it's probably not even a sufficient reason to stuff myself into a strapless dress. For someone with my dating record and my legendary fear of commitment, proving that I'm willing to marry may be more important than actually doing it.

I also can't deny that the political act of marrying, knowing that it won't be recognized at home, and marrying anyway, will make a difference in the legal recognition of gay marriage in the US. I hope that as more gay couples make these public commitments to each other, more people will understand that this is no threat to their lives. I'm not getting married so I can swing a bayonet at anyone's marriage or family. I'm not going to force anyone else to get married. Conversely, I'm darn sure not going to go away or quit being gay because I'm denied civil equality. I'm just trying to give my life a little balance in my little corner of the world.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Road Goes On Forever...

At the end of our last installment, the intrepid motorcyclists were in Virginia, having braved the glorious and terrifying Blue Ridge Parkway in both rain and sunshine. Finding themselves in Virginia, and needing to be in Texas, Thalassa and Rose hie themselves home. Again, you can't really ride a straight line anywhere here. So we pointed ourselves in the general direction of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and wriggled on down to its delightfully tortuous bounding road, the Tail of the Dragon. We had planned this quite carefully, actually, so that we could do it on a weekday. I don't know if there are any humans who actually enjoy densely packed, crowded situations, but for some reason we all tend to jam ourselves into attractive places together on weekends. I can't imagine a more miserable riding experience than one in which I was being hampered from the front by a slow bike while crowded from behind by a fast bike on a road that doesn't even try to lend itself to safe passing zones. Weekends are reported to be crowded out there, so Friday was our preferred approach. Even with the Honda Hoot motorcycle rally in nearby Knoxville, TN we had a fairly clear road to ride. We didn't see any accidents or even any really silly behavior. Generally, everyone was polite and responsible - which is bad for my writing, but good for my health. I include this fact only because some of you readers actually know me in real life and care whether I get off the bike with the same number of limbs I had when I clambered on it.

We ordered our ride pictures from Killboy as I promised. All the other photography (except as noted) is Rose's because she's good at it, and I'm not. The road was really a blast! It IS all it's cracked up to be... I can't begin to imagine what riding it was like back when the speed limit was 55 mph. These days the limit is 30, and while I recognize that's artificially low in honor of the road's notoriety and the crowds there, I still felt like 30 was awfully fast in some of the corners -- maybe I'm just a nervous nelly. Then again, if you look at the chicken strips on my Valk, they're damn narrow. I know I've never been out to the edge of the tire, but I'm certainly not riding it upright through those mountains, either. Whichever, once we'd ridden the Tail of the Dragon, bought our t-shirts and tchotchkes, jawed with some bikers and gawked at some of the bikes in the parking area, we rolled on down to our next destination road, the Cherohala Skyway. It was actually prettier and more fun to ride this one than Tail of the Dragon, simply because it's a much more open road and has some nice passing zones built right into the mix! (as the old Duncan Hines commercials would say) Rose reports that it is her FAVORITE ROAD EVAR!eleventy!

We leaned and wriggled and swerved our way on down to the end of the Cherohala Skyway and pulled over to powwow about dinner. There at the scenic overlook, with a background babble from the beautiful mountain river that I swear was a wee stream just a few miles up the hill, we met a delightful guy who was just the picture of every "retired Jewish Yankee winters in Florida" joke you've ever heard. I swear, visiting with him was like talking to a cartoon or a sitcom character. He had the accent, the attitude, the face... Ultimately, of course, he was a real person with questions about how two girls could pack for two weeks in those tiny saddlebags and what was the fastest way back to Knoxville, and whether we'd really ridden all the way from Texas by ourselves, and whether he'd make it back in time for dinner. We used our GPS to give him some directions and we rolled off to meet up with some old friends in Athens, TN.

Have you ever wondered what your preacher was like before he was a preacher? I've often wondered that, myself. Unless you get a chance to sit down with said preacher's mother, though, you don't usually get the answer to that question. Well, in this case, our old friend has just become a preacher. I've only known him a couple of years, but Rose and he were coworkers back in the day. Apparently, the two of them were running buddies in their misspent youth. Of course, they've both matured and taken on responsibility as it's come careering at them, but every once in a while you see that glint in their eyes... you know they could still go back to being hellions, if only for a weekend. We had a wonderful dinner and tour of the new house and new church that our friend is going to be leading, and then we settled in for a good night's rest while visions of hairpin turns and sweet sweeping mountain vistas danced in our heads. (These two shots are from Moonshine Photo)

Thursday, July 03, 2008

muppet patriots sing it proudly...

happy 4th of july!

I'm going to spend my 4th of July on the Frio river -- floating in the cool, cool water and being a lazy bum and recuperating. For someone who wants to spend more time at home and less time traveling, I seem to travel a lot, no? I have declared August to be "Thalassa stays home" month. We'll see how that works out.

In the meantime, I'll be making homemade vanilla ice cream and roasting marshmallows far away from home. Envy my ice cream! It was my grandma's fantastic no-cook recipe and it always brings back wonderful, sweet, sticky memories of running around the backyard at her house. We had to dodge around the pomegranates that had fallen from the trees because they would trip up small children, they were so big. And we had to jump over the French drain my grandfather had installed smack across the yard for reasons none of us could ascertain at the time. It was just a speed bump to us. And we weren't allowed to repeat any of the more interesting words my grandparents used.

But we had ice cream, and inflatable swimming pools, and tree swings, and my grandma poured whole bottles of bubble soap into cookie sheets so everybody could get their bubble wand into the stuff at once. We didn't have to crowd all 6 of us around the tiny neck of a bottle to make bubbles in her yard, no! She made the most delightful cobbler, grew the sweetest strawberries, and -naturally- froze the best ice cream on the planet. My grandfather would pour the salt into the ice and pretend to be grumpy when we stole the salty hunks of ice out of the bucket and grouse about how much better that ice cream would taste if he made us kids turn a crank handle for it instead of using electricity. It's what love feels like, to me. So I make sure to share it every 4th of July and any time in the summer that I can get more than three people to stand still around a whining bucket of ice.