“Angels in America”

Despite the fact we live in the South and despite the fact we live in a rural area, we are very blessed with the amount of art venues here in WNC. From Flat Rock Playhouse to the Diana Wortham Theatre to the Southern Highland Craft Guild, we are far from being unsophisticated hicks.

I’ve just had the pleasure of seeing both parts of the fabulous play, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes written by Tony Kushner. We saw the first part (Millennium Approaches) 2 weeks ago and the second half (Perestroika) tonight. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. We went to NC Stage where our friend Michael MacCauley played the role of Roy Cohn. He did an excellent job of pretending to be a bastard!

We were warned by notices on the doors that there would be vulgar language, sexual themes, and nudity as well as fog machine and strobe lights. We were prepared for most of it. Let me just say it was the first time I’ve seen a penis in many, many years. The first night, it was in full view but luckily across the stage. Tonight, however, it was much closer but turned away (hairy male butt instead!).

The first night was much more serious, very defining in who the characters were and set up the time frame. The 80s were rough and ugly. We homosexuals sometimes think we have not gained much. I say see this play and you’ll remember your roots and the people who went before us. AIDS/HIV took far too many beautiful people and still does. We may not yet be able to marry the person we love but at least we are not still dying like rats with spit on our faces, surrounded by latex and fear.

Tonight’s show was rather funny. Even I laughed out loud, something I rarely do during a live stage performance. It was still deadly serious but the irony and satire flowed. There was a hint of hope, much more than in the first. AZT was just starting trials. The world as a whole was maturing ever so slightly.

If you have not seen this play (it is very long, both parts were roughly 3.5 hrs each), I urge you to do so. Angels in America was made into a a TV mini-series on HBO. If you can get your hands on a copy, watch it. Get a group together. Watch it. Pause often and talk about it. At the end, talk some more. Then go find your local HIV/AIDS group and offer them support. Time, money, both.

Here in WNC we have Western North Carolina AIDS Project (WNCAP). They are the creators of an awareness campaign called “I Need U 2 Know” which is to educate and fight the stereotypes and stigma that still follows this disease. In 1989 I took part in a ‘train the trainer’ session through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in NJ. We learned about a relatively new concept called universal precautions. We covered privacy laws, myths and facts about HIV/AIDS, just what the heck HIV/AIDS is and what the difference is between them. Then we learned how to educate others. My job was to educate my co-workers. Rumors were running rampant and I had the wonderful task of attempting to straighten out the mess. It wasn’t easy and I am sure there were many who let the information just go right by. Telling them they were at greater risk of hepatitis than HIV was futile. Telling them that the AIDS virus was easily killed with a 10% bleach solution while hepatitis remained confused them. Telling them that they were not going to be told which, if any, of our clients had HIV/AIDS nearly got me punched. It wasn’t their fault. The media wasn’t helping any. This thing had been around for less than a decade and it was still very unknown.

I digress like I always do.

It was a wonderful, thought provoking play that took Lorna and I down several memory lanes.

Cesspool of Sin!

No, seriously. Asheville has been called the Cesspool of Sin by a North Carolina state senator. Seriously.

Here’s what I said about it earlier somewhere else when we first heard about it:

Peter Sagal with NPR (the wonderful Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me guy) did a promo for one of the local NPR stations. Apparently, a state senator referred to Asheville as a “Cesspool of Sin”. I can’t find exactly why he said it although he did clarify later saying there are a lot of liberals and homosexuals in the Asheville area. (see my other NPR post with interactive map for proof). Forrester is also the primary sponsor of the NC ban on gay marriage constitutional amendment thing (which as worded now would mean trouble for anyone married outside a church).

Anyway, the promo is a hoot. We’re loving it here. Lorna donated just so she can get a tshirt. We would have donated twice but they didn’t come in el jumbo size.

http://www.mountainx.com/article/36171/ … ool-of-sin – audio recording of promo

http://www.wcqs.org/home-page/support/donate-now – donation page with shirt

The reference to the interactive map post is something I meant to bring up here but I got distracted (oooh, shiny…).

A new analysis of 2010 census data by the Williams Institute shows how same-sex couples are distributed across the nation. Liberal enclaves are well-represented, of course. But so are some surprising pockets of the heartland and the South. Scroll over the map to see the number of same-sex couples per 1,000 households in each county.

The map, and the quote above, are found on the NPR site. It’s a cool, interactive map that has some interesting results!

My home county, Buncombe, is the highest in North Carolina with 11.9 per 1,000 people. Meaning, for every thousand households, 11.9 of them are gay/lesbian couples. I looked over some of the other areas and Buncombe scored fairly high in the nation, too. Northern California has two counties higher (12 and 12.1). Atlanta’s county, DeKalb, has 15.1. Two counties in Massachusetts scored 14.5 and 19.6. Like I said in my other post (but re-reading it just now, I didn’t say it very well), statistics can be easily misinterpreted. For example, if in Massachusetts they did a big “LGBTs, admit who you are!” campaign, the reported households would be higher than an area that did not. Here in Buncombe, I don’t remember there being anything like that.

We did the math wrong earlier over at LFF because I just realized it is per 1,000 households vs citizens. Wikipedia says a 2000 census reports Buncombe had 85,776 households. So multiply 86 (to round up to 86 thousand) by 11.9, that’s roughly 1023 households are LGBT. With an average household size of 2.26, that’s roughly 2313 queers. Cooool. We really need to get together sometime! A pot luck meeting or something?

So perhaps Forrester had seen this map. Perhaps he was appalled that we scored so high. Go us!

##

Today I see Mountain Express has another article about it. Edgy Mama is great and I enjoy reading her stuff (when I remember to read it).

Edgy Mama: celebrating the Cesspool of Sin on All Hallow’s Eve

In past years, I’ve written about child obesity and dental decay, costume drama and expense, and the dangers of letting one’s kids take candy from strangers. But this year, I’ve decided to let go and embrace the decadence of Halloween, especially since I live in the Cesspool of Sin.

(…)

My kids have noticed the Cesspool of Sin T-shirts adorning the bodies of many Ashvilleans [did she really misspell it???] recently and asked what they mean. I explained that N.C. Sen. Jim Forrester called Asheville that because of the town’s thriving LGBT community. My kids were appropriately shocked, because, thank the witches, it’s never occurred to them that some people consider homosexuality a sin.

(…)

There are many reasons I love living here. One being that so many folks here understand satire (and those that don’t often make me laugh as well). Two being that people here know how to celebrate Halloween (Zombie walks, parties, costumed crusaders for weeks leading up to the big night). A third reason for loving Asheville is because many of us embrace being sinners.

The difficult part of my conversation with my kids concerned the relativity of sin. Yes, there are black and white rules — don’t kill other people is one of them. But wait, doesn’t the U.S. government kill other people? Why yes, it does — both in wars and in execution chambers. OK, kids, so that’s a rule that holds true for most people, but not all, because … sheesh, Sen. Forrester, thanks for putting me in this position.

Lorna ordered her t-shirt and we will be framing it and hanging it on the wall here in the Rose Room/office. It is an appropriate place to put it since the septic tank is right outside the window.

21 Years…

…is a long time. Trust me on this.

And a lot of things happened on June 23rd. Titus succeeded his father, Vespasian, as Emperor of Rome. It is also the day that Vespasian died. So cheer for Titus after the funeral, ‘kay?

It is Father’s Day in Nicaragua (Feliz Día del Padre!), Poland (Happy DzieÅ„ Ojca!), and Uganda (Siku ya furaha ya Baba!).

It is June Carter Cash’s birthday. She would have been 82. Couldn’t sing worth shit, bless her heart, but she was a nice lady.

It is St. John’s Eve, a night of music and bonfires. And probably alcohol. It started as a celebration in honor of Celt goddess, Aine, but of course the Catholics had to “Christianize” it and declare it the birthday of John the Baptist.

And it is the day when Precious and I first met at 11am on the corner of 8th and Market in Philadelphia. What was supposed to be a few hours date wound up being fourteen hours. And what was to be a friendship turned out to be a 21 year (and counting) relationship. That’s right, TWENTY ONE YEARS.

Yes, it is a miracle.

Yes, Lorna is up for sainthood.

No, it’s not been easy. There are no perfect relationships. We fight. We argue. We laugh. We make love. She’s my other half and I am hers.

I won’t get into a discussion today of how our 21 year relationship is not a marriage. Nor how our being married would cause anarchy and the downfall of the American way of life. No, I’ll save that for later.

Does it get better?

I mean, really, does it?

We (the collective LGBT we) may or may not soon be allowed to die for our country. That’s both a Yay! and a Yay?

But we will be allowed to die for a country in which we still are not free. In most states, our most basic rights are not allowed.

We can still lose our jobs. Yes, just for being gay.
We cannot visit our partner in the hospital. Family only it says.
We cannot make decisions for our ill partner without paperwork that damn well better be perfect. Are hets even asked for proof of their marriage before making decisions?
We cannot marry our partner. Not the partner we’ve been with for over 20 yrs. But hets can marry someone they’ve known for a few seconds.

The list goes on. And, frankly, that list shows no signs of getting shorter.

So does it get better? Or do we just get more caloused at the way society treats us? Do we just get better at coping? At getting sarcastic to cover our pain?

Rights vs Privileges

I recently read about a couple who had a civil union in VT. They’d previously lived in VA. After being together for several years, they decided to have a baby. One of them became pregnant via artificial insemination and gave birth to a daughter. Then, a little over a year later, the couple splits and the mother (Miller) moves to VA. She seeks to have the civil union dissolved and the partner (Jenkins) agrees. In court, the birth mother acknowledges that the other is considered a parent to the child.

Perfectly normal situation. People marry, have kids, divorce, argue over the kids, etc. It happens a lot.

Should it matter that the couple in this case are both women? Their VT civil union makes them as legal a couple as one with mixed-gender couples. The non-birth mother has the same rights as a non-birth father in the case of artificial insemination.

Except this case has exploded and dragged on for years. Miller has continually denied Jenkins visitation rights despite the court orders. On and on it has gone until finally, fed up, the VT judge grants Jenkins custody based on Miller’s continual contempt of court. Now Miller, who is an “ex-gay” and an Evangelical Christian, has disappeared with the kid.

The Virginia appeals court and state supreme court have all said that their Vermont civil union, at least in terms of the child custody, should be honored. Virginia has a law that specifically does not recognize same gender marriages/civil unions from other states. However, due to other federal laws designed to keep a parent from abducting children, they cannot ignore that Jenkins has legal rights as the other parent. The federal supreme court refused to hear the case.

Vermont law says that Jenkins has the same rights as the non-biological father in artificial insemination. The judge, the same judge has been with the case since it first started, is known as a conservative but a strict follower of the law. He granted Miller custody in the beginning but stipulated that, like any divorce and custody case, Jenkins is to be allowed visitation. Jenkins’ parents live close to where Miller lives. She traveled to VA every weekend for a long time although most times Miller wouldn’t let her see the kid or wouldn’t allow unsupervised visits. Miller even got VA Social Services involved saying the kid was acting wrong after any unsupervised visits. The case workers could find nothing wrong. Imagine that.

There’s a lot on the ‘net about this case. There’s rumors that when Miller’s attorneys next meet with the VT judge he will slap them with contempt of court charges. They’ve not made any statement about the location of Miller. I’ve been keeping up with it, hoping that Miller shows up and honors the court order. Today, I see an article titled “Custody Case Highlights Artificiality of Same Sex Marriage“. I should have known better than to click it but, alas, I did.

The article continually bounces back and forth, presenting facts one minute and propaganda the next. I prefer articles about facts with some emotional aspects and opinions thrown in to keep me interested. Another article, “Who’s Your Daddy? Or Your Other Daddy? Or Your Mommy?” deals with parental rights and mentions three twisted cases.

In comes down to this, in my opinion: We cannot ask for the cake and then ignore the calories. There, I said it.

We ask for equal rights (it’s on our agenda, ya know) and that includes the right to marry. And with the right to marry comes the right to divorce. And the right to have a nasty divorce. And to argue over who really owns that fugly lamp that cost far too much money. Yet, divorce is not something we discuss. For millennia, a marriage certificate was the signature on the UHaul rental contract and divorce meant we got boxes and moved out. Not any more. Boxes won’t do it. We demanded the right for equal rights in marriage now we need to demand the right for equal rights in divorce.