Category Archives: Nonfiction

Use Your Words, New York Times

The New York Times reported on two ‘attacks’ against gays in New York City over the past week.

In one attack, nine members of the Latin King Goonies savagely beat and sodomized three men in the Bronx because they were gay.

The other attack occurred when gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino spoke to a group of Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn.

The article ran just two days after the Bronx beatings under the headline ‘Paladino Attacks Gays in Brooklyn Speech.’

Now, as someone who clearly remembers Paladino promising to go to Albany with a baseball bat, I was concerned.

Then I read the article.

Apparently, Paladino does not think that children should be ‘brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is acceptable.’

His horrible choice of words aside, he is not alone in this feeling, as almost half of the country (according to AP’s latest poll) is still against marriage equality.

The Times also reported that he removed a line from his speech characterizing homosexuality as dysfunctional.

The fact that those words were even in the speech to begin with could be an indictment.

However, some would argue that his choice not to speak the words is a sign of good judgment.

It is ultimately up to the reader to decide what they think.

Or is it?

Clearly, the New York Times wants their readers to accept the characterization of Paladino’s speech as an ‘attack on gays.’

But with the details of the gruesome Bronx beating still fresh in my head, I have a hard time accepting that premise.

I would even go as far as to say that using such language to describe Paladino’s remarks is irresponsible journalism and does more harm than good to the LGBT community.

LGBT individuals are constantly being confronted with political issues and we need the facts to be able to defend ourselves properly.

Politico ran the same story, but they used a factual headline (Paladino Disavows ‘Dysfunctional Homosexual’ Line) and cited a multitude of sources. They provided the facts to back up their claims, and their claims fell in line with those facts.

The Times took an authoritarian approach to the issue in labeling Paladino’s opinion an attack. Clearly, there was a desire to stir up controversy.

News organizations like the New York Times rely on provocative statements to sell papers with little emphasis on the facts.

The result: the latest Gallup poll reported a record high in distrust of the mass media this year – the highest in decades.

This goes to show that the caterwauling and personal attacks that have replaced rational political discourse in the current media landscape are not effective.

If we characterize a difference of opinion as an attack, we shut down all dialogue and get nowhere.

Everyone should be allowed to express their opinions without fear – especially those who do not agree with us.

The last thing we need is for the few media outlets that are willing to cover LGBT issues to be marginalized by lack of credibility.

Ken Mehlman Backlash: When Elitism Replaces Empathy in the LGBT Community

When I first heard that former RNC chair and Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman came out of the closet in an interview with The Atlantic, I was shocked. I had never really heard too much about the guy, but I knew that he held a lot of clout within the ranks of the GOP – something that the LGBT community could definitely use in our battle for equality.

And after reading about his involvement with the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER) and his work on the case against Prop 8, my shock turned into excitement. Could we finally have an advocate for LGBT equality that could bring about change where we need it the most – from within the Republican Party?

Finally, I thought to myself.

I logged onto Twitter a few minutes later to find out what people were saying about the news – and that’s when my excitement turned into frustration. The attacks on Mehlman – for waiting so long to come out, his work with Bush’s campaign and being a closeted member of the Republican Party – have been merciless.

They may not be baseless, but they are just as hateful and counterproductive as the attacks on gay people coming from the right.

It wouldn’t surprise me if the fear of being ripped apart by the gay community was part of Mehlman’s motivation for staying in the closet for so long. (Not the other way around, like most people would assume.)

And I’m sure that any closeted gay conservative who googles Mehlman’s name after this week would think twice about coming out after reading certain blogs.

This is equally unfortunate for the LGBT community, as some members have decided that playing the blame game is more important than moving forward – together.

The reaction to Mehlman’s coming out makes it clear that we need to be more consistent with the messages that we send out as a community.

We cannot preach NOH8 unless we are willing to make it our M.O.

Nor can we overlook how difficult it is for someone – especially a conservative – to come out of the closet. Coming out of the closet takes faith, courage and an insatiable desire for change.

The fact that Mehlman was part of the anti-gay machine during the Bush years is something that he’s going to have to live with his entire life. Attacking him for his past will not change it. It will, however, deter others from having the same courage to come out publicly.

People learn from experience. Nobody comes out of the womb an advocate, but advocates can very quickly become elitists when they fail to remember how difficult it is to come out.

The LGBT community has the opportunity – and responsibility – to make coming out of the closet a positive experience for everyone, including Ken Mehlman.

We must promote unity and understanding within our community and without. The more that people feel comfortable about coming out and joining the fight, the more likely we are to achieve equality.

But first, we have to lead by example and remove hate from the debate.

Well-crafted Ignorance Examines Exile

What is home? Is it where one lives or where one was raised? Does your home lie with the people you love or where destiny takes you? Milan Kundera questions just that in his short, thought-provoking novel, Ignorance. Like a fly on the wall, the narrator follows characters Irena and Josef back to Czechoslovakia in 1989 after a two-decade absence. Both emigrated after the soviet take-over in 1969 and, upon their return, face the reality that life in Prague went on without them.

Ignorance forces the reader to evaluate life in the midst of political turmoil and exile. It juxtaposes the lives go Czech emigres with those who weathered the communist occupation of Czechoslovakia between 1969 and 1989. Irena faces extreme difficulty in connecting with her Czech friends when she return to Prague in 1989. After twenty years of building a new home in France, she finds it hard to imagine that her return to Prague is a ‘Great Return’ home. Her childhood friends have completely different lives and seem uninterested in Irena’s experience away from Czechoslovakia. She is an outsider in a place she is supposed to consider home.

Josef moved to Denmark in 1969 and faced a similar struggle upon his return to his country of origin. He feels his family forgot he existed while he was away because many of his relatives had passed away without him receiving proper notice. Josef barely recognizes his own brother and finds it difficult to connect with his past. During his visit, he reunited with a communist friends and has an amazing discussion about the importance of past and the definition of self.

Josef and Irena cross paths on the flight back to their original home, leading to an inevitable climax: a vivid, page-turning sexual and emotional explosion between the pair. Intriguing supporting characters add substance to the work by giving the reader insight to the world in which the main characters live. As the story progresses, the lives of the characters fuse together to form a network of people all marvelously linked to one another by fate.

Kundera writes beautifully and from the heart, reaffirming his position among the elite of contemporary writers. He tells a story rich in history and tradition without being boringly technical; he adds believable emotional journeys to the history learned from textbooks. He dotes upon his characters with a parent’s love and affection. His descriptions of the dreary situations never cease to convey genuine compassion and understanding for human suffering.

Kundera’s writing is a conversation with the reader told with eloquence and clarity. Like on the commentary track of a DVD, he discusses the actions of his characters every few chapters. The work is thought-provoking without going off into the philosophical rhetoric that often fills books of this nature.

Words, art and historical data are intertwined with the journeys of the characters to add context. Kundera compares the journey of the emigres to Odysseus’ journey in Homer’s epic. He also uses the comments of Arnold Schoenberg, a 20th century musician, in an interesting philosophical analysis of time. Does our expectation of the future dictate our actions in the present? Does nostalgia overwhelm our thinking? Is it possible to live solely in the present? Milan Kundera’s ideas on the subject are definitely worth reading.

Wynwood and the Paradox of Popularity

Staring out the window of Panther Coffee, I admire the colorful murals across the street almost as much as the coconut chocolate chip cookie I’m indulging in. With RuPaul blasting from my headphones and a hipster working on her thesis in the seat next to me, I realize that I am not in Miami anymore.

In Wynwood, your social currency is your individuality. This is the type of place where striking up a conversation with a stranger isn’t out of the question and you could probably breastfeed a three year old without creating a stir. (That sort of behavior would probably get you thrown in jail in other parts of Miami.)

Writing in this environment makes me go back and forth in my head about whether to monetize this blog or just keep it to myself.

If I keep it to myself, it will be more authentic and certainly provide me with a more intimate experience in writing it. And if I monetize it, my words will reach more people and eventually become part of the greater exchange of ideas.

While both options are equally alluring, there’s something about sitting in Panther Coffee that makes me want to keep the blog as intimate as possible. I don’t aim for mass appeal because my aim is not to appeal to the masses. I’d rather appeal to the individual.

Those who seek mass appeal always end up sacrificing the devotion of the individuals who first gave them a chance. It’s the paradox of popularity that makes artists, singers and writers lose their focus after they become famous.

There are days when I write words that I don’t want anyone to read because I never want to revisit the thoughts that inspired them. This blog gives me a place to liberate those thoughts. I put them in the work and get them out of my head.

As much as I want this to be my best work, I know that it will not be my best if I can’t come here at my worst. When it comes to writing, the words that I am most insecure about are usually the ones that readers respect the most.

So, for the sake of my writing, I ask that you refrain from bringing this blog any sort of notoriety. I want this space to remain free of expectations, opinions and judgments. It must remain a safe space my all of my thoughts, not just the ones that fit into society’s list of approved expressions.

I’ve come to the conclusion that this is the only way we can get to know each other better.