Close-Up – by A. R. Ammons
Are all these stones
and the mountain
but reluctant to
admit my praise could move it much
shook a little
and rained a windrow ring of stones
that it was so
Stone felled I got
up addled with dust
without much consequence
Obviously I said it doesn’t pay
to get too
close up to
and the mountain friendless wept
it couldn’t help
Re-Imagining Religion: “Falling In Love Will Not Send You to Hell.”
– Randy Roberts Potts
“All students are required to sign a pledge stating they will live according to the university’s honor code. Prohibited activities include lying, cursing, smoking, drinking, and a range of sexual acts including homosexual behavior and sex outside marriage.”
– Excerpt, ORU Student Codes , Oral Roberts University
Wouldn’t you know it: every time the “gay agenda” is reexamined, the “master plan” appears to become more and more normal on the face of it. Because it is.
“The gay agenda” is “the human agenda:” we all want love. Hope. Home. Family. We all desire the same things.
Back in 2010, Oral Roberts’ out, gay grandson Randy Roberts Potts read a letter to his closeted gay Uncle Ronnie (Oral Roberts’ eldest son) and recorded a viral video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYa0wi4XzeI) to honor Ronnie’s life, as unfortunately, his uncle had already passed away when Randy was just a kid (in June of 1982).
Randy’s irrepressible spirit remains to alchemize life’s tests and turn them into life’s testimonies.
In the video, after 2:38 minutes of silence (during which time we see the handwritten letter for his uncle), Potts reads a revelatory poem entitled “Close-Up” written by A. R. Ammons. Then, Randy moves into his own compelling testimony about the strange magic behind growing up with a gay uncle (around whom Randy’s mom was most captivated), and how it affected Potts himself.
We witness Potts as he entreats Ronnie’s spirit (for healing? For explanations?), “When my mother spoke of you, a look of awe lit up her face. You were the one voice in her life that could inhabit multiple worlds at once…. You stood for everything she was afraid I would become: gay, intellectual, and godless. And yet nothing caused my mother’s face to light up like your memory. I was jealous, and I always hoped to be you.”
Randy recounts following in his uncle’s footsteps simply by following his heart, and reminisces about the tragedy of losing a loved one who took his own life because he felt he had no options. No hope. Because he felt that life would not and could not get better.
“I’ve seen pain and loss and sorrow,” Potts continues. “I would have held you in my arms had I been a man at the time…. but there’s no one holding you, because you’re holding on to no one. And now I’m here sharing the same destiny…. your path and mine are crossed. They intersect…in some ridiculous dance.”
With a tonality not unlike Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight,” Potts brings us into present day. Yes, he is angry, but we can somehow see the light at the end of the tunnel, the burning hot flames of passion for living forever aglow in Randy’s heart. We somehow feel his uncle lives in some kind of virtual second life, through Randy.
Another “Gay Agenda,” Another Pleasant Valley Sunday.
“Oral Roberts was the first and one of the biggest of the televangelists. He brought the Pentecostal faith to mainstream America, he started a self-named university, and of course lived a rich life through his relentless please for money from his followers. His grandson Randy Roberts Potts grew up with him…steeped in that really sheltered, Far Right Christian world. Now he’s following a calling like his grandfather, but with an unexpected message.”
In sharing his story with MSNBC, Potts did indeed reveal he’d felt suicidal too—coming out was unthinkable to him. Having married a woman and raising three children with her, Potts’ coming out narrative is a common one that always feels mysterious and new during the discovery process. He told Hopkins, “Honestly, I thought I was just a really good christian that I just didn’t sexualize women.”
Though Potts’ closeted gay uncle passed away when Randy was just a boy, as he unfolded the discoveries about Ronnie’s life, they paralleled discoveries of his own.
It is now Randy’s life mission to reach back across the table and minister tolerance and inclusiveness to evangelicals themselves. Potts informed Page Hopkins that he’s doing so non-publicly, holding confidential meetings with religious leaders and consulting with them regarding family cohesion, suicide prevention and myriad other positive effects of practicing religious tolerance.
In one of the most romantic and courageous activism campaigns out there, Potts and his partner are now conducting what they call an ongoing “performance project designed for conservative towns with visuals of domestic gay life.” Potts is setting up storefronts from town to town , choosing to put his normal day-in day-out familial relationships on display, in a performance art piece called—what else…
To watch Potts’ It Gets Better video in its entirety, please click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYa0wi4XzeI
Have you got time to sit and pray a while? Check out Randy Roberts Potts – Re-Imagining Religion Series at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uYWf2WfPH8. During his ministerial speech in this video, Potts reveals that his brother is also gay and his family still ostracizes them both.
And for more information about suicide prevention and LGBTQIA resources and support, please visit the It Gets Better Project at http://www.itgetsbetter.org.
Praising and Raising our Work: On Mindshare and Memory
Riveting. Emo. Uplifting. Heartbreaking. Heart-opening. Poetry heals, helps and heartens all who encounter its majesty, power, artistry.
When a poem is passed from hand to hand, eye to eye, heart to heart, soul to soul, the bearer and the receiver are forever changed.
Writer Neil Hilborn’s touching performance in his slam poem “OCD” has recently gone viral, bringing to mind the many LGBTQIA poets and creatives in our midst with their own stories of love and life.
Slam poems and artistic poetry performance videos dovetail so nicely into the framework of social media, aka “Short Attention Span Theater.” All the while, the popularity of such creatives and their efforts debunk the myth that we’re all becoming bots, drones and distracted Internet denizens who can do nothing but lower the bar when it comes to being entertained. As we praise the art, we raise the art.
Queerly Speaking: Queerious Poems & Artistic Feats
There are many queer artists of late who’ve come to shine brightly, find their audiences and clock hundreds of thousands of views for sharing their feelings, style, art, writing and messages in video form—and thank goodness for them. With each new word experienced, we’re reminded to walk through this life: chin up, spirits high, feet facing forward.
Women of the World Poetry Slam winner Denice Frohman’s “Dear Straight People” video is one of the many gorgeous works capturing our imaginations. Garnering clicks, attention, ongoing #lolz and serious praise, Frohman’s hard-hitting truths hammer out insightful words of witticism and encourage laughs of recognition. Here are but a few gems encapsulated in a handful of minutes:
“Sexuality and gender…? Two different things. Combined in many different ways. If you mismatch your socks, you understand.”
“Dear Hip Hop: why are you fascinated with discovering gay rappers? Gay people rap. Just like gay people ride bikes and eat tofu.”
“Dear straight bullies, you’re right: we don’t have the same values. You kill everything that’s different. I preserve it.”
Words cascade like waterfalls. Prosaic glitter and poetic license, new beats and audio treats make their way towards all who have ears to hear, fingers to snap, hands to clap, and believing hearts to respond.
Visit the links below to watch these and so much more: it’s compelling, queer-powered poetry in motion.
“Dear Straight People” (WOWPS 2013)
“How to Be Alone”
“Pork Chop” from the To This Day Project
“Noah St. John Performs at Queeriosity 2010”
“Feminist or a Womanist”
The Jewelry Store
To watch all of these videos as a playlist, please click the link below.
Mindshare & Memory: Slam Poems & Creative Poetry Videos
Apart from Love, everything passes away.
The way to Heaven is in your heart.
Open and lift the wings of Love!
When Love’s wings are strong, you need no ladder.
“We are a typical couple, at least to us. We are an interracial couple of Indian and American descent who found love at first sight. Well, let’s make that Shannon found love at first sight. The day I met Seema, I was teaching one of my boot camp classes and I turned to another instructor and said ‘I’m going to marry her.’ Of course, Seema fell in love shortly after, and six years later it became true.”
With Love, From Shannon and Seema
Bringing with it all the vibrant, colorful imagery of Deepa Mehta’s “Fire,” this story, these images—it’s the stuff of modern myth—but what a beautiful surprise—this is in fact the real deal.
Huffington Post Gay Voices recently profiled photographer Steph Grant and her dear friends, newly-wedded couple Shannon and Seema, complemented with gorgeous, romantic and exquisitely rich images of two women who are deeply in love.
Put A Ring On It And Take A Picture, Please
“I have photographed Indian weddings before and I have photographed gay and lesbian weddings before, but never have I ever shot an Indian lesbian wedding,” photographer Steph Grant wrote about her recent (and lovely) wedding photography assignment.
While it is decidedly challenging to be out and proud in India (most especially for women) as well as in Indian diasporic culture, this recent news item is a hopeful reminder that change is possible. The wedding itself took place in Los Angeles, though the ceremony incorporated Indian wedding traditions and attire.
Continuing the story on her blog, Grant enthused, “I have been anticipating this wedding for years now! Shannon and Seema are special to me and I am honored that they chose me to be their wedding photographer. I flew into Los Angeles a few hours before the wedding festivities began. I was greeted by a house full of friends, family and a lot of laughter. It was going to be an exciting day.”
“Beautiful Indian culture, stunning brides & style for miles!” she continued. “Couldn’t ask for more. WOW. My heart! There was so much love that consumed the SmogShoppe that evening. Friends and family came pouring in with smiles, hugs and tears… these two are clearly loved and in love. I am writing this blog a month after the wedding and I am proud to say that so much progress has been made in our country with the Supreme Court striking down DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Prop 8 in California! Love wins. ALWAYS. Congrats Shannon & Seema. Love you guys!”
To check out the rest of the exclusive photos from this auspicious occasion, visit Steph Grant’s blog here: http://www.stephgrantphotography.com/blog/shannon-seema-indian-lesbian-wedding-los-angeles-ca
Have you ever seen such fabulous wedding photographs? And do you think you’ll ever get hitched? If you do, will you go “flossy-flossy” fancy, or do you think you’ll elope instead? Share your thoughts, Darl’s.
“The world says we’re not brave until we bleed.”
– From “Posh Life”
It’s official: Lady (Godiva) Gaga is back on her horse, naked as the day she was born, and raring to go. So much so, she’s let her “Posh” go leaking all over the Internet.
Sounds naughty, doesn’t it? It’s not—it’s just posh.
‘Shoutout to My Homos:’ New Divas Demo Collab Mentions “Family”
Post-hip surgery and past-hiatus (if lawsuit drama, full-on nude V. magazine spreads, “Machete Kills” and podcasting piercings counts), The Divine Ms. Lady Gaga’s back and collaborating with TLC to celebrate dual album debuts.
“Posh Life,” co-written by Gaga and Dallas Austin with Austin producing, is a demo that’s already a done deal.
Damn, it’s good to be Gaga! Lest we forget, Lady Gaga began as a successful songwriter. Her “Posh Life” demo leaked mere hours after TLC’s Chilli and T-Boz announced Gaga and Dallas Austin among collaborators on an upcoming TLC greatest hits release. Ne-Yo and J. Cole are additional features.
The highly-anticipated return of TLC is already being met with much acclaim and buzz as they hit the festival circuit, promoting their upcoming VH1 biopic “CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story” to drop alongside the album in October. Meanwhile, Gaga’s prepping for her new single release at this year’s VMAs, with album-app combo ARTPOP scheduled for a November release.
TLC: First In Queer-Influenced Girl Power, Fashion & Fierceness
This divas’ collaboration makes sense. TLC had swag before Bieber and 90s Girl Power before Christina. Both acts earned multiple Grammys and other awards, clocking best-selling album records and highest-grossing tours.
TLC’s “No Scrubs,” “Waterfalls, “What About Your Friends” and” Red Light Special” empowered women to take charge from the bedroom to the boardroom. And Gaga? Scroll on back to
“Born This Way” in 2011 and her countless LGBTQ-empowerment speeches or publicity stunts for a dose of self-love.
Too, they’re all hella fashion-forward women making sex-positive art. TLC rocks a combination of R&B-influenced and queer-centric fashion (bespoke condom eye-wear promoting safe sex, butch-dyke hair tropes), pleather and light bondage fear, bold pattern combinations and tight, body-conscious glitter and glam). As for Gaga, we’ve got two more words for you: Jo Calderone.
‘Bout That Posh Life: Gaga Got Game
Back to art-pop, R&B style: “Posh Life” takes the listener to church with soulful swagger. Gaga’s customary postmodern hat tip remains, as she plants shoutouts for queers and POC in the first verse:
“He just wanted something to eat /A place to love, a place to pray/In God we trust /And it’s okay/He said, “I’m black, Latin and gay/I went to them, they turned away.”
As Gaga growls and grinds through “Posh…,” she’s serving old school TLC as best as she can. Better than the real thing? That’s the beauty of a demo…it’s just a guide track.
What’s the song about, exactly: diversity, equality somehow embodied as posh? Who knows? Herein ies the charm of Lady Gaga. Self-admittedly, she’s so fascinated with the art and science of fame, fashionably posh living and perfect pop songs, when queers hear themselves reflected in her lyrics (Gasp! On the radio!), our response is primal and her tracks go viral. The messages are mixed, but this woman thanked “God and the gays” at an awards ceremony—so just dance!
Gaga’s version of the track’s got a light, sensual groove. Still, it would be ultra-pleasurable to hear a newly-reunited TLC bust these outwardly queer lyrics with their own twist.
TLC’s official Facebook page mourns the tragic death of former band mate Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, who passed in 2002, while looking forward to brighter days. The group wrote: “Comin’ back with Lisa in our hearts…. We’re hard at work on new tracks and they’re gonna be some of our best ever.”
The “Crazy, Sexy Cool” movie trailer’s gorgeous and hypnotic. Have you seen it?