The Transcendents: A Laughing While Trans* Comedy Playlist

“Comedy’s pretty much the reason that I don’t have a television anymore. I do have a good sense of humor….I can assure you that pretty much any box set that you’ve got will have some kind of joke about someone like me in, it but it probably won’t have someone like me in it.”  – Paris Lees

Is it just us, or are you over the “trans* person as the butt of a joke” trope? The thing about these “jokes” is they’re based on some serious ignorance at the very least. There are myriad trans* humorists, comedians and comedic actors in our midst, and those folks are downright transcendent and hilarious.

Hence, our latest playlist for you is a mix of all kinds of funny: self-defined trans* folks caught laughing while trans*, or making you laugh—period.

-

The Transcendents: A Laughing While Trans* Comedy Playlist

Please note: as always, most comedy features adult humor and choice words—so references to body parts and other bodily activities in these comedy set are anything but clinical.

 

* Ian Harvie Performs On Margaret Cho’s Beautiful Tour in Calgary - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WMRbSdRfng

Yes: he’s Margaret Cho’s bestie, but hey…”funny knows funny.” You’ve never heard boobs and gender misreads referred to in quite this way before….

* Eddie Izzard on San Francisco - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJ19ahNyM3I

Eddie Izzard specializes in a delightful/disorienting combo of intellectual, historical and absurd humor. He used to rock flamboyant outfits on a regular basis, but since moving into more acting roles than comedy club stints he’s much less Bowie-esque and just as adorbs.

Correction: these days, Izzard’s more 90′s Bowie than 70′s Bowie. And yes: still adorbs.

*Tammy Powers Comedy - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktSwdI4FY7Y

We wrote about Tammy Powers recently, as she’s working on her 2013 fund drive to keep her business A Tran’s Bay Bike Shop thriving. She’s a successful San Francisco-based business woman who’s also a part-time comedy wrangler with a saucy, naughty comedic vibe that could give late night comedienne Chelsea Handler a run for her money. Love it!

* Rae Drew’s Comedy Set - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdqOmy1hceM&feature=player_embedded

In Rae’s own words: “This is a video of me doing stand-up at the Gayborhood Games at Voyeur Nightclub in Philadelphia. I tell jokes about being trans, eating brownies, and catching people doing weird stuff in the bathroom.”

* Transgender Recovery Comedian Morgan - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLWy-UIngYU

With a sardonic wit and wisdom, Recovery Comedy’s feature comic Morgan riffs on gender, new names for her “va jay-jay” and making recovery funny.

* Jessica Who on Labels- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NzfALfk8rU

Jessica Who drowns herself in “labels.” Watch and learn!

* D’Lo -Stand Up At Pi Bar: SuperGay VS TooGay – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLmm6Mbdmhw

D’Lo is a self-identified queer, trans* comedian, writer, performer, director and music producer who’s a person of color. In this comedy bit, D’Lo asks, “Is there such a thing as a SuperGay cowboy?”

-

Check out the rest of the additions to the playlist below:

 

Julia Scotti – Comedy Works Bristol, Pa http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVYYF31i7a0

Natasha Muse: Standup Comedy at The Pig ‘n’ Whistle http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03ByrzRRUFM

Alison Grillo’s Stand Up - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUKftHAHRtc

Jordan Wieleba – The “F” Wordhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQWOY78VXpc

Bethany Black at the Edinburgh Fringe http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZahDfrEKkYE

Jeffrey Jay at the Improv in Addison - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dshk2Df2ihQ

Calpernia Addams· – Calpernia Does Standup for Jackie Beat’s BlahBlahBlah: “Self Help” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWeLvrWbQBY

-

 

To watch the entire playlist, click here: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBRcoGrPV–ZG478Hfu5Sx5MLlVBeS9p2

 

Men At Twerk Are NSFW: Big Freedia, Drag DJs and Men In Queer Culture — Are they Putting Miley Cyrus to Shame?

“Miley Cyrus’ twerk-filled performance at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards has become the most discussed, polarizing few minutes in a show that saw an ‘N Sync reunion and silhouetted Kanye West singing “Blood on the Leaves”. More than one think piece has accused Cyrus of appropriating and exploiting black culture for her own benefit at the detriment of its pioneers [like Big Freedia].”

                                                                                          – Jason Newman for Fuse.TV

On The #MileyTwerk Controversy and Queer Black Culture

“I’m a singer. I’m not a twerker, I’m not a rapper. I’m a singer…. I really can sing. And you know I can twerk—watch my videos. So there.” – Singer/Pop Artist Miley Cyrus 

[Note: In principle and practice, many of the clips and links below are NSFW. Not. Safe. For. Work. Surf with caution. Some of the content doesn't prepare you for this fact pre-launch.]

Feminists are not having it.

Kids in San Diego are getting in trouble—like “suspended” in trouble.

Hannity and Limbaugh are hornswoggled, all about this “shocking new twerking thing.” The word “twerk” has made it into the dictionary. Women are even twerking in church…on camera.

But y’all know twerking is nothing new. By now, you’ve likely traced its roots back to Africa’s diaspora, strip club feasts of fancy or your garden variety YouTube/Vine video. Let’s just say it’s familiar.

Twerking’s “a new thing” for Miley Cyrus to do in public (not counting press campaigns planned far in advance of any twerk attempts), so therefore it is “news.” Girlfriend is owning it as-is—so by now ya gotta know, it is Miley’s full intention is to twerk poorly and call attention to the fact that there’s not all too much junk in her trunk.

Ms. Miley ain’t out to win twerk-a-thon championships, and nothing that a Disney grad does—one who’s still on top—is accidental.

Now that that’s out of the way: folks can’t tell what they find most offensive about Miley’s runaway bootie: her lack of hip gyrations, her cultural appropriation, using African American folks as props alongside teddy bears, or her choice to milk every last drop of so-called shock value from ratchet living ’til it’s dry.

MC’s camp is well aware that the so-called American TV demographic isn’t ready for a real-deal twerk. Why would she practice twerking aiming to make that look authentic when it wouldn’t get on the air for the world to see? (Let the “people props” get closer to that.)

As for cultural appropriation, using people as props et al—this is nothing men (and/or Madonna!) haven’t done for decades in the entertainment industry—does that make it okay?

While ratchet/twerking music and culture’s aimed at dancing and partying all night (among, ahem, other ideas), twerking draws upon elements of queer culture. We are everywhere, so why would this not be the case?

LGBTQ folks find Miley’s new-found popularity scenario to be familiar: she’s shining in the spotlight, riding the wave of a cultural trend that’s been around in this form for at least 20 years. When such a trend makes its way to heteronormative culture and is performed by (at least more) heteronormative superstars, it’s salacious, sexy and provocative. “Controversial.” When it’s performed by LGBTQ folks in-community, people are confounded and disgusted. Granted, “disgust” is a subtextual form of interest and arousal, but most folks don’t take much time to process through that appropriately.

Too, to hear Huffpost/AOL tell it, their #MenAtTwerk compilation is one of America’s funniest home videos. As it’s taken out of context, that’s one viewpoint—but because of the platform and audience Huffpost has, such a viewpoint leaves room for much misinterpretation. In-culture, the #MenAtTwerk bootie-clap collage could be considered to be hot, fierce, authentic, queer-inclusive and/or funny at the very least. Not just “funny.”

Back in February, RuPaul and Big Freedia released the hypnotic video and single “Peanut Butter” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LFoRH-VtFO4) flanked by raw, hot models and dancers (courtesy of Chi Chi LaRue and Big Freedia), and a whole…lotta…arse. (The title of the track is “Peanut Butter,” so no surprises there). This underground club banger’s selling well and re-popularized twerking in-culture in a way that Miley still has yet to understand. Ru and Freedia are internationally famous pop stars too—you just don’t hear about them in the press every…other…second on every other channel.

‘Bout That Actual Life: On Actually Fierce Twerk Game

“I haven’t really seen one bad comment about my twerk video,” she said, then added jokingly, “This is the first thing! All right, I can’t sing, I can’t act, I’m dumb, I’m a hillbilly, but I can twerk, so whatever!” – Miley Cyrus

What did not get as much mainstream press time in this latest cultural case study? Rap Artist-Musician Big Freedia, killin’ it with a jaw dropping set at the Afro-Punk Festival, which took place on the same day as the VMAs did, in the same city and cultural mecca (Brooklyn).

Still, Rap Artist-Musician Big Freedia’s mic is on. People are watching, listening and learning. Big Freedia isn’t any fly-by-night dilettante or hobbyist. This artist is the real, live deal—she’s been all up in Bounce culture and then some since 1999. While promoting her new FUSE show Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce (http://www.fuse.tv/shows/big-freedia), she’s making her voice heard, sharing her reflections about the repeated #MileyTwerk spectacle.

While she’s honest about leveraging this strange, emerging opportunity, Big Freedia minces no words: twerking has been screwed and chopped by mainstream culture, and someone from within the culture itself needs to set the record straight.

Sissy Bounce is here, it’s queer, and it’s always been with us.

Reigning Sissy Bounce Queen Diva: Big Freedia Takes New Orleans Bounce to the World Stage

In Her Own Words

“… It’s offensive to black culture and black women who’ve been twerking for years. Every time we do something, people want to snatch it and run with it and put their name on it. And they still don’t even have the moves down yet. Just get me and Miley together so I could give her ass some lessons.” – Big Freedia, on Miley Twerk-A-Mania

Big Freedia doesn’t just make Bounce music—she makes Sissy Bounce music.

She had plenty to share regarding Miley’s twerk-storm. From a recent interview with Fuse TV (http://www.fuse.tv/2013/08/big-freedia-miley-cyrus-twerk), here are a few thoughts Big Freedia shared with her audience:

…. she was trying to twerk. For one thing, we have a dance in bounce music called ‘exercising’ where you just open your legs and shake your butt a little bit from side to side… but she still didn’t even get that right because she didn’t have any butt control. She needs more practice.”

When you have my dancers, they’re professionals. They’re from New Orleans and know what they’re doing . When they started dancing, it was original twerking. Miley’s dancers were prop dancers. None of them were professional dancers.”

They could’ve used girls from New Orleans, even if they were not black, who knew what they’re doing. They’re just using anybody possible just to get that buzz since twerking is hot now. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this, though. I knew the twerking thing was really taking off, but I didn’t know it would blow up like this.”

FUSE asked,Going back to Miley, let’s say you were the choreographer and saw her performance as a dress rehearsal. What specific tips would you have given her?”

Big Freedia responded, “Don’t do it.”

Big Freedia also told Colorlines.com she plans to release a response track called “Twerk It,” which “explores the roots of twerk vocabulary.”

-

Twerk Couture: Bad Girls Twerking Badly Still Puts Twerking On the Map

You can’t really explain [twerking],” Miley said. “It’s something that comes naturally…It’s a lot of booty action…. I’ve been practicing probably for the past two years, in my own time in my living room.” – Miley Cyrus, to E Online

This is an achy-breaky trend that will not die, and Miley isn’t even attempting to backpedal her way out of it. She is riding it for all it is worth to her—and she’s not in this twerk game alone. She of course has handlers and press people. In her mind (from all press interview accounts), Miley really is just chilling with her friends and doing what she loves.

It’s A Feminist/Black/Queer Thing: Miley Isn’t Here to Make It Rain.

On Channeling Nothing

RT @MileyCyrus “Mile, if twerkintwerkin woulda been invented…. And I had a foam finger…. I woulda done the same thang you did.” – DAD

If you watch Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” video or even Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” the point of the shimmery video spectacle is not about making sure celebs and models are “dancing well.”It’s all about the performative pantomime. Again, we already know this yummy aesthetic quite well: Andrew Christian and Chi Chi LaRue’s underwear ad campaigns alone take bootie-shaking to beatific heights, masterfully conjoining commerce, spectacle and eroticism. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8S94OlPt7o.

Don’t let Miley’s twerk game fool you: titillation sells, and you can always take that to the bank. Twerk is another set of clothes for Ms. Cyrus. Miley’s still got time for high fashion photo shoots with Terry Richardson and has covered V, Cosmo, Harper’s, Elle UK and counting in recent memory. Those magazines don’t (yet) encourage ratchet couture spreads, and this twerking thing is but another momentary fashion prop for some.

Too, engaged to a man or not, Miley is gay-friendly and (many say) a queer lass indeed. Playing at queering culture isn’t something that can be shut on and off. Cyrus makes a proactive point to remind her fans about this, and the We Can’t Stop video is all about playing at bi-chic tropes and omnisexual aesthetics that may or may not keep happening when cameras stop rolling.

In terms of controversy and criticism goes, Miley takes it all in stride. Trained to deal with the public from a very early age (at least years old), she and her handlers know how to keep people talking and to take “faux rebellion” nowhere near the bleeding edge of real rebelliousness.

As for the pop star’s heiney? Here we have the good ol’ “Goodie I still get to look trick:” you criticize a woman for shakin’ what her momma gave her, telling your partner, the press, your friends, “Oooh! This is just scandalous!” All the while, you’re never taking your eyes off her bum and assorted hijinx. Scandalous attention is still attention.

We Can’t Stop Miley Cyrus. We Won’t Stop Miley Cyrus.

Cyrus’ only responses to criticism have moved along two main streams of thought.

Here’s one: when criticized for her unicorn onesie twerk video, Cyrus essentially said [paraphrased] “J. Dash is happy…no one heard of his song “Wop” before I did that.” And two: when hip hop legends such as Jay Z shout her out in their rhymes and in the press, people tell Miley he’s dissing her. Her responses?

RT @MileyCyrus Somewhere in America a Jay Z song is onnnnnn

RT @MileyCyrus That’s a win win forrrrrr me.

RT @MileyCyrus Call it what you want. But I don’t see Mr. Carter shoutin any of you bitches out. #twerkmileytwerk

And Jay Z agrees.

Miley is still working with (and yes, twerking with) Snoop Lion (aka Snoop Dogg), Odd Future, Ludacris, Big Sean, Pharrell, Juicy J, Nelly and many other rap artists du jour. The Yin Yang Twins wrote a stripper pole-ready song about her tush and twerking it. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-UXJO-iydM)

The verdict is in: Miley is “right” on all accounts.

Shameless Plugs

Speaking of accounts, Miley’s still posting pictures of her bootie @MileyCyrus, and you can keep up with Big Freedia’s latest pics and posts @Bigfreedia.

So let’s get a move-on #MCTWERKTEAM…. Assume the #MileyTwerk position and represent.

-

“Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce” debuts Wednesday, October 2 at 11/10C on Fuse TV and you can buy her album “Queen of Bounce” on iTunes by clicking here (http://www.bigfreedia.com).

You can learn (and dance!) more by watching the documentary “Big Freedia The Queen Diva” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O0yrp3nsvAs

You know Miley’s on top of the promo gig too: according to Miley’s Twitter TL, you can of course pre-order #Bangers / Wrecking Ball on iTunes here: (https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/wrecking-ball/id691238659?i=691239109).

-

Now Playing – Big Freedia - Y’all Get Back Now

Because she is royalty, let’s give the Diva the last word. Big Freedia recently told the Daily News:

Twerking—and it’s a lot more than twerking—comes from a long history of music and dance in New Orleans. Twerkin’ happen around the world for a long time now, so I’m very excited that it’s coming into the public eye, as long as it’s respected.”

-

We could say more on the matter and likely will.

But wouldn’t you rather be dancin’ and watchin’ all up on this anyway? Let’s free you up to do that. And let’s keep it real: how many times have you had to switch to your “kitty pics” screen-saver so you wouldn’t get caught watching “Peanut Butter” on loop? Oh—that was just us? Oh, okay. Right.

 

Doubling Up: Ellen DeGeneres to Host Oscars for 2014 Academy Awards

RT@Dannyboy0713: I totally hope @TheEllenShow gets every celebrity in the ballroom to dance when she hosts The Oscars @TheAcademy

-

And The Winner Is…

Because Twitter announcements count as official (well…until they don’t…), Twitter scooped most folks on this first: Ellen DeGeneres announced her delight to be returning as the emcee for the Oscars ceremony next year, on behalf of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts Sciences.

DeGeneres (“The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” “Finding Nemo”), in the customary “Aw shucks wink-wink” way we know and adore, shared this joyful tweet on her Twitter page:

It’s official: I’m hosting the #Oscars! I’d like to thank @TheAcademy, my wife Portia and, oh dear, there goes the orchestra.

The broadcast’s executive producers (Craig Zadan and Neil Meron) cosigned her “squee” on Twitter, tweeting:

Neil Meron @neilmeron welcome back to the Oscar stage, Ellen…we can’t wait to start working with you! @theellenshow @theacademy @craigzadan

And they love Ms. Ellen so much, they went from pitch to decision in a mere 48 hours’ time.

“I agreed with Craig and Neil immediately that Ellen is the ideal host for this year’s show,” said Cheryl Boone Isaacs, Academy President. “We’re looking forward to an entertaining, engaging and fun show.”

According to the organization’s CEO Dawn Hudson, “Ellen is talented, wonderfully spontaneous, and knows how to entertain a worldwide audience. She’s a big fan of the Oscars; we’re huge fans of hers. It’s a perfect match.”

 

All This Funny Business

According to Variety magazine, “’The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ has won 45 Daytime Emmys during its 10 seasons. Though DeGeneres’ show airs on NBC owned-and-operated stations, she has a history with Oscar broadcaster ABC, with her landmark sitcom ‘Ellen’ having run there from 1994-98. In 1997, DeGeneres won the Peabody Award and a writing Emmy for the episode in which her character came out as a gay woman, with 46 million viewers watching.

“Over the last eight years, the 2007 Oscars hosted by DeGeneres stands as the top rated in both adults 18-49 (14.1 rating/33 share) and women 25-54 (19.2/40).”

Since coming out in 1997, though Ellen shared myriad challenges she faced because of her public declaration, she’s a master at the art of the “Reboot and Rally.” These days, you feel like she’s never missed a beat.

You always get the sense that even while Ellen’s ribbing you, she’s laughing with—not at—you, and you’re never on the arse-end of even her snarkiest inside jokes. Ellen saves more observational or cutting humor for political issues.

Case in point: remember when she riffed on fatphobia? Ellen quipped:

“Now [Abercrombie & Fitch] actually have a double zero. What are we aspiring to? ‘Honey, do these jeans make my butt look invisible in this?‘”

Crafting jokes, skits, comedic sets and punchlines in such a way is living a rarefied air and artistry we don’t see quite enough of. Too, though reading and shade has its place in queer culture, this type of kidding around is based on finding and digging into flaws, and adding salt to wounds (real, perceived or straight-up made up).

In other words, the origin and intent of reading/shade/the dozens, however creative, is more degrading.

And Now, Your Host…

Ellen’s first Oscars hosting gig took place in 2007. In a tongue-in-cheek self-released press statement Ellen added:

“I am so excited to be hosting the Oscars for the second time. You know what they say – the third time’s the charm….”

Laugh on, Ms. E. Laugh on.

-

Click below to watch 5 of Ellen’s Best Award Show Moments:

http://www.thewrap.com/tv/article/ellen-degeneres-returns-oscars-host-5-amazing-award-show-moments-video-108091

-

The 86th Annual Academy Awards takes place on March 2, 2014. So is Ellen the right woman for the job, or what?

-

 

LZ Granderson: The Myth of The Gay Agenda

“…I have taught myself to sew, cook, fix plumbing, build furniture – I can even pat myself on the back when necessary…. There’s nothing I need from anyone except for love and respect. And anyone who can’t give me those two things has no place in my life.”

- Arnold from “Torch Song Trilogy.”

Visit Bing or Yahoo. Google or Duck Duck Go.

(Don’t worry, we’ll wait.)

Now: search for the words “Gay Agenda.”

(We’ll be right here, so be sure to come back. Better yet, open up another window or tab. There you go.)

Here’s what you’ll find: you’ll discover and learn more about us here at GayAgenda.com (please do that!).

You’ll also see many, many other “interesting” finds. Most notably, you’ll encounter a lot of people who have coined the hateful term and idea of the “gay agenda,” words we happily reclaim.

Among the search results you’ll find will be CNN reporter-journalist LZ Granderson’s world renowned, fact-filled, heartwarming and humorous TED Talk, “The Myth of the Gay Agenda.”

Remember that “Gay Agenda” search engine quest from before? LZ really, really went there too—in fact, he went into some extended search action…!

The results he found included a wealth of hate-monger speech and ignorance-laden articles and updates about the “dangerous gay lifestyle,” and the “dangerous gay agenda.”

On thumbing through result after result of anti-gay propaganda, Granderson reflects: “If I’m gay and I’m doing something that’s going to destroy civilization, I need to figure out what this stuff is. And, I need to stop doing it right now!” [The audience laughs.]

“I took a look at my life—a hard look at my life,” he goes on, “And I saw some things very disturbing. And I want to begin sharing these ‘evil’ things that I’ve been doing with you, starting with my mornings.

[The audience continues laughing along with LZ.] He continues the in-joke: “I drink coffee. Not only do I drink coffee. I know other people who drink coffee.”

Granderson directs us to the first slide of a PowerPoint presentation with the laughable title, “The Super Duper Evil Gay Lifestyle,” emblazoned with the rainbow flag.

He walks us through his happily partnered life and the daily goings on of being a busy parent. He then goes on to masterfully, ironically illustrate his points. “Run for your heterosexual lives, people!” Granderson humorously “threatens” during the conference, dismantling the hateful rhetoric that anti-gay bigots just so happen to throw around.

At the end of the day, LZ Granderson’s presentation fights for, in his own words, “Love and respect….trying to find your place in the world.” It seems so simple—the real “agenda” has to do with those who seek to complicate it. To destroy rights that have already been granted, and to prevent acquisition of others.

Finding and enjoying “love and respect:” in essence, this is everyone’s “agenda.” Granderson brilliantly brings these and other heartening ideas to the fore.

When he talks about love, his family, adoption and marriage equality, your eyes will get misty, your lips will quiver, you’ll be reminded of your own humanity. His talk is quite lovely and forever relevant.

-

LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. He spoke at TEDx Grand Rapids in May 2012. TED is a nonprofit organization dedicated to “Ideas worth spreading” which it makes available through talks posted on its website. (http://www.tedxhappyvalley.com/lz-granderson-the-myth-of-the-gay-agenda/)

You can tweet your reactions and support to LZ  @Locs_n_Laughs.

Click here to watch the video—with choreographed light saber moves and all the belly laughs you can stand included. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CstD6O95L-o)

-

So what did you think of LZ Granderson’s TED Talk ?

Shirtless in Raleigh

I am becoming a dirty old man.

Since writing doesn’t pay the bills, I have to perform a different sort of writing to keep myself off the streets, an altogether different type, technically known as “coding”. In other (less long-winded) words, I work, as a developer, for a large software company based in North Carolina, and spend – as I am now – periodic two-week stints here at their campus, instead of at my home-office in Hollywood, CA. These trips sort of bifurcate my life into domains best described as gay-centrals on one hand, and baby factory on the other. Neer the twain shall meet.

In gay central, I spend a lot of time in West Hollywood, not necessarily living “the gay lifestyle” (this is just a friendly dig at a fellow columnist who dislikes that term), but certainly existing amidst a mostly gay milieu. For instance, I work on my laptop frequently at the big Starbucks opposite 24Hour Fitness. On such days, it’s not unusual for me to see, through the course of a few hours, fifty men beautiful enough to be models (in “normal” cities.)

Here in North Carolina, meanwhile, the walls and doors of many offices are plastered with baby pictures, every other vehicle is a mini-van, and lunch meetings with colleagues are on the suicidal verge of boredom. (When they’re not talking about their kids, they’re only left with sports and church.) I’ve worked for this company for twelve years. During that time, I don’t recall once meeting somebody on our campus that I could clearly identify as gay. Nor, for the most part, do I get the visual stimulus, here, of bodies beautiful (certainly not on campus.)

Maybe this explains why I got so excited last night. I was early for an appointment I had to drive to, so pulled over opposite a park, to catch up with some work. It was some sort of frizby-combo-golf-weird-game park, as near as I could make out, and playing the course were four college students, one of whom was shirtless, just wearing shorts, with a beautiful, compact, muscular build and the most engaging smile. You had the sense, as he walked around the course, that he was both completely aware of the homoeroticism implicit in his shirtlesness as well as extremely self-confident (though without being affected.) The body language on display in the group indicated that he was “the leader”. I’m not saying that any of the others were remotely affected by the proximity of his gorgeous bare chest, but it’s nice to fantasize.

I, however, was certainly affected. I fumbled with my bag to get out the point-and-shoot camera I always have with me, and shakily tried to line up a few shots without attracting their attention. I’m not at all sure why I was so flustered, since I see beautiful men every day back in gay-central. What is certain, however, is that I felt like a dirty old man, even if only in a self-amused ironic way.

(You can see the photos here, though I must excuse their poor quality by the evening light, the poor camera, and the distance from that camera of the object of my lust.)

I’ve long wondered how I’d feel when I reached the age of no longer having the kind of body others lusted at. If that sounds arrogant, let me follow with admitting that I went through most of my life without it, having grown up very skinny. Through my twenties, I detested my body so much, I’d call myself a death-head on a stick. When I saw men with the physique and confidence to bear their torsos in public, there was always a tinge of bitterness and envy mixed up in my admiration. It was only as I entered my late thirties, that my body got its act together, and, for an all to brief shining period, I enjoyed the attention I got when I had my shirt off. Now, at the age of forty-seven, that glow is fading (or, more frankly, has winked out), and, as I began to say, I wondered if – at this stage – the bitterness and envy would return.

It comes as a big surprise – to me at least – that there are good things about aging. You don’t take yourself so seriously; you care less (I mean that in the literal sense – as in “my care is less”; not as in “I couldn’t care less”) what others think about you; you have the wisdom to know when to pick your fights; you don’t get so bent out of shape at life’s injustices; and – this is the bigger surprise – you accept, with equanimity, that your looks aren’t what they were, and the sight of others – like the young man here in the park – who still inspire gasps when they’re shirtless, just brings to mind a tender mix of admiration and good memories. So, let’s here it for dirty old men!

Porn in public: the death of civility?

Is it time to mourn public civility?

 

Today’s New York Times had a front page article on San Francisco’s pragmatic solution to the problem of public library patrons purviewing porn: special hoods over the Internet workstations. The city turned to this solution because banning or blocking library visitors from adult websites would cause here a hue and cry not heard since the SFPD tried to crack down on nude runners in the annual Bay-to-Breakers race. This is a city – my beloved San Francisco, my home for fifteen years until I moved to LA – where even straight parents think it’s perfectly fine to take a seven year old to the Folsom Street Fair, where it’s far from rare to see not just full-frontal nudity (sometimes with mangled and pierced private parts), but public sex, not to mention flogging, bondage, and men in scary gas-masks. (Even homeless people join the revelry, shedding their garb.) I was in San Francisco for the last Folsom, and wasn’t overly surprised to see nude, excessively hair men sitting composedly on the corner of Market and Castro, reading the Sunday paper. The city decided to allow public nudity, but to require the practicioners to  have something – anything – even a sheet from their newspaper – between their posteriors and their seats.

While I applaud, once again, the civic mindedness and enlightenment of the SF  Board of Supervisors, I can’t help wishing that they hadn’t had to come up with a solution to porn-watching public library customers. Let’s face it, people should know better. To me, raised in England, that position seems a no-brainer. You shouldn’t need to be told that your free  rights as a citizen should give way, at times, to the concept of the public shared space of civility. Yet, sometimes, I feel it’s coming to seem like heresy to say this in America, a country in which personal liberty of behavior has come to attain the highest value.

I see it all the time at Starbucks in West Hollywood: people looking at Craigslist ads, hairy penises and all. Even if it weren’t for my concept of appropriate public behavior, I’d never be seen dead looking at ads like that in full view of others. While that’s partly my own personal story of obsessive privacy – I’d be equally dead against being seen choosing drapes on the Macys website – would it be that difficult for people to at least try to screen their screens?

People’s belief in their right to do what they want, where they want, plays out in so many ways here. You’re looked at in befuddled amazement by someone you ask to please talk more quietly on their phones. On one flight from Dallas to Burbank, the gal in the middle seat behind me talked non-stop, in a piercing nasal voice, to her seatmates, both strangers, about every personal detail of her life. It wasn’t just me. People several rows in front and back of her were obviously squirming in distaste at the travails of her on and off against boyfriend, and the scars from removing the tattoos on her upper thighs.

As we stood up to deplane, there was the inevitable delay in opening the front door, so she set off again, and, all of a sudden, I couldn’t help myself. I turned to her and asked her if she ever stopped talking. Did she realize that everybody within twenty feet could now recount her entire childhood? The look on her face was priceless: she obviously thought, who is this jerk? The thought that her behavior was in the least imposing on others was patently not capable of forming in her mind. (Reactions from my fellow passengers were mixed, with two people shaking my hand, and one calling me an animal and – the real motivator of his anger – a faggot (since he made this intervention at luggage claim after I’d just hugged my boyfriend.)

Speaking of flying, there was another recent New York Times article (which, try as I might, I can’t locate on their website) in Tuesday’s Itineraries section, where the journalist was casting about for opinions on when you should give up your seat so that couples or families could sit together. He reported several cases of antagonism when people refused to give up their seats. People apparently believed they had a God-given right to sit together, even though they hadn’t had the wherewithal to book their seats far enough in advance to secure them side-by-side. But I didn’t really understand the thrust of the article. The writer seemed to be asking the question, is it right to give up your seat? That seems to me fundamentally the wrong approach, since there’s really no right answer. In my hypothesized arena of perfect public civility, it would be a case-by-case basis: there’d be a polite request; the person being asked to move would weigh their own personal comfort needs against courtesy and fellow-feeling, and would choose accordingly; and everybody would accept the decision.

(I’m not a good test case: I’d almost never give up my seat. But not out of selfishness. Instead, out of pure survival instinct. I’m 6’6, with broad-shoulders, and the only way I can survive any flight over two hours long, is to sit exit-row/aisle. It would make of me a masochist to give up that carefully scheduled survival seat just so a lovey-dovey couple could avoid the awfulness of three hours apart.)

Oh, I could go on. Peeing on the seat in public toilets; talking loudly in cinemas (“kill the bitch”); the habit of LA pedestrians of joining the endless stream through cross-walks where a car is expected to wait forever, apparently, purely because the pedestrians do indeed have the right of way; all manner of self-entitled LA behavior, come to think of it. But I’ll rest my case. It’s time for the Last Rites on public civility.

Teen Woof!

The most homoerotic TV show ever?

I know I claimed to know nothing about popular culture, and, to be sure, perhaps you’ve a right to now expect me to expound on the use of alliteration in Henry James, and the masterful polyphony of Gustav Mahler. But then there’s Teen Wolf, MTV’s entry into the reborn fad for the undead.

There are many things I do to retain my ignorance of popular culture. First, I never, under ever circumstances, listen to the radio, because then it’s almost impossible to avoid my biggest pet peeve, commercials. For the same reason, I don’t watch live TV, and my partner and I TIVO the very few shows we like to catch, which have, frequently,  short-lasting seasons, like The Killing or The Walking Dead (both on AMC.) And, finally, if it isn’t in the New York Times, it didn’t happen, as far as I’m concerned. Which is why I find it very strange they’ve never yet reviewed Teen Wolf.

I don’t deny that I persuaded Ben to give it a try purely on the basis of some screen-caps of a couple of hot shirtless guys on Google Images (this is a little sample.). (I don’t recall what I was searching for, but I’m sure it wasn’t related to popular culture: impossible.) But the first episode impressed us with its high production values, well-written script, interestingly cast and acted characters, and adventurous and innovative use of music. The narrative tension was sustained throughout, and there were promises of genuine cinematic heft.

None of those reasons explain the constant “Oh my God”s, and “Hmm, hmmmmm!”s that you’d here generated from the denizens in our … well, in our den, whilst the show is on. They’re involuntarily emitted by one or both of us at the prolonged, intensely homoerotic, shirtless scenes from what must be the most beautiful (in a real way, as opposed to the typical fake and self-conscious Hollywood way) young cast ever put together in a TV series. In the first season, there were at least two long scenes when one of these young men was squirming in agony, soaking wet, on the floor of a shower; and there was a long shirtless torture scene where the torturer licked the guy’s hot abs.

It’s gotten, if anything, even more homoerotic this season. In one episode, one of the characters, a young man of obscene beauty, spent most of the show shirtless, in a tralier, his arms handcuffed behind his back, with the lighting, of course, just so. Then there was the scene in a gay club where a creature with a venomous sting was sending splendid shirtless bodies crashing to the floor. Which reminds me that the character – a secondary one – with perhaps the finest body of them all, is gay, and it’s no big deal. After he wakes up in the hospital (having,  naturally, been one of the men stung by the creature with the venom), his friend comes to pick him up, and, for no reason at all, the gay guy is shirtless when his friend arrives, and takes forever putting his shirt on.

The new season, although it was hotter than ever, felt, at first, disjointed, in a surprising contrast to the near perfect pace of the first season. And we were probably both, privately reaching a point of self-denial about only continuing to watch it because of the boys. But the last two episodes were the best of all: gripping, moving, and, at times, terrifying: it felt as if it was crossing the boundary into the territory of the types of shows we revere for their story and their art. Oh. And the most recent episode I watched was the hottest of all.

The Competitive Agenda

Since this is my first blog entry on this site, I’d like to start off with something that would grab your interest by the throat until you screamed for more. Or something like that. But that’s not my agenda; in this first paragraph at least. No, here, I get to say hi, with a little about myself, and give you a preview of the sorts of things I’ll be writing on.

Quick encapsulation of the stuff you’re not going to be able to derive – necessarily – from my writing: British, have lived in the US for 26 years, living with my b.f. Ben in Hollywood, six-foot-six, and, I have a serious health condition which I’d ordinarily save for a later reveal, except that it’s in my byline: I have bipolar disorder. Which means that living with bipolar disorder, and the way it interacts with another subject that’s frequently been closeted: homosexuality – will be one of my subjects. Otherwise, I intend to write a more personal blog than the average: you can call it “the gay condition”. And I’ll try to refrain from too many references to what goes on in what you might call the eccentric fringe of my mind.

One final introductory self-disclosure: I won’t be blogging about celebrities (except perhaps about why celebrity culture is a problem) or popular culture (because others know a lot more about it than I do.)

I intended to start this first entry with some Internet research on why spouses – gay or straight – are competitive. But Google insisted instead on only showing me links to a game show, “Gay, Straight or Taken.” What sparked my interest in this subject was thinking about my own experiences in romantic relationships, where I’ve frequently indulged in completely meaningless competition. Are other gay male partners this competitive; and does the double dose of testosterone in the latter make it more common there than in straight relationships?

Arm Wrestling

Lacking hard statistics, I will look at my own relationship with my eight-year-old partner Ben, (He’s not actually a toddler – I mean we’ve been together that long.) Since Ben is not here to serve his own defence, I’ll restrict matters (mostly) to my most popular topic: myself. The truth is that I was truly, madly, insanely competitive, in the first year of our relationship, to a point that’s frankly embarrassing. And I’m not going to refrain from embarrassing myself here. I’ve never been a particular friend of “product” – bathroom items such as skin toner, scrub, and cotton wool. My admittedly fading looks emerge from a face that hasn’t seen moisturizer in many years. I just can’t be bothered. Yet when I first moved in with Ben, I’d see him moisturize his torso lovingly every night, and, astonishingly, I’d feel envy. I had – at the time – too much acne to support additional moisture on my skin.

But I was disturbed that Ben’s Aveda could drive me crazy like this, so I consulted my therapist, who was then a gay man. (He’s still gay, but I’ve moved on.) To my relief, he told me that most gay couples are competitive. (I’m sure he was thinking inside “Yes, but Aveda!”) I was even more competitive, though, about clothing. If we went shopping together, Ben, being 5’10 with a good build, could find anything on the rack, whereas for me, with my 6’6 broad-shouldered frame, I’d often draw a complete blank. Clothes designers seem to think that if you’re 6’6, you also weigh about 300 lbs, and are correspondingly rotund.

But I discovered alteration! Before long, all of my shirts, sweaters and even tank-tops would go under the knife and resultingly fit me so flatteringly that even Ben became envious. (Now, seven years later, at the age of 47, I’m discovering the down-side: half of my wardrobe is now awaiting the mythical day when I’ll become as slim again as I was when I was a wee slip of a 40 year-old.)

For all those suffering from the irrational competitive drive to do all things better than your boyfriend, I’m here to say that things get better. You grow up, and, hopefully, the neuroses drop away. In my case, the process was helped by a life-threatening crisis we both went through that went a long way towards destroying interpersonal insecurities. May I recommend the same approach if you’re a sufferer?

Ben, on the other hand, is still hugely competitive. He will play neither chess nor Scrabble with me. The ignoble excuse against Scrabble is “Oh, English isn’t my first language.” That statement is not only an arrant falsehood (he grew up in Singapore where English if the first language), but also demonstrably irrelevant, as anybody who’s ever heard him speak in public could confirm. Not only that, but Ben obviously became envious that I had a serious mental-health diagnosis and he didn’t, so he invented one for himself, some sort of attention-deficit disorder. I think what he really has is just common or garden AMPS (Absent-Minded Professor Syndrome.) But, say I accept his diagnosis at face value: my bipolar disorder clearly trumps his ADD, so there!