By Jeff Walsh
It happens in an instant. That moment of recognition. Before it, you may have been confused, questioning, and unsure about who you are... but afterward, you may have still had questions... but you knew what the deal was.
There's just that "Moment You Knew," where life changes.
For some people, it was less dramatic. They always knew, it just eventually got a name. For others, it is a longer journey.
But however you get there, it is still something that changes you life forever. There will always be life before that moment, and life after it. It is "The Moment You Knew..."
My story: My entire coming out happened online. My gay community was online. When my modem was occupying the phone line, I was connected. When I logged off, I was alone. What is often taken for granted today is still something I remember not existing.
When I first America Online, it was not to explore my sexuality. It was for "research." At the time I was writing a screenplay and there was a gay teen character in it. Since, I wasn't gay, I figured using some of the trial memberships online would let me talk to gay teens to help develop the character. I was in my early 20s at this time.
I got into some of the gay teen chat rooms, identified myself as a straight screenwriter, and said I needed their help to tell my story. One of the guys I chatted with ended up being my first online boyfriend.
By Jeff Walsh
After seeing some Broadway shows over the holidays, one of the truly breakout performers I got to see was Howie Michael Smith in Avenue Q. In the dual role of Princeton and Rod, Smith is a flurry of activity. You can see his pure joy of being up onstage and bringing two distinct personalities and voices to his characters in the show.
Princeton is the character that moves to Avenue Q at the start of the show, wondering what he can do now with his B.A. in English. He started apartment hunting on Avenue A, but couldn't afford any of the rents until he got way out until Avenue Q. He falls in love with Kate Monster, and even has a sex scene during the show.
Rod is the older, closeted character that sits home and reads books about Broadway musicals. He seems to be fashioned after Bert, with a hidden crush on Nicky, his Ernie. (Not that Bert and Ernie are gay or anything!).
A regular feature that wraps up news items found elsewhere on the web about LGBTQ youth (and some additional randomness):
By Jeff Walsh
With "The Little Dog Laughed," Douglas Carter Beane got his play about a closeted gay celebrity, the hustler he falls in love with, and the actor's domineering chatterbox of an agent on Broadway. The show explores the fascination we all have with the sexuality of celebrities, and the pains people will go through to make sure stars are seen as heterosexual by the majority of the ticket-buying public.
Beane is best known for writing, "Too Wong Foo, Thanks for everything, Julie Newmar," which had Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze, and John Leguizamo in drag back in the 90s. No matter how successful he is with "Little Dog Laughed" or "As Bees In Honey Drown," To Wong Foo will always serve as his calling card for many people. In a few short months, Beane's book for a Broadway restaging of the Olivia Newton John's camp classic "Xanadu" will also hit the stage.
Beane recently chatted with me about Little Dog's closing on Broadway, fatherhood, Xanadu, gay porn, actors' bad taste, Perez Hilton, and celebrity closets.
By Jeff Walsh
"The Graffiti Artist" is a small, hypnotic gem of a movie. Nick lives a world detached from other people, just skateboarding through Seattle and Portland, spray-painting his signature tag "Rupture" everywhere he can, stealing what he needs, and crashing where he gets tired.
It's easy to dismiss this movie (in fact, someone watching it with me couldn't stand it, because they said nothing happens and the acting was so stilted), but that wasn't my take on it. I saw the tagging as his version of leaving his mark on the world, the only way he learned how to fully express himself. The constant need to tag seems to be that he has so much inside of him he wants to get out, he just doesn't know how.
At a skate park, Nick can't stop watching this one guy, following him after he leaves. He sees the other kid tag a wall, and then skate away, making eye contact right before he leaves.
By Jeff Walsh
Unless you're a serious Pet Shop Boys fan, Catalogue is overkill. Of course, just the notion that a band would have enough material to fill 300+ pages that largely showcase how they have managed their public image over a career spanning more than two decades is really worth a visit for anyone interested in music, celebrity, or fame.
For me, they always had interesting cover art and presentation to their music, but until I saw them live very late in the game, I never knew how manicured the whole thing was. On their 'Nightlife' tour, they did a very polished set, working the crowd, but never really breaking a sweat. It was initially a bit oft putting, but then again, they were also wearing odd, spiky-headed wigs at the time, too. But the more I watched, it dawned on me that a sense of detachment was always part of their magic. This wasn't a band that would treat a concert as a jubilant experience where there was a shared magic between them and the crowd (if they do, they certainly wouldn't let on). No band-led singalongs, big cheesy smiles when a familiar intro chords progression washed over us. Nope.
By Jeff Walsh
The Pet Shop Boys is one of my foundation bands. There are moments where their music is clearly fixed in the events of my life. I remember when the gay bar I used to frequent played "Go West," their exuberant cover of the Village People classic, as its closing music very night. The dance floor became a celebration with everyone becoming a community, singing and smiling in a small Pennsylvania town where this wasn't a constant state. I can look back on many moments like this and find a Pet Shop Boys providing the score.
More recently, I was at a club in San Francisco, and heard only one or two chords, and knew I was in the hands of The Pet Shop Boys. Over the years, they have developed such a unique, distinctive sound that somehow immediately identifies them but never seems to restrict them. But the thing I noticed most when I heard the chord is how happy it made me. I didn't know the song, the words, the chorus, the bridge... but just it being The Pet Shop Boys was enough to make me smile and radiate happiness. I can't honestly think of another band that has that effect on me.
By Jeff Walsh
In "Boys Briefs 4: Six Short Films About Guys Who Hustle," the question that never gets answered for me is why this has become such a pervasive image of gay culture. For a while, it seemed impossible to go to a gay film festival without at least half of the stories being about gay hustlers. And, most of the time, they don't have all that much to say.
This DVD is certainly the rule, and not the exception, as far as that stuff goes. Here we have six films and, aside from one, they are all about hustlers who don't really like their situation.
I can't really recommend this collection, because it's all so self-hating and negative overall. The positive moments are too few and far between. In this one, our host pretends to be a hustler, but it's more of the same stereotypical street hustler talk that is pretty familiar at this point.
By Jeff Walsh
I'm always of mixed opinions about short films, for much the same reasons I don't read a lot of short stories. They always seem to fall into three categories: art pieces that barely say anything, pieces that hold promise for a lot more that end too fast, and intricate pieces that would never be able to sustain their "house of cards" structure in a longer form. So, I guess it's safe to say I'm biased going in: to me everything is viewed in relation to its ability to be addressed in a longer form.
"Boys Briefs 3: Between the Boys: 8 Gay Short Films About Hooking Up" is very clear from the get-go about its intentions when its cute Asian host, Erwin Saracho G., starts the proceedings off by taking a shower with the roving camera panning up and down his body, then he towels off, sits down on the edge of the bathtub, and introduces the first film. All of his interstitial content is done in little tight bikinis, or shirtless, and as much as I'm fine with cute naked boys, I guess I felt a bit slighted that it was felt that I needed this stuff to keep me interested. As you'll read, though, sometimes I did.
By Jeff Walsh
"A Love to Hide" takes place in 1942 Paris, as the country is under German occupation during World War II. As the movie opens, we see Sara escaping, and learn to find that she is Jewish, her family was killed, and she barely escaped alive.
She goes to see Jean, an old friend she knows from when their families used to vacation at the same place each year when they were just kids. She always had a crush on Jean, who sets her up to live with Philippe, his friend. Jean's family owns a laundry that has no choice but to deal with a lot of German military officials to stay in business, so it isn't safe to keep her with his family.
As Sara wonders whether her childhood crush on Jean will turn into something again, now that they are adults, she sees Jean saying goodbye to Philippe, and their kiss lets her know her future with him isn't likely to happen.
By Jeff Walsh
Two years ago, I saw a notice for a book event by Byron Katie, whom I had never heard of prior to receiving that bookstore e-mail. I'm always game to hear new voices, and the name of her then-new book, "I Need Your Love -- Is That True?: How to Stop Seeking Love, Approval, and Appreciation and Start Finding Them Instead" was certainly intriguing. So, I showed up early for the lunchtime event in San Francisco's financial district. I grabbed a copy of her book, figuring I'd decide during the event if I were going to buy it and get it signed after she spoke.
The chairs slowly filled up, and people from the bookstore started passing out "Judge Your Neighbor" worksheets, in case we wanted to do "The Work" with Katie during the event. People around me whip out their pens and are all excited for the opportunity. "Are you going to do The Work," the man next to me asks. I told him I don't know what he's talking about. He smiles and says I'll know soon enough.
Finally, the place is standing room only and Byron Katie appears, except there seems to be some communal understanding that she is just "Katie" to everyone. Her presence is so at ease and embracing, my first impression was that whatever she uses to get to that place, sign me up.
By Byron Katie
The truth is that there's no such thing as enlightenment. No one is permanently enlightened; that would be the story of a future. There's only enlightenment in the moment. Do you believe a stressful thought? Then you're confused. Do you realize that the thought isn't true? Then you're enlightened to it. It's as simple as that.
All suffering is mental. It has nothing to do with the body or with a person's circumstances. You can be in great pain without any suffering at all. How do you know you're supposed to be in pain? Because that's what's happening. To live without a stressful story, to be a lover of what is, even in pain -- that's heaven. To be in pain and believe that you shouldn't be in pain -- that's hell.
When the mind is clear, life becomes very simple. I have the thought to stand up and do the dishes. I notice a sense of profound excitement as the body rises with this thought. How childlike it is as it moves to the kitchen, to the sink. I turn the handle, experience the water on my hands, pour some liquid soap onto a sponge. Amazing. It's not ever about doing the dishes, until I hold one and see it change from crusted or sticky to wet and soapy, to shiny, to dry, so that it can serve again. Everything changes. I never know what anything is going to be. Without believing any thought of a future, there's no way of knowing what is me and what is the plate, the soap, the water, the world of bubbles and shine.
By Jeff Walsh
In "Seventy Times Seven," Salvatore Sapienza's debut novel, Brother Vito is living a double life. By day, he teaches the boys in his high school religion class. But at night, he might be anywhere from a Pet Shop Boys concert, a dance floor, or a sex club.
It's not the book you're thinking, though. Vito isn't living a double life. The brothers in his house know he's gay, and his gay friends know about his religious life. Throughout the course of the novel, Vito struggles to choose between two sides of his being that seem perfect and whole to him, except they can't coexist.
Obviously, you might hazard a guess at which side wins out, because otherwise they'd be writing this book up on religious websites instead. But the journey is interesting because of that duality. Vito has a true yearning for the gift that he finds in his religious life and its spirituality. It isn't the closeted priest and the big declaration or scandal that people might expect. As Vito weighs the pros and cons, he keeps making good points for each. It isn't that he just has a blind spot that prevents the decision.
By Salvatore Sapienza
I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through raging waters they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned.
-- The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 43:1-3
All the incoming freshmen boys at Mount Saint Vincent's High School were issued gym uniforms with their last names emblazoned in black block letters across the backs of their gray T-shirts. This was primarily so the PE teachers, who had classes of more than sixty students per session, could easily identify each boy. "Hey, Simmons, stop roughhousing!" "Owens, pick up the pace!" That sort of thing.
Poor Paul Ness. Since he and his identical twin brother, Matt, were in the same PE class, the Ness boys were issued shirts embroidered not only with their last names, but also with their first initials. The taunting of Paul started on the first day of gym class, when Brother O'Malley -- during a hellish round of dodgeball -- yelled," You're out, P. Ness!"
"Brother O'Malley called that kid a penis," one boy whispered. Soon laughter spread throughout the gym, with only Brother O'Malley clueless as to what was so funny.