Monday, August 30, 2010

Youth, Meth and Going Viral

"In my brief moments of clarity I knew my life was supposed to be better than this."

Who said that? Who had mere seconds of clarity? Yogi Berra? Dan Quayle? Maxwell Smart?

If you guessed Lindsay Lohan, you're getting warm. The speaker was 26-year-old Jordan Duran, who in an interview with The Seattle Times described his addiction to crystal meth. He was part of a story about young gays contracting HIV through meth use.

As happy a topic as exploding oil rigs.

Though there is some happiness connected with Duran's story: He's alive. Not long ago you'd have gotten better odds on Mel Gibson joining the diplomatic corps.

Duran struggled in his hometown of Puyallup, about 35 miles south of Seattle. By the age of 5, he knew he was different from other boys. In high school he seized on religion. Duran even went to a therapist who "specialized" in reversing homosexuality. During his senior year, he came out.

After graduation he headed for Seattle, moving in with an older man who apparently took his role as mentor very seriously, arranging official introductions for his protégé—to ecstasy, ketamine, GHB and then meth.

"From the first time I took meth I was hooked," said Duran. "It was about escaping from who I was, and meth was the perfect drug to wash it all away."

Chocolate does the same for me, but oddly it doesn't have that effect on everyone.

On his 21st birthday, Duran drank a boatload and then scored some meth. He had unprotected sex with a stranger.

A few weeks later it became clear what he'd gotten for his birthday: HIV. And many happy returns.

Joshua O'Neal, who does HIV-testing research at a local hospital, told The Seattle Times that three-quarters of those who test HIV-positive at his clinic have used meth. Said O'Neal, "When you feel invincible, you don't care about using a condom."

After he tested positive, Duran's downward spiral got a move on. By 23, he was using meth 20 times each day.

Most people don't do anything 20 times a day. Except breathe.

He had unsafe sex. Staph infections and MRSA were frequent visitors. He contracted syphilis, which spread to his brain, causing disorientation. He was homeless.

Only Dante could do justice to this circle of hell.

Finally Duran saw a doctor, who happened to resemble his grandmother. She asked if he was using meth, and told him if he continued to use he'd be dead within six months from an overdose or the HIV.

Grandma took no prisoners. Thank goodness.

"Up until that point I was afraid of living, but suddenly I was afraid of dying," said Duran.

He went directly from the doctor's to an AA meeting, and began the arduous task of getting clean. "Quitting the drugs wasn't the hard part," he said. "Feeling my emotions was the hard part."

Duran has been victorious in the smackdown with his emotions--he's been sober for well over two years. Soon after starting antiretroviral drugs, his viral load was undetectable. He now works for Gay City Health Project, which focuses on gay men's health.

When someone on the skids comes in and tells him he doesn't know what it's like, Duran must struggle not to guffaw.

In Seattle's King County, in the space of a year, about 10 percent of gay and bisexual men use crystal meth. For men under the age of 30, the figure is twice as high.

Combine that with the studies saying gay men who use meth are at scary-high risk for contracting HIV, and it all adds up to a real problem: tweaking twinks who can't think.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Amy is Angry

And now a change of pace for this site. And a change of author.

My good friend Amy heard on NPR how officials in Imperial County, Calif., have taken it upon themselves to defend Prop 8. Since California's governor and attorney general refuse to defend it, agreeing as they do with the federal judge's ruling that the marriage ban is unconstitutional, Imperial County honchos are stepping into the breach. Such heroes.

Is Amy ever mad. Below is her passionate letter to the county supervisor who was quoted in the radio story:

Dear Supervisor Terrazas,

I listened with a heavy heart to your interview on NPR yesterday morning.
I’ve heard about the efforts in Imperial County that favor
withholding marriage rights to committed, loving couples, but to hear
such justification for discrimination from a leader is heartbreaking.

I am a nurse who has cared for Hispanic families--much like the
majority of people in your Imperial Valley--for more than fifteen
years. In Albuquerque, I worked at a county hospital in obstetrics
and worked hard for my laboring patients, carrying a battered
English/Spanish dictionary in my back pocket and welcoming the extended
family that often came to celebrate a birth. I then moved to Seattle
and cared for migrant workers--often Hispanic, often poor, and in dire
need of the primary care I provided. I found my patients to be kind,
fair-minded, reasonable people that valued family. That is why I
feel compelled to write this note to you.

Your opposition to marriage equality in Imperial County can’t really
be about religion, because we both learned in Sunday School about
Jesus preaching love and inclusiveness, and the Golden Rule. And,
there really can't be much of a threat to traditional marriage since
gay marriage has been legal in Massachusetts for five years and the
lowest divorce rate in the nation happens to be held by Massachusetts.
Could it be the residents of El Centro have become pawns for this so-called
group “Advocates For Faith and Freedom” that is funding your
lawsuit?

As a leader, I imagine your struggles are great. But when it comes to
equality, please set a strong example.

I encourage you to open your heart and mind to what marriage is really
about. If you are fortunate enough to be happily married, as I am,
then how can you really deny someone else that right?

In peace,

Amy Coe, RN, NP
Boston, MA

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Question of the Week

Now that Ken Mehlman, President Bush's campaign manager in 2004 and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, has come out, would you like to welcome him or throttle him?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The L Wart

I find it hard to believe. I certainly don't want to believe it. But the rate of domestic violence among lesbian couples is high.

How high? Higher than George Michael behind the wheel.

In a story on a Massachusetts woman who allegedly killed her ex-partner's AA sponsor earlier this month because she thought the sponsor came between them, EDGE notes that one in three lesbians will experience domestic violence at some point.

So much for the idea many of us believe, even hold dear, that female space is safe space. Makes you want to head to outer space.

By the way, the rate of domestic violence for straight women is the same. Equality at last.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Question of the Week

How old were you when you realized you were gay or bi or trans?

Monday, August 16, 2010

You're Outta Here!

Even if you don't like baseball, you've probably seen video of a manager vociferously arguing a call with an umpire. The manager might throw his cap. He might throw a base. He might throw out his back throwing a base.

Brent Bowers, skipper of a minor league team, performed an unusual physical maneuver and delivered a scalding tirade during a confrontation with openly gay umpire Billy Van Raaphorst. Bowers now has a place in baseball history, but it will only get him into the Hall of Shame.

On July 31, Bowers' Edmonton Capitals played the Orange County Flyers in Fullerton, Calif. Van Raaphorst, of Irvine, Calif., was the crew chief. In the first inning, another umpire called a close play at first base. Bowers and some of his players pointedly objected to the call. Van Raaphorst warned them. When Bowers and two players continued beefing, Van Raaphorst ejected them, the second day in a row he'd tossed Bowers in the first inning.

Bowers promptly benched his brain.

Outsports.com obtained the official report Van Raaphorst gave to the Golden Baseball League in which the umpire provided his account of what happened next. Bowers ran over to him and screamed, "You know what I heard? I heard you are a fucking faggot . . . So what do you do you fucking faggot? Do you take it up the fucking ass you faggot?"

Bowers bent over and grabbed his ankles, apparently fearful the umpire hadn't understood his words and a visual aid was in order.

This leader of men screamed into Van Raaphorst's face, "What's the matter, did your fucking boyfriend fucking cum on your face today, is that how you like it you fucking faggot?"

It was a fine, family-friendly day at the ballpark.

Bowers threatened, "I ought to kick your ass you faggot." The plate umpire came over and Van Raaphorst walked away. Bowers screamed at the plate umpire, "I know he is a faggot, I was told by [two prominent people in the league] that he is a fucking faggot. I know he is a faggot!"

Whew. Van Raaphorst, who stands 6'4", did well not to knock him into the hotdog stand.

Several possibilities here. The first is clear: This manager can't manage his anger. As to the second and third possibilities, his rant was so extreme and so primal, Bowers either is a poster child for the testosterone-soaked ethos of pro sports, or he's gay.

My bet is the former. The very idea of the latter probably makes him want to throw bats out of the dugout. Preferably with me in the way.

The Golden Baseball League responded to the homophobic tirade by suspending Bowers for two games. Yup, a whole two games. That decision was the foulest of foul balls.

Fortunately, Van Raaphorst's fellow umps were incensed over this slap on the wrist, and threatened to walk off the job. The league then suspended Bowers for the rest of the season. Bowers, who admitted to the tongue-lashing, resigned.

The guy without a job said he regrets what he did. "I've grown up more in three days than ever before," said Bowers. That still makes him only about 14.

The league president said, due to this incident, all 10 teams will be required to go through diversity training. Now that is a grand slam.

Kudos to Billy Van Raaphorst, who managed to endure an appalling situation. I don't know if there's a blessing for baseball umpires, so I'll make one up: May your calls be accurate, may your temper be slow, and may a line drive never land in your teeth.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Question of the Week

What is your favorite gay male movie?

The Plot Twist that Twists Me

My partner Anne and I finally got around to seeing "The Kids Are All Right" the other night. We ran into several friends, proving we weren't the only ones slow in getting to the theater.

Slow, yes, but what lavender-blooded gal would miss the chance to see beauties Annette Bening and Julianne Moore play gay in a film written and directed by an actual lesbian? Puh-leeze.

I had steadfastly avoided reading any reviews of "The Kids," so they wouldn't influence my take on it. In fact, I'd done such a good job of avoiding reviews, blog posts, even ads that all I knew about the movie was this: long-term lesbian couple, two teenagers, sperm donor newly on the scene, attractive stemware.

In this age of souped-up media, how do I manage to insulate myself from information? How do I keep myself thoroughly ignorant? Downright stupid? It's a gift.

I realized just how little I knew when Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo hit the sheets. I had managed not to hear about THAT little plot twist.

After the film Anne and I stopped to talk with another lesbian couple outside the theater. "Why does the femme always sleep with a guy?" one of the women promptly complained.

I hadn't seen the affair in terms of butch/femme. In truth, I was lucky just to see the screen, because the moment the lesbian and the straight guy bedded down, I found myself in a bubble of my own, little prickles going up and down my body. It was like someone had electrified the popcorn.

I was having a flashback. No, not the kind you're thinking. I was with men until I was 30; getting sexual with a man now seems redundant.

I was propelled back to a weekend eighteen months ago, when I sat, terrified, in a screenplay seminar. The instructors, two straight men, cut to pieces the screenplay synopses before them.

My synopsis also got the Ginsu-knife treatment, which it deserved. The instructors managed to find a few bits they liked, and they didn't agree with each other on everything. But one thing they did agree on: My lesbian character should have sex with the guy who wanted her.

That would be a "true reverse," it would bulk up her character and the plot, it would . . . make me sick to my stomach.

My innards churned as they talked. In my head I heard "No, no, no!" Whether the casually dispensed advice came from their brains or somewhere well south of there I'll never know, but I sure felt alone in that room.

When I saw Moore and Ruffalo trysting on screen, the emotion of that experience came back, along with the conviction that for me, a dyke doing a het is last resort. We've seen too many movies where lesbianism gets the shaft because a lesbian couldn't say no to a shaft.

That said, the affair in "The Kids Are All Right" made organic sense in several ways. And that said, had I known ahead of time the movie hinged on an affair between a coupled lesbian and a straight man, I probably wouldn't have gone. No matter what stunning lesbians Bening and Moore make.

Since seeing the flick, I've checked out the blogosphere and found that some lesbians are angry about the affair, others find it completely believable, and others, like yours truly, feel some of both. We're the pretzels.

My partner takes the long view about lesbians on film: "It's a progression. We moved from suicide to having heterosexual sex in the movies."

Next stop, homosexual sex. Then I'd like a lesbian Indiana Jones . . .

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Question of the Week

How did you feel when you heard that Judge Walker had struck down Prop 8?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Back in the News Groove

I've shirked my duty. I haven't provided you with a GLBT news quiz in an eon. Shocking behavior.

I'm back on the case now, ready to help you figure out whether you know your news. For each multiple-choice question below, circle the right answer. Or the wrong one—in my current contrite state, I can't be pushy.

1. At a rally in Indianapolis, a man held a sign that said, "The solution to gay marriage," and underneath the words dangled a couple of nooses. Which organization staged the rally?
a. the Republican Party
b. Westboro Baptist Church
c. the National Organization for Marriage
d. the Taliban

2. "Interview with the Vampire" author Anne Rice announced, "In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian." Rice, mother of gay novelist Christopher Rice, declared she refuses to be "anti-gay," "anti-feminist" and "anti-Democrat." Where did her written declaration appear?
a. in Newsweek
b. on Twitter
c. on Facebook
d. on a church door in Wittenberg

3. Intent on staging a counter protest to Jerusalem's Pride parade, Deputy Mayor Yitzhak Pindrus sought permission to greet marchers with live animals to represent the "bestial" nature of the parade. Which real animals did he want to use?
a. dogs
b. sheep
c. donkeys
d. armadillos

4. Ellen DeGeneres has chosen to leave "American Idol." Her reported replacement as a judge will be:
a. Rosie O'Donnell
b. RuPaul
c. Jennifer Lopez
d. Madeleine Albright

5. And in further lesbians-and-TV news, the now officially out actress Sara Gilbert ("Roseanne") will co-host a new daytime talk show in which celebrity moms discuss the trials of motherhood. What will the show be called?
a. "The Mothers"
b. "The Mom Show"
c. "The Talk"
d. "The Stretch Marks"

6. Eight GetEqual protesters were arrested in the Capitol rotunda, their sit-in an effort to push House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring ENDA up for a vote. Pelosi's spokesperson said:
a. "Go away."
b. "I told you that floor is cold."
c. " . . . passing ENDA before DADT repeal has been finalized jeopardizes both initiatives."
d. "You people have too many acronyms."

The answer to each question is c. Since it's been so long, I didn't want to strain you by mixing things up.

If you didn't do well, fear not. I'm feeling sufficiently guilty that I hereby declare everyone has aced the quiz. What's a little grade inflation between friends?