Post Truth AIDS History

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I am no fan of Ronald OR Nancy Reagan, so I’m really, really tired of the uninformed trying to link Hillary Clinton with Nancy Reagan when it comes to AIDS policy in America.

The Clintons were early and crucial champs when it came to AIDS policy. They instituted the Office of AIDS Research and increased federal funding for AIDS research and care by 356% and they successfully fought to outlaw discrimination based on HIV status in employment and housing.

This absurd linkage got created by the Bernie Brats when Hillary stupidly said some kind – but not wise words – at the funeral for a fellow former First Lady regarding AIDS.

“Because of both President and Mrs. Reagan — in particular Mrs. Reagan — we started a national conversation, when before nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it, and that, too, is something I really appreciate with her very effective low-key advocacy,” she said. [emphasis mine]

Although Clinton issued an apology within MINUTES of her comments, some people still won’t let it go. Even on World AIDS Day.

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The irony is, Clinton was almost right about Nancy Reagan’s “low key advocacy”. In fact, the venerable national LGBT magazine The Advocate said almost the same thing in their obituary for Nancy Reagan just the week prior.

“Nancy Reagan is sometimes credited with pushing her husband to do something about AIDS, and he eventually supported some funding for research. The death of their friend, actor Rock Hudson, is often referred to as a pivotal moment.”

img_2263Nancy’s real claim to villainy is her refusal to get her husband to help her dying pal Rock Hudson get experimental treatment in a French government hospital that was closed to non citizens. Nancy coldly declined to get involved, reasoning people would accuse Ronnie of granting special favors to a Hollywood celebrity. This calculated response to a dying friend rightly earns Nancy Reagan her villain award. But this has nothing to do with Hillary Clinton.

Again, I’m no fan of Nancy Reagan, but to let an inconsequential misstatement erase Hillary Clinton’s 25 years of advocacy for AIDS research and care is ridiculous. It is ignorant, dangerous and it is most of all ungrateful.

But expected in our post truth world.

My Coming Out Diary

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It’s been several years since I’ve “come out”. After telling my immediate family and close friends, and experiencing the liberating feeling attached therein, I  made it my mission to come out whenever possible to whomever possible. This is an excerpt from My Coming Out Diary.

Monday, February 5

I came out to the cable installer today. He was quite surprised at first – a reaction I’ve come to expect after coming out to the Sprint operator earlier today. Despite my hopes for furthering understanding, the cable guy ignored me, saying, “I’m just here to install your cable.”

I could tell by his avoidance that he was in deep denial and desperate to hide from the shocking truth that one of his cable subscribers is a homosexual!  I followed him about as he hooked up the lines, relating how horribly misunderstood gay people are and how tough it was for me to reveal such personal information to strangers, but also how important it was for me to be honest and open in all my dealings. His discomfort with my truth must have overcame him for in his haste to leave, he accidentally hooked me up with free HBO, Showtime and the Spice Channel. I sure hope HBO reruns that Streisand concert!

Wednesday, February 7

It was Margarita night and I had quite a few of them. So many, I found myself “coming out” to the bartender, before remembering I was in a gay bar. The bartender cut me off.  On my way home, I came out to my cab driver. He was very understanding, and then he told me his own personal tale, some of which I actually listened to. Evidently, his native country’s culture demands absolute purity from their women, and thus the men find it difficult to release their sexual energy. At some point, he pulled the cab over and asked me for a blowjob. Afterward, he drove me home and do you know, he had the guts to charge me full fare? Of course I didn’t tip him.  You know, some cab drivers really leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Thursday, February 8

Home alone – again. Feeling bored. Nothing on TV. Just a bunch of jiggling breasts on the Spice Channel.  What is it with soft porn? They give you every conceivable view of a woman, frontal, back-al, you name it. It’s a complete breast fest, but you barely get to see even a guy’s ass. This is wrong and another example of the unfair treatment for LGBT. I’d call and complain, but I’m getting the channel for free.

Thank God the doorbell rang! l was greeted by rug rats selling Girl Scout cookies. I politely explained to the green skirted children that I reserve my charity contributions for gay related causes only, but as they were walking away I spied a box of Thin Mints, so I relented.

Friday, February 9

I met someone! He’s a cashier at Burger King. Granted, it’s not a profession I  imagined my future husband to be involved in, but he’s in college. Our meeting was tender and memorable. l had just ordered my Whopper, careful to specify no onion (you never know who you’re going to meet). When he saw my Pink triangle lapel pin he asked me about it and I explained that the pink triangle was a symbol of homosexual oppression in Nazi Germany and that in recent times had been adopted as a gay rights symbol, adding that not much has changed and homosexuals are still being oppressed.  He looked at me quizzically and responded, “I just wanted to know where you got it –  mine just broke.”
Well l almost fainted. I heard strains of “Some Enchanted Evening” and thought l was dreaming until l realized it was just the Muzak. Well, to make a long story short, we agreed to meet tomorrow. Oh,  and he threw in an order of free chicken fingers!  I never noticed before, but those burgundy polyester uniforms look kind of hot. I hope he doesn’t wear it on our date.

Monday, February 12

Chip and I had our first date. It wasn’t as romantic as I’d hoped, but we’re both between paychecks so we dined at Taco Bell. Chip spent a good part of the dining experience commenting how much nicer the uniforms at Taco Bell were and how he wished his Burger King had free drink refills so he wouldn’t have to deal with it.  I got really bored by this. Then he let it slip – the deal breaker. He wasn’t “out” to his mom and dad!

As someone who “came out” just last week, this infuriated me. I told him off right there and then about the importance of coming out to your family and how if everyone came out we wouldn’t have the discrimination we encounter today. He then lets it spill that he’s an orphan – just my luck! I said that was no excuse and he stormed out.

Tuesday, February 13

Went to pick up my clothes at the cleaners. I just got my “Gay Dollar” stamp and stamped all my currency with it at breakfast.  The woman who owns the cleaners was there and I handed her my ticket. She’s usually a nice little old Asian woman, but she didn’t seem so nice after I carefully counted out fifteen dollars all stamped with my pink and glittery “Gay Dollar” stamp, which I had to count out twice because she didn’t see my political statement at first. “Notice anything?”

Her eyes widened in fright, pushing my cash away, “You defaced money – that’s a crime!”

“No it isn’t” I insisted, now wondering if it was.

But she didn’t want to be part of a crime, so I had to find a cash machine to pay for my dry cleaning. Note to self: try the Gay Dollar trick on someone who isn’t holding $500 in dress shirts hostage.

Today

After cross checking on my computer the names of people I know against the people I’ve “come out” to, I’ve come to realize that there is no one left. Short of waiting for some employee turnover at Burger King, for the near future everyone I know knows.

Briefly this though left me in a fit of despair until I spied the telephone book. Then it struck me – there’s a whole lot of people out there I don’t know! My God, there’s billions of Chinese alone who I don’t know and who don’t know that I’m gay! So, I picked up the phone and started dialing the A’s.

Hello world, I’m coming out!

 

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Don the Con: The Cheapest, Sleaziest Bastard Alive

How’s this for a grift:

You start a tax exempt “foundation” in your name using other people’s money. Then you go around donating that very same money as if it came from your own pocket! You get the glory and the headlines, but you still have those extra millions in your pocket to buy back your repossessed yacht.

Donald Trump brags about donating money to charity – but it’s never his own money. He gets other people to donate millions to his tax exempt Trump Foundation, which he then loudly donates to other charities in his name, and then accepts all the acclamation, press releases and “thank you” plaques that comes with big ticket philanthropy.

If that isn’t a perfect enough con, throw in Trump using his phony charity to buy himself expensive gifts, like $12,000 in luxury sports memorabilia or blowing $20,000 of his charity’s money on a grandiose 6 foot tall oil painting of himself to decorate his golf course.

image(Trump’s charitable gift to himself -with altered hands!)

The Trump Foundation paid $20k for this vainglorious painting, but it could have gotten it for $5 bucks, as Melania Trump opened the bidding at $10k, and when there was no counter bid, she upped her own winning bid to $20k.

Can you imagine if the Clinton’s bought a 6 foot oil painting of themselves with their foundation money?

Trump also used his tax exempt foundation to buy Tim Tebow’s game worn helmet and jersey for $12k at a public charity auction in 2007. Trump got the applause and the merchandise, but his charity got the shaft.  The last anyone saw Tebow’s jersey, it was decorating Trump’s business offices, which means he used charity money to enrich himself. It has since disappeared from public view like Tim Tebow’s career. No one even knows where it went. Like Tim Tebow’s career.

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Donald Trump  has a long history of enriching himself at other’s expense; from cheating poor contractors to squeezing well meaning social elites to donate to his lousy charity. He also brags about extravagant gifts he never even gave. One journalist has recently estimated Trump has lied to the IRS about giving to over three-hundred different tax deductible charities.

In the case of buying himself gifts with tax exempt charity funds, it is We the Taxpayers who helped Prince Donny acquire his $20k narcissistic oil painting of himself and his $12k in now worthless sports memorabilia.

Then there is his opportunistic and illegal “donation” to Florida AG Pam Bondi’s re-election, who then conveniently dropped her investigation of his Trump University scam just days after cashing her $25,000 Trump Foundation check.

Get this: Bondi actually called Trump directly to ask for the cash the day after she announced her investigation of him!

Yet there was media crickets about all this. The most damning evidence of Trumps sleazy operation is documented! Trump used $25,000 from his charitable foundation to bribe the Attorney General of Florida. Trump is so cheap he steals from charities to bribe public officials!

I wonder how many 9/11 widows Trump could have helped with the money he blew on himself?

Everyone thinks you’re a swell guy when you give money away – except none of the money was EVER  his.

Donald Trump is a fraud. Let’s compare:

The Clinton Foundation provides AIDS drugs to 11 million people.

The Trump Foundation bribes public officials and buys Don the Con expensive tax free gifts.

The Clinton’s have donated $14 million dollars of their own money to their charity.

Don the Con hasn’t contributed a dime to his since 2008.

Vote Hillary Clinton – America’s future depends on stopping this bigoted maniac.

Bernie Who? Hillary’s Been There For LGBT

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How soon people forget what staunch allies Bill and Hillary Clinton have been to the LGBT community and how hard they fought during their White House years (and today) for funding for HIV/AIDS. Clinton was steadfast in fighting for money for finding a cure for this horrible disease and just like today, he had to battle a hostile Republican Congress to get funding for these programs. Without Bill and Hillary Clinton’s leadership in the 1990’s, there are likely millions of people who would not be alive today.

Bill Clinton’s administration increased funding for AIDS programs by 358% for one department and 150% for another. They initiated a multitude a programs to provide drugs and housing and against discrimination. They did this despite a hostile Republican Congress.

The Bernie brigade recycles partial quotes of Hillary defending “traditional marriage” without mentioning it’s from a speech she gave AGAINST banning gay marriage (the 2004 anti-gay Federal Marriage Amendment). It is sad, but ironic that the video people keep posting as “proof” that Hillary is anti-gay marriage is actually her fighting to keep gay marriage legal! The people manufacturing these smears are beyond disgusting in their ill treatment of our long time friend.

Where was Bernie Sanders when Republicans tried to pass this federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage? In 2006 Sanders went on record opposing gay marriage in Vermont. Why does Sanders get a pass?

Hillary Clinton has been a leader on LGBT issues in both the Senate and in the State Department. Some folks seem to focus on marriage equality as if that was the only item on the LGBT agenda. What about Hate Crimes? Hillary was there fighting to get LGBT included. What about ENDA? She was there fighting for this long overdue bill to prohibit LGBT discrimination in all federal employment and contracting.

“Gay Rights Are Human Rights.” Hillary Clinton

Clinton’s record on our issues earned her the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights organization in the country. Of course Sanders denounced the endorsement even as he hoped to get their nod. He even bungled their name, calling this venerable organization the “Human Rights Fund”. It seems if you were so hot and heavy for gay rights you’d know the group’s actual name. But Bernie is only a distant supporter of gay rights. Not like Clinton, who works regularly with these groups on issues important to our community.

Here’s what HRC had to say about Hillary Clinton’s national and international LGBT record:

“Clinton has a long record as a champion for LGBT rights both in the U.S. and, notably, around the globe. As Secretary of State, Clinton became the first in her position to robustly advocate for LGBT equality throughout the world, making a historic and forceful speech to the United Nations declaring that “gay rights are human rights.” In the Senate, she helped lead on bills to protect LGBT workers from employment discrimination, and had a strong record on key votes and legislation that mattered to LGBT Americans.”

Before President Clinton, no US President gave a damn about gay rights or the mounting death toll in the LGBT community from AIDS. This changed dramatically in 1992 upon the election of Bill Clinton.

Clinton set the tone for his presidency by inviting the N.A.M.E.S. Project to include sections of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in his 1993 inaugural parade. In his two terms in office, Bill Clinton never wavered in wrangling money in his budgets for programs caring for the sick or to preserve vital research funding for effective treatments and to find a cure.

How soon we seem to forget who our friends are!

When the AIDS Memorial Quilt was displayed in the National Mall in 1992 it contained 40,000 panels and covered 24 football fields. Here’s a photo from NPR of the President and First Lady viewing one of the panels.

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According to a recent story on NPR, from 1987 until today, the Quilt has grown to 48,000 panels – signifying the deaths of 94,000 people. Thru the 1980’s and 1990’s, the Quilt grew at a rate of 11,000 panels per year. Today it has dwindled to 1-2 a day.

Maybe this is the reason for the amnesia?

In 1996, for the very last time, the AIDS Memorial Quilt in all its entirety was laid out across the Washington Mall. It has since grown too large to be displayed all in one place.

My friend Keith Molter shares his story of being at the Quilt in Washington DC in 1996 when by chance he witnessed Bill and Hillary Clinton visit the Quilt seeking out a specific quilt made in honor of a longtime friend of hers. Keith recalls:

It was stone silent on the vast Washington Mall. No fanfare. No hoopla. They simply went and we had stumbled upon it.

Silence. Stillness. They got out of their motorcade hand in hand and walked through the Quilt.

It was THE first time it was ever acknowledged by anyone of any higher level in government. They stood. They prayed. They looked at a few other panels. They wiped tears. We were 100 feet away. As they turned to leave, the still silence was broken by a squelching sound, like an animal in deep pain. It was me screaming “Thank you!” through my sobs, my voice cracking. They both turned. He put his hand up in a still wave and nodded his head -his mouth doing that mouth/chin thing he does. They turned and left.

I was there. They were there – maybe too late for some that we lost. But they were there as soon as they could – once the country elected two people who actually cared.

Here’s Hillary Clinton reminiscing about visiting the AIDS Memorial Quilt in a speech at the 2012 International AIDS Conference.

Another friend who was “there”, Robert Sandy,  recalls those exciting 1990’s when our President first invited the LGBT community to the national table.

“I am old enough to remember that Bill Clinton’s VERY first act as President was to try to overturn the ban on gays in the military. HIS FIRST ACT. Of course America nearly imploded then and calls and letters were hitting the White House at a rate of 15 to 1 against.”

“I am also old enough to remember that most of the gay community sat that fight out and then had the audacity to bitch about the outcome. Clinton used up much of his political capital in that fight. But, you know, why remember how shit really went down?”

Well Robert Sandy, I remember it all too! Especially the thrill of having a President and First Lady who for the first time declared themselves publicly to be in our corner.

I guess it’s easy to forget those days when the stakes aren’t nearly as high. I’m voting for Hillary because I remember that she was a friend who was “there” for us, and – most of all – because I remember what she did for my community and for my country as the First Lady, as Senator and as Secretary of State. She can step into the Oval Office as smoothly as into one of her trademark pantsuits.

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Thank you Keith and Robert and Bill and Hillary Clinton and the countless others who worked not only for our rights but who also fought for the very lives of our LGBT brothers and sisters!

BREAKING NEWS!

Bernie Sanders supporters tout his 1983 Gay Pride proclamation as proof of his LGBT bonafides over Hillary’s actual record of fighting for the LGBT agenda. Well, guess what Bernie Bots and Bros, Sanders also signed a Mayoral proclaimation declaring marriage “a union between a man and a woman”. Cue the cognitive dissonance!


 People really need to vet Sanders before he ends up rolling back the progressive movement 25 years.

Private Flagger

“Private Lane, on 14 Feb. 00, you made an unsolicited statement that you were gay. This admission and your sexual orientation could be prejudicial to the good order and discipline of the unit, and you are subject to separation under Chapter 15.” -Andrew S. McClelland. Company Commander, Fort Bliss Texas

Private Stacy Lane wasn’t looking to “be  all he could be” when he joined the U.S. Army, he was just looking to pay off his student loans. Even so, his three years in the military expanded his notion of who he was and what he could be. Flag dancing isn’t one of the courses offered in basic training, but after being discharged from the Army for being gay, flagging was one of the skills Stacy took home with him, that and a certificate in electronics repair and maintenance.

ENLISTED

Small towns aren’t often on the cutting edge of federal policy, but Graham, Texas (pop. 9,000), where Stacy grew up, was a very early innovator of “don’t ask, don’t tell”. The only sign of homosexual life in Graham was to be found inside the town’s lone florist shop, run by a couple of suspiciously single older gentlemen. But no one talked about it. Graham is a bastion of conservative Christianity, and the Lane household was no different. Stacy’s graduation from Abilene Christian University was very pleasing to his deeply religious family, but along with the notes of congratulations came the payment book for over $20,000 in student loans.

Though a military career wasn’t something Stacy had ever considered, he was bewitched by the Army’s generous offer to repay his student loans. And so, Stacy Lane enlisted in the Army, and dedicated himself to studying electronics repair and maintenance and completing his basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., before being shipped off to serve at Fort Bliss, in El Paso, Texas.

SPARTACUS AND A COMPASS

Possessing a college degree entitled Stacy not only to the higher rank of Specialist, but also a private room. In an atmosphere drenched in homophobia, Stacy kept his sexual orientation closeted on the base. “You’d hear anti-gay comments everywhere, everyday, from just about everyone,” Stacy says.

Off-base, however, was an entirely different matter. Whenever he could, Stacy would slip away to a gay bar in nearby El Paso called the Old Plantation (or OP for short). The OP was Specialist Lane’s very first gay bar, and though it  was nothing to write home about, this smoke-filled dive sparked in him the hopeful thought, “There’s gotta be something better.”

Stacy soon discovered from “Spartacus”, the travel guide to all things gay, that something better was a mere three-hour drive to Albuquerque, N.M., where he read that there was a hopping gay dance club called The Pulse. The Pulse was everything the OP was not; the crowd was younger, the music fresher and, most importantly to Private Lane, “Everyone looked like they were having fun.”

Ecstasy has a way of lighting up a room.

BEAU JASON 

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The summer of 1999 brought a fresh batch of soldiers to Ft. Bliss among them a blonde haired boy of 18, named Jason, who was assigned to work in the electronics shop alongside Stacy. “He was the cutest thing I’d ever seen,” Stacy recalls. When Jason began tagging after him, Spc. Lane was thrilled to take this adorable but straight young lad – with liquid-blue eyes – under his wing. Together, they would hit the straight clubs in town, or hang out in Stacy’s private room playing on the computer.

On one of those evenings in the barracks, Stacy had been less than careful about keeping his double life under wraps. Turning from his computer, Stacy was horrified to see Jason flipping through a copy of a gay rag called “Circuit Noize” magazine –  THE guide to the gay dance party scene, and chock full of pictures of nearly naked men. Stacy could barely register his relief when Jason looked up from the magazine to comment, “Hmmm, these parties look like fun.”

“Uh, yeah,” was the only response Stacy could stammer.

Luckily, Jason thought having a gay best friend was the coolest thing that had ever happened to him, and immediately pressed Stacy to take him along on a journey to Albuquerque and to the electric sights and sounds of The Pulse.

Part II

Pvt. Stacy Lane never realized going into the Army would help him come out of the closet. What a relief it was to have a friend he could be honest about himself with. Jason didn’t mind at all that his new buddy was gay; he liked how the gays rolled.  To him, gays had more class, dressed better and knew how to party. After discovering Stacy’s secret, the only thing that changed was the bars they frequented. On weekends, Jason and Stacy took a pass on the tired watering holes of El Paso in favor of the dry glamour of Albuquerque, N.M. There, at a gay dance club called The Pulse, they discovered not only an alternative to the beer-swilling in El Paso, they found an alternative to beer.

Dropping ecstasy for the first time, Jason recalled the experience as feeling like his brain was taking a bubble bath. For Stacy, the experience was more revelatory: “It opened a whole new world. I made a connection about being gay and who I was”.

Jason made a connection that night as well, after the owner of The Pulse spotted this boy-Adonis gyrating atop a box on the dance floor. “Come see me.” the owner instructed, tucking a $10 bill into the waistband of Jason’s underwear. Later, the owner offered Jason a job dancing on the weekends.

For months this happy attangement continued. Stacy and Jason dutiful soldiers during the work week, but tearing it up in Albuquerque on the weekends. The owner of The Pulse even arranging for a helicopter to fly his new star in for performances. But all good things get ruined by the government eventually.

An organization that regulates how you make your bed isn’t one likely to tolerate recreational drug use. It was just before Christmas when Lane was called for a routine random “monitored urinalysis”, but he wasn’t concerned. The Army didn’t test for ecstacy, he thought. That was about to change, but Stacy hadn’t gotten the memo. Besides, Stacy’s mind was more focused on ringing in the millennium at his very first circuit party, the New Year’s Masterbeat Millennium party in Palm Springs, California.

The Party’s Over

Upon reporting for duty on the first Monday of the New Year, the platoon sergeant gave Lane the ominous order, “Talk to me after formation”.

Being handed scientific proof that his $30 Ecstasy purchase had been well spent offered Lane little consolation when he was informed that his pre-Christmas urine sample had tested positive for MDMA, the molecular signature of ecstasy. For peeing “hot”, Specialist Lane was reduced in rank to a Private and his pay docked and he was further punished with 45 days of extra duty and 45 days restricted to his barracks. Upon hearing this, Jason almost fainted.

Even before his buddy got busted, there were rumors circulating on base that a certain blond-haired private was working as a go-go boy in a gay nightclub. Serving your country is said to be an honor, but that’s because Uncle Sam is a lousy tipper. It became an open secret that Jason had been augmenting his meager Army salary by dancing in his undies at The Pulse.

Hearing the bad news that his partying days were over. Jason felt trapped. He was in a panic and he had to get out. The rumors concerning his part-time “job” gave him an idea. This straight boy was about to “come out”.

Learning A New Skill

Before “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was tossed, declaring yourself a homosexual would get you discharged, but it would take many months. An investigation would be performed and paperwork filled out. Around this time, the Army also had become suddenly sensitive to gay bashing, stemming from the August 1999 beating death of Pfc. Barry Winchell, whose complaints of anti-gay harassment were ignored because, as Winchell’s Sergeant later testified, “everybody was having fun”. So, when Jason “outed” himself, the brass were protective of him to the point of ridiculousness. While Stacy toiled away in the hot sun raking gravel, Jason was given his own quarters and air conditioning.

“I would have outed myself earlier if I had known.” Stacy,  “He was treated like a king.”

Though Stacy badly wanted to follow Jason’s lead, he felt like he had to take his punishment. His honor wouldn’t allow him to give the impression that he was only coming out to avoid taking his medicine.

For 45 days he couldn’t leave the base. After working his regular shift in the electronics repair shop, he was ordered to perform extra chores like raking gravel or cleaning the latrines. In his alone time, Stacy’s mind kept returning to something strange and wonderful that happened to him at the New Years Eve party in Palm Springs when the mystical quality of hallucinogens were revealed to him on the dance floor.

“The music and the lights and the energy were all incredible. It was beautiful, and I was moved to where I couldn’t speak and I had to kneel down on the ground for a second to catch my breath.”

Overheated and sweating from all the dancing, Stacy suddenly felt a rush of cooling wind on his back as he knelt there on the edge of the dance floor. Then he felt a soft fluttering against his skin. Raising his head, Lane was awed by the beauty of what he saw. Like an angel with pink fabric wings, a man stood above him as a guardian, spinning a pair of soft pink flags gently over Stacy’s body as if to soothe him, and Stacy recalls feeling as if this ethereal flagger was somehow transferring energy to him through the twirling soft fabrics.

The moment seemed to last forever, but it was probably over in seconds, and when Stacy stood up, his only thought was how badly he wanted to learn how to flag just like his angel. “I’ve got to learn how to do this. I NEED to learn how to do this!”

While confined to base, Lane ordered a pair of flags from a website called Flag Troop, with delivery promised within three weeks. It seem like forever, but one day after lunch his flags arrived – along with a brief instruction book. Stacy took his package to his room, where he pulled out his new silver lamé flags and – completely neglecting the safety warnings in the instructions – he gave his weighted twin fabrics a feverish twirl and in the process, he knocked everything off the counters and hit himself in the eye.

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His early efforts were choppy and practice was not making perfect. He was becoming frustrated. Reviewing the instruction manual yet again, this bit of advice popped out to him:”Just feel what naturally comes from inside you, that is what flagging is truly about.”

Selecting Julian Marsh’s “Proud” mix CD, Stacy pushed back all the furniture and cleared off all the counters. He picked up the flags and began to twirl, and all of a sudden everything started coming together.  He was one with his flags and his music and with himself.

Some nights Jason joined in, bringing a miniature disco ball. They taped glow sticks to the ceiling fan and with the music pumped as loud as possible, there in the barracks, the two army boys danced shirtless about the room at their own private circuit party.

On Valentine’s Day, after completing his 45 days punishment, Pvt. Lane Lane declared himself a homosexual to his commanding officer, setting in motion his discharge from the Army. After discharge, Jason moved to Albuquerque, while Stacy packed his bags for Chicago. Despite their geographical distance, the two remain close friends.

You may have seen Stacy spinning his flags at one of the clubs, carrying on the mission that came with his mail-order flags: “Spread the art and the joy to people in whatever form it may take.”

In other words: “Be all you can be”.

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Judy Garland and Stonewall

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No one ever claimed Judy Garland’s death started the 1969 Stonewall Riots that historians credit with launching the modern gay rights movement. But Judy’s presence looms over those riots like Glinda the Good Witch from the “Wizard of Oz”.

Judy is the Fairy Godmother of the gay rights movement largely due to her string of celebrated concert tours throughout the fifties and sixties – performing to sold-out houses wherever she went. Judy’s pill addiction kept her out of the movies, but she found great success on the stage, becoming one of the most popular and highest paid live entertainers of the 1960’s. Judy was a survivor and other survivors responded to her. People would read about Judy’s latest troubles in the newspapers and the next week she’d be wowing them at the Palace. Her live performances were legendary and at these shows, closeted homosexuals saw each other in DROVES and realized, perhaps for the first time, that they weren’t alone – that there was such a thing as a gay identity.

With being gay practically illegal nationwide, it must have been quite liberating to see Judy and as a bonus find out you were part of a bigger family – that there was a rainbow you could get over.

I know this sensation first hand, because I felt this same thing when I was a teenager in Ohio going to my first Liza Minnelli concert. I’d never seen so many gay guys in my life! The rush I felt at the recognition that I could be myself for the next two hours – that I was with family – that was beautiful for me and it must have been even more beautiful for guys in the straight laced 1960’s.

This highly visible gay presence at Garland’s concerts did not escape the attention of the national press, including a high profile article in Time magazine that made horrible, stereotypical fun of Judy’s loyal gay audience. From Wikipedia: Time magazine reviewed Garland’s 1967 Palace Theatre engagement in New York City, and wrote that a “disproportionate part of her nightly claque seems to be homosexual.” The review goes on to say that “[t]he boys in the tight trousers” (a phrase Time repeatedly used to describe gay men) would “roll their eyes, tear at their hair and practically levitate from their seats” during Garland’s performances.

The attached clip below is from an interview Garland did in Chicago while on her 1967 tour (interviewed by Irv “Kup” Kupcinet) where towards the end she is asked about the above mentioned Time article that cast aspersions on her fans and her “homosexual audience” and Judy angrily defends her fans, and casts some shade on the writer.

So, Judy didn’t start the Stonewall Riots, but her public funeral in Manhattan the very day (and night) of the riots helped fill the Stonewall Inn, when a portion of the over 40,000 fans who filed by Judy Garland’s open casket later went down the street to have a drink in her memory at the only real gay bar in town – the Stonewall Inn.