Monthly Archives: November 2009

Essay Fiesta #1

Essay Fiesta, the monthly reading series I co-produce, premiered last night at the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square. I honestly hoped for 20 people max. We ended up running out of chairs, packing the room with about 50-60 people. It was amazing. I am really touched that so many people would come out to support local artists and Howard Brown Health Center, the organization that the event is benefiting.

We raised a decent amount of money for the organization, though we are going to try some different tactics to raise more. I’m also applying for a grant that might be able to help us secure some more materials to help get the word out about the event.

If you’re reading this and want to help, visit Essay Fiesta on Facebook. We’re always looking for submissions, donations and marketing opportunities.

Once again, thank you everyone who came out last night. It was one of the proudest moments of my life.

See you Dec. 21.




Writing Hurts

I write a lot. In fact, I’m writing right now. Well, probably not right now, while you’re reading this. Though possibly. Actually, probably. Yeah. I’m writing.

I’m a professional writer. People pay me money to write. All kinds of people do this. Large companies that have offices around the globe and are mentioned on the news and have t.v. commercials have me write for them. Tiny companies with people that rent out office space in strip malls and have one co-worker (likely their spouse) have me write for them. Web sites, magazines, video production companies. They all have me write for them.

And you know what? Writing hurts.

It hurts my brain. It hurts my fingers and my hands. It hurts my eyes, staring at this computer monitor most of my days. I’m sure sitting in this chair for hours isn’t good for my butt. And I tend to eat while I work, so who knows what kinds of problems I’m developing internally (these veins aren’t going to unclog themselves).

But writing can also hurt the heart, and I’m speaking of this in a metaphorical sense. The Internet gives people a sense of entitlement. We are all anonymous bits and bytes when you look at things through a WWW lens. There’s no human on the other side, with a life, reading and feeling and thinking and eating and pooping and sexing. It’s just a post, some words, scribbled on a screen that doesn’t exist in any real physical space. But that’s untrue. These are people, and we are alive and we do think and feel and poop and eat and whatever else it is that us people all do.

So sometimes I feel bad writing things. And sometimes I feel bad when I read things. It hurts. But if you don’t stick your neck out and do something, make something, create something that is your own, then you won’t ever really be doing anything. And doing things is what life is all about. So don’t worry about the hurt. Who cares what people say? If it shakes you up, it’s your own doubt, your own inner-voice amplified outside of yourself to hear. If you’re confident, if you’re proud of what you’ve done, then you know it’s not your problem. It is theirs, the ones that write the things that hurt. And you just keep on going.

Maine on the Brain

I have come to the conclusion that despite how far we think we’ve come, the majority of this country still hates us.

I had wanted to believe that we as a country had progressed. I wasn’t about to bite into that post-racism pie, but I thought we were at a watershed moment where people would finally set aside their old-time religions and quaint prejudices.

When DOMA and then the redundant anti-gay amendments swept this country, I thought these would be fads, like mall concerts or leggings. When Iowa’s high court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, I thought we would witness a sea change. And when my hopes were dashed in California, I thought that America wouldn’t be able to sleep at night, ashamed at the giant blemish of hatred it had left on the West Coast, the mess it had made in the voting booth.

But no. I was wrong. There is no stopping the hate machine. No amount of marching or protesting or money funneling. This is most likely going to be a waiting game. A staring contest. Where we fixate eyes on those who don’t have the nerve, the guts, to look at us in the face, despite the fact that we are their neighbors, their co-workers, their sons and daughters. We are the dirt under their rug, the bathroom in the Brady Bunch household. In their minds, to acknowledge us is to acknowledge that there is something impure, something that will break that fragile vision of the Mayberry world they exist in. It will color their view of a white, straight America, transforming it into the calico collage that is reality.

I have straight friends that are naive enough to think that there is a place in this country where I can hold hands with my boyfriend in public without fear of harassment. These friends still believe the myth that urban oases such as San Francisco, Chicago and New York provide some shelter from the bigot storm. I will tell you this is false. I have been to all three cities in the past six months with my boyfriend. In each city, I have been harassed, stared down and made to feel uncomfortable for being who I am. It has been so bad in Chicago that my boyfriend and I have created a game where we guess how many blocks we can walk holding hands without being called faggot. We rarely guess low enough.

But oh yes! I forgot about Boystown. With all the chintzy plastic of Disneyland but void of the charm, Boystown is nothing but a symbol of our oppression, a reminder that the only safe place for us to live and love is a ghetto lined with rainbow columns, which dam us up so we won’t spill over into “their” territory.

So how will us gays win our equality? Are we going to keep fighting, trying in vain to convince people who are obviously unwavering in their narrow-minded beliefs that their religious leaders, their parents, their politicians and their community is wrong in denouncing a sexual orientation that is just as unwavering? Because how do you create that shift when every single institution that touches that person’s life is sending the same message, “Gays are evil, and to support them is evil by proxy.” No amount of megaphone chanting, political funding or hell raising is going to change that. Even when the laws one day tilt the scales back to a position of equality, this hatred and need to feel superior over a subset of people will persist.

Life is hard enough. Can you just let us live it?