I couldn’t help but smile at year’s end when the Arts section of the New York Times published an essay by James Franco called The Meanings of the Selfie. It followed a November announcement by Oxford Dictionaries that selfie was their international Word of the Year 2013. Old news now, with the lightning speed of the information highway. But together the stories had a full-circle resonance for me. I began the year with a determination to pave new paths in social media. And almost everywhere I turned, James Franco popped up waving a checkered flag.
A talented gay comic book artist is told, “Your work is not publishable.” A stint with Marvel Comics, a couple of graphic novels, and translations of his work in several languages prove otherwise. A long-time editor is shocked to read the headline “Getting Old Sucks Even Worse for LGBT Seniors” on a popular gay website. So he creates a site for the over-50s. A man living in a particularly homophobic country loses his job for speaking with a journalist, who feels it’s his responsibility to help the man get back on his feet.
These are the kind of stories told at the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) conference last weekend in Boston. A lot has changed in the LGBTQ media landscape since 1990 when it was founded. And everything you might want to know about the organization can be found on their website. (Except for the amusing fact that many members tend to avoid the unwieldy acronym and refer to it simply as simply “negligee”!)
(Exactly one year ago I was on Fire Island for the first time, at the invitation of my friend Kate McCamy. Why I never got there during the ten years I lived in NYC is another story for another time. Kate’s first visit was somewhat more eventful than mine, and I’m pleased to have her tell the tale herself as my first Guest Blogger.)
No summer is complete without a few days of toes in sand and hopelessly tangled salty hair. My beach of choice is Fire Island, Cherry Grove to be specific. My older brother from another mother and upstairs neighbor has rented a house in August for nine years. I’m fortunate enough to stay in his good graces and get invited for birthday fun in the sun a few days every summer. There is nothing like the crackle of anticipation as the ferry slows to approach the dock, rainbow flags flapping in the breeze.
The stress of life falls off me as I roll my suitcase along the bumpy boardwalk. I pass homes with fantastic names like House of Orange, Over The Rainbow, festooned colorful decorations ranging from baby doll heads to a cornucopia of all things sexual. Such is life on the Grove, a different country with it’s own customs and language. The queen of the island is the Belvedere, a Venetian castle built in the ‘50s out of former stage sets. It sports more statues of David than a Florence souvenir shop and trompe l’oiel everything. The first hotel in the country exclusively for gay men, their website states no woman has ever crossed its threshold. This is not true.
I got my first hate mail. Well, not actually mail and not my first, but I’ll explain that later. My first hate comment since I began writing this blog on LGBTQ topics in January was short and to the point: “Dirty fag.” I can’t say I was surprised, except perhaps that it took so long. (In seven months I’ve had over 3100 views by visitors from 67 countries.) One friend even noted it was a sign that I’m “reaching the right audience, and not preaching to the converted.” True enough, and an apt metaphor.
The cowardly act of schoolyard name-calling was hidden behind a curious Twitter handle: Girolamo Savonarola. In case you’re not up on Italian Renaissance history, Savonarola was a 15th century Dominican friar who castigated the rich and powerful in Florence with fiery apocalyptic sermons. His reform campaigns included the infamous Bonfire of the Vanities, in which objects deemed “occasions of sin” were burned – masks and carnival gowns; playing cards and musical instruments; “immoral” books by Ovid and Boccaccio; paintings by Botticelli.
Amsterdam turned gay overnight. That’s what happened in 1998 when 250,000 gay and lesbian athletes and fans descended on a city with a population of only 720,000 in one fell swoop. Not only was it the first time the Gay Games were held outside North America, Amsterdam was the smallest city thus far to host the Games. So for eight days packed with countless events the European capital was clearly, and never more visibly, the Gay Capital of the World. It was unprecedented in every way.