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At the end of my first five months in gay ol’ New York City, among encounters with men of all shapes and sizes (heh), with razor blade lips and high-fashion pouts, with glistening eyes and affectionate brows; after inviting into my home countless opportunities for romance and profound mutual discovery, I have reached this ultimate conclusion: I’m better off with bread.
Over the past two months there has been a rise in organized, often violent, resistance and riotous activity. The true cause is not something we can immediately identify and therefore should hesitate in pointing any fingers or instituting reactionary policy. The worst result of this displaced anger and frustration among the youth is perhaps an increased gap in any form of productive dialogue. In both the reactions abroad and at home the press releases and public statements sound more like chiding parents berating their children for misbehavior and punishing them by taking away their privileges, a grand “grounding” of a generation. Instead it might be more productive to explore the roots of this misbehavior or at the very least acknowledge that there is a growing chasm of disparity.
Don’t tell me that the first date is super casual… jeans and t-shirts attire. I don’t date like that. I don’t do jeans and t-shirts in general. I do pencil skirts, I do slacks. This to me just translates to “I’m lazy and can’t force myself to dress nicely for you, so rather than feel badly about my attire, I’m going to tell you to dumb it down too.”
The Subway is a magical, magical place. The sweating masses, skittering rats, incessant saxophonists — all naturally a breeding ground for … romance? I’m not talking about I-love-yous and eternal vows, or even first dates out at that swanky bar you’ve been meaning to take someone to. The romance of the Subway is softer, quieter, and rarely makes its presence fully known but in the afterthought of a fleeting encounter, after the train has moved along and you’ve found yourself with a ten-minute walk home to reminisce on that intimate stranger with the hairy wrists.
“I also want to go to Boystown while I’m here,” was my next suggestion.
“The neighborhood has changed,” Adia, a Boystown resident, told me in a cautious, you-better-watch-out tone.
“I know,” I replied. “It’s in every local paper.” On Independence Day eve, a man was stabbed on Halsted right between Roscoe Street and Belmont. The incident involved a horde of African-Americans, dashing and shouting, and a bystander catching it on tape and posting it on YouTube. It seems social media is not a cure for Genovese syndrome.
“I grew up there, my mom still lives there, and as an African-American, it just makes me sad to see it all go down in my neighborhood,” Whitney said.
The video rekindled tensions, racial or otherwise, and launched another round of finger pointing in the gay community. On one side, the mostly white local residents and business owners who cited crime as the main concern and went insofar as to creating a Facebook page, Take Back Boystown. On the other side, the urban youth advocates who defend the Center on Halsted’s community services for queer kids of color.
A few weeks ago, I suffered a birthday. At my age, I no longer care to celebrate birthdays. I merely endure them, as inconspicuously as possible, and hope no one else remembers. I am none too thrilled about getting older. I feel okay, but age does strange and disturbing things to the body. Plus, society in general tends to be a bit youth-obsessed, and gay men in particular can be extremely ageist. I’ve tried to keep myself in relatively decent shape; however, over the years, my skin has lost a considerable amount of elasticity, and I find that exercise doesn’t have quite the impact it once did. Mercifully, people rarely think that I look my age. Although, I’m not sure how my age is supposed to look. I consider it to be case-specific. I believe that genetics and self-improvement play a substantial role in determining how one does or does not display the influence of time. Personally, I often think I’m gross. And occasionally, I suffer, to varying degrees, from feelings of obsolescence. I’ve tried to rise above it, but it never fully dissipates. Being single doesn’t really help all that much.
One year ago I accompanied my girlfriend to a Holcombe Waller show in Portland, Oregon. I wasn’t terribly familiar with Holcombe’s music but my girlfriend was a long-time fan who had waited years to see him perform live. Two hours later I was a devoted fan. Holcombe is a multi-instrumentalist songwriter and performance artist, and one of the most captivating performers I’ve seen in years. His latest album, Into the Dark Unknown, was released earlier this year. Tracks from the album were featured on NPR’s Song of the Day and Starbucks Pick of the Week.
Holcombe took some time out of his extremely busy schedule to talk to TNG about his music, inspiration and how he feels about the state of gay rights in our world.
As persons who identify as LGBT, much of our struggle in life is to feel comfortable in our own skin. We come out of the closet to our loved ones as an act of accepting who we are as complete individuals and having others accept us. So why then are so many gay men electing to have cosmetic surgery to alter their appearance?