©2019 by Stephen Schwei

              Gay Is...

Gay is the boy who just started working with flowers

and gestures so immaculately that everyone has always known

that he is a gay boy.  He loves his job, you can tell.

 

Gay is the thin guy who has no use for the gym.

He’s fine and good for the man who loves him.  Starting out,

a new love and so animated in their discussions at the bar.

 

Gay is the old man walking around shirtless because he loves

the attention, with a far-off boyfriend somewhere, ready

to visit him one more time and be together, embraced in a kiss.

 

Gay is Allen Ginsberg and his young boyfriend.  If only we could mirror

their relationship.  I wish I was half the poet and had the following

that he had.  Laurent and I could tour together and celebrate our love.

 

Gay is the big guy in the “Daddy Issues” t-shirt or dozens

of other beefy bears, secure and confident in their image and eager

to meet more of their own kind, blocking the way and laughing in their groups.

 

I grew up in a household

where it was probably allowed,

but unspoken, so I would read

my sister’s teen magazines

and watch Davy Jones

of the Monkees

in his rare shirtless appearance,

frolicking and enjoying

the other guys around him.

 

Tarzan was on every Saturday afternoon,

with sometimes a double feature.

Or we’d go outside and play soldiers

or Tarzan or cowboys and Indians.

Anything to be male and young boys,

grow up male

and as normal as we could,

with three brothers and one sister,

Midwest gay developing.

 

Gay can be skanky and as sleazy as you can imagine, in dark

alleys and hallways and businesses built around carnal activities.

It’s embarrassing but sometimes necessary for quick releases.

 

Gay takes your breath away when it’s a crowd out for Pride,

partying and celebrating and truly proud of being who we are,

taking over the city or the world as one large group in solidarity.

 

Gay is just out with friends, frivolous and inconsequential,

dancing the night away, sipping cocktails, oblivious to any struggle

or history.  Put the movement away for a Saturday night, and have some fun.

 

Gay comes creeping up on boys and girls, unsuspecting.  Sometimes

their families know, maybe even before them, but they realize it at long last,

accepting, or sometimes rejecting, but it’s there to do with what they want.

 

Gay is the emotional roller coaster that grabs people and makes them find

whatever their identity will be.  When they finally find love, it will be the high

of their lives.  When they meet with the bullies and persecutors, take cover.

 

My youngest son is gay,

but was afraid to tell me.

I hope he was fine with it

afterwards,

because I never had a problem with it.

We shared New York City Pride

together around 2012.

Father and son bonding?  Perhaps.

At least it was gay generations together.

 

My wife knew about me soon after we met.

Bizarre, but true, in the interest

of total transparency and honesty.

I came out to her and one other guy,

who took it weirdly and acted strange.

She handled it well, and we went on

to live together, marry, and have

three wonderful kids.  My first

true love, my partner.

 

Gay is S&M culture, pain and power dynamics, Sir and boy,

Master and slave, and dozens of other roles to capture the imagination.

Play it out in private or public, any sort of fetish or interest.

 

Gay is the most tender of feelings for the man I love.  It took me too long

to meet him, but now that I have, we want to be together every moment

of every day.  He’s alive and young and the most beautiful of boys.

 

Gay is a history of Oscar Wilde, Liberace, Dom DeLuise,

and Paul Lynde.  Hiding in plain sight and setting off the radar

of all but the least astute of observers.  Obvious and undeniable.

 

Gay is Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, Tab Hunter, and James Dean,

and the list goes on, known to those in the industry, leading men,

keeping it under wraps as best they could.

 

Gays have always been around and always will be, and are even present

in the animal kingdom.  Each new generation figures it out anew,

with the full support of the ones who went through it all before.

 

John was my first love,

my best friend, who

happened to be straight.

It could have been beautiful,

but it was a beautiful friendship

instead.  Two teens sharing

intimacies, experiences,

and growing up together.

Trusting and loving nonetheless.

 

Now I have Laurent,

the new love of my life.

Sharing in all that is great

in my past and my present,

there for the long-term future.

He’s young but mature,

caring and complete,

and totally in love

with me as I am with him.

 

Gay is the plague, ignominiously originally named for us,

but shared with Haitians and drug users swapping needles.

It’s not over yet, but it has moved on, still a worldwide epidemic.

 

Gay are the smartphone apps for cruising and meeting,

quick hookups and maybe even something long-term.

The place I met my young lover, against all odds.

 

Gay is the 40 year old married man, finally figuring it out

and the lesbian couple finding each other in the oddest of places,

love surfacing and surviving against the harshest of obstacles.

 

Gay is marriage at long last and an end to discrimination

in some places, but not all.  Bathroom bills are a cynical ploy

and adoption and hospital visitations remain in jeopardy.

 

Gay is the guy still in the closet, living in a small town

and driving miles to meet someone where he won’t be recognized,

in fear of being discovered and the presumed dire consequences.

 

The closet is an odd place,

basically learning to lie

and covering your tracks,

making up girlfriends

or telling your parents

you’re seeing

the same old straight male friend

time after time.

 

Coming out is so freeing,

sometimes gradual, but for some

all at once.  Exploding forth!

Like my son who

told everyone within a few days

and helped me reveal

my Clark Kent identity

to the last of my relatives.

 

Gay are the old couples who have fought the long battles

and won the rights and privileges that we can almost take for granted.

Secure in each other’s arms, fending off any new attempts at oppression.

 

Gay are the poets Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg, writer James Baldwin

and many others.  Playwrights, writers, actors, and designers,

any creative outlet to burst forth with that pent-up energy and frustration.

                                              

Gay is the Stonewall Inn and the night of fuming desperation,

when drag queens, transgender people, and black boys finally fought back,

to claim what should have been theirs all along, safety and security.

 

Gay is years of meeting guys in bars and speakeasies just under the radar,

easy to find if you know what to look for.  Now rainbow flags and Eagle bars

are welcoming sights, an oasis and refuge whether in a strange or familiar city.

 

Gay is the Pulse nightclub, just out to let loose and some drugged-up dancing,

gunned down senselessly and targeted shamelessly

for daring to love and party with the people who share their lives.

 

I’ve frequented many bars

and nightclubs in my time.

I can tell you the gay history

of so many cities.

Looking for a soulmate,

satiating my thirst

and the interminable quest

for the next conquest.

 

I’ve volunteered

and helped where I could.

Likely with only minor impact

in the overall scheme.

Phone hotlines, organizing,

recruitment of volunteers,

protesting, research,

contributor and friend.

 

Gay is over the top, flamboyant, feminine affectation,

prissy and sissy, the queer queen boy.  Everyone knew

why he was picked last for every team in sports and first in theater.

 

Gay is sedate and quiet, bookish and studious, serious

and turned inward, studying Michelangelo’s David in exquisite detail,

going to see David Sedaris and laughing out loud.

 

Gay is looking back at your family tree, noticing that unmarried uncle

and spinster aunt who still seemed happy and fulfilled.  The unspoken stories

and details of their lives that were just glossed over.

 

Gay is lusting for the high school athletes, the pretty jocks,

and whoever was on the cover of whatever muscle magazine,

and everyday guys at the beach in their speedos, showing some skin.

 

Gay is hyper-masculine like Superman and Tarzan, G.I. Joe,

or dozens of super-defined heroes designed for us to admire

more than we will ever know.  Feeding our young gay thirst.

 

When I was 15,

my family went camping

as we often did, set up

next to a family with a

muscular older teen boy

who loved posing and

showing off his body.

His dad apologized to my dad.

 

I read my Superboy comics,

stealing glimpses

of his perfect body,

totally surprised to find

my hero in real life.

I’m sure my glances

were as obvious as

his strutting and teasing.

 

Gay is finding an outlet when everything is suppressed and repressed,

brothers, classmates, neighbors, friends and circle jerks.

Not always healthy, often illicit, experimenting, curious, innocent and natural.

 

Gay is out there so obvious that everyone knows. Nobody dares talk about it,

but if only they could.  Stories guarded, left untold and unfulfilled.

Pent-up energy for the most futile of reasons, locking up a secret.

 

Gays are trampled and crawl out in the oddest of ways,

not always ethical or mature.  Priests and pedophiles and guys

under bridges.  They’ll be there but can be easily and safely avoided.

 

Gay is misunderstood and attempted conversions to anything but that

by supposedly well-meaning but sanctimonious preachers of love,

practitioners of hate and intolerance.  Pray they fail every time.

 

Gay is deep hurt leading to suicide because the world is harsh,

intolerant, and unforgiving.  Bleak and lonely when people can’t find welcoming arms.

Violence and Matthew Shepard and people with targets on their backs.

 

There are so many gay lives

I could have lived.

So many places

I’ve discovered and explored.

Each one might have been

exquisite and true,

happy and fulfilled.

Each path a different adventure.

 

I had fantasies

and still do.

I’ve lived out some of them,

proving the power

of hope, confidence,

and most of all persistence.

Looking for love.

Finding it at long last.

 

Gay is every man’s dream according to our deepest fantasies, yearning and pining.

Step up.  You’re next.  Every innuendo an invitation to experience it with us.

Straight is just a point on a spectrum, shifting all the time.

 

Gay is gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, queer, inquiring, and so many other things.

Gender fluid and an encyclopedia of sexual interests and proclivities.

Finding our own, fitting in and figuring out exactly what turns us on.

 

I suppose gay is Dorothy, musicals, show tunes, and drag shows,

and code words like “Friend of Dorothy”, awkward but effective,

pink triangles and rainbows of their day, emblems to find your tribe.

 

Gay is The Castro, Boystown, and Montrose, gayborhoods when the trod-upon

needed their ghettos to inhabit, gather, and coalesce, only to lose to gentrification.

Success and upward mobility slowly eroding communities.

 

Gay is Pride month and all its celebrations, now throughout the year

as you travel across the globe.  Parades, festivals, low-key performances in a park.

More like protests and political movements when and where it’s most oppressed.

 

There’s a comfort

in having our own world,

not exactly a refuge

but familiarity.

Like a foreign traveler

relieved to find an enclave

of others who speak

the same language.

 

We haven’t shared

anything more

than what it’s like

to be gay.

Raised that way,

surviving and finding

a niche that feels right.

True pride,

taking each step.

 

Gay is drag, puppies, and swishy boys, not everything making you as proud

as you’d like to be, but testing your tolerance, whether you identify with them or not.

They don’t have to represent you as long as you represent yourself.

 

Gay is an attitude, a resolute confidence to mask all insecurities,

to walk among your fellow man and hope your fellow man notices you,

even if he’s straight but especially if he happens to be gay.

 

Gay is maybe genetic or possibly environmental or developmental.

In any case, it’s a condition without an origin, or any need to explain or justify,

so let it be and let it flourish to blossom as it can.

 

Gay is Harvey Milk, Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin, Frank Kameny,

Dustin Lance Black, Ellen DeGeneres, and so many others paving the way.

PFlag, allies, and rainbow umbrellas providing shelter and support.

 

Gay is sex, erotic stimulation, love and tenderness,

caring and affection and building lives and families together,

relationships with the same vagaries and joys as everyone else.

 

Gay has always been and always will be.  For now, it’s both squashed and supported,

driven out and allowed to thrive.  Nothing is needed to keep it alive.

Gay is around us, between us and among us.  Gay just is.

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