Monthly Archives: December 2010

‘Tis the Season

I like your Christ,

I do not like your Christians.

Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

~Mohandas Gandhi

At the beginning of October, Artistry of Male, one of my favorite blogs, not only for it’s beautiful pictures of men, but also for his words of inspiration, wrote a post about his faith, titled, “Another Disclosure – My Religion: AOM SoulFood.”  I hope you will read his statement.  It is very close to my own philosophy on religion.  I may lose some readers for my religious leanings in the following posts, but please remember that I am not proselytizing, merely stating my faith and showing that someone can be devoutly Christian and be gay.  Not all people see Christianity and homosexuality as two things that can coexist, but I am here to tell you that they can.  In this season of giving, fellowship, and peace, please remember what the angels said to the shepherds as they watched their flock on the day of Christ’s birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)

I am a devout Christian.  Some of you may recognize the following as the Nicene Creed:

I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages;
Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father through Whom all things were made.
Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.
He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;
And He rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father;
And He will come again with glory to judge the living and dead. His kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke through the prophets.
In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
I look for the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the age to come.
Amen

This is a profession of faith.  My particular “denomination” of Christianity does not recite the Nicene Creed.  We simply have our faith in the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  For me, I believe that if you follow the basic tenements of all faiths Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you, then you will be rewarded in the next life, whether that life is a an eternity in Heaven, reincarnation, reaching moksha or other form of enlightenment, or being forever remembered by your ancestors.  In America we are blessed to live in a country where we are all free to worship our own faith, or no faith at all.

I am writing this post because often I am irreverent (sometimes borderline sacrilegious), especially in my other blog, but I have no doubt about my faith in God.  I strive everyday to treat those around me the way in which I would like to be treated.  I teach my students that intolerance is unacceptable in any form.

What I am about to say is not because I believe I am a messenger from God, merely his humble servant.  When God has sent messengers to earth, he has used some of the most humble of humans.  The young man Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt, who God sent to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh.  The shepherds who in the fields as they watched their sheep who were told of the birth of Christ.  There are many more examples, just remember that messages can come from the most unlikely places.


Christmas Bells by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1864)

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During the American Civil War, Longfellow’s oldest son Charles Appleton Longfellow joined the Union cause as a soldier without his father’s blessing. imageLongfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, after Charles had left. “I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer,” he wrote. “I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good”. Charles soon got an appointment as a lieutenant but, in November, he was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church (in Virginia) during the Mine Run Campaign. Coupled with the recent loss of his wife Frances, who died as a result of an accidental fire, Longfellow was inspired to write “Christmas Bells”.

He wrote the poem on Christmas Day in 1864. “Christmas Bells” was first published in February 1865 in Our Young Folks, a juvenile magazine published by Ticknor and Fields. It was not until 1872 that the poem is known to have been set to music. The English organist, John Baptiste Calkin, used the poem in a processional accompanied with a melody he previously used as early as 1848.

imageI heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
    And wild and sweet
    The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

imageAnd thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along
    The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

imageTill ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
    A voice, a chime,
    A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

imageThen from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
    And with the sound
    The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

imageIt was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
    And made forlorn
    The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

imageAnd in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
    “For hate is strong,
    And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

imageThen pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
    The Wrong shall fail,
    The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”


Ode to the West Wind

Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1820)
I
autumn5O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!

II
  Thou on whose stream, mid the steep sky’s commotion,
Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine aëry surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

autumnalOf some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith’s height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: oh hear!

III
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lull’d by the coil of his crystàlline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae’s bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers

6a00e54f0a235a88340134879471c7970c-800wiCleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh hear!

IV
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seem’d a vision; I would ne’er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

autumnal4A heavy weight of hours has chain’d and bow’d
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

V
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

autumn6
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Since today is the first day of Winter, this will conclude the Autumn poetry series and I will begin the Winter poetry series.  I hope you enjoy these.


Green Feather Tree

image

I saw this at Pier 1 Imports the other day while doing some Christmas shopping and just stood mesmerized.  Not only because it was made of feathers, but it had a sign under it that said it was $4. I looked again and realized that the sign was for another merchandise, but for a second, I actually considered buying it.  Then I thought, “How gay can you be?  It’s like a feather boa and a Christmas tree all in one.”  The only thing gayer, may just be the trees below (no offense to anyone who has either of these items, because we all know there is nothing wrong with being gay).

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Something a little more traditional: The White House Christmas Tree.

<img style="background-image: none; border-bottom: 0px; border-left: 0px; padding-left: 0px; padding-right: 0px; display: block; float: none; margin-left: auto; border-top: 0px; margin-right: auto; border-right: 0px; padding-top: 0px" title="The Official White House Christmas Tree stands in the Blue Room of the White House, Dec. 4, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.” border=”0″ alt=”The Official White House Christmas Tree stands in the Blue Room of the White House, Dec. 4, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.” src=”http://lh3.ggpht.com/_6trla2rXMnY/TQ2V1kOTe7I/AAAAAAAATaI/z2Ys9pYgUuA/5267451574_776587e290_z_thumb%5B3%5D.jpg?imgmax=800″ width=”429″ height=”642″>

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

A Nice Surprise

Allen Walker (26)

On a post I did last week, “A Wonderful New Blog,” I introduced you guys to a new blog of erotic fiction written by storyman Jay.  Several of you commented that the story that I mentioned, “Snow Globe,” should have a sequel.  Well, Jay read your comments and has come through for us.  In an email to me the other day, he wrote:

Well, I am happy to say, I just finished ‘Snow Globe II’. It will be posted Sunday at noon Eastern time USA. I really want to know what you think of this story. So enter your reaction to the story at the end of the post. If you want to place more detail comments, please enter them below the post of the story.

Now comes the exciting news. My Christmas gift to you will be posted starting with the Sunday post of ‘Snow Globe II’, on Monday the post will be ‘Snow Globe III’, and Tuesday the post will be Snow Globe IV.

On a separate note, Wednesday will be ‘Pool Game’, which was inspired by Joe Blow of cocksandassesonly.blogspot.com

Thursday will be the posting of ‘The Mall’ and finally on Friday, the posting of ‘Hitchhiker Series – Christmas’.

I am very excited to say the least. Not just one, but three more segments of Snow Globe, and just in time to celebrate the repeal of DADT (if you remember, it is a story about a military man).  I am also very excited about “Pool Game” which was inspired by a post I did on CAM and suggestion by me.  I am also excited about the return of the Hitchhiker Series, my favorite of the serial stories on the Horny Fiction blog.


Why DADT’s Repeal is Not the Brown v Board of Ed for Gay Rights

The following is a blog entry by by Ben Adler on December 18, 2010, for Newsweek’s Blog.  After reading it, I really have to agree with Adler.  Yes, the repeal of DADT is a victory.  Yes, it was a long time in coming.  However, it is only a step in the right direction.  We still have to continue to fight for our rights.  One day, we won’t have to hide who we are.  We can be open and honest to everyone, but that day is still a work in progress.
 

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Michael Reynolds / EPA-Landov
Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (C) of New York delivers remarks during a press conference after the Senate passed a bill to repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy

With the timely reversal of a handful of Senate Republicans, a bill to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the armed forces passed the super-majority threshold to defeat a filibuster. The measure then passed the Senate by a 65-31 vote. Having already passed the House of Representatives by a 250-175 and President Obama is certain to sign it.

Gay rights supporters are, naturally, elated. The National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce issued a statement saying, “We celebrate this important victory and thank all the senators who supported fairness today. We are on the brink of making history.”

It will indeed be historic when Obama signs the bill. But it probably won’t be a watershed moment for gay rights like the Civil Rights Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted, “Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ will be a civil rights milestone. This may be the Brown v. Board of gay rights.” In Brown, in 1954, the Supreme Court ruled racial segregation in schools to be unconstitutional.

Unfortunately for gay rights activists, this development is no equivalent of that. Brown was a unanimous decision that overturned the infamous Plessy v Ferguson precedent which had found “separate but equal” facilities to be constitutionally permissible. Thus, the Court imposed integration in the most sensitive sphere in the public realm — elementary schools — and offered no dissenting opinion to justify opposition. By contrast, this bill passed with significant opposition from Republicans. (Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia who had said he opposes letting gays serve openly skipped the vote, but all other Democrats voted for it). It does not establish a constitutional or legal principle that all discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unacceptable which can be applied in court rulings to other venues. And it does not allow transgendered individuals to serve.

None of that should diminish the drama or importance of Saturday’s vote: had Democrats failed to pass this measure before the end of the session it would have been doomed by the ascension of Republicans to the majority in the House and a larger caucus in the Senate in the next Congress. Many observers, present company included, had not expected Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal to happen in this Congress. And the perennially dissatisfied liberals who fretted that Obama’s refusal to integrate gays and lesbians into the military through an executive order or a choice not to appeal a recent federal court decision that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is unconstitutional should recognize that Obama has been vindicated. The policy change he promised is coming, and it is coming through the democratic process, so Republicans cannot carp about “activist judges making law.”

And that distinction — judicial versus legislative action — is the reason that today is simultaneously a bigger and smaller victory for civil rights than the day Brown was decided. Bigger in that it shows social progress can be made by the people’s elected representatives, and smaller in that such progress is necessarily more incremental.


Breaking News: Senate repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Rainbow-flag_370x278By Ed O’Keefe
Saturday, December 18, 2010; 4:36 PM

The Senate voted decisively Saturday to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, beginning the process of ending a 17-year ban on gays serving openly in the military and reversing decades of official military policy.

cartoonIn the end, the contentious bill passed by a lopsided 65 to 31as 57 members of the Senate Democratic caucus and eight Republicans voted to end the ban.

In a statement, President Obama praised the procedural vote earlier in the day that allowed for Saturday’s historic passage: “I am also absolutely convinced that making this change will only underscore the professionalism of our troops as the best led and best trained fighting force the world has ever known.”

The president will sign the bill next week, the White House said after the final vote.

As recently as this morning, Obama was calling wavering senators to ensure the bill’s passage, a White House official said. Saturday’s successful vote delivered a significant victory for Obama, who promised during his 2008 campaign to end the ban during his presidency.

Supporters of the repeal celebrated Saturday’s votes, drawing parallels to the military’s decision to end racial segregation in the 1950s and the admission of women to military service academies in the 1970s.

“This is the defining civil rights initiative of this decade,” said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, a group established shortly after Clinton authorized the gay ban. “Congress has taken an extraordinary step on behalf of men and women who’ve been denied their rightful integrity for too long.”

The votes came amid an unusually busy Saturday for the Senate, which is also debating the New START Treaty and an immigration bill, known as the DREAM Act, which failed a procedural vote. Nonetheless, it was a banner day for Senate Democrats and, to some extent, for bipartisanship.

“This is one of the days where you really feel privileged to be in the U.S. Senate,” said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), the bill’s lead sponsor. “There’s been a lot of difficult times the last couple of years because it’s so partisan to get anything done. But here we are, it came together. And it was bipartisan; we wouldn’t have done it without the Republicans. We got something really good done. So I feel good about it.”

Ahead of the historic vote, senators laid out their positions for and against ending the ban.

gaysmilitarycartoon“Today’s a very sad day,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading opponent of the measure. He blamed elite liberals with no military experience for pushing their social agenda on troops during wartime.

“They will do what is asked of them,” McCain said of service members. “But don’t think there won’t be a great cost.”

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) saw it differently. “As Barry Goldwater said, ‘You don’t have to be straight to shoot straight,'” he said, referring to the late GOP senator from Arizona.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who stayed in Washington this weekend for the vote despite needing surgery for early stage prostate cancer, said “I don’t care who you love, if you love this country enough to risk your life for it, you shouldn’t have to hide who you are. You ought to be able to serve.”

The law struck down Saturday marks the end of decades of military policy prohibiting gay men and lesbians from serving openly in uniform. The Defense Department concluded during the Reagan administration that homosexuality was incompatible with military service and nearly 17,000 troops were discharged during the 1980s for being gay, according to a 1992 Government Accountability Office report.

In an attempt to make good on a campaign pledge, Bill Clinton sought a change to the policy at the start of his presidency, but faced stiff resistance from top military advisers, Congress and the American public.

Months later, Clinton signed a law implementing the policy officially known as “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue,” first proposed by Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), who opposed allowing gays to serve openly. Citing a shift in public opinion, Nunn said this month that he now supports ending the ban.

DADTThe procedural vote that made the repeal possible passed by 63 to 33. Fifty-seven members of the Senate Democratic caucus and six Republicans — Sens. Scott Brown (Mass.), Susan Collins (Maine), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Olympia Snowe (Maine) and George Voinovich (Ohio) — voted yes. Four senators — Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Joe Manchin III (D-W. Va.) — were not present and did not vote.

Supporters of the repeal celebrated Saturday’s votes, drawing parallels to the military’s decision to end racial segregation in the 1950s. Among those celebrating with the jubilant Sen. Lieberman was Eric Alva, who lost a leg to a landmine during the Iraq war. A 13-year Marine veteran, Alva was not discharged under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” but disclosed his homosexuality four years ago and has fought to end the ban ever since.

After a press conference Saturday, Alva pulled Lieberman aside and volunteered to help the Pentagon conduct sensitivity training with troops concerned about ending the ban.

“They’re going to get over it,” Lieberman told Alva, adding, “God bless you.”

Under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” more than 13,000 men and women have been discharged from the military because of their sexuality. The policy was the result of a compromise between Bill Clinton and

Even if the bill is passed this weekend, the ban on gays in the military does not end immediately, and military officials and activists continue to warn that gay men and lesbians serving in uniform should not make public declarations of their sexual orientation until the law is officially repealed.

According to the legislation, the issue would rest entirely with Obama and top military leaders, who must inform Congress in writing that they have reviewed the findings of a Pentagon study regarding an end to the ban and that the Defense Department has drafted the policies and regulations necessary to stop enforcing it. Those changes must not impact troop readiness, cohesion or military recruitment and retention, according to the law.

Once the written notice is submitted, 60 days must elapse before “don’t ask, don’t tell” is officially repealed. During the two-month window, lawmakers are likely to hold hearings to review the Pentagon’s policies and procedures for accepting openly gay and lesbian troops, according to congressional aides familiar with the matter.

The White House and Pentagon will not set a specific timetable on ending the ban, and stress it will occur only after Gates and Mullen believe the military is ready to end enforcement.

dontask_97a78For his part, Gates said this month said he expects Obama “will be watching very carefully to ensure that we don’t dawdle or slow-roll on this.”

The speed of implementation could be influenced by members of the gay community, who warn privately that they will be less generous with their time and money if Obama is seen as prolonging the inevitable repeal.

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, called on Gates to immediately end investigations of troops in violation of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“Until the President signs the bill, until there is certification, and until the 60-day Congressional period is over, no one should be investigated or discharged under this discriminatory law,” Sarvis said.

Gates is not expected to immediately halt the investigations, according to Pentagon official unauthorized to speak for the record.

Close military observers anticipate that the ease of ending the ban will vary widely among the different military branches and that the Pentagon may stagger implementation of the change across the military branches.

Combat Marines are especially concerned about the possibility of serving alongside openly gay colleagues, and Gen. James F. Amos, the Marine commandant, has suggested that allowing gays to serve openly in the military could result in deadly distractions. Several Republican senators cited Amos’s concerns Saturday before voting against the bill.

“There will be plenty more skirmishes on this issue. This issue has been full of them,” said Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group close to the Obama administration and Congressional Democrats. ” We won’t agree with everything the Pentagon has to say, as well we shouldn’t.”

PH2010120905001Obama and military leaders had pressed lawmakers to repeal the ban this year in part to avoid a surprise ruling by federal judges who are hearing cases that challenge the ban’s constitutionality.

R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said Saturday that “open service needs to be in place,” before his group drops its legal suit challenging the law. In the meantime, “we will continue to push for the constitutional rights of service members by any means necessary,” Cooper said.

Eventual repeal may also allow previously discharged troops who violated the ban to reenlist. Michael Almy, 40, a former Air Force major, is among those eager to once again wear a military uniform.

“I can’t wait to be a part of it again,” Almy said Saturday.

Staff writer Felicia Sonmez contributed to this story.


Moment of Zen: Winter Wonderland

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Here is a very nice version of Winter Wonderland by the very cute Jason Mraz.  I was searching for a good Christmas song to add to this post, and I came across this one and fell in love.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Jason Mraz – Winter Wonderland

Gay and homeless: In plain sight, a largely hidden population

Every year, hundreds of gay youths end up on the streets of L.A. County, where they make up a disproportionate share of the people under 25 who are homeless. ‘They haven’t been on the streets for years and years,’ an advocate says, ‘so they don’t look bad.’

By Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times

December 12, 2010

The city hipsters sipping expensive coffee and chatting on cellphones did not give a second look at the two young men cutting across a Hollywood courtyard on their way to bed down in a nearby park.

imageAJ, 23, and his boyfriend, Alex, 21, hide their blankets and duffel bags in bushes. They shower every morning at a drop-in center and pick out outfits from a closet full of used yet youthful attire.

“If I could be invisible, I would,” AJ said. “I feel ashamed to admit that I’m homeless.”

Every year, hundreds of gay youths end up alone on the streets of Los Angeles County, where they make up a disproportionate share of the at least 4,200 people under 25 who are homeless on any given day.

PHOTO GALLERY: On the streets of Hollywood with AJ and Alex

A recent study found that 40% of the homeless youths in Hollywood, a gathering spot for these young people, identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or unsure of their sexual orientation. Five percent say they are transgender.

imageBut it is a largely hidden population, said Simon Costello, who manages the drop-in center frequented by AJ and Alex.

“They haven’t been on the streets for years and years,” he said, “so they don’t look bad.”

Blending in is part of how AJ and Alex survive on the streets. Police officers are quick to issue tickets, and the streets are full of predators.

In recent weeks, a Times reporter and a photographer spent time with several gay homeless men in their early 20s.

The men agreed to speak openly about their lives, including illegal drug use and other criminal activity, on the condition that their full names not be used. Using public records and other sources, The Times was able to independently verify some details they shared about their family histories.

***

imageGay and transgender youths become homeless for the same reasons as others their age. Many come from families with a history of abuse, neglect, addiction, incarceration or mental illness. But they say their sexual or gender identity often plays a role in the breakdown of their families.

“Queer” was among the more polite names Christopher was called while growing up, before he even knew what the barbs meant.

A slight 22-year-old with a shock of red hair, he said he stood out in his large Latino family in Pacoima, a place he calls “the ghetto of the Valley.”

“My cousins were gangbangers,” he said. “They’re talking about girls and parties … and I knew in middle school that I liked boys and wanted to hold their hands.”

At school, classmates would pelt him with food and milk cartons. To dull the hurt, he turned to alcohol and drugs. He stole money from his grandmother, swallowed his brother’s medication and cut himself with razors.

When he turned 18, he said, his grandmother kicked him out of the family home. She filed a restraining order against him in court.

image“I been hearing about my peers committing suicide because of the teasing and bullying … and of course I understand,” he said, staring at a web of scars on his left forearm. “But then I go, ‘How come that’s not my story? Why didn’t you kill yourself? How did you make it through all that?'”

Christopher said that on his first night without a roof over his head, he shared a drink with two men who took turns raping a girl who had passed out on the side of a highway.

Soon he was selling his body on Santa Monica Boulevard to support a methamphetamine habit. He and his friends used the drug to stay awake, he said, so they would not get jumped. They shared a room and a soiled mattress in an abandoned building. “No plumbing, no electricity,” Christopher said.

***

imageAJ was just 16 when his Vietnamese immigrant father told him to get out of his house, unable to accept his admission that he was gay. Any effeminate gesture, AJ said, would drive his father to beat him.

For a time, AJ moved between the homes of friends and relatives in California and Colorado while he worked a succession of jobs. Some paid well enough for him to get his own apartment. But, he said ruefully, “It has been hard to sustain my sobriety.”

When he was fired from his last job in July, he had no place to go but the streets.

He met Alex at the drop-in center operated by the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center. Tired of his father’s drunken rages, Alex left his home in El Paso in June and caught a train to Los Angeles with a friend. He thought there would be more opportunities here. After two weeks, his backpack was stolen along with the only possessions he had with him. He still hasn’t found work.
AJ and Alex bonded quickly. Both lost their mothers to drug overdoses and struggled to be accepted by their fathers.

imageOn a recent night, the couple headed to a park, one of their favorite spots to while away time during the hours the drop-in center is closed. The restrooms are open late. Friendly neighbors stop to chat while walking their dogs; once, they ordered pizza for them.

They spread a sleeping bag on the lawn, then pulled out a bottle of cheap gin, which they mixed with diet Mountain Dew. They said they collected store gift cards, which are offered by many institutions as incentives to attend therapy sessions, then traded them in for cash to buy the beverages.

“We’re not alcoholics,” Alex said. But sometimes their life is difficult, he said, “and we have to numb it down.”

Soon they were singing along to songs stored on a cellphone with no service. As they neared the end of the bottle, AJ became by turns angry and despondent. All he could think about was getting high, but he did not have the cash to buy crystal meth.

“Let’s go,” he told Alex. “I want to prostitute myself.”

Alex tried to distract him with a bite of hamburger, but AJ pushed it away and groaned.

Finally, they crawled underneath some bushes to go to sleep. As they curled up in each other’s arms, cheerful chatter wafted over them from a late-night picnic, punctuated by the thwacks of tennis rackets hitting a ball on an illuminated court.

***

imageFor some gay youths alienated from their families, the foster care system provides sanctuary. But too often, said Costello, the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center’s associate director for children, youth and family services, they bounce between foster parents and group homes until they turn 18. Once emancipated, they have nowhere to go.

Jonathan, a gregarious 21-year-old with a marijuana leaf tattoo on his arm, said he had more than 20 placements between the time he was removed from his parents’ home at 5 and aged out of foster care three years ago.
“I had anger management issues,” he said.

When he was 9, Jonathan said, one of his foster mothers left him alone with two men who raped him.

“I used to hate gay people because of what happened to me,” he said.
But he recently told his best friend that he is bisexual. They were in a cell waiting to see a judge about a pair of tickets they’d been issued for riding a train without paying.

imageJonathan said he has lost track of the number of times he has been arrested. He hangs out in skateboard parks and often sleeps on a rooftop, where he feels safe.

The first thing he does when he wakes up is reach for a marijuana pipe. Staring through the pungent haze from his spot on the pavement early one morning, he had a commanding view of the Hollywood Hills.

“You see those houses on the hill?” he said. “I’m a have one of those one day.”

***

imageGetting off the streets is a challenge for many of these young people. The L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center is one of several Hollywood organizations that assist homeless youths. Among them, there are only about 200 beds available.
Christopher credits the center — and the kindness of a teacher who took him into her home for a time when he was being bullied — with keeping him alive.
But it has not been easy. Soon after he was admitted to a transitional living program operated by the center, he was kicked out for getting into a fight with his boyfriend. Months later, Christopher asked the center for another chance.

“I was so tired … so broken and hopeless,” he said. “I was desperate for something different.”

With their help, he completed a rehab program, passed the high school equivalency test and moved into a sober-living home. He now works part time dispensing frozen yogurt and has a tiny apartment of his own.
“I’m a part of society,” he said. “I couldn’t be any happier.”

imageJonathan says he isn’t sure that he wants to go into transitional housing — too many rules. But he has plans. He would like to go to college, maybe become a doctor or a lawyer so he can help others like himself.

“Things are going to work out,” he said. “Remember this face.”

AJ has promised Alex he will stop doing crystal meth. They are looking for work, but are finding it difficult without an address.

AJ was diagnosed with depression and applied for a bed at a shelter operated by a mental health center. But when two beds became available one morning, the staff had no way to reach him. By the time he checked in with the center that afternoon, the spots had been snapped up.

A few days later, there was good news. Another bed was available. AJ, worried that Alex could not cope alone on the streets, made his boyfriend take the bed. They held hands on the bus and kissed goodnight outside the metal gates.

imageTo be close to Alex, AJ started sleeping under a nearby bridge. There were rats and piles of trash. He spread cardboard on the ground before putting down a blanket. His last $2 went to buy a bottle of vodka. When that was gone, he grabbed another bottle from a supermarket shelf and sprinted out the door.
He tried to bum a cigarette off a passerby, but the man ignored him. Furious, AJ threw down the backpack in which he had stuffed the bottle, then burst into tears as vodka seeped onto the pavement.

Spending a night apart from Alex, “it seems so small,” he said later. “But when you have nothing but each other, it’s huge.”

PHOTOGRAPHS BY: Christina House / For The Los Angeles Times


Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition: English Sea Rovers in the Seventeenth Century Caribbean

Pirates are among the most heavily romanticized and fabled characters in history. From Bluebeard to Captain Hook, they have been the subject of countless movies, books, children’s tales, even a world-famous amusement park ride.

In Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition, historian B. R. Burg investigates the social and sexual world of these sea rovers, a tightly bound brotherhood of men engaged in almost constant warfare. What, he asks, did these men, often on the high seas for years at a time, do for sexual fulfillment? Buccaneer sexuality differed widely from that of other all- male institutions such as prisons, for it existed not within a regimented structure of rule, regulations, and oppressive supervision, but instead operated in a society in which widespread toleration of homosexuality was the norm and conditions encouraged its practice.

In his new introduction, Burg discusses the initial response to the book when it was published in 1983 and how our perspectives on all-male societies have since changed.

You have to love a book that begins, “The England that produced three generations of sodomitical pirates was a land far different from modern Britain or America.” Burg, a professor of history at Arizona State University, wrote Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition in 1983 and updated it in 1995 (it’s now in paperback). It describes how most if not all of the pirates and buccaneers who sailed the Caribbean from 1650 to 1700 had sex with each other. Homosexual behavior was rarely condemned in the West Indies or Great Britain during that century, when most of the pirates were growing up. By the early 1800s, the party was over and sailors were being executed for the crime of loving another man — or at least having sex with him. The first chapters trace the history of the perception of homosexuality in modern English society. For the most part it was tolerated if kept discreet. Sex was sex. Even in the American colonies, sexual crimes were condemned severely in the law but not in practice. Fornication and adultery were usually punished with whippings or fines, even in settlements that had been founded by families. The only person executed for sodomy in the colonies during the middle 17th century was a guy in conservative New Haven who admitted to having sex with two men, encouraging boys to masturbate and, most horrifically, being an agnostic.

Usually when people cried “sodomy” there were other motivations, such as revenge. Live-and-let-live set the stage in England. During the time there were many beggars and vagabonds roaming the countryside in groups of two to six men. Women weren’t accessible (you had to have a job and money to land a wife), so over time homosexual behavior became more frequent among disenfranchised males. Some of them may have been gay; others heterosexual but without a choice of female partners. Eventually the men would end up in a coastal city. There they might be conscripted into the Royal Navy or hired to work on merchant ships. In either case, the journeys would last years at a time, and the Navy wasn’t about to give shore leave to vagrants who might desert in some foreign land. So you’re at sea for four years — hey, things happen. If you’re on a merchant ship sailing anywhere from South America north to Bermuda, you risked being jumped by pirates. Disillusioned, maybe you join them. Like everyone on your ship and back home, the pirates were buggering each other.

Burg contrasts the pirate lifestyle with homosexual acts you find among prison inmates and notes many differences. In prison, men see their homosexuality as temporary — it’s more about power, a way of saying “I’m in charge.” Among the pirates, it more closely expressed their sexualities. Burg documents how many pirates, if they came upon a ship with women aboard, wouldn’t touch them. Not that women weren’t raped by pirates, but usually they were native or black women who were seen as “inferior.” European women had never been approachable when the pirates were coming of age, and they weren’t now either (in one case, a woman was simply tossed overboard with the rest of the loot the pirates didn’t want). The lesson Burg draws from his research is that “aside from the production of children, homosexuals alone can fulfill satisfactorily all human needs, wants and desires, all the while supporting and sustaining a human community remarkable by the very fact that it is unremarkable…. The male engaging in homosexual activity aboard a pirate ship in the West Indies three centuries past was simply an ordinary member of his community, completely socialized and acculturated.” Except for that killing and looting part, sure.