Gnaw Rocs: I can’t taste the heat

By: Reilly Hirst

 

Khong Thai Cuisine

260 Winton Road North,

Rochester, NY 14610

 

 

My lunch companion looks at me and says in mild disgust, “American Thai.”  She’s not wrong. But I also ask if really there is much better Thai she’s had here in Rochester.  We go through the litany. Neither of us like the King and I; her experience of Thai Mii Up was better food and worse service than mine.  I like Yellow Elephant in Fairport; Sak’s is apparently run by the same team as here. Churi’s is the only one on our list that we wonder could compete.  My companion values that warm enveloped feeling in a restaurant and less Americanized décor. I lean towards food over environment; but also appreciate more intimate authentic spaces.

 We walked into Khong Thai on a Monday, that nefarious day when fewer restaurants are open for lunch.  We shared the spring rolls (vegetarian), the papaya salad and the Panang Curry with Chicken. I had the Thai Iced Coffee, she the Lemongrass tea. I can say honestly that this was better Thai food than many I’ve had in ROC.  Is it Toronto level? No, not even Buffalo or Syracuse for that matter. My companion was put off by the lack of heat. In contrast, some other restaurants make their dishes hot with a warning and if you don’t like heat, stay out of the kitchen or at least that dish.  That lack of compromise is best for truly experiencing the food and, therefore, the culture of other countries.

As a GERD sufferer I do find myself at odds.  I ate hot spicy foods for years; now, it’s at my own risk- including potential hospital stays and esophageal cancer.  Am I always good about this? No, I could say I risk it for you the reader, but really I risk it for me, the eater. Even by my new wimp standards, Khong doesn’t bring the heat, any heat.  The Papaya salad was too mild; it had flavor, but from the pungency of vinegar. The Panang was soupier than either of us were used to, though it had flavor, just not the right one. The Spring rolls were fresh and crunchy: the cabbage, super crisp and fresh, but the rolls lackluster in flavor.  It needed what was absent: enough Cilantro and some Avocado. (This must be more than just our meal as a Yelp picture matches almost exactly the rolls we got.) The Thai Iced Coffee was good just as it was; the Lemongrass Tea full of actual lemongrass. I would seek out Khong again. The décor was nice enough: modern, clean and for the limited space well managed. My companion would not seek it out but would eat there.  Next visit I am intending to get the Curry Puffs, maybe the Satay, and the Num Tok Nuer, or Beef Salad, all favorite dishes. I also may want to try the Tom Yum, Tom Ka, or the Pad See Eiw which is more than enough to keep me coming back in an attempt to go through them all. I am expecting them to rank as the other dishes did: decent Thai, American not at all spicy Thai. Walk, don’t run, but at least you can eat Thai now.

What I did for PRIDE

By: Lawrence Lam

Growing up in a traditional family in the Far East was like living in the Bible Belt in the U.S. where being adventurous or different was not acceptable. As a male person, I had to set my goal to become a doctor or an engineer or an astronaut. That was why at school I had to excel in mathematics and science because literature and history were for girls. I had to play soccer with the boys and be good at track and field. There was only one life for me to look forward to and that was to get married one day, have children and raise a family.
Everything changed when my female cousins took me to attend their ballet classes. I was allured to a world of graceful movements, fairy tale ballets and the fascination of show business. I gradually found out I was attracted to other male persons even though at that time I did not have any sexual experience or desire. I stared at the priest in ethics classes at school and dreamed of holding his hand for a walk in the garden. I was young and innocent and of course I was a virgin then!
At that time I also started to come across strange experiences. One day a male guest teacher corrected my dance positions in the locker room while I was almost naked. The boy who danced as the prince in the ballet always got flowers from some men after the performances. A choreographer thought my dancing was outstanding and invited me to have a drink with him to see what role was suitable for me in the production. I danced on stage in my white tights and got a bouquet of red roses waiting for me in the changing room. The roses were from an older man.
There was only one known gay bar in town and everyone talked about it like it was a very secretive place. I never went there because the police were said to have raided the place and blacklisted everyone inside. I could never afford to get into trouble with the police because I had an uncle who held a pretty high rank in the police force. Through some friends of my own age I began to socialize with a group of gay older men who had younger live-in boyfriends. I began to be known as “the other woman” among the gay couples and I was invited to many parties. Settling down with a man to live a life of sin was not for me….a thought embedded in me from my days at school.
Thank goodness that my parents were not very old fashioned and by that time in my life they had already emigrated to the U.S. When I finally joined them in New York it was the time when everyone was scared to death with the AIDS epidemic. I remained a celibate for many years until I met a dear friend who happened to be gay too. He gradually introduced me to his circle of friends and I began to accept myself as a gay person. I never thought it was necessary to come out to my parents or my family or anyone because being gay was a very private matter and I did not believe I needed to “advertise” it.
Living in New York City exposed me to the gay culture and gay history. I was never an activist but I began to support gay movements, attend gay gatherings and go to gay parades. I donated money and counselled any young gay man who crossed my path. I understood why group like Act Up needed to be aggressive and why the gay community was fighting with everything it had for acceptance and equal rights. I made a lot of gay friends but unfortunately some died young with AIDS or other complications.
Over the years since the Stonewall riots in 1969, many things have changed in New York. Federal and State governments do not discriminate against anyone based on sexual orientation. Sexual activity between consenting adults was decriminalized in 1980. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2011. Hate Crime law started to cover the gay community in 2001. Discrimination legal protections were extended to gender identity or expression this year. And so on.
I’m very proud of the achievements we, the gay community, have made through the years. Because of that, life as a gay person is a lot easier these days. There are still many gay-related rights and issues to fight for before we can have complete equality. We need to build a strong foundation for our younger generations to move forward and succeed. I am living in upstate New York now. For me, I’m proud of being a good son, a wonderful brother, a productive worker, a supportive friend, a considerate neighbor, a member of the Rochester community, etc.….who happens to be gay.

Gay Pride Month To Feature a PBS Special, The Lavender Scare By Merle Exit

Award-winning, timely documentary The Lavender Scare had its PBS premiere nationwide on June 18 at 9:00PM, re-airing throughout June on digital channels. (For more details check local listings or pbs.org) Produced and Directed by Josh Howard, the documentary is based on the acclaimed book by David K. Johnson and narrated by Glenn Close featuring the voices of: Cynthia Nixon, Zachary Quinto, T.R. Knight and David Hyde Pierce.

Dr. Franklin E. Kameny writes, “Dear Mother, I received your very welcomed letter last Sunday. I hadn’t told you about my work situation because I didn’t want you to worry. The fact is, I was fired not because of a judgement upon me as an individual, but an entire judgement of a group of people. I’m certain you would agree that every American citizen has right to be considered on the basis of his own personal merit. I am a homosexual American citizen. Before I leave this earth I assure you that I will see to it that the second and third words of that phrase–American citizen–, are no longer ignored to people like me.” 

The Lavender Scare focuses on one of President Eisenhower’s first official actions, signing an executive order that said that sexual perverts cannot work for the federal government and sexual perverts specifically meant homosexuals. And so witch-hunts began and not just the federal government but jobs everywhere. 

Over the next four decades, during the longest witch-hunt in American history, tens of thousands of government workers would lose their jobs for no reason other than their sexual orientation.

In one interview of those effected, Joan Cassidy had to give up the chance to be the first female Admiral of the Navy Reserve due to the chance that the government would expose her because she wouldn’t be able to hide her being a lesbian. 

Kameny, who was set on becoming an astronomer, was the first to fight back with politics and activism to make a change via the Mattachine Society of Washington saying that it was not about national security or blackmail but about civil rights. 

The documentary includes the raids at Stonewall with photos of the gay community refusing to “not take it anymore.”  

It was not until 1995 that President Clinton signed an executive order barring the federal government from excluding gays and lesbians from holding security clearances. 

During his term in office President Obama acknowledged Kameny for the protest that he lead in 1965 as act if courage.  Today, Kameny is recognized as the Grandfather of the Gay Right Movement. Born on May 21, 1995, he died on October 11, 2011.  

I conducted radio interview with Josh Howard on the following link where he emphasized being able to have the documentary shown in schools throughout the nation.  www.blogtalkradio.com/merleswhirls/2019/06/19/whirl-with-merle

Pride with Purpose By Stephanie R.C. Harageones

By: Stephanie R.C. Harageones

What’s better than treating yourself to sweet gear for Pride this month? Buying awesome gear and having the proceeds go to charities that help the community! Pride is hitting Rochester this month and you’ll be ready to roll, or even to sport all year round! 

Mostly it’s clothing and some of it is more high-end ($100 for a sweet pair of Converse) to the more pocket-friendly places like Target and H&M. Below, here are the awesome thing you can buy (in alphabetical order by retailer), and a brief description of who they’re donating to and what each group does.

 

Brand: American Eagle

The classic staple for Americana gear is going all-in on its pride collection! 100% of their profits from the Pride collection go to the It Gets Better Project. It Gets Better is dedicated to “uplift, empower and connect LGBTQ+ youth around the globe.” They began in 2010 in response to recent teen suicides of LGBTQ+ youth, with the vision of older LGBTQ+  people giving teens everywhere some well-deserved insight and hope.

 

Top picks:

1) We start with an awesome 70s vibe; a mesh tank top. dark blue with yellow lining, a cool rainbow stripe across the chest and emblazoned with a small, but meaningful seal on the left which reads: “Playing for all sides, and proud”.

2) A subtle, yet inspiring grey t-shirt: “Love is the future” it proudly declares, in rainbow colors and adorned with stars.

3) And if you want to be extra loud and proud, there’s a tank top reading “SUPER GAY” with a sort of superhero whoosh behind them, rocked by both a male and female model nailing the look. So delightfully camp!

 

Brand: Converse

 

Everyone’s favorite sneaker brand is at it again! In the past, they’ve teamed up with Miley Cyrus, who started her own charity for homeless LGBTQ+ youth, The Happy Hippie Foundation. This year their profits are supporting the It Gets Better Project and OUT MetroWest. Out MetroWest, among other things, “builds communities where LGBTQ+ youth thrive” plus they also work towards “Affirming LGBTQ+ identities through positive role modeling” and “Creating supportive spaces where LGBTQ+ youth can be themselves.”

1) First up is a brand new piece: their first trans pride design: the Chuck 70 Pride Hi-top

2) Next we have a black T-shirt called Pride pocket which is where there is a rainbow stripe along the chest but the pocket state is black as a way to sort of cut into the design. it’s listed as a men’s t-shirt but certainly looks like it could be unisex.

3)Last but not least is a Chuck Taylor All-Star Pride low-top which is a simple black sneaker with rainbow design on the laces and the perimeter of the sole of the shoe. Low-key, cute & matches anything!

 

Brand: Disney

Yes, even the legendary family-friendly brand/media empire is going progressive! 10% of the profits for the Rainbow Disney Collection will go to GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network who strive to “create safe and affirming schools for all, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.” It was founded back in 1990!

Top Picks:

 

  1. Rainbow Mickey Ears: the classic Mickey symbol given a fun upgrade! Cute rainbow colors. Also, a Minnie Mouse version eng a rainbow bow!
  2. Rainbow Disney collection Mickey mouse pin set is a super cute set of pins, one featuring Mickey mouse in his classic pose with a rainbow stripe across his middle and the other one a rainbow heart with the Mickey design in the sensor. Adorable and great to share with friends!

 

3)  Rainbow Disney Collection Mickey Mouse light-up necklace. Here’s a fun one that is absolutely ready for the streets! It’s a cute necklace with the classic Mickey mouse symbol in all different rainbow colors around a choker necklace and they all light right up. Super cute and lots of fun!

 

Brand: H&M

 

Since the early 2000s, H&M has been a staple in the US for cute, well-priced clothes and accessories. Their “Stay True, Stay You” line is no exception! 10% of each sale will be donated to the United Nations Free & Equal Campaign, which “champions for equal rights and fair treatment of the worldwide LGBTQ community.” Here’s the best of the best.

 

Top Picks:

 

1)First up is a top that you can frankly wear all Pride month long it has their quote of “Stay true stay you” in rainbow letters on a white crop top. Simple, but adorable.

2)If you’re looking for something with that’s a little more subtle, it’s a basic black tank top that appears to be unisex that simply says “proud” in white lowercase letters and only has rainbow design along the sides.

3)One of the quirkiest and most interesting ones is a black bodysuit with a pride cape in the back that looks sort of like butterfly wings with of course of rainbow design it’s all kinds of awesome!

 

Brand: Target

 

Target is one of the most well-known retailers of the 2000s and they have a range of products this year for Pride with their #TakePride line, with options for adults, kids and accessories too! They’re donating $100,000 to GLSEN.

 

Top Picks:

1)Here’s one for you animal lovers out there: it’s a light blue ringer T-shirt with dark blue trim and it has a cat on the front with a rainbow overlay, & it’s purr-fect for Pride! (Sorry for the obvious cat pun…)

2)This next pick is actually a children’s shirt. It’s a simple light brown t-shirt that says “Love Changes The World” and “changes” is in rainbow letters. It’s cute and it’s wonderful they have something in case you want your kids to wear something fun for Pride too!

3) Last but certainly not least is a super-cute pride accessory: a trans Pride bandana that’s a great way to stay cool all summer long! It has the pride flag colors striped on it and comes with a simple bandana that you can use to accessorize.

AIDS Vigil

By: B.A. Whitmore

On Wednesday, July 17, 2019 an AIDS Vigil took place in Highland Park’s AIDS Memorial Garden. The vigil was sponsored by the Victory Alliance; a group representing the HIV/AIDS vaccine trials network at the University of Rochester. To those who participated and attended the vigil, I want to sincerely thank you. The vigil was a means to remember those who have died of AIDS as well to make evident the research still needed and being done at the University and other research facilities around the world. Even though this epidemic has been positively attacked over the decades, it is still a scourge in the U. S. and other countries. I write this to encourage and motivate the LGBTQ community into caring more about this terrible time that impacted our community. We celebrate “gay liberation” every year in the remembrance of Stonewall, but seemingly do little to honor those lives that were lost, and have less desire to find a cure or vaccine. Research and treatments sometimes seem to make the AIDS problem, that the LGBTQ community experienced, just a footnote in our history.

Some facts and history that note the impact that AIDS produced:
● 1981: AIDS first diagnosed and given a name
● During the years of 1981 and 1998 there were over 334 thousands deaths due to AIDS
● Peak of the epidemic was between 1987 and 1996
● 1981 saw the formation of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City, because over 40% of
all AIDS cases were in New York City
● 1985: personalities of Elizabeth Taylor, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Magic Johnson, Arthur Ashe
and the death of Rock Hudson brought the need for more compassion and AIDS research
● 1987: The formation of ACT-UP activist group(s)
● 1987: the Ryan White Health Care Act was passed by Congress to provide funding and to try
and end discrimination because of AIDS
● 1987: AZT (the only medication approved) cost between 7 – 10 thousand dollars per year
● In 1995: 1 in 9 gay men was diagnosed with HIV; 1 in 15 gay men had died of AIDS (between the
ages of 20 – 45)
● Fast forward to 1995, the CDC estimates that 67% of all new HIV infections are in the gay and bi-
sexual community
● In Rochester, by 1995 almost 200 people had died of AIDS

When AIDS became apparent in the gay community, gays were jolted by fear, they were shunned, felt great loss, and they were despised and rejected. People with AIDS lost their jobs, rejected by families and friends. Many became homeless, had no medical coverage. There was a true lack of compassion. Even religious leaders called AIDS “God’s punishment”. Confusion and even panic was ever so present.

Eventually, AIDS began to galvanize gay men and women into being more active and visible. It forced the gay community to interact with “the system”.

“AIDS crisis was a catalyst that helped to spur on the modern day movement for LGBTQ rights in the U.S. AIDS politicized the gay community. It created the organizations that became very powerful and political savvy. And in the process ‘it changed the way society looks at gay people’”
David Barr, GLSEN.org

With time people in the medical community began to step up and realize the effect that AIDS was causing. Legal professionals began to have an impact. Our lesbian community rallied in support of their gay male friends. Many in the gay community became nurses, did outreach and became advocates for those who were sick and dying. As a result and determination of the gay community, gays came out of the marginalized shadows and were treated more normally.

“HIV has been devastating but it also created an entrance for LGBTQ work to be done”
Christine Stegling, Exec Dir. ITPC

Being 30+ years into the epidemic we find a gay community, that in some ways, are complacent to their HIV past. There are still new infections (both in the U.S. and worldwide). As well many gays who happened to survive after being diagnosed are now older and suffer from the long term effects of the disease and medications. Long term survivors suffer from mental health issues, treatment fatigue, depression, isolation, lack of social support, some cognitive problems and many have physical appearance changes. With new medications and testing come HIV challenges to even young people. HIV seems distant and less devastating. Many have never known someone with AIDS, have had a friend or partner die of AIDS; let alone see what a person experiences when actually dying of AIDS.

“HIV…..gave us a sort of intensity and drive that the younger generation cannot know because they are lucky enough they have escaped it”

Andrew Sullivan, activist-writer

As a community we can do more. So..yes celebrate Stonewall and be proud. But also do more to celebrate those we lost and be more concerned of the ongoing research which is still so needed. Just once in a while put yourself in the shoes of our gay brothers and sisters who faced this crisis. Ask yourself this question (as they had to):

“If you could take a test that would tell you if you would be alive in two years, would you take it?”

Mark King, L.A. activist, 1980’s

As the gay history book is written, we must make sure that the real impact that AIDS presented to the gay community not be relegated to a simple anecdote but should be a deserved and full chapter.

Thank you to all of the community for your thoughts and concerns.

Outlook: Sexuality is Just a Part of Each of Us

By: Randy Fredlund

There used to be parties.  Young debutantes would reach a state of readiness such that their parents would stage a coming out party to introduce them to society.  Perhaps these functions are still going on in communities stuck in the past.  

Since those times, the phrase “coming out” has gained a different meaning, and the connotations are somewhat different.  Someone, somewhere, at some time must have thrown a party for such a revealing event, but the issues associated with the current version of “coming out” usually don’t engender a party atmosphere.  The intense emotions associated with the realization and communication of the fact that one is incapable of conforming to society’s “norm” is anything but celebratory.  

In retrospect, a party may be appropriate, because the act is a major positive step toward becoming who one must be.  But at the time of the announcement to those who matter? The arrangements seem difficult. Maybe a “Remembering Coming Out” party is more appropriate.

But what of the reaction to the announcement?  Though secondary to the turmoil the announcing person is feeling, those on the receiving end are also affected.  A slew of misconceptions are instantly dashed, provided denial does not kick in. For those who can’t handle the truth, the transition to a new understanding is made oh-so-much more difficult or even impossible.  Denial serves no one.

But even for those parents who accept the information and the modified roles, the fact of the matter is often spoken in hushed tones.  That one’s son or daughter is not of the traditional sexual orientation is often treated as if it is a dirty little secret. No one needs to know.  The family “accepts” the situation, but keeps it quiet. The information is communicated on a need-to-know basis. And only if that need-to-know is urgent and held confidential.

Well, that ain’t right.  That’s not really acceptance.   No billboards are necessary, and skywriting is contraindicated, but hushed tones and diversionary tactics are unacceptable. 

In reality, there is more than one coming out day.  

Acknowledgement in the course of normal conversation is the bellwether.  One can only claim true acceptance when the fact of sexual orientation is delivered with the same tone and lack of forethought as the fact he lives in Brooklyn, or that she is an accountant.

It’s quite unlikely it’s the same day.  These things take time. The fact that part of his world is completely foreign and maybe even repulsive to you is irrelevant.  It’s a brave new world.

A parent’s coming out day happens when he or she willingly tells someone who has a need to know, however slight, that your son is gay. When asked, “Who is your son is bringing to the wedding,” let them know it’s Juan and not Juanita.  “I don’t know,” is not allowed when you damn well do. No hedging. Coming out day happens when you admit to yourself and your friends that none of those handsome young men your daughter hangs around with will ever be your son-in-law.    

 

But it goes beyond that.

 

It’s quite probable that your child needs your support at least as much as his or her hetero friends need that of their hetero fathers and mothers.  He or she can’t hetero, ro, ro the same boat. His voyage will not be easy in a world that usually distrusts and often hates differences. She must find her way in less well-charted waters.  Anything you can do to calm the waters will be welcomed, even if it’s only expressing your faith that, “You’ll be OK,” which coincidentally is something than every child needs.  

But don’t stop there.  OK is just, well, OK. Don’t settle for that.  You have to let him know that you are proud of him, not in spite of the reality of his existence, but proud of the whole.  That she is someone you’re glad to know. That those among us who do great things are rarely the result of completely average and uncontroversial situations.

And you need support, too.  From him or her. There is a new culture for you to learn and even enjoy.  And you’ll have the best guide you could possibly have.

Sexuality is just a part of each of us.  It does not define a person. Hugh Hefner, of all people, noted that his magazine was about 10% related to sex, because that’s about the percentage that sex plays in life.  We can argue the percentages, but the fact is that even the Crown Prince of Debauchery realized that sex and sexual orientation is a small portion of the whole. It does not define one’s entire existence, regardless of the oversimplified notions of society.

Nor does it define our relationships with those we love.

Stonewall Moments in the African American Community

By: Evelyn Bailey

In the month after Rochester Celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall, Shoulders To Stand On will recognize members of the African American community that lived their Stonewall moments before and after 1969 and helped to shape the legacy of Frederick Douglass.  What is a Stonewall Moment? A moment in time when you raise your voice to resist discrimination, oppression and prejudice. When you are empowered to move beyond these barriers to take your rightful place in today’s society with dignity and respect.   

The Rochester community has always been part of a region that has been a powerful voice for dignity and civil rights: a region built on the quest of people seeking to better their lives with opportunities to express free thought, innovation, education and worship. Today, we “stand on the shoulders” of many heroes who made Rochester a city that celebrates diversity and has often set benchmarks for civil liberties throughout the nation. But, even as history is made, history remains fragile and can be quickly lost.

And so we remember.

The Rochester region is well-known for its ties to former slave, abolitionist, orator, and publisher Frederick Douglass, who made his home here in Rochester from 1847 to 1872. Aside from its well-deserved place in abolitionist history, however, Rochester has a rich and varied past that is alive with stories of notable African-American citizens who helped contribute to a more progressive way of thinking not only in Rochester, but in Western New York and the state as a whole. There is Asa Dunbar, said to be the first African-American settler, who cleared land for his farm in Irondequoit (near present-day Winton Road North) in 1795. Austin Steward, a runaway slave who came to Rochester in 1816 and opened his own meat market on what is now West Main Street. Frank Stewart, who started the first African-American baseball team in 1866, called the Unexpected. (Frederick Douglass’s son Charles is rumored to have been a member.) Activist Hester C. Jeffrey came to Rochester in 1891 and founded a number of local African-American women’s clubs, including the Susan B. Anthony Club for Colored Women.  Isabella Dorsey incorporated the Dorsey Home for Dependent Colored Children in 1917. Dr. Charles T. Lunsford, Rochester’s first licensed African-American physician, opened his private practice at 574 Clarissa Street in 1921. The following year, Dr. Van Tuly Levy became the first licensed African-American dentist in Rochester. The city’s first African-American architect, Thomas Boyde, Jr., joined the Siegmund Firestone Architectural Firm in 1930. Boyde was the chief architect for the Monroe Community Home and Infirmary and contributed to the design of the Rundel Memorial Library, the Great Lake Press Building, and the Strathallan, to name a few. In 1931, Beatrice Amaza Howard earned the distinction of being the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Rochester. Howard Coles, who founded the Frederick Douglass Voice newspaper in 1934, was a noted historian, journalist, activist, and expert on the writings of Frederick Douglass. In 1948, Charles Henry Price became the first 

Roc. African-Americans CC20162 African-American member of the Rochester Police Department.  Price became the first African-American captain in the department 30 years later. Kathryn Green Hawkins, the first African-American woman in the Rochester Police Department in 1956, was promoted to lieutenant in 1964. Dr. Freddie Thomas, scientist, inventor, biologist, and scholar, moved to Rochester in 1952 and is known for his pioneering research in genetics and plastic surgery at the University of Rochester.Internationally renowned, Tony Award-winning choreographer Garth Fagan moved to Rochester in 1970. He still resides in Rochester, serving as Artistic Director and President of Garth Fagan Dance.(Sources: Rochester History(various issues); African-American Who’s Who, Past & Present, Greater Rochester Area, 1998.)  Excerpted from Rochester’s African-American History, Research Guide, Central Library of Rochester, and Monroe County.

These are only a few of the many unique individuals in Rochester’s African American history who helped contribute not only to Rochester’s growth as a city, but also to its reputation in the advancement of science, technology, scholarship, the arts and its struggle for equality and justice for all. 

Shoulders to Stand On is proud of these African American Rochester citizens, and invites the Rochester community to provide the Shoulders to Stand On Program with information, stories, names and anecdotes about African American individuals, groups, organizations, and agencies that participated in the Gay Liberation Movement before and after Stonewall.  These individuals were and continue to be involved in the Rochester LGBTQ’s community struggle for justice, equality, and basic human rights. Their contributions are important and need to be documented to make Rochester’s history and the history of Gay Rigts in Rochester inclusive and more complete. Please contact Evelyn Bailey at evelynb@outalliance.com with any information about the African American community’s involvement in the Gay Liberation Movement in Rochester.  

As the end of summer approaches don’t forget Rochester Black Pride Retro September 4 – 8, 2019.  For more information go to: https://www.rocblackpride.com/.

Living with a Disability in the Gay Community

By: Claudia Olson 

Growing up with a visible physical disability, I was taught to live resiliently in a world that wasn’t built for me. I was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism that limits my growth and mobility. I have always been open about my disability as it relates to my identity because it was impossible to hide. However, I could avoid any additional adversity by hiding another part of my identity: my sexuality. Though I realized that I was gay at an early age, I did not come out until I graduated from high school. I could not choose to be gay but I could choose to live without the label. 

In high school, I was bullied for my disability but I could avoid further discrimination by pretending I was straight. Although my school district was performatively ‘progressive’, genuine acceptance was an unspoken privilege that only the students who were already privileged could access. Everyone else was ostracized if they proudly displayed any kind of queerness. Since my high school had no real gay community and my performative heterosexuality didn’t attract any guys, I resigned myself to a life without romance. I did not even consider dating until I arrived at Smith College, a historically women’s college in Northampton, Massachusetts. Both the college and the town have a reputation for being very welcoming to the gay community. Even though I was surrounded by gay women, I still felt isolated from the dating pool around me because of my own insecurities. 

I started to convince myself that I could spend my life alone and be perfectly happy, because what able-bodied person would be perfectly happy dating me? Would anyone be willing to hold hands with someone a foot and a half shorter than them or be comfortable with bending down to kiss their partner? Despite my internalized biases, I decided to take a shot at romance before I left Smith for the summer. I cut my hair, took some cute pictures and created a Tinder profile to start looking for my special someone. Only a few days after creating my profile, I matched with a girl from Mount Holyoke, Smith’s neighboring women’s college, and I set up a date with her the following weekend. I was incredibly nervous about it but the date ended up being better than I could ever imagine. She and I went to dinner then talked for hours in a public garden as the sun set. At the end of the date, I had my first kiss on the front steps of my residence hall. Within a few weeks, she was my ‘girlfriend’, my first ever relationship. I was falling for her but there was still a quiet voice in the back of my head anxiously telling me that she didn’t reciprocate my feelings. I could not tell whether she was put off by my short stature but I had to remind myself that our relationship is about much more than our height difference. It’s about discovering what female intimacy can look like and learning how to navigate a same-sex relationship. She came from a similar background as me, growing up in a high school that was not homophobic but not very gay-friendly either. We are still figuring out how dating is supposed to work but I am excited to see where our journey goes. 

After entering into my first relationship, I began to realize that my insecurities originated from widespread yet unspoken societal biases. Because of my disability, one that causes me to be the same height as an average kindergartener, people don’t often consider me as a potential partner. They see my disability as a deficit, something that makes me less attractive.

Often, I am seen as an asexual being with no desire for romance. No able-bodied partner wants to lower their standards to help my self-esteem so they disregard my sexuality entirely. However, these beliefs are all based upon stigma. No one acknowledges that disabled people can be just as attractive and sexy as able-bodied people and no one realizes that an able-bodied person can genuinely love their disabled partner. Unfortunately, most people don’t actually witness this kind of love so their misconceptions are not challenged. If I had not grown up seeing the happy marriage between my father, who is able-bodied, and my mother, who is a little person, I may have completely ruled out the notion that an able-bodied person could truly love me. 

These misconceptions are so prevalent because the mainstream media does nothing to disprove them. Stories about people with disabilities, especially those regarding their romantic pursuits, are not nearly as widespread as they should be. 

When they are told, they are often either tragedies or mockish portrayals, and rarely does a disabled actor get to play a role. Rather, able-bodied actors take the part of disabled people so they can win awards and be praised for telling an ‘inspirational true story’. I have never seen a gay disabled love story, let alone one told by an actual disabled person, until this year. In 2019, “Special” debuted on Netflix, a television show written and starring Ryan O’Connell, a gay man with cerebral palsy. I was incredibly excited by his groundbreaking work. It gives me hope that more stories like mine, like Ryan’s, like other gay disabled people’s, can be told and heard. I wrote this piece so I can be a part of this movement, even in a small way. I don’t want anyone with a disability to grow up believing that they can’t find love because the media doesn’t tell them that they can. I want to work towards a world where disabled love is not a stigmatized idea but a beautiful reality. If I am lucky enough, I hope to live in this beautiful reality someday.

Pride on Ice by Chris Allman

By: Chris Allman

Are you a fan of ice hockey, and have always wanted to learn how to play the game? Or perhaps you played growing up, and always wished that there was an LGBTQIA hockey organization in Rochester that could fill that void while creating a new social outlet for you?
I am happy to inform you that if either of these are true for you, Rochester Pride Hockey is here, and we are hoping that you’ll get involved!
The entire concept of Rochester Pride Hockey came full circle after I moved to Rochester in July 2018 after living in Madison, Wisconsin for a little over 2 years. During my time in Madison, I was fortunate enough to lace up my skates and get involved with the Madison Gay Hockey Association (MGHA). The organization was created to provide ice hockey opportunities to our community and over time had built itself up to a full 10-team league. The MGHA has successfully created a positive, inclusive environment for members of the LGBTQIA community to get together and play what I personally believe to be the greatest sport on earth – ice hockey.
I was fortunate enough to grow up playing the game and eventually began officiating, which turned into a 20-year career for me. While the perception of most sports is less than ideal when it comes to inclusion, the game of ice hockey certainly goes against that grain. I have been heavily involved at both the amateur and professional levels of hockey, and I have always found nothing but incredible levels of support and understanding as an openly gay participant of the game.
While working full time as a referee, I met Chris Woodworth, who worked beside me for many years, and was too an openly gay man. We became great friends, and while he got out of the game sooner than I did, we remained in touch ever since – which brings me back to the point in my story of when I moved to Rochester.
In July of 2018, Chris offered me a position working with the team at Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex, where he has been acting as General Manager since 2012. The idea of creating an inclusive hockey organization in Rochester was something he had desired for many years, so once I was onboard at the Iceplex, the concept of Rochester Pride Hockey was born.
To grow this organization, we knew that we would need to teach new adults the game of hockey, and also identify LGBTQIA players in the community in an effort to make them aware of this opportunity.
The challenge that adults face in getting involved in the game late in life is that traditionally there are no programs catered to that group, as all opportunities to learn the game are designed for children. I was pleased to learn that the Iceplex had been running an adult learn to play hockey program for many years, one that has taught over 1,200 adults the game since 2012, called the Never Ever League.
This program is widely successful and is set in an insanely positive environment. For that reason, it echoed the exact tones of how Rochester Pride Hockey would operate, so we naturally partnered up with the Never Ever League as a means of teaching Rochestarians how to play hockey, and get involved with Rochester Pride Hockey.
If you are an adult that is new to the game and have an interest in learning more about this great program, visit our website and read the information provided on the Never Ever League. You will learn all about this great opportunity to get in the game, but will also be able to take advantage of the special discounted price for registration that is exclusive to Rochester Pride Hockey (RPH20 will get you 20% off).
In an effort to locate existing players that are currently in our community, we are hopeful that this article will assist. We will be holding a friendly pick-up game of hockey at the Iceplex on Sunday, August 11 th starting at 1:30 pm. Any players out there that would like to participate in RPH are urged to attend for some friendly fun on the ice. We will also be holding an informational session afterwards to inform all about our plans for this new initiative in Rochester. The Iceplex Adult Hockey League is also having their championship games for the summer session afterwards so everyone can watch some action!
Our website is full of information, so anyone that is interested should visit us there (rochesterpridehockey.com) and are welcome to reach out to us through the website with any questions.
In addition, we will be present at this year’s Rochester Pride activities and will be available to chat face to face, answer any questions, and share our vision for Rochester Pride Hockey.
Not only is the game of ice hockey a sport that I strongly feel is the most skilled and action packed of them all, it also does something that very few sports do – it creates incredibly strong bonds for those who play, acts as a positive social structure that makes life more enjoyable, and is great exercise to boot.
Hockey has played a huge positive influence and addition to my life, and I look forward to being able to share those opportunities with the LGBTQIA community in Rochester so that it can do the same for others!

Gay Is… by Stephen Schwei

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 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.

 

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 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.

 

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 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 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 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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

(This is only a small excerpt.  Please see the full poem at getoutmag.com/gay-is/)