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Simon Says: Gay Men Don’t Get Fat

Simon Doonan is stylish and funny. The Barney window announced his book launch party at the store. How can I miss this after looking at the fabulous window? This book, Gay Men Don’t Get Fat, a take-off of French Women Don’t Get Fat, is full of Simon’s snarky humor as he imparts his wisdom on how to live a fabulous life. Don’t read this book expecting a guide to losing weight. This is neither a weight loss guide nor a fitness handbook. Instead, read it prepared to laugh out loud at Simon’s sense of humor as he laments the state of the wardrobes and lives of most straight women.

The book is just hilarious. “If you want the skinny on style, then ditch the diluted frogs and follow the gays,” says Doonan, who has no qualms about offending anyone standing in his sashaying way. “We, not the Françoises and Solanges, are the true oracles. We are the chosen people. We, and only we, know how to enhance your tawdry, lackluster lives.” “We” means the gays; the gays are the chosen mavens of style and food. Doonan does offer advice, but this is mingled with his own history, instead of some quick dietary pointers in bullets. He doesn’t linger on dietary suggestions, just enough to note the differences in eating habits between straight and gay men.

I nod my head off at the part how he makes fun of the ever-expanding sizes of men’s clothes in America. The small has just got bigger over the years to accommodate the bodies that fill them. At an all-heterosexual barbecue where the only designer duds to be seen were an ocean of Tommy Bahama, Doonan had to restrain himself from screaming, “Stop it, girls! Just stop it” as the tropically attired “slubberdegullions” (Simon’s own word) emptied calorie-laden bowls of guacamole. (Laugh Out Loud) It’s all fun raillery.

Call in Gay

It’s December 10. I’m supposed to call in sick today but I have to hold office hour for any last-minute questions my students might have before their final exam on Friday. Today is International Human Rights Day, and the gay community is taking a historic stance against hatred by donating love to a variety of different causes. Gay people and their allies are compassionate, sensitive, caring, mobilized, and programmed for success. A day without gays would be tragic because it would be a day without love.

In San Francisco, we’re not only encouraged to call in sick “gay” at work and donate time to public service, we’re to not spend money on any merchant activities, including dining out today. So other than my cup of coffee and bagel at the Cafe Flore, which is gay-owned anyway, I’m not hitting the bookstores or the mall today for Christmas shopping, nor am I going to eat out tonight.

In observance of this unprecedented occasion, and in sync with the perfect timing that I just finished Cutting For Stone, I’m starting three new books today:

Traitor to the Race by Derieck Scott. An exploration of interracial gay relationship against the dark shadow of a black man’s guilt of having a white lover.
Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphor by Susan Sontag. This is the sequel to her book that demystifies the fantasies surrounding cancer.
And The Band Played On by Randy Shilts. This is the work of journalism that entwines political intrigue and personal tragedy in one of the foremost catastrophes in modern history. I read this in observance of World AIDS Day.

So there you have it: I’m keeping the minimum required hours at work and call it a day gay. It’s dead week here on campus (instruction is over).

Mishmash

The Weddings
On the way to the doctor yesterday I walked by the City Hall and caught myself in the eddy of gay weddings that actually began on Monday evening when a few counties extended their office hours past 5 p.m., the moment the May 15 California Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage took effect. While there were scattered demonstrations on the street, the scores of tearful couples were in cheerful spirit as they were serenaded by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and showered with rose petals and toasted with champagne. Among them were familiar faces that I have seen at the cafe (these two guys in the pictures), except they were in tuxedos and lavish gowns, and they were joined by jubilant crowds that came to witness the event. Happy are the ones in love.

The Inhaler
So my coughing has stopped and my rib cage is still intact. I had a feeling that my lung would have been hacked out during one of the violent fits. The doctor stopped the prescription of the decongestant, which gave me medicine head, but assigned beta-receptor agonists, commonly known as bronchodilators, drugs that open up bronchi and bronchiole. We all know that all sorts of things seem to be able to bring on an asthma attack. Dogs and cats cause asthma attacks in some people. Tobacco smoke, cold air, exercise and even laughing can cause attacks too. On the other hand, people with asthma tell us that they are worse when they are anxious. Many people believe air pollution has something to do with it, though the evidence is very weak. Consider that I was absolutely fine in the midst of Hong Kong’s pollution and smog. It’s unlikely that air pollution would be a trigger. I blame on allergies and hayfever. Do you think the dust of the used bookstore might be a factor?

The Reading
As to reading, I’m reading another Dennis McFarland, the one and only copy of Music Room that I found at Green Apple. The premise of the novel, suicide of a younger brother, is parallel to Anne Enright’s The Gathering, but the style of writing is lighter and the narrative more linear. It’s a man’s poignant journey through his family’s haunted past–alcoholic despair and desperate love. I’m enthused. Later the week I’ll compile a list of books for the 24-Hours read-a-thon on June 28. For those who will participate, do you plan to read according to a plan or just hit the books randomly?

Lastly, thanks for all your comments and e-mails regarding the 100 Things post. It’s not within my expectation that it will be an attention grabber!

Breach?

Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK), a government-owned broadcasting agency, aired an episode of Hong Kong Connection last summer that stirred up some nasty controversy last summer. The Broadcasting Authority, pressed by Christian groups, ruled that RTHK had breached the Generic Code governing their operations for not providing an opposite viewpoint when it aired Gay Lovers, the episode in which a lesbian couple and a gay man shared their life, discussed same-sex marriage and addressed the challenges they faced.

Yesterday the High Court overturned the Broadcasting Authority’s ruling that the program was deemed to have breached broadcasting guidelines for not including anti-gay views. The judicial review was sought by one of the documentary’s subjects, Joseph Cho, after the Broadcasting Authority announced its ruling that would in effect require RTHK and all other broadcasters to include the views of the anti-gay lobby in every future documentary program discussing LGBT issues. So it’s a victory on our part

We all know what the Christian churches’ stand on homosexuality. Do they really need to get their 15-minutes fame of a shout-out in a program that objectively examines a real social issue and real people who just deserve as much love and respect as anybody? These loud-mouthed homophobes are probably not even in for moral justification but rather fearing that the churches will lose membership and thus seeing a drop in contributions.

Milk

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One rainy morning I was thrilled to walk on Castro Street that was undergoing a 1970s makeover. The film crew, which rents out the space that was once Tower Records next to Cafe Flore as a staging area, is redecorating the strip between Market Street and 19th Street for a Hollywood film about the life and death of San Francisco Supervisor, Harvey Milk (1930-1978), a gay activist. He was the first openly gay man elected to any substantial political office in the history of the United States. As the self-described “Mayor of Castro Street” he was active during a time of substantial change in San Francisco politics and increasing visibility of gay and lesbian people in American society. He was assassinated in 1978, along with Mayor George Moscone, by then recently-resigned supervisor Dan White, whose relatively minor conviction for the crime led to the White Night Riots in San Francisco.

The film, which stars Sean Penn as Milk, Josh Brolin as White, Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones, and James Franco as Smith, is currently filming in San Francisco. The crew has has changed storefronts, stapled up fliers indicative of the era, including a post-bill of a music party dated 1968, and even redecorated the garbage bins, to approximate the historical setting. Castro residents, while admiring these almost true-to-life makeover, take a bit of time to acclimatize to the fake storefronts, like that of a florist which is really Wells Fargo Bank, and the beautiful vintage blue awning that houses Thai House Express. For old-timers, the filming and the restoration of the neighborhood to the 70s milieu inevitably provoke memories and emotions in the Castro. People like some of my friends who lived through the era are revisiting the turbulence and exhilaration of Milk’s rise to prominence as one of the first openly gay people in the country to hold a major elective office, as well as the horrifying dark days that followed his assassination.

As I quietly watch the extras, all dressed in the 70s costumes like cloth coat and crocheted hat, trudging up and down the block, I have mixed feelings, about how much the gay community has come a long way and it seems many of us have taken things for granted. For those of us who didn’t live through that period of history, I’m grateful the film has at least re-introduced the atmosphere that would serve a history lesson. That they decide to film in actual locations has more than a historical meaning, it evokes that spirit of being gay, and being proud. The fictitious storefronts, which delicately replicate period details as the psychedelic Aquarius Records storefront, the repainted Castro movie theater marquee and the flickering neon window sign for liquor shops will stay until filming wraps up in mid March.

Sartre

Along the same line with the post on labels, Sartre’s essay “Portrait of an Inauthentic Jews” provides the necessary framework for us to explore the “inauthenticity” of an identity, whether it is Black, Asian, of gay. In Sartre’s formulation, “authenticity for [the Jew] is to live to the full his condition as Jew; inauthenticity is to deny it or to attempt to escape from it.” In other words, a Jewish person had to accept the reality that others saw him as a Jew, with all the prejudices and mythologies that went along with that identification, before he could truly be himself. The alternative, according to Sartre, was pursuing “avenues of flight” that made the Jew complicit with anti-Semitic stereotypes.

While I was riveted at Sartre’s words at Cafe Flore this morning, within earshot a guy was raving on the phone about a man he hooked up with the night before at the gym. He certainly wasn’t shy about publicizing all the details of his number even though the audience didn’t ask for them. I ruefully reflect that these are the things about gay men–the uninhibited sex, the soliciting, the multiple partners–that I want to tone down. In this post on social covering, I discussed how toning down a disfavored identity (usually a minority one) and downplaying a stigma help one fit in the “mainstream” at the expense of the true self. So if I were to live to the full my condition as a gay man, does that mean I have to live with all the prejudices that go along with this identity in order to be authentic? To be complicit with anti-gay stereotypes is the last thing I want, but instead of going with the flow like cruising, clubbing, hooking up, dressing in leather, being in the scene, can’t I assert some individuality here? Why do we have to make sense of the world with labels and categories?

Toss in the Heart

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That’s his shadow on the beach.

I don’t know if I’ll call it a rebounce, or maybe it’s just an illusion. Five months after the split, we went to Hawai’i together, spent a lot more time than all the months combined when we were dating. All the heart-to-heart talk, the slouching on the couch watching a DVD, the drive around the island, and the special birthday dinner–the vital signs of getting back together. The worst thing was that I had never expected I’d have fallen back for him. I thought I have taken a leap and got over the romantic relationship.

I feel like I’ve been no more than revolving around the loop. I haven’t even broken away from that intimate tie and be off the tangent to single life. I have been so self-deceived that I have given him up. During his birthday dinner at his favorite restaurant, under the spell of wine, I quickly changed tack and talked about how much of a blast the trip had been and cut him off from divulging the real reason of the split.

Not so much that I couldn’t the truth begetting the split as the fear of spoiling the vacation. Sometimes it’s better to not be in the know. My feeling is that he still cares for me and loves me more than he’s able yet to admit. The two long-term relationships in the past still haunt him and make him flinch at commitment. At the same time, I don’t want to be pushy and aggressive, just letting things take the natural course.

I almost want to tell him that I didn’t really fall in love with him until about a month before he decided to split. That, was really tough time for me.When I told him it will be difficult to find someone else, I spoke the gut-wrenching truth. He’s the best I’ve ever found.