Friday, October 22, 2021
Thursday, October 21, 2021
I often say, “Only in Vermont,” and when I say it, I am often rolling my eyes. While I said it this time, it was a very good and heartwarming statement. Vermont is a unique place. The state is 49th in population among the 50 states and ranks below Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. It only beats out Wyoming among the states and the territories of Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa among the territories. The state has the smallest state capital, Montpelier. While it may have a small population, it’s a very vocal population who loves a good cause to get behind. The state also loves its eccentricities, which is evident by the number of “Keep Vermont Weird” bumper stickers you see on cars. While the state ranks third in the largest percentage of LGBTQ+ adults at 5.3 percent (higher than the national average of 4.5 percent), there are no gay bars in Vermont, though there are plenty of gay-friendly establishments.
So, it is not surprising that a crowd went wild at a Vermont high school homecoming football game as they cheered on a halftime show that transformed the field into a fabulous drag ball. Both faculty and students from Burlington High School strutted across the field as drag queens and kings. They wore colorful wigs, sparkly ensembles, feather boas, knee-high boots, and more. For the highly anticipated event (it was all over the news in Vermont), the spectators packed into the stands were dressed head to toe in rainbows and waved Pride flags as they excitedly chanted, “Drag Ball.”
Each of the approximately 30 performers had their moment to spin and twirl for the crowd. The group also performed a lip sync to “Rainbow Reign” by Todrick Hall. “Things went amazing,” Ezra Totten, student leader of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance, told The Associated Press. “The stands were completely packed. … It was just so heartwarming to see.” The drag ball was the brainchild of English teacher Andrew LeValley, an adviser to the Gender-Sexuality Alliance.
“I was just really hoping to give our students — who are both out and the students that were in the stands who are not out — a moment to shine and feel loved and know that there is a place for them in public schools,” LeValley said. LeValley felt it was important to hold the event at a football game to send the message that everyone should be welcome in all types of spaces. “We have to assume that there are LGBTQ folks everywhere, which include[s] really masculine spaces,” LeValley told local Vermont publication Seven Days. “Why does this space have to be one way or the other? It can be both, and there’s beauty and benefits in having it be both.”
Adalee Leddy, a student at Burlington High School who attended the game, told Seven Days the show was “absolutely amazing.” Totten added that now that they have seen the joy it brought, the group hopes the drag ball will happen annually. “It shows the Burlington community is there for each other,” Totten said.
Vermont loves their drag shows, as evident by the number of people who pack in to attend the annual Winter Is a Drag Ball. The Drag Ball is the social highlight event of the winter season. Bringing in drag queens and kings, musicians, dancers, and performance artists together raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support local HIV/AIDS-related organizations. Though it was virtual in 2021, a lot of Vermonters are hoping it will be back in-person in 2022. Until then, I was happy to see that Burlington High School put on their own successful Drag Ball. I’m happy that I live in a state where a Homecoming football game featured a much appreciated Drag Ball, and that the highlight of the winter social season is also a Drag Ball. Let’s not forget, the Burlington area also elected one of its most popular drag queens, Nikki Champagne, aka Taylor Small, to the state legislature where she has done a remarkable job representing all of Vermont.
Wednesday, October 20, 2021
If you have Twitter and you follow many gay men, then you have probably seen the image below. It’s obviously all in good fun, but I have to say, there is some accuracy there. I’m not going to say which one I fit under, but it is remarkably accurate for me. I wear a variety of styles of underwear, but one of these is my preferred choice. I’m not asking you to tell what underwear you prefer, but I’d love to know in the comments how accurate it is. I’m also going to put an anonymous poll at the bottom, just to see where everyone falls, if you don’t mind clicking on the underwear that you often wear.
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Fall Leaves Fall
By Emily Brontë - 1818-1848
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.
About the Poem
Here in Vermont, the height of fall foliage has passed and “stick season” is encroaching on us. I chose this poem today because most of the fall leaves have fallen here. The higher elevations of central Vermont have some trees hanging on to their foliage, contrasting with the dark green evergreens, and the soft gray hillsides where the leaves have fallen. The most foliage color right now is found in the rolling hills of the Champlain Valley, including the Lake Champlain Islands and the Burlington area, and in the valleys of southern Vermont.
Nature is surely the most noticeable themes in “Fall, Leaves, Fall.” For the narrator of the piece, presumably a voice for Brontë’s consciousness, the transition from the autumnal equinox to the winter solstice is one of the best times of the year, when the days grow increasingly shorter, and the nights grow longer. In each line of the two quatrains, Brontë’s word choice emphasizes her own emotional connection to the season, and its own unique beauty, even as she describes such occurrences as the death of leaves and other plants due to increasing cold.
It is likely that “Fall, Leaves, Fall” constitutes one of few existing commentaries on who Emily Brontë was as a person. In her life, friends and family described her as a shy individual, but most of what is known about her come from the posthumous commentaries of her older sister, Charlotte Brontë, whose neutrality cannot be assured. It is understandable to think that her elder sister would want to paint her in a positive light, especially as her novels and poems slowly cemented themselves within the history of English literature. In “Fall, Leaves, Fall,” Emily Brontë seems to be free to discuss herself, and depict herself as a quiet individual who sees life, beauty, and bliss in things that a great many people do not. Even if all she wishes to say is that she loves fall and winter more than summer and spring, it is something worth saying, especially for someone who can express it so well in such a short poem.
About the Poet
Emily Brontë was born in Thornton, England, on July 30, 1818. She and her five siblings grew up in Haworth, where their father, the Rev. Patrick Brontë, was the church curate. Their mother died in 1821, and in 1824, Emily and three of her sisters were sent to the Clergy Daughters’ School in Lancashire. When her two oldest sisters died of tuberculosis, Emily returned to Haworth with her sister Charlotte.
After leaving school, Emily continued her studies with her two surviving sisters, Charlotte and Anne, and their brother, Branwell. With access to their father’s library, the Brontë siblings read and wrote extensively, producing a family magazine that featured their stories and poems.
In 1837, Emily became a teacher at the Law Hill School, but she left the position after several months. After teaching for a brief period at the Pension Héger in Brussels, she returned permanently to Haworth in 1842.
In 1846, Emily, Charlotte, and Anne self-published a collection of poetry under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. While The Poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (Aylott and Jones, 1846) reached a very limited audience, the three sisters each went on to publish novels soon after. In 1847, Emily published her sole work of fiction, Wuthering Heights (Thomas Cautley Newby), which is widely regarded as one of the great novels of the English language.
Emily Brontë died of tuberculosis on December 19, 1848. The Complete Poems of Emily Jane Brontë (Hodder and Stoughton), a posthumous collection of over 200 poems, was published in 1923.
Monday, October 18, 2021
Sunday, October 17, 2021
That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all Your wondrous works.—Psalm 26:7
“Stop and smell the roses” is an idiom that means to relax; to take time out of your busy schedule to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life. Whether you think of “stopping to smell the roses” as a metaphor, or an actual act of admiring roses, the benefit is the same. Slow down and appreciate the world surrounding you is the message.
Origins of the phrase are not clear. Although the quote, “Stop and smell the roses,” is often attributed to golfer Walter Hagen in the 1956 book “The Walter Hagen Story” but he didn’t mention roses. The quote: “You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” Some people argue that this passage was soon paraphrased as stop and smell the roses, but this can’t be easily verified.
While this expression refers to roses, it can be anything rather small or even commonplace. These things may seem small but they can give us great joy. The difference in well-being, happiness, sense of elevation, and level of connectedness to other people, can be significantly higher for those who spend time noticing and savoring these moments of clarity and relaxation.
The expression “stop and smell the roses” is not just about flowers or nature, but an encouragement to be mindful, take time for your self and live life with deeper gratefulness for the world around us. It is a reminder to us all to slow down and take notice of the world around us, and to be present in every moment. It means consciously directing your mind to be aware and attentive to the present moment to be able to experience and enjoy more your surroundings.
“Stopping to smell the roses” is a pleasant experience that slows us down, but sometimes there are unpleasant experiences that force us to slow down. Think of those unpleasant moments like a speed bump in the road. While speed bumps can be annoying, they force us to be cautionary and become aware of our surroundings. Don't let your days be like driving on freeways, fast and thoughtless. The next time you go over a speed bump, soak in your surroundings and find one thing that you can appreciate for the day.
Saturday, October 16, 2021
Friday, October 15, 2021
Thursday, October 14, 2021
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
Tuesday, October 12, 2021
There is no poem post today. I have something very important to tell you about. I will likely post a poem tomorrow.
National Coming Out Day (NCOD) turned out to be more emotional than I could have expected. My niece, now my nephew, came out as trans (FTM) on Facebook. I don’t have the habit of checking Facebook often, but for some reason, I did check it first thing yesterday morning. At the top of my timeline was a post from my niece. While I was reading it, her name changed to his new name. I was immediately concerned for two reasons: 1) if this were true, this would not go well with his parents, and 2) if it wasn’t true, my niece was an insensitive jerk making a bad joke. I kept an eye on his Facebook page, and in a few hours, the post was gone. The name had reverted to the old name. No one commented on the post, so I am not sure how many people saw it. He’d posted it after midnight when presumably his parents had gone to bed, and I’m sure as soon as they saw it (my sister is always on Facebook), they made him take it down. I had a feeling it might be true since the terminology used was correct and the timing of the post as soon as it was officially NCOD. But I had to know for sure. I didn’t want him to be alone and scared if this was true.
I called my mom to find out what was going on, but she was in the dark about the whole thing. My mother’s response was, “I hope it’s not true.” I then told her the statistics of trans suicides and reminded her I had tried to commit suicide when I was a teenager. I told her she had to lend her support and that my sister needed to know what the consequences could be if she denied this child the necessary support. My mother told me to call my niece and ask her what was going on. My mother did say, “Don’t encourage her in this.” I said, “Mama, I will give her all the love and support she needs. I am not going to discourage her. She needs to know she is loved, accepted, and supported 100 percent.” My mother didn’t say anything more after that.
I hung up with my mother and called my niece. The phone was answered and immediately hung up. I then received a text asking if I was ok. I replied, “I was calling to see if you were OK.” He said, “Uh, physically yes.” I told him, “I saw your Facebook post. Please know you can always talk to me about anything.” He said his mom and dad freaked out, and I said, “Is it true? If it is, I love you and support you 100 percent.” He confirmed it was true and thanked me for supporting him. Then, I did something I had not planned to do until this kid went to college and was away from my sister and her husband. I told him I’d come out as gay twenty years ago and lived as an out gay man here in Vermont. He was shocked but thought that was “amazing.” How anyone doesn’t realize I am gay always boggles my mind, but he is 14 and sees me about once a year. We texted back and forth for a while, and I told him how much I supported him. I said he could always talk to me and count on me. I would do anything I could.
The good thing is that his aunt, my brother-in-law’s sister, was the first person he came out to in the family. She is, and has been, very supportive. He has always been closer to his aunt than with me probably because she lives near him. I rarely lived close by except for the six years when I moved back to Alabama after graduate school. However, my sister has never let her kids be around me unsupervised which has always made me think she suspects me of being gay and doesn’t want her children around me. My nephews both love their Uncle Joe, and you can see the excitement, joy, and love on their faces when they see me. I am glad he has his aunt as a strong ally. She is a force to be reckoned with and has always lived her life as she wanted to whether her parents liked it or not. I am glad my nephew has her support.
My nephew said it’s been getting more difficult the past two years with his parents, and he is hoping to find someone to take custody of him if he can convince his parents to sign custody over to someone. Hopefully, his aunt can be that person. She was in the legal field and has many lawyers as contacts which I am sure can help. I hope she can get custody of my nephew and give him the help he needs. I wish I had the financial ability to take him in up here. If he’d been kicked out, I would have gone and gotten him, but thankfully, they did not kick him out. I just hope he has the support network he needs. I told him if he needed anything from me to just let me know. I told him I loved him, and I thought he was a very brave boy.
Yesterday turned into an actual Coming Out Day for my family. Not only did my nephew come out to me, but I came out to him. When I wrote yesterday’s post, I had no idea that NCOD 2021 would be such an emotional day. I am so proud of my nephew. At fourteen, not only did I not understand I was gay, but I would have never been brave enough to come out to anyone.
Monday, October 11, 2021
Every year on October 11, we celebrate National Coming Out Day (NCOD) to celebrate our coming out as LGBTQ+. NCOD was first celebrated in the United States in 1988. The initial idea was grounded in the feminist and gay liberation belief that our personal experiences are rooted in our political situation and gender inequality. NCOD emphasizes the most basic form of activism as coming out to family, friends, and colleagues to live life as an openly LGBTQ+ person. The foundational belief is that homophobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance. Once people know that they have loved ones who are lesbian or gay, they are far less likely to maintain homophobic or oppressive views. In reality, this is not always the case, but the hope is still there that one day it will be. Whether you're lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, we should be proud of who we are and our support for LGBTQ+ equality.
Twenty years ago last spring, I came out to someone for the first time. It had taken me a long time to just come out to myself, and honestly, I had never verbalized my own coming out until I did it that night. It was not planned, and when I did it, I was scared to death. I have probably told this story before, but I think it is important to tell it again. I was in my first year of graduate school, and I saw an accepting world around me for the first time. You wouldn’t think that would be the case because I was living in Mississippi at the time, but the History Department and my new friends were different than anything I’d ever been accustomed to being around. I felt for the first time like it might be okay to tell someone my “deep dark secret.”
It was the Friday before our first spring break in grad school, and many of the grad students had gone out for drinks that night. We often got together on Friday nights, usually with a group of our professors. We had gone to a bar downtown instead of our usual bar near campus, if I remember correctly. After being there for a while, everyone decided to go to one of the professors' houses to continue socializing, i.e., drinking. I will admit, I was probably pretty drunk that night, and a lot of my courage had been liquid courage. A good friend, her boyfriend, and I were sitting on the professor’s couch, and it was really late. I’m not sure why we were alone sitting on the couch, but we were. I think the subject of one of the professors being gay came up. I am a little fuzzy on what was said up until that point, but I know we were talking about gay people and how someone we thought was gay was actually straight, or something like that. Anyway, however the conversation had gone, I remember saying, “Well, you know, I’m not.” My friend replied, “Joe, we know you’re not gay.” To which I clarified, “No, I’m not straight.”
She and her boyfriend said they were proud and felt honored that I had confided in them, and they would not tell anyone. They said it was my truth to tell when I was ready. I just remember that they hugged me and were so loving and kind. I hid my gayness for so long, and it was like a weight off my shoulders to finally say it out loud and to someone else. Soon afterward, everybody started going home, and we went home too. She was my neighbor, and I believe her boyfriend had driven us that night. With her living in the apartment building directly behind me, there was never any reason to take more than one car, so we went to a lot of things together. She and her boyfriend never once made me feel like a third wheel.
After we got home, we went our separate ways, and I left for the beach the next day for spring break. I met some of my family in Pensacola. Coming out to my friend was on my mind the whole time. We had been drinking, so I was terrified that she would not remember the conversation, and I’d have to do it all over again. It had taken an inordinate amount of courage to come out the first time, and I didn’t know if I could do it again, even if they had been completely accepting. I knew many people forget things when they have been drinking, even though I remember everything when I’ve been drinking, granted details get fuzzy after 20 years. I was a nervous wreck that she wouldn’t remember. When we got back, our schedules were hectic because the end of the semester was drawing near, so I could not get her alone to see what she remembered.
Finally, either the Friday after spring break or the following Friday, we all went out to the same downtown bar again. I was able to get her alone in the bar’s courtyard. I don’t know how I broached the subject, but I remember I finally came out and asked her, “Do you remember what I told you at [that professor’s] house?” Thankfully, she did. It was another weight off my shoulders. I remember we sat out in the courtyard for a while discussing cute guys at the bar that night. Never in my life had I had the chance to talk to someone about what guys I thought were cute. It was one of the most blissful moments of my life. For the first time in my life, I was able to be me. I didn’t have to pretend I was checking out some hot girl when I was actually checking out the guy she was with. I have always enjoyed people watching, but I had never gotten to openly watch and comment on guys with anyone else before. It had always been an inner dialogue in my brain. To this day, I still love to point out hot guys to my friends when it’s appropriate.
It was probably another eight months until I finally came out to the rest of the people in my graduate school, but that’s a story for another time. While I am still closeted to much of my family, my parents do know although we never discuss it. Happily, I can live openly and proudly as a gay man in Vermont. Isn’t that what National Coming Out day is all about? The ability to live authentically as ourselves and show others that we are human beings just like them. As Shylock says in Act 3, Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that.” Shylock was talking about being a Jew versus a Christian, but does that not apply to all groups that are discriminated against?
Sunday, October 10, 2021
“And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”—Matthew 20:27-28
Do you ever go through days that seem like something is missing? We work so hard to accomplish goals in our life so that we can provide a better life for ourselves and our families. But this can also focus our attention on the "things" we have and more importantly don't have. Where we direct our focus can lead us to that feeling of void. Instead of focusing on ourselves, direct your focus on someone in need. You may not see the immediate impact on your goals but in some way and at some time, God will honor your actions.
Sadly, too many people in this world forget this simple directive. We are not here to be served but to serve. We need to protect the needy and less fortunate. There is too much selfishness in the world today. Whether it’s those who don’t want the government to enact legislation to help the less fortunate, or those who won’t wear masks when it’s called for or even get the vaccine. These are simple things that we can do to help and protect others. Yet people resist out of their own selfishness. Many have various excuses, but very few of those excuses are valid.
Think of how wonderful this world would be if everyone let go of their anger, greed, and hatred of the unknown or the misunderstood. If we lived in a world of love, giving, and acceptance, we could live in a peaceful and joyous world. Instead, too many people feed and nourish and encourage the anger, greed, and ignorance of those they want to control and gain their support. The problem with feeding this negativity is that at some point you lose control of those masses you’ve cultivated and they become an unruly and angry mob.
If we just served and supported our fellow humans, then we would be glorifying God and we’d receive our own reward. When we follow the fear and ignorance of man, we drift further and further from God. Sadly, many of those who’ve drifted away from God the most are the ones who claim they are doing God’s work. Being a good Christian doesn’t mean shouting it from the rooftops and hating those who don’t believe the same way you do, but it is in our actions. James 2:17 tells us, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” We have to live in a way that honors God’s love for us. James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” if you don’t live in a way consistent with your faith, then you do not really have faith.
Saturday, October 9, 2021
Friday, October 8, 2021
After trying on several masks, I told the respiratory therapist (RT) how much they hurt. All of which caused me to be in quite a bit of pain for the rest of the day. The RT I met with sent me home with a new mask to try, but I don’t hold out much hope it will work any better. It hurt to wear it for a few minutes down there, just like the others. I don’t know what she thinks it will do to sleep in it that’s different? What really aggravated me was that I had to pay $55 for basically the “pleasure” of visiting a showroom with a hospital bed in it. What bullshit! The lady was nice, but I really don’t think they should have charged me for this. The supply place didn’t charge me for their mask fitting, but because this was done in a clinic, they charged me, even though they did the exact same thing, I had to pay the higher copay to see a “specialist.” I’m also sure they will charge me for the mask they sent me home with.
Thursday, October 7, 2021
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
Thinking of Frost
By Major Jackson - 1968-
I thought by now my reverence would have waned,
matured to the tempered silence of the bookish or revealed
how blasé I’ve grown with age, but the unrestrained
joy I feel when a black skein of geese voyages like a dropped
string from God, slowly shifting and soaring, when the decayed
apples of an orchard amass beneath its trees like Eve’s
first party, when driving and the road Vanna-Whites its crops
of corn whose stalks will soon give way to a harvester’s blade
and turn the land to a man’s unruly face, makes me believe
I will never soothe the pagan in me, nor exhibit the propriety
of the polite. After a few moons, I’m loud this time of year,
unseemly as a chevron of honking. I’m fire in the leaves,
obstreperous as a New England farmer. I see fear
in the eyes of his children. They walk home from school,
as evening falls like an advancing trickle of bats, the sky
pungent as bounty in chimney smoke. I read the scowl
below the smiles of parents at my son’s soccer game, their agitation,
the figure of wind yellow leaves make of quaking aspens.
About This Poem
“Of late, I’ve been actively recording my responses to the seasons. Fall is particularly spectacular in northern New England; the countryside of Vermont hits my bones like warm bands of neon; there’s that palpable change in the air, electric and mysterious. However, in late autumn, one senses the impending, long wintry gloom overtake all reason. At some point, I began to understand Robert Frost and what critics such as Lionel Trilling and Joseph Brodsky argued, which is the darkness that hits the spirit. I think the poem is also an attempt to get out from underneath the shadow of the poet who looms in New England and to trouble the iconicity of the ‘quaintness’ of Vermont.”
About This Poet
Major Jackson is the author of five books of poetry, including The Absurd Man (2020), Roll Deep (2015), Holding Company (2010), Hoops (2006) and Leaving Saturn (2002), which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems. His edited volumes include: Best American Poetry 2019, Renga for Obama, and Library of America’s Countee Cullen: Collected Poems. A recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Major Jackson has been awarded a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He has published poems and essays in American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, Orion Magazine, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry London, and Zyzzva. Major Jackson lives in Nashville, Tennessee where he is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University. He serves as the Poetry Editor of The Harvard Review.