ordinaryLast year I reached 65 years of age. I have been wondering for a while now what that means to me, how I truly feel inside and what lies ahead. I struggled in my youth with being gay and fought valiantly to act straight and fit in. But was I really kidding my family and friends? I did nothing overtly “straight” like play sports and date girls, but I also did not do the stereotypical “gay” things either. I was not in drama club or worked on artsy projects or sang in a school chorus. I was just kind of existing. I had friends who were school athletes, and we would do the usual high school shenanigans with alcohol and weed and sometimes stronger drugs. But all the time I would secretly pine away for the leader of the pack. After high school I did not go to college and drifted and wore a mask until I found a steady job, moved away from my hometown and began an ordinary existence. Work, weekends, friends, drinking, hiding my true self and then back to work on Monday. There is no doubt it wasn’t all bad and I had some fun times, but the drinking got out of hand, and I knew inside I was trying my darndest to appear straight and not fooling anyone, though no one asked me if I was gay. Along the way I had a tryst with an equally confused guy, and I turned on him with all my internalized homophobia.

Years turned into decades, jobs came and went. I gingerly came out of the closet in my late 30’s and met a man who I dearly love and have married. I no longer hide my gayness, but life is still ordinary, and I wonder where I fit in? Do not get me wrong, life is good, and my husband and I enjoy our jobs and our adventures and our orange dog, Cali. But I often wonder where in the gay community do I fit in, where do I find family?

I like to follow the festive gatherings of the radical faeries and dream of going to one myself. But, really, at 65, would I now don feathers and boas and dresses? Would I need to? But if I didn’t, would I be shunned? The bar scene is loud and probably filled with buff young men dancing shirtless. My husband and I would stick out like a couple of overweight old queens. I am self-conscious enough as it is. Well, what about the bears? I could probably pass in the bear scene. I wear a beard; I am heavy set and love Levi jeans and flannel shirts.

I think I like being ordinary and I like being at home with my husband and dog. I realize as I write that I am stereotyping the gay cultures I mentioned. I mean no disrespect and I love that they exist and watch from the outside wishing I belonged. When I go to pride events, I love the colors and diversity that dances and swirls all around me. Dykes on bikes, bears, faeries, trans folk, ordinary queers like me, all of us are one and absolutely no one will take that away from us. In the end though, I struggle with where do I fit in? Where is my adopted family? My biological one is distant to say the least. At the age of 65 I find that there is much that doesn’t matter to me anymore. I don’t follow fashion trends and I wear jeans or cargo shorts and t shirts most of the time. I love my tattoos and large gauged ear piercings. To me they are symbols of my personality. They represent a spirit, a celebration of who I am and what I enjoy. In cooler weather I like to wear a vest with a sparkling brooch pinned on it. I don’t care what other people think because this is what I like and compared to the rest of my biological family it is most certainly not ordinary! So maybe, in the entire spectrum of gay culture, I am making my own statement about who I am. I know my family is out there. I’m 65 years old and loving my life.

toni harrison of westcareIt is with great sadness that we mourn the loss of a dear friend and tireless advocate for many within Fresno's LGBTQIA+, public health and social services communities - Toni Harrison.
A longtime WestCare California staff of over 18 years, the Program Director for The Living Room - Fresno, the Chair for the Fresno AIDS Walk & 5k Run and a proud grandmother, Toni's life was best embodied by her love of family and her selfless service for those who were infected, affected by or at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.
We will forever miss her and being able to pull up a chair at her table for a chat, but will never forget her unmatched wit, uniquely "Toni" sense of humor and unwavering dedication for those in need of care.
Through hard work and a whole lot of heart, she truly made The Living Room, "A Place to Belong" and for that, we are appreciative of her many years of service and advocacy. On behalf of our WestCare family and those that we serve, we would like to send our heartfelt condolences to her loved ones and thank them for allowing us to spend some time with such a remarkable individual. ❤
If you would like, please help support the cause that has always been closest to Toni's heart, The Living Room.

When we were in St. Petersburg, Florida earlier this month we visited The Florida Holocaust Museum which is one of the largest such museums in the country. This year they are celebrating their 25th Anniversary.

Their permanent exhibit, “History, Heritage and Hope” is on the first floor and features original artifacts, videos and photos. It deals not only with antisemitism but also with other victim groups. The Nazis classified not only Jews as ‘the enemy” but also included Roma (Gypsies), people with disabilities, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Afro-Germans as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Homosexuals.

holo 3The centerpiece of the museum collection is an actual train box car that transported victims of the Nazi regime to the concentration camps. It rests upon original track from the Treblinka Killing Center as a silent tribute to those who perished on the Holocaust. Seeing this is a VERY daunting and somber experience. Just to think of all the hatred in the world both in history and in today’s world as well ! Everyone claiming to be a right wing Christian and or ‘born again Christian needs to visit this museum as well as everyone else in the country! You will walk away with a new appreciation toward life. The 2nd and 3rd floor has changing exhibits of art and history.
Besides having artifacts, photos, exhibits, etc. the museum also runs several programs of outreach within the community with the aim of continuing their mission of human rights. To put it simple...... they are an excellent and outstanding organization.

They are now having a very special exhibit: NAZI PERSECUTION OF HOMOSEXUALS – 1933-1945. Between 1933 and 1945, 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality under Paragraph 175, the sodomy provision of the German penal code dating back to 1871. Some were imprisoned, others were sent to concentration camps. Of the latter, only about 4,000 survived. In 2000, fewer than 10 of these men were known to be living. The exhibit is full of LGBT history with stories, photos and artifacts.

Five of the survivors came forward in a documentary to tell their stories for the first time, considered to be among the last untold stores of the Third Reich. The documentary, “PARAGRAPH 175” tells of a gap in the historical record and reveals the lasting consequences, as told through personal stories of gay men and women who lived through it. including Karl Gorath, Gad Beck, the half-Jewish resistance fighter who spent the war helping refugees escape Berlin, Annette Eick, a Jewish lesbian who escaped to England with the help of a woman she loved; Albrecht Becker, German Christian photographer who was arrested and imprisoned for homosexuality, then joined the army on his release and Pierre Seel, the Alsatian teenager who watched as his lover was eaten alive by dogs in the camps. If you REALLY want to read a heart wrenching story, just ‘Google’ Perre Seel, actually ‘Google’ all of these people.

The Museum is located in downtown St. Petersburg at 55 Fifth Street South and their hours daily are 10 AM to 5 PM. You can call them at 727.820.0100 or visit their websites: www.thefhm.org or https://www.flholocaustmuseum.org/

We want to thank Kristen Wright at the Museum for her assistance.

We dedicate this travel column to Siegbert “Siggi” Wilzig, (1926-2003) who was a Holocaust survivor and the Father of Sir Ivan, Sherry Izak and Alan Wilzig and the husband of our dear friend Naomi Wilzig,(1934-2015),

Always remember to have fun when traveling, meet new people and talk to everyone!

TRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS GAY WORLD is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, Award-winning, Celebrity travel columnists who write for gay publications from coast to coast (And now legally married).

20 0305 opa coronavirus microIt has been nearly three weeks since the first case of coronavirus (COVID-19) was confirmed in Fresno. Even with the shelter-in-place order in effect, the number of confirmed cases are rising. As of March 30, 2020, the Fresno County Department of Public Health has confirmed 53 positive cases (Galaviz, 2020). Health officials anticipate the number to keep rising and urge Fresno residents to stay inside to stop the spread. Although there is concern for the general public’s health, many officials are urging more attention to those in the community who are more susceptible to contracting the virus. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) those considered to be at high risk for contracting COVID-19 include:

  • People aged 65 years and older
  • People with chronic lung disease
  • People with moderate to severe asthma
  • People with serious heart conditions
  • People who are immunocompromised (those with cancer and HIV/AIDS)
  • People who are pregnant (CDC, 2020)

An article by the National LGBT Cancer Network addressed LGBTQ+ people’s concern for being at higher risk for COVID-19. According to medical professionals, LGBTQ+ people who are at higher risk are those who use tobacco, are HIV positive, and who have cancer. They explain that members of the community “use tobacco at rates that are 50% higher than the general population” and have “higher rates of HIV and cancer” (Dizon and Jesdale, 2020). These factors leave an individual more vulnerable to the virus. The article also mentions that LGBTQ+ people experience health disparities that affect the impact that COVID-19 has on those members in the community (Dizon and Jesdale, 2020). Health disparities is defined as the difficulty that certain groups experience in having access to health care and high quality of care because of their race, socioeconomic status, age, sexual orientation or gender identity (Healthy People, 2020). This definition reflects the hesitancy people in the LGBTQ+ community may have in utilizing health programs or receiving medical care for fear of being harassed or discriminated against. It is an important factor that people should consider in their efforts to ensure the health and wellbeing of every individual during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is important now than ever, for all people to take the precautions to protect their health. It is of equal importance to consider the health of others, especially those who are more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. According to the CDC, individuals should clean hands often, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, practice social distancing of at least six feet, and to constantly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces to avoid the spread of the virus (CDC, 2020). If you develop a fever, cough or have difficulty breathing, contact your doctor immediately and avoid contact with others.

Stay informed about COVID-19 in Fresno and the Central Valley by visiting Fresno Bee for updates.

Outgrown your rental? Tired of those dated appliances? And lets not even start on those neighbors partying upstairs at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday morning.
You’re tired of renting and ready to buy your first home. Its scary and exciting. But where do you start?
A home purchase is your biggest investment of your life. Lets talk about where you should start, and steps to do to help take the stress out of home buying and make it one of your greatest experiences.

Step One
We know what we want, but can we afford it? This is the first question that needs answered.
First step is to contact a mortgage lender. Whether you know a lender or need a contact for one, you can always contact me for a great trustworthy lender.
After choosing a lender, you will meet with them and go over your credit, salary, etc. (the lender will let you know everything you need to bring for a preapproval) which will help determine how much you can afford.
Just remember, because you can afford it on paper, doesn’t mean you have to spend that much on a house. Please take into consideration your lifestyle, hobbies and what you like to do with your free time. You don’t want to be house poor.

Your lender will give you a pre-approval letter, which states you are pre-approved for a certain amount to spend on a home.
Some other things to consider are down payment and your spending. When you are in the market to purchase a home, think of it as a time to be frugal with your purchases - that new iPhone that just came out may cost you your pre-approval. Be careful on your spending. Charge card purchases or financing “something you need for the new home” can really impact your credit.

Step Two
You have your pre-approval in hand, and a realtor (hopefully me) to show you some homes. When shopping for a home, the chances of getting everything on your list just might not happen, but remember the core items you need in a home. If you want a four-bedroom home, don’t setde for a two-bedroom because you love the kitchen!
My advice to you is to shop around, look at all the homes on your list, and remember to exercise patience - the house you want and need may not happen on your first trip out to look at homes. Take your time to find the perfect house, it will happen!
Also something to consider, if there are a few homes that interest you: Take some
time in the evening, or leave a little early for work, drive by and get the feel of the areas you are looking in. Also, remember your work commute, this will be something you do every day.
You’ve found your dream home - offer accepted! I know that you are on cloud nine, it is all you can talk about, and your friends and family are happy for you (but at the same time, tired of hearing about it).
Don’t forget to have an inspection done. This is, in my opinion, one of the most important things in the homebuying process. Let your realtor suggest a top-notch inspector for you. I know cousin Bob is an inspector, but Aunt Mary has already told him how much you have to have this house. Sometimes having a biased opinion could save you thousands.
After you get the inspection report back, sit down and chat with your realtor and go over the report together. In most cases, a seller will not repair everything that needs repaired on an inspection report. A good realtor has been through this multiple times, and can help answer questions you may have, as well as the “needs” of repairs that you should have done to have your home as close to move-in ready as possible.

Step Three
Now is the time to turn that preapproval letter into a mortgage. Finalizing this step is key, and there are more to-do’s now. Your lender will be able to go over everything you need to close on
your new home.
You will have to pay PMI - Private Mortgage Insurance - monthly with your mortgage if you do not have 20 percent down payment. Also, you will have closing costs, which are fees the lender charges to close your loan. In addition to these fees, most lenders require a full year’s home insurance policy to be purchased up front. So remember to include all these fees in addition to your down payment.

Step Four
Time to call the movers. It is almost the moving date, but first you have a lot of paperwork to sign.
Your tide company, which will be handled by your realtor, will be holding the closing. The closing is where you “sign your life away,” so to speak, but this is the process of signing the mortgage papers, tide, and - most important - getting the keys to your new home !
You’ve done it. You’ve looked at properties, made an offer, obtained financing, and gone to closing. The home is yours.
Is there any more to the home-buying process?
Whether you’re a first-time buyer or a repeat buyer, you’ll want to take several more steps. The best start is to contact a realtor. We can go over these steps more thoroughly and make sure that your home purchase goes as smoothly and painless as possible.