Gay Fresno - Opinion

Opinion

Coffee-Toss Through the Fog

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Monday, 08 October 2018 09:25
  • Written by Evie Ovalle

golden gate 1000It had been a particularly warm summer in 1966 and the city of San Francisco was finally enjoying the cool Pacific winds that the month of August brought in. The Bay Area metropolis bustled alive with sailors, hustlers, immigrant families and tourists, all scurrying atop the seven peninsula hills like ants over great concrete mounds. Already reputed as an “anything goes” kind of place, San Francisco had been able to maintain a number of “libidinous” establishments open for years – including “homosexual gatherings” like The Black Cat Café and Finocchio’s Nightclub in North Beach. These bars stayed open through an extensive negotiation with local law-enforcement and assistance from the local *Homophile organizations located in the city. Cross-dressing, however, was still illegal in 1966 and SFPD could use the presence of transgender people in a place of business as a pretext to make a raid and close down a bar. As a result, many trans-people (or hair fairies, as they were often referred to) were not welcome. The only place trans-people could really congregate safely was in a little chain restaurant, on the corner of Taylor and Turk, called Compton’s Cafeteria. It is here that a civic revolt took place – one that would pre-date Stonewall as the first recorded transgender riot in United States history.

*Homophile: A term used in the 1950’s and 1960’s to describe LGBT-rights organizations. With the emergence of the Gay Liberation, the word began to disappear from the LGBT vernacular.

On this one August night, SFPD was called in under the premise that a group of hair fairies had become increasingly raucous at Compton's. The SFPD, assuming a routine deviant arrest, promptly showed up and proceeded to manhandle the clientele – as it happens, this was also a routine thing for them to do.

There are several accounts as to what occurred next or what prompted the riot itself, but the most popular version is that a trans woman, exhausted with the abuse implemented by the San Francisco police, threw her hot coffee in the face of the officer who was roughening her up. In a matter of mere seconds, dishes, furniture, wigs and high-heeled shoes went flying about the cafe. Shouts and screams were heard from the outside, and the restaurant’s plate-glass windows were violently smashed. The riot spilled out onto the dark, wet streets of the Tenderloin District. Police called for reinforcements as a sidewalk newsstand was toppled over and burned to the ground. The first night of the riots had begun.

The following night, the plate-glass windows at Compton’s Cafeteria were replaced, just as an even larger crowd of street hustlers, drag queens, transgender women and gay men picketed outside the restaurant. When news broke out that transgender people were not to be allowed inside Compton’s again, the newly replaced plate-glass windows were once again smashed. That shattered glass became a bold symbolic call to action for American transgender people, demanding equitable treatment and respect for their identities and lives.

Although the riot marked a major turning point for transgender rights in the U.S., the struggle continues somewhat-incipiently – not just for transgender rights, but for any movement that promotes freedom from oppression based on gender-identity and expression, economic status and class.

This violent, angry event resulted in peaceful demonstrations and better negotiations with the city. It is these negotiations that eventually created more access to city healthcare for trans-people, trans-support services and an annual transgender-march down Market Street – and it all began with a cup of coffee.

This year, as we move forward in fighting for LGBT equal rights, let us remember those places, events and people who fought the first rounds before us and won – or sometimes lost. Let us honor those who stood up for their rights, even when it wasn’t the coolest or hippest thing to do. Let’s never forget that it is because of these people, who celebrated themselves amid persecution and injustice, that we are able to celebrate ourselves a little more today.

I encourage you to consider actively searching for your LGBT activist ancestors, take their strengths and courage and continue to fight for your share of the American Dream.

What LGBT activists or events inspire you?

A Day In The Life Of A Writer

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Thursday, 27 September 2018 12:12
  • Written by Bryan T. Clark

writerReaders often ask me about my daily routine as an author. Do I write every day? How many hours per day do I write? And, did I write when I was younger? The last question is easy and straight forward. Yes, I wrote in high school and college. However, the answer to the first two questions has changed over the years. Now, the answer to those depends on where I am in a manuscript, whether it’s plotting out the outline, writing the actual storyline, doing the final edits, or gearing up for a release.

A good example of a typical day for me is that I am in the office by eight. With my second cup of Java in hand, I check emails and respond to any and all inquiries. Then, I move on to social media and marketing. Since my assistant does all of the advertisements on Facebook, I spend a little time there just trying to keep up on the buzz feed from around the industry.

Next, I turn my attention to Twitter, Instagram, Amazon, Ibooks, Smashword and a whole host of other sites were my books are sold to see what’s happening there. All of these sites require a daily check-in to ensure there aren’t any problems with my information. Since I have paid advertising on some of these platforms, I also have to check the sales and data trends. All of this activity usually takes a couple of hours.

By late morning, with the ‘up-keep’ of being a writer completed, I finally get to work on actually writing. Right now, I am working on the edits for my next novel, Escaping Camp Roosevelt. First round edits amount to almost a complete make over of the original draft. This is where holes in the plot are discovered and my characters begin to shine. I call this stage in a manuscript, the “frosting on the cake”. The cake has been baked, but it is just a cake. Now, it is time to make it pretty. As I “frost the cake”, I am layering depth in my characters and further developing the subplots to keep the reader engaged and the story line moving forward.

Read more: A Day In The Life Of A Writer

The “Uneven Symphony” of American History

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Wednesday, 04 July 2018 17:14
  • Written by Micah Escobedo

img 3374Since Donald Trump--the closest thing to an authoritarian leader the country has ever seen--became president, I have increasingly found comfort in the writings of historians and activists. When the current world of insane tweets and receding justice becomes overwhelming, I look back at how the United States handled times of disruption and upheaval.

Believe it or not, it helps a lot. It provides context and perspective that is sorely lacking in today's toxic, clickbait climate. Voting in EVERY presidential and midterm election, organizing and marching, calling your members of Congress, and staying tuned in to current events (from credible news sources) are all vitally important. But if you are looking for meaning and coherence in chaos, I highly recommend the look-back approach.

Read presidential histories. Read about how Americans overcame impossible odds. Read about the work done by generations of activists, work that often seemed to be done in vain.

One of my favorite quotes on the subject is an excerpt from Jon Meacham's new (and incredible book), The Soul of America. In this specific section of the book (Chapter 4: A New and Good Thing in the World), he uses the juxtaposition of the Progressive Era of the early 20th century to make a profound point:

And yet, and yet--there is always an "and yet" in American history. Taken all in all, Woodrow Wilson and his age are revealing examples of the battles between hope and fear. The era of the suffrage triumph, for instance, was also the age of segregation, of the suppression of free speech in wartime, of the Red Scare of 1919-20, and of the birth of a new Ku Klux Klan. The story of America is thus one of slow, often unsteady steps forward. If we expect the trumpets of a given era to sound unwavering notes, we will be disappointed, for the past tells us that politics is an uneven symphony.

Yes, Anthony Kennedy's retirement in the age of Trump is a tragedy. It represents a blow to political progress that may take decades to overcome. I'm not naive to that fact. This is a setback of epic proportions that will impact millions of lives.

But it is definitely not the end of the country. All hope is not lost. Our lives have not ended. Keep moving forward. Stop posting defeatist "jokes" to social media for clicks. We owe it to the country, the future, those who blazed the trails before, and ourselves.

Family

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Tuesday, 28 August 2018 10:37
  • Written by Bryan T. Clark

brian treeAre we really past the half way point in 2018? Where the heck did that first part of the year go?

Last month I turned thirty; okay fifty…-three-ish! For the first time in many years, I spent my birthday with my family. My husband Brian barbequed and mom made my favorite cake, a homemade German Chocolate cake. She still makes her cakes from scratch. It was a relaxing day with the six of us hanging out in the pool and just talking.

The day was not all that different, (except for the pool) than when I was a kid. Coming from a large family, our weekends often turned into a party. The men took to the backyard to tend to the grill and drink beer while the women chatted and laughed in the kitchen as they prepared side dishes and desserts.

When I got bored with the stories the guys were telling over and over again, I would wander into the kitchen and spent a little time with the ladies. Their conversation was always better; no drama, just sharing the best gossip reserved for Sunday BBQ’s.

As a family, we all came together weekly to enjoy each other’s company. It was a tradition that I’m not so sure continues in people’s lives today. We are a nation of drifters and transients, moving our families where ever the jobs take us.

old carToday, my birth family is transcontinental; we are spread out from California to North Carolina, and everywhere in between. It is rare when we are all in the same room these days. Even with modern technology such as Facebook, Face Time, and any number of other apps that connect us, I often wonder are we truly, really connected anymore?

It seems that ‘family’ today is more by design then by birth. Children have aunts and uncles that are not blood related but love them every bit as hard. We gather just the same, in the parks, and back yards, friends welcoming friends.

diegos secretIn my novel Diego’s Secret, a romantic and heartfelt story, I explore the meaning of a modern family—blended by circumstances, not by choice—and how those complicated bonds add an unexpected richness to our lives. I have included a short excerpt from Diego’s Secret that relates to this issue. After reading the short excerpt, I would love to hear back from you in the comments section where you can tell me what your family looks like today.

EXCERPT
Just past midnight, Diego was still awake. He lay across his bed staring at his phone, scrolling through pictures of his cousins in Mexico sent by his aunt. Though he had left Mexico at age seventeen, there wasn’t a day that Diego didn’t think of his small village of Mezcala in the state of Guerrero. Sure, life was better here, but that place held his family, his friends, and childhood memories of playing in the Atoyac River.
He smiled as he remembered fishing from the bridge of that river with his abuelo, just the two of them. It killed him that he hadn’t been able to see him one more time before he died. Knowing that the entire family had attended the funeral except for him and his brothers, he felt that he had never gotten closure. Maybe that was why he often thought of his abuelo as still alive. Diego would sometimes wonder what he was up to until the realization returned that he was gone.

The memory of his mother’s menudo, cooking on the stove all day, suddenly penetrated his nose, sending a calmness down his spine. Diego listened for sounds from the front room. The muffled noise of guns firing on television told him that Francisco was still up, watching one of his favorite cop shows. Mayra was most likely draped across his lap in a light sleep. Trying to shrug off his loneliness, Diego rolled over in hopes of going to sleep.

I Love New York… food

  • Category: Opinion
  • Published: Monday, 18 June 2018 12:36
  • Written by Bryan T. Clark

brian nyThis month I waited until after my attendance at the 30th LAMBDA Literary Awards on June 4th, to write my blog. I wasn’t sure if I would write a congratulatory blog about winning ‘Best Gay Romance’ for my book Come to the Oaks; or writing about how just being a Lammy finalist was all that mattered. Home from the trip, without the Lammy award in hand, I’m sad I didn’t win, but I can say I had a great trip.

Some say, ‘you’re only as good as the company you keep’. Others say ‘there is no sincerer love than the love of food’. Well, this trip I experienced both, great company and delicious food. I’ve never been to New York, so I had both landmarks, and food on the agenda of things that were important.

In three days, my husband, his parents, and my mother covered a lot of ground and ate our way from Manhattan to Harlem. Since Central Park was a must, our first day we walked the fifteen blocks from the hotel to the park. Along the way, we visited the ‘Top of the Rock’ for a view of the city before arriving in Central Park. The park was bigger than I imagined with ponds, lakes, bike trails, sprawling lawns and luscious foliage.

My agenda was not the park at all, but the hot dog. From the moment we landed in New York, I had been seeing hot dog carts, and heard a New York hot dog was like no other dog. It took about a half hour in the park before I found the perfect hot dog stand. One hundred percent beef and eleven inches… well what’s not to like about that. From the first bite, I realized it was just another dog. Disappointed, I didn’t let it steal the fact I was sitting in Central Park eating a wiener.
That night, all dolled up, we had dinner at the Cock and Bull restaurant before taking in our Broadway show, The Lion King. And wow was that a show.

The next day, by seven-thirty-a.m. we were ready to hit the subway for our nine-a.m. tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island… Unfortunately, the tour started at eight and left without us. No worries though, we caught the ferry and did the self-guided tour.

Every bit as grand as in the movies, our Lady Liberty commanded your attention as the ferry drew closer to her. (Just between you and me, I imagined her to be a little taller.) This was a full day, which included a slice of the world-famous New York-style pizza they call pie. LOVED IT! I folded it in half and devoured it.
From there it was on to Ground Zero for an emotional tour, ending at the reflecting pools. This was a powerful experience that invoked a wide range of emotions.

High on the bucket list was our next stop that evening for dinner. Sylvia’s, the Queen of Soul Food in Harlem was just a twenty-five-dollar Uber ride from Manhattan. As soon as you walk into the dining room, you know your experience will be good. The dining room was buzzing with people from all walks of life; from the African American older ladies in big church hats, to the Jewish young man on a date with a strikingly beautiful Asian woman. With Home Style Fried Chicken with Collard Greens & Mac and Cheese, this was not the time to people watch. Damn that chicken was crispy and juicy, and the cornbread made my toes curl.

The next day started with a fresh air walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, stretching across from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Afterwards, lunch at the Rockefeller center, and a taste from a five-pound slice of New York cheesecake. Nope, I’ve never had cheese cake that scrumptious.

As evening fell upon us, at last, the event in which we were in the city for, had arrived, the 30th LAMBDA Literary Awards. Well because we already know how that turned out, let’s move on to after the ceremony.

For three days, I had been eyeing an Ice Cream truck parked down from the hotel. The side of the truck in big letters said New York Style Ice Cream. I was running out of time and since losing the award hours earlier, I needed comfort, real comfort. Still in my tux, Brian and I headed to Times Square in search of the truck. Brian ordered a chocolate sundae, and I had a Vanilla ice cream with Oreo cookies and chopped peanuts. The cost of this fix was a whopping twenty-three dollars, and yes it made me feel better.

In three days, we saw everything on my bucket list and then some. It was a trip that was as exciting as my vacations in Greece, Thailand, or the Amalfi coast. The rich texture of people, buildings, and food is like nothing else in the United States. For those of you that are on the fence about seeing New York, go. I promise you won’t be sorry.

Now it’s time to lose the three pounds I gained and return to work and get this next book finished for you. With a week’s worth of mail and emails to catch up on, Escaping Camp Roosevelt may have to wait until next week.

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