Roses for A History of Pride

crazy stamens

Billy here. Forty six years ago today, police raided a little gay tavern in Greenwich Village, arresting patrons and seizing the alcohol. This was not the first time this had happened. Queers were routinely rounded up and arrested for as little as wearing the wrong clothes. There was a law on the books enforcing the wearing of at least three garments appropriate to one’s “actual gender”. But this night in 1969, there was an electricity of defiance in the air. Customers who usually fled the bar at the first hint of a raid instead gathered close, waiting for the right moment without knowing why. Mark Caldwell’s book New York Night: The Mystique and Its Mystery describes the scene:

Gradually at first, a small train of scuffles flashed like sparks along a fuse. A drag queen, shoved by a cop into the van, hit him over the head with her purse. When he clubbed her in response the crowd began first shouting, then beating the sides of the paddy wagon. A hail of pennies began flying out of the crowd, clinking off the van and falling at the cops’ feet, a silent but contemptuous reminder of the payoffs they’d been pocketing for years.

Then the bomb went off. A lesbian – never afterward identified, either by herself or by anyone else – balked when the police locked her in handcuffs and tried to push her into the van. At one point four cops at once were clawing at her as they tried to force her, flailing and screaming, toward a patrol car, but she burst out and fought them all the way back to the bar entrance; at one point, according to one witness, she pleaded with the crowd: “Why don’t you guys do something?” Suddenly, a man pried a cobblestone from the pavement and heaved it across Christopher Street, where it clunked onto the trunk of a police car. This was the first volley of bricks and cobblestones…

The cops were pushed and trapped into the bar, Stonewall Inn. Molotov cocktails were tossed. When the riot cops were called in they met a front line of men with arms linked, advancing with chorus-girl kicks, apparently chanting:

We are the Stonewall girls!

We wear our hair in curls!

We wear no underwear;

We show our pubic hair!

This event sparked other riots and has gone down in history as the Stonewall Riots, igniting the gay liberation movement. On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride parades kicked off not only in New York, but also in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, starting a tradition of Pride being held around late June to commemorate the anniversary of the riots. These first Pride Parades took great courage – it had only been two years since the riots, and policies were yet to be changed.

The last five years has seen a huge turnaround in the support for queer rights and acknowledgement. In Barack Obama’s second inauguration speech in 2013, he linked civil rights, LGBTQ rights and women’s rights, mentioning Stonewall and LGBTQ issues for the first time ever in a presidential inauguration speech.

And a few days ago, on June 26th, the Supreme Court ruled to legalize gay marriage throughout the entire nation. This is a happy step for all people interested in the integration of all of us into a whole and just social fabric. I know that it is far from over. I know that after the victory of the North in the Civil War and the abolishing of slavery (happy belated Juneteenth, y’all!) the infamous hate group, the Ku Klux Klan, formed in the backwoods of Tennessee as a backlash. So let’s celebrate, let’s be proud, and let’s keep a watchful eye on the extremists in the backwoods who now feel that their religious “freedom” to hate is being impinged upon by the freedom to love!

We can now walk the streets without being arrested. Hurray! But none of us are truly free until my black trans sisters stop being murdered faster than any other group in the world. I love my queer tranny husband. I’d die for him and our love. But I’d rather not! We are going to keep fighting for our freedom to exist. Isn’t that the American way?

Spence here:  I will begin with an aside: we may have taken liberty with some of the names of the flowers in these photos, but some of the names of the roses at the garden were pretty inventive…About Face, All the Rage, Liverpool Echo, Drop Dead Red, Pinocchio, Easy Going, Strike it Rich, Rockin’ Robin, Vogue and Montezuma to name a few! Also, recently we have been inspired to name our new band, Crazy Stamens. I might not be kidding, so don’t steal it.

While Billy and I were walking around, taking time to literally smell the roses and try out our new digital camera, the Supreme Court made a monumental ruling guaranteeing under the Constitution, rights to same-sex marriage–even Arnold Schwarzenegger said it was “the right decision”! I loved what Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had to say in during the ruling:

In forming a marital union, two people become greater than they once were.

I think this quote is important because it eloquently illustrates, in part, my feelings about why I wanted to marry Billy, but also because it is what should be true for all people when thinking about getting married. I am so happy everyone has been openly given this chance.We took the opportunity to celebrate with mimosas, tears and texts to family. I really thought it would be another 20 years at least for this victory. It has taken people standing up and courageously claiming space by being themselves and being positive examples of what love can look like. Part of why this is so important is because of visibility–not to “flaunt it”, or “rub it in” or make others feel uncomfortable–but to let people see and understand that they already probably know some gay people, and that we have the capacity, just as anyone else, to make a loving, committed difference in people’s lives. Granting these rights will give more people the opportunity to do so, with pride.

The Good News… A Snow-Capped 40th B-day Adventure

Billy here. I’ll keep it short today, for there are lots of pictures and they speak for themselves! To celebrate 40 years of Spence’s life, we went up to our local Cascade mountain range for a backpacking trip. Armed with five days of food and Volume One of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, we hiked up through the Pole Creek Burn into the Three Sisters Wilderness. It’s sobering to see the effects of wildfire and volcanic activity, then to see the brilliant wildflowers of the alpine meadows. Life is short! And the meadows still blossom every year! Let’s look at the picture books!

Gallery: Fishermen’s Bend, The Pole Creek Burn Area, Demaris Lake, Dee Wright Observatory Area

Gallery: Golden Lake

Spence here: I came home to find our cabana had been decorated for my birthday by our lovely housemates.

Birthday Cabana

What a great piece of cake, so-to-speak, to end a whirl-wind birthday adventure weekend. 40. No longer in my 30s. People ask me if I feel any different. Yes and no. I always feel a shift when I hike into the mountains so it is hard to pinpoint it on a birthday. But marking these passages of time is something I am fond of so I instinctively get reflective. Something is different, in that I feel more compassionate in general and I have more gratitude for everything in my life.

The hike we took was not the one I anticipated, but ain’t that the way? Our plan was to go around the North and Middle Sister mountains, (see Three Sisters Mountain Range) traversing between the Middle Sister and the South Sister, near the Chamber Lakes area. I should have known the snow would still be ever-present, even in a low snow year. It was a miracle we could get up there at all in June. I wonder when I will stop trying to breach the mountains in early summer–I am eager. Needless to say, we didn’t make a loop. As we got closer and higher to Camp Lake on our second day, we lost the trail several times, ending up in snow fields, checking the compass. After Billy found the trail again, I hiked up another snow bank which was blocking our way and my view. Cautiously, I leaned over, a bit from the edge, to gather info about how to proceed. What I saw was our trail, about a 30 foot drop below me. Perhaps we could have kept going, finding alternative routes, but I didn’t really feel like I wanted it to be that kind of trip. I chalked it up to another lesson of hitting the mountains in early June and we “settled” for hiking the Green Lakes Trail, heading south. I type “settled” in quotations, because the trail was fantastic! Snow fields and mountain passes, making way into water falls, making way into streams and creek-lets, making way into alpine pools and lakes. We heard and saw strange black woodpeckers echoing in the Pole Creek Burn Area, a curious yellow warbler at Demaris Lake, deer in Park Meadow and only a few hikers around Green Lakes.

We averaged about 7-10 miles a day, exploring the eastern slopes of the Three Sisters. Our first night, we slept without a tent and we stayed awake most of it, watching meteors and the Milky Way. It was chilly at night, but 80s and sunny during the day, with plenty of fresh water running. The food we had packed in haste turned out to be really gourmet, with fresh carrots, kale from the garden, cucumbers, apples, cheese, butter and foraged pine-needle tea. Another added benefit of carrying bear vaults, is that they keep food fresh and cool, without getting crushed in our packs. Of the trip, one of my favorite moments was crossing a creek, barefoot, near Park Meadow and walking on the trail a ways without shoes on fresh damp earth. Another highlight, waking up with the best partner I could ever ask for, on my birthday, hiking a nice 7 miles through scent-filled forest and afterwards, drinking the largest Dos Equis Amber mug of beer I’ve ever seen. We drove home via McKenzie Pass on HWY 242 and even stopped by the Dee Wright Observatory. Coming home to a welcoming committee of best friends wasn’t too shabby either. The bad news is… I can’t think of any! Cheers!

Gallery: Green Lakes Area

The Portal is Open

Rando 022

Spence here: The full moon on Tuesday, June 2nd marked a significant date. The Sun and our Galaxys’ rotations were aligned on that day and it was the last full moon before my 40th birthday. To me, it sincerely feels like this would theoretically open up doorways, pathways and portals. It is one of those days, where if we keep our hearts and our senses open, perspectives and feelings about our lives will shift… it may be slight, or it may be huge, but either way, I think if we are not paying attention this week, we will miss “it”, whatever “it” is. It may be a message or an omen or we may catch ourselves doing things a bit differently… maybe it will be about fear? Maybe this shift has already happened! Am I paying enough attention? I worry, as I have fallen down the slippery slope of over-booking busy-ness and I need to step back soon and regain my footing!

Our New Outdoor Kitchen Guardian

It has become very clear to me that I am seeking an opportunity. I have always been looking, but now I am, in earnest, seeking to learn and travel and contribute and to be welcomed. You might say we are already in this place, as Portland has been pretty opening to us since landing here once again. But I am seeking out a new place, perhaps because of my adventurous curiosity and interest in travel. This place I am seeking, although may it not be quite “home”, will feel like one of our many homes in spirit, land, ways and people. I need it to be a chance to learn about the kind of magic we really need right now: art as life, learning about edible plants, wild forest garden-tending, nomad-ism, open hearts, work that contributes to an actual sustainable infrastructure (one that doesn’t rely on outside economic systems)–a set-up to which we are invited to co-participate, which is already off the grid, slow-speed, and inclusive of people who are queer. Here’s the other thing–in order to get there, I have a strong feeling we will have to prepare to walk. We need to get our travel systems in place… build our rocket stove, build our ricksha, pare down our kitchen, tool and art kits. We shall need to get our food in order, recipes for travel and water systems. We are close, but this will be more than a back-packing adventure. The whole thing will be a living art experiment that will succeed and feed us beyond what we even thought was possible. Perhaps it will ultimately look like an artist-in-residence situation, in which we can make significant ecological contributions by making art, learning as we go along, being our sensitive selves, being kind, and being gentle with the land. I am focused and I am ready and open. We just need an invitation, an omen or a sign about where to go.

Something about Portland, even though many aspects of it are fantastic, doesn’t feel like this is where we are supposed to be for the long haul. Its not that it is bad, or that cities are bad, but perhaps I need a fresh start in a small place, on a smaller scale, filled with people who are interested in a transitional way of life. There are many people in Portland doing good work, but as things get more expensive here, bigger, faster, trendier, and more populated, it is hard to feel like it is “our” city. I feel happy with several projects we’ve completed here and the re-connections we’ve made with our friends and family. We have many more commitments and things we want to do here, but as my time seems to get shorter on this planet everyday, I want to make the most of it and see and experience more of our Earth’s truly magnificent nooks! I am excited to learn what we can and make preparations for our next big adventure, wherever that may lead us.

Free-range Backyard Chickens

For my 40th birthday weekend, we will be away, in the forest somewhere back-packing, discussing and rejuvenating. We will not post next week, but be on the lookout for our next big post, where I will be slightly older (we all will!) and supposedly wiser!

You can’t evaluate what you never permitted to happen.

Set aside an occasional block of time for creative play. Twenty minutes here and there is not sufficient. An afternoon is good, a day is better, and a period of several days can reap rich rewards. Think of this period as a time for true recreation in the sense of re-creation. You make time to step back, to give up control and let the inner you reach the light of day. The results may be disorienting at first, even shocking. That’s perfectly fine…The more doors you open to your inner self, the more you can push back the arbitrary borders that have been set up to define you.

– Jos A. Smith

Our Music Studio

Billy here. Today is one of those glorious early summer Portland days where you want to just sit on a patio somewhere and sip on a cold IPA made from sparkling Willamette Valley hops. Instead, I walked the five miles (round trip) to the library to pick up my hold on The Book of Kells…and to get a six pack of locally brewed Imperial IPA.Our homebrew is still in the fermenter, waiting for a free block of our time to bottle. Well, I am still captive to convenience for now! A few weeks ago I would’ve waited to buy beer, but now I have some extra pocket cash since I’ve been earning a paycheck.

Water Urn

I’ve just finished reading The Moneyless Man by Mark Boyle and it has me thinking about time and money a lot more than usual, especially now that Spence and I have new jobs and we have much less time for the work that doesn’t pay. What’s funny about being able to buy things in this country is that you can get almost anything you want at any time of the year if you have enough money, regardless of the environmental (or personal health) cost. I think this has been my main bone to pick with capitalism: that the federal dollar price is a fraction of the high environmental and humanitarian price. Not to mention that the federal dollar is taxed and used to bail out mega banks and fund the U.S. military industrial complex. According to Wikipedia, “The U.S. military budget is higher than the nine other biggest military budgets in the World combined.” The United States is by far the largest exporter of weapons in the world. Top buyers include countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This means that the United States is making money off of armed conflict everywhere. Sustainability has been a buzz word for quite some time, perhaps in reaction to the fact that the United States is perhaps the most unsustainable country on the planet. The Federal debt is now around $18 trillion dollars and increases by over $2 billion dollars every day! This reflects an energy hungry country that only seems to want to grow. But we are quickly running out of resources with which to grow. Perhaps a generation ago, growth and security did seem to be the right goal, but in the midst of today’s exponentially speeding transformations, we must reexamine our priorities almost daily.

What would your life look like without money? What would you be doing with your time? If you had no money in your bank, wouldn’t your community be the most important thing to you? With California on the brink of agricultural collapse, we may all have to start thinking about locally sourced food on some level. What would it be like to join in for the harvest like old village times? Does time really equal money, and if so, wouldn’t Bill Gates live forever? Most of the people in my life have died under the age of forty from causes ranging from cancer to a car crash, often quickly and without much warning. This has been a powerful lesson in living for today. Money can’t buy health, a long life, love or even the quality of life. I love fine food and drink as much as the next person, but I can tell you without a doubt that when we were living in rural New Mexico making only a few hundred dollars a month, we ate like kings partially because our neighbors produced so much food.

Spence and I have been seeking our own convictions to live how we see fit. If anything, I think he is right that we are losing our fear. Comfort is easy to want, especially if that is what we are accustomed to, but what makes us truly feel alive is living with the freedom of any other living creature, such as the birds in the trees. It will take leaping off the cliff, so to speak. Can we give up the convenience store, eating out, the car, and all the other things that come at a high price to the health of the whole ecosystem? My guess is that one way or another, we may have to at some point, and why not sooner than later…and voluntarily? What does utopia look like to you? And are we still telling ourselves it’s impossible? What’s holding us back?

Pickin' Blue-grass