The Business of Gay Pride

Queer Money

We’re here.

At work last night, one of the other employees asked me how I felt about some of the signs she saw at Boston’s Pride parade this weekend. I stopped going to Pride a few years ago because I have difficulty with crowds, so I didn’t even know this was an issue. Some people seem to have a problem with corporations being involved in our community events.

Coming up with my opinion was easy. Those people don’t know anything about our people’s history and need to put their signs in the recycle bin–and stop pi##ing me off. We not only invited companies in, there was a time when we begged them.

We were dying. Everyone was dying. Our friends were all wasting away in hospital beds and nobody cared. The president ignored us. He wouldn’t even say the name of the disease in public. Other groups helped us as much as they could–NAACP, NOW, etc. But it all had to be behind the scenes. They couldn’t (for the integrity of their own missions) be publicly associated with the mass death. I don’t hold that against them at all and appreciate everything they did… but we needed public attention.

Horton-whoThat’s when we turned to capitalism. This was back before the internet and before all transactions were electronic or plastic. We had cash. Every bill we had got stamped with a pink triangle (at the time, our main symbol) and the words “gay money,” “queer money,” “lesbian money.” We had to show businesses that a vast, untapped core of potentially loyal DINKs (double income, no kids) were not only going to waste, but wasting away. So, like the Whos only Horton could hear, we tried yet another way to raise our voices.

It worked. First, it was the alcohol companies. Bud Light started pouring money into our community, then Absolut.

The first time I saw a lesbian couple in a Subaru commercial, I cried. Companies were paying attention and putting us in front of a deaf and blind nation.

As a side note… it’s always the lesbians first. They aren’t as threatening and don’t invoke the same violent reactions from straight people as we do. I’ve come to terms with that and appreciate them for being the bridge.

(AP Photo / Eric Riserg)

Now, law enforcement, banks, airlines, politicians, and tons of other industries and sectors of the population march in solidarity with us every year. It’s a miracle, not a travesty. As long as they have no say in our message, I appreciate them all so much.

My point is, we begged companies to pay attention, and they did. We can’t bitch about it now. I realize the younger generation doesn’t know what we went through–and for the love of the gods, I hope they never do–but they need to have some idea of their community’s history before they form their opinions and make a public stand like that.



Seeing Bipolar from the Other Side


I took a part-time job a few evenings a week. Partly to make up a small income gap (that is quickly closing, thankfully) and partly because I never even knew what day of the week it was. It adds a little more structure and time constraints to my week. I do much better when I know I have to have things done by a certain time. Anyway…

There’s a guy at work who has one of the most severe cases of bipolar I’ve ever seen… except for in the mirror. It’s fascinating watching it from the outside. Our coworkers say the exact same things about him that mine used to say about me. “He’s a really nice guy, but…” Then the side-eye thing happens before they finish the sentence.

I know exactly how to deal with him. I don’t deal with him. Whenever he gets furious, I leave him alone. As soon as he vents about something, it passes. If he holds it in, the events and conversations that led up to whatever triggered the anger play on a loop in his head along with future conversations and confrontations that would resolve it. That causes more anger, loss of sleep, and more looped thoughts. It’s horrible and can only be remedied by letting it out. Then it’s gone, the cycle is broken and life returns to normal… for him, not necessarily for the people in the path of the anger. When he snaps at me, I let it roll off my back. Within seconds, he’s moved past it and will never think about it again, so I don’t either.

I know these things because they are me.

I usually don’t ask people directly about their ‘issues.’ With him, I couldn’t help it. He said that his doctor had put him on Prozac (the absolute WRONG meds for bipolar) and his personality disappeared, so he stopped taking it. I was prescribed an anti-anxiety med for a little while that did the same thing, so I definitely get it.

It was kind of nice discussing it with someone who has as acute a case as I do. I went on anti-convulsive drugs a couple of years ago that pretty much evened everything out and I don’t admit it often, the only thing I miss is the ever-present rage.

That makes me sound like a horrible person, but when you’re so used to having a single, underlying emotion for thirty years and it dissipates, a lot of adjusting has to happen. It was nice talking to someone else who knew the almost comfort of having a center of roiling lava at his core.


Not this kind of wildcat…

When ‘normal’ people go to their happy place in their head, I always hear about beaches, hammocks on mountains, and other things. I would relax back into a hot pool of rage that raised my heart rate and made me feel invincible. It reminded me that no matter what happened, I would be able to go down fighting like a pissed off wildcat.

Now, when I close my eyes and relax, my heart rate drops and I feel peaceful. That’s not a bad thing, I guess–it’s just different. And even a few years in, I’m not completely sure how I feel about it.

This is how all teen dramas should be: Andi Mack


Payton Elizabeth Lee from Andi Mack pic attributed to Disney Channel

I really hope the CW is paying attention to what Disney is doing with Andi Mack. I know… Disney?

This show is incredible. The characters are well rounded. (Except that blond chick… so far. They really need to work on her ‘villain’ role.) But, Disney has not only brought out their first openly gay character. But, the mother in the series is an actual person. How often does that happen in a teen–or possibly tween, I’m not sure–drama? She is struggling with how to be a mother, how to fix her relationship with her daughter and her own mother.

The emotions of the kids feel age appropriate but not contrived, saccharine, or stomach-turningly trite.

So, while the Million Moms–or whatever they’re called–are probably having a collective aneurysm, this guy who loves storytelling and great characters is standing up and cheering. Even adults will love this show.

Thanks, Disney for upping your game and giving us something new, charming, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Charity and the feels

Retromatic (1)

This morning I was checking out the NPR website, as any good middle-aged guy is wont to do, and I ran across this story, A Minister’s Challenge. It played in well with a lot of the memories that I’ve been wrestling with (and reveling in) lately.

There was a time when I was incredibly poor. Actually, I should use the term ‘era’ instead of ‘time,’ because that gives a little more of a sense of how long it actually was. Not only was obtaining money a struggle, but food, heat in the winter, a place with four walls in which to put that heat, were all struggles. Oddly enough, I look back on those times fondly.

Now with the pressures of a race to retirement, trying to start a business, and dealing with some long neglected ‘things,’ life seems a million times more complex. I look back on my time hunkered down in my Ford Granada as the only time I’ve ever owned my own home. ¬†When I lived in an efficiency in the Spanish Town section of Baton Rouge and my electricity was cut off on the day of the first snowstorm in five years, I stayed up all night reading Anne Rice by candlelight. At the time, I was a little angry… but, now I want to do it again.

Anyway, all of those memories came about because I was thinking of how insanely large a $5 bill looked back then – and a $20 felt like winning the lottery. (I’m not talking about the 1950’s either, this was the early 90’s).

Running across this story this morning reminded me that there are other people out there who still see money the way I used to – as rare as Unobtainium. I give money to three different charities every month; not a lot because I’m still not wealthy by anyone’s definition. They pull directly from my checking account, send me a little ‘thank you’ email, and I never have to think about it. I’m completely disconnected from any emotional benefits… and let’s face it, we all like to feel good when we do something generous.

Every now and then I’ll pick up someone’s check at Dunkin if I see them scrounging for change or holding one dollar and looking dejected after asking how much a cup of coffee will be after tax and, as every city dweller does, I have my favorite homeless people that I slip a little money to every now and then. But, I think I’m going to start carrying around a $10 bill with the intention of giving it away. It doesn’t sound like much, but if memory serves, it could be helpful to someone.



Welcome to my new blog


I’ve only ever wanted one thing… for as long as I can remember. Through my time in college the first time while I studied physics, I wanted to be a writer. All the years I bounced around from job to job; bookstores in Baton Rouge, Aspen, Boston; restaraunts in Sacramento, Denver, Baton Rouge; even a porn shop in Tampa; I told myself that I was gathering the life experience to be a writer. Every new piece of technology I’ve ever bought, starting with an electric typewriter and ending (damn, it better be ending) with my new iPad Mini, was purchased with the less than silent agreement with myself that it be used to finally follow my bliss.

You may be asking yourself, “If this nutcase is that passionate about writing, why haven’t I heard of him?” It’s because I almost never write. Occassionally, one of the many stories swirling around in my head starts making my heart beat funny and I am forced to work through all of the crippling fears and doubts and sit down and write a chapter or two until the pressure eases. Then I’m right back to dreaming and not doing.

A few years ago, I took a downgrade in life. I decided that I was tired of being the boss and took a simple job. It doesn’t pay well and half of the people in my office don’t even realize I work there – but it’s exactly what I wanted. I leave work every day and can just forget the place exists until 9am the next morning. It means nothing to me (beyond my own personal pride that makes me do the best I can, no matter the job) and the fate of the company is irrelivant to my wellbeing. All of this reduction in stress and care was done for the express purpose of giving me more time to write. I still don’t do it.

I flew out to a friend’s wedding last month and ran into an even older friend who I hadn’t seen in over twenty years. I told her that I had gone back to school to get a degree in creative writing and she said, “Oh, it’s so great that you’re still writing!”

If she’d punched me in the stomach and spit in my face, I would have been less shocked. To realize that this pox had been with me for so long crushed my soul just a little more.

I resolutely set my jaw and my sights on November. After five failed NANOWRIMO attempts, this was the year I was going to get it done. I thought that if I could just push through this one thing, the block would be broken and the fear, self-loathing, and shame would all disippate. I am typing this on Thanksgiving, November 28th and I have 5,000 words written. NANOWRIMO is 50,000 words.

For years, I was a retail buyer for bookstores. I was in charge of deciding what books to bring into the stores and I bumped into many authors over those years, ranging from international best-selling ones to crazy nutcases who spent their entire life savings self-publishing a book that I couldn’t even finish reading the first page of. And… I admired those nutcases. As freaking horrible as their stuff was (not all of them, mind you – but a good percentage), they had done the thing I couldn’t do. They had finished something. Whether they should have been proud of the finished project is another matter altogether, but they had finished. I’m not sure I’ve ever finished anything.

I am starting this blog because I cannot be alone in this. I simply refuse to believe that I am the only one who has these issues. So, whether I fail or succeed will decide whether I am going to be an inspiration to people or a cautionary tale. And, honestly… I’m damned tired of being a cautionary tale. Maybe putting myself out here (with name attached) will help break through the fear.

Ricky W. Wilks