Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils. But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants. Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women at the fountain are laughing together between the suffering they have known and the awfulness in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody in the village is very sick. There is laughter every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta, and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay. If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction, we lessen the importance of their deprivation. We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil. If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, we should give thanks that the end had magnitude. We must admit there will be music despite everything. We stand at the prow again of a small ship anchored late at night in the tiny port looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning. To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth all the years of sorrow that are to come.
by Jack Gilbert
I believe poetry captures the full complexity of life in a spare, shimmering creation. It is simplicity on the other side of complexity. I believe that what is beautiful is true and holy, and as such makes us feel more alive and whole in its presence. I believe that delight, wonder, humor, amazement and interest are the lubricant, fluid and cartilage of our experience. They allow us movement, give and grace. I believe that all is one and divine. The health and wellbeing of an ecosystem are measured by its levels of biodiversity and interconnection. Each piece has innate value and affects the whole. I believe that matter is neither created nor destroyed and that the only constant is change, a recycling of material. Everything has been or will become what is currently the other. I believe there is power in choosing love over fear and investigation over ignorance.
In the beginning there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. In the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. And then, perhaps because this is a 14th century Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. The wholeness of the world, the light of the world, was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light. And they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden to this very day. We are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world. Our collective task is to repair and heal the world. Our individual province is local, with global implications.
as told by Rachel Naomi Remen
I believe in faith embodied. We physically absorb all manner of trauma and yet our bodies are constantly striving to repair and heal to the best of their abilities. I believe our senses root us in the sacred loam of life and we draw sustenance from that source. Living and moving in wild places, leaning into home spaces, confirm for me my part in creation, at once integral and yet utterly dwarfed by the heft and majesty of the whole.
I believe that establishing boundaries can create space for soulful being rather than mindless doing. That pausing to pay homage to our breath stills our survival instincts and reactions so that we may relax into our innate wisdom and responsiveness. I believe that each moment is a possible threshold in life that invites our curiosity and creativity to transform the mundane into something revelatory. I believe that the tales we tell ourselves and others frame and define our experience. I am touched and moved by stories. Thank you, Krista Tippet and Chris Fischer, for inspiring me with yours.
I believe in dedicating my days to love, beauty and wholeness. And so I grope my way forward...
"The flagrancy of public murder exacts an exponential toll on the black life that survives; it renders the power of witness moot. The reminder isn't that we are alive. It's that we have yet to die." -Doreen St. Félix
Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, Kajieme Powell...
Let's be clear. Lander's pride and joy is 4th of July. That said, our small town of 7,000 in Wyoming also rocks PRIDE. As in, we come out in (relative) droves to celebrate and love on our courageous, queer community in June.
We've been lucky enough to pull off a Pride Picnic in City Park for three years running now. Each year we reach out to the sheriff's office, local churches, and community leaders to make sure they've got our back and then we commence to rally --large and in charge-- with croquet matches, fashion shows, bike gangs, AIDS testing, grillables and the like.
Truth is I have missed it each and every year until now. So when I say "we", I mean so many people I love. I am glad to have finally become a contributing member of the "we" this year.
We decided to launch a film festival to build momentum towards June 26th...
Our local movie theater tends to show shabby films for long stretches of time, so it's the internet or bust in these parts when it comes to movies-- which effectively rules out most new releases. In other words, coming together to share a cinematic experience is something special in Lander. We determined pretty quickly that we wanted the following line-up:
First off, a visual feast of a film about a real life transgender pioneer in Scandinavia. Sumptuous. High profile. Focus Films wouldn't give us the time of day as we tried to secure screening rights. Then we reached out to my wonderful cousin who is a casting director in Hollywood and she called her wonderful friend who helped produce the film and in five minutes flat we had the wonderful film, The Danish Girl, inbound with no strings attached. SAY WHAT?! That is some powerful Pride juju in action.
Second, a festive and fun movie about how the LGBTQ community in London supported striking Welsh miners in the 1990s. Wild to see a historical example of how a culture clash was transformed through love and courage into a potent force for positive change. Relevant for our landscape of gas fields and gays here in Wyoming.
And last but not least, a sweet and tender love story about teenagers in São Paulo, one of whom is blind. Who can resist a well told coming of age story? Not I. We couldn't afford the screening rights to this film, even with the discount the studio gave us, and the library couldn't cover them either given recent budget cuts. It looked like it was going to fall through and then someone stepped up, not asking for any recognition, and gifted our community access to this film. Out of the blue. Just like that. SAY WHAT?! Magic abounds.
The process of mounting the Gay Ray Film Festival was a series of moments like these where it appeared we were tanking and then rescue appeared in the form of generous, like-minded individuals. The obstacle of designing posters appeared insurmountable. Then a brother of a friend in some far off city burned the midnight oil to create our lure. At the eleventh hour, I found out I couldn't attend two out of the three screenings. Friends stepped in with grace and humor to welcome folks to the theater in my absence.
We said we wouldn't do the film festival if it wasn't fun and easy. We promised to aim off perfection and strive for good enough. We said that if we could bring one person through the door who was touched by these films, it was all worthwhile. A gentleman from a reservation to the north was passing through town and dropped in for The Danish Girl. His family includes a transgender sibling and other assorted queer folk. He stayed and talked after the film, over popcorn and through tears. More magic added to the heaping pile of magic that the Gay Ray Film Festival seemed to attract. Perhaps the most important magic.
If you’re lucky, they’ll play some Latin cheese, that Aventura song from 15 years ago. If you’re lucky, there will be drag queens and, if so, almost certainly they will be quick, razor-sharp with their humor, giving you the kind of performances that cut and heal all at once. If you’re lucky, there will be go-go boys, every shade of brown.
Maybe your Ma blessed you on the way out the door. Maybe she wrapped a plate for you in the fridge so you don’t come home and mess up her kitchen with your hunger. Maybe your Tia dropped you off, gave you cab money home. Maybe you had to get a sitter. Maybe you’ve yet to come out to your family at all, or maybe your family kicked you out years ago. Forget it, you survived. Maybe your boo stayed home, wasn’t feeling it, but is blowing up your phone with sweet texts, trying to make sure you don’t stray. Maybe you’re allowed to stray. Maybe you’re flush, maybe you’re broke as nothing, and angling your pretty face barside, hoping someone might buy you a drink. Maybe your half-Latin-ass doesn’t even speak Spanish; maybe you barely speak English. Maybe you’re undocumented.
Outside, there’s a world that politicizes every aspect of your identity. There are preachers, of multiple faiths, mostly self-identified Christians, condemning you to hell. Outside, they call you an abomination. Outside, there is a news media that acts as if there are two sides to a debate over trans people using public bathrooms. Outside, there is a presidential candidate who has built a platform on erecting a wall between the United States and Mexico — and not only do people believe that crap is possible, they believe it is necessary. Outside, Puerto Rico is still a colony, being allowed to drown in debt, to suffer, without the right to file for bankruptcy, to protect itself. Outside, there are more that 100 bills targeting you, your choices, your people, pending in various states.
You have known violence. You have known violence. You are queer and you are brown and you have known violence. You have known a masculinity, a machismo, stupid with its own fragility. You learned basic queer safety, you have learned to scan, casually, quickly, before any public display of affection. Outside, the world can be murderous to you and your kind. Lord knows.
But inside, it is loud and sexy and on. If you’re lucky, it’s a mixed crowd, muscle Marys and bois and femme fags and butch dykes and genderqueers. If you’re lucky, no one is wearing much clothing, and the dance floor is full. If you’re lucky, they’re playing reggaeton, salsa, and you can move.
People talk about liberation as if it’s some kind of permanent state, as if you get liberated and that’s it, you get some rights and that’s it, you get some acknowledgment and that’s it, happy now? But you’re going back down into the muck of it every day; this world constricts. You know what the opposite of Latin Night at the Queer Club is? Another Day in Straight White America. So when you walk into the club, if you’re lucky, it feels expansive. “Safe space” is a cliche, overused and exhausted in our discourse, but the fact remains that a sense of safety transforms the body, transforms the spirit. So many of us walk through the world without it. So when you walk through the door and it’s a salsa beat, and brown bodies, queer bodies, all writhing in some fake smoke and strobing lights, no matter how cool, how detached, how over-it you think you are, Latin Night at the Queer Club breaks your cool. You can’t help but smile, this is for you, for us.
Outside, tomorrow, hangovers, regrets, the grind. Outside, tomorrow, the struggle to effect change. But inside, tonight, none of that matters. Inside, tonight, the only imperative is to love. Lap the bar, out for a smoke, back inside, the ammonia and sweat and the floor slightly tacky, another drink, the imperative is to get loose, get down, find religion, lose it, find your hips locked into another’s, break, dance on your own for a while — but you didn’t come here to be a nun — find your lips pressed against another’s, break, find your friends, dance. The only imperative is to be transformed, transfigured in the disco light. To lighten, loosen, see yourself reflected in the beauty of others. You didn’t come here to be a martyr, you came to live, papi. To live, mamacita. To live, hijos. To live, mariposas.
The media will spin the conversation away from homegrown homophobic terrorism to a general United States vs. Islamist narrative. Mendacious, audacious politicians — Republicans who vote against queer rights, against gun control — will seize on this massacre, twist it for support of their agendas.
But for a moment, I want to talk about the sacredness of Latin Night at the Queer Club. Amid all the noise, I want to close my eyes and see you all there, dancing, inviolable, free.
by Justin Torres in memory of those slain in Orlando