I saw my image on the screen conducting the DePaul University Baroque Ensemble with my silver mustache and bald head, and noticed the utter beauty of Epiphany and the outrageous glamour of Acid Betty, and I thought "I don't belong here. I am not of these people, but these are my people, so how do I fit???" I fought at the Stonewall Rebellion so that Acid Betty can be 7 feet tall with her 18 inch Frenchified mohawk and 4 inch platform heels, looking for all the world like something out of a very avant garde fashion magazine. There was the magnificent Epiphany, blond and beautiful in her face, young and radiant, talking to me about Fire Island, and I thought "you never knew the Fire Island I knew. You didn't lose all your FIre Island Men to the Plague the way I did, and you will never know my history. You will never know my pain."
I felt like a relic of a time gone by, when Gaymen were beautiful Men with hair on their bodies, dark chest hair, dark hair on their legs, dark hairy asses, Men who were Men in the hottest sense of that word, not shaved and chiseled and spray-tanned and blond with not a hair to be seen anywhere on the body except for a small, closely cropped mound of pubic hair that isn't really hair at all but some kind of absurd decoration that I find utterly unattractive. So, there I was among Gay youngmen, young Transvestites, young Drag Queens, the only person in the entire three rooms of the bar over the age of 40, and I am 65, and I HATED MYSELF!!!
I became physically unwell sitting in that throne for the aged Queerman on a cushion so that my no-butt from HIV would not get sore. There I sat, an ancient Elder of a Tribe that did not know the rituals or the symbols or the history, that lacked the Presence of the Queer Fe/Male God/dess. Queer Spirit as i knew it has changed into something foreign and even dangerous to me. I was not of that Tribe. I was from a time and a Tribe long forgotten and long gone, and I felt old and useless and very much a freak among what most people would call freaks. They were not the freaks, though. I was the freak. I was the different one, the one with a silver beard and black mustache, the one with the CROW Walker on my left foot, the one with AIDS in my body, the one who, because of a very toxic medication, is 30 pounds overweight.
A Tribal Elder is only a Tribal Elder when there is the esteem of the Initiates, the respect of the Initiates, and though I felt that respect and esteem last night at Roscoe's, it was not there tonight at Hydrate, and I just felt like an Old Fag, lost and forgotten in a world of head pounding, body slamming, nerve destroying mega noise coming from mega speakers, surrounding mega Drag Queens and mega Transvestites, in a mega Queer world of youth and beauty that is not my Queer world, and I think I have never felt so alone in all my life.
There I was in a Gaybar filled with Gaymen of all sorts (well......not my sort certainly) and felt like I was not part of the ocean. They were all the salt water and I was the fresh water, or maybe they were the fresh water and I was the salt water. Either way, I was a different kind of water than they were, although I felt my wateriness very much. I felt my Queerness. It was just not their Queerness. It was a Queerness that was not of a tribe but of isolation. My Tribe is dead. All dead. Every last one of them dead. And perhaps that's one of the strongest reasons I have to make my film "From The Ashes RIsen" so that I can bring my Tribe back to life somehow, if even for 90 minutes. Bring them back to life, like that heart-rending final scene in 'Long Time Companion" where all the dead Men come back to the beach on Fire Island to hug and dance and love and be the Tribe again. Indeed, perhaps that's why I must make my film. I must bring back the Tribe to do all those things that we did and that got so sadly lost, even among those that survived the holocaust and lived. They, too, lost it.
There are a few left who know who we are, but they are very few and very far between. There are a few left who ache in their Spirits for the Rituals and the Rites, for the Symbols and the Myth. There are a few left who metaphorically nod their head in deference and respect and with their eyes say, "Good evening, Father", and I know that in some the Tribe is remembered in the blood, that in some the Tribe is remembered in the collective unconscious. Those few are sometimes around me and help me know who I am, because tonight at Hydrate, I didn't have a clue. I just knew that my aged AIDS-ridden body was aching and that my left foot was throbbing in pain and that I could not sit there anymore in the midst of the über Queer world that was so macrosocmic when I felt my own microcosm in relation to that larger cosmic structure. I left, making my excuses to Acid Betty telling her that I was not feeling well and would she please relay that to our friend Randy whose night it was, but that I could not stay. My body pain was my Tribal pain, and I felt so alone that I had to go home and really be alone. At least in my aloneness I would not be lonely. In my real aloneness I can at least re-member the life of the Tribe, the joy of real liberation, the Dance that only the Elders can tell. I can re-member it all,and just be alone. Ageism is an ugly truth in the world of Queermen, especially when it is internalized and mine was internalized big time. I got out of there and went home. I cried myself to sleep, mourning the loss of the Myth, mourning the loss of my family of Queermen who were my true companions, friends, and lovers, all taken by the genocide, mourning the loss of the Tribe as I knew it. I think I have not felt so bereft of a community since the holocaust wiped out my entire generation of Queermen in Amerika in just. Where will I go now? Who will hear me now? Who will understand my loss now? Who can know the depth of pain that we all experienced when we were dying like flies on flypaper? I don't know what will become of me now. Now. Now it is time to make my film, to attempt to resurrect the Tribal Consciousness. Acid Betty, Cyon Flare, Randy, and Epiphany are all the face of the Tribe now, and beautiful faces they are, too, especially Cyon who knows the deeper meaning of community, how hard it is to re-make that which died a horrible death. Ageism is a nasty thing, an evil, horrific thing, and those three Drag Queens don't possess one iota of it. They love me, but it is a different kind of love than I have known before. It is my vocation to find more of that love, more of the new face of the Tribe and re-envision community where, for all practical purposes, there is none. I will do it. My film will do it. "From The Ashes Risen" will do it. I swear on the souls of my dead brothers that I will bring the Tribe back to the beach on Fire Island so that we can all dance the Dance together once again.