Out in America

Rainbow flagJune is national LGBT Pride month. Last week, I was one of those who screened the documentary, Out In America.

OUT IN AMERICA is an uplifting collection of unique, transformative stories and inspiring personal narratives told through the lens of the country’s most prominent LGBT figures and pioneers, as well as many average, yet extraordinary, citizens from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. The program weaves together diverse stories — from urban and rural America, from the heartland to New England, from San Francisco to Harlem.

The film will be broadcast in Hampton Roads tomorrow, Tuesday, June 4th, at 9pm on WHRO. I urge you all to watch it.

There were things in that movie that I hadn’t thought about in years. One was the devastating impact that AIDS had on the community in the 1980s and 1990s. I found myself remembering all of those who were lost as the disease swept through. (I briefly served on the board of one of the community groups dedicated to taking care of those with AIDS.) It was heartbreaking to see so many young men die.

Perhaps none of the losses affected me as much as my friend, Bill. I think of Bill often because of a piece of jewelry that I wear every day.

There used to be a store on Colley Avenue called Lielin Jewelers, a combination of the first names of the two women who founded the shop. In addition to selling pre-made stuff, they made custom jewelry. For my 10th anniversary in 1991, I received a custom ring they made, which was a takeoff of a commercial one they sold. About the same time, Bill had custom one made based on that same ring. It was amazing to see the two rings – different but yet the same – side by side and Bill and I always talked about the rings every time we saw each other. (I know of at least two other rings that mine inspired.)

Bill didn’t live long after we got the rings. He was already sick when we got them. But I can still see the gleam in his eye when he first saw mine – because he had been in the shop when mine, a gift, was being made.

I’m sure I missed part of the film because my mind wandered to Bill. So I’ll be watching again tomorrow night.

8 thoughts on “Out in America

  1. That was a very poignant story Vivian . It reminded me of exactly of, as you said, how many fine young men were lost in the eightys and nineties. It really was/is a tragedy that such a thing occurred. I lost many friends whom I have many fond memories.

  2. I, too, lost many friends to AIDS. In fact, the only gay friends I have left are celibate.

    The disease is truly tragic — in the classical definition of the word.

    1. Warren, I don’t like you. Now I know why. You take every opportunity on this blog to imply your narrow world view is the only view. I really appreciate Vivan’s thoughts on a very personal subject and you have to inject your moral judgement that celibacy is the only correct and acceptable way to live a gay life. I have a hard time thinking of you sitting around with all of your gay friends and them confiding in you as to the status of their sex lives. Who knew you were capable of such intimacy?

      1. Well, Fran, the non-celibate gay friends I had in high school ALL died of AIDS. My mom’s gay friends, too, ALL died from AIDS. So, yes, being celibate certainly went a long way to actually HAVING a gay life at all.

  3. Vivian, I hadn’t been aware that June was national LGBT Pride month until today, but I wanted to pop in quickly to tell you that as a heterosexual man, I’m participating by proxy by remembering all the conversations we’ve had about this topic going back to 2006. That year, a lot of Democrats thought that we had to embrace the Marriage amendment (or at least publicly shrug our shoulders at it and wish it no ill will) in order to have a chance at making a pick-up or two during the midterm elections so that we could have a shot at forcing a change of strategies in Iraq and exercise some legislative restraint on the Bush administration generally. I’m sorry to look back to that year and remember that I was one of them. You were one of a very few people who were adamantly and publicly opposed to that perspective, and I’m so glad that you were because it made me reevaluate how I feel about the political exploitation of intolerance.

    Thanks for making me a smarter, better person. I’m proud to have met you.

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