Friday, February 22, 2008
Dying Lesbian's Partner Denied Access To Her
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: February 22, 2008 - 1:00 pm ET
(Miami, Florida) Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond had planned to take their three children on a family cruise. The Olympia, Washington couple had been together 18 years and with their children were looking forward to the holiday.
But just as they were about to depart on the cruise from Miami, Florida. Pond, a healthy 39-year-old, suddenly collapsed. She was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami with Langbehn and the children following close behind.
But once Langbehn and the children arrived at the hospital the hospital refused to accept information from her about Ponds’s medical history.
Langbehn says she was informed that she was in an antigay city and state, and she could expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as family.
A doctor finally spoke with Janice telling her that there was no chance of recovery.
Other than one five minute visit, which was orchestrated by a Catholic priest at Langbehn’s request to perform last rites, and despite the doctor’s acknowledgement that no medical reason existed to prevent visitation, neither she nor her children were allowed to see Pond until nearly eight hours after their arrival.
Soon after Pond'’s death, Langbehn tried to get her death certificate in order to get life insurance and Social Security benefits for their children. She was denied both by the State of Florida and the Dade County Medical Examiner.
(more at the link)
This year's Presidential election is critical to the gay civil rights movement not just because we don't need another enemy in the White House blocking helpful legislation, but the Supreme Court is at the tipping point. It's already a little rough for us on there, and one more conservative appointment is going to insure that problems like the one this poor woman encountered in Florida don't go away anytime soon.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
I found this Soul Train video about a year ago and discovered that if I played Madonna's "Hung Up" over it, it made a much more satisfying video than the official Madge version.
Plus who knew there were so many gay guys on Soul Train in the '70's?? Come on and vogue!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
One Midtown reader recently sent me a very thoughtful e-mail that gently challenged me on some of my recent comments about certain gay bars in Detroit. He asked, essentially, what is my problem with every Detroit gay bar I have ever mentioned?
That is a very good question. I know I've touched on it here and there, but apparently not with any clarity and perhaps a little insensitivity toward the people who make their livelihoods there. So I spent quite a bit of time responding to this question (and a few others), and I thought I would share some of my answers here. In the interest of clearing things up for everyone.
The best way to sum up my problem is that I don't think gay bars in Detroit reflect the overall increased sense of openness that the gay community experiences (in general) in the 21st century. I joke that the gay bars in Detroit are stuck in the gay shame of the 80's, but it's actually not a joke. We still scurry around to less-than-desirable neighborhoods and enter discreet, run-down looking buildings with bricked up windows, through the back door more often than not (and not in the good way).
When the /aut/ bar opened in Ann Arbor there was this big hoopla about it having windows and being out in the open and everything. I'd just moved to Michigan from DC and thought it was so strange that people were making such a big deal out of it (in 1995!) Now I really understand that it was kind of revolutionary for SE Michigan.
I do not think every bar needs to be Pronto! in Royal Oak - a very attractive bar I don't particularly care for but do occasionally visit. But the lack of variety in Detroit bars is frustrating. I don't mean drag vs. dance vs. leather kind of variety, I mean the fact that there is so little that is actually "nice." Like nice enough to recommend to a visitor, someplace about which I feel comfortable saying "go to this great gay bar."
I get that gay bars struggle to get a crowd, but there are things that make bars less appealing than they could be, and they are my particular issues with the bars I've mentioned on the blog.
* Cleanliness and upkeep - These bars feel dirty, as in unclean. I don't fear for my health getting a drink, but I'm not anxious to pick up something I've dropped on the floor either. As I noted in my Gay Bar Blight Tour, the R& R smelled like a dirty dick the last time I went. The /aut/ bar - the big gay revelation - didn't repaint for six years, their bathrooms became completely disgusting, and they had the special designation of being the smokiest gay bar in SE Michigan. These are all things that I don't want to notice when I go to a bar.
* Decor - I am not looking for a designer interior, but there are enough resources in the gay community where someone can walk into one of these places and light it better (not brighter, just better) and generally play up the leather or levi or whatever theme in a way that feels newer and interesting. It doesn't even mean an overhaul, it just means some attention to updating a look every ten years or so.
* Programming - It is constant work but there has to be something to draw people in. It just always seems that you get the same old same old when you go to some of these places. Even Pronto is guilty - they play the same damn music video DVD's all the time - how many times do I need to see that Mr. Brightside video? I mean it's good but come on.
I do realize that these points focus on negatives, and I want to state very clearly that I have had a good time at places like the Eagle (with its new-and-improved website) and the /aut/ bar - some great times actually. But to me it comes down to feeling taken advantage of: it's the gay bar, what choice do we have, right? Well, as it turns out, in 2008 we do have other choices and apparently as a community we are exercising them.
This letter was from a longtime Detroit resident who absolutely, 100% gets the ways in which our gay community in the Detroit area is dysfunctional. He put it much more concisely that I could have ever done myself (I know, I'm a little wordy):
(The) census is down at almost every gay bar recently, but I feel there are several reasons for this. Loss of population; Wayne County alone lost 30,000 residents in 2007. This suggests that, whether you believe 5% or 10% of the population is gay, Detroit’s gay bars lost 1500 to 3000 potential customers from Wayne County alone!
Michigan’s draconian drinking/driving laws combined with the lack of adequate mass transit options certainly account as a large factor. The lack of a centrally-located and visible gay ‘ground zero’ has resulted in the Detroit gay community existing in a twisted diaspora motivated by an antiquated sort of racism that is perpetuated by both sides of the color spectrum. This also creates a community that lazily interacts with itself predominantly through the internet.
Those last two sentences still thrill me. "Twisted diaspora" is the most perfect description of the gay community in SE Michigan ever.
He also discussed the Guerrilla Queer Bar phenomenon as contrasted with Disco Secret, the gay/straight hipster happening at the Eagle on Sunday nights, and how each of them contributes differently to gay life in the city. I thought I was the only one who thought about this stuff.
But he did lose me with one point he raised:
Bars such as [these] may well not be perfect in your eyes, however they are all institutions that have stuck with the gay community through thick and thin literally for generations. For this alone they deserve to be patronized, respected and just maybe reinvented and invigorated through the process of this patronization.
My take is this: perhaps a certain amount of loyalty is in order, but these are businesses, not public services. Yes they serve a need in the community, but they make money off the community. It is the responsibility of the business to adapt or even re-invent to engage the customer base. A business that expects patronage as its due is a business that becomes stagnant and, eventually, obsolete. See Carl's Chop House. A successful business that can give to the community is great, but there are many ways to give, and as a gay bar one way is providing the best possible experience. And don't forget that for a business "giving back to the community" is also smart marketing.
One of the reasons I started this blog was to create a resource for people who, like me, were having a hard time finding the kind of gay community they might have enjoyed elsewhere - without going to the suburbs. I have received some really great feedback from people - gay and straight alike - about how good it is to find a discerning gay voice that is pro-Detroit. And as you know, I really am pro-Detroit.
The gay world doesn't need "community" out of dire necessity anymore, but it does need it as a matter of identity, political expedience and social interaction. Owners of businesses that cater to the gay community need to step up and do their part to create a focal point, a destination. Just being a gay bar is no longer enough.
I don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings, but this blog exists to challenge the gay Detroit status quo. I sincerely want Detroit's gay bars to succeed, but they need to evolve just as the rest of the gay world has evolved. I don't think being critical of the gay bars in the city constitutes business bashing. As a matter of fact, I like to think of this as a "suggestion box." We aren't going to engage gays who have settled into the suburban social scene without creating a better-executed and more interesting alternative.
I want to sincerely thank this Midtown Reader again for writing. Even though we don't see eye-to-eye on all points, it is always exhilirating to interact with people who also contemplate the issues of Gay Detroit.
Keep those (gift) cards and letters coming!
Monday, February 18, 2008
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I was home creating change in my own world by cleaning my pad when I got a call from a guy attending the conference who contacted me via this blog last week. Of course in true small world fashion it turned out he was having an election returns party at home in Manhattan last Tuesday and he mentioned to some people that he contacted this supergay blog guy. One of his friends pipes up “I know Supergay!” I am world-famous, bitches.
So this guy, whom I’ll refer to as Money since he works for a grant-making foundation, calls and says I should come down to the Marriott, we can check out the goings-on at the Plenary Session (look it up) and I can brief him on my suggestions for outside activities in Detroit.
The Marriott was abuzz with activity, you had your G, your L, your B and your T all over a place more accustomed to the delightful patrons of a Kenny Chesney concert. We snuck into the speech by Julian Bond, Chairman of the NAACP, who said some really incredibly sensible things about the connections of the fight for civil rights by GLBT community to the fight by African-Americans. It was a really, really unusual voice in a town like Detroit where the homophobia of conservative black churches drives the political agenda.
We cut out, slipping through the “No Scent Area” (it’s the No Smoking Area of the 21st century) and grabbed a quick bite at Seldom Blues (that place is just weird). Then walked around to scope things out ending up at … the hotel bar??
Who even know there was a hotel bar called Riverview, or something like that? Not me, that’s for damn sure. It’s everything you’d expect in a Marriott hotel bar. Not horrible, although I did feel that the décor oppressed me as a gay man. But the place was packed, so we hung out.
Since Money gives away, well, money for a living it was a full meet-and-greet for him, and of course everyone is friendly. That is a good person to hang out with in a room full of gay people. I got to chat with a few people, but more importantly listen to a lot of the talk of the movers and shakers in the movement and get their scoop on what’s going on. One big topic of conversation was the exclusion of trans from the recent passage of ENDA. Was it full selling out? Or was it just a progress marker as we continue to push forward?
Gay marriage was a hot topic too, especially in regard to the whole “vs. civil union” argument. And then there was the cute but drunk guy who on his way out slurred, “I don’t know what we need to do, but what we’re doing now isn’t working.” Or something like that, I was on my way to the bar and didn’t quite catch the whole thing.
The best story involves my moment at the bar. It’s was packed, so you know you’re stuck there for a few while you wait for a drink. The guy next to me starts talking about his big weight loss … 60 lbs .. congrats! Then it goes exactly where I was worried it would go …
“I lost a lot of weight recently, look at my stomach.”
“I tell you this because I want to help you reach your goal. I had to lose 60, but you only need to lose 20 … “
Um can I just get a drink? Apparently not.
So I chat with Kirstie Alley's BFF for a bit ("we're friends") waiting to place my drink order. Then name dropping goes to a whole new level.
"What celebrity do you think you look like?"
No idea. But back to you.
“What celebrity do I look like?”
I don’t know …
“My brother is Nick Cage."
That must be very exciting for you, but can I just get a drink?
So I'm stuck at the bar for ten more minutes while Nick Cage’s ex-fat gay brother tells me how great I would look if I lost twenty pounds. Not really my ideal evening, but if that's what it takes to get a vodka tonic at the gay conference ...
More importantly I chatted with people seriously involved with the GLBT movement, including the blogger who outed Larry Craig before he was busted in a men’s room, and one of the leaders of the trans movement. All of them just running around in one room mixing and mingling. It took me back to my Capitol Hill days in DC, in a really great way. You forget how exciting that can be.
The night wrapped up early - these people had work to do the next day, and I guess I did too - but how great to have them all here in Detroit. I hope they loved it, and more importantly I hope they didn't go to the Eagle, the R&R Saloon or the Gold Coast. Those places are an embarrassment.
It turns out I am reading my most recent piece for Model D on our local public radio station WDET today! Sometime between 11:15 and 11:40.
How does that even happen?
I am sure I don't have the answers. But I do have the link:
Download it to your MP3 player and listen to it when you work out! It will inspire you!
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
As I write this, thousands of gays and lesbians (and our trans siblings) from all over the country are descending on the Renaissance Center for a four-day conference focused on building political, leadership and activist skills in the GLBT community. How amazing is that!!
Oh how I love gay activism. As I've discussed before, the gay community was angry when I came out of the closet, and with good reason. Gay men were dying from AIDS and from all appearances the rest of the world was fine with that. So the gay and lesbian community mobilized and got mad and got loud. The activist voice of the community got quieter as the immediate health threat disappeared, to the point the when gay marriage came up as a political issue it was straight white men taking most of the risks.
The very existence of this conference brings me joy, because it means gay activism isn't dead quite yet, and the fact that it is in Detroit brings me to the brink of ecstacy. No, seriously. 2000 gay people descending on Detroit - it's like the gay equivalent of Superbowl XL!
Naturally the thing I am MOST excited for is the 2008 Awareness Ball - a big drag ball on Friday night! Yes kids, there is a full vogue ball in the Mackinac Room at the Ren Cen. I'm talking Paris is Burning! How can you deny yourself categories like "Female figure performance - You're stuck in an alley with nowhere to go .. now it's time to vogue! Dramatic cats in a taste of red vs. soft kitties in a taste of pink." I was so excited when I came across this info I was running around in circles in my living room texting everyone I knew. Doors open at 9, Grand March at 11. This will be the most fun I have all year, I can already tell!
Speaking of fun, for conference attendees and those seeking to sleep with them here are a few recommendations for gay-friendly socializing downtown:
Atlas Global Bistro (3111 Woodward, Detroit) - Great for lunch, dinner, brunch or just hanging at the bar. Gets a semi regular gay-er crowd at the bar in the evenings (it's hit or miss, Miss) but very gay friendly, upscale nice place for the gay or lesbian professional type. Tell them Supergay sent you so I can get some free booze next time I'm there.
Centaur (2233 Park Avenue, Detroit) - Centaur gets a really eclectic crowd - including gays - and has great martinis in a great space. The owner is the only straight guy who kisses me on the lips to say hello every time he sees me. They have actively courted Creating Change attendees, by the way, and are a seriously gay-friendly spot.
Park Bar (2040 Park Avenue, Detroit) - My love for the Park Bar is well-documented on this blog. There's almost always a downtown gay presence. It's a beer-and-a-shot place, but a nice one.
Cliff Bell's (2030 Park Avenue, Detroit) - Right next door to the Park Bar, it's a restored historic nightlife spot with excellent jazz and a GREAT clientele. Always interesting people and always gays in the house. Such an amazing spot, downtown is lucky to have it.
Slows Bar-B-Q (2138 Michigan Avenue, Detroit) - The epicenter of Corktown's hipster scene, Slows is an amazing restaurant that with its attractive design naturally attracts a gay clientele. The food is great and you get to see one of Detroit's cool emerging neighborhoods. Think Williamsburgh circa 1990. Or maybe earlier. Don't forget to check out the Michigan Central Depot across the street, America's largest ruin.
Avalon International Breads (422 W. Willis, Detroit) - Not a nightlife spot, but a Detroit institution. Owned by a super cool lesbian couple, it's a great spot for morning or afternoon coffee and a carb. Gets a verrrry gay midtown crowd passing through. Tons of vegan options for the lesbian in your life.
La Dolce Vita - (17546 Woodward Avenue, Detroit) - Located in the middle of what used to be Detroit's gayborhood, LDV still draws a heavy gay crowd (despite no longer being gay owned). Italian restaurant with a nice bar area. It's on your way to the bars in Royal Oak/Ferndale too.
As for hitting the gay bars in the city, I'm sure the concierge at the Ren Cen Marriott will have all that info. A few notes - the Eagle here is not what you are expecting, Backstreet is in a strip mall, and Gold Coast is tacky as hell. Have fun, they will all be an adventure!
Now for non-visitors, I really need everyone to come downtown this weekend and welcome all these visiting gays in the best way you know how. There will be every color of the gay rainbow represented - diversity is important in the activist world! Gay Detroiters should come down and see how great it will be when the city has a critical mass of gay people, and as a personal favor I am asking you to roll out the red carpet however you possibly can. The city needs all the good PR it can get right now, and if that involves being the welcome mat then so be it. It is Fleet Week, after all.
Monday, February 4, 2008
That is why Supergay Detroit and Canine to Five are teaming up to present "Tuesday Nights Doggy Style at the Park Bar," a night for Detroit gays & lesbians and their friends.
In Detroit it's always about proportions. Most places you go will have some gay presence, but it's always small, like a gay couple out for dinner, or a group of gay friends, or a solo gay out with straight friends. It's not conducive to mingling and it really does nothing to emphasize gay visibility in the city.
The Park Bar, located at 2040 Park Avenue in Detroit, is no stranger to a gay clientele, and there have seriously been nights there recently where more than half the people there were gay. And it's always really fun, and kind of exciting to see all the other downtown gays hanging out and mingling. They're a friendly bunch. And it makes you wonder, wouldn't it be great if there were someplace you could regularly get a gay social fix without traveling to a crap bar or the suburbs?
"Doggy Style" is an effort to shift the balance from mostly straight to mostly gay for one night of the week, and to provide an attractive, open, well-located, clean and ... well, normal bar to patronize.
What can you expect at Doggy Style? In additional to the usual good Park Bar vibe, there will be a curated selection of music and video programming designed to appeal to a downtown gay sensibility. So yes, you should expect some Madonna, but also maybe a little New Order, for example. It's meant to be fun and appeal to gays and lesbians and straight folks who like fun. Think guppie meets hipster meets drag queen meets downtown boozehound.
As for Canine to Five's invovlement - first off, the whole thing was owner Liz Blondy's idea. And Liz has made concerted efforts since opening to improve gay quality of life in town, whether it's making introductions among gay folks who might never have connected or hosting special dog parks for gay customers. Canine to Five is definitely an ally in the quest to improve things for us here.
Please pass the word on to your friends, and come down to check it out! There is no conceivable way you won't have fun - it's a whole new gay-er bar experience for Detroit!
Friday, February 1, 2008
What prominent downtown Detroit architecture firm declined to make a proposal on the new Affirmations Community Center in Ferndale because one of the principals cited a need to not promote a "gay lifestyle"?
I'm blind iteming because I don't want to jeapordize my source, but the controversy that ensued from that info becoming internally known led to the HR department putting forward a comprehensive diversity hiring program.
And by that I mean, a bigoted middle-aged male asserted his assholeness, his growing company told him to grow the fuck up, and said company became a better organization because of it. Even if the straight guys are still uncomfortable about it.
It's a fairy tale ending.