Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Hate-You Have To Be Carefully Taught.

Most of you know my political leanings. What you may not be aware of is why I feel the way I do. I'd like to share some personal stuff with you if you don't mind.

Last night, I attended a memorial ceremony for the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance. While you may not be familiar with it, we in the Trans community are. It is a solemn day for us because it keeps alive the memory of all those who have been murdered simply for being different. This post is my takeaway from the event.     

Thanks to Dr. Geena Alessia Buono and all the other wonderful people for organizing last night's Transgender Day of Remembrance event at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park. Trans folk, friends and allies shared their love, art, stories and support for our community and the struggles many of us face.

During the reading of the names of those who were murdered this past last year (there were over 300 worldwide) one word stood out among all the others; UNKNOWN. These people were killed for the crime of being different. Ostracized by their own people, they are unable to find jobs, are rejected by their families and are often homeless. Many become sex-workers because they are desperate and need to eat. And when they are killed, identification is often impossible because no one claims their remains and they have no official ID. Even in death, they are denied the simple dignity of having a name.

This past week, I have been honored to be at the Matthew Shepard Foundation's kickoff of their 20th year (yes it's been that long) and once more reminded of the violence that is perpetrated on the LGBT community on a daily basis. Add to that the solemnity of last night's memorial, and suffice to say that I am emotionally drained today.

As a performer, I've always tried to bridge the gap between Trans and cis folk. I believe that love, humor and laughter can ease pain and bring people closer by showing that we are more alike than we are different. But we live in a time of division and hate and that both saddens and sickens me. It threatens us as a community and it threatens us as a society. We are all we have. We are all one family. Why can't we all understand that?

The numbers of our murdered Trans brothers and sisters grows each year. The suicide attempt rate in the Trans community is still at 40%. In any other sub-culture of America, this statistic would be a call to arms; but not with us. Why?

True, we are making strides and fighting for our place in the world. It is happening, albeit slowly. But to have so many die UNKNOWN, to have so many children fearing for their lives each time they get on a school bus, to have violence perpetrated on another human being simply for being different…that’s not America. That’s not living up to the ideal of all men and women being created equal. That is a sin against humanity.

So much of the hate seems to stem from those who purport to be followers of Jesus. They should be ashamed of themselves. Jesus was a man of peace. Jesus spoke of the brotherhood of man, of acceptance and most of all, of love. And yet these “godly folk”, who have chosen to support a pedophile in an election, who call for LGBT folk to be murdered and hated and ostracized from society, still continue to believe that god is on their side. How have we come to this?

I appreciate the time you took to read this all the way through. It means a lot to me. I have tried to refrain from diatribes such as this one because it seems that I proselytize too much on the subject human rights and love. I can’t help it this time. I needed to say it. Thank you.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

It still hurts.


Two days ago, I received a tweet from a fan named Scott Cleere who told me that he missed me on AGT and that he could sure use a laugh on Sunday (today) because it wouldn’t be a good day for him. At the time I didn’t piece the dates together and I simply thanked him. Yesterday, he clarified his first tweet by telling me that his Dad, James, had been lost in the towers and that no remains had ever been recovered.

Until yesterday, I had only known one other person lost on that horrible day. But like all of us who remember it, all of those families and victims came out of the rubble and found an indelibly etched place in our hearts and psyche. We shared their pain and offered our prayers and love to them in the hope that somehow, however futile, we could ease their broken hearts.

I don’t know Scott, but I do. I can’t feel what he feels, but I try. After fifteen years, I still can’t watch the memorial without crying and wondering how anyone could hate that much.

Scott, I wish I could say something to make you laugh away your pain, but there is nothing in my heart today to enable me to do so. In the days which will follow, that will change of course, but for now, no, there is no laughter.

When I think back to those horrible days, the one bright spot in it all, was the sense of unity we shared. Our collective family had been attacked and for perhaps the first time since Pearl Harbor, we stood as one people, one nation-indivisible. I wish I could say that is the case today, but I can’t. But that is for another discussion on another day. For now, my heart and thoughts are with the Cleere family and all the others who lost a loved one.

The rubble is gone. The dust has settled. The memorials are built. History has been written. If we extract one thing from it all, let it be that the love and kinship we felt for one another in the aftermath prevails once again. That’s what I wish for Scott Cleere, his family, and the world.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

It ain't always sunshine and bon-bons!

I’ve been very blessed in my life, with hard times and now, it seems, some very good ones as well.  But I want to share this story with you, especially those of you who want to give up your life’s dream and cave in to despair.

Around 1983, when I was a very young and new comedian, my friend (and fellow fledgling comic) Nick Carmen Cosentino were roommates. I had a small, failing, graphics business at the time and my ‘office’ was located in a converted house in northern New Jersey.  My marriage had just ended and I was sleeping in a photographic darkroom in the back while Nick spent his nights sleeping on the floor in the outer office.

During the day, we would write and try to book ourselves into some of the “Jersey’ gigs which had just begun to spring up outside of New York City.  At night, we would pile into my smoke belching, oil leaking, 15 year old Volvo and head into the city to get some stage time at the many little clubs around town. We didn’t care that we had no money (and sometimes no food). We were comics with dreams and that sustained us.

Money, as most newbie comedians know, is non-existent, so we made some sheckles here and there, Nick by traveling to NYC by bus (tools and all) doing odd jobs and me, still taking graphics art work when it was available. Any money I made went to child support and so we fell behind in the rent; WAYYYYY behind.

One night, when Nick and I had returned from the showcase clubs, we arrived home to find a big, fat, red padlock on the door with a very official eviction noticed tacked plastered on the door as well. We were officially homeless, with all of our worldly belongings locked inside.

 We knew our days of living there were over, but we went around the side of the house and snuck inside through a window which had always conveniently been left unlocked. We grabbed what we could, shoved it in the Volvo, and got the hell out of there before the police came.

Times were hard then, but we survived with the help of friends. Eventually, comedy got better for us and before long we were making a living in the business we loved. It was a boom time and life was good.

Since then, we’ve both had other hard times, but that experience in the house made both of us realize that we could survive anything; thus the blessings part. In the years to come I’ve had to go back to that memory many times in order to make me realize that I didn’t ever have to give in just because life was pushing back and pushing down.

Now, with things breaking the way they are, I am feeling blessed once again in ways I never thought possible. And so I just wanted to share some thoughts with you if you are feeling down.

 Every event, good or bad, is a story unto itself. It has a beginning, middle and end. Look at your current story. Where are you in it? You will survive no matter how bad things seem and you will be stronger for having endured it.

Listen to the still, calm voice inside you. It won’t lie to you. Believe in yourself.

Pay forward any goodness you’ve received. Help others up the ladder when you can.

Understand that life, if lived properly, is scary, dangerous and frightening, but it can also propel you to soar to the heavens if you just look it in the eye and say, “I’m getting up again and again and again until I get to where I want to be.”   

Surround yourself only with positive things and people. Walk away from those who tell you that you can’t do something.

Dream like you did as a child. Dreams don’t die, spirits do. All things are as possible today as they were when you were little.

Lose your expectations of how things should be and stay in the moment. There is no past or future, only now.

Finally, love everyone. You don’t have to be around someone you don’t like, but don’t hate. It’s toxic and it hurts your insides. Love is the only absolute thing in the universe.

I have no idea what compelled me to write this. You have no reason to read it. If it bores you, then move on. But if you are suffering or feeling down, maybe this will help ease the pain a little.  Just don’t do anything stupid, okay?  



Saturday, June 27, 2015

This Little Light of Ours

What an extraordinary week for this country. Ten days ago the tragedy of Charleston once again ripped open and exposed the gaping racial wound we’ve been trying to hide for so long. And instead of dividing us, this act of terror and hate had just the opposite effect. The willingness to confront what we have attempted to avoid for so long has uncovered the heart of the real America, the real Moral Majority which is as it always has been, full of the desire to live in peace, as one people. That is not to say that there are not some who still hate. There always will be those who choose to do so. But their numbers are fading.

In my own community, the Supreme Court has changed history for us with its decision on marriage. To underestimate the depth of this moment in time would be sad, because it ranks right up there with many of the civil rights victories of the past. An entire segment of tax paying, law abiding citizens, whose only crime was to love someone, has been given the basic human right to build a family, build a life, and build a future together.

With regard to President Obama. It is said that the times will produce the leaders its people need, and I believe that this man and this nation were meant to be. I’ve seen nine Presidents come and go in my lifetime. I cannot remember when I felt more connected to one than President Obama. For all the contentiousness and flak thrown his way, he has demonstrated the meaning of grace under pressure. 
When the country was on the verge of collapse, he found a way to bring it back. And while the ACA may still be a work in progress, there is no denying that 6 million people now have health insurance who didn’t have it before. He has saved the auto industry, championed alternative energy, and fought for the LGBT community, maybe not from Day One, but not long after. And after seeing his eulogy today in Charleston, I am convinced that he will go down in history as one of the truly great Presidents.   

For the people who despise him, go right ahead. That is your right. But long after history has dismissed the politics of hate, his legacy will be felt by generations to come. He is the Franklin Roosevelt of our time.

This week has a feel about it that is very reminiscent of the social changes made in the 1960s. I told a friend that in a conversation today that I think and feel that what we have seen in this country over the past ten days marks the beginning of a post baby boomer movement. The time for my generation and the remnants of my parents’ generation is over. A new day is dawning. I wish them Godspeed.