Friday, December 22, 1995

Norman Rockwell—NOT!

(Published in Lavender Lifestyles Magazine, Issue #15, December 22, 1995)

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza, Solstice or none of the above, Christmas Day will soon be here. Society tells us that on Christmas we are supposed to get together with the rest of our (biological) families and do Norman Rockwell scenes. If we don’t do this (either because we can’t or don’t want to) we are supposed to feel lonely and empty. The entire rest of the world is playing Ozzie & Harriet—what’s wrong with us?

We in the leather community certainly don’t have a corner on holiday stress, but we sometimes have to face issues that vanilla society doesn’t. Family issues tend to be more stressful around the holidays for gay people in general—add kinkiness to the mix and the situation can become even worse. In family and other social situations, we are often presented with two bad alternatives: stay in the closet about who we are and feel ashamed, or be out and risk feeling uncomfortable at best and being snubbed at worst.

If Christmas is supposed to be such a warm-fuzzy time of year, why is it so stressful for so many of us? And what can we do about it?

Well, we can start by looking honestly at the situation. My partner Ken has stated that, in his opinion, Norman Rockwell was not a painter or even an illustrator—he was a subversive agent, brainwashing us all into believing romantic notions of family life that even in vanilla terms simply aren’t realistic. Ken also says that even Ozzie and Harriet weren’t real; as evidence, he cites the manner of son Ricky Nelson’s untimely death (a cocaine-related plane crash, if I remember properly). There’s no reason to beat ourselves up emotionally for failing to live up to what is an illusory ideal.

Face it, we leatherfolk are outlaws. We don’t always play by society’s rules the rest of the year; why should the holidays be any different? Rather than Norman Rockwell telling us what we should want, let’s ask ourselves how we really want to spend the day. Let’s not be limited by convention. Do we want to gather at someone’s home for a big holiday meal? Spend the day with just our partner, a roaring fire in the fireplace, and a sling? Have a Solstice orgy with 20 or 30 or 100 of our closest friends? (“I’m dreaming of a wet Christmas . . . ”)

Every year on Christmas night gay bars are teeming with people who have just spent the day at a family gathering and need a dose of reality, freedom and fresh air. I’ve heard the opinion expressed that anyone who would spend Christmas night at a bar is a lonely, pathetic soul. I don’t agree, and I say thank goodness that there is a gathering place where an antidote is available for those who need it. (I hasten to add that the “antidote” to which I am referring is fellowship, not alcohol.)

It doesn’t matter what other people think about how you celebrate the holiday. What matters is that it be uplifting and meaningful for you. That’s my holiday wish for all my readers—whatever you celebrate, however you celebrate it.

A final word: there’s a wonderful book by Mary Borhek called Coming Out To Parents: A Two-Way Survival Guide for Lesbians, Gay Men And Their Parents. It discusses holiday issues along with lots of other family-related topics. If you or your parents are feeling family stress I recommend it highly, and the fact that I’m the author’s son has absolutely nothing to do with my recommendation.

An Open Letter From Darlette Knox, Ms. Minnesota Leather 1995, to the Leather Community at Large:

I’m writing in this form in hopes of reaching those whom I could not personally thank for all the support. I wanted to thank everybody for coming out and supporting the leather functions and the Mr. and Ms. Minnesota Leather and the Leatherman of Minnesota contests. Without the direct support of all of you the leather lifelight in the Twin Cities would be dim.

A big thank you goes out to the leather clubs and organizations, the GDI’s, the supporters and promotors, the judges and all the attendees and entertainers. I am honored and feel privileged to represent Minnesota and will carry and present the title with pride.

Lastly, our community is growing and your continued support does not go unnoticed. All of you who come out are appreciated as well as needed, and I hope that all of you have a warm and wonderful holiday season. And again, thank you very much.


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