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Defunding the Police

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I went to one of those Werner Erherd Seminars, in the late 90s, called The Forum. It was a pretty standard Tony Robbins type seminar helping people get in touch with their superpower and their individual potential that remains unused for most of us, for the entire duration of our lives. But one thing from that seminar that has stayed with me since then was a section about “Distinctions”. I’ve used it a lot in my life ever since.

An example of what I mean might be “Defunding the Police”. You can favor defunding the police without hating the police or favoring a return to the old west “Dodge City” model of rampant criminal behavior. I favor defunding the police, but not because I wish to punish police officers, even bad ones, by taking their money away. Punishing ANYONE is done at a higher pay grade. I can, however, make a distinction to favor defunding the police because there clearly needs to be a change in how the whole concept of law enforcement is currently perceived and executed and law enforcement appears unwilling, or unable to make the necessary changes themselves.

Making distinctions is like sharpening the point of a pencil so that it doesn’t write too wide a swath to accurately communicate the intent of the writer.

To understand law enforcement, I’d need to get a handle on what it is and what it was originally intended to accomplish. To do THAT, I’d need to circle back to how it all got started. What was the need and how was that need met? Research will point to two origins. One was to maintain peace among a growing and more diverse population of white people, some of whom may not have had the most proper intentions about how to go about the business of living. Others may have been pushed out to the edge of their survival and were left with few other options.

The second was to find, capture and return run-a-way slaves. Back then, white men would form Posses or Militias, to get paid for returning wealthy white landowners’ property. Our very first President appointed 13 Federal Marshalls whose job it was to spearhead the concept of preserving peace through violence. George Washington was a military General, after all. To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I get that. I’m a singer/songwriter, everything looks like a song to me.

How we got from there to here is best summed up in a scene from “A Few Good Men” Where Colonel Jessop describes to the Court Marshall, what he does.

“I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather that you just said “thank you” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand the post. Either way, I don’t give a DAMN what you think you’re entitled to!”

There are two things, historically, that come into play here. There IS a Blue Wall between the community and the police responsible for keeping the peace. Col. Jessop goes on:

“Deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall,,, you NEED me on that wall”

And he’s right! Police protect us from unimaginable horrors. It takes a certain type of person to want to do that for us. I’m not going to do it. I don’t have what it takes and I know it, but I rely, every day, on people who do. The second thing that Blue Wall does is protect the police from US. That might be why, when under siege like now, they circle the wagons and shut TF up about what they feel they must do to protect us.

Therein lies the fulcrum of why I favor defunding the police. Here, we have an organized armed militia that was borne out of the protection and preservation of White Supremacy, being assigned the monumental task of being all things to all people.

Never was that more on display than during the “Black Lives Matter” protests in Downtown Portland 2 years ago. While actual boots were literally on the ground down there it was crystal clear who was being protected and from whom. It was a ‘Black Lives Matter” protest. The people were on one side of the Blue Wall and the Police and the Government were on the other.

Law enforcement’s response was to counter with “Blue Lives Matter”. The “Blue Lives Matter” symbol was an American Flag with the colors removed so that what remained was a Black & White American flag, with a BLUE LINE running through the middle of it. The symbolism was starkly shocking to me. It said everything about why I favor defunding the Police. The Portland Police Bureau, whether intentional or otherwise, IS Racist.

We here in Portland have partially defunded the police and the result has been that we are in league with larger US cities in the number of homicides and other felony crimes. The funding that was denied the Police has been reallocated to other forms of community support. Things like Mental Health crises, Medical emergencies and drug overdoses. More funding is also going to Neighborhood Watch and community development organizations whose intent is to stem the tide of the conditions that give birth to indelicate behavior before it gets to the point of being criminal. Crime Prevention.

It’s going to take a while for the remodeling to settle. It will settle when the community knows who to call for what type of emergency and to what resources we can refer people, who we can see are struggling. Where the police will also know what concerns to leave to other resources so they can concentrate their resources on what they are truly needed for. I favor defunding the police because, in Portland, we are finally beginning to do something about what we are so conflicted about as regards how Law Enforcement works here.

Unfortunately, the origins of law enforcement, Protecting and Preserving White Supremacy, is still, very much, a reality today. That is a matter for what must be our next step to coincide with our new model of community support. Police Training! There is no possible way that people of color in Portland commit more crimes than white people do. Yet they are arrested and convicted at a rate that far outpaces the rate for the same crimes among white people. I’m not suggesting that law enforcement arrest more white people, or for that matter, less people of color. I’m suggesting they arrest more people who are committing crimes. If you concentrate your surveillance on people of color, that’s what you’re going to find. To a guy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail, remember?

The population of people in Portland who are black is somewhere south of 10%. A tour of any jail in the area will clearly demonstrate that there’s a huge problem and it IS about race. Penalties for the use of Cocaine as opposed to Crack (The same drug, I might add, that is simply administered differently) are another stark reminder of how law enforcement plays into race.

The Blue Wall, must come down!

There’s a barrier to that happening that is intricately imbedded in the Police Union Contract. I’m a Union Guy. Unions are good. The other side of that coin is The PPB Contract with the City of Portland. I believe that PPB SHOULD have a contract with the city and it SHOULD be ironclad! I haven’t read it, but I do see the impact it has on accountability. I don’t believe the contract should include any section or clause that protects any member of the force from accountability to the laws they are sworn to protect and defend. And, those laws need to be protected and defended for EVERYONE,,, Full Stop!

The Blue Wall includes loyalty to the force and to one another. The good guys know who the bad guys are, but there’s little they can do about that. This is life and death stuff folks. Police officers need to do their jobs with the full confidence of knowing that their fellow officers have their 6,,, all of them, good or bad.

Turning in a fellow officer for misbehavior is deeply entrenched behind the Blue Wall. Any officer that does it is bringing a world of hurt upon themselves. Not the bad guys. They must turn a blind eye to such behavior or lose everything. They will never work in law enforcement again, will never be able to feel comfortable around another officer and may even suffer physical damage to their person, or worse. I don’t have a solution for that. But, somehow, we need to find a way to get to a place within law enforcement where stuff like honor and integrity are cool and the people who have them are rewarded and even emulated for it. THAT is a steep mountain to climb if I ever saw one.

In closing I want to say that maybe you are not conflicted about law enforcement. Maybe you have a strong opinion on one side of the Blue Wall or the other and are fine with that. But, I am certainly conflicted! I understand why we need something like the concept of law enforcement. I love them individually (Well most of them, anyway). I’m an old white male. The whole thing is set up for my protection and defense. So, yeah, I like them. But I hate them in the form of the GANG that they have evolved into and it doesn’t really matter how or why that evolution came about. It’s just wrong. So, I favor Defunding the police and I thank you for hanging in there with me so I could tell you why. It’s about making distinctions.

Much Love,

Gregory


Justice Clarence Thomas’ Lament

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May 16, 2022 – By Gregory Franklyn

Maybe Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Clarence Thomas, is unclear on the concept. This week, he laments the leaking of the Draft Decision overturning Roe v Wade on May 2. He says the SCOTUS is being fundamentally changed by the scrutiny. Justices are being forced into the position to have to look over their shoulders every time they issue a decision on a hot button issue of law.

I think he believes that rulings by the Supreme Court are the final word on Constitutional Law, and in one important way, he’s correct. However, in standard Authoritarian Conservative Republican fashion, he ignores consideration of the balance of powers laid out in the US Constitution. The Legislative, Judicial and Executive branches of the US Government are designed to provide checks and balances against one another, so that no single branch of Government can obliterate the will of another or the consent of the governed, for that matter.

The Public’s response was to protest. Protests at the homes of specific conservative justices. I don’t agree with how the public responded, but I’m not surprised. The public has considered the right to an abortion settled law, for the last 50 years, by a 2 to 1 margin. Justice Thomas reports that Republicans don’t protest like that. The evidence would suggest that the good Justice doesn’t spend much time around Clinics that provide that service, or for that matter, the funerals of Doctors who once performed them before being murdered for doing so.

So do these same conservative justices if you believed them when they testified to the Senate during their respective confirmation hearings. Of course, they lied. They lied to get their jobs. One by one, each by each, they all lied! In this day and age, Republican Supreme Court Judges are nominated for their willingness to overturn Roe v Wade and Casey v Planned Parenthood, among other Conservative hot button issues. Like Gay Marriage, for example. It’s coming, dear reader, buckle up!

This radical activist Conservative Republican Supreme Court, including specifically, Associate Justice Thomas, also doesn’t understand the concept of “Conflict of Interest”. I point to the Partnership Justice Thomas has with his Republican Activist wife Ginni Thomas. He has routinely ruled on cases congruent with the very subjects of his wife’s activism.

I never liked Justice Thomas. He comes across to me as being kind of creepy. I can’t name a person of color that the good Justice associates himself with outside his own biological family. If YOU can, I’d be interested. He seems like he wants to be “The Black Guy” among white people.

I remember Justice Thomas’ senate confirmation hearings well. I was unemployed at the time and was able to watch the whole Dog & Pony Show. If you’re younger than me, which would be almost all of you, think about the Bret Kavanaugh hearings. Each were mirror images of the other.

Both men were slammed into confirmation by partisan conservative Republicans hell bent on ignoring the legitimate reasons, presented at their respective confirmation hearings, not to grant consent. Public opinion was against the confirmation of both, and for identical reasons. They are both misogynist authoritarians that don’t seem to have much of an objection to committing sexual assault or harassment of women.

In both shows the women testifying to being assaulted by their respective associate Judge, were vilified by one Republican committee member after another for days. Both hearings were SHOWS with “Balls to the Wall” scriptwriting worthy of the best “Sitting on the Edge of Your Seat, Biting Your Fingernails” Action Adventure movies.

Anita Hill and Christine Blasey-Ford were absolutely pilloried in public for having the courage to tell their truth. Justice Thomas had the added ammunition of being able to accuse Democrats of conducting a “Modern Day Lynching” and both men are adherents to “The best defense is a good offence”. Or, more accurately, both men were schooled by Republican public relations experts on how to effectively pull off some public shaming of people who objected to their confirmation.

Both Associate Justices went on their individual angry, screaming, crying rant of accusations against the objections to their confirmation. Democrats believed the women and Republicans believed the women were artificially planted in the hearings to block the confirmations of good Christian conservative judges that they were certain would eventually overturn Roe and Casey among other things.

Finally, on the subject of a person’s right to control over their own bodies, the 9th Amendment has something to add to the debate.  “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The constitution does not prohibit abortion. That was codified as a right by Roe and Casey as decided by the same court now presided over by the current slate of Justices.

The only difference now is that the Radical Activist Conservative Republican Supreme Court of the United States has been forcibly packed pretty well with political partisans working on a specific agenda.


Much Love,
Gregory

I’m an Addict

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August 13, 2018 – Gregory Franklyn

I’m an addict. It’s not something I just discovered and it’s not something I’ve ever made an effort to hide, It’s just an admission that pertains to the point I want to make today. If you didn’t know that about me, it’s probably because you never asked. I’m not one of those folks who lead with something like, “Hi, I’m Gregory, I’m Gay and I’m an Addict.” I couldn’t tell you whether my case of addiction is hereditary or not either, because I’ll never know who my biological parents are or what their challenges may have been.

But I’m an addict and I learned that I’m an addict from my experience of quitting smoking in 1988. It’s probably important to note that I have since begun smoking again, but I was smoke free for roughly 8 years. Within 6 months of quitting I gained about 45 pounds. I decided that this was not cool because I looked SO delicious at 155. So, I started dieting.

What I learned from dieting is; one – there are not enough carrot sticks or celery stalks IN THE WORLD to make me stop wanting a good hamburger. And, two; diets are counterproductive. They will make you fat! After, roughly 8 different diets over as many years I weighed in at 251 pounds. That much weight was unsustainable for me because my knees and ankles, simply were NOT having it. I was facing a wheelchair and I wasn’t cool with that either. If you diet, you have to STAY on that diet for the rest of your life, or you will raise your set point (your natural, or resting weight) each time you go off that diet. I can lose about 15 pounds, right now pretty much on request, but unless I keep on whatever diet it was, forever, I’ll gain it back again, PLUS a few more pounds, giving myself a new, higher, set point.

So, I started smoking again and within a few months I had lost about 30 pounds and my knees and ankles were happy,,, well happy enough that I was mobile, and that was enough for me at the time. I maintained that weight for over a decade now. But what I learned from the experience is that I’m an addict and although I THOUGHT I had quit smoking, I didn’t! I just quit smoking TOBACO. I started smoking other things like food and alcohol instead.

So here I am, face to face with my core condition of addiction. I had a splint put in my heart in March resulting from a terrorized midnight trip to the ER with what I thought was a chronic, excruciating, stomach problem. While there, I learned that it wasn’t a stomach problem at all, it was a blockage in an artery in the side of my heart. While there I also learned that I am diabetic, so now I’m struggling with smoking again because it’s bad for BOTH conditions.

There are two things here that I’m trying to figure out. One; when I quit smoking tobacco again, what will I start “smoking” next, and will that be as much of a problem as smoking was? Smoking is not the problem, It’s a symptom of a condition that will not go away when I quit smoking tobacco.

Two; does anyone actually recover from addiction, or do they just arrest the symptoms? Many years ago in a comedy bit that Cheech & Chong used to do Cheech says, “Before, I was all messed up on Drugs, now I’m all messed up on the Lord”. It was one of those “Bomb Jokes” where you laugh because it’s funny, then on the way home, you realize that maybe it wasn’t so funny after all. When people are in “recovery” Isn’t doing the “Program” or clinging to Jesus, or exercise, or playing piano, or whatever, what people “smoke” instead of their drug of choice? Isn’t one symptom of the disease supplanted with another, without actually addressing the underlying cause?

Discuss,

Gregory

The Last One to Know

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10/15/2012 – By Gregory Franklyn

October 11th was National Coming Out Day and it got me to thinking about my own coming out story. That, and a friend sent me an article she had read about a new book coming out this month by a straight conservative bible-belt Christian fellow who went undercover as a gay man to try and get a view of what life is like for gay people in the United States.
I haven ‘t read the book, but based on the article, I would recommend it to every heterosexual, or person who thinks they might be. The book is called “A Cross in the Closet” and here ‘s a YouTube Trailer about it.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=4R6qIIvYEqs

Every gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, trans-gender and/or questioning person who has ever made the journey, has a coming out story. I have one too. I came out in 1980 when I was 28 years old but the story begins in Detroit Michigan before I was old enough recognize what an “Age” was. A little background is in order.

I’m an orphan and was given up at birth. I ‘m told that for the first two years of life I was raised by whomever was on duty, at the time, at a Catholic Orphanage in Detroit. I was adopted at just over 2 years, by a family that was having marital trouble and believed that having Children might save the marriage. Evidently, it didn’t! By the time I was 6, my also adopted older brother Mike and I, sat outside a courtroom in St Clair County Michigan while both parents, now both re-married, decided that it was best for everyone to go their separate ways. Mike and I became wards of the State were separated on the spot. We didn’t see one another again until after I had graduated from High School. He’s pretty much a stranger to me, a childhood friend with closer than usual ties, I’d guess.

This chain of events, evidently affected me pretty deeply because I got tossed around from living situation to living situation until I was 14. Up until I was accepted to the famous Fr Flanagan’s BoysTown (immortalized in the movie “BoysTown” with Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney), I had never completed 2 grades in the same school. I was in therapy through most of that period because I was an “Odd” little boy.

Here ‘s what one Doctor said in his psychological evaluation of me at 11:

“During the interview, Dr. Locket found Greg to have average or better intelligence; to be proper and distant but cooperative; he showed little anxiety. He uses extremely strong defenses of: denial, intellectualization and rationalization. Denial is mostly on the conscious level and may be a denial of being male on the subconscious level. This denial started early, thus forming a personality pattern of which his overt feminine character pattern is only a part.

Dr Locket suggested that initial rejection led to lack of involvement with others for which Greg developed a survival pattern. Greg has a basic personality problem in relating to others. Although it’s not definitely known, one could say that there’s a distortion in Greg’s relationship to his mother and a lack of involvement with his father. Greg relates on a superficial level and one wonders what he really feels.

Dr Locket diagnosed him as having a passive, receptive, feminine personality pattern. He further described Greg as being; narcissistic (involved more with self than with others); masochistic (as evidence in his passivity in the face of scapegoating); relatively un-relating, unmotivated and markedly defensive. He probably has overwhelming anger, but good defenses.

Greg ‘s future depends on how much anxiety can be aroused. As he becomes older he may become anxious and do something. Dr. Locket recommended long term placement in a total care environment for all his childhood.”

Now, I didn’t repeat all that to put my business in the street, so to speak, but to show how gay people were thought of by the psychological community at the time. Remember, that in the big picture, psychotherapy, at the time, was barely older then I was. Boys who were effeminate, were thought of in these terms, in general society, because of the profound and dramatic lack of understanding of homosexuality. So much so that in the last sentence in the evaluation, the good Dr. recommends that I be sent to a mental institution.

I was 35 when I came out to my brother Mike. It wasn’t like I was hiding it by that time, it ‘s just that I was out of contact with him until then. When I told him, he said, “Hell, I knew that the day you were brought home from the orphanage!” (he was a few years older than me so I tend not to doubt it).

When it comes to my sexuality, I really WAS the last one to figure it out. When I read that evaluation today, I see a little gay kid trying to make his way in a very rigidly straight world, on his own, mind you. They didn’t like gay kids at the time. I had been rejected by 4 sets of parents by that time, very likely BECAUSE I was gay. My original birth parents, my adopted parents and 2 foster families. I ‘m not surprised that there may have been a little trauma there. Of course, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about because I had always been like I was. I didn’t have anything to compare it to.

Along with the family dysfunction, there was also the Catholic Church. That’s were I grew up, most of the time. Catholic schools are pretty rigid to begin with, but when you actually LIVE there too, it ‘s even more intense. Your parent figures are nuns, brothers and priests. So, as any good boy might want to do, I clung to my religion to help me through it.

I didn’t know that a person could normally be gay because I was taught that “The Devil Made Me Do It” and that I was just morally weak. So I tried to become stronger in my resistance to myself believing that I was doing what I was supposed to do. I did pretty well too! I think it took me so long to settle with who I am, because of my intent to be Good.

Around the mid 70s, that would be in my mid 20s, I began to seriously question whether what I was being told about being gay, by people I looked up to for spiritual guidance and direction, may have been being less than honest with me about it. It turns out that, well intentioned as they may or may not have been, they didn’t know what they were talking about and I had to spend nearly half of my life figuring it out on my own. I had struggled with this “demon” for my entire life and I was getting pretty weary of the struggle, mainly because I, Like everyone else at that age, was raging with sexual urges and I finally couldn’t take it anymore.

I remember the day clearly, even 32 years later. I was sitting in a house I had bought, but couldn’t afford, (predatory Mortgage lending is nothing new), and I had my feet propped up on the window sill, casually kicked back in my lounger when I just “Gave Up”. It was clear that I couldn’t go on like this, always fighting myself over what I was feeling inside. Linda, a girl I almost married, had just left to return home to California, realizing what I couldn’t be what she wanted, needed and clearly deserved in a husband. We had both just dodged a bullet.

I had had a few girlfriends before her and I did enjoy their company, a lot. I just couldn’t figure out a way to enjoy having sex with them. That’s why we would always break up. I must have made them feel like they weren’t attractive or sexy, and no one deserves to feel like THAT! Least of all, those girls! So if any of you happen to be reading this can I just say I ‘m so sorry for how I made you feel. That was never my intent. I was with you because I dug you and I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. You got that far into my heart because you are THAT much of a woman.

Anyway, back to the story. I just gave up! It was that simple. I determined that if I was going to hell and would never be whole as a person anyway, then, Screw It, I ‘m going to go ahead and be what I am and let the chips fall where they may. Because being what I was taught I was supposed to be was just not working out for anyone anymore, including me.

I only reconsidered that decision once in my life.

A few days later, embarking on my new life for the first time, I went to a gay bar in Phoenix called “Hisco-Disco”. I had read about it in a gay magazine I had found at a porno bookstore. Back then that’s where you had to go to find information about your culture if you were gay. It was still being oppressed everywhere else. It’s kind of sad when I think about it today. In order to find the door to a peaceful inner life, you had to go to the one place in the world where furtive sexual frustration and repressed emotions are the most prominent energies.

My first exposure to Gay culture was a life changing experience for me, to say the least. I have never before, or since, felt as intense feelings of conflicting emotions as I did that night. I walked in, and ordered a drink and sat at a table as out of the way as I could and just watched for a while. One part of me was disgusted and repulsed at what I was seeing and the other part of me was instinctively jumping for joy at having found a place in the world, for the first time in my life, where I was seeing my own imagination displayed before me in real time!

These guys were kissing each other and holding one another like there was nothing wrong with it, right there in front of everybody in the place and no one was reacting in horror. What a beautiful world, I thought. I feel like that too! I didn’t talk to anyone that night, because I was too overwhelmed with these conflicting emotions. It took me a few days to digest what I had just experienced.

A few days later, I went to this porno theater called the   “WhereHouse” because I thought that that’s what gay guys do. Remember, all I knew about gay people, up to that point, I learned from Priests, nuns and materials I had seen at a porno bookstore.

I parked my car in the back lot so no one could see it, pulled up my collar so I’d be less likely to be recognized and sheepishly walked in. I paid for my ticket and the helpful clerk pointed me to the door to the theater. In hindsight, he was probably so helpful because I’m sure he could tell I had never been to one before. I opened these ornate double doors and was about to walk in when I saw what was on this huge movie screen. I mean, the screen was much taller than me and I’m 6 Feet tall in bare feet. I saw a man in a bathroom with two other men on their knees facing away from us. The man had both of his hands, up to mid-forearm, INSIDE the other two men ‘s rectums and he was working them with a vengence.

I turned and ran in horror back to the sanctity of my own home, in another state of extreme, though this time NOT conflicting, emotions. I can only imagine the knowing smile on that clerk’s face as I went running out. I felt lost in the world again because if that’s what I have to do to be gay, I ‘m ready to reconsider my decision right now!

That stuff was WAY too adult for me! It still is, come to think of it.     I never went back to the theater, but I did go back to Hisco-Disco. I went frequently until my conflicting emotions gave way to a kind of sanity that was pretty new to me. I met and dated a charming but much too aggressive black guy named Eric Revallion. We dated for a while, but it never went any further. But I will always be grateful to Eric for 2 things. One, he was my first date as a gay man, and two, he gave me a cat that I named “Disco”, both because that’s where I met Eric and so that I could say “Disco, get down!” when he jumped up on the counter. (True Story)

Hisco Disco was the place where I was when I first recognized that there really wasn’t anything wrong with me and that I wasn’t as alone as I had always felt like I was. The place where, for the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged. I never saw Eric again, but Disco was a good friend for many years. He eventually stayed at a house that I had to move out of because he didn’t like the new place. Besides, the house I moved out of was a community garden. LOTS of mice and birds. It must have been heaven for him!

I have never looked back to the days when I was struggling with myself over who I am. Well, except that time in the porno theater. There has never been a reason to. Granted, I still had to endure the slurs about sexuality that I had always had to deal with since I could remember. My Nicknames on school playgrounds were things like, “Honey”, “Oddy” and, “Pussy Galore” (after the James Bond Character in Goldfinger) along with the standards, “Queer” (which I still find offensive today), “Fag & Faggot”, “Poofter”, “Light in the Loafers”, “Candy-Ass”, “Fudge-Packer”,,, There ‘s a whole dictionary of them and I ‘m pretty sure I’ve been called all of them at one time or another. But the fact is that it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it did back when I was completely alone.

But, now it’s possible to have a peaceful inner life. A life of knowing what this straight conservative Christian guy learned from his experience that I hope you read about. The gay community he refers to, interestingly enough, is the same gay community (Portland Oregon) that  has embraced me and I, it, in way that has made it possible for me to have a sense of peace within myself and focus my energies on things that really matter.

Like Homelessness, for example. I work at a Men’s Homelessness to Housing Program here and it’s the hardest job I’ve ever loved. I’m gay, and most of the men at the shelter know it, but I almost universally get the respect I give and there has been barely a ripple of discomfort about it because of that! They let me be me because they see me letting everyone else be themselves too. It’s almost like I give them permission not to be judgmental by not being judgmental of them.

In any Gay Community you will find a lot of hugging and kissing and touching, a lot of emotional support, and a lot of acceptance. It is because every gay person you know has done his, or her, own “Vision Quest” to get where they are today. That takes a deep and fierce courage and determination to be REAL. It seems kind of ironic when you consider that the most visible elements of our culture are our Drag Queens and our Leather Folks. They are the real leaders of our community because they have traveled even further then most of us have into their Vision Quest. Expert enough to play with the illusions of masculinity and femininity without getting burned.

But what brings my culture together at our core is stories like the one I’m telling you here. We share the experience of rejection and we KNOW how much that hurts the human spirit. That’s why we are, MOSTLY, accepting of others. We have a ways to go in that department, but not NEARLY as far as Straight people do. And, it’s because we have had to challenge our entire existence in ways that straight people have rarely had to think about. Why WOULD they? Straight people are not strangers in a strange land. They live in their own house.

That’s why I ‘m so impressed with this Timothy Kurek fellow. He didn’t HAVE to do that, but he did it anyway because he wanted to really experience what it’s like. That says a lot about his character.

My culture is expert at illusion and superficiality because we all, at some point or another, before our personal Vision Quest, have had to LIVE a superficial illusion to survive. We have been pushed out to the edge of our survival and found a way to come back and live here anyway.

I have the cultural confidence to be able to recognize Window Dressing at 4 blocks! Any time you want to know what the next big hit song on the radio is going to be, all you have to do is go to a gay dance club tonight and listen for a few minutes. See? You didn’t know you were psychic, did you!

Homosexuality is a culture. So much so that when I ‘m filling out forms that ask what race I am, if there’s an option for “Other”  that’s what I check, because of all the options listed on those forms, that one is the closest to what I am.

I’m glad that Timothy Kurek infiltrated my community and experienced what he experienced and I’m glad that he wants you to know about it. I wish more brave heterosexual souls would do that. After all, it’s only fair, we have experienced their world from birth. Been there, done that, moved on! It just wasn’t for me.

Much Love,

Gregory

PS: As an aside to any GLBTQ person who has not seen it already, check out a movie called “Before Stonewall”. It changed my life and my understanding of myself. We have a long and rich cultural history that I didn’t even know existed until I saw it. Maybe it will help you figure some things out.

In Belated Memorium For Billy Preston 1946-2006

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September 5, 2011 – by Gregory Franklyn

I was out looking for things to take pictures of with my new camera yesterday and I was driving up Martin Luther King Boulevard when I spotted a dear friend with whom I had fallen deeply in love about a decade ago. He was hot and sweaty because it was about 90 degrees out and was carrying a rubber trash can over his shoulder, which seemed strangely fitting. You see, my friend suffers from Crack Addiction. One of the most severe cases of the disease I’ve seen so far.

Legend has it, the last time he was well was in High School. He was quite the BMOC at the time and married early. No surprise there, he was a magnificent sight even in the deteriorated condition he was in when I met him. Any young girl, or boy for that matter, would have fallen all over themselves trying to get with him. He ‘s a tall emaciated string of knots now, but in the day I hear he was a mountain of graceful sculpture. He’s intelligent, observant, and makes friends easily with a charm that makes him seem even bigger than he is. He has always lit up any room I was in, at least in part because of the love I feel for him.

He didn’t notice me as I waved so I pulled over to the curb nearly 2 blocks behind him. I was going to speak with him because I missed him and hadn’t seen him in a while. But I stopped myself because as I sat there watching him walk away I realized how sick he is and how miserably I failed to help him out of his unfortunate life a decade ago.

At that moment, sitting there in my car, I felt sad for both of us. Him, for the life he has to live because of the politics of addiction, and me because, try as I might, I was never enough to him to be of any real help. To his credit, and mine I suppose, when we were together he was making some real effort to deal with his disease. But, that was 10 years, of sucking on that glass dick, ago. Among the many things I love about this guy is his work ethic and his integrity. Even in the face of what a crack head has to go through to keep feeding that beast, he was still able to maintain some dignity about himself.

His character as a man has always amazed me and I wish I had known him before he got sick. It’s kind of sad that had he not been sick, we probably never would have met. As I hear it, he was way way up there on the “A List” of the cool kids and I was, clearly, not!

Later that night I was flipping through channels when I came upon a documentary about Billy Preston. Those of you who were born Post-Beatles will probably not remember him, but he has a huge impact on my growth and development with an album he did called “I Wrote a Simple Song”. His claim to fame was his moniker of being the 5th Beatle. He played keyboards on their last two albums and was likely the reason they stayed together long enough to finish them. He also toured with the Rolling Stones as a sideman and was in Ray Charles’ and Little Richards’ bands for years. At 9 years old, he was a guest on Nat King Cole’s TV show and played piano FOR Nat, while Nat sang. NINE YEARS OLD!

The Album I’m referring to, “I Wrote a Simple Song”

I was 20 years old and living in Phoenix Arizona with about 6 others in a little 70s drug commune type of arrangement on Solano Drive. I had just been to the record store and was clutching my prize close to my chest on my way home. I put the record on and dropped a hit of particularly good LSD and laid down on my waterbed to listen.

Somewhere near 9 hours later my room-mates burst into my room and demanded that I change the record. I fell in love with Billy Preston that day. What I felt, and still feel, when I listen to that record is a kind of fun, joy, excitement and not a little bit of stirring down in my nether regions.

I’ll spare you the intimate details, but let’s just say that it’s possible to have an orgasm without touching yourself. To this day I’m grateful that didn’t happen while my house-mates were storming into my room to demand that I play something else for a while. It was one of those records like Brenda Russell’s  “Piano In The Dark” that once I heard it, I couldn’t bear the sound of anything else for WEEKS on end.

What I didn’t know until last evening is that my hero, in addition to being a genius musician who played with the A List of people of his time and whom we now consider legendary geniuses, was also gay! Not many people talk about that and it’s unfortunate. Partly because guys like me, and it turns out Billy Preston himself, had to struggle so deeply with our sexuality and self esteem because no one was talking about it. We had to make it on our own, mostly without help.

Looking back on that experience I can ‘t help but think that Billy Preston reached me so deeply because he was able to communicate through his genius in music that what I was feeling inside was not just OK, but an actual gift that not everyone gets to have. He was a kindred spirit even though I didn’t know it at the time. It’s clear that he didn’t know what he was saying at the time either. I learned from the documentary that he struggled with being gay for his whole life because of his upbringing in the church. Wow, me too!

As you know, God is said to look down on the idea of same gender relationships that include sex. God is SAID to look down on such, by people who don’t understand homosexuality, or are struggling with it themselves. The documentary talked about Billy’s struggle with the same disease my friend from earlier yesterday had, as well! Same one I have, too. With my cigarettes!

However, I am here to testify that somewhere inside of Billy Preston, coming out through his music, was the knowledge of how much of a gift being selected to go through this life as a gay person really is and I will always hold a special place in my soul for his trying to tell me that on his album “I Wrote a Simple Song” way back then. Maybe he was trying to tell himself too, but it changed what I felt about myself on an subconscious level, if not a conscious one. I hope it had the same effect on him.

Looking back, it was around that time in my life when I stopped doing drugs and started looking at my life as if there were a future for me in addition to a past that I’d rather not revisit, and I believe to this day that album had some part in that discovery. I may not have realized it at the time, but another like soul was reaching out to mine. I learned from the documentary that he eventually, if too late, did settle with his sexuality and recovered from his illness with crack shortly before his unfortunate demise in 2006.

I thought it was strange, and maybe a bit of a signal, about what had happened to me earlier that day while sitting in my car thinking about speaking with my friend who was sick, and then seeing this documentary about one of my personal heroes who suffered from the same disease. Here’s what came up for me:

I don ‘t like Crack! It ‘s nothing personal, I just don ‘t like it and I’ve never held bad feelings about people who think they DO like it. I have some friends who have been doing it for years and they’re still my friends and I still love them. I love them from a bit of a distance now because of some of the more unsavory symptoms of the disease but I do love them still.

I also have some friends who have done it and have been able to leave it behind and I cheer for them, inside. I consider it a blessing to have been there to see that happen for them. I just don ‘t want it in my life because you don’t even have to suck that glass dick for it to ruin big swaths of your life. Just being an innocent bystander is enough. If you’re nearby, you’re going to feel the effects of the symptoms of addiction.

BUT, addiction is not a criminal justice issue. It is a MEDICAL one. These people are sick, not criminal. In every case I’ve seen, criminal activity is a symptom of the disease, not a cause. People who are sick commit crimes BECAUSE they are sick, not because they are criminals.

We are fighting a war with crimes we have created by misunderstanding the nature of illness in general and the disease of addiction in particular. I favor legalizing ALL of it even though I have little personal interest in doing drugs anymore (aside from my cigarettes, of course).

We should be putting our money into treatment for a medical disease that is eating my friend alive. Our response to drugs destroys way more families and individual lives than any drug ever dreamed of. It’s like our War on Terror. We’ve done most of the destruction to our country ourselves by acting out our fears instead of our vision for peace or healing.

What also came up for me is this: Religion is the single most powerful force of evil in the lives of my fellow GLBT folks, probably everyone else too, but that ‘s a discussion for another day. I can testify, personally, to that truth and I can point to Billy Preston and any number of other heroes right here in my life who live tragic lives of self doubt because someone in the church, that they looked up to for guidance and direction in times of confusion, told them that who they are as a person is wrong in the eyes of God, and they believed it because they thought they were SUPPOSED to! That is the single biggest, most destructive, lie I have ever heard and it is STILL being told by people who SAY they are speaking in the name of a loving creator, in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

And lastly, What came up for me is that maybe my judgment was a little off yesterday when I let my friend with the trash can on his shoulder keep walking without stopping him to speak for a while. He’s worth it as a human being and I still love him and miss him so much. Maybe I should have stopped him and tried again. It’s 10 years later, he’s surely been through a lot in that time. Maybe now, after all that, I might be enough to reach his soul like Billy Preston was able to do for me at what turned out to be a critical juncture in my life… Maybe….and while I ‘m thinking of it; (Aside to Billy Preston) Happy Trails my brother, and thank you for everything! Will It Go Round In Circles? I certainly hope so, Billy!

With Much Love From Gregory Leon Franklyn, A kid you helped become a man!

Bah Humbug!

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December 10, 2008 – by Gregory Franklyn

The top news stories today were certainly juicy and tantalizing. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is burning up airtime like a spring break bonfire for his attempted sale of the US Senate seat formerly occupied by President Elect Barack Obama. He got arrested and jailed yesterday and has the unmitigated gall to show up at work today like nothing out of the ordinary had just happened.

It turns out nothing out of the ordinary HAD taken place. Politicians in Illinois being escorted into judicial custody is hardly out of the ordinary for Illinois. Nor is slinging blame, there’s plenty for everyone in Chicago politics!

The other big story would have to be the 14 Billion dollars under congressional consideration for US Automakers. Not that that would be news either, we’re having 70s flashbacks about US Automakers getting bailed out of financial ruin. Lee Iacoca must be chuckling under his breath right now. There’s also the unfolding soap opera in New York over Caroline Kennedy and, of all people, Fran Drescher, Seeking the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State, to be, Hillary Clinton.

Amidst this feast of juicy pabulum the story that really captured my imagination is this little aside on “Countdown with Keith Olberman” this evening about Australian astronomer Dave Reneke who has discovered that there is very serious scientific support to question whether December 25th is, or is not, Jesus Christ’s birthday! WHAT???

Ok, we all know that the day we celebrate Christmas was probably NOT the actual date of the birth of Christ. Science has pretty much demonstrated that according to the description of events described in the Bible, the birth of Christ could not have taken place in the winter. Interestingly, this scientist was able to pinpoint the exact date of the event. Ready? June 17, 2 B.C.. Let that twist your mind for a minute.

Jesus was born on June 17th 2 years before the birth of Christ. Those of you who, like former President Bill Clinton, didn’t inhale may be having some difficulty with this concept, but, for the record, I did   Inhale, and I did so repeatedly. It all makes perfect sense to me.

The reason why I mention this story is to illustrate my long held aversion to Christmas. Christmas is a season I’ve never participated in as a matter of choice. I get dragged, kicking and screaming, into it like it was a trip to the medicine cabinet where mom keeps the Castor Oil. If you are a Christian, you, in particular, should be outraged at the desecration of the memory of your lord and savior. What would Jesus do? Think money-changers at the temple. If I m not mistaken, Jesus was a tad bit annoyed at the prospect of Macy’s setting up a little shop on his dad’s porch.

Reneke’s astounding discovery will come as no surprise to the Vatican. They’ve known about this for quite some time. A couple millennia to be exact. As a matter of fact, it was the Vatican, or whatever it was called at the time, that changed the date of the blessed event to “coincide” with the already strong tradition of the Winter Solstice celebrated by most other religions, and, frankly everyone else in the known world, other than Christians. And, as standard operational procedure dictates, Christians even got the date wrong. The Solstice is actually the 21st not the 25th. But I digress! “Coincide” is way to diplomatic of a term to use for the intent of changing Jesus’ Birthday to the Winter Solstice Celebration. “Obliterate” was more the actual intent.

When you’re decorating your Christmas Tree and roasting your chestnuts on that Yule Log you’ll likely be oblivious to the fact that these two traditions, like most Christmas Traditions, were lifted from those terrible heathen Pagan Winter Solstice Rituals and sanitized for your protection. The intent of the Christian Power Structure at the time was to absorb Pagan traditions, sanitize them and give them a decidedly Christian spin so they would have an easier time convincing the world that Pagans were “So Last Year” and that Christianity was the happening religion of the future.

It’s kind of like Rock and Roll! Since Little Richard and those Muddy Waters era musicians melded a handful of down home musical genres into a virtual revolution of world culture, Rock and Roll continues to eat everything that attempts to compete with it. They must have learned that technique from early Christians who have been applying the very same marketing campaign for centuries. Christianity was the James Dean to the rest of the world’s Pat Boone, at the time. It was the young rebel religion full-throttle, hell bent on eating everything in its path to glory.

So this month we are celebrating the victory of Christianity over everything else in the world on a day that is misrepresented as the day their Christ was born, by celebrating with rituals that were stolen from Pagan Religions and turning the whole nine yards of it over to financial interests who created Santa Claus to be the world s deity for a month so they could sell enough product to earn literally a third of their yearly profits in a single month.

Right here would be a good time to mention that I am NOT an atheist, although a good case can be made that I am, by hearing me rant and rave about Christianity. I believe in God, as I perceive it to be and I love that I do so in my own way. I like to think that God, who, or whatever, that may end up to be, appreciates that I love it so much and am so deeply grateful for the width and breadth of the creation that I experience.

There’s this scene in “A Color Purple” by Alice Walker. It’s near the end of the movie version where recently reunited nellie and Celie are casually walking together through a field of daisies on a gloriously beautiful spring day. They stop for a moment and Nellie picks a little purple flower, shows it to Celie and says, “God made the color purple and, you know, I think he gets pissed off if you don t notice”, Call me weird, but I find that little scene deeply spiritual and I will never forget its truth. That has a LOT more to do with my relationship with God than anything I’ve ever read in any scripture, Bible or otherwise.

I agree with the spirit of giving that we use to excuse our deeper knowledge of the truth of what I m talking about this evening. Giving is a good thing, and lest I be guilty of the same fiction mongering I’m distancing myself from right now, so is receiving! I like that we have a whole season of giving. It starts with Thanksgiving, (my personal favorite because it is about people and love and family and togetherness,,, and food, but alas, also fiction) and ends with Christmas, my least favorite because it pretty much trashes everything Thanksgiving is about.

I say Bah, Humbug because everything about Christmas, as we know it, down to its very roots, is one big jumbled messy misrepresentation (translation = Frigging bold faced LIE!) dressed up with a bow and presented to YOU as something of value. None of it is real, it’s all political, financial, religious power struggling insanity and it always has been. We are a pretty resourceful and creative people. I like to think we can come up with a way to honor the life of this truly remarkable teacher, other than this overwhelmingly grotesque affront to everything he stood for. Surely, we can do better than this!?

Merry Christmas,

Gregory