More Reflections On The Shooting At Pulse Nightclub


I still have not fully come to grips with the events at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Those sentiments do not just hold right for the shooting itself. It holds true for how our world has responded to the deaths of 49 innocent people and sending more to hospitals with serious injuries. People like Arizona pastor Steven Anderson, California pastor Roger Jimenez, and Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have used this tragedy to promote their hateful agenda. We have much farther to go! 

Reading about such self-proclaimed “men of God” have brought me back to a post from back in late April. The post, titled You Should Be More Discreetexpressed strong opposition to those who have insisted on “discreet policing” me by saying that I have should have lived my gay life in secret to avoid offending people who thought that homosexuality is icky. I indicated that it did not just come from loudmouth pastors like Steven Anderson. It came from individuals who claimed to be okay with the truth. Marrying a woman in a big church wedding will never be the ideal life for me. 

Is this going to become a new trend for the future? Will misguided, angry and hateful people with bad intentions look up to the perpetrator as a martyr? Will they try to succeed in following his footsteps? My definition of a perfect world would be a place where the answer to both of those questions is no. Tragically, that is too much to ask. I have watched report after report. Like everyone else, I have one ultimate question that we will never know the real answer. Why would someone commit an act so calculated, violent and hateful? 

For me, the news reports are the worst things about this tragedy. I especially feel this way when I watch interviews with survivors who describe their horrific ordeal in detail. I can only view so many of those before I shiver and cringe after thinking about what would happen if someone were to open fire at any of the local businesses that I frequent. It is one thing to have to worry about such an event reoccurring at my local movie theater or grocery store. It is another thing to have to worry about it in a business that prides itself on being inclusive of the LGBT community. 

The events at Pulse Nightclub were one of the most brutal examples of how real anti-LGBT violence is. How can we LGBT folks overcome the fear of being targeted again? I am sorry to say that I don’t have a definite answer to that question . Even admitting the fact that I am gay runs the potential risk of being harassed, beaten or killed in some places throughout our United States of America. That does not mean I am going to lay in my bed cowering in fear of the things that make me stand out from everyone else. 

I cannot answer the above question by myself. But, I know there is power in numbers. I feel there is one more question that needs to be answered. 

1.) What will it take to introduce and pass legislation which will ensure that violent crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are punished to the fullest extent of the law? Pennsylvania is just one of the states without hate crime laws without that specifically include either of those categories.  

http://www.phillymag.com/news/2016/06/21/pennsylvania-hate-crime-laws/ 

You can tell that this was not an easy post to write. I don’t think I, or anyone else, will be able to fully process our thoughts about the horrific tragedy at Pulse Nightclub. Like I said, there is power in numbers! We must all work together in reminding our nation that anti-LGBT violence is an epidemic. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Thoughts on “The Raven”


This was an essay I wrote in English class as a response to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.”

The Raven: Analysis and Interpretation

Analysis and interpretation of Literature is a great art form. The reader must read through the story or poem several times in order to gain a clear understanding of the work and its meaning. “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe is a remarkable example of a work that has been interpreted in many different ways. I intend to analyze why he used a black raven as a symbol of prophetic significance. The ghastly raven, along with other notable symbols, are one of the many reasons Edgar Allan Poe remains to be one of the most recognizable authors throughout American history.

The story begins on a cold night in December. The unnamed male narrator, whose wife Lenore has presumably died, is napping in his home and awoken by a sudden tapping sound. He is trying to overcome the sorrow from her loss. The narrator tries to address the person or object making the strange tapping sound and no response is heard.  The narrator then opens the door to see where the sound is coming from on and discovers that nobody is there. He then goes back inside and the tapping sound continues. He opens the door an investigates a second time, “Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore; Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he; But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—Perched, and sat, and nothing more.” (Poe, 1028-1031.)

The narrator then continues to ask the raven to state its name and is surprised to hear it croak “nevermore.” He initially assumes this Raven is exhibiting the parrot like tendencies of repeating words and phrases uttered by the creature’s human counterparts. Online articles have indicated the Poe intended to use a parrot as the main symbol, however, he decided that a raven would better fit the poems melancholy tone. However, the narrator’s reaction to this Raven radically changes as the poem progresses onward. Those endeared feelings change to perplexed when he questions why the Raven continues to croak “nevermore.” Perplexed then changes to downright unhinged. “Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend,” I shrieked, upstarting- “Get the back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian’s shore! Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken! Leave my loneliness unbroken! – quit the bust above my door! Take thy beak from out of my heart, and take thy form from off my door! Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore!” (Poe, 1028-1031.) The raven seems to be taunting the narrator and reminding him that he will not be able to see his lost Lenore in heaven. He allowed its taunts to push him into a satanic rage.

I, like many other readers, initially questioned why Poe would write such a dark and mysterious poem about death and the inability to overcome from grief. Reading about his life gave me a very clear perspective. Internet blogs and articles have indicated that “The Raven” was simply a rehearsal for the ultimate grief that American author Edgar Allan Poe was bound to experience. His wife, Virginia was playing piano and singing at an opera house when she suddenly began coughing up blood. It became apparent to Poe that those were symptoms of the deadly disease now known as tuberculosis. The Raven was simply a preparatory piece for the grief he was destined to experience when Virginia was to lose her battle with tuberculosis. (Women’s History Blog: Virginia Clemm.) Poe chose death as the central theme because it is an inevitable topic that we all face at some point in our lives. I especially appreciated line 89. “Is there balm in Gilead? Tell me – tell me, I implore.” (Poe, 1028-1031.) It is a reference to the old testament verse Jerimiah 8:22. Our church has often sung a hymn inspired by that verse titled “There Is a Balm in Gilead.” Poe obviously didn’t strike me as the religious type. Nevertheless, it certainly reminded me how dealing with a loved one’s death of a loved one can certainly seem like there is no “balm in Gilead.” Knowing such a truth begs one important question. Could Poe have deliberately portrayed this Raven as more than just an innocent bird parroting words and phrases uttered by its human counter parts? Could he have actually portrayed it as a satanic force that insists on reminding the narrator that he is doomed to eternal damnation and will never see his lost Lenore in heaven? I am sure this question would receive a variety of answers.

As one can see, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” has become one of the most recognizable works in American literature. The work is a very real reminder that people react to death in many different ways. Some are able to overcome the pain and marry again. Others, however, fall into deep sorrow and depression because they cannot cope. The American classic gave us a glimpse into Poe’s life and how he dealt with his wife’s diagnosis of tuberculosis. It gives us all a reminder about the importance of finding a way to cope with death.

Works Cited

Poe, Edgar-Allan “The Raven.” The Norton Introduction to Literature, 11th Ed. Kelly J. Mays.

         NY: Norton, 2013. 1028-1031. Print

Hallqvist Christopher. “Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven.” Poe Decoder. 1998.

         Web. 3 March 2016

Maggie MacLean. “Virginia Clemm: Wife of Author Edgar Allan Poe.”

          History of American Women Blog. 8 April 2014. Web. 3 March 2016

 

Steve Grand “All American Boy” Review


“Homosexuality is anti-American!”

One can expect to hear many variations of that phrase. Bigots insist upon uttering it every time a celebrity or politician comes out of the closet. They say we are trying to promote an agenda. They think that being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender is “anti-American.” Well, singer/songwriter Steve Grand is proving that it is as “All American” as hot dogs, apple pie and baseball. I have written about him many times. However, I finally listened to his first full length album “All American Boy” and I have wanted to write a thought out review. There is so much that I want to say, but I don’t know where to begin. This brought me back to the day I first discovered him back in July of 2013.

Strangely enough, I cannot remember where or how I discovered Steve. However, I will always remember the impact he still continues to have on me. I am trying to figure out where I am truly destined in life. Things are coming slowly. Although, I know that the only way to do that is to find out as much information as I can and go do it. It is easy enough to say “no” in fear of the outcome being less than desirable. This is why I will always cherish “All American Boy.” It has truly exceeded my expectations! Each song has its own character, but they all reflect the passion and authenticity of the Steve Grand who I have truly come to admire. Here, I have decided to highlight some of my favorite tracks.

There is one thing that definitely makes an album worth listening to. It is the occasional presence of tracks with titles that make a new listener question the lyric content, rather than jump out at them immediately. The beautiful ballad “Back to California” is definitely one of those. This is without a doubt the most personal track on the album. The lyrics are about his long-lost best friend from high school and how she always stood by him. Being gay in high school is no picnic for many people who grow up in small towns with mostly Conservative upbringings. Far too often, this negativity is often internalized and imposed on people who have done nothing but live their own lives. Being someone who happens to be gay and diagnosed with high functioning Autism, I truly admire and respect that someone recognizes the importance of friendships.

Like I said earlier, it is important for anyone who dreams of achieving success in this world to find out where they are truly destined. “We Are The Night” has a very different feel. It’s dance like beat reminds me of The Scissor Sisters, while it’s progressive lyrics very much resemble Lady Gaga’s Born This Way.

And we just wanna be free
Is there anything more lovely?
We got our whole lives to love
And tonight we’re as young as we’ll ever be
So don’t you never look back
Today could be our last
And we’ll just live as we are
Unmoved by the darkness we face
Cause we are the night
They’re gonna say we just ain’t right
But we are the night
We are the night

Homophobia will continue to exist throughout our years on this earth. People will continue to bitch and moan every time a celebrity or public figure comes out of the closet. However, the title track “All American Boy” is also one of those tracks that truly defies the societal boundaries of sexual orientation. This video has received a lot of praise, along with negativity from a few angry and potentially misguided gay people. The video is a fantasy about a gay man who expresses undying love for his straight friend, who is already with a woman. Steve’s fantasy ends up becoming a short-lived reality. He and his dream beau rip off their clothes, jump into a pond and kiss. This alone has angered a few of the nasty critics I just mentioned, mainly because of the clear difference between fantasy and reality. Then again, some gay people just don’t like the patriotic theme because many (but not all) “patriotic” Americans are racist and sexist god fearing Christians who think being gay is the spawn of the devil.

Nevertheless, I sense that this video and song was ultimately intended to remind us all that there is nothing wrong with thinking that we are in love with someone, despite the fact that we cannot have them.

“Stay” is a track that I can picture Steve and his band singing around a campfire. A banjo, mandolin and guitars accompany this lighthearted toe tapper. It sends Steve’s future beau a very clear, yet upbeat message.

Stay with me, we don’t never have to leave
You my southern king, we live it for the daydreams
So don’t you laugh—Notre Dame he had his chance
And he’s a good, good man
But there’s some things he just don’t understand
So when my old man’s out of town but a couple days
I think that you should stay
Oh, won’t you stay
Hmmmm

“Soakin’ Wet” is another one of those upbeat pop/rock type songs. I would consider the lyric content to be sexy in nature, without putting so much emphasis on sexual details. I don’t have anything against people who are “unfiltered” in those regards. However, it is nice to see someone who recognizes that being gay goes far beyond the things we do between the sheets.

I got you out on the water, soaking wet
Got that white t-shirt clinging to your chest
Yeah, the sun’s going down, but it ain’t gone yet
We can dry off a little later on
‘Cus we’re having a little too much fun
Being soaking wet, eh, eh
Being soaking wet, eh, oh

“Time” is by far my favorite ballad. As the title suggests, it’s about the quick progression of time and how relationships can suddenly take a turn for the worst. People are not always as charming as they seem. We swoon over their good looks, sense of humor, their money, cars and stylish clothes. They go on and on about how amazing they think they are. We are completely oblivious to who they truly are. They just want to use us for sex, money or anything else they can brag about to the next person they want to stab in the back. While the song was about the painful end of a romantic relationship, I am sure the lyrics are relatable to anyone who knows how it feels to be mistreated by someone who they previously perceived as genuine.

On that note, I do hope that Steve will consider something in the future. Many artists have created music videos that are either slightly or completely different from your typical visual reenactment of the lyrics. The music video for Garth Brook’s “The Dance” is a remarkable example of that. He used it as a tribute to inspirational leaders who have died and pondered what the lyrics would have meant to them. I listen to the chorus of “Lovin’ Again” and notice how it changes from the beginning to the end.

“You just might keep me, you just might keep me, from lovin’, lovin’ again.

Perhaps the cry is coming from someone who is trying to come to terms with more than just a “love gone bad.” For example, his boss could have fired him for being gay and he could be struggling to find a new job and live his life again. Life’s contradicting messages are nearly pushing him to the breaking point. He finally finds the courage to get up and remind himself…

“You won’t keep me, you won’t keep me, from lovin’, lovin’ again.”

All in all, Steve Grand’s debut album “All American Boy” is more than just an authentic display of defiance towards the societal boundaries of sexual orientation. It is a reminder that we must not be afraid of experimenting and seeing where we truly belong. It takes time, patience and confidence to find that, but it is something that we must do if we want to.  achieve true success. Steve epitomizes someone who can truly achieve that!

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The More Things Change (The More They Stay The Same)


The above quote is something that we’ve all heard before, but don’t understand the meaning of. Most people think of two certain politicians with different agendas. Regardless of their stances on issues, they are competing to earn the most powerful position in the United States of America. However, I think of that Bowling For Soup song called “High School Never Ends.” When a high school senior takes that final walk down the aisle and grabs their diploma, they think that life will instantly turn into the one they have truly dreamed of. When they begin working towards their aspiration or dream, they are faced with the instant realization that their perception was completely wrong! Sometimes, they discover that their chosen path is far from ideal. They are left to start at the very beginning.

It’s funny because it has been almost four years since I graduated from high school. I stood inside the Lenape Technical School gymnasium and I thought that life would instantly become the one I truly dreamed of.

Being realistic? What a joke! Why can’t I just sit here and dream about the life I want?

You may be wondering why I brought this up. I brought it up because I still am not sure where I am going to go to create that life I truly need and deserve. I went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania and I thought I was destined for a high tech career in Electro Optics. I was completely oblivious to how much I struggled with Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus. I thought I would finally be able to grasp the concepts of those subjects after being introduced to practical examples of their use. The problem was, I could not even grasp the core concepts. I must be as blunt as possible in saying that I no longer see the point in trying to finish a degree that requires skill in an area that I greatly struggle in.

So, I am now back at square one. I have been looking into possibly pursuing an English degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I am not going to give up on my ultimate goal of publishing a memoir. I truly believe that is the one thing in my life that will make it truly worth living. English Literature and Writing Studies are my top interests. I certainly agree that an English major will help me build my skill in something that I love to do. However, people are still discouraging me from doing so. Most of it is the typical “you will not be able to find a job with an English degree.” They base their stance on the select few people they know who completed a similar degree and still work at McDonalds. Regardless, I have been trying to do as much research as I possibly can about careers and about how I can work towards my ultimate goal of becoming a published author.

Oh yes, let’s not forget the not so enjoyable part of preparing for a “realistic future.” It all has to do with the money. I will have to find a way to pay for classes, housing and my vehicle. My mistake of pursuing a degree in Electro Optics resulted in my GPA being below the minimum requirement to graduate. Vocational rehabilitation is not able to provide any assistance until I bring it up. So, I feel like a high school senior again. “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”