By Hollis Taylor
Sometimes when I think about queer history I realize how old I am, what I have seen and witnessed unfold. As a young child I remember my mother’s best friend got a divorce. I was close friends with her son and we were very close while his parents divorced. I remember him telling me that his father was a fag. There were sometimes in the quiet places in the huge cluttered house he lived in that he would tell me about how it really felt for him. I remember sitting in a small room, just larger than a walk in closet that was waist deep in clothes packed on the floor. We used it like a big cushion and bounced around the room together. At some point we would run out of breath or bang heads together and find ourselves laying on the clothes laughing or crying. He told me he was scared and he didn’t understand why his parents couldn’t stay together. He explained to me that his father liked men now. His father dressed like a woman, now. Other times when his big brother was around he would say the same mean things his big brother would say about the situation. Things like “faggot” – “cock sucker” – “faery” and consistently refer to him dressing as a woman as something that meant he was lesser of a man. I remember riding in the car to pick up my friend from his fathers and some sort of drama happened with his father in a dress, a blond wig and high heels. I remember the image perfectly. That was about 1980. He died 5 years later of AIDS.
As I grew up I was exposed to many sides of gay, my mother talked clearly about gay men and cross dressers. We were friends with another family that the father of the family went to the boardwalk with us in drag. I remember it fondly and from then on noticed the drag queens in the Rehoboth Beach, DE area every single summer I lived there. I watched the area fold into a queer beach, never was I offended. I felt safe at Rehoboth, more safe then my winter home in Wilmington, DE. I had a youth group leader that was gay. I remember when my mother informed me because she thought I had a crush on him, actually he was more like a brother. In reality I had a crush on the woman that ran the group at his side, but no one ever knew that. I cried at her funeral years later.
When my son was born I always swore I would never close doors about being gay and since both of his parents were bisexual, it seemed absurd. I raised him as he was. I never hesitated to buy him an easy bake oven. I supported him when he played with my high heels and boas. When he came out with a dress and pranced himself around the house, I never once did anything but encourage his antics. As he aged I allowed him to watch Queer as Folk even though it was sexual because I thought “Well I would rather him see sex than killing people.” He was not aloud to play “Grand Theft Auto” until his manhood ceremony at age 13. I reached out to a group of gay men known as the Radical Faeries and told them I wanted gay men in my son’s life. They fostered him like the uncles he needed. He made a lifetime of connections he will never lose. He was equally influenced by heterosexuals as he was by homosexuals or queers in general. Today he is straight…..I proved it you can’t catch gay!
Today as I truly live the queer life I always dreamed of I talk to other queers about their experiences. I love to listen to stories about their lives. Stories from gay men that share about stonewall, gay bars, and back rooms. I hear stories from older butches about their lives as Drag Kings, before there was a name for it. Stories about passing as a man so that you could be safe and visa/versa.
A story about a bar out in the middle of nowhere was fascinating. My primary partner, Arial, tells me about this place as being her first gay bar. She said how one side was all womyn and the other side was all men. But the most fascinating piece was that it was out in the middle of nowhere, in a barn. I heard this story 8 years ago, and have heard about it many times through the years. So when I was invited to perform at this exact venue there was no hesitation for either of us.
I performed at Altlands Ranch and truly enjoyed the places rich queer history. It was certainly a barn and very country – but still had a queer feel to it. I loved the stage and dance floor it was perfect for performing and the dance floor made it easy to interact with the crowd. The crowd was very masculine and I mean that exactly. There seemed to be a lot of very bear/tops like men – so this is where all the tops hang out. As is normal in Central PA there were more men than womyn. I enjoyed the guys and loved stirring up the crowd. The few ladies I met along with the Roller Derby team were all tons of fun! It was truly a night of fun, dancing, laughing, and great history. Thank you to Altlands for making safe space, before it was cool to make it! (Read Altlands History)