Amy Barlow Liberatore… stories of lost years, wild times, mental variety, faith, and lots of jazz

Category Archives: LGBTQ

As I’ve been absent once again, I did want to mention a wonderful honor:  I have been published!   Barking Sycamores (a journal dedicated to autism in its many forms), published my poem in the very first edition. Link to my poem HERE.  Thanks to Nicole Nicholson for her outreach and sensitivity.

Now, on to poetry:  This Memorial Day, I have chosen a different group of veterans, ignored and consigned to ultimate death when the illness became the subject of gossip and hateful condemnation.

Other Veterans (GMHC, 1983)

Gay community’s response to the crisis
They didn’t know what to do with
the first straight girl who strode into
the waiting room, awaiting instructions

Witnessing wills, filing, odd jobs
Then a delivery, with deliberate orders:
“To Paul Popham. Into his hands only.
Upstairs office at NYC Central PO.”

Paul Popham,* one of six founders of
Gay Men’s Health Crisis, prominent attorney
At the PO, the BS began ASAP
Never forgot their condescension

“His office,” sneered receptionist,
“round back, by the bulk mail”
This prominent attorney with
inconvenient, indelible winestains,**

consigned to makeshift quarters
Breathing delivery trucks’ diesel
contributing to possible PCP***
Far from the “healthy” ones

Greeted me, standing tall
His small frame with grey suit
and suspenders to hold up his
shrinking self, like Daddy’s clothes

Such dignity, as though still possessing
the upper office he once commanded
Our eyes met, our hands grasped
the confidential package together

He shook my hand; he opened his arms
“No shame in crying,” as I bled tears
Total resolve in facing death
even as Reagan ignored the epidemic****

I hope the president’s inaction?
haunted him the rest of his days
and beyond. In the meantime,
Paul Popham carried on his work…

And we still pray

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

*Paul Popham (1947-1985), whose Wikipedia bio can be found HERE, was one of the first AIDS activists in 1981, when the disease was known as GRID: Gay-Related Immunodeficiency Disease. Paul is portrayed as “Bruce Niles” in Larry Kramer’s Pulitzer-Prizewinning play, “The Normal Heart.” The long-awaited film version will air soon on HBO. SEE IT.

** Winestainss, dark purple lesions, were visible signs of Karposi’s Sarcoma, one of the many autoimmune diseases brought on by HIV/AIDS. If you’ve seen Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in the groundbreaking film, “Philadelphia,” you will see how Hanks’ character disguised his winestains with makeup for as long as possible.

*** PCP, or pneumocystis pneumonia, was a lung-wrenching, usually quickly fatal infection of the lungs in those days. A depiction of testing for PCP can be seen in the William Hurt film, “The Doctor.”

****President Ronald Reagan was in a position to order funds for research; instead, he did nothing. He would not even utter the word “AIDS.” I am not ashamed to say that I hope this decision haunted his until his death.


How To “Recruit” Straight People

Pink is for girls
Blue is for boys
Girls should be passive
Boys make the noise
Straight Children 001
Girls given dolls
Boys given trucks
Girls are called “pretty”
Boys are young bucks

Betsy gets yelled at
if she steals Bill’s stuff
Billy, a whoopin’ if he
sneaks powder puff

If Billy weeps
while getting the switch
He’s told “boys don’t cry”
and there is the hitch

Billy’s a sweet soul
who dresses in pink
Betty plays hockey
at the local ice rink

Much to chagrin of their
parents who shudder
Their kids are not from
the right cookie cutter

Forward to adults
Billy married, by force
Goes ‘out’ at night
His wife ponders divorce

Bett moved to SoCal
She broke her folks’ charge
On the beach playing volleyball
Smiles – livin’ large

© 2014 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Illustration also by Amy; please feel free to use it for stereotyping examples.

I hear all about “homosexual recruiting” all the time from “Christians” and FOXophiles; nothing I say can convince them. Societal convention steers kids the “right way.” We are conditioned from birth, which is why so many LGBTQs suffer years of guilt and shame in silence. Some children of the “very Christian” commit suicide.

Support kids when they have the courage to come out of the closet – we did, and our reward is an incredible relationship with Riley. Peace, Amy


Don’t Forget The Mesquite
(musings on Hell and Oscar Wilde)

Lots of folks
Some in my family
say I’m gonna burn in hell

‘cause we love
our daughter, gender queer
We ring her praise like a bell

Hell must be
fun, funny, musical
Gershwin, Gertrude, Oscar Wilde

I’d rather
burn in hell with those folks
than live in sanitized Mild

But please don’t
forget to put mesquite
in with me, to smell my best

when I descend
to see Blanche and Charlotte
and our cat Gable at rest

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Yes, it’s true, our cat Gable was gay. The only one who could pick him up was our landlord, and they would plotz over each other like two preening queens. My mom Charlotte and her mom Blanche were not lesbians, but they knew and loved the whole gay community, including “Auntie Frank,” she of the cowboys boots and best friend (a femme who “never found the right man either.”). So, yeah, I’m going in a handbasket, whatever.

I actually don’t believe in Hell (there’s enough on Earth), but they still want me to go there. Whatever.

Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Marian asked us for poems about, influenced by, or concerning Oscar Wilde. She posted a BRILL YouTube clip of countertenor David Daniels, whose voice you would swear is alto – he’s a countertenor, higher than a tenor – but he seems pretty chill for an opera singer. Click HERE to witness his magnificent voice, as he prepares to premiere an opera about Oscar Wilde, starring as the man himself.

And oh, you homophobes, I hope you enjoy this piece. It is absolutely true, every single word! Peace and solidarity with my LGBTQ bros and sisses, Amy



Video by Matt Logan, used by permission. Worship at the Edge
Lake Edge United Church of Christ, 8-11-13

THE ECSTASY OF EXPRESSION

It’s clear we’re here
for PRIDE celebration
To lift up all living –
Jesus’s exhortation

To love without boundaries
and love all we meet
Good news evident, everywhere
we happened to take a seat

For if there’s not love
in each person’s heart,
what good are the Gospels?
Why even start

to work hard for all people’s
true dignity
Extending to all this
expression of glee

I was born this way
That’s what Gaga sings…
We joined in the dance
and our souls sprouted wings

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Lake Edge United Church of Christ has a “Worship at the Edge” service at 11 each Sunday morning here in Madison. Sometimes, it’s worship WITH an edge… as in this PRIDE Sunday, when Chris, Jennie, Hayley, Peter, and a bunch of co-conspirators flashmobbed the church with Lady Gaga on the overhead! Talk about real ecstasy, a true and lively expression of the Holy Spirit amongst us.

Ray, your talk had me in tears, and bless you for speaking the truth in love. Thanks, Matt Logan, for filming and editing so fast! And Lex, you rock. Not just because you’re my husband… because you’re a pastor who presents God’s extravagant welcome with a rainbow ‘round your shoulders!

This is for E at ABC Wednesday, as well as in the sidebar at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads and Poets United. Peace, Amy


Before the poem, an announcement:  IT’S OFFICIAL!  I AM A TOAD!  The site where I spent most of April, Imaginary Garden With Real Toads, invited me to be one of their circle of 20 poets.  I am extremely flattered and thrilled to be included in the Garden with so many wonderful poets.  Like Poets United, one must be invited to join, so that’s my BIG ANNOUNCEMENT for, like, the year!  Now, on we go…

Queer.

She’s queer and
wants me to
refer to her as
gender queer,
androgynous.

I could do no less
than confess:
My generation has
problems with Queer,
hearing it said in
locker rooms and
school, in sports
and retorts spat at
the skinny boys.

‘Queer’ meant
wrong, bent.
Now it means
the whole LGBT
community.
‘Queer’ has found
immunity.

She told me that
I must embrace change,
dangerous as it seems.
She dreams of
a day when ‘Queer’
simply means
‘Not Straight.’

Apples
to
apples.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For ABC Wednesday and also to be found on my non-homophobic hangouts, Imaginary Garden With Real Toads and Poets United.  It’s a generational thing. I remember gay pride movements in the 70s and 80s, and the cry, “We’re Here! We’re Queer! Get Over It!” Then, the word was still used as a pejorative by straights and closeted LGBTQs. The new generation, those who remember coming home from school on 9/11 like we remember coming home from school the day Pres. Kennedy was shot, have taken that word back, flipped it like a coin, say it with pride.

And I say, “Good on them!” Peace, Amy


Manly Men

There, he looked again,
right at me.
At my crotch, for God’s sake.
He’s at the table across from the bar
near the bathrooms.

Maybe he thinks I’m
“that way.”
Maybe the little queer
thinks he’ll score.
Who can blame him? I’m a stud.
I work out twice a week.

But God, he must
think I’m some kind of
perv.

Here he comes,
right over to the bar,
brazen little nancy boy.
I could buy him a few
drinks, get him out back
and beat the shi-

“Mister?” the young man says
softly.
“Your fly is open.”
He walks to the door,
greets some guy
They hug and grab a drink.

Maybe I should work out more.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Kerry at Imaginary Garden With Real Toads requested we write poems from the first person point of view using a narrator whose unreliability becomes clear to the reader through the course of the narrative. Also, ABC Wednesday is up to M, and, as always, it’s up at my favorite LGBTQ-friendly cafe, Poets United.

Remember, never judge the book without reading it first. Or something like that. I’m so sick of homophobes, and this is an example of well-deserved ego deflation (and shrinkage!). Peace, Amy


I don’t normally re-blog, but The Dark Globe had a reasoned, enlightening view on LGBTQ rights and the Constitution that did NOT include religion.

It’s a well-crafted essay by a person who is NOT “pro-gay,” nor is he “anti-gay.” Intriguing, and I heartily suggest you read and comment. Peace to all, Amy

Gay Rights in America.


Sorry I didn’t post for two days, but here’s a slice of life from a teenage girl’s point of view.

UGLY.

Mirrors are cruel.

They never say she’s
the fairest one, yet she
dares another look.
She doesn’t see
herself, she only sees:

Ugly.

Horrible acne, festering, hideous.
A lump is in her throat as she
steps back for the full-length view.
Flat chest, not the
jiggling fullness boys like.

Hips SO not there.
And her hair, a disaster
of biblical proportions;
not really blonde,
not exactly brown,
more like puddles after
a long, soaking rain…
or the worms that come out to
get squished on the sidewalk.

And the scars on her wrists,
constant reminders that she
tried to rid the world of
this pustule of a person.

Rubbing lavender lotion on her
warm belly (at least I’ll smell good,
not that they’ll get very close),
then, donning the final insult:
the glasses.
(Bifocals at 16. I mean, really?)
She sneaks downstairs for breakfast
before catching the bus to school.

Her mom, who is of course GORgeous
and dressed the same, pours juice.
See her hands, perfectly manicured,
her flawless skin, and long,
auburn hair pulled back carelessly
in a scrunchy. Effortless.

She measures herself against
the impossible, easy beauty of her mother.
(I’ll never be that pretty, never.)

Mom turns and says,
“Paul, remember your biology test today.
Oh, look, you’re wearing the shirt
I got you at the mall!” A kiss on the forehead.
“My handsome boy. Don’t break any hearts today!”

Don’t worry. She won’t, not while
that worrisome bulge is in her jeans.
The thing that doesn’t belong on a real girl.

Gym today… she shudders,
takes a bite of a muffin,
feels the Adam’s Apple
bounce with the swallow.

Ugly.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For Sunday Scribblings, the prompt was “Costume,” (and, indeed, that’s what this teenager wears every day) and ABC Wednesday is on “U.”  Also posting to dverse Open Mic Night, where a collection of more than 100 poets usually post their favorite poems of the week.  All descriptions, all diverse subject matter, all manner of poets.  Look for Aaron Kent, if he has posted a spoken word, too!

NOTE: Life is more than difficult for transgender teens; it’s often impossible. Too many kids commit suicide, caught in the confusion of their gender identity and an undefinable shame about how they are built vs. who they know they are. As with other teens with gender identity confusion, they are constantly on guard, worried their secret will come out. This “young man” yearns to go the the prom in a dress with cleavage. Who can blame her? She is, in her heart, a girl who happened to be delivered into the wrong body. Pray for our kids. High school sucks for straight kids – imagine yourself in this kid’s shoes. Peace, Amy


DECLARATION OF AN ALLY OF THE QUEER COMMUNITY

Queer. That word stops
folks from my generation
dead in their tracks.
We don’t say that word.

Queer.
Always an insult, the word shouted
by football players before stuffing a
loafer-light boy into a wastebasket.

Queer.
Not right. Wrong.
In Matthew Shepard’s case, dead wrong.
Tied-to-a-bumper wrong.

Queer.
The word my daughter uses
in identifying her orientation.
She dresses boyish but loves women.

Queer.
They’re here. Your accountant, your dentist,
your kid’s teacher (not the one with the
porn on their computer, either).

Queer.
Homophobes use it to describe
boys other than their own sons, who
ship out in the Navy to prove they are “real men.”

Queer.
Mom explained it when I was five.
No graphic descriptions of sex,
just, “Uncle John loves Uncle Tony.”

It’s simple.
People are people.
Half the sexual acts straight couples do
could get them arrested in Mississippi.

Queer.
They’re here. Get over it.
They are committed couples.
They adopt kids straight couples don’t want.
They rehabilitate crack babies.
They are wonderful neighbors.
They shop; they pay taxes.
Some are slobs, some are fashionable.
Some drink wine, some drink beer.
Some go to church, some don’t.
They are human beings who are
capable of love, of compassion,
of snottiness, of loyalty.
They deserve life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness.

Just like you.
Just like me.
Just like everybody else.

Amen.

© 2012 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
For ABC Wednesday, brought to you by the letter Q.

And no, that is not a picture of me.  It’s me in 20 years or so!


Christopher Street
(for Jeffery, Jimmy, and thousands more)

Remember the good old days when
the word “immune” didn’t start with “auto”?
When a wine stain was something
he hand-washed off his shirt?

When, drenched with sweat,
two men would lie in bed all day,
not because they were sick…
they were just lolling in love.

Stonewall came and Gay Pride grew
‘til the storm clouds massed and
lightning struck down too many men
in the prime of their lives.

Christopher Street no longer radiates
the joy we knew back then, nor does
the Village hold the singular charm of
young gay lovers stealing a kiss.

Who would have thought a virus could
change our world in such a visceral way,
and never return us to yesterday?
Look back, remember, smile, cry, and trudge on.

© 2011 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

For Three Word Wednesday – Drench, Immune, Radiate.  Also on Poets United… Pray for a cure!  Amy