Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saying Farewell to CPCSM

On the afternoon of Saturday, April 17, I hosted an event at my home in south Minneapolis to mark the official dissolving of the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM), the non-profit organization I've have led as executive coordinator since 2003.

Above: Pictured center with (from left) Bill and Deb LeMay and Lisa and Brent Vanderlinden.

From 2011 to 2013, the organization operated as Catholics for Marriage Equality - Minnesota (C4ME-MN), which played a crucial role in defeating the proposed 2012 anti-marriage equality amendment to the Minnesota constitution and securing marriage equality within the civil sphere in 2013. One of our most signifant undertaking during this time was the creation (in collaboration with filmmaker Aleshia Mueller of Reel Nomad Productions) of Catholic for Marriage Equality, a series of five video vignettes of faith, marriage and family from the perspective of LGBT Catholics and supportive family members.

Another important project of C4ME-MN was led by Jim Smith and involved over 300 Catholics coming together to record David Lohman's powerful song, "For the Children." Both a audio and video recording was made, and the final result was premiered at a special event in Loring Park in August 2012.

Since August 2014, both CPCSM and C4ME-MN have largely been inactive, although earlier this month I was quoted as the "former coordinator for Catholics for Marriage Equality MN" in Jean Hopfensperger's Star Tribune piece on Catholic reactions to Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia.

Why have we dissolved the organization? Well, as the saying goes, everything has its season . . . and, basically, we (as in the CPCSM board) felt that the time had come for CPCSM to formally fold. Over the past five years or so it has become increasingly difficult to build and maintain the capacity to both fund and operate the non-profit organization that CPCSM was established as in 1980. We've accomplished much, and we're well aware that there is still much to do. We're confident, however, that both Dignity Twin Cities (from which CPCSM emerged 36 years ago) and the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (which CPCSM helped co-found in 2009) are more than capable of carrying forward many aspects of CPCSM's mission and work.

A history of creating environments of respect, acceptance and safety

Of course, well before CPCSM's focus on marriage equality, the organization worked to create environments of respect, acceptance and safety for LGBT persons and their families within both the Catholic Church and wider society; environments wherein the experiences, insights, and integrity of LGBT persons and their loved ones are recognized, affirmed and celebrated.

Our work has included a range of services – from the training of parish-based professionals and volunteers working with LGBT persons in the 1980s to “safe staff” training of secondary school professionals at eight of the eleven local Catholic high schools in the 1990s. CPCSM's work also included a variety of educational and consultative programs – from family support groups and parish-based educational lectures and workshops to consultations provided to a number of parishes, religious communities, and other church and community groups within the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

In 2007 we had our first book published: Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective. I had the honor of editing this collection of strategies, resources, and reflections that helps Catholic high school teachers and counselors in their interactions with students who have either “come out” as LGBT or who are struggling with questions related to sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

To date, Creating Safe Environments for LGBT Students: A Catholic Schools Perspective remains the only resource specifically drawn from and written for the Catholic high school context. (For reviews of this book, click here, here, and here.)

Following are some images of the April 17, 2016 "wake" for CPCSM/Catholics for Marriage Equality MN, an event that brought together folks from different times in the organization's 30+ year history.

Above: Beverly Barrett and Bill Hunt.

For many years Beverly served as CPCSM's secretary, maintaining meticulous minutes and notes.

Throughout the 1980s and '90s, Bill Hunt served as CPCSM's peritus (theological advisor), having attended the sessions of the second period of the Second Vatican Council in that same capacity in 1963. Bill holds a doctorate in theology from the Catholic University of America and taught Catholic theology at the graduate level for fifteen years. A number of his erudite articles have been published at The Progressive Catholic Voice online forum (see, for example, here, here, and here).

Above: Former CPCSM board members Craig Barrett and Mary Ellen Foster, CSJ.

Mary Ellen's involvement with CPCSM dates back to the organization's earliest days. In the early 1980s she served on the CPCSM board with her good friend Sarah O'Neill, CSJ. Sarah dedicated so much of her time and energy to CPCSM that when she died in 1985 Equal Time, a local LGBT newspaper, published a lengthy obituary, noting that with her death "the Twin Cities' lesbian and gay community [had] lost a significant and much-needed liaison with the Catholic Church."

We remembered and celebrated the life and legacy of Sarah O'Neill at our April 17 gathering, along with others from CPCSM's past, including co-founders Bill Kummer (1948-2006) and David McCaffrey (1947-2011).

The image at right is from 2004 and shows Bill Kummer pictured at far right. Also in this photograph are (from left) Ginna Webb, CSJ; Tom White; Brigid McDonald, CSJ; Martin Dohmen; Mary Lynn Murphy; and Darlene White. For many years Martin served as CPCSM's office manager. He was unable to attend the April 17 event but asked that the following anecdote be shared.

One of the things I remember the most when we were first getting the safe schools program going was when Bill, David and myself would be at the office preparing materials and be up late. David and I would think we were prepared but then Billy would come to us and say, "I think it would be better if we did this." David and I would get frustrated knowing we would have to redo something, but we also knew that Billy would be right – again. When we did get done we always managed to have pie afterwards.

Above: Mary Beckfeld, Mary Lynn Murphy and Darlene White. Along with other Catholic parents of LGBT children, Mary, Mary Lynn, and Darlene where co-founders in 2004 of Catholic Rainbow Parents.

Above: Former board members Brigid McDonald, CSJ and Alice Rice.

Above: Former CPCSM treasurer Paul Fleege with a display board I created in 2004.

Above: Mary Lynn Murphy, Rob Pieck, and Br. Michael Lee.

Above: Darlene White with her son Tim (left) and Paul Fleege.

Above: Brigid McDonald, CSJ, Cheryl Maloney, and Ruth Brooker, CSJ.

The signs in the background were created for Catholics for Marriage Equality MN's 2012 Lenten prayer vigil outside the chancery offices of the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Above: Bob DeNardo, Mike Murphy, and Tom White.

Above: My good friend and housemate Tim with Paula Ruddy, who's been described as the "matriarch of the Catholic reform movement" in the Twin Cities. She's also a very good friend of mine and a very articulate and thoughtful communicator of ideas! (See, for example, here, here, here and here.)

You may recall that Paula and I were part of a delegation from the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) that met with then-Interim Archbishop Hebda (now the actual Archbishop) of St. Paul-Minneapolis in September 2015. (For more about this meeting, click here.)

CPCSM helped co-found CCCR in 2009. It's an organization that, in a number of important ways, carries forward CPCSM's mission and work. (See, for example, here.)

Above: With Bill Hunt – Saturday, April 17, 2016.

For more on the history and accomplishments of CPCSM, see the following previous Wild Reed posts:
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 1)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 2)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 3)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 4)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 5)
CPCSM and the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis (Part 6)
CPCSM’s Year in Review – 2006 (includes an announcement of the January 29 death of CPCSM co-founder Bill Kummer.)
CPCSM Co-founder Responds to "Not Catholic" Assertion
Inclusive Catholics Celebrate Gay Pride (2007)
Choosing to Stay
300+ People Vigil at the Cathedral in Solidarity with LGBT Catholics
CPCSM's Year in Review – 2007
250+ People Attend Catholic LGBT Pride Prayer Service in Minneapolis
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2008)
How Times Have Changed
CPCSM's Year in Review – 2008
History Matters
Putting a Human Face on the 'T' of 'GLBT'
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2009)
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Courage
For the Record
CPCSM's Year in Review – 2009
At UST, a Rousing and Very Catholic Show of Support for Marriage Equality
LGBT Catholics Celebrate Being "Wonderfully Made"
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2010)
CPCSM's Year in Review – 2010
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2011)
Sad News (The Wild Reed's July 10, 2011 announcement of CPCSM co-founder David McCaffrey's death.)
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2012)
GSAs and the Catholic High School Setting
Doing Papa Proud
A Catholic Presence at Gay Pride (2013)
An Inspiring Evening of Conversation and Camaraderie
Minnesota Catholics, LGBT Students, and the Ongoing Work of Creating Safe and Supportive Schools
On the First Anniversary of Marriage Equality in Minnesota, a Celebratory Look Back at the Important Role Played by Catholics
Catholics Make Their Voices Heard on LGBTQ Issues

Friday, April 29, 2016

Electric Love

For "music night" this evening I share one of my favorite contemporary songs: "Electric Love" by American indie pop artist BØRNS.

I like this song because it (along with its accompanying music video) has a great 1970s' glam (or glitter) rock vibe; and since some of my earliest musical memories are of that very unique moment in pop music history, the distinct and rather trippy sounds and visuals of glitter rock have always appealed to me. Obviously, this all stems from first experiencing such sounds and visuals at an impressionable age. Then again, maybe I'm just innately drawn to glitter and the often camp and androgynous look of glam rockers!

Regardless, I'm glad that Garrett Borns (aka BØRNS), despite being born 20 years after the era of glam rock, beautifully channels all its trippiness, androgyny, theatricality, and overall awesomeness in his music and stage persona.

. . . Baby, you're like lightning in a bottle
I can't let you go now that I got it
And all I need is to be struck
By your electric love
Baby, your electric love
Electric love

Rushing though me
Feel your energy rushing through me.

Says BØRNS about the writing of "Electric Love":

I wrote this song in L.A. with Tommy English. We’re really good friends and have just developed this collaborative synergy – we know our strengths and can really feel free creatively. We’re both chilled out Midwestern boys. "Electric Love" was the fourth or fifth song we recorded together. I was still in the genesis of figuring out what kind of record I wanted to make.

I was listening to a lot of glam rock and going through the archives of artists like T-Rex – music with a lot of fuzz guitar. I love how he doesn’t give a fuck – it’s just so rad. His music is so poetic but also has a sense of humor. That’s kind of how we are in the studio – we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Also, I’m kind of a sucker for very fantastical love songs and professing your love in this grandiose way.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
David Bowie: Queer Messiah
Remembering Prince, "Fabulous Freak, Defiant Outsider, Dark Dandy"
No Surprise, But an Important Event Nonetheless
"Glambert" and the New Gay Stereotype

Related Off-site Links:
A Biased History of British Glam Rock
Glam Rock – Then and Now – Brian Knight (The Vermont Review).
The 20 Best Glam Rock Songs of All Time – Jon Savage (The Guardian, February 1, 2013).
"It Bathes the Pleasure Centers": BØRNS Channels DopamineNPR Music (October 19, 2015).
Modern Love in a Digital Age: BØRNS Talks Human Interaction and Music’s Part in It – Kai Hermann (Nothing But Hope and Passion, April 26, 2016).

Thursday, April 28, 2016

And As We Dance . . .

. . . we realize that we don't have to stay
on the little spot of our grief,
but we can step beyond it.

We stop centering our lives on ourselves.
We pull others along with us
and invite them into the larger dance.
We learn to make room for others
– and the Gracious Other in our midst.

And when we become present
to God and God's people,
we find our lives richer.
We come to know that all the world
is our dance floor.
Our step grows lighter
because God has called out others
to dance as well.

. . . Prayer puts us in touch
with the God of the Dance.

– ‎Henri Nouwen
Excerpted from Turn My Mourning Into Dancing
(Thomas Nelson Publishing Company, 2004).

For more of Henri Nouwen at The Wild Reed, see:
To Be Held and to Hold
Active Waiting: A Radical Attitude Toward Life
A Guidepost on the Journey
Lent with Henri
In the Garden of Spirituality – Henri Nouwen

See also: the previous posts:
The Soul of a Dancer
The Dancer and the Dance
The Art of Dancing as the Supreme Symbol of the Spiritual Life
The Premise of All Forms of Dance
The Church and Dance
The Naked Truth . . . in Dance and in Life
We All Dance
A Kind of Dancing Divinity
Memet Bilgin and the Art of Restoring Balance
In the Dance of Light, Eyes of Fiery Passion
Unique . . . Yes, You!
Divine Connection
"Then I Shall Leap Into Love"
Shall We Dance?

Image: Lloyd Knight and Abdiel Cedric Jacobsen of the Martha Graham Dance Company. (Photo: Ken Browar and Deborah Ory of the NYC Dance Project)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Quote of the Day

One of the many unintended consequences of the [Black Lives Matter] movement has been opening up space for talking about the complexity of black identity and [how] blackness is not monolithic. It’s so many things to so many people. People have different identities. We’re talking about the trans community in public in ways that we haven’t before.

As a gay black man it’s important to me to show up – that I’m able to show up as my whole self, in every space that I’m in, because that’s how I’m able to be the most true to who I am.

– DeRay Mckesson
Excerpted from Michelangelo Signorile's article,
"DeRay Mckesson, Baltimore Mayoral Candidate,
on His Sexuality and Black Lives Matter
The Huffington Post
April 1, 2016

Above: DeRay Mckesson in Ferguson, MO
in the summer of 2014.

Related Off-site Links:
Why DeRay Mckesson Matters – Janet Mock (The Advocate, February 25, 2016).
“I Didn’t Want That to Be the Story About Mike Brown”: Meet the Man Showing America the Real Ferguson Story – Sarah Jaffe (Slate, December 8, 2014).
John Waters and Jack'd Endorse DeRay Mckesson for Baltimore Mayor – Daniel Reynolds (The Advocate, March 30, 2016).
After leading in Black Lives Matter, DeRay Mckesson Finds Himself Trailing in His Bid to Become Baltimore Mayor – Hunter Walker (Yahoo! News, April 26, 2016).

UPDATES: DeRay Mckesson is Famous. Here’s Why That Didn’t Sway Baltimore Voters – Julia Craven (HuffPost Black Voices, April 27, 2016).
Black Lives Matter Activist Picked for Schools PostBaltimore Brew, June 29, 2016).
DeRay McKesson Arrested During Baton Rouge Black Lives Matter Protest – Lilly Workneh (HuffPost Black Voices, July 10, 2016).
DeRay McKesson Sues Baton Rouge Police Over Protest Arrests – Reuters via HuffPost Black Voices August 4, 2016).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Remembering Prince, "Fabulous Freak, Defiant Outsider, Dark Dandy" – 1958-2016
Something to Think About – December 29, 2015
Quote of the Day – November 25, 2015
"We Are All One" – #Justice4Jamar and the 4th Precinct Occupation: Photos, Reflections and Links
An Update on #Justice4Jamar and the 4th Precinct Occupation
Rallying in Solidarity with Eric Garner and Other Victims of Police Brutality
Quote of the Day – June 19, 2015
"Say Her Name" Solidarity Action for Sandra Bland
In Minneapolis, Rallying in Solidarity with Black Lives in Baltimore
Thoughts on Prayer in a "Summer of Strife"

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Enkindled Spring

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that's gone astray, and is lost.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Photo of the Day – April 13, 2016
Let the Greening Begin
Springtime by the Creek
A Springtime Walk Along Minnehaha Creek
Dreaming of Spring
Photo of the Day – April 15, 2015
Photo of the Day – May 6, 2014
Photo of the Day – April 25, 2011
Spring in Minnesota
In the Footsteps of Spring

Images: Michael J. Bayly, April 2016.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Quote of the Day

[Michael Voris (pictured at right), editor of and supporter of the Courage apostolate] is . . . telling the world he has a homosexual past. He speaks as if he is somehow "over" his past sexual orientation, which he chooses to see as a "forfeiting of masculinity."

I'm truly sorry for his suffering. I have to conclude, though, that there's such a deep, crippling sickness and confusion among right-wing Christians, whether Catholic, evangelical, or Mormon, around these issues of sexuality. Just sick – the need to lie, pretend, uphold rigid binary stereotypes about gender and impose them on all the rest of the world as divine revelation, deny the rich diversity of God's created world that does not fit into the narrow paradigms of the Christian right.

All that, and a ravenous need to target LGBTQ people and call that activity holiness. Sickening – and it creates sick, twisted people, when people buy into these thought patterns.

May Voris find some healing and liberation (and stop shouting at the rest of the world and come into vital contact with his inmost self when he quiets down).

William D. Lindsey
via Facebook
April 22, 2016

Related Off-site Links:
Michael Voris of Church Militant Addresses His Gay Past in Shocker Video Statement – William D. Lindsey (Bilgrimage, April 22, 2016).
Anti-Gay Catholic Activist Michael Voris Confesses: I Used to Live a Sinful Life with Homosexual MenJoe My God (April 23, 2016).
SHOCK: Anti-Gay Preacher Was Having Some Very Gay Sex – Dan Tracer (Queerty, April 25, 2016).
Anti-Gay Catholic Evangelist Reveals He Used to Have a Lot of Gay Sex – Sean Mandell (Towleroad, April 25, 2016).
New York Archdiocese Denies Allegation That It Sought to Smear Michael VorisCatholic Herald (April 22, 2016).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Dreaded "Same-Sex Attracted" View of Catholicism
Officially Homophobic, Intensely Homoerotic
Gay Men in the Vatican Are Giving the Rest of Us a Bad Name
The Many Forms of Courage (Part I)
The Many Forms of Courage (Part II)
The Many Forms of Courage (Part III)
Be Not Afraid, You Can Be Happy and Gay
The Many Manifestations of God's Loving Embrace
What Is It That Ails You?
What the Vatican Can Learn from the X-Men

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Remembering Prince, "Fabulous Freak, Defiant Outsider, Dark Dandy" – 1958-2016

I can't say I was a "fan" of Prince, the trail-blazing music legend who was found dead this morning in his Paisley Park estate and studio in Chanhassen, just outside of Minneapolis. I certain recognize and appreciate his contribution to music, but I just wasn't personally ever into this unique contribution to the degree that I bought any of his albums.

That being said, I was definitely aware of how Prince was a constant presence on the music scene in the years when I was in high school and college in Australia. I can even say I had a favorite Prince song, 1985's "Raspberry Beret." And of course, once I relocated in 1994 to Minneapolis, Prince's birthplace and home base, I became much more aware of his music and his contribution to what's known as the Minneapolis sound.

Yet even though Prince's music didn't always, er, grab me, his look – especially his early look – certainly did.

It was a look that exuded sexual awareness, availability, and confidence. As a closeted and somewhat fearful gay boy, I took note of how Prince appeared totally comfortable wearing next-to-nothing, and how he didn't seem to have the need to pose in stereotypical macho ways. There was an openness and a vulnerability in his masculinity that I found, and still find, incredibly attractive (and which, in my own way today, I seek to emulate).

Only later did I realize how groundbreaking such a combined display of sexiness and vulnerability was for a man to embody – and, in particular, for a black man within the hyper-macho black culture of that era.

I guess another way of speaking about all of this is to say that Prince wasn't afraid to break certain taboos around gender and sexuality, primarily by mixing and matching certain qualities and attitudes – to engage in genderfuckery, as one commentator calls it. Prince could, for example, excel at looking demure and vulnerable (qualities our society generally assigns to women) while at the same time convey a sexy self-confidence bordering on the, well, cocksure.

I also appreciated (and, truth-be-told, was turned-on by) the fact that physically, like so many men in the 1970s and early '80s, Prince had a very natural masculine beauty. By this I mean he clearly wasn't an over-pumped-up gym bunny. Yet he was still incredibly sexy, as I'm sure you'll see by the images I've chosen to accompany this post.

Following are comments I've come across today in various tributes to Prince that explore his taboo- and rule-breaking charism in relation to gender and sexuality.

He was a straight black man who played his first televised set in bikini bottoms and knee-high heeled boots, epic. He made me feel more comfortable with how I identify sexually simply by his display of freedom from and irreverence for obviously archaic ideas like gender conformity.

When I showed my teenager pictures of Prince, she said: “He looks disgusting.” Well, precisely. Did I actually fancy this rather strange little satyr of a man in his funny heels? He confused me, so I was never actually sure what I felt, except what I knew the music made me feel. To see him live was to a see a performer who seemed capable of having sex with every individual member of the audience. . . . Much has been well said about his sexual ambiguity, which opened up new ways for so many other artists to be. But Prince was doing something perverse on every level, pushing every conventional signifier of race or sex past its limit. This queerness was the beginning, not the end point of desire. What was subversive was that it really didn’t matter how you got off – as long as you did.

His ability to embody the feminine, to utilise it, to play with it – I find androgynous absolutely the wrong word for him – made him unbelievably seductive. Here was a man singing about female desire in a way women understood. His absolute cockiness was always present alongside his willingness to be objectified: a killer combo.

– Suzanne Moore
Excerpted from "Prince Didn't Write About Sex.
He Was Sex
The Guardian
April 22, 2016

Prince repelled and fascinated me because he represented every side of all the contradictions I felt. I felt nervous even looking at him, and yet I couldn’t look away. What would it mean if I opened myself up to the letting go of all those rules he seemed to have dispensed with? That purple clothing, those high heels and ruffled shirts: was he proudly feminine, or so secure in his masculinity he didn’t mind others questioning it? That small frame and that tight, small butt that seemed to leave him “shaking that ass, shaking that ass” for men and women alike? Who was he trying to turn on with "Sexy MF" or "Cream" – and what if someone thought I wasn’t getting turned on by his big-haired dancers, but by the artist himself?

Prince was a paradox in that he expanded the concept of what it meant to be a man while also deconstructing the entire idea of gender. Like Michael Jackson, Prince seemed to perform a kind of black masculinity that was neither neutered nor completely in line with the hypermasculinity so common in the rap coming out of nearby Los Angeles at the same time. It was as fluid and luscious as his long eyelashes, and as delicious looking as those lips of his – and it seemed to welcome everyone. His gaze was as slippery, self-assured and questioning as his music itself. And when those eyes of his (paired with the light scruff around his mouth) caught yours from an album cover, almost daring you to look away with their confidence, they also seemed to know you’d be powerless not to.

– Steven W. Thrasher
Excerpted from "Prince Broke All the Rules
About What Black American Men Should Be
The Guardian
April 21, 2016

[Prince] inlaid his albums with brazen pansexuality and gender norm coquetry – provocations made all the more potent by his staggering talents as a singer, hook-writer, and guitar shredder. Years before the leaders of the gay and lesbian community began to embrace a more nuanced, less binary notion of queerness – and decades before transgender and genderqueer politics became mainstream topics of interest – Prince presented a living case study in the glorious freedom a world without stringent labels might offer.

“I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I’m something that you’ll never understand,” Prince sang on 1984’s “I Would Die 4 U.” He was right – few could claim to fully grasp Prince’s easy embodiment of both maleness and femaleness. His schooled evasion of conventional classifiers made him endlessly fascinating.

. . . For fans, Prince’s expansive presentation of gender and sexuality offered promise of a more honest, open existence. “I became unafraid to display the many stereotypically feminine qualities that were within me,” StainedGlassBimbo, a self-described heterosexual man, wrote on a Prince fan forum. “[He showed me that] you don’t have to be a masculine in order to be a man.” Another message board commenter marveled at Prince’s macho braggadocio wrapped in the trappings of the fairer sex: “Here was a man wearing lace and jewels – and he's singing of having sex with women in ways I didn't even know existed!”

. . . In 2006, gay musician Rufus Wainwright wrote in the Guardian that Prince’s genderfuckery is still unmatched in modern pop music. “It feels weird talking about Prince as a gay icon now, but you have to applaud a black man in the American record industry who could be so playful with androgyny,” Wainwright wrote.

– Christina Cauterucci
Excerpted from "How Prince Led the Way
to Our Gender Fluid Present
April 21, 2016

I wasn't sure if he was straight, gay, bi, or even male or female – such was the fluid electricity of his persona, one that galvanized our puritanical country long before gender became everyday discourse, filling it with the throbbing sounds of passion while celebrating the fabulous freak, the defiant outsider, and the dark dandy.

. . . To me – and many other gays searching for meaningful role models – he was an LGBT icon, implicitly representing sexual freedom and acceptance, especially since he so emphatically endorsed fruity fashion, Liberace-style home décor, and anything-goes lyrics, accompanied by pulsing rhythms that hammered sex and sexuality into your soul as you danced it off.

– Michael Musto
Excerpted from "Why Prince Was an LGBTQ Hero
– And a Nightmare
April 22, 2016

Prince helped redefine notions about black masculinity by challenging ideas about gender and sexuality not only in his appearance, but through his music. He actively questioned the idea that presenting as feminine or androgynous somehow dictates one's sexual orientation. Prince was soft. He was all frills and satin, lycra and lace. He was all those things, and he loved women. A lot. His highly sexual, complex relationship to women (Apollonia, Vanity, and so on) challenged the idea that being "soft" meant being gay. It was the perfect demonstration of how gender expression and sexuality are not the same thing. It was a reminder that black masculinity, constantly policed and undermined, could be redefined.

The narrative around Prince, gleaned from his persona and his music, was that he toyed with duality – masculine and feminine, black and white. But the beauty of Prince’s pushing of societal boundaries was that he exposed our own preoccupations with placing people, especially black people, in boxes. His racial ambiguity didn’t detract from his blackness, and his feminine aesthetic did not make him any less of a man. . . . The fact that, even after all the brave and bold expressions of masculinity he introduced to the world, he still seemed to struggle with other forms of gender and sexual expression later in his life says a lot about the ways those boxes creep back up on us.

– Zeba Blay
Excerpted from "Prince’s Revolutionary and
Complicated Relationship With Black Masculinity
HuffPost Black Voices
April 22, 2016

In politics, as in so many things, Prince [tried] to transcend the binary. This led him [after becoming a devout Jehovah’s Witness in 2001] to a stance on queer people that, at best, can be described as confusing. Perhaps he saw that the conversation on the issue had become too rote, too obvious, with much of the transgressive edge behind calls for liberation drained away by the simple march of progress. It was progress he helped cause, regardless of how he later felt about it.

– Spencer Kornhaber
Excerpted from "Prince: Gay Icon,
Whether He Wanted to Be or Not
The Atlantic
April 22, 2016

I had the good fortune of seeing Prince close to a dozen times. It was as spiritual an experience as I’d ever had; community and connection I’d never been a part of. I can distinctly remember that first time I saw Prince at Philadelphia’s Tower Theater, looking around the arena and thinking: “These are my people!”

It turns out I felt at perfectly at home with the freaks. This was family.

And among so many other gifts, this was the very solitary magic of Prince. He brought completely disparate groups of humanity together and made them feel they fit. He transcended musical genres and broke through color lines and challenged gender roles, and he boldly declared the dance floor big enough for all of us and open all night. And in that joyful and free place, we all danced.

When you were at a Prince show, you were the right color, the right shape, the right religion, the right you. And in that space you felt free in your own skin, and deeply connected to those around you in ways that defy explanation.

– John Pavlovitz
Excerpted from "How Prince Gave All the Freaks a Dance Floor"
April 21, 2016

Prince was protean; there were – there are – millions of Princes, one for each fan. For me, his preternatural virtuosity was imposing but not inhibiting; his larkish faith in the moment – in perfect absences, inspired accidents, arresting convergences, towering harmonies – showed even those of us of modest proficiency that every idea ought to be chased at a gallop, that a good idea is one that feels good tonight, and if it doesn’t feel good in the morning, that’s OK; another one is on its way. He taught me, long before I read such things in books, that sexuality was fluid, that partners should equally give and receive pleasure, that real liberation depends on all of us and is possible. He reminded us that a single artist could use vanguardism as mass culture's minor seventh, that technical prowess was about dirtily programmed drum machines as much as it was about dazzling guitar fills. I’m proud to have lived near him.

– John Pavlovitz
Excerpted from "How Minneapolis Made Prince"
April 22, 2016

[With the deaths of David Bowie and Prince] we’ve lost two men who had an expansive, almost luxuriant vision of what it meant to be a man and lived out that vision through decades when it was much less safe to do so. . . . But if conventional notions of gender were only one of the things that didn’t constrain Bowie and Prince, their transcendence of this particular category is still a particularly significant part of their legacies. In the clothes they wore, the lean bodies they lived in, the way they positioned themselves in their music and art, their relationships to LGBT communities and in so many other ways, Prince and Bowie were living arguments that there is no one way, and no correct way for a man to dress, to move, to decide what he values, to choose who he loves or where he stands in relation to that person.

– Alyssa Rosenberg
Excerpted from "Mourning Prince and David Bowie,
Who Showed There’s No One Right Way to Be a Man
The Washington Post
April 21, 2016

How milquetoast, New York Times. [Prince] didn't "defy" shit. He fucked what the NYT so daintily described as "conventional notions of race and gender" hard, and dared you to say anything about it.

A black man, practically naked on his first album cover in 1978 – there was nothing more menacing than that then. Race, gender, sexuality, he fucked his way through all of those taboos, and it was both scary and thrilling. And he got by with it because he had the talent to back it up. And that's just a little bit of why we already miss him so hard.

Jim Burroway
via Facebook
(in response to the New York Times story,
"Prince Defied Conventional Notions of Race and Gender"
April 21, 2016

If you can’t fully embrace the humanity of the Princes walking around your community – the ones being bullied, disrespected, dehumanized, assaulted, and killed on a daily basis – I’m going to have a difficult time believing the sincerity of your outpouring of love and respect for the Purple One today. Prince had the inner fortitude, and perhaps external supports, to be his damn self and reach his potential….despite you. And though his ascension into super stardom -and the money, fame, and celebrity deification that come with – may have afforded him some protection from perspectives like yours, the truth remains many of you would have hated him if you actually knew him.

. . . If you’re unapologetically queerphobic, transphobic, homophobic, or against anyone having the audacity to live outside of your norms as it pertains to sexual and/or gender expression…you are not a Prince fan. Maybe you’re a fan of what you have told yourself Prince is, but certainly not a fan of the man who (through his words, music, messages, and performance) left no doubt about who he truly was and what he stood for.

Natasha Thomas-Jackson
Excerpted from "The Impossibility of Loving Prince
While Hating Queerness
The (Be)-Girl Manifesta
April 21, 2016

Prince was and always will be a default frame of reference for boys, particularly black boys, who feel left of center, eccentric – and fluid. Like the symbol that briefly became his moniker, much of what made Prince magical can't be pigeonholed, and we won't attempt to. Instead, we honor his ambiguity, mystery and genius, which told so many that the spectrum in which they themselves lived, created and loved in had value.

Continue clutching them titties, sir. We hope the paradise you're in now is music-filled, purple (obviously) and big enough for your beauty.

April 21, 2016

"A strong spirit transcends rules."

– Prince

Related Off-site Links:
Prince, Singer and Superstar, Dies Aged 57 at Paisley ParkBBC News (April 21, 2016).
Prince May Have Died Days After an Opiate Overdose of Percocet, a Prescription Painkiller – Edwin Rios (Mother Jones, April 22, 2016).
"He's With Our Son Now": Prince’s Ex-Wife Mayte Garcia Says She's "Deeply Saddened and Devastated" – Carly Ledbetter (The Huffington Post, April 21, 2016).
Prince: A Shy, Nonconformist, Unknowable Talent – Alexis Petridis (The Guardian, April 22, 2016).
How Prince Gave All the Freaks a Dance Floor – John Pavlovitz (, April 22, 2016).
Prince Gave Black Kids Permission to Be Weirdos – Michelle Garcia (Vox, April 21, 2016).
Prince Was an Activist Who Fought for Justice Every Chance He Got – Madhuri Sathish (Bustle, April 21, 2016).
How Prince Became an Enduring Political Symbol – Lilly Workneh (HuffPost Black Voices, April 22, 2016).
How Minneapolis Made Prince – Dylan Hicks (Slate, April 22, 2016).
"He Was Ours": Mourning the Loss of Prince, Music Genius and Eternal Seeker – David Walsh (MinnPost, April 21, 2016).
The Prince I Knew – Tavis Smiley (USA Today, April 23, 2016).
When Prince Met Kate Bush – Daisy Jones (Noisey, April 22, 2016).
Prince Rogers Nelson – Alicia Garza (, April 23, 2016).
The World Lights Up Purple for Prince – Lydia O’Connor (HuffPost Entertainment, April 21, 2016).
Prince: Every Album Rated – and Ranked – Simon Price (The Guardian, April 22, 2016).
25 Years On: Lovesexy by Prince Revisited – David Bennun (The Quietus, July 10, 2013).
This is Already the Saddest Year in Music History – Carly Ledbetter (HuffPost Black Voices, April 21, 2016).
Why We Grieve Artists We've Never Met, in One Tweet – Caroline Framke (Vox, April 21, 2016).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
David Bowie: Queer Messiah
Rockin' with Maxwell
A Fresh Take on Masculinity