America: September 2016

2006-2016  Gay Military Signal

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USNS HARVEY MILK

by

Denny Meyer

When I was a young gay man in the late 1970s standing in his camera shop on Castro Street in San Francisco chatting with Harvey Milk, I never imagined that I'd live to see the day that the United States Navy would announce naming a ship after him.  There was an awful lot that we didn't know and couldn't imagine back then.  We didn't know that Harvey would be assassinated and become a martyr, although that was just around the corner in time.  We didn't know about AIDS, that would decimate our lives in the coming decades, although that had already begun.  At the end of that decade, I often stood on the corner of Castro and 18th in San Francisco chatting with Leonard Matlovich.  In those days, the gods of the gay revolution walked the Earth like ordinary mortals.  Back then, I could not imagine that what he started would lead to our armed forces allowing us to serve openly in Pride, some 37 years later.  Back then, I had just begun my two decades of love with my life partner; yet almost no one could imagine that the day would come when we could have married each other in any state in America!  It was, in many ways, an innocent carefree time, at least in San Francisco in those days.  We couldn't have imagined the horror of HIV, the sea of tears for those we loved, the riots, the years of protest and demanding our rights; the tears of joy when at long last our service to our country was honored,  and when we could at long last have our love affirmed.
 
All that is what makes this ship naming something incredibly profound for me now, as an old gay veteran.  It brings back, in a rush, the memories of those decades past when our history was in the making by our own actions.  Who could have known what would come to pass!  All that is what gives this moment meaning for me.

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Randi Blocker

An Uncommon Life

By Denny Meyer
with Randi Blocker

In a successful fulfilling life, we can claim a lot of roles as we grow older.  But few can have lived all the lives that Randi Blocker has experienced: Marine, father, law enforcement officer, Southern Belle, and Grandmother.  Oh there's more, lots more.  She rides a motorcycle like a bat out of hell, just for fun.  She's an experienced woodsman and owns guns.  She's for women's empowerment, and is a foul mouthed intellectual, -which I like.  What I'm most jealous about, though, is that she's got a porch to sit on in the evening breeze, somewhere in rural Alabama, where she can sit watching the sun set and a sip a mint jullip like a proper lady.

OK, seriously, the last place on Earth I'd want to be as a transgender woman is in rural Alabama.  But Ms Randi has lived her entire life there, in dignity with the respect of everyone who knows her.  Its a good sign of  the fine character of the locals, but most importantly its a reflection of who she is and how she has lived and presented herself as a genuine person.

Randi is one of those people who has managed to make the best of every moment of her life and she's still at it at the age of 51.  She's lived her entire life in Alabama.  She had loving parents and siblings in a rather conservative church going family.  Her father was a deacon, and as a young man she herself was a Sunday School teacher.  Her parents were ordinarily intolerant of of gay and transgender people, among others; she said, "I learned very early in life, it was best to hide and try to conform or my life would be a living hell. So, I learned to be a little redneck kid who followed my older brother around and ignored my sisters."  She stayed out of trouble, read books, delivered newspapers, and mostly kept to herself as a child.  Starting at the age of 10, she began quietly dressing up in her mother's old cloths when everyone else was out of the house.  In those days in rural Alabama, she had no way of finding out what she was or what it was called, thinking she was the only one.  So, she began years of youth, keeping quit and finding brief moments to dress and feel fulfilled and real, never telling a soul.  "I only know that I wasn't the boy everyone claimed I was and the only time I felt right in my skin was when I was dressed as a girl." She said.  How brave and lonely she must have been!

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