'Personal Best' was added to the gay lexicon after the 1982 lesbian Robert Towne film with Mariel Hemingway. With the Gay Games headed to Chicago this summer, it seemed especially apropos as a theme—yet the phrase is not necessarily restricted to athletics. It carries a meaning extending well beyond playing fields to encompass the even greater challenge of overcoming what was previously considered a limitation. Personal best is about surmounting conditions placed upon us by a misguided society and a hostile administration as well as the constraints we often place upon ourselves as LGBT people. In this era of both challenge and opportunity, the personal has never been more political. Carpe diem.
Yours in Pride,
Owen Keehnen & Kathie Bergquist, editors
Owen Keehnen is the author of Starz, a collection of interviews with gay porn stars that is published by Starbooks.
Kathie Bergquist, with Robert McDonald, is co-author of A Field Guide to Gay and Lesbian Chicago, published by Lake Claremont Press.
Images with this section are from the complete logo collection for Gay Games VII. All 30+ sports and cultural events have separate male and female logos. The designs are by Chicagoan David Lee Csicsko. See www.gaygameschicago.org .
by Dana Kaye
'Are you a boy or a girl?' a first-grader asked, with his Kool Aid-stained lips and his scrawny arms folded across his chest. He came up to me while I was on the swings and just stared a bit before asking his question.
'Duh. I'm a girl.'
'Well, why do you look like a boy?' he asked, squinting his eyes and tilting his head to one side.
I stopped swinging and looked at my jeans and basketball jersey before replying. 'Do not!'
'Do too! You look like my brother!'
'Well, you look like my sister!' I spat. But he didn't. He looked more like me. But I wasn't going to let a kid two years younger make fun of me.
'So you're a girl?'
I took off my Cubs cap, revealing my long curly hair that I usually tucked away and hid from the world.
His head tilted again, unconvinced. 'Boys can have long hair.'
'Well what do you want?'
He scratched his chin. 'Do you have anything that's pink? If you were a girl you would have something pink.'
I stood and dug around in my pockets. 'Here,' I replied, presenting the first-grader with a pack of bubble gum. 'Here's something pink.'
He shook his head. 'That doesn't count. Everyone carries bubble gum.'
I shrugged. 'Well I'm a girl. Believe me or not.'
I was about to turn back to my swing when he said, 'Show me your vagina.'
My jaw dropped and a few other kids heard his request. I could feel their eyes on me, staring, watching for what was going to happen next. My mommy had taught me that any boy who would ask me such a thing was no good and that I should run away if anyone ever requested to see my private parts. But I was angry, and I wasn't going to run away like some sissy, wasn't going to let some first-grader push me around.
'Shut up!' I yelled and jumped on top of him, knocking off his White Sox cap and pushing his back into the wood chips. 'Take it back! Take it back!' I hit his sides over and over again and he raised his arms to block me. 'Take it back!' I yelled and yelled, giving his head a slap like a tetherball.
'Fine! I take it back!'
As he got up and brushed himself off, I looked around at the handful of kids that came over to see the fight, their eyes wide in astonishment. I turned back to the first-grader, his bruised lip quivering: 'I knew you were a boy.'
Dana Kaye's work has appeared in Curve Magazine, Bitch Magazine, Crimespree, Time Out Chicago and Punk Planet. She recently finished her first novel and is hard at work on the second.
Nothin' Scares You
by Darwyn Jones
'It won't hurt,' Eddie said.
I stood against the mimosa tree and my brother stood behind Midget's doghouse, hiding from the kitchen windows. I pulled my shirt over my head and threw it to the ground beside me.
'Just make sure you don't hit me in the face.'
Eddie jacked the pump of his new BB gun.
The way he primed the rifle was pure Eddie. His body moved naturally, like he was just rolling over in bed. When I pumped it, the metal barrel wrestled against my skinny limbs. I got it done, but never with the same command as Eddie. No matter what it was—riding a bike with no hands, catching crawdads, even just hanging out with the guys—Eddie did it with ease while I had to work at it.
The guys made fun of me, thinking I was a pansy. They didn't say anything to my face, but there were enough times when I walked up on laughter or caught their eyes rolling or smirks across their mouths. I knew what was up. They let me hang around because I was Eddie's brother.
Couldn't show fear. Even when I was the first one to jump from the cliff into Elephant Rock quarry—to see if there was a rock beneath the green, murky water. I just did it. Acted like it was no big deal. Eddie slapped me on the back, all proud-like, and said, Dang, Clay, nothin' scares you.
But it did. I was just used to it.
'Do you think it'll go through?' I asked.
Eddie raised the rifle and aimed.
'Not all the way.'
One eye shut tight and the other stared down the barrel. I looked at him and waited. We both had Mom's nose. We both had blonde hair, grown out until it reached midway between our ears and our necks. We shared the same clothes—all hand-me-downs from our older brothers. To grown-ups we were just alike, I guess. The guys from Pilot Knob knew the difference. So did I.
Eddie already had little humps of muscle on his arms; I just had skin stretched over bone. Eddie's round face made his hair and nose look right somehow. My thin face made my nose look like a handle and my hair girlish. Didn't help that it curled at the ends.
'Shoot me already,' I said.
The black hole at the end of the barrel was ten feet from me. I stared at it. Eddie's finger slowly clinched the trigger and I waited for the small metal ball to tunnel through me.
The popping burst of air jolted me. I waited. Eddie lowered the BB gun.
'So?' he asked.
I bent my head forward and found a small red dot. The BB had bounced off my chest.
'Didn't even feel it,' I said.
Eddie rushed over and looked at my tiny wound.
'Dang, Clay,' he said and slapped me on the back. 'Nothin' scares you.'
Darwyn Jones lives in Chicago and is currently working on his first novel.
by Shane Allison
The face of Aunt Norris
when she saw me hanging
flyers for a gay poetry group
on a bulletin board.
The face of Uncle Weed
when he got the word from Aunt Norris
that I might be queer.
My face when he asked,
drunk off his ass, if I suck dick.
The face of Aunt Earline finding
out the news from Uncle Weed,
who found out from Aunt Norris,
that the nephew who loves her jelly cake
more than life, likes men the way women do.
The face Auntie Alice made
when it was whispered in her ear
by her daughter, my cousin, Chrissy,
that her nephew, the son
of one of her brothers, is a punk.
The faces of cousin Melvet and cousin Toni,
who used to give me free chicken at Popeye's
and all the burgers I could eat from Burger King,
that the cousin she never sees is a fag.
The face of the twins, Kee-Kee and Kenny,
finding out from cousin Sean in a game of gin rummy,
about the rumor that the 'ham' of the family
is a faggot.
The wrinkles of Auntie Mabel's face stretched,
her husband's mouth, dropped open, when they got wind
of the latest familial scandal that their nephew,
the cousin to her daughters,
Tameka, Monique and Kim,
the second cousin to their children,
plays for the pink team.
The face of Leisha getting the call in Virginia.
The face of Duane hearing of it in Wakulla.
The faces of Ebony and J.R. putting two and two
after figuring out exactly which cousin, and being
none other than
shocked beyond belief that I kiss and lie with men.
The face of the uncle they call 'Chicken Man,'
the brother to sisters, the brother to brothers,
the father to son and daughters, and the ex-husband to
hearing that I am an all-out abomination,
a sinner and a sodomite.
Shane Allison has been called a faggot, a nigger, and a genius. His poems and stories has appeared in Velvet Mafia, Suspect Thoughts, zafusy, Shampoo, Mc Sweeney's, Best Black Gay Erotica and many more. He loves to get e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .
by George/Emma Vosicky
He had abstained—like a penitent monk appeasing an unhappy God. Schooled in years of denial, he did not select the Lenten standards of abandoning sweets, meats or intoxicants; rather, he renounced acknowledgement.
Countless 'spiritual' teachers had tutored him in renunciation as the path to purification. He came to know an arid God for whom nothing grew wild and bloomed; a God who tended his tidy garden as a neurotic, shriveled spinster, afraid of upsetting the order to which she clung. The 'Way' had not led to purity, but to shame, and lies and integrity's destruction.
And now, in the smallest of acts, he threatened to convulse his neatly arranged universe. To others, it might seem almost silly: this momentously tiny—one fluid ounce—bottle, containing smoky coral nail polish, with almost unspoken hints of sparkle. For him, it signaled revolution.
With expectant vigor, he shook the bottle, swirling and combining its ingredients into a unified fluid. As the liquid swooshed along the insides, he loosed the garment of his past teachings and offered a small prayer to a Creator who might recognize this container as an oddly sacramental vessel of change.
Gently unscrewing the cover, he lifted the brush from its hiding place and watched droplets of color slide down the bristles as he tapped them against the bottle's lip. He did not expect anyone to remotely comprehend the surge of joy—God's gift—rising from belly through brain as he attentively applied the first stroke of color that had ever appeared on his toes. He also had refused to understand it, being content to warmly smile and silently snigger at friends who had passed this way ahead of him. Derision and judgment of those he chose not to know required nothing of him; compassion demanded character. He feared the toil and consequences accompanying character.
For unnumbered years, the fullness of his being had remained hidden in plain sight. The externals spoke the truth and betrayed him: he was male ( a fact his body confirmed ) ; and, he was female ( a fact neither evidenced by outward appearance nor suspected by friends ) . He had been torn and ashamed and afraid to lose everything he held close. Hypocrisy proved easier than risking loss.
The color, though, did not lie. It spread in broad brushstrokes from toe to toe—a visible sign of terrifying, unavoidable beauty. The application of seemingly unremarkable dabs of paint finally gave raucous, external voice to a truth which had remained locked inside and screamed for exit. He could not run away, as his feet followed him everywhere—a grounded reminder of who he was and who she was and how his own neurotically tended garden could never be the same. What he had struggled to keep separate was joined; what he had torn apart was, for the moment, made whole.
In the smallest of acts, life forever changes.
He acknowledged truth. And She rejoiced.
George/Emma Vosicky is a husband/father/attorney who, at the tender age of 50, has finally chosen to explore the gifts given to him as a transgendered person and as a writer.