Orlando follow-up: Berkshire Stonewall community meeting Friday, July 1


Responding to the Orlando tragedy, the Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition will hold a LGBTQ Community Meeting on Friday, July 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Berkshire Museum on South Street in Pittsfield. The event is free and open to the public.

The meeting will feature a panel discussion with representatives of local LGBTQ community organizations and initiatives to discuss the effects of the events of the Orlando shooting on the LGBTQ community. Representatives from each of these organizations will speak about their organizations, and the impact they have on the community.

Following the panel portion of the meeting, community members will be encouraged to participate in an open conversation to discuss their feelings regarding recent events, as well as the direction of the LGBTQ community, and will be invited to participate in developing and enacting a plan of action for the LGBTQ community of Berkshire County. Light refreshments will be provided.

“We’ve Been Around” spotlights trans pioneers in new six part series

WBA title grid

Rhys Ernst (producer of Amazon’s Transparent) has unveiled a new docuseries We’ve Been Around, which celebrates the previously untold stories of transgender pioneers in history. “With this series,” Ernst says, “I wanted to look towards my own trans history and forbearers to see where I came from and where we’re headed.”

With a dynamic mixture of archival footage, live action, and animation tailored to each particular story, the series moves through history from Civil War battlefields to prohibition era brothels, from the East Village to San Francisco at the height of the AIDS epidemic, telling stories of pioneers who lived authentically – long before the world knew the word “transgender.”

We’ve Been Around, created by Ernst and up for Emmy consideration, is a six-episode docuseries. Each episode is approximately five minutes. Here’s the first. We plan to feature others in the next few weeks.


Amid the punk ethics of 1990’s identity politics, trans activists Leslie Feinberg and Riki Anne Wilchins spearhead a movement to protest the trans-exclusionary policy of a women’s music festival in CAMP TRANS #wevebeenaround #camptrans

“The trans movement may be making headlines, but our rich history is often overlooked. Trans people have always existed, and have lived many different lives. The central theme of We’ve Been Around is stated in the title. We’ve been here, throughout time, often hidden in plain sight. These stories show us just how important it is to share our histories,” concludes Ernst.

For more series information, and additional episodes to be viewed, go to www.wevebeenaround.com

Gossipy summer reading about Hawthorne and Melville in “The Whale: A Love Story”


It’s love at first sight for Herman Melville (r) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (l) in Mark Beauregard’s new novel The Whale: A Love Story (Viking) – and likely a shock for most scholarly readers. Try this excerpt on for size:

“Herman Melville sat fidgeting in a railway car next to Oliver Wendell Holmes as their train chugged toward Stockbridge. Herman was staying at his cousin Robert’s bed and breakfast in the nearby town of Pittsfield…Nathanial Hawthorne was riding up from Stockbridge to meet them.

“Hawthorne’s features were so fine that they could have belonged to a woman: eyebrows that prettily framed his coffee brown eyes; a hawkish Roman nose; sensuous red lips, the bottom lip a wide devouring flare; and waving chestnut hair that fell in ringlets behind his ears.”

And a chapter later, we read that “Herman forgot all about his whale manuscript, and he forgot about his debts and even about his wife and son and mother. He forgot about himself. The only thing he knew for certain was the radiance of Nathaniel Hawthorne.”

Oh, my. Those closeted literary types. Of course, when scholars who are unafraid of the LGBT elements take on the greats, the heteros get sniffish about it. “Where’s the proof,” they demand. It may be right there, in front of them, in the barely disguised stylized writings of a different century before they invented the word “gay”. But to be safe, Beauregard has labelled his work a novel, and invented a bit of history to go with that which is known.

We know a lot about this relationship because there is a body of letters from Melville to Hawthorne. But there is mystery, too, because Melville ended up burning all of his from Hawthorne. Beauregard knows how to decipher these gems, and it does seem the conclusion is inescapable: From the moment Melville first met Hawthorne to the day he died, he was totally infatuated by the good looking writer. Even his The Whale (Moby Dick) was dedicated to his colleague “in token of my admiration for his genius.”

The book keeps the two out of each others bedrooms, but does allude to some kisses, affection and frottage in barns and outdoor locales.

As Tim Pfaff comments in his Bay Area Reporter book review, “Altogether plausibly, Beauregard’s Melville is wholly without gay self-hatred – but at the price of not being able to see anything beyond his personal desires and obsessions. He’s not reliving, but rather, stuck in his own neglected childhood, and everything about him is childish in that way that is often true of the greatest artists. There are lovely, memorable children throughout this book, but for Melville they’re little more than barriers to his access to Hawthorne; there is no greater child than Melville, and he’s a petulant one at that.

“Also preposterous, but in ways that are calculated to make you love him the more. The depiction of a love-besotted, barely clad Melville marching sweatily through the snow at night to see the object of his mania, his make-believe lover with the gall not to answer his overheated letters, is wrenching in its pathos and easily this novel’s finest and truest scene.”

Imagining dinner conversations and idle moments spent between the great writers of the past has always been a favorite way to spend time during the languid days of Summer. This book fills that niche very nicely.

Song and dance guys Bill Finn, Vic Ziter headline July 2 Rainbow Seniors Meeting

Gotta sing! Gotta dance! with Rainbow Seniors
At the Berkshire Atheneum July 2 from 2:00-4:00 pm

The Rainbow Seniors of Berkshire County love to have a good time, and to celebrate Independence Day Weekend, they’ve tapped a member of their own organization, Vic Ziter, to talk about, demonstrate and teach us some dance moves at our next gathering. As a professional ballroom instructor, Vic has spent a good portion of his life teaching dance and perfecting the highly stylized and varied ballroom dance art form. Most of us remember the Foxtrot, Cha Cha and the Lindy Hop, but we will get to hear about many other styles as well, and get to try some of them ourselves as we refresh our memories. It takes place on Saturday, July 2, 2016 in the downstairs auditorium of the Berkshire Athenaeum on Wendell Street in Pittsfield. The event runs from 2-4 pm.

Tony Award winner William Finn (Falsettos, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) will also be on hand to talk about his Musical Theatre Lab at Barrington Stage Company which began in the basement room we will be meeting in. Bill is here this summer preparing for the world premiere of the new musical Broadway Bounty Hunter. Inspired by the Blaxploitation movies of 1970’s (think Shaft), this exciting new musical follows 60-year-old unemployed actor Annie (“a woman of a certain age”) as she’s asked to become a bounty hunter and capture one of the most dangerous criminals alive, an ex-Broadway producer turned drug warlord. It has a delicious Joe Iconis score rich with R&B and Funk (and a splash of 80’s Rock ‘n’ Roll). Bill will talk about his journey to and from Broadway.

Rainbow Seniors serves the LGBTQ community and its allies in Berkshire County. It holds two meetings a month. In Williamstown it holds a potluck lunch at the First Congregational Church at noon on the third Tuesday of each month, while the other takes place in Pittsfield on the first Saturday 2-4pm at the Berkshire Athenaeum.

To stay in touch with all our activities, send your preferred email to rainbowseniorbc@gmail.com or for more information call Ed Sederbaum, 413-441-6006.

Ed Sedarbaum’s powerful words in response to the Orlando massacre


Yesterday, Rainbow Seniors of Berkshire County joined with goodhearted people of a wide variety of communities in Berkshire County to rally behind and mourn for the victims of the Orlando massacre. There we so many calls for action, not just “thoughts and prayers.” Here are the remarks I delivered on behalf of Rainbow Seniors. I realize I owe an apology to Esat Bici for saying he came from a good family. – Ed Sedarbaum

(Remarks delivered at the Pittsfield Vigil and Rally, June 15, 2016)

I am not ashamed to confess to you that even my anger takes second place to the fear in the pit of my stomach since the massacre in Orlando. I want to tell you why this gay senior citizen feels that way. 

In 1990, a gay man was murdered in our neighborhood of Jackson Heights, New York. He was not murdered by a Muslim, not by a backwoods yahoo or a criminal gang. He was murdered by three white teenagers, the products of good Christian church-going families. They left a party swearing to “find a faggot or a homeless person to stretch out.” They found Julio Rivera. They bludgeoned him with the claw end of a hammer and finished him off with a knife. 

The police, not wanting the press looking over their shoulder, refused to call it a hate crime. Julio was Latino, so of course they thought they could get away with calling it a drug deal gone bad. It fell to the LGBT community to raise the alarm and force the authorities to take action. 

Knowing that the local police did not see my community as worthy of protection, you can imagine how frightened I was given that the murderers’ friends, self-styled skinheads, were on our streets, trying to intimidate us activists with sneers and glares. For several years.

Last Saturday night’s massacre in Orlando — and that’s the word for it; tragedy is too literary for me – the massacre brought back my fears from those horrible days. 

And that, of course, is the very purpose of a hate crime: to intimidate into submission and invisibility the entire community targeted for extermination. 

Call it terrorism if you prefer, but I do not blame the Muslims. I do not blame the Muslim religion or their community just because the killer was a Muslim. I blame the people who have taught America whom it’s okay to hate. 
• The conservative state legislatures that delight in rescinding the civil rights ordinances passed in their more progressive cities
• The conservative governors – and one presidential candidate – who use fear and hatred to motivate their voters
• The conservative-dominated US Congress that allowed the ban on assault weapons to expire and never be renewed (defying, by the way, their hero Ronald Reagan, who supported the ban)
• Religious leaders of all faiths who tell their congregations – including the little children sitting in the pews – that homosexuality is a sin. Lord only knows what they say about transgender people.
• And the supposedly enlightened media, who adopt the language of our enemies when they call civil rights legislation “bathroom bills.”

In case you think that all this hatred takes place somewhere far away, you should know that as I sat in Patrick’s Pub last night, writing this speech, I overheard a man at the next table say, about Orlando, “Those gays deserved it.” I told him to always lower his voice when he says kike, faggot, spic, or the N-word. One of us might be at the next table.

Yes, it may turn out that the killer harbored homosexual urges. Urges that he was taught by ISIS and American thought leaders to hate, and hence to hate himself. (That’s how I felt for the first 30 years of my life.) And when disordered thinking marries fascist ideology, violence is bound to erupt, sometimes in murder, sometimes in suicide.

I know I will sleep better tonight after being surrounded by political, civic, and religious leaders who see me and my fellow Rainbow Seniors as community members worth protecting. And most of all, I will sleep better tonight having seen all you warm and wonderful neighbors who gathered to express sympathy and support.

But I will still wake up tomorrow afraid.

What I won’t do, and what I hope the members of Rainbow Seniors won’t do, is allow this act of hatred to prevent us from gathering at our meetings, our picnics, and our public events. We have worked too hard to overcome the dreadful messages we were raised to believe about ourselves. And we need to be around to show the children who are growing up worried about their sexuality that they can grow up to be old, fat, and happy, like me, no matter who they are. 

And so we will hold in our hearts the love and support you are demonstrating tonight. We will not go back. Thank you.

To listen to all of the speakers at the rally, go to the Jason Valasquez report on Greylock Glass.

Berkshire Stonewall’s Jason Verchot on the outlook for LGBTQ issues


LGBT organizations more important than ever
Opinion by Jason Verchot, President, Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition

In light of the recent tragedy I feel that I should say something, but I just don’t know what to say. As many of you know, there have been ongoing conversations about the future of this organization for some time. One of the questions asked is “Do organizations like this really need to exist anymore?” And in truth, it’s a difficult question to answer.

For those of us living in Massachusetts, we’ve enjoyed protections under the law for a number of years, from anti-discrimination laws to gay marriage. On a federal level, we’ve seen the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and a landmark supreme court decision that ruled any ban on gay marriage to be unconstitutional.

But that doesn’t stop bigotry, fear, and hatred from rising to the surface. How many anti-LGBT laws are being proposed in bills across this country at this very moment?

And then there is the simple truth that there are other minorities that have had protections/equal rights under the law for far longer than the LGBT community, yet still must deal with the fact that just because you have equality under the law doesn’t mean that you are treated equally.

And as I read various responses/reactions from politicians and the media, it seems to me that there is a desire to rationalize all of this away by saying “this a gun issue”, or “this is an terrorist/Islamic extremist issue”. And while I agree that the ease with which guns can be acquired, and the fact that religion is too often used as a justification for infringing on the freedoms and safety of others, at the end of the day these aspects point to a bigger issue: We live in a culture where fear has been cultivated and permeates everything we do, and every decision we make.

I’m not sure what else to say. I hope to see as many of you at the vigil on Tuesday as possible, and I wish you all the best. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I realize my thoughts may not be cohesive, and I thank you for your patience.

Rally, Vigil on Tuesday for Orlando LGBT victims


Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender citizens will continue to love in the face of hate and violence, the President of the United States said in a speech Sunday after the worst mass shooting in modern United States history.

President Obama also ordered flags be flown at half staff which means that on Tuesday, Flag Day, American flags will not be in their usual celebratory position in front of Federal buildings across the country.

And while we all have our own take on the hate that led to this terrible tragedy, now is the time to mourn.

Rainbow Seniors will gather on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 beginning at 5:30 in Pittsfield’s Park Square along with others from the larger community. The Rally and Vigil’s organizers include Ed Sedarbaum from Rainbow Seniors. There is a Facebook page for the event.

Capital Region Pride celebrates with cabaret performer Sarah Kilborne at The Linda in Albany

Sarah Kilborne. Photo by Jane O’Connor
Sarah Kilborne. Photo by Jane O’Connor

On Friday, June 17, 2016, at 8pm, modern cabaret performer and Hudson Valley resident Sarah Kilborne will perform her revelatory new show The Lavender Blues at The Linda, in Albany, NY.

Sarah Kilborne’s first one-woman show is an enlightening, enchanting trip to a place in time you never knew took place. Kilborne, creator and performer, has not only unearthed buried treasure, she brings its ghosts to life and glory.” –Enid Futterman, Imby.com

The Lavender Blues tells the story of queer music before World War II and the influential artists behind that music. People commonly believe that the LGBT movement began in 1969 with the Stonewall Riots, but a hundred years ago queer men and women were claiming their identities in the public sphere – and singing about it too. With songs and stories from Vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley, the Harlem Renaissance, the Weimar Republic and more, Kilborne introduces audiences to a little-known, yet revolutionary moment in music history when pioneering musical artists sang boldly about sexual and gender fluidity – something daring even for today, and as deliciously fun and inspiring as ever.

Sarah Kilborne is a performance artist, activist and author residing in Germantown. She is founder of the equal rights campaign Kiss for Equality, writes frequently about LGBT issues, and has performed with a wide variety of people. In 2013, Kilborne produced and co-starred in the marriage equality video, “Yes Sir, That’s My Baby,” which was filmed in the Hudson Valley and praised by leading Civil rights activists as “pure joy.”


The Lavender Blues is part of the Pride Center of the Capital Region’s 2016 Celebration of Pride.
Tickets for this event are $20. The Linda is located at 339 Central Avenue, Albany, NY, 12206.