So fast, it’s hard to follow

Posted: May 25th, 2012
Photo by Mark Singleton

Photo by Mark Singleton

When the homophobic California law called “prop 8” up for a vote, it passed mainly because of two things.

  1. Religions dumped millions of dollars into anti-gay advertising in the state. The Mormons and Roman Catholics gathered up their tax-free donations and used the money to influence a political struggle for equal rights. They’re hate-mongers, and there’s little excuse for not taxing them if they are going going to act like political machines.
  2. African American voters came out in record numbers because Prop 8 was on the same ballot as Barack Obama, the first black president. At the time, people of color were solidly against equal rights for gay men and lesbians. They helped push the anti-marriage measure through. It passed with 52% of the vote.

Since then, there has been a shift in public opinion like I’ve never seen before. In just a few short years, support for equal treatment for LGBT citizens has grown.

There are three reasons, I think.

  • More gay people have begun to live their lives in the open. They don’t hide. They aren’t closeted. This is huge. Study after study says that when straight people support equality for LGBT people, it’s because they know somebody who is gay. Just living openly and honesty is the best thing any LGBT person can do.
  • President Obama announced that he is not going to challenge DOMA (anti-marriage federal statute). He says his administration considers it unconstitutional. It is. When I was a kid, people could go to Las Vegas or Mexico to get a “quirky” divorce when their home state disallowed the divorce. After the quirky out-of-town divorce, it was accepted by the home state. There was never a question about it: if you get divorced in Las Vegas, you’re divorced everywhere. DOMA says that doesn’t apply to gay couples. Rick and I were married in Washington, DC. It was a legal wedding that is recognized by the civil authority in DC. It is recognized by the canons of my church. It is not recognized by my home state of Texas. It is not recognized by the federal government. What happened in DC is supposed to stay in DC, and that’s wrong. If a straight couple had gotten married there, Texas would see them as married. I don’t have equal protection. Texas is homophobic and wants to keep queers in their place. That’s wrong. DOMA is evil. The Texas constitutional amendment that says two dudes can’t get married is hateful and un-Christian, but bubba likes to be hateful. President Obama started a change in attitude when his administration told government lawyers to stand down in DOMA cases. It’s more than a legal move. It changes public perception of DOMA and all the anti-gay hate laws.
  • President Obama and Vice President Biden and several Cabinet secretaries have said publicly that they support marriage equality. The NAACP (the largest group for racial equality in the US) came out in support of gay marriage. The Southern Poverty Law Center has branded some of the worst anti-marriage organizations as Hate Groups. They are! I personally am so grateful to the NAACP and SPLC for their action.

There was a time recently when I was building up a big resentment over this. I worked for equality for people of color. When I was a pimply-faced kid, I even took part in a march headed by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I am not a newbie to the issue of equal rights. The content of ones character really is more important than some accident of birth, like skin color. I’ve worked and pushed and marched and protested, and I never did it wanting anything in return. It was just the right thing to do.

Then Prop 8 passed, and it passed because of people of color came out to vote for Barack Obama. LGBT equality isn’t a “civil rights” issue, they said. Marriage should be between one man and one woman, they said.

They are wrong. What we have in the US is marriage apartheid. Heterosexuals can marry, but they don’t want anybody else to have the same laws opened to same gender couples.

And then came Biden… and Obama… and the NAACP… and the SPLC. Reports about bullying and gay suicides became everyday reports on the news. The military started letting gay soldiers serve without lying about their sexual orientation (and the effectiveness of the military hasn’t suffered). Cadets who are openly gay are being graduated from American military academies, and they are beginning to serve with honor.

Now the shift has begun. Latino voters have always supported LGBT rights. In the big cities, gay ghettos are often situation right next to Latino neighborhoods. We’ve been buddies for years.

The change is with black voters. When President Obama and Vice President Biden talk about equal rights and justice, people listen. When the NAACP goes public over gay rights, people of color — especially older black people — notice.

I am so grateful to them. I am in awe of Mr. Obama. He truly is the first “gay president” … like Bill Clinton was the first “black president.”  President Obama didn’t have to do such a risky thing as come out so strongly for equal treatment for LGBT citizens. It was gutsy, and I am so grateful to him. What he did was more than the occasional lip-service some pandering politicians have done in the past.

When I first heard about it, I didn’t think it was a big deal. I was wrong. This is epic. It is huge, and I wish that we could get all those suicides back to see it. I wish we could bring soldiers like Leonard Malcovich back to life so he could see that soldiers don’t have to lie in the America.

It’s going to be huge when my marriage to Rick is recognized in Texas and the other hate-filled South. But the real news will be when two women get married, and it doesn’t make the news except in the wedding listings of the local paper. The real news is when we have equality that isn’t a big story.

Leonard Matlovich grave
Matlovich’s grave at the Congressional Cemetery. The tombstone reads: “A Gay Vietnam Veteran When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one” Photographer: Michael Bedwell


Traditional Chattel

Posted: May 10th, 2012

The day after President Obama said he supported marriage equality for lesbians and gays, his Republican opponent — Mitt Romney — said he wasn’t even convinced that a gay “partner” should be allowed visitation rights in a hospital. It wasn’t one-step-forward / two-steps-back. To get from the president to the Republican position doesn’t even involve steps. You need a car.

Mr. Romney wasn’t alone. Most Republicans, including the gays in the Log Cabin Republican group, have been against what Mr. Obama said. Gay Republicans are against this. They say the announcement was pure politics. If they want to see “politics as usual” they need to look in a mirror. They’ll be against whatever the president does, even when he says he supports gays and lesbians.

Politics as usual from the right says they’re in favor of traditional marriage. Maybe we could look at that. When the Old Testament was being written, marriage had a specific purpose. Traditional marriage was a civil institution in Israel because it gave the husband a list of belongings. The wife was chattel, according to the traditional laws. The wife belonged to the husband, and marriage was instituted for that very purpose. The wife was in the list of goodies that included the goat and the pots and pans.

And that’s what the Republican hate-mongers want? Every time I hear “traditional marriage” I have to smile. They’re ignoring what is actually tradition when it comes to marriage.

They might say chattel isn’t what they meant. They’ll say they only mean that traditional marriage is between “one man and one woman.” Maybe they stress “one” because their presidential candidate is a Mormon, and we all know that group has a history of giving polygamy a test drive or two.

I’ve been attacked by right-wingers who tell me that everybody knows Christian marriage is between a man and a woman. They want to concentrate on Christian marriage. Like Charlemagne?

Charlemagne was a great Christian ruler in Europe toward the end of the 700s. He was so Christian that he received his royal crown by the pope. He loved women. He loved them so much that he was married to at least 10 of them. Ten wives… mostly at the same time. Charlemagne fathered 18 children with the help of 8 of those wives. He almost qualified for a wholesale rate or harem rate or something.

When one of these latter day wedge-issue politicians mention “traditional marriage,” I like to ask which tradition. Is it the one where the holy institution of Old Testament marriage gave the husband lots of property rights? Or maybe it was the New Testament tradition of Charlemagne’s stack of marriage writs.

I also heard Mr. Romney grow tired of journalist’s questions about marriage equality and medical marijuana. He snapped at the reporter, asking her if she had any questions on “significant” issues.

We have a clear choice in the next election for US president. Clear indeed.

Marriage chattel versus marriage equality.

Dred Scott v. Sandford versus Brown v. Board of Education.


Banned by Wikipedia

Posted: April 24th, 2012

This is a note from my publisher, Mystic Ways Books —

We have been officially banned from Wikipedia. They say it is forever. Our crime: updating the bibliography on the bio page of one of our authors. If you want information about our books, Wikipedia is not the place to look. We had a quick meeting and decided to shake the dust off our sandals and not even respond to this arbitrary action on the part of a factless website.

As usual, they are accepting the news with a lot more grace than I would.


Remembering Europe

Posted: April 22nd, 2012

My first visit to Europe was in 1966.  I was a teenager with more git-up-and-go than sense.

A friend an I flew to London (Heathrow) and immediately hopped on a train to Yugoslavia. We were going to meet some of my friends buddies there. They lived in a Communist country, and Yugoslavia was one of the few places we could all reach without too much hassle.

We met in Opatija, in what is now Croatia. While my friend was catching up with his Communist friends, I busied myself discovering the local breads and mineral waters. I spent hour after hour swimming in the Adriatic. You know those pretty urchins? They can really hurt when you step on them. Ouch.

The most common language back then was French. My French really sucks. When I tried, they’d usually just chuckle and ask me to go back to English.

I had two assets: a Eurail pass which gave me unlimited travel on the European train system and a suitcase of Levi 501 jeans. The trip across the English Channel was brutal. Crossing that bit of water was almost a half a day, as I recall. They broke apart the train and loaded all the cars onto ferries to slosh from England to France. We took the Eurostar on a more recent trip. Crossing the English Channel through the Chunnel was a whopping 13-minutes. It just isn’t such a big deal as it once was.

The Levi jeans were along because somebody said I could make spending money on them. Holy moly, they were right. Back then 501s were something of a rarity in Europe. It seemed like everybody wanted a pair, and they were willing to pay much more than I thought they were worth. I basically ended up with an empty suitcase and a full wallet.

With the train pass, we didn’t have to worry about things like schedules. We rolled into Munich one afternoon and found the entire city was full. There was some kind of crazy convention or event going on. Even the youth hostels and ma-and-pa room rentals were full. No worries: Eurail Pass to the rescue. At the ticket counter, we asked for the next sleeping car on the schedule. Our pass let us get a sleeper by paying an upgrade from First Class. It meant that a fancy sleeper was cheaper than most hotels. And that’s how we came to visit Hamburg. We hadn’t planned on visiting that place. It was my first “red light” district. (Who knew they existed for-real. Right?)

My friend took great pains to introduce me to what he called a German delicacy: sweetbread. His obvious delight should have been a clue, but I’m a slow learner. I think “sweetbread” is a high-follutin word for a cow’s thymus gland. I decided two things that day: first, I was going to make damn sure I knew what I was eating before I ate it; and second, I was going to lay in a serious plot to get my friend to eat some “calf fries” on our return to Texas. I’ll see your thymus and raise you a cojone or two. Hamburg: such memories.

We went to the town of Bayreuth in Germany. It’s the home of a big Festival of Richard Wagner’s operas. I’m not a fan of opera. If I were a fan of opera, I still wouldn’t like Wagnerian operas. But we went because (a) my friend loved Wagnerian operas, and (b) he loved tormenting my ears. Those things are so long that they break for food during intermission. My friend dragged me to the stage door:

“Herr Bohm,” he told the guy at the stage door. “Ich bin ein Freund.” There were some more words, but I don’t remember them. Anyway, in a few minutes, this old guy walked up. They obviously knew each other. Karl Bohm was one of the greatest conductors of Wagnerian operas in history, and my friend knew the guy. Not only did they know each other, but we ended up at a local restaurant during intermission. The two of them were rattle off things too fast for me to translate, so I just ate and drank beer. I don’t know if it was legal for a 15 year old to order beer, and I never asked. I just ordered it and drank. And drank. And drank. I missed the entire second half of the opera marathon because I was passed out up in a corner of the festival house.

Everybody has their own memories of adventures. My memories of Bayreuth have gaping holes.

We hit Belgium and the Netherlands and Yugoslavia. In Italy, we spent several weeks going through cathedrals and museums. In Austria, we got up into the bell tower just before noon. If you haven’t heard humongous bells sounding out the Angelus from a distance of a meter or two, it’s something you won’t soon forget. I learned two things that day: first, you can’t hope to stay standing when the bells are that loud; and second, my traveling companion had a total mean streak.

In Austria, my friend took me to the apartment of an old friend of his: György Ligeti. I didn’t know the guy was famous. I just thought he was a really old guy. Ligeti was a composer, but he never did music you could hum or understand. Ligeti once composed a piece for pipe organs where you put little weights on all the keys and selectively remove them one at a time. It was a kind of inverse music. The trouble was that they picked a pipe organ in Lübeck in East Germany. It was a famous organ, and Ligeti’s music blew out some of the organ’s guts. This famous organ was designed by a short-sighted engineer who didn’t think somebody like Ligeti would try to have every pipe blowing throughout the song. Ligeti was asked to leave Lübeck.

At Ligeti’s apartment in Vienna, his wife served us ice cream. She apologized because it was Thursday. My friend had to explain it to me. It was an “ice cream Thursday” (sundae). International puns can be tricky on the best of days.

So a couple of years after this trip, I saw Stanley Kubrick’s moving, 2001: A Space Odyssey. As the credits rolled, I saw “György Ligeti” scroll across the screen. He wrote some of the music for the movie. Cool, I know this guy! His was the weird wonky stuff you can’t hum or whistle. Nobody ever tapped their foot to a Ligeti creation. Whatever. I wrote to Mr. Ligeti and told him how happy I was to see he was branching out into theatrical music. He wrote back that he knew nothing of the matter. Apparently Mr Kubrick thought he could slide the music through without paying for it. It ended up in court. Ligeti sued. Whoever owned the rights to Johann Strauss’s Blue Danube and Richard Strauss Also sprach Zarathustra also sued. This was all from a stupid congratulations letter from me.

Years later, I saw a note in the newspaper that Ligeti finally settled with the movie company. I wrote to him, suggesting that a finder’s fee would be justified. I asked him if I would get a cut. Mr. Ligeti wrote back, saying that what I got from the transaction was his gratitude.

Humph! Artists.

We almost went to Venice, but there was a thunderstorm raging when our train rolled into the station. That much water in a thunderstorm: we begged off and stayed rolling.

In Paris… yum. There were cathedrals and all the famous buildings. We did the Louvre for three or four days, and we weren’t even close to being finished walking through it.

One evening, we decided to catch a ballet. It was Bluebeard by Michel Fokine, not my favorite but we could afford the tickets. During intermission, I met the most adorable French guy. He was about my age (15) or there abouts. And he was stunningly sexy as so many French men are. I was smitten to the point that I completely missed the second half of the ballet. And for the next few days, the French boy and I were inseparable. I wanted to figure out a way to immigrate, but my evil/mean travel buddy told me that my collection of Levi 501s would probably run out before I was able to learn enough French to get a job. (Bitch.)

It was a glorious few days in total lust with my French pastry. We ran and skipped and kissed through the windy streets of that city. Great fun.

Back at our youth hostel, there was a phone message for me. This was a time when calls between France and the USA were difficult and expensive. It had to be my French boy toy because he was the only person who knew where we were staying.

Nope. It was a phone message from my mother. She reminded me that the streets of Paris have eyes, and that she expected me to act with the decorum of a proper 15 year old.

From that day to the day mom died, she refused to tell me how she knew.

I’ve been back to Europe several times. Somehow none of the stories are as whacked as 1966 when I was 15.


BRENT is here

Posted: April 16th, 2012

Brent the Heart ReaderShameless plug.

Brent: the Heart Reader is available. It’s about a tarot reader who was adopted into a hateful and homophobic family. The story is how he works through the hatred and how he meets the love of his life. One chapter closes, and the next opens into a wonderful dawn.

The book is brash and tender at the same time.

It is available as hardback, paperback, and e-book.

Genre: M/M, romance, gay, adult (explicit)


Health care trickle-down

Posted: April 6th, 2012

Wynn WagnerThe GOP says companies should not be forced to pay for health insurance benefits they don’t like. No big brother, they say.

I don’t remember a single employer in my life that was qualified to judge what health care I need.

  • Big government is an open forum with elected officials.
  • Big business is a secret club of rich guys.

It is only with government that I have any input.




Tarot for the Author

Posted: March 31st, 2012

by Wynn Wagner

I use tarot and have for decades, and I’m rarely far from my deck. If you see Wynn, you can assume he has two things handy: insulin and tarot.

Some folks are surprised to hear that a retired archbishop would be around tarot. They’re an awesome set of images for meditation. The primary cards are a kind of trip through spiritual development. The 0th (“zeroth”) card is call The Fool, and those primary cards are The Fool’s journey through life. It’s less mystical and demonic and more archetypal … at least to me.

The other thing I do with tarot is get around writers block. I write books, and every author I’ve ever known talks about those dry spells where all the creative juices are dry. I cut my deck of tarot cards and look at the first card. This random image is full of images to jolt my imagination back to life.  One card shows a guy on a boat full of swords. He’s collected all his stuff, and he’s making a run for it. Where? I have no idea, but I think about what my characters might be doing if they were in such a frame of mind.

The author pretending to do a tarot reading.

My latest book is BRENT: THE HEART READER, and it’s about a young tarot reader. He does divination for fun and profit. That’s something that I’ve never personally done. Again, I don’t consider it demonic. It’s just not something I ever did or ever wanted to do.

Brent has always had a talent, which he doesn’t even try to explain. Somebody gave him a tarot deck with he was barely older than a toddler, and he’s always been able to tell stories based on the pretty pictures. It wasn’t until later that people started noticing that Brent’s stories are dead-on accurate about what the universe wants a person to do.

Is he an empath? A fortune-teller? Brent is really clear about his own attitude: he doesn’t know, and he doesn’t care to go looking for what’s behind his ability.

Like I said, I’ve been around tarot for decades, and I’ve gazed into each of those cardboard rectangles for hours or days at a time. If you ask me what I see in a tarot card, I can tell you. If you want me to cross that invisible line and peer into some kind of prognostication about a person or thing or event, I’m a complete idiot. If you want me to do a reading, all I can do is shrug. You don’t want me to do that.

So, that was something of a problem with BRENT. I brought all my tarot experience to the word processor, but I wasn’t sure that what I had to say would ring true to a real tarot reader. Fortunately, I have cavalry: my husband, Rick Wagner, does readings (rarely, but he can do them). Our friend Mariah Prosper (Rick’s tarot teacher) is more of a tarot guru. I gave really early copies of BRENT to both.

Believe it or not, neither Rick nor Mariah had huge issues with anything I had to say about a tarot card. They didn’t quarrel with what I said about the relationship of cards.

They might have been rolling their eyes behind my back… pointing… giggling. They kept it to themselves, and they said all of the tarot in Brent is reasonable.

(wiping brow)

And yes, I got writer’s block a few times while I was putting together the book. Naturally I used WSWBWT (Wynn’s Supreme Writer’s Block Whack-it Thingy… my pick-a-card trick). The really cool thing is that I saw some really cool facets to characters (especially Nick and Kaela) based on the archetypes I saw in my deck of tarot. They were facets that I wouldn’t have noticed without WSWBWT.

Photography by John Selig.

Brent: The Heart Reader is published by Mystic Ways Books.


An Elephant of a Different Color

Posted: March 30th, 2012

The Elephant of a Different ColorAccording to POLITICO, Congressional Republican leaders have quietly put the kibosh on several anti-gay marriage bills.

“Santorum is spinning in his grave.”

“He isn’t dead.”

“The news may give him a heart attack.”

The idea is that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — which is already Uncle Sam’s law — is awful and unconstitutional. Unrelated and unfair, but DOMA is the reason I wouldn’t support Hillary Clinton for President. DOMA was put on the books when her husband was president. I first met Bill Clinton when I was a pimply-faced kid in Fort Worth, and he was running George McGovern’s campaign in Texas. Whatever goodwill I held for him went bye-bye when he got DOMA passed. BAD JOB, BILL. SHAME ON YOU.

Republicans — like Carl Rove — went on to use gay rights as a wedge issue. Rove got “W” re-elected by putting anti-gay propositions on the ballots in lots of swing states. Those propositions were magnets for people who would also vote for “W”. SHAME ON YOU, CARL.

They pushed really hard against gay people. They stirred up lots of dust and got plenty of right wing bigots to the polls. “W” was reelected because of Rove’s shenanigans.

Here’s the deal: Carl Rove overplayed his hand.

State Rep. Glen Maxey once told me that he didn’t get too worked up when the hateful right attack him. Maxey was the first openly gay member of the Texas Lege. He said he just stayed calm because the people would hear all the commotion, and they’d see it for what it really was. It was silly and hateful, and homophobia was a prejudice that had no place in our republic. Maxey said that when gay bills came up a second and third time, the screaming from the bigots would be a little softer each time.

That’s apparently what has been happening in the national capitol.

Allen West, a U.S. Rep from Florida is way out on the Right, and he’s had strong opinions against gay people in the past. But listen to him today: “I personally have deep convictions about my children having a financially stable country that they can live in, I want my daughters to have the opportunities that I had, and that’s what concerns me That’s what keeps me up awake at night, not worrying about who’s sleeping with who.”

When I hear Santorum focus on what my husband and I do in the privacy of our bedroom, I’m annoyed but calm. I know that the younger generation will see the bigoted froth-filled hatred of private feelings (love and commitment) as the residual slime of a sad chapter of ignorance dressed up in religious dogma.



New websites from Mystic Ways

Posted: March 7th, 2012

Dreamhost has cratered. I guess they’re still in business, but their performance has been in the toilet for a week. Combine that with the impossible chore of trying to reach technical support. Never fear because the ace programmers over at Mystic Ways came to the rescue. I have four shiny new websites. Somebody didn’t get any time off or sleep over the past few days.

heck if i know
Mystic Ways Books (spiritual, religious, and liturgical books)
Wynn Wagner Books (lgbt romance novels)
Wynn Place or Show (blog)
Up a pole without a paddle (or wings or anything else sensible).



Fangs over America — March 3

Posted: February 29th, 2012

Fangs over America by Wynn Wagner
My next book — Fangs over America — will be published on Saturday, March 3, 2012.

It’s a paranormal romance that’s M/M.

This is what it says on the back cover:

Mårten Lars­son is one of the rich­est blood­suck­ers ever, but his unlife isn’t exactly a flight in the park. There are some things money can’t buy—like an instruc­tion man­ual on what to do when the vam­pire queen quits and leaves you in charge of Europe. Sud­denly Mårten has to jug­gle pol­i­tics, his royal wardrobe, and this new­fan­gled thing called “e-​​mail.” And his Ger­man still sucks.

But hey, Mårten can han­dle it. After all, he (sort of) sur­vived World War I, being mar­ried to two vora­ciously horny vam­pires (at the same time), and life as a sniper tak­ing out the most dan­ger­ous vamps in his­tory. A lit­tle respon­si­bil­ity should be no prob­lem… right?

You can find an excerpt — FREE SAMPLE — on my book website.

By the way, the kitty on the cover is named Snarkly. Yes, he’s a character in the book. And yes, it’s a vampire kitty.