Continuing our series of guest bloggers, SRP welcomes poet and activist Walter Beck, a rock & roll-loving, rainbow-flag waving, bisexual… Eagle Scout?
So a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine in which he accused me of “selling out” to the mainstream gay-rights movement. And that conversation got me thinking about my sexuality, my involvement with the movement and my relationship with my brothers and sisters out there.
First off, I do have to admit that coming out as bisexual was one of the hardest things I’ve done and I ain’t done doing it yet. It was a matter of self-preservation. really. An old friend of mine had noticed my drinking spiraling dangerously out of control with me swilling six beers at the bar and then going to the hotel room and opening a bottle of Jack Daniels and chasing it down with Thunderbird. He told me flat out, “Man, you’ve gotta come out, otherwise it’s just gonna keep eating at you and eating at you and eating at you until it fucking kills you and I’m not gonna watch you kill yourself again.” It sounds melodramatic as hell, but it’s the truth and anyone who’s known me a few years will tell you that I’ve had a bad history with hooch.
So I made that big step and finally started being honest with myself, as scared as I was. I mean, I was gambling a camp job of eight years as well as my Scouting credentials including my rank as an Eagle Scout. You gotta remember that, officially, the Boy Scouts of America does not allow LGBT members. I ended up not having to worry about the Scouting end of things so much, as our program director told me that ol’ Camp K needed me and that I was welcome there with open arms. The staff was incredibly supportive and the vast majority of them sported wristbands from the Rainbow Delegation by the end of the summer. I wasn’t exactly secretive about my orientation. I had my flat cap adorned with buttons from Day of Silence and my rainbow ribbon and I had my Rainbow flag hanging in my tent. The buttons got me in some shit with a Scoutmaster, but our camp director basically told him to go fuck himself.
The only big incident this year at camp was when someone complained about my postings regarding equality on Facebook, so my boss asked me to get off my soapbox until camp ended. I didn’t like it, but my boss had stood up for me before and he didn’t wanna get caught in the crosshairs with this one. As far as Scouting outside of camp, I’ve been with Troop 306 for nearly fifteen years. We stick by each other; 306 is a family and it’ll be a cold day in hell before we let National fuck with our guys.
When it comes to my activism, I’m an old-schooler and that’s where my tension with a lot of the “mainstream” gay community comes in. Growing up, I knew the underground freak scene; hardcore punk, shock rock, the films of John Waters, Fritz the Cat, Rocky Horror, reading about the revolutions of the 1960’s like the Stonewall Riots. I’m connected though my older brother to the Reagan era and to the AIDS scare. I’m not the type to go to conferences and make soft-soap speeches. I’m the type that likes to get his hands dirty. I’m not one for violence, never think that, but I am one to get out on the street with a sign and my flag. I’m one to give the opposition something physical and real to look at, if you can dig it. Unfortunately, where I live most of the year, there’s not a lot of street freak types. They’re more the pretty boy types, nice hair, collared shirts, the works and they’ve made it clear to me before that they don’t much like a grungy street activist fucking up their show. A few years ago I offered to help at a rally, hold a sign, set-up a table, pass out literature, whatever and these pretty boys seriously told me to fuck off.
That’s a lot of the key difference, man: lifestyle. I’m not a pretty boy, never have been and don’t plan on it. It’s not just lifestyle, though. It’s my very sexuality that often causes tension. For whatever reason, bisexuals don’t get much respect from the LGBT community (us and the transgendered). I’ve heard it all before, from the tame, “Oh, you’re just afraid to come out of the closet all the way” to the insulting, “You’re just riding our coattails. You’ve never suffered for your sexuality!” (Yes, even with all I had to gamble, I’ve heard that one many times).
Maybe the tension comes from the fact that I just don’t fit anyone’s definitions. Just because I consider myself an outlaw doesn’t mean I can’t be an Eagle Scout. Just because I’m bisexual doesn’t mean I quit listening to rock n roll. When we got the news at camp about New York legalizing marriage, do you think we blasted pop and dance music? Hell no! It was a time for Jefferson Airplane’s “Volunteers”, MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams,” Steve Earle’s “The Revolution Starts Now” and the staff’s favorite queercore band, Pansy Division.
So have I sold-out? No, I don’t think so. I’m still a long-haired, chain-smoking, rock n roll motherfucker. I’m still a true freak and will always live that way. I strive to push the limits in my poetry and performances. Besides, I had the balls to flaunt my support for equality while working at a Scout Camp; I’d like to see the pretty boys have a sack like that. As Pete Seeger sang, “We are not afraid…”
WALTER BECK is an activist/poet/freak out of Terre Haute, IN. He’s been a social outlaw his whole life and is not wired to live any other way. He has an odd sense of humor strongly influenced by George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Eddie Izzard and Monty Python. He has received more than his fair share of local press over the last few years with his activism and poetry and is somewhat of local counterculture hero among the artists and outsiders. In addition to all this, Walter is a camp counselor, most recently at Camp Krietenstein. Much of his work is inspired by the camp environment and the guys he works with. Questions, inquiries, comments, or requests can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find Walter and his work on Facebook.