Sunday, January 8, 2012

Oh my...

See, here's the problem. I am a tech idiot. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how to contact each of you who have kindly come on and read my stories.

I mean, I've tried, but I keep ending up in some place that tells me...I'm an idiot. So, I would really appreciate it if you could contact me on Facebook (that one I've figured out).

Blame it on ADHD (I got diagnosed after being taught by rabid nuns who couldn't take a six year old who played the class clown during Jesus sessions).

Let me know what stories you liked and...hell, I'll take some time out to say thank you - like the 'class clown' that I am.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Teen Slob

You bent over to pick up a book in the school hall and your underwear was all bunched up. They weren't Calvin Klein-perfect. They were kid-like and kind of ugly. But. I liked you. I liked you, you know, even with the small roll on your belly and that pimple on your cheek.
I always liked the way you walked. You had the proud about you. Your feet didn't stick out to the sides like a duck's. They were model-straight.
I never saw anyone pick on you so that was a good sign. And when we walked together outside you didn't bump into me a lot accidentally and you even touched my hand once or twice on purpose.

I'm a man now and I see you all still and sombre on that foggy night. The rain sits on your face as you tell me that your family has to move and now I can see that tear in among all those drops. I wish I'd swallowed it. I wish I'd done something gallant like fallen to my knees and kissed your hand like the boy who loved a boy who I was...
I miss you, my slob. I miss you so much.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fuckin' Faggots!

An Ode to Brutish boys and Mean Mothers

Yet another innocent person has been laid to the ground by a homophobe and I’ve decided to write down a few things to make you see the world a little queerer.

The man, a father of two, 62 years old, was playing pool in a Gay pub when the man he was talking with suddenly punched him in the head. The victim, Ritchie Dowie, slammed into the floor head first and was rushed to hospital.
The attacker, 35, said he did it because "Dowie is a Fag! He touched! me!, and deserved! it! and deserved! it! and deserved! it...!"
Mr. Dowie is now permanently brain damaged.

This is what happens in the big world. Even the small world.
Homophobia has not been erased.
Yes. That’s what this is about.

Now you’re probably about to click off, turn a page, flip a channel, go away...


You’re probably saying what I always said when I was a naive thirteen, seventeen, twenty three, thirty (keep going until you hit 120) year old love child, “Well, that doesn’t mean me. So bye bye …!"

So, just quickly, I’ll ask you,

How do you take on fear, anger and RAGE! mixed with a big dash of testosterone, all at once, without seeing it coming?

Depends on who, right?
Running shoe escape?

Some will say Love…la la. (they’ll sway while they say it and get slightly misty-eyed).
Others will say, “I’ll fight them! We’ll fight them! We’ll stand up to them! Show them we’re not mincing nancy’s.!"
Still others will say, “Well”…(long pause)…(meditating on the question) “we would talk to them. Reason with them”.
Most will say, “911”.
The smallest group will say, “Scream bloody murder!"
Why the smallest?
Because for most, the primal man in us has been tamed. We react with reason. Reasonably well.

Okay, now let’s imagine that you have a boyfriend. You’ve been going out for about three weeks (long time for you). You’re in the ‘love zone’.
Everything is rosy red.
You’ve done the flippity flop in bed.
You’ve introduced each other to each other’s friends.
Now it’s the dance.
Small things together as a couple.
You start to go out ‘together’.
You start to make meals ‘together’.
You start to hold hands ‘together’.

Where do you hold hands?
And when?
It doesn’t make a difference.

Anytime and anywhere you hold hands, in the bright white light or dark hard night, you take the risk of having the shit knocked out of you.

Yes. I know. It’s pathetic.
It’s true.
The world….the people….human beings ….are an unpredictable species.

Here’s the scene:

It’s sunset.
You’re by the (submit place here).
Could be a beach.
Could be a tree lined suburban street.
Could be in the Gay village.

You’re both doing the stare.
At each other.
Oblivious to the outside world.
It’s all him him him.
You reach out in the middle of a sentence and just grasp his hand.
It’s love, stupid.
Doesn’t matter.
You just…do it.
Or he to you.
You both saunter and talk and share and gab and might even go a little bit (P.D.A.) further.
Arm around waist.
You like that.
You do the same.
Isn’t life grand?
That little flower lady smiled at you both.
Said what a lovely couple you make.
She even gave you a free flower.
That big puffy garbage truck driver gave you a small wave…hell, he even smiled at you when you happened to look up and see him pass by in his massive smelly mobile.
The sunset, the temperature, the feelings welling up inside you.
Isn’t life ducky?

The first word hits you from somewhere.
You’re not sure from where.
You’re not sure it was the word that you thought it was.
But there was that strong, HARD,' K', that stood out.
It punctures the air.
Ricochets off the asphalt. Off the bricks. Off the closed windows.
You both or just one of you blinks and loses a fraction of concentration.
Just enough to make you momentarily blink.
It’s taken you unawares.
See that small slice of “Wha?”
It’s too little time to recover because then…
the second word.


The black equivalent has all but disappeared.
The N word.
The most powerful man in the world is an N.
But they only call him that behind his back now.
We’re trying to take Faggot back.
We laugh and tickle each other with it.
To become like Queer.
We’re a little more comfortable saying it to each other.

But then, 'THEY' don’t know that.

Straight Males.

Sometimes Straight Females – slightly drunk, maybe jealous, joining in the fun of gang ridicule. Sometimes they’re the calming influence. Standing between us and 'them'.
You see, mothers tell their sons to be! MEN! "Don't be a sissy boy!"
These women who raise homophobes. These women who smile and give and never hit. They just instruct...

Straight males.

Men between 18 and ?
Doesn’t have to be just straight men.
99.9% are.
A few self loathing guys who want to get the ‘eyes’ off them…but mainly it’s raging, angry, drunk or sober ("Rarely stoners, dude.") young males.
They can be short or tall. Big or small. Cute, beautful or ugly.
It doesn’t matter.
They are man. The male. The bull warrior. The young, insecure, uptight, running in packs, Raging! Male.

Now they have your attention.
There is almost no way you can avoid the fear that you feel creeping around your body up toward your now backward-thinking brain.
It can’t grasp insanity.
You feel a liquid thumping just under your ears.
The closing of your throat, and later, making you gasp, retch or even vomit.
Both of you cling maybe just a little tighter to each other. Smile. Even shakily laugh a little.
“Just ignore them”, you hear your brave self say.

Your boyfriend agrees.
Small “yeah”.
You may even look in their direction.
You keep walking.
Others around you, have noticed, have heard the yell.
They keep walking as well.
Immersed (it’s not about them) in their own moments.

You push yourself back into your former dangling words…
“Where were we?”
“Oh, yeah, you were saying…”

You don’t get to finish.
You hear a rush of sound coming from outside your little sphere.
Feet slapping the concrete. Scream of tires (or was that you?)
Shouts of anger
Then ‘that’ word - FAGGOTS! again.
But it’s blurred, slurred with some other saliva’d words spat out in the frenzy of confusion and you turn and you see faces of men eye-diving on your body - contorted to a brutalizing hatred.

Your arms move upward instinctively like when you were a child defending itself from the bigger boys.

Do you have a heart of gold?
A chest of armour?
Fists of iron?

You’re blood and bone.
You’re feeling their ragged clawing of conscience.
Someone has taught them hatred. Pure. Rage!
You’re hit. Punched. Torn. Kicked hard again and again. Spat on.
Now bloodied and broken
Streaks of light cross your eyes
Your hearing is pound-muffled
Coming back in spurts of mad voices
Body parts move without directives
No pain. Yet.
Just a mass of confusion
A moment of why? Who? How?
Where is he?
Your boyfriend?
Why are you on the ground?
Upside downtown.
You feel and see the bottoms of shoes.
You’re covering your face
But there is now a sharp pain here and there and there and down and up and over anddd...oh God help me! please! hepl m eeeeeee nhep’ehurhndn!...

There is a sound like a small child’s toy siren that blocks out all other sounds. A sick buzz. Your eyes may be open or closed but all you see is a jet black darkness that mercifully holds at bay, the things that are going on that would make 'you' stop and pause if ‘you’ were walking by this person lying in a pool of their own blood and rocking drunkenly or mumbling nonsense.

Sounds return. Quickly. There is a disembodied feeling of “I’m not here, I can’t be”. You’re trying to regain a footing. Your head is moving. Inside and outside. You just blink your eyes to someone or something.
You’re babbling, you know. You taste your own blood. You touch your face and one eye sees thick crimson water. But it’s not water.
You rush words out to make yourself connect with yourself or someone. To make it all real again. There are voices. Some fast some slow.
And then, oh God, there is an unmerciful pain…

This is just the beginning.

From here on in.
You will never be the same again.

How the hell do I know? you say.
Well, I’ve seen the after ‘birth’.
The birth of fear.
From a man sitting in the middle of the sidewalk, another man standing next to him arms akimbo, face cut, blood dotted, shirt torn, breathless wonder spilling from his frightened mouth to anyone… Dazed and bleeding. Body shaking. People, we, around them, pointing, shouting for help.
"Three young guys came from behind and took them down to the concrete!"
They got away in a carrrrrr...!
They wouldn’t stop raining terror down upon these figures.
And everyone, except the stumbling innocent wounded fallen men on the sidewalk… is angry. The two men, the three or four people standing around, are trying to understand why we have to have this happen in our world today.

I can’t tell you what will happen.
To each comes a different journey.
Some will recover.
Some will not.

This may make you wince:

These men. These homophobes will attack anyone at any time if they see man as feminine, different.
If they see a drag queen with a deep voice talking to someone.
If they see a nancy boy flicking his wrist playfully in the street at his friends, "Hey girl!"
If they see a straight friend hugging his Gay friend.
If they see two straight guys hug goodbye.
If they see a woman with a crewcut hug her boyfriend.

Once upon a time, 'real time', two people, a dyke (short hair) holding hands with her mother (short hair) strolling downtown... were screamed at - "Faggots!"

If they see two men holding hands.
If they see men in a Gay bar, restaurant, club or street corner that they know is Gay, it will make them mad. Not angry. MAD crazy MAD.
Because to be feminine, a woman, is weak. It is the worst a man can be. That is what they think.
That is what they have learned or worse, have been taught.

These are true:

In New Jersey.
A girl with a boy’s crewcut was walking with her boyfriend. Holding hands with him.
They heard the word Faggots and were attacked. Mauled. Slugged senselessly.
The young men fled.
Got away.
The girl later grew her hair longer.
The two lovers limp in different places now.

Suburban skinhead punks funnel themselves into an Eastside Gay Pride celebration in Vancouver, B.C.. Happy people are out. Angry people too, with fists ablaze. Punches. Cuts. Arrests. On at least one of the attacker's arms is a swastika. They’re let go. No one stays to complain. No one follows this to a courtroom. The year is 2008.

In Edinburgh a man now limps permanently. Had to put a steel rod in his leg to replace shattered bone.
In Manchester a man sips liquid meals. Had to replace a part of his jaw. The year is 2008.

Two Gay men on vacation in a wonderful Caribbean country. They hold hands for a beautiful moment. In an ugly moment they are surrounded by mad men. One boyfriend is smashed over the head with a crowbar and now his boyfriend feeds just a body. The year was 2007.
"Faggot!" is heard shouted by all these men.

In 2008, people march in a Gay Pride parade in Budapest, Hungary.
Old ladies. Old. Watching. They hit gay people trying to walk in the parade.
Six young men surround one man and kick him and boot kick him over and over, until he lies in his own blood, unconscious, over.
A lesbian is punched squarely in the face by a man. A big man. Much bigger. More powerful than she.
She bleeds. She gasps blood. She falls to the pavement.
He walks quickly away.
A Gay and Lesbian Pride parade that was supposed to have over 3,000 people had 900 people.
2,100 Gay and Lesbian people were too terrified to march.
Neo Nazis were organized and dangerous.
All 3,000 of them and their …kind.
3,000 police protected the marchers.

I can tell you worse.
But I won’t.

It won’t be pictures.
It won’t be news footage that makes you get angry and get up.
It won’t be stories.

If this does not make you (fill in this blank with your own self-centred little reply).
It will be a fist hit.
You could be one of us. Or a friend. Or a parent. Or a bystander. A kid. A teen. An adult.

What I’m saying is that this …THIS …effects everyone.

We live in a world of gay authors who have millions of straight fans.
We live in a world where three fags can give fashion tips to straight people watched on mainstream television by millions of straight people.
We live in a world where there are openly homo politicians. Mayors, Senators, Ministers.
Where Queer and Lesbian actors are seen and loved by millions of straight people.

There is hope.

We now live in a world where the most powerful leader in the world is black. And he has said, And I quote, “Their voices can make a difference. It’s the answer spoken by young and old, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, Gay, Straight, disabled and not disabled.” Unquote.

One day, !All gay, all out! 24 hours a gay!

But for now, 'They' can come into 'Our' bars and drink and hug and slow dance... with eachother.
'We' cannot go into 'their' bars and dance, slowly, face to face, loving arms around and around body to some body. Penis to penis. Vagina to vagina. We would be hounded and pounded.

We are still hated. You can be out to some of the people some of the time but not out to all of the people all of the time.
We get on nerves.
The insecure males. The secure males.
The insecure females. The secure females.
The religious right.
The religious left.
Even the religious middle hole. The holier than thou.
We Gay people are powerful and decrepit.
Nothings and somethings.
Vulnerable and almighty.
We have changed and continue to change the manufactured fabric of the world.
For this we and our friends and allies are degraded.

We are compared to dogs, pigs, monkeys and shit.
We are disowned.
We are shunned.
We are spat upon.
We are punched.
We are beaten.
We are tortured.
We are raped.
We are shot.
We are hung by ropes until dead.
We are mutilated and our bodies left to rot.
By our families. Our own families.

In the United States of America, around 18% of all hate crimes are sexual orientation- biased. Here in Canada we’re a little more open-minded with 11%. In B.C. the most victimized group is Gay men, followed by people of colour and religious groups (Dept. of Justice Canada).

So. What can you do?

Stand or sit tall. When you hear a bad word said about us, stand up and say…something. When you see injustice, sit and write…something. And hold hands. Outside.

There are many of us G.B.L.T. people who have held hands with our boyfriends and girlfriends in the most dangerous of places and have never met any hostility. I’m one of them.
I’ve held hands:
on bicycles, in cars, on sidewalks, in stores, malls, restaurants, parks, movie theatres, on trains, ski hills, planes, beaches, buses, in schools, in offices, in libraries, at concerts, swimming pools, houses, houses of the holy - churches and synagogues and mosques, houses of Government, deserts and oases.
I will not be far.

The Leash

You've all seen them. You may have one, yourself...or two...because they're so tiny.
She was standing on the sidewalk in front of a bar. It was eleven A:M. She looked to be in her early sixties. Her skin was pallid. Her hair, firecracker cut. She wore a bright yellow rain slicker over a dowdy blue print dress and sat recklessly, teeter tottering on the seat of her electric scooter. She was smoking a cigarette and around the wrist of that hand, was a leash.
And there, on the end of the leash was one of those small dogs. It's fur was long and windblown. Its tongue was sticking out. It was being choked. The poor thing couldn't get into a comfortable place because the smoking woman was holding her hand up too high.
She was staring at the swirling smoke, perhaps seeing images. I was sitting behind a stalled, battered truck in the middle of thick, pea soup traffic. The truck's engine was turning over and over, the driver, I guess, panicking.
I rolled down my window and whistled. She never moved. That's when I saw.
Her eyes were glazed. She was somewhere, but not...there. I don't know where. The dog was there too. Both needed the other. One for food. The other for a collar to cry on.
The dog kept struggling, trying to get more air, even if it was nicotined. The woman kept yanking up the leash to get a better suck on her cig. She had those desperate fish lips, that some addicted smokers get - puckered, anticipating the smooth death curl down the windpipe. I was about to get out of my car and race over to her when the truck in front of me suddenly jumped to life just as the drivers behind me were getting antsy and starting to punch their fists on their horns.

There was nowhere to go but forward.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Letter To Change The World

Dear Mom,

There's something I have to tell you. I really need you to read this.
And please, you can't tell Dad. Not yet. Please. I've been wanting to say this for a long time but always felt like it wasn't the time. You know?
Anyway, since you are my mother, I feel like I have to tell you. I mean, I wanted to tell you, but I've always been sort of nervous about it. I'm still nervous about it. But. I need to say it to you because I want to tell you. You. I guess you've noticed that I've been a little distant from you, lately. Sorry for that. It's just that I've been thinking about it, a lot, and wasn't sure how you might react. Okay?
So. I'm Gay.
I hope at this point you're not fanning your face with this trying to catch your breath. I mean, I get the feeling you've known. Did you? I mean, I've seen your face when I 've brought my friends over and I can tell. They're nice people, Mom. Most of them are out to their families. Oh, 'Out' by the way, means 'in the open' not lying. Kind of like I haven't been, you know. And it's been tough to keep this from you. Not so much Dad. I mean I love him and all but, he's not like you. You know. He always balls up his fists at things and gets red and well, you know.

So. Anyway. How are you? Is this okay? I can't apologize. I mean, it's me. And you helped raise me. I'm still the same. You know. Me. It's just somethng has changed. And I can't go back now.
I'm sorry about not having a wedding or anything. But they do have them for Gay people now. Gay.
I know. That word. It doesn't mean femmy, Mom. I mean, there are lots of us. Lots. And a lot of us you sure wouldn't know it if you saw.
Remember that day you saw that hairdresser and waved at him and didn't laugh to me about him? That's when I knew I could probably tell you.

I can't change Mom. I've tried. I tried calling myself bi. Bi means bisexual. Both. Girls and boys.
And this ISN'T ABOUT SEX! God no! I just mean boys for things kept to myself.
Well that sounds dumb. I mean, you know. What I mean is I like girls but only as 'friends'.

God this is difficult. I don't want to hurt you.
I care for you with so much of me. So please don't see this as an attack. I LOVE YOU.
No matter what.

So anyway. Please don't let Dad know. Not yet. We've come this far. I'll tell him myself. Or you. Mabe later. Whichever you decide.
I just had to tell you. I had to get it out so I could live. It was kind of getting to me. I wasn't being me, Mom.

Don't worry about me. I'm pretty strong and am able to take care of myself. I know you would worry if people tried to hurt me. But I'm okay. I have strong friends. They shout back at the haters.

Anyway. I hope you can accept me. I hope you still love me. I hope I am still your son.
Because, you are stilll my mother.


Written on Thursday · ·
Jeff Ballam
Jeff Ballam
Beautifully written. Sounds very similar to the one I actually wrote.
Yesterday at 09:31 ·
Kory White
Kory White
That is an awesome letter and much like the one I wound up writing. I wonder if there will be a day when letters like those won't have to be written.
Yesterday at 10:14 ·
Dane B. McFadhen
Yesterday at 15:33 ·
Lloyd Scott Thornton
Lloyd Scott Thornton
Unfortunately, not in our society, and not in our life time Kory.

Quick History Lesson:

Native Americans embraced the "gays", considered two spirits (berdache), capable of seeing through both male and female eyes. Gay Native Americans would become the healers, mediators, singers, and interpreter of dreams. These gay individuals would either take a male partner, or have affairs with many men in the tribe without judgment. While taking on the role of a female in the tribe, gay Native Americans had the strength of a man, so they were highly regarded by the entire tribe.... See More

Enter the Puritans!!! Gay Native Americans were hunted down with dogs by the Christians who first came to America. And, as the word spread from tribe to tribe that packs dogs were being used, Natives began hiding their homosexuals whenever white men came through a village often dressing them as women.

As long as blind faith in religion continues to gain political footing in the United States (at the rate that it has over the last ten years), and the U.S. education system continues to be eroded by conservatives who want to eliminate the Department of Education altogether, acceptance by society will be marginal at best, or it will regress to the point of witch hunts at worst. (see Uganda-"Kill the Gays Bill")!!
Yesterday at 16:47 ·
See-ming Lee
See-ming Lee
Is this on your blog somewhere? I wanted to share it but can't do it without a link. Nice work!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ms. Dictator

There are two ways to find a school in which to teach in China. One is to do it yourself. The other is to have an agent who will do the looking for you.

I'm a professional actor. I had won a role on a television movie and acquired some newfound wealth, so I decided to teach overseas. I took the course on how to teach English and did quite well. My boyfriend Jim and I had just broken up and I needed to escape. So I chose to run away and teach in

I found an agent and, after a week of searching, she found me a job in a school just outside of
Hong Kong.

"No," I said, "it's too expensive to live there." I wanted to save money.

The agent immediately got irritated and dumped me off onto her contact in
China, Maggie. They weren't used to finicky students. With a lot of gentle persuasion, I got Maggie to start again. She said choose another country.

I said no.
Korea perhaps.
I said no.
Taiwan maybe.
I said no.
Find me something in
Shanghai or Beijing, I insisted.

She said, "Impossible! I get back to you!"

The search was on.

I kept focusing on
Shanghai. I had decided on Shanghai. I wanted Shanghai. Please find me a school in Shanghai. There must be one... at least. A couple of days later my cell phone bounced in my pocket.

It was Maggie. She had a school. Just outside of Shanghai.

Kid Castle. It was part of a chain.Cutesy-sweet.

I would be teaching six to 12-year-olds. Six days a week. This was not in the brochure. I wanted older students. Not screechers.

A couple of days later my phone woke me at 1:30 am. Two voices talked in tandem. One, Chinese, hushed and slightly pushy, whispered in the background. The other, a young English teacher, acted as interpreter. Andrea, the English teacher, sounded exhausted. At one point in the conversation, I asked her if she liked working there.

I heard her ragged voice drop to a whisper and say, "I only have three months left." Not thrilled to hear that.

The Chinese voice, who turned out to be the owner's daughter, told me I had to work six days a week. We haggled over email for the next few days. Then she began to get personal.

"Do you have girlfriends?" she typed.
"Oh yes, many. But just friends," I replied.

She asked for my picture. I sent her my actor's headshot.
She replied, "You good looking. I too chubby. You in good shape, you not make fun of me."
Another email: "I yell a lot, you not get angry at me."
Then: "We okay now. You buy ticket, we give money back when you here."
I got a good price. Roundtrip: $1,300.

It took me three days to get my three-month visa. I was supposed to land, wait five days, then they would fly me to
Hong Kong where I would get my new work visa, then I would return to school and begin work. Sounded good to me. I was ready to go.

And then I asked about plugs.

"What plugs?" she asked.
Adaptors... for my fan and alarm clock, I explained.
"Fan? What fan?"
I bring my own fan whenever I travel (try explaining white noise over email and a language barrier).
"Whirrrrrr?!" she asked.

The next day I got a very terse, professionally written letter from her mother saying, "Thank you for your time but you seem to want special treatment. We suggest you look elsewhere for employment. Goodbye."

I can't explain how I felt.

I read the email over and over. I tried emailing them back, over and over. No response.

It was over.

I contacted my agent and asked her to please begin the search again. As I slowly closed my computer I suddenly resolved to go anyway. I had my ticket and my visa. What's the worst that could happen? Mugged in an alleyway for my clothes that 'they' made?

I was in motion. Propelled. Compelled.

The last night before I was to leave, I was invited out to an Easter dinner with friends. We joked about it being my 'last supper' of North American fare. They thought I was insane to fly off to
China without a job. "Where will you stay, where will you work?" they asked again and again. Suddenly, my pants danced. My cellphone went off.

It was my agent, Maggie.

"Dane, so sorry to keep you waiting. I have 'nother school. Director want talk to you."

A 10-minute conference call ensued on the spot. I spoke calmly and answered and asked all the right questions, never once mentioning the word 'plugs'. I got the job. I arrived in
Shanghai on a Tuesday at 9 pm. I cleared customs and took a lunge forward. And then a step backward. I looked for a sign.

Bill, Mr Arthur, Proctor...
No Dane.
No one was there to pick me up.

I had one scraggly piece of paper with a long contact phone number in case anything went wrong. I took it out of my back pocket like a snap-on tail. A taxi driver waved his cell phone and kindly called the 14-digit number. I held my breath. And then let out my a whoosh. The woman I was supposed to replace had decided to stay! I stammered but there was nothing I could do.

I thanked the taxi driver and moped off into a corner to have a 'think' like Pooh Bear.

I looked down the hallway and chose the quietest, meekest-looking taxi driver. We haggled. I told him to take me to a cheap, nice hotel. Perhaps a hostel. I chose my words carefully and used a lot of pantomime. I asked him about his home life and in broken English we bonded in his cab. He was 23, two children and a wife to support. He liked his job. Liked the foreigners.

He asked me about my life. I didn't hesitate. "I have a boyfriend," I said. He turned and looked at me for as long as possible while driving. We crossed three lanes with me waving madly at the crash barrier. He calmly looked, readjusted and just said, "Ah, ah, I understan', I understan'." Would he now take me to a chandeliered, crinoline-draped, over-priced, fancy schmancy, bordello-like hotel? Or a dandy, nancy-bar for 'just passing-through' sailors?

We arrived after about an hour. It was right out of the movie Blade Runner. The neighbourhood looked dirty and rundown. The hotel was fading-fancy. Ten floors of dull chrome and dusty glass. The staff wore frayed grey uniforms with little red ties. Everyone stood at attention when we approached the front desk.

The driver spoke to a young man who then turned to me and smiled. He gave me one price. I gave a lower price. Down and down we went until I ended up paying the equivalent of about $30 a night. They led me up to my room.

One bed with a mattress that was wafer-thin.
A bathtub.
Red carpet. Red drapes.
I sat down on the bed and cried softly. Cursed myself...
Nancy's got a job to do!" I reminded myself and got up to run a bath.

My tears mixed with the murky water as I pulled the plug.

I needed to go to an internet café and email my agent. At the front desk I mimed the sign of a keyboard.They all pointed down the street. I stepped out into the teeming street life.

Everywhere there were scooters and cars and bicycles and people humming every which-way. People and drivers disobeyed the traffic lights. Scooters drove on the sidewalks. People stared at me and pointed. Smiling. I looked down. Was my fly open?

No, I was the only Caucasian face around.

It was hot and muggy. I was on a street named
Zhongshang Road in an older section of Shanghai. The smog was godawful. I could feel my lungs berating me.

I found the internet café. It was full to bursting. The smoke of 100 cigarettes hovered above the terminals like a mushroom cloud.

"Dane, I'm so sorry," reads the email from my agent, who already knows. She promises to find me "'nother job"! She tells me to stay put in
Shanghai for a day or two.
The next morning, I brave the bustling crowds and head for an open market. Live poultry squawk in metal and bamboo cages. Lots of meats sizzle in woks and frying pans. Buckets teem with eels, crickets and frogs. I see a dove get decapitated and bagged.

I buy a banana.

There is a man sitting on a chair on the sidewalk being shaved by a barber with a straight-razor. Beside him, a game of checkers that passerby are betting on. Others stop to just watch and gossip and share a smoke.

It's very lively and the people are curious about me. Whenever I stop to poke my nose into a scenario, a crowd gathers and pokes me. I smile politely and tell them where I'm from. I scratch a map with a pebble onto the sidewalk. Lots of nodding heads and broken-toothed brown smiles.

"Ahhh, Shanada..." they all say.

I leave the market and head up the street where I turn a corner and see a dilapidated school. Fading paint and sad, peeling off letters announce the presence of
Kid Castle.
I shake my head, relieved. I continue on my walk and enter a series of very narrow alleyways. So narrow in fact that one neighbour above is able to pass a bowl of rice to her neighbour across the way. Very Dickensian. I notice in some of the doorways women and a couple of men are leaning rather provocatively. I'm in a red light district.

I stop at one apartment and chat with a rather cute young man who obviously is a hustler. I ask him if I can just take a peek at his... apartment. He smiles broadly and sweeps me in with his welcoming palm. Inside is just a bed and table. A small fridge and a hot plate. He's 20, from outside the city. He's been here for two years. "I wish for you to stay," he says. He's rehearsed his line. I shake my head, smile and politely thank him.

I head downtown and am wowed by the major sights like the Bund. Turn-of-the-century, monolithic buildings juxtaposed by modern science fiction-like towers on the other side of the snaking
Huangpu River.

Soon I find that it's suppertime, so I head back to my hotel by scooter. I've discovered that the scooter-taxis are much faster and cheaper than the car taxis. The scooter taxi driver finds the pulse of the traffic and we whip in and out of car and pedestrian traffic. Me helmetless and hair-whipped!

I wash and change and head to my first gay club.

It's up in the posh section of the downtown core, near
Hui Hui Rd. And it's connected to a hotel, I discover upon arrival. A gay hotel. The hotel is much nicer than the one I'm in - not to mention 50 yuan cheaper! I rush back to the old place, grab my bags and check out. I'm back in the club by 10:30 pm, ready to meet the locals.

It's dazzling - a mirrored maze with lasers.

The place is packed. No women. Men from about 18 to 70. Most very cute with flat chests and stomachs. I am immediately hailed over to a table of five young men drinking shooters. The table's sole English speaker is ushered in next to me.

He tells his friends that I am an actor, here to teach English. They applaud. I smile and shrug. They smile. We all smile some more. They drink. We dance. There's much smiling, applauding and shrugging on my part.

midnight, the jet lag is really creeping up on me. I beg off. They all want to come to my room. But I have to be up early the next morning, so I reluctantly decline and back out, bowing and waving.

I duck into the hotel. I wait for the elevator. I suddenly feel a tap tap on my shoulder. Shaing, the table's interpreter, finds me! Drapes himself over me.

"I use your room toilet, okay?" he asks.
He is very cute. 24.
We go to my room and he enters the bathroom.
I pace.
When he emerges, I duck into the bathroom for a quick shower.
I hear knocking. No. It's not the club. The shower door opens. Shaing steps into the shower.

Oh, and the rumour that all Chinese men are hung like light switches?

It's a myth.

We spend the night together. Lots of grunts and moans. No translation required.

My agent finds me a new school the next day. This time, the director seems determined to hire me.

"You come. Now. Please!" she says.
I say okay.

I find the bus station and get on a bus bound for
Changzhou, about an hour and a half south of Shanghai. It looks like the Paris suburbs, but dirtier. Narrow tree-lined streets. Messy, colourful and lively. Canals wend their inky way in and out of the city.

I have an inkling that all is not well with the job when I arrive at the bus depot and no one is there to greet me. I phone the school's number from a nearby phone booth and the woman on the other end says to take a taxi.

The taxi arrives a moment later and we drive for 10 minutes in the wildest ride I've ever had. Wilder than
Shanghai. We scoot and shoot, narrowly missing pedestrians. People wander into the street, get honked at and missed by a fraction of an inch. They're like Chinese matadors. They tuck their fannies in when the taxis get too close and push them out again when another rushes by on the other side. "Gung hay, ole!"

We get to the school and the secretary meets me at the front door. But she doesn't budge. In fact, she stays put and yawns. She barely manages a wave. I grab my bags and trundle my way towards her. I'm told to sit in a chair outside the director's office. A moment later I'm waved inside.

I'm face to face with a modern schoolmarm.

Dressed entirely in grey. Lips pursed. Hair in a tight casserole-like bun. The secretary whispers the introductions and clumsily backs out into me, then the chair, then the front door of the office, all the while saying, "Escuse, escuse."

The director frowns.
We both sit.

She tidies her desk which is immaculate and brushes off invisible dust. She coughs once and barely mouths the words, "Excuse me, please." There seems to be an awful lot of whispering here. Should my first word be in a whisper?

She moves a sheet of paper in front of her. My resume.

"Tell me about yourself," she says.
My voice booms. "Sorry," I hear myself say. "Theatre training, you know."
Her left eyelid quivers.
I refer to my resume and expound on various points.

After about five minutes, she points to the room behind me and ever so quietly says, "Please. Your class await you."

I wasn't expecting this.

Behind me, through the plate glass window, I see, in a classroom, four eager young women sitting at their desks, pens poised, all smiling, eyes blinking... at me. Ready. The secretary sits behind them, pen hovering over her clipboard, ready to record and grade the historic moment. I look back to the director and ask haltingly, "Er, may I take a moment just to change, would you mind?"

Blink blink.
She mouths, "Of course not, please."

I race out to the adjacent office where I've stashed my luggage and like a frenetic professional model in a fashion show, I whip on my most fashionable wardrobe. Out of well travelled, accordion-creased jeans into professional school-teaching attire. The director is, I think, slightly impressed. Her mouth tweaks upward one centimetre.

The secretary smiles and hands me a textbook.
And we talk about fish.
The secretary scribbles madly on her clipboard.
I mime. I gesture.
The students laugh and then laugh again.

Even the secretary momentarily chuckles, catches herself and then plunges her pen onto her clipboard.
I have them repeat words.
I have them talk about their lives.
The secretary nods off.
I'm boring.
I'm a real teacher!
I'm in!

And just like that I'm back to sitting before the director.
"We find you appropriate," she calmly says.
I think she's smiling.

She asks more questions. Her English is quite good. She has studied for a few months in
London. She then tells me where I will be living and I hear myself say, "Oh and I'm gay, by the way, and my boyfriend Jim may join me later."

Her pursed lips part for air. "Boyfriend?"
"Yes," I smile.
"Jim?" her heads cocks... like a trigger.
She excuses herself.
I wait.

Within four minutes she returns, sits and says, "We find you inappropriate."

"In appropriate?" I say. Aghast.
"I am sorry but we feel you are not right for our students."

I feel awful. Awestruck. Aw Jeezzzuss.
I had been naive enough to believe that I should be honest and open.
Wrong. You're not in
Kansas anymore, TaTa.
"Your being," she faltered ever so slightly on the word, "gay is something we cannot accept."
But why?
"Because we feel the students must not know."
I grapple for words. "Well, they won't know. It's my business," I say.
"Oh, but we know, don't we?" her mouth flatlines.

I hadn't felt hatred like this since the '80s when asking a
New Orleans policeman where a certain gay bar was and in his deep southern drawl said, "I wouldn't know that, I'm not a fag." I being pulled away by my friend, threatened to call the Canadian consulate.

I felt drained.
Until I slunk down the hall and into a rainbow-peopled room.

One of the teachers closed the door after me. There were three women and one man.
"Are you all right?" one of them asked me.
I told them right out.
They all stopped what they were doing and came up to me.
Encircled me.
Embraced me.

Then one of them came out to me.

"Well, Dane, they still don't know but I'm a lesbian," she whispered with a smile.

The others all grinned, nodded, patted my back. Offered to take me out to dinner. Invited me to crash at their places until I could find another job. First I got online and emailed my agent.

She already knew!
The director had phoned her right away, even before she had fired me.

"Dane! You can't say that in
China outside of the big cities. This is not Canada!" my agent lectured me.
And then, what I wanted to hear. "I find you 'nother job. You stay!"

The four teachers and I trooped out to a small restaurant where they schooled me in the ways of some of the Chinese.

"You don't come out here," Cathy told me. "You must be discreet."
"Oh, you mean we can't be real," I snapped.
She was very patient.
She gently told me that many men are effeminate. Many men are in the closet. But all Chinese men must marry and have a family.

"But how do the men cope if they're..." I trailed off.
They visit the cities on 'business' and then return to their families, she said.
But more and more are not returning to their families, she added. It's becoming easier to be gay.

Away from the school the next day I strolled around the city and met wonderful, delightful people who had no idea that I was gay.

"Wife?" they would ask.
I would just smile.
I wanted to wear a rainbow shirt.
Wanted to say 'gay' in a sentence.

Two days later, my agent found me another job.

It was half an hour outside of
Hong Kong - the very place I'd tried to avoid! But the pay was better so I accepted. Before leaving town, I returned to the school to say goodbye to my new friends and seek out the director who had refused to hire me.

When I saw the grey lady in the hallway, I made sure to stop, smile broadly and blurt out, "My agent has found me a new job. And it's better than yours!"

With all the teachers watching from their offices, noses pressed to the glass, I grabbed the director by the hand and shook it vigorously. And then... I hugged her.

"Thank you so much for letting me use your internet access," I told her.
I'm sure she showered 10 times that day.

The teachers went into hysterics. Muffled laughter bounced around the rooms.

The director's face, ironically, turned a rainbow of colours. She sputtered, turned on her heel and shrank down the grey hallway.

Cathy burst from the room, hugged me and whispered, "Oh, Dane, she never has physical contact with anyone! Never! Oh my! We'll never forget her face! That was fantastic!"

The others, bent over with laughter, gave me the thumbs up. And that night, we went out to celebrate my coming out in
China, or so I thought...

Dane McFadhen is a Vancouver-based actor and writer. He is now working on a Fiction series about a boy.
His book about his experiences in China should be published in 2011,

Sad to say... A True Story

I was coming home a couple of nights ago from a friend's place, driving in the rain.
I stopped at a traffic light.
I looked to my right and saw a group of kids.
On the ground, rolling and then becoming still, was a body.
The kids were kicking and reaching down and punching whoever was on the ground.
I was shocked.
I did what I was supposed to do.
I slammed down the accelerator and came to a sliding stop diagonally facing the corner, blocking traffic.
As the car came to a stop, I saw a girl of about 15, kicking the person on the ground...hard. A girl on the other side, same age, was kicking the person with abandon. The other kids stood and watched.
I leaped out and asked, demanded, to know, "What the hell are you doing"?
There were 5 boys and the two girls.
"He hit her", one of the girls said, pointing to the other girl.
The other girl quickly added, "Yeah, he slapped me, the fucker!"
The person, it looked like a boy, was lying on his stomach, on the sidewalk, his hands and arms wrapped around his head trying to protect his face.
"Is that any reason to gang up on someone like all of you are?" I asked.
"Well, he started it", said the first girl.
I looked down and tried to pry the boy's arms away from his face and ask him if he was alright.
It was a man.
Grey hair protruded from his jackshirt.
He was bleeding from his lower lip.
I smelled alcohol.
He was glassy-eyed.
I stood up.
I walked to the oldest boy.
16 - 17.
"You call this a fair fight? He's drunk. 7 of you to beat up a defenseless drunken man?!"
He mumbled something.
"What did you say?" I asked.
"Nothing", he said in a low, almost empty voice.
I walked back and helped the man up.
He was shaking.
I was shaking.
For different reasons.
The girls were the aggressors.
The boys started to walk away when I waved them off.
"Go", I said, "just go".
The girls didn't move.
The man stood shakily on his feet.
The man, Native Indian, mumbled, "Bastard" to one of the boys, about 14.
The boy raised his fist and threatened, "I'll kick your ass, asshole".
I stepped between the two of them.
Told the kids to "Go. Now."

The man didn't want any help.
He staggered up the street still bleeding from cuts to his face.
I watched the kids walk away.
They postured.
The girls walked backwards watching the man zig zag forward.

And now I write this.