We lost an American pioneer and revolutionary when Lee Glaze died recently. I had the privilege to attend his memorial at Triangle Square, LA’s gay senior housing center. Among the assembled crowd I was definitely the youngest there, which made me a little sadder than I already was. There should have been thousands of people there. The altar, made from a draped folding table, should have collapsed under the weight of flowers twisted into wreathes. We should have filled his apartment with roses, from floor to ceiling. Better yet, since he is no longer here to witness such tributes, we should have done more while he was still alive to let him know how appreciative the world really is of what he accomplished. The world should have been more appreciative.
We know so little about our history. We’ve selected a few bright stars and moments to put in our pantheon, Stonewall, Harvey Milk etc., and left the rest unilluminated. There is so much more to gay history, so many more hands at work behind the scenes. Lee Glaze, the owner of The Patch, a gay bar in Long Beach, stood up the police a year before Stonewall. When patrons of his establishment were arrested in a raid, he marched down to the station with followers holding flowers and demanded their release. “We’re here to get our Sisters out,” Lee told them.
There is so much that the youth of the community takes for granted. Every visit to West Hollywood reminds me that the joy of drinking vodka cocktails to a soundtrack of house music with tons of boys relies on the hard work of our elders. Maybe only gay history themed cocktails would bridge the divide.
I’m not counting myself out of the blame game. I don’t have the means to buy out the floral district but I could have visited him more, treated myself to more of his company. I even came a little late to the service, having come straight from work. All that despite my awareness of what a mensch he was. So I can’t hold it against those who don’t know better, who are ignorant of his legacy, for not providing more for him.
I met Lee Glaze, thanks to my involvement with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. A social service organization with a structure resembling a nunnery, we have a tradition of sainting important and helpful individuals. A couple of years ago we bestowed the honor of Sainthood on Lee Glaze. At the ceremony, people spoke to the immense impact his choices had, we blessed him and bound him to his wheel chair with ropes representing his ties to the community.
After one of his hospital stays I helped clean his apartment with the help of a few of my fellow nuns. He had a lot of stuff and a beautiful painted bathroom that he had done himself. As we worked he regaled us with stories from his life. I remember him telling us about being the first manager of the first branch of Taco Bell for instance. He had strong opinions about life, his living situation, his city and the world. He cussed out a home health aide that wanted to change his bandages because it had hurt so much the last time. The word “shy” and Lee Glaze share no relation.
At his memorial, he was summed up as someone who was difficult at times, a little crazy, very talkative and kind. Despite his outsized personality and outspoken spirit, he was able to be gentle when necessary. This is a man after all who brought the police hundreds of flowers in protest. He was described as a personal embodiment of Gay Pride. Thank you Lee for all that you did. Rest in Peace and Power.
So clearly I took a European style vacation from blogging (read: eight weeks long), during which time I managed to accomplish a life-long goal of mine and became a fully professed member of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. For those not in the know, the Sisters are an international non-profit organization whose mission is to expiate stigmatic guilt and shame, while promulgating universal joy through habitual perpetration. A mouthful, huh? We do a lot of fundraising for charity and social activism work, along with providing spiritual ministry to the community.
For more info you can check out Wikipedia or our local chapter’s website.
I have wanted to be a Sister since I was about four years old. My family used to attend the Lily Street Easter celebration, the pre-cursor to the event the Sisters now hold every Easter in Dolores Park. I remember seeing the larger than life Glamazons, in their glitter and jewels, wielding towering headpieces and thinking, if only one day I could be one of them….And the time has finally come!
The process of becoming a Sister is very involved. It takes at least a year and a half. Because I am special, I took over two years. I started loitering around them in April 2010. The Sisters don’t recruit members, in the same way the Jews don’t prosletize, by which I mean they make terribly hard to get in and come off as insular and possibly hostile. I kept waiting for someone to invite me into the group or otherwise instruct me me in joining. They don’t ask you to join, you just have to state your intention of doing so publicly at one of their meetings. It took me seven months to figure this out. Seven months of attending meeting and events with them and no one mentioned this to me. That’s Drag Queens for you.
But I kept at it, and they became friendlier with time, and now I can say that at least a few have tempted towards heterosexuality on my account. Okay, probably that is an overstatement, but I do like to joke that I am a conservative plant sent on a mission to convert them. No luck so far, but I’ll keep trying…wink wink, nudge, nudge.
The journey I’ve taken with them over the last two years has given my life here in LA additional meaning and has made up for some of what I’ve otherwise lacked (adoring fans, flashing bulbs, chances to wave to crowds). My mom always says to find things that are both selfish and altruistic. I like saying that I do a lot of volunteer work, when really most of takes place in bars. It allows me, as Queerspawn to maintain a relationship with my community. That’s one of the tricky things about being a grown up child of gay parents, especially if you are straight yourself. How do include yourself in the Queer world? The Sisters have been my answer and I am very grateful they welcomed me in.
On the slight chance you are wondering how it is that I’ve gone this long without previously mentioning them herein, I can blame their rigorous and dense policies and procedures that state that as a novice or prior I could speak publicly about the Sisters but not as their representative. This precarious protocol scared me enough to wait. When you’ve wanted something like this for as long as I had, you don’t take chances. But now that I am a member…HAHHAHAHAHAHHAHA! I thought that the moment I was a Black Veil (what fully professed members are called) I would want to race out and misrepresent us, but so far the idea of putting on all that make-up in the heat has stalled me. I like white face better in Winter.