Me and Harvey: my adventures at the Harvey Milk Festival (HMF), 1.

Before we take off for Target….here’s the The first of a couple of posts recounting my trip to Sarasota for the Harvey Milk Festival. Photos at

Up at 4:30a. Kiss Vajdon, in the cab; Vajdon rings to say how proud he is of me and how much he loves me. He wishes he could be with me. Every time the U.S. doesn’t let him in, it is like a thin, knife cut. We are both very scarred.

Out of cab, onto the Greyhound, to the border, left at the airport. Buffalo, Charlotte and Sarasota at 4:30p. Those one-of-a-kind, low lumbering Floridian clouds hug the sky’s waistline in Sarasota (SRQ).

Ed Midler, HMF Program Coordinator, emails to say we’re scheduled for an interview. Hotel Indigo at 5:30, my gosh how I am greeted there. Somehow the GM knows I am beyond thirsty and with her dry cleaning on her shoulders digs into a cooler and hands me a bottle of water. The epitome of kindness and generousity. Julia, at the front desk, gets me headed off in the right direction; that whole staff at Hotel Indigo – I can’t say enough good things about them. With the interview at 6p, I guzzle my water, pitch my bag into my room and head over.

I get to WSLR, a little yellow house with an earnest dog, a lovely station manager, Arlene Sweeting, makes me feel at home while we wait for the show in progress wrapping up. The electrical Shannon Fortner (HMF Organizer) and Jen O’Connor (HMF Volunteer) show up; it’s fab to finally meet these amazing persons who have fought so hard to make the HMF happen and, for Shannon, to keep her family together. We are ushered in, one to a mic.

I’m in the middle of a mini-reading tour for my novel The Drifts. I mean to talk up the reading and writing workshop I am scheduled to do at the fest. But it goes in a different direction. Shannon and I have been pressed, shoved really, into horrible circumstances.

Vajdon, my husband, and I have landed on our feet in Toronto after a very long and grueling immigration journey. Shannon is in the limbo land between geography and the heart. Her partner lives in the U.K., she in Sarasota. Like us, they have spent thousands of dollars in airline and travel costs trying to see each other from time to time. Gay and trans people are heroic. LGBTQ people in bi-national, same-sex relationships, whose countries do not recognize their relationships (U.S., Zimbabwe, Iran, etc.) are forced to do one of three things: go underground, break up their families or go into exile. We chose the latter. They are beyond heroic. One has to be to survive. We find it in ourselves.

The interview careened from Shannon (why the HMF? why her? why now?) to Jen (what’s straight got to do with it?) and me (what brings me to the HMF? why Harvey? what’s The Drifts about?). Catch the whole interview here.

Next up… The Fest begins, We Sing to Harvey, the candle light vigil and over 1,000 people in our laps!

~ by Thom on May 25, 2010.

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