Promoting Kick-Ass Queer Non-Conformity
One Saturday afternoon, before I graduated from high school in 1977 in New Jersey, I was in the East Village of Manhattan and came upon the theater where Goddess Divine was performing in Tom Eyen's camp play "Women Behind Bars".
I went into the lobby and asked the manager if I could say hello to Divine, and soon found myself inside the theater's orchestra section with Divine out of drag on the stage towering over me. She couldn't have been more friendly to this fan, who paid her a few compliments and got her to autograph a program.
That's my Divine tale, small and short as it is, and wish I knew what happened to that damn precious showbill!
Being an alt dresser and out gay in my teens, I knew what it was like to be bullied and picked on for a number of reasons. Hungry for role models, even though I didn't know that term then, Divine, who I read had lots of trouble from contemporaries in school, gave me hope to stay being different and accept myself.
If there was room in this world for Goddess Divine, then the universe had extra space for me too.
Yesterday, Noah Brodie of the I Am Divine Foundation alerted me to a public service announcement educating folks about what Divine faced growing up in suburban America, and her fabulousness all these years after leaving this mortal world. Here's a little payback to Goddess Divine and the spark of hope she gave this queer boy many moons ago. Bravo to the foundation for their cool definition of what spells divinity:
Divine was born Harris Glenn Milstead in Baltimore, Maryland on October 19, 1945. At the age of 12, Divine's family moved to Lutherville, a suburb of Baltimore. It was during this time he became friends with director John Waters. Before becoming the star of Waters' films, Divine was a shy young man who was bullied in school. He attended middle and high school in neighboring Towson. Classmates and faculty relentlessly bullied Divine. Being effeminate and overweight made him an easy target. "My heart bleeds for you" one of his teachers sneered at him when he asked them for help. The bullying got so bad that Divine's parents had to have a police escort arranged to and from school, as they feared for his personal safety. [...]
I Am Divine Foundation helps to broaden people's view of what is considered "normal" in society. DIVINE RULES!
D - DIVERSITY Fat, skinny, ugly, pretty, straight, gay. Nobody EVER looks bad if they feel good about themselves!
I - IDENTITY Express the beauty inside of you, or get lost! Sometimes the in-crowd is NOT where you want to be.
V - VALOR Don’t be afraid to fight for what you believe. Kick ass politically, not physically.
I - INSPIRATION Inspire yourself and others. Be your own filth god or goddess and be proud!
N - NONCONFORMITY Create your own path. High school is NOT the end of the world.
E - EVOLVE Educate yourself. Get smart and reject ignorance. There’s nothing cool about being stupid!