BENT's own Bear

Everybody knows what bears do in the woods—they sit around telling each other their life's stories and giving one another advice. What else would those big, hairy beasts do when they get together for their Teddy Bear Picnics?

Inspired by the wisdom of my fellow growlers, I'm here to give advice, when asked. So, if any of you have questions you'd like answered by someone who's been around the block a couple of times, please send them to

And in case you're worried that you might have to censor your thoughts, please remember that my walks around the block were often done while dressed in kinkwear and with a thought or two about who I might encounter along the way.

So let me know what's on your mind. If it's a Big Unanswered Question (or even a little one), let me have a crack at it. It is, after all, what bears do best.


In this issue, Max takes a break from answering your questions to answer an important question of his own.

Who's the Terrorist Now?

I've been waiting to have my say until all the expected emotions surrounding the World Trade Center disaster could be put into perspective and I could say things that might not have been popular during the initial wave of reaction, overreaction, patriotism, and religious self-righteous fervor. Come to think of it, what I've got to say still won't be popular, but here's my two cents anyway, or maybe, since I'm feeling pretty ornery, my dollar's worth.

First off, I don't wave the flag, because I'm not as free as the flag-wavers would have you believe. I still can't inherit Social Security benefits from my partner of twenty years and I still can't legally marry him. I can't go to the local sex clubs because Rudy Fucking Giuliani had them closed down because he doesn't think that gays should be screwing their brains out. And I guarantee you that if I went to some states in these United States and waved my rainbow flag and yelled, "Gay rights for all!" I'd have my head blown off as quickly as Osama Fucking Bin Laden.

And don't tell me that, Well, it's better here than most places on earth, 'cause that's about as much a pound of excrement as a real-life bucket of bullshit. It didn't work when "America; love it or leave it" was being hurled at Viet Nam protesters in the 60s, and it doesn't work now. You want to sing about freedom? Fine, then let everybody be free, not just the ones you think deserve to be free. And if you say that this country was founded on freedom of speech, then be prepared to hear some things you may not want to hear.

And while I'm angry, because I am angry, let me tell you what I think terrorism really is. Terrorism is a built-in part of the human spirit. It's in the heart and mind of anyone who says "My God is better than your God," and throws a bomb up your ass if you dare to disagree. Terrorism used to be a crusade, an inquisition, a witch-burning; now it's trying to impeach a president because he's got a wandering cigar, just as much as it's a Klansman in a white sheet burning a cross on your lawn. Terrorism is trying to blow up the Americans With Disabilities Act. And let's not forget about stoning faggots, still a popular sport in these Untied States.

What is terrorism? It is us. It's anyone who refuses to tolerate what is different, what he or she doesn't understand, what she or he fears. And anyone who thinks that terrorists are only "them" and the good guys are only "us" is truly living with his head up his hole. So, pardon me, but I won't wave the flag until the Red, White, and Blue represents freedom for all of us, not just for some of us. And I'm not going to say that Osama Bin Laden or Sadaam Hussein is any more a terrorist than the preacher who rests his hand on the bible while preaching hatred as God's Word. (How long, Oh, Lord, must we put up with the homegrown terrorism of the Reverend Falwell and the Reverend Robertson, and every other Reverend who thinks he's got a direct pipeline to a God that not everybody in this sanctimonious country believes exists?)

Remember, the world is full of people who would have been very happy if every gay, bisexual, intersexed person on earth had been there in the World Trade Center on 9/11 instead of stockbrokers, firemen, and the Mexican workers in the kitchen who nobody seems to think were heroes because they were only working twelve hours a day for less than minimum wage to support their families back home. And yes, immigrants like those, legal or illegal, have been killed by the same dyed-in-the-wool flag-waving, patriots who yell "Kill all Arabs." And how many of the men and women who are so willing to exploit below-minimum-wage workers are now hoisting flags on poles to prove what wonderful, patriotic Americans they are?

And while we're talking about heroes, something we are doing way too much of lately, let's remember the hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions of people around the world who are "heroes," people who don't get to inherit a pension, have their kids' college tuition paid for, or get a chunk of Red Cross money, even though they risk their lives every day just by waking up. I'm talking about disabled people who refuse to be institutionalized, gay people who demand their Civil Rights at the expense of their jobs or even their lives, political dissidents who risk incarceration and torture, people who blow whistles when they see something unfair or illegal being done by their bosses. None of these women and men get ticker tape parades; they don't get cheered at City Hall, even though they've risked their jobs and their lives.

No, I'm not putting down the courageous acts of 9/11 or trying to minimize them in any way. I'm just saying let's honor the brave worldwide, those who stand up to hypocrisy and injustice and don't ever get the honor they deserve, whose families are never compensated for their sacrifices, and whose legacies get lost in political mood swings and what the press thinks is sexy at the moment, instead of what really matters.

More heroes exist than the media ever pay lip service to. And hey, BENT buddies, talking your crip talk, walking your crip walk, and writing about your lives right here in BENT and not giving a crap who knows it, well, I'd say THAT's heroic.

Yeah, I'll probably get some choice words in response to mine, but I've been giving it back as good as I get it for many years now, so I'm ready. And if I'm sometimes cynical it's because I was taught by masters. I've known a few terrorists who were my flesh and blood. I've seen evil, all right, and I can tell you that it doesn't always have a beard and a hooked nose. Sometimes its not even a man at all. And you know what? I've seen people wield power and try to destroy innocent lives who've never been to Afghanistan. Imagine that! I've seen them at City Hall. I've seen them in the White House. I've seen them in bed next to me. And maybe if I hadn't learned some hard lessons in my life I'd be staring at one in the mirror.

Who is a terrorist? He's a hate-filled human being cloaked in self-righteousness. He's got enough brains to make a bomb, but not enough brains to sit on it.

© 2002 Max Verga


MAX VERGA has been an activist ever since getting a call from a friend reporting that he'd been in a riot at the Stonewall Bar only hours before. He began his activism with the West Side Discussion Group, later became involved with its offshoot theater group, and was one of the founders of Mainstream, a gay-disabled group. For more about Max, see his longer biography.


BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/January 2002