I started writing my Parting Glances column in 1999. Its premise was simple enough: choose an important LGB — and occasionally T — historical event that actually changed things for us, or challenged us to speak out on behalf of LGBTQ human rights, during the 20th Century.
The initial Parting Glances columns were 125 words in length. Many of these included my first-hand reminiscences of what it was like to be gay — but highly closeted — way back then. I came out during my senior year at Cass Technical High School in 1956. I was a commercial art major.
I also wrote interviews for BTL and tongue-in-cheek — singular, not plural — humorous pieces. As for the interviews: when I was writing for Ten Percent, an earlier Detroit LGBTQ publication now called OutPost, I interviewed Jan Stevenson, then the first director of the Affirmations LGBTQ community enter.
Jan apparently liked what I had to say about her and her insightful, innovative and strategic leadership — Jan, are you reading this? And when she partnered with BTL co-publisher Susan Horowitz, who purchased Between the Lines 27 years ago, Jan asked me to write for the paper.
I of course said an enthusiastic yes! I have been with Between the Lines and Pridesource.com since day one. I estimate that I have written about 750,000 words for the paper, and about 700 Parting Glances columns, increased since 2002 to 650 words each!
Footnote here: the previous owner of Between The Lines was a self-styled Radical Faerie who wanted BTL to be a militant, in-your-straight-face biweekly. Susan Horowitz saw the purpose of BTL to be more newsworthy and ecumenically outreaching. An important reason why I agreed to participate.
As for my art, I was recently mentioned by Detroit’s weekly Metro Times for my art pieces appearing almost daily on Facebook since 2010. I estimate that, during the allotment of time, I have completed about 1,000 images. I average a new piece about every two days. Storage is becoming a problem.
I have lived a very fortunate life. I have, because of my artistic talent and being gay — yes, being gay — for more than 65 years, met many creative and gifted gay and straight men and women in my life: musicians, dancers, artists, poets, impersonators, LGBTQ entertainers.
Fortunately, I had the guidance of wise mentors — one, my first partner at 19 — who stressed the importance of choosing and making a career and continuing my education at Wayne University. I started writing for the Wayne Collegian in 1959.
My professional writing and ongoing creating of art might not have happened if one life-saving event had not taken place for me. Choosing sobriety. In 1981, I came face-to-face with the realization that my alcohol abuse, daily bingeing, had gotten out of control. I stood at the edge of a nightmare pit.
Hospitalization, rehab and group therapy extended over the next year of concentrated recovery. While in recovery at Cottage Hospital, an unexpected, ultimately rewarding door of opportunity happened. In initial therapy, we were told to go through magazines and cut out pictures indicative of our feelings.
In my alcoholic haze, I misunderstood. I created several collages. A nurse actually wanted to buy one. A year or so later I had my collages matted and framed. An artist friend suggested I enter them in competition for the Detroit Artist Market exhibition jurying. I did. Three pieces were accepted in a 1983 showing.
I have since then been creating art and BTL articles to share. One creation at a time. Sometimes two. One blessed — and happily sober — day at a time.
TAGLINE Charles Alexander is prolific both as a BTL columnist, having contributed 700-plus columns, as a well-known LGBT community artist having shared over 1,000 pieces of art via Facebook. He is a Spirit of Detroit Award recipient and an Affirmations LGBTQ center Jan Stevenson awardee. Connect with him at [email protected].