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Eulogy For Charlie Powderpuff

Posted: 10/20/08 06:29 PM ET

My faith in the human race has taken a turn for the better.

On September 18th, I got married...to another man! I refer to Simon Doonan, the creative director of Barneys, the divine author, and my S.O. for the last 14 years. Our life together is heaven, with all the gorgeous bits of the reviled-but-kinda-great canonical gay film Boys in the Band--the glamour, the giggles, the cracked crab hors d'oeuvres--but none of the self-hating breakdowns or mishegas of the tortured gays depicted in the film (if you don't know what I'm talking about, rent Boys in the Band immediately!). We are gay, happy, in love, and now we are married. Never what I expected.

Let's dial back:

As a kid growing up in rural New Jersey I was not exactly inundated with positive gay role models. Au contraire!

The only out gay person in my town - a marginalized character who was called Charlie Powderpuff - was kind of a legend. I never actually met Mr. Powderpuff, but legend has it that he was a black trannie who lived in a housing project and was the object of laughter and ridicule. My childhood friend Marvin lived in the project and used to regale me with stories about Mr. Powderpuff's legendary, nelly antics, never imagining that he was talking to a Charlie Powderpuff-in-training. The legend continues--Charlie Powderpuff was legendarily bludgeoned to death in an alleyway.

WELCOME TO THE GARDEN STATE!

The message was clear: Charlie Powderpuffs get killed, Joe Six Packs thrive. Like all gay teens I kept my secret close to the chest and I kept the legend of Charlie Powderpuff close to my heart.

Over the subsequent decades I came out. I managed not to get bludgeoned. In fact, I constructed a rather fab life for myself: I created my dream career. I found the love of my life. And I discovered that life as a gay adult more than makes up for the heinousness of a gay childhood.

Simon and I have been together for 14 years and have always considered ourselves married, so when we chose to make it official (because we finally could) we assumed it would be a simple procedure, like paying a parking ticket. But, as our wedding approached, long-forgotten emotions started to percolate. I felt flickerings of those old misgivings and anxieties about societal acceptance. When we arrived at San Francisco City Hall, I half expected to see a few zealots waving anti-gay placards.

Mais non. It was all incredibly sweet.

Since that day I have been inundated, deluged and overwhelmed with good wishes from pals and strangers.

Rather than throwing tomatoes, people threw bouquets and an endless stream to MAZELTOVS! I feel like the world isn't divided up into Joe Six Packs and Charlie Powderpuffs. I feel validated, reborn and reaffirmed. As the dearly departed disco diva Sylvester would say, I feel mighty real.

There's only one problem, and it's not really so little: a powerful well-funded lobby is attempting to pass Proposition 8 in California and deny us gays our civil rights. Their desire to deny us the right to marry - and the important benefits which come with it - is hateful.

I have built a career and a business based largely on wedding presents. June is one of my biggest retail months, when we sell lots of bowls and pitchers and vases as wedding gifts. But, I have a message to well-wishers: Don't send me any Star Jones gifts. Send money to defeat Prop 8. And while you're at it, why don't you make the donation in memory of Charlie Powderpuff.

In the name of all the Charlie Powderpuffs of the world, I thank you.

Love,
Jonathan Adler-Doonan