With my anthology due out in June, it's time for a proud announcement: I was born in 1947 to a family that was prominent in the Art World, and in Society. The Philadelphia Maklers are easily Googled. My birth name- Craig Welsh Makler- was one, which opened doors "in all the right places" but, in 1973, when I realized that I was a creative artist, I wanted to be sure I wasn't given special treatment on the basis of where I came from. So I took other family names, rearranged them, and- voila!- Adrian Brooks was born. This wasn't a secret, just my way of trying to ensure that anything I earned, I earned fair and square. And if I failed, okay, I'd fail "on my own merit."
From the early 70s on, I had some successes as a published poet, performer and writer of fiction and non-fiction with four books out, so far, but the secure-making recognition I hoped for proved elusive. Now after 40+ arduous years, and having been everything from a designer to a marijuana farmer, it's finally clear that the new anthology- THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY- will prove a game changer. As such, it's time for me to accept the fact that I don't need to "earn my spurs" in quite the same way.
I owe this shift to my publisher, Brenda Knight at Cleis Press, but, also, to many other people who helped me along the way. And yet, it's a paradox that the one time my name was leaked-- Google it, please, it was from someone I'd known 40 years ago, a man who penned a vicious (anonymous) attack, thinking that he was outing me, instead of bringing me the peace that arises from knowing that one took the hard road out of choice. And somehow, made it work.
I feel fortunate to have survived 43 years of hard work, including 35 years of living with HIV-- (seroconverting in 1980, 15 years before there was effective medication) and having had the chance to be of service to the LGBT community, among other circles. What we have today as an identity is far, far different from the kind of community and revolutionary zeal that I knew as a revolutionary activist in the 60s and, from the early 70s on, as a radical creative artist. But the long road does lead forward; it integrates the Past with the sense of Now; it also brings in rewards for those who walk the walk.
Many of the finest people I knew fell to AIDS or their own demons. And it's undeniable that, with age, comes a certain rue: regret at what could not be sustained; at choices which were necessary, yet difficult; the cost of survival, which so often means refusing comfort or safe harbor or compromise. Seeing Bruce Jenner last night reminded me of how Life keeps on presenting us with new obstacles but, also, new chances to fuse who we were (and how others once saw us) with who we are today. And who we are still becoming.