Open letter from Milt
Friendship is such a special and precious thing that in talking about it one runs the risk of “explaining” away all the uniqueness of the experience. Nevertheless, I must comment on the friends I have been privileged to make as a result of my participation in A/PLG / A/PGF.
Back in 1980, I was relatively new to Los Angeles, having moved here in 1978, and some of the first people I met turned out to be Asians and their friends. We tended to congregate at the same weekend watering hole – The Riverclub. Granted, in those days I was mostly interested in meeting “tricks” and not particularly concerned, at least consciously, with establishing long-term relationships of any kind. However there was a certain camaraderie among some of the bar patrons in spite of the fact that the races tended to congregate in little cliques. Several of the Asians, and a few of their friends, saw this divide, as well as the discrimination against gay Asians in the Gay Community as well as the community at large, and decided to do something about it.
The initial gathering to discuss forming a group of gay Asians took place in August of 1980. Between that meeting and the next scheduled meeting in September, the topic was discussed quite extensively in the bar. I was persuaded to attend that second meeting, though my primarily reason for doing so was to meet more Asians. Well, I certainly met a LOT more Asians and a lot more guys like me who happened to like Asians.
Out of these initial meetings Asian/Pacific Lesbians & Gays was formed and I was quickly talked into joining the group and encouraged to participate on the board. Though my early involvement might have been for carnal reasons, working with these pioneers of gay Asian power, gave me a purpose I had never really had before. And the friends I was making gave me daily insight into the support one person could give to another. As we all know, it wasn’t long until the gay community at large, and then the gay Asian community needed all the support we could muster as we dealt with the devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic. For the first time I personally lost good friends at an age when that just hadn’t been expected. Losing friends strengthened the bonds of those left behind.
As one gets older one tends to reflect a little bit more on his life and where it has been and what, if any, contribution he has made. Well, I have never been a war hero and saved hundreds of lives; I have never served in politics to make mankind more democratic; I have never found a cure for a deadly virus or sewed limbs back onto victims of catastrophes; I haven’t chaired any big corporation that provided cheaper and better products; nor have I written any great novel or play that influenced the course of history.
But what I have done is make enough of an imprint on others lives that they have chosen to call me “friend.’ In recent years the depth of some of these friendships has overwhelmed me as others have gone out of their way to try to protect me from myself in a bad choice of a companion, and then to help me pick up the pieces after the inevitable breakup. They have rallied around when I have been in need of a little financial assistance after losing long-time employment. And friends have been there to offer an alternative to subsistence living as a retired person in the USA.
As I have prepared to write a new chapter of my life, this one to take place in Thailand, I have been gratified beyond belief at the support I have received in everything from yard sales, to rid myself of 62 years of accumulated “stuff,” to a wealth of information on my new choice for a home. Two house parties were thrown to wish me a safe journey and this past Sunday, A/PGF threw me a final going-away party. (Some have said they came just to make sure they were finally getting rid of me.) Looking at the picture of those who were there, at my address book and my list of email addresses, nearly every entry is a friend I have made as a result of my involvement in this wonderful, family-oriented, love-filled organization. Some have marveled at my circle of friends and want to know how I can have so many people who care for me. It’s really quite easy to have a friend – just be a friend. Trust others and usually you won’t be disappointed. Be there when others are in need and they will be there for you. Laugh at their silly jokes and they will laugh at yours.
My gratitude to all the friends I have made cannot be expressed in words. I love you and will miss you a great deal. But I hope to see as many of you as possible when you visit my new home in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Kaap kun krap.