elisa_rolle (elisa_rolle) wrote,

Cody Braswell & Wayne Self

Wayne Self’s musical play, Upstairs, is about the 1973 arson fire that took 32 LGBT lives. This deadliest crime against LGBT people in U.S. History has been virtually ignored by the media and its victims largely forgotten. Wayne’s play tells the amazing stories of many victims and survivors.

As Alan Bennett Ilagan beautifully recounts in his The Couple Profile, almost two decades ago, Cody Braswell and Wayne Self found each other. They made their initial acquaintance old-school style in Shreveport, LA. As Wayne remembers it, “I first laid eyes on Cody as he was walking across campus at Centenary College of Louisiana, where we both went to school, but I didn’t meet him until later, at a frat party, where we shared a cigarette. Still later, we had Spanish class together. It was early-morning and I was very busy with editing the campus newspaper, so I rarely made an appearance. When I did, he was always surrounded by so many female admirers that I could hardly approach him. Truth was, he was in a relationship with a friend of mine. I had to wait until he was available before I could pursue, but my timing was always off, since there was always someone after him.” As for whether it was love at first sight, Wayne is more reticent. “It was definitely lust at first sight,” he admits, “But more than lust. Interest. I wanted to know him. I wanted to spend time with him. But he was also the forbidden fruit.”

Cody remembers things in much the same way. “Wayne and I ‘officially’ met in Spanish Class during my Junior year of college… (Honestly, the very first time we met was at a frat party – I think sometime earlier in the year – I forget who bummed a smoke from whom – maybe we just shared one…anyway, I remember thinking then “Wow.”) We really didn’t talk much during class. I was dating someone else at the time and was still in the closet. Wayne was a ‘bad-boy’ – out and proud – [and you were] instantly outed if you hung out with him. We didn’t start talking until the summer after I went through a rather nasty breakup.” For Cody too, it was “more like lust at first sight. I can’t imagine a relationship getting started without that initial physical attraction, right? It was instant attraction at that very first encounter, but as I mentioned, I was in a relationship at the time. Love was quick to come once we actually spent some time together.”

Wayne Self’s musical play, Upstairs, is about the 1973 arson fire that took 32 LGBT lives. This deadliest crime has been virtually ignored by the media and its victims largely forgotten. Wayne’s play tells the amazing stories of many victims and survivors. Almost 2 decades ago, Cody Braswell and Wayne Self found each other. “It was definitely lust at first sight,” he admits, “But more than lust. Interest. I wanted to know him. I wanted to spend time with him. But he was also the forbidden fruit”

“I had made a promise to myself that I would not go into another relationship while still in the closet,” Cody says. “I came out to my parents before we started dating which added a whole new level of freedom and excitement. He and I had so much in common – discovering that not only could we be falling in love, but we could also be best friends!”

“We discovered we had grown up just a short distance apart in rural Louisiana – but separated by a swamp/lake,” Cody explains. Not only that, but, “Our parents knew each other back in the 1960′s. Wayne’s Mom worked with my Dad. My parents would go listen to Wayne’s Dad’s band down on the lake on weekends. Wayne’s sister and I had common friends in high school.”

Wayne says. “Our first kiss happened during our first time alone. Our first sex happened during our first date. We had moved in together within a month. It was pretty-much a textbook case of what NOT to do. I remember feeling very uncomfortable, at times, due to my perceived difference in our status. I come from really “low country” people. Trailer houses. Outhouses. Cars on blocks. The whole thing ~ though my dad was educated, valued education, and strived to make sure I got a good education. Cody, I felt, came from “high country” people, who owned a lot of land, lived in a nice big house, and were generally more civilized and genteel. I remember showing Cody where my family lived with no small amount of shame. And I remember him telling me his own family’s history and kind of forcing me to look past my assumptions. Every family has its struggles, and sometimes they are not at all apparent to an outsider.”

“We’ve seen a lot of couples have major issues and/or break up, particularly over careers, one wanting to move for a job the other not, one wanting to change careers but the other not willing to compromise with living on a lesser income while the other goes to school,” Cody says. “None of these had to do with loss of love but rather loss of adventure. Wayne and I have moved several times – big moves… These moves have all been made pretty much blindly – we knew virtually no one at any of these final destinations – we had to start our social life from scratch, relying on each other and make a life together in each of the places we’ve lived.”

“Probably some of the things that make our relationship exciting and interesting are also those things that make it the most challenging,” Cody continues. “Moving to new places, not knowing anyone and having to rely on each other for almost all social interactions can be difficult – sometimes you end up just expecting too much from each other. We’ve learned, adjusted, and obviously made it through.”

Wayne agrees: “We haven’t been afraid to shake things up. We moved away from Louisiana after just over a year together. We moved away from a very comfortable life in Ohio to start over in San Francisco just because we wanted the adventure. We then moved away from San Francisco to see what SoCal had to offer. I think people can get stuck in a rut, and the comfort of the routine can cause people to compromise on stressors that they would otherwise not allow. Your job is terrible, but you stay because you have a house. Your house is terrible, but you stay because you have a job. Things just get tedious. We don’t mind upsetting the apple cart, from time to time, and taking a chance for a better life.”

Regarding Cody, Wayne is enamored of “his compassion, his sense of humor, his ambition. I don’t mean careerism, because we’re not really like that. But he has a drive to do things right and well, and to make things nice, and to live a good life.”

Cody is equally enraptured, declaring that, “Wayne is the love of my life and my best friend. He’s loving, caring and strong. He’s supportive, insightful and thoughtful. He’s incredibly intelligent, witty and creative. He brings me joy and happiness. He balances me out – makes me continue to grow, think and learn. He challenges me. He loves me, unconditionally.”

“I think what makes our relationship work is how different we are from each other, on some levels,” Wayne explains. “I’m into imagination, he’s into his surroundings. I’m into spirit, he’s into science. I’m chaotic, he’s orderly. I’m prone to outbursts of anger when I get vexed, while he’s more likely to fume. I’m overbearing, he’s relatively quiet. I’m a liberal democrat, he’s… a liberal democrat. We have to draw the line somewhere! He’s become more expressive of his passions, preferences, and annoyances over the years, which is entirely a function of having been around me for so long.”

“We have never aspired to heterosexist ideals about coupledom, family, or sex, even if our ideals sometimes dovetail with those,” Wayne proclaims. “We tend to learn what “commitment” means from the straights on TV, or from our straight parents, but that idea of commitment has led to lots of divorce and lots of unhappy couples. I think, before deciding to commit as a couple, people should think hard about what that might mean to them. Are they committing to monogamy? Are they committing to care for one another’s elderly parents? To clean and care for one another in illness? To following one another after crazy schemes and ideas? To putting someone else’s priorities before their own a good chunk of the time? The answers are between those two partners, and should not be subject to the judgments of friends or family, gay or straight. There’s no manual. Don’t let anyone force one on you, but write your own. And if you can’t agree on what commitment means? A partner is not a must-have accessory. It’s perfectly wonderful to be single.”

Cody has a similar take on what makes their partnership function so well. “You have to be best friends and share all the things you do with your best friend. Don’t gossip or talk about your partner/relationship with your friends – talk to your partner (your best friend),” he advises. “Other friends may not necessarily have the best interest of your relationship at heart – just a good friend agreeing with your gripes can seed resentment and discontent in the relationship. Wayne and I have never broken-up in the eighteen years we’ve been together – not once, it’s just never been an option for us. If you allow it as an option, then you open the relationship up to being dependent on every argument hinging on who’s going to toss out “let’s breakup”. We’ve never spent the night apart in anger. That being said, we’ve sat up quite a few nights because we don’t allow ourselves to go to bed angry at one another. You both have to be equally invested in the relationship. You have to put each other and the relationship first.”

“Straight couples have the privilege of marriage and societal acceptance to help bind them together,” Cody says. “Wayne and I have not had that – we’ve simply had to rely on our commitment to one another – nothing is legally holding us together with the exception of a joint checking account and a house title.”

“Our relationship hasn’t changed my life – it is my life,” Cody states with an elegant simplicity. “He and I have been together the vast majority of my adult years – I don’t really have another point of reference – what little I do have cannot even begin to compare to what I’ve experienced in this relationship. We’ve shared and been through so much together, I can’t imagine Wayne not being the most important part of my life. We do our thing. We are who we are. We help our family and friends as best we can. We try our best to set a good example. There’s not much more you can do.”

Wayne credits his partner with just as much: “Cody didn’t just change my life; he saved it. It’s not at all apparent in that picture, but I was what you’d call an “angry young man.” Angry at myself. Angry at the world around me. Angry at God. AIDS was a fear, bigotry was rampant, and I was condemned to hell by my religion. What was the point? I wasn’t at all suicidal, but I didn’t think I’d live to see 30. This didn’t manifest with drugs or alcohol, but with a tendency to give the finger to authority figures in general, an assumption that I had no future, and general rage and nihilism. I didn’t care. Cody gave me something to care about, something to work toward, a reason to try. Today, I care about so much, and that is independent of Cody. But it was Cody who got me over that patch of nihilism and gave me reason to hope for the future, for myself and for gays in general. And just look how those hopes have been rewarded!”

Source: www.alanilagan.com/gay/the-couple-profile-cody-wayne/

Further Readings:

Let the Faggots Burn: The UpStairs Lounge Fire by Johnny Townsend
Paperback: 342 pages
Publisher: Booklocker.com, Inc. (August 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1614344531
ISBN-13: 978-1614344537
Amazon: Let the Faggots Burn: The UpStairs Lounge Fire
Amazon Kindle: Let the Faggots Burn: The UpStairs Lounge Fire

On Gay Pride Day in 1973, an arsonist set the entrance to a French Quarter gay bar on fire. In the terrible inferno that followed, 32 people lost their lives, including a third of the local congregation of the Metropolitan Community Church, their pastor burning to death halfway out a second-story window as he tried to claw his way to freedom. A mother who'd gone to the bar with her two gay sons died alongside them. A man who'd helped his friend escape first was found dead near the fire escape. Two children waited outside of a movie theater across town for a father and step-father who would never pick them up. During this era of rampant homophobia, several families refused to claim the bodies, and many churches refused to bury the dead. Author Johnny Townsend pored through old records and tracked down survivors of the fire and relatives and friends of those killed to compile this fascinating account of a forgotten moment in gay history.

More Real Life Romance at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Gay Classics

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Tags: days of love tb, gay classics, persistent voices, real life romance

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