Read An Excerpt From Judy Wieder’s Memoir, “Random Events Tend To Cluster”

The former Advocate editor in chief revisits a life in activism and the arts.

A memoir of a life well-lived, Judy Wieder’s Random Events Tend To Cluster transports readers into her life as a journalist and songwriter. The former editor in chief of the Advocate, Wieder’s life intersected with the tumultuous Civil Rights movement, the struggle for LGBT equality, and the rise of rock and roll in the 1960s.

Below, read an excerpt from Random Events Tend To Cluster, out now from Lisa Hagan Books.

Judy Wieder

There was such trepidation around the turn of the millennium, with people predicting our computers and electronics would implode, when no major events happened, we figured: All clear. Now, nine months into 2001, we can finally let our guard down.

That’s when it happens! They get us with our own planes!… All told nearly 3000 people die in a vicious suicide mission coordinated by a militant jihadist. A permanently darker world is born on September 12, 2001.

While exhausted firemen are pushing through the ashes of fallen buildings, The Advocate staff gathers in my office to discuss what in the world we’re going to do. Every mainstream news outlet can put the flaming towers on their screens, home pages, and covers and have an up-to-date story; but what is the national LGBT newsmagazine of record going to come up with? Is there a legitimate LGBT story somewhere amid this horror? It feels like our whole reason to be is suddenly in question.

Hours go by while we fling ideas around, frantically seeking a story that’s on subject and true to our news niche. I do my damnedest to keep the trim but combustible team from bursting into flames, while every discussion keeps circling back to the question, “How many gay people died on 9/11?” It’s an interesting question, but why would we ask it? Isn’t it disrespectful to all the other people who died? Why single out LGBT deaths? Why not African Americans or Hispanics? Still, it intrigues us, and we take it another step by wondering if we could actually find LGBT people who died on 9/11 and tell their stories. What would that look like? At least it’s something no other news service would be doing. Still, I worry about the blatant narcissism of making just one segment of humanity seem special or different in this massive tragedy.

Then it hits me. That’s the point! LGBTs aren’t any different in this death count, are they? They’re equal to all the other human beings who died in this terrorist attack. So why is it so obvious that we are equal in death, but not in life? Singling out LGBTs who died on 9/11 and telling their stories might make some people mad, and question, “What difference does it make that these people were gay?” But that’s our point too. We agree. They were just like everyone else. They were equal people. When Ronald Gamboa, Dan Brandhorst, and their 3-year-old son, David, disintegrated into the ashes of the South Tower of the World Trade Center along with their hijacked airliner, it’s hard to argue that they weren’t equally vulnerable, equally unlucky, equally frightened, and equally human. So, we ask: why, when these people died, is it so obvious that they’re equal to everyone else? But had they lived, they’d still be fighting for the same rights their heterosexual co-passengers had?

Now the story was starting to feel like a fresh and timely approach to our ongoing coverage of equal rights. All we had to do was find all the LGBTs who perished on 9/11! An investigative nightmare!

Random Events Tend To Cluster is out now on Lisa Hagan Books.

Samantha Manzella is a writer and copy editor based out of the Hudson Valley. You can find her writing in a coffeehouse or searching Insta for the latest tattoo artist to hit the scene.
@slmjournalist