Tim Barrus (Creative Director) Show Me Your Life; Cinematheque Films; Smash Street Safe House

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Tim employs his gift as a writer, poet, photographer and video artist to advocate for adolescent males. He uses the money from the sale of his work to support various safe house initiatives working with young males. Tim's work, widely published and found throughout the internet, is frequently produced under pseudonyms to protect identities, histories and geographies.  

it's a weird sensation that people hate you/ beyond the reach of arrows and of fire/

We are all outsiders. Dancing to tunes only we can hear. Making the mistake in thinking, we are alone. We are alone. But everyone has these moments where we have to jump like a madman. Or we will go insane and be one. We see ourselves as separate. We are separate. But lightning strikes us one at a time, and lights our fuses for the fireworks.

I've written under a plethora of names. I've been a Lesbian, a veterinarian, an Australian cowboy, a Navajo, a truck driver, an Apache, a Russian, an airplane pilot (I took lessons, I can fly), a gravedigger, the list goes on. It paid the rent. Something had to. My life is still a whirlwind. I do not LIKE remembering. I LIKE being in the here and now. Period.

I have worked as an advocate in children's issues for over forty years. My work is controversial. I live out of one bag. I work hard in opposition to children being forced into sex work. I use pseudonyms to protect identities and localities. I challenge communities to vigorously fight human trafficking. I believe that children all around the world live lives of extraordinary desperation, and I produce guerrilla art about it. You never know where you might see my work next. I have a thousand names. I pull no punches. I call it the way I see it. My work and my art, whether it's mashed-up, dramatized on a stage, filmed, pulled from a Cinematheque video, or painted on a canvas, speaks to this and this and this. My life reflects an activism you can never know. You do not know me. You can't know me. So stop judging me. I am here to explore the unarticulated wilderness inside all our lives.

Today I am working with Real Stories Gallery in male survivor and HIV/AIDS advocacy. I am the Director of Cinematheque Films, and the Creative Director of Show Me Your Life, an International VideoArt program peer mentored by survivors. Children embedded in International contexts are given video cameras so they might show us their lives.

I am denounced on websites as without hope. As usual, they’re wrong. I am not without hope. But sometimes, you have to make your own hope. Sometimes you have to make it now. In fact, I hope to instill hope in some very small people far, far away; that there is hope. There is hope.

I have decided to post this video we recently made at Cinematheque. There are lots of art students who participate, and everyone wants to put it out there that this is where Show Me Your Life started. This is where it comes from. Real Stories Gallery and Tristan's Moon has made that possible. Students who have Cinematheque Mentors work through Show Me Your Life to acquire art and video skills. In doing so, they are also examining the dynamics of their lives and how art becomes a sharing, too. A bearing witness. At-risk does not mean we will remain invisible. We were here. 

 

My husband wears only black, by the American poet Carolyn Srygley-Moore

(for Tim & his supporters)

 

My husband wears black, only an occasional splash of blue or red

if I choose the T // griffins, amongst crosses

over which the moon also rises. Stalin still lives

in the color black, whorling over the dunes, Stalin still lives.

 

The fingers are transformed by each thing they touch

as the mind is transformed by visual impact,

the iris fluttering like the camera shutter.

 

There are things you made I could not look upon.

No boys were harmed in the making of this video. Should be the legend.

This poem, skateboarding into the fire.

 

Trundles of fire. My husband wears only black.

He is a sweet man. He believes in the God some disparage.

Yet the moon rises orange over flesh

once broken open like a corn cob doll

 

by a woman's hands. Stalin extant in all things

human, divine. The choir sings

of things Graeco-Roman, the choir sings.

We protect ourselves from the visual impact, from what singes

 

our hair so we are women weeping for the dead,

our hair shorn, then burned at the foot of the bed

where the small dog dreams, his foot twitching

 

& the white owl clamors outside the window: who, who

is watching, who.

 

 
 

Reverend Mary Scriver, BS, MA, MDiv.

We know historical people only through writing and film.  This is the way I also know Tim Barrus. I have never shaken his hand or eaten a sandwich he made.  But I have corresponded with him daily since April, 2007, and collected an archive that fills twenty-five 2 inch 3-ring binders.  I have searched the web carefully and know a great deal about his accusers and maligners and their motives.  One is a reviewer who fancied himself an expert on oppressed people and demanded intimate particulars, one was a minor porn writer who fancied himself a peer, and one was a pop Native American writer who had once had the same editor as Tim.  If every blog about Tim written by a person who had not read any of the Nasdijj books were removed, very few would remain.  Wikipedia would also have to remove itself, since the editor of the Native American writer section was not even American, much less Native.

One of the uses of stigma is to prevent any objective investigation or analysis.  It justifies hysterical attacks that include anything from grade school bullying to lynch mobs.  The cry of "hoax" became an excuse for a lot of yellow journalism and mock indignation over the use of pseudonyms, a convention among genre writers and those protecting other people.  No one dared investigate the persecutors.

In this way Tim's pre-AIDS participation in the Great Experiment that was San Francisco in the Sixties and Seventies has been twisted into something fancied by people who know nothing about it but media hype.  They demand the surrender of privacy even as they condemn the subject matter.  

Now Tim sees that it is time to push hard for a cure for AIDS.  The routes to success are marked -- only money is necessary to get there.  Now stigmatizing Tim continues to be for personal turf protection.  Their competition for money and prestige depends upon discrediting others.

It is time to stop being shocked, SHOCKED, by Tim Barrus and to join in the work at hand: curing AIDS.  It is almost too late to prevent failed nations and certainly too late to prevent the destruction of families.

The effect of stigma is often to lump a lot of phenomena into a big category that no one dares to inquire into it or admit they even think about it.   Using the model of contagious disease, people react with fear and avoidance so they won't "catch" whatever it is.   (It used to be cancer.) To defend themselves from their fears, they convince themselves that people who have diseases or are poor or are nonconformists are inherently EVIL, which justifies the idea that they are being rightfully punished.   They deserve it.

The isolation of being excluded like this, combined with the deprivation of basic shelter, food and medical care, will eliminate many people quickly.  But luckily for human beings, there are always a few individuals -- sometimes religious leaders, sometimes artists, sometimes mothers -- who will resist and deplore this kind of thinking.  They see the essential potential goodness and "soul" of every human being and seek to defend it.  I've always been impressed by the stories of American frontier wars in which Indians had left many wounded enemy warriors on the field outside their camp.  Late at night, covered by darkness, there were often compassionate women, sometimes quite old, who would creep out to give water to the dying men.

AIDS does not just afflict one class of people.  All human beings except the lucky 1% born with genetic immunity can be debilitated and then killed by this viral code in the blood.  If there is no access to the present state-of-the-art meds, people will die for sure.   Prosperous corporations and countries have discovered the elegant blackmail of not funding meds for uncooperative nations.  Those who die are not gay men from the Seventies.  Those people have learned how to protect themselves.   Rather they are wives and children struggling to stay alive on pittance incomes.  Yes, they often but not always have dark skins.  And they may be IV drug users.

Why do legislators fear them so?  Why does the media turn away from them?  Why do churches not speak for them?  Because of the stigma.

 

Finding Tim Barrus, by Scott (2016)

 

This is for sex work dudes who want to come to Smash Street. There are serious things you should know before you hit the road. I speak from experience. Smash Street is a safe house. That means there has to be major confidentiality. There are bad people who would love to know how to find you. Everyone from pedos to abusers who are waiting for trial dates.

 

Do not just hit the road unless you’ve had some experience getting around. It is illegal to hitch-hike in most of America. The cops will bust your ass. You will be put in detention. Do not bring drugs. If you get caught traveling with drugs you will never get out of detention. Cops will shake you down. They will take your drugs and they will take any money you might have. If you travel through the South you could find yourself beaten up and in a ditch. Cops in the South are crooked and on the take. Do not even think you have rights. You have no rights. They find kids down here buried in shallow graves in the woods all the time. No one knows who they are. You would be just another John Dow with a tag on your foot and stored in a big refrigerator, and get it through your head, no one in the South asks questions. Questions are dangerous. It will not be a criminal who kills you for five bucks. It will be a cop.

 

Weather if you are thinking weather will not be all that important you are crazy. We are way up in the mountains and it will snow on you in a minute. The next day it will be hot. It will hail hard. If you are wearing sneakers they will get tore up. Boots are lots better. But you will get blisters and if you have HIV those blisters can get infected real fast. You need to know that HIV care anywhere in the South can be really bad. The AIDS clinic has cops with guns at the door and they will want ID. If there are warrants out for you like for running away they will grab your ass. Remember that HIV meds are very hard to get. Do not make the mistake of thinking you can turn tricks anywhere around here, and doing sex work in places like Atlanta or Memphis is dangerous. Traffickers are always on the alert and they are looking for boys who are alone. If you think these guys are evil-looking men then you know nothing about the life. Traffickers are frequently women and they will come on to you like they are your mom. These cunts are not your mothers. They will promise you everything from weed to food to alcohol. If you are already a junkie they will know it right away. You cannot fool them. Do not believe a word they say. Addicted dudes are easily picked up and raped by men who pay for it. You will just be fresh meat. Rohypnol, GHB, and Ketamine are all knock out drugs. It is very easy to overdose on these drugs. If you are given Rohypnol and you are already high you are dead zombie material.

 

Do not take the bus. The nearest bus station is hours away, and anyone waiting a long time for their ride to arrive is easy prey and predators will know all about you in less than five minutes. Neighbors in places like Appalachia are not nice people. Many people who live in the hollows have stills and they grow weed. They will assume you are there to rob them. They all have guns. You should consider everyone you meet on the road as being armed. Do not buy a gun. Even if you think you know how to use one. It is just a bad idea. We will not allow one here. It is a waste of money and even if you bought one in a place like a rest area they are ripping you off because you are an idiot. Traveling with HIV meds is a big problem. Cops know what to look for. Carrying drugs in unmarked bottles is a felony. Try not to commit a felony. They can keep you forever. Even if you find us it does not mean we can take you in. Nobody sleeps in the woods or the barn because it is just another bad idea. If you think you can do drugs here it is a mistake to think that. So have it under control. Do not go into withdrawal on the road. You will die. The main thing is to stay alive. There are kids here who have like probation officers and if they recognize you it is bad for everyone. I strongly advise you to not travel rough if you are wanted. Wanted means jail and jail means rape.

 

If you to do this and you are HIV and you got no food remember that your body is so at risk. If you get sick and you get the runs on the road you can end up dead in a truck stop. There are very few places to wash your clothes and if you stink to shit no one will pick you up and the bus drivers will kick you off. The dudes who live here are the dudes who run it. We have a whole file of selfies from dudes with reps like pimping. If you have a bad rep we will find out about it b/c grapevines are for real. Stay off social media. Someone who needs to hang low and is on social media is beyond help. You got to be street wise. If you are robbed it will be for cameras, expensive Nikes and Vans and your money. Now how are you going to be Jack Kerouac without the jack. If you are carrying stolen credit cards you may as well walk right into the prison. Laying low dud means being low and no one with a brain wants attention on you like with anything Apple stuff like iPod. Do not smoke weed and get all laid back listening to the iPod b/c you might as well say just wear a sign that says put your dick in my mouth. Do not bring your guitar. Now who is going to give you a ride with the guitar and they would probably steal it to sell it. You are a victim.

 

It is true you can be raped in detention. You can be raped on the road a hundred times. If you did not have HIV then you do now. There are bug chasers and bug slammers. A bug slammer is slamming needles. These people will want inside your little asshole and they are dangerous losers. People with expensive cars probably trafficking like why would some rich person pick you up. Young girls will pick you up high on weed. If you fuck with them I want to tell you they all got daddies and not the kind you suck off but the other kind. The real kind. It gets complicated. You are there to keep moving not for drugs, sex or rock and roll. Do not be a stereotype. There is not going to be a job. This mystery job you think will be there will not be real. You got to concentrate on what is real and frankly if you are where you are then you might be some little boner no one can afford to know. Try to make things work where you are. You already know the role call of the agencies that will help you and beware that they all want ID. I am not the department of referrals and I am not the health department! Dude I personally can not no way refer you to a place I only heard about. You got to think that a little pussy hustler like you is going to stand out anyway. People are poor out there. They want your stuff and they have guns. You know that!

 

Cops and bounty hunters can find you especially if you are like all over facebook with your shit and photographs. No one cares what music you like. Instagram things like background or signs in the view are like going to bust you. No where is safe. Not in the woods in Oregon or a commune in California. You only have yourself to depend on. You are basically alone. Think before you act. If he wants to take you home for the night and play you got to decide. Never get tied up no matter how much they lied about paying you. If you are tied up in a city you do not even know which city is is shut up b/c you have no say so as to who gets paid what. They will promise to take care of you. If he has open liquor bottles in the car you are playing with fire. Anything bad that can happen to you in a city can happen to you 20 times on a highway. Getting into big rigs can be as do you have nuts for testicles. Plan and learn about nutrition. It is all on the web. Do not have sex vids on you playing in some ameteur play room with tips and advertising your butt hole b/c there you are right in the open. If you do cams remember they go underground viral weather you are dead or alive. You can not do it on coffee and cigarettes.

 

If you are 14 you are going to be fucked on the road and passed around. It will stay with you until the day you die. If the situation is that whatever you are in is maybe murderous I think you ought to be on any runaway hot line you can get on. I never been on any so I got nothing to say. Maybe you need an adult in your life. How do I know? I know that kids can just disappear. This is only my way of saying be careful. It is not as easy as you think. There is no good places and it will be in your face. Be suspicious out there and if it sounds too good to be true believe me it is. 

 

Who is Tim Barrus.

Real Stories feels this is best answered through the voices of his peers: contemporary artists & poets, AIDS-activists & child rights advocates. It is however the voices of the adolescent males with whom he works to raise the quality of their lives that are the most informative.

Sometimes There Is A Key, a poem by Jonah

I sit in this group with guys just like me and he sits

There in his chair turning the keys in everyones’

Gut and mine and sometimes I hate him for that for

Making me look at who I really am beyond the identity

of what I once did for a living to survive because it

Was the only way I knew how and if I keep telling

Myself that lie maybe someday I will believe it

because the key is just another dagger plunged

through my eye so that I might unlock all the

coffins I have hidden in

 

On November 13, 2010 Tim's account was abruptly closed down by Facebook. A very significant body of visual poetry and male survivor & HIV/AIDS advocacy was lost. Outreach to chronically at risk adolescent male survivors was abruptly severed. Despite many letters to the anonymous Facebook administrators by contemporary artists and poets, none of the material was returned.

Tim Barrus: "When Facebook delete you. BANG. That's it."

I did have some criticisms of Facebook, but those were sent as private messages. I was critical of how they handle privacy. They make it very complex to obtain any privacy because they want your information available to advertisers. And anyone who thinks they don’t read the private messages has to have their head examined.

According to Rachel Chapple at Real Stories Gallery (I am no longer allowed to access Facebook; all the video links to RSG have disappeared). Raymond Fils (one of the older boys at The Studio) posted an objection on Facebook (Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 10:43am). Raymond tells me they deleted him, too, a few hours after he posted this:

Raymond Fils (Cinematheque Resident Supervisor), Nov 13, 2010 FaceBook Post:

The worst part of Tim Barrus being kicked off Facebook is the literally hundreds (actually, it’s thousands, and being the person who managed this for a few weeks I know this better than anyone) of adolescents who through that grapevine felt safe enough to explore HIV/AIDS issues with Tim. The two biggest issues were suicide and telling your parents you have HIV. All of this is wiped out with a delete button at Facebook. There is no coming back to Facebook, and actually, it would not be safe for the many kids who live in Asia to do so.

There is the issue of losing many of the videos, but we do not even care anymore. The kids we care about. So many of them were from Asia where HIV is a burning issue. We have no doubt that someone complained and with the kind of work Tim has done this is usually a parent who cannot handle the reality of facing their child’s condition. If you ignore it, it will go away is a really bad idea, but it is one we found prevalent all over Asia.

Although most of us are from Europe, the idea of The Studio being a safe place for adolescent boys with HIV/AIDS to live, make their art, and receive medical care would have been quite radical in Asia. There are many places such as monasteries that take adolescents in. But they are not always safe from traffickers and there is no medical attention. The fact that Tim could get antiretrovirals to us was more radical than you can ever know.

The loss of Tim’s voice as a poet is something that can be replaced because we will simply regroup. But the loss of those four thousand kids who were listening, most of them from Asia, cannot be replaced. Even as Tim was being shut down, there were friend requests coming in. They poured in every day. Even getting HIV information these kids would trust is easier said than done. But Tim had access to a grapevine way outside the system. You cannot blame these kids because the system in many oppressive countries will kill you. I sat there and fielded these messages for several weeks. I read those suicide notes and pleas for help. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be lives lost in this.

Tim rarely dealt with the issue of HOW TO TELL YOUR PARENTS YOU HAVE HIV on Facebook because he was painfully aware of how touchy a subject it is with the idea of parenting in Asia. People do not want their family toes stepped on, it is about power, and the reality is that they are sometimes willing to sacrifice a child’s life for the sake of secrecy. The other reality is that there really is no safe way to tell your parents. In many places, you risk your life doing so, and kids know it. They just do not trust the confidentiality of any support system that exists outside of what Tim called street creds. And in some places, just the knowledge that a minor has HIV requires Tim to report it to parents and authorities. The fact that Tim blatantly ignored these draconian laws was never lost on kids. Tim was hounded constantly to do for girls what he had done for boys. There is only so much one person can do. Tim flaunted the law in many places not the least of which was Russia. Shutting him down at Facebook would have been easy for many people in places of authority. All they would have to do is complain. Tim stood up to organized crime. Most people cannot believe it. But most people on Facebook have never lived a life on the street.

It was amazing to read the poetry of these kids as their agony and suicide notes poured in. Many people cannot believe the reality of any of this. But they were never Tim’s focus. The kids were always his focus. When he said he wrote for the boys, he did not mean just us. We were astounded at the response of kids from Asia who are reaching out for help. The issues are life and death. Tim always said it was just a matter of time before Facebook would shut it down and they did just that. Facebook does not care. The boys at the Studio consider Facebook toxic in the extreme. The will be the last you hear from me. I have to get off this roach motel to save my own sense of self-worth. That is just my personal thing. Eventually, this kind of thing will come back to haunt Facebook. Tim has always called it institutional indifference. I am not comfortable even sending this. We do not want Facebook to have our emails or location. They cannot be trusted. It is not safe. We want off of this thing asap.

Our numbers include boys with HIV/AIDS who now live outside family and authority. Being safe means more than sex. Sex is not the issue. The issue has always been staying alive. I will tag some people on Facebook, mainly a few poets. Why I am not allowed to communicate with many people is a mystery but my messages just disappear. The boys already know all of this.

Tim’s public email is not a secret, and it is not a secret that anything that goes there is forwarded many times around the world to secure email accounts in different countries. We are now going encrypted because of this. Anything you send him gets encrypted immediately. There is nothing a sender even has to do. We have done it before when the haters were out of control. We will do it again.

Being safe means our survival. We will be fine and Tim will find a way to get his art and message that you can go outside of the system to survive with HIV/AIDS because the system in many places just means death. Many people in this day and age cannot believe that boys like us are hated but we are. Tim wanted his life to be a testament to that. He will always be one of us and on our side.

I do not have all of Tim’s friends names. There are only a few people I am allowed to tag. I have no doubt I will be next to be kicked off. But I am leaving on my own right now. Tim regrets being kicked off Facebook. It is public knowledge. There are other pages on Facebook that we always just ignored with Tim’s name on them that we have no idea who even set them up.

I cannot reach all the thousands of people I would really like this to go to.  I can reach less than a dozen of you.

I feel strongly that Tim’s life has meant something. It was an adventure knowing all of you. Be safe!

Peace! Raymond

 

I Walk in Soft Shoes Between the Stars, a video-poem by Jonah

(for my teacher, he does not want me to say that but I say it anyway; 2013)

He is teaching me to write poetry. How do you teach poetry. You take me to a quiet place where I can write with paper and a pencil. And then you leave me there like Tim does.

If I say something like, “The stars are beautiful and I walk between them in soft shoes,” Tim will roll his eyes.

“Avoid cliches,” he says. If it is a cliche, Timothy will piss on it. He is part dog. That is not a metaphor.

There are animal symbols among us. And you wonder where we live. Among the mountain whelps and mist that hangs above the ground. In the Blue Ridge where the bike trails will tear your skin and bones apart.

Tim is a junkyard dog. I am a Sparrow Hawk. Keveon is a gazelle. Trigger is the patience of a tiger. You never know when it will go off but you know it will kinda like an earthquake you cannot predict, but you know in time the threadbare earth will move.

When a pack of whelps sleeps together, they are always moving together, too, even in their sleep. My bike is double-twisting mid-air, and it’s the frame that has to take the punishment. If I fall, and I always fall, I will get back up again crushing me or no crushing me. 

Howl, howl

Howl, howl

Tim loves this song and I know why. We all walk between all of this and all our deaths in soft shoes star to star. Beneath most plain men are prisoners with no hope and their cruel windows. I was a prisoner in a Youth Authority Detention Center. The whole world gets reduced to fluorescent flickering. The light goes on and off again. And we are just a group of boys together who have by accident escaped destiny’s harsh laments like rolling papers that get flushed away and down the toilet because the cops are at the door.

Darker and darker and house to house. Love to love. Crushing and it’s all crushing me. We aren’t all that good for much. But we can escape any afternoon of dust lost from everything but desire. We know all her wet secrets and all her boundary stones, and at night we listen to the silhouettes of howling as it steadfastly refuses to give up something we will never know. You can’t know everything, and Tim walks away from the why, why, why lashes of that whip.

And I become this child again. Walking our bikes up another rocky road. He makes you push it and push it and push it until the words you heard in that other life have become alive in this one.

I walk in soft shoes between the torment and the sorrow. Like a Bedouin who has touched the treacherous sand with his constant eyes of rushing blindly through the whispers like a parasite tearing open each boys’ becalmed throat and each boys’ belly until we have looked at all our bloodied hands and then the screaming starts.  

Now there’s no holding back, I’m making to attack

My blood is singing with your voice, I want to pour it out

The saints can’t help me now, the ropes have been unbound

I hunt for you with bloody feet across the hallow’d ground

like some child possessed, the beast howls in my veins

I want to find you tear out all your tenderness

And howl, howl

Howl, howl

 

 

 



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