ON September 11th we remember those gay and lesbian men and women who have died in terrorist attacks.
The magnificent Religion of Antinous is not just about beauty and male-on-male sex and it's not just one continuous gay cocktail party. Alas!
The word "alas," by the way is a Latin corruption of the Greek name "Hylas" ... the beloved young companion of Herakles/Hercules. In Mysia, handsome young Hylas was abducted by water nymphs and vanished below the waters of a stream.
Heartbroken Herakles went mad with grief, bellowing "Hylas! Hylas!" and ripping out trees as he frantically searched for his beloved. He never abandoned his search, and his cries of "Hylas! Hylas!" continue to echo through the ages every time we say the word "alas!"
Hadrian and his beloved drowned Antinous have always been associated with Herakles and his beloved drowned Hylas. And so ... alas! ... the Religion of Antinous is profoundly and irrevocably associated with tragedy and with grief. That is the reason why the sculptures of the Beauteous Boy never show him smiling and boyish. He always gazes off to one side, his head tilted slightly downward, with a wistful and slightly melancholy expression on his face.
It's as if he is always whispering, "Alas!"
And so it is fitting that the Ecclesia Antinoi Annals of Saints and Martyrs and Exemplars includes the names of many, many people who have died under tragic circumstances.
Some died of overdoses or suicide. Others, such as the gay college student Matthew Shepard who was bludgeoned to death in Wyoming, were murdered simply because they were gay.
In Iran, coming out is tantamount to a death sentence.
Many, many others have been taken by the scourge of AIDS.
And still others on our list, Aula Sancti Ecclesiae Antinoi, have suffered and died because they just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
On September 11th we remember those gay and lesbian men and women who have died in terrorist attacks.
They include the gay waiters and pastry chefs in the Windows on the World restaurant on the 110th floor of the World Trade Center, and also the gay and lesbian office workers in the Twin Towers, and the gay passengers and crew aboard the hijacked planes.
They also include the gay victims of the subsequent bombings and atrocities in London, Madrid, Orlando and many other cities.
We don't know the names of most of those people. But one name stands out: Mark "Bear Trap" Bingham.
Mark, 31, was a passenger aboard United Airlines Flight 93 and was flying home to see his mother.
He made a phone call to his mother. He was so distracted by the chaos on board the plane that he identified himself by his full name, saying, "Hi, Mom, this is Mark Bingham."
He just had time to tell her he loved her and that his plane was being hijacked before the phone call abruptly ended.
Mark was a big man at 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) and 225 pounds (102 kg) and was a rugged rugby athlete. He is believed to have been among the passengers who attempted to storm the cockpit to try to prevent the hijackers from using the plane to kill hundreds or thousands of additional victims.
That assumption is based on the fact that his lover of six years said he had repeatedly fought back against muggers and gay bashers and that Mark definitely would not have surrendered to his fate without first putting up a fight. "Mark was a fighter. He hated to lose ... at anything!"
Mark Bingham may never have even heard of Antinous, and the Ecclesia Antinoi had not been founded yet before he died. He most definitely never expected to be remembered as a gay martyr. And he scarcely could have imagined being memorialized in movies and on websites and in books and TV docu-dramas.
He surely never expected to become a symbol and an icon. But that is what he has become.
And so, on September 11th, we remember Mark "Bear Trap" Bingham as a symbol for all those gay people who happen to be at the wrong place at the wrong time when terrorists strike — as can happen to any of us.
Like Mark (and like Herakles, for that matter), we fight and struggle to do the best we can in our day-to-day lives, but sometimes things just turn out far differently from anything we could ever imagine. Sometimes tragically so ... Alas!