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|Melvin Arundelli: why ‘anyone can be a gay bird’|
|Written by Dyana Bagby|
|Friday, 19 August 2011 00:00|
Melvin Arundelli, 34, was born in Italy but has lived in Atlanta since he was just over a year old. Four years ago this month, he crashed his motorcycle into a telephone pole, and suffered severe traumatic brain injury. He was hospitalized at Grady for five months and in a coma for most of that time.
Arundelli now uses a wheelchair, has limited movement in his left arm, is legally blind and can’t smell or taste. But he’s alive, he says, and his sense of humor remains firmly intact.
“Meet Boosheka,” he says, inviting friends to sit on the comfy cushion on his wheelchair.
“She’s my girlfriend. The best thing I got when I left Grady,” he adds with a laugh.
Arundelli, who is a transgender man, performed as a drag king under the name Pee Wee Hymen for a decade before the accident and remains a trans activist.
Now on disability with mounting healthcare costs, he may lose his home. The Feminist Outlawz are putting on a fundraiser for Arundelli on Aug. 28 at My Sisters’ Room.
Tell us about what happened on Aug. 23, 2007.
I was driving a Yamaha 150 — it belonged to Veronica [aka The Lady Miss Vagina Jenkins] — because my truck had been stolen. I crashed into a telephone pole. I don’t remember what happened.
They had to cut into my skull to relieve leaking I had in my brain and when they did that they cut through my optic nerve and sinus cavity. When I came out of the coma I was just ready to get out of the hospital.
Why does your hat say “Gay Bird”?
When I was in the first grade I heard people talking about someone being a “gayfer.” I thought they were saying “gay bird.” I would go around saying someone was a gay bird and one day my friend asked me what I was saying. When I told her, she explained, “No, it’s gayfer.”
It was just a childhood misunderstanding but I always thought it was funny. I figured I’m happy, I can be a bird. Anyone can be a gay bird. I’m hoping to make “gay bird” T-shirts for the fundraiser.
I was also in Girl Scouts and one day they were talking about Elton John being a “gayfer.” I came up and said of course he was. They were like, “Well, how do you know?” And I said he sings about his boyfriend in that song.
The Girl Scout leader was drinking her coffee and looked at me and said, well, why don’t you sing this song for us. So I sang, “Hold me closer, Tony Danza!” She spewed her coffee out laughing. She then explained to me it was “Tiny Dancer.” She was probably gay. …
Then when I wanted to start dating girls my friends wanted to take me to “My Sister’s Womb.” I was like, I don’t think I want to be gay. I thought that was a weird name. Then they explained to me it was My Sisters’ Room.
Where did Pee Wee Hymen come from?
[A friend] said, “You are going to be Pee Wee Hymen!” I loved it. I had no idea what my drag name was going to be. And then when I created the Pee Wee Herman suit to wear, everybody loved it.
I’ve always liked art. I used to do photography. I draw with magic markers now, just silly stuff like my cat taking a poop.
What are you looking forward to at the fundraiser?
I’m hoping to raise some money to help with my mortgage so I can keep my house. I bought the house when I was 24. I was a woodworker, I liked building things. I worked 60 hours a week. I was a hard worker.
Anything raised will help. It will also be great to see people I haven’t seen in a long time.
Fundraiser for Melvin/Pee Wee Hymen
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