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Archives, 2005 Jul. 21

Wednesday August 24, 2005

Hey…You Can’t Live There…That Neighborhood’s For Families.

365Gay is reporting that a Long and Foster agent prevented a gay man in Northern Virginia from getting the home he wanted. He had made the high bid, but apparently his money wasn’t good. This may be against the law in northern Virginia, but it’s doubtful that if Long and Foster chooses, it’ll be held up in Virginia courts, or if it is, that the statehouse won’t immediately strike the law down. Virginia is a state after all, that passed an anti-same sex marriage law a couple years ago that is so draconian some say it even prevents same sex couples from holding joint checking accounts.

I fired off an email to Long and Foster. Their agents are advertising all the time in my local gay community newspapers. I get their damn ads in my mailbox asking me if I want to sell my house nearly every week. We’ll see how this plays out.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday August 23, 2005

Link corrected

Sorry about the bad permalink on the post “Priceless” below. It’s fixed now.

Punch It!

The post below on my boyhood interests tweaked a curiosity in me for a couple old joys. Googling around, I found a few pages dedicated to my favorite funny car, The Little Red Wagon.

Bill “Maverick” Golden’s little zoomer was amazing for it’s day, and even today it stands out among the funny cars of the 60s. For one thing, it was a goddamned truck! Just seeing a small pickup truck blasting down the track at unreasonable speeds was a delight, all by itself. But when it stood on it’s back legs, and kept accelerating down the track one day, The Little Red Wagon started the funny car craze of the 60s.

One day while Bill was racing the wagon, so the story goes, it’s massive 426 hemi engine hiccuped, and the front wheels bounced up. Bill kept his foot down and the front end shot up into the air and the truck blasted down the track on its back wheels, doing the quarter mile in a tad under 11 seconds. The crowd loved it, and a quarter mile phenomena was born. People had never seen 10 seconds down the quarter mile on the back wheels before. And this was a goddamned truck!

Other funny cars followed all through the 60s. For my money, the only other one that even came close to the Wagon’s spectacular performance was The Hemi Under Glass, a 1966 Plymouth Barracuda with another massive Chrysler hemi engine tucked under its big glass rear window. I have a shot of it somewhere in the house, taken right when it had risen up so aggressively that its rear wheels had actually popped up off the pavement ten inches.

There’s a gallery of other wheelstanders of the period here.

My early teen years were all about the quarter mile fuelers. There is nothing like them. The scene is all smoke and stench and the crackling popping sounds of massive engines just before they let loose with a blast of noise and power that goes right through your skull. You have to wear hearing protection anywhere near these things. If you get a pit pass, you’ll need eye protection too. The machines will grab little bits of dirt and grit off the track and hurl them at you hot and fast. Night events are the best. You can see the fire dancing above the exhaust pipes as the machines align themselves to the starting line, then shoot into the night sky like flame throwers as they roar down the track. The scene is all about wielding that blast of fire and energy just long enough to tear down the track before it starts to rip your engine apart. The racers live right at the edge of metal’s ability to contain fire. I’ve seen explosions like bomb blasts pop hoods and fenders into the air, seen bits and pieces of engines go streaking into the sky like bottle rockets. Keep your damn Indy 500. Give me the fuelers any day. Nothing like them.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday August 22, 2005

Priceless!

Posted on MySpace…

And while I’m at it…this from Ex-Gay Watch:

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Dumped!

This week’s cartoon came about when I read that gay health organizations were getting an increase in calls from gay people asking about programs to help them quit smoking after the death of TV news anchor Peter Jennings. It’s a sad fact that in about another month or so people will start forgetting how scared the news made them. I’ve lived through the lung cancer deaths of many celebrities in my lifetime, and seen this over and over. This is why the anti-smoking campaigns have to be persistant. It’s just human nature to trivialize risks that aren’t immediate.

But as I mention on the cartoon page, gay youth need campaigns that speak directly to them. They have stresses in their lives the other kids don’t, and as long as they’re not given coping strategies to help them with that, they’ll remain between 30 and fifty percent more likely to smoke then their heterosexual peers. But taking a geniune interest in the health of gay youth is anathema to the anti-gay right, which would rather government treated them like human garbage then give them the self respect they need to keep themselves from falling into self destructive behaviors. Last year I did this cartoon after the Utah department of health stopped funding a program created by gay teens designed to keep gay teens from smoking, after the religious right got wind of it.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday August 18, 2005

In Crackpot Land, All Theories Are Equally Valid, Because They’re All Equally Idiotic

The current deep thinking among the ex-gay intelligentsia is that boys become gay because they’re not getting enough manliness beaten into them when they’re young. A recent article in The Boston Globe ponders what some researchers are calling childhood gender nonconformity, or CGN. It’s a safe bet that they don’t have an acronym for childhood gender conformity…

Patrick exhibits behavior called childhood gender nonconformity, or CGN. This doesn't describe a boy who has a doll somewhere in his toy collection or tried on his sister's Snow White outfit once, but rather one who consistently exhibits a host of strongly feminine traits and interests while avoiding boy-typical behavior like rough-and-tumble play. There's been considerable research into this phenomenon, particularly in males, including a study that followed boys from an early age into early adulthood. The data suggest there is a very good chance Patrick will grow up to be homosexual. Not all homosexual men show this extremely feminine behavior as young boys. But the research indicates that, of the boys who do exhibit CGN, about 75 percent of them - perhaps more - turn out to be gay or bisexual.

I suppose most of us have known kids like Patrick. When I was in first grade I had a classmate named Lance, who used to pretend he was a girl, put red crayons on his lips like lipstick, make paper jewelry for himself and kiss the boys. It was that last behavior that would regularly get him in hot water, but at that age none of us associated it with anything bad or wrong. Lance was a class clown. And he was a nice kid. It wasn’t until about third or forth grade that he started getting beaten up. And at about that time, so did I. It was something that happened to all the slight boys, whether we acted like girls or not.

My problem with associating gender non-conformity with homosexuality is simple. First, while how genders behave may indeed have roots in brain differences, how those differences are expressed are often social constructs that can and have changed over time, and across different cultures. A simple example is hair length. In some cultures men wear their hair short. In others, long. But I wish I had a dollar for every time I was catcalled while growing up… Hey hippy…are you a boy or a girl…? So I think researchers need to better pin down what gender driven behavior actually is, before they go on about pinning down what gender non-conformity is. Secondly, it has nothing to do with sexual orientation. I’m sorry…it just doesn’t.

Cornell psychologist Daryl Bem has proposed an intriguing theory for how CGN might lead to homosexuality. According to this pathway, which he calls "the exotic becomes erotic," children are born with traits for temperament, such as aggression and activity level, that predispose them to male-typical or female-typical activities. They seek out playmates with the same interests. So a boy whose traits lead him to hopscotch and away from rough play will feel different from, and ostracized by, other boys. This leads to physiological arousal of fear and anger in their presence, arousal that eventually is transformed from exotic to erotic.

Critics of homosexuality have used Bem's theory, which stresses environment over biology, to argue that sexual orientation is not inborn and not fixed. But Bem says this pathway is triggered by biological traits, and he doesn't really see how the outcome of homosexuality can be changed.

This is what the ex-gay movement is currently fixated on. Zach, the Memphis teenager who was forced into an ex-gay treatment program last month, has said recently that he is now no longer allowed to be with groups of his friends unless there is at least one male there besides him. Counter intuitively, it seems as though now it’s boys who seek out or are comfortable with female companionship that become gay. Let me run that by you again. Growing up afraid of the companionship of women makes you gay. On the other hand, growing up enjoying the companionship of women also makes you gay. See how easy that is? No matter how your relationship to women is growing up, it made you gay. Except when it didn’t.

It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad. If you’re a gay teen, no matter what your circle of friends looks like, they made you gay. But that’s okay because no matter what your family life looked like, it made you gay too. If you father was too distant, that made you gay. On the other hand if he was too close, that made you gay. If he was too lax in setting rules, that made you gay. But if he was too strict that made you gay. If your mother was too close to you, she made you afraid of women, unless you’re a lesbian in which case she made you afraid of men. But if she was too distant then she made you unable to relate to women, unless you’re a lesbian in which case she made women seem exotic. Let just face facts here. Everything makes us gay. Except when it doesn’t.

If you’re the parent of a feminine acting boy, or a boy who just likes to hang out with the girls more then the other boys, and you’re worried about his becoming homosexual, you’re worrying about the wrong thing. Worry that he is honest. That his word is good. That he keeps his promises. That his friends trust him. Worry that he works hard in school, gets good grades, and that the material is keeping his mind engaged. Worry that he is someone who does his share of the work. That he takes care of his friends, and watches out for them. Worry that the people he takes into his arms one day, whether they’re boys or girls, are better for having been loved by him, and not worse. That’s the important stuff. The rest is detail. But understand this if you understand nothing else: making him do typical boy things will not make him heterosexual. Taking his girl friends away from him will only take away from him the only real emotional support he has among his peers. If you love him, don’t do that to him. If a teenager needs anything these days, it’s their friends. If they’re not druggies or thugs, then count your blessings and leave them the hell alone.

When I was a teen, my circle of friends was just about exclusively male. But even before my teen years I wasn’t that interested in girls mostly because, back then, girls in my neighborhood generally didn’t like playing with the guys or doing guy things. There was a lot of gender conformity in those days. It was Ozzie and Harriet time in America.

Christmas 1961…my Build-A-Jet toy kit. I had fun with that for years, eventually migrating various jet body parts to other toys…

As a kid I liked slot cars, fuelers, funny cars, skateboarding. Yeah, I played with dolls, but they were GI Joe dolls (we called them action figures (wish I still had mine)). Yeah, I played dress up when I was small, like 8 or 9, but then I dressed up as Superman or Batman or Commando Cody (I took an old jacket and made a cardboard set of rockets for the back of it, and a helmet out of an old motorcycle helmet a friend’s older brother gave to me).

Christmas 1964…my two cousins with their very wierd dolls that had heads which rotated inside the doll’s hood to produce three different expressions (you turned the knob that looks like a pompon on the top of the doll’s hood), and me with my model Fireball XL-5. That big smile on my face doesn’t begin to convey how delighted I was to get that toy. I’d begged for it for months.

I built model cars. I made treehouses with friends. I never wore mom’s shoes. I thought most of the toys in the girls section of the toy stores were boring (of course I later learned that a lot of girls did too…). I didn’t want to play house, I wanted to play Lost In Space, or Have Gun Will Travel.

My first car…a Deluxe Playmobile. It had a working horn, windshield wipers, dash lights, and some kind of whirring thing on the inside to simulate a running engine. On the floor you can see a portion of my Build-A-Highway kit, which I suppose would be less popular nowadays then giving a kid a toy gun for Christmas…

Yes there was another side to me. I liked to paint and draw. One teacher once wrote in my record that I took “excessive interest in personal art projects”. And I got emotional a lot. Particularly when it came to my friends. My feelings toward my male companions, looking back on it, were decidedly intense. But I suspect that many straight guys have some pretty intense feelings for their best friends while growing up too (and I’ll bet a lot of them are afraid nowadays to express those feelings because they’ll be labeled gay if they do).

A GI Joe set some friends of mine and I made. Their heads got cut off in this polaroid shot, which was how I ended up with it. I had one GI Joe each for all four services including dress uniforms, and a footlocker to hold all the finger candy I had collected in the form of guns, ammo clips, and other accessories. I had the darn Mercury capsule and the astronaut suit. Then I became a teenager and gave it all away. Damn! I probably gave away a small fortune that day…

I had the basic baby boomer boyhood. And yet I am gay. I wasn’t all that interested in sports, but that was because I was a slight kid, who kept getting pummeled on the school playing field. I liked playing ad hoc baseball and basketball with my pals after school on the playgrounds around our apartment complex, because we were all about the same build and could actually enjoy playing stuff without any of the hulking big kids kicking us around. We would gather at a local slot car track to play our latest cars against each other. Then one day I brought an X-Acto knife to the track I’d put wheels and a motor on, and promptly got myself banned after the owner saw me racing it against the other kid’s plastic body slot cars.

A pose with two model cars I’d just finished: the Monkee Mobile, and my favorite funny car, “The Little Red Wagon”. I was particularly proud of how well I’d finished “The Little Red Wagon”, because that was an IMC kit, and those were supposed to be too complicated for someone my age to put together right. I later converted a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda kit into the “Hemi Under Glass”, another favorite funny car.

Gender associated behavior probably doesn’t have much of anything to do with sexual orientation. That’s probably not only a completely different part of our brains, our consciousness, but also very much a part of the culture we live in. But regardless, this notion that making boys act like boys will keep them from becoming gay is a lot of claptrap. And in any case, if your kid is gay, that’s no big deal. Wrap your head around that please. It is no big deal. If you’re worrying about that, you’re worrying about the wrong thing.

Worry that they’re not a kid who beats up the smaller kids and takes their money. Worry that they’re not trying to cheat their way through school, with an eye on cheating their way through life. Worry that they’re learning from you that good people judge others by the content of their character, and not the sex of their hand they’re holding. You can teach your kid that morals and values have real meaning, or that morality is nothing more then a scarecrow hypocrites wave at other people, so they won’t have to examine their own lives. If you teach them the latter, don’t bellyache after they’re grown up, and they act as if the only thing that matters to them is having their own way, whether it harms others or not. Don’t look away from the wreckage they leave in their wake as they walk through life. That wreckage has your name on it too.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday August 16, 2005

Brainwashed No More

Damn good article on how the religious right is targeting gay teens in this month’s Advocate! Go read it.

"Thereís no doubt in my mind that there is a concerted, organized, and coordinated effort to target kids," says Wayne Besen, author of Anything But Straight, a 2003 book on the ex-gay movement. Heís fearful of get-tough conservative religious programs like Refuge, which offers two- and six-week residential programs for teens. And outside the United States, Besen says, such camps "are harder to monitor. Itís like tracking nursing homes that abuse the elderly. They donít exactly advertise [the abuse]."

Gays and lesbians may not realize the lengths to which the groups go to get youthsí attention. In some cases they've resorted to one of the oldest tricks in the Internet porn industry: using benign keywords to lure Web surfers. One ex-gay Web site for youths, for instance, uses "Yugioh!," the name of a card game popular with young children, as a keyword that will be picked up by search engines. Another uses "Walt Disney World."

Evergreen International, a Utah-based Mormon group that targets youths, has opted to use a scientific-sounding nameóthe Center for the Study of Gender-Affirmative Therapyóto lend credibility to its teachings. Expanding the program was one of their major goals for 2003.

And they call the gay community predatory. Isn’t it ironic that they’re trying to lure kids into their clutches in exactly the same why that online child molesters do.

Seriously. Go read that article. The blogs Zach posted mentioned in it have now been deleted, but there are mirrors out there so what he posted isn’t lost, just a tad harder to find. His parents are watching everything he posts now like a couple of concentration camp guards, and in a recent post he told everyone that they don’t want him blogging anymore, so he will probably be unable to speak his mind about what is happening to him anymore for quite some time. Somebody needs to give Joe Stark a subscription to the Clue Of The Month Club though, because he’s brutalizing a perfectly decent kid that many parents all over the world would be proud, damn proud, to have raised themselves. He’s not into drugs, he wasn’t having sex, he seems to be a hard worker in school, he’s majoring in Aerospace Research and Development, a member of his school chorus, and the Latin and Psychology clubs, and his school friends, particularly his female friends, all look like they stepped out of a Walt Disney movie. That goddamned moron father of his needs to wise up and see the great gift his son is. So he’s gay. So what. So fucking what. Joe is all busy being a brand spanking new born again evangelical, and here he taking this wonderful gift and spitting in God’s face. It isn’t the self sanctimonious piety that offends you about these fundamentalist nutcases, it isn’t the flaming hypocrisy, it’s the utter contempt for everything fine and wonderful and awesome God created and gave to them that disgusts you so much you just want to puke sometimes.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

The American Psychiatric Association Takes A Stand

Professionals in the Medical and Scientific arts are starting to realize that they can’t afford to be quiet in the face of the religious right’s onslaught against science. From the environment, to our understandings of physics and biology, to the matter of sexual orientation, the religious right has been waging an all out war on science that it sees as godless. Some professional groups are now, belatedly, starting to fight back. In an article just published on the Advocate’s web site, the APA steps forward to defend science, against ex-gay quackery:

The most important fact about "reparative therapy," also sometimes known as "conversion" therapy, is that it is based on an understanding of homosexuality that has been rejected by all the major health and mental health professions.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers, together representing more than 477,000 health and mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder, and thus there is no need for a "cure."

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association and defining the standard of the field, does not include homosexuality as a mental disorder. All other major health professional organizations have supported the American Psychiatric Association in its declassification of homosexuality in 1973 as a mental disorder. Thus, the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder, or that the emergence of same-gender sexual desires among some adolescents is in any way abnormal or mentally unhealthy, has no support among health and mental health professional organizations.

Despite the unanimity of the health and mental health professions on the normality of homosexuality, the idea of "reparative therapy" has recently been adopted by conservative organizations and aggressively promoted in the media. Because of this aggressive promotion of "reparative therapy," a number of the health and mental health professional organizations have recently issued public statements about "reparative therapy" as well.

The American Psychological Association, in its Resolution on Appropriate Therapeutic Responses to Sexual Orientation, which is also endorsed by the National Association of School Psychologists, states: "The American Psychological Association opposes portrayals of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and adults as mentally ill due to their sexual orientation and supports the dissemination of accurate information about sexual orientation, and mental health, and appropriate interventions in order to counteract bias that is based in ignorance or unfounded beliefs about sexual orientation."

As these statements make clear, health and mental health professional organizations do not support efforts to change young peopleís sexual orientation through "reparative therapy" and have raised serious concerns about its potential to do harm....

There is nothing wrong or damaging, either to an individual or to society, about homosexuality. There is no science that says otherwise. For the kooks of the religious right, that is only another reason to hate science. They claim that by ignoring what the bible says, we’re elevating men above God. Bullshit. Anyone can write a bible. Only God can make a rock out of nothing. If God is that which made all that is, all that was, and all that will ever be, then the rock is God’s handwriting, the rock is the testament of God. Everything else is commentary. It is not those of us who are willing to let nature speak for itself that are elevating men above God. They are. Themselves.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Why I Hate Syndicates

I don’t blame professional cartoonists for sending out two different versions of a cartoon to their syndicates when they’re dealing with controversial issues (Controversial Issue: Anything that upsets the kook pews). They’re just trying to make a living in an economy that isn’t great for cartoonists right now. I’ve made my own bargain with fate that I’m sure a lot of them would never make. I make my living doing something else. You could say that they’re a lot more dedicated to their art then I am, even if they have to make these compromises from time to time.

Compromises like this.

Full story here.

Look…a publisher has the right to have their paper or magazine reflect their vision. You work for them you accept that you’re becoming a part of that vision. If you don’t want to go there, or they don’t want you in there, it’s not necessarily anything personal. It’s just business. The paper belongs to the people who publish it. You’re collaborating on it with them, but it’s their canvas. An artist of all people should respect that. So if you join a big syndicate or you want to go for a place in the mainstream spotlight, and get in as many big papers as you can you have to know that there will be times when you have to dance to the mainstream tune. That was the bargain you made, for your time in the spotlight. I’m not putting that down. If you think you can put your time in that spotlight to good use, do something with it that makes the time you have to compromise worth it, then go for it. Seriously. The mainstream needs good people in it. If you can put up with the crap to make that difference you think is worthwhile, then I admire you.

But I’m not going there. I will do a lot of things at an editor’s request. I’ll add detail. I’ll subtract detail. I’ll take suggestions for making the meaning clearer, or keeping the reader engaged. I’ll take suggestions for topics to cover. I’ll rework anything, make it more horizontal or vertical, to fit a particular page layout. I’ll redo it in color, or in black and white. I want to work with people. But only up to a point. I will never ex-gay one of my cartoons, and I will never say anything in one of my cartoons that I don’t mean. I make a living doing something else besides art, pretty much specifically so I don’t have to say anything I don’t mean. Okay…and I’m not really a very competitive soul either. I just like doing what I do. But I will not say what I do not mean.

That’s my bargain with the devil. If you’re an artist and you make a different bargain, I promise I won’t blame you. We all have to make our own bargain with the almighty dollar. We do what we can to survive.

But thank god for the web. On the web, an artist can be whatever they want to be. Of course, nobody’s figured out a way to make money on the web either. Except maybe eBay and PayPal.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday August 15, 2005

Comforting Thoughts

I was talking to an ex Air Force guy at work today, about my adventures flying recently (eight takeoffs and landings through six airports in just over a week, first to Memphis for the LIA protests, then to Portland for the Open Source conference). The subject of the recent greek airliner tragedy came up. He told me, helpfully, that those little cups that come down have enough oxygen in them to keep you alive, but not enough to keep you from getting brain damaged.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Breaking The Silence Here

I’ve been real busy at Casa del Garrett these past few days, which is why I haven’t posted anything recently. I’ll be coming out of that work rush shortly, but not completely. There is a possible comic zine project on my horizon, and something else which I hope to be able to tell you about soon. Stonewall News Northwest has picked up two of my cartoons for this month’s issue. And I’m still trying to get A Coming Out Story off the ground here. I think once I get it going it’ll be easier for me to keep it moving, but I’m starting to feel the pressure of juggling all these things at once.

In the meantime there are two new cartoons up this week. Enjoy. I’ll post more later.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday August 10, 2005

“What It Reveals Is Suggestive, But What It Conceals Is Vital”

Today is National Underwear Day. All you boys and girls out there should remember there is good underwear (what manly men and womenly women wear), and bad underwear (That false image stuff that will turn you queer and make the baby Jesus cry):

2. Attire: General

Modesty is expected. No tight, provocative, or suggestive clothing or spandex may be worn. No provocative or suggestive mannerisms are permitted. Fresh undergarments are to be worn at all times. Boxer shorts of any kind are considered underwear and are not to be worn as outer clothing. All clients must be dressed appropriately in clean, unwrinkled clothes when leaving the house for the day. Men may not wear any jewelry (other than a watch and a wedding band) unless approved through a C.O.C. In addition to a watch and wedding band, women may also wear a pair of simple earrings (one earring per ear.) The clients may not wear Abercrombie and Fitch or Calvin Klein brand clothing, undergarments, or accessories.

Men: Shirts are to be worn at all times, even while sleeping. T-shirts without sleeves are not permitted at any time, whether worn as an outer garment or an undergarment. This includes "muscle shirts" or other tank-tops. Bikini-style underwear is prohibited.

Women: Bras must be worn at all times, except while sleeping. Thong-style underwear is prohibited.

John Smid - The Refuge Rule Book

Let’s all have a safe and morally decent National Underwear day.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday August 9, 2005

Still Not Much To Say

I guess I’m a bit emotionally drained from all the events of the past few weeks. All I feel like doing is the usual household chores and inking up some stuff on my drafting table. I’m hoping to finally get A Coming Out Story rolling this weekend, and I have a couple political cartoons I want to finish up. But I am very tired and it’s a tiredness I recognize as mostly a state of mind then of body. The ups and downs from the fight over Love In Action have worn me down. Make no mistake, I am not about to give up that fight. But I feel like I have a right to be tired right now.

I’m seeing gay community newspaper commentary about Zach’s one blog post after he got out of the Love In Action soul grinder, and I think they’re all missing a pretty basic fact: he posted it after over fifty days in lockdown, being force fed everything John Smid wanted him to believe about homosexuals and himself. If some of what Zach posted sounded almost verbatim like John Smid speaking well…what did you expect? This was why we were all fighting like mad to do something…anything…for that poor kid. And yet…and yet, he thanked everyone who posted messages of support on his blog. He told us all how contented he was seeing those messages. That’s something I’m not seeing in any of the gay community paper’s accounts and it troubles me.

Wayne Besen is right…Zach’s voice is different in that post. But it’s the only public thing he’s said since he (theoretically) got out, and after over fifty days in psychological lockdown what do you expect? He uses a lot of John Smid buzzwords, but again, it was posted nearly right after he got out of lockdown. He was immersed in those buzzwords for weeks. This was why his friends in Memphis kept telling people to just fucking Calm Down and let the kid be. You had to know that when he got out, he was going to be stuffed full of Smid’s propaganda, and even if he rejected 90 percent of it out of hand he couldn’t have left that place without some of it getting in. One of Zach’s friends E.J., went to one of their monthly open houses and even he felt the pressure on his mind. This is what cults do to people, and LIA is without a doubt a very successful mind fuck cult. Wayne Besen has pointed out that most of the people working for these places are themselves former inmates. A sixteen year old kid is not going to come out of an experience like that untouched. Yet he still identifies on his profile as gay. More touchingly, his MySpace profile still reads…

Zach :'(

…which is what he changed it to when his parents started flailing at him after he came out to them.

He needs space, and he needs his friends. Hopefully he is being allowed to have contact with them, and is getting the support he needs there. But he is going to be on that leash at least until the spring of 2007, when he turns 18, and I strongly suspect he’s going to have John Smid feeling up his mind and groping his spirit for most of that time, and until what Smid is doing to helpless teenagers is legally classified as the child abuse it is, there is very little anyone can do about that. And Zach is not the only teen Smid is having his way with

BBC2 Documentary "Sad To Be Gay" to finally air

THE BBC2 Documentary, "Sad To Be Gay" IS GOING TO AIR on Tuesday...CHECK HERE FOR MORE INFO

This is the documentary that came through Memphis, following a man from England who was unhappy being gay. The BBC crew went into Love In Action to document this man, David Akinsanya's experience in the program. Word has spread that this was one of the first notices of youth being in the program, when David's experience was being documented, himself, and the crew being alarmed that a 16yo girl was there against her will, and he apparently could not take the experience and left in less than a week. It is unclear how the documentary will portray the situation, however, the program description seems to explain that his experience was "upsetting". It came to our attention that David, and the BBC crew was supposedly alarmed, especially that this 16yo girl was in counseling sessions with adults who were dealing with serious mental health issues, while her experience simply was related to her parents problem...with her liking girls. This documentary has the potential to be very explosive and essential in exposing the problems related to facilities such as Love In Action. Stay tuned for more info.

[Emphasis mine]. I hope it fucking blows up in Smid’s face. But we’ll have to see.

In the meantime, the MySpace Free Zach group has morphed into Free Z, and will focus from now on against forced ex gay conversion therapy for all teens. I will be adding a new column heading to this blog page, probably somewhere on the right, listing resources in the struggle against these homosexual deprogramming outfits. Check in from time to time with The Queer Action Coalition, Free Z, Ex Gay Watch, Wayne Besen, and artist Willie Hewes, creator of the Free Z mini zine. As I gather more resources I may end up giving them their own page. Stay tuned. The fight goes on. I may be posting infrequently here for the next few days, but the fight goes on.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Sunday August 7, 2005

Question

They gonna take my gay card away if I say out loud that I really, really hated the way they ended Queer As Folk?

I know…I know…it’s just a goddamned soap opera, lighten up willya? Fuck that noise. Fuck it. I waited five years to hear Justin say “We don’t need rings to validate our love?” Gosh Justin, why didn’t I take that advice seriously the first time I heard some gay hating bigot who wants the U.S. Constitution to have an anti same sex marriage amendment in it tell me that? Sure…fine…hell we don’t need no steenkin rings. Let the amendment pass. We can always dance our cares and troubles away…

So…anyway…I’m thinking maybe Gregg Araki’s Mysterious Skin sounds promising…

A teenage hustler and a young man obsessed with alien abductions cross paths, together discovering a horrible, liberating truth.

…uhm…then again maybe not. Well…there’s always Ethan Mao…

When a middle-class Asian-American gay teen, Ethan Mao, gets thrown out of his house, he hooks up with a Latino hustler / drug dealer and learns the tricks of the trade.

….uhm.

Gosh I feel so liberated.

[Edited to get the quote right] Yah…I watched it again. Hated it twice as much the second time…

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Back Home…(whew!)

I made it back home to Baltimore, safe and sound, and very, very weary. It’s been eight takeoffs and landings, six different airports, and an assortment of amazing jet winged machines tossing me from one place to another for a bit over a week. First out to the Memphis protests, then to the Open Source conference in Portland. It was wearisome, and at times (like when we bounced on landing at Atlanta), scary. Coming into Baltimore last night our pilot, for whatever reason, hung some extremely tight turns so low to the ground I started shaking in my seat. What the hell are you doing?. I could make out the makes of cars parked in people’s driveways while this guy is hanging hairpin turns over them. First time in my life I’ve been really scared while flying. No…scratch that. It was the second. The first time was while coming into Houston from Portland, and there was a loud bang and the whole plane shook like something had hit it. “Turbulence” said the flight attendant, who would have known I suppose. But I’ve flown often enough now to know what turbulence feels like and I’d never felt anything like it before. It literally felt like the plane had been struck by something.

Mostly it was just a tiring pain in the butt. But I got a chance to fly first class on one leg of the trip…the first leg out to Minneapolis/St. Paul. I bought e-tickets online, and at the self serve check-in I was offered an upgrade to first class for $75, which I took. Damn! Nice seats, real nice food and lots of leg room. I made it a point to inquire about first class upgrades for the rest of the trip, but alas there weren’t any. So most of the time I sat in a cramped little seat, telling myself that I was crossing territory in hours that the pioneers would have taken months to cross, and at a cost of lives along the way, so stop complaining.

My iPod made itself thoroughly worth the price I paid for it. Whenever I was able to move to an empty window seat, I could watch the clouds and the earth pass below to Vaughan-Williams, Rachmaninoff, a little swing, or some favorite film music. It was sweet. Flying from Atlanta to Baltimore, we passed through some cloud formations that were absolutely stunning. Dark, high altitude clouds formed a canopy over low altitude puff ball cumulous that were building dozens of updraft towers like they were trying to form thunderstorms. The sun peeked through the canopy highlighting the white towers below, sometimes forming a rainbow ring high in the sky, sometimes throwing a high intensity spotlight on the clouds below. As the jet moved through it, the spotlight turned into sheets of bright yellow sunlight shining from behind very dark walls of storm clouds above us, which cast a dazzling yellow glow all around dozens and dozens of puffy white cloud towers far below. It was beautiful. It was also pretty turbulent. But not violently so. I watched it all go past, listening to the Adagio of Rachmaninoff’s second symphony. Life is good.

I’ll post more later. And I will try to get a cartoon up for Monday, but no promises. Right now I’m just setting back in from just over a week of busy travelling, a programmer’s conference (which was a lot of fun) and a non-trivial bit of jet lag. I’m gonna hate having to get up for work tomorrow.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday August 3, 2005

Still In Portland…Some Activity On The Memphis Front…

Sorry about the lack of activity here…I’m just swamped with conference stuff. And I know some of you will be wanting to know more about Zach’s recent blog post. I’m not ignoring it, but I really think we all need to step back a bit and let the kid have some space after what he’s gone through. So I’m not going to comment on anything regarding his blog for the time being. I suppose I’ll have plenty to say about LIA/R after I get back from Portland.

In the meantime, here is a statement from QAC regarding Zach and the future struggle against forced ex-gay therapy for gay teens. E.J., over at Cherry Blossom Special has some good words to say about it too.

If you're going to sit around and mope because Zach has asked for his privacy, then it's true, after all.

You never cared about what happened to him at all, did you?

So let’s all act like we meant what we said about giving the kid a chance to live his own life, on his own terms. K?

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday August 1, 2005

In Portland…

…so the rest of my Memphis tale will have to come in little bits and pieces for the time being. Sorry for those of you chafing at the bit for the rest of it. I’m just super busy right now with the conference stuff, and some other work related issues.


Seeing The World Through Eyes Not Your Own

Really good post from Love In Action survivor Peterson Toscano about the end of Zach’s interment there:

After weeks of enduring nothing but an alternative view, and sporting the Biblically-crafted lenses his parents and the program fashioned for him, it is uncertain how he will view himself and the world.

...

At 17 I began an "ex-gay" process. Looking back, it feels like I was placed in a time capsule. Sealed off from the world and even my own reason, I floated, suspended in a thick solution of shame, fear and self-doubt. The authorities in my life constantly reminded me that I was wrong, bad, sinful, deceived, corrupt, and I believed them. How that container that kept me locked away finally broke open is somewhat of a mystery to me. I was lost, now I am found. I was blind, now I see.

Zach is out, but we may not hear his heart and mind for some time. Really, we should all just let him be to survive what he must survive the next few years.

Yes. Just so. And the rest of us will move on to other fronts in the battle. This was not only about one gay teen…but all gay teens. It is about their right to simply exist as the people they are. It is ultimately about the right of all of us, simply to exist as the people we are. One day, I am convinced of it now more then ever, we will have that right.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Saturday July 29, 2005

Absence

THURSDAY… I arrive in Memphis on time Thursday pretty much uneventfully, save for a hard landing in Atlanta which caused the plane to bounce once before setting down to the runway. I get my rental car and a couple local maps, and with those and the maps I’d made to my destinations on Google, find my way to the motel with no problems. After settling in, I decide to do a little scouting around. First I want to make sure I could find my way to the Love In Action headquarters for the protests on Friday. But I also want to use what little free time I had to try and get a sense of the environment Zach, the gay teen whose plea for help started this whole thing, was growing up in. Everything I know about Memphis, the suburb of Bartlett and LIA/R is second and third hand. Now I can see for myself. The story has been stressing me out for weeks…for the first two weeks of it as badly as I’d ever stressed about anything in my entire life. I know from past experience that when I get stressed like that, the best cure for it is to gather facts, and ground myself in a little reality. So I came to Memphis, mostly as a show of support, but also because I need to see for myself, because I badly need to see for myself.

My motel is located at one end of Sycamore View Road, right near where it intersects I-40. LIA/R, is located on Yale Road, which intersects Sycamore View further north. By that time the road is traveling through Bartlett. I can read a map at a glance, but I have to think about scale and today I don’t bother. I am not sure how far the drive is, or how badly rush hour traffic clogs it up. But by the time I get settled in it is about rush hour time, and I figure now is a good time to give driving to LIA/R a test. I grab my camera, in case I see anything interesting along the way, and get in my rental car and start driving north.

For a while traffic is heavy, but not nearly Baltimore-Washington oppressive. It begins to thin out considerably near Bartlett, and by the time I enter the suburb proper you can’t tell it is rush hour at all. I drive at an easy pace down a four lane with manicured median strip suburban road. The houses around me are all nicely built, average sized middle class homes, each one only slightly different from the common mold all were made from. By Washington trophy home standards they are modest. The lawns and all the plants, shrubbery and trees around each and every one are carefully arranged and manicured. Some lawns look like they could have been lifted right off a golf course.

Another Pleasant Valley Sunday,
Charcoal burning everywhere...

I approach Yale Road, and make the left. On the corner is a large church of some sort. Not megachurch sized, but nothing Roger Williams would have recognized as a church either. It almost looks like a large modern office building. There is no steeple, no stained glass windows that I can see, no sense of spiritual intimacy. You could walk in the front door and expect to see offices, and a large space of cubicles inside. There is a compound of some kind next to it, with what looks like a small school building. I don’t notice it now, but later the next day, as one of the protesters and I drive around the neighborhood, he sees what I miss: the church flagpole.

It doesn’t take me long at all to get from the motel to Yale street, and I realize two things: The scale of things here is not large, and Zach had the great misfortune to be living so damn close to the headquarters of the world’s first ex-gay ministry, one that only recently began taking in gay teens against their will. By the time he was fourteen, and just coming out to himself, John Smid was already making a place for him in his soul grinder, just down the street from where he lives.

I drive west on Yale, watching the house numbers count backwards. The even numbers are on my side of the street, so LIA/R will be on my right when I drive past. As I get closer my heart begins to beat a tad faster and I tell it irritably that this isn’t the river in Apocalypse Now, and I am not going to see Colonel Kurtz. This is not the heart of darkness, just one of its suburbs. But the prick up your ears alert feeling doesn’t go away. There are wolves here…beware… I approach the end of the 4800 block and see a slight rise in the road ahead of me. To my right tall trees crowd out the view ahead. I cross into the 4700 block and like a curtain being drawn abruptly back the trees part. The first thing I notice, is an neglected street sign staring me in the face, like the empty socket of a skull.

Aw wassamatter John…? Don’t want to advertise your presence here? Not quite sure what to put on your signage? I drive on past, and catch a glimpse of the roofline of the abandoned Episcopalian church LIA/R once was, instantly recognizable from the pictures I’d seen on the QAC website, and the New York Times article on Zach. Just past it is a small strip shopping center, with a nearly empty parking lot. I make a snap decision to pull in, the urge to grab my camera now overwhelming.

I take a leisurely stroll back toward LIA/R, looking around the neighborhood. Yale road is a somewhat busy four lane highway, but the church that is now LIA/R is tucked slightly back from it, up on a small hillside. There are tall trees all around it, but the effect is not one of quiet privacy so much as a shrinking away from the rest of the neighborhood. The entrance to the compound is back along one of the neighborhood streets, not off Yale. As I walk back I notice a second sign which, like the first, was clearly a leftover from the building’s previous incarnation as a church. It is painted over with whitewash. For a moment I just stare at it like an idiot. It is perfect…too perfect to have been intentional. Smid could have made no better statement of his life’s work then this.

Hello. We’re nothing. We’d like to make you nothing too.

It is starting to get late, and daylight is beginning to fade. Even with the occasional traffic of Yale Road, the place seems unnaturally quiet. Only a solitary cicada buzzes randomly in the trees somewhere. I don’t hear any birds, and not a whiff of human activity anywhere in the neighborhood. I stroll around the front of the compound taking pictures, until I cannot stand the sheer creepiness of the place with it’s empty staring signs any longer.

It is when I walk back into the strip shopping center parking lot that I notice it. I am about to toss my camera back in the truck, when I glance up and see another empty sign staring me back in the face. I look around. The little shopping center is full of vacant storefronts.

What the hell’s going on around here? Then a thought comes to mind. There is a large shopping mall right across Yale. It probably has taken away most of the business from this little strip shopping center. I look across the street, see an abandoned J.C. Penny’s staring back at me, from the middle of a huge, empty parking lot.

It is friday evening, rush hour is drawing to a close. The mall parking lot should be full of cars. There should be shoppers walking in and out the entrances. I see only a few lonely cars huddled around the main entrance, and not a single solitary human being anywhere in the parking lot. It is dying. I’ve seen dying malls. Ask anyone who remembers Rockville Mall what a dying mall looks like, and the impact it has on its surrounding community. This place is dying. It is empty. Whatever soul or spirit it once had, is gone. All that remains are the brick and mortar husks of a lot of hopes and dreams.

I have to get the hell out of there. I get back in my car. Before sundown, there is one other place I want to see for myself.

I want to get some sense of the environment Zach and his friends are living in. A strong feeling of not wanting to violate the kid’s privacy anymore then it already has been keeps me from considering looking at his school, or any nearby Bartlett hangouts for teens his age. But there is one picture of himself he posted to his blog, taken by a friend at a downtown eatery, La Baguette. On a hunch I googled it before my flight and found its website, and it struck me as a kind of La Bon Pan lite, nestled in an odd little shopping plaza, with a replica village street on the inside. It is getting late and I haven’t eaten since Baltimore, and I decide to take a look there and grab a bite to eat at the same time. I am curious as to what might have brought him down there from Bartlett, since I assume he isn’t driving yet. You don’t just wander aimlessly that far from home before you’ve gotten your driver’s license.

But my sense of this town’s scale fails me again. La Baguette isn’t all that far away. A friend could take him there in no time. As I drive past I look for any indication as to what may have brought him there, apart from perhaps knowing someone who works there. I see nothing obvious. There is an old brick High School nearby, but nearly all of his friends seem to be from White Station out in Bartlett. I see no arcades or shopping centers close at hand that would explain it. Then I drive past, and see a huge library complex exactly right next to where La Baguette is. Glistening and modern, there are signs out front billing it as the Memphis Information Center. I have no idea if that was what brought him and his friends out to that place, but it is a likely hunch. The sense I get from his blog is that he takes his school life seriously. He’s in two school clubs that aren’t the kind of clubs either brainless jocks or slackers tend to join, the Psychology and Latin clubs. And he’s a member of his school’s youth choir. He says he’s majoring in Aerospace research and development. So he seems to be taking it all seriously, and this friggin huge library complex is a likely reason for a student like that come here, and then perhaps grab a bite to eat with some friends afterwards. If that is the case, it only further makes the point, that throwing him into the jaws of Love In Action had nothing whatsoever to do with any kind of self destructive behavior on his part. It all happened to him, simply because he is gay and his nutcase fundamentalist parents found out.

I go inside and order a tuna sandwich. The young girl behind the counter smiles and apologizes that there are no croissants left. It is about an hour from closing time, but it looks like traffic in these parts trails off sharply after six. Probably after the library closes. As I wait for my sandwich I wander around the faux village street inside. There is a Pier 1 at one end, and various boutique stores in between. The little faux street is lined around La Baguette with tables and chairs, and glancing around, I see an empty spot where Zach and his friend sat when they took his picture.

While I eat my eyes wander…first to the faux village storefronts, then to Poplar street outside. I wonder what it must be like being a gay teenager in this place. But the only way I could really know is to be one myself here, and I can’t. The gay teenager I was grew up in the Washington D.C. suburbs of the early 1970s. It was a time of Vietnam, Nixon, hard hats, Love It Or Leave It, Jefferson Airplane, long hair, bell bottoms and Watergate. I was at the trailing edge of the baby boom generation that shoved back hard against the stifling conformity of the 1950s. But that sullen conformity has crept back into our world again, and while on the one hand it is a lot easier to be a gay teen now then it was when I was his age, on the other it is harder in a way I will never know, because I could at least stay low key until I was ready to come out. Things often went right over the heads of my heterosexual peers back then. Nowadays, with so much knowledge about homosexuality available, nothing goes over the head of anyone anymore. Gay teens are exposed and vulnerable in a way my generation never was, and there are predators like John Smid, waiting to gather them in.

I get up and put my leftovers in the trash. My eyes wander one last time to an empty chair, and look away. I have had enough of emptiness for one day. Tomorrow I will stand on the protest line. I need to be there now more then ever. Enough. Enough. There is one good kid inside that hell hole, and friends of his on the outside who are all missing a part of their lives now, and have to deal with this empty place where it once was until this is all over. And it was not done by piety, or any sort of love. It was done by arrogance. It was done by ignorance. It was done by hate. The emptiness here is not accidental, and not simply a consequence, it is the intent. Time and again survivors of LIA tell us that all it does is break you down from within. When people believe that they are the instruments of God almighty, and answerable only to that terrible conceit within that they keep mistaking for the voice of God, this is what they leave behind in their wake. Not love, but an aching void where love once was. We’re nothing, and we’d like to make you nothing too… There are people I need to stand with tomorrow, people who know what it is to actually love someone for the person they are, who need to know that they are not alone.

Next…Friday’s Protests, and a Memphis Blogger’s Bash…

[Edited a tad after I got back to Baltimore…]

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Thursday July 28, 2005

Off To Memphis

Will report on things as I get time. This is going to be a very busy weekend for me so posting here will be sporadic at best.

In the meantime, next week’s cartoon is a little early. But I had to get this one in before the protests Friday. Please note that because of my busy schedule next week, there will probably not be a cartoon on August 8.

And please…if you can make tomorrow’s protest please come. You will find directions to LIA/R headquarters on the QAC website here.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Wednesday July 27, 2005

Okay…Now I Don’t Feel So Bad

Looks Like Tom Tomorrow got a few spelling corrections of his own for this week’s This Modern World cartoon…

The point of the alien gibberish in the "crawl" was simply to capture the look of a newscast in a cartoon featuring two multi-tentacled alien creatures. I used what I thought would be an unreadable font which was, it turns out, not so unreadable. I confess to having typed in some stream of consciousness riff about Hannity and O'Reilly being morons and liars--but I wasn't really trying to pass along a secret message to the select few, I was just trying to come up with a plausible-looking string of alien word-shapes.

So to answer the two most common questions I'm receiving right now:

(1) The news logo behind the aliens translates as gibberish because it is gibberish; and

(2) Yes, apparently if you translate the crawl, I mistyped the word "moron" as "morpon."

And while I'm flattered that so many of you would take the time to figure that one out, I have to say, you're scaring me a little bit here, people.

(smile) Somehow, I know I will never feel quite so badly again about getting the occasional spelling correction.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Tuesday July 26, 2005

Waving A Rainbow Flag While Walking Down An Interstate Full Of Cars With Radios Tuned To Jerry Falwell’s Old Time Gospel Hour

Now why is this not surprising?

Speaking at a conference of Exodus International, the largest religious group promoting the idea that gays can can change their sexual orientation, Rev. Jerry Falwell endorsed forcing gay kids into counseling designed to change their sexual orientation.

Falwell compared allowing a child to identify as gay with allowing children to play on the interstate and dismissed psychologists' claims that consent is fundamental to a healthy counseling relationship and that parents should not force their gay kids into therapy.

Nice of him to be concerned.

"So-called gay folks would just as soon kill you as look at you."
-Jerry Falwell, quoted in a 1977 interview with Newsweek Magazine.

If being gay is dangerous for kids, it’s because louts like him have been actively trying to make it as dangerous as they can. When pulpits all over America are being thumped loudly with messages about how homosexuality will destroy the family, destroy America, destroy civilization, bring God’s wrath down on everyone’s heads, then…yeah…it’s going to be dangerous to be a homosexual in America. Ask Matthew Shepard’s parents. Ask the family and friends of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder. But if you think it’s only gay kids he wants to force into a little conversion therapy, you aren’t paying attention:

I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!

Jerry Fallwell, America Can Be Saved, 1979 pp. 52-53.

Oh happy day…when not only gays but everyone in America who isn’t a fundamentalist is brought under fundamentalist law, and the only religion you’ll be allowed to practice is their God hating, earth hating, human hating one. That’s what they want. Sure, they have to utterly destroy America in order to do it, but hell, they’ve hated America ever since it was born with an anti-establishment clause in its constitution.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Monday July 25, 2005

Memphis

I’ll be there for the Friday protests. It’s a tight squeeze timewise, but if I fly I can do it. I’ll have to travel a tad lighter then I would have liked is all. So I can’t take my trusty Canon F1s, let alone the Hasselblad. But it’s good practice for doing this sort of thing more often. Bill Mauldin often went to news hot spots, something a political cartoonist isn’t really expected to do. But he took his work that seriously, and I think I can at least try to do more of that in the future. But more then that, this is one of those moments in our struggle whose power I don’t think people are really aware of yet. Nobody knew the Stonewall riots would take on the life they did, take the place in our history they did, until years after, when it became not only clear, but obvious. Stonewall wasn’t about that one bar, or those few patrons who were rounded up like so much human garbage into police vans. It was when we finally, at long last, had enough of being persecuted simply for existing. That is, at rock bottom, what the outrage over the case of Zach is about. One good and decent kid comes out to his parents and he gets thrown into a fundamentalist soul grinder, and people seeing it have just plain had enough. This has to stop. The hate has to stop. The cruelty has to stop. Enough.

Even if it’s just a matter of adding my body to the others in the protest line, this one is worth it. I want to be with these people. I want to talk to them. I want to remember their faces, and their voices, as we stood there together. I want to remember myself being there, and speaking truth to hate with my presence on the line. We exist. I exist. Our lives are not landfill for the emptiness in yours. My soul is not a blackboard you can scribble your will upon. Years from now, mark my words, we will as a community be remembering this moment. This we will all say, was when the ex gay movement roused an angry sleeping giant. Beware the fury of a patient people.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Corrections

I have this spelling thing I just can’t shake. I can look at a word I’ve misspelled dozens of times and still not catch it. But I have readers who do, and I’ve corrected the mistakes on this week’s cartoon, and the previous post title.

Big Protest This Friday At Love In Action HQ

Things have been hectic at Casa del Garrett, which is why I wasn’t posting over the weekend. But I may have some news later on, so please stand by.

QAC is calling for a massive protest this coming Friday at LIA/R Head quarters in Memphis. If you are in the area, please consider going. This may be the last of the protests for a while, as Zach is theoretically leaving the program he was forced into on Friday. But the work against these predatory ex-gay camps will continue. Further action is being planned, and we should all commit ourselves to seeing these places shut down, and ideally, the people running them, like John Smid locked up for child abuse.

I’m going to try like all hell to be there, but at the moment it seems a remote chance. I have a full plate at work, and a programmer’s conference in Portland I have to fly out to on Sunday. That makes driving down a real tight squeeze timewise, and flying down would be almost prohibitively expensive. But I’m working on it.

And speaking of the ex-gay world, I received my copy of Fish Can’t Fly, a documentary about the experiences of people who put themselves through the ex-gay soul grinder. It is by turns a heartbreaking, and yet deeply inspiring film, and I urge you to take a look at it sometime. Peterson Toscano is interviewed, and a small bit of his one man show, Doin’ Time In The Homo No Mo Halfway House is shown. Also interviewed is author and activist Wayne Besen, author of the ex-gay ministries expose’ Anything But Straight. If you know little about the ex-gay world except what its leaders, its poster children, and the main stream news media say, then you need to watch this film. The public face of the ex-gay movement, couldn’t be any more different from the private, hidden one.

At the end of the DVD is bonus material, which includes a brief portion of an interview with John Smid. In it, Smid takes his usual line that both the religious right and gay critics of LIA just don’t understand, and would all to an individual get down on their knees and say “Why yes John Smid, you are doing the right thing indeed!” if only they would “come into our circle”. Ah, yes, but that’s the catch. He can’t tell anyone on the outside what goes on inside LIA, because that would breach client confidentiality. And once on the inside, you have to sign non-disclosure papers. So all Smid really wants those of us on the outside to about his little ex-gay grinder, is what he tells us: and he’s the guy who says God cures people of their homosexuality, by making them see a blue wall, where there’s really a yellow one.

But as more and more of the gay people he’s abused over the years come forward, we are getting that picture of the inside anyway, and it is damning. No John, you’re not doing the right thing. But until now you were just preying on adults you could lure into your little cult. That was bad enough, but now it’s teenagers that you’re taking in, gay teens who are perfectly comfortable with who and what they are, and you are forcing them to endure the same emotional abuse a child molester would. You’re not only wrong, you’re a criminal John. One of the worst kinds there are. You belong in jail John. And in the just world a lot of us are working towards now, that’s where you will be going.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

Friday July 22, 2005

Victims

[Bruce is in a pulpit thumping mood of his own today]

Wayne Besen, in his current column, tells us we should view Zach’s parents as victims also, in the right’s deathly game of political scape goating. Zach’s father, Joe Stark, he says, is a pawn who will likely one day come to greatly resent being manipulated by the right.

First, his statement that gay people die at 30 comes directly from the work of Paul Cameron, a disgraced researcher who was kicked out of the American Psychological Association for distorting the facts on homosexuality. Second, it is clear from Zach's blog that Stark bought the right wing lie that Zach is gay because he wasn't raised properly...

This canard is a staple of conversion therapy and a mammoth burden weighted on the shoulders of guilt-ridden parents who did nothing wrong, but are assigned blame...Unfortunately, Zach's parents are being victimized by the right wing offering them outdated and disproved research from the 1950's and 60's. I suspect, in time, they will also be outraged by the right's dubious use of "blame the parents" pseudo science.

That Zach’s parents are in some sense victims in this is true as far as it goes. You only have to read the kid’s own blog to realize that the Starks have a teenage son many, many parents would gladly have raised themselves, cheerfully accepting the fact of his sexual orientation in the process. He wasn’t having sex, wasn’t doing drugs, was a member of his school’s youth chorus and its Psychology and Latin clubs. And that so many of his peers rushed to his support over this, risking some of them their own parental ire, speaks volumes to the goodness they all saw in him. That the Starks are blinded by prejudice to the point they cannot see the person they’d raised, for the homosexual he is, has certainly denied them the wonder and joy of being parents. But that is not to say that their emotional brutality toward him is being done out any sort of misguided love or ill advised concern for the boy’s welfare. Oh no.

I grew up in that milieu myself. I was raised in a fairly strict, but old line Baptist faith. My mother’s side was religiously conservative, and for most of my childhood years, God, prayer and church were fixtures in my life (my father’s family were laid back, Californian agnostics, and the two sides of my family tree did not get along at all). I attended church regularly, went to the occasional tent revival, was a member of the Royal Ambassadors for a brief time, and every summer spent a few weeks in Vacation Bible School. But I was raised in a traditional Baptist faith, that has always insisted that everyone must find their own way to God on their own two feet. That is why Baptists don’t baptize small children. Other friends of mine at the time, were raised in Southern Baptist churches. Their lives seemed very similar to mine on the surface, but I had to do a little growing up before I finally realized just how profound the difference between their faith and mine was.

I can explain just how vast the difference was, by relating one simple fact of my childhood: when I was fourteen, I felt perfectly free to tell mom I wouldn’t be going to go to church anymore.

Did I say she was a religious conservative? She was. But her conservatism reached back to a long tradition of Baptist faith. When I was fourteen my internal understanding of God had simply become too divergent from what I felt I was being taught in church. The God I had come to love, was the God I saw in nature, and in the stars above. During that time mom and I had some somewhat fierce discussions about evolution, and how the earth was created. She never once took a position of biblical literalism, but she always insisted that science was a less perfect way of understanding God then the Bible. My coming to a better understanding of what “original sin” meant, and the redemption of the cross, further pushed me away from the church. Our discussions of that treaded lightly over ground that was delicate for both of us. Almost certainly at the time the stresses between my two family trees had something to do with my feelings about original sin. To accuse me of acting too much like my father (he being a cheerfully ungodly man) was a favorite weapon of my mother’s side of the family (but not my mother) all through my childhood. But I saw the injustice of original sin immediately, and flatly refused to believe that the God I saw would do such a thing.

Mom questioned me intensely on it. I am convinced now that had she thought I was just shirking church, she’d have dragged me in herself. But it was a matter of conscience, and she was a Baptist. For the rest of her life mom gently, but persistently kept encouraging me to go back. But she never once demanded it. That was simply not the Baptist way.

Many years later, a grown man in my thirties, I fell in love with one of my childhood acquaintances, the son of family friends who went to a southern Baptist church mom attended for a while. It was while attending that church that I decided I was not a Baptist after all, and later, as my own sexual orientation grew increasingly apparent to her, mom also left it for another one closer to home, and I suspect her heart. But in the meantime I had made friends with some of the other kids there, and one day in my thirties, one of them came out to me, and we started a several year love affair. I’d actually worked for his father for a time, and had come to know the parents views on religion pretty well by then. So when my childhood friend came out to me, I had a sinking feeling that he’d not had it well. He hadn’t.

I’ve related some of his story elsewhere here. My point is that I’ve seen the difference between people whose faith teaches them a certain humility before God, and people whose faith teaches them that they are God’s favored few. I’ve lived that difference. Why seest thou the mote in they brother’s eye, and perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Faith is what you have, what you need, when you know you don’t know. We are all, like Newton once observed of himself, children at the seashore, now and then finding a prettier shell or pebble then the others, while all around us the great ocean of truth remains undiscovered. Faith is not an excuse not to know what we can, it is how we bear that which we cannot know. It is trust, in the face of doubt and the shear awesomeness of the creation we exist within. It is the humility in the face of that, which makes you pull back from doing anything to push someone out beyond where their conscience allows them go themselves. We are all searching for truth. The God’s eye view, is God’s alone. But when you are taught that faith means only blind obedience to authority, and on top of that, that you are one of God’s favored few, then you have no brakes. That’s the reason that fundamentalists can be so blood curdlingly vicious, even to their own flesh and blood.

And you have to keep in mind that while people may be born into a faith, they all choose at some level to remain in it. There is a sense that in some ways fundamentalism brainwashes a person into staying within its fold. That may be true to a point. But it is unquestionably also true that many, if not nearly all fundamentalists stay true to their faith, because it speaks to them at an intimate level no others can reach. You need a bit of courage, and no little faith yourself in the human status, to look carefully into what that means. The author Mary Renault once said that politics, like sex, is merely a reflection of the person within: if you are mean and selfish and cruel it will come out in your sex life and it will come out in your politics, when what really matters is that you aren’t the kind of person who will behave like that. To that I would only add one thing: religion. Religion, like sex, like politics, is a reflection of the person within.

When you say on Pat Robertson’s network that your son may not live past the age of thirty, you’re not telling the world how worried you are about him, you’re dragging him to the front of the church and cold cocking him in front of the congregation, to humiliate him, to rip away a little more of his inner self, right where you know it will bleed the most. Fundamentalism doesn’t want you to love God, but fear him. That’s how they can not care if you come to God willingly or not. And in the fundamentalist world view, the father stands in for God in the home. Wives must submit. Children must obey. Conscience and love have no place either in the home or at church. God hates you…I hate you…you’re going to burn in hell forever if you don’t shut up and do what you’re told.

That’s what Joe Stark was doing when he worried ostentatiously on camera that Zach was unlikely to live beyond the age of thirty. Even Paul Cameron isn’t saying our lifespans are that short. Joe may well have knocked a decade and a half off the figure he got, just to make his son’s chances seem even worse, just to make the impact of his words all that much more stinging. He was swinging his open hand at the boy, right in front of the whole wide world to see. That’s how fundamentalists behave, even toward their own flesh and blood. Especially toward their own flesh and blood. That self righteous look of trembling concern for someone you’re busy wringing tears of agony out of is one I’ve seen hundreds of times. It’s not an act, but that makes it all the more horrific. That’s how it looks when someone can see themselves being cruel, but cannot stop themselves. I was only following orders…

You can call that a lot of things, but it isn’t love. Besen says he bets Zach’s parents will embrace Zach over Pat. I’m not a betting man (that Baptist thing about gambling is something I’ve never been able to shake…), but I’ll say right now that my thinking is that Zach, like my ex, will never have a life of his own until he’s old enough to walk away from his parents and finds the inner strength to do it. In that world, you are simply not allowed to have a life of your own, you’re either inside or outside and everyone on the outside is the enemy. My ex had to move hundreds of miles away from home to be able to find his life. His parents seldom see him anymore. I drove hundreds of miles to visit my mother regularly, and we chattered on the phone with each other constantly, right up until the day she suddenly died. We never could agree about evolution, original sin, and the nature of God. But I can say I know what it is to be loved. Unconditionally, actually, loved. Of all the things she taught me, I see now that was the thing I needed to know most of all.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

What Fundamentalists Would Turn America Into In A Heartbeat If They Could

Behold The Fundamentalist Dream.

This is a picture of two Iranian gay teenagers moments from being hanged. Their crime? Allegedly it was for actually having sex. And dig this: in Iran, even the victim of a sexual attack must be executed too. But in this case, the alleged sex was consensual between the teens. They’d been imprisoned for 14 months after their arrest, beaten and tortured, and now, murdered. Simply and undeniably, for the crime of being homosexual.

Here in America, our own mullahs are chafing at the bit to do to homosexuals, what their brethren are doing in the theocracies of the middle east. Look at that picture again. If the religious right has his way, this is what America will look like one day soon.

Andrew Sullivan notes that in Europe now, gay rights campaigners are being threatened with death by Islamic extremists. So what’s new Andrew? And here in America, you think they don’t? Does the name Eric Rudolph ring any bells? Matthew and Tyler Williams? You keep using the word Islamofascist like it means something. But all it means is that you’re dense as a brick. A fascist is a fascist is a fascist. All your bellyaching about how European and American liberals are making excuses for so-called Islamic fascists…and you and your gay republican fellow travelers have been doing what by waving the flag for Bush and the republicans all these years exactly? The republicans incited religious passions against gay and lesbian Americans for votes last election, and who, besides you, were shocked? They’ve been building a mighty wave of hate and revulsion towards gay and lesbian people for decades now, that they could ride to power. Just what the hell do you think that wave’s going to do when it comes crashing down on us? That picture is the future they want for America. The kids in that picture could be teens that you know personally someday. And you’ll have helped deliver them to the black hooded hangmen. Their gallows will have your name carved on it Andrew. Don’t think it could happen here? As the religious right likes to point out, sodomy was a death penalty crime in colonial and post-colonial America. It already has happened here. And those laws are making a comeback if they have their way.

The British LGBT rights group OutRage is calling for sanctions, including trade against Iran, and for a breaking off of diplomatic relations. Call or write your congress critter and let them know you support OutRage’s call for action. And once again, let them know that you strongly support any policies that help end our dependency on oil as an energy source. Oil is such a global commodity now, that boycotting any one company to send a message to the country of production simply will not work. The only result of America buying more oil from outside the Middle East is that other nations, driven out of those markets, will be forced to buy there instead. That’s because the world is pretty much using as much oil as the producing nations can pump. And that situation is only getting worse. The industrial world as a whole needs to reduce the amount of oil it uses. We’re not just crapping up our environment, we’re feeding the haters of democracy. The only thing propping a lot of these dark age theocracies up is the transfer of wealth from productive liberal democracies via the oil conduit. They export oil and violent fundamentalism, and that’s pretty much it. If the argument against using drugs is that it puts large amounts of money into the hands of violent criminal gangs, well, that’s a pretty good argument for getting off our oil habit too.

by Bruce Garrett | Link

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