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Archive for April, 2010

April 25th, 2010

Reclaiming Our History, Our Selves

This came across my screen some time ago while browsing The Stranger blog, and I’ve been meaning to write about it…

The thing I was most excited about in the writing of this article is the discovery (thanks to the good folks at Horizon Books) of a poem from 1892 titled “Jeff and Joe. A True Incident of Creede Camp, Colorado” that was published in an 1897 collection of cowboy poems titled Jim Marshall’s New Pianner and Other Western Stories by William Devere, the self-described “Tramp Poet of the West.” The poem is an exceptional artifact. Devere writes of a pair of cowhands he knew at Creede Camp:

Jeff, yer see, thought well of Joe—
Knowed him thirty years or so,
Pal’d together down below.
Joe liked Jeff and Jeff liked Joe,
An’ through all the changin’ years,
Sheered each other’s smiles and tears.Worked together, tooth and nail,
Punchin’ cattle up the trail;
Dealt the old thing; tackled bluff;
Each one blowed the other’s stuff,

The cowboys enjoy a fairly open, long-term committed homosexual relationship…

Uncovering the story of gay people throughout the pages of time is a kind of archeology.  Our past has been carefully buried by layer upon layer of prejudice, hate and oppression.  Sometimes, as in the case of ancient poems, the burial involves nothing more then the deft changing of a pronoun by some past editor or copyist.  A monk, carefully transcribing an ancient text, happens upon evidence of the sin of Sodom and covers it over with a few strokes of the quill, and a same-sex love is thereby turned into another opposite-sex one.  The original manuscript can then be safely burned later, perhaps after saying a few prayers.  Most of Sappho, the greatest poet of ancient times, is lost to us now as is an entire book of letters written by the philosopher Aristotle to Hephaestion, the lover of Alexander.

That erasing of our history continues to this day.  The web page for the upcoming movie, Young Alexander the Great, advertises its telling the tale of Alexander’s teen years thusly:

Alexander is at school, where he lives and studies with other boys, the sons of Macedonian noblemen. Their tutor is the legendary philosopher, Aristotle. The atmosphere is friendly but competitive, however, Alexander experiences all the problems a modern teenager has today, be it bullies and cheats at school, or winning the affections of beautiful girls.

Our history, the poetry of our hearts across the ages, is carefully erased so we can cease to be human beings in their eyes, so we can be their convenient scapegoats.  Cowboys?  Gay cowboys?   In John Wayne’s west?  Are you nuts or something?

Joe gets sick and dies, after being assured by Jeff that he lived a good life, as a cowboy should, and that there’ll be no “gospel sharks” preaching or praying at his funeral. Devere pays tribute to the grieving Jeff:

An’ as for Jeff—well, I may say,
No better man exists to-day.
I don’t mean good the way you do—
No, not religious—only true.
True to himself, true to his friend;
Don’t quit or weaken to the end.
An’ I can swear, if any can,
That Jeff will help his fellow man.
An’ here I thank him—do you see?
For kindness he has shown to me.
An’ This I’ll say, when all is o’er,
An’ Jeff has crossed to t’other shore,
I only hope that you and me
May stand as good a chance as he.

That was written by someone who had actually lived the American west during the period later idealized by a Hollywood where any mention of homosexuality was prohibited by the Hayes code.   We know there was no casual acceptance of homosexuality in the American frontier because Hollywood told us so.  And it still does.  One year after Brokeback Mountain came unexpectedly and uncomfortably close to winning best picture, Hollywood gave us an updated 3:10 To Yuma.  So as to quickly reassure the movie going public that homosexuals, if they existed at all west of the Mississippi, were psychotic killers the guy in the white hat always dispatched at the end of the film, one was tastefully added to the remake.  Micheal Jensen at After Elton describes it thusly…

The new film 3:10 to Yuma delivers yet another coded gay villain to add to the already crowded pantheon. A remake of the 1957 film starring Glenn Ford, Russell Crowe plays the role of outlaw Ben Wade. Christian Bale co-stars as Dan Evans, the down on his luck Civil War veteran desperate enough to try to bring Wade to justice despite the near certainty he’ll die trying. And Ben Foster stars as Charlie Prince, Wade’s villainous henchman and second in command who oozes gay subtext.

To be perfectly clear, Foster’s part is actually rather small, so don’t expect GLAAD to issue a press release taking director James Mangold to task for denigrating the gay community. That being said, there is also no mistaking that Foster’s character is indeed coded as gay and is done so to make him even more unsettling to filmgoers since being a murderous sociopath apparently isn’t bad enough.

When we first see Charlie Prince, he is astride his horse, one hand draped delicately over the other with the limpest wrist this side of the Mississippi river. He is by far the nattiest dresser in the entire cast, and if that isn’t mascara he’s wearing when we first meet him then I’m Buffalo Bill.

Foster’s casting tells us a great deal about what Mangold intended for the character. He is a slight man, probably best known as Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand and as Russell, Claire’s sexually ambiguous boyfriend in Six Feet Under. Macho isn’t a word likely to often be used in describing Foster.

Within the first five minutes of Prince’s appearance onscreen, one character refers to him as “missy” and “Charlie Princess,” a nickname usually not uttered to his face, but apparently widely used behind his back. Naturally, Prince is utterly ruthless, killing anyone who gets in his way, and showing no emotion at all – not unless he’s interacting with Ben Wade, who clearly makes Charlie swoon.

You know how this ends…right?

The film’s climax is appropriately dire, with bullets flying every which way. Of course, the odds against Evans’ succeeding seem impossibly high, and I won’t give away the ending (except to say that it is improbable at best), but of course Charlie Prince does figure prominently.

He arrives at the very end, riding in to rescue Wade from Evans’ heterosexual clutches. Naturally, that involves putting a bullet into Evans, an act that so infuriates Wade that he in turn pumps Prince full of bullets himself. Shocked at the actions of the man he adores, the dying Prince looks like nothing so much as a dog being put down by his master.

As Wade watches Prince die, I couldn’t shake the feeling that thanks to the influence of Evans, he now sees Prince clearly for the first time. It is only then that he understands what friendship between two men should be like and it doesn’t involve what Prince yearned for. He may have been an outlaw and a murderer, but make no mistake – that isn’t the reason Prince has to die at the end of the film.

Brokeback Mountain uncovered a painful part of the story of gay people in the American west…if not the frontier days.   It was a surprise hit, and that outraged the Hollywood good old boys club.  In the weeks before the Oscar ceremonies, some members of the Motion Picture Academy, some of whom owed their careers to the closeted gays in the business, bellyached openly that not only were they not going to vote for Brokeback Mountain, they weren’t going to even bother watching it, a violation of Academy rules.  “If John Wayne were alive he’d be rolling in his grave,” said Ernest Borgnine.

Clearly, something had to be done…

What surprised most of all is that the homophobic subtext isn’t a leftover relic from the original 3:10 that Mangold felt compelled to include. That would’ve been bad enough, but instead almost all of the coded gay aspects in the remake were introduced by either Mangold or the film’s assorted screenwriters.

In the original movie, Prince is played by character actor Richard Jaeckel (The Dirty Dozen, Starman). At no point is his character called “missy” or referred to as “Charlie Princess”. In the saloon scene where Wade flirts with Emmy, Prince also spends time talking with her. Nor is it made to seem that Prince is pining over his boss, jealous over the attention he gives to others. At one point, he even discusses his having a wife.

One thing does remain the same in both movies: Prince dies in each, but in the 1957 version it’s at the hands of Evans, not Wade. Thus there is no message sent that Prince is being punished for his “queer” transgressions against Wade (which aren’t even present).

[Emphasis mine…] Perhaps that stopped John Wayne rolling in his grave.  On the other hand, maybe John Wayne would have appreciated a good story and good acting that broadened the audience’s understanding of their neighbors in this life.  Uber patriot he may have been but I don’t recall anyone ever suggesting he was a bigot.  And he starred in at least one western based on a novel written by an openly gay man.  It was William Dale Jennings‘  The Cowboys.  If Wayne read the book prior to making the movie, he had to know about it’s gay subtext.  In fact, the book was a source of controversy to publishers back in 1971 because of it, which sorta makes it surprising it was made into a movie at all, even allowing for the fact the gay subtext was cleanly erased from it.

As you read the story of Wil Anderson,  a small rancher so desperate to get his herd to market after all his men ran off on a gold rush, that he let’s himself get talked into taking on the town’s teenagers as help, it’s easy to just miss the sweet, and at the end of it tragic, teenage love story happening right there in front of you.  It is between Slim and Charlie Schwartz, and it’s tragic because in the end Charlie is shot by the bandits who try to steal Wil’s herd and Slim is the one who carries his dying friend’s body back to the wagon.

Slim and Charlie arrive at Wil Anderson’s ranch with the town’s other young teenagers and instantly Anderson picks up on the fact of their close friendship.   Slim looks to Wil to the the most mature, sensible kid in the bunch, while Charlie, who has a game leg, doesn’t look like he’ll make the cut.  Wil doesn’t want to take on a cripple and right away Charlie seems a bit of a hothead.  But Slim is very protective of his friend and Charlie eventually proves to Wil that he can do as good a job as any of the other kids.  When Charlie gets thrown in the midst of a stampeding heard of horses, Slim races out to rescue him, almost getting himself killed in the process when his own cinch breaks just as he snatches his friend from the path of the thundering herd.  Wil chews them both out for the mistakes they made that nearly got them both killed…

Then he turned to Slim and shouted as if the boy were a mile away: “And you Mr. Galahad, just you listen to me!  You better get down on your knees and pray God that cinch of yours really broke.  Because if I find it’s in one piece and only came loose I’m running your tail out of here today.  If you don’t know how to saddle a horse proper, you don’t belong on the Double-O!”

Mr. Galahad… It seems they are inseparable.  But Charlie is suddenly taken with Cimarron, a beautiful young Mexican drifter who wanders onto Wil’s ranch looking for work.  When Charlie decides to be Cimarron’s bunkie during the cattle drive, Slim gets a tad jealous…

Slim was eating alone off to one side.   Charlie Schwartz brought his plate over and sat down beside him.

“What’s the matter Slim?”

“Nothing.”

“Come on.”

“Well, shouldn’t I be kind of took back at the way you threw in with the bean-eater?  When your soogan burned in the barn I just naturally thought you’d be my bunkie.”

“He asked.”

“Did I have to ask?”

“I wouldn’t have thought so.”

“You gonna keep with him?”

“I guess.”

Well I never thought you’d choose a stranger over me.  And for sure not a bean-eater.”

“Call him Cimarron.”

“That’s not his name.”

“That’s his summer name.  It means somebody who ran away.”

“And that ain’t all.  It’s a name for somebody wild and lawless and won’t join in.  It must have been gave to him.  It’s too good for him to take himself.”

“He’s not really like that Slim.”

“And I’ll tell you something else, Charlie Schwartz.  I happen to know he has a desperado flag in his war bag.”

“A what?”

“One of them red sashes the old cowboys wore when they wanted to show off and raise hell.”

“Slim, I’ll thank you not to talk him down.  He’s my friend.”

“All right.”

Later on the drive, Wil takes note of which boys have partnered with which…

Early in the drive they began to split the blankets.  After a hard rain, they found that if they doubled up they could sleep on a tarp as well as under one.  Unexpected pairs tried each other out and became bunkies.  Only Slim and Weedy slept alone.  Nobody would have Weedy, and Slim would have nobody.

It almost goes right over your head because, well, that sort of thing just Never Happened in the old west.  Jennings doesn’t come right out and say what’s going on between Slim, Charlie and Cimarron, but as you read this next passage from the book, one that didn’t make it into the film, note that in Jenning’s glossary of cowboy terms at the back of the book, “bunkie” for “bedmate” is related to “bunky”, which is a horse that pitches…

Wil began to fret when Cimarron didn’t show up. It just about had to mean the beautiful little bastard had got himself into some sort of trouble down to the south. The Old Woman said, “No, maybe he just got himself loose in the foots and free in the fancy. Cimarron ain’t no fireside boy, you know. He don’t belong to nothing and nobody except himself. Could be he just cut his pocket pin and drifted.”

Everybody was looking at him. Wil felt tired and mean. He turned to young Charlie Schwartz and asked, “You’re his bunkie. You think that’s what he did?”

Young Charlie looked at the ground in what would have been blushing confusion if he hadn’t been so tanned. Then he looked up and set Wil Andersen back on his heels. “It takes more then sleeping with a man to know what’s on his mind.”

Wil looked at the ground. The Old Woman was smiling, but it was a good point. Wil almost liked the boy for a moment, because you could see he was worried about Cimarron too.

It’s easy, given how much of our past has been deliberately erased, for people to point and say that Jennings was a militant homosexual activist imposing homosexuality on a time and people in our nation’s history where there was no such thing.  But among other things Jennings relates in the glossary of cowboy terms,  a “gimlet” is a tool for boring holes, but  Gimlet-ended” to the cowboy meant a man with a small butt and to “gimlet” your horse was to ride it so hard it got a sore back.  As Jennings writes, something is clearly being alluded to there in cowboy slang.

Slang is worth paying attention to because it’s where words become art that everyday people use to describe their lives and their world.  The world of the cowboys was a real place with real people in it.  Some of whom, were same-sex couples.

An’ This I’ll say, when all is o’er,
An’ Jeff has crossed to t’other shore,
I only hope that you and me
May stand as good a chance as he.

Someday, we’ll have our history back.  All of it.  And…our poetry.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)


But…But…They Don’t Really LOVE…

(This was originally posted at Truth Wins Out)

A quote by newly out Christian musician Jennifer Knapp scrolled by my screen a few moments ago. I’m going to quote the entire passage from the Christianity Today interview

Q: So why come out of the closet, so to speak?

Knapp: I’m in no way capable of leading a charge for some kind of activist movement. I’m just a normal human being who’s dealing with normal everyday life scenarios. As a Christian, I’m doing that as best as I can. The heartbreaking thing to me is that we’re all hopelessly deceived if we don’t think that there are people within our churches, within our communities, who want to hold on to the person they love, whatever sex that may be, and hold on to their faith. It’s a hard notion. It will be a struggle for those who are in a spot that they have to choose between one or the other. The struggle I’ve been through—and I don’t know if I will ever be fully out of it—is feeling like I have to justify my faith or the decisions that I’ve made to choose to love who I choose to love.

[Emphasis mine…] The problem after all isn’t sex, it’s love. But asking people to acknowledge that same-sex couples love is precisely the problem. Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex… People sitting in the pews side-by-side with their gay neighbors aren’t asking them to choose between their love and their faith. When they look at same-sex couples they don’t see love at all…merely sex. They are “struggling with homosexuality”. The bedrock prejudice insists, absolutely insists, that is all there is to same-sex couples. Empty, barren, transient lust. Gay couples, as Orson Scott Card once said, are just playing dress-up…

“However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be, what they are doing is not marriage. Nor does society benefit in any way from treating it as if it were…”

“They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes…”

-Orson Scott Card, Homosexual “Marriage” and Civilization

However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be… There’s the problem. Look at it if you have the nerve. This isn’t about sex.

In the fight over same-sex marriage, it’s often argued that gay couples cannot rise to the level of marriage because they don’t produce children, and marriage is mostly about family life. But this argument is a sham. And it mirrors another sham argument often heard in conservative religious communities, that being homosexual is not a sin, only engaging in homosexual acts is. If only the homosexuals just didn’t have sex, they could be welcomed into the kingdom of Heaven too…just like the rest of us. But heterosexual couples, medically incapable of having sex, are as welcome to marriage as they are the Kingdom and nobody in either group is saying that same-sex couples can marry as long as they don’t have sex.

The heterosexual couple who stick together even if they are denied a sex life, are seen as vindicating the power of love. That is why sterility among heterosexuals is no barrier to marriage. But same-sex couples somehow defile the institute of marriage with their very presence, whether they bring children into it (via adoption) or not, whether they can have sex or not. And that is because homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.

It’s not about children. It’s not about family life. It’s not even about heterosexuality. What homosexuals steal from people like Orson Scott Card is the idea that marriage is about love. All arguments to the contrary, what this fight is about, Exactly, is love, and who can be allowed to love and be loved, and who cannot. Marriage is love’s sanctuary, a sacred place where lovers can find shelter, protection, support. Letting homosexuals, who are incapable of love, into it, defiles that sanctuary, turning it from a sacred place into a brothel.

However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be… In 1983, Sharon Kowalski suffered severe brain injuries in a motorcycle accident leaving her unable to care for herself. Her lover, Karen Thompson, with whom she had exchanged wedding bands and shared a house, had to fight a long and bitter legal battle with Kowalski’s parents, who refused to allow Thompson any contact at all with their daughter. When Sharon, with difficulty, typed her wishes to go back home with Karen on a keyboard provided by a doctor, her parents took the keyboard away. At one point, Donald Kowalski, Sharon’s father, asked a reporter in exasperated frustration “What does that woman want with my daughter…she’s in diapers!” For almost nine years Thompson fought it out in court with Kowalski’s parents, refusing to let the woman she loved be condemned to life in a nursing home where she would be kept isolated from the world outside and denied any therapy that would have allowed her to communicate her wishes to be taken back home to Karen. When she finally won, Donald Kowalski called her an animal.

What does that woman want with my daughter… A same-sex couple who cannot have sex would be, if unrepentant nonetheless, ineligible for the Kingdom, let alone marriage. It’s not about the Act, if not engaging in the Act makes no difference. Their crime is that they love, and love is not permitted to homosexuals.

We cannot be human beings, we must be animals. Not sinners in need of salvation, but scapegoats for other people’s sins. The right wing politician who goes hiking the Appalachian trail with his mistress while his wife and children wonder where the hell he went. The religious right preacher who gets caught visiting prostitutes. The conservative moralizer who gets caught gambling. Jennifer Knapp didn’t choose love over faith, but love over fame because there was no other way. Karen Thompson fought for nine years to free her beloved because their was no other way. The gay civil rights struggle is not a fight over scripture. It has nothing to do with faith. It is not about sex. It is a fight over the right, the essential human need, to love and be loved. Because love can overcome any obstacle, endure any hardship, hold on to any hope no matter how distant and faint. Because love can move mountains. Because the one thing you never want the scapegoat to do is move mountains.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on But…But…They Don’t Really LOVE…


How The Game Is Played…(continued)

(This was originally posted on Truth Wins Out…)

Actually…I was expecting a bigger pushback then this…

Obama’s Order on Hospital Visitation Doesn’t Change Much, But Pleases Homosexual Activists Nevertheless

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama’s latest overture to the homosexual community – an executive order directing his Health and Human Services Department to issue new federal rules on hospital visitation and medical decision-making – is a “solution in search of a problem,” one conservative activist said.

CNS, formerly the Conservative News Service, now going as the Cybercast News Service, is an arm of Right Wing activist L. Brent Bozell The Third’s Media Research Center. This is how they report news as it relates to gay and lesbian Americans: They interviewed some heterosexual hospital workers, a chaplain from the right wing Ave Maria School Of Law (Justice Scalia helped develop the school’s curriculum, and Clarence Thomas delivered its first annual Ave Maria Lecture), and Peter Sprigg of the anti-gay Family Research Council…

…all of whom say nobody ever discriminated against the gays to begin with:

The Rev. Michael Orsi, chaplain and research fellow in law and religion at Ave Marie School of Law in Florida, told CNSNews.com that his work with AIDS patients in a New York City hospital in the 1980s impressed upon him the need for sick people to have the support of people who love them.

“Whenever someone does a health care proxy, there is no stipulation that the person has to be a spouse of the opposite gender — or a spouse at all,” Orsi said. “So with a health care proxy, you can appoint anyone that you trust to make those decisions. And so there is no law prohibiting that.”

Oh really?

Sprigg, who made hospital visits in his previous work as a pastor, said he’s never known hospitals to interfere with visitors – regardless of whether the visitors were related to the patient or not.

“I just don’t think that this is a very common problem,” he said. “I think ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you just walk into the hospital, you walk into the person’s room. Nobody stops you. People talk about this issue — you would think there is airport level security surrounding hospitals in America. That’s just not true. The idea that you have to present ID or persuade them to let you in is just laughable,” Sprigg added.

Laughable. Actually…I think this is what Peter finds laughable…

Obama Mends Old Wounds Extends Health Care Rights to Gay Partners

President Obama issued a surprise memorandum Thursday night, April 15, calling for an end to discrimination against gays and lesbians by hospital visitation policies that limit visitors to immediate family members.

The timing for release of the memo was a little odd—at 7:29 p.m. while the president was onboard Air Force One enroute back to Washington from a day of events in Florida.

After signing the memorandum onboard Air Force One, the president then called Washington State resident Janice Langbehn to express his sympathy for the loss of her partner of 18 years, Lisa Pond.

Pond and Langbehn’s story was the subject of a profile last year in the New York Times, illustrating one of the urgent problems gay couples face because they cannot marry and because some entities still refuse to respect their relationships.

During a family vacation to Miami, Florida, in February 2007, Pond collapse with an aneurysm and was taken by ambulance to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s trauma center. When Langbehn and their three children arrived at the hospital, a hospital social worker said they would not be able to visit Pond, even though Langbehn and Pond had executed a health proxy and Langbehn had a friend fax the document to the hospital.

[Emphasis mine…] Yes…that’s real belly laugh that all right. And…oh look…here’s another moment of lighthearted hospital mirth…

Flanigan v. University of Maryland Hospital System

On October 16, 2000, on a cross-country trip to visit family, Bill Flanigan’s partner Robert Daniel was admitted to the University of Maryland Hospital’s Shock Trauma Center with a serious illness. Despite the fact that Flanigan and Daniel were registered as domestic partners in California and that Flanigan had with him a Power of Attorney to make health care decisions for Daniel, hospital personnel prevented Flanigan from seeing his partner. Hospital staff told Flanigan that only “family” members were permitted to visit and that “partners” did not qualify. Flanigan was unable to consult with doctors or to tell surgeons of Daniel’s wish to forego life-prolonging measures such as a breathing tube. Several hours later, when Flanigan was finally allowed to visit, Daniel was no longer conscious, his eyes were taped shut and doctors had inserted a breathing tube. Daniel never regained consciousness and died three days later.

Daniel was terrified of having a tube stuck down his throat…and guess what happened. And he’d been put into restraints as well, probably because he tried to fight having the tube inserted. Laughable. Laughable.

Both Flanigan and Langbehn suffered the same fate in the courts: both hospitals argued that oh goodness they weren’t discriminating against homosexuals goodness no they were too busy taking care of Daniel and Pond to allow their loved ones into the room at the time and oh goodness it was just coincidence that in the case of Daniel they stopped being busy at the exact moment Daniel’s mother who goodness just happened to be his legal next of kin arrived. And the heterosexual juries bought it because goodness knows doctors need to be able to concentrate on doing their jobs not letting in visitors willy-nilly.

Peter Sprigg, if he was an honest bigot these days like he used to be not all that long ago

Discussing his opposition to the Uniting American Families Act — “which would allow gay Americans the same right straight Americans have to sponsor a foreign partner for citizenship” — Family Research Council Vice President Peter Sprigg recently offered rhetorical support for exporting gay men and women from America. “I would much prefer to export homosexuals from the United States than to import them into the United States because we believe homosexuality is destructive to society,” said Sprigg.

…would say that exporting homosexuals from hospitals is a good thing. Take it as a measure of how much the tide has turned against the hate factories that they can’t come right out and say the filthy homos should consider themselves lucky hospitals even treat them, and not turn them over to the police for prosecution under the sodomy laws.

But if you can’t make homosexuality disappear you can at least try to pretend anti-gay discrimination does not exist. And one way you do that is to not talk to any homosexuals about discrimination, in an ersatz news article about anti-gay discrimination.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on How The Game Is Played…(continued)

April 13th, 2010

I’m Sorry You Don’t Get Me. Now Here’s A Picture Of A Rabbit With Pancakes On Its Head.

I’m reading in The Advocate that another Jesus Music star has come out…Jennifer Knapp…who was apparently a “…million-record-selling, multiple-Dove-award winning Christian singer-songwriter.” when she walked away from it all amid rumors that she is a lesbian.   And as I read her story, I read this…

Knapp no longer feels like being gay and being Christian are in opposition, even if others do. “I’m quite comfortable to live with parts of myself that don’t make sense to you,” she says.

Emphasis mine.  She had to basically leave music and her country for a period of time in order to find this comfort, and more to the point, in order to have it knowing that some of what he was comfortable with would not make sense to some people, sometimes.  She had to get away from practically everyone and everything to, as the saying goes, to find herself.  But if the individual person is their own unique song, that song is not so much a Thing as a performance of many different instruments…some of which are older then the fish, let alone the mammals, let alone the primates, let alone we humans let alone you.

We are amazing creations, each of us not only bearing our own history, but also the history of life on earth in our blood and bones, and sometimes in our deepest thoughts and feelings whether we’re aware of them or not.  That we struggle sometimes to understand ourselves is probably the most understandable thing about is.  One of the biggest ugliest crimes certain organized religions…and political movements…perpetrate is to set the parts of us that make us a whole human against themselves, so we end up tearing ourselves apart, after which they, the church or the party, offer to come inside and clean the mess up for us.

How convenient.  And how convenient that they have to keep on doing it, because left to ourselves we mess everything up again.  If there is such a thing as Sin, capital ‘S’, in this life, then to teach a kid to fear themselves, to hate themselves, to regard themselves as innately untrustworthy, must be a big one.

But it isn’t just organized religion and politics.  It can start in childhood with the taunts about anything from being left-handed to having a strange accent or red hair or a favorite book or a particular skill at something.  Anything about you can be a target for bullies, well meaning adults who just don’t get you, or uncomprehending friends who think this or that little thing about you is just…you know…Weird…

So you grow up mistrusting a part or parts of yourself.  You hide them from view lest you get taunted again and the hurt returns.  It isn’t just sexual orientation.  I was a little bookworm in school and for years I got taunted as That Kid Who Uses Big Words.  I loved to draw and paint and for a brief period I remember turning Everything I did in school into an art project, until the grief I caught for drawing on my test papers finally made me stop.  One teacher wrote in my files (which I later saw) that Bruce “…takes excessive interest in personal art projects.” Probably she was trying to warn the other teachers down the road that they were dealing with a little fay boy who needed some toughening.  I was good at figuring things out, especially technical things, and I was always wanting to share what I’d discovered with others, discovering in the process that others didn’t necessarily get it or even care.   I was the Weird one.

The blessing in disguise was I had a personality that would have suffocated had I tried to conform anyway and that kept me from trying too hard.  But over the years I have hidden things about myself in order to make friends and that’s always self defeating in the end.   To make friends who accept you as you are, you need to be…well…As you Are.

As Knapp sings on “Inside,” the track from Letting Go that “I play when I get angry,” what Knapp fears the most is that “I know they’ll bury me / Before they hear the whole story.”

A lot of us come out of adolescence with parts of ourselves deeply buried.  You eventually start reclaiming your inner self, stop being ashamed or embarrassed of things you really never needed to be ashamed or embarrassed about in the first place.  But that’s the easy part.  The hard part is being comfortable with those parts of yourself not making sense to others.

That’s what can take years.  Decades even.  Ask me how I know.  I had an old and dear friend once lecture me when we were alone that being crazy is okay so long as I  concealed it from the rest of the world.  But I’m not crazy, I don’t think I even qualify as eccentric.  Not by gay community standards at any rate.   But crazy or not, I can’t be anything else but me.  Well…I could pretend…but I won’t.  Not anymore.

I’m quite comfortable to live with parts of myself that don’t make sense to you.

My sexual orientation, my geeky techno babble, my ability to just disappear into my head for hours at a time, my odd fascination with seemingly random objects in the world around me.  All that Weird Stuff inside of me, is also part of  all this…

Maybe this image says something to you.  It did to me when I was standing in front of it with my camera.  Now you have it too.

And…this…

I do this.  And also…this…

“…takes excessive interest in personal art projects.” Whatever.  She may just as well have written that I take excessive interest in electronics, in books, in the other boys.

It’s a struggle familiar to most gay people, even those who haven’t had to make room for sex and God, often uncomfortable bedfellows. Choosing to come out can still mean choosing away from family and friends who just can’t accept us as well as making institutions like marriage and parenthood exponentially more difficult to access. For Knapp, the process of bringing faith and sexuality into a coherent self required her to step away from her life and career in the U.S. The music that had spoken through her voice and hands became completely alienating. “I would think, I don’t even have a right to sing a song I wrote, because I am a hypocrite,” she says. Knapp spent her first three years as “a PlayStation guru,” and, when she tired of that, spent four years working at everything but music. She didn’t even pick up a guitar until her last year in Sydney. “I was building something new, starting something fresh,” she says. “I had to go someplace that would completely redefine my perspective of who I was in the universe.”

Coming out is, I have come to realize in my middle ages, not only an issue for gay people.  A good slice of the human race have issues with being told they’re weird for various reasons.  We’re encouraged to bury those parts of ourselves so that our neighbors in this life don’t have to deal with things that don’t make sense to them.  And yet, all that weirdness inside of us is sometimes considered useful.  Beautiful even…

Later that night Knapp plays a set to a full house at Manhattan’s City Winery.

I read this on Andrew Sullivan’s site just as I was composing this blog post last night.  And serendipity it was…

Jonah Lehrer passes along some research:

Eric Barker recently referred me to this interesting study, which looked at how elementary school teachers perceived creativity in their students. While the teachers said they wanted creative kids in their classroom, they actually didn’t. In fact, when they were asked to rate their students on a variety of personality measures – the list included everything from “individualistic” to “risk-seeking” to “accepting of authority” – the traits mostly closely aligned with creative thinking were also closely associated with their “least favorite” students. As the researchers note, “Judgments for the favorite student were negatively correlated with creativity; judgments for the least favorite student were positively correlated with creativity.”

This shouldn’t be too surprising: Would you really want a little Picasso in your class? How about a baby Gertrude Stein? Or a teenage Eminem?

Perfect!   The little dears wouldn’t draw inside the lines and that makes teacher frown.  But sometimes we make people smile too…

She follows old friend Derek Webb, a straight and happily married Christian artist, who plays “What Matters More,” a track off his recent album that is explicitly critical of antigay Christians. Knapp is less blunt, playing a mix of her Christian favorites and new songs that hew to themes of love and loss. She does include “Inside,” the song that broadcasts the fears and frustrations that lick around the edges of what is otherwise an exciting and joyful return to what Knapp does best. But as she closes the set, graciously telling the applauding crowd that the night’s schedule doesn’t allow an encore, it’s clear that no matter what happens next, Jennifer Knapp will be playing music

You have to let people be weirded out.  You have to let them put you into whatever little box they have handy, that lets them quickly dismiss you, categorize you, calculate, number, index and catalog  you.   Some people just have to have their boxes.  Just so long as you don’t put yourself into one.  All those things that make you different from the others.  It doesn’t matter they don’t understand.  Just so long as you do.   Or even if you don’t, that you’re comfortable with it.  Better you don’t make sense to people sometimes, then you don’t make sense to yourself.  Creativity and oddness just go hand in hand and you don’t want to wake up one day and realize you’ve buried everything inside of you that could have been grown wings and soared, that could have been beautiful, and now you can’t find it anymore.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)


How About A Day Of Keeping Your Hands Off The Altar Boys?

As usual, the upcoming Day Of Silence isn’t getting a warm reception everywhere.  Like the California Catholic Daily for instance…

Keep your children home
Pro-family groups urge parents to keep kids out of school on ‘Day of Silence’
(Editor’s Note: Some schools observe the “Day of Silence” on dates earlier or later than April 16. Parents should check with a particular school to determine if and when the observance is held there.)

TINLEY PARK, Ill. /Christian Newswire/ — On Friday, April 16, thousands of public schools around the country will permit students and teachers to refuse to speak during class during a political event sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) called the Day of Silence, which is intended to increase society’s affirmation of homosexuality and Gender Identity Disorder. A national coalition of pro-family organizations is asking parents to call their children out of school on the Day of Silence if their school permits students and/or teachers to remain silent during class.

Under the guise of anti-bullying, GLSEN’s goal is to have all children come to believe that moral disapproval of homosexual acts constitutes bullying and hatred and to make it socially unacceptable to express their beliefs that homosexual acts are immoral and dangerous.

GLSEN is using publicly funded schools to promote its agenda.

Worried about the children are you?

Bullying gay kids, whether it’s done by other kids or by adults, is a form of child sexual abuse, and I can understand completely why that isn’t regarded as such a big deal in Ratzinger’s house.  Every day is a day of silence for children who’ve been sexually abused in Ratzinger’s house…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on How About A Day Of Keeping Your Hands Off The Altar Boys?

April 11th, 2010

The Difference Between Having Values And Wearing Them

I’ve been meaning to link to this Fred Clark sermon…

12 vicious values (cont’d.)

I think part of the reason Glenn Beck’s 912 Project opts for the term “values” rather than “virtues” is because virtues take work. They require practice to acquire as habits.

This is not what the 912 Project is for. It is not a group or “movement” of people who have chosen to practice these 12 virtues in order to acquire them as habits. It is not a group that seeks to learn or to embody those virtues at all.

Look at that list again: Honesty, reverence, hope, thrift, humility, charity, sincerity, moderation, hard work, courage, personal responsibility, gratitude.

Does any of that characterize the agenda or the practice or the visible habit of Beck’s tea partying mobs? Were any of these virtues on display in the town-hall disruptions, in the angry marches or the signs carried under Beck’s “912” banner? Was there even a hint that these gatherings were composed of people even slightly interested in such virtues?

This is why Beck’s list of “12 values” can’t withstand comparison to the first similar-seeming list that comes to mind, the Boy Scout Law. The Boy Scouts of America isn’t my favorite organization as I’m not a fan of either homophobia nor vacuous civil religion, but I am a big fan of that Scout Law:

A Scout is: Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

Against such there is no law.

The 12 virtues listed there are at first glance quite similar to Beck’s, but the differences are telling. The Scout Law begins “A Scout is“…

Is verses waving them around like a damn flag.  This is the single most telling thing about the culture warriors.  They yap, yap, yap about Values…but they don’t ever act like they have any. And there’s a reason for that.  Values are to them as weapons to wield against the Faceless Other…not things that actually sustain and guide.  Values aren’t a part of your bedrock, they’re rhetorical tools to use as needed and discard like a Kleenex afterward.

You should go read the whole thing.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Difference Between Having Values And Wearing Them

April 8th, 2010

Too Clever For My Own Good…

This today from The London Telegraph…

Cleverest women are the heaviest drinkers

Women who went to university consume more alcohol than their less-highly-educated counterparts, a major study has found.

You don’t say…

I have often wondered about the relationship of intelligence to recreational drug use…and let’s be serious here, alcohol and tobacco are merely legal ones.  Sherlock Holmes did cocaine because his mind couldn’t stand being without a problem to solve.   I’ll go down to my household bar and humidor whenever Mr. Logical…

…this guy, if you’ve been reading A Coming Out Story, becomes too much to deal with.

The only cocktail I know how to reliably mix is the “Blue Glow-tini” I first had at the Disney World Hollywood Studios 50s Prime Time Cafe’.   I loved it so much I googled the recipe the instant I got home.  On thing I love about watching Rachel Maddow is her occasional Cocktail spot.  One of these days it’s going to motivate me into fixing up the art room bar a little nicer.  Add a bar sink and under the bar fridge and ice machine.  The disadvantage of having a brain is the world makes you want to drink, but at least having a brain lets you do it decently.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Too Clever For My Own Good…

April 7th, 2010

Accepting Yourself For What You Are

So I went to Key West a few weeks ago, for a little vacation with some friends.  I love Key West.  I absolutely love the climate (at least the winter climate…I hear the summer swelter is a bit much…).  Even more, I love its laid back live and let live attitude.  It’s a place where people go, creative people, intelligent people, non-conformists, go to live lives away from the mainland mainstream.  The t-shirts on sale everywhere there celebrate sex, drinking, cigars, smuggling, toking, Harleys, growing old and not giving a damn, being poor and not giving a damn, drinking, drinking, and sex.  Levittown it ain’t.   It’s San Francisco and New Orleans but more laid back.  It’s Taos but instead of mountains it’s surrounded by a beautiful turquoise tropical sea and never gets below freezing.

The old town part of the island shelters dozens of historical landmarks and structures with history going back to the first Americans, embracing pirates, salvagers, smugglers, shipwrecked settlers, writers, artists, actors and presidents.  Hemingway, Truman, Hunter S. Thompson, Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost and Thomas Edison called it home at one point or another.  The locals call themselves Conchs and call their island home a nice little drinking place with a tourist problem.

In 1982 the U.S. Border Patrol put up a roadblock between Miami and Key West, and vehicles were searched for narcotics and illegals.  The roadblock put a huge dent in tourism.  The city council complained to the Feds and got nowhere.  So Key West declared itself The Conch Republic, seceded from the Union, declared war on the United States (by way of the mayor breaking a loaf of stale Cuban bread over the head of someone dressed in a military uniform…), then immediately surrendered and asked for a billion dollars in foreign aid and war relief.

Well they didn’t get their billion, but the roadblock came down.

I love Key West.  Ever since my first visit, I’ve thought often about moving there someday.  I love its laid back, away from the mainland mainstream attitude.  And it is a party town, at least around Duval Street.  You practically can’t spit in any direction without hitting a bar, at least one of which, The Garden of Eden, is clothing optional.  There are strip clubs, gay and straight and the dancers will walk over to customers to negotiate commerce, barely legal and possibly otherwise as well.  A blind eye is turned to a lot of things as long as no one causes any trouble.  For all its open sexuality and drinking, there is actually very little rowdiness.

You have to love a place where all this can be going on and yet it stays laid back about it all.  I could love to live in a place like that.  The ironic thing is, this trip to Key West really emphasized it for me that I am not that.

I have this love/hate relationship with my Baptist upbringing.  Sometimes I feel like it made me grow up entirely too inhibited.  Sometimes I am deeply grateful for it.  There are values, moral values, I still hold to, and find ever more vital as I grow older, and see more and more of what a world without them looks like.  Honesty.  Prudence in ones financial matters.  Earning your keep, and the trust of others.  A regard for social justice, tempered by a little humility every now and then, when the urge to thump your pulpit strikes.  But for every positive, I can find a negative.

I was never allowed to think of myself as beautiful or desirable.  That was vanity and it was a deadly sin.  Once when I was in my middle teens, mom, grandma, and a few other family members were at the beach.  I had decided to wear the new swim suit I’d bought, which I knew might raise some eyebrows but I thought I’d dare it.  It wasn’t terribly sexy by today’s standards, but it was colorful and showed my body off at a time when I definitely had one to show.  I strolled out onto the beach with it feeling beautiful for one of the rare times in my life, and just loud enough for me to hear some of the folks made a few off color cracks about it…precisely aimed to embarrass the hell out of me.  I must have blushed fifty shades of red and went back to the hotel.  I never wore it again.

I’ve had trouble my entire life with being sexually inhibited, and it isn’t just the beating my psyche took being a gay adolescent.  But there is inhibited, and there is reserved and it’s taken me the better part of adulthood to discover that my sexual reticence isn’t all the result of having the bible beaten over my head all throughout my childhood.  It’s been like carving out a hunk of marble to find the shape within that is really me, and not the stone cast around me from an early age.  I think I’m about down to it now, and swear I’d have thought the inner uninhibited me was a tad more footloose and fancy free then this.  But…no.

My friends stayed in “Big Ruby’s”…a gay “clothing optional” bed and breakfast.  I stayed at the Coco Palm, just around the corner.  Let me tell you about that.  Two of the guys I went down with are a couple.  The other is a party kind of guy, and not to put too fine a point on it, he went down there for the sex.   So this guy makes some arrangements for rooms at Big Ruby’s and the night before, he sends me an email asking if I wanted to share a room with him.  I had a pretty good idea what he was going to be getting into down there and I didn’t want to be sharing a room with him if he was going to be bringing guys back to it.  So I made a polite excuse…told him I’m an “only child” who always had his own room and I like my privacy…blah, blah, blah…   The next day I learn he’d made arrangements for himself and my two friends at Big Ruby’s, but not me.  So I guess “yes” was the right answer.  But…NO.

In retrospect I’m glad I didn’t stay there.  My two friends got themselves a nice apartment room with a kitchen that we all used as a headquarters.  We used the kitchen for making lunch and sometimes dinner too, and we all relaxed around the pool during Big Ruby’s happy hour.  Since I wasn’t a guest there I couldn’t drink their booze, but the landlord was fine with my bringing my own liquor and sharing with the others.  And as I walked in and out of Big Ruby’s, I got an eyeful of the stuff going on there and sometimes it was embarrassing.  They had a hot tub…   Walking past it was a real challenge.  Part of me would be deeply embarrassed while that damn logical/analytical part of my brain was absolutely fascinated, full of questions.   Don’t they have lovers…???

I watched several naked guys rise from the hot tub at full attention and I was not only unaroused, but actually turned off by the whole thing, and I swear the thought crossed my mind right at that moment that maybe I’m not gay after all.  Later I tried to think of a situation where I would be aroused.  Immediately one came to mind, but it involved not a group of guys but one…one special one…just him and me in the tub all by ourselves.  The plus side of having the high intensity imagination I do is I can make myself all hot and bothered pretty easily.

Yeah, I’m gay all right.  Just not the kind of gay guy who goes for casual hooking up in the hot tub with a bunch of strangers regardless of how gorgeous they are.  While reading John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley I came across this saying: Cold Feet, Warm Heart. At the age I read it I kinda thought I knew what it meant, but it took years of growing up and passing through adolescence to really understand it.  Yeah.  That’s me.  Cold feet, warm heart.

So I wandered for a time amongst the party crowd at Key West, enjoying myself very much, but coming to an understanding, finally, that I am not that.  I am a quiet little romantic, who feels suffocated wherever people have to stifle themselves in order to survive.  I’m a shy little homebody looking for his soulmate, who despises people who impose particular gender and sexual roles on others.  I’m a gay man who understands intimately well how conformity kills the soul.  I’ve watched it happen.  I will not willingly live in that world.  Even if I could pass for normal in that environment…I couldn’t.  But I am not that.

by Bruce | Link | React! (4)

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