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April 30th, 2018

The Good Old Bad Old Days

“It’s all yuppies and kids in strollers and all of that — and a few old codgers,” Crowley, 82, said over a recent lunch. The gays have scattered, not just from that building but from others, and we’ve distributed ourselves throughout the city — and throughout society. Gay sanctuaries are vanishing.

Is that true of gay culture and gay identity, too? I increasingly get the sense that gayness itself has scattered, becoming something more various and harder to define. “Gay” tells you about a person’s lusts and loves, but it used to tell you more — about his or her boldness, irreverence, independence. It connoted a particular journey and pronounced struggle, and had its own soundtrack, sartorial flourishes and short list of celebrity icons. Not so anymore…

-Frank Bruni, the New York Times, The Extinction of Gay Identity

Once upon a time gay folk had no way of networking beyond a few urban cores in a few big cities. Long distance telephone conversation, let alone travel, was expensive and cumbersome and people just didn’t make friends much beyond their local neighborhoods. So the only gay communities large enough to have any sort of scene at all were the urban ones, and for decades those urban gay scenes defined gay culture and sensibility. But it was misleading.

I remember the advent of the personal computer and how those early very primitive PC networks began allowing gay folk from distant, exotic lands like…Kansas, to network with the more established gay neighborhoods in the big cities. Can you say Culture Shock. The flame wars sometimes got pretty intense and sysadmins would have to step in and chill everyone out. But eventually there came an understanding that the urban gay scene wasn’t where every gay person experienced life, culture, coming out and finding community. We are not like other ethnic and racial minorities, we are all the colors of the rainbow. It is our weakness and our strength both.

To the degree that our safe spaces, the bars and secret members only clubs we needed are vanishing now, because we are becoming part of the fabric of American society, becoming neighbors, shedding the myths, lies and superstitions that used to define us, that is an unconditionally good thing. I expect that the gay bar will never completely vanish for the same reason that all bars and nightclubs tend to arrange themselves around a theme and clientele. But we will see lots of the old hangouts vanish, only to be fondly remembered. That happens.

There’s a Facebook page I follow dedicated to those of us who grew up in Montgomery County Maryland that’s constantly reminiscing about everyone’s old favorite restaurants, bars and hangouts. It isn’t just gay folk watching them vanish. We all experience this as we grow older. There are so many places I miss now that had nothing to do with my sexual orientation. What’s changing for us gay folk is we are part of that story now too. We are becoming once again part of the communities and cultures we were exiled from once upon a time. Normalcy. But we will always still be different. Just from now on, different in the sense that everyone is in some way different. And from that will always come a sense of fellowship and community with others like us. The gay identity isn’t going extinct, it is becoming bigger. Because it was always bigger than the urban scene that for so long was all there was for all of us to see.

So many people of my generation have such fond memories of the 50s and 60s and 70s. Simpler times it is often said. But they seem simpler looking back on them because we were young and we were simpler. What Frank Bruni is bemoaning is a past that, like much of those fond memories of simpler, happier days gone by, wasn’t completely real.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Good Old Bad Old Days

April 7th, 2018

The Snagglepuss Chronicles

Recently DC Comics began a Hanna-Barbera “crossover” series and they are the strangest, weirdest things you will ever see in this lifetime. Imagine your favorite old Hanna-Barbera cartoons re-imagined as real people, not simple animated cartoons…the Flintstones drawn as an actual anatomically correct people, experiencing life as real flesh and blood human beings do, but still living in that Bedrock setting, or the Scooby Doo gang as real kids investigating paranormal events in the middle of the Apocalypse…and you get the picture.

I’d been taking a pass…I actually hated what Hanna-Barbera did to animation all through the 60s, 70s and 80s, which didn’t get turned around until Who Framed Roger Rabbit appeared and reminded everyone what real hand drawn frame by frame animation looked like. Even Disney was starting to loose it. But then I saw Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, and had an abrupt change of mind.

It’s actually brilliant…Snagglepuss re-imagined as a kind of famous and closeted Tennessee Williams-esq playwright, coping with the homophobic prejudices of the 1950s and 60s. Yes…they’re actually going there. And it’s not that hard at all to re-visualize that character in those terms…that pink oh so theatrical mountain lion whose tagline was Exit, stage…(right or left as need be). Weird though it is to see these characters drawn as if they were alive in our real world, and interacting with humans and it’s all taken for granted that its normal. And it is very Very weird. And yet…it works. 

Snagglepuss is a famous playwright in the mold of Tennessee Williams, working on getting his latest Broadway play ready for its opening night. But the story is set firmly in the pre Stonewall struggle for gay survival in a world that hates us from every possible direction. I especially like how the writers weave the cold war, it’s blacklists and witch hunts, and the threat of nuclear annihilation into the story. Then there are scenes like this one…where we see that the play Snagglepuss is putting on stage is very much autobiographical…

This is the central theme of issue 4, and perhaps the entire series. Huckleberry Hound is we discover, also gay and in the previous issues came to New York and connected with Snagglepuss again, who introduces him to the Stonewall Inn, where he meets and begins to date one of New York’s finest, a certain constable McGraw. But the Stonewall is raided…not the raid that provokes the riot this time…maybe that one comes later on…and constable McGraw is ordered to be part of the raiding party and ends up gay bashing Huck after Huck says to him “Hello again officer…” in front of McGraw’s superiors. He later breaks down in front of the Stonewall, aghast at what he’s just done. Snagglepuss wasn’t there, he was introducing his own wife to his boyfriend, because he’d grown tired of seeing himself as a coward.

At the end of this issue, Snagglepuss is bailing Huck out of jail, and as the panels wander among the nuclear wreckage of yet another desert a-bomb test, Huck tells him… “You were right, you know a man cannot pretend forever. A man can no more hide his nature than outrun his shadow. The truth is they will always find us S.P., whatever we do, wherever we hide, they’ll find us. We’re fools if we think otherwise. Our only choice in this life is to change the world or be destroyed by it. And God help me S.P., I’m not sure which one I prefer.”

It’s brilliant. There’s more I haven’t touched on…the references to the Blacklist…the government agent angry that S.P. isn’t willing to cooperate with their witch hunt…the nuclear bomb engineer who when asked whether the American public should know the truth that building bomb shelters is pointless says “Oh no! It’s a democracy. The truth is the last thing you want people to have.” and… “…there is no such thing as Truth. Only usefulness”.

For this I can accept the absolute weirdness of seeing the old cartoon characters drawn as if they were real and lived among us and it was all taken as normal. There was a time after all, that we thought Mutually Assured Destruction, digging bomb shelters in our back yards and leading school children in duck and cover drills was normal.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Snagglepuss Chronicles

January 23rd, 2018

That Is Now, This Was Then…

The Boys in the Band stars Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, and Matt Bomer on bringing play to Broadway

Put this down, I reckon, in the same category as I’m trying to get used to hearing the word “queer” as something other than a homophobic slur. I absolutely detested this play. And yet, seeing this group of proud out gay actors taking it on and making it theirs made me want to go watch them do it. I hated everything about this play, and especially its overall tone that so it goes for such as us. “If only we could learn not to hate ourselves quite so very much.”

And here we are, decades later, and we can marry the one we love, and gay kids can grow up not hating themselves, and seeing happy and whole lives ahead of them. But that is now, this was then…

“What I like so much about Boys in the Band is how the play right now reads so much as, ‘Look at how things have changed and look at how they haven’t,’” Parsons, 44, explains in the above behind-the-scenes video.

“We’ve come so far in the last 5 years, just legislatively. And yet there’s been this explosion of backward thinking and harmful thinking and political ideology that swept our country,” says Quinto, 40. “We are responsible for standing up and being acknowledged and celebrating ourselves and celebrating our community in a way that shows these people that are trying to undo the progress that we’ve made that we are not going anywhere.”

Adds Crowley: “You just have to be reminded of how our freedom didn’t exist. We can’t lose it. We can’t go back. There is no good time to tell it except all times.”

I’ll accept that, and go watch this play not as an historical document so much as in full agreement with Crowley’s warning. This is what will happen to us all over again, if things go back, if the Franklin Grahams and Tony Perkins of the world have their way. Yes…now I can see the play in a different light, now I can see how important it is to keep this play alive.

I bought tickets for the May 12 afternoon performance. Get train tickets and a hotel room within walking distance of it later…make a New York City weekend of it and take one of my good film cameras because they love Manhattan island very much.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Is Now, This Was Then…

October 9th, 2017

The Power Of Stories

I posted a short cartoon below about how it was being a gay teenager growing up in the late 60s to early 70s. How, no matter which direction you turned, the message was you don’t exist, or if you did, you should not. At best you were invisible…something not spoken of in polite company. At worst…well…you probably don’t want to hear it here.

Now at least we are visable. We can’t be arrested simply for being visible. Before Stonewall that was a fact of life. The riot happened you may recall, when the police came to raid one of our few bars in New York City. Now we can live our lives openly. Now we can tell our stories in our own words. And now we are, tentatively, becoming part of the audience. Stories are being told, not just about us, but To us.

That’s a problem for some people, who would rather the old rules still applied…

“Black”, “Homo” And “Freaking Females”: Heated Scenes As Retailers Turn On Each Other At Marvel NYCC Q&A

This was about the recent trend in comics to include, or even reimagine characters as women, black and gay. A recent storyline in the X-Men series had younger versions of the team being transported in time to meet their adult selves. One of them, Bobby Drake aka Iceman, is forced to come to terms with his sexual orientation that his adult self relentlessly denied. It made for some amazing and heartfelt drama, of the sort you didn’t use to see in the comics, especially of the super hero kind, and yet which you could have only have found within that genre…

Marvel Comics – Uncanny X-Men #60

This was just amazing, absolutely amazing storytelling. It took the gay generation gap and played it at an angle only this, or a science fiction tale could do, and in doing it made plain the horrible burden the older generation lived under due to the prejudices of their day. What do you do when the kid you once were, comes face to face with you and asks why he should have to live his life in the closet? It’s one thing to tell how it was to the new generation that doesn’t have to live it the way you did, doesn’t have to make the bargains with hate that you did. They need to know this history, if only to keep their watch against it all coming back. But how do you justify it to the kid you once were? What do you say to him?

This is what those retailers, and the readers they speak for, were protesting. And what you reliably hear is something along the lines of hey I don’t have anything against the gays, I just don’t want it shoved in my face. ‘It’ being the fact of our existence. Yes, you don’t have anything against the gays…so long as you don’t have to know we’re there among you. But it’s more than that.

Stories have power. Stories are how we pass down knowledge of what it is to be human. How are we supposed to grow and mature and live our lives as fully realized human beings if we are not allowed to know the stories of the lives of others like us. How are we supposed to grow as decent people if we cannot hear the stories of others who are not like us. How do we see the common human heart we all share. The myths, the legends. The hero’s journey.

The answer of course, is we’re not supposed to grow at all. Black…homo…freaking females. We have to stay where we’re told. In our place.

Marvel Comics – All-New X-Men #17

No we don’t…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Power Of Stories

November 28th, 2016

The Man With The Power

Those interesting little intersections between my gay heritage and my science-fiction geek child heritage. On a Facebook page I follow, dedicated to Retro Sci-Fi good stuff, someone posted the trailer to the George Pal film version of Frank M. Robinson’s novel, The Power. I wrote in the comments…

If you haven’t watched this, see if you can find the novel it is based on by Frank M. Robinson and read that first. It pulls a pretty impressive rabbit out of the hat at the end that you don’t see coming and the movie had a hard time giving it the same kind of impact. Pal gave it his best shot but he went for the science-fiction visuals and the book reads more like a dark cinema noir detective story.

I’d bought my copy whilst browsing the paperback shelves on the basis that it had been made into a George Pal movie and I was a fan of his. But it was better I read the book first, because as I say there it really throws you a very clever plot twist at the end that you don’t see coming, but it retrospect it was all there. Robinson played fair. And as I said, it read more like a dark cinema noir detective story than a science fiction thriller about a man with superhuman powers of mind over matter. It’s a good read…I highly recommend it.

While googling more about it I discovered this, from Robinson’s obituary in the New York Times…

Frank M. Robinson, a well-regarded science fiction writer whose credits include a novel adapted for the 1974 blockbuster film “The Towering Inferno”,and who was also a speechwriter and adviser to Harvey Milk, the San Francisco city supervisor assassinated in 1978, died on Monday at his home in San Francisco. He was 87…

He made his name as a writer on the basis of The Power, and got screen co-credit for two Irwin Allen blockbusters and with that money settled in San Francisco where he met Harvey Milk and worked for him as a speechwriter. He had a small role in the movie Milk and its star Sean Penn interviewed him extensively about his memories of Harvey…

Mr. Robinson had little or no dialogue in most of his scenes. But at one point he improvised a line, standing at a window to shout a profane coming-out announcement about his sexuality. I’ll tell my brothers!” he said. Mr. Van Sant liked the moment well enough to film it a second time.

Mr. Robinson had never told anyone in his family that he was gay, neither his parents nor his four brothers. And though the scene did not end up in the film, saying the words had made him tremble with emotion, he told The Chicago Reader. It had been his coming out.

“I suddenly realized I was saying goodbye to all that baggage.”

Power, power, who had the power…? You did Frank. Well done.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Man With The Power

June 16th, 2016

We Sought Shelter From The Storm, And Gathered Within, We Discovered Ourselves…

Dan Savage...

dan_savage_queer_bars

What I found in Paradise—what I found at Sidetrack, Little Jim’s, the Loading Dock, Berlin, Christopher Street—was the truth. It was a truth my parents, my church, the media, and the medical establishment all conspired to hide from me. I had been told that being gay meant being alone, that being homosexual meant being miserable, that being queer meant being loveless, friendless, and joyless.

Then I walked into a gay bar where I saw men with their friends and men with their lovers. I saw men dancing and I saw men laughing. I found a community that I had been told didn’t exist. I found love, I lost love, and I found love again.

My discovery of this truth wasn’t in the bar scene. Being raised in a Baptist household I had an ingrained reluctance to walk into a bar that lasted well into middle age. But my first Pride Day festival in Washington D.C. (I grew up in the D.C. suburbs), in 1977 on the street where Deacon Maccubbin’s Lambda Rising bookstore was first located, was a joy and a revelation. Later I found it in the first primitive computer bulletin board systems and FidoNet, the world wide computer network created by amature computer geeks before the Internet was opened to commercial use.

Before that first Pride Day, and the books and newspapers I found at Lambda Rising, everything I knew about gay people and what it was to be gay I had learned from the pop culture I’d grown up in, the vantage point of the heterosexual majority. It was like listening in to people talking past me, about me. A conversation that was about me but very little of it spoke to me. It’s hard to not think of yourself as some sort of damaged goods or tragic mistake of nature, even if logically you know that isn’t true, when that’s all you’re hearing about you from every direction. What I saw at that Pride Day, and later on the first BBSs was that we no longer had to see ourselves through heterosexual eyes anymore. We could see each other. We could see ourselves. Finally.

And that’s why those spaces were so important, and still are. We needed to be able to do that, to see ourselves as we are, as people, before others could see us as we are too, past the myths, lies and stereotypes. So we could be people. So we could be Neighbors.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on We Sought Shelter From The Storm, And Gathered Within, We Discovered Ourselves…

May 15th, 2016

A Small Measure Of Justice

This came across my Facebook stream just now…

Germany To Pardon More Than 50,000 Men Convicted Of Homosexuality

The German government has announced it will overturn the convictions of tens of thousands of gay men jailed before homosexuality was decriminalized.

“The historic convictions are wrong. They are deeply hurtful to human dignity,” said Justice Minister Heiko Maas. “We cannot completely completely undo these outrages of the rule of law, but we want to rehabilitate the victims.”

More than 50,000 gay men were convicted between 1946 and 1969, when homosexuality was decriminalized in both East and West Germany. Those men “should no longer have to live with the stain of a criminal record,” says Maas.

Some years ago, shortly after it was dedicated, I went to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to sit in on a series of lectures spread out over three days concerning the history of the persecution of homosexuals during the Third Reich. By then I’d already learned some of that history via a few books I’d found at Deacon Maccubbin’s Lambda Rising bookstore, and various articles in the gay press, and already the size and scope of how our history had been suppressed was stunning me. The lectures at the USHMM added to my understanding of the events surrounding the pink triangles, and more importantly, gave me their context in the greater turmoil that gripped Germany then.

The presenter was a young German scholar who had been studying the persecution of gays during that period. He had shown us several video interviews he’d made of camp survivors who’d worn the pink triangle, and said that as they aged it was important to get as much on the record as soon as possible. But he said, many of the men were still too ashamed or too closeted and were very reluctant to talk. After the war they had not been freed, but made to serve out the prison terms imposed on them by the Fascists, who had themselves rewritten many of the Wiemar Republic laws to make them harsher. Those criminal records had followed them for the rest of their lives he said, making it difficult for them to find work and places to live. And Germany kept their sodomy laws on the books…East Germany until 1957, and West Germany until 1969. So had any of these men been arrested again during that time they would have been facing repeat offender penalties.

So during one of the question and answer periods I asked him if there was any effort being made back in Germany to erase their records so they wouldn’t have it hanging over them anymore.

He almost laughed and said it didn’t matter since they were so old now. The implication being the only reason for doing so would be to make it easier for them to have sex. Well that raised my hackles a tad and raising my voice I said it was a matter of simple human dignity to take the criminal record off them and especially so if you didn’t think the Nazis had any right doing that to them in the first place. He dismissed me in the way Germans do to Ausländer who obviously don’t understand How Things Are Done, saying that there was no such effort being made at that time and there are more importing issues to concern ourselves with.

So anyway…they’re finally getting around to it. At some point it might be nice for the United States to get around to apologizing too, for not doing the decent thing back then and just letting those survivors of the Holocaust go free, even if they did happen to be homosexual.

gay in 1930s germany

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Small Measure Of Justice

January 12th, 2016

A Young Gay Guy In The Year 1977

While researching the events of 1977 and Anita Bryant’s campaign, I came across this via a Google image search that turned up this Jack Davis cartoon in the July 1978 issue of Mad magazine…

MadJuly78-JackDavis

It might seem surprising now how low class Mad Magazine’s attitude toward gays was…

Mad #145, Sept ‘71, from “Greeting Cards For The
Sexual Revolution” – “To A Gay Liberationist”

…but this blog post puts it into context: it wasn’t just the times, but also the 50s mindset of the staff. The liberal free spirit I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony mindset of the 60s-70s didn’t usually extend to Teh Gay. Check out the limp wrist in that Jack Davis cartoon. This is the world I came out into.

That summer of 1977 I had to listen to the BBC on my shortwave radio to hear the news from Florida because none of the TV and domestic radio news bothered to say anything about something that was obviously not of interest to decent normal people. Close to midnight sitting by the shortwave I learned that three out of four voters in Dade county had voted to kill an ordinance that simply said gay people ought not to lose their jobs or their housing simply because a boss or a landlord found out they’re gay. The next day as I walked through the city I found myself counting down three people for four I passed…trying to grasp the scope of how much people like me were still loathed.

Then later that December 1977…I watched the Christmas TV special that’s been on my mind the past couple days…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Young Gay Guy In The Year 1977

November 3rd, 2014

The Hated Other And The World They Did Not Want To Hate Back

mags

A couple more magazine back issues I ordered for my “Gay Studies” bookcase came in. One is a Life from 1964 with the Homosexuality In America article, including a section on the science of that period which begins, “Do the homosexuals, like the communists, intend to bury us?” I would have been ten years old when that issue hit the stands.

The Harper’s of September 1970 has the infamous Joseph Epstein essay that provoked a sit-in at the offices of Harper’s. Titled The Struggle for Sexual Identity, it ended with,

“If I had the power to do so, I would wish homosexuality off the face of the earth… nothing [his sons] could ever do would make me sadder than if any of them were to become homosexual. For then I should know them condemned to a permanent niggerdom among men, their lives, whatever adjustment they might make to their condition, to be lived out as part of the pain of the earth.”

I would have just turned 17.

I look at these magazines, and especially the ads, and it hits me that many of the people I know at work, and in my Facebook friends list, would not have even been born when these were published. But I remember that period of time quite clearly though, and yet when I did fall in love that first time, and came out to myself, I really believed that I could have that perfect joy in my own life too, regardless of what others thought about me. Looking over these magazines now, and the brutal ignorance and hostility toward me and my kind on full display, as casually and unaffectedly as if describing the weather, I can see how naive I must have been back then, to think that it would not touch my life too, and throttle my hopes and dreams like it did to so many others. For some of us it will always be a time before Stonewall.

I eventually did find my own way to a small community of fellow gay computer nerds and geeks. I’d hoped that would make the difference and just by socializing among friends like the straight boys and girls did I’d find my other half. But hatred cuts deep into the heart of the hated other, and hardens it nicely, and later in life than I should have I learned the same lesson Janis Ian did at seventeen. The shy, socially awkward plain looking kid is even less likely to be cared about in a community that is always under suspicion, always under attack. If the weakling falls behind and gets eaten, the important thing is it wasn’t you.

It’s better for gay kids now. Some of them. Thankfully. In time the force hate bears down on our lives will be a thing of the past. Mostly. But it didn’t have to be. The 1964 Life Magazine article on the science of homosexuality is titled “Why?” Probably my interest lately in collecting artifacts from that period is about my own search for an answer, to something that is unanswerable: Why is it so much easier to hate than it is to love?

me and camera

Why?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Hated Other And The World They Did Not Want To Hate Back

August 4th, 2014

The Militant Homosexual I Became Was Nurtured By Hollywood’s Homosexual

A friend on Facebook turned me onto this…

vito_documentary

I have both editions of “The Celluloid Closet” published while he was still with us. If any one thing could have been said to have radicalized my attitudes toward gay equality it was this one, even more so than “And The Band Played On”.  The book opens with a story about how a gay friend of his was telling another gay friend about a new movie that had a gay character in it, and the other friend immediately asks how the character dies. In a nutshell, that’s how it was.

I ordered the DVD of Vito and it came Friday and I had housework to do so it just sat for a while. Last night before bed I watched the first two thirds of it. It filled in a lot of blanks for me because I only knew of Vito Russo from his groundbreaking film history The Celluloid Closet. I didn’t know, but I should have guessed, how the activist predated the historian. The part showing him struggling to pull together all the hidden threads of our presence in the movies really brought back home to me that sense of isolation and cultural invisibility I hadn’t felt in decades.

Back in the 1970s, that homosexual characters were occasionally included in movies, either for laughs if they were flaming sissies or as the embodiment of unnatural evil, was something probably everyone knew. Russo was the first person to actually gather all the pieces together, all the little walk on toss off parts along with the major roles, all the sissies, all the evil psychos, all the tragically dammed, and look at all critically.  And the book he produced hit gay people everywhere who read it like a ton of bricks, because you knew the scapegoating and stereotyping weren’t just how your heterosexual neighbors were taught to look at you, but also how you were taught to see yourself.  Heterosexuals could dream of the happily ever after, could see that dream on the silver screen, could picture themselves there, having that life, or something like it.  Hollywood flushed our dreams into the sewer from the moment we first walked into a movie house.  We weren’t lovers, we were sissies, we were dangerous sexual psychopaths, we were the butt of dirty jokes, we were the personification of unnatural evil, we were pathetic, we were terrifying, we were not human. But you really didn’t see it all that clearly because the one thing we were most of all was something not to be discussed in public among decent normal people.

Then Vito Russo gathered it all together and put it in front of us.  And it just took your breath away…to see it all there, laid out in front of you.

And it made you angry…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Militant Homosexual I Became Was Nurtured By Hollywood’s Homosexual

July 21st, 2014

Damage

This came across my Facebook stream just now…

Op-ed: All Gay People Are Screwed Up and It’s OK

We all face a deficit for growing up LGBT in a straight world. Admitting it is the first step in making sure the next generation gets a better deal.

Like the writer, Neal Broverman, it surprises me that this is controversial.  It shouldn’t be.

It sometimes takes a harsh circumstance to remind us how different our lives are. In The Case Against 8, HBO’s powerful documentary on the defeat of California’s antigay ballot initiative, lead plaintiff Kristin Perry had an “a-ha moment” while testifying in front of a federal judge. Defense attorney Ted Olson asked Perry if she thought granting marriage equality to gays and lesbians would have an effect on other forms of LGBT discrimination. Perry said her whole life would have been different, and better, if the biggest choice she made in it — marriage — was given the same weight and respect as everyone else’s: “So, if Prop. 8 were undone and kids like me, growing up in Bakersfield right now, can never know what this felt like, then I assume their entire lives would be on a higher arc, they would live with a higher sense of themselves that would improve the quality of their entire life.”

Reflecting on that moment later, she said, “It was powerful to connect the dots spontaneously on the stand and realize you’ve been living under this blanket of hate everywhere you turn…

Every crush I’ve ever had, every gay guy I’ve ever tried to date, every perfect match I thought I’d found, they were all wounded. And I have to suppose they looked at me and saw the same, good as I had it compared to a lot of other gay guys. I didn’t get sent to a camp, I didn’t get thrown out of the house, I wasn’t told by my own parents that I wasn’t loved. But you don’t grow up in a world that tells you from every direction that you are despised without taking it to heart.

Mad #145, Sept ‘71, from “Greeting Cards For The
Sexual Revolution” – “To A Gay Liberationist”

Detective_1968_481

“The thought of turning…of turning involuntarily into one of them frightened me…and made me sick with anger.”

bakersfield_kountry_komics_faggot
Jake shows the kids how to deal with a limp wrist faggot in Larry Weltz’ “Gearjammer”, Bakersfield Kountry Komics, 1973

 

And the worst of it is you grow up accustomed to it all, and you forget the wounds are there, always defeating you and you don’t even know it anymore, because you’ve accepted that as your lot in life.  But it is rust on the soul.

It is a constant struggle to live the life you should have had all along.  But it is a noble one…

Later in the documentary when Perry is discussing the discrimination she experiences, she says, while tearing up, “The sad parts [of being an LGBT person], I feel like I’m OK with because I’d rather be who I am today than somebody who never felt challenged and never had to find out who they really were. And I know who I am.”

Oscar Wilde, who suffered his own terrible wounds, once said that we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.  I’d put it differently.  We are all damaged, but we have survived and we are not cowed.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Damage

June 12th, 2014

You First

My cartoon for Friday’s Baltimore Pride issue of Baltimore OUTLoud.  Oh you think she was a nice lady do you…?

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on You First

October 14th, 2013

Once Upon A Time In Washington…

On this date in 1979 the first gay rights march on Washington took place, with about 100,000 demonstrators. I was one of them.

Here’s an ad placed in the Washington Blade after the march for the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club and in it the photographer caught me when I was walking along with the Maryland contingent. This is a scan from the copy of the Blade I saved, so the quality isn’t the best, but it’s all I have.  The Stein Club made posters with this shot and I’ve regretted ever since that I didn’t snatch one up.

I’m there in the lower right hand corner with, oddly, my Argus C3 around my neck. It was a (very) poor man’s Leica and I was probably experimenting with it. The Canon F1 was probably in my backpack. I’d worked all summer long at a fast food joint in 1971 to be able to buy the F1, but apart from a couple lenses for it and a really nice German enlarging lens I wouldn’t be in any position to buy nice photographic equipment for decades to come.

I think I had color loaded in the F1 and Tri-X Pan in the Argus.  At some point I need to post a gallery of my shots here in the “Life and Times” section of that demonstration and other gay rights events I attended and photographed. I wasn’t working for anyone at the time, just documenting my life and times and the struggle I found myself a part of whether I wanted to be or not.

When I came out to myself in December of 1971 I wanted what most of us want when we’re young…the significant other, the soulmate, the happily ever after. What I got was not that. Yes, it’s so much better now than it was back then, but we had a lot of work getting from there to here and we still have a long way to go before every gay kid can dream the dream of love and joy and contentment without fear or shame or guilt.  The young guy you see in this ad would never have thought in his wildest dreams he would live to see the day he could get legally married anywhere, let alone in his home state of Maryland, to the man he loved.  But that day came.  If only I’d had a better world to grow into adulthood in, I might have found him.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

February 25th, 2013

Notes On The Gay Lifestyle…(continued): Message From Another World…

I came out to myself one December evening in 1971, and for the next couple years had no clue whatsoever as to how to find others like me, and maybe get a date, and maybe even find someone who was special enough to settle down with, and build us a life together.  Until that moment everything I knew about homosexuals and homosexuality I had learned from heterosexuals, and the opinions there ranged from tactful pity to venomous hostility.

In 1971 every state but one had sodomy laws on the books.  In 1971 you could be fired, you could loose your professional license, you could loose your home, you could loose your freedom, just for being discovered. Forget about a career anywhere you might need a background check or a security clearance.  And the message you got from every direction was you were human filth, a danger to children, a threat to your community, a pathetic faggot at best…


Mad #145, Sept ‘71, from “Greeting Cards For The
Sexual Revolution” – “To A Gay Liberationist”

  

a dangerous sexual psychopath at worst…


“The thought of turning…of turning involuntarily into one of them frightened me…and made me sick with anger.”

  

You were a symptom of social decay.  You were what caused the fall of Rome.  You were an abomination in the eyes of God.  Certainly you were a thing best left unspoken of in decent company.

This was the world I came out into.  The only place I knew of where other people like me could be found was a seedy bar downtown that everyone in school joked about.  When I searched for books about gay people, fiction that spoke to me about life as a gay man, all I found were trashy sex novels where the gay protagonist was there only to remind everyone what a sad, pathetic life we were all condemned to.  To be sure, 60s sexual liberation, at least in theory, extended even to gay people.  In the Broadway musical Hair they sang “Sodomy Fellatio Cunnilingus Pederasty. Father, why do these words sound so nasty?  Masturbation can be fun. Join the holy orgy Kama Sutra Everyone!” But this was, as always, gay lib as purely sexual in nature…a side show to heterosexual liberation at best.  More often, sexual freedom did not include treating gays as anything other than pathetic faggots.  Even in the sexually no-holds-barred underground comix world, gay people were stereotypical faggots…


Jake shows the kids how to deal with a limp wrist faggot in Larry Weltz’ “Gearjammer”, Bakersfield Kountry Komics, 1973

  

If not symptoms of capitalist decadence and oppression…


Guy Colwell reminds us in Inner City Romances #3 (1977),
that homosexuality in prison is but a mirror image of capitalist oppression
of the strong over the weak…

  

I had nothing that spoke to me…nothing that spoke to that wonderful, magical experience of first love, and what it taught me was truth; that the love between same-sex couples could be every bit as vital and life affirming as that experienced by opposite-sex couples.  Then late in 1972, I stumbled across Mary Renault’s novel, The Persian Boy, and in her works finally, Finally, found what I was looking for…

“Hephaistion had known for many ages that if a god should offer him one gift
in all his lifetime, he would choose this. Joy hit him like a lightning-bolt.”
―Mary Renault, Fire from Heaven

But my community seemed still so far out of reach.  I knew it was out there…somewhere…but I could find no access to it.

By the winter of 1972 I was working at a camera store that catered to the professional clientele. I did stock boy duties and one day, while unpacking a shipment of cameras from a distributor in San Francisco, I found a complete issue of The Advocate, placed neatly on top of all the balled up newspaper that was packing the contents of the box.  By then I had heard of The Advocate, knew it was a newspaper produced by and for gay people, but I’d had no idea where to find a copy.  And now suddenly, there in front of me, was a complete copy, placed there like a message in a bottle by someone in the shipping department at the other end.

To whom it may concern…you are not alone…

I glanced quickly around…my stock room manager was elsewhere, I was alone.  I took the newspaper and placed it inside my backpack and closed the zipper.  When I finally got it home I devoured it like a starving man.

I still have it…a carefully saved bit of personal history…

  

Eventually I found my way to a seedy “adult” bookstore where I could find copies of The Advocate, as well as the local gay paper, The Washington Blade, and several glossy gay magazines that weren’t entirely pornographic, such as Mandate, In Touch and Christopher Street (a gay version of the New Yorker that had hilarious New Yorker style cartoons).  That lasted until I discovered the Lambda Rising bookstore downtown at which point it seemed like, finally, the world had opened up to me.  But that first copy of Advocate felt at the time like a lifeline, tossed to me by some friendly stranger on the other side of the country.  I wish I could thank them.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Notes On The Gay Lifestyle…(continued): Message From Another World…

April 6th, 2012

Today In News You Probably Didn’t Know Was Old News

I am reminded of a colleague who reiterated, “all my homosexual patients
are quite sick”, to which I finally replied “so are all my heterosexual patients.”

-Ernest van den Haag, psychotherapist

There is nothing wrong with homosexuals.  That is a simple statement of fact.  Not opinion.  Fact.  Well researched, well established, scientific fact. And it has been well established fact for quite a very long time.  If you were born in the 1960s or later, then this fact is older then you are.

Jim Burroway over at Box Turtle Bulletin writes…

Study of 100 Homosexuals: 1957. There had been a string of high profile arrests of very prominent and well-known men in Britain in the early 1950s, including Lord Montagu, his cousin, Maj. Michael Pitt-Rivers, and journalist Peter Wildeblood,  all of whom had been charged and convicted of homosexual offenses. Their arrests opened the debate over whether homosexual acts between consenting adults should remain criminalized.

So in 1954 a study was convened under the leadership of Lord Wolfenden whose name would later be attached to a report recommending the complete decriminalization of homosexual relationships among consenting adults in Britain.  And how did they come to this conclusion?  Well they didn’t consult the bible, and they didn’t ask the prejudices of their day.  They did something positively unique for that day when it came to the subject of homosexuality.

They looked for evidence.

One problem with the published research on gay men was that virtually all of it was based on clinical or criminal populations, which Curran and Parr acknowledged would not necessarily be representative of the general population of gay men. In their report, they acknowledged that their sample would likely exhibit higher rates of psychiatric problems or criminal recidivism. But when they looked into the files of these 100 men who had been referred to their practice, the authors observed:

…[I]n spite of the probability that any group of homosexuals referred to a psychiatrist might be expected to be heavily weighted in the direction of psychiatric abnormality, no fewer than 51 % were considered to be free from gross personality disorder, neurosis, or psychosis during their adult lives. Only one was certifiably defective and none certifiably insane. They included a number of important and talented individuals of high integrity, successful, efficient, and respected members of the community. Only two had been on any criminal charge other than homosexuality. Very few showed the traditional “pansy” picture of homosexuals; indeed, only 21 were noted to have at all obvious homosexual personality traits, only one of these being a paedophiliac.

So in spite of their having difficulty recruiting a completely representative sample of gay men, in spite of their sample being weighted toward mental patents and criminals, they found less mental aberration then they would have otherwise expected. In fact slightly better then half their sample showed no signs of gross mental illness at all.

Only half the patients showed significant psychiatric abnormality other than their sexual deviation, and such associated abnormalities were often slight. Moreover, many of these abnormalities were explicable as a reaction to the difficulties of being homosexual. Symptomatic homosexuality was rare.

And then it gets down to brass tacks.  Is homosexuality a disease?  Is this even a problem?

If homosexuality is a disease (as has often been suggested), it is in a vast number of cases monosymptomatic, non-progressive, and compatible with subjective well-being and objective efficiency. In our series, both practicing and non-practicing homosexuals were on the whole successful and valuable members of society, quite unlike the popular conception of such persons as vicious, criminal, effete, or depraved. Only one-fifth were at all obviously ” pansy,” and we found no reason to regard most of the patients as physically, intellectually, or emotionally immature (unless the basic criterion for ” immaturity” is that of being homosexual-a circular argument).

What they’re saying here is that if homosexuality is a disease then its one that has only one symptom (homosexuality) does not get worse if untreated, and does not negatively impact the overall health and well being of the individual who has it.  Really…can you even call it a disease in that case?

This is similar to what American researcher Evelyn Hooker in her 1957 paper The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual found: well adjusted homosexuals are clinically indistinguishable from well adjusted heterosexuals. From her Wiki entry…

She gathered two groups of men: one group would be exclusively homosexual, the other exclusively heterosexual. She contacted the Mattachine Society to find homosexual men. She had greater difficulty finding heterosexual men. She also had to use her home to conduct the interview to protect people’s anonymity…

Hooker realized that all extant science on homosexuality consisted of studies conducted on homosexual men who had already been committed to mental institutions or imprisoned for sexual offenses. Her experiment was simple and elegant and beautiful in the way all great science is simple and elegant and beautiful.

She recruited two groups of sexually active young men, one gay and one straight.  From both groups she eliminated anyone who had ever been in therapy or trouble with the law.  Then she gave each group a battery of what were then standard clinical psychiatric tests…

Hooker used three different psychological tests for her study: the TAT, the Make-a-Picture-Story test (MAPS test), and the Rorschach inkblot test.

She used trained professionals who were skilled in administering each of the tests.  The testers did not know whether they were testing a homosexual man or a heterosexual. When she got the results back she further anonymized them so nobody looking at the tests could tell who administered the test.  Standard double-blind technique.

Then she did something simple and beautiful…

After a year of work, Hooker presented a team of 3 expert evaluators with 60 unmarked psychological profiles.

…she passed the results out to the experts and asked them if they could identify the homosexuals.

No one could.

First, she contacted Bruno Klopfer, an expert on Rorschach tests to see if he would be able to identify the sexual orientation of people through their results at those tests. His ability to differentiate was no better than chance.

Then Edwin Shneidman, creator of the MAPS test, also analyzed the 60 profiles. It took him six months and he too found that both groups were highly similar in their psychological make-up.

The third expert was Dr Mortimer Mayer who was so certain he would be able to tell the two groups apart that he went through the process twice.

The three evaluators agreed that in terms of adjustment, there were no differences between the members of each group

Well adjusted homosexuals are clinically indistinguishable from well adjusted heterosexuals.  This was what the Wolfsden researchers also found.  And this is what everyone who objectively studies gay people has found ever since.

The experiment, which other researchers subsequently repeated, demonstrates that most self-identified homosexuals are no worse in social adjustment than the general population

When you study sick homosexuals, people who have already been committed to mental institutions or sent to jail for sex crimes, then what you find are sick homosexuals.  But if you did the same thing with heterosexuals, only studying those in mental institutions or jail,  you would also conclude the same about heterosexuals and nobody does that.  The Christianist web site Lifesite tries to downplay Hooker’s study thusly…

Despite the fact that the purpose of the study was ostensibly to examine the possibility of mental instability in homosexuals, individuals who showed signs of mental instability were removed from the groups, which further predetermined the study’s conclusion.

But that was the point.  If homosexuality was the result of mental dysfunction, as NARTH and their companions in the anti-gay industrial complex insist, then removing the individuals who showed signs of mental instability would have made not a whit of difference in the outcome. The experts Hooker contacted to evaluate her test results would have still been able to identify the homosexuals because homosexuals are mentally unstable, whether they show it outwardly or not.  That the experts could not identify the homosexuals with those mentally unstable individuals removed proved decisively that the old models of homosexuality were wrong.

I am reminded of a colleague who reiterated, “all my homosexual patients are quite sick”, to which I finally replied “so are all my heterosexual patients”…

“If homosexuality is a disease (as has often been suggested), it is in a vast number of cases monosymptomatic, non-progressive, and compatible with subjective well-being and objective efficiency. In our series, both practicing and non-practicing homosexuals were on the whole successful and valuable members of society, quite unlike the popular conception of such persons as vicious, criminal, effete, or depraved”…

“The three evaluators agreed that in terms of adjustment, there were no differences between the members of each group”…

Understand this if you understand nothing else about the anti-gay industrial complex: this is knowledge that is over a half century old now.  There is nothing new here.  Most of the people reading this post will have been born after modern science clearly and unambiguously established this fact: there is nothing wrong with homosexuals.  This has been understood in the science for over half a century.

by Bruce | Link | React! (5)

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