This came across my Facebook stream just now…
At 16 I thought being attracted to guys was just a phase. By 18 I’d pretty much figured out that thinking it was a phase was the phase.
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November 8th, 2013
This came across my Facebook stream just now…
At 16 I thought being attracted to guys was just a phase. By 18 I’d pretty much figured out that thinking it was a phase was the phase.
June 26th, 2013
Too Young To Know?
This came across my news feed this morning…
This is such an old story and I have heard it told and retold among gay people ever since I can remember: I knew I was different in some fundamental way even then, I just didn’t have the words to express it… I don’t think there is a single one of us who hasn’t heard it over and over and over. It’s my truth too. In first grade I knew I liked guys in some distinct way that set me apart from the others and that if I talked about it too much I would get in trouble.
But blabber mouth little young me couldn’t always keep it in. I remember being teased once by my other classmates about a girl and getting pissed off about it I blurted out that I didn’t like girls, and one of the girls said, “Oh, then you like boys I guess.” and everyone laughed.
I blushed. Fiercely. Which only made them laugh more. Everyone has these school days memories they would rather forget.
February 19th, 2013
You Keep Using That Word…
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Here’s another word people keep using: Homosexual.
So I’m seeing the chatter about how this new Gallup poll (you know…the folks who did so well predicting the outcome of the last election…), gives us a more accurate figure for the percentage of gay people in America than Kinsey’s ten percent, and I can only conclude they aren’t paying attention to what they’re reading, don’t understand where that ten percent figure came from and/or what the Kinsey scale actually was.
Kinsey’s scale of zero through six, where zero (exclusively heterosexual) and six (exclusively homosexual) described the sexual behavior of his subjects over the previous three years of their lives, based on extensive face to face interviews with them. The report stated that ten percent of American males were “more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55″ by grouping the percentages of the five (Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual) and six positions on the scale together to come up with that ten percent figure. Later gay rights activists used this to claim that ten percent of the population is homosexual.
That’s an arguable, but perfectly defensible claim based on Kinsey’s data which, again, came from subjects who were only asked about their actual sexual behavior for the previous three years. But it is measuring a different thing than Gallup asked, which was…
“Do you, personally, identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender?”
See the difference? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
The problem has always been the percentage of people who are homosexual you get in any given study depends on how the people who did the study define what “homosexual” is. It seems so clear cut and obvious on the surface of it and yet different people, even in all intellectual honesty about it, have different definitions…let alone those who want to marginalize us when it’s convenient (their numbers are too small for society to cater to their whims), and exaggerate our numbers when convenient (nearly all child molesters are homosexuals…it’s how they perpetuate themselves since they can’t reproduce…).
At this stage in my life, after all I’ve seen of this world, I am still comfortable with that ten percent figure. But I’m calling it desire, not necessarily how someone behaves or how they self identify. I Know people, and so do many of us who are gay, who would fit comfortably in either that Kinsey five or six position and yet would nonetheless have assured Gallup that they were heterosexual. It’s called “The Closet” and a lot of people are still in it….some still in denial, some not. In my generation and earlier especially, you see a lot of gay men who married young, as a way of turning themselves straight. Some of these have remained in those marriages, living behind that mask still, after all that has passed by them in the struggle, and I can’t find it in my heart to blame them for that. They love their wives very much. Add to that those of us who are out in various stages, even out to everyone they know and work with, and who would be unwilling to answer that question from a stranger.
I still think ten percent is probably right. But even those of us who are militantly out and proud don’t always seem so to the passing stranger. There is no gay lifestyle. You likely won’t know unless you are close enough to a person to know, and even then you might not. And still, even today, many people simply don’t want to know it about themselves. It does not surprise me either that perhaps only three to four percent rather than ten are willing to live openly just as they are, and fight the fight for our human dignity that still needs fighting.
“Do you, personally, identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender”, is a question worth asking of course, and maybe someday better researchers than the louts at Gallup will ask that question. But it’s really not the point. The word does not mean that.
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
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…
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.
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.
And then it gets down to brass tacks. Is homosexuality a disease? Is this even a problem?
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…
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…
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…
…she passed the results out to the experts and asked them if they could identify the homosexuals.
No one could.
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.
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…
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.
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.
November 14th, 2011
Choice: Six Of One, Half Dozen Of The Other
On Towleroad today I see that James Hormel has a new book out about his time as ambassador, and he’s apparently making the TV rounds promoting it. I also see that he’s making the same mistake a lot of very well meaning people make when it comes to the nature of bigotry…
Yes about DOMA, no about whether people think being gay is a choice. Look…nobody questions the fact that race isn’t a choice and that has never made racists question their racism as far as I can tell. Hell…they have their own junk science industry proving that blacks are genetically inferior so prejudice against them is morally justified…
When the day comes that sexual orientation is generally seen as biologically innate, the homophobes will simply shift gears and start babbling about how homosexuality is a genetic deficiency that makes us unfit for…well…everything. The nature verses nurture argument is a distraction. The reason some people are homosexual does not matter to bigots. They just hate us. That hate is what comes first. The justification for it comes later, and takes whatever shape the bigot needs it to have to justify that preexisting hate.
All everyone else needs to see about our lives is that we are as human as they. That we love, we cherish, we long and we need, just as they do. Once they see that, once they can look at a same-sex couple and see in that couple’s happiness their own, it won’t matter to them why we mate to our own instead of the opposite sex. That’s the problem. Not the Nature verses Nurture debate, but the lie that homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. That is what we have to kill. And we do it by living our lives openly, by resisting the pressure hate brings to bear upon our lives to stay hidden. Bigots we will never change. But every moment we live our lives openly so that we can be seen as neighbors and not some strange alien other, we defeat hate.
October 12th, 2011
Just A Thought…
If you really think having sex is like farting, might I suggest you’re doing it wrong.
October 11th, 2011
I Was Not Put On This Earth To Live Anyone’s Life But My Own
Or…to put it another way…
October 10th, 2011
Conversation With A Happily Married Man
The Scene: A table in an upscale restaurant located in a trendy vacation resort. Two old friends are sitting across from each other. One openly gay since he was seventeen, the other a Happily Married Man having long since overcome the unwanted same-sex attractions of his youth. They are discussing Openly Gay Friend’s problems finding someone to love and settle down with. Happily Married Man is finding it hard to believe that Openly Gay Friend has been single and struggling all these years.
Happily Married Man: Don’t you have any gay friends?
Openly Gay Friend: Oh yes. About half my friends are gay. I have a regular Happy Hour crowd I try to go out with every Friday. It gets me out of the house.
Happily Married Man: How long have you known them?
Openly Gay Friend: Oh, most of them since the mid-eighties…
Happily Married Man: Wow…I can’t believe they haven’t tried to hook you up. Didn’t they ever even try?
Openly Gay Friend: Oh get me started…there was this one time…
Happily Married Man: You need to get some better friends!
Openly Gay Friend: They’re nice people. I think they just don’t get me…they just don’t get romantic types. They think I should just go get laid and that’ll make me feel better. They don’t get how random loveless sex might make someone like me feel a whole lot worse afterward, not better.
Happily Married Man: You need to get some better friends!
Openly Gay Friend: I want you to understand something…that isn’t just a gay thing. If I was straight and my happy hour group was a bunch of other straight guys I’d be getting the same advice. Just go get laid and you’ll be fine. The cure for every lonely heart is to just get laid. The popular culture pays a bunch of lip service to the idea of love and romance, but it’s all about just having sex in the straight scene too.
Happily Married Man: Sex is overrated…
Openly Gay Friend: I’m not saying that…
Happily Married Man: It’s just a bodily function.
Openly Gay Friend: Uhm…
Happily Married Man (emphatically): When you’re on your death bed it won’t be the times you had sex you’ll be remembering, but all the people you loved.
Openly Gay Friend: Yes…absolutely! That is so very true. But I would want my last memory to be the times I spent laying down with the one I loved. That one special body and soul relationship…that’s what you would be remembering. At least I would…if I’d ever had that. (looks wistfully at Happily Married Man, then looks away) But your life is what it is…
Happily Married Man (rolling his eyes): Stop whining….
Openly Gay Friend: I’m not whining…
Happily Married Man: You’re whining. You have to work with what you’ve got to work with and accept that. Stop thinking about what ifs. Sex is overrated…
Openly Gay Friend: Well yes, I agree completely that it isn’t all there is to life, but it’s still important…
Happily Married Man: It’s like a fart.
Openly Gay Friend: I’m sorry?
Happily Married Man: This may sound strange but think about it. It stinks for a little while, and then it’s gone.
(Openly Gay Friend looks blankly back at Happily Married Man)
Happily Married Man: Sex is like that.
Openly Gay Friend: Uhm…it helps if you’re having sex with a person you’re sexually attracted to. (ironically) Then it’s actually a lot of fun…more engaging…more satisfying…(looks Happily Married Man in the eyes) and it makes a whole lot more sense that way. You kinda understand then why everyone else is so into it.
Happily Married Man: You’re a piece of work…you know that? Well it’s getting late and I have to go home now. I’m a happily married man.
Openly Gay Friend (unhappily): So I see. And I’m still single and unhappy. And for gay men of our generation it will always be a time before Stonewall won’t it?
Happily Married Man: Stonewall?
(This was mostly a real conversation. Some lines were edited for brevity, and Openly Gay Friend didn’t actually say his last two lines to Happily Married Man because just then his head was spinning. But now he wishes he had.)
June 8th, 2011
Born In The Blood Of Innocents
I just have one comment to make on the unfolding story of Kirk Murphy. This can’t be shouted out loudly enough: The subject of this study, which formed much of the basis for the ex-gay movement’s claim to scientific legitimacy, killed himself and his therapy so deeply wounded his family they are still, decades later, suffering from it.
The Ex-Gay movement was born in the blood of innocents. In his book, Anything But Straight, Wayne talks about the formation of the very first ex-gay ministry, Love In Action, its first clients, and how one of them, Jack McIntyre, chose to end his life rather then keep failing at becoming heterosexual.
McIntyre wrote a suicide note. If the ex-gay movement could be said to have a heart and soul, here it is:
And as Wayne writes…
And George Rekers was still citing his success at fixing Kirk years after Kirk had taken his own life. When reporters caught up with him recently Rekers dismissed the idea that Kirk’s suicide could have had anything to do with the experimental gender identity therapy he’d inflicted upon the child. Oh no…that was years ago…
More apparently, then the initial therapy got according to Jim Burroway who writes of his surprise that there was little to no independent verification of Reker’s claims. But according to his family Kirk was a troubled soul the rest of his life, though he had moments when it seemed he had made peace with himself. And it bears noting that the therapy deeply disturbed then, and continues to this day to disturb, his mother and his straight older brother, his sister being too young at the time to remember any of what happened.
Look carefully at this: Kirk was the patient who made Rekers’ career and he only just now learns of his suicide when CNN reporter tracked him down? Yes. Of course. He never stayed in touch, clearly and sickeningly never felt the slightest curiosity about how his most famous patient was doing. This is not science, it is politics. The client is not important. The client’s family is not important. It’s the message, that that there is no such thing as a homosexual only broken heterosexuals, that is important. Because inside that message is another: that homosexuals bring their own persecution upon themselves, since they can choose whenever they want to not be homosexual.
…no matter how much I prayed and tried to avoid the temptation, I continually failed… The Ex-Gay movement was born in the blood of innocents. It continues to destroy lives and wreak families with no more tangible regard from its leadership for the human toll now then in the moment of its birth. Their allegiance is to a higher agency. No…not God. The culture war. Failure is not a bug, it’s a feature. The scapegoat must hate themselves too.
August 6th, 2008
You Know…My Gaydar Maybe Wasn’t All That Bad After All…
In the case of people who go into these gay-straight marriages knowing what they’re doing, as opposed to being in denial about their sexual orientation, I’m willing to bet that it’s mostly a generational thing, with more older gay folk doing this then younger, and that it’s also mostly a bible-belt thing.
As I said in a previous post, I’ve had this track record in my dating life of falling for guys who later claimed to be completely, perfectly, absolutely heterosexual. Yet my shyness when it comes to dating nearly immobilizes me, and I am not one of those who likes to hit on straight guys by any means. And yes, there are gay guys like that. Think of it as the gay male version of a straight guy who thinks lesbians are hot. I am not anything like that guy. I need someone who is on the same page as me. Very much so. And between that and my shyness I have never, Never approached any guy who wasn’t pinging my gaydar pretty solidly…or so I thought at the time.
Yet I seemed to keep making the same mistake over and over again. So over the years I came to think that the problem is I have lousy gaydar. I began making jokes about how bad my it is. But now I look back over the course of my adult life and I realize that I have spent most of the waking hours in a week in the workplace with tons of heterosexuals. And when I look at how those heterosexuals relate to each other, verses the ersatz straight guys in my life, I have to wonder. Anyone who thinks that gay people, gay men in particular, are way more preoccupied with sex then heterosexuals are, is living in Fantasyland. The subtext between them is always there, just as it is between gay guys or lesbians…
And it’s exactly that subtext, which I see all the time when I’m in a mixed company of straight men and women, that I just never pick up on in certain other contexts. Just as there is a difference between acting gay and being gay…
…there is a difference between acting and being straight.
Was I really mistaken about the sexual orientation of those guys I tried to date once upon a time? Or was it the nobility I thought I saw within them that I was mistaken about?
July 24th, 2008
The Difference Between Helping Children And Kicking Them In The Face
PFOX, (Parents and Friends of eX-Gays), would have you believe it’s different from P-FLAG, (Parents and Friends of Gays), in that PFOX supports people who are "struggling with homosexuality" and P-FLAG does not. But that’s not it.
Here’s the difference:
The study in question, as it turns out, is a seventeen year old work published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, back in June 1991. Not exactly recent…but never mind. What PFOX is saying there is that supporting gay teens as they come out to themselves puts them at risk of suicide. Their solution?
So says PFOX Executive Director Regina Griggs. Note the doublespeak there about affirming them as "people worthy of respect". But how much respect is it, to tell a kid gay kid they don’t have to be gay if they don’t want to? Look again, at what came slyly out of the other side of her mouth there…
Thats religious rightspeak for There Is No Such Thing As A Homosexual. Don’t believe me? Look again…
Permanently ‘gay’. Note both the quotes around the word gay and the word permanently preceding it. You don’t have to be gay if you don’t want to. Change is possible. This is what PFOX wants teachers to tell the gay kids that come out to them, and/or to their peers. Griggs is sliding that under the radar their, in a cotton candy cloud of PFAUX respect. But in today’s hostile school environment, where the word Gay has itself become a generic put-down among school kids, a kid who comes out, almost certainly already knows how impossible change actually is for them.
And that has consequences.
But to call it ‘ideological’ ennobles it. This isn’t ideology, it’s hate. A hate so bottomless it will cheerfully let children kill themselves rather then allow them to have the support they need at that critical moment in their lives. What Griggs is saying there to kids, stripped of its PFAUX respect, is that thinking you are gay will make you kill yourself. That is, seriously, the message they want kids who are just coming into puberty and feeling same sex desire for the first time in their lives to hear, and internalize. These feelings are going to make me kill myself. And when they can’t stop themselves from having those feelings, feelings they’ve never had before, feelings that seem to come out of nowhere whenever an attractive classmate walks by, feelings that they have no control over whatsoever, what do you think is going to happen?
Here’s what: Griggs will cheerfully blame those of us who want gay kids to feel good about themselves when those kids take Griggs message, that thinking you are gay makes you want to kill yourself, to heart and actually do it.
And there is the essential difference between P-FLAG and PFOX. One group supports gay people. The other, ex-gays. And it doesn’t get any more ex then dead.
[Edited a tad for clarity...]
September 5th, 2007
I always knew this…
Emphasis mine. Why am I not asked to participate in experiments like these? This is the one area where my weak gaydar seems to work most reliably. I love to watch beautiful guys walk. There’s just something about the sight of the male body in motion. And in the gait, sometimes, I can just see it. Some guys just have a more beautiful, or at least a more attractive to my my eye, gait then others. The gay ones. Makes my heart beat.
There’s this Bob Segar song… I realize that, according to the story, he’s singing about about a specific person…but ever since it started playing on the radio, whenever I hear it I just mentally flip a pronoun and rock to it…
But oh, they love to watch him strut…
The play on words about how they all respect her, but…doesn’t quite work with the male pronoun so I end up mentally adjusting the lyrics further as the song goes on. But I seldom pay that much attention to the lyrics of a rock song anyway…it’s about the music, and the music of that particular song is just about right for watching beautiful guys walking. And sometimes you just find yourself following along…er…you know…to the rhythm of it…
But there’s a disquieting side to all this, that you also need to pay attention to…
A lot of gay guys,,,myself included…just assume most of the time that we’re not really all that "obvious". In particular, those of us who grew up being fed a lot of stereotypes about swishing and limp wrists and lisping and that kind of crap, tend to assume that to the degree we don’t fit the stereotype, we’re probably passing. Well guys…it looks like they can see right through us anyway.
And in a world that’s been so relentlessly polarized, gays so relentlessly demonized by this kind of republican party crap…
…that can have, as the article points out, consequences.
Have you ever had a business interaction that all of a sudden just turned negative and you couldn’t quite put your finger on why? You’re talking to a clerk at a store somewhere, or trying to arrange to have some professional come and do some work on your house, or your car, or whatever, and suddenly they turn all cold and contemptuous and suddenly find a million excuses why they can’t sell you what you were looking for, or do the work for you that you need done? I’ve had that happen over and over again and usually I put it down to being a longhair in bluejeans and sneakers, and the lingering resentment some folks still feel toward the 60s counter-culture. But what if it really is homophobia?
It’s all too easy to fall into the suffocating trap of putting every negative reaction down to prejudice against gay people. But there’s another side to that coin and it’s called denial. I don’t think I have any obvious effeminacy to me, I’m no macho guy by any means, but I’ve always pictured myself internally as pretty much an average middle class, suburban American guy. Okay…so I don’t much care for sports. I love fast cars, firecrackers, and hard rock. I am a stereotypical male in so many ways, some pretty embarrassing. No…I don’t ask for directions. I hate shopping for clothes. Weekends when I’m cleaning house, I am always scolding myself for not picking up after myself like I should.
But maybe none of that matters anyway. Maybe none of it ever mattered. The clues are subtler, and they’re hard wired into us. The way we talk, the way we move, even according to this 60 minutes article, the way we sit…
You can be flaming and you can be quiet and reserved and it doesn’t matter. You can be fabulous and you can be a geek whose clothes never seem to fit quite right and it doesn’t matter. The people we interact with on a daily basis may never even be aware consciously what it is they’re picking up on. They just know, somehow, that they’re dealing with a homosexual. And that can have consequences. Especially after so many elections where gay people were painted as the demons who were going to take over America, prey on children, spread AIDS and destroy marriage and family if the democrats won.
July 25th, 2007
Trapped In The Left-Handed Lifestyle
Sin. Sinister. Left-Handed. We don’t have to imagine a religion that regards left handedness as a mark of the devil, because it existed. Perhaps in some corners of the human world, it still exists. And some of us of my generation don’t have to imagine what reparative therapy for left-handedness would look like, because we have seen it with our own eyes.
The myths and superstitions surrounding left handedness were almost completely dead, at least in the United States, when I entered grade school back in 1959. But they hadn’t died out completely. I’m old enough to remember watching two teachers tie a classmate’s left arm to his side after he was caught writing something with his left hand.
They did it at the kid’s parent’s request, and they were not brutal about it. It wasn’t like they were binding him tightly or anything. The thinking was that if you just train a kid to use their right hand early enough, it would take and they wouldn’t be left handed anymore. It was a bit like putting something bitter on the thumb of a small child that won’t stop sucking their thumb. They just lightly tied a small strap around the kid’s waste and left arm, to prevent him from reflexively using his left hand to write with. The kid did not resist, he just sat there crying, humiliated, because he knew he’d done something wrong.
Except…he hadn’t. Put aside for a moment that their model of how handedness works was all wrong. That it was something like a bad habit which, if caught early enough, you could correct. Even if handedness was a completely chosen thing, there is nothing wrong or evil or harmful about using your left hand over your right. Unless that is, you believe that it’s a sin. Left-handed. Sinister. Sin. Or you believed the few remaining mental health professionals of the day who said that left-handedness leads to a host of mental and psychological problems. Didn’t you know that a higher then average number of serial killers are left handed?
It isn’t hard to picture how an ex-leftie ministry might work to suck the pride and joy and love of life out of a young guy, a kid maybe who keeps having these…urges…to use their left hand. Every time he gets that urge he believes he is being unfaithful to God. He believes this, because his church is telling him this. The Devil baptizes his followers with his left hand… His peers either ridicule him, or bath him in suffocating patronization. He has this…condition. He can’t help himself. There is something tragically wrong with him. His parents are profoundly ashamed that their son uses his left hand. The kid is deeply ashamed of himself. And every time he feels the urge to use his left hand, the shame deepens.
But there is one final hope. Reparative therapy. Thousands have found freedom from left-handedness. Question left-handedness. There are stories of hope and redemption. This one has been living as a right handed man for over a decade, and is now a successful painter who, he says, never feels the urge to use his left hand to pick up a brush. That one has been in a successful relationship with another ex-leftie and they are raising a healthy, godly family of right handed children. This one has been freed from left-handedness through the power of faith. That one abandoned the left-handed lifestyle, and all its self destructiveness, the drugs, the booze, the litany of health problems, and has been living a clean and sober life ever since.
So he checks himself in for a round of ex-leftie therapy. Perhaps he misses the fine print on the form that says he will never be completely cured of this left-handed urges. Perhaps it is not in the fine print. Perhaps, full of all the stories of hope and cure and…redemption…he decides not to notice.
So he spends months…then years…and thousands of dollars in the ex-leftie world. He abandons school, career, the life he had, the life he could have had, on his quest to rid himself of his urge to use his left hand. But he can’t. He’s left handed. After a long struggle he eventually becomes adept at using his right hand to do simple chores. He can write…sort of. An accomplishment he’s proud of. Now he can write with a fountain pen and not smear the ink. He can use scissors with his right hand. He can pitch a ball with his right hand…sort of. But the urges never go away, and maddeningly after years of adapting to a right handed life, he…falls…again and again.
Sometimes its unexpected, like when his neighbor’s kid playfully tosses a ball at him and he catches it in his left hand. Sometimes it happens when he lets his guard down, and he catches himself doodling something with the pen in his left land. It seems the devil won’t let go of him. But it’s not the devil. It’s just his biology. The model of handedness he’s been fed is all wrong, and no amount of sincerely held religious belief can change that any more then it could change the fact hundreds of years ago, that Galileo and Copernicus were right. And yet, it moves.
All his life this left handed man has been fighting his nature. And…for what? To please a lot of right handed people who have bought into, for whatever reason, a model of handedness that is not true, and which…surely only coincidentally…elevates them above their left handed neighbors. His own nature has been used against him since childhood, to implant shame, self loathing, disgust. To make him accept his lowly status. He has been denied a wholesome and nurturing spiritual life, being made to feel himself alienated from God Every Time He Gets An Urge To Use His Left Hand. Which he keeps getting, Because He’s Left Handed.
He is either condemned, or at best, patronizingly offered help for his…condition. When he is not being told that his sin is the worst sin of all, he’s being patronizingly told that well…we’re all sinners in the eyes of the Lord. But this sin seems woven into his very being, like a taint on his very soul. He just can’t stop the urges. His body fights him every time he picks up a pencil or pen. It reminds him constantly that, somehow, he is fundamentally wicked, in a way no one else seems to be. No one else except other devil marked lefties.
He has been denied wholesome and nurturing relationships with his peers, with his community, with his family, because every time he catches himself using his left hand for something, or even feeling the urge to, he is ashamed, and so he withdraws, feeling ashamed, unclean, unworthy. He has been denied the career he might have had, the friends he might have made, and all the joy and fulfillment they might have brought.
Who knows…perhaps he was even denied the love of his life, because he was taught from such an early age, that there was something innately unclean about him. A feeling of shame and despair that was reenforced, again and again within him, every time he had that perfectly natural urge to use his left hand. Sin. Sinister. Left-handed.
The devil baptizes his own with his left hand… He sees himself as someone profoundly, horribly tainted. Unworthy. He gets on his knees nightly and begs God, tearfully, to take the urges away from him. But they don’t go away. He’s Left Handed. It isn’t something you can pray away.
He pays therapists thousands of dollars to talk him into being right handed. Perhaps it was an overly dominant mother. Perhaps when a boy uses his left hand to write with, he is subconsciously rebelling against his manhood. Left is associated with the feminine isn’t it? Whereas right is associated with the masculine. Perhaps his father was too distant. Perhaps he isn’t getting enough masculine activity. But therapy doesn’t work either. He’s Left Handed. You can’t psychoanalyze it away. It wasn’t his mother. It wasn’t his father. It’s his biology. It’s perfectly normal. Not average. Not common. But nonetheless, normal.
But he is never told that. There are nights when he wonders why God even allowed him to be born.
There is nothing wrong with him. Nothing. He’s just left-handed. It neither harms him, nor his neighbors, that he uses his left hand. And it doesn’t separate him from God, because if God is the creator then God made him that way. If anything, it is trying not to be what he so clearly is, that is separating him from God. It is also separating him from his family, and from his community. It has separated him from the whole life he could have had.
Reality matters. Existence exists. When the bird and the bird book disagree, believe the bird. You would think that someone of a deeply religious nature, wishing to be faithful and devoted to God almighty would instinctively grasp how the hand of the creator has the final, absolute say over all our human pretensions. However we might wish reality to be, reality is what it is. There is a lesson on standing humbly before the Creator in that, which you’d think the religious conservative would find completely agreeable. You’d think. But if that were so, then there wouldn’t be a movement to teach creationism to school kids, let alone a movement to teach homosexuals to hate themselves, and to teach their peers, their neighbors, their country, to treat them with contempt. The problem with standing humbly before the creator, is that its…well…humbling.
June 28th, 2007
Beware The Hidden Assumptions
That’s something I was taught to consider in a structured analysis and design class I attended once and it’s the kind of thinking that we should all practice. You really need sometimes to look critically at the obvious, the taken-for-granted, those "everyone knows such-and-such is true" truths. They can be delicate, nearly invisible curtains hiding from your eyes the reality that’s staring you back in the face.
Via aTypical Joe, comes this story of 81 words that were once in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), and how they were there in the first place, simply because everyone just assumed they were true. And this particular assumption got its first really critical looking at, when Evelyn Hooker, a psychologist at UCLA, met Sam From, a student…
This is but a small excerpt from a really good This American Life broadcast, which originally aired in January 2002. It’s available for listening at the link above. If you have iTunes it can also be purchased for ninty-five cents. I highly recommend it. The broadcast is the story of the DSM change as told by Alix Spiegel, the granddaughter of the man who was the president elect of the APA when the change occurred. Like many profound historical events, this one is something more, and something less, then the mythologies that have grown up around it. It involved political theater, and behind the scenes activism. It involved many diverse people from many diverse backgrounds…most of them heterosexual, some of them gay. Most of the gays in the APA at that time were in fact, deeply, deeply closeted, and what is probably a striking thing for modern ears to hear is how many of them accepted the prevailing assumptions about the pathology of homosexuality.
But if the internal behind the scenes politics, and the external pressure of gay activists accomplished anything, it was to hasten what the science would eventually compel them to do anyway. That is not to ether dismiss, nor exaggerate the impact of the activism. There is a scene near the end of Alix Spiegel’s story that needs to be in any film or TV recreation of these events, and it is that moment when Robert Spitzer is brought by one of the activists who had been protesting the APA’s categorizing of homosexuality as an illness, uninvited, to a gathering of the closeted gay professionals, and he sees how many distinguished and successful people of his profession are homosexual, people he would never have suspected, people whose accomplishments were considerable, people who would, every one of them, have been drummed out of their profession had their sexual orientation become known then. For Spitzer, it is a profound revelation. And then…a young man in uniform walks in the door.
You should listen to this episode. It’s nearly an hour long but well worth it, to get to that scene. There is a historian toward the end who says that questions of disease and pathology ultimately resolve down to moral questions, not scientific ones. I disagree. Science can certainly tell us whether or not something is or is not harmful to us mentally and physically. And the moral question was answered millenia ago: First Do No Harm… But there is a profound moral question at the bottom of every scientific one and that is the question of truthfulness and letting the evidence speak for itself. Even if means you have to discard a cherished assumption you’ve held on to for years. Even if that assumption has given you the recognition of your peers, fame, and made you a pretty good living.
Robert Spitzer has taken a lot of justly deserved criticism for his so-called study of clients of ex-gay ministries, but you have to give the man credit for that one dazzling moment near the end of this report, when he let the evidence he could clearly see with his own two eyes, finally, speak for itself. Charles Socrades comes off by contrast, as a man so blinded by dogma that he’s even willing to regard himself as a parental failure to his own gay son. But as he says, his business was booming. He speaks with pride toward the end about some parents who took their 16 year old gay son to one psychiatrist after another, only to be told there was nothing wrong with the boy…until they met him.
And now you know what happens to a soul that stops asking questions.
June 22nd, 2007
Okay…So I Kissed The Other Boys In First Grade…
It’s true. Some years ago, after Maryland started allowing us to view our grade school records, I took a trip to my old High School and asked to see mine. Reading all the comments in my file from all the teachers I’d had over the years was a real eye opener. Two of them stood out in particular: one from a fifth grade teacher who wrote Bruce "Takes excessive interest in personal art projects". The other was a write-up by one of my first grade teachers for a discipline infraction. I’d been caught kissing other boys.
It wasn’t until I read her words that I even remembered the incident. Perhaps I’d just shut it out of my mind all those years because the embarrassment was too much for my little first grade sensibilities. Or perhaps I just let the incident slide on by because I hadn’t thought it was any big deal at the time. All I remember of it, was getting scolded for kissing a boy. But that particular teacher was always scolding me and then dragging me into the coat closet, where she dragged all the kids at one time or another to make them pray for forgiveness because of something they did, or that she though they’d done. I still remember how livid she was when the Supreme Court ruled that public schools can’t force the kids in them to pray. Picture a first grade teacher standing stone faced in front of her classroom of small children, and telling them that the Supreme Court had just taken God away from them.
Which is all to say that my sexuality, even at that age, was probably already beginning to surface in various little telling ways, and that some of the adults in my life were already starting to brand me for it. There’s a really interesting article in this weeks’ Village Voice about parents and teachers struggling to cope with developing gender and sexuality in grade school children and younger in a culture that simply doesn’t want to aknowledge that children have any such things. But if there is a bioligical basis to sexual orientation, then its a no-brainer that they do.
I remember my grade school crushes to this day. I often drove my friends back then crazy with my heated emotional attachments. In those days though, strange as it may sound today, a young boy was almost expected to dislike girls and find more emotional gratification in his male pals until he got to a certain age. There was a saying for it "Going through a phase…" As time went on and my male pals began their first tentative efforts at courtship, I would reach for that saying to describe myself and my own emotional responses to the same and the opposite sex, over and over again like a mantra. "I’m just going through a phase…just going through a phase…just going through a phase…" I had no idea what it meant, but it sounded like a good enough excuse to avoid dating girls…something I was really really not interested in.
If only someone had told me that I could date boys instead. Oh…I’d have jumped right on that…
Twitterpated. I love it. Describes my schoolboy crushes perfectly. Twitterpated. Except I had no idea what it was all about, because I wasn’t allowed to know that boys could fall in love with other boys. Those years could have been a lot happier for me then they were. Every kid should be allowed to get twitterpated without getting dragged into the closet to pray for forgiveness.
Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com