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February 25th, 2021

In Seven Words Describe How Your Life Is A Complete Not Worth Living Failure…

Joseph Gordon-Levitt occasionally posts these little challenges on Facebook for his readers. Every now and then one of them hits me pretty hard…

He was beautiful, but it was 1971.

Kinda hard to realize that even back when you were a teenager falling in love for the first time it was already over and done.
But I had to keep learning it over and over…and over…and over…

Strike one…strike two…strike three…strike one redux… You’re just not getting the message are you kid…your kind isn’t allowed to love…

 

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

January 21st, 2021

Maybe I’m Finally Understanding This

I’m sure most of the population has other, more pleasant hobbies and blissfully tuned out for 4 years, but some of us couldn’t do that. I’m not overstating things and saying I WAS PERSONALLY IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH DONALD TRUMP, but I think anyone who has had *that person* in their lives knows of the constant low level stress of wondering when they are going to wander into the room and just blow everything up with their latest nonsense. -Atrios, writing in his blog today

It’s odd because his tweet is about Trump, but this business about the constant low level stress of wondering when they’re going to wander into the room and blow everything up instantly reminded me of actually living that, and perhaps it’s knocked some sense into me that’s been long overdue. Something like fifty years overdue as a matter of fact. My entire childhood and a good part of my adolescence, and most of mom’s life I suspect, were spent in an abusive relationship with her mother (who I have often referred to here as my Bitter Baptist Grandmother) and I never really looked at it that way until just now.

It’s always been just…yeah that was her…she was like that. Now I’m thinking that lots of people see their abuser that way…not as an abuser specifically, but as just being like that. Someone who is always cranky and bad tempered. Someone who just seems to always be miserable, and wants everyone else to be miserable to. Someone you are always tip-toeing around, trying not to set them off, trying not to attract their attention. Because…that’s just how they are. Not abusers, just difficult people. And you avoid their gaze because you know what you’ll see in those eyes. People who are always making you tense up. People who make you feel small whenever they’re around. 

Yeah. Abusers. I’m sixty-seven years old and she still haunts my bad dreams.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Maybe I’m Finally Understanding This

December 12th, 2020

Once Upon A Time…

I remember skies
Reflected in your eyes
I wonder where you are
I wonder if you think about me
Once upon a time
In your wildest dreams…

I played this Moody Blues song lots after it was released in 1986. I’d moved on from that first tragically magical gay teen high school crush by then, and was busy impaling myself on the second big crush of my life. But I was also beginning to learn by then that you never really forget that first one either. When Morgan Jon Fox asked me if I was willing to chip in some funding for a short he was making The One You Never Forget it was as much because of my own feelings for that time in my life as that Morgan is an amazing filmmaker that I did it. But unlike the boy in Morgan’s film, I never got to ask that first one to the prom, let alone take him. It was 1971. Even in a better world where gay teens could do that I’m not sure I’d have been the one he said yes to. He was a catch. I’d have had competition. And I was just this scrawny little geek from the other side of the tracks.

I had no idea where he was…I imagined that he’d gone back to the South American land of his birth and was having a wonderful love life of his own down there. I knew I’d just have to live with it, but at the same time, whenever the chance arose, I would make inquires, throw little messages in a bottle out to the emerging computer networked world. Are you out there? Do you remember?

This one, and Ringo Starr’s Photograph really hit me with how it felt that he just suddenly vanished from my world, and I had no idea where he went, or what he thought about the times we managed to spend together, once upon a time. So of course they made it to the While Working On A Coming Out Story playlist I’m building. When I have something I’m satisfied with I’ll share it here. Like one of those embarrassing cassette mix tapes us kids used to give to our crushes back in the day.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Once Upon A Time…

December 7th, 2020

Walk Over And Say Something To Him…

A Coming Out Story, episode 31 in progress on the drawing board. When the drawing you’re working on makes you relive old anxieties…

 

…and I got that look 40+ years later too. So it goes…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Walk Over And Say Something To Him…

December 6th, 2020

The Lover Is A Monotheist…

The lover is a monotheist who knows that other people worship different gods but cannot himself imagine that there could be other gods. -Theodor Reik

I’m working diligently on the next two episodes of A Coming Out Story, and I’ve taken to listening to the Spotify playlist that Beth David and Esteban Bravo put up as their background music while working on their animated film about a schoolboy’s first crush, In A Heartbeat. It’s surprisingly appropriate, but at some point I might make my own playlist for A Coming Out Story. (It should probably be all 60s/early 70s songs)

Those days are long gone, and yet so much of the adult I eventually became was because of that period in my life. I survived admitting to myself that I am a homosexual, possibly the most awful thing you could be back in 1971, apart maybe from being a communist or a hippy, because I was was in love, completely and utterly twitterpated. When the realization finally broke through it was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. I swear it really was like something out of a Walt Disney movie…the birds sang a little more sweetly, the stars shone a little more brightly, I walked with a lighter step…everything was beautiful. It saved my life. I never doubted afterward that there was nothing wrong with me, or with any of us. But it did not end well. It often doesn’t for teenage lovers, and gay kids especially back then, and even now, have their own excruciating battle to fight for their hearts and their dreams. But if you never had that thrilling first love experience in your teen years, I am sorry for you.

Supposedly Kurt Vonnegut once told his daughter that you are allowed to fall deeply in love three times in your life. I think about that quote often when I look back. I’ve had my three strikes. But the quote above expresses how it was for me perfectly. It was always like that for me. Always.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Lover Is A Monotheist…

December 5th, 2020

Safe Spaces For Teenage Gay Nerds

A Coming Out Story, Episode 30 is live…

There’s a panel that should be in there at the beginning, after “The breathless glances” and before “The constant denial” that would have been captioned “The Flirting”, (more likely “The gay teen nerd in denial flirting…but that wouldn’t fit…) but I cut that one out because it didn’t fit the layout…and I can get to that part of the story soon enough.

So I can move along more quickly here (Hahahahaha…yes…I know…) I’m breaking the episodes up into smaller chunks. So expect to see more two or three strip episodes instead of the huge 10 strip plus ones I’ve put up here previously.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Safe Spaces For Teenage Gay Nerds

December 4th, 2020

A Coming Out Story, Episode 30…Real Soon Now…

Final strip for ACOS 30 almost finished. I hope to put the new episode up tonight and make it public tomorrow morning. I’ve discovered I need to let my cartoons simmer overnight before going live.

Notice I’m using GIMP now instead of Photoshop. After Adobe bricked the Windows copy I spent 850 dollars for I vowed to get myself off Adobe products. They claimed I’d somehow bought a “bulk” license that had expired even before I registered it. They’d let me use it for two years after the alleged expiration date. Then one supposes, since their new rental software business model wasn’t such a big hit, the tweaked their license algorithm and remote turned off my copy when it failed the new check.

I called their support number to ask what was going on and that I’d spent serious money for that copy, and their service droid told me to be more concerned about all the money Adobe was loosing to Piracy. But I’d bought a legitimate license. They even let me register this so called expired license that cost me 850 bucks and use it for two years.

The wonderful thing about commercial software is there are so many different directions they can point their fingers to blame for customer abuse. Adobe of course can blame the vendor I bought the license from that they claimed was already expired when they let me register and use it for two years. But of course, after two years the vendor isn’t much likely to refund my money. And more than likely they’ll claim it was a perfectly legitimate license and it’s Adobe that’s fucking with me, not them. And the fact is, buried inside nearly everyone’s licensing terms, is a clause allowing the vendor to change the terms of the license out from under you whenever they feel like it.

Think about that, those of you who think you have a permanent license for an Adobe product. 

So I’ve switched to GIMP, which has turned out to be a nearly perfect replacement for Photoshop. And it’s open source. But there is one small problem.

GIMP has a well known problem with tablet input devices, like my Wacom. It seems there is a bug in GTK2 that they’ve been dallying with fixing for 5+ years (It’s Open Source!), and the only machine that GIMP works properly on with my Wacom is the MacBook Pro you see here. So for the duration, that has become my art room computer.

Allegedly GIMP 3 fixes all that (real soon now!). There is a development release, GIMP 2.99.2, that allegedly has the tablet fix in it. But what you get, apart from a development release they tell you up front might crash on you at any moment, is a tarball that you have to compile.

I don’t have an up to date Linux system (it’s on my todo list) so I’ll just stick with the MacBook Pro for now. I’m actually really happy with GIMP. It does some things I need better than Photoshop, and its quirks are easily adapted to. I have a reference document I’ve been working on that steps me through a How To in GIMP things I did all the time in Photoshop, like ingesting line art onto a transparent layer. (It’s in Google Docs if there are any GIMP users here who want to look at it…message me) Moving and sizing objects on a layer is very odd in GIMP if you’re used to the way Photoshop does it, but once you understand it the process is very straightforward. Likewise copying line art from one image to another. But I can do everything in GIMP that I once did in Photoshop…at least regarding my cartoons…so I’m happy.

At some point I need to work on moving my photography workflow away from Lightroom. They say there are lots of good alternatives, some of which work way better at things like noise reduction and shadow detail.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Coming Out Story, Episode 30…Real Soon Now…

November 27th, 2020

Coming Soon…

I’m finally getting ready for the next three episodes of A Coming Out Story (plus intermissions…). Here’s a peek at the next episode…

I’m going to be busy at my paying job all weekend long, but this episode, and the next two, are only three strips each so it should go quickly. The intermissions, which are the story of my reading The Truth About Homosexuality by Dr. Pompous J. Fraudquack are single strips interleaved with the rest of my storyline, leading up to the moment I come out to myself. I know…it’s crazy but hopefully easier to follow once it’s all done.

Stay tuned…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Coming Soon…


The Minefield Of You

This came to me via Facebook Memories this morning…

Facebook memories are a good antidote for gaslighting. So are diaries. And blogs like this one.

I was spending Thanksgiving week at Walt Disney World that day, and had visited my high school crush at his place of work in one of the restaurants there where he works as a waiter. I used to hang out after closing time and we’d have chats lasting so long at times I would have to be escorted out of the park (Cheerfully and politely because it was Disney World after all…) to my hotel, lest the Langoliers find me. The fact was that after the last fireworks of the night not everything closed on the hour. The rides and restaurants would close of course, but the stores remained open until very late because departing guests might want to buy just one more thing, and Disney leaves no money on the table.

This would have been two years after we reconnected, and I was already beginning to see how his affections ran warm, hot, and cold and it was hard to predict what I was going to encounter on any particular visit. The fact was it was a minefield from the start, and I just got used to periodically being allowed to wander through this lovely pastoral landscape, that would occasionally explode under my feet.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Minefield Of You

September 27th, 2020

It’s A Small World After All…But Not That Small…

This came to my doorstep the other day…a happy time capsule from a better time. Or so I’d hoped…

This was my favorite of all the Micky Mouse Club serials back in the day. The Adventures of Spin and Marty was okay, but not nearly as engaging. This one had some real adventure, and a mystery for a young geek kid to solve along with Frank and Joe. Plus, if I was to admit it…which back at that age, at that time, I could not…the two leads were Very attractive. Looking back on it, even then I had a thing for good looking guys. But there was another reason I wanted this for my library. Years later, I would learn how Disney fired Tommy Kirk after he found out Tommy was gay, and I would keep a place for him and his work close to heart. If only we’d both lived in a better world back then. This serial was Tommy’s first appearance in a Disney production. I wanted to watch the episodes, imagining in the back of my mind both of us living in that better world as I watched. Perhaps I should not have watched that full episode of the Micky Mouse Club that had the introduction episode in it to the new Hardy Boys serial.

Mind you, when I was a kid watching the Micky Mouse Club back in the day, I was watching the series when it was in reruns. This was after school fare that I would take in along with one or the other of the local kid’s show hosts. Pick Temple. Captain Tugg. Ranger Hal…but he was in the mornings and I only watched his show when I was home from school. My memories of those times and the Mickey Mouse Club are kinda munged together now, and if anything they tell me at age 67 how good that Hardy Boys serial must have been, because watching those are the clearest memories I have of that TV show. And especially that opening title song. That, and how each day of the week had a different theme. I remember the other serials vaguely. Spin and Marty. Corky and White Shadow. I remember we got a Disney cartoon every episode, and the Mouseketeers would sing a song in front of the doors to a treasure vault to open it. One of the cast would run up to a drawer and take out a card presumably with the title of the cartoon we were about to see on it. But what would happen is that Mouseketeer would look at the camera and say “Today’s cartoon is…” and then the video would cut to a title card and a voice over.

Even at that age I knew what was going on was a canned sequence they just reused over and over again. But I was a kid and I let it slide, along with all the other canned sequences TV shows used back then, and the fact that the characters in them always wore the same clothes every second of every episode, so the same boilerplate footage, like Clark Kent going into that storage room down the hall from his office, would always work wherever they had to splice it in. TV in it’s early years was produced very cheaply. I’ve had this running fantasy of creating an All Car Chase cable TV channel that just runs a continuous stream of boilerplate Quinn Martin car chase sequences with those huge Ford whales squealing tires around street corners. People would tune in at random and start wondering which Quinn Martin show it was they were watching.

There was other stuff stitched into a typical Micky Mouse Club episode that I’d completely forgotten. Lots of boilerplate I only vaguely remembered. And as it turned out, a bunch of stuff I’d completely forgotten. Or more likely suppressed the memory of. And when I popped the first CD of this set into the player and started watching it all came back to me. And I cringed.

Oh…I remember this world…

See…I rediscovered my inner Mouseketeer back in 2008, when I went to Walt Disney World for the first time and it all came back to me. Yes, I’d gone mostly to see my first love again after thirty plus years of searching for him. But I’d forgotten what a little Mouseketeer I was. And almost from the moment I set foot in Epcot, and saw the monorail glide overhead, and heard the music, and it all embraced me like a long lost boy come back to the family, it all came back to me. And for a little while I could be that kid again, and believe in all the things I used to believe about the world, and what the future held. But that was the kid who grew up in an all white protestant suburb, who didn’t yet know he was gay.

The Walt Disney World of today would embrace that gay kid. Walking through those gates in 2008 I felt welcome even then, years before the Pulse nightclub massacre that changed everything in Orlando, and among the Disney crew. Yes, it was a kind of down low embracing. But you had to have grown up in the world I was seeing on that CD to appreciate how Wonderful even that on the down low acceptance felt. We had Gay Days now, but it was unofficial (it still is, but Disney World Paris had an official actual Gay Pride parade last June). And that It’s A Small World After All mindset was everywhere. People from all over the world came to Walt Disney World. You saw people of all nations, all races in the parks, just enjoying themselves. You could hear the languages of the world spoken. Spanish and English announcements alternated. And also, even closer to my heart, that There’s A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow Shining At The End Of Every Day mindset. I felt I was back home, back in the world I belonged in.

Watching that full episode of The Micky Mouse Club I saw the old testament world. The world of the red baiting, gay witch hunts, ostentatious flag waving, and suffocating moralizing. But that world was also a world I remembered well. It’s a way too easily remembered world in fact, because so many people keep trying to bring it back.

The first thing you notice watching those old Micky Mouse Club episodes, is the unrelenting whiteness of it. There were no black Mouseketeers. And of course, in the 1950s, had Disney put Any black kids on the show as regulars, unless they were strictly for stereotypical comic relief only, ABC would have instantly lost all the southern TV station affiliates for that time slot. I remember watching the TV series I Spy get an Emmy Award back in the mid sixties, and the guy whoever it was receiving it said on the podium that Sheldon Leonard “has a lot of guts”, and I had no idea what he was talking about. Later it dawned on me…he’d cast a black man, Bill Cosby, as one of the leads, and they’d lost southern affiliates over it, and the network didn’t back down. I sat on my sofa watching this Micky Mouse Club episode and wondered how it felt to black kids back in the 1950s, to be invisible on a family oriented TV show that was supposedly for all kids everywhere. 

An other thing you notice was how supposedly all-American it was in just about every minute of it. The patriotic display was as thick as the moralism and it was all thoroughly suffocating. The head Mouseketeer in the series, adult Mouseketeer Jimmy Dodd, would often take to the camera to talk to the kids about making all the right moral choices and how lucky they were to be living in such a great country as ours. These were, so I’m told, called “Doddisms”, and there was one of them on this episode, that ended with Dodd pointing at the camera and saying “someday one of you will be President of the United States.” I’m pretty sure Walt Disney would be spitting nails to know the man who is President now is part of his Hall of the Presidents attraction. But his Micky Mouse Club was exactly the kind of all white constantly moralizing to the common folk world that man and his supporters favor to their own motives and ends. There is not an inch of distance between them. Only, I am convinced, that Walt Disney believed in it himself. I don’t think that man put his name on anything he didn’t actually believe in, just to make a buck.

But in that world, black kids need not apply for any of the lead roles. Not Jewish kids. Asian kids. Boys who don’t fit the Disney mold of what boys should be. Girls who don’t fit the Disney mold of proper ladies. I’m told Disney was shocked, shocked when Annette began appearing in beach movies wearing a bikini. And she remained a very conservative woman to her dying day. It’s a small gated community after all. The rest of us were at best, background scenery. Boilerplate stereotypes. And that only if we were allowed to exist at all:

“I consider my teenage years as being desperately unhappy. I knew I was gay, but I had no outlet for my feelings. It was very hard to meet people and, at that time, there was no place to go to socialize. It wasn’t until the early ’60s that I began to hear of places where gays congregated. The lifestyle was not recognized and I was very, very lonely. Oh, I had some brief, very passionate encounters and as a teenager I had some affairs, but they were always stolen, back alley kind of things. They were desperate and miserable. When I was about 17 or 18 years old, I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t going to change. I didn’t know what the consequences would be, but I had the definite feeling that it was going to wreck my Disney career and maybe my whole acting career. It was all going to come to an end.”

Tommy Kirk.

There’s a well known story about the Disney animator Art Babbitt, who decided to study piano to better understand the relationship between music and animation, and when he told Walt Disney he was taking piano lessons Disney snapped back at him “What are you, some kind of fag or something?” I’ve often wondered if the context of that was finding out the child actor he’d groomed for bigger and better things after the Hardy Boys, and was a big hit with audiences in Old Yeller, Swiss Family Robinson, and The Shaggy Dog  turned out to be gay. But the time frames don’t seem to match up. Disney discarded Tommy over something he was and couldn’t help being and it destroyed him inside. His career plummeted into drugs and crappy movies and he finally had to get out of it and start over. He blames himself for it, but then lots of us do because we’re taught to believe deep down inside that we are damaged goods. We are taught to blame ourselves for the ignorant hatred of others.

So I’m sitting on my sofa watching that episode of the Mickey Mouse Club and that feeling of teenage suffocation came back to me with all the immediacy of that moment in 2008 when I walked into Epcot and remembered how it was to be a Disney Kid, before the suffocation set in. And that was why I stopped being a Disney kid in my late teens. Even before I came out to myself one day in 1971, I’d stopped feeling that I was a part of his world. Like the Baptist culture I was raised in I had to get out and breath. But it wasn’t just Disney, who was both a product of his times and a definer of them. It’s been well said that to understand the counter culture rebellion of the 1960s, you have to first understand the stifling conformity all us 60s kids grew up with in the 1950s. A good place to see it is that Mickey Mouse Club episode of Oct. 1, 1956.

I like to think if Walt Disney had, given Lots of pixie dust and magic, lived to today he might have grown out of his prejudices and stereotypes. He’d also be over 100 years old but…well okay. What people forget about him was while he was a conservative man, with one foot in Mainstreet U.S.A., he had the other foot in Tomorrowland. He was a man of science and he believed in progress. It wasn’t just cartoon mice and Mary Poppins with him. It was also this…

I like to think that the science regarding sexual orientation, and being exposed to the stories of our lives, told in our own words, would have eventually got through to him. And the stories of all the other kids. Black, yellow, red, brown. It is a small world after all. I like to think in other words, that he would have lived to become the Uncle Walt he presented himself as, and which I’m certain he thought of himself as being. And all the kids of this world would have had a friend and mentor in him. Gay kids too. And that would have been good, because there are much Much worse examples to set for gay kids, than the ones Walt Disney would have. But deeply held prejudices like those die hard. And also that cocoon so many white Americans lived in back then.

I don’t think he ever realized what it did to so many kids back then, that they were invisible in his world, except, sometimes, as stereotypes to dress the stage with. There is a sequence in that Mickey Mouse Club episode, where the Mouseketeers do a song and dance for a Fun With Music segment…a recurring song and dance part of the show…that is a spectacularly cringeworthy moment of white kids dressing up and performing the cultural stereotypes of the 1950s… 

But when it was aired nobody watching would have thought it anything but charming in that Disney way. I don’t recall seeing any Asian Mouseketeers either.

Walt Disney died in 1966. His heirs, the Disney kids who looked up to him, and believed in that great big beautiful tomorrow, set out to make it real in the parks, TV shows and movies that bear his name. Maybe he would be spitting nails to see it now, but he preached the sermon and we all believed and in Walt Disney’s parks, TV shows and movies some of us Disney kids are making it happen. We can all be Disney kids now. And that’s good. Because the more of us there are telling our stories in our own words, instead of sitting passively at the TV watching other people’s stereotypes about us, the closer we all get to that great big beautiful tomorrow Disney promised us.

You too Tommy. And all the kids like you who are watching.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on It’s A Small World After All…But Not That Small…

August 23rd, 2020

About A Coming Out Story

I’ve arrived at a critical point in my story…the part where I finally come out to myself. But it begins with a crucial bit of it I haven’t scripted yet, and which I am still having difficulty scripting to my satisfaction. Thus, the delay. Again.

I’ve bumped up to the part of my story where I and the object of my affections take things to the next level (so to speak) and actually begin talking to each other, as opposed to just gawking at each other. They say the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense. In this case, I’m telling a story about true events, but in a cartoon form that’s hopefully humorous enough that all the gay teen angst and pain and sorrow is easier to digest. It was a hostile world I came of age into. You got a torrent of abuse hurled at you from every direction. And even when some corner of the culture was trying to be sympathetic to you, it was a rancid sort of pity you got. I hope by now anyone following my story isn’t wondering why we just didn’t start talking to each other about our feelings. As it turns out, we were both scared. His way of handling that and mine were different enough, and the cultures we were born to different enough, to make reading each other nearly impossible. So we drug it out for months and months.

But just in case anyone is still wondering, I hit on the idea of intermingling this part of the story with flash forwards of something that really did happen after the fact of my coming out to myself. As I’ve said repeatedly, the story I’m telling is one part things that really happened, one part artistic license, and one part fantasy. In this case, the thing that really happened was I was listening to a radio program where some self styled expert was talking about “the homosexual problem”. I wish I could remember the man’s name, or the title of the show, but it is too deeply buried in memory now. But I clearly recall the impact it had on me at that moment. Audiences nowadays might be repulsed at the shear ignorant bigotry of what the man was saying about homosexuals, but it was pretty standard fare for that period in America. Somewhere toward the end of his presentation, he said that the absolute worst thing a man could admit to, was being a homosexual.

That hit my stubborn nerve…ask anyone who knows me about my stubborn nerve…and I did something immediately afterward that lifted me up, and has sustained me ever since. At some point I really want to get the story to that moment because it’s actually the climax of the entire story, although there is still a lot that comes after it.

I decided to frame it as a series of passages from a book that I’m reading, authored by a self styled expert on “the homosexual problem”. I stole the author’s name from a panel in a cartoon the great underground cartoonist Howard Cruse did, titled Sometimes I Get So Mad… (You can find a copy of it in his collection Dancing Nekkid With The Angels). I emailed him a link to the finished first episode in the story arc, not knowing how ill he had become, and to my everlasting gratitude he once again complimented me on the story, and encouraged me to keep at it because of how important it is for us to tell our stories, because that is how we defeat hate. A few weeks later he was gone. I was, and still am, stunned. I cannot begin to tell you how big an influence he was on me. In a world where even underground cartoonists, sexually liberated though they regarded themselves, were often ignorant, bigoted and hostile toward gay readers, most of whom were either teens or young adults, Howard’s cartoons were lifesavers for many of us. 

I was hoping to push through a bunch of episodes using the device of flashing forward to my reading this book, with passages in it taken from actual publications by both homophobic and mainstream media. Alas, I’m bumping up against the reality of what happened, which is not a simple straightforward timeline of moving from gawking at each other to talking to the moment he put an arm around my shoulders and I went into the stratosphere. That was several months in the making and it was a very convoluted process that played out in our school hallways, the cafeteria, the gym, the Spring Fair (I’ve already flashed forward to that), and the library. It was fearful baby steps forward, then back again, then forward again, and then to some strange only in the early 1970s landscape where we could talk about everything but the lavender elephant in the room. Somehow I have to make a simple cartoon story out of it and I’m still not sure how to. But I’m working on it now.

Because this is such a critical part of the story I need to have a clear picture in my head of how I’m going to tell it, and that clear picture isn’t coming easily. I need to buckle down to it…just push everything else off the table until I get this right. When you see the next episode appear, hopefully in the next few weeks, you’ll know I’ve got it.

Then I need to just keep drawing it…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on About A Coming Out Story

July 12th, 2020

What Bigotry And Hate Did To So Many Hearts

This man’s story came across my Facebook page last month, and I’ve been meaning to write something here about it since but as you can tell by the dates on the posts here I’ve been a little absent. I blame the lockdown…it’s really screwing with my head…

Anyway…here’s a more recent Washington Post version…

Why this 90-year-old man decided to come out as gay during the pandemic

Kenneth Felts spent his entire life in the closet. But at 90 years old, he felt ready to come out.

Since the age of 12, when he first knew he was gay, Felts said, he had been living a double life, battling between dueling identities. There was Ken, his outward-facing straight self, and then there was his alter ego, whom he referred to internally as Larry, a gay man he spent nearly eight decades stifling.

It’s a common story among the before Stonewall generation. Myself, I straddle the divide. When Stonewall happened I was 14…too young to really appreciate it or even know much about it. At that age, had I looked at myself more carefully I’d have seen all the signs. But in 1969 gay people were a dirty secret not talking about in family newspapers or magazines or on TV. And you certainly didn’t tell 14 year old boys anything about homosexuals except that they were dangerous and to keep away. It wasn’t until I was 17, and crushing madly on a classmate, that I finally came out to myself.

But amid the pandemic and the isolation that ensued, Felts started writing about his life to pass the time.

While penning his memoir, Felts said, he “awakened many soul-searing memories of my early life.” Mostly, he wrote about his one true love, Phillip.

Here’s the part of his story that got to me. And it speaks to the pre/post Stonewall divide I have lived with all my life. I came out to myself at the same time I fell in love. But it was 1971 and you couldn’t just declare it to a guy you were crushing on, even if he was gay too. The gay rights movement was suddenly on full blast, but it would be decades before it reached down to the school kids having that first magical crush. In the meantime gay people were being more visible, and that meant gay kids living in unsafe parts of the country, or in homes too risky to even drop a single hairpin in, had to keep their closet doors even more tightly closed.

Despite only recently coming out as gay, Felts said, he’s been searching for Phillip since his divorce 40 years ago.

This was me, but I had no divorce. Love came to me as a revelation. I was like Jack in Titanic, I’d have told him he was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was twitterpated. It was wonderful. I never doubted afterward that there was nothing wrong with me, nothing wrong with being gay. Even so, it wasn’t so simple to just walk up and ask him for a date, let alone to the Prom. And before I could find a way to tell him, get us to some quiet private place were we could at least talk about it, my first crush suddenly moved away. I spent 35 years searching for him before I finally found him.

It was wonderful for about five years. And then it wasn’t. I won’t go into detail about why here, except to say as it turned out, we really weren’t all that compatible to start with. What anti-gay hatred and bigotry took away from my generation…and Felt’s before mine…wasn’t just the ability to have that first magical romance, but more critically the ability to date. That’s how you find out who is good for you, and who is not. Two people can both be good, decent, wonderful persons and still not quite right for specifically each other. Dating is how you find out. 

I found out 40 years later and it was devastating after all that time, all that searching, all that remembering, all those what-ifs. I wanted to reach out to Felt and scream Don’t Do It… But that wouldn’t be fair. Sometimes it probably works out for the best. Sometimes, maybe, you get the happy Disney ever after. But the risks are huge. I did it to myself not once, but twice.

Felt finally found out what happened to his first love…

One of the loving and wonderful people who has been reading my messages on my coming out and search for Phillip undertook to locate him for me. She spent many hours and finally had a report for me. I have summarized that report below.

Phillip Allen Jones was the love of my life. I have a very sad and lonely heart today. My first and greatest love has passed away. He lived a full and happy life I am told by his niece. His partner of many years passed just a few years ago and Phillip remained alone for the rest of his life. I feel I shared with him the best years of his youth and he certainly made mine memorable and I will always remember and appreciate that. I loved him in my heart so much over the years and now he is gone.

It is so terribly frustrating to be so close to and yet not reach my lost love and horribly painful to not be able to say good-by. But the whole world now knows what a loving man he was with me and to me while we were together. My heart has turned to stone and I need my tears to wash away my sorrow. Rest in Peace Phillip.

I feel for him. It’s almost not worth looking for that first love, or any of the other might have beens from back in the day. But I can see why gay people of my generation and before do it despite the risks. Something was taken from us when we were young, some deep and essential part of our humanity was cut out of our lives. So offhandedly. So thoughtlessly. So very righteously. So other people could make their stepping stones to heaven out of the broken pieces of our hearts. It is only natural that we try to reclaim it. All the vocalizing about politics and discrimination in jobs and security in the workplace and in our homes and on the streets and even the right to marry, flows like a bottomless sorrow from the one central fact of our struggle: we were not allowed to love.

Not even to imagine it. Others got the happily ever after. We got the gutter. Other kids got Prom Night, school dances, boy meets girl stories, love songs on the radio, in books and magazines. We got every filthy lie that could be imagined hurled at us, at our deepest most tender feelings of love and desire and hope, and taught to believe them. The part of our lives that makes everything worthwhile was reduced to dirty jokes and sneering obscenities, so they could point at us and call us broken. 

It’s only natural now, so many years after Stonewall, now that we can marry, now that we can be people, that we try to reclaim the parts of our lives we lost to that mindless hate. Even if it means getting cut even more deeply. I don’t think any of us can stop ourselves. We’ve won so many of the battles we never thought we’d live to see won. There is hope. But beneath it, for so many of our generation there is a bottomless sadness that never goes away. Never.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on What Bigotry And Hate Did To So Many Hearts

June 15th, 2020

Why Are You Still Single? It Has To Be You Fucked Up Somehow.

This came across my Feedly feed today…from George Takei’s blog…

People Confess Why They Are Still Single

“Why are you single?” –– And just like that, Redditor Uninfectedl got to the point, asking a question that hits a sore point for so many of us.

The poster, Alan Jude Ryland says they’re single because they’re enjoying singleness. Lots of people do. But lots of us feel trapped and beaten down, especially as the usual thinking is you’re just not doing it right and it’s your own damn fault. You looser.

Here are my reasons…

1) I’m gay. We’re a minority. I had a Much smaller pool of potential dates to start with. Strike one.

2) I came of age during a period when gay folk were almost universally hated. So no socializing among gay teens and young adults as arranged by helpful caring adults. No dances, no proms, no anything to help guide us into making the right choices, finding the one that’s right for you. Strike two.

3) No stories about same sex romances, no songs on the radio, no movies or TV, no examples of how to grow up and find love. We were invisible at best, at worst we were dangerous deviants, sissyboy weaklings, psychopaths and predators. Straight kids got the happily ever after, we got the gutter. Strike three.

4) Too many people in my world when I was coming of age, all the way through my twenties and thirties, felt it was their sacred moral duty to break up any budding same sex romances and keep young lovers far, far apart for their own good. That happened to me over and over. Strike four.

5) The sort of guys I was attracted to, the nice boys, the ones I might have met in a better world at a church social or coffee house, were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them. They didn’t want god to hate them. Strike five.

6) People who look like that want people who look like that. Strike six and game over.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Why Are You Still Single? It Has To Be You Fucked Up Somehow.

June 10th, 2020

From Our Department Of Imponderable Things

Continuing my Facebook Memories from my Disney World Vacation of 2015…this final snapshot flew by this morning…

At least this blog doesn’t throw the past back in my face unless I go looking for it. How do things go from all warm smiles and cheerful carefree conversation to mutually assured friendship destruction in just under a year?

I appreciate that I can be intense and hard to handle from time to time, but by 2015 he’d already know that and we were still good. I have close friends who know me from our grade school days and they’re all use to me. I get exuberant. I get moody. I get quiet. I will talk your ears off. Yeah I chatted with him a bunch in email. But he always answered back. He seemed to like hearing from me. Like when I passed him technical details of the German diesel emissions scandal, or that Youtube of a couple guys drinking German beer laced with helium. He loved it. I geek out about things that interest me. But they interested him too. We had so many mutual interests. Space. Technology. Current events…we were on the same page there. Sometimes he’d tell me to just get to the point. Everybody tells me that. I don’t just explain things, I tell stories. Discovery is the joy of life. The journey is the point too. I wear my heart on my sleeve. He’d seen all that since high school. He saw sides of me that nobody else sees. He knew me. Either he was faking it, and every smile he ever gave me, or something really got to him that spring in 2016.

I can’t believe he was faking it. None of my theories add up. He just blew up at me. And I did too because it wasn’t fair. And that was that. I’ll probably never know what it was. Maybe if he’d told me what it was I would have stayed home that time and let it pass and we’d still be talking. Maybe. But it’s probably for the best.

That’s a really small comfort zone you have there.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on From Our Department Of Imponderable Things

June 8th, 2020

Memories Of Standing On The Outside Of The Comfort Zone Looking In

Facebook tossed this memory from today, 2015 in my face just now. I was visiting Walt Disney World and I had to vent…

Some days I visit he’s being a jerk and doesn’t want to talk to me. Others, like last night, he’s all warm smiles and cheerful eyes and just can’t stop talking and we stay long past park closing time and I’m walking on air all the way back to my room. But then it’s always why can’t we spend some time together outside the park and his comfort zone won’t allow it.

So either way I have to struggle to get my vacation started back up again. If he’s grouchy then I’m miserable and just want to go home. I’ve called vacations off early when it’s been that. If he’s full of sunshine and smiles then I feel like I’ve hit the high point of my trip and why bother staying. There’s that back to the reality of things after the visit let-down to climb back out of somehow. I have to remind myself I need the break regardless.

This morning I’ll hit the grocery store for some perishables I couldn’t bring down with me, and more ice tea, and maybe something from the liquor store so I’m not always paying Disney prices for alcohol. Then spend the rest of the week chilling out, maybe working some more on A Coming Out Story (I brought my drawing things). But I’m in a state now I really have no words for, or at any rate words I’m willing to speak. He said something to me that lifted me out of myself in a way only someone who really gets you can. And it took a load off my psyche certain other gay someone’s I know weighed me down with for years.

It was all about how I don’t interact well with people. Too shy, too self absorbed, blah, blah, blah, your photography has no people in it, blah, blah, blah… Biergarten is “Octoberfest” seating, which means you get seated at a table with other random guests and you’re expected to talk and share a good time together. This time I was seated with a group that seemed really stand-offish. They just gave off chilly vibes. But after a while I got them talking about where they’re from and what they do, and of course when they found out I work at Space Telescope and on Hubble and James Webb they got all interested in that. And by the end of the night we were all chatting happily.

And after they left he and I were chatting and he noticed too how chilly that group was initially. He’s worked this line of business for so long now he can probably read a table the second he walks up to it. Then he said he’d always seen me open people up and that I was good at it and that I was always getting everyone talking and having a good time no matter how chilly the table seemed at first.

Well…yeah… One thing is you always know you’re with other Disney people here…so that’s something. It’s not like you’re in some random bar with bad mood people. We’re all Disney people here. And that Disney kid just comes out of me here. It’s a kind of freedom to be that kid I once was I never really appreciated I was missing before I started coming here. But I’m not the hopelessly detached single certain other people somehow managed to convince me I am either. I’m not that…so how did I get to thinking of myself like that? He just pulled that out of me with a few words and the look on his face when he said it.

He does that. It’s when someone shows you things about yourself you didn’t know, but should have known, that makes it serious. And…it’s been like that since we were teenagers. When he’s not in a touchy mood, it’s still like that.

But we never got the chance other kids did. And now he has his comfort zone, and I need to get on with my vacation. Somehow.

It was around this time that I’d figured out that if I told him in advance I was coming down he wouldn’t have anything to do with me, but if I just showed up it was all smiles and happy face and good times. Something just less than a year later we had nuclear war…I’d told him I was coming down and he lied about being on a ski trip and I shouldn’t bother and I came down anyway and he was so stand-offish even the new servers there noticed something was wrong with him. Afterward he sent me a nastygram telling me never to speak to him again and I blew up because I hadn’t done anything wrong or said anything to him I hadn’t said dozens of times before…and it was all over, and with it every memory I ever had about it being good…wonderful even. It’s amazing what tricks memory can play on you. If it wasn’t for these occasional Facebook memories I wouldn’t remember it ever being good with him now, not even back in high school. But it was. I wasn’t twitterpated for no reason. He felt it too. But whereas it lifted me out of myself, erased every shred of guilt or shame I might have had, it must have done the opposite to him.

…which set a pattern for the rest of my life. Because I would always fall for the nice boys…the ones I might have met in a better world at a church social, or coffee house. But in the world I grew up in all those nice boys were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them, they didn’t want God to hate them.

I’ve made my allegiances, I have to stay in my comfort zone…

So it goes. I reckon. I should get back to work on A Coming Out Story now that Facebook gave me that. But everything from back in the day is bad now. I finally found the guy I wrote about in this blog post (link) and he didn’t win his race. His life took a really bad turn through no fault of his and discovering that is really heartbreaking. And now this Facebook memory is something else to tap me on the shoulder, and whisper in my ear that everything is pointless.

In my senior years I’m basically just walking forward on auto pilot, going through the motions because what else is there to do…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Memories Of Standing On The Outside Of The Comfort Zone Looking In

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