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November 27th, 2019

Howard Cruse Has Passed The Torch…Pick It Up…Carry On…

Last September I posted a link to the most recent episode of A Coming Out Story, that I’d managed to get out while vacationing at Walt Disney World. It’s part of a story arc I’m interleaving with the point in the story where I finally, Finally, come out to myself. The last frame has a shout-out to Howard Cruse in it…something I’d remembered from a one off cartoon he did for The Village Voice titled “Sometimes I get so mad…” It’s about all the static gay folk get from all directions in American culture and how that makes you blow your stack from time to time. You just want to live your life and people who don’t know you from Adam feel free to harass you and it takes its toll. At the end of it is a young Howard, sensing his emerging sexuality, trying desperately to find some facts about homosexuality, nervously looking through the pages of a paperback titled “A Pocket Guide To Loathsome Diseases” by one Doctor Pompous J. Fraudquack, and thinking maybe he’d finally get some facts there.

I knew the feeling all too well, even though I was nine years younger and in 1971 coming out to myself in a theoretically post Stonewall world. It would be decades before the effects of Stonewall and the first ever Pride march a year later would make themselves felt much beyond the confines of the big urban gay zones. For years after I came out to myself, everything I knew about homosexuality and what it was to be homosexual were things I’d been taught by the heterosexual majority. A lot of it was hostile and damaging to a gay teen’s self image. It wouldn’t be until the advent of the personal computer and those first amature computer bulletin boards that we didn’t have to see ourselves through heterosexual eyes anymore and liberation came to the suburbs and the rural zones.

The main theme of A Coming Out Story isn’t so much about what happened to me back then, or the guy I was crushing on at the time, and what happened to us both, but the context in which it happened. I’m trying to tell it in a humorous way, because looking back on it there is a lot there that I can laugh about, thankfully, with an older man’s perspective. But it wasn’t funny then while it was happening to me, and if I’m trying to say anything with this story it’s that the world needs to give sexual minority kids a break. It’s difficult enough at that age to navigate your way through the dating thing with all those emerging hormones percolating through your body. Being the outliers in that dance is harder still. Beating up on the gay kids, damaging their ability to love and accept love from another, only serves the hate filled worst among us…all the little Dr. Fraudquacks who taught us to hate ourselves, or at minimum, distrust our hearts, believe ourselves to be damaged goods, unworthy, never to be loved. It snowballs, all the love that could have been given, and now will never be, on and on and on. And so the world gets smaller, and angrier, and darker. That is what the Dr. Fraudquacks are doing to all of us.

I posted a link to the episode when I finished it and got it out on my website. Then in a comment, I gave Howard a shout-out, as to say Thank You…I remember this little one off you did and it spoke to me and I just want you to know you made a difference. Over the years I’d told him this often. But you can’t thank people like him enough. Trying to make a living at art is a hard, hard path. Doubly so if you dare to be an out and proud gay cartoonist. He never got the commercial success and respect he deserved and I’m convinced that was why, because as a storyteller and draftsman he had very few peers. Seriously…look at his lines. They’re perfect. Every one. Compare his draftsmanship to Any commercial cartoonist you like. The polish he put into everything he did, no matter how small or trivial, is intense.

He was at the top of the art form. And as a storyteller he was among the best. There’s his magnum opus, Stuck Rubber Baby, of course. But look at some of the amazing work he did in Gay Comix. Billy Goes Out for instance. At its surface it’s the story of a young gay man hitting the backrooms for some quick anonymous sex. But look deeper and there’s a heartbreaking story of love found, and lost to hate, and the struggle to go on with life, somehow, after the worst has happened. There’s one panel in it that is I think quintessential Howard Cruse in its surreality while looking life’s bad moments right in the eye and not flinching. Earlier on in the story we’ve seen one of Billy’s older relatives instructing him to keep the gay thing in the closet for the sake of his career, and in another panel telling him off handedly that homosexual love was just mutual masturbation. Billy explodes on him while his boyfriend Brad tries to calm him down. Who are You to tell us how we feel!  Then toward the end of the story we find ourselves looking down on that older relative’s grave site from above, the coffin in the ground being shovelled over by a graveyard worker. But the coffin is open and the relative is looking back up at us as his grave is being filled in, saying that his married life was horrible and he hated every moment of it but at least he has someone to cry over his grave. And, one supposes, he knows Billy won’t. Because homosexual love is just mutual masturbation, and his marriage however much he hated it, was more real than Billy’s love for Brad. The scene creeps you out. Howard gave the chillingly heartless mindset of the bigot its perfect representation in that one single amazingly and meticulously drawn panel.  

So when I posted a link to my newest ACOS episode I waved at Howard, because his example is a big part of why I keep working on it. And as he always did, because he had a big heart, he waved back, and encouraged me to keep at it, that I was making a difference too, just by putting my story out there. You get encouragement from one of your heroes and it really lifts you up.

And now I am more determined than ever. I’m going to miss him. But looking through the tributes he’s getting from the community…cartoonists, activists, family and friends…it does my heart good to know he Was successful at the most important thing of all. By coming out and telling his stories, he made a difference, a real substantial difference, in people’s lives. He was loved. He touched so many lives. And he showed us that we could make a difference too…all of us…whether by art or activism or however…by being our authentic selves, and telling our stories. That is how you defeat hate.

by Bruce | Link | React!

May 29th, 2019

After Work At The Drafting Table

Just whiling the after work time away on my iPad Pro yesterday…

…in between working on the backyard deck, which is turning into an all-summer project. 

In another Facebook group I follow, dedicated to the underground comix of the 60s and 70s, I recently saw one of R. Crumb’s cartoons where he obsesses over his “ideal” female form and then another where he starts beating himself up over the fact that he just can’t stop his libido from doing that to him and what goddess would want him anyway…and so forth. The running joke in A Coming Out Story is how low key and apologetic my libido is, almost the complete opposite of Crumb’s, and yet still manages to be totally relentless and thoroughly single minded about it. So I thought to try my hand at a cartoon about that while riffing off one or two of Crumb’s. 

Still working on the figure above…I might give him a hat like the one a bartender at a local eatery I favor, who I can’t stop gawking at any better than Crumb could, wears. Also maybe a bandanna hanging out of one of his back pockets. If I manage to get it finished I’ll post it here.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on After Work At The Drafting Table

May 27th, 2019

Boomer

Normally on Memorial Day I simply give a silent nod of thanks to those who served and died for their country and for the American Dream. When I bought the house my nextdoor neighbor was a man named Joe who had served during WWII in the merchant marines. We would somedays find ourselves out on our front porches (Baltimore rowhouse front porches are where you really get to experience what a neighborhood is) and he would tell me stories about the war, often insisting that he was no hero, just some guy who moved supplies back and forth across the ocean because it was his job.

Me: So tell us again Joe about that time your ship got itself into a minefield and you looked over the side and saw a mine almost right up against it…

Joe: (slightly amazed voice even after all these years…) Oh yeah…that was a Big one too…

Through him I came to realize that the heroes to those guys were the ones that didn’t come back. So I usually refrain from calling them heroes or saying rote thank-you-for-your-service because I never know whether I’m making someone who was there feel better or digging at old and terrible wounds.

My generation’s war was Vietnam. I came close to getting drafted but failed the pre-induction physical, and before they could call me back in for another go at it Nixon had turned off the draft and I was spared the Vietnam experience so many of my generation were thrown into. So when Memorial Day comes along I don’t feel as though I have the requisite life experiences other do, to get too enthusiastic about this holiday.  And considering what it is we’re memorializing (our war dead) it strikes me as offensive to make it a celebration. It’s a solemn day of remembrance. People, young kids mostly, died in our wars. Some of them were unavoidable and there was no other way. But not all of them, and perhaps this is not the day to be bringing that up. But there’s one other thing I think that needs some discussion, especially today, while the veterans of the Vietnam war are still with us. When you use the word ‘Boomer’ as a curse, who is it you think you’re spitting on?

This was posted on a Facebook memory group I follow. The group is focused on memories of growing up in Montgomery County Maryland, which was my stomping ground for much of my kidhood in the 60s and 70s. Those are times we remember fondly, most of us. Boomers, as we are called nowadays…usually by much younger people who have no idea what a Boomer actually is. Lately I’ve begun to feel like I don’t know what it is and I’ve always been one. This man is 70. I am 65. The difference between us is he was drafted, and had no choice but to go, and I just barely escaped it. But we both had to walk into our local draft board office the instant we turned 18, we both had to carry our draft cards with us at all times, and I was called and went for my pre-induction physical. He must have passed his. Then this happened to him…

WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SHARE IS A VERY PERSONAL STORY.IT HAPPEND 51 YRS AGO IN VIETNAM WHEN I WAS JUST A 18YR OLD FROM WHEATON MD. AND I ALWAYS CONSIDERED MONTGOMERY COUNTY HOME…I NEVER TOLD THIS BECAUSE COMMING HOME NO ONE WANTED TO HEAR ABOUT NAM OR THEY JUST WOULDNT BELIEVE.I WAS DRAFTED IN JULY OF 67 AND WENT TO NAM IN JANUARY 68 JUST BEFORE THE 68 TET OFFENSIVE.AFTER DOING SOME RESEARCH I HAVE FOUND THE GRAVE SITE OF MY GOOD FRIEND GENE COLLIER WHO IS BURIED IN A GRAVE YARD IN EASTON MD..I PLAN TO GO THIS WED. AND PLACE A QUARTER ON HIS GRAVE WHICH MEANS THE PERSON WHO PLACED THE QUARTER ON THE HEAD STONE WAS WITH THE SOLDIER WHEN HE DIED.GENE WAS THE FIRST GOOD FRIEND THAT I LOST AND THE FIRST MAN I EVER SAW DIE..IT WAS PRETTY DRAMATIC FOR THIS 18YR OLD…I REMEMBER FEELING SO HELPLESS AND CRYING LIKE A NEW BORNE…I STARTED CUSSING GOD AND CALLED HIM EVERY VILE NAME I COULD EVEN THROWING HAND FULL OF DIRT AT THE SKY..AND I DIDNT CRY AGAIN UNTIL ALMOST 40 YRS LATTER.GENE WAS THE FIRST I SAW DIE BUT NOT THE LAST.I TURN HARD AND COLD HEARTED .ONE TIME OUR COMMO BUNKER BLEW AND KILLED 3 GUYS INSIDE.WE WERE MADE TO GET DOUBLE ARM INTERVALS AND HANDED A EMPTY SAND BAG AND TOLD TO GO THROUGH THE COMPANY AREA AND LOOK FOR PEICES OF THE THREE..I SAW PEICES ON TOP OF THE SUPPLY TENT AND THEN I LOOKED DOWN AND SAW A BABY FINGER AND RING FINGER ATTACHED TOGETHER.AS I WENT TO PICK UP THE FINGERS A STRAY DOG RAN UP AND SNATCH THEM UP AND RAN OFF.IF I HAD MY RIFLE OR PSTOL I WOULD HAVE SHOT THE DOG BUT I THOUGHT HOW DO YOU TELL A MOTHER OR WIFE THAT A DOG RAN OFF WITH PART OF THERE LOVED ONE.THERE WERE OTHERS CHICO AND BOB WETZEL JHONNY AYERS AND MEDAL OF HONOR WINNER TERRY KAWAMURAI NEW TERRY AND HE WAS KILLED AFTER I WAS HOME BRAVE MEN ALL.BUT GENE WAS THE HARTEST.YOU SEE HE GOT A LETTER FROM HIS WIFE THAT HE WAS THE FATHER OF A LITTLE NEWBORNE BABY GIRL.SOME HOW WE FOUND A 1/2 BOTTLE OF SEGRAMS TO CELEBRATE.A MONTH LATTER GENE WAS DEAD..THIS IS WHY MEMORIAL DAY IS AND ALWAYS WAS SPECIAL TO ME..I AM 70 YRS OLD NOW AND HAVE THOUGT OF ALL WHO I SERVED WITH THROUGH THE YRS.I HAVE CRIED AND MADE PEACE WITH MY PAST AND WITH GOD..I WAS JUST A YOUNG PARRATROOPER FROM WHEATON MD WHO HAD TO GROW UP FAST..WAR IS SUCH A WASTE..FIRST TIME I EVER TOLD THIS BUT HELL I’M AN OLD MAN NOW AND JUST HELD ON TO THEM ALL THESE YRS…STAY SAFE THIS WEEK END..AND NEVER FORGET WHY YOU ARE STILL FREE..P.S. VERY APPREHENSIVE ABOUT SHARING AND POSTING THIS AND I THINK I KNOW WHY…FROM ALL THE NEGETIVE CRITICISM OVER THE YRS ABOUT SERVING AND THE WAR…BUT HERE IT GOES

How about on Memorial Day we rededicate ourselves to fighting right wing war mongering, and the leaders, pundits, and classless morons who never served, let alone actually saw combat, that cheer us on into the next splendid little war? How about we rededicate ourselves to not letting this happen to our teenage sons and daughters for no reason other than realpolitik, or national pride, or the sick vanities of celebrity politicians and pundits? And next time you hear someone say Boomer with contempt remember this man and consider there are thousands like him. ‘Boomer’ is too general a word to describe a generation just over half of which had the draft and Vietnam haunting them then…and now…and just under half who never had to carry a draft card in their wallets on threat of arrest and imprisonment if they didn’t always have it on them. I am on the cusp of that divide, and I see across it. They are more different landscapes than ‘Boomer’ can embrace with a shred of meaning, let alone understanding.

And there was more going on back then besides the war. There was the civil rights movement. The struggle to integrate the public schools. There was women’s liberation. There was the fight against censorship (After Grove Press published Henry Miller’s “Tropic of Cancer” in 1961 obscenity lawsuits were brought in 21 states against booksellers that sold it. Also in 1961 Lenny Bruce was arrested for using the word ‘c*cksucker’ in a comedy routine on stage. This was even before the underground comics started rattling cages everywhere.). There was the gay rights movement. And yes, there were people in our generation on both sides of those fights…which is partially my point here. But mostly it’s this…

…AND THEN I LOOKED DOWN AND SAW A BABY FINGER AND RING FINGER ATTACHED TOGETHER.AS I WENT TO PICK UP THE FINGERS A STRAY DOG RAN UP AND SNATCH THEM UP AND RAN OFF…

People bled. Inside and out. People are Still bleeding from what happened to them back then. I see it all the time. I don’t have the horrific memories some do (I have my own struggle with things that happened to me as a gay teenager and young adult), but I walk among my generational peers and I see this stuff and it makes me angry, livid at times, to hear ‘Boomer’ thrown around like a spitball. If you can offhandedly lump everyone born between 1946 and 1964 together with a single word spoken like a curse then you have no clue about that period in your own country’s history, let alone the threads in this one that have their origins in that one. Read this man’s testimony. And maybe understand why, when I hear anyone use the word Boomer with contempt (Hi Ezra Klein and VOX!) I block them. Instantly. You have nothing to say to me. Or to anyone else, really.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Boomer

April 9th, 2018

The Healing Power Of Love…At Least If You’re Gay…

This comes across my Google news feed today…

How romance can protect gay and lesbian youths from emotional distress

A recent study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology finds that being in a romantic relationship can help gay and lesbian youth like Pegues feel less mental distress — even more so if they are black or Latino. This contrasts with the fact that, in heterosexual teens’ lives, romance is generally found to cause distress rather than alleviate it.

In fact the study seems to suggest that being in a romantic relationship causes stress for Everyone but gay folk. I’ve no idea why that would be so, unless it’s we have to work harder for it and cherish it more because so many people want to take it away from us.

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. -Lao Tzu

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Healing Power Of Love…At Least If You’re Gay…

April 8th, 2018

Funny How Shadows On A Silver Screen Can Thoroughly Destroy You…And Yet Lift You Up…

Also on Twitter the other day…

Bright Wall/Dark Room? @BWDRFollowFollow
What’s the very first movie that broke your heart?

Oh gosh…not even slightly hard to recall. For lots of folks my age it’s Old Yeller. But my first serious movie heartbreak was The Yearling. I was maybe 9 or 10 when I watched it on TV.

Broke my heart twice it did…

 

…but then I went and read the novel anyway and got my heart broken all over again. But that was the book that gave me the insight into how multi-layered stories can be. I was in elementary school and pulling books from the big kid’s side of the library where I was told I was too young to really appreciate them. I nabbed a copy of the novel with the amazing N.C. Wyeth illustrations and devoured it. As I read that tragic end I suddenly realized that the title of the book referred to the boy, not the deer, and it felt like a revelation. Suddenly the world of books became larger, infinite even. 

So when it came time to write my book report on it I put all that into it, and the demented bully of a teacher I had for that class accused me of having my mom write the report for me and gave me an F, because how could a boy my age possibly understand that. Mom was furious and brought to a teacher-parent meeting the radio I had just built from parts to show her I was smarter than she thought. But no…I was the child of a single divorced mother and that made me by definition a problem child and both of us had to be punished for it.

Third heartbreak then. But I never gave up the joy of reading. That epiphany was too much to let go of. I’m 64 years old and my house is full of books.

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

April 6th, 2018

Not DTF, But DTL

This came across my Twitter feed just a few moments ago. I think he meant “only” there and just fat fingered the keystroke…

Every single time I’ve been lectured about how sex is overrated, it’s been someone trying to convince me that my sexual orientation is more of an addiction than a just a simple uncomplicated variation on human sexual desire. And it comes from that dehumanizing stereotype about gay males that says Homosexuals Don’t Love, They Just Have Sex. The activist and author Vito Russo put it succinctly when he wrote in The Celluloid Closet that “It is an old stereotype, that homosexuality has to do only with sex while heterosexuality is multifaceted and embraces love and romance.” Everyone who ever talked at me as I’ve defended the normalcy of my sexual orientation about how sex is overrated has been coming from the perspective of that ignorant prejudice. The only time it’s ever stung was when I heard it from my high school crush, by way of defending his own life choices.

GQ Magazine has an article this month that I encourage you to read. Luckily it’s online…

Not Every Gay Man Is DTF

The idea that all gay men fuck like rabbits? That’s a myth.

In part, as the article suggests, a lot of this overlaps with stereotypes about male sexuality in general. And it damages both gay and straight men. We hold ourselves to unrealistic standards and when we don’t measure up we stress that there is something wrong with us. The running gag in A Coming Out Story is how the imaginary character representing my libido is always wearing a fig leaf and a slightly apologetic look on his face while he keeps making me notice that how nice a certain classmate looks…


A Coming Out Story, Episode 1 “Meet Your Libido”

For years I thought of myself as a sexual milquetoast because I Just Wasn’t All That. Then one day on a gay BBS System I frequented, a fellow user posted anonymously to its health forum asking the doctor who ran it if there was something physically wrong with him because he wasn’t as interested in sex as the other guys and needed lots of foreplay to get started. He provided the doctor with details I won’t go into here, and the doctor wrote back, reassuring him that his level of sexual interest was actually more typical of adult males than the popular notions would have him believe, and closed by saying he should enjoy all the foreplay. The exchange was a revelation because that user’s experience with his own libido could have been my own. Since then I’ve read other men’s health articles that have had similar things to say about the male libido. But the GQ article I linked to above is the first one that I’ve seen to make the same point about the gay male libido. We Are Not All That

We get doubly hit by the stereotype. One tune I hear regularly in the kook pews is the reason gay males are so sex driven is we have rejected the moderating influence of females…which applies a different sexual stereotype, that of the matronly sexually chaste women…to the stereotype of the wanton gay man to the homophobe’s trope that men and women naturally complement each other. But it is not so simple. The complement in sex is the what your libido says it is. For most of us that’s the opposite sex, but for some of us it isn’t. The complement in love and romance is the person. Or to put it another way, in the marriage vows it’s not do you take a man, but do you take This man.

At the end of what was a long conversation about why he was not right for me and never would be, after assuring me that sex was overrated, and that it was like farting (“It stinks for a little while, and then it’s gone…”) my high school crush, the one who made me realize, never again to doubt, that being a homosexual was not anything to be ashamed of, and that love and desire were wonderful things, he tried to end the discussion by telling me that when I’m on my deathbed it won’t be all the people I’ve had sex with that I’ll be remembering, but those I’ve loved, and who loved me. As if they were mutually exclusive things. And there you see the second, and most destructive thing the stereotype does to gay men. 

It’s a deliberate knife to the heart. What the haters have been telling gay people for ages is that our sexual nature is actually corrosive to love. If we embrace our sexual selves so they tell us, then we can never love. But the human status isn’t a whiteboard anyone can erase and scribble their hatreds over. We embody the living history of hundreds of millions of years of life on earth within us every moment of our day, and those ancient tides will pull and tug at us whether we acknowledge them or not. When you believe deep down in your gut that your homosexuality is the enemy of your need to love and be loved than your sexual desires, when they eventually force their way out of you because you can’t deny an instinct that is older than the fish, let alone the mammals, let alone the primates, let alone us, will usually have their way with you in highly self destructive forms. It splits you in half, body from soul, and leaves you little more than a shell, desire and the human need to love and be loved ricocheting around inside, wearing you down from within, when they could have made you strong and whole.

That only serves the interests of bigots and hate. Which is exactly why they work so hard to make us believe we are broken. But we are not broken. They are. Anyone who would poison within a person the joy of sex and their human capacity to love and be loved is deeply, profoundly broken.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Not DTF, But DTL

February 12th, 2018

So Much Of My Own Life I See In The Stories Of Other Gay Lives

The Internet Tubes have been singing with Adam Rippon’s bronze medal win. Mostly the stories have been inspiring, uplifting, in ways many of us thought we’d never know back when we were his age, and younger. Adam’s own story of how coming out publicly made it possible for him to find his inner place of strength, unadulterated, which was necessary if he was going to have any chance of getting to the Olympics, let alone winning a medal, is especially soul satisfying.

What I didn’t expect reading these stories, was chancing across one that hit me in the gut, deep down in a place still so late in my life, very raw, very tender. This one…

The Bittersweet Beauty of Adam Rippon – How much an out gay Olympian could mean to a kid now—or to a 34-year-old who’s been waiting for it his whole life.

It’s from Vanity Fair, online but not in the current issue. I hope it makes it to the next, because there is something in it heterosexuals need, really need to understand about our lives, and the knife homophobia drives deep into gay hearts. The author, Richard Lawson, writes about his discovery of and fascination about Olympic figure skating with his sister, who was also into it but not in the same passionate way he was. But he had a close friend who was…

We spent what I remember being a whole winter deciding which skater was our favorite (only the women, never the men; even at that age, there was something perhaps too intriguing about them) and gliding around on his hardwood living-room floor in our socks—pretending to do triple axels and salchows, awkwardly mimicking Kerrigan’s beguiling spins—two silly little boys with an appreciation for the graceful things in this rough world.

Time passes…the universe expands…the friends separate as boyhood friends sometimes do…and the boy who loved figure skating grows into an out and proud gay man. Eventually he tracks down his boyhood friend, only to discover he has also come out and proud. I was surprised, and told him as much. He replied, “Surprised? Richard, we used to do figure-skating routines in my living room.”

Heh. It’s a sweet story, especially so in the context of how gay athletes competing openly as the people they actually are, not only makes them stronger as athletes, but how it changes how we all see ourselves, gives us a vision of the possible that lets us find our own places of inner strength. But there was more to it.

On a visit to his parent’s house with some friends, Lawson finds himself talking with his mom about this and that, and she asks about his boyhood friend, and did he ever get married. Lawson tells her his friend is gay. “You’re kidding,” she said. “He’s gay? And to think his father said you two couldn’t see each other anymore because he thought you were gay.”

So the friends hadn’t just drifted apart after all. They were separated, never knowing exactly why, just assuming it was random happenchance, and it wasn’t. It was deliberate.

I am certain nearly all of us, except for the very very lucky, have similar stories to tell of how homophobia took a wrecking ball to what might have become a beautiful thing if it had been left alone. Every Valentine’s Day week for the past several years, I’ve been telling mine. The boy I met in church. The guy I met working in a catalogue warehouse. The guy who helped me try to rescue an injured cat in Rock Creek Park. There may likely be many more that, like Lawson, I had no way of knowing about at the time…gay guys who passed into and out of my life before I even had a chance to notice them, because some hostile bigot noticed them noticing me first.

Most tormenting of all, the guy who was my first schoolboy crush, a thing that felt so wonderful when I finally admitted it to myself, that it allowed me to come out to myself without fear or shame. It was all so amazing…right up to the day we arranged to go on a photography hike together at Great Falls, and that I would call him that morning before I started over to his house. Someone else answered the phone, asked who was calling, and when he finally came to the phone he made it clear that we weren’t going anywhere together, and after that he kept me at arm’s length for the rest of the school year. Like Lawson and his friend, we drifted apart. At the time I was baffled. What had I done to make him angry? Now I understand it better. 

Someday…someday…the knife will lose its power to cut, and hearts won’t bleed anymore, and won’t be imprisoned by closets and loneliness, but will be free at last to sing out their joy, to each other, and to the world. Someday.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on So Much Of My Own Life I See In The Stories Of Other Gay Lives

January 21st, 2018

How To Fake A Smile Until The Day After Valentine’s Day

So what’s a lonely old gay guy supposed to do when another painful Valentine’s day approaches? A little whishful sexy drawing of course.

Many years ago I did a series of charcoal and ink drawings on a theme of first love, which I’m still really proud of…

…and which I probably need to get properly framed…and would if I had any wall space left in my little Baltimore rowhouse that wasn’t being occupied by my bookshelves. I’ve been contemplating since I got back from California of doing another series, only this time a little more of a follow up into the passionate stage of that first romance thing.

Oh yes, sadly enough these are going to be mostly wistful daydreams about something I missed out on. Luckily, I can draw my dreams and make them real on paper anyway. This is how I survive.

I don’t do pornography…pornography is obvious. This is about my speed when it comes to all that…

So yesterday afternoon I popped down to a favorite art supply store in the city and bought some good Strathmore 2 ply and I made an enlargement of this one that I’m going to spend the next several days copying it onto the board. I’m still deciding whether to stick to my charcoal and ink technique or try it just in graphite and charcoal. I have a storyline…but maybe it’s best I leave that imagining up to the viewer.

I need to find a good background image for this to work from. Something perhaps with a window glimpse of some lovely Key West scenery. When I’m done, which might take me weeks, I’ll find a place on my walls for it. If this kind of artwork bothers you I am not in the least bit sorry. This is a gay man’s life blog. Nobody says you have to come here.

 

[Edited a tad…]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on How To Fake A Smile Until The Day After Valentine’s Day

October 9th, 2017

I Don’t Want To Hate The World…I Really Don’t….

Facebook helpfully sends you these little notices to look back on your Facebook past. You click on the link and get a feed of every post you’ve made on that particular day, going back through the years. Often it’s fun and enlightening. Sometimes it reminds you of things you’d rather forget. Like the day the best cat to ever come into my life got run over by a car in front of my house.

Today it was this, from October 9, 2011…

Of all the life experiences I’ve had that I could absolutely have done without, getting lectured by a guy I loved very much and thought of very fondly for 40 years about how I need to look elsewhere because life in the closet has damaged him too much is probably right at the top of that list.

When I told you that it was falling in love with you when we were both young that freed me forever from any possibility of living in the closet, I thought you’d feel proud. But I was twisting the knife in your heart wasn’t I?

I don’t want to hate the world. I really don’t. But some days I really do.

Further down in Facebook memory lane, there was this on October 9, 2008…

[Bruce Garrett] …is still reeling from a conversation he had yesterday with his first crush…

That would have been the “It’ll happen…things are better than you know…” conversation. Wow…full circle, almost, on October 9.

Here on the blog, but not Facebook, on October 6 2006 it was this

So for years now…34 years to be exact…I’ve been throwing these little messages in a bottle out into the world, where, hopefully, they would eventually find there way to a certain someone.  So what happened between us back when we were both teenagers is pretty central to who I am today.  So I finally got a reply.  After 34 years of searching for him I finally found him.  So we talked.  For just over an hour we talked.  You have to expect that 34 years is a lot of time for things to happen.  And things did happen.  Many things he told me about.  And many things I can only guess at from what he would only allude to.  He sounds just like he always did.  It was like picking up the phone and talking to him back in 1972.  It was eerie.  It was wonderful.  It was thrilling.  It was disturbing.  He’s the same guy he was back then.  And he’s different.  And things have happened in 34 years.  Many things. 

And I feel like…a gently whirling dust devil just suddenly smacked into me and threw parts of me that no one has ever touched or disturbed in 34 years reeling into the air, scattered across the sky, and now I’m just standing here becalmed, watching it all lazily settle back down, and I know it will still be me when it does, but different, and I don’t know what will happen next because those parts of me ran so old and so deep and so still…

It’s all there, gathered by these quick little online notes across the years of October.  It was December of 1971 he first put his arm around me and my heart shot into the stratosphere and later that evening, that I was able to finally come out to myself because of it. It was March of 2016 we spoke our final, angry words at each other. 

Life goes on…you take your hits and you get back up, dust yourself off, move on and get back to work. Because there is no growing up, there is only growing. And the opposite of that is dying. And dying isn’t something you want to waste your life doing. Yeah it hurts. Sometimes it hurts like a sonofabitch. You can let it beat you down, or you can take it as proof that you’re still alive, still growing, still moving forward. Eventually you get use to it. Eventually you move beyond it. Eventually.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on I Don’t Want To Hate The World…I Really Don’t….

June 1st, 2017

Young Pride

I can’t wait for them to finally release this short film. That kid…  He really takes me back…

in a heartbeat pride

Happy Pride, everyone!

The month of June is often considered LGBT+ Pride month to commemorate the Stonewall riots which occurred in June 1969. Because of this, many LGBT+ Pride events are held around the world during June to celebrate love, diversity, and acceptance.

Have fun, stay safe, and celebrate love this month!

In A Heartbeat – Animated Short Film

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Young Pride

May 24th, 2017

More Heartbeat…

From the In A Heartbeat Facebook page

Hi everyone! Thanks to our Kickstarter backers we were able to work with a Spaniard composer we had only once dreamed to work with, Arturo Cardelús. His music has elevated our film in indescribable ways, and he has uploaded a piece of it for you to listen in his youtube channel.

We were also able to fly to meet him in LA for the live recording session of the score, which we’ll be sharing more with you later.

Check it out and give him some love…

Excuse me…I have something in my eye…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on More Heartbeat…

May 17th, 2017

This Was So Much Me…

heartbeat-lede  

Teen Vogue posted an article about a new short animated film I’ve suddenly begun following closely…

“In a Heartbeat” Short Film Features a Boy’s Heart Chasing the Guy of His Dreams

Around a few weeks ago, the internet quietly fell in love with In a Heartbeat, a short film about a closeted young boy who falls into the treacherous situation of possibly being outed: by his own heart. In the production, the lad’s heart pops out of his chest to chase down the boy of his dreams.

It started out as the thesis project of two seniors, Beth David and Esteban Bravo, studying Computer Animation at the Ringling  College of Art and Design. They started a Kickstarter fundraiser so they could get money to pay for a music composer and sound designer.  The link to the Kickstarter was only posted on their personal Facebook page but it took off and they got funding beyond their wildest dreams, all of which they’ve been putting to use on their project.  

I can see why, just from the bits and pieces they’ve shown. The short won’t be released until next month…they’re hooking it to Gay Pride. But  the premise is something that…as  is being echoed all over  Facebook…gives you all the feels.

Even someone my age…or especially someone my age, who grew up in a time when gay teenagers were simply not allowed to have crushes, let alone see our  lives and our struggles to find that special someone reflected on the screen. I’ve been trying for over a decade now to put my own  Coming Out Story out there…in dribbles and drabs as I can find time to spend at the drawing board. These two filmmakers have captured the essence of it…all the terrifying joy of that first crush. A  closeted young boy falls into the treacherous situation of possibly being outed by his own heart  which pops out of his chest to chase down the boy of his dreams…

That is brilliantly clever, and it was so much Me…and probably lots of other gay folk of my generation as well, and also those that followed.  The closet isn’t just one door but many; and that first door out is often the hardest one to open.  As the subtitle to my cartoon story says:  The first person you come out to is yourself… I remember so very well that terrifying yet magical time when my heart was more ready than I was to know.

 in-a-heartbeat-sm

Yes…it seems to have worked out better for the kid in this animated short than it did for me. But that’s art, which as Picasso said, is a lie that makes you see the truth. Gay kids of my generation seldom got the happy ending. I sure didn’t. And yet despite all the heartbreak and disappointment I’ve endured since that first magical crush, I can still look back on it fondly and gratefully. It Was magical.

I can’t wait to see the entire thing. In the meantime…here’s the first official trailer. Their Facebook page is Here.

 

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on This Was So Much Me…

December 23rd, 2016

Understanding

Brought me to tears, this. Especially since the company that produced this ad, Kodak, has been such a big part of my life and they’re struggling now to hold on in this digital age (note that the filmmaker shot this in 35mm). They could have just kept silent but not only did they not do that, they went far beyond simply making a boilerplate statement of diversity: they showed us all a film about love. And now…when so many people need it so very much.

 

 

I think this may just be the best Christmas present ever. Thank you so much Kodak: from a gay guy who’s been an amateur/sometimes professional photographer since he was a teenager back in the 1960s-70s (who still loves his film cameras very much). I wish I could have grown up in the world your filmmaker shows us here…but I am glad that other gay kids will now…thanks to folks like you.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Understanding

October 30th, 2016

Can you paint with all the colors of love…?

Back from another much needed Walt Disney World vacation. Guess which Mickey pin you can’t find at Walt Disney World anymore…

rainbow_mickeys

And no, they’re not gone because I bought every one…although it may look like that here. After the Pulse shootings they were everywhere around Walt Disney World. They had a giant sized one near the entrance to the pin trader’s hutch in Disney Springs last July, but you couldn’t find any of the pins. I figured they were just out of stock. But no, they’re not selling them anymore.

Granted, this isn’t the gay rights movement rainbow. That’s a different set of colors. I knew that when I first set eyes on one of these. It’s called the Peace Rainbow. But it’s close enough that many of us just started wearing it, particularly around Gay Days. Nobody expected Disney, in it’s nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean, relationship with its LGBT guests to actually produce a rainbow flag Mickey. But it was close enough that if you wore one, everyone pretty much knew what it meant. I wore mine back in July, after Pulse, and got a lot of sympathetic comments from the cast members.

This time around I mostly wore my Tomorrowland pin (and got some friendly comments about that too). But on my last day I wore a rainbow Mickey and as I was being checked into Epcot the security lady who went through my camera bag said “I like your pin…I have one at home”. This is how we wave to each other.

So…the reason I have so many of these is I would go to Walt Disney World and forget my rainbow Mickey and just buy a new one while I was there. They were that ubiquitous. Now that they’re not selling them anymore (I asked, and was told I might be able to find one on eBay…(sigh)) I might have some collectibles now. I’m guessing the reason is ever since Pulse and the sudden explosions of rainbow Mickey’s all over the parks the jig was up and now Disney can’t sell them anymore because…well…

And it’s not even the LGBT rainbow. Be nice if they actually did produce an actual rainbow flag Mickey. They make them for other nations and ethnic groups after all. But you can just hear people bellyaching about Disney bringing sex into a Family Friendly theme park, sexualizing Mickey, a children’s cartoon character forever ruined, if they did. That relentless dehumanization of gay people is another topic, for another day. It’s the reason why you can see images of Disney lovers everywhere in the parks, in all the shops and character meets…and they’re all exclusively opposite sex pairs. Opposite sex coupling is love. Aren’t they so adorable?  

A rainbow Mickey couldn’t be about all the colors of love. Because homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Can you paint with all the colors of love…?

August 23rd, 2016

Please Walk A Mile In Our “Social Stigma”

A blogger I gained some measure of unexpected respect for, when he turned around from being a supporter of forcing teenagers into ex-gay therapy to being in opposition when confronted by the evidence of what it was actually doing to those kids, wrote a brief-ish blog post critical of this new paper (he called it a study that isn’t a study and you may notice I’m not calling it a study either because it isn’t) asserting that there is no scientific evidence that gay folk are born not made, but seemingly agreeing, or at least he quotes someone who agrees with, the conclusion that “social stigma” is an insufficient cause for the higher than average mental health issues gay people in general experience.

I would like anyone who thinks you can bundle the stresses imposed on gay people, and in particular on gay kids, into a tidy little package labeled “social stigma” to take a step back and appreciate just how hard it is to grow up gay, even these days, let alone try to live a whole and happy life as a gay adult.   It isn’t just “social”, it’s “family”. The stories I’ve heard from other gay people about growing up in a unsupportive family environment, let alone a hostile one, would make a brick cry, if not a fundamentalist.   Here’s one from my own past I’ve posted about before

Perhaps we were just not right for each other after all. The hard lesson to learn about love is you can find someone who is just right for you, who seems to complete you in all the places you never even knew were empty, until you met that one person, saw them smile into your eyes. And yet even so you may not be right for them. They may have a completely opposite feeling about you. Ask me how I know this. Perhaps we were not right for each other.

Or perhaps it was something he told me one night as we lay together, in a very quiet, emotionless voice. About the day he came out to his parents. About how the next morning before dawn his father had gone into the household office, fired up the computer, and created a brochure filled with verses condemning homosexuality and what God does to nations that tolerate that which is an abomination in His eyes. About how his father printed up dozens and dozens of copies of the brochure and as the sun rose, walked around their neighborhood and put one in every door of every house, for blocks around. Then he told his son what he had done.

I ended that one with these words…please pay attention: What gay people know is this: strangers can beat you, can take your life away from you, but only family can chew your heart up, and spit it back out.

You can’t write “social stigma” on that knife to the heart and say you understand anything about how deeply it cuts.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Please Walk A Mile In Our “Social Stigma”

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This page and all original content copyright © 2015 by Bruce Garrett. All rights reserved. Send questions, comments and hysterical outbursts to: bruce@brucegarrett.com

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