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July 27th, 2011
The Many Faces of Joy
by Bruce |
Via Twitter, I see that BuzzFeed has 60 Awesome Portraits Of Gay Couples Just Married In New York State posted just now…
See and share the joy in their faces…and then look more closely at the stunning diversity of us. Remember it next time you hear someone speak of a gay lifestyle or a gay agenda.
April 13th, 2011
Message In A Bottle
by Bruce |
“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, Of Love and Lust, 1957
I thought loving someone deeply, strongly, absolutely, I’d finally understand how it might feel to be jealous. Instead I discovered how incomprehensible jealously is. It makes no sense. How can everyone not love you?
April 11th, 2011
No, Actually Biology Isn’t Destiny…
by Bruce |
Considering the state of the economy, it should come as no surprise that the ranks of the child-free are exploding. The Department of Agriculture reports that the average cost for a middle-income two-parent family to support a kid through high school is $286,050 (it’s nearly half a million dollars for couples in higher tax brackets). Want him or her to get a college education? The number jumps to nearly $350,000 for a public university, and more than $400,000 for private. Though if your kid’s planning to major in Male Sterilization, it could wind up being a good investment: The vasectomy business seems to be one of the few in America that is booming. In the past year, the Associates in Urology clinic in West Orange, New Jersey, has seen a 50 percent jump in the procedure. So you could stress over starting a college fund, or you could consider that you can get a vasectomy at Planned Parenthood for less than the cost of a Bugaboo Cameleon stroller. Unless you’re among the less than 2 percent of Americans who farm for a living and might conceivably rely on offspring for free labor, children have gone from being an economic asset to an economic liability.
But for the child-free, the benefits go beyond dollars and cents. There’s less guilt, less worry, less responsibility, more sleep, more free time, more disposable income, no awkward conversations about Teen Mom, no forced relationships with people just because your kids like their kids, no chauffeuring other people’s kids in your minivan to soccer games you find less appealing than televised chess.
In his best-seller Stumbling on Happiness, Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert writes, “Couples generally start out quite happy in their marriages and then become progressively less satisfied over the course of their lives together, getting close to their original levels of satisfaction only when their children leave home.” No wonder so many are choosing to spend their entire marriages as empty-nesters. A 2009 University of Denver study found that 90 percent of couples experienced a decrease in marital bliss after the birth of their first child. And in a 2007 Pew survey, just 41 percent of adults stated that children were very important for a successful marriage, down from 65 percent in 1990. Meanwhile, nearly one in five American women now ends her reproductive years without children, up from one in ten in the 1970s.
Growing up I used to get odd looks from people, friends and adults both, whenever I expressed my utter disinterest in raising a family. It marked me as weird as far back as elementary school, probably long before anyone began to get a clue that Bruce wasn’t the sort you’d ever see holding hands with a girl to begin with. But it wasn’t that I thought the married life wasn’t for me, or that I harbored some deep seated disgust at the thought of having children around. I would hate to live in one of those adults only communities where everyone is just old and tired. As you get older especially, you really appreciate the cheerful anarchy that happens around kids. It keeps you thinking. I just never saw any personal need within me to do the parent thing and I reckoned early on that if you were going to raise a kid right, you needed to really want to have kids. I knew almost right from the start that I didn’t.
To a lot of people apparently, that makes me defective somehow. I guess the thinking is it doesn’t matter what you do for your community or your country or the good of humanity if you don’t also produce children. But…that’s bullshit. And I’m happy to say that finally some heterosexuals are standing up for their life choices here.
For Heather McGhinnis, a married 35-year-old marketing specialist in Elgin, Illinois, motherhood is simply a lifestyle choice that’s not for her. “The job of being a parent doesn’t interest me,” she explains. “Just like I don’t want to be an accountant, I don’t want to be a parent.”
This is the case for nearly all of my straight friends, who were all theoretically lead to believe growing up that being parents was their natural destiny. They didn’t go there for the same reasons I, a gay man who could nevertheless adopt if I really wanted to, didn’t either. No interest.
That’s not to say I have no interest in the welfare of kids. I care very much care about their welfare, about the world they must grow up in. I care they all get a good education. I care that they grow up safe and sound and healthy and strong. I care about that very much. That’s a natural adult thing, whether you have any of your own or not. If you need to have kids of your own to care about the welfare of kids then there is something wrong with you, not me.
Now at last folks like us are finding our voices. And for once I am so very, very glad to see heterosexuals taking the lead here because a gay guy like me can’t plausibly be standing up for the virtues of childlessness with any sort of credibility. Of course you’re childless, you’re a fucking homo and homos don’t reproduce, they recruit… It’s sad but there it is. Not that childless couples are going to get a break from the culture warriors simply because they’re heterosexual. Oh no…they’re easily as much the Enemy as we are, if not more so. If you think the culture wars are only about homosexuality you really need to look more carefully at what right wing lunatics think of contraception. And no, it’s not about sex being only for having children either.
According to Laura S. Scott, who surveyed 171 subjects for her book Two Is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice, that kind of attitude is linked to a specific personality component. “A lot of introverts, thinkers, judgers—these are people who think before they act,” she says. “They’re planners, and they’re not the kind of people who can be easily led into a conventional life just because everyone else is doing it.”
[Emphasis mine...] How unsurprising that it’s mostly my fellow introverts who are going the childless route. No doubt the culture warriors will say this is all the fault of Teh Gay. We’re setting a bad example.
Well…yes. We are. And happy to be of service! We’re showing heterosexual couples that you can have a happy and contented love life without kids if you are not really into the parent thing. That you can contribute to your community and your country and to the future of humanity in many ways besides childbearing. That you don’t have to follow orders.
Especially orders from louts who are waiting with bated breath for the end of the world.
Yes, yes…blame Teh Gay. We showed our heterosexual brothers and sisters what you never wanted them to know: that you can make the world a better place for everyone…kids included…and that’s fine, you’ve done your part, you’ve left your mark, you’ve borne your share of the burden of civilization more nobly then anyone who ever added souls to a world they didn’t give a good goddamn about.
October 7th, 2010
It’s Your Fault We Made Your Life Suck…
by Bruce |
Bullying, as it turns out, can literally make your brain change for the worse. This is how bullies extract their toll on the bullied forever…
The Brain: The Switches That Can Turn Mental Illness On and Off
This month’s column is a tale of two rats. One rat got lots of attention from its mother when it was young; she licked its fur many times a day. The other rat had a different experience. Its mother hardly licked its fur at all. The two rats grew up and turned out to be very different. The neglected rat was easily startled by noises. It was reluctant to explore new places. When it experienced stress, it churned out lots of hormones. Meanwhile, the rat that had gotten more attention from its mother was not so easily startled, was more curious, and did not suffer surges of stress hormones.
The same basic tale has repeated itself hundreds of times in a number of labs. The experiences rats had when they were young altered their behavior as adults. We all intuit that this holds true for people, too, if you replace fur-licking with school, television, family troubles, and all the other experiences that children have. But there’s a major puzzle lurking underneath this seemingly obvious fact of life. Our brains develop according to a recipe encoded in our genes. Each of our brain cells contains the same set of genes we were born with and uses those genes to build proteins and other molecules throughout its life. The sequence of DNA in those genes is pretty much fixed. For experiences to produce long-term changes in how we behave, they must be somehow able to reach into our brains and alter how those genes work.
Neuroscientists are now mapping that mechanism…
This is interesting on a number of accounts. Firstly, as a gay man, it concerns me how the question of nature verses nurture is dealt with, as it has been a trip point in the culture war for decades now. And as it seems to be turning out more and more, it’s a combination of both. The story here is that genes may say one thing, but the effects of the environment, the physical environment, you grow up in, can overrule them all the same…
Two families of molecules perform that kind of genetic regulation. One family consists of methyl groups, molecular caps made of carbon and hydrogen. A string of methyl groups attached to a gene can prevent a cell from reading its DNA sequence. As a result, the cell can’t produce proteins or other molecules from that particular gene. The other family is made up of coiling proteins, molecules that wrap DNA into spools. By tightening the spools, these proteins can hide certain genes; by relaxing the spools, they can allow genes to become active.
How this plays out in terms of one’s sexual orientation fascinated me less then this…
…the influence of environment doesn’t end with childhood. Recent work indicates that adult experiences can also rearrange epigenetic marks in the brain and thereby change our behavior. Depression, for example, may be in many ways an epigenetic disease. Several groups of scientists have mimicked human depression in mice by pitting the animals against each other. If a mouse loses a series of fights against dominant rivals, its personality shifts. It shies away from contact with other mice and moves around less. When the mice are given access to a machine that lets them administer cocaine to themselves, the defeated mice take more of it.
Something, probably my body’s low tolerance to intoxicants, has kept me thankfully clear of addiction. But I know its temptations. There are days when I think if I could only drug myself out my my misery, life would be so much better. But my body simply won’t let me do that. I have no escape. Well…I have one. But it’s one I’ve not reached for. So far.
I have the job of my dreams. A house of my own I never in my wildest dreams ever thought I’d have. My dream come true car. And I am miserable. Single, lonely and miserable. If you don’t have love, nothing else matters. You can be rich. You can be living in the lap of luxury, and if you have no one, you have nothing and you know it. You will always know it. And at some level I have always known my brain was stacked against me in that struggle.
I was brutalized in grade school. It was only by shear luck that I lived in a tiny neighborhood that was diverted to this little expansion high school in a well to do neighborhood and away from my tormentors that allowed me to have at least a good final three years of grade school. Woodward was paradise compared to my Jr. High School years and my elementary school years were only slightly less brutal. When I wasn’t getting beaten up by the other kids, I was getting emotionally battered by the teachers, nearly all of whom dumped me in the problem child category, simply because mom was a single divorced mother. The few in those days who actually took an interest in me and gave me a chance to learn have always had my eternal gratitude.
Woodward, I have said time and again, was paradise…absolutely the best years of my school life. But even paradise could not undo the damage. It wasn’t until my senior year that I finally started peeking out of the shell my tormentors had locked me into. And by then it was, really, too late to start figuring out that dating and mating thing. And besides, I was a gay kid, and it was 1971.
And I’m 57 now, and still single, and if anything surprises me it’s that I’m still alive. I really shouldn’t be. I honestly don’t know why I am still alive. It’s your own fault Bruce. We had to do it to you. You were so weird we had to. It’s your own fault Bruce. You need to get out more. Friends don’t help friends find a lover, they rub it in that it’s their own fault. People who look like that, want people who look like that. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Why am I still here?
[Edited a tad...]
August 16th, 2010
Images From A Sideshow Running Away With The Circus…(continued)
by Bruce |
Here’s some shots of the counter-demonstrators…
As I said previously, the main contingent of the counter-demonstrators came in two waves shortly after the NOM rally began. But even as NOM was setting up there were a handful of individuals there on the sidewalk near them, quietly speaking their truths. And among these was Mel White and his companions from Soulforce. I saw Mel occasionally walk over to some of the NOM folks and chat with them for a while. What was said between them I have no idea: much as I would have like to have snapped some photos of those conversations, I kept my distance. At 56 going on 57, I have a very negative opinion of the possibility of changing minds, let alone hearts of any of these True Believers. But I deeply respect anyone who still believes in their heart that it can be done. So I stay out of it. This is why I am not a professional news photographer. The spirit of Weegee laughs at my deference to the better angels.
More and more I am seeing at these demonstrations, young heterosexual couples who see this struggle as their own too. And it is. Only on its face is this a fight about homosexuality. Look closer. It’s a fight over the right to love and be loved, waged by the power hungry war mongering human gutter, that throughout history has viewed the power of love as the essential enemy to be smashed wherever it exists. The gay rights struggle is the lover’s struggle.
There were also lots of individual folks bearing simple statements in support of the right to love. Sometimes you thought you saw another lonely heart, determined to stand up for what in their own lives is yet to be…
As I said, the main force of counter-demonstrators came in two waves. The first was peaceful and positive. The second wave were a tad angrier. And…louder. They were quickly asked/ordered to move further down the plaza, away from the NOM event.
I understand this anger perfectly well. And I am not going to sit here and pontificate that this sort of demonstration is counter-productive. The other side turns us into scarecrows they can safely fear at a distance, and defeat with bar stool valor and junk food religion. They need to see that we are as human as they; and there is nothing less surprising on this earth then the sight of humans who have been attacked getting angry, and fighting back. When people are denied the dream of love, when that ability to love another, and accept their love in return is gutted out of them, what is left?
I have have said often, that the one who fights this fight and doesn’t put their head down on the pillow every night, just a little bit angrier then the night before, just a little more angry then they thought it was humanly possible to be angry, isn’t really paying attention. But it is oh-so easy for anger to become hate. And hate will kill your soul.
This is the lover’s struggle. When all you have left in it is anger, you are done for. It is for love that we fight. Every moment you can put anger aside and remember that, you defeat hate.
April 25th, 2010
Reclaiming Our History, Our Selves
by Bruce |
This came across my screen some time ago while browsing The Stranger blog, and I’ve been meaning to write about it…
The thing I was most excited about in the writing of this article is the discovery (thanks to the good folks at Horizon Books) of a poem from 1892 titled “Jeff and Joe. A True Incident of Creede Camp, Colorado” that was published in an 1897 collection of cowboy poems titled Jim Marshall’s New Pianner and Other Western Stories by William Devere, the self-described “Tramp Poet of the West.” The poem is an exceptional artifact. Devere writes of a pair of cowhands he knew at Creede Camp:
Jeff, yer see, thought well of Joe—
Knowed him thirty years or so,
Pal’d together down below.
Joe liked Jeff and Jeff liked Joe,
An’ through all the changin’ years,
Sheered each other’s smiles and tears.Worked together, tooth and nail,
Punchin’ cattle up the trail;
Dealt the old thing; tackled bluff;
Each one blowed the other’s stuff,
The cowboys enjoy a fairly open, long-term committed homosexual relationship…
Uncovering the story of gay people throughout the pages of time is a kind of archeology. Our past has been carefully buried by layer upon layer of prejudice, hate and oppression. Sometimes, as in the case of ancient poems, the burial involves nothing more then the deft changing of a pronoun by some past editor or copyist. A monk, carefully transcribing an ancient text, happens upon evidence of the sin of Sodom and covers it over with a few strokes of the quill, and a same-sex love is thereby turned into another opposite-sex one. The original manuscript can then be safely burned later, perhaps after saying a few prayers. Most of Sappho, the greatest poet of ancient times, is lost to us now as is an entire book of letters written by the philosopher Aristotle to Hephaestion, the lover of Alexander.
That erasing of our history continues to this day. The web page for the upcoming movie, Young Alexander the Great, advertises its telling the tale of Alexander’s teen years thusly:
Alexander is at school, where he lives and studies with other boys, the sons of Macedonian noblemen. Their tutor is the legendary philosopher, Aristotle. The atmosphere is friendly but competitive, however, Alexander experiences all the problems a modern teenager has today, be it bullies and cheats at school, or winning the affections of beautiful girls.
Our history, the poetry of our hearts across the ages, is carefully erased so we can cease to be human beings in their eyes, so we can be their convenient scapegoats. Cowboys? Gay cowboys? In John Wayne’s west? Are you nuts or something?
Joe gets sick and dies, after being assured by Jeff that he lived a good life, as a cowboy should, and that there’ll be no “gospel sharks” preaching or praying at his funeral. Devere pays tribute to the grieving Jeff:
An’ as for Jeff—well, I may say,
No better man exists to-day.
I don’t mean good the way you do—
No, not religious—only true.
True to himself, true to his friend;
Don’t quit or weaken to the end.
An’ I can swear, if any can,
That Jeff will help his fellow man.
An’ here I thank him—do you see?
For kindness he has shown to me.
An’ This I’ll say, when all is o’er,
An’ Jeff has crossed to t’other shore,
I only hope that you and me
May stand as good a chance as he.
That was written by someone who had actually lived the American west during the period later idealized by a Hollywood where any mention of homosexuality was prohibited by the Hayes code. We know there was no casual acceptance of homosexuality in the American frontier because Hollywood told us so. And it still does. One year after Brokeback Mountain came unexpectedly and uncomfortably close to winning best picture, Hollywood gave us an updated 3:10 To Yuma. So as to quickly reassure the movie going public that homosexuals, if they existed at all west of the Mississippi, were psychotic killers the guy in the white hat always dispatched at the end of the film, one was tastefully added to the remake. Micheal Jensen at After Elton describes it thusly…
The new film 3:10 to Yuma delivers yet another coded gay villain to add to the already crowded pantheon. A remake of the 1957 film starring Glenn Ford, Russell Crowe plays the role of outlaw Ben Wade. Christian Bale co-stars as Dan Evans, the down on his luck Civil War veteran desperate enough to try to bring Wade to justice despite the near certainty he’ll die trying. And Ben Foster stars as Charlie Prince, Wade’s villainous henchman and second in command who oozes gay subtext.
To be perfectly clear, Foster’s part is actually rather small, so don’t expect GLAAD to issue a press release taking director James Mangold to task for denigrating the gay community. That being said, there is also no mistaking that Foster’s character is indeed coded as gay and is done so to make him even more unsettling to filmgoers since being a murderous sociopath apparently isn’t bad enough.
When we first see Charlie Prince, he is astride his horse, one hand draped delicately over the other with the limpest wrist this side of the Mississippi river. He is by far the nattiest dresser in the entire cast, and if that isn’t mascara he’s wearing when we first meet him then I’m Buffalo Bill.
Foster’s casting tells us a great deal about what Mangold intended for the character. He is a slight man, probably best known as Angel in X-Men: The Last Stand and as Russell, Claire’s sexually ambiguous boyfriend in Six Feet Under. Macho isn’t a word likely to often be used in describing Foster.
Within the first five minutes of Prince’s appearance onscreen, one character refers to him as “missy” and “Charlie Princess,” a nickname usually not uttered to his face, but apparently widely used behind his back. Naturally, Prince is utterly ruthless, killing anyone who gets in his way, and showing no emotion at all – not unless he’s interacting with Ben Wade, who clearly makes Charlie swoon.
You know how this ends…right?
The film’s climax is appropriately dire, with bullets flying every which way. Of course, the odds against Evans’ succeeding seem impossibly high, and I won’t give away the ending (except to say that it is improbable at best), but of course Charlie Prince does figure prominently.
He arrives at the very end, riding in to rescue Wade from Evans’ heterosexual clutches. Naturally, that involves putting a bullet into Evans, an act that so infuriates Wade that he in turn pumps Prince full of bullets himself. Shocked at the actions of the man he adores, the dying Prince looks like nothing so much as a dog being put down by his master.
As Wade watches Prince die, I couldn’t shake the feeling that thanks to the influence of Evans, he now sees Prince clearly for the first time. It is only then that he understands what friendship between two men should be like and it doesn’t involve what Prince yearned for. He may have been an outlaw and a murderer, but make no mistake – that isn’t the reason Prince has to die at the end of the film.
Brokeback Mountain uncovered a painful part of the story of gay people in the American west…if not the frontier days. It was a surprise hit, and that outraged the Hollywood good old boys club. In the weeks before the Oscar ceremonies, some members of the Motion Picture Academy, some of whom owed their careers to the closeted gays in the business, bellyached openly that not only were they not going to vote for Brokeback Mountain, they weren’t going to even bother watching it, a violation of Academy rules. “If John Wayne were alive he’d be rolling in his grave,” said Ernest Borgnine.
Clearly, something had to be done…
What surprised most of all is that the homophobic subtext isn’t a leftover relic from the original 3:10 that Mangold felt compelled to include. That would’ve been bad enough, but instead almost all of the coded gay aspects in the remake were introduced by either Mangold or the film’s assorted screenwriters.
In the original movie, Prince is played by character actor Richard Jaeckel (The Dirty Dozen, Starman). At no point is his character called “missy” or referred to as “Charlie Princess”. In the saloon scene where Wade flirts with Emmy, Prince also spends time talking with her. Nor is it made to seem that Prince is pining over his boss, jealous over the attention he gives to others. At one point, he even discusses his having a wife.
One thing does remain the same in both movies: Prince dies in each, but in the 1957 version it’s at the hands of Evans, not Wade. Thus there is no message sent that Prince is being punished for his “queer” transgressions against Wade (which aren’t even present).
[Emphasis mine...] Perhaps that stopped John Wayne rolling in his grave. On the other hand, maybe John Wayne would have appreciated a good story and good acting that broadened the audience’s understanding of their neighbors in this life. Uber patriot he may have been but I don’t recall anyone ever suggesting he was a bigot. And he starred in at least one western based on a novel written by an openly gay man. It was William Dale Jennings‘ The Cowboys. If Wayne read the book prior to making the movie, he had to know about it’s gay subtext. In fact, the book was a source of controversy to publishers back in 1971 because of it, which sorta makes it surprising it was made into a movie at all, even allowing for the fact the gay subtext was cleanly erased from it.
As you read the story of Wil Anderson, a small rancher so desperate to get his herd to market after all his men ran off on a gold rush, that he let’s himself get talked into taking on the town’s teenagers as help, it’s easy to just miss the sweet, and at the end of it tragic, teenage love story happening right there in front of you. It is between Slim and Charlie Schwartz, and it’s tragic because in the end Charlie is shot by the bandits who try to steal Wil’s herd and Slim is the one who carries his dying friend’s body back to the wagon.
Slim and Charlie arrive at Wil Anderson’s ranch with the town’s other young teenagers and instantly Anderson picks up on the fact of their close friendship. Slim looks to Wil to the the most mature, sensible kid in the bunch, while Charlie, who has a game leg, doesn’t look like he’ll make the cut. Wil doesn’t want to take on a cripple and right away Charlie seems a bit of a hothead. But Slim is very protective of his friend and Charlie eventually proves to Wil that he can do as good a job as any of the other kids. When Charlie gets thrown in the midst of a stampeding heard of horses, Slim races out to rescue him, almost getting himself killed in the process when his own cinch breaks just as he snatches his friend from the path of the thundering herd. Wil chews them both out for the mistakes they made that nearly got them both killed…
Then he turned to Slim and shouted as if the boy were a mile away: “And you Mr. Galahad, just you listen to me! You better get down on your knees and pray God that cinch of yours really broke. Because if I find it’s in one piece and only came loose I’m running your tail out of here today. If you don’t know how to saddle a horse proper, you don’t belong on the Double-O!”
Mr. Galahad… It seems they are inseparable. But Charlie is suddenly taken with Cimarron, a beautiful young Mexican drifter who wanders onto Wil’s ranch looking for work. When Charlie decides to be Cimarron’s bunkie during the cattle drive, Slim gets a tad jealous…
Slim was eating alone off to one side. Charlie Schwartz brought his plate over and sat down beside him.
“What’s the matter Slim?”
“Well, shouldn’t I be kind of took back at the way you threw in with the bean-eater? When your soogan burned in the barn I just naturally thought you’d be my bunkie.”
“Did I have to ask?”
“I wouldn’t have thought so.”
“You gonna keep with him?”
Well I never thought you’d choose a stranger over me. And for sure not a bean-eater.”
“Call him Cimarron.”
“That’s not his name.”
“That’s his summer name. It means somebody who ran away.”
“And that ain’t all. It’s a name for somebody wild and lawless and won’t join in. It must have been gave to him. It’s too good for him to take himself.”
“He’s not really like that Slim.”
“And I’ll tell you something else, Charlie Schwartz. I happen to know he has a desperado flag in his war bag.”
“One of them red sashes the old cowboys wore when they wanted to show off and raise hell.”
“Slim, I’ll thank you not to talk him down. He’s my friend.”
Later on the drive, Wil takes note of which boys have partnered with which…
Early in the drive they began to split the blankets. After a hard rain, they found that if they doubled up they could sleep on a tarp as well as under one. Unexpected pairs tried each other out and became bunkies. Only Slim and Weedy slept alone. Nobody would have Weedy, and Slim would have nobody.
It almost goes right over your head because, well, that sort of thing just Never Happened in the old west. Jennings doesn’t come right out and say what’s going on between Slim, Charlie and Cimarron, but as you read this next passage from the book, one that didn’t make it into the film, note that in Jenning’s glossary of cowboy terms at the back of the book, “bunkie” for “bedmate” is related to “bunky”, which is a horse that pitches…
Wil began to fret when Cimarron didn’t show up. It just about had to mean the beautiful little bastard had got himself into some sort of trouble down to the south. The Old Woman said, “No, maybe he just got himself loose in the foots and free in the fancy. Cimarron ain’t no fireside boy, you know. He don’t belong to nothing and nobody except himself. Could be he just cut his pocket pin and drifted.”
Everybody was looking at him. Wil felt tired and mean. He turned to young Charlie Schwartz and asked, “You’re his bunkie. You think that’s what he did?”
Young Charlie looked at the ground in what would have been blushing confusion if he hadn’t been so tanned. Then he looked up and set Wil Andersen back on his heels. “It takes more then sleeping with a man to know what’s on his mind.”
Wil looked at the ground. The Old Woman was smiling, but it was a good point. Wil almost liked the boy for a moment, because you could see he was worried about Cimarron too.
It’s easy, given how much of our past has been deliberately erased, for people to point and say that Jennings was a militant homosexual activist imposing homosexuality on a time and people in our nation’s history where there was no such thing. But among other things Jennings relates in the glossary of cowboy terms, a “gimlet” is a tool for boring holes, but Gimlet-ended” to the cowboy meant a man with a small butt and to “gimlet” your horse was to ride it so hard it got a sore back. As Jennings writes, something is clearly being alluded to there in cowboy slang.
Slang is worth paying attention to because it’s where words become art that everyday people use to describe their lives and their world. The world of the cowboys was a real place with real people in it. Some of whom, were same-sex couples.
An’ This I’ll say, when all is o’er,
An’ Jeff has crossed to t’other shore,
I only hope that you and me
May stand as good a chance as he.
Someday, we’ll have our history back. All of it. And…our poetry.
April 13th, 2010
I’m Sorry You Don’t Get Me. Now Here’s A Picture Of A Rabbit With Pancakes On Its Head.
by Bruce |
I’m reading in The Advocate that another Jesus Music star has come out…Jennifer Knapp…who was apparently a “…million-record-selling, multiple-Dove-award winning Christian singer-songwriter.” when she walked away from it all amid rumors that she is a lesbian. And as I read her story, I read this…
Knapp no longer feels like being gay and being Christian are in opposition, even if others do. “I’m quite comfortable to live with parts of myself that don’t make sense to you,” she says.
Emphasis mine. She had to basically leave music and her country for a period of time in order to find this comfort, and more to the point, in order to have it knowing that some of what he was comfortable with would not make sense to some people, sometimes. She had to get away from practically everyone and everything to, as the saying goes, to find herself. But if the individual person is their own unique song, that song is not so much a Thing as a performance of many different instruments…some of which are older then the fish, let alone the mammals, let alone the primates, let alone we humans let alone you.
We are amazing creations, each of us not only bearing our own history, but also the history of life on earth in our blood and bones, and sometimes in our deepest thoughts and feelings whether we’re aware of them or not. That we struggle sometimes to understand ourselves is probably the most understandable thing about is. One of the biggest ugliest crimes certain organized religions…and political movements…perpetrate is to set the parts of us that make us a whole human against themselves, so we end up tearing ourselves apart, after which they, the church or the party, offer to come inside and clean the mess up for us.
How convenient. And how convenient that they have to keep on doing it, because left to ourselves we mess everything up again. If there is such a thing as Sin, capital ‘S’, in this life, then to teach a kid to fear themselves, to hate themselves, to regard themselves as innately untrustworthy, must be a big one.
But it isn’t just organized religion and politics. It can start in childhood with the taunts about anything from being left-handed to having a strange accent or red hair or a favorite book or a particular skill at something. Anything about you can be a target for bullies, well meaning adults who just don’t get you, or uncomprehending friends who think this or that little thing about you is just…you know…Weird…
So you grow up mistrusting a part or parts of yourself. You hide them from view lest you get taunted again and the hurt returns. It isn’t just sexual orientation. I was a little bookworm in school and for years I got taunted as That Kid Who Uses Big Words. I loved to draw and paint and for a brief period I remember turning Everything I did in school into an art project, until the grief I caught for drawing on my test papers finally made me stop. One teacher wrote in my files (which I later saw) that Bruce “…takes excessive interest in personal art projects.” Probably she was trying to warn the other teachers down the road that they were dealing with a little fay boy who needed some toughening. I was good at figuring things out, especially technical things, and I was always wanting to share what I’d discovered with others, discovering in the process that others didn’t necessarily get it or even care. I was the Weird one.
The blessing in disguise was I had a personality that would have suffocated had I tried to conform anyway and that kept me from trying too hard. But over the years I have hidden things about myself in order to make friends and that’s always self defeating in the end. To make friends who accept you as you are, you need to be…well…As you Are.
As Knapp sings on “Inside,” the track from Letting Go that “I play when I get angry,” what Knapp fears the most is that “I know they’ll bury me / Before they hear the whole story.”
A lot of us come out of adolescence with parts of ourselves deeply buried. You eventually start reclaiming your inner self, stop being ashamed or embarrassed of things you really never needed to be ashamed or embarrassed about in the first place. But that’s the easy part. The hard part is being comfortable with those parts of yourself not making sense to others.
That’s what can take years. Decades even. Ask me how I know. I had an old and dear friend once lecture me when we were alone that being crazy is okay so long as I concealed it from the rest of the world. But I’m not crazy, I don’t think I even qualify as eccentric. Not by gay community standards at any rate. But crazy or not, I can’t be anything else but me. Well…I could pretend…but I won’t. Not anymore.
I’m quite comfortable to live with parts of myself that don’t make sense to you.
My sexual orientation, my geeky techno babble, my ability to just disappear into my head for hours at a time, my odd fascination with seemingly random objects in the world around me. All that Weird Stuff inside of me, is also part of all this…
Maybe this image says something to you. It did to me when I was standing in front of it with my camera. Now you have it too.
I do this. And also…this…
“…takes excessive interest in personal art projects.” Whatever. She may just as well have written that I take excessive interest in electronics, in books, in the other boys.
It’s a struggle familiar to most gay people, even those who haven’t had to make room for sex and God, often uncomfortable bedfellows. Choosing to come out can still mean choosing away from family and friends who just can’t accept us as well as making institutions like marriage and parenthood exponentially more difficult to access. For Knapp, the process of bringing faith and sexuality into a coherent self required her to step away from her life and career in the U.S. The music that had spoken through her voice and hands became completely alienating. “I would think, I don’t even have a right to sing a song I wrote, because I am a hypocrite,” she says. Knapp spent her first three years as “a PlayStation guru,” and, when she tired of that, spent four years working at everything but music. She didn’t even pick up a guitar until her last year in Sydney. “I was building something new, starting something fresh,” she says. “I had to go someplace that would completely redefine my perspective of who I was in the universe.”
Coming out is, I have come to realize in my middle ages, not only an issue for gay people. A good slice of the human race have issues with being told they’re weird for various reasons. We’re encouraged to bury those parts of ourselves so that our neighbors in this life don’t have to deal with things that don’t make sense to them. And yet, all that weirdness inside of us is sometimes considered useful. Beautiful even…
Later that night Knapp plays a set to a full house at Manhattan’s City Winery.
I read this on Andrew Sullivan’s site just as I was composing this blog post last night. And serendipity it was…
Jonah Lehrer passes along some research:
Eric Barker recently referred me to this interesting study, which looked at how elementary school teachers perceived creativity in their students. While the teachers said they wanted creative kids in their classroom, they actually didn’t. In fact, when they were asked to rate their students on a variety of personality measures – the list included everything from “individualistic” to “risk-seeking” to “accepting of authority” – the traits mostly closely aligned with creative thinking were also closely associated with their “least favorite” students. As the researchers note, “Judgments for the favorite student were negatively correlated with creativity; judgments for the least favorite student were positively correlated with creativity.”
This shouldn’t be too surprising: Would you really want a little Picasso in your class? How about a baby Gertrude Stein? Or a teenage Eminem?
Perfect! The little dears wouldn’t draw inside the lines and that makes teacher frown. But sometimes we make people smile too…
She follows old friend Derek Webb, a straight and happily married Christian artist, who plays “What Matters More,” a track off his recent album that is explicitly critical of antigay Christians. Knapp is less blunt, playing a mix of her Christian favorites and new songs that hew to themes of love and loss. She does include “Inside,” the song that broadcasts the fears and frustrations that lick around the edges of what is otherwise an exciting and joyful return to what Knapp does best. But as she closes the set, graciously telling the applauding crowd that the night’s schedule doesn’t allow an encore, it’s clear that no matter what happens next, Jennifer Knapp will be playing music
You have to let people be weirded out. You have to let them put you into whatever little box they have handy, that lets them quickly dismiss you, categorize you, calculate, number, index and catalog you. Some people just have to have their boxes. Just so long as you don’t put yourself into one. All those things that make you different from the others. It doesn’t matter they don’t understand. Just so long as you do. Or even if you don’t, that you’re comfortable with it. Better you don’t make sense to people sometimes, then you don’t make sense to yourself. Creativity and oddness just go hand in hand and you don’t want to wake up one day and realize you’ve buried everything inside of you that could have been grown wings and soared, that could have been beautiful, and now you can’t find it anymore.
April 7th, 2010
Accepting Yourself For What You Are
by Bruce |
So I went to Key West a few weeks ago, for a little vacation with some friends. I love Key West. I absolutely love the climate (at least the winter climate…I hear the summer swelter is a bit much…). Even more, I love its laid back live and let live attitude. It’s a place where people go, creative people, intelligent people, non-conformists, go to live lives away from the mainland mainstream. The t-shirts on sale everywhere there celebrate sex, drinking, cigars, smuggling, toking, Harleys, growing old and not giving a damn, being poor and not giving a damn, drinking, drinking, and sex. Levittown it ain’t. It’s San Francisco and New Orleans but more laid back. It’s Taos but instead of mountains it’s surrounded by a beautiful turquoise tropical sea and never gets below freezing.
The old town part of the island shelters dozens of historical landmarks and structures with history going back to the first Americans, embracing pirates, salvagers, smugglers, shipwrecked settlers, writers, artists, actors and presidents. Hemingway, Truman, Hunter S. Thompson, Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost and Thomas Edison called it home at one point or another. The locals call themselves Conchs and call their island home a nice little drinking place with a tourist problem.
In 1982 the U.S. Border Patrol put up a roadblock between Miami and Key West, and vehicles were searched for narcotics and illegals. The roadblock put a huge dent in tourism. The city council complained to the Feds and got nowhere. So Key West declared itself The Conch Republic, seceded from the Union, declared war on the United States (by way of the mayor breaking a loaf of stale Cuban bread over the head of someone dressed in a military uniform…), then immediately surrendered and asked for a billion dollars in foreign aid and war relief.
Well they didn’t get their billion, but the roadblock came down.
I love Key West. Ever since my first visit, I’ve thought often about moving there someday. I love its laid back, away from the mainland mainstream attitude. And it is a party town, at least around Duval Street. You practically can’t spit in any direction without hitting a bar, at least one of which, The Garden of Eden, is clothing optional. There are strip clubs, gay and straight and the dancers will walk over to customers to negotiate commerce, barely legal and possibly otherwise as well. A blind eye is turned to a lot of things as long as no one causes any trouble. For all its open sexuality and drinking, there is actually very little rowdiness.
You have to love a place where all this can be going on and yet it stays laid back about it all. I could love to live in a place like that. The ironic thing is, this trip to Key West really emphasized it for me that I am not that.
I have this love/hate relationship with my Baptist upbringing. Sometimes I feel like it made me grow up entirely too inhibited. Sometimes I am deeply grateful for it. There are values, moral values, I still hold to, and find ever more vital as I grow older, and see more and more of what a world without them looks like. Honesty. Prudence in ones financial matters. Earning your keep, and the trust of others. A regard for social justice, tempered by a little humility every now and then, when the urge to thump your pulpit strikes. But for every positive, I can find a negative.
I was never allowed to think of myself as beautiful or desirable. That was vanity and it was a deadly sin. Once when I was in my middle teens, mom, grandma, and a few other family members were at the beach. I had decided to wear the new swim suit I’d bought, which I knew might raise some eyebrows but I thought I’d dare it. It wasn’t terribly sexy by today’s standards, but it was colorful and showed my body off at a time when I definitely had one to show. I strolled out onto the beach with it feeling beautiful for one of the rare times in my life, and just loud enough for me to hear some of the folks made a few off color cracks about it…precisely aimed to embarrass the hell out of me. I must have blushed fifty shades of red and went back to the hotel. I never wore it again.
I’ve had trouble my entire life with being sexually inhibited, and it isn’t just the beating my psyche took being a gay adolescent. But there is inhibited, and there is reserved and it’s taken me the better part of adulthood to discover that my sexual reticence isn’t all the result of having the bible beaten over my head all throughout my childhood. It’s been like carving out a hunk of marble to find the shape within that is really me, and not the stone cast around me from an early age. I think I’m about down to it now, and swear I’d have thought the inner uninhibited me was a tad more footloose and fancy free then this. But…no.
My friends stayed in “Big Ruby’s”…a gay “clothing optional” bed and breakfast. I stayed at the Coco Palm, just around the corner. Let me tell you about that. Two of the guys I went down with are a couple. The other is a party kind of guy, and not to put too fine a point on it, he went down there for the sex. So this guy makes some arrangements for rooms at Big Ruby’s and the night before, he sends me an email asking if I wanted to share a room with him. I had a pretty good idea what he was going to be getting into down there and I didn’t want to be sharing a room with him if he was going to be bringing guys back to it. So I made a polite excuse…told him I’m an “only child” who always had his own room and I like my privacy…blah, blah, blah… The next day I learn he’d made arrangements for himself and my two friends at Big Ruby’s, but not me. So I guess “yes” was the right answer. But…NO.
In retrospect I’m glad I didn’t stay there. My two friends got themselves a nice apartment room with a kitchen that we all used as a headquarters. We used the kitchen for making lunch and sometimes dinner too, and we all relaxed around the pool during Big Ruby’s happy hour. Since I wasn’t a guest there I couldn’t drink their booze, but the landlord was fine with my bringing my own liquor and sharing with the others. And as I walked in and out of Big Ruby’s, I got an eyeful of the stuff going on there and sometimes it was embarrassing. They had a hot tub… Walking past it was a real challenge. Part of me would be deeply embarrassed while that damn logical/analytical part of my brain was absolutely fascinated, full of questions. Don’t they have lovers…???
I watched several naked guys rise from the hot tub at full attention and I was not only unaroused, but actually turned off by the whole thing, and I swear the thought crossed my mind right at that moment that maybe I’m not gay after all. Later I tried to think of a situation where I would be aroused. Immediately one came to mind, but it involved not a group of guys but one…one special one…just him and me in the tub all by ourselves. The plus side of having the high intensity imagination I do is I can make myself all hot and bothered pretty easily.
Yeah, I’m gay all right. Just not the kind of gay guy who goes for casual hooking up in the hot tub with a bunch of strangers regardless of how gorgeous they are. While reading John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley I came across this saying: Cold Feet, Warm Heart. At the age I read it I kinda thought I knew what it meant, but it took years of growing up and passing through adolescence to really understand it. Yeah. That’s me. Cold feet, warm heart.
So I wandered for a time amongst the party crowd at Key West, enjoying myself very much, but coming to an understanding, finally, that I am not that. I am a quiet little romantic, who feels suffocated wherever people have to stifle themselves in order to survive. I’m a shy little homebody looking for his soulmate, who despises people who impose particular gender and sexual roles on others. I’m a gay man who understands intimately well how conformity kills the soul. I’ve watched it happen. I will not willingly live in that world. Even if I could pass for normal in that environment…I couldn’t. But I am not that.
November 8th, 2009
by Bruce |
They say sex is a powerful force for human bonding. But…no. It isn’t sex. It’s touch. I wrote this back in 2007, when I was going through another bad patch of missing Keith…
A few moments spent in the arms of someone you love can bring you back. Even if a few moments is all you get, it can bring you back. At least, for a while.
This wasn’t as intimate as it sounds. I was on my way to Key West, and stopping by Hilton Head I’d taken him out to dinner on the island that night. We shared a hug in the parking lot. A very, very long hug. He knew how unhappy I was. So he gave me that long, goodbye hug. But that was all it was. And it lifted my spirits considerably, given how depressed I was after I’d caught that glimpse of his happy domesticity earlier the previous day…
How To Make Your Ex Bleed In One Easy Step…
You want to make someone you dumped bleed? I mean, really, really bleed? I mean, Profusely…? Here’s my little tip: Don’t tell him about all the great sex you’re having now that he’s out of your life. Don’t bother telling him that your new boyfriend is so much better in the sack then he’ll ever be in his wildest wet dream fantasies. Don’t tell him how much your new boyfriend understands you so much better then he ever did. That’s amateur stuff. Really. You want to give him a hurt he’ll take to his grave, and hopefully sooner rather then later, just mention in passing some small bit of domesticity that you and your new main squeeze are currently enjoying…
Me: So I’ll probably be in town in an hour or so…you want to go grab a bite to eat somewhere after I get settled in…
He: Um…well actually (XXX) and I are about to go grocery shopping in a bit… Why don’t you call when you get in. If you want…there’s some good British comedy shows on TV later tonight you can watch at the hotel.
STAB! SLASHHHHH! Bleed!
And, so on. If there wasn’t at least one major heart wound it wouldn’t be Christmas…
It was right after that I wrote a post about how depressed I was that alarmed a bunch of people. Interestingly enough, it was also shortly after that I got my first nastygram from an anonymous AOL poster.
A few months ago I was overjoyed that Keith was coming up for a visit. Finally. I’d been trying for years to coax him to come up here and see the house I’d bought for myself, and the life I was living up here in Charm City, and maybe even meet some of my friends, particularly the group of gay guys I regularly do a Friday night happy hour with in Washington D.C. And…deep down inside…I wanted to have him here under my roof for a few days, just to picture what it would have been like for us to have been lovers after all. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.
As the day of his arrival up here in Baltimore approached, that old twitterpated feeling took hold once again, and for days I wore a great big smile and my attitude went way, way positive. It affected everything. I spent weeks beforehand, cleaning and tidying up everything around Casa del Garrett so it would be perfect. My energy levels at work jumped a hundred fold. I was polishing off work items one right after the other like they were nothing. I felt Good, in a way I hadn’t felt since I was a teenager in love for the first time. Everyone at work and in my personal life noticed it. I was happy. Content. Blissful. Life was good. Life was sweet. So very, very sweet. And he hadn’t even arrived yet. But somehow, something deep inside knew what was coming.
My body sang. My energy levels soared. The day he came, he called first and said he was in Baltimore and on his way. And I immediately got this familiar knot in my stomach, just like I did years ago, when I was a teenager, and in love, and expecting any moment now to see the object of my affections. And when he left after a few days, I dropped into a deep grey funk the likes of which I’ve never experienced before. Ever.
When he came here and I was showing him around Casa del Garrett for the first time (he’d never been here before…) and I was showing him the upstairs and the bathroom which had a lot of remodeling done by the previous owner…and he gently mocked how technical I was getting when I described the improvements and I laughed with him and say "Hey…I’m a techno geek…okay?" and he laughed and put his arms around me and hugged… And…and… For a moment I saw how my life could have been had I been loved…even for a short time. But he doesn’t want to be that person in my life and all I have ever been able to do is just imagine how it would be. Now I can remember how it feels to have someone put their arms around me while we’re laughing together at some foible of mine. But he doesn’t love me and it seems I will never have love except in my imaginings and my dreams.
Thing of it is, I Knew I was going to experience a funk after he left Baltimore. Logically at least. I Knew it. I thought I would get through it like I always have. But it was worse then anything this time. It wasn’t just I was heartsick. My body Ached. I lost energy…it was like the floor had been pulled out from under me. At the office I was reasonably fine…I was able to get my work done and interact with my co-workers almost like nothing had happened. But at home I wandered around my little rowhouse in a daze. Like I’d fallen down the stairs. Like I’d been hit by a car. Like I’d just had my arms cut off.
And in a sense, I had. Now that I’m settled a bit, I think I understand it better. It’s something like this…
A phantom limb is the sensation that an amputated or missing limb (even an organ, like the appendix) is still attached to the body and is moving appropriately with other body parts. Approximately 5 to 10% of individuals with an amputation experience phantom sensations in their amputated limb, and the majority of the sensations are painful…
Although not all phantom limbs are painful, patients will sometimes feel as if they are gesturing, feel itches, twitch, or even try to pick things up…
-Wikipedia – Phantom Limb
That moment we shared while I was geeking out in the bathroom…I kept feeling his arms around me in that moment, over and over again throughout my misery, well into the next month. It wasn’t just my heart. My body kept insisting that something was missing. It was dreadful.
How many times do we hear broken hearted lovers say that loosing that lover, that other half, felt like they’d had an arm cut off? In 1982 I picked up a copy of Howard Cruse’ Gay Comics and saw a story by French Cartoonist Patric Marcel titled, One For Sorrow…
Imagine having your arm torn off… There would be pain of course…but more important would be the sudden lacking, and the futile urge to have it back on…
I was well aware of what he was talking about by then. And imagery like that exists throughout the landscape of lost love. It’s more then just a metaphor I am convinced now. It really is something like that phantom limb phenomena. I’m a geek…okay? Bear with me here…
We have all these little ways of expressing sociability, fraternity, via various kinds of ritualized touch. Moments where we are permitted to cross the physical boundary between us. Handshakes are the most common one I can think of right now. I’ve heard it said they evolved as a way of letting a stranger know your intentions are friendly. Look…I’m unarmed… Some cultures allow for a bit more. A formalized kind of greeting kiss. A pat on the shoulders. Greeting hugs have become more common in American culture in my lifetime then they were when I was a kid. They serve to introduce and reinforce social bonds. But these are more, it turns out, then simply acknowledgments of social regard. Operating below the levels of rational consciousness, below even the lower primate and mammalian brain, is the platform it all rests upon.
We understand, if incompletely, that touch is a powerful thing, and we need to be careful how we let others do that to us. Not just as a matter of physical security, but emotional security too. To get close requires a cultivation of trust. It’s not just that someone within arm’s reach can take a swing at you so you have to be careful. It’s when you permit someone’s touch, you are making them a part of you. I mean that literally. The more intimate that touch, the more intimately they become a part of you. It really is that powerful a thing.
Our bodies map themselves, and remap themselves constantly. We have to learn how to do things like walk, run, ride bicycles, dance, hammer nails, brush teeth. The alien feel of a new tool becomes, after many hours of use, as if part of the hand and arm. And to our mind now, to the body’s inner map, it is. You pick it up, it’s There. Even something as complex as an automobile becomes an extension of the body, once its behavior has been mapped by the brain. Accelerate…back off a little…flick up the turn signal stalk…turn the wheel a bit… It’s not the car moving through traffic, it’s you. And when you get behind the wheel of a different car, it feels strange for a while, until your body has had a chance to map that one out too.
But the car doesn’t touch back. A favorite tool lost or stolen can make you angry, but you caress the world with the tool, it doesn’t caress you back. People (and pets) are different. They touch back. And our bodies map that touch to itself. And more…
Oxytocin Hormone: The Cuddle Hormone is the Body’s Own Love Potion
Research suggests that if a love potion does in fact exist, the mammalian hormone called oxytocin is likely the key ingredient.
Oxytocin is a hormone produced naturally in the hypothalamus in the brain. Studies have shown that oxytocin is associated with our ability to mediate emotional experiences in close relationships and maintain healthy psychological boundaries.
In studies with non-human mammals, oxytocin has been shown to promote nest building and pup retrieval, acceptance of adopted offspring, and the formation of adult pair-bonds.
This important hormone is naturally released in response to a variety of environmental stimuli including skin-to-skin contact, uterine or cervical stimulation during sex, nipple stimulation in lactating women, and as the result of a baby moving down the birth canal.
[Emphasis mine] They say it’s sex that bonds a couple. Not…exactly. It’s touch. Which happens during sex of course. But everywhere else in a couple’s relationship too and those ways, I am convinced now, are much more meaningful and fundamental. Your lover can touch you in ways even a dear friend cannot, and not simply in sexual ways. Your lover can ruffle your hair, stroke your neck, rest a hand on your cheek. It’s a private language every couple invents for just themselves. This touch means one wordless thing…that touch another. Your lover can reach a hand out and lightly touch yours with just a fingertip, and send a tremble through your body. And your body knows that person’s touch, has it mapped out and stored in its mindless subconscious automatic understanding of what it itself is.
And when that touch isn’t there anymore, it’s a shock the body refuses to accept for a time. Like a phantom limb, you can still feel those arms around you, that hand inside of yours, and it is a torment. One that broken hearted and jilted lovers aren’t really being taught how to cope with, because everyone keeps telling them that it’s all in their mind. But it isn’t. Not entirely. It’s in their bodies too. They have, in a very nearly literal sense, lost a physical part of themselves.
June 5th, 2009
The Ghosts Within
by Bruce |
On SLOG… Charles Mudede hits me where I am still pretty raw… Where I guess it will always hurt…
This morning, around James and 5th, a woman across the street waves at me. She is around 50, black, and wearing a tracksuit. I think it is my mother. She is on her morning walk; she is waving at her son. But a closer look reveals the waving person to be not my mother but a crackhead who has mistaken me for a crackhead or dealer. I look away from her and walk up the hill.
But to slip by a trick of light and colors into that split second was something wonderful. In that split second I believed that my dead mother was alive and out and about. She was in the world with her own body. The thing about a death is that it finishes not so much the person but the relationship with that person. Instead of the subject object relationship, there is now only a subject—you who survives. The death of a close person is the total internalization of that person. Your living body becomes the site of their burial. It is here inside that the dead have something like an afterlife (alive but not alive, in time but not in time). They roam the body like a ghost roams a tomb.
Mom… Dad… My favorite uncle who I didn’t get nearly enough time with… All the friends who are missing now… It’s not the certainty of my own death that I hate. Death doesn’t come like a thief in the night and take you away in the twinkling of an eye. It kills you slowly…a little bit more and a little bit more every time it takes someone away from you. Ghosts are the phantom limbs of the part of you that exists in a friend’s smile or a parent’s embrace, that your subconscious mind keeps insisting must still be there. I could name them all. Sometimes I still see them walking by on the street. Then I realize it was just a chance resemblance in a walk, or a gesture, or a smile. And it hurts all over again.
June 4th, 2009
Heart, Soul, Brain…These Are The Enemies You Must Defeat To Become A Conservative….
by Bruce |
From our Department of Super-Sized Assholes…
Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committe held the first-ever hearing on the Uniting American Families Act, which would equalize the status of foreign-born same-sex partners of American citizens. Heterosexual Americans can earn citizenship for their foreign partners by marrying them. Gays, obviously, cannot do that, effectively making a gay American and his or her foreign spouse legal strangers.
Testifying was Shirley Tan, a Fillipino woman who has been with her American partner for 23 years. Together, they are raising twelve-year-old twin boys…
…one of Tan’s children started crying within seconds of the start of her testimony. At the sight of this, Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy stopped the hearing and asked Tan if her son might want to sit in another room, where presumably a Senate staffer would console him for the duration of what was clearly an emotionally fraught experience. For most people, the sight of a 12-year-old boy in tears at the prospect of his mother being deported halfway around the world would invoke some sympathy. Unmoved, however, was Alabama Republican Jeff Sessions, ranking minority member of the Committee and the only Republican to bother to attend the hearing. At the sight of the weeping boy, according to a Senate staffer who was at the hearing, Sessions leaned towards one of his aides and sighed, "Enough with the histrionics."
Sessions opposes the bill, stating that it would amount to a federal recognition of same-sex marriage.
I keep drumming on this but it’s a simple fact: Everything we have ever asked for in this fight, from hospital visitation to the repeal of the sodomy laws amounts to recognition of same-sex marriage if you listen to our enemies. This has always been their trump card in Every Fucking battle over any and everything: turn it into a fight over same sex marriage.
So it makes no sense to say that we are wasting energy fighting over same-sex marriage when we could be putting our resources into fighting for anti-discrimination and hate crime laws. Everything is a fight over same-sex marriage. Which is to say, everything is a fight over the legitimacy of our emotional lives. The pieces make up a whole at the center of which is a simple question: do gay people experience life the same way heterosexuals do, or do we, as Orson Scott Card would say, merely play house in hollow mimicry of genuine emotions that heterosexuals feel?
Look at Sessions’ gut level knee jerk response to that kid’s tears again. Histronics. He doesn’t believe they are real. They can’t possibly be. Because that family is only playing house. It isn’t a real family. They don’t have real feelings. It’s just an act they have convinced themselves of. Even the kids. This is the enemy your gay and lesbian neighbors have been facing for decades now.
May 5th, 2009
Letters To The Past
by Bruce |
Andrew Sullivan noted a few days ago, a letter Stephen Fry addressed to his 16-year-old self…
Oh, lord love you, Stephen. How I admire your arrogance and rage and misery. How pure and righteous they are and how passionately storm-drenched was your adolescence. How filled with true feeling, fury, despair, joy, anxiety, shame, pride and above all, supremely above all, how overpowered it was by love. My eyes fill with tears just to think of you. Of me. Tears splash on to my keyboard now. I am perhaps happier now than I have ever been and yet I cannot but recognize that I would trade all that I am to be you, the eternally unhappy, nervous, wild, wondering and despairing 16-year-old Stephen: angry, angst-ridden and awkward but alive. Because you know how to feel, and knowing how to feel is more important than how you feel. Deadness of soul is the only unpardonable crime, and if there is one thing happiness can do it is mask deadness of soul.
Sullivan adds his own reaction to the film, History Boys…
A line it from the lonely gay schoolboy was almost too much to hear: "I’m Jewish. I’m homosexual. And I’m in Sheffield … I’m fucked." Somewhere in my mind in those teenage years was a similar refrain: "I’m Catholic. I’m homosexual. And I’m in East Grinstead … I’m fucked."
But I wasn’t fucked, of course. And not-to-be-fucked, not to turn into the tragic homosexual figure, memorizing "Brief Encounter," constantly chasing unrequited love, seeking refuge in the great worlds of Hardy or Larkin or Auden as a substitute for life: that was my goal.
See…I didn’t make that my goal. I just assumed it wouldn’t happen to me, because I didn’t buy into all the crap I was told about homosexuality.
That was a mistake. It was nearly impossible to grow up in that world, and no absorb some of its contempt for gay people. And it did its work on me all the same I realize now. Which is what makes it a good idea for gay folk to write these sorts of things…these bear your soul to the world letters. It seems very self absorbed, but it isn’t necessarily. It can be useful, not just for making peace with your own past, but also as a kind of message in a bottle to other generations in other times.
Gay kids have very little to no blood connection to past generations. You kind-of pop up in your family as gay, and everyone else isn’t. Maybe if you’re lucky you have a kind gay older uncle or aunt who can tell you a thing or two about what it was like for them, how to protect yourself from the tribulations they faced, and work toward the better world for us all. But more likely if you do have older gay relatives they are terrified to be seen as being too interested in you, lest they be accused of pedophilia. So you find yourself disconnected from the past, other then as history. And that history is still mostly being taught to each new generation of gay kids, by heterosexuals. Some gay-friendly, some not. We need to tell each other our own stories, in our own words.
So a letter to your younger gay self can be useful, not just to you, but to others who need to know what it was like for those of us in the previous generation. So that, hopefully, no gay kid will have to grow up in a world ever again, where everywhere you turn, literally, someone is putting a knife into your heart…telling you that you are pathetic…ridiculous…grotesque…sick.
I’ve had a letter to my younger self percolating somewhere inside of me for quite a long time now, so it’s probably time to get it out of me. But I have a few other letters to post before I get around to The Kid I Was. I’m going to start, with a Letter To A Straight Friend. I have some others that need writing too. And then I’ll write to Bruce. There’s a lot I’d have liked to tell him.
[Edited a tad...]
October 14th, 2008
Seize Your Joy
by Bruce |
Last Saturday, Jeremy and Andrew got engaged…
October 11, 2008: The catering is all in line, and the outfits perfectly pressed. The months of planning have trickled down to hours. Andrew and I are holding our Manhattan engagement party, step one in our bicoastal wedding celebration.
October 11, 1995: I watch every word that comes out of my mouth for fear that my less-than-masculine speech patterns will lay bear the truth that is and has always been within my head. It’s unfair to date members of the opposite-sex, both for me and my partners in faux courtship. But what choice do I have? There are no gay people in my high school. Heck, are there gay people in my town? In all of Tennessee? The entire Southeastern region?
October 11, 2008: Andrew, the planner of our duo, has the day mapped out. Shave, manicure, and haircut are all booked into specific slots. I, on the other hand, am taking a fairly laxidasical approach to getting my stuff done. But while our approaches are different, our excitement is the same. We are both excited and shocked that this long overdue journey is finally in motion.
October 11, 1995: I’ll probably marry someday. I don’t feel like I have a choice. You get through school then ya get hitched. And hey, at least when I marry, I will finally prove to everyone that I am straight. I’m sure that in time, I too will believe it. Right?
October 11, 2008: The Connecticut ruling makes three states where we gays can legally marry.
October 11, 1995: It’s not like I can legally marry a dude even if I wanted to.
October 11, 2008: It’s not even noon, and there have already been two phone calls from my mom-in-law-to-be. She just might be the most psyched of all of us! And why shouldn’t she be? Her baby is finally getting married!!
October 11, 1995: Did anyone see me looking at that issue of "Entertainment Weekly"? The one with the cover story on "The Gay 90’s"? And if so, did they suspect anything? ::sigh:: I better go watch the game and talk about "hot" girls.
October 11, 2008: 115 guests will be on hand to send well wishes to the two fiancés. Acceptance or "tolerance" is not even up for debate. We are loved. We are accepted. Non-"controversially."
October 11, 1995: Will I ever feel love? Real love? A genuine, rock you to the core love?
October 11, 2008: Today is National Coming Out Day. And while the booking was purely coincidental, the resonance of the date is not lost on me.
October 11, 1995: I just learned that today is apparently something called "National Coming Out Day." I gotta remember to put my guard up extra high, since people will probably be talking about it. Questions are dangerous. And the "right" answers are hard to find since they really don’t jibe with what I know to be true.
October 11, 2008: I’m happy. Really frickin’ happy. I want to wish a joyous National Coming Out Day to everyone:
October 11, 1995: I’m scared. Really frickin’ scared. Please tell me it gets better than this. Please tell me there is peace to be had. Please tell me I will come out of this darkness.
Some photos Here. I’m so happy for both of them. I wish them all the best. This poor angry world needs so much more of this. So very much more.
Do you believe in love? Please help fight the good fight. Please help happy, devoted couples to keep their ring fingers. Donate Here, to No on 8. Or Here, to Arizona Together. Or Here, to Say No On Two.
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Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com