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April 30th, 2012

Turning Kisses Into Pornography

Jim Burroway over at Box Turtle Bulletin quotes a little Michael Heath

During my lifetime I have witnessed the descent from Playboy into the abyss of online porn…

Okay…That’s about all I need to read.  If you think the human, let alone the American fascination with pornography started with Playboy Michael, and the mass consumption therein, then you have been very grievously misinformed.  Google Tijuana Bible Mike.  No…that’s not a translation for Spanish speaking Christians.

My own fascination with pornography ended pretty soon after it began, when I eventually figured out (don’t laugh) that there is very little romance in it. The few porn magazines I bought back in the day all had images of guys being affectionate as well as sexual.  That was my turn on.  No matter how hot I thought the guys were, if it was just sex I got bored if not a tad turned off.  There had to be affection on display too.  The more affection the better.  But affection of that sort between males was a pretty radical thing to portray in any form back then, back room magazine rack or mainstream movie house.  In some ways, and in some venues, it still is.

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating because it really says it all.  Back in the day an old high school friend of mine told me about taking a college course on human sexuality.  The course, he said, included a number of films which you might expect to find in an Adult Entertainment store rather then in a university classroom.  And so naturally most of the college students who signed up for that course did so, according to my friend who probably did also, just to see those films.  What they didn’t bargain for was also having to watch a bunch of sex they didn’t much like.  This was after all, a course on human sexuality, not a course on pornography.  In addition to the hot young babes there was also footage of folks old enough to be their own parents having sex.  Then there were the sections on geriatric sex. You can imagine how well that went over with a bunch of college students.  But it was the section on gay male sex that bothered some the audience most of all.  And it wasn’t the sex specifically that offended them.  In fact, the sex really didn’t bother that group much at all.  According to my friend, when the gay male sex scenes came on screen the ignorant jock types in the class burst out laughing and mocked the couple.

But then images of that couple being affectionate with each other came on screen and the jock’s attitude changed.  Those scenes of that male couple being affectionate, kissing, holding hands, being in love, completely offended the jocks my friend said…far more, far, Far more, then watching them have sex did.

What pornography is, to my mind at least, is it just pushes your sexual buttons and nothing else.  That’s all it’s for.  That’s all it does.  Empty button pushing.  But that’s all some folks want it to be.  Oh well for them I guess.  What I discovered about myself, and had I not the freedom to at least look the stuff over I might not have figured this out about myself, is that I am about romance, affection, playful fun, when it comes to sex.  I like to be teased.  I like the friendly smile and the longing look.  And the kiss.  Especially the kiss.  I am not much about just having my buttons pushed for the sake of pushing them.  There has to be more.  There has to be love.  There has to be the kiss.  So what my little private collection of erotic art began to consist mostly of as I grew older, is that.  Sex yes, but not always that specifically and always in the context of romance.  Body and soul together.  I love that.  It turns me on.

Your mileage may vary.  That’s fine.  I’m pretty sure in any case that your definition of pornography Michael is almost certainly a lot broader then mine.  Anything having to do with same-sex couples even if it’s just a kiss probably counts as pornography in your book.  No…Especially if it’s just a kiss.  Because homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. But here’s the thing Michael…most of us just look the other way when we’re grossed out or disinterested.  When I found out there wasn’t much in pornography that interested me, at least of the hard core sort, I stopped looking. But you can’t for some reason.

Don’t you think that puts you in the same ugly peep show stall that the people you’re railing against are stuck in?  Well…except they seem to be enjoying themselves and you’re not.  And what is offending you most of all Michael, isn’t the sex gay couples are having.  It’s the affection.  It’s their joy.  It’s the kiss…isn’t it Michael.  You’re calling it “sodomy based marriage” now…it’s your new slogan that you seem to honestly think is a winner but it’s merely your way of turning kisses into pornography.  Because that’s how they seem to you.

You begin your email to supporters with a little rant about pornography, but it’s all about same-sex marriage with you, not pornography, not sexual decadence.  And that’s because it’s the kiss that offends you, not the sodomy.  Marriage is about love and devotion, about body and soul together as one, and same sex couples are fighting for access to marriage, because they love, because they are devoted, because they are one in body and soul.  And you see it don’t you.  Yes…yes you do.  And it bothers you massively doesn’t it.  And you can’t look away.  Why is that Michael?

Some might suggest that it’s because you’re a closet case yourself.  I honestly doubt that you are in that particular sort of closet.  There’s another, darker, colder one your sort lives their lives in.  There is a marvelous scene in Mary Renault’s The Fire From Heaven, where Alexander’s father Philip, punishing his son and his son’s lover for a transgression, knowing that the punishment of his lover will hurt Alexander more then his own punishment, thinks, “…between contempt and a deep secret envy…The man does not live that I could feel that for, or the woman either.” There you are Michael.  There’s why you can’t look away.  There’s why you need their kisses to be empty.  There’s why you hate them.

   

[Update...] After I cross posted this over to Truth Wins Out I checked out some of the other posts there and found This One from Evan Hurst concerning Peter LaBarbra’s post also referencing the rant of Coach Dave Daubenmire that I riffed on a few posts back.  Remarkably, it contained this image from an episode of Glee, tastefully censored to prevent cases of the vapors in the kook pews.  I’ve captured the full context from Pete’s site….just look at this would you…

…blocked for decency’s sake… Oh make my case for me why don’t you?  Christ almighty…Pete…listen…there is something seriously wrong with you.  If the image of two guys in love kissing is enough to motivate you to start up the image editor of your choice, load that image into it, and take the time to carefully black out (white out?) those two dear little pairs of lips locked like they were mashing genitals instead of kissing, you have problems. Seriously…get help.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

April 23rd, 2012

Some Days I Really Regret Not Going To Art School. And…Not Ever Having Had A Boyfriend…

As I often do, I posted the last couple sketches here onto my Facebook page with a brief explanation…

I’m finding suddenly that technical pencil and a graphite stick work pretty well for me on these sorts of sketches. If I tweak the contrast up in Photoshop they almost look inked but they aren’t. Just pencil and graphite drawn on layout paper, then scanned in.

The models for these are mostly taken from fashion spreads I find here and there online and in magazines, like Out, Details and GQ. I have a filing cabinet folder full of poses I tore out of magazines I use as a reference. When I get in the mood to do one of these sorts of sketches I dig up a pose I like, do a rough sketch of the body, then just add whatever face, hair and clothes to it that come to mind.

It’s probably not as good as sketching from life would be but it’s the best I can manage. If I had it to do all over again I’d move mountains to be able to afford art school.

A friend there responded that I could always hire a model. But that doesn’t fit into how I work on these.  When I do a political cartoon I do almost the entire thing in my head before I even touch pencil to paper.  I know with a pretty good certainly what I want to see on the paper when I begin drawing it out.  But these drawings of beautiful guys are more like daydreams.  As I said in the previous post, the wistful daydreams of a single guy, who has been single just about all his life.

I wouldn’t know where to even begin with a professional, or even an amateur model. What I have are file cabinet folder full of pages I’ve torn over the years from fashion spreads in magazines like Out, Details and GQ.  I use those as a reference when I sit down to a little sexy sketching.  I do a rough of the body in the photo, and then I work on it, firming up the lines, moving them a tad here and there to get the body shape I want.  I add face, hairstyle and clothes purely from my imagination. I have done this for so long now I have no idea how I would work with a model.

When I was a lot younger…about the age of the guys you see me drawing here, I had a small group of friends I would hang out with and I would snap photos of them. But I don’t have anyone that age in my local group of friends now, for pretty obvious reasons, and even if I did, they’d be of their own time and place and I strongly doubt I could talk any of them into dressing like they’d just stepped out of the 1970s. So those days are gone to me and with them I guess pretty much the last opportunities I would ever have to draw from life in a way that would be both helpful and inspiring. I might see spontaneous things and snap away with my camera, or if someone was patient enough, I’d ask them to pose. But that isn’t the life I have.  If I’d had a boyfriend I’d have probably driven him nuts by now with all my sudden requests to pose while we were out and about. But that wasn’t the life I had.

My art sketches, as you can plainly see, are mostly young twenty-somethings. If you look closely what you see is they’re from a time when I was that age too. I’m stuck. I think this is what happens when you don’t connect, miss out on that chance for first love. You get stuck in a passage of life you were always meant to move on from. That dating and mating thing is part of the maturity process and when you fail at it a part of you gets stuck in that younger mindset, that once upon a time frame. Yes, a part of you does go on to some sort of maturity. You get a job, you enter the workforce, you start earning a living on your own, and accumulate responsibilities in the normal course of life. And you learn to fulfill those responsibilities, be dependable, because others at your workplace depend on you. You earn trust, you manage your finances, you gain various kinds of life experience and it grows you inside. All but one life experience. All but one so very vital life experience. And so a part of you does not get that chance to grow.

And yes, it’s not a completely dire fate. Keeping that youthful mindset keeps a part of you inside awake that too many adults let go to sleep. You ask questions the middle age guy might shrug off. You stay curious, open to new ideas, willing to turn the box upside down, never mind think outside of it, just to see what happens when you do that. So many of my generational peers are still afraid of computers and the Internet and the new technologies, so afraid of being left behind, and to me the fact that the world is constantly changing before my eyes, growing, getting bigger, is the same feeling it always was back in grade school. Something I have learned from being stuck, is that there is no such thing as growing up…there is only growing.

And if you’ve gotten on with the business of life with your eyes open, both to the inner and outer world, then you know well that a younger lover would not get you unstuck. What I need is someone my own age, or nearby. Someone who remembers what the world was like when John Lennon was still alive, before personal computers, cell phones and the Internet. Before cable TV and twenty-four hour cable TV news and over the horizon line was a beautiful tempting mysterious other world only expensive long distance phone calls could penetrate before the six o:clock news or the morning newspaper. Back when cars had lots of chrome and the teachers passed out assignment papers that smelled of mimeograph fluid and Jimi Hendrx played on the radio, not Rush Limbaugh. I could be a kid again with that guy. I could find my way to the rest of growing up that I missed out on.

Maybe then my artwork would grow up a little too. Or go in some different direction that I would have never known or suspected was even there had I not, finally, found my lover, and had my eyes opened to things I’d only imagined before, but never really knew anything about.

[Edited a tad for clarity in a few spots...]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

April 22nd, 2012

And Now, For Something Completely Sexy…

Here’s a little something for the (according to my server logs) fans of my sketches of cute guys in cutoffs. They’re just wistful daydreaming on my part…I had no idea anyone really liked these. But while I was on vacation my web site got Google hits from people specifically looking for my name and cutoffs. Wow. I may be no Tom of Finland (whose males I never found attractive but I was in awe of his skill with a pencil) but I could do worse then be known for drawing beautiful guys in cutoffs.

Normally you Google for images of nice looking guys in cutoffs and what you get are a lot of pictures of guys who really shouldn’t be wearing these at all, which people post as a way of ridiculing cutoffs…or at any rate, cutoffs on guys. Yes, yes…you need the physique for it…but lotsa guys have that and in any case the ridicule isn’t about guys who have no fashion common sense, it’s about reenforcing the male fear of looking too sexy below the waste because that’s teh gay.

When I was a young adult this look wasn’t uncommon even on straight guys (though admittedly straight guys didn’t usually wear them quite This short…) and I guess my emerging libido just glommed onto it. But damn I like this look and I reckon I’ll just keep drawing it…

If this means I’m stuck in the past so be it. As I said, these are just the random wistful daydreams of a single guy. If you like them then I’m happy. If you think they’re ridiculous then go away.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

January 28th, 2012

Marriage Is Not The Issue…

[Cross posted over at Truth Wins Out...]

This post is going to repeat a lot of verbiage from a post I made here nearly two years ago, but it’s about a recurring theme I see in our struggle. That theme raised it’s head and laughed at me this morning, while reading a post over at Box Turtle Bulletin. There, poster Rob Tisinai writes about an email he got from Maggie Gallagher

I got a fundraising email from Maggie Gallagher the other day. It’s unbelievably long (as in, I can’t believe she expects people to read this whole thing). One sentence jumped out at me before I gave up on the piece.

Are two men pledged in a sexual union really a marriage?

Personally I’d answer, No.

Which would be the correct answer from Gallagher’s point of view. Tisinai goes on to rephrase the question in terms that acknowledge same-sex couples might actually be in love, and avers that this is something she knows she cannot admit because it undercuts her entire argument against same-sex marriage.

I don’t think her argument is about same-sex marriage. I don’t think any of them really give a good goddamn about marriage. What they’re adamant about is that homosexuals aren’t really human…that Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. It isn’t about marriage at all. What marriage represents to the homophobes is the final barrier to admitting that homosexuals are fully human and capable of experiencing all the higher emotions of love and devotion and commitment that heterosexuals do…that we are not, as Dr. Laura once famously put it, biological errors, or as you can hear thumped from pulpits all over the bible belt, demon possessed hell bound abominations in the eyes of god.

Patrick Wooden Warns that Gay Men Shove Cellphones, Baseball Bats and Animals up their Anuses, Die in Diapers

North Carolina activist Patrick Wooden has become a favorite of groups like the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, and most recently joined Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality at a rally denouncing the Southern Poverty Law Center. On a recent appearance on LaBarbera’s radio show, Wooden called homosexuality a “wicked, deviant, immoral, self-destructive, anti-human sexual behavior” and should make people “literally gag.” Wooden added that gay men have “to wear a diaper or a butt plug just to be able to contain their bowels” by their “40s or 50s” as a result of “what happens to the male anus.”

When you hear them yap, yap, yapping about the sanctity of marriage, what they’re saying is homosexuals are some sort of sub-human…things…that copulate with just about anything handy whether it’s a person or a horse or a cell phone. To lift what homosexuals do to the level of heterosexual love and commitment then, is a profane act of defilement. Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. Be it with each other or…cell phones.

Which is to say, we do not love. Love is something fully human individuals experience. The homosexual experiences no such thing. That is an article of belief more central to the faith of modern fundamentalists then the resurrection.

Back in April of 2010, I read this by then newly out Christian musician Jennifer Knapp back in an interview in Christianity Today

Q: So why come out of the closet, so to speak?

Knapp: I’m in no way capable of leading a charge for some kind of activist movement. I’m just a normal human being who’s dealing with normal everyday life scenarios. As a Christian, I’m doing that as best as I can. The heartbreaking thing to me is that we’re all hopelessly deceived if we don’t think that there are people within our churches, within our communities, who want to hold on to the person they love, whatever sex that may be, and hold on to their faith. It’s a hard notion. It will be a struggle for those who are in a spot that they have to choose between one or the other. The struggle I’ve been through—and I don’t know if I will ever be fully out of it—is feeling like I have to justify my faith or the decisions that I’ve made to choose to love who I choose to love.

[Emphasis mine...] The problem after all isn’t sex, it’s love. But asking people to acknowledge that same-sex couples love is precisely the problem. Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex… People sitting in the pews side-by-side with their gay neighbors aren’t asking them to choose between their love and their faith. When they look at same-sex couples they don’t see love at all…merely sex. They are “struggling with homosexuality”. The bedrock prejudice insists, absolutely insists, that is all there is to same-sex couples. Empty, barren, transient lust.

As NOM board member Orson Scott Card once said, gay couples are just playing dress-up…

“However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be, what they are doing is not marriage. Nor does society benefit in any way from treating it as if it were…”

“They steal from me what I treasure most, and gain for themselves nothing at all. They won’t be married. They’ll just be playing dress-up in their parents’ clothes…”

-Orson Scott Card, Homosexual “Marriage” and Civilization

However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be… There’s the problem. Look at it if you have the nerve. This isn’t about sex. That empty barren, perverted lust is not what makes them angry. What makes them angry is any suggestion that homosexuals do, in fact, experience love the same way heterosexuals do. And it makes them absolutely livid.

It’s often argued that gay couples cannot rise to the level of marriage because they don’t produce children, and marriage is mostly about family life. But this argument is a sham. And it mirrors another sham argument often heard in conservative religious communities, that being homosexual is not a sin, only engaging in homosexual acts is. If only the homosexuals just didn’t have sex, they could be welcomed into the kingdom of Heaven too…just like the rest of us. But heterosexual couples, medically incapable of having sex, are as welcome to marriage as they are the Kingdom and nobody in either group is saying that same-sex couples can marry as long as they don’t have sex.

The heterosexual couple who stick together even if they are denied a sex life are seen as vindicating the power of love. That is why sterility among heterosexuals is no barrier to marriage. But same-sex couples somehow defile the institute of marriage with their very presence, whether they bring children into it (via adoption) or not, whether they can have sex or not. And that is because homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.

It’s not about children. It’s not about family life. It’s not even about heterosexuality. What homosexuals steal from people like Orson Scott Card is the idea that only heterosexuals love. All arguments to the contrary, what this fight is about, Exactly, is love, and who can be allowed to love and be loved, and who cannot. Marriage is love’s sanctuary, a sacred place where lovers can find shelter, protection, support. Letting homosexuals, who are incapable of love, into it defiles that sanctuary, turning it from a sacred place into a brothel.

However emotionally bonded a pair of homosexual lovers may feel themselves to be… In 1983, Sharon Kowalski suffered severe brain injuries in a motorcycle accident leaving her unable to care for herself. Her lover, Karen Thompson, with whom she had exchanged wedding bands and shared a house, had to fight a long and bitter legal battle with Kowalski’s parents, who refused to allow Thompson any contact at all with their daughter. When Sharon, with difficulty, typed her wishes to go back home with Karen on a keyboard provided by a doctor, her parents took the keyboard away. At one point, Donald Kowalski, Sharon’s father, asked a reporter in exasperated frustration “What does that woman want with my daughter…she’s in diapers!” For almost nine years Thompson fought it out in court with Kowalski’s parents, refusing to let the woman she loved be condemned to life in a nursing home where she would be kept isolated from the world outside and denied any therapy that would have allowed her to communicate her wishes to be taken back home to Karen. When she finally won, Donald Kowalski called her an animal.

What does that woman want with my daughter… A same-sex couple who cannot have sex would be, if unrepentant nonetheless, ineligible for the Kingdom, let alone marriage. It’s not about the Act, if not engaging in the Act makes no difference. Their crime is that they love, and love is not permitted to homosexuals.

We cannot be human beings, we must be animals.

Pastor Ken Hutcherson Compares Marriage Equality to Horse-Fucking

Antioch Bible Church pastor Ken Hutcherson didn’t sit in the same room as two gay people to debate marriage equality. But he did call into the Seattle Channel studio where gay people were present for a debate on same-sex marriage.

And of course, Pastor Hutcherson went there: “If this law is passed, what is going to happen? Now ask your guests in the studio. Do they believe that if they change the definition of marriage being between one man and one woman, what is going to stop two men one woman, two women one man, one man against a horse, one many with a boy, one man with anything?

We must be animals. Not sinners in need of salvation, but animals. Why? So we can be their scapegoats. The right wing politician who goes hiking the Appalachian trail with his mistress while his wife and children wonder where the hell he went. The religious right preacher who gets caught visiting prostitutes. The conservative moralizer who gets caught gambling. The problem isn’t that we are moral cheats, the problem is acceptance of homosexuality. Homosexuality is destroying the family and society, not our own failures of moral character. Probably it is also responsible for earthquakes and hurricanes.

Jennifer Knapp didn’t choose love over faith, but love over fame because there was no other way. Karen Thompson fought for nine years to free her beloved because their was no other way. The gay civil rights struggle is not a fight over scripture. It has nothing to do with faith. It is not about sex. It is a fight over the right, the essential human need, to love and be loved. Because love can overcome any obstacle, endure any hardship, hold on to any hope no matter how distant and faint. Because love can move mountains. Because the one thing you never want the scapegoat to do is move mountains.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

October 13th, 2011

Myths Of Origin

Why am I here?  What is my destiny?

We ask these questions naturally.  And as we grow up we are given answers.  We sit in our parents laps and we are told how it was the family came to be where it is now.  How it was mom and dad met.  How it was we ourselves came to be.  And when we are young, we do not question them.  They become unconsciously part of the bedrock of our lives.

And sometimes…sometimes…some few of us when we are older, look back upon those answers and discover that they make no sense.

I was born in California, to a mother who had traveled there shortly after her father had passed away. That is the basic fact of my life.  Mom grew up, was born and raised in Greensburg Pennsylvania.  But I was born in Pasadena California, and raised in Maryland after mom divorced dad and moved here.  And it’s only been recently, now in my fifties, that I’ve looked at that and wondered.  She was born and raised in Greensburg, and yet suddenly her and her mother uproot themselves in the late 1940s and move clear across the country to live somewhere they knew practically nobody.  And when she divorced dad, her and her mother moved back across the country again.  And it wasn’t back to their childhood home they moved, but once again to somewhere else that they knew practically nobody.

Well even when I was a small child I often wondered about that.  And always when I asked, I got the same story.

Mom’s father had died she said, from a series of massive strokes, back in a time when medicine could do little for stroke victims.  The event had disturbed her deeply.  She moved to California she said, because she could not bear to live in the house she had grown up in, because the memories of the events of her father’s death were too traumatic.

Mom’s emotional life during that period was rough.  Before her father died mom had loved a man, a navy man, who had gone to war.  It was world war II.  He was Jewish and, she told me, her father had not particularly liked Jews.  But, she said, he had come to know the man she loved and that had changed him.  He had eventually come to like this man, Morris she said his name was, and as time went on approved of their love.

Then one day, so she always said, he had come back from the war changed, disturbed.  Her beloved sailor had been on a ship that was ordered into Nagasaki harbor after the war ended.  His ship she said, became trapped in the harbor briefly due to all the bodies floating in it from the atomic bomb.  She said the sight of it had driven him mad.

So her relationship with her sailor came undone.  Morris’ family, she said, had taken him off to a mental hospital.  She never saw him again.  And then her father had his stroke.  He lingered horribly, for months incapacitated, unable to do anything for himself, unable to speak or even feed himself.  After six months of it he had another stroke and died.

Mom said that afterward her dreams tormented her.  In the way people did back then, before the funeral his body had laid in rest in a coffin situated right in the living room of the house.  Family and friends had held the service for him right there in the house.  That was common in those days.  Mom said that afterward she had dreams of her father rising out of his casket, and walking up the stairs to her room.

After her father was laid to rest, her mother sold the house, and also his nice cabin in the woods in the hills of Pennsylvania.  That cabin was a special memory of hers….of summer months spent there with her father and the family, her dog Jigs, and all her childhood friends from Greensburg.  Sweet childhood memories.  She would tell me fondly of the summer months spent there.  She loved that cabin, and was for the rest of her life sorry that it had been sold.  The new owners had left a fire burning on a stove…the cabin had no electricity…and it had burned down.

But they had to leave Greensburg, mom always said, because she could no longer bear to be in the house she grew up in.  During the war her younger brother, Dean, had found work in California, and so mom and grandma left Greensburg and traveled to California to live near him.  Grandma bought a house in Pasadena, presumably with what she had gotten from the sale of the house and the cabin.  They moved close to where her brother lived.  And one day they traveled to Catalina Island, and there, on the pier in Avalon, she met dad.  They married, and soon they had a son.  Me.

That is the story I was always told.  It is the story of how I came to be.  And now I look at it, and it makes no sense.

My grandfather, who I never met, who mom always told me because I took an interest in electronics and technology that I took so much after him, had two nice homes, and a business.  And after his death they sold it all, and simply left everything they had, everyone they knew, and moved across the country to a new place where they knew nobody but her brother and his wife.  Because mom could not bear to live in the house where she grew up.

Really?

I’m fifty-eight years old now, and now I look at this story and it makes no sense.  Maybe everything happened just for the reasons she said it did…but now that I look at it with the experience of my own adulthood I can’t escape the feeling that some important piece or pieces are missing.  Perhaps to understand my doubt you need to understand something I do and maybe you don’t: what the distances we’re talking about here seemed like back in the day before cheap jet air travel and the Internet.

I am old enough to have glimpsed the last days of the great passenger trains.  When I was a kid, most people didn’t travel by air…that was for rich people.   And in their day passenger air travel would have been burdensome even if you were rich.  Before the first Boeing 707s passenger airplanes were propeller things that took much longer to go from coast to coast.  Nearly everyone back then traveled by bus or by train.  Train mostly for the longer distance trips if you could afford it.  It took days, not hours, to go from coast to coast.  So any sort of travel from the east coast to the west wasn’t just a trivial thing back then.  If you traveled far away, let alone moved, you just about fell off the planet as far as your family and friends back home were concerned.  You might send a postcard or two back home…  Having a wonderful time, wish you were here… You sure wouldn’t phone home.  Way too expensive.  Back then long distance phone calls were an expensive luxury.  Postal mail had two grades…regular and air mail.  You sent letters by air mail if you wanted them to get there in a couple days.  Otherwise it might be weeks to get something from clear across the country.  The highways and the rails where how most people and everything including mail traveled.

So if you went on a cross-country trip you were on another planet until you came back home.  And then it was everyone gathered around while you showed your snapshots and told your stories of the far away place you’d been to.  To actually go live on the other side of the country, well, you might as well have moved overseas.  It’s hard to grasp now, but that is how it would have been for my mom and her mother back then.  When they left Greensburg they didn’t just go move to a neighboring town…they didn’t even move to a neighboring state.  They moved about as far away from Greensburg as they could and still remain in the lower 48.

Now I’m grown up and I look at this and wonder…did she not have any roots there?  I know she had a job there for a brief period at an architectural firm…she used to tell me about working with the ammonia stench of the old blueprint machines.  And…she had friends there.  I know because he spoke of them, but not often.  There were a few she kept in correspondence with.   They were friends she never saw again.  After mom passed away I was given a stack of her old correspondence, but there were no letters to her from her Greensburg friends among them.

And there is this…as I grew up I just accepted the constant tension that was in the family.  It was just part of the background noise.  But she was the apple of her father’s eye…daddy’s girl.  That is the one thing everyone seems to agree on, even the ones who later cut her out of the family.  I have albums of the photos her father took of her…he was, like me, an amateur  photographer.  The photos all show a beautiful young girl, posed in various scenes in and around the house and the cabin.

He loved her very much.  And she loved him very much.  If there is anything I am certain of it is this.  But throughout my own childhood there was tension between her and the rest of her family…all except her younger brother Dean and one cousin.  It was a tension I always put down to her marrying my father, who they all despised.  But looking back on all of it now it just seems to me that the tension had to be caused by more then that.  Something more must have happened to her to make her mother take her away from the town they both grew up in, and had spent their entire lives in.  Whatever caused the friction in that side of my family tree, it started well before mom met dad at the pier in Avalon.

I’m fifty-eight years old now, and while I don’t think of myself as worldly I am old enough now to understand some things better that I could not have while I was growing up.  She had a life in Greensburg.  She had friends, family, community.  And so did her mother.  Greensburg was their home.  They were both born and raised there.  It was where everything and everyone they had ever known was.  And I was told they sold everything, their house and the cabin, and left it all for California.  Because mom could not bear to stay in the house she had grown up in after her father had died.

It makes no sense.  They could have bought another house.  Surely whatever trauma mom experienced she’d have needed her friends.  Surely grandma would have had friends of her own there as well to help her through the death of her husband.  In an age before cell phones and cheap long distance, when letters took days to arrive from the next state over, let alone clear across the country, and when long distance cross-country phone calls were so expensive people would gather around the telephone at the appointed time to wait for the call, to move from one end of the country to another would have been like moving to another planet.  They’d have both given up everything they knew, everyone they knew, to literally start life all over again in California.  Because granddad died of a stroke?

No.  Just…no.  It makes no sense.

I am not on friendly terms with that side of the family anymore…not that I ever really was.  Except for uncle Dean nobody was really nice to me.  I was my father’s son, and they despised him and I was living evidence of that marriage they all hated.  I had his face.  At various times when it was useful to them, and particularly to grandma, I was told I had all his bad traits too.  Did I talk too much?  Well he’s his fathers son isn’t he.  Did I forget to do my homework?  That’s his dad in him.  Was I too proud of something I had accomplished?  A piece of artwork?  A good grade in school?  His dad was vain like that.  Did I a get a bad mark in class?  His dad was shiftless like that.  Stubborn?  His father’s blood obviously.  Whatever I ever did that was wrong, it was always because I was my father’s son.  I got used to it.  By the time I was seventeen and began to realize my homosexuality, I already had a lifetime of training in coping with being hated for something I was that I couldn’t help being. So it wasn’t all for nothing.

The only one who really took an interest in me was uncle Dean.  Mom and he always got along great, and I have lived to regret I grew up on the east and not the west coast where I could have been near him and away from the others.  Whatever it was that was the cause of so much tension in the family, her brother Dean was never bothered by it, or blamed her for it.  Shortly after mom passed away, I took a trip out to California and visited my aunt Cleone, uncle Dean’s wife, and she told me something that shocked me enough to make me pretty much divorce myself, finally and forever from that side of the family.  She said one of my cousins, a daughter of mom’s oldest brother Wayne, an uptight right wing jackass, had told mom after Wayne passed away that mom would not be allowed a grave in the family plot in the Greensburg cemetery.  I put it down to their hatred of dad, but it made me furious.  It still makes me furious to think about it.  So I’ve pretty much disconnected myself from that branch of the family tree entirely.

Whatever they thought of mom, she was a good mother to me, and a thoroughly decent person.  She set a good example for her son.  After she passed away people in the town she had retired to would come up to me…people I didn’t know from Adam…and tell me what a ray of sunshine she was everywhere she went.  That wasn’t an act…I grew up with it, it was her.  It made me absolutely furious how that side of the family treated her…all except her brother Dean and her cousin who lived in the small Virginia town she retired to.  He cousin also loved her very much.  Her older brother and the rest of that family, not so much.  And me…I’m living evidence that mom married a man they all hated.  So I can get no answers from them, and I wouldn’t trust any I got now if I asked.

I had always, until now, put the family static down to her marrying dad.  But now I look at it and it just seems so…wrong…so incomplete an explanation.  Was that really all of it?  I don’t know, but I am certain now that there is something that I was never told, because the story makes no sense.  You just don’t pack up and leave everything, even over such a traumatic experience as your father dying of a lingering illness.  Something happened.

Dad, let it be said, had…issues of his own.  The marriage didn’t last.  Mom loved him to the day she died, but the marriage didn’t work.  Mom divorced dad when I was two, and she and grandma took me and moved back across the country…but not back to Greensburg.  They moved to Washington D.C., to live near mom’s cousin, who was living there at the time.  She got a job as a clerk for the Yellow pages.  We lived in a series of small apartments.  Whatever money they had from the sales of the house in Greensburg, the cabin, granddad’s business, and the house in Pasadena, somehow was all gone.  I grew up in a very low budget household, being raised by a single working mother, in a time when women made about 60 cents for every dollar a man doing the same job made.  Mom’s family in Pennsylvania made no effort whatever to help her out.  It was something I took for granted as a child…but now it really stands out.  I’m having a hard time now believing that was all because of her marrying dad.  They basically shut her out.

But not grandma.  Someday maybe I’ll write about what growing up was like with that cold constantly angry, fire and brimstone Yankee Baptist women in the house.  Somehow she remained a bridge between mom and I and the rest of that side of the family, and a powerful force in it.  She stayed by mom’s side from the time granddad died to the day she died, but at times it seemed to me more to punish her daughter then support her as she tried to raise a kid by herself in a 1950s/1960s world that regarded single divorced women with children as less worthy of respect then prostitutes.  I never saw grandma smile, unless it was at the misfortune of others.  When bad luck struck other people it always seemed to satisfy her somehow.  And I remained a favorite target until the day she died, because I had the face, and the last name, of the man she hated.  Stinking Rotten Good For Nothing Garrett Just Like Your Pap was her favorite name for me.

And me…I grew up with next to nothing, but I never really noticed that until I got older.  I was fed on a bland, low budget diet but I never went to bed hungry.  I often wore hand me downs but I never left the house in dirty clothes.  I never saw mom cheat another person, lie to them or say anything about them behind their back that she wouldn’t have said to their face.  I never once heard her utter a curse word or saw her take a drink or light up a cigarette.  When I was a kid the first time I ever saw someone else’s mother smoking it shocked me…I didn’t think mothers did that.  Mom sat down with me and my homework, tried her best to teach me right from wrong, and always encouraged my creative impulses.  We didn’t have much, but I had what I needed to grow up on:  I never doubted mom’s love.  Never.  Grandmas hate, and the disdain of most of that side of my family, I just accepted as part of the background noise.  The love of a good mother can give a kid all he needs to stand up to whatever static life brings his way.

How her older brother, various other members of that side of the family, and especially her own mother treated her is something that some days makes me livid to think about, and others completely baffles me.  She really was that ray of sunshine everywhere she went, a completely decent person and a good mother.  Some of my childhood friends had horrible parents.  Everyone told me how nice mine was.  Everyone.  It wasn’t an act.  Yet her own family, with one or two exceptions, treated her miserably.  I never once heard her complain.  At least, not when I was there to hear it.  Mostly the family tension was just there in the background.  Always there.  Something I just shrugged off whenever I thought about it.  Mom loved me, that was all that mattered.  The only time it burst out into the open in my presence, was when I was 16 and they discovered she had started seeing dad again.  It was like being in the center of a nuclear blast.   But that incident centered on dad.  That they hated him does not really explain it all.

Something happened.  Something more then just her marrying dad.  Something that made them leave Greensburg and everything and everyone they knew, and when her marriage failed, prevented them from returning.  Something her family, other then her brother Dean and her cousin, never forgave her for.  Probably I’ll never know what it was.  Mom never strayed from the story.  Nobody else did either.

[Edited some for clarity, and add a few details that I missed occurred to me...]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

October 12th, 2011

Sex And Silliness

From Sullivan, who posts on the heterosexual version of Grindr…

Marshall Sella went undercover to understand the allure of the gay-cruising app. After interviewing the men who met up with him, he applied his knowledge to Blendr, the straight version:

In large part, human interaction is irrational or it is nothing. This is especially true with dumb sex. Dumb sex makes a fool of logic. If you’re the man who has a “type” in romance, you probably also have a “system” at cards. Blendr is built on these insights into our silliness and our strangeness, and instead of finding you the person you think you’re looking for, the software opens your eyes to the people around you.

The person you think you’re looking for… No jackass.  I have a type in romance…which is to say I know what my libido is sexually attracted to and what it is not, and what sort of person I am emotionally attracted to and what sort of person I am not.  Combine sexual attractiveness with emotional attractiveness and you have your romantic type.  That is, if you are even the type who is into romance.  A lot of people aren’t.  If you aren’t…look…don’t even think for one second you grok those of us who are.  You don’t.  You can’t.  Clearly, it isn’t you.

Dumb sex makes a fool of logic… Well no…actually the fool is you.  Knowing what works and what doesn’t work for you romantically isn’t the same as thinking you have a system for playing cards.  You might have a system for finding and dating your romantic type that works as well (or not) as your system at cards but that is a separate thing from who you are, and who you are not attracted do.  And you almost get it when you say that sex can make a fool of logic.  It’s making a fool of yours right now.

Yes…libido has its own separate and relentless logic and you just have to accept that it will want what it wants.  It isn’t something you can switch on and off, it isn’t a blackboard you can wipe clean and scribble onto it whatever you’d rather have there.  It is what it is. Your gay neighbors understand (or they damn well ought to) how that is…


This switch does not exist

We learn to deal with it.  You can too.  But that’s just the desire part. Then there is this thing we tend to refer to metaphorically as the “Heart”.  It has its own logic too.  My libido may or may not tick like yours.  Likewise for my heart.

You may think the heart part doesn’t matter, or isn’t important, or it always gets shoved into the car and taken for a ride to the nearest motel by the libido part…but that’s just how it looks to you. A lot of people probably share your point of view.  A lot of people don’t.  We’re not naive. You are, if you think your point of view is the only realistic one.

It’s like the lady saidSome people are settling down, some people are settling and some people refuse to settle for anything less than butterflies. But also like the man saidWhen you die you’re going to regret the things you don’t do. You think you’re queer? I’m going to tell you something: we’re all queer. You think you’re a thief? So what? You get befuddled by a middle-class morality? Get shut of it. Shut it out. You cheat on your wife? You did it, live with it. You fuck little girls, so be it. There’s an absolute morality? Maybe. And then what? If you think there is, go ahead, be that thing. Bad people go to hell? I don’t think so. If you think that, act that way. A hell exists on earth? Yes. I won’t live in it.

If Grindr is your thing then go for it.  If random casual sex is your thing, fine.  Be that.  If you wake up next morning in bed with a total stranger and you’re feeling ashamed like you always do when you do that then stop doing that.  If a new conquest every night makes you feel like you’re on top of the world then bask in the glory.  But don’t fucking tell me that something like Grindr “opens your eyes to the people around you.”  Hahahaha….that’s bullshit.  It’s the kind of bullshit people tell themselves because they’re afraid of being called pigs and sluts.

Look…admit it…Grindr just a goddamned sex park and if you’re there then clearly it’s because you want to be an item on somebody’s menu.  Fine.  No, really.  It’s Okay.  If that’s you, then go ahead and be that.  If you think all that dating and romance stuff is for children and arrested adolescents who still cry when Rick tells Ilsa they’ll always have Paris then so be it.  Life is short.  As long as everyone knows what they’re in it for and they treat the people they take into their arms honestly and decently then for god’s sake go ahead and just whore around if that’s what you want.  Sex is wonderful!

Life is good.  Don’t end up on your death bed with a lot of regrets about everything (everyone) you didn’t do when you had a chance to.  There’s nothing to be ashamed of here.  Admit it: you don’t actually want to get to know any of those people, just fuck them.  Grindr is telling you everything you want to know about them, and nothing you couldn’t care less about.  Are they sexy…yes or no…are they close at hand…is there someplace nearby I can get them alone and horizontal…

I am not being cynical here.  This poor angry world, I am convinced, would be a much nicer, more peaceful and productive place, if everyone was a bit more sexually fulfilled.  What we all need to understand in the pursuit of that great big beautiful tomorrow however, is that one person’s paradise is another person’s trailer park.  I get that.  You need to get it too.

Now kindly get the fuck off our backs.  You don’t get romantics.  You never will.  Now go away.

 

[Edited a tad for clarity...]

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

October 6th, 2011

We Lost A Visionary Last Night

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.  Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.

-Steve Jobs

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

July 27th, 2011

The Many Faces of Joy

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.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

April 13th, 2011

Message In A Bottle

“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?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

April 11th, 2011

No, Actually Biology Isn’t Destiny…

Via Sullivan…

The No-Baby Boom

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.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

October 7th, 2010

It’s Your Fault We Made Your Life Suck…

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...]

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

August 16th, 2010

Images From A Sideshow Running Away With The Circus…(continued)

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.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

April 25th, 2010

Reclaiming Our History, Our Selves

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?”

“Nothing.”

“Come on.”

“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.”

“He asked.”

“Did I have to ask?”

“I wouldn’t have thought so.”

“You gonna keep with him?”

“I guess.”

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.”

“A what?”

“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.”

“All right.”

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.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

April 13th, 2010

I’m Sorry You Don’t Get Me. Now Here’s A Picture Of A Rabbit With Pancakes On Its Head.

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.

And…this…

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.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

April 7th, 2010

Accepting Yourself For What You Are

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.

by Bruce | Link | React! (4)

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