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June 15th, 2012

Visit The Sins Of My Parents On Me If You Like, But I’ll Be Dammed If I’ll Accept Punishment For The Sins Of Yours Too

This New Yorker Profile of Bryan Fischer explains much…

Fischer’s political activism, however, began years before the advent of same-sex-marriage laws. In fact, his preoccupation with family dysfunction seems to have started with his own…

Fischer didn’t volunteer anything about his mother, but, when pressed, said, “My parents divorced when I was about twenty. It just rocked my world.” His mother, who worked as an interior decorator at a furniture store, was “chronically late,” and the bus driver on her route to work would always hold the bus for her. Eventually, he said, “my mom fell for the bus driver,” deserting him, his father, and his younger sister. “I don’t want to go into it,” Fischer said…

A former leader of the religious right in Boise who was friends with Fischer for twenty years before Fischer cut him off…a common theme in Fischer’s friendships apparently…said that Fischer, “had a deep-rooted disappointment in his father, for not being strong enough”, which Fischer denies.  But over the years Fischer has been relentless in his belief that women should have no power or even a voice in church matters, time and again either leaving a church or being forced out over issues of gender and women’s role in religious life. It may seem too pat to lay all of this on Fischer’s inability to let go of what his mom did, but the obvious connection isn’t always wrong either.

I could sympathize with Fischer…after all I’m also the product of a “broken home”…except that he’s made a career out of punishing other people’s families for the sins of his own.  I made peace with dad long ago.  He was not the best of examples but mom loved him all the same and she did her level best to raise me as well as any kid ever got raised despite the scorn and contempt self righteous moral scolds like Fischer heaped on her. All in all I am very glad it was mom who raised me and not dad after the split. But for all his faults and crimes I loved him and only wished he would let mom show him a better way to live after all. But mom did her best for me, not just telling me that better way but living it in front of me every day, and everything I am today I owe to that.

Still, let me say absolutely that if I had to choose between being raised by dad or by the likes of Bryan Fischer I would without hesitation choose to be raised by the thief rather then the bully.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

May 13th, 2012

Cold Feet, Warm Heart

If my mother’s rule was right I was already thinking pretty well. But she also said, “Cold feet – warm heart” and that’s a different matter. -John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley.

This, via Sullivan…

Mind Thoughts… with Michael Ian Black – Let’s Not Fuck, Shall We?

Male libido is assumed to be a constant, quivering thrum. For some men, maybe it is. But for me, as much as I enjoy the old in-n-out, the rubba-dub-dubba, the squeak-n-bubble, I have never craved it the way our culture has led me to believe I should, not even during my fabled Horny Years from ’91 to ’95. Except for those moments when I was in the first throes of a new love, sex has never subsumed me. Yet every cultural message I receive has led me to believe it should. Consequently, my lack of nymphomaniacal tendencies has always left me feeling embarrassed and emasculated.

That’s me.  When I was a teenager, and still had not admitted to myself that I’m gay, I was mostly turned off by what I regarded as the oversexed conversations of my friends. On the one hand I was too polite to say anything negative about their preoccupation with girls. On the other, I understood perfectly well that if I didn’t at least make some effort at joining in I would be regarded as a weirdo.  I decided to just go with the weirdo thing and make friends with other weirdos.  Problem was, they were, or at least seemed to be, just as horny as everyone else with a Y chromosome.

Then I came out to myself as gay.  Fine.  Okay.  This explains why I wasn’t all about tits and ass.  Well…at least female ass.  But it wasn’t long before I came to realize I still wasn’t all that horny compared to my fellow gay males either.  Yes, yes…I liked the look of comely guys.  And there were times when the very thought of having sex with some of them would drive me completely nuts.  But those were mostly guys I was crushing on.  Random pretty bods would turn me on after a fashion, yes, but quite soon after coming out it became clear to me that my sexual thermostat was set several degrees below that of my gay male peers.

And even in the gay community, or perhaps especially in the gay community, if you aren’t 100 percent horny, 100 percent of the time, people think there is something wrong with you.  Something, of course, that getting laid will cure.

I remember way back in the BBS days, the Gay bulletin board I frequented, and did volunteer work for, GLIB (for Gay and Lesbian Information Bureau) had a guest columnist on sexual health.  Questions posted to the doctor’s forum were anonymous. One day a fellow glibber, male, wrote that he was concerned that his libido was too weak.  He needed he said, lots and lots of gentle foreplay just to get a head of steam up for it. The doctor assured him basically what this heterosexual columnist is saying here: human males aren’t all as sexually charged as the stereotype says we are. There’s nothing wrong with you, find a boyfriend who understands your sexual needs, relax and enjoy the extended foreplay. Reading this exchange, I was tremendously relieved. It was, I am not kidding, one of those Wow…I’m not the only one after all moments gay boys are supposed to have when growing up, but for an entirely different reason.

To me, sex isn’t even about sex. Fundamentally, it’s about acceptance, having somebody desire you enough to allow you to envelop them and wanting that person to envelop you in return.

This. What Steinbeck’s mom said, presumably about women, is true of a lot of men too. It’s true of me. You could never get me into the sack at a moment’s notice. But I could be coaxed.  Perhaps this was always for the best anyway.  A guy who thinks coaxing is superfluous would obviously not be dating material either.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

May 10th, 2012

Freedom To Not Be Angry All The Time

I do political cartoons for my local gay paper, Baltimore OUTLoud.  Being published regularly allowed me to gain membership in The Associate Of American Editorial Cartoonists…a dream come true.  Cartooning was the first love and political cartooning, what was called the Ungentlemanly Art, is a form of expression that I’ve been attracted to since I was a teenager, growing up in the Washington D.C. suburbs with Herblock and Gib Crockett in my daily newspapers.  In high school my cartoons were in the student newspaper and on the walls of a few select social studies classrooms.

Jacob Bronowski once said that great art doesn’t set out to preach, but to shine a light in which the outlines of good and evil are “are seen in fearful sharpness of outline.”   The best political cartoons are like that.  It’s very easy, and most fall into that rut of being preachy.  But the best ones shine that light.

I try to do that with my cartoons.  When I see myself getting too preachy on the drawing board I start over.  But I get angry too and sometimes I just let the anger out and my viewers can take it or leave it.  Like this one I did after California Proposition 8 passed…

That’s all done on the paper by the way, only the lettering is done in the computer.  I still draw my cartoons with “traditional media” and scan it in, not so much because I am a throwback as I just work intuitively with those tools better then with a digitizer pad.

That angry metaphor of the severed ring finger works for me artistically, and at some deep level it gets out of me something that just needs getting out.  I hate saying this about myself because it sounds so pretentious but I am an artist.  The way I know that about myself isn’t that I like to draw or that I like it very much when my drawings get looked at, it’s if you put me on a desert island with no tools to make imagery with I would cut me some sticks and twigs and draw in the sand because I just have to get it out of me from time to time whether it makes any sense to anyone or not and even if nobody else ever sees it but me.  I have to do this from time to time or I will go nuts.  It’s just something I am.  And maybe I’m not really that good at it either.  Lots of times I will look at my stuff and think I really stink at it.  But I know I can’t stop doing it.  Drawing…painting…photography….it’s all about the image.  It’s a language I need to communicate in…much of the time just to think my world and my life through.

For my political cartoons, unlike a lot of cartoonists, I don’t do many rough sketches first.  I do the drawing first in my head, and when I can see it clearly in there, then I sit down at the drafting table.  Yesterday I had one ready to go, concerning the vote against same-sex marriage in North Carolina.  I’d been drawing it in my mind the moment I laid eyes on the advertisement Billy Graham placed in a bunch of North Carolina newspapers.  Where there any chance of that amendment not passing, Graham effectively killed it with those ads and I was angry.  And immediately when I saw the ad the image for a cartoon about the likely outcome of the vote came immediately to my mind.  I thought about it for days and it changed very little in my visualization of it.  I was angry.  The image was angry.

Yesterday morning I read the news and even though I had been completely expecting the outcome, it hit me hard.  Every fucking time one of these votes happens it feels like a kick in the stomach.  And you know that’s exactly the purpose of having these votes…to make gay people hurt.  Because if we don’t bleed they aren’t righteous.  And I did hurt.  I walked around all morning long carrying this lump of grief like a stone in my gut.  Reading the streams on Facebook and Twitter I could see others did too.  But I did notice something that lifted my spirits even so.  This time…This Time…that stone in the gut was being carried by a lot of heterosexuals too.  This was what I knew would eventually win this thing: when enough of our heterosexual neighbors began to see this struggle as theirs too…feel it in their gut the same way we feel it in ours.  Even as I grieved I could see we were winning this thing.  But it felt so painful…so very very painful.  But I had my outlet.  I was going to go home from work that day, and right to my drafting table, and out would come the cartoon I had visualized so clearly in my mind’s eye for days.


…and all of a sudden Billy Graham didn’t matter anymore.  And something happened to me that made me realize how much anger I have been carrying with me all these years.  I stopped being angry.  It almost literally felt like a weight had been taken off me.

I don’t know if I’ll do that cartoon now.  I might…it’s still something I think needs being said about him, about the people who put so much hard work into kicking their gay neighbors in the face.  You can shine Bronowski’s fearful sharp light at evil, but you can also shine it at the good, and I am not so very angry anymore.  Life is good.  Hard sometimes, but good.

Time was the haters could make us hate ourselves as much as they hated us.  Then that time was over, and they could no longer make us hate ourselves and that made them angry.  It made them angry and so they had to make us angry too.  And being angry all the time can be a stone around your neck too.  Not as big a one as hating yourself, but big enough all the same to keep you from having a decent life.  Perhaps anger, unlike self hate, is a necessary thing.  Perhaps without that righteous anger we would not have worked so hard, and come so far, so fast.   But the day is coming when we don’t have to be angry anymore.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off

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.


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)

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