The German government has announced it will overturn the convictions of tens of thousands of gay men jailed before homosexuality was decriminalized.
“The historic convictions are wrong. They are deeply hurtful to human dignity,” said Justice Minister Heiko Maas. “We cannot completely completely undo these outrages of the rule of law, but we want to rehabilitate the victims.”
More than 50,000 gay men were convicted between 1946 and 1969, when homosexuality was decriminalized in both East and West Germany. Those men “should no longer have to live with the stain of a criminal record,” says Maas.
Some years ago, shortly after it was dedicated, I went to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to sit in on a series of lectures spread out over three days concerning the history of the persecution of homosexuals during the Third Reich. By then I’d already learned some of that history via a few books I’d found at Deacon Maccubbin’s Lambda Rising bookstore, and various articles in the gay press, and already the size and scope of how our history had been suppressed was stunning me. The lectures at the USHMM added to my understanding of the events surrounding the pink triangles, and more importantly, gave me their context in the greater turmoil that gripped Germany then.
The presenter was a young German scholar who had been studying the persecution of gays during that period. He had shown us several video interviews he’d made of camp survivors who’d worn the pink triangle, and said that as they aged it was important to get as much on the record as soon as possible. But he said, many of the men were still too ashamed or too closeted and were very reluctant to talk. After the war they had not been freed, but made to serve out the prison terms imposed on them by the Fascists, who had themselves rewritten many of the Wiemar Republic laws to make them harsher. Those criminal records had followed them for the rest of their lives he said, making it difficult for them to find work and places to live. And Germany kept their sodomy laws on the books…East Germany until 1957, and West Germany until 1969. So had any of these men been arrested again during that time they would have been facing repeat offender penalties.
So during one of the question and answer periods I asked him if there was any effort being made back in Germany to erase their records so they wouldn’t have it hanging over them anymore.
He almost laughed and said it didn’t matter since they were so old now. The implication being the only reason for doing so would be to make it easier for them to have sex. Well that raised my hackles a tad and raising my voice I said it was a matter of simple human dignity to take the criminal record off them and especially so if you didn’t think the Nazis had any right doing that to them in the first place. He dismissed me in the way Germans do to Ausländer who obviously don’t understand How Things Are Done, saying that there was no such effort being made at that time and there are more importing issues to concern ourselves with.
So anyway…they’re finally getting around to it. At some point it might be nice for the United States to get around to apologizing too, for not doing the decent thing back then and just letting those survivors of the Holocaust go free, even if they did happen to be homosexual.
It was the following passage, right at the beginning of the linked article. I read stories like these and they make me really angry about what has been done to gay people…not only in the name of religion to be sure, but a certain sort of fundamentalist religion bears a lot of the blame…
On my first full-day at the Gay Christian Network annual conference, meeting in Houston, Texas, January 2016, I met a gay man, my age mate, who told me that for the past twenty years he has lived his gay Christian life committed to celibacy, but no more. Relatively recently, a pastor of a Southern Baptist church from his home state told him he could fully embrace his sexual orientation as a gift from God and enter into a same-sex marriage if he so desired. The man was, to use the expression, bursting with joy as he told me this…
…and I just want to go grab both sides A and B and yell in their faces while trying to shake some life back into them: get that goddamned cult leader off your back, whoever they are, however sincere they seem to be…Especially if they are sincere…You Do Not Need Third Party Permission To Be a Human Being!
And no, this isn’t about my being an atheist getting all holier than thou about religion. I have always had this reflex toward religiosity, or any politics for that matter, that is controlling. And that’s what this is all about; not denial of sex but denial of the heart within. There is no meaningful distance between I Give You Permission To Have That Intimate Heart-To-Heart Body And Soul Companionship and Permission Denied But Feel Free To Ache For It Until You Die Or Else God Won’t Love You And Neither Will We. None. Zero.
Listen to me, it isn’t Jesus you need to know better…it’s yourself. Love and desire are wonderful beautiful things. Finding it in another is one of this life’s perfect joys. The philosopher Lao Tzu said that being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. Shame can only corrupt it, turn it against itself, lock you inside an insidious barbed wire fence. And the loveless soul soon becomes the empty shell for others to live vicariously in. If your faith isn’t a light within you, then it is a shroud someone’s wrapped you in. Unwrap yourself Lazarus, and go live life.
And love God if that’s where you are, or love an amazing and sublime godless cosmos if that’s where you find yourself, and especially find someone to share it all with and love each other wholeheartedly, and don’t ask Anyone’s permission!
by Bruce |
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January 12th, 2016
A Young Gay Guy In The Year 1977
While researching the events of 1977 and Anita Bryant’s campaign, I came across this via a Google image search that turned up this Jack Davis cartoon in the July 1978 issue of Mad magazine…
It might seem surprising now how low class Mad Magazine’s attitude toward gays was…
Mad #145, Sept ‘71, from “Greeting Cards For The Sexual Revolution” – “To A Gay Liberationist”
…but this blog post puts it into context: it wasn’t just the times, but also the 50s mindset of the staff. The liberal free spirit I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony mindset of the 60s-70s didn’t usually extend to Teh Gay. Check out the limp wrist in that Jack Davis cartoon. This is the world I came out into.
That summer of 1977 I had to listen to the BBC on my shortwave radio to hear the news from Florida because none of the TV and domestic radio news bothered to say anything about something that was obviously not of interest to decent normal people. Close to midnight sitting by the shortwave I learned that three out of four voters in Dade county had voted to kill an ordinance that simply said gay people ought not to lose their jobs or their housing simply because a boss or a landlord found out they’re gay. The next day as I walked through the city I found myself counting down three people for four I passed…trying to grasp the scope of how much people like me were still loathed.
Then later that December 1977…I watched the Christmas TV special that’s been on my mind the past couple days…
by Bruce |
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January 11th, 2016
The Social Media Winds Blow…Coldly On Some Of Us…
The Outcasts are grieving today. Not all of us however, for the same reason. But because the tears at least are genuine, I will hold my peace. For now.
It’s true. I have to admit it, finally. Embrace my inner militant homosexual for the militant that he is. Go take a look in the mirror and admit that the completely unremarkable, vaguely distracted longhaired geek staring back at me is actually pretty hard core. Yes…yes I am. I reckon. I’ve said this before: A militant homosexual is a homosexual who thinks there isn’t anything wrong with being a homosexual, and a militant homosexual activist is a homosexual acting like there isn’t anything wrong with being a homosexual. It’s not about how many marches you’ve walked in, or protests you’ve attended, or how many petitions you’ve beaten the streets for signatures. It’s the mindset. That is the alpha and the omega of it. Because if you speak up for yourself or act up for yourself like you really mean it, whether it’s on the picket line or the checkout line, whether its facing down the Phelps clan or the boss or that kindly neighbor next door who wonders why teh gays want to destroy marriage for the rest of us, they will call you a militant homosexual. And so you are.
I’ve wandered amidst the quilt panels, remembering faces, hearing voices lost forever now to my ears. I’ve listened to the stories of survivors of ex-gay therapy, read their writings on the wall, surprised the bricks underneath weren’t crying too. And I’ve seen what the closet has done to so many good hearts. That’s the worst. So many good hearts. So many hopes and dreams of love and joy and contentment, never to be. There was nothing wrong with us. There was never anything more than simple, common everyday human prejudice and bigotry laid against us, grinding our hopes and dreams into other people’s stepping stones to heaven, or at least into a tiny shred of self respect they had no hope of earning for themselves. We had to be monsters so other people could be respectable. We had to bleed so other people could be righteous. We had to hate ourselves, so other people could admire the troglodyte they were.
When I was a teenager I fell madly in love with a classmate. I thought he hung the moon and the stars. It was the most wonderful thing I’d ever experienced. It blasted my denials about myself to dust. I’ve never felt a shred of shame since. Decades later, both of us old men now, I listened to him talk about how a life lived in the closet made it difficult some days to tell who he was looking at when he looked in a mirror.
Well I know who I’m looking at when I look in mine. And I have no patience. None.
That’s all I have to say. For now.
by Bruce |
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November 5th, 2015
There’s A Message There For You Too Mrs. Boynes
On Facebook yesterday, Janet Boynes Ministries posted a link to an article applauding the outcome in Houston with this statement:
Houston voters just sent a very strong message to the homosexual lobby, don’t mess with Texas!
But the message from Houston, and Texas generally these days, is Please don’t mess with Texas. Because Texas can’t cope. Texas is afraid. It’s afraid of brown skinned people. It’s afraid of well educated people. It’s afraid of people of different religions, different Christians, godless heathens. It’s afraid of Teh Gay. It’s afraid of transgendered people. Please don’t mess with us because we’re a mess…
George Takei hit the right note yesterday:
Fear indeed can be a powerful weapon, but it ultimately never can defeat love. Those who deploy it always wind up on the wrong side of history, which will remember you as heroes and them as mere bullies. -George Takei
This from a man who would know from first hand experience what the ignorant fears and paranoias of the many can do to minorities. There’s another message here Mrs. Boynes, but you will need to step back from the immediate moment to see it clearly.
When I came out to myself as a gay teenager back in 1971 all but 2 states had sodomy laws. Now I could legally marry the man I love, and in a state (Maryland) whose voters approved same-sex marriage at the ballot box. “The arc of the moral universe is long,” said King, “but it bends towards justice.” And I am old enough to have witnessed the progress of that arc from Hardwick v Bowers to last night, when the only way bigots could get a non-discrimination law protecting a hated minority repealed was to make their case in the toilet. When I was 17, a law protecting sexual minorities would have been laughed out of the conference room, if not tarred and feathered. Now you have to make scarecrows out of bathroom icons. Even in those lopsided victories hate can manage in the reddest of red states, that’s gotta be depressing.
And I have witnessed over and over again in my own lifetime the truth of what Takei is saying. Where is Anita Bryant now? Where are any of the hatemongers of the 60s, 70s and 80s? At the same time Prop 1 was defeated Salt Lake City elected a Lesbian as mayor. Salt Lake City mind you, not San Francisco.
There’s your message Mrs. Boynes. You should read it sometime. We are not fighting for special rights. We are not fighting for social approval. We are not fighting for the right to take a pee. If you could see the people for the homosexuals, for the transgendered, for the Other that Texas fears and loaths, you’d understand why we will pick ourselves back up, dust ourselves off, and get back to work on it. Hearts of gold. Spines of steel.
by Bruce |
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October 12th, 2015
“If we took just five minutes to recognize each other’s beauty instead of attacking each other for our differences—that’s not hard, it’s really an easier and better way to live. And ultimately, it saves lives. Then again, it can be the hardest thing—because loving other people starts with loving ourselves and accepting ourselves. And I know many of you have struggled with this, and I draw upon your strength and your support in ways that you will never know.
“And I am here today because I am gay. And because maybe I can make a difference to help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless, for me, I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility. I also do it selfishly, because I’m tired of hiding. And I’m tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered, and my relationships suffered. And I’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of that pain. And I am young, yes. But what I have learned is that love—the beauty of it, the joy of it, and yes, even the pain of it—is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being. And we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame, and without compromise. There are too many kids out there suffering from bullying, rejection, or simply being mistreated because of who they are.
Full text of her speech at The Human Rights Foundation conference Here.
by Bruce |
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October 10th, 2015
A Coming Out Story – Episode 19 – What I Learned About Homosexuality (Part 3) “Aftermath”
I hadn’t initially thought of dividing this story into sections, but it’s a work in progress and now that I’ve finished this little three part story arc about why I’m so bottled up inside when I should be asking this beautiful sexy classmate out on a date, I see that it puts exactly the right closure to everything that came before it. So I’m calling this End Of Part 1.
Part 2 begins soon (I hope!), and we shall see how this gay kid and the object of his affections manage to deal with their angsty adolescent hormones in a world that would as soon push them off a bridge than give them role models, support and maybe even a prom to go to. This is 1971/72 we’re talking about here. I try to explain what that means in the first strip of this episode.
I apologize for the excessive delay in getting this one out. But I had to pull some stuff out of my guts I never did before. Plus…everything I said a few posts ago.
by Bruce |
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October 6th, 2015
Our Stories Matter
This came across my Facebook stream just now…
Being chosen to lead Exodus in 2001 was like becoming the ex-gay Pope following the Catholic sex-abuse scandals. The ministry’s board knew it could not survive another public scandal, so it questioned Chambers rigorously before deciding to hire him. During the interview process, Chambers recalls a board member asking him what success would look like under his leadership. He replied, “It looks like Exodus going out of business because the church is doing its job.”
Chambers words would later seem prophetic, but he first needed to travel a long road. In 2005, he called homosexuality “one of the many evils this world has to offer.” And in 2006, he lobbied for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. But Chambers admits that during the same year his thinking began to evolve.
“As I heard more stories and evaluated my own realities,” Chambers said, “I realized change in orientation was not possible or happening.”
(Emphasis mine). Full article is Here. Our stories matter. Our stories are what win this struggle. We tell our stories, and we stop being the monsters others have made us out to be, and we become neighbors. Our stories turn their lies to rust.
I’ll post another installment of my story by the end of this weekend. Tell yours. We will win this thing, if we tell our stories.
by Bruce |
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“There comes a day when something inside you snaps, and you can’t go on. If I had been alone I would have lived the nightmare of a denied homosexuality, but God never leaves us alone. And I think He has helped me take this important existential step. It’s important because of its consequences, but it’s also the premise for living honestly, which should be natural for every homosexual.”
There are times you wonder if the reason we can’t be allowed to live our lives honestly is because some people hate seeing in others what they cannot manage for themselves.
Several months ago I started getting spam from this outfit…
My first reaction was to be creeped out. Then to wonder…were they also deliberately targeting gay men too. Because getting involved with a cheater is bad enough, getting involved with a closeted one is doubly bad.
I appreciate that a lot of gay guys, particularly of my own generation, got pushed into straight marriages that went completely against their nature. It’s a tragedy made worse by the fact that these marriages almost always dragged an unsuspecting heterosexual women into it, though sometimes the heterosexual woman is made to believe she’s helping somebody she loves very much. They were both lied to. You can hate the prophets of homophobia for what they’ve done to both gay and straight people.
But encouraging closeted gay people to have affairs on the side is just going to reinforce that sense of brokenness within, driving the knife in their heart even deeper. Most of us of my generation have one time or another crossed paths with deeply closeted, married gay men. You see what it’s done to them and it makes you angry. But you learn to stay out of it. Everyone has to find their own way out of that thicket of lies, and see themselves not as broken, but beautiful in their own way. If you want to help a closeted gay man find their way out, set an example.
Life is short. Live the life you’d be proud of. Someone might see it and something inside of them will awaken.
by Bruce |
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June 27th, 2015
Look At The Rainbows…
Yesterday, Friday June the 26th 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of extending marriage rights to gay people. Those saying that the court redefined what marriage is need to read the actual text of the decision. Kennedy wrote a paean to marriage, not a redefinition of it. And of course, the usual suspects declared that they would go on with the fight, blah, blah, blah and so on and so forth. That was unsurprising.
But then…afterward, something amazing, something that lifted my heart to a place where I will never again doubt the power of love, and the essential goodness of (most of) my fellow Americans happened. The rainbows came out…
Look…just look…at all the expressions of joy and affirmation. Go ahead and sniff that it’s just kowtowing to the militant homosexual agenda…and surely some of this, particularly among the corporate entities, is Hey There’s A Market There Let’s Make It Like Us And Spend Money! But look, just look for a moment, and the breath and depth of the expressions of joy at the decision. The sincerity of it, the massive scope of it, is something you need to grasp, if you can. Even if your prejudices can’t allow you to see the people for the homosexuals, at least try to understand that there are lots of people who aren’t homosexuals, who are absolutely thrilled that now their fellow Americans who are gay have equal rights in marriage. Look at this carefully, all of you declaring now that you will keep on fighting this, because it’s why you lost, why you will keep loosing this fight.
Everything you think you know about gay people is wrong, and especially, emphatically this: that homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex. It’s why you keep miscalculating again and again and again our willingness to go on fighting no matter how much damage you could do to us. But more critically, it’s why you miscalculated, profoundly, what would happen when your lies lost their power over us, and we began to live our lives openly. You thought “normal” people would be disgusted when they saw the reality of our lives. You really thought that. You probably still think that.
They are disgusted. At you.
It’s one thing to keep on inciting prejudice and hate at the people who live on the other side of the tracks, in the ethnic and racial enclaves, at Those People that America, to its shame, still largely keeps segregated. It’s another when it’s your own children, your brother and sister, your neighbors, your co-workers, the people in your everyday lives.
Prejudice lies. It lies about other people. But first, it lies to you. You think you see reality, but you don’t. Others, not succumbing to prejudice, loving life, and willing to live in the world as it really is for better or worse, do. Anything that keeps you from seeing the world as it really is, makes you weak. The denouement came with the Proposition 8 trial. You’d built a multimillion dollar industry propagating one pseudo scientific lie after another about gay people you hoped would win the masses over, or at least enough voters. But be honest with yourselves for at least one thing: it was mostly to convince yourselves you weren’t really just a bunch of bigots after all. And when it came time to defend all of it at trial your prize experts ran away, all but two who nearly conceded our case for us on the witness stand. In the end the rest of the country saw your case against gay equality for the half-assed pile of pretentious crap that it is. The witness stand is a very lonely place to lie said Boies. Lonelier still is the bathroom mirror. Your prejudices lied to you. But you let them do it.
Surely you noticed how quickly everything came apart after that. Whatever doubts existed before Prop 8, they are gone now. Our humanity is understood. We are neighbors. We are family. We are fellow Americans. We have been embraced.
And you? Well…you are what you’ve always been. Still able to look at this torrent of love and support from the rest of America, convinced that most everyone agrees with you, and ultimate victory will be yours. So you dig yourselves deeper into the gutter. It doesn’t have to be. Listen to a gay man who gave a little beauty to this world and was wronged horribly and fatally by prejudice: “We are all in the gutter,” he said, “but some of us are looking at the stars.”
We are not all in the gutter, despite your best efforts to keep us there with you. And if you can’t bear to rise your gaze high enough to look at the stars, at least look at the rainbows. They are rainbows of joy and love…from Americans to Americans. Look at them. There’s the way out.
Yes It’s Madness…But There’s A Method To It… (Message In A Bottle…)
Cracked Magazine, which is getting more known for it’s online lists of things (5 Classic Board Games With Disturbing Origins…4 Overlooked Consequences Of Spiderman Joining The Avengers….) just published 5 Things I Learned At A ‘Pray Away The Gay’ Camp. Here’s one of the line items…
#4. They Physically Torture You For Being Gay
“My hands were tied down and ice was placed on them while I was shown pictures of men. Later sessions would include copper heating coils, needles in my fingers, and electric shocks,” all while Sam was shown gay porn.
Then they’d take the coils away and show … men and women holding hands.
“I was never shown heterosexual sex, just heterosexual attraction,” Sam says. “I was just supposed to associate the touch of a man with pain.”
But a gay man is sexually drawn to other men. And in adults, those feelings of desire mature and evolve into deeper feelings of love and intimate trust and companionship. There’s no neat and tidy way to disconnect desire from human intimacy in adults. After decades of doing this to gay men, and witnessing for themselves the results of it, you might think they’d understand the damage they’re doing.
And you’d be right…
Obviously, despite the old saying, you can’t “heating-coil the gay away.” The torture didn’t make Sam straighter; it just made him terrified of sex, intimacy, and general human closeness.
The scapegoat has to hate themselves. They have to accept their lot in life is one of misery and pain and that they deserve it. And more importantly, they must be taught to fear anything that might lift them out of the pit of loneliness and despair: They must fear being loved.
“By the end, even hugging my father brought back flashbacks,” Sam said.
Sam isn’t alone — according to literally every scientific study, that’s exactly what happens to people who go through this kind of thing. Sex and physical intimacy are positive things that human beings seek out because they feel good, and you can’t trick the human brain into thinking something feels good by zapping it or burning it with hot copper coils. It only makes the feelings negative.
It’s not a bug…it’s a feature…
by Bruce |
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May 13th, 2015
For Some Reason You’re Acting Like It Hurt…
“One of my favorites was Rob Ingersoll. Ingersoll came in often and we’d talk. Like me, he had an artistic eye. I’d try to create really special arrangements for him. I knew he was gay, but it didn’t matter — I enjoyed his company and his creativity…”
Yes, yes…It didn’t matter, until it did. Which is to say it always mattered, just not until that moment in a way that she was willing to be honest with him about.
And now she’s surprised that one of her favorite customers reacted with a lawsuit. That’s more telling then that she refused her services. Favorite Ingersoll may have been, but clearly not as human as herself, Otherwise She Wouldn’t Have Been Surprised. It’s how Anyone would react to having their joy of getting married, of finding in this poor lonely angry world that special someone, that wholeness of heart and body and soul, having it suddenly treated like it was a dishonorable thing. Being told your feelings toward the one you love more than anything, the one that completes you, the one you would walk through fire for, are immoral, disgusting, offensive to God. But in a nice way. Ever so politely. I took his hands and said, “I’m sorry…” It cuts you deep. Especially since, if she’s to be believed, he had understood himself to be a favorite customer of hers.
But homosexuals don’t have feelings like the rest of us and so she’s surprised. She “felt terrible” when she should have felt deeply ashamed of herself. A flower shop isn’t a church and arranging flowers isn’t a religion. If Ingersoll was just a stranger who walked in off the street wanting flowers for his wedding her behavior would have been bad enough. But see how she does not seem to grasp that boasting about how friendly she’d become with him, Despite The Fact That He Was Gay, makes the heartlessness of it worse, not better. She had been given an opportunity to see a Person not A Homosexual and she couldn’t.
This is the part so many people miss about the anger of that reaction to getting slapped in the face by prejudice. Bad enough when it comes at you from strangers. He, if she is to be believed, opened up to her in a way gay people are Still highly uncomfortable with. He trusted her. Never mind she discriminated against a customer and a fellow American. This man trusted her enough to be open about himself. He trusted her enough to share his joy with her. She betrayed a friend.
by Bruce |
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April 27th, 2015
Expectations (Message In A Bottle)
I was at the NOM March for Marriage rally on the Mall last Saturday, and I should post some of my thoughts here rather than my Facebook page, along with the photos I will eventually upload to the photo gallery here, because that sort of thing is what I created this website for. Which I will do later this week. But there is another rally tomorrow (Tuesday) at the Supreme Court I will also be documenting so that’ll have to wait a bit. For now I’ll just say this about NOM: You simply cannot overstate the level of religious extremism and outright kookery that was on display at that rally. As I wandered the crowd with my camera I kept wishing H. L. Mencken was still alive to file a report on it for the Sun. Strange as The Hills of Zion were, they’re stranger still when transplanted to a patch of Mall directly in front of the U.S. Capital.
In the meantime…this came across my Facebook stream just now and I’m rolling it up and putting it into another bottle to toss into the sea for a certain someone to find eventually…maybe…
I did that to myself too, once upon a time. The bars were made of the low expectations placed on a kid being raised by a divorced single working mother. Family gave me those bars. And teachers. And well meaning members of the churches mom took me to. But I put them in place myself. I’m 61 years old now, and just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the launching of the Hubble Space Telescope with my co-workers here at The Space Telescope Science Institute…we got a group photo taken of ourselves and I’m there at the front with my camera and some of the astronauts and Matt Mountain who handed me a special service award last year…and I’m still trying to pry some of those bars down and free myself.
No matter I didn’t let them put me in the closet like other gay kids back in the day. That’s just one of many prisons people let themselves get talked into. There are all kinds of ways a kid can get talked out of believing in themselves. But ultimately we are the wardens of our own internal jails.
We have to learn how to let ourselves go, so we can become the people we were always meant to be. It’s a struggle…but a noble one…because you can’t be the best you can be for others, until you can be all that you can be.
by Bruce |
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April 10th, 2015
How To Laugh Until You Cry…
A friend who’s been in the fight against ex-gay therapy with me since the Love In Action protests posted this Onion article to his Facebook page the other day…
“We’ve found that a combination of group interventions, narrative therapy, and cognitive-behavioral approaches fully eliminates homosexual urges before the individual takes his or her own life,” said program director Christian Weber, adding that many of their biggest success stories are even in stable, heterosexual relationships when they’re found lifeless in their own home or dredged from a nearby body of water.
Full Onion Article Here. You know the kind of laugh you get sometimes when it’s funny but painful at the same time…?
by Bruce |
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