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March 10th, 2019

How Facebook Earns My Eyeball Time

It isn’t as often as I like, but Facebook does earn my eyeball time every now and then. I keep bigots and idiots off my “Friends” list, and I block in a heartbeat any homophobes and/or Tump morons I see in the comments, so I probably don’t get it as bad as some people. I’ve been wandering the social media landscape ever since the BBS days and I’ve learned how to keep the dogshit and chewing gum off my shoes. The advantage to social computer networking is the connections you and your online friends make to news and information you might otherwise have missed in the mainstream media conversations.

Like the other day, when a guy in my friends list posted a link to this blog post…

Motte and Bailey, Particle Physics Style

“Motte and bailey” is a rhetorical maneuver in which someone switches between an argument that does not support their conclusion but is easy to defend (the “motte”), and an argument that supports their conclusion but is hard to defend (the “bailey”). The purpose of this switch is to trick the listener into believing that the easy-to-defend argument suffices to support the conclusion.

This rhetorical trick is omnipresent in arguments that particle physicists currently make for building the next larger collider.

So the blog post is about arguments among particle physicists…which was a good read all by itself. But I have seen this little rhetorical sleight of hand over and over and Over in arguments about sexual orientation and gay equality and I never knew it had a name and a formal definition.

Here’s more about that…

Motte and bailey (MAB) is a combination of bait-and-switch and equivocation in which someone switches between a “motte” (an easy-to-defend and often common-sense statement, such as “culture shapes our experiences”) and a “bailey” (a hard-to-defend and more controversial statement, such as “cultural knowledge is just as valid as scientific knowledge”) in order to defend a viewpoint. Someone will argue the easy-to-defend position (motte) temporarily, to ward off critics, while the less-defensible position (bailey) remains the desired belief, yet is never actually defended.

In short: instead of defending a weak position (the “bailey”), the arguer retreats to a strong position (the “motte”), while acting as though the positions are equivalent. When the motte has been accepted (or found impenetrable) by an opponent, the arguer continues to believe (and perhaps promote) the bailey.

Note that the MAB works only if the motte and the bailey are sufficiently similar (at least superficially) that one can switch between them while pretending that they are equivalent.

Source: RationalWiki

Consider: As gay kids are starting to get more visibility in movies and TV aimed directly at a young audience, you hear complaining that The Media is sexualizing our kids. The argument there is portraying same sex crushes is a further example of the slide into sexual moral oblivion, pushing sex on kids too young to be exposed to that. A variant of that complaint is allowing transgender kids to even be visible in pop culture, let alone have crushes.

Now, you can argue that pitching products, whether they’re consumer goods or movies and TV shows to immature kids with blatantly sexual imagery isn’t helping them become mature adults. But I’m not sure going back to a 1950s set of broadcast standards is the right answer either. Sex is hard wired into us and at a certain age those hormones are going to start percolating and ignorance is never a good plan at any age. Plus, they’ve been doing that to teen and preteen girls since I was a kid, though granted it’s more blatant now. There’s a difference between teaching kids healthy attitudes toward sex and teaching them they’re only valuable as people to the degree they’re desirable.

And none of this is an argument for keeping gay kids invisible. The unspoken premise there is that treating their lives on screen the same as anyone else’s is sexualizing children, because sex is all there is to homosexuality. As Vito Russo wrote, “It is an old stereotype, that homosexuality has to do only with sex while heterosexuality is multifaceted and embraces love and romance.” So the motte here, the easy argument to make, is media companies and advertisers shouldn’t be treating kids as sex objects and bombarding them with hyper-sexualized imagery. The more difficult argument, the bailey, is gay visibility in the media is all part of the militant homosexual agenda to sexualize children, the better to prey on them. And how it goes is you argue that gay kids have crushes too and need healthy role models too and the bigots argue that sexualizing kids is predatory and it might feel like you are arguing past each other but no…they’re avoiding your argument altogether and sticking to the one they know they can win, as if winning that argument also wins them the other. That is how they play the game.

I can think of others…how lowering moral standards leads to social decay and acceptance of homosexual behavior is a lowering of moral standards that only speeds the decay up (the fall of Rome and all that…). My experience arguing this stuff is it usually Begins with the bailey and segues into the motte as I try to pick apart the argument that letting us live our lives openly to the same degree as everyone else contributes to social decay. Sometimes the motte is random examples of heterosexuals behaving badly and gosh we don’t want any more of that do we so keep the gays in the closet please. More often it’s random examples of gay people, usually gay men, behaving badly. As Anne Frank put it in a different context,“What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews.” And so it goes. The easy argument is behaving badly is…well…bad. The hard argument to make is They’re All Alike, because that’s basically admitting you’re a bigot and bigots only own their cheapshit prejudices among themselves, or when resigned to the Lost Cause.

Sometimes the motte and bailey are about religion and homosexuality. The bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it. Religious freedom means I get to disapprove of homosexuality. Yes, but why should your religious beliefs govern everyone else’s lives? The bible says it…I believe it… And so on. We’re currently in this country arguing in the courts and in the public square that giving gay people and same sex couples equal access to goods and services, equal access to representation in the media, full equality in our civil rights laws, tramples the religious freedom of people opposed to…well…having to share the world with us. Arguing that people in a democracy have the right to follow their own religious convictions is the easy argument. Arguing that gay people and same sex couples must face barriers in their everyday lives that others don’t used to be an easy argument too back in the 1950s and 60s when we were dangerous sexual deviants and a cancer on society. Not so much anymore.

by Bruce | Link | React!

February 24th, 2019

Still Discovering Our Past

I’ve written previously on this life blog of the importance of uncloseting gay people in the history books, and especially uncloseting the history of anti-gay bigotry and persecution. And I’ve asked anyone dropping by this blog and those posts to consider how many times they’ve heard comparisons of the struggles of gay Americans and black Americans denounced because gays never were sold into slavery, never had to ride the back of the bus, never were denied the right to vote. Or comparisons with antisemitism denounced because gays were never herded into extermination camps. How many times have you heard the struggle for gay equality dismissed as the pastime of privileged rich white men. How often have we heard, and still hear, that laws protecting gay people from discrimination are unnecessary, are really just about seeking social approval.

The naked fear among bigots isn’t that homosexuality will be normalized, but that their crimes against so many innocent people will at long last get put under the spotlight of history and they will finally be seen for what they are, not righteous defenders of decency and morality, but predators, proudly ignorant, stunningly immune to any reflex of human sympathy, hungry, ravenously hungry to fill the empty void within them where a heart should have been, with the hearts of others, and all their hopes and all their dreams.

If you don’t have a gay history bookshelf at home, I strongly recommend you start one. Find a little corner somewhere in your nest, get a nice little bookcase from Ikea or some such, and prowl the second hand book stores for titles like And The Band Played On, The Celluloid Closet, A Glimpse Of Hell, The Verdict of You All, Anything But Straight. Or look for some titles more recently published and still in print. Loosing Matt Shepard, The Lavender Scare, Sex Crime Panic, Hoover’s War On Gays. No matter how well you think you know our history, every corner of the gay chronicles has something in it to stun. How did I not know this?? And if it makes you angry, so much the better. Put that anger to use in the voting booth, and in activism to make sure it is never closeted again, along with all of us.

Today I learned something new, courtesy of Peter Thatchell

Sodomy at the time was already a crime in Britain. Labouchere’s amendment to the law criminalized any sexual activity between men. This man’s work is why Oscar Wilde, Alan Turing, and so many others went to prison. It has some resonance with one of the books I recommended above, The Verdict of You All by Rupert Croft-Cooke, who was arrested in his home in 1953 and charged with a “homosexual offense”.  

“Croft-Cooke was a homosexual, which brought him into conflict with the laws of his time. In 1953, at a time when the Home Office was seeking to clamp down on homosexuality, he was sent to prison for six months on conviction for acts of indecency. Croft-Cooke’s secretary and companion, Joseph Alexander, had met two Navy cooks, Harold Altoft and Ronald Charles Dennis, in the Fitzroy Tavern near Tottenham Court Road in London, and invited them to spend the weekend at Croft-Cooke’s house in Ticehurst, East Sussex. During the weekend, they consumed food and alcohol and had sex with both Croft-Cooke and his assistant. On their way home from the weekend, they got drunk and assaulted two men, one of whom was a policeman. They were arrested and agreed to testify against Croft-Cooke to get immunity from prosecution for the assault charges.” –Wikipedia

After Oscar Wilde was convicted, Labouchere expressed regret over the shortness of his two year sentence, which was actually the maximum but not the seven year maximum Labouchere had originally proposed.

This man’s evil remained on the books until 2003, and to this day remains on the books in many former British colonies around the world, where the U.S. religious right keeps itself busy inflaming religious passions against gay people who cannot speak out for themselves without risking a knock on the door and being disappeared. The sodomy laws not only erase us, and our history, they give bigots free rein to tell any filthy lie they can think of about us, without fear of the open sewer they call a conscience being exposed for what it is.

Those fears are now being realized, at least for some that still live. This is why they fight so fiercely against the teaching of this history in the schools, why they support maintaining sodomy laws still on the books, and dream of reestablishing them where they have been repealed. Labouchere is in the grave now, safe from the judgement of history, and one can wonder if karma ever came to visit him while he still lived. But that question is less meaningful for us today than how we remember the lives he managed to destroy for the sake of the emptiness within where a heart should have been, where their should have been kindness and sympathy and love, that no amount of feasting on the hopes and dreams of others can fill. Living our lives openly and proudly is only half the work. Our history must come out of the closet along with us. We must tell our stories, and also the stories of those who came before us, who could not speak openly of their lives while they lived.

by Bruce | Link | React!

February 10th, 2019

The Love That Dared To Speak Its Name

Sad news crosses my Facebook news stream just now…

Patricia Nell Warren, The Front Runner Author, Dies at 82

The novelist, activist, and longtime editor at Reader’s Digest is best known for her 1974 book, The Front Runner, which centered on the relationship between a closeted coach, Harlan Brown, and an out gay track star, Billy Sive.

The love story became the first gay novel in modern times to achieve commercial success and rank in The New York Times bestseller list. To date, it has sold over 10 million copies and has been translated into multiple languages…

I still have my copy of that first 1974 book, The Front Runner, which has within it one of the best scenes of any novel to take same-sex love and romance seriously: the scene where one of the main characters, coach Harlan Brown, lover of athlete Billy Sive, learns from a couple of straight friends in the newspaper business about the rumors being spread about him and Billy, and sees clearly for the first time the cesspool of the bigot mind. As I wrote in a previous blog post

…Harlan Brown, the coach and lover of out gay Olympian Billy Sive, is having a chat with some old friends who work as sports reporters. They confront him on the rumors about his having a sexual relationship with Sive, and while Brown tries to stand up for the honor and the dignity of their love, the reporters, old friends, try to make Brown understand that in the mass media, honor and dignity won’t even buy you a cup of coffee. Which only makes Brown angrier…

“Did it ever occur to them that maybe Billy and I don’t merely go to bed together? That we love each other?” I was really getting mad now. “That neither of us wants anybody else? Do they know so little about human nature?”

“You’re the one’s a dummy about human nature,” said Aldo. “They want to think the worse…”

Finally one of the reporters, Bruce, suggests that they do an interview with the two of them which would hopefully allow the readers to see them as human beings apart from the ugly stereotypes of homosexuals common in those days.

Brown agrees, thinking it a great idea. Aldo pointedly asks if they can dispel the other rumors too…

“What other rumors?” I said.

“You really want to know?” Aldo asked. He was furiously tearing up a piece of bread.

He started to tell me. When he’d finished I’d had one more sociological revelation. Society had tried to teach me that the gay mind was an open sewer. Now I knew, beyond any doubt, that it was the straight mind that was the sewer…

But no, it’s the mind of the bigot that is the open sewer. It was something I’d intuited well before I’d read The Front Runner, just listening to all the gross rhetoric about homosexual sex, always told in such exquisite, breathless even, detail by bigots like Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell had been throwing at us.  The fact is sexual corruption is something they throw at all the hated Others, be they gays or Jews or Blacks or Mexicans. Think Donald Trump and Mexicans and duct tape. It’s their own ids they’re telling us about. Warren was the first novelist I’d ever read to finally bat that one out into the open.

Her later novels didn’t really catch on with me, though I still bought copies out of loyalty. I still haven’t read Billy’s Boy yet. But that first novel was gold, even allowing (spoiler) its Kill Your Gays ending.

After her success, for a period of time there came a torrent of Great American Gay novels, hoping to cash in on this new gay market thing. One Christopher Street cartoon from the period is of the inside of a gay bar where all the patrons are busy with paper and pen, a few have typewriters, and the caption is This bar used to be fun, until everyone decided to write a gay novel. Most of them were gawd awful books I could not get through more than a few pages reading. But that’s just Sturgeon’s Law at work, and the ten percent that wasn’t crap was very good indeed. I could finally see myself and the possibility of love and a life lived openly and proudly in books, if not yet on the silver screen or the tube. Isn’t it always the written word that strikes deepest into your soul.

Mary Renault will always be the gold standard for me, but Patricia Nell Warren’s first book gets a place on my top shelf along with her. She, and others who dared to name the love that dare not speak its name, and then celebrate it without any taint whatever of shame or sadness, gave me a vision of life and love and joy and decency when I needed it most.

Rest in peace Mrs. Warren. Well done.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Love That Dared To Speak Its Name

December 1st, 2018

Eulogy For The Dead

What I’m starting to see in various online forums following the news of George HW Bush’s death, is that disconnect I and my gay and lesbian neighbors lived in throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s…that world where we understood clearly what was happening to us, because it Was happening to us, and because we had a fairly well developed GLBT news media, but beyond which almost nobody else, except those who passionately hated us, knew or cared. AIDS was the gay disease and we were the love that dare not speak its name, the dirty secret family newspapers tactfully omitted from their pages, except when we rioted or danced half naked during Pride marches. Back then homosexuals didn’t love, they just had sex, and were best left unspoken of in polite company. In a lot of places that’s still true today. What’s changed is now we have a degree of social visibility we didn’t then.

It was a different time. Between FidoNet and the Internet. Between USENET and Facebook. Between the personal computer and the smartphone. When this man was president we no longer had to see ourselves through heterosexual eyes anymore, but you might have had trouble seeing us unfiltered through the media, speaking to you in our own voices. Keep this in mind if the anger you might be seeing now among us surprises and maybe even shocks you.

So the eulogies are coming now, expressions of sympathy, and yes, compared to the soulless lump of conniving trash that occupies the white house now he was a good man. But that is an abysmally low bar to set for anyone, let alone a president of the United States. Let us not speak ill of the dead because one day we shall die too. Yes. And so many did during his administration, and what little was done about that barely involved more than pointing a finger at Teh Gay Lifestyle, when it wasn’t vigorously enforcing the fact in both law and custom, at the hospital and the gravesite, that our relationships didn’t exist.

There’s a blog post I wish I could dig up now, about someone (I think…I’m recalling this from memory) visiting a friend in a hospital and hearing singing coming from behind the curtains separating the beds. It turns out to be the spouse of a gay man who’d just died of AIDS related complications. The patient’s family refused to let him be with his beloved during his last minutes, so there the man was, singing their favorite song to an empty bed, and the nurses didn’t have the heart to ask him to leave. What tells me that this memory is probably from a time after the Bush I years, is that little detail about the nurses. In the time of Reagan and Bush they’d have most likely kept the man out of the hospital entirely and felt not a whit of remorse. What on earth does a homosexual want with this dying man? Homosexuals don’t love, they just have sex.

That was the world your gay and lesbian neighbors lived in during the Reagan years and into the first Bush presidency. He did exactly zero to lead the nation out of its fear and loathing of The Other and to a better place where our lives mattered too, and our grief was our neighbor’s, and also our hopes and dreams of love and peace and joy. I appreciate there was another side to this man, and that is more than I can say of Donald Trump. I appreciate that he had his base, which was also Reagan’s, and that perhaps he might have wished to do more, but found it politically difficult. I appreciate that he was a man of his time, and we should all be careful to judge, lest our own ignorances come back to haunt us in our old age. But if you find your LGBT neighbors keeping a cold silence while the rest of the nation mourns, if you see the icy stares as he is praised by the likes of Mike Pence and various other religious right figures, or one of us suddenly begins venting the bottled up decades of anger they’ve kept inside for so very long, and it surprises or even shocks you, remember…you weren’t there to see it with our eyes.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Eulogy For The Dead

July 29th, 2018

The Loneliness Of Older Gay Men

This came across my Facebook news stream yesterday…

Study shows gay men over the age of 45 are more likely to be single

There’s an obvious take on this…that the gay club scene, much like the general pop culture scene, is mostly youth oriented and there are few opportunities for older gay men to have fun and socialize.

But there is a less obvious, until you look at the history of the gay civil rights struggle, reason for this. Probably the biggest reason. Us older gay men lived out most of our young adult lives in a climate of nearly pure unadulterated hate. When our peers could begin taking their own tentative steps into the dating and mating cycle, our hopes and dreams of love were routinely dashed on other people’s fear and loathing. We couldn’t date. Our love lives had to be paced out in the shadows. While the other kids got their proms, we got a few seedy bars and hookup spots. While the other kids got their songs and stories of love and romance and happily ever afters, we got every filthy lie people could think up about homosexuality.

By the time gay liberation made enough difference that a gay kid could ask his first crush to the prom, and dream a realistic dream of going steady, and even marriage, we were middle aged, weighed down and heart weary from all the wounds dug into us when we were young, many of us still too afraid to peek out of the closet for enough time to find a boyfriend. Even those of us who managed to avoid being trapped in a cycle of self loathing and bitterness, still had to find partners from the same peer group that had suffered so much damage.

I could tell you my stories, in fact I have. Most years around Valentine’s Day I repost them here on my blog. Stories of guys I met when I was younger, who made my heart skip a beat.  And they either broke it off with me because they were afraid their families would hate them, or that god would hate them, or hostile heterosexuals would see what was developing between us and sabotaged it because our hopes and dreams had to be their stepping stones to heaven.

So I’m single. I’ve never so much as had a steady boyfriend in my entire life. And I reckon now I’m done with it. I accept it. I will die a solitary gay male. I think I could have been good for somebody, but I will never know. I don’t blame youth culture. I blame the cloud of fear and loathing we all had to live under back then, and which many of my generational peers are still living under.

Below are few links to some of those Valentine’s Day stories I’ve posted here about being a young gay man in the 1970s and 80s looking for love. Read them and don’t wonder why so many older gay males are single.

Do You Believe In Love?

No Rescue For The Rescuers…

The Boy I Met In Church…

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Loneliness Of Older Gay Men

June 22nd, 2018

The Paradox Of Gay Visibility

This, from The Washington Blade, came across my newsfeed this morning…

EJ Johnson recalls crying with dad Magic Johnson after coming out

There’s a passage in it, where EJ’s mom relates how she figured it out…

“We went to Hawaii once and I’m sitting behind him and his friend,” Cookie says.”The girls go by in their bathing suits and the guys go by and when the guys go by, they were like, ‘Whoa! Hey!’ and then girls go by and nothing. So I was like, okay, we need to have a talk.”

This was something about me mom noticed all the time during my teen years. I did an episode about that in A Coming Out Story. But that was artistic license: we never had a talk about it when I was a teenager. We couldn’t. Not in the late 1960s and early 70s. After mom passed away I inherited her diaries and it was only then that I saw the extent to which she’d figured it out…and kept avoiding knowing what she’d figured out.

But there was a reason she didn’t get too alarmed about it either, back when I was a teenage boy, and even more so back when mom was a teenage girl. A fact which may escape most folks today. Back then, the trope in movies and TV, juvenile books and magazines, was boys didn’t have any interest in girls until they were almost adults. Then suddenly all their hormones activated and they started dating girls. But until that sudden change happened, a boy’s interests were in hanging out with the other boys. And your best friend was someone you stuck with through thick and thin, always stood up for, shoulder to shoulder…

“Teenage boys are wild about girls.When their hormones kick in at puberty, they can think of nothing else, and that”s the way it has always been– right? Wrong. Before World War II, only sissies liked girls. Masculine, red-blooded, all-American boys were supposed to ignore girls until they were 18 or 19. Instead, parents, teachers, psychiatrists, and especially the mass media encouraged them to form passionate, intense, romantic bonds with each other. This book explores romantic relationships between teenage boys as they were portrayed before, during, and immediately after World War II. The author takes the reader through a rich landscape of media — sci fi pulps, comics, adventure stories, tales of teen sleuths, boys’ serial novels, wartime bestsellers, and movies populated by many types of male adolescents: Boys Next Door, Adventure Boys, Jungle Boys, and Lost Boys. In Hollywood movies, Boys Next Door like Jackie Cooper, Ronald Sinclair, and Jimmy Lydon were constantly falling in love, but not with girls. In serial novels, Jungle Boys like Bomba, Sorak, and Og Son of Fire swung through the trees to rescue teenage boys, not teenage girls. In comic strips and on the radio, Adventure Boys like Don Study, Jack Armstrong, and Tim Tyler formed lasting romantic partnerships with other boys or men. Lost Boys like Frankie Darro, Leo Gorcey, and Billy Halop starred in dozens of movies about pairs of poor urban teenagers sticking together, with never a girl in sight…”

We Boys Together: Teenagers in Love Before Girl-Craziness, by Jeffery Dennis, 2007

That’s the boyhood I remember. And if you think all that is exaggerated, or a case of the author seeing homosexuality where there is none, what you have to remember about that period of time is that in the movies and TV sex simply didn’t exist, let alone homosexuals. Married couples slept in separate beds. When Lucy Ricardo got pregnant they couldn’t even say the word pregnant on TV. You got the feeling movie and TV characters had no genitals at all…especially in movies and TV shows created for kids and teenagers…and babies when they happened really were delivered by the stork to unsuspecting but very happy couples. Now how did that happen? And nobody saw anything out of place in two boys having a passionate friendship. In fact, it was thought to be good for them. Builds character. teaches the importance of trust and loyalty. The steadfast friends who always stick together through thick and thin. I watched those movies on the TV, and the old TV shows, read the sci fi pulps, and the comics, adventure stories, tales of teen sleuths, best friends forever, even as Hollywood was setting out to change all that, and recognize the existence of teenage hormones. At least, the heterosexual ones.  

It was something mom could tell herself as I kept getting older and older and still showing no signs of an interest in girls, even to the point of getting my heart broken over some other boy who broke up with me, or moved away. I remember crying my 8th grade heart out in when a friend I’d known since elementary school moved out of state, and I knew I’d never see him anymore, and mom just giving me that boys will be boys sigh. Looking back on it I can just picture her thinking to herself, just wait until it’s a girl that breaks your heart… 

So I was a little late with it. Some boys were. Not to worry…one of these days Bruce will discover girls and he’ll get with the program. Plus, we were Baptists and I wasn’t supposed to be having any sinful thoughts about girls until I was older and those thoughts could be directed toward marriage. Mom could feel good that I wasn’t tempted into sinful lust just yet.

Which meant I never had the pressure at home to start dating and questions weren’t asked about why I had no interest in girls until much, Much later. and by that time I’d made my peace with my sexual orientation, even if mom and I still couldn’t talk about it. I had a few years of breathing room. I don’t think gay kids these days have that. The paradox of gay visibility is it’s making the world safer for us, even as it exposes gay kids to pressure about their identity they might not be ready to face for a while. They can’t hide from themselves or their peers the way I could.

But at least the world they eventually come out to isn’t as hostile as mine was. Even in red state America they can at least think about taking the one that stole their heart to the prom…maybe even imagine marrying them. How I wish. If I knew then what I know now, I would have gladly traded that safe cocoon, and having The Talk with mom, for a boyfriend.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Paradox Of Gay Visibility

April 30th, 2018

The Good Old Bad Old Days

“It’s all yuppies and kids in strollers and all of that — and a few old codgers,” Crowley, 82, said over a recent lunch. The gays have scattered, not just from that building but from others, and we’ve distributed ourselves throughout the city — and throughout society. Gay sanctuaries are vanishing.

Is that true of gay culture and gay identity, too? I increasingly get the sense that gayness itself has scattered, becoming something more various and harder to define. “Gay” tells you about a person’s lusts and loves, but it used to tell you more — about his or her boldness, irreverence, independence. It connoted a particular journey and pronounced struggle, and had its own soundtrack, sartorial flourishes and short list of celebrity icons. Not so anymore…

-Frank Bruni, the New York Times, The Extinction of Gay Identity

Once upon a time gay folk had no way of networking beyond a few urban cores in a few big cities. Long distance telephone conversation, let alone travel, was expensive and cumbersome and people just didn’t make friends much beyond their local neighborhoods. So the only gay communities large enough to have any sort of scene at all were the urban ones, and for decades those urban gay scenes defined gay culture and sensibility. But it was misleading.

I remember the advent of the personal computer and how those early very primitive PC networks began allowing gay folk from distant, exotic lands like…Kansas, to network with the more established gay neighborhoods in the big cities. Can you say Culture Shock. The flame wars sometimes got pretty intense and sysadmins would have to step in and chill everyone out. But eventually there came an understanding that the urban gay scene wasn’t where every gay person experienced life, culture, coming out and finding community. We are not like other ethnic and racial minorities, we are all the colors of the rainbow. It is our weakness and our strength both.

To the degree that our safe spaces, the bars and secret members only clubs we needed are vanishing now, because we are becoming part of the fabric of American society, becoming neighbors, shedding the myths, lies and superstitions that used to define us, that is an unconditionally good thing. I expect that the gay bar will never completely vanish for the same reason that all bars and nightclubs tend to arrange themselves around a theme and clientele. But we will see lots of the old hangouts vanish, only to be fondly remembered. That happens.

There’s a Facebook page I follow dedicated to those of us who grew up in Montgomery County Maryland that’s constantly reminiscing about everyone’s old favorite restaurants, bars and hangouts. It isn’t just gay folk watching them vanish. We all experience this as we grow older. There are so many places I miss now that had nothing to do with my sexual orientation. What’s changing for us gay folk is we are part of that story now too. We are becoming once again part of the communities and cultures we were exiled from once upon a time. Normalcy. But we will always still be different. Just from now on, different in the sense that everyone is in some way different. And from that will always come a sense of fellowship and community with others like us. The gay identity isn’t going extinct, it is becoming bigger. Because it was always bigger than the urban scene that for so long was all there was for all of us to see.

So many people of my generation have such fond memories of the 50s and 60s and 70s. Simpler times it is often said. But they seem simpler looking back on them because we were young and we were simpler. What Frank Bruni is bemoaning is a past that, like much of those fond memories of simpler, happier days gone by, wasn’t completely real.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Good Old Bad Old Days

April 21st, 2018

How To Incite Religious Passions For Votes And Get Gay People Killed

In California, the current republican candidate for governor is telling people lies he hopes will energize the only voters California republicans have anymore…

Would a Proposed Law ‘Ban the Bible’ in California?

A Republican politician and a right-wing television station grossly misrepresented California legislation that would amplify restrictions on “gay conversion therapy.”

Link goes to the Snopes article, which goes on to say…

n April 2018, the right-wing One America News Network (OAN) interviewed California State Assembly member Travis Allen, who is running for governor as a Republican, about Assembly Bill 2943, a proposed law currently before state legislators.

The bill relates to “gay conversion therapy,” but according to Allen and “Tipping Point” host Liz Wheeler, it would effectively ban the sale of Christian books, including the Bible.

You can read the entire exchange at the Snopes link. Note that it was the right wing media employee who suggested to Allen that the bill in question would ban the Bible, and then Allen happily went along with the talking point. This seems to be the new republican campaign paradigm: run for office and let the right wing billionaire funded media tell you why you’re running and what to say. Rupert Murdoch perfected it, but others like Sinclair and One America (sic) News Network are buying in.

Rhetoric like this does more than energize a fearful and resentful base, it gets gay people beaten on the streets and it gets us killed. Which is more than okay with the people funding and promoting people like Allen. Laws like the one in California banning conversion therapy on minors are sweeping through the nation because gay people have a voice now in the public sphere, and we’re telling our stories…

Gay conversion therapy survivors share painful legacy of ‘ex-gay’ treatments

“It’s wrong… it’s totally unacceptable. I’m an example of the enormous damage that it can do to people.”

That was Ron Smith’s reaction to Health Minister Greg Hunt’s refusal to condemn a controversial plan by a section of Victoria’s Liberal Party to debate gay conversion therapy.

The 71-year-old former Baptist minister is a survivor of electroshock therapy, a now discredited practice once believed to rid patients of their same-sex attraction.

“They … put a wiring on my private parts that measured temperature changes, and showed me about a thousand pictures of men and a thousand pictures of women over about a 10-day period,” Mr Smith recalls.

“When my body temperature rose when I saw the guys, which is natural for me, they delivered high voltages of electricity through wires that were attached to punish me for being gay and try to make me straight.

The linked article is to a story in an Australian newspaper, and the context is the motion filed last week by an anti-gay politician there for state legislation to allow health practitioners “to offer counselling out of same sex attraction or gender transitioning to patients who request it’‘. Bigots like to frame this as simply giving parents and kids a choice. Note the formulation “same sex attraction”. The dogma is that nobody is actually homosexual, but rather that people suffer from broken heterosexuality which can be repaired. Well, people who have been through the repair have something to say about that…

“Electroshock therapy — giving people drugs while they showed them gay porn so they’d throw up. Not giving them drugs while they showed them heterosexual porn so they wouldn’t throw up.

“It was all behavioural modifications.”

These practices were prevalent in the 1950s and 60s, but in some dark corners of the world are still in use today. They accomplish nothing other than pain and suffering for the patient, and a lifetime of nightmares and fear of their own emotional needs. More often now the so called therapy amounts to religious and pseudo psychiatric counselling to make a person so deeply ashamed and fearful of their sexual desires they wall off everything inside of themselves that might give them joy. We have to die inside, for the sins of bigots.

After embracing his sexuality at the age of 22, Mr Webb is now an active member of his Uniting Church community, and a leader of The Reformation Project, a bible-based support group for LGBTIQ Christians.

But he admits the shame he carried for so many years is still part of his life.

“Carrying that around I understand why I ended up getting an anxiety disorder, why I’ve struggled with co-dependency for so long … it does damage you for life in a lot of ways.

“I’m better now but sometimes those scars are soft to touch.

This is what opposition to ex gay therapy bans is all about. After decades of alleged therapy that has manifestly accomplished nothing other than making gay people hurt, and yet they insist they have some god given right to keep doing it to us, you have to conclude that making us hurt is the point. And if ex-gay therapy is outlawed they are fine with inciting the mob to go after us. It’s not after all, about fixing us, it is about breaking us. Either the clinic or the mob will do. But no, you do not have a right to make your neighbor hurt. No matter how much you hate them.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on How To Incite Religious Passions For Votes And Get Gay People Killed

April 6th, 2018

Not DTF, But DTL

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

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

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

Not Every Gay Man Is DTF

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 12th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Openly

News is flashing all across the Internet tubes about Adam Rippon’s bronze medal at this year’s winter Olympics. And the news articles I’m seeing now are all very positive and hopeful that this represents the dawning of a new era, where athletes can be honest about themselves, not just to the world but more importantly to themselves. Because the closet is a ball and chain sapping them of their strength, limiting all they can be, and you can’t accept limits and expect to reach the Olympics. In a recent interview Adam Rippon put it this way…

“Being gay isn’t what defines me, but it’s a big part of who I am and I like to talk about my coming out because that’s when I started to own who I was as a person,” said Rippon, who spoke to TeamUSA.org on the topic in honor of June’s LGBTQ Pride Month. “That’s what’s important, not the being gay part but at some point — gay or straight — you need to own who you are. You can’t be afraid of who you are or else you’re afraid of your own potential, and if you don’t own who you are then you can’t grow.

“When I came out was when I was able to breathe. When everyone knew, I didn’t feel like I was hiding anything. I didn’t feel like I was putting on a show. I was being me and it was easy. It was a lot easier to be me than to be who I thought I was supposed to be.”

In another interview, which I can’t find again now, he relates how, having failed to qualify in prior Olympics, he became determined to seek out and deal with anything within himself that was holding him back, keeping him from finding and owning his place of strength. What he eventually figured out was it was the closet that was playing a big part in keeping him from getting there, and that when he came out, it was not only liberating, it allowed him to grow as an athlete, find his strength.  And he made it to the Olympics. And now he’s a medal winner.

All my life I have watched the closet suffocating people. Good people. Decent, loving, hard working, beautiful people. This is truth: the closet is no sanctuary. It is a prison. Maybe now is not the time for you to come out. But for you to be everything you can be, that time must eventually come. Find a way to make it happen. Don’t accept the half of a life in exchange for security. The security of the closet is an illusion, and we only get one life. 

They’re calling him and Gus Kenworthy the first openly gay U.S. athletes to compete.  Actually according to Smithsonian Magazine that honor belongs to Robert Dover representing the United States in 2004 in the equestrian events. The first out gay athlete to compete in the Olympics was English figure skater John Curry, and he did not come out voluntarily, but was cornered by a hostile press about his sexual orientation after his win.  He acknowledged it, and later gave the traditional victory performance, which allows the media to call him the first out Olympian.  But he operative word here is ‘openly’, as opposed to ‘outed’. In fact Lots of gay athletes have competed at the Olympics. But fear of hostility from officials and judges, both at the Olympics and in their home countries, kept them closeted.

And it still does for many. Already I’m hearing stories about closeted athletes confiding in Rippon and Kenworthy. So it goes. Yes, it’s progress. Yes, every tiny little inch of that progress, every tiny little baby step forward, comes with a torrent of pain stabbing at beautiful hearts that never deserved any of it.

Someday…someday…we will all shine…


Adam Rippon, photo by Rick Bowmer, AP

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Openly

January 31st, 2018

When Your Brain Tells You That You Have No Life So Just Die Already

Yesterday I posted a link to a Salt Lake City Tribune article about a Mormon straight/gay couple who are divorcing. A Facebook friend linked me to their own blog post on the matter. It is stunning

Five-and-a-half years ago my wife, Lolly, and I sat together at a hotel in Las Vegas, nervously composing a coming out post that would, unbeknownst to us, change our lives in nearly every way imaginable. We were so, so nervous. But we were sweet and earnest, and we had been feeling the cosmic drive to do this for months . . . we knew, without a doubt, that it was what we were supposed to do, even though it felt totally out of left field, and we had no idea why. Our post went massively viral, and we were featured on shows and newspapers around the globe.

That act of authenticity brought many of you who will read this into our lives. Finally, we were able to live authentically, instead of this life of quiet struggle we had existed in for a decade. Finally we were able to be honest with our community, our friends, our colleagues, our families about our marriage, and about me—that I am a gay man, and that Lolly and I had gotten married knowing this about me. That I always have been gay. That it was not something I had chosen—it just was— but that I loved my wife and my life.

Finally, Lolly and I were out of the closet.

What is especially stunning for me, a gay man, raised in a Yankee Baptist (there is a difference) household, now an athiest, out to myself since I was 17, out to most everyone else by age 30, proud, and single his entire life, is that I see so much of my own internal struggle in this man’s story…

For me, though, it all came down to the people I met with–the actual human beings who were coming to my office. They would come and sit down with me, and they would tell me their stories. These were good people, former pastors, youth leaders, relief society presidents, missionaries, bishops, Elder’s Quorum presidents, and they were . . . there’s no other way to say this. They were dying. They were dying before my eyes. And they would weep in desperation—after years, decades, of trying to do just as they had been instructed: be obedient, live in faith, have hope. They would weep with me, and ask where the Lord was. They would sob. They would wonder where joy was. As a practitioner, it became increasingly obvious: the way the church handled this issue was not just inconvenient. It didn’t make things hard for LGBTQIA people. It became more and more clear to me that it was actually hurting them. It was killing them.

This is how I’ve felt almost my entire life since puberty. I have had my share of life’s joys, especially now in my later years, working for the space program; a dream I would not have dared to dream when I was a young boy. I have had a Good life. And yet I have always felt like I was dying inside. Slowly…bit by bit. A flower becoming a seed. This passage especially, hit me very, very hard the first time I read  it… 

Guys, my life was beautiful in every way. My children, my wife, my career, my friends. It was filled with so much joy. The things I talked about in my coming out post in 2012 weren’t false. The joy I felt was real! The love I felt was real, but something in me wanted to die.

It’s the thing that wants to die in all of us when we don’t have hope for attachment to a person we are oriented towards. It’s actually a standard part of human attachment: when we don’t have attachment—and have no hope of attachment–our brain tells us we need to die.

My suicidality was not connected to depression. That’s how my mind could hide it from me. With no context and no warning, I would occasionally be brushing my teeth or some such mundane task and then be broadsided with a gut-wrenching, vast emptiness I can’t put into words, that felt as deep as my marrow–and I would think in a panic “I’m only 37. I’m only 37. How can I last five more decades?” That thought—the thought of having to live five more decades, would fill me with terror. It was inconceivable for a few moments. And then it would pass.

That’s been me. Almost my entire life. The hopelessness would overwhelm me…and then it would pass and I’d go on with my life. As time passed, and I grew older and older, still never finding that Significant Other, waiting for those sudden bottomless pits of hopelessness to pass became a reflex. I knew they would, because they always did. But I also knew that there was probably one time waiting for me out there, when it would not pass, and I would simply fall in and not come back out again.

Go read the whole thing. These were two deeply devout people, who did everything they thought they had to do to stay right with their maker, and began to realize that they had to stop, for the sake of their lives.

In the end, the correct choice is obvious. We choose the option that makes sure people stay alive.

We should always choose the option that makes sure people stay alive.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on When Your Brain Tells You That You Have No Life So Just Die Already

January 23rd, 2018

That Is Now, This Was Then…

The Boys in the Band stars Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, and Matt Bomer on bringing play to Broadway

Put this down, I reckon, in the same category as I’m trying to get used to hearing the word “queer” as something other than a homophobic slur. I absolutely detested this play. And yet, seeing this group of proud out gay actors taking it on and making it theirs made me want to go watch them do it. I hated everything about this play, and especially its overall tone that so it goes for such as us. “If only we could learn not to hate ourselves quite so very much.”

And here we are, decades later, and we can marry the one we love, and gay kids can grow up not hating themselves, and seeing happy and whole lives ahead of them. But that is now, this was then…

“What I like so much about Boys in the Band is how the play right now reads so much as, ‘Look at how things have changed and look at how they haven’t,’” Parsons, 44, explains in the above behind-the-scenes video.

“We’ve come so far in the last 5 years, just legislatively. And yet there’s been this explosion of backward thinking and harmful thinking and political ideology that swept our country,” says Quinto, 40. “We are responsible for standing up and being acknowledged and celebrating ourselves and celebrating our community in a way that shows these people that are trying to undo the progress that we’ve made that we are not going anywhere.”

Adds Crowley: “You just have to be reminded of how our freedom didn’t exist. We can’t lose it. We can’t go back. There is no good time to tell it except all times.”

I’ll accept that, and go watch this play not as an historical document so much as in full agreement with Crowley’s warning. This is what will happen to us all over again, if things go back, if the Franklin Grahams and Tony Perkins of the world have their way. Yes…now I can see the play in a different light, now I can see how important it is to keep this play alive.

I bought tickets for the May 12 afternoon performance. Get train tickets and a hotel room within walking distance of it later…make a New York City weekend of it and take one of my good film cameras because they love Manhattan island very much.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Is Now, This Was Then…

January 21st, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

[Edited a tad…]

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

December 20th, 2017

“A Generation Of Sociopaths”…And Other Lazy Ignorant Stereotypes…

I was raised, as I’ve said often, by a single divorced mother. I’m not relating this to wear it like a badge, but offering it as explanation. The attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors we express in our everyday lives may well have their biological roots…as in for example the fact that I’m gay…but they’re almost certainly flavored by our life experiences. Different metals behave differently in the fire, but still the fire changes us.

It makes throwing labels around at people problematic. I understand the human need to identify, categorize, sort, put a name on things the better to understand them. But what you must always keep in mind, what Jacob Bronowski clarified for me in his Science and Human Values essays, is the concepts by which we understand nature are always imprecise and imperfect. You have to treat them with humility. What is a planet?

By this stage of my life I suppose I should be used to having labels slapped on me, and all the baggage that comes with them. In grade school I got the problem child label simply for being raised in a “broken home”. Among various family members I was granted the label of being my father’s son, and dad having died robbing a bank that label came with its own lovely baggage set. My maternal grandmother’s favorite name for me (when mom couldn’t hear it) was Stinking Rotten Good For Nothing Garrett Just Like Your Pap…not exactly something that’ll fit on checks or credit cards.

For being a slight somewhat girlish kid in grade school I received a variety of labels. Mom and I lived a very low budget life…another set of labels. In my senior year I came out to myself and earned the gay label, and all the ancillary labels that came with it that Facebook would probably censor if I posted them here. Ever since I can remember I’ve had the urge, the need, to express myself in various forms of art and Artist is the only label I’d willingly apply to myself except it feels so damn pretentious. But there are others: Cartoonist, Painter, Photographer. Sometimes I wear one of those. I took up building my own computers and programming them…another set of labels. I read a lot. I pay attention to political events. I like to travel. I like to explore. Nerd. Geek. Tourist. Wonk. I’m in my 60s. There’s geezer. Old man. Computers have allowed me to suddenly, late in my life, earn a good income. There’s Yuppy. I drive a Mercedes-Benz. There’s Bourgeois. It’s a diesel. There’s nerd again. I should be used to it by now. But it’s not the labels, it’s the baggage that comes with them. You want me to stick the Ignorant label on you, apply a label to me and then expect me to wear the baggage that comes with it. Especially this one: Boomer.

I used to wear it without too much discomfort. That nerd label…I saw it as merely a statistical description. I was born in 1953, so I am part of the post war baby boom, so I am a boomer. My generation was the reason so many new schools had to be built. So far, so good. But where once I was a trailing edge boomer, benefiting from the struggles of the older kids ahead of me that allowed me to wear blue jeans and long hair in school, suddenly one day I realized I was being lumped in with kids born in the 60s as though we all had the same culture, the same life experiences. Boomer. Never mind the political baggage. Anyone with half a brain who walks through life with their eyes wide open and their mind still curious cannot help but see how generational labels are as superficial and misleading as any other. There’s a history here that separates us Kennedy era boomers from the Reagan era ones, and I can sum it up with the name of a country: Viet Nam.

Some years ago I’m quietly standing at the balcony rail of the outdoor smoker’s lounge of one of D.C.’s gay bars, puffing on a mini-cigar. A cute young guy walks over to me and gives me a look…

Me: Hi.

He: Are you a throwback?

Me: Sorry?

He: You lived through the sixties?  You know…the hippies and that stuff…?

Me: Yeah…but I wasn’t a Hippy.  There were a lot of different things going on back then.  Most of us were just along for the ride.

He: I know…I’ve read all the books.

Me: Throwback?

He: You know…from back then…

Me: I don’t understand your use of the term.

He: You’re about my mother’s age…

Well I hope “all the books” weren’t published by the same people who make biology textbooks for Liberty University.

Perhaps Ezra Klein and Sean Illing read the same ones. Klein this morning retweeted gleefully this Vox article: “How the baby boomers — not millennials — screwed America” Subtitled: “The boomers inherited a rich, dynamic country and have gradually bankrupted it.”

So I go to look and right there at the top of the page is…Oh Goodness There They Are…


Screen cap of Klein’s tweet…this is the photo that leads the article

…The Dirty F*cking Hippies “…dancing during an anti-war demonstration staged by the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam at Golden Gate Park’s Kezar Stadium on April 15, 1967.” I’ll just bet they’re all smoking acid too. You two have read all the books…right? I haven’t seen such lazy cheapshit stereotyping since the last time I read an article on The Federalist about Teh Gay.

Illing’s article promotes A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America by Bruce Gibney. “The boomers, according to Gibney, have committed “generational plunder,” pillaging the nation’s economy, repeatedly cutting their own taxes, financing two wars with deficits, ignoring climate change, presiding over the death of America’s manufacturing core, and leaving future generations to clean up the mess they created.”

The boomers. The boomers. The boomers. I was raised by a divorced single working mother. My dad died trying to rob a bank. I grew up in a series of small apartments, wearing mostly second-hand clothes and going to public school, where in the 1960s, because I was the product of a “broken home” I was treated like a problem child even though I was pretty well behaved. That didn’t change until high school. I was the first male in dad’s side of the family to finish grade school and get a diploma. I did three semesters of community college and then had to go to work to support mom and me. For most of my life I had no idea how I was going to earn a living and resigned myself to a low income life lived in rooms rented in other people’s houses. Before I started earning a good living as a software developer I had no car, and no prospects. Seen from within, the life I am living now seems an absolute miracle to me. And I look at what the republicans and their billionaire money teats are doing to All Of Us let alone the next generation with a dull horror, Because I Led That Life, I can imagine perfectly well what it could easily have become had I not had the lucky break that allowed me to escape it, and I don’t want it happening to Anyone Else.

But no…I’m a boomer. And a Dirty F*cking Hippy. Who was doing Manpower temp jobs and living with mom when I was the age Klein and Illing are now, and I am a sociopath who doesn’t care who he’s screwing out of a future.

Whatever. If playing Wall Street’s game of Blame The Other Guy We’re Screwing Too works for Vox, Klein, Illing et. al. then fine. Enjoy the cheap thrills of the blame game while I watch people who wish to bury the past, and people who’ve read all the books, keep on grimly repeating it. And…pay attention now…I don’t particularly care if people who don’t know me from Adam hate me for being something I can’t help being. I was fine with that even before I knew that I am gay. I learned how not to give a flying f*ck about that even before my grade school teachers told me I was a problem child because my mother was divorced. I learned how not to care long before all that, while being hated, or at best patronized, by members of my own family for being my father’s son. And I will not wear your goddamned labels, and I will not carry your goddamned baggage. Go to hell.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on “A Generation Of Sociopaths”…And Other Lazy Ignorant Stereotypes…

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