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February 16th, 2020

A Coming Out Story…Intermission 2…(continued)

Continuing with the Intermission, wherein I’ve sought answers about my sexual orientation in the bookstore, and purchased Doctor Pompous J. Fraudquack’s The TRUTH About Homosexuality…and I begin to read…

Intermission – What I Learned About Homosexuality. . . And Myself (Part 2)

I’m going to interleave this little story arc with the one I’m currently presenting, so if it gets a tad confusing blame my poorly developed storytelling skills. But this is where it’s all been building to. The subtitle of the cartoon is after all, The first person you come out to, is yourself. For some gay kids that isn’t easy, and it especially was not back in 1971.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Coming Out Story…Intermission 2…(continued)

February 8th, 2020

Here Comes Valentine’s Day Again

This is for all the Valentine’s Days I missed out on. Because it’s hard to date when you’re growing up in a world that throws a torrent of abuse at people like you. Because all the nice boys I was attracted to were too terrified to be out, let alone proud. Because righteous people needed our hopes and dreams for their stepping stones to heaven. And because “people who look like that want people who look like that.”

My entire purpose in doing A Coming Out Story is it’s a message in a bottle to whom it may concern, that gay kids need a break. Let them have that magical first crush. Let them have their prom nights. Be the one who tells them “you’re alright kid.”

—-
“No, Mama, I wasn’t “recruited.” No seasoned homosexual ever served as my mentor. But you know what? I wish someone had. I wish someone older than me and wiser than the people in Orlando had taken me aside and said, “You’re all right, kid. You can grow up to be a doctor or a teacher just like anyone else. You’re not crazy or sick or evil. You can succeed and be happy and find peace with friends — all kinds of friends — who don’t give a damn who you go to bed with. Most of all, though, you can love and be loved, without hating yourself for it.”

“But no one ever said that to me, Mama. I had to find it out on my own, with the help of the city that has become my home. I know this may be hard for you to believe, but San Francisco is full of men and women, both straight and gay, who don’t consider sexuality in measuring the worth of another human being.

“These aren’t radicals or weirdos, Mama. They are shop clerks and bankers and little old ladies and people who nod and smile to you when you meet them on the bus. Their attitude is neither patronizing nor pitying. And their message is so simple: Yes, you are a person. Yes, I like you. Yes, it’s all right for you to like me, too…”

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Here Comes Valentine’s Day Again

February 5th, 2020

A Coming Out Story – Episode 29. . .

In which our hero discovers zipper anxiety…

A Coming Out Story…Episode 29 “Are You Serious?”

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Coming Out Story – Episode 29. . .

January 6th, 2020

The Air Was Filled With Phantoms…

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free. Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below upon a doorstep. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

Whether these creatures faded into mist, or mist enshrouded them, he could not tell. But they and their spirit voices faded together; and the night became as it had been when he walked home.

You wonder where it goes sometimes…or at least I often wonder. Is there some place, some spectral land in the twilight between the living world and the world that could have, should have been, but never was, where all the love that never got a chance to be wanders aimlessly, alone, bewildered. Like that scene in A Christmas Carol, when Scrooge looks out of his window and beholds all the poor miserable souls who could have made the world a better place, but chose greed and selfishness instead, now burdened forever by the chains they forged in life, condemned to see everything that needs doing, and unable now to do it, aching to atone, and cannot. I wonder sometimes if all the love that never got a chance to be wanders that place between worlds, aching to fulfil and be fulfilled, and cannot. But those phantoms are doubly burdened for their blamelessness. Love, as Buzz Murdoch said, is a skinny kid that can catch cold and die from just standing outside a locked door begging to come in. These phantoms tried, but the door was shut, and the chains they wear were forged on them by others. Cold, empty others.

This article came across my Facebook stream the other day…

 

It’s a personal hobby horse of mine, how so many gay guys of my generation were terrified into ex-gay therapy and heterosexual marriage as a way to degay themselves. After that first crush I was never ashamed, never doubted that the love between same sex couples could be joyful and life affirming. But raised in the household I was, perhaps it was that anyway, I always found myself attracted to the nice guys…the ones that, in a better world, I might have met at a church youth social or at school, and I’d have brought one home to mom and told her I was in love and had that magical first romance and maybe, just maybe, we’d have made a life together. But when I was a teenager all those nice boys were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them. They didn’t want god to hate them. And so it went. And now I’m 66.  And I look at this article and see a guy who is perfectly capable of maintaining a marriage but could bring himself to nothing but random casual sex with other guys and I think it was mostly internalized homophobia that kept him from settling down with a guy, not so much access to legal marriage. In a culture that barrages you with negative images of homosexuality it’s unsurprising that people can’t visualize having a stable fulfilling same sex marriage.

But it isn’t their fault. Don’t be pointing your finger at them and saying they just needed some courage and self respect. If you didn’t grow up then, if you weren’t a gay kid living under that relentless barrage of loathing and contempt, lucky you, you cannot know how it was. I don’t see myself as the better man for not giving in, just stubborn. Love took me completely by surprise. I was lucky. Lots of gay guys of my generation weren’t.

And I can almost look out my window some nights, especially during the holidays, having had my visits with the Ghosts of Love That Almost Was, and see the phantoms outside. Maybe someday I’ll walk among them. What’s missing from stories like this man’s, ghosted, invisible, lost even to themselves, is the guy who could have loved him, and will never know. Like ghosts wandering through a Dickens landscape, true to themselves, living an honest life, yet still having to wear the chains of other people’s hatreds, bearing down upon us just as surely as if we were living in the closet too.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Air Was Filled With Phantoms…

December 19th, 2019

Knowledge Or Certainty

There are those who believe that knowledge is something that is received, and others that it is something that is discovered. You can see which are which here…

 

 

The above graphic comes from a Brookings Institution essay I was reading back in 2016. I’m posting it here because it cannot be said too much that it pretty much sums up why democrats have exactly zero chance of winning over republican voters, even if they do throw minority rights under the bus like the concern trolls suggest. The information cocoon they’re in…and it’s not just a Fox News cocoon…simply won’t allow it. But there’s more here to understand.

What this is showing us is that the well educated elite, and by that I don’t mean, and neither do the republicans, Ivy Leaguers, but simply well enough educated that one’s curiosity is nurtured, allowed to function normally instead of suppressed, won’t cluster around single sources like moths to a streetlight. The reason is simple: Our minds, that inner spirit of curiosity and the adventure life is, just won’t let us stay put in one place for very long. Not when there’s another horizon to explore. Even if that horizon is only a book that looks interesting, or an article by someone we’ve never read before.

You find us in all walks of life. And getting us organized is like herding cats. We get an allergic reaction to too much organization. Which is why a state of freedom is such a fragile thing. Everyone benefits from it, but not everyone desires it, and the ones who need it most are the ones constitutionally least equipped to defend it from a well organized and determined aggressor. This despite the fact that we are often the very first to recognize the danger.
 
 
 
 
 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Knowledge Or Certainty

December 16th, 2019

A Christmas Card For Homophobes

Some of you may have been following the fracas over the Hallmark channel censoring an ad from Zola’s, a wedding planner outfit, that showed a lesbian couple getting married. The Zola’s campaign was several ads, only one of which showed a same-sex couple’s marriage, and that one was the only Zola’s ad to be removed, at the behest of One Million Mom’s and other members of the anti-gay industrial complex. The other ads were allowed to continue playing…until Zola’s discovered the censorship and removed all it’s advertising from the channel.

The backlash, not just from the gay community but also the general public not cocooned in the right wing hate machine, was ferocious. Late yesterday Hallmark walked back its decision to censor the ads. But its CEO went even further. This is not your usual boilerplate apology:

“The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused,” Perry said in a statement. “Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision. Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are. We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused. … Across our brand, we will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences.”

This is good, not just that it is an apology but much more critically that it addresses what bigots deny and want to erase about us: that we also make those heartfelt connections, and want to celebrate them. The mindset among the haters is homosexuals don’t love they just have sex. What Hallmark just did, perhaps not in so many words, but by affirming our common humanity, was to say One Million Moms are wrong about gay people, and that Hallmark was wrong to let their prejudices dictate the Hallmark channel’s content.

It’s got to hurt, way, Way more than simply walking it back.

Now…understand something…if this were Putin’s Russia Hallmark executives (and Zola’s) could all be arrested and thrown in jail for this. And that is why the culture war republicans and religious right figures like Franklin Graham have all become Russian sympathisers, happy to let Putin screw with our democracy.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on A Christmas Card For Homophobes

December 5th, 2019

Memo To The Kook Pews

Listen to me all you god created everyone as either male or female jackasses: Nature does what it damn well pleases. And if that’s too secular for you, fine. Here’s something god created.

And there’s lots more where this lovely little thing came from. Deal with it.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Memo To The Kook Pews

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 | Comments Off on How Facebook Earns My Eyeball Time

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 | Comments Off on Still Discovering Our Past

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

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