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September 25th, 2022

Fear Of Dating, Fear Of Intimacy

For some reason so I’m told, Jeffrey Dahmer was trending on commercial social media, which prompted a repost of this powerful essay by Dan Savage from 2018…

You should go read it. This, among other things (that “worse was yet to come” he mentions), is a reason why so many of us had trouble dating, finding and holding on to love. Where most heterosexuals could have that usual coming of age experience in adolescence, and dating and going to the prom and that first wonderful life affirming sweet romance…

“Once upon a time, there was a girl I knew, who lived across the street. Brown hair, brown eyes. When she smiled, I smiled. When she cried, I cried. Every single thing that ever happened to me that mattered, in some way had to do with her. That day, Winnie and I promised each other that no matter what, that we’d always be together. It was a promise full of passion and truth and wisdom. It was the kind of promise that can only come from the hearts of the very young.” -Narrator, The Wonder Years

…what we came of age into was a world where reaching out to another might likely get you killed.

I’m almost ashamed to say that while I get how scared he was, reading this essay I’m also very envious of the adolescence he had. I’m sure he doesn’t think it was all that wonderful.  But he was out to himself at 14. He could be out to himself at 14. Terrifying as it probably was. When I was 14 Stonewall hadn’t happened yet and only one state, Illinois had repealed its sodomy law, and that almost by accident. I came of age in total ignorance of what was happening with me as my body developed and I started having sex dreams about other guys at school. It made no sense given what the pop culture told me about homosexuals. So I just never really looked at it, just shoved it into a back corner of my mind and didn’t think too deeply about it. I wasn’t out to myself until December of 1971 and I had just turned 18.

But what really makes me envious here is he had a bunch of gay friends he could talk to and socialize with. Oh dear god almighty how I wish I’d had that! That didn’t happen until I got connected with a gay BBS back in the mid 1980s and I was in my thirties. From my teens to my mid thirties I was completely isolated. And partly that was due to the fears Savage speaks of. But also, the world I was living in didn’t exactly offer gay guys any spaces to socialize, and maybe find a date, other than seedy bars I never felt completely at ease inside of.

I was looking for romance, not a hook-up. As I wrote previously…

…what I was always looking for was that nice boy…someone in a better world that I might have met at a church social or youth coffeehouse like The Lost and Found was. Someone I could take home to mom and she’d be pleased to meet them and invite them to stay for dinner. Someone I’d take to the prom. Someone I could make a life together with.

But I came of age in the late 60s/early 70s, and back then all those nice boys were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them. They didn’t want their friends turning on them. They were terrified of getting those looks of disgust. And it’s all the negative crap we were dumped on back then that’s a big part of why…

But simply because I wasn’t looking for the casual hookup does not mean I wasn’t afraid, and constantly on the alert for trouble. So I’m not questioning his fears at all. I had many of the same ones, just a bit different only in the social context and my own life history. In 9th grade I had this horrible sex ed class taught by homophobic gym teachers who said that homosexuals were psychotic and usually killed their sex partners, and that most unsolved murders were committed by homosexuals. (I wished ever since that I’d had the presence of mind to ask if they’re unsolved how to you know they were committed by homosexuals?)

When I fell in love and came out to myself I brushed all that away as rubbish, but the overwhelming hatred and loathing of gay people I grew up with made me skittish for decades about expressing an interest in the random guys that caught my fancy, even in the gayborhood. How do you negotiate flirting in a world where you might get a baseball bat over the head for it? Guys that seemed to be flirting with me made me nervous because I never knew if they were serious or just waiting for me to come out to them so they could gay bash me. 

She said in a level voice yes, Jack was pumping up a flat on the truck out on a back road when the tire blew up. The bead was damaged somehow and the force of the explosion slammed the rim into his face, broke his nose and jaw and knocked him unconscious on his back. By the time someone came along he had drowned in his own blood.

No, he thought, they got him with the tire iron.

-Annie Proulx – Brokeback Mountain

They didn’t have to be serial killers. I’d be just as dead.

I was never pretty enough or brazen enough to attract the sort of predators that haunted Dan Savage’s adolescence, and I wasn’t out to myself for most of mine anyway. In my childhood I heard lots of news accounts of boys being abducted by strangers and so I had a more generalized fear of strange men approaching me and I would always flinch away if I got a look that made me uncomfortable. Back then I had no idea Why they wanted to kidnap boys (I am serious here), just that it was a thing to watch out for. That probably segued into my post out of the closet mindset in some way. So I never got over being nervous when some guy started flirting with me. Half of it was “Okay now what do I do?” and half if it was “Is this guy a gay basher…or worse?” Reading crime stories like the one about the Last Call murders didn’t do anything to help.

Yes, I was afraid too. But…oh dear god how envious I am that Savage had gay friends his own age he could hang out with. Dan I am so sorry you were afraid. I was too. We all were. And it cut into us so very deep. But you had something good back then too. Something life saving even.

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

September 20th, 2022

Fem Boys Need Representation Too

I wouldn’t exactly say I’m fem, but I’m sure not butch either. That’s okay…

I don’t qualify as androgynous because I’m not pretty enough, but I am definitely not lumberjack material either. I got static nearly all my post puberty life for being more interested in art than sports, for wearing my hair long (hey hippy are you a boy or a girl…HAHAHAHAHA), for being a scrawny little dweeb and not wanting to fight anyone. And it’s taken me decades to finally give myself permission to wear the turquoise jewelry I love, dress a little better, wear more color, and not care how masculine or feminine I appear. But that static can come at you from all directions.

The fact is there are subsets of the gay family that really take a disliking to guys who aren’t anything less than 100 percent manly beefcake. I suppose that’s where their libido goes, which is fine, but do they have to bust on the androgynous guys for being…well…beautiful. I have a very picky libido, and it tends to alert on beautiful androgynous longhaired guys…which unsurprisingly tend to be the subjects of my sexy drawings. One day I showed this sketch to one of my (former) gay friends…

…who immediately snarked that he was one estrogen shot shy of a job at Hooters. Okay…fine…his libido doesn’t go there. Mine does. I don’t object to your fantasy material, kindly don’t object to mine. But I think there is an element of misogyny in this too that needs to be looked at. You’re either a Real Man, or you’re a pussy. A disappointing number of gay males fall for this…trap.

Believe me, I know how it is to be on the receiving end of that static. I know how it eats at you inside, how it makes you stifle yourself. And then how for years how you can find yourself struggling to cut your way out of that blanket of self censorship and just be Yourself, be the person you are. And I’m not really all that fem. Just not lumberjack material. But it’s been hard.

And it seems this mid-term election year, that Not Manly Enough males, and especially transgender kids and adults are in the crosshairs from the usual culture warriors who use hate to harvest votes. So it’s good that they get representation in the popular culture now, more than ever. Especially trans kids, who seem especially vulnerable in the red states now. And especially in any subset of American pop culture where they’re routinely denigrated. Like in video games for instance. I get that. And I approve. Mostly.

But fem and trans are not the same things. This is why you support trans kids with things like counseling specific to their needs, and puberty blockers if that’s necessary, and trans adults with necessary drugs and surgeries, so they’re not always feeling like they’re in the wrong body. But you support little fem boys by letting them wear their dresses if they want, and put on makeup if they want, or however they need to be, just as girlish as they want to be.

I would expect that the Venn Diagram of Androgynous

…and transgender…

…probably has a lot of overlap, as the symbols for each of them suggest. But they are not the same things. And it’s offensive to suggest they are. And fem boys, whether plain faced  (like me) boys next door or beautiful androgynous boys, get enough static from excessively testosteroned males and their Karens. They don’t need it from people who ought to be their natural allies. 

Where I’m going with all this: If there is any hill not worth dying on, it’s arguments about the pronouns of characters in video games. Ultimately it strikes me a lot like arguing about the race of mermaids in Disney movies. So I’ll just put this out here: Fem Boys Need Representation Too.

Please don’t take it from them. And from all of us, even those of us who don’t quite qualify as fem, Because we need to know we are part of the human family too.

And that is all I have to say.

by Bruce | Link | React!

September 19th, 2022

Another Reason To Be Out

Everyone has their type. In retrospect what I was always looking for was that nice boy…someone in a better world that I might have met at a church social or youth coffeehouse like The Lost and Found was. Someone I could take home to mom and she’d be pleased to meet them and invite them to stay for dinner. Someone I’d take to the prom. Someone I could make a life together with.

But I came of age in the late 60s/early 70s, and back then all those nice boys were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them. They didn’t want their friends turning on them. They were terrified of getting those looks of disgust. And it’s all the negative crap we were dumped on back then that’s a big part of why…

From A Coming Out Story – Intermission – What I Learned About Homosexuality. . . And Myself (Part 2)

 

So I struggled to find romance and for me at least it just didn’t work. But I’ve seen it work for others, so at least I know it could have. But it was a real long shot given the time I was a gay teenager, and I missed. 

Another reason I am out with it: So what happened to me doesn’t have to happen to other gay kids.

by Bruce | Link | React!


Why I Am Out

This came across my Facebook feed this morning…

Facebook user, JD Doyle kindly scanned its contents and posted on the LGBTQ Heritage/Memorial Project page with a link to a PDF of his scans Here, via the Houston LGBT History website. I browsed through some of it for a while, until it became too irritating to continue. As Doyle says, it is Not an amusing book.

A few days before our 50th class reunion, I had dinner with a classmate who had retired to Florida. He is class of ’73. I mentioned the 50th for ’72 and that I was on the reunion committee and so far the only one in my class willing to be out with it. He looked surprised. Our class size was comparatively small, but not so small there wouldn’t have been anyone else. You can’t possibly be the only one, he says to me. I told him either I’m the only one willing to be out with it, or (thinking of all the times I walked among the Names Project quilts) I’m the only one still alive.

But there was always crap like this book. Mind you, this is apparently published by a gay focused print house, supposedly for a gay audience. “ALL about the gay world! Promising much fun for Fruits, faggots, frumps and their friends – in short – nearly EVERYONE!”

“Pre-Liberation” as one commenter put it. Perhaps it’s what might be better understood as “Gaysploitation”. Someone said, Hey, the Gays will go for this! And so it went to print.

What you see in these pages was the world I came of age in. On TV and in the movies we were either dangerous psychopaths or we were pathetic faggots. When we didn’t get hate we got a rancid pity. It was why I spent my last grade school years in denial, even though I was crushing madly on a classmate. I kept thinking well that isn’t me, therefore I am not a homosexual. It’s something I’ve been documenting in A Coming Out Story.

I am certain it was crap like this that screwed up so many gay teenagers of my generation who still, so many years later, can’t bring themselves to live openly and proudly.

I joke often that I’m geek tribe gay, not fabulous peacock tribe. That I’m not stage I’m stage crew. The fact is we come in all shapes and sizes and colors of the rainbow. We are dazzling peacocks, we are socially awkward computer nerds, we are religious we are agnostics we are atheists, we are athletes we are Harry Homeowners tending our lawns, we are doctors, lawyers, clerks, homebodies. We Are.

And every time push abruptly comes to shove and I have to suddenly decide whether to be out with it or duck, it’s the pre-liberation stereotypes in this book that are tapping me on the shoulder. I know what my generation was taught to think of people like me. And so I dig in my heels one more time…

Yes I am. Whatever you might have been thinking that means, you probably need to think again.

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

September 13th, 2022

How Nuclear Reactors And Democracies Fail

YouTube recently started feeding me clips from the HBO docu-drama series on Chernobyl. I’d never watched it or even knew of it, and the clips are mesmerizing, and especially every scene in it with Jared Harris’ Valery Legasov.

This exchange is brutal. Understand that this happens well after Legasov was at Chernobyl, and knows that the radiation he received there, even at the distance he was from the reactor, will kill him in a few short years. He is giving testimony as to what caused the explosion to party officials and he is a man who has nothing left to lose. He is going to tell the Party what it does not want to hear. Because he knows Chernobyl has killed him. Because he is not afraid of the Party anymore. Because it is the truth.

Judge Milan Kadnikov: Professor Legasov, if you mean to suggest the Soviet State is somehow responsible for what happened, then I must warn you, you are treading on dangerous ground.

Valery Legasov: I’ve already trod on dangerous ground. We’re on dangerous ground right now, because of our secrets and our lies. They are practically what define us. When the truth offends, we lie and lie until we can no longer remember it is even there, but it is still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid. That is how an RBMK reactor core explodes. Lies.

This was pure gold. It’s meaning goes beyond Chernobyl:

Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.

Trump. MAGA. Fox News. The election was stolen. January 6. Or if that isn’t good enough, just pick any of the other lies they’ve been waving in our faces. Your LGBT neighbors have had them yelled in our faces for decades. Every lie incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid. That is how democracy fails. That is how we fail as human beings. Lies.

by Bruce | Link | React!

September 7th, 2022

Normal

From our The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same department…

Facebook helpfully gives me a memory from 2017 that involved a letter to the editor that I should have noted here too. So let me correct that now, and also for a few certain someones I know on both sides of the Gay/Straight divide who still don’t get it.

It was the first thing I saw in my custom Google LGBT news feed. It was an editorial, but more like an extended letter to the editor, in the Michigan Daily Journal titled “I’m Not Gay, I’m Normal”. It’s from a gay guy proudly proclaiming his normalcy against the great Gay Lifestyle of sex, drugs, glitter, and dance clubs. Wow. I hadn’t seen one of those in a while, and seeing this one that morning was almost kinda reassuring. In a time when proud of itself ignorance and laughing knuckle dragging jingoism are strutting around everywhere en mass, it’s oddly comforting to see the common everyday little jackass stupidities are still dutifully carrying on out there.

Listen to me: normal, in the sense you are using it, is a mirage. It insists that it’s something real but it is completely relative. Your Michigan (the writer’s) accent might seem perfectly normal in Michigan, but plop you in the deep south and everyone will notice that you talk funny. Suddenly you are not normal anymore. And yet, you are still you. Go back to Michigan, presto, normal again. Think you dress normal? Maybe for an American. Long hair? Short hair? Beard? Clean shaven? Christian? White? If normal was a point on a compass it would change directions every time you took a step.

And here’s the thing: if your problem with urban gay club culture is it seems shallow to you, consider that conforming to a chimera of normalcy is just as shallow. Taking your measure against something you are not is the embodiment of shallow. Never mind who you aren’t.

When I was a wee lad, just starting to take an interest in painting and drawing, I had an intuition that style was something more related to how your hand is wired to your brain than anything else, and to just let mine happen on its own. I worry about the mechanics of drawing, perspective, light, anatomy, that sort of thing. To the degree I worry about composition it’s how mine flow and what sort of emotion is evoked. My style is what it is.

That works for more than art. Your style of living has a lot to do with how your brain is wired, plus the experience you gather as you walk through life. Experience changes us, but it does its work on the bedrock of our flesh and blood biology. Forget normal. Be a decent person and let your style be whatever it is. And never forget that normal is just a passing coincidence. It’s not important. Decency is important.

I’ve seen this I’m Not Gay I’m Normal argument in one form or another over and over and over and over since the ’70s. And as someone who experiences being in a scene like it’s an itchy sweater, I can appreciate expressions of discomfort, even resentment, over being given one default scene you either fit into or you don’t. But that’s an illusion of choice. There are many scenes. Infinite variety. You will not fit into most of them. That’s okay. If you’re worrying about what scene you fit into you are worrying about the wrong thing.

by Bruce | Link | React!

September 3rd, 2022

Baggage

There’s the baggage you carry that’s yours, that got dumped onto you at some point in your life, and then there’s the baggage you carry that belongs to others. Oftentimes you will be told that you don’t have to carry someone else’s baggage too. But letting go of theirs is not always easy, let alone possible. More often than not it’s easier to let go of your own, because that’s something you have control over. 

I retired last February, spent some time with my brother out in California, then came back to my little Baltimore rowhouse and began the work of integrating what was in my office at the Institute into my house. In my previous post, Walking Through Hell To Get To Heaven I mentioned that after working for 23 years and a few weeks for the Space Telescope Science Institute I’d managed to get a few awards and recognition for the work I did, along with some photos with the astronauts, and that now I was trying to find a place for it all on my den walls.

It’s been going through all that, seeing for myself the evidence of work I did on Hubble, James Webb, and Roman, over the course of nearly half my adult working life, that I think I’ve finally shaken off the low expectations laid on me when I was a kid. I’ll be 69 in a few days. It’s taken that long, and seeing that I might not have enough room on my den walls for all my awards and certificates.

I’m still the weird art kid I always was, still the techno nerd, still the guy in the conversation who can pull out all sorts of strange references out at a moment’s notice because he sees a connection others probably just find…you know…Weird. It’s taken me this long to allow myself to be that and not let that Weird Geek Kid baggage attach to me anymore. I’m retired. I don’t care. You get this close to the end of the road and it improves your perspective about things like that.

Homophobia for example. For most of my adult life I believed that I avoided a lot of internalized homophobia because it was falling in love with a classmate that woke me up to the reality of my sexual nature. But while I never hated myself, never felt the least bit of shame about it, the cultural hatred and contempt still left its mark. You get the boot from one workplace after another when they find out they hired a faggot and eventually you come to expect it. Low expectations again. And I have met lots of gay men who were smart, kind hearted, hard working, thoroughly decent people living well below their potential because striving for something better just hurt too much. 

All my adult life I searched for someone to love and cherish and make a life together with.  Someone decent, honest, responsible. Someone that in a better world I might have met at a church social or youth retreat or a coffee house like The Lost And Found. But the good boys of my generation were terrified. They didn’t want their parents to hate them, the didn’t want God to hate them. And should their parents have found out anyway, and told them to pack themselves off to a therapist or a nice ex-gay ministry, they’d pack their bags and dutifully headed to the nearest one. Yes mom, yes dad, I will put my heart and my soul and whatever fulfilled and contented love life I might have had, put them in this little coffin and bury it. Because I am your good son.

They talk about sin. I don’t think they really get the concept. Sin is telling a kid they’re worthless and making them believe it. Sin is poisoning a kid’s ability to love and accept love from another right at the cusp of their adulthood. 

We all carried that baggage to some degree back then. And still do. For many in my generation it will always be a time before Stonewall. But the painful thing to realize is we carry each other’s baggage too. I carry your baggage, as well as mine. In our solitude. In our loneliness.

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

August 31st, 2022

…But What Are You?

Delta Airlines ad from 1973…

To the guys that bellyached all through our struggle for the right to marry about how promiscuous gay men are…

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

June 8th, 2022

One More Thing…

Fear of guns is not irrational, the way homophobia is. Guns are dangerous. They’re weapons. That is their purpose. To say same sex marriage is dangerous to society, the nation and humanity is beyond ridiculous, it is perverse.

To love and accept love from another, and everything that goes with it, being trustworthy, honesty, kindness, sympathy, without these things all we have is the jungle. They say that love makes the world go ’round, but it’s the very things that love cultivates in a person, that make civilization possible.

There’s a tombstone in Washington DC that reads: When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one. It took a lot of hard work and struggle, but now they’d have given him and his boyfriend a wedding if that was in the cards for them. And every time I have to choose between the politician who would let me have a gun but not a wedding, versus a politician that would let me have a wedding but not a gun, I will, with some regret but unhesitatingly vote for the wedding over the gun. To regard guns as dangerous things is not irrational, it is obvious. To regard same sex love and romance as dangerous is deranged. Too many people are these days.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on One More Thing…

December 18th, 2021

The Abuser And The Abused

This from Wayne Besen’s Truth Wins Out

Gay Sex Spree by ‘Ex-Gay’ Freedom March Founder Leads TWO to Call on Fraudulent Group to Shut Down

DELRAY BEACH, FL – Truth Wins Out condemned Freedom March founder Jeffrey McCall today as a hypocritical fraud after he admitted online to multiple hookups and romantic attachments with men, even as he continues to shamelessly lead “Freedom March” parades of so-called “ex-gays”.

Dig it. He was hooking up with guys at the same time he’s leading his ex-gay Freedom March. Wayne asked me to do a cartoon about that for the last one they held in Washington DC…

 

It was one of the easier assignments I’ve had, because I’ve watched this dismal march happening so many times before. And at my age it’s getting really tiresome to watch this keep happening, and the obvious lesson is never learned.

Wayne quotes this passage from his confession:

In 2020 I met someone that I was trying to help (I was helping in other ways he didn’t deal with SSA) which lead to me being unfaithful to Jesus and giving my heart away. After denying what I wanted with him I then went on to fall sexually with a man when I felt wounded and lonely. This lead to multiple falls with men over time. (None of these men were Christians or people from ministry) Everytime I fell I would truly repent and turn away again. I would feel Gods love, mercy, and forgiveness sometimes before I could even finish the prayer.

As they say, Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven. And forgiven. And forgiven. And forgiven. And forgiven… 

And above all: not responsible.

It would be simple to look at McCall as another victim of homophobic religion. We can point our fingers at the Franklin Grahams, the Tony Perkins, the Pat Robertsons, the James Dobsons. But like a junkie supporting his habit by selling junk to others, McCall has to know what it is he’s doing to his customers, because it’s doing it to him. He is no politically powerful heterosexual harvesting hate for even more power…someone who doesn’t have to live with what he’s doing to others. McCall knows what it does. He is living it.

They say the reason we’re homosexual is we were abused as children. But we are as we are, whether we have brown eyes or blue, black hair or blond, are gay or straight, or every color of the rainbow in between. We bear within us every day or our lives a living history of millions of years of life on earth. And deep within is the command to love and be loved. For some of us, love is another man. It is written in our flesh and blood. There is something terribly poignant in McCall’s confession of giving his heart away to another man as though it was an awful sin and not his human birthright. His abusers teach us to be afraid of love, so they can build their stepping stones to heaven out of the broken pieces of our hearts, so they can harvest votes from the hate that is strangling our lives. You want to forgive McCall since he’s a victim also. Then you remember he keeps making himself a willing accomplice, despite the fact that he has loved. And so the abused becomes the abuser.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Abuser And The Abused

December 8th, 2021

Crap News Fatigue…Let Me Tell You About It…

I was reading a news article yesterday about the guy who let the Crumbleys into his art loft and they started hiding out in it. It said he didn’t watch the news, so he had no idea they were on the run. The cops believe him. Reading that article, I believed him too. Reading the news these days is very stressful for me, and I’m a Nixon/Vietnam/Cold War/Duck And Cover/Kennedy and King assassinations era kid. But commercial mainstream news is way different now than it was then.

Case in Point: The current feckless mainstream media howling about the Vice President’s personal security tactics. I’ve seen nothing about it that strikes me as anything other than completely sensible for a person in her position now, and back when she was California AG. Politico did an entire thing the other day about the fact that Harris uses wired earbuds instead of Bluetooth.

Most commercial news these days is crap, designed to keep us agitated because apparently that keeps us addicted to it. I have a carefully curated Google news page and some select Twitter accounts I follow for links, but I am careful to look for sources that, like Joe Friday once said, are just the facts ma’am. And when I feel myself getting wired I break off and go do something else.

It’s a struggle to stay informed and sane at the same time these days. I don’t blame the poor guy who let in the Crumbleys for not paying attention to the news. On the other hand it nearly got him arrested as an accomplice. Ignorance is bliss like heroin is.

 

[UPDATE…] The comments to that twitter thread by Alex Thompson of Politico are withering. Tons of IT folks weighing in about wireless security and Bluetooth. But my favorite is the user who called Politico the Tiger Beat of the Potomac. Yeah…that. Exactly.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Crap News Fatigue…Let Me Tell You About It…

August 10th, 2021

Survivor’s Reactions To “Pray Away”

I’m seeing some reactions to the documentary “Pray Away” now from survivors of conversion therapy. The main criticism looks to be the film’s focus on the leaders of the various groups showcased. There’s a lot of hurt here, wounds deeper I think than any of us who didn’t go through it will ever know, even those of us gay folk who grew up under the cold icy glare of cultural hate that came at us from all directions back in the 60s, 70s, 80s… We need to listen to them because this is their story. Because these wounds aren’t healed simply because the doors to some of these places have since closed, and their operators have renounced the practices.

The following was posted by a friend on Facebook, Jeff Harwood. I would strongly suggest that anyone who watches that film, also take time to seek out and listen to the other voices of those who were there.

Thoughts on Pray Away:

I just finished watching the documentary Pray Away. I want to document just a few of my thoughts.

1) Seeing myself on screen was painful. I completely remember that occasion. 20/20 had come to Love in Action to film interviews with some of the clients. The piece they aired was promoting and humanizing conversion therapy. At the time, we all believed we were doing the right thing. Looking at us now, all I see is a group of men who are fucking miserable. There were plenty of times while watching that I was unable to look at the screen and had to struggle to even just listen to what was being said.

2) The entire ex-gay movement, then and now, is a cult. I am disappointed that the documentary didn’t make this clearer. I am not surprised that Ricky Chelette and Anne Paulk refused to be interviewed. They are cult leaders, and they must control their narrative and how they are perceived by the members of the cult. Since they weren’t interviewed, they can now continue to play the victim and further reinforce their elitism to their followers.

3) Several times throughout the documentary individuals refer to their brokenness. I place the blame of the this squarely on the teachings of the Church Universal. You are taught from an early age that who you are at your core is sinful and heinous. (I can still quote the verses verbatim. The one that sticks with me the most is, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9) You are taught that you cannot trust yourself and that you must be circumspect of all your intentions and feelings. That teaching warps your heart and your psyche. It prepares you to fully accept that your only hope lies outside of yourself. It leaves you vulnerable and exposed. If you are part of the LGBTQ+ community, it leaves you susceptible to these cult leaders.

4) I wish that the documentary had touched more on the damage that conversion therapy does. I am disappointed that it continues the narrative of trying to humanize those who are still in leadership of the ex-gay movement. I have only seen two films that truly touch on the damage of conversion therapy, Save Me (2007) and Kidnapped for Christ (2014).

5) I am disappointed that the damage done by conversion therapy was couched in terms of spirituality. The majority of survivors are struggling with mental and emotional trauma. Many of us don’t give one flying flip-fuck about the spirituality of it all.

I am certain that I will have more thoughts in the days to come. However, this is all I have right now.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Survivor’s Reactions To “Pray Away”

April 3rd, 2021

The Heart Of A Coming Out Story…Not A Person, But A Time And Place

In October 2006 I put episode 6 of A Coming Out Story on my website. That would have been a month after I finally reconnected with the object of my affections in the story. I was probably working on it when that happened. It was over a year before I finished the next one. Before then I had no idea what had happened to him. I started doing the cartoon story in large part to try and process what had happened to me back in high school, and maybe make a statement about how it was to be a gay teenager in 1971. Fact is, I was beginning to believe I would never find him again, never know what happened to him.

He was a class behind mine. His family moved out of the country shortly after I graduated. It was very sudden, or so it seemed to me. I had no idea he was going. I was devastated. For decades I searched for him. I never stopped trying to find a boyfriend elsewhere, but that first love is something that strikes deep into you. I had to know what had become of him. Especially after the AIDS plague hit us. After that first viewing of the Names Project quilt on the Washington Mall, I had nightmares of walking among the panels and suddenly finding one with his name on it. Sometimes, oddly, I still have this nightmare.

So I kept looking. But after the years passed I figured that when I found him again he’d be happily settled down with a much more good looking guy…possibly some beautiful Brazilian guy and they’d be living in something like married bliss and I’d just have to accept it. He was a catch. Jaw droppingly beautiful, decent, good hearted, hard working, always a busy bee. I knew he would not have wanted for suiters. It’s what scared me about him. In the age of AIDS, he could easily  have been taken away by the virus. So many were. 

So I kept looking. When computers and modems and BBSs came about, I would occasionally toss little messages in a bottle out into the cyber void to see if he might reply…

Hello…are you out there…do you remember…

I heard nothing back. Later I learned he was on GeoCities but apparently not out in the larger net. So we never crossed paths that way.

I eventually found him again in a phone directory. He was here in this country, working at Disney World. Anxious, sweating profusely, I gave him a call. Thankfully what I got his answering machine instead of him or I might have just choked and hung up. And I heard his voice again for the first time in decades. It’s amazing how after all that time I knew instantly it was him, even before my brain processed the words on his answering machine, by the sound of his voice. It took me back decades. Suddenly I was that awkward geeky terrified teenage boy again.

I hung up on the answering machine. Then I wrote a script, practiced it several times, and called back. Thankfully I got the answering machine again and I spoke my lines and hung up. And waited. And waited. It was agonizing. On the walk home from work I noticed a call I’d missed on the iPhone and there was voice mail and OhMyGodIt’sHim!!!!  I waited until I got home to call back. He was glad to hear from me. We chatted for over an hour, catching up on this and that. It was the first of many calls in that first couple of years. I talked about my love for him back in high school and he remembered our times in the library and on the walk to his motorcycle. And he coaxed me into coming down to Disney World, a thing I’d had no interest in at all until then. I wanted to much to see him, but I wasn’t into theme parks of any sort. Come on man, it’s your heritage…baseball apple pie and Mickey Mouse…what’s wrong with you.  So I went the following spring. And we laid eyes on each other for the first time in decades, and it was like those high school days all over again. But that…that…turned out to be a two-edged sword.

For some of us, of a certain generation, it will always be a time before Stonewall. I know that a little better now.

It was October of 2006 that we reconnected. I published the episode of ACOS I’d been working on in November. It took nearly a year for me to wrest another one out of me. And it is still hard. The story doesn’t have a happy ending. But I’m still working on it. Because it needs to be told how that magical time of first love and awakening desire was stolen from so many of us, turned into a nightmare, so righteous people could make their stepping stones to heaven out of our hearts. Out of our lives.

I will never forget that first love. I tried afterward to find another. But what I was looking for, what I am always looking for, I would have probably found pretty quickly in a better world, at a church social, or a teen coffee house, or some social event organized by caring adults, where gay teens could meet and you didn’t have to worry about whether the one you were crushing on was straight and just not for you. Somewhere in some better world where I could have met a nice guy. But it was 1971, and all those nice guys were terrified. They didn’t want their families to hate them. They didn’t want God to hate them. They didn’t want to hate themselves more. And so it went.

I will never forget the awe and wonder and joy of that first love. And I will never forgive the ones who stole it from me…and from so many of us. You butchers. We were just kids. There was nothing wrong with us. There was never anything wrong with us. And you put knives into our hearts so you could be righteous. You monsters. I am an atheist now. It’s nothing to do with religious hatred against me and my kind. It was simply that belief just stopped making sense to me. But if there is a God Almighty, I would rather stand there at Judgement Day a proud homosexual, with every time I ever took another man into my arms laid out before me, than have to account for what you people did to so many innocent and pure hearts. You Monsters!

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Heart Of A Coming Out Story…Not A Person, But A Time And Place

March 22nd, 2021

That Joke About The Man Whose Truck Left Him…

Speaking of that joke about how, with the advent of self driving cars, the day is coming when someone writes a country western song about a man whose truck left him…  It seems the gay mayor of Fort Lauderdale Florida has stepped into it…

Antigay Florida Activist: Same-Sex Marriage Like Marrying a Volkswagen

After Fort Lauderdale, Fla.’s gay mayor honored an anti-LGBTQ+ church on its 60th anniversary, an activist who has a relationship with the church has likened same-sex marriage to marrying a Volkswagen.

At Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, Mayor Dean Trantalis presented a proclamation recognizing the 60th anniversary of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and the 50th anniversary of its affiliated private school, Westminster Academy. Both were founded by D. James Kennedy, an anti-LGBTQ+ minister, and are located in Fort Lauderdale.

Kennedy died in 2007, but his D. James Kennedy Ministries continues spreading homophobia and transphobia…

You have to wonder what Trantalis was thinking. Well no…we know what he was thinking because he said it when it hit the gay news networks earlier…

It’s time to build a future based on love and not hate. And it’s time for those who still harbor resentment to let go of it. I know I have. And I know our community is better off for it.

And just who would that community be Dean? Anyone who never walked among the Names Project quilt, terrified of spotting one someone made for their high school crush? Someone who doesn’t bother to read the newspaper stories about gay bashings and murders by young heterosexual males all hopped up on the religious hate fed to them by churches like Coral Ridge, because they know it will never happen to respectible and discreet homosexuals such as themselves?

But it gets better. When the wholly predictable torrent of criticism from the rest of the gay community came rushing in, naturally Coral Ridge just couldn’t keep its mouth shut…

Wright claimed that gay activists are pawns in a socialist plot to destroy marriage and the family, and make everyone dependent on government. “I hate to break it to them, but many of our gay and lesbian friends, they’ve just been used by the left to destroy the historic definition of marriage and changed the criteria to only be that of love,” he said. “If two people love each other, or some guy and his Volkswagen, he loves his Volkswagen, he ought to be able to marry his Volkswagen.”

I know how difficult it must have been for you to break it to us Frank. On a scale of 1 to 10 how painful was it? Less than zero?

I swear there are days when you start thinking that everything old is new again. But no…it’s still old. This is such an old trope among the kook pews. If a man can marry another man, why not let him marry a car…or a TV set…or a toaster…or his dog…? You say you love each other? Well I love my dog but it doesn’t mean I can marry it. I’ve been hearing this one ever since my days on USENET. And never mind how it speaks to their total dehumanization of the homosexual Other. Pull it apart and you find that it’s instructive as to how they themselves perceive marriage. If love isn’t critical to marriage, as it turns out neither is consent.

Automobiles can’t consent. They’re not living things, as often as we owners anthropomorphize them all the same. Yes, I’ve even given my car a name. I’ve given names to all my cars. But…hear me out now…they’re cars. Machines. Machines can’t consent. Nor can any other inanimate object or animal or child. And it seems in that subset of American religiosity, neither do wives. What wives do is gracefully submit to their husbands.

Real men take wives…they don’t do something as sissified as ask for their hand in marriage. That is why love cannot be the central fact of marriage. The central fact of marriage is the authority of the man over the woman. Nothing else matters. Certainly not love.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on That Joke About The Man Whose Truck Left Him…

March 16th, 2021

Please Keep Safe

I learned a couple days ago that a fellow member of the LGBT BBS I was a part of once upon a time passed away due to COVID-19. I hadn’t heard anything so I went looking on his Facebook page and there it was, but I was dreading it for a while.

What scares me is how fast it happened. Three weeks ago he was in our usual Friday happy hour Zoom and looked his usual self. Then I heard he was in the hospital intubated. Then I heard his kidneys had failed. It seems soon after his heart also failed and that was that. I think he was maybe ten years younger than me. Not all that old, but not young either. But he had no health issues. He was fine. And then suddenly he wasn’t.

I’m so sorry this happened to him. There’s an impulse to ask if anyone knows how he caught it, and I understand completely. You want to know what happened so you can refine your own calculations of risk. But as any of us who lived through the time of AIDS, before the virus was as well understood as it is today, before the treatments and PrEP, in all those calculations is an irreducible element of chance. Yes you may have taken this or that precaution, and yes it would have improved your odds. But the fact is if you survived the plague, you were lucky. There is going to be a lot of free floating survivor’s guilt after this thing has largely passed (HIV is still out there by the way…), and all I can offer for it is turning grief and remembrance into activism, and not to let the usual suspects try to sweep what happened under the rug, like they will, because god forbid we ever learn that taking care of one another is actually something we the people can do via government, and should do, to keep civilization going when the going gets really really bad.

And as for myself, maybe next time some anti-masker sneers at me for wearing mine, and for getting my vaccination, I’ll punch them in the face in memory of those who aren’t there to do the job themselves.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Please Keep Safe

Visit The Woodward Class of '72 Reunion Website For Fun And Memories, WoodwardClassOf72.com


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