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February 19th, 2024

A Thread On AIDS In The 80s/90s

I still log onto Twitter/X every now and then and this is why. Despite the gutter Musk has dragged it into there is still the story of the human status to find in there. This was posted by  Matthew Hodson (@Matthew_Hodson). I also lived through that period of time. This is how it was.

——

A thread on #AIDS in the 80s/90s

Matthew Hodson (@Matthew_Hodson)

 

I was 15 when I first had sex with a man.

I’d snuck off to London’s Heaven nightclub with the express intent of ridding myself of my ‘gay virginity’, a goal I achieved easily with a visiting American photographer.

Later that week, I watched with rising panic the Horizon documentary, Killer in the Village.

It warned of a new disease that was killing gay Americans. A few cases had just been identified in the UK too.

At that time, the disease did not have a name.

We now know it as AIDS.

 

The government’s ’Don’t Die of Ignorance’ HIV advertising campaign, featuring icebergs, a tombstone and a doom-laden voiceover, came out a couple of years later when I was in my first year at university.

At the same time Section 28, inserted into the Local Government Act in an attempt to ban “the promotion of homosexuality”, started making its way through Parliament.

The ‘gay plague’, as the tabloids dubbed it, was all the justification needed for politicians, journalists and religious leaders to condemn our sick and short lives.
AIDS provided a powerful new weapon for those who wished to attack us.

My love life at the time was complicated and messy, often fuelled by alcohol and poor judgement.

I considered myself to be safe – I almost always used condoms but there were slips and breakages and mornings where I woke up with only hazy memories of the night before.

And then my friends started dying.

Death and grief were bound up in my experience of being young and gay.

And it didn’t even feel odd – a community dealing with fear and loss was the only one I knew.

I still picture those I lost: wise, twinkly Mick, a member of the Gay Liberation Front and the first person I knew with HIV; Roy, who denied his illness beyond the time when all of his friends knew; handsome James – and his legendary parties.

I think of David who took his own life rather than face lingering death, and I think of Derek, who loved beauty but lost his sight.

I think of Ian, always the smartest but kindest man in the room, and of Paul with his huge blue eyes and even bigger heart.

Fear, hatred and intolerance of homosexuality, attitudes which were then widely shared across all regions and social classes, combined with a virus to kill people like me and people like my friends.

It was AIDS that killed those men, but it was homophobia that allowed it to happen – and that led to so many men dying alone.

Homophobia killed us then.

Worldwide, it remains the cause of thousands of deaths, through violence and neglect, even today.

An HIV diagnosis is no longer a death sentence.

We need to share the good news that treatment will prevent AIDS.

We must challenge fear by ensuring that everyone knows effective treatment means we can’t pass HIV on to our sexual partners.

Just as we fought for greater acceptance of LGBT people, we now must fight to end HIV stigma if we are to end this epidemic.

I can think of no better way of honouring those who died.  #LGBTplusHM #UnderTheScope

 

 

Postscript

In 1996 effective treatment was introduced that prevented HIV from progressing to AIDS.

I was diagnosed with HIV in 1998.

I was 30.

At the time I did not expect to live to 50.

I will be 57 this year. #MakeStigmaHistory

by Bruce | Link | React!

January 21st, 2024

Survivors’ Tales

I hadn’t used my Netflix account for a long time and needed to reestablish my credentials on the Roku. The idea was to finally watch Pray Away, the Netflix documentary about the rise and fall of ex-gay ministries like Love In Action and Exodus. When I was able to get my account working with a new password, and some updated profile info, I found the documentary and first watched the trailer. Then I became too depressed to actually watch the documentary. But probably will later.

I never went through anything like that, although I’ve often wondered whether mom would have done it to me had I come directly out to her. I’ve written about that elsewhere, and touched on it in A Coming Out Story. So I don’t have those particular scars on my heart. Mine are different. But I lived through those times, and made friends of people who were there, by choice and not. Revisiting it is difficult, even for the likes of me, who never felt any shame, never believed that God hated him. That torrent of abuse you got from every direction got to all of us, worked its way deep inside.

I might not even be the audience for this documentary. I don’t need convincing about how toxic the practice is. But I do now firmly believe that much of the progress we’ve made to that better world where we can all live honest lives, has been because people who’ve been through this have found their voices and have spoken out. If you need any convincing that sexual orientation is biologically innate and cannot be therapied out of, listen to the people who tried really hard, and then listen to the people who ran those outfits and finally had to stop because they could not keep lying to their customers anymore, or to themselves about what they were doing to them.

by Bruce | Link | React!

January 10th, 2024

Senselessness

Nate Postlethwait, who I follow on Facebook, writes about healing from childhood trauma, but I find that much of what he says makes sense from the point of view of gay adults like myself, who had to endure decades of emotional abuse starting in adolescence, when our sexual orientation began to make itself insistent. You can argue that we started feeling it even before then, when it was only a half awareness that we were different somehow, in some really really bad way, that we had to hide from the world, and ourselves…


A Coming Out Story – Episode 18, What I Learned About Homosexuality Part 2

…but it was when those first crushes happened that you really knew you weren’t just different, you were an abomination. And back when I came of age, the abuse came from every direction. From the pulpit of course, but also from the TV, the newspapers, the magazines…


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

And it did its work on you, even if, like me, you came out to yourself in the magic of first love. I was 17 and I thought it was the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me. And I never felt a shred of shame about it. He was beautiful. He was decent. He was the sort of guy I could have brought home to mom in a better world, knowing she would take to him instantly and approve of our relationship. But it wasn’t that better world that I came of age in.

In my early twenties I went to my first Pride Day in downtown Washington DC’s gay neighborhood. Anita Bryant had waged a war on a simple non-discrimination law protecting gay people by throwing every filthy lie about us she could think up and it went down in flames. I was angry, and motivated to activism. I swore I would not allow the homophobia I just witnessed to touch my heart.

But it did. I’m 70 now. I will die having walked an entire adult life without finding love, with the scars all over my heart. Proud though I was, I came of age in a dating pool that was mostly terrified, or in denial. For a while I would post stories every Valentine’s Day about being a young gay man trying to find love in a culture that threw contempt and hate at us from every direction

The magnitude of what was taken from us, so righteous people could make their stepping stones to heaven out of the pieces of our hearts, is nearly impossible to grasp.

And I have tried for decades to understand that mindset. The books I have read. The studies I have examined. The conversations I’ve sat in on. And I’m thinking, What’s Wrong With Them??? No, seriously, what the Hell Is Wrong With Them??? Read about Christian Identity, the religion of the Neo-Nazis sometime and see if it doesn’t make your head spin.

I have never found any answers I could be satisfied with. But now at last, at the doorstep to 70, I think maybe I can just let go of the question.

Postlethwait put this up on his Facebook page today…

It feels so much like just throwing up your hands and giving up, and that runs against every inner instinct I have. I’m a geek…I have to know. It might even be hard wired into me like my sexual orientation. But I’ve done my best and all I have to show for it is a better understanding of how bigotry and hate embodies in people, how culture shapes the forms it takes, how to recognize the bedrock of hate in mass movements though they may claim a landscape of heritage, faith, and moral tradition. All that is good, but the why of it is as elusive as ever.

It can be that. The physicist Richard Feynman once wrote…

“I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong. I have approximate answers and possible beliefs and different degrees of uncertainty about different things, but I am not absolutely sure of anything and there are many things I don’t know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask why we’re here. I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn’t frighten me.”

There’s a scene in the TV miniseries, The Winds of War, I forget which episode now but it taps me on the shoulder at times, with Pug in FDR’s rail car and he’s talking to the president about what he’s seen and experienced in Germany. FDR says wistfully that Germans are a hard people to understand, and Pug replies “The only thing we need to know about the Germans is how to beat them.” Now, that’s a military man talking and I can appreciate that from his vantage point that’s really all he needs to know about a potential enemy. But FDR would want to know more because his job isn’t as focused on the one thing that Pug’s is. Still, it’s a good line. I’ve thought of it often during the course of this civil rights struggle.

The only thing we need to know about bigots is how to beat them. You will never make sense of their hate because there is no sense to it.

Activism can be a way of not dealing with your personal pain, even as you acknowledge it. And prejudice taught me there was something wrong with me. Despite all the activism and all the pride, deep down inside I believed it.

I’m my father’s son. I’m the product of a broken home. An only child. Weird. Not masculine enough. Takes excessive interest in personal art projects, as my first grade teacher wrote in my file. The kid that uses big words. Introverted. Homosexual. Ugly. No fashion sense. 

This is how being bullied, not just by the other kids but by adults in your life, corrodes your sense of self. There was nothing wrong with me. I was a kid, finding his way in the world like all the others. And if you’re reading this and you feel it too, then know that there was nothing wrong with you.

I’m my father’s son, but I am not my father. I was raised by a single divorced mother but she loved me and set a good example for me and I’ll have the so-called broken home I grew up in over every traditional family I’ve ever witnessed that can’t stop fighting with each other. Only children aren’t the selfish self centered stereotypes we’re made to be; self motivation and independence are our strengths. We make friends and fall in love like everyone else, but we are almost preternaturally good at keeping ourselves company and we are not going to beg for your attention. Gay people experience the joys of love and desire like anyone else. Introverts just need a little more quiet time than others is all; we get that time to recharge and we’re fine. Ugly is as much a slur as any racist slur against the person within because of how they look. There is no such thing as having excessive interest in your art because art is the joy of being alive. I didn’t use big words so much as I had a big vocabulary because I read so much, and that’s a good thing because reading grows you from inside. If there is no such thing as having an excessive interest in your art, there is also no such thing as having too many books. And I have lived long enough now to see fashions come and go and all you need is to be good with what you see in the mirror.

Sensibility. For when senselessness rears it’s stupid head. You don’t need to know the why of it. There is nothing wrong with you. Do not wear someone else’s labels. It’s not good fashion.

by Bruce | Link | React!

December 5th, 2023

No Rest For The Facebook Weary

At some point after I’ve finished with the next and final-ish episode of A Coming Out Story, I will need to set up a page and sub galleries for my stand alone artwork and sketches. Because all of that I’ve posted on my Facebook page is going away.

Disengaging from online commercial social media may have another benefit besides not having to endure the censor algorithms. Less time with my face in a smartphone app, more time at the drafting table.

The sketches above are for a cartoon I have been trying to get out of me for, no kidding, four years now. A lot of that is my struggling with how sexy to make it and still not go over the line into cheap thrills. I’ve drawn and re-drawn the frames in it many multiple times because I want it to be authentically what I meant without any ridiculous self-censorship. But when all is said and done it’s still my own personal take on a particular song, nobody else’s, and there’s a reason why the character of my libido in A Coming Out Story is wearing a fig leaf. “I’m your libido not Robert Crumb’s libido…

If I’d grown up in a more sexually relaxed culture I probably wouldn’t be fighting with myself about this. Also…being raised in a Yankee Baptist household isn’t helping.

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 19th, 2023

Now For A Little Food For The Soul…

I’m digging back into The Sun And The Star to get the foul taste of Dick Hafer’s comic book out of my mind. I’d put the book down at a crisis point in the story because I wasn’t up to crisis points just then, but I’m back on it now because it’s the story I need after researching all the old homophobic articles and op-ed pieces for this “last” episode of A Coming Out Story.

The one on the left is Will Solace, the demigod son of Apollo, and the one on the right is Nico Di Angelo, the demigod son of Hades. You’d think they were horribly mismatched but in Rick Riordan and Mak Oshiro’s The Sun And The Star they’re a couple on a quest to rescue a friend from the deepest, darkest region of the Underworld. This piece of fan art is probably picturing a scene from the end of the novel The Blood Of Olympus, after defending Camp Half Blood from the attack of giants led by Octavian. It’s a good one…how I picture the two of them. Seems like nearly all the fan art I see of these two picture them like this.

Will has inherited his father’s healing powers, he’s the sweetness and sunshine of the two, and little goth Nico..well…there’s a gruesome scene in that novel where he angrily and literally ghosts a villain and banishes him to Hades while the others look on horrified…

“You took an oath to the legion.” Nico’s breath steamed in the cold. “You broke its rules. You inflicted pain. You killed your own centurion.”

“I-I didn’t! I–“

“You should have died for your crimes,” Nico continued. “That was the punishment. Instead you got exile. You should have stayed away. Your father Orcus may not approve of broken oaths. But my father Hades really doesn’t approve of those who escape punishment.”

“Please!”

The word didn’t make sense to Nico. The Underworld had no mercy. It only had justice.

That sword he wears (they all fight with swords in the novels) is forged from Stygian Iron and he dipped it in the river Styx; it has the power to suck away its victim’s essence. You don’t want to make the little dickens angry. He’s sullen enough all the time anyway. But at the end of that novel he and Will are beginning to click. In the later novels their relationship develops and Will starts coaxing Nico out of his dark shell. Nico has had a very hard life before joining up with the others.

Here’s what draws me to The Sun And The Star: It’s an adventure novel, but its center is a love story about a same-sex couple bravely facing the nightmares of the Underworld together. Because it’s about a teenage couple, and aimed at a largely younger audience, and because it’s a Disney print book (part of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series), they have to keep sex out of it…which is good because it makes them focus on the romance, and it’s those sorts of stories I’ve been missing and aching for ever since I came out to myself in my own teen years. At every crisis point in the story their love is tested, and it gets really scary at times (I put the book down some weeks ago when the two of them were captured by the demon of nightmares who begins forcing Nico to relive some really Really Bad memories…), and their love becomes stronger.

This is the story I want told to me again and again…the story of how love wins. And so terribly often…it doesn’t. And it’s like we’re use to that ending. I’m thinking now of Call Me By Your Name which so many people thought was a Wonderful same sex romance…that ends with Elio staring into a fireplace crying his eyes out.

Books about same-sex love and romance have been my refuge ever since I was a teenager. Movies and television, not so much. But even books were never a sure thing. I loved Mercedes Lackey’s Last Herald-Mage series, which had a terrific love story, interrupted by death, then rebirth, then death again, because that’s how our stories always had to end I suppose.

Certainly that’s what Dick Hafer and all the bigots like him want us to believe. Thankfully I’ve lived to see a time when enough writers and filmmakers don’t believe that anymore, that I can finally get more of the stories I’ve always wanted.

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 18th, 2023

The Bigot’s Kiss

Working on A Coming Out Story and looking for quotes for the “last” episode eventually drags me back into Dick Hafer’s noxious swamp. Sigh. I ordered his Homosexuality: Legitimate Alternate Deathstyle some years ago for the gay studies bookshelves after seeing some of its jaw dropping panels online. If Growing Up Straight: What Every Thoughtful Parent Should Know about Homosexuality is a veritable encyclopedia of homophobia, the Hafer comic is it’s Classics Illustrated version.

And it’s a real doozy. But instructive. Think of it as an extended Jack Chick tract, even including the repenting sinner at the end, plus several pages of instructions as to what to say and what to do to get right with god. All that’s missing is the checklist.

Here’s the thing, and I’m really only noticing it more now due to Fred Clark’s recent posts about the mindset that joins into satanic panics, Q-Anon conspiracies, and suchlike. He writes: “It is always possible to recruit new members to join our cause by telling horrific lies about some group of Other People. But doing so makes those Other People themselves – the ones we’re telling nasty lies about – immune to recruitment.” And he points out the obvious: that’s because those Other People know the truth of their own lives first hand.

The first time you read Hafer’s comic book all you see is that guttural howl of unabridged bigotry and hate. All through the book he refers to gay people as sodomites. You see laughably cheapshit stereotypes of yourself and everyone you know that would be hilarious if you’d never read news headlines about gay bashings and murders all your adult life. But Hafer is at his most energetic when he’s describing our sex lives. The bulk of the comic book is this.

Vito Russo put it best when he said that “It is an old stereotype, that homosexuality has to do only with sex while heterosexuality is multifaceted and embraces love and romance.” Years ago I blogged about the time I had to walk a gauntlet of hard core heterosexual pornography just to get a current copy of my local gay community newspapers, because back in those days the only place you could find anything gay whether it was pornographic or not was in “adult” bookstores. I got an eyeful. But to read Hafer’s comic book you’d think our sex lives were nothing But hard core pornography.

Hafer begins his descent into gay sex hell by starting with…I am not kidding…kissing.

“Not only are their habits disgusting, but they are incredibly harmful and damaging”

“Such as?”

“Kissing”

“Ugh!!”

-Homosexuality: Legitimate Alternate Deathstyle, page 50

This is followed up with descriptions of commonplace sex that most heterosexuals enjoy but which is somehow made disgusting when same sex couples do it. Following that, every extreme sex practice is laid at our feet as though that was all there is to us. He’s very meticulous about it. But the tell is he can’t resist presenting it like it’s one great big comic book joke. The scenes of gay sex acts are presented as much for laughs as for shock value. He can’t resist doing that even when it comes to the routine accusations of homosexual pedophilia. On page 126 he quotes Paul Cameron’s (now regrettably named ) Institute for the Scientific Investigation of Sexuality (ISIS) that 80 percent of student teacher molestations are by homosexuals, next to his drawing of a deranged older man dragging a small boy by the arm and telling him that it’s time for his sex ed class, while the boy says “During recess?!!”. Ha ha ha.

It’s telling that Hafer doesn’t even bother with religious sermonizing in his comic book until near the very end when, like in a Jack Chick tract, the militant homosexual finally repents, followed by several pages of boilerplate step by step instructions on how to be saved. But the lies in the sixty plus pages preceding the sermon are so glaring, the dehumanized scarecrows representing those Other People so shockingly empty of any shred of humanity, what it’s likely to provoke in the gay reader is more shock, anger, and outrage than repentance. It does not hold up a mirror to them that they might be saved, it spits in their faces.

That is its purpose.

If I wasn’t actively collecting hate literature my first reflex would have been to throw it in the trash less than halfway through it. But Hafer’s comic book, like the Chick tracts, isn’t meant for gay people. That scene at the end, like every scene at the end of every Chick tract, is theater. It’s not meant to save anyone because long before they could get to it, the redemptee has become angered at all the insults thrown in their face and has already thrown the tract away.

No. The audience for these books and tracts is the true believer. These are Tijuana bibles for prigs, allowing them to ogle their neighbor’s sex lives, and indulge their own sexual fantasies, while feeling righteous about it, so they don’t have to reckon with the empty wasteland they’ve made of their own lives.

I think the one quote from Hafer that I have in the final ACOS episode is enough. I was sorely tempted to add another panel with that part about kissing though.

by Bruce | Link | React!

November 12th, 2023

Wrapping It Up…But Not Totally…

I’ve got all the pencils done now on the episode of A Coming Out Story I’ve been calling “The Mirror Episode” for a while, since I couldn’t give it an episode number just yet. But it looks now like it will be episode 38 and that’s the end of the story.

Kind of. 

Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m way too damn slow at this because I have no taught skills. I’m just hunting and pecking my lines and every panel is a struggle to get it where I want it. Four years after the heart attack and feeling weirdness in my chest more often lately, I’m not sure how much longer I have to work on this story. So I want to get it into a state of completeness such that when the warranty on my ticker finally runs out the story is out there in a state that I can feel satisfied doesn’t leave my readers hanging, and I can feel like I got it out there, even if I didn’t get it all out there.

So what I’m going to do now is a little different than just tacking on an ending and leaving it at that. I can see that if I put the mirror episode up right after episode 37 then you could say the story I meant to tell (The first person you come out to, is yourself.) was the story I finished. But this is serendipity. #37 just makes it work that way. I had two more, possibly three planned after 37 and that was only after cutting out a bunch more. But I can tack the mirror episode after 37 and now it appears to be “done.”

Except it will still need an epilogue. So that’ll have to come next. But then what I can do is begin a kind of in-filling process, putting back all the stuff I cut out piecemeal just to get it finished (call it The Director’s Cut). Some of it is just little slice-of-1970s teenage high school life that I scripted in there and I cut out after the heart attack. That stuff will be easy to put back in piece by piece. Other cuts will take a bit more work to put back in.

I had a big story arc after the mirror episode about how, after I’d come out to myself, the object of my affections, TK, and I kept circling around each other, flirting but carefully, because in 1972 that line between ambiguous and blatant was very Very dangerous ground.  Then I discover he’d taken summer school and it didn’t dawn on me until afterward, when I suddenly discovered his family moved away, that he did that so he could graduate early.

And then suddenly he was gone. I had an entire story arc about what that sudden lurch from twitterpated bliss into heartbrokenness did to teenage me.

That’s the darkest part of the story. Maybe it’s for the best I don’t do the artwork about me sitting on a bridge over the railroad tracks near the apartment where mom and I lived, waiting for a train to come along so I could jump off in front of it. Or maybe I will someday, or at least write about it, because it wasn’t just that he was suddenly gone. That wasn’t the worst of it.

Understand I went from hating the idea of dating to suddenly falling in love being surprised, delighted and awe stricken over how wonderful it was after all. And then suddenly it was over. Bang, Gone. Without that love struck bliss all the filthy lies about people like me suddenly came crashing back into my consciousness and all I could think was maybe I am just damaged goods after all, maybe this is all I have to look forward to, and I began to hate myself.

People should think about what they’re doing to gay teens when they bombard them with lies about themselves. Most of us get that first big heartbreak shortly after that first big crush, except maybe the very lucky ones. To tell a vulnerable heartbroken kid they deserved it because they’re trash is about as depraved as it gets.

But I don’t know if I have the time to tell all that in a cartoon graphic form.

This is a webcomic and I dove into it ready to exploit all the flexibility that give me. I started by not giving every episode a standard number of frames, but allowing each to have as many as it needed. Eventually, as I began to see it was going to take me much, Much longer than I’d thought to do this thing, I began splitting some of the episodes I had scripted apart and moving things around. That first “Intermission” (TK and the Taco Stand) was supposed to be part of that post out to myself story arc. I moved it forward after I started getting impatient with my slow rate of progress and I just wanted to do something fun. Then later I took what was originally going to be the mirror episode, and split it apart into a bunch of random “intermissions” wherein I’m reading that ‘Truth Of Homosexuality” book by Dr. Pompous J. Fraudquack.

(That was a shout out to Howard Cruse that I wanted Howard to see because I had an intuition that I might not have as much time for that as I’d hoped, so I split up the episode so I could but that part out there and show it to Howard. Alas, I was right…he passed away shortly after I sent him the link, and replied with the cheers and encouragements he always gave me.)

So…yes…this is a web comic. When I “complete” the story with the mirror episode it’ll be finished…but that doesn’t mean I can’t finish it more. I can still infill all the stuff I’d planned, to the degree my health holds out. Eventually I might even gather up the book intermissions and put them at the beginning of the mirror episode as I’d originally intended.

What I wanted is for this to be my testimony about what it was like to be a gay teenager in the beginning 1970s, and how that first love hits you when everything you were told about being gay was wrong, and all the other kids are having their coming of age according to the script and you’re not and you can’t tell anyone what’s happening to you because…well…read those intermissions. They’re actually quotes lifted from actual articles and books about homosexuality sold back then. And besides you are a clueless teenager because that’s where all the lies about people like you left you, so really what would you have to say anyway.

And there was not a teenage boy alive back then that wanted to see the looks of contempt and disgust in their classmate’s faces, let alone their parent’s.

This is my testimony as to what it was like being a gay teenager in the early 1970s. I tried to do it in a mostly humorous cartoon kinda way because that’s how I can look back on all of it now. Somewhat. But this is my testimony. I want it to not be left hanging. I can fill in some detail later.

There’s lots. I’ve had most of it scripted for decades.

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

October 18th, 2023

Thieves

Something that, for some reason, I only posted to my Facebook page a few years ago, that I came across the other day via its “Memories” function and decided it needed a place here…

Back in 2004 I observed Orson Scott Card getting all enthusiastic over the music of K.D. Lang while reviewing what was then her new album, “Hymns of the 49th Parallel”. I wrote at the time…

“You’d almost never know that this is the same man who said that “Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those who flagrantly violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.” Lang has never bothered to hide her Lesbianism, and has taken many a public stand against anti gay discrimination. Yet here Card tells his readers she is “brilliant”. More obscenely, he wishes she could sing just for him, “as a friend.”

It’s one of those long standing grievances LGBT folks have with the majority culture, that we as individuals contribute to it in so many ways, contribute to it with our work, lift it with our art, secure it with our service, and then get spit on whenever someone needs to feel righteous, and maybe build themselves a few more stepping stones to heaven. Expropriation. Something that I wrote about back when Card was bellyaching voraciously after the Massachusetts Supreme Court said that same sex couples have the same right to marry that opposite sex couples do, and he said Homosexuals were stealing something precious from him. Stealing from us however is a right.

And they know what they’re doing. All those righteous cake bakers, that want our labor and our art in their world, but won’t pay us the living wage of decency, civility and respect. All the pious frauds taking our services and then stiffing us Trump-like on the social bill. All the culture warrior hate mongers who just love them some K.D. Lang, Elton John, Tchaikovsky, Copland, Haring, Housman, Andersen. This came across my Twitter stream just now. It’s hilarious. And then it isn’t.

When you need the devil to help bake a cake and get thee behind me when it’s done…

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

October 5th, 2023

How Many More Dear God…How Many More…

Gay teen, terrified of his emerging sexuality, falls into a hyper conservative Christianity with the usual outcome. Thankfully he drew back from ex-gay therapy figuring (correctly) that it would likely push him over the edge.

I have seen firsthand what this does to people. I wish there was some way to get it more forcefully across, but all there is are testimonies like this one, and a slim hope that someday it’ll finally sink in…

Is My Family Better Off With A Gay Dad Or A Dead Dad?

In order to distract myself from my internal core issues, I spent the next 17 years pouring myself into my marriage, work, and leadership roles within my Churches of Christ congregation. While I prayed daily that God would take away my feelings, the internal conflict persisted, leading to an increased level of self-hatred. I would sometimes go to large Pentecostal church rallies seeking healing, but never divulged my struggle, knowing I would be ‘marked’ and disowned by my community.

Eventually, all this took its toll and brought my life to a crisis around the age of 40. While recovering from major depression, I was under the care of a clinical psychologist. Once again, because of fear, I didn’t divulge my same-sex attraction in these sessions, but I did become aware of the interplay of internalised stress on my wellbeing.

During this time, my anxiety over my homosexuality became unbearable, and I contacted a gay conversion organisation seeking change & healing. I was also dealing with increasing levels of suicidal thoughts. This terrified me. I reached out to a well-known conversion “therapy” organisation, Exodus. After several email interactions, I knew that if I followed through, it would drive me faster down the path to suicide, so I ceased communications.

The years of self-hate had led me to the darkest point of my life…

Read the entire thing Here.

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

August 13th, 2023

Back When Guys Could Be Sexy And Beautiful And Not Worry About Being Queer Baited

It was an all too brief period of time in young American male fashion. But I look back upon it fondly, and reminisce about the life I once had, before the heart attack, before I found myself suddenly knocking at the door to 70 and realizing that dating and mating part of my life is all in the rear view mirror now, and I didn’t even get to partake because back then gay teenagers didn’t exist and gay men were all better off dead than in love.

I have this theory that the fashions and styles we find attractive as adults are what were in vogue when we were coming of age. We glom onto that period and all those first crushes and first heartbreaks, and forever after it’s what gets the heart beating.

The problem for me (artistically and…otherwise) is that while “retro” fashions seem to have made a comeback, it’s only among the ladies. Long hair low risers and cutoffs haven’t made much headway among males young and slender enough that, IMO, they could benefit from them. Okay…so I could benefit from them.

It’s a shame. So when I get an itch to do some sexy sketching I usually end up riffing on photos of pretty young ladies I see online or in magazine fashion ads. When you know the basic skeletal and muscular differences between the sexes it’s not hard to convert female to male if you really, really like what they’re wearing or how they’ve done their hair. This drawing I posting some months ago being a good example…

I actually sold a print of that one.

I have a folder in my NAS of pose material that maybe I’ll get to someday and make a drawing from. Stuff I’ve got from various online sites and Facebook pages. Like the one I just started following a few days ago of 70s memories.

 

That photo was labelled Teenagers hanging out on Van Nuys Blvd. Obviously from the styles and the cars it was taken in the very early 1970s, or maybe even the late 60s. The time of my sexual awakening and that first magical crush. I’m thinking it’s a night shot under very bright street lamps, otherwise why would the sky above that store in the background be so dark. The comments on it are mostly about how street racing at that location was a thing back in the day. Mostly.

I take one look at this photo and instantly the longhair leaning up against the foreground car (check out the mag wheels) gets my attention. Nice jeans, thinks I…okay…I can do something with that. No smirking, please…I didn’t realize at first…. Anyway, it definitely speaks to that time in my life. Those low risers. That long beautiful hair. The floppy sleave shirt. I don’t think many people nowadays get how wide belts were back then, and the huge belt buckles that went with them. You can’t see the feet, but I’m pretty sure those are bells.

So I immediately grab a copy of the image for my “poses” folder. And I’m already thinking about what I need to change around a tad to make her a cute long haired guy…

I’ll have to adjust her pelvis a tad…oh…wait…

Nope. Don’t have to adjust anything.

The pose was just enough to make it unclear which sex you were looking at. What clued me in was figuring out how to change the curve of the hips to the thighs and then realizing that work had already been done for me. I wish I had his jeans too. And the 20-something body I had once upon a time that fit into them.

And…a boyfriend back then.

I wish I had more beautiful guys like that in my world now. Even if, as I said, that part of my life is in the rear view mirror. It would still be nice to have some beauty in my life, even if it’s just to look at now and then. But American males don’t like those styles anymore because HEY ARE YOU SOME KINDA QUEER OR WHAT!? I’m not even all that pretty, and wasn’t back in the day, and I got cat-called lots just for wearing my hair long. I Still get those cat-calls. HEY HIPPY…ARE YOU A BOY OR A GIRL…HAW HAW HAW…

But what’s refreshing about the comments on that photo on that page is there wasn’t any of that. If you remember those days fondly enough to be following 70s memories pages, then you remember that was how guys dressed and wore their hair back then.

And it was all good. At least it was to coming of age gay teenager me.

So…anyway…if I do something with the figure in that photo I’ll post it here. Probably not use the shirt though.

 

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

August 2nd, 2023

Why Bother?

I’ve been working on A Coming Out Story for a couple decades now. I’ve not been promoting it or advertising it anywhere, largely because I am terrible at self promotion. I’m sure the reason for that lies buried somewhere under all the static I got growing up, first for being my father’s son, and then more generally for being gay in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But it’s been a project that, while it began simply as a one shot slice of life cartoon, then turned into something like a self analysis project, it’s become something dear to my heart. That said, when I posted a link to the new current episode on Facebook and a post about my first try at a Flowbee haircut got orders of magnitude more responses, I got a little depressed. Well okay…more than a little.

The visitors here to this website specifically to look for any new episodes have been very gratifying. Also the random visitors who either read an episode that a search engine somehow delivered them to, and then they binge read all of it. That is Very gratifying. And it helps keep me going. But I have other reasons for sticking with this besides artistic recognition.

I dove into this project for several reasons:

  1. To help me understand what happened to me back in my senior year of high school, and how it brought me to the adult I eventually became.

    This part has been pretty well successful. It helped that around episode 11 I reconnected with the object of my affections and I was able, with difficulty, to better understand what happened between us and why it went the way it did. Maybe that’s material for a whole ‘nother story.

  2. To let other gay people of my generation know they weren’t alone. We all pretty much went through it. Some had it lots worse than I did, some much better. We were all damaged, but we survived. We should be proud of that.
  3. To show heterosexual adults, in a mostly humorous way, how it was to be a gay teenager back when gay folk basically got static from Every direction in the popular culture, and hopefully show them that the world really needs to give gay kids a break. We go through all the same stages of first love and first heartbreak everyone else does, but with the added torment of all the cheapshit bar stool prejudices, plus all the myths, lies and superstitions of the pulpit thumpers. It isn’t fair. What should be one of this life’s most magical wonderful times, the discovery of love and desire, gets turned into a long drawn out nightmare so some righteous creeps can make their stepping stones to heaven out of our hopes and dreams.
  4. To let gay kids today know what the struggle was like back when we were kids ourselves. The horrible sex ed class I sat through wasn’t anything out of the ordinary back then. What I was taught was what most people blindly believed about us. I’m planning on concluding this story by imploring the generations to come to delve into our history and keep fighting, or for certain the bigots will bring it all back down on us again.
  5. To tell my side of the story.

That’s it. I’ve begun work on episode 37. This little story arc has three more episodes, then the story comes to it’s main climax/conclusion after than. Maybe another year working on it and it’s done. To give you an idea of how hard it’s been to get this out of me, I had the current episode completely scripted back in 2005 and it finally appears here with only minor changes to the dialogue. I have the rest of it done too, except for the very last episode. I’m still thinking about how to end it.

by Bruce | Link | React!

July 5th, 2023

The Survivor’s Tale

I’ve re-enabled Ex-Gay Watch on my blogroll and added Beyond Ex-Gay to it. I disabled (basically just commented out) Ex-Gay Watch after they shut down. Now they’re back because the darkness is roaring back. The link is a bit different so if you have it bookmarked use the one in my blogroll. I’ve added Beyond Ex-Gay after reading the last passages in Boy Erased and being horrified all over again at what was being done to so many young hearts.

Boy Erased…I finally got my way to the end of it the other day. Christ that was a difficult read…especially those last few pages where the kid curls up in a ball and has a breakdown in his mother’s car and she’s scared to death that he’s going to kill himself and finally decides he’s not going back to Love In Action.

The author of Boy Erased mentioned Beyond Ex-Gay at the end of his book and I realized I hadn’t added it to my blogroll, probably because it’s a private community of survivors and I am not a survivor of ex-gay therapy (just of the ongoing torrent of hate directed at all of us). But others can read the stories they’ve posted and I strongly recommend that to everyone who might be wondering if there isn’t something to it after all.

Yes there is. Evil. The worst kind of evil. The kind of evil that thinks itself righteous.

by Bruce | Link | React!

July 1st, 2023

Winter (in) Summerland…The Dark Side

Facebook gives me memories. Today’s remind me that I was seeing trouble ahead just a couple years after I reconnected with him…

 

I remember this. We’d fallen into a pattern where I’d hang out for a bit after closing and he’d come over to my table and we’d chat for a bit. Some years later I worked up the courage to ask him why we couldn’t just hang out maybe on one of his days off and he told me straight up that wouldn’t happen because he’d made his allegiances and he had to stay inside his comfort zone. So those little after hours chats were all I ever had with him. And almost right away I began to see a darkness within that stunned me. In my hopelessly twitterpated state that was the last thing I expected to see.

It really shook me…

All those years after high school I’d put him up on a pedestal in my memories, and then thirty years later, with that much more life under my belt, I saw the person. And I saw what the world had done to him. And it wasn’t as if I hadn’t seen that before. By that time I’d already been years working with others in my tribe fighting against ex-gay therapy cults like Love In Action and Exodus and I’d listened to the stories of people who’d been put through all that firsthand. It made me angry and it made me determined, but it was easy for me to keep the hurt tucked safely in a place far away from my own personal life. I had escaped all that through luck and my innate stubbornness. But I hadn’t really. I glimpsed it that day and it stunned me and there it was, tapping me on the shoulder, letting me know that none of us escaped being damaged by that torrent of hate we all had to live under. There I was, out and proud and unashamed and willing to take the hits I had to take to live an honest life. And in that moment I saw how much, really, all that mattered. It didn’t. If the world can’t cut us directly, it’ll cut the ones we love and that does the job equally well. None of us escaped it. Not a one.

After high school he vanished from my life and I went on to have a few major crushes, and fell deeply in love two more times. Once disastrously to a straight guy and once more to a gay who mostly just needed someone to fuss over him for a while. I was serious and he was casual and he told me we were just friends with benefits, and that was the end of my quest for love and joy. And the only one among all these who wasn’t damaged in some way by the climate of hate was the straight guy.

I try so hard not to hate the world back. I see all the expressions of love and support during Pride month this year and it helps a lot. I was basking in it a few weeks ago in Walt Disney World, and its surrounding communities. It made me feel fully human and recognised, in a way I just couldn’t when I was a teenager. 

But then I remember what happened… 

by Bruce | Link | React!

May 18th, 2023

Getting Ready For Gay Days…

 

This happened in Orlando the other day.

It’s just a couple weeks to Gay Days in WDW and this is one reason why I’m going there with my cameras. Mostly I just want to enjoy the parks, and being able, finally, to go whenever I want now that I’m retired. I think I want a Disney weekend…okay, let’s just go…no need anymore to request vacation time… It’s been something I was looking forward to. The park reservation system and the fact that it’s difficult for single diners to make dining reservations at my favorite places made me question if I was ever going back again. But I think I’ve worked through all that now. I have my annual pass again and selling my DVC points gets me back to making stays in the basic and mid tier park resorts where I can make reservations on the fly whenever I want, which is nearly impossible at a DVC resort. So I’m back in my comfort zone there.

But Gay Days this year is a special case given all the hate mongering going on down in Florida. So to have some Mouseketeer fun with all the other red shirts in the parks isn’t just a good time this year, it’s an act of defiance. Yes, we are Disney people too. And I want to show my support for Disney since they’re taken a lot of static for supporting us. But also, I want to document what is happening down there, in my own way, with my own eyes.

(As a side note, I’m working on getting another photo gallery up here of the stuff I took during the Love In Action and the Love Won Out protests.)

Security is something you almost never even see at WDW, except at the park entrances where screenings and bag checks take place. Once inside the park you might think it isn’t even there at all. But I’ve seen it appear…suddenly out of nowhere…once.

It was in front of La Cava del Tequila inside the Mexico pavilion at EPCOT World Showcase. Someone, probably having had a little too much to drink, got upset at the wait to get in (it’s a pretty small bar with only a few tables), and started causing a loud angry scene, and so I was told later got physical with another guest. He was instantly surrounded and spirited offsite.

And it’s easy for their security to come out of nowhere because there are usually dozens of hidden entrance/exits for the cast members to come and go so they can go about their work. Walt Disney wanted all the mechanics of making the parks work kept out of sight so as not to spoil the illusions he was creating. Magic Kingdom is built on top of a network of tunnels, they call them utilidors. And everywhere in the parks are scattered little out of the way doors and passages marked “Cast Members Only”. And the really interesting part of it is nearly none of them are hidden in a way you might expect. Instead, the scenery is such that your eyes are always directed away from where they are.

And according to a certain someone I used to know who worked there, cameras are everywhere.

So I’m hoping that first weekend in June their security is on their top game. I want everyone to have a good time. I will be very satisfied if the only photos I get are of happy Gay Days Mouseketeers. Because that is a message people still need to see as a counterpoint to all the lies that are surely coming before, during and after the event.

As you can see there, outside the parks it’s probably going to be brutal. I may try to get a few shots of it, but I will have to be very Very careful.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

May 12th, 2023

What The Hated Other Must Never Know

This came in the mail just now, to add to my collection of banned or censored children’s books. I buy them to support the authors, but also to see for myself what the gutter is yapping about now. In this case I discovered this book via the author’s blog post about her very painfully having to decline an offer from Scholastic to include the book in their catalogue because of a Scholastic editor’s request/demand to remove references to racism in it. You can read her blog post here. This is very sad, mostly because of how unsurprising it is these days. One of my favorite days after the beginning of the school year was when we got the Scholastic catalog. I still have a bunch of those books I got as a schoolboy. All the precious moments I had reading them…I expected better of Scholastic.

(And speaking of blogs…since you’re reading mine now right? Do you use a blog reader like Feedly yet? You should. There’s a whole world of information and fun out there that commercial social media would rather you didn’t bother with. I’ve added Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s blog to my Feedly list.)

This book is the first in my collection that isn’t LGBT themed. It’s a simple, lovely children’s picture book, about two people who find each other in the midst of a horrible event in this country’s history. I searched the pages carefully for the mentions of racism that the Scholastic editor was objecting to and they’re only in the author’s note, which is clearly written for parents as a guide to understanding the book’s themes. The objection was clearly, sickeningly, meant to appease school board MAGA racists. But what, really, was the objection?  Teaching about racism? You might think so if you haven’t been in this culture war as long as this gay guy has been, and seen what he has seen.

The central theme of the book is the power of love told in a simple, beautiful, childlike way.

Jacob Bronowski wrote that art does not set out to preach, but to shine a light in which the outlines of right and wrong can be seen with frightful clarity. You can shine that light even in a children’s picture book. Perhaps even best in the spare elegant simplicity of a children’s picture book. The racist injustice visited on the main characters in the book is always in the background of the story, it is a critical part of the story, but it is not the primary focus of the story. It is a love story. Love of family. Falling in love with someone. That moment when you realize it. It is a love story.

And that is exactly the problem. Never doubt it. Shakespeare wrote that love is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken, and bears it out even to the edge of doom. Lao Tzu wrote that being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. The author’s note regarding the racism that built the camps was for adults, the lesson about the power of love was for the children.

That was the unforgivable sin, something the hated Other must never know. Especially when they are young.

Because love is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken. Because love bears it out even to the edge of doom.

Because love can give you strength, and courage. Courage enough to move mountains. And the one thing you never want the scapegoat to know, is they can move mountains. Especially when they are young.

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

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