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December 24th, 2022

Beautiful Men Being Beautiful

Wonkette writes thusly…

Before The Current War On Drag Queens, There Was ‘To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar’

Republicans would have you believe that drag queens are some new phenomenon, a radical escalation in the culture wars thanks to an overly permissive society. (Thanks, Obama!) This is obviously nonsense, and a social media post reminded me that back in 1995, the camp classic To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything Julie Newmar was released with little to no backlash, certainly no bomb threats targeting theaters showing the film.

I still haven’t watched that and I really should because it’s moved into a little slice of gay history. But as I’ve written previously, my interest in drag is limited. The guys I find most convincing at it, are always guys I would rather appreciate out of costume than in it. But the point being made here is a good one and can’t be made too often in this climate of hate mongering. Nobody really cared that much about drag…gay drag especially existed in its own little nitch. Drag has a long history in the movies and on stage. A Twitter feed I just started following is “All-male college musicals” (“Paying tribute to the oh-so-lovely but very manly drag performers in the womanless, gay college musicals of a century ago.”). It’s so far been a treasure trove of drag history from the 1940s…

This was a real thing back in the day…

 

Dig the slogan on the souvenir program, “All our girls are men yet every one’s a lady.” I wouldn’t say the drag performers back then had it going on like some of them do now, but clearly everyone was having fun. Now it’s become a culture war flashpoint, to the degree armed fascist protesters are showing up at drag shows now, sometimes facing armed counter protestors. You fear for what it’s all building up to, and then you realize that blood has already been spilled.

Again, Wonkette…

Unlike Some Like It Hot and the less artistically relevant Sorority Boys and White Chicks, Swayze, Snipes, and Leguizamo’s characters aren’t forced into drag (either to save their lives or solve a crime). It’s the life they’ve chosen, and they are happy to live openly as themselves.

Fox News was in its infancy at the time, so there wasn’t a marathon of content complaining about the overtly pro-drag queen narrative. While temporarily stranded in rural, small town America, the drag queens — Vida, Noxeema, and Chi-Chi — bond with the local women, who are inspired by their sense of style and colorful attitude. The townspeople as a whole defend the ladies from a bigoted cop, and instead of turning them over to him, there’s a Spartacus-inspired scene where every woman claims she’s a drag queen. We need to see more of this whenever busybodies try to inspect the genitals of women playing sports or using a public restroom.

There are times I wish I had more theater in me, especially back when I was younger and cuter. Every kid should be able to believe deep down inside that they are beautiful. And also, every old man too. But at least I can still appreciate a beautiful man, and feel that life is good whenever I see one.

And Happy Holidays to You Robbie (aka Mrs Cuba), wherever you are…

My cameras could have given you a lot of love…but alas…

 

by Bruce | Link | React!

December 7th, 2022

Two Different Drag Shows

Are drag shows entertainment? Of course they are. Is drag fun? Yes, if you’re into that sort of thing. Is drag appropriate for children? When has it not been. I can’t count the number of times I saw men dressing up as women on TV shows and goofing around when I was a kid. In the 1950s and 60s TV and Movies could get some cheap laughs out of reversing gender roles, so long as it was understood those roles weren’t being challenged, but simply reversed for laughs. Nobody thought anything about it until gay people and our ways of drag became more visible. And in that are the other reasons for drag besides entertainment.

There are so many line items in the checklist of gay culture I just don’t tick off that I’ve been asked outright how sure I am that I’m gay. One of these is drag. I see it, I logically get that it’s a thing for lots of people (gay and straight), but at some deep personal level I don’t get it. But I respect it as an art form, and even admire the performers who are good at creating the illusions involved. Otherwise it does not interest me much at all, unless sometimes to watch the sort of adult somewhat androgynous slender male I’m often attracted to who is usually pretty good at doing drag. But when I watch a performer like that, I’m usually trying to visualize what they look like out of drag. 

I’m sure it’s because I am so plainly at the far end of the Kinsey scale. I am not much attracted to uber masculinity but the female body does zero for me and so drag just isn’t an interest. I like guys. I like watching guys. Beautiful, sexy longhaired guys. Bluejeans and light shirts that let you know what the body under them is like.  I just can’t look away. Makeup and glamor are other things that really disinterest me. I’m a sixties kid…we rebelled against faking a look in favor of natural hairstyles and skin tones. I have this theory that our libidos key on whatever fashions were in style during the time we are coming of age, and that is what you will always react to as beautiful and sexy. So I’m probably stuck in that mindset and it makes it hard for me to appreciate drag other than as an art form. When I hear people saying drag has this sexual connotation to it, I have to consider that logically, because my libido just doesn’t see it.

But there is a political aspect to it that I can see that pretty clearly; not just logically, but deep down at a gut level. You grow up hearing from every direction that you are some sort of sexual outlaw, a deviant, a pervert, a threat to the social order, for not conforming to your assigned gender role, for being something you cannot help being, and it makes you think about the why of it. You start thinking more carefully about things like gender and sexual roles. You think about them enough and you can’t help but see the wrongness in some of what you are being told has to be. The roles imposed on women. The roles imposed on men. What makes these the natural order? And then you feel a need to challenge it, if only to defend your inner self from being erased. The other thing about being a sixties kid is you almost always have this knee jerk reaction to any kind of imposed social conformity. Yes Mr. Establishment sir I am a young male and no I will not cut my hair. And I will wear my turquoise jewelry. And a ring in my ear if I want to. And so what if I’m gay and I love a man. What’s it to you.

And on top of all that, I am a geek child. Show me the science or STFU.

Why am I being asked to conform? What if I don’t?

What if I can’t?

Drag has not only been an art form in gay circles for generations, it is also a political statement about gender and sexual fluidity. At its most basic, it’s about each of us dealing with our own sexual nature on our own terms in our own ways. And it is that, without a doubt, that is the problem our recent crop of fascists have with it.

The current bellyaching about drag shows has nothing to do with protecting children any more than Anita Bryant’s Save Our Children campaign in the late 1970s did. She went on a rampage against gay people after a law was passed protecting us from job discrimination and it wasn’t Save Our Workplaces it was Save Our Children. It was, and is, a visceral attack of the sort many other hated minorities have experienced throughout history. The blood libel against Jewish people for instance, is they murdered Christian children to use their blood in Jewish rituals. But this campaign against drag shows and gay people serves a more fundamental purpose, which is to reestablish and enforce social and gender roles.

Like this if necessary…

If you think I’m being hyperbolic here, just listen to them talk about gender roles and what they view as the threat liberal democracy poses to men and to masculinity and you’ll see pretty clearly what all this is in fact about. In a lot of instances you can see homophobia as second hand misogyny. Women must submit to men not have sexual power over them because men must always be powerful and in control, but absolutely Not in a sexy and fuckable way. These wannabe men so afraid of losing power, so terrified of the idea of giving themselves to a lover, sharing themselves body and soul with another, have been showing up at drag events in their own sort of drag show, carrying weapons of war wherever that is now being allowed because guns are power, never Never Never a cute butt.

Let me tell you something about drag shows. The following is an excerpt from a post at A Mighty Girl about Ruth Coker Burks, who in 1984 beheld a hospital room door with a big red bag over it, and when she entered, the dying young man inside. For the next ten years Burks helped care for over 1,000 people dying of AIDS and even dug the graves for 40 of them herself in her family’s cemetery, when their own families would have nothing to do with them…

During this time, as the AIDS epidemic was devastating the gay community across the country, she began to get referrals from rural hospitals from across the state. “They just started coming,” she explains. “Word got out that there was this kind of wacko woman in Hot Springs who wasn’t afraid… I was their hospice. Their gay friends were their hospice. Their companions were their hospice.” Time and time again, Burks reached out to their parents but, out of the 1,000 people she cared for, she says that only a handful didn’t reject their dying children. And, although she often saw the worst in people, she says she was also privileged to see people at their best as they cared for their friends and partners with dignity and grace: “I watched these men take care of their companions and watch them die… Now, you tell me that’s not love and devotion.” Burks also saw how the gay community supported one another and her efforts. “They would twirl up a drag show on Saturday night and here’d come the money. That’s how we’d buy medicine, that’s how we’d pay rent. If it hadn’t been for the drag queens, I don’t know what we would have done.”

Drag queens. Drag shows. “That’s how we’d buy medicine.” “That’s how we’d pay rent.” “If it hadn’t been for the drag queens, I don’t know what we would have done.” Look at the armed fascist mobs, in full faux military garb, threatening drag shows and everyone inside, including children, while the local police stand by and watch. Remember and think about the people they’re waving their weapons at.

“I watched these men take care of their companions and watch them die… Now, you tell me that’s not love and devotion.”

In the bedrock of the need of fascism, and tyranny of any form, to set gender roles and women’s rights in stone, is the one thing it cannot abide. Love and devotion. There’s the ultimate enemy of every form of tyranny that ever was, the enemy everything they do is calculated to extinguish in mankind. So they can rule over us. Love.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Two Different Drag Shows

November 21st, 2022

Active Shooter – Active Resistance

The BBC reports

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said one patron grabbed the attacker’s own gun and hit him with it during the shooting in Club Q on Saturday night.

Another club-goer reportedly helped to keep the gunman pinned down until police arrived.

The gunman killed five people and injured 25 more before being arrested.

The suspect, named by police as 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, is now in police custody.

I think something changed, similar to what changed after 9/11, in that passengers are lots more willing fight back now. The old advice to just remain calm and don’t do anything that might provoke the hijackers really doesn’t apply anymore. Since the Pulse massacre probably something like the same effect is happening in our spaces. And given the stereotypes people buy into about us, I’m wondering how surprised this shooter was that he ended up pinned to the floor getting beaten with his own gun.

I’m hearing calls now for the community to arm itself and while I’ve no trouble with people doing that so long as they’re willing to accept the responsibility, I really don’t think places that serve alcohol and guns are a good mix. But there is something else that I could wish some group on the level of ACT-UP or GLAAD might step up and do and that is offer the community training on what to do in an active shooter situation.

The Institute gave us that training and I would strongly recommend it to all of us in the community. But it costs money to bring someone who knows the subject to come and teach it to groups of us. Someone with deep pockets should step up.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Active Shooter – Active Resistance

November 7th, 2022

We Will Find Our Way To The Better World

This from a gay history group I follow on Facebook…

Tom Doerr and Marty Robinson during a Gay Activists Alliance sit-in
at the New York State Republican headquarters, New York City.
Photo by Diana Davies, 1970.

I would have been 15 or 16 depending on exactly when this happened, and all I knew about the fight for gay equality then was basically nothing apart from the occasional snide jokes on late night TV, but they made those same jokes about hippies. But look at this photo. This is a couple. They are people not stereotypes. And they are taking a stand when that was still extremely risky, to get us all to a place when we could have what they were lucky enough to find in each other, and not be afraid or ashamed.

How often do you hear them say they don’t care what we do in the privacy of our homes, but we should not be allowed to “flaunt it” in public. But what is “it”? 

This is. This is what the fight has always been about. The haters reduce us to the sex we have, but this is what they don’t want anyone to see, especially us. We are not to know that this is possible to us. We must be scapegoats, never neighbors, never to have a place in the American dream. And so, to that end, we must see ourselves as sexual deviants, pathetic faggots, or dangerous sexual predators. What we must never be are lovers. 

Because love is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken…

Because love alters not with his brief hours and weeks but bears it out even to the edge of doom.

Because being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.

Because love can give you the courage, and the strength, to move mountains. And the one thing you never want the scapegoat to know is they can move mountains.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on We Will Find Our Way To The Better World

October 27th, 2022

Once Upon A Throwback Thursday. . .

 

Throwback Thursday (are we still doing that?). This is from an old Polaroid a friend probably snapped of me while I was sitting on the balcony of the apartment in Rockville (now North Bethesda!) mom and I lived in during the 60s/70s/80s. I would have been in my twenties. I would have still had the Pinto and probably was working at the Best Products just on the other side of the fence between them and the apartments.

I can tell a lot about the timeframe that this was taken because it has to be sometime in the mid 70s, before that awful couple years I wrote about yesterday. It’s in my face. I look at this and see someone still comfortable in the life he has, confident that even better times are just around the corner. A boyfriend. A good job that paid well (I was going to be a newspaper photographer). A place of my own. Everything was still possible.

As to why I had it taken…I’m not sure. This would have been before the microcomputer days, let alone the Internet, so it wouldn’t have been to post to an online profile. This is a Polaroid, I had no scanner then, and getting copies off a Polaroid wasn’t simple. So this was a one-off. I think I had it taken just to have a couple of me that I actually liked. There are a few other poses in the set but I liked this one best. Which explains why it’s a Polaroid: I could look over each one and decide if I needed another.

The problem was always that I didn’t have many of myself that I liked. By then I was well aware that I wasn’t very good looking, but every now and then I saw a good photo of me so I wasn’t overly concerned about my looks at that age. My teeth were very crooked though, and I was extremely self conscious about that. In every photo of me from that period I’m always smiling with my mouth closed. You almost can’t see the smile here, but it’s there in the corner of my mouth. That problem wouldn’t get fixed until I was in my thirties when a friend kindly financed some dental work for me and pointed me to a super good dentist.

This image is from a time before the Internet, personal computers, cable TV, and cell phones let alone smartphones. I’m pretty sure this was before 1977 and Anita Bryant’s rampage on gay civil rights in Dade County Florida. I had listen to my shortwave radio to get the result of the vote in Dade County because none of the mainstream network news companies bothered to cover it until much later. News for and about gay Americans was not fit to print in those days. If I wanted that news, and I didn’t want to drive into DC to the Lambda Rising bookstore, I had to go to a seedy adult bookstore in Wheaton and walk past racks of pretty hard core heterosexual pornography to get a copy of the Washington Blade and The Advocate. The subway wouldn’t be built out beyond the beltway in Montgomery County until 1978 when the station at Silver Spring opened. After that I could drive into Silver Spring and hop on the Metro to get to DuPont Circle and Lambda Rising. When the Twinbook Metro station opened in 1984 I could just walk from the apartment to the subway and it was a straight shot down the red line to DuPont Circle and back.

I was so happy not to have to go past those heterosexual porn magazines ever again. I mean…okay…whatever floats your boat. But…jeeze… And yet, in many quarters of American culture, not just the pulpit thumping churches, but also mainstream news media, TV, movies, and magazines, the youngster you see in this photo was regarded as a deviant threat to American society, family values, and civilization itself.

That is the world you are seeing in this image. TVs still had vacuum tubes, telephones had a wire connecting them to the wall, you got your news from the morning or afternoon newspaper, or the nightly network news broadcasts around dinnertime. Am radio played mostly music or sports, music came on vinyl LPs or cassettes, big box department stores were still a thing, and bookstores and newstands were everywhere, but you couldn’t get any gay publications in them because gay people like the kid in this photo were almost universally regarded with contempt and loathing. But the kid you see there was still pretty confident of his future. Bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to meet tomorrow. He never found a boyfriend.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Once Upon A Throwback Thursday. . .

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 | Comments Off on Fear Of Dating, Fear Of Intimacy

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 | Comments Off on Fem Boys Need Representation Too

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 | Comments Off on Another Reason To Be Out


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 | Comments Off on Why I Am Out

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 | Comments Off on How Nuclear Reactors And Democracies Fail

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 | Comments Off on Normal

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 | Comments Off on Baggage

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 | Comments Off on …But What Are You?

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

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


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