Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Colbert Destroys R.I. Governor For Denying Gay Couples Death Rights (VIDEO)


Wow bmathers! First, I have to commend you on your honesty about your personal discomfort around gays and about the beliefs that you have about gays that are responsible for those feelings.



Honesty is a good start.



I have to admit that I too had a secret fear...being around someone who boldly calls him or herself a "Christian". In my experience, many Christians are extremely hypocritical, preaching one thing and acting completely the opposite. Many Christians use their status to justify every bit of hatred and ignorance that they hold. Most Christians that I've met only hold a very superficial understanding of the Bible and do not follow even the most basic of his lessons, including "love they neighbor as thyself" or "judge ye not lest ye be judged". I have seen people who fervantly proclaim the gospel of Christ while doing horrible things to innocent children and adults.



However, I have learned over the years that actually, not all Christians are like that. Some Christian truly are kind, compassionate and loving people. A few are able to transcend the popular, self-serving version of the Bible and find within it a way to live peacefully with other people, without the need to judge or stereotype. I am proud to call them friends.



It was scary at first to step outside of the box of fears, irrational beliefs and even personal experiences with religious zealots, but ultimately was worth it.



I hope you consider doing the same.
About Stephen Colbert
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

Thursday, November 12, 2009

PC Update

No, this isn't about the "PC" making the round on the talk shows about whether the military was being too "politically correct" in the case of Nidal Malik Hasan, the alleged Ft. Hood shooter, when they didn't reprimand him for bad performance on the job severely enough in the past because he was Muslim.

Come on. I just didn't imagine that 2009 would be the year of the neo-racist!

I probably should have thought a little more about it like Jimmy Carter did and realized that electing a black President, no matter how smart or qualified or handsome (yes, I said it..he's hot!), he symbolizes everything that racist whites have been fearing for years. The "takeover" of America by nonwhites who will then pay us back for years of not minding our own "stewardship" very well as the majority race.

And for eight years, the fires of hatred and fear were stoked daily by the Bush-Cheney-Rove machine to maintain control and power.

No, this PC is not about all that today.

It's the thing that's been on my mind the most lately. Protracted constipation...

Kidding...my prostate of course.

You know, for a little guy that I hardly ever used to think about, he's managed to make himself known in a big way over the past few weeks.

Come to think of it, he's kinda like the Ft. Hood shooter afterall, going from obscurity to the objection of all attention.

He's acted up in a bad, bad way and now he must die for it.

My quandry is whether I should give him the death penalthy by radioactive injection, where he dies a slow death over time, or we anesthetize him and cut him out within a matter of hours.

Or, I could put him on parole, and just actively surveille him with checkups every three months to check his behavior and a full on parole board meeting once a year. Maybe he won't act up again? Hmmm, but who's responsible for him if he breaks parole and really spreads the damage around?

Hard to really have straightforward feelings at this point. Lots (too much) of information but no definitive answers.

It feels a little like that sensation you get when you've just rounded the top of the rollercoaster and you're just about to go flying down.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Living in the Moment

When I'm teaching my wellness classes, I spend a lot of time talking about living in the moment.

It sounds so good and makes so much sense.

All you really have is now, so fretting about what hasn't happened yet, or something traumatic from the past, is pretty much wasted time.

Mindfulness meditation is so rewarding when you practice regularly, but it's hard for me to maintain because of the demands of everyday living.

It is something that I want to add to my life again. I think it would be especially beneficial now.

I can feel so much emotion just beneath the surface- a lot of trapped fears just waiting for the right moment to express themselves.

But I don't have enough information yet to feel rationally. I haven't heard from all the experts, or done enough reading.

I want to feel sad that I have to make a serious life-changing decision, sooner than later.

I want to feel anxious that time is running out.

I want to feel anger that I have yet another obstacle in my way.

But, my belief is that there is a reason for everything. It is not mine to question, but to accept with grace.

That is especially hard when those feelings want to show up and ruin my peace.

For now, I am going to try to look around at what I have to be grateful for...Brad, this place, a job in a bad economy, good health when I need it to bear what's next.

Don't panic, I think to myself.

It is, what it is.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Also Means Opportunity

I've been taking a break from the blogging for a while.

Some things have come up and, well, sitting down to write hasn't been either convenient or something I felt the morivation to do.

The house has taken a lot of energy, but in a good way. Our first home together, my first home of my own, has been an endless joy of sweat and aching. I've watched too many "how to" videos on YouTube and WAY too much HGTV and DIY channels!

This year has been amazing in so many ways.

And it ws the year I discovered that I had prostate cancer.

If you are a friend or family person who did not know until now, I apologize.

I'm not exactly sure what the etiquette is for telling people about such things. I've tried to call or email as many people as I could, although I do wonder why exactly I am doing so. I mean it's kind of awkward for me and them and really, what can they say? I still have a bit of leftover something from my past that wants me to avoid pity or sympathy or attention about these kinds of things. Icky describes it well.

Another weird part of it all is that I have no symptoms. I changed insurances and decided to see my new primary care doc for a physical. He ran a PSA test and it came back elevated.

From there I was referred to a urologist who thought my prostate felt firm and recommended a biopsy.

A week afterwards, my phone rings while I'm at work and Dr. White shares the results that I have cancer.

I'm in shock for a couple of days after I think. It just doesn't register.

Now, three weeks later, I've seen a radiologist and have three appointments coming up with surgeons to talk about treatment options.

The good news is that it's early and curable.

The bad news is that all the treatment options carry risk of complications.

As the Chinese say, "Crisis also means opportunity".

I guess I have to make the most of it.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Enjoying the View

I haven't been writing in the blog much lately. I've been so distracted by moving in to the new place. There was so much do to get it comfortable what with the normal moving in stuff that every one goes through, but also redoing the floors, painting, etc.

I have a little streak of maniac in me I must confess, which means that sometimes, I take on too much all at once and I wear myself down. Two or three projects per weekend would have been more reasonable for example, but I take on three or four per day, and then feel exhausted by Sunday night.

Thank goodness though, most the big projects are done now, and I feel like I can spend more time enjoying it instead of fretting over it.

I can feel myself starting to relax and be in the here and now with it.

Today, I choose to enjoy the deck, the cool breeze after a hot day, good conversation with our neighbors and the twinkling lights in the valley and over the Bay.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why I Support Putting Gay Marriage on the Ballot in 2010

After the squeaker of a loss by proponents of Prop 8 in California last fall, although my marriage to Brad stands at the moment, thousands of other gay couples now no longer have the right to marry.

It was a stunner to say the least, watching California of all places vote to take away a right that had already been established.

Or was it?

Post election analysis revealed that much of the money that went towards misinformation and revving up the right wingers came from outside of California. How about that? Who would have thought that the nutjobs in Utah would give a damn about what the gays do on the coast?

Well, they care a lot apparently.

Stories of ordinary working Mormon families, whipped up by their community homophobic leaders, devoted substantial portions of their life savings to pass Prop 8, for fear of the saying "As California goes, so goes the nation."

Religious organizations, with deep tax exempt coffers, have money to burn to prove a point-which is apparently that you should either get on board with their dogma or they will make sure you suffer!!

Equality California, one of the major gay marriage advocacy organizations in the state who failed to see this coming or prevent it now have apparently decided to skip the 2010 ballot to try to overturn Prop 8 and wait until 2012.

Their rationale? Because they need more time to do grassroots organizing to make sure this time they win. Not a bad idea.

Yet I still have this burning desire to do something now besides donate money and talk to people for the next three years.

I therefore am putting my energy into the groups who think we shouldn't wait and we should put this issue back on the ballot at the first opportunity, like the Courage Campaign.

Here's why I don't want to wait.

First, I don't want to wait. I've waited my whole life and the time is always NOW to take action whenever possible. So what if we lose again? Maybe this time there will be more public discussion than last time. And by the way, we have the chance to start talking to our friends, family and neighbors now about this issue.

Second, I want our opponents to have to spend more money. The idea of destitute Mormons (and a few rigid Catholics) not having the money to put in a swimming pool this year or to pay for Sally's braces suits me just fine (of course the idea that there will be Mormons running around without huge perfect teeth is kinda scary as well). If we put his on the ballot, they HAVE to respond and over time, the message of fear and hate that they promote just starts to lose its punch. Next time, there won't be quite the right wing fervor that I believe was associated partly with the possibility that our nation was about to elect a black man. It made all the zealots and racists VERY nervous and if you are racist, there's a pretty good chance that you are a homophobe as well.

Third, I want the troops who are fresh from defeat and still smarting from the loss to keep the energy going. I believe that we will go into 2010 with a lot more energy for this fight after having victory snatched from us twice (once by vote, once by the lame California Supreme Court) while the homophobes are now out screaming about "death panels" and "socialism" (again partly driven by deep-seated racism in my opinion).

Fourth, there is no reason that Equality California can't walk and chew at the same time. Why not have a 2010 and 2012 plan?? Even if you believe that victory is more likely with more time to build grassroots, is there no value is siphoning off the coffers of the opposition just because? Won't they also have time to build more grassroots opposition to us and also earn interest on their anti-gay marriage monies between now and then?

And speaking of short-term plan, I hope someone is out there seriously challenging the Catholics' and Mormons' ability to pour money into these campaigns and still maintain tax exempt status. I know that I actually wrote to the IRS when I heard what the Mormons were doing last time.
It seems if there's a serious challenge going on that they have to fight, it might weaken their forces just enough for us to win.

If you're in a similar frame of mind to fight and are discourage by Equality California's decision, don't be. Hook up with Courage Campaign. And let me know if you hear of other groups eager to take up the fight again in 2010.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Forgiving God

I'm considering the next book project I want to work on.

Something in the self-help genre would be a natural, but I've been thinking about trying something different.

I have two radically different ideas. One would be my memoirs.

That brings up a lot of anxieties like, would my life be interesting to anyone else? Can I write well enough to carry it off? Can I make it funny like David Sedaris? or dramatic like Augusten Burroughs? How does it start? Where does it end?

If I do write the memoir, my working title is "Forgiving God". I like the title because it reflects an ongoing process in my life and it's a double entendre, both adjective and verb.

My second option is a futuristic sci-fi thriller screenplay. I have the basic idea. I've already done a two page "treatment" with the setting, the plot, the characters, etc. I just have to do some homework on how to actually write one.

Both would take me down some interesting roads.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Mark Sanford: The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Promise Keepers. Family Values. Moral Decay. Moral Majority. Focus on the Family.

Abstinence Only. Proposition 8. DOMA. Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

What do all of the above have in common? Hypocrisy.

Yes, I'm back with the blogging. How could I not? Sen. Ensign and Gov. Mark Sanford scandals within days of each other?

Moralistic politicians who use the idea that THEY have all the "RIGHT" answers to how to behave and that other people should be FORCED to live by those answers who then completely disregard their all holy rules and then have the gall to refuse responsibility for their actions.

Sheesh!!

How could I ignore that?

Ensign and Sanford not only raise the issue of "holier than thou" ethics and morality to win elected office, they are among the most ardent, vocal critics of others who do not follow their personal arbitrary standards. Sanford DEMANDED that Clinton resign after admitting his affair with Monica Lewinsky. His argument? That anyone who holds a public office should be held to a "higher" standard than others when they have ethical lapses.

NOW, however, when it's his own lapse, that same standard doesn't apply according to Sanford.

Does that surprise anyone? Someone with the twisted logic and rigid egomaniacal perspective on things from the beginning has something wrong with him.

Mark Sanford does not care about people. Mr. Sanford does not care about Monica Lewinsky or Hilary Clinton. He does not care about the people of South Carolina or schools. He does not care about his wife. He does not care about his sons.

Mark Sanford cares about Mark Sanford.

I even feel sorry for the Argentine mistress.

He will throw her under the bus when it serves Mark Sanford's needs to do so.

Here's the real question: Why does it seem that the people who yell the loudest about rigid moral values and have such harsh, intolerant views are always the ones who deep down are hiding something?

Larry Craig? Mark Foley? John Ensign? David Vitter?

And why is it often about sex?

As a cognitive behavioral psychologist, I have not practiced Freudian-based psychotherapy in a while.

But sometimes, Freud was a pretty smart guy.

You see, even back then, people did some strange things that people couldn't explain.

Like laughing when they should be crying. Or dreaming about cigars.

And he did his best to explain why people did these odd things.

He even had one that could make sense of rigid moralistic people who harbor secret dreams of getting nasty that perhaps they can't accept within themselves.

It's called reaction formation, which is a psychological defense mechanism in which anxiety-producing or unacceptable emotions and impulses are controlled by taking the sometimes extreme opposite public tendency.

Freud scared a whole lotta people at the time (and still does) with this concept.

People who cannot deal with their own deep seated desires often suppress and repress these desires but not without a price.

The theory goes something like this.

Men who have pedophilic impulses (having sexual desires for children) often choose public careers that openly are hostile to pedophiles. This serves two sometimes opposing purposes.

First, they believe that by becoming a public beacon of morality, they can overcome deeper, sometimes unconscious lascivious desires. The more you fight against it, the safer you will be.
The second purpose, and the more sinister (yet still possibly unconscious) possibility, is that holding yourself up as beyond reproach, the less suspicious people with be of you holding the deeper opposite desires and ironically, the more trusting of you they will be with their children.

Initially in some cases, people who use reaction formation may not understand or even be aware of these deeper frightening emotions or impulses. All they know is that they hate child molestors, or adulterors or homosexuals.

That's the beauty of the mind. It can create an "illusion" for you of self-righteousness, even as it covers up deeper desire and needs that are simmering beneath the surface.

In my book, Loving Ourselves, I spend a little time talking about the phenomenon of publicly homophobic men who secretly have sex with men on the side. This topic has always fascinated me as a gay person who knew about his own sexual orientation very early in life and chose to deal with it directly rather than hide or deny it (except for a very short time during puberty).

In the chapter dealing with these very specific types of self-esteem problems, I describe scientific testing this theory of reaction formation among heterosexual men with varying degrees of homophobia.

During the study, a same of self-identified heterosexual men were given a questionnaire asking their opinions about homosexuals and homosexuality and based on the responses, ranking them in terms of negative, neutral or positive feelings about gay men.

Then, in an ingenious second phase of the study, the men were connected to a penile plethysmograph, a device that measures blood flow into the penis, and volunteers were shown a variety of pictures of attractive women and men in various states of undress.

At the end of the study, the results of the blood flow measurements were correlated with the "attitudes toward homosexuality" scale they had taken before.

Ironically, the men who tested as having the most negative attitudes toward homosexuality showed the most penile reaction to the pictures of men!

Discuss.

Back to Sanford et al.

If Mr. Sanford was an isolated case of someone who preaches morality and taking responsibility who, in a moment of weakness, made an impulsive mistake, then I can see moving on. I also might be able to stomach him personally if he held himself to the same standard that he applied to Clinton (resign from office).

However, because this seems to be a fairly frequent occurrence (i.e. the most loudly moralistic zealots are the most likely to be themselves morally flawed), then perhaps we should get more comfortable holding some healthy skepticism for those in the political and power circles of the world who "doth protest too much"?

Do all supporters of Prop 8 harbor secret homosexual fantasies?

Do all celibate clergy have deep-seated sexual identity issues?

Do most extremists have something to hide?

The answer is probably "no".

But we should keep our eyes open for the next racist, homophobic, family values leader who assures us that they have the "correct" version of the truth and that intolerance is the ONLY option. They may have something to hide.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Blog Spot of Shame

After the recent disasterous ruling by the California Supreme Court on Prop 8, I decided that someone somewhere needed to keep a list of the cowards, the zealots and the outright homophobes in our times. My list will include not only the hatemongers, but the people who fear change, who follow the "status quo", and the hipocrites in life who preach "values" but do not follow them. Feel free to send me your own lists and suggestions and I'll take the famous, the infamous and the local people who preach intolerance and self-righteousness.


Here goes my list of shame:

(1) Dick Cheney- former co-President and architect of torture and war

(2) George W. Bush- former President and pawn, brush remover

(3) Pope Benedict- largest perpetuator of homophobic religious dogma

(4) Rush Limbaugh- entertainer who pretends to be interested in politics

(5) Ann Coulter- entertainer/media whore who pretends to be interested in politics but is more interested in self-promotion

(6) Sean Hannity/Glenn Beck- Fox "News" entertainers who want to be as rich as Rush Limbaugh but neither bright enough to stand alone

(7) Michael Savage- entertainer who will say anything to get ratings

(8) Rick Warren- Christian minister who cannot control his impulse to eat, yet expects gay people to "control" their sexual urges

(9) Fred Phelps- Spawn of Satan

(10) Heather Wilson- sexually ambiguous and repressed former US Representative from Arizona

(11) Virginia Foxx- US Representative from NC without a soul

(12) Newt Gingrich- variable ethics opportunist and entrepeneur, cleverly manipulates the moment to his advantage


(13) Tom Tancredo- US House Representative and blowhard



(14) Joyce L. Kennard, Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, Ronald M. George, Mind W. Chin, Marvin R. Baxter, and Carol A. Corrigan- California Supreme Court justices (and cowards) for voting to validate Prop 8 and create a second class citizenship for gay and lesbian Americans


(15) Lindsay Graham- sexually ambiguous U.S. Senator from SC and right wing tool


(16) Rick Santorum- former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania with questionable intelligence


(17) Rick Perry- weak Republican governor of Texas, idiot hypocrite (we hate the bailout-give us money!) successionist


(18) Mark Sanford- governor of South Carolina, hypocrite who would rather make a political point than help his state, Christian adulterer


(19) Kenneth Starr- legal whore who will work for the highest bidder


(20) Pat Buchanan (and his sister Bay)- irrelevant columnist(s) and right wing tools



(21) Carrie Prejean- Miss California USA, shallow non-natural "beauty" queen with fake hair, fake skin color, fake tooth color and fake boobs, with no known talent or skill other than pleasuring herself on video, posing semi-nude and then claiming a superior morality to gay people


(22) William Kristol- neocon pundit, supporter of "preemptive" war and anti-intellectual


(23) Jeff Sessions- U.S. Senator from Alabama, overt racist


(24) Norm Coleman- Former U.S. Senator from Minnesota- Republican tool and hypocrite


(25) David Vitter- U.S. Senator from Louisiana, adulterer, hypocrite


(26) Larry Craig-Former U.S. Senator from Idaho, tortured repressed soul and hypocrite

(27) Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia- U.S. Supreme Court Justices and radical right wingers who legislate from the bench about issues they find important

(28) Karl Rove- sexually ambiguous architect of attack politics and mastermind of getting religious zealots to vote against their own best interests.

(29) Sarah Palin- Hypocrite; example of what NOT to do as a parent (have a teen who gets pregnant, go on the campaign trail to further your career and leave your infant child with special needs at home, etc.); set up an unethical fund to defend herself from ethics charges, ignorant narcissist

(30) Pat Robertson- tv evangelist (in decline) who has the record for highest level of narcissism in a single human being- hypocrite, homophobe

(31) James Dobson- supposed "psychologist" who uses his degree to promote his personal beliefs and values from a "Christian" perspective- very anti-gay

(32) Joseph Nicolosi- debunked psychologist who believes that sexual orientation can be changed, despite lack of empirical evidence of effectiveness of his treatment practices and the evidence of potential harm to the people he treats (never met him but wonder about his own sexual "fluidity")

(33) Michelle Bachman-U.S. Congresswoman from Minnesota- unafraid to expose her ignorance in public regularly

(34) John Ensign- U.S. Senator from Nevada- hypocrite, conservative Christian adulterer

(35) John Kly- U.S. Senator from Arizona-racist, hypocrite- rails on Obama's bailout plan, but continues to accept the money.

(36) Joe Wilson, Republican Representative from South Carolina- showed lack of impulse control during President Obama's address to Congress which is at a minimum immature, and possibly indicates deeper seated racism

(37) Max Baucus, Democratic Senator from Montana- in the pocket of health insurance lobbyists, refused a seat at the table for single payor advocates, no public option in his committee's plan

(38) Chuck Grassley, R from Iowa, Mike Enzi, R from Wyoming, Olympia Snow, R-Maine, Kent Conrad, D- North Dakota, Jeff Bingaman, D-New Mexico, Max Baucaus, D- Montana- "Gang of Six" intent on killing public option and true health insurance reform in a "bipartisan" manner

(39) Charlie Crist, R Governor of Florida- sexually ambiguous "bachelor" who is virulently anti-gay despite many rumors of his own sexuality

(40) Mary Cheney, Republican right wing tool, hypocrit, anti-gay open lesbian

(41) Ken Mehlman- sexually ambiguous anti=gay Republican operative

(42) Jason Chaffetz- Republican US Representative from Utah, strongly anti-gay, "big government in your bedroom" believer

(43) Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan- Catholic bishop with strong anti-gay bias


(43) Don Carcieri- Republican Governor of Rhode Island, anti-gay bigot, against law to allow gay partners to claim bodies of their deceased partner and make funeral arrangements

(44) U.S. Rep Parker Griffith- Elected democrat switching to Repub because he didn't get his way with the Healthcare bill although his constituents elected him to represent the Democratic Party. Good riddance.

(45) Bob McDonnell- Republican Governor of Virginia who recently signed an order to take gays and lesbians off the nondiscrimination policy for the state.

(46) Roy Ashburn- Republican State Senator from California, fiercely anti-gay who was arrested for DUI after leaving a gay bar with a male companion

(47) Nancy Elliott- Republican State Representative from New Hampshire, who has an intense fascination with the details of anal sex, yet remains fiercely anti-gay politically.

(48) Bryan Fischer- radio host for the American "Family" Association who laughingly believes that homosexuality should be treated like drug abuse.

(49) Donald W. Wuerl- Catholic Archbishop of the Washington DC diocese- anti-American homophobe who decided to eliminate spousal benefits for heterosexual employees of Catholic Charities there rather than comply with DC laws that require domestic partners of gay employees to be covered.

(50) Randy Neugebauer- Republican Representative from Texas who impulsively shouted out "baby killer" after Stupak made a compromise move to support the Health Care bill. Too bad we have so many people in public office who have no manners or self-control.

(51) Bart Stupak- Democratic Representative from Michigan, who decided that his religious beliefs should supercede the beliefs of others, signaling once again rampant egomegaly in our political process.

(52) Mitch McConnell- Republican Senator from Kentucky, who believes that his right-wing Kentucky constituents represent the rest of America apparently. Sorry Mitch, but take a look around.

(53) Jan Brewer- Republican Governor of Arizona who removed domestic partnerships in Arizona and signed into law the most hateful immigration law in the country. Sarah Palin with malice.

(54) Maureen "Rene" Portland, former head coach of Penn State U's women's basketball team, homophobe responsible for harassing many young women over her 30 year career and ultimately destroying careers. Female equivalent of #55 whose personal sexuality is questionable.

(55) George Rekers, Extreme anti-gay minister and co-founder of the Family Research Council recently caught with a male prostitute

(56) Ed Schrock, anti-gay Republican U.S. Representative from Virginia, caught on tape in 2004 soliciting sex from a gay male prostitute

(57) Andre Bauer, anti-gay Republican candidate for Governor of South Carolina, unmarried and purportedly gay

(58) Meg Whitman, anti-gay marriage Republican candidate for Governor of California and former CEO of E-Bay who says that she voted for Prop 8 because civil unions guarantee "virtually" the same rights as marriage

(59) Mark Souder, anti-gay "family values" Republican U.S. Representative from Indiana who admitted having an extramarital affair with a member of his staff simulataneously abusing his marriage vows and his position of power as an employer

(60) Andras Kiraly, anti-gay zealot and member of the Hungarian religious political party Jobbik, who was photographed frolicking with other males, smoking pot at a Toronto gay pride festival on his vacation

(61) Troy King, anti-gay Alabama Attorney General purportedly caught by his wife having sex with a male Troy University student.

(62) Richard "Dick" Curtis, anti-gay former Washington GOP state representative, caught cavorting with a male prostitute, offering to pay him for sex

(63) Bruce Barclay, anti-gay Republican commissioner of Cumberland Co., Pennsylvania, accused of the rape of a 20 year old male and after his home was search by police, hundreds of videotaped encounters with men were discovered including one that proved the rape accusation was false and the sex was actually consensual

(64) Robert Allen, anti-gay Florida state representative, arrested for offering to perform fellatio to an undercover cop in the men's room of a park for $20.

(65) Joe Barton, GOP Representative from Texas, who "apologized" to BP for "Obama's shakedown" when he asked them to set up a fund for victims of the oil spill. Turns out, the oil industry is a major donor to Barton, imagine that.

(66) Linda Lingle, GOP Governor of Hawaii, who vetoed a civil union bill for same sex partners, stating that unions were so close to marriage, that she couldn't support it and that the "voters" must vote on such an important issue

(67) Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family, anti-gay homophobe, very worried about "sexual tension" erupting in the barracks if Don't Ask Don't Tell is repealed.

(68) Tony Perkins, Family Research Council, anti-gay homophobe who appears to believe that the majority of the American public is stupid for supporting the repeal of DADT

(69) Penny Nance, Concerned Women of America, anti-gay homophobe and "concerned" woman about terrorism and the "Mirandization of the Christmas Day Bomber"

(70) Elaine Donnelly, Center for Military Readiness, anti-gay homophobe posing as "concerned" for the military

(71) Retired Admiral James Lyons, long-time anti-gay homophobe, who quotes navy policies from the "late 1900's" when "homosexuality was rampant" in the military

(72) David Keene, American Conservative Union, anti-gay homophobe who believes that he knows what's best for us all

(73) Ben Quayle, son of the worst vice president in the history of the US and GOP congressional candidate in Arizona, who is running on a "family values" platform after having spent time writing blogs for a porn website. He also sent out flyers with a picture of him and his wife and two little girls, implying that they were his daughters (he has no children) and in fact, they were his nieces

(74) "Dr." Laura Schlessinger- right wing radio talk show host, homophobic and racist, who believes that she is better than all of us and understands right from wrong. Recently used the "n" word on the radio 11 times while simultaneously mocking an African American caller

(75) Albert Mohler- President of the Southern Baptist Convention, homophobe and now, believes that Christians shouldn't practice Yoga because it's inconsistent with Baptist teachings. Perfect example of a false prophet who possess no real spirituality, but only proclaims his personal beliefs under the protection of the church

(76) Larry Brown- NC State Representative recently discovered to have sent out emails referring to gays as "queers"and "fruitloops". Not only did he send them to 60 people, he doesn't think there's anything wrong with it!

(77) Andrew Shirvell- Assistant District Attorney of Michigan, overt homophobe obsessed with an attractive Student Council president at a state university. He spend most of his non-work time making rainbow flag swastikas to post on his blog and "demonstrating" outside the student's home. Can't really explain his extreme attraction to following this young man around and spending hours thinking about him every day.
(78) Carl Paladino- Republican candidate for Governor of NY, extremely ignorant homophobe (which usually means that there's some secret in the closet!!!)

(79) Fred Davis- GOP public relations guru responsible for some of the most reprehensible political ads on the airways. Interviewed on CNN and refused to answer the question of whether he would create a campaign ad for someone that he didn't think was qualified to hold the office. Me thinks he's a bit of whore who will help elect anyone to office, using whatever means necessary, as long as he gets paid.

(80) Virginia and Clarence Thomas- Ginni is a consultant for the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation who recently attempted to force her version of the truth on Anita Hill about her husband's sexual harassment history. Sorry Ginni, he did it. Clarence is the unfortunate excuse for a US Supreme Court justice with no original thought in 20 years, choosing instead to allow Scalia to tell him what to do. Too bad neither of them understand integrity.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Today, I just want to take a moment to honor the veterans of all US wars and conflicts, particularly those of color and LGBTQ.  It takes a special form of courage and honor to fight for a country that does not recognize you as having the full rights of citizenship.  Thank you.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

OutLook Video

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of appearing on a segment of our local GLBT TV show, Outlook Video, to talk about my latest book, "Loving Ourselves".

Check it out here -> Outlook Video on YouTube.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tomorrows Reflection

A couple of months ago, I blogged about the evilmeister Dick Cheney in a blog I called "The Dark Side". In that blog, I was discussing my desire to see Obama give the green light to prosecution of the Bush administration for war crimes and torture.

To make my point, I reflected on the Biblical premise of Jesus as a "pacifist" and I wondered allowed if even Jesus wouldn't eventually get angry when there was extreme injustice. I was reminded of one of the more well-known passages that describe Jesus becoming angry at the moneychangers who had set up shop in the temple, overturning their tables and throwing them out. I am hoping that Obama becomes fed up with Cheney's constant criticism, when he has no moral leg to stand on, and allow the attack dogs to go after him for his role in torture and war.

In that section, I cited, and linked to, a website called "Tomorrow's Reflection" blogged by teaching pastor, Jeremy Jernigan, where he had included a post about Jesus as a pacifist.

Not long after I published my post, I received an email from Rev. Jeremy himself who had noticed that I had linked to his website and he then check out Gray Shades.

Here it is:

Dr. Hardin,

My name is Jeremy and I’m a teaching pastor at Central Christian Church in Arizona (www.cccev.com). I’m also the author of the blog, tomorrowsreflection.com, which you referenced in your post called “The Dark Side” on March 15. I’m not sure how you found my blog, but as a result of your link I found yours. All of this to say that I would be interested in beginning a dialogue with you about the issues that you are passionate about. I’ll admit that we probably approach the topic of homosexuality from very different viewpoints. However, I don’t personally know many openly gay people and I would like to know more about your perspective and better understand how you see things. I believe that this is a topic that the Church (collectively) hasn’t handled well and I believe will be an even greater issue in the future.

You may be interested in hearing a pastor’s perspective or at least sharing your thoughts with one. I have no desire to preach to you or try and get you to think differently, I’m simply offering the chance to learn from each other. I realize this email is probably catching you totally off guard and for that I apologize. If you have no desire to talk with me about this, then no worries. If you do, then I’d be glad to learn more and try and understand a different perspective than mine.

I was impressed with (and curious about) his sincerity and honesty so I agreed to a dialogue that he could post on his website since I sensed a good opportunity to try to break down a few barriers between good Christians and good gays.

So far, two pieces of our dialogue have appeared on Tomorrow's Reflection and I was very pleased to see an overwhelmingly positive response so far.

In the second dialogue, I sent Jeremy a letter that I was asked to write for a small church in Pennsylvania by the pastor with whom I volunteered on the Gulf Coast with the Red Cross after Katrina. In the letter, I gave a fairly detailed accounting of my experiences growing up in a fundamentalist Christian home in the rural South and my spiritual evolution. It's pretty long, but there have been about 12 comments and I'm very encouraged at the lack of hostility or toxic judgement.

Rev. Jeremy seems like a pretty brave guy to me. Kudos to him.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Miss California and Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover






My Bisordi girlfriends and I have a morbid fascination with pageants.

I don't know why exactly, maybe it has to do with being from the land of pageants (the South is all about crowns and trophies) or maybe there is something about my gay genes that makes me appreciate the fantasy of it all.

After all, there's nothing more exciting than the old "rags to riches", "shopgirl makes it big", story that I can watch over and over again. Cinderella come to life as it were.


I even have to admit (I hope you're sitting down), that as a teen, I was the accompanist to not one, but TWO, lovely Miss Rutherford County pageants contestants, one of whom performed Natalie Cole's 70's horny classic "I Got Love On My Mind" and the other was a drop deadon imitation of gay icon Barbra Streisand's "Evergreen". Both contestants, by the way, won the talent portions of the contest, I like to think because of my excellent but subtle piano improvisation in the background. These pageants were among the few ventures outside of church music that I sashayed into during those intensely closeted years. Oh God, was the writing on the wall or what???


I can still get a little excited even now when I hear that a national pageant is being televised.


Recently, Dana and her mother Marilyn and I attended the Miss Redwood City/Miss San Mateo County pageant after becoming re-invigorated by watching "Toddler and Tiaras" on TLC. Local pageants are really nothing like the big "show stopping" nationally televised pageants since this is where they weed out the real talent from the wannabes. Think early rounds of American Idol.


One thing you learn early on if you're into these things is that Miss America and Miss USA pageant systems are VERY different from each other.


"Why do we need BOTH a Miss America AND a Miss USA?" you ask.


First, Miss America's the one where you have to have a talent of some kind. This is the part I live for. Sure, there are plenty of singers, from Broadway to Opera and pianists, and dancers, but the ones I live for are the "nontraditional" talents, the bizarre and the excuse for talent in the non-talented.


Like the ventriloquists who move their mouths or the BAD soliloquies from the stage. Or baton twirling...hehehe.


Sometimes, Miss Americas actually have real talent, although it's pretty rare that they have risen to the heights of Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America later dethroned for racy photos and now starring in "Ugly Betty".


The Miss America system also figured out years ago that it was much more PC to begin trying to encourage women to enter for the scholarship money, rather than for beauty alone. They kept the swimsuit competition however, referring obliquely to it as the "health and athleticism" aspect to being a well-rounded woman. Gotta love that.


Miss USA however makes no bones about what this competition is all about. It's all about the three B's: beauty, boobs and butts. There ain't no talent and their ain't no serious interview questions. It's all about fake tans, faker teeth and hair and silicone.


These women don't pretend that they want to be attorneys or surgeons or teachers- they are in it to be models, spokesmodels or ...well, umm...models! They want the prize money and the furs, and they are not afraid to shake it to get it.


Here's an explanation of the differences taken from the Miss America website:


Is the Miss America program different than Miss USA?


"Yes. In 1952, Catalina Swimsuits founded the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants as product promotion tools. Developed by the Miss America Organization, the Miss America program exists to provide personal and professional opportunities for young women to promote their voices in culture, politics and the community. Almost all contestants have either received, or are in the process of earning college or postgraduate degrees and utilize Miss America scholarship grants to further their educations. The Miss America Organization is the leading provider of scholarships for young women in the world. Although some young women compete in both Miss America and Miss USA, the two systems are completely separate".

A few years back, noted beauty expert Donald Trump purchased the Miss USA pageant system, partially explaining, I believe, why many of the winners often look like Ivana and other Trump women.


This year, apparently as a frontrunner for the Miss USA crown, Miss California Carrie Prejean, a 21 year old woman from a small town called Vista in southern California, was asked by openly gay celebrity gossip guru Perez Hilton, whether she supported same sex marriage in her home state of California.


You know, first of all, I have to wonder if he knew the answer that he would get from her before he even asked. It probably wasn't too hard to predict her response if you knew anything about her background raised in an evangelical family. The party line is always the same "marriage is between a man and woman" or some such nonsense.


At 21, how mature could this aspiring model be?


Or maybe he thought that since most evangelicals don't usually bare their abs and a significant portion of other body parts, maybe she had put some of the religious fervor behind her. I mean come on, I was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical family in the South and walking around in stilettos and a string bikini on stage was definitely verboten.

And maybe Mr. Hilton was supposed to ask something controversial to boost ratings. After all, when was the last time you talked about the Miss USA pageant?

Maybe she was used to generate publicity for the pageant.

She's probably not a bad person. And she's probably no rocket scientist.

But she is likely someone who will do or say almost anything for attention and publicity. She lost the title, but immediately got to make the rounds of the morning shows and suddenly became a spokeswoman for the anti-gay marriage movement. Guillible? Opportunist? Both?

That's where Carl Joseph Walker-Hooper comes in.

If you didn't read about his story, he's the 11 year old boy who hung himself after school mates taunted him for weeks for being "gay". Sadly, there was no evidence of what his true sexuality was, or would be, but his bully peers felt a need to pick on him and persecute him. Until he couldn't take it anymore.

Just over a year before that, also in California, eighth grade student Lawrence King, age 15, was shot and killed by a fellow student, also later labeled a crime of hate.

When I was a kid, I knew I was gay, and I knew I needed to hide it. I must have been good enough at it to escape the likely torment I would have received by the fundamentalist Christians around me- fundamentalist Christians like Miss California Carrie Prejean.

When Miss California says something "innocent" like she believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, she tells children everywhere that being labeled gay means that you are second class and should probably kill yourself.

And she covertly nods to the crazy ones out there that want to hurt or kill poeple, even children, who look, act or in face actually are a sexual minority.

Miss California, I hope your fifteen minutes of fame end soon. You are too young and too immature to have a platform. Go back to Vista.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It's just a feeling


After two months (and one week), our place finally sold. We're almost done with the details of the sale, just waiting for the buyers' financing to go through, which our realtor says won't be a problem.


Now, I'm about to take one of the biggest steps of my life- buying a house with the person I love.


I wonder if it's just me feeling all the excitement and the jitters.


I do try to mark the milestones in my life, whenever they come along, in a serious and mindful way.


It wasn't until Brad that I decided that I could commit myself, in the form of a public ceremony, to anyone, even after several long term relationships prior to him.


I also celebrated getting my degrees- undergrad, Master's and Ph.D. After all, people from my little town just didn't do those things and god knows I wasn't sure I was smart enough back then. So when I did it, each time, I was grateful and surprised.


Mindfulness was one of those concepts that once I learned about it through my studies of buddhist philosophy and meditation training, that had immediate meaning for me.


It's like standing in the center of a moment, just being there, feeling it, and not overthinking it.


It's not easy to put aside worry about what's going to happen. Not when you're from a long line of worriers, that is.


But I do have an appreciation for the big moments at least and I try to relish them.


So, I'm trying to relish this moment right now. I'm about to commit myself and my resources to this relationship with Brad so that we can own a home together.


It must seem silly to someone who got married young, took that first stepright away and began the who childbearing thing before they were old enough to know how serious it all is.


Straight people are so lucky in some ways to have a lot of the milestones kind of figured out for them. There's school and dating, and then getting engagement, having a career and then children. Maybe not in that exact order, but close enough. Yes, I know that there's pressure there, especially if you don't reach a milestone in a timely way ("What? you're 30 and still not pregnant?").


For me, I had to spend so much time detangling my brain from all the stuff I was taught that didn't really apply, that achieving milestones at all was something I celebrated.


And having a healthy relationship wasn't easy either since I didn't have one as a model growing up. When that's the case, you spend time both undoing the wrong stuff you learned about how people should treat each other and then trying to figure out what "healthy" relationships really are.


After that, it's about finding someone else who has done the work on themselves enough to want to work through it together.


So, buying a house to me isn't really about buying a house: it's about accepting the responsibility to be in love, to make a committment and to finally say to yourself "my life now is worth staying here."


Having said all that, we are looking at places.


We've had no real strategy for how we look.


Brad wants to stay in the general area, somewhere here on the Peninsula, like Redwood City, San Carlos, Belmont and maybe southern San Mateo.


We'd each like a place to park our car, and I'd LOVE an office (that's not a guest room too).


Beyond that, a view would be nice. An end unit with only one shared wall if any. An easy place to walk Ella. And maybe a large patio or small yard for flowers and veggies.


More of a feeler than a thinker, my strategy has been to walk into a place, stand there, look around and check the "gut".


For the third time, we've been hovering around a townhouse, just up the street from us.


The UP sides of this place: Spectacular hilltop view of the Bay, a room that could be a great office for me, and a dog trail close by. We both like it and would be happy there.


The DOWN sides: original kitchen, bathrooms and carpet.


The BIG down side: the owner wants about 50K more than we can afford.


Keep us in your thoughts as we hold our breath and see if we can figure out a way to make it work.






Sunday, April 12, 2009

Raymond and Russell



Brad and I have some good friends in Fresno, California, Ed and Jay, that we see fairly regularly either on one of their frequents trips to San Francisco for a weekend in the city, or when we drive down there for a quick weekend away.

Brad met Jay and Ed while he was an undergraduate at Fresno State University at one of the local gay bars and he had lost touch with them for many years until a few years back when Jay called out of the blue to reconnect.  I've enjoyed getting to know them both since they're successful and chic, but very down- to- earth and fun.

About a year ago, on one of their outings to San Francisco, they brought along some friends (in a big van!) to help enjoy the long weekend.  That particular group included two amazing fellows, Raymond and Russell, a gay couple in their 80's who have been together almost 30 years now.  We had a wonderful dinner with our big group in San Francisco and I was frankly amazed at Raymond and Russell's energy and enthusiasm as we moved from dinner to after dinner cocktails at one of the Castro's hippest spots, Lime, and at midnight, Raymond couldn't stop moving to the thundering house music!  All that evening, they told us fascinating stories about their lives as gay men, before they were together, how they met, and the almost 30 years since that day.  I sat there just in awe of their candor and the incredible history of gays in America through their personal experiences.

Here's a few nuggets that Jay and I pieced together from their stories.

Eighty four year old Raymond came out at a fairly young age and he recalls that his mother believed that homosexuality was an illness that could be cured with penicillin.  He was one of the few "out" people in Fresno as a young adult, and he worked as a hairdresser.  He's only had three "long term" relationships in his life, but there was a time when he was quite "busy" sexually, according to his own stories, especially before AIDS.

Russell, now 87, never came out to his family.  He was in the military for a while and then became an attache for the US Government in Thailand before returning to Los Angeles where he worked for the city of LA before he retired.

Raymond and Russell met in a bar they affectionately dubbed "The Wrinkle Room" in Santa Monica in the early 80's and it was love at first sight.  They've been together ever since.

A few weekends ago, we went back to Fresno for a visit, and I was determined to captured some of their sparkle on some video.  Ed and Jay hosted a dinner for us and invited Rick and David and Raymond and Russell over and we spent the evening having cosmos and encouraging R & R to tell us some stories.

Here's one of the favorites on how they met.  Raymond is one on the left (farthest away) and Russell is on the right.  Russell begins the story.  Enjoy!!




video

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Even in the Heartland

I'm amazed and pleased today that gays can marry in Iowa.

There's something very special about the fact that it can happen in the middle of America.

By a stunning 7-0 decision, the Iowa Supreme Court made civil rights the issue again.

And what makes this even more promising is the fact that unlike in California, civil rights can't be denied by a simple majority vote of the people.

In Iowa, there is no initiative process (thank god) and to add something so devastating and negative as Prop 8 is in California, the people of Iowa would first have to have a constitutional amendment pass the state legislature TWICE before it could even be placed on the ballot.

Now that makes so much more sense doesn't it?

Ok, so maybe you don't trust your legislators.  And maybe you think that you know better.

But the truth is, sometimes you do and sometimes you don't.

Who would have thought that in my haven of California, anti-American zealots could vote to revise the California constitution by a simple majority vote?  

I get that issues like taxes and bonds are important and maybe it is a good thing to hear our voice more directly about where our money goes.

But it just blows my mind that this California Supreme court didn't understand that allowing the majority (of the people who voted mind you) to encode discrimination was a MAJOR REVISION of the constitution, not an amendment.

I mean, I'm not a lawyer, but if the constitution guarantees the civil rights of all of its citizens and then a simple majority of the voters should not be allowed to add a discriminatory clause to the constitution since it clearly contradicts the intention of the document, making it a REVISION!!

Another scarier way to look at this:  approximately 13 million votes were cast in the November 2008 election in California.  There are around 23 million registered voters here.  The total population of California is close to 34 million people

That means that around 56% of the registered voters intended to take away rights that were already in place by California Supreme Court decree.  Mind you, the court's job is to determine both what our constitution says, but also to uphold fairness in a country founded on freedom for all.

Here's the biggest rub to me- only 38% of the population of California voted to take away my rights when you consider the entire population, but their vote took away my rights.

Yes, I know that many non-voters are children.  But many aren't.  Some are undocumented. Some are infirm and cannot get to the polling places.  This is an American problem as well as a California problem.

I'm anticipating that our lame California Supreme Court will decided to wash their hands of this mess and give us a partial victory, partial defeat.  Brad and I will be allowed to stay married since we took the plunge before the vote.  But I think they'll also decide that this vote was an "amendment" and not a revision, so that 38% of Californians can decide to offend whomever they please.

Come on people!  We're not talking about putting a lid on property taxes.  Or funding school development.  Or paving our freeways.

We're talking about fundamental rights.

The California initiative process is broken.

It's time to fix it...before your rights are taken away too.





Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Reasons for Gratitude Today

 I really believe in the power of gratitude.  Even before I learned that Oprah and the Big Book extoll the virtues of it, I made it a point to try to focus on the positive things in my life that I had, rather than on what I didn't have.

Because I'm so not perfect however, it is difficult sometimes to practice what I preach to my clients.

It's so much easier it seems to get all snarled up about having rain instead of sun.  Or a 35 minute commute to work on a beautiful stretch of 280. 

Or sometimes I think about how this place will never sell and we won't own a place together.

Sometimes, I focus on the five extra pounds I see in the mirror, or the fact that there is no other hairstyle choice for me than buzzing it short (unless I try the comb- over thing...ewwww) or shaving it bald.

I wish my seven year old Miata was a sleek, sporty Beamer with automatic convertible top instead this nasty old manual one.  

I wonder sometimes if maybe I should have chosen music over psychology as a career.

And then I walk into the living room and Brad is watching basketball with Ella snug in his lap and my whole perspective shifts.

How fortunate I am to have a home, a job, my health, my rattly top down after the rain and someone to love. 

I take a deep breath and as I exhale, I think to myself "life is good."


Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Dark Side


When I was young, and I was a little, gay fundamentalist Christian, I learned that Jesus turned the other cheek. You see, Jesus was a very mild-mannered man, a very spiritual and peaceful man, for the most part.

In my mind's eye, Jesus was unshakeable, unflappable, and he overcame injustice and shallow-minded people with consistency and wisdom. The example followed by MLK Jr. and exemplified by Ghandi.

Of course there was another image of Jesus in the Bible as well. The one who, for once, showed his fury to the money changers, who were making a mockery of the church, by knocking around their tables and scaring the be-Jesus out of them.

Was he a pacifist at all cost? There seems to be sufficient evidence that he was not (http://tomorrowsreflection.com/?p=313). However, he did preach patience and non-violence and at least in my little mind back then, overrode the Old Testament "eye for an eye" mentality that struck me as just "icky."

So where am I going with this?

You guessed it: Dick Cheney.

Huh?


Today I see in the news that Dick is now saying that Obama's policies are making the US vulnerable for a terrorist attack- like the one that he and Georgie didn't prevent on 9/11, remember?

This is the second time now the most important VP ever in the history of the universe has chosen to speak out to predict disaster for the US (almost in a wishful way don't cha think?).

Ok, Obama started out trying to calm down the people ready for blood after the end of the Bush nightmare. "IMPEACH" they all screamed. "WAR CRIMINALS" a few chanted.

"No, "says Obama, "we need to move forward, not backwards." A pretty damned decent attempt to let "bygones be bygones" no matter how illegal and unethical the recent past adminstration has behaved.

Yet, instead of feeling grateful, and giving bipartisanship a chance to take the country in a new direction, Republican leadership in congress obstructs at every angle, Rush Limbaugh, their de facto leader openly hopes that America fails, and now Dickie boy is practically drooling at the thought of mayhem and disaster in the form of another major terrorist attack.

He can't WAIT until it happens on somebody else's watch!! After all, how will he repair and rewrite the Bush/Cheney legacy without it?

That where I find the temple dwellers story so intriguing. Jesus was a pacifist to a point.

He tried patience and turning the cheek, but since we only have two, after the second cheek is turned it's time for action against injustice.

Mr. Obama, you have shown great restraint, and great wisdom. But it's time now to step up and hold Bush and Cheney accountable for their misdeeds.

I could get all serious now and talk about what's already been said. Like NOT investigating these jerks sends absolutely the WRONG message to future leaders who take the law into their own hands and trample on our Constitution. If crimes have been committed, and I believe there is solid evidence that they have been, then it is your responsibility to hold them accountable. But, that is for another day, another columnist.

Cheney will not stop until you shut him up, Mr. President.

I want him stopped and I believe most of America wants him stopped.

Time to overturn the tables and banish the temple dwellers.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Ramble Redhead Interview


About a year ago, I had a guest appearance on the podcast, Gay Men Talking, hosted by my friends Alex and Dean to talk about my book, Loving Ourselves. Soon after that show was broadcast, I received a nice email from another podcast host, Tom, of The Ramble Redhead Show out of Indiana, asking me if I'd be a guest on his show. It took a while, but we finally made it happen and Tom just told me that he posted the interview today at his website, http://www.rambleredhead.com/. We talked a little bit about the book, but it was actually a lot more about me and my life (which I didn't expect!).


If you're interested, take a listen.




Friday, February 27, 2009

The Piano Teacher



Last year, when I was visiting the folks in Forest City, I found out that the woman who gave me piano lessons throughout much of my childhood had passed away.

Mrs. Taylor was important to me in more ways than one.

Ever since I can remember, I have loved music. I loved the radio, especially WBBO, our local station and I listened every spare minute of every day. Whatever they played, I listened to and I learned all the words to every song. And I spent lots of my allowance on records, those flat black discs that revolved around 45 times per minute with a needle tracking the grooves until they were scratched and crackly.

My favorite aunt Martha, a self-taught musician herself, held me in her lap whenever I visited when she played the old upright piano in the room off the kitchen and she eventually showed me some easy tunes I could play myself. It was Aunt Martha who introduced the concept of music notes and how you could read them to turn them into sounds with your fingers. Sitting in Aunt Martha's lap was always a highlight because I relished the attention and her encouragement. She was possibly the first person who recognized some tiny kernal of talent I might have had in those days.

So, by about age 6, I had a passion to learn to play the piano myself . I begged and begged until mom and dad gave in and bought me my own secondhand Baldwin upright! And, they agreed to send me for some piano lessons to learn to play it.

I still remember mom driving me to Ellenboro , which was out in the country for us folks from the urban Forest City world (pop. 7000). I had no idea what to expect, but I was squirming with anticipation during the whole ten minutes it took to get there.

We arrived at what looked like a regular country house, pulled into the gravel driveway and circled around back of the house to a tiny, plain white building, I'd soon come to know like my own room.

We sat in the car for what seemed like forever before suddenly, a small white haired woman emerged from the main house back door, beckoning us towards the small white building with small windows.

I remember her as kind and funny, with a deep Southern drawal and a natural grace about her. When she opened the door for us, I could finally see the small studio Yamaha piano, back to back with the electric Hammond organ, just like the one at our church. She and my mom worked out the details of our arrangement while I tinkered with the keys: half hour lessons, once a week, $5 a lesson, plus the cost of the music books. With a gentle nudge that I would be expected to practice at least 30 minutes a day, she winked and smiled and thus it began.

My official relationship with Mrs. Taylor lasted for almost 10 years after that, the ups and downs of those lessons, week after week, month after month and she taught me to play.

I know I wasn't always an easy student. As much as I loved the piano and loved music, it was sometimes hard to stay focused on the practicing, earning me many pseudo-threats of the lessons stopping until I found the discipline to work at it. As much as I sometimes hated the thirty minutes of scales and music theory, I also continued to love the breakthroughs in my ability to play real songs.

No matter what else was going on in my life, every week I found myself in that little room sharing the love of music and the ins and outs of the rest of my life with Mrs. Taylor. She laughed at my jokes and brushed her tiny pomeranian's fur, pausing occasionally to correct my hand position or timing, with the gentle patience of a true teacher.

Under her guidance, I became fairly accomplished at the piano, enough to eventually perform at my parents' church and later at school and at the local arts council.

One day, at my regular lesson when I was 15, she surprised me by asking if I'd be interested in becoming the pianist at her church, Ellenboro United Methodist, for $15 per service (at the time, a fortune!). She had been the pianist for years and was ready to retire at that point she explained. She also felt that I was ready and could handle the responsibility as long as my parents agreed and could bring me to church and pick me up after.

I was a little concerned about my folks' reaction since they were devout Wesleyans and taking this job would mean that I would no longer attend church with them, but I wanted to try it more than I'd ever wanted anything. It strikes me as funny now that I seemed to have no fear about it. I was just a kid who could earn some bucks and have some fun at the same time- oh, and the opportunity to escape the harshness of the fundamentalist Wesleyans that I had come to despise as a young man. At that point in time, I had been struggling with my sexuality for a few years.

Although I respected and cared for Mrs. Taylor, I wouldn't say that we necessarily had an openly loving or family-type relationship. She was my teacher and I was her student. I knew virtually nothing about her life outside that little white building. We spent ten years together, sharing our love for music and the piano and occasionally we talked about other things and laughed. Twice we met outside of the white building and church, both times on her initiative to expose me to music at a larger scale: a piano performance at Isothermal Community College and a music teachers' convention a few miles away for the afternoon.

At close to 17, my life became much more complicated as I began my first love affair, struggled to maintain my grades and dealt with the horrible coming out process with my family. Being gay back then meant that you were evil or sick and my refusal to reject that part of myself led my mother to say things to me that a mother should never say to a child.

Piano lessons got pushed aside and although I continued to play professionally, I left the comfort of those weekly meetings . Within the next couple of years, I struggled to survive until I left town for college, rarely looking back to Forest City. Mrs. Taylor wished me well with a quick hug and one last prod for me to continue my musical life after high school.

Over the years, I'd occasionally give Mrs. Taylor a call to say hello. She always sounded the same- excited to hear from me and happy when I could say that I was still playing. But I can say that I thought about her on more than a few occasions, the woman who was probably the most consistently positive force in my young life. She was always warm, always gentle and always happy to see me, 50 weeks a year for ten years.

A few years back, when my second book, The Gay and Lesbian Guide to Self-Esteem was published, I included Mrs. Taylor in the Acknowledgements section, among the other important people in my life who made a difference. She believed in me and made no demands on me other than to practice and to make good music. I never told her about it. We didn't talk about things like that. But she was the only consistently positive and regular adult presence in my life, who didn't judge me or manipulate me. I owe her for my self-discipline, a virtue which has brought me successes that I never dreamed at 13 that I could achieve.

Two years ago, I was thinking about her again, wondering how she was and remembering our times together. It hit me suddenly that maybe I had underestimated my relationship with her.

It's hard to know what kind of kid I must have been to her. What kinds of things did I really talk about with her? How much time in the 30 minutes did I really spend playing and how much did I share with her the details of my life?

I had always thought about what a wonderful "coincidence" it was that, just as I was feeling the peak oppression of my parents' fundamentalist beliefs while trying to understand myself, she "retired" as the pianist for the somewhat more progressive United Methodist Church and convinced them to offered me the job. Was I really that good? or did she have something else in mind?

What if, I wondered, Mrs. Taylor knew about struggle I was facing, without even a conversation about it. Surely, even in the back woods of Rutherford County, she had experience with little boys with a talented ear and musical expressiveness. Was it possible that this wise woman knew me better than I knew myself? Instead of divine intervention that took me out of that homophobic church under the spotlight of the small town mind, maybe it was Mrs. Taylor's way of rescuing me. Did she know me and my folks well enough to understand that without her intervention at that point in time, who knows what would have happened?

I choose to believe now that she did. I choose to believe that she was proud of me and loved me, quietly and patiently. During the times that I didn't love myself and thought I had nothing good inside, she was there every week. Recently, I revived my keyboard life, fumbling through some easy Beethoven and beginner Mozart. I wish I had practiced more during my life.

Good night Mrs. Taylor and thank you for believing in me when no one else did. I love you.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Living in a Clean House

I feel like I'm on an adventure.

We're in the process of trying to sell Brad's condo and it's the first time I've ever been involved with this procedure.

Open houses, I can tolerate.  You basically get the place in perfect order, leave for a few hours, and then when you come back, it's done.

It's the keeping the place spotless EVERY DAY that's the hard part.

I'm not exactly 
known for neatness (although I have to say that I'm not into filthy...it's more like having organized little piles).  I'm not sure exactly how I missed that part of the gay gene.  I mean, I do clean up when guests are coming and Brad's gotten me into the habit of making the bed everyday (well, except for when he's out of town), but cleaning everyday is just not important to me.

Maybe I'm working out issues from my childhood?  

I remember mom's insistence on a clean house.  Before "no wax" floors, I remember my dad stripping and waxing the kitchen floor every Saturday night.  It seemed like it took hours of scrubbing and polishing.  And there wasn't a Saturday morning without the vacuum buzzing through the house, spoiling my complete enrapture with cartoons, from Bugs Bunny, Casper,and  the Flintstones, to the Archies, Josey and the Pussycats in Outer Space and Fat Albert.  







Cleaning was a priority in our house on Price street, and I learned quickly that it was a way to earn favor and spending money.  Taking out the trash, folding the laundry and washing the dishes could mean, I don't know, three dollars?  

Maybe it's just a "lifestyle choice"?

Who says that neater is better?  Who? WHO??

I think it's a matter of personal preference.  I mean, little piles don't bug me.  Honestly, there's something kinda nice about a comfy home that is "lived in".  It's like my own personal little rebellion against the shoulds of the world.  "It's my house so I get to live in it like I choose."

Except it isn't my house.

It's OUR home.

Two adults with separate identities, who choose to make a life together.

Which means we choose to compromise.

I make up the bed and Brad ignores a few little piles.

And miraculously, I am surviving living in a museum while we anticipate owning our own place together, continuing the compromising that is love.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Obama Obama Obama

I'm finally ready to talk about it.  I was so stressed out about it for the last two years, I just bring myself to blog until the climax was over.

The election I mean.

Somewhere between the press annointing Hillary as the Democratic Nominee and the second oath of office after the John Roberts' screw up, I knew that Barack Obama was the man for me in the White House, er, maybe the Multiracial House now, we should call it.

I probably did more in this election to get involved than I ever have before.  I started by trying to get to know who this man really was, first by reading "The Audacity of Hope" and then by really listening to his plans and his speeches.  I put his bumper sticker on my car long before it was cool and it was inevitable.  That's how committed I was this time around.

If  you've been reading my prior posts, you can tell that I have a problem with the Republicans as well.  Honestly, I have a problem with the Democrats too, but at least they are a bit closer to how a real democracy should function than the current crop of neocon crybabies ("nobody listens to us anymore so we don't wanna play with you!").

I have to admit, I had a few seconds of doubt after Rick Warren, the blowhard evangelist from Southern California was selected to give the invocation (see my earlier blog on this idiot).  And, I worry whenever Obama tries to go "bipartisan" on me.  After all, what exactly have the Republicans done RIGHT over the past eight years?  Anybody?  Anybody? 

Why would anything they have to say matter right now since they were the ones who messed us all up to begin with. Seriously, would someone please tell the Republican leadership that they lost because they screwed up? And that they'll keep losing as long as they keep doing it?

Watch them play games with the stimulus package just so they can "win" the media wars and try to make Obama look bad.  Watch Judd Gregg play games with the bipartisan attempt by Obama to represent the economic perspectives of by accepting Gregg's offer to be Commerce Secretary. Watch Illinois GOP leader Jim Durkin call for Blagojevich appointee Sen. Roland Burris to resign so that a "special election" can be called.  Hmmm...so that the national Repub party can pour resources into Illinois to prevent Obama from ever reaching 60?  Or how about Norm Coleman, defeated by Al Franken, filing frivolous lawsuit after lawsuit, to prevent Franken from taking his rightful seat in the Senate.  They'll do ANYTHING folks.  No matter how un-American.  


Enough about those lunk heads though.

I'm still excited about Obama, the man.  

Yes, he's got to clean house with the vetting team.

And, he really needs to stay on top of the media wars and define the arguments.

But I have to say this, his personal intellectual brilliance, his grasp of the important issues and his refreshing candor, make me more excited about this country's future than I've felt in my life time.

I think he knows what he's doing.  

I believe he has a plan for how to save the economy, how to bring respect back to the US in the eyes of the world and how to, most importantly, change politics as we know it.

For example, in a couple of years, when the economy is turning around- and it will- people will see Obama as the stimulus for that.  And people will remember that the talking heads for the Repubs were against it.

I have to hand it to the Repubs...they have balls.

Part of my dismay for the Dems is that they don't stand up and fight back.  And they are too timid to take a political risk that might pay off big, but might also blow up in their faces.

Repubs however do whatever it takes to win.  And right now, they are losing bigtime.  They are on the wrong side of history.  And they are paying for the idiocy of the Bush-Cheney-Rove years.

Obama however has balls I think.  Big ones.

It took cojones for him to run for the U.S. Senate, AND then for the Democratic nomination, AND then for President.  

He defied the odds.

He'll continue to defy expectations in my opinion.

So, when I feel frustrated with the moment, or hear a Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity windbag, I click my heels together three times and say "Obama, Obama, Obama".











Sunday, February 8, 2009

Why I Love My Husband and I Don't Need a Hallmark Valentine


In lieu of a big mushy Valentine's celebration this year, I thought I might muse a bit about while Valentine's day isn't really necessary for me.
When I was growing up in that small Southern town, for the longest time, I thought I was the only gay person in the whole world. With no books, or internet or Will and Grace, there was no way to know that what I was feeling was shared by others, so on top of the shame and fear that I was feeling, there wasn't even the possibility of finding someone to love.

In high school though, I found out a few things that were encouraging, like the fact that there were other gay people in the world and that sex with them was good. But the idea that gay people were entitled to love was still a pipe dream. What I learned in the 1970's was that being gay was about sexual freedom and exploration, not about commitment and intimacy. Not very many people talked about making "commitments" and gay marriage wasn't even on the radar.

My 20's and 30's were about trying at failing at relationships. I realized that I was not mature enough, nor ready for real love in those attempts, but as time passed, I became less optimistic that the right person would come along.

And then, Brad came along.

Just as I was about to give up (at least for a while) on Match.com and blind dates from friends, a whole new bunch of possibilities entered my life by showing up at my door with flowers.

Forty year old at the time, and nursing scars from my previous long-term relationship that ended badly, I had just about decided that either I was too jaded at this point or that gay men in urban environments were too cynical for a serious relationship.

Little did I realize that a couple of things were about to happen.

First, I would meet someone who would completely disarm me with his sincerity and his gentle, sweet nature.

And second, I would enter into a relationship for the first time in my life in a mature and thoughtful way.

Yes, I was overwhelmed with infatuation. You know, when you are swept off your feet, you spend less time parked and more time with engines racing, and become consumed with forever after. Reason takes a back seat to passion. I was always good at that part.

Maybe because this was on the heels of the last failure, or maybe because I had met someone who was mature beyond his years, but as much as we felt drawn to each other, we took our time and believe it or not, actually talked about the process as it was happening.

For the first time, at least for me, building a relationship together became an intentional process. We talked and laughed and played and talk some more.

There was no denying the instant connection that we felt with each other. A knowing that transcended geographical differences, the age difference, and even religious traditions. It was different from what we each had experienced in the past and I knew there was something special here.

Experience has taught me however, that love is not infatuation, or an unspoken connection. Love, in my book, is something that grows over time with cultivation, like a beautiful bonzai garden. Great relationships don't just happen, as I naively thought from my inexperienced life, they take work.

Brad was willing to do the work. And that was an incredibly powerful realization, understanding that he is willing to work hard to be with me. He understands commitment means that through thick and thin, we are there for each other, patiently waiting for the time that it is our turn to draw strength from the relationship. His commitment to me makes me more committed to him.

Beside his work ethic however, I'm most amazed by Brad's basic goodness. Over the past six years, I've watched him go beyond expectations to be kind. This is true kindness, not the type that's only for recognition or out of obligation. I respect him for his commitment to honestly and charity. He does this at work, with family, and most amazingly, with me. It's the first time in my life that someone surprises me with kindness and I'm speechless when it happens. He doesn't even know really how much those little acts touch me. It's just who he is.

I never imagined until these last six years, that I could really be with one person for the rest of my life.

Never has a relationship felt so real and so honest. I have been more of myself with Brad than I've ever been with anyone because he's earned my trust.

I don't need a Valentine to know that I am loved this year.

My Valentine is the way that he looks at me when we talk, the way he listens to me when I complain, and the way he reaches for my hand just because.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Publicity blitz..of sorts

I know I've been gone too long. I think about you guys a lot.

It's a lot of pressure actually, to think, sit down and write, especially with a life going on at the same time.

Let me apologize now for now for the randomness of this one. I'm going to try to catch you up on stuff going on with me and then the next one, I promise, will be about real issues again.

First, I'm having a bit of a media blitz, well a media blitz for me that is.

I was interviewed last week on the podcast "Ramble Redhead", which was an interesting experience for me in itself. Tom, the host (ol' Ramble himself) invited me to be on the show after hearing me on "Gay Men Talking" a few months ago and we finally made it happen last week.

My first assumption was that this was going to be mainly about the recent book, "Loving Ourselves" but I was sorely mistaken about that. It seems that Tom's goal with the shows is to really take an intimate look at gay men from all walks of life and to tell their personal stories, not just to talk about their work.

I don't know that I've ever talked so much about my self and my life, especially in the context of an interview for broadcast. I was on the phone for almost two hours, which I think he's going to trim down to two, half hour segments.

He's a pretty good interviewer, leading me to talk about all kinds of things including the first moments of self-awareness in terms of my sexuality, my early relationships and all about me and Brad.

For the morbidly curious, he should be posting the finished product within the next couple of weeks. He just posted an interview with comedian/actor ANT so I think mine is next after him. If it cures your insomnia (which would be my greatest fear), let me know.

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And, interestingly, I'm set to appear on the local cable show "Outlook Video" which is taped at the studio of KMVT in Mountain View. We'll do the taping next Thursday the 12th and when I get an edited copy, I'll post a clip here. Wish me luck and I hope what they say about the camera adding ten pounds is just a myth.

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Brad and I are also in the process of trying to sell the condo in which we live. Our goal is to buy a townhouse in the area together, which will be a first for both of us (owning a place with a partner). Yes, it always looks this clean and no, I never have a messy, unkempt closet nor do I leave my clothes lying around my room, REGARDLESS of what Brad says.

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I have re-established contact with several friends from college and high school over the past few weeks. It's partly a Facebook phenomenon, but I've been enjoying finding out what happened to who. Those were the days. Yikes!

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I am excited by the fact that the California Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case regarding the constitutionality of Prop 8 in March. I will be watching with baited breath, hoping that the $40 million spent by gay marriage foes was totally wasted. There apparently are homeless Mormons somewhere who donated all the life savings to support Prop 8, but are smug in their continuing attempts to define marriage (after they got the whole polygamy thing figured out).

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The whole Obama thing has just been too much for me to discuss thus far. I wanted to just experience it for a while before I start talking about it. It's coming soon.