Thursday, January 29, 2009

She Told Us So: Remembering Molly Ivins

Maybe ten years ago or so, as an avid reader of editorial pages, I found myself reading a column by Molly Ivins and cackling with glee.

For those of you not familiar with Ms. Ivins, she was one outspoken, witty... really a genius... of a columnist who wasn't afraid to bite back at the powers that be.

Born in Monterey, CA but raised in Texas and proud to stay there most of her life, she had a keen eye for observation and I loved every thing that came out of her pen.

Most times, her columns were bold and brassy, taking the political right wing, that she lived beside day after day, to task for their un-Democratic and un-progressive platforms.

I particularly loved how she incorporated her strong Southern drawl into the thoughts themselves, simultaneously mocking and loving her own roots deep in the Bible belt.

And, I snapped up her books, from Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, which unsuccessfully tried to warn us all about the perils of electing an incompetent boob from a weak governorship state to the Presidency, to Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America, a searingly accurate accounting of his first term in office, she was serious, funny and dead on.

She had a talent for taking the absurd in American life and politics and making me laugh. Molly was one of those people who made me feel like someone else out there gets it and therefore, got me. Cynthia Tucker, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, another brilliant columnist that I crave, gives me that same kind of feeling but without quite the same edgy pizazz of Miss Molly.

Although I never met her, she was one of those writers that you felt like you knew. I was incredibly sad when she succumbed to breast cancer in January of 2007.

Bush is finally gone, but we'll live with his unfortunate legacy for years.

I remember you Molly, and I remember that you tried to warn us. I miss you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Different Light Book Signing

Many thanks to the people who turned out for the book signing last night at A Different Light in the Castro.  Lots of wonderful friends and a few people I didn't know showed up on a Monday night after work and made the experience so much more fun than I expected.

You're all fantastic!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My Response to Joel's questions about Rick Warren, Catholicism and other stuff

I haven't blogged on Rick Warren much yet but I've been thinking about it!

The only issue that Brad and I have ever really haggled over is religion. He's such a good man from his head to his toes and that gives me pause when I criticize the hierarchy of Catholicism.

But, as we've discussed before, I came from a very rigid, dogmatic fundamentalist Christian family and as you can imagine, I came away with quite a few scars from that experience that makes me very sensitive to hypocrisy in a religious system. Nothing makes me more upset than the notion of using Christ (or any other religious figure for that matter) as a tool of the powerful to oppress others. In a weird way, it makes me defensive and angry for Christ himself that humans use the threat of condemnation from God to impose their own flawed logic and irrational fears on others. That just flies in the face of the Christ that I learned about, even from the fundamentalists themselves. Does that make sense? At some point, I started thinking that to be truly Christian, ones needs to avoid the churches!!

Having said that, I cannot support the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in particular for the blatantly homophobic statements that they regularly make about gay people. I cannot understand how or why they continue to ignorance the scientific evidence, and the personal experience of good gay men in the priesthood, to continue to hold on to unnecessary dogma. And I believe that this dogma contributes to the continuing stigmatization and hate crimes against gay people around the world. With one stroke of the pen, the Pope could begin an amazing reconciliation process and healing for millions of oppressed gay people everywhere!

As far as Rick Warren goes, I think clearly the moment was bigger than the man. It's incredibly difficult for evangelicals to think "outside the box" and a big flaw in their judgement revolves around their tendency to be "all of nothing" thinkers, you're with us or against us kind of mentality.

I think the fact that supposedly Rick Warren is more open to environmentalism, etc. than other evangelicals, gave Obama hope that this was a way to connect with this previously ignored subgroup within the Democratic Party. I am trying to trust Obama's judgment about him right now, hoping that this might pay off with less opposition to his Presidency when Obama makes the big moves toward civil rights.

I watched Rick Warren discussing his views about gay people on an interview on NBC a few weeks ago. He is so hopelessly ignorant that I realized at that moment that he's simply a chess piece in Obama's larger plan to bring the Sarah Palin supporters of the world to the table. Same thing with Mike Huckabee. You know when men like these can't rationally discuss the issue, knowing that they are going to be on a national stage, they can't be that bright. Giving a Christ-centered invocation at an international event is more evidence of the lack of sophistication and sensitivity of the man.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Stonewall Kitchen

I believe it was my friend Drew that first recommended that I try the Stonewall Kitchen products at the Chef Shop in San Carlos. I can't remember if there was a specific product he recommended, a jam or a pancake mix or salad dressing, but I did remember the brand name and while wandering around on Laurel Street in San Carlos, I decided to give the Fig and Ginger jam a try. I love ginger. And I love figs. Who knew?

Breakfast the next day was amazing. The fluffy English muffins from Whole Foods were the perfect complement to the jam and I think within a week, I was at the bottom of the jar.

Next, I tried the Wild Maine Blueberry Jam, and as a longtime blueberry freak, I was amazed at both how many real blueberries were packed in there and how fresh and juicy they stayed. preservatives! And less syrupy blue stuff than other brands I've tried.

Last Christmas (2007), I gave most of my clinical team at work some variation of a gift package of Stonewall Kitchen products that included the Pumpkin Pancake or Banana Pancake mixes along with a SK spatulua, etc.

My readers know that I don't usually go into product endorsement mode on the blog. I probably wouldn't have if it wasn't for my experience yesterday.

Also on Christmas in 2007, Brad gave me a gift certificate for the cooking school at Draeger's Market. I love to cook when I have the time, but I'm self-taught, and I'm really wanting to learn the basics of cooking from a pro. So, in December of 2008, I was feeling guilty (and a little pressure from Brad) about not having signed up for a Draeger's class yet. As luck would have it, I received the cooking school schedule in the mail that week, and there on the cover was Jonathan King and Jim Stott, the founders/owners of Stonewall Kitchen, coming to the San Mateo store for a demo!

Yesterday was an amazing and inspiring event for me. Of course the food that they prepared was fantastic. Classic Down East Clam Chowder, Roasted Beet Salad with Fried Goat Cheese and Fig-Balsamic Dressing, Salmon Ginger Cakes with Orange-Miso Sauce, Mediterranean Orzo salad, Asparagus Bundles wrapped with Prosciutto, and Molten Chocolate Cake were demo'd and served to the class of about 50 of us.

The school itself is amazing with comfortable "classroom" style seating, high tech camera/HD screens for detail viewing and professional staff assisting with clean up and serving. There really wasn't a bad seat in the house and I can't wait to take the Basic Knife Skills class coming up this wednesday.

Having said all that however, what really impressed me the most was Jonathan and Jim themselves.

They struck me as real people who had a good idea and made something happen with it. Nothing's more inspiring than that.

Both are warm and funny in their own ways and it's clear that they love what they do. I'll even go a step further- I think they feel grateful for the incredible whirlwind that turned their little card table at the local farmer's market into a multi-million dollar business with 6000 accounts currently worldwide and producing 50,000 products a day at their main factory.

Using a combination of good taste, "ignorance" (as Jim jokingly stated during the demo) and plain old hard work, they took a passion and created something healthy and tasty that appeals to me not because of the promotion or packing but the simplicity, quality and comfort that goes into each product. They probably wouldn't sell something if they didn't like it themselves.

Jonathan hand-wrote every label on their first major order of 3000 jams from Crate and Barrell and it's still his handwriting printed on every label even now. Gives you the feeling that this stuff just came off grandma's shelf!

I think we all need a little inspiration during these rough economic times. Obama is one inspiration for me. These guys are another.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Holy Rollers and LYRIC

Just a quick mention of the upcoming fundraiser at Rainbow Skate coming up on January 14th at 8 pm.

We were approached by the famous Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence of San Francisco a few weeks ago about doing a skating event to raise money for LYRIC, which stands for Lavender Youth Recreation & Information Center.  

Here's a little history on LYRIC that I borrowed from their website:

Lavender Youth Recreation & Information Center (LYRIC) is a community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth.  In 1988, two young women, Donna Ozawa and Beth Kivel, dreamed about creating a safe and fun place for gay and lesbian youth. A few months later with generous community support LYRIC was born out of the first dance for LGBTQQ youth in San Francisco.

Within a few years, through strong community organizing we gained the support of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office to purchase a building in San Francisco’s traditional “gay neighborhood,” the Castro. In the fiscal year ending June 2004, LYRIC reached over 2,000 young people through our local programming and received 10,284 calls to our national Talkline/Infoline (60% from within California). We also reached approximately 5,232 youth in San Francisco through our outreach activities.  Because of our emphasis on peer-based support, youth participation reaches all levels of the agency, including the staff and board. LYRIC has become an acknowledged model for similar agencies around the country.

In the last few years as LGBTQQ adults have found greater mainstream acceptance, youth are coming out at younger and younger ages. Today, it is not uncommon to have eleven and twelve year-olds access our services. However
, the increased visibility for adults has not made the world any safer for LGBTQQ youth. In fact, it may be just the opposite. According to a recent study by the California Safe Schools Coalition, two-thirds of LGBTQQ students reported harassment and nearly half (47%) of these students experienced repeated harassment. Students targeted on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation are three times more likely to miss school because they feel unsafe. They are more than twice as likely to be depressed, to consider or make a plan for suicide, to have low grades, to use drugs or alcohol, or to be victims of violence.

The growing economic divide between individuals and communities across the nation and the erosion of funding for social services has left many LGBTQQ youth without any basic support in their lives. We are finding a growing number of LYRIC participants challenged by homelessness, family rejection, unemployment, violence, HIV/AIDS or lack of means for basic survival. Our population base is also increasingly diverse, including greater numbers of participants of color, transgender participants as well as youth from low-income backgrounds. 

Our message is clear: these youth are part of our family. As a community, it is our responsibility to come together and build a diverse society where LGBTQQ youth are embraced for who they are and encouraged to be who they want to be. By working towards social justice and supporting young leaders, their families and allies, LYRIC is building a world that honors, respects and appreciates LGBTQQ youth and their contributions. What began as simple dream between two friends—and came true because of the tremendous work and support of a broad community alliance—is needed today more than ever in the world.

So come on out and support the event and support our young people!


Beautiful day in San Carlos

I was tempted to write something snarky today about Sarah Palin again.  Something about how now that she's off on a tangent about how it's the media's fault that she came out of the election looking so incompetent, you'd think that the new interview with a right wing filmmaker ( would actually counter that impression.  I never really understood how five to ten minutes of unedited video of her talking in circles and half truths was the media's fault.  It's like she's saying that they didn't show the hours of her speaking articulately and brilliantly.   To me, she comes across in exactly the same way on this "conservative" guy's interview as she did with Katy.  And it's pretty amusing that blasted across the interview is the web URL stating "How Obama Got Elected".

Anyway, what I really want to write about today is how beautiful today has been.  

It's in the mid 70's, sunny and clear.  So clear, we could see all the way across the bay to Fremont and beyond.

Brad and I just took Ella out for a long walk along our favorite ridge trail, just yards from our place.

I realized today that I spent too much time in 2008 stressed out.  My job change, the election, Prop 8, the economy- you name it, it was stressful.

I didn't spend enough time in the present.

Too much energy went into how things should be (or should've been), rather than how they are.

We saw two great movies this weekend, Gran Torino and Doubt, which made me think about 2009.

From Gran Torino, I take away the reminder that life is short and that human connection through community is important.  And that there is redemption for mistakes you make if you look for it.

From Doubt, I'm reminded that no one has a monopoly on the truth- including me.  We are as united in our doubts and confusion in life as we are by our certainty and absolutes.

I know they're just movies, and that now even if they didn't actually happen, they serve as powerful metaphors for how I live my life.  

I'm inspired right now to change my attitude a bit.  To let go of my distaste for Sarah Palin.  To try to be kinder to people in general.  To be happy with what I have now rather than what I want.

Maybe you'll see my cheeky side slip out again in a new posting now and then, but for today, I'm working on it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Upcoming Reading at A Different Light

Let’s play a game. Name the source of each of the following quotes.  (Answers at the end).



Contrary to claims by gay activists, homosexually active persons as a group appear to be less psychologically healthy than the general population.”1


"If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."2


“The homosexual inclination is … 'objectively disordered' and homosexual practices are 'sins gravely contrary to chastity’.”3


”God hates fags”4



If this game gets under your skin, join the club.

All four quotes were made within the past five years, are highly visible in the media and fuel the fires of hate crimes everywhere.

And they really tick me off!

I know, as a clinical psychologist, I shouldn’t be upset by statements like this.  I should be able to laugh heartily and analyze the speaker’s true feelings.  After all, I went to school all those years to fix myself first, didn’t I? 

Well, if I’m being brutally honest, YES, I did wander into the psychology classes with some pretty dysfunctional history in my background, some related to my being gay in a small Southern town and some related to just plain ol’ regular dysfunction.

I guess I stayed in those classes because some of it actually made sense to me.  And some of it helped me.

The little town where I was raised was super conservative, the center of the Bible belt and home of the National Dairy Goat Association.  Much of my world back then was about “right” and “wrong”.  My parents were devout fundamentalists and we attended church three times a week, or more if it was time for revival.

By the time I was 13, I knew that homosexuals were “bad” and that whatever feelings I had about other boys were forbidden.  I learned to hide who I really was and to pretend that I felt something for girls that I didn’t.  Life in that small town was about survival.

What I didn’t realize was happening though, was that I was being conditioned all those years.  I was bombarded with messages- some overt, some subliminal- about myself as a gay man, and most, if not all, were horribly negative. 

In my part of the world, anti-gay sentiments were open, obvious and even righteous.  There was only Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell talking about being gay. There was no Ellen, no Will and Grace, and no Internet.

Thank goodness I escaped. 

During my training, amidst the classes on Freudian theory and Jungian archetypes, I heard about a radically different form of therapy that caught my attention, known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (also known as CBT).  While exploring the meaning of dreams and early childhood traumas was certainly interesting, I found the simplicity and immediate power of CBT personally and professionally exciting.

The central tenant of CBT is basic.  Recognize problematic thinking and change it.

I learned that those negative messages from my childhood about my worth and my core identity, continued to affect my choices even as an out and proud adult.  I realized that for many of my lesbian and gay clients, they too carried the remnants of earlier struggles, almost like they were programmed to self-sabotage.  Hearing a publicized statement like one of the examples above could be enough for some of them to start a spiral of negativity, despair and self-destruction.

Coming out, it seemed, was only the first step in the journey to a healthy life.  Learning to recognize the leftover anti-gay messages that we’ve internalized and then stopping them dead in their tracks was a powerful way to feel better and stop undermining our health and goals.

My memories of those days in the South, and the healing that occurred after I left, prompted me to write Loving Ourselves:  The Gay and Lesbian Guide to Self-Esteem, to share what I’ve learned, both personally and professionally with the rest of the LGBTQ world out there.  Yet beyond changing your thinking, this book is also about cultivating a better, more loving relationship with the real you.

The evidence is clear.  LGBTQ young people are still significantly more likely to feel bad about themselves, to use drugs and alcohol excessively, and to be subjected to harassment and violence than their straight peers.  And it’s also clear that homophobia remains strong and promoted by powerful voices in high places.

Learning to love yourself means learning to regularly counteract negative messages wherever you find them, whether from your past or in the headlines of Fox News and then replacing them with new messages of genuine affection, respect and hope.

Loving Ourselves is my way of sharing the very best parts of the journeys of my clients and myself towards healthy self-esteem and providing a starting path for readers who want to go there.

Kimeron Hardin, Ph.D.


1-James Dobson, Founder, Focus on the Family

2-Rick Santorum, former US Senator from Pennsylvania

3-Benedict XVI, Pope, Roman Catholic Church

4- Fred Phelps, Preacher, Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, KS


For those of you in the SF Bay Area, I will be doing a reading/booksigning for Loving Ourselves at A Different Light Bookstore on Castro Street in SF on January 26th at 7:30 pm.  Join me if you can!






Thursday, January 1, 2009

False Prophets in a Modern Day World

Part of my fundamentalist upbringing conditioning was that not only were we the ONLY correct Christians, but that there were people disguised as Christians out there that we needed to avoid. These pseudo-Christians might look like us and act like us and even proclaim that Jesus was their Lord and Savior, but they weren't us. In fact, the devil himself might cloak himself in the form of a highly appealing, Bible-quotin', Gospel singing, big-hair wearing preacher of the Word.

We were coached from an early age to be suspicious and to look at others with skepticism, no matter what they said or how nice to us they were. As a matter of fact, the nicer they were, the more distance we should probably keep.

Apparently, the Bible talks quite a bit about being wary of so called "false prophets"- or proclaimers of faith who don't practice what they preach. Or even more sinisterly, use the mantel of Christianity to advance their own selfish motives- for money, for power, for sex or ego.

We certainly had our fill of powerful religious leaders who have fallen to their own greed and power in big, media-frenzying ways. I can name a few off hand like Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, Jim Bakker, Robert Tilton- all victims of their own rigid standards, perhaps examples of Karma in action.

Another irony they all have in common in their rise to power was their dogmatic approaches to Christianity as they knew. Preaching from the same texts, they often rail against liars and cheaters while at the same time ignoring these values in their own practice. Many seem content to portray themselves as flawless, examples and beyond reproach. They may preach a sermon on the Biblical directive to avoid judging others on Sunday, and the next providing Biblical justification for being self-righteous and for condemning others that don't follow the same path.

For some, I'm sure, they are aware that they are playing a game. Some I think are deeply narcissistic and just like any other entertainer, aren't the character they portray on stage. Being held in esteem by others, fawned over and praised regularly feeds some deeper need that they may not even understand or see in themselves.

Others, I think do try to lead ethical, consistent lives. There are Christians, albeit rare, that do reserve judgment towards others, do practice loving their neighbor, and are quick to show compassion and understanding regardless of passages in the Bible that seem contradictory to the words and actions of Jesus himself. These Christians understand that living a good life is an ongoing process and not one act of declaring yourself "saved" and then resting on your laurels as you use your membership in a larger religious organization to justify immoral, hateful or discriminatory behaviors.

Unfortunately, although we were warned regularly of "false Christians" when I was growing up, very little information was actually provided on how to know when you might be following one.

As a matter of fact, the message was "trust the preacher you have" no matter what, as a sign of faith, it's OTHER people's pastors that were suspect. Very convenient. And, questioning of your church leader was not acceptable, even if you had some.

I guess you could say I was sensitized to hipocrasy at a young age by the often double messages from the pulpit in the churches I grew up in. Preacher Smith taught us about love and kindness on Sunday mornings, but was a son of a bitch most of the time in real life. Petty favoritism was a regular experience in Sunday School. And I can't tell you how often I heard stinging and unkind gossip from the preachers' wives, Bible School teachers and the circle meetings.

So now, when I hear a religious leader, of any faith, proclaiming as truth their own matter of opinion and with little to no ration or fact to back it up, I make a mental note.

Every time the Pope resists science, personal experiences and the obvious lack of true Biblical justification to bash gays, I know that he is fallible. Listening to Rick Warren stumble around his answers to Ann Curry's questions about homosexuality reassures me that he does not speak for God. And clever, smiling "religious" entertainers like Mike Huckabee who can't figure out a way to reconcile his "faith" with his homophobia when pressed, convinces me that the false prophets of the world are many and the true sons and daughers of Christ are hidden by their own humilty .

Wisdom is something I expect from a religious leader. Being perfect is not.

So what is a false prophet to me these days?  

Someone who believes that because they think something is true, it is, no matter the evidence to the contrary.

A person who feels free to defy some tenants of their faith, such as loving their neighbor or withholding judgment of others, because they believe in their own superior perspective.

A religious leader, at a local, national or international level, who uses his or her religion to justify immoral behavior, regardless of intent.

The Rick Warrens of the world aren't worth our time or energy and his 15 minutes of fame will end soon.

No amount of religious zealousness makes George W. Bush's actions as President defensible.

People who truly live their faith understand this. False prophets do not.

What Does Obama Know that We Don't?

Since I've been mulling over this whole Rick Warren thing (the evangelical minister chosen by Obama to give the invocation at his inauguration), I thought I'd spit out a few thoughts that have popped up for me.

My first, gut reaction is feeling hurt that somehow Obama has "betrayed" me. I haven't been this enthusiastic as a supporter for a Presidential candidate in a long time. I donated multiple times to Obama's campaign. Brad and I sponsored a voter registration table by the Democratic Party at Rainbow Skate and had at least a few people take advantage of the opportunity and register. I had his sticker on my car months before the primary was over and taped large yard signs in our windows (since we don't have a yard). I even read "The Audacity of Hope" to try to get to know him before I made any rash decisions politically.

I seriously doubt that Obama would have picked an overt racist or antisemite to give the opening prayer, so picking an open homophobe, who worked to promote Prop 8, seems questionable at best. Actually, I wonder if maybe the selection of an overtly racist evangelical (and they do still exist mind you) minister might have made a case that Obama is truly in it for unity.

On the other hand, perhaps Obama is taking a different path than I might have taken. Maybe in order to change the completely dichotomous and oppositional atmosphere of Washington, it means taking risks to open the tent to people who have really different voices, even if they aren't where they are supposed to be on every issue.

Maybe it's not easy to get an evangelical to accept a role at a supposedly "liberal" President-elect's inauguration.

To Rick Warren's "credit", he supposedly is slightly more progressive on the environment and addressing poverty than other right wing leaders. He did invite Obama to debate McCain in front of his very biased church audience.

Is Rick Warren a "crack" in the stone ceiling between progressives and right wing conservatives?

By cultivating a relationship with Warren, does Barack have a chance to bring him along on other progressive issues? Does he sense an opportunity to change the relationship with fundies so that they become more willing to stop the hatred?

I am concerned that Obama has not appointed one single openly gay person to any position of power or meaning thus far in his Cabinet or advising staff. It doesn't mean that there aren't closeted ones of course, or that he plans substantial appointments later. It also might be the case that for the foreseeable future, there may be no qualified openly gay people with the level of specific expertise that he needs right now.

Hard to know what Obama's intentions are until we see a tangible move. My hope is that he moves this year to eliminate "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in the military, something he can do without much effort or fanfare as he tackles the economic problems, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, etc.

We'll just have to wait and see what Obama's true intention is for tackling the injustices towards the LGBTQ world out there.

I think I'll do a second post on Rick Warren himself later today. Stay tuned.