During my first year in college, the drama club performed The Time of Your Life (1939), William Saroyan's Pulitzer-prize winning play about the lost and wounded denizens of a seedy San Francisco bar. Every one of them expressed some type of heterosexual interest, with one exception: Willie, a teenage pinball player. During the 1970s, all teenagers in mass media were portrayed as churning cauldrons of heterosexual horniness, but Willie never once looked at or mentioned a girl.
Modern American Literature, but I tentatively sought out the other works of William Saroyan (1908-1981), and found melancholy stories about working-class Armenian immigrants in California, mostly with crushed dreams or memories of past glory.
And endless homoromantic subtexts.
My Name is Aram (1940). Aram grows from age 9 to young adulthood without ever falling for a girl, though he is drawn to many men and boys, including his best friend Panko and his beautiful cousin Dikran.
There is even a veiled reference to gay people. In one story, his Uncle Melik, about to travel by train from Fresno to New York, receives advice from his own uncle: "An amiable young man will offer you a cigarette. It will be doped." On the train, Melik waits for the cigarette offer, but it never comes, so he takes the initiative and offers a young man a cigarette. They become friends.
Meanwhile, though Homer gazes at a "beautiful girl," he finds solace in the eyes of men.
In the 1943 movie version, the actors who portrayed Marcus and Tobey, Van Johnson (left) and John Craven, were both gay.
On and on, a world where coming of age does not mean "sex with an older woman," where death does not mean "letting go of the faces of women," where life is big and dangerous and sad and lived among men.
Saroyan, by the way, had some ties to the post-War gay community. He frequented the Black Cat Bar in San Francisco, became friends with gay director Vicente Minelli (they collaborated on a musical together), and in 1955, a radio biography starred gay actor Sal Mineo.
Jun 18, 2016
Jun 17, 2016
But the boy has two friends, a boy and a girl, and there's something about a younger boy who also "thinks thinks," so I figured there would be some moments of gay-subtext buddy bonding, plus the muscular Brenton Thwaites shirtless in at least one scene.
Thwaites plays Jonas, who, along with his inseparable childhood chums Asher (Cameron Monaghan) and Fiona (Odeya Rush), has just graduated to adulthood in a close-knit community with no name -- although there are others, according to the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep), who appears mostly in holograms.
People who are too old to be productive citizens are also "sent to Elsewhere." Shades of Logan's Run.
Also, everything is in black and white, no one is taught the history of what happened before, and no one is allowed to fall in love. Shades of Brave New World.
I wonder what their high school classes are like.
After their graduation, Asher is assigned a job as a drone pilot (shades of Star Wars), Fiona goes to work at the baby-killing facility, and Jonas becomes the apprentice to the Giver (Jeff Bridges), an old man who lives in a cabin at the edge of the world and is the only person permitted to lie, be impolite, and remember the past. He shares memories of the past with Jonas by touching him.
The memories are of everyday events from "back and back and back": a gypsy wedding; a Jewish Shabat; some kind of Hindu festival; someone riding a sled to a cabin with a Christmas tree; and lots of people laughing and hugging and kissing.
The past was great! Jonas concludes. People felt things then! They experienced love!
Trying to feel what they felt in the past, he stops taking his daily drugs, and becomes aware of the horrors of the Village.
His parents brought home a new baby, Gabe, but it failed its Maturity Test, and so must be sent "to Elsewhere." Jonas knows what that really means, and vows to save Gabe.
He asks Asher and Fiona for help. Guess which one helps, and which one rushes off to tattle to the Elders?
Yep -- guys always betray you, girls are true blue.
Freudians say that the goal of adolescence is to move from the "latent homosexuality," with same-sex pals, to "mature" heterosexual love. It's complete garbage, of course, but this movie is definitely selling it.
So Jonas grabs the baby and rushes out of the Village, down the steep cliffs, and into the northern California wilderness, being pursued by a murderous Asher (who relents at the last minute and just throws him into a river to drown instead of zapping him).
He didn't bring any baby food or diapers, but Gabe doesn't complain through at least 24 hours of falling off cliffs, nearly drowning, and finally sledding through the snow. Their fate is ambiguous; presumably they freeze to death.
BUT: Jonas' defection has somehow turned off the memory-zapping device, and now everyone remembers things that happened long before they were born. So the world is saved.
I guess. I don't understand it, either. I'm still angry that EVERY young adult movie is about a Boy and a Girl falling in love, with the Male Friend, when he is present at all, turning into a betrayer.
Another contender for the worst heterosexist movie of all time!
By the way, nobody takes their shirt off.
See also: Logan's Run;
Jun 16, 2016
Most conversations involved who you were having sex with and who your friends were having sex with.
Most leisure activity involved having sex, watching someone else have sex, or looking for someone to have sex with.
Sex was used to introduce new guys into your social circle, to be polite, as a party game, as a form of recreation. You went to bed with the boyfriends of your roommates and friends, and with the roommates and friends of your boyfriend, without giving it a second thought.
Imagine, in that sex-infused world, simply not being interested.
Turns out about 1% of the population is asexual, not interested in sex with anyone.
They usually (but not always) experience aesthetic desire, finding some people hot and some not. According to a survey conducted by the Asexual Visibility and Education Network, over half have a sexual orientation: 27% are heterosexual, 26% bisexual, and 13% gay or lesbian.
They often enjoy romantic relationships (only 20% are a-romantic, interested in friendships only).
But they are not into it. They would rather eat cake.
Asexuals face an uphill battle. Doctors want to give them hormones, psychiatrists want to treat them for a presumed history of abuse, they're asked "if you've never tried it, how do you know you don't like it?" and told they just haven't met the right person yet.
The same things LGBT people hear from their straight "friends" all the time.
Politician Ralph Nader
Comedian Janeane Garofalo
J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan
Artist Edward Gorey
Sir Isaac Newton
Jonathan Frid, Barnabas on Dark Shadows
T. E. Lawrence, "Lawrence of Arabia"
And Jughead Jones from the Archie comics. For years he was a "woman hater," not interested in women, so we all assumed that he was gay. Then, in the 1980s, to assuage suspicions, he was heterosexualized, and given about as many girlfriends as the girl-crazy Archie. But in his most recent rendition, a reboot by Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson, Jughead is outed as asexual.
Dad is tanned, muscular, smiling, wearing a sombrero that invites us to "Kiss My Ass!"
The photo is dated September 8th, 1959, a little over a year before I was born. There are two names written on the back, "Frank" and "Jared."
Frank is my father, but who is Jared? The burro?
And how did this grinning, bawdy, irreverent 21-year old turn into the Dad I knew, conservative, somber, serious, who rarely laughed and never joked or fooled around? What changed?
Here is all I learned through my life until about two weeks ago:
June 1956: Frank graduates from high school in Indiana, and joins the Navy. He spends the next three years seeing the world, visiting Japan, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, learning to repair things deep down in the hulls of the big ships, and buddy-bonding. He calls it the best time of his life.
June 1959: Frank returns to Indiana for a two-week long shore leave and reunites with his high school sweetheart, who is working at the A&W. They impulsively get married, and drive with her sister and brother-in-law cross country to Long Beach. They move into a tiny apartment.
The next year is a blank space in their lives. They don't talk about it. There are only a few mementos and photographs. I know that they went to Knotts Berry Farm and Tijuana, that a couple of relatives flew out for a visit, and that Mom bought a set of encyclopedias from a fast-talking salesman, and that's all.
June 1960: Frank's four-year tour of duty ends. His Captain asks him to stay on, with a promotion to Chief Petty Officer, but he refuses. Instead, he and Mom return to Indiana and move into a house on South Randolph Street. He goes to work in the factory, which he calls a "godddam hell hole" for the next thirty years.
Why did Dad abandon a Navy career he loved for a factory job he hated?
Why did they leave Long Beach?
Indianapolis, May 2016
I'm visiting my parents on the way back from New York. My nephew is digitizing their old photos, and I see the "Kiss My Ass" burro photo again. Emboldened, I decide to coax as much information out of them as possible.
Maybe the statute of limitations has passed, or maybe after nearly 60 years they don't care about their youthful transgressions anymore, but Mom and Dad both open up, describing their apartment, the corner grocery store, the movie theater where they saw Ben-Hur and Pillow Talk.
"You went to movies?" I ask, shocked. Nazarenes are forbidden from setting foot inside movie theaters.
"That's not all!" Dad says with a laugh. "We played cards. We danced. We even drank -- just beer, one time, but if the preacher or our parents found out, we'd be in big trouble!"
"We made friends with all sorts of people that would set my Mom and Dad off," Mom adds. "Blacks. Jews. Catholics. Mexicans. And...well, you know..."
"Gays?" I suggest.
Suddenly Dad becomes somber. "It was the Fifties. We didn't know about things like that."
"Or if we did, we thought it was very rare," Mom adds, "You'd never meet anyone like that in a lifetime, which is good because it was the worst thing possible, like a sin and a crime and a sickness, all rolled up into one. Then we met that boy..."
"Jared, from the burro photo?" I ask with sudden inspiration.
"Yes," Dad says. "We were supposed to give him a copy of the photo -- that's why his name is on the back. But we didn't get a chance."
Long Beach, June 1959
Frank was 21 years old, newly married, living in a small apartment on Broadway Street in Long Beach.
Jared lived down the hall. He was 16 or so, short, slim, kind of frail looking, with bushy black hair that was out of place in the crewcut 1950s, and a preference for bright colors, bold reds and greens.
His dad was overseas, and his mom worked, so he got ignored a lot, and he quickly latched onto my mom and dad. Frank, the youngest of four kids, never had the opportunity to be a big brother before, and he relished the attention. They went out for hamburgers, to the movies, to the beach.
Jared liked hanging out with Mom, too. He came over sometimes during the day, to watch her soap opera, As the World Turns. and then help her cook dinner.
Of course, they didn't think anything of it at the time.
"That's a weird photo to show your friends," I point out.
Dad shrugs. "That's what he told us."
I wonder if it ever occurred to them that Jared might have another reason to want a picture of the shirtless, muscular Frank.
But before they had a chance to make a copy of the photo from the negatives, Jared vanished. He just stopped coming around.
Dad wondered if he was upset with them, or sick. He went over to check, and Jared's mom said that he went to a home "to get help."
What kind of home? What was wrong? She kept her eyes down and wouldn't say. No, they couldn't visit. No, they couldn't write. He needed to be alone, to get better.
Talking it over, Mom and Dad began to suspect: Jared was a soft, gentle boy, feminine, domestic. Could he be suffering from that disease, the one that no one should talk about? Could his parents have found out, and put him in an asylum?
Then just around Thanksgiving, Jared died. A tragic accident, his parents said, but gave no more details. The funeral was up in Fresno. Mom and Dad didn't go.
Indianapolis, May 2016
"That spring, when we found out I was pregnant," Mom says, "We thought it would be a good idea to move back to Indiana, to spare our baby the bad influences. You know, the drinking, the movies, the Catholics."
"And the gays?" I ask.
She nods. "We were worried that if we stayed in Long Beach, whatever turned Jared that way, might turn you, too."
"You can't turn gay," I tell them, annoyed "Either you are or you aren't."
"Well, we know that now, but in the Fifties we thought it was like protecting you from the measles. And remember, there was no Gay Pride then. It was all shame and misery. We wanted to spare you, and your brother and sister, when they came."
"Jared died almost exactly a year before you were born," Dad says. "I don't believe in reincarnation, of course, but when you started acting like that, you know, with your Book of Cute Boys, or saying you and Bill were a Mama and a Papa, or asking for a statue of a naked man for Christmas, I knew that I was seeing Jared again."
The uncensored post, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.
Jun 15, 2016
Jewish immigrants to the United States brought a strong tradition of Yiddish literature, art, and theater. In the early 20th century, entertainers such as the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers introduced many Yiddish words into everyday English, including klutz, schlep, kitsch, and chutzpah.
Many more are familiar: nebbish, schvitz, tuches.
There are still 1.5 million native speakers of Yiddish, mostly in the Ukraine, Israel, and the United States. They are mostly elderly: except in a few Hasidic communities, the language is not being taught to the younger generations.
So knowing a few Yiddish words for penis might come in handy for cruising at your local synagogue.
Note: most of these terms are obscene, so don't use them when your boyfriend's bubbie is making kiska in the other room.
Schmeckel. Diminuitive of "schmuck" (see below).
Schmecky. A children's euphemism, like "wee-wee."
Schtickl. Tiny. From "schtick," a little bit, a familiar term in English for a comedy routine.
Bokher. Literally "boy."
Brit. Jewish/circumcized. From the Hebrew for "covenant."
Eyver. The polite term. From the Hebrew for "leg."
Mile. Another polite term.
Putz, potz. Literally "ornament." Also "jerk, fool"
Schmuck, schmock. Also "jerk, fool." The Three Stooges, who incorporated a lot of Yiddish into their act, called each other "schmucks" a lot.
Vyzoso. Also "idiot." The son of Haman, the enemy of the Jews in the Biblical book of Esther.
Schlang, schlong. From the Persian for "snake." Donald Trump was being quite vulgar when he claimed that Hillary Clinton was "schlonged" by President Obama.
Schlanger. An extra big schlang.
Schmohawk. An extra big schlanger. They don't get much bigger.
Schtrunkel. The biggest of the big. Literally "tree trunk."
Schtupper. From "schtup," to have sex with someone.
Yung. From "young man."
So Yiddish has 4 words for a small penis, 7 for an average size, and 7 for an extra-large?
I like those odds.
The uncensored post, with nude photos, is on Tales of West Hollywood.
Jun 14, 2016
They are the children of Adam and Eve, the first two brothers in the world. They both offer food to God, Abel animal meat and Cain fruit.
God, being a carnivore, prefers Abel. Cain gets jealous, and in a fit of rage, kills his brother.
He is then forced to wander, but he worries that everyone he meets will want to kill him (the world has filled up quickly). So God gives him "The Mark of Cain" so he will be safe.
Rather thoughtful. I would have gone with life in prison for murder, but...
The story has a number of plot holes and inconsistencies. But look at those sculpted abs and enormous biceps!
Throughout history, artists who wanted to depict the homoeroticism of two muscular men together, without women around, have drawn on Cain and Abel. They struggle, strain, press together so tightly that you can almost forget that they're trying to kill each other.
And, in the modern era, you can comment on warfare, bigotry, and homophobic hate crimes.
Abel is the quiet, gentle, gay-coded shepherd. Cain is depicted as a big bully, a rough-and-tumble farmer.
I have to include this version by Bill Hoope (2001), if only because I want to know where they got the globe, and why they're attacking it with animal bones.
This is Yuri's third date with Daniel -- they met on Valentine's Day -- and he has invited me and some of his other friends out to dinner to meet him. Daniel seems to be exactly his type: early 40s, handsome, bearded, with a bodybuilder's v-shaped torso, ample chest hair poking out over his t-shirt, and of course an enormous bulge (Yuri likes them gigantic).
I usually stay over with Yuri on Wednesday nights rather than going all the way into Manhattan and back again the next morning, but I don't want to suggest "sharing" so soon in their relationship, so I say "Well, the Long Island Railroad awaits..."
"Can't wait to get back to the City, huh?" Daniel asks.
I've been having rather a bad day, and I don't relish the idea of two hours on a train, a 20-minute subway ride, and a five block walk in the in the February ice, so I snipe "No, actually, I don't like it there at all."
Gulp -- that was the mistake. All gay men living east of Chicago are expected to believe that Manhattan is Heaven, to be desired, dreamed of, wept over, and fought over. You don't like Heaven? Blasphemer!
"Maybe you're staying overnight with Yuri too much," Daniel says, with a note of jealousy in his voice. "Maybe you're not giving it enough time."
"What is hangout?" Yuri asks.
I explain it to him.
"Ok, that's easy. We come to the City this weekend, find you a hangout. You pay for dinner."
"It's settled, then," Daniel says. "The Great 'Find Boomer a Gay Hangout' Quest of 1998." He pauses. "And you don't need to go back to the horrible bright lights of Manhattan tonight. I'm sure one of these Long Islanders will take pity on you and offer you his bed."
The rest of the story, with nude photos and sexual content, is on Tales of West Hollywood.
Well, there is a lot of beefcake to be found.
When you've finished checking out the 800 or so naked men on the walls and ceilings of the Vatican chapels, look for the Swiss Guards, the elite Vatican police corps since the 16th century. Apparently they are chosen for their hotness.
The acrobats always perform shirtless, so you can see their muscles straining and flexing as they adopt their complicated positions. So why shouldn't they perform shirtless for the Pope?
Jun 13, 2016
It is set in early 19th century Pennsylvania, a pristine wilderness where young Patrick Wilding becomes Batman: he sees his parents murdered, and grows up lusting for vengeance.
Or maybe he becomes Robin: he trains with a group of acrobats, like Dick Grayson.
Or maybe he's the Phantom: "Zagor" is short for the Indian name Za-Gor-Te-Nah, the Ghost with the Hatchet (his preferred weapon). Like the Phantom, the Ghost Who Walks.
Note that he always wears a red sleveless shirt with a yellow bird emblem.
There have been three movie versions in Turkey:
Zagor (1970), starring Cihangir Gaffari (who appeared in American films as John Gaffari and John Foster).
Zagor kara bela (Zagor and the Land of Trouble, 1971) and Zagor kara korsan'in hazineleri (Zagor and the Black Pirate's Treasure, 1971) starring Levent Çakir.
Levent Çakir is rather inadequately muscular, even though he also starred as the Turkish Superman.
There are two English-language translations: Zagor: Terror from the Sea (2015) and Zagor: The Red Sand (2016).
Jun 12, 2016
The Assassination of President Kennedy (November 22, 1963)
The Challenger Disaster (January 28, 1986)
The Murder of Matthew Shepard (October 12, 1998)
The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks (September 11, 2001)
The Orlando Nightclub Attacks (June 11, 2016)
6:45 am on the morning of June 12th. I came into my office in my bathrobe, booted up my laptop, and started working on a blog post. Suddenly my partner was standing in the doorway.
"Have you seen the news?" he asked.
"You lived in Florida -- do you know anyone in Orlando?"
"No. I lived in Wilton Manors, not Orlando, and I'm not in contact with anyone I knew there except Yuri, who now lives in London, and...why? What happened in Orlando?"
"Check the news. Or don't. Maybe you don't want to know."
So I checked CNN. Mass murders at a gay nightclub in Orlando. 40 dead. Then 50. 53 injured. The biggest shooting mass murder in U.S. history.
Orlando won't be known for the Magic Kingdom anymore.
When I teach criminology, I always tell my students to not be alarmed, the homicide rate in the U.S. is actually decreasing. Most homicides are the result of arguments going wrong; your killer is very likely to be a friend or intimate partner. You are more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning than by a serial killer or mass murderer.
Unless you're queer. Then they come hunting. They blame you for everything that goes wrong, from floods to famines to being turned down for a date. They dream of a world where you don't exist, and they will do anything in their power to help create that world.
They can do quite a lot. Go to a gay venue, wear a gay pride t shirt, walk hand in hand with your partner, have short hair if you're a woman, sway and swish if you're a man, wear a pink shirt if you're a boy, go out for sports if you're a girl. You're a target.
So what do we do? Go back into the closet, drop pronouns, introduce partners as roommates, avoid writing on gay topics, hide?
Or band together and sing, like the MCC "We are fighting for our lives"?
At least times have changed a little. When the Upstairs Lounge in New Orleans was firebombed on June 24, 1973, 32 gay people were killed, and 15 injured. The press refused to cover the story, except for a few articles that condemned the victims or made fun of them.
The Orlando tragedy has gotten news coverage.
Presumably Pat Robertson will issue a statement blaming the victims for their own murders, but most politicians and religious leaders have not -- yet. Except for the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patric who posted a celebratory Bible verse on his Facebook page before an aide convinced him to take it down.
Mark Rubio put in a call for blood donations. Paradoxically, gay men are forbidden from donating blood.
I hope this tragedy doesn't push him to victory in the upcoming election. I keep having weird premonitions that this is 1933 Germany all over again.
When I was sixteen years old, I was selected to join 500 Nazarene teenagers from around the world in Fiesch, Switzerland for our International Institute.
It was like Nazarene summer camp, with daily sermons, Bible studies, jump quizzes, and seminars on soul-winning, except we had afternoons and one full day off for field trips and sightseeing We could go out on our own, as long as we:
1. Didn't try to make friends with the locals.
2. Didn't set foot in any Catholic church.
3. Were back by 7:00 pm.
But every good Nazarene knows how to bend the rules.
"I'm sure the rules don't apply if we're going to save souls," my friend Annette, a delegate from Idaho, exclaimed. "We're in a country full of Catholic and Reformed Church sinners. Wouldn't it be great if we could plant the seeds of a mighty revival and win Switzerland for the Lord?"
Overbrimming with "Faith in God can move a mighty mountain" and "If you ask anything in My Name, that will I do," we decided to go soulwinning in the Belly of the Beast, the most evil, depraved site imaginable, a Catholic church!
The full story is on Tales of West Hollywood