Monday, September 26, 2016

Hail to the Watch Queen, by Pat Gourley

Just when I think I can’t stumble on anything new in the queer world I discover an old name for a sub-genre of gay men I was not aware of. This occurred last week when I happened on the phenomenon of the “watch queen.” Richard Black posting in the Urban Dictionary back in 2005 offered three common definitions for the Watch Queen: 1st somebody who just gets off watching others have sex, which I assume could now apply to any Internet porn watcher, 2nd the lookout who watches for security or the vice squad while others are having sex in Public Spaces and 3rd the gay men too old (his words not mine) to engage in sex but still enjoy watching.

I am certainly familiar with the voyeuristic joys of watching other men have sex but I had never associated the descriptive phrase, “watch queen” as someone who is a lookout while others have at it. Watch Queen I think could be another archetypical gay male role that should be enshrined in out pantheon of identities – The Noble Protector has a nice ring to it.

As it turns out being a Watch Queen was something that Laud Humphries was accused of being when doing extensive research for his groundbreaking 1970 observational work on gay men having sex in public restrooms called The Tearoom Trade. His work is considered seminal in many ways about the sub-group of homosexually inclined men who cruise specifically public restrooms. This work has also been severely criticized as unethical since he never revealed his true purpose to those he was observing and subsequent publication of his findings was done without participant consent though no one’s identity was ever compromised near as I can tell. The role he would often take when in the field doing his research apparently was as the Watch Queen. Now he was a gay man himself, married and a former Episcopal clergyman who came out only after the publication of Tearoom Trade. Humphries died in 1988 in his late 50’s.

Though I do think public restroom cruising is no longer as widespread as it once was it is still alive and well. A form of almost totally non-verbal communication through a series of subtle and sometimes not so subtle gestures, postures and eye contact leading to sex, if not on the spot then onto a nearby hookup in a car or bushes, so much for the necessity of the spoken word.

In one of the better pieces I found describing and providing an analysis of Humphries work was by Tristen Bridges titled Laud Humphries’ Discussion of Space in “Tearoom Trade”. Quoting from Tristen’s article: “He {Humphries} found that a large percentage of the men participating were married {to women}, many were religious (mostly Catholic), a large percentage were either in the military or veterans, and perhaps most interestingly of all – a large majority of the men who did not identify as gay were socially and politically conservative. In fact, Humphries found that only 14% of the men in this study could be said to be a “typical” gay man.”

An extremely sophomoric interpretation of Humphries’ work would be to conflate his findings with the current unbelievable flap around transgender bathroom access. Such use of his work for justifying this form of blatant discrimination misses the mark on so many levels it really does not deserve to be addressed at all. In no way is gay male use of public space for sex predatory. The vast majority of predation happens in secret, non-public space, offices of congressmen and churches come to mind.

If anything, taking Humphries work to heart it should be a clarion call for gay liberation. Let me say though that the fine art of the silent, public cruise for mutual sex can be engaged in by the truly liberated if that is their cup of tea so to speak. It could be viewed as preserving a uniquely queer and time-honored form of human interaction and communication.

I would venture to say if you really want to protect kids in public restrooms we should hire a Watch Queen for every public restroom. These are gay men who truly know how to keep public spaces safe not only for mutual consenting hookups but for peeing and pooping unmolested.

© June 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

Pets, by Lewis

After initially thinking I would describe a litany of the pets I have owned over my lifetime--from a dog to a hog-nosed snake to a squirrel to a parakeet--I soon became aware that I had tapped into a very deep well of sadness. More than a moment of grief, it felt as if I had broken the seal on a bottle of "despair Drambuie" that had been corked for sixty years.

Of all my pets, my most dear was the only dog I have ever owned, a mixed fox terrier puppy named Skippy. He was a gift from my maternal grandfather--the only grandparent I have ever known--on a day in May of 1955 that was totally unremarkable. There was no "occasion". I simply arrived home from another day in the 3rd grade at Morgan Elementary to find a puppy running around the kitchen. I was told by my mother that the puppy was a gift from Granddad Homer, who was living with us but at the time nowhere to be seen.

This was not unusual for my grandfather. Although extremely generous with his money, he was a five-star miser when it came to communication. I do not remember a time when we shared a conversation, laugh, or tender touch. When he gave gifts, he always did it through a surrogate-- our first TV magically appeared in our living room, my first bike was delivered by a Sears van as I sat on the front lawn, my first gun--a .410 gauge shotgun--was handed down from him through the hands of my father. When he died, approximately six months after bringing Skippy into my life, I was not allowed to attend his funeral. Since when does a 9-year-old need closure?

At first, I resented the duties that came with owning a dog. When still a puppy, I attached a leash to his halter and swung him around in the back yard as if he were on a merry-go-round. But soon, Skippy became my trusted and loyal buddy.

On Columbus Day, 1961, I was sitting at my desk doing homework after school in my bedroom. I was 15 and a high school sophomore. Mom was the TV Editor for the Hutchinson [KS] News and hadn't yet come home. I heard Dad come in the front door and could tell something was wrong. Dad had found Skippy lying in the street dead, apparently hit by a car. His body was unmarked except for a tiny tear in his skin.

I could tell Dad was sorry for my pain. I asked him what we should do. He said we should find a spot to bury Skippy in the back yard.

Dad grabbed a shovel and I carried my dog as gently as my shaking arms would allow. We looked around for an appropriate place of internment. Somewhat baffled, Dad--who could have been the prototype for Jimmy Olsen of Superman fame--said, "Where can we bury that damn dog, anyway?" I had already steeled myself against showing one whit of emotion and his comment only steadied my resolve. We did agree on a final resting place and I placed Skippy into it, along with a piece of my heart.

I never owned another dog as long as I have lived. The pets I have had have not been of the type that one would describe as "cuddly". They were either reptiles or amphibians, except for one brief turn with a wounded baby squirrel.

Lately, as I have been giving more thought to the notion of once again being "in relationship", I ask myself, "What kind of person would I be happiest with?" It seems to me that the process is a lot more like selecting a breed of dog to purchase as a pet that some people might think. Am I looking for a guard dog, a lap dog, or a dog to play "fetch" with? Why, I ask myself, are most of my friends women? Why do the men I know mostly seem to be narcissists who talk only about themselves and NEVER ask a question about my life?

At the suggestion of a newly-acquired male friend, I took the online Enneagram Personality Test. I found out that I am a Type 2--The Helper. I am told "people of this type essentially feel that they are worthy insofar as they are helpful to others. Love is their highest ideal. Selflessness is their duty. Giving to others is their reason for being. Involved, socially aware, usually extroverted, Twos are the type of people who...go the extra mile to help out a co-worker, spouse or friend in need."

Not too bad an assessment, I would say. The description of a Type 2 goes on to say, "Two’s often develop a sense of entitlement when it comes to the people closest to them. Because they have extended themselves for others, they begin to feel that gratitude is owed to them. They can become intrusive and demanding if their often unacknowledged emotional needs go unmet."

I recoiled from this accusation upon first reading. The idea that I could become "intrusive and demanding" seemed like a ridiculous fantasy. But upon further contemplation, I had to admit that I do have "unmet emotional needs which go largely unacknowledged". The suddenness of this realization flooded over me like a loss every bit as painful as the death of a beloved pet.

Still, some men I know do engender a powerful resentment in me. These are the ones I labeled a bit ago as "narcissistic". The conversation is all about them with never a thought about me. This trait among the men I know is so pervasive as to explain why it is that I much prefer the company of women. It's not that I feel that "gratitude is owed to me" as much as I feel that I am an interesting person who deserves equal time. I don't think that is too much to ask of a friendship. If all I cared about was caring for and pampering the other, I would go out and buy a cat. Alternatively, I'll just have to learn how to extend myself less or be more open about verbalizing my own need for caring. Anybody know any Type 2’s out there?

© 18 August 2014

About the Author

I came to the beautiful state of Colorado out of my native Kansas by way of Michigan, the state where I married and I came to the beautiful state of Colorado out of my native Kansas by way of Michigan, the state where I married and had two children while working as an engineer for the Ford Motor Company. I was married to a wonderful woman for 26 happy years and suddenly realized that life was passing me by. I figured that I should make a change, as our offspring were basically on their own and I wasn't getting any younger. Luckily, a very attractive and personable man just happened to be crossing my path at that time, so the change-over was both fortuitous and smooth. Soon after, I retired and we moved to Denver, my husband's home town. He passed away after 13 blissful years together in October of 2012. I am left to find a new path to fulfillment. One possibility is through writing. Thank goodness, the SAGE Creative Writing Group was there to light the way.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Jealousy by Gillian

The first part of this story will be a boring repeat for those who have been in this group for a while, in fact I am just pulling small parts from other writings, so I'll try to keep it short. It returns - no surprise - to my childhood and the subsequent angst of my inner child.

My mother taught the younger children in one room of the local two-room school. Over time my dad and I heard every struggle, every humorous incident, every cute utterance involving every child passing through my mother’s classroom. When she wasn’t talking about them, she was studying new methods to teach them, or devising educational games for them to play.

They were her life.

She taught me, too, for the first few years of my school life.

Slowly it came to me, though, that I was never one of those she told my father about with such gusto, or pathos, or humor. Why? Wasn’t I as interesting or funny or sad as all the rest of them? Why wasn't I her most important child?

The ugly green-eyed monster began to raise it's ugly head.

In 1955, I had Asian flu. I stayed home in bed and my mother promised to check up on me at lunchtime, her school being just a five-minute walk from our house.

My day proceeded through an elevated-temperature induced haze, but I was sufficiently conscious to look forward to my mother’s arrival; a cool loving hand on my sweating brow. Lunchtime came and went and I knew she had forgotten me. Me. Her own daughter. Her own sick-in-bed daughter. All those other bloody kids had come between us. They were all she had room for in her mind or her heart. But it should have been me. I should be the one who filled her heart. Not them. I sobbed in emptiness and anger.

The green-eyed monster proudly puffed himself up.

A few years later, my aunt told me that my parents had had two children who lived and died before I was born. They died of meningitis at the ages of two and three. Slowly, as I came to grips with this new knowledge, it began to throw a little murky light on my parents' emotions, especially my mother's.

However, understanding intellectually that my mother could not afford to be as close to me as I wanted, needed, her to be, for fear of leaving herself vulnerable to more unbearable pain, was one thing. Watching her showering other, safer, children with that love I craved, was quite another. Why, why, why? screamed inside my head.

Still more subliminally, always craving to be number one, I lived in constant competition with two dead children; not a competition I was ever going to win.

Over the years, the emptiness, receded but never disappeared. The green-eyed monster dozed with one eye open so as not to miss an opportunity.

After my mother died I found a few old faded black and white photos at the bottom of a drawer; two smiling happy children, two smiling happy parents. I stared at my grinning father wheeling the two toddlers in his wheelbarrow. Why had I never seen him with a broad grin like that? Why had I never managed to bring him such joy? Why them and not me? Why was I never number one?

In 1987, I entered into a seriously committed relationship with my Beautiful Betsy, who was, as a mother should be, already in a seriously committed relationship with her children. The green eyes opened wide. The monster stirred and smiled a sly smile. Time to wake up! He bided his time and at first all was fine. But slowly those old crazy feelings began to take shape. She loves them more than me began the whispers, eventually becoming screams, in my head. Oh, intellectually I knew, of course, that the love for a child is completely different from the love of a partner, and in any case love is not a finite commodity, there is enough and more to go round, but that did nothing to still the screams. If we are married, which we always considered ourselves to be, regardless of laws, then I am supposed to be number one. Aren't I? Aren't I?

Betsy has what I believe to be a closer than average relationship with her daughters, and of course I wouldn't wish it any other way. However, it made for a bad juxtaposition of energies; the yin and the yang. But the last thing I wanted was to cause pain to Betsy and those she loved, and most of all, I freely admit, I did not want to create further pain for myself. I had to kill the monster. Thus began a quest for spiritual enlightenment which still continues today. Through it I have discovered a level of deep peace which I never knew before. If I ever knew such peace of the soul existed, it somehow seemed reserved for a lone monk sitting cross-legged on a mountain top, not for me. I never dreamed it could and would exist for me. And if I sound rather like a born-again, that is because I am. Not through religion: not through sudden belief in another being, but a new belief in myself and my world and everyone and everything in it. I am at peace with the messy past, the glorious present, and the future, whatever it may bring.

But I did not succeed in cutting off that monster's head; I merely shot a tranquilizer dart.

I know that I must always remain alert for the re-emergence of those evil green eyes.

© April 2016

About the Author

I was born and raised in England. After graduation from college there, I moved to the U.S. and, having discovered Colorado, never left. I have lived in the Denver-Boulder area since 1965, working for 30 years at IBM. I married, raised four stepchildren, then got divorced after finally, in my forties, accepting myself as a lesbian. I have been with my wonderful partner Betsy for thirty years. We have been married since 2013.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Away from Home by Gail Klock

Home to me is not a place so much as a state of being. It is a place deep within me, where I am loved unconditionally, where I’m accepted and understood. It is that place where my thoughts come to my defense when under attack, like a mother lion defending her cubs. It is that place where I am allowed to make mistakes, and take ownership for my actions and make amends to others if those actions cause them pain.

I am going to be okay no matter the circumstances, are the feelings which reside in that place called home. They are the indescribably good feelings deep within me, like the ones which come coursing through my body when listening to a beautiful piece of music, or when I laugh from the depth of my soul, or cry in empathy for another’s pain. It is the beauty, grace, and power of a hawk soaring through the sky, treating me to the joys of nature.

It has taken me a long time to find home… I was away from home most of my life. I found it difficult to find peace within myself, due at least in part to my homosexuality. It was, and on rare occasions still is, hard to find serenity within, especially when being viewed by others as a deviant person.

I was a pioneer in the gay movement back in the 80’s when I chose to have children through artificial insemination and to be out, knowing to not do so would place my daughters in the position of having shame about the family they came from. But as I was traversing this unknown world I carried abashment within me. My inner world was still not a place of self-acceptance and tranquility. I look back on those times now with admiration for my courage, but I would rather have realized my inner strength at the time. I was still away from home. I was looking at a young lesbian the other day and admiring her hair cut with one half of her head shaved and the other side cascading across her head like a waterfall. I would not have had the courage to wear my hair like that when I was young. But then I kind of chuckled inwardly as I realized I now sometimes wear my hair in an equally brazen fashion.

As long as I remind myself where home is, I can get there. It reminds me of the last time I parked at the Pikes Peak parking lot out at DIA. I dutifully told myself to remember I had parked in the F section. That was all good and fine until I exited the shuttle bus at FF after only 3 hours of sleep the night before. I reminded myself of this lack of sleep as I fought off the notion that someone had stolen my car, after all no one else had my keys. Wandering back and forth several times along rows EE, FF, and GG …dragging my luggage, I knew I had to develop a strategy to find it. I then thought okay, I’ll just go up to section A and walk up and down every lane until I’m successful. As I reached section YY it occurred to me I had parked in F, but I had been searching in FF. I found my car where I had parked it. Of course it was there all along just waiting to be found, which is true for my inner sense of home as well. My serenity was always available to be, I just had to find the correct strategy to get to it. I get there with less angst now, especially when I remember to delete the old tapes which play within my head about the perversion of being gay.

© 2 August 2015

About the Author

I grew up in Pueblo, CO with my two brothers and parents. Upon completion of high school I attended Colorado State University majoring in Physical Education. My first teaching job was at a high school in Madison, Wisconsin. After three years of teaching I moved to North Carolina to attend graduate school at UNC-Greensboro. After obtaining my MSPE I coached basketball, volleyball, and softball at the college level starting with Wake Forest University and moving on to Springfield College, Brown University, and Colorado School of Mines.
While coaching at Mines my long term partner and I had two daughters through artificial insemination. Due to the time away from home required by coaching I resigned from this position and got my elementary education certification. I taught in the gifted/talented program in Jefferson County Schools for ten years. As a retiree I enjoy helping take care of my granddaughter, playing senior basketball, writing/listening to stories in the storytelling group, gardening, reading, and attending OLOC and other GLBT organizations.

As a retiree I enjoy helping take care of my granddaughter, playing senior basketball, writing/listening to stories in the storytelling group, gardening, reading, and attending OLOC and other GLBT organizations.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Invisible Line of Cigar Store Wooden Indian, by Carlos Castillo

The Plaza Theater in El Paso is one of those 1930’s iconic theaters built to immortalize cinematography. Entering into the Spanish colonial building festooned with ornate furnishings, red velvet curtains and ornate plasterwork propelled me to a world I could only imagine. After all, I lived in a 3-room adobe with no indoor plumbing. As I sat marveling at the ornate proscenium arch before me and the overhead ceiling with astronomically correct twinkling stars and projected gauzy clouds, I felt the awe of peasants in the Middle Ages when they walked into Gothic cathedrals radiating light through stained glass rose windows. I was on a school-sponsored trip to watch John Wayne’s rendition of Texas’ war of independence at the Alamo. When the camera panned the battlefield depicting Mexican soldiers falling in a barrage of bullets, my peers applauded and yelled enthusiastically at the carnage. After all, we were fellow Texans, disdainful of the Mexican hoard. It did not matter that the Mexicans spoke our language and looked like most of us. During the climactic scene when the small band of Texas insurgents were overwhelmed by the formidable Mexican army of Santa Ana, I felt strangely uncomfortable although I did not really understand why. Later, when I asked mi papá who at that time had not yet become a naturalized citizen to explain, he replied that films do not always depict history accurately, thereby challenging my vision of truth.

Throughout the years, being a child of immigrant parents had thrust me into a spiral of doubt. Although I ate beans and tortillas at every meal and considered La Virgen de Guadalupe my spiritual benefactress, the last thing I wanted to be labeled as was Mexican. Being accused of being one invariable resulted in angry words and school yard brawls. After all, the Hollywood stock character of Mexicans as poor and uneducated at best, corrupt and violent at worst, nettled my consciousness. I did not question this perception until years later when mis padres took me back to their native Jalisco in an effort to show me another facet of my identity. They, the Mexican people I encountered, did not fit the cartoonish stereotypes of sarape-draped men leading donkeys by the halter nor rebozo-cocooned women selling calla lilies at the marketplace. The relatives and human beings I met were poetic, cosmopolitan, and generous in their affection for me. My Tía Concha slaughter a hen from her garden and prepared a mole redolent with spices that left me lapping up the bowl with delight that evening. Noting my gustatory seduction, she again prepared the same complex dish the following day. Years later, I would recall a similar awe when after being legally deaf for years, I again heard after the advancement of deaf technology. Thus, I returned back home with a new-found appreciation for being Latino. Endlessly I played the rancheros/ bolero recordings of Javier Solís with his liquid brown eyes, bronze face, and moustache draping his pouting lips. I sat at the edge of my seat watching movies of Cantinflas, internalizing his typical we-live-to-laugh Mexican philosophy. I immersed myself in the national consciousness of my parents’ homeland while simultaneously remaining firmly rooted in my pride of the red, white and blue. I became a scion of two cultures, recognizing that my soul was forged of the silver of Taxco as well as in the coal of West Virginia. Thus, I started to reject the stereotypes that had calcified in me over a lifetime, to reject the scurrilous labels and images I had internalized, as a Mexican, as an American, and as an American of Mexican descent, and to drink water made sweet in earthenware cantaros even as I indulged in Oscar Mayer hotdogs.

Because The Alamo became a lesson for me about illusions, ultimately I recognized that even darkness can lead to vision. However, to see, it was important that I first embrace my blindness. Indigenous peoples have consistently been stereotyped. The oversimplified and inaccurate stereotypical depictions of identities run the gamut from noble savage to ignoble barbarian and from Indian princess and squaw pejorative to wise sage. The stereotypical influences are so pervasive many Native peoples today are actively pursuing a more accurate understanding of themselves and their cultures in an attempt to reject the internalized effects of these misconceptions and labels. Many are reclaiming their native identities, recognizing they are the people; they are human beings, not cigar store wooden Indian caricatures. Likewise, we gay and lesbian people struggle to define who we are as we confront the insidious stereotypes foisted about us by media even in this era of social progress. We struggle to reject the offensive humor and defamatory stereotypes. I weary of the sociopathic, effeminate and butch, dangerous and predatory, immortal, suicidal labels queer folk are subjected to. These stereotypes only foster hatred and prejudice. Like Native peoples, we too have become caricatures, metaphoric cigar store gays and lesbians. Of course, I understand that the media stigmatizes many groups from repressed Brits to evil Mexicans, and from racist white Southerners to doddering elders. After all, stereotypes are invaluable because audiences have been conditioned to expect certain behaviors from stock characters. The point is that audiences willingly accept established archetypes in place of genuine character development, thus freeing up remaining frames to more interesting and adrenaline-pumping scenes. Thus, unfortunately the cigar store wooden Indian, in its many manifestations, persists.

Over time, I have learned to savor the diversity and complexity of the human experience. Yet, false depictions continue to drift through the air like the stench of something unspeakable. Most recently, the vitriolic venom being spewed like explosive diarrhea by a “You’re fired” candidate and his followers about people who are like you and me angers me, but in my anger I find the courage to speak up and pull back the fog of blindness, the silence of deafness. I will not sanction cigar store wooden icons of any of God’s creations. I will not be a cigar store Latino or gay wooden icon.

The adage a picture is worth a thousand words is heartening. One balmy fall day in l960, I walked into a theater intent on immersing myself into a world I little understood. Several hours later, I emerged transfixed and transformed, pondering the implications of what I had witnessed. Although we have all been invited to attend a banquet in which all forms of delights, both sweet and savory, are ladled unto our bowls, unfortunately too often we pull back from the table because we fear the unknown. And in fearing, in withdrawing, and in condemning, we deny ourselves the wonders of an elaborately prepared spicy mole, made rich by old world and new world hands. Life is a journey in which we need not behold others nor ourselves reflected on the prism of cigar store wooden misrepresentations.

© August 19, 2016, Denver

Cervantes wrote, “I know who I am and who I may choose to be.”  In spite of my constant quest to live up to this proposition, I often falter.  I am a man who has been defined as sensitive, intuitive, and altruistic, but I have also been defined as being too shy, too retrospective, too pragmatic.  Something I know to be true. I am a survivor, a contradictory balance of a realist and a dreamer, and on occasions, quite charming.  Nevertheless, I often ask Spirit to keep His arms around my shoulder and His hand over my mouth.  My heroes range from Henry David Thoreau to Sheldon Cooper, and I always have time to watch Big Bang Theory or Under the Tuscan Sun.  I am a pragmatic romantic and a consummate lover of ideas and words, nature and time.  My beloved husband and our three rambunctious cocker spaniels are the souls that populate my heart. I could spend the rest of my life restoring our Victorian home, planting tomatoes, and lying under coconut palms on tropical sands.  I believe in Spirit, and have zero tolerance for irresponsibility, victim’s mentalities, political and religious orthodoxy, and intentional cruelty.  I am always on the look-out for friends, people who find that life just doesn’t get any better than breaking bread together and finding humor in the world around us.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Blue Skies by Will Stanton

We all know that, traditionally, blue skies normally are equated with happiness and things in our lives going right. This notion frequently has been expressed in poetry, art, photography, and in songs, such as Irving Berlin's famous “Blue Skies.” As his song suggests, being in love brings about happiness, symbolically expressed by blue skies.

People's very real relief in finally seeing blue skies after months of winter's dreariness has been a known phenomenon as long as human beings have been on Earth. My having grown up in a state where, each year, there were three hundred days of overcast, I recall people around me often became depressed and irritable around the month of February. Some people are so badly affected that they are required to subject themselves to daily light-therapy to lessen depression. Fortunately, I apparently have not been vulnerable to such ill effects.

I know that I am especially sensitive to beauty in nature, and that beauty can include blue skies. My favorite season is springtime when, very often, the temperature is moderately warm, perhaps with a cool breeze, few clouds are in the sky, and all of nature is turning colorful with green grass and multicolored blossoms. I experienced that feeling deeply during my recent walk through Commons Park here in Denver.

Ironically, however, there are three exceptions to my enjoyment of only blue skies. First of all, I have grown less tolerant of summer heat along with its blazing-blue skies. During such times, I crave shade and, perhaps, rainy skies. There also is my own, personal quirk that, if the skies outside my house are blight blue, I often have the uncomfortable feeling that I must be out and about, doing important things and accomplishing a lot. If outside is rainy or snowy, I don't feel that way.

The third personal feeling is that I frequently do enjoy rainy skies, especially gentle springtime rain and subdued skies - - - that is, as long as I have shelter, especially my own home. At such times, I feel calm, more relaxed, even perhaps a little dreamy, which helps me with any creative endeavors I may be engaged in, such as writing these stories. After all, I have mentioned before that I have on my computer both a ripped sound-recording and also an audio-video recording of gentle rain, which I usually play while I am writing or engaged in other creative work.

I don't know for sure whether my special enjoyment of overcast skies and rain is particular to me or whether people in general respond in the same way. If less common, perhaps my enjoyment of quiet skies is in-born. Maybe those feelings are from genetic memory, some of my early ancestors having come from the rainier climes of Britain.

After all, I have inherited, from that side of my family, genes from Normans, Welsh, Saxons, and the early indigenous inhabitants of those isles, called by the Saxons, “Elves” because of their short stature. As a matter of fact, I have come to think, over the years, that my Elvin heritage explains a lot about me. And, now you know.

© 03 June 2016

About the Author

I have had a life-long fascination with people and their life stories. I also realize that, although my own life has not brought me particular fame or fortune, I too have had some noteworthy experiences and, at times, unusual ones. Since I joined this Story Time group, I have derived pleasure and satisfaction participating in the group. I do put some thought and effort into my stories, and I hope that you find them interesting.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Visits with the Doctor on Summer Afternoons by Ricky

By March 1968, I was fresh out of Air Force basic training and assigned to Goodfellow AFB, Texas, where I entered training to become a “radio intercept analyst.” These are the military personnel who work from remote and isolated locations, like mountain tops, listening to radio transmissions from countries to collect secret intelligence data. Of all the jobs that were available when I was still in basic training, this one seemed the most interesting and challenging.

I completed phase-one training with the highest score in my class. All thirty graduates of the class performed base details for three months while awaiting the Top Secret phase-two training to begin. I never entered the second phase of training because of a doctor; the base psychiatrist to be specific.

Some background information is needed here for clarification as the story unfolds. From the age of 10 in 1958 until I left home for college at 18 in 1966, I lived in what is now known as South Lake Tahoe. I had little to no social life outside of weekly Boy Scout meetings and periodic campouts because my ten-year younger twin brother and sister needed babysitting. Our parents were alcoholics and were mostly absent during the week until 1 or 2 AM, after the bars closed.

Consequently, I became very naïve about life in general and living in the adult world. Emotionally incomplete I was not prepared to face college away from home and continued to have no social life maintaining a hermit-like existence. As a result, I failed my first year of college and needed to join the Air Force in 1967 to avoid being drafted into the army or worse yet, the marines.

At Goodfellow AFB, I continued to be socially awkward and so rapidly developed a case of home-sickness. I requested my commander or first sergeant to let me talk to a counselor, but no appointment was ever made. During the break between classes, an investigator interviewed all of us waiting for the next phase of training to begin. His purpose was to gather enough information to complete a background check to see if we could be cleared to have access to Top Secret material.

During my interview, he asked me if I ever had any homosexual experiences. I told him that a friend and I once mutually masturbated each other when we were 16. He then asked if I had ever talked to a psychiatrist about it. I replied that, I had read such behavior was considered “normal” so I wasn’t worried about it. He inquired how I was “doing” in the military environment and I replied that I was a bit home-sick but otherwise okay. He wanted to know if I wanted to talk to someone about it and I told him that my commander or first sergeant was supposed to be getting me an appointment but nothing had occurred yet. He told me don’t worry, I will get you one. One week later I had my first appointment, not with a counselor but with the base psychiatrist.

I don’t really remember his face or specific age, but I do remember that he was not “old” or “elderly” in my point of view. That first visit took place about 2PM in his assigned offices. The female receptionist took me to an examination room, told me to undress down to my shorts, and the doctor would be with me in a few minutes. I did as she asked. The doctor came in and introduced himself and told me to sit on the exam table. He then proceeded to give me what was a common physical examination which included the “turn-your-head-and-cough” hernia check. I was too young to need a prostate check, thank goodness.

After the exam, he had me dress and meet with him in his office so we could talk about why I was there. I told him about the home-sickness and we talked for the remainder of an hour. Over the next few weeks, I met with him four or five more times. The only difference was each of those following times, the appointment was at 4:45 PM and so the receptionist would leave for the day prior to the doctor seeing me. In other words, we were alone in the building. Each time he began our sessions by giving me a complete physical exactly the same as before. I always wondered why at the time, but he was an officer and a doctor. As a doctor I didn’t question him and since I was taught to obey all officers, I didn’t question him either; I just did what I was told to do.

The very last appointment was different. It began benignly enough with the physical exam, but this time after having me stand for the hernia check he had me lay back down on the table naked (with my hands at my side) and began to ask me questions about my relationships with my relatives and friends back home; questions we had discussed in our previous meetings in his office. Partway through the questioning he began to flip my penis back and forth using his index finger. I was surprised to say the least, but as I said previously, he was a doctor and an officer so I said nothing other than to answer his questions.

It is said that men think with their penis. It is not possible for the penis to think, but I can tell you it is completely difficult for the brain to concentrate while the penis is demanding attention and more blood. By the time he asked me about my relationship with my father I was nearly brain dead for speech. My penis was only half erect and I told him that he should stop. He said, “Why?” and I replied, “Because you are beginning to turn me on.” He said, “You let me worry about that.” and continued to flip it back and forth. He suddenly switched from flipping it to masturbating it slowly, but it only got a bit more erect. By this time he was not asking any more questions. Shortly, he asked me if my penis got harder. I told him it did and he told me to make it hard. So now I became the one masturbating myself in front of him. I was so nervous that after about two minutes my penis would not get any more erect than 75% of what was possible. I stopped and told the doctor and he told me to get dressed and come to his office.

Once in his office, he wanted to know what I had meant when I said he “…was turning me on.” I explained that I only meant he was giving me an erection. He then told me he was removing me from further training because he did not think I “… could stand the strain of an isolated or remote assignment.” I was shocked and dismayed and pleaded with him not to do this; but to no avail.

Soon thereafter, I was transferred to Hurlburt Field (Eglin Auxiliary Field #9) near Ft. Walton Beach, Florida, 50-miles east of Pensacola. (This was the airfield that General Doolittle trained his pilots and aircrews for the 30-seconds over Tokyo attack during WW2.) When I left Goodfellow AFB, I just put the memory away as unimportant because I did not know or recognize that he had done something illegal and totally unethical. The rest of my life continued from that point and location, but in a different direction from what I had been expecting.

Strangely enough, in my official Air Force medical records, the only record of my appointments with the psychiatrist is of the first appointment. None of the rest are documented in my medical records and any mental health records are also missing or non-existent. It would be quite surprising, if the doctor had left a medical record of his molesting a patient.

Does anyone else have a similar experience with a military or civilian doctor?

© 24 June 2013

About the Author

I was born in June of 1948 in Los Angeles, living first in Lawndale and then in Redondo Beach. Just prior to turning 8 years old in 1956, I began living with my grandparents on their farm in Isanti County, Minnesota for two years during which time my parents divorced.

When united with my mother and stepfather two years later in 1958, I lived first at Emerald Bay and then at South Lake Tahoe, California, graduating from South Tahoe High School in 1966. After three tours of duty with the Air Force, I moved to Denver, Colorado where I lived with my wife and four children until her passing away from complications of breast cancer four days after the 9-11 terrorist attack.

I came out as a gay man in the summer of 2010. I find writing these memories to be therapeutic.

My story blog is

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Security by Ray S

About today’s subject, did anyone else have the immediate mental flash of little Linus (I think) and his ever-present blanket?

Sometime in the past century my security blanket took the shape of a warm fuzzy Teddy Bear. And like Mary’s little lamb, Teddy was sure to go wherever I went.

One day I was watching my paternal grandfather working in the garden. He was hoeing the rows of beans and I was inspired to get my hands in the s oil too. Next thing you know I had excavated a nice little grave. I hasten to tell you I may have been reacting to the experience of having to attend a recent funeral of a distant relative of our family. (It’s never too soon to be exposed to grown up customs, mores, and folk traditions, or so our family thought.)

You guessed it. Teddy suffered a sudden demise and fit in the hole I had dug, snug as the proverbial bug in the rug.

After several days, maybe even a week, I missed the security and companionship of Teddy, which led to his exhumation. There he lay patiently waiting, soggy and his brown fur turned prematurely gray. But his eyes were still bright and shining and his smile was still happily stitched in place.

A few days on the clothes line in the sun and a god grooming with mother’s hairbrush, my security, not too much worse for wear, had returned from as they say, a fate worse than death.

So much for a child’s imagination, curiosity, and innocence; it was good to have Teddy’s love and security back again.

© 21 March 2016

About the Author

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Pets by Phillip Hoyle

I can easily list my pets. I had one, Tippy, a brown and white beagle.

There were other pets around me. For instance, Mother always had a cat or several. Thus I recall Deetle-eye Jones. My eldest sister got a cat, an almost pink Persian who was a real scaredy cat. My youngest sister brought home a cat one rainy afternoon, a cat who stayed around many years. Mascot could raise a ruckus. And there were Sylvester and his mate. This was around the time Tippy moved in next door and eventually into our family. And I recall when Myrna and I had little kids a church office worker gave us Marcie, a cute black miniature poodle. But then we moved and took her off to live with friends in Colorado. 

My son Michael had a tortoise he found on a woodland path. That pet loved to eat earthworms and strawberries and made little comment. My daughter Desma brought home a white rat from science class in school. He lived with us quite awhile until he was nine inches in length with a nine inch tail. We never told our African son Francis about these two critters. He was always complaining about how Americans fed the children’s food to pets. 

Finally Desma’s boyfriend gave her a white bunny for Christmas. I said to the kids she’d be grown up by Easter and could be our Easter dinner. The thing must have overheard me because she hopped away into the neighboring woods. Desma later reported she saw brown and white bunnies hopping in the woods.

I have made friends with a few more pets. My good friend Big Tony had two very nice white miniature poodles. I sometimes dog sat them. My partner Michael O had two dogs, one friendly the other grumpy and nervous. As Michael got ill I took more and more care of those dogs. They were present at his death. 

My kids and their kids have pets. My neighbors have pets. Sometimes I massage them (the pets, that is). They think I’m their friend or treat me as their pet.

© Denver, 2014

About the Author

Phillip Hoyle lives in Denver and spends his time writing, painting, and socializing. In general he keeps busy with groups of writers and artists. Following thirty-two years in church work and fifteen in a therapeutic massage practice, he now focuses on creating beauty. He volunteers at The Center leading the SAGE program “Telling Your Story.”

He also blogs at

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Choices, by Pat Gourley

A very dear friend has told me for years that my problem is I have too many choices. He is right, and I do realize that it is a privilege to not only have the freedom but the where-with-all to have more than one or even several options available when facing life’s many circumstances. Being a white middle class male in America in 2016 carries with it enough cache to often have more than one alternative when faced with life’s various challenges, and this has been the case for most of my life.

I suppose my queerness and later in the dance my HIV infection have somewhat limited my choices but to be honest when I look around at the rest of humanity I still have it pretty good. It is interesting that these two things, queerness and HIV infection, where not choices but apparently unavoidable realities. I realized at an early age that being attracted to men was not a choice on my part but something very ingrained out of the box.

I am quite certain I was infected with HIV in the early 1980’s before the causative agent had actually been identified. And I am not implying that folks getting infected today are choosing this but rather they assume that they are either not at risk or they are in the short-run choosing pleasure over possible consequences down the road, a very human response in many situations. I am frequently reminded of Jerry Garcia’s answer when asked why people do drugs and he replied, “Because they make them feel good.”

The challenge then becomes how do I best address my choices especially in a culture that worships “more is better.” I read this past week that Americans, in droves apparently, are resorting back to buying large gas guzzlers and fewer hybrid automobiles in the past couple years now that gasoline is cheap again. Depressing news for arctic sea ice and a whole lot more.

One way to tackle multiple choices for a particular problem or situation would be to ask what is “enough.” I stumbled on a parting wish shared by a mother to her daughter right before she boarded a plane and the words spoken were “May you have enough.” And as with more of my philosophical guidance than I care to readily admit to these days this came from a Facebook post. I was though taken with it enough to Google the phrase “May You Have Enough.”

So it turns out this may have originated as an Irish Blessing, author unknown. This seems to fit nicely with one definition of “enough “ and that is “as much or as many as required”. For me personally and my life choices these days I can ask is a bicycle enough for transportation or do I need a car. Are beans enough or is eating chicken or fish really necessary for adequate protein intake. Is Natural Grocers enough or do I need to cop to the much shorter walk and shop at Whole Foods? When I need a break is a short mountain trip enough or do I need to get on a plane to go somewhere. Is my air conditioning set at 75 degrees enough or do I need it cooled to 70? And on and on.

There is though a second definition of “enough” that struck me as very appropriate especially this past week and that would be to indicate that one is unwilling to tolerate any more of something undesirable.

I see a fundamental message of the Black Lives Matter movement being simply “enough.” Enough is enough and no more will be tolerated.

The essence of this is so difficult it seems for many of us white folks to grasp. In part I suppose we can be left off the hook because of the blatantly revisionist history, dating back before the revolution of 1776, that we have been spoon-fed. The root motivators for the American Revolution are much more complex than issues around a tax on tea. The historian Gerald Horne has written extensively on this topic and a 2014 interview with him on Democracy Now is a vital listen for all trying to grapple with the roots of racism and racial tensions in America today. Here is a link to that interview:

What the revolution of 1776 was significantly about was protecting the institution of slavery. The Second Amendment was actually about ensuring the preservation of the Slave Patrol Militias, which were early forerunners of out police departments. The term well-regulated militia being actually a shortened sanitized phrasing.

Here is a link to an analysis piece on the connection between the Second Amendment and the need to protect the institution of slavery: and the Second Amendment Slave Patrol Militias.htm

If this suggestion seems a bit far-fetched consider the very muted response from the NRA about the recent killings of two black men who were supposedly carry legal firearms. Their panties would certainly be in a wad if this had been “white patriots.”

I am not meaning to put too simplistic a spin on it but slavery is a profound way of limiting the choices a human being has. The ingrained legacy of slavery in America, still to this day, severely limits the number of choices needed for a quality and fulfilling life for many African Americans. Everyone should have the option of too many choices.

© July 2106

About the Author

I was born in La Porte, Indiana in 1949, raised on a farm and schooled by Holy Cross nuns. The bulk of my adult life, some 40 plus years, was spent in Denver, Colorado as a nurse, gardener and gay/AIDS activist. I have currently returned to Denver after an extended sabbatical in San Francisco, California.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Rise of Dr. Jill Stein by Louis

Since I did not know what today’s topic was supposed to be, I would just like to give my impressions of and my reactions to the presidential election.

My favorite candidate by far until recently was Bernie Sanders. When he endorsed Hillary Clinton so as to defeat Donald Trump, suddenly Jill Stein of the Green Party became much, much more important. Though I understand why Bernie did what he did, I do not agree with him that it is paramount to defeat Donald Trump. After Jill Stein, Donald Trump is my second choice.

In other words, Jill not Hill, Jill not Hill.

I voted for Barack Obama twice, but ultimately he failed; supporting TPP with such zeal demonstrates his first loyalty is to Wall Street not to the American public. Also his EPA did nothing to call out the governor of Michigan over the issue of the poisoned water in Flint, Michigan. Also he prolonged the pointless war in Afghanistan, and, ten years from now, the American public will still derive no benefit from this war, and the public will still be against it.

I’m disillusioned with Women’s Lib. Many women have risen to the heights of power: Margaret Thatcher in Great Britain, Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration, Kelly Ayotte, Senator from New Hampshire, Dick Cheney’s heterosexual daughter, Liz Cheney. Women libbers should not be particularly proud of these “successful” women. The nicest women politicians I remember from the old days were Bela Abzug from New York. Now of course there is Dr. Jill Stein and Jane Sanders. These three are a little more likeable.

Colin Powell tried hard to sound more reasonable during the years of the W administration. Then, when General Powell got enthused about invading Iraq, his credibility instantly collapsed. More disillusion.

One of Bernie Sander’s team called Hillary Clinton “a whore of Wall Street.” I do not like the word “whore.” Let us just call her a puppet of Wall Street.

The main trend we should be following is the continued rise in the percentage of non-voters. It is now about 80%. In November, I estimate it will probably increase to 85%. In other words, we live in a nation with no leaders.

© 20 August 2016

About the Author

I was born in 1944, I lived most of my life in New York City, Queens County. I still commute there. I worked for many years as a Caseworker for New York City Human Resources Administration, dealing with mentally impaired clients, then as a social work Supervisor dealing with homeless PWA's. I have an apartment in Wheat Ridge, CO. I retired in 2002. I have a few interesting stories to tell. My boyfriend Kevin lives in New York City. I graduated Queens College, CUNY, in 1967.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Magic, by Lewis

Do you believe in magic? 
Believe in the magic in a young girl's soul 
Believe in the magic of rock 'n' roll 
Believe in the magic that can set you free 
Ohhhh, talkin' bout magic....

So goes the lyric by the smooth and silky Lovin' Spoonful. According to Webster's, "magic" is "the use of means (such as charms and spells) believed to have supernatural power over natural forces" or "an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source" or "the art of producing illusions by sleight of hand".

To answer Lovin' Spoonfuls' question, yes, I do believe there is power in music to set one's soul free, so to speak, and it isn't limited to rock 'n' roll or the soul of a young girl, for that matter. What Lovin' Spoonful is singing about is the magic that is part of ordinary, everyday lives, not the magic of Webster's dictionary. And, when push comes to shove, isn't that the only kind that really matters?

I would like to tell you a story of how magic has affected my life. It begins shortly after my ex-wife, Jan, and I were married in 1972--six weeks after, to be precise. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I was working in the front yard of our home in Detroit. It was a warm day for late November. Jan came out of the house, obviously upset. She was bleeding rather heavily from her vagina. She had talked to her gynecologist, who recommended taking her to Brent, a private hospital, immediately.

What happened thereafter must be weighed in consideration of the fact that it was two months before the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade. It was less than a mile to Brent but for Jan it was as if she had stepped through a portal to hell. I did not witness any of the events I am about to describe. I only learned of them from Jan.

Within an hour of my leaving her off at the hospital, the orderlies were transferring her from the gurney to the examination table and dropped her on the floor. To add insult to injury, their main concern was for the well-being of the fetus; Jan was first-runner-up.

By this time, she had passed tissue as well as blood and was convinced that the fetus was not healthy. Nevertheless, she was instructed to lie perfectly still in the hospital bed. The doctor prescribed a sedative to calm her down but she only pretended to swallow the pill. When the nursing staff had left her room, she got out of bed and did pushups on the floor, hoping to abort, which, eventually, she did. The staff was none the wiser.

About a year later, Jan was pregnant again. As before, at about six weeks gestation, she began to bleed. That pregnancy also resulted in a miscarriage. Tests disclosed that Jan had a bifurcated uterus--a membrane separated it into two parts. That didn't leave enough space for the fetus to develop normally. The doctor's recommendation was surgery to remove the membrane. The odds of success were 50/50. We decided to go ahead with the procedure. Two weeks before the surgery was to happen, we learned that Jan was pregnant again, despite her being on the pill. We decided to take a wait-and-see approach to the fetus' development.

This is where the magic began. Not only did the fetus go to term but developed into a 9-pound, 5-ounce baby girl, Laura. The delivery was not exactly "normal", however. Yes, we had taken the "natural childbirth" and Lamaze classes but there is no way to plan or prepare for an umbilical cord that is wrapped around the baby's neck. The obstetrician decided to induce birth early and use forceps. We had chosen a hospital, Hutzel Women's Hospital in Detroit, that allowed the father to be present for the birth. I had planned for it but had not a clue as to the role I was about to play.

The birthing table, upon which Jan lay, was massive. I think it was made of marble or something equally heavy. The doctor was at one end, his forceps clamped on the baby's head, a nurse was lying across Jan's abdomen and I was holding onto the other end of the table. Nevertheless, the doctor was dragging the table with its cargo of three human adults across the delivery room floor by our daughter's neck while Jan pushed as hard as she could. (Incidentally, my wife was about 5'8" and 160 pounds.) I was afraid that our baby was going to be born in installments. But, no, she came out in one piece, her head a little flattened on the sides, slightly jaundiced, hoppin' mad, and gorgeous to both her parents.

On my first visit to mother and daughter in the hospital, I donned the required gown. You know the type--they cover the front of you completely and tie in the back. Laura had been in an incubator for her jaundice. The nurse brought her in and handed her to Jan in the bed for feeding. After Laura had nursed for a while, Jan asked if I would like to hold her. I said "yes", even though I had little-to-no experience with holding a live baby, especially one so small. After holding Laura to my shoulder for a few minutes, I handed her back to Jan.

As I was leaving, I removed the gown. There, near the shoulder of the dress shirt I wore to work, was a pea-sized spot of meconium, a baby's first bowel movement. True, it's sterile and has no particular smell, but I knew that I had been branded. My daughter had found an "outlet" for her anger at having to undergo such a rigorous birth and I knew she would have the upper hand for as long as we both lived.

On the night of Laura's birth, as I drove home at about 5:00 AM, I turned on the car's radio to WDET-FM, the public and classical radio station at the time. The streets were empty and as I merged onto I-75 for the 10-minute ride home, the interior of the car was filled with the sounds of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Fourth Movement. In the last section of that movement, the massive choir of over a hundred mixed voices rises to sing "Ode to Joy" in concert with the musicians. You have only to hear it once to know that MAGIC is happening. Only a genius who could not hear the sound of his own voice could have composed such glorious sounds. My heart, already swollen with pride, nearly burst.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. But even better than Santa Claus, there is magic all around us all the time. It speaks to us only if we open our hearts to it and believe--believe that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, that we are given love in proportion to that which we give to others and that, above all, we must never lose faith either in ourselves or the blessed and precious world we have been given.

[P.S. Just a brief afterthought about the "magic" of childbirth--

I see nothing particularly remarkable about the male role in this process. The job of the sperm is two-fold: a) engage in the singularly manly pursuit of trying to outrace the other 100-200 million sperm to the egg and b) equally as manly, be the first to penetrate the hard outer layer of the egg, thus reaching its nucleus where the sperm's genetic content merges with that of the egg. The life of the sperm thus reminds me of nothing more than of the leeches who attached themselves to the main character's nether regions in the movie, Stand by Me--neither ennobling nor romantic.

What transpires within the uterus of the woman, however, is simply one magic trick after another. Nine months is longer than most men remain faithful. It's uncomfortable enough that most men wouldn't endure it unless they were being paid tens of thousands of dollars per month and on network television. Many of them are nowhere to be found when the nine months are up. Yet, they think they are entitled to make the rules as to whether the fetus must be allowed to go full-term. It's as if the leech had a nine-month, no-breech lease on your groin. All of a sudden, the "magic" is gone.]

© 26 August 2013

About the Author

I came to the beautiful state of Colorado out of my native Kansas by way of Michigan, the state where I married and I came to the beautiful state of Colorado out of my native Kansas by way of Michigan, the state where I married and had two children while working as an engineer for the Ford Motor Company. I was married to a wonderful woman for 26 happy years and suddenly realized that life was passing me by. I figured that I should make a change, as our offspring were basically on their own and I wasn't getting any younger. Luckily, a very attractive and personable man just happened to be crossing my path at that time, so the change-over was both fortuitous and smooth. Soon after, I retired and we moved to Denver, my husband's home town. He passed away after 13 blissful years together in October of 2012. I am left to find a new path to fulfillment. One possibility is through writing. Thank goodness, the SAGE Creative Writing Group was there to light the way.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

True Colors, by Gillian

Tricky things, true colors.  

Betsy and I often see colors slightly differently. Oh, we both agree on what 's red and what's black, but when we come to more subtle hues, we differ. She might describe something as a brownish mauve, while I see it as beige. She may say a color is definitely blue while I see it as a bluish green. 

So what are true colors? 

Years ago we took a watercolor class together. It fascinated both of us to observe the very different mix of colors we would each use to match the roof of the barn or the rocky outcrop on the hill. Needless to say, our paintings of the exact same scene came out very different from each other: not only resulting from our low-grade artistic skills but also because we simply see colors differently.

These days we have made working with colors much more complex than it used to be. Once upon a time our house walls were whitewashed, if they were colored at all. Now, if you decide you want white walls in the bedroom, you are faced with a huge array of choices. Do we want Pearl or Eggshell, or Linen or Ivory or Cloud or Decorator White or Simply White? etc. etc. etc. To determine your answer, you hold a two-inch square of each shade up against your wall and imagine that color covering the entire wall. Yeah, right!

This begs a question. Why do automobile manufacturers appear to be unable to access this embarrassment of riches? We have a Toyota Corolla. It's color, according to the factory paperwork, is Mushroom. It's a low-key inoffensive color and I have no objection to it. My only question is, why have I never seen a Toyota Corolla of any other color? Our other car is a Toyota Rav4. Other than the ridiculous name, it's fine. It is a kind of silver or steel color, again low-key and inoffensive. There are Rav4's of a different color. I have seen several red and a few blue. But the vast majority of them are, yes, the same color as ours. So, Toyota being a pretty popular brand around here, we have two cars equally impossible to find in King Soopers' parking lot because they look look exactly like half of the cars parked there. 

And speaking of strange color choices, what is with the military - maybe just the army, though I'm not sure - and those camouflage uniforms? I somehow missed the switch from the accustomed olive drab, so, at DIA shortly after 9/ll, I was amazed to find the airport awash with heavily armed soldiers in unfamiliar, vaguely leafy, patterned uniforms. What did they think? That we couldn't see them? Or we'd mistake them for plants? Against the angular marble and glass of the airport they stood out like the pyramids rising from the desert. Perhaps, I pondered, that was the idea. After all they were meant to be a Presence, to instill is us, depending on our intentions, either fear or a sense of safety and protection. To me, they emitted more a slight sense of the ridiculous. I wanted to giggle; and I was sorry for that. I respect those who join the Armed Services, and don't want to make them into a figure of fun, even only inside my own head. 

Having learned from the Web that the change of uniform took place in the 1980's, I see how I missed it completely. There is not, and was not at that time, a significant military presence around the Denver Metro Area. Men and women in uniform are not a particularly common sight.

And by the 1980's I no longer had step-sons in the Service. 

But what were they thinking, those powers that be who made the decision? Of course camouflage has always been as important for survival in the military as it is in nature, but in the past it has not been worn, as far as I know, as the everyday uniform. Those men and women would have done well, in their vaguely floral green and brown, crawling through the jungle; but why dress like that at DIA? The other thing that strikes me as odd, is to have camouflage of those colors and curving shapes. Most of those currently making up the group that we chose to call, euphemistically, boots on the ground (as if they were just footwear, not real live people) seem, when I see them on TV, to be either on bare open rocky desert or in mean urban streets, neither of which environment sports a blade of grass never mind a tree. Maybe we just have a huge surplus of leafy camouflage left over from Viet Nam? 

Anyway, who am I to criticize camouflage? I relied strongly upon it for the first forty-something years of my life, ensuring that no-one, most especially I, should catch a glimpse of my own True Colors. If occasionally I did , out of the corner of an eye, then I simply clutched my camouflage more tightly around me and snuffed out the light. Now I pride myself on a full peacock display of my True Colors, standing tall and proud, having burned my camouflage as in the 'sixties they burned their bras. Some of the men and women in what I cannot help but find faintly laughable uniforms, may be wearing physical camouflage but, since we now have marriage equality in the U.S. military, can now be out of their metaphorical hiding places standing tall and proud in their True Colors. In comparison to the significance of that, what on earth does it matter what they wear? Or what color cars are? Or if my gray is Betsy's blue? Displaying our True Colors, whatever they may be and whoever we are, to the world, with pride and dignity; that's what it's all about.

© February 2016

About the Author

I was born and raised in England. After graduation from college there, I moved to the U.S. and, having discovered Colorado, never left. I have lived in the Denver-Boulder area since 1965, working for 30 years at IBM. I married, raised four stepchildren, then got divorced after finally, in my forties, accepting myself as a lesbian. I have been with my wonderful partner Betsy for thirty years. We have been married since 2013.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Acceptance, by Gail Klock

There are many different nuances to the meaning of acceptance. I’ve always been at ease with “giving approval to others” and put great effort into understanding their points of view and actions even when I don’t agree. However, I’ve struggled with the aspect which involves “believing in favorably” when it has come to myself. It is only recently after experiencing some difficult situations and engaging in years of therapy that I can truly say I accept myself.

As a young child I struggled with a positive sense of self due to my lack of connection with my mother. I sensed her depression after the death of my brother and somehow came to the conclusion it was my responsibility to make her happy and in so doing I lost myself to her needs. I did not establish a strong sense of who I was. Now this is not to say that I was an unhappy child. I had many friends at school and in the neighborhood and thought of myself as a capable kid. At home I fought continuously with my brothers and often felt left out because they sided with each other against me, they enjoyed their commonalities of being males and in sharing a bedroom with one another. I did not have a safe place at home.

I was happiest when engaged in sports because this was the one place I felt a sense of wholeness. However, society at the time did not for the most part accept tomboys… especially as I entered the teen years. Furthermore, an unconscious part of me realized I was different sexually as well. It was at this point I began to crumble inside due to my lack of an acceptance of self and the lack of support from my environment. My parents were not negative about who I was- I think it was more of a benign neglect. But I certainly did not go to them to help me through the hard times. It was a struggle I had to face on my own. All outward appearances reflected a very confident young lady, only a very keen observer of human nature would have known otherwise. I recall a situation in junior high which reflected this dichotomy of how I felt inside and how I was perceived by others. In eighth grade we had elections within each of our homerooms for student council members. I was in a classroom of the popular kids- the future high school queens and kings, athletes, and honor students. I was nominated by one of my classmates along with three or four others and was directed to go to the hallway while voting took place to determine who would represent our class. When we came back into the classroom the teacher announced I would be our representative. Although I was pleased with the result I was very frightened by the outcome as I felt somehow I had been set up…if I allowed myself to believe my classmates really wanted me then they would all start laughing and tell me it was just a trick…they just wanted to be able to laugh at me. It wasn’t until many years later I realized they really did like me and wanted me to be their leader, they accepted me even though at the time I did not accept myself. I had learned how to play the game of appearing to be confident to avoid any inquiries as to my state of mind, I was afraid to let anyone know how fragile I was… to do so was too vulnerable- it was scary. I was very good at accepting others and helping them to feel good about themselves but I didn’t have anyone doing the same for me, largely due to the fact I never let anyone know I needed that help.

In college I was very confident in my field, I felt I was receiving a very good education, and I was going to be successful. I had a girlfriend that loved me very much and was very supportive, but I was still very confused about my worth as an individual. I could not look at myself in the mirror and say I really like you, you are a good and valuable person. Within two years I had moved from an awareness of knowing I was different to “you are a homosexual”. And along with this change in knowledge came an awareness that I was socially deviant. I, who had always gained my positive sense of self from helping others feel better about themselves, became a person who was to be feared. I felt totally isolated at times from those around me. I really needed to go to the student health center to see a counselor, which my girlfriend Connie was trying to get me to do and was even willing to arrange for me, but I couldn’t bring myself to go as I was afraid of being in the waiting room and having others staring at me and wondering what was wrong with me. I felt like I had a contagious deadly disease which I had to keep to myself so no one else would catch it- I think it came to be identified later as “the homosexual agenda”. It’s probably good I didn’t go for help as the mental health field at the time would have determined my homosexuality was a mental illness which needed fixing. This is not just a projection on my part, as I have mentioned in a previous story that a few years later when I did finally get up the courage to see a psychiatrist he told me shock treatment might cure me of my homosexual urges.

Once out of college I had far more acceptance of myself as a professional than I did as a person. The love and acceptance I received from my friends did not penetrate my own lack of self-acceptance. I felt like a fraud. There were very few people who were aware of my sexual preference which I think contributed to my feelings. I was liked for who I appeared to be, not for who I really was. I thought if people found out I was gay I would no longer be a “good person”. I would become this person with an agenda who was out to seduce every straight female I met. I wouldn’t even let myself look at women with any awareness of their physical attractiveness- I kept those thoughts buried so deep they never saw the light of day. The closets I hid in for twenty years created a dungeon in which necrosis of my soul and spirit took place.

I made a great deal of progress towards self-acceptance in the twenty-seven years I was with Lynn. But my self-acceptance was based a great deal on the two of us as a couple and the family we had created with our children. I was very proud of us and glad to be out of the closet. But when Lynn decided to leave the relationship for personal reasons all my old abandonment issues from childhood came rushing back. I barely made it through the dark days as I had no good feelings about who I was, I didn’t know I had the strength to make it through this soul wrenching sadness, and I certainly didn’t have the desire to. I’m not really sure where the light was that led through this dark, damp, miserable tunnel. I do know being needed by fourteen 3rd and 4th grade students gave my life the purpose I needed at the time to survive. With this purpose and intense, well administered psychological care from Vivian Schaefer I was able to regain my footing and slowly make strides to reach a point of self-acceptance I had never before had. I gained an awareness that the person other people had seen and loved for all those years really was who I was. With this self-acceptance I am the happiest I have ever been. I am looking forward to attending a solstice ceremony tomorrow morning- it will be an emotional event for me as I know the importance of living in the light. For me it is symbolic for an acceptance of myself, full on exposure to the sun with no closets to block the light, be they closets built by others or by myself.

© 21 December 2015

About the Author

I grew up in Pueblo, CO with my two brothers and parents. Upon completion of high school I attended Colorado State University majoring in Physical Education. My first teaching job was at a high school in Madison, Wisconsin. After three years of teaching I moved to North Carolina to attend graduate school at UNC-Greensboro. After obtaining my MSPE I coached basketball, volleyball, and softball at the college level starting with Wake Forest University and moving on to Springfield College, Brown University, and Colorado School of Mines.
While coaching at Mines my long term partner and I had two daughters through artificial insemination. Due to the time away from home required by coaching I resigned from this position and got my elementary education certification. I taught in the gifted/talented program in Jefferson County Schools for ten years. As a retiree I enjoy helping take care of my granddaughter, playing senior basketball, writing/listening to stories in the storytelling group, gardening, reading, and attending OLOC and other GLBT organizations.
As a retiree I enjoy helping take care of my granddaughter, playing senior basketball, writing/listening to stories in the storytelling group, gardening, reading, and attending OLOC and other GLBT organizations.