Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Long Ago, Far Away, by Lewis


[The following is a confidential memorandum, dated May 25, 1998, which I delivered to The Rev. Jamie Rasmussen, then-pastor at Grace Community Church in Detroit, Michigan, after listening to a tape of a sermon he delivered titled, "What Would Jesus Say to Ellen DeGeneres".  This was shortly after Ellen came out on her TV show.] 

Although we did not exchange names, we met this past Friday when I came into Grace Community Church to buy a tape of your sermon titled "What Would Jesus Say to Ellen DeGeneres?".  You were surprisingly young and full of sunny energy as we passed in the office doorway.  You asked me what tape I wanted.  I told you and you said that you had given that sermon and told me to let you know what I thought of it.  I thanked you and went on my way, tape in hand.

I have listened to the tape three times now and would be happy to share my thoughts with you.  Let me begin by saying that I am a gay man of 52 who has been in a monogamous marriage for 25 years.  I have two adult children and a very comfortable life, at least on the surface.  The fact is that my wife and I have decided to begin a gradual separation process because I have come, finally and almost inevitably, to the conclusion that I can no longer feel happy and fulfilled living without the love of another man.  For most of my adult life, I bought the popular myth--as I believe you have--that homosexuality was a "lifestyle" which involved choosing whether I would engage in sex with a woman (my wife) in the context of a loving, caring relationship, or with a series of men, always without real human connection and love.  Placed in this context, the choice seemed rather simple.  After all, weren't these urges I felt merely lust, a desire for a quick fix of heated passion followed by days and weeks--even months--of desolation, guilt, and shame?

Though you may not believe it, let me tell you that no heterosexual can possibly understand the torment that came from trying to live my life ever faithful to what society expected of me and in complete sublimation of my truest inner nature.  I felt like the Ugly Duckling who never, ever sees a swan but always thinks of himself as different, degenerate, inherently unlovable.  Over the course of the past half-dozen years, I have been gradually emerging from my cocoon of self-hatred into the light.  I have discussed my orientation with counselors, friends, clergy, family, and co-workers.  I have become active in the politics of gender identity and sexual orientation.  I learned that my own internalized homophobia can be overcome and that I, too, sometimes misjudge people by stereotyping them as "homophobic".  My wife and kids know that I am gay and love me just the same.  (I told my wife even before we were married that I was attracted to men.)

You need to hear that I WAS NEVER CONFUSED ABOUT MY SEXUAL ORIENTATION--at least since the age of 13--but only terrified of being discovered.  In your sermon, you keep referring to gays and lesbians as "confused".  They aren't the ones who are confused.  It's you and people like you who are confused--confused about what it means to be a homosexual.  You seem to feel, if I interpret your words correctly, that gays and lesbians are "OK"--that is, worthy of "unconditional love"--as long as they don't act on their feelings of attraction.  Can you imagine someone saying to a heterosexual, "I love you as a person but I hate it when you act on your feelings of attraction to a person of the opposite sex"?  What you are asking of gay men and lesbians is to do one of two things:  1) get married to a person who may or may not know what they are getting into and live a false existence for as long as the marriage lasts; or 2) remain celibate (and, therefore, essentially loveless) for life.  What a choice!  Both essentially deprive a person of the greatest joys of human existence while condemning them to countless hours of pain and self-recrimination!

Your kind of "unconditional love"--loving the "sinner" but hating the "sin"--is pretty cheap!  We know that Jesus loved the thieves who died with him on the cross, as well as the men who caused his death.  He forgave them and welcomed them into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Are we to believe that a lesbian or gay man who commits an act of love with another human being, regardless of gender, is less worthy of acceptance than these are?  The Jesus I know is SILENT about homosexuality.  How do you presume to speak for Jesus when he himself was silent?  He did say that the greatest commandments are these:  to love God with all my heart, mind, and soul and to love my neighbor as myself.  Is it possible that he thought of all people--straight or gay--as "neighbors"?

On the subject of homosexuality as "sin", I rely on John Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality (still in print and available at the Grosse Pointe Public Library and at Barnes & Noble).  On pages 100 thru 114, he addresses all three scriptures you cite in your talk, going back to the original language for contextual meaning.  He concludes, with regard to the citation from Leviticus, that the Hebrew word "toevah", there translated as "abomination", as in "Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind:  it is an abomination", does not usually signify something intrinsically evil but something ritually unclean for Jews, like eating pork or engaging in intercourse during menstruation.  Boswell points out that the word "toevah" is used throughout the Old Testament to designate those Jewish sins that involve ethnic contamination, as in the stock phrase "toevah ha-goyim", meaning "the uncleanness of the Gentiles".  Such an interpretation would have no significance for Christians.

With regard to the Romans I citation, Boswell argues that the persons Paul condemns are manifestly not homosexual.  He is speaking of homosexual acts committed by apparently heterosexual persons.  "The whole point of Romans I, in fact, is to stigmatize persons who have rejected their calling, gotten off the true path they were once on.  What caused the Romans to sin was not that they lacked what Paul considered proper inclinations but that they had them:  they held the truth, but 'in unrighteousness' (v. 18) because 'they did not see fit to retain Him in their knowledge' (v. 28).  [I]t is quite apparent that...Paul did not discuss gay persons but only homosexual acts committed by heterosexual persons [emphasis in the original].

Finally, as to the citation from 1st Corinthians 6:9, Boswell's argument is purely semantic.  Of the two Greek words used in the original and now taken to indicate that "homosexuals" will be excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven, one applied, up until the 20th Century, to masturbation--a "sin" no longer widely considered worthy of condemnation to Hell--and the other, best evidence suggests, meant to Paul's generation a "male prostitute".  Thus, we see that upon close examination of the cited passages, nowhere does the Bible actually condemn homosexual acts between committed, loving, lesbians or gay men--at least, if they are Gentiles.  I encourage you, Jamie, to study the Roswell text yourself in its entirety.

You almost had me fooled, Jamie.  I was ready to concede that you really cared about gays and lesbians.  Your voice has such a compassionate ring to it.  But near the end, you betray your real feelings when you announce your opposition to the efforts of gays and lesbians to secure the same rights to be free from discrimination that you and other heterosexuals take for granted.  You even raise the tired, old red flag of protecting the children!  What of those gay or lesbian children who may have been in your audience?  Evidence shows that many gay boys realize their orientation by the age of 11.  How would they feel about themselves after hearing your speech?  What kind of a future can they look forward to--either devoid of intimacy or condemned by God?  Why wouldn't suicide seem attractive?  You're right to be concerned for the children but the threat comes from the vibes of your own sound system, not from some faceless gay pedophile.

[In researching what Rev. Rasmussen has been up to in the interim, it appears that my excoriating memo did nothing to damage his career in the ministry.  The very next year, he left Detroit to lead an old, historic church in London, Ontario, in transitioning to a "small-group-based, outreach-focused" one, whose membership grew by 29 per cent in the two years he was there.  In 2001, he left London for Chagrin Falls, Ohio, where he pastured at the Fellowship Bible Church for six years, growing its membership from 650 to 1400.  "Chagrin" is an apt word for my reaction upon learning that since 2007, "Jamie", as he prefers to be called, has been the Senior Pastor of Scottsdale Bible Church with its 6000 adult members and 10- to 12,000 subscribers to the church's newsletter.  He has a staff of two dozen pastors and ministers and 100 employees.  Incidentally, he never responded to my memo.]

© 16 Sep 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.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Slippery Sexuality, by Gillian

Sex itself is of course physically slippery, as designed by nature. Metaphysically, metaphorically, sexuality can be every bit as slippery.

It took me about forty years to get a good grip on mine.

In my early years, I would catch tantalizing glimpses of it, slithering sneakily about, just under the surface, but before I could even reach for it, it plunged back down into the murky deep; out of sight but never quite out of mind. Certainly, never completely absent from other body parts. I felt its presence but could not, or would not, identify it.

In my thirties, it began making itself more visible; more identifiable. Like a dolphin beside a boat it now skimmed alongside me, only occasionally disappearing beneath the surface waves, and more often leaping into the air in full view. It taunted me, it beckoned me, this beautiful slippery temptation. It called to me, come on, come on, come out and play! Sometimes it led, sometimes it followed, but it never fell behind. Occasionally it forged ahead, leading the way with its blissful athletic leaps. This way, this way! For the most part it stayed by my side. Sometimes the joyous frolicking threatened to capsize my boat. Only with great effort did I keep it afloat.

It was a mirage, I knew. This was no reality. Not my reality. No reality I wanted any part of. I blinked and shook my head, and sure enough it was gone. The glorious creature disappeared, no longer leaping before my hesitant self to show me the way. I was left adrift on a sunless sea, once more becalmed and rudderless. It would return to beckon me again and again, each time looming a little larger, but although I occasionally reached a tentative hand in its direction, more rarely even touched it, still it slithered away. I could never quite grasp it. The leviathan returned to the deep.

Approaching forty - a little early for a mid-life crisis, surely? - that seductive dolphin somehow grew, matured, became huge, became that whale, that very leviathan which I had somehow always sensed it to be. And I became that legendary mermaid. Despite my slithery tail, I was suddenly on its back, hanging on to the slippery creature with all my strength as we crashed together into the waves. Then we were no longer two entities but one. I had embraced it fearlessly, wholeheartedly, and become one with it. I was a part of it and it was a part of me. I swam against the tide: against the waves, against the currents. They were powerless to stop me, powerless to redirect my journey. I knew exactly where I was going and I had the strength to get there.

Now I lie in the sun on a beautiful beach. I snuggle into the caress of the warm white sand, just as I cuddle into the warm caress of the wonderful woman I love; my partner of almost thirty years, my spouse, my wife, the love of my life.

I am home.

© 16 Apr 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.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Christmas 1905, by Cecil Bethea

Christmas should be a joyous time when memories from years long gone bubble up in our minds.
We have honed the past into a golden world never marred by human excess.
Historians know there are exceptions to this ideal.
For men at Valley Forge, Christmas could have been another day of hunger and misery.
When the armies in blue or grey along the Rappahannock near Fredericksburg,
Fought by day and sang in unison by night,
Christmas could have been a day of dread.
The Dust Bowl seared

© 5 Dec 2005 

About the Author  

 Although I have done other things, my fame now rests upon the durability of my partnership with Carl Shepherd; we have been together for forty-two years and nine months as of today, August 18th, 2012.

Although I was born in Macon, Georgia in 1928, I was raised in Birmingham during the Great Depression.  No doubt I still carry invisible scars caused by that era.  No matter we survived.  I am talking about my sister, brother, and I.  There are two things that set me apart from people.  From about the third grade I was a voracious reader of books on almost any subject.  Had I concentrated, I would have been an authority by now; but I didn’t with no regrets.

After the University of Alabama and the Air Force, I came to Denver.  Here I met Carl, who picked me up in Mary’s Bar.  Through our early life we traveled extensively in the mountain West.  Carl is from Helena, Montana, and is a Blackfoot Indian.  Our being from nearly opposite ends of the country made “going to see the folks” a broadening experience.  We went so many times that we finally had “must see” places on each route like the Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky and the polo games in Sheridan, Wyoming.  Now those happy travels are only memories.

I was amongst the first members of the memory writing class.  While it doesn’t offer criticism, it does offer feedback.  Also just trying to improve your writing helps no end.

Carl is now in a nursing home; I don’t drive any more.  We totter on.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Where Do We Go from Here?, by Betsy

If you take this to mean where do we go when we die—I don’t have much to say about that. People have many different beliefs about an afterlife, beliefs which require a leap of faith.  Although some of the beliefs I have heard of have a certain comforting appeal to them, I do not actually believe in any of them. I don’t deny that anything is possible, but I always seem to end up going with what I know to be a fact. The only thing I know about where we go after death is that I don’t know.  That I know to be the only truth that I am currently capable of understanding or of knowing.

Where we go from here, in my view, is a question better applied to our life here and now as mortal humans.  I like to know where I am going. For example, after story time today I will get in my car and go to my daughter’s house after doing a bit of shopping at Sprouts on the way. After that I will go no where until tomorrow morning when I will go to my closet, put on some tennis clothes and drive to the Denver Tennis Club and I will have no trouble finding my court. After tennis I will do certain things most of which I had planned ahead of time so, let us say, I know where I am going in my own world in so far as I am in control of it. Now if the weather does not permit, then I will not do what I just described. So I guess where we go from here often is conditional.

I like to at least have a sense of where my group is going as well. I believe it is important for citizens and their leaders to know in what direction their community, state, and country are headed. A good thing to know, but not always palpable.

There are other factors that make our futures uncertain and therefore make us feel a bit uneasy. This is an uncomfortable time for our country, I believe. It must be because so much campaigning is going on we are all very much aware that our leadership will be changing soon. I must admit, I am more than uncomfortable about where we would be  going if Mr. Trump is elected, or any of the Republican radical extremists who are running for president.  Then the question becomes “Where do I go from here?”  Europe? Canada?  I don’t think so.  Bad leadership is a good reason to stick around  and fight for what I believe in and to be sure to vote in upcoming elections, including the local ones. 

I like some structure in my life and so I am a tad uncomfortable not having a plan for my day—even if that plan is to sit around and read a book all day long.  I like to know where I am going both in the short term and the long term. I’ve noticed that when I don’t know where I’m going—one of those brief lulls in the day when I have finished something and don’t know what I am doing next—I often find myself going to the refrigerator and not because I’m hungry.  Now what good does that do?

 I play tennis year round outdoors. I have to admit I am not comfortable in the winter and bad weather not knowing from week to week whether we will  be playing or not.  So much for short term planning. I’m not averse to spontaneity, but generally I like to know where I am going.

I haven’t always known where I was going. There was a period of time looking back when I was not too sure how to put one foot in front of the other. Growing up gay certainly added tremendously to the confusion. Our adult role models help guide us as to where we are headed, but growing up gay in the 40’s and 50’s there were no lesbian role models—at least not in my life. Of course there were lesbian women out there, but they could not allow themselves to be known publicly as Lesbians.  Once I accepted, and acknowledged to myself that I was a lesbian I had a lot to learn suddenly about where to go from there. I didn’t even know any lesbians. Once I started looking, however, I did find some friends who helped “show me the ropes” so to speak. Soon I had many friends, but also I was part of a movement. Nothing like being part of a movement to help you find your identity and your place in society. Mostly ‘though where I went after acknowledging my sexuality was in the direction of the coming out process. This in itself has proven to be a journey,  quite a long one—at times both rough and arduous as well as smooth and easy along the way.

As I said in the beginning, I know where I am going from here today and maybe tomorrow I know where I’m going or supposed to go. But thinking about it I realize that except on a day to day basis, I haven’t known where I was going.  Especially going into different phases of life.

When I married my husband, I didn’t have any particular plans for the future. Only for the short term.  I don’t remember even planning to be a mother—not until I became pregnant.    As for a job, I sought a job in the field of work I wanted, but mostly I took what was available at the time.

When I retired, I did not know in the long run where I was going except to say that I would now engage in the things I like to do and pursue my interests only now in retirement, full time rather than only when I had a chance.  I didn’t really plan where I was going. I was going to live life as best I could.  I honestly think most people conduct their lives this way.

 When and if one does make the choice as to where to go from here the question arises: “Do I ever arrive?”  I don’t think we ever know our destination—just the direction to take, the road to take. And that choice is determined by our basic character—our morals, the strength of our convictions, our sense of justice,  our values.

Some have said the journey is more important than the destination.

The way I see it life is a journey with no ultimate destination. It’s more of a journey with pit stops where one perhaps chooses a new direction or a different road from time to time.

In my old age I would like to take the road that keeps me healthy and happy. But roads often have their barriers and their potholes.  So again for the long term I don’t know where I go from here. But I do know the direction I want to go. Beyond that I don’t know what happens after this life, but whatever it is I’m quite sure it’s good.

© 4 Jan 2016 

About the Author 

 Betsy has been active in the GLBT community including PFLAG, the Denver Women’s Chorus, OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change), and the GLBT Community Center. She has been retired from the human services field for 20 years. Since her retirement, her major activities have included tennis, camping, traveling, teaching skiing as a volunteer instructor with the National Sports Center for the Disabled, reading, writing, and learning. Betsy came out as a lesbian after 25 years of marriage. She has a close relationship with her three children and four grandchildren. Betsy says her greatest and most meaningful enjoyment comes from sharing her life with her partner of 30 years, Gillian Edwards.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Movies, by Will Stanton

My taste in movies is somewhat eclectic, yet I do insist upon good quality in order for me to thoroughly enjoy them, rather than merely tolerate them. To me, good quality means intelligent thoughtfulness and experienced creativity in all aspects of film-making.  Among other criteria, the movie should have a theme that is worth watching and considering.  That usually means adult topics.  I will clarify what I mean with a few just a few movie examples.

Already, that leaves out so many Hollywood movies of today that are based upon comic books and their almost endless sequels, impossible action-adventures with superheroes and villains. Apparently, the scripts are written by Southern-California twenty-year-olds with little formal education and virtually no cultural upbringing.  They are not interested in making good quality movies; they just want to make lots of money, catering to easily satisfied audiences.

I also have developed over the years a concerned sense that such “100% good guys versus 100% bad guys” themes indoctrinate Americans, e.g., adolescent boys with limited rational capabilities, into believing that all challenges in life are threatening and physical, as opposed to cerebral and spiritual, and that we must attack and kill the enemy to solve all of our problems.  The degree of gratuitous violence in so many movies worries me.  It stands to reason that this general behavior now is reflected throughout our society, ranging from pervasive lack of civility, pervasive crime, mass-shootings, unwarranted wars, and bad votes.

I also find even the dialogue and acting often distasteful.  So many young American actors regularly are supplied lines that are supposed to sound clever and cool, reflecting affected self-assuredness, hubris, and arrogance.  Also, their facial expressions and body-language are so affected, portraying arrogance or even physical threat to others.  I cringe each time I hear and see such behavior.  I prefer natural, unaffected portrayals.

In contrast to banal films, there have been many movies and television series that I have admired and, consequently, often have watched more than once.  Some are from independent film-makers.  A good number of these have been British or other foreign film-companies, writers, directors, and actors, who demonstrate a high degree of maturity and professionalism.

For example, the superlative 1979 BBC series “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” is one of the all-around best-quality productions I ever have seen.  To begin with, the superb writer of the book, David Cornwell (pen-name “John le Carré”), has worked for both British MI5 and MI6, most likely has continued his contacts, and obviously knows what he was talking about.  Secondly, this well-informed, highly intelligent man writes honestly, reflecting the good, bad, and often mediocre behavior and character of governments and human beings.  Then, the screenplay-writer also was excellent, as well as the director and all of the crew.  For the leading role, they chose the consummate actor Sir Alec Guinness as George Smiley.

Once word of that selection got about, the casting-director had his choice of the very best actors in all of Britain.  In addition to their great experience and professionalism, their appearances, voices, and mannerisms fit the roles like a glove.  Unfortunately, a discerning viewer must obtain the uncut, British Region-2 DVDs for the best experience and clearest plot-development, for some crucial scenes were cut for U.S. audiences in order to force the episodes into one-hour time-slots; and the idiots used those shortened episodes for the American DVDs.  Also, don't bother to watch the more recent movie-version.  I gave it a C- rating in my review on Amazon.

For theater-movies, I admire many aspects of New Zealand director Peter Jackson's “Lord of the Rings.”  For the thousands of people involved over several years in this major project, this effort was a labor of love.  So much care went into making these films that, for example, the set for Hobbiton was constructed and planted way in advance of filming so that the flora would have a chance to develop.  Professional sword-smiths were hired to create masterpieces for the major characters.  Fine-tuning the script continued to the very last minute, requiring the London Symphony Orchestra to also  fine-tune their  sound-track recordings.  Even after Jackson won the Oscar with the final episode, “Return of the King,” he had his crews continue filming to make improvements for the DVD sets to come.  I know of no other film-project that has done this.

American independent film-makers and foreign film-makers have made many films over the years that explore human nature and realistic situations, such as docudramas like the acclaimed, German film “The Bridge.”  Based upon a true, 1945 event in the last days of the war, schoolboys were forced into uniforms and ordered to guard a small bridge in their own village, the very route American tanks were approaching.  One boy was severely wounded.  All the others perished.  The western allies required Germans to view the film to further emphasize the terrible consequences of their too easily having let themselves be led in to a catastrophic war.  “The Bridge” is considered to be one of the two best anti-war films made.

I also appreciate serious fiction, such as the British “Remains of the Day” that explored the unnecessary self-denial and repressed emotions of an all-too-traditional butler.  I realize, as much as I appreciate these films, that many people who are used to hyperkinetic, childish adventure-films, don't care for mature, cerebral films because these are regarded as “too slow, too boring.”  As a matter of fact, just such a person gave me his copy of the “Remains” DVD because he was disappointed that it didn't have more action and wartime violence.

One of my all-time favorite films is Italian director Luchino Visconti's prize-winning “Death in Venice” based upon, what many literary critics declare to be, “the best novella of the twentieth century” and written by “the best novelist of the twentieth century” Thomas Mann.  The Cannes Film Festival awards once held a retrospective contest covering films from a quarter of a century.  “Venice” won the grand prize and was declared “a masterpiece.”  The cinematography alone is a masterpiece with many scenes resembling tableau-artwork.   The lead actor Dirk Bogarde deserved  “best-actor”  awards from all such contests.  Most of the sublime accompanying music is by the great composer Gustav Mahler.

Because of my interest in the remarkable voices and music of the European Baroque era, I like the unique, Golden-Globe-winning film “Farinelli,” loosely based upon the reputation of the acknowledged greatest singer in history, Carlo Broschi, stage-name “Farinelli.”

As entertaining as the film is, anyone who has bothered to learn history knows that the screenplay accurately reflects only about 10% of the real person, 20% based upon the reputation of other contemporary singers, 20% based upon the Baroque culture and opera of the time, and 50% simply made up to entertain the audience.  Even so, I enjoy the film.  There is no other like it.  I recommend the music CD.

I do admit, however, that not all the films which I enjoy are worthy of winning Cannes' Palme d'Or, perhaps the most prestigious film award.  Even my most sober friends and I have enjoyed the “Harry Potter” movies.  In addition to their being very imaginative, they seem to succeed as an antidote to the banality of the real world, even despite the scripts' frequent egregious errors in diction, grammar, and style.  And, I have to admit also that I often have watched some good quality films and DVDs simply because I am inclined to identify with attractive characters whose attributes and lives appear more interesting and satisfying than, too often, my own life.  I'm not sure that the practice of watching such films is of any practical purpose, but they are a captivating distraction.  Still, some are included in my DVD collection.

And, last of all, if I suddenly became a billionaire, I would like to produce to perfection several films based upon topics dear to my heart.  Of course, that is a real fantasy.

© 31 May 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.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Bravest Things, by Ricky

Bravery can come in large or small packages. Some involve great deeds while other deeds involve only moderate or even insignificant events; any of which could be public or private.

The very first brave thing I can remember doing was also the first dumb thing I remember doing. Of course I didn't know I was being brave or dumb; I was only 10; in the 5th grade and on my way home from school. In case you all have forgotten, I have a powerful attraction to ice cream. So strong it is that back then, if anyone had wanted to get into (and me out of ) my pants all they would have had to do was invite me to their place for ice cream, but no one knew that. You might have even seen me transform into an “ice cream-zombie”.

So, one particular week previous to my act of bravery, I had been stopping by the local grocery store where my parents shopped. I had left over lunch money and my purpose for stopping there was to buy an ice cream sandwich at a cost of 10-cents; eating it on my way home. More accurately, eating it within 20 feet of the door after exiting the store; sooner, if I could get it unwrapped while still walking to the exit.

The week following I had no left over lunch money but the attraction to ice cream was still as powerful as ever and I stopped by the store. I searched everywhere in my pockets and book binder while walking up and down the aisles but try as I might, I just could not find the money that was not there. So I became brave and dumb; I turned into a stupid kid. Carefully scanning for potential witnesses and hoping no one could hear my pounding heart, I quickly opened the ice cream cooler, removed one ice cream sandwich, placed it into my book binder and left the store.

I waited until I crossed the highway before I removed the thing, unwrapped, and ate it. On the bright side, I did throw the wrapper into a trash bin I was walking by; after all I'm no despicable litter-bug. The next four days found me doing the same thing before guilt overcame attraction. It is said by some that males think with two brains; or rather only one of the two actually thinks and the other just acts. But I learned from these experiences that males (especially boys) can hear the “siren call” of inanimate objects quite clearly, objects such as ice cream sandwiches, or firearms, or fast cars, or any baseball/football games in their vicinity or on a TV, or the call of a video game console.

This story does have an ending but not until 1969 after I joined a church while in the Air Force. I had carried my shoplifting guilt with me for all those years but it was not causing any problems until then. My homosexual acts didn't bother me much but the shoplifting did as I joined the church. So, I wrote a letter outlining my theft, put it in an envelope along with $10.00 to cover interest on 40-cents over 10-years, and mailed it to the grocery store. I never heard back from the store, but I felt clean before God. Mailing that letter was the bravest thing I ever did out of two events to that point in my life.

The 2nd place bravest thing I had done up to 1969 occurred while I was working as a 16-year old staff member at Camp Winton, a boy scout summer camp. Our rival camp was Camp Harvey West located at the top of Echo Summit just 10 miles from my home at South Lake Tahoe. On one of my weekends off, I dressed in black and as dusk approached I set out alone to raid their camp.

I had made a white flag with the words, “Camp Winton is Best” and emblazoned it with our camp's logo, back-to-back “W”s surrounded by a circle. It looked like two “X”s side by side but was really “W”s for the two Winton brothers; the logo of the Winton Lumber Company. The trail to the camp passed on the west side of Flagpole Peak. I climbed up to the peak where there was the stump of an old flagpole. On the west side the climb was very easy. At the end of the trail, I had to side step along a narrow ledge with both hands on the peak's ridge to my front and a modest 50 to 100 foot cliff to my rear. As I closed in on the actual top where the flagpole was my hands had to be raised higher and higher.

I finally reached the top. At this point my arms were stretched out to their maximum length over my head. I couldn't place my flag from this position, so I did another brave thing and another dumb thing. I grabbed the bottom of the flagpole and pulled myself up so I was straddling the peak with the pole between my legs. I was facing north. To my right was a shear 200-300 foot cliff, but it looked like a mile drop. To my left was that modest 50 to 100 foot drop which suddenly looked much farther than 100 feet.

I tied my flag to the pole, enjoyed the view for a minute or two and then decided that I'd spent enough time up here and since the sun was beginning to disappear, it was time to leave. I looked to my left to make sure I knew where to put my feet on the narrow ledge I'd arrived on but ….. the ledge was gone! Panic set in; it was getting dark and I had no way to get down; "½ a mile" drop on one side and a "two-mile" drop on the other. I sort of enjoyed the view for a couple more minutes before my brain calmed down and started thinking sense to me.

The ledge WAS really there, I just couldn't see it because the peak was a little wider just above the ledge and narrowed to the top of the ridge I was dangling my legs on either side of. The traitorous sun kept setting and light was fading fast. I finally decided to trust my memory and swung my right leg over the ridge and ended up dangling over the left side of the ridge still hanging tightly to the pole. I still could not see or feel the ledge; a bit more panic followed until I remembered that my arms had to be fully extended before I could get up to the ridge in the first place, so I must be fully extended to get down. I relaxed my biceps and sure enough the ledge was there and I was able to return safely to the trail and complete my raid.

Lowering myself to the fullest extent of my arms is the 2nd place bravest thing I had done up to 1969. I have done other dumb things and brave things since 1969 but if I hadn't found the courage to write that letter about the shoplifting, I doubt I would have ever found the courage to do the other brave things.

© 4 Mar 2014

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hysteria, by Ray S

I wonder how many of my friends here resorted to the same tactic as I have done? That is to look into what Mr. Webster had to tell me about today’s topic, Hysteria. 

HYSTERIA, Noun [Greek, hustera, uterus, orig. Thought to occur more often in women than in men] 1. A psychiatric condition characterized by excitability, anxiety, the simulation of organic disorders, etc. 2. Any outbreak of wild, uncontrolled feeling: also hysterics, hysterical, or hysteric, adj.,--hysterically adv.

After some pondering those defining words I had a “Eureka moment” and determined how I wear this hysteria word garment.

My thoughts and studies about who and what I am as a so-called QUEER concluded: an in-between creature, a genderless in-between combining masculine and feminine energies.

Permit me to subject you to another stolen quote lifted from the pages of an old copy of R.F.D., the magazine of the Radical Faeries:

“We embody masculine and feminine energies in a unique way… the unconscious regenerative Earth Mother and the conscious constructive Sky Father…. Our work as fairies is to bring harmony between the two—to take the gifts of the Father back to the Mother.”

With this new knowledge I now can continue my life’s journey, realizing that my feminine side is simply experiencing a fit of hysteria.


Let’s hear it for some uncontrolled feeling—more power to you!

© August 2016

About the Author

Monday, November 28, 2016

Alas, Poor..., by Phillip Hoyle

“Alas,” poor Myrna may have said after twenty-nine years of marriage with me. “Alas, my husband is a gay man.”

Surely she said something like that at some point. Before we separated she lived for over two years knowing of my infidelity. Of course that infidelity had been going on many years more. Her first hint of it must have occurred when I was thirty years old and only flirting. The unmistakable certainty came many years later. I know this because around the time we separated she told our daughter, “Your dad is gay, and I’ve known it for twenty years.” I don’t know just what she knew about homosexuality when we were 30 years old, but I assume that she realized that I had experienced a change in feelings and showed a new kind of interest in someone else. Perhaps she assumed I had lost my love for her or I wanted out of our marriage; she feared separation and divorce. My continuing interest in our own sexual relationship during those following twenty years may have led her revise her cry to, “Alas, I have married a bisexual.” When we talked, she said of homosexuality that she had no problem with it. She added, “But it’s not supposed to be your husband!” (I‘m sure the explanation point I’ve used was there in her voice.) Alas.

My own “Alas, poor…” relates to the same matter but from an institutional perspective. I say, “Alas, poor churches…” given the unreality of a common American, rather liberal church stand on issues gay. These churches seem to be saying, “It’s not supposed to be your Sunday school teacher, spouse, scout master, board chairperson, or minister.” Even more curious than that, a number of churches seem to be wringing their hands over their positions on homosexuality by retreating into an assertion of sin as action, relegating homosexuality to be somehow a problem of original sin or something similar if you don’t believe in original sin? You may be homosexual, which in itself they say is not a sin, but you cannot do it, meaning have sex with a person of the same sex. I first read the idea in a United Presbyterian Church statement back in 1978. Since then the statement has appeared in United Methodist papers, sometimes used by Disciples of Christ and others, then surprisingly to me lately adopted by the rather conservative Roman Catholic Church, and even more surprising to me recently touted by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Alas, just what are they thinking? It’s difficult for me to fathom, but perhaps it’s a complaint on their parts. Something like, “Alas, those pesky homosexuals are everywhere.” I haven’t even spent time imagining their comments related to bisexual and transgendered persons. Still I say, “Alas, those poor theologians, scholars, clergy, and committees assigned the task of writing something that can be accepted across the storm waters of their denominations’ theological diversities.” Even the rather theologically liberal National Council of Churches couldn’t figure out how to be nice to the queer Metropolitan Community Church denomination when it requested membership.

Alas, will it ever get better? Can councils respond only to majority votes? You know, It’s not supposed to be your husband; not you wife, certainly not your minister.

I say “Alas, those poor folk who cling so closely to traditions that stifle the change that’s going to happen anyway.” And, of course, that includes me. I am in no way perfect. My challenge has been to provide as much continuity as possible in all the change and do so in ways that embrace both the change and the best potentials from the past. Alas, woe is me in trying to explain such a convoluted philosophy. But let’s just decide to play together anyway and keep seeking joy in one another.

© 2014

Denver, 2015

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

Stories of GLBT Organizations, by Lewis

My thirty-year career at Ford Motor Company reached its culmination at the end of the last century, coincident with the last of my 26 years of being in a straight marriage and the birth of the GLBT organization that has played the largest part in my personal journey toward wholeness. That organization is Ford GLOBE.

GLOBE is an acronym for Gay, Lesbian, Or Bisexual Employees. It was hatched in the minds of two Ford employees, a woman and a man, in Dearborn, MI, in July of 1994. By September, they had composed a letter to the Vice President of Employee Relations--with a copy to Ford CEO, Alex Trotman--expressing a desire to begin a dialogue with top management on workplace issues of concern to Ford's gay, lesbian and bisexual employees. They were invited to meet with the VP of Employee Relations in November.

In 1995, the group, now flying in full view of corporate radar and growing, elected a five-member board, adopted its formal name of Ford GLOBE; designed their logo; adopted mission, vision, and objective statements; and adopted bylaws. The fresh-faced Board was invited to meet with the staff of the newly-created corporate Diversity Office. Soon after, "sexual orientation" was incorporated into Ford's Global Diversity Initiative. Members of Ford GLOBE participated in the filming of two company videos on workplace diversity. Also that year, Ford was a sponsor of the world-premier on NBC of Serving in Silence, starring Glenn Close as Army Reserve Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer. By September of 1996, Ford GLOBE chapters were forming in Great Britain and Germany.

In March of 1996, Ford GLOBE submitted to upper management the coming-out stories of 23 members in hope of putting a human face on what had been an invisible minority. Along with the stories came a formal request for Ford's non-discrimination policy to be rewritten to include sexual orientation. At the time, only Ford of Britain had such a policy.

Ford GLOBE was beginning to network with similar interest groups at General Motors and Chrysler, including sharing a table at the 1996 Pridefest and walking together in the Michigan Pride Parade in Lansing. After two years of discussion between Ford GLOBE and top management, on November 14, 1996, Ford CEO, Alex Trotman, issued Revised Corporate Policy Letter # 2, adding "sexual orientation" to the company's official non-discrimination policy. To this day, some of our largest and most profitable corporations, including Exxon Mobile, have refused to do the same.

My involvement with Ford GLOBE began sometime in 1997. For that reason and the fact that I have scrapped many of my records of this period, I have relied heavily on Ford GLOBE's website for the dates and particulars of these events.

In February of 1998, I attended a "Gay Issues in the Workplace" Workshop, led by Brian McNaught, at Ford World Headquarters, jointed sponsored by GLOBE and the Ford Diversity Office. I remember a Ford Vice President taking the podium at that event. He was a white man of considerable social cachet and I assumed that the privilege that normally goes with that status would have shielded him from any brushes with discrimination. In fact, he told a story of riding a public transit bus with his mother at the height of World War II. His family was German. His mother had warned him sternly not to speak German while riding the bus. Thus, he, too, had known the fear of being outed because of who he was. The experience had made him into an unlikely ally of GLOBE members over 50 years later.

In 1999, Ford GLOBE amended its by-laws to make it their mission to include transgendered employees in Ford's non-discrimination policy and gender identity in Ford's diversity training. Ford Motor Company was the first and only U.S. automotive company listed on the 1999 Gay and Lesbian Values Index of top 100 companies working on gay issues, an achievement noted by Ford CEO Jac Nasser. It was about this time that retired Ford Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Alan Gilmore came out as gay. The Advocate named Ford Motor Company to its list of 25 companies that provide good environments for gay employees in its Oct. 26 edition.

Having earlier written the contract bargaining teams for Ford Motor Company, United Auto Workers, and Canadian Auto Workers requesting specific changes in the upcoming union contracts, Ford GLOBE was pleased to see that the resulting Ford/CAW union contract included provision for same-sex domestic partners to be treated as common law spouses in Canada, for sexual orientation to be added to the nondiscrimination statement of the Ford/UAW contract, and that Ford and the UAW agreed to investigate implementation of same-sex domestic partner benefits during the current four-year union contract.

The year 2000 was not only the year that I became Board Chair of Ford GLOBE but also the year that marked a momentous event in automotive history as Ford, General Motors, and the Chrysler Division of DaimlerChrysler issued a joint press release with the United Auto Workers announcing same-sex health care benefits for the Big Three auto companies' salaried and hourly employees in the U.S. As the first-ever industry-wide joint announcement of domestic partner benefits and largest ever workforce of 465,000 U.S. employees eligible in one stroke, the historic announcement made headlines across the nation. It was truly a proud moment for all of us in the Ford GLOBE organization.

On January 1 of 2001, my last year with the company, Ford expanded its benefits program for the spouses of gay employees to include financial planning, legal services, the personal protection plan, vehicle programs, and the vision plan.

Since my departure from the company, Ford and GLOBE have continued to advance the cause of GLBT equality and fairness both within the corporation and without. I am fortunate to have been supported in my own coming out process by my associates within the company, both gay and straight, and to Ford GLOBE in particular for the bonds of friendship honed in the common struggle toward a better and freer world.

[Editor's note: Previously published in 2015 in this blog.]

© 2015 

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, November 24, 2016

How I Learned Some Turkey Anatomy, by Nicholas

It was our first Thanksgiving together so we invited a bunch of friends over to share a dinner. Jamie and I were to cook the turkey and other people were assigned other courses for a sumptuous meal.

We got the bird which was frozen but no problem, we knew enough to leave it in the frig for a few days to thaw out. It seemed to be doing so nicely and on Thanksgiving morning as I prepared the stuffing and prepped the turkey, things were moving along smoothly.Turkey in the oven, we were on our way to a feast.

The first sign of trouble came innocently enough when Jamie was talking to his mother about our celebration. I should point out that this Thanksgiving was a kind of late rebellion on his part. We had decided not to go to his parents for dinner, even though they were nearby, so we could have our own gathering with friends. But mothers have that knack for asking questions that can throw your plans right into the rubbish.

Bragging about our turkey in the oven, mom posed the question, “Did you get the giblets and stuff out of both ends of the turkey?”

What “both ends,” I demanded. Of course we’d pried out a bag of turkey parts from its hollow innards. But was there more in some other secret cavity? Was there something stuffed up its ass, too?

So, we hauled the bird out of the oven and poked around its backside to find out that not only was there another pouch of miscellaneous bits but that our future dinner was still, actually, frozen. Well, it did seem a little stiff when we stuffed it but now we realized we had a still frozen 12-15 pound animal and all bets were off as just when dinner would be served.

We threw the thing back into the oven and cranked up the temperature. Nothing much happened. We turned the oven up higher. Still, not much changed. It was turkey’s revenge—it would cook in its own time and never mind our plans for dinner.

Our guests started arriving and our main course was just thawing out. We had appetizers and wine and conversation while the bird began to show some sign of cooking. We reversed the order of the meal and served other courses like salad, potatoes and vegetable and more wine until at long last we pulled from the oven what we hoped was a cooked turkey. I can’t even remember what it tasted like. I guess it was good or we were all too hungry to care. Everybody ate it, nobody got sick. It was a fun time, even though a disaster.

My first venture into real cooking did not augur well for pursuing culinary delights. But, as it happens, one gets hungry and has to repeatedly do something about it. Peanut butter sandwiches as a diet are not that appealing. So, despite being shamed by a turkey, the lowest form of conscious life on this planet, I did go back into that kitchen with the intention of turning food into meals.

I am happy to report that success followed my persistence. Hunger is a good teacher and I have come since to associate the kitchen with many satisfactions and pleasures.

I love to indulge myself and what higher form of indulgence is there than food. And food grows ever more satisfying with age. Taste grows more complex and nuanced with age and taste buds, unlike other body parts, actually work better as you grow older. Kids can be finicky eaters, it has been said, because their underdeveloped taste buds aren’t working to their full capacity with just sweet and bitter dominating their little palates.

I like food. I like everything to do with food—shopping for it, growing it, picking it in the garden, preparing it, cooking it, eating and sharing it with others. I like reading about food and cooking; I like planning big meals. My favorite store in the whole world is the Savory Spice Shop down on Platte Street. Walking in their door is entering a different world full of wonderful aromas that hint of countless flavors from the dozens of herbs, spices and exotic salts on the shelves. The variations and sensations are near endless in my imagination.

Cooking is now part of my identity. I love to cook. Well, I just love food. Cooking is now a creative endeavor as I tend to use recipes not as instructions but for inspiration and as suggestions as to what goes well together and in what measure. Many times I simply dispense with recipes and make it up on the basis of what’s in the frig and hunches. The hunches—like adding paprika and dry mustard to a stew—usually pay off, i.e., are edible, but sometimes they do not turn out so well. Those I won’t go into.

Food has its rituals that can be likened to religious liturgies culminating with the sharing of sacrament. Food is work and joy, is nourishment and pleasure and connotes special relationships to those you share it with and to the earth it comes from.

So, let me officially launch this great season of holiday feasting—my favorite time of the year—with the words: Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens. Let the eating begin!

[Editor's note: This piece was first published in this blog in 2012.]

© November 2012

About the Author

Nicholas grew up in Cleveland, then grew up in San Francisco, and is now growing up in Denver. He retired from work with non-profits in 2009 and now bicycles, gardens, cooks, does yoga, writes stories, and loves to go out for coffee.