Sunday, September 21, 2014

DSM 5 Disco

This little ditty, which caused me to snort coffee out my nose, comes to us courtesy of the blog Mad in America.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Power of Rescuing Others

"I said I love myself... The very minute the word myself came out of my mouth I knew I had been completely transformed because up until that point I would have never said that. I would have said I love  you because I had no sense of my self. I thought of myself as you. And the minute myself came from my mouth I knew--and I've always known ever since--that I would never ever cross that line again to being crazy."  --Marsha Linehan



Read more here.

This is part of an ongoing story about a patient suicide. Click here for Patient Suicide Part One: The Phone Call, here for Patient Suicide Part Two: 30 Minutes to Think, here for Patient Suicide Part Three: Fully Present, here for Patient Suicide Part Four: What's a Life Worth, here for Patient Suicide Part Five: Treat People Like They Matter, here for Patient Suicide Part Six--Leftovers, here for Patient Suicide: Part Seven--Training Monkeys/Herding Cats, and here for Patient Suicide: Part Eight--On Scarves and Lessons Learned

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Freaks, Geeks, Outcasts, Cultural Appropriation, and Boys Like Me

Cultural appropriation is a serious issue. Colonizing cultures have scoured the world to pick up choice pieces of culture that don't belong to them to exploit for personal pleasure and profit. I think of this often when I see herds of women and men clad in pricey yoga pants from Lululemon marching down Harvard Square to pay for a work out that makes them feel enlightened--a workout that is devoid from any connection to the actual philosophies that are at the root of yoga.

There have been numerous thoughtful responses to an OpEd piece about gay men appropriating black women's culture written by Sierra Mannie called "Dear White Gays." You can find two of the responses that I've most respected here and here.

I hadn't had anything to add to the dialogue that other people hadn't already said. Then this morning I came across Chris Koo's cover of Beyoncé's Crazy in Love and got to thinking what it might like to be a young person who violates gender norms in a community where the are little (if any) outlets for the safe expression of self.

Do you think Koo is appropriating black women's culture like Sierra Mannie might think?





In our rush to play the Oppression Olympics and decide who should win the title of Queen for a Day (see also), we forget about the actual pain that actual people are facing all around the world.

I think of these young people taking on the mannerisms of Beyoncé or Nicki Minaj or Katy Perry or Lady Gaga or whomever else is the pop icon of the day. We forget about the freaks, geeks, outcasts, and gender queer folks around the world who just can't (or won't) fit in with cultural expectations. We forget that these young folks who violate gender normed behavior find connection, solace, hope, and liberation in images of empowered people in popular culture.

I think of my own experience as a kid desperately wanting to have red hair like Annie Lennox and writing a paper about Boy George. I was trying to find people who were like me, so I could be like them, so I could fit in and be liked by others.

I wrote that paper about Boy George for a grade school music class. My teacher was concerned I might be like Boy George and he didn't like that. He held an emergency conference with my parents (who were, by the way, very uninterested in their nonsense). The music teacher and my sixth grade teacher suggested my parents have me join the Boy Scouts so I could be like the other boys. My teachers were worried that if I wasn't like the other boys,  I wouldn't be liked, so I should be someone other than who I was to be properly likable.

The message was clear. In the eyes of my teachers, there was something terribly wrong with me.

We forget young people who don't fit in have few (if any) supportive role models. These freaks, geeks, and outcasts face enormous pressure to be someone other than who they are in order to be acceptable human beings. No one to support them. No one like them. No one to be like. No one to be liked by. No one to celebrate the value and dignity of their experience.

No one, that is, except the role models they can find in popular icons.


I think of why my friend said in his blog Meanhood:

But there are some white gays who live in rural areas who are ostracized by everyone in their community, they have no friends because they are too femme, and unlike college kids and me, they cannot “pass,” they are hated, so they make friends with other lonely souls, other black people, women who are themselves shunned in that culture, and they blend together. If they don’t know black people then they cling to starlets, pop stars, yes Beyonce, independent women who flaunt a sexuality that they wish they could flaunt themselves.


No doubt Mannie was expressing the pain she experiences in her life. That's important to recognize, value, and take collective community action to alleviate. What Mannie missed was a recognition of the pain that other people face. It's what most of us miss.

In our single-minded obsession with our own experience, we forget to look outside and recognize the pain other people experience.

We won't create a better world when we busy ourselves with the game of who is right. Who has more pain? Which pain is more important? It's a game where no one wins and everyone loses.

We need to find a new way of being were we are able value our own experiences as well as imagine and respect the experience of the other.

Mannie failed at this. Many of us do.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Extraordinarily Valiant and Extraordinarily Fragile: Intimacy Between Men

Two Young Corporals

Our history classes tend to focus World War II narratives on the personal sacrifices made by the "Greatest Generation" in an epic struggle between good and evil. Wit far less frequency, we examine with the enormous social changes that occurred within America's social structures and spaces.

The iconic imagery of Rosie the Riveter demonstrates the enormous shift in the lives of women. In 1939 approximately 5,100,000 American women were employed (26%). By 1943 that figure shot up to 7,250,000 women (36% of working aged women). Some 46% of women between 14 and 59 and 90% of single able-bodied women between the ages of 18 and 40 were engaged in some form of work or national service by September 1943.

World War II was also the first time in American history single sex social and living arrangements were the norm for the country. The physical intimacy of sharing close quarters along with stressful wartime conditions led to the creation of a large scale social space in which both emotional and sexual intimacy between men was possible.

Experiencing dislocation from support structures of civilian life and facing the horrors of war, servicemen turned to their fellow soldiers for emotional and psychological support. Bronski writes "the stress of leaving home, shipping out, active battle, and years of war allowed men to be vulnerable with on another in ways impossible outside of this environment."

The pre-war standard of the strong silent American Male was quickly replaced with a man that had experienced the traumas of war and developed a degree of ability to experience and show levels of emotional intimacy never before seen in the American Man. While we don't know whether the two young corporals were good friends or sexual partners, we do know their arms around either other, gentle hand holding, and quirky smile can communicate to us across the boundaries of time. Their relationship, forged in the trauma of war, opened up increasing possibilities of what relationships between men could be like.

In the national imagination, the nobility of the cause made these bodies heroic, highlighting the tragedy of their destruction. Images of fighting men in the popular press were a jarring paradox--extraordinarily valiant and extraordinarily fragile. Documentary combat photographs were often juxtaposed with pictures of shirtless men on battleships or in trenches--dirty, sweaty, and vulnerable. Images of patriotic men, many of them teenagers, dying for their country highlighted their fragility and nobility. This new standard of national masculinity, and its counterpoint image of strong women, radically altered how America viewed men and women. Bronski, A Queer History of the United States, pg 162)

Some look toward these vintage images of men in World War II as evidence that same-sex attraction has always existed. While that is a true statement, many err in identifying these all these men as gay. While some of these men were most definitely gay, many of them were good friends, alone together facing the traumas of war, experiencing for the first time the potential for friendship, intimacy, and emotional vulnerability between men. Somewhere in history we've lost the notion of the potential of friendship and intimacy between men. Our modern society has classified emotional and physical intimacy between men as something only belonging to men who are gay. In excluding these possibilities from heterosexual men, we've hobbled the American notion of masculinity. 

Imagine what we might be like as a country if we opened up the possibilities of what it means to be an American Man once again?

For more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Happy Spring; Two Men and Their Dog; Adam and Steve in the Garden of Eden: On Intimacy Between Men; A Man and His Dog; The Beasts of West Point; Vintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William Gedney; It's Only a Paper Moon;Vintage Gay America: Crawford Barton; These Men Are Not Gay | This Is Not A Farmer | Disfarmer; Desire and Difference: Hidden in Plain Sight, Come Make Eyes With Me Under the Anheuser Bush, Hugh Mangum: Itinerant Photographer, Two men, Two Poses; Photos are Not Always What They Seem,Vintage Sailors: An Awkward Realization, Three Men on a Horse, Welkom Bar: Vintage Same Sex Marriage, Pretty in Pink: Two Vintage Chinese Men, Memorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor Love, Memorial Day: Vintage Dancing Sailors, The Curious Case of Two Men Embracing, They'll Never Know How Close We Were, Vintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram,Manly Affections: Robert Gant, Homo Bride and Groom Restored to Dignity, The Men in the Trees, The Girl in the Outhouse, Tommy and Buzz: All My Love,Men in Photo Booths, and Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957. You can also follow me on Tumblr.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Wings: The Kiss

There has been some minor hoopla because of a kiss between Michael Sam and his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano, that aired on television.

One would think this never happened before.

Check out the 1927 silent movie classic Wings.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Spring


For more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Two Men and Their Dog; Adam and Steve in the Garden of Eden: On Intimacy Between Men; A Man and His DogThe Beasts of West PointVintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William GedneyIt's Only a Paper Moon;Vintage Gay America: Crawford BartonThese Men Are Not Gay | This Is Not A Farmer | DisfarmerDesire and Difference: Hidden in Plain SightCome Make Eyes With Me Under the Anheuser BushHugh Mangum: Itinerant PhotographerTwo men, Two PosesPhotos are Not Always What They Seem,Vintage Sailors: An Awkward RealizationThree Men on a HorseWelkom Bar: Vintage Same Sex MarriagePretty in Pink: Two Vintage Chinese MenMemorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor LoveMemorial Day: Vintage Dancing SailorsThe Curious Case of Two Men EmbracingThey'll Never Know How Close We WereVintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram,Manly Affections: Robert GantHomo Bride and Groom Restored to DignityThe Men in the TreesThe Girl in the OuthouseTommy and Buzz: All My Love,Men in Photo Booths, and Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957. You can also follow me on Tumblr.

Two men and their dog

There is something about vintage pictures where people took the time to bring their dog with them. It catches my eye every time. Our relationships with our pets, and our desire to capture the moments the share with us on film, endure through time.

Sadly, the details of these men and their dog is lost to time.

For more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Two Men and Their Dog;Adam and Steve in the Garden of Eden: On Intimacy Between MenA Man and His DogThe Beasts of West PointVintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William GedneyIt's Only a Paper Moon;Vintage Gay America: Crawford BartonThese Men Are Not Gay | This Is Not A Farmer | DisfarmerDesire and Difference: Hidden in Plain SightCome Make Eyes With Me Under the Anheuser BushHugh Mangum: Itinerant PhotographerTwo men, Two PosesPhotos are Not Always What They Seem,Vintage Sailors: An Awkward RealizationThree Men on a HorseWelkom Bar: Vintage Same Sex MarriagePretty in Pink: Two Vintage Chinese MenMemorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor LoveMemorial Day: Vintage Dancing SailorsThe Curious Case of Two Men EmbracingThey'll Never Know How Close We WereVintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram,Manly Affections: Robert GantHomo Bride and Groom Restored to DignityThe Men in the TreesThe Girl in the OuthouseTommy and Buzz: All My Love,Men in Photo Booths, and Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957. You can also follow me on Tumblr.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Studies on Hysteria

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world of naked people and suddenly find a pair of pants? Gabriel Borgetto brings us this film short called "Studies on Hysteria." It gives us an amusing look at the dynamics of conformity and peer pressure and a healthy criticism of our outrageous puritanism in our contemporary world.

Be mindful where you watch this film short. It's NSFW.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Children in Families First (CHIFF)

 March 28, 2014
The Honorable Elizabeth Warren
United States Senate
317 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C., 20510-2105
Dear Senator Warren,

I write to you today as a voter in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a licensed psychologist and health care provider, and a professional with over twenty-five years of working with children, adolescents, and adults who have experienced disrupted attachments with their primary care givers. I write to encourage you to reconsider your support for Children in Families First (CHIFF) S. 1530/H.R. 3323. I’d also like to encourage you to hold public hearings in which both inter-country adoptees as well as adoption professionals are able to voice their experiences, opinions, and needs for a bill that fully supports adoptee rights
I find this bill fails the needs of adoptees in many ways. 
  • Substantial criticism exists noting that the coalitions of individuals and groups supporting this bill represent the needs and rights of adoptive parents, not the needs and rights of of inter-country adoptees. 
  • This bill is advertised as one that supports maintaining families. A content analysis of the bill demonstrates the word reunification being used nine times, kinship being used thirteen times, and adoption being used 160 times. This bill is not about supporting families in foreign countries: it is about ensuring the supply of children available for adoption in the United States. 
  • This bill is in conflict with the UN convention for the rights of a child. Notably, there is no provision for: (1) A child’s right to have access to their name from birth, (2) a child’s right to their original identity and documentation or restoration of such, (3) a child’s right not to be removed or separated from their original parents, (4), a child’s right to be reunified with said original parents.
  • The United States is one of three countries that have failed to sign on to the United Nations Convention for the Rights of a Child. The other UN member countries who have not signed on: Somalia and South Sudan. 
  • This bill is not supported by Secretary of State John Kerry. 
  • The bill assumes that closing orphanages and group homes in foreign countries will help support children who are in need. In reality, closing orphanages and group homes often force children onto streets making them vulnerable to sex trafficking and child trafficking along with risking return to unsafe homes, poverty and homelessness. 
  • Research has demonstrated that the outcomes for children in foreign orphanages can rival the outcomes of US foster care and inter-country adoption. We need a bill that supports countries developing their own best practices: not a bill that supports countries continuing a pipeline of inter country adoption to satisfy the demands of the American adoption industry. 
  • Many who lobby you to support CHIFF point out the children that are in need in foreign countries. Supporters of CHIFF fail to note the 400,000 children languishing in the American foster care system. 
  • The vast majority of groups supporting and lobbying for the passage of CHIFF are anti-gay hate groups. These organizations specifically prohibit same-sex families from adopting children, and would prohibit same sex couples or individuals in Massachusetts from adopting children. Moreover, what is the impact these agencies have on the children they place into families who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. How are you ensuring LGBT inter-country adoptees are being protected? 
  • Significant questions remain about child trafficking issues associated with inter-country adoptions that are not addressed in S. 1530/H.R. 3323.
  • Significant questions remain about the controversial and repugnant practice of “rehoming” children when the adoption fails. Many of this “rehomed” children are inter-country adoptees. 

I ask that you take the time to review these points, consider the balance between the needs of children and the needs of parents wishing to adopt, and reconsider your support of this flawed bill. Most importantly, I ask that you consider the impact S. 1540/H.R. 3323 has on LGBT children in that offers no support and protection for adoptees that are delivered into the hands of hateful anti-gay groups. That’s not the Massachusetts way. 

Sincerely, 


Jason Evan Mihalko, Psy.D.
c: The Honorable Ed Markey

The Honorable Niki Tsongas

Friday, March 21, 2014

On Fred Phelps and Projective Identification

I'm not entirely sure the first time I heard of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church. For a group of about 40 people, it has had an oversized impact on the media and our perceptions of anti-gay hostilities in the United States.

The damage that those 40 people have done is immense. Their pickets has caused immeasurable pain to countless families. The Phelps clan's vitriolic creed of alienation, destruction, and hate will impact our world for years to come.

Phelps died yesterday. Many have celebrated that his presence has been removed from this world. I'm not entirely unsympathetic for those expressing a great deal of hatred toward him as a result of the pain he has brought into this world.

I also worry a great deal.


  • I worry about how difficult it is to rise above our wrathful and vengeful desires. 
  • I worry what it says about us when we direct the same evil Phelps directed toward us toward him. 
  • I worry that we are no better than Phelps: we wish harm and destruction upon those we do not like. 
  • I worry about the ways in which we have become the projective identification of Fred Phelps.
  • I worry about the ways in which Fred Phelps has become a projective identification of us.


I also remember the funeral of Matthew Shepard. I remember the power of that small group of people who found another way. A group of concerned caring people gathered around the protestors from Westboro Church dressed in angel costumes. The angels turned their back to the protestors and with wings soaring up toward the sky, stood with silent power repelling the hatful projections of Westboro Church. They shielded those who came to mourn.

It's time those angels turn around and face Fred Phelps. We need to look silently toward him and see ourselves. We need to see our anger. We need to see our hatred. We need to see our own destructive potential.

We need to look at Phelps and find another way.

We need to change.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Shen Yun | The First Time I Left a Performance

Every year there is a blanket of advertising that envelops Boston when Shen Yun comes to town. After seeing the appealing advertisements for several years, we purchased tickets for a matinée performance yesterday afternoon. My heart sank a little while we were driving down to the theater. The Yelp reviews were less than stellar. (read my yelp review here)

Many of them took issue with the religious and spiritual undertones that were embedded (yet unadvertised) within the show. Billed as a celebration of 5,000 years of Chinese culture, the show also finds time to discuss the persecution that some practitioners of Falun Gong face in mainland China.

The performance is underwritten and produced by practitioners of Falun Gong/Falun Dafa. The practice is a modern day phenomena, founded in 1992, based on one man's appropriation of ancient Chinese practices. I'll get to Falun Gong in a moment. Let's talk about the performance itself. 

I'm fairly sure yesterday afternoon's performance of Shen Yun at the Boston Citi Performing Arts Center's Wang Theater would have been better if produced by Abby Lee Miller of Dance Mom's fame.

It was bad. I left at intermission. I've never left a performance. Ever. 

Bright lighting and colorful costumes covered up stilted uninspiring music, choreography suitable for high school dance troupes who have just learned to twirl, tortured singing, and a presentation of history that is nothing more than a cheap caricature of a lush rich culture. The advertisement for Shen Yun features phenomenal computer generated images that are projected onto a screen at the back of the stage. In reality these graphics are something suggestive of what a high school art class might do with a low-powered computer from the late 1990s. The dancers would disappear into trapdoors behind props and then appear in cartoon form on the screen. Hardly the stuff one might imagine when hopping for an awe-inspiring meld between a beautiful dance performance and high technology. 

I was underwhelmed.

I came home wanting to learn more about this performance. I wanted to dig further into the Yelp reviews of Shen Yun, which is translated as "beauty of divine beings dancing." What it really appears to be is a propaganda piece to convince Western audiences to be appalled at the plight of Falun Gong practitioners in China. Some also have left feeling that the propaganda is designed to convince people to follow the tenants of Falun Gong. Knowing something about the triple jewels of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, I found the cartoonish presentation offered by Shen Yun to be an insulting joke. 

There are mountains of glowing reviews. Interestingly, the vast majority of these reviews appear in papers published by various Falun Gong/Falun Dafa organizations. I was hard pressed to find anything other than what the practitioners of Falun Gong want us to hear. Here are excerpts from three pointed reviews I did find.

You've really got to hand it to the folks behind "Shen Yun," the unconscionable piece of religious propaganda that appeared Thursday night in Shea's Performing Arts Center.... Marketed as a survey of 5,000 years of Chinese culture through classical and folk dances from the country, "Shen Yun" turns out to be little more than a church pageant. Were it advertised as such, some of its flaws could be forgiven. Since it was not, it deserves to be held to account for the deception its creators have wrought. --Colin Dabkowski, Buffalo News

Whatever you think of “Shen Yun,” the fact that an organization would manipulate Internet search results to this degree should raise a red flag. -- Colin Dabkowki, Buffalo News

They move with great discipline and some grace, but the promised acrobatics are few and far between. The best of the routines - some ferocious drummers, a Mongolian bowl dance, a Tibetan dance of welcome - are those that are simplest and least admonitory. The rest are tainted by the baggage they are asked to carry. The result is one of the weirdest and most unsettling evenings I have ever spent in the theatre. --Sarah Crompton, The Telegraph 
And then there are the anti-gay aspects of Falun Gong. I found Vancouver based journalist Nathaniel Christopher's post entitled "Falun Gong is Homophobic." Who would have guessed that the $200 some odd dollars I spent on tickets for Shen Yun would have ended up supporting an anti-gay organization?

I'll let Li Hongzhi, founder of Falun Gong, speak for himself. The following two questions and answers are from a public teaching that Hongzhi gave in Geneva Switzerland in 1998. The full transcript is available on the Falun Dafa website.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

'Born that way' myth of gay, lesbian, and bisexual identities?

Adam and Steve in the Garden of Eden: On Intimacy Between Men

Adam and Steve Hook Up in the Garden of Eden
I'm terribly amused by this vintage image of two men. The internet reveals no interesting information or even tantalizing clues. We're left to our own imagination as to why these nude men in hats are holding hands in the middle of a woodland scene while covering their junk with fig leaves.

My own projections? Clearly this is an early depiction of Adam and Steve being kicked out of the Garden of Eden for eating from the forbidden fruit (wink wink, nudge nudge). Right? What else would possibly be going on here?

I've inundated people who follow me on Tumblr with over a thousand images depicting vintage men in relationships. The internet is littered with blogs curating many of these same images. Many look at them and use our contemporary understandings of the world to understand historical issues.

The bloggers at Homo History, who do excellent work preserving and sharing many vintage photos depicting intimacy between men, write:

These photos represent just a small fragment of our gay history; unfortunately so much of it has purposely been destroyed. Since most of the men in these photos are unknown, it's pretty much impossible to tell it they were a gay couple or just "good friends." Most photographs of gay couples were eventually destroyed by horrified family members. For every photo that I may have mistakenly identified as gay, thousands more were burned or torn into pieces to keep a family secret.
I've Got A Secret
I have another secret here. The vast majority of these men weren't getting it on with each other. It's not even likely that many of these men would think they were gay if we transported them into our contemporary times. Some certainly had close intimate friendships that involved sex. There are myriad examples of vintage same-sex erotica on the web. Some day I'll have to write about this history of stag and physique magazines. Until then, feel free to visit these NSFW Tumblrs (here and here).

While Homo History nods to the fact that the men pictured in their blog might be good friends, the bloggers also end up winking at the notion that they could possibly be anything other than gay. I think we do ourselves a disservice--and these men from history a disservice--when we don't pay close attention to how men thought of themselves, their relationships, and the nature of physical touch between men as they viewed it.

In his book Picturing Men: A Century of Male Relationships John Ibson writes extensively on the topic of the changing nature and qualities of friendships and intimacy between men.

Prior to the American witch hunts of suspected homosexual men in the 1950s, the possibilities for how and where men were able to demonstrate closeness through physical touch was much greater. No one would have taken special notice of any of the men presenting themselves to a photographer to have their image taken. Even the most intimate images of men in a passionate embrace were acceptable. This is what friends did.

Mind you, there was no doubt a lot of hanky panky going on between men in the pre-1950s era. Men have been getting off with each other for as long as men have been around to get off. However, same-sex sexual activities weren't labeled as an identity until the end of the 19th century. When the term homosexuality was coined behavior became an identity. Men who engaged in sexual activity were quickly pathologized and transformed into a problem for medicine to solve.

The attachment of same-sex intimacy to an identity subject to treatment by the medical establishment helped push intimacy between men outside of the realm of day-to-day experience and into the closet. Intimacy between men disappeared as society turned gay men into the category of the tortured, feared, and despised other. Heterosexual men, fearing being labeled as the despised other, increasingly learned to avoid physical touch as well as any outward display of intimacy. Men who touched other men risked being identified as a homosexual. Straight men learned to avoid any intimate behavior with other men at all costs in order to avoid stigmatization.  Gay men learned to avoid physical intimacy to avoid harassment and physical violence.

In stated and unstated ways our amateur public historians on the internet catalogue images of seemingly gay men while projecting our contemporary tortured understandings of masculinity onto men from the past.

real men--heterosexual, courageous and physically strong--[are] defined against effeminate forms of masculinity. Where real men [are] emotionally wooden, gay men [are] like burst water valves: expressive, flamboyant and potentially contaminating. (click here for the full article by Alecia Simmonds)

Jason Reed/Reuters
Of course if we looked outside of the oppressiveness of the Unitied States we'd see some different images of intimacy between men. Take for example this moment where President Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah held hands. Watch this CBS video and see Americans (and American broadcast journalists) enact American style homonegativity and heteronormativity.


  • What do you think it would take to restore a culture in which intimacy (physical and emotional) between men could occur without threat or fear?
  • Do you even think it's important that men (gay, straight, bi, or heteroflexible) are allowed to have intimacy?


Far more than we realize, young males wait to be released from their heterosexual straightjackets. --Ritch Savin Williams & Kenneth Cohen

For more images of vintage men and their relationships (some gay, some straight) visit: Adam and Steven in the Garden of Eden: On Intimacy Between MenVintage Men: Innocence Lost | The Photography of William Gedney; It's Only a Paper Moon;Vintage Gay America: Crawford Barton; These Men Are Not Gay | This Is Not A Farmer | Disfarmer; Desire and Difference: Hidden in Plain Sight, Come Make Eyes With Me Under the Anheuser Bush, Hugh Mangum: Itinerant Photographer, Two men, Two Poses; Photos are Not Always What They Seem, Vintage Sailors: An Awkward Realization, Three Men on a Horse, Welkom Bar: Vintage Same Sex Marriage, Pretty in Pink: Two Vintage Chinese Men, Memorial Day Surprise: Vintage Sailor Love, Memorial Day: Vintage Dancing Sailors, The Curious Case of Two Men Embracing, They'll Never Know How Close We Were, Vintage Love: Roger Miller Pegram,Manly Affections: Robert Gant, Homo Bride and Groom Restored to Dignity, The Men in the Trees, The Girl in the Outhouse, Tommy and Buzz: All My Love,Men in Photo Booths, and Invisible: Philadelphia Gay Wedding c. 1957. You can also follow me on Tumblr.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Dear Young Therapist: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark

Freedom/Medfield Asylum
"Why is this child? Why did God create it? That's all I've ever wondered."

Thirty years from now, I often wonder what documentarians would say about how I and treat people who experience phenomena deemed to constitute mental illness. What will people say about my work? What will my patients think looking back at the experience of our mutual encounter within the confines of the therapeutic enterprise?

Watching this Oscar nominated documentary Children of Darkness by Richard Kotuk, I'm reflecting on my first experiences working within the mental health system. More than twenty years ago, living in Ithaca New York, I was a resident counselor for a supervised apartment program for people who had both developmental disabilities and mental illness. The residents had all grown up in large institutions. Caught up in waves of deinstitutionalization, they found themselves transferred to less restrictive environments.

I worked for a progressive organization that believed that any person, regardless of their disability, should be afforded the right to make an informed choice and the right to have dignity of risk. My employer created a network of group homes and supervised apartment programs that created simulated families for people who had no families. We created simulated communities for people who had been hidden from the community since birth. We worked hard to find ways to build bridges into the community, to help those who had been discarded find entrance and connection with the rest of us. A real life, rather than a simulated one.

Some residents were born with Down syndrome, others had Autism, and others had what was referred to at the time as mild to moderate mental retardation. The residents also experienced schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. One man struggled with pedophilia. Another young man was gay: I remember occasionally driving him to a store so he could buy gay oriented pornography.

For $6.33 an hour I worked Sunday through Thursday, 3-11pm. My responsibilities? I was the recreational coordinator: that means it was my job to come up with activities for the residents to do. We'd see movies, go bowling, take line dancing lessons, swim, and even take the occasional trip to New York City. I can't believe, barely even 21 years old, I was allowed to drive a van to NYC and take a small group of residents to the top of the Statue of Liberty.

When I left that job the residents organized a surprise party for me. I walked into an apartment and they all started singing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow." I'm still a little overwhelmed each time I think of that day.