Sunday, November 27, 2005

What about the Spouse?

(Note: I talk about my sex life in this post!)

After screening the Fish Can't Fly film at a conference of gay evangelicals, a woman who had been married to an "ex-gay" for many years asked me, "What about the wive's stories? Why aren't they included in this film?"

Indeed, when watching the documentary I can't help but notice who is NOT represented. The former wives of "ex-gay" men can boldly say, "We too exist!" (And to a lesser extent, the former husbands of once-former lesbians), even though I rarely see them.

Terry McMillan, the author of How Stella Got Her Groove Back, recently candidly shared her experience of being married to a man who turned out to be gay. Most women in the same situation are not invited to tell their story publically.

I was married to a woman for five years before we separated then divorced two years later (while I was at Love in Action). I don't write or talk much about my former wife mostly because it is too personal. Recently though I was asked the same question twice in the same week, and it got me thinking about my former wife and some of the pain she suffered in our marriage.

The question:
When you had sex with a woman, did you enjoy it? Did it feel good?
(Yes, sometimes audiences get all up in my business.) I could have passed the first time I was asked, but it was a small group and I felt safe.

I explained that yes, the sex act itself felt pleasurable. Sex feels pleasurable. We stimulate the right parts and it feels VERY good (which is why we want to go back for more). Just because I enjoyed the physical sensation of sex with a woman, that did not make me heterosexual, bisexual or even "ex-gay".

Sadly I never felt physically or sexually attracted to my wife. Not because she wasn't beautiful and sexy (she turned heads all the time) but because I have never felt sexual attraction towards women. When married, in order for me to reach climax, I had to think of men, usually naked men.

When I did this, (which was every time but once in five years) I felt so awful, so guilty, so bad because here I was physically with my wife yet in my mind I was with a man. I felt I betrayed her time after time. In fact, I wanted to have sex less and less not so much because I was not sexually attracted to my wife, but because of the infidelity I felt I committed during our love making.

I can only begin to imagine what it must feel like to be in an intimate relationship with someone only to find out that your partner does not find you sexually attractive. No matter what you do to your hair, your body, the bedroom, your partner feels no stir of desire when he or she sees you, no longing, none of the erotic sexy eagerness that Solomon and his lover enjoyed.

Not that a life partnership is all about sex. In a healthy relationship we love each other on many levels. We fall in love with a whole person--their mind, their talents, their funny little quirks ("The way wear your hat, the way you sip your tea..."). But how dreadful for a person to endure a marriage where the partner feels nothing sexually except for people outside of the bedroom.

In the nearly two decades of knowing people in the "ex-gay" movement I have seen scores of marriages fall apart because the "ex-gay" husband left his wife or the wife left the "ex-gay" husband (or the marriage simply fell apart). Often we men have gone on to "find ourselves" and our gayness. We come out of our closets to live new lives-- honest and often joy filled lives. Our heroes' journey gets told in films and on stage.

I don't know what happens to the wives. (My former wife and I do not communicate). Do they have a chance to come out too? And if so, as what, as who? Do they feel pressure from their church that they were somehow responsible for the breakdown of the marriage? Do they harbor self-doubts? Do they feel relief to be free of a beached whale of a love life? Do they feel rage towards their husbands for being unfaithful and faithless? Do they feel anger at the church and "ex-gay" ministries for enabling a marriage that had very little chance of survival and no chance of success?

Now I know there are married "ex-gay" leaders who claim they have successful and happy marriages. I cannot say if that is really the case; only time will tell. The motivation for a family and the accountability of a national ministry can help hold a couple together for many years.

But isn't it beyond cruel to sanction a union between a man and a woman when one of the two knows and feels daily that s/he does nothing to arouse the sensual passion in the other? They proceed in the sex act out of obedience and obligation and a stretch of faith, but neither can be fully present in the love making.

(Gay marriage DOES undermined the sanctity of marriage--that is when a gay man and a heterosexual woman enter into the marriage contract and are expected to perform miracles in the bedroom.)

Involvement in an "ex-gay" ministry brings devastation to many lives, not just the man or woman who endured the treatment. Spouses, children, parents, friends, so many people get deluded into believing the impossible. When things fall apart, as they almost always do, who is there to help pick up the pieces and when do the spouses get to tell their stories and find their healing?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Just saw it. Moved to tears several times.
My favorite line--
The opposite of war is not peace,
it is creation.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Conservative Rabbi Denounces Anti-Gay Conservatives

This weekend the AP ran a story about the comments of Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism as he spoke at a national assembly.
Yoffie used particularly strong language to condemn conservative attitudes toward homosexuals. He said he understood that traditionalists have concluded gay marriage violates Scripture, but he said that did not justify denying legal protections to same-sex partners and their children.

"We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933 one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations," Yoffie said. "Yes, we can disagree about gay marriage. But there is no excuse for hateful rhetoric that fuels the hellfires of anti-gay bigotry."
Read the full story Reform Jewish Leader Blasts Religious Right

Transgender Identity Development Survey

A new on-line survey of Transgender/transsexual people is being conducted through Penn State. According to Trans Studies professor Dr. Jillian Todd at Ramapo College, "this is the first national study of the wide range of transgender identities."

Hat tip to Robin McHaelen at True Colors for alterting me to this study. Robin writes, "Please forward this message as appropriate -- the more people who participate, the better the research!"

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Submission for Bondage Lovers

While active in the conservative church, I learned lots about submission and accountability, a surveillance and monitoring system that rivals that of Homeland Security.

My pastor always kept an eye on his flock, not only for our welfare, but also to gauge our allegiance to him and his church. By being accountable to my pastor, I regularly informed him of my struggles, foibles, sins and doubts. He knew all my business.

At Love in Action (LIA) I learned that submission and accountability are the cornerstones for a successful "ex-gay" life. Each participant in the program was assigned a staff member to whom we privately confessed our daily sins--including masturbation. (When I first entered LIA, we admitted our masturbatory setbacks during the Tuesday night "Rules Rap", but this stimulated fellow participants leading to yet further masturbation.)

Since we had lived shady gay lives for so long, staff instructed us to be honest and bring our current struggles to the light during our accountability sessions. Initially I felt refreshed and relieved by the freedom of confession. Suddenly I had nothing to hide; I could bring my deepest most shameful secrets and desires to a trusted leader and receive compassion, support, advice--accountability.

Of course this leader had a leader over him to whom he reported not only his shortcomings but also all of mine. Ultimately, I learned that in the "ex-gay" movement, honesty is not the best policy. After two years of intensive dehomosexualization, I was expected to be better--less gay, less attracted to men, more in control of my urges. In some ways I was, but my carefully stitched together "ex-gay" existence barely held together no matter how much I trusted in the Lord and my spiritual leaders.

I confessed one sin too many, and I was ratted out. The chain of command issued a directive to cut me loose before I unraveled in front of everyone.

Many "ex-gay" leaders and workers, often the products of "ex-gay" programs themselves, live under this kind of constant surveillance. They carefully confess their sins one to another in an elaborate code, with the fear that the powers that be will one day find them out. Isolated in a climate of cover-up, surrounded by operatives who can turn them in, these "ex-gay" leaders fight the good fight desperate to share their struggles and questions, but terrified at the consequences.

With a word, they can be cast out of their positions, lose their most intimate relationships and their church membership only to then become prey to a gay media who often ruthlessly dives on the fallen then picks the "ex-gay" bones clean as they hold the fallen up to the spotlight.

Sometimes I think that "ex-gay" leaders must be the loneliest people on earth.

A Late Autumn Poem for You

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver from A Book of Luminous Things--An International Anthology of Poetry edited by Czeslaw Milosz.
this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Berating Baptists

Ann, a regular commenter on this blog, recently posted a thoughtful and insightful response about Southern Baptists and hate speech. She makes a distinction between the "sin" hating and the gay hating. Drawing on her personal experience in the Southern Baptist Church and her time as an "ex-gay" worker she exudes her warm Southern eloquence as she writes,
Granted, I've heard some people throw out the line,"Love the sinner and hate the sin..." through clenched teeth and snarling lips. And bless their hearts, some may geninuely believe they are loving us as their God would, but they don't like us much. Other folks are just looking for some excuse "holy" or unholy to kick the snot out of somebody.
Read her complete comments here.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Being "Manly" = An Early Death???

After reading about the findings of British researchers into the links between male agression and deathrates, Tiffiany over at asks Does Sexism Kill Men? Tiffany explains,
Now think about the last time you saw violence solve anything in a way that benefitted either party. This simple version of agressive, violent manhood — the same one espoused in hip-hop, and with our current presidency — is destructive (to) its perpetrators as well as its victims.

Hate in Action

Passionate blogger and expert cartoon artist Bruce Garrett, asks,
Does anyone seriously believe these people are trying to win homosexuals over to Christ? No. They're trying to incite religious passions which they hope, either consciously or in that deep secret place where they dance in the ashes of other people's hopes and dreams, will result in violence. There's just no other explaination.
Bruce goes on to give graphic examples of the sort of violence that happens TODAY in the US andd UK in places like "progressive" NYC and the heartland state of Indiana. He even tells the story of a 33 year old non-homosexual British man who was beaten senseless because he had a limp wrist, which actually was the result of a childhood stroke. Read the whole of Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin...(continued)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Our Gay Grandfather

this is an audio post - click to play
Here is a special message for you from our great-great-gay grandfather, Walt Whitman. Celebrate the 100th aniversary of Leaves of Grass. Hear what our queer ancestor has to say.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

How “Ex-Gay” Therapies Made Me More Desirable to GAYS!

Throughout my “ex-gay” career I learned that becoming straight was not only about ceasing from sex with other guys and homosexual fantasies, but it also meant becoming “straight acting”. Welcome to the “Ex-Fem” movement.

I was a pretty nelly lad in high school. I loved the preppy fashions of the day where I could wear pastel colors with the collar up. My voice, walk and affect leaned towards the feminine.

Once I began to hang out with “ex-gays”, I received lessons on how to present myself as a white heterosexual protestant male. My pastor had written a book that revealed how gay men were often “limp wristed” and effeminate. An “ex-gay” roommate of mine coached me on how to bring the inflection of my voice down to a more masculine level.

At the beginning of my two-year stint at Love in Action (LIA), I received the Steps Out Program Manual with the front cover partial image of a manly workman firmly gripping his toolbox. In fact, this same image appears on nearly every third page of the 374-page book.

The authors instruct us to “set aside completely the world’s view point and let Jesus become your role model of manhood,” (page 129). Based on some of the mandatory activities of the programs and its rules, this meant that Jesus was a football playing, violent action film watching, change your own oil kind of guy.

Through our mentor relationships with white heterosexual married men from the church, we were each expected to observe our mentor to learn the ways of straight men. Of course many of us found our mentors to be poor communicators, emotionally detached and self-absorbed in work and golf.

Rule #14 of the program forbade “’campy’ or gay lifestyle belongings, appearances, clothing, actions or humor that might connect you to your past. (No FI’s, False Images)” This included talking like sassy black women, not because it was disrespectful to women of color. Rather it is not the way real straight white men act.

Other rules that revealed the kind of men we were supposed to become included
-A conservative business like haircut must be worn at all times.
-No hugging or physical touch between clients. Brief handshakes or a brief affirmative hand on a shoulder is allowed. (Exception is when observed by therapeutic accountability)
-Any physical or emotional attraction to another client or close relationship with a person of the same sex must be reported to staff.
In order to communicate with the staff, we filled out the military sounding C.O.C.’s or Chain of Command forms. According to the rules, these “forms must be concise and must not ‘story tell’ or ‘whine’. Such C.O.C.’s will be returned without a reply.”

You see according to these folks, real men don’t whine. They are not campy. They don’t have emotional relationships with other men, and they don’t hug. They do not use “flamboyant gestures”. Real men maintain professional relationships. They can change their oil and they like playing rough sports. They act more like Vin Deisel and The Rock then say Woody Allen or Johnny Depp.

What fascinates me is that according to the messages I see in mainstream white gay media and in the words and reactions of many the white gay men I meet, white gay men are expected to act much in the same masculine ways if they hope to be seen as attractive and taken seriously by others.

If you are a fem gay man, you are the brunt of the joke in the sitcoms. A fem gay can do hair and give girly advice, but does not get the man he loves. In personal ads over and over you hear loud and clear that if you are a fem man, you are not wanted. “Straight acting only. No fems!”

If you are a gay activist who happens to be fem, most likely you will be pushed to the back when it comes to public speaking and lobbying. (Much like we’ve done to trans activists for years.) We don’t want to freak out the straight world with fem acting men (and butch dyke lesbians) representing us.

Not that gay men can’t be butch. We come in all types and flavors, but like the “ex-gay” movement, we have also communicated that one’s gender presentation (masculine/ feminine) has to line up with one’s biological sex. Sadly more and more folks who don’t conform are beginning to feel pressured to consider if they actually might be transgender and not gay or lesbian.

To me, being a gay man is more than just being sexually attracted to other men. I am queer. I am man who is often feminine. In the words of a friend, another “ex-gay” survivor, it’s a side “that naturally wants to come out unless I control it”. But why control it, suppress it, MANage it? Why not consider the manly role model of the feminine Jesus who snuggled with his buddies, wore perfume, long hair and flowing robes, and most importantly valued intimate and loving relationships above all else,

Monday, November 07, 2005

Transcending Boundaries

I had a great weekend that included 24 hours of baby sitting, a lovely Quaker meeting (photo is from this week's mantle display) and the Transcending Boundaries Conference, a bi and trans gathering.

Sadly I only attended a third of the conference, but got to see friends (and Friends) as well as participate in two workshops. One was on race, idenity and eroticism. The workshop facilitators did not show, so we workshop participants ran it ourselves and discussed identity, race and personal narratives. I loved the diversity in the group which included folks of diverse races, religions, and ages.

The other workshop was a primer on Transgender issues. Really it was the basics, but presented wtih passion and personal knowledge by Jerimarie Liesegang, Ph.D, a longtime trans activist from Hartford.

Before attending the conference I read an article entitled The Feminist Crossdresser by Miqqi Alicia Gilbert, Ph.D. It echoes well some of what Jerimarie discussed.

Describing the transgender world, Gilbert writes,
Only recently have we begun to be connsidered as people who are worthy and needful of concern. Our needs have forever been ignored, displaced, and designated low prioriity, not only by mainstream heterosexist society, but often by gay and lesbian society as well.

We have been misunderstood, misinterpreted and dismissed...Our rights have long been on a back burner because adding transgender rights to gay and lesbian rights "might slow down the gay rights movement."

Forget that the "official" beginning of the gay rights movement, Stonewall, was a trangender uprising, or that the first same-sex marriages were between a genetic woman and a transwoman; forget also that trans people are regularly beaten, humiliated, and murdered. Dealing with us is hard and makes people uncomfortable, so we are pushed aside.
Gilbert goes on to expertly explain how male crossdressers have the opportunity to personally understand issues of sexism that have plagued most women.
Better yet, don't forget any of that. Better yet, realize that it is exactly what women have gone through for centuries. For women, the acquisition of status and rights has been a slow and arduous process that has not yet been completed even in the most advanced socieities. In the less advanced, women are no more than chattel, whhose rights and needs need not be condisdered at all.

The crossdresser needs to understand that his own sense of frustration at having to hide and be ashamed is similar to the aspirations of millions of women who also must suppress their desires, hide their true nature, and follow a multitude of rules not of their own making.
Speaking of "rules" I broke the gender normative rule of our society by wearing a skirt to this event. No one batted an artificial eyelash.

Of course I am now considering wearing a skirt to a majority gay and lesbian event on Saturday, the Connecticut premiere of Fish Can't Fly. Even thinking about the skirt, I feel aware of rules pertaining to gay men, particularly for male gay activist. Be gay, but look normal.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Pakistani Tragedy

With all the relief efforts in the Gulf Coast and the not so distant (and on-going) efforts from the tsunami, I find it easy to grow weary in well doing. But Pakistan is in big trouble and needs our help. The numbers overwhelm me.
--Over 73,000 people have died as a result of the October 8, 2005 earthquake.
--Over 69,000 people are injured.
--Over 3 million people are homeless as they enter their very bitter winter.
Read more here.

Based on Charity Navigator Ratings, the Stamford, CT based AmeriCares does a great job at using donated dollars to actually help people and not get caught up in administrative costs. You can donate on-line.

If you know of other worthy humanitarian agencies, please post them in comments.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Ex-Gay Lifestyle

Anti-gay conservative church leaders and politicians often cry out against the GAY LIFESTYLE, that evil, self-indulgent, promiscuous, unsafe way of living which includes seducing others to join in on our ungodliness. During my 17 years in various “ex-gay” programs, when we often referred to our pre-“ex-gay” history we would say “when I was in The Lifestyle”.

Those of us who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer, gender queer, same-gender loving people often feel bafflement, amusement, annoyance or anger (or a mixture of any of these) when we all get lumped into a “lifestyle” that does not define the vast majority of us.

Sure there are gay men who do illegal drugs and anonymous sex and 400 thread count sheets, but I’ve also seen Sex in the City and ads for the Girls Gone Wild videos. Do these represent the heterosexual female lifestyle?

In Love in Action (LIA), I received the 374-page Steps Out Program Class Manual (replete with an image of a studly workman on the cover), but from it I could not glean many details about the gay lifestyle. Here is the vague and confusing description from the manual:
What Do We Mean When We Say “Lifestyle”?
… Following the gay lifestyle means being involved with other gay people at various social levels. The lifestyle is quite different for gay men then it is for gay women. For gay men, it usually revolves around a gay ghetto area in an urban environment, although this is not necessarily so.

To become involved in the lifestyle means coming out of the closet to some degree. Lifestyles can be overt or covert. A gay person may be flamboyant, not caring who knows of his homosexuality, or he may be living a double life, appearing heterosexual at work and among family members and slipping away to parks or baths to engage in homosexual behavior. (Chapter 38, page 257)
(Like in most of the “ex-gay” training I received, women were barely mentioned.) The manual goes on to list reasons participants had chosen to enter the Lifestyle. Listed in order of importance they include such sinister motivations as:

To express love and to receive love,
To find one’s identity,
To find protection from attacks of the straight world.
To express defiance, rebellion over the unobtainable demands of the straight world.

The solution? A new lifestyle! According to the Program Overview, “We will seek to build a new life-style and a new identity—one based on the Word of God.”

The “Ex-Gay Lifestyle” as outline in a copy of the manual I’ve provided for you today (click on it for a larger image), explains it in detail. A big part is membership and involvement in a church. I guess not a gay church or one of those liberal franchises since the “ex-gay lifestyle” includes avoiding gay people and gay places--“The Forbidden Zone” as we termed it in LIA.

Most importantly the NEW Lifestyle includes being a role model for others--being flamboyant ex-gays. And from meeting many of the graduates who now run these programs, I see that they succeed exceedingly well in fulfilling this last expectation.

So in a nutshell, what is the “ex-gay lifestyle”? Heterosexual, non-urban (white?), conservative protestant Christian with an agenda to recruit and convert others.

Stay tuned, next week we will look at what some "ex-gays" have to say about GENDER—what fun!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

New Posts

Okay, I just posted a bunch of blog entries. Actually I held back. Lots of thinking and reading and speaking and learning these days. I'm fixin' ta burst. Would love to hear your comments.

Those Crazy Evil Multicultural People

Daniel Gonzalez, who is minding the store at Ex Gay Watch this week reports, how "ex-gay" group NARTH (always sounds sinister to me) endorsed an article attacking multicultural programs at universities. I love Daniel's saucy tongue. He writes,
You're so right NARTH and! History should only be delivered to us as it happens through the perspective of heterosexual (ok mostly heterosexual) white Christian men at Fox News
Check out more here

A Kinder Gentler Ancestor

On Sunday morning I listened with rapt fascination to a radio program about the bonobo chimps.
The bonobo is as genetically similar to humans as the chimpanzee. These peace-loving apes live in matriarchal societies and use sex to deal with competition and anger. They reside only in a very small area of forest below the Congo River in Africa and they've been at risk in recent years because of civil unrest, logging, and hunting. The Bonobo Conservation Initiative is creating a refuge for them called the Bonobo Peace Forest. Host Steve Curwood talks with Dr. Amy Parish, scientific advisor for the Initiative.
Parish spoke eloquently about the matriarchal society of the bonobo and the insight it may give us to our own past. She speaks about human sexism practiced within zoos. Really interesting stuff. Listen to the whole Living on Earth program here.

The Essential Light

The following quote reminds me of the Quaker experience of the Light within.
The Quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives.

It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are—until the poem—nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt. That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births (precedes) understanding.

As we learn to bear the intimacy of scrutiny and to flourish within it, as we learn to use the products of that scrutiny for power within our living, those fears which rule our lives and form our silences begin to lose their control over us.
From Audre Lorde’s essay Poetry Is Not a Luxury
Sister Outsider—Essays & Speeches by Audre Lorde

Whose Ally R U?

Through my speaking, writing and especially through my performing, I regularly ask people to be my ally. As a gay man, a gay Chrisitan, a gay Christian artist, I need allies in this world.

But whose ally am I?

This weekend I will attend much of the Transcending Boundaries conference in East Hartford, CT. According to their website,
Transcending Boundaries is an annual conference for bisexual/pansexual, trans/genderqueer, and intersex people and our allies. This year we will hold our fourth annual conference for and about those who do not fit into the simple categories of gay/straight, male/female.
At this conference I hope to learn more so that I can be a more informed and thoughtful ally.

As a white, able-bodied, gay, Christian American, I seek to learn more about how I can be a better ally to people with disabilities, people of color, all women including lesbians, young people and the people of Iraq and Afganistan.

If anyone knows of other conferences and resources that will be helpful in becoming a better ally, please post these in comments or e-mail me.

Power of Storytelling

I've been thinking and writing a lot about the power telling our stories have on us when we speak our truth and when other people hear us. I listened to a powerfully moving segment of American Public Radio'sSpeaking of Faith in which they looked at South Africa's Truth& Reconciliation Commission (TRC)

Hearing two individuals who worked on the commission tell stories of the power of stories took my breath away.
In an attempt to rebuild its society without retribution, the Commission created a new model in our time for grappling with a history of extreme violence. The basic premise of the Commission was that any individual, whatever he or she had done, was eligible for amnesty if they would fully disclose and confess their crimes.

Victims were invited to tell their stories and witness confessions. Through the TRC, many families finally came to know when and how their loved ones died. By the end of the hearings, the Commission took statements from more than 20,000 victims of Apartheid and received applications for amnesty from 7,100 perpetrators.

Host Krista Tippett speaks with two people—one black, one white—who did the work of the commission in charge of it.
Listen online here.

Dia De Los Muertos

Yesterday and today is Day of the Dead, a holiday that many Mexicans celebrate the lives of their departed loved ones. They gather at elaborately decorated graves to sing songs and joyously remembered friends and family members who have moved on to the next step of the life journey.

In homes, families set up altars with photos of the departed, keepsakes, favorite foods and candied skeletons to let folks know that they are still loved and appreciated.

I set up my own table to remember some of the remarkable people who enriched my lives, many of them women.

  • My Aunt Mary, who lived in Hartford for many years, endured family racism, lived clean and sober for over 18 years and made killer lentils with pasta

  • My Aunt Evelyn from the Bronx, who loved the Puerto Rican salsa music of her youth and accepted me for who I was even when I didn't know what that was.

  • My Great Aunt Mary, with her contagious weezy laugh and amazing tomato sauce

  • Helen Zias, a co-worker in NYC who saw NY as a country of its own and generously shared her favorite spots with me

  • Marcia Bush, an artist, teacher and lesbian who affirmed my dreams no matter how wild.

  • My Uncle Rocky, a true overcomer who ultimately subcumed to HIV/AIDS in the early 80's when no one really knew what the disease was and how it would change many of our lives

  • Madeline Ortiz, a lesbian mom who died way too young but died with faith and hope

These folks, most of them rebels, outsiders, overcomers, gave me so much. I dare not forget them, and I celebrate their lives and legacy.

29 of the Healthiest Foods

I've been on so many blogs this week I have no idea where I first found this link, but has a list of the 29 Healthiest Foods on the Planet. They list the foods that give the biggest bang for the buck. For instance this one (perfect for the season),
Squash (Butternut, Pumpkin, Acorn)
The Power: Winter squash has huge amounts of vitamin C and beta-carotene, which may help protect against endometrial cancer. One cup (cooked) has 80 calories, 1 gram of fat and 6 grams of fiber. Cut one in half, scoop out the seeds and bake or microwave until soft, then dust with cinnamon.
See all 29 here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Throwing off America's Mask on Halloween

I feel sick at heart. Last night I experienced Halloween like never before. Having grown up in the countryside and then having lived in NYC, I never witnessed what happens in cities like Hartford/West Hartford where two worlds collide on Halloween.

This year I decided to hang with a friend (another white gay man) in West Hartford to help him hand out the candy. He warned me that from his previous years some adults, people of color, out of costume, come for Halloween handouts. I recently heard something similar about neighborhoods in Detroit. I felt uneasy about these class/race dynamics but figured once the festivities started it will be a good time.

It was a nightmare--a suburban white nightmare for some and a sickening nightmare for me. I felt sick as people, many in costume but also a good number out of costume, came to the door with plastic grocery bags and open purses.

I felt sick at the feeling of privilege as we handed out our candies. To my surprise, my normally warm and generous friend handed out small amounts of candy and often with a critical comment under his breath when we came back into the living room. Finally, feeling aggrieved by one too many young black and latina mothers with strollers and no costumes, he shut down the shop and lead me to his neighbor's (another white gay man) where we drank champagne and had enough food set out for 25 people. (There were four of us)

At the end of the night I turned to my friend when we returned to his home. I told him how disturbed I felt by the evening and how this Halloween pulled back the curtain for me in such a powerful way to reveal some of the inequity in the US, inequity based on race, power and privilege. (White privileged America saw this revelation on a massive scale with Hurricane Katrina)

And like in a strange suspense/thriller where a character's reality is supplanted with another's, my friend proceeded to expound how there is no inequity in America, we all have the same opportunities.

I disagreed, and explained that as a white man, even though I am talented and passionate about what I do, I have to acknowledge that some of my successes are due in part to the fact that I am white and male—this immediately opens doors for me. He said that it wasn't true; we all have the same opportunities. People just have to try harder. (This is "the truth" that he and I and most white people have learned since infancy)

It was in his response that I heard it--the whispered message I usually never consciously hear, the one woven into the linguistics of teachers and family and movies, the message sewn into the fabric of white mainstream society. The message spoken through a nation that publicly honors a hero like Rosa Parks as it manages to cleanup the social-economic-racial debacle of Katrina. I heard the message that hisses, "Shush, go back to sleep, it is only a nightmare."

As I walked home, I felt like a traitor to my cousins in Hartford who are half Black and my cousins in NY who are half Puerto Rican. I felt sickened by what I saw behind the curtain and even sicker THAT WE HAVE A CURTAIN.

I felt like Peter who denied Jesus to his face. I thought of Teacher Jesus’ words, “Whatever you do to the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do to me.”

I feel sick today and it is not from too much candy. I feel like I want to feel sick for a very long time. I don't want to feel better because that is what the dominant culture always tries to make me do--feel better so that I end up feeling nothing, knowing nothing, doing nothing