Monthly Archives: August 2013

Letters of Note

One of my fellow teachers was telling me about this website/blog called Letters of Note. (Letters of Note is a blog-based archive of fascinating correspondence, complete with scans and transcripts of the original missives where available. Letters of Note is an attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos.) Since my colleague told me about this blog, I have enjoyed reading some of the letters. On a whim, I searched for letters about homosexuality, and found this one. I hope you enjoy.

Homosexuality is nothing to be ashamed of

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In 1935, the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, was contacted by a worried mother who was seeking treatment for her son’s apparent homosexuality. Freud, who believed that all humans are attracted to both sexes in some capacity, responded with the following letter of advice.

(The letter was later passed on to Alfred Kinsey and reproduced in The American Journal of Psychiatry in 1951, hence the note attached to its foot.)

Transcript follows.

Source: The Truth Tree; Image of Sigmund Freud via Multiart.

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Transcript

April 9th 1935

PROF. DR. FREUD

Dear Mrs [Erased],

I gather from your letter that your son is a homosexual. I am most impressed by the fact that you do not mention this term yourself in your information about him. May I question you why you avoid it? Homosexuality is assuredly no advantage, but it is nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation; it cannot be classified as an illness; we consider it to be a variation of the sexual function, produced by a certain arrest of sexual development. Many highly respectable individuals of ancient and modern times have been homosexuals, several of the greatest men among them. (Plato, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, etc). It is a great injustice to persecute homosexuality as a crime – and a cruelty, too. If you do not believe me, read the books of Havelock Ellis.

By asking me if I can help, you mean, I suppose, if I can abolish homosexuality and make normal heterosexuality take its place. The answer is, in a general way we cannot promise to achieve it. In a certain number of cases we succeed in developing the blighted germs of heterosexual tendencies, which are present in every homosexual in the majority of cases it is no more possible. It is a question of the quality and the age of the individual. The result of treatment cannot be predicted.

What analysis can do for your son runs on a different line. If he is unhappy, neurotic, torn by conflicts, inhibited in his social life, analysis may bring him harmony, peace of mind, full efficiency, whether he remains a homosexual or gets changed. If you make up your mind he should have analysis with me — I don’t expect you will — he has to come over to Vienna. I have no intention of leaving here. However, don’t neglect to give me your answer.

Sincerely yours with best wishes,

Freud

P.S. I did not find it difficult to read your handwriting. Hope you will not find my writing and my English a harder task.


The Barcelona Inside Me

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The Barcelona Inside Me
by Robin Becker

Give me, again, the fairy tale grotto
with the portico-vaulting overhead.
Let me walk beneath the canted columns
of Gaudí’s rookery, spiral
along his crenelated Jerusalem
of broken tiles, crazy shields.
Yes, it’s hot as hell and full
of tourists at the double helix,
but the anarchists now occupy
the Food Court, and the arcadian dream
for the working class includes this shady
colonnade cut into the mountainside.
I’ve postponed my allegiance to
the tiny house movement, to the 450
square feet of simple, American maple
infrastructure and the roomy
mind suspended like a hammock
between joists. Serpents and castle
keeps shimmer, and a mosaic invitation
to the Confectionery gets me a free
café con leche on the La Rambla,

where honeycombed apartments bend
on chiseled stone and host
floating, wrought-iron balconies.
I think I’ll move into Gaudí’s dream
of recycled mesh, walk barefoot
on his flagstone tiles
inscribed with seaweed
and sacred graffiti
from pagan tombs.
O, Barcelona of chamfered corners!
And chimneys of cowled
warriors! From Gaudí’s Book
of Revelations, I invite the goblet
and the stone Mobius strip
to a tapas of grilled prawns and squid.
Gaudí’s book of Revelations.

About This Poem
“Visiting several of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces challenged my attachment to minimalism, occasioned some reading about Spanish architectural and cultural history, and led to unfamiliar, descriptive language. I tried to make the poem’s line turns and diction shifts reflect the speaker’s surprise at the city’s delights. Into the architect’s fantastical creations I plunged, a tourist with a dream of staying on.”—Robin Becker

About This Poet
Robin Becker was born in 1951 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She earned a B.A. and M.A. from Boston University and taught for seventeen years at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

I am dedicating the posting of this poem today to a dear friend of mine who will be traveling to Spain next month, and I wish him safe travels. I hope he will have a wonderful time.


I’ve Got Nothing

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I racked my brain all night last night trying to come up with a post for today. I came up with nothing, but this nice picture. I remember thinking yesterday morning that I had come up with a great idea for a post, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was. I guess it must not have been that great. Oh, well…I hope you guys have a wonderful Monday. I’m hoping that mine will go well. My computer at school has died (apparently, the motherboard went bad), so hopefully I can get another one soon, even if it is just a temporary fix until the school can get me something else.


Questions and Answers

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A church of Christ minister emailed me a few weeks ago with some question regarding my posts about gay Christians and my views about the Church of Christ. In his comment, he stated:

I found your site interesting to come across. There certainly should be a place of discourse about homosexuality. I am a minister in the Church of Christ, and I do find that all sexual behavior outside of marriage between a man and a woman is sinful and contrary to Christ’s words. I do know that many Christians can struggle with difficulties that make them feel on the edges of their church and faith to which I can relate. I think we can help each other. I do have some questions that I hope you can consider and respond.

In his comment and his subsequent email, he asked a number of questions which I will endeavor to answer. In my first email to him, I wrote:

I have struggled for many years to try and understand why God created me in a way that I do not have an attraction to the opposite sex, but an attraction to my own sex. I once asked myself if God made a mistake, but God does not make mistakes, therefore he had a purpose in the way he created me and those like me. I prayed and meditated. I read the Bible, searching for meanings of passages that were difficult to understand, even though some stated that their meaning was very clear and simple. God guided me in that study, as he guides me throughout life. I came to understand and believe that God created me the way I am, that the verses about homosexuality do not pertain to true love between human beings of the same sex, but as perverse sexual acts that are contrary to the teachings of Christ and the worship of Christ.

In what I have read of your views on homosexuality, which I plan to take a closer look to, you equate homosexuality with sexual practices only. Homosexuality is not all about sex. I can be a homosexual and still not engage in sexual practices. There are many who do. However, we are judged by our perceived sexual lifestyle. I am not denying that I have never fornicated, but I have also sought forgiveness for my prior indiscretions.

In his response, he asked how I knew I was born homosexual. While it is true that most people do not develop sexual attraction until puberty, there is more to being homosexual than sex. Though I won’t claim that I was always aware of my homosexuality, it is more because I did not understand. I had no concept of homosexuality, but I certainly knew that I was different. Most homosexuals felt the same way growing up. Most of us did not have the same interests as other boys. I preferred to play with the girls when growing up. I never enjoyed playing sports, though my parents forced me to. So you might ask, how I came to understand my sexuality. It was not easy. When sexual interests began in puberty, it was an attraction to boys not girls. My dreams and fantasies were about boys. Though I tried to think of girls in the same way, it did not arouse me. It took a lot of internal wrestling to come to terms with my sexuality.

Some of the other questions my commenter had that I would like to address:

What do you think it would be like to be a Christian without the desires of homosexuality? How would life be any better?

If I were not homosexual, then I would not have struggled with coming to terms with being gay and Christian. My parents would not worry about me because their concept of Christianity believes that I am damned to hell. In ways, life would be better, but I am the way God created me. I firmly believe that God created me as a homosexual and guided my strong Christian faith because he had a purpose for me. We all have trials and temptations. God tests our faith, as he did Job and Abraham, and so many others. James 1:2-4 says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” However, being homosexual strengthens my faith, not lessens it, and I take joy in that, just as God commands.

With many Christians struggling with temptations of sexual immorality, did you ever see yourself as enslaved your homosexual desires as sin?

Before I studied the scriptures and understood the true meanings of its words, yes, I did feel that I was enslaved by my homosexuality and sin. However, when I studied the true meanings of the words, with faith that God was guiding my study, I came to believe differently. I will not repeat this journey, but instead I urge you to go back and read my post “Abusus Non Tollit Usum.”

Do you still think that sexual desires can be deceptive and entice someone to sin (Jas. 1:14-15, 1 John 2:15-17)?

Yes, I do believe that sexual desire, as well as all other desires of this world, can entice someone to sin. However, this is universal, and does not pertain to homosexuals alone, but to all Christians regardless of their sexuality. When we take verses and place a sexual meaning to them, especially when it has such a wider meaning, then we are perverting the Word of God.

Regarding Jesus, what do you think Jesus means concerning sexual immorality defiling the heart in Mark 7:20-23? What sexual immorality would He have in mind and how would we know what He meant?

This was the last of the questions asked, and I think I deserves a post of its own, so I will continue this next Sunday.

Thank you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and may God bless us to live in His love.


Moment of Zen: Parisian Style


Bayard Rustin Will Posthumously Be Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

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The trailblazing strategist behind the 1963 March on Washington will this year be posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. That’s a long way from the days when civil rights activists counted on Bayard Rustin’s hard work. Rustin taught MLK about non-violence, a strategy he’d learned from Gandhi. He organized the 1963 March on Washington. But he was discouraged from being a public spokesperson for civil rights because he was gay. Many activists at the time felt the movement wasn’t big enough to include homosexuality.

For 60 years, Rustin fought for peace and equal rights — demonstrating, organizing and protesting in the United States and around the world. Rustin grew up in West Chester, Pa. In college in the 1930s, he joined the Communist Youth League for a few years, attracted by the group’s anti-racist efforts. He later embraced socialism.

He was a gay black man, tall, with high cheekbones, and a gifted singer. He played a bit part in a Broadway musical alongside Paul Robeson, and Rustin often sang for his audiences as he toured the country, conducting race-relations workshops.

Rustin was considered a master organizer, a political intellectual and a pacifist; he served time in prison for refusing to register for the draft. He created the first Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation on interstate buses. Along with King, Rustin was one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

He had two strong mentors. A.J. Muste, the head of the pacifist organization the Fellowship of Reconciliation, hired Rustin as a youth secretary to conduct workshops and demonstrations against war and segregation. Rustin’s other mentor was A. Philip Randolph, the head of the first predominantly black union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

“What Rustin took away from Randolph, especially, is the recognition that economic issues and racial justice issues are completely intertwined,” says his biographer, John D’Emilio.

Despite his extensive involvement in the civil rights movement, Rustin was content to remain behind the scenes, D’Emilio says.

“I think of it as part of the Quaker heritage that he internalized. You don’t push yourself forward,” D’Emilio says. “It doesn’t matter if you don’t get the credit for it. What is important is this notion of speaking truth to power.”

In 1953, Rustin’s homosexuality became a public problem after he was found having sex in a parked car with two men. He was arrested on a morals charge. Later, when he was chosen to organize the 1963 march, some civil rights activists objected. In an effort to discredit the march, segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond took to the Senate floor, where he derided Rustin for being a communist, a draft dodger and a homosexual. Ironically, author D’Emilo says, it became a rallying point — for the civil rights leaders.

“Because no one could appear to be on the side of Strom Thurmond, he created, unwittingly, an opportunity for Rustin’s sexuality to stop being an issue,” he says.

The march was a success, and at its end, a triumphant Rustin stepped up to the microphone to read the demands that the leaders of the civil rights movement would take to President John F. Kennedy.

First on the list: “effective Civil Rights legislation — no compromise, no filibuster — and that it include public accommodations, decent housing, integrated education, [fair employment], and the right to vote.”

Rustin wanted to move the civil rights agenda from protesting to politics and to work within the system — blacks and whites together — to create jobs and other opportunities. His effort fell flat, stymied by a more militant generation and the dominant issue of the times, the Vietnam War. Rustin said, “It has split the civil rights movement down the middle. It has caused many white people who were in it to say, ‘That must wait now until we stop Vietnam.’ ”

In his later years, Rustin continued to speak out on a variety of fronts, and his personal life also changed: He met Walter Naegle.

Naegle, Rustin’s surviving partner, says that in the final years of his life, Rustin became more involved in gay rights.

“He saw this as another challenge, another barrier that had to be broken down — a larger struggle for human rights and for individual freedoms,” Neagle says.

Or, as Rustin put it:

“The barometer for judging the character of people in regards to human rights is now those who consider themselves gay, homosexual, lesbian. The judgment as to whether you can trust the future, the social advancement, depending on people, will be judged on where they come out on that question.”

Activist Mandy Carter says Rustin was a visionary, understanding the parallels in the civil rights struggle and the gay rights movement. Carter is on the leadership council the National Black Justice Coalition, an LGBT civil rights group.

“For me and for a lot of us who are black, and gay and lesbian, bi, trans, who see ourselves as social justice advocates as well, to have this person — such an amazing role model,” she says.

Carter says there was just no one like him, and she is delighted such a key individual in the civil rights movement is now being recognized with the nation’s highest honor.

Rustin died in 1987 in New York. He was 75.


Need

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The latest book on my must read list, plus starting back to school this week has left me wanting for sleep.  I started reading Todd Gregory’s Need on Saturday, and it’s been quite hard to put down.  Todd Gregory is better known as Greg Herren, who many of you know is my favorite author.  Todd Gregory is the pseudonym that Herren uses for his more erotic novels.  The main character of Need is Cord Logan, who readers were first introduced to in the short story “Blood on the Moon” in the Midnight Hunger anthology of gay vampire stories, so I read that story again before reading Need.  Need is a stand alone book, but it really helps if you read Cord’s backstory first.

 
At the beginning of Need, Cord Logan has only been a vampire for two years, and is still adapting, trying to figure out who he is and what he wants. Haunted by what happened to him the last few nights he was human, he has turned his back on his fraternity of vampires. Returning to New Orleans, a chance encounter with an old friend from his human life triggers a disturbing chain of events. And now Cord’s erotic journey of self-discovery becomes even more lethal, as an ancient society of supernatural beings must intervene to save the vampire race – and all humanity.
 
Need is erotically charged throughout, and some might complain that it has more sex scenes than substance, but the sex scenes actually do add to the story, which is what a good sex scene should do.  I admit though that some of the scenes seem a little too gratuitous, but they are a hell of a lot of fun to read.
 
Also, like many gay novels, Gregory creates a fascinating, lovable, and snarky female character, much as he does as Greg Herren with the characters Paige Tourneur and Venus Casanova in his Chance McLeod mysteries.  This time the character is Rachel, a female vampire with razor sharp wit, that I couldn’t help but love.
 
The ending appear to me that Need has potential to go into a series. The curse that lead Cord from baby vampire making poor decisions to the very different vampire Cord is at the end of the book opened some interesting possibilities. I would love to read more of Cord if this did turn into a series. The events at the end definitely have my curiosity piqued. 
 
There are parts of the boom also that feels somewhat repetitive and in some parts scenes seem to contradict something we have already learned, but I can forgive that, hopefully you can too. 
 
The major drawback of this book for me, and this is for me personally, is that Herren/Gregory seems to have a deep seeded hatred of the Church of Christ.  Both Chance McLeod and Cord Logan’s characters were raised in harsh, fundamentalist Church of Christ congregations.  I tend to be able to get over it because I just replace Church of Christ with another denomination.  It’s hard for me to read such criticisms of a church I deeply love, but then I was raised in a very loving church.  I have never found out why the Churches of Christ make appearances in Herren/Gregory’s writing.  I can only assume that Herren was raised in a harsh Church of Christ, very unlike the one I was raised in.  One day, I hope to have the chance to ask him that question.  It certainly will never stop me from reading his books.
 
PS If you have emailed me in the last week, I will get back to you this weekend.  With preparations for school starting and school itself, I have been too tired at the end of the day to respond to emails.  I will though.  I also blame Todd Gregory’s Need for my lack of response because I’ve read each night until I have to force myself to go to bed.  So please forgive me.

Ken Bencomo, Gay Catholic Teacher Fired For Marrying, Gets Huge Student Support

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Support for a Roman Catholic high school teacher fired for marrying his same-sex partner continued to grow Monday (Aug. 12) as the number of people signing an online petition topped 58,000 people.
Ken Bencomo taught English at St. Lucy’s Priory High School in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendora for 17 years. He was fired last month after an article in the Southern California newspaper Inland Valley Daily Bulletin published a story and video about his wedding.

Bencomo, 45, and his husband, Christopher Persky, 32, were one of the first gay couples to marry on July 1, after a U.S. Supreme Court decision cleared the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California.

His termination is not the first firing of a gay Catholic schoolteacher. In Columbus, Ohio, teacher Carla Hale was fired from a Catholic high school in April, after someone pointed out that she listed her lesbian partner’s name in her mother’s obituary.

And in January, Nicholas Coppola was stripped of his volunteer posts as a religious education teacher, lector and visitation minister at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Oceanside, N.Y., after he married his same-sex partner.

“I just believe it’s a complete injustice,” said Brittany Littleton, 23, who graduated from St. Lucy’s in 2008, and launched the petition to reinstate Bencomo on the web-based platform, Change.org. “I was really horrified and sickened and so ashamed of my school for making this decision.”

An aspiring actress, Littleton also led an Aug. 8 protest at the school, which she says drew about 300 people.

The Catholic Church is opposed to gay marriage.

Bencomo, who many students affectionately refer to as “Mr. B.,” was head of the English department, as well as extracurricular activities such as dance and yearbook. Students say most people at the school were aware of Bencomo’s sexual orientation. They were shocked to hear of his firing through social-media platforms, such as Twitter.

According to a recent poll by Quinnipiac University, a growing number of Catholics support same-sex marriage. The March poll, which surveyed close to 500 Catholics, found that 54 percent of Catholic voters support same-sex marriage, while 38 percent oppose it.

St. Lucy’s media consultant, Robert Alaniz, said the school stands firmly by its decision. Bencomo was not fired for being gay, Alaniz added, but for making his same-sex marriage a “public spectacle.”

Bencomo’s attorney did not respond to requests for comment.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles would not comment on the firing, noting that St. Lucy’s was not part of the archdiocese’s school system. The private Catholic school is guided by the educational standards of the archdiocese, however.

Students said they would continue to press the school on the matter.

“There’s been no sense of remorse or understanding of even what a hurtful and prejudicial decision this is,” Littleton said. “So my plan really is just to keep going until they realize that. A lot of it really has to do with church doctrine, so this fight is going to have to continue on past St. Lucy’s.”


Dreams

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Dreams
by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.


They’re Back

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Or at least they will be back today. Today is the official start of school, and they they, of course, are students. I’m going to stay positive, and this will be a great year. I keep repeating this in my head, hoping that eventually, I will believe it. Otherwise, I may need one of each of those drinks above, especially if they contain plenty of vodka.


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