Language of the Soul Podcast

LGBTQ Representation Part 2

March 22, 2024 Dominick Domingo Season 2024 Episode 7
LGBTQ Representation Part 2
Language of the Soul Podcast
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Language of the Soul Podcast
LGBTQ Representation Part 2
Mar 22, 2024 Season 2024 Episode 7
Dominick Domingo

This episode is Part 2 of a 2-part series: LGBTQ Representation. Part one laid out the history of Queer Representation in cinema. This episode follows up by chronicling Dominick's personal experience as a gay man in the context of Tolerance, Diversity & Inclusion and Media Representation. Together, both episodes are meant to lay the groundwork for future conversations with guests equally invested in LGBTQ Representation.
           
Sharing a Reader's Digest version of his coming out essay, Jesus Shoes, Dominick takes us back to 1968, when he arrived on the planet. Despite being the peak of the Sexual Revolution, things were more backward than one might think. Derogatory terms like 'gay' and 'fag' rolled off tongues effortlessly; 'gay' was the opposite of 'cool.' Dominick threw those terms around as much or more than his elementary school-aged friends— until the moment he realized they applied to him.
            
After the vivid realization, Dominick took a  trip to the public library to research his 'condition.' At that time, the APA still listed 'homosexuality' as a mental disorder. This meant the one and only book on the shelves devoted to the topic was titled 'Preventing Homosexuality.' A quick perusal schooled Dominick on outdated Freudian tropes while predicting a grim future for him. His bullshit detector (at the tender age of 11) compelled him to close the book, rejecting its ominous prophecies for his life.
Somehow, despite that innate self-acceptance, society's negative messaging somehow 'got in' over time. The essay goes on to dissect the mechanics by which that occurs— how self-love can be eroded by exposure to negative stereotypes, tropes, and even rhetoric or innuendo. Despite  his best efforts, Dominick found himself fulfilling a cultural narrative by becoming exactly what was described in that Freudian book forty years earlier, in the form of a full-blown AIDS diagnosis. Dominick's 56year (& counting) arc is the prime example of the power of persistent narratives to manifest as reality. And our personal power to reframe those narratives. In the spirit of this podcast, we have the free will to 'tell our own stories.' This episode concludes with Dominick's journey toward reclaiming his agency in the world

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Support the Show.

If you would like to make a one-time donation, CLICK HERE, or you can click the support button for other monthly support options.

To learn more and order Language of the Soul: www.dominickdomingo.com/theseeker

Think you would be a great guest for our podcast; please submit a request at LOTS Podcast Guest Pitch Form.

Now more than ever, it’s tempting to throw our hands in the air and surrender to futility in the face of global strife. Storytellers know we must renew hope daily. We are being called upon to embrace our interconnectivity, transform paradigms, and trust the ripple effect will play its part. In the words of Lion King producer Don Hahn (Episode 8), “Telling stories is one of the most important professions out there right now.” We here at Language of the Soul Podcast could not agree more.

This podcast is a labor of love. You can help us spread the word about the power of story to transform. Your donation, however big or small, will help us build our platform and thereby get the word out. Together, we can change the world…one heart at a time!

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This episode is Part 2 of a 2-part series: LGBTQ Representation. Part one laid out the history of Queer Representation in cinema. This episode follows up by chronicling Dominick's personal experience as a gay man in the context of Tolerance, Diversity & Inclusion and Media Representation. Together, both episodes are meant to lay the groundwork for future conversations with guests equally invested in LGBTQ Representation.
           
Sharing a Reader's Digest version of his coming out essay, Jesus Shoes, Dominick takes us back to 1968, when he arrived on the planet. Despite being the peak of the Sexual Revolution, things were more backward than one might think. Derogatory terms like 'gay' and 'fag' rolled off tongues effortlessly; 'gay' was the opposite of 'cool.' Dominick threw those terms around as much or more than his elementary school-aged friends— until the moment he realized they applied to him.
            
After the vivid realization, Dominick took a  trip to the public library to research his 'condition.' At that time, the APA still listed 'homosexuality' as a mental disorder. This meant the one and only book on the shelves devoted to the topic was titled 'Preventing Homosexuality.' A quick perusal schooled Dominick on outdated Freudian tropes while predicting a grim future for him. His bullshit detector (at the tender age of 11) compelled him to close the book, rejecting its ominous prophecies for his life.
Somehow, despite that innate self-acceptance, society's negative messaging somehow 'got in' over time. The essay goes on to dissect the mechanics by which that occurs— how self-love can be eroded by exposure to negative stereotypes, tropes, and even rhetoric or innuendo. Despite  his best efforts, Dominick found himself fulfilling a cultural narrative by becoming exactly what was described in that Freudian book forty years earlier, in the form of a full-blown AIDS diagnosis. Dominick's 56year (& counting) arc is the prime example of the power of persistent narratives to manifest as reality. And our personal power to reframe those narratives. In the spirit of this podcast, we have the free will to 'tell our own stories.' This episode concludes with Dominick's journey toward reclaiming his agency in the world

We would love to hear from you! Sent US a text message.

Support the Show.

If you would like to make a one-time donation, CLICK HERE, or you can click the support button for other monthly support options.

To learn more and order Language of the Soul: www.dominickdomingo.com/theseeker

Think you would be a great guest for our podcast; please submit a request at LOTS Podcast Guest Pitch Form.

Now more than ever, it’s tempting to throw our hands in the air and surrender to futility in the face of global strife. Storytellers know we must renew hope daily. We are being called upon to embrace our interconnectivity, transform paradigms, and trust the ripple effect will play its part. In the words of Lion King producer Don Hahn (Episode 8), “Telling stories is one of the most important professions out there right now.” We here at Language of the Soul Podcast could not agree more.

This podcast is a labor of love. You can help us spread the word about the power of story to transform. Your donation, however big or small, will help us build our platform and thereby get the word out. Together, we can change the world…one heart at a time!

Speaker 1:

Hello and welcome to Language of the Soul podcast, where life is story. I'm your host, author, dominic Domingo, and this is the part where I would normally say a quick hello to our producer, extraordinaire Virginia Grandier. But I am flying solo today. This is part two of a mini episode called LGBTQ representation. So I want to start out by saying you know, our listeners surely know this podcast is a labor of love and nothing less than mine and Virginia's purposeful contribution to the collective. Those are strong words, I realize, but for those who may not know, my brush with death just before the pandemic lit a creative fire resulting in what I call my pandemic book, a 354 page book called Language of the Soul. In a nutshell, it's about the immense role of storytelling and culture, both to transform the individual and then, one hopes, through the ripple effect, evolve society. So this podcast was inspired by that effort. It's based on the book. We're about 20, sorry, 24 episodes in at this point and we are beyond pleased with the tone we've struck. More than that, we're constantly inspired and energized by the fellow travelers we've met along the way, kindred spirits, equally passionate about the power of story to change minds by touching hearts, thereby transforming the world one heart at a time. As corny as that sounds, we are committed to it. So the best way you can help us spread the word and grow our platform is to just like or follow us Doesn't cost a thing on your buzzsprout or on your favorite podcast venue. We publish to all of them iHeart Radio, apple Podcasts, spotify, amazon Music the list goes on. If you find yourself so inspired, there is also a support button both on our Buzzsprout homepage and at the bottom of each episode. Again, on whatever platform you use to listen to your podcasts.

Speaker 1:

Okay, all that said, I really hope, if you're tuning in, that you have heard part one. It very much lays the groundwork for the history of LGBTQ representation in cinema. In laying out that history, I often refer to a documentary that I very much recommend called the celluloid closet. I discovered it in my twenties at a really pivotal time, not an impressionable time per se, but I would say a formative time. How about that? And I do recommend it.

Speaker 1:

As somebody who's been submerged in arts and entertainment, specifically animation, the publishing realm and live action film, I have had my eye on representation throughout since literally 1968. And I'm very invested in it, obviously, and very passionate about it, not only because I happen to be in cinema and publishing, but because I live on the planet and these are my peeps, so I've kept my eye on it. I'm very pleased with the way things are going and that's why I wanted to talk about the past partially to illustrate how very far we've come. We all know there's still work yet to be done and that's the call to action, probably at the end of this episode. But anyway, we lay out sort of the history of that representation and in this episode I want to talk about what's happening in this moment, which is actually quite exciting and promising, and then maybe speculate about what the future holds for representation, specifically the LGBTQ community, but I would say for all underrepresented or marginalized communities that have been silenced and erased. It's an exciting moment on that front. So in this episode, yes, we're going to pick up where we left off in the history aspect of it, but I also want to tell you my personal experience in again, the 56 years I've been on the planet.

Speaker 1:

I was born in 1968, as I said, and you might be surprised, it sounds like the middle of the sexual revolution, right, but things were pretty backwards and I'm going to just refer to a short story that I've written about my coming out process yes, coming out to myself at puberty and realizing what I was dealing with, but then later coming out with my grassroots circle of friends and family. So it could be, I don't know, a little eye opening to somebody who has not gone through that process, but also relatable to people that have. As I said in the last episode, when gay men meet. I can't speak for all non-binary individuals, but I know that when gay men meet they often tell their coming out stories Because, although we're as diverse as the general population in most ways, other than you know that which separates us from mainstream society, there are a lot of universals in being part of a marginalized community, being ostracized or having experienced some degree of discrimination or outright prejudice. So there's a lot of universal territory there.

Speaker 1:

I will be referring to my coming out essay, and it's really not an essay, it's a short story that is so vivid in its sensory details that it really puts you in that space, which is why I say kind of experiencing it through the eyes of the narrator. It might be a little bit of an experiment in wearing the moccasins, if that makes sense. So hopefully a little bit eye-opening and lightning sounds condescending, but maybe eye-opening for the listener. I once read an exercise in which an ostensibly straight person who hadn't walked in the moccasins was walked through just one day in the life of a gay person, or actually, sorry, maybe the lifetime of a gay individual. I discovered there were several variations of it and it said things like and now you're in junior high and you're forced to go to dance with a same-sex date. So again, this is for straight people. And it goes on from there and it really just flops the whole scenario to where, maybe for the first time ever, some people have to rethink their presumptions.

Speaker 1:

Okay, I'd like to now give you a reader's digest version of the short story I mentioned. I may have misspoken, by the way. I may have called it the long road ahead. It was initially called that for hopefully obvious reasons. It's a coming-out story, where I was looking ahead to what I might have in store for me. I think I renamed it Jesus Shoes to match the name of the collection of which it was a part. Okay, 1968, I come into the world.

Speaker 1:

Basically, I start this story with a really vivid, very vivid milestone in my life, which is figuring out that I was gay for the first time Nothing to do with coming out, but just figuring it out for myself. And I guess I'll add this isn't really in the story. But a lot of my gay friends will say, oh, I knew I was gay before puberty and I always said, well, wow, because I would thank the minute you're whacking off. You know if you're whacking off to images of men or women, but before that it can be mysterious. One of my exes actually said he had a recurring dream as a child that he was flying around London with Peter Pan, holding hands with Peter Pan, and Peter Pan was his boyfriend. I kind of chalked it up to the fact that he had Peter Pan syndrome and refused to grow up, which I learned during our relationship. But it also explained a lot because I have been told I look like Peter Pan with my freckles and the space in my teeth. So it explained a lot. But I pretty much said, hmm, I don't necessarily relate. I knew I was different, I knew I was an artist, I knew I had a slightly different temperament and disposition, but I didn't put two and two together and I to this day don't know if it's the flip side of the gay gene or exactly why I felt different, but it certainly I did not consciously identify sexual attraction to the same sex as being that which made me different. Puberty total another story. Hence this essay.

Speaker 1:

Having said all that, the older I get, the more I realize. You know, I did have a strange attraction to the Jolly Green Giant and Mr Clean. I mean, this is what I had access to, right. I died and my dad's friend worked for the Heinz company, so of course that's the Jolly Green Giant. He wears a little loincloth made out of leaves, so that kind of explains it right there. But he was also Jolly, which I liked. Anyway, this friend of the family would give us merchandising products and I joke that I really liked to sit in that plastic green hand. It was his hand, despite being carved up by the really sharp plastic seams on it. I really liked sitting in that chair.

Speaker 1:

Another clue also came back to me only as an adult, and this one may be in the essay, but my mom, you know her generation. In lieu of the birds and the bees conversation, their way was to leave hints or, in her case, slipped between the reader's digest and the other magazines in our bathroom a little time life book about human sexuality and you open it up and the end pages show a family standing in a lineup naked. God knows why the family were standing in a lineup naked, but it showed the prepubescent little boy and the prepubescent little girl, and then the pubescent boy and girl, and then the parents. And the daddy was like fully on display, and I'm not talking just the genitals, but he was standing very proudly with his shoulders thrown back and his pecs sort of puffed up. Yep, really like looking at the daddy the best, that's for sure. Point is in retrospect there were clues, but for the most part it was only when I hit puberty that I put two and two together.

Speaker 1:

So the story opens, basically illustrating the fact that in the 70s it was very fashionable to say shut up, fag, or that's gay. The worst thing you could call somebody was gay. It was the opposite of cool, but yet it was also the go-to. It rolled off your tongue like nobody's business and I go on to say, like you know, gay wasn't enough. Then it was shut up, gay, fag. That was like bringing out the big guns. There was a hierarchy, but it was the opposite of cool, that's for sure.

Speaker 1:

So I'm throwing the derogatory terms around with my friends, not realizing they applied to me until the one day, at the public pool on which the opening scene is set, and basically I'm, you know, looking at the lifeguards and they've always been heroic to me and just really wow, I just really like looking at their legs, their tanned legs, and the way the sun kind of refracts off the blonde hairs and just kind of zen, and you know, drunk from the sun and being the artist that I am being sort of transported to this zen space. Then the word floats into my head gay. Okay, that's what that word means, really right. But it didn't freak me out, didn't scare me, and it just chronicles the next few days of not batting an eye and having this sort of intrinsic self-acceptance. But yet some part of me thought well, I have heard, it's bad or wrong. I must have internalized something. And it told me you'd better look into this.

Speaker 1:

So that very night, after coming home from the public pool, I remember whipping out my hippie Bible it was called the Way at the time, it was the Bible for hippies. And you know, searching, there were zero references to homosexuality. Gay, certainly not fag, right, but I just didn't find anything. I now know better. There are passages but for whatever reason in the Way there were no references or cross references to my condition in quotes. So I slept very well that night. It was not a crisis for me. I'd call it that intrinsic self-acceptance, self-love.

Speaker 1:

But of course things got in over time and that's what the essay is about. I came to understand that the Bible had no references to it because, god forbid you even say the word right or speak. I called it the love that dare not speak its name. So if it's invisible it doesn't exist. More to the point, although I did sleep well that night, I also was going through puberty, so of course I discovered that whacking off was the funnest thing since sliced bread. That goes a long way in not beating yourself up about your new discovery. It was a new novel discovery. Had a lot of fun with it behind closed doors, but anyway, slowly over time I did realize.

Speaker 1:

Hmm, you know my mom was surrounded by artists, half of whom were surely gay. Why wasn't it ever mentioned? Ted, the gymnastics instructor at the Burbank Parks and Recreation Center, went home with Jesse, the ballet instructor. We knew they were lovers, but it was never spoken about. My mom was a cosmetologist, for God's sake. So she went all through beauty school and half of her career surrounded by gay men, but it was not spoken.

Speaker 1:

As I said in last week's episode, that silence speaks louder than words when filled in with negative stereotypes, rhetoric and innuendo. So, in that same spirit, years later, when I was coming out, I very distinctly remember a family member saying I just want you to know we are not talking about you and the fact that you're gay, we're not gossiping and it's not a topic of conversation. And my thought at the time was well, I wish you were talking about it. It should be an open topic, and why isn't it? There's some irony there when I say that silence or that vacuum that's created and the inability to speak the word actually speaks louder than words due to the negative stereotypes and the innuendo that fill in that gap.

Speaker 1:

I'll give you a couple examples. I mean as I was processing my new landscape, yeah, things came back to me, like you know, my mom watching TV. One day, david Bowie came on and of course he's got the two different color eyeballs and at the time, rather androgynous. And my mom just shakes her head and without thinking says, yeah, he's every mother's nightmare of a gay son. Now again, she's not evil, she's a product of her era. She was as lightened as it got back then. She 100% made sure to expose her children to diversity. We went to old folks' homes to see older people and, you know, had no qualms about her kids hanging out with her gay friends. You can't fault her for not addressing it or labeling them. That's actually commendable, especially at that time. Even so, these messages get in After the David Bowie comments like okay, check that box. I know now how mothers feel about their gay sons.

Speaker 1:

Another example is in that Reader's Digest in the bathroom there was a column some of you may remember, maybe not called Laughter is the Best Medicine. It was a regular column humor and in it I think the article read 12 ways. You know it's going to be a bad day. One of them is like you put your bra on backwards and it fits better. The next one was your son tells you he wishes Anita Bryant would mind her own business. Now again, that's only going to mean something to older listeners, but Anita Bryant was the one that went head to head with the gay community over some legislation in the days of Harvey Milk. Basically, if you're not old enough to remember, you may have seen a YouTube video. She's the one that got a pie in her face, if you remember that footage. So yeah, it's.

Speaker 1:

All these messages are being internalized and that's when the insecurity enters the equation and, over time, begins to erode that initial intrinsic self-acceptance I mentioned. Now, not everybody experiences that the way I did, but because I had this intrinsic self-worth, I may be in the perfect position to recognize how that can be eroded over time through societal messaging, through the internalization of negative self-messaging, not even bordering on self-loathing or even coming close to it, but it still has its way with you in a way that I'll describe very clearly by the end of this episode. And, by the way, to reiterate, the reason I want to tell my personal story in this larger conversation about LGBTQ representation is that it is a clear illustration of how narrative weaves throughout our life and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are inextricable from what we internalize through socialization, social conditioning, the pervasive narrative, thought forms, paradigms and myths that culture perpetuates. In short, further illustrating that life is story. This coming out essay Jesus Shoes, by the way, is bookended in the collection by a story about my AIDS diagnosis in the last three years, during which I've had to reclaim my agency in the world and actually learned to love myself during a pandemic. I don't know what could be clear in terms of fulfilling a cultural narrative that you fought tooth and nail to avoid falling victim to. Despite my best efforts, as one committed to writing one's own story, I did eventually succumb. I am going to return to the short story. After investigating the way in my hippie Bible, I took a trip to the public library that I'm going to tell you about. But before we get back to the chronological narrative, I will give you one more example of how, even though I had such a degree of self acceptance when I figured out my condition, things came back to me from my entire upbringing, one by one, confirming oh, that thing you heard, even though it wasn't cross referenced in the Bible, that it's bad or wrong. I mean, you yourself have been saying fag and gay. So slowly things occurred to me that you know I may have been perpetuating myself unexamined. It should be pretty clear that these things were formative, because I remember them to this day. What, 40 something years later, very vividly, if I can remember those articles in Laughter is the best medicine. In Reader's Digest, word for word. You know it's going to be a bad day when you put your bra on backwards and it fits better, that example. Or when your son comes home and says he wishes Anita Bryan would mind her own business. That says a lot. These images, especially with writers, these images that define you, really stick with you throughout life.

Speaker 1:

Okay, returning to the 70s, very soon after the Bible episode, not sure exactly why, I think I was processing my new discovery, yes, recalling some of these things I had overheard, but I thought, yep, I better investigate my condition. So I went to the Burbank Public Library Again, this is in 79 or so. I think it was turning 11, puberty basically, and it was summer. So I went to the library and it was pretty quiet, so I wasn't too sheepish about going to the card catalog and looking through the Dewey Decimal System. It was called back then. Now remember too, at this time there were no respectable role models in the media of gay men. Like I said, I had mom's friends that were clearly gay, but it wasn't spoken about Nobody in the media. Captain Kangaroo was a bachelor. Paul Lend on Hollywood Squares was a bachelor. You get the idea. Vincent Price was just a weirdo and Bert and Ernie were roommates, as I said in the last episode, so it was like looking for intelligent life on Mars. So here I am looking into my condition at the Burbank Public Library.

Speaker 1:

Not a single card in the Dewey Decimal System about gay, homosexuality, gayness, gaydom, nothing. There was one, I'm sorry. There were two that remotely related. One was the David Copey story. So there was an NFL player back then who came out, of course after retiring, and I thought, well, maybe that'll have locker room pictures, I'll look at it. But I put it aside. The card that is.

Speaker 1:

And the only other book in there was called Preventing Homosexuality and I found it on the bookshelf. It was a very Freudian book about how all gay boys played with dolls as children. They had overbearing mothers and distant fathers on and on, even at 11,. I immediately recognized these as outdated Freudian tropes. I soon learned that the APA American Psychological Association, I believe still listed homosexuality as a disease or a disorder. I immediately recognized the propaganda in that book as exactly that Crap or propaganda.

Speaker 1:

What really stuck with me was toward the end of the book and I was just flipping through it. But I mean, even the cover had a picture of a sort of disenfranchised, pathetic, lonely boy on the grass watching two athletic boys playing, and it had a lot of suggestions. You know, if you see indications your kid is gay, here's how to squelch them. But anyway, the very last chapter, flipping through it, said and gay men do not do well with aging. They tend to cruise alleys or frequent smoky bars in order to procure or pay for sex, in short, and then they die tragically in a dark alley alone. This is what I was being told I had to look forward to Again. Thank God for my bullshit detector, because I thought you know what that book is not about me. I think I recognized in my own way at that tender age that I had the power to self-create and didn't buy any of it. I closed the book and put it back on the shelf and went about my life.

Speaker 1:

So this myth that it's a tragic life and a sad life has really held on and it's still pervasive. That it's a sad life In fact, all of us strangers really combats that really persistent mentality. And when the main character sees his parents, or at least a vision of his parents at his age, the mother says oh, you're gay. Okay, well, you know it is a tough life. And he says no, no, we don't say that anymore, mom, I love that. I also would love to point out that there are a million ways in which we pass the buck. So in that scene the mother is basically giving a very clear signal that this is not a desirable lifestyle choice course of action, but it's passive, aggressive.

Speaker 1:

I don't want to name any names, but in my family I remember, you know, back in the day you would hear well, I'm not prejudiced, I'm not racist, but I just wouldn't want that for my child because entering into an interracial marriage would just cause so many problems for them. I wouldn't want that. And you do hear that mentality with children. I'm not homophobic but, man, what you'd be up against, all the prejudice you'd be up against. I wouldn't want you to have to go through that. And another example of passing the buck is again, so many years at Disney feature animation.

Speaker 1:

For a large chunk of that time I shared an office with a gentleman who was as different from me as Frost from Fire, that's, from Wuthering Heights. We were completely from different molds. You know he was straight, married with several kids, but also kind of backwards and a hick. Maybe he would probably say that himself and here I am right, being what I am. But we got along. Famously. I reminded him of his brother who had committed suicide, and my laugh reminded him of his brother. We would sing in the office with the door closed and sing harmony, and just, we'd finish each other sentences, laugh, same sense of humor. And yet he would often surprise me. Gay night at Disneyland occurred and he had taken his family, not realizing it was a gay night, and he came back very miffed. He said I don't know why I you know it needs to be rubbed in my face. I'm just trying to have a good time with my family.

Speaker 1:

Why should I be forced to have difficult conversations with them? When they see images like two men holding hands, I gently, you know of course, drawing a breath and drawing on all my patients, said well, it shouldn't be a difficult conversation. Right, in an ideal world, children are more malleable at a young age than once. They've internalized the societal messaging. Children don't bat an eye. They're learning all day, every day, about the strange world in which we live. If you say to your child, some men love men, some women love women, some men love women. They don't bat an eye.

Speaker 1:

I love what Billy Eichner has said, which is, if you get to and it was said in bros in so many words, I believe in the dialogue you know, if you get to children early, before they learn to hate themselves or start bullying others, that is the time to educate them. Diversity is a non issue for children, so it's passing the buck. And I did say that to my roommate, I mean my officemate. I said well, if we just say that's a difficult conversation, who are you putting it off? For the next generation, the next one, the time is now to be a part of right, the solution and not the problem. It may be, it may be a good moment to say anyone listening to this that's a Gen Z or maybe even the tail end of the millennial generation will perhaps find these conversations archaic and I'm glad for that.

Speaker 1:

But I think if we look at the history and what we're coming out of, we realize that actually there still are many, many remnants of these kind of mentalities in culture. Not to mention there are people being hanged and stoned in certain Muslim countries for being gay. There are concerted efforts to root out gays and imprison them, in places like Chechnya. Even in the United States, we know, in certain rural areas and certain parts of the country there's a lot of work yet to be done and you might be surprised. It's really easy to live in a bubble, right If you're in a cosmopolitan area. And I actually have had family members say, you know, I don't understand why people play the victim and you know, and sort of whip out the violins and harp on their woes being ostracized or marginalized or discriminated against, and 100% I come from that mentality. Don't identify with your grievances, be part of you know, be active about the solution and not the problem. Even so, I say, unless you've walked in the moccasins, you don't really get to have an opinion. And I did point out gently in that case that you know what? We don't live in Florida, nobody has a wide hood in their closet here in Los Angeles, so it's easy to take the progress for granted.

Speaker 1:

Now, the way I'm going to sort of bring this episode to a close is I want to talk about that second essay that I mentioned earlier, which bookends the first. It literally is 35, I believe years later Now. The history that I laid out in the former episode largely correlates with my adult life. So again, kind of seeing, skewed by the trails off, based misapprehensions, outright stereotypes in film and cinema and pop culture and media. For my entire adult life I did count the progress and I was very pleased to see myself represented on the rare occasion that happened. I was thrilled when the nineties, where I ushered in this era of the prime time program having a gay character, I also bristled at the fact that they were walking stereotypes. So I won't re-litigate any of that. Hopefully you heard that episode. What I would rather do is mention my arc and again how sort of the cultural narrative was fulfilled by me. I've become a walking cliché.

Speaker 1:

All those things that those ominous predictions made by that book when I was 11 years old have actually come to pass. How the hell does that happen? What I will say is this I had, you know, several breakups in my youth, in my formative youth, and I would say there's a million reasons. But I would also say you kind of wonder what if? What if society had been more supportive of our relationship? What if there had been a model for it? My family was wonderful, I cannot complain. My lovers came to every Christmas, thanksgiving, birthday, get together. They were loved and accepted.

Speaker 1:

Of course, it wasn't talked about really up until a certain point, but there are very clear examples of the lack of support for relationships that don't have a category. So, yes, of course, eventually marriage equality was on the table. Eventually, gay adoption was something that didn't make people bristle and now it's a reality. It was not on the menu for me or most of my peers growing up. So you do mourn it. You do realize that ship has sailed at some point and it's not on the table for you. It's not on the menu. When marriage equality came around, I didn't care. I wasn't invested in it. Of course, eventually I came around and I thought, well, you really can't extend certain privileges to some sub-substitions of the population and not others. It's unconstitutional. I developed very strong opinions about it, but it should say it all that initially I was not passionate about it. I really didn't care because it was not on my radar and it had not been on the menu for me for so many years.

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My early adulthood, my formative years, my 20s and 30s happened to correlate with what I'm calling this sort of trend in mainstream pop culture of putting everything under the microscope, a microscope that had been conveniently swept under the rug, I would say dysfunction, mental illness, alcoholism, even things like incest Things society was not willing to look at. It became actually trendy. It's also become now like sharing your dirty laundry is rewarded. But I think our generation was the first one, through Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue, to start talking about social issues and domestic issues, so I feel very lucky about that. Also, in the 90s, in my 20s and early 30s, you had Matthew Shepard. You had hate crime legislation very much on the radar of the public. You had Ryan White and the entire arc of AIDS awareness. As I pointed out earlier, I believe the negative media attention on AIDS also resulted in more visibility, which actually indirectly resulted in tolerance. It was a long, steady arc and I'm glad to have been a part of it.

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I'm going to read a short section of Language of the Soul at this point because again it ties back this internalization of narratives that are either vicariously absorbed or sort of imposed on us in so many different ways, and it actually centers on these controversies that I was mentioning Hate crime legislation and AIDS awareness. In last week's episode on LGBTQ representation, we began to break down the means by which tolerance for diversity is forged through what we call normalization repeated exposure to images and ideas. I want to take that a little bit further by going back to my book and reading a little segment called when in Rome. It's under a larger sub-chapter called the Mechanics of Belief, which is also what we really dove into last time. Okay, so this kind of picks up where we left off in terms of how ideas are spread and how they become movements, which become, eventually, policy. Again, it's called when in Rome.

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In short, beliefs are contagious. This goes not only for an individual's worldview and resulting destiny, but for societies at large. The anatomy of societal beliefs follows a pattern similar to that of the individual. History is riddled with examples of belief as contagion, from phenomena like the mass hallucinations of the Salem witch trials and the McMartin pre-school trials to the 2020 election denial narrative. Other, more subtle ideological shifts occur over time and are harder to pinpoint. I call them slow burn ideologies. Often they are so slow and stealthy that, like frogs in boiling water, we adopt them unaware. Every day, we assimilate unexamined perceptions and biases by default on autopilot.

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Let's look at an example, one that has been simmering in Western European Judeo-Christian culture, arguably since the advent of Christianity. To tie things into our former conversation about tolerance. The example has to do with the current ongoing climate of homophobia. The concept of sexual orientation is relatively new. Historians agree that notions of heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual orientation simply did not exist post Bronze Age, the off-sided examples of fluidity being classical Greek antiquity and the Roman Empire. Historians also agree that institutionalized traditions like taking on a same-sex lover, an aromenos or arasties, were due in part to the fact that childbirth was the number one cause of death for women at the time. Add to this the fact that contraception had yet to be invented and that men are notoriously well horny, and it all begins to make sense Throughout antiquity. In the Roman Empire, the tradition of same-sex marriage existed, however reserved for privileged classes. Christianity, with its roots in Judaism, eventually turned the tables on all this seemingly progressive personal liberty For reasons we haven't the luxury of dissecting, doing so as another book altogether. The centuries since have been characterized by a slow emergence from the demonization of all things non-binary. The early church extended its policy of fire and brimstone to sexuality throughout medieval times and well into the Renaissance. Though same-sex marriage reemerged in the form of enfraremont in certain regions, the privilege was selective, as was persecution of any sexual deviance deemed heresy, flash forward During the writing of this book.

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Both the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, florida, and the Club Q mass shooting in Colorado Springs have ignited conversations about the pervasive quote climate of homophobia that may have been a factor Between the two tragic incidents. 54 victims were killed. The true motive in both cases remains a topic of debate, as does the very topic of hate crime legislation in general. Those who oppose the distinction have long refused to acknowledge the role of prejudice, racism or bigotry in fueling hate crimes. For that matter, opponents staunchly dismiss the notion that a climate of fear or hate even exists, let alone that it has the power to permit such horrific transgressions. After the Club Q shooting, congresswoman Lauren Boebert rubbed salt in the wounds of the LGBTQ community by offering up prayers for the victims, while refusing to acknowledge the targeted community by name. More problematic is her record of relentlessly contributing to the fear-based homophobia that fostered a hostile environment that would permit such violence. Both Boebert and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene knowingly peddled misinformation, rhetoric, conspiracy theory and propaganda that at best marginalizes and ostracizes individuals, at worst it makes them targets of violence. The far-right stance has been to turn a blind eye to its role in fostering animosity through rhetoric.

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Here's the reality. Everything from suggesting non-binary individuals are sinners or abominations, to relentless government-sponsored campaigns that position the LGBTQ community as a threat to family values contribute to this climate in varying degrees. Easier to finger are measures like the Archaic Aversion Therapy backed by leaders like Mike Pence, for that matter. Ron DeSantis' don't say gay bill in education and its distant cousin Don't Ask, don't Tell in the military, are designed to keep subsections of the population silent and invisible, to erase them in essence. In this spirit, the Bush administration attempted to diminish the LGBTQ population to a mere one percent of the population, contrary to most studies. What better way to dismiss the rights of a subculture than to reduce it to a mere sliver of the population?

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Proposition 8, regardless of one's views on the nature and definition of marriage over the course of human history, sought to defy constitutional principles by withholding rights and privileges from designated subsections of the population. It was attempted, of course, under the guise of religious principles applied to an otherwise strictly legal contract. The thing is, our much-valued separation of church and state renders the discrimination unconstitutional, regardless of one's particular moral standards, even if religion-based. The constitutional principles of equality, justice and personal liberty take precedence In the ongoing debate over marriage equality. Each side has its well-preened arguments, some moral, some based in principle, some emotional and fear-based with no rationale.

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Regardless of political platform or agenda, one thing is clear there is an undeniable connection between rhetoric and innuendo and the hostile climate that results from it. Hate crimes like the two recent nightclub shootings are rooted in a homophobic climate, and so, after the club-Q incident, bobord and MTG only turned up their rhetoric. They continued to amplify outright lies like the inferences of pedophilia and child grooming proffered by hate-mongers' libs of TikTok. And although these congresswomen and their ilk categorically shirk responsibility, those within the trans community know full well there's a correlation between rhetoric and its statistical effect on the LGBTQ community. They know the true reason trans women find themselves victims of violent crime and murder at a rate many times greater than that of the general population. There is a reason the attempted suicide rate among LGBTQ adolescents is over four times that of the mainstream.

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History repeats Emerging from the slow-burn cloak of our binary system has been a process, one that's moved at a snail's pace, to be precise. It's both within the queer community and outside of it took offense to the blind eye turned by the likes of Bobord and Marjorie Taylor-Green after the mass shootings. But many of these same individuals are simply too young to recall the Matthew Shepard era In the 90s, the literal crucifixion of Matthew Shepard led to the passing of unprecedented hate crime legislation in the form of the Matthew Shepard and James Bird Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act. During its deliberation, controversy abounded. Talking heads like radio host Laura Schlesinger and Rush Limbaugh argued until red in the face that, in the same way, affirmative action was unwarranted. The the LGBTQ community merited no special treatment. Even at the time, I thought there would be no need for special treatment, or they're not special hatred. According to Dr Laura, there was no quote-unquote climate of homophobia to discuss, no pervasive rhetoric-based milieu to permit her, even encouraged, such heinous acts as the slaughter of Matthew Shepard. According to her, he was just a slight, wimpy kid in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully, these vivid examples drive home the potency of the unexamined beliefs and values we adopt by default.

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I'm really going to condense the second essay and in fact it chronicles my three-year struggle with regaining my agency and my health in a very broken healthcare system during a pandemic, but it correlates with learning to love myself. So, simply put, I did find myself in the hospital for 18 days. I had seek to diagnosis for many months again pretty broken healthcare system. I did not happen to have insurance at that moment, so landed in the ER with a litany of secondary infections that come along with HIV and a lot of complications afterwards. I won't rattle them off, but it's been a journey and the biggest realization in all of it and maybe read the essays, they're worth reading.

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But I think the biggest realization was that despite my best efforts, I did need to learn to love myself. I did have that intrinsic self-acceptance and self-love early on, but it was sort of against all odds and it wasn't sustainable. It was my defense mechanism. I think it is my essence also, but of course the world robs us all of our essence over time and everything I wrote about, ironically, was about how to come out the other end of disillusionment, how to come out the other end of futility, and I still champion that and it's largely what I write about. But of course I had my own learning curve and the stakes could not have been higher Early.

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On the X that I mentioned earlier, that I think was in love with me because I was Peter Pan and his entire childhood had been spent dreaming about his boyfriend, peter Pan. I'm kind of being facetious, but anyway, he said to me. Although I had been in therapy at that point in my 20s during college, he did say you will be surprised how much of who you are is attached to being gay. People both within and outside of the gay community will say, oh, it's just who you sleep with, or I've said it, whereas diverse is the general population. Ironically, the one thing that sets us apart is what we have in common. That's true, but there are infinite ways in which the whole experience of growing up with ostracization, marginalization, however overt or subverted it is, and I don't wish to identify with my grievances. So I've never identified as having been persecuted or actually having experienced outright discrimination. What's the other word? Well, hatred, I guess, and have chosen not to give it airtime, because what you put your attention on grows.

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Having said that, those rose-colored glasses were not sustainable and the pain got in over time. Right, emotional stress equals inflammation, inflammation equals disease. So you might think, but wait a minute. Hiv is a very clear virus, and that's true. I won't go into my holistic beliefs, but I am one of those people that had the HIV virus my entire adult life but was asymptomatic, never succumbed to it.

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I have another friend that was in the books for exactly that. When he turned 50 he moved to Florida, quickly got sick and died. So I dug my heels in and said I've got more to do. That's not going to happen to me. But I would say, over time it's not just turning 50, it is life getting in. It's disillusionment getting in disappointment.

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I think mourning and grieving loss is a big part of life that does not tax you emotionally. It can actually enrich you. But unnatural forms of emotional stress that affect your own thoughts and feelings are really the toxic part. So I had to really learn to care enough about my thoughts and feelings to put them on the front burner and understand that that toxicity taxed my body and compromised my immune system. So anyway, I feel that I'm on my way back, but I do 100% hope listeners make the connection between these cultural narratives we perpetuate, the internalization of them and how taxing they can be on our potential and capacity.

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We are meant to realize our potential and capacity and things that are counterproductive. Stories that do not empower are the ones that will be our undoing If we don't have an awareness of story and a consciousness of how, like crabs in the boiling water, we are all absorbing narratives all day, every day, and they become mapped on our limbic system, they become mapped on our worldview or value system, unexamined. We can all choose our narratives, if that makes sense. This is we all have a story right. This is one story meant to be an illustration of the power of story to yes, sabotage, to create self-fulfilling narratives, self-fulfilling prophecies, despite one's best efforts. So I'm glad to be a cautionary tale and also to inspire.

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Maybe on another episode, if Virginia interviews me, I will gladly tell you where I'm at and how I'm coming out the other end and still learning and growing every day. I don't claim to have all the answers, but I know that I've learned to love myself, I've reclaimed my agency and my health is following my CD4 count, although it was incredibly compromised. The average human has 500 CD4 cells per, I think, milliliter. I was down to 18 when I entered the hospital. I was septic, my body was trying to kill itself. So I am a normal human, a normal human now with a normal CD4 count, which means a healthy immune system. I will leave it at that for now.

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We do plan to have on more LGBTQ authors and filmmakers, or even those that don't identify as gay filmmakers or authors, but authors who happen to be gay, filmmakers who happen to be gay, who, like me, strive for the universal. I think there are many voices that contribute to this conversation about representation, so I hope you see this as something that will lay the groundwork for those conversations and that you'll be excited to tune in for them. One guest I guess I'll plug him right now is Jay Levy. He's a filmmaker I met during, you know, the distribution of Outpost, my first gay themed film, and when I navigated that queer film festival circuit he sort of became my partner in crime and we've kept a touch ever since. So that'll be our first toe in the water on this topic of representation. Thank you so much, and I want to remind everybody life is story and we can get our hands in the clay individually and collectively. We can tell our own stories. All right, see you next time.

LGBTQ Representation in Media
Impact of Silence on LGBTQ Identity
Passing the Buck and Social Progress
LGBTQ Rights and Hate Crimes Debate
Overcoming Health Struggles and Self-Love
Diverse LGBTQ Representation in Media