Tuesday, July 24, 2012

No Justice, No Peace

My grandfather died recently. He was not a nice person. He physically and sexually abused several of his children and grandchildren (including me.) Many years ago, my cousin wrote me a letter, describing some of his abusive behavior. I always intended to publish it after he died, and now here we are. There's nothing else I can do.

As you may know, it's very difficult to prosecute child abuse. You may not be aware that victims are often reluctant to press charges - this is common in all forms of domestic abuse. I wish my grandfather could have gone to jail, but the rest of his family didn't feel that way.

Based on my experiences, I've come to believe that child abuse is condoned in our society. You may find that unreasonable, but consider: a certain number of abusers exist. And if my family is a typical example, each abuser is surrounded by a number of enablers. Frequently they were also victims, but they make excuses for their abuser, cover up the abuse and even, I believe, are willing to lie for him or her. If people like that condone abuse in their own families, how can they oppose it elsewhere? How can they, for example, support legislation that extends the statue of limitations on abuse cases, or promote campaigns that encourage people to speak out against their abuse?

Anyway, here's the letter. I have changed all the names and removed certain identifying details. There is nothing graphic in it, but it does refer to abuse and enabling behavior. You have been warned.

Friday, July 13, 2012

How to Eat Food

This article about healthy eating habits has been making the rounds. It turns out that "normal" eaters follow four basic rules:
  1. eating when hungry.
  2. choosing satisfying foods.
  3. eating with awareness and enjoyment, and
  4. stopping when satisfied.
This is usually the way that I eat (although I do wonder sometimes if I'm being sufficiently mindful of my food.) Or rather, it's how I eat when I'm in a good mood. As I've mentioned on this blog before, my reaction to stress is to stop eating. Therefore, this comment really struck me:
What became clear to me immediately is that my eating is completely detached from my hunger, that in fact the hardest part so far is telling when I am, in fact, actually hungry.
That's how I feel under stress - either I'm not hungry or I tell myself that I can't eat right now, it's more important to get this other thing done first . . . and then it's the end of the day and I haven't eaten. Depending on the circumstances, I can go from normal attitudes about food to stressed-out attitudes in less than 24 hours. Which is a weird experience.

Food is so vitally important to us. I guess that's why we develop eating disorders. But nonetheless it's strange to think about all the different reactions that people have to such a basic thing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gender Presentation in The Boys in the Band

I finally got around to watching The Boys in The Band, which might best be described as a fictional portrayal of gay men pre-Stonewall. Some find it demeaning - overall I liked it. That is to say, most of it I simply adored, a few scenes grated on me, and some of it was genuinely moving. The characters are wonderful. I see it as a story of survival, and a record of an earlier time. I also watched the film commentary and the documentary, Making The Boys.

What I found most thought-provoking is the story of the man who played Emory, the most effeminate character. Everyone who knew him agrees that this actor, Cliff Gorman, was straight, and not effeminate in real life at all. But most people who saw the movie decided that he must be gay, and when they saw him on the street, with his wife perhaps, acting "normal," they would accost him with such comments as "What are you trying to prove?" Apparently his career also suffered, despite his great gifts as an actor.

It amuses me to think that when you see someone acting effeminate onscreen, and then if you meet them in person they don't act that way, you decide that in real life they must be pretending. After all, real life is where most of us spend most of our time pretending. But I also think that Gorman was in fact transgressing gender norms, because a "real man" cannot act effeminate, under any circumstances. If you have it in you at all to act that way, then you are suspect. None of the commentators on the film expressed it like that - they all seem to formulate the problem in terms of Gorman's sexual orientation. But I think it was about gender.