Sunday, December 29, 2013

Mystery Solved?

Looks like Google+ has been toying with photos that I uploaded to Blogger. They've created "Auto Awesome" photos and slide shows as a "gift" to me (and you, too, probably).

So somehow this photo that I posted and chose because it happened to just "be there" when I was trying to do a blog post from my phone, had been previously manipulated by Blogger/Google to have snowflakes. And there you have it.

UPDATE: After some Googling I find that this happens through the Google+  and I thought the App must be on my iPhone, but it is not available for the iPhone, so it must have been done through my Google+ account???? Apparently you can't actually control the final product, Google does it for you.  Go figure.

Here is a video "gift" Google+ made from random photos from my various blogs:

So Russ, you, being on Blogger, are not immune from the Borg. You are just unaware of its power over you. Just stay away from those evil smart phones....

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Out at Applebee's

I'm trying to do a blog post from here sitting at the table at Applebee's.

Now the trick is how to put a picture in this post.

Back home now and I have NO CLUE how this picture of my dog Benni has got artificial snowflakes coming down. This is beyond mysterious. The proverbial Christmas miracle? If I knew how this happened I could do it again, but believe me, I don't know how. Something to do with the iPhone, I imagine.

Anybody have an explanation?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Best Friends

Dottie is a good friend that we met a couple of years ago at the dog park in Bristol. Her Czechoslovakian shepherd Katija and our dog Benni hit it off so well they amaze us every time we walk our 2 1/2 miles through the meadow and woods. Which we do usually three or four times each week.

Benni and Katija are truly soul-mates. I have posted several photos and movies of the two romping and running and playing tug with sticks and posing for photo ops on Benni's blog Benedict Bentley.

In early autumn for about a week Dottie was snapping pictures of Katija and Benni every time we went for a walk. I thought nothing of it.

Well, last night we went to Dottie's for dinner and even though we agreed no gifts, Dottie got us a gift. When I unwrapped it I immediately felt a picture frame and thought knew why Dottie had been snapping pictures - that she had one of the photos framed.

But then I saw a familiar signature "N. Poli" and I recognized it as that of Nicoletta Poli, a Provincetown artist whose art, especially her paintings of dogs, we really love.

"No, Dottie, you didn't" I said.

But when I saw the painting, a watercolor of two black dogs in the woods I got all teary-eyed. It was an original painting of Benni and Katija - our two dogs who are truly Best Friends - the title of the painting.

Last summer on a trip to PTown we picked up a book of Poli's prints - all of dogs - and gave it to Dottie as she is a real dog lover. I mentioned that Nicoletta Poli was a favorite artist.

What I didn't know until Dottie told us last night was that she actually made arrangements to meet with Nicoletta to go through the photos she had taken and to commission a work for us. Dottie drove the five hours to PTown to do this, the two women decided on a theme and Nicoletta did the painting and sent it to Dottie a week or so ago. Dottie was so excited to give it to us.

What an amazing person is Dottie! To give such a thoughtful, amazing, personal gift to us. I had tears in my eyes - partly because the gift was so special and partly because Dottie is so special to do this for us.

We are truly blessed to have a friend like Dottie and Benni is fortunate to be Best Friends with Katija.

Benni mentioned the Poli Gallery  once, and again here, but didn't give the name of the artist/gallery.

Here is the link to her gallery: Nicoletta Poli

Christmas Afternoon Madison, CT 12/25/13

On December 31, 2013 I sent the following email to Nicoletta Poli:


On Christmas Eve, my partner, Leon and I were presented with a beautiful Nicoletta Poli painting of our dog Benni and his "Best Friend" Katija, by our dear friend Dottie Kern. 

At first, before unveiling the picture, I thought it might be a framed photo as Dottie had been snapping photographs for weeks, every time we went walking. As I removed the bubble wrap, the first thing I noticed was your signature, which I recognized immediately. I became excited, thinking Dottie had purchased one of your paintings as a gift. 

Unwrapping further - it was a challenge as that bubble wrap was stubborn - I realized that this was not just one of your paintings but a special one of our dog Benni and Dottie's dog Katija. It literally brought tears to my eyes - first, because it was one of your paintings and second, because Dottie had done such a thoughtful, kind and generous gesture of friendship. 

Leon and I were amazed and grateful. Dottie said that because of her initial reaction to the emailed thumbnail photo of the painting, you were a bit anxious about whether we would like the painting. Rest assured that we do in fact love the painting and that it gave us great joy to receive it. 

Thank you for that, and for capturing the essence of "Best Friends".

P.S. We spoke to you last September when we purchased a book of your paintings for Dottie. You checked out Benni's blog. He has written a post about the painting you did of him and his girlfriend. You can read it at:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Utah Amazes Us

From what I've read I'm not sure it's a fait accompli but Congratulations to our friends in Utah on joining us as a marriage equality state.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Affordable Care Act - More Questions Than Answers

I spent a good part of the morning researching how the Affordable Care Act is being implemented in Connecticut. I am on Medicare, so it doesn't effect me, but Leon is self employed and has private health insurance; we think he can keep his coverage beyond January 1st, but we're not rally sure. It is confusing.

Not as simple as it is being made out to be - at least not for some people.

Of main concern is the fact that in Connecticut we have adopted "extended Medicaid" - an expansion of  Medicaid to include anyone whose income is below $15, 500. For people who are making minimum wage or are self-employed, $15,000 can be a wage that allows for the accumulation of some assets - a retirement fund, savings, a car, even a home. Now it is a wage that may effectively force these individuals and their families into poverty.

Given state statutes that are on the books, I believe that Medicaid can attach such assets, put a lien on a house and obtain payback for expenditures on behalf of that individual after the persons death - leaving nothing for a spouse or family, let alone an unmarried "partner"- unless, and this is very unclear, unless these provisions are not enforced under "extended Medicaid" - but nowhere on the state's websites is this made clear or even addressed.

And I searched every which way I could for several hours. And I spent over an hour calling state agencies and state legislators. Nothing. I actually knew more than most of the people I spoke with, not surprising, really.

I've also learned that many individuals with HIV may possibly lose state assistance that pays for private medical insurance premiums under Ryan White if their income is less than $15,000 because they too will now be forced into Medicaid.

So for the nouveau pauvres on the Medicaid roles there is no information about how being on Medicaid will affect retirement savings, a home or other assets.

It could be that such individuals may lose everything they've worked for and at death, their estate, if any, will be used to pay back the state for lifetime of health care premiums and costs with nothing left for survivors, even taking marriage equality into account.

I could be wrong about all of this, and I hope I am, but no one here has been able to clarify these issues. I've actually called several state agencies and received contradictory information.

So, I think the working class being forced into Medicaid is despicable. Some philosopher once said that every solution creates new problems. So it is for the Affordable Care Act.

I blame the Congress for making minced meat out of Obama's original proposal - Universal Health Care with a single payer system.  Obama's biggest mistake - letting them call their Frankenstein monster Obamacare and using that as a term of endearment himself.

P.S. If anyone who knows anything about this issue can clarify it for me - please leave a comment.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Marriage Equality - New Mexico

According to HRC 38.37% of the US population lives in Marriage Equality States counting New Mexico as the latest state to come aboard. Congratulations New Mexico.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

In Memory of Clara

Clara Cannuciari, of the YouTube Cooking With Clara series passed away recently at the age of 98.
AThank You to Russ for the news. I am posting her memorial here also.

What a Difference 50 Years Has Made

Here's a little eye candy and some music for the kids.

It is amazing that young people today have some out and proud gay pop music stars that they can relate to. Though I don't know how widespread Steve Grand's fans are or how popular his music is among young people or how much exposure he gets in the music media.

Came across Steve Grand some time ago on one of the blogs. I'm not crazy about his lyrics or even the music, but the video shows gay guys having relationships with fun and tenderness and infatuation and all the things we only vaguely imagined in a contorted, convoluted way as adolescents in 1963.

Back in 1963 only the girls screamed when the Beach Boys performed while many of us gay boys just watched in silence and tried to imagine, unsatisfactorily, that the Boys might, in some alternative universe, be singing to us. After all, we were not the Surfer Girl, but wanted to be with the Surfer Boy...somehow it just didn't work and always left us feeling empty and alienated.
Now, young gay people can see and hear about gay love and infatuation and emotional bonding in a real-life context. They can see others in normal, everyday situations acting like young people.

Here's another video by Steve Grand, about falling in love with a straight friend. Have we all been there? Unfortunately, I was never as sexy or good looking as these guys.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

When You Think You've Heard Everything Category

Being wealthy is now a defense for teenage drunk driving! As if the wealthy need more privileges.

I can see being merciful and just but not on the heels of this bogus defense. I can't even comment any further on this, it is so outrageous.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Technology: You Can Bleed To Death If You're On The Cutting Edge - OR - The Rebel vs Technology - OR - This Is Not Walden Pond But We Do Grow Christmas Trees

I don't handle change well.

A few weeks back Leon and I decided to buy a new stove. He says because I like to cook that I should have a decent stove. I'd been putting it off for years because I was turned off by the electronics that are a part of almost all new ranges. My old gas stove was from the Sears Dent-and-Scratch Store.

It had dials. On, Off. Oven On, Set the temperature, Cook, turn Off. Simple. It had pilot lights. When the power was out for a week we were able to use the cooktop and the oven.

The new ones need 110AC to operate the oven.

I used the new stove to cook Thanksgiving Dinner for the family. It was OK. But I have a few observations.

The new stove is a Samsung. Now, don't they make computers? And Smart Phones? My question is why can't they make a smart stove?

The other day I turned on the oven to preheat. Several minutes later, I find the oven cold. Well, Samsung made it so when you push the "Oven" button and set the temperature, you then have to press "Start". Well Duh. If I turn on the oven, I guess I want it ON.

Then, if in the course of cooking you want to change the temperature, you have to turn the oven Off by pressing "Cancel" and then set the new temperature and then press "Start". Way too many steps for a simple task. Why is there no Up/Down button for the temperature? That would make too much sense. Maybe they are afraid someone would "accidentally" change the temp, so they made it fail safe????

Oh, and when you light the burners you have to make sure you stop the dial at the point where the electronic ignition will spark. Now I was used to turning the gas all the way up, waiting for the pilot to fire the burner and then usually start cooking on high anyway. The other day I went through the old motion out of habit, was surprised for a minute that the burner didn't light then remembered to turn the dial back to ignite. Whoosh boom the gas ignited. If I had waited any longer I could have been toast. Ugh!

But OK, I guess I'll get used to it.

Then we decided to got a bit further into the technological world.

My antique cell phone finally bit the dust. Reception had become sketchy, the battery would barely last long enough for one uninterrupted phone call and the window was so scratched up I couldn't make out the display.

So Leon and I went down to the AT&T Store last Saturday and I decided to enter the 21st Century and get an iPhone. The 5c in White plastic. We've been on a family plan or whatever forever and so the upgrade wasn't too outrageous. Especially as I did not opt for any texting and took the lowest data plan. I can use wifi hot spots for free. And we got a "good" 2-year (iks!) contract deal on U-Verse internet and TV -including $100 toward our cancelation of Direct TV, a faster internet connection than the AT&T DSL, a rebate in the amount of the $99 I paid for the phone, waived installation fee and a free phone case. OK, so AT&T is not feeling any pain in this deal but the bottom line for Leon and me is the new deal is less than we were paying for Direct and DSL.

I absolutely love the iPhone. It is a toy that I find fascinating and entertaining. I can speak to Siri and she will find out stuff and dial numbers and write my email and spell it correctly too. I don't have to carry a camera, and there are so many things it can do, I couldn't begin to tell you. I can do blog posts, listen to music, there is a calendar, notes, GPS, Flashlight, Swiss Army Knife. OK, so I'm kidding about the Swiss Army Knife.

So all was well with that.

Yesterday we had U-Verse installed. Let me just say that when the robo-voice at AT&T says, "Thank you for choosing AT&T" my response is always "Yes, most reluctantly". I didn't choose AT&T when they took over our local phone company and now, well I haven't been impressed with them in any respect.

I teach computer courses at the senior center and we use Yahoo mail. They, AT&T Yahoos, changed the interface so many times it is now about as anti-intuitive as you can get. The instructor teaching this round of classes is exasperated and he is a computer professional. The senior center also upgraded (?)  to Windows 7. My frustration with Yahoo is exacerbated by Windows 7 - what Yahoos designed this lame operating system?

Personally my experience with AT&T/Yahoo is just as frustrating when I occasionally go in to check my spam folders. Sign in on Yahoo, sign out and try to sign in again as a different user and each sign-on screen is different. I tried to disable a never used email address and was redirected to three different pages and had to sign in with my user name and password each time. I started at Yahoo and ended up at AT&T; U-Verse got into the act too at some point. AT&T has an identity problem: are they AT&T, Yahoo, U-Verse, or what.

Anyhow, U-Verse is installed; the internet connection is faster (6.0+) but not near the 12.0 ("up to" as AT&T promised).

The TV also does not allow for more than two TV's or one TV and one recording in HD at a time. AT&T NEVER tells you this. They don't exactly address the issue, so they don't directly mislead the consumer. Record up to 4 shows at once - but NOT all in HD. And, Oh it depends on your distance from whatever and the lines, and and and...

We got an error message on the TV that directed us to call AT&T support. We were on the phone for quite some time and she had me registering a new account on the AT&T website, a new user name and temporary password; I had to change password and the passwords I chose were rejected and she didn't know why as they all met the "criteria". Then there were "security questions". Like AT&T website is a Bank and someone might get into my account and withdraw 3 million dollars or something!!!!! What BS.

Well in my opinion, AT&T is good at leading consumers to believe they can deliver more than they are really capable of. "You can watch or record "UP TO" four separate shows" but not necessarily all in HD.  We can piss and moan about the remote, the guide, the way stations are listed, etc. etc.

We just don't do CHANGE well.

Last but not least, when they set up the U-verse, of course the printer couldn't connect wirelessly. I thought I knew how to reset it, but I got off track and deleted then reinstalled the drivers and software. I inadvertently missed one crucial software packet. I called Canon Tech Support.

The tech guy walked me through - actually we ran through at a good pace; once he identified the software that was missing I was a step ahead of him all the way. The printer was up and running in no time. The tech was knowledgeable, clear, logical, anticipated each step, and was above all HELPFUL.

AT&T could use a lesson from Canon on customer service.


And just a little something for the season. We have a hillside full of small evergreen trees that I have planted over the years.

There was a pair of Siamese Twins - two trees fused into a single trunk as seedlings and I decided that one would be cut down to let the other develop fully; the one that I cut will be our Charlie Brown Tree this year.

This Year's Charlie Brown Tree
And today we got our first real snow of the season...not as bad as some places.

So that's my story of cutting edge technology. And Walden Pond looks better and better.  Nature is, when all is said and done, where I feel most at home and at peace.

So Leon and I took a walk in the woods with our dog Benni. It was so quiet with the new snow muffling any sound. It was peaceful and healing to get away from the technology and hassles of modern life... away from the stove, the U-Verse, the TV, the computer...but I did bring my iPhone. Never know when you might encounter a big hungry bear...hum.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gayness in America

In the "no shit, Sherlock" department: An interesting article at the New York Times reports convincing evidence that at least 5% of American men are gay and many are still very closeted, especially in less tolerant states.

The thing I found most interesting was the methodology used for this "study". Thanks to Wicked Gay Blog and Queerty for the links.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Nelson Mandela

A courageous, humble and inspirational leader of great integrity has passed. Perhaps the last of his kind. I truly hope not. The world is a better place because of him.

Our nation and the world desperately needs more leaders such as Mandela.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

World AIDS Day Plus Two = Not Disclosing HIV Positive Status Still A Crime

Me, Leon and Bob W. at the Quilt Washington DC 1989?
Thanks to Bob Slatten at I Should Be Laughing for this link - Sex, Lies and HIV: When What You Don’t Tell Your Partner Is a Crime

This article is a sad commentary on the regressive laws enacted in this country, mostly back in the 80s and 90s out of fear of AIDS and when little was known about transmission and treatment; the article relates how these laws are being enforced and destroying the lives of so-called criminals who fail to disclose their HIV positive status before having consensual sex - even Safe(r) Sex. 

Many convicted under these laws retain the additional label of "sex offender" - a scarlet letter law and another misguided reactionary kind of legislation that is on the books on most states.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. No church, no gifts, lots of food, casual clothes, and a reminder of what the good earth has provided. Grace included thanks to the farmers who grow our food, the plants and animals that sustain us, the cooks who prepare our meals and the family and friends who share the bounty of our table.

Family and Friend
Unfortunately I was too busy in the kitchen to take pictures while cooking; I always think of those things too late. But fortunately Leon got in a blurry shot before we hacked it up. I chose a 20-pounder because I love turkey leftovers and it will save me from cooking for the next two weeks (just joking). And there'll be turkey soup as well.

The menu included a 20 pound turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans, finocchi gratinati in besciamella, pearl onions in cream sauce, butternut and acorn squash, cranberry sauce, our traditional meat and bread stuffing and my own concoction, a meatless dressing for our guest who is mostly vegetarian. Red and white wine, sparkling Catawba grape juice. 

Desserts included homemade apple pie and strawberry rhubarb pie with two flavors of locally churned ice cream - vanilla and sweet cream, and fresh brewed dark roast coffee.
My plate - and I did not take seconds!
I had to bake an apple pie but alas, we never got to taste it. It was payment for services of a lovely woman who volunteered to proofread my manuscript. Her eagle eye spotted several typos and some misconstrued words - a service well worth this pie. Fortunately my sister made an apple pie for our dinner - but no pics of that either.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

In Memory of Harvey Milk and George Moscone

Like it or not, we live in a country where all kinds of people occupy space. Most are not descendants of indigenous peoples. We do not share the same ethnicities, histories, religious beliefs, political leanings, philosophies of life, economic status or a host of other characteristics that make us the individuals we are.

And while we all occupy space, either by some god-given right or by chance or fate, none of us have the right to impose our will or belief or righteous indignation on another by means of violence or intimidation. Dan White took it upon himself to assassinate two political colleagues, Harvey Milk and George Moscone because he didn't agree with their views or their politics, or envied their success as popular politicians. Dan White could not tolerate views or opinions or civics lessons or the fact that LGBT folks might have civil rights in his jurisdiction.

Dan White could not abide diversity. So he tried to destroy what/who he saw as his enemy.

Ours is a country built on an experiment - an experiment in human rights. Human rights, if not an absolute, are a constantly evolving concept. But there are still those who see the evolution of human rights as a threat, and those who are the beneficiaries of newly defined rights as the enemy.

LGBT individuals are still scapegoated, bullied, hurt, maimed and murdered because of intolerance, hatred and fear. Many of our local and state government leaders, many members of our US Congress are not so different in their attitudes from Dan White. Hopefully none of them will shoot the collegues they disagree with. But their money, power and influence still harm us and their dismissal of our legitimate concerns stifles the evolution of this experiment in human rights.

On this anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk and George Moscone, we remember men who died in service to our and the larger community through the political process - a process that can only work in a spirit of reason and compromise.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pope Francis' Questionnaire

Assisi, Italy
I guess I'm on a Catholic trend.

I posted this to a website: John Wijngaards Catholic Research Centre where they are asking for respondents to the Questionnaire put out recently by Pope Francis - the one that the Catholic Bishops in the US chose to disregard.

The section of Pope’s questionnaire concerning LGBTs contains the following questions:

Question 5 a. Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?

Question 5 b. What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?

Question 5 c. What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?

Question 5 d. In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?

According to official Vatican documents, gays or lesbians are not allowed to have any sexual relationships. They state that gay or lesbian ‘unions’ go against Natural Law and may never equated with a heterosexual marriage.

If you are a homosexual yourself, could you describe your experience in this area? What is it like to be a Catholic and live in a homosexual relationship? Do you feel you are guilty of immorality/ Do you receive any support from the Church?

Here is my response:

Question 5  a. Is there a law in your country recognizing civil unions for people of the same-sex and equating it in some way to marriage?
Yes, in some states of the USA same-sex marriage is legal.

Question 5  b. What is the attitude of the local and particular Churches towards both the State as the promoter of civil unions between persons of the same sex and the people involved in this type of union?
Progressive Christian and Jewish congregations are supportive; evangelical Protestant, Mormon, Catholic, and others are not only not supportive, but actively work against what are our civil rights and try to impose their beliefs on those of us of other faiths or beliefs or those of us who do not belong to any religion. That is putting it mildly. Religions, in many cases have become the embodiment of hate and dare I say of evil.

Question 5  c. What pastoral attention can be given to people who have chosen to live in these types of union?
As far as I’m concerned, it is way too late for this.
The question itself is disingenuous.
If you must, begin by listening to the stories and lived experience of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender individuals without judgment or preconceived ideas, without an attitude of your knowing us, our lives, our consciences, or struggles, or our identities better than we do.

Question 5  d. In the case of unions of persons of the same sex who have adopted children, what can be done pastorally in light of transmitting the faith?
My God, respect the lives of the children and their adoptive parents in the same manner that you insist on respecting life in the womb. Many, but of course not all,  same sex partners adopt children with special needs – unwanted children, sick children, emotionally disturbed children, children born addicted to drugs, - these families are providing love and nurturance. How can this be wrong?

A Brief Recounting of my own Experience:

I am a young, sixty-five-year-old American male and I have bee in a loving relationship with another man for over 25 years (since I was 40). My childhood upbringing was in Catholic schools and I came from a very devout family. I discovered my sexuality gradually from the time I was around twelve to fourteen. At around fourteen I learned that masturbation, (self-abuse) was a mortal sin and I struggled with this through my young adulthood. A priest once refused to give me, a 16-year old, absolution because he said I was not contrite enough and was not serious about changing my ways. I was devastated. I discovered the word “homosexual” when I was about sixteen and read an article in Life Magazine that depicted homosexuals as frightening degenerates. I was fascinated and horrified.

I knew I was a homosexual but I also knew I couldn’t be. I knew I could never act on my desires to have sex with a male. Even though I was not having sex with men, the guilt I lived with around masturbation was unrelenting. I went through several therapists (some were priests) from age sixteen until I got out of college at twenty-two. No therapist ever acknowledged my true identity, instead said things like “you can’t be homosexual, you’ve never had sex with a male,” or  “You’re just shy with women. “ or “you’re an intelligent person, you can work things out for yourself.” My education continued in Catholic institutions through graduate school where I got a degree in Pastoral Counseling.

I even sacrificed what might have been a career in another field in order to study psychology and try to “figure out” how to “cure” myself. I experienced long periods of depression for most of my life, often after making occasional aborted attempts to connect with another man.

Finally, thanks to a co-worker, I found a therapist who was excellent, non-judgmental and who stayed with me for the long haul – more than two years. My long inner struggle finally came to an end with my full acceptance and embracing of my sexuality.

I “came out” at the age of thirty-six; I came out personally, psychologically, sexually, spiritually and politically. It was 1984. This was the most joyous, liberating, deeply spiritual, fulfilling and positive period of my entire life.

One of my first “out” actions was to attend a Mass at the local chapter of Dignity the organization for LGBT Catholics which met in the basement of a community center like the early Christians in the catacombs of ancient Rome. I wept for joy when we sang “…Blest are you that weep and mourn, for one day you shall laugh. And if wicked men insult and hate you all because of me, blessed, blessed are you! Be not afraid. I go before you always…and I will give you rest.” and then “Let us build the city of God, May our tears be turned into dancing, For the Lord our light and our love, Has turned the night into day.”

I became very involved with Dignity because I still needed spiritual sustenance: I was overjoyed that my Church, through Dignity, was finally accepting me, or so I believed. Then, in October of 1986, Ratzinger and JP-II issued “The Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons” that called us objectively disordered and self-indulgent. The Catholic Church was now calling my innate aversion to hetero-sex a “more or less strong tendency toward moral evil.” And it accused organizations like Dignity of promoting deceitful propaganda and even suggested that increased violence toward gay persons was almost to be expected in view of new civil rights legislation protecting gays from discrimination.

The document was full of insults. It made the lived experience of Gay, Lesbian and other sexual minorities unimportant, irrelevant and worthless. It reminded me that in the eyes of the church I was considered sinful to my very core, to my very identity. Nothing had changed, except for the worse. This was a blow to both cheeks. This teaching hurt me so deeply, I lost faith in Dignity and in the Church.

Since that time I observe that vis-à-vis most Christian denominations I am anathema. As we LGBT communities advance in our civil rights, Christian religions, and most prominently the Catholic Church, has redoubled efforts to put us down, condemn us, and spread outright lies about us, our lives and relationships.

I now have little use for organized religion of any kind and find their promulgations just as unimportant, irrelevant and worthless as they find me.

As I said at the outset, I have been in a loving relationship for 25 years. Tell me, how can love be sinful?

Yes, sex is involved. But sex is not the most important thing in our lives. (Let me use “our” in the wider, community sense). Not even close. The church makes way too big a deal about sex. People are sexual. People have sex. Grow up. Get over it. We’re way past the days when the church had to control everything and everybody.

For me and my partner and I will say most other same-sex couples, friendship, love, intimacy, companionship, being one another’s helpmate are much more important than sex. Just like most heterosexual couples. We work, we pay taxes, we volunteer, we take care of elderly parents, we teach, we support charities, we plant gardens, we do art and music and science. We sing in your choir, we say your masses, we heal the sick, we counsel the troubled, and we feed the hungry.

But there are those who would say that all we do is tainted.
All we do is for naught.
All we do is cancelled out because of who we are. 
And that all we do is without merit because of how we occasionally stimulate our sexual organs.

Those who discount our lives, who protest our very existence, they are hypocrites, Pharisees.

We hear condemnation daily: from our religious leaders, our politicians, our neighbors.

How can a human being live in dignity when faced on a regular basis with hatred, condemnation, ridicule, violence, name-calling and even the real possibility of being murdered for who we are? In some countries we are imprisoned or even condemned to death.

What makes us so frightful to the hetero world?

Why do you spend so much time and energy and money and spiritual capital in a misguided attempt to destroy us, we who are part of God’s creation and made to exist in His image and through His infinite wisdom?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Turn a Mirror on Bishop Poprocki This Wednesday

Bishop Poprocki of Springfield Illinois will be performing an exorcism to ward off the evil of same-sex marriage in Illinois, to ward off the evil of the legislators who passed the bill, some of them, OMG, baptized Catholics, and of course to ward off the evil of the demon possessed Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transgendered and all those other sexual minorities that Poprocki's god hates.

I posted this comment to Bilgimage today:

Bishop Paprocki’s exorcism stunt would be laughable if were not for the fact that so many Catholics and non-Catholics take the actions of Catholic bishops and the symbolism of exorcism seriously.

That LGBT persons are seen as possessed by evil and therefore we, and our demand for equality, are in need of exorcism is in itself a dangerous view. 

We are not at all viewed on par with other minorities - we are not seen as morally neutral by those who consider themselves morally superior: our sexuality defines us as morally suspect and therefore appropriate subjects for their rites of exorcism.

Has so little changed since the Inquisition, since fags were 
burned at the stake, since homosexuals were rounded up and forced into Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers? These were all attempts to rid the world of the "evil" that the powers that be attribute to LGBT's.

To use exorcism as weapon is way beyond praying “give us this day our daily bread” or “thy will be done.” it is an 
insidious approbation of a new cult of hate and vitriol bordering on violence toward LGBT persons.

I am reminded of the funeral services of Matthew Shepard
 (and others) that the Westboro Baptist Church tried to disrupt with signs stating that “God Hates Fags”; good people wearing huge angel wings to block out the hateful signs and protesters from view of the mourners thwarted the intentions of Westboro during Matthew’s funeral. See: (

Paprocki's exorcism exhibition is clearly in the same vein as Westboro Baptist Church, only couched in the piety and ritual of Roman Catholicism. I'm sure it will be complete with Latin incantations and incense. 

But, in similar fashion as Matthew's angels, I picture LGBT folks everywhere holding mirrors to Paprocki’s gesture and reflecting his exorcism back on him.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On Leaving the Forest - A Love Poem

After I posted the Preface to Did You Ever See A Horse Go By - A Coming Out Memoir, I was thinking about someone who I called Silvio in the book.

He was a guy I went to college with and perhaps the first man I ever had a crush on. I only have one photo of him. Asleep on a sofa in the college library circa 1968.

We spent a lot of time together during the summer after Sophomore year after which I went on to study abroad and Silvio transferred to a state university.

To be perfectly honest, it was more than a crush. I think I was head over heels in love. But, it was 1968 and it was a love that dare not speak its name. At least not in my world.

Silvio and I drifted apart. He got a PhD, married a woman, had a child, and was teaching in a small college in the northeast. He called me once, a couple of dozen years ago to tell me he was visiting his parents in a nearby city and that he would like to stop by for a visit.

I was as nervous as hell, but said "Sure. Love to see you."

Silvio came for a visit and told me his wife had passed away. We talked about stuff, caught up a bit.

Of course I was "out" by then and had been dating Leon. But for one brief moment I entertained a thought that maybe there was a chance my old love might be requited.

We ended our visit without my daring speak the love I'd had for him when we were younger and for some reason we never kept in touch afterwards.

Writing and editing a 300 page memoir brings up a lot of stuff of the emotional sort. So the other day, just for the hell of it, I googled Silvio's real name, PhD and region where he was employed.

The first thing that came up was Silvio's obituary that dated his passing on September 26, 2012. There were no details on the cause of death.

I can't precisely explain the emotions that reading Silvio's obituary stirred up.

A profound sense of sadness.

A sense of loss:
   - of an old friend;
   - of any possibility of renewed contact;
   - of sharing a love that could now speak its name;
   - of a possibility that had remained open-ended, now closed;
   - of youth;
   - of a harbored fantasy;

A sense of my own mortality getting closer - life a commodity in limited supply.

The obit carved out a little space, an emptiness in my soul.

It brought a few tears to my eyes.

On Leaving the Forest - A Love Poem - August 1968 (an excerpt)

I must leave you now forever
for I love you
You are beautiful and dark
and I would love you

Rest in Peace, Silvio, know that I loved you.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Did You Ever See A Horse Go By? A Coming Out Memoir

I've made passing reference to the fact that I've been working on a memoir. 

I belong to a writers' group - a small group of fantastic people who have encouraged me and offered guidance, feedback and sane company. It has been a long project - I actually started thinking about it and did some writing back in 1987.

The manuscript is finally complete except for a final edit by "my publisher" who are actually members of the writers' group. So while the book is as yet unpublished and as I don't have a clue when it might be and as I don't have much else to say, I decided to post the Preface here. 

Did You Ever See A Horse Go By? 
A Coming Out Memoir
Copyright 2013 Frank DeFrancesco

 Peter, to whom the following letter is addressed, died, like too many others I’ve known, of complications of AIDS. I had never finished composing the letter to him in 1987 and so it was never sent. Here, many years later, I’ve added a few thoughts by way of a preface.
1987:   Dear Peter,
            We had talked about writing, about our need to capture in words the experiences and feelings, the joys and foibles of that mysterious process-event we call “coming out.” While I’m not sure the world really needs another “coming out story”, I feel deeply the need to tell it.            
            I write better knowing I am writing for an audience, so I hope you will be both my audience and my critic, as you are close to the experience yourself and of course you are intelligent, sophisticated and articulate. I will appreciate your feedback.
            We are, both of us, owning our true selves as adults rather than as teens or young men; it has brought us on a mid-life adventure to an exotic foreign land filled with marvelous sights and people and things to do and learn and discover. Learning to get around in this new country is at times exciting, joyful and deeply satisfying and at times dangerous, painful, sobering and even sad. I’ve shed more tears for love lost than I would have liked or even imagined.
            What we are experiencing is adolescence. It’s not particularly easy to be a responsible grown up and to be going through adolescence at the same time. But in some respect, I find that my grown-up life of work and service in the health field is less charged with importance than is the challenge of my adolescent life: experiencing reciprocal erotic love for the first time, along with the drama and jealousies and heartbreaks, not to mention the insecurities around being attractive or desirable. But being out is certainly better than the alternatives – remaining terrified of the dark but too afraid to open the closet door, or living a lonely desperate life or, godforbid, suicide.
             Peter, It is now 2013. I am nobody. I am old – or nearly old as life journeys go. My life, in the grand scheme of things, is irrelevant. So why should my story – my experiences beginning more than half a century ago – matter to anyone? Why should I bother to write down these snippets of my life?
            The answer to that last question is: I had to write this account, even if no one ever reads it, because I am compelled to do so in the same way as I was compelled to come out; it’s a matter of survival. Because, if am to live any semblance of an authentic life I must come out unreservedly and often; because coming out is never only an event – it is a continuous process and one that challenges me daily.
            The woman who cuts my hair insists on making small talk and asks about my wife. How do I respond?
            At the auto repair shop, I tell the service tech, “if there’s a problem, call Lee (who is not yet my spouse), my, uh, friend? partner? significant other?”
            Lee and I are holding hands on a deserted beach at sunset as someone approaches in the distance. Do I let go of his hand or not?
            A close relative introduces Lee as my “friend”; do I make some awkward correction and call him my husband even though we are not yet married?
            Am I afraid to offend the likes of all the Ann Bancrofts in the world with constant gay references, “You haven’t spoken one sentence since I got here,” Ma Beckoff indignantly scolded Harvey Fierstein’s Arnold in Torch Song Trilogy, “without the word gay in it.”
            I am challenged daily to come out, again and again and again, because there still exist subtle and pervasive societal and cultural norms that are intended to force us back into our closets; the veiled but insidious beliefs, behaviors, words, and hatred still go largely unchallenged, even as things appear to be changing.
             I am challenged to come out again and again and again, because of the hate and vitriol and rage that seem to have escalated in direct proportion to the numbers of courageous LGBT individuals who refuse to be silent and invisible and in response to our coming ever closer to achieving equal rights.
            I am challenged to come out again and again and again, because too many gay kids still choose suicide as their only option to escape bullying and familial rejection; because some lawmakers still introduce bills that would effectively deny rights and liberty to LGBT folk; because some religions still wave signs declaring that “God hates fags” while others, not so obvious, use more polite and educated language to condemn and vilify us.
            My “coming out” was not only a matter of self-preservation, it was and continues to be, a uniquely liberating, transformational, spiritual and healing life experience. I do believe that “coming out” is the only antidote to the poison of societal oppression that tries to deceive us into believing that the closet is the safest place to be, that the closet will ultimately protect us from the world, from ourselves and from eternal damnation.
            The closet’s false security is ultimately suffocating and fatal to one’s emotional and psychological integrity, if not to one’s physical existence. The closet is built on more or less equal parts fear, guilt and societal and ecclesial condemnation – a formula for what is called internalized homophobia. The closet derives power from that internalized homophobia, from our internal conflicts and fears: the phony conflict between good and evil; the fears of rejection, reprisals, and violence; a mythologized Last Judgment and ungodly wrath.
            Yet we persist in our coming out as if our lives depended on it. Because they do. Coming out is so vital to our integrity that the impulse to acknowledge and be true to ourselves is, in many respects, not unlike our innate survival instinct.
            The fact that there is such an event that we call “coming out” which is virtually universal to the contemporary homosexual experience suggests that this is not an inconsequential phenomenon. Think about that. Coming out has a reality beyond our individual experience. Our experience of “coming out” is both a unique and a shared experience – one that unites us in some fundamental way.           
            Now, although I am “out” I am still in the process of “coming out.” After all, our gayness is mostly invisible to others. Coming out and being out involves being visible – when we look in the mirror and when others see us. Sometimes, to be visible, we have to be “in their face.” Sometimes we need to tell our stories, each of us, story after story, after story, until they “get it.” Because “they” are still trying to define “us”, tell us who they think we are, tell us that we are “objectively disordered” or sinful, or worse.
            Just who are “they” and who do “they” think they are?
            “They” are not only the ignorant and bigoted, but are often otherwise intelligent and sometimes even well meaning individuals. It amazes and frustrates me that our stories – the actual lived experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals – are so summarily ignored, discounted and dismissed. It baffles me that many vocal and influential individuals persist in holding to and disseminating absurd, erroneous and irrelevant opinions about us. This is unacceptable and should no longer be tolerated; “they” can only make their own positions tenable by repeating questionable scriptures, fabricated “studies”, pseudo-science and outright lies, over and over – and by wholly disregarding us and our voices.
            I can only pose a few questions for others to try to answer: What is it about homosexuality and sexual and gender non-conformity that makes it such a lightening rod? What is it so unique about this issue that religious factions condemn it, regressive governments ban it, entire cultures punish it and ordinary people are moved to hatred and violence by it? Why are millions of dollars spent to fight us and to deny us equal protections under the law? Why do “they” think they know more about our sexuality, or us, than we do?
            More to the point, why do they care? Certainly “they” outnumber “us” and we’ve always been an easy target. Does their inability to save our souls or change us, or to limit our freedom somehow make them inadequate or fearful? What is in it for “them” that they so persist?
            I can’t answer these questions. But they underlie my need to tell my story.
            As for the first question at the beginning of this preface – whether my story or experiences matter to you, the reader, or not – is for you to decide. But I do know that the lives and the lived experience of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals are testaments to their truth and perhaps, that is Truth with a capital T; and that their truth will never be silenced. This is my voice, my truth, for what it’s worth.
            For me, the value in telling my story here, beyond being therapeutic, is to preserve a tiny slice of our collective history – to document what it was to be gay in a particular time and place. I want to remember others who were there along with me, creating our lives and defining our sexuality as we went along.
            I had thought of beginning my story like this:
            Perhaps the world does not need another coming out story. But, I suppose it can’t hurt. Coming out at thirty-six has got to be immeasurably better than not coming out at all . . .           
With fondness and love,

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Little Progressive Catholic Thought for a Sunday

Thanks to Colleen at Enlightened Catholicism for this

Jose Arregi: Open Letter to Pope Francis on the Family

The following open letter from Basque theologian José Arregi was published in Spanish on his blog on 11/6/2013. English translation by Rebel Girl.

Copyleft      El Blog di Jose Arregi

Dear Pope Francis:

As everything goes so fast today, the questionnaire on the family that you just sent to the bishops all over the world has already come into our hands -- 38 very specific questions organized into 8 thematic blocks. We understand that we are not just the subjects, but also the ones to whom these questions that affect -- and hurt -- us, even more than the bishops, are addressed. Therefore we are allowing ourselves to answer them directly, because of the affection we have for you and the trust you inspire in us. Thank you, Pope Francis, for asking us about so many uncomfortable issues that have been, and still are, taboo. And thanks for listening to us, for receiving our voices speaking from the soul, with their certainties and doubts.

1. Whether the teachings of Sacred Scripture and the hierarchical Magisterium on sexuality, marriage, and the family are known and accepted among the faithful.

Perhaps they're not well known, and certainly they are poorly accepted or simply ignored. We note that in recent decades the gap, or rather the rupture, between official doctrine and the feelings of a wide majority of believers, has grown to a critical degree. It's serious and it grieves us. But we sincerely believe that the reason for the growing break is not the ignorance, much less the irresponsibility of the believers, but rather the hierachy's being locked into patterns from the past. 

Times have changed a lot in a short period in everything that has to do with family, matrimony, and procreation, and with sexuality in general. We know they are delicate subjects, that what is most holy is at stake, that the utmost care is necessary. But you can't care for life by repeating the past. We believe deeply that the Spirit of Life goes on speaking to us from the heart of life, with its joys and sorrows. We believe that the living Ruah cannot be closed in any doctrine, or document, or words of the past, and that it goes on inspiring the feelings of all believers and all men and women today. Nothing should ever remain closed.

Pope Francis, we congratulate you on your willingness to listen again to the voice of the Spirit in the men and women of today, and we dare to ask you to keep speaking words of mercy and encouragement, to not go back to obsolete and meaningless "truths" and "norms". In the name of Life!

2. On the place that the concept of "natural law" in relation to marriage has among believers.

We will tell you simply and frankly: For the great majority of thinkers, scientists, and believers in our society, the concept of "natural law" no longer has any place at all. Yes, the nature that we are has a wondrous order, some marvelous laws, and thanks to them, science is possible. But the supreme law of nature is its capacity for change and novelty. Nature is creative and inventive. The fruits of that creative and inventive capability, of that holy creativity, are all the atoms and molecules, every star and galaxy. All of us living beings, all languages and cultures, all religions are fruits of it. For billions of years to come, infinite new forms yet unknown to us will be the results of it.

Nature is inhabited by the Spirit, by the holy Ruah that blew on the waters in Genesis, that goes on vibrating in the hearts of all beings, in the heart of every atom and particle. The family too has been changing unceasingly, from the first clans to the nuclear family, through the patriarcal family we have known until recently.

Before our very eyes, the model of the family is still changing: families without children, single parent families, families with children of different fathers and mothers...And it will go on changing, we don't know how. It's all very delicate. There's a lot of pain. We ask the Church not to speak ill of the new forms of family, since they already have enough living day to day and getting ahead amid the greater threats that come to us from a cruel, inhumane economic system. It's not the Church's job to dictate but, first of all, to provide accompaniment, relief, and encouragement, as you yourself have said.

3. On how faith, spirituality, and the Gospel are lived out and transmitted in families

A crucial question. Yes, we note with sorrow that families have stopped being "domestic churches" where there is prayer and where the good news of Jesus is nurtured, felt, and transmitted. But we don't believe it's fair to blame the families for this. The crisis in religion and the transmission of faith in the family has to do in the first place with the deep cultural transformation we are going through. And a big challenge not only or perhaps primarily for the families themselves, but for the church institution itself, is accepting the new spiritual keys and religious forms that the Spirit is inspiring in the men and women of today. 

4. On how the Church ought to face certain "difficult marital situations" (couples who live together without getting married, "common law marriages", divorced and remarried people,...).

Thanks again, Pope Francis, just for wanting to raise these questions again! Thanks for wanting to listen to us and for showing mercy through your questions! You know well the complex and changing history of "the Sacrament of Matrimony" since the beginning of the Church. The history has been quite variable and will go on being so. Look, for example, at what is happening among us, in this ultra-modern Europe. Our young people have neither the houses nor the economic means to get married and live with their partners until their 30s in the best of cases. How can the Church ask them to abstain from sexual relations until that age?

The forms change, but we believe that the criterion is very simple and that Jesus would agree: "Where there's love, there's a sacrament, whether the couple get married or not, and where there's no love, there's no sacrament, however canonically married they may be." Everything else is extra. And if the couple is having difficulties, as happens so often, only God will help them solve their difficulties and love each other again, and only God will help them separate peacefully, if they can't solve their problems and go back to loving one another.

Eliminate, then, we beseech you, the canonical impediments so that those who have failed in their marriages can remake their lives with another love. Let the Church not go on adding more pain to their pain. And let it in no way prevent them from sharing the Bread of comfort at Jesus' table, because Jesus did not impede anybody.

5. On same-sex unions.

The harm caused by the Church to homosexuals is huge, and someday it will have to ask their forgiveness. Let's hope that Pope Francis, in the name of the Church, will ask forgiveness for so much shame, contempt, and feelings of guilt that have been laid on them over the centuries.

The vast majority of men and women in our society today can't understand this obsession, this hostility. How can they go on saying that homosexual love isn't natural, being that it has been so common and natural, for biological and psychological reasons, among so many men and women of all times and on all continents, and in so many other animal species?

In this case, as in many others, the Church should go first, but society precedes us. We celebrate that there are increasingly more countries that recognize that persons of the same sex have the same right as persons of the opposite sex to form unions. What prevents us from calling them "marriages"? Aren't heterosexual unions that, for whatever reason, aren't going to have children called that too? So, let the dictionaries and canon law change to conform to the times and meet the needs of the people.

And what is stopping us from calling homosexual marriage a sacrament? It's love that makes us human and makes us divine. It's love that makes the sacrament. And everything else is gloss and human tradition.

6. On the education of children in irregular marital situations.

We believe that this language -- regular, irregular -- is inaccurate, even harmful. It's harmful to a child to hear that he has been born into or lives within an "irregular" marriage or family. And it hurts their parents, whoever they be. What hurts is not being an exception, but being censured for being an exception. Moreover, we all know that it is sufficient for the cases to multiply for the exception to become the norm. In any case, the Church is not here to define what is regular and what is irregular, but to accompany, encourage, and support each person as they are, where they are.

7. On the openness of spouses to life.

Fortunately, there are very few among us believers under 60 who have heard ofHumanae Vitae, that encyclical by Paul VI (1968) that declared it a mortal sin to use any "unnatural" contraceptive method, any method other than abstinence or adjusting to the female fertility cycle. But it made almost all our parents suffer a lot. That doctrine, adopted against the advice of much of the episcopate, was unfortunate in its time and it is no less regrettable that it is still maintained today.

Today no one understands it and almost nobody complies with it among Catholics themselves. And few priests or bishops dare to lay it out these days. It no longer makes sense to state that sex has to be open to reproduction. It no longer makes sense to distinguish between natural and artificial methods, much less to condemn a method for being "artificial", since for the same reason one would have to condemn any vaccination or injection.

Nowadays we are witnessing a momentous change in everything that has to do with sexuality and reproduction: for the first time after many millennia, sex is no longer necessary for reproduction. It is a technological change that brings with it an anthropological change and requires a new moral paradigm. Sexuality and life remain as sacred as ever and it is necessary to care for them with utmost delicacy. But the criteria and standards of Humanae Vitae don't help in this, but rather make it harder. Let the words of the Church be light and comfort, like the Spirit of God, as Jesus' words were in his time and would also be in ours.

8. On the relationship between the family, the individual and the encounter with Jesus

We believe that Jesus comes out to meet us on all paths, in every situation. In whatever model of family, in any family situation. We believe that Jesus doesn't distinguish between regular and irregular families, but tends to each situation, with its grace and its woundedness. We believe that being closed in on ourselves (our ideas and norms, our fears and shadows) is the only thing that separates us from others and from God. And we believe that humility, clarity, and trust bring us closer each day to others and open us every day to the Presence of the Living One, being where we are and being as we are. And we believe that a Church that would proclaim this, like Jesus, would be a blessing to humankind in all its situations.


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