25 March 2013

Book Review: Family Pride

Michael Shelton is a therapist/counselor who works with LGBT populations in Philadelphia. The purpose of this book was to provide LGBT families with what they should know about "navigating home, school and safety in their neighborhoods."

I frankly don't know what it was I expected from this book. From its back cover, it says that it "is the first book for queer parents, their families, and allies that emphasize community safety... Michael Shelton offers concrete strategies that LGBT families can use to intervene in and resolve difficult community issues, teach their children resiliency skills, and find safe and respectful programs for them."

That sums up about 5 pages of the book. The rest of the book is really a narrative, case study account of families headed by LGBT persons and same-sex partners. I felt the book was much more a book about LGBT families than a book for LGBT families. That may be overly critical as just knowing that other people exist somewhere that share similar problems and respond to them in many different ways, may be what many LGBT families need.

Of course, I also live in a parallel universe that differs entirely from what he describes of both the LGBT community and the LGBT families so its quite possible this book is exactly what parents need. In some respects, I felt torn particularly by how a family navigates issues related to intolerant families. I guess I'm such a conflict avoidant person, I would not sign my child up to participate in an organized sport or similar type group, if my child or I were to be tormented by bigoted, parochial people.

I myself don't see the value in subjecting myself or my child to that, unless, of course, my child has an objective, personal psychological need to enter into such a suffering type situation to learn something about him- or herself. But even then I might hesitate. This then presents a conundrum. Although I live in a reality where my sexuality is not a predominating factor in my identity (although I am open about my sexuality) and I don't feel animus towards me because of my sexuality, but is that experience shared by my children?

It was this thought conundrum that made me wonder during the reading of this book while I learned more about the experiences of LGBT families in the US.

The version I read was a 320 paperback published by Beacon Press  (January 15, 2013), ISBN-13: 978-0807001974. It is written in English. The lowest price I found online was used at abebooks.com and amazon.com.

08 March 2013

Movie Review: Beauty

This movie kept popping up here and there for me to watch. It has gripping and stunning cinematography, which for me is like a mouse to a Palawan Pitcher plant. So beautiful to the senses until you slip and fall into its acidic digestion apparatus.

The movie is slow to start and the use of both English and Afrikaans (or kitchen Dutch) was a bit confusing and hard to follow -- the subtitles didn't help. We meet François who is a successful white South African who lives in an emotionally distant marriage, is racist and homophobic, and enjoys regular but occasional sexual encounters with a group of married men that have as their group's motto: "no faggots, no coloureds". The sex that he has with his partner in this club setting is dissociated and jarring to say the least and his involvement with it is equally dissociative.

As we learn in the beginning, François happens to come upon his friend's son, Christian. It is not entirely clear if Christian is gay. If it was clear, I didn't get the translation. But Christian studying in English school, has a posh kind of accent, hugs at least one "coloured" man at school and hangs out with his daughter.

François starts to obsess about Christian and stalks him. Some of his information gathering techniques are quite awkward and clunky and because he hides his homosexuality so well, it goes mostly unnoticed or ignored -- like when he asks Christians father for his mobile number. Yikes!

Charlie Keegan as Christian

The director and screenwriter purposefully hide key elements of François' personality from us until somehow François gets Christian alone in a hotel room and they start drinking. 

I won't ruin the end of the movie for you because its a triple shocker. So if you want to enjoy the movie in all its psychological suspense, read no further until after you've watched the film.

The hotel scene was a bit jarring. In part because François makes a pass at Christian who brushes it off. Christian has asked for François confidence and confidential assistance, to which François has said yes. That is the reason for Christian being in François' hotel room. Yet, even after some alcohol, François' attempt to kiss Christian is rejected but brushed off. Christian makes a nervous laugher. François attempts again more aggressively and before Christian can get up to leave or do anything else. François has him pinned to the bed where he struggles madly to get François off him. Instead, François punches him repeatedly in the face and chokes him. Finally, with bloodied face, François unzips and forces his penis down Christian's bloody mouth as Christian has gone into a deadened, shock state. François rapes Christian who, as the camera lingers as it did with François' stalking scenes, Christian trembles in tears as he slowly gathers himself.

The movie continues for a substantial amount of time (maybe 20 minutes or so). And in that time, we do not know what if anything Christian has done to remedy this rape. It was hard to stomach the rape scene and ending the movie without resolution or anything further about Christian made me somewhat angry. But by this point, like the mouse who slips into the Palawan Pitcher plant, it was too late. I was already being digested by the beast.

The cinematography was beautiful and was likely key to delivering the emotional tone and psychological matrix within which this story could be successfully told. That being said, the (in my mind) unresolved rape scene makes this a view discretion is advised film.

04 March 2013

Movie Review: North Sea Texas

I have no idea how I came upon these European films. But recently, I watched North Sea Texas which is a Flemish film about growing up gay in the 1970s Low Countries. We follow Pim who is gay and/or transgendered. He lives with his single mother Yvette who plays the accordion in a local pub. Yvette dates Etienne for a while and then a former Roma boarder named Zoltan returns.

Meanwhile, Pim is in love with his neighbor Gino who lives with his single mother and sister nearby. They have known each other since they were children but as teenagers, hormones fly and they enter into a very tender clandestine sexual relationship. All is well until Gino starts dating Francoise who lives in Flemish France. Pim doesn't learn about this from Gino but from Gino's sickly mother. Somehow Yvette and Pim have a falling out of some sort after he suffers from a psychosomatic illness related to Gino leaving Belgium for Flemish France. Pim moves in with Gino's mother and sister but then Gino's mother takes a turn for the worst.

Gino and Pim rolling about the fields of Flanders

One of the nice things about this movie has to do with that figure in our lives who is supposedly straight until he jumps in bed with us and then less in touch with his own emotions and identity takes his ambivalence and anxiety out on us. Many of these coming of age films fail to give this character any nuance, making those film really about the victimhood and survivorship of the young gay teen. This interferes with that popular narrative by looking at the troubled sexualities of more than the main character. Pim is definitely the sympathetic gay teen in the movie, but he isn't a victim. Gino is given some depth and we are drawn into the grit of the human emotional experience. And then we get the dramatic twist ending.

03 March 2013

Movie Review: The Stranger in Us

This is one of the movies where you wonder who is to blame, the casting director or the make-up artists. Ralph Barker is overall a very good actor but there was something about his look that made it hard to really hook into the narrative.

Now this movie reminded me of that time in my life where I dated someone who was abusive, violent and constantly unfaithful. It was a relatively short period of time fortunately and it has allowed me to get insight into how otherwise reasonable people end up in emotionally destructive, abusive relationships and find it difficult to leave (when economic circumstances are no restraint) -- more about that in a moment.

Gavin Introducing Anthony to His Adolescence

The movie is about an aspiring writer named Anthony (Ralph Barker) who relocates to San Francisco to be with his boyfriend, Stephen. Stephen begins to open up on how abusive, controlling and possessive he really was. Anthony, though, struggles with whether to separate from Stephen. Anthony who is desperate for intimacy and human friendship befriends punchdrunk homeless gay teen husler Gavin (Adam David). Gavin provides a stark contrast to Stephen in almost every way and the instability in Gavin's life infects Stephen's as he ponders whether there is a life beyond an abusive relationship.

This movie got me thinking about two different times in my life. One was when I was like a punchdrunk homeless gay teen and the other was being in an abusive relationship. It ended and I can only say how fortunate I am that I have been able to dismantle and/or make peace with the emotional framework that was conducive to that kind of relationship. An abusive relationship is very much the consequence of something I would liken to an addiction. It is not the abuse that is addictive, in the same way that someone who is an alcoholic is not addicted to the vomiting or the black outs.

A couple in an abusive relationship watching this movie would likely become extremely uncomfortable as the scenes of domestic violence begin to populate the screen. I also don't know that this is really a date movie. But, the writing and acting are well done and so it certainly is something not to miss.

01 March 2013

Now, Ever After

the calculus of a complex, the instantaneous

i wonder, at that crucial moment,

will it be me as the disoriented and crazed passenger
who resists the call to blind obedience to authority?

will it be me as one of the anxious and nervous passengers
who involuntarily laugh at the inner crisis unfolding?

will it be me as one to clap when the authorities have removed
the apparent source of my anxiety?
who here will live happily ever after?

Challenge XI: Happily Ever After
 ןıuǝ oɟ ɟןıƃɥʇ 
Orange Wit
Spiral Prince
leader of opposition