book uptopia mom

Obama Picks Gays for Olympics; Coming Out to Rejection: Jonathan Allen

Coming Out to Rejection: Jonathan Allen

I’ll never forget one book review I had for An Officer and His Gentleman about four or five years ago where the book reviewer mocked the main character’s choices and slammed him for not changing his circumstances. Chance, the main character of that book, was thrown out of his home when he told his parents he was gay and had no other choice but to live with a mean old man who made him walk around naked all the time. What shocked me most about the review was that some people think this sort of thing doesn’t happen to younger gay men anymore. As if we all live in places like San Francisco and everyone welcomes it with open arms when their kids come out of the closet. But that’s not the case. And I haven’t read anything more definitive of this than the article to which I’m linking right now. Jonathan Allen, a finalist in America’s Got Talent, came out and his ultra-conservative family kicked him out of their home.

Allen came out to his conservative parents and was kicked out of their home but, thankfully for us, he’s since persevered with one of his natural gifts intact – his voice. Allen was a semi-finalist this past summer on NBC’s competition series America’s Got Talent where he shared his story and blew away the judges – Howard Stern, Heidi Klum, Mel B and Howie Mandel – with not only his commanding voice but also his self-effacing wit and natural charm.

He looks like a great kid. You can read more here. I find the story even more interesting because my character in An Officer and His Gentleman also wound up being a contestant on a reality cooking show in the book, and he depended on his best talent to get him through the worst of times…in his case it was cooking.

The review I’m talking about that slammed the Chance character can be read here. I’m glad the book reviewer left it up because I like having this point of reference when I’m writing posts like this. This is a quote from the review:

I had hoped from reading the blurb and excerpt that it would end up being quirky instead, but Dan treats Chance so abysmally, it might as well be abuse.And the problem is, Chance takes it.This was one of my biggest stumbling blocks in the entire set-up.Chance is an incredibly talented cook.He’s young.He’s reasonably bright.He’s a hard worker.How am I expected to believe this is his only alternative?

As a gay man I failed to understand there would be people who don’t realize these things still happen, or that I would be questioned as a gay man for knowing more about the gay community from personal circumstances than someone who is straight. It’s not good enough to show these awful things happen. You need to tell them, in detail, sometimes that we all don’t live in the loving accepting, cliched world of Modern Family. I wouldn’t mind the review at all if the reviewer were to have put up a disclaimer stating she’s not gay. You can’t fault people for not knowing something. However, I wouldn’t question Toni Morrison or her experience as an African American in African American culture and I don’t like being questioned as a gay man in gay culture. But what do I know?

Obama Picks Gays for Olympics

After an aggressive effort on the part of gay rights groups urging the President to include prominent athletes from the LGBT community in a delegation representing the US at the Russian Olympics this winter, Obama has chosen some impressive names making a clear statement to Russia. Billie Jean King will be part of this delegation at the opening ceremonies.

White House spokesman Shin Inouye said that the delegation “represents the diversity that is the United States” and that Obama was proud to cheer America’s athletes on at the 2014 Olympic Games.

“He knows they will showcase to the world the best of America — diversity, determination and teamwork,” Inouye said.
 
 
Frankly, after hearing the most recent statement by an actor in Russia who wants to burn gays alive in ovens, I’m still for boycotting completely. I wish I were more of an optimist and that I had the faith some people have. But I don’t think anything we do or say in Russia at this point is going to change how they think. Sometimes you just have to order them to “take down that wall,” so to speak. We need strong leaders for this, not mediators who can give good speeches.
 
But it should be interesting to watch, and even more interesting to see how Russia treats gays this time next year. I don’t have much hope from what I’ve seen so far. History always repeats itself.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Matt Bomer Discusses Growing Up In the Closet…

Are kids gay? Do they realize they are gay at a young age? In yesterday’s post I talked about how people get horny at weddings, which is not at all related to Matt Bomer discussing how he grew up in the closet. But there is a small connection between this post and yesterdays wedding post I think is important to talk about that deals with gay kids, the way they hide it, and the topic of bullying. And how gay men like me, as adults, are often targeted in ways most people wouldn’t even expect.

I’m one of those people who can listen to six conversations at one time and absorb what everyone is saying without missing a word. As a writer, I’ve learned to observe people…their actions, their expressions, and even the tones in their voices. And weddings are great places to sit back and watch how people behave and react.

There are always a few kids at weddings. At the one I went to on Sunday there were about six or seven that ranged in ages from six years old to fourteen years old. I immediately focused in on one kid from the bride’s side I didn’t know anything about. He must have been around ten or eleven years old. He was wearing a small black straw hat, tilted to the side, and he stood out from the other kids without having to even try hard at it. As noticed him throughout the evening, I quietly watched how friendly he got with another boy who was probably about twelve. I even mentioned it to Tony, and then to my sister, and we all exchanged a glance. At one point, those two boys were having such a good time with each other I was sure they were going to dance together. I was hoping they would. They acted as if there was no one else in the room except them.

Were they both gay? I couldn’t say for certain. But I would bet they were because I rarely see two boys look at each other they way they were. They never actually danced with each other, and they maintained that invisible line all young gay people learn how to draw and they never crossed it. But they way they looked at each other, and the way they seemed so into each other was fascinating to watch. And a little sad, too. Both kids come from families where they have gay relatives like Tony and me, and yet they were still terrified to actually show how they felt about each other.

And that’s because gay kids still don’t talk about being gay, at least not most. I never did and I knew it at three years old. Thankfully, Matt Bomer talked about it recently and what he said backs up anything I could say in this post about how gay kids hide who they are, and about how they grow up with a set of extra baggage straight kids don’t have to deal with. I hate to make Matt Bomer sound like the spokesperson for gay men on topics like this, but so far he’s the only one honest enough who WILL talk about it openly.

“When I was in high school, there was no safe haven, there was no outlet for you to speak your mind. So I did what any self-preserving 14-year-old would do—I signed up for the school play and also the football team to cover my tracks.”

I don’t think there’s a gay man alive who can’t identify with that. I’m sure those two boys at the wedding would know exactly what he’s talking about. I even wrote about a young gay man in “An Officer and his Gentleman,” who was a victim of his circumstances and one reviewer said it wasn’t realistic. I let her get away with it at the time without making a fuss. She obviously didn’t like the book and she had something against my publisher, and I can live with that. But the comment about it not being realistic will bother me until the day I die. I think if she were do to this today, I would confront her in a different way. Why didn’t I confront her with more force at the time? Because I’ve been taught and conditioned as a gay man to keep it quiet, let it go, and pretend it doesn’t exist. In other words, join the school play and the football team to keep everyone else happy. This is a quote from that review:

 He’s reasonably bright. He’s a hard worker. How am I expected to believe this is his only alternative? There’s never enough reason or depth provided to make this situation plausible in the slightest. Its only purpose seems to be to put Chance in the most awful circumstances possible and then show him a man who can save him from all that.

At the time, I didn’t realize I had to go into detailed over-kill back story about a young gay man’s experience. Since then, I’ve had letters from gay men all over the world who could identify with that story. The gay men all got it. I said his family threw him out and that, I thought, was good enough in order to move the story forward. This reviewer asks how she’s supposed to believe this. Well she’s supposed to believe this because I am the gay man writing about a gay character and I know better than she does what it’s like to be the gay man. And that’s as plain and simple as it gets. I don’t see anyone telling Toni Morrison what it’s like to be African-American, so don’t tell gay men what it’s like to be gay.

But I digress. Here’s a comment from the Matt Bomer article I thought was nice:

“You are the example that the rest of our country needs to wake up and see in terms of equality and putting an end to the bullying epidemic and making sure that every family is respected in our schools and our society,” Manganiello, who also reportedly attended college with Bomer, is quoted as saying.

You can read the rest of the article here. There are more interesting links and even a mention about that idiot Bret Easton Ellis. And I’d like to add one more thing. If you see bullying, stop it. Even if it looks like harmless teasing it can be harmful to kids and they don’t even realize it. Things are better now than they were when Matt Bomer and I were growing up, but things still aren’t all that great.