Thursday, May 29, 2014

We Don’t Need to Know Everything About a Celebrity!

Theatre critic Robert Hofler’s critique of Lincoln Center’s Winter 2014 issue’s lack of mention of playwright Moss Hart’s supposed homosexuality or bisexuality can be read in The’s “Op-Ed: Moss Hart and Posthumous Closeting.”  Hart’s only book, a memoir Act One, written in 1959, and revived at Lincoln Center now, does not delve into the theatre director and playwright’s sex life nor does the Lincoln Center booklet.

Was He or Wasn’t He?

Apparently those in the entertainment business speculated that Hart was gay.  (His writing partner George S. Kaufman was not). Hart may have been gay.  His children, Christine and Christopher, whose mother was the singer and television star Kitty Carlisle Hart, said their father suffered from bouts of depression.  It is said that Kitty asked her husband, amid rumors, if he were homosexual and he denied it. However, after Steven Bach’s biography of Hart was published, forty years after Hart’s death, Kitty, fearing reporters, kept Moss’s archives and secrets under lock and key.

Only His Shrink Knew For Sure?

It is also said that Hart frequently visited a notable psychiatrist famous for treating homosexuals such as Tennessee Wiliiams.  Although you could slant these facts to make a case for Hart’s gay orientation, I take exception for Hofler’s rationale for finding within the book and play the clues that he perceives to be conclusive to Hart’s sexual identity.

Hofler’s Trial Proofs Don’t Conclude

To me, Hofler’s reasoning smacks of gay stereotypes.  I sat through the play and did not come away with any conclusions about Hart’s sexual orientation, nor did I care.  Hofler, author of The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson, writes in The that there are three obvious clues: Hart’s love of the theatre, his disinterest in girls and his non-athletic nature.

·      Hart loved the theatre.  So what?  I know gay men who don’t go to the theatre.  Living in the Bronx, poor, with boarders who pay rent, a drunken British father, a drudge of a Mother, the only role model he liked in the house was his Aunt Katherine who was a theatre devotee.  No wonder he wanted to be transported by the theatre to another time and place.

·      Hart was not athletic.  He described himself in the book as “the non-athletic boy, the youngster who liked to read.”  He also had friends who were athletic in the play.  You don’t have to be athletic not to be gay.  Think Michael Sams.

·      Hart was not interested in girls even though he was in his twenties. He also was dirt poor and would not have had the money to date.  He was expected to work and had to drop out of school where he would have met girls. He had a single-minded vision to succeed in show business.

·      Times were different then. One week after Hofler’s article came out, Cameron Diaz announced she had “slept with a woman.”   For Hart to come out in the 1930’s when he was riding the crest of popularity with Kaufman for “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and “You Can’t Take It With You,” would have been foolish.  He would have been blacklisted even before the McCarthy era.

Who Knows?

Bisexual, asexual, homosexual. Who cares?  In any case, what we do know is that Hart was an ambitious protege whose play Act One still draws crowds that included me.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Unsung Heroes

This Memorial Day, let us be mindful of not only the WWII and Korean veterans who fought in so-called “acceptable” wars, but also those of the unpopular wars that followed.  My husband, a Vietnam War veteran, returned home, with a purple heart, in 1968 to his country that was at war with itself over whether it should even have a presence in South Vietnam.  Like him, returning vets from that war were greeted with indifference, not parades, and in the eyes of some, were regarded as enemies of the United States.

I salute all the men and women who was “dishonorably discharged” before the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2010 for no other reason than they were homosexual.  I am sorry for those dismissed for being who they are and unfairly perceived as threats to others in the ranks.

For those who have returned from war in Afghanistan with post traumatic stress disorder, are frequent visitors to mental health clinics, contemplate suicide daily, I wish more could be done to ameliorate your plight. 
We all pay a price for war, either psychological or physical.  For all those who died or are maimed, or currently serving in the Armed Forces, I thank you for your service.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Are Your LGBT Children Mentally Healthy?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

As a parent, no one knows your kid better than you.  You see him/her daily so it’s easy to notice personality or physical changes. Sure, teens can be moody; it’s o.k. to feel sad once in awhile, but a lingering sadness can spell D-E-P-R-E-S-S-I-O-N.

We’ve all read about the signs of depression: listlessness, loss of appetite, inability to enjoy activities, sleeplessness.  Studies show that LGBT children are more at risk for depression. Did you know that:
  • ·      37% of gay, 13-18 year-olds have attempted suicide as a result of bullying.
  • ·      San Francisco State University Chavez Center Institute has found that LGBTQ youth who come from a rejecting family are up to nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.
  • ·      Studies show that large numbers of gay-identified boys and girls do not feel safe at school, are often threatened or injured, and often stay home for fear of injury.
  • ·      The Urban Institute’s September 2013 survey found that 43 percent of LGBT teens in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania reported being victims of physical dating violence compared to 29% of heterosexual youth.
  • ·      Gay and transgender youth make up 40% of the homeless youth populations.
  • ·      In a Pediatrics study, LGB youth were up to 3 x more likely to have experienced school expulsions, police stops, juvenile arrests, and adult convictions that heterosexual teens.
  • ·      Recent study of Harvard researchers reported heightened rates of binge-eating among both GLB or “mostly heterosexual” youth.

Parental Rejecting Behaviors Main Cause of Problematic Behavior

Be your child’s main straight ally.  There is a clear association between parental non-acceptance and your child’s mental and physical health.  Your acceptance of your child’s LGBT identity makes all the difference in your child’s outlook.  Miserable and isolated or positive and healthy?  You have a big influence in the outcome.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

You Gotta’ Have Heart

Conditional Love Common

Sometimes it’s hard for a Mother to love her kids unconditionally. Kids act up.  They fight with their siblings, beg for another glass of water so they don’t have to go to bed, leave pizza crust in the sofa just to name a few transgressions. To a parent, they are disrespectful when in fact they are just kids. 
It may feel as if God forbid they should appreciate you!  In short, they disappoint and don’t live up to your expectations!

However, as the mother of a LGBT child, you cannot afford to love conditionally when they come out.  Sure, you may be disappointed when you’re told that your child is not entirely whom you thought he was, that he doesn’t follow the script you’ve had for him – that he’d marry someone of the opposite sex, give you grandchildren, and perhaps settle into the same career as his father. This is a common feeling. You may also experience guilt and think what have I done to make my child gay?  Or maybe you are ashamed at your family now being “different?” Are you starting to worry already about your gay child’s future?  Will he be picked on?  Fired from a job just because of his sexual orientation?

These common rebuttals do not endear you to him and can seriously jeopardize your relationship.
·      “You couldn’t be! No son or daughter of mine could be gay!”
·      “It’s just a phase! You’ll grow out of it!”
·      “You’re too young to know! “

Another Perspective

Or you could be in awe of your child’s self-confidence, self-awareness at such a young age, and be  proud of his decision to come out to you.  It is flattering for a child to entrust such an important part of his/her self with you.  As he has probably thought about what and when he was going to tell you, give him the courtesy of a hug and an audience. 

LGBT Kids Need Unconditional Love

Your child is looking for unconditional love.  He needs your unwavering support as he tries to navigate school where bullying takes place, friendships that may change due to his orientation, and a community and/or church which may not embrace him. 
Your home should be a haven for him/her from all these road blocks. Studies have shown that LGBT kids usually come out to their mothers first.  So, you set the tone.  Put yourself in your child’s shoes and think how they want to be treated.  This is one instance where your child knows more than you and you need to follow his lead.  


Sunday, May 4, 2014

“Mothers and Sons” Offers Optimism About Gay Civil Rights

When in Manhattan two weeks ago, I had the good fortune to see “Mothers and Sons,” author Terrence McNally’s sixteenth work.  It is a brave play that, for the first time, examines same-sex marriage from the perspective of three generations.

It’s a four-character play headed by Tyne Daly who has played domineering women such as Maria Callas in Master Class and Gypsy Rose Lee’s “stage mother” in Gypsy.  In this play, Daly plays Katharine Gerard, an embittered matron who has lost her son Andre to the scourge of the 80’s, Aids, and, more recently,  her husband in their loveless marriage.

Katharine’s Motives?

Under the guise of dropping in to drop off her son’s journal to his former lover, Cal Porter, whom Katherine hasn’t spoken to since the memorial for Andre in 1994, this Dallas matron is reluctant to take off her fur coat (which she is quick to announce is second-hand.). She says she is visiting Manhattan en route to Europe.

Cal is gracious, offering Katherine food and drink, but clearly doesn’t like her. This is not “Tea and Sympathy.” Katharine avoided her son when he lived with Cal in Manhattan  due to homophobia.  She not only hasn’t been in touch with Cal,  but didn’t hug him the day of her son’s service. Cal, who lives in a well-appointed Central Park West apartment paid for with his money manager salary, still holds a box of photographs of Andre, as well as a poster of him as a Shakespearean actor. 

Katharine takes a few of Andre’s photographs offered to her, but criticizes Cal for giving HIV to her beloved Andre. She believes that if Andre hadn’t loved Cal, he would have been straight and wouldn’t have died. Cal defends himself and tells Katharine that Andre was unfaithful to him, but that he took care of Andre to the end of his life: “it wasn’t even a possibility – relationships like mine and Andre’s weren’t supposed to last.  We didn’t deserve the dignity of marriage.  Maybe that’s why Aids happened.” 

Cal’s Evolved, More So Than Obama

Cal has moved on and has seen enough evolving in the gay rights movement to where he can call his same-sex lover his “husband,” not “partner” as in a law firm, or” boyfriend” as in a teenager. (There is a hilarious discussion about the right term for one’s spouse in the play).

The quips turn to banter as Katherine waits for Cal’s husband Will Ogden played by Bobby Steggert to return to the apartment with their spunky six year-old child, Bud Ogden-Porter played by Grayson Taylor. Bud ingratiates himself  to Katherine with Oreos, milk, and sweet affection.

Will’s Generation More Accepting

Will, a writer and “Mr. Mom,” hasn’t experienced the devastation wrought by AIDS.  His generation, fifteen years younger than Cal’s, knows that anti-retroviral cocktails can prolong an AIDS-afflicted life unlike the death sentences that Andre knew.  Cal is afraid that Will’s  generation has become so complacent with HIV that “first it will be a chapter in a history book, then a paragraph, then a footnote.  It’s already started to happen.”

The Elephant In The Room
The elephant in the room is clearly Andre, symbol of Katharine’s bitterness, Cal’s loss or metaphorically, redemption and forgiveness.  McNally’s hope in gay marriage is witnessed by Katharine who is amazed at the familiarity that Cal and Will have with each other, and the devotion that is displayed to their son. They are equals in their relationships and happy.

By the end of the play, Katherine lets her guard down, keeps her coat in the closet, hugs Cal, and acts grandmotherly to Bud.  You get the feeling she is forgiven and is redeemed.

Optimistic Piece

McNally’s tour de force has optimism.  In a same-sex marriage himself, this author of Love! Valour! Compassion (95) and a former Texan who fled to New York via Columbia University,  has couched his message with humor, giving Daly the best lines.

Tone Different in Kramer’s Play

The other gay playwright Larry Kramer doesn’t inject much humor in his plays, but vitriol, yes.  His play The Normal Heart is being adapted for HBO.  The play was revived in 2011, the same year that New York State legalized gay marriage.

It was an unflinching piece about the 1980’s AIDS crisis in New York, pointing fingers at President Reagan’s government for not paying attention to the plague, and for community organizations  not doing enough for fear of outing its members. Kramer constantly “hits you over the head with his message.”

 Kramer is an angry activist, still doing work with ACT UP.  Although McNally, now 75, indirectly writes about AIDS, he is less combative.  With McNally’s superb writing, the elephant in the room seems more like a tamed dog.