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DSC_0013Boy Erased vs. My Story

Is the book and film “Boy Erased” a realistic picture of what most conversion therapy survivors go through?

Is Boy Erased anything at all like what I experienced in my five years in the “ex-gay” movement?

Why does it upset me when I hear a lot of conversion therapy stories? First off, I don’t want to minimize the stories of others. As “ex-gay survivors”, we all have degrees of trauma, and trauma takes very different forms. Some trauma is based on abusive events, while other situations have more to do with prolonged exposure to unsafe environments and psychological forms of abuse. Some is long term trauma while some is not. Some are aggressive forms of abuse, while some are passive-aggressive like being banished, excommunicated, or ignored.

I watched Boy Erased this last Winter, and just as I thought, it all looked like a picnic in comparison with what I went through. Yeah, I’m bragging. But in all sincerity, I can’t change my story. I live with my past, and I can either keep it a secret, or tell my story. It’s just that my experience is so different from most of the ex-gay stories I hear that I wonder why we lack diversity in this particular part of the greater LGBTQ Community. I also have talked to a lot of ex-gay survivors over the years, many of them suffering in obscurity, and I have become quite critical of these Hollywood type stories that the general public is mostly exposed to. I also admit that there are some stories I hear where survivors endure physical abuse, and even torture; where I can’t relate to anything quite that devastating.

This ranting essay is a list of various differences I noticed after watching the film, and comparing the film not only with my story, but the stories of others. I also like to state the differences between these “media” conversion therapy stories, and the types of stories that I have heard from others who do not get any media exposure at all.

I was given a copy of the Boy Erased book and I said I wouldn’t read it for a few reasons. One, reading books is extremely strenuous for me because of my cognitive disorders. (Maybe also, since I was forced to read so many books at straight camp that I’ve grown an aversion to them as well.) Two, I’ve heard enough stories like this that it gets me grumpy, triggered, and sometimes just overly annoyed. So even if I got an audiobook of it, I still don’t think it would be worth my time, but I probably should try someday. But, saying all that reveals my ignorance of the details of the story (although I did see the deleted scenes!) so a lot of what I am writing about is referring not only to the film, but other “Hollywood” type stories of pretty-young-white-boys, and other stuff that the film industry knows the public wants to see. So if you’re one of those people who talks all the way through Lord of the Rings saying “this scene is better in the book”, you’ll hate my article. If you loved the Boy Erased movie, you’ll probably dislike my article as well.

I’ve written a lot on this subject, and I focus mostly on men. Sorry. That’s mostly what I know about. 

 

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Pivot, Cascade AIDS Project, Portland, Oregon – Ex-gay survivor art show, 2011

 

Here are some differences I’ve noticed:

We Are “Free” To Leave Any Time

Here’s one of the main differences with the Boy Erased story and my experience. I was not held against my will. These kinds of programs are very rare, especially in the United States, and since the activism uproar about Love In Action (and projects like the film, “This Is What Love In Action Looks Like”) I doubt you’d see people getting away with that these days. In all of these programs there was never a lock on my door keeping me inside anywhere. There was never barbed wire or high fences. The fact is: I didn’t have a will of my own. My will was violated because of strategies they put in place in advance that would have brought my life to ruin, even financially. My particular situation made this more intense than others because I didn’t have a reasonable support system anywhere for me, or an adequate source of income aside from being in debt as well. There was also a lot of brainwashing and “gaslighting” tactics that held me captive.

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Portland Q Center, “They Called It Mercy” multimedia presentation, 2015

Most of the stories I hear are from young people that to some degree think they want to change, but most of these men don’t seem to have a very fanatic devoted type motivation behind their efforts. It seems to be more motivated out of trying to please their religious parents and trying to maintain their status in their community. It’s so scary for a young person to be an outcast, and that fear can be a major motivator, no matter what their personal level of devotion is.

One of the things that upset me most about the film was how lucky that boy was to have someone advocate for him. I had nobody. My family was either weirdly passive, or overly aggressive; but nobody tried anything to find me a safe place to go to and I remained stuck there. My old church community back in the Northwest basically gave up on me and I didn’t have nearly enough support to depend on. I became vulnerable to con artists and abusive relationships.

My straight camp had a cruel set of protocols set in place for anyone trying to leave the program. It was very cult-like and it’s disturbing to talk about. There were so many reasons why I stayed in the program no matter how abusive it was. Even if my family rescued me from there, I wouldn’t have felt much safer with any of them, especially because of my difference in beliefs. Some of the things that would happen to those leaving the program was losing personal belongings, but that didn’t happen to everyone who left against orders – they held onto a lot of your money that is meant to help the student after he graduates. The main motivators is what they tell the other students to do to them if they plan on leaving. It was creepy, and really scared me.

There’s a psychological phenomenon about “loving your abuser”. It is a basis for a lot of long term abusive romantic relationships and cults. The abuser brainwashes the victim to believing that they belong with the abuser, that it’s the only source of love, acceptance, and safety. They got a hold of my head and in addition they got a hold of my heart. They didn’t have to lock me in. I was trapped against my will because I really didn’t have my will. They got into my head so much to the point where I was still defending the organization nearly three years after I graduated from the program.

Punishment and Humiliation

The “straight camp” I attended punished their subjects, often without reasonable explanation. Punishments included forced labor on the weekends, sometimes in harsh environments. Extra assignments, sleep depravation (as a result) were also used to punish what they thought was bad or noncompliant behavior. Most of the punishment had to do with the humiliation they inflicted on subjects in front of other students. The most cruel form of punishment I witnessed in the residential program was to have each student say three negative things to a single student who was made to sit in the middle of a circle of over fifty men in a dimly lit room. That’s over 150 insults. I regret to have participated in this.

A few of the other groups I attended before straight camp altered the classic AA style of listening in a group setting. The leader allowed and enabled negative feedback from anyone in the group, especially leadership, that could contradict and even humiliate the one who is just trying to talk about what a difficult week they had.

 

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A fake smile while made to do warehouse work, 2005, Hebron, Kentucky

Hard Labor

When I contacted (the now dissolved) Exodus International in the early 2000’s, I had quite a list of residential programs, from Georgia to California. One of them was several thousand dollars a month. I even called Love In Action, and it was also very unaffordable. It really left me with one choice, a program that had to specialize in trying to reform gays and at the same time it had to be one that I could afford. I sold my business to go to Pure Life Ministries in March of 2005. I went from being a music teacher to having no choice but to work in factories and warehouses. Just as some men can’t do my job, these were traumatic environments, emotionally, mentally, and even physically.

Who’s To Blame?

All the blame went to the subject, not to their families, like Love In Action. Me being gay was entirely a choice I made, based on the teachings I was fed at the straight camp I attended. Something we must understand about conversion therapy, besides the fact that it basically doesn’t work, is that every group attempting to practice this kind of quackery has different approaches, some of them drastically different. My straight camp taught us very little about sexuality, but bombarded us with biblical extremist teachings from various sources that enabled the “theology of meanness” that the leaders were trying to impose on the subjects.

Unwillingly Outed

Believe it or not, this is one thing that I never experienced. Nobody caught me. Nobody outed me. For one thing, I could count on two hands the number of guys I was with by the age of 33. That’s very little for the average gay man. So, I wasn’t getting much action at all, and the rare times that I would, I’d come crying to the altar, or confessing it to a friend of leader because I couldn’t stand it for very long.

The Double Life

That’s one thing I could not get myself to do, was to live long term in two opposing ideologies. I would spend no more than a few weeks at a time seeing guys, while going to church on Sunday, as if nothing happened. I had a pathological level of devotion and fanaticism that had a lot of roots in my untreated and undiagnosed mental disorders. I also think I was pretty sincere about it too, and considering what I gave up to convert and maintain that kind of faith lifestyle, yeah, I was pretty fucking intense. I was more like the dad in the movie. But I’m not as sexy as Russel Crowe. I simply could not keep any important secrets from those I worked with and served. Also, trying to function with mood disorders and other things that made me very weak, I simply couldn’t keep up a facade that a lot of closeted gays do in the church. I saw how that created a sort of split personality and I am grateful that I didn’t spend months, even years and decades like so many people I know. It also greatly undermines one’s faith.

I personally think that living a double life for long enough can cause long term psychological effects. People like this can actually brainwash and lie to themselves so easily without even realizing what is going on on a conscious level. I know openly gay men who came out of a double life type situation, and that type of compartmentalizing often carries through in other aspects of their lives. In other words, if they were used to being fake in church, they also easily get used to being fake in gay bars (or the gay bars with stained glass we affectionately call “affirming churches”).

 

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Preparing for another art show

Raised In the Church

The things that have made me upset over the last decade as I mingle with other survivors and hear their stories, is that there seems to be such a stereotype of the typical ex-gay survivor, I’ve found that as I begin to tell my story, I often find myself making a lot of effort trying to correct everyone’s assumptions. The biggest assumption that is made has to do with the fact that Bible Christianity was not something I was raised with. I had very little influence of that ideology as a child. All I remember was our weird fundy next door neighbors, and Jim and Tammy Baker on television. Other than that, my world was educated progressives until my 20’s.

Most of the time when people ask me why I went through those years of psychological abuse, I get more and more of the feeling that they really aren’t wanting to know the answer. It’s a form of denial, or perhaps even an insult; for instance, “why would anyone want to wear those ridiculous platform pink Crocs?” “Why would anyone ever do something as stupid as saying you’re ex-gay?”

Being gay while raised in an anti-gay environment and household is something I was blessed to have missed. That’s a whole other set of trauma that for the most part, I can’t relate to. I can relate in a way to the whole gender thing though, but in a context that I rarely hear about. We all hear about gender-nonconforming kids being raised in a hyper-gender-conforming culture and that sucks. That really fucking sucks. Part of my story, although kind of comical if you think about it, did do quite a lot of psychological harm to me growing up, especially to my self esteem.

See, I grew up in a progressive culture in the age of the infamous “sensitive new-age guy”, and a household that was very gender-nonconforming. I was shaped into that kind of young man. No assertiveness, and especially no anger, unless you were an aggressive feminist, then that was cool. It’s all good I suppose, I always appreciate it when an overpowered group gets empowered, as long as it doesn’t get out of balance; and believe me, it was really fucking out of balance. So, that’s my little soapbox about how I might actually relate to some sexual minorities who were raised militantly traditional. I’m currently one of those fags who gravitate to the hyper-masculine, although I’m not afraid to be a total princess when I want, but that’s pretty rare. I’m butch with a girly big hairdo.

Did the Church Put Me In the Closet, Or The Gay Community?

Most LGBTQ folks who are in the closet are there as a result of being in, or having been raised in a heavily anti-gay environment. For me though, the gay community seem to have quite a different effect: its influence on my life was the first thing that put me in the closet and in denial. Long story though.

Institutional Support

I’ve noticed a trend with the Who’s Who of the ex-gay survivor celebrities: one thing most of them have in common is the backing of organizations. Most of the time, it is some kind of university, which I think was a part of the Boy erased story. Other institutions include nonprofits and activism related organizations, and often it is related to an affirming church or professional career. Other survivors have connections to the media and entertainment which provides more exposure to their story, and thus more support.

Standing Up For Myself

This is really a sore subject for me. While in conversion therapy, I did try to stand up for myself rarely in little ways, but never anything to the point of the movie. The thing is, I was so obsessed with trying to be straight. I sacrificed so much to go through this shit, why would I fight it? But, this really was a tough thing for me to see in the movie because I didn’t allow myself to make a scene although I’ve dreamed about it for years.

Post Straight-Camp Support

If there’s one myth that really upsets me about most ex-gay survivor stories, it’s what happens after they come out of the closet. It was disgusting what happened to me when I sought healing. When I came out, I got connected right away to the ex-gay survivor clique and sought help. I soon had a sad realization that the only legitimate support I could get was if I had the right connections or if I had a lot of money to pay for a specialist. I could have gotten phone counseling from a doctor/author who’s a survivor and expert on the subject, if I had hundreds of dollars a session (and I did read his book – well, half of that pretentious book). I wasn’t healthy enough to work, and for over a decade I wouldn’t have been able to come close to getting that kind of specialized support.

Instead, I’ve had to train every therapist about what conversion therapy is really like and it got to the point that after seeing several therapists, I rarely even mention the subject anymore because they are so fucking useless when it comes to difficult and rare types of specific trauma like this. A lot of people knew how much I was suffering and how much support I needed, but I didn’t have the money or the social status to get me the help I needed. So I just tried to fix myself, which rarely ever works, and in my case, it didn’t do much to help me recover much at all, except the fact that it takes a long, long time; in addition to the resentment that grows as a result.

Testimonies

Testimonies from the right-wing side of politics and religion so obviously misrepresent the average ex-gay experiences, but they give conversion therapy so much legitimacy to fundies and other anti-gay type saints that it makes me wonder if these stories they are bombarded with are the main contributing factor in perpetuating their myths? A few things I’d like to see, someday, is this: Trinity Broadcasting and the 700 Club sharing a story of a guy that went to a straight camp and as a result of the trauma, ended up in drugs, rent-a-boys, and current suicide attempts – at the same time, I’d love to see a story from a progressive-liberal media outlet about a closeted bible-believer who feels safer and happier living a double life in his rigid community.

 

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Peterson Toscano and Jason T. Ingram

 

Are the Right Wing Right Sometimes?

Conversion therapy is harmful for everyone; or are there exceptions? Peterson Toscano, a survivor who has been an asset to my recovery and activism (or at least the little that I’ve accomplished over the years) told me a story of a sex addict he met at Love In Action when he was in the program. From what I remember of the story, and I would imagine there are a few other stories like this, there might have been more good than harm for this individual. Check this out: a straight guy who has an out of control addiction to sexual activity finds it easier to hook up with men as opposed to women. Also, he may have been introduced to these kinds of behaviors at a very young age. Perhaps there are exceptions to our cause? I believe those situations are rare, which is why I think that a few of these phony testimonies you see on Bible-influenced TV shows might actually be real!

What Defines An “Ex-Gay Survivor”?

I used to be in some online groups that had all kinds of peers who survived various forms of anti-gay therapy. My first four years involved in this ex-gay stuff was mostly from organizations and churches who were trying their best, with the limited knowledge they had, to attempt to change my orientation. (I went to about a half dozen organizations.) Anchorage, Alaska wasn’t a big enough city for an actual ministry that totally specialized in reforming LGBTQ Christians. Most of the places I was sent to were for male sex addicts, and occasionally there’d be a gay or bisexual guy in the group besides me. I consider those kinds of experiences as part of the Ex-Gay Movement.

To my disappointment, I found that a lot of members of these groups never did any external work to try to change their sexual orientation. There would be people in those online communities that felt they could relate to our trauma because they tried to fight their gay stuff on their own, but didn’t dare to tell anyone. That’s a whole different set of trauma, and quite a separate set of characteristics. Often, people in these situations, claimed to be a part of the ex-gay movement for the simple fact that they married someone of the opposite gender. Also, in these stories, the survivor was either “outed” unwillingly, or came to their senses one day and left their spouse to pursue their repressed gay life. Nothing wrong with those stories, I just don’t really consider them to be ex-gay survivors. Is Boy Erased about an ex-gay survivor? Most definitely, although quite different than what a lot of us survive.

 

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Oregon Bears at Gay Pride, circa 2010

 

High Functioning People and Outcasts

The stories that I hear from most ex-gay survivors, especially those who get a lot of exposure, paint a picture that the LGBTQ Community and gay affirming churches are waiting for us with open arms to heal us from the damage done by anti-gay churches. This is quite true for a lot of survivors, however if those are the only stories we hear, we are going to be perpetuating an ugly myth: LGBTQ culture accepts everyone. Everyone?

I’ve talked to a lot of gay ministers over the years. A LOT of them. For a season I even traveled and did music and stuff in affirming churches in a handful of states around the country and a little in Canada. I wondered for a long time why they succeeded and I failed, and there was a list of characteristics I found. If a closeted gay man was outed, and as a result lost his position, for instance, he seemed to maintain his power and influence as long as he changed his political ideologies and theology to fit a more “progressive” view of the Bible. Straight camp, and my big mouth confessing to everyone, robbed me of holding any places of recognition that I had, so I had nothing to convert it to, I had to start over from the bottom. I never did get my life back though.

I also held onto my conservative views for a few years, slowly turning back into the bleeding-heart-liberal-tree-hugger that I proudly am today. Although I am a product of lefty culture, I simply don’t behave and talk like educated progressives. I’m politically incorrect, and in addition, I never had the opportunity growing up to fully develop socially; a lot of that because of the mental and emotional disorders. Other things I notice about men in our culture, is that it’s socially acceptable to use passive-aggressive tactics; however my level of assertion resembles the crazy hillbilly culture I adapted while living among rough, loud, conservative hicks. I love so much about that world, and unfortunately, coming back to my artsy-fartsy world has made me really annoying to anyone with a college degree.

Some of these men are simply, for lack of a better term, hung. That’s another subject. But the main thing I see with those who were closeted-music-ministers who soon went on to be gay-music-ministers was this: they are all high functioning, mentally, and especially socially and often physically. Although I’m not nearly as physically sick as I was five and ten years ago, I never recovered mentally and emotionally. Disability status also played a big role in my ability to be treated with equality, in my opinion, although this isn’t true for everyone. Being on social security put me in a lower social class, and status is a huge deal in educated culture.

The Clique

There, I said it. Ex-gay survivors that get an unbalanced amount of attention are, in my experience and with the exception of a few, just another LGBTQ Clique. They have insiders and outsiders, and none of those “celebrities” that I know of exhibit the incurable scars that lead to a life of social isolation, hard drugs, multiple suicide attempts, and psych ward visits. There are the stories we hear, and there are the stories of peers that are too fucked up to be heard. I know men like this, and they don’t want to go public.

Apathy

There are a lot of ex-gay survivors that are apathetic to their own story. Many of them don’t want it known and they’d rather keep it a secret. Not such a big deal if some of them are like that I guess, I’m just glad that there are so many ex-gay survivors that do indeed speak out. Especially the women and trans folks, because they are so underrepresented among those who are outspoken. I’m very outspoken, to the point where it makes me quite unlikable at gay bars.

Every once and a while, I will be approached by someone who went through or may have tried some kind of conversion therapy related program, but they are too ashamed to mention it around their peers. I have a problem with that. One guy in particular who seemed interested at helping share at one of my survivor events, and he timidly backed out. Turns out, he had a lot of friends. He also had a really hot bear of a partner. I really don’t know for sure why he backed out, but I’ve seen a lot of that happen. Some survivors want to be anonymous. Thats why there are web pages with writers and artists who use a screen name to identify themselves. Also, many of them are closeted and still living some kind of double life. This actually works for some people, and believe it or not, I sympathize with a lot of these folks. When I came out of the closet, I didn’t have power, or position, nor did I have children that I would have to leave as a result of coming out.

Stigma

There’s no stigma in the “affirming and tolerant” LGBTQ Community? Right? Actually, unless you’re some kind of celebrity, and you behave and talk like educated progressives, you can be an outspoken ex-gay survivor and you might actually get heard. You might also get laid too! (So yes Virginia, there is a Stigma Claus.) Being big-nosed and unpopular will get you nowhere in the gay world, but a few other things have been quite a surprise for me. I have had an LGBTQ therapist actually laugh at me when I mentioned my ex-gay background in an initial session. I’ve been rudely interrupted by LGBTQ people when trying to invite people at Pride to attend one of my activism events. “That’s so stupid… why would anyone want to do that… I’m totally against conversion therapy…” as if I was somehow trying to infiltrate a Pride event trying to promote ex-gay theology? I’ve been treated like an idiot because of my past. Perhaps a handful of these LGBTQ folks could keep an eye on a few of those religious “bigots” and maybe learn something about grace. It’s sad that a lot of fundies are better at excusing my past more than those on our side of this issue.

Here’s a funny tidbit: the LGBTQ people that have given me the most negative reactions, denial, and insults, have been the L, but when I think about it, most lesbians have a lot more sense when it comes to going into ex-gay programs. Yeah, like model trains, cruising spots, and jalapeño burgers, there are some sad things in life that we dudes seem to dominate; the ex-gay movement being one of them. From what I see though, there’s a lot more pressure for gay men to change than there is for gay women. I think it’s the butt-sex that freaks out church-people so much. Maybe that’s why, I don’t know. Hopefully I’m wrong about most of this.  It just seems to be tougher for men to accept who they are, and maybe that’s why gay men don’t seem to freak out as much about my ex-gay past.

The other stigma is about living with debilitating trauma. Yeah, there’s a lot of highly-fucked-up queers that are highly-popular, and that’s cool I guess. But those of us who’s wounds were so deep that it made us have to get on disability, or something to that effect, we so often feel like we have to sit on the back of the bus, for lack of a better term. Every time I hear some queen ranting about their “bipolar ex”, I take note of that. It’s okey to backstab a queer peer if he’s “bat-shit-crazy”, but don’t you dare say anything bad about the Pet Shop Boys.

 

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“Identity Thieves” Ex-gay survivor presentation, Kenmore, Washington, 2010

 

Cruelty

There are workplaces that attract employees and volunteers who should not be around children. In the same way, there are environments that create opportunities for certain kinds of people who seek out positions where they can get away with abusing their authority around vulnerable adults without accountability. Basically, if someone is a cruel abuser who can bypass their empathy and get a kick out of overpowering vulnerable people, we should be mindful about men and women (mostly men) who have the ability to be these kinds of victimizers. That is why, law enforcement, and other positions where there’s a lot of responsibility and influence, they try to be mindful of what kind of people they hire, especially when there are vulnerable people subject to these leaders.

I’ve been amazed for years at the cruelty of some of these staff members and volunteers from my straight camp. For some of these men, the less they are compensated, the more they feel entitled to get something in return. One of the things that made the residential program at Pure Life Ministries so different, was that there was a trickle down effect when it came to the abuse of power, expressions of anger, and blatant demonstrations of control – the founder, Steve Gallagher, was a big wig in law enforcement, and he ran his organization with brutal militant tactics. Addiction recovery is in the category of mental health practices. Group and individual therapy are other examples of what an organization like this will do to treat their subjects. They consider anything sexual, even if it’s not acted upon, between men, as a form of sexual addiction.

So essentially what this particular organization is doing, is practicing mental health, but in a way that enables various forms of abuse. This abuse is meant to “break” the subject, and because there was no accountability, these predatory abusers could use whatever forces they thought were necessary to violate someone’s thinking, their will, their beliefs, and the choices they make. This is how concentration camps and a some cults get the ability to control the minds of their subjects. It’s no wonder that these leaders practiced such cruelty. Many of them sought positions like this, with vulnerable subjects and no or very little supervision; especially with enablers coming from the top of the organization.

Happy Endings

The ex-gay “survivors” that I typically think of aren’t really survivors, except for the fact that we are not dead (yet). The typical ex-gay you read about seems to end with “he’s now a successful designer with his husband (two small dogs and a Chinese daughter) who lives in the burbs and preaches with a rainbow ministerial robe”. Those seem to be the stories that get the most exposure. Those are the stories the mainstream progressive media wants to portray.

Suicide

This is a very common ending for ex-gays. Self-harm, hard drugs, and isolation are a reality for so many of us. These are so often the stories we don’t hear about, the stories we don’t want to talk about, and especially the stories that progressive media doesn’t want to portray a lot. It makes us look like we’ve failed to accept ex-gay survivors with open arms to provide healing and a safe place to rebuild our lives. What we end up getting into is another power struggle to be seen and heard, and if we are privileged and lucky enough, we will get enough help to get the life we need to actually survive and thrive after the trauma of anti-gay forms of therapy and abuse.

There is no solid database, even in North America, that can tell us about all those sexual minorities who have been abused and rejected from the Bible-believing world who’s lives end in obscurity and suicide. This is the reality for so many, perhaps even the majority, if I dare say so. There’s no way to tell how many disappear, especially if they are hidden to begin with.

 

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Teaching the Bible in Far East Russia, 2000

Conclusion

This is the part where I apologize for making people grumpy because of my yucky attitudes I have. I don’t like my attitude either. I wished I liked people like me. Maybe opposites attract? That’s true for me when it comes to relationships. Men that vote republican are just so damn sexy. The way they talk and the way they dress. We just don’t make men like those where I come from. I lived in places like Alaska, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. Those men are sensational. Bellies and all. It’s weird I hang out with a lot of people that oppose my views. I guess I find it refreshing to be away from all the mind games that overly smart people do to me so much. I guess it’s refreshing to be reminded about the people in Alaska I used to hang out with and hear perspectives on things I’ve never considered in my Unitarian Universalist upbringing. But with all of this loathing, I do admit I do love my own. Heck, as much as I like myself I kinda have to like my peeps. I just don’t find hipsters very attractive, especially old hipsters like Michael Stipe. He’s also the kind of guy I’d agree with about almost everything but I don’t know if I’d enjoy hanging out with him for very long.

Where would we be with the LGBTQ Community? The world has been greatly influenced by us, it’s about time they finally knew who we were. I’m glad we have been getting a lot of exposure over the last generation or so. It needed to happen, even if it’s a bit overboard for a season. I’m glad that more young people can make more of an informed decision and have more freedom these days. I’m glad the LGBTQ Community raises awareness about sexual health and all their efforts to end the AIDS Crisis. I’m glad that the Trans Community is gaining more and more of a voice these days. Perhaps we should put them first for a while in LGBTQ? They suffer the most. I’m glad they were there for me, although mostly not there for me, there were safe places I could go that wouldn’t have been safe before the 1970’s. I’m glad the medical community, the educational community, and many other institutions have healthy perspectives for sexual minorities; and there are so many places you can go where people in places of influence, especially the mainstream media in most of the western world, where you will hear great caution about going into any kinds of practices that would try to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender expression. Seriously, it rocks.

I just hope I gain a wider perspective on the subject for folks who might have exclusively exposed to just a small handful of conversion therapy stories. I love queers. We are awesome. I also love fundies. Fundamentalist Christians are strong and bold people who try to value character, strong families, and hard work. As much as they gave me a reason to die, they gave me a reason to live and accepted me when the community of my upbringing turned their back on me. 

If there is such a thing as being “erased”, that word explains my life a lot. The problem with me is that I’m not dead, although I am often at risk (even as I write this) I’m amazingly still standing for some fucked up reason. As much as the mainstream media and popular publications like the Advocate thinks it’s okey to refuse writers to publish my story, I’m still here, I still have enough fingers to type out long ranting articles, and I have a fabulous mustached mouth that simply won’t shut up about my reality. The church tried to erase me. The LGBTQ Community tried to erase me. Fake Zappa just can’t be erased.

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Classic Folk-Rock, EDM Style, for Gay Pride 2019

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LGBTQ Culture has influenced everything from the black leather you see in heavy metal bands to the gender-bending you see in classic New Wave. Fags like me also enjoy injecting some “Queer Eye” fabulousness into whatever the fuck we want to influence. It’s part of our sinister agenda to recruit young, innocent, straight people to committing horrible acts of sodomy and overly-sweet cocktails with tiny pink umbrellas. This has become a sort of “institution” for us: LGBTQ Culture. I admit, as a publicly-closeted gay man, having grown up with flamboyant hairdressers and classy uptown waiters in my weird 1980’s Portland upbringing, I have developed quite an aversion to gay culture. Aside from the pleasure I get being a sort of iconoclast undermining the very thing that Stonewall has awarded us to flaunt peacefully, I often find myself destroying the stereotypes that set us apart from the breeding kind of people. RuPaul, sing Supermodel one more time and I’ll shit bricks. That’s one of the reasons why I like Bear culture. The “gay bears” include those who are too fat, too old, and too wooly to be accepted in mainstream gay culture. That brings me to yet another deplorable rant: I found that I’m not fat, old, and hairy enough to have much of a social life (and a sex life) in that culture either. Another tidbit of irony about the bears is their love of cheesy, bubbly, techno, disco-pop. Why reject the stereotypes of gay culture only to exclude most forms of music except stereotypical-gay-music? Most heterocentric older-male playlists I’ve been exposed to contain a lot of classic rock. Rock with beards. I’d love to go to a gay-bear-party where they listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd. But no. They listen to Lady Gaga. Another confession: Lady Gaga is awesome. I’m not really sure about her music though.

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Another awesome force that holds the world together is CSN&Y before there was the Y. Seriously, I simply can’t stand Neil Young. He should have held off at least a few more records before he joined. He’s just about as overrated as Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep put together. I don’t care for his singing nor his lyrics. Perhaps I should actually sit down and listen to one of his solo records, but it would take a lot of weed. I’d prefer that over the Pet Shop Boys though. Classic Rock (beard rock) has developed into quite an institution as well, perhaps even more so than queer culture. It’s OK to make fun of Boy George, but don’t fuck with Jerry Garcia. You mess with Jerry, you mess with a Modern-Messiah who’s on such a pedestal that no wizard or muggle can topple him over, especially if you claim to be a musician; be prepared to face the Great White Throne of Judgement from this institution so ingrained in our lovely culture of peace, love, and freedom. But what about Crosby, Stills, and Nash? What’s wrong with them? Nothing really, I just like to find ways to piss off certain groups of people. I just have a problem with Real Music. “Real Music”, in my twisted definition, is just another pack of Starburst Candy: it’s naturally and artificially flavored. It’s real because they play with a lot of wood as opposed to a lot of plastic objects to make their noises. Real people have bad haircuts. Real people love each other, and make daisy chains and drive Volvos.

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Real music, in my opinion is a caveman singing in a cave. Recordings are fake, just as a put-together folk-supergroup is fake. CSN&Y is fake. It’s a business. Did they love each other? Read their history. Did they copy anything others were doing? Who hasn’t? The caveman. Another incomplete sentence. Thanks, Grammarly, now leave me alone! Classic Rock Snobs, leave me alone as well! I played this sacred music for too long, on too many stages, to too many drunk people. It’s a religion, just as Gay Culture has become a religion. Don’t you dare mock the fag on that reality show, you’ll be the first to be voted out (I didn’t check my history books for that, it’s pure speculation). It’s not rebellion anymore if everyone starts doing it. The institution of Rock lost it’s mission the day it became a popular, defensive hyper-sensitive watchdog. Did it die somewhere between Woodstock and Monterey? Or with the Sex Pistols? Some think that if rock has given up the ghost, it must have happened when Cobain died (ask me about that sometime, that is for another time).

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What’s the big deal with David Crosby? Is HE the Walrus, or is it Wilford Brimley? Is it that I am totally gay for Crosby? (That is also for another time.) He’s so damn cuddly. There, I said it. The reason why I picked this old trio to market a sonic scam for Gay Pride 2019 is simply because of some media magic that touched me. They touched me, they touched me, and oh the joy that fills my soul. When folk monster Richie Havens began the sacred sonic ceremony of Woodstock, the magic began, especially for me. That’s one of my favorite moments: the first few minutes of the music. No loud band, just a black hippie, totally shredding his axe while pouring out his vocal passions. It’s captivating, even after all these years. Another magic moment for me was the Judy Blue Eyes suite when the newly formed Crosby, Stills, and Nash arrived on that sacred stage. It’s a beautiful song, or four songs, rather. Yeah, it’s four songs in one! Such a bonus, especially because I buy licenses for my cover songs so I won’t get sued by Big Music. I pay for one song that’s got four parts, I totally score. Kinda like my version of Supper’s Ready. Sweet! This suite is an upbeat rocking catchy tune, a ballad, a sort of George Harrison thing, and a sort of latin thing. Four for the price of one!

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Why did I gay-ify this classic? Lotsa reasons. I couldn’t find anyone else who sang this to an EDM backdrop, so that’s kinda cool. I also believe that if I cover a song, I don’t want to create a substandard reproduction; and anyone who has tried to reproduce the 1969 recordings of Judy Blue Eyes has done a super-substandard job. Seriously, there are some really shitty versions of this song (or four songs rather). I love producing acoustic music just as much as I love producing electronic music, even stuff that’s almost entirely made from virtual instruments. But I added a little something that a few EDM-addicts might have heard of: it’s called an “electric guitar”. I played my new travel guitar that I bought when I was producing mobile-music and running around in a little motorhome last year. I actually never plugged it in until after my travels. I never even recorded with it until this year. It gets out of tune a lot to my surprise, especially when I whammy the heck out of the tremolo bar. It’s amazing what drowning a crappy track in reverb and burying it in the mix will do. Another reason why I wanted to do this piece, aside from the fact that I couldn’t get it out of my head this winter for some reason, is that 2019 is fifty years from this musical magic.

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What is magic? Is it when music is “real”? (Don’t make me repeat myself.) I think it’s simply a recipe. For instance, the Beatles had a perfect recipe, perfect timing, and perfect everything; even in some of their shitty stuff. (Yes Virginia, the Beatles did some shitty stuff.) Why Gay Pride? Because they simply won’t play it. My spidy-sences tell me that, along with my experience with having practically no acknowledgment as an artist from the gay community; I’ll be ignored. I’m considering penis enlargement, that might improve my chances. There’s a guy in the Philippines that can hook me up with a doctor-guy. Anyway, I’d love to hear this blasted as they kick off their stage events at the post-march festivities on the Portland Waterfront like they do at Pride every year. There’s drag queens that come in all sizes, epic dykes with dreadnaught guitars singing about how easy longterm relationships are for them, Faggity Anne and Andy, and the who’s-who of the global clique I call the Gay Community. Since we are not nearly as oppressed as we were fifty years ago, we might as well oppress each other. Heck, most of us don’t have kids and we are bored. We can marry each other and openly tell people that we do things like butt-sex, and we like to watch people’s faces because most of them are afraid to say something that might offend us. Then, we also like it when they do say something that is “homophobic”, for instance: “the Pet Shop Boys suck.” Bigot! How dare they?!

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A reason why I want to taunt EDM fans is that I thought it would be funny to see them dance for nearly twenty minutes at a tempo thats over 140 beats per minute, although if I actually learned more about them, I bet that’s actually not a big deal. They’d need a lot of X to keep up with this shit maybe, I don’t know. Perhaps I’m just buying into a stereotype. A cool thing about it, is that the last minute or two of my evil rendition is designed to crossfade into another piece of DJ art. Yeah, I admit it, a DJ is an artist (oops, I meant to put the word Artist in quotes). I’d like someone to fuck with my music, just like I’ve fucked with CSN. I’d like it to fade into something with the same tempo (just as long as it’s in D mixolydian, but who needs music theory when you’re playing beats and and other people’s recordings? Isn’t getting laid the point of being a DJ and not considering the jarring effects that unintentional bitonality has on ex-music-teachers?)

 

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I decided to use a virtual instrument called a Vocoder. It combines the timbre from a microphone with the tones of an instrument, typically a synthesizer. It’s what we heard with Kraftwerk and ELO when they sang like pretty robots. I used it because my voice is too amateur to sing CSN. I also wanted something different. I even changed a lot of the harmonies. I faked some of it too. But the Vocoder wasn’t enough to hear the lyrics –  I have some background tracks of a two part harmony with some low-cut EQ… But enough with audio production ramble. It just makes me feel smart, sorry about that. Oh yeah, one more thing. The mastering! Something most hobby-local-type producers think they know about. I used a software trial. It turned out so freakin hot! (“Hot” meaning volume.) Not good enough to pay for it, so after my nine days, I let it expire. It’s not the process that matters to me anyway. I’m product-driven. I made this in an unfurnished house on lawn furniture, not a fancy studio. Such a letdown. What I tried to do though, was to capture the beauty of the music with the limitations of the EDM genre. I also wanted it fun for kids, so I added plenty of space stuff like swooshes and poofs. I think gay bears will like it too, but it will take me a while to get chubby enough to get their attention, so we’ll see. I hope that some of the dynamics and space stuff will inspire people to move like Deadheads. I dance like that sometimes, it’s fun. I’d especially love to see Deadheads dance to this.

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What am I actually saying? Nothing really, I just like to try my best to make people chuckle, aside from upsetting those who are too comfortable. I just wonder if the post-millennial world is getting tired of us Gen-X and Baby Boomers enforcing our beloved cultures on them and not allowing them to challenge us. This tribute to two worlds needed to happen somewhere, and I got stuck with it. It’s queer with a beard. I’m a gay bear. Here’s proof: I’m actually eating sugar-free chocolate almonds with a gluten-free beer as I write. This song puts hair on the slick-stainless-sounds of EDM as much as it turns an untouchable classic into a plastic Play-dough Fun Factory. It’s sacrilegious, and it could make some people quite tired of dancing that fast for that long.

 

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Fake Zappa, AKA Jason T. Ingram, with Portland MCC, Pride March 2012

 

Another confession I have is that I secretly do love the LGBTQ community. Especially the T – brave souls, they are. I’m glad the LGBTQ Community is there for those who need to come out, and shamelessly march down the street in tight rainbow colored pride-wear. It’s very empowering. The thing that I see about this whole Pride thing is this:

50 years ago, the Gay Community was a supportive tight-knit family because of how heavy the persecution was – now that things are so much easier for us, the current LGBTQ Community has really lost something. I hear stories from veterans of the Stonewall Era and they depended on each other for their survival. In the Western World, Pride in 2019 is something quite different than it once was. I see it mostly as an exclusive clique of privileged socialites who throw flamboyant parties and occasionally invest time and money into select causes to ease their consciences. It’s a community for sure, just one that unpopular people (and a lot of disabled people) aren’t allowed to function in; especially because I don’t talk like them, act like them, dress like them, and exhibit their culture. That’s why I went back into the closet. So go ahead Northwest Pride, don’t play my song I made for you. I’m not one of your celebrities, so why even glance my direction to see if I have anything of value to contribute to your fabulous parade?

 

Happy Pride 2019!

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CSN&Gay – Design by Fake Zappa (c) 2019

 

The Artist Currently Named Fake Zappa is one of the most overly-ignored, overly-unpopular, and overly-nerdy-home-recording-geeks to hide since the 1980’s. After a devastating house fire March of 2018, his studio was destroyed, and his current projects were thought to be unsalvageable. Unable to finish his earlier projects, he decided to buy some gear to build a tiny mobile studio, find a gay guy who sings like Joni Mitchell, and make an eclectic album based on her music. Fake Zappa, AKA Jason T. Ingram, injected various genres including classical, techno, jazz, industrial and hiphop, into this pseudo-folk art-pop monstrosity; bringing Joni’s music to a new generation of listeners. Most of the music was captured at a nudist club and produced in a 21-foot motorhome throughout the Summer of 2018 around the Pacific Northwest. David Johnson is a Seattle area based singer-songwriter who provided all the lead vocals on the project.

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David, while on a hike with Jason and friends during the first session on the Columbia Gorge in Oregon
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Fake Zappa’s Taco Scramble at the lake between sessions

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David Johnson, singing “Black Crow” from Hejira
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“Roses Blue” 1969

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“The Last Time I Saw Richard” from Blue, 1971

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