Readers’ Thoughts

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More Appreciation for John Money

To the Editor:

Thanks to Vernon Rosario for his thoughtful appreciation of pioneering sexologist John Money (“How ‘Sex’ Undid John Money,” GLR, January-February 2016).

In 1980 I spent a weekend with Money at his African-art-filled home in Baltimore, not far from his base at Johns Hopkins, to interview him for a feature article in Christopher Street (“The Birds, The Bees and John Money”), mostly about what I called “the shift in credibility of scientific opinion about human sexuality from the temples of psychiatry to the laboratories of sex research.” As we showered together, he was suddenly fascinated by a patch of mildew on the wall: “All these life forms competing for the same space,” he mused. Rosario accurately noted Money’s proclivity for naming behaviors and syndromes, often redundantly or unnecessarily. Cruising, for example, was “polyiterophilia”—repeating the same early proceptive behavior with multiple partners in the absence of advancement to full pair-bonding with any one of them. My favorite of Money’s many terms and phrases was “The Birth Control Age,” which he felt subsumed the many smaller sexual revolutions of our times, even though birth control had in fact been practiced throughout history.

What did Money, who died in 2006, make of changing sexual patterns in the Internet age? Even when he was wrong or lost in his own worlds, he was always insightful and challenging. He will continue to be missed.

Lawrence D. Mass, New York City

 

We Are Not All Victims of Trauma!

To the Editor:

Douglas Sadownick, in “Harry Hay in The GL&R: A Response” [printed as a Letter to the Editor in the Jan.-Feb. 2016 issue]advances a convoluted, self-referential obfuscation masquerading as a correction to the extremes of social constructionist theories of gay identity, claiming essentialist wisdom based in an ahistorically historicized social construction of its own, grounded in unsubstantiated myths that—as he asserts in quoting one Mitch Walker’s work—“virtually all homosexual people have been severely traumatized in childhood by heterosexual parenting.” Says who? When? Where? Under what specific conditions?

No one doubts that we gay people—coming from very different backgrounds of support and oppression, class, race, ethnicity, and intellectual home life over many different times and places—share the wounds and challenges of having been ostracized, in many cases no less than our straight siblings. But being socially marginalized as gay kids does not amount to being psychologically “traumatized,” especially if over our adult lives we have fought back, forcing not always unwilling family, friends, and society to take us on our own terms. It takes guts, not licking wounds.

In 35 years together, the two of us have challenged every orthodoxy, including now Sadownick’s odd neo-homosexualist/essentialist dialectic—which is itself a neo-social constructionist position, with his then added unfortunate usage of illness metaphors like “cancerous elements of internalized homophobic toxicity.” We reject this language, not just for reasons proffered by the late Susan Sontag, but also having recently lost a sister and brother to cancer of the lung and brain. Cancer is not a metaphor.

We “two boys together clinging” (to quote Whitman) had very different great childhoods in working-class Peoria and affluent Westchester County before meeting in New York City in our gay twenties in 1980. Both growing-up situations helped make us be happily gay, sorry that others had a rough time of it, wishing them the best.

But it may be time for professional gay psychotherapists such as Sadownick to give it up, especially the outdated lingo. We are not all ill. Nor are we all in “recovery.” As we said, helping found Queer Nation Los Angeles in our backyard in the midst of doing ACT UP/LA in the late 1980s, “We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.” There is nothing ill or special about us “queers of all sexual persuasions.”

On a tendentious linguistic note, the GLR (even if its editorial contributions allow for circumlocutionist deviations) is to be thanked for keeping its historic namesake moniker even as there is by now the required, standard LGBT and beyond to Q, with even among some quarters a call to put the “T” up front and further Qs along the line, “G” losing its assumed “privileged” position.

In the end, who cares which letter goes where from engine to caboose in this train? But it has become ridiculous to have to tiptoe around this issue, especially if one is—as we gay male lovers are—“feminists who happen to be gay.” By defining ourselves in this way we’ve gotten into trouble with some gay men, who have not really understood our “essentialist” position that we “cannot help but be homosexual” (whatever that might mean after 35 years of our own private and public “practice” informed by each others’ bodies, those with whom we have had sex, and all the literature we have read, music listened to, and who knows what else?).

To be essentially gay and politically feminist has also required us to explain and accept without question that our “gayness” is probably (but who cares?) biologically determined, over time and place socially constructed, and political in terms of being out and assertive when needed, according to our own radical social agenda not agreed to by lots of gay men we don’t find physically or politically attractive. In that respect, we ascribe our feminism not so much to making smart choices but to having grown up with strong moms and sisters and non-threatened dads. But that is another socially constructed story.

Ty Geltmaker, PhD, and James Rosen, West Hollywood, CA

 

Corrections

In the introduction to an interview with Dan Savage in the Jan.-Feb. 2016 issue, two errors crept in. First, Savage was born and raised not in Seattle (where he now resides) but in Chicago. Second, the intro refers to a prank involving Bruce Bawer (who’s a gay author) when in fact the target of the prank was evangelist-politician Gary Bauer during his 2004 bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
In the “BTW” column in the Jan.-Feb. 2016 issue, one item stated that County Clerk Kim Davis served in Tennessee, when in fact she served in Kentucky. What’s more, she still holds this position—rumors of her dismissal proved to be greatly exaggerated—after working out an arrangement whereby deputies would issue same-sex marriage licenses. Davis attended the State of the Union Address this year on the invitation of Republican Congressmen.
In Richard Canning’s review of Cassandra Langer’s Romaine Brooks: A Life, it was reported that “the 79-year-old Brooks met one Janine Lahovary” on the Côte d’Azur. In fact, it was Natalie Barney who met Ms. Lahovary, “… and the romance began again.”

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