Bobby and the Aversion Therapist

Bobby carries a unique sense of self that functions independently of the rest of me.

His job was to figure out how to survive into adulthood.

To survive, Bobby had to hide his intellect.

He adopted a thick geechie accent.

He was tough and not afraid of his Mother.

His goal was to get away from her and his first strategy was to force a psychiatrist to commit him.

Bobby writes:

“One day I found a book called, “By Reason of Insanity.

It was all about this guy who goes crazy and stabs his wife 47 times with
a butcher knife..

He gets sent to the loony bin.

Most of the book was about the people he meets in the hospital.

Some of the people scream and see things that ain’t there.

But the hospital also had food and a school.

I thought hell, check it out!

I got Momma to take me to see a shrink.

The psychiatrist Momma took looked like Mr. Spock from “Star Trek”:

“Is there anything  you’d like to tell me about yourself, bobby.”

“Yeh–I think I’m queer.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Well–” I looked up at him and said, “I think about boys when I-you know.”

That got me sent up.

The shrink told Momma that I needed to go to the state hospital for “observation.”

I got all excited since that seemed almost as good as going to New York.

***

The hospital had a place for kids.

It was a tall red brick building with locks on every door.

When Momma an’ me got there, Momma suddenly got very polite, and she  gave me permission to smoke.

When the doctor came to meet us, she acted all scared, like she was talking to Grandma.

“Ya’all treat my baby good!” she cried.

Then she called me darling, and left.

***

This hospital was nothing like the one in my book.

It was all shiny inside and Muzac played all day long through little loudspeakers in the ceiling.

Everyone looked numb.

I made friends with this other queer who was a year older than me.

He was a rich kid who went on and on about how he hoped the doctors could turn him straight.

Here I was, fifteen and already out.

I thought this kid was crazy and said so!

“Listen!” I said, “That ain’t never gonna happen. So get over it!”

Well he hauled off and slapped me!

Then he got so upset about slapping me he started to cry.

A nurse came over to give him some pills.

She gave me an evil look.

Like I had picked up that boy’s hand and slapped myself!

I thought she’d like me better if she had to give me some pills, so I asked for some.

“Why do you think you need medication, Bobby?”

“I think I’m seein’ people that ain’t really there.”

“Be sure you tell that to your doctor.”

***

“Tell me a little something about your childhood.” the doctor said.

“Well it ain’t over yet!” I said.

“True enough.” he smiled. “Why do you think you’re here?”

“I guess ’cause I’m queer.” I answered. “Howcum you ain’t got no people screamin’ around here?”

He smiled again. “Do you feel like screaming?”

***

That shrink really thought I was crazy.

Now I knew I wasn’t, but I reminded myself that for these folks, queer was the same thing.

When Momma came to visit she always put on the good behavior that she wore for Grandma.

I said, “Momma! These people gonna do some kinda shock treatment on me!”

“They’ll do what they can to make you better.” she said. “I hope you’re smokin’ like I said you could.”

I was in deep water for screwing that rich kid.

A month passed.

“Whut if yew had relations with a man an’ caught the clap in yore mouth?” The social worker asked me one day, like I already had it.

“You can get that from eatin’ pussy!” I said,  “Why don’t you people calm down an’ let me go home?”

That rich kid told me all about the therapy the doctors was doing on him.

“First, they strap you inna chair with your weenie hanging out. Then they put glue on it and stick wires to it. Then they show you pictures of hot dudes an’ shock the piss outta you if you so much as sigh!”

Now, Momma had to understand how bad that was!

“Lissen up!” I said at her next visit. “These shrinks is gonna “lectrocute me!”

“They say they only use a lil’ “lectricity, darlin’.”

“And how would you like it if every time you sat onna barstool some one zapped you off?”

Momma got that dark look she always got when she wanted to hit me.

“Have a little respect for your Momma!” She said in a tight but polite tone of voice.

***

“Do you want Bobby to be a hama-sect-ual?” The shrink asked Momma at the treatment meeting.

“He was always a tad girlish, but I have always maintained that it is important for men to be men.

“Let em fry my dick off, ” I said, “see what kind of man I’ll be then!”

“The shrink ignored me.

“I think that Bobby can be cured. These deviant behaviors are not set until adulthood.”

“But I don’t wanna get cured!” I said. “I ain’t got nothin’ to cure!

I glared at Momma.

She sat there like the best little girl in the world.

Then I knew what I had to do.

“Momma! You let this fool shock me an’ I’ll call Grandma and tell her all about you. Every. Thing.”

Momma blushed.

She looked down and twisted her wedding ring.

Then she looked up at the doctor with such wide, innocent looking brown eyes:

“I do want what’s best for Bobby. But it’s such a big decision! I think I should consult with his Father first.”

***

(c) Rob Goldstein 1985-2018

We ain’t going back!

I wondered how today’s young generation of LGBTQ artists were dealing with the rise of Trump.

I found defiance:

Now if you think that we gon bow down and run
Think we’d be bothered? You got water in your guns?
Bitch, you got the wrong bitch
Bitch, you got the wrong bitch
You got the wrong, wrong bitch
And if you think we gon cower and be scared
Think I won’t keep marching with my fist up in the air
Bitch, you got the wrong bitch
Bitch, you got the wrong bitch
You got the wrong, wrong bitch

This cut from Butch Queen by Rue Paul and Ab Soto is defiant and hilarious:

 

We’re not going back. We’re not going anywhere. We are going to rise up and finish our revolution.

And we’re gonna win!

#TheResistance

 

You Must Have Been a Sensational Baby, I Said

More cuts from the 1986 reading with Harold Norse at
San Francisco’s Jewish Community Center.

In this post Norse reads, ‘You Must Have Been a Sensational Baby’ .

I owe these performance tapes to my best friend, Kit.

Kit showed up and recorded all of my performances, even when he
was sick.

 I’ll Be Seeing You – In Memory of Kit –

The sketch of Norse is a scan of the inside cover of my copy of his
collected poems, Carnivorous Saint.

I describe  the night I bought Carnivorous Saint in a post I wrote
about Norse for Pride Week 2016.

Heroes of the Revolution: Harold Norse

Portrait of Rob Goldstein based on a photo by Nina Glaser.
Portrait of Rob Goldstein based on a photo by Nina Glaser. I wore black for most of the 1980’s as an expression of mourning.

You Must have Been a Sensational Baby

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Heroes of the Revolution: Kenneth Pitchford

“A good life requires the ability to rise above the circumstances of everyday practical considerations. The ability to be something within the self, separate and apart from success or failure in any particular human undertaking. The ability to add psychological resources as the result of life experiences makes it possible to convert success or failure into a psychic event. The sense of self reaches its highest level of expression where practical and adaptive matters are least involved. The psychological capacities of the self, which reach deepest into the sense of inner identity, concern matters such as the ability to comprehend the truth and adhere to the good.” Paul Rosenfels

***

I first read the poem, Color Photos of the Atrocities, by Kenneth Pitchford when I was 20.

Pitchford was the gay identified husband of feminist, Robin Morgan.

He was also a founding member of the effeminists.

I was impressed by Pitchford’s political courage and clarity of vision in this poem.

Color Photos of the Atrocities

Tomorrow I’m going to read poems
to a college class called
Introduction to Literary Analyses.
How can something be introduced
that doesn’t exist? We have brains
for thinking hard about our lives
and words for telling about them
and we don’t use either well.

Me? I’m alone with my four-month baby.
I’m thinking about him – and what I’ll say
tomorrow to the class—
and about the color photos of the atrocities,
with babies his age arranged in heaps,
the glaring red brought to us
courtesy of Ansco, a corporation that got rich,
courtesy the Kennedys, by buying cheap
the German firm
coalesced from the slave labor of concentration camps,
all that dead sweat crystallized like honey into profits

A folksinger on the phonograph
is promising that
“we’ll all go together / to pick wild mountain thyme
all around the purple heather”
and my usual afternoon of mothering my child
seems to turn over upside down
while I rock and croon and refuse to cry
and he looks up in puzzlement, wanting
to smile. robbed of speech just long enough
so that he will always feel separate,
helpless to explain what he needs,
each of us convinced that no one could understand
each disbelieving that sharing anything is possible.

And then I do start crying, wondering where
my people are, knowing that I will never
find them, will never go, as I’ve often dreamed,
up into burnished hills with
not many possessions on our backs,
all of them shared, our children shared,
women restored to power, men free again to be human,
moving sideways out of history
out of this time, sideways to songs
around campfires and spoken poems
that go unwritten-down handed on
word of mouth, if ever.

At least I can see how useless academies are,
how phony their claim to preserve and instill
values: the attendant at Auschwitz chatting
with a knowledgeable young victim about Goethe
and escorting him back to the end of the execution line
again and again so he could
improve his own chances on a literature exam upcoming
(though of course he finally had to let the victim pass).
At least I know how useless everything we do becomes
when faced with color photos of the atrocities.

One baby in the heap squirmed to find the wet breast
of its dead mother, habit having had just time enough
to teach: Breast equals Safety.
–though how explain this red milk? Next
the child, too, was shot.
then finished off with the stab of a bayonet,
carved into three neat pieces
before being thrown away. Not any words,
not any any words I can teach you
my precious baby, can say back the cries
strangled in your stabbed throat,
no introduction to any analyses
equal to explaining what has happened to a country
that pays $40,000 for color photos
of the atrocities but will not buy
enough milk to keep its own babies from starving.

Stop it. All of it. Stop taking courses
like this one. Wipe them out of the catalogue.
replace them with Introduction to
Malnutrition; Intermediate Butchery; Advanced Ecological
Suicide.
Start bringing this thing that is killing us
down, this ersatz republic, this murderous empire.
Blake, my baby,
there is no country for us to escape to,
no purple heather, and I don’t even know how
to build it here in our lives and words
as my tears take colorless pictures of your smile.

Kenneth Pitchford 1972

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