boy, erasure


-- चार हजार चार सौ और बीस-तीन --

Last night I took to myself to see Boy, Erased, and . . . meh. It was okay: B-. I definitely felt The Miseducation of Cameron Post, which came out in August, was better, and said so in my review. It's kind of curious to me that both movies until recently had the same score on MetaCritic: 69. And now, somehow, Boy, Erased has gone up to 71. To be perfectly blunt, the only explanation I can see for the critical consensus being more positive toward Boy, Erased than The Miseducation of Cameron Post is some level of latent misogyny: they simply like the movie about the boy better than the movie about the girl. But that doesn't mean it's actually better.

And for me here's one slightly ironic twist: based on historical roles, I would actually say Lucas Hedges is a better actor than Chloë Grace Moretz -- but, between these two movies, her performance is better. This is less a reflection of the actors themselves than on the respective movies' directors. Desiree Akhavan, in these instances anyway, is a better director than Joel Edgerton.

Now, to be fair, neither movie is perfect. But to my mind, one is better than the other, and it's apparently not the popular opinion. I know of at least one other critic, at least, who agrees with me: Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair tweeted the other day, "The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a better movie than Boy, Erased and I am an asshole for ever assuming otherwise." I was going to link to the tweet but he has since deleted it, apparently because he thought it was "not carefully worded," but I'm rather on board with the sentiment.

I'm perfectly happy that both movies exist, for the record -- to paraphrase the Entertainment Weekly review, if it helps even one struggling gay kid, then it's absolutely worth having been made. It's just that it could have been so much better.

It was been an interesting experience, though, watching these two movies this year. I was never sent away to any kind of camp or "inpatient program" for conversion therapy, but I did undergo a form of it: roughly six months of counseling in 1991 that was explicitly designed to "correct" my sexual desires. This was in Spokane, and, much like Lucas Hedges's Jared in Boy, Erased, my motivation was primarily to appease what I knew my parents wanted. Well, that’s not quite fair -- both Dad and Sherri, very much to their credit, really went out of their way to stay out of any such decision making. Honestly Dad in particular would have been well within his rights to get more involved, whether Mom had sole custody or not; that's something that really never occurred to me until just now. I don't begrudge him that, though, and Dad had his own journey when it came to understanding me as his gay son.

Neither Dad nor Sherri ever had any direct say in my getting counseling, though. Sherri, in fact, dropped many subtle hints that were never lost on me about certain gay people in her life she had no problem whatsoever with, and that she, for one, would always be fine with my being gay. My turning in the direction of what I understood now to be conversion therapy but only thought of then as "counseling" hinged entirely on my mother, and the knowledge that she would be profoundly disappointed in my going in any other direction.

My mom spent a lot of time telling me, "No matter what, I will always love you," but when she also said that to me in the summer of 1991, there was the clear subtext: I will always love you, despite this fatal character flaw. She never said that explicitly, but it was always, always the clear message.

The thing about that time I spent with that "Christian counselor" in 1991 was that, in the end, the experience was a net positive for me -- one might say profoundly so. If we exclude any talk of my sexual desires, which honestly almost never dominated our counseling sessions, it was basically a case of a mal-adjusted teenage boy, for the first time getting a truly objective ear to hear about everything else in his life. I couldn't tell you how many times I unloaded on that guy my frustrations with my mom, about things that had everything to do with her and, if not nothing to do with me, then certainly nothing to do with my sexuality. For six months I got a weekly therapy session and it was immeasurably helpful to me.

--Except for this one thing. The thing that was the whole reason I was there: when I asked Mom what I should put on the form for why I was there, she told me to write down, "Sexual identity confusion." (Any woke person in 2018 would have a field day unpacking that language, now dated: it would be more accurate now to say "sexual orientation confusion." Most people today don't even use the phrase "sexual identity" at all, because it's too easily confused with "gender identity.")

In retrospect, it kind of amazes me that the counselor took me at my word when I told him I was no longer "struggling" with sexual thoughts about men, and he basically told me near the end of 1991 that I no longer needed his services. Either he had his own astonishing capacity for denial, or he knew himself that I was deluding myself and this would never actually change. I had a single follow-up appointment with him six months later, in 1992, and I said the same thing again: all good! I even remember telling my mom after my last appointment there, in a joking tone, "I'm all fixed!" It was one of the few times in my life I very deliberately and conscientiously lied through my teeth -- because I knew that if I told the truth in 1992, I'd have to go through months more of that counseling, and I had decided then that I'd gotten what I needed out of it.

Four years after that, I came out. And even that was not before a rather tense moment in 1995 (a year before I came out) when my mom found a manila envelope I stupidly forgot in the bathroom, which contained magazine clippings I had cut out over several years, of hot guys: underwear ads, swimwear ads, that kind of stuff. I had no access to porn then, so that kind of stuff was it. (That's how old I am. When I was a young teenager, there was no internet porn. At least not outside of bulletin boards I didn’t even know existed. Actually, now that I think about it, 1995 itself was probably the year I first looked at a picture of a naked man from the Internet on a computer: my mom's computer when she wasn't home, on a Netscape browser, the single image taking an eternity to load. Magazine clippings were still far more easily obtained.) Anyway, Mom left the envelope out on top of the hamper in the bathroom just so I would know she saw it, and she brought it up a few days later. We had a brief, uncomfortable conversation that confirmed I still had these desires. And still I thought of myself a straight, just because I wanted so badly for that to be the case. Never underestimate the power of denial.

Anyway, as you can see, I have my own semi-complicated history with what is now known of as gay conversion therapy. I'd certainly say countless kids endure far more extreme forms of it than I did, but there is an insidiousness to every form that it takes, no matter how "gentle" it may seem. Denying my authentic self still had far-reaching and long lasting consequences, and it's infuriating to see it happening to any other kids in any form at all. In any case, this history gives me a particularly visceral, angry reaction to such things.

-- चार हजार चार सौ और बीस-तीन --


-- चार हजार चार सौ और बीस-तीन --

What else, then? Not much, really. Shobhit had his Braeburn Condos board meeting last night, which was partially why I chose last night to see my movie: I'll be home this evening, and will wait to see my next movie until probably Thursday. I had hoped to watch the first Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them streaming on HBO last weekend, but when I went to watch it, the movie had been removed -- this is frustratingly typical for previous installments of movies for which a sequel is about to be released in theatres. So, I added the actual Blu-Ray to my Netflix delivery queue, which hopefully will come in time for Shobhit and me to re-watch before going to see the sequel on Sunday.

I took the rare course of busing both to and from the movie last night, even though it played just downtown. It saved me a few minutes, at least. I spent about an hour writing the review once I got back.

Shobhit must be getting old. Or it's that he's getting used to his super-early shifts at least once a week. He used to be a reliable night owl, never in bed before midnight or 1:00 in the morning. Now he quite often comes to bed the same time I do, and lately is occasionally in bed even before I am. It's kind of a stunning reversal of history.

Speaking of sleep, I once again apparently slept wrong and fucked up the upper right side of my back. This has happened a few times in the past several weeks and I am getting sick of it. I am wondering if getting a massage might help. I've actually never had a massage of any kind. It might be time to get one though. I already know there are places I can go and use my work insurance and only have to pay the $20 copay. This late in the year I know at least one of my deductibles is met already anyway. I suppose I shouldn't necessarily regard cost as a barrier anyway. I can't think of anything else to do, besides take more Aleve than the semi-regular ones I already take for headaches. I'm not really interested in just living with this for the rest of my life.

I also wonder if it's time to invest in a new med mattress. The one Shobhit and I sleep on, I can't even remember when it was purchased. I'm pretty certain we've been sleeping on it at least as long as we've lived in this condo, which is now over eleven years. A quick Google search tells me mattresses should be replaced every 5 to 10 years. Perhaps that's a big contributor to the problem as well. I should ponder this some more.

-- चार हजार चार सौ और बीस-तीन --


[posted 12:26 pm]