Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Williamsburg Time Warp. 1979

Sitting on New York City's L Train, jerking along between Manhattan and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I have had the unsettling feeling that I've been transported back to 1979. Were it not for the numbers of ears I see tethered to iPods and the fingers pecking away at cellphones, I would believe with certainty that it was, in fact, seventy-nine. The long hair and beards and mustaches adorning hipster faces has the unmistakable look of my college age peers. I want to blurt out, "I looked just like you once!", but the blank eyes peering back at my middle-aged facade reveal that they fail to see what resemblance they share with me.

I think I look great for my age, but I don't look twenty-one, much less twenty-seven. Thank God, I feel no compulsion to dig through attics and basements, or hit the vintage stores, to achieve that style again. Dressing in middle-age, as you did in your youth, strikes me as too much like older men and women, who believe that keeping the same hairstle through the decades has somehow stopped the cruel hands of time.

Men differ today from the boys of my youth, as much as I differed from my father's WWII generation. I can't speak for my father, although I can recount stories he has regaled I and my brothers with since childhood, but I can compare what I observe today from what I remember seeing in my own early twenties.

Young men have always been conscious of their appearance, but today there is much more self-consciousness about their bodies and sexual identity. Today's man knows that other men -- aka gay men -- may be looking at their bodies, prompting them to want to look great, while at the same time to not solicit the gay gaze.

Although, I wasn't out as a gay man in my student days, I, nevertheless, watched the men on my dormitory floor and at the gym. Nudity was less of an issue, when guys were not wondering if gay men were watching them. Men all showered together, and whatever was thought was left, in public, unspoken. I recall at eighteen, shortly after moving into my college housing highrise, entering the floor's men's room and seeing an Adonis built senior, standing naked at the sink, shaving a day's stubble off his morning face. I the rush, not of lust, but of, awe. He was magnificent and that image, now burned into my memory, I will carry to my grave.

I look at the photographs that I took during that period and I compare them to photographs that I make today. People behave differently before the camera now, than they did, back then. Today, everyone is much more self-conscious about their appearance than twenty-five or more years ago. At that time, not everyone had a camera, and unlike today, a camera wasn't on everyone's person twenty-four hours a day. Today with proliferation of digital cameras and camera phones, everyone can shoot everyone else all the time. The digital speed of immediately seeing the image after you've shot it only makes people either more self-conscious or more self-satisfied.

People ask me if I shoot film or digital. I continue to shoot film because I love the look of it, and because it would cost me a fortune to buy a digital camera that could imitate my own medium format film camera. But one advantage I treasure to shooting film over digital, is that I don't have to keep showing whomever I photograph their captured image in the LCD screen. I tell them that they'll have to wait, and because they accept the wait, they become more relaxed and less conscious of their own out appearance. It means that the subject must trust me and allow me to do whatever I need to do without the subject turning into an Art Director.

Not only straight men are conscious of how they are being perceived, but gay men are conscious of it as well. While a straight man may want to avoid being seen as a sexual object, or even being perceived as being homosexual, gay men have become like women who don't want to encourage too much attention from the male sex. Such gay men want to be seen and admired, but not bothered. Nor does this gay man want, at least in public places, being perceived as a slut, so he wears his towel from the locker room to the shower, and never enters the sauna or steam room, where he knows that he'll find other gay men.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

'The Way It Used To Be", Pet Shop Boys. Scroll down and click on music.

I'm here, you're there
Come closer, tonight I'm lonely
Come here with me
I want it the way it used to be

What is left of love?
Tell me, who would even care?
So much time has passed
I'd still meet you anywhere
Water under bridge
Evening after day
What is left of love
Here that didn't drift away?

I can remember days of sun
We knew our lives had just begun
We could do anything, we're fearless when we're young
Under the moon, address unknown
I can remember nights in Rome
I thought that love would last, a promise set in stone

I'd survive with only memories
If I could change the way I feel
But I want more than only memories
A human touch to make them real

Another day, another dream
Over the bridge an empty scene
[ Pet Shop Boys Lyrics are found on www.songlyrics.com ]
We'd spend the weekend lost in bed and float upstream
I don't know why we moved away
Lost in the here and now we strayed
Into a New York zone, our promise was betrayed

I was there, caught on Tenth Avenue
You elsewhere with Culver City blues
Then and there I knew that I'd lost you

What is left of love?
Tell me, who will even care?
So much time has passed
I'd still meet you anywhere
Water under bridge
Evening after day
What is left of love
Here that didn't drift away?

Don't give me all your love and pain
Don't sell me New York in the rain
Let's leave our promises behind
Rewind and try again

What remains in time that didn't fade away?
Sometimes I need to see
The way it used to be

Monday, August 31, 2009

Drew. Summer 2009.

Shot for East Village Boys Zine. www.eastvillageboys.com

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Identity as a Creative Person

Before I came out as a gay man and returned to graduate school to pursue film studies, I found my identity in the roles that I played: son, grandson, brother, good student, Christian, religious, church leader, Evangelist, and heterosexual. It wasn't difficult. I'd been cast in my role by virtue of genes and geography. Each of us to one degree or another, deal with this mantle thrust upon us by birth. While many embrace it; others question it, while yet a few cast it off and flee naked into the day or the night to find another cloak that fits to who they are.

In many ways the question still remains, from what do I achieve or draw my identity? Who am I? I'm still a son and brother, but unlike my brothers, I never became a husband nor a father. What does it mean to be a creative or an artist? Are you an artist, if you've never had a gallery show? Are you a novelist, if you've never had a book published? Are you an actor if you're not on stage in a play?

Frequently, I am asked, "What do you do?" What do I say? Or should I say anything?
It seems like I'm drawn into a game which I'm not going to win. The question seems so American, rude and direct at the same time.

Often, I respond by saying, "I'm a photographer." But what does that mean? I could take pictures of flower pots, or door knobs, or weddings, or babies, or cars, or whatever. I've had people respond back, "Oh. My seven year old nephew is a photographer. You should see his pictures."

Once, I explain that I make portraits. I'm then asked,

"Are you a professional photographer or is it just a hobby?"

This is where the answer gets tricky. Professional or hobbyist. What people want to know is whether you earn money from your photography and if you can live off it. You are then being judged, not on the creative work itself, but rather on the money derived.

If I say, (with some bemusement), the results are professional, then I see question marks reflected back in their uncomprehending eyes. From their point of view, someone who spends his time on something without earning much back is either crazy or a hobbyist. Everyone is allowed their hobbies.

So I guess I'm not a hobbyist, I'm just crazy. What else could I be, if not crazy? I spend hours and hours, days and days, months and months, years and years, making photographs without having achieved a gallery show or a major magazine publication. The money that I've spent is incalculable at this point in time, what with the expense of equipment, film, processing and prints.

Now I deflect the question. I usually say that I make photographs and write, but that I earn income from doing all sorts of other things: teacher, child care provider; waiter; bartender; and, production assistant. The list goes on and on. For the last three years, I have lived with a family in Brooklyn and helped to care for and raise their son, who will soon be six years. It is not an experience I sought, but one that by happenstance came to me, and I don't regret it. I've formed a relationship that will be with me for a life time.

Last week, I sat in Union Square, New York City, dressed in black pants, long sleep white pullover, white mask and black goggles joined by thirty other men and women in a performance for a Brooklyn artist. For this I earned the princely sum of twenty dollars. "Hey. It pays for subway fares."

To say that I'm a photographer places me in one box. I'm not "just" a photographer. I'm a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a gay man, who makes photographs, who writes, who travels, who engages with interesting people and learns other points of view. I'm a creative who lives, or attempts to live, creatively.

Monday, August 3, 2009

"It's not even pretty!" my nephew declared to his older sister.

Some years back I sat parked inside my youngest brother's car outside his suburban house, while his fifteen year old daughter and nine year old son fought over the music. "It's not even pretty," my nephew declared in reference to his older sister's choice. He spoke with such surprising disdain for a boy so young, yet already he demonstrated that age was no barrier to convictions.

Some time before this dispute, I had lent him my catalogue of cds. The artists ranged from Moby to Minogue to Mozart. I was quite curious as to his preference. What would he favor?

What's great about kids is that they do not know the difference between old and new, ancient and contemporary. It's all the same and so they gravitate to whatever they like rather than what the surrounding culture steers them toward.

He ended up selecting Mylene Farmer, a French pop singer. For weeks following, he sat in the back of the car, buckled in by his seat belt, (barely tall enough to look out the window), with his earplugs tethered to his portable cd player and listen to Madame Farmer over and over again. Why? What drew him to this sound? Obviously, there was no way he could understand the lyrics. They were in French for God's sake! But, nevertheless, he responded to something that touched him on a deeper emotional level that although he was too young to articulate, he nevertheless felt.

I believe that it is this emotional and intellectual connection that separates art from commerce. Rather than persuade you to do something as Commerce would do (Go there, buy this), great art whispers rather than shouts affecting the hearer/seer on a deeper level. Art gets under the skin in the way that commerce can never do, touching the mind and the heart. I think that this is why commerce favors the beautiful because it is so often only about the surface.

Why do we return again and again to certain music, painting, photography, theater, architecture, poetry and novels? Great art is an act of communication between the Maker and the Recipient. It has the capacity to arouse a feeling that was heretofore absent.

Some people look to Art for answers that other people seek in religion. Art like religion is the expression of the ineffable. We try to explain but we can not, so we find another means of communication.

Like my young nephew, I'm attracted to beauty. Beauty is like a shiny object on the sidewalk that immediately catches your eye, but just as quickly loses your attention as you walk on down the street. I glance through fashion magazines all the time, feasting on the beautiful men and women, yet it is an empty calorie meal. I rarely linger on any image, quickly turning the page and moving on to the next. The beauty on display is all on the surface and reveals nothing more. It appears to have been conceived by an Art Director and a Stylist, rather than springing from an artist.

Nevertheless, recently, upon three separate occasions over the course of a few weeks, I went back to see the retrospective of Fashion Photography by Richard Avedon on show at the Museum of the International Center of Photography in New York City. Three times! Something more must be contained in Avedon's photographs to warrant repeated viewings.

Avedon was embraced and worshiped by the fashion world. But Avedon wasn't merely a fashion photographer, he was at heart, a portraitist. His fashion images from the 40s through the 70s lean closer to portraiture than le Mode, in spite of the couture clothes by Dior and Givenchy.

Avedon believed his series of photographs of regular people that he shot in the American West his more important work. But to me he seems to have no real connection to these subjects nor they to him.

While the photographs displayed at the ICP Museum reveal he had a deep bond to the subjects, aka models, who inhabited his frames. It feels like he knew them and that they were his friends, his family--a very beautiful, lively, interesting family, but nevertheless a family. One can imagine that he had Dorian Leigh, Sunny Hartnett, Suzy Parker, Robin Tattersall, Dovima, Lauren Hutton, Jean Shrimpton, Veruschka, Twiggy, Penelope Tree, et al, all over to dinner where they laughed and talked late into the night.

While the fashion images taken in Paris in the 40s and 50s were his work, the photographs capture the wonderful times he shared with a select group of beautiful friends living in beautiful places. "Wish you were here!"

And I do wish I was there! I wish to much to be transported back in time. I want to take Suzy Parker to dinner; I want to go roller skating with Robin Tattersall on the Place de Concorde in Paris. These are great cinematic images in the true sense of the cinema that recall the best of post war Hollywood Directors. The photographs tell a stories of love, longing, loss and great happiness.

This is why I went back to see the Avedon show again and again, because in the process of viewing the images, Avedon became more real. Not only do the models age, but the photographer and artist, as well. In their youth they see their reflection in the faces of their youthful friends and colleagues, but as they age they become less the participant and more the observer.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"I don't want you bringing any homosexuals into the house."

My father turned eight-three years old today. As is his custom, he probably rose at dawn, climbed on his motorcycle, fired up the engine and cruised along the lonely Kentucky back roads, before arriving back home again in time to eat Mom’s bacon and eggs breakfast.

For over a half a century, he’s been as close to a bike as paint to pavement. While in the past, the road trips were just something that he did (he rode to California at least five time), today each ride is an act of defiance against the inexorable encroachment of old age--as if you could stop the hands of time by merely unplugging your electrically powered clock.

It wasn't easy growing up the son of a man who resembled Sean Connery and behaved like John Wayne in the movies. Dad had what could only be called “screen presence: fearless; cool under pressure; man of few words; athletic and handsome. He exemplified the qualities of the All-American man’s man.

My father grew up largely dependent upon himself, one of seven kids. By tenth grade he left school and entered a government sponsored youth work camp, at seventeen, during WWII, he served with the navy in the South Pacific, at twenty he married, by twenty-five he ran his own business, at thirty he built his own house, and by thirty-seven he’d fathered five sons. How do you top that?

It must have been difficult for him to of had a son who preferred books, art, drama and church to motorcycles, airplanes, judo wrestling, and scuba diving. He excelled at everything he chose to tackle. If some one drowned, the authorities called him to retrieve their bodies from the bottom of murky lakes and rivers. I remember at age eleven or twelve, seeing his bandaged after a mad tenant who owed back rent sliced him up with a knife. I recall him going back to a gas station to demand his money back from the unscrupulous owner who had sold me gasoline that never made its way into our car’s gas tank.

I’m sure my father didn’t know what to make of me. It was like having a child who spoke a different language. While my brothers ran around outdoors, I sat in front of the television, mesmerized by Susan Hayward’s portrayal of singer, Jane Froman, the great vocalist who lost her leg in a plane crash, watching her sing "With A Song in My Heart" as she danced down a staircase under enormous hanging chandeliers. Thank God, my saint of a mother provided him with four other sons to entertain him.
Were it not for my brothers, my awkward and tense relationship with my father—five minutes alone in a room with him and I felt like a caged bird looking for an escape—would never have mended.

Although, I came out as gay man at the late age of thirty (soon thereafter, informing my brothers), my parents remained in the dark until ten years later. I didn’t want to tell them, even though it made my life miserable their not knowing. Knowing my parents, I knew that my mother would love me still but agonize over my spending eternity in Hell, whereas my Father would take some stance like John Wayne to Montgomery Cliff in Howard Hawk’s film, ‘Red River,’ and tell me what to do. And so it played out, after my next younger brother decided it necessary to out me to my mother, who in turn, felt it necessary to immediately inform my father. Needless to say, it was not pretty.

One afternoon, I found myself alone with my father in the Den, where he sat in his arm chair watching the game show, ‘Wheel of Fortune.’ The tension in the air was as thick as the humidity before a hard rain on a hot summer day. I wanted to flee but I continued to sit there staring at Vanna White spinning the wheel.

Finally, like a kettle on the stove, the whistle blew. My father informed me that my mother had spoken to him about myz being gay. It must have required all his strength to even get the words out, he not being a man to express anything much more personal than a “hello.” He then proceeded to tell me that since I was smart (my having acquired a B.A. and a graduate degree) that I could change. He told me that I was never to bring any gay person into his home (although my mother later said that she liked all friends and didn’t know who was gay and who not). He ended the speech by giving me his prognosis: my relationship with my brothers would be destroyed if I did not become straight.

It never came to pass. For months, I barely spoke a word to my father, and not many more to my mother. But it was the support of my brothers that broke the silence. My father came to see that his straight sons continued their solidarity with their gay brother. And because his sons did not share his point of view, he was left isolated and alone.

I don’t know when I realized that our relationship had improved, but I recognized that the tension between us had dissipated. It felt like the relieved exhaustion I would feel after a physical fight with my next younger brother. We would end the ruckus all sweaty and tired, but whatever ill feeling we were carrying disappeared.

Then one Sunday morning, while my mother was off to Church, my father asked me if I wanted to go on a motorcycle ride with him. I pulled a helmet over my head, climbed on behind him with my hands gripping his sides and we were off with the wind whipping our faces. Then I knew that things had changed and life henceforth would not be the same.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"If my husband ever speaks to you again, I'll divorce him," she said.

"Hi, John! It's Greg. Been thinking of you.  Give me a call. Hope every thing's ok."  I then hung up the phone, but, I had the unsettled feeling that things were not quite alright back in ole Kentucky.

For months I had rung John from my home in New York City, leaving a string of unanswered messages on the voice mail he shared with his wife, Mary.  Seasons passed: snow melted; flowers bloomed; tomatoes ripened; leaves tumbled from tree branches; and still, no response.

We had all become friends while on a student tour of Europe.  Seventy kids and their exhausted adult supervisors on three exhaust spewing buses criss-crossing Europe .  At that time, I was a seventeen year old born-again Christian, a youth leader in my Southern Baptist Church, a High School thespian and former Art Club president.   Any observant outsider could have added it all up and come to a quick conclusion:  Gay!   But I was always bad in math. 

John and Mary were my chaperones.  Although only ten years my senior they impressed me as so much older, spiritual and mature.   They had met one another while attending a conservative Methodist school, Asbury College and their courtship blossomed into marriage shortly following their graduation.  

For six weeks, we wandered through the glittering Capitals of Europe: tripped over the ruins of the Roman Colisseum;  stared dumbfounded at the almost naked, fan-waving, leg-kicking dancers of Paris'  'Folles Bergere'; scrutinized the half smile of the Louvre's 'Mona Lisa'; and, followed the stories of the young hopefuls in London Westend muscial,  'A Chorus Line.  It was a far, far cry from my strict Baptist Church in which I grew up where the most drama came from Baptisms and the sin-to-redemption testimonies of visiting preachers.  I felt like Audrey Hepburn in 'Sabrina.'

Leap several years into the future. By then I lived in the historic Cherokee Triangle of Louisville, Kentucky, a neighborhood for drawing creative and artistic types (Do the math). I was twenty-eight years old and the Area Director of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (a conservative youth movement with chapters on university campuses across America).  By this point of my life, sexual identity issues that I had buried away inside myself were violently breaking out of their crypt.

My life was not just a mess but a lie:    I was on the verge of asking a Church Organist to marry me; I pretended before my staff and students to be someone above the temptations that every human confronts;  I answered questions that no reasonable man would attempt to answer.  I counseled young men and woman who confessed of homosexual desires to give it all to Christ and let Him change them.  

As the state team leader of IVCF, I supervised a staff of five, whose objective was to establish and equip strong groups of Christian students to witness to Jesus to the non-believers on their campuses. I lead prayer meetings, ran instructional weekend Bible conferences,  traveled on Mission Trips to Central America, and trained young Christians to evangelize vacationing students on the beaches of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida during Spring Break.   I was a Christian Poster Child whose appealing image betrayed the real turmoil within.

Although, I had always been drawn to the arts, (drawing, painting, reading, theater), I had also always been inclined to spiritual things. I had grown up as a Southern Baptist, and for me, God, Jesus, faith and Church played an important role. An avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, I believed in an after life and felt strongly that everyone would be much better off spending eternity in Heaven than in the fires of Hell.  I was a young Ted Haggard (the ejected former leader of the National Association of Evangelicals who had confessed to engaging in gay sex with a Hustler Masseur) in the making.

But by my late twenties, I found myself so tormented by my desire for love and physical contact with my own sex, that I imagined I had only two choices: become straight and marry or live sexless and loveless for the rest of my life.  The other path was too black to even consider.  And that's how John came back into the picture.   Since our European tour, he had become a Christian psychologist with a practice at Louisville's Methodist hospital.

One day, I called John under the pretext of merely saying hello and admitted to my homosexual conflict.  Uttering those words required almost more strength than I had; I dialed the number dozens of times before before letting the call go through.  John suggested in sympathetic voice that we meet for lunch and talk about it.  And so we did, and continued to do for several weeks before he finally said that our friendship precluded his help and he exhorted me to get real therapy from someone other than himself.

For the next two years, I met weekly and sometimes twice weekly, (depending on my level of anxiety), with a silver haired Christian therapist, Gertrude.  "I want to be straight," I told Gertrude.  But she just nodded her head and echoed Jesus's words upon our first meeting, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." 

I had tried other ways to go heterosexual.  Over time, I realized that prayer alone would not remove my desires, nor would admissions to older handsome Christian mentors.  I would feel great for a few hours after my confession and then all the longing would return like a mountain avalanche.  

For a years I was persuaded that my gay feelings were a temporary aberration to be expelled by healthy relationships with my male peers and friendships with women that could become romantic.   I had even convinced myself that each time I suffered a nocturnal emission or wet dream as it is more commonly referred to, it was God's way of relieving me of my desires. Obviously,  it didn't work.

Next, I concluded that it was my a fear of the woman's sex that hindered my progression into straighthood. I needed to just get over it.  So  I entered a drug store in a part of town where no one would recognized me and quickly seized whatever straight male pornography that could legally be sold over the counter.  Later, back in the apartment that I shared with a Christian policeman, I retrieved the magazines from under my mattress and flipped through the pages of busty blondes, brunettes and redheads, posed in positions that displayed all their assets so well that you could count the pubic hairs.  But no matter how hard  I tried to summon up some heterosexual feelings, the photos and stories only left my own asset limp.

One summer evening, I bought a six pack of beer.  Driving to a private tree shrouded spot, I parked on the side of a road.  Although I wasn't even a drinker (two beers were my limit), I thought that if I were to drink enough that I would free my inner heterosexual who would come forth like Jesus from His tomb.  Then I would be resurrected to a new life as a contented and happy straight male.  Of course, I did not succeed.  My naive attempt at self-administered therapy only left me inebriated and stopped by the police on my way home.

Even acquiring a girl friend did not help.  Linda was my last attempt of going straight.   We had met through friends.  She was the Church Organist at a socially prominent, white columned Baptist Church, who, at twenty-nine, suspicioned that I might also be her last chance to marry.  I tried to do everything right, even taking her home to meet my relieved parents.  Attending church functions and going to movies was fine, but to her chagrin, I always wanted to go home immediately after kissing her Goodnight at her door.  Even conservative Christians who would urge controlling your sexual desires until after your marriage still want get as close to the edge of the cliff as they can without falling into the chasm.   But not me.  I was outta there.

Through these years and the years following my decision to come out as a Gay man, to leave the Christian ministry, to move to New York where I entered the Film School of Columbia University (an acceptance I believe prompted by my bizarre story), I remained in contact with John.  In the beginning when I had first begun therapy, John said that he believed that I was merely passing through a stage that I had skipped over during adolescence suspicioning that I carried unresolved issues with my father.  

But what I came to realize over time was that John dealt with his own homosexual longings which he believed sprang from his own relationship to his parents.  As the years passed, he talked about them more and more and inquired about my own life as a gay man, how I reconciled my Christian background with my choices. As for me, simply put, I came to realize that being Gay was how I came into the world. If there is a God, then He made me gay. I explained to John that as I saw it the Bible doesn't really talk about Gays or what it means to be Gay. The Bible talks about acts of violence, I didn't see anywhere where it spoke of love between two men or women of the same sex.

Our relationship changed. I became the confidant and John the confessor. He admitted to engaging in furtive sexual encounters with other men, mostly closeted married men, whom he met in the parks or online. The episodes excited him, but at the same time, he believed that he was working out same sex feelings that he should have processed as a teenager. When asked about his marriage and whether he would come out or consider divorce, John spoke against it. He loved his wife, feared the loss of his retirement through the Church were he to come out, and worried that his children would disown him. He would remain married.

This is where the story becomes even more complicated and unbelievable to recount. At this point, John had been married over thirty years and had fathered two children, who were now married with children. And he had become a caregiver to his wife, Mary, who had become sick to the point of death with an illness that no Doctor had diagnosed. For two years, she became weaker and weaker, until finally one Doctor suggested that she take an HIV test. The result came back positive. She had been suffering from complications stemming from AIDS.

Oddly, John had not infected her. He tested negative, and they opined that Mary probably became infected through vitamin infusions that she received intravenously back in the early eighties. Once the diagnosis was determined, Mary went on the cocktail of AIDS medications. Miraculously, her health turned around completely and she went from being bedridden to being up and about and back to work.

It was the final phone call where the story came out. I was back in Kentucky and rang John and Mary's home thinking all I would hear was the answering machine. Again their message, "Hi, you've reached John and Mary. No one's home. Leave a message and will get right back to you." As I prepared to hang up, I heard a woman's voice. It was Mary.

The conversation began quite casually, but I detected a difference in her tone. It was almost cold to the point of ice, yet all the while very polite. I asked, "How have you been?" knowing about her problems with AIDS, and knowing that she knew that I was an out gay man.

"Do you really want to know?" she answered in a way that made me not want to know. Nevertheless, I said, "Yes."

She had discovered that her husband had engaged in homosexual sex. Now the fury in her voice was unmistakable. She kept repeating, "Greg, I know you're not to blame." "Greg, I know you're not to blame." But she was persuaded that I had encouraged John to have gay sex, and she felt betrayed that I had kept this information from her. Even though nothing physical had ever transpired between her husband and myself, Mary, was jealous of the emotional intimacy we shared. Her husband had never felt free to ever share any of his fears with her or anyone in the church knowing that he'd only receive judgement, a judgement that would only exacerbate the guilt that he already carried.

"Greg, I'll tell John that you called. But, Greg, I just want you to know, that if he ever calls you, I'll divorce him."

With that, she hung up the phone. And, John, never called.