Letters

From Our Readers: February 2008

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In praise of the Mankind Project, JD Doyle, and Ray Hill. Pat Gandy takes on Daryl Moore over Clinton. Plus Publisher’s Letter about Mankind Project.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE

In our January issue, OutSmart published a column by Wayne Besen that was critical of the Mankind Project (“Nude Warrior Adventure: ‘Ex-gay’ conversion therapy looks pretty gay to us”), and in particular alleged the organization had ex-gay affiliations. As a matter of fact, the Mankind Project is wonderfully affirming of all men, gay and straight, as we know through many members of the OutSmart circle who have participated in and even led the Mankind Project’s New Warrior trainings through the years.

The Besen column ran as a last-minute replacement and did not receive sufficient editorial scrutiny. Although deadline pressures are a reason, they are not an excuse, and OutSmart deeply regrets our mistake in contributing to the pillaring of an excellent organization.

Following conversations with leaders of the ManKind Project, Besen decided that he reached “the wrong conclusion” regarding the ManKind Project, as he stated in a telephone conversation with OutSmart. Besen provided a revised, corrected column, which is published in this issue (see The New Warriers: A Second Look).

We deeply regret the error and hope to set the record straight on the ManKind Project’s worthy endeavors and gay-supportive atmosphere. Look for a feature about the Mankind Project in the near future that will give a more accurate and balanced viewpoint.

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FOR ALL MANKIND

Once again, the media strikes with misinformation. I’m frankly exhausted from the attacks, lies, and defame against the magnificent work ManKind Project, a gay/bi embracing community, does for all men.

You printed an article, “Nude Warrior Adven-ture/‘Ex-gay’ conversion therapy looks pretty gay to us” by Wayne Besen. (See “LeftOut,” January OutSmart.) He refers to us as “an oddball boot camp, paramilitary, kidnapping, grabbing each others’ ‘dick,’ and making references to the Houston Press article, which are “false and vindictive.” This is utterly bogus.

OutSmart owes us, meaning the hundreds of gay/bi men who have done the New Warrior Training Adventure, opportunities to hear our truth, version, side, and experience with this organization. MKP is one of the few open, accepting, loving, and honoring men’s communities in the world for gay/bi men, if not the most.

Greg Gondron
Executive Director
ManKind Project, Houston

Editor’s note: Greg Gondron refers to the article “Naked Men: The ManKind Project and Michael Scinto,” published in the October 4, 2007, Houston Press.
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I wanted to take a moment to write to you about the January 2008 OutSmart . I was very disappointed to see that the “LeftOut” column by Wayne Besen linked the ManKind Project-New Warrior Training Adventure to ex-gay groups.

First off, I am not aware if this is a local author or if these are columns that are made available for your publication from a freelance journalist. In either regard, the information is wrong and incorrect. As a gay man, the ManKind Project Houston has provided me a safe place to interact with other men, both gay and straight, and find acceptance, friendship, and a host of new friends who are some of the most important people in my life today. I dated a man I met through the ManKind Project. We held hands, even kissed at the local Lodge here in Houston. I am usually one that does not appreciate public displays of affection, but I felt comfortable in this place because men accept me for who I am. There is no pretending, no hiding in any kind of closet. What more beautiful feeling can a gay man have other than to be accepted by men for who they really are, and not in spite of who they are.

The local organization (ManKind Project Houston) has taken steps to welcome gay men into this community. In fact, the New Warrior Training Adventure held in April of 2007 was focused on inviting gay and bisexual men to come and experience the weekend with an emphasis on bringing more gay men into focusing on having healthy GAY relationships. I can assure you that there was not one second spent trying to convert someone from their true orientation, nor would that be tolerated.

In this organization gay men are accepted and glorified as gay men. There is no attempt to change anyone. I am aware that at one point there was a ManKind Project in Northern California who wanted to use this organization as a reparative therapy. I don’t know the details, but the national organization could speak to you about this incident. In response to that, ManKind Project International adopted resolutions to specifically prohibit that kind of attitude and philosophy at any of their trainings. MKPI and MKP Houston have also sponsored “Isms and Issues,” a diversity training dealing with biases and stereotypes that exist in today’s society. One of those programs was held in March of 2007 that dealt specifically with homophobia and heterophobia.

Bottom line: The article quoted in the Houston Press was full of twisted half-truths and misleading information, most of which was gathered from anti-cult zealots on the web, and the other comes from information being spun to support a wrongful death lawsuit. In my opinion, anyone reading the article would recognize that it is not balanced and fair in presenting the details.

This organization has been one of the most significant things I have ever done. My existing friendships have become closer. My circle of gay friends is larger. I have never felt so free and powerful since I was initiated just over two years ago. I pray that the information inadvertently placed in your magazine will not stand in the way of any gay man who is looking for acceptance from other men.

Tommy LaFon
Houston

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It is unfortunate that you gave space in OutSmart to someone who wrote unsupported comments about a wonderful organization. I have seen this group heal the wounds in straight and gay youth, men in marriage crisis, men who have lost loved ones, and bring men of color and non-color together and unite as one. The comments regarding the nudity were silly. I suggest that you sign Wayne and yourself up for a weekend and experience the weekend yourself. This article is damaging and could cause someone who needs an experience like this to keep them alive or to help them meet their full potential in life from not doing the weekend.

I did the weekend in January 2004. Since then I have grown in my career to be one of the top agents in Houston and moving to Austin. I have adopted a wonderful little girl and now have moved my elderly parents nearer to me. Prior to this weekend, I was in a box….

In the future, I hope you will investigate before you publish. I have never viewed your magazine as one would view the Enquirer. Find your integrity with what you do. You have a large responsibility to the community.

Tom Grass
Houston

I just saw that you chose to reprint Wayne Besen’s November 27 weekly column in which he writes about the MKP New Warrior Training Adventure in the context of the ex-gay movement. In the interest of fairness, I suggest you also publish his follow-up article from December in which he clarifies his misimpressions about the relationship of MKP to ex-gay organizations like NARTH and JONAH.

While I believe he is still misrepresenting MKP to some extent and doesn’t address the hundreds of gay/bi men, like me, who have found support and allies as members of the Project, he was honest enough to listen and publish a corrective to his first article. I judge you can do no less.

Robert Powell
Annandale, Virginia

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JUST JD

Thank you so much for featuring JD Doyle of Houston in your magazine [“Listen Up!” January 2008]. He is most certainly an important person in the preservation and archiving of all kinds of music and interviews by all kinds of GLBT peeps. I am fortunate to be included in his transgender series and am most grateful to him for getting my story told in a place I know will be around for a long time to come. Since I am “of an age,” it is comforting to know that.

Besides being so important to our community, he is also a sweet, loving guy to his interview subjects. I had never done a recorded interview before ours was done in May 2007. He was so very kind to me and led me through the process in such a patient way. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer “teacher.” I know his future is a bright one, and I have a feeling he will be on your pages again…or, at least, I hope so.

Terry Noel
Florence, Kentucky

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Thank you for recognizing and honoring JD Doyle’s 100th Queer Music Heritage broadcast. When I read that JD places an album of mine among his 12 “landmark” recordings, I felt like I’d won a Grammy. Congratulations, JD!

Tom Wilson
Weinberg, Philadelphia

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Congratulations on your brilliance in spotlighting this wonderful man! He is single-handedly archiving and sharing with the world gay music that otherwise might be lost in the back of a closet somewhere. JD is one of my HEROES!

Martin Swinger
Augusta, Maine

Editor’s note: Swinger, whose 1994 album Singin’ Out was cited as an “iconic” work by JD Doyle in the January OutSmart, performs in Houston for the first time this month (see “Swinger Does Houston” for details).
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NO, MOORE

I am surprised that Daryl Moore would make such a blatant political attack on a Democratic Presidential candidate, namely, Hillary Clinton [LeftOut by Daryl Moore, “Hillary’s ‘Men-Are-Piling-On’ Strategy,” OutSmart, December 2007].

Is this favoritism for another candidate or just plain, male chauvinist behavior? Since I do know Mr. Moore, I must give him the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that he must not perceive his writing in such a light.

I have only watched four of the debates, the first two, the one in Las Vegas and the one on December 13 in Iowa. I remember listening all the week before the Las Vegas debate from the self appointed gurus about Hillary playing the “woman card” and “whining” because the other candidates were “playing the Republican game of piling on.”

Senator Clinton said it very well herself in Las Vegas when the ever-so-coy Wolf Blitzer asked her what she had to say to her ‘woman card’ critics?  

Typically, Hillary merely replied, “They are piling on because I am ahead, not because I am a woman.”

That hit the nail on the head!

I have heard men galore complain about “piling on,” but somehow it takes on a woman-card appearance when said by a female. But no one ever jumped up and declared the men were playing the “male card.” What nonsense!

It seems that woman-hating is so rampant in our society that normally genteel, kind, intelligent men like Mr. Moore get sucked into this kind of press frenzy when, if they only stopped to think about it, their brains should really tell them otherwise. Remember Ann Richards saying that women were certainly able to do any task open to men, but they just had to be like Ginger Rogers: They had to do it in high heels and backwards to prove their worth. Well, Ann don’t turn over in your grave, but it’s happening now, too!

I won’t even go honor the “gotcha” question charge by Mr. Moore vis-à-vis the driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. Only a trickster or a person who did not understand law would try to make that an issue in a presidential election. Surely, Mr. Moore is an attorney knows Texas law. Last I heard, the State of Texas issues driver’s licenses, not the president of the United States.

Shame on you, Mr. Moore, for picking that as another bomb to throw at Senator Clinton. Illegal immigrants are now the wedge issue this year. (Remember how it has been for us GLBT folks?) I do not know any sensible person who wants anyone driving around the streets of Houston—or Texas or anywhere else—without taking a driving test. It’s a safety issue. There are enough fools on the road and thousands more is not going to make me feel safer!

We do not enforce our immigration laws. We welcome these people into our businesses, our construction sites, our yards, and yes, our homes because they work at tasks that many Americans feel is below their dignity or their ability. And then we want to deny them driver’s licenses because they are terrorist risk? Give me a break!

Now this “va-jay-jay” expression has me puzzled, but I hope it is not what I might guess that it means. This article was a topic of conversation among a large group of women at our regular Sunday lunch meeting after his column came out, and I can report that Mr. Moore’s tirade was not very well received. Most felt as I, that it was unfair and strictly partisan.

Did Mr. Moore write about the earlier attack by Ms. Elizabeth Edwards on Senator Clinton? If he did, I did not see it. Did I miss that issue? If so, I apologize. If he did not, perhaps we could hear his comments on her scorching remark about Senator Clinton in which she compared herself more favorably, a stay-at-home mother, to career-mom Hillary Clinton. But then, I really think that would be in bad taste for anyone to do so. Certainly, Senator Clinton brushed it off, too.

It is really sad that some political operatives see Senator Clinton as fair game for any attack, but excuse other women and men. Exceptionally talented, intelligent women seem to attract that sort of sludge. I am old enough to remember the vicious attacks on Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of FDR, and she was never even running for office! But she was out there, helping to be his eyes and ears. “How dare she?” the haters asked.

Senator Clinton knows she has a bull’s eye painted on her. She also said in the Las Vegas debate, “I am wearing my asbestos suit tonight!”

I hope Mr. Moore has donned his asbestos suit, as there are a lot of women (and a goodly number of men, I expect) who are blistering angry about his selective remarks on one candidate.

Methinks Mr. Moore has his own motives for such nonsense. I know him to be a nice, intelligent man who is well educated in the law. His column should not be used for such pandering.

I support Senator Clinton on the issues, and after watching the first two debates, I came away convinced of her undoubted ability to lead all America back to the position of honor, integrity and decency in national and world affairs by the sheer, awesome presidential aura exuded by her ideas, personality and ability to communicate.

I do not have to slur other candidates to do this and never would, as I have too much respect for most of them.Pat Gandy
Houston

Editor’s note: Pat Gandy is a former president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus. Read more of her response in a commentary at www.outsmartmagazine.com.
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RAVE ABOUT RAY

Thanks for letting us readers hear from Ray Hill [“Wherefore Art Thou, My Community?” January 2008]. I gather his life has been an interesting one. His article is excellent and gives us the information fast and simply.

As is implied, if someone doesn’t think there is a “community,” it could be because they have never tried to become a part of the movement and community, which was started in about 1950 in Southern California, and in Houston could be said to have existed at that time in bars.

He is right that our movement for civil/equal rights is like those of blacks, women, and any minority. Some of us had already been involved in those movements. He is also right that few bars were helpful in working for our cause. And AIDS, sadly, actually helped us come together even more as a community.

We hope that young homosexual men and women, some coming out because of contact in the gay/lesbian groups in universities and even GLSEN groups in high schools, will know what we have done and join in the work and build on what we have given them.

Today there is not just one organization or publication. There are multiple professional groups serving our community—so that young gay lawyers can join that group working in the legal area, young lesbians can join the group for medical doctors, and others can join a church that is gay-friendly. None of these resources existed in 1950 when the movement founders started Mattachine, expanded to ONE, then the Daughters of Bilitis, and on and on. So we have a wonderful heritage to build on. And Ray Hill is a part of that heritage and is still here to give us encouragement and support.

Billy Glover
Bossier City, Louisiana

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