Do these attributes ring any bells for you, as they do for me?
I’m only on Ch. 19, but I have to get in this review now.
I’m blessed to call Moira Greyland one of my friends. We met on Facebook through mutual friends; she is the daughter of gays, I am the ex-wife of one. We have exchanged numerous comments and messages; a number of months ago, she became my voice coach, and we have talked numerous times. She is a joyous woman, enormously talented, expert in several fields, energetic, cheerful, and beautiful.
She is also a walking miracle.
And a very fine writer.
Moira’s parents were famous writers; I’d come across Marion Zimmer Bradley through her Mists of Avalon (which I bought but never could get into, and eventually threw away), but I wasn’t acquainted with the name of Walter Breen until I met Moira. Both Marion and Walter were brilliant and famous in their respective fields; I was surprised to learn that she was one of the cofounders of the Society of Creative Anachronisms, and other Faires.
Walter, it turns out, was paranoid schizophrenic. Marion didn’t have a formal diagnosis, having never been institutionalized, but my hunch is that it would have been very bad, had there been one. Nevertheless, both of them were brutal child molesters and abusers. Moira was raped by both her parents, she watched her father bring into their home and seduce dozens of young boys, her mother go through bouts of insane and irrational rages. How she has emerged from that hellhole to be the vibrant and powerful — if sometimes shell-shocked — woman that she is leaves me in utter awe.
There are moments in this book of wry humor (Walter would have sex with “anything with a pulse” — in my head, I can see and hear Moira speaking those words). There are recountings that are so carefully navigated to avoid the salacious but still leave one wanting to scream with fury, to reach through the pages and to rescue that little girl she was. Moira had told me she has panic attacks in the shower, and now I fully understand why.
But the book is more than just her story; it is also the story of the fomentation of the gay rights and pederasty movement (I’m sorry, the two really are inescapably linked — and Breen wrote about “Greek love”) out of Berkeley in the 1960s and 70s. Walter’s schizophrenia thankfully left him incapable of playing the system by self-editing his thoughts and words, any more than his impulses, he was very vocal in his advocacy of sex with children, and wrote about it, and his words and attitudes have been recounted by more than just Moira, which allows us to see the train of thought of an active pederast. His testimony in the criminal trial that put him in prison for the rest of his life was appallingly candid; he actually seems to have believed he could persuade the judge that he was in the right in seducing young boys, that he was doing them an enormous favor. Moira weaves others’ writings, remembrances, and testimony through her own story to demonstrate that these events she recounts were not the creation of her own mind but a well-documented, publicly-known “secret” in the various communities where the family were connected.
There are hard paragraphs to read, yes, but overall The Last Closet is a story of survival and of triumph of love. Moira shows us the brokenness that each of her parents brought into their marriage, and the tragic and twisted love they shared (they were so in tune with one another on many levels, that they would regularly buy one another the same gift). She shows us her carefully-forged escapes and survival techniques.
As I said in opening, I’m on Ch. 19. But I know how the story will end, because I know Moira: in triumph.
Right now, The Last Closet is only available in Kindle format. It will be available in hard copy soon. And — I don’t know where she’s going to find the strength to do it all — in audiobook. Yes, Moira’s going to record it herself.
I’ve already spoken about one need of children, here, in regards to gay marriage. But there are other issues that we women, we mothers worry about, and after some hard consideration, I think it’s time to address them.
It was 1980. Early spring, one of those gorgeous days when I could put the windows up and let some fresh air blow into the house. One of those days you dream about in January. I was sitting in the rocker, cuddling my firstborn, when all of a sudden there was an explosion of profanity from the next-door back yard. It was impossible, even with windows down, to miss what had happened:
My next-door neighbor was gay. He’d been married, his wife was absent, due to health issues that were never elaborated on, except that she was in full-time nursing care. He had a teenaged son and daughter. I liked George (another pseudonym) — cheerful, talented, creative, good-humored . . . and I liked the kids, too, although the boy seemed sullen at times and the girl was so shy I didn’t even know what her voice sounded like after almost a year of being neighbors.
The night before, George had had a party. George, Jr. was screaming obscenities at his father because other gay men at that party had been hitting on him, and his dad had looked on and done nothing. The friends mattered more. He hadn’t protected his son from unwanted sexual advances. All it would have taken would have been a good-natured, “Hey, if he doesn’t want to, leave him alone.” But evidently that was not what had happened. I couldn’t fathom it then, being so protected, myself, growing up, but it sounded as if George had actually found the whole thing perfectly acceptable.
George, Jr. was furious at his father. He was confronting his father with the strongest possible expressions of rage for a horrible breach of parental responsibility, and with an ultimate betrayal — and George laughed. He laughed at his son.
I told DH about it, when he came in for lunch. “Just keep quiet about it,” he told me. “Don’t say anything, not to anybody.” I didn’t know, then, that DH had been seduced, himself.
This was at a time when an adult, even a parent, could be brought up before a judge for what was called moral turpitude. I don’t know what would make that definition, any more; the courts more and more are favoring the gay parents in custody issues. The protection of minor children from irresponsible and immoral behaviors is getting harder over the past few years. Even 20 years ago, when I worked for a lawyer, today’s (im)moral climate wasn’t even on the radar.
Frankly? having girls, there was a limit to what I had to worry about. If I’d had any boys, I don’t know WHAT I would have done. Even then, you couldn’t change custody and visitation over what MIGHT happen; something had to have already happened before you could deprive a parent of custody or visitation rights. Now the definition of endangerment, in court, has become so watered down as to become very nearly meaningless.
One thing you can do — TALK TO YOUR KIDS. No matter their age, even preschoolers can know that it’s wrong to be touched in areas a bathing suit would cover, and that they can ALWAYS talk to you if someone says or does something that makes them uncomfortable. They can be told that it’s okay to say “no,” that just because a person is an adult, “respect” only covers so much territory.
Being age-appropriate is key. And you don’t have to point a finger to Daddy or Daddy’s friends. Kids are at risk now in school from teachers and coaches. School sex ed classes cover matters most of us do not want to have brought to our children just yet, and certainly not without our own values (like chastity and reverence) being included in the conversation. A huge item in the news this week is a 10-year old in California being raped by a “transgender” in a public bathroom.
So it’s not just us who have to worry — everyone needs to worry, now; no one can afford to be complacent. But we have a higher risk factor. I’m putting feelers out to see if there are any studies about rates of molestation for children of gays as compared to children from heterosexual households. So far, nothing. We’ll see.
But there are risks. Maybe your gay ex-spouse is a jewel who wouldn’t dream of hurting anyone (I believe DH is in this category), but you can’t be sure all his friends are going to be so conscientious.
Forewarned is forearmed.
You probably remember the story: Jesus is teaching his disciples, and good ol’ Peter, Peter the Impetuous, pipes up, “So, Lord, You’re saying we have to forgive seven times?” Seven represents completion, perfection — Peter is saying he’s got this; Jesus is putting a definition on forgiveness, and it’s perfect.
But Jesus shakes His head, “No, Peter. Seventy times seven.” Oh, Peter, it’s so much more complicated than a mere “perfect” forgiveness — it requires so much more of ourselves.
First, let’s get this straightened out: Forgiveness is NOT saying, “You did wrong, but I’ve decided it doesn’t matter.” Forgiveness is NOT about eliminating consequences. We are not being asked to be deliberate victims to wrong-doing, here. We aren’t expected to be stupid in the name of forgiveness.
We are allowed to protect ourselves. We are allowed to establish limits and boundaries and to hold them inviolable.
So — what is forgiveness? I’ve heard several takes. One is that forgiveness is that you choose not to let the other person live rent-free in your head, controlling your life. But I find it most useful, for myself, to think of forgiveness is letting go of my right to get even, my right to be vindicated, even.
Sometimes we even have to let go of the very same incident, conversation, violation over and over and over again. “I forgive” brings a moment’s quiet to the mind and spirit, but the memories resurface and boil to the top and our peace is once more disturbed, we are once again consumed with “What I would like to say/do to that revolving s.o.b.!” —- and we have to forgive, to let go of our right to be avenged or vindicated, to relinquish our right for “justice,” forgive the very same wrong again and again and again —
You have a right to draw your line in the sand, whether it’s sexual abuse, battery, emotional abuse. “You may not cross this line!” and to take steps to safeguard that line. I think being angry gives us power to decide what those lines are going to be, and the courage to defend them. But to maintain our own peace of mind, which is the point of having the boundaries in the first place, we have to let go of bitterness, hostility, the desire to get even, to retaliate, to put the other in his place —
Again and again and again, all for a single offense. Seventy times seven times. A lifetime of learning to forgive.
Anger can be a powerful barometer to alert us something is Not Right in our lives, in our relationships.
It can be a powerful impetus for needed change. Anger at being abused, for instance, can motivate us to make changes to stop the abuse or to get away from it.
We have to be careful, though. Anger, badly or recklessly heeded, can lead to some irresponsible or self-destructive choices.
Anger can be turned inward. This is self-destructive. It’s been said for years that depression is “anger turned inward.” It’s my personal opinion (and I’m not a psychologist) that that’s too simplistic an assessment, but there’s enough truth there for it to become an easy platitude. We punish ourselves for others’ wrongs, fault ourselves for not being able to “help” or “fix,” things that aren’t ours to begin with, and we become depressed.
I’ve seen anger lead to irresponsible and dangerous choices. People who can’t cope turning to alcohol or drugs, for instance. Or flashes of rage and temper that cause us to hurt other people, in turn. Or a seething resentment that builds into a dishonest idea that we have a right to — get even, to get a bit of our own back, to have our needs met however dishonestly or dishonorably we have to do it. I’ve known men and women who justified adulterous affairs by saying their spouse was “asking for it.” “I have a right to be happy” isn’t necessarily true — certainly no one has a right to be “happy” at the expense of others’ trust or if it means violating sacred principles.
I think more often anger is just a low simmering flame that reveals itself in our restlessness, an inability to find peace, an edginess in our relationships with others, punctuated by occasional yelling bouts and the like. Maybe we can’t stop replaying a conversation we had (or wish we’d had) and what we said or wish we’d said or would like to say. . Maybe it shows up in an unaccustomed use of profanity, or door-slamming, or some other behavior that isn’t so self-destructive as alcohol abuse or the “I’ll show him!” affair — but still gives us that nagging warning that we aren’t doing so well with everything as we’d like to believe we are.
This is where we have to take ourselves in hand and be adult. Some of these things, we can handle ourselves, and should. But there comes a time when you might just need some professional help to move beyond the rage to a place where you can start to be productive again, and to find some peace. There’s no shame in getting help, although it can be hard to get started, especially with a stranger. It’s worth getting through the discomfort in order to find some peace.
And life is far too short, and opportunities for joy far too infrequent, to have your life sabotaged by unresolved rage.
A tricky business, is anger. Many of us find it frightening. We hold so much in, trying to keep peace, to get along, to win the love and respect of our gay spouse — we hold in and suppress and even deny the very healthy and needed benefits of anger —
Benefits? Yeah. I’ve come to think of emotions as something of a barometer. Anger is one of the emotions that should register with us that something is wrong, somewhere. Either someone has violated something very important or threatened to do. Something is out of balance, needs to be identified and dealt with.
But when we’ve been — or felt — compelled to suppress anger (like Scarlett O’Hara, who always put off dealing with unpleasant situations: “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”), then we deny ourselves the opportunity to diagnose a problem and to figure out how to deal with it.
There’s not a lot of allowance for anger in marriage with a gay man. We have to be the “sweet” one, we have to keep peace, sacrifice even ourselves in order to get along.
This is part of the abusive nature of the relationship, of course: Shut up or you’re a bitch. You don’t have a right to be angry. Your needs are inconsequential. You are inconsequential. You are stupid. You are unreasonable. You are demanding. It’s all your fault. Everything would be just fine if you’d quit nagging, quit actually expecting anything of me.
Wait a minute. It’s my fault because I expect you to behave like a husband instead of an employer? a dorm-mate with whom I am barely acquainted? It’s my fault because I have expectations? You mean, you want me to sit down and shut up and leave you alone? You can’t, or aren’t willing, to stretch yourself to be a husband, a companion, a lover — and it’s my fault because I actually believe the spousal relationship means something? It’s my fault because I won’t let you get away with ignoring something when, truth be told, you just don’t want to be bothered?*
This is where anger kicks in and gives us power: No. And, what’s more, HELL NO. I will not take the blame. My expectations are not unrealistic — your laziness and apathy are unrealistic. What’s more, you’re a selfish, cruel s.o.b. to expect me to live without companionship or even basic affection. You’re an abusive s.o.b. for thinking all I’m good for is to be a front for you, so you don’t have to accept responsibility for yourself.
I’m not willing to live this way. No. Hell, No. (and I’m really not being profane, saying “Hell, no,” because it is a taste of Hell we experience in that situation).
*DH actually told our joint therapist, a couple years before we separated, “I know a good marriage takes a lot of work, but, frankly? I don’t want to be bothered.” He said it in front of me, and I sat there and I took it. Numb. Too messed up to fight back. Too cowed, too messed up to even have alarm bells ringing that something was gravely wrong for him to say that. Memories like that still pop up from time to time. I have flashes of anger, in remembering — now I’m angry; then I was dead, inside.
When DH and I separated, I received the same advice from several kind and wise people with whom I worked at the time: “Don’t deny the rage.”
I had no idea what they were talking about. I was living on the epicenter of an emotional earthquake, I was wary and scared and anxious and tense and many, many unpleasant things, but angry wasn’t one of them. In fact, anger was such an alien concept to me at that point, I didn’t even know what they were talking about. I’d been angry for years, but it had manifested as impatience, short temper, etc., quick firebursts that just as quickly, vented, died back down. I didn’t know what rage was.
It took a year, nearly an entire calendar year before it hit me, and even then it required a catalyst outside my own experience in the form of a terrible drunk driving incident that killed the wife and three children of one of my dear friends. For my friend I became angry, and that righteous anger popped the cork and — I couldn’t get the cork back in.
It revealed itself in several ways: Bursts of excessive energy accompanied by the strong desire to inflict deep pain on those who had wronged me. Black humor, self-deprecating humor. Sarcasm. Profanity. An inordinate desire for revenge — I adopted a motto that reflected my resentment at DH’s efforts to sabotage my independence and success: Success Is the Best Revenge; sometimes, later, I would modify it: Happiness Is the Best Revenge.
It boiled, it exploded, it simmered. It waited still and quiet beneath the surface then it would erupt at unexpected times and under, often, unreasonable provocations.
When it didn’t go away on its own, I became frightened, by its intensity and by its duration; this was not my usual outburst but a months-long, years-long storm.
We women are told not to get angry. We are told from childhood to hold in our tempers. A grown woman who lets her anger flare is dismissed as a bitch. We are told to be nice and to do whatever it takes in order to get along with even the most difficult and unreasonable people in our lives. This is fine to a point, but it misses the greater point that sometimes a line has to be drawn in the sand and defended with might and main:
You may not hit me. You may not tell me I am stupid and worthless. You may not dismiss me as insignificant. You might think it, but it is an evil, nasty, unfair and abusive attitude, and you may not inflict it upon me. You may not abuse me.
Anger is the only reasonable response to abuse. I read somewhere that anger is a secondary emotion to fear or hurt. That’s true to a point — we have been hurt and so we are angry. We are afraid of abandonment or of insignificance, and so we are angry. That makes sense. But anger is also simply the only reasonable response to situations of violence, or moral outrage. This is, I suspect, a uniquely Christian idea (“Be angry and do not sin” — Eph. 4:26) but an important one.
Maybe what made my anger so difficult do deal with was that it was a combination, a culmination of All The Above. It was secondary to hurt – “why am I never good enough?” — and to fear — “What is going to happen now? How can I manage on my own?” but it was also a gut reaction to the fact that I was being abused.