Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Raising parents and "I'm From Driftwood"

This video clip of Richard Socarides from Nathan Manske's I'm From Driftwood site has been making the rounds this week in the gay Blogosphere and elsewhere --- interesting.

Socarides is a veteran Democratic strategist and commentator, presidential adviser during the Clinton administration and long-time gay rights advocate, but the story he tells here involves his relationship with his father, the late Charles Socrarides, M.D.

The elder Socarides was a pioneer in what sometimes is called gay conversion therapy, based upon the discredited thought that homosexuality is a form of mental illness that can be cured by pyschotherapy. Although father and son maintained a loving relationship, of sorts, it always was complicated by the reality of who Richard was and the illusion of who Charles thought he could and should be.

The clip reminded me of one of the oddities of growing up LGBTQ --- that when the sexual orientation of a child becomes evident to parents, roles often are reversed and the child made to assume responsibilty for raising his or her parents. The poor kid then has to contend with the tantrums, night-terrors, threats, fears and occasional rantings of adults in the hope that, eventually, Mom and Dad will grow out of it and some sort of normal loving relationship can return.


There's a lot of good stuff at the I'm From Driftwood site, which began a few years ago when Manske (a native of Driftwood, Texas, hence the name of the project), aided by viodegrapher Marquise Lee, set out to collect stories from LBGTQ people across America. An early project was a four-month trek through all of the 50 states to collect stories first-hand.

Manske had been inspired by a photograph he had seen of Harvey Milk carrying a sign in a San Francisco gay pride parade with the inscription, "I'm from Woodmere, New York," a reminder then and now that LGBTQ people live everywhere and are represented in all aspects of society. Milk was a pioneer in insisting that this had to be made clear to the heterosexual majority in order for the gay minority to progress.

I'm From Driftwood probably is the best LGBTQ-themed story-telling site in the Blogosphere and the archive contains hundreds of stories, including some from Iowa. I've written before about Samuel Brinton, kicked out of his home in Perry while a high school student by his Baptist preacher father. Part I of that story is here; and Part II, a little farther on. But there's also the less horrifying story of Des Moines gay patriarch Harold Wells.

I'm a fan of Alan Cumming, just opening now in preview performances of his one-man National Theater of Scotland production of Macbeth (limited engagement April 21-June 30) at the Ethel Barrymore Theater on Broadway. So I especially enjoyed his I'm From Driftwood story.

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