It took 20 years to get me to watch In Treatment. I return again to Walt Odets, to whom I had written, in 1996, a nearly angry letter ridiculing psychotherapy. He responded, in part: “If you have a nail in your head, you might well take morphine to relieve the pain. But you might also think about trying to remove the nail and doing something about the hole. Have you ever tried psychotherapy or does it seem irrelevant for you?”
The series repelled many critics, who believed five nights a week of Gabriel Byrne psychoanalyzing patients did not amount to television. Yet Roger Ebert pointed out that television is the medium of the close-up. (On that basis it is debatable whether Tom Hardy’s driving a car for an hour and a half in Locke constituted “cinema.”) The visual language of In Treatment, which takes place in a single room, is expressed in reaction shots. It upholds Bret Ellis’s dictum that television is unable to illustrate grand vistas and cannot employ mood, silence, or pause; television characters show up in the scene, “deliver the information,” then leave.
In Treatment is so televisual it’s been remade 15-odd times. The American version is already a remake. It was decided some summers ago that In Treatment had to be watched from start to finish. And this we did, starting five seconds after dinner. In Treatment has become a lodestar, a companion, a sacred text.
The show is written by men and produced and often directed by a black male homosexualist, Paris Barclay. It covers the expected story of transference from a comely female patient, but it understands men well. (Until Dan Futterman started writing the third series, at least. The only thing worthwhile there is the tremendous sequence of set pieces, literally so given the superb décor of her office, between Byrne and his own replacement therapist, a remote ice-cold figure played to a T by a comedienne. They’re the ones who can do serious.)
Black male actor Blair Underwear simply never looked better as an Air Force pilot who bombed a school in Iraq. He’s lit and photographed to look as gorgeous as possible (surely Barclay’s influence), and everything from his leather jacket to his conspicuous technical wristwatch direct attention to, up, down, and across this beautiful specimen. And, even though he does not depart from the script, Underwood plays the role as a rebuke to Hollywood racism. The smart, sharp, worldly American soldier can be black, quite contrary to preconceptions you were not sure you had.
I watched the Quebec remake, En thérapie. (In fact I consecutively interpreted it, working from speech and captioning. I’ve had this skill for decades and I don’t know where I got it.) The French show is an almost direct translation not of the original Israeli Be’tipul (בטיפול) but of In Treatment. And in this one the Canadian Forces pilot – a Francophone? as if – is portrayed by one of the countless handsome, dark-haired pure laine Quebeckers you could pick off the Montreal Metro the way Bob Mizer chatted up hunks at the L.A. bus terminal. The Canadian fighter pilot was much more angrily open to the possibility of his own submerged homosexualism than on the American show, where, once the truth erupts, Underwood does a superb job of coming unmanned in a span of three minutes.
Josh Charles, formerly gay in a 1990s B‑movie, provides a masculine In Treatment performance as the erudite rough-trade husband of a high-achieving bitch with some kind of borderline personality disorder. Watchable in Ellis terms and on any terms, but it’s disturbing when he cries. As it should be.
Because the many licensed In Treatment variants aired mostly in Central European countries where copyright is an amusing trifle, it was easy to find all those shows online. (Though not Brazil’s. The Argentine version gave us that country’s handsomest man – Mr. LEONARDO SBARAGLIA, unshaven and in a plaid shirting – as the gruff husband.) It was straightforward to match the storylines, hence also straightforward to compare actors and approaches (pictures).
A show about psychology expresses itself in archetypes first, and no matter how each version glossed the fighter pilot and the gruff husband, I could see male universals. Ostensibly no such things exist. They do.
It reassures me to inhabit a world of the imagination in which Gabriel Byrne is my therapist. In Treatment is a form of therapy I can administer at home. Most applicable were Dr. Paul Weston’s sessions with Walter Barnett, a senior CEO suffering from panic attacks he does not even recognize. Over time, Paul sees that Walter has spent a lifetime taking others’ places, looking out for the well-being of everyone and everything else. Walter survives a suicide attempt, but that doesn’t dislodge Walter from his self-narrative that he still doesn’t have anything to live for. Over a couple of episodes, Paul tells him is there is a different Walter inside, a Walter submerged and squelched for a lifetime, a tiny remnant Walter who is trying to live.
PAUL: The defences that held you together your whole life – they just finally wore out.
You have two choices now. We can try to wrap you back up, work on simple behavioural changes… get you back to managing things the way you always have. It’s a valid approach.
— There’s a more challenging route. If we keep going, doing the work that we do, even at this stage of your life, I know that you can achieve a new way of being – with Connie, with Natalie and the boys, but most importantly with yourself. And we can keep exploring those parts of yourself that we’ve just begun to discover.
— [Sighs] I’m an old dog, Paul.
— 70 isn’t old, Walter. It will take work – genuine introspection…. Because you’ve rescued so many others, I want to be there when you go back and rescue yourself.
— Fine, Paul. Fine.
[Gets up, walks to door, takes Paul’s hand]
When do we start?
I have to remind myself from time to time, and have others do the same, that there is a submerged, squelched tiny remnant part of me that wants to live.
Kathy Tu and Tobin Low entered a “podcast accelerator” competition at WNYC. Podcasts don’t need accelerators and the wrong people won. Tu and Low were one half of those wrong people. (Katarína Richterová got robbed.)
Their proposed podcast Gaydio
would feature banter between the two gay Asian hosts – “Gaysians, as we say,” Low quipped – as well as “The Coming-Out Inbox,” a recurring segment in which LGBTQ people leave voicemails about their coming-out stories. Each episode would also dig into a main topic through sound-rich reported pieces on such topics as violence against transgender women of color
Now you have two problems.
I wrote this comment:
Coming-out stories, “funny” news and “banter” from the “LGBTQ” community, and exposés on “violence against transgender women of color” are three different ways of describing existing “LGBTQ” blogs and podcasts. None of them can make a go of it, and all of them are viewed with suspicion by actual gays and lesbians because they sell us out. (Someday American public media will run an honest piece explaining why that is, which will duly be protested by transgendered persons until it is scrubbed from history. But until then let’s hear a few more pieces about transgender women of colour.)
This Gaydio show won’t be better because Gaysians run it. And if they let that word on the air, wait till they find out all the other words they’ll also have to allow.
I then wrote Gaydio’s E-mail address (it’s the only hyperlink on its homepage, which is such an accident waiting to happen I’m not going to link to it) as follows. (Links added.)
I listened to my pal Adam C. Ragusea’s segment on his podcast. Apart from your male cohost’s textbook gay voice, I heard this:
“We’ll talk about current events”: This means you will rip and read other people’s coverage, as seemingly all gay blogs and podcasts do; replicate the U.S. news media’s worst habit, herd journalism (another few segments on Kim Davis?); indeed focus on U.S. news, especially Republicans. Correct?
“The last I looked it was like ‘LGBTQQI2SAA.’ ”
“I think accepting that you… don’t know? what the acronym is is sort of accepting that you don’t know what the limits are of what a person can be.”
Can straight people be “queer”? Do some women have dicks? Is abortion a transman issue? Can a dad have a vagina?
Or, to cut to the chase: Stonewall was a riot started by transwomen of colour, right? They threw the first brick, right?
On the topic of transwymmynz of colour:
What actually reliable and verified statistics are you going to use to document this phenomenon?
Are you going to compare such statistics to those of nonwhite lesbians and (especially) gay men who are gaybashed and murdered? How about violence against actual real women of colour? (Will you explore the dubious linguistics of the phrase “people of colour”?)
Are you going to honestly document the facts about the perpetrators of those crimes, namely that they are always and without fail ostensibly heterosexualist males? (Straight guys with tranny fetishes, but still.)
Are you going to document how the transgender(ed) community pretends its actual enemies are gay men and lesbians, radical feminists, and anyone who understands penis is male? As I just documented, its mortal enemies are murderous straight guys, but that’s not how they behave.
While documenting attacks against transgendered persons, will you document transgenders’ attacks against the groups I just listed?
In short, will your show be honest or will it be just another gay blog
<slash>community-radio hour that repeats queer and transgender propaganda, marginalizes the legitimate gay and lesbian community, and in fact denies “gay” and “lesbian” really exist? (Those categories are transphobic!)
If you’re going to cover Truvada and its use for HIV prevention, first of all, why? (It’s been done!) Are you going to mention how few countries it’s legal in? More fundamentally, will your show do what seemingly every other blog and podcast does and cast doubt on the very concept of being HIV-negative? (Is it even definitionally possible?)
Given that gay blogs keep closing or being “consolidated,” and given the near-total lack of original journalism in the gay press, and given the complete absence of a commitment to original journalism in your pitch, and given further that gay podcasts don’t make any more money than gay blogs do, how is Gaydio different in any way, shape, or form from anything and how do you expect to make a go of it?
Upon reflection, don’t you agree that you actually created a podcast concept that mirrors every other bit of “queer” online media you read every day?
Didn’t you pitch a show that straight liberals in New York could not possibly say no to, because they have no in-depth knowledge of what’s actually going on in the “queer community” you aim to cover? They fancy themselves nonhomophobic and could never say no to any “queer” enterprise. But they know nothing of the actual facts. (That at least is less morally questionable than lying about the facts, as the rest of the “queer” media does.)
If you had to pitch your show to a funding audience of gay men and lesbians over the age of 45, do you think you would have won? Could you have answered any of my questions extemporaneously onstage?
Gaydio is probably gonna get half the $10,000 “accelerator” prize. As the No Safe Word podcast shows, you don’t need even that much money to produce a plagiaristic, warmed-over queer/transgender/LGBT podcast. We’ve got too many of those already, though this will be news to queers, transgenders, LGBTs, and the nice liberal New Yorkers who handed these Gaysians a booby prize.
Meanwhile, let me recommend Matt Baume’s Sewers of Paris as an actually original gay podcast.
Such conjectures never concerned me until July 2 of my 40th summer in Manhattan…. I was sitting in my spacious East Village apartment when I faced that issue, among mostly midcentury furnishings and original art by friends. I gazed at the several books I’d published that had all finally found their way to the remainder table. My eye strayed to the oversize flat screen and my hard-drive collections of over 2,000 films. I studied the walls cleverly painted in an array of Technicolor hues inspired by my favorite films.
No, I did not want to die here.
I was born and raised in the do-you-really-call-it-a-city of Syracuse, a land-bound enclave so median that it had become a national center for market research product testing as I grew up. So brutal were the winters that snow in May was no occasion for comment. So conservative was our upper-middle-class Republican neighborhood that children barely set foot on its manicured front lawns. Sidewalks were few that knew the footprints of anyone but the mailman. When the sun fell and the tastefully retro streetlamps blinked on, the empty lanes looked like footpaths in the tonier sections of Forest Lawn Cemetery….
When 2014 hit and the brooding boyfriend coldly split, I suddenly realized how old I was. I also realized I had used up all that the city had to offer. Was that why I found myself hoisting a giant Victorinox suitcase onto the racks of an unreliable Amtrak headed for Syracuse on Oct. 14, 2014? Why was I bringing so much with me?
To say I stayed a long time is an understatement. It is now August 2015, and I’m still upstate. Roughing out one of the worst winters in history without a car, I figured the supermarket was a mere five-mile round-trip walk through snowdrifts and howling winds. I had a lot else to keep me busy, too. Six months previous, I’d been hired at a discount rate to translate an award-winning French biography of director Jean Renoir. The thing is 1,000 pages, for gawd’s sake, and the type is small. After a couple of months of tackling it and cleaning out a 10-year collection of take-home hospital inhalers and those weird yellow circular hospital wash basins my parents had come home with in the last years of their lives, I set up a couple of old TVs from childhood with signal converters and rabbit ears. Then I settled into my routine of translating, punctuated by twice-daily viewings of Perry Mason over the air on MeTV. I rose early, and mornings were never wasted. The first hour, over a Keurig cup of coffee, I spent bawling and cursing my ex. (Still doing it, too.) […]
he tone for that summer… included the temporary loss of that parade of twentysomething, attractive, gay would-be writers who I’d thought were enthusiastically connecting me to the younger generation. They laughed at my jokes. However, the youth connection stopped abruptly all last summer as they flocked to shares on Fire Island. Apparently there wasn’t room for me. My only consolation was being saved from having to appear in front of them in a bathing suit. I think you call what they are “fair-weather friends.” My only companion that entire summer was Turner Classic Movies and my broken heart. TCM was comforting because of the childhood era it projected. Kind of like having Mommy and Daddy dug up and placed handily in the corner.
I could go on about the many things that disappoint aging gay men in the context of city life. Instead I’d like to list some of the benefits of the provincial lifestyle. One trustworthy long-term friend whom I’d taken to the senior prom is still in Syracuse. In getting to know her again, I rediscovered something very exotic for a New Yorker. In friendships with the people of small cities, there is no complicated subtext. They actually mean what they say and do what they say they will. When my friend agrees to spend an evening together, there isn’t the slightest chance in the world of getting a text saying she decided to go to a gallery opening instead. As for the rare friendly overtures from those I have met up here, I can be fairly certain they haven’t researched me on Google first and aren’t hoping I can connect them with a dealer or publisher.
The best aspect of all of provincial life, however, only showed itself with the spring thaw. It’s the land, and the rich earth of which it is composed. One spring day, while sipping my Keurig and surveying my mother’s sad, weed-overgrown rose-of-Sharon-and-daffodil garden, a strange power overtook me. It sent me to the dust-laden garage in search of a hoe that hadn’t been touched for more than a decade. As I dug into the moist earth, checking arms and ankles for signs of deer ticks periodically, a wonderful sense of reconnection to the world was born. The results of this revelation climaxed in July, with a burst of zinnias grown from seed, a newly planted Japanese maple, a hydrangea, and an indigo plant. Not in a million years could I have imagined wisecracking, snarky, story-crafting, international me finding gentle ecstasy in working in a garden.
He insisted I have a mezuza on my door, and brought me one from Israel. “I know you don’t believe,” he said, “but you should have one anyhow.” I didn’t argue.
(Slavoj Žižek: “Surprised at seeing a horseshoe above the door of Bohr’s country house, a visiting scientist said he didn’t believe that horseshoes kept evil spirits out of the house, to which Bohr answered: ‘Neither do I. I have it there because I was told that it works just as well if one doesn’t believe in it!’ ”)
Also-ran: Edmund White.
Don’t worry. We’ll all be dead soon enough, and at that point gay will be over.
…and, right on cue and appropriately, covers half the story.
Straplined TRANSGENDER IN TORONTO on the cover, the October 2015 Toronto Life, the journal of the dumb rich, runs a giant faux-first-person piece about Toronto transgendered persons. Writer Catherine Youdan leaves out half the story on two of her subjects.
Dr. I. Alex Abramovich is back – and bustier than ever! Not quite, I suppose, because she states that she had a double mastectomy. She further talks about her elective testosterone and its effects (“my voice deepened, I grew facial hair, and I became more muscular”). She plans to “fertilize egg with donor sperm,” and her girlfriend “will carry the baby.” Yet at the same time she all but shrieks “eople feel like they have the right to ask intrusive questions about my body” – presumably not pertaining to her breasts, voice, facial hair, musculature, or eggs, because she talks about those freely. And here’s the kicker: “If I weren’t trans, people would never inquire about my genitals.”
That may have something to do with the immutable biological fact that “men” don’t have the genitals you do, madame.
Given the documentation in the article, Ms Abramovich has so much privilege as a transgendered person it borders on classic male privilege. She has a Ph.D. and she succeeded with her pet project, an “LGBTQ youth homelessness” shelter that everyone, including me, supported. Yet what Youdan fails to document is this academic’s willingness to file false police complaints when supporters of her homeless-shelter project state the fact that she is female.
You couldn’t swing a cat in Parkdale without Daryl “Sophia” Banks posting about it on Twitter. That’s the same place this aggressive, unstable man calls gays and lesbians transphobic, gets banned for a while for carrying out the transgender habit of issuing threats, and insists up and down that some women have dicks. Indeed, she tells Youdan “Who says a woman can’t have a penis?” (Basically everyone but you says that, Daryl.)
Fortunately, Banks has bugged out to Montreal. I’d say he’s now somebody else’s problem except that transgender aggressors like him do their dirty work online.
Elsewhere we meet a colossus who somehow got himself on the Canadian “women’s” dodgeball team. Throughout we hear of great distress, depression, dysmorphia, and suicide attempts, but nowhere are we told which of those things might have predated the subjects’ gender confusion.
When asked why Abramovich’s and Banks’s history of threats and aggression didn’t make the cut, Youdan ignored the question.