Monthly Archives: June 2019

The Sixties are Over

During the past few months, I enjoyed watching two movies about two of my favorite rock stars. Rocketman[i] tells the story of Sir Elton John. Bohemian Rhapsody[ii] tells the story of Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen. Both were musical geniuses. Both lived troubled lives. Both happened to be gay.

Here is a scene from Rocketman, followed by its official trailer:

Here is a clip from Bohemian Rhapsody, which illustrates the creative musical genius behind Queen in general, and Mercury specifically:

Both Elton John and Freddie Mercury were born at a time when being gay was far less accepted than it is today. Both had confidants that helped them accept their gayness. For Elton, it was John Baldry, a member of one of his early bands, Bluesology, and from whom he took his last name (it wasn’t John Lennon, as portrayed in the movie). For Freddie, it was his lifelong friend, Mary Austin, as illustrated by this scene:

I bring up these two movies because June is Gay Pride month. In honor of that, my wife, Janene, and I flew to Salt Lake City to attend Love Loud, an annual musical festival supporting the LGBTQ community, headed by Dan Reynolds, the lead singer of Imagine Dragons. You can see how Love Loud came about in the documentary, Believer.[iii] Here is its trailer:  

I recently watched a documentary that had a more significant impact on me than either Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody, or Believer. June 28 marked the 50th anniversary of the riots at The Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, which became the defining moment of the gay civil rights movement, and led to the first gay pride parade. This documentary, entitled Stonewall Uprising,[iv] gives the viewer an up close and personal look at the people behind the riots, and the world in which the LGBTQ community had to live back then. Here is the official trailer for this documentary:

The most significant impact Stonewall Uprising had on me was the realization of how far we have come the last 50 years in connection with LGBTQ civil liberties. In 1969, every state but Illinois had laws making “homosexual activity” a crime, with the penalties for violating such laws being incarceration for a term ranging from five years to sixty years. Those punishments were longer than those for such other crimes as public intoxication, armed bank robbery or second-degree murder. And it didn’t matter that the “homosexual activity” was between consenting adults in the privacy of their bedrooms.

Stonewall Uprising sets the stage for the Stonewall Inn riots by incorporating portions of a CBS Reports documentary entitled The Homosexuals.[v] It was the first American network TV documentary to explore the topic of homosexuality. You can watch the entire show here:

In connection with the making of The Homosexuals, CBS News commissioned a survey to determine how Americans felt about gays and lesbians. That survey found that, in 1967, “two-thirds of Americans considered homosexuality more harmful to society than adultery, abortion, or prostitution,” and looked upon homosexuality with “disgust, discomfort, or fear.” One out of ten Americans looked at gays and lesbians with “hatred.” And the vast majority back then considered homosexuality to be an illness. Stonewall Uprising takes a clip from The Homosexuals in which Dr. Charles Socarides, a New York psychoanalyst, lectures to a group of resident psychiatrists at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. Dr. Socarides states, “Homosexuality is, in fact, a mental illness which has reached epidemiologic portions.” The residents are taught that “No man is born homosexual; that it is not genetic in origin; not the result of a hormone imbalance.” Instead, Dr. Socarides tells these residents that “homosexual behavior is learned behavior.” In response to this query from one residents, “I was wondering if you think there are any ‘happy’ homosexuals, for whom homosexuality would be, in a way, their best adjustment to life,” Dr. Socarides states, “The fact that someone is homosexual, a true, obligatory homosexual, automatically rules out the possibility that he will remain happy for long, in my opinion. The stresses and strains, the psychic apparatuses they are subjected to, over the years, will cause him, in time, I think, to have increasing difficulties. I think the whole idea of saying the happy homosexual is again to create a mythology about the nature of homosexuality.”

In a blog post last year (see, “Where is the Love?” posted October 15, 2018), I discussed Believer and gave a brief history of my relationship with the LGBTQ community and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Church has made great strides since the 1960s to help LGBTQs feel loved and accepted. It no longer considers same-sex attraction, in and of itself, to be a perversion. It no longer teaches that homosexuality is a choice. It has established a website for the LGBTQ. It has donated significant dollars to a group called Affirmation, whose mission is to help prevent youth suicides, especially among LGBTQ Mormons (whose rates of death by suicide are far higher than for any other demographic). The Church has even expressed support for Love Loud. And perhaps most dramatically, the Church rescinded a policy it had established in November 2015, which prevented the children of LGBTQ from participating in Church ordinances such as baptism and priesthood ordinations. I have encountered many good Church members who love and support their LGBTQ friends and family members. I also believe that the overwhelming majority of church leaders are much, much more accepting of their LGBTQ members than they were in the 1960s.

I rejoice over these changes, especially the rescission of the November 15 policy, although I acknowledge that many people had been emotionally harmed, even scarred, by its implementation in the first place.

But one church leader seems to be stuck in the 1960s.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, the number two person in the leadership hierarchy of the Church, continues to paint the entire LGBTQ community with disdain. At a recent talk he gave at BYU Hawaii, he said, in part, the following:

“We also have the challenge of living in a godless and increasingly amoral generation. More and more publicized voices deny or doubt the existence of God. More and more support the idea that all authority and all rules of behavior are man-made and can be accepted or rejected as one chooses, each person being free to decide for himself or herself what is right and wrong.

“Along with these challenges and caused by them, we are confronted by a culture of evil and personal wickedness in the world. This includes:




The diminishing of marriage and childbearing

The increasing frequency and power of the culture and phenomenon of lesbian, gay, and transgender lifestyles and values.”

I acknowledge that a lesbian or gay relationship can be abusive or immoral, just like any heterosexual relationship. But many gays and lesbians live in committed relationships where each partner loves and respects the other, where each partner is honest, law-abiding, a good parent, and a hard worker. They love their children; they pay their taxes; they donate to charities and serve their communities. Most believe in God. Most do their best to love God and their neighbors—just like most of those of us who are straight. Are such relationships a culture of evil? I think not. To consider all gays, lesbians, and transgender people to be part of a culture of evil and personal wickedness, to me, is wrong. We no longer live in the sixties, and thankfully, most of us do not still consider homosexuality to be more harmful to society than “adultery, abortion, or prostitution.”

Elder Oaks, I invite you, no, I plead that you move on from the sixties and join the rest of us in 2019. Your rhetoric, whether intended to be hateful or not, needs to stop. Too many people, both queer and straight, are being scarred by it. Too many people feel marginalized by it. Too many feel “less than” because of it. And too many good, wonderful, faithful young men and women are ending their lives as a result of it.

And to all of my LGBTQ friends and family everywhere—whether I know you yet or not—please know that we see you. We love you. We admire your courage to be your authentic selves. Toward the end of the Love Loud festival last night, Dan Reynolds invited to the stage parents of Stockton, a young gay man who took his life by suicide. I echo the words of Stockton’s father who told all the LGBTQ in the audience that “you have a beautiful light within you—whether others can see that light or not.”

[i] Rocketman:

  • Production Companies: Marv Films, Marv Studios, New Republic Pictures
  • Director: Dexter Fletcher
  • Screenwriter: Lee Hall
  • Starring: Taron Egerton and Jamie Bell
  • Release date: May 31, 2019

[ii] Bohemian Rhapsody:

  • Production Companies: GK Ffilms, New Regency Pictures, Queen Films Ltd.
  • Director: Bryan Singer
  • Screenwriters: Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan
  • Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, and Gwilym Lee
  • Release date: November 2, 2018

[iii] Believer:

  • Production Companies: Live Nation Productions, 9.14 Pictures, and Another Brother Productions
  • Director: Don Argott
  • Starring: Dan Reynolds, Aja Volkman, and Ben McKee
  • Release date: June 25, 2018

[iv] Stonewall Uprising:

  • Production Company: PBS American Experience
  • Directors: Kate Davis and David Heilbroner
  • Screenwriters: David Carter and David Heilbroner
  • Starring: Paul Bosche, Alfredo Del Rio, and John DiGiacomo
  • Release date: June 16, 2010

[v] The Homosexuals:

  • Production Company: CBS
  • Writers: Mike Wallace, William Peters, and Harry Morgan
  • Release date: March 7, 1967


I love to do jigsaw puzzles. I like the process, not the completed picture. So, after I finish a puzzle, I almost immediately tear it apart and put it away. I like puzzles that have a lot going on in the picture. I avoid doing ones with too much sky or too much of one color. That’s because, when you are down to one color left, the process becomes mostly one of trial and error. I like to be able to look at the piece, then look at the picture on the box, and know where it goes. In that light, I can never understand how some people like to do jigsaw puzzles without ever looking at the picture.

I recently watched a little-known movie called Puzzle[i] (it is currently available on Starz). The film is about a woman who discovers she has a talent for jigsaw puzzles, and that discovery changes her life. This scene from the movie explains better than I could why puzzlers like me love to do puzzles:

In short, completing a puzzle is one of the few experiences we can have in our random lives over which we have some control, and when we complete the puzzle, we know we have made (ultimately) all the right choices. This scene reminded me of the old Howard Jones song from the ’80s (yes, I am showing my age), No One is to Blame,[ii] a song about life’s attractions, frustrations, and contradictions, especially the line, “It’s the last piece of the puzzle, but you just can’t make it fit.” Fortunately, although my life has been full of contradictions and irony, I have never had a problem with jigsaw puzzles. But I digress.

I found the movie, Puzzle, thought-provoking in another way. Although set in modern times, Agnes, the lead character in the film, is a housewife straight out of the 1950s. She is married to an auto mechanic with two grown sons and has, her entire married life, sacrificed her feelings and dreams to run an efficient household. She makes sure the men in her life have everything they need to be happy—a tidy house, clean clothes, three meals a day. Then a friend gives Agnes a jigsaw puzzle as a birthday present. When Agnes decides to put it together, she discovers a hidden talent for doing puzzles. She decides to buy another one, which ultimately leads her to question her current life and opens the way to finding new and enlightening experiences. Those experiences give her the strength to begin to challenge her current way of life and begin to make changes, as illustrated by this scene:

I found the attitude of Agnes’ husband a bit frightening in today’s world, but I suppose those types of beliefs persist with many. I have posted on this subject before (see, for example, my March 15, 2018 post, “Doing it Backward”); I will probably do so again until some of the injustices I see against women disappear. I like to think of myself as a feminist especially considering this definition of the word by historian, Claudia L. Bushman, who defined a feminist as someone who believes that “all of the talents and abilities of women should be developed for the benefit of themselves, their families and their communities.”

Recently, I have watched or re-watched several movies dealing with a lack of this feminist value. William Shakespeare lived at a time when society barred women from doing much of anything but running households. In Shakespeare in Love,[iii] for example, women couldn’t act in public, even when the role was a female character. In this scene from the film, the theater is shut down due to the scandal of a female actor:

Think of what we would have missed without being able to witness the great performances of our female actors. One of my favorites is Glenn Close, a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance in The Wife,[iv] in which Joe Castleman, the husband of Glenn Close’s character, Joan Castleman, is awarded the Nobel Prize for literature for works that were written by Joan. Here is my favorite scene in two parts (warning: some strong language):

Again, Joe Castleman’s attitude is puzzling in today’s world.

The Wife is a fictional story, but sadly, there are many true stories with a similar theme. In Mary Shelley,[v] the author of Frankenstein must initially publish her work anonymously because no one at that time would read a book written by a woman. And she was not alone. Each of the Bronte sisters (authors of such classics as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, had to use male pen names to get their works published. Mary Ann Evans needed to write under the pen name of George Elliot before publishers would take on her classics such as Middlemarch, The Mill on the Floss, and Daniel Deronda. Even Mary Louse Alcott, the author of Little Women, began her writing career as A.M Bernard to mask the fact that she was a woman. And the recent movie, Colette,[vi] is the true story of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, who, using her husband’s pen name Willy, wrote her first four novels making up the “Claudine” series, all of which became best sellers. Here is the trailer for the film:   

Colette went on to write novels under her own name and ultimately nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature in 1948.

If you think discrimination against women in the world of publishing doesn’t happen today, consider that the publisher of the best-selling Harry Potter series, penned by J.K. Rowling, did not want her to use her first name (JoAnne) because of concern that a woman author might drive away potential readers. On the contrary, we should welcome women authors, if only because their experiences and emotions are often different from men’s. I love this short scene from Mary Shelley, which emphasizes that Frankenstein is much more than a ghost story:

And such attitudes don’t exist just in the literary world. For example, the film, Big Eyes,[vii] tells the true story of Margaret Keane, whose husband took credit for the artwork she created. Here is a short clip from the movie:

If you haven’t seen any of these films, I recommend you do so. But more importantly, let’s give all women their due. Our society still has a way to go before women can feel equal to men. I am puzzled as to why this is. A recent article in Marie Claire magazine provides some statistics on several ways women still trail their male counterparts. These statistics include:

  • Women make 16 percent less than men in comparable jobs. That percentage increases to 23 percent worldwide.
  • Women make up 51 percent of the U.S. population, but only 20 percent of members of Congress.
  • At Fortune 500 companies, women comprise only 17 percent of board members, and only 5 percent of CEO s are women.
  • Women are more likely to live in poverty than men. In the U.S., 15.5 percent of women live below the poverty line, while only 11.9 percent of men do.
  • Between 20 to 50 percent of women serving in the armed services have reported being the victim of rape or other forms of sexual harassment.
  • Women are more likely to be victims of human trafficking. Of the 800,000 victims of human trafficking each year, 80 percent are women.

So, although the opportunities for women are improving, we still have work to do. As Claudia Bushman’s definition states, let’s encourage women everywhere to develop their talents and abilities for the benefit of their families, their communities, and especially for themselves.

[i] Puzzle:

  • Production Companies: Big Beach Films, Rosto, and Olive Productions
  • Director: Marc Turtletaub
  • Screenwriters: Polly Mann and Oren Moverman
  • Starring: Kelly MacDonald, Irrfan Khan, and David Denman
  • Release date: September 7, 2018

[ii] No One is to Blame

  • Music and Lyrics by Howard Jones (Released March 1986)

[iii] Shakespeare in Love:

  • Production Companies: Universal Pictures, Miramax, and The Bedford Falls Company
  • Director: John Madden
  • Screenwriters: Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard
  • Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, and Geoffrey Rush
  • Release date: December 13, 1998

[iv] The Wife:

  • Production Companies: Silver Reel, Meta Film, and Anonymous Content
  • Director: Björn Runge
  • Screenwriter: Jane Anderson (based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer)
  • Starring: Glen Glose, Jonothan Price, and Max Iron
  • Release date: September 28, 2018

[v] Mary Shelley:

  • Production Companies: BFI Film Fund, Film Fund Luxembourg, and Gidden Media
  • Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
  • Screenwriter: Emma Jensen and Haifaa Al-Mansour
  • Starring: Elle Fanning, Bel Powley, and Owen Richards
  • Release date: July 6, 2018

[vi] Colette:

  • Production Companies: Number 9 Films, Killer Films, and Bold Films
  • Director: Wash Westmoreland
  • Screenwriters: Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland
  • Starring: Kiera Knightley, Fiona Shaw, and Dominic West
  • Release date: December 20, 2018

[vii] Big Eyes:

  • Production Companies: The Weinstein Company, Silverwood Films, and Tim Burton Productions
  • Director: Tim Burton
  • Screenwriters: Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
  • Starring: Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, and Danny Huston
  • Release date: December 25, 2014