Elaine In Queens: The Director's Cut
Herewith, below, is a document I find remarkable.
But first let me warn you: This post is long. Partly that's because the included document is long, and partly it's because my analysis of it is lengthy as well.
Yes, I have posted about Brian's show before. And yes, I'm addicted to it -- for at least three reasons that I'm aware of: (1) I'm addicted to radio, (2) I'm addicted to intelligence, (3) I'm addicted to Brian's fair-mindedness and his willingness to let people with whom I vehemently disagree have their say.
That last one's a bit odd, eh? Shouldn't I hate it when Brian lets people I disagree with go on with their silliness? I mean, if they disagree with me, they must be silly, right?
Well, here's the odd thing about letting people who are wrong have their say: if you let them go on long enough, and if you insert your appropriate challenges where necessary, these people will often end up carving their own arguments to pieces for you.
Of course, it has to be admitted that when you let someone you agree with go on and on, they sometimes end up tearing their own argument apart too. An unfortunate result, if the argument is one you, yourself, have previously made. But I mean, really. It's as if letting people have their say results in some sort of enlightenment or something. Sheesh!
This transcript stands pretty much on its own so I'm not going to give you a lengthy set up for it. Suffice it to say it is from an "Open Phones" segment in which the subject was a call from a woman the previous day -- an entry in Brian's very first "Commentary Slam". The previous day's caller had argued that homosexuality was immoral, per se, because, I dunno, men are made one way and women are made another or something. Frankly, the argument was incomprehensible and Brian had been taken to task by an emailer for not just dismissing the caller as a bigot. The call transcribed below comes of Brian asking his listeners to let him know what they think he should do in the future: let people like that woman have their say, or simply identify them as bigots and hang up on them.
Here is an .mp3 file of the entire segment, only part of which is transcribed below. The entire file is about 15 Megs, and about 37 minutes long. However, the section transcribed below is only about 11 and a half minutes long, starting at about time-mark 17:20 and ending at about 28:50. I have sprinkled the occasional time-mark throughout the transcript should you care to make use of them.
I urge you, if you can, to download the file, find the above time-marks, and then listen to the caller as you follow along in the transcript below. There is a "pained urgency" in the caller's voice. As you will discover, that "pained urgency" is no accident. It goes to the heart of the caller's argument.
Brian Lehrer: Elaine in Queens, you're on WNYC.
Elaine in Queens: Good morning, Brian, thanks for taking my call.
EiQ: Um, I just wanted to note that the caller from yesterday was careful to distinguish. She did not say that homosexuality is immoral. She said that homosexual--, homosexual behavior is immoral. There's a difference. Um, I also wanted to point out that the media is overwhelmingly favoring the opinion that homosexual behavior is equivalent to heterosexual behavior and sexual relations. Um, that they're ignoring, the media are ignoring a lot of psychiatric evidence to the contrary that, and that, um, there's a lot of damage and tremendous hurt that's been done to people that has brought about same-sex attractions in young people. Um, some kind of trauma in their childhood and there's psychiatric evidence to this. Um, there's a lot of articles, there are books about this that have been ignored by the media. And also that homosexual, um, activity as an ideology has been more or less imposed on the American consciousness. Not only American but I think it's, um, pretty much in the Western world. Um, as, you know, this is okay, and this is the way it should be. And it's been a whole political agenda that has been more or less imposed on us and not everybody agrees with that. I don't hate anybody. I have some very dear friends who have same-sex attractions --
BL: Elaine, hang on a second because we are coming to a break and, as with yesterday, this is something that I need to respond to, and we'll see how I do it, and what Elaine says about it in a minute. Brian Lehrer on WNYC.
[BREAK at 18:55]
BL: Brian Lehrer on WNYC, as we're getting reaction to one of the calls from the "Commentary Slam" and one of the emails in response: a gay man who said I should have, um, just denounced the caller whose commentary was about the immorality of homosexuality, that I should have just denounced her as a bigot. Um, and Elaine in Queens is our current caller who is taking the position that homosexuality is psychologically damaging and that it's an ideology. And, Elaine, I have to say I do find this -- and I'm not going to cut you off and dismiss you like the emailer was telling me to do -- but I will tell you that I do find your call more bigoted than the call we got yesterday. Um, by calling it a psychological disorder, by saying with I suspect little evidence that there's a lot of psychology to back it up when the American Psychological Association, the Psychiatric Association do not consider it a psychiatric disorder. And also by calling it an ideology rather than just sort of the way people are. Um, what would you say to that?
EiQ: Well, um, I, um, am sorry that if I, um, didn't say it clearly. I don't mean that homosexuality is an ideology, but there is a political agenda that has promoted, um, homosexual behavior and it's been going on since the 70s in -- very strongly. Um, but what is being ignored, I think, is the --
BL: Well, let me jump in on that because there obviously is a political movement to promote the idea that homosexuals should be treated equally in society to heterosexuals. That, you know, first level, that they shouldn't be, um, beaten up by the police or by roving gangs on the street --
EiQ: I agree absolutely.
BL: -- second level, that they shouldn't be discriminated against in employment or housing or education. Um, I notice you're not agreeing... Third, obviously, is the --
EiQ: (laughing) No, I just didn't want to cut you off.
BL: (laughing) -- the current gay marriage debate. Um, and things like that. But this whole, what I think is a canard about the promoting homosexuality, that whole thing about recruiting, um, you know, I think people are looking as a group that's been historically considered inferior and not worthy of equal treatment, just to be treated equally. And, yes, they're promoting that as a political position, but what would you say?
EiQ: Well, um, I agree in equality under the law for all people, men and women, of whatever persuasion, whatever ideology. We're equal and entitled to protection. Um, however, the, um, the notion of homosexual marriage, I think it's actually not a possibility. I don't think that there is such a thing because marriage is not something that human beings created. It was given to us and it began at the beginning of human beings. If you, you know, who knows who were the first people around and who, but it wasn't human beings --
BL: But now you're, now you're talking at a level that I can't even comprehend because you can say that God gave humans marriage, but God also gave humans the ability to create institutions, um, with their rules. So individual churches and other religious organizations are now debating whether they will marry, um, gays and lesbians under, you know, the auspices of their religious institutions. The state and different countries are deciding whether in the legal sense they will recognize gay -- so these are things that humans do control and that's what the debate is about, isn't it?
EiQ: They are debating whether they should recognize, um, something and call it a reality and, um, I think that a lot of, I would even say, philosophical understanding is missing from the debate on, on probably on both sides. Um, and we have to do some serious soul-searching to try to understand ourselves as human beings and where we are in the whole of the universe. Um, which is probably way off-field of this call, but, um, I did want to mention the psychiatric evidence that -- I mean, there's a wonderful psychiatrist in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania who is an enormously compassionate man. Actually, there's two of these guys working together in Comprehensive Counseling Services. And, um, they, um, have encountered a great number of young people with same-sex attractions, not only young people but older people as well, who have come to them for counseling and ultimately for some kind of therapy because they have found themselves to be very unhappy with their state and they actually, following a lot of investigation and therapy, they found that, um, there were buried memories, and some of them not so buried, of mistreatment by their fathers or their mothers or abandonment by their fathers or --
BL: But, but, but, before --
EiQ: -- feelings of inadequacy --
BL: -- before. But you know what? What... Who... What I want to say is, who are you to judge? But I'm not even going to go there.
EiQ: Well, I'm not judging, I'm just reading the reports.
BL: I know, but I'm going to ask, who are you to care? Because how does it hurt you that -- This is what I really want to know from you. How does -- Why do you care about this so much? How does it hurt you if -- I mean, I know, you know, enough well-adjusted gay and lesbian people who -- that's just part of their lives.
EiQ: Brian, it doesn't hurt me at all, but it hurts a lot of my very dear friends.
EiQ: Who are, have same-sex attractions and they really don't want to feel that way. And they have been deeply damaged. Um, some of them, thankfully, are coming out of that, um, through therapy, but it's a long and very, very difficult and very painful process. And --
BL: And what about the ones who don't want to change?
EiQ: Well, I --
BL: Why shouldn't they have equal rights if that's who they are?
EiQ: I think there are a lot of people speaking for them. I'm speaking for those who are not being spoken enough for. And I think that they have a right to a hearing.
BL: But you're saying that in order to help these people as individuals who want to get out of being gay or lesbian, that's who you say you are doing this in, in behalf of, um, that equal protection under the law, or an acceptance of homosexuality as being morally acceptable for other gays and lesbians has to be disqualified. Aren't you?
EiQ: Disqualified from?
BL: That, that you can't both help these people who you are saying you want to help who are unhappy about their homosexual status, and accept the other homosexuals as being okay?
EiQ: Um, I, okay. I go back to the caller from yesterday who was saying that men and women are different in our physical and psychological make up, at least that was the implication, um, and that marriage then as, by implication, which has always been, um, connected with procreation, with the bringing forth of new life, by complementarity between the sexes, this is what marriage is. Now, if you have two men, they cannot produce a baby, obviously. Two women cannot produce a baby. Unless there's some technological intervention --
BL: Not every marriage is about babies. I know heterosexual couples who got married and decided not to have children.
EiQ: Of course not every marriage has babies but this is, um, a great sadness I think for our society, that human love by its nature is so linked to the bringing forth of new human life that in order to prevent it, there has to something wrong either biologically or physically or mechanically or we have to intervene --
BL: I'm going to ask you, I'm going to ask -- maybe menopause is wrong, under that -- But I'm going to ask you one more time and then I'm going to move on...
EiQ: Go ahead.
BL: Why do you care?
EiQ: Why do I --?
BL: Because I, I -- Is it really just about these gays who you are referring to who you think are unhappy?
EiQ: No, it's not, Brian. It's about the whole conception of the human being as man and woman, and that the unity of complementarity is something intrinsically essential about the human being.
BL: And there can't be a three, or five, or ten percent group of the population that's just... different? And that's okay?
EiQ: Well, I can't say that they can't do it because I have no jurisdiction over the population. I'm nobody here. I'm just studying and trying to do my job, but, um, I feel very deeply sad for people who have been unable to have what I call, and what many people call, a normal heterosexual attraction, and I understand that it can come from trauma in childhood or adolescence and I've seen it, I've experienced it myself. Um, thank God I'm over it, but, um, I think that -- I mean, I feel very deeply, I feel very, very sad for the fact that this exists, and um, I'm not going to condemn anybody. Please understand me.
EiQ: I do not condemn anybody. I don't hate anybody. And please, do not write me off as a hater or a bigot.
EiQ: I do not hate anybody. I'm not a bigot. I'm moved by compassion and, and I really -- I know that a lot of people disagree with me in calling me a hypocrite --
EiQ: But, you know, it's very true that I -- I'm moved by compassion, and by nothing else.
BL: Elaine, thank you very much for your call.
EiQ: Thank you, Brian.
Well, after all that, let's get right to it.
In my view, judged by her behavior, Elaine in Queens has to be considered an archetypal human monster. In her behavior, she exemplifies the sort of person responsible for so much damage throughout human history, the sort of person who is not satisfied with being blind to the map of her own psychological torture. Rather, she has to take her own difficulties and translate them into an overarching Moral Guide to the Universe -- as some sort of explanation or justification for her own suffering, I guess -- and then use her freshly printed Guidebook To Spiritual Hell as a manual to proscribe for others the sort of freedoms she cannot grant to herself.
Yes, I know that sounds harsh. Think I'm wrong? Well, let's just have a look-see.
It's become a cliche for advocates of gay-rights to say that those who most vehemently oppose gay-rights probably have latently homosexual urges themselves. I don't believe this as a general rule. As a general proposition, I have never believed it, but that doesn't mean I believe the phenomenon doesn't exist at all. Another cliche is the notion of "homophobia". Those who are accused of it usually deny it by referring to the literal meaning of the word, saying they aren't afraid of homosexuality, for heaven's sake. They simply think it is wrong. Again, I have never really believed in the cliche that people who seem to hate homosexuals, or who work to deny them their rights, are actually afraid of them. But again, that does not mean I believe the phenomenon doesn't exist.
In fact, I believe Elaine in Queens is a classic example of the truth behind the homophobe cliche -- using the literal meaning of the word -- for in her remarks that begin at about time-mark 27:40, she admits to a struggle with her own homosexuality. She. Is. Terrified. Hence the pained urgency in her voice:
"I feel very deeply sad for people who have been unable to have what I call, and what many people call, a normal heterosexual attraction, and I understand that it can come from trauma in childhood or adolescence and I've seen it, I've experienced it myself. Um, thank God I'm over it..."
For whatever reason, maybe it has to do with some conception she has about what constitutes human love ("...human love by its nature is so linked to the bringing forth of new human life..."), she's incapable of seeing her own feelings as having any value whatsoever. Love is procreation, in her world-view. What she feels cannot, therefore, be love. It must be the result of some sort of damage.
Which brings me to a brief tangent regarding the "psychiatric evidence" to which she keeps retreating throughout her remarks. A Google search on the clues she gives us ("comprehensive counseling services"+pennsylvania+homosexuality) yields links to a fellow named Richard Fitzgibbons, M.D., Director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
Dr. Fitzgibbons specializes in anger management, but he also specializes in "reparative therapy" for people "suffering" from same-sex attractions -- most notably Catholic priests, but others as well. According to the A.M.A., Dr. Fitzgibbons "self-designates" psychiatry as his primary specialty, but though he did a residency in psychiatry in the University of Pennsylvania Health System, he is not a Board Certified psychiatrist. He is featured on the Opus Bono Sacerdotii website, a group that apparently supports Catholic priests who find themselves in a variety of hot waters, including but not limited to being accused of the sexual abuse of minors.
In an interview on the National Association for Research & Therapy for Homosexuals ("NARTH") website, Dr. Fitzgibbons explains homosexuality through reference to four psychological factors: "...weak masculine identity, which is always the result of developmental trauma; mistrust of women; narcissism; and sexual addiction." The interview appears to be a concise summary of Dr. Fitzgibbons's theory of homosexuality, which involves boys being angry at not being good at sports when they were young, and so they grow up to be gay, and girls being angry at -- and therefore not loving -- a masculine God. And so, of course, they grow up to be lesbians.
The depth of Dr. Fitzgibbons's misapprehensions about human sexuality strikes me as pathetically sad. I feel nothing but pity for those who fall for his snake oil. Others may disagree, of course. Read the interview if you feel the need to reach your own conclusions about the good doctor's theories.
But given what Elaine in Queens has told us about herself, it does not surprise me that she thinks Dr. Fitzgibbons is the cat's pajamas. She regards him as compassionate. By extension, by way of her subscription to his theories, she sees herself as compassionate as well. Indeed, she insists upon it. And, as it happens, I don't think there's any reason to disbelieve her about that. I think she truly is a compassionate person. The only problem, of course, is that the pain she sees in other people is not necessarily there. I think the pain she sees in others is, in fact, her pain. In classic, cliched homophobic fashion, she sees in others her own struggle with what it means to feel what she feels.
I have to tell you -- and I'm not being snarky here -- I worry a bit about Elaine in Queens. I'm not convinced the "reparative therapy" she admits to undergoing isn't beginning to slip away from her. I think the shell of her "cure" is starting to crack. I know that sounds snarky and mean, but here's why I believe it.
Just look at the transcript of her call. Just listen to it. She's got this construction of the universe that barely hangs together, and in fact falls completely apart if you apply any sort of rigor to it at all. Love is procreation, and God gave us marriage, and men and women are physically different, and there's a compassionate guy in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania who teaches that homosexuals are "that way" because of serious childhood damage -- evidenced by recovered memories in some cases -- suffered at the hands of the father and the mother and so forth and so on.
When Brian probes beneath the first layer of her theory's skin, she retreats back into what she "knows". The inconsistencies and failures of logic and lack of connective tissue between the various elements of her theory are never addressed by her. Look at the transcript. She flees in what feels like terror from the easiest question of all... "Why do you care?"
But, bless her heart, in the end she finally does give in and she answers Brian's question, right there in front of God and Country. She cares because she has to care. If others can live peacefully within themselves while "suffering" from the same things that torture her, how is that to be explained? The only answer apparently acceptable to Elaine in Queens is that these others, purportedly happy with their lives the way they are, have been led to this state of homosexuality by way of things that are somehow beyond the bounds of loving human behavior.
I am perfectly willing to believe there are tons of gay people who are unhappy with their homosexuality. Being gay in this culture can be a royal bitch sometimes, especially if you are young and isolated. But I also know for a fact that there are tons of gay people who are perfectly comfortable with their gayness... in spite of the fact that this culture can really give you a pain in the neck about it.
So what is implied by Elaine in Queens's refusal to grant moral equivalence to homosexual desire? What is implied by her active opposition to granting the legal rights of marriage to gay people? What is behind her compassion for all these people supposedly struggling to save themselves from their homosexual desires?
Well, granting moral equivalence, granting legal rights "only encourages them", doesn't it? It gives a kind of permission to others, doesn't it? It gives to others the sort of permission Elaine in Queens cannot grant to herself. It gives people permission to be happy with themselves.
If Elaine in Queens cannot give herself permission to find happiness in her own homosexuality, then no one else should be allowed to grant themselves permission to find happiness in theirs. It's the response of an enraged child, grievously afflicted by the unfairness of a sibling getting a bigger piece of candy than she got.
Sadly, the fact that it really doesn't take all that long for her to get to the truth of the matter -- "I've seen it, I've experienced it myself. Um, thank God I'm over it" -- combined with the "pained urgency" in her voice and the frail nature of her arguments tells me that in her mind, her "construction" is on the verge of falling apart.
I fear for her, if it does. The depth of her pain and fear is apparent. With some proper therapeutic help she may be able to bring herself softly down to a light landing, but if she's out there on her own, then I fear for her truly. She's been sent down a path that leads her far from herself. I fear that when she finally realizes this, finding herself alone and lost in such a dark and threatening forest may cause her to lose her way completely, and perhaps abandon all hope.
I really hope it doesn't go that way for her. There are a great many homosexuals who are deeply religious and who have found a path out of that dark and terrifying woods. They have found a reconciliation between what they feel about themselves, and the people they love, and what they feel about their God. They look up one day, in the midst of their unhappiness, and see a straight and true path for themselves out of the forest. And then they are happy. They are full of joy. They let themselves feel the love they know they were intended to feel.
Yes, I do fear for Elaine in Queens and I wish her well in her recovery -- whatever that recovery may entail. But more than that, I deeply, deeply wish she would spend more time working on her own issues and less time feeling so much "compassion" for me and my kind.
I was trained in the theater where psychological analysis is primarily based not on lengthy courses of therapy but on the text of the script in front of us. The transcript above is our script for the drama of Elaine in Queens, and were I engaged to direct that play, I would counsel the actress playing her to do some research on the "science" of lobotomies. I'd ask her to read all around the subject, paying special attention to what appear to be the motivations of the doctors and family members who arranged to have this medical procedure performed on their patients or loved ones.
They had compassion. They felt a deep sadness for the suffering of the patient or loved one, and they expressed their compassion and sadness by having an ice-pick rammed through the orbital socket of the sufferer, reaming part of his soul away.
Yes, that would be the image I'd give my actress to chew on. Elaine in Queens sees the "suffering" of "her patients" and prescribes for them an ice-pick.
Elaine in Queens believes in an immortal soul; I know she does. And I know she must realize that if legal rights didn't matter to people, if having or not having them didn't speak to people about the place they have in a given society, then people wouldn't risk death to get and keep their rights. I don't believe in an immortal soul, but I do believe in something I think of as a human spirit. I have one. Elaine in Queens has one. Everybody has one. And it is that complicated mix of drives, needs, experiences, motivations, psychology, and run-of-the-mill human emotions -- all those things that make up what I call the human spirit -- that requires people to want to fight and die for their rights.
Being denied those rights -- pointlessly, needlessly, illogically, for reasons based on a weird and flimsy construction that purports to "explain" homosexuality -- is soul killing because it creates a situation wherein those who have been denied their rights know they have a right to win the battle they are fighting, but they also know they will never be allowed to win it. They are confronted with an enemy that relies on myths and falsehoods and flimsy constructions -- sacred ground the enemy will never surrender. They are forced to fight on battlefields that shift from under their boots whenever the enemy is threatened with defeat. Any soldier under those circumstances, no matter how determined, will eventually succumb to weariness and exhaustion, eventually sinking into utter despair. An exhausted and hopeless soldier is ripe for the killing.
My guess is that Elaine in Queens, a believer, accounts for the drive in people to obtain their rights by calling it a product of the human soul. Adopting her view of the matter, I therefore accuse her of attempted soul-murder.
It frightens and enrages us that she would come after our souls in this manner. Fear and rage make people lash out. It causes, as the sayings go, "blind rage" and "blind fear". Elaine in Queens should not be surprised if people, in their blindnesses, think of her as "a hater" and a bigot. If they are wrong about her, that is their shortcoming; however, that she inspires their rage and fear with her soul-murdering behavior is her sin. In my view, she probably isn't "a hater" or a bigot, but she cannot deny responsibility for the justifiable rage and fear her behavior generates in others.
I don't want your damned ice-pick, Elaine. I want my legal rights -- the rights that you and people like you are standing in the way of in the name of your almighty but thinly disguised "compassion".
Oh, and one last thing, Elaine in Queens, I apologize if you are bothered by my saying your behavior identifies you as an archetypal human monster. It isn't that you have this urge to behave monstrously that I hold against you; it's your monstrous behavior insofar as it affects myself and other innocent members of this society.
I tell you that you are guilty of a monstrous sin against innocent people, Elaine in Queens. But never mind. Allow me to comfort you with this reliable classic: it isn't the sinner we hate; it's the sin.