Inner Michael » Don’t you wombat scream?

Don’t you wombat scream?

The world wasn’t ready for Michael. It wasn’t ready for his message. the world was not ready for the Jacksons because it was not ready for integration or equality of the races. And it certainly was not ready for a black superstar who was sexy and mesmerizing to young white female audiences.

The white teens of the late sixties and early seventies had fathers born during or after World War I and who served in World War II, lived through the faux idyllic life of the fifties, suffered shock at Elvis Presley’s suggestive “dance moves” and the insufferable rise of Rock n’ Roll and its’ bad influence on their daughters, weathered the paranoia of communism and the cold war of the sixties, and went aploplectic when four “lads from Liverpool” showed up in their shaggy long hair with John Lennon’s unconventional anti-war peace movement.

Fathers are fiercely protective of their daughters, stricter with their girl children than their boys, and they fully understand the male sex drive and the obsessive thoughts that hormones and puberty stimulate and the fantasies that are entertained long into adolescence and beyond. Fathers do not like competition for their daughters’ affections and they certainly do not like to think of their daughters as budding sexual beings who might develop their own feelings and drives toward youthful or slightly older males.

Yes, Elvis and the Beatles were shocking and sent sensibilities quaking and thus hardly seemed harmless, but at least they were white. Now comes a youthful bad of brothers who are black artists and who used their fit bodies to dance full out in complex coreographed moves that show off tight fitting shirts or shirtless glistening chests and form fitting bell bottoms in psychedelic colors. When you hear “psychedelic” think LSD. When you hear “Jacksons” think “Mandingo Myth” and the threat to white males of “outsiders” and “inferior not-quite-humans with animalistic sexual urges” casting a spell upon white women who cannot resist the powerful allure of a forbidden black lover.

You could be sexy or black. But not both. And now those who “knew their place” before and dared not even look at a white woman let alone touch one or be lynched for the transgression– are gaining your daughter’s affection. Blacks are still barely tolerated in society and still lack privilege, but your daughter speaks about a group of them with affection and even sexual innuendo.

Now fast forward to one of those brothers standing out who is likeable, charming and non-threatening but who begins now to develop sex appeal and who strangely seems to be turning white. A black man turning white! There are old standing myths and legends about negroes who turn white– and they were displayed as circus freaks, experimented upon, scrutinized, studied, written about and whose dead bodies were illegally unearthed and dissected for “medical research” on their skin as white men were threatened with even more encroachment on their women.

No matter the excuses, the reaction to the Jacksons and to Michael Jackson was racist. Any black man who sets the world on fire (the “white” world) must be made to pay for his transgressions. He must be made accountable for the attraction of young females (white females in particular) and must be reminded of of his “place.” If blatant racism is no longer acceptable, then it must go underground. If lynching is no longer legal, then verbal lynching must suffice. If castration is no longer accessible to punish a “buck” who dares to be overtly sexual, then another way to castrate must be found– perhaps a castration of his life and career through the use of a sexual taboo. Perhaps a charge of “homosexuality” will work and if not, then “pedophilia” surely will.

There were those quick to believe. There are those who eagerly spread the word. They are the racist ones. But they are so in denial of their racism or so ashamed to admit it even to themselves, that they must accept as truth something that will absolve themselves while exacting retribution for a black man (think n-word) who dares be “uppity.” How dare Michael Jackson who thinks he is a superstar get away with it; he must be brought down to size and reminded of his “place”– an inferior one in the social hierarchy.

And did the dark underbelly of the music business play along? Record studios were loath to pay black musicians the same rates as whites so musicians turned to unionization for a fair wage. Many great black artists lived marginal lives and died poor. Little Richard, for example never owned his own music until Michael Jackson gifted it back to him after he acquired it in his catalog purchase. The studios did not like the power Michael Jackson wielded that his popularity earned him. Black music wasn’t even considered relevant until Motown was born. And MTV refused to play black music videos until they could no longer ignore Michael. His were the first ever.

To understand what really happened to Michael Jackson, his life must be placed in historical context. If you can’t mock a man for his skin color, maybe you can mock his face. If you can’t accept that your pure chaste white women and daughters are attracted to a black man and find him sexy, you could make him less threatening by calling him a homosexual. If you can’t lynch or castrate a man for having relationships and relations with a white woman, maybe you can castrte him with words– ridiculing him, making him irrelevant, castigating him, humiliating him, and destroying his popularity that way. And if his life gets destroyed in the deal, he is but a casualty in your perpetual war on other humans in the quest for the idealized and acceptable self.

What happened to Michael is shadow. It is all projection. People who cannot stand the darkness in themselves cannot acknowledge it to the world. It must remain concealed even from their own consciousness. So they project it onto another convenient soul who happens to be on their radar. But it has to be someone they can marginalize or dehumanize in their own minds. Hey, let’s use Michael Jackson!

Everyone, every one who ever criticised his color, face, masculinity, sexual orientation, body, dance, relevance in cuture, lyrics, and even his music (his music! That was sarcastic) was projecting their own shadow onto Michael Jackson. The hidden agenda and unconscious motive is racism, insecutiry, jealousy, misogyny, fear, sexual insecurity or ambiguity, fascination and obsession with sexual deviancy (seeing it where there is none), inferiority, superiority, marginalization, racial hatred, and self hatred.

If we are to save this world, to snatch the dream from the jaws of a nightmare, save the human race and preserve the planet, we must once-and-for-all admit to our shadow, heal its wounds and find the light within ourselves. Michael tried to tell us that. Those who resonate got it. Those who don’t must be made aware that there is an alternative to living in shadow. It’s called living the light. Sometimes, don’t it (sic) make you wanna scream?

 It made the Wombat scream.





  1. Dalia Burgos said . . .

    You are right Barbara, the world was unfair and showed no mercy with Michael. He had no permission to be who was because he was black. If Michael had been white, he would have another story and would be still alive; unfortunately it is so. How sad to have lost so much! And because of a big “mistake” of nature … the color of the skin, or rather: The irrationality of human beings.

    Posted July 1, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  2. Greet Boete Belgium said . . .

    Thanks for the interesting entry. Yes, sometimes I would want to scream. Especially after D. D. raised her voice again. That woman must have a terrible life! Hating herself so much….. But, I decided to focus on all the millions of people that stand united and who are in the light about Michael. We are indeed, all connected, and nothing matters as long as we all realize that we we have to live together. But we still have a big job to do, to make the world aware of that, to look beyond our small world, to see the light. My life has brightened seriously since I discovered Michael (sad to say it started on June 25…), and I feel pity for those who are not interested in going there. I would never want to go back……

    Posted July 1, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Permalink
  3. gertrude said . . .


    The time is so way overdue to yank the rug off the top of this gross mess. Your choice of photos couldn’t have been better, the sexual heat generated between blonde, all-American girl Cheryl Crowe and Michael must have driven the racist element to distraction, and if I do say so myself MJ looks like a sexual God in that animal print shirt with gold pants. Can I shamelessly get a witness?

    I’m sure the fact that Michael, in additon to being called sex-on-legs etc by his girl fans, GLOBALLY, was also a genius and not only NOT inferior and less human, but superior and very much more humane than so many, really put him in grave danger. The rest, as we know, was a shameful, despicable history.

    Thank-you for really nailing this one. and so eloquently as well– as usual.

    Posted July 1, 2012 at 9:41 pm | Permalink
  4. gertrude said . . .

    p.s. the Wombat vid was great.

    Posted July 1, 2012 at 10:06 pm | Permalink
  5. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Michael would be smiling right about… now.

    Posted July 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Permalink
  6. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    I love the Wombat. Yoda had to move over to make room for a new guru. ~B

    Posted July 1, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Permalink
  7. Nina said . . .


    Thank you for pointing out one our the most pernicious and persistent of cultural narratives—that of the hypersexualized black male who poses a threat and therefore needs to be “contained.” This is surely one underlying element of Michael Jackson’s treatment over the years; and I agree that we must understand the historical context for everything that happened to Michael.

    I do wonder, though, whether it’s accurate to state that EVERY criticism of ANY aspect of Michael Jackson or his work, across the board and without exception, was the product of racist projection and the “shadowing” you describe.

    It’s very important, I think, to keep race in mind as one strong element in Michael’s harsh treatment by the media, even as we recognize that world-famous artists are routinely criticized; indeed, many celebrities and public figures—-as you point out—often face an overwhelming onslaught of negative publicity.

    To put things into some perspective, I like to consider how Michael has been remembered in the context of other superstars. In his 1991 book, “Dead Elvis,” critic Greil Marcus writes:

    “What we want to know is why a certain person sang in a certain way, and why that touched us, why that simple confluence of circumstances changed the country, and the world—but since those are difficult questions, mysteries that will never be solved but also the only questions worth asking, we can be led to settle for every last quirk, rumor, failing, perversion, and we may be led to believe, finally, perhaps, that the real questions are not so important, or even real at all. A certain person, singing in a certain way—maybe it wasn’t quite what it seemed.

    “The scandal books and the loving memoirs tell the same story in the end, an old story that is not, in any particular sense, Elvis’s story: he got what he wanted but he lost what he had. He was cut off from his roots; he fell from grace. See what happens to American heroes; see what we do to them. We’ve always loved this story: the artist or the leader dies for our sins, after permitting us to enjoy them.

    “Such mythologizing predated Elvis’s death, but it’s gathered irresistible force since. A dead person is vulnerable in ways a living person is not, and it’s not simply that you can’t libel the dead. When the subject of a book is living, he or she can always make that book into a lie by acting in a new way. A dead person can be summed up and dismissed. And Elvis is especially vulnerable, because for much of American he has always been a freak.”

    Posted July 2, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink
  8. victoria said . . .

    Barbara dear,

    “The truth shall set you free.”…..and so will the Wombat…Loved this entry –

    Posted July 2, 2012 at 11:43 am | Permalink
  9. Nina said . . .

    Yes, I think you’re quite right, Barbara. What Michael achieved was unprecedented. And in a culture where distorted stereotypes of black men are pervasive, Michael’s appeal to (white) women was especially threatening.

    Posted July 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink
  10. Erika said . . .

    This was such a POWERFUL post! I loved every sentence in it!
    Thank you Barbara!
    Oh, and Gertrude, I’m your witness … shamelessly … of course 😉
    The Wombat … I LOVE HIM
    Let’s just share, share, share!

    Posted July 2, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Permalink
  11. Robbie M said . . .

    We know there is an alternative to living in and with shadow but… are the shadow dwellers so lost in their own illusion, that they are not aware they are in shadow? It must take an awful lot of energy to continually try to run away from yourself and your darkness.They have no alternative of course, to stop and even briefly glance in the mirror would probably drive them insane. They know exactly what they did to Michael and why. His example was just too pure, too generous, even when under constant attack. He showed them what it was like to live with love at the very core of your being, your every life choice guided by it. How they feared him! Now, they have millions of souls who resonate on the same wavelength as Michael to deal with. In the dark watch of the night the scream they hear is silent and terrible, for it comes from their very souls.They thought to silence Michael,but how can you silence an idea, a way of life and living? They will keep on running, and wherever they turn we will be there, holding on to the light Michael bequethed to us. What a gift… what a man!

    Posted July 2, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Permalink
  12. Dalia said . . .

    Barbara do you think there’s something to do about it? do you think it’s worth? it is only a question for you…

    Posted July 2, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink
  13. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Yes, I do believe there is something that can be done. I did not include your link to the article because that writer (you all can guess who is meant here) is now deliberately baiting Michael Jackson fans. The more “hits” (comments) on her articles, the more she can show a publisher that she can get traffic to any site she writes for. The editors are not going to take the time to read the comments- they will see how much traffic and think she is worthwhile as a writer or freelancer. All she has to do is mention one name.

    Michael knew that sometimes it is wise to be quiet. Sometimes it is; sometimes it is not. But having fans react and become rabid is exactly what she wants and is the game here. It is a desperate measure for a “journalist” who knows she is quickly becoming irrelevant. And the fans are playing right into her hands.

    The prinicpals in the vindication movement are discussing this as we speak. I have weighed in with my opinion. When fans go to her site and comment more than 80 times, they are feeding the beast that destroys/ed Michael. That is NOT helping to get the word out to the public about Michael Jackson’s innocence and the treachery of some journalists in using him for personal and professional gain.

    A few well written comments with a few vindication links would work better. And starving the beast means not commenting when she deliberately baits fans. Some people are just purely self serving, cunning and have evil intent.

    I wish fans would remember that Michael often worked in marvelous ways but he did it anonymously. Chosing to be anonymous takes a person with great courage and fortitude who is willing to leave his or her ego at the door, doesn’t require drama to feel important, needs no recognition, can keep themselves emotionally under control and is wise enough to know when to be silent and clever enough to know the game and how it works. It requires recognizing that one is no match for evil nor should it be employed. It requires stepping outside of one’s anger and self righteousness and evaluating an outcome from the position of observer.

    Yes, there are ways to do this. If you are interested, I will make that my next post. ~B

    Posted July 2, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Permalink
  14. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    What a beautiful way to say it Robbie. Thank you. I have two comments: Yes! and Namaste` More about this shadow and way of life coming. Stay tuned. ~B

    Posted July 2, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink
  15. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Nina, I am not saying that everything that happened to Michael was racist. I am saying historically it started that way and it was a huge factor. There are metaphysical and archetypal reasons why someone becomes a strange attractor and why people find that threatening. We will get around to discussing this, I promise. ~B

    Posted July 2, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Permalink
  16. gertrude said . . .

    Yes, I began feeling this whole baiting thing quite a while ago – every comment at the NY Post ignorance-fest – 106 the last time I counted – was in support of Michael, and giving those who disrespected him great numbers when they deserved exactly none. Time to starve that evil.

    Posted July 3, 2012 at 3:19 am | Permalink
  17. Kimberly Bonk said . . .

    Once again; well stated Rev. B. I agree with the approach about being silent at certain times. This is one of them for me. I do ask in many situations, “what would Michael do?” I have experienced situations recently where I really had to take a step back and ask that question. I thought about it and decided to walk the same path that he did many times. I had something happen on Twitter the other day regarding the same very story that is mentioned here regarding responding to a certain person’s articles. There were many times where I almost went on the offense or defense because someone was being a bit aggressive because my opinion on this differed from hers; however, I stopped myself and asked that very question. Normally we talk on Twitter, but this time it was almost an argument. I choose to stand up for myself with integrity and humility, but with some level of confidence. I tried to not engage, which I didn’t. Michael was wise in his decisions to sometimes be silent. I feel there are other ways where we can preserve and honor his legacy verses bringing more darkness into the world. We can shine the light on Michael’s legacy. Sometimes silence is a great neutralizer. Love and light <3

    Posted July 3, 2012 at 6:37 am | Permalink
  18. Nina said . . .

    Hi Barbara,

    You say that everyone who criticized many aspects of Michael’s person, appearance, and work,

    “even his music (his music! That was sarcastic) was projecting their own shadow onto Michael Jackson. The hidden agenda and unconscious motive is racism, insecutiry, jealousy, misogyny, fear, sexual insecurity or ambiguity, fascination and obsession with sexual deviancy (seeing it where there is none), inferiority, superiority, marginalization, racial hatred, and self hatred.”

    This is quite a laundry list of human traits that probably all of us have, in varying measures, have beset with or befuddled by! My own hope is to (eventually) be mindful and conscious of the moments when I am projecting any or all of these things onto another person, and to try to come to terms with my own demons in this way.

    I can’t help but wonder what you mean by “sexual insecurity or ambiguity,” and “fascination with sexual… deviancy (seeing it where it is none).” These are—more than the ills you list—potentially loaded terms. To avoid misunderstanding and confusion, I wonder if you might clarify or elaborate on what they mean *to you.*

    Thank you so much.

    But in particular I’m wondering about your

    Posted July 4, 2012 at 12:18 am | Permalink
  19. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    We all use projection because we all use judgment. That is why holy books warn us about judgment.

    For example: Supposing you know someone named “Gary.” You can observe Gary and know perhaps many “facts” about Gary from your observations and interactions and think you know the man named “Gary.”

    The truth is, you do not know Gary; you only know your idea of Gary. You have made assumptions, judgments, observations, and formed opinions while creating an identity for Gary that you call “Gary.” Your idea of “Gary” is not Gary- it is your creation. You have created an identity for Gary and projected it onto Gary asking him to now wear the identity you have created for him. (Of course most of this process is unconscious.)

    You have made unexamined assumptions about the persona: Gary. If you have not checked with Gary on all of your judgments, assumptions, obvservations, and conclusions about who Gary is, you are proceeding based upon a falsehood or at the very least, a parial truth. You will rarely check with Gary about all your unchallenged assumptions because some of them are embarrassing to you or they would seem invasive to Gary. This is not ususally socially acceptable unless you and Gary have become close friends and you have checked out your assumptions. If Gary confirms your opinions or assumptions about him, you can assume you know Gary.

    Michael Jackson was the most famous man on earth but was a very private man. Because he was visible, he was automatically the target of millions of projections. There were lots of unexamined assumptions about who and what he was. He was different. He was black. He was a musical and artistic genius. He was fodder for projections.

    For example, people observed his avoidance of the limelight when offstage and assumed he was unaccessible, conceited or an arrogant aloof “rockstar.” Michael said many times that only onstage and while performing, was he comfortable; he was an introvert and socially shy. He was not an orator and was uncomfortable with public speaking. He was a man with an integrated anima and because he was sensitive and soft spoken and didn’t bed all the groupies, they created him to be a homosexual. Because he understood and practiced Agape love and people were unfamiliar with it, his love for children became something ugly.

    The accusations about a person reveals more about the accuser than the target. It is a testament of the character of the accuser, not the one accused. Unconscious urges and shadow material is projected onto others all the time. It’s a dance of impotence and power. And relief from self responsibility. But it’s counterfeit and distracts from confronting one’s shadow and healing the wounds. We recognize something in someone else because it exists within self.

    When one can’t bear what lives within self, that unhealed human nature projects and destroys that which it does not understand and feels threatened by. It’s tribal mentality. When we look upon someone who is all that we are not, we resent. When we are unconsciously uncomfortable with something in ourselves, we find an unsuspecting bloke and project it onto him. When one has sexual urges that are considered cultural taboos, the most convenient way to avoid confrontation with one’s own shadow is to project it onto another.

    A male with an ambiguous sexuality and latent homosexual urges will hate with a vengence, a man he believes is gay. Someone who is unconscious of their own attraction to children or is trying to deny those tendencies in self, will see a pedophile in another and project their self-loathing onto the other individual. Someone who has a fetish for sexual deviancy will find sexual deviants to point fingers at to distract themselves (and others) from their own dark urges.

    Where there is “charge” (disproportionate impassioned emotions or obsessions about something) there is an unhealed part of self. The shadow reveals the wounded places within self. Instead of denying and projecting shadow, we would do better to be vigilant in observing the places where we are uncomfortable, blame others, or find someone to hate. What gives us the biggest “charge” is something that resonates in self. When someone assumes and projects onto another, it is a sure sign that something within self needs a healing.

    The real Michael Jackson is not the caricature sculpted from all the projections. (He sufferd more than his share of them.) Those who knew him personally describe a much different individual than the “legend.” And fans, researchers and true biographers (without tabloidist agendas) who have studied the man can conclude that when behavior is repeated consistently, it can be considered to construct character. From all accounts, Jackson’s true character was noble; the fictionalized and projected version was not. The culture’s idea of Jackson was sculpted through innuendo, assumptions, projections and in some cases, deliberate sculpting of shadow because shadow holds a fascination and allure for spiritually unevolved humans.

    We will get to the part about why Michael attracted so many and why he was so popular. Promise.

    Posted July 4, 2012 at 2:50 am | Permalink
  20. gertrude said . . .

    Rev B, thank-you for your response to Nina – I got a lot out of it! Since beginning this journey into the valley of my own shadow, I am increasingly astonished at how many of my thoughts and reactions are totally unconscious – so unconscious I forget to remember to question or even observe my own reactions!

    Posted July 4, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink
  21. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Ditto, G. ~B

    Posted July 4, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Permalink
  22. Nina said . . .

    Hi Barbara,

    Thank you for the clarification. I agree that much repressed material lies at the bottom of people’s ire toward others. You say,

    “A male with an ambiguous sexuality and latent homosexual urges will hate with a vengence, a man he believes is gay. Someone who is unconscious of their own attraction to children or is trying to deny those tendencies in self, will see a pedophile in another and project their self-loathing onto the other individual. Someone who has a fetish for sexual deviancy will find sexual deviants to point fingers at to distract themselves (and others) from their own dark urges.”

    Here, I think “ambivalent” (i.e., a man who is *ambivalent* about his heterosexuality) might be a clearer way of putting it, since it’s about the person’s feelings of anxiety and insecurity. I’m still not entirely convinced that what you’ve said above is true across the board (because there will be, I think, too many variations from one individual to another to generalize), yet on the whole I think it’s true that repression often works this way. I also think Michael drew an unusual amount of projection from people throughout his long career— not only from those who meant to disparage him, but also from those who loved him.

    I know you must be familiar with this thought by the writer James Baldwin, but it bears repeating, I think it’s important for the way Baldwin articulates these issues in social, not only purely psychological, terms. It remains one of the most clear-sighted and prescient things I’ve read about Michael to date:

    “The Michael Jackson cacophony is fascinating in that it is not about Jackson at all. I hope he has the good sense to know it and the good fortune to snatch his life out of the jaws of a carnivorous success. He will not swiftly be forgiven for having turned so many tables, for he damn sure grabbed the brass ring, and the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo has nothing on Michael. All that noise is about America, as the dishonest custodian of black life and wealth; and blacks, especially males, in America; and the burning, buried American guilt; and sex and sexual roles and sexual panic; money, success and despair—to all of which may now be added the bitter need to find a head on which to place the crown of Miss America.

    “…. Freaks are called freaks and are treated as they are—in the main, abominably—because they are human beings who cause to echo, deep within us, our most profound terrors and desires.”

    —-James Baldwin, “Freaks and the Ideal of American Manhood” (1985)

    Posted July 5, 2012 at 2:26 am | Permalink
  23. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Nina, Both terms work here I think… ambiguous, ambivalent. Both imply a definitive decision has not been made. Ambivalence and ambiguity can be applied to both gender distinctions– and homosexualtiy and heterosexuality. When we theorize or analyse and write that is a finite task and we make generalizations in service to that task. They are not absolute; nothing ever is in vivo. As an example, certainly not everyone who is disgusted by pedophilia is a latent pedophile. But when obsession is glaring or a considerable grand amount of “charge” makes its way into a conversation, there is agitation of some kind. We do well to observe our own agitations.

    When someone has a public forum or bully pulpit, one would hope the accompanying power would be wielded with considerable restraint, gravitas, and sense of responsibility. The majority of media used none of that and certain individuals used their positions to mislead, sensationalize, milk and extend a story or act out their own agendas. Unexamined assumptions do great damage. Reporters, media, writers have a grave responsibility toward the public and I believe, in service of truth. The misuse of a media pulpit causes greater damage than gossip in the office cublicle. We are all downwind.

    I love James Baldwin’s work and agree with his sociological/cultural assessment of Jackson. He is correct about America as well. I lived it. And that definition of freak is one of my favorites. Thanks ~B

    Posted July 5, 2012 at 4:26 am | Permalink
  24. Nina said . . .

    Hi Barbara,

    You wrote:
    “ Both terms work here I think… ambiguous, ambivalent. Both imply a definitive decision has not been made. Ambivalence and ambiguity can be applied to both gender distinctions– homosexualtiy and heterosexuality.”

    I certainly agree that it’s incumbent upon those who write, pubilish and speak from a position of social authority to apply—as you so aptly put it—their best sense of restraint, gravitas, and responsibility to the task! And unexamined assumptions certainly can do great damage. Those of us who continually try to examine our own assumptions know how rigorous it can be; yet it’s necessary work.

    I’d like to point out that homosexuality and heterosexuality are not “gender distinctions” per se, but common terms that are generally used to describe sexual orientation. And I still feel that the distinction between “ambiguous” and “ambivalent” is crucial, since these refer to different subjective positions. In other words, a person may be called “ambiguous” or “indeterminate” in gender—by an observer—when they are perceived as, perhaps, androgynous. “Ambivalent,” on the other hand, is how the person speaking may describe their own (mixed) attitude or emotions: “I am ambivalent about being heterosexual.”

    As for a “definitive decision,” I believe most people would say that their sexual orientation is a matter of strong and (usually) long-standing inclination, and is probably not amenable to decision or choice. It’s also true that many people, indeed, cannot regard their sexuality as “definitive” in any way. James Baldwin himself wrote (and I paraphrase): “Americans can’t get their minds around the idea that ‘homosexual’ is not a noun.”

    Thank you for this opportunity to ask questions, and thank you for your clarifications! I’m sorry to stray so far from the subject of Michael, but I believe it all connects in the end!

    Posted July 5, 2012 at 7:04 am | Permalink
  25. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    Nina, yes they are sexual orientations and that is more accurate than “gender distinctions.” Writers vary terms as a writing technique. No offense or inaccuracy was intended. Michael could be described and may have been perceived as androgynous. In fact, I suspect his androgyny was deliberate and part of his artistic message.

    And you are quite right that ambivalence accompanies this issue and it is because of the established cultural taboos. I do not view sexual orientation as voluntary and inclination informs it. Unfortunately our society demands that people be defined and placed in neat little boxes. When that doesn’t happen, we squirm. And if we get agitated enough we destroy that which makes us squirm. ~B

    Posted July 5, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink
  26. Nina said . . .

    Yes, I very much agree, Barbara. Again, thank you for clarifying.

    Posted July 5, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink
  27. gertrude said . . .

    And without the Great Agitators we get nowhere fast – how interesting this discussion is! I was a little surprised to read that “sexual orientation… is probably not amenable to decision or choice”. But that would be because I have had so many gay men friends, often my favourite friends, and more than one has told me they can and have easily had sexual boyfriend-girlfriend relationships with women but that they are CHOOSING not to now for political reasons. Which made me think wow, look what we are missing out on thanks to the mistreatment of LGBT people!

    I do have to recognize however that generally that orientation is determined by inclinations one does not – at least conciously – choose.

    Regardless, its impressive, to one who has frequented more than a few boards devoted to the Meaning of Michael, to find a real dialogue and civilized exchange rather than some defensive tit for tat. That is a testament to the environment you have created Rev. B, I would say – and I have been introduced to James Baldwin now thanks to Nina and yourself. REALLY looking forward to reading him.

    Posted July 5, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Permalink
  28. B. Kaufmann said . . .

    G, To give you a little mind twister consider asking the question:
    “When did you first begin to realize that you were heterosexual?”
    I leave you (and eveyone here) to ponder that question and its implications for that is what is being raised in the discussion. Let it simmer.

    To understand how looming (and still looming) racial shadow is, one of Baldwin’s appearances from the sixties was taped and made into a documentary and brings some clarity for us:

    The first part is especially instructional. If you get to the end, you will understand that the line I walk as a white woman with the intention of “historian,” “catalyst,” “minister/teacher” and not “missionary.” Revisionism (and there was plenty that came out of the sixties) rises from squirming in discomfort about the shadow’s immenent (and judged “horrifying”) potential, imagined or actual exposure. This judgment that may indeed have its roots in “White Christianity” and likely at the very least “Christianity” with its concept of transgression, sin and forgiveness and original sin may be what keeps us from examining our shadow and intrinsic woundedness. Damnation to some conservatives is serious business.

    If only Satan and evil were not so closely associated with shadow and shadow was instead viewed as unhealed woundedness holding uncertainty and issues of worth.

    What we have been examining, these concepts, principles, precepts, ideas, and even our discussions are all based on beliefs. Beliefs are invented and fictions. How you prove that your belief is true is by looking for evidence of it and, of course, finding it which then creates more of itself. It’s a similar ghost as “Gary” in the previous commentary.

    White skin, dark skin and the possibility of losing dark pigment (as in Vitiligo) is much more incendiary that you/we have been led to believe. It is deep. Shamans would cite ancestral bones to indicate this depth. The fear associated with it is just as deep.

    Posted July 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Permalink
  29. gertrude said . . .

    Hilariously, I think I actually do remember when I first realized I was hetereosexual, as in first really had it in my own face. It was when the coolest girl at my art college casually/half jokingly asked me for a date infront of my boyfriend. (she really was the coolest). We just stared at each other and non-verbally understood EVERYTHING, albeit briefly. We both knew that the other knew that I would be cheating her if I said yes because the “inclination” just wasn’t drumming itself up inside me. I remember a moment of melancholoy written on both our faces. I’m thinking it was our souls that were melancholy at the vagaries of physicality.

    Anyway, God Bless Michael. Look what he has started. Again.

    Posted July 5, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink
  30. Karen said . . .

    WOW. This is by far the most intensely thought-provoking piece I’ve read here, and I love all the responses it elicited! What an amazing discussion! I need to come back to read it, and the comments, over a few times to begin to take it all in.

    “He showed them what it was like to live with love at the very core of your being, your every life choice guided by it.” — to the person who wrote this — AMEN!

    And an AMEN to you Barbara for this wonderful, galvanizing, and for some reason, hope-inspiring article.

    Posted July 7, 2012 at 8:13 am | Permalink

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