Jun 11

Chana Wilson, Lesbian Therapist, Shares Her Story

When we think about people telling their stories, we don’t necessarily think of therapists being those people—isn’t it more about other people telling us theirs? But Chana Wilson is a therapist, and in her recent book called Riding Fury Home: A Memoir she has quite the story to share.

From the official book description: “In 1958, when Chana Wilson was seven, her mother held a rifle to her head and pulled the trigger. The gun jammed and she was taken away to a mental hospital. On her return, Chana became the caretaker of her heavily medicated, suicidal mother. It would be many years before she learned the secret of her mother’s anguish: her love affair with another married woman, and the psychiatric treatment aimed at curing her of her lesbianism.”

The book’s website features some Q & A that includes the following quote from Wilson on the highly relevant issue of conversion therapy:

My mom’s story shows the anguish caused by psychiatric treatment that attempts to convert gay people into being straight. My mother became severely depressed by not being able to be her true self, to love another woman. My whole family suffered from her misery: Dad, Mom, and me. Sadly, some people today are still being subjected to therapy to try to change their sexual orientation.

Author Alison Bechdel, who’s also a lesbian and whose own recent book is also about her complex relationship with her mother: “Chana Wilson’s astonishing story is a hybrid of nightmare and fairy tale in which every child’s worst fears and fondest hopes about their mother come true.”

Other Selected Reviews:

Publishers Weekly: “From the horrors of her childhood in 1950s New Jersey to the liberating discovering of her sexual identity decades later, psychotherapist Wilson’s memoir is as heartbreaking as it is uplifting. Through sharing her personal tale of forgiveness and unconditional love, Wilson breaks the silence on the trauma of oppression and the ecstasy of self-acceptance.”

Dorothy Allison, author: “Chana Wilson has done a wonderful thing—putting on the page so much grief, fear, and stubborn awe-inspiring endurance…This is not heroes and villains, but a layered, intimate exchange in which it seems the child is never quite allowed to be a child—and yet still manages to hang onto a carefully constructed loving closeness.”

Curve Magazine: “This lovely memoir is a welcome resource for those with mental illness in their families, especially if they have to cope, as Wilson did, with caring for a difficult but much loved parent.”

Mar 15

“Pariah”: Black Tomboy Lesbian Tries to Be Herself

Pariah features a young girl not easily accepted for who she is: a tomboy who’s a lesbian who’s black. The film’s tagline: Who do you become when you can’t be yourself? As stated by Adam Serwer in Mother Jones:

Alike is stuck being neither what other people want her to be nor who she wishes she was—which, in a broad sense, is exactly what adolescence is…Alike is not coming to terms with being a lesbian—the world is coming to terms with her being lesbian.

Writer-director Dee Rees based this story on her own experiences coming out as gay.

John AndersonNewsday: “The gay coming-of-age story’s been done, but ‘Pariah’ has something fresh to say, largely about the knotty complexities of love, and how they might keep someone in the closet: How badly do you need to be free, to hurt the people you love?”

Adepero Oduye portrays Alike (pronounced “ah-LEE-kay”), a 17-year-old living in Brooklyn who has conservative parents—a mom who’s devoutly Christian (Kim Wayans) and a dad (Charles Parnell) who’s a police detective.

As is often the case with tomboys, her parents have some issues about Alike’s presentation to the world, manifested in her choice of clothing, for example. Her mom argues with Alike about her choices; her dad is concerned with how she looks to his guy friends.

The struggles go deeper than this, of course. Alike’s parents have significant issues, which makes her orientation even more threatening to family stability.

Selected Reviews of Pariah:

Amy Biancolli, San Francisco Chronicle: “The film benefits most of all from Rees’ careful screenplay, which dances that shifting line between fear and emergent hope. One of Alike’s poems says it best: ‘Even breaking is opening. And I am broken. I am open.'”

Ella Taylor, NPR: “…Pariah is the finest coming-of-age movie I’ve seen in years, the work of a fledgling artist who fully deserves the support she received from the Sundance Institute and other indie promoters of a new generation of black filmmakers.”

James Rocchi, MSN Movies: “‘Pariah’ plays like a longer, more complex addendum to the recent It Gets Better campaign aimed at sending messages of survival and strength to gay and lesbian teens: Yes, Rees and her cast say, it does get better, but not for a while, and not without cost.”