My old friend Chuck suffers from PTSD as a result of his Army service in the midst of fighting in Vietnam in early 1968. He was wounded during the Tet Offensive and the Battle of Hue. Chuck says his physical injuries healed, but the war left him permanently traumatized. In addition to professional mental health care, he has studied a great amount of medical and psychological literature.
Chuck says he has found the writings of psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Thomas Szasz to be of most benefit during his healing journey. Chuck relates to Dr. Szasz’s critique of the official and medical understandings of human difficulties and struggles.
It was Chuck’s exposure to Szasz’s work that he discovered the psychiatrist’s arguments against the disease model of homosexuality. Szasz was strongly opposed to psychiatric control of medications, involuntary treatments, and the insanity defense. Even though Chuck is straight, it was this study of Szasz that made Chuck an ally to the LGBT community.
“The plague of mankind is the fear and rejection of diversity: monotheism, monarchy, monogamy and, in our age, monomedicine. The belief that there is only one right way to live, only one right way to regulate religious, political, sexual, medical affairs is the root cause of the greatest threat to man: members of his own species, bent on ensuring his salvation, security, and sanity.”–Thomas Szasz
Chuck reminded me that his recovery from Vietnam is roughly parallel to the effects of the gay pride movement. The cycles of progress, then setbacks, then more progress he has personally experienced are very much like the two steps forward and one step backwards progress of LGBT people in the US.
My friend admits that Szasz’s writings have helped in Chuck’s understanding his cousin’s struggles with being lesbian in an ultra-conservative family. The two cousins have grown closer as a result of their mutual advocacy of each other’s health.
Chuck brought up the subject of LGBT Pride because June is traditional gay pride month. He says it is more important now than in the recent past to celebrate it. Chuck is unhappy with the recent efforts by officialdom to roll back the gains of the civil rights movements and the LGBT rights movement.
Chuck has a beautiful flag display on one wall of his den. There is a weathered old 48-star US flag from World War Two, that belonged to his father. Below that is a smaller, old Rainbow Flag that Chuck’s cousin gave him. To the right side of the flags, is a framed, engraved anonymous quotation. “If you are ashamed to stand by your colors, you had better seek another flag.”
I cannot come up with a better definition of pride than that.
The Blue Jay of Happiness contemplates a thought from Friedrich Nietzsche. “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”