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David-Elijah Nahmod is a film critic and reporter in San Francisco. His articles appear regularly in The Bay Area Reporter and SF Weekly. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.
He is currently doing a monthly column in South Florida Gay News titled “If You Could Read My Mind: A PTSD Diary.” David developed Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD) after surviving gay conversion therapy as a child and has found that many in the LGBT community suffer from severe, often untreated emotional disorders due to the extreme anti-gay traumas they endured.
JRK: Can you give Diversity Rules readers an idea of who David-Elijah Nahmod is — where you are from and all that good basic information?
DN: I’m an American/Israeli dual national. I was raised in Brooklyn NY, in an Orthodox Jewish community where homosexuality is considered a disgusting abomination. The Rabbis were treated like kings and had the power to “excommunicate” people–I kid you not!
The neighborhood was/is called Gravesend, and the community I was part of is Sephardic, descended from the Spanish Jews who were kicked out of Spain in the 1400s–their descendants now live primarily in the USA, Israel, Argentina and Italy.
Our community in Brooklyn was a self-contained ghetto of Jews who had lived in various Middle Eastern & North African countries, primarily Syria but also other countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, etc. All four of my grandparents were born in Syria between 1889-1902. There had been huge Jewish communities in Syria at that time, but by 1920 they had all left to escape religious persecution.
To outsiders, we, as a community, must have seemed strange. Religiously we were traditional Orthodox Jews, but culturally, we were Arabs. I remember my parents and grandparents listening to Arabic music, and my grandma would belly dance at weddings and bar mitzvahs! We ate Arabic food–to this day I can order food in Arab owned falafel restaurants, and refer to the dishes by their Arabic names. But I never learned to speak Arabic even though the two generations before me spoke it. The adults never spoke to me in Arabic, so I didn’t pick it up. I grew up speaking Hebrew and English.
I never fit in with the community, in part because of being gay, in part because of my “unhealthy” interest in secular culture like film, theater, TV shows and comic books.
I left the community around 1980 and never looked back.
JRK: You are currently writing a column in South Florida Gay News called, “If You Could Read My Mind: A PTSD Diary.” It is based on your Post-Traumatic Syndrome Disorder that you claim developed after the gay conversion therapy you were subjected to. Tell us what PTSD is all about and what it does to someone.
DN: PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is an emotional disorder caused by trauma. Soldiers in combat and victims of sexual assault are among the best known sufferers. PTSD causes the sufferer to relive the trauma again and again, which can lead to severe anxiety attacks and/or depression, even suicidal thoughts.
My PTSD first developed after I was committed to a mental hospital at age 8. I was put on Thorazine, a drug now illegal to administer to children. I was given many other drugs–I can’t recall what most of them were called. I had one session of electro-shock therapy that I can recall, and my psychiatrist in the hospital quoted the Torah to me–in Hebrew no less–during “therapy”. Years later my parents admitted to me that they had committed me because the Rabbis had advised them to. In that community, if the Rabbi “advised” it, you did it without question.
For years after that nightmarish hospital stay, which lasted three months, I was forced to take all manner of drugs and endured endless speeches about how sick and inferior I was, and how offensive to God I was. I had an allergic reaction to one of those drugs in the early 1970s and temporarily lost half my eyesight–fortunately my sight returned a few weeks after I was taken off that drug.
The result of that horrific childhood was PTSD.
JRK: How does one deal with the effects of PTSD?
DN: You either deal with it or you get sicker. I recently had a recurrence of my PTSD symptoms and am seeing a therapist, a gay man, who specializes in treating PTSD. I’m looking for a PTSD support group and supplement my therapy with holistic treatments like massage therapy and Chinese herbs which have a calming effect on me. I also have a few amazingly loving and supportive friends, which is very important.
JRK: Gay conversion therapy is one that has been debunked and actually outlawed in some states. Tell us what this therapy involves since many don’t really know.
DN: See response #2. The abuse I endured was an attempt by them to “cure”me of my homosexuality. There are many ways this horrific practice can manifest–the film Latter Days, now available on DVD, dramatizes an attempt, using different methods, to “cure” a young gay Mormon man. Regardless of how it’s done, conversion therapy does lasting damage and must be outlawed at the federal level. And as my story shows, it’s not a phenomenon that’s exclusive to Christianity.
JRK: Some may allege that your PTSD has nothing to do with the gay conversion therapy and the subsequent abuse you experienced. What do you say to those who are dubious of your claims that the PTSD is directly linked to the therapy and abuse?
DN: I’ve put up with a lot of those bullshit claims from gay activists and gay bloggers who I’ve never met or spoken to. None of them are licensed to practice medicine or therapy, so who are they to say? They don’t know what their talking about. The highly dishonest, inflammatory, irresponsible and often malicious crap being posted by gay bloggers is as harmful as the actions of anti-gay religious groups.
JRK: You have stated that “LGBT people as a rule have been severely traumatized, yet few are trying to heal. Instead, they take their rage out on each other to the point that these rages have become our cultural norm.” Can you expand on that a bit more?
DN: In 2010 I actually needed police intervention after a series of well known gay bloggers and activists inflamed anti-Semitic and anti-gay hate against me for a cheap laugh–this is what caused the recurrence of my PTSD symptoms.
I was told that being gay justifies such conduct and that any criticism of the way I was being treated constituted anti-gay bigotry. I’ve since uncovered many other examples of such behavior.
I interviewed a gay man in Chicago whose past as a homeless gay teen was ridiculed by gay activists.
As a journalist, I found out about threatening, abusive emails that a 47 year old gay male activist sent to a young lesbian suicide attempt survivor. I showed those emails to numerous gay activists: the responses I got were even more shocking than the emails he had sent to the young woman: I was subjected to jokes about mental illness, more accusations of anti-gay bigotry, and comments like “I would have treated her the same way”. The Trevor Project saw those emails and assured me they would do nothing about it. More than 400, yes, FOUR HUNDRED, gay activists saw the abuse that man sent to the girl, and not one of them asked if she was OK or condemned his behavior. Not one.
I am now 58 years old. I’ve been out for nearly 40 years. For as long as I can remember, gay culture and gay activism has been little more than a cheerleading squad for this kind of behavior. Everywhere I’ve gone in the community, LGBT people have treated each other horribly, often for no reason. Many of them laugh and boast about this behavior.
At some point we have to face the sad truth: sane, rational people do not behave this way. Emotionally stable people don’t think it’s “fun” or “empowering” to hurt other human beings. We have all been traumatized by anti-gay hate, and we all have PTSD to varying degrees. We need to heal ourselves. We need to stop hating on each other.
JRK: You have made it your mission to call for accountability among the anti-gay religious organizations that inflict so much harm with such reckless and gleeful abandon. What steps have you taken to make them accountable? How can Diversity Rules readers help in this mission?
DN: Since all the dysfunctional behavior in the LGBT community is a direct result of how we’ve been mistreated and traumatized, I plan on writing several pieces about the the emotional toll of anti-gay religious teachings.
I’ve also had several stories published in LGBT news outlets where I expose the truth about those in the LGBT community who try to hurt other LGBT people for the fun and empowerment of it. Gay-on-gay abuse has been out of control for decades: there are gay activists with strong ties to organizations like GLAAD and the HRC who are actively involved in this kind of behavior, and that’s unacceptable.
I intend to continue writing these stories. People might wonder why I feel called to do this: it goes back to what happened in 2010, when I needed help from the police thanks to the actions of gay activists and bloggers: writing these stories gives meaning and purpose to what happened to me.
It’s outrageous that I, along with many others, have been subjected to so much abuse from within the LGBT sphere, and that gay bloggers think it’s OK to libel other LGBT people.
We wonder why so many of our kids commit suicide. Maybe we could have saved more of them by offering them a real, supportive community to turn to and not the cesspool of gay-on-gay abuse that we’ve become. We need to talk about mental health–our own mental health–or we’ll end up losing more of our kids.
We also need to demand higher standards of mental health care: I once new an openly gay therapist who flew into rages without provocation and viciously lashed out at one person after another. He currently works as a therapist at Queer Life Space, an LGBT therapy clinic here in San Francisco. I shudder to think of how much harm he’ll do to an already traumatized community, yet the California Board of Behavioral Sciences has ignored documentation of his conduct.
Diversity Rules is helping by giving me a platform. Thank you.
JRK: Do you have any role models that you have looked up to and who have given you the strength and courage to endure and deal with your PTSD?
DN: These days primary role model is fellow writer, my good friend Belo Cipriani, who you profiled last month. Belo, as you know, was viciously beaten and kicked directly in the eyes, which left him totally blind at age 27. That his attackers were former gay friends of his speaks volumes of what’s gone wrong in our community.
But Belo bounced back. He forgave his attackers, did a lot of work to heal himself emotionally and took control of his life back. He now lives a good life, does amazing work as a writer and disability advocate.
He’s a wonderful and supportive friend, and seeing how he’s healed his life inspires me to do the same with mine.
JRK: Many of today’s activists are those that have been co-opted by the politically correct, corporate funded advocacy agencies and don’t really have the zeal and the energy that someone like Harvey Milk had. How do we, as a community, recapture that zeal and why do you think today’s activists are not more vocal in their efforts?
DN: I remember seeing a table for Comcast Cable at SF Pride, and hearing “queer radicals” freak out about “corporate takeover of Pride.” I think we have more important things to worry about than whether or not LGBT people are ordering HBO. The real issue with the big gay orgs, I think, is how worthless they’ve become. They don’t stand up for the LGBTs who need them, they don’t do much of anything, really. I’m not sure they really want equality, because real, full federal equality would put them out of business. They don’t want to lose their cushy jobs and six figure salaries.
They best way to deal with Gay Inc is not to deal with them at all. Don’t join them or attend their events. Don’t give them so much as a penny. Don’t waste your time protesting them because they don’t care. Just walk away. Vote for candidates who support our equality, and support equality laws.
And for God’s sake, stop attacking each other. Become a real community. Be there for each other, especially for our bullied kids, and for those of us who’ve been bashed or face bias.
JRK: Do you have any new projects you are working on that you’d like to tell us about?
DN: I’m working on expanding my writing career to additional publications, and to syndicate If You Could Read My Mind: A PTSD Diary. But it’s too early to say anything as of yet.
JRK: Do you have any parting thoughts you wish to relay to Diversity Rules readers?
DN: Just learn how to love each other. We get enough hate from the anti-gay, we shouldn’t be hating on each other.
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3 thoughts on “November Feature Interview”
Thank you, David! And thanks to Diversity Rules Magazine!
I watched some PBS special the other night, one phrase that stuck out in my mind about the LGBT community was "we hate each other". I have exactly one gay friend offline, and I'm terrified he's dying, of depression. He won't take visitors, and there is very little filtering out of his condition by closer friends, or family. Keep doing what you're doing and writing about David, the hell with the haters!