Monday, November 7, 2011

Quoted in Another Article at The Fix

Sobriety: Better Than Prozac!

A new study finds that people in recovery are happier than their non-alcoholic peers.

High or just happy?

By Rachael Brownell

Newcomers aren't always the happiest campers. The early days can be all about withdrawal, misery, and a struggle to stay away from that first drink. But many of those who stick around begin to feel sensation that "normal" people would call happiness. This is tempered, of course, with references to all the messiness of life—ill health, marital troubles, financial challenges—but to the AA veteran, these are part of accepting “life on life’s terms.” When I was new, I used to look around at the happy sober people and think I’d stumbled on a secret society of blissed-out spiritualists with horrible distant pasts. “We are not a glum lot,” says the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, referring to the sometimes eerily upbeat nature of many meetings. So are alcoholics and addicts in recovery actually happier than "normal" people?

According to Christopher Murray, a New York-based psychotherapist, “folks in recovery have learned to manage their emotions without reaching for a substance in order to let loose. Perhaps the step work and the sharing and anxious phone calls at three in the morning have taught them how to access all their feelings with greater ease.”

Complete article here!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quoted in The Fix

How To Get High (Naturally)

We all know how to take a drink or pill to reach an ecstatic state. But you can also get high without spending a dime—or losing your sobriety.

By Rachael Brownell


Since the beginning of time, humans have enjoyed getting high. From peyote to fasting, from booze to orgasm, people love to alter their consciousness and feel good. Some argue that addicts and alcoholics crave this transcendence more than the average person, noting that our brains are just wired differently. And this is a bit of a pickle for those in recovery, particularly those of us who don’t believe someone can actually be high on things like knitting or laundry or scrapbooking. I don’t know about you but I like boom-boom big pleasure: I want dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and zippy laugh-riot good times. While I’ve learned that a lot of those big highs come with devastating lows, there are many people in recovery who’ve learned how to get those natural highs without the long-term losses associated with our using days.

Full article here!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stanley Stellar, Mitch (from upcoming Leslie Lohman show)

Gay Gallery Seeks Museum Status, Funding

By Christopher Murray
April 26, 2011 | 7:41 p.m

"I guess they focus on a particular kind of art here," drawled Emily Germain dryly, as she sauntered into Soho's Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation on 26 Wooster Street on a wet Saturday. Ms. Germain, a petit and unfazeable 27-year-old, is finishing up her masters in social work at N.Y.U. and dropped into the gallery on a whim. Its current show, "Four Visions", features paintings by a quartet of artists who don't shy away from depicting specifics of the male form and, in some cases, several male forms combining in erotic acts and poses. "There are a lot of penises here," she said.

The Leslie/Lohman gallery, named for its founders, Charles W. Leslie, and his partner, J. Frederic "Fritz" Lohman, who passed away in 2009, has been presenting erotic and often explicit work by "unambiguously" gay artists, mostly men, since its founding in a modest storefront space in Soho in 1990.

Now, the gallery, which is a nonprofit foundation known for the 4,000 works in its collection, its provocative fare and its lively parties, is on a mission to go mainstream. The centerpiece of the plan is to win designation as a museum in a New York State Board of Regents vote next month. CUNY art history professor James M. Saslow, author of Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts, a board member, is shepherding their application for museum status through the byzantine State Department of Education. So far, it's gotten a "favorable review" and the Department of Education passed it along to the Regents, who have the final say in May. The Regents normally greenlights the Department's recommendations.

Mr. Leslie can't be sure of what will happen, but he knows of no formal opposition to his museum dreams at this time. And the proposal does dovetail with the state's stated goals to boost diversity in their cultural tourism offerings. For the gallery, the designation as museum would mean greater acceptance, and the public and private grant dollars that might follow.

"We've been struggling in the darkness for many years," Mr. Leslie said recently. "These efforts will help us help gay art continue morphing into something much broader and bigger."

Certainly, the gay perspective, the queer aesthetic, so to speak, is not hidden under a decoratively hand-painted bushel in contemporary culture. But explicit art of any kind, gay or straight, with the exception of the tasteful anatomical study, remains on the margins.

The National Portrait Gallery's controversial "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" exhibition, which closed in mid-February, was a watershed event in both the art and gay communities. It underscored the historical significance of gay art as well as its continuing position as a lightning rod in the culture wars. Still, "Hide/Seek" had a markedly lower penis-to-frame ratio than almost any Leslie/Lohman exhibition.

Tim Webster, 24, a Brooklyn artist in the M.F.A. program at Hunter College, thinks the gallery's mission to preserve gay art of earlier eras, and particularly the work and collections of those who perished of AIDS, has been "enormously valuable." At the same time, he didn't fully endorse its programming, "There's more to the gay experience than the kind of sex we have." Mr. Webster has been to several of the popular and scene-y openings at Leslie/Lohman, and while they were fun, he also found them "a little tacky, with shirtless bartenders."

"Well, no one was having sex behind the bar," said Jerry Kajpust, the gallery's director of external affairs. "Look at advertising, half-naked men and women attract people. That's just a fact."

Art collector Mark Grischke, a fashion stylist and editorial director, came across the Leslie/Lohman gallery in the early '90s, "when it was hiding in plain sight on Prince Street and it was thrilling to discover this haven where I could see gay art, meet gay artists and start collecting." His original purchase of gay art, a Robert W. Richards charcoal of a handsome man dangling a high-heeled shoe from his lips, was bought off the wall during his first visit to Leslie/Lohman, and the piece remains his favorite. "It's both perfectly respectable and slightly louche," he grins.

Writer and longtime Leslie/Lohman supporter Perry Brass sees three stages in gay art in the Unite States. "There's before Stonewall, when gay artists remained hidden or encoded; then there was the post-1969 Stonewall Rebellion period," which ushered in the gay civil rights movement. "That was a real 'Hold your hats and hallelujah, Mama's going give it to you' period," said Mr. Brass, quoting Stephen Sondheim's lyrics in Gypsy, the musical, to describe the cascade of art both commercially successful and exuberant, or AIDS-era defiant and imperative, like Robert Mapplethorpe or David Wojnarowicz.

Now, we're in a "post-Brokeback Mountain era," Mr. Brass said, trying to define what a gay artist is and "how far the identity can stretch," even as some gays seem intent on pushing for "same as" status with heterosexuality, all wedding bands and carpooled kids, and art where the sexuality of the artist is moot.

Mr. Brass praises Mr. Leslie as a kind of impresario championing artists whose work has not found a place elsewhere. "Charles literally invented artists" by given them a platform when homophobia or queasiness threatened to strangle any sustaining lifeline for their development. When asks what speaks to him most in art, Mr. Leslie describes "the romantic aesthetic, an erotic frisson, and I find art with political content thrilling."

The aspirations of Leslie/Lohman are to expand to a three-headed entity: part gallery where art can be purchased; part foundation to support gay artists and collect their work; and part museum to show and educate the public about the art of this community.

But at the end of the day, for the viewer, it's all about what kind of work you like and where you feel comfortable hanging it. For some collectors, including a Financial District psychotherapist whose home-office practice is comprised mostly of attorneys and bankers, pieces purchased from Leslie/Lohman are strictly relegated to "bedroom art" status.

As for Ms. Germain, she judged the work on her visit "like porn ... but artistic." She doesn't think her boyfriend would allow her to have erotic art in their apartment, but "everybody loves nudity, but some people are afraid to say it." She turned to another work featuring several creatively intertwined male bodies. "O.K., well, that's a little graphic."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dating Offline article in WSJ

A quick mention in Elizabeth Bernstein's clever "Bonds" column in the Wall Street Journal today...

Scary New Dating Site: the Real World

Dear Lonely Hearts: Do you spend hours at your computer, clicking through pages of single people on online dating sites? Are you exhausted from tweaking your profile, updating your photos and emailing potential matches? Are you sick and tired of feeling rejected when so many of them don't answer?

Lisa Jenkins, 42, met her fiancé, Ian Stickler, 41, after they each volunteered to work on a fund-raiser.

It may be time for you to break up with online dating and try meeting a mate in the scary, old-fashioned way: face to face.

For generations, people met at parties, in church or synagogue, through friends, even—horror of horrors—at work. But then we went online. We began making friends on Facebook and trolling for potential partners on websites like and eHarmony.

Sometimes it works. You probably know at least one couple who met online. I know half a dozen. But there's something that's easy to lose sight of: These happy folks aren't typical. Most people never meet their soul mate online. "It's exhausting," says Kate Wachs, a Chicago psychologist and author of "Relationships for Dummies." "People burn out really fast."

Before you even get started, you have to create your marketing pitch—get some decent photos, write an engaging profile, sometimes take a personality test. Then you scan hundreds, maybe thousands, of profiles and compose emails to the people you want to meet. If all this doesn't wear you out, the actual dates will.

That's, of course, if anyone bothers to email back. A lawsuit filed in December and seeking class-action status in U.S. District Court in Dallas alleges more than half the profiles on are "inactive, fake or fraudulent." general manager Mandy Ginsberg says the site's full-time fraud-prevention team works to identify and block fake profiles, including IP addresses that are in specific countries where fraud is prevalent or that try to set up multiple profiles. There are 1.7 million paid subscribers on the site, Ms. Ginsberg says, and fraud happens to very few of them.

"Online dating is a lot of time for very little return," says Jeff Koleba, 31, a Manhattan consumer-brand manager. At one point, he had active profiles on five dating sites. He says he found it draining to come home each night and study profiles, draft clever emails to the women he was attracted to—and then often receive no response. He recently quit online dating.

Now, Mr. Koleba tries to meet women when he is out and about—taking improvisational comedy classes, playing on a co-ed intramural soccer team, exercising with a runners group. "It's easy to talk, because we already share a common interest," he says. "So at least you'll usually get a decent conversation, even if it winds up going nowhere dating-wise."

Where can you meet Mr. or Ms. Right without going online (or to a bar)? I've asked around and heard these suggestions: Home Depot. The airport. The supermarket produce section. (Whole Foods and Trader Joe's have "the best looking and healthiest prospects," according to a musician friend of mine.)

I had some luck recently at a triathlon finish line in Miami—and I didn't even have to break a sweat. I was there with my sister, Rachel, to cheer on my brother-in-law, J.J., who was running in his first race. I was waiting on a breakwall by the water when a handsome man in running shorts sat down next to me. He asked if I was waiting for a husband or boyfriend, and I suddenly developed a southern accent: "Whah noooo, Ahm not!"

Then it hit me: Here was a mass of people in skimpy outfits who were clearly very fit—and had their ages written right on the back of their calves! It was easy to find things to say. We chatted about the race. Mr. Triathlon got to brag a little, and I got to show my nurturing side, asking concerned questions and offering to get him more water. I was having a great time—until my sister appeared abruptly and announced that her husband was exhausted and we needed to leave immediately. (It took two days, but I did start speaking to her again.)

Last year, Karen Jordan methodically told her friends, family and acquaintances that she was looking to meet a man who was "kind, generous, accomplished yet humble." "To me, it's just like when you are looking for a new job," says Ms. Jordan, owner of a Los Angeles skin-care company. "It's a matter of asking for help." She met her boyfriend through someone in her church choir.

After Lisa Jenkins, 42, a Clarkston, Wash., marketing consultant, got divorced several years ago, she came up with a method she calls "reverse stalking." Once or twice a week, she frequented places she found interesting—bookstores, art galleries, a bistro, a charity—at about the same time of day. "People who might be interested in you know where to find you when they finally get up the courage to ask you out," she says.

While volunteering on a fund-raiser for a local college art center, she met another volunteer, who asked her to lunch. Three years later, they are engaged. "I am very glad I didn't leave it to chance," Ms. Jenkins says.

Christopher Murray, 43, a Manhattan social worker, invited all his single gay friends to a game night at his apartment. Twelve men ate pizza and played a charades-like game called "celebrity" (you divide into teams and try to guess the names of famous people). Mr. Murray says the activity "allowed people to be interactive and work on a project together." His friend, Manhattan artist Joseph Cavalieri, 50, says, "It puts so much less pressure on you, because it's a group of people, so you are more relaxed."

How can you meet more people offline? Ask everyone you know for help. Be specific about what you are looking for, though, so you'll only get introductions to people who might actually be good matches.

When you volunteer with your local alumni club, fund-raising event or political campaign, sign up for the job that gives you an excuse to call others.

Become the designated photographer at weddings, bar mitzvahs and other events. Shooting video of Uncle Phil's 90th birthday requires you to wander around and talk to people without being self-conscious.

Put down the device. Get your head out of your smartphone, computer or iPad. You won't seem approachable if no one can see your face.

Smile more. Pretend you're on vacation, which is a time when most people are more relaxed, seem more approachable and talk more to strangers.

Travel in business class. People are less grumpy, more chatty. And there are free drinks.

Move to a neighborhood or a building that seems to have lots of people you'd like to meet.

Borrow a cute puppy and walk it someplace with sidewalk cafés. Or take it to the dog run. But be sure to own up to the fact that it isn't your dog: You don't want to get caught in a lie before your first date.

—Write to Elizabeth Bernstein at or follow her column at

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Hunt column from The Times....

Tina Fineberg for The New York Times

The Hunt
A Shorter Commute to the Office
Published: March 10, 2011

FOR 15 years, Christopher Murray lived in what he describes as a “perfectly serviceable” one-bedroom railroad apartment in South Park Slope, Brooklyn. It was a rent-stabilized fourth-floor walk-up with a view of a back alley. The neighborhood “grew and evolved when I was there,” he said. So did he.

Last year, a friend in the building bought a co-op and moved out. “We are the same age,” said Mr. Murray, who is 43, “and it jogged me to say maybe it was time to move on.”

At the time, his rent was about $875 a month. He longed to see weather from his window, and to eliminate his lengthy F train commute to his office in the West Village. On weekends, “I would go home and isolate,” he said. “The psychic distance across the East River is longer than the actual distance.”

Maybe the best plan would be to consolidate home and office. Mr. Murray is a licensed clinical social worker. For the past five years, he has had a private practice (, working out of a small office building on West 13th Street. Serendipitously, as the idea of leaving occurred to him, an art therapist became interested in his office space, and Mr. Murray was able to sign over his lease. His office rent had been $1,875 a month.

For a new home and office, he was willing to pay up to $4,500 a month — though he would be happier in the $3,000s.

“Live-work spaces are a holy grail for therapists in New York,” Mr. Murray said. “It would be great to have all the comforts of home right there.”

And yet he understands that many therapists are of two minds about having clients enter their home, “as we should be, since ‘ambivalence’ is our middle name,” said Mr. Murray, a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Hunter College School of Social Work. He was concerned about maintaining a professional distance from his clients. “I’m friendly,” he said, “but I’m not a friend.”

More here:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

GAY CITY NEWS Op-Ed with Shane Spicer

To New York Gay Men: Freaked Out? Take Care

Published: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 1:56 PM CST


In the last several months, a steady drumbeat of anti-gay attacks — personal, political, and symbolic — has unnerved the gay community across the nation.

In New York, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn rightly called the Bronx bias attacks of three men suspected of being gay “horrible and unforgivable,” while Mayor Michael Bloomberg called humiliated Rutgers student Tyler Clementi’s suicide, “a tragedy.”

Meanwhile, defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino’s ridiculous yet unretracted comments about gay men’s be-Speedoed antics at pride parades set a new low for an already inflammatory public figure —and cost him any real shot at victory.

As mental health practitioners working with the gay community, we applaud the vigorous response to these demonstrations of intolerance and ignorance, both on the part of gay men and our beloved allies. But we feel it is vitally important to add to the condemnation of anti-gay violence, discrimination, and hate speech a warning about the emotional consequences of gay men’s lightning rod status in the current culture wars.

Especially here in New York, gay men exist in an oddly ambiguous social position — as both an empowered and respected subculture and in a crucible of sometimes harsh cultural conflict. As much as we feel rightly comfortable holding hands walking down many streets of Chelsea or Fort Greene or Washington Heights, each one of us remains subconsciously wary, knowing the possibility, however remote, of winding up on the cover of the Post following some atrocity.

It’s important that we all drag this subconscious awareness of our vulnerability into the light so that we can deal with it. There is probably no gay man in New York who didn’t feel endangered growing up, subject to the taunts or the threats of social and familial isolation and exile, whether physical or emotional.

Playwright and public intellectual Sarah Schulman’s terrific recent book, “Ties That Bind” (, discusses familial homophobia with remarkable insight and laser-sharp focus. (Doug Ireland’s November 12, 2009 review in Gay City News, “It Has to Be Said,” is linked in the online version of this story at Schulman makes the case for the ways in which kids who go on to become gay adults are shunned in their families for performing gender roles differently than expected. That sense of rejection, she argues, follows us into adulthood, impacting the quality and depth of our relationships.

These forces go largely unnoticed and remain submerged in the vast majority of gay men. This is why, when so much negative energy is focused on us, as now, taking care of ourselves emotionally becomes a necessary act of resistance, resilience, and health.

Even the remarkable “It Gets Better” viral video series, while an extraordinary expression of love for the next generation of gay people, stirs up tremendously difficult emotions and may tear the scabs off of barely-healed wounds.

Gay men of New York: Recognize that we live in times of extraordinary change in how we are viewed and in the ways we can live our lives. That is great in many ways, but please don’t ignore how the tabloid coverage, water-cooler conversations, and sheer incidence of targeting can take a real toll on us emotionally.

Talk about the impact on you of these events with your loved ones, other gay men, and sophisticated, caring allies. As much as you play the “teacher” role with family or ill-informed others, make sure you are getting plenty of nourishment from people who understand the full complexity of how wonderful and scary it remains to be a gay person these days.

If you become preoccupied with the incessant onslaught of troubling and frightening news, reach out for support and help from those who love you or one of the many counseling centers or practitioners who competently and sensitively provide care to our community. Don’t pretend nothing’s happening or that is doesn’t really effect you.

A client recently discussed reading about Tyler Clementi’s death in the newspaper and expressed sadness at that desperate act. But the client never made the seemingly obvious and important connection to his own lived experience as an adolescent completely isolated from his family and peers for fear of rejection or attack. When the parallel was pointed out to him, his realization was to say in stunned tones, “That truly could have been me.”

When that realization hits, it carries a powerful emotional punch. Sometimes it ain’t easy being a queen. Take care of yourselves, take care of each other.

Shane Spicer, MD, a psychiatrist and Christopher Murray, LCSW, a psychotherapist, are both in private practice in Manhattan. You can contact them at or

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Good Reading


Published: August 4, 2010
All those years, all that money, all that unrequited love. It began way back when I was a child, an anxiety-riddled 10-year-old who didn’t want to go to school in the morning and had difficulty falling asleep at night. Even in a family like mine, where there were many siblings (six in all) and little attention paid to dispositional differences, I stood out as a neurotic specimen. And so I was sent to what would prove to be the first of many psychiatrists in the four and a half decades to follow — indeed, I could be said to be a one-person boon to the therapeutic establishment — and was initiated into the curious and slippery business of self-disclosure. I learned, that is, to construct an ongoing narrative of the self, composed of what the psychoanalyst Robert Stoller calls “microdots” (“the consciously experienced moments selected from the whole and arranged to present a point of view”), one that might have been more or less cohesive than my actual self but that at any rate was supposed to illuminate puzzling behavior and onerous symptoms — my behavior and my symptoms.