This famous quote from Gandhi seems to aptly sum up our LGBT history as society’s forbidden fruits. If you Google the word fruit and then add ‘slang’ to the search the Wikipedia post is quite worth the read. The word “fruit” as derogative slang for LGBT folks has a long rather bizarre and cruel if not at times a hilarious history. In the spirit of making these stories personal tales I won’t go into much of what is said about the word except for one example that is simply too delicious to not share.
Believe it or not the Canadian Civil Service used what they called the “Fruit Machine” to detect infiltrating queers especially into the Canadian Mounties. The “machine” would often consist of exposing recruits to erotic male imagery or sexually charged homoerotic words and then attempt to measure the response of prospective candidates. I think it was just nervous twitching, sweating and flushing responses and that electrodes were not hooked up to a penis. This ‘fruit machine’ was actually in use from 1950-1973!
It would be egotiscal thinking on my part to try and remember when I was someone else’s ‘forbidden fruit’. I suppose though that I might have fit that bill somewhat in the 1970’s when married men looking for a quick noon-hour fuck pursued me at least for a few hours at the bathes. I was certainly forbidden to them and definitely a fruit.
For me personally my tastes in forbidden fruit-like things of a sexual nature have always drifted toward the leather and S/M scenes but I must say I have only nibbled at the edges around those communities. I was certainly headed that way in the early 1980’s but that whole HIV thing kind of slowed new avenues of sexual exploration for me. Though I suspect I could be easily seduced even today with the promise of some creative verbal abuse and a good ass whipping, pretty vanilla I know but I am still a novice in this area of ‘forbidden fruit’.
To shift gears here rather rapidly I read a piece recently from the British journal The Spectator where a London Physician, rather provocatively I suppose, said that he would these days rather have HIV than diabetes. I think he was actually serious and gave several examples of how well controlled HIV was actually less of a health threat that diabetes which he described as not only a chronic but also a progressive illness. His point overall being that HIV alone is now considered to simply be chronic and not progressive or interfering with living a normal lifespan. For the record I do not believe that Type 2 diabetes is necessarily progressive either.
So what the hell you may ask is the rather loose association I am making with forbidden fruit. Well, and bare with me here, I find it very personally ironic and quite unjust that I am now looking at pre-diabetes with a recent HbA1c of 6.0. That mind you after well over thirty years of HIV infection and the resulting metabolic derangement I lay mostly at the feet of HIV meds, even as effective as they are at controlling the virus. As the Grateful Dead so often sang, “if the thunder don’t get you the lightning will”. So forbidden fruit for me has left the carnal realms of the flesh and moved into actually eating fruit, or more accurately drinking fruit juice. Juice is now something forbidden if I want to try and control the metabolic syndrome fueling my early diabetes with diet and exercise rather than with medicines.
I have become in the past couple years even more of a voracious reader of diet and diet theory related books. My heroes being many of the leading vegans, Neil Barnard, Rip Esselstyn, T. Colin Campbell and some of the less strident diet advocates such as Robert Lustig and Mark Hyman. All of these authors, several being noted physicians, believe Type 2 diabetes is reversible with diet and exercise. The diet they espouse of course is not standard American fare and is full of forbidden items not just fruit juice. Fruit juice, even fresh squeezed for example, has as much sugar as the same amount of Coke or Pepsi. I needed to come to the realization that my pancreas and liver don’t give a fuck where the sugar comes from. It is the same poisons whether honey, high fructose corn syrup, Agave nectar or table sugar.
My personal guru around things diet these days is the afore mentioned Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist from UCSF, whose excellent book Fat Chance lays it all out in plain English with of course rather long lists of the forbidden. His advice for controlling metabolic syndrome and its evil sequelae can be summed-up easily: we just need to eat real food. He suggests never buying anything with label on it. Another of his pearls is that we have a choice in life, we can be fat or we can fart. His reference to farting of course is related to the need for lots of fiber in our diet, which only comes from real, unprocessed food.
So, for me now, in my mid-sixties, what have become forbidden fruits are certainly much different than what they were in 1979. Ah, for the simpler days when the choice was not between farting and unwanted visceral fat but rather will it be an afternoon delight at the tubs or perhaps an evening spent in a sling in the basement of dear friends.