Category Archives: Ancestors

Some Community News

  The Gates and The Sisters The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have been a colorful and important part of the LGBT community on both coasts for three decades. Now the divine theater of these highly effective and colorful provocateurs will be officially enshrined in a special exhibit at the San Francisco Public Library.

Entitled "Under a Full Moon: 30 Years of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence," the show traces the sacred and profane activities of these men in nun's habits. The display features photographs, internal records like their holy vows and "Pink Saturday Handbook," and artifacts like the habit of founding member Sister Missionary Position (now known as Sister Soami).

The Sisters began in 1979 with three men borrowed habits from retired nuns and ventured out into the Castro District on a moonlit eve. Since then, the group has grown to include 600 sisters in eight countries. They have raised money to fight AIDS with bingo games and other theme events, served as security guards at the Castro District's Halloween fete, combatted hate crimes and promoted safe sex. In 2007, they drew the ire of right-wing talk show hosts when two members in full drag received the Eucharist from Archbishop George Niederauer.

I love how, in this video, they are identified as "mocking" the Catholic Church (as if!). Watching it, it seems like they are nothing less than quite respectful to this observer. Their avowed mission: to "promote universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt." Their motto: "go forth and sin some more."

Along the way, they have become an indelible part of San Francisco. The show runs March 20 through May 7 at the James C. Hormel Gay & Lesbian Center, Third Floor, Main Library.

HarryHayApril1996AnzaBorego And on Another Coast altogether, some interesting news involving Ugly Betty actor, Michael Urie, who  Michael%20urie plays "Marc St. James," the catty, ambitious and hilarious assistant to Vanessa Williams delicious "Wilhemina Slater"…word in today's papers that he will star in The Tempermentals, a play by Jon Marans starting April 30 at the Barrow Group Studio Theater. The play is about the origins of the Mattachine Society, started by Harry Hay in 1950 when "tempermental" was a code word for Gay.

The Temperamentals tells the story of two men – the communist Harry Hay and the young Viennese refugee and designer Rudi Gernreich, weaving together the personal and the political to tell a sadly relatively unknown (to some) chapter in Gay history. It explores the deepening love between two complex men, while they build the first Gay rights organization in the United States pre Stonewall.

If I am not mistaken, we actually saw an early version of this play as part of a small theater festival featuring new work a couple of years ago. It was wonderful then. Maybe, like the rest of us, it's only gotten better with age?

That's all the word we have on it. Will report more when we know it!

And now…a little history courtesy of the Sisters:

Every Elder Lost is a Library Lost…

Teal G. Donn Teal, one of the founders of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) organization in late 1969, died February 3, 2009 after a long illness. He was 76 years old.

 

On February 23rd 1969, his pro-Gay New York Times article, "Why Can't 'We' Love Happily Ever After, Too?" appeared: a protest against the "doomed misfit/sinner" stereotype of American Gay men and lesbians in film, on stage, and in literature. The article provoked great response, and was followed on June 1st by "Why Record Homosexual Anguish?", a Times review of A&M Records' original-cast recording of Mart Crowley's play "The Boys in the Band."

More importantly, he wrote the first history of the Gay liberation movement, "The Gay Militants" (Stein & The Militant Homosexual Day, 1971; St. Martin's Press, 1995), as well as articles in The Advocate, Ovation, Musical America, and other magazine and newspapers, notably the Village Voice, in which appeared "Straight Father, Gay Son: A Memoir of Reconciliation" on June 26, 1978; the article was later republished under Mr. Teal's nom de plume, Roger Forsythe, in Ralph Keyes' 1992 collection for HarperCollins, Sons on Fathers.

Historian David Carter adds: Donn's closest friends, Trumbull Rogers and Randy Wicker, the early homophile movement militant, asked me to make the above material available to the media. I volunteered to use whatever media was available when they remarked to me that he and Randy would arrange a memorial service for Donn "although only seven people will show up."  

I volunteered to do this, because I regard Teal's book, The Gay Militants, as one of the most important works of LGBT history and I did not want Donn's passing to be noted by only a handful of people. As the author of The Stonewall Riots I have always said that the Stonewall Riots are important only because they gave birth to the Gay liberation movement, just as the fall of the Bastille is important because it led to the French Revolution. If that book was about the spark that set things off, then Donn's was about something immeasurably more important: the revolution itself. And a damn fine history it was, written by Donn, who went to all the meetings he reported about in the book, allowing the book to be both highly accurate, have a wealth of detail and be told with an immediacy that makes it gripping to read. Unfortunately the book has been rather forgotten except by scholars. Anyone who has an interest in Gay history should — no…rather he or she must read this book.

 

Donn was one of the co-founders of the Gay Activist Alliance (GAA), the organization that was the main exemplar of that revolution, and, unfortunately today too many people have forgotten about GAA, Donn was so modest that not many people ever thought of him as a founder of GAA, but he was one of the original 13 wo started it in December of 1969. 

 

Let us remember, then, that this is year is not only the 40th anniversary of the birth of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and of the Gay Activist Alliance and hence of the Gay liberation movement, that critical phase of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender civil rights movement that put us on the map for all time. 

 

Donn Teal was born in Columbus, Ohio.

 

Also: The Oscar Wilde Bookstore has announced that, under the strains of the current economy, it is closing its doors. The Oscar Wilde Bookstore first opened in 1967. OscarWildeoutside

Go Iceland! Go Iceland! Go Iceland!

Iceland is set to become the first country to have an out-queer head of government. Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, a Social Democrat and the current Minister of Social Affairs who's also an out Lesbian and is likely to be announced as the new prime minister as the former Icelandic prime minister leaves office due to esophageal cancer.

Besides being the first Lesbian prime minister in the world, she would also be the first female prime minister in Iceland.

Although Ms. Sigurdardottir’s rise has drawn widespread attention on the Web among Gay men and Lesbians outside Iceland, it is important to note, that her relationship is considered unremarkable at home. In 1940, while still a dependency of Denmark, Iceland decriminalized Gay sex. It approved civil partnerships for Gay and Lesbian couples in 1996, one of the first countries to do so.

“Iceland is a small society, and the public knows what Sigurdardottir stands for as a politician, and that’s the only thing that is important,” said Frosti Jonsson, a spokesman for Iceland’s National Association of Queers. “Nowadays, not only does Iceland have one of the most progressive legal environments for Gay people, there have also been changes in public attitudes towards Gay people. It simply isn’t an issue anymore.”

Wow.

Martin Delaney

It is with profound sadness that we pass along Project Inform's announcement of the passing this morning of their Founder, Martin Delaney. He was 63 years old.


PHOTO: Martin Delaney

Martin Delaney,
Founder, Project Inform

 

When the full history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is written, there can be no doubt that Martin Delaney will rank as one of the greatest contributors to ending this great human tragedy. Those of us living with HIV, and all of us who care about people living with HIV, mourn the loss of this great leader, lifesaver and wonderful human being.

Delaney’s activism is legendary. He was a David among many Goliaths. He has assured that government, researchers and pharmaceutical companies understand and respond to the needs of HIV-positive people. He heavily influenced the development of the strong arsenal of medications we now have to prolong life for millions of people worldwide.

Personally and through Project Inform, Martin Delaney educated or counseled tens of thousands of HIV-positive individuals and their caregivers about how to treat HIV. A day does not pass in the life of this agency that a person living with HIV or a supporter tells of a life lengthened or saved as a result of Marty’s efforts.

Intellect, activist, diplomat, mentor, friend — each of us will remember Marty for the great attributes he brought to his lifesaving work. He will be missed terribly.

We will provide information as quickly as we are able about the date of a public event to memorialize Marty. Emails of support can be sent to support@projectinform.org and cards can be mailed to Project Inform, 1375 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103.

Ink Stained Fingers

A dozen roses   78cover[1] 1 Year end always seems to be the time to reflect and remember and I have been doing a little of that myself, lately. The subject that commands my attention the most, once I've drawn my jaw-gaping attention from the parade of bad economic news and stories of self-centered, over-consuming greed, is "the media" and the very real economic problems that face all media, us included, as the internet (which we obviously use to some advantage ourselves) and the concommitant loss of revenue this means for print media in particular and older media in general.

Most mornings I sit with my coffee and my New York Times and scan the pages, usually starting with the obits…the Irish Sports Pages, as my grandmother would call them…the headlines, letters to the editor, the business section, the show biz stories, and finally, folding my C-section — the location of the holy, the beloved crossword puzzle that I have worked every day for the past 32+ years — into the  now reduced (since the Times has cut the size of their pages) quarterfold.

Early in the week I knock that off even before I go off to work; from Thursday on, I carry it with me through the day as my companion for the down moment, the inbetween transit from place-to-place, lest I be caught with nothing to do but stare into space. It is finished, of course, every day. Always in pen, and with specifically prescribed lettering…capital letters only. And no…I don't want any help, thank you very much. The crossword is my own personal pleasure. It is a meditation and I do that alone. I am often told, when I complain that a New York Times is unavailable to me as I travel, that the puzzle…my puzzle…is available on line and I just have to give the benighted person a smile and, controlling my urge to laugh in their face, simply explain that, "No, it's just not the same."

Now, we are told, people get their news here…on line…and are no longer going to print media as much, causing many of the old gray newspapers, in many a city to not just fold into quarters, but fold altogether NewYorkTimesand disappear. Worse, the newspapers that tend to remain are "NewsLite McPapers" with graphs and four color illustrations (you know who you are!) that take give predigested, reader's digest compendiums of "news" that, rather than connecting the reader with his community, tending to put it all at a sanitized distance when it isn't using "news" to scare us all into stupor or submission.

This is a serious problem I think…and I don't care if I am showing my age by saying so. I can't imagine my world without that moment of solitude with newsprint in the morning, the cat stalking me behind the curtain of paper, attacking the corners of the section I'm reading and demanding attention.

White Crane at the SFPL Of course, I am also a publisher of a magazine and, again, people often ask me, when I explain how the costs of publishing have continued to climb, making the production of White Crane more and more costly to produce…they ask me "have you ever considered just doing it on line?"…and of course, we do publish a portion of every issue on line. And, again, controlling my urge to laugh in their face, I patiently explain.."No. It's just not the same."

If there is anyway that we will be able to continue to produce the "hard copy" as it is now referred to, I swear we will. In my heart, to say nothing of my head, there is something critically important about the creation of an actual document, something tangible that you hold in your hands…something that university and municipal libraries collect and bind into leather bindings. Especially for Gay material…and by Gay material, with all due respect for populism, I do not mean OUT magazine, or The Advocate…but I do mean publications like our own and the Gay & Lesbian Review … as examples.

I'm not saying there isn't a place for popular entertainment. I like and need my fluff as much as the next person (though I really don't care what Paris Hilton is up to…ever.) But beyond that, and somewhere in between that and the fussy papers of academia, there has to be a place for the writings of a community that is still trying to come to terms with itself. And do so in some way other than simply trying to "fit in," assimilate and not cause waves. When I came out 35 years ago, the only place I could find any reference to myself was in the dictionary, under "homosexual"…and a sorry definition it was, too. It is important that some young person, going to their bookstore, or a library find something other than that…see themselves in print and be able to hold onto it for a moment…for as long as they need to hold on to it.

I know the same wringing of hands went on when television came along…and probably when radio arrived…about the loss of something valuable in the glare of something new. Television was going to kill radio. And didn't. The internet is going to kill newspapers. And it won't. Radio still manages to remain relevant and though even I have bought a Kindle (I carried 47 books on the plane with me this past weekend…could have carried more than 2000 if I wanted…no bookshelves to dust, either)…nevertheless I will always buy hardcover books. I might become more selective about what I buy and what I want to care for and store. But I will still buy them.

And so it is with the newspaper and magazine. You will never catch me doing my NY Times crossword on my Kindle…even though it is available on it, every day, for less than I pay to have it delivered to my front door (in the blue plastic bag that is immediately recycled into dog poop duty!…what would I do with out that!?) It just isn't the same thing. My fingers will always be stained with the ink of the C-section, and there will always be a pen in my pocket to do the puzzle.

And we will always publish White Crane if I have anything to say about it. And you will be able to hold it in your hands, and save it on a shelf, and take it down and reread it and share it with your friends and family and community.

As we enter our twentieth year of publishing…we promise you that.

A Prophet in His Own Land

Boyd-prophet-cover[1]   We're pleased to find out that the esteemed Richard Labonte has named our latest book (on the left there) as one of the Top Ten Nonfiction Books of 2008.

Here is what Richard had to say:

 A Prophet in His Own Land: A Malcolm Boyd Reader, Selected  Writings 1950-2007, edited by Bo Young and Dan Vera (White Crane Books/Lethe  Press, $30)

 "Over the years, Boyd has written or edited more than 30  books, from which the editors have carefully culled the prose and the  prayers comprising this rich reader of a gay elder's always-questioning, never-faltering activist faith—selections spanning more than 50 years that distill Boyd's wisdom wonderfully."

 

I mean…it's special enough to have had the pleasure of working with Malcolm Boyd…but then we get to be acknowledged. That's the kind of thing that makes you want to get up in the morning and go to work!

 

And we're in excellent company…here are the other books on Richard Labonte's list:

 

 My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy, by Andrea  Askowitz (Cleis Press, $14.95) In this memoir about "40 weeks and five days in hell," Askowitz milks self-professed misery over her pregnancy for captivating comic effect. The ordeals of becoming a single mother—finding sperm, inserting it, week after dateless week—are chronicled in a diary that's winsomely whiny and harrowingly honest.

 

Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America, edited by Mitchell Gold with Mindy Drucker (Greenleaf Press, $23.95) These personal accounts of rejection by parents, renunciation by churches, and ridicule from and physical attacks by peers link generations and genders through their depiction of the heroism of survival. In a perfect world, every school library would have a copy.

 

 Intersex (for Lack of a Better Word), by Thea Hillman (Manic D Press, $14.95) Hillman's sprightly essays add an intersex's story—please don't call us hermaphrodites, pleads the author—to the queer literary spectrum. The author writes about a muddled medical childhood, her emergence as  an intersex activist, and the women (and men) in her life, neatly blending the political and the sensual.

 

The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy, by Robert Leleux (St. Martin's $23.95) Debut memoirist Leleux bests both David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs as a raconteur of wacky family tales with this rollicking story of growing up queer in East Texas. The author confesses to taking some license with veracity, but depictions of his gold-digging mother's fashion and surgical excesses, and of how he found himself falling in love with a Cajun choreographer, resound with wickedly sincere truths.

 

About My Life and the Kept Woman, by John Rechy (Grove Press, $24) Rechy writes with eloquent elegance about growing up Mexican-American in El Paso, where "Juan" often passed as "Johnny" because of the light skin he inherited from his angry Scottish father; about the double life hiding his poverty from better-off friends; about shying away from his true sexuality while in the military during the Korean War; and, most compellingly, about how he became the street-wise, tough-guy hustler of City of Night.

 

Sex Talks to Girls: A Memoir, by Maureen Seaton (Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press, $26.95) As "Molly Meek," poet Seaton tracks her passage from religious orthodoxy to sobriety and sexual exuberance—a journey marked by drag kings, butches, all kinds of over-indulgence, and a couple of kids to care for along the way—with writing that is heroically revealing and  often very funny.

 

King of Shadows, by Aaron Shurin (City Lights, $16.95) Shurin's brief essays reveal a multitude of selves: the young student diving with sensual pleasure into sexual San Francisco; the homemaker enthralled by how sunlight adds sheen to his natural pine floors; the "lovechild of Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan" dedicating his soul to the purity of poetry. Resonant fragments coalesce into a vibrant mini-autobiography.

 

Sparkling Rain and Other Fiction from Japan of Women Who Love Women, edited by Barbara Summerhawk and Kimberly Hughes (New Victoria, $16.95) Two fascinating books are crammed—small type, narrow margins—into this groundbreaking anthology. The first: illuminating essays on the sexual, social, and literary culture of Japanese women. The second: revelatory short stories (plus poetry, manga, and a screenplay) about women loving women in an overwhelmingly patriarchal culture. Part fiction, part nonfiction—but the latter makes this one special.

 

The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay  & Lesbian  Experience, edited by Louis-Georges Tin (Arsenal Pulp  Press, $44.95) More than 70 scholars contributed 160 mini-essays to this wide-ranging survey of where and how in the world homophobia continues  to resonate. It's an invaluable eye-opener for North American-centric queer activists who believe that many battles have been won. Originally published in France in 2003, this ambitious translation from a small Canadian press is an honorable achievement.

On the line…

I got up at 5:30 this morning, posted the Gay Wisdom mailing to the internet, put on some pants and a shirt, a jacket and a hat, leashed Brewster and took him out for his morning business. It was still dark out, though the earliest light was visible on the far reaches of the horizon.

Booth     The first thing I noticed was the odd number of people out at this normally quiet time in my busy, noisy neighborhood, Prospect Heights, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Museum. Usually I might see a car in the morning, or an early delivery truck. But not people. This morning, I counted a dozen people, coming from different directions, but all heading in the same direction, the Elijah Stroud Middle School on the corner of Sterling and Classon Avenue. I rushed Brewster through his walk, took him back home and left him with my partner and, grabbing a cup of coffee and my paper, I dashed out the door, and out on to the street.

Even more people out there now. I walked across the street and down the one block to Stroud elementary, and turned the corner to see the line. I have voted in this neighborhood for the past seven years, and the longest line I've ever seen was one snaking out from the gymnasium where the booths are, to the front door, about 20 feet away.

This morning, the line stretched past that point, out through the cast iron gates, turned to the left, and went nearly halfway down the New York City block street to Washington Avenue. It was 6:00 a.m. There were hundreds of people already on line, waiting patiently to cast their vote.

There was definitely excitement in the air. And more African-Americans than I had ever seen on any election day before. And young people. My neighborhood is very Caribbean (the largest Caribbean Day Parade goes right down Eastern Parkway, two blocks from my apartment), and becoming "hip" so there is a huge influx of young people seeking low(er) rents.

You could hear people talking ("wow…look at the line!" "Can you imagine what it's going to be like later?") And everyone I looked at was smiling. Not as much as they were smiling when they came out of the voting booth. Then they were positively beaming…men, women, young, old. Everyone I saw coming out of the booth had this almost beatific grin on their face. Some people actually came out singing. They greeted one another. Joked. They had a spring in their step. It was beautiful…this was the place to be!

The line moved pretty fast. From the time I got on line, until the time I was waiting outside the voting book was precisely one hour. But the line was always moving. My district had two voting booths (like the one pictured…something like 513 moving parts!) but one of them was already broken. So, that slowed things down a bit. But start to finish, one hour, reading Dreams From My Father on my Kindle, listening to Mozart and Stan Getz.

It was the best line I have ever been on.

Rest In Peace – John Burnside

John Burnside 1916 – 2008

It is just incredibly sad to announce that John Burnside, Harry Hay’s lifetime partner, has passed, peacefully in San Francisco, surrounded by the circle of Radical Faeries who have taken care of him since Harry passed.

Johnburnside_2John Lyon Burnside III
November 2, 1916 – September 14, 2008

John Lyon Burnside III passed away peacefully at the age of 91 in this home on Sunday, September 14 surrounded by the Circle of Loving Companions who had been caring for him. He had been recently diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer.

John was an activist, inventor, dancer, physicist, a founder of the Radical Faeries, and partners for nearly 40 years with Harry Hay. Hay started the Gay rights organization the Mattachine Society in 1950 and is considered a founder of the modern gay freedom movement.

John Burnside was born on November 2, 1916 and was an only child . He joined the Navy at age 16. Soon after his discharge he was married to Edith Sinclair.

He studied physics and mathematics at UCLA, graduating in 1945. John pursued a wartime career in the aircraft industry, eventually securing a job at Lockheed as a staff scientist.

His interest in optical engineering lead to his invention of the teleidoscope, an innovative variation on the kaleidoscope that works without the traditional glass chips to color the view. Instead it turns whatever is in front of its telescopic viewfinder into a symmetrical mandala. His patent on the device allowed him in 1958 to drop out of mainstream society and set up the California Kalidoscopes in Los Angeles which soon became a successful design and manufacturing plant. The teleidoscope was sold in stores across the country and was featured in the Village Voice.

John continued his optical innovations in the 1970s, creating the Symetricon, a large mechanical kaleidoscopic device that projects intricate, colorful patterns. Images from the symetricon were used in a number of Hollywood films, including Logan’s Run.

It was in 1963 that John made perhaps the biggest change of his life. After befriending Gay workers at his teleidoscope factory he learned of the ONE Institute, a Gay community center in downtown Los Angeles. While attending a seminar at ONE in September of that year he met Harry Hay. The two began a whirlwind romance and, after divorcing Edith, John moved in with Harry.

Together John and Harry were involved in many of the Gay movement’s key moments. In May of 1966 the two were part of a 15 car motorcade through downtown Los Angeles protesting the military’s exclusion of homosexuals. The event is considered one of the country’s first gay protest marches.

John and Harry appeared as a Gay couple on the Joe Pyne television show in Los Angeles in 1967, two years before the Stonewall riots in New York. In 1969 they participated in the founding meetings of the Southern California Gay Liberation Front, which met in John’s teleidoscope factory.

Harryandjohnlacuesta_2 Drawn by Harry’s lifelong interest in Native American culture and a shared involvement with the Indian Land and Life Committee, they moved to San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico in 1970. While there, John and Harry were interviewed for the groundbreaking Gay documentary Word is Out. John was honored at the Frameline GLBT Film Festival in San Francisco this year during the 30th anniversary screening of the film. He was also featured in Eric Slade’ s 2002 documentary film about Hay, Hope Along the Wind.

In 1979 John and Harry joined with fellow activists Don Kilhefner and Mitch Walker to call the first Spiritual Gathering of Radical Faeries. Fed up with the Gay movement’s steady drift towards mainstream assimilation, the gathering called to Gay men across the country. Since that time dozens of Faerie gatherings have been called around the world and permanent Radical Faerie sanctuaries have formed across the country. The movement helped to nurture and create a specifically Gay centered spiritual exploration and tradition.

John published a short essay in 1989 titled "Who are the Gay People?", that helped explain his views of Gay people’s role in the world. John writes,

“The crown of Gay being is a way of loving, of reaching to love in a way that far transcends the common mode.”

In 1999 John and Harry moved to San Francisco where they continued their activist work. A group of Radical Faeries, the Circle of Loving Companions, became caretakers for the two of them. Harry Hay died in 2002 at the age of 90. The two had been together for 39 years.

In a 1989 Valentine to Harry, John Burnside wrote, “Hand in hand we walk, as wing tip to wing tip our spirits roam the universe, finding lovers everywhere. Sex is music. Time in not real. All things are imbued with spirit.”

John was a familiar and much loved presence in San Francisco’s LGBT Community. He rode every year, including this last, in the San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade. He never missed a single Faerie Coffee Circle held each Saturday in San Francisco’s LGBT Community Center.

Speaking for the Circle of Loving Companions, John’s friend of 27 years, Joey Cain said:

“We are sadden by our dear, sweet John’s passing, but are gratified that John’s last years were happy and he was surrounded by people who loved him. His life dispelled the notion that haunted all the early LGBT freedom fighters, that without the hetero family structure you will die lonely and unloved. The work that John, Harry and the other LGBT pioneers did has dispelled that destiny forever for all of us.”

Donations in John’s honor may be made to the Harry Hay Fund, to continue the activist work of John Burnside and Harry Hay.  Donations may be sent to

The Harry Hay Fund
c/o Chas Nol
174 ½ Hartford Street
San Francisco, CA 94114

ADDENDA:

A celebration of the life of John Burnside
Saturday, November 8, 2008
12:00 noon
San Francisco LGBT Community Center
1800 Market Street
San Francisco

Wear something festive.

Public street parking is limited.
The Center is accessible by public transportation.
     MUNI J,K,L,M,N,F    
     bus lines 6,7,61,71