Category Archives: Books

Special Friendships in Camelot

Lem_and_jackA friend writes:

Starting with the cover photo of six people, including President Kennedy and LeMoyne Billings, the May issue of Houston’s OutSmart Magazine has an article based on a new book, by David Pitts, Jack and Lem: John F. Kennedy and Lem Billings-the untold story of an extraordinary friendship, published by Carroll Graf. My question to not only the homosexual community, but to all those journalists, since the 60s, and the dozens of historians and authors who made lots of money writing about President Kennedy and all the Kennedys, is, why has no one told the public this before?

I think the media also hid the many women President Kennedy had sex with, but they finally talked about that. Perhaps heterosexual writers didn’t think Lem was of interest. But, in a sense contradicting myself when I’ve complained about our gay media trying to out celebrities, and putting merely gay-friendly celebrities on their covers and in their pages, as if we would be happier-gayer-if famous rich and cute people were also homosexual, it seems to me that this friendship is of great interest in knowing how our government acted on sexuality in the 60s and after when the homosexual movement for civil rights was slowly but surely growing.

A major issue is that the most powerful person in the world had a lifetime friendship with a homosexual, and everyone in the White House, and the family members all along, knew this, and so you have to ask why no one mentioned this all these years. The issue is a major one also because those who started this movement were accused of alerting the public to homosexuality and thus scaring off possible sex partners.

And the author covers this issue this way: "That’s one point I tried to make in the book in one of the chapters. Ironically, in some ways gay people had more license at that time than they do now. Homosexuality wasn’t on the radar screen, the general population wasn’t really aware of it, and so, in a sense, gay people could do certain things, such as the example you gave, and it did not come under suspicion the way it clearly would today."

So those people who complained that once Mattachine stopped being secret, and became public as ONE Magazine, their easy find of sex partners would be hurt, had a point. Can heterosexual men and women have close friendships with homosexual men and women without being called homosexual? Will this book be almost as important as Brokeback Mountain in getting all of us to think about homosexuality?

The 2007 Triangle Awards


I count myself among the "word-loving, book-besotted" and last night I found my people.

I sat with author and White Crane Institute Advisor, Perry Brass and the Gay Glitterati, last night, at a lovely evening honoring LGBT writers, the annual Publishing Triangle’s Awards presented in the Tishman Auditorium at The New School.

Yoshino Eight Publishing Triangle Awards were presented to various men and women, including The Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, which was awarded to Kenji Yoshino (at the left), for his groundbreaking and important book, Covering. Other nominees in the category were Bernard Cooper for The Bill from My Father and Rigaberto Gonzalez for the beautiful and poetic, Butterfly Boy. Coveringcov

Nancy Bereano (below right), a frequent Lammy winner, was honored by PT for her two decades of work as the founder and publisher of Firebrand Books, one of the most successful lesbian/feminist presses in the world. The press publishes such titles as Alison Bechdel’s (another honoree last night) Dykes To Watch Out For, Audre Lorde, Dorothy Allison and Barbara Smith. Nancy_bereano

Along with Alison Bechdel, who won for Lesbian Nonfiction for her masterful Fun Home, Catherine Friend was nominated for the delightful Hit By A Farm, and Marcia Gallo was acknowledged for Different Daughters, an important history of the Daughters of Bilitis.

Chris Weikel, a founder of the Tosos II Theater Company, received the Robert Chesley Emerging Playwright Award.

Gutted Poets Jennifer Rose and Justin Chin won, respectively, for Lesbian and Gay Male poetry. Justin’s Gutted was nominated along with Jim Elledge’s A History of My Tattoo and Greg Hewett’s The Eros Conspiracy. Robin Becker and Kate Lynn Hibbard were nominated for The Domain of Perfect Affection and Sleeping Upside Down, respectively.

Fiction was ably represented in both Men’s and Women’s categories. Rebecca Brown’s The Last Time I Saw You, Lisa Carey’s Every Visible Thing, and Ivan E. Coyote’s Bow Grip in the Lesbian Fiction catergory. Men’s Fiction was acknowledged with Martin Hyatt’s A Scarecrow’s Bible (from Suspect Thoughts), Steven McCauley’s Alternatives to Sex and (the winner) Christopher Bram’s elegial Exiles in America. Exiles_2

Bentley230_2 The truly remarkable renaissance man, Eric Bentley (at the left) was recognized for his lifetime (when he mentioned in passing that he was 90, the room gasped!) of writing and activism…critic, playwright, editor, translator of Brecht, chronicler of Oscar Wilde in the play, Lord Alfred’s Lover…Bentley’s comments, which we hope to be able to reproduce here or in the pages of White Crane, reminded everyone present that LGBT people are still the targets of religious fanatics. He spoke of the pivotal roles that "love and death" play in the arts and literature and cautioned that there was still plenty of both in store for LGBT people.

Grief_2 Finally, Andrew Holleran, recent author of Grief, and the fabled Dancer From the Dance, received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The Publishing Triangle presents the annual Triangle Awards in collaboration with The Ferro-Grumley Literary Awards, the Robert Chesley Foundation and the New School.

Stay tuned…in just over two weeks, we will be reporting onthe 19th Annual Lambda Literary Awards. White Crane Books’ Charmed Lives is a finalist in the Anthology Category.

So It Goes: 1922 – 2007

He wasn’t a Gay man. Sardonic I think would be the word. Mordant. And while he wasn’t Gay he did suggest that the next best thing was to go into the arts if you wanted to annoy your parents….if you didn’t have the guts to be Gay.

Kurt Vonnegut died last night at the ripe old age (a phrase he embodied…I mean, look at that picture…) of 84.

In my life Kurt Vonnegut work played an integral role — not unlike one of his own fictional characters — in my coming out to say nothing of his writing’s effect on me as a reader and my imagination.

When I first told all my family that I was a gay man, the responses ranged from thoughtful to ignoring it to200pxthesirensoftitan1959
loving and embracing. Probably one of the most interesting responses, though, was my brother Tom’s comment, in writing, that his thoughts on the subject of homosexuality were formed by none other than Mr. Vonnegut. In his books, famously in the estimable Slaughterhouse Five, and earlier in The Sirens of Titan, Vonnegut had invented the planet Tralfalmadore. Tralfalmadore actually appeared regularly, as did the character Kilgore Trout. It would be easy to simply go down the Swiftean rabbit hole of Kurt Vonnegut’s imagination, and get lost in his invented worlds which he used to talk about the world we live in.

But back to my brother Tom…

Tom explained to me…because somehow it had escaped me…that on the Planet Tralfalmadore, it took all kinds of people to make babies…it took men and it took women…it took gay men and it took old women…it took four dimensions and it happened in a continuum of Time that was incomprehensible to mere Earth people. That made sense to my brother…so he just added that if I was happy, it was fine with him. And, for all intents and purposes, we never spoke of it again.

Here’s the quote from Slaughterhouse Five:

One of the biggest moral bombshells handed to Billy by the Tralfalmadorians, incidentally, had to do with sex on Earth. They said their flying saucer crews had  identified no less than seven sexes on Earth, each essential to reproduction. Again: Billy couldn’t possibly imagine what five of those seven sexes had to do with the making of a baby, since they were sexually active only in the fourth dimension.

The Tralfalmadorians tried to give Billy clues that would help him imagine sex in the invisible dimension. They told him there could be no Earthling babies without male homosexuals. There could be babies without female homosexuals. There couldn’t be babies without women over sixty-five years old. There could be babies without men over sixty five. There could be no babies without babies who had lived an hour or less after birth. And so on. It was gibberish to Billy.

I would, now, have to take issue with the assumption that the highest good that humankind can aspire to is the making of babies. I think even Mr. Vonnegut, a father of seven himself (four of his own…three of his brother’s that he took in when his brother and his wife died within days of one another) would agree. But there was a time when that was the poser for me: if the purpose of heterosexuality was the continuation of the gene pool…then was there any purpose to homosexuality?

Of course, in true Kilgorean fashion, I came to realize, as every Traldalmadorean surely knew, that if the purpose of straight people was to continue the gene pool, then our purpose as Gay people was to make sure it was Olympic-sized, with nicely marked lanes, and big, warm, color-coordinated towels.

We’re not the "quantity-of-life" people…we’re the "quality-of-life" people. And Vonnegut proves that this is not an impossible concept for straight people to grasp. If they can get past their own navel-gazing…I am reminded of another great writer, Joan Didion, who seems to have imagined that she has invented grief and loss and death in her Year of Magical Thinking…they might find that Gay people have something to bring to the table other than more mouths to feed and more consumers to use…just as we always have, across cultures, throughout time of however many dimensions.

Kurt Vonnegut was one of the treasures of my youth. He enabled me to look at this planet Earth from another point of view. An absurdist one, at times…but this is a world that needs a vision of, nay, an appreciation of, the absurd. Reading his work is a rite of passage, I think, still. I hope his work will live forever…surely Slaughterhouse Five will stand alongside One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Catch-22 as literature from the late 20th century that will inform generations to come. This was a wise man. Here is some of his wisdom:

  • "Television is now a form of government."
  • "Science is magic that works."
  • "Anyone unable to understand how a useful religion can be founded on lies will not understand this book either."

Lambda Literary Award Nominations

White Crane is proud to announce that Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling is among the 14 finalists for the 2007 Lambda Literary Foundation’s Lammy Awards. Charmed Lives is nominated in the anthology category.Lambdaaward

The nominees for Anthology are:

> Charmed Lives, edited by Toby Johnson, Steve Berman [White Crane Books]
> Confessions of the Other Mother , edited by Harlyn Aizley [Beacon]
> From Boys to Men , edited by Ted Gideonse & Rob Williams [Carroll & Graf]
> Love, Bourbon Street, edited by Greg Herren & Paul J. Willis [Alyson]
> No Margins: Writing Canadian Fiction in Lesbian , edited by Catherine Lake & Nairne Holtz [Insomniac]

    Charmed Lives is the first book in the White Crane Wisdom Series.

    We’re proud to be among such distinguished company and accomplishment.

The awards will be announced on May 31, 2007 at the Lambda Literary Awards Ceremonies in New York City. Visit the Lambda Literary Foundation’s website to see the full listing of nominees and finalists. Among them are many White Crane Contributors including bear activist,  Ron Jackson Suresha, actor/playwright, Tim Miller, historian and biographer, Stuart Timmons, and theologian, Daniel Helminiak

Warm congratulations to all the nominees and finalists. 

An Artist of Note – Gonzalo Benard

Received word this morning that Gonzalo Benard, a young Spanish artist who graciously gave us permission to use his beautiful Wings of Pleasure on the cover of White CrWings_of_pleasure_2ane’s edition of Mark Thompson’s Gay Spirit: Myth & Meaning has been nominated for the Premio Luso Espanol de Arte Y Cultura (The Spanish Luso Prize for Art & Culture.) The prize includes a cash award of 75,000 Euros and is presented by the Ministries of Culture of both Spain and Portugal as a way of strengthening artistic and cultural relations between the two countries.

On_fire This is one of Benard’s recent works pictured here, entitled On Fire.

Benard lives in Barcelona and works in acrylics and other media.

Buena Suerte Gonza!

Toby Johnson’s latest book reviewed in Washington Blade

Rvu_tobywalter2spiritsToby Johnson, White Crane‘s former publisher and current contributing editor, has recently written a book with Walter L. Williams titled Two Spirits: A Story of Life With the Navaho.  It recently received a very favorable review in the pages of the Washington Blade newspaper.

"gay authors Walter L. Williams and Toby Johnson deftly unveil the great histories of gay people as seen through the mythic and cultural expressions of the Navajo."

You can read Jesse Monteagudo’s review in the September issue of White Crane and you can purchase the book at Lambda Rising On Line or via Toby Johnson’s website at

Eric Rofes

Attended the memorial service for Eric Rofes at the LGBT Community Center in Manhattan last night. I met earlier with Chris Bartlett, Eric’s partner in the Gay Men’s Leadership Academies to discuss the planning of the second Academy in September (if you haven’t registered go here) and then we made our way over to the Center for the service.

We had a little time to sit. Crispin Hollings, Eric’s handsome husband, was there and we visited a while. Then Perry Brass arrived so we all talked about his early organizing work.

The memorial service was inspiring and touching. The speakers included a childhood friend of Eric’s from Commack, David Klafter, who spoke lovingly of his friend, and Eric’s special gift for friendship. Suzanne Pharr,   the first director of the historic Highlander Research and Education Center in Tennessee. Richard Burns, Executive Director of the LGBT Community Center, and an old friend of Eric’s from his Boston days spoke movingly of Eric’s early role in lifting the then very localized gay movement to national standing and the organizing of the first March on Washington.

Equally importantly…shockingly…infuriatingly, Burns related the story of how the coroner’s office in Provincetown initially refused to acknowledge Crispin and Crispin’s wishes for Eric to receive an autopsy and be cremated. If there was any doubt of how tenuous our rights are as gay people…here is a man who had been one of the primary organizers of the GLBT Rights movement, who had the mayor, the executive directors of NGLTF, Lambda Legal and every imaginable power of attorney, piece of paper, domestic partner registration in hand…in a state where gay residents even HAVE the right to marry, and these authorities needed to be reminded of their own laws, and Crispin’s rights as Eric’s life partner.

We were serenaded not once, but twice by the inimitable New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, singing "Love Lives On" and "Sing Me To Heaven."

The speakers were a dazzling panel of bold names from our community: Urvashi Vaid, Jeff Montgomery from the Triangle Fund, Chris Bartlett, of course, and the brilliant humorist and monologist, Kate Clinton (who wryly, sadly noted, "Eric had one heart attack and dies. Dick Cheney has four and doesn’t even seem to be phased by it. Maybe there is no justice?") Clinton spoke of having had coffee with Eric his last morning in Provincetown…any town…and remembered how he insisted, always, on speaking of his erotic life; Insisting that we could not work to achieve sexual liberation and NOT talk about sex!

Crispin, still obviously mourning deeply, related his walk through Eric’s place in Provincetown that morning he arrived, seeking he said, some presence of Eric.  His grief was palpable, but the strength of the love these two men shared was right there, too.

Finally, Amber Hollibaugh read from Eric’s landmark Reviving the Tribe:

"We cannot bring the dead back to life…Finding ways to regain mental health and perspective will be challenging, but gay men are not alone in these tasks. We are part of a large and increasing population of Americans who somehow manage to face the bizarre psychic deformations and powerful existential questions which arise in the wake of extreme events. We stand alongside political refugees from Eastern Europe, immigrants who have survived the Cultural Revolution in China or terrorism in Central America, combat veterans… Our plight is shared by abused children and battered women, as well as people who live their entire lives victimized by poverty, gang violence and drugs. We are not alone in our suffering.

I hope to live my middle-age years with the ability to be present and engaged in a way I haven’t been able to be for most of the past decade…When I enter old age, I hope to be able to speak to people abou the worlds in which I’ve lived, and look back with a perspective that integrates anger and grief with appreciation and even humor.

To see men embrace and love each other in response to neither loss nor terror revives my dreams from a life long ago. To watch masses of men dance together, celebrating raw life-giving powers of music and desire, forces me to acknowledge that the human spirit is not easily subdued. When once again two men can kiss hard on the mouth, as neither victims nor survivors nor captives, then peace and order will settle over the tribe and life will again move forward."

We are so much poorer a people without this man and so much richer for his having been with us.