Category Archives: From the Editors

WC80 – Editor’s Note

20080803_3021a By Dan Vera

It’s hard not to take a defensive crouch when writing an introductory essay to a special issue on poetry and music.  Truth be told, the defensiveness has more to do with the poetry than the music.  Music everyone loves and understands.  Poetry?  That is a more contentious idea.  Or seems to be. 

I feel compelled to make the case for poetry, to argue for the importance of poetry and the desire for others to read more poetry.  Arguments of this kind usually include a mention of the endangered nature of poetry, how no one reads it anymore and how it’s tied to the decay in society.  I somewhat agree with all these things, but those kinds of essays always take on the feel of a commercial for high-fiber cereal “You should eat it because its good for you damnit!”

The truth is I’ve always found these kinds of arguments a bit boring and beside the point.  Poetry is in our lives and has been there since the beginning.  Think of it. For most of us our first real exposure to poetry occurs in childhood with rhymes and little stories.

 Jack be nimble, jack be quick… 
 Jack Sprat could eat no fat… (Jack was a busy boy.)
 Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…

They’re the indelible songs we first learned

 Mary had a little lamb…
 Twinkle twinkle little star…

These poems are the first stories that stuck because they embedded themselves in the brain.  But somewhere down the line — and it almost always happened (or happens) in a classroom — the pleasurable experience of enjoying this art form of wordplay is replaced with a mechanical exercise in pulling the little wonder apart, in dissecting the corpse of what was so alive in the ear. For most people I’ve spoken with, these approaches had the result of causing them to run for the exits.

For the last 7 years I’ve run a small reading series in my neighborhood.  Most of our work in building an audience has been rehabilitating poetry in the ears and minds of the people who come forth; healing the bad memory of poetry as an aloof inaccessible thing or a laborious exercise for the listener.  Our readings are a bit different as we choose a theme and then collect poems from the contemporary and legacy poets we know.  So if you came to our reading on “dog poetry” (every June) you would hear 45 of the best poems on dogs written in the English language (some translated into English).  So it’s more like an anthology.  I mention this not as a plug for a local series but to share that we rarely have the opportunity to hear, much less read good poetry.  With the exception of The New Yorker, it is rare to find a poem in a magazine today.  Much rarer Gay poetry.  I can’t tell you the last time that The Advocate published a poem in its pages.

This was not always this way.  Not long ago it was unheard of to publish a magazine without having a poetry editor and publishing a few poems in magazines.  [White Crane has long had a poetry editor.  Bo Young, the publisher in these parts, began his connection to the magazine as it’s poetry editor.  I served as poetry editor for RFD before coming to White Crane.]  Theories abound as to the why and when this changed but that’s not really the point here.  The point is that there is great poetry being written today but fewer places to read it and fewer places to enjoy the best.
We care about poetry here.  For no other reason than poetry is Gay.  Yes, I wrote it.  Poetry is so Gay.  It’s impossible to know the history of the art form and deny that it bears a huge resonance for Gay people and that Gay people have mastered it in powerful ways.  Do I need to make the list?  Okay then: Whitman, Dickinson, Lowell, Cavafy, Stein, Bynner, Lorca, Lorde, Bishop, Auden, Jordan, Ginsberg, Hughes.  All Gay.  The list is too long to write here and I haven’t even touched the contemporary poets.

So no defensiveness then.  We publish poetry because Gay people write poetry.  Damn good poetry too.  Which brings us to the damn good poetry in this issue (see how these things flow?). 

We’re delighted in this issue to publish the poetry of James Nawrocki, the first winner of the White Crane/James White Poetry Prize for Gay Men’s Poetry.  Nawrocki hails from San Francisco, and we here at White Crane are proud of the fact that his work has previously appeared in these pages.  The prize itself was judged this year by the powerfully good poet Mark Doty, who has honored us all by looking through the work of the finalists and selecting Nawrocki’s manuscript for publication.  We are also proud to publish some poems by the two other finalists Jeremy Halinen of Seattle and James Najarian of Boston.

In striving to honor the muses of Poetry and Music, we have a fantastic interview with the Pulitzer-prize winning composer David Del Tredici and an essay by Arthur Evans on the creative universe.
So enjoy! And I hope you are amused.

Amused. That’s the word the poet Frank O’Hara used when he came across something that really moved him.  Something that “touched his muse.”  If he loved something, he found it “amusing.”  If he was not impressed or moved, he found it “unamusing.”  It’s perhaps one of my favorite phrases and I share it with you.

Be amused.  Be very amused.

Dan Vera is the White Crane's managing editor.  He is also the author of the recently released book of poetry, The Space Between Our Danger and Delight (Beothuk Books).  He lives in Washington DC.  For more on Dan visit

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WC79 – Editor’s Note

Editor's Note
A Place for Us
By Dan Vera & Bo Young

Bo: For myself, I'd say because I think the idea of "sanctuary" is important to Gay men…Harry Hay's discourse on this, that we include here, is probably the core of the issue. The idea that to be able to self-define who we are, it's necessary to withdraw from the larger community so we can have a literal safe zone in which to SEE who we really are…this isn't particular to Gay people, either…the long tradition of retreat from community to self-reflect…

Dan: The idea seems so radical. I recall the first time I visited a sanctuary I was stunned by the idea that everything around me was built by Gay hands. I was in "Gay land" if you will. I remember that I was affected physically by it.

Bo: The first time I went, it was nothing less than magical…not what I expected at all…and I think I hear that from a lot of people, whose first idea is that it's going to be some kind of "free love" on-going orgy… which, I think reflects more on the general cultures definition of who we are.

Dan: I was familiar with experiencing urban enclaves of Gay living, where we've carved out a little place or rebuilt it from what was there before, but this was land that was barren and built by people like me. It was edifying to see and experience what was possible — because I think I was still under sway with the belief that we couldn't create or we were ancillary to what straight culture builds.

Bo: Yes…the physical places were incredible…are incredible…the hobbit-ness of it all..we're in "the shire"…it really gives form to the whole idea that we HAVE a culture!
Dan: Yes, with that bit of whimsy and usually an amazing eye to detail.

Bo: To say nothing of the ability to make magic…make something…out of nothing…discards, scrap lumber, pieces of glass

Dan: This was actually Zuni Sanctuary in New Mexico, which of all the places we've mentioned was created from the land up…

Bo: I think the concept of "the Circle" was really cemented in Radical Faerie culture here…the "heart circle" was practiced…and elevated to a pillar of that community in these places…and the Gathering

Dan: The other thing that's powerful about sanctuaries is that it is meant to be a free-zone from the constant translation we have to do in our lives.

Bo: Yes…and in the most subtle of ways, I think this is one of the most freeing parts about them.

Dan: It wasn't until I visited a sanctuary that I realized how much time I spend translating myself, or repelling the wave upon wave of messages and images I get of otherness. There were no ADs or television constantly showing hetero-normativity again and again

Bo: What I also find interesting is that initially, it was believed that the sanctuaries had to be rural compounds…but in fact, Harry even talks about this, and John, they believed that they were living in a sanctuary in Los Angeles…all the while dreaming of a rural sanctuary…

Dan: Again. This might sound a bit extreme but until you've experienced a free zone where you're not buffeted by it you don't know how it is SO pervasive.

Bo: Right

Dan: Yeah. I loved that part of Harry and John's talk. Especially when John starts describing their little group house as a sanctuary.

Bo: I remember how quiet the place was (my first sanctuary was SMS)…I spent about three weeks there (just after Dancing my first Naraya, and after breaking up from an eight year relationship) in the middle of December, into January…I wanted to move there.

Dan: I was also impressed by John's defense of the need for Gay men to have their own homes and honoring the importance of that. John was always like that, very both/and. It's important to build sanctuary communities but it's also important and vital for us to have homes with beauty and comfort.

Bo: For this issue, though…we wanted to present not only Faerie sanctuaries, but also alternative places like Easton Mountain…Gay-centric, but organized differently…and the piece about different Queer-friendly place in Europe.

Dan: It's hard not to visit a sanctuary and not want to stay. The quiet and the community. Enrique Andrade's piece about working with urban Gay teens in Portland is an example of one building refuge "Safe spaces" as a form of sanctuary. I want to go out on a limb here and say that after coming out as an individual, visiting a sanctuary was like fully coming out to ourselves. I mean there was a sense of our uniqueness as a people in community.

Bo: When Cove and Rosie and I were leading Harry and John's SexMagic workshops at Destiny, we were always talking about how we might be able to do them in an urban environment…and it was difficult…the rural sanctuaries offer so many rich possibilities…the possibility of being naked all the time, among them, of course…

So I want to talk about the idea behind this issue…Primarily, I was interested in sort of a "polling" of the faerie sanctuaries, and including the other sanctuaries, such as Gay Spirit Vision, Easton Mountain and the Hermitage in Pennsylvania…

Dan: They all have different histories but come out of a similar impulse to carve out a space, a refuge for doing work together removed from the hustle and bustle of urban life.

Bo: And I wanted to get a report on the status of these places…some of which have been around, now, for decades…and I think we got a very interesting set of reports and pieces. Some of these places are thriving, and some are having various kinds of difficulties. Some seem to be achieving something that resembles Harry's "dream" of a safe harbor for Gay men…and some that seem to be falling prey to the usual pitfalls of utopian communities.

Dan: like?

Bo: …like internecine squabbling…who is "allowed" and who isn't…almost like the Jews deciding “Who is a Jew and who isn’t, there’s a lot of “who is a Faerie and who isn’t?”…women being allowed, trans people being allowed…all very touchy, and creating no small amount of controversy. I remember Wolfie, AKA Silverfang, who I know as a female, a Bisexual, if not a Lesbian, on her knees in front of Harry, in the middle of a Naraya, asserting her “faerie-ness”…much to Harry’s consternation, I might add…and her right, therefore, to be “on the land.”

Dan: It makes sense that as things age, they evolve. They change and adapt to new challenges. What is the state of the sanctuary for Gay men today?

Bo: Well, for example, one of the hallmarks of Wolf Creek…one of the things that really grabbed me when I first went there, was the idea that anyone, at any time could request "fag only space"…and anyone who wasn't a "gay male identified" male would be asked to leave the land…

I must admit the first time I heard that I was gobsmacked by the idea and at the same time, it immediately communicated the core principle of safety to me as a Gay man…I was in a safe place that would protect me if I needed it…And I was always impressed, as well, that there were other sanctuaries that didn't do this, that became more broadly defined sanctuaries for "queer people" of whatever gender… or, in the case of Short Mountain, that became recognized in the community as a wildlife sanctuary in the wider, general community…

I mean…I'll never forget going to a work week before a Gathering once, and taking a truck down to a local gravel pit to get stones for pathways…and I was told just to say I was "from the sanctuary"…and here I am in deepest darkest Tennessee…and I'm thinking this is just about like wrapping myself in lavender and parading down Main Street….I had all the urban preconceived ideas of what rural life was like…

So I pulled up in this truck, and announced that I was "from the sanctuary"…and this redneck good ol' boy in the shack greeted me, and asked "Oh we love the sanctuary…how're all the boys doin' up there?" It was the first time I ever had the experience of that kind of acceptance and tolerance, if you will, outside of an urban environment.

Dan: I had the same experience in New Mexico with the folks at Zuni. This isolated sanctuary — perhaps the most remote of the ones we're covering — in the middle of Mormon Indian country and yet they've managed to carve out community with the single women, the non-traditional religious, the artsy people who are SO very thankful to have access to this group of creative men living in their midst. Who helped create an artist community and gallery in this very rural area. Just powerful and daring and "right."

Bo: …which speaks to Harry's idea of a need to withdraw to be able to discover who we are in peace, to self-define…and through that, the larger, dominant community would come to understand us on our own terms…or at least there was the possibility of that happening.

So…the purpose of this issue, then, is to let readers see the wide selection of sanctuaries that are available to them…I know some people are wary of faeries in general…and I hope this shows that there are other options…and, at the same time, I hope this makes some of the faerie sanctuaries more appealing…

Bo: And makes the variation among faerie sanctuaries more apparent, too…each one seems to have it's own personality and its own way of functioning.

Dan: Well, there are so many options for folks. I hope that this issue would help remind our readers that the need for space outside the city, outside the conventional world — beyond the translation is not only necessary but very possible.

Bo: From Radical Faerie land to Rational Faerie retreats…

Dan: ssssssssssssssssss

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WC78 – Editors’ Note

Opening Words from the Editors

By Dan Vera and Bo Young

Bo: Once again we return to a subject that is really in our DNA

Dan: We return to a subject that seems connected to every other theme we’ve ever done.

Bo: From the start, this was a circle of friends who met in Bob Barzan’s living room to talk to one another

Dan: And the newsletter was Bob’s way of staying in touch and keeping that circle open to others outside that small group.

Bo: I think that’s something Toby Johnson carried on and that we have too. How poignant that as we went to press with this issue we received word of the passing of John Burnside, Harry Hay’s partner.  Poignant because our own friendship and association arises out of spending time with the two of them at the Faerie sanctuary in Oregon doing the “Sex Magic” workshops and forming our own “Circle of Loving Companions.”

Dan: Maybe we need to provide a little background for our readers.  Harry Hay was considered the father of the Gay Rights movement in the 1950s and later one of the founders of the Radical Faerie “development” (as he liked to call it).  In the last decades of his life Harry began an annual series of weeklong workshops with his partner John Burnside.

Bo: God.  Do we really need to tell people who Harry Hay is?

Dan: Surprisingly yes. I was struck at talking to a younger gay brother in his 20s who had no idea who Harvey Milk was. We were chatting about the amazing movie trailer online for the Harvey Milk film coming out in November and he looked at me and said “Who’s Harvey Milk?” I was frankly stunned for a second but then had to remind myself that we still come out of erasure and that schools still don’t teach out heroes or our history.  None of them do or damn few so as to be negligible.  But back to Harry and John.  They had this idea of bringing small groups of Gay men together to see if it was possible for Gay men to work through a lot of our baggage and “teach each other” ways of being that were gentle and kind.  A very elegant and romantic vision whose success can be seen in the work of that circle and in our friendship, and as you point out, in the nature of this magazine so many years later.  John was the last one of that pair that called forth those circles and, in keeping with his training as a scientist, oversaw that experiment of heart and community. 

Bo: For me, the interesting thing behind “Community” is to talk about the diversity in it. Not that we are all alike, but that we are a variety of people trying to live together, not a group of people who share every particular of our lives.  I think Murray Edelman’s piece in this issue, about Circle Voting, speaks to this idea of putting ourselves in contact with people who don’t necessarily share our point of view about everything…and how we have all become more and more insulated from differing opinions, factionalized into only ever coming into contact with those with whom we agree.  By the same token, this magazine has always tried to stay focused narrowly, and be a voice of, by and for Gay men.  It’s that kind of paradox that always gets me…not either/or, but both/and.

Dan: I want to go back to Harry and John’s workshop. Without speaking too much about the particulars that experience for me was of being in a circle with fifteen other Gay men for the first time in my life (all strangers to me till that experience) and reaching the ability to share the most intimate experiences of oneself in a circle of absolute trust. Frankly I’m not sure I ever thought that kind of intimacy and trust was possible before that experience and certainly not among gay men. Beyond the basic internalized homophobia stuff, I realized I’d sucked in the “brokenness of gay people” to a point where I didn’t realize that we had the potential to heal each other and to hear each other to build a community. It was a convention shattering experience for me.

Bo: Interestingly, one of the central ideas of those workshops was withdrawing and sequestering ourselves from the “larger community” for a period so we could come back to the larger community with more clearly drawn boundaries of self, a stronger core definition.  I think the real idea, and Murray talks about this in his interview, is that we are all part of many different communities…some overlapping, some that hardly come in contact and one of the central ideas of this publication was to provide a place where those differences could come together in conversation.

Dan:  I especially enjoyed and appreciated Bryn Marlow’s essay in this issue about building community.  The nuts and bolts experience of someone coming out and trying to figure out what it’s all about.  I think most Gay men are left alone to try to figure it out for themselves with very few resources.  Bryn’s piece offers that narrative.  How do you navigate yourself in this strange new world and how for Darwin’s sake, HOW do you build community?

Bo:  I love those first person accounts…it’s what we have always looked for here…the personal statement. And Malcolm Boyd’s “Community of Two” another one of our central ideas is that this is not meant to be the writings of experts and scholars here (though it seems we’ve gotten a reputation as “scholarly” but the shared opinions…and that out of that sharing of individual stories, a greater truth comes out.  Not opinions but stories.  The larger story of Community with a capital “C” out of many smaller communities.  Just as we’ve always hoped that each issue might be used to stimulate those smaller groups like the one Bob started in his living room.

Dan:  I think the importance of valuable symbols or metaphors for living is highly undervalued in our culture.  So Marlow and Boyd’s pieces are so key to making sense of one’s life  because part of that whole “making sense of oneself” has to do with finding the symbols that work in describing one’s place in the journey.  So we need to drop the negative fallacious stereotypes and find those that are expansive enough to help us as we navigate through life.

Bo: Could you elaborate on what you think the positive symbols and metaphors might be?

Dan: I think we can fall into over complicating the whole thing. I’d like to think that a healthy community is one that allows you the room to explore your life, to examine why you are here and why “we” are here (a key question for Harry). In that regard the search for an examined life is a universal but Gay men start with having to get rid of a lot of excess garbage and some draconian baggage they had little to do with packing. So, for us it’s about clearing through a lot of this stuff and making sure we’re approaching our lives from a symbolic point that’s authentic and that can serve us for a long time. I think White Crane, at our brightest points, serves to be an instrument to connect people with some authentic wisdom, that is, the hard fought, “discerned” discovery about our lives.  There are so few places for this in the world. And for those regarding gay life and experience precious few.

Bo: Not only clearing out the garbage, but also reconnecting with a history that has been hidden, too…I think that is actually, for me at least it was, a critical part of coming to terms with who I am, literally, “coming to terms,” finding old language,  like Whitman and Carpenter, and Harry…but also one another.   Certainly there are very few that are not about trying to assimilate, and become more like heterosexual people, fitting in, and spending and buying like a good little market niche  I think as soon as we “buy in” to the idea that all we have is our economic power, we’re giving up a huge part of who we are as a community.

Dan: One way of looking at this metaphorically is the difference between thin and deep. That is, thin and deep culture. I know we’re small potatoes compared to the large publications that are out there targeting the “gay” community. But what we offer is a transmission of culture, a sharing of wisdom from writer to reader and from reader to writer. I’m okay if we’re “small potatoes” compared to the GLOBOGAYCORP media stuff. That’s thin competition. We are Russian blue potatoes compared with the kind of instant mashed potatoes in a box being peddled by most gay publications.   It might just be a “community of 2,” of you and me in two different cities putting this together, but we’re connected to so many brothers around the world who want something richer and deeper. Who hunger for something more substantive, who know that life finds its glory in its discovery, and in our case, it’s recovery. That’s the basis of our community.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Bo lives in Brooklyn, NY a few blocks from a museum and
Dan lives in Washington, DC a few blocks from a Shrine.  Dan's proud to report he has a new book of poetry out from Beothuk Books.  His website is at

You can write them at

WC77 – Opening Words


Editors Note:
What a Difference a Dash Makes

Dan Vera & Bo  Young

Bo:  So.  We’ve been planning this issue for what…four years? five years?

Dan:  Easily that. We didn’t want to do it till we felt we were ready for it and until we thought we could get people who could approach it in a new way.

Bo:  And here we are, a few weeks away from the nomination of the first Black candidate for President of the United States…who’d a thunk it?  Though, I will go on record here as saying that I’m not sure the U.S. is capable of it. Sadly.

Dan:  I hope it is.  I’m sure there were those that said the same thing about Kennedy and his Catholicism when he ran in 1960.

Bo:  True…but anti-Catholicism is a tad milder than the racism at the core of this country

Dan:  I don’t think we remember how pronounced the opposition once was.  Susan Jacoby in her book Freethinkers, which I reviewed for this issue, goes into amazing detail about the anti-Catholic animus and vitriol that greeted Al Smith in 1928 when he ran as the first Catholic candidate for president.

Bo:  True.  I’m actually hoping that the youth vote trumps the racist vote and elects a young man over an old man, white or otherwise.

Dan:  I like to think that the last 8 years fiasco on one extreme, with our Hooverian sitting president, may be just the thing to advance a great leap forward — ala FDR.

Bo:  Perhaps…but this morning I heard a 10 year old boy interviewed on NPR at a science fair…and he was saying he supported Hillary Clinton and that Obama couldn’t make a good president because he was the “wrong religion.”  The interviewer asked him what religion that was and the little boy said “African American.”

Dan:  Wow. So, perhaps the most fitting comment about the timeliness of this issue isn’t Obama’s candidacy but the way in which his candidacy has revealed the real depths of ignorance.  I have to say I’ve been very pleased with the narrative strength of this issue with a lot of people writing from personal perspective.  Much less theoretical, head-talk and more felt experience.

Bo:  We were looking for some new conversation on the topic and I think we got what we were looking for. It only took us five years to find it!

Dan:  Well, it’s been tough.  White Crane has never been as racially or culturally diverse in its voices as we’d like and the hope with this issue was that it would crack us open to a greater spectrum.  It’s a tall order but one that I think we succeeded at.

Bo:  Do you really think we’ve been un-diverse?

Dan: Well, no less then most Gay media, but sure.  If you went by percentages, we haven’t been representative of the general public’s diversity.  We live in a country whose population, according to the last Census eight years ago, is a quarter “non-White” (and I know that’s a complicated designation in itself).  Now I don’t think you could say that most media has a quarter of its pieces by “people of color” or whatever term you’d choose.  It still seems very white dominant and we don’t notice because most of the Gay community still hasn’t wrapped its head around the change in demographics. Neither has the larger culture.  Hell, I still haven’t fully wrapped my head around it.

Bo:  Is this just a matter of everyone is in their own little world, and never the twain shall meet?

Dan:  I really don’t think so.  I think it’s just a matter of being in a period of adjustment.  When I was doing diversity workshops for mostly white congregations it was always a great process of breaking through the misconceptions.  I’d always start by drawing a circle on a chalkboard and asking them to guess a pie-chart of the U.S. population.  They ALWAYS got it wrong.  They always guessed it was like 6% or something POC.  I’d get the same response from mixed groups.  I just think that as a society we haven’t really grokked to the fact that we are living, now, not in the future, in a society where one in four people are not what historically has been the dominant white society.  I always loved doing that demo, because it had people breaking apart their worldviews, about the country they live in.  And then, I would throw a grenade into the very myth of “whiteness.”  That was my second favorite exercise.  About the genocide of ethnic imagination and how the conferring of “whiteness” came with the giving up of history, culture, and a lot of the good stuff that comes with ethnicity.  That’s why I love Michael Carosone’s piece in this issue about Italian-American identity.  He talks about the real desire to honor his ethnicity and culture.  Not as a schtick but as a real ground for understanding.

Bo:  What do you think it would take to actually get a real conversation about race going in this country? I was struck this week, actually, with how conservation seems to have suddenly reached the threshold…advertisers are busily flogging their “greenness.”  When do you think that will happen with “race?”

Dan:  Well, but there’s a real emptiness to the commercial conservative greenness.  Talking about race is still thorny because it comes fraught with real history and the repercussions.  Race gets thorny because we never really talk about it.  And when we do we’re either included, excluded, or doing role plays instead of having the real conversations.  We start from a lot of ignorance, as evidenced by that kid you mentioned who thought Obama’s African-American status was a religion.

Bo:  I think most white people don’t really know what to do about racism and, like Obama tried to say, get tired of being made to feel guilty for something they don’t think they’ve had a hand in, don’t do, and don’t know what to do about it.  And as a result, it never gets talked about.

Dan:  Senator Obama was attempting to start the conversation in Philadelphia with that talk.  But it was really about Black/White splits and history.  We’re a very immature culture when it comes to identity.  And the Gay community isn’t immune to that.  And I have to say that as a Latino I always roll my eyes at the dualistic simplicity of the American race conversation. It’s a ridiculous binary exchange that leaves a lot of us out of the conversation.  Frankly I find it boring or infuriating and for my health and sanity I refuse to take part in those conversations until everyone is named and everyone is included.  And in my experiences I’ve found communities of color just as ignorant of each other’s history and culture as White people are of other cultures.

Bo:  Right.  I’ve never quite bought the idea that only white people are capable of racism that it is solely based in power.  I think that’s true only insofar as “power” is involved in every interpersonal relationship (which is not to say that there isn’t institutional racism, to be sure)

Dan:  But I think it’s helpful to understand a few dynamics at play. On the one hand you have people who have and experience on a day-to-day level a sense of ethnic or racial culture and on the other hand you have people who have sort of come through the meat grinder of assimilation and have lost their culture or identity. The history of communities of distinction in this country is much more complex and frankly, more interesting.  But for huge chunks of population, and these are mostly White people, it’s absolutely missing.  So nationalism become identity and culture.  I do believe many White people have an unspoken woundedness at having lost or having given away, or not having the permission to celebrate their ethnic identity.

Bo:  Yes.  I saw that with all the Native American stuff…white European people who had lost all connection with their roots, their traditions…desperate to embrace something with a little earthiness to it… a little “grit.”

Dan:  I’m not sure that as a culture we’ve really come to grips with the fact that to be called “white” which has no clear cultural understanding — which is a cultural erasure — is to lose identity and history. So that you ask someone about their culture and they say, I’m a mutt. I’m Irish, German, something or other.

Bo:  My mother always said we were “Heinz 57.”  A little of this, a little of that, 57 varieties of genetics.

Dan:  I think about that as a light-complected Latino. My first language was Spanish. My food, culture, and identity is very different. It’s also a blending of my geographic roots. But I’m not sure where I fit in this most days.  I feel very much at home and in diaspora. It becomes even more complicated as a Gay man who will not have progeny, who struggles to figure out what to pass on. As Gay men become experts in heterosexual culture and “pass.” I became an expert in the cultures around me growing up that were not my own. Mexican-American/Chicano and White Anglo culture.

Bo:  I thought for sure we were going to get some piece on being hyphenated.

Dan:  I seriously don’t mind the hyphen. I mean, yeah, on one level it gets confusing. But the truth is that our identities are very much confusing. I say we hyphenate everything that speaks to our complex life. I’m with the poet Gloria Anzaldua on this. I think the only place we meet each other are on the borderlands of or mixed backgrounds — race, geography, sexuality, gender. All these things. It’s the people who think they live in a walled preserve, whose identities have no permeability— those are the truly dangerous ones.  Our experiential roots as Gay people–that is, our experience of coming into a world that didn’t “get us,” that didn’t know what to do with us, and finding a way to move beyond and claim our trueness — those roots should put us clearly in the camp of embracing all of our complexity. Bring it all in. It’s the most honest posture to take on race and identity.

Bo:  I do think the sense of how we as queer people bring something new to the conversation has come through in what we got.

Dan:  Well, hopefully we stimulate a discussion. I certainly wouldn’t want White readers, so identified, to read this issue and think it doesn’t speak to them. I think our work as individuals is to discover the richness in our lives. And rich things are complex. We are living roux in a way. It takes time to understand it. To really get all the complex interaction of our own personal stories.

Bo:  And one of our archetypal roles is “culture carrier.” And another is “culture changer.”  We’re supposed to be expert at being “in between” or is that “in-between?”

Dan:  Perfect.

Bo:  What a difference a little dash makes.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Bo Young and Dan Vera are editorials mid-wives and co-conspirators in creating each issue of White Crane.  Bo lives in Brooklyn, NY a few blocks from a museum and Dan lives in Washington, DC a few blocks from a Shrine.  Bo is the author of First Touch: A Passion for Men and Day Trilogy and Other Poems. Dan is the author of two chapbooks of poetry.  Visit him at

If they sometimes seem interchangeable in the minds of White Crane readers it’s because they talk on the phone each day and bask under the shade of the same growing tree, the watering of which they consider their contribution to the continued flowering of gaiety.

You can write them at

WC76 – Opening Words

76_whitmanEditors Note
by Dan Vera & Bo Young

Bo: So who cares if Tchaikovsky was Gay? I suppose if you’re 16 and in Nebraska…you care. I know when I was 16 and in Lombard Illinois, I cared.

Dan: Well it’s important because most people don’t know. Also we take our cues from history. Our understanding of the present is based on our understanding of what has come before. The lavender past been erased and even though the situation has gotten better, that erasure is still very much in play. That unknowing is still the experience of the grand majority of Gay people who grow up in places where the history’s been scrubbed.

Bo: And popular movies like Alexander can soft pedal his male lover and over-emphasize his wife and kids. The argument of time seems to be on the side of our opponents and would-be oppressors. I can imagine someone looking at this situation, and thinking "How depressing…what good is this to me?"

Dan: But I can also see someone looking at this and saying, “Wow. He was like me?” or “Wow. Maybe I’m not off the mark when my gaydar goes off about so and so.” Because in many cases we have been unable to record the right history because the records of our forebears still remain closed. I think of about E.M. Forster who dies in 1879 and doesn’t have his Gay novel Maurice published until 1970. I mean it’s crazy. But it makes me wonder “who else?” Who else is out there waiting to astound with his truth?

Bo: And I think it’s an important lesson in learning to “read between the lines” and recognize the bias of historians.

Dan: Certainly. Especially because in many of these figures, like the men on the cover of this very issue, their lives were murky, their longings hidden, or the record of their loving destroyed by themselves, or their families or estates.

Bo: In the end it’s like the mother of that boy who wrote to us and wondered if White Crane was appropriate for a 16 year old…we all have homework! If we had been able to learn that there were interesting, important, contributing Gay people out there at that age. Men who loved men, who were shaping culture, and our cultures… it might have eased the journey.

Dan: I also think that knowing the changing fortunes in historical understanding of Gay people makes me more prepared to fight against future changes. Harry Hay was always warning against the false positivism of some historical thinking, the belief that culture is always going up and up. Well, history doesn’t really work that way.

Bo: Indeed. The gravitational pull is usually towards regression, it would seem or at least the status quo…or assimilation.

Dan: This sort of overview is important because it discounts the lie that “I’m the only one” that a lot of people still feel. We still live in a culture that’s rather reticent to speak of these things.

Bo: I thought it was great fun yesterday as we walked down Library way, leading up to the New York Public Library and reading all those brass plaques and noting how many of them were “family,” as you put it, and leading up the grand stairs to see Kerouac’s On The Road scroll. Yet another conflicted member of the "family."

Dan: Yes, that was lovely for all the related material they pulled out from their collections — of the forebears of the Beats and of course all the photographs and letters between the beat community. So many of them Gay. Ginsberg, Burroughs. So many of them hounded, jailed or harassed by the authorities for being open. But still in their Gay skins.

Bo: So what’s your favorite thing in this issue?

Dan: I found Steven Solberg’s piece is quite lovely and in keeping with what has been a recurring thread we’ve been focusing on in our projects. That of recording, observing, and transmitting our culture, that is the thread of our existence.

Bo: I think Steven’s film is going to be an important contribution. Robert Croonquist points out that there’s some documentary film DNA running through the Word Is Out documentary about the earliest days of coming out, to The Cockettes about the San Francisco Castro, post-Stonewall era. And now Bones is a maturing of this community…having elders and recognizing them are different things.

Dan: What did you love in the issue?

Bo: I am also very moved by the writing about Edward II. Here was a man who loved men and he was the king of England…and even he was oppressed. It’s supposed to be “good to be king.” But not if you’re a king who loves another man.

Dan: On the other hand, if he hadn’t been king, that history probably wouldn’t have been preserved. Given the odds against it surviving, it is a miracle it can be in our pages today.

Bo: So the other important lesson here is this idea of “reading between the lines” of history…getting past the prejudices and biases of history and historians. It’s really quite interesting to discover, as we have with the “Gay Wisdom” mailings, that there really is enough material to send something out on a daily basis!

Dan: Yes. We have hundreds of people on that list receiving daily Gay history notes and occasional excerpts from White Crane’s 20 years of publication []. But as much as I love knowing the figures that were Gay in the past, I most love their stories and what they left behind. You’ve been reading through Noel Coward’s correspondence of late and I know it’s given you a great thrill to read his written badinage with other Gay writers of the time.

Bo: One of those books you never want to end. The Letters of Noel Coward edited by Barry Day. It’s a chocolate box of reading material. Just like this issue…we hope.

Dan: Yes.

Bo: How much things have changed…and how much they have remained the same. Maybe that ought to be the cover quote. Plus ca change!

Dan: Oui.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Bo Young and Dan Vera are editorials mid-wives and co-conspirators in creating each issue of White Crane.  Bo lives in Brooklyn, NY a few blocks from a museum and Dan lives in Washington, DC a few blocks from a Shrine.  Bo is the author of First Touch: A Passion for Men and Day Trilogy and Other Poems. Dan is the author of two chapbooks of poetry.  Visit him at

If they sometimes seem interchangeable in the minds of White Crane readers it’s because they talk on the phone each day and bask under the shade of the same growing tree, the watering of which they consider their contribution to the continued flowering of gaiety.

You can write them at

Photograph of Walt Whitman, Library of Congress archives.

WC75 – Letters to the Editors


A Glimpse of a Gay Brother

I just finished reading Ms. Schneider’s remembrance and celebration of her dear friend David in Issue #73 of White Crane.

I never knew of either of these people until now and yet here I am with tears in my eyes at the pleasure of the description of his life and also the loss of such a life-loving man and the passing of such a beautiful friendship of which his and K.G.’s would be one of many, though I’m sure a very treasured one. Her writing is beautiful, glowing and emotive and I’d really like to thank her for giving me a glimpse into her world and that of her ‘Gay brother’ David.

Bless you both.

Brighton, United Kingdom

The Importance of Health

I was very pleased to see in the Summer ‘07 White Crane that you are running a regular column on Health. I suspect we agree that the subject is critical for each of us as individuals and increasingly I think the subject will be critical for us as groups. Perhaps the best way we can become and stay healthy is to form a collective place and space both to evaluate what is good and to help us maintain the insight and discipline needed for good health.

My specific interest in this approach concerns Gay seniors and their retirement. A group of us in Austin, Texas have formed the Lambda Retirement Community, Inc. that is designed to help us deal productively with the many issues of growing old. We have discussed the potential of group health insurance; of the value of group knowledge and support to eat healthy, exercise and fight off the many temptations that lead to apathy and obesity; of learning and contributing to a green life; of creating a framework where the young and old can meet and grow; etc. Generally, of creating an environment where we can grow old as slowly as possible with grace and dignity and die when we want to.

I look forward to Jeff Huyett’s contribution in White Crane. Thanks to you, Jeff, specifically and to the editorial staff generally for this feature.

Hugs all,
Austin, Texas 

Age Appropriate

I am wondering if this magazine is appropriate for a 16 year old.
Please let me know your thoughts,

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Bo Responds:

I suppose the short answer would be: it depends on the 16-year-old.  White Crane is collected in major universities and public libraries across the United States and Europe.  In 2004 we were an Utne Independent Press Nominee for spirituality coverage, in the same category with Commonweal and Sojourners.  So if this 16-year-old might read Sojourners, for example, I’m sure he would find us of interest. My own now 21-year-old nephew and 17-year-old niece have read White Crane since they were about 15 and 12, respectively (and their mother, a family physician, puts it on the waiting room table in her medical practice in Wisconsin).

On the other hand, we’re not a pop culture magazine, so any sixteen year olds (or 46 year olds) looking for the latest dish on what’s-his-name from N’sync, or what the new hot “must-have” piece of fashion is likely to be disappointed. We’re not interested in Gay people as a marketing niche. For that reason, we don’t do advertising. Any displays you see in our pages are for people, goods and services that we believe to be in keeping with our educational mission. Each issue is themed. Past themes have been “Generation Conversation,” “Bohemia,” “Friends,” and “Lovers.” Upcoming themes include “Race & Identity,” “Bears & Body Image,” “Ancestors,” “Communities,” and “Sanctuary.”

We aren’t inclined to the objectification of the human body — male or female — but we are sex-positive. By that I mean we occasionally have a subject that might lead a writer (we are reader-written) to talk about his penis, his sexual life, etc. But we’re not publishing it for its prurient value. I wouldn’t say it is a predominant theme in every issue, but it does come up.  We think it’s healthy to talk about sex, sexuality, connections with other people, and connections with ourselves, body and mind.

The latter two of those subjects (connections with other people, connections with ourselves) would also qualify (along with connections with the world) as our definition of “spirituality.” White Crane began as a newsletter among Gay men to discuss spirituality. We aimed not to be ‘prescriptive,’ but descriptive. We didn’t want to take “sides” and say this spiritual path or that spiritual path was better or worse. What we wanted was to trust our readers to describe what worked for them and what didn’t and encouraging them to take that which worked and leave the rest behind.

Finally, our mission (we are a 501c3 educational corporation…contributions are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law) is to assert and demonstrate that same-sex people are a critical part of the evolution of life on Earth. We’re of the opinion, supported by a fairly vast amount of historical evidence (biblical misinterpretation and misappropriations notwithstanding) that same-sex oriented individuals have served a very real purpose in society, and that the denial of this deranges not only Gay people, but society as well.

We don’t “believe” in evolution…because Evolution is not a matter of belief. It’s science. You weigh evidence and accept it or not. We understand it not as theory, but as a proven fact. And part of that fact is this: nothing survives in Nature that doesn’t serve Nature and species survival. Ergo, there must be some evolutionary reason that same-sex people have existed across time and cultures and species. Plainly there must be some evolutionary, survival purpose. The joke we share is that if the ultimate “purpose” of heterosexuality is the continuation of the gene pool, then the purpose of homosexuality is to make sure it’s Olympic-sized, with lanes, and nice towels, a round-the-clock lifeguard is on duty and a nice poolside tiki bar.

More to the point, there are demonstrable social roles that have been played by same-sex people in cultures across history. Some of these archetypes include the mediator, the shaman, the clown, the contrary and the teacher. White Crane believes that the most valuable thing taken from a people is their history. History is always the story told by the “winner,” so we are frequently a people constantly coming out of erasure.

So much of our interest in the magazine and other publishing we do (we also publish books) is exactly what precipitated this exchange between you and me: i.e. how do we pass along a culture and wisdom to the next generation of Gay people when we are (largely) not a procreative community? Many of our recent issues have been devoted in some manner to what we call "the generation conversation." There are many facets to this, but clearly one of them is young men (and their parents) are afraid that mature Gay men are purely predatory (we’re not) and, frankly, mature Gay men are afraid of being taken advantage of, as well. So where do we create safe space for the conduct of intergenerational conversations? Mentoring? etc. We hope to be making a small space for that to happen in our pages.

In the wider picture, White Crane also sponsors cultural programming that is touring to LGBT Community Centers across the U.S. We sponsor the Gay Men’s Health Leadership academies and spiritual retreats in various places around the U.S., too. And we recently took on the sponsorship of a documentary film, Standing on the Bones of Our Elders. We also do a daily Gay Wisdom email list, which is usually a “This Day in Gay History” listing of people and events that happened on a particular day, along with accompanying essays and writings from the archives of the magazine (we’ve been publishing for 18 years).

I hope that begins to answer your question. Obviously there’s a lot to say — that’s why we publish a magazine! I feel a little like Francis P. Church, in The New York Sun: “Yes Virginia, there is a Gay culture." I respect that you would write and ask on behalf of what I assume is your son. Sadly, my guess is most 16-year-olds would find reading White Crane more like homework than recreational reading, unless they were unusual 16-year-olds. We do seek to challenge and inform readers. You don’t see many 16-year-olds evincing an interest in history, anthropology and poetry, to name a few of the areas in which we are interested. But if yours is, we’re the magazine for him!


WC73 Opening Words

Opening Words from the Editors73openingwords_2

“Friends are God’s apology for family” has more meaning, deeper meaning for Gay men than for most people. And despite what some may insist, I can’t help but believe that the word has a very different meaning for Gay people than for anyone else. For us, the nuance of meaning when we refer to someone as “my friend” often means we’re covering a deeper relationship. That person might also be my lover, but circumstances demand a lighter deception. Churches have long forbidden “special friends” for the same reason.
For many of us our “family of choice” is our circle of friends, or as Harry Hay called them, our “circle of loving companions.” Friends are those people who we want to be around for those special occasions in our lives, the celebrations as well as the small, intimate moments. The ones we’ve all gossiped with, confided in, consoled and for too many of us, buried. For a generation of Gay men, “friends” is inextricably connected, now, to death and dying. For some of us, every friend we had at some point in our lives is now gone.
There are so many kinds of friends: best friends, work friends, workout buddies, fuck buddies, close friends, casual friends, friends of friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends, new friends, false friends and lost friends…
For many years I was on a search to find my “best friend” from high school, the one with whom I lost touch when I came out. Concurrent with that, I always wanted to find, and confess to, my girlfriend from that same period. Oddly, I was in love with both of them, and never had sex with or made love to either of them. I looked and looked for Mike, and finally he found me! Thirty years missing between us, and the phone rings, I pick up, a voice asks for me, and I know in an instant that it’s Mike. The first thing out of his mouth was an apology for how he had treated me, the mean things he had said to me, thirty years before. Nothing ever felt so good…and I demurred and we moved on, into a renewed friendship that felt like we had never stopped. He died last year of cancer. An old friend…one who I would have died for at one point in my life…gone now. A hole in my own life that I am reminded of every day.

I needed to find Carol because when I broke up with her, I didn’t have much in the way of self awareness. I just knew I wasn’t ever going to want to have sex, make love…and I loved her. So I had to leave. She even asked me, point blank at one point in the conversation, “Are you gay?” This was 1969! And, oddly, I think she even said “gay.” At least that’s how I remember it. I denied it, of course. And that’s why I needed to find her. I needed to confess…let her know she was right, not crazy. I was gay. The old “It’s not you, it’s me.” It’s not you…I’m gay. But I didn’t have the guts. Or the knowledge, or probably even the word, at that time, to own up. When I first found her (because of Mike’s help, I might add) she was understandably wary (and married). She said she’d have to tell her husband I had contacted her. I said fine. I told her the reason I had looked for her for thirty years…and I think she got to finally have a release in some way. She wasn’t crazy. In fact she was as aware as anyone could have hoped to be at that time. I wanted…what? Not to apologize. I wasn’t sorry I was gay. I was sorry I didn’t have the courage to tell her the truth even when she asked for it. We’re both close, again, now. We speak almost daily, on line or by phone. I will attend her daughter’s wedding this fall. The richness of having this old friend in my life…all the more poignant now with Mike gone…is beyond my ability to convey. I love this woman, and I know she loves me.

These are the things you go through with, for, friends. This is what “friends” means. These are the people with whom it is necessary to go through all the universe of feelings and to find your way back home; there’s no place like friends.

White Crane got its beginnings in friendships. Bob Barzan circulated the first edition of the Journal to a few of his friends who had been gathering in his home for months in talking circles. In many ways, while we are attempting to grow it and ensure its survival, it remains a labor of love among friends, passed from hand to hand, from Bob to Toby to Bo to Dan over the past eighteen years. To this day no one is paid for the work involved. If I could offer one more definition of the term, “friends” are the people who do the work whether you can pay them for it or not.

We have sociologist Peter Nardi in this issue. Sociologists like to categorize and sort…and Dr. Nardi is no exception. Dr. Nardi offers a chart of friendships, but I wonder just how quantifiable, much less chartable “friends” can be beyond a certain point? How many of us have circles of friends that began in bed? How can that not be different from the friends our heterosexual brethren make? Not better, but different. How can a friend with whom you have made love, not be a different thing? How does that get reflected adequately in a flow chart?

“Friends” has a special meaning, of course, for me, now. When Toby told me he was ready to step down as publisher, I knew that if I was going to carry this project forward and grow it into what I knew it could be I would need help. I was going to need a friend. I met Dan in Harry Hay’s workshops, as anyone who has been reading this magazine for any length of time would remember, and I had a hunch. He had come to visit, in his capacity of doing the Reconciliation work with the United Methodist Church, and without trying to seem too anxious, I suggested that maybe he might find working on White Crane of some interest. I couldn’t pay him anything, of course, but given his background and his interests, I thought maybe…and I was just this side of begging him, because, man, I knew I was going to need someone.

And of course, as anyone who has been reading this journal in the past three years has noticed, that someone was probably one of the best, if not the best decision I ever made with respect to this magazine and White Crane as an idea. That’s usually what I tell people when I talk about Dan. That and the fact that the friendship that grew out of this shared project has become almost like having a second husband. It is like a marriage in a way. It is surely one of the profound and primary relationships of my life, and, I would hazard to venture, Dan’s too. And it isn’t very often you get to hold something tangible in your hands that is a symbol, an emblem of an idea, in this case, “friends,” but that’s what this magazine in your hands is…a tangible result of a friendship. Work and schedules conspired to make the usual “Editor’s Chat” un-doable for this issue, which is strange, as our friendship is at the heart of this. But if anything, it gives me the opportunity to say these things in print. Chart that.

Over the years we’ve continued to grow the magazine, and create White Crane Institute and none of it would have been possible without friends, old ones, and new ones.

There are some truly beautiful pieces in this issue. We hope, as always, and as we have from the start, that you share it with a friend.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Bo Young and Dan Vera are editorials mid-wives and co-conspirators in creating each issue of White Crane.
Bo lives in Brooklyn, NY a few blocks from a museum and Dan lives in Washington, DC a few blocks from a Shrine.
Bo is the author of First Touch: A Passion for Men and Day Trilogy and Other Poems.
Dan is the author of two chapbooks of poetry, Crespuscalario and Seven Steps Up

If they sometimes seem interchangeable in the minds of White Crane readers it’s because they talk on the phone each day and bask under the shade of the same growing tree, the watering of which they consider their contribution to the continued flowering of gaiety.

You can write them at

WC72 – First Words…

From the Editors


Bo: I think there was probably as much consternation about doing an issue on “movies” as there was about doing the issue on “food.”

Dan: I didn’t think it’d be controversial. I mean everyone loves movies. At the very least everyone loves talking about movies. We’ve been told by our faithful readers — when we hear from them (ahem—a blatant plug for Letters to the Editor) that we need to lighten the topics. “Don’t do so many heady, serious themes all the time.” So we try to liven them up with some amusing themes — to use Frank O’Hara’s term. He defined something as amusing as an artwork that spoke to his muse…that a-Mused him. This is certainly the case with material we’re covering and also the conversation with Mark Thompson in this issue about fellow travelers.

Bo: They’re a fitting companion to the four portraits from the touring Fellow Travelers show we’re sponsoring. I’m just sorry we don’t have enough space to run more of them in the issue. But…on to the issue at hand. So, where were you and how old were you when Making Love came out?

Dan: Well, that’s going to date me. Making Love came out in 1982 so I would’ve been 15 years old at the time. But I remember the hubbub that occasioned the film. I remembered hunky Harry Hamlin from the Clash of the Titans movie a few years before and it was one of those films that caused Gay ripples in my consciousness way down in South Texas. So was Cruising, which was a big film with Al Pacino. Of course it’s an awful movie for many of the reasons Gay film critics have mentioned, but it was also a film on Gay subjects and it opened up the possibility that Gay people were out there somewhere.

Bo: I don’t think anyone can honestly make the argument that movies, film, cinema, isn’t an important component of “Gay culture” and always has been.

Dan: Well, it’s a mass medium and as such it has presented views of Gay life. I was talking to a friend of mine about the old Doris Day/Rock Hudson movies. He has teen-aged daughters who are pretty savvy and hip and they just love those old films. He’d gotten them three of the films in a DVD package called “The Romance Collection.” We were talking about how those films have a valance they didn’t have when they first came out. Movies like Pillow Talk are perfect little films because now, in retrospect, they tell a tale about the ridiculousness of gender lines. I mean Rock playing straight, playing Gay “mama’s boy” is funnier in hindsight. It renders the conventions ludicrous on so many levels.

Bo: I think one of the reasons Gay folk love movies so much is it’s a reflection of the “play acting” we all experience in our own lives — of “acting” straight. We relate on a very deep, psychic level to the medium. So when someone like Rock shows up, well, there’s just all this double entendre and subterfuge and wink-wink that we all are in on and straight culture may or may not be.

Dan: This might be the moment to talk about Vito Russo. His work was so helpful in helping me make connections to all these movies I enjoyed as a kid. I’m so happy to have Arnie Kantrowitz’s memoir of Russo in this issue. It seems like a proper act of paying due homage to the foremost Gay Cinema Maven.

Bo: It was only a matter of time before Gay Lib got into the movies. That’s the mirror America uses to look at itself and create its own mythology, which Vito so beautifully illustrated. I think another reason movies are so important to Gay folk has to do with how important it is as a tool and how important it is to American culture. It is probably the single most important export in the American economy.

Dan: But how telling is it that the healthiest depictions of Gay life aren’t usually American? Some of the best Gay films I’ve seen of late are films from France, Germany and England. The American Gay trope, even when it’s helmed by Gay creators, is mired in alienation, despair and death. How many times have we seen a Gay film from another country and thought, “if this were an American film, it’d end with a shooting or suicide.” Films like Cachorro (Bear Cub) from Spain, Sommersturm (Summerstorm) from Germany, Drôle de Félix (Adventures of Felix) from France. Those films are electrically vivid, very honest, and not mired in the trope of despair that most American Gay cinema is. And they accomplish it without being overly saccharine.

Bo: And it comes as no surprise that these are also the countries where we are more equal, less oppressed, more integrated. It seems Modern Europe is much more mature around matters of sex. These are also countries where fundamentalist Christianity isn’t as much in power. They’ve done a better job of keeping the secular separate from the church. And look what Hollywood has contributed to the religious community…the whole Biblical Epic movie. It becomes the entire vernacular for scripture for the man/woman on the street.

Dan: Yet even in biblical epics the best examples have profound Gay curves, whether it’s the campiness of Ten Commandments, Gore Vidal’s spin on Ben Hur, or in a more serious vein, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew. Which makes Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ look like a toddler’s horrific temper tantrum.

Bo: It’s powerful stuff that celluloid. We haven’t really talked about the powerful images of women in film and how Gay men have traditionally, and still do I suspect, been part of that adoration of women. Some even identify with them — all these butch men who can cite chapter and verse of Sunset Boulevard or Bette Davis in All About Eve. “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.” I mean what is that about? I suspect there’s some identifying with “hidden power” just lying under the surface of all that…

Dan: I think a lot of Gay men can come up with a list of strong women characters that made an impression even when they’re over the top. Eve Arden in Mildred Pierce, Greta Garbo in Ninotchka. The role of Gay men in creating that is clear. The image we have of Katherine Hepburn as an independent, strong-willed woman comes from the roles George Cukor directed her in — movies like Philadelphia Story, Pat & Mike and Adam’s Rib.

Bo: And James Whale who directed all the Frankenstein movies and The Invisible Man.
It’s fitting that we lead the cinema section with one of the most honored avant-garde directors of the last century, James Broughton. He was highly intellectual, if a bit giddy at times. It’s an excerpt from the forthcoming edition and our next book, ALL: A James Broughton Reader. The timing of the book with this issue was a beautiful bit of serendipity. So, we have a long honored history of Gay directors. Why is it, do you think, that there’s no lead actor, no leading man, who’s come out? Obviously we know that Lesbians are going to feed straight male fantasies. But the whole “brave to play Gay” thing, which so pisses me off — is still very much alive for men.

Dan: Well, the old saw we get handed is that actors are put up there to play heroic action/adventure heartthrob types and the viewing public won’t believe it from a Gay man. It shatters their illusions. And perhaps that’s a proof of sorts that the medium is very grounded in a society that still has deeply entrenched homophobia.

Bo: And I want to say horsefeathers! It’s called ACTING!

Dan: Well, that’s true. But the sad reality is that Rock Hudson, being who he was, would not have the same career today he had then if he’d been out of the closet. That supposition has not been disproved by a reality in the form of an out Gay actor. I mean we know they’re out there — Gay actors that is — but they’re still trapped in smaller roles or in complete silence. But I’d like to focus a bit on the role of out Gay people in cinema. A few years back we published that delightful piece by Josh Adler on Ian McKellen as a Gay Gandalf [WC#60 Greying Temples: Honoring Elderhood.] It was a lovely essay about Adler’s experience with his younger brother and how McKellen in the role of the sage Wizard in Lord of the Rings was a breakthrough for his little brother. His brother was able to understand and accept his Gay brother a little more because of that depiction.

Bo: Which brings us back to the power of imagery and that flickering light in a dark room with a group of people all round you…it’s intensely powerful in its ability to portray, project and build image and there’s also Gay people’s attraction to dark, sexy places. Movie houses are almost another one of the Sacred Groves.

Dan: I’m curious if you remember the first time you saw a Gay character and thought to yourself “Hey. That’s me up on the screen.” Do you remember the movie and the actor?

Bo: I’d have to say Women In Love. I soooo wanted to get into that wrestling scene…and I wanted to live in Alan Bates’ little stone cottage in the woods. But actually seeing someone who I thought was like me…I don’t think I have yet. Maybe Harold in Harold and Maude? But he wasn’t really Gay, either…at least not overtly so.

Dan: That is rightfully one of the best movies ever made.

Bo: So what’s yours?

Dan: Well it’s interesting. I think a lot of earlier movies spoke to me before I came out but they’re in a haze really. I guess it isn’t fair to ask a question you don’t have a clear answer to yourself. But I think the movies that spoke to me were those where people were misfits. Ergo my loving Harold and Maude too. I know this is going to sound odd, but Woody Allen’s Sleeper is one of my all time favorites. In hindsight it may have been the humor of the protaganist in a world where he just didn’t fit in. That and Woody’s Blanche Dubois imitation from Streetcar Named Desire is just delicious.

Bo: Woody does Blanche Dubois?

Dan: It’s a funny bit of gender bending towards the end of the movie where Diane Keaton does the Marlon Brando role and Woody Allen plays Blanche Dubois.

Bo: I didn’t remember that. I think one of the key things here is when you bring up movies in a room full of Gay men, you’re going to get a lot of response. I think one of the most interesting things in this issue is the section where we asked people to tell us about their favorite movie or most important movie. The response was huge! And it’s one of the most interesting and telling pieces in this issue.

Dan: So at the risk of treating cinema as light — which is only part of its power — we hope readers just enjoy a great issue and are inspired to look at some of these movies again.

Bo: We’re ready for our close up…

Bo Young and Dan Vera are editorials mid-wives and co-conspirators in creating each issue of White Crane.   Bo lives in Brooklyn, NY a few blocks from a museum and Dan lives in Washington, DC a few blocks from a Shrine.  Bo is the author of First Touch: A Passion for Men and Day Trilogy and Other Poems. Dan is the author of three chapbooks of poetry, Crespuscalario and Seven Steps Up.

If they sometimes seem interchangeable in the minds of White Crane readers it’s because they talk on the phone each day and bask under the shade of the same growing tree, the watering of which they consider their contribution to the continued flowering of gaiety.

You can write them at

WC71 – Editor’s Note

Opening Words from the Editors

Our Special Role
Dan Vera & Bo Young

Bo: So this was an issue long in the “a-borning” process.

Dan: Gestating?

Bo: We’ve had the germ of this issue for almost two years

Dan: Wow. Has it been that long?

Bo: Victor Marsh’s interview with Don Bachardy sat for a long time until we could figure out how to present it. I’m not really sure “Beats & Bohemians” is the right rubric for it.

Dan: Well we have talked about the term “Beats” being a misnomer. “Beats” was coined from “beatific” and applied by people outside the movement. It was an invention of the press, if memory serves.

Bo: And that “Bohemian” is a term that stretches from the turn of the century.

Dan: Yes. Andrew Ramer writes about the confusion-inducing nature of that term in his column this issue.

Bo: I think the idea is about “outsider” being “different” and the perspective that offers. And “Bohemia” has always seemed like a place where the sexual “transgressive” fit in. Andrew Ramer talks about it in his column, how there was this perception of sexual freedom right from the earliest notion of the term. I remember in my own “coming out” days wanting to get away. The Hippies were the bohemians of my youth and I wanted to be one.

Dan: What was it about them that attracted you?

Bo: The pretty men with long hair. The whole communal thing and the experimental nature of it all. They were trying out new ways of being in a time when I didn’t think much of the way I’d seen things being done. I wanted nothing so much as to put as much distance between me and Suburbia as I could. And Suburbia is still the only place I’m afraid of – that Stepford effect.

Dan: There is a geographic element to this discussion. I’m reminded of Edward Field’s recent memoir on the Bohemians of New York’s Greenwich Village after World War II. He writes about how they found this enclave where they were free to explore their lives and their art.

Bo: The dictionary’s first definition of “bohemian” is geographic. The second is about people who “live and act free of regard for conventional rules.” It’s about being unconventional.

Dan: Sure, but the question is what happens when the conventional rules change. Being gay in Chelsea or Washington DC’s Dupont Circle is not an act of brazen liberty is it?

Bo: No, but it was when those neighborhoods weren’t so trendy we made them trendy. In fact I’d go so far as to say we fix cities we settle areas that others desert.

Dan: So trendyness is today’s bohemianism?

Bo: No. That’s the wake, the afterward. It is about pioneering.

Dan: So Bohemianism gives birth to banality.

Bo: Only when it gets commodified after the true bohemians have moved on. It’s just one of the social roles that same sex people have always played. I don’t think it’s simply a subset of the group that sexual freedom is part of it. I think in some ways it defines it.

Dan: Where have they moved to? I guess that’s what I’m curious about. Cause I go back to the theory that Bohemianism has a direct relation to cheap rent. Allen Ginsberg could live on unemployment and do his art.

Bo: Oh yes. Cheap rent is very much a part of it. Except after the bohemians move in, the rents end up going up. We make it safe and profitable

Dan: So, I’m just asking the question that cities may not be where Bohemianism is living today because people can’t make art free of constraints if they’re working for Smith Barney to pay the rent. I was reminded from our recent time there that the same is true of the Castro. I’m sort of haunted by the conversations we had there with artists who struggle to make sense of what’s around them.

Bo: Well, there are surely “bohemian” people in rural places, too. I don’t think “bohemia” as a concept has a geography, per se. There are rural bohemians, and there are urban bohemians. The connection is living outside the boundaries, and moving the boundaries. It gets back to the traditional social role of same sex people, to my eye. It’s another “contrary” role – the “re-interpreter.”

Dan: I don’t think people struggled to create communities or neighborhoods so they could be co-opted. I think they wanted more – still want more. I don’t think the end result was to be tastemakers. That’s way too safe and we didn’t need liberation to perform that function—those of us who perform that function (not all of us do of course).

Bo: Oh I agree. I think the motivation is about finding a better, more satisfying way to live—unconstrained by social rules that have become constraints.

Dan: Well by most definitions the movement’s sort of hit a wall. I think the social rules can only apply if you’re living in Anniston or Pagosa Springs.

Bo: I don’t know those references.

Dan: Anniston, Alabama or Pagosa Springs, Colorado. I was just referencing more rural locales.

Bo: I think that’s the whole point. There isn’t any one “movement.” Bohemia is about the individual. The minute it becomes a “movement” it’s something else.

Dan: No. I disagree. The Beats, as we call them, were not individuals. That’s a total myth. They functioned and “succeeded” through their collective efforts. The reason we know of Burroughs and Kerouac is because of Ginsberg and the reason we have Ginsberg – as David Carter’s piece demonstrates beautifully – is because of his interaction with Burroughs and Kerouac. Ginsberg championed his friends’ work when no one would pay any attention. If the world loves On The Road, they owe a debt of gratitude to Ginsberg who used the his Howlfame to push for its publication

Bo: I think that’s the other side of this, too. All these radical “individualists” like the Goths now, or even the Hippies all dress alike, all look alike. It becomes about being identifiable. There is always this regression to a mean. But I think that is precisely what the “true bohemian” is responding to.

Dan: Sure. “The 50s begat the Beats which begat the Hippies, which begat the Punks” etcetera, but it sort of falls apart somewhere there at the end.

Bo: But there’s always one, or a few, who wander off and try to reestablish some individuality. It’s a very scary place to live, though, and it is certainly one of my interests with respect to modern gay folk. Getting back to Harry Hay’s whole idea that “the bedroom is the only place we’re like straight people.” It’s amazing how threatening that is to a large group of gay people and how easy it is to slip back into that Stockholm Syndrome of trying to convince hetero-society that we’re “just like them.” And how really difficult it is to stand outside and declare your differences. But this issue seems to confirm how important that is.

Dan: I just had a conversation with an artist we both know. He’s devoted his entire life to living simply so he can do his art. I asked him if he knew where the gay bohemians were today. His reply was a question. “Is there such a thing? I thought gay was part of the norm now so that we don’t need to live in special areas.”

Bo: Well, that is interesting. But for me it reinforces that the whole “gay lib” thing isn’t about sex. It’s about social roles. Sex is just sex, like Harry says. It’s the only place we’re the same as “them.” It’s every other way that makes us another “them.” As desperately as people will try to hold on to being “just like everyone else.” The feeling that it’s important to “fit in” is deeply tribal. It’s scary to be on the outs or feel like you’re on the outs. I think the point is that we actually have a special role and the sooner we go about defining it the better off we’ll all be.

Dan: What are some of those roles?

Bo: One of those roles is to be the outside commentor – the perspective that being outside, even briefly, offers. That’s very important for culture and society. Sometimes that outsider role is the joker, the jester making fun of things. That’s revolutionary by definition. And sometimes it is as the contrary: deliberately going against the flow. These are all definitions of “bohemians.”

Dan: I just think it’s near impossible to do that from a point of comfort. And we’re way too comfortable as an enclave. Chelsea is way too comfortable and cozy. Part of the dynamic is the carving out of space that is other, that is protected – a liberated zone if you will. Is there any chance to break from the rootlessness of that role? I mean to actually put down roots in a community? To not be the cultural interior decorator for the society or for realtors?

Bo: Well, for me that’s the point. “Bohemia” isn’t geographic. It’s a state of mind with very strong ego boundaries. Rootlessness is another synonym. They just don’t want to be confined by convention.

Dan: Maybe we’re challenged by trying to talk about them in general terms. Maybe it’s about intentionality. How you do things authentically.

Bachardyday2no3 Bo: There is a social co-dependency that is considered “the norm.” It’s easy if you fit in but not so easy if you don’t. Some people get bent out of shape with it all. Still others turn it into an art form. “Life as Art.” Which is certainly what Mr. Bachardy is doing.

Dan: It’s a big thing for our humble and solid little publication to be printing four of Don Bachardy’s nudes in this issue. They are truly works of art and they signify a threshold for us in keeping to our mission. You had the chance to sit for him. What was that experience like?

Bo: It was an honor to sit for him and fascinating. He works so fast and the concentration and meditation he speaks of in this interview, is palpable. There is a clear connection made with him as you sit there and his laser eye takes you in and translates you into color on the page. I think it’s Fauvist (another bohemian split from the art establishment in its time!) He really colors outside the lines. But I really got a sense that he lives to paint.

Dan: That may be the purest way to understand this issue. To talk about life as art. Or the pursuit of art. But I don’t think it has much to do with these creators thinking of themselves as Bohemians. It had more to do with their being honest about their lives and their expression of that liberated life through their art. I think these larger sociological conversations are just dead ends. They get too convoluted. Just sound like catch-phrases. Maybe because so much of the language has been co-opted on to Gap Ads.

Bo: Well I think that’s certainly true. Everything and everyone is capable of being coopted. But there will always be bohemians. Whatever they call themselves.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Bo Young and Dan Vera are editorials mid-wives and co-conspirators in creating each issue of White Crane. Bo lives in Brooklyn, NY a few blocks from a museum and Dan lives in Washington, DC a few blocks from a Shrine. Bo is the author of First Touch: A Passion for Men and Day Trilogy and Other Poems. Dan is the author of two chapbooks of poetry, Crespuscalario and Seven Steps Up. If they sometimes seem interchangeable in the minds of White Crane readers it’s because they talk on the phone each day and bask under the shade of the same growing tree, the watering of which they consider their contribution to the continued flowering of gaiety.

WC70 – Opening Words – Editors

Opening Words from the Editors

If you meet the Buddha in the Baths…
Dan Vera & Bo Young

Dan Vera: A few months back we heard from a writer we’d published. A somewhat well-known writer who had a change of heart — to be charitable —  and no longer wanted to be known as a gay man.  Although he was duplicitous in his dealings with us, taking us around the block with many tales of woe and stalkers, before he came clean and admitted the truth.  The real reasons he wanted his material removed from our website was it was going to hurt his sales in Asia if he were known as a gay writer.   Now this guy was looked up to as a source of “wisdom” by his readers and a “guide” for living the right life. Behind the scenes he’d made the decision that it wasn’t lucrative to his career to be known as a gay man.

Bo Young:  When we asked around we heard from other people that this sort of thing has happened for years in magazine publishing.  The whole point of White Crane has been that the talking circle eliminates the need for leaders. If we share our stories, we can learn from the collective wisdom of the community. As Sheldon Kopp famously advised, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” I think I have just reached a point where I don’t buy into the whole “guru” thing anymore.

Dan: For some reason I’m thinking of “right livelihood” which is good and what we’re talking about here… how would we differentiate?

Bo: That’s a good question…because there are some people that I’m fine with and others that my bullshit detectors just go off.  It’s a difficult distinction, and it gets back to the idea of discernment, which is, in one way or another, the topic we’ve been dancing around for the last four or five issues…just calling it another name, or approaching it from a different angle…like calling it “healthy spirituality.”

Dan: There are always exceptions to the rule. Last issue we spent some time discussing the need for mentors, or guides for the path. This issue, in a way, seems like a guide for what to watch out for. What sets off bullshit detectors? I mean on the one hand people got to put food on the table. We don’t have institutions that would normally take care of people doing this kind of work.

Bo: Well we do have institutions, but some of them are also simply imitations of old style, hierarchal institutions…it’s just “daddy telling you what to do” all over again…

Dan: So, maybe what we’re not crazy about is another “priestly class” of gurus?

Bo: But there seems to be this gaggle of people who see the whole “gay spirituality” movement as a career opportunity and present themselves as having all the answers, when I sincerely doubt they’re even asking the right questions. All they’ve really done is read the “canon” as it were, then they repackage it with themselves at the center, and hope to book a few author’s tours and cruises. It always comes back to Bob Barzan’s genius for me. He always used to say he thought most people had a good pamphlet in them, but the publishing business forced people to produce whole books…stretching a subject beyond it’s need and the thing writer had to say. If I get one more book that promises me “Self-Transformation for Joyful Living” I’m going to use them for fire starters!

Dan: Yeah, but combustion is never a good idea with those types of books. Because they always come clad with a glossy cover emblazoned with a soft-core smiling models.  I can imagine the toxic fumes those glossy covers would give off in a fireplace.    But your mentioning of cruises and retreats brings up the disturbing issues of class that are likely to come up around that kind of programming. It enforces an idea that only the wealthy or connected can have access to wisdom – that you need a spa to transcend.

Bo: Or the “nobility” of poverty. Somewhere in that scale is “the noble Indian” too, for lack of a better term. Or all things Indian are, by definition, holier, Earthier, more spiritual.

Dan: Yes. It’s faddish almost. A good teacher of mine, I don’t want to name drop here, used to joke that in Indian communities they always qualified Indian time in terms of “B.C.” eras. “Before Columbus,” “Before Custer” or “Before Costner.” Many Indian scholars see new age interest in Indian Religions as a form of self-colonization on the part of Indian tribes in which their rituals become a spectacle or observed event, completely changing the communal power.

Bo: And again…we come full circle to discernment…how do we know when to say “enough”? The thing that keeps coming to me is our Be Your Own Guru t-shirt. “Snake oil” and “charlatan” comes down discernment…how to separate wheat from chaff, gold from fools gold? — or fools from their gold?

Dan: There’s a lot of pyrite in them thar hills. That brings up another bullshit warning. Beware a teacher who claims infallibility.  I love that old line from the Kena Upanishad: “If you believe you know, you do not know. If you believe you do not know, you know.”  It doesn’t mean there aren’t basic understandings, but absolutes are very tricky.

Bo: Sure…and there’s another dynamic of seeing something or someone who once was a teacher for you but is no longer…someone is still going to need that kind of teaching even if YOU don’t. “Been there, done that” doesn’t necessarily mean it no longer has value.

Dan: Agreed. It once held value but doesn’t anymore. But there are some who never break from that. They never seem to move beyond that disciple stage or even know it’s a possibility.

Bo: There are people who never leave therapy, either…and there’s a connection. In therapy there’s the phenomenon called transference and reverse transference (from the therapist to the patient). It’s no accident that some of our most loyal readers are therapists. Doing your own psychological work is an inherent part of spiritual growth. So there’s a natural bent towards “self-help” work and therapists and “those from whom all wisdom flows” and I guess my own interest is where does that process end and when do we stand up and say “you know, I think I have the tools I need to make my own mind up”…that’s discernment. When do we start looking inside ourselves for the answers instead of outside? I’m tired of being told that the answers are “out there” and that we need some intermediary to attain it…one of the first things I ever wrote was my own declaration of what I was seeking and right at the top of the list was I was tired (as a recovering Roman Catholic) of intermediaries interpreting for me. I was willing to sit in student/teacher relationship, but only if I knew there was going to be an end to it and at some point knowledge and such would be passed along to me.

Dan: I think another thing to always watch for is our own penchant for placing teachers on pedestals. We forget their fallibility. And it’s not useful. We don’t need more hierarchies. We’re not maturing. We’re giving the authority, again, to someone else.

Bo: When I was trained as a therapist, one teacher suggested that therapy was like a boat that people take to get “the other shore.” But the problem was, most people never got out of the boat! And it’s the same with spiritual gurus and teachers. People either get lost in the myth or the myth-teller, it seems, and forget that it’s meant to be poetry and metaphor trying to explain something that is, in the end, unexplainable. It’s Dorothy and the Wizard. Eventually someone has to pull the curtain and see who’s pulling the strings. Learning that those imperfections — including my own — were part of the deal. That’s something I think people fall prey to…this idea that we can BE perfected.

Dan: When you say people fall prey, do you mean searchers or leaders? Or both? I’m guessing searchers because that’s the belief that can be preyed upon by a bad guru. A “buru.”  I think it’s the role of the mentor to be constantly checking his altitude. When you sense you’re floating too high, you need to step off the pedestal you’re being placed on. “Uh oh, the air is thinning. Crap. They’re doing it again.” [teacher steps down]

Bo: And I still think that’s putting the responsibility on the outside. At some point each of us has to know when to say “enough.” When to know when the learning has run its course and now it’s time to move on. Which is not to say we don’t value teaching. I just have reached a point where I think the ultimate authority has to be YOU.

Dan: There’s that great story in the Christian Gospels about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, which is enormously revolutionary.

Bo: Yes. That’s certainly a Christian image that sticks with me. The humility. You don’t see a whole hell of a lot of humility out there. It’s usually “I have all the answers.” Or I have the answers you need, at least…follow me.

Dan: Another warning sign is beware a guru who’s an angel in public and a mean S.O.B. in private. I’m sure we could tell stories.  For me it means that one’s public and private life shouldn’t be a Jekyll and Hyde production.

Bo:  And doesn’t that seem like it should go without saying almost?

Dan: Sure, but then you run into so many “private bastard/public angel” that you think that’s normal.

Bo: That’s why I love the idea of the “secret mentor” that Chris Bartlett writes about in this issue. The Jewish tradition has levels of mitzvahs where you do good deeds, with varying levels of public knowledge or awareness about it…ranging from everyone knowing you’ve done it to it being done in complete anonymity. Eric Rofes would talk about this…being a “secret mentor”…he would see someone who he believed was doing good work or had potential to do good work and he would support them. But he would do it without letting them know he was doing it…sending books, articles, making connections for them.

Dan: Look, I think what we’re talking about is another refraction of the last issue, which was all about mentors and maturity and transmitting gay culture. We’re all searching out and trying to make sense of this “one wild and precious life” as Mary Oliver puts it. We find guides, fellow travelers, who can point us in the right direction. Some of them screw us over and some of them honor us with their grace.

Bo: Occasionally, the screwing over is as valuable as the grace.  The “screwing over” is the grace.

Dan: Well, yeah. So, we do our own work knowing that we’re going to be called on to guide others after us. So this issue is as much a handbook for future guides as it is a warning to searchers.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are reader-supported and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!