Category Archives: WC72 – Cinema

WC72 – Updrafts

Edited by Dan Vera

Abstinence is a “neuter” movement.  I don’t care what people do in bed, or if they don’t do anything. I just don’t think that everybody else has to feel how you feel about it. Whether it’s sex, religion or politics.
~John Waters

We are all one and if we don’t know it, we will learn it the hard way.
~Bayard Rustin

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
~Leonard Cohen (shared by Bernard Morin)

When I took the battered Bolex into my own hands I wanted to explore a more fluid form of cinema, using poems as shooting scripts…I wanted to see a cinema that would dance to words. I wanted to unite my two passions, poetry and dance, into something magical. I had always wanted to dance impossible dances. ~James Broughton

As someone who is simply making his best effort to be a rational human being, I am very slow to draw metaphysical conclusions from experiences of this sort. The truth is, I experience what I would call the “selflessness of consciousness” rather often, wherever I happen to meditate-be it in a Buddhist monastery, a Hindu temple, or while having my teeth cleaned. Consequently, the fact that I also had this experience at a Christian holy site does not lend an ounce of credibility to the doctrine of Christianity. ~Sam Harris

Anyone who has swallowed the scriptwriter’s notion that this is a film about the superiority of “home” over “away,” that the moral of The Wizard of Oz is as sickly sweet as an embroidered sampler, “east west home’s best,” “there’s no place like home” would do well to listen to the yearning in Judy Garland’s voice as her face tilts upwards to the skies.  What she expresses here, what she embodies with the purity of an archetype, is the human dream of leaving.  A dream at least as powerful as it’s countervaling dream of roots.  At the heart of the Wizard of Oz is the tension between these two dreams.  But as the music swells and that big clean voice flies into the anguished longings of the song, can anyone doubt which message is the stronger?

In its most potent emotional moment this is unarguably a film about the joys of going away, about leaving the grayness and entering the color, of making a new life in the place where there isn’t any trouble.

“Over the Rainbow” is, or ought to be, the anthem of all the world’s migrants, all those who go in search of the place where  “the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.”  It is a celebration of escape, a grand paean to the uprooted self, a hymn, THE HYMN, to “elsewhere.”
~Salman Rushdie on The Wizard of Oz

The gay social contract allows a different, more generous, permission to center bliss in our lives.  “Bliss” here does not mean simply plastering a beatific smile across one’s face. Bliss transcends recreation. It means something more philosophical, akin to what the cultural critic Joseph Campbell meant by his dictum “follow your bliss.”  It is what Paul Monette described as our “flagrant joy.” Call it fun, call it play, call it eros, it encompasses a wild gamut of playfulness, pleasure and performance, whimsy and wackiness, silliness and spectacle.  By whatever name, there is something markedly different in how our queer customs support the pursuit of happiness. Our bliss is the next page where we color outside the lines laid down by the larger culture. The centrality of bliss and play in our lives has political and social implications, affects our cultural and artistic contributions, and may even shape the well-being of the species. We may be having fun, but we’re not just fooling around.
~David Nimmons, The Soul Beneath the Skin

Archbishop Peter J. Akinola, primate of the Church of Nigeria and leader of the conservative wing of the communion, recently threw his prestige and resources behind a new law that criminalizes same-sex marriage in his country and denies gay citizens the freedoms to assemble and petition their government. The law also infringes upon press and religious freedom by authorizing Nigeria’s government to prosecute newspapers that publicize same-sex associations and religious organizations that permit same-sex unions.

Because the conflict over homosexuality is not unique to Anglicanism, civil libertarians in this country, and other people as well, should also be aware of the archbishop and his movement. Gifts from such wealthy donors as Howard Ahmanson Jr. and the Bradley, Coors and Scaife families, or their foundations, allow the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy to sponsor so-called "renewal" movements that fight the inclusion of gays and lesbians within the Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches and in the United Church of Christ. Should the institute succeed in "renewing" these churches, what we see in Nigeria today may well be on the agenda of the Christian right tomorrow.

Surprisingly, few voices — Anglican or otherwise — have been raised in opposition to the archbishop. When I compare this silence with the cacophony that followed the Episcopal Church’s decision to consecrate the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, a gay man who lives openly with his partner, as the bishop of New Hampshire, I am compelled to ask whether the global Christian community has lost not only its backbone but its moral bearings. Have we become so cowed by the periodic eruptions about the decadent West that Archbishop Akinola and his allies issue that we are no longer willing to name an injustice when we see one?   
~John Bryson Chane, Episcopal Bishop of Washington

“For the Greeks the essence of friendship consisted in discourse. They held that only the constant interchange of talk united citizens in a polis…However much we are affected by the things of the world, however deeply they may stir and stimulate us, they become human for us only when we can discuss them with our fellows…We humanize what is going on in the world and in ourselves only by speaking of it; and in the course of speaking of it we learn to be human.”   ~Hannah Arendt

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!

Updrafts is a regular feature of  White Crane.  If you have a little bit  of wisdom to share with us, send it to us at

WC72 – Our Bodies: HPV & Gay Men

Our Bodies
Yes, I’m Talking to You!
A Conspiracy of Silence about Gay Men’s Anal Health

By Jeff Huyett

If you have watched television over the last six months, you’ve seen public service announcements and advertisements about the advances in prevention of human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers.

Thankfully, a vaccine has been developed that will prevent nearly all cervical cancers and genital warts in women. Sadly, one will only see a female face in regards to the prevention of HPV-related cancers. Gay men, who face a much higher risk to develop HPV-related cancers, are non-existent in advertising and public health announcements about these medical breakthroughs.

72_ourbodiesCurrently, gay men develop anal cancers due to HPV at the alarming rate that women developed cervical cancer forty years ago when preventive screening began. That means that HIV-negative gay men develop anal cancers at a rate four-times higher than cervical cancer in women today. HIV-positive gay men develop anal cancers at nine times the rate of cervical cancer. Yet most gay men haven’t even heard about HPV. They do not know that methods exist to prevent the development of anal cancer due to HPV. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection with six million new infections each year.

Policy-makers and public health officials have known that gay men are getting anal cancer at increasing rates. Scientific papers in medical journals have reported the increase of anal cancer in men in cities like San Francisco for some time now. Why is it that gay men are not afforded the same kind of preventive screening as women if the risk is so much higher?

Just twenty-five years ago, I was part of a small number of gay men’s health advocates sounding the alarm about the impending HIV tsunami in large Midwestern cities. We were told not to worry, this “gay cancer” was only going to happen in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. We knew different. We’d already buried gay men whose families has refused their bodies after they died. We also developed a healthy skepticism for public health officials who relied heavily on outmoded data collection systems and worked in a homophobic climate.

As a gay men’s health advocate during those twenty-five years, I find myself, once again, sounding an alarm about a health issue that impacts gay men more heavily than others and, yet, is being ignored by policy makers, insurers, and even gay men and their health care providers. The alarm isn’t as loud as twenty-five years ago when I watched friends, lovers, and patients dying rapidly from HIV. Nearly 2,000 men a year will be diagnosed with anal cancer. The cancer is treatable with chemotherapy and radiation treatments and it’s dangerous if it spreads throughout the body. The most alarming part, the part about which I speak most loudly, is the ignorance and inaction of gay men, health care providers and policy makers.

While anal cancer isn’t that common, it’s preventable. But you can only prevent anal cancer if you know you have HPV, are screened and have the precancerous areas treated. You can only do this if you live in an area where anal Pap smear testing is available and resources exist to provide preventive follow-up.
So why aren’t these methods employed? Clearly, one reason is homophobia — on the parts of public health officials and gay men themselves. You only have to read the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) webpage on “HPV in Men” to see the blatant disregard for our health:

“The risk for anal cancer is seventeen times higher among gay and bisexual men than among heterosexual men.”

“There are currently no tests approved to detect early evidence of HPV-associated cancers in men.”
A lie.

The anal cytology test that screens for tissue changes can detect HPV-related cancers in the anal canal and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The test to screen for the HPV virus itself, while approved to screen a woman’s cervix is not approved to screen the anal canal for HPV.

The medical establishment — including gay health providers — is waiting for the study that proves that the prevention methods work. Specialists, like me, have been employing various methods to prevent the growth of HPV-related tissue mutations for nearly 10 years. We see it work to prevent cancer. We do not witness cancer develop in those who have preventive treatment. But clinicians demand that therapy be absolutely proven before employing screening. How do you research a currently employed method? You give half the subjects the treatment and you give have the subjects no treatment and see who gets cancer. This just isn’t ethical research when the prevention method is already employed and appears effective in those who use it.

Some officials say we shouldn’t recommend screening and treatment until we have more answers. This was not the approach taken to prevent cervical cancer. We didn’t even know HPV caused cervical cancer when clinicians began screening and offering preventive treatment. But it was considered poor practice not to enlist the methods available at that time to do everything possible to prevent cervical cancer. And it worked. Cervical cancer has been reduced by 500%.

During the HIV epidemic, clinicians like me became used to working in an information vacuum. We learned to keenly read scientific papers, experiment for non-existent treatments, and give full attention to layers of homophobia that existed in policy and procedure. In this information void, with no HIV treatment, we heartily encouraged gay men to run and get tested for HIV.

Anal cancer, and the tissue in the anus that it affects, has many similarities to cervical cancer. We do have an existing model of information to rely on — gynecology. Like other health issues, one employs existing knowledge about a disease state until more details of the disease emerge. I readily employ the methods of anal screening and prevention and see it work! My skill as a gynecological practitioner has informed me in the treatment of these HPV-related tissue mutations. Any gay-friendly health care provider interested in providing comprehensive health can do this.

A simple swab in the anus can detect the presence of abnormal cells. “Anal cytology” is an FDA-approved test and it has utility to inform the patient and the clinician about abnormal anal tissue. More precise examination and testing of anal tissue can isolate precancerous lesions and then one of many “ablative” techniques can be employed to remove this mutated tissue in-office. So why aren’t these methods demanded by gay men who are at risk?

I believe that gay men are plague weary from HIV. I believe that we are reluctant to address another health issue related to our sexual practices so just don’t advocate on our behalves. But, I find it astonishing, that in the midst of the HIV pandemic, we are unaware of another important health risk. Clearly, anal cancer prevention means we have to acknowledge we have butt sex. It dredges up the feelings of homophobia that we thought we had dealt with long ago. To screen properly, and to achieve optimal health, we must honestly admit to our sexual practices.

There is, still, a stigma to anal sex even in gay male communities. Bottoms are considered “less than” tops. For some, anal sex is considered “dirty” and therefore shameful. Even though research shows 40% of heterosexual women have engaged in butt sex, gay men are considered to have a corner on the market of this equal opportunity sex organ. Our sex is still considered unnatural. And we continue to own the shame that is contributed to that part of our body.

The anus is a nether region of the body not commonly inspected or felt by health care consumers or their providers. Standards of care for gay men do not always include inspection of the anal canal if one is having anal sex. It would be unconscionable to forego inspection of the vagina in a sexually active woman. Again, we do not apply the same standard of care for gay men’s sexual health that we provide to women. There should be no more shame in having testing for anal cancer than there is for women who have annual cervical Pap smears.

Like HIV, nothing related to anal cancer will likely change until gay men speak out. We learned this lesson with HIV. No one is looking out for gay men’s health so we must do it ourselves. It is time to demand changes in the health care system to bring our health screening and prevention methods into the modern age to reflect our risk. We must educate ourselves better about potential health risks, especially those that are ignored by governmental and officious bodies who are going to reflect the climate of the federal administration.

It is time that we become aware of anal health risks and prevention practices. We must do this for ourselves. No on else will.

In a recent letter I wrote to the CDC, I exclaimed my dismay that they were doing nothing helpful to prevent anal cancer in gay men. I explained that I would not be silent. I would continue to dog them as they clearly did not have my ass covered.

For more information visit or

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!

Jeff Huyett is a nurse practitioner living in NYC. His clinical work has primarily been in queer health with a focus on HIV, rectal and transgender care. He is the Radical Faerie Daisy Shaver and is involved with the development of Faerie Camp Destiny Radical Sanctuary in Vermont and can be reached at 

Our Bodies is a regular feature of White Crane.

WC72- Praxis


The publisher of this journal, wrote to me about the spiritual guidance every little Gay boy gets from films, that “They’re practically inspired texts for us.” I believe that the hushed time we spend in vast dark chambers, or sitting in darkened rooms, taps into the deepest shamanic roots of our history, into the sacred rites of the Eleusinian and other Mysteries, where up from the silent blackness rise the collective stories of our tribe, our people, our lineage.

My evolving Gay psyche was informed by two different kinds of films, which I began to watch around the time that I reached puberty — Steve Reeves muscle flicks, and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies. In the argument about whether Gay identity is innate or constructed I always cite this as an example: I’ve never met a single straight man who stayed home to watch Steve or Fred and Ginger. But I’ve met a good many Gay men who did, often long before we came out, because we recognized something about ourselves in those films, something campy, defiant, heroic, and gender-reconstructing that speaks to one aspect of who we are. And for me in my closet, they were sexy — and safe. Steve always got his clothes ripped off by equally hunky adversaries, perhaps an ancestor of porn films. And Fred and Ginger always went from dislike or disconnection to romance, with music and dance, an ancestor perhaps of discos. But none of them kissed.

The first homosexual movie I ever saw was The Boys in the Band, which came out in 1970. I went to see it with my father and stepmother the summer after my freshman year in college, in a theatre a few blocks away from the Stonewall Inn. We’d walked over there the morning after the riot, when a friend of my stepmother’s called to tell her that “the fags” had rioted the night before. I viewed The Boys in the Band as if it were a documentary. Terrified of my fate, not wanting to be that torturously unhappy, I dived even deeper into my closet for a few years. It was yet another film, Women in Love, with screenplay by Larry Kramer, which gave me the courage to finally come out to myself, in my junior year of college, in 1972, sitting by myself in a dark theatre on the outskirts of Jerusalem during a matinee. Even though it had a tragic ending, seeing two men attempting to connect in a physical/spiritual way gave me a sense that something was possible I had only thus far dreamed of.

A year later, and two or three months into our relationship, my first boyfriend planned a surprise dinner for me. Leading me up the stairs to the top of our building in Berkeley, we scrambled up the sloped shed above the stairs – to the flat roof above it where Richard had spread out a yellow tablecloth, place settings, and covered bowls of food. At the far end of that small space he’d set up his little television, having borrowed extension cords from half our neighbors so that he could plug it in up there. The city stretched out below us, rolling down to the bay, with the hills of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance creating a perfect back-frame for the television. As the sun was setting, gloriously, and twinkling lights were coming on all around us, Richard leaned over to turn on the TV, just as Fred and Ginger in The Gay Divorcee began. He too had stayed home from school as a teenager to watch it.

Fred and Ginger and other movies taught me several things about love and romance, which have led me astray for forty years. I’ve made too many life decisions based on fantasies from films I watched as a boy, and continue to hope for movie love scenes in my real life. Granted, some of what I learned from films came from my hunger to understand a way of living that wasn’t being explained to me. From what I gleaned I assembled a perception of life based on footage rather than on walked experience, because films were the only resource I had. I was in my early twenties before I saw a photograph of two men kissing, and I was in my mid- twenties before I saw a Gay film, the documentary Word is Out, which opened in 1977. It was my introduction to Harry Hay and a world of spirit that I needed to discover. And then in 1982, in the same theatre, I watched Making Love, the big first Hollywood movie to deal with Gay love. I remember the thrill of seeing two men together, larger than life, on a huge screen in a dark packed room. I felt that we had finally arrived, been granted authenticity by the myth-making apparatus of our time. And the film hauntingly paralleled the end of my relationship with Richard. Ginger and Fred began with conflict. Richard and I ended with it, as did the couple in Making Love. And while the newly out and then abandoned lover ended up living happily ever after in a tidy coda to the film, I have yet to find the perfect husband.

Even as a boy I was appalled by the amount of money paid to performers, the amount of money it costs to produce a movie, and I still am. My father, a film lover, tried to convince me that the money went toward paying the salaries of all the people who worked on the film, but I was never convinced. What else could that money do, what else could it be spent on, I still ask myself? Why have we made idols, stars, out of performers, following the minute details of their lives instead of living our own? And do we even respect the collective art that goes into making a movie? Do we sit till the very last credit rolls by, honoring all who are named, or do we walk out, because for us the event ends when the performances stop? Do we clap at the end of movies? Did we ever? Is a movie a play in translation, from stage to screen, or is it a derivative of photographs? After all we still call them motion pictures. Do we get dressed up to go to the movies? We used to when I was a boy. Or is your movie life shaped by Netflix, a very private affair, even if shared with a few others?

Tom Spanbauer, in his magnificent new book, Now Is The Hour, wrote of our time in movie theatres, “Magic when the lights went dark. The dimmer the lights, the more the something inside so covered up and careful in you came up and out.” Sometimes what comes up and out is good inspiration. But sometimes what comes up isn’t such a good thing. It’s what I call un-spiration. Negative guidance that misleads rather than informs.

    1. Write down the names of the three movies that have inspired you the most.
    2. What did you learn from them and how has it enhanced your life?
    3. Write down the three movies that have most led you astray.
    4. What faulty information did you gleam from them, and what can you to do reprogram it in your psyche?

For many of us films are “inspired texts.” But not for all of us. In eight years together my ex and I only went to the movies twice. He found the sound and large screen too stressful and overwhelming, too intense and too artificial, although I did drag him off to see It’s A Wonderful Life and The Gay Divorcee. And when I go to the movies I always take earplugs with me. These days, I don’t go very often. My primary texts were and remain, not paradoxically – books. Hence my place in a magazine and not at a film festival. But what comes up and out for you these illuminated texts?

  • If you are a regular moviegoer, don’t watch any films for at least a month, and ask yourself – “What am I using movies for? Is it a good thing?” Notice how much time you spend talking about movies, as if what was going on in those fictional dimensions was reality. Are you fed by films, do they inspire you to make the world a better place, or are they an escape from reality? If so, what can you do to change your life?
  • If you are someone who doesn’t watch movies at all, or very often, please try and see at least two movies and preferably three in the next month. Ask yourself – “Why am I not going to the movies? Is that a good thing?” Are you avoiding films because you are avoiding life, or because ________ (Fill in the blank.) Perhaps it’s time to review your relationship to movies. Perhaps it’s time to explore a new genre.

Movies may be the mass shamanic experience of our time. Or maybe they aren’t. We don’t even have good language for talking about the movies. We say, “I saw…. last night. Have you seen it yet?” as if the seeing were all there is. We have no way to merge the seeing and hearing of a film into one word. And therein the paradox remains. Film cannot capture or duplicate experience. But, perhaps, it can explain it.

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!

Andrew Ramer lives in San Francisco.   He is the author of the gay classic  Two Flutes Playing  from White Crane Press (available at   
Praxis is a regular feature in White Crane.

WC72 – Review of The Way Out

Rvu_nutter_2The Way Out:
The Gay Man’s Guide to Freedom No Matter If You’re in Denial, Closeted, Half In, Half Out, Just Out or Been Around the Block

By Christopher Lee Nutter
Health Communications, Inc.
189 pages, paperback, $14.95

Reviewed by Toby Johnson

Part edgy memoir, part social criticism, part spiritual writing, The Way Out is Christopher Nutter’s account of his journey from closeted, nerdy Alabamian to hot and sexy New York Gay bartender and party boy, to jaded and unhappy victim of Gay club culture glitz, to spiritual seeker and exponent of Gay wisdom.

There are not a lot of details of Nutter’s autobiography in the book; the book isn’t about him. But his personal story provides the framework within which to share the insights he has gained over his twelve years as an explorer of urban Gay life. There’s just enough personal anecdote, from his own life and from that of friends he cites, to keep the wisdom grounded, and the insights identifiable and personal.

Chris Nutter grew up in straight middle-America, in his case in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 70s and 80s. As a child, he was depressed and withdrawn, he tells, because he didn’t feel attractive enough or masculine and self-confident. Once he got to college, he began to remedy his sense of physical and personal inadequacy by going to the gym, changing his look, and acting the role of privileged pretty boy. But he was still in denial of his sexual feelings. So it was a monumental shift in his life when in 1993 he decided to take control of his own destiny. He dropped his plans for law school to do what he wanted to do, which was to be a writer, came out Gay, took a magazine internship job in Boston, and, most significantly, initiated his new identity by writing an article for Details magazine about life in the closet. He burst out of his own closet on a national scale. And was met with almost universal acceptance.
As he tentatively explored the Gay sub-cultural world of the big cities, he discovered Gay club culture: “gorgeous, glamorous Gay men with hot bodies.” He threw himself into that world. He scored a job as a bartender at a famous Gay bar, wrote for a Gay magazine, posed for classy homoerotic photography. So by the standards of that glitz Gay club culture, he’d made it. He was one of those men with the hot bodies. He could do attitude and fuck like it was an athletic sport. But he still wasn’t happy.

He observes that “coming out of the closet is usually thought of as the singular answer to the Gay ‘predicament.’ But then the Gay world just takes over your mind and fills your head with yet another false reality about who you are. It’s a solution, but only part of the whole solution, a step in the right direction, but only a step. There remains the deeper question of who you really are. And this is a spiritual question.”

Intermixing themes in current spiritual thought: the Dalai Lama, Joseph Campbell, Don Miguel Ruiz, Gary Zukav, A Course in Miracles, the Twelve Steps, Nutter offers an answer to who you really are. And in the process recounts how he came to understand this through his experience in urban Gay culture. The answer, of course, isn’t new or surprising. It’s the age-old answer: we are each a perspective that “God” or “Divine Consciousness” or “the cosmos” …whatever you want to call “IT” is taking on itself. We are not separate beings, competing and fighting with one another. We are each other and so it’s ok to tell the truth, it’s ok to let go of fear, it’s ok to love and respect other human beings as expressions of the divine consciousness.

Nutter identifies five steps in changing one’s life: Decide to Heal; Recognize Your Pain as Your Pain; Look For How You Cover Up or Avoid Your Pain; Refrain From Reacting, Feel Your Pain and Learn What Is Causing It; and Correct Your Vision. These describe the dynamics of psychotherapy and consciousness-raising, but presented in identifiable terms, based in modern day experience. They also echo the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths.

Chris Nutter’s articulation of this wisdom is fresh and current. He speaks with the voice of his generation and in a way that makes this revolutionary mystical wisdom seem obvious and inevitable, even though it is life-altering. And he derives his wisdom from his Gay experience not in repudiation or rejection of it.

Nutter is a little judgmental about that glitzy Gay club culture. There certainly is justification for this. The club culture/Gay bar culture/sexual underworld can be alluring, then addicting, then destructive. Some men’s lives are ruined by drugs and alcohol and compulsive sex. Some men need “the way out” from the Gay world, just as they had earlier needed “the way out” of the closet. For most Gay men, I think, this comes about as simply the natural development of growing older and changing priorities. But even for those who are just naturally growing up, a book like this can be immensely helpful. We all go through those five steps whether we know it or not. It helps to know it and to have some guidance in understanding where the process is going.

It’s refreshing to discover a book like this coming from the youth generation of today. It’s one thing when these ideas about mature Gay consciousness come from psychiatrists and professional spiritual writers. It’s quite another, much more immediately accessible and believable, when it comes from one of those gorgeous, hot bartenders.

Interesting, by the way, Nutter doesn’t use the word queer. There’s a welcome naiveté about the politicized terminology of the Gay movement; this gives the book a feel of personal honesty and straightforwardness and makes it speak its wisdom that much more effectively.
It is exciting and concerning that Chris Nutter has derived this wisdom and spiritual worldview on his own. It confirms the intuition that Gay men are talented at designing worldviews and religions (as we are with flowers and furniture). This is the personal yoga of every one of us today: to create our own religion. What’s concerning is that he had to do it without the help of the generations of other Gay spiritual seekers who’ve done it before him because their wisdom just isn’t readily available to the mainstream — and especially the Gay club — culture. Our Gay history keeps getting lost.

It’s a symptom of collective homophobia — and how it gets expressed in mainstream Gay culture — that young homosexuals seeking to overcome personal homophobia naturally resist instruction from older homosexuals out of the very homophobia they’re trying to overcome. This dynamic is familiar as the notion that homosexuals can’t be trusted to be accurate reporters on homosexuality because we’d be biased! As though personal experience and knowing whereof one speaks is a “bias.” Exacerbating the problem of passing Gay wisdom down from one generation to another is that the very experience of realizing and accepting one’s own homosexuality usually is concomitant with realizing you can only trust your own counsel, everything you’ve been told about sexuality is wrong and you have to discover the secret truth yourself. In Buddhist terms, you’re on your own and nobody’s going to save you. So each generation of “homosexuals” begins by rejecting the past and distrusting all passed-down wisdom, whether it’s from their parents, their church and government or from Gay community elders. (This manifests, of course, as the continual evolving of the “politically correct” name for the movement; every generation rejects the previous generation.)
So in a way I have to think I’m sorry Chris Nutter had to go without the accumulated wisdom of the Gay elders. Our community somehow needs to learn its historical continuity and “apostolic” succession and make this consciousness accessible to youth just joining us. But I am also quite proud of him for having made the perilous journey. I expect him to take his place among the new generation of Gay leaders and luminaries.
The Way Out is a good book. It’s easy to read, interesting and thought-provoking. Nutter’s presentation of the perennial wisdom is fresh and accessible.

WC72 – Review of Pay Me What I’m Worth

Rvu_souldancerPay Me What I’m Worth:
A Guide to Help You Say It, Mean It, Get It

By Souldancer
Souldancer Network
198 pages, paperback, $19.95

Reviewed by Toby Johnson

When I was first putting up the White Crane Journal website nearly a decade ago now, and discovering that creating links with other websites was the key to carving out a space for oneself on the worldwide web, I found a site called Gay Evolution. The goal of this website was an online community of Lesbian and Gay people committed to personal growth and the general principles of the human potential movement. Gay Evolution proved — not surprisingly, I suppose — a little ahead of its time. Online communities, like MySpace, hadn’t really evolved yet. And Gay Evolution was idealistic, not just social. It came to function primarily as a referral site for career and personal coaches. It certainly assisted me as editor, back then, of White Crane Journal in learning of Gay professionals across the country. But then in the notorious shakeup of the dot-coms and retrenching of the Internet, the Gay Evolution site got left behind.

I’ve stayed friends, and occasional correspondent, with one of the founders of Gay Evolution, the man who now goes by the name Souldancer. He has evolved himself, staying on that cutting edge, now offering, as he says, “a unique blend of multicultural ancient wisdom with the best of global business practices.” Souldancing: The Path of the Masters is the name he gives his approach to personal coaching and set of techniques for helping clients improve their lives and create happiness and satisfaction for themselves. And, of course, Souldancing is the source of the name he’s adopted for himself.

He has now produced a workbook-like text presentation summarizing one of the central themes from his coaching practice. And he has titled it with one of the great complaints career coaches must deal with all the time: “Pay Me What I’m Worth.” From a practical perspective — and that is what coaches specialize in, being practical and realistic — this is one of the most common sources of dissatisfaction with work people have: their job doesn’t pay them what they’re worth, which is to say, what they need to be happy and fulfilled as human beings.

The title might sound like simply instructions in asking for a raise. And it is that, but that is only a small part of the book. For to ask for a raise, Souldancer says, you need to believe you’re worth more to your employer because you believe in your own worth. So while there’s a little advice about how to properly and effectively word a request for a raise, that business practice offers the occasion for a much broader and richer quest for understanding what you really want (and need at the karmic/soul level) from the work you do. That is to say that the preparation for asking for a raise is really a quest to understand what your life is for.

The book offers a series of 33 exercises, all of them aimed at producing a so-called “Worth Passport.” The techniques are all pretty simple—like making post-it notes identifying your positive traits or your personal possessions, skills, and talents, then sorting them in various ways. You need to be able to assess your “worth” if you’re going to ask somebody else to pay you for it. And in the process, you discover there is so much more to you than just what you do in a job or what they pay you for. Producing your “Worth Passport” results in a major investigation of patterns in your whole life. And so the technique for determining occupational worth opens out into a practice for increasing self-esteem, confidence and sense of well-being.

Remember, Souldancer says he is blending good business practice with multicultural ancient wisdom. So it’s not surprising that the mercenary question about salary requirements turns into a spiritual inventory. As the exercises continue, they demonstrate that giving is the way to get and that integrity and ethical living is the best success and the way to get paid by life with happiness and fulfillment.

So the thing about asking for a raise is really a hook to pull you toward enlightenment and wisdom.

If you really are wanting help to ask for a raise, this book could be very useful. There’s good practical advice. BUT it is likely to transform you way beyond just getting a better salary.

For the purpose of writing a review, I read the book fast without actually doing the exercises. I’m sure I’d had benefited more fully if I had done them. But I want to attest that the book was interesting, occasionally eye-opening, and beneficial just read as a presentation on how people’s self-image and self-worth manifests itself in the details of their real lives.

So just like my finding Gay Evolution in the early days of the Internet, I suppose, Souldancer’s gimmick is to link all the various hungers we have for “more” in our lives into the great hunger for personal fulfillment and love. It’s the links that count. This is a useful book on many levels!

WC72 – Review of Absolutely Positively Not

Rvu_larochelleAbsolutely Positively Not
by David LaRochelle
Arthur A. Levine Books
224 pages, $16.95
ISBN: 0439591090

Review by Steven LaVigne

An article in the Metro section of the May 26 Minneapolis Star-Tribune captured my attention, because a book fair for middle school students held in Thief River Falls, MN, banned Gay Minnesota writer David LaRochelle’s latest book, Absolutely, Positively Not, because it was thought to be “inappropriate.” Naturally, I had to read this banned book, and it’s an absolutely positively delightful read, perfect for the beach or a quiet night sitting on the porch before the sun sets.

This charming tale follows Steven DaNarski, a sophomore at Beaver Lake High School, “The Hockey Stick Capital of the World.” Like other boys his age, he’s desperate to lose his virginity, but he’s attracted to Mr. Bowman, the muscular sub who replaces the wrestling coach as his Health teacher. His mother has just published a book on raising a tidy teenager, even though her housekeeping skills are questionable. When he tries curbing his budding homosexuality, he follows the advice of a 1970s self-help guru, using rubber bands as aversion therapy. Instead of aversion, however, this create a sensation in school when rubber wrist bands become popular. He pins a Victoria’s Secret ad over a super hero poster, but none of this leads to much, because Steven really enjoys square dancing with his mother, tries to convince his best friend, Rachel that he’s popular by hanging out at the Hockey team’s table during lunch, and dates with girls remain innocent encounters.

There are genuinely witty sequences with every turn of the page. Judging from the knowing manner in which LaRochelle relates Steven’s story, it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s based on his own high school experiences, and judging from his website, Larochelle is as adventurous and daring as his leading character. I don’t want to spoil things for you, but I will let you know that Steven’s prom date is a highlight of Absolutely, Positively Not.
Don’t think twice about it, whether you check it out from the public library, order it online or get it from your local GLBT book outlet, you will Absolutely, Positively Not not be disappointed with this treasure.

WC72 – Review of Possible Side Effects

Rvu_burroughsPossible Side Effects
by Augusten Burroughs
St. Martin’s Press
304 pages, $23.95
ISBN: 0312315961

Review by Steven LaVigne

In the coffee shop I frequent, there’s a guy who’s been slowly devouring J. D. Salinger’s Nine Stories. As much as I admire his work, I made the mistake of overdosing on Salinger by reading everything in order. I’ve done that with Fitzgerald, Erica Jong and John Cheever as well, but unlike those authors, Salinger made me feel suicidal for weeks afterwards.

No matter how bizarre the world around us gets, it’s nice to know that, as we flow through it, someone else is struggling, observing things trough beer goggles or a pharmaceutical haze. Augusten Burroughs is such a person, and his latest collection of observances, Possible Side Effects, is every bit as marvelous as his other writings, no matter how jaundiced they may seem, including Running With Scissors and Magical Thinking.

Possible Side Effects included stories on Burroughs’ childhood: summertime visits with his grandmothers, one of whom he adored while despising the other; how a bloody nose while on an international flight leads to fears about leaving his hotel room and enjoying London; becoming attached, along with his lover, to a dog they fondly call “The Cow,” and the arrogance he encounters while wearing the t-shirts of assorted college teams while running around New York. He also writes at length about watching his mother sink further into addictions due to her bipolar disorder.

Among the extra-special treats in Possible Side Effects are “Killing John Updike,” where Burroughs’ good friend, Suzanne convinces him that John Updike is about to perish and that collecting first editions of his works will net a pretty profit shortly on eBay. He introduces us to his mother’s best friend in “The Forecast for Sommer,” explaining that she uses a coffin as a bookcase and collects prescription drugs. In “The Wisdom Tooth,” Burroughs and his lover, Dennis, vacation at a seaside bed and breakfast which the owner decorates with her doll collection, and Dennis becomes upset about being charged for a restaurant meal after Burroughs breaks his tooth on a baked potato.

There are hilarious sequences on his work as an advertiser, creating a campaign for Junior Mints; peeping on a neighbor and her lover, “Penis Man;” and his life before and after rehab.  Possible Side Effects is jam-packed full of gems, far too many to include in a review.

When I asked the guy in the coffee shop if Salinger made him feel suicidal, he laughed and I recommended Augusten Burroughs to him. I’ll know if he takes my advice any time now. By the time this review sees print, the film version of Running With Scissors will have opened. Maybe first editions of Burroughs will become more profitable on eBay, too.

WC72 – Review of Tennessee Williams’ Memoirs

Rvu_tennwilliams Memoirs
by Tennessee Williams
New Directions
368 pages, $15.95
ISBN: 0811216691

Reviewed by Steve Lavigne

When the late American playwright Tennessee Williams published his Memoirs in 1975, the Stonewall Revolution was less than a decade old, and reviews were merciless, because William’s wrote so openly about his sex life. Having recently come out, I read the Memoirs as research for a now long-forgotten book project, and found them no different from much of the Gay literature I was reading at the time. Williams passed on less than a decade after their publication and the book was left to gather dust on library shelves or in remnant bins.

Now reissued by New Directions, and with an introduction by film director John Waters, Tennessee Williams’ Memoirs are a pleasure to discover again. Yes, there are the commentaries on his sexual encounters, including his relationship with the loves of his life, Frank Merlo and his sister, Rose (model for the character Laura in The Glass Menagerie). The one thing that reviews ignored at first, but which must be savored here, is that William’s’ writing style was always lyrical and he brings that same poetic style to his life story. Williams recognized his demons and faced them while composing this book, but if the stream of consciousness is, at times, disjointed, that’s forgivable.

The strongest theme that emerges from Memoirs is his feelings toward those whom he most admired, especially the writer Carson McCullers. No one wrote so refreshingly about the exploits of Anna Magnani, who would win the Oscar for her performance in Williams’ The Rose Tattoo. He writes beautifully of affection for and appreciation of the gifted Maureen Stapleton, Marlon Brando and Tallulah Bankhead, and delights us with dishy items on Gore Vidal, Truman Capote and Elizabeth Taylor. His appreciation for Elia Kazan and the opportunity of seeing the value his work retained in his lifetime are also reflected upon.

Williams’ place in the world theatre is assured, and sadly, he doesn’t dig deeper into some of the topics addressed. In an afterword, Allean Hale clarifies some of the book’s personae, but he might have commented on Not About Nightengales, the early prison drama discovered in the late 1990s. Tennessee Williams’ Memoirs have improved with age.

WC72 – Review of boy with an ‘i’

Rvu_montalvoboy with an ‘i’
by David Montalvo
2006 Authorhouse Press, 194 pages.

Reviewed by Peter Savastano

For this reader, the only way to review David Montalvo’s boy with an ‘i’ is by using metaphors. The book, and I imagine its author, are both seeds that have not yet sprouted, at least by my reading of boy with an ‘i’. The book is advertised as a "multi-media work of art". Indeed, the reader has the option to draw upon a music poetry project, also entitled "i", which comes with the book, as well as through other interactive mediums. One can read poetry related to the story the book purports to tell (website addresses for these interactive aspects of this multi-media project are included in the introduction to the book) and also to listen to music relevant to the subject of the book.

As I read the book, I could not help but wish that Montalvo had held off on publishing it to give himself some more time to develop the themes that run through the book, some of which are: "self-deprecation to self-worth", "an attempt to gain God consciousness", and dealing with the after-effects of falling in love for the first time. All of these themes are present in the book, but only in the most cursory ways.

A Gay man who has been on such a tripartite journey himself will clearly recognize that these are experiences that can best be described with sufficient depth only after they have been assimilated into one’s consciousness over time. Unfortunately, in reading this book I get no sense that this is the case for the protagonist in the book who is Montalvo himself.

The book is haphazardly written. Try as I did, I was not able to figure out where the spiritual angle on it is to be found, except that the author intersperses biblical quotes between the six sections of the book. Montalvo does mention something he calls the "God-ing Process". Unfortunately, he never defines what this process is and other than as a concept, the reader (certainly not this reader) will be hard pressed to deduce what he means by "God-ing Process" from the context in which it is used. If one is suffering from a broken heart over a failed love relationship of the adolescent angst kind that so many of us adult Gay men over the age of thirty five suffer from (such as myself over the past year as a perfect, even if embarrassing, example), then this is a good book to read. The reader will know from doing so that he is not alone and eternally stuck at age twenty-five for eternity.

Technically, there are more typos in this book than I have seen in a long time and as the book nears its end, they get worse. Having read the book, it seems clear that Montalvo has potential as a writer about the sometimes very painful connection between romantic relationships and the spiritual quest from a uniquely Gay male perspective. It be better, however, if Montalvo continues to nurture his creative seeds to allow them sufficient time to sprout and grow into the beautiful mature flowers they can be before he commits them to paper in such a final way as a book.

WC72 – Review of God in Your Body

Rvu_michaelsonGod in Your Body:
Kabbalah, Mindfulness
and Embodied Spiritual Practice

by Jay Michaelson
Jewish Lights Publishing $18.89
Soft cover. 247 pages.

Review by Perry Brass

“Religion belongs in bed as well as in the sanctuary, and bodywork belongs in temples as well as on yoga mats,” says Jay Michaelson in God in Your Body, his bright, and at times insightful and delicious book about returning the real body to Jewish and spiritual practice. Michaelson defines Kabbalah as “receiving the Divine light within.” This is done through a tradition of esoteric knowledge put together in the early Middle Ages, through meditational practices, through Hassidic joyfulness, through the “interventions” of the brachim, blessings that make us mindful of every act of eating, drinking, washing, peeing, crapping, sleeping, and even making love. Michaelson, in short, has assembled a quite encyclopedic book centered around the physical eternal body, the thing we have until there is no longer an “us,” and how mindfulness of this body opens us up to the Soul; although Judaism, he is quick to point out, has no yoga practices, no Tai Chi, little physicalization of spiritual expression beyond, say, bending the knees at prayer, circumcision, or the use of the mikva, the ritual bath that marks many transitions from unclean to clean, regular to sanctified. But to make us aware that God is with us in all of our physical selves, he has chapters on, of course, eating (So, what would Jews be without essen?), breathing, walking, sex, exercising, dancing, fasting, washing, sickness, and a beautiful benediction at the end on the full life cycle, and “Just Being.”

Strangely enough, much of Michaelson’s approach to Judaism follows techniques actors use in “method acting,” that is, that on-stage (which is a ritual in itself) emotions do not precede physical activities, they follow them: emotions, in fact, block an activity, so instead, they need to be released by it. Thus, true mindfulness in the physical act of eating releases many feelings about the reality of food that you won’t have simply by reminding yourself before you eat to think about what’s on the table. He tells us over and over in the book, “Fake it till you make it”: doing an activity, opening yourself up to the physical moment, surrendering to it, will enable real feelings and light to come into it, whether this is intense, ecstatic prayer, relieving yourself of sexual hang ups, or simple mindfulness in any form. This also follows the orthadox idea that performing a “mitzvah,” a holy act, must be done whether you want to or not. It is not done out of convenience,and its very inconvenience makes you mindful of God’s place in it.

This is a good book, which sometimes gets lost in the clutter. Michaelson is erudite, but often sounds like he’s talking to incoming college freshmen, especially when he’s being a “liberal” college counselor still fairly coy about sex, and this reviewer found the chapter on sex to be his least successful. He says, “Our culture provides a toxic soil for nurturing healthy, spiritual sexuality …guilt, judgment, shame, and the rest are what most of us have been taught the longest”; but then he sets up a paradigm of “sacred sexuality,” which seems fairly puerile, with generic admonishments to “transcend the self…let go.” “Bring the attention to the body, and let the body wake you up.” “Don’t check your theology at the bedroom door. Leave the ego on the floor with your clothes and see Who emerges” — this seems like the theological version of “Boy, was I drunk last night!” instead of being aware of what is going on, in all of its manifestations, “dirty” and otherwise, and allowing yourself to be changed by it. (However, for many young, orthodox Jews, even generic liberation talk about sex may be revolutionary; and we must grant the author that.)

He does make a point that sexuality divided Judaism from early Christianity, and its exuberant heterosexuality might have offended “Christists” who negated straight lustiness as being a temptation. Sexuality glorifies the union of opposites, the dynamism of creative energies, whereas celibacy has almost no place in the Jewish canon. Orthodox yeshivas condemn masturbation, but not from a real Jewish tradition of condemning it; and the shame coming from this becomes irreparable. Shame becomes “nothing less than a plague.” Sexual shame, Michaelson writes, “shuts down…our connection with the Divine.”

God in the Your Body embodies mindfulness within the body; and this is wonderful. In our age of unmindfulness, of vapid entertainment instead of real exploration, of non-communication with others and ourselves, mindfulness in any form, especially mindfulness leading to compassion, is needed urgently. Some non-Jews may have a difficult time with this book because it is so grounded in Judaism — in fact, he takes it for granted that you have some familiarity with the Hebrew alphabet — but the basic message of this often witty and delightful book is that God is everywhere, including your body, so why leave it to find Him? “Imagine that the truth is really true; that you are God walking on God…God loving God.”

Certainly doing this everyday would keep us kind.

Perry Brass has published 13 books. His latest, Carnal Sacraments, An Historical Novel of the Future, from Belhue Press, should be out soon. He can be reached via