Category Archives: WC73 – Friends

WC73 Table of Contents


White Crane #73 – The Friends Issue


Opening Words  “Friends”
The Editors
Call for Submissions
Contribution Information
Subscriber Information


Gay Men’s Friendships: An Academic Look
The White Crane Interview with Peter Nardi
Bo Young & Dan Vera

Taking Issue

Friend, Feminist, Faerie Godmother: Ann Roy 
Robert Croonquist
No Gate But Friendship
Isa Kocher
Visions Of Christ: Gender & Justice
Shawna Bethel
Separating Ourselves By Age Group
Frank Pizzoli
David, Just As He Was
K.G. Schneider


Go Rouse James
Hiram Larew
Thomas Colby
The Beginning of A Wonderful Friendship
Mark Thompson
Ode To A Friend
James Broughton


Bare Traces: Photographs of a Past


Dan Vera
Eric Riley
Owner’s Manual “Who’s In Charge?”
Jeff Huyett
Frank Talk "Drugs are (Sometimes) Good For You"
Frank Jackson
PRAXIS “The Consummate Friend”
Andrew Ramer

Culture Reviews

Kim Roberts on Emily Dickinson’s Herbarium
Steven LaVigne on Jorge Luis Seco’s The Only Sun I Need
Steven LaVigne on Toby Johnson & Steve Berman’s
Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling
Steven LaVigne on Michael McColly’s The After Death Room
Dan Vera on Jeff Mann’s On The Tongue

These are just excerpts 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!

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

WC73 – Isa Kocher

20070713_155350No Gate But Friendship
By Isa Kocher

September 11th, 2001 was a day that left me all alone, completely and absolutely and eternally in this world, in a way nothing else in my life ever had before or since. I happened to be staying in a hotel in Muscat, in Oman after living there five years working at Sultan Qaboos University. I was about to begin at a new private university and was waiting for the new work visa. Another teacher at SQU called and told me to turn on CNN.

They were showing the first rerun in the first minutes, (not yet 9:00 o’clock yet in NY) of a plane hitting the WTC. For the next two weeks, I watched either CNN or BBC night and day, and only slept a minute at a time, at most. When the Towers collapsed, I called my “best friend” who proceeded to lecture me on how we “Americans” will have to learn our lessons now…

The WTC was something very personal for me. It was something so beautiful for me, one of the most beautiful works of architecture ever. I spent a lot of time over the years seriously studying it from all over the city. In the 80s I used to deliver to the WTC every morning at 8:45 AM, the exact time of the first strike. I was living in a Zen Community and in charge of deliveries for their bakery, and our best customer at that time was a restaurant at the WTC. I had spent many hours looking at the WTC as a structure, and its relationship to itself and its social surroundings. Its twin-ness, its exaltedness, its whiteness, its brightness, the way it reflected light, the way it stood for coming home no matter from which direction you entered the city.

While at the Zen Community, I also met my sheikh and I became Muslim in the shadows of the WTC, and so did my brother and my mother. She told me after my father died, that he had become Muslim secretly before he died. It was in its shadow where my brother married his wife who is from Tehran, and it is where one of my sisters lives, and it was in its shadow where I had the closest and most intimate relationships with a community of friends that any person could have. It was where I began my first study of Sema, the meditation practice of Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi — called whirling — but really a prayer of the heart, and the practice of kenosis: the Shakers say: when true simplicity is gained, to bend and to turn, we will not be ashamed. The collapse of the WTC and the death of so many people as an act of hate shattered all my structures, shattered all I knew, all I believed, all I loved. I didn’t know for months how many of my friends died that day.

Its collapse and all the people who died at that instant was for me the collapse of all I knew not just as ideas in the head but as living itself. Duality, twin-ness is such an archetypical representation of the unity of the soul with its universe. The twin collapse was for me the collapse of my whole inner and my outer world. All around me, my Arab friends no longer trusted my being non-Arab, and my non-Muslim friends no longer trusted my being Muslim. What had been a network of love became a network of suspicion and hate. The faith whose name itself means peace became the very symbol of all I hated. Healthy wholesome fruit trees do not grow poisonous fruit.

Within myself, I could find no way to condemn anyone despite how I hated them because I realized at once that that hate which brought down the WTC and piloted those planes was the same hate that consumed me. I hated them. I hated the ones whose hate drove them to hate. I hated the ones whose hate taught them to hate. I hated the hate in me. I hated all the hate around me and that had swirled around me all those years that led up to September 11th. We all knew it was going to happen some day one day and none of us had the courage to say no. I knew I would never find the way to humanness again, and I knew nobody on the planet would ever find that way to humanness again until I purged myself of all that hate and all the excuses for hate. If Islam, PEACE, is not the way to peace, if being at peace is not the way to peace. Then how is peace to be?

This was not a sectarian problem. Peace is not a sectarian question. All spiritual teachers practice the same peace. Peace is at the center of all practice. Prayer of the Heart and the way of kenosis, the way of bowing in peace to love, the way of the Bodhisattva, dharma, the holy circle of the Sufis, of the First Nations, of the Hassids, of the !Kung healing ceremonies, the interdependent co-arising of the Mogen David, the Star of David, and of the Tao in the Tao Te Ching are the same.

The vow to free all creatures and the practice and its application to life at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and on your dates, and at work and when the guy behind you honks his horn before the light turns green even!!! How to do that. It is not a problem to be solved. There is no answer to that question except to do 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!

WC73 – Shawna Bethel

73shawnabethelVisions of Christ: Gender & Justice
By Shawna Bethel

For two thousand years, since the birth of Christ, his followers have sought physical connection to this human aspect of God. As early as 451, councils and church officials battled over the issue of iconography; what is blasphemous idolatry and what is necessary to import a connection to the masses that needed a tangible representation of their faith?

For centuries images were, in turns, created then destroyed as the Church fought to establish a consistent doctrine on the issue. According to religious theory, and as quoted from S. Brent Plate’s Blasphemy: Art that Offends, “Church authorities were responding to the already established practices of many Christians….it is ultimately religious practices that produce the need for doctrine and not theologians….”

What was true in those early days of Christendom is no less true today, and the most recent surge of Christ imagery to incite fervor in the realm of Christianity are those created by gay and lesbian artists who are establishing their own collection of icons, allowing them to make the Christ story their own. In support of this effort, an art gallery in Taos, New Mexico that specializes in Judeo-Christian iconography staged a show giving this new influx of artists a venue for their work. Running from May through June, JHS Gallery presented Who Do You Say That I Am? Visions of Christ, Gender, and Justice.

“This was a unique venue for Christians of the gay and lesbian community to see images that depict their own faith in a setting where they are comfortable. There really are no churches offering these icons for the community,” said Michael Roberts of JHS Gallery.
Just as African-American artists recreated Christ in their own image in 1960’s America, and women have depicted female Christ figures in more recent decades, gay and lesbian Christian artists have come to the fore demanding a respected inclusion in their community of faith that has become increasingly fundamentalist in reaction to what many see as a more liberal turn in American culture.
“Religion is a love/hate relationship for me,” said Douglas Blanchard a New York painter whose Passion of the Christ series will be shown at JHS Gallery. “The love is the contact with the soul, with your neighbors, and with God. But I hate what it [Christianity] has become, this tribalistic, legalistic thing that is about identity, not faith. It’s not a theology but a fundamentalist revival.”

“I have gay friends who love God,” said Jodi Simmons, owner of JHS Gallery, “but who have been told they can not reach God due to their sexuality. I wanted the show to explore what an evolving faith involves.”

By using the term “evolving faith,” Simmons refers to a relatively new movement in spirituality which is of a progressive nature. This movement looks at how Christian practitioners must reexamine historical icons and consider if they represent the needs of today’s society. This becomes especially true as artists recreate the image of Christ into likenesses they or their communities can relate to. Is the Christ of 2000 years ago an image people today can connect with as representative of themselves in faith?

“People underestimate the importance of the visual arts in relation to spirituality,” says Roberts, and his feelings are supported by both Simmons and Plate. The visual images are what can reach beyond the intellect; they stimulate those emotional, visceral responses that often make us look inward. As Simmons explains, “we look at the art, and observe the art, then look within ourselves and look at the responses we have to the image.” The questions can become, ‘Is that something that resonates with me?’ ‘Can I relate to this symbol?’ Likewise, it can become, ‘Why does this offend me?’ ‘Why do I not connect to this image?’

The image of Christ has no official historic background. He was not depicted, that we are aware of, during his life. What artists have done since is create what they thought he would look like based on his ethnicity and his social standing. As history progressed, his image continued to be adapted and interpreted, often depending on the historic period or the ethnicity of the people depicting him. For example, in the Renaissance when the physical body was artistically rendered as voluptuous, nude and white European, Christ changed from a darker skinned, thin man to that of the image of the society of the time.

Likewise, as Asian cultures accepted Christianity, his physical features reflected those of the people he represented in those cultures, and the same occurred in African cultures who accepted the faith of Christ. Christ became what the people needed him to be.
Today, with the increase in images like Blanchard’s Passion series — that depicts Christ as a young, gay man in the streets of New York — gay and lesbian artists are creating a figure they can relate to in a faith that is rarely welcoming of their presence in the Church. It is also the vehement response against these images that again exemplifies the powerful impact of the visual in a spiritual realm.

S. Brent Plate, Associate Professor of Religion and the Visual Arts at Texas Christian University, explains the passionate responses.
“Jesus, or any religious icon, must be made relevant to each culture, to each people of the time. It is important in the continual redrawing of the faith,” he said, but continuing, further explains, “Sexuality is more provocative. It stirs the passions. Sexual imagery and religious imagery are two very volatile subjects, which thrown together become an explosive force.”

In his book on blasphemy, Plate considers the definition of the word and how a piece of artwork becomes powerful enough to lead to censorship of its artist. He writes, “Artist’s intentions are one thing, formal evaluation of the images another, and the reception of the images…still another. To understand the place and function of blasphemy, it is necessary to take stock of the power of images and the ways they ‘call out’ to people.”

He initially defines the differences between blasphemy and the profane to lay the groundwork of the argument, and in this differentiation, we need to also consider what is sacred. Things sacred, as many can relate to, whether on a religious or personal level, are those things held dear. They are what we hold as our most profound truths, that which is above the baser “humanness.” Conversely, something profane is the common, the everyday, that which is human. Blasphemy occurs when the two meet, when those things sacred are meshed with those things profane. A simple example Plate uses to illustrate the meeting of the two is the bumper sticker that says, “Jesus is my co-pilot.” The idea of sacred Jesus plastered on a profane 3”x12” piece of sticky paper which is stuck to someone’s car bumper.

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!

WC73 Review of Emily Dickinson’s Herbarium

73rvu_dickinsonBook Reviews
Emily Dickinson’s Herbarium:
A Facsimile Edition

The Belknap Press, Harvard University
Cambridge, MA and London, 2006

  • $125.00 ISBN 13: 978-0-674-02302-4 / ISBN 10: 0-674-02302-1

Reviewed by Kim Roberts

The Herbarium was the first book Dickinson ever made. She began it around age 13, while a student at Amherst Academy, and enamored of her classes in Botany. Ironic then, that this should be the last of her books to become available to the public. But the Herbarium is so fragile that it has been displayed to the public only once. It is only now, with improvements in high-resolution digital color imagery, that such a facsimile edition as this was possible.

And it is gorgeous: the large format reproductions almost give us the sense of holding the actual book, each page captured lushly, the specimens affixed to the pages and carefully labeled with the flowers’ scientific name, and a set of numbers identifying the class and genus according to the old Linnean system of classification (which became outmoded even during Dickinson’s life). The Herbarium contains 424 specimens in 66 pages, almost all identified by the poet, and most of her identifications are correct. She artistically arranged between two and eleven specimens to a page, combining native species from around Amherst, Massachusetts with specimens of garden and house plants.

Dickinson studied Botany beginning at age nine, and kept both her Herbarium and her Botany textbook throughout her life. That early text, by Almira Hart Lincoln, touted the study of Botany as the science most suited for female students since "the objects of its investigation are beautiful and delicate; its pursuits, leading to exercise in the open air, are conducive to health and cheerfulness."

Dickinson began this project in a fashionable spirit; she wrote to her friend Abiah Root at age 14: "Have you made an herbarium yet? I hope you will if you have not, it would be such a treasure to you; ‘most all the girls are making one." Dickinson included in that letter a geranium leaf for Abiah to press.

From this point on, Dickinson enclosed flowers in a number of letters, entering into a female tradition of gift exchange. Probably some specimens in her Herbarium were prepared by friends, and had personal associations for the poet at which we can only guess. Dickinson’s practice, later in life, of enclosing poems in letters (many of which were on the subject of flowers) can be seen as a continuation of this exchange; the poems are blossoms transformed, carrying their own symbolic weight.

The language of flowers, now largely lost to contemporary readers, was a common woman’s idiom in Dickinson’s time. Different species were thought to convey particular moods or situations. Giving flowers was thus also sending messages—of devotion, mourning, gratitude, or purity, for example. In the only daguerreotype of the poet, she holds a sprig of flowers in her hands; I have always wondered what kind, but the photo is not detailed enough to reveal its secrets.

We know that Dickinson was an avid collector; tramping alone through the woods surrounding Amherst, or in the company of her sister Lavinia, she wandered freely. The Herbarium represents, then, Dickinson’s formative years, when she was learning to look closely at nature, before she chose for herself a more restricted adulthood.  She referred to this earlier time as her "boyhood." (In her poem, "A narrow fellow in the grass," her poem about encountering a snake, she wrote: "Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot—/I more than once at Noon//Have passed, I thought, a Whip lash/Unbraiding in the Sun.")

Though the flowers have faded, the Herbarium retains its beauty. I can’t help but marvel: here is the evening primrose, whose petals are nearly transparent; the musk mallow whose bloom turns coyly to one side, as if shy; the large iris that retains a hint of its original blue; the thick-stemmed pitcher plant; the beautiful S-curve of the trout lily’s stem, preserved; the flowers of the arrowhead placed by Dickinson atop the broad chevron of its leaf; the surprising inclusion of both tobacco and marijuana.

Here also: the blooms of the foxglove, arrayed along the line of its stem, faded from pink to pale sepia; the sweet-scented water lily haloed by the thick circle of its leaf, so it looks like it is wearing a ruff; the tulip, its petals split apart to show off its stamen; the dogwood, with the intricate lace of lines in each petal; the amorphous blob of delicate green shoots from the smoketree; the berries still clinging to the eastern red cedar; the five-pointed star of the toad cactus flower.

Some specimens cannot help but remind me of poems Dickinson would later write: the arbutus, which she would immortalize in her poem "Pink — small — and punctual"; the two oxeye daisies, their stems carefully crossed on the book’s pages, which bring to mind her own identification with this flower ("How modestly — always — /Thy Daisy— /Draped for thee!"); or the lilac, all its purple now leached away ("The Lilac is an ancient shrub"). She included a full page of violets: palmate, downy yellow, birdfoot, round-leafed, and sweet white. This flower would later appear in poems too ("The Love of Thee–a Prism be—/Excelling Violet—").

The Indian Pipe has been damaged: the black stem remains, but the ghostly white flower is gone. Is this some unintended metaphor? Mabel Todd Loomis (who would posthumously edit Dickinson’s work) mailed her a small painting of this plant, which Dickinson called "the preferred flower of life" and "an unearthly booty." Loomis later reprinted the painting on the title page of Dickinson’s first edition of poems.

Dickinson’s Herbarium also includes some rare species, such as the strawberry blite and the gentian. The latter would appear in several poems, and must have seemed particularly evocative to the poet, not only for its rarity but because it bloomed so late in the season. The fringed gentian inspired one of my personal favorites of Dickinson’s poems:

God made a little Gentian—
It tried — to be a Rose—
And failed— and all the Summer laughed—
But just before the Snows
There rose a Purple Creature —
That ravished all the Hill —
And Summer hid her Forehead —
And Mockery — was still —
The Frosts were her condition—
The Tyrian would not come
Until the North — invoke it —
Creator — Shall I — bloom?

But as sweet as the rare specimens are, I was pleased to find as well the most ordinary and mundane flowers in the Herbarium. She collected wood sorrel ("The Clover’s simple Fame/Remembered of the Cow— ") as well as the common dandelion, signal of Spring:

The Dandelion’s pallid tube
Astonishes the Grass,
And Winter instantly becomes
An infinite Alas—
The tube uplifts a signal Bud
And then a shouting Flower,–
The Proclamation of the Suns
That sepulture is o’er.

The Herbarium must be seen as the poet’s birth — looking at these pages, we cannot help but make the connection. Dickinson would later translate the collecting of flower specimens into bouquets of poems, bound together in hand-sewn small books.

Richard B. Sewall’s excellent prefatory essay places the Herbarium in this context. He writes that this first book "foreshadowed much of what was to come…in the care she took in the herbarium, in the precise botanical knowledge it displays, in the fine composition of every page, the bent of her nature is clear: she was a ‘maker’ from the beginning." The facsimile edition also contains a Forward and Preface, and Ray Angelo’s extremely useful "Catalog of Plant Specimens."

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!

Kim Roberts is a poet and community activist living in Washington, DC.  Her most recent book of poems, The Kimnama was released by VRZHU Press this Spring.

WC73 Review of Charmed Lives

73rvu_johnsonBook Review
Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling
Edited by Toby Johnson and Steve Berman
White Crane Books, 308 pages, $16.00, ISBN-10: 1590210166

Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

There are books that readers simply don’t want to come to an end, and former White Crane editor Toby Johnson and writer Steve Berman have edited one of them. Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling is so filled with gems (thirty-five passages by writers as diverse as Perry Brass, Mark Thompson, Malcolm Boyd, Jeffrey Beam, James Van Buskirk, Don Clark, Bert Herrman and Dave Nimmons, and White Crane columnist Andrew Ramer, to name but a few of them) that these stupendous tales of romance, music, sex, harassment and coping with the modern world equally make it a savory pleasure that’s tough to put down.

Among the highlights of this treasure trove: Mark Abramson explores his love for Ella Fitzgerald and how her particular style of jazz music helped him cope as friends succumbed to AIDS; Eric Andrews-Katz’ self-esteem is given a boost after meeting an attractive angel one night in a bar, while the leading character in Victor J. Banis falls in love with Douglas, the man who takes no notice of a face that resembles “The Canals of Mars.” J.R.G. De Marco’s ghost story, “Great Uncle Ned,” is the first passage that’s a topper, making the reader thinking nothing else can be better. Romantic and sexy, De Marco takes the reader on an exquisite gothic roller coaster ride.

Some of the stories are set pre-Stonewall, while others are post-AIDS, but every contribution, even reflections on why writers work the way they do, addressing topics from sex to marriage to everlasting love are outstanding in their own way.

Among the other “toppers” are Jay Michaelson’s “The Verse,” wherein any mention of the “sin” of homosexuality disappears from every copy of Biblical scripture, from the Torah to the Gospels, as the worldwide news coverage affects Michaelson’s characters. Should he be forgotten, Bill Blackburn’s lovely tribute “My Last Visits With Harry,” reminds us that Harry Hay, a founder of the Radical Faeries, was an exceptional pioneer for gay rights. Andrew Ramer imagines himself as Albert Gale, Dorothy’s brother, who doesn’t go over the rainbow, but, instead, finds true love on the prairie.

Personal experiences are a strong part of “Charmed Lives.” Don Clark, whose book, “Loving Someone Gay” was so helpful when I was first coming out, discusses his personal life, while David Nimmons relates how his program of Manifest Love began on a Fire Island dance floor. Johnson and Berman share experiences from their lives as well.

I hope that I’ve whetted our appetite and that you’ll take similar pleasures when reading “Charmed Lives: Gay Spirit in Storytelling,” which was a finalist for a 2007 Lambda Book Award. Even so, it’s a winner without awards.

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!

WC73 Review of On The Tongue

73rvu_jeffmannBook Review
On the Tongue
Poems by Jeff Mann
Gival Press, 94 pages, $15.00
ISBN-10: 1928589359

Reviewed by Dan Vera

Readers of Jeff Mann’s last book, his part memoir/part poetry book Loving Mountains, Loving Men have cause for great celebration.  If you were enraptured by  his prose writing, with the way it revealed Mann’s generous heart, yet felt you wanted more of his distilled poetic voice, his new book will put a huge grin on your face. 

Mann, who teaches at Virginia Tech and won the 2007 Lambda Literary Award for his History of Barbed Wire, has here produced a work of such open-hearted capability.  Many of these poems are just staggeringly good.  In his capable and goodly hands, the scarred arm of a bartender becomes a thing of beauty and the act of loving becomes the union of tree and earth.

One of the assuring blurbs in this book calls Mann the “Sappho of Appalachia.”  High praise indeed, but with Sappho we are left with small fragments.  Mann’s work is fully, pleasurably revealed on the page.  There is no guessing left to the eye or mind and the reader is allowed to join him in celebrating the enduring beauty of the male form.  Reading Mann’s naturalistic evocations of the body of the beloved put me to mind of Pablo Neruda’s swelling love poetry in his Captain’s Verses or Audre Lorde’s sultry lover poems.  These are clear, direct gazes at the lover that become meditations on the merging of human bodies as elemental, geological, and seismic encounters.

This book is nothing less than a breakthrough.  I found myself feeling pride at reading such a masterful collection of gay poems, at the sense that we’d finally reached a moment where our poets could write the truth that has so long been withheld.  Two centuries ago, one of our proto-gay forebears,  Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, argued that gay love is natural because it exists in nature.  For Mann, it is nature itself.

Sup these poems.

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!

Dan Vera is managing editor of White Crane.  A poet and writer in Washington, DC, he can be reached via or at

WC73 Review of The After Death Room

73rvu_mccollyBook Review
The After-Death Room:
Journey Into Spiritual Activism

by Michael McColly
Soft Skull Press, Transition Books
360 pages, $15.95, ISBN: 1932360921

Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

A vampire story should envelope the reader, transplanting them into another dimension as it casts a spell. Michael McColly’s The After-Death Room is vampiric in the Bram Stoker manner. Constructed of diary and journal entries, HIV is McColly’s vampire, and the experiences of those afflicted with the virus are its victims. It weaves its own spell as it accomplishes McColly’s basic goal: to document the lives of those who are surviving without the benefit of modern medicine and health care.

Living with HIV himself, McColly is a bisexual journalist and instructor of Kundalini Yoga, who once attended divinity school. Following his experiences at an International AIDS Conference in South Africa, he began traveling the third world, and parts of the United States, interviewing and teaching Yoga. From Africa to Thailand to India to Viet Nam, he reveals a much deeper crisis than we ever imagined.

He frequently observes for example, how the body either traps or frees the soul, as it does with sex workers, both male and female. Among the more vivid and memorable personalities in The After-Death Room (and there are too many to write about) are Andre, whom he encounters in a Cape Town dance club. Using make-up to cover the Kaposi’s sarcoma scars, he’s survived beatings and stabbings, while trying to survive following his lover’s death; the family of Sekar, whom McColly meets in Chennai, India, was shunned because of his HIV status, but he boldly cam out, enduring hardships to address various groups about the disease.

Finding it ironic that he’s teaching yoga to the Brahma and those who invented the practice, he discusses the facts on the disease in an overpopulated country where the health system has been overextended, due largely to political pressures. The family and duty to them are always first, thus, thousands are succumbing to AIDS daily. On this note, we learn from Dr. Yepthorani, that fears about the disease has kept people from fulfilling these family duties. A relationship increases peoples’ survival rates, but even this doctor can’t reveal his own status unless he’s certain that it will help his patients.

McColly addresses the shocking disclosure that a pair of doctors in Thailand claim that they’ve not only found a cure, but also an immunization with the V-1 Immunitor, examining its validity.

I realized that I’ve barely begun to discuss the extraordinary evidence revealed in The After-Death Room, but I assure you, it is a spell-binding journey.

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!

The After-Death Room won a 2007 Lambda Literary Award after we went to press.

WC73 Review of The Only Sun I Need

73rvu_secoBook Reviews
The Only Sun I Need
by Jorge Luis Seco translated by Aletha Hanna
Centurion Press, 156 pages, $14.95
ISBN-10: 0963905473

Reviewed by Steve Lavigne

Sometimes you discover authors in the strangest places, and my first encounter with Jose Luis Seco was in a chat room (I decline to reveal which one). After a visit to his website, Seco was gracious enough to send me a copy of his novel, The Only Sun I Need, which I found to be an enchanting read, perfect for summer at the beach or while commuting to and from work.

Born in Cuba and now residing in New Jersey, the story is told from several different narrative perspectives. Its hero, Jose Lopez is a rising attorney in a New York firm, conflicted about his career and sexual orientation, due, largely to the strict upbringing he and his sister, Margot, received from Dolores, their widowed mother. At a time when they both want to break free and experience the freedom of adulthood, they’re manipulated by a parent critical of their every move, mentally abusing them about her needs as she ages. Readers may be able to this modern day “wicked witch of the West.” (I have a student enduring just such an existence as I write this.)

Dolores refuses to listen as good things begin happening to her children. She won’t take pride in Jose when his boss assigns him to a lawsuit involving his gay son, Tom, a designer who’s been accused of drug trafficking. She won’t support Margot when a man casts a romantic eye in her direction or when she indicates that she wants to attend college. Things start to unravel when Jose’s college roommate, Bob, arrives from Boston with his lover, Rene. A successful surgeon, Rene is a practitioner of Santeria (the Way of the Saints), a faith that holds respect for our ancestors and the spirits among us. Aware of an apparition following Jose, which has manifested itself because of Dolores’ complete disrespect for those around her, Rene helps develop the changes required by all of Seco’s principal characters.

Translated from the Spanish by Aletha Hanna, The Only Sun I Need reads like those romantic gay novels of the 1970s, (remember Gordon Merrick?) but the situations Seco has created with deeply involved plot twists, the emotional awakening of characters and an inevitable, and enjoyable, climax will keep the reader interested, making this a sweetly told and beautifully fashioned romantic novel.

I hope I encounter more writers whose storytelling skills are this good in future chat rooms.

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!

WC73 Owner’s Manual – Jeff Huyett

73ownersmanual_3 This regular column will explore queer health in America today. In the nursing tradition, I view health in the dynamic interplay of mind, body, and spirit within a culture, an environment, and a time. I hope to foster in the reader a sense of understanding and empowerment to move closer to health.

I came out in college, studying to be a nurse when HIV emerged in the early ‘80s. This confluence of events colored my professional and personal life. I’ll share some of my experiences of nursing queer people shaking off dis-ease by changing themselves and the world around them during, through and after that era.

Health cannot be achieved alone. It is not a commodity that someone can provide you. I hope to challenge the readers’ assumptions and encourage health action in a culture, an environment, and a time. 
Like most Americans, I have found myself standing, thirsty and dazed, in front of a convenience store beverage cooler spilling over with choices. There is just so much from which to choose. The confusion starts when I begin to compare price, content, or expected result. Mass marketing impacts my selections, too. I sometimes get exasperated by all the choices, give up and buy water. Health care choices can be just as overwhelming. Flashy media images promote people, services, and “clinically proven products” as readily as grocery store selections. This writing will explore the concepts of health and the current paradigm in which it exists.

Health, the concept, is complex to define. It is experienced individually, so it eludes common description. For discussion’s sake, let’s say that health is “a state of optimal well being of the mind, body and spirit.” Factors that impact health are personal, social, genetic, economic, cultural, and environmental. These systems interact and impact on each other.

Health is multi-factorial requiring on-going upkeep, evaluation, and change in the individual, its family, culture, social structure, and environment. When neglected, health will diminish. When optimized, health will flourish. Health, then, is a practice we follow through life. It’s not static. Upkeep on a healthy path requires consciousness of the individual as well as society. Conceived in this broad sense, health considerations must permeate the individual, its people and ways of being in order to be achieved. Health of a species and its environments is then a dynamic interplay toward balance.

In the American medical model, health is the absence of illness. If we don’t get sick we must be okay. Health is something obtained like a product. If we get ill, we go to the doctor. We’re told what’s wrong and what to do. This interaction, pills or treatment costs money. Americans are set up with the paradox that if one is insured, one has health. When nothing is wrong, you don’t get assessed. Consequently, when you have no insurance, you will engage the system only when you absolutely must. In the midst of a health crisis your overall health will not likely be considered. Wide variations exist in access to health care. This model of disease treatment as health has been ingrained in the American psyche.

Entering the fee-for-service health care system is when the dazed confusion begins. There are lists of plans and lists of providers. How do you choose? Does advertising pressure affect your health choices like it does your beverage selections? When we land a job providing health insurance, a plethora of forms and insurance booklets will be presented. We’ll make decisions with little time to overview the insurance plans. A sense of “Phew, I’m employed. I’m covered” may occur. But what are we covered for? Participating providers are organized based on disease states treated like cardiology, dermatology, and gynecology. There’s something called “internal medicine.” Whatever that means! Who do we — healthy people — consult if we want to stay well? You guess who and what is right for you. Sometimes you hit it. You are provided attention pretty much only if you’re sick, right? Gay men have to argue with insurances to get specific preventative coverage like hepatitis vaccinations and human papillomavirus screening. Newborns and students get hepatitis vaccinations paid for, but gay men, who get lots of hepatitis, cannot. Millions of Americans are uninsured. Striations of health care beliefs and patterns run through our culture when access is so varied.

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s watching a minimum of two-to-three hours of television a day, like most everyone else. Food and beverage advertising came streaming at me. Most of the food was boxed, canned or frozen, usually sugary or fatty, and easy to prepare. Shows on health were tucked away in obscure hours. Cigarettes and alcohol were advertised. There weren’t many brown-skinned folks in television.
In school PE was about sports not fitness. Health education was nine weeks of one-hour lessons with nothing about sex, emotional wellness, or drugs. My mother had to sign permission to take the classes on Evolution and Reproduction in Advanced Biology. If one joined 4H or the Boy Scouts you’d get great health and safety teaching. If you are gay you cannot join the Scouts. I had a basic understanding of my body but sought out that information. I got a usual middle class education and was armed to leave my mother’s home with a fairly good idea of how to take care of myself. My male college peers, I observed, were not so prepared. They had limited ability to prepare food for themselves, manage their garments, or tend to themselves when ill. In my interactions with patients I find that most people have a pretty poor understanding of how their bodies work, and have a huge range of notions about ways to take care of themselves. I also experience that Americans have a lot more reserve and shame connected with showing me their bodies. Thus people enter into the current “health care system” with limited basic operating instructions about themselves or the systems of delivery and are probably self conscious and awkward.
The development of the Internet, in the age of AIDS, allowed queer people to get information lacking in our meager health education systems. I find patients coming to me much better informed, but with much more commercially biased information. Once again mass media and marketing have a dizzying effect.

In my female-dominated profession I embrace nursing, its history and culture. Part of that history is domination by modern medicine, a mostly male profession, over the existing health delivery and beliefs systems. The “wise women” in villages, witches, Native American healers, and midwives are some of the fore bearers of the knowledge I use as a nurse practitioner. Much of that oral tradition of healing was lost with the genocide of witches and local healers. Nursing theorists discuss this time as the political beginnings of the medical associations to suppress “the women who keep the people healthy and out of hospitals” and prevent the study of disease. My feminist leanings, as well as my first-hand personal, political, and professional experience of HIV, have made me distrustful of modern medicine, the public health system, and pharmaceutical industry.

The queer health movement shakes up the American health care system in radical ways. When the needs of people living and dying with HIV increased in the 80s, legions of gay men and lesbians set up networks of care and services. Not waiting for the existing health care system to respond, we set up our own systems of support, nutrition, counseling, and financial assistance. Queer clinicians provided health care to the masses, but weren’t reflected in health statistics, research or policy. Our exploration of our own health needs now pressures the medical and public health systems to evaluate and attend to our particular concerns. Queer health consumers have invigorated “alternative” health methods, often older than modern medicine, when Western modalities fail.

Our medically-oriented, disease treatment model of health is not sustainable. We’re witnessing this with inflation of costs, reducing of service and the demise of Medicare. We could say, then, that the existing dominant medical paradigm of health care is utterly flawed. The uninsured and many others must seek out methods for health that the existing structures just don’t provide or support.

Physicians study disease; Nurses, wellness. It is time for the over-arching paradigm to be informed by a philosophy more realistic to the multi-faceted human experience health. Nursing is one philosophy. There are others that view the human as an integrated whole such as Ayurveda, Acupuncture, or naturopathy. 
Let us envision a different health model. First, health teaching, not generated by the commercial industry, permeates our culture and schools. Health basics become as important as reading, writing and arithmetic. Health messages would address mind, body, and spirit. All citizens would be fed, dry and comfortable and national policy would reflect this reality. Periodic health assessment by a provider would include your image and knowledge of self, your ability to care for yourself, understanding of growth and development, aging, common afflictions and how to tend to them. The assessment is informed by cultural, spiritual, economic, and social knowledge. This patient-centered evaluation method assesses your level of health, the risks faced, and the ways to improve and prevent based on your historical, cultural, and genetic package. The assessment happens periodically when you’re well and able to comfortably interact. If you get sick, you engage this provider, informed of your being, to get advice and recommendations based on a much deeper understanding of you, not just the disease. You develop a relationship with the provider and trust them. Your health partner will not know everything, can admit that, and help you find answers when they don’t have them.

This ideal health care system isn’t close to reality today. Continue to learn about yourself, your body and each other through information and education. Be an on-going student of the human race. Take time to be conscious of yourself, those around you and your environment. Adapt and change based on the needs of you and your community. Find a healer with whom you feel comfortable. Interview and ask questions about provider and philosophy. Get referrals from friends. You want to feel welcomed, open, and prepared to share and receive. If there is no spark of connection find another. Not all healers assess mind/body/spirit. Look for someone who does. Ask questions. Manage personal risk. Be open to incorporating various modalities and professionals. Rigid belief or practice is probably as detrimental as no practice. Mostly, be sustainable. Make health a routine in your daily life through simple, ritualistic care and observation of yourself, others, and the environment around you.

I have been accused of being utopian more than once. To sustain, health requires a revolution of self and the world in which we live.
Humans, as organic beings, are capable of this change.
The story of evolution is proof…if you believe in that sort of thing.

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!

Owner’s Manual is a new, regular health feature of White Crane. 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