Category Archives: WC74 – Lovers

WC74 – Lovers – Table of Contents

74_loverscontents_2 White Crane #74 – The Lovers Issue

Specials

White Crane Institute 2007 Annual Report (pdf)
Bo Young & Dan Vera
Profiler In Courage
The White Crane Interview with Paul D. Cain
Fred Vassie
Uncovering our Past
The White Crane Interview with Greg Reeder
Dan Vera

Departments

Call for Submissions
Contribution Information
Subscriber Information

Taking Issue: Lovers

A Likeness To Loving
Linda Chapman and Lola Pashalinski
Moments Between Lovers
Malcolm Boyd
Activist Love: The Loving Companions Harryn’John
Stuart Timmons
Walt Whitman’s Manly Love Of Comrades
Arnie Kantrowitz
The Weight of Ashes
Jonathan G. Silin

Poetry

I Dream of Allen Ginsberg
Steven Solberg
Achilles & Patroclus
Jeff Mann
Heaven’s Hearth
Jeff Mann

Columns

Owner’s Manual
"Health Dogma or Smorgasbord?”
Jeff Huyett
PRAXIS
“Love Is A Gateway. We are Gatekeepers”
Andrew Ramer

Culture Reviews

Joe Kort on
Jack Drescher & Joseph P. Merlino‘s American Psychiatry and Homosexuality: An Oral History
Toby Johnson on
Larry Chang‘s Wisdom for the Soul: Five Millennia of Prescriptions for Spiritual Healing
Toby Johnson on
Joe Perez’s Soulfully Gay
Steven LaVigne on
Max Pierce‘s The Master of Seacliff

74_1cover

On Our Cover:
Our cover is a photograph from the Egyptian temple
of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep.
The photo is courtesy of Greg Reeder who we interviewed
in this issue about his groundbreaking work.

Copyright 2007 Greg Reeder.

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! 

WC74 – Dan Vera speaks with Gay Egyptologist Greg Reeder

A WHITE CRANE CONVERSATION

74_niankkhnom1Uncovering
Our Past

Dan Vera chats with Egyptologist Greg Reeder about the  Importance of Honoring the Past of Same-Sex Love.

In 1964 in the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, the Egyptian archaeologist Ahmed Moussa discovered a series of tombs with rock-cut passages in the escarpment facing the causeway that lead to the pyramid of Unas. Soon after, the Chief Inspector Mounir Basta reported crawling on his hands and knees through the passages, entering one of the Old Kingdom tombs. He was impressed with its unique scenes of two men in intimate embrace, something he had never seen before in all the Saqqara tombs.

Meanwhile, archaeologists working on the restoration of the causeway of Unas discovered that some of the stone blocks that had been used to build the causeway had been appropriated in ancient times from the mastaba that had originally served as the entrance to this newly discovered tomb. The archaeologists reconstructed the mastaba using the inscribed blocks found in the substructure of the causeway. It was revealed that this unique tomb had been built for two men to cohabit and that both shared identical titles in the palace of King Niuserre of the Fifth Dynasty: “Overseer Of The Manicurists In The Palace Of The King.”

74_gregreeder Inside the tomb the names of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep are inscribed as one name over the doorway. In the deepest part of the tomb the identical pair are shown in the most intimate embrace possible within the canons of ancient Egyptian art. The tips of the men’s noses are touching and their torsos are so close together that the knots on the belts of their kilts appear to be touching, perhaps even tied together. Here, in the innermost private part of their joint-tomb, the two men stand in an embrace meant to last for eternity.

The scholar Greg Reeder has done a great deal of writing about the importance of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep. White Crane spoke with him about these ancient forebears.

Dan Vera:
What do you think the significance of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep is to Gay people? What can we learn from the ancient world?

Greg Reeder:
It is important for Gay people to know that love between two men was beautifully portrayed in an ancient tomb of the 5th Dynasty in Old Kingdom Egypt. We need to understand that family could be more diverse than so-called normative, present day definitions. Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep were both married to women and had children, but they were still able to share a degree of intimacy that in other circumstances was only shown between husband and wife. Their family not only included their wives and children, but each other. The images of them embracing and kissing are stunning reminders that the ancient world has much to teach us about where we have come from; the ways people adapted to the rules of society and yet were still able to express their same-sex devotions.

Vera:
How did you get involved with his area of study?

74_niankkhnom Reeder:
In 1981 I made my first trip to Egypt with my friend Michael Crisp. We spent two months there in the hopes of gathering material for a book on Egypt’s “sacred geography” – a book that never happened. Before I went to Egypt I was interested in the tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep because I had seen it referenced in a travel book, which declared that there were scenes of two men embracing each other. We tried unsuccessfully to visit the tomb in 1981. Sometime in the year or so following our visit, I approached Mark Thompson about the possibility of doing a story for the Advocate about the tomb. He was enthusiastic in reply and I set about writing the article and gathering some photographs. The article was published May of 1983. So Mark Thompson gave me my first opportunity to write about the two manicurists.

Vera:
You’ve also written about Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep in KMT, the modern journal of Ancient Egypt. Have other publications carried your research?

Reeder:
My friend Dennis Forbes, who also had worked for The Advocate, started KMT in 1990 with Michael Kuhlmann.  I was involved as staff photographer and then as a contributing editor. Dennis asked me to write a piece for KMT on Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep, which was published in KMT in 1993. I also published a paper on the tomb in World Archeology titled “Same-Sex Desire, Conjugal Constructs, and the Tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep.”

Vera:
Do you think the case for Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep as lovers is a solid one?

Reeder:
I think it a good one but one that needs to be discussed and debated. The ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom had a canon of art they used to depict the conjugal relationship between husband and wife.
My paper for World Archaeology goes into much detail about this. But, simply put, the ways the two men were portrayed embracing has its best parallels to those scenes of husband and wife embracing in other tombs of the period and I use examples from these other tombs to make the case. No matter what the biological relationship of the two men, there can be no doubt that they were expressing a profound intimacy and attraction that may best be described as “lovers.”

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!

For more on Greg Reeder and to see more images from the tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep, please visit www.egyptology.com

WC74 – Malcolm Boyd – Moments Between Lovers

74_malcolmboyd Moments Between Lovers
By Malcolm Boyd

Your eyes are closed in sleep.

You look relaxed, happy and content to be with me. You share my time and space, being and heart.

I like to sit quietly with you; share a meal, friends, laughter, a film; shop with you Saturdays at the market; hold you in my arms.

Now I look away from your face because I have no wish to intrude on your private dreams or startle you with my intensity if you should awaken.

But the clock radio by our bed tells me I must get up to start a new day.  I don’t stir.  I am grateful you are warm and dear, sweet and sharing, and love me.  I am happy to start this new day with you.
We are in the kitchen.

You are making what appears to be a postmodern salad that has bright colors.  I am readying a sauce.
The only sound is my butter and oil simmering.  I’ll sauté mushrooms before adding them.  You are about to cook asparagus.

My task requires total concentration, and I must confess you are bothering me slightly by getting in my way.
Nevertheless, it is a lovely moment with rich smells, stove warmth, shared physical involvement, and a mutual purpose.

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 Rev. Canon Malcolm Boyd began his career in the production company of Mary Pickford and was the first president of the Television Producers Association of Hollywood. He is now, of course, Poet/writer-In-Residence of the Los Angeles Episcopal Archdiocese and an advisor to White Crane Institute.  His Gay Classic Take Off the Masks was recently republished by White Crane Books which will publish the Malcolm Boyd Reader in 2008.

WC74 – Activist Love Harry Hay & John Burnside

74_harryhayjohnburnside Activist Love
The Loving Companions Harry’nJohn
by Stuart Timmons

Editor’s note:  When White Crane asked Stuart Timmons to write about John Burnside and Harry Hay, he drew from his 1990 biography, The Trouble With Harry Hay, which told that story.  Passages from that book appear in italics, with permission.  But he found a bit more of the story.  Whitman quotations are from the “Calamus” poems in the 1892 edition of Leaves of Grass.

They met long ago, in 1962, but late in their own lives.  Harry was past fifty; John was four years younger.  To Gay friends they exemplified that rare thing, an activist couple, and, eventually, an even greater rarity, an elder Gay couple.  To the straight world they were the progressives who immediately brought Gay politics to social justice events by wearing matching outfits and carrying beribboned picket signs.  Their conjoined presence even had a name:  Harry’nJohn.

But Harry Hay and John Burnside were, first and foremost, simply trying to beat the odds of middle age and the void of support in finding Gay love and companionship.  The little-told story is that the activist and the inventor succeeded –not just for themselves, but for us.  As a part of their own relationship, Hay and Burnside set out to model something that was in very short supply in 1962:  Gay community.

That word, which overuse has caused to ring somewhat hollow, carries a powerful weight and heritage, as they were aware.  The concept that the expression of Gay love, not just as a personal act, but as a broad social value – was an world-changing idea – dates back to the intellectual ferment of the second half of the 19th Century.  Especially evident in the poems of Walt Whitman, the concept of Gay male companionship as a revolutionary and transformative phenomenon had ignited the imaginations of countless Gay men, however subtly or even unconsciously.

For the new couple, it was quite conscious.  Having poured his life energies into the founding of the Mattachine Society in a period spanning 1948 to 1953, Hay became exhausted by and profoundly wary of formal organizations.  When nasty infighting caused Hay to part with the organization he had created, he vowed never again to make himself vulnerable to hierarchical structures – which he glibly dismissed as “hetero-imitative.”  He even questioned whether such organizations could achieve social change.  Nevertheless he remained dedicated to social reform.  A Gay presence in the mass culture became his method.  This process began, for Harry’nJohn, with them.

They had met once before — in the fire-lit living room of the British philosopher Gerald Heard, who expounded on the notion that a secret society of homosexuals was destined to —anonymously and benevolently — run the world.  But Harry and John only connected months later, at ONE Incorporated, the heir to Hay’s homophile organizing which focused on classes and cultural activities.  ONE, which John referred to as “the University of Homosexuality,” was by nature a largely male, over-40 crowd. Hay visited with occasional inspirations, and one afternoon, while proposing a Gay square-dancing league, he encountered something that stopped him cold:
He heard what he later called ‘a cascade of silvery laughter’ coming from an adjoining office.  He insisted on meeting its source, who was a middle-aged man with youthful, cherubic features and deep dimples – just Harry’s type. As he subsequently maneuvered around the man with the silvery laugh, it dawned on Harry that ‘just maybe I was coming to know a five-foot eight version of the man of my dreams…  They mentioned meeting again the next day at ONE, and did so nonchalantly – Hay dressed in a tight yellow cashmere sweater he had not worn in years, and Burnside wearing scarlet shorts and a matching t-shirt.

John was a successful businessman.  He had pioneered a new form of kaleidoscope that had been widely publicized, including in the Village Voice and Vogue, and sold at stores ranging from Neiman-Marcus (John corresponded with Stanley Marcus himself) to Fraser’s, an upscale emporium in Berkeley.  His invention had earned John a home in the Hollywood hills – but he was married, and, aside from early childhood forays, remained a Gay virgin.  Only since he had begun attending ONE had he began to approach actual personal fulfillment.  That fulfillment raced forward when he arranged to have dinner at Harry’s.

Though John arrived a nerve-wracking three hours late to their first date, they postponed the chef’s salad Harry had prepared for another five hours, which they spent in bed.  They fell for each other at every level, as they found out how much they had in common.  Burnside was also a westerner, from Seattle.  Both were lapsed Catholics, were close in age (Burnside was forty-seven, Harry fifty-one), and had weathered long heterosexual marriages….  [Burnside] described their childless union as “not unhappy” but his inner life he considered “cursed” until he first visited ONE, which he had heard about from some Gay employees at the kaleidoscope factory.  Within two weeks of meeting Harry – they date their anniversary as October 6 –their relationship was “fixed.”  But there was a hitch:  John’s wife Edith.

Extricating John from the secure if unfulfilling life he had known was not easy.  While he knew a relationship with Harry was inevitable, he still needed to break free of his early indoctrination in homophobia by Catholic brothers.  He required time to make the leap to Gay life – as well as into a relationship with a powerful personality.  Harry’s response was a convention of classic heterosexuality.  “We went through a whole process of courtship.  Harry courted me,” says Burnside.  Their values only sometimes clashed;  at one point, John offered to buy Harry a mink coat, a touching gesture but one far too bourgeois for Hay’s taste –let alone for Southern California weather.

Falling in love at fifty-one was, to Hay, a phenomenon of healing.  He wrote of the experience, “The pain is lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy.  I can remember when John and I first felt that amazement.”  The affair was even more of an emotional milestone for Burnside, who came to this first love with a preserved innocence.  They began a never-ending dialogue about their backgrounds, reading, and ideas, starting on Friday night and continuing to Monday morning, when each had to return to work.

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!

Stuart Timmons is an author, historian and biographer living in Los Angeles.  He is the author of The Trouble With Harry Hay and co-author of Gay L.A. which won two Lambda Literary Awards.

WC74 – Poetry by Jeff Mann

74_akhilleuspatroklosjeffmann Achilles and Patroclus
by Jeff Mann

Tomorrow. 
Tomorrow, Patroclus.
It is fine armor, and you shall wear it.

Now, though,
do as you have always done.
Roast me the meat of the ox,

warm the rough bread,
dapple it with wild honey.  Pour
into goblets, gifts of my father,

the piney wine you brought
from home.  Bathe later,
I will bathe you. But now I love

the musk of courage,
the weary scent of you,
black hair like waves as yet unbroken

about your face, across
your breast.  How many years
have feasts meant only you and I? 

Our couch in firelight,
limbs intwined, drowsy
weight of you, beard brushing my back.

There is blood
on your brow.  Kisses
of my mouth will cleanse you.

No, no more
weapons today.  I promise
tomorrow.  Must the son of a sea goddess

say Please?
Strength loves strength.
Who can stand against our arms?

After meat
and wine, close the tent flap.
What is sweetest is your sweat,

fur-salt I lap,
dark sea-way that leads
a warrior home. Such thick arms,

such small wrists.
Inside you I feel blood-
honey, blossom, stone.  One day

these partings will depart. 
Someone will chant our names,
remember our oath to lie in earth together—

leg bones, ribs
and skulls, these fingers
clasping your still-warm wrist. 

Our wedding waits in the dark,
stained with fire, stained with wine. 
Bone-urn befitting heroes, forever’s graven gold.

74_jeffmann

Jeff Mann is a poet, writer and teacher. 
He recently won a Lambda Literary Award for his book History of Barbed Wire (Suspect Thoughts Press).  White Crane interviewed him on his memoir/poetry collection Loving Mountains, Loving Men in issue #68. 
He is the author of numerous great books of poetry including On The Tongue, Bones Washed With Wine, Flintshards from Sussex and Mountain Fireflies.
He teaches in the writing program at Virginia Tech.

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

WC74 – Owner’s Manual – Jeff Huyett

74_ownersmanualHealth Dogma or Smorgasbord
By Jeff Huyett

I recently heard a young Muslim man speak about religious plurality. He noted that much of the conflict occurring between the Judeo-Christian and Muslim worlds is based on a religious absolutism that prevents discourse between the religions. Each has the philosophy that its path is the one true path to holiness or the Divine. All others are infidels or non-believers in need of salvation or enlightenment. The work of these religions is, then, to proselytize to those outside their belief system to change their belief to be the same as theirs. Thus, conflict arises because each believes that theirs is the only true way. This young man’s notion was that modern day religions must accept the beliefs of others as possibilities to remove the innate conflict. Were religions to embrace this philosophy, much of the conflict of between monotheistic religions would begin to dissolve as each could embrace the other as heading down a path to the Divine though it may be a different path than their own.
Health beliefs are often similar. We tend to believe that one philosophy is better than others. We adhere to a method and believe that other ways are just not as healthy. Sometimes this absolutism can create conflict with others and strict adherence may actually be causing harm unbeknownst to that person.

In the burgeoning HIV epidemic of the ‘80’s, Western Medicine had limited answers and even less treatment for those living with the disease. In the midst of an emerging “New Age” philosophy, many Gay men and other folks with HIV turned to “alternative and complementary therapies” to find healing and treatment for their disease. In the era when AZT was prescribed in very high doses, many people avoided this treatment which was sometimes as deadly as HIV itself. Desperate for relief and healing, people with HIV energized many of these older philosophies toward healing in this country. This expanded interest in alternative methods has continued and grows even today. The growth of complementary therapies has even stimulated development of regulation of  these therapies through the Food and Drug Administration much the same as pharmaceutics.

Many “alternative” methods for health are older than modern medicine. Their roots come from traditional healers and practitioners who existed long before “medicine” was organized. As a nurse, I honor the importance and place of these methods in patient care. But sometimes users of these methods can adhere to a sort of dogma about health and health practices that collides with the views of doctors or nurses in this country.
There exists today, still, people who do not believe that HIV is the cause of immune suppression that can lead to opportunistic infections that define AIDS. I’m still baffled when I meet patients who refuse to believe that HIV is the cause of AIDS and refuse to test to see if they are infected. Because I believe in the practice of collaboration with my patients, I try hard to relate to patients with these beliefs and find a way for us to hit common ground in our relationship. It’s not always easy.

It is incredibly sad when I provide an HIV-positive diagnosis to someone who has become ill with an opportunistic infection and it is their first knowledge of having HIV. It just doesn’t make sense to me for someone to avoid testing because they don’t believe they will become ill with HIV. An infection, like pneumocystis carnii pneumonia, occurs and can be deadly if treatment is avoided. And the scarring caused by this bug can cause breathing problems for the rest of the person’s life. HIV wasn’t in the patient’s belief system, they wouldn’t get tested, and their immune system failed before they even knew they were ill.

I used to be very touchy-feely with patients like this to honor their beliefs. Today, it’s just too difficult to let this kind of belief slide. I have to confront this denial and ignorance as I cannot watch another person die senselessly by their own misinformation. These patients will tell me that HIV isn’t the reason that people die and that they die from the antiviral therapy that is prescribed. Since I lived through the times when I watched a patient a week be buried, I just cannot keep my cool. I tell them directly, “If HIV is not the cause of AIDS and the meds are poison, why is it that people are not dying like they used to before the ‘cocktail?’” Or, “With your disbelief you dishonor all the men and women who have died before there actually was effective treatment.” Typically, when a patient will not come around to understanding HIV as the cause of AIDS, I have to refer them to another provider. Our relationship just won’t work effectively for either of us. Now, I understand that we don’t have all the answers about HIV and it’s natural history and treatment, but I feel pretty confident that we are heading in the right direction.
This type of extreme belief isn’t especially common but I come across it often enough. I even have providers send patients to me to try to help them work through their disbelief. But this really isn’t the role I like to play. I like the role of collaborator with the patient. I like to work with patients to understand their bodies and the particular illness with which they are bothered and come to some level of healing path that will ensure their health as well as maintain the integrity of their beliefs.

Commonly, I will encounter a patient who needs a particular pharmaceutical to treat their illness but they’ll refuse to take anything. I’m comfortable with recommending non-prescriptions for treatment. I like to have patients adjust their diet and change their lifestyle as a way to improve their health. Prescription medicines are commonly the last thing I recommend. But sometimes, a patient says “I don’t take pills,” or “I won’t use prescription medicines.” At the same time, these patients often use a variety of herbal and supplement preparations that they will take multiple times a day.

They use complex regimens of pills, powders and pastes that can make even a complex HIV regimen look pretty simple. They will adhere to a regimented diet that limits their ability to interact and socialize. They worry about getting in their treatments to such a level that can cause them great anxiety. I’ve never felt that this kind of management was very healthy.  I use the term “health monotheism” to describe patients who completely reject all other methods of health and healing for the path they have chosen.  There is no one path to health that I believe is completely right. And while most complementary therapies are fairly safe, some can be just as dangerous as the medicines that come from big pharmaceutical companies.

One example is a young woman I saw who came to see me because she was feeling fatigued, had a poor appetite, and felt depressed. I spent time talking with her about her health beliefs, assessing health patterns and choices, and doing physical exam. Generally, she had been very healthy through her life. She disclosed that she was taking high doses of chamomile to reduce anxiety she was having. She had heard it was safe and helpful to calm her and had been dosing in this high range for three months. She was pleased with the results but was now concerned about these other symptoms that had arisen. She was working with an energy healer and acupuncturist.

She typically engaged a physician only when she her acupuncturist told her or when her current practitioners could not relieve her symptoms. She voiced distrust of the “big medical machine” and doctors. She had never seen a nurse practitioner and hadn’t had a women’s health preventative exam in over five years. (This is the exam that checks one’s breasts and cervix for early detection and prevention of cancers.) When I felt her liver I noticed that it was tender and mildly enlarged. Assuming she had a hepatitis virus, I did the typical battery of liver tests and immunological tests. There were no signs of infection but obvious liver inflammation. I recommended she stop the chamomile immediately and come see me in two weeks.  She did this and her liver tests came back to normal range. Her presenting symptoms were relieved.

While this clear-cut example isn’t common, the disdain for the US health care system is. Certain personal events or community norms can shape our trust in the people we seek out for advise on healing. One bad experience can color our future with any provider. When one method or clinician fails us we can grasp on to one type of philosophy and then adhere to it religiously. This is when our health monotheism can lead to a dogma that can be harmful.

In my last column, I encouraged readers to find a provider with whom they are comfortable and find it easy to develop a relationship. The primacy of our relationship with a healer is really the most important part of the healing relationship. We work with someone who gets to know us and our beliefs, is familiar with our bodies, and the subsequent recommendations come from this relationship of knowing. For basic wellness and health promotion, there exist many methods within the various philosophies, each with a grounding in history, repetition, and, sometimes, research. When an illness or lack of health creep in, various philosophies tend to diverge on causality and thus, can create discord between the beliefs about the best way to heal.

Since health is individualized, I don’t believe one method is better than another to achieve health. For myself, and for patients, I believe that the best approach to healing is first to be well informed. I recommend that one seek information from various sources to achieve an understanding about what is going on in their bodies. The patient is the one who is best at knowing what is going on since they reside in their bodies. But their information about their bodies may be so skewed as to cause misinterpretation. This is where a consultant can be beneficial. Chinese medicine, for example, is drastically different from Western medicine in causes of illness and treatments. So many of us, then, have an opportunity to seek guidance from two very different modalities in order to be better informed about our experience of our bodies. We don’t have to believe everything about either philosophy in order to gain from its wealth. But each can provide a rich source of information with which to make decisions.

I typically find that the patient who does best is the one who is informed and bases their decisions on that information. So a plurality of beliefs can only benefit us when it comes to our health. If no one method is perfect, then this variety of information sources can only improve our own path to health by providing us with a broader range of health choices and selections. We can take the relevant information from the various philosophies to develop a plan that suits our own personal need.

I encourage the health absolutists to explore a variety of methods. Thus, when a patient is completely sold on one method, I encourage them to talk to another type of clinician for an opinion about where their body is and how it is responding to the current practice the patient is keeping. Since physical assessment varies between philosophies, one clinician may uncover something a clinician from a different paradigm failed to unearth. This disparity of philosophy then provides for a broader range of assessment and method. So gaps in one philosophy can be filled in where another philosophy lacks.

If you have only seen physicians for your health care, consider seeing a clinician from a completely different paradigm. See an acupuncturist or body worker or even a nurse. Expand your notion and understanding of your body and your particular concern. If you see only “alternative practitioners” consider an evaluation with a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant to evaluate, in Western terms, the results and consequences of various therapies on your body. Though the research paradigm in Western medicine continues to be questioned, it can give us many valuable answers about the operation of the body that are readily objective and easy to interpret. So when a patient is using a therapy not extensively researched, that patient can use well-proven methods to evaluate outcomes.

The danger of absolutism is what you miss. An example is monitoring labs like the woman doing the chamomile. Though we may feel well, some treatments may have a long-term impact on the body. We do not have to do everything that our healers recommend. But we can enter and continue our path to health and wellness with our eyes wide open. We can use the wealth of information available to make conscious informed decisions as opposed dogmatic adherence.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journaland 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 regular feature of White Crane. Jeff Huyett is a nurse practitioner 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 JeffANP@aol.com

WC74 – Praxis – Andrew Ramer

Love is a gateway
We are gatekeepers

PRAXIS from Andrew Ramer

74_praxisRecently a friend invited to a theme party: bring the songs you were listening to when you came out. In a flash, music raced through my body with pain. My entire first relationship with a man arcs its way through three Aretha Franklin songs: “(Gotta Find Me an) Angel,” “Brand New Me,” and, “Until You Come Back to Me.”

1972. Berkeley. I’d just moved into a student coop. Shy, always eating alone, I looked up one day and saw a dark handsome man carrying his lunch tray across the crowded dining room. Felt as if a comet had streaked through my chest. Spent the next month spiraling around him till he noticed me and (amazingly) began to fall in love with me. Richard was my first embodied angel. Renovated me and made me new. Connected me to something I never knew existed, something I wanted to posses, which made him feel trapped and caused him to push me away. We spent more than a year in a dance of passionate love and soul-staggering closeness followed by his having sex with other men and me raging at him, sobbing, slamming doors, till he allowed me to ravish him again. Broken, aching, I moved to Seattle, where he sent me six and ten and twelve page love letters, begging me to come back. But when I did, to surprise him, he stared at me in the doorway as if I were an IRS agent come to audit him. Finally he invited me in. Of course we ended up in bed. After six more torturous months I fled to New York, in spite of his repeated protestations that he loved and wanted me.

A few years later he moved to New York. We talked once or twice a year, ran into each other on the street. Sometime in the middle of the 1980s, both of us single, we met for dinner and went back to his apartment, where we sat facing each other on opposite ends of his couch, talking, eating ice cream, our legs intertwined. I felt a mix of joy and terror, as if we’d never been apart. “Until you come back to me” was playing in my mind, but no clothes came off and we exchanged a long cautious hug when I left. He called me first thing in the morning to say he felt the same way I had. Promised to call in a day or two to set up another time to meet for dinner. Called three months later. Never returned my calls in between. Said, when we finally spoke, that he loved me but was afraid I’d go crazy on him again. It was like that till he died, another decade later. Affirmations of how much he wanted me in his life followed by another disappearance. In spite of our history, if he resurrected and I saw him walking down the street, I know the same joy I always felt with him would rush through me from toe to head, from heart to cock. And I’d want to be with him for some kind of forever, just as I had the first moment I looked up and saw his curly dark head and heard his funny nasal voice bouncing across the dining room.

In 1980 Christopher Isherwood gave me the secret to understanding love that I wish I’d had when Richard and I were together. Not that I ever meet Isherwood. I was working in a bookstore in Greenwich Village and opened a carton to find his new book, My Guru and His Disciple, which I devoured. In 1939 Isherwood met Swami Prabhavananda. Knowing at a certain point that the swami’s answer would determine whether or not he could continue to study with him, Isherwood posed this question: “Can I lead a spiritual life as long as I’m having a sexual relationship with a young man?” The swami’s answer to Isherwood surged through me and told me everything I needed to know: “You must try to see him as the young Lord Krishna.”

Hindus may have an easier time with this than others. For them God incarnates frequently. It’s probably a stretch for Christians, but not impossible to view the beloved as Christ. It’s a leap for many Muslims, but in Rumi and other Sufi poets we find acknowledgement of the union of beloved and Divine Beloved. Surprisingly, even Jews sometimes tiptoe toward this concept. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a major theologian of the 20th century wrote: “To meet a human being is an opportunity to sense the image of God, the presence of God. According to a rabbinical interpretation, the Lord said to Moses: “Whenever you see the trace of man, there I stand before you.” 

74_praxis2 Each time we cry out in the heat of passion, “O God,” we are affirming the truth of this delicious mystery. Too bad I didn’t understand it with Richard. Instead, I grabbed onto him, trying to possess the Divine flowing through him, which for some miraculous reason I was able to see, which filled me with passion in a way I’d never felt before. Given my inability to understand what was happening, and my sad attempts to possess what cannot be possessed – God shining through him – Richard was right to be wary of me.

Some of us are moths diving into flame. Others feel the heat and fly away. Both approaches are natural. Neither approach is wise. Both evade the real power of love, its capacity to bridge spirit and matter, mortal and immortal, human and divine. It’s not easy to comprehend and live by the swami’s message. But thirty years later, and a few more heartbreaks, I can listen to those same Aretha Franklin songs and hear God being sung to and singing through them. “Just because of you” is now, “Just because of You,” a psalm in gospel voice to the One who peers through the one I love. How about you?

  • Do you remember the songs that were playing when you came out? Are you one of those people who have songs that conjure up all of your lovers? And do those songs continue to inform your love life, oracular reflections of your fate?
  • What music have you been listening to lately? Whether or not you’re partnered, dating, having sex, not having sex – have you learned that our lovers aren’t a destination. They’re a gateway through which the Divine peers out at us. Are you able to see your beloved, beloveds, past, present, future, as the young Lord Krishna?
  • If your answer to that question is No, what kind of practices might help you open your eyes to the Essence flowing through another man? Will reading poetry or listening to music help? Will dancing, meditating, praying before an image of something or someone that moves your soul provide the assistance you need? What else might work for you? Cooking, gardening, masturbating in a self-created sacred space?
  • And perhaps more challenging – can you see yourself as the young Lord Krishna? Can you embody the Divine as well as be Its lover? What will it take for you to be so open, so transparent, that God can shine through you, whatever you call It, Her, Him? Breathwork and bodywork can open the blocked portals of perception and sensation. Devotion to your craft, whatever it is, can become your channel for the sacred to flow through you. What will work for you? Can you see your life as a journey toward Incarnation, making yourself an open gateway toward God for another man to witness and adore?

I wish that I had read Isherwood before I met Richard, and had friends old and wise enough to explain to me what the swami meant. (I met him once, and he did change my life. But that’s another story.) I wish that Richard had lived long enough for me to have this conversation with him. For me to be able to apologize to him for confusing kinds of love, not trusting love, and wanting from him what blessedly came through him. Instead, several weeks ago, I contacted his best friend Dan, a man I hadn’t seen in more than thirty years, who was kind enough to indulge my questions about Richard. All of which have led me to a place of gratitude and love abiding. Gone from the world, I can say of my love for that curly dark haired man – once God shined at me through him. And it now occurs to me that if God is beyond time and bodies, It must still be shining through the mortal angel I fell in love with, plastic lunch tray in his lovely hands, all those many years ago.

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

Andrew Ramer is a writer and educator.  He is the author of numerous books including Revelations for a New Millenium, Little Pictures: Fiction for a New Age and the Gay classic  Two Flutes Playing: A Spiritual Journeybook for Gay Men  from White Crane Books.

Ramer lives in San Francisco. Praxis is a regular feature of White Crane.

WC74 – Review of The Master of Seacliff

Rvu_pierce Book Review

The Master of Seacliff 
by Max Pierce
Harrington Park Press, 201 pages
$16.95 ISBN-10: 1560236361

Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

Classic romantic Gay literature and the gothic novel were made for one another, because they often share similar elements. Set in an earlier time, such as the idyllic 19th century of Henry James, there’s a peculiar setting, frequently an old, possibly haunted, dark house by the sea. One of the leading characters is struggling with his homosexuality, so he’s angry, and brooding, hiding his mysterious past. The other leading character is a young and virginal hero, who, like a fish out of water, meets other characters who’d love to relieve him of his virginity. Throughout the story, there are assorted lascivious secondary characters, although one of them wisely dispenses advice to this virginal hero. Finally, there’s the domestic who knows everything, and reveals nothing.
Nowhere are these elements this more evident than in Max Pierce’s terrific novel, The Master of Seacliff. Furthermore, like those gothic novels, this is a pleasurable, entertaining read.

The story focuses on Andrew Wyndham, a talented artist. In order to earn enough so he can relocate to Paris and continue his studies, Andrew accepts a position tutoring Tim, the young son of Duncan Stewart, an industrialist. (Does this sound a little bit like Jane Eyre?) Stewart supposedly murdered his father so he could control the family business. Although this hasn’t been proven, when Andrew arrives at Seacliff, a dark, old house, which reminds us of Misselthwaite Manor, the setting for The Secret Garden. Andrew’s immediately at odds with both the son and the father. Alternatively attracted and repelled by the handsome Stewart, Andrew sets about doing his work, but he’s soon drawn into unraveling the mystery and scandal of the murder, and the disappearance of Stewart’s former lover, the talented pianist Stephen Charles.

I was halfway through this novel before I realized that it The Master of Seacliff is really a Gay variation of Daphne du Maurier’s classic, Rebecca, Duncan Stewart is this version’s Mr. DeWinter, the manservant, Fellowes filling in for Mrs. Danvers, and Andrew is the narrator-wife character. Pierce fills his novel with plenty of the right twists and turns, including a pair of lusty siblings to confuse Andrew, plenty of action (softly sexual and otherwise) at Seacliff’s various locations, and more than a few red herrings.

The Master of Seacliff is a real page-turner. It’s perfect for curling up in a comfortable chair with during those chilly Autumn nights alone.

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

WC74 Review of Soulfully Gay

Rvu_perez Book Review

Soulfully Gay:
How Harvard, Sex, Drugs, and Integral Philosophy
Drove Me Crazy and Brought Me Back to God

By Joe Perez, Shambala Publications, ISBN 978-1-59030-418-1, 328 pages, paperback original, $16.95

Reviewed by Toby Johnson

As founder and manager, for some four years, of the Gay Spirituality & Culture Weblog that originated around the 2004 Gay Spirit Summit, Joe Perez has made himself a significant place in the Gay spirituality movement. His blog has offered an ongoing series of comments and reactions to news and media events about our issues. Now in this personal memoir and philosophical autobiography he shares the events that brought him to an intellectually rigorous and psychologically satisfying understanding of homosexuality as a spiritual/philosophical experience.

An important part of Perez’s story is his discovery of the elaborate philosophical system of synthesizer extraordinaire Ken Wilbur. Perez has become an exponent for Wilbur’s ideas in the Gay context. And Wilbur, in turn, has provided a Foreword to Soulfully Gay. One might quibble with why Wilbur begins by emphatically declaring that he himself is not Gay, but he ends the Foreword with a wonderful statement about Perez’s process and accomplishment. Wilbur says that because Joe has learned through his life experience to feel “deeply, deeply okay about himself,” he is able to say yes to life and that has made Joe’s life into a work of art.
What a wonderful thing to be able to say about yourself—and, even better, to have one of your heroes and teachers say about you!

Soulfully Gay is itself a work of art. It is a sort of diary, organized by date, through which Perez recounts to himself—and his readers, of course—the events that have led him from being a devout Catholic youth from a working class background to a Harvard student studying comparative religion to sexual rebel and crystal meth user to AIDS survivor and then AIDS patient himself to mental patient to mystic to philosopher. It comes as no surprise, then that one of the crucial events in his life was a nervous breakdown during which he imagined his life was being made into a movie called The Seeker. The most skillful, soulful story-telling gimmick of the book is the gradual unreeling of this narrative, building up to a final climax that is part Buddhist mystic vision and part Thelma & Louise.

Tucked within the autobiography are several very interesting discussions of Gay spirituality. Perez’s primary insight, he says—and I’d agree—is what he calls “The Importance of Being Gay.” In a series of six short essays he argues that there are four universal, archetypal patterns that necessarily play out in human consciousness. These are masculine, feminine, other-directed and same-directed. Love, he says, is not just an emotion or a sexual dynamic, but rather a manifestation of the soul’s desire to be reunited with God—and this is how God loves: in love of others (heterophilia) and in love of self (homophilia). It is these archetypal patterns that result in humans being male, female, heterosexual and homosexual. The model very nicely places homosexuality as simply part of the way things are. And that insight eases homophobia and fear. Another layer of his model includes how fear is also other-directed and same-directed. Either way it is assuaged with truth.

Developing a systematic approach to determining truth is the main thrust of Ken Wilbur’s philosophy (which he boldly calls in one of his book titles A Theory of Everything). And Perez is following in his path. Unfortunately, this reviewer thinks, he follows Wilbur in the pattern of making up acronyms for wide-ranging concepts. Wilbur calls his integral theory of everything AQAL (meaning “all quadrants, all levels”—and including all lines, all states, and all types). Perez calls his vision of how Gayness fits into the universal patterns T.I.O.B.G. (“the importance of being Gay”). This reader doesn’t care for the acronyms; but thoroughly agrees with Wilbur’s and Joe Perez’s process of seeking a higher and higher perspective, of being “all” inclusive.

In this reviewer’s point of view, Perez rightly argues all through the book that homosexuality has to be understood from the higher perspective (called God) not just from within human prejudice.

The Gay Spirit Summit occurred during the period of this diary, and Joe “blogged” the Summit. Though it doesn’t provide specific details, Soulfully Gay does document that event.

One of the missions Joe Perez adopted for himself while he was managing the Gay Spiritual & Culture blog was the very practical task of starting up a recognizably Gay celebration of the winter solstice and New Year. He explains that in 1966 the African-American cultural holiday Kwanzaa was initiated by one man, Dr. Maulana Ron Karenga; now it is celebrated by millions. Couldn’t one person, similarly, create a Gay equivalent in that same spirit? Perez reports on his dialogues with other Gay spiritual leaders about establishing such a parallel Gay holiday (this reviewer was honored to have been included in that dialogue). He gives an account of a Yuletide/Rainbow New Year/Bridge of Light ritual he designed and conducted. Perhaps his vision will still come about—in part because it’s now immortalized in this book.

The weblog/diary style creates a sort of disjointed organization. Instead of by topic, ideas are presented by chronology. Thus comments about books he’s read or web-articles he’s written or insights he’s had tend to sound reactive and sometimes argumentative, rather than logical and sequential. But, of course, the reality of all our lives is that we live chronologically and everything’s happening to us disjointedly and reactively. So the very characteristic of the book’s fault could also be its strength.

By using the diary style, Perez is able to insert his life into his thought and share the events that surround the ideas and gives them reality. His struggle to be a good person and to live life the right way, to cope with his HIV status, to find love comes across vividly. The philosophical stuff is part of his process. It really does matter what you think.

And that’s the message he brings about Gayness, about AIDS and health, about the various issues of Gay culture and community: the philosophical, spiritual ideas really matter. That’s what being “soulfully Gay” is about—finding your Gayness in your soul and your soul in its rightful place in the universe AQAL.
And that’s T.I.O.B.G. to you!

This is a good read. Even when Perez goes off on a tangent, his ideas and insights are interesting, insightful, and appealing.

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

WC74 – Review of Wisdom for the Soul

Rvu_chang Book Review

Wisdom for the Soul:
Five Millennia of Prescriptions
for Spiritual Healing

Compiled & edited by Larry Chang
Gnosophia Publishers, 824 pages, Hardcover, $49.95

Reviewed by Toby Johnson

The final quotation cited in this enormous tome of brief quotes of wisdom is from a man named Philip G. Hamerton 1834-1894, who wrote: “Have you ever observed that we pay much more attention to a wise passage when it is quoted than when we read it in the original author?”

Indeed, this book is founded on that fact. And a very impressive edifice is constructed upon it. Wisdom for the Soul is a sort of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations squared! But unlike Bartlett’s it is all focused on wise sayings, not just famous ones, and organized by themes rather than by author (a 47 page biographical index of the 2500 some authors is appended).

Larry Chang, the creator of this impressive collection is described as a student of Religious Science and the Dharma, with a grounding in metaphysics, spirituality, pastoral counseling and public speaking. He is also described as an exile from Jamaica who was granted asylum in the U.S. based on sexual orientation. So he’s a Gay man.

Chang demonstrates one of those functions of Gay men as keepers of the past and keepers of wisdom that White Crane has come to champion.

This, of course, isn’t a “Gay book” as such, though there’s wisdom from Gay writers scattered throughout. A cursory examination of the author index shows such names as James Broughton, Arthur C. Clarke, Quentin Crisp, Harvey Fierstein, John Fortunato, Michel Foucault, Allen Ginsberg, Peter Gomes, Paul Goodman, Langston Hughes, William James, Audre Lorde, Bill T. Jones, Somerset Maugham, Stephen Sondheim, Annie Sprinkle, Lily Tomlin, Gore Vidal, Walt Whitman, Oscar Wilde, Marguerite Yourcenar, etc.
What an exercise in history, literature and culture it is just looking at the names.

And I’m happy to say my name is among them. I was pleased to see that Larry Chang outed himself in his back cover flap biography, explaining his asylum in the U.S. for sexual orientation. And I am proud to report that I myself get outed in the book every time I’m quoted (in twelve places) because my book titles contain the word “Gay.”

As that quote from Philip Hamerton points out wisdom is often most easily absorbed and remembered in short aphorisms. Larry Chang gives us a plethora of aphorisms. And, now he is working on a book of wisdom sayings for the soul of Black Folk and another for the soul of Queer Folk. I’m keeping my copy of Wisdom for the Soul next to my meditation cushion. It makes a great source of affirmations and inspirations.

The wisdom runs from funny to profound, just as it should. This is marvelous collection.

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

Selections from the book are also available on individual cards
for use as an oracle or for posting on the fridge. Check out www.wisdomforthesoul.org

Building Connections & Community for Gay Men since 1989