Category Archives: WC76 – Ancestors

WC76 – Table of Contents

76coverWhite Crane Issue #76


Hey there.  Below are excerpts from our Spring Ancestors issue.  Please understand that we rely on the support of subscribers to keep going.
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Updrafts by Dan Vera
re:Sources by Eric “Fritter” Riley
Frank Talk “Families, Holy and…there is no other kind” by Frank Jackson
PRAXIS “Ancestors ‘R Us” by Andrew Ramer


Opening Words “Forebears” The Editors
Call for Submissions
Letters to the Editors
Subscriber Information
Contribution Information

Taking Issue

Holding the Center: A White Crane Conversation with Steven Solberg by Bo Young & Dan Vera
Digging Up Old Bones Malcolm Boyd
Walking In Mystery: Ancestor, Elderhood, & Relationship By L.R. Heartsong
Brave New Faggot: A White Crane Conversation with David Mixner By Christopher Murray
Edward II’s Second Act By Michael G. Cornelius
About Marlowe’s Edward II By Mario DiGangi
Edward II: An Excerpt By Jeffrey Michels
The Sea Rises By James Baldwin

Culture Reviews

Steven LaVigne on Armistead Maupin’s Michael Tolliver Lives
Toby Johnson on David Ranan’s Double Cross
Toby Johnson on Daniel A. Helminiak’s The Transcended Christian: Spiritual Lessons for the 21st Century
Jeff Huyett on the Fenway Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health
Victor Marsh on Michael Bernard Kelly’s Seduced by Grace

WC76 – Opening Words

76_whitmanEditors Note
by Dan Vera & Bo Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dan: What did you love in the issue?

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

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

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

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

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

Dan: Yes.

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

Dan: Oui.

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

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

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

You can write them at

Photograph of Walt Whitman, Library of Congress archives.

WC86 – Letters to the Editors

Letters to the Editors we’ve received.

More likely bottoming

Did anyone else think Frank Johnson’s essay in the Winter ‘07 issue would have been more accurately titled “Strangelove: Or How I Finally Learned to Stop Worrying and Become a Bottom”? How his admission that he “still go[es] for the Tadzios and Timberlakes of the world” and that he “wouldn’t say [he’s] into bears specifically” shows that he’s come to “love the bears” is lost on me.

Louisville, Kentucky

Legal threats

This is to inform you that a major lawsuit will be started on the 15th of next month. You don’t seem aware that I have worked for the past 17 years on my masterwork “The Bearable Rightness of Being,” a study of the theology of Karl Barth. (It will change the focus of global theology for the next century.) A small Lebanese press is bringing it out next summer. It is inconceivable to me that you have sought neither to ask permission to use my title (my masterwork) nor to acknowledge the debt owed me by the entire literary and spiritual community for more than two decades of my creative sacrifice! My attorney will send you the relevant papers. I hope you realize I am willing to take this all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. I will prove that “The Bearable Rightness of Being” has both ancient and medieval roots.

Aspects of this will reach the highest levels of the Vatican and Canterbury. Bear with me, Mr. Young.

Los Angeles, California

Monumental Praise

Today I was delighted to receive my first issue of White Crane.

I believe the larger world is about to undergo what the Gay community experienced during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic: As the planet warms, and we continue depleting the world’s natural resources, humanity faces an environmental crisis of unprecedented proportions.

Gay men who have become enlightened to their unique gifts and spirituality will play a key role in the survival of the human race.

White Crane is a publication of monumental importance.

Best regards,

St. David’s, Pennsylvania

Getting a charge out of it

Dear Bo & Dan, I recently received my first issue of White Crane (Fall 2007). From the moment I saw the Egyptian couple on the cover I felt electrified in the best possible way. I truly enjoyed every bit of your magazine, even the ads. Professional American writing, and the photographs combine the earthly with the heavenly.

Love you guys,

Atlantic CANADA

A beacon of hope and light

I subscribed to White Crane expecting not much, or, not knowing what to expect, and have been surprised and delighted with each issue I have received. Your magazine is like a beacon of hope and light in this overly cynical age. The interviews are thoughtful and well researched, and the articles well written; never apologetic or in bad taste.

I am privileged to receive copies of White Crane in New Zealand, and pleased to pay a little more for that privilege.


Wanganui, New Zealand

Place more important than time

As I was reading through Toby Johnson’s review of The Undeniable Longing by Mark Tedesco, I found myself laughing when I reached Toby’s incredulity at Tedesco’s confusion in 1978. Specifically Tedesco’s being “so unaware of homosexuality.”

Well as someone born in 1983 and having entered seminary in 2001, I can only empathize with Tedesco, having shared much of the same confusion a few more decades after Stonewall. Mind you, it only took me a year to discover the beautiful world of Gay men and leave the seminary, but I was still terribly confused and tremendously sheltered. It was only after exploring Washington, DC away from the watchful eyes of my rector that I found that I was Gay, or at least found a word to describe my own undeniable longing.

Time is not as important as place on some journeys of personal discovery. Tedesco was simply not in the right place to take advantage of 1978.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

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WC76 – Steven Solberg Interview

76_solbergHolding the Center
A White Crane Conversation with Steven Solberg

By Bo Young & Dan Vera

This is only an excerpt…

Steven Solberg began in film in the heyday of San Francisco’s 1970s counterculture, hot on the glittering high heels of Stonewall. He co-starred in the legendary 1970 counterculture surrealist film, Luminous Procuress (now in the Whitney Museum of American Art collection), directed by Steven Arnold. Solberg went on to work with many of the leading artists and filmmakers of the avant-garde movement.

As a scenic designer and actor in Los Angeles from 1981- 1983 his credits include the scenic design for the LA County Art Museum’s Leo S. Bing Theater premiere of Luciano Berio’s Laborintus II, the world premiere of Eugene Ioneso’s Tales for People Under the Age of Three at Stages Theater Center, The LA premiere of Sam Shepard’s The Unseen Hand, Murray Mednick’s The Hunter and numerous other productions. In response to the devastating toll of the early AIDS epidemic and the necessity for a more stable and dependable livelihood following recovery from his own drug and alcohol addiction, Steven moved into the field of front-line social services.

From 1998 – 2005 Steven incorporated art therapy in HIV Education and Prevention services for the Van Ness Recovery House Prevention Division and AIDS Project Los Angeles, and co-founded the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Medicine Circle with Dr. Donald Kilhefner where he developed curriculums and taught workshops such as “Seeing In The Dark: An Introduction to Queer Shamanism.” For the past couple of years, now, Solberg has been working on a documentary about GLBTQ elders, aging and spirituality. Robert Croonquist a frequent contributor to White Crane and an associate producer of David Weissman and Bill Weber’s The Cockettes documentary put it this way: “It is an important movie. I want very much to see this movie come to light. Word is Out told the story of my birth as a Gay man. The Cockettes told the story of my youth. Standing on the Bones of Our Ancestors tells the story of my adulthood.”

White Crane Institute is proud to be the fiscal sponsor for Standing on the Bones of Our Ancestors: Exploring the Role of The Queer Tribal Elder. We asked Steven to talk about the film for this issue:

Bo Young: What prompted you to make a film on the subject of “ancestors”?

Steven Solberg: Actually I inherited the project. As a young person I earned a living as a fine artist freelancing my creative talents and services. I experienced periods of great success but also periods of tremendous financial insecurity – the life of an artist. As I grew older and it became less graceful to live “on the edge” I entered the field of front-line GLBTQ social services that offered me some financial security, specifically HIV education, prevention, health education, and substance abuse counseling. I often incorporated art as an intervention tool in the programs I was associated with, such as the Art Intervention program I facilitated for the Van Ness Recovery House Prevention Division in Los Angeles. And I earned some recognition and visibility in the community for my efforts.

Based on this work I was recommended as someone with the qualities of an emerging elder by a mutual colleague, Don Kilhefner, to a film producer by the name of Donald Ham and a director by the name of Lee Wind. They were looking for subjects for their documentary on Gay and Lesbian Elders. I became a principal subject of their film. But having barely started production, Donald Ham died suddenly. Lee, who had already become disillusioned by their inability to secure funding, reprioritized his commitments following Donald’s death and offered their initial tapings to me. I was willing to move the project forward as a “guerilla” production and so I inherited the project. Not long after that I began a form of chemotherapy treatment for Hepatitis C. Side-effects from medications became so debilitating I finally surrendered and took a period of disability leave from work. Treatment was grueling. I could barely get out of bed for nine months – but completely successful (the virus cleared and remains undetectable). Upon concluding treatment I returned to work, but only briefly since funding for the program I was employed with at AIDS Project Los Angeles was terminated by the CDC and therefore I was laid off.

It was serendipitous that I received a small inheritance following my mother’s death. Shared between two older brothers and two younger sisters it did not amount to much. But it allowed me to bring the initial videotaped interviews I’d inherited out of storage, revision the project, purchase a camera and other digital video equipment, a second-hand computer with digital editing software, and with a lot of support and prodding from my co-producer and domestic partner Kohl Miner, resume production on what has now become Standing on the Bones of Our Ancestors: Exploring the Role of the Queer Tribal Elder.

Bo: What is Standing on the Bones of Our Ancestors about? And where does the title come from?

Steven: This was the working title Donald Ham and Lee Wind were working with. So I inherited the title as well. They met with a lot of resistance to the title from potential funding sources. And were contemplating changing it. But I think it’s perfect. Remember that the full title is: Standing On the Bones of Our Ancestors: Exploring the Role of the Queer Tribal Elder I assume the metaphor of “Standing On the Bones of Our Ancestors” is from an indigenous culture or tribe. I know that in some African tribes the bones of ones ancestors are placed in special communal shrines. Or sometimes even within the rafters or structure of a family’s dwelling. In Chinese Qigong, bones are considered to hold the consciousness of our ancestors—our own bones as living repositories as well as the skeletal artifacts. But from whatever hereditary lineages we may have descended ancestors and elders were revered. In indigenous cultures we observe that the elders or old ones are almost always the guardians of the mysteries and the laws, and it is in these that the cultural heritage of the tribe is transmitted and expressed. As the Hopi say, “We have held the center, and so we endure.” This understanding is expressed so beautifully by the quotation I preface the project’s opening credits with. By anthropologist Joan Halifax:

“The wisdom that we need to solve our problems lies encoded in the depths of our unconscious minds, but it must be evoked by elders who evoke our potential. Without realized models to evoke our archetypal depths, we are literally lost in the world… Throughout history, elders have served as beloved pathfinders, beckoning us to enter the province of old age in anticipation of growing strength and usefulness to society.”

This is pretty much what the film is about. Exploring this concept within the context of the contemporary GLBTQ community. Not in an academic sense. But within the spiritual dimensions of the subjects interviewed as revealed through questions posed to them. Memories, dreams and reflections sculpted out of the interviews – what Mark Thompson would characterize as Queer Spirit, or Queer Soul. Around what it would mean for those of us who are entering the province of old age to become elders within our communities rather than just grow older. Or retire behind a gated community somewhere (assuming one is economically privileged enough to even afford to do that) with no intergenerational role in community.

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!

Standing on the Bones of Our Ancestors: Exploring the Role of the Queer Tribal Elder is a sponsored project of White Crane Institute.

Please visit to see how your contributions can help finish this important film.  Check our projects page.

WC76 – Malcolm Boyd

76_boyddavebystevenmillerDigging Up Old Bones

By Malcolm Boyd

This is only an excerpt…

There are so many secrets about our lives, especially our families, that makes digging for truth a highly questionable enterprise. This is one reason “living archives” are so important. In the past a dead person’s secrets contained in letters and other documents were routinely destroyed by family member’s intent on maintaining reputations. Recently pioneering archivists like the late Howard Gotlieb at Boston University have asked living persons to start their own archives while they are still alive and here.

I am one of those with an archive at Boston. Over the past 50 years I’ve sent the archive countless letters, notes, memorabilia and documents of every kind. My life isn’t secret; it’s revealed over and over again for any scholar or writer interested in exploring it. Once I complained somewhat bitterly to Dr. Gotlieb over the telephone that I’d given away all my secrets. “They don’t belong to me anymore,” I almost cried. “But,” he said — laughing and in the most positive tone —“you’ve gained an archivist.” I’d also gained a lifelong friend.

A key role of an archive, or archivist, is to explore who our immediate ancestors are and reveal information about them. This doesn’t mean turning the clock back a thousand years, but perhaps fifty or a hundred. My American Heritage Dictionary isn’t particularly helpful in defining “ancestor.” It says: “Any person from whom one is descended, particularly if more remote than a grandfather; a forefather.” This doesn’t work too well when one looks up “forefather” and finds “An ancestor.”

Does this leave me back at square one? Not exactly. As a Gay man, I have two sets of ancestors. The first is “legal” or official: this includes my grandparents. The second has no legality or official status at all; it includes those Gay people who have become role models or heroes for me. Generally I never met them because they were before my time. (Archives assume great importance when they provide needed information about them).

Let’s look for a moment at both sets of ancestors in my own life. We can begin with my grandfathers. I never met either of them. One was an Episcopal priest in Brooklyn around 1890 who fathered five children, including my dad, and died in his thirties. The other was Harry Joseph, a Conservative Jew, who married my grandmother Ruth. My mother Beatrice was their only child. Divorces and early deaths were factors that prevented me from knowing them.

My maternal grandfather, Harry Joseph, has touched my life strongly in his Jewishness. Growing up, I encountered the anti-Semitism of the ‘20s and ‘30s in the U.S. It both shocked and revolted me. Then it exploded in Nazi Germany into the Holocaust. As a young Episcopal priest in the ‘50s, my first parish was in an inner-city neighborhood of Indianapolis.

An Orthodox synagogue was located across the street from St. George’s, the parish which I served. On the Jewish Sabbath I became the one who turned on the light in the synagogue because no one Jewish was supposed to do it. This became a ritual for me. It wasn’t until a decade later that I paid my first visit to Israel. I had no idea what awaited me when, one night, I stood before the ancient Western (“Wailing”) Wall, a holy site of Judaism. I placed my forehead on a cold stone in the wall. I prayed for my grandfather. But the impact came when, suddenly, I realized he was never able to visit Jerusalem and stand in this place himself.

He got to stand before the Western Wall, and say his prayers, only through the medium of his goy grandson who did so. I found this a somewhat overpowering spiritual experience. Across a lot of time and space, Harry Joseph and I had surely bonded. I marveled at what we innocently call the mystery of life. Yet I couldn’t help wondering: what in the world would Harry Joseph make of his goy grandson? Would he want an Episcopal priest on the premises? More to the point, a Gay one?

There’s a story about Harry Joseph forever etched in my memory. It was a secret shared by mother, Beatrice, concerning her father. He and my grandmother Ruth had divorced. A teenager, Beatrice was visiting her father in Pennsylvania. Beatrice had a date with a young guy. Her father, a strict disciplinarian, had demanded they be back home by a certain time. They weren’t. When they got there, Harry Joseph was pacing back and forth, enraged. He believed Beatrice and her date had had sex. (They hadn’t). He ordered the young guy off the premises and said Beatrice could never see him again. Apparently a pre-feminist, Beatrice felt both outrage and betrayal. She decided not to accept this treatment.

That night she packed her trunk, called the young guy to come and pick her up and drive her to an early morning train. She departed for New York where she shortly became a top fashion model, met and married my father. Her sense of right-and-wrong had been violated. She had done nothing “wrong” and refused to accept punishment for what she had not done. This “secret” is not in my archive at Boston University but it is one of the strongest and most indelible stories of my life.

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!

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. This spring White Crane Books will release a compendium of Boyd’s writing in The Malcolm Boyd Reader.

"Dave" by Steven Miller Courtesy of the artist. Visit his website to see more of his amazing work at

WC76 – David Mixner Interview

76_mixner_georgetowneBrave New Faggot

A White Crane Conversation with David Mixner

By Christopher Murray

This is only an excerpt…

Called “the most powerful Gay man in America” by Newsweek magazine following his successful efforts to marshal Gay money and resources for Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, political advisor David Mixner helped start the nation’s first Gay political action committee, the Municipal Elections Committee of Los Angeles (MECLA), and was a co-founder of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, the Washington-based national organization that identifies and supports highly qualified LGBT candidates for public office. He has been a leading advisor on several other presidential bids, including those of Richard Gephardt, Gary Hart, and George McGovern. In February, Mixner endorsed Barack Obama, saying, “The major factor in my decision to endorse Obama is the war in Iraq. To put it simply, he was right from the beginning. There is absolutely no question in my mind that Senator Obama is Senator Clinton’s peer on substance and policy. Clearly, he is not only ready on day one to be president, but he also will be right on day one! Obama has surrounded himself with some of the best minds in the country. He has the ability to inspire us to make sacrifices and to serve our nation. The senator has one of the best minds in the country. Like President Kennedy, he and his family will make us proud to have them in the White House. So, with great enthusiasm, I embrace Senator Obama and am allowing myself to dream and believe again.”

Christopher Murray: You said to me once that you have a vision for a Gay president. Why? How?

David Mixner: In America, the ultimate sign of success of a group making it, whether it was John Kennedy being Catholic, or a Jewish president someday, is living in the White House. Right now, we have two candidacies in part powerfully motivated by one being African American, Barack Obama, and one being a woman, Hillary Clinton. The attainability of someone from our Lesbian and Gay community being president one day is the ultimate symbol that one has arrived and been accepted by society.

That’s power, real power, where we are judged on our talents as whole human beings and not on our sexuality, where it’s possible for young Gay people to have any dream that they want and know that it’s attainable. If you one of us could be president, then any of us could be anything we want.

Murray: What is Gay political power and how is it changing over time?

Mixner: I don’t know if there is such a thing as Gay political power. I think there is such a thing as political power and that Gays are finally in a position to participate. If we are talking about Gay political power, we are talking about who is head of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. Real power is people: Gay people heading committees in state legislatures and city councils. For the first time in the last decade, we are now in the position of attaining major political power and having not only a place at the table, but helping to design the table. It was less than four decades ago that Elaine Noble, when she ran for the legislature in Massachusetts, had to have armed guards. It was literally only two decades ago that Michael Dukakis refused to take organized, Gay-bundled funds. It was three decades ago that people refused to take my check as a political donation because I was openly homosexual.

That meant that the political power we had was internally focused. Who was on what board. Our status and self-esteem was based on our own community-based organizations. Now we are finding out as members of the community and getting married, having families, that we are no longer tokens. That although we have a broad range of frontiers to still break through, the fact of the matter is that it is not an anomaly for a Gay person to head the budget committee or ways and means committee in the legislature, which is real power. It is not an anomaly to be an openly Gay campaign manager for a candidate for president. So, what we have made is a transition from that internal focus of power to now where we are participating in power in society generally. This applies outside of politics as well.

Murray: What price have you paid personally for the unprecedented access you have had to the top echelon of political power in our country?

Mixner: It’s something I don’t think about too much. Thinking about it makes it more difficult to accept. It’s easier to avoid the question and just move on. I come from a time where I sat around my family’s dining room table and when a young Gay man killed himself in our neighborhood, my father and mother thought his family was better off. And a time when my partner was served by friends on paper plates because of fear of AIDS. When I was growing up, I thought I wanted to be an ambassador or senator or president but was told that would not be possible.

So there is no question, being Gay has changed the course of my life. Having children was out of the questions, running for political office was out of the question. Being fired from your job or being destroyed politically was a very real possibility if anyone knew. We saw friends arrested for sexual activity in parks and their names printed in the newspapers. What toll did it take? An enormous one. Eventually you cross a line with that oppression where you just aren’t willing to take it any longer. And that resolution to fight that oppression becomes your energy. Not only mine, I remember Harvey Milk and Elaine Noble and many others saying we cannot let another generation go through this. It was an understanding of the modern LGBT movement that few of us would experience the spoils of victory from our work. At this point, we’ve experienced success far greater than any of us would have expected. I’m too old now at sixty to be a dad and throw a football around with my son, but I could still run for office if I chose. But by the time that possibility came into my grasp, I had no desire for it.

Murray: Examples of the cost are that you have been blackmailed and sent into the political wilderness several times in your career.

Mixner: When I was working against the Viet Nam war and achieved notoriety working for Eugene McCarthy as one of the four coordinators of the Viet Nam War Moratorium Committee, there is zero doubt in anyone’s mind that, if I had been openly Gay, I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that work. None. I would have been viewed as a horrible weight on the anti-war movement and doing damage to the greater good. So, I was closeted. And during that period, I fell head over heels in love with someone who had been planted by someone. Some intelligence agency or some Gordon Liddy-type operation. It’s still unclear to me who. Photographs were taken and I was blackmailed and told that if I didn’t get out of the anti-war movement, those explicit photographs would be sent to my parents and the press.

I made a pact with myself that if the photos were sent that I would kill myself. I finally figured out that they wouldn’t send them other than anonymously, which would discredit them in the press, so I held firm, but it dramatically reminded me of my vulnerability. I pulled back and became less visible. I developed a persona of the harmonica-playing cowboy who was a grand strategist who said, “Aw, shucks, I don’t really want to do any of those interviews.” A lot of us kept behind the scenes those days, in Hollywood, in politics, just close enough to get a taste of what it was we really wanted, but not in visible danger.

Murray: How do you understand the growth of the Gay rights movement over time, both politically and socially?

Mixner: Chris, that is a question that could take hours to answer. But I remember, growing up in the 1950’s, it wasn’t unusual, for a family who discovered their child was Gay,

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!

David Mixner blogs regularly at

This is Christopher Murray’s first contribution to White Crane as part of a collection of interviews for a book he is writing entitled QUEERY. Murray writes regularly for Gay City News in New York and is a licensed social worker and psychotherapist in private practice in New York City. He can be contacted at He is a member of the White Crane Gay Men’s Health Leadership Academy.

Portrait of David Mixner, Oil On Canvas, 2002, by George Towne. Courtesy of the artist.
Towne’s work will be part of a group show at the Leslie/Lohman Gallery in New York. For more information, visit

WC76 – Edward II’s Second Act

76_edwardiiEdward II’s Second Act

By Michael G. Cornelius

This is only an excerpt…

I discovered both the existence and the possibilities of my sexuality in two rather unusual places.

The first was on the school bus, coming back from a seventh-grade field trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. Peter Gladstone was making fun of “fags.” When it became apparent that I didn’t know what a “fag” was, Peter, after making fun of me for my lack of carnal knowledge, explained that a fag was “a homo, you know, a guy who dicks around with other guys.” The small town junior-senior high school locker room that the seventh-graders shared with a group of playful, unafraid-to-be-seen naked older boys had convinced me I was, indeed, attracted to men, their forms and physiques, their playful randiness, their after-gym class smells, and the dark thatches of hair that covered places I’d secretly coveted for some time. But it wasn’t until Peter Gladstone’s use of the word “fag” and his explanation of what a “homo” was that I had a name for myself.

Unfortunately, Peter’s description of homosexuals left me with the distinct — and correct — impression that the small-minded, bigoted culture of my rural upbringing would prove less than supportive of my sexuality. So I kept it hidden, burying myself in books and writing, in school work and activities, in summer jobs and the restless ennui that all small-town Gay boys know and suffer from. Still, I thought that hiding my sexuality—not acknowledging it, and certainly never acting on it — was the only way I’d survive. Indeed, even when I went to college, though I secretly longed for the autonomy and anonymity of a large university setting, my fear of the freedom I’d find at such a place — and the burden to reveal my sexuality under such independence — proved too much. I chose a small Catholic college, one with no Gay and Lesbian student organization or, indeed, Gay and Lesbian presence at all, a place seemingly just as small, just as small minded, as my hometown was. This place, I figured, would be as complicit in hiding my secret as my hometown was, ensuring my family, my friends, and myself would never, ever know.

And yet, as I soon discovered, even in the most cloistered of climes, my sexuality — and that of others — will out. And my deliverance came at the hands of the most unlikely of liberators, a Gay man who had been dead nearly seven hundred years, a man maligned by history but who shone through to me as a lighthouse of hope and promise amidst the growing despair of my perpetual loneliness and self-imposed exile.

I first learned the story of Edward II in my Introduction to European History course. Professor Devereux, a small, wiry man with very large glasses, was an instructor with a penchant for the grislier details of history, and he often interrupted class lessons to regale his students with dark historical tales. During a brief discussion on the growth of baronial and parliamentary power in medieval England, Professor Devereux, his eyes wide with zealous anticipation, his hand making that excited back-and-forth wave that signaled a good, bloody yarn, settled back against a desk and spun us the tale of the murder of Edward II, an English monarch whom I had never heard of in my previous eighteen years.

Poor Edward. Confined to the dank interiors of Berkeley Castle, his minions and his favorites all executed before him, he had little to do after his deposition but wait for his death at the hands of Isabella, his queen: her lover, Roger Mortimer; and their co-conspirators. Finally, death came, and, as Professor Devereux intoned while he rubbed his hands together, it came brutally, at the end of a red-hot fire poker shoved — and at this part, Professor Devereux leaned in closely, almost conspiratorially, and as we all waited with bated breath, hanging on his every syllable, he finally told us — shoved up his “you know where.”

Dr. Devereux was a man who understood his audience. When I timidly raised my hand to ask him why they had pierced him “you know where,” his only response was to smile at me and say, “Well, Michael, that’s something you’ll have to look up yourself, if you want to know badly enough.” And with that, we returned to the class lecture, as if nothing important had just happened.

Little did I understand, however, how important that anecdote would become to me, not only as a Gay man, but as a future scholar of medieval literature as well. Filled with curiosity, I assaulted the library the next morning and discovered the full life history of Edward II. What I found was hardly encouraging. Recorded by most historians as a dismal failure of a king, responsible for significant geographic losses to the Scots, the subject of not one but two baronial rebellions, Edward II was a man history retrospectively deemed unfit to rule England.

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!

WC76 – Frank Talk

Holy and…
there is no other kind

By Frank Jackson

This is only an excerpt…

I’ve never been much of an ancestors guy. Remember when, back in the 80’s, Jon Lovitz impersonated presidential hopeful Michael Dukakis, saying, “My ancestors were short people—short, swarthy people”? That’s how I always felt. In my case, they were Eastern European shtetl-dwellers, but, like Dukakis’s progenitors, nothing to get too excited about.

Plus, because of the Holocaust and the transatlantic crossing, I know nothing about anyone more than two generations ahead of me. My parents, my grandparents—and thenfg a blank. I know that my maternal grandmother was one of ten children, and that they lived on a farm, and ate potatoes, and struggled. But not much more than that.

And I’ve always assumed that, because I’m a fag, my ancestors would be shocked to learn how their progeny has turned out. It’s one of those little homophobias that seems to stay with me; no matter how well things are going with my boyfriend (and at the moment they’re not going well), I know, or think I know, that they would have disapproved. We’re something new under the sun, we Gay families, and so, for me, that means a certain disconnect from all that’s gone before. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be Frank Jackson the IVth, or really feel that I’m following in my grandfather’s footsteps.

And yet, as I enter my forties, I’ve naturally found myself thinking more about ancestors, as “youth” (however prolonged by Gay culture, Propecia, and trips to the gym) gives way to “middle age.” I look more like my dad every day. I’m haunted by his failures, and even though I know I’m haunted by them, I still get stuck. And I wonder whether I’ll ever have children, whether I’ll be remembered or not. To think of one’s ancestors is necessarily to ponder one’s descendants.

During a recent ayahuasca ceremony, I had an encounter that gave me an even stronger intimation of ancestry and religion. Ayahuasca is an Amazonian shamanic medicine, made of two different plants, that creates powerful visionary experiences — what other cultures would call prophecy and revelation. Some of these experiences are big-wow visual theophanies, others are all about the heart, and others still are mostly about the body (physical, astral, energetic, etc.). Ayahuasca is not a drug, and definitely not for day trippers. In many ways, I’m still recovering from the work I did months ago and feel, frankly, scarred. But it opened new doors for me, in ways I do not pretend to understand.

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!

Frank Jackson is an itinerant meta-theologian living in the arcadian wilds of New York State.  Frank Talk  is a semi-regular feature of White Crane.

WC76 – Praxis by Andrew Ramer

76_praxis18_2 ANCESTORS ’R US
PRAXIS from Andrew Ramer

This fall I made my way to the ruddy mountains of North Carolina to hobnob with my fellow wizards at the Gay Spirit Visions Conference, as I’ve done for 18 years. This gathering is my spiritual home. I’ve met some of my closest friends there, and it’s been a testing and refining ground for my work as a writer and teacher. This year three of us were invited to share our personal stories of turning 18 with the gathering, as entryways into the conference itself turning 18. Eighteen is the age of majority in the US and most other countries in the world. Eighteen is also a significant number in the Jewish tradition. Each letter of the Hebrew alphabet also represents a number, and the word for life – chai – has the numerical value of 18. It may not be an accident that the central prayer of Jewish liturgy, written more than 2,000 years ago, is called “Shemonah Esreh,” or The Eighteen Benedictions. I used this prayer as a stepping stone into my conference talk, focusing on the first benediction, which begins:

Blessed are you, Eternal our God, and God of our fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob.

The rabbis of old tell us that The Eighteen Benedictions, a collective prayer, address not “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” but “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob,” to remind us that although God is One, It connects with each of us in a unique way.

I tend to use the pronoun IT when referring to God. You may prefer She or He. You may not relate to the word or concept of God at all. Goddess, Tao, Brahman, Great Mystery, or The Universe may be more comfortable for you. Many years ago, in a conversation with my Communist Great Aunt Mina, I discovered that what she called The Life Force was exactly what I called God. If you were to write a blessing for yourself, what would you call It? Whatever words you use, however you experience It, the lack of It, or the occasional whisper of something you think might be a hint of Its presence, I believe it’s useful to have a unifying metaphor, and for the sake of simplicity I shall continue to call It by that particular three-letter word.

The Eighteen Benedictions ground our understanding of God in Its relationship to our ancestors. Can we relate to this as men who love men, who rarely come of age with a clear knowledge of our Gay forbears? As I was preparing for my talk at the conference I thought about my own Queer ancestors, none of them biological. In high school I had an art teacher, Bill, who went out of his way to support me, without doing anything that anyone would have found inappropriate. Years after I came out, I ran into him and his partner at a play and had the chance to thank him. As a teen I knew that there were men who had sex with other men, but I was quite certain that I was the only Jew in the world with those unnatural desires. Discovering that Allen Ginsberg was Gay came as such a gift, so I’m adding him to my list of ancestors. Watching the film Women in Love (screenplay by Gay Jewish Larry Kramer, as I discovered years later) was what empowered me to come out. I also remember a book about Gay liberation, with a rainbow on the cover, that was so scary that I couldn’t even touch it till it moved from the New Books rack in Moe’s Book Store in Berkeley to a corner shelf upstairs, which is also on my list. Who and what are on your list of Gay ancestors? Your Lesbian great aunt, the first boy who flirted with you, a love song you listened to over and over again, a sexy character on your favorite TV show? Please jot them down.

Thinking of my Gay ancestors, I played with the Eighteen Benedictions and crafted a queerish blessing for myself that begins:

Blessed are you, Eternal our God and God of our ancestors, God of Bill, God of Allen, God of Women in Love, and God of the Gay lib book.

Using whatever word or words you’ve comfortable with to describe the Absolute, please craft for yourself the beginning of a blessing that incorporates your own list of ancestors.

In this magazine we’ve talked about elders and mentors and how important they are for Gay men. Few of us had Gay ancestors, and in spite of all that has changed, there are still Gay men all over the planet who are coming of age in pain, shame, guilt, hiding and frightened, in need of guidance and support. One way to heal this rift in our tribe is to see ourselves as the ancestors of the Gay men of the future. It’s in this light that I continued to work on my blessing. These are the words I came up with:

Blessed are you, Eternal our God and God of our ancestors, God of Bill, God of Allen, God of Women in Love, and God of the Gay lib book.
Bless me, body, soul, mind, and spirit, and support me in passing on this legacy to other Gay men, as part of my work in helping to heal the world.

This isn’t a very elegant blessing, but it does express what I wanted to say, to myself, to that which I call God, and to those who will come after us. Please continue to work on your own blessing, until it says what you want to say. When you’ve finished it, please write out or print out a copy and keep it in your wallet – because there’s a second part to this exercise of praxis. One day, perhaps weeks or years from now, you are going to cross paths with a young man, sitting on a bus, at the next table in a café, at the office holiday party, in a class that you’re taking or teaching, and there will be something in him of the young man you were at eighteen. You will recognize that he could use a blessing and needs a Gay ancestor. Then you will pull out your wallet, take out your blessing, tell him about its history, and pass it on to him, because this is a part of our sacred work, to be Gay elders and ancestors for the men who follow us. Become as present for him in his life as he is comfortable with. Invite him to take your blessing, live with it, and incorporate it into one he writes for himself, so that one day he too can pass it on, like an Olympic torch, from hand to hand, from heart to heart.

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.

WC76 – Review of Michael Tolliver Lives

Rvu_maupinmichaeltolliver Michael Tolliver Lives
A Novel by Armistead Maupin

HarperCollins, 288 pages, $25.95
ISBN-13: 978-0060761356

Reviewed by Steven LaVigne

When debating the greatest collection of Gay novels following Stonewall, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series is an obvious standout. Readers have long been drawn to the residents of San Francisco’s 28 Barbary Lane, where the “trannie landlady,” Mrs. Madrigal sees her special residents as her children. They consider Mary Ann Singleton, Brian Hawkins, Mona Ramsay and Michael “Mouse” Tolliver their friends and they hold a special place among American Gay literary characters. We’ve followed their activities through six books, until Maupin ended the series in 1989.

Denying that Michael Tolliver Lives is a sequel, this volume brings the denizens of 28 Barbary Lane into the new century. Michael, now close to 60, has met, fallen in love and married Ben. Over two decades younger and aware of Michael’s HIV status and reliance on testosterone injections and Viagra, Ben is the genuine love of his life. Of all her “children,” Michael is, perhaps, closest to Anna Madrigal, who, at 85, has mellowed only slightly following a trio of strokes. He’s the one who stayed close when the others moved away and she sold the property. For one thing, Michael’s connected her with Jake, a female-to-male transsexual who rents her his garden apartment and takes on the position of caretaker.

There are too many loose ends of plot to recap in a review, but this is Michael’s story. Michael is Maupin’s literary alter ego. Just as Michael married Ben, Maupin himself married Christopher Turner several years ago. Like Maupin, Michael is a transplant to San Francisco, so Michael’s conflicts toward and commitment to his family, both his genetic and his adopted one, are one reason he’s managed to survive for the past 15 years.

Michael Tolliver Lives takes readers across the country. Michael and Ben visit Florida, attending to family business, when it’s announced that Michael’s mother is on death’s doorstep. While there, he learns of conflicts full of sexual politics between his mother, brother and hyper-religious sister-in-law. It seems that everyone is either leaning on Michael or they rely on him for various reasons. With Ben’s complete support, he realizes where his genuine commitment lies, and, of course, he comes through for everyone.

There’s no guarantee that Maupin will return to the Barbary Lane characters, and after reading Michael Tolliver Lives, there’s really no reason he should. Michael’s story is a stellar coda to this significant contribution to Gay literature.

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!

Steven LaVigne is a contributing writer to White Crane.  His book reviews have graced the pages of our magazine for many years.