Category Archives: WC78 – Community

WC78 – Table of Contents

78-COVERimage White Crane Issue #78

Fall 2008


Hi Friends!
Below are excerpts from
our Fall 2008 issue on Community. 
Please understand that we rely on the
support of subscribers to keep going.

subscribe today and keep the conversation going!  Consider giving a gift subscription to your friends who could use some wisdom!

Opening Words "Communing" The Editors
Updrafts by Dan Vera
Owner’s Manual “Stocking the Cellar” by Jeff Huyett
PRAXIS “Community Trust”  by Andrew Ramer


Opening Words "Communing" The Editors
Call for Submissions
Subscriber Information
Contribution Information

Taking Issue

Circle Voting:  A White Crane Conversation with Murray Edelman
 by Bo Young & Peter Montgomery
Queering Community: A White Crane Conversation with Chris Bartlett
 by Christopher Murray
In Search of Gay Community  by Bryn Marlow
The Gay Community In Crisis: Commentary on “Gay People at a Critical Crossroads: Assimilation or Affirmation” Thirty Years Later by Don Kilhefner
On Transnational Community Building  by Debanuj DasGupta
With Death As My Witness by Timothy J. Kelleher
The Resurrection of Corpus Christi by Steve Susoyev
On The Angels of Light by James “Jet” Tressler
Speech And Debate  by Bill Siksay
Building Community Through The Arts  by Bob Barzan
A Community of 2 Malcolm Boyd
Welcome Home  Brian Gleason

Culture Reviews

Steven LaVigne on  Mark Matousek’s When You're Falling, Dive
Jay Michaelson on  Eliezer Sobel’s The 99th Monkey
Steven LaVigne on by L. B. White’s Tales of a Zany Mystic
Steven LaVigne on  John Simpson’s Murder Most Gay
Chris Freeman on Aaron Raz Link and Hilda Link’s What Becomes You
Bo Young on Theo Bleckmann’s Las Vegas Rhapsody and
Songs of Love and War, Peace and Exile

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WC78 – Editors’ Note

Opening Words from the Editors

By Dan Vera and Bo Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can write them at

WC78 – Circle Voting – Murray Edelman

2004-no-text Circle Voting
A White Crane Conversation with Murray Edelman

By Bo Young and Pete Montgomery

Murray Edelman was the editorial director of Voter News Service, a consortium of ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC, and the Associated Press that famously was involved in the 2000 Bush/Gore contest and the fate of the Florida vote. He helped develop the first exit polls and has conducted them for over 20 years. One of his legacies is the only continuous body of Gay/Lesbian voting data from the exit poll since 1990. Edelman received his BS in Mathematics from the University of Illinois and his PhD in Human Development from the University of Chicago in 1973. He has been the only openly Gay President of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR), the largest and most influential body of survey research professionals.

While a graduate student in 1969 at the University of Chicago, he co-founded a Gay liberation group that became the powerful  Liberation Movement in Chicago and the around the Midwest. In 1973 he moved to San Francisco where he co-founded the first modern day Faerie Circle with Arthur Evans. He led ground breaking intimacy and sexually weekends for Gay men and “a Different Kind of Night at the Baths” that Joseph Kramer has cited as one of his inspirations for Body Electric. Harry Hay invited Murray to present his work at the first Radical Faerie conference in 1979. He studied and taught an intensive meditation in the 80s and is currently president of the Naraya Cultural Preservation Council ( and is an elder in that Naraya community, which he has been part of since 1991.

Bo Young and White Crane Board member, Pete Montgomery, sat down for a discussion with Edelman about a current project he is working on, Circle Voting.

Bo:  Tell us about Circle Voting Murray.

Murray:  Circle Voting is voting as a community concerned about the future: the environment, education, our health, our rights, Some people follow politics a lot, like some people follow sports, while others could care less about politics. But when only half of the community votes in the community’s interest we all lose. I use “circle” because each of us is part of many communities but the principle is the same. In Circle Voting, those that are politically motivated encourage others of like mind to vote and share their information and vote choices so that the community has the biggest impact. 

Bo: Why the emphasis on sharing information?

Murray: From many years of political discussions with my spiritual friends, I’ve learned that many people, including two important teachers to me, are confirmed nonvoters and many others are occasional voters. Basically they don’t want to put any energy into the fear, anger and melodrama that is so much a part of politics. I think that is a good reason to not spend much time on politics. But I don’t think it is a good enough reason to not vote. So Circle Voting can serve as a shortcut for users to vote in their own interest in minutes.

Peter: How does this sharing of information work?

Murray:  It is common for organizations to endorse candidates. Sometimes the endorsements take the form of a voter guide and sometimes it is a palm card to be taken into the voting booth.
In Circle Voting, we will collect endorsements from organizations as well as encourage politically motivated users to enter their own recommendations and the reasons for them. The user recommendations would be only available to friends of the user, while the organizational ones are already publicly available.
Users will then be able to create a Council of Advisor from like-minded organizations and friends and by entering their locality, create their own personal voter’s guide from these endorsements summarized for every race on their own ballot. And then they can click down for the reasons.

Bo:  Where can a reader find Circle Voting?

Murray:  At You can see plans for the personal voters guide. I hope to have an abbreviated version online for this election. The other tools, such as registering to vote and applying for an absentee ballot will be online by the time this is published. I am hoping to be an application on Facebook, but that might have to wait until next year. Perhaps one of your readers could conjure up a Facebook developer for me?

Peter: Is this like Move On or other organizations of like minded people?

IStock_000006336852Small Murray:  Circle Voting is inspired by the past successes of the Religious Right and labor unions. And the success of the Religious Right is way out of proportion to their numbers because they have mobilized the less motivated voters to turn out consistently and in state and local elections. They put a lot of pressure on their members to vote and provide Voting Guides to identify the good “Christian” candidates.

MoveOn, like the Religious Right and labor unions, make endorsements. They also raise money and often help in the campaigns. Circle Voting does not make endorsements. It only collects them. There is no fundraising and involvement in the campaigns. There is really no organization here; just enough to keep the website going.

Peter:  Is it a voter education process or a get out the vote drive?

Murray:  It is more of a “bring out your own” voter drive. Bring them to Circle Voting where they can get help in registering or applying for an absentee ballot and then later get your recommendations and have a dialogue about their reluctance to vote and suggest new ways to look at voting.
Currently, voting is seen as a private act and I think that is conducive to many people not voting in their own interests. Voter education puts the burden on the voter and I think it is too much of a burden especially since the candidate do everything they can to confuse the voter.
We don't know how most software works, but we know people that can help us. We don't see every movie, but we know people of similar taste that see movies. Similarly we can make votes in our best interest by relying on like minded friends and save a lot of time and energy.

Bo:  I'm interested by the idea that people are voting against their personal interests…I was speaking to a single mother the other day, from Texas, and she was ready to vote for John McCain even though, as we spoke, it became clear that this was against her own personal interests….so how would Circle voting work in this one-on-one setting?

Murray: If she was basing her choice from following the news etc, it CV wouldn’t mean much.  But many voters don't have much information when they vote. That’s why negative ads are so effective. This person might see summarized the voting preference and reasons from people in her circle of like mind. She could see the endorsements from groups that represented her interests. This could all be presented in a nice easy

Peter: A quick look at Circle Voting makes me think it could be especially useful for down-ballot races – so many people, including me, show up and know next-to-nothing about a school board race, or judge – but if I saw how what some neighborhood activists thought, that would help shape my thinking."

Murray: Right, Peter. I got this idea because in local election in New York, I always call a friend that was very active in local politics and ask him who to vote for. Circle Voting could become very important in a state or local elections where a few additional votes can make a difference in zoning or a position on the school board. I am looking forward to the New York City primary in September.

Peter: Could you articulate the spiritual principles underlying Circle Voting ?

Murray: I’ve seen so many times that when we come from a place of an open heart and connection with spirit, we see abundance and possibilities everywhere. When we come from fear and anger, we see limitations and create more divisions. Politics today thrives on the latter,  possibly more so now than ever.
Many avoid voting for this reason. But haven’t you found that which you avoid, usually comes back to haunt you? You know, what Jung call “shadow.” There is a parallel here. It really doesn’t matter if 30% or 40% vote. What matters who wins, and mathematically a non-vote is the same as a vote for the winner. So, for example, that non-vote, in a local race, could have helped elect that official that just caved in on an important zoning issue involving some land that you love.
I believe when we focus on our hopes and dreams, we draw upon limitless energy. My love of Mother Earth strengthens me. When we can tie voting to what matters to us, we will want to talk to people about it, we will want to vote and we will want to encourage others to vote. A current choice of candidates is just a short term choice, and not much more than that. But, it is still an important action.
So Circle Voting is a way to come into balance with politics. In a sense, take responsibility for our actions and inactions. The important thing is informed voting, not some old idea of “getting involved” in politics. It only needs to be a few minutes of time, but it is a lot better use of time than even a few minutes of recycling. And it is another way to act in community, by supporting the judgment and research of people of like mind.

Bo: OK…I’ll ask the question we all hear: But does one vote really matter that much?

Murray: In our spiritual work, we’ve seen the ripple effect, how one person’s changes affects others. Each reader that comes into new consciousness around voting will affect many others .and if they pass on the link to so much the better. So you could live in New York and effect votes in a key state like Virginia just from the ripple.
And we know the power of attraction: the energy and intention that we put out brings us what we need. In politics, it is the same. It is not an accident that for the most part conservative candidates are elected where there are conservative voters. Green party candidates appear where there is support for them. But bringing out our vote especially in local elections where only 5% to 10% vote, we could encourage a lot of new and creative candidates to run.

Bo: It sounds almost like you are suggesting a new kind political consciousness.

Murray: In a sense it is. It is putting elections in their proper place. We must participate at every voting opportunity, but we don’t have to do much more than that. And we don’t have to necessarily agree with each other. If this consciousness were to grow in a big way, it could really affect the political system. You’ve probably heard “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” It is even more true today with our first billion dollar presidential campaign. Money is important because it allows the candidate to control their message especially close to the election and to bring out their vote and depress the other candidate’s with negative campaigning.
As more and more people avoid all this misinformation, and yet still vote regularly, the money will have less impact. New candidates, not beholden to their large contributors will have a chance.

Bo: You mentioned something to me in an earlier conversation…a factoid about how many people say they intend to vote…and then how many people actually vote…"

Murray: Most people I talk to say, "All my friends vote.” So they don't need this…

Bo: I would certainly say that.

Murray:  But here is some hard data: In late October 2004, 81% in a CBS News/NY Times poll said that they would "definitely vote" or they had already voted." Yet the comparable number of actual voters in 2004 is 55%. That means 26% were sure they would vote but didn’t. And I didn’t include the ones that said they would "probably vote".

And let’s not bury the lead here. Once we remove those ineligible to vote, we end up with 40% did not vote in the highest turnout election in decades. And the number is even higher among those making under 100K and also those 18-25. Know any people like that in your own circle?

Another survey factoid: The previous number was about intention to vote. How about what they remember about voting? In July 2008, 86% in a NBC/Wall St journal Poll said they voted in November 2004." Now, 31% of the people said that they actually voted, when they didn’t really vote.

Bo:  So is this one of those 'telling the pollster what they want to hear’? Or what the respondent thinks is the "right" answer?" “Good” citizens vote so I'm going to say I voted, even if I didn't.

Murray: Perhaps. They are telling this to a stranger; that they did the socially approved behavior. But what do they tell friends? How many people do you know who advertise that they didn't vote? I submit only the confirmed nonvoter. 
And given my own informal survey in different spiritual groups, I suggest that each of your readers is surrounded by nonvoters in their own circles, perhaps as many as half of them. What a great place to start if you care about the environment, etc. And in a state and a local election where the turnout is much lowers, there are lots more nonvoters in our own circles.

Bo: So Circle Voting is a kind of "focused peer pressure"?"

Murray: It is using the power of social networks. There is research showing that people are more likely to quit smoking if those in their social networks have quit and that they are more likely to gain weight if those in their social networks gained weight. The point is we are linked in many ways — obviously not an original thought — but our interdependence is growing and voting can and should reflect this more. This could be used to access other viewpoints. It is up to the person to pick those that they want to hear from."

Peter: So part of the power is the connection — an individual, in a circle, is also the center of his or her own circle, etc. How the 125 people I'm attached to on LinkedIn gives me access to something like 100,000 friends of friends, etc, etc.

Murray: The Religious Right clearly knows the importance of mobilizing their members, especially those that are not involved politically. And yes, Peter, that is how it could grow. The catch is getting it moving.

Bo: In a way, isn't this how the Obama campaign has been functioning? They've sort of plugged into the internet and used it in brand new ways to network…

Murray: Yes. Obama is using the net really well. 

Bo: Would you call what he's doing "circle campaigning"?

Murray: You could probably say Obama is doing that. The difference is that his people are pushing his brand and that is important in getting out his vote.

Bo: Wouldn't I or Pete be pushing our set of ideas in my circle vote in the same way?

Murray: My vision is that the networks in Circle Vote could persist from election to election and promote progressive ideas. I think the approach is different. In “Obama-land, someone would be saying “Vote for Obama — I'll help you.” In Circle Voting that individual would be saying, “We are of like mind. It is in our interest that we vote regularly. Here are my thoughts. I hope other friends will offer you theirs.

Bo: I think the interesting thing is to get people out of the immediate circle of "people who agree with me" and bring them into contact with new ideas. It seems to me one of the biggest social problems we are facing, something that seems benign, is that we all tend to read the papers and watch the programs and listen only to the ideas with which we already agree. Everyone on the spectrum is constantly seeking affirmation of their own point of view…how does Circle Voting move people past that…or does it?"

Murray: I agree there is a lot of segmenting of thought.

Peter: Even among my circle of lefty friends we have our annual and quadrennial debates about voting for the Democrat versus voting Green or sitting it out because the two major parties are both corporate, etc… This could create online space for some of those debates…of course so do a lot of blogs.

Bo: This whole idea is an interesting hybrid of your professional work and your personal work …can you talk a little about that?"

Murray:  Let me answer by telling you more about how this vision came to me. I was at a Faerie fire after the Naraya at Wolf Creek sanctuary. Earlier that day, I had given a talk about my early Gay liberation days and how we took chances and followed our hearts. We had visions, but none of them were very accurate. But something wonderful came from our courage and insight. And we didn't know what at the time.
So at this fire, they were doing a very typical Faerie thing of trashing the government. For different things and there is no shortage of things to find fault with, of course. And at one point I started a chant "Think bigger, think bigger…" They really got into it, as Faeries do, and then they asked "What should we do?" And I said "vote” …and it caused a great deal of chaos. And in that chaos, I saw how much I had to say about how things really work and that is what I've been working on since."
It was like my whole life was integrating before me — all my Gay liberation, Marxist days, along with all my years of in politics and media and surveys. The struggle has been to articulate this and create a place where people can see it working. So Circle Voting could energize our community to use their interlocking networks, where there are some that really know politics to inform and encourage the very many that just don't care." And as I worked with it, I saw that could apply to many communities.
In my earlier days, I thought that a vision was more of an endpoint, a solution. But this energy just keeps propelling me into some of my more difficult spaces, like being articulate. This interview process has helped my clarify things a lot. But it has also been very difficult for me. So my advice to people looking for a vision: Be careful what you ask for.

Bo: If I have one problem with people in general it is that I think a lot of them  would often rather sit around and complain than act. Because acting runs the risk of failure. So nothing happens, but a lot of complaining and kvetching and everyone gets to feel catharsis and they go home. You're calling on people to act and to interact"

Peter: I'm now seeing the spirit and ethic of the heart circle in your proposal. Creating an online circle and speaking from the heart — and in ways that help people decide how to take meaningful action.

Murray: Yes and I just need a few people to buy into it. Because it really is easy. We need people to cast votes in their interest. We don't need them to read and understand “politics" per se. That is a losing cause.

Bo: I know personally it is one of the reasons I withdrew from my active political involvement. Politics is, by its nature, a win-lose proposition. Someone always wins. Someone always loses. You’re asking that people find win-win communities…where shared interests and shared objectives benefit everyone in the community. In a way…no, in fact, it's co-opting what the mega-churches and the radical religious right has been perfecting for a decade or more…and they’ve shown that it works.

Murray: Yes. In a sense it is empowering people by using existing relationships of community. There is a similarity to the religious right, but that is still top down. I can’t see the progressives I know acting top down. There is a kind of anarchism in this in that circles can form in different ways in different times. There is no one calling the shots here. Water is finding its own level. Circle Voting would empower people in voting by using their existing relationships of community and create a synergy with those knowledgeable about politics with those of like mind but not that concerned or immediately involved. Independents probably experience this in general elections.

Bo: What would you like to see readers of this conversation do then? Presumably people reading are likely to be "like-minded.” And what attracted me to your idea is that White Crane has always set as its mission "a deeper relationship with yourself and your community" and you are inviting people to do just that in a very pragmatic way"

Murray: I would ask readers to check out Give me feedback and join the circle. The next step would be send emails to like-minded people in their own circles, encouraging them to check it out. It could be one email or a series of up to three.
The first email could also encourage registration, saying that 10% of the people think they are registered. But they aren’t. And many don’t register because of the mistaken belief that immediate become eligible for jury duty. A second email could offer this Circle Voting as a place to get an absentee ballot. A third email, close to the election, could offer the personal voting guide (if available) and encouragement to vote.

Bo: Aren’t you concerned about creating a lot of spam from this?

Murray: I brought that up with my computer person and he said that was a good problem to have and there will be ways to avoid that.

Bo: Anything else?

Murray: Yes, take stock of your own voting behavior. Do you vote in all local elections? Do you take the time to make an informed vote? And could you imagine what would happen if enough people really did make informed votes on the issues of the future that really mattered to them?

For more about Circle Voting visit

WC78 – With Death As My Witness – Ha!

78-Ha With Death As My Witness

By Ha! – Timothy J. Kelleher

I live in the hills of Tennessee country. I have lived in community here since 1993. I have been living with cancer since May. I love writing, being outdoors, music, dance and storytelling. I am 60 this year. I am a Radical Faerie!

Shouldn’t We Know Better?

This is a difficult subject for me to bring up around here. It is the notion that people can take care of themselves and, if they can’t, then we will take care of them. After all, many of us share the idea of creating “sanctuary” for our family members. The tricky part comes when someone doesn’t fit in and needs help adjusting to the people or the place or the pace and vision of the community.

Over the years we have earned to be frank yet loving in the feedback we give each other. We have learned that harbored discomfort rots trust and hence involvement and disrupts the harmony of the household over time. More likely than not, we find ourselves holding back really helpful feedback, resulting in lower productivity, and yielding an unhealthy slant on rewarding good work with verbal praise, gold stars and jolly good report cards home. Wrong!

Feedback is important from one’s first day to one’s last. I want to know when I am doing the right things, that I am engaged in the activities of the community, that I am appreciated whether having been here one day or many years. One would like to know that what they have to say is as important as what even the longest-term member of the household may have to say. Hearing how people speak to one another and how people respond could, in many cases, be more important than the issues of the day. Important because it demonstrates how people like to be spoken to. Some people want info in bullets points (“What’s the bottom line?”). Some want their sense of security stroked before they will listen or take an active role (“What will happen to my efforts so far?” or “How will this affect how we do things now?”).

Many want to know “what’s in it for me?” and many more want to be certain that everyone will benefit from a change of direction or plans. A lot is learned from listening to people express themselves. Far better than the ostrich with its head in the sand – a safe place for sure – we can pretend we don’t care and no one will even notice.

But wait! My point here is that the right questions and a non-judgmental point of view will result in a willingness to be there for every single member of the community. From such a point of view one may find how best to help a fellow communard whose difficulties fitting in are emotion-based and need special attention. We know how to do all these things. My fear is that we don’t we don’t do them.That we don’t take the time to listen to others speak, that we could have faerie godmothers assign to each new person for that particular purpose – to listen and share. It has often been said that we are simply a bunch of well-meaning folks, living in the woods, who have no idea how to help the psychologically troubled. Sad statement, that. How is it that upwards of 75 people have no people skills rudimentary enough to at least foresee potential difficulties for that person or for the community. Then, by watching and listening, can provide valuable feedback to the newest and the oldest members.

The communally new, the newest arrivals to the household, are denied hearing what the invisible say, of seeing how they contribute, of watching them coach and share skills with others. When I remain invisible I am holding back all those things, things both practical and abstract, which the newer members are so eager to learn and know. After all, part of our work here is to create an environment for personal growth – not of wandering around bumping into great piles of gleaming enlightenment. We are queer folk and we have only each other as models. Pray the goddess I don’t have to account for what I have failed to share with others, for those people I have left standing on the roadside because I couldn’t bring myself to open up and share.

My best “kick in the pants” philosophy for situations like this is: “How will what I do today impact our way of life twenty-five years from now.” Technology defies our wildest dreams already, to say nothing of our nerves. The world food situation, the water crisis, and world domination issues will drive change into the society like wringing a chicken’s neck or knocking your crazy bone. I prefer the latter. Now I simply need to walk my talk! Riiiight!

Pet Power

I am watching our pets in the five acre front yard of our country cabin. They have only started to rouse themselves into that much talked-about “pack” that lives behind Round Hill (the natural marker for the land we call “Peckerwood”.) A pure white Japanese Spitz and a calico Shepherd-Pitbull-mutt mix respond to their names, Priscilla and Babes respectively, and were abandoned on the roadside a year apart, and wandered to the “promised land”, remaining ever since. To call them a pack is really inaccurate unless I include our cat, Black Betty, in the mix. Being all neutered females, this collection of animal power certainly outranks our personal power, with Betty in the lead and with Babes bumbling about, helter-skelter through the woods, the creek and the smattering of old out-buildings around the place.

These three creatures, Betty, Priscilla and Babes, consider themselves, I think, “Rulers of the Universe”. Priscilla holds her own as canine duchess of the land. Black Betty is the Ambassador for World Relations and the Survival of the Feline Comrades (AWRSFC for short). Through her all group reactions are signaled. Through her the level of volume control is set. Barks, yelps and oddly distress-like screams that certain calico and white dogs exhibit when excited are curtailed when Betty gives the signal. The only thing to halt Black Betty’s hunting instincts is dog food. When she wants action, she gets it. When Priscilla and Babes get fed, life on the farm comes to a stand still. Betty returns to her rocking chair with the paper bag seat. She waits. They eat. She’s looking at me with that “how dumb does one have to be to eat!” look in her eye. What can I say? After all these years I catch only some of her kitty chat. “What!?!?” I ask perplexed. That cold stare blanks may face and my smile tilts down a bit and my eyebrows go up. The dogs crunch away on dry bits of god-knows-what tinted green sawdust. And they are healthy. They are smart. They are dogs.

I love our animals. They are champion companions, comforting us headstrong humans with their earthly wisdom and bright barks. They make me laugh, worry, cuddle, and gag at their body fragrance. My kitty, Black Betty, hugs the ground I walk on, weeps to get outside only to weep to get back inside. She is so far left of cynical she is off the chart. She takes her role as companion and caregiver in that uniquely cat-like manner – curling into a cuddle, purring for reassurance, and kneading my underarm as if to message my trouble away. Sweet creature. Little friend.

Being intrepid, having boundless energy, rambunctious affection, and even tireless devotion – all these characteristics enlighten my life and make me smile my troubles away. Woof, woof! Meow, meow!

Don’t Ya Love It?

I get up early these days, usually to write this blog, but often to sit quietly thinking of the day ahead. And sometimes there are surprises to encounter in the post-wee hours of the day. The dogs drag odd parts and pieces of assorted vermin. The cat often is “hanging from the door jam” of the front door trying to get in the house to feed. And the morning holds indescribable celestial beauty; the clouds often like huge seafaring galleons with puffy, white sails. Birds rehearse for the neighborhood chorus, establishing range and chirp-strength. What a sound, huh? A sound that wraps my day and introduces the night.

And yet, even with the peaceful, perfect morning, nothing brings a greater brightness to me and my day as when, during this morning revere, a neighbor stops to visit. Today, our nearest neighbor around 7:15AM visited me. With the morning mist still silencing the chitter and chatter of the night, we sat to sip hot tea and coffee on the porch. We have been friends for a good many years, and through it all we have spent time sharing concerns, fears and inhibitions. Now, as things move towards the richest part of our time alive, my friend has been funny and bright, smooth and yet on the edge, finding the fall days to breathe in the coming winter. We list our “to do’s”. We laugh over plans well-made, or poorly conceived or even more whacked than the effort the year before. We commiserate over lost loved ones, new faves and new bores enjoying good laughs, sad notes, and of course, the inexplicable wonders of our lives.

The dawn stretches across acres of late-green grasses hurrying to breathe the sunlight washing tide-like from the eastern skies. In this distance the sound of friends laughing lasers through the morning air. The bounding and barking of our dogs, deep in the forest above and behind us or down lapping creek water we’d never think to drink, distracts even the bird choir overhead. In fact, the dawn has become day and my friend departs. “I think it’s March again… Better get out the kites!” she shouts from her car window. “Yeah, and my hip boots, too!” I hollered back knowing she’d not hear. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we talked and shared a beautiful daybreak and the launching of a whole new bunch of wonders.


I have lived in Middle Tennessee for fifteen years. Rural living (extra primitive, if you will) with upwards of seventy-five people, upwards of six households, goats, chickens, cows, and of course, seasonal preparations. Over this long period of communal endeavors I have learned almost more than I’ve ever wanted. I have learned about myself, my relationship with my special friends, and my ongoing relationship with my extended “family”. Such simple notions for one living in community has its rewards (friendship, confidant and partnership).

The strongest pull to community is friendship. It reaches out into the world at large, becoming a source for inspiration and dreaming. My relationships with my special friends are nurtured by this dream, by this inspiration. And the large extended community is often propelled by a sense of shared vision, personal involvement and a high sense of engagement on everyone’s part. Together, these three important notions come to life. Together, these are three levels of growth (and three levels of disillusion for those who don’t make it) can energize all folks involved toward a productive, harmonious and alternative way of living.

Now, I no longer live “in community” but have moved into a time in my life when I need daily care. I am no longer able to participate in community-wide activities. I am, however, always available for conversations both personal and communal. I look to this task with eagerness and relief. Eager in wanting to share what I know, and relieved because I am in the company of wildly excitable people wanting to make a difference. Communal living offers a good deal more than meets the eye. Rural living brings out the clever, the witty, and the ribald in just about everyone. I want to share what I know. I want to talk my dreams – how else do we bring out our true selves – and to share my hopes with all who pass my way.

Monday, September 24, 2007
With Death As My Witness

I heard an intriguing observation on the radio yesterday made by a cancer survivor. A simple observation, a “note”, really, a note meant to make one stop and think. “Stagger and think,” actually, at how basic and rudimentary the notion appears on the surface. In actuality I was brought to tears.

In the battle between health and well-being there are two combatants. I am one player. Death is the other. We both have the same objective. To kill the other. My agenda is full with one item only: to rid my life of this cancer. Put in other terms, one of us is going to get “there” first, reach the goal, make the pitch, and left be standing at the end. Both Death and I want the same thing; have the same hope, and the same conquering superpowers. How could I know I had such strength, such power. Least of all do I feel up to facing off with “the other side”. If anything I am trepidatious of my perseverance.

Death has as much power as I give it. It takes without asking, no differently than I take steps to over-throw it. It is no more flexible nor adaptable than I. Plus, I can still call my future, in small ways, and work to build more defenses day-to-day. Death can only kill. I can only suffer that consequence once I stop helping myself grow what little life there might be ahead. No matter. If I can’t win, I’ll go down with peace, love, and hope. Besides that, anger and denial get me nowhere. Walking my dreams, living my hopes and sharing my fears. Therein lies the life, therein lies the battle. May the strongest soul win!

Thursday, September 20, 2007
For Whom The Bell Tolls

Moving through the process of bodily demise, several stages of emotional mah-jongg have fallen across my path. All stages of denial, all stages of anger, sadness, and fear have swept over me recently. The early fall season bundles the warmth and sunlight we dream for through the dead of both winter and summer. This year there is the added dimension of it all coming to an end before I see spring. How do you deal with such a reality? How does one escape the feeling of loss, the feeling of helplessness, the feeling of grief over what has yet to be and at the same time to preserve one’s dignity and sense of outreach to others.

Youth and vitality, the life force of today’s society, run rampant over my slow and cumbersome gait. Age and agility are, for the first time, engaged in a small battle for my heart. Yet it is through these tiny encounters that I can find the strength and the courage to continue into the next moment of the day.

Going forward I can find what’s going on with my body, and though I have little to say about it, I can live up to the moment, then plug my nose and jump. The water’s a little cold, but isn’t the sunshine fabulous?
Blessed Be!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Wishin’ I felt better today.

I’ve spent a good deal of last the 48 hours feeling queasy and very sleepy. This is rather unexpected considering; in general, I manage to maintain a fairly good grip on my discomfort. However, recently I’ve gone back on the kemo drugs, the ammonia drugs, and the diuretics, and so on. As a result my guts are set to spinnin’, the queasy feeling in my stomach, and the small (but injurious) headaches popping about my consciousness make for slow and tiresome days.

To make matters worse the temperature has been in the high ninety’s – the humidity in a race to one hundred degrees – at least! Keeping oneself horizontal for as long as possible each day. Close to the floor. Like some draft-seeking, slug-like anthropoid. Whew! Being in cancer therapy does have its upside. The people I run into each week at the oncology lab are friendly, outreaching, and often in a good deal of pain. I can hardly relate by comparison. And the people that come every day to help me get along; how sweet they are.

So the people are beautiful, the weather, eh, could be better, but we and the late summer corn is delicious as are the tomatoes and much, much more. Around here preparations are being made for the annual fall Gathering in the wood. Some 200 people will come for 10 days of camping, eating, and whatever. Takes a little planning, but the folks that do it…do it well. I might make an appearance but only for the talent show and a meal or two. I get overwhelmed by big groups of people. That’s not surprising.

Editor’s Note:

Ha! aka Tim Kelleher, was my oldest friend in the Gay community, being the first Gay man I met when I came out and moved to San Francisco in 1971.  He died on February 24, 2008 — surrounded by his friends and community — of complications of hepatitis C and liver cancer. Before he died, he and I spent a beautiful week together. He organized parties to celebrate the people in his life he loved and we sat and looked at pictures of our friendship. This article is gleaned from his blog maintained over the last months of his wonderful life. My life and my community are immeasurably poorer for his loss.   – Bo Young

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!

WC78 – Malcolm Boyd – Community of 2

A Community of Two
By Malcolm Boyd

My hefty unabridged Webster’s New International Dictionary (1960) defines community:

“A body of people having common organization or interests, or living in the same place under the same laws and regulations.” 

The same dictionary defines relationship as “the state or character of being related or interrelated; a connection by way of relation…kinship; consanguinity; affinity—a state of affairs existing between those having relations or dealings.”

It seems as Gays we’ve come a long way since 1960 with both words. In Gay parlance, a “relationship” has come particularly to mean a partnership of two men as lovers or partners, living together, often constituting an extended family. At the same time “community” in common Gay experience is the Gay “world” or “neighborhood” or “culture” surrounding one’s self; an environment identified by Gay folk, institutions, bars, restaurants, publications, unofficial rules and styles.

As a Gay elder who has lived comfortably in a close Gay relationship with another man for more than 20 years, I find authentic connections between “community,” the exterior of Gay life, and “relationship” which anchors the interior.

For example, Mark, my partner, once said to me: “If I can’t tell you about it, whom can I tell?” Precisely. Yet this approach holds meaning for one’s participation in community as well as in relationship. It’s about honesty and honest communication, essential for the well-being of both. Over and over again we’ve seen a community fall apart when chaos replaced structure.  God knows, the same has held true for numberless relationships.

Relationship is two persons, not one.  By the same token, community is a group of persons, not one. Both move toward self-destruction whenever one person tries to establish either one-man rule or the equivalent of the Hollywood star system (with himself as star). 

A key lesson for a relationship is that it is not possession. No one “owns” it or is “in charge.”  Neither is any genuine, healthy community a possession that “belongs” to a dominant personality in the guise of a benevolent despot.

Gravitas enters with the emergence of serious problems. Pain and loss evoke response. This is where balance in a relationship or community can make all the difference. 

“Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans,” John Lennon wrote. Exactly. This is where commitment enters into our story. Don’t be too busy making other plans to engage life, to enable relationship, to support community and help it continue to live. But commitment is neither facile nor easy.
Jesus’ washing of the disciples’ feet is a startling and profound example showing us how to serve other people’s needs and work for peace and justice. In other words, how to make a commitment. Clearly, religious and spiritual communities must make a choice: either to stay locked inside stained-glass museums or else move into the mainstream, risking prestige and respectability in order to be a part of life that happens.

I ran headlong into such a choice in Los Angeles in June, 1990. The powerful County Board of Supervisors met on Tuesdays in their downtown quarters. They had not provided needed funds and services to deal with AIDS. This, despite the fact countless more lives were threatened, especially in the African-American and Latino communities. At this point the Los Angeles Coalition for Compassion asked clergy to engage in a “kneel-in” act of civil disobedience at a Supervisors meeting. This was designed to pinpoint the need and bring it forcefully to the attention of authorities and the general public. Five clergy responded positively.

I did partly from a remembrance of the significance of civil disobedience in the civil rights and peace movements. I was jailed in both northern and southern U.S. jails in the 60s, heeding the Macedonian call of Martin Luther King, Jr. and twice in Washington, D.C. for participating in peace masses inside the Pentagon. 

On the morning of June 12, 1990, our group who were prepared to be arrested entered the Supervisors Building. Following the invocation and pledge of allegiance to the flag, we moved forward and read a prayer. It said, in part: “We pray that these Supervisors may this day be moved to hear the cries o the 112,000 persons with HIV disease in this community, whose lives are in their hands.” Then we knelt and sang “Singing for Our Lives.” One by one, we were placed under arrest and taken to jail.

I never “wanted” to take such a risk, subject myself to the overwhelming scrutiny of the combined media, or put up with the utter inconvenience and pain of a jail experience. Yet I responded, from way down in my conscience, to the role models of Gandhi and King. And to the sheer human need represented. 

I thought about many things during my eleven-hour incarceration in jail, including four hours when I was chained to a bench while also handcuffed to another prisoner. The hours grew longer and longer, approaching midnight. I felt pain and discouragement. I meditated. I prayed. I acknowledged my total absence of any control. I asked for help because I felt helpless. And I received help—a centering, a trust—and an awareness problems are not insurmountable but solvable. Instead of being overwhelmed, we can take a leaf from A.A. and approach “The Big Picture” a step at a time. And believe. And work at it. Giving up the illusion of control, we can ask God to enable us to serve the cause of peace and justice in the world.

For me this was a great lesson about the meaning of community. I was not there as an individual. I belonged to a community. A community under duress. A community in peril and pain. This reminded me of these words by Thomas Merton about prayer: “Prayer and Love are learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and your heart has turned to stone.” Tough words. Accurate words. No sentimentality or Hallmark sweetness here. This is about when the climb grows very hard, there is no sun in the sky, one has run out of easy energy, and faith is real. At this moment commitment becomes a stark reality. 

In either a community or a relationship, a sense of humor is salvific. Always retain a quality of freshness and surprise; “Getting to Know You” is equally valid after many years. Don’t try to change people, especially in a nagging or superior way. Nothing is more damaging. Be accepting. Do your part in dividing tasks. In a community this includes showing up for meetings, avoid coming late, do the paperwork and pay dues. In a relationship this can mean take out the garbage, make the bed, see that bills are paid on time and buying milk if it’s needed.
Don’t forget, in a relationship or a community, to have fun. In a relationship sustain magic and romance, get flowers, make snuggle room. In a community remember birthdays, exchange personal stories in the mailroom, arrange some outings. 

Imagination is often sorely missing in the lives of both communities and relationships. A fresh start; a renewed vision. For years I’ve immensely enjoyed these words by Murray D. Lincoln in his 1960 book Vice President in Charge of Revolution: “Because any organization, once it becomes successful, is apt to lose its original drive and vision, I’ve suggested that we have a ‘vice president in charge of revolution.’ He’d be one man not responsible for any operation. He’d stand to one side, with whatever staff he needed, to pick holes in whatever we were doing and remind us of our basic philosophy, our fundamental concepts. His job would be to stir up everything and everybody, to criticize and challenge everything being done—objectives, methods, programs, results. He’d keep us so disconnected with the status quo there’d never be any doubt of our desire to seek new ways to meet people’s needs. He’d keep us on the right track.”

The secret of either a successful relationship or a working community is shared experience. Good times, bad times, ups and downs; it all comes out in the wash. Consciously create your own memories to last a lifetime. Be a good guy. Help him be a good guy. Assist your fellow workers in community to be good guys. Honesty is the best solution. The tape of your life, and his, and everybody’s is rolling. Let it happen.

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. Last spring White Crane Books released a compendium of Boyd’s writing in The Malcolm Boyd Reader.


WC78 – Bryn Marlow – In Search of Gay Community


In Search of Gay Community

By Bryn Marlow

When I see an especially sexy man I capture and preserve him the way some people collect butterflies. Oh, I don’t dab camphor on his head, run him through with a pin and stick him to a board (though I’ve been sorely tempted). Rather, I capture his image in my mind, add a drop of mental fixative and file him away for future review. If he’s a rare specimen, unusually compelling in some way, I write a description of him, add it to the others in my red three-ring binder.

Thus I have preserved in ink the man who stood on tip toe in tank top, shorts and shapely thighs to replace a light bulb in a Pride Fest vendor’s tent, stretched muscled arms up overhead as if to bridge the gap ’twixt heaven and earth. Thus I can call up the image of a shirtless farm boy, out of college for the summer, working the roadside vegetable stand with his father, relaxed, easy among the melons. Thus I can envision the actor in a community theatre production who stumbled on stage in a tight white t-shirt and navy blue pants, barefoot, bound, bleeding. Beaten down time and again, he rose to his feet, chest heaving, shirt ripped, expression both defiant and resigned.

Maybe it’s because I don’t see many men that I hold onto the ones I do. By choice, I live in the rural Midwestern United States, work at a small production company a couple miles from home. My husband commutes to work in the city, does our shopping while he’s there. No need for me to get out. By choice we live without television, VCR, DVDs, cell phones, cable, internet connection. We turn our attention instead to each other and to various projects, plants, animals and books. There are ample pay-offs. There are trade-offs, as well. When it comes to sexy men other than my husband, I get little in the way of visual stimulation—photo books of artful male nudes, calendars featuring the work of these same photographers and the pictures I carry in my head.

For me, it’s much the same story with regards to the Gay community. Connections close to home are hard to come by in this conservative part of the country and complicated by my Luddite leanings. Concerns for physical safety, job security and personal reputation persuade many GLBT persons to remain closeted or keep a low profile. Around here, pressure to marry a person of the opposite sex is high. Many Gay persons have and do. Clandestine rendezvous for sexual expression often take precedence over other forms of community-building. These were the messages my husband and I heard during the three years we facilitated a monthly support/discussion group in our home for local Gay men. The group—never large to begin with—dwindled and eventually folded.

While our Gay friends are close to our hearts, their houses are far from ours. Once a month my husband and I drive to the capital city, a trip about 30 times that of my daily commute. There we attend a Gay discussion/support group with three bosom companions. One weekend a year we attend a Gay men’s retreat. Other get-togethers dot the year, most held far from our home. For us, Gay community is encapsulated, comes in discrete doses. It’s not something we get all the time.
I was mindful of this recently when we made a long drive to crash a party some friends were hosting for their city’s LGBT social/education/advocacy group. About 20 people attended, men and women, some single, some partnered, some with children in tow. There were retirees, professional types, working stiffs and the currently unemployed. There was the flaming queen with his encyclopedic knowledge of classic cinema, the master gardener, clerics, professors, an artist, the bartender and weekend deejay at a local Gay club. There was laughter, power tool-talk, jokes, prattle, warmth, show tunes, sarcasm. There was good food, earnest discussion and more.

I savored these moments as they transpired and pinned butterflies in my mind all the while. Two men lustily singing the Munchkin chorus from Wizard of Oz. Another telling about the office party he hosted, pretending his partner was the hired help—and the woman angling for his affection who wasn’t fooled by this subterfuge.

The obvious love and respect the gardener has for the earth. The curate “between cures” struggling to find a place he can call home. The Marlene Dietrich impressionist. The Lesbian protesting she does know something about interior decorating, that her home proves it. The kids moving amongst the hubbub with easy grace.

I store up these memories so I can take them out to look at later. To sustain me through the long dry spells when community seems a chimera, mirage, impossible dream.

I don’t think this is a feeling unique to GLBT people. We live in an era when in living memory air conditioning lured people off front porches and into secluded living rooms, when radio and television replaced community pageants and sing-a-longs, and cable cemented the deal, when increasingly, internet connections reconfigure face-to-face interaction, and do-it-yourself religion empties edifices of faith.

Oh, I know there are bonds of community that support me and keep me safe, as easy to ignore and disremember as the highway bridges I sail over without thought of those whose work carries me across the waters. I know I breathe air once inhaled by GLBT pioneers; that their labors and those of many others have sent ripples into the world whose current touches me, carries me along. I am grateful.

At the same time, I am not satisfied. I want more than a whiff of unseen community. I want the connectivity of my childhood. I want the taste of Evelyn Fox’s apple pie at potluck dinners. I want the wrinkled hand of church patriarch Charlie Hough tousling my hair. I want what I saw every summer at my grandparents’ home amongst the pine forests, bogs and lakes of northern Minnesota.

All their lives my grandparents breathed an almost palpable sense of community. They were among the many white families who bought land on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. While Grandpa scraped out a living as a farmer, hunter and woodsman, Grandma kept house, raised children, canned food and welcomed friends who dropped by. My grandparents lived seven miles out of Deer River along the road that runs up to Northome and Squaw Lake. They lived for a long time without electricity, indoor plumbing, an automobile. They lived in a time and place when everyone knew everyone else’s name—and business—for miles around.

Folks helped one another out. When Grandpa heard of nearby kids going hungry he’d shoulder his rifle and head into the woods, deer season or not. When fresh venison appeared on their step, the neighbors accepted this bounty graciously and kept their mouths shut, especially when the game warden came nosing about.

Folks made their own fun: community dances, ball games, picnics, parades and more. Grandma belonged to the Happy Hour Club, a gathering of women who lived along the same stretch of road. At monthly meetings they talked and socialized, traded gossip and recipes, worked on group projects that eased the loneliness and isolation that could otherwise overwhelm. One year they all made friendship quilts. Each woman embroidered her signature on a fabric square for each of the others. Each then pieced these blocks together to make her own comforter or quilt. Each was able then to wrap up in, feel the warmth of friendship in a very literal way.

Grandma recently gave me her friendship quilt. I asked her about each of the two dozen women whose autographs it bears, including Mary Daigle (“She was a queer one, Mary was”), Bessie Ploski (“She lived a hard, hard life”) and Katherine Juvalits (“She stood in my yard wringing her hands in her apron, saying, ‘I’ve been hungry, Violet, oh, so hungry’”).

I now spread this quilt of many colors across my lap. To me, it embodies the warmth of community stitched together from the scraps of life people had on hand, marked with their names and personal histories. These were dirt-poor women, neighbors who stood together when times were hard, who celebrated life in creative ways, marked its passage with laughter and tears.

Of necessity, many GLBT folk fashioned similarly courageous, caring communal responses to the ravages of the HIV-AIDS pandemic. While they, too, stitched together a quilt—expression and emblem of pain, loss, hope—I remained oblivious. I was married, raising children, focused on my conservative church-related career and activities.

I knew as much about the GLBT community as did my mother. Our mutual sources of information were the fundraising letters and radio broadcasts of the religious right. We imagined a vast, organized, legal, political and social conspiracy of hell-bound opportunists who recruited naïfs (like me, say) to further a hedonistic agenda to destroy society.

I turned 35 before I realized I am Gay. Before I turned 36, I realized Mom and I had it all wrong. I found no organized network of contacts waiting to greet me with open arms, offer acceptance, support, warmth and fellowship, show me the ropes, help me find my wings. I found no such ready-made security blanket.

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!

Bryn Marlow and his husband live on a small wooded farmstead where they raise chickens and flowers.  His last essay for White Crane ”Call Me Ennis Del Marlow” (Issue #68) was republished in Utne magazine and his piece “What Two Men Do In Bed” appeared in Toby Johnson and Steve Berman’s anthology Charmed Lives, published by White Crane Press (  We’re delighted to have him in our pages (and excerpted online) again.

WC78 – Updrafts by Dan Vera


Edited by Dan Vera

I think that the majority of the gay press is quite bad and misleading to the intellectual and physical health of homosexuals. It betrays the historical legacy of brilliance that once existed in the gay world, of being the true guardians and keepers of intellectual and artistic brilliance. Gay people have upheld high art for years. Now, in the gay male press, there's nowhere for the opera queens, there's nowhere for the faggy snobs. It's all about youth and body image. It's very light reading, you know?  And on the physical health side, there's a total glorification and acceptance of extreme drug use and sexual license. I don't want to seem like a prudish person–I believe that what happens in a person's bedroom is private–but I do believe that the press have to get a little more proactive about the health of our community.   ~ Rufus Wainwright

When a flower blooms and then dies, we do not call that flower a failure.  And flowers don’t so much die as go to seed.  We all carry the seeds of our experience in our hearts, and we plant these wherever we go.  ~ Carolyn Shaffer

The warm bodies
shine together
 ~ Allen Ginsberg

If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.   ~Antoine de Saint Exupery

We must get back into relation, vivid and nourishing relation to the cosmos. The way is through daily ritual and the reawakening. We must once more practice the ritual of dawn and noon and sunset, the ritual of kindling fire and pouring water, the ritual of the first breath, and the last.    ~ D.H. Lawrence

I think now especially we’re misled so often.  We have our eye on the horizon looking for a genius of some sort to save us.  There is no genius coming.  The genius is already here.  It’s in the community.  And our difficulty seems to be that sometimes we confuse the manifestation of genius in an individual with the notion that that’s where it resides.  But it doesn’t reside in an individual.  Its in the community of people.  ~ Barry Lopez

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise.
  ~ William Blake

Don't listen to those who say, “It's not done that way.” Maybe it’s not, but maybe you will. Don't listen to those who say, “You're taking too big a chance.” Michelangelo would have painted the Sistine floor, and it would surely be rubbed out by today. Most importantly, don't listen when the little voice of fear inside of you rears its ugly head and says, “They're all smarter than you out there. They're more talented, they're taller, blonder, prettier, luckier and have connections…” I firmly believe that if you follow a path that interests you, not to the exclusion of love, sensitivity, and cooperation with others, but with the strength of conviction that you can move others by your own efforts, and do not make success or failure the criteria by which you live, the chances are you'll be a person worthy of your own respect.   ~ Neil Simon

We all belong to the “community of life."   ~ Daniel Quinn 

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!

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

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

WC78 – Praxis by Andrew Ramer

Andrewramer_sep_3Community Trust
Andrew Ramer

What does it mean to be held in community, held and nurtured and encouraged to grow? That was something I yearned for, as a misfit boy few of the other kids wanted to play with, who ended up most afternoons by himself in the rhododendron grove in our large backyard. When I was seven or eight I started having a dream that recurred for years. It’s night and I’m watching a group of men dancing together around a fire in a clearing in the woods, while I stand alone behind a tree, afraid to join them. While the waking me longed to be part of a community, every group I tried to join rejected me, offended me, or fell apart. Even my attempts to fit into the gay world failed. I don’t like opera, never saw a Bette Davis movie, flunked Cruising 101 and Bathhouse Etiquette. And then in the summer of 1990, I received a short letter in the mail that changed my life. The writer, Raven Wolfdancer, wrote from Atlanta to tell me that he’d read a copy of my book Two Flutes Playing and found it moving. That letter led to more letters, phone calls, and then Raven invited me to speak at the first Gay Spirit Visions Conference, of which he was one of the founders.

In those days I was living in Brooklyn, had never spent time in the South, and never spoken at a conference, let alone as a keynote. How could I ever be a presenter, especially with Harry Hay and Atlanta poet and therapist Franklin Abbott? I was terrified to go but a voice inside me said “Yes” to Raven’s invitation to spend three days in the mountains of North Carolina with 75 gay men. It never occurred to me that all these years later I would be the only person to have attended every subsequent annual gathering – because it’s my spiritual home, the community that has fed me, raised me, shaped, molded, held, challenged, and blessed me, for more than eighteen years.

Raven, Peter Kendrick, Ron Lambe and the other men who organized that first conference welcomed me into a Southern gay and faerie core community whose roots went back more than a decade. As a New York Jew I found something unexpectedly familiar about the South and its outsider tradition, a kind of American cultural queerness that I identify with and have grown to love. True, the deep and painful divisions in Southern culture trouble and grieve me, but they are part of my extended family’s history. And when people say that they are spiritual but not religious, I understand, although I consider myself both. Congregation Sha’ar Zahav in San Francisco is my religious home, but GSV is my spiritual home. I’ve met some of my dearest friends there, men I rely on to keep my tent pegged to the rocky soil of a wobbly planet and a windy existence.

After that first conference Raven and I began to collaborate on a book about the sacred role of gay men in the world, his art inspiring my words, which evoked further images from his rich imagination. After he was murdered I assembled what we’d done into a desktop version, knowing that Stories of Our People would remain both the unripened fruit of our friendship, and none the less a deep expression of my life in the loving family of GSV.

What I know about community I learned from our faerie/pagan/Native American- influenced rituals, our heart circles, and from small group discussions and long walks in the woods with friends. As a recluse by nature, with a dark teal gregarious streak, GSV taught me the truth of John Donne’s words: “No man is an island, entire of itself.” Oh, and there was the year when Hurricane Ivan struck and we were up all night baling water, building sandbag walls, watching cabin roofs fly off, all the while in mourning for the recent death of one of our beloved members. Then two days later we were called upon to support the community who run the conference center we meet at, as they mourned the death of the family of one of their staff members, who were killed in the storm.

What I know about eldering I learned at GSV, from rambling conversations with Harry Hay that began at the first conference, from our other presenters, and from nearly two decades of exchanges with the devoted men who sustain the gathering year after year. We’ve grown from 75 men to 140 each Fall, adding Winter and Spring gatherings – not without struggle, pain, despair, fear, rejection, conflict, and the constant presence of loss and grief. Men have come and gone, gone and sometimes returned. Why do I go back year after year? That’s easy. When I first arrived at Little Scaly Mountain and was wrapped up in the Southern warmth of GSV, I felt that I had finally come out from behind that tree and joined the circle of men my recurring dream had foretold, and I’ve felt that way ever since.

What I know about decision making I learned from being involved in a community run by consensus, a slow and marvelous process that unfailingly creates a perfect conference every year, even its warts hairy and witch-perfect. Into this non-hierarchical space we have welcomed keynote speakers including Harry Hay, James Broughton, Malcolm Boyd, Mark Thompson, Tom Spanbauer, Will Roscoe, Don Clark, Christian de la Huerta, and Toby Johnson, to name a few. Our speaker this fall will be Clyde Hall. Not bad for a gathering of queers in the mountains of North Carolina.

The mountain we meet on is also home to a lush communities of rhododendrons, to which I always retreat for some time of meditation, comforting me as they did when I was small. And we also share that mountain with a family of ancient dwarf oaks, the descendants of survivors from the last Ice Age, whose glaciers slowly advanced from the north but stopped just before they reached Little Scaly. I’ve learned so much from that community of trees, which seeded the East Coast woodlands after the last of the ice receded, and it’s those wise ancient oaks who are the inspiration for this issue’s praxis.

Take a blank 8 ½ by 11 sheet of what we used to call typing paper, that’s now called copy paper or printer paper. On this blank sheet draw the outline of a tree with a nice broad trunk and roots and branches spreading out above and below, mirroring each other.

This tree is a map of your communities, now, in the past, and stretching out toward the future. Start by going down to the roots of your tree and writing in along them the names of the communities, good and bad, nurturing and stifling, that you belonged to in the past: family, religious groups, schools, glee club, drama club, track team, summer camps, out crowd, etc. On the edge of the roots write in the names of the groups you didn’t belong to but longed to be a part of. And beyond those groups, near the bottom of the page, write in the names of the groups you didn’t belong to and didn’t want to belong to.

Now move up to the trunk of your tree and write in, right in the center: ME. Sometimes we think of ourselves as individuals, but as Whitman said, “I am a large, I contain multitudes,” so I invite you to include the community of yourself/yourselves, as part of your tree. Above and below yourself write in the names of the communities you are most intimately connected with, family, friends, spiritual/political/educational groups you belong to, your coworkers, all the communities you are involved with on a daily basis. These can be cyber communities, and please keep in mind that your communities may not just be people. Pets, flocks, herds, parks, gardens, nature spirits, disembodied friends and angels also belong on the list of your most intimate communities.

Next go up to your tree’s branches, and write in the names of communities you are less involved in, that you connect with from time to time. The people from the annual yoga retreat you see once a year. Your dentist, doctor and the people in their offices, the people in the salon where you get your hair done, and the workers in your favorite health food store, belong on this list. And don’t forget the family around the corner who you run into at the park three or four times a year, whose names you don’t even know but who you always enjoy seeing, watching their kids grow. And your never-married Aunt Minnie, who you visit every few years, the one who tells you the truth about your family that you parents never would.

At the very tips of your tree’s branches, on different limbs, write in: the names of communities and groups you want to belong to, groups you don’t know how to get into, and groups you suspect wouldn’t want you that you still feel drawn to. People with homes in three different locations, close friends of your favorite celebrity, enlightened beings who have burned away all of their karma. Out beyond the branches, near the edge of the page, write the names of communities you don’t belong to and don’t want to belong to. Born again Wiccans, Bio-diesel fundamentalists, unrepentant Republicans, people who eat steak, may all be on your list. 

When you are done, draw a line right inside the very edges of the entire page. This rectangular box represents All of Life on Earth. It includes the communities you belong to and the ones you don’t belong to. It includes all the groups you don’t ever want to belong to, that wouldn’t want you anyway, all of which we are still connected to, and must learn to live with, for we share the same small orbiting sphere and the same destiny – to live together, or die together.

This tree is a portrait of the communities of your life. It may take you several days or longer to create it. I spent over a week working on mine. I kept remembering communities I’d belonged to. That meditation group in the early 80s, those friends I used to go bird watching with, the food coop I went to with my first boyfriend in Berkeley, that class for post bar mitzvah nerds our rabbi taught in his study.

Tape your tree up over your night table, on your refrigerator door, on the wall across from your toilet. Put it somewhere where you can meditate upon it, feel your way into it, and see and sense how this tree of yours is connected to the trees of everyone else in the world, including everyone who’s done this bit of praxis – because hopefully somewhere on your tree, on a branch if not on the trunk, you have written: “The White Crane community.”

Fold your tree up and put it in your wallet. Slip it in your desk drawer at work and sneak looks at it during the day, when you’re supposed to be doing something else. Ask yourself how this tree appears to you. Is it bottom or top heavy? Is your trunk bare or filled with loved ones? How would you like this tree to look? What would you like to see upon it? If there isn’t a GSV in your life, consider joining us. And if GSV doesn’t sound like something you’d enjoy – four days in the Southern woods with men in leather and tee shirts and skirts, sharing a moldy old cabin with a view of the mountains that will feed your living breathing soul – then ponder this question – “What is my cup of carrot-celery-beet juice?” And if you’re not drinking from it, not even sipping from it – do something every day to seek out a community or communities that will feed your thirst, so that in a year’s time you can draw a new tree, one that mirrors back to you your connection to others who hold you and nurture you and encourage you to grow.
Raven Wolfdancer was an artist, gardener, teacher, and spiritual visionary, featured in the Fall 2008 issue of RFD magazine, our cousin publication, grounded too in Southern faerie culture.

For more information about the Gay Spirit Visions Conference, please visit their website:, or write to GSV at PO Box 339, Decatur GA 30031-0339.

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.


WC78 – Review of The 99th Monkey

Rvu_sobel The 99th Monkey:
A Spiritual Journalist's Misadventures
With Gurus, Messiahs, Sex, Psychedelics,
and Other Consciousness-Raising Experiments

By Eliezer Sobel
Santa Monica Press, 2008
288 pages, $16.95
ISBN-10: 159580028X

Reviewed by Jay Michaelson

Many White Crane readers are, shall we say, veterans of the New Age. Some of us started in the 60s, some started in our 60s, but most of us, it's safe to say, have had some brush with "gurus, messiahs, sex, psychedelics, and other consciousness-raising experiments," to quote the subtitle of Eliezer Sobel's hilarious and insightful spiritual memoir, The 99th Monkey.

Sobel has done it all. As he says in the book's introduction, "I was massaged, shiatsu-ed, and Rolfed; took hundreds of consciousness workshops, human potential seminars, and self-improvement courses; sat with psychics, channels, and tarot readers; experienced Prima, Gestalt, Bioenergetics, Object Relations, generic talk therapies, and anti-depressants.  And that's the short list." In short, he writes, "I was desperately trying to cure myself of being me."

This odyssey, though perhaps longer than most, should sound familiar to all of us who have dabbled (or more than dabbled) in spirituality and personal growth work. Sobel is straight — though in emails with this reviewer he embraced the label of "queer heterosexual" — but his journey is just the kind of long, winding road to which those of us in the gay wisdom/gay spirit world can really relate.

It started, it seems, with a feeling of unsafety in childhood: Sobel's grandparents were holocaust survivors, and fear/antisemitism/enemies lurked behind every darkened door. And it ends, 307 pages later, with Sobel still as neurotic as ever, but, again like many of us spiritual seekers, a little more okay with being neurotic.

Along the way, there are hilarious encounters with gurus famous and obscure. Ram Dass has Sobel show him his penis when Sobel complains of feeling inadequate (Sobel "had no idea at the time that he… might have enjoyed having young men take their pants off for him"). He gets so raw during primal therapy that he cries when he reads Peanuts. (I do too, but only when Schroeder is in it.) He does the "Tush Push" at a sexuality workshop (you can probably figure that one out). And he does "get it" many times: during est training, at Esalen, even in a 30-second encounter with "the Godman," Adi Da.

The 99th Monkey is hilarious, and self-deprecating, but also sincere. It's not a parody of the spiritual search; Sobel is authentically moved, inspired, transformed, even if he resists it every step of the way. (The book's title comes from the 1958 paradigm shift that took place when a critical mass of Japanese monkeys learned a new way of eating potatoes. The 100th monkey is the tipping point; Sobel, as the 99th, is the one personally preventing the paradigm shift.)

And yes, it is a queer book, sexually speaking. At one point, Sobel tosses a metaphorical coin and says "Heads, I'll get married; Tails I'm gay." He is told by a medium that at the dawn of time, he was a Star Being "pushing for one androgynous human being" rather than sexual differentiation. And there is that Tush Push. But what's interesting about the way The 99th Monkey plays with sex is not that Sobel is ambiguously gay; it's that he's a straight man with a lot of gay men's problems. I felt, reading the book, that there might be real "straight allies" out there after all — as long as they're as crazy as Sobel is.

There's much more: bad mushroom trips, encounters with the Dalai Lama, nights at the tombs of mystics in Israel. But I'll leave that for you to discover. The end of the book finds Sobel again with Ram Dass, this time "sobbing, my heart weeping with a poignant joy… seeing, that in God's infinite garden, we are each a perfect flower, even me." Now that's a happy ending we can all agree about.

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!

WC78 – Review of When You’re Falling, Dive

Rvu_matousek When You're Falling, Dive

By Mark Matousek
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
ISBN-13: 9781596913691 320pp

How people who have suffered trauma find an upside when they've gone to the brink—and back again. Do survivors of life's greatest trials possess a secret knowledge? Is there an art to survival—a map for crossing the wilderness—or daily life? Why do some people blossom through adversity while others stop growing? Drawing on twenty years' experience in this field, using stories, parable, and scientific data, acclaimed memoirist Mark Matousek gives the first-ever comprehensive look at this mysterious phenomenon of viriditas, the power of drawing passion, beauty, and wisdom from the unlikeliest places. Matousek interviews hundreds of well-known survivors—including Joan Didion, Elie Wiesel, and Isabel Allende—and experts such as Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jonathan Kozol, and Sogyal Rimpoche. He includes extraordinary testimonials, from a Tibetan nun imprisoned by the Chinese at age eleven and the women of Calama, Chile, digging for their “disappeared,” among countless others. Drawing insight and advice from these many heroic individuals, Matousek presents a chorus of wisdom for how to survive our own lives—the vicissitudes of being human—and prevail.

Publishers Weekly Memoirist and editor Matousek (Sex Death Enlightenment) attempts to dissect the relationship between life's harshest tests and the gift of self-discovery and survival in this absorbing compendium of anecdotes. The author, who has AIDS, interviews many survivors of trauma and loss, including writer Joan Didion, mystic Andrew Harvey, poet Stanley Kunitz and Tibetan nun Nawang Sangdrol, among others, to inquire how deepest crisis forces us to re-examine our lives and move forward. After stating that "Transformation is in our wiring," Matousek concludes that the key to our survival is not cheating death but living as passionately, creatively and courageously as possible. Using scientific data, psychological research and his own life experiences, he uncovers the essentials of enduring against all odds while answering his chief question: "What force flips a falling person back on his feet, reconstitutes him after disaster, helps him prevail in the face of great challenges?" Matousek shows an uncanny skill for merging spirituality, science and common sense into practical answers for surviving our own lives.

Mark Matousek is the author of two memoirs, The Boy He Left Behind and Sex Death Enlightenment. He is a contributing editor for O and Tricycle and writes the “Big Idea” column for AARP. He has served as senior editor of Interview magazine and has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times magazine, Details, Harper's Bazaar, Utne, Out, Yoga Journal, and others. He lives in New York City. 

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!