A ceremony at the foot of the Cove Avenue Steps on Silver Lake Blvd. recognizing the site as a historic place by the City of Los Angeles. The dedication of “The Mattachine Steps” (which lead up to the house where pioneer gay activist Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Society in 1950) will be followed by a Radical Faerie-hosted picnic in an adjoining park overlooking the Silver Lake Reservoir (east side). Then, at 2:30, a book signing and reading of Stuart Timmon’s newly updated biography “The Trouble with Harry Hay” at nearby Stories bookstore, 1716 Sunset Blvd. (in Echo Park).
Sunday, April 15, at 2:00 p.m.
The ONE Culture Series will host a panel discussion about Harry Hay’s life and times. Film clips, literary readings and lively talk will be followed by refreshments in the Archive’s garden. There is a suggested donation of $5. The ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives is located at 909 W. Adams Blvd. (near USC). 213-741-0094 for further information.
The Fire in Moonlight: Stories from the Radical Faeries
On Labor Day Weekend, 1979, 200 men gathered in the Arizona desert for the first Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries. Called forth by Harry Hay (of Mattachine Society fame), Hay’s partner John Burnside, Don Kilhefner and Mitch Walker, this first of many Gatherings created a development that spread around the world and combined elements of gay liberation, feminism, environmentalism, new age spirituality and the counter-culture. Thousands of gay and Bi men (later joined by a few women) met in out of the way, rural Gatherings and Sanctuaries, creating a very loose network that defied the LGBT community’s tendency toward assimilation and institutionalism. Creative spirits like Will Roscoe, James Broughton, Andrew Ramer, Toby Johnson, Dan Nicoletta and Charlie Murphy became part of this sub-culture. It was Hay who coined the term Radical Faeries: both Radical (as to the root) and Faerie having to do with gays’ spiritual and cultural traditions rather than "radical" politics.
Among the 200 men who attended that first Faerie Gathering was author Mark Thompson. As Thompson remembers, the Gathering "was definitely a turning point in the burgeoning gay men’s spirituality movement. In some ways, I felt that gathering in the Arizona desert was as historically important as the Stonewall riots had been a decade before. Both events signaled a significant refocusing of values and vision, helping to create a new leap forward in gay culture-making. I attended many Gatherings – mainly in the Western United States – for the next 20 years."
More than thirty years after attending that first Gathering, Thompson, along with Associate Editors Richard Neely (Osiris) and Bo Young, have assembled the first anthology by and about the Faeries. The Fire In Moonlight: Stories from the Radical Faeries, is published by White Crane Books / Lethe Press as part of the White Crane Wisdom Series ($25). "Since their sudden inception on a remote site in the American Southwest in 1979, the Faeries have grown like some exotic species of flora around the world," Thompson wrote in his "Introduction." "This book of many voices continues that early call – a call for freedom of mind, body and spirit from the petty, awful tyrannies of those who have tried every means to destroy us. It is about how being a Radical Faerie has changed a life." Among the contributors are Will Roscoe, Franklin Abbott and Trebor Healy.
Bo Young, publisher of White Crane Books, and Associate Editor of The Fire In Moonlight, began his involvement with the Radical Faeries in 1990, when he first visited the Short Mountain Sanctuary in Tennessee. As Young is quick to point out, "the organizing principle of the Faeries is consensus and the Faerie Circle . . . no leaders. Everyone is ‘equidistant’ from the center. No one person is out in front. . While the Radical Faeries are identified most often as a ‘movement’ it isn’t something you join. It’s a state of mind. If you say you are a Faerie, you are a Faerie. There are Faeries who are into drag and organic farming and wild fermentation and there are Faeries who are theatrical and there are Faeries who are living communally and there are Faeries that are eremitic. There are rural Faeries and there are urban Faeries."
In The Fire in Moonlight, Faeries past and present share in their Faerie experience. According to Jerry Berbiar (Jerry the Faerie), "the Radical Faeries were founded for gay men. The Gatherings were places where gay men could individually recreate themselves, create community, explore faggot essence and create their own culture, free from the dominant all-encompassing hetero viewpoint." "At the heart of the Radical Faeries is a recognition of and exploration into gay men’s souls: our unique way of viewing, experiencing and being in the world," Joey Cain wrote. "I found myself in environments where my very sexuality, my embrace of myself as male and female, my determination that my sexual nature was both natural and magical, were honored and explored," recalled "EuroFaerie" Marco Shokti. "For a freaky little queer boy like me the Radical Faeries were the family I hardly dared to dream might exist," declared Pete Sturman, AKA Mockingbird and Pistol Pete. "The Faeries provided me with a safe environment to try all sorts of different things. I could split wood in high heels, bake bread in my underwear or run around covered in mud. I could laugh like a hyena or take a day of silence. They helped inspire me to become a musician and songwriter, a loud and proud queen troubadour."
One of the most interesting parts of The Fire in Moonlight is the book’s "Faerie Glossary." According to Young (at left in photo), "a shared, unique language is one of the defining elements of ‘culture.’ The Faeries have a very definite and unique use of language and one of the chief motivations of the various traditions such as Sanctuaries is a ‘time out of time’ period in which the gay individual removes him (or her) self from the dominant culture and literally engage in ‘coming to terms’ with who s/he is." Hay challenged the Faeries to self-define, from which emerged a vocabulary which the editors believe required a Glossary. Many Faeries have taken "Faerie names;" spiritual or ecologically-inspired names in contrast to their "mundane, everyday names."
The Fire in Moonlight presents a mostly-positive view of the Radical Faeries. But there are dissenting views. "Improbable Faerie" Artwit, who was active with the San Francisco Faeries during the 1980’s, is critical of a subculture which, like other gay tribes, favors the young and beautiful: "I have no desire to be a Faerie Mormon and make breakfast while the pretty ones sleep in and fuck," he said. Young admits that "one of the challenges we had was finding an African-American contributor. The Faeries are like any other part of this American society and suffers from the inherent racism of the culture. But that said, it is one of the few communities of which I am aware that actually attempts to address that." In short, "The Fire in Moonlight is not meant in any way to be a hagiography of the Radical Faerie movement."
Artwit is in the minority. As Thompson (in photo at right) put it, "once a Radical Faerie, always a Radical Faerie." "The Faeries are by no means a perfectly evolved group," Thompson admits, "but it definitely represents a quantum step in healing gay male relationships and community practice. The Radical Faeries may appear as a rather funky, insignificant tribe of social outcasts, but I have to state here for the record that nowhere have I encountered more intelligent, creative and beautifully self-aware gays in one place than at a Faerie Gathering. A Gathering is the antithesis of a typical gay ghetto environment. It is an intentional community – a destination on the inner journey, not some angry place of refuge. There is a lot of joy that comes from being a Radical Faerie."
"The strongest thing about the Faeries," Young notes, "is their commitment to community and their general awareness of and respect for history and tradition. Another strength is the creation of and maintenance of the Faerie Sanctuaries in their various manifestations," many of which are listed in the "Radical Faerie Resource Directory" found at the back of The Fire in Moonlight. On the other hand, Young admits that the Faeries’ "generally perceived flamboyance tends to scare people away." The Radical Faeries, Thompson says, "claim no particular leaders (we say we are ‘leader-full’) so there is not a problem of domineering egos holding others in thrall. People like that quickly get invited elsewhere. The reverse of this is that sometimes chaos ensues and the group experience can rapidly devolve into incoherent confusion. Over the years, the Faeries have learned how to walk better in balance between these polarities."
"The Faeries," Thompson continues, "have a very significant role in the greater understanding of what I would call our core gay values. Because we are living so in the moment, the archetypal motifs of gay psyche are more keenly felt and expressed. This is one crowd that is not going to be assimilated into mainstream mythology, which is still a narrative of heterosexual dominance. Faeries are shape-shifters, makers of ritual and beauty, natural teachers, healers and soul guides. We walk between the worlds, the seen and unseen, and between the genders. It represents a more authentic vision of who we gay men really are inside." "For myself," Young adds, "the chief asset of most Faeries I know is that they understand a history of same-sex people and tend to see themselves as connected to that history. There are so many other aspects of what I think of more as a culture than as a ‘movement’ . . . the attraction to the land, the care of the land, the rejection of consumerist culture, the sense of humor. It is one of the ancient archetypes of same-sex people to be jesters, culture carriers, interpreters and teachers. The Radical Faeries are all of these. These have always been incredibly important to any vital society . . . and they always will be."
THE FIRE IN MOONLIGHT Stories from the Radical Faeries Edited by Mark Thompson White Crane Wisdom Series 9781590213384, 309 Pages, $25.00
Mark Thompson’s latest anthology, The Fire in Moonlight (White Crane), is a collection of first person accounts of the Harry Hay-inspired Radical Faerie movement. Hay, a co-founder of the Mattachine Society, joined forces with Don Kilhefner and Mitch Walker to start the Faerie movement in order to add a spiritual dimension to the (often dry) nuts and bolts world of emerging gay politics.
Inspired in part by the writings of Edward Carpenter and the Calamus poems of Walt Whitman, Hay saw the homosexual as much more than a creature fighting for rights in a hostile society. The homosexual, according to Hay, was a multidimensional being with roots in the mythic, a sort of alien spirit with special healing gifts for the world.
As Stuart Timmons notes in his introductory essay, “The Making of a Tribe,” Hay once told a circle of 200 Faeries: “We Faeries need to stop saying, ‘My consciousness is better than your consciousness.’ That’s heterosexist. No one person, no one group, no one ideology has the answer. You need a spirit.”
Theologians may quibble with that relativist statement, insisting that if one truth is as good as another truth, then there’s no truth anywhere. One thing’s certain, however: You have to have spirit in order to “build.” For Hay, this meant constructing a homosexual spiritual dimension outside the world of conventional religion.
In a 1975 edition of RFD, Hay wrote: “To be a true homosexual, is to be put at odds with home, school and society….We are so other that we have to learn early how to protect our very survival.”
While this perspective may seem dated post-DADT, Hay was nonetheless insistent that a pronounced queerness was buried inside the homosexual’s “stubbornly perverse genes.” Hay’s vision of a monastic-like collective of queer men of all ages coming together in friendship circles for a process of “shedding the ugly green frog skin of hetero-imitation” started with the first Faerie Circle in Colorado in 1979.
Called “A Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries,” at that Labor Day event hundreds of men (the gatherings would later include women) participated in mud baths and neo-pagan, quasi-Native American rituals like circle hand holding, chanting, and taking turns speaking to the circle while holding a Talking Stick. Many of these ad hoc talks were spiked with references to Aliester Crowley as well as Hay’s own take on what it means to be “queer” and “other.”
In these free-love pre-AIDS gatherings there was ritualized group sex as well as individual couplings. As Timmons observes, “In selecting fairies as a role model for gays, [Hay] combined logic with inspiration to surpass the medieval Mattachines—to a pre-Christian time and beyond human limits.”
With its emphasis on aspects of Native American culture and worship of the earth, the early Faeries attracted gay men who had had enough of the dead end clone life in the urban gay ghetto.
At the second Spiritual Gathering for the Radical Faeries in 1980, in Estes National Forest above Boulder, Colorado, faerie names were adopted and the emphasis on paganism was enhanced. As contributor Carol Kleinmaier notes, besides a denial of spirit-body and male-female duality, Faerie spirituality “was sourced in… the celebration of sacred sexuality, Wicca, paganism and shamanic traditions.”
As one would expect, highly eclectic and a diverse range of spiritual references as well as divergent opinions about the Faerie experience mark these essays.
Allen Page, for instance, writes that during the first gathering he “asked the Goddess (which Goddess he doesn’t say) to show him why he needed to be there.” Meanwhile, “a young man shook a rattle and stands up in a speckled dress.” The philosophy was to embody masculine and feminine energies although one finds in many of these stories a distinct prejudice against patriarchy as well as an emphasis “to take the gifts of the Father back to the Mother.”
Philadelphian Chris Bartlett (The Lady Bartlett) notes:
I like cultures that use rituals to embody choice: the Amish Rumspringa when Amish teens, following a year of exposure to the outside world, choose to join the Amish community (be baptized) or are shunned. Another example is the bar/bat mitzvah when young Jews choose to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. The investiture of a priest in various religions is another moment of powerful choice. When participants in a culture choose to embrace that culture, they become full actors, as opposed to full recipients.
In Faerie circles, identification with the feminine is assumed. It would not be unusual, for instance, for the males in a circle to cry while listening to reports of the rape of a female friend of a member. Since Radical Faeries spanned all age categories, older men were respectfully called elders and were regarded as purveyors of wisdom, even if that “respect” ended at the bedroom door. Wisdom cannot compete with beauty when it comes to a good lay.
Just as in any local city bathhouse, the young are attracted to the young, as the older and less appealing find themselves casting about for a bone or having to spend their nights alone, Trappist monk-style.
Artwit, for instance, writes that at one gathering he got lucky three times so that his “usual depression at being alone while the slender twinks slept in pairs was less severe.” Highly critical of many in the Faerie community, Artwit states that “self righteous beliefs about food seem to be a hallmark of the Faeries. We used to joke in the kitchen about making ‘Cream of Vegan’ soup for our next meal.”
Artwit also writes about the Faerie Drag Wars.
The first two Gatherings had that old rustic-northwest-jeans-and-flannel flavor and here come these queens from California doing wigs and make-up. So a small culture war was started at the Gathering, with the hosts deciding not to send the Call to California next year. “[But] over the years, wigs and makeup won and overtook whatever Heart Circles there were.
For Artwit, the Faeries main problem was making social problems into personal ones.
“I have no desire to be a Faerie Mormon and make breakfast while the pretty ones sleep in and fuck,” he writes.
Editor Mark Thompson is to be commended for not editing out Artwit’s less than flattering reminiscences. The inclusion of such criticism is a tribute to the Faerie generosity of spirit, although there’s enough good stuff in this book to make Harry Hay proud.
As Berbiar (Jerry the Faerie) puts it, “We need queers who have radical askance alternative viewpoints to dominant cultural mores. May the Radical Faerie movement continue to play its role in providing a cauldron of change so needed in this ignorant and repressive world.”
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You may remember Stuart Timmons as the co-author with Lillian
Faderman of the book Gay LA. As members of this listserv, you may also recall that about two and a half years ago, Stuart suffered a
massive stroke that left him at death's door for what seemed like a very long
time. White Crane was involved in raising the funds necessary for the additional therapy Stuart was going to need. We knew then it was going to be a long hard road to recovery.
So it is with no small amount of pride and joy we report that with the attention and loving care of his family, especially his
sister, Gay, and friends like as Mark Thompson – he's really made a remarkable
recovery! So much so that it looks like he's going to help with the
celebration of what would have been Harry Hay's 100th birthday. Nice to get
some good news!
Thompson, a member of the White Crane Advisory Board, and former editor at The
Advocate, sent this wonderful news about historian Stuart Timmons:
friends of author and community activist Stuart Timmons gathered last week
to celebrate his remarkable recovery from a major stroke two-and-a-half
years ago. Timmons, 53, is still wheelchair bound, but is now fully
mentally alert and with the ability to speak and move about with assistance.
He is expecting a return to his research and writing about GLBT
history and is especially delighted with the invitation
to participate in Centennial celebrations honoring the life and
work of gay movement founder Harry Hay.
two-day conference at City University New York and a major exhibition at the
San Francisco Public Library are in the planning stages, with other
cities soon to be included. Stuart wrote the award-winning biography on the
legendary gay rights leader, The
Trouble With Harry Hay, in 1990. Harry Hay was born on Easter
Sunday, April 7, 1912, in Worthing, England, although he lived many decades
of his life in Los Angeles.
Lee Mentley added:
is doing amazing well…, had a great lunch at “The Coffee Table” and he was
alert with full memory correcting us on our history and although speaking
slowly was participating in the conversation. Well on his way to full
recovery! He spoke with Joey Cain on the phone and will be on the planning
committee for the 100 Year Celebration for Harry Hay in San Francisco and
New York City. It was a joy to be with him!
of you gave support for Stuart's recovery, so we wanted to let you know
that it was money well spent. Stuart Timmons is a walking library of
GLBT history and of Harry Hay and John Burnside in particular. We need
him and we need his genius.
in the photo are: (left to right) Mark Thompson, Stuart Timmons, Robert
Croonquist and HRH Lee Mentley.
I recently saw Mark Doty accept the National Book Award in Poetry for his book Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (Harper Collins). During his acceptance speech Doty thanked his husband Paul; they were recently married in Massachusetts. Like Augusten Burroughs’s memoirs, and David Sedaris’s humor, Mark Doty’s poetry appeals to all readers regardless of sexual orientation. Needless to say, it is a great distinction for an out Gay poet to be honored, not as an "American Gay poet," but as an American poet, period. Doty’s honor was well-deserved. (He is, by the way, also the judge for the 2008 White Crane James White Poetry Prize, the winner of which will be announced in the spring issue of White Crane.)
Doty’s NBA acceptance speech was one of the most inspirational I have seen or heard in quite a while. Unfortunately, I had to go to the National Book Awards Web sit to see and hear Doty’s acceptance speech, and those of the other NBA winners. That is because, unlike awards ceremonies honoring movies, recorded music, television or theater, literary awards are never televised, except perhaps on C-SPAN (which, as the saying goes, “nobody watches”). The fact that literary awards are almost never televised is an indication of literature’s low standing in modern American society, gay or straight. While the major networks know that broadcasting the Oscars, the Grammys, the Emmys or the Tonys will win them large audiences, televising the National Book Awards would almost certainly be a ratings disaster and, even worse, drive away the advertisers.
There was a time, before recorded music, movies, radio and television, when literature was our culture’s most popular art form. Great writers like Voltaire, Goethe, Scott, Byron, Hugo, Dickens, Zola, Tolstoy and Mark Twain were celebrities in their own right, and their lives and loves enthralled the public the way that the antics of Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan do today. Today, of course, we have a wide variety of media to give books and their authors stiff competition. Books have to compete with movies, television and recorded music for the public’s time, money and interest, and books generally lose. Only a few writers dominate bestseller lists and make fortunes from their works. J. K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Stephenie Meyer (Twilight), TV preacher and homophobe Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life) and, of course, Barack Obama are just four names in an all-too short list of popular and successful writers.
Sadly, interest in books and writers is not what it used to be, not even in the GLBT community. For many years GLBT bookstores served as de facto community centers. Today, there is only one GLBT bookstore left in Florida, Lambda Passages in Miami. Wilton Manors, Florida’s leading “gayborhood,” has many types of stores on Wilton Drive, but no book store. And while book reviews are still a major part of such publications as White Crane, the Lambda Book Report, the Gay & Lesbian Review and the online Books to Watch OutFor, most mainstream GLBT publications have dropped their book columns altogether for lack of interest. (Most mainstream journals, Gay or straight, have done the same.)
At their best, books are an important part of our lives: they educate us, they entertain us, they enlighten us, they inspire us. Unlike most media, books do not require expensive equipment (unless you consider reading glasses to be “equipment”). Long before other media deigned to notice us, books spoke to us and about our lives as GLBT people. And books will continue to do so (I hope) when the other media are long gone. So I urge you to support good Gay books, writers, literary journals, book stores and book clubs, for they give us so much in return.
Jesse Monteagudo is a South-Florida based freelance writer and Gay book buff. Write him and express your views at email@example.com.
Year end always seems to be the time to reflect and remember and I have been doing a little of that myself, lately. The subject that commands my attention the most, once I've drawn my jaw-gaping attention from the parade of bad economic news and stories of self-centered, over-consuming greed, is "the media" and the very real economic problems that face all media, us included, as the internet (which we obviously use to some advantage ourselves) and the concommitant loss of revenue this means for print media in particular and older media in general.
Most mornings I sit with my coffee and my New York Times and scan the pages, usually starting with the obits…the Irish Sports Pages, as my grandmother would call them…the headlines, letters to the editor, the business section, the show biz stories, and finally, folding my C-section — the location of the holy, the beloved crossword puzzle that I have worked every day for the past 32+ years — into the now reduced (since the Times has cut the size of their pages) quarterfold.
Early in the week I knock that off even before I go off to work; from Thursday on, I carry it with me through the day as my companion for the down moment, the inbetween transit from place-to-place, lest I be caught with nothing to do but stare into space. It is finished, of course, every day. Always in pen, and with specifically prescribed lettering…capital letters only. And no…I don't want any help, thank you very much. The crossword is my own personal pleasure. It is a meditation and I do that alone. I am often told, when I complain that a New York Times is unavailable to me as I travel, that the puzzle…my puzzle…is available on line and I just have to give the benighted person a smile and, controlling my urge to laugh in their face, simply explain that, "No, it's just not the same."
Now, we are told, people get their news here…on line…and are no longer going to print media as much, causing many of the old gray newspapers, in many a city to not just fold into quarters, but fold altogether and disappear. Worse, the newspapers that tend to remain are "NewsLite McPapers" with graphs and four color illustrations (you know who you are!) that take give predigested, reader's digest compendiums of "news" that, rather than connecting the reader with his community, tending to put it all at a sanitized distance when it isn't using "news" to scare us all into stupor or submission.
This is a serious problem I think…and I don't care if I am showing my age by saying so. I can't imagine my world without that moment of solitude with newsprint in the morning, the cat stalking me behind the curtain of paper, attacking the corners of the section I'm reading and demanding attention.
Of course, I am also a publisher of a magazine and, again, people often ask me, when I explain how the costs of publishing have continued to climb, making the production of White Crane more and more costly to produce…they ask me "have you ever considered just doing it on line?"…and of course, we do publish a portion of every issue on line. And, again, controlling my urge to laugh in their face, I patiently explain.."No. It's just not the same."
If there is anyway that we will be able to continue to produce the "hard copy" as it is now referred to, I swear we will. In my heart, to say nothing of my head, there is something critically important about the creation of an actual document, something tangible that you hold in your hands…something that university and municipal libraries collect and bind into leather bindings. Especially for Gay material…and by Gay material, with all due respect for populism, I do not mean OUT magazine, or The Advocate…but I do mean publications like our own and the Gay & Lesbian Review … as examples.
I'm not saying there isn't a place for popular entertainment. I like and need my fluff as much as the next person (though I really don't care what Paris Hilton is up to…ever.) But beyond that, and somewhere in between that and the fussy papers of academia, there has to be a place for the writings of a community that is still trying to come to terms with itself. And do so in some way other than simply trying to "fit in," assimilate and not cause waves. When I came out 35 years ago, the only place I could find any reference to myself was in the dictionary, under "homosexual"…and a sorry definition it was, too. It is important that some young person, going to their bookstore, or a library find something other than that…see themselves in print and be able to hold onto it for a moment…for as long as they need to hold on to it.
I know the same wringing of hands went on when television came along…and probably when radio arrived…about the loss of something valuable in the glare of something new. Television was going to kill radio. And didn't. The internet is going to kill newspapers. And it won't. Radio still manages to remain relevant and though even I have bought a Kindle (I carried 47 books on the plane with me this past weekend…could have carried more than 2000 if I wanted…no bookshelves to dust, either)…nevertheless I will always buy hardcover books. I might become more selective about what I buy and what I want to care for and store. But I will still buy them.
And so it is with the newspaper and magazine. You will never catch me doing my NY Times crossword on my Kindle…even though it is available on it, every day, for less than I pay to have it delivered to my front door (in the blue plastic bag that is immediately recycled into dog poop duty!…what would I do with out that!?) It just isn't the same thing. My fingers will always be stained with the ink of the C-section, and there will always be a pen in my pocket to do the puzzle.
And we will always publish White Crane if I have anything to say about it. And you will be able to hold it in your hands, and save it on a shelf, and take it down and reread it and share it with your friends and family and community.
"Over the years, Boyd has written or edited more than 30 books, from which the editors have carefully culled the prose and the prayers comprising this rich reader of a gay elder's always-questioning, never-faltering activist faith—selections spanning more than 50 years that distill Boyd's wisdom wonderfully."
I mean…it's special enough to have had the pleasure of working with Malcolm Boyd…but then we get to be acknowledged. That's the kind of thing that makes you want to get up in the morning and go to work!
And we're in excellent company…here are the other books on Richard Labonte's list:
My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy, by Andrea Askowitz (Cleis Press, $14.95) In this memoir about "40 weeks and five days in hell," Askowitz milks self-professed misery over her pregnancy for captivating comic effect. The ordeals of becoming a single mother—finding sperm, inserting it, week after dateless week—are chronicled in a diary that's winsomely whiny and harrowingly honest.
Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America, edited by Mitchell Gold with Mindy Drucker (Greenleaf Press, $23.95) These personal accounts of rejection by parents, renunciation by churches, and ridicule from and physical attacks by peers link generations and genders through their depiction of the heroism of survival. In a perfect world, every school library would have a copy.
Intersex (for Lack of a Better Word), by Thea Hillman (Manic D Press, $14.95) Hillman's sprightly essays add an intersex's story—please don't call us hermaphrodites, pleads the author—to the queer literary spectrum. The author writes about a muddled medical childhood, her emergence as an intersex activist, and the women (and men) in her life, neatly blending the political and the sensual.
The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy, by Robert Leleux (St. Martin's $23.95) Debut memoirist Leleux bests both David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs as a raconteur of wacky family tales with this rollicking story of growing up queer in East Texas. The author confesses to taking some license with veracity, but depictions of his gold-digging mother's fashion and surgical excesses, and of how he found himself falling in love with a Cajun choreographer, resound with wickedly sincere truths.
About My Life and the Kept Woman, by John Rechy (Grove Press, $24) Rechy writes with eloquent elegance about growing up Mexican-American in El Paso, where "Juan" often passed as "Johnny" because of the light skin he inherited from his angry Scottish father; about the double life hiding his poverty from better-off friends; about shying away from his true sexuality while in the military during the Korean War; and, most compellingly, about how he became the street-wise, tough-guy hustler of City of Night.
Sex Talks to Girls: A Memoir, by Maureen Seaton (Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press, $26.95) As "Molly Meek," poet Seaton tracks her passage from religious orthodoxy to sobriety and sexual exuberance—a journey marked by drag kings, butches, all kinds of over-indulgence, and a couple of kids to care for along the way—with writing that is heroically revealing and often very funny.
King of Shadows, by Aaron Shurin (City Lights, $16.95) Shurin's brief essays reveal a multitude of selves: the young student diving with sensual pleasure into sexual San Francisco; the homemaker enthralled by how sunlight adds sheen to his natural pine floors; the "lovechild of Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan" dedicating his soul to the purity of poetry. Resonant fragments coalesce into a vibrant mini-autobiography.
Sparkling Rain and Other Fiction from Japan of Women Who Love Women, edited by Barbara Summerhawk and Kimberly Hughes (New Victoria, $16.95) Two fascinating books are crammed—small type, narrow margins—into this groundbreaking anthology. The first: illuminating essays on the sexual, social, and literary culture of Japanese women. The second: revelatory short stories (plus poetry, manga, and a screenplay) about women loving women in an overwhelmingly patriarchal culture. Part fiction, part nonfiction—but the latter makes this one special.
The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay & Lesbian Experience, edited by Louis-Georges Tin (Arsenal Pulp Press, $44.95)More than 70 scholars contributed 160 mini-essays to this wide-ranging survey of where and how in the world homophobia continues to resonate. It's an invaluable eye-opener for North American-centric queer activists who believe that many battles have been won. Originally published in France in 2003, this ambitious translation from a small Canadian press is an honorable achievement.
Doty has taught in the University of Houston Creative Writing Program since 1999, but next spring he begins teaching at Rutgers University. Fire to Fire brings together new poems with selections from his previous seven collections, including My Alexandria (1993), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. There is a wonderful interview with Mark here. And you can see his moving acceptance speech here.
I loved every minute of the Lammy’s evening of awards. Congratulations to the Lammys, which have moved to Los Angeles (along with Charles Flowers, the real loss for New York). Twenty years is no small accomplishment. May you continue forever.
Alas, White Crane’s ALL: A James Broughton Reader was, inexplicably, not a finalist for the LGBT Arts and Culture category. I have to admit…all sour grapes aside…I don’t understand how this important collection of one of the leading voices of queer writing and film could be so blatantly ignored. Winning would have been gravy. But it should have been a finalist. There…I got that off my chest.
Friend, Kitt Cherry, was nominated for her boook Art That Dareswas one of five books chosen in the LGBT Arts and Culture category. Unfortunately it didn’t win, but congratulations Kitt. You do wonderful work and we’re proud to feature your work in White Crane. [2008 Lammy winners]
It was a wonderful evening. It was a delight to be in an auditorium with all the hardworking GLBT authors. I think the Lambda Literary Foundation needs to rethink the process and break down and let the winners know they’ve won. Too many of them opted not to fly cross country (when flying is nothing short of a penance!) only to find out that they hadn’t won. Personally I think we owe it to our own institutions to support them, whether we’re winners or not (or…ahem…finalists!) But practical is practical and if the Lammys really want to be the important award they are, it sort of undercuts that end when the winners aren’t present to receive their beautiful crystal book award. And there’s far too much attention to the big publishers…[and they wonder why Gay publishers are folding left and right?]
I’m not quite sure what our sisters made of all the “penis humor” which was…shall we say…somewhat flaccid? But equal time for bad Lesbian humor was well-represented by a Lesbian comic troupe called "The Gay Mafia" performed a Lesbian science fiction scene that was, at best, sort of obligatory. And why is it that Lesbians get to make penis jokes and if Gay men said anything about women’s genitalia we would lose ours? Let it be duly noted: Lesbians can be as embarrassingly bad as Gay men.
For the most part, this is a graying (if eminent) crowd. Youth was represented, but there was, overall, a nice balance of age. The President of the LLF has been handed off (in another series of penis allusions with a "baton") from the eminent and splendid Terry Decrescenzo to best-selling author (and son of newly-minted Christian, Anne Rice) Christopher Rice in a clear play for the Los Angeles celebrity and youth crowd. I get it. Lambda needs to do this. The whole publishing world needs to get connected with the short-attention span crowd. At least he’s out-Gay. For the Los Angeles Gay scene, this is not always a given (see "Hilton, Paris/Gay Pride 2005").
There was a moving (if somewhat overlong) "In Memoriam" slide show, that had all the authors who had died in the past 20 years — 1988 to 2008, since it was the 20th anniversary of the Lammys. Tears and fond sighs were the order of the day as all our literary heroines’ and heroes’ faces looked out at us from the silver screen. Even Valerie Solanas, the radical feminist who wrote "Scum Manifesto" and who shot Andy Warhol, was up there. The obligatory applause response sort of faded away long before the slide show was over. Maybe some of the authors in the slide show were not well-known to everyone in the audience. But my suspicion was more along the lines that the reaction was “Why are we doing this?” Is it really necessary to parade this dirge-like presentation? I’m all for acknowledgment of our elders and our ancestors, to be sure…but it seems to me it might have been a little more celebratory in tone as opposed to the somber tone it took.
Mystery pioneer Katherine V. Forrest presented a Pioneer award to Ann Bannon, who wrote theLesbian Beebo Brinker novels in the 1950s, which has recently been staged by our friend Linda Chapman (The Beebo Brinker Chronicles), and whom every Lesbian of a certain age has read and revered. Her character Beebo Brinker is nothing short of legend. Forrest attested, as she struggled not to cry, she that Ann Bannon’s books had saved her life. This is what all this publishing is all about. And we must never forget that. Every day, somewhere, there is some Gay kid looking to find some reflection of himself or herself in the world. Like most people, the only place I ever found it was in the dictionary. Ann Bannon is a lovely woman, whose warm smile lit up the room. Her books saved lives. I had the pleasure of meeting her in New York when The Beebo Brinker Chronicles opened and she couldn’t have been more delightful then, and more deserving of this acknowledgment now. Congratulations to Ms. Bannon.
Finally, the other Pioneer awards went to our dear friends Malcolm Boyd, who is going to be 85 years young this very weekend, and his lion-hearted partner, Mark Thompson, both White Crane authors and contributors. They’re both grand old gay men of letters. White Crane has published the essential Malcolm Boyd reader in recognition of his 85th year, A Prophet in His Own Land: A Malcolm Boyd Reader.
In all…a lovely event. On a personal note, Mark and Malcolm hosted me in their beautiful home for a very smart (in every sense of the word!) cocktail party with the literati of Los Angeles in attendance. I must admit it was a real honor to have such an illustrious and accomplished crowd assembled…to say nothing of it being in my honor (and Malcolm’s, too). To return to the City of Angels after 25 years and receive such a welcome was gratifying, humbling and sweet. Thank you M & M!
Hastings recently wrote of the book: ALL: A James Broughton Reader is an important book and offers us a unique experience, for it is, as Foley claims, “the very first book to allow the various aspects of Broughton’s complex personality to ‘sing’ to one another.” James Broughton was so vastly talented and led such an extraordinarily interesting life that one comes away from this gorgeous and excellently structured book wondering how we did without it. If you are familiar with James Broughton’s work, you already know you must have this book. If you have not experienced Broughton’s poetry, film or journals, treat yourself—you’re in for “Big Joy.”
Building Connections & Community for Gay Men since 1989