Category Archives: White Crane Interviews

WC81 – Thompson & Kilhefner on 1st Radical Faerie Gathering


Mark Thompson &  Don Kilhefner On the
30th Anniversary of the First Radical Faerie Gathering

Authors and community elders, Mark Thompson and Don Kilhefner have been collecting memories from radical faeries around the country to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the first Faerie gathering this year. A book collected from these memories is in the planning stages as of this writing edited by the two of them. Mark and Don sat down and talked about it for White Crane:

Mark Thompson: The Radical Faeries at 30. Wow! Who among us standing on the reddish sands of a remote desert ashram in 1979 could have imagined that?

Thirty is such an archetypal age for gay men—youth is over and what awaits each of us as the road narrows and thickens in the years ahead is unknown and in many cases cast away. But that first gathering was a seminal event that deeply marked the lives of each of the 200 men who had gathered there. It was a queer inner initiation by a sacred fire—and then by some wet earth and water, too!

Don Kilhefner: Thirty years later, I still get goose bumps when I think of the closing ceremony of the first Radical Fairy gathering in the Sonora desert night. For a brief moment you, Mark, saw a bull with two large horns on a hill overlooking our ceremony. I felt the presence of benevolent, helpful spirits during the entire gathering. And you are right, it was an initiation—a profound initiation—in the true sense of that word as in beginning something new, initiating a new way for us as gay men to be with each other and think about ourselves. The wet earth and water to which you refer must be the Mud Ritual.

Like much of the gathering, there was a spontaneous, in the moment feel to it, as we co-created with Gay Spirit. After lunch one day, someone just announced that a Mud Ritual was taking place and the Fairies carried buckets after buckets out into the desert where the water was mixed with the red earth.  Then chanting sacred songs, each Fairy present was lovingly and gently covered from head to toe with red mud. As the chanting continued, they formed a circle which slowly moved in on itself until every one was embracing every one else—with OM reverberating over the whole gathering.  It was truly magical to the bone. When people say to me that the Radical Fairies are ‘New Age,” I always correct them by saying actually we are Old Stone Age and to the Radical Fairies—Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam are New Age phenomena.

Mark: So much was ignited in the immediate aftermath of that initial gathering.  Can you tell us some of those results? And then about some of the dissipation that happened after that? And then the cycle of re-imagining we seem to be in today—at least in some places in the world.

Don: In the Spring of 1978, when Harry Hay and I sat along the Rio Grande as it flowed past San Juan Pueblo in New Mexico and first discussed the possibility of such a gathering, we could not see where it all might lead. What we did know is that it was time for visionary gay men to meet and talk with each other as we saw the original, white hot creative energy of the Gay Liberation movement being vampirized by more conventional gay bourgeois politics and unimaginative gay assimilation.

There were three national gatherings. The original gathering in Arizona in 1979, the second gathering in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado sponsored by the Denver Fairies; and the third gathering in New Mexico. At the same time these national gatherings were happening, regional and local gatherings were springing up everywhere and decentralization has characterized the Radical Fairies every since with each region and city taking on its own unique features—most are for gay men only, some heteros and homos, and some men and women.  But initially the Radical Fairies were created by Hay and me as an rare opportunity for gay men to come together in spirit, brotherhood, and purpose in a natural setting.

Mark: Still, for most gay men today, the Radical Fairies appear more mythical than real.  What happened to that original genesis spark and what can we do to reignite it in ways that would make sense for us today.

Don: I see the Radical Fairies, now as then, as both mythical and real at the same time. From my training in and practice of gay shamanism, I know that it is sometimes difficult to know where one world ends and another begins. Cutting edge contemporary physics also has this challenge with string theory and its extension brane (as in membrane) theory which says that multiple, parallel worlds (branes) exist at the same time. In other words, reality is multidimensional. Radical Fairies often experience this—the mythical realm and the middle world realm at the same time.

But getting to the root of your question, what was the original genesis of the Radical Fairies. It was more or less threefold. First, was a attempt to bring together gay men with second sight to talk about the direction of the Gay Liberation movement, to open up the next stage of development for us as gay men. By that I mean to explore the meaning of being gay and what do gay men contribute to society. We know from evolutionary biology that we would not be reappearing generation after generation, millennium after millennium, until we were contributing to the survival of our species.

This questioning has been complicated by the identity than has been laid on us by our oppressors—homosexual—and we carry it around like a ball and chain around our ankle. We have had the tail wagging the dog. And the Radical Fairies, in part, were created to ignite an exploration and manifestation of a new gay man self-defined outside of the slave name “homosexual.” Harry and I were encouraging gay men to make a jail break.

Secondly, we saw from that new understanding of who were are and what we are contributing, we saw the Radical Fairies as being political but not using the old paradigm of left and right and the old political descriptors. But the next stage of Gay Liberation would be gay-centered in a way that would allow us to communicate to the dominant culture what it is we are doing in society. Walt Whitman, Edward Carpenter, and Hay in the Purpose Statement of the Mattachine Society were dancing around the same question. We are yin to their yang. E.O. Wilson, the dean of American evolutionary biology at Harvard, in his On Human Nature states: “There is a strong possibility that homosexuality is a distinctive beneficent behavior that evolved as an import element of early human social organization. Homosexuals may be the genetic carriers of some of mankind’s most altruistic impulses.” Joan Roughgarden, an evolutionary biologist at Stanford, has written Evolution’s Rainbow: Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People in which she suggest we are the carriers of “cooperation” wherever we are found in nature.

Finally, the Radical Fairy gatherings represent the kind of larger, and healthier, gay community Fairies want to create and live in. A community in which we can be visibly and openly “gay” in the widest sense of that word; we value the gifts of each person and weave those gifts into the fabric of community life; we feed each other both spiritually and literally; we honor ancestors, require elders, depend on adults, and invite youth; we assume our responsibilities not only to the gay community but to the larger community of beings; we are environmentally conscious and work to protect and heal the planet; we perform the necessary rituals and ceremonies that keep a community sane and healthy; we are culturally aware and creative; and we play and have fun.

Many Radical Faerie gatherings today have become social gatherings with little connection to the original roots and vision of the Radical Faeries. What is needed today is a national gathering of Radical Fairies to again allow gay men the rare opportunity of coming together in spirit, brotherhood and purpose again. If such a gathering were to be organized, at least a thousand would show up, many of them younger gay men looking for an alternative to the empty calories of gay assimilation.

The Radical Faerie Reader, edited by Mark Thompson and Don Kilhefner will be published sometime in 2010.

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WC80 – Arthur Evans on The Creative Universe


The Creative Universe by Arthur Evans

IN THE 9TH CENTURY, a learned Benedictine abbot of Fulda, in what is today called Germany, wrote a memorable hymn in Latin. It has inspired many subsequent thinkers and artists, including Mozart and Mahler.

The abbot’s name is Rabanus Maurus, and his hymn is Come, Creator Spirit (Veni, Creator Spiritus). The work is memorable because of its simple poetic beauty. In addition, it straddles the cultural divide between earlier pagan motifs and the newer notions of Christianity.

Because of this mythological latitude, the hymn has a richness of content that transcends the narrowness of Christian theology. In fact, it may appeal to people today who have developed “cosmic consciousness” (that is, who regard the universe as alive and creative). What follows is an exploration of this richness, along with a new translation of the text.

Spirit (Energy)
The hymn’s principle theme is the Creator Spirit (Creator Spiritus), a subject that brings to mind the older pagan concept of the Universal Soul (Anima Mundi). The ancients conceived of the Universal Soul as a creative energy suffusing the cosmos and all forms of life, commonly symbolized by fire.

The ancients saw the Universal Soul as an extrapolation of the various particular energies they experienced in natural phenomena. Every lake, mountain, or vale, as well as every human being, had a characteristic energy that the ancients called its genius (genii in the plural). This term is the source of our own word with the same spelling, but with different meaning.

Each thing’s genius stimulated human beings emotionally and intellectually. The result was a lively personal relationship and dialog with the genii of trees, mountains, and stars. The whole universe had its own genius, too, which was the Universal Soul.
Christian mythology took the Universal Soul and blended it with “the Inspirer,” a divine-like figure sketchily mentioned in the New Testament. The Greek word for this figure is Parakletos. It became Paraclitus in Latin, which is how it appears in Maurus’ hymn. It is often translated as “the Comforter,” which misses its force.
Before the New Testament, a parakletos was an advocate or lawyer who spoke on behalf of defendants in court. In the New Testament, the word means the inspiring force that enables the faithful to stand up and be their own advocates in the trials of life and faith. Such a positive function goes beyond comforting to inspiring.

Subsequent to the New Testament, some early church writers described the Inspirer as the dispenser of seven benefits to humanity. These are commonly understood as various virtues mentioned in the Bible, but the connection is murky.

After mixing the Universal Soul with the Inspirer, Christian mythology added the Old Testament’s Shekhinah, God’s presence in the world. The resulting composite figure was the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity.

Maurus’ hymn has echoes of all these motifs. But the hymn’s principal chord is the notion, derived from paganism, of the universal creative energy that inspires and elevates humanity. A pagan from pre-Christian antiquity would have readily interpreted in this way all his references to the “Creator Spirit.”

Father (Universe)
Pagan antiquity generally presupposed that everything was to some degree alive. The universe as a whole was no exception. Accordingly, the ancients typically regarded the universe as a huge living organism, the almighty and divine parent of every particular thing that comes into being. The Universal Soul that suffused all things was grounded in this universal parent, from which it eternally proceeded.

Christian mythology fused the fathering universe with the Old Testament’s Lord of Hosts (Yahweh Sabaoth) and Almighty God (El Shadai). The resulting composite figure was God the Father Almighty, the first person of the Holy Trinity. He was conceived as generating from himself all that was or is or will be.

Maurus’ hymn mentions “the Father,” “God,” and “God the Father.” But a pagan reader from classical antiquity, who knew nothing of Christianity, would regard these phrases as referring to the creative universe. Educated pagans, in particular, would be reminded of a familiar Stoic theme. This was the notion of Zeus as the creative, rational order of the universe, made famous by a stirring poem of Cleanthes, written 300 years before the New Testament.

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Arthur Evans is the author of Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture (1978) The God of Ecstasy: Sex Roles and the Madness of Dionysus (1988) and Critique of Patriarchal Reason (1997).  He lives in San Francisco.

WC80 – David Del Tredici Interviewed

Outside_with_scarf A White Crane Conversation

Gay Orpheus
Ray Warman Speaks with David Del Tredici

Generally recognized as the father of the Neo-Romantic movement in music, David Del Tredici – over a compositional career spanning five decades and (stronger than ever!) still counting – has received, among other awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Music, a Grammy nomination and an OUTMusic award. His music has been commissioned and performed by nearly every major American and European orchestral ensemble.

“Del Tredici,” said Aaron Copland, “is that rare find among composers — a creator with a truly original gift. I venture to say that his music is certain to make a lasting impression on the American musical scene. I know of no other composer of his generation who composes music of greater freshness and daring, or with more personality.”

Copland’s observations would be borne out in a way that, as a closeted elder composer, he could hardly have foreseen: The very daring Del Tredici would prove not only to be conspicuously Gay in his personal life, but also to enrich much of his music with Gay-focused texts, creating a “lasting impression” indeed. Most recently premiered was his setting for narrator and string quartet of James Broughton’s landmark poem, “Wondrous the Merge.”

Del Tredici was interviewed for us by White Crane contributor Ray Warman.

Ray: Gay Life … Queer Hosannas … Ballad in Lavender … My Favorite Penis Poems … David, your titles couldn’t be more exuberantly Gay! When did you first introduce Gay themes as subjects of your music, and how did that come about?

David: Long before I set explicitly Gay texts to music, I was for many years drawn to the poetry and stories of a man with a sexual secret, Lewis Carroll. In Final Alice, I was particularly explicit about Carroll. I set not only his nonsense poetry, but also the Victorian originals that he parodied – and the originals in fact speak of the love of a man for a girl named Alice. My music for the original poems depicted the forbidden – Carroll’s hidden desires – by using blatantly tonal harmony, which at that time had become a forbidden musical idiom. I was, in brief, drawn to forbidden things – forbidden sexual leanings – and in that sense, Carroll’s closeted love of little girls resonated well with my Gayness.

Ray: When were you first publicly identified as Gay?

David: When I was about 30, while an assistant professor at Harvard, I did a naked interview – something then the fashion for artistic people – for the magazine After Dark. I don’t think it was explicitly Gay, but with no mention of a wife or children, the message was there. For a mainstream publication at that time, right around Stonewall, it was as Gay as it got. We were still quite coy, then.

To that degree, I had always been “out,” in my personal life and with my friends, but – as with Aaron Copland and Samuel Barber – it was something not talked about publicly.

For me, the big change came in 1995, when I discovered the Body Electric School and attended one of their week-long workshops, where I was filled with pride at being Gay and wanting to be more out. I returned from the workshop to a residency at Yaddo, an artists’ retreat in upstate New York. I brought with me several poems by workshop members that celebrated being Gay and at Wildwood (where the workshop took place), and I set them to music as a kind of homesickness remedy and a way of continuing the connection while back at Yaddo. Those settings, which became the first two songs of Gay Life, were in fact the first Gay poetry that I set, and from then on I began to seek out, and to set, poetry celebrating sex. Take, for example, my Chana’s Story – not Gay, but very sexy. Beyond Chana Bloch, I met a lot of Gay poets at these art colonies and become interested in their work – Alfred Corn, John Kelly, Michael Klein, Jaime Manrique, Edward Field – and likewise, delving into the past, I found Gay poets like Rumi, Allen Ginsberg and Federico García Lorca. And I have a special place in my heart for the poetry of Antler, a kindred spirit.

Ray: How did James Broughton and his “Wondrous the Merge” enter the picture?

David: Again, my quartet, Wondrous the Merge, was Body-Electric-influenced:  It was at Wildwood that I first heard James Broughton’s poem – an exultant embrace of his long-repressed sexuality –, and I was deeply touched by it. A commission for a string quartet came along, and I thought I might set “Wondrous” to be declaimed in collaboration with the string quartet – in other words, to compose a melodrama, like Richard Strauss’ Enoch Arden. Though I had combined singing and declamation in previous works (such as Dracula), I had never before made narrative the dominant element.

There’s an interesting serendipity associated with my completion of Wondrous: I went out for lunch and found my neighbor, the writer and artist Tobias Schneebaum, sitting nearby with someone. When Tobias introduced us (“David, do you know Joel Singer, who was James Broughton’s lover?”), I asked whether he was “the Joel” who figured in the poem. When told that he was, I remarked upon the coincidence of my just having set the story of his love affair with James. Joel moved in with Tobias, so our connection continued.

Ray: Wasn’t the Wondrous premiere somewhat controversial?

David: Yes, indeed! Wondrous had been commissioned for the Elements Quartet and was to be premiered by them at the 2003 Great Lakes Festival. The Festival had been told long before of the work’s Gay subject matter, but they didn’t see the text until the programs were to be printed, with the scheduled performance imminent. Even though the poem’s language was relatively mild, its subject proved disturbing for the straitlaced Festival: It’s the true-life story of a curmudgeonly, married, 61-year-old professor – securely packed into the conventional heteronormative mold – who is seduced by his 26-year-old hippie student! It defies “normal” expectations, as it takes the reluctant, protesting elder, not only into the younger man’s bed, but also out of his staid, “somnambulist” life. And so at the last minute, the Festival management said it couldn’t be done because there’d be “children present” and the “text” was unacceptable. (They avoided bringing the word “Gay” into their objections.) A last-minute compromise led to the quartet’s being performed without the narration, though with the aria on the word “wondrous.” I came to learn that the Festival was co-sponsored by three churches – Catholic, Protestant and Jewish – and that censorship remains alive and well in the US!

Ray: What other performance problems have you had with “Gay” titles and texts?

David: The San Francisco Symphony commissioned a big song-cycle that I called Gay Life – and, though it was San Francisco and the conductor was Michael Tilson Thomas, and they had already heard two or three of the songs –, there seemed, when it was premiered in May 2001, an inordinate amount of hostility coming my way as a result, and not just because of the music. The piece was Gayness-in-your-face, starting with the title – which, by the way, they asked me to change (and that speaks volumes!), but I declined.

Ray: Is it fair to conclude that Gay poets are more “out” in their work than Gay composers?

David: Indeed! In fact, poets like Allen Ginsberg, Antler and Edward Field have inspired me to keep up with them in terms of creating work suffused by a Gay sensibility. In contrast, I found the history of Gay composers in America bereft of any comparable Gay role-model. In England, of course, there was Benjamin Britten, with his operas Peter Grimes, Billy Budd and Death in Venice – but even they seem to be whispering their Gayness only by implication, and with no proud, bold declamation. Perhaps, of course, it was the times – but Ginsberg and Copland were contemporaries!

Ray: Tell us about your more recent “Gay” pieces.

David: Early December, 2008, there was premiered my perhaps-most-explicit song cycle, My Favorite Penis Poems, on the same Symphony Space program that also saw the long-delayed premiere, with narration, of Wondrous the Merge. With MFPP, I ran into the problem of finding singers willing to sing certain words and content on stage: Though they never point to particulars, many of them wind up saying “It’s not for me.” Rob Frankenberry rose to the occasion, however, and Melissa Fogarty likewise came around; they were troupers, taking marvelous relish in all the pieces, most especially in the naughtier words.

The last of the Penis Poems is Ginsberg’s “Please Master” – which is, if you will, a blow-by-blow sketch of an S/M scene. This poem also has a Body Electric connection for me: While assisting at the school’s S/M-focused workshop (called “Power, Surrender & Intimacy”), I and the other staff assistants would recite – and, through movement, express – “Please Master” as a bold celebration of the other side of desire, so it kind of got into my system.

Ray: S/M may no longer be the utterly taboo subject it once was, but it’s not on everyone’s playlist. How did it get onto yours?

David: I was in an exploratory mode, and very favorably disposed towards Body Electric’s offerings generally, when I first enrolled, as a participant, in the “Power, Surrender & Intimacy” workshop. When I took the workshop a second time, a year later, I met you! And, because S/M is your passion, you’ve had a lot to do with expanding my S/M horizons. In fact, you’ll remember, for the first two years of our relationship, you wanted me to take you everywhere – and I mean everywhere: down the street, into restaurants, onto airplanes! – on a leash and collar. Although at first I was troubled by this strange-seeming request, when I spoke with my therapist about it, she had the insight simply to ask, “How does it feel? Do you like him? Is it hurting anybody?” And so, I concluded it was okay, and it in fact became enjoyable…and thus, a ferocious top was born!

Ray: Spanking the keyboard, you’ve been celebrated as a ferocious pianist as well! Have S/M and other Gay subjects found their way into your piano-music?

David: A few years ago, a dear friend commissioned a piano piece from me. It wound up being so formidably difficult – a pianistic terror – that I decided to call it S/M Ballade. Being a pianist, after all, is a masochistic pursuit, don’t you think?

Ray: I suppose so, just as being a composer is a sadistic one!

David: Yes, we get to do all the imposition. It was a nice coincidence, too, that the commissioning pianist, Marc, has a partner named Seth – making them an “S/M” pair and giving the title a very welcome double-meaning.

I’m reminded of another piano ballad I’ve written – Ballad in Lavender. I wrote it for another friend, also a Gay man who in fact seemed quite proud of his Gayness. When I came to title the piece, he at first objected, rather mildly saying the word “Lavender” was unnecessary. But I wanted the word precisely because of its Gay associations, which I like to have in all my pieces nowadays. After considering lots of alternatives, I finally insisted on that title (it was, after all, my piece!). It so upset the commissioner that the title would contain a word even vaguely associated with being Gay that it ended our friendship and, even though he loved the music, he refused to play the piece. It was later premiered by a pianist who took no particular notice of the title and whose sexual orientation I don’t even know!

Ray: Is there such a thing as “Gay music”?

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WC79 Steve Susoyev Interviews George Birimisa

A White Crane Conversation 

The Caffe Cino

Steve Susoyev Speaks with the Pioneering
Gay Playwright George Birimisa
about his Journey to Love. 

George Birimisa turned 84 in February of this year. A Caffe Cino pioneer, he is recognized as one of the first American playwrights to write plays featuring Gay characters who were full-bodied people, not merely victims or villains. Still writing, and working as a writing teacher, editor and activist, George took time out from work on his memoir, Wildflowers, to talk with Steve Susoyev.

STEVE SUSOYEV: I had the honor of being present in 2006 when you won the Harry Hay award in San Francisco, for your work in Gay theater and as an “inspiration across the generations.” Among your students you’re known as a role model of Gay pride, but I understand your history is a bit more complex than that.

GEORGE BIRIMISA: When I got involved in theater in the late nineteen-forties, I went around trying to act like Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, in a leather jacket, always with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth. I was living a contradiction, out of the closet to only a few people. Some of my plays are full of homophobia. In the early sixties I wrote my first Gay play, Degrees, but it was very mild and didn’t reflect me or my life at all. Inching my way out of the closet. But then, in Georgie Porgie, in 1968, I put it all out there, so the world would know I was Gay.

SUSOYEV: Georgie Porgie was a breakthrough for Gay theater. Tennessee Williams wrote, “Bravo! A beautiful, courageous play. I loved it!”

BIRIMISA: Under the surface I was still ashamed and very guilty. I felt filthy, as if I should be exterminated. I didn’t know about Harry Hay, Phyllis Lyon, Del Martin. I think New York was very homophobic then, or maybe it was just me, looking at the world through the murk of my own self-hatred. And I had plenty of it.

SUSOYEV: You were in New York during the Stonewall riot, weren’t you?

BIRIMISA: I get a lot of mileage out of my image as a radical, a revolutionary. So it’s painful to admit this today, but I looked down on those brave queens at Stonewall. They were sissies and they embarrassed me. I think one of the pernicious things about homophobia is how it isolates us from the people we need most for support, and who most need our support.

I had been arrested and brutalized by cops. But when the queens were brutalized, I just wanted to distance myself from them. That was 1969. I was getting a reputation in the avant-garde Gay theater. But still in that leather jacket with the constant cigarette, still viewing the world through my self-hatred. I don’t know if I’m completely over it yet.

SUSOYEV: You’re describing a very complex process that we try to simplify. “Coming out” seems to have taken place in stages for you.

BIRIMISA: Baby steps.

SUSOYEV: Did you make an effort not to be Gay?

BIRIMISA: Oh, God, in 1951 I got married to a woman named Nancy, thinking that she would make me straight.

SUSOYEV: And how did that turn out?

BIRIMISA: Well, we had three-ways with straight guys, so in some ways our relationship deepened my homophobia — tough straight guys were my drug of choice. I remember many times, walking down the street with Nancy and feeling powerful and straight — at least hoping to fool people into thinking I was not a queer. Once a Gay man walked by and cruised me and Nancy said, “See, he figured out you were Gay.” “He did not,” I said angrily. “Anyway, most Gays are attracted to straight men. They don’t want another fuckin’ fag!”

But there were some hidden blessings. Nancy was the first “intellectual” I had ever known. My father had been a communist whose nickname was “Rough Rider.” When I was six, he gave a speech in the park in downtown Watsonville, California, where I was born. The fire department turned their hoses on him and threw him in jail. He gave his bunk to an old man, slept on the concrete, caught pneumonia and died. I had a love-hate relationship with him. He was nearly illiterate, and like so many things in my life, I was ashamed of him. But I have his fierce spirit inside me and I have been a rebel ever since. My mother ran off with a music teacher and I ended up in an orphanage at age seven. I was deeply ashamed of my poverty, and joined the Navy at 17 so I could have decent clothes to wear.

Nancy got me to read Das Kapital by Karl Marx and Anti-Dühring by Engels. Suddenly I had a language to explain how I felt in the world.

SUSOYEV: So your wife woke you up to politics?

BIRIMISA: Absolutely. She opened my eyes. I began to understand, slowly, that Gay people were oppressed just like blacks in the South and Jews during the Third Reich. And like poor people all over the world. And I wrote that anger at the unjust world into my plays.

SUSOYEV: So the political understanding moved you closer to self-acceptance?

BIRIMISA: Oh, God, it was a long, twisting road. It didn’t take me long to learn that the commies hated Gay people as much as the right-wingers hated us. For almost a year in New York I attended a group that was dedicated to turning guys like me into straight, God-fearing men. So painful to dredge this up today. When I quit the group I was disgusted. I told myself, “You're condemned to being a fucking fag for the rest of your life.”

SUSOYEV: You don’t look like a condemned man today. To anyone looking at you now, it’s obvious that at some moment light began to shine into your life. When was that?

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WC79 – Queer Spirit in Salt Lake City

White Crane Conversation

Queer Spirit in Salt Lake City

Gay Sanctuary Among  the Mormons

Corey Taylor talks with Jerry Buie about Building Gay Sanctuary

Corey Taylor: Why did you choose rural Utah as your setting for the Queer Spirit Retreat? Is there something about the landscape there that is in harmony with or increases the spiritual essence of your attendees?

Jerry Buie: There are several layers to responding to that question so I want to start with the practical. Wind Walker Ranch is located amongst an ancient cedar forest in Spring City, Utah. The caretaker, Loretta Johnson, is a friend of mine who shares many similar values in reference to spirituality. Loretta tends the land as a living entity and honors a path that is in harmony with nature. Loretta understands the mission, the goal and the aspiration of Queer Spirit and our relationship to Wind Walker Ranch. She has provided a very feasible financial plan to be able to do these retreats on her land. The market value of the retreat is approximately $600 – $700. We are able to host the retreat at a fraction of this cost. This makes the retreat accessible and until we get foundation funding or donations this facilitates our needs. So, that would be the practical answer. There are more spiritual logistics to consider as well. The ranch is unique as an epic center for ritual and ceremony with an ancient history of the Paiutes in this part of Utah.

What happens when we step into the unknown and all we identify, both physically and spiritually? To stay in the city or to a place that logistically keeps you connected to what you know frequently can circumvent going to new dimensions. Typically when an individual stays where they are most connected they will cling to those places that the ego knows and identifies. So, if we were to stay in the city and try to accomplish this task, I’m not sure that many of the transformations that we see at the Queer Spirit Retreats could truly take hold and take effect. We are too close to what the ego comes to identify. Queer Culture is multi-dimensional and we create identities based on what is accessible and familiar. We travel to a new city and we look up the same venues in different locations. Those venues, like bars, are places we attach ego and identity, so when we go to the clubs, we take on a persona. We play out an archetype. When we are around our families, we play out other archetypes. When we take people and basically seclude them from what is familiar, we remove layers of ego and we search for a more authentic place in our hearts. We start to find what is organic about who we are and how we relate to each other as Gay Men. That becomes critical in the process of these retreats.

When we get back into nature, which is what Wind Walker is about, we begin to take lessons from nature. For instance; we don’t see wild life scrambling for existence or acceptance. Nature simply exists and in a very authentic way, the trees or rabbits don’t wonder if they’re good enough. Nature simply is. What I find at the retreats, by getting people back to nature, back to authentic living and exploring, that often very spontaneous things happen among participants. There’s a level of awareness, there’s a level of sharing and there’s a level of existing that becomes very loving, and nurturing. That’s why we go to Wind Walker Ranch, that’s why we go to rural Utah, that’s why we exist during this weekend in a somewhat primitive circumstance because then we can disengage things we know and we can flow more freely and accepting in the essence of who we are. What I also find is that what takes root and when people come home from the retreat, what we hear several days later is how they’re able to integrate those new awareness’s and that new sense of being in their walk and their existence with other people.

I have found, for instance, that my time with the Fairies, again a retreat, a community, and a sanctuary becomes a place to explore and a place to establish the freedom away from the familiar. Stepping into the unknown requires a certain amount of trust and a certain amount of willingness to explore. That’s why we go to Wind Walker Ranch.

CT: In addition to retreats you regularly offer other gatherings, Sweat Lodges and other things that allow for your members/attendees to maintain their spiritual connection. What advice would you offer to Queer People who do not have easy access to such programs?

JB: This is again another great question and the answer is incredibly simple. The illusion is that we don’t have easy access. The reality is about what you’re willing to create. Queer Spirit may look incredibly organized because I tend to be a very Anal Retentive Organizer. I’m looking into the community and I’m exploring what our options are. It appears to be a standard to look outside ourselves for solutions and we’re waiting for someone to step up and take leadership. That someone could be you! The Fairies have a very powerful ritual that they participate in and that ritual is the one of Heart Circle. Heart Circle is basically Gay Men, Queer Men getting together creating circle and with a Talisman or Talking Stick, simply going to a place of sharing, opening up and dialoging about the essence of who we are as Queer Men. This is not complicated. We simply have this discussion and the exploration. Heart Circle involves listening, witnessing and sharing, getting to a deep heart level. Often it takes several attempts to get to a level of sharing that makes the soul take growth and healing for the people. So, accessibility is conditioned upon the willingness to step into and create, then you invite others to join you, the magic begins.

Where Queer Spirit may be a bit unique is that I come to that circle with perhaps a little more exposure, a little more accessibility to some tools such as a sweat lodge or a practice of meditation. You will find that as you create or call in what you are looking for those with talents and like mind will find you! They always do. The spirit of Queer Spirit is less about the tools and more about the willingness to explore. The true magic of Queer Spirit is the willingness for men to come together to share and witness each other’s story. If we did nothing else but have those circles we would be a powerful movement for change. We (The GLBT Community) would be a powerful movement politically if we explored our sense of identity more deeply. We become a powerful, magical group of people when we step out of the shadows, when we step out of the marginalized places of existing and we step fully into our stories, and it is within the context of those stories that we find our true essence and that essence, consciousness and mindfulness takes us to a place of power, takes us to a place of peace and takes us to a place of balance. That in my mind is truly what Queer Spirit represents. Lodge, yoga, meditation are tools to find those gifts and to fully experience ourselves. Planning gatherings becomes an organic process of what are our gifts and talents? As we look around at our community, and as we’ve created these circles, we begin to recognize that so and so has a gift here, so and so has a gift there, let’s invite them to come to the circle in a place of active participation instead of a passive recipient. We encourage people to share what works for them and they in turn find their own gifts.

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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

WC77 – Kai Wright Interview

KaiwrightDrifting Toward Love
Black, Brown, Gay and Coming of Age on the Streets
A White Crane Conversation with Kai Wright

By Bo Young

This is only an excerpt…

As I sit to write this introduction, the radio is filled with discussion of the Sean Bell shooting in New York City. Sean Bell…Amadou Diallo…these are names that have entered the zeitgeist, the vocabulary in New York City out of pages of newsprint and the chattering class. The names mean: “shot to death at the hands of police.” While I must admit to an uncomfortable ambivalence about this case that, on one hand seems an story of over-reaction by the NYPD, and on the other a story of two Black officers, one Latino officer and young black men in a car used as in a way that could easily be interpreted as a weapon… I can readily say this: In a world of nuance I would not want to be a cop. In New York City or Los Angeles or Chicago, I would not want to be a young Black man…much less a Gay, young, Black man.

White Crane has an on-going commitment to the “generation conversation” and has, over the years, dedicated a number of issues to a variety of approaches to the subject. If we truly are a “community” one of the more uncomfortable facets of the generation conversation is how we take care of our children. “Children” is not a subject easily broached in a community that flinches with the expectation of predatory accusations as soon as the subject is brought up. And we’re not speaking of adoptive family structures, or the occasional “look-how-far-we’ve-come” story of a same-sex couples attending high school proms or drag “Prom Queens” or “Prom King.”

While the advances that have been accomplished in GLBT civil rights have been nothing short of remarkable in the past 30+ years, GLBT children largely still live in isolation, in hostile environments. Suffice it to say, if it’s difficult for a U.S. Senator to come to terms with his sexuality, imagine a 15-year-old living in Boise. In a country that still struggles with a separation of church and state and oppresses anything other than hetero-normative sex, our young people remain alone on the front lines. Drive down the mean streets of any major American city and it is impossible to miss the numbers of vagrant youth you see. San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Phoenix and other warm climate cities are particularly highly populated and it becomes almost impossible to walk down the streets without being panhandled or solicited in some manner.

It is impossible to count precisely how many itinerant youth there are on the streets of U.S. major cities. These young people—mostly African-American or Latino, often homeless, but more likely from poor and working-class families—are what policy-makers and social services agencies refer to as “at-risk.” At risk youth rank among the most likely to experience the wide range of social ills: suicide, drug addiction, dropping out of school, hate crimes and HIV infection. Indeed, according to the recent CDC reports, data from 33 states indicates that new HIV or AIDS diagnoses among African-American Gay and bisexual men aged 13 to 24 went from just under 1,000 cases in 2001 to more than 1,600 cases in 2005. In New York City, the NYC Health Department found that in the past six years, new HIV diagnoses have doubled among men ages 13 to 19. Service providers have long estimated that GLBT youth account for 20 to 40 percent of people without homes. Recent studies have found that more than 25 percent of Gay youth surveyed drop out of school, citing harassment as the lead reason.

Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York is Kai Wright’s new book that explores these stark realities. In it, he explores the lives of three young Gay men living in Brooklyn, New York. Through a harrowing and often touching narrative he puts the broad debate about sexual politics and generation conversation into the context of real lives. And at the same time provides important insight into the difficult choices we all as we come of age as individuals and as a community. We spoke with Wright about his book.

Bo Young: Kai, how long did you work on Drifting Towards Love?

Kai Wright: In many ways I started working on the book at the start of my career, while reporting for the Washington Blade newspaper ten years ago. One of the first stories I wrote was about the challenges of reconciling racial and sexual identities and how that affects the “risks” we take and face as Gay men of color.

I have written story after story about how at-risk we are for everything from HIV to violence, and I’ve found it frustrating the way we talk and think about risk—as a set of narrow, disembodied choices, removed from broader life context. So the book was an effort to take all of the reporting I’ve done on risk-taking in the lives of Gay men, particularly Gay men of color, and put it back into the context of real life. Then, as I searched for people to profile and build a narrative around, I found that the story kept getting in the way. The young people I write about have terribly volatile lives, where they’re heading along OK one day and their world turns to chaos the next. So I’d meet someone once or twice and hit it off but then lose track of him or her. That was the tough part. The three guys the narrative focuses on turned out to be the three that stayed around the longest. And for them, the timing varied but I talked to them off and on for a little over a year.

Bo: What is your background? And how did you go about building trust with these young people? What are your authorial/cultural antecedents, if you will? Whose writing on these subjects did you find useful?

Kai: I’m not sure I can offer any insight on my authorial antecedents—there are likely too many to list! But I have to say that part of what motivated me to write the book is how little has been written about young Gay folks period, certainly those of color, that isn’t academic or self-help. There’s a real paucity of accessible, journalistic discussion about Gay life in general, actually. Our discussions are narrowly focused on either the political or public health challenges Gay folks present, rather than on real Gay lives. And perhaps because of that, there’s also this obsession with closeted or “down low” Gay men of color that crowds out conversation about far larger ranks of us who are trying to live out, healthy lives but who face real external barriers to doing so. So I wanted to offer narrative-driven, relatable stories about an experience that gets little airtime, if you will, and tell those stories from the protagonists’ perspectives rather than from the perspective of a researcher or an activist.

Bo: How did you meet the subjects that “stuck around” from the Christopher Street pier story, as you put it?

Kai: Ultimately, the guys in the book ended up being people with who were close to someone I had a connection with as well. Each of them spent significant time at the house in East New York and developed close connections with one of the owners. And I had personal connections there as well, and that allowed me to both keep up with the guys and gain their trust. I’m sure it helped that I’m a black Gay man myself, and was able to identify with a lot of the themes in their lives, if not the specific circumstances.

Bo: Are you still in touch with them? And have they seen the book, and what has their response been to the book, if any?

Kai: I’m still closely in touch with Manny, and he’s doing marvelously. He has continued to parlay his contrarian streak into paid work as a community organizer, and despite never going back to high school is doing well in that realm today. Though, he’s still leading a somewhat boxed-off life—most folks he works with have no idea about his not-so-distant history and the rough path he’s traveled. He does love the book though, or tells me he does at least. That’s rewarding because, again, I wanted to give him and the others a chance to speak for themselves. So often we just speak about them.

Julius, on the other hand, disappeared before I finished reporting the book, and I haven’t spoken to him since. Only one person I know of from his life here in NYC has been in touch with him and she declines to offer details. But she confirms that things have not turned out well, thus far, for Julius. He’s such a brilliant guy, but it sounds like the accumulated emotional trauma has caught up with him. I haven’t been in touch with Carlos, but I understand he’s still in East New York trying to sort out living there as an out Gay man.

Bo: Statistics show that 25 to 40% of homeless kids are LGBT…that’s just staggering. You do a pretty dead on job of assessing Covenant House, I thought…Who, do you think is out there doing innovative work with these young Gay homeless populations?

Kai: Well, I think the Ali Forney Center here in NYC has the right approach, and there may be others nationally that I’m not familiar with. They really try to deal with the problem holistically, not just placing youth in housing but really working with them on life skills ranging from holding a job to dating. They’ve just launched a neat “coaching” program that pairs groups of Gay adults with cohorts of the youth in their apartments for a series of seminars and activities. I think that sort of thing is right on-finding innovative ways to get Gay adults involved in their lives. I also just heard of a neat web initiative that the Trevor Project is launching. The Trevor Project is a mental health hotline for LGBT kids, with all sorts of resources for them to call and/or access when in crisis. But they’re starting a Gay youth social networking site called that is trying to connect with youth before they reach the point of crisis. I think that’s important. So much of what’s out there is only available once you’re homeless or HIV infected or at death’s door in one way or another. This is a project to build support and community before there’s a problem.

But the tragedy is that there’s just not enough work going on in the Gay community period on this issue. The need is simply overwhelming, as the stats show, and yet the resources are meager. From money to volunteers to political priorities, I think we really have failed our youth. There are myriad reasons for that and real challenges here, but the community nationally and locally has proven an ability to make progress on seemingly intractable problems when we focus on them. It’s time we take responsibility for these young people.

Bo: What kind of response have you had in the Gay press about the book?

Kai: I think a really positive one. The folks who have taken interest in the book have been generally moved by the stories and have had lots to say about what we can and should be doing as a community to support these sorts of guys. So I’m heartened to see that there’s at least a willingness—and in some cases a hunger—to talk about these issues.

Bo: I frequently struggled, as I read, to differentiate between what in the stories were particular to being Gay and what was particular to being Black or brown, bicultural issues, inner city vs small town innocent stories. I’m not suggesting in any way that racism is not a factor in their lives, but by the same token, there were so many places where I kept thinking “that’s exactly what it was like for me when I was coming out” and I came out thirty years before these kids were even born! And I didn’t have the internet. I grew up in a small suburban town in one of the most Republican counties in America and I remember driving around as soon as I got my driver’s license trying to find one of these “Gay bars” I’d heard about, and never finding one. I’ve gone back to this day and not found one. I grew up thinking, until I was almost 21 years old, that I was the only Gay person in the world and feeling every bit as disconnected as these kids, but without any of the hints they all seemed to find so readily these days as a result of the last thirty plus years of LGBT civil rights work. I was struck with how quickly each of them were able to identify other Gay people in their lives, for example. And how they were able to connect with things like YES and whathaveyou. In many ways, the most striking gap, the more affecting gap in the stories you tell seem to be more about economics than about race. Can you comment on that?

Kai: I’d say the fact that these stories, all of which are set in the last few years, are so familiar to your experiences 30 years ago speaks volumes; these last 30 years of Gay civil rights work have helped some more than others. And the point I want to make is based on outcomes:

Clearly, young black and Latino Gay men are consistently at the top of the list of people who end up facing terrible outcomes ranging from HIV infection to homelessness. Nine out of 10 HIV infections among Gay men under 20 in NYC in 2006 were black or Latino. 90 percent! Is it class? Is it race? Is it geography? It’s all of the above. But to dismiss the role race plays, given the numbers, is wishful thinking. The theory I push in the book is that these disparities are directly related to the search for space in a world that offers them so little of it. Yes, their challenges are universal-not just to Gay folks, but to all people. We all go through the process of first defining ourselves and then finding a place in which the self we’ve defined can exist and be loved. The difference is that the young people in this book have such extraordinary barriers at both steps, and have so few resources to deploy in overcoming those barriers.

But I’d also avoid comparing states of oppression. The book’s point is to describe an experience that gets very little meaningful attention either inside or outside of the Gay community, and race is an important part of that experience, though clearly not all of it. And my critique of the Gay community is that it has done little to welcome and meaningfully support guys like Manny, Julius and Carlos. The same can be said for a whole lot of other folks, sure, but I’m interested in the unique experience of being black or Latino and trying to find room to be Gay. For all the Gay space that exists in NYC, it is not universally accessible—it’s overwhelmingly white, middle class and 18 and up. So ultimately, what I hope readers take away from this book is an understanding that it’s insufficient to carve out Gay ghettos that aren’t accessible to vast swaths of the community. And that’s not just a critique of the mainstream Gay community, but also of the burgeoning black Gay community. If we just recreate the middle class utopias of Chelsea and Dupont Circle in black face, I’m not sure we’ve achieved anything. Someone’s got to start building space in places like East New York, too.

Bo: I heard an interview where you talk about how there’s no boutiques in East New York, and none of the Gay press etc. How is that different from a Gay black kid growing up in rural Tennessee or Georgia, for example?

Kai: I’m not sure it is. But part of what’s compelling about setting the story in NYC is that it contrasts with the notion that there’s a mythical Gay promised land out there that we can all escape into. One of the most striking things I came across was in Carlos’ life. Here’s a young Puerto Rican man who’d lived his whole life in Brooklyn. And throughout the entirety of his life, one of the largest Gay pride rallies in the world unfolded a 30 minute subway ride from his front door. But he was in his early 20s before he ever noticed the thing. That says something about the distance that exists between the Gay community and people like Carlos, and that distance has little to do with geography.

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!

Kai Wright is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn, NY whose work explores the politics of sex, race and health. Wright has reported from all over the world for independent and community-based media, ranging from Mother Jones to Essence magazines. He has also written and edited series of monographs exploring the AIDS epidemic among African-Americans, published by the Black AIDS Institute. He is the author of two books of African-American history: Soldiers of Freedom: An Illustrated History of African Americans in the Armed Forces, and The African-American Archive: The History of the Black Experience through Documents.

WC76 – Steven Solberg Interview

76_solbergHolding the Center
A White Crane Conversation with Steven Solberg

By Bo Young & Dan Vera

This is only an excerpt…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WC76 – David Mixner Interview

76_mixner_georgetowneBrave New Faggot

A White Crane Conversation with David Mixner

By Christopher Murray

This is only an excerpt…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Mixner blogs regularly at

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

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

WC74 – Dan Vera speaks with Gay Egyptologist Greg Reeder


Our Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you get involved with his area of study?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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