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White Crane Journal #52

Spring 2002

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Editor's Note

Oh, Moment Javier Millan

Of Pleasure and Gay Holiness Donald L. Boisvert, Ph.D.

Somebody Turn on a Light! R.P.Moore
Orgasm John Ballew

Poetry: Dionysius in the Labyrinth Phillip Andrew Bernhardt-House



In The City Of Shy Hunters by Tom Spanbauer Mountaine

Creating Man by Michael G Cornlius Toby Johnson

Sex,Orgasm, & the Mind of Clear Light: The 64 Arts of Gay Male Love

by Jeffrey Hopkins Toby Johnson

The Gay Kama Sutra by Colin Spencer Toby Johnson

Essays on Gay Tantra by William Schindler Toby Johnson

This year's Lambda Literary Award Finalists in Religion/Spirituality

Editor's Note

Being outside the mainstream assumptions of society gives gay people a different vision of the world. We can see, for instance, that pleasure is good in itself. It is participation in the flow of life. We can feel that. The whole body is for pleasure. Nothing is unclean. No kind of bodily pleasure obscene.

Traditionally, religion--shaping those mainstream assumptions--has taken just the opposite position. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, for centuries the "official" theologian of the Catholic Church, the stain and consequences of original sin--suffering and death, the pain of childbirth and the obligation to toil--are transferred to a newly-conceived soul precisely by the experience of pleasure the parents have in the orgasm(s) that result in fertilization. By this way of thinking, orgasm is the cause of all evil.

But that's not correct. It is not orgasm or the desire for pleasure that causes people to do bad things. It's anger, greed, hatred, animosity, envy, resentment, disapproval, violence--all things that actually a little pleasure might help relieve. Orgasm, after all, releases bad and destructive feelings. In a very real way, it's like electro-shock therapy, only better--and more natural. Orgasm is good for the soul. The desire for pleasure, perhaps, makes some people cunning and manipulative--neurotic. But even then it's not the pleasure that warps them, it's the frustration of the desire for pleasure: it's not having good orgasms. The endorphins and neurotransmitters involved in feeling pleasure are beneficial for the body and for the mind. Orgasm is part of the body/mind's self-healing.

The notion that pleasure is suspect, that what people do for pleasure is selfish and less worthy, that pleasure is a tug away from spirituality into gross materiality--all are just more examples of the dualistic thinking that causes all the problems in the world and which our androgynous gay consciousness calls us to transcend.

This issue of White Crane Journal features some wonderful articles on pleasure--positive views of orgasm and fleshliness--from a redreshingly gay perspective. I trust you'll enjoy both words and pictures in this issue. The wonderful graphics, in the woodblock style like the cover, were done by regular contributor to WCJ, gifted artist John Steczynski. The three line drawings at the back came from The Gay Kama Sutra, one of the books reviewed.

The Summer issue will feature articles on Altered States. Bo Young will be editing. Please consider submitting something to him about your experience of the varieties of consciousness. (See Call for Submissions)


Pleasure happens in the flesh. Religions worldwide have had an ambivalent relationship with the flesh. Part of this is certainly that the fundamental issue that inspired the creation of religion was the experience of suffering, and suffering happens in the flesh. Suffering and pain come specifically because of flesh. The subtle, ongoing suffering we all endure--aging and eventual death--are direct consequences of incarnation. Besides, it is the demands of flesh for food, shelter and comfort that give rise to the need to toil.

The whole premodern world was constantly faced with disease and dirt and the need for endless toil. Farming was hard work. Housekeeping was hard work. Preparing food was hard work. There was virtually no way to ever get anything clean. Sanitation as we know it in the modern world just didn't exist.

In the interest of raising the mind beyond the suffering, toil and dirt of life, religion suggested a reality beyond. To get people to pay attention to that "supernatural" reality, the religious myths disparaged too much consciousness and preoccupation with the concerns of the body. (There's a way we all understand that if we were allowed to experience pleasure constantly, live in a state of continuous orgasm, we wouldn't do anything else. "Why did God create ejaculation?" the joke goes. "So the gay men would know when to stop.")

The modern world has a totally different relationship to the flesh. Daily bathing, indoor plumbing with hot and cold running water, soap, antiseptics, tooth brushes, deodorant, toilet paper, tampons, condoms, etc. have radically changed our experience of the flesh. They've distanced us from the physical world. Many of us who live in cities can literally go for days on end without ever coming into contact with anything natural and earthy. Our food comes wrapped in plastic film. We defecate in white porcelain bowls. We seldom see death. We barely know we're incarnated in dirty, mortal flesh. One could make the argument that we've gone too far in the other direction, escaping flesh another way. For our very mental health and spiritual well-being, we human beings need to rediscover pleasure in order to reclaim our connection to the organic world.

The world of incarnation need not be seen as a vale of suffering. It is, instead, the opportunity for evolution. The modern worldview (whether it's entirely correct or not) perceives life on Earth to be evolving from less consciousness to more consciousness; the spiritual, "new age" side of that says that life is evolving into God. Evolution happens at the interface between body and mind. Change happens in the form of the flesh which in turn affects consciousness. Sex is part of that process. The desire for sexual pleasure is the motivation to participate in evolution. Indeed with the right awareness, this can be participation in the creation of God. After all, pleasure is found within you--just like the Kingdom of God.

Toby Johnson

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Oh, moment, take me.

moment of orgasm

Take me now. I am coming into that flow of
overwhelming & indescribable energy
and peace. I am coming into that
moment when spirit expands in the
pleasure and glow that caressing myself or being caressed by another generates endlessly in every muscle and nerve of my body.

Into that precious moment where there is no time, where I fly beyond space & taste eternity without knowing it in concepts, but feeling it in flesh.

That moment between conscious & unconscious, when I struggle to master the urge and delay the moment and at the same time relax in hungry abandon to it, letting it ride me.

That moment of solitude when, not alone, caressing myself, experimenting with my body as if it is my lover's, I resonate to the waves of pleasure of all those who, before me, in the same moment, or after me, beyond time & space, are also shouting or crying or laughing, coming to surrender to the grace of being beloved.

That moment from which I return blessed for having writhed and groaned in the delight and bliss of being alive!

That moment when I surrender to the Power of Our Master Phallus and meet my own most internal, deepest self in His erection as it emerges through my body from the roots of Gaia, our collective Mother Nature.

That moment when, altering my consciousness, I travel to the Magick reality and from which I return transformed, my heart strengthened to love and my mind enlightened to perceive beyond the usual concerns I sometimes get myself so trapped in.

If suffering, in that moment, I receive a gift of joy. If alone, the communion of so many Brothers without and within me. If guilty, forgiveness. If stressed, I am gifted with comforting peace like that felt after climbing a mountain, or when, while diving, one's feet touch the deep, smooth & soft floor of the sea.

If loved, what better way to feel that love and sense the embrace of the gods within than in the confidence of belonging to the micro & macrocosmos that ennervates each of my cells with the blessing of life? What better way than in the surging reminder that we are all One wherever, whenever or whoever we are, whatever we think, do--or don't?

Oh, moment, my soul is grateful for the good you give my spirit and my body & for the continuous flow of energy which nourishes the life that comes to be watered by You, making my desert bloom & filling me with the sweet and continuing hunger of You.

Oh, moment, take me! Take me again & again as You have taken me before my life, & now & after it, into that blissful communion with the Earth where I belong, with the stars I am made from, forever. Amen

Javier Millan is a regular participant in Bruce Grether's Mindful Masturbation for Men internet group. http://group.yahoo.com/group/mindfulm4men

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Of Pleasure and Gay Holiness

Donald L. Boisvert, Ph.D.

Can pleasure be an appropriate means of spiritual

enlightenment for gay men? The question, as posed, is

problematic. Why qualify it? In using the word "appropriate," we echo much of what traditional religious institutions, particularly Christianity, have been saying for centuries about pleasure: that it is suspicious, inherently evil, and more of a hindrance than a bonus to the genuine spiritual life. We copy the mind-set and the discourse of the religious virtuosi, who cannot deal with pleasure because it is, by its very nature, so sensual and so very messy. Pleasure is anarchistic. It has a mind of its own, and can suddenly turn the experience of the holy--any human experience, in fact--into an intensely personal and life-changing venue. This makes the religious virtuosi very nervous, because it removes the element of control as the basis of institutional power and domination. So, our question needs to be re-phrased. Very simply, can pleasure be a means of spiritual enlightenment for gay men? The answer, I would argue, is most defiantly a responding and celebratory "yes." In fact, how can it be anything but?

I doubt very much that one can be at once gay and pleasure-denying. Somehow, the two appear mutually exclusive. There are a number of reasons for this. First, the experience of many gay men in coming to terms with their sexuality is one of denial and rejection. We are told by the broader culture that our desires are perverse and dirty, and that our expressions of sexual pleasure are immoral and abnormal. In coming out, we choose to reject such negative, biased thinking. We affirm our pride in being gay, and this includes a joyful acceptance of our same-sex desires and pleasures. As well, we are part of a marginal community. Marginality makes us more open to, and conscious of, the acuity of pleasure. For us, pleasure is a way of differentiating and expressing ourselves as members of a cultural minority. It is furthermore a means of reclaiming pride of place and of vision. Finally, pleasure opens us to transcendence. In our excesses and wild abandonment, we often touch what is sacred in the world. It is in the intensity of these pleasurable moments that we can encounter the eternally true.

My brief reflections in answer to our opening question therefore fall under three themes: our eroticism, our communities, and our rituals.


The Body Erotic

Gay bodies are, by definition, zones of infinite pleasure. So are straight bodies, but there is one very crucial difference. Same-sex eroticism is, by nature, non-procreative. The same cannot really be said about heterosexual activity: procreation is almost always a distinct possibility, and one must actively take steps to prevent it. Opposite-sex desire is therefore ultimately utilitarian and instrumental; same-sex desire is not. This makes pleasure in and of itself the primary mode of erotic intercourse for us as gay men. As Michael Bronski outlines so eloquently in The Pleasure Principle, this can have definite political implications. Unmediated pleasure makes American society very suspicious. It helps account, in some significant ways, for homophobia. On the other hand, it also sets up and proposes a different ethical model for understanding human intimacy: one not based on agency, but rather on the confluence of means and ends. Ultimately, this may prove to be one of our greatest contributions to human self-understanding and self-worth. It certainly challenges, at quite a fundamental level, the inflated and sometimes hysterical claims of hetero-normativity.

Gay eroticism, precisely because it is open to, and contingent upon, pleasure as its final end, can be an ideal venue for communion with the spiritual aspects of our lives. When I am looking into my boyfriend's beautiful face as he fucks me and then comes inside me, I step outside myself in an act of total and loving giving; when some of us choose to merge with handsome strangers under cover of night in anonymous acts of discovery and risk, we touch the silent mystery of the great unknown; when my best friend jacks off madly while viewing the super-human acrobatics of his favorite porn star, he communes with the very ideal of ineffable beauty. All these are bold acts of unmediated pleasure and of potential spiritual revelation. They are dormant moments of enlightenment, only awaiting our spiritual mindfulness.

We take pleasure in our masculine bodies and those of other men, and that is as it should be. We do so because our desires and our longings are, in their very essence, homoerotic. This colors who and what we are, as it does the ways we choose to love. It is at the heart of this pleasurable homoerotic impulse that we are touched by the sacred. Because what we do is so consistent with who we are, we cannot help but say, in a moment of sheer grace: "This is so right, so much the way it was meant to be." For us, the masculine body becomes the instrument of divine revelation, the temple of the oracle and the muse. It is where we come to play in unbridled fun and pleasure, but it is also where we learn the hard lessons of spiritual enlightenment, and ultimately where we may choose to affix our homeless and journeying souls.


Standing Outside

For sociologists of religion, one of the more privileged moments for the emergence of the so-called sacred in human cultures is in liminal or contingent situations, those times when traditional norms of thought or action are under stress or no longer apply. More classic approaches also talk of the culture or society itself as the locus for such an eruption, in that the energy of the collectivity gives rise to an overpowering sense of transcendence. As gay men, we are marginal creatures, both individually and as a group. We know, in an acute existential way, what it means to stand outside the habitual paradigms. For some, this is a persistent source of shame and inadequacy; for a large number of others, however, it is, on the contrary, the occasion for celebration and the confident affirmation of difference. Part of this difference surely entails our unique and very desirable rapport to pleasure as a cultural value, and the novel and quite unexpected ways in which we are constantly challenging and reinventing it. We can do this, not because we stand in the mainstream, but precisely because we continue to be pushed to its margins--either by choice, or by the designs of others.

Pleasure, particularly of the forbidden kind, tastes that much sweeter when you stand outside. For one, you can afford to indulge because you've already been pushed away; for another, you probably don't want to go back anyway. Marginality is also of great benefit when it comes to sensitivity of outlook. It sharpens your vision and trains your critical eye. It lets you see, at times quite clearly and most unexpectedly, the limitations and constraints of normalcy, including what is good or pleasurable. It frees you in a most satisfying and empowering way. There is a certain pleasure to be had in this state of affairs, but it must come from defiance and resistance. It must shout from the rooftops: "Yes, I'm a faggot. You call me that, but I choose to claim it for myself. I reject your definition of pleasure. I choose to subvert it by constantly pushing its boundaries. I choose to call your deadening normalcy into question, not only for my sake, but for yours also. Because otherwise you will not survive."

This is prophetic and demanding work. It calls for the discipline of the warrior and the rebel, but it is the discipline of excess and superfluity. It is also the power of the fool, of the clown who turns reality inside out. In claiming for ourselves this privileged space at the margins, we can throw ourselves body and soul into the urgent work of sounding the depths of pleasure, of exploring its most arcane and esoteric byways, of probing its vast spiritual potential. This begins with our body and the bodies of others, what are our most fundamental and compelling relationships. But it moves out to culture more generally, to artistic expression and vision, and ultimately to ways of thinking and creating spiritually.

I am reminded of a line that a friend, recently dead from the ravages of AIDS, was fond of using. "Listen," he would say, "my pleasure is their pleasure. Who knows? My cock may have fed a new Michelangelo." Those may not have been quite the words, but he was right in one thing. Pleasure does feed creativity, and vice versa. One does that best by standing as far away from the mainstream and the mundane as is possible.


Coming Together

Every time we reaffirm or celebrate publicly our identity and pride, we push back the boundaries not only of distrust and public shame, but also those of blind assimilation and similitude. In flaunting who we are to the face of the world, in all our sheer extravagance and raw sexual energy, we cannot help but compel others to make a choice: accept us as we are, or forever turn away. If your experience of gay pride is anything like mine, and I suspect it is, pleasure, in its amazing multiplicity of forms, is very much at the center of how we see ourselves. Whether it be the sensual pleasure of the muscular body or the mad and sweaty dance, the subversive pleasure of the defiant political gesture or the boisterous parade, the visual pleasure of the gender-bending drag queen or the semi-clad dancing boy: all, in fact, are intense junctures of assertion. There are more common, everyday pleasures: walking hand-in-hand down the street with your lover, kissing him in the shadow of a summer sunset, meeting close friends for a casual dinner. These simple moments and rituals of our lives as out, proud gay men contain within them possibilities for spiritual awareness, precisely because they celebrate our common togetherness.

We can all recognize and appreciate moments of sheer ecstasy and abandonment in our lives, those times when everything comes together in an almost perfect pitch. We feel right and safe, and so does the world. It can happen in any context, from the sexual to the political, and at any point in between. It can happen in friendship. For me, one of the most gratifying of such times is when I find myself in the company of others like me. Just being with other gay men, regardless of the activity, tells me that I belong and that my identity is not something that stands alone. Rather, it is part of a vibrant whole bigger and far more powerful than my limited experience or even perception of it. At times like these, I simply stand in awe and gratitude: in awe because of the wonder and potency of a common sexual brotherhood; in gratitude because I definitely would not want it any other way. I see that it is good, and I am pleased.

This can be an intense moment of transcendence, for it pushes us outside ourselves to a recognition of universal forces at play in our lives, and those of others. In abandoning the pleasure of a solitary, closed identity, we discover the far richer and more satisfying one of a common kinship. Rather than the welding of sexual difference, our unique pleasure emerges from the center and force of our erotic sameness. We are one; we are strong; we are men; we are gay.

We are called to pleasure in our lives, just as we are called to holiness. Our pleasures can be very much human, as they are for all other creatures. As gay men, however, we have a special proclivity for, and understanding of, pleasure. Having been denied it at so many points in our lives, we value it highly. We therefore become the guardians of pleasure, novices and sometimes high priests of its obsessive and demanding ways. This may lead to excess. But excess can be a privileged venue for encountering the transcendent. Just ask any self-respecting saint.

Donald L. Boisvert works at Concordi University in Montreal, where he teaches religion and sexuality studies. He is co-chair of the Gay Men's Issues in Religion Group of the American Academy of Religion. His book, Out On Holy Ground: Meditations On Gay Men's Spirituality, was published by Pilgrim Press in 2000.

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John Ballew

Because orgasm and ejaculation tend to happen simultaneously in men, we often think they are the same thing. Understanding that they are not is the key to exploring ecstatic states.

Orgasm is described, even by sexologists, as just the all-of-a-sudden release of the sexual pressure that happens during arousal, followed by an intense relaxation. Sounds like ejaculation. Missing from this medical explanation is any understanding of what happens elsewhere in our multidimensional beings--that is, in our hearts, our souls, our minds. Orgasm doesn't happen just in the pelvis. Studies show changes in brain waves, for instance. Muscles all over the body tense and relax, emotions arise.

Some orgasms are more powerful than others. Sometimes we are seeking a simple release--we are feeling sexual tension, and we want to get rid of it. The resulting orgasm may be a bit of a thrill, and it is certainly pleasurable, but it is a pelvic sneeze compared with full-tilt, openhearted orgasm.

The French phrase for orgasm means "the little death." When we are in an orgasmic state, time seems to stop. We experience something transcendent and powerful. We may feel a sense of clarity, losing our sense of self-consciousness, living only in this present moment.

In this ecstatic state we let go of the ego. Our day-to-day anxieties no longer seem so important and we let go of our obsession with the self. We let go of our sense that we are separate from those around us; that's one reason why this ecstatic state is especially powerful for those who are in love. In this orgasmic state we are simply present, alone or with a lover, fully alive and connected with everything that is. It is a powerful spiritual experience, a miracle in itself. Small wonder that so many religions seem to fear sexuality and do everything they can to control it!

To be able to let go during sex and to savor this sense of transcendence is one of life's great joys.

Let's talk about how it increase your body's capacity for pleasure and how to open yourself more fully to this experience.

Bodies which are full of life are more capable of ecstasy than those which are half-asleep. Exercise of at least a mild sort helps. Sex isn't a marathon, but if you spend your life stuck behind a desk and are a couch potato at home and have trouble climbing a flight of stairs without getting winded, you're not likely to feel fully awake and at home in your body.

When having sex either with a partner or solo, let go of any goal other than to feel your body, feel pleasure and connect deeply with yourself or your partner. If you find yourself getting distracted by concerns about erections, what your partner is thinking, how you are doing, etc., notice them and let these thoughts go; be in the moment.

Focus on pleasure rather than orgasm as a goal in itself. Let go of any goal whatsoever. Are you tightening your muscles and holding your body tense? Let go. Relax. Breathe. Savor sensations and delights for their own sake. There is no hurry. What else could be more important than what you are doing right now?

When you start to cum, stay relaxed and breathing. This allows the sensations and rhythms of your body to increase and reverberate inside of you, and it greatly prolongs the pleasure. Keep breathing! Some of us tend to hold our breaths or to breathe very shallowly as we approach climax. Doing so shuts down sensation. In fact, half the pleasure some men's orgasms comes from simply relaxing their too-tense bodies.

A friend recently shared with me that when he starts to ejaculate, he recites to himself the Buddhist prayer of compassion and loving kindness: "May all beings be happy. May all beings be free." In doing so, he shifts his consciousness and expands his vision.

Our culture enshrines the idea of simultaneous orgasm. That can be fun if it happens spontaneously, but working to that end can turn sex into, well, work. Consider instead what can happen when you cum at different times. You can be your partner's witness--seeing him in this moment of transcendence, truly being there for him. He can be there for you, free from his own need to do anything other than just be with you; that's magic enough.

The time following orgasm is sacred time, sometimes referred to as "afterglow." Enjoy it, whether you are by yourself or with someone else. Notice what thoughts, even visions, come to you. Notice what you are feeling. Don't be in a big hurry to clean up. Stay where you are. If you have been making love to yourself, this can be a useful time to simply enjoy the feelings of peace and openness. If you are with a partner, this gentle, open time can be a wonderful opportunity to affirm your love for one another.

The openness that many of us feel after orgasm may also bring up negative feelings. Perhaps you realize that the person you just shared this experience with was someone with whom this level of intimacy was more awkward than you expected, or perhaps old messages about sex-and-shame made an unwelcome visit. This may be an opportunity for you to learn something about yourself.

John R. Ballew, M.S., is a licensed professional counselor in private practice in Atlanta. He specializes in issues related to coming out, sexuality, and relationships, spirituality and career. He can be reached via the web at www.bodymindsoul.org.


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Dionysius in the Labyrinth
Phillip Andrew Bernhardt-House


You know by the way I walk
that I am All That, the pretty boy-girl,
the one you want to fuck so bad it hurts.

I am the King of Werewolves,
and I call to every man and woman
who thirsts for the sustenance of life:
come seek me at the darkest edge of the wood
where the river seeps down the mountainside.

There you will find my labyrinthine den--
come in unclad of clothes, make yourself small,
and enter the earth smelling the fragrant soil,
let the dirt embrace your arms and knees.
Approach me, and I will gladly give a moon-white drink,
be suckled on my nourishing phallic milk.
You will soon see that just like me,
realization of thirst leads to becoming one sexy bitch.

You know by the way I talk
that I am All This, the pretty girl-boy.

I want to fuck you so bad it hurts.

I am the Queen of Honey,
and I proclaim to all women and men:
Know that you have beautiful wings,
so stop covering your ass with them
and rather learn to spread them and fly!

Come back to the labyrinthine hive where life began,
hover above, look down on the step-pyramid surface,
enter the layers of hexagons, find the center
where I sit surrounded by dripping gold,
distilled essence of sun in warm liquid ooze.

Partake with lips and tongue of the vulvic honey,
savor with every sense the intoxicating sweetness
and let the buzzing bathe your entire body.

You know by the way I dance
that I am All This, All That,
pretty boy-queen, pretty girl-king,
dispenser of drinks, the wines called milk and honey...
but do you want to fuck me, or be me
(do I want to fuck myself, or be myself)?

Can we do both; should we do either?

Yes, yes, and definitely, yes!

Phillip Andrew Bernhardt-House is a 25 year old metagendered pagan spiritualist, bisexual post Christian theologian working on a Ph.D. in Celtic Studies in Cork, Ireland. alfrecht@hotmail.com

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Somebody Turn on a Light!

Are gay men stepping too far into their own darkness?

R.P. Moore

Have you picked up a gay tabloid and looked through the personals section lately? Oh my God! Or maybe one of the infinite Web sites geared toward hooking our gonads up? What the hell is going on?? Certainly you've dropped in for a visit in the chat rooms. Jeminy Jillikers! Gay men across the land are requesting to be raped, beaten, used as toilets, and even young guys are asking to be infected with HIV! Do these kinds of requests just go with the territory? Is this so common as to not even raise a few eyebrows??

Okay, I'll drop the naive act. Truth is, these types of listings stopped raising my eyebrows years ago. And although I don't believe this is a representative cross-section of our culture, I do wonder if these requests are on the rise. So who the hell am I, you might ask? Well, for starters, someone who believes we should have complete freedom to experience whatever we so desire in this lifetime. I'm also someone who has been chained to a basement floor, has orchestrated a kidnapping scene, has participated in gang bangs, and whose first drunken homosexual experience was in a prayer garden beneath a statue of Jesus. I know and embrace my darkness. But even though I've engaged in a variety of edgy scenes, my greatest priority in this life is to find true happiness and help anyone else that wants to find it, too. What began with a desire to recover from alcoholism was fueled by a determination to rise above an AIDS diagnosis. I've given myself to a number of spiritual paths like A Course in Miracles, practiced meditation, and employed such alternative techniques as rebirthing. I've experienced a lot of darkness in my life, some of it voluntary, some of it thrust upon me. I can tell you that every one of these experiences has in turn given me greater compassion and a whole lot less fear. And as the author of "The Black & White Book" [www.blackandwhitebook.com] which centers around these types of polarities, I think I offer some evidence that I've given this a fair amount of thought.

I feel I should give you another piece of information so you can get a clear perspective of this liberal mind. It was not until I was sober, not until I was giving myself to A Course in Miracles that I chose to have experiences of bondage, extreme fantasies, and edgy forms of play. I find all that stuff not only fascinating, but quiet exhilarating when there's chemistry going on between the two of you. Or the six of you. And to be perfectly honest with you, "chemistry" for me is love. My limits start where pain, bruising, blood, disrespect, disregard, or fear begin. Either my own or yours.

I've been in a monogamous, loving, supportive, totally non-edgy, Plain Jane, vanilla relationship based on mutual respect for a while now. But my portfolio of sexual encounters prior to this relationship probably includes somewhere near a couple hundred different guys and a vivid spectrum of different scenes. I've come face to face with those that want to get beaten up, crapped on, and even castrated. Likewise, I've encountered those who have wanted to beat me up, crap on me, and... well, no one has ever wanted to castrate me. So why would someone look to have these experiences? Is this healthy sexual exploration or are today's fantasies getting out of control?

One of the more common fantasies which I find guys actually wishing to experience is that of being raped. I've had this fantasy myself. Ah, yes, that beefy stud that can't control his desires a second longer and rips your pants off in a frantic and heated display of pent-up lust. We all want to be wanted. That's just human. But when you break it down, if we're choosing what he looks like, or even who he is, what he does and how he does it, then it's really not rape. So is it even possible to request to be raped? No. However, I have frequently seen guys in chat rooms announcing that they're at a certain address with the door unlocked and asking for someone to come rape them. What if I show up and it turns out the guy is horribly repulsed by me? If he asks me to leave, am I going to think I should? Isn't resistance just part of the rape fantasy? What would you do? At the risk of disappointing him, I'd back off right away. If he even showed regret or uncertainty in his face I'd back off. Because I my first priority is respect, yours and mine, I know I'm not a candidate for a rape scene. But are there guys out there that really want someone they find repulsive to force sex upon them? If such an unfortunate state of mind exists, this reflects someone who is simply not okay with their homosexuality. It strongly suggests that the only way they find it acceptable is if it's not only forced upon them, but if there is little or no joy derived from it. Who knows, maybe some guys are hoping such a situation will "cure" them of their unacceptable desires. There's an infinite number of possible motivations for seeking this scene. There's also an infinite number of possible outcomes.

A huge movement in the last few years has been toward the barebacking scene, or doing it without a condom. As one who is ready to see something genuine in any situation, I can quickly and easily empathize with those who decide to go this route. As someone who was bottomed and became infected with HIV before he had a chance to be the top he really was, I am right in there with all those who are tired of being covered in plastic. The AIDS situation created a fear and a repression of sex in the mid-80's to late-90's. Entire generations of both gay and straight youth have grown up hearing about the "beautiful and free" sexual revolution while being instructed to take a cautious and disinfectant approach should they ever dare to explore. Repression only creates rebellion. Barebacking is that rebellion. And if not by the younger generations, then by those who all too vividly remember the good 'ol days.

Being in a relationship with someone much younger than I and who is negative, you better believe we use a condom or do something else entirely. How much pleasure would it bring me to "feel it" more today if a year from now I know I've brought a lifetime of inconvenience, expense, or a still-very-possible death to another person? And to someone I'm in love with? I don't think so. But when there's a whole population running ads and building Web sites as a means to bareback, let's face it, it's an option available to us today. You will even see listings from guys who think they want to become positive. This is truly puzzling to me because if they're looking to kill themselves, there are so much quicker and less time-consuming methods. If they're seeking the ultimate death-defying thrill, God be with them because I won't be. I have, however, barebacked another positive guy before (as controversial as even that is). Yeah, and I've gotten gonorrhea, too. Since I figure all those guys running bareback ads have probably screwed each other, I now can't help but imagine a painful penis that secretes disgusting yellow slime and one more horribly embarrassing visit to the clinic.

I had a friend in college that loved post-dental gum pain. Believe it or not, I can sort of relate. It's sort of like an itch that feels good to scratch except that I personally want it to go away the second I'm tired of it. Pain is one arena of sexual extremes that will forever be a topic of confusion and controversy. Lots of guys like a smack on their butt... or three or four. Lots of guys like smacking butts. But then some guys like to be hung from the ceiling by meat hooks jabbed through their flesh. Again, to each his own. I do tend to ponder, however, if all those who are receiving pain are agreeing to it because it feels good to them or because they think they need to do this to prove they are men. I was once at a huge leather event where a guy was tied down, his ass beaten with a thick leather strap until it bled. And still they were beating him some more as he flinched and shook in nervous confusion. Pain can be pleasurable for many people, but was this? Based on his body language and facial expression, I'm betting this had long ago exceeded the pleasure threshold. He probably didn't have the guts to end this madness being cheered on by the enormous crowd of his leathermen peers. I don't even like the thought of making someone else uncomfortable, so I guess I'm just not a candidate for Dungeon Master, either, now am I? I do think a reasonable guideline for any of the heavy stuff is to ask oneself, "Why am I doing this?" If the answer is anything other than, "Because I freakin' love it!" then indeed why are you doing this?

Likewise, it's very likely you think I've lost my mind because I've engaged in a bondage scene before. Just for the record, not just a scene but multiple scenes both as the one tied down and as the one doing the tying. Is this strange leaning the result of some unsavory childhood experience? Maybe, but if it is, I don't recall it. No, I was fascinated with this sort of thing from the time I was old enough to steal porno mags from the local gas station. It's just cool to me. It looks cool, it feels cool, it's cool to make a guy a go crazy with desire. I did that painting shown opposite this page and it hangs in my home. In my prowling days when I brought a guy over, their eyes would instantly fixate on that image, certain that I planned to string them up by their toes and leave them in the closet to die a slow and upsidedown death. I would always be quick to assure them that would not be happening. And the reason it wouldn't be happening was because they were afraid or uncomfortable. Not into that. Nor am I into the slave/owner thing. Lots of men seek boys and lots of boys seek men. The only reason I can fathom that a "boy" (which is actually a young man) would agree to this arrangement would be to escape real world responsibilities. If someone owns them, then everything is out of their hands. And as we all know, it doesn't require ropes or whips to descend into this type of relationship that is rather common in the gay ghettos.

I wonder how many of you believe an article of this nature would be more suitable in a leather magazine or similar publication. I must tell you that it has been my experience to find that cute kid we see every day behind the counter at the pastry shop to be the very type secretly seeking these types of experiences. I'm going to spare both of us the details of toilet scenes except to say that the one person I know of that is into that stuff is the clean-cut business manager of a national corporation. When I see him, I see someone cheerful and giving and kind. When I consider that scene, I can't help but wonder if this could be an underlying belief that oneself deserves to be crapped on by the world. Just a thought.

Just as innocent-looking guys can be the most devious, I have always been the devious-looking guy that actually was devious but not devious enough. To this day my somewhat commanding presence and carefully configured facial hair elicit "the look" from other guys who imagine how I might rough them up in all the right ways. The truth be known, I have historically been a tremendous source of disappointment for many who have wanted nothing more than for someone to slam them against the wall, tell 'em to shut up, and show 'em how it's done. No, instead, I've tried to make those that have come into my chambers feel comfortable and worthwhile. Unfortunately, most people can't conceive of a one nighter without the awkwardness, lack of communication, and the feeling that they need to get out fast. In the same light, some of my fondest memories center around those rare few that could relax into the situation. I've been told some of the deepest and most carefully guarded secrets by guys who would have never told anyone else. I've gotten to tell a few of my own.

Obviously, being a gay man isn't defined by trying to rack up as many sexual encounters as possible. But whether you are doing just that or looking for one special partner or have been in relationship for years, we all have our dark side. Some of us like to turn off all the lights and indulge in a tear-jerker, some of us want to perform unconventional acts with our genitals. As someone who has dared to explore some of the less mainstream activities, it has certainly been my observation that we're all pretty much the same on the inside even if a few are afraid to show it. One by one, guys who used to scare me off with the way they looked, how they carried themselves, where they went, or what they did, have taught me not to judge a book by its cover. Sure, there are some jerks out there, but there are far more that can be trusted... at least with what's really important.

There's no doubt in my mind that there are lots of guys making mistakes and looking at things the wrong way. I've done my share of that, too. It pains me to think someone is signing up for something they'll regret for the rest of their lives. I believe, however, we have to accept everyone for exactly where they are in their lives. I think we also have to trust that we are constantly evolving. If our intentions are pure, I don't think we can help but learn from not only our own mistakes, but others as well. I sure have.

R.P. Moore is author of the lovely and insightful Black and White Book (reviewed in WCJ #50).

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Reviews and Books

In The City Of Shy Hunters

by Tom Spanbauer

Grove Press, PB, $14.00

Reviewed by Mountaine


So there I was, reading this book, enjoying it a lot. On September 9th, I was about halfway through "Shy Hunters," reading it on a plane from North Carolina to New York. On September 10th, I was reading it on the subway from Brooklyn into Manhattan, and later from Manhattan back to Brooklyn. Most of the story unfolds in New York City. I love reading a good story that unfolds in a place that I'm actually in. This is a good story. Lots to enjoy.

On September 11th, I was reading it on the subway from Brooklyn into Manhattan, passing directly under the World Trade Center about 8:30 AM.

"You're going this way and then shit happens and then you're going that way."

That evening, and for the next few days, I tried to read some more. But I couldn't. Once a few days had passed, it was a pleasure to return to this book.

Spanbauer's first novel, The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon, was life-changing for me. The image of "Moves Moves"--"coming but not ejaculating," "taste of knowledge becoming understanding," circulating and recirculating sexual energy within the body without aiming for or "achieving" climax--this was important stuff in my life. After reading it, I was changed.

"You're going this way and then shit happens and then you're going that way."

I didn't expect In The City of Shy Hunters to be that significant for me, but I expected a really good read. I was right. It's a page-turner, a fascinating story with vivid subplots and hysterical slice-of-life comedy and horrific gut-wrenching tragedy.

And the characters!!! The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon had terrific ones. Shed (the storyteller), Delwood Barker, Ida, Alma, Damn Dave and his Damn Dawg, and many more. Now we meet William of Heaven (again a first-person storyteller), Ruby Prestigiacomo, Fiona, True Shot, Charlie 2Moons, Bobbie, and so many others. Weirdly detailed descriptions abound, and Spanbauer's portraiture is so vivid that I feel like I've met them all personally.

Most vivid of all is Argwings Khodek. Also known as Rose. What a wonderful persona Spanbauer has created here! A large black man with "extra lovely" hands and palms and lips and cock and butt. "Bracelets clack-clack." A sense of fashion way beyond eclectic, stretching boundaries in every detail. He's a wise sage, with something to say about everything around him--scathing comments that mesmerize the mind and pierce the heart with their truth:

"Cocaine. White death. A Republican plot. Opiate the yuppie masses leading lives of quiet desperation. It's the White Paranoid Patriarch drug. Think about it! White powder that gives you a sense of potency, importance, and lucidity. One snort and voilà! You act as if you're the primogenitor of Mountbatten. Every line of that white powder you put in your nose or in your veins, you are perpetuating the illusion that there is something profound out there and you are privy to its profundity...

"Even myself, Rose said, I only take drugs that enhance the folly, the pageantry, the foolishness, the lie, Rose said."

Rose's rage at the world he lives in--racial prejudice, homophobia, AIDS in the Reagan era, and all the rest--is at once intelligent and painful. He has nothing to lose by flaunting his "extra lovely" self with complete honesty in the face of all perpetrators and perpetuators of stupidity in all its forms. He leads a live of celebration and aggressive edginess. And he dies in a death scene which is not easy to forget...

Like The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon, or a great Verdi opera, in "Shy Hunters" almost everyone dies. Some die in abject despair, others in glorious apotheosis. But death is everywhere in this book, as it was in New York in the mid-80s, and as it continues to be today for Afghani refugees and World Trade Center workers and the slowed but ongoing result of AIDS.

Spanbauer uses repetition in a beautiful, poetic, dreamy way, to make a point and then make it again and then make sure the reader is perfectly clear about how that point can make a dent on his or her view of life and death and all the other stuff in between.

"You're going this way and then shit happens and then you're going that way."

In a world in which no one is completely "safe," in which making a success out of life often includes being as outrageous as possible, in which inspiration and perspective are needed by most of us on a daily basis, Tom Spanbauer helps to make art (if not sense) of it all. His latest book is a gripping read, and is highly recommended.

Mountaine (known by the IRS and by his mother as Mort Jonas) is an actor/musician/teacher, and founder of EarthStage Productions, dedicated to environmental education through theatre. He resides in Mountaine's Ultimate Abode (that's AUM backwards!) near Asheville, NC. E-mail: mjonas@madison.main.nc.us.

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Creating Man

Michael G. Cornelius

Vineyard Press, 213 pages, PB, $18.95

Reviewed by Toby Johnson


This is a lovely little book, a fast and enjoyable read, that in the end is liable to bring tears to your eyes.

Though called a novel, it's more a collection of short stories with an interweaving cast of characters. Toward the end, the stories all come together and the reader can see connections that hadn't been apparent earlier. This recapping--and recasting--of the several stories lines is one of the joys of the book.

There's a frame for the whole collection that, frankly, this reviewer didn't think necessary and, indeed, a little inflated. However, it does function to establish the spiritual intent and meaning of the stories.

This frame--from which arises the title--presents the book as a continuation of the story of Genesis, explaining what happened on the "eighth day of creation" when God began to mold human vices and virtues. The opening story, for instance, follows from God's playing a tune on a flute given him by the Archangel Michael. The tune, it turns out, is called "hatred." The tale of hatred involves an academic fellow, named Logan, who falls in love with a professional fighter and whose life seems to be ruined when the fighter, unfaithful to him, gets infected with HIV and then transmits it to him--a turn of events that naturally stirs hatred.

The stories then each manifest the tunes God is playing on that flute: guilt, fear, pride, then joy and finally love.

The story of guilt tells of a family crisis when a husband and father decides he is gay; fear of a professional tennis star who is faced with exposure of his homosexuality; pride of a beautiful young man who romantically and sexually befriends and beguiles a boy confined to a wheelchair, and then drops him. All very serious stuff, with a an undercurrent of tragedy.

In the end, love conquers--of course. And it's a lovely ending that brings back the character of Logan now dying himself of AIDS, but with a much better death than the opening story would have lead the reader to expect, and recaps the story of the family crisis as an example of gay love lasting over fifty years.

You have to wonder why God started with the traumatic tunes, but the message of the book is finally that so much of the pain and confusion in life is ultimately redeemed by love.

This book turned out to be surprisingly appealing. While unassuming and simple, it deserves your attention. The message of virtue in the midst of pain and trauma in gay men's lives is one you'll probably resonate with.

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Sex,Orgasm, & the Mind of Clear Light

The Sixty-Four Acts of Gay Male Love

by Jeffrey Hopkin

NorthAtlantic Books, Pb, 150 pages, $14.95


This is a remarkable little book. It's an adaptation to gay men's experience of a Tibetan spin-off of the Indian Kama Sutra called Tibetan Arts of Love by Gedun Chopel. Chopel was a sort of "defrocked" tulku and iconoclastic free-thinker, born in 1905 who, after being imprisoned for two years in the Communist Chinese takeover, died in 1951.

Chopel's text was written about heterosexual sex; Jeffrey Hopkins, a professor of Tibetan Buddhist Studies at the University of Virginia, has beautifully--and erotically--adjusted the text to fit homosexual experience and added an appendix which discusses why Tibetan Buddhism is sex-friendly, how orgasm gives an experience of the mind of Clear Light, and what the practice of Tantra really is.

The most notable thing about the text is the oddly, i.e. "Orientally," phrased descriptions of sexual acts. By "Orientally," I mean the innocent, archaic-sounding metaphors that are used, the peculiar syntactical shifts in person and case, and the usually nature-based names assigned to sexual positions. For instance, in describing one form of embrace, the text says: "The two hands of one male embrace the other's neck; as the two mutually touch stomachs, he grasps him and raises him up. This is called twining creeper, latasvestha." Then, "With passion fully burning like a fire, they embrace--standing or reclining. Pointing their lower bodies at each other and shaking and twisting, they join together. This is called form of a fluttering flag."

The sixty-four arts of passion, i.e. positions, are divided into eight categories: embracing, kissing, pinching and scratching, biting, moving to and fro and pressing, making thrill cries, methods of copulation from the rear, and the receptor doing the work. (Hopkins necessarily adds a section of Oral Sex.)

Here's doing it from "moving to and fro and pressing": "One man, lying on his back, puts his two heels side by side, and the other man grasps them with his hands; then raising them up to his lap, he does the deed. This is called the crab, karkataka. Sometimes, his knees moving like the ears of an elephant, he slaps them against the sides of the other. Sometimes the one lying on his back stays in a cross-legged posture; then, his partner, with the other beneath him, does it as before. Sometimes the inserter ties the other's feet with a rope of cloth. Sometimes the prone man himself holds his own legs."

Not to belabor the point with more and more quotations, there is an innocence and simplicity to these elaborate descriptions that is a real pleasure to read (and figure out what the men are supposed to be doing). You've probably done most of the positions yourself, but weren't likely to know they could be so specifically described or named so lyrically.

The origins in a manual for heterosexuals results in almost all the practices involving or moving toward fucking--in the gay case, of course, anally. As frottage activist Bill Weintraub has argued in the pages of White Crane (Some Thoughts on Cock-rubbing & the Cultural Tyranny of Buttfuck-ing, WCJ #43) and on his website www.heroichomosex.com, gay sex doesn't have to involve fucking and, especially in these days of AIDS, maybe often shouldn't. Gay sex, after all, isn't just a mimic of straight sex.

After the text of Tibetan Arts of Love by Gedun Chopel, Hopkins adds his own "Ruminations." In this section he explains how with intent and practice orgasm can give access to transcendental states. One of the most interesting--and slightly perplexing--discussions regards how, partly through a pun in Sanskrit, compassion and the bliss of orgasm without emission are viewed by Buddhists as the same because they both mean "stopping bliss"--in the sense of ending pleasure by not coming or by becoming aware of others' suffering. (I think the sense should be ending as bringing to completion, so it means "fulfilling bliss." For feelings of oneness with others and the rapture of sexual arousal both heighten bliss).

Especially for aficionados of Body Electric, mindful masturbation and "edging," this book offers numerous treats.

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The Gay Kama Sutra

by Colin Spencer

St. Martin's, 192 pages, HB, $24.95


Speaking of treats, this book is a delight for the eyes and for the mind. Tho' obviously inspired by the Kama Sutra, Colin Spencer's adaptation does not observe the "Orientalisms"; it is clearly a modern day sex manual and book of advice and instruction on gay love. The advice is always sensible and apropos. And the book is spectacular--full of plates of ancient and modern art. Especially appealing are the marvelous line drawings by Roger Paine (three of which are reproduced in this issue of WCJ to whet your interest).


The one objection I'd make to this book echoes the comments in the previous review about the presumption of anal fucking as the norm for gay sex. Under the heading "Positions," everything described is fucking. Fellatio, sixty-nine, mutual masturbation, frottage, intercrural and interfemoral sex all come later in the book, almost as after-thoughts.

This book would make a great gift and a great coffee table book (especially if you want to set a certain tone for conversation in your living room). It's not consciously spiritual, like the other books reviewed here, but the sensibility of the book is consistent with the others and the author's intent clearly positive and enlightened (at least with a small "e"). Look for this book.

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Essays on Gay Tantra

William Schindler

Xlibris, 434 pages, PB, $24.99


On a more serious, and orthodox, note is William Schindler's book of essays. Schindler is organizer of Ashram West in Los Angeles. He is trained in traditional Hindu Tantra and has lived as a monk of the Ramakrishna Order. He's also a psychotherapist. In his capacity as leader of Ashram West, he edits and produces a weekly Newsletter. From the essays in this Newsletter, he has compiled two volumes. The first is called Gay Tantra. It was reviewed in WCJ #50. It is a fairly scholarly and didactic presentation of Schindler's application of Hindu Tantric ideas to the modern gay experience. The first volume is rather technical with lots of historical references (and lots of Sanskrit words). It's an organized, didactic guidebook to a specific traditional spiritual path, though, of course, updated to fit gay men's experience.

The second volume, Essays on Gay Tantra, is composed of other writings that appeared in the Newsletter. It's less technical (with less Sanskirt).

The origins of both books, especially the second, in the Newsletter affect how the material is presented. The Essays, for instance, are organized in chronological order and based on reports of group discussions (often of books the group was reading). Many of them sound like entries in a philosophical journal. In a way, it's quite impressive that the journalist was able to recount in such detail conversations and discussions that went on in the meetings. This is perhaps indicative of one of the major ideas in Schindler's spirituality: pay attention and be mindful. The writer of these essays was obviously paying attention in the group discussions.

Besides affecting the organizational structure of the book itself, the Newsletter origins result in a kind of homiletic, hortatory tone. The entries often shift from an accounting of the group's discussion to the writer's interpretation of what the discussion really was about to what it should have been about. There's often a moral lesson preached. In general, of course, it's a gay-positive message, but with a preachy tone. For a short article members would read once a week--intentionally seeking spiritual encouragement--this is no problem. Indeed, it's desirable. In the collection of such essays, however, this tone can become tiresome. And it lends itself to sounding authoritarian and judgmental.

The "weekly sermon" quality also results in repetition. There are frequent reminders, for instance, of the group's spiritual practice to be mindful of Divine Presence during such mundane actions as brushing one's teeth or taking a shower.

Structural problems aside, however, the content of the book is marvelous and the "sermons" Schindler preaches right on.

The beginning essays concern the group's readings: Whitman's "Song of Myself," The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Invitation to a Great Experiment: Exploring the Possibility that God Can Be Known by Thomas E. Powers, Brother Lawrence's Practice of the Presence of God, Andrew Harvey's Dialogues with a Modern Mystic, even The Diary of St. Therese of Lisieux--interesting, and sometimes slightly obscure, readings in spirituality.

Later essays are more personal. Schindler seems to have become more relaxed and personable with his students and shares more about himself. There's an account, for instance, of his participation in the International Mr. Leather competition (he finished in the top 20 out of 52 contestants and, more importantly, gave a well-received speech about gay spirituality) and a discussion of his father's death--and even the death of his beloved dog, Svasti.

Central to the idea of Schindler's Gay Tantra spirituality is the realization--followed by the sometimes arduous and necessarily disciplined practice--of the individual human being's oneness with God. This oneness is achieved by mindfulness--hence the practice of the presence of God during one's morning toilet mentioned above. That mindfulness of one's being God--and one's partner also being God--is especially important, he argues, for gay men during sex. This is how sex is made sacred.

Drawing by Roger Paine
from Gay Kama Sutra

William Schindler's Essays in Gay Tantra demands, and deserves, attention. It probably shouldn't be read in long sittings--that's when it will sound repetitious and preachy. But taken one essay at a time, allowing each insight to shape your practice, it's an enlightening read. And that's how it was intended to be experienced, after all. Schindler's spirituality is worth pursuing.

Essays in Gay Tantra is available over the Internet from www.xlibris.com or by phone from 888-7-XLIBRIS.

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This year's Lambda Literary Award Finalists in Religion/Spirituality:

Coming Out Young and Faithful,
Leanne McCall Tigert and Timothy Brown, eds., The Pilgrim Press

Crossing Over: Liberating the Transgendered Christian,
Vanessa Sheridan, The Pilgrim Press

Escaping God's Closet: The Revelations of a Queer Priest,
Bernard Duncan Mayes, University Press of Virginia

Gifted by Otherness,
L. William Countryman & M.R. Ritley, Morehouse

Queer Commentary and the Hebrew Bible,
Ken Stone, ed., The Pilgrim Press

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Link to Toby Johnson's GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

Last update March 21, 2002

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