Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Big Gay Ice Cream: Saucy Stories & Frozen Treats: Going All the Way with Ice Cream” by Bryan Petroff and Douglas Quint— Creating Frozen Treats

big gay ice cream

Petroff, Bryan and Douglas Quint. “Big Gay Ice Cream: Saucy Stories & Frozen Treats: Going All the Way with Ice Cream”, Clarkson Potter, 2015.

Creating Frozen Treats

Amos Lassen

Welcome to Big Gay Ice Cream’s debut cookbook, a yearbook of ice cream accomplishments—all the recipes you need to create delicious frozen treats. An absolute pleasure to read, this new book has something for everyone. We have instructions for making ice cream at home, shopping lists, sauces and toppings and so on. We also have wonderful stories and I would say that this is probably the most delicious book I have ever read (except for maybe for The Antoine’s Cookbook” but then I could never follow the recipes which I easily do with ice cream).

The book is organized like a school yearbook and we start as innocent freshmen and end up as senior scholars (with ice cream at least). At the start of Freshman year you’re not doing much but by the end of Senior year you’re making everything from the toppings to the ice cream itself. We also get “some stranger-than-fiction stories, cheeky humor, vibrant photography and illustrations, and plenty of culinary and celebrity cameos (including an introduction by Headmaster Anthony Bourdain)”.

Here there are award-winning recipes for homemade ice cream and treats with ingredients that are fairly simple and would pretty easily be found at most supermarkets. I once had a recipe that called for a certain kind of coriander and I spent something like three days looking for it and never found it. This book also includes information about the “Big Gay Ice Cream” business and food truck as well as fun pictures and information about ice cream and milk in general. Each recipe has a picture of the finished product.

The instructions are clear and they even give storage ideas in case you don’t manage to eat all the ice cream right away. There are also recipes for shakes and sundaes as well as sauces and toppings. These are the recipes from the Big Gay Ice Cream chain of stores and trucks, primarily in NYC and there are shops in both Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

The flavors and flavor combinations in this book range from tried and true to trendy. The main focus of the book isn’t the creation of the ice creams themselves but how to best pair ice creams with various toppings and specific instructions are given for the cones, sundaes, and shakes available in the stores. Not only do we get great ice cream and topping recipes but the format of the book unique, brilliant and entertaining. Directions are easy to follow and even tastier to eat. The pictures, comments, and stories are amusing and make it a fun read. I love how the start of the book really details ice cream, how to make it, toppings and so on.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to make homemade ice cream but I always thought that it would be an incredibly difficult and intimidating task. This book breaks it down in a way that is easy to understand.

“Already Doing It: Intellectual Disability and Sexual Agency” by Michael Gil— The Sexuality of Intellectually Disabled People

already doing it better

Gill, Michael. “Already Doing It: Intellectual Disability and Sexual Agency”, University of Minnesota, 2015.

The Sexuality of Intellectually Disabled People

Amos Lassen

“Already Doing It” looks at and “exposes the ‘sexual ableism’ that denies the reality of people with intellectual disabilities who, despite the restrictions they face, actively make decisions about their sexual lives”. This book is a powerfully argued call for sexual and reproductive justice representing a vital new contribution to the debate over who, in the United States, should be allowed to have sex, reproduce, marry, and raise children. We must look at the question as to why the sexuality of people with intellectual disabilities is often deemed “risky” or “inappropriate” by teachers, parents, support staff, medical professionals, judges, and the media. Have we reached the point in this country that sexual citizenship depends on IQ? It is “sexual ableism” that denies the reality of individuals who, despite the restrictions they face, actively make decisions about their sexual lives.

He book follows the history of efforts in the United States to limit the sexual freedoms of such persons. The methods used have included forced sterilization, invasive birth control, and gender-segregated living arrangements. Author Michael Gill shows that these widespread practices stem from dominant views of disabled sexuality, not least of which is the notion that intellectually disabled women are excessively sexual and fertile while their male counterparts are sexually predatory. Gil analyzes legal discourses, sex education materials, and news stories going back to the 1970s. He shows us that there was an intense focus on “stranger danger” in sex education for intellectually disabled individuals and that their ability to independently choose activities and sexual partners, including nonheterosexual ones, which are frequently treated with heightened suspicion. Gil also “examines ethical issues surrounding masturbation training that aims to regulate individuals’ sexual lives, challenges the perception that those whose sexuality is controlled (or rejected) should not reproduce, and proposes recognition of the right to become parents for adults with intellectual disabilities”.

Gil urges a shift away from the compulsion to manage “deviance” (better known today as harm reduction) because the right to pleasure and intellectual disability are not mutually exclusive. With this we get a vital new contribution to the ongoing debate over who, in the United States, should be allowed to have sex, reproduce, marry, and raise children. Below is the Table of Contents:

Preface: Violations of Sexual Life

Introduction: Sexual Ableism Exposed

  1. Questions of Consent: Rethinking Competence and Sexual Abuse
  2. Pleasure Principles: From Harm Reduction to Diversity in Sex Education
  3. Sex Can Wait, Masturbate: The Politics of Masturbation Training
  4. Reproductive Intrusions: The Fight against Forced Sterilization
  5. Not Just an Able-Bodied Privilege: Toward an Ethics of Parenting
  6. Screening Sexuality: Media Representations of Intellectual Disability
  7. Smashing Disability: Sexual Transgression and the Lady Boys of Bangkok

Conclusion: Dismantling Ableist Assumptions

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index

“The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World” by Michael McConnell with Jack Baker— America’s First Gay Marriage

the wedding heard round the world

McConnell, Michael with Jack Baker (as told to  Gail Langer Karwoski . “The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World”, University of Minnesota Press, 2016.

America’s First Gay Marriage

Amos Lassen

Coming to us in January 2016 is a book that we should have been waiting for a long time. Forty-four years after two men married in a legal ceremony 
in Minnesota, the Supreme Court has decided the question first raised by these gay pioneers. 

“On September 3, 1971, Michael McConnell and Jack Baker exchanged vows in the first legal same-sex wedding in the United States. Their remarkable story will be told for the first time, on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision to make love the law of the land. Their long campaign for marriage equality and insistence on equal rights for all citizens is a model for advocates of social justice and an inspiration for everyone who struggles for acceptance in a less-than-equal world. Their remarkable story is a unique account of the passion and energy of the gay liberation movement in the sixties and seventies”. 

“At the dawn of the modern gay movement (while New York’s Stonewall riots and San Francisco’s emerging political activism bloomed), these two young men insisted on making their commitment a legal reality. They were already crusaders for gay rights: Jack had twice been elected the University of Minnesota’s student president—the first openly gay university student president in the country, an election reported by Walter Cronkite on network TV news. They were featured in LOOK magazine’s special issue about the American family and received letters of support from around the world”.

“The couple navigated complex procedures to obtain a state-issued marriage license. Their ceremony was conducted by a Methodist minister in a friend’s tiny Minneapolis apartment. Wearing matching white pantsuits, exchanging custom-designed rings, and sharing a tiered wedding cake, Michael and Jack celebrated their historic marriage. After reciting their vows, they sealed their promise to love and honor each other with a kiss and a signed marriage certificate”.

“Repercussions were immediate: Michael’s job offer at the University of Minnesota was rescinded, leading him to wage a battle against job discrimination with the help of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union. The couple eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court with two precedent-setting cases”. 

“Michael and Jack have retired from the public spotlight, but after four decades their marriage is still their joy and comfort. Living quietly in a Minneapolis bungalow, they exemplify a contemporary version of the American dream. Only now, with marriage equality in the headlines and the Supreme Court decision to make love the law of the land, are they willing to tell the entire story of their groundbreaking experiences. TIME magazine listed the twenty-five most influential marriages of all time and included Michael and Jack, and they were recently profiled in a cover story in the Sunday New York Times. Their long campaign for marriage equality and insistence on equal rights for all citizens is a model for advocates of social justice and an inspiration for everyone who struggles for acceptance in a less-than-equal world”.

“Gay Men at the Millennium: Sex, Spirit, Community‬‪” edited by Michael Lowenthal— An Anthology of Gay Men’s Writing

gay men at the millenneum

Lowenthal, Michael (editor). “Gay Men at the Millennium: Sex, Spirit, Community‬‪”, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1997.

An Anthology of Gay Men’s Writing

Amos Lassen

While browsing today at Calamus Bookstore in Boston (one of the few LGBT bookstores left in America), I came across this collection edited by Michael Lowenthal, one of my favorite writers and a real mensch and as I browsed the contributors, I knew I had to have it, dated as it is.

”Gay Men at the Millennium” is a provocative and insightful compilation of writings by gay authors on sexuality, spirituality, family, and politics. The contributors describe the “state of the community” as it enters the twenty-first century, and examine, clarify, and define those issues that will shape its future. Gay culture in America is at a turning point (have we turned it yet. Assumptions within the community that have held true for years are being questioned, while outside the community, decisions carrying major consequences are being weighed by the courts, legislators, and media. The spectrum of concerns raised by these debates is the crux of a forum whose participants include: Tony Kushner * Michelangelo Signorile * Andrew Sullivan * Michael Bronski * Fenton Johnson * Harry Hay * Mark Doty * Bruce Bawer * Andrew Holleran * John Weir * Mark Matousek * Jesse Green * Rafael Campo * Keith Boykin * James Earl Hardy * Gabriel Rotello * Bernard Cooper * Frank Browning * Craig Lucas * David Bergman * Rabbi Yaakov Levado (Rabbi Steve Greenberg) and many others. The list reads like a Who’s Who in gay literature. This is a passionate and intellectual commentary on today’s gay movement and its future (some of which has already happened) since this was published before the granting of so many gay rights including last week’s decision by the Supreme Court of the United States which said that gay people can marry in every state of this country and that marriage will be legal.

“Time on Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin” edited by Devon W. Carbado and Don Weise— Openly Gay

time on two crosses

Carbado, Devon W. and Don Weise (editors). “Time on Two Crosses: The Collected Writings of Bayard Rustin”, with a foreword by Barack Obama, Cleis Press, 2015.

Openly Gay

Amos Lassen

Martin Luther King, Jr. learned the strategies of nonviolence during the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1956 and launched thereby launching the civil rights movement. He learned them from Bayard Rustin, one of the founding fathers of modern black protest who later reached international notoriety in 1963 as the openly gay organizer of the March on Washington. Rustin’s leadership began long before that historic march and he was at the vanguard of social protest. However, the fact that he was openly gay and embraced his gay identity was a point of contention within the movement and involved King, himself.

“Time on Two Crosses” gives us a look at many defining political moments of our time. “From Gandhi’s impact on African Americans, white supremacists in Congress, and the assassination of Malcolm X to Rustin’s never-before-published essays on Louis Farrakhan, affirmative action, and the call for gay rights, Time on Two Crosses chronicles five decades of Rustin’s commitment to justice and equality”.

The book spans fifty years of protest. This new edition includes new material and is a treasure for anyone who cares about the rights of the individual. Rustin was ahead of his time in many of his beliefs. The book is a collection of his writings and takes us into not just issues of race, class and discrimination but what it should mean for all of us to look for areas for us to come together. Rustin was able to almost fearlessly announce his beliefs in such a way that it is impossible to deny why he’s important to know. Reading this encourages us all to be the best of who we were created to be.

Two scholars, Devon Carbado and Don Weise, who have done much to open space for black gay studies continue this by compiling some of Bayard Rustin’s most famous speeches. The book starts with a well-done biography of the leader. We then move on to speeches on a range of issues which show how thoroughly ahead of his time this Rustin was.

Because of homophobia and domination by the Far, Rustin was often silenced and marginalized. However, he was a feisty figure but he was not going to go at it with the powers that were. who also wasn’t afraid to butt heads with top dogs. Rustin was a highly opinionated man and he see him shatters myths that were erroneously held for generations.

He stood at the forefront of issue that were far beyond just his race and sexuality. He spoke about feminism, international affairs, pacifism, labor rights, etc. Rustin was personally meek, but his circumstances weren’t. He was a gay black man who was marginalized by the Civil Rights movement he helped found but he did not let that embitter him. He never failed to come down on the proper side of a moral or ethical question, no matter whom it may offend or support. Bayard Rustin felt that his homosexuality, of which he was quite open, put him in a unique position. Placed in a minority at the bottom of every other minority, Rustin was engaged in the doing away with prejudice while suffering it himself. His gentle words place no blame, instead he understands.

This book properly places Rustin within his times and shares the story of this complex and important historical figure. His writings on homosexuality are as important and as insightful as his writings on civil rights. Besides being a great strategic leader, he was really a great philosopher who lived his philosophy. Much of what he said about violence, politics and nonviolent protest are still totally relevant today.

Rustin was a movement strategist par excellence and he knew how to share that strategy. If I had to say in just a few words what his greatest legacy was I would say, “educate and agitate and never give up!”

“The Emperor Has No Clothes: The Radical Voice of Doug Ireland” edited by Martin Duberman— An Outspoken Critic

the emperor has no clothes

Duberman, Martin (editor). “The Emperor Has No Clothes: The Radical Voice of Doug Ireland”, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2015.

An Outspoken Critic

Amos Lassen

Doug Ireland’s outspoken writings that look at topics from gay rights to AIDS to the war in Iraq and presidential politics have been part of the way many people live for forty years. Now esteemed writer and educator, Martin Duberman, has brought them together and introduces them to us in “The Emperor Has No Clothes”. This is essential reading for progressives everywhere by the person who had a great understanding of the American left. Ireland worked hard to inspire grassroots activism and realize change and then hold us to his ideology. It is he who provided a voice for activists who dared to be somewhat radical. Ireland was a man of “style, insight, wit, passion, and a profound understanding of the human condition all collide to transform journalism into art”. He seemed to make the impossible become possible.

“The Boatman: An Indian Love Story” by John Burbridge— Confronting Sexuality

the boatman

Burbridge, John. “The Boatman: An Indian Love Story”, Transit Lounge, 2015.

Confronting Sexuality

Amos Lassen

John Burbridge is an Australian who spent six years in India as a community development worker and this changed him in many ways. The biggest change was that he confronted his sexuality as a gay man and this is his story. It began with his meeting with masseurs on a Bombay beach and this led to a period of, what he calls, sexual adventuring. This was not easy and it was complicated by the tightly knit community in which he lived and worked. His life there was highly regimented so he had little privacy thus he was forced to lead a secret life sexually.

Here Burbidge brings together the search for selfhood with his exploration of Indian life and society and story shows us how that by becoming part of a culture that is very different from the way we were raised can bring us to learn about parts of ourselves that we never knew were there.

Burbridge tells us that it took him thirteen years to write this book and that he was not sure that he wanted to reveal some of his intimate secrets or even to write the book at all. He did not want to write just another coming-out story but instead to share some of the deepest experiences in his life and how they came to be with complete candor and honesty. I totally understand how he feels about this because I too immersed myself in another country for many years and was greatly changed by my life and experiences there. Israel, where I lived, like India is a total experience as I found myself having to learn a new language and ways of life that had once been totally foreign to me. Foreign cultures both charm and repel us—we want to become part yet we want to remain unique yet no matter where we might live, we discover that human relationships are a part of life. This is especially difficult when one has a secret.

Again, like myself, Burbridge grew up there during the 1950s and 60s in a respectable, yet somewhat conservative environment. I had come to terms with my sexuality when I moved to Israel where Burbridge had not yet dealt with his. We both were part of religious communities where homosexuality, at tat time, was unacceptable. For Burbridge, his getting away to India allowed him to face who he is and I get the feeling this his book is written as a ‘thank you” note to the country.

Burbridge tells his story with total honesty and he educates us in the process. I suppose the reason this book hit me so hard is because of the shared experiences between us.

“Not Gay: Sex between Straight White Men” by Jane Ward— The Complexities of Heterosexuality

not gay

Ward. Jane. “Not Gay: Sex between Straight White Men”, (Sexual Cultures), NYU Press, 2015.

The Complexities of Heterosexuality

Amos Lassen

Jane Ward questions whether men can show the same sexual fluidity as women and gives us the example that “a straight white girl can kiss a girl, like it, and still call herself straight—her boyfriend may even encourage her. But can straight white guys experience the same easy sexual fluidity, or would kissing a guy just mean that they are really gay?” Ward’s new book “Not Gay” looks deeply into our world where there is indeed straight guy-on-guy action and these include fraternity and military hazing rituals, where new recruits are made to grab each other’s penises as well as invade others’ anuses with fingers. There are also online personal ads, where straight men seek other straight men to masturbate with and there has always been a “long and clandestine history” of straight men going into public restrooms in order to have sexual encounters with other men.  Jane Ward says that these sexual practices reveal a unique social space where straight white men can—and do—have sex with other straight white men and in doing so, she argues, reaffirms rather than challenges their gender and racial identity.           

Ward goes on to show that sex between straight white men allows them “to leverage whiteness and masculinity to authenticate their heterosexuality in the context of sex with men”. Straight men understand their same-sex sexual practice to be meaningless, accidental, or even necessary and this is what allows them to “perform homosexual contact in heterosexual ways”.  These sex acts reveal the fluidity and complexity that characterizes all human sexual desire and are not “a queer way of being or expressions of a desired but unarticulated gay identity”. Ward’s analysis presents us with a new way to think about heterosexuality—not as the opposite or absence of homosexuality– but as its own unique mode of engaging in homosexual sex, “a mode characterized by pretense, dis-identification and racial and heterosexual privilege”. Ward dares to say this and it is something that most of us have known but have chosen to talk about. We should not just wave this away and it is important to see that sex between contemporary American straight white men is in fact meaningful sex.

“Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian” by Wesley Hill— The Limits of Friendship

spiritual friendship

Hill, Wesley. “Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian”, Brazos Press, 2015.

The Limits of Friendship

Amos Lassen

Friendship, by definition, is a singular relationship over which we have control. It is not something we are born into, we can chose those who we want to share it with. We can end friendship whenever we want. While American culture tends to pay more attention to romantic love, marriage, family, and other forms of community, friendship is a genuine love in its own right. Single Christians, particularly those who are gay and celibate, might find that friendship is a form of love to which they are especially called.

Wesley Hill writes about his kind of friendship here and he does so empathetically and with regard to the teachings of his church. He is able to find a rich understanding of friendship as a spiritual vocation and he explains how the church can foster and use friendship as a basic component of Christian discipleship. Hall shows us how to re-imagine friendship as a “robust form of love that is worthy of honor and attention in communities of faith”. Further, Hall issues a call for celibate gay Christians and suggests practical ways for all Christians to cultivate stronger friendships.

Same-sex attraction is a personal issue and not an abstract theological or political issue, but a very personal one. Many experience it at a young age and by the time that they are teens have already done some reading and soul searching about it. Hill writes from the perspective that one is gay as the result of living in a broken world but this can be redeemed by Jesus Christ who both allows us to love and to be loved by others. It is not necessary to eliminate same-sex attraction but our holiness and chastity has to deal with our relationship with God. Hill follows the traditional sexual ethic that sees marriage as being between one man and one woman for life. This means that many gay Christians are called to long-term celibacy, and this poses some hard challenges for the man or woman who embarks on this path.

According to the author, committed spiritual friendships deserve a place of honor within the church in much the same way as we honor the institution of marriage. These do not happen accidentally— that require intentional ways of fostering and nurturing those relationships.

There are questions to be considered when speaking about friendship and Hall sets out to answer them— “Should we think of friendship as based, above all, on personal preference? Should we think of it as preserving its voluntary character and thereby vulnerable at every point to dissolution if one of the friends grows tired of or burdened by the relationship? Should we consider friendship as always freshly chosen but never incurring any substantial obligations or entailing any unbreakable bonds? Or should we instead—pursuing a rather different line of thought—consider friendship more along the lines of how we think of marriage? Should we begin to imagine friendship as more stable, permanent, and binding than we often do? Should we, in short, think of our friends more like siblings we’re stuck with, like it or not, than like our acquaintances? Should we begin to consider at least some of our friends as, in large measure, tantamount to family? And if so, what needs to c change about the way we approach it and seek to maintain it?”

Hill finds no attraction romantically or sexually for women and he questions whether or not he is too love a life of loneliness, caught somewhere between the tension in Christianity and his sexual orientation. He feels eager to cultivate close friendships but is also afraid of not being able to find and sustain them. Thus, when he imagines a life where he is old and alone and has no one to celebrate holidays and special occasions, and/or to share the mundane moments of life, he worries. He faces the questions of where is he to find love, and where is he to give love? If he cannot have a husband or a wife, will he be forever cut off from all relational intimacy?

Hall believes that the answer to that lies in friendship but there are challenges here. There is the assumption by others that every significant male friendship points to hidden homosexuality; then there is the insistence on the ultimate significance of marriage and nuclear family and its assumption that the closest bond we can ever experience must be with that of siblings, spouses, or children; and there is also evolutionary biology and psychology which leaves no room for a relationship that is lived for the good of another. American culture seems to have an obsession with the kind of freedom and autonomy that exists in relationships. Hill goes on to say that if our deepest and most powerful fulfillment is found in personal separateness then friendship becomes something of a liability. He then proposes a kind of spiritual friendship that has roots right in the Christian tradition.

Hill’s book is divided into six chapters in which he explores the cultural background, history, and theology of friendship before focusing on practically living it out. He shares his own experience and his own search for significant spiritual friendship. I find it interesting that he finds his guidance from outside of his church and relies on writers from before the Reformation and/or Roman Catholics. It is this his way of saying that Protestants have put emphasis on marriage and family and let friendship slide?

Roman Catholicism that requires celibacy for its clergy probably has to consider the boundaries of friendship and celibate same-sex relationships. In some cases we have seen where that has lead. Hill sees himself as a celibate gay Christian—a follower of Christ who fully believes that the Bible forbids homosexual behavior, but who cannot deny or destroy his homosexual orientation. He shares experiences that may not have occurred to those who do not feel this way, such as a heterosexual same-sex friend eventually becoming an object of intense romantic attraction. He tells of his own experiences of inadvertently falling in love with one of his own friends and the disruption and heartbreak that this brought to their relationship.

Hill has written an exploration of the place of friendship in the life of the Christian, particularly its importance for those who chose, either because of sexual orientation, or other reasons to live celibate, chaste lives. The idea of a celibate, chaste, single life is scorned today not only because of the myth that one can only live a fulfilled, fully human life within the context of a sexually intimate relationship. Perhaps more fundamentally, if less openly acknowledged, this seems a terrible choice for those who are single, gay or straight, because it is a call to loneliness. What’s worse is that there is no place for sexual satisfaction since in most cases Christianity does not accept either homosexuality or masturbation. I am not convinced by anything here and I just do not understand why anyone would choose to live like Hill has written–it seems to be a terrible waste and a bore.

“Musings On A Young Life” by Beau Breedlove— Learned Life Lessons

musings

Breedlove, Beau. “Musings On A Young Life”, Lulu, 2015.

Learned Life Lessons

Amos Lassen

You might remember the name Beau Breedlove from the Sam Adams political scandal in Portland, Oregon in 2009. However, Beau Breedlove’s role in it is only part of his life that he shares with us in his new intimate biography.

Breedlove was in Salem, Oregon and became a self-taught concert pianist and entrepreneur. He has posed naked for a gay magazine and has opened and closed a dance café. He gives details of his public life that have not been shared before but he will never be forgotten in the scandal that insured that Sam Adams would be a one-term mayor. He writes of personal relationships and his affair with “A-lister”, Reichen Lehmkuhl. Even when writing about end-of-life care giving, he does so with wit, humor, and sincerity. This is the story of a man who has found “purpose and meaning in and from life”.