Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Hi, Gorgeous: Transforming Inner Power into Radiant Beauty” by Candis Cayne with Katina Z. Jones— A Beauty Guide

Cayne, Candis with Katina Z. Jones. “Hi, Gorgeous: Transforming Inner Power into Radiant Beauty”, Running Press, 2017.

A Beauty Guide

Amos Lassen

Candis Cayne is a transgender actress, activist, and style icon who has spent her life learning how to see herself for who she really is. She has taught herself and others how to celebrate inner beauty as the perfect starting point to be radiant on the outside.. Using her personal journey to self-acceptance she now gives us a one-of-a-kind beauty guide that will speak to all women.

She tells is now to be” Glam on the Go” and through tips and exclusive interviews with Candis’s team of “radiance experts,” she covers everything from new definitions of womanhood and beauty to real makeup and style tips that enhance all of a woman’s possibilities.

The foreword is by Candis’s best friend, former Olympian and transgender woman, Caitlyn Jenner (which I honestly could have done without). The book is meant to be an inspiration look at empowering women on their own paths.

Cayne was the first transgender woman to have a recurring role on a network television series. She is also a choreographer, entertainer, and vocal activist for LGBT rights, working closely with GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign.

“The Life and Death of ACT UP/LA: Anti-AIDS Activism in Los Angeles from the 1980s to the 2000s” by Benita Roth— A Unique History

Roth, Benita. “The Life and Death of ACT UP/LA: Anti-AIDS Activism in Los Angeles from the 1980s to the 2000s”, Cambridge University Press, 2017.

A Unique History

Amos Lassen

It took years for the public to really understand thatthe AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, Los Angeles, (ACT UP/LA) served a crucial role in the fight against the disease that so devastated the gay community. ACT UP/LA battled government, medical, and the institutional neglect of the AIDS epidemic. By using multi-targeted protests in Los Angeles and nationally, fighting he disease became a priority in this country. I would dare to say that without ACT UP people might still be dying. The book shows how direct action anti-AIDS activism was for everyone across the United States. Through this direct action, we see how the politics of place affect organizing, and how the particular features of the Los Angeles cityscape shaped possibilities for activists.

The book is narrated through a feminist lens and sees social inequalities as mutually reinforcing and interdependent in the interaction of activists and the outcomes of their actions. It was the activists who were involved in the struggle against AIDS and homophobia, ultimately gaining a voice in healthcare that ushered in the age of “progressive, multi-issue, anti-corporate, confrontational organizing of the late twentieth century”.

The members of ACT UP/LA battled government and institutional neglect of the AIDS crisis during the 1980s and 1990s. We see how participants fought for adequate responses to the epidemic, and how they faced internal challenges to their organization’s solidarity due to social inequalities.

There has been a resurgence of literature about the AIDS epidemic and we simply cannot allow ourselves to forget what life was like back then. In a sense, it made our community what it is today.

“LGBT: San Francisco: The Daniel Nicoletta Photographs” by Daniel Nicoletta— San Francisco, the Gay Mecca

Nicoletta, Daniel. “LGBT: San Francisco: The Daniel Nicoletta Photographs”, Reel Art Press, 2017.

San Francisco, the Gay Mecca

Amos Lassen

“LGBT: San Francisco” is the first book totally dedicated to photographer Daniel Nicoletta’s archive of powerful images of the LGBT Mecca San Francisco from the 1970s to its present.  Nicoletta is perhaps most well known because of his iconic images of Harvey Milk but here we see that Nicoletta’s 40-year oeuvre is also an insider’s look at the years that followed Milk’s death and we see here the joys the pathos of the times.

The book chronicles an important time and place and those that created it and worked so hard to keep it that way.

We see glittering drag queens, the alternative theater world and the bravery of same-sex couples trying to live their lives in an adverse culture. This is an essential gay history and a stunning photographic work.

The photos are a record of those who built a movement on their home turf. However, what we see here is also the transference of the movement across this country. Here is our collective memory between the covers of a book.

 

 

 

 

 

“Any Other Way:How Toronto Got Queer” edited by John Lorine and Tim McCaskell, et al.— A Look at Gay Toronto

Lorine, John and McCaskell, Tim, et al. (editors). “Any Other Way:How Toronto Got Queer”, Coach House Books, 2017.

A Look at Gay Toronto

Amos Lassen

Today, Toronto is one of the most thriving queer communities and is an example of a dynamic global city. that reflect the dynamism of a global city. “Any Other Way” is an illustrated local history that shows how the city has been transformed to becoming something of a gay haven. It was not always that way. Individuals and community networks have worked hard to change Toronto from a place of churches and conservative mores into a city that has consistently led the way in queer activism, internationally.

Many diverse voices of residents of queer Toronto are responsible for shaping and reshaping the city as you can see by the Table of Contents below: Foreword | Kristyn Wong-Tam

‘A New Way of Lovin’’: Queer Toronto Gets Schooled by Jackie Shane | Steven Maynard

Arriving

A Whole Other Story | Faith Nolan

Agokwe | Art Zoccole

Take Me Away to Another World | Rebecka Sheffield

I Was Miss General Idea | Derek McCormack

Uptown/Downtown: Diary of a Hong Kong Dyke in Nineties Toronto | Karen B. K. Chan

How Jackie Shane Helped ‘Satisfy My Soul’ | Elaine Gaber-Katz

Hanna and Saied’s Story | Kamal Al-Solaylee

Spaces 

Kiss and Tell (2013): Church Street Mural Project | Natalie Wood

Town Squares and Spiritual Hearts | Shawn Micallef

I Was in Charge of Kitty Litter | Jane Farrow

Wood-Wellesley and the ‘Mystery Block’ | Mark Osbaldeston

Wilde and Urban Wilderness: Defining Public Space in Allan Gardens | Tatum Taylor

Steps to Gentrification | Allison Burgess

Downtown Friends: Photos by Pam Gawn | Jane Farrow

The Evolving Demographics of Toronto’s Gay Village | Michael Ornstein and Tim McCaskell

Queer and Cripple in the 6ix | Andrew Gurza

In the Spirit of Beth: Queering Spiritual Space | Nicole Tanguay

Cardio-Highs: Winning and Running Away All at Once | Rahim Thawer

This Space Is Taken | Stephanie Nolen

The World’s Largest Lesbian Hockey League | Margaret Webb

Origins 

Sex, Scandal, and Punishment in Early Toronto | Ed Jackson and Jarett Henderson

Alexander Wood: The Invention of a Legend | Ed Jackson

Six Nights in the Albert Lane, 1917 | Steven Maynard

Oscar Wilde’s Type (in Toronto) | C. S. Clark

Demimonde 

A Place Like The Continental | Elise Chenier

Halloween Balls: From Letros to the St. Charles | Christine Sismondo

Notes on the Gay Bar | Robert Popham

Tabloid Journalism and the Rise of a Gay Press in Toronto | Donald W. McLeod

Headline Homophobia Tops Tabloid Treatments! | Christine Sismondo

Is Your Daughter Safe? Reactionary Reflections on the Suicide of a Pansy | Excerpted from Hush

Piss in a Bag | Gerald Hannon

Queenie and Ted | Kate Zieman

Dyke Fight at the Blue Jay | Cathi Bond

See: Sex Perverts | Stephanie Chambers

And the Stars Look Very Different Today | Jennifer Coffey

Sara Ellen Dunlop and the Music Room: A Memory | John Forbes

Emergence

Hanlan’s Point | Ed Jackson

The Brunswick Four: An Oral History | Pat Murphy

Closing the Spy Holes at the Parkside Tavern | Gerald Hannon

Jim Egan, Gay Warrior | Donald W. McLeod

The Homosexual Next Door (1964) | Sidney Katz

A Bastion of Straight Male Privilege: OCA in the 1970s | Richard Fung

Get Mad – Play Rock ’n’ Roll | Susan G. Cole

I Want Her So Much I Feel Sick: An interview with Rough Trade’s Carole Pope | Jane Farrow and John Lorinc

Resisting, Sharing, Organizing

Worlds in Collision | Rupert Raj

A Literary Breakthrough: Glad Day’s Origins | Jearld Moldenhauer

George Hislop: The Unofficial Gay Mayor | Gerald Hannon

Co-operative Living Happens in the Kitchen! | Dennis Findlay

The Fallout of a Murder | Ed Jackson

The Raid on The Body Politic | Ed Jackson

That Collective House on Dewson Street | Debbie Douglas

From St. Helens Avenue to Dewson Street | Makeda Silvera

Out of the Cold the Thousands Came | Philip McLeod

An Unsurpassed Rabble-Rouser: Chris Bearchell | Gillian Rodgerson

‘Friend of the Court’: Legal Resistance at Old City Hall | Tom Hooper

An Experiment in Alternative Living: Washington Avenue | Diana Meredith

Speaking Up for the Gay Community, 1979 | John Sewell

Turning the Page | Kyle Rae

Toronto City Council Motions: Three Tentative Steps Toward Recognition

Seized by the Cause: Glad Day and the Canada Customs Battle | Elle Flanders

Theatre as Settlement: Buddies in Bad Times | Sky Gilbert

Black Friday … With and Without the Question Mark | Alec Butler

Disengagement Is No Longer an Option: David Rayside | Rebecka Sheffield

No-Cop Zone? Reflections on the Pussy Palace Raid | Chanelle Gallant

Marvellous Grounds: QTBIPOC Counter-Archiving against Imperfect Erasures | Jin Haritaworn, Ghaida Moussa, and Syrus Marcus Ware, with Alvis Choi, Amandeep Kaur Panag, and Rio Rodriguez

The Invisible Visibles and CelebrAsian | Vince Ha and Mezart Daulet

Mississauga Meet-up: Queer Organizing in the 905 | Anu Radha Verma

Epidemic

Life with Dad and ‘the Aunties’ | Stefan Lynch

‘Avoir le cul entre deux chaises’ | Yvette Perreault

AIDS ACTION NOW! and the Aerosolized Pentamidine Trial | Tim McCaskell

Cry | Michael Lynch

Scenes

Our People: Janis Cole and Holly Dale in the 1970s | Jon Davies

KillJoy’s Kastle: Allyson Mitchell’s Vision | Jane Farrow

Vazaleen’s Tawny Le Sabre | Alexander McClelland

Ball Culture | Kurt Mungal, photos by Alejandro Santiago

Yellow Boots on Queer West | John Greyson

Desh Pardesh: A Cultural Festival with Attitude | Sharon Fernandez

Red Spot Nights | Michèle Pearson Clarke

Lengua Latina: Queer Palabras en Toronto | janet romero-leiva and Karleen Pendleton Jiménez

Hidden Cameras and Their Gay Church Folk | Sarah Liss

Sex 

Route of Heroes | Keith Cole

Guess What … That Hand on Your Shoulder Could Be a Cop’s | The Body Politic

Desire Lines | Jake Tobin Garrett

Under a Queer Blue Sky | Sly Sarkisova

“Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter?” by Heath Fogg Davis— Questioning the Need for Gender Classification

Davis, Heath Fogg. “Beyond Trans: Does Gender Matter?”, NYU Press, 2017.

Questioning the Need for Gender Classification

Amos Lassen

Of late, gender has become a very talked about subject and now in “Beyond Trans”, we go a step further and question the need for gender categories in the first place. Whether on birth certificates or college admissions applications or on bathroom doors, is it necessary to label people and places with sex categories? Do these labels serve a real purpose or are these places and forms just mechanisms of exclusion? Heath Fogg Davis asks us to rethink the usefulness of dividing the world into not just male and female categories but even into the additional categories of transgender and gender fluid. Davis is himself a transgender man so has the personal background to explore the underlying gender-enforcing policies and customs in American life that have led to transgender bathroom bills, college admissions controversies, and more. He argues that society needs to take real steps to challenge the assumption that gender matters.

Davis looks at four areas where we need to re-think our sex-classification systems: sex-marked identity documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses and passports; sex-segregated public restrooms; single-sex colleges; and sex-segregated sports. He speaks from his own experience using major cases of sex discrimination in the news and in the courts to give us a very persuasive case for challenging how individuals are classified according to sex. Then he offers concrete recommendations for easing sex identity discrimination and sex-based disadvantage. Davis maintains that these are pragmatic ways to make our world more inclusive. His recommendations give much-needed practical guidance about how to work through the complexities of this issue and he sends out a call to action, to make America truly inclusive of all people.

The way we live now discriminates against people on the basis of gender. This discriminations can be used to challenge laws or practices that discriminate against people who are seen as outside of the gender binary. What we need is a change of perspective. We can no longer demand conforming to stereotypes of masculinity or femininity. Instead of trying to fit more people into the preexisting categories that have been set by society, we should think about whether we really need those categories. Davis looks at the issue from both scholarly and personal points of view. His own identity has been heavily looked at over the years.

It is imperative that we ask ourselves why these classifications exist and how they define the words “gender” and “sex”. We clearly see here that most policies for sex classification are not rationally related to legitimate government interests.

Is it important to say whether somebody is a man or a woman? How we determine what counts as ‘man’ and ‘woman’ in the first place, and why do we think that there can be only two genders? Below is a look at the Table of Contents of the book:

Introduction: Sex Stickers 1

  1. The Sex Markers We Carry: Sex-Marked
    Identity Documents 25
  2. Bathroom Bouncers: Sex-Segregated Restrooms 55
  3. Checking a Sex Box to Get into College:
    Single-Sex Admissions 85
  4. Seeing Sex in the Body: Sex-Segregated Sports 111
  5. Conclusion: Silence on the Bus 141
  6. Acknowledgments 147
  7. Appendix: The Gender Audit: A How-to Guide for Organizations 151
  8. Notes 159
  9. References 167 Index 177 About the Author 184

 

he Gay Man’s Guide to Open and Monogamous Marriage” by Michael Dale Kimmel— The Importance of Sex

Kimmel, Michael Dale. “The Gay Man’s Guide to Open and Monogamous Marriage”, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2017.

The Importance of Sex

Amos Lassen

We are still realizing the newness of legal gay marriage and there seems to be one area that was not carefully thought out. For many male couples, sex is very important and two married men often have a stronger desire for sex. They want more of it and with a wider variety of partners than do married opposite-sex couples (I have never seen any proof of this but I suspect that time will tell). We ask ourselves how this works within the structure of a monogamous marriage and whether an open relationship a better structure for gay marriage.

If we assume that gay marriages will emulate heterosexual marriages, this is neither a valid nor a helpful assumption. However, where does that leave us? There are currently no “rule books” for how a marriage between two men could or should work, even though there are lots of books about how to plan your gay wedding. I am confident that someone will write a book that looks at what to do after the honeymoon is over (literally and figuratively) but I wonder what we will do as we wait for that to happen.

In the meantime we have this book that offers married gay couples (and gay men considering marriage) an easy-to-follow, practical framework that they can use to help create, adjust and structure their marriages. We have helpful examples and first-hand quotes throughout. Openly-gay psychotherapist Michael Dale Kimmel gives a roadmap for gay men who want to be married but have questions and concerns about monogamy and monotony. The book is candid and loaded with helpful hints. It challenges us to “challenge cultural norms and forge our own ways of loving”. Kimmel is straightforward and frank and this is because he

understands and navigates the nuances of male-male relationships”. The book is also fun to read as well as an insightful look at how to deal with sex, love, conflict, and competition work and make them work. It is a book that brings awareness and consciousness to the choices men make in their relationships. This is a simple guide for “double testosterone” conflict resolution. Below is the Table of Contents:

Introduction

Section 1: Unique Challenges for Gay Marriages

1: Designing your Marriage

2: Conflict and Competition

3: Redefining Gender-based Roles

4: Soul Mates, Family and Community Support

Section 2: Exploring Open Marriage

5: Sexual Freedom and Expression

6 : Negotiating Jealousy and Insecurity

7: Creating and Adjusting to an Open Marriage

8: Balancing Sexual Expression with Emotional Connection

Section 3: Exploring Monogamy

9: Sex, Monogamy and “The Three-Year Itch”

10: Keeping Monogamy Lively: Balancing Emotional Stability with Spontaneity

11: The Art of Not Merging/How Not to Lose Yourself

Conclusion/Summary

“The Fate of Gender” by Patrick Browning— Human Gender Geographies

Browning, Patrick. “The Fate of Gender: Nature, Nurture, and the Human Future”, Bloomsbury, 2016.

Human Gender Geographies

Amos Lassen

Frank Browning takes us around the world and into human gender geographies. We visit gender-neutral kindergartens in Chicago and Oslo, women’s masturbation classes in Shanghai, conservative Catholics in Paris fearful of God and Nature to transsexual Mormon parents in Utah. Browning share shares specific and engaging human stories, as he elucidates the neuroscience that distinguishes male and female biology. We see how all parents’ brains change during the first weeks of parenthood, and finally how men’s and women’s responses to age differ worldwide based not on biology but on their earlier life habits. We begin with Simone de Beauvoir’s observation that one is not born a woman but instead becomes a woman, Browning goes on to show equally that no one is born a man but learns how to perform as a man, and that there is no fixed way of being masculine or feminine. Therefore, gender is a social construct.

The categories of “male” and “female” and even “gay” and “straight” seem old-fashioned and reductive today. Our world is one of gender and sexual fluidity that links science to culture and behavior. Browning questions the traditional division of Nature vs. Nurture in everything from plant science to sexual expression, arguing that life consists of an endless dance between these two ancient notions.

Browning has a lot to say about sex and gender. He looks at same-sex marriages and the children of these couples, whether it be through adoption or a surrogate mother, the disparity of the kinds of positions and salaries between men and women in the workplace, female genital mutilation, the differences in attitudes of elderly men and women and San Francisco’s The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and the Red Hat Society are here as well. He tries to understand the mystery of the differences between men and women: whether from or before birth or whether the way one is treated in the beginning years of life makes a difference. He gives us the positions of religious fundamentalists and others who would argue that men and women are one or the other and that is that.

Browning includes his own experiences here as well as own biases. For those who grew up in rural America, there is even more relevancy because of these inclusions. For those who did not understand that gender roles have become fixed by society, this book explains that said roles and beliefs are fabrications by “arrogant, ignorant, and destructive” people. The proof of this is that the roles of men and women are changing virtually every day. We get an excellent explanation of how much of the differences between genders are a result of nature and how much is a result of societal changes in attitudes. Both nature and nurture play important roles in this process. The Epilogue tells us that humans will keep evolving, as will gender roles. We can clearly see that man’s place in economic and social life is declining and women’s place is increasing. The traditional idea of men and women as separate sexual beings and in terms of gender roles is being replaced by a more nuanced understanding of the complexities and uncertainties of life. However, there has also been a global backlash against this change and this is seen in the acts of Islamic fundamentalists and in the increase in rapes on American college campuses. The Catholic church and Islam are the two most prominent forces in the world that are opposed to these changes.

 

“Live Through This: Surviving the Intersections of Sexuality, God, and Race” by Clay Cane— Understanding Misunderstanding

Cane, Clay. “Live Through This: Surviving the Intersections of Sexuality, God, and Race”, Cleis Press, 2017

Understanding Misunderstanding

Amos Lassen

I often wonder when the race wars that take place in America will stop and I cannot help but think that there is a great deal of misunderstanding going on here. Cane Clay tries to help us understand that misunderstanding or whatever it is and his book comes at a very opportune time in our history.

We are all aware of the high rate of murder of transgender women as well as the battle of faith and sexual orientation at churches across the country. It certainly seems like what is happening is more a war of ideologies. Huge prejudices harm how we have compassion and understanding. I do not use the word tolerance here because tolerance is not acceptance. In “Live Through This”, we have a collection of essays about one man’s (Clay Cane) journey to self-acceptance at a time when his faith, sexuality, and race are incompatible with “societal norms” (although I am not sure that “norms” is the best word here).

It is Cane’s goal that through his insightful writings, he will inspire us to go past the stereotypes with consideration. A stereotype, after all, is just a publicly held lie. will plant seeds of consideration and inspire readers to stretch beyond stereotypes. When we learn more about the minorities in this country that are on the fringe, we can better understand who they are. Cane writes clearly and from the heart and that is something we all need to strive for— to life and act from the heart.

 

“Seriously…What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew” by Ken Schneck— Another Look

Schneck, Ken. “Seriously…What Am I Doing Here? The Adventures of a Wondering and Wandering Gay Jew”, illustrated by Dave Perillo, 1984 Publishing, 2017.

Another Look

Amos Lassen

We live in a world from which we need to get away every once in a while. Things have changed so rapidly that it helps to sit back, think and then try something we have done before. Ken Schneck has done that several times and in his book, “Seriously…What Am I Doing Here?”, he shares his adventures with us. When he asked himself the question that is the title of his book, he realized that he did not yet have an answer and so he decided to find it by leaving his world of academia. He went to Uganda twice, took a 425-mile bike ride; managed to make trouble at a Californian hippie healing retreat; and hiked in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. His book is a travelogue of those and other adventures as he searched for meaning and community. Like myself, as I mentioned in my earlier review, Schneck is a gay Jew, setting us twice apart from mainstream society (or at least it was that way and not so long ago). It is important to keep in mind that with Judaism comes the need to succeed and we can only fail when he continue trying. I remember when I was in high school that I got a “B” in a course I was struggling with. While a “B” is a fine grade, my father reminded me (several times a semester) that it was not an “A” and that he would really rather not speak to me until I brought that “A” home. There is something in the Jewish ethos that makes us strive for the very finest (kind of like the difference between a Chevrolet and a Cadillac).

There is a lot of wit and humor in this book and I laughed my way through it. I understood that I was laughing with the author and laughing at myself at the same time. In fact, it hit home so many times that I read and reread certain sections over and over.

I have always felt that the best books are those that appeal to the emotions and that pull us in. That is exactly what happens here. While I emphasized the humor earlier, I need to almost note that there is also sadness and a great deal of insight. Like Schneck, we are all on a journey to find out just who we really are and some of us need to do more drastic acts to learn that. We all want to belong somewhere and have a sense of community. Some find that in academia or in a circle of friends. As Schenk looked for that place, he got to Uganda and his other destinations. I can only wonder whether it is the destination that we seek or just the journey that gives us the fulfillment we need.

There are some helpful hints here to consider before and while undertaking that quest and each is a pearl. I see this as both a fun and educative read and I cannot help to recommend it to others.

“Trunky: Transgender Junky” by Samuel Peterson— A Tragic Comedy

Peterson, Samuel. “Trunky: Transgender Junky”, Transgress Press, 2016

A Tragic-Comedy

Amos Lassen

Samuel Peterson’s ‘Trunky” is a modern day tragic-comedy about the struggle of human addiction and recovery. After a decade of sobriety and relentless devotion to becoming a writer, Trunky finds himself on the brink of success but then he spirals down into depression and begins using heroin again. This relapse is different from those that came before and Trunky ends up institutionalized in a recovery center in the south among a other dopers who are thugs, criminals, white supremacists, professional athletes and business men who are all looking for something they’re terrified of finding. As Trunky navigates his struggle from addition to recovery and from female to manhood, he finds himself on an unexpected journey into the human soul where he discovers that those fundamental flaws and the redemption we experience requires courage.

This is an look at addiction and recovery without self-pity. Peterson’s honesty about what leads to addiction is relatable and moving. His account of the added problem of being trans in an institutional setting, and the lack of transitional housing when it was time to leave, is very disturbing and an important addition to public discourse on addiction treatment.

Through his use of detail, Peterson captures the anguish of addiction and provides insight into his struggle for redemption and visibility as a man. We begin to understand the devastation of addiction, the struggle for gender authenticity and the culture within a Federal Bureau of Prisons Residential Drug Abuse Program.

Big topics are covered here including trauma, the body, gender, addiction and Peterson writes about them honestly and with wit and style self-deprecation. Peterson is aware of the ways in which we create narratives and personae that then allow us to find a place in the world. At the same time, he shows how us these narratives can set us apart from others and hurt our ability to know who we really want or need to be. By exploring his experiences of addiction, recovery, and relapse as well as dysmorphia and transition, Peterson is able to say that it is through persistent critique of our own personal narratives and engagement with those of others, that we can get better and become better.

It is Peterson’s honesty about what kind of thought leads to addiction that allow us to relate to what he has to say. His is fresh and he shares many ideas with us.