Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Unlikely: Setting Aside Our Differences to Live Out the Gospel” by Kevin Palau— An Unlikely Patnership

unlikely

Palau, Kevin. “Unlikely: Setting Aside Our Differences to Live Out the Gospel”, Howard Books reprint edition, 2016.

An Unlikely Partnership

Amos Lassen

 “Unlikely” is the inspiring story of an unlikely partnership between a group of churches and the openly gay mayor of Portland and this led to unprecedented change throughout the city and launched a nationwide movement called CityServe.

Portland is one the most “unchurched” and politically progressive cities in the nation. We would not expect Portland to be home to one of the most successful partnerships between local government and area churches. But it is.

In 2007, Kevin Palau and a few dozen pastors approached Portland’s mayor and asked the question: “How can we serve you with no strings attached?” City officials then identified five initial areas of need—hunger, homelessness, healthcare, the environment, and public schools and it was here that began a partnership, CityServe, between the city and a band of churches that sought to live out the gospel message. Since then, the CityServe model has spread inspiring communities across the country to take up the cause in their own cities.

This is not just the story of the inception of CityServe, but it is also a challenge to readers to evaluate their understanding of the gospel. Today’s church is in the middle between social justice and direct proclamation. Here we have a proposal and scenario that shows how the gospel can truly penetrate and change an region by word and deed.

CityServe proves that when differences can be put aside for a worthy cause, real change can be attained, and unlikely beauty is born. Sam Adams was the first openly gay mayor in a major U.S. city. Kevin Palau is the son of evangelist Luis Palau. Their worldviews are miles apart yet Kevin Palau befriended Adams and they remain friends to this day. That might seem like an unlikely friendship but that’s what Kevin Palau believes to be a symptom of a Christian simply following Jesus’ command to love. And the love didn’t stop there. Unlikely is the story of Kevin Palau’s friendship with Sam Adams, and how Palau and thousands of other Christians around the Portland metropolitan area partnered (and continue to partner) with Portland political leaders, school officials, the LGBT community, and many others to “seek the welfare of the city” of Portland. When Palau and other Christians reached out to Sam Adams and others in the spirit Christianity, an unlikely story resulted.

“Start With One: A Journey Through Homosexuality, Christianity, Societal Prejudices, and the Will to Prevail” by Adam Mastroianni— Accepting Each Other and Ourselves

 

start with one

Mastroianni, Adam. “Start With One: A Journey Through Homosexuality, Christianity, Societal Prejudices, and the Will to Prevail, CreateSpace, 2016.

Accepting Each Other and Ourselves

Amos Lassen

Adam Mastroianni was raised in a typical Italian-American community and had a fine family and many friends. However, he had a secret that he hid. This is his story and his journey to understanding his own sexuality, the struggles he faced coming out to his loved ones, and his conflicts with religion and morality. It is a story about being honest and true to oneself while at the same time dealing with the prejudices of the surrounding culture. Mastroianni shares with us the process that he went through to deal with these prejudices especially those that forced him to believe that the could not be both gay and Christian. He challenges us to call for

human equality and to know unconditional love. The author is passionate about making this world a better place and asks us to join him in doing so.

“King James and the History of Homosexuality” by Michael Young— Favorites of the King

king james

Young, Michael. “King James and the History of Homosexuality”, Fonthill Media, 2016.

Favorites of the King

Amos Lassen

 James VI & I, the man responsible for the King James Version of the Bible, was known to have a series of notorious male favorites. Michael B. Young looks at political history and recent scholarship on the history of sexuality to try to see whether the king’s relationships with these men were sexual. He also shows that James’s favorites had a negative impact within the royal family, at court, in Parliament, and in the nation at large. Those of the time worried that James would bring about a “sodomitical court and an effeminized nation” and therefore some urged James to engage in a more virile foreign policy by embarking on war. Queen Anne encouraged a martial spirit and molded her oldest son to be more manly than his father. Then there were serious repercussions that continued after James’s death that detracted from the majesty of the monarchy and contributing to the outbreak of the Civil War. England, it seems, became a world of political intrigue colored by sodomy, pederasty, and gender instability.

 

Writer Michael Young discusses both the personal history of King James and public perception of homosexuality during 16th and 17th Century England. King James’ history is established in the first chapter making it easy to follow the rest of the book. Following that are chapters that look at the evidence that the King had sex with his male favorites and how the people reacted to this as well an introduction to James’ contemporaries and a bit of information about sex between males. Young also discusses the relationship between homosexuality, effeminacy and pacifism vs. heterosexuality, masculinity and war and how James’s homosexuality affected the reign of his son, Charles. We also read what contemporary and later writers said about James’s sexuality, concluding with comments on the general history of homosexuality. It is important to note that there are claims here that are very thoroughly footnoted and annotated. We are given the evidence but ultimately it is for the reader to decide as to whether or not the sex did happen.

The “legal definition [of sodomy] was then very concise and narrow. It specified only one sex act between men, anal intercourse, and excluded all other genital sex acts.” History shows James to have been and Young says that he was “a notorious hypocrite where swearing and drinking were concerned; he could simply have been the same where sodomy was concerned.”

In reading what others have to say about the book, I found several detractors who claim that Young did not take into account “the customs of Stuart England, or the political situation, in order to slander a deeply religious man who is no longer alive to defend himself. A historian with his own agenda is capitalizing on insults by James’ contemporaries to twist the facts. Even today, calling someone gay is considered an insult (what?), so why would anyone accept such a claim without question? Throughout history, political figures have been insulted by their detractors; just consider the myriad insults directed at Barack Obama!” This reviewer goes on to say that assertions of the King’s sexual behavior were biased by those who did not find favor with him. Have a look at what this reviewer has to say:

“I believe Professor Young is blinded by his own bias. An academic career is based “publish or perish.” It doesn’t matter WHAT one publishes, all that matters is publishing SOMETHING. However, a degree doesn’t make a scholar infallible. The fact that this book appears to be self-published tells me that other authorities don’t believe Professor Young’s view carries any weight, at least in this case. That hasn’t stopped others from jumping on the bandwagon and spreading this gossip, unfortunately”.

“Times Square Red, Times Square Blue” by Samuel Delaney— Remembering 42nd Street

times square red

Delany, Samuel R. “Times Square Red, Times Square Blue”, NYU Press, 2001.

Remembering 42nd Street

Amos Lassen

42nd Street between 7th and 8th Avenues in New York City is one of the most famous streets in the world. It was once known for its sleezy peep shoes, corner hustlers and tacky movie houses. Today it is unrecognizable with its Disney store, children’s theater and restaurants. Today it is a family tourist attraction. Author Samuel R. Delaney looks at not just the disappearance of the old Times Square but also the disappearance of the complex social relationships that developed there: the points of contact between people of different classes and races in a public space. “Times Square Red, Times Square Blue” looks at the question of why public restrooms, peepshows, and tree-filled parks are necessary to a city’s physical and psychological landscape. Delaney argues that starting in 1985, New York City criminalized peep shows and sex movie houses to clear the way for the rebuilding of Times Square and his critique reveals how Times Square is being “renovated” behind the scrim of public safety while the stage is occupied by gentrification. This is a look at a society taking down the “institutions that promote communication between classes, and disguising its fears of cross-class contact as ‘family values’.” This will be replayed in cities across America.

Samuel Delany is regarded as one of America’s keenest observers. He was also a longtime habitué of many of the sex theaters in New York City’s Times Square, spending, by his own estimate, “thousands and thousands of hours” at the Capri, Variety Photoplays, the Eros, and the Venus. He reminds us that in the 1990s all of these theaters were shut down through new restrictive zoning laws that was part of a combined effort by the Walt Disney Corporation and the administration of Mayor Rudy Giuliani to gentrify the area and replace the

memorable institutions with antiseptic, innocuous architectural and cultural creations in the name of health safety. However, Delany tells us that the decision to clean up Times Square had little to do with public health, and everything to do with corporate greed.

The book is comprised of two essays in which Delany grieves for the loss of this strip of sexual release. He is careful not to romanticize or sentimentalize the peep shows and porn theaters but he does illuminate the way in which these venues crossed class, racial, and sexual orientation lines, providing a delightfully subversive utopia–and a microcosm of New York life. In the first essay, “Times Square Blue,” Delany writes of his erotic and conversational encounters with working-class and homeless men in the theaters (which primarily showed straight porn films) and the genuine friendships that resulted. These provide a social history of late-20th-century Times Square. Drawing on historical and theoretical resources in the second essay, “Three, Two, One, Contact: Times Square Red,” Delany builds a passionate argument against the gentrification of the area and the classist, characterless direction in which he sees New York heading. The two essays taken together are heartfelt homage to a beloved city and lament for a quirky vitality that was phased out by encroaching capitalism.

This is Delaney’s personal history and it is complete with Delany’s sociological and anthropological observations of the men who live, work and socialize in the area. He further lauds the virtues of a society that not only tolerates but values a public sexual culture. Delany says that because urban areas like Times Square promote relationships across class boundaries, they are not a blight but foster an environment of safety, empathy and social coherence. His most dramatic argument is not about public morality, safety or health but he states that this simply serves corporate and private economic interests.

“Why Drag?” by Magnus Hastings— Answering the Question

why drag?

Hastings, Magnus. “Why Drag?’, Chronicle Books, 2016.

Answering The Question

Amos Lassen

There are several themes running through photographer Magnus Hastings’ new coffee table book. ”Why Drag?” is a comprehensive collection of photographs of the time he has spent taking pictures of drag queens. He has captured serene moments that include “the most prominent of which include the promise of endless possibility and the allure of creative expression to break the rules”. In the introduction by Boy George, he says that “drag is about the art of performance, the joy of entertaining and, perhaps most importantly, the transformative journey from self-exploration to self-confidence to, finally, self-acceptance”.

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Hastings set out to further expose the counterculture phenomenon that the late Divine made more visible from the 1960s to ’80s through prolific imagery. After having had a successful 2014 New York City exhibition of select drag queen portraits, he developed the idea of creating a book and for two years, he traveled all over to take the photographs that he includes here.

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“I wanted to open people’s eyes to what is a true art form and make them see things they didn’t expect from drag, and break preconceived ideas.” It’s interesting at a time when we are truly at “at a crossroads in our cultural identity where gender-fluidity and transgenderism” that is both is a hot and perplexing topic. The trans community is now being looked upon and Hastings says that it is hope “that his book will simplify and give people a clear understanding of what drag is. There are pages on Bianca Del Rio, Lady Bunny, Courtney Act, Adore Delano, Jinkx Monsoon, Detox and Sharon Needles among other queens who were photographed in NYC, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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Hastings says that he was a “child of drag,” who liked to put on his sister’s clothes and dance around his childhood home. However, he didn’t truly discover the drag world until much later, long after he himself had stopped dressing across gender lines.

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In 2003, while in Sydney, Australia, Hastings walked into the Arq nightclub and saw the drag queen Vanity Faire lip-syncing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from “The Wizard of Oz” in a Dorothy outfit. The experience changed his life. “I started shooting drag because it’s my home and my world and it feels like my family,” Hastings said. 

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That performance connected Hastings to a part of himself that he’d abandoned due to social pressures as a child but that he still longed to explore. With Vanity’s guidance, Hastings began photographing the city’s vibrant drag scene and developing a polished, dynamic style of portraiture reflecting his subjects’ creativity and humor. As he traveled the world, he continued photographing local queens with a focus on those who best represented the art’s diversity and daring, from the bearded to the ultra-feminine. His images attracted a larger audience when he started posting his photos to his Facebook group, “Dragged Around the World,” and in 2014, a large exhibition at the Out NYC Hotel helped him gain the reputation as the globe’s leading drag photographer.

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In addition to his commissions and personal projects in the drag community, Hastings also has commercial assignments and shoots with non-drag celebrities. Even though photographing drag queens can sometimes be difficult, they’re still by far his favorite subjects. 

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Although Magnus is pleased to see drag being bought to the masses he worries that it becoming ‘softer’. With drag becoming more popular it may lose some of its charm. “The more mainstream it gets the more its sharp edges are removed . Drag is punk rock and pushes boundaries and I am watching it soften for a mainstream palette , or at least the edgier stuff is not showcased in the same way.”

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Magnus tells us that drag queens face prejudice from the LGBTQ community as well as from outside it. “There is non acceptance within the gay community too. There is still a notion that ‘camp’ gays are a lesser type thing in some circles with this terrible idea that if you can’t tell someone is gay then they are more valuable”.

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Magnus also feels that the increasing popularity of drag is enormously beneficial to younger members of the LGBTQ community who in the past have struggled for role models and more importantly, representatives.

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“PopDaddy: Boy Meets Boy Meets Baby” by Jeffrey Roach— Bringing Baby Home

pop daddy

Roach, Jeffrey. “PopDaddy: Boy Meets Boy Meets Baby”, PopDaddy Press, 2016.

Bringing Baby Home

Amos Lassen

“PopDaddy” is Jeffrey Roach’s memoir that shares the story of how he and his partner Ken began a family. It is set in the early 2000s when, at that time, single parent adoptions were the only way for a gay couple to adopt a baby from Guatemala and it all begins when the couple’s best friend announces she’s pregnant and announces that he also wants to have a child. Thus began an eighteen-month journey that takes the couple from Dallas to Guatemala and back, as they work to bring baby Jackson home to meet his big, extended family. They discover that being “out” takes on a new meaning when the duo becomes a trio and that the word family is broad enough to include them.

We read about the drama, joy and happiness of adoption in this love story between two people who share a wonderful life and decide to adopt a child.

The story is told from Jeffrey’s perspective and begins with the big announcement in January of 2001 and ends with their son’s first birthday party in October of 2002.

“Engaging the World: Thinking After Irigaray” edited by Mary C. Rawlinson— Returning to Luce Irigaray

engaging the world

Rawlinson, Mary C. (editor and author). “Engaging the World: Thinking After Irigaray”, (SUNY Series in Gender Theory), SUNY Press, 2016.

Returning to Luce Irigaray

Amos Lassen

It seems like a long time since I heard the name Luce Irigaray. I was reminded how much I feel under her spell when I was a graduate student. Irigaray is one of the early writers on sexual difference and we used her to arrive at conclusions from philosophical concepts and commitments. She taught me how to think in a way to and expose new possibilities of life in relationship to nature, others, and to self. The contributors in this collection present and represent a range of perspectives from multiple disciplines such as philosophy, literature, education, evolutionary theory, sound technology, science and technology, anthropology, and psychoanalysis. What they all share is that they place Irigaray in conversation with thinkers as diverse as Charles Darwin, Claude Levi-Strauss, Gilles Deleuze, Rene Decartes, and Avital Ronell. Each of the essays included here challenges Irigaray’s thought in some way and each essay also “reveals the transformative effects of her thought across multiple domains of contemporary life.”

“Pride & Joy: Taking the Streets of New York City” by Jurek Wajdowicz— Looking at Pride

pride and joy

Wajdowicz, Jurek. “Pride & Joy: Taking the Streets of New York City”, New Press, 2016.

Looking at Pride

Amos Lassen

It has been more than forty years have passed since the LGBTQ community took to the streets of New York City on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots for the world’s first march for gay rights. I doubt many today realize how ambitious this was at the time. From its modest beginnings, the annual event has grown into more than a million people celebrating gay pride in New York City Pride means many different things. For some, Pride has become too commercial or irrelevant as LGBT culture has become mainstream. To others, it is felt that the festivities should be less about the politics of the gay rights movement and more about a joyful celebration of what it means to be queer. Jurek Wajdowicz looks at New York City Pride from all angles and we see here just how far we have come.

 

“Intersecting Film, Music, and Queerness” by Jack Curtis Dubowsky— Meaning and Message

intersecting

Dubowsky, Jack Curtis. “Intersecting Film, Music, and Queerness”, Palgrave MacMillan, 2016.

Meaning and Message

Amos Lassen

In “Intersecting Film, Music, and Queerness”, author Jack Curtis Dubowsky uses musicology and queer theory to uncover meaning and message in canonical American cinema. His study looks at how queer readings are reinforced or nuanced through analysis of musical score. In taking a broad approach to queerness that questions heteronormative and homonormative patriarchal structures, binary relationships, gender assumptions and anxieties, Dubowsky challenges existing interpretations of what is progressive and what is retrogressive in cinema. The films that are examined here include “Bride of Frankenstein”, “Louisiana Story”, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, “Blazing Saddles”, “Edward Scissorhands”, “Brokeback Mountain”, “Boys Don’t Cry”, “Transamerica”, “Thelma & Louise”, “Go Fish” and “The Living End” and special attention is given to films that subvert or complicate genre. Music is analyzed with concern for composition, intertextual references, absolute musical structures, song lyrics, recording, arrangement, and performance issues. This is a multidisciplinary work based on groundbreaking research, analysis, and theory and it gives us new close readings and a model for future scholarship.  

All is written clearly and with exceptionally clean prose. We get a new fresh and exciting analysis of cinema and sound that offers f insight into the relationship between soundtracks and the sexuality and gender of the musicians who made them.

Table of contents

  • Introduction 

  • “Louisiana Story”

  • Musical Cachet
  • “Brokeback Mountain”

  • A Tale of Two Walters: Genre and Gender Outsiders

  • Mainstreaming and Rebelling

  • Queer Monster Good
  • “Blazing Saddles”  

Conclusion


“Sex and Harm in the Age of Consent” by Joseph Fischel— Looking at Consent

sex and harm in the age of consent

Fischel, Joseph J. “Sex and Harm in the Age of Consent”, University of Minnesota Press, 2016.

Looking at Consent

Amos Lassen

Joseph J. Fischel cautions us about the adoption of consent as our primary determinant of sexual freedom. He shows that consent is not necessarily always ethically sound and he argues that it is a moralized fiction.

Fischel contends that the figures of the sex offender and the child are consent’s alibi that it enables fictions that allow consent to do the work cut out for it. He proposes that we change our adjudicative terms from innocence, consent, and predation to vulnerability, sexual autonomy, and “preemption.” Preemption is the uncontrolled disqualification of possibility. In this we see that law and life would be less damaging for young people and more responsive to sexual violence, and better for sex.

“Sex and Harm in the Age of Consent” is a cross-disciplinary study of the limitations of consent to measure sexual freedom and sexual harm. This is a new and complex look at the legal and social definitions of “sexual predator” and it challenges what is commonly known about the “justifications for and consequences of regulating outlaw sexuality.”