Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Not Straight, Not White: Black Gay Men from the March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis” by Kevin J. Mumford— Black Gay Men and Movements

noy straight, not white

Mumford, Kevin J. “Not Straight, Not White: Black Gay Men from the March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis”, The University of North Carolina Press, 2016.

Black Gay Men and Movements

Amos Lassen

Kevin J. Mumford takes us back in history to see how the major movements from the 1950s through the 1990s, from the Civil Rights movement to AIDS activism affected the history of Black gay men and how movements like these helped to shape cultural stigmas about race and homosexuality. Author Kevin J. Mumford looks at how activists, performers and writers went against negative stereotypes and refused sexual objectification. He examines the lives of both famous and little-known black gay activists (from James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin to Joseph Beam and Brother Grant-Michael Fitzgerald) and analyzes the ways in which movements for social change both inspired and marginalized black gay men.

Mumford used newspaper archives, pornography, film, government documents, organizational records, and personal papers and he sheds new light on forty years of the “protracted battle of black gay men for affirmation and empowerment in the face of pervasive racism and homophobia”. What we really get is a different voice and approach that adds substance to the field of black queer studies. By demonstrating the roles that black gays played at these times, we see that it was a pivotal one in terms of other social and political movements over the last half-century. Mumford maintains that

black gay men were neither silent nor passive participants in the gay or black liberation struggle. He uncovers the history that has been hidden or in which the black gay presence has been erased. We see the humanity and the important role that black gay men played everywhere and that is what is so important in this study.

“Making Out in the Mainstream: GLAAD and the Politics of Respectability” by Vincent Doyle— Challenges of Activism

making out in the mainstream

Doyle, Vincent. “Making Out in the Mainstream: GLAAD and the Politics of Respectability”, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016.

Challenges of Activism

Amos Lassen

Vincent Doyle brings us the first full-length study of LGBT media activism in which he “reveals the daily struggle to reconcile economic and professional pressures with conflicting personal, organizational, and political priorities”. “Making Out” documents the rise and evolution of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), and it is a nuanced perspective on the complexity, contradictions, and ambivalences of advancing social causes through popular media.

Doyle bases his work on participant observation, in-depth interviews, and archival research carried out at GLAAD’s New York and Los Angeles offices from 2000 to 2001. He analyzes the GLAAD Media Awards and the organization’s responses to controversial public figures such as Dr Laura Schlessinger and Eminem, and movies and television programs such as “Queer as Folk”. The early political strategy of coming out to the mainstream was meant to dismantle closeted life and create a mass movement has change and now is market-oriented that privileges respectable images of homosexuality in the pursuit of political and economic gain. We see how the emphasis on respectability clashes with the development of a diverse movement that has campaigned for greater inclusion. Doyle presents a sophisticated appeal for more complicated understandings of assimilation and anti normalization.

It is important to remember that all of this has taken place and continues to take place during a time of rapid social change and therefore we see the limitations and the political possibilities of “mainstreaming”. Doyle  had unprecedented access to the inner workings of a mainstream gay rights organization and this is a fascinating read. Have a look at the table of contents below:

Acknowledgments | ix

Introduction–LGBT Cultural Politics in Neoliberal Times | 3

1–Rags to Riches: GLAAD’s Rise to the National Stage | 30

2–“We Want In”: The Politics of Access and Inclusion | 77

3–Insiders – Outsiders: The Dr Laura Campaign | 124

4–Sex, Race, and Representation | 176

Conclusion–Mainstreaming’s Ambivalent Embrace | 229

Notes | 261

Bibliography | 273

Index | 281

 

“Gay Awareness: Discovering the Heart of the Father and the Mind of Christ On Sexuality” by Landon Scott— Religion, Once Again

bay awareness

Schott, Landon. “Gay Awareness: Discovering the Heart of the Father and the Mind of Christ On Sexuality”, Famous Publishing, 2016.

Religion, Once Again

Amos Lassen

Now that homosexuality in America has come out of the closet legally, we see that it still holds a center-stage position politically, culturally, socially and religiously. I must say that I cannot understand religion’s problems and I cannot believe that some of the Christian religions think that homosexuality does not exist where they are. Even more confusing is the Catholic church still refuses to accept gay people while members of the clergy and the Catholic hierarchy have been having sex with each other for hundreds of years yet view homosexuality as disgusting and immoral (compare that to priests having sex with young boys and cardinals (like Cardinal Law] who cover it up).

Everyone knows and cares for someone who is homosexual and it is a major top of discussion everywhere but the church. Because some members of churched are afraid of being labeled as bigots and people of hate and/or ignorant, many have stayed out of the conversation when it does happen.

The church also remains silent, thus causing those who feel a need for religion and love for God without a place to go. Then are those who are totally confused with what the bible says about homosexuality. Then there are those who want to know if God made people gay and if God loves homosexuals.

Landon Schott brings truth and clarity to what he calls sexual confusion and uses over 400 scripture references to reveal the heart of the Father and mind of Christ. In this book, he exposes the false teachings and deception that have created a false identity through “the lens of sexuality instead of the eyes of God’s Word”. “Gay Awareness” in the author’s words will stretch you and challenge you, and the hope is that it will bring you comfort and healing.

Landon Schott addresses the following issues:

  • What the Bible actually says about marriage, sexuality, and homosexuality.
  • Mistakes the Church makes when addressing homosexuality and the gay community.
  • Contradictions between the gay lifestyle and the Christ-centered lifestyle.
  • Clear insight into how to genuinely show Christian love to those who practice homosexuality.
  • How people can experience deliverance and freedom.

The aim of the book is that it will bring clarity, teach about what Scripture says about homosexuality (it says nothing) and how to respond to people with love, grace, and truth.

Schott makes his position very clear and it is that the church needs to be unrelenting with its love for people but unwavering in a Biblical stance (You might want to read that again and if you find out what it means drop me a note). He takes the reader by the hand and leads them right into what he calls the heart of the Father on this matter and the mind of Christ on sexuality. (Actually neither God nor Jesus said anything about homosexuality and what the Christians think is there is inferred and not written. Can it be the word of God if it is not written down? I understand that God dictates what men write and I would like to see the transcript of the conversation. I understand that a focus group recently has a look at an advance copy of the book. The feedback they received was favorable but then we do not know who made up this focus group and here we need to know that if we want these comments to mean a nothing. I have no faith in this kind of experiment, an experiment that is usually used when no advance readers are available and there are no infidels in the study sample. Were there proportional homosexuals in the sample? We all are aware that the bible can say whatever you want it to say with the proper manipulation. So I look at this book as I look at so many others. Just because someone wants to be a writer does not mean that he has the skill to do so and I certainly see that here.

Landon Schott might be a nice guy and a powerful preacher but his book left me cold and somewhat embarrassed that once again, one who considers himself to be a “good christian” (small “c” deliberate) but is lacking in information and explanation.

“Queer Wars” by Dennis Altman and Jonathan Symons— The Polarization of Sexual Rights

queer wars

Altman, Dennis and Jonathan Symons. “Queer Wars”, Polity, 2016.

The Polarization of Sexual Rights

Amos Lassen

There has been great opposition to the claim that LGBT rights are human rights in many different parts of the world today as governments and religious leaders have used resistance to LGBT rights to place themselves as defenders of traditional values against neo-colonial interference and western decadence. “Queer Wars” looks at the growing international polarization over sexual rights, and the creative responses from social movements and activists, )some of whom face murder, imprisonment or rape) because of their perceived sexuality or gender expression. The authors ask why sexuality and gender identity have become such a hot issue between and within nations and how we can best advocate for change.

This is an excellent way to look at and read about how the world shapes the dialogue of human and LGBT rights., Queer Wars explores as well as explains what are human rights, exactly and thee polarization of some countries. I love the fact that the book is totally realistic and we see that this is not the greatest place for LGBT people in terms of rights and while things are looking better we still have a long way to go. “Queer Wars” shows that in places like India and Russia Queer Wars definitely removes itself from that ideal view. We see that things are going backwards in many countries In Africa are moving backwards instead of forward. We must take note that the ideal Western idea of LGBT rights and acceptance is not going to happen universally anytime soon. The writes have balanced their text well and through analysis and suggestion keep it interesting. In order to move ahead, we must now where we are now and it is important to understand that not everyone can be or even wants to be an activist. Something else that Altman and Symons do is focus on countries that are usually not part of mainstream conversation.

The international struggle for sexual and gender minority rights is one of the most important, critical and contested human rights movements of today. Altman and Symons take the complex politics that surround LGBT rights, demands, cultures and contexts and explain it all to us. For those of us who want to continue the struggle, this is necessary reading.

“Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics, and Theory” by Sherry Wolf— Looking at Liberation

sexuality and socialism

Wolf, Sherry. “Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics, and Theory”, Haymarket Books, 2016.

Looking at Liberation

Amos Lassen

Sherry Wolf analyzes many of the most challenging questions for those concerned with full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender in “Sexuality and Socialism”. This a collection of essays about

“the roots of LGBT oppression, the construction of sexual and gender identities, the history of the gay movement, and how to unite the oppressed and exploited to win sexual liberation for all”. She looks at different theories about oppression (including those of Marxism, postmodernism, identity politics, and queer theory) and she challenges myths about genes, gender, and sexuality. We have long needed a book that covers the issues of sexuality and homophobia under capitalism especially now when there are struggles all over the world for same-sex marriage rights.

Wolf begins with the theoretical and historical origins of sexual oppression under capitalism and argues that the repression of sexuality and homophobia are the product of the material conditions and the economic needs of capitalism. This is very different from the explanations that homophobia is in our human nature or just from the religion and the bad ideas in our heads. It then looks at the gay liberation movement of the 60s and 70s and the theory surrounding much of LGBT politics. It then goes on to cover contemporary struggles and debates today.

All of Wolf’s arguments are within the context of the nature of capitalism and a society built on class. Homophobia and other forms of sexual repression are part of other forms of oppression and the needs of exploiting workers to make a profit. This has been used as a way to argue against the popularity and prevalence of what is known as identity politics. Identity politics claim the idea that all LGBT people have a common experience of being oppressed and a common interest in fighting that oppression. The very use of the word “all” puts this idea into skeptical thought as all of us, I daresay know someone who could care less about oppression and ignores it when it happens. We also see that LGBT workers must organize separately and differently than, say, LGBT business owners for whom capitalism is a way of life. Straight workers gain no benefit or advantage by being homophobic and, in effect, it weakens them by dividing and distracting workers from the class struggle. Wolf also looks at transgender and intersex issues which have yet to be discussed in Marxist literature on.

What she does not look at is that some claim that transgender can sometimes been seen as a product of capitalism and the gender norms that come with it. Capitalist society assigns ways of behaving to particular genders and if one does not fit into the norms, there is no place for that person to be. It can therefore be argued that in a socialist society this feeling would be less prevalent because there is no need to conform to the gender norms and gender biology and behavior are not major issues.

Wolfe not only writes about a lot, she does so with clarity and she is able to bring together theoretical and historical explanations with examples that show us the real issues. Having once lived in a Marxist society, the book really spoke to me.

Wolf points out that several early champions of the LGBT Liberation movement were involved in the struggle of workplace organizing as well as LGBT rights. The founder of the first American gay organization, Harry Hay, got his start as a union organizer in the 1930s and 1940s in New York Department Store Workers Union with the International Workers of the World. Likewise Harvey Milk built his political campaign on a coalition of labor and gay activism and he did so by working with the labor unions in organizing a boycott of Coors Beer in the gay bars. In return, the labor unions supported activism against the 1978 Briggs Initiative that threatened to ban gays and lesbians and anyone who supported gay rights from working in California’s public schools.

Not only do we get some LGBT history here but we get an analysis along with it. We see thateven though gays and Communist Party members were persecuted alike under McCarthy in the 1950s, the Communist Party remained steadfast in its hostility toward homosexuality, denouncing it as a “bourgeois deviation.” Wolf shows that the word “socialism” is often used in vain, used in various contexts to describe systems of thinking and ruling that do not, in fact, support liberation. 

“Signs and Wonders: Theology After Modernity” by Ellen T. Armour— Knowing, Doing and Being

signs and wonders

Armour, Ellen T. “Signs and Wonders: Theology After Modernity”, Columbia University Press, 2016.

Knowing, Doing and Being

Amos Lassen

We have been led to believe that the end of modernity will change knowing, doing, and being yet we are not sire whether we should be happy about this or not. but are these changes we should dread—or celebrate? Four significant events (and the iconic images that represent them) “catalyze this question: the consecration of openly gay Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson, the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, the politicization of the death of Terri Schiavo, and the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina”.

Framed by an original appropriation of Michel Foucault, and drawing on resources in visual culture theory and the history of photography, Ellen T. Armour uses something of a Foucaldian approach along with the history of photography and the theory of visible culture to explore the anxieties, passions, and power dynamics bound up in the photographic representation and public reception of these events. What we get is an expose of modernity’s benevolent and malevolent disruptions and a look at the fractures and fissures that herald the end of modernity, for better and for worse.

Armour lays the groundwork for a theology and philosophy of life better suited to our (post)modern moment and by this she means “one that owns up to the vulnerabilities that modernity sought to disavow and better enables us to navigate the ethical issues we now confront”.

The book is quite obviously written for anyone with an interest in modernity and its demise. It brings together ideas from several disciplines, and reveals new approaches to understanding and the analysis of cultural events and the nature of human existence.

Armour reframes philosophical theology in an exploration of the imminent passing of the modern “Man” and what may come about as a result. Focusing on particular events in recent history, Armour see how to “perceive the signs of strain in a system that has defined Man in his relation to his divine, animal, and raced/sexed others—while pointing us toward a new ontology of vulnerability”.

Below is the table of contents:

Acknowledgements

Introduction

  1. Man and His Others: A History of the Present
  2. Photography and/as Bio-discipline: Photographic Askesis
3. Bio-discipline and Globalization: The Crisis in the Anglican Communion
  3. Regarding the Photographs of Others: Abu Ghraib and/as Bio-Discipline
  4. Bio-discipline and the Right to Life: Becoming Terri Schiavo
  5. The Perfect Storm: Hurricane Katrina

Conclusion

Bibliography

Index

“The Politics of Everybody: Feminism, Queer Theory and Marxism at the Intersection” by Holly Lewis— Desire band Emphasis

the politics of everybody

Lewis, Holly. “The Politics of Everybody: Feminism, Queer Theory and Marxism at the Intersection”, Zed Books, 2016.

Desire and Emphasis

Amos Lassen

In academia, it is widely understood and accepted that the terms “man,” “woman,” and “other” are socially constructed, and that their meanings are maintained by the current political order. However, only a few thinkers have attempted to reconcile that knowledge (which comes from Marxist roots with queer theory. Those who do usually attempt to do so through issues of libidinal desire and sexual expression.

In “The Politics of Everybody”, Holly Lewis powerfully argues that the emphasis on desire is actually symptomatic of neo-liberal habits of thought, and therefore, is responsible for a continued focus on the limited politics of identity. Lewis shows that we should look to the arena of body production, categorization, and exclusion and that only through such a reorientation can we create a politics of liberation that is truly inclusive and grounded in lived experience.

Lewis examines the production and maintenance of the terms ‘man’, ‘woman’, and ‘other’ within the current political moment and the contradictions of these categories and the prospects of a Marxist approach to praxis for queer bodies.

Using the argument that Marxist analysis is in fact most beneficial to gender politics within the arena of body production, categorization and exclusion, Lewis brings forth a theory of gender and the sexed body that is united with the realities of a capitalist political economy. She calls for a new, materialist queer theory that defines a politics of liberation that is both intersectional, transnational, and grounded in lived experience.

Lewis poses incisive questions about the relationship between the universal and the particular, between sex and gender, and sameness and difference and thereby rejects both an “economistic reading of macro processes and an individuated reading of relations at the micro level. Ultimately it is a provocative book: for it provokes both thought and action.”

This is a very well written, non-academic book that focuses on queer issues and Marxism. In the first two sections we get a general history of debates on gender & sexuality, and its relation to Marxism. The third section is polemic with theoretical discussion on gender & sex and it includes some very good Marxist critiques of the concepts of homonormativity and homonationalism, and a defense of Marxism against postcolonial theory. In the conclusion we get a 10-point political platform broached the topic of queerness within leftist groups. Below is the table of contents:

Introduction

  1. The Politics of Everybody
  2. Communitarian Ideals and Culture Wars

III. How is Every Body Sorted?

Chapter 1: Terms of the Debate

  1. Debates in Western Gender Politics
  2. What is Capitalism?

III. Philosophy and the Marxian Roots of Queer Political Thought

  1. Conclusion to Chapter One

Chapter 2: Marxism and Gender

  1. Don’t be vulgar…
  2. From the Woman Question to the Gender Question
  3. Marxism at the Center and the Periphery IV. Marx on Women
  4. Marx on Gender and Labor
  5. The Major Works: Marx’s ‘Ethnological Notebooks’ and Engels’ ‘Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State’.

VII. Early Marxist and Socialist Feminism

III. Theories of Social Reproduction

  1. Race and Social Reproduction
  2. Sexism, Marxism, and The Second Wave

Chapter 3: Queer Politics and the Possibilities of a Queer/Trans Marxism

  1. Beyond Idealist Models of Oppression
  2. Ideology and Repetition: Race

III. Ideology and Repetition: Gender

  1. Why Class is Not a Moral Category
  2. The Rise of Queer Politics in the Mid to Late 20th Century
  3. Marxist Critiques of Queer Theory

VII. Beyond Homonormativity and Homonationalism

VIII. The Spinning Compass of American Queer Politics

  1. Towards an Internationalist Queer Marxism part one: Local and Global Knowledges
  2. Towards an Internationalist Queer Marxism, part two: the Marxist Critique of the Postcolonialism

Conclusions

  1. Solidarity is not Community
  2. Ten Axioms Towards a Queer Marxist Future

“Struggling in Good Faith: LGBTQI Inclusion from 13 American Religious Perspectives” edited by Mychal Copeland and Dvorah Rose— Struggle, Reconciliation and Celebration

struggling in good faith

Copeland MTS, Mychal and Dvorah Rose (editors). “Struggling in Good Faith: LGBTQI Inclusion from 13 American Religious Perspectives”, Skylight Paths Publishing, 2015.

Struggle, Reconciliation and Celebration

Amos Lassen

We have needed a book like this for quite a while. “Struggling in Good Faith” is a “multifaceted sourcebook telling the powerful story of reconciliation, celebration and struggle for LGBTQI inclusion across the American religious landscape”. I am always stunned by the views of religion in the gay community and I always wonder if those that hold these views have really checked to see if they are indeed correct. Of course there are religions that not only shun us but also do so in verbose and negative language. Having been raised an Orthodox Jew and aware of what my religion has to say about gay people has only made me delve more deeply into my faith to find a way that I can reconcile my sexuality with my faith and I have been fortunate enough to be able to do so. I have always thought that it is better to wrestle than to give up but I must admit that the struggle can be depressing and sad but the result is that I am a happy and observant gay Jew who is not only welcome at my synagogue but also very active in almost all aspects of Jewish life.

It really makes no difference which religion we look at struggle and understanding of others is at the core of them all. Just struggling is an act of faith and if we care enough to do is we will be rewarded with hope.

Today the LGBT community in America is not at a major junction. Never have we had the freedoms that we do now and for the first time, public opinion about us is changing. We can only hope that religions will also find the path that politics have taken to grant us equality before God. However, it all really depends upon how each religion approaches the issue. This book includes thirteen religious perspectives and gives us a general look at how each

Deals (or doesn’t) with LGBTQI inclusion as well as documents the challenges and transformation of American religion. These religions are the Black Church, Buddhism, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), the Episcopal Church, First Nations (Native Americans), Hinduism, Judaism, the Lutheran Church, Islam, the Presbyterian Church, Protestant evangelical traditions, the Roman Catholic Church and Unitarian Universalism.

As we have continued the fight for equality and acceptance, a great deal of attention has been placed on how Christianity has dealt with this and that is because the majority of Americans are Christian. However, there is a lot to be learned by looking an non-Christian religions to see how they deal with the issue.

The essays included here reflect that there us a desire for religious liberation from oppression. However, if you are one of those who feel betrayed by the recent Supreme Court decision, this is not the book for you. However, if you are big enough to read this, you will be challenged by many faith traditions to re-evaluate your position. We see here that every faith tradition is confronted by the complications of human sexuality and that they often do unwise things before they begin to treat people the way the core of their traditions say that they should be treated. Wherever these early ideas have come from, we can assume that they are based upon the way certain texts are read. We forget that the holy writings were written thousands of years ago when this world was a different place. Modern scholarship shows us how those texts can be understood as culturally restricted or not binding on all people for all time. Because it is the nature of humankind to react viscerally, it was necessary to give quick and easy answers. There is, however, nothing quick and easy about sexuality and it is often misunderstood and difficult to contain within the bounds of religious rules and dogma. One of the things that this book does is to show this complexity and shows that we not settle for simple answers to complicated questions.

The Spartacus Guilde

spartacus

The Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2016 lists the homo-friendliest countries worldwide.
Berlin: The Spartacus International Gay Guide published its updated Gay Travel Index for 2016 today. The Spartacus Travel Guide for the gay community, published annually for over 40 years, informs in the updated Index about the legal situation of gays and lesbians in more than 190 countries. The editorial team is in regular contact with the German Foreign Office, the foreign embassies in Germany as well as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) activists from around the world.

The winners in 2015 include Nepal (+50 positions), Puerto Rico (+41 positions), and Mozambique (+37 positions).
In the new constitution in Nepal is an explicit prohibition of discrimination against gays and lesbians. Puerto Rico as external territory of the United States implemented the so-called same-sex marriage law and far-reaching changes to adoption rights. Mozambique legalized homosexuality, contrary to the general trend on the African continent.

USA: Historical ruling made by the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that a prohibition of homosexual marriage to be unconstitutional and legalized gay marriage in all federal states. The narrow majority decision of the judges is controversial and is also a subject of dispute in the current presidential election campaign with the Republican candidates.

The deceptive idyll: Maldives – partner country of the ITB 2016
The Maldives offers, with its impressive natural environment, a fantastic holiday destination. But for homosexuals the situation is very precarious. Here the Sharia law applies and theoretically gay men can be sentenced to death. The Maldives repeatedly presented active opposition, as one of the few countries, to public UN decisions on the recognition of LGBT rights. The last time this happened was during a LGBT resolution of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), where the resolution was adopted by a large majority.

Germany falls back in the ranking
The great political debate on the introduction of marriage between homosexuals in Germany after the referendum in conservative Ireland and the Supreme Court decision in the United States, ultimately led to no political progress. German Chancellor Angela Merkel remains firmly against the expansion of LGBT rights. The CDU is and remains the only party in the Bundestag (parliament), which is publicly against the introduction. In the foreseeable future all will remain as it stands today. It is very possible that other countries such as Switzerland or Portugal pass Germany in the Index ranking.

Top and tail positions remain unchanged
As in the previous year Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Russia are at the bottom of the Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2016. Also the top positions remain unchanged: Sweden on position 1, together with the United Kingdom, followed by Belgium, the Netherlands and France.
The detailed Spartacus Gay Travel Index can be found at:
www.spartacusworld.com/gaytravelindex.pdf
Spartacus International Gay Guide
For over 40 years the Spartacus International Gay Guide has been published by the Bruno Gmünder company. Whether addresses of hotels in Palm Springs, bars in Hong Kong or clubs in Buenos Aires – no other travel guide offers such extensive and current information on the places where gay men feel welcome and are able to be themselves.

“A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High” by Ken Corbett— A Brutal Murder

a murder over a girl

Corbett, Ken. “A Murder Over a Girl: Justice, Gender, Junior High”, Henry Holt and Co., 2016.

A Brutal Murder

Amos Lassen

Psychologist Ken Corbett gives us a gripping, troubling, and moving exploration of the brutal murder of a possibly transgender middle school student by an eighth grade classmate

On February 12, 2008, at E. O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, CA, fourteen-year-old Brandon McInerney shot and killed his classmate, Larry King, who had recently begun to call himself “Leticia” and wear makeup and jewelry to school. Those of us with minds and consciences are shaken and unsettled to hear new like this but we are without resources to help. Media coverage sidestepped the issues of gender identity and of race that are not only important but integral to the case and this is what caused Ken Corbett to travel to Los Angeles to attend the trial. As stories of victim and perpetrator were told and pulled apart in the courtroom, Corbett realized that a haunting picture was emerging, not only of the two young teenagers, but also of spectators and the community that had aided to bring about the murder. Even if this was unwitting, it was important. We must never forget that hate is not an instinct but a learned emotion. Now Corbett shares what he learned from firsthand observations, extensive interviews and research and his own years of of academic work on gender and sexuality. Not only does he hold up each detail of the case, he explores what brought everything to a head. What we read is stranger than fiction as we look at the human psyche and the cracks in our culture that allowed something like this to happen and we see that healing can only come with understanding. While this is a difficult book to read, it is a book that must be read by all of us. What Corbett gives us is powerful documentation of this country’s fear of

gender difference. We are taken to the place where a transgendered child’s daring bid to become a girl met with the murderous rage of a boy who had been well taught to use a gun. While a murdered girl whose life is undocumented is gone , she lives on in Corbett’s brilliant words. The narration we read is about those who make hatred into a form of pernicious reasoning and the failure of the legal system and how smart arguments make the murderers to be victims and the dead are not even considered. It hurts just to write this words and to think that in the greatest democracy the world has ever known that something like this was allowed to happen. Here was a crime in which there was no pathos for the victim but rather for theclassmates, parents, jurors, lawyers, and others who had to deal with the case. Corbett reveals the flaws of “the American judicial system, the destructive influence of sensationalizing mass media, and the blindness of good intentions at the intersection of masculinity, grief, prejudice, and empathy.” We see that the consequences of dehumanization hide a “consequential and potentially fatal refusal to confront loss”. Corbett confronts that loss and brings forth justice as he gives the victim her “dignity, her subjectivity and her agency” back.

With the death of this one young teenager at the hands of another, the contemporary dividing lines of race, gender, class, orientation, homophobia, privilege, and fear of the unknown enter a California courtroom. We do not have the voices of the victim, Leticia/Larry who was dead and Brandon McInerney, the murderer never told his own story in court or elsewhere. Therefore we get no easy resolution and even if we did, the fact is that one teen is dead at the hands of another. What really is galling and appalling is that it was made to show that McInerney’s actions were normalized and even justified at both the trial and within the community. His actions were, quite simply, it is claimed as a way to deal with Larry/Leticia’s explorations of his/her gender. We see that even with increased acceptance of (certain kinds of) gender and sexual variance in mainstream society, most Americans are still extremely uncomfortable with non-normative gender expression. In the school system this is profound and the discomfort that it brings puts LGBT children at risk (particularly in school settings) and that this discomfort can result in the taking of life.

Brandon McInerney took a gun from home, hid it in his backpack to take to school the next day and later moved into a pocket in his sweatshirt. No one saw this, it is said. In computer class, he took his gun at very close range. The victim did not die instantly, but succumbed to those injuries later in the hospital. What you have just read are the facts in the case. The prosecution sought to convict Brandon on first-degree murder as an adult based on the facts of the case, as well as testimony and his overt and public hatred of Larry/Leticia and there was testimony that he, in fact, said before the event that he wanted to either hurt or kill his classmate. The defense painted a different picture and claimed that Brandon had been abused all of his life and was sexually harassed by Larry at school. This is what forced him to resort to violence. Even though testimony did not seem to support this position, many in the jury believed it to be true and the result was a hung jury. A plea deal was ultimately reached. It is Corbett’s use of conversations that he was apart of that makes this such a compelling read. He spoke with those involved in the case behind the scenes and shares his insights as to why people testified as they did.

The trial was a farce because the jury was manipulated by the attorneys who wanted to win. It is extremely difficult to defend a fourteen-year-old boy who murders a fifteen-year-old boy/girl. The book is a look at the loss of American values that are taught in the schools of this country.