Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Queer Philologies: Sex, Language, and Affect in Shakespeare’s Time” by Jeffrey Masten— The Relationship Between Sexuality and the History of Language

queer philologies

Masten, Jeffrey. “Queer Philologies: Sex, Language, and Affect in Shakespeare’s Time”, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2016.

The Relationship Between Sexuality and the History of Language

Amos Lassen

Author Jeffrey Masten sees the history of sexuality and the history of language are intimately related. In “Queer Philologies”, he studies particular terms that further show up the history of sexuality in Shakespeare’s time and he analyzes the methods we have used to study sex and gender in literary and cultural history. He has built his ideas on the work of theorists and historians who have, following Foucault, investigated the importance of words like “homosexual,” “sodomy,” and “tribade” in a variety of cultures and historical periods. Masten then argues that “just as the history of sexuality requires the history of language, so too does philology, “the love of the word,” require the analytical lens that Foucault provided in his studies. Masten looks at the etymology, circulation, transformation, and constitutive power of key words within the early modern discourse of sex and gender (terms such as “conversation” and “intercourse”, “fundament” and “foundation,” “friend” and “boy”), words that were used to describe bodies, pleasures, emotions and sexual identities. He analyzes the continuities as well as the differences between Shakespeare’s language and our own, and offers up a ?queer lexicon in which the letter “Q” is perhaps the queerest character of all”.

There is a lot to be learned here and the book is organized in such a way that learning is easy. It is Master/s new approach to the ways that norms and normativities are studied that makes this such a unique read.

Queer Philologies, Jeffrey Masten’s brilliant new book, makes the queerness of linguistic relations into the stuff of a genuine page-turner. Doing nothing less than reinventing the field of philology for the twenty-first century, Masten charts striking moments in the two-way traffic between words and world, exploring how accident and error figure in the shaping of sexuality and multiply its significations beyond all scholarly control. To dip into this book is to recognize that it’s destined to become a classic, one of the works without which queer theory and early modernism no longer can be thought.”—Lee Edelman, Tufts University

“When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need to Know” by Wesley C. Davidson and Jonathan L. Tobkis— For Parents and Child

when your child is gay

Davidson, Wesley C. and Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D. “When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need to Know”, Sterling, 2016.

For Parents and Child

Amos Lassen

Coming out can be great difficulty for both parents and child. In “When Your Child is Gay”, Wesley C. Davidson, a popular blogger on gay rights issues, and Dr. Jonathan Tobkes, a New York City-based psychiatrist gives us a road map so that this delicate process can be easier navigated. The emphasis is on communication and unconditional love. Davidson and Tobkes help children and parents deal with their own feelings and thereby “identify and overcome barriers to acceptance, encourage strong self-esteem in their child, handle negative or hostile reactions to their child’s sexual identity, and more”. The book is filled with case studies and interviews and there are action plans and conversation starters that provide a positive, progressive guide to raising healthy, well-adjusted adults.

We look at the major topics of denial, guilt, fear, anger, shame, loss and these are in most cases is what hinders arriving at acceptance.  Davidson uses her own experience as a lead-in to the issue discussed in each chapter as well as interviews with straight parents who already crossed this Rubicon. These parents give tips on how to overcome issues that they once struggled with.  Similarly, LGBT adults share other stories on what worked or didn’t work in their own relationships with their parents and how they were able to deal with whatever issues that stopped them from achieving self-acceptance.  The interviewees come from a cross-section of America with different ethnicities and locales.

The foreword is written by gay Princeton student Cason Crane, who raised money for a suicide hotline of The Trevor Project for LGBT persons He raised money for the Suicide Hotline of the Trevor Project by climbing the Seven Summits, the world’s highest mountains, where he placed rainbow prayer flags. He is the founder of The Rainbow Summits Project. Learn more about him at

I wish I could say that this book has everything you need to know but unfortunately other not expected issues can arise. With the voices of a psychiatrist, straight parents and LGBT children adding information, this is about the best we have for now and that is a good thing. It is a positive and progressive guide.

Here are some examples of questions or conversation starters you can use with your child to demonstrate that you are interested in this aspect of his life and are not ashamed of having a gay child. Below is taken directly from the book to give you an idea of how it handles issues.

“How do you feel about being gay?”

The best way for you to help your child work through her own shame is by making it clear that you yourself are not ashamed. I have found that shame tends to be contagious. There are ways in which you may be perpetuating your child’s shame without even realizing it. Your children—both gay and straight—need to know that you are unambiguously on their side and willing to protect them.

“Who have you told so far that you are gay, and how have they reacted?”

It is rather likely that you are not the first person in whom your child confided about his sexuality, so you should make an effort to get brought up to speed. Your child will feel understood and supported if you convey your understanding of this difficult process and will appreciate your support as a parent.

“How has being gay affected your life, and has it changed your vision of your future?”

I spoke in previous chapters about not making assumptions regarding how your child’s life will unfold simply because she is gay. A neutral, nonjudgmental way to initiate this conversation is to say something such as, “It’s so great that, in this day and age, gay people can have all of the things in their lives that straight people can have, like legal marriage and families of their own. Have you given any thought to what you want for yourself? We will support you in any way we can to help you accomplish whatever your heart desires.”

“Who haven’t you told yet, and what is your plan?”

Your child may want to discuss strategies for coming out to other friends and family members. It can be particularly hard to share the news with older family members from a different era. You may say something like, “Have you thought about telling Grandma? If you’d like me to help you figure out how to do that or to be there when you tell her, just let me know.

“Communal Nude: Collected Essays” by Robert Gluck— Sex, Love and Reality

communal nude

Gluck, Robert. “Communal Nude: Collected Essays”, Semiotext(e) / Active Agents, 2016.

Sex, Love and Reality

Amos Lassen

Robert Glück has been one of America’s finest prose stylists of innovative fiction who unites narrative, autobiography, politics, and gay writing. His nonfiction explore the ways that storytelling and selfhood are embedded cultural forms and with which identity is generated. For someone and/or something to know itself, it must first see how it sees the world, and understand itself as writing.

The essays collected here span Gluck’s career and his creative affinities and they include lost manifestos theorizing the poetics of New Narrative; praise for his literary and philosophic muses (Kathy Acker, the HOW(ever) poets, Frank O’Hara, Georges Bataille, and others); narrative journalism, book reviews, criticism, and public talks. Many of the texts are taken from obscure little magazines and ephemeral online sources while others have never been published.

Robert Gluck’s work has been loved and admired by other writers but he has been either ignored or unread. With others, Gluck helped to build an influential literary community in the bay area. This is where the New Narrative came into being.

“Communal Nude” is a social history and Gluck calls out names and ideas. He shares his personal life and writes about sex as well as shares his intellectualism.

His subjects include “allegory, Lacan, Charles Bernstein, teaching, the social meaning of experimentation, the aesthetics of class”. He insists that community be there in his writing.

“Gay Propaganda: Russian Love Stories” edited by Masha Geesen and Joseph Huff-Hannon— A Protest Against Russian Propaganda

gay  propaganda

Gessen, Masha and Joseph Huff-Hannon (editors). “Gay Propaganda: Russian Love Stories”, OR Books, 2014.

A Protest of Russian Propaganda

Amos Lassen

“Gay Propaganda” is made up of original stories, interviews and testimonial that capture the lives and loves of LGBT Russians living both in Russia and in exile today. It is a provocative response to Russia’s recently passed and ill-defined ban on “homosexual propaganda.”

In an attempt to consolidate political control after the pro-democracy protests in Russia, Putin and his party felt that an enemy was necessary to unite the party and what or who would a better enemy than the LGBT community?

In June 2013, Putin signed a bill banning any and all “propaganda” of so-called non-traditional relationships. In the months that followed the number of firings from employment, attacks and hate crimes rose considerably.

The Duma began to debate a law to take children away from gay and lesbian parents. Then came the Olympics and the propaganda became stronger as we saw Russian LGBT people being harassed and arrested. They became the objects of state-sanctioned homophobia. In this book, we have stories of “men and women in long-term committed relationships as well as those still looking for love; of those trying to raise kids or taking care of parents; of those facing the challenges of continuing to live in Russia or joining an exodus that is rapidly becoming larger and larger. These stories put a face on the struggle to be accepted in Russia and we can only hope that love will win our and that indeed it conquers all. In these stories we see the realities of the people and not the way that the Russian government presents them. We do not hear the words of the bigots who censor lives and ban expression.

A book like this is the best weapon in the fight against anti-LGBT prejudice because it puts the reality of who LGBT people are as opposed to what the government of Russia wants us to think they are.

“Spartacus Berlin Gay Guide 2016”— The Perfect Travel Guide for Pride Season.


“Spartacus Berlin Gay Guide 2016”

The Perfect Travel Guide for Pride Season



“You are crazy my child, you must go to Berlin.” — Franz von Suppé, Austrian composer

Berlin is one of the world’s most popular gay travel destinations. When elsewhere the streets empty for the night, the fun just starts in Germany’s capital. Even during the day it never gets boring. With the abundance of clubs, bars, museums, galleries, and theaters one can quickly lose the overview. But not with this guide. This completely revised edition includes many free tickets and vouchers to various parties and sights—a must-have for every Berlin visitor.

Gay Berlin enjoys the reputation of freedom and adventure—rightly so. Anyone who wants to can go out on a daily basis, at any time and dance, celebrate, love. It’s the birthplace of gay self-confidence of today. Berlin is not called the LGBTIQ* capital of Germany, if not Europe, without reason. Some researchers locate the cradle of modern homosexual identity right here.

Unlike in Paris, New York and London, there are no restricted gay districts in Berlin. There is, of course, Schöneberg with its long gay and lesbian tradition, but the gay (night)life takes place in the same way in the other city districts. The Spartacus Berlin Gay Guide presents these districts in detail—as each of them has its own exciting gay scene with the one or other special feature.

That there is such a gay diversity has its reasons: Berlin is regarded as epicenter of the homosexual emancipation. In the years before the World War I and especially in the 1920s, Berlin was pioneering in the international gay rights movement. This city guide takes a look through the pink-colored glasses back to the beginnings of this movement, the never-ending nights of the “Golden Twenties”, the terror of the Nazi regime, and the divided city up to the post-reunification era with the first openly gay mayor.

The Spartacus Berlin Gay Guide is like a man in his best years. It has been published annually since 1981, originally under the title “Berlin von hinten [German: “Berlin From Behind”]. It is the first publication of the Berlin publishing house Bruno Gmünder”, certainly one of its most popular publications, and one of the longest-running gay city guides in the world.

208 pages. 
Full color. 
US $20.99

“Queer Roots for the Diaspora: Ghosts in the Family Tree” by Jarrod Hayes— The Need and Desire for Roots

queer roots

Hayes, Jarrod. “Queer Roots for the Diaspora: Ghosts in the Family Tree”, University of Michigan Press, 2016.

The Need and Desire for Roots

Amos Lassen

Many have relied on the concept of rootedness yet. politically, roots narratives have been criticized for attempting to police identity through a politics of purity—excluding anyone who doesn’t share the same narrative. In theory, “a critique of essentialism has led to a suspicion against essence and origins regardless of their political implications”.

Jarrod Hayes presents his central argument that in spite of these debates around the concept of roots, the desire for roots ultimately contains the “roots” of its own deconstruction. He “considers alternative root narratives that acknowledge the impossibility of returning to origins with any certainty; welcome sexual diversity; acknowledge their own fictionality; reveal that even a single collective identity can be rooted in multiple ways; and create family trees haunted by the queer others patrilineal genealogy seems to marginalize”.

The roots narratives simultaneously assert and question rooted identities within a number of diasporas—African, Jewish, and Armenian. By looking at these together, we can discern between the local specificities of any single Diaspora and the commonalities that are inherent in Diaspora as a global phenomenon.

“Grand Freedom: Paragraph 175 & How It Affected A Gay Man’s Life” by Rodion Rebenyar— Homosexuality in Nazi Germany

grand freedom

Rebenyar, Rodion. “Grand Freedom: Paragraph 175 & How It Affected A Gay Man’s Life” ADS, 2016.

Homosexuality in Nazi Germany

Amos Lassen

Rodion Rebenyar brings us a story about something that never should have happened. In the first person and with great intensity, he writes of the widespread injustice that occurred at the end of World War II and the revelations about the Holocaust.

Many German citizens were tried and sentenced to terms in prison or concentration camps due to the strengthening of Paragraph 175 of that country’s penal code. The law, formulated originally at the time of German reunification under Bismarck in 1871, was broadened during 1933-1945 under Nazi rule to include illicit encounters between persons of the same sex, no matter how subtle and regardless of intent.

Even though many persecuted people were liberated and repatriated by Allied occupation forces at war’s end, gay men and women who were sentenced under Paragraph 175 saw their sentences incredulously upheld by the courts and liberators. Many of them, including Rebenyar, were put back into prison as a result of this shortsighted policy and forced to serve out their original sentences.

Public opinion was set against the gay and lesbian community for decades and Paragraph 175 remained officially on the books long after hostilities ended. This is a story of betrayal and we need to know about it in order to make sure that it will never happen again.

Because the story is told in the first person, the reader feels as if he is living through this with the author, a young boy when we first meet him. He lives with his parents near a small, conservative German village. When he goes to live with his Aunt Gusti, he meets her boyfriend, Lothar and as a result of his friendship with Lothar. He finds the romance of his life. While some readers may be shocked by the fact our hero is only fourteen when his relationship with thirty-five year old Lothar begins; we must understand that this was common in Germany before Hitler and fourteen is also of legal consent age in Germany. With Hitler came the extermination of those thought to be undesirable and they are targeted as Hitler gains complete power and control over Germany. Eventually the author was captured and sent to the camps.

He survived the horrors of the labor camp and the tortures within its confines, although not without permanent physical damage. The allies seem like the rescue and hope he and the others had longed for–only to find out Paragraph 175, an ancient penal code, awaited him.

The injustice of Paragraph 175 ruined totally innocent people, simply because they were different from the rest. To say the least, this is quite a powerful read.

“The Fate of Gender: Nature, Nurture, and the Human Future” by Frank Browning— Looking at Gender

the fate of gender

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

Looking at Gender

Amos Lassen

In case you have not noticed, concepts of gender have been changing lately and this is universal. If you have not yet done so you need to think about gender and understand that as both a concept and as a reality, it is becoming fluid.. Frank Browning takes on an adventure around the world to see gender concepts— gender-neutral kindergartens in Chicago and Oslo, “femminielli” weather casters in Naples, conservative Catholics in Paris fearful of God and Nature and transsexual Mormon parents in Utah among others. Browning relates specific and engaging human stories and explains the neuroscience that distinguishes male and female biology. We see how all parents’ brains change during the first weeks of parenthood, how men’s and women’s responses to age differ and that this is not based on biology but on one’s earlier life habits. We are taken back to Simone de Beauvoir’s legendary and world-shaking observation that one is not born a woman but instead becomes a woman. We also see that no one was born a man but one learns how to be a man through performance and that there are no hard and fixed ways of being masculine or feminine. Those of us who grew up gay know this but I believe this is the first time that it has been put into writing and on a large scale.

The labels that have been used— “gay”, “straight”, “male”, ‘female” are now passé and reductive, Browning states. The new gender fluidity will change our world greatly. Now we can link science to behavior and revisit those who challenged gender in the past and we can continue to debate nurture vs. nature to see that we live our lives moving back and forth between who we are and what is expected of us instead of just who we are.

Gender today has become something of a conundrum and we cannot find the answers in science alone or through research because things are changing so quickly. Browning has researched and interviewed a host of people including biologists, neurologists, psychologists, physicians, parents, teachers, counselors, therapists, and many individuals who define themselves as ‘gender variant.’ In order to arrive at the conclusions that he presents to us along with an overview of the changing face of gender. We read the scientific evidence that gender is a construct and not a biological reality. Ideas of masculinity and femininity have indeed become more fluid and this is just the beginning. We now see science looking to the social reality of how we live instead of the opposite that it had always done before. Browning males it very clear here that gender is not yet a settled concept.

From the moment of our conception in the womb, sex and gender are not only part of but they rule our lives. Here we are challenged to think about what we are willing to do to live fuller and more meaningful lives.

“Terrence McNally and Fifty Years of American Gay Drama” by John M. Clum— The Relationship of Drama to Life

terrence mcnally

Clum, John M. “Terrence McNally and Fifty Years of American Gay Drama”, Cambia Press, 2016.

The Relationship of Drama to Life

Amos Lassen

 “Terrence McNally and Fifty Years of American Gay Drama” is the first book-length study on the relationship of the plays by Terrence McNally, one of America’s celebrated major dramatists and award-winning playwright about gay life in New York City, to the history of gay theatre during McNally’s career. John Clum examines McNally’s work from the political movements of the 1960s and the history of gay men in New York during the early years of gay liberation, the age of AIDS, and the new reality of gay marriage and families.

It is interesting to note that no one has, until now, written extensively on this subject and just as McNally’s plays are a pleasure to watch so is this book a pleasure to read.

“This is a thorough study of Terrence McNally. The context of gay theatre, gay New York, and gay history is masterfully incorporated, making this book valuable at multiple levels-literary to biographical to historical.” -William W. Demastes, Alumni Professor of English, Louisiana State University”.

“Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports” by Cyd Zeigler— Gays and Sports

fair play

Zeigler, Cyd. “Fair Play: How LGBT Athletes Are Claiming Their Rightful Place in Sports”, Edge of Sports, 2016.

Gays and Sports

Amos Lassen

Cyd Zeigler is an expert in LGBTQ athletics and cofounder of the online magazine “Outsports”. In “Fair Play” he looks at the key moments that have shaped sports participation for openly LGBTQ athletes. He also shows that it is a myth that having a gay athlete on “a team’s roster is a ‘distraction’ and shares positive stories of younger athletes at high school and college levels who have come out to coaches, teammates, and family members” He argues that it is fear that holds back LGBT athletes and he reminds us that courage is a contagious feeling and emotion. What we get here is a perspective on heterosexism in athletics.

The book is a collection of essays about those athletes that have come out, about homophobia in the locker room, about the general culture of sports and about how the straight athletes can play an important role in the gay movement. We read about three in-the-news gay athletes, and how gay and lesbian sports participants will eventually change the level of acceptance of LGBTQ players.

When Cyd Zeigler started writing about LGBT sports issues in 1999, he was met with silence—no one wanted to talk about them. Today, this is a n important and major conversation in American society and it goes so much further than the sports movement.

The three athletes that take center stage here are NFL Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, transgender MMA fighter Fallon Fox, and NFL hopeful Michael Sam and it is through them that Zeigler gives contextual insights about elite sports. He provides the necessary steps to complete sports’ transformation and fully open athletics to LGBT people. Zeigler challenges the stereotypes and the rumors behind them and in doing so he challenges the idea that one should be ashamed to be gay.