Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Isaac Mizrahi” edited by Chee Perlman— Three Views

isaac mizrahi

Pearlman, Chee (editor). “Isaac Mizrahi”, Yale University Press. 2016.

Three Views

Amos Lassen

Isaac Mizrahi’s first fashion collection in 1986 was met with critical acclaim and that is still true today. In this new book, we have his signature couture collections beautifully illustrated and lavishly presented. We see him here as classic yet inventively re-imagined. Mizrahi pioneered the concept of “high/low” in fashion, and was the first high-end fashion designer to create an accessibly priced mass-market line. He also approached other complex issues through his designs, as well—mixing questions of beauty and taste with those of race, religion, class, and politics. 

While Mizrahi is best known for his clothing, his work in theater, film, and television is also explored in this new volume and with it we get a fascinating discourse on high versus low, modern glamour and contemporary culture. Three essayists, Ulrich Lehmann, Kelly Taxter and Lynn Yaeger discuss Mizrahi’s place in fashion history, his close connection to contemporary art, and the nature of his designs. New photography brings life to Mizrahi’s fashions and an interview with him gives an intimate perspective to his work in diverse media.

My only complain here is that the book ended before I had enough Mizrahi. The book ties in beautifully to the Mizrahi retrospective of the designers work currently at the Jewish museum in NYC. This is a very fine way to acquaint new fashionistas that came after his couture discontinued in 1998. The pieces selected here showcase Mizrahi’s iconoclastic view on fashion but furthermore emphasize his mastery in the usage of bold color.

“The Tricky Part: A Boy’s Story of Sexual Trespass, a Man’s Journey to Forgiveness” by Martin Moran— Facing His Abuser

the tricky part

Moran, Martin. “The Tricky Part: A Boy’s Story of Sexual Trespass, a Man’s Journey to Forgiveness”, Beacon Press, 2016.

Facing His Abuser

Amos Lassen

When Martin Moran was just twelve-years-old, he was involved in a sexual relationship with an older man that he met at a Catholic boy’s camp. Some thirty years later, he was determined to find that man and face him. This is the story of this relationship and how it effected the man Moran became. Herein lies the paradox in that what we think of as damage may be the very thing that gives rise to transformation.

Moran lived in Denver and everyone in his neighborhood saw him as a studious Catholic boy. No one knew that he had a secret that would fester for 30 years and lead to extreme anxiety, sexual compulsion and suicide attempts. Bob, a church camp counselor was in his 30s when Moran met him. For several years, Bob took Moran hiking and camping, and had sex with him. Moran shares “the inner workings of a lonely, insecure adolescent who, out of a desperate need for friendship and acceptance, continued a sexual relationship with a man 20 years his senior”. He felt guilty and was filled with shame because of this and he lived a life in which the erotic and the illicit came together and compulsive sex became his way of self-punishment.

Today Moran is a writer and actor who has managed to glean bits of guidance and self-acceptance. Unlike other books about abuse/recovery/coming-out memoirs, Moran examines a uniquely gay mind/body split while subtly reflecting on a gay man’s spiritual quest for self-determination and love.

He describes his gradual addiction to sex without love that he still sees repeated in his brief sexual trysts in parks and restrooms even though he has been with his partner, Henry of fifteen years. He writes of enjoying the concealment from friends and parents of his involvement with Bob. He shares how he thought of suicide when he felt that he was overpowered by the affair. Eventually he came upon acting and then joined a men’s support group for survivors of sexual abuse and he tells about “how much energy it takes in the present to continually dismiss the past.”

Catholicism plays a major role in the book. We read of the years of pain, depression and confusion overtook him yet he d as a well-balanced man who was able to face his abuser and in some ways this became a source of healing and forgiveness for the man who stole his youth.

We see the various ways he has wrestled with what happened and we rejoice when he discovers his gifts and talents. He tells us about maturing and when he realized that he was a man with compulsions that were ruining his life. He tells us how he became aware of his sexuality and how he was able to separate his sexual preference as the reason he was abused in the first place. This took over thirty years during which inner pain and struggles were almost unbearable.

There is real irony here when we consider that conservative Christians point to predatory “recruitment” to condemn gays and Catholic church refuses to recognize the gay man, Moran clearly shows his sexual orientation had nothing to do with his molestation but he was abused by a practicing Catholic. This is not an easy book to read because of the emotions it touches but it is a very important read. It is beautifully written and heartbreaking at times but then so is life.

It is really sad to read how much Bob used Moran and played on his need for a friend. As Moran grows older and stops seeing Bob he finds himself replicating Bob’s behavior patterns–not molesting kids, but developing an addiction to anonymous sex even though he has a partner who loves him. We are challenged to find ways to listen to abused children and help them as well as to stop religious and educational institutions from continuing this abuse.

The book is positive and hopeful throughout, even in the scenes where the author confronts his abuser. Moran shares the edifying influences he had in his life and to leave room for redemption and grace. Moran’s struggle to understand his identity in light of childhood abuse is an amazing and beautiful story.

“Gay American Novels, 1870-–1970: A Reader’s Guide” by Drewey Wayne Gunn— The Development of Gay Fiction

gay american novels

Gunn, Drewey Wayne. “Gay American Novels, 1870-–1970: A Reader’s Guide”, McFarland, 2016.

The Development of Gay Fiction

Amos Lassen

Drewey Wayne Gunn examines the development of gay American fiction and gives us an essential reading list of 257 works–novels, novellas, a graphic story cycle and a narrative poem–in which gay and bisexual male characters play a major role. Included are such iconic works, such as James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room and Christopher Isherwood’s A Single Man as well as titles not given attention by earlier surveys such as Wallace Thurman’s Infants of the Spring, Dashiel Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, Julian Green’s Each in His Darkness, Ursula Zilinsky’s Middle Ground and David Plante’s The Ghost of Henry James. Chronological entries discuss each work’s plot, significance for gay identity, and publication history, along with a brief biography of the author.

In the past there have been three previous surveys of gay novels so I can only surmise that there must be a need for a new one. I discovered that here in this edition that includes 257 pieces of work that 78 have never appeared in a survey before. Among the 179 that appear in all four the way they are regarded is quite different. I can only imagine how difficult it must be just to sit down and try to begin a work like this and I am certainly glad that someone else did so. I found this to be an invaluable guide to me as a reviewer who is trying to build the most complete collection of reviews of the novels that I have read. What I discover is that even with the almost 11,000 reviews that I have posted, I still have a lot of work to do. Aside from the entries, Gunn provides us with a general bibliography. While this is not the kind of book to be read at night, many of the entries are truly captivating. Long ago I decided that, for me, at least, the value of a book lies in what it has to tell me and I have a great deal more to read and learn.

“Queer: A Reader for Writers” edited by Jason Schneidermann— A First

queer

Schneiderman, Jason. “Queer: A Reader for Writers”, Oxford University Press, 2016.

A First

Amos Lassen

As a former college composition professor I have been trying to see a copy of “Queer” since it was first published. “Queer: A Reader for Writers”, is the first freshman composition reader built entirely around queer topics. It is made up of an interdisciplinary mix of public, academic, and cultural reading selections. Not only does it give students the rhetorical knowledge and analytical strategies that are necessary and required to participate effectively in discussions about queer theory and culture but it includes many excellent pedagogical features and are organized thematically around a range of issues and topics that fall under the topic of queer.

The book is part of a series of brief, single-topic readers from Oxford University Press designed for today’s college writing courses. Each reader in this series approaches a topic of contemporary conversation from various and diverse perspectives. The idea here is to introduce students to various academic and cultural concepts and to improve their writing skills through discussing them. Each text is followed by questions and at the end of each section there are additional questions that ask students to synthesize information and to explore beyond these texts.

We feel the presence of editor Jason Schneiderman in the informal introductions to these sections and texts. What he has to say is welcoming and it is as if he is opening the conversation.

In the first section, “Speaking Queerly,” we have two texts: “The GLAAD Media Reference Guide” from 2010 and a blog post from Mx. Justin Vivian Bond’s website: “Mx. Justin Vivian Bond: A User’s Guide.” Both of these texts show the media about the respectful terminology to describe a person (or people). While GLAAD does provide some explanations on why some terminology should be avoided, Bond goes in depth to explain the personal reasons and meanings behind the words that should be used when referring to “vself”. This juxtaposition is the basis for the book’s first two lessons that it is equally as important to know the words as it is to understand the meaning behind them and that arguably, one of the major tenets of the whole ‘queer project’ is one of self-definition.

The next section, “Thinking Queerly,” introduces readers to queer theory texts from Foucault, Sedgwick and other important thinkers. Readers are introduced to the concepts and conceptions that inform how we think about sex, sexuality, and gender today. We see early that the major problem in understanding queerness is the remapping of ideas; moving beyond a binary-based thinking to a “spectrum, spherical, or temporal-based mapping for comparisons and connections, and these texts provide an ample introduction”.

We also see how queerness and LBGTQIA identities exist in the world now, how they have existed in history and/or might exist in the future. This collection gives careful attention to gender, sex and sexual identifications since these have gained increasing attention such as non-binary genders, intersex and variations of asexuality and demi-sexuality. The book goes beyond American points of view and explores queer lives in Russia, Turkey and Belgium. There are also explorations of queer identities intersecting with race and/or religion, forms and results of activism and discussions about BDSM, open relationships / marriages, living with HIV, queer family structures and the limits of laws. Schneiderman was very careful to make sure that all of these issues were included. This gives the selections diversity and variety. Some of the selections are poetry, comics, manifestos, Supreme Court rulings, theory, opinion pieces and news articles. There are ten sections of topics and fifty-five texts. There will be those who have criticisms of what is here so it is important to remember that this is the first book of its kind.

Schneiderman’s book facilitates the development of students’ writing abilities through contemporary discussions that, in many places, have moved beyond those arguments. Using questions and additional assignments, students can be asked to connect to texts and media outside those presented and situates these readings within the wider world. These words were never meant just to be on a page—these are important and living documents and students are to react to them.

 

 

“True Homosexual Experiences: Boyd McDonald and ‘Straight to Hell’” by William E. Jones— A Second Start at Life

true homosexual experiences

Jones, William E. “True Homosexual Experiences: Boyd McDonald and ‘Straight to Hell’”, We Heard You Like Books, 2016.

A Second Start at Life

Amos Lassen

In the 1950s Boyd McDonald had everything going for him. He had a Harvard education, good jobs (Time/Life and IBM) but he felt that his life had not turned out as planned and after 20 years of being a conformist, he shucked it all; he pawned his suits, stopped drinking and went on welfare. It was then that he felt he began to live. He put roots down in a tiny room in a small hotel in Manhattan and published “Straight to Hell”, a series of chapbooks collecting readers’ “true homosexual experiences.” McDonald, like Kinsey, obsessively pursued the truth about sex between men at a time when gay liberation began to change those who were referred to as America’s sexual outlaws as they tried to achieve legal recognition. McDonald was admired by many (including Gore Vidal and William S. Burroughs) and “Straight to Hell” brought together a vigorous contempt for authority with a unique and keen literary style.

Author William E. Jones conducted in-depth interviews with many people from McDonald’s life, including friends, colleagues, and most unexpectedly, family members who told him that McDonald was a loving uncle who doted on his nieces and great-nieces. Jones has drawn a complex portrait drawn of McDonald based on a wealth of previously unpublished material and this is the first biography devoted to a key figure of the American underground.

McDonald was a World War II veteran from the Great Plains, who grew to resent conformity and decided to rid himself of it. Even after his death, McDonald continued to make trouble for those in power. He was the subject of a 2006 opinion by U. S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who ruled that one of his books was pornographic while acknowledging that this question is ultimately vague and subjective.

“Straight to Hell” focused on the raunchy extremes and true tales of gay men’s lives. The magazine was meant to shock value as to prurient interests and it carried the tagline of “Love and Hate for the American Straight.” It eventually became important for generations of gay men starting in the mid-1970s. Its pictorials, interviews, and reader-submitted stories gave a picture of the gay hidden subculture, and it was one of the first queer magazines. Jones includes excerpts from it and shares the writing and the photography making it easy to see why it was so popular., that made the publication an underground hit. This biographical retrospective is sometimes loses itself in narration yet still manages to give information about the period in which the magazine was created. “Straight to Hell” was self-published and crude with a sense of urgency and contempt for authority. traits that it clearly took from its troubled, obsessive creator. The subject matter makes this quite a book that is insightful and valuable for the study of gay culture and/or just fun to read.

“Tom House: Tom of Finland in Los Angeles” by Michael Reynolds with Photographs by Martyn Thompson— The Home of a Revolutionary Artist

tom house

Reynolds, Michael. “Tom House: Tom of Finland in Los Angeles”, Rizzoli, 2016.

The Home of a Revolutionary Artist

Amos Lassen

Touko Laaksonen or Tom of Finland (1920-1991) was one of the modern age’s revolutionary artists. He spent the last ten years of his life in Los Angeles in a house that was as extraordinary as he was. It was part shrine, part haven, part art-historical archive, and part utopian collective. Today, it is still occupied by the men who resided there with Tom and have dedicated themselves to preserving his legacy. The house is a living tribute to the artist’s astonishing works and his radical vision of unapologetic homoerotic sexuality. This new book by Michael Reynolds takes us to the house and gives us an intimate view of the man behind the hyper- masculine imager. This is a house, I am fairly sure, is like no other. We move from art-filled room to art-filled room and dining room to dungeon. Almost every surface of the house is covered in art made by Tom himself or by those he influenced and inspired. Martyn Thompson’s dynamic and revelatory photographs are paired with rarely seen preparatory sketches and unfinished drawings. These compelling images show Tom’s work in an entirely new light by inviting readers to explore a hidden world of dreams and desire.

tom1

Tom House at 1421 Laveta Terrace sits on a residential street in Echo Park, Los Angeles. This is where the provocative artist lived and worked during the last decade of his life and until his death in 1991. The house is still occupied by Durk Dehner, the man who lived there with Tom and dedicated himself to preserving the artist’s legacy by cofounding the Tom of Finland Foundation with Laaksonen in 1984.

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For the first time, Tom House is seen in a picture book with text by Michael Reynolds, and beautifully photographed by Martyn Thompson. Reading the book is like taking a tour of Tom’s art-filled rooms, where black leather and phallic memorabilia come together and preside.

tom2

Tom House is most definitely not a tomb. When Tom was alive, it was a pleasure palace for the artist and his friends. Today Tom’s sense of outrageousness (and humor) lives on in rooms strewn with penises and homoerotic art. From metal cock-casts to phallus-shaped throw pillows, the objects are so much more than pornographic kitsch. These days, the house is used as an archive and outsider art gallery.

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While Tom of Finland’s artistic legacy is universal, his energy is the most present in his L.A. home, known affectionately as Tom House. Since the early 1950s, Tom of Finland sketched authoritarian male figures and imagined their sexual escapades with each other. Well-sculpted and well-endowed bodies are all over the house. This new book reveals the uninhibited mind of Tom to the masses, and gives us a view of his that is now a museum of his work.

tom3

New York-based photographer Martyn Thompson acts as a tour guide of the home and he has captured striking images of its interior and exterior. Tom’s original drawings are seen throughout the book and these add artistic context to Thompson’s images. Tom’s artwork is the raw fruit of his sexual and artistic passions–and we see the elements of their homoeroticism in his home. Phallic images appear in the form of sculptures, curios, pillows, blankets and it is okay to say that the house is fully immersed in eroticism.

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Photographer Thompson captures the details of the home’s decor that could be missed at first glance. He has an eye for texture and this is notable in his photographs of the home especially the photo of a denim quilt delicately emblazoned with homoerotic imagery that totally encapsulates the marriage of tones present in the home. However, even with all of the erotica, there is still plenty of nuance. Thompson says that he was surprised to find that the hyper masculinity of the art is not reflected in the hominess of the place. He tells us that it is quite a “cozy” place to live.

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Tom of Finland used his house as a safe haven for like-minded men and in it he created a warm sense of safety and brotherhood. The home is founded on a strong sense of connection and Tom’s house is indeed a home. Laaksonen loved penis and male genitalia is revered in each and every corner of his home— in drawings, paintings, photographs and massive sculpted penises on the fireplace.

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“Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and His Gay Son” by Brad Harper and Drew Harper— Father and Son

space at the table

Harper, Brad and Drew Harper. “Space at the Table: Conversations Between an Evangelical Theologian and His Gay Son”, Zeal Books, 2016.

Father and Son

Amos Lassen

It took years of struggle for Drew (the son) and his father, Brad, to overcome the differences in belief that threatened to destroy their relationship. For Brad and Drew Harper the problems were not theoretical and it was very difficult for both men. Brad and Drew take us on their journey as parent and child “from the churches of Middle America to the penthouses of New York’s party scenes, through a pastor’s-kid childhood and painful conversion therapy to the hard-won victories of their adult relationship”.

On one hand, “Space at the Table” is a memoir but it so much more than that. It is a guide that shows us a way through the roadblocks that threaten to tear apart families and the evangelical and LBGTQ communities as well. Brad and Drew invite us to sit at their table and partake of the very strong love that they share.

We have both narrative and analysis and as the authors tell their story, they each try to make sense of it from their different perspectives. When Drew first came out, he and Brad (the father) agreed that he should seek out ex-gay therapy. And then the narrative shows the outcomes of the therapy (which were mostly pain and confusion). Based on what the narrative says, we can draw our own conclusions about ex-gay therapy. We also get more explicit recommendations about ex-gay therapy.

In the narrative sections of the book, the authors writing to each other at least as much as they are writing for their readership. Each chapter contains alternating passages written by either Drew or Brad, and these are often written in the second person.

We also hear from members of the evangelical community and it would have been great to get some third-party perspectives in the LGBT community as well. Father and Son are totally vulnerable in how they related to each other and to God during their processes of growth. For Drew, the process was growing up, coming out, and working through his own questions and beliefs about God and sexuality. For Brad, the process was raising and loving his son and figuring out how to embrace his son and stay true to his deepest spiritual beliefs, even when his son’s actions contradicted those beliefs.

The intersection of faith and sexuality one of the most complex, hotly debated, and potentially most damaging conversations going on today and too often the conversation ends in shattered relationships, broken hearts and broken families. Brad and Drew, and indeed the whole Harper family tell a different story. They fought to make space for each other and stay in close nurturing relationship with each other, even in the face of fundamental differences. Father and son hold nothing back. We laugh with them and we cry with them and that is a good thing. We all need to let our emotions out ever so often. This is a painful story because those taking part in it are honest and sincere people.

Aside from the narrative, we are given what are called relationship tools for navigating the conversation about faith and sexuality. Brad and Drew share their story with practical wisdom and humor, even through it is in the form of a conversation. We see that ending a relationship over a theological belief deprives both parties of seeing the beauty in each other. Of course, we do not get all of the answers and never will. When people try to keep a relationship alive, it takes work and is a challenge but we see that it can be done.

“Oscar of Between: A Memoir of Identity and Ideas” by Betsy Warland— A Nine Year Journey

oscar inbetween

Warland, Betsy. “Oscar of Between: A Memoir of Identity and Ideas”, Daggar Editions, 2016.

A Nine-Year Journey

Amos Lassen

Betsy Warland was 60 years old and fund herself alone and with no sense of family. She decided, on an impulse, to travel to London to celebrate her birthday and while there she felt an urge to see an exhibit on the invention of military camouflage. Within the first five minutes of her visit to the exhibition, Betsy realized that the reason she felt so different was because she had “never learned the art of camouflage”.

With Betsy now taking the name Oscar, she sets out on a journey that was to last some nine years and she was to tell her own story of being a person who is neither here nor there but “in between”.

This marked the beginning of Oscar of Between: A Memoir of Identity and Ideas. Taking the name Oscar, she embarks on an intimate, nine-year quest by telling her story as “a person of between.” When Betsy is Oscar, she is able to understand and make sense of her self and the culture that shaped her. Her feelings of being in between began during her childhood in the rural Midwest, to when she had her first queer kiss in 1978, her divorce, her coming out and her years as a writer. In 1984, together with her lover, she wrote lesbian erotic love poetry collections in dialogue with one another and they remain first and only tandem collections on this subject in English Canada. When that relationship ended, Betsy experienced years of unacknowledged exclusion from a community in which she thought she belonged.

However, when she began to write Oscar’s story, she took into account culture with its divisions and demarcations and she then realized that she can be at ease and comfortable with either gender. Some address Oscar as male while others do so as female. There have been those that began a conversation in one gender and then switched during the chat. There are those who see Oscar as a lesbian and others do not have a reference to sexuality. There are also those who stare and look for a physical sign while others see Oscar and androgynous. We certainly see that people love labels. We must not forget that there are those who just do not care about gender. As the author pushes the boundaries, we see that there are and different ways to see ourselves.

A contemporary Orlando, Oscar of Between extends beyond the author’s personal narrative, pushing the boundaries of form, and by doing so, invents new ways to see ourselves.

The 2016 Publishing Triangle Award Finalists Announced

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The 2016 Publishing Triangle Award Finalists Announced

(Those marked with an asterisk have been reviewed here at reviewsbyamoslassen.com

The Publishing Triangle, the association of lesbian and gay men in publishing, have announced the finalists for their annual literary awards. Congratulations to all the nominees.

 

Finalists for the Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature

*The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson (Graywolf Press)

Debridement, by Corrina Bain (Great Weather for Media)

The Middle Notebookes, by Nathanaël (Nightboat Books)

*Trans/Portraits: Voices from Transgender Communities, by Jackson Wright Schultz (Dartmouth College Press)

Finalists for the Judy Grahn Award for Lesbian Nonfiction


Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Arsenal Pulp Press)

*The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle, by Lillian Faderman (Simon and Schuster)

Honor Girl, by Maggie Thrash (Candlewick Press)

“No One Helped”: Kitty Genovese, New York City, and the Myth of Urban Apathy, by Marcia M. Gallo (Cornell University Press)

Finalists for the Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction

*Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage, by Barney Frank (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

*A House in St. John’s Wood: In Search of My Parents, by Matthew Spender (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

*It’s Not Over: Getting Beyond Tolerance, Defeating Homophobia, and Winning True Equality, by Michelangelo Signorile (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

*Visions and Revisions: Coming of Age in the Age of AIDS by Dale Peck (Soho Press)

Finalists for the Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry


Bodymap, by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha (Mawenzi House/TSAR)

Fanny Says, by Nickole Brown (BOA Editions)

Life in a Box Is a Pretty Life, by Dawn Lundy Martin (Nightboat Books)

No Confession, No Mass, by Jennifer Perrine (University of Nebraska Press

Finalists for the Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry


Boy with Thorn, by Rickey Laurentiis (University of Pittsburgh Press)

Chord, by Rick Barot (Sarabande Books)

Farther Traveler, by Ronaldo V. Wilson (Counterpath Press)

The Spectral Wilderness, by Oliver Bendorf (Kent State University Press)

Finalists for the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction


Blue Talk and Love, by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan (Riverdale Avenue Books)

Bright Lines, by Tanwi Nandini Islam (Penguin Books)

*Hotel Living, by Ioannis Pappos (Harper Perennial)

One Hundred Days of Rain, by Carellin Brooks (BookThug)

Finalists for The Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction


*After the Parade, by Lori Ostlund (Scribner)

*JD, by Mark Merlis (Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press)

*A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara (Doubleday)

*A Poet of the Invisible World, by Michael Golding (Picador)

*Under the Udala Trees, by Chinelo Okparanta (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

“Confessions of a Transvestite Buddhist: A Quest for Manhood” by Upasaka Devamitra— Cross Dressing and Buddhism

confessions of a transvestite buddha

Devamitra, Upasaka. “Confessions of a Transvestite Buddhist: A Quest for Manhood”, Achilles Publishing, 2014.

Cross-dressing and Buddhism

Amos Lassen

Have you ever wondered what drives a man to dress like a woman or about what kind of a guy is a cross dresser? Is the man who chooses to do this even a man at all? Do we even have a definition of what is a man? Upsaka Devamitra has heard all of the explanations and theories but they did not ring true to him especially when he tested them against his own experiences. He was unable to find answers to other issues that bothered him as well. He certainly never found the answer to his most important question— “did transvestism fit with his aspirations as a Buddhist?” For ten years he cross-dressed habitually, and for a long time secretively and not just out of a drive to do so, but in an attempt to cut beneath the surface to try to understand its deeper significance. He wrote this book as an examination of those deeper currents in transvestism and manhood and also as an exploration of the mind of the cross dresser. It is not always clear what it means to be one gender or the other and he brings up the idea that one way for a man to find out the meaning of being a man is to dress as a woman. This book is what he found out and it is a very candid exploration of his own journey into cross dressing and even beyond. It a beautifully written look into his own mind and what he suspects is in the minds of others.

Underlying everything that Devamitra does is his deep commitment to Buddhism and this is founded on the Buddha’s unique insight into the nature of all and any identity. Devamitra’s work transcends its own particularity. He strikes striking at truths that are shared by all human beings, whether they are ‘straight’ or otherwise, male or female, Buddhist or not. “Devamitra has written a courageous book which explores a very personal subject rarely aired in Buddhist discussion. We can all learn a lot from reading about this brave man’s journey and from examining our own responses”.