Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Marked by Scorn: An Anthology Featuring Non-Traditional Relationships” edited by Dominica Malcolm— Love. Regret. Humility. Shame. Pride

marked by scorn

Malcolm Dominica (editor).“Marked by Scorn: An Anthology Featuring Non-Traditional Relationships”, Solarwyrm Press , 2016.

Love. Regret. Humility. Shame. Pride.

Amos Lassen

I have just heard about this anthology and it looks fascinating so I thought I would pass on the news to my readers.

Living on the fringes of society, shunning expectations and obligations in favour of submitting to personal truth has its effects on a person. Sometimes it saves a life, and other times, it forces a life into a harsher reality.

 “Marked by Scorn” is a collection of stories and poems that explore the experiences of these people— Lesbians both open and hidden. Gay couples in South East Asia. Transgender and intersex people in the West. Interracial relationships throughout the world. Non-monogamy as seen through the eyes of choice and culture.

 With a sampling of genres to discover including contemporary fiction, romance, speculative fiction, and memoir, delve into the narratives of people who have been part of non-traditional relationships.

 Edited by Aurealis Award shortlisted anthology editor Dominica Malcolm. Featuring poetry by Dana L Stringer, Cathy Bryant, Taylor Lyn Carmen, Rochelle Potkar, Karen Sylvia Rockwell, Eve Kenneally, and Kiki Nicole; stories by Kelly Burke, Jeremiah Murphy, Cindy Stauffer, Tara Calaby, Men Pechet, Viny, Sara Dobie Bauer, Vanessa Ng, Tom Trumpinski, Adan Ramie, Rumaizah Abu Bakar, Rebecca Freeman, Baylea Jones, Mo Reynolds, Khadija Anderson, Dominica Malcolm, Tom Nolan, Kawika Guillermo, Shruti Sareen, Donnelle Belanger-Taylor, GK Hansen, Terry Sanville, Jude Ortega, and Jo Wu; and both a poem and a story by DJ Tyrer.

 

 

“Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation” by Simon Levay— Genes, Hormones and Cells

gay straight and the reason why

LeVay, Simon. “Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why: The Science of Sexual Orientation”, ,Oxford, 2016.

Genes, Hormones and Cells

Amos Lassen

What causes a child to grow up gay or straight? Neuroscientist Simon LeVay looks at scientific evidence that points to the one inescapable conclusion and states that sexual orientation is the result of an interaction between genes, sex hormones, and the cells of the developing body and brain. He take us to laboratories that specialize in genetics, endocrinology, neuroscience, cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, and family demographics and describes how researchers have manipulated the sex hormone levels of animals during development, causing them to mate preferentially with animals of their own gender.

This is second edition of the book and in it LeVay Has added a chapter on bisexuality, reviews some uncommon forms of sexuality, and considers whether there could be a biological basis for subtypes of gay people such as “butch” and “femme” lesbians.

It seems as if we have been fighting the war of nature vs. nurture for a long time and it had once been decided that homosexuality and bisexuality are the result of nature. LeVay’s book is the most comprehensive on the subject. He begins by reacting to the question of what sexual orientation is. He discusses how gayness is not monolithic; rather, there seems to be different kinds of homosexuality. LeVay says differences between straights and gays go beyond body language to include visuospatial abilities (e.g., lesbians, like straight men, have better spatial abilities than straight women) and verbal fluency. He gives an overview of current thinking on the role of genes and how testosterone levels may influence the fetus’s development.

LeVay’s study found a correlation between body structures and sexual orientation. He uses language that is clear and understandable to tell us this and he puts the studies on the issue in a readable context, explaining the relevance of each data set in our overall understanding of the relationships between human physiology and behavior. He does not claim that we understand all that we need to know and he explains clearly what we have.

“Beyond Monogamy: Polyamory and the Future of Polyqueer Sexualities” by Mimi Schippers— Sexual Normalcy?

beyond monogamy

Schippers, Mimi. “Beyond Monogamy: Polyamory and the Future of Polyqueer Sexualities”, (Intersections), NYU Press, 2016.

Sexual Normalcy?

Amos Lassen

Mimi Schippers explores compulsory monogamy as a central feature of sexual normalcy. She argues that compulsory monogamy promotes the monogamous couple as the only legitimate, natural, or desirable relationship and in this way, monogamy supports and legitimizes gender, race, and sexual inequalities. She investigates sexual interactions and relationship forms that include more than just two people, be that polyamory, threesomes, and the ‘down-low,’ by exploring the queer, feminist, and anti-racist potential of non-dyadic sex and relationships. She sets out to give us an intense and serious look at the intersections of society and sexuality by taking us on a journey through these various kinds of sexual relationships. We are to keep in mind that the key word here is sexual. She further looks at why there is such a strong cultural taboo against certain kinds of sexual relationships and what we learn about how society regards gender and sexuality. She examines the “racialized and gendered backdrop against which heterosexuality and monogamy play out in contemporary US culture” and the impacts of non-monogamies on it. In doing so she exposes how hetero-masculinity and mono-normativity are socially constructed and are nowhere near being inevitable.

Schippers blames feminist sexuality scholars for failing to theorize compulsory monogamy as a regime of normalcy that enforces gendered, raced, and classed inequalities thereby showing the importance of expanding how we understand sexual and romantic relationships.

There are several problems that I encountered reading Schippers. First of all this is not a book written for the layman and this knocks out a large percentage of the reading population. As an academic myself, I feel that I can say that. What is really missing here is the concept and practice off bisexuality. Schippers also does not have knowledge or experience with the gay community and it is obvious that she does not want to know about gay and lesbian relationships. The tone with which she writes emphasizes how judgmental she is. I was stunned to read her criticism of a relationship between one man and two women. She claims that the two women engaged in bisexuality only to satisfy the single male and that what they did together was faked.

If you really want to read about this topic this book is a poor place to begin. There is really nothing new here and everything in it is how Schippers alone sees it and how she sees things is narrow.

 

“Before I Do” by Elizabeth F. Schwartz— Considering Marriage

before I do

Schwartz, Elizabeth F. “Before I Do: A Legal Guide to Marriage, Gay and Otherwise”, The New Press, 2016.

Considering Marriage

Amos Lassen

I knew it would only be a matter of time until someone wrote a book like this and it is a welcome addition to our literature. Whenever someone considers marriage, looking at the pluses and minuses is a good thing to do. After all, marriage is a legal contract.

The dos and don’ts for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people include the laws that affect relationships. Elizabeth Schwartz explains these clearly and gets to the main point of each so that there us no problem understanding what one is getting into. Hey, we are still new at this and now that we can marry openly there are some things that we need to know. For one thing, we are now legal and we have to know what that means. There are many gay and lesbian couples who have been accustomed to living together as if they were married. Now they want to make that legal and have the benefits of marriage and they jump into it without really understanding what they are getting into.

Schwartz introduces us to the considerations that we need to be aware of before we commit to each other legally. She looks at the rights marriage provides and those that it does not. We also hear from some of the most prominent LGBT professionals as Schwartz explains all of the implications of marriage (name changes, getting a license, taxes, insurance, Social Security, and so much more. We have important chapters on estate planning, pre- and post-nuptial agreements, and finance organization to take care of and she reminds that just because he can marry does not mean that we should marry.

This is a book that we really never thought that we would ever need but we have learned just how important it is. The decision to marry is a very important one and we need to get the answers to the legal questions in order to know how to react to them. Schwartz manages to explain all that we need to know. She uses real cases from her own files to explain what we need to know.

“Spinning the Record” by Robert Hyers—- Connection, Fulfillment and Redemption

spinning the record

Hyers, Robert. “Spinning the Record”, Lethe Press, 2016.

Connection, Fulfillment and Redemption

Amos Lassen

Life is all about knowing who we are and being loved. So often, young gay people look for connection, fulfillment, and redemption and they do so inside gay clubs and raves as they try to understand just where they fit. Robert Hyers looks at these young LGBT people in his debut collection of young voices. What he finds is very real and he shares that human ability of being trapped and the need and desire to feel human and part of the larger world. Regardless of age and station in life, all of us are constantly emerging and as LGBT people we understand that coming-out is not just a one-time issue. Many of us come out several times a week. It is in this thought that this book becomes so important. It s beautifully written and it talks with care and responsibility.

“Transgender, Intersex and Biblical Interpretation” by Teresa J. Hornsby and Daryl Guest— A Call for ‘Trans Literacy’ within Biblical Scholarship

transgender,intersex and biblical interpretation

Hornsby, Teresa J and Daryn Guest. “Transgender, Intersex and Biblical Interpretation”, (Semeia Studies, SBL Press 2016.

A Call for “Trans-literacy: Within Biblical Scholarship

Amos Lassen

We certainly do not think about the Bible when we speak about trans people but after reading this, I am convinced that we should. One of the wonderful things about the Bible is that it has something to say about everything.

Writers Hornsby and Guest explain the terms for the various identities of trans people and how the Bible can be an affirmation of those who are considered sexually other by communities. This book offers readings of well known (Genesis 1; Revelation) and some that are not so well known (2 Samuel, Jeremiah 38). These narratives show that the Bible has been translated and interpreted with a bias that makes heterosexuality and a two sex, two gender system natural, and thus divinely ordained. We get examples that show gender was never a binary, and in the Bible gender and sex are always dynamic categories that do, and must, change with the times.

 We are provided with definitions of key terms, including transsexual, transgender, cissexism, heterosexism, intersex, and eunuch. This is a critique of how biblical texts are used in Christian positional statements on transsexuality and the book presents statistics concerning rates of violence against trans persons.

”More Sex, Drugs & Disco” by Mark Abramson— As It Was

more sex drugs and disco

Abramson, Mark. ”More Sex, Drugs & Disco”, Wilde City, 2016.

As It Was

Amos Lassen

Mark Abramson follows “Sex, Drugs & Disco,” with the second volume in his diary about life in San Francisco. Here we begin on January 1, 1980 with optimism for the new decade. In the 80s, San Francisco represented freedom for gay men from around the world, and he was there to write down the details of many of his tricks, love affairs as well as everything else that he can remember.

Many had no idea that these times were special or that the AIDS epidemic was going to devastate our community. The gay men of San Francisco lived a hedonistic life style and this is Mark Abramson’s personal look at the city as it tried to fight the rising death toll. Abramson’s diary entries are similar to those in his previous books. Abramson gives his own conclusions along with his feelings of fatigue and fear as the party that was once San Francisco became a funeral for many in his community.

We meet the characters from his life, learn about sexually transmitted diseases and businesses that could have been run so much better. This is quite a valuable document of the day-to-day life of a gay man at a time that it seemed that everything was on the verge of crashing.

“Free to be Me: Celebrating 21 Years of Freedom Youth” by Lori Streich and Rosa Fanti— An Anniversary

free to be me

Streich, Lori and Rosa Fanti. “Free to be Me: Celebrating 21 Years of Freedom Youth”, Tangent Books, 2016.

An Anniversary

Amos Lassen

The Heritage Lottery Fund generously agreed to fund an oral history project to tell Freedom Youth’s story in the words of the people who set it up and of those who have been or are its members, and who have worked for Freedom over the years. Lori Streich and Rosa Fanti interviewed twenty-five people and heard from many others via surveys and they all spoke about the difference that being a part of Freedom has made in their lives, and how it has supported and enabled young people to be out, and to feel comfortable with their sexuality and identity., Freedom has always been a place where young people can just enjoy themselves as themselves – whoever they are and whatever their identities. We are all well aware of identity as an important issue for young people, and for Freedom as a whole. Over its 21 years, the whole question of identity has changed and Freedom has changed with it. Initially, Freedom Youth defined itself as an LGB group (lesbian, gay and bisexual) but then by 2006, it was an LGBT group (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender). In 2016, it is an LGBTQ+ group, widely inclusive and including those who are queer/questioning and others. This change is seen throughout “Free to Be Me”. The group has tried to use the right abbreviation (LGB, LGBT, LGBTQ+) in the appropriate time period as Freedom’s story is told here. While the abbreviations have changed, the purpose of Freedom has not. On every Tuesday for now twenty-one years, there have been and still are sessions in Bristol, England. Freedom is one of the oldest, and possibly the longest continuously running social and support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people in the UK.

“Gay Modernity: Essays on Gender and Culture” by John Jervis— Changes in Attitude

Jervis, John. “Gay Modernity: Essays on Gender and Culture”, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Changes in Attitude

Amos Lassen

We live in changing times so it should come as no surprise that attitudes have also changed and that is the pith of John Jervis’ new book on gay modernity. I am quite sure that most of us never thought we would see the tremendous changes toward LGBT and societal changes that we are now experiencing.

Jervis looks at those changes toward and representations of gender and sexual identity in modernity. He argues that “artifice is an unavoidable consequence of modern culture and that identity politics and gender relations have become increasingly implicated in questions of style and desire”. He uses the word “gayness” as a key to open up a wide-ranging set of issues in our understanding of masculinity and femininity as well as to show their relationship to modern popular culture and the arts.

 

“Queen Called Bitch: Tales of a Teenage Bitter-Ass Homosexual”— Finding His Place

queen called bitch

Goode, Waldell. “Queen Called Bitch: Tales of a Teenage Bitter-Ass Homosexual”, Wilde City Books, 2016.

Finding His Place

Amos Lassen

One of the topics that is so notably missing in LGBT literature is being gay and black in America. I have really never understood why this is the case but there are very few fiction or nonfiction accounts of Afro American gay life when we compare it to what is available about other groups.

Here Waldell Goode writes about a loud-mouthed, black, gay teenager who struggles to find himself in rural America. After he realized that he would not be able to go to top-choice college, he sets out on a journey to understand his life and himself. He learns that as much as he can control his nonexistent love life, there are other factors that aren’t as easily to deal with. He, eventually, comes to terms with his peculiar relationship with his mother and faces the inevitable heartbreak that he is unable to avoid. The voice of God also has something important to teach him.

We cannot help but notice that the color of his skin is not nearly as serious as he thinks. It is really all about who he is and how he sees and deals with himself. This leads me to understand that life for black gays is really no different than it is for others and everything depends upon how a situation is faced. Goode is a new voice for me but I see that what he says has a lot to say about so many of us. I believe we will be hearing a great deal more from and about him.