Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Realities” by Lee Harrington— Answering Questions

traversing gender

Harrington, Lee. “Traversing Gender: Understanding Transgender Realities”, Mystic Productions Press, 2016.

Answering Questions

Amos Lassen

Just in case you have not noticed, we live at a tile of gender identity and transgender awareness. There are questions and there are questions that no one dared to ask publicly until now. There are those who have never heard of transgender, transsexual, or gender variant people and they can feel lost or confused. There is information out there but it can be hard to find and in many cases it is biased, fragmented or both and can be hard to find. Today trans people are finally being heard and they are getting to talk to each other and the world is finally listening. Often the topics that trans people are intimate and how writer and trans advocate Lee Harrington makes some of these conversations available for everyone to understand. On a personal level, this book is very important to me as I have a trans nephew and before reading this, I really did not understand any of this except that trans people need equal rights like everyone else. Among the topics that Harrington covers are understanding the terms (“trans” and “transgender”), sex, gender and orientation, trans experiences, networking, emotional support systems for trans people, navigating health care. We also learn about what “transitioning” looks like, from a variety of different approaches, how legal systems deal with gender and trans issues, other challenges and becoming an ally.

It is necessary for us to understand all of these and this book helps with that in that is written for the man/woman on the street. Perhaps the biggest problem with the trans issue is knowledge about it and the fact that so many trans people have chosen to be basically invisible. Books like this will certainly help with that because acceptance and understanding go hand-in-hand.

Writer Lee Harrington has divided his book into four sections and then each of these are further broken down:

“Journeys” includes “Sex Gender and Orientation”, “Diversity of Transgender Journeys”, “Time Periods of Transition”. Under “Health” we get “Social Health”, “Medical Health”, “Sexual Health” and “Mental Health”. “World at Large” included “Transgender and the Law”, “Challenges and Communities” and “Being a Trans Ally”. Harrington concludes what we have here in a final chapter, “The Journey Ahead” and there is a glossary and a list of resources. This is a very complete and needed book that is sure to make the journey much easier for those who are involved in the gender process. As I see it and as Harrington so wonderfully explains is that he main issues are understanding and acceptance and his book certainly helps us with these.

“Queer Identities and Politics in Germany: a History, 1880-1945” by Clayton Whisnant— Gay Rights Activism in Germany

queer identities and politics in germany

Whisnant, Clayton. “Queer Identities and Politics in Germany: a History, 1880-1945”, Harrington Park Press, 2016.

Gay Rights Activism in Germany

Amos Lassen

There was an emergence of various “queer identities” (‘what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender”) in Germany from 1880 to 1945 as well political strategies pursued by early gay and lesbian activists. In his book Clayton Whisnant looks at English and German research of late to add to the ongoing argument as to whether science contributed to social progress or persecution during this period. He presents new information on the Nazis’ preoccupation with homosexuality.

What many do not know is that during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Germany, there were important developments in LGBT history. These included the world’s first homosexual organizations and the first gay and lesbian magazines. There was also an influential community of German sexologists and psychoanalysts. We get details about these from as we learn of the German gay social scene through the Nazi persecution during which many members of the LGBT communities were sent to the camps.

While Berlin was the center of German gay life there were several other cities that had vibrant gay communities and these included Munich, Hamburg, and Cologne. Gay men such as Thomas Mann, Klaus Mann, Stefan George, Wilhelm von Gloeden and others are introduced to us here and we are also taken into the lesbian world to read what so many others have not covered. The end of the book shows how Germany’s past connects with its gay life of today.

I cannot even begin to imagine how much research went into this book. It is reader friendly and both for the academic and lay reader. As I read I found interesting fact after interesting fact and I found myself still reading during the early morning hours when I usually sleep.

Queer German history has a great deal of relevance for American readers interested in LGBTQ issues. Some of what you will learn here includes:

  • The first writer to coin the term “homosexual” was a German-speaking Hungarian in 1869.
  • The first homosexual activists were German, in the 1890s.
  • The world’s first gay bar, one that catered entirely to–vs. one that was favored by or tolerated–homosexuals) opened in Berlin in 1880.
  • Berlin’s gay life became internationally renowned/infamous, by the mid-1920s supporting nearly 100 gay and 50 lesbian bars and nightclubs. Police harassment was a regular occurrence, however.
  • By the end of the decade, a national organization of underground gay social clubs in Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart had over 48,000 members.
  • The first periodicals addressed to gay men, lesbians, and transgender people were all German. Dozens of gay and lesbian magazines flourished, though furtively and under various names, from the 1890s to 1928, when the Law to Protect Youth against Trash and Smut shuttered all but a small handful.
  • The first Institute of Sex Research was opened in 1919 in Berlin. As well as being a research library and housing a large archive, the Institute also included medical, psychological, and ethnological divisions, and a marriage and sex counseling office.
  • A German scientist coined the term “transvestism,” paving the way for the distinction that we make between homosexual and transgender.
  • The first step toward something like rights for cross-dressers came when the Berlin police agreed to issue “transvestite passes.”
  • The first sex reassignment operation was done by a German doctor in 1920.
  • The pink triangle attached to the inmate uniforms of homosexual men in the Nazi concentration camps has been transformed since the 1970s into one of the internationally recognized symbols of LGBTQ politics.

“Cogent, well-researched and readable. Useful as a reader in a first year undergraduate course in the history of sexuality or alternatively as a reference work for a course on the Racial State or the Holocaust. This book is certainly also of interest to LGBTQ community groups and LGBTQ Resource Centers.” – Jennifer Evans, author of Queer Cities, Queer Culture: Europe Since 1945 (Continuum, 2013) with Matt Cook, Carlton University

“This is an outstanding survey book in all respects: intelligible to a wider readership while still pursuing an intellectual ambition, knowledgeable and precise, including stories and telling details while also offering interpretative food for thought and never losing the red thread. Different aspects and layers of queer history in Germany c. 1880-1945 are expertly covered, from Sexualwissenschaft to media scandals, from literary life to urban space. Recommended with enthusiasm.” – Moritz Föllmer, former reviews editor, German History, University of Amsterdam

“Dreamers: An Immigrant Generation’s Fight for Their American Dream” by Eileen Truax— Fighting to Be Legal

dreamers

Truax, Eileen. “Dreamers: An Immigrant Generation’s Fight for Their American Dream”, Beacon Press, 2015.

Fighting to Be Legal

Amos Lassen

Of the approximately twelve million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, as many as two million of them came here as children. They have grown up here, gone to elementary, middle, and high school but the country they call home does not and will not, in most states, offer financial aid for college and they’re unable to be legally employed. In 2001, US senator Dick Durbin introduced the DREAM Act to Congress, an initiative that would allow these young people to become legal residents if they met certain requirements. Today, some fifteen years later, this has not been passed and as a result the young people have begun organizing and using the slogan, “Undocumented, Unapologetic, and Unafraid”. These same young people have become they are the newest face of the human rights movement. Author Eileen Truax, in her new book “Dreamers” shares the stories of these men and women who are proof of a complex and sometimes hidden political reality that has us question what it truly means to be American.

Here are the stories of the undocumented young people who came to the United States as children, with their parents who came illegally. They really only remember living in the United States and identify as Americans and are culturally American. Because of their status they cannot get drivers’ licenses, they cannot work, they cannot get financial aid for college. Their circumstances vary, but they share a commitment to political activism and they all have faced the realization that while everyone else is planning their future they may not be able to go to college and can’t work legally.

What will happen to these people is dependent on two issues— the potential passage of the DREAM Act, and the desires of the local authorities. Some have already been deported. but many have turned to political activism, and seem to be having some degree of success. Now with politics as they are, the numerical significance of Latino votes means that politicians who favor hard-line, deportation-focused policies, are afraid of the bad press that can come with mass deportations. Therefore many immigration raids and forced “repatriations” happen in secret. Young activists understand that the more publicity they get, the more likely will be successful. The young men and women that we read about here in this book are using that threat of public embarrassment to work for legislative change. In fact, the book itself is political activism and author Truax is clearly a supporter of the DREAM Act. We cannot deny that these young people have made valuable contributions to the United States but their activism also causes limitations. The young people that we meet here are largely good students and want to pursue college. However, it must be clear that not every undocumented teenager is going to fit this profile, though they do face many of the same challenges. Truax deep feelings for her subject matter and the people she has followed lead to a show of emotions and prose that is sometimes overblown but that is the price to be paid.

Truax shows that many of these young people live with two identities that go against the accepted norm. She shares the experiences and struggles of a Dreamer, Jorge, who had to come out as undocumented and queer. 

Jorge lives in El Hormiguero, a community center in the San Fernando Valley in northern Los Angeles, where students, activists, and other members of the community hold meetings on various topics. It was a space where gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites, and transgender people could share their experiences and talk about what it’s like to live with not just one but two identities that go against the accepted norm. They shared their struggles to get ahead or just keep going, explaining it takes a lot of work that is often overwhelming.

Jorge was the special guest at this session. The meetings at El Hormiguero usually have ten to fifteen participants, sometimes more and at each one, someone is invited to share an experience in a particular area that he or she has had to deal with every day or perhaps just relate a success story. Jorge’s area of struggle was definitely coming to terms with his identity as an undocumented gay man.

He was born in El Cora, a ranching area in Mexico. His family was poor and made their living by farming. His father grew papayas, mangos, cocoa, and avocados to feed the family and to sell. As the children got older, they helped out with the crops but his parents had a far from perfect relationship and his own childhood showed signs of abuse and violence. Jorge is now twenty-eight-years-old yet he remembers his first confrontation with injustice. When he was six or seven, he already knew he was different by the way he played with the other children but at the time he didn’t understand exactly what it was. His parents also noticed it too but they never talked about it with him. One day Jorge was playing with a little girl, and he remembers very well that it was something that irritated his father when he came home from work and saw them. His father yanked Jorge by his shirt and violently yanked him up, then threw him onto the floor and told him that he did not want any faggots in his house.

“Ever since then, I knew I was different.”

For Jorge, his journey across the border was a good and happy experience. Since his uncle was documented and had a car, they had worked it out to cross over with him and an aunt was waiting for them. Thus began Jorge’s new life in Orange County, about forty miles south of Los Angeles. Jorge recalled it as a positive time. Although it marked the beginning of his life as an undocumented immigrant, it also put an end to his father’s physical and emotional abuse.

Jorge knew he was gay, but he could not say it openly. He wanted to tell my mom, but was afraid she would react the same way my father did. He remembers, “A woman on her own, an undocumented immigrant, who only went to school until the second grade, challenging the system, fighting machismo, and homophobia, and relying on her love for me as a mother said: This is my son, and I’m going to protect him. In that moment all the pain that my father caused started to melt away, little by little, and I started to enjoy being gay. I told some of my friends, even some teachers at school, and I began to feel supported and loved,” he said.

Though Jorge took an important step forward by accepting himself, there was another bitter pill left to swallow with his immigration status”. These are stories that we need to know and we are lucky to have them thanks to Eileen Truax.

 

“Naked Ibiza”—- New from Bruno Gmunder

gmunder

naked ibiza

”Naked Ibiza”

Dylan Rosser started working for Naked Ibiza four exciting years ago. After visiting Ibiza regularly since 2000, he decided to leave London for it, with the intention of photographing models outdoors in nature, something that was new to him after primarily indoor studio work. “I wanted to work with more models in different locations at different times of the year to provide a more vivid picture of this Mediterranean island paradise,” he puts it.

Pages: 128

Color: Full color

Cover: Hardcover with dust jacket

Format: 10 1/4 x 13 1/2″ (26,0 x 34,0 cm)

Preis: € 59,99 / US$ 69.99 / £ 49.99

ISBN: 978-3-95985-152-

“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 casoncrane.com.

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.

gmunder

“Spartacus Berlin Gay Guide 2016”

The Perfect Travel Guide for Pride Season

berlin

 


“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.