Category Archives: GLBT non-fiction

“Masculinity at Work: Employment Discrimination through a Different Lens” by Ann C. McGinley— Looking Through the Lens of Masculinity

masculinity at woekMcGinley, Ann C. “Masculinity at Work: Employment Discrimination through a Different Lens”, NYU Press, 2016.

Looking Through the Lens of Masculinity

Amos Lassen

Ann McGinley analyzes Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through the lens of masculinities theory. She uses the case of Jonathan Martin and others to do so. If you remember, in 2013, Martin was a player for the Miami Dolphins who walked out his team and checked himself into a mental health institution. This implied that Martin could not take the professional pressure but within a few days, the entire story changed and news sources reported that Martin’s teammates had repeatedly bullied him and as a result, he suffered serious depression. The response to this was skeptical, and many felt that the harassment was just locker room talk that happens all of the time and that all players have to deal with occasionally.  What McGinley shows here is how harassment and discrimination can come about because of sex even if the gendered nature of the behavior remains unseen to onlookers.

What we learn from reading this book is that there is an invisibility of masculine structures and practices, how society constructs concepts of masculinity, and how men perform masculinity in different ways because of their identities and situational contexts.

Masculine theory can provide significant insights into the behaviors and motivations of employers, as well as workplace structures that can disadvantage both men and women who do not conform to gender stereotypes. This book is therefore a theoretical disposition and a practical guide for legal counsel and judges regarding the interpretation of sex and race discrimination cases. It explains how this theory can be used to interpret Title VII in new, liberating ways. It is important to understand that to reach conclusions, legal, gender, and social science analyses are necessary. McGinley presents new ways of looking at employment law from the gendered dimensions of that law. She describes the law at the same time developing ways that theories of masculinities can be used to make antidiscrimination law move toward its goal of ending and eliminating discrimination. Here is something of a plan that will take us see how the courts see masculinities by examining race and sex cases with male plaintiffs. These, in turn, will change the way academics and practitioners think about Title VII.

“After Marriage Equality: The Future of LGBT Rights” edited by Carlos A. Ball— Twelve Original Essays

after marriage equlaity

Ball, Carlos A. (Editor). “After Marriage Equality: The Future of LGBT Rights”, NYU Press, 2016.

Twelve Original Essays

Amos Lassen

With the persuasion of the United States Supreme Court that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, the LGBT rights movement has achieved its most important objective of the last few decades. As long as many of us can remember, the marriage equality movement has been criticized by those who believe marriage rights were a conservative cause overshadowing a host of more important issues. Now that we can marry anywhere in this nation, everyone who cares about LGBT rights must struggle with how the best ways to promote the interests of sexual and gender identity. minorities in a society that permits same-sex couples to marry. Here we have twelve original essays by leading scholars of law, politics, and society. These essays address the most important question facing the LGBT movement today: What does marriage equality mean for the future of LGBT rights?

There is no doubt that marriage equality impacts crucial and wide-ranging social, political, and legal issues confronting the LGBT movement, including the impact of marriage equality on political activism and mobilization, antidiscrimination laws, transgender rights, LGBT elders, parenting laws and policies, religious liberty, sexual autonomy, and gender and race differences. We also see how LGBT movements in other nations have responded to the recognition of same-sex marriages, and what we might emulate or adjust in our own advocacy. The essays are bound to cause discussion and further debate regarding the challenges and possibilities of the LGBT movement’s future and it is an important look at what is happening in this country for anyone who cares about sexual equality and its future. It is an important book for anyone who cares about the future of sexual equality.

While this is a book written for academics, activists and upper-class students (and carries a hefty price of $45), it is extremely readable and challenges us to consider what the LGBT movement goes from here. The contributors are long-time analysts of the LGBT movement and they provide a unique vantage point from where we can assess the future directions of the LGBT movement. The approach here is interdisciplinary making it all the more valuable.

“Write That Down! The Comedy of Male Actress Charles— Pierce” by Kirk Frederick— “The Foremost ‘Male Actress’ of the 20th Century”

write that down

Frederick, Kirk. “Write That Down! The Comedy of Male Actress Charles Pierce”, Havenhurst Books, 2016.

“The Foremost ‘Male Actress” of the 20th Century”-

Amos Lassen

“Write That Down” is the first, authorized biographical tribute to Charles Pierce, the foremost “male actress” of the 20th Century. Pierce was born in 1926 and moved on from playing small gay clubs in San Francisco to international acclaim. His imitations of screen icons such as Bette Davis, Mae West, Tallulah Bankhead, Carol Channing, Katharine Hepburn, and Joan Crawford gained him following all over the world and a career in film and television. Writer Kirk Frederick has captured Pierce in this biography which is almost as much fun as seeing Pierce on stage. I loved watching Charles Pierce and we finally have a wonderful and well-researched biography of a man who was not afraid to dare.

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Pierce was his own person and he was brilliant.. He could repeat the same stories over and over and we would laugh every time as if he had told a story the very first time. Kirk Frederick who worked with Pierce for many years reminds us of the man who could provide arguments between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford or Davis and Bankhead. There was no performer quite like the great Charles Pierce and no one better able to write about him other than Kirk Frederick who was his professional intimate for twenty years. We get a look at Pierce’s best performances as well as some fascinating anecdotes of behind the scenes. The author has painstakingly preserved some of Charles’ best routines and shares amazing behind the curtain anecdotes.

Pierce would not let himself be described as a drag queen. Rather, he was a “male actress’ a name he made up for himself. It is really important to remember that at the time Pierce started performing, it was not the best era for LGBT people. The Stonewall Riots had just taken place in New York. Nonetheless it did not stop Pierce from presenting his satirical imitations of the queens of the silver screen. He developed a fan base quickly and even celebrities such as Lucille Ball, Bea Arthur and Anthony Hopkins would go to see his shows. He did guest appearances on television in such shows as “Laverne and Shirley”, “The Love Boat”, “Golden Girls” and ”Designing Women” and appeared on the movie screen in “Torch Song Trilogy”.

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While Frederick likes Pierce’s Bette Davis and says that it was his best role, I loved his Katherine Hepburn and her sequel to “The Lion in Winter”, “Pussy in Summer”. He was a comic impressionist and he made his characters his own. Pierce did many talk shows he played venues as large as the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in downtown Los Angeles, where he improvised the line “Who knew that Dorothy Pavilion’s middle name was Chandler?” In 1984, the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel hired him for five summers in a row: he filled the room. This was a high-paying gig, and it gave him great mainstream press exposure in San Francisco, a decade after his earlier local fame. Perhaps his most important role was being cast as the drag performer and emcee “Bertha Venation” in 1988 in the movie of “Torch Song Trilogy”. Harvey Feinstein allowed Charles to use some of his own material, and it was clearly a chance for Harvey to honor Charles as a drag pioneer.

Pierce’s career spanned forty something years and he became a voice for our movement. He was an amazing man to have among us for a while.

“Caspid: A Love Song” by Joseph Osmundson—The Realities of Living with HIV

capsid

Osmundson, Joseph. “Capsid: A Love Song”, Indolent Books, 2015.

The Realities of Living with HIV

Amos Lassen

“Capsid” is “a hybrid essay” that combines personal narrative and lyrical science writing to face the contemporary realities of living with HIV regardless of HIV status. Now 30 years after the peak of HIV, we see that it has fundamentally shifted how we understand bodies and health, sex and sexuality, activism and art. With diagnoses today and anti-retroviral therapy continuing to change the shape of HIV infections, we need new HIV narratives that confront and explain our contemporary interactions with the virus.

Joseph Osmundson describes “Capsid: A Love Song” as an essay “On HIV, desire, science, queerness, love.” It incorporates eight prose poems, each one inspired by a different phase in the life cycle of HIV. “A person infected with a virus is called a host, and that makes the virus the guest, and sometimes a guest becomes a friend, and sometimes a friend becomes a lover.” He explores the intimacy of the relationship between an HIV-positive person and his virus.

 

“Miss Vera’s Cross Gender Fun for All” by Dr. Veronica Vera— All Identities, All Sexes

miss vera's cross gender fun

Vera, Veronica Dr. “Miss Vera’s Cross Gender Fun for All”, Greenery Press, 2016.

All Identities, All Sexes

Amos Lassen

Dr. Veronica Vera is the founder of that fine educational institution, Miss Vera’s Finishing School for Boys Who Want to Be Girls. She maintains that

“Within every man there is a woman; within every woman there is a man” and in this, the first book ever about cross-gender play for people of all identities and sexes, she presents the importance of cross-gender play as a method of self-discovery and growth. Dr. Vera uses both imagination and practical knowledge to the challenge of helping the reader discover the other-sexed person within.

We learn here how to “imagine our ‘second self’, choosing a name, picking clothing and accessories – a little or a lot, communicating that persona, learning how to walk and talk, and finally, if you choose, launching that new person into the world”. Dr. Vera gives us the confident, wise, experienced teacher you need to increase our gender awareness and we learn that the unsung heroes of trans history are the cis women who created safe spaces for us to experiment with gender and who championed our rights. Dr. Vera has been a true feminist ally and has helped many break out of the straitjacket of masculinity have had a safe place to discover a more liberated self.

Vera provides us with a “joyful celebration of gender expression and love”. She shares her decades of experience and her personal brand of “Frock Therapy” in order to liberate the cross-gender spirit in all of us.

“Against Citizenship: The Violence of the Normative” by Amy L. Brandzel— Is Citizenship Redeemable?

against citizenship

Brandzel, Amy L. “Against Citizenship: The Violence of the Normative”, (Dissident Feminisms), University of Illinois Press, 2016.

Is Citizenship Redeemable?

Amos Lassen

In “Against Citizenship”, author Amy L. Brandzel shows that despite numerous activists and scholars appealing for rights, inclusion, and justice in the name of “citizenship” there is nothing redeemable about citizenship and nothing worth salvaging or sustaining in the name of “community,” practice, or belonging.

She sees “citizenship as a violent dehumanizing mechanism that brings about the comparative devaluing of human lives”. Her argument is that “whenever we work on behalf of citizenship, whenever we work towards including more types of peoples under its reign, we inevitably reify the violence of citizenship against nonnormative others”. Brandzel’s focuses on three legal case studies–same-sex marriage law, hate crime legislation, and Native Hawaiian sovereignty and racialization and then exposes how citizenship confounds and obscures the mutual processes of settler colonialism, racism, sexism, and heterosexism. By doing so, Brandzel maintains that citizenship requires anti-intersectionality— strategies that deny the mutuality and contingency of race, class, gender, sexuality and nation–and how, as often happens, the progressive left activists and scholars follow suit.

This is a book that will ultimately be regarded as one of the most important books in queer and feminist theory of its generation. I realize that this statement is bold Brandzel is deftly skilled at bridging feminist and queer studies with critical ethnic studies and critical Indigenous studies that present a model for the kind of intersectional analysis needed to understand and challenge the violence of normativities.

Brandzel explores queer, feminist, Indigenous and critical race studies to expose the irredeemable violence of U.S. citizenship. By bringing together case studies rarely considered within the same frame, she shows the kind of intersectional alliance building that is required. The ideas here can be used “as a springboard for building coalitions that reject faith in citizenship and instead create other kinds of affinities and attachments.”

For those who are invested in challenging the limits of inclusion that lie within the normative frameworks of U.S. law, this is a must read. Brandzel documents the violence of anti-intersectional politics, epistemologies, and citizenship practices that exist within cases of hate crime legislation, same-sex marriage, and the tensions between civil rights and indigenous rights.

Brandzel presents a incisive, critical analysis of normativity that is crucial to understanding how power works today. We see clearly that multiple bodies of scholarship demonstrate how the anti-intersectional strategies of the state work against any real address of inequality. The book

reframes what it means to do transnational intersectional analysis and adds to our collective scholarly understanding of transnational critique by tracing settler colonial forces through nuanced examinations of gay marriage law, We are challenged to consider what is required for unsettling, or denaturalizing, the” settler logics of normative citizenship’s racialization, gendering, and sexualizing”. What is most threatening to normative citizenship, occurs when we forge and exercise accountable alliances. By reading this we can more easily understand critiques of the concepts of citizenship (and understandings of sovereignty) from feminist, queer, critical Indigenous, and legal perspectives.

Brandzel presents her arguments clearly and whether we agree or not, we are provoked to think about what she has to say. Most of us have never thought about citizenship in the way that it is presented here and it is time that we did.

“Vitium” by Mat Lambert and Jannis Birsner—- Must Be Seen

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Lambert, Matt and Jannis Birsner. “Vitium”, Bruno Gmunder, 2016.

A collaboration between Matt Lambert and Jannis Birsner, Vitium was born in Berlin and captures the fraternal, intimate, nihilistic and sexually-charged energy of the youth of the city.

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This 56 page book is an homage to the Queer-core zine culture of the 80s and is just larger than pocket-size, printed in black and white.

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 A3 poster in full color included.

Press Clipping
 
“This fraternal, sensual subculture uses sexuality as a wrapper, but it’s a medium that speaks to mutual love, respect and friendship—mirrored in the manifesto found on the pages of the zine.” – Dazed

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“The Art of Living: An Oral History of Performance Art” by Dominic Johnson— An Oral History of Performance Art

the art of living

Johnson, Dominic. “The Art of Living: An Oral History of Performance Art”, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

An Oral History of Performance Art

Amos Lassen

“The Art of Living” is a collection of interviews with a variety of artists and as whole it presents us with an oral history of performance art. Each artist addresses his/her work, providing insights into their artistic, personal and political concerns. For me, the main thought that comes out of this book is that performance art is a life-changing experience and a life long practice who those involved in presentation. Author Dominic Johnson asks the right questions to show us this. He does so compellingly and simply.

For so long performance art has been underground and ephemeral of which many of the performances exist only orally and in the oral tradition. Here Johnson goes to the artists and lets them reminisce about their performances and lives. As they remember, we learn that not all of them are queer but they all use queer strategies in order to deal with and break down gender binaries, show disdain for biology and question gentrification and capitalism. We hear from twelve American and British performance artists about their everyday lives and learn that their lives are their art. The boundaries between performing and living come together.

Johnson asks different questions of each artist with the exception of one question of whether their work is performance art or live art.

“Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity” by Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman— “Christianity is Inherently Queer”

queer virtue

Edman, Rev. Elizabeth M. “Queer Virtue: What LGBTQ People Know About Life and Love and How It Can Revitalize Christianity”, Beacon Press, 2016.

“Christianity is Inherently Queer”

Amos Lassen

At the very beginning of “Queer Virtue”, Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman writes that “LGBTQ people are a gift to the Church and have the potential to revitalize Christianity”. Edman is an openly lesbian Episcopal priest and professional advocate for LGBTQ justice and has spent her career struggling with the core tenets of her faith. She has reached the conclusion that her queer identity has taught her a great deal about how to be a good Christian than the church.

She says that Christianity, at its scriptural core, challenges its adherents to do away with false binaries that “pit people against one another”. Edman therefore maintains that Christianity is in no way hostile to queer people and that it is inherently queer in itself. By queering Christianity (“disrupting simplistic ways of thinking about self”) can illuminate contemporary Christian faith. She moves past the notion that “Christian love = tolerance,” and gives us a bold alternative: “the recognition that queer people can help Christians better understand their fundamental calling and the creation of sacred space where LGBTQ Christians are seen as gifts to the church”.

She further shows how the realities of queer life demand a response of high moral caliber and that queer experience should be celebrated as “inherently valuable, ethically virtuous, and illuminating the sacred”.

Edman takes us to the depths of Christianity as she examines its history, mission, and core theological premises. Using personal examples she shows that being queer can tell people about Christianity and will provide for productive interaction and community building. She shows just how to make this happen. Edman challenges us to look once again at spiritual interconnection, harmony, and progressive inclusion in modern religion.

Edman takes us back to the radical roots of faith, yet shows how relevant its teachings still are. She cites words that we are familiar with (“scandal,” “pride”, “queerness”) and asks us to reconsider their meanings based upon what she writes here. And she writes with elegance and style giving us a great deal to think about.

“Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Sexual Violence Movement” edited by Jennifer Patterson— Hearing Our Voices

queeering sexual violence

Patterson, Jennifer, editor. “Queering Sexual Violence: Radical Voices from Within the Anti-Sexual Violence Movement”, Riverdale Avenue Books, 2016.

Hearing Our Voices

Amos Lassen

Members of the LGBT movement have been working at organizing anti-violence since the very beginning of the unification of the movement. In “Queering Sexual Violence” we learn that they have been creating a space for their voices to be heard. The book takes us beyond dominant narratives and the traditional “violence against women” framework and gives us a multi-gendered, multi-racial and multi-layered look at what has been done and what is being done today.

The volume contains thirty-seven pieces about sexual violence and connects them to “disability justice, sex worker rights, healing justice, racial justice, gender self-determination, queer & trans liberation and prison industrial complex abolition through reflections, personal narrative, and strategies for resistance and healing”. We become very aware that systems, institutions, families, communities and partners have failed them and here we see them looked at carefully and respectfully. We see the radical work that is being done outside mainstream anti-violence and the non-profit industrial complex. 

By now, we should know that when there is outrage, we react and here is a look at how that takes place. Editor Jennifer Patterson has worked on this book for six years and it is an important contribution to our canon. It is also an answer to “the non-profit industrial complex,” that has continually and consistently overlooked and undervalued the experiences and insights of queer survivors of sexual violence and trauma. The goal here is to challenge reductive narratives that package sexual violence solely as violence against women. This simply reinforces and perpetuates “lessons about who experiences [sexual assault], who perpetrates it and who can heal from it.”

Basically, this book is a collection of diverse voices sharing the worst moments of their lives and often doing so with all the horrible details. That is not to say that there are selections without hope and there is some beautiful writing here. We are reminded of the power of being understood alongside descriptions of brutality that explore the honesty and resilience of living life as an “other”.

We read of those who are frequently subjected to direct and indirect homophobia in heteronormative social spheres and isolated incidents of violence often become inextricably tied to complex feelings about their outsider status and self-worth. We read the myths about who is and isn’t a victim, or what does and doesn’t qualify as sexual violence are routinely challenged by LGBT survivors in various stages of grief and healing. Each contributor to the collection offers valuable insight. Patterson makes the strongest case for her thesis that “the unique nature of queer experiences with violence requires a better-developed and more nuanced approach to treatment and support”. 

“Queering Sexual Violence” allows those who know that queer sexual violence happens everywhere and is killing our community. We see here that speaking up and hearing each other is a way to resist and allows us to do away with shame, silence and isolation.