Monthly Archives: November 2015

“CBS REPORTS: THE HOMOSEXUALS”— Indeed We Have Come a Long Way

the homsexuals poster

“CBS Reports: The Homosexuals”

Indeed We Have Come a Long Way

Amos Lassen

the homosexuals 2a

In 1967 Mike Wallace hosted a controversial CBS TV documentary titled “The Homosexuals” as part of “CBS Reports”, a precursor to “60 Minutes”. The program marked the very first time the topic of homosexuality had been broached on a national television news show (there was an earlier local San Francisco PBS program called The Rejected from 1961, which featured anthropologist Margaret Mead). “The Homosexuals” went through two producers and several iterations over the course of three years before it finally aired on March 7. I understand that it is being released on home DVD so you should keep your eyes open for it.

the homosexuals 1a

At the time the show was made, it was stated that nine of every ten Americans saw homosexuality as an illness or a disease and as a social problem worse than prostitution, abortion and adultery. A majority of the country believed homosexual acts done in private between two consenting adults should be illegal and punishable by law.

As we can expect, there are several really cringe-worthy elements in the film, although the intentions on the part of the original producer seemed to be good or at the least educational. The inclusion of Dr. Charles Socarides, the psychoanalyst who is widely regarded as the father of “conversion therapy” is one of the first red flags of “balance,” but Socarides was a man taken very seriously at the time. (I should say that his openly gay son went on to be a top adviser to Bill Clinton.) Dr. Irving Bieber, another prominent “expert” of the day viewed homosexuality as a pathology brought on by over-protective mothers (and absent or competitive fathers) and he gets his share of screen time. Looking at them today, Socarides and Bieber both come off very poorly in hindsight, they sound like “experts” who don’t know what they’re talking about and we can be assured that history will not look at them favorably.

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One of the men interviewed was a 27-year-old gay man whose face was obscured by a plant and is described as someone facing life in prison if he is arrested again for attempting sexual gratification. He seems himself to believe that he is sick.

Mike Wallace’s disapproving commentary is indicative of what attitudes towards homosexuality were like at the time and these are they: “The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous. He is not interested or capable of a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage. His sex life, his love life, consists of a series of one–chance encounters at the clubs and bars he inhabits. And even on the streets of the city — the pick-up, the one night stand, these are characteristics of the homosexual relationship”.

The legendary CBS newsman Fred Friendly (the man who worked with Edward R. Murrow to cut Joseph McCarthy down to size) was the executive in charge of the special and asked the producer William Peters to add in something explaining to the viewers what it was that homosexuals actually did. When the mechanics of gay sex was explained to Friendly, the veteran journalist changed his mind very quickly.

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Jack Nichols, one of the prominent early gay rights activists and co-founder of the Washington DC-based branch of the Mattachine Society appeared on the program under the pseudonym “Warren Adkins” due to the fact that his father was an FBI agent and would have lost his security clearance. When he’s asked about his sense of self, he answers in eloquent words that still ring true today: “I have thought about it, but it really doesn’t concern me very much. I never would imagine if I had blond hair that I would worry about what genes and what chromosomes caused my blond hair, or if I had brown eyes… My homosexuality to me is very much in the same category. I feel no more guilt about my homosexuality or about my sexual orientation than a person with blond hair or with dark skin or with light skin would feel about what they had.”

Before the film was to air, Friendly left CBS News over an argument about the Vietnam War. It seemed like we would never see the program. However, there were news reports about it that had leaked since 1964.. Friendly’s successor, Richard Salant, thought that the doc was too pro-homosexual and hired another producer, Harry Morgan, to redo it, practically from scratch. All but ten minutes of the original edit were dropped. Interviews where the subjects were previously portrayed as happy about themselves were re-edited to mislead the audience into coming to the exact opposite conclusion.

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Some of the participants were furious when the show was aired. Jack Nichols was fired from his job the very next day. He later had this to say about his encounter with Mike Wallace:

[“After we finished and the camera was turned off, Mike Wallace sat down with me and talked for about half an hour. He said, “You know, you answered all of my questions capably, but I have a feeling that you don’t really believe that homosexuality is as acceptable as you make it sound.” I asked him why he would say that. “Because,” he said, “in your heart I think you know it’s wrong.” It was infuriating. I told him I thought being gay was just fine, but that in his heart he thought it was wrong”].

As late as 1995, Wallace said and in public that he thought people could chose not to be gay. What we do have to agree on is that the film has a certain fascination. It includes a sting in a bathroom and other undercover cinéma vérité camerawork. The wonderfully open-minded Reverend Robert Bruce Pierce says that he knows that it is wrong when he feels uncomfortable around gays and tries to change himself. Biographer Albert Goldman and Gore Vidal debate the notion of a “gay mafia” in the arts. Goldman sees homosexuality as one of several factors that would bring about “the final erosion, of our cultural values.” Vidal, on the other hand, says “The United States is living out some mad Protestant nineteenth-century dream of human behavior….I think the so-called breaking of the moral fiber of this country is one of the healthiest things that’s begun to happen.”

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It is interesting to note that there are no lesbians represented in the program. It was thought that including ladies who love ladies would confuse Americans (whatever that means).

Every member of the LGBT community should watch this, especially the youngsters. It is not old news—this was done just a few years ago. Some of the views that we hear on the program are still held and promoted in too many countries and communities throughout the world. This is how we were viewed, how we were treated, how we suffered. “Experts” tried to change us and we now know that most of what we see on this program is fiction, horrible and disgusting fiction.

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Mike Wallace was a highly respected newsman and he was a homophobe. He knew that documentary was rabidly biased and homophobic, even for its day. Knowing that it was loaded with lies and propaganda, he did not make a documentary based on truth—he chose rumor and suspicion. He could have set the record straight and expose all the indignities, misinformation and outright irrational homophobic fear and hate before he died but he chose to die as a lived, a bigot. On the program he appeared smug, apathetic and condescending but I also understand that he lived that way.

At that time, most Americans believe that homosexuality (the word “gay” is never used) was a harmful serious problem–worse than adultery, abortion and prostitution. Being caught in a homosexual activity mean being arrested and the names printed in the press. There was no such thing as consenting adults. We get the message that homosexuals must be cured after being punished for their “crimes against nature”, a catch all term that means nothing. The only objectivity in the film is in its presentation; otherwise it is frightening to think that people believed what they saw.

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The entire documentary is here:


lost poster

“G: Lost in Frankfurt”

The Drug G

Amos Lassen

“G: Lost in Frankfort” looks at the excitement a new life can bring. It looks at the many levels of sensing and experiencing the complexity of the big city with its electronic music, clubs and the licentious sex between men while under the influence of the fashionable drug G (GBL). We see men trying to find the very essence of life and love without ever getting enough of each as well as the sneaking onset of disillusionment.



Kris can’t find a job in Warsaw and is tries his luck in Frankfurt, where he ends up in a design underwear store for men. He has some difficulties as he explores the foreign city in which he must now find his way around. When he gets to know Damiano, a young extremely attractive guy at a shop and who wants to show him Frankfurt. Kris gladly accepts the offer and after somewhat tentative touches and intense eye contact a passionate affair begins and all within one day.


The next day Damiano shows up with his best friend, David. He wants to have sex with Kris again on the drug G. However, Kris seems to have his eyes set only on David. To make matters worse, and despite had a hot threesome, that night they meets a couple of friends who also know David and the five of them now roam the city at night. Soon confessions and stories of each guy surfaces and have the effect of drawing them very close together. Completely unplanned, the night of intense partying ends again on G, filled with limitless erotic desires and without any taboos.


If you want to know Frankfurt all you have to do is watch this film—there is no need to travel. All you have to do is watch this film. There is no moralizing here— we simply see what some consider to be good times that include sex, drugs and hedonism.


Forget about gay tour guides to the German city of Frankfurt. Simply watch this film and you’ll discover all you need to know. A recent newbie to town meets a local dyed-in-the-wool pleasure seeking resident who takes him on a trip of sex, drugs (G) and hedonism. We are left to draw our own conclusions about this kind of life style.


We do not hear much dialogue—rather body language says it all. It helps that there is a very good electronic music score and I had the feeling more than once that I was watching gay erotica about Frankfurt.

“Repast: Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails” by D. A. Powell— A Trilogy


Powell, D.A. “Repast: Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails”, Graywolf Press, 2014.

A Trilogy

Amos Lassen

Three of D.A. Powell’s collections of poetry comprise “Repast”; “Tea”, “Lunch”, and “Cocktails”. Included also is an introduction by author David Leavitt. I understand that the books were conceived of and written as a trilogy. We immediately realize that the common thread is HIV/AIDS.  

What Powell so brilliantly captures in his poetry is “the joy of queer experience”. He manages to do this even when the community is devastated by tremendous loss of life. He does this through the use of gorgeous language and fantastic wit and puns. It is through this that we see how much we need and depend upon comfort and understanding especially while facing severe criticism and marginalization. His language is metaphorical and literal at the same time yet is also daring and flirtatious. He writes with an imagination that we rarely see these days. He is an open book in terms of his sexuality and some might find this daring considering that he writes during an epidemic that took so many of our gay heroes from us. I could not help but see the influence of the poets that I love—William Carlos Williams and T.S. Eliot as well as H.D. and cummings. Somehow he manages to have his voice arise about theirs and that could be because he shares the truth with us.

“Repast” is a powerful look at and statement about the anti-legacy of AIDS— it is homoerotic and graphically so. I have always found it difficult to talk about that period in our history and many of us still are unable to deal with it even though it no longer is a death sentence. It is still so very hard to accept that so many died and that they died as a result of pleasing their desires by what caused their marginalization.

This is not the first elegy to AIDS and I am sure it not the last. We have Paul Monette, Mark Doty and Tony Kushner write about AIDS, each in his own special way. The difference between them and others like them and Powell is his use of language.

“Tea”, Powell’s first collection of poetry was published in 1998 when here in America; AIDS was still taking our men. It and the other two volumes are Powell’s early poems and something of a personal testimony. We can look at what Powell has achieved by lining them up to the history of the AIDS epidemic. When in 1981, he became 18, it was shortly before the first reports of AIDS were published in the New York Times. He was awarded his M.F.A. in 1996, the year that we had the first major decline in numbers of AIDS deaths. The trilogy spans the period from when Powell himself learned that he was H.I.V.-positive and the rise of the antiretroviral “cocktail” that made life for many people with H.I.V. or AIDS less about dying than about surviving with complications. Powell never thought of being known as an AIDS writer and he has never wanted his writing to be constrained by that.

It was once important to deny that AIDS had dominion over us even though it brought about its own literature. It is interesting to note that at that time, Powell writes the words AIDS in lower case in order to “minimize its stature on the page”. There were other artistic issues as well and in literature and drama, the disease was sentimentalized and to write about it meant entering an area where emotions were manipulated. It is quite different today and we can read the poems and see clearly the centrality of AIDS. The focus is on survival and this does not have to include suffering and death.

“Repast” opens with a poem about the author going through the windshield of a car in a near-fatal crash while his friend Andy lay in a hospital dying of AIDS. The poem ends with no punctuation on the last line because his elegies do not definitely end. Unruly as it is, it is the first of other unruly poems here. There are no traditional titles—Powell uses the first line after putting it in brackets and giving it top space on the page.

The lines of this first poem have no margins and Powell says that because he could not contain the lines of his first poem, he wrote sideways in his notebook. With deliberation he uses two spaces after a colon and three following a period and these open spaces in the middle of the lines become interruptions and absences of unusual power. There is music and there is talk in the lines of Powell’s poetry. His inspiration comes from culture, celebrity romance Walt Whitman, the bible, and gay hankies and the Weather Girls just to cite a few. He uses the peach as a metaphor for a young gay Georgian and he appears in many of the poems. Young gays are like peaches in their sensuousness and we see that ripeness and rotten cannot live in the same peach. This becomes quite a symbol for the young AIDS infected gay men.

“Cocktails” the last third of the trilogy came out in 2004 when AIDS patients received different prognoses. Powell gives them meaning and redemption and it is there poems that find a place in the Christian tradition for the men he loves— their illnesses give them nobility and they gain what they need to move forward.

“Repast,” reminds us of a time that we have too easily forgotten.


“Made by Raffi” by Craig Pomranz and illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain— A Shy and Different Boy

made by raffi

Pomranz, Craig. “Made by Raffi”, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain,  Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2014.

A Shy and Different Boy

Amos Lassen

Raffi is a shy boy who is often teased at school so he does not have friends there. As his father’s birthday approaches, Raffi gets the idea of making him a scarf for a birthday gift and this really gets him excited. He doesn’t care that the kids at school think knitting is for girls. His teacher offers to teach him to knit and he loves it so much that he knits everywhere. With the annual school pageant drawing nigh, Raffi offers to make a cape for the student who is playing the prince. That cape stole the show and Raffi becomes the object of admiration and continues knitting wonderful new things. Beautiful illustrations from Margaret Chamberlain illustrate the story.

So many children today feel different and this bothers them. Raffi discovered a way to be accepted by others even with his differences and that is the strong message that this wonderful book gives us. It celebrates diversity positively and with a sweet story. The topic is not new—we have read it many times but evidently it has not sunk for many who need to be reminded that diversity is a good thing and everyone is, to a degree, different from everyone else.

Raffi shows us the value of self-confidence and that he was determined that no one would stand in his way of being different. The book celebrates not just Raffi but each of us who do not fit the mold that society has for us. (May I remind everyone that society is made up of many, many people who do fit the mold but together these people, in most cases, get along with each other.

Raffi wonders why he is different and why he enjoys doing things that are feminine basically. But then he discovers that he can be creative by knitting and sewing and this fills him with enthusiasm and happiness. So what if what he does is different from what his schoolmates do —it is his and he enjoys it.

His parents support what he does and a teacher shows him how to knit. The other students will eventually understand and accept Raffi just as he does for them. Most of us were taught to follow our dreams but we hit societal snags along the way yet this lesson is very powerful especially for the young. We live in a world where everyone is somewhat unique and that is what this world so wonderful—can you just imagine how we would feel if everyone knitted? While being different is not easy, it is important to recognize it and celebrate it. This is a perfect book for young readers and its messages will never get old or disappear. Every time a child is born, a “different” kind of individual enters this world and it will always be that way. This is also a perfect book for adults and parents because it leads discussions on being different.

I really love seeing Raffi’s courage while receiving peer pressure to conform. Later, when he is complimented on the cape he made. Raffi remains humble when others recognize his talent. By the way, that talent came from having been allowed to pursue what he wanted to do.Raffi is allowed to develop his gifts and we see his courage in doing so because of the pressure that he feels.I see a twofold purpose in this book—for children who feel different, it can provide reassurance and for other children who do not feel what Raffi does, it can teach them to be empathetic and have compassion. The book might be written for young readers but its message is for all of us.

Let me share a word about Margaret Chamberlain’s artwork—it is perfect for the book and the colors and ideas are electric. What I have not mentioned is that the book is also interactive in that there is a spread with instructions on how to knit. Craig Pomranz’s book about embracing differences is one that will stay with you for a long time. It was recently released in Chinese and Korean and it appears in a total of eight different languages and is available in eleven countries. Pomranz shared that he wrote the book to support young boys and girls who are perceived as “different” because of their appearance or hobbies. He also shared that composers Amanda McBroom (Bette Midler’s “The Rose”) and Michele Brourman (“The Land Before Time”) wrote a song “Different” to be attached to the book.


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“The Search for Michael Rockefeller”

An Unsolved Mystery?

Amos Lassen

In 1961, Michael Rockefeller left on a voyage down the cannibal coast of New Guinea in a trading canoe. Several miles off shore, the sea became heavy and the canoe was swamped. After spending a night adrift, Rockefeller set out to swim to shore, leaving his companion after telling his companion, “I think I can make it…” He was never seen again.

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In 2007, filmmaker Fraser C. Heston (son of Charlton) discovered a cache of lost footage shot by the author Milt Machlin during his expedition to the cannibal coast of New Guinea in 1969 to search for Rockefeller. The film includes previously unreleased footage and eyewitness interviews, including some amazing revelations, which shed new light on the unsolved mystery of Michael’s disappearance. Fraser Heston, has created an entirely new film from Milt Machlin’s unedited epic documentary.

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Milt Machlin, he then editor of Argosy magazine, had heard from an eyewitness that Michael was alive, held against his will by natives on an island off New Guinea. He was determined to either find Michael, or find out what happened to him. Heston has hours of never-before-seen film footage shot all over New Guinea and his film pulls you in and keeps you riveted to the screen.

Michael Rockefeller was the fifth child of New York Governor Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller. He was a member of the fourth-generation of the Rockefeller family. His disappearance was during an expedition in the Asmat region of southwestern Netherlands New Guinea. There has been debate as to whether he drowned, or was later killed by villagers after swimming ashore. The film shows footage of this white man living among the villagers, as one of them, so there was remained the possibility that he was still alive.

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In the 1970’s Leonard Nimoy brought us “In Search Of…” of the 1970s, where Rockefeller was discussed previously. But Nimoy did not have the additional footage we have here, thus making the search even more interesting now.

“Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir” by Carrie Brownstein— Candid, Funny and Personal

hunger makes me

Brownstein, Carrie. “Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir”, Riverhead Press, 2015.

Candid, Funny and Personal

Amos Lassen

Carrie Brownstein’s “Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl: A Memoir’ is a candid, funny, and deeply personal look at making a life—and finding yourself—in music. Before she became a music icon, Brownstein was a young girl growing up in the Pacific Northwest just the time that is becoming the setting for one the most important movements in rock history. Brownstein was looking for who she was and a sense of belonging and she was able to find both as she transitioned from musical spectator to Seeking a sense of home and identity, she would discover both while moving from spectator to musical creator and participant as she experienced the power and mystery of a live performance. With Sleater-Kinney, Brownstein and her bandmates rose quickly in the new underground feminist punk-rock movement that came to define music and pop culture in the 1990s. Sleater-Kinney was considered to be “America’s best rock band” by legendary music critic Greil Marcus for their defiant music. Others felt that the band’s exuberant brand of punk that resisted labels and limitations, redefined notions of gender in rock.

This book is Carrie Brownstein’s intimate memoir of leaving her family and the turbulence that took place there to find a way to self-invent and a community. As she writes about this she tells of the excitement and contradictions within the era’s flourishing and fiercely independent music subculture, including experiences that later became the observational satire of the popular television series “Portlandia” years later.

Her story is candid and raw and above all brutally honest. She shares the being a young woman, a born performer and an outsider, and ultimately finding one’s true calling through hard work, courage and the intoxicating power of rock and roll. She

shares her childhood in the Seattle suburbs and we see the proto-performer searching for her personal stage while navigating tumultuous family dynamics. We are with her when she becomes part of the pioneering punk band, Sleater-Kinney. I love that she does not tell all but what she does share is wonderful.

Brownstein’s compelling story expertly blends music writing with personal revelations. At turns heartbreaking and illuminating, Brownstein’s immense talent has produced an intimate portrait of America’s best rock band.

The memoir opens with Sleater-Kinney’s penultimate tour. Brownstein was sick with shingles and full of anxiety. From there we go back in time to her childhood in the Pacific Northwest, with lots of details as she wants to give us a portrait of a suburban coming of age. Her mother left the family when Brownstein was fourteen, and that later her own father would come out to her as gay. Every memory that she shares is honest and has no self-pity or sentimentality.  She writes with compassionate insight about the exact dysfunctional and darkly funny family in which she grew up.

The book is not so much Brownstein’s life (though it is the main thrust of it) as it is about creativity, and her search for artistic fulfillment and meaning. She shows that having a voice and having something to say is the noblest and best reason to pursue artistic success. Brownstein shows that she found that voice and that message through her work inside and outside of music. She writes about the music scene in the Northwest circa 1992, when Nirvana was hitting big and any band with a Seattle zip code and flannel could find success. She feels that Sleater-Kinney always remained on the margins of commercial success yet they had a rabid fan base that exists to this day. She also writes about the sexism that rock music has ingrained within it.

The memoir is written album by album, and in between she tells stories like when she was outed as gay by Spin magazine before she had the chance to come out herself. One of the big successes of this memoir is the amount of space that Brownstein gives herself to show queerness as a nuanced part of one’s identity. She treats her relationship with Corin Tucker and its influence on their songwriting post-relationship, with immense compassion. She also describes how the grueling nature of touring can corrode a relationship.

She also shares the personal combustions behind the end of Sleater-Kinney and this followed by a very difficult chapter about grief heartbreaking chapter on grief. Brownstein restarts her life to include volunteering at an animal shelter, and experiences unthinkable loss. She’s shared so much throughout the memoir that when we get to the natural conclusion, the reunion of Sleater Kinney, it’s hard to read it without smiling.

The book is filled with self-deprecation, keen social observations, and personal and social insights. I fell in love with this book and while still on the first page, I knew I was reading something very special.This is quite basically a love letter to music and a wonderfully thought-out memoir that is beautifully written and which I predict will be one of the books of the year.



“Six Million Accusers: Catching Adolf Eichmann” by D. Lawrence-Young— A Historical Novel

six million accusers

Lawrence-Young, D. “Six Million Accusers: Catching Adolf Eichmann”, Enigma Press, 2014.

A Historical Novel

Amos Lassen

“Six Million Accusers” is a historical novel about the hunt for and capture of Adolf Eichmann. He disappeared after WWII and members of an Israeli organization search the world for him and hoping to capture one of the men responsible for the brutal massacre of millions of Jews, and others. The team follows any tip they receive. They discover a Jewish father and daughter who swear Eichmann quietly lives in their community, under a new name. The search for Eichmann picks up speed and the agents begin to fervently believe they have found their man. As they get closer and closer, they must also create a plan to capture Eichmann, and secretly transport the villain back to Israel. There is always the question as to whether the suspect is really Eichmann and if so, what complications may arise that might destroy their plans to hold him responsible for his crimes.

Author Lawrence-Young has based his novel on historic details and it brings to life actual people, places and events in the planned extermination of the Jews in Europe and the subsequent worldwide hunt for its mastermind Adolf Eichmann who was living in hiding in South America. He has reconstructed the events and brings the story to life from finding a suspect, establishing his true identity, capturing Adolf Eichmann and bringing him to Israel to stand trial.

What I find fascinating here is that even though we know how the story ends, it is still tense and filled with suspense. While we might thing that Eichmann is the main character here, we see that it is actually those who hunted him and brought him to Israel that the story revolves around. They were the members of The Israeli Institute for Intelligence and Security, commonly known as “The Mossad” who with the help of a German-Jew, Haim, tracked him to South America. The book is also about those who wanted retribution for these heinous crimes of the Third Reich.

Even though this is fiction, the author has done amazing research to write this story. We get the sense of just how much it took to take this man down. The book attempts to be faithful to the history of the events surrounding the historic capture of who has been called “the father of The Final Solution to the Jewish Problem.” In my opinion, it does just that. There is a bibliography for further reading.

“BOLD: Stories from Older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People” by David Hardy— Who We Are


Hardy, David. “BOLD: Stories from Older Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex People”, The Rag & Bone Man Press Inc., 2015.

Who We Are

Amos Lassen

“BOLD” is anthology in which 50 older LGBTI people share their stories and images. We read of first love and family, of struggle and defiance and resistance and pride. Include here are prominent Australian activists including Bob Brown, Sally Goldner and the Honorable Michael Kirby and others from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, America and Ireland. What really distinguishes is the diversity. This collection of stories celebrates the many ways we identify as LGBTI people. The stories get us angry and some agitate us while others comfort us. We laugh, we cry, we become angry— I found it impossible not to react top each of those included. The diversity is seen in ideas, thoughts and prose. Divided into fifty-six chapters that touch many different topics in our lives. The key words here are intimacy, poignancy and vibrancy. A lot of what we read here are memoirs but there are essays, stories, poems and even a song.

The 56 stories are about seventy people of which half are by or women and half are by men and there are those that identify as trans, bisexual and intersex. Most are from Australia, from every State and including regional and rural centers. There are also four stories from New Zealand, three from the United States, and one each from United Kingdom and Ireland.

“This is a book about ordinary and extraordinary people who have, at different levels and in different ways, helped change the world in which we live. This book builds on the efforts of earlier writers to unsilence silenced lives, particularly those living in areas where even today it can be difficult to ‘come out’.”

“A Boy from Georgia: Coming of Age in the Segregated South” by Hamilton Jordan— An Unfinished Memoir

a boy from georgia

Jordan, Hamilton. “A Boy from Georgia: Coming of Age in the Segregated South”, edited by Kathleen Jordan, University of Georgia Press, 2015.

An Unfinished Memoir

Amos Lassen

Hamilton Jordan died of peritoneal mesothelioma in 2008, leaving behind a mostly finished memoir, a book on which he had been working for the last ten years of his life. His daughter, Kathleen (with the help of her brothers and mother) took over the editing and completion of the book. “A Boy from Georgia” is the result of this posthumous father-daughter collaboration and it chronicles Hamilton Jordan’s childhood in Albany, Georgia and examines his moral and intellectual development as he gradually discovers racism, religious intolerance, and southern politics. In this book we get an intimate look at the state of Georgia and her wheelers and dealers.

Jordan was raised in a middle-class family and as a child, he was aware of the civil rights battle that was being waged in the halls of power of the legislature of the state. He sat on the line between the southern establishment and civil rights movement in which he believed. His family did have political power and he went into politics so that he could get his ideals to be put to work.

He eventually became a key aide to Jimmy Carter and was the architect of Carter’s victory in the presidential campaign of 1976 and he later served as Carter’s chief of staff. He was very smart and a fine writer. He was there when the civil rights movement and it agenda was formed and he made it his own personal mission to tear down racial barriers when it came to hiring staff in both Carter’s governor’s office and the White House.

Many expected Jordan to write about foreign policy in his memoir but instead he chose to write about his life in Georgia. He has actually written his coming-of-age story and it is quite witty and filled with mysteries in his family and political intrigue. In reading about Hamilton Jordan we read about the composite white southern male and become very aware of Jim Crowism and the move to progressivism that really saved the south.

Jordan was one of the most intelligent and charismatic political minds of the 20th century and we still feel his influence in the 21st century. His career as Jimmy Carter’s Chief of Staff is known to many but his inspirational battles with cancer is also something many of us have read about. What makes this book so special is his experiences as a boy and how he was shaped into the man he became from them. The details of his life are amazing. He was known for his perception of people and how to connect with them. This began in his youth.

Jordan had the extraordinary ability to plan political maneuverings but that is not what we find here. Rather we learn about his boyhood and how he was raised. He dealt with some of the major figures of America including Dr. Martin Luther King and a young Andrew Young.

Let’s look at something about Jordan that I bet few of you might know. When he was 20 years old, he learned that his family was not a typical Christian Southern family. He was at the cemetery service for his maternal grandmother, Helen, and he notices that her burial plot was alongside that of a Jewish family. These were his ancestors.

His grandmother was Jewish and she had married his Baptist grandfather before the 1915 lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish man who was framed for a murder he did not commit. But this was the a South back then and Jews were seen as unacceptably different. His own mother would never mention her Jewish roots.

As Kathleen Jordan edited her father’s memoir, she decided it would be fascinating to trace his moral journey in the racial context. She says that she feels the moment that caused her father to become more of a civil rights activist came when he was standing in the cemetery and realizing that his family was Jewish but that had been kept a secret because of the way Jews had been the victims of persecution. When he asked his mother she answered him, “Hamilton, I’ll never talk of this.” Jordan let that be.

Jordan, we learn here, spent the rest of his life trying to connect with the Jewish community. He had been baptized Baptist but raised his children Episcopalian. He was drawn to Judaism and it had an impact on his relationship to the civil rights movement by making it personal. There are two watershed moments for him: one was seeing his family maid marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in downtown Albany [Georgia] and his then thinking ‘what am I doing?’ and realization that everyone he loves and respects was a segregationist.

When Jordan died, his memoir was 85 percent finished. The book explains how he got to be a politician and how he came to have opinions. Jordan’s story in a lot of ways is President Carter’s story regarding civil rights. That is what brought the two men together. They both had the common background of growing up where segregation is passed generation to generation, and when it falls into your lap, you realize you have a choice. It was empathy and human rights thread that tied them together into a common mission.

Prejudice and race happen in the South but it happens other places as well. The difference is that in the South it is spoken about unlike Boston, for example, where you do not hear a word and rarely see Black people in certain neighborhoods.

“Lust, Men, and Meth: A Gay Man’s Guide to Sex and Recovery” by David Michael Fawcett— Sex and Recovery

lust men and meth

Fawcett, David Michael. “Lust, Men, and Meth: A Gay Man’s Guide to Sex and Recovery”, SFL Center for Counseling and Therapy, Inc., 2015.

Sex and Recovery

Amos Lassen

Dr. Michael Fawcett gives us a deep and intense look at gay men who struggle with sex and recovery and at the professionals who work them. Here we have essential information on the problems of drugs and sexuality as well as solutions and tools for those who support them. The book is a blend of therapeutic perspectives of addiction and sex therapy. There are also case studies included from which Dr. Fawcett has integrated the most useful concepts and tools. Additionally, detailed case studies will assist clinicians who, in Dr. Fawcett’s many trainings for professionals, have asked for material on substance use, identity, and sexuality in gay-identified men. These insights and tools will be helpful not only in the early stages of sobriety, but for an individual’s continuing personal evolution of recovery as well.

The book is divided into three sections. In the first part, “The Perfect Storm,” we see how, through the release of dopamine and other neurotransmitters, methamphetamine has phenomenal power to change one’s mood and entice the user to use increasing amounts of the drug.  We read of the excitement that the uses experiences as well as the risk of becoming too dependent. We learn of the vulnerabilities of some gay men who turn to meth because they feel that they are unattractive, left out and/or disconnected and so they use the drug to alleviate those feelings. There seems to be an unfortunate intersection of meth, the gay community, and the rise of dangerous health concerns such as HIV/AIDS.

In the second part, “Exploring the Sexual Universe,” we read about a sex therapist’s perspective on sexual desire and how eroticism develops in the brain along with an elaborate world of sexual templates, scripts, and themes that methamphetamine penetrates and distorts. In the this section we also learn of the discoveries of neurobiology and the direct impact of the brain that comes about because of the combination of sex and meth. Dopamine is the central player here. It is interesting to read how drug use influences sexual desire. Fawcett shows the brain’s ability to change and adapt in response to compulsive behaviors and it is here that we learn about consequences of drug use and get clues about recovery.     

The third and final section “Restoring Your Life” looks at the process of recovery from the drug and does so in detail. We have chapters on specific skills derived “from thousands of hours working with clients, managing of feelings, and rethinking perspectives on sex”.  Increased distance from the drug and from the emotions of vulnerability, anxiety, or shame, that were once buried by meth use, now can be used to give direction to emotional transformations and influence sexual and emotional life. We see how relationships are rebuilt. Here we become very aware of meth abuse in the LGBT community and see that there is hope for recovery.