I first read Jon Macyâs comic Fearful Hunter as single issue floppies, but never saw issues beyond the first two. Now itâs expanded to a beautifully rendered 316 Â pages, with additional âfan fictionâ takes of the story by other cartoonists, thanks to Kickstarter support and Northwest Press. (more…)
‘The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions are Sabotaging Gay Equality’ by Suzanna Danuta Walters
The first thing that came to mind after finishing Suzanna Walters’ excellent and original piece was a quote from longtime social critic Fran Lebowitz from the 2010 Martin Scorsese documentary Public Speaking where she stated:
[...]Â I mean, do I think gay marriage is progress? Are you kidding me? This was one of the good things about being gay! I mean, I am stunned that the two greatest desires of people involved in gay rights movements are gay marriage and gays in the military. I mean to me, these seem like the two most confining institutions on the planet: marriage and the military. Why would you be beating down the doors to get in? Usually a fight for freedom is a fight for freedom, this is like the oppositeâŠI mean people used to pretend to be gay to get out of going into the army!
As Walters argues, and I believe this is something Lebowitz herself would agree with, todayâs gay rights movement and its allies who believe that âaccess to marriage and the military are the brass ring of gay rightsâ and that once we âhave achieved these goals we will have moved into a post-gay Americaâ are not only wrong but also doing an injustice to the gay rights movement by promulgating such rhetoric over demanding full equality, bar none. Yes, gay marriage and equal access for those LGBT individuals who want to be in the military are important, but they are in no way the be all and end all of the gay rights movement that has greatly changed its makeup from the individuals behind the Stonewall Inn riots of 1969 to those of today. Undoubtedly Walters will not only receive an insurmountable amount of criticism for pointing this out but also, as a result of her excellent book, sheâll disillusion the idea of progress, as we see it today, as not progress but rather small steps in the âdeep claim for full civil rightsâ that is still unknown to the LGBT community. Walters posits that the LGBT community needs to recommit itself to fighting for full civil rights rather than accepting whatever comes our way in small gradual steps.
The major crux of Waltersâ argument is in her deconstruction of the popular battle cry âItâs not a choice.” Walters believes the âborn this wayâ argument is harmful to the gay rights cause as it allows individuals to utilize substandard science that reduces human sexuality into normative categories and classifications. As Walters, whose bluntness throughout the book is a breath of fresh air, states:
Most gays and their allies believe that gays are âborn that wayâ and that proving biological immutability is the key to winning over reluctant heterosexual and gaining civil rights. Most gays and their allies believe that the closet is largely a thing of the past and that we have entered a new era of sexual ease and fluidity. Most gays and their allies think that we have essentially won the culture wars and that gay visibility in popular culture is a sign of substantive gay progress. Most gays and their allies believe that gay is the new black: hip, happening, embracedâŠ.Most gays and their allies believe that we are almost there: we can see the end of the tunnel, where a rainbow world of warm inclusion awaits us.Â These people are wrong.
Walters pinpoints the scientific arguments behind the âborn this wayâ argument to show not how gay rights activists are wrong but to express the tragic consequences behind historically categorizing and measuring peopleâs activities. There is no one way to look at sexuality and human nature and Walters does an excellent job of utilizing a type of reverse psychology, not to change the minds of anti-gay individuals but to ask members of the gay community and its allies to think how they argue for the âborn this wayâ argument and how it may be a type of appeasement to the âaccept usâ agenda. It isnât demanding full equality under the law, but only partial equality as seen in allowing LGBT individuals the rights to marry, file joint taxes, and even die for their country.
Although Walters is not the first person to critically lash the gay rights movement today, Ă la David Halperinâs How to Be Gay, her argument has caused me to reexamine the ways I not only accept tolerance but also how I continue to identify as a modern gay rights activist. Simple tolerance and acceptance is becoming a thing of the past and âas long as tolerance is [the] reigning ethos [and] as long as we deny our difference in the service of misplaced allegiance to gender and sexual norms, we [will ultimately] deny âthe unique genius in being queer.ââ While we have won many battles on the gay rights front in the past two years, the coming storm for full equality is looming in the distance. Regardless of how the outlook appears, a victory can in some ways feel like a loss and even when we think we are near the finishing line, we, gay rights activists and allies alike, will realize that we have miles to go.
The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions are Sabotaging Gay Equality
By Suzanna Danuta Walters
Hardcover, 9780814770573, Â 343 Â pp.
All I Love and KnowÂ (William Morrow), by Judith Frank, is a brilliant, thoughtful, unexpectedly funny new novel about a gay couple, Daniel Rosen and Matt Greene, who live in Northampton, MA. It opens with a cafĂ© bombing in Jerusalem that kills Danielâs twin brother Joel and Joel’s wife Ilana. When it is revealed that Joel and Ilana designated Daniel the guardian of their two small children should they die, a firestorm erupts in both Danielâs and Ilanaâs families about the possibility that the children will be taken out of Israel and raised by gay men. The novel explores what happens to Daniel and Mattâs relationship in the wake of this conflict and this trauma. It is also page-turner that keeps the reader deep in the story until the very last page. And thinking about it afterwards for days. (more…)
‘State of Defiance: Challenging the Johns Committeeâs Assault on Civil Liberties’ by Judith G. Poucher
I approached Judith G. Poucherâs State of Defiance: Challenging the Johns Committeeâs Assault on Civil Liberties with a degree of skepticism. It wasnât long ago that I reviewed Stacy Braukmanâs masterful Communists and Perverts Under the Palms (2012), also about the Johns Committee, and I had my doubts that a second book in three years would reveal much more necessary information about the post-McCarthy witch-hunts that the committee launched in Florida. Fortunately, Poucher has found a different approach to the material, emphasizing the contributions of five individuals who, when confronted by the committee, fought back through lawsuits, cleverly combative testimony, and, in the case of gay individuals, refusing to name names. (more…)
Kara Walkerâthe protagonist of Abdi Nazemianâs first novel The Walk-in Closetâis ready for a new life. And sheâs not exactly picky. On the eve of her thirtieth birthday, still reeling from an old break-up and stuck in a dead-end Hollywood job, Kara is ready to make some compromises if it means sheâll experience something close enough to happiness. But close enough, we learn, is intolerably far from the real thing. (more…)
‘The Animals: Love Letters Between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy’ by Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy; Edited by Katherine Bucknell
Christopher Isherwood died in 1986, his legacy as an author and gay trailblazer assured by works such asÂ A Single Man, The Berlin Stories, and, most recently, the publication of his diaries–a treasure trove of insight into one of the 20th Centuries most fascinating figures. Itâs only been in recent years, however, that Isherwoodâs love life has drawn public attention on par with his literary achievements.Â The Animals, a collection of love letters between Isherwood and his surviving partner, the artist Don Bachardy, aims to correct that imbalance. (more…)
There are many ways in which Andrew Lewis Connâs new novel could have gone wrong. Mixing fact and fiction; combining silent filmmakers with Harlem gangsters, and Jewish Americans with âDarkest Africaâ; and featuring both straight and gay interracial romances, Conn is walking a very fine line with this book. That he manages to pull it off and O, Africa! works so effectivelyâbeing by turns amusing and haunting, serious and sly but ultimately movingâis quite a triumph for its author. (more…)
‘They Donât Kill You Because Theyâre Hungry, They Kill You Because Theyâre Full’ by Mark Bibbins
This is how it happens: I arrive early at the airport in Greenville-Spartanburg only to learn my flight is delayed. This small, homey airport feels like someoneâs living room–with plush carpet and tall windows and lots of cushy chairs for semi-private conversations and prime storm viewing. I am traveling alone and havenât eaten since breakfast, so I take a seat on a high bar-stool at Windows Restaurant–the diner side. A seasoned waitress, named Sandy, with a fabulous, frosted perm recommends the mushroom-swiss burger with all the trimmings. We get to talking. She grew up in south Florida near where I live now. âSometimes I miss it,â she says, pouring my refills from waterfall heights. âBut then of course, sometimes I donât.â She seems like a very balanced person. (more…)
Sixteen-year-old Alex Nevus lives in the East Village with his family, attends Stuyvesant High School, and generally tries to keep his world from falling apart. Admirably, he has succeeded in doing soâuntil the morning his schizophrenic mother goes AWOL and misses her annual redetermination review with the Department of Social Services; unless he can find her, and convince the review board that she is at least minimally functional, both he and his younger sister Alice will be taken from her custody and placed back into foster care. Using the GPS on his cell phone, he tracks her to Fort Tyson, in the northernmost remote corner of Manhattanâand finds himself in another place altogether. And then Alex’s life really implodes. (more…)
“Before there was the Internet, there was Frank OâHara. Weâre just as a culture finally catching up to his manic speed and endlessly divisible attention span”
Since his death in 1966, the poet Frank OâHara has taken on an iconic stature among admirers of poetry. To honor the work of the beloved poet, The Fire Island Pines Fine Arts Project is presenting the Frank OâHara Fire Island Pines Poetry Festival, on Saturday, July 12th, at 4 PM. The event will include such noted writers as Eileen Myles, Edmund White, Ariana Reines, Dorothea Lasky, and Saeed Jones. (more…)