Rainbow Reads - October 15, 2012
This month's Rainbow Reads features 3 autobiographies on how to fight the good fight while living a good life. Merle Miller's classic article for "Harper's Magazine" reminds us that taking a stand is as easy as coming out of the closet. And Marisa Calin attempts to bridge the chasm between teenage fantasy and obsession in her debut young adult novel.
"On Being Different: What it Means To Be Homosexual" Merle Miller
This may be one of the most important books/articles a LGBTQ identifying person can read. Miller wrote his article in response to a slanderous article in "Harper's Magazine" written by Joseph Epstein. Epstein accosted the entire homosexual population as morally repugnant and entirely unacceptable, whether privately or publicly. Miller wasn't the first to come out publicly but his was the first coming out on such a grand national platform. In his article he takes a strong stand for supporting homosexuality and its community stating that he doesn't want just to be tolerated; he wants to be openly accepted. In his afterword, Miller clarifies that he wasn't glad he wrote the article but that he didn't regret it either. He took a brave stance in 1971, just ten years before Ronald Reagan publicly blamed the Gays for the AIDs epidemic. Miller's article gave voice to a minority that had previously been silent. We should be grateful to the New York Times Magazine for taking a positive stance on gay issues when previously the only stance to take had been a negative one. The edits the Magazine had made to Miller's article were for space only, not for content.
In Dan Savage's preface he specifies that Miller's article enables campaigns like "It Gets Better" possible. Miller decried the notion that we are a savage people looking for recruits - we are human beings capable of love and resentment at the treatment we receive. In the thoughtful afterword by author Charles Kaiser, Kaiser discusses gay living during the late 70's and early 80's.
"On Being Different: What it Means To Be Homosexual"
Merle Miller, edition by Carol Hanley, executrix of the Merle Miller Estate
"My Husband and My Wives: A Gay Man's Odyssey" by Charles Rowan Beye
"May the spirit of love and truth and peace make its home in your heart forever."
Charles Rowan Beye is a very lucky gay man. He was born gay in a small town and not only lived to tell the tale but lived a sexually adventurous young adulthood into a relatively happy and calm adulthood. He is well-educated and was able to marry three times to the people of his choice. Beye is so well off that one might think he was gloating if his writing wasn't so sincere and thoughtful.
Told through the perspective of Greek Classics, Beye relays the story of his life first through sexual escapades and then through heartbreak. His reflections on life begin with a firm belief that homosexuality is not a sin in the eyes of a loving God. He ascertains that man is not inherently flawed or evil for following his basic instincts. Furthermore, Beye cannot believe that man suffers misfortune as punishment. Rather, misfortune is an unavoidable part of life for all.
Beye touches upon the human desire for orgasms versus the biological imperative to procreate. As Western Civilization's definition of manliness is in fact based on an ancient culture that prized erotic gay relationships as a testament of manhood, Beye's descriptions are warranted. "Husband and Wives" is tastefully explicit without being offensively graphic. That being said, this autobiography is for a certain subset of ladies and gentlemen that enjoy Classical Literature and not others.
"My Husband and My Wives: A Gay Man's Odyssey"
Charles Rowan Beye
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
"God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage" Bishop Gene Robinson
Gene Robinson, compassionate Bishop of New Hampshire has undertaken the massive task of writing a family-friendly, easy to read book that explains the necessity of gay marriage to the masses. "God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage" should be considered a necessary primer for anyone attempting to engage in anti-gay marriage rhetoric. His intent is to start a dialogue by dissecting anti-marriage arguments from gay-positive and negative perspectives with kindness and sympathy. Bless his courageous heart, he does a fantastic job at it. His erudite writing is simple enough for a child to understand yet conveys complicated principles with ease.
Robinson correctly argues that gay marriage won't redefine marriage as an institution but it will affect which individuals are included in the circle of marriage privilege. A majority of the concerns in the US gay marriage debate results from the lack of clarity regarding Church and State separation. US political debates don't draw lines delineating the sacrament and the civil liberty. As a result, many Americans assume that by changing the law that the sacrament will also be changed. Robinson explains that the sacrament will remain unchanged whereas marriage the legal process will be changed on State and Federal levels. This is a basic legal truth. He uses Biblical and historical anthropological references (his bibliography is impressive, if you know what I mean) to debunk the myth that gay marriage will affect life as heterosexuals know it causing a downward spiral directly to Hell. He does this while directly confronting the passages in the Bible that many claim prove that homosexuality is a sin.
He impresses upon the reader that gay rights touch us all. If you know or know of a gay person and have any sympathetic feelings toward them at all then it is imperative that equality be established. It is no longer acceptable to stand by while others are harmed by inequality. He pushes that it's only someone else's fight if you don't care what kind of society we live in. If civil unions are so equal to marriage rights then why not change all marriages to civil unions in the eyes of the law? It is because in the eyes of men, civil unions and marriage are not equal. It wasn't true for other civil rights movements; it isn't true for this one. Bishop Robinson may be compassionate but he is determined.
"God Believes in Love: Straight Talk About Gay Marriage"
Bishop Gene Robinson
Knopf for Borzoi
"Between You And Me" (Marisa Calin)
Phyre is yet a teenager but she feels that she is destined to become an actress. She sees the world through rose colored glasses (literally and figuratively) and couldn't imagine that reality could be any different from the celluloid-tinted life she imagines it to be. Enter Mia, Phyre's new high school drama teacher. Phyre falls head over heels in love and makes it her mission to become the lead in the school play and thereby romantically woo Mia. Set in an average high school environment during the present day, "Between You and Me" is an attempt to explore young same-gendered infatuation and young-adult daydreams.
"Between You and Me" is Marisa Calin's first young adult novel. Calin has written the novel in both the style of a script and the narrative of Phyre's train of thought. It applies the chaotic flow of teenage angst and the dry format of character line-headers and stage directions. It is a confusing read, as the reader is forced to experience first and second person points of view simultaneously. When rehearsing or performing, an actor develops a character off the page but in the mixed novel/script form, the reader is bereft of character development. Luckily, the stage directions/ antics of Phyre and her unnamed best friend "You" are wild enough to entertain and keep the focus.
Most confusing of all, Calin does not name Phyre's partner in crime, "You." If this is an attempt to draw the reader into the novel then Calin fails. The syntax is often clumsy and the novel can be difficult to enjoy if one is unaccustomed to reading scripts.
"Between You And Me"
"Fighting To Serve - Behind The Scenes In The War To Repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell" (Alexander Nicholson)
Alexander Nicholson, Founder and Executive Director of Service Members United, felt neither elation nor relief when Don't Ask Don't Tell was repealed. Rather, he became acutely aware of how much more work was necessary after the repeal became law. Nicholson served in the military as a young adult. He was discharged in 2002 because of DADT. A fellow service member had read a private letter Nicholson had written, in Portuguese, to an Ex while serving at the Defense Language Institute. His parents shortly learned of his orientation when discharge paperwork was sent to their home, Nicholson's permanent address.
DADT repeal tour of duty started in 2003 with the Supreme Court ruling on "Lawrence vs. Texas" which struck down laws criminalizing same-sex relations. The fight changed him as a man just as it changed the law for all. He kept repeating that "(he) was just (an ordinary person) doing (his) part." Nicholson didn't set out to be an activist. Activism chose him. Nicholson found that he was the only openly gay man, veteran, or both when he attended outreach meetings and planning sessions. He understood then that if DADT was to be repealed the grassroots campaign would need the full support of discharged service members and the gay community.
What follows is a personal account of Nicholson's fight with conflicting civil rights organizations, the White House and the federal government to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. He blends historical facts with personal, sometimes touching anecdotes. His is a significant (and necessary) tale but is not a typical autobiography. His syntax is dry, possibly reminding the reader of a college textbook but pacts a surprising emotional wallop. It is said that history is written by the winners. Nicholson's account is affective because he was able to fight the good fight, change history and now the entire US citizenship is enjoying the benefits.
"Fighting To Serve - Behind The Scenes In The War To Repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell"
Chicago Review Press