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The Brilliance of Gay People, for All the World to See

Let me start with this kid, at the Supreme Court yesterday as DOMA was being argued.

(Doug Mills/The New York Times)

See the wedding ring on that blue finger? (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

He is brilliant, from his sign to his looks. This photo is an instant icon.

Meanwhile Edie Windsor has just been elected to the Divas’ Hall of Fame. And you thought only Gay guys belonged in there!

She walked out of the Supreme Court, flung her arms open wide and told the crowd, "I'm Edie Windson, an out Lesbian, who just sued the United States of America." (Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)

She walked out of the Supreme Court, flung her arms open wide and told the crowd, “I’m Edie Windsor, an out Lesbian who just sued the United States of America!” (Christopher Gregory/The New York Times)

Have you seen pictures of Edie and her wife Thea from the 1960s on? Gorgeous, both of them, their whole lives. Lipstick Lesbians before there even was such a thing!

Last night Rachel Maddow interviewed Mary Bonauto, the brilliant legal strategist with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders who led the attack on the Defense of Marriage Act and won the first lawsuit, in Massachusetts, establishing a Constitutional right for us to get married in 2003. “No gay person in this country would be married without Mary Bonauto,” said Roberta Kaplan, Edie Windsor’s lawyer who argued the case yesterday. Former Congressman Barney Frank said of Bonauto, “She’s our Thurgood Marshall.”

Mary Bonauto and her wife, a law school professor, are the parents of twin 11-year-old girls. (Craig Dilger/The New York Times)

Mary Bonauto “conceived of a strategy just like” Justice Marshall, the great Civil Rights attorney, Ms. Kaplan said. “It was strategically brilliant, and she succeeded. No one else can say that.” (Craig Dilger/The New York Times)

We owe these people a great debt. The Court won’t issue its ruling for another three months, and it seems likely to overturn DOMA on a narrow “states’ rights” interpretation rather than the “equal protection” basis we deserve. But a win is a win if we can get one, and the most important aspect of it will be its international impact, especially in Central Africa and Eastern Europe, countries where it is life-threatening to be Gay. Millions of people in future generations will benefit, without ever knowing who, what or how.

As for California’s Proposition 8, I’m expecting another narrow ruling, that the anti-Gay forces don’t have “standing” to appeal because they weren’t harmed by U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s ruling overturning the referendum. If so, the Supremes will confine the decision to California, where Gay and Lesbian people will be able to marry again. But that win will be big, too.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker; he came out after issuing his decision against Prop. 8, though his friends had known he was Gay for quite some time. Like many judges, he didn't want his personal details to be seen as interfering with his objectivity. In the Prop. 8 trial, he asked hard questions of the pro-Gay side. (via Blue Truck, Red State)

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker; he came out after issuing his decision against Prop. 8, though his friends had known he was Gay for quite some time. Like many judges, he didn’t want his personal details to be seen as interfering with his objectivity. In the Prop. 8 trial, he asked hard questions of the pro-Gay side. (via Blue Truck, Red State)

Judge Walker was brilliant, conducting a full trial on same-sex marriage, where the homophobes’ case fell apart. Ted Olson and David Boies (Straight guys both), who argued for freedom before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, have not only been courageous, compassionate and skilled, their strategy of putting Prop. 8 on trial, which seemed risky to me and many others when it was first announced, has helped turn the tide of public opinion since 2008.

What fabulous work all these people have done! Yes, we still have to wait for the final results – but the shift in public opinion they’ve caused, with the help of thousands of others who’ve come out and organized, has already broken the back of fundamentalists in the United States, exposing their lies for everyone to see.

You don’t have to be a believer to shout, “Thanks be to God!”++

"Resurrection," carved alabaster, English, 15th century. Gay people were dead when I was born, but now we're alive. (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore)

“Resurrection,” carved alabaster, English, 15th century. Gay people were all but dead and buried when I was a kid – but now we’re alive. (Walters Art Museum, Baltimore)

America Is Rushing to the Altar

A West Point cadet and his boyfriend, 2013: here's what freedom looks like.

A West Point cadet and his boyfriend, 2013: here’s what freedom looks like.

All over the teevee, Straight commentators are marveling at how fast Americans’ views on Gay marriage are changing. Why, they’ve never seen anything like it! And they can’t explain it.

Not to worry; I am here.

Jerry Falwell did us a big favor. Then he died.

U.S. politics changed dramatically in 1980; Ronald Reagan kicked Jimmy Carter out of the White House and ushered in a new conservatism marked by hyper-capitalism and greed, military aggression (with invasions of Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989, and illegal funding of the Contra War in El Salvador throughout the decade), racism, sexism (the Equal Rights Amendment died in 1982) and homophobia. The pendulum swung far to the right.

Now it has swung to the left with the re-election of President Obama, and LGBTs are among the beneficiaries.

Falwell, a Baptist TV preacher, had huge political ambitions, and his support for Reagan was key in forming a new electoral coalition. Whenever one of these big shifts happens, the composition of the political parties realigns. Today’s TV talking heads, with their sound-bite brains, remember all this as involving “Reagan Democrats,” who were White ethnics and union workers in Macomb County, Michigan, right outside Black Detroit. But Falwell’s Fundamentalists were arguably the more important voting bloc; they were nationwide and united behind Reagan, in an effort to reverse abortion rights. President Carter won the union vote in 1980 despite the Reagan Democrats. He lost conservative Christians, despite being one himself.

Rep. Martha Griffiths, D-Michigan, steered the Equal Rights Amendment through Congress. It failed to be ratified by the states, thanks to a backlash led by Phyllis Schlafly, an Illinois lawyer portraying herself as a happy housewife. (Warren D. Leffler)

Rep. Martha Griffiths, D-Michigan, steered the Equal Rights Amendment through Congress in 1972. It failed to be ratified by the states, thanks to a backlash led by Phyllis Schlafly, an Illinois lawyer portraying herself as a happy housewife. (Warren K. Leffler)

It’s proven impossible over the years to roll back abortion rights, and Reagan had a sense of how hard it would be. Every January Falwell and his allies would converge in a big demonstration at the Supreme Court trying to overturn Roe v. Wade; they helped elect Reagan and kept expecting him to show up, but he never did. Year after year he gave them a speech played over the loudspeakers, but he never once appeared in person; he didn’t want to be in a picture with them.

To juice up his movement, Falwell expanded his issues to cover “family values” and demonize Gay people. Abortion was always his number one target, and Gay people seemed like easy pickings. His strategy was successful for awhile, but it was fatally flawed.

He ran a persecution campaign, but those only work for awhile. (He should have known that, being a Christian.) Nothing generates more sympathy than TV pictures of people being abused.

Civil rights marchers being beaten by Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, 1965. This scene led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act later that year.

Civil rights marchers being beaten by Alabama State Troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, 1965. This scene led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act later that year.

Falwell had a problem; he couldn’t scapegoat all the women of America because there are too many of them. The goal of the anti-abortion movement has always been to put women back in their place. It’s not about unborn babies or the right to life, it’s about how grown women act here and now. It’s about men’s power and who gets to decide things. If Falwell had waged war on all women, not only would they object, so would a certain percentage of men; so he turned his venom on Gay people instead, thinking (and not unreasonably) that queers had no defenders anywhere.

It worked for awhile; but he and his clones, especially Pat Robertson, gradually became better known for hating Gay people than opposing abortion. They helped this image along by making outlandish claims and repeating obvious lies.

A hurricane did not destroy Disney World, and Gay Day went on as usual.

Where once Gay people were unmentionable, all of a sudden we were being talked about constantly.

We came out. And we kept coming out, coming and coming.

We started to reveal ourselves in the 1960s in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington and of course in New York. What started as a trickle in time turned into a flood.

Daddy didn’t like that his boy was a queer, but Mama still loved her son; so did Grandma, aunts, uncles and cousins. As for that Lezzie daughter, well, anybody could see that Martha Griffiths had a point – and Betty Friedan, the whole lot of them. A woman ought to be able to be a doctor if she wants to be, or even a lumberjack. If that’s what she wants, well, it won’t pay to try to stop her. She never was the type to wear pearls anyway.

Three strands this time, plus a cross necklace. Schlafly promised to turn back the clock to the days of "Father Knows Best."

Three strands this time, plus a cross necklace. Schlafly promised to turn back the clock to the days of “Father Knows Best.”

Here’s a fact that’s still unbelievable to me: I was the first openly-Gay person in Cincinnati (Palm Sunday, 1978), along with an MCC pastor who soon left town. The Rev. Howard Gaass and I lent our full real names to a bunch of articles in The Cincinnati Enquirer. The reporters did a fine job with it, sensitive and accurate. They interviewed all the Lesbians and Gay men they could find. But none of the women were quoted by name, and only two of the men.

I don’t know what was running through Howard’s mind, and I’ve never criticized his leaving town; I hope he just got a new opportunity and jumped on it. But I knew you can’t run a social movement while hiding your name and face behind a curtain. You have to take responsibility; you have to show some leadership. On Gay issues that was especially important, because the stereotype was that we were all wimps and sissies, ready to run if somebody looked at us cross-eyed.

You have to be willing to sacrifice, in public, for your beliefs, even if it means you’ll get killed. John Lewis, in that Selma photo above, nearly did get killed. But now he’s a Congressman from Georgia.

(While I’m just blogging!)

The famous Gay debate at the American Psychiatric Association in 1972: Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny and a Gay psychiatrist (John E. Fryer) in a Halloween mask.

The famous Gay debate at the American Psychiatric Association in 1972: activists Barbara Gittings, Frank Kameny and a Gay psychiatrist (John E. Fryer) in a Halloween mask.

I have never spent much time thinking about why it took most LGBTs so long to come out. I think I’d probably resent them, actually; so I’ve always banished that particular thought. What was obvious to me, that coming out is an absolute necessity, was not so obvious to most. I do not hold to the standard blather about coming out that “it’s an intensely personal decision that everybody has to make for themselves,” so that we end up with Ricky Martin finally telling the truth in 2010, once he had to explain how he and his male partner ended up with two kids. I don’t begrudge the man, even if he was livin’ the crazy life all those years.

I’d rather have allies than not. (And I suppose Frank Kameny could ask what took me so long – except that in 1960 when he took the U.S. Government to the Supreme Court over anti-Gay discrimination, I was only 9.)

Please tell the Talking Heads that this incredible shift on Gay marriage has come about because we started telling our families and friends the truth.

And because Jerry Falwell was a Public Idiot.

And because of AIDS.

Oscar nominee, Best Documentary. Didn't win. Gay films never do.

Oscar nominee, Best Documentary. Didn’t win. Gay films never do.

I don’t have much to say about AIDS today, except that I’m glad to be a founder of AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, the world’s second-oldest support and advocacy group.

It grew because of Lesbians more than Gay men. The real heroes of AIDS, and there are many, are women who didn’t have it. That pattern was repeated in city after city – Gay women, Straight women, compassionate and courageous women.

What finally broke down the sexism of Gay men was that we needed those women.

The political connection between AIDS and Gay marriage is that what once was unmentionable became a topic on everyone’s lips. Ronald Reagan tried his best never to mention the word, until his friend Rock Hudson came down with it.

I was working at Gay Men’s Health Crisis while Hudson was jetting off to Paris, desperately trying to save his life. I didn’t blame him; my clients were doing the same thing. Still, there was a pathos to that whole episode. Hudson denied being Gay and having AIDS as long as he could, and then it stopped mattering.

I lost only one close friend to AIDS, an Episcopalian from Ohio named Craig Jason Byers. To his name I add composer Calvin Hampton, whose Mass music I used to sing at seminary in 1974, the same year I first marched in the Stonewall anniversary demonstration. “Pride Parades” used to be demonstrations, kids. (And yes, I was scared that first time.)

I credit my religion, my faith, my Christ, for propelling my activism. I credit my mentors Ervin Faulkenberry, Howard Galley and Brooke Bushong, Episcopal Church evangelists who couldn’t have been less like Jerry Falwell.

I credit the prophet Amos, to tell the truth; “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

God made me do it – and still does.

A flood of Gay victims made our existence inescapable.

People with AIDS; Frank Kameny. Matthew Shepard; “God Hates Fags.” Too many to count, and still going on today; Edie Windsor, fighting DOMA to the Supreme Court; Uganda’s David Kato, murdered for being Gay.

Sweet Matt, an Episcopalian headed for a career in the State Department; he wanted to serve his country.

Sweet Matt, an Episcopalian headed for a career in the State Department; he wanted to serve his country.

All that victimization finally piled up – just as a new generation arrived, determined, as new generations always are, to prove that their parents were completely wrong about something very important.

For my generation it was the War in Vietnam, civil rights, women’s rights. For this generation, we’re It.

I still hate their tattoos and always will, but thank you, America’s Youth. You are once again leading the world.

2008 election results among LGBTs. (Political Science & Politics Journal)

2008 election results among swing-state LGBTs. With Democrats, women and young voters, we elected this President. His re-election marks another generational realignment in the governing coalition, much as Reagan changed the 1980s. (Political Science & Politics Journal)

Marriage is easier to deal with than discrimination.

When America changes, even radically, the change is only partial. Yes, we fought a civil war to end slavery. But we waited another hundred years to start to enact racial equality.

Same-sex marriage will soon be the law of the land, whether or not we win the cases to be argued this month in the Supreme Court. Maybe we’ll lose; we lost Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986, then won Lawrence v. Texas just 15 years later. Yay, Gay people can have adult sex in private without getting thrown in jail!

(Justice Scalia, hateful bigot that he is, was right in Lawrence, that if Gay sex was made legal, Gay marriage wouldn’t be far behind.)

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed, but the Employment Non-Discrimination Act continues to languish. Apparently it’s okay with Congress if you’re queer and willing to die for your country, but not okay to be Gay at Chick Fil-A.

Tracey Hepner and her wife, Brig. Gen. Tammy S. Smith.

Tracey Hepner and her wife, Brig. Gen. Tammy S. Smith.

Marriage is something everyone can identify with (even as heterosexuals increasingly reject it), while having a job where you’re treated the same as everyone else is still too much to ask. This is just what John Lewis, Dr. King and millions of African-Americans went through in 1965; “you’re citizens but you’re not allowed to vote.”

Picketing the White House in 1965; not a leatherman or bikey dyke in sight.

“Homosexuals Are Citizens, Too”: picketing the White House in 1965, not a leatherman or bikey dyke in sight.

Of all the Gay issues to provoke a deep response in Americans, why is marriage the great galvanizer? I think it comes down to two things.

First, Falwell and his ilk were and are such clowns that anyone could see through them and laugh, long before Jon Stewart perfected political satire on “The Daily Show.” Ol’ Jerry was kind of a big fat guy, and he set himself up for ridicule the day he went after Tinky-Winky.

Falwell was a firm believer in using simple, powerful symbols to get his message across; his Moral Majority rallies featured lots of flags and patriotic music sung by well-scrubbed, clean-cut White kids; it was like getting beaten over the head with a Pat Boone record. But Falwell made a mistake when he went after this little cartoon kid.

Falwell was a firm believer in using simple, powerful symbols to get his message across. His Moral Majority rallies featured lots of flags and patriotic music sung by well-scrubbed, clean-cut White kids; those rallies were like getting beaten over the head with a Pat Boone record. But Falwell made a mistake when he went after this innocent cartoon kid.

Something else happened as part of this that I don’t think anyone’s really noticed.

• Goaded by their girlfriends, young Straight men stopped feeling threatened by Gay men.

I suspect this is the most powerful change of all; the dueling stereotypes (“All Gay men are sissies”/”All Gay men are dangerous rapists”) lost their power.

This is the personal, psychic equivalent of today’s political statement that Gay marriage has no effect on Straight marriages.

So live-and-let-live will soon become the law. Not even Fundamentalists can shout down “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That’s scripture in the United States, a self-evident truth.

It is a sad fact, though built into our democracy, that the law always lags social change. The battles over evolution and climate change are winding down, too. Obama’s re-election sealed their fate. I don’t know what will become of the Republican Party, but it’s increasingly obvious that ya just can’t turn back the clock. The 195os are done.

This is the best generation of young Straight men the world’s ever seen. My admiration for them knows no bounds. (Well, it knows one bound; I don’t desire them. But you know what I mean.) These guys are great!

When Scalia lost the football players, all hope went with them.

This Is What a Feminist Looks Like: when Scalia lost the football players, all hope went with them.

Finally, there’s this; it goes back to that quiet conversation between Gayboy and Grandma, Lezziegrrl and Grandpa. On the back porch, or over a cup of tea, or right after a big screamfest in the living room, or down at the fishin’ hole, where you have to whisper because the fish have ears:

It isn’t just sex, it’s love.

Well, it's both sex and love, actually. But love remains, decades after sex fades. And there aren't many grandparents in America who would deprive their kid of that.

Well, it’s both sex and love, actually. But love remains, decades after sex fades. And there are fewer and fewer grandparents who would deprive their kid of that.

So we win – and will live to fight again another day.++

What Is a Bishop Supposed to Do?

Getting older every day.

Someone on Facebook told me that the Pope popped off at Castel Gandolfo again about how “marriage and the family” must be preserved, and suggested that Gay people are not whole human beings.

Here’s a link. The writing is a bit skewed past the point of logic, trying to reiterate that Benedict is an anti-Gay extremist, but in fact his language is sufficiently moderate to allow for multiple interpretations – if you ignore the giant insult that he’s a human being and I am not. That isn’t Christian, denying another person’s humanity. It is anti-Christian.

Whatever it says on that website above, it’s true that past statements this Pope has made were plenty extreme: the whole world will come to a crashing end if Lesbian and Gay people can get married. Civilization is at stake!

I wish internet reporters would stick close to the facts. The Huffington Post is terrible at this, with yellow-journalism headlines that promise more than they deliver. But HuffPo’s in a battle for clicks, and is every bit as commercial as any other news source; that’s how Arianna makes her money. She’s a nice woman and a talented political analyst, but she sold her soul to the devil a long time ago. Stick to the facts, honey. You don’t need more moolah, you’re already rich. The question is, what about the Pope?

What about this claim that civilization will collapse if Gay people get rights, including the civil right to a civil marriage? Will the world end???

Uh, no. There aren’t enough of us to make the world end.

Nor is current Gay culture so attractive that we’ll make all Straight people turn Gay.

Homosexual behavior is quite attractive, but that’s a different issue than the current low state of Gay culture. And make no mistake, heterosexuality is a very strong attraction too. Billions of people are committed to it; there’s no chance that it will die out, just because a few guys or gals marry each other.

The Pope diminishes his office with this Chicken Little act. The sky is not falling.

God’s principal concern is love, not the birth rate – which is plenty high. In the next century the earth will host another two billion people, thanks to all those heterosexuals parading their nasty bits.

I blame the Pope, but Protestants are just as paranoid about LGBT people. “If we don’t stamp out homosexuals, the whole human race will die!”

It’s nonsense; Straight guys are as obsessed with sex as Gay guys are. And that’s a good thing overall. Gay people aren’t battling for market share, and Straight parents consistently produce millions of Lesbian and Gay kids.

Straight sheep produce Gay lambs; it’s part of the plan – to stop overpopulation.

God’s very smart. S/he really doesn’t want this planet to overheat.

So I can take the Pope’s latest insult with a grain of salt. It isn’t the first time Popes have sought to diminish my humanity or make me a scapegoat. I don’t get angry at Popes anymore. I condemn their latest stupidity, urge people to convert to the Episcopal Church – then ask myself, what are bishops supposed to do?

(In English, the name of the Episcopal Church is “the Church of Bishops.” The Presbyterian Church is “the Church of Priests,” although they’ve gotten so far away from that they’re not priests anymore. These names have to do with governance: who runs the church? In the Episcopal Church, the bishops do, though we’ve put in effective checks and balances. In the Presbyterian church, the presbyters (ordained ministers) do.)

I belong to an Episcopal church; we still have bishops, whose office is much the same as the Pope’s. So I wonder, what is the correct, proper role of a bishop?

Episcopalians elect ours; the Pope appoints his own. That makes us very different, because Episcopal laypeople are in charge of the election. But what is any bishop supposed to do? What exactly is the correct job description?

It’s to be Defenders of the Faith. That is, they are the guardians of the tradition, handed down by Jesus and illustrated in the Bible. It’s a very important job, and as a Christian I want the bishops to perform it. I want the Christ I follow to be the actual Jesus who once walked in Israel.

Defend the faith from all the cultural changes that might alter it. That’s what I want bishops to do; it’s why I support them. Episcopal bishops do defend the faith.

But they also change. And that’s the crucial distinction.

The Pope’s bishops try to prevent all change; Episcopal bishops try to create more of it, for the things that need to change.

We even have a formula for this: “the historic episcopate, adapted to local circumstances.” And the fact we have a Prayer Book to tell us how to perform the sacraments and how to pray guarantees that the essentials don’t change, although the externals might. It’s a good balance.

I am forever wishing that the Episcopal Church would catch up to this century, but in fact we’re open to change. We’re slow, which is in keeping with that competing desire that Jesus doesn’t change; but we eventually kind of catch up to the times – because “the times” matter. People learn things; society develops.

Churches must keep up with the times. They also must consistently deliver the message of Jesus 2000 years ago.

So here I am, a Gay guy in 2012, watching the Pope spout off again, because the new French socialist government is going to legalize Gay marriage, yet I belong to an “episcopal” church run in part by bishops. What is the proper role of these fathers- and mothers-in-God?

It isn’t to prevent all change, as the Popes believe. It’s to find what the essentials of the Christian faith are and hold fast to those, while embracing what humanity has learned in the 2000 years of learning since Jesus walked here.

The Popes say that since Jesus only chose men as his apostles, we can’t have women priests.

Episcopalians call that misogyny, sexism and the oppression of women – which we have slowly learned is offensive to God.

Jesus relied on women constantly; they were his most consistent supporters, spiritually and financially.

They paid his bills, so he could walk around Galilee preaching and healing. The women did the work that allowed Jesus to do the work.

In modern times Episcopalians have found that there is nothing in the nature of priesthood to prevent a woman from being ordained. They’re just as good at it as men are, so the Episcopal Church has ordained women priests since 1974. We have more priests than we know what to do with, because so many men and women love God.

The Pope thinks otherwise and sits around watching his all-male, “celibate” priesthood (it never has been celibate, and never will be) disappear, because he thinks that’s his job.

Roman Catholic women are begging to be ordained; so are married men. The Pope doesn’t give a damn. So the priesthood withers, and here in my Indiana home town, one priest has to serve three parishes.

What do I want bishops to do? What is their actual job?

It’s to preserve the faith while drilling down to the essence of it.

The Pope seems to think male superiority is the essence of it, and I disagree. “In Christ there is no male or female.” Jesus called himself a “mother hen.”

The Pope seems to think heterosexuality is also the essence of it, and again I disagree. Straight people are very, very good at being fruitful and multiplying, which is the Pope’s stated concern. Indeed, they’re too good at it, like rutting deer who destroy state forests.

If Jesus were here today he’d preach at Gay bars. And the Gay people wouldn’t always like what he said, but they’d give him a big listen. He was enormously charismatic, with a physical presence about him as well as a huge spiritual aura.

I want the bishops to preserve the essence of what he said and did and was, while discarding the prejudices of the past. The world was not “created in seven days” –  not even the Genesis writer thought that. What s/he wrote was a meditation on sunrise and sunset, the holiness of the Sabbath (which is why the poem is geared to seven days); the passage of time, the magnificence of God’s creation, and the sacredness of living in the now.

“Wo-man” was not created out of “man.” There is no man without a woman; if you disagree, show me one.

The creation myths are lovely (and true in spiritual ways), but they’re not science. We go on science now, and reinterpret the old myths. They’re quite beautiful, but they’re not the end of the story.

Jesus doesn’t care who you make love to; what he cares about is how you treat that person. That’s what he would say in Gay bars, and that’s why he wouldn’t be entirely popular. There are users in Gay bars and online, and he condemned all who sought power over others.

Meanwhile we’re left with a Pope who says Gay people aren’t really human beings. In the words of Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a woman?” Ain’t I a man, Benny?

Who the hell are you? And why do you besmirch the Christian religion by claiming that some people are not human beings?

The whole point of Christianity is that God loves us so much he became one of us. Don’t deny that, or I will deny you.++

Jesus and Friends; David LaChapelle.

The Gospel According to Gay Guys

13th century Russian icon, St. Sergius and St. Bacchus; graphic design by Peter Schröder Studio, Amsterdam.

My third novel was published yesterday and is now on sale as an e-book at Amazon, in the United States, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

You can read it on all Kindle formats, iPhone and iPad, as well as desktop computers with a free downloadable Kindle app; link below.

Other formats will be rolled out soon, along with more stores.

My book’s as long as the Bible – but much more entertaining. It reads fast and has comedy too. At $6.99 it’s only a penny a page. (Although there’s really no such thing as a “page” in an e-book, since readers can change the text size to whatever they want.)

I’ll tell you a secret: it’s really a Gospel for Gay Guys. I stole “according to” from someone else’s work.

Three of the chapters are sexually explicit. My friend Leonardo is going to blush. He may even walk away from it for awhile, but I bet he comes back to find out what happens next.

It’s got four-letter words, because that’s how guys like us talk. I wrote it in the vernacular. Maybe it would sell better if I’d told Peter to label it “Vulgate Edition.”

But it’s good news for every Gay guy who ever loved God.

I have no idea what reaction I’ll get from women. They were 50% of the audience for Murder at Willow Slough (2001), the book that introduced these characters, Jamie and Kent. Women loved that book; some of them will like this too, but it is a grown-up story. Slough contained no sex; this book makes up for lost time.

Here’s the official pitch from the Amazon sales page:

Kent is a cop, Jamie is a reporter; they fell in love three months ago while working on a serial murder case, and now they’ve come to the end of their first date. They want to make sure their relationship lasts, but they are babes in the woods and the forest is scary. They have to face their dangers and fears, separately and together.

Their challenges range from a drive-by shooting in Murder City USA to a seductive waiter at a resort hotel, but their worst difficulties are close to home: family expectations, health issues, money concerns, sexual styles. And “what are you going to do about kids, anyway?”

Jamie keeps getting attacked by creatures out to kill him, and Kent’s never around when he needs him. They move into a weird old mansion and suddenly a 10-year-old boy disappears.

They treat each other tenderly, but what they don’t say matters as much as what they do.

The Gospel According to Gay Guys is a romance, a murder mystery, an epic family history. It’s the story of one man coming to faith, and two men making a marriage.

Does God love Gay guys? Absolutely – including, and within, their sexuality.

The Church has always taught that within marriage, sex is sacramental. So the book’s got a couple of communion times in it.

Last month the Episcopal Church approved same-sex marriage rites. It’s local option, so they won’t take place all over the country right at first, but in marriage equality states, local priests will be able to sign our civil licenses, the same as they do for Straight couples.

The Episcopal Church has given GLBT Christians everything we want: our own bishops and priests, marriage, non-discrimination, full respect. That’s great news.

Sure, it took a long time, about 40 years, but as God measures time, this was an eye-blink.

The message of the book is this: we’re free to come back to church now. The Episcopal Church Welcomes Us.

Episcopalians aren’t being trendy, they’re being faithful. God wants LGBTs in church, so Episcopalians have thrown the doors open.

There are other good, welcoming churches of all denominations, on every continent. Whatever church you grew up in or used to go to, you can probably find an accepting community.

I make a case that the Episcopal Church is ideal for Gay people because it’s both Protestant and Catholic, but also that no one should tell you how to think. Go where you’re comfortable; go where you find God in the church’s midst.

My biggest target audience is GLBT Christians raised in the faith, who left because of Pat Robertson and the Pope. Churches have been full of anti-Gay hatred for as long as most of us have been alive. I left too; I don’t blame you.

But times are changing, and churches are, too.

Find yourself a good faith community, test it and join it. It’s much easier to encounter God with other people around. Yes, you can worship on a mountaintop or in the woods, but let’s face it, you don’t do that very often. The community has a purpose: mutual teaching, mutual support.

And it welcomes people with no religious background at all. When we first meet Kent Kessler, his faith is as vague as can be. He doesn’t know much, he’s never examined the claims Christians make for Jesus, and his life is okay without asking about him. He goes to church because his family does, but he just never thought much about it.

I hope Gay guys can still listen when God calls.

But the book doesn’t preach, it tells a story: here’s what happened after these guys fell in love.

Genuine romance changes lives. So does real friendship. We’re never the same. We’re better off for knowing someone and trusting them with our inner selves, the way we really are.

I’ve loved several Gay guys, and they’ve loved me. So this is what I’ve learned from them; God is there inside our love.

Physically, spiritually, emotionally – in every way, God is right there.

I’ll end now with a final observation. Maybe you already know God loves you. I hope you do; it means you’re one of his.

But few of us perceive the height and depth and breadth of God’s love for us. It includes all the things about yourself you hate.

Gay guys have been taught to hate ourselves, and nearly all of us still do, deep down inside. The most homophobic people on the planet aren’t Christians, but Gay guys. “Religious people” have taught us how to do this, but we’re the ones who absorbed the lessons down to the core of our being, where our sexuality is located.

But The Gospel According to Gay Guys argues that Gay liberation began with Jesus Christ. There were these two guys living together, see…

You heard it here first. The idea isn’t original with me, but nobody tells the story like I do.

It takes a Gay guy to tell it; someone who isn’t academic, and whose job doesn’t depend on pleasing anyone else. Chances are your parish priest could tell it, but s/he doesn’t.

I’m the one who’s free to go for broke. So in this book, I do.

If that isn’t worth $6.99, go to the movies or buy yourself another drink. All I can do is tell you the truth; from here on it’s up to you.

You can download it here.

Whatever mistakes are in the book I’m responsible for. Whatever’s true about it the Holy Spirit wrote.++

Tom of Finland. I so wanted this for my cover art, but the Peter Schröder Studio had a better idea; saints first, studs second.

 

 

Thelma Glass Has Died; Lessons from Her Life

Thelma Glass (David Campbell/Alabama State University)

Professor Thelma Glass of Alabama State University has died. She was a principal organizer of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, the nonviolent action which propelled Martin Luther King, Jr. to world prominence. She was 96. Go here to read her inspiring story in The New York Times.

I want to focus on a detail we often overlook: people like Rosa Parks weren’t just forced to sit in the back of the bus. One hears that phrase so commonly these days that its meaning is weak tea.

Instead Blacks were told, “Sit in the back and give up your seat to a White person.”

Male, female, it didn’t matter; any White person. An able-bodied kid, even one who couldn’t sit still. This was the law.

In fact it was psychological warfare—brainwashing, programming, conditioning. “You matter so little that you have to stand up so a snot-nosed kid can sit down.”

The entire Jim Crow system of segregation was built to control people’s minds as much as their bodies. Colored drinking fountains—movie balconies—waiting rooms—swimming pools—all were intended to keep the people feeling down; worthless, helpless, confused, intimidated, separated, alienated and self-destructive.

If you can control people’s minds, their bodies follow.

There wasn’t a single White person, ever, who believed they would be harmed if they had to drink from the same fountain as a Black person. When you’re thirsty, water is water—and on the farm, it all comes from the same tin cup or gourd, and everyone cheerfully drank after each other without the least concern about hygiene. Remember when you were a kid? “Gimme a drink of that Co-Cola.”

No cooties to be found—including when a Black person got out of her seat on the bus and a White person plopped his butt right down where she’d been a-sitting.

It was largely psychological. But if you dared not to cooperate in your own brainwashing, they’d burn down your house, or bomb your Sunday School.

I’m still stunned by all the violence Whites were willing to commit to maintain their little advantages. I’d guess their self-esteem was pretty shaky too.

And it’s not as if the violence doesn’t continue, or the little mind games; just this week news bubbled up about a White Baptist church in Mississippi that refused to allow a Black, heterosexual couple to get married, purely for reasons of race. This couple had been attending there awhile, but when it came time to stand up in the White folks’ sanctuary, some of the members threw a fit—and the timid, “sensitive” pastor let them.

Thank God you don’t live in Miss’sippi. Or if you do, just slip out the back, Jack. There must be 50 ways to leave the Worst State Ever.

Now let’s bring it home to us. What did Prof. Glass do, and why did it have such an impact?

What does it mean for us today?

What she did, with Rosa Parks, Dr. King and the Montgomery Women’s Political Council, was remove one of the cornerstones in the edifice of racist psychological warfare.

Eventually, with a great deal of suffering and death, the rest of the structure fell down. Black folk stopped letting White people control their thoughts.

I think this applies directly to LGBTs.

The most homophobic people on earth are Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual. We’ve internalized homophobia; we’ve let Straight people brainwash us and control our thoughts.

We then turn around and use their weapons against ourselves, and each other.

I think we do this as much now as we ever did. Psychologically we’ve not made much progress at all. We’re outwardly more free, but our most casual, everyday conversations are laden with Straight people’s thought patterns.

Every “camp” remark ever made is homophobic, dividing the world into worthy Straight people and unworthy Gay people, or worthy men and unworthy women. (Because, you know, to be Gay and male really means you’re just a woman.)

Does this mean we give up our humor? Not at all. It means start being funny for a change!

My Jack was a wit; he kept everyone in stitches. He almost never made camp remarks. He liked Gay people, and fought for us.

Here we are, in 2012, and we’ve still got Gay men signing up for non-existent cures. Evidently they can’t think straight – or Straight’s the only way they can think, and they hate themselves.

We’ve still got Tyler Clementis jumping off bridges. That should teach the camp crowd something – but instead they always blame someone else.

We still churn out devastating statistics on LGBT depression, smoking, alcoholism and drug addiction, and tons of new HIV infections.

We worry about children being bullied, instead of teaching them to fight back.

There is plenty of blame to go around for our personal problems and social problems – but we’re perpetrators too, and we never take responsibility for it. We’ve got more denial than all the rivers of Egypt.

You can’t watch 10 snippets of Gay porn without seeing 8 snippets of homo-hatred. “You like that, bitch?”

Um, no, I don’t. We are not female.

We’re just Gay, that’s all.

I would like us to stop oppressing each other and ourselves. We can’t do much, directly at least, about anti-Gay violence, but we can stop thinking like some Straight people do.

Remember, the oppressor’s as terrified as we are. Do you think those ’50s crackers didn’t know they were doing wrong, bombing churches, burning crosses, shooting people dead?

They knew, all right, and so do we.

It isn’t a crime, when you’re an oppressed person, to absorb the mind games and thought patterns drummed into your head.

But it is a crime to keep thinking that way once you lose your chains. And it’s a felony to make other victims keep feeling bad about themselves.

It’s the old programming principle; garbage in, garbage out.

We’re still putting out an awful lot of garbage, every day, in most of our thoughts and conversations.

“Pride” is supposed to be the antidote to this, but it takes more than marching in a parade or buying a T-shirt. It takes deep soul-searching to root out all the bad programming.

There’s nowhere to go to get a brain transplant. If there were, none of us would smoke, drink or get HIV.

What we can do, though, is act. Ms. Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, and got arrested. She knew she would; she’d planned it all out.

Then once the news of her refusal reached Ms. Glass, she acted too; the Women’s Political Council acted – and within four days all the buses were empty.

The Black folk who depended on the buses had to make other arrangements. Some walked and some caught a ride with a friend.

They all knew instinctively how important it was to grab onto that cornerstone and yank it.

They didn’t need to go to therapy to change the voices in their heads; they had a tremendous advantage over LGBTs in the support of their families, who always knew racism was wrong.

This isn’t to say there weren’t Black folk who were scared to death to challenge the system; there were. The longer the bus boycott went on, the more internal dissent there was. It’s hard to get someplace when you don’t have transportation.

But they acted, and within a year they won, and only later did they stop to think about what they’d done and what it meant.

The larger civil rights movement was rife with internal dissent; the historical record shows that Dr. King got stabbed in the back more often by fearful Black pastors than any other group. But still he kept it together, even as younger, more militant leaders emerged, without his principles of non-violence. They didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize, he did.

LGBTs have made remarkable strides as everyone now sees. We’ve been to the mountaintop and seen the promised land.

But if we want to be actors and not just reactors; if we want to have real pride and not just the kind you buy; if we want political change as well as inner peace and joy, we have to change our behavior and our thoughts.

We have to stop oppressing each other as a crooked way of showing/hiding how oppressed we still feel.

If you find it hard to change your thoughts, change your behavior; boycott Chick-Fil-A – and don’t be too quick to laud Target for running Gay ads and selling Pride trinkets just two short years after donating $150,000 in corporate money to a bigot running for governor of Minnesota.

Penney’s, Ellen’s sponsor, didn’t slip corporate cash to bigots first.

And don’t tell me that you can’t keep up with all the terrible companies, so therefore you don’t do jack shit.

Don’t tell us that you love Jesus or the pope or the Mormon church so much that you’re sticking with them no matter what – or we’ll come and pull you off the bus so you can walk. (You can still love your church, but don’t give them one thin dime as long as they treat LGBTs like the antichrist.)

Don’t tell us that you’re voting for Mitt Romney, “even though you disagree with him on this issue,” without expecting the rest of us to call you out. The only thing the Republican Party stands for now is greed – so we know exactly who your god is, the Almighty Dollar. You didn’t get the Gay gene without also getting the Gay compassion, the Gay empathy.

The more we act to liberate ourselves and others, the more our thoughts realign. (If we try changing our thoughts before our actions, it takes forever.)

Most of all stop oppressing other LGBTs with your idiotic remarks and pathetic humor.

Gay women are women; Gay men are men; and yes, you can play with those roles and gender boundaries all you want – as long as you don’t oppress others.

Bisexuals are real people with real feelings, so stop trying to make them fit your brainwaves.

Transgenders are allowed to be themselves – so hire one.

Imagine the world you want to live in, and your place in it; then act so that it comes true, and your thoughts will follow you. Create a world in which everyone is free.

That’s what Thelma Glass did, and she wasn’t much different from you or me.

But what made her different was that she acted. First Rosa, then Thelma, and suddenly it all went viral.++

Terror Time: O, Have Mercy on Me Lord!

“Oh, the humanity!”

A few minutes ago I downloaded a free 30-day trial of Microsoft Word for Mac.

I’m not scared of the program; I’ve used it before. But the download means I’m now committed to publishing The Gospel According to Gay Guys, my third novel, on Kindle within a month.

Kindle requires Microsoft files. Seems odd to me, given that most creative people use Macs, but the rules are the rules. I have to have the whole thing done – reformatted (every damn page, according to still more rules) and uploaded to Amazon.

From here, there’s no turning back.

I have, of course, been pushing myself to get to this day for weeks, months, years – ever since I published my first book and then wondered, “What happens on the driveway?” So the driveway is where the sequel begins.

But now the day has finally come. And I’m a bit scared.

I’ve been in spiritual direction with a counselor so this day would come. (Curiously, Marcia and I don’t have an appointment this month.) Publishing the book has been my #1 spiritual goal/thing to work on, because I believe God calls me to do it, because it’s something only I could have written.

Therefore to become myself, I have to do it. And now, the spacelaunch begins.

Who wouldn’t be a little scared?

This morning I wrote myself a sign, which is on my desktop:

I worry that the book will go nowhere.
And rather than find that out, I don’t publish it.
7.9.12

But:

(Cobbed from Facebook months ago.)

I also have a picture of (ahem) a nekkid man on my desktop, to go with these images, as motivation to do the work. I won’t post the full pic here, but I decided years ago that my character Kent looks like a Colt model from years ago named “Terry DeLong.” Nice looking guy; he has deep-set black eyes, and I decided to make that an inherited trait of his family, many of whom are also characters in the book.

Ya gotta have somethin’ to hang your hat on. (No comments from the peanut gallery.)

The book is a love story, among other things. It’s a hybrid romance-mystery-historical novel. Of course I love it to death. But will anyone else?

Probably not. And that’s very scary, because my “whole life” is bound up in the success of this book. Or so I think.

It isn’t really; I’ll survive either way.

“It’s a big smash hit!” Or “Nobody noticed.”

Here’s what I would not survive: failing to see the project through to completion. Failing to be my best self.

Going in, I already know what the criticism of it will be – the same as the criticism of my first novel, that this story continues on the driveway. “It’s too sweet. They’re too nice, they’re too perfect. The writing is juvenile. It’s incoherent. It’s grandiose. He’s in love with his characters” – which is true, that last one. Maybe the grandiosity too, but I’ve never lacked for ambition.

It will rise or fall on its title, which I hope is an eye-grabber.

But::: You don’t set out to write a Gospel unless you’re an evangelist – and I am, commissioned 1977 by the Bishop of Indianapolis. And::: You can’t write a Gospel unless it’s full of Good News – which it is.

Good news is sweet, nice and it’s perfect. (When it’s not being jaw-droppingly difficult. “Pluck out your eye and cast it away,” anyone?)

These characters are morally good, but they’re not perfect. Jamie’s got brain damage and a mental illness, and Kent can be a little slow on the uptake sometimes.

But they’re good to each other, and that is something I want to talk to Gay men about.

We’re often not very good to each other, which I think is usually the result of internalized shame about being Gay.

Even in this day and age it’s still the #1 problem we face. If you want to collect the most homophobic people in the world, convene a big gathering of Gay people.

I am very, very high on the ethical and moral worth of LGBTs. But we often believe the absolute worst about each other. You can see that in almost every Gay video ever made, pornographic or entertainment-oriented – and you can readily hear it at any bar or cocktail party in five minutes after two people have struck up a genuine conversation.

Watch documentaries about us, though, and you’ll see heroes and heroines from start to finish.

So I wrote a book about two heroes; you could even call them two saints. They’re imperfect mortals, but they consistently do their best, just like you do.

They do not contain the seeds of their destruction within themselves, a fatal flaw that will kill them. That is the way of classical mythology, but it’s inadequate as an explanation of why good people die.

They do, that’s all; they’re mortals. And unlike classical mythology, becoming gods isn’t an option for us. So I don’t mess with any of that.

There is indeed some violence, destruction and evil in this book, but those originate outside my main couple.

So: here I go. No turning back. Thirty days, all formatting perfect; all spelling, all thoughts, every word.

Will it be perfect? Nah, I can’t do perfect. Will it sell? Not if it’s never published!

I really need it to sell. But even more, I need it to exist, to be available for discovery.

When no one else can do it but you, you have to do it.

The one who does it is a hero.++

Those eyes.

2200 Miles Later, My Magnum Opus Is Done; Now What?

Tom of Finland

After ten years of following my fictional characters Jamie and Kent around, taking down their every thought, word and deed – looking in on their sex lives, picking over corpses’ bones with them, being lobbied to omit Jamie’s occasional culinary failures – I am at last coming to the end of my latest and best novel.

The final rewrite of The Gospel According to Gay Guys is done. I’ve transferred the text from a blog to document format, and now have only two more steps to go before it’s published as an e-book: downloading a word processing program and formatting correctly, then uploading it to the publisher.

I feel like a hiker who’s traversed the entire length of the Appalachian Trail; it’s exhilarating to climb the final mountain and look over my tiny, magnificent triumph. But soon it’s time to descend again and go home, wondering what to do with the rest of my life.

I’m glad I hiked. My head is full of memories; not just magnificent views, but delightful or frightening wildlife, hunger, thirst, illness, danger, confusion. Why did I go on such a lengthy quest? Just to say afterward, “I did it”?

Was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it again? I think once is enough.

How did it change me? And how do I know which changes came from hiking and which from living an extra decade?

I woke up this morning with one question on my mind: should I keep the explicit sex in a book that calls itself the Gospel? Sex no longer interests me the way it once did. I seldom look at porn anymore; this is a very recent change and it comes as quite a surprise. I’ve devoted my entire adult life to the liberation of oppressed Gay people, as if I were Elizabeth Cady Stanton – so “sex” has been at the center of my work. I’m immensely proud of what I’ve done; not just in politics, community organizing, religion or even writing. I think I’ve come up with rare or even original ideas about Gay men and sex.

But I’m starting to think that my waning interest is like a lot of other former hobbies I’ve had; is it gone for good?

It’s very odd, watching obsessions gradually disperse. I was 34 when I quit dancing in Gay bars, because Jack didn’t dance and I was in love with Jack. So one day I just stopped. Then over the years I quit watching TV, going to movies, wearing leather, even following Purdue basketball. This spring for the first time I didn’t watch the NCAA Tournament. And now even sex leaves me shrugging. I’m not bored or burned out, I’m just refining mind, body and soul perhaps.

Mind you, I’ve slept with “Kent Kessler” every night since 1994. I doubt I stop that, but I didn’t think I’d ever stop being turned on sexually, even though I’ve pretty much given up the act.

I can tell how I’ve changed by the clothes in my closet; all my leather gear is shoved in the back. I don’t like wearing the Wrangler jeans I bought five years ago on my trip out West; those jeans are too tight now. I bought them to be tight (and I haven’t gotten bigger), but now I don’t want tight anymore. I no longer buy anything from International Male.

Some of this is just being 60, but some of it may represent spiritual growth, too.

If so, should I keep the explicit sex?

If it’s true that I have some sexual insights in the book, they should stay – even if my potential fans are turned off. Mrs. Cady Stanton caused an uproar in 1906 when she published The Women’s Bible; it was so controversial the National American Women’s Suffrage Association repudiated her, though she was their founder! The thing is, now we know she was right. If her book was published today it wouldn’t be the huge bestseller it was a century ago. It would still be denounced by fundamentalists, but it wouldn’t have the same cultural impact today. Millions of Christians address God as female now; I do too, including on my prayer sites with their 2 million hits. Yesterday’s revolution is today’s wisdom.

So what insights do I think I have?

• Monogamy, for one; it isn’t the most important issue in sexual relating, but Gay guys shouldn’t reject it out of hand, no matter what pressure we get from peers, pornographers and queer theorists. Some guys have always believed in it, because monogamy can lead to greater intimacy. Do I think it should be enforced? No. Do I think it should be respected? Very much.

• Masculinity is at the heart of Gay male sexuality. I didn’t write a single bitchy queen in any of my thousand chapters, or even a queen with a heart of gold, simply because I don’t write queens at all. I’m not against them; I just don’t really understand them. (They’re born that way, so I don’t oppress them either.) I attempt to illustrate a “new masculinity,” though it’s very familiar to every Gay guy; it isn’t Straight masculinity, but it’s definitely active, decisive, courageous, tender sometimes, aggressive at others. Masculine is what most of us are.

It’s morally wrong to oppress Gay guys who aren’t masculine or don’t identify with the term, but even they want a lover who’s very butch. Quentin Crisp was right in saying we all want “a big dark man,” but he was completely wrong in saying that man doesn’t exist. Crisp was profoundly homophobic, which was only natural given his era, but that homophobia is why he became unpopular again at the end of his life, at the very time he was celebrated for his longevity and courage. If the only desirable man is a Straight one – and that’s exactly what he believed, and what many of us still believe – we’re doomed.

I say we’re not doomed, and that Gay men are more desirable partners for us in every way.

“Homosexuals” exist on a spectrum that probably corresponds to biological differences within our group. We’re all a bit different. But we do cluster – almost unanimously – in our turnons, so a Gay author’s job is to illustrate that and to celebrate it. My character Kent is an athlete, a cop and a hunter; he also cries when he’s overwhelmed with grief. My character Jamie is terrified of bugs and other critters who “invade” his house, but he’s clearly an outstanding leader.

If anything I’ve overdone my descriptions of them as butch guys to overcome the stereotypes. But I like lifting up positive images of our masculinity. Most Gay guys are not so much “Straight-acting” as male-acting. I think our books should say so.

• I have aimed to lift up the sexualizing of power, which is very desirable (it’s what that whole macho-turnon thing is about), but stop short of sadomasochism, which I’m increasingly convinced is an abuse of power – less physically abusive than emotionally so. We’re only two generations past Stonewall, and we still have a lot of internalized shame about sucking dick. SM, I’ve come to believe, acts out that secret shame and is destructive.

Get this, I’m a former member of the Windy City Bondage Club; I will always wish leathermen well. I’ve been impressed many times by their intelligence and sensitivity, and I believe organized BDSM clubs provide a real public service for the sexually adventurous by emphasizing safety, responsibility and accountability.

But the bottom line is that sadism isn’t worthy of respect, and neither is masochism. They both sound, look and smell like internalized homophobia; look at all the degradation in fetish porn. Considering SM’s popularity, you’d think the Stonewall generation didn’t accomplish much at all; we’re still punishing ourselves and each other for being cocksuckers.

That’s not healthy. That’s not being liberated in the least.

Of course there’s a difference between fantasy and reality; it is good to recognize and express sexual fantasies in safe ways. But as I’ve explored these questions with real leather tops and bottoms – intelligent, mature men who know what they’re doing and are careful to stay physically and emotionally safe – what I’ve found is that the sadistic impulse in tops is real; they like the idea of hurting someone, and I don’t respect that. The masochist feels deeply unworthy, deserving of punishment. He may act out only symbolically, but his feelings are real and so are those bruises; I find it tragic, because in truth he’s as worthy as anyone else to walk this earth, and often more so. Masochists are very good boys.

So the sexual turnon I give Kent and Jamie is dominance and submission. I make them be explicit about turning on to power. One gives sexual orders and the other is happy to take them. But I also wrote a scene in which too much is too much, so they are forced by their mutual love to rebalance. Sometimes the only way to learn is by making mistakes.

Power’s a very masculine thing (and of course women have it too). But it has to be controlled, and it should never be Gay-hating at its core, or we’re simply parodies of Straight guys (many of whom are smarter than their stereotypes). One of my favorite lines in the book is Kent’s to Jamie: “What you Gay guys have going here’s a cult of masculinity.”

That elevates Gay guys; abuse does not. Gay men have been abused for thousands of years all over the world, and still are abused in many, many places, so I don’t think we ought to be re-enacting it, much less calling it love.

In order to illustrate these things I think I know, I’ve laid them out explicitly in the book. Will this help or hurt sales? I don’t know. At least I’m expressing my truths, whether right or wrong, well-expressed or not.

• My overarching belief about Gay men’s liberation is that we can only achieve it psychologically by achieving it sexually; that sex is the way to get to wholeness. Maybe that sounds simple enough, but it’s difficult to do, considering it involves one or more flawed human beings.

As long as we are acting out the scripts of other people – pornographers, Gay politicians, scientists and doctors and therapists, leather theorists, bar owners, writers and the entire array of homophobes and ignoramuses, religious and otherwise – we are failing to be true to ourselves.

The journey is personal. The healing is sexual. This book is me on the Appalachian Trail.

I have tried to describe an ideal relationship, and the personal qualities a man must bring to it to be fulfilled and fully human. My characters are young, handsome and rich, but those qualities aren’t necessary; they’re also honest, and that quality is.

A lot of times I see my people being dishonest, sexually and in other ways. It doesn’t help, fellas. We can’t be lovers if we’re not honest friends.

But love is more than friendship; it is a state, a condition, an ongoing reality, a decision that I will put you first. And I can’t do it for a lifetime if you’re not also putting me first.

This is why monogamy really helps.

Love doesn’t require continuous self-sacrifice; a lot of times it’s mutually beneficial. I like you, you like me, let’s have a party!

The chief thing we have to learn, I think, is the difference between sex and making love. During sex a man is primarily concerned with his own orgasm. In making love he’s primarily concerned with his partner’s. It’s a fundamental difference. Tricking with a stranger may be good or bad, but lovemaking is clearly the best.

A lovemaker turns on by turning his partner on, until they both can’t help but come. (Yippee!)

Orgasm is the result of losing control, which is why a dominant/submissive relationship, which is about control in its structure, can be such a hot idea between two men. It fits our fantasies to a T: Gay guys like dick. We like having one and we like getting one. The percent of times we give and/or get will vary, but sexually it’s all about the dick.

Where Religion Comes In

As a Christian I have two additional beliefs; one, that sex is sacramental, that it reveals God to us. Two, that our lover isn’t and never will be God, but God is and always will be our lover.

I cannot stress enough that God loves us as Gay guys in our fucking; he delights in our lovemaking. That’s when we are closest to him, when he’s excited with us and feeling close. (Of course this means doing it right, and Dr. Pittenger said there is good, better and best.)

Learning to do it right, unlike my young fictional characters, takes every step and footfall on that 2200-mile trail through the mountains. By the time we get to “right,” we may be 60 freaking years old. Like the Velveteen Rabbit, all our fur’s rubbed off; we’ve lost an eye and our nose has been sewn back on a dozen times. We never will be new again, but that’s okay, it’s great.

If we’re lucky we live so long that we learn from love what God is like. He gave us sex to teach us how to love each other.

God is love; we all know and agree on that. Where preachers quote Bible verses, I’ve tried to draw a picture in words. I’ve tried to tell a story worth reading; I’ve tried to say what I have learned.

And if the telling of sex galore now means I’m pretty much done with the doing of it, I think I’m all right with that. I think it might mean, in my post-Trail world, that I’m starting to be ready for the life of the spirit.

There isn’t a contradiction between the life of the body and the spirit, far from it, but almost all of us choose the life of the body first. Fewer of us get to the life of the spirit afterward, or ever.

I don’t presume that I will never love a man again, but I may be more ready to love God than ever from having walked this trail for so long.

I hope I’ve written it well; I hope I give my readers food for thought, love and prayer. The sex is staying in the book, despite my second thoughts.

This is what I’m convinced of: God is an irresistible magnet, because of his perfection. He draws us to him in a way that’s inexorable, yet joyful and full of personality – ours! Mine. Yours, just the way you are.

This overwhelming attraction of divine love is what I see in Leonardo Ricardo’s art; he paints and builds within cultural frameworks, yet his work is madly exuberant. You can’t take your eyes off it. I see the same divine spark in pictures of his dogs, his garden and when he writes about his friends. This man loves what he’s doing! He just explodes with it like a volcano.

That’s what happens to every soul in love with God. Our final destination is a place of ecstasy, such that orgasm is a foretaste.

Heaven is where, when you finally arrive at the top of the mountain after all that time and work, all those steps over 2200 miles, a miracle happens; you don’t have to climb down and go home. Your new mountaintop becomes your home. You get to stay and enjoy all the scenery that teems with life.

I think it’s time to get The Gay Man’s Bible into print.++

Mt. Katahdin, Baxter State Park, Maine, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.