Archive for March, 2012

The Amazon Trail

The Gift of Being Out

          I always fear bad consequences when I come out to other people. How will they react, will there be more pain than gain for them, for me? Coming out may be easier for some in 2012 than it was fifty years, twenty years, a dozen years ago, but for most it’s still tough. I’m thinking of all the gay people who found coming out to be fatal, all the teen suicides, all the societies that treat their gay citizens as outcasts.

One recent Sunday, my sweetheart’s aunt and uncle were passing through town and took us to lunch. This same couple had also traveled some distance to attend our wedding. In the course of lunch the subject of marches on Washington came up. My sweetheart’s aunt mentioned having been at Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. I’ve only known one other person in my whole life who’d attended that world-changing event. If I hadn’t already known, I would have realized at that moment that I married into exactly the right family for me.

The conversation continued along those lines and I mentioned having last marched on Washington in 1993. My new aunt asked if that was when the Quilt was there. She was referring, of course, to The Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt, which has been at the National Mall many times and was there, in part, during The 1993 March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay, and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. Were we at the same quilt exhibit? It doesn’t matter at all. The fact that we were comparing notes on the subject was a gift of being openly gay.

Since I officially came out to my brother’s family, my sister-in-law has spared me the angst that still goes with sharing who I am. She’s eased my way through the world in an altogether unexpected role, sort of a guardian angel opening paths through family that were previously blocked by brambles of fear. In the past few years she got in touch with one of my birth family’s first cousins, who happens to live in Florida, where I reside at the moment. My sister-in-law tested the waters for me so that when I actually got together with my cousin there was no awkwardness and we could just enjoy each other – and our respective spouses. Her spouse happened to be male. What a sense of freedom came with the privilege of being nothing other than queer old me.

Most recently, my sister-in-law and my brother got together with another first cousin. This cousin and his wife are staunch Catholics, yet my sister-in-law came out to them for me. They have no problem with my gayness. I always loved this cousin – love all of them as a matter of fact – and being out to him gives me a sense of wholeness I never experienced before. Acceptance is nourishing. Rejection is a kind of starvation.

          My youngest cousin never batted an eye. She made a point, each time we got together over many years, to let me know she knew. This quasi-communication we had was a way to connect with each other in the presence of my unenlightened mother. My young cousin simply told me that a childhood friend, who I knew when they were both little kids, lives with another woman and their children. The first time she told me I wasn’t certain she saying she knew and accepted that I am gay. By the third time, I was convinced and consequently invited her to our wedding. How astonishing: these cousins that I’d grown up with, and hidden from all my adult life, now knew I’d married another woman – and the world didn’t end!

On our most recent visit to New England to see my side of the family, both my brother and sister-in-law said they wished our visit could have been longer. As we ate at the local breakfast hangout that last morning, our sister-in-law introduced us to her whole middle-aged aerobics group, with the apparent delight of someone bringing friends and family together.

At our memorable Sunday lunch, my sweetheart’s uncle also had a story about the 1993 March on Washington. He worked for a federal agency at the time and, as it happened, a gentleman in his field arrived from Cape Town, S.A., for a meeting just as a million or more queers marched through the city. The visitor later told my uncle-in-law that he saw all these high-spirited gay people and he simply joined the march. “This,” he declared to my new uncle, “is democracy!”

That story never fails to make me smile. It was a story I would never have heard, a gift I would never have received, if my sweetheart wasn’t out to her family and if we marchers hadn’t left our closets and come out to the whole world.

Copyright Lee Lynch 2012

March 2012

The Birth of a Novel

by Shelley Thrasher

As a kid, I preferred to stay with my dad’s mother rather than my mother’s. After all, she had a big black Cadillac, loved to drive as far away as Shreveport to shop and eat out, and had plenty of free time to devote to me. I’d spend the night with her, and we’d lie in bed and read raunchy historical novels such as Forever Amber. Occasionally, she even told me a dirty joke.

My other grandmother didn’t drive. Instead, she stayed home and took care of her huge family, some of whom always needed a place to live until they “got on their feet.” Her outside activities consisted of playing the piano for the nearby Methodist Church and teaching a long line of students to play hymns. Boring!

When I decided I wanted to learn the piano, at least this grandmother didn’t make me play hymns. Instead, she introduced me to classical music and helped me master Tchaikovsky’s melodious “Waltz of the Flowers” and Chopin’s passionate etudes, which I adored. I also recall her mentioning the opera Aida for some reason, as well as the fact that her younger brother taught at SMU and wrote books of poetry. He was even the poet laureate of Texas once. Still, none of that made her seem very interesting.

The years passed, and I went to college, hitchhiked through Europe and the Middle East, and experienced some of the adventures I’d read and dreamed about.

After I finally settled down to teach English to college freshmen and sophomores, I attended a feminist writers’ workshop in Aurora, New York, and my attitude toward my grandmother began to change. (Having Judy Grahn there as our featured writer certainly didn’t hurt.)

I began to write poetry, discovered that my grandmother’s poet brother was gay, and started paying attention to the stories my mom and aunts had long been telling about my grandmother’s difficult early married days on the farm. They said her music had kept her sane. Then I discovered a letter she wrote to my granddad before they were married in 1912, and the closet door creaked open.

In this early poem about her, I quote from her letter to my granddad. He’d proposed and given her an engagement ring, and she wrote him to explain why she was returning it.

In 1912

My grandmother wrote,

“I can’t understand why I yield to you,

believe that I love you and say so, act so,

then doubt my own heart,

wonder at my actions when you are gone.”

He courted more ardently.

She yielded.

Fifteen years older, he plucked her

from her world of girls’ boarding school,

daily piano practice,

ice-cream socials, singing in a quartet,

university education.

He deposited her on a small farm in Texas

with onions to plant in her garden,

cornbread to cook on a wood stove,

five cows to milk each morning and night,

a black washpot to make lye soap in.

She bore him nine children,

which thickened her 18-inch waist;

bore with her mother-in-law who called “frivolous”

her thirty outing diapers,

her subscriptions to Ladies’ Home Journal and Etude

declared “Pshaw” about her frequent washing

of babies and ammonia-smelling diapers in #3 washtubs—

who let her,

finally,

take care of the chickens

and the flowerbeds.

No wonder she doubted her own heart.

After I wrote that poem, I dug around in the family archives and uncovered some letters from my grandmother to her college roommate. I’d read about romantic friendship by then, in Lillian Faderman’s classic work, Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present, so I didn’t immediately consider my grandmother gay. But something about the phrasing in her letters gave me pause and spoke to me in a language I understood.

My grandmother no longer seemed boring. I began to imagine what her life was like and what it could have been, and my novel The Storm was born.

Spring Fling

Adorable and talented Bold Strokes Books author, Rebekah Weatherspoon dishes with me about vampires and her upcoming release, The Fling.

Words to Die By- Video Trailer

by William Holden


Words to Die By by william HoldenLiberty Editions novel Words to Die By William Holden

Price: $16.95

Genre: Gay Fiction

Release: March 2012

Delve into the darker side of human nature with these sixteen stories by William Holden. As darkness enters the mind through revenge, jealousy, paranoia, or the uncanny operations of a supernatural force, these stories lead you onto new heights of fear… and arousal. In “Felonious Behavior,” Jack Stevens takes matters into his own hands when the police can’t or won’t do anything about the driver who ran him down. In “The Other Man,” a sex doll named Joey finds life through jealousy over his owner’s new boyfriend. “Fear #2 – Hierophobia, The Fear of Priests” tells of Gian, who returns home to confront his childhood fear—only to find that the priest who once terrified him isn’t human, and his destiny is to follow in the priest’s dark footsteps. The human mind is fragile. How much fear one person can handle depends on how deep the darkness runs.

Embracing the Darkness

by William Holden

I’ve been writing gay erotica now for about fourteen years, and I have to say the writing process never ceases to amaze me. As a gay man, I loved reading the old gay pulps from the 60’s and 70’s. As gay publishing changed, I took up reading contemporary gay erotica. I wrote my first short story back in 1998. It was a typical contemporary piece about a young man’s first gay sexual experience. After writing that story I couldn’t stop, the characters and plots poured out of me, and until recently, I was content with writing the same way. So why leave a good thing, right? To be honest, I don’t think the choice was all mine. About two years ago, I received my first message that things were about to change. I awoke at three in the morning to something new running through my mind. This was my first taste of the darkness. A taste I was unfamiliar with, but one I would soon learn to crave. I jumped out of bed and ran to my computer. The following three paragraphs are what came out of me, and still to this day remain in their unedited form.

What causes a mind to sour isolation, loneliness, paranoia? Whatever the cause, I fear I’m losing mine. What began as a passion for the male body, the sex, the sensual heat between two men has turned to something else, something dangerous and deadly. I’m losing control; control over emotions, over desires. What starts out as an innocent anonymous meeting ends in fear, anger, and violence.

 

I need to write – to write everything down chasing the darkness out of my head and onto the paper. I need this to cleanse my body and soul. But the dirt always returns, stronger and more desperate than before. 

 

The room is hollow, empty of life itself. The only movements are a continuous cloud of smoke from the cigarettes and a broken traffic light outside the window. The room shifts and changes with its deep red blinking tones. It flashes in my eyes, over and over. It’s become a part of me, of part of what I am becoming. 

What you see is what came out of me in the wee hours of that morning. On several occasions, I have attempted to clean them up, and to find a proper place for them in one of my stories, but more than two years later those three paragraphs remain untouched. There is something about those words, the immediacy of having to write them down that night, the intense rush of the unknown spilling out of me as the rest of the city slept. Something or someone is not willing to let me make any changes.

What came out of me wasn’t my voice, or at least a voice I recognized. The words, quite frankly, disturbed me. How could something so dark and obviously tormented come out of me? The darkest thing I had written to that point was a watersports scene in a short story some ten years prior. When I showed these paragraphs to my partner that morning, he appeared puzzled by my reaction to them. I remember him saying, “What you wrote doesn’t surprise me at all. You have lived and breathed horror novels and movies all your life. You worship Halloween as if it were the only day of the year that mattered. This is who you are as a writer. It’s the voice all writers look for. It’s a part of you. Don’t walk away from it, embrace it.” I look back at those paragraphs, especially the last sentence and realize that something inside of me, wanted out.

That was my first introduction to the dark half that was living inside of me. As I became more comfortable with this new persona, I named him Christopher. He quickly became my shadow, never leaving my side. He showers with me, goes to work with me, and has haunted my dreams almost every night since. The stories in the collection “Words to Die By” are his. They are about the darkness that lies in all of us. For the characters in these stories, the moment of embrace is violent, painful, and at times deadly. For me, that moment of embrace was a gift, and one I hope the readers will feel, accept, and perhaps through Christopher’s stories reach deeper into themselves to embrace their own darkness.

 

Stay Tuned for the Video Trailer Tomorrow…

Mrs. Swift?

Mad Bril Bold Strokes Books author, Ashley Bartlett dispels rumors and chats with me about her upcoming Dirty trilogy.


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