Gerry B's Book Reviews

Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity, by Robert Beachy

The veritable ‘golden age’ of gay, self-identity…

bee5

 

 

Click on cover to order

Click on cover to order

Synopsis: An unprecedented examination of the ways in which the uninhibited urban sexuality, sexual experimentation, and medical advances of pre-Weimar Berlin created and molded our modern understanding of sexual orientation and gay identity.

Known already in the 1850s for the friendly company of its “warm brothers” (German slang for men who love other men), Berlin, before the turn of the twentieth century, became a place where scholars, activists, and medical professionals could explore and begin to educate both themselves and Europe about new and emerging sexual identities. From Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, a German activist described by some as the first openly gay man, to the world of Berlin’s vast homosexual subcultures, to a major sex scandal that enraptured the daily newspapers and shook the court of Emperor William II—and on through some of the very first sex reassignment surgeries—Robert Beachy uncovers the long-forgotten events and characters that continue to shape and influence the way we think of sexuality today.

Chapter by chapter Beachy’s scholarship illuminates forgotten firsts, including the life and work of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, first to claim (in 1896) that same-sex desire is an immutable, biologically determined characteristic, and founder of the Institute for Sexual Science. Though raided and closed down by the Nazis in 1933, the institute served as, among other things, “a veritable incubator for the science of tran-sexuality,” scene of one of the world’s first sex reassignment surgeries. Fascinating, surprising, and informative—Gay Berlin is certain to be counted as a foundational cultural examination of human sexuality.

About the author: Robert Beachy (born January 5, 1965, Aibonito, Puerto Rico) is associate professor of history at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1998. Beachy specializes in the intellectual and cultural history of Germany and Europe, and is known for his work on the history of sexuality in the Weimar Republic, under the Nazis, and in Germany after the Second World War. ~ Wikipedia.

logo - gbbr

Review by Gerry Burnie

While many think that ‘gay openness’ had its naissance with Oscar Wilde, or perhaps “Stonewall” or the “Bathhouse Raids” in Toronto, Canada, but Robert Beachy makes the very convincing case in Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity [Knopf; 1st edition, November 18, 2014] that it actually started in Prussia as early as the 1860s.

Along the way he reveals a fascinating history of pre-Weimar Germany, refuge for notables like Christopher Isherwood, etc. Indeed, the first spokesman for gay rights was almost unquestionably a lawyer by the name of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs. In a speech before Sixth Congress of German Jurists, he urged the repeal of laws forbidding sex between men.

Outrage followed, but not to the degree that one might have expected, and so the wedge of liberation had been introduced.

What followed was quite extraordinary (for the time), and has been admirably synopsized by Alex Ross of the The New Yorker magazine, January 26, 2015:

In 1869, an Austrian littérateur named Karl Maria Kertbeny, who was also opposed to sodomy laws, coined the term “homosexuality.” In the eighteen-eighties, a Berlin police commissioner gave up prosecuting gay bars and instead instituted a policy of bemused tolerance, going so far as to lead tours of a growing demimonde. In 1896, Der Eigene (“The Self-Owning”), the first gay magazine, began publication. The next year, the physician Magnus Hirschfeld founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, the first gay-rights organization. By the beginning of the twentieth century, a canon of gay literature had emerged (one early advocate used the phrase “Staying silent is death,” nearly a century before AIDS activists coined the slogan “Silence = Death”); activists were bemoaning negative depictions of homosexuality (Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” was one target); there were debates over the ethics of outing; and a schism opened between an inclusive, mainstream faction and a more riotous, anarchistic wing. In the nineteen-twenties, with gay films and pop songs in circulation, a mass movement seemed at hand. In 1929, the Reichstag moved toward the decriminalization of homosexuality, although the chaos caused by that fall’s stock-market crash prevented a final vote.

Magnus Hirschfeld and two cross-dressers, outside the Institute for Sexual Science.

Magnus Hirschfeld and two cross-dressers, outside the Institute for Sexual Science.

High praise is reserved by Beachy for the aforementioned Magnus Hirschfeld. A year before his founding of the  Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, Hirschfield able disappear. “Through Science to Justice” was his group’s motto.

During the arguably ‘golden years’ preceding 1933, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor, gays and lesbians achieved an almost unprecedented level of visibility not seen since Grecian era. in popular culture. They could see themselves onscreen in films like “Different from the Others”—a tale of a gay violinist driven to suicide, with Hirschfeld featured in the supporting role of a wise sexologist.

Pejorative representations of gay life were not only lamented but also protested; Beachy points out that when a 1927 Komische Oper revue called “Strictly Forbidden” mocked gay men as effeminate, a demonstration at the theatre prompted the Komische Oper to remove the offending skit.

Altogether, it is a most fascinating and informative read. Five bees.

♠♠♠

Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 77,010

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: The Great Rogers Pass Avalanche – March 4, 1910

Right now I’m listening to Swisssh Radio. Click on the banner ad to discover what you’re missing…

swisssh radio - easy listening log

Swisssh online radio is where it’s at for promoting your products, big or small: World-wide coverage; 24/7; top professional service; and reasonable rates. Click on the logo to learn more.

Ciick on ad to purchase. Also available  in Kindle format.

Ciick on ad to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back then.

March 16, 2015 Posted by | Academic study, Gay non-fiction | Leave a comment

Coming Out to Play by Robbie Rogers, Eric Marcus (Contributor)

A coming out story to some, an inspiration to others.

bee4

bee-half

 

 

Click on the cover to purchase

Click on the cover to purchase

Robbie Rogers knows better than most that keeping secrets can crush you. But for much of his life Robbie lived in paralyzing fear that sharing his big secret would cost him the love of his family and his career as a professional soccer player. So he never told anyone what was destroying his soul, both on and off the field.

While the world around Robbie was changing with breathtaking speed, he knew that for a gay man playing a professional team sport it might as well be 1958. He could be a professional soccer player.  Or he could be an out gay man. He couldn’t do both.

Then last year, at the age of twenty-five and after nearly stepping away from a brilliant career—one that included an NCAA Championship, winning the MLS Cup, and competing in the Olympics—he chose to tell the truth. But instead of facing the rejection he feared, he was embraced—by his family, by his teammates, and his fans.

In Coming Out to Play, Robbie takes readers on his incredible journey from terrified teenager to a trailblazing out and proud professional soccer player for the L.A. Galaxy, who has embraced his new identity as a role model and champion for those still struggling with the secrets that keep them from living their dreams.

logo - gbbr

Review by Gerry Burnie

At this stage in social history, when it is somewhat common for a professional athlete to declare his or her sexual preference, it is easy enough to dismiss this autobiography as just another coming out story. Indeed, some other reviewers have said as much. However, I believe this viewpoint ignores the uniqueness of a human drama, as well as an epoch in history that should not be forgotten.

Coming Out to Play by Robbie Rogers [Penguin Books, November 2014] tells an all too familiar story of a teenager caught in the dilemma of being ‘different’ in a world of sameness – called ‘normal.’ Nonetheless, in spite of this, and carrying the burden like a hundred-weight, he climbs the ladder of success to achieve a pinnacle of success among the demi-gods of athleticism – professional sport.

coming out to play - rogersCan you imagine the fortitude, inner-strength, and yes, Gaul, it takes to achieve stardom under such circumstances? That’s what this story is all about. The message here, to both gay and straight youths struggling for an identity is, ‘stay the course.’ It is one thing to be intimidated by others, but it is a worse to be intimidated by oneself.

Coming from a mainstream press like Penguin Books, you can be guaranteed it has been made readable. Depending on your taste, therefore, it is both an interesting and inspiring story. Four and one-half bees.

♠♠♠

Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 75,065

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to learn more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post: Pioneer Christmases… Before commercialism spoiled them.

 

Click on the logo to view my books to datre

Click on the logo to view my books to datre

Notice to all those who have requested a book review Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer. Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

January 5, 2015 Posted by | Autobiography, Coming out, Gay Jock, Gay non-fiction, Robbie Rogers | Leave a comment

Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story, by Paul Monette

A fascinating story of one man’s half-a-life, articulately written, and unapologetically candid.

bee4

 

 

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Click on the cover to purchase. Also available in Kindle format.

Book description: Paul Monette grew up all-American, Catholic, overachieving . . . and closeted. As a child of the 1950s, a time when a kid suspected of being a “homo” would routinely be beaten up, Monette kept his secret throughout his adolescence. He wrestled with his sexuality for the first thirty years of his life, priding himself on his ability to “pass” for straight. The story of his journey to adulthood and to self-acceptance with grace and honesty, this intimate portrait of a young man’s struggle with his own desires is witty, humorous, and deeply felt.

About the author: In novels, poetry, and a memoir, Paul Monette wrote about gay men striving to fashion personal identities and, later, coping with the loss of a lover to AIDS.

Monette was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1945. He was educated at prestigious schools in New England: Phillips Andover Academy and Yale University, where he received his B.A. in 1967. He began his prolific writing career soon after graduating from Yale. For eight years, he wrote poetry exclusively.

After coming out in his late twenties, he met Roger Horwitz, who was to be his lover for over twenty years. Also during his late twenties, he grew disillusioned with poetry and shifted his interest to the novel, not to return to poetry until the 1980s.

In 1977, Monette and Horwitz moved to Los Angeles. Once in Hollywood, Monette wrote a number of screenplays that, though never produced, provided him the means to be a writer. Monette published four novels between 1978 and 1982. These novels were enormously successful and established his career as a writer of popular fiction. He also wrote several novelizations of films.

Monette’s life changed dramatically when Roger Horwitz was diagnosed with AIDS in the early 1980s. After Horwitz’s death in 1986, Monette wrote extensively about the years of their battles with AIDS (Borrowed Time, 1988) and how he himself coped with losing a lover to AIDS (Love Alone, 1988). These works are two of the most powerful accounts written about AIDS thus far.

Their publication catapulted Monette into the national arena as a spokesperson for AIDS. Along with fellow writer Larry Kramer, he emerged as one of the most familiar and outspoken AIDS activists of our time. Since very few out gay men have had the opportunity to address national issues in mainstream venues at any previous time in U.S. history, Monette’s high-visibility profile was one of his most significant achievements. He went on to write two important novels about AIDS, Afterlife (1990) and Halfway Home (1991). He himself died of AIDS-related complications in 1995.

♠♠♠

Review by Gerry Burnie

I was in the mood for a gay non-fiction story this week, and so I went looking. One would think that with all that is currently happening, there would be a dearth of non-fiction stories, but no. However, I did come across Paul Monette’s perennial Becoming a Man: Half a Life [Open Road Media, March 25, 2014]. It is a re-release of an earlier 1992 version, but since it is set in the 1950s and 60s—and biographical—it is still a relevant read.

Almost all gay men can relate to Monette’s story, as witness the number of reviews (the majority by men) that start out: “I could identify with so much of Monette’s feelings…” or “Coming of age in the fifties, Paul Monette lived a life that, in a sense, paralleled my own as I too am a child of the fifties.”

To these reminiscences I can add my own, for I too came out in the 1950s. Moreover, I too lucked out by having an older, well-established and highly-regarded man take me under his wing, to teach me that if you aim for the chimney pots you will reach the window sills, but if you aim for the stars you will reach the chimney pots.

I must say, however, that my life was not quite so unapologetically dramatic as Monette’s. Yes, like Monette, I instinctively realized that I had an attraction to men before I knew what sex was about, and yes, I quickly learned it was wrong; but only because the Church and my mother said so.

I also learned to keep it to myself at high school, and I was sometimes teased on account of ‘being different,’ but it never got worse than that. In fact, I was more likely to quietly sought out than bullied.

Nonetheless, I do parallel him again as soon as I got out into the working world, where keeping your mouth shut about your sexuality was part of keeping your job. Likewise, ‘playin la game’ (i.e. dating, and living the straight life) was expected—not so much for yourself as others.

Monette is brutally candid when it comes to this aspect, as well as other aspects of his life. Nothing, including an incident of pedophilia, is held back; however, not once did I get the impression he was looking for forgiveness or sensationalism. It was just as it had happened with nothing held back.

One aspect that I could have been happy with a little less of was his self-analysis; particularly of his younger years. Perhaps this is because I try to never analyze myself at any stage, and in this regard I think he should have stuck more to the facts. After all, many of the things he dwelt on carried their own explanation.

This is a fascinating story of one man’s life (half life), articulately written, and unapologetically candid. Recommended, four bees.

♠♠♠

Viewers of Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 71,066

♠♠♠

Interested in Canadian history?

Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.  It is a collection of people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  Pioneer Schools and EducationTaught to the tune of the hickory stick!

 

logo - gerry burnie books - couple

       

♠♠♠

Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

 

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back soon.

 

 

 

 

 

July 14, 2014 Posted by | AIDS, biography, Gay non-fiction, Memoir, Non-fiction, Paul Monette | Leave a comment

Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two, by Allan Bérubé

 

Edition of Gerry B’s Book Reviews

 

  

Some interesting facts

  • Remembrance Day was originally known as “Armistice Day”
  • In Canada it became Remembrance Day by Act of Parliament in 1931.
  • It is known by our neighbours and allies to the south as “Veteran’s Day”.
  • The poppy is the symbol that individuals use to show that they remember those who fought and died in the service of their country.
  • The idea of the poppy originated with the 1915 poem “In Flanders Field” by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Medical Officer in the First World War. His poem reflects his first hand account of what he witnessed while working from a dressing station on the bank of the Yser Canal.
  • An American woman, Moina Michael, was the first person known to have worn a poppy in remembrance.

If you never read another historical account of this era, read this one! Outstanding!

  

coming out under fire - coverStory blurb: This major study chronicles the struggle of homosexuals in the U.S. military during WW II who found themselves fighting on two fronts: against the Axis and against their own authorities who took extreme measures to stigmatize them as unfit to serve their country. From 1941 to 1945, more than 9000 gay servicemen and women purportedly were diagnosed as sexual psychopaths and given “undesirable” discharges. Based on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, augmented by 75 interviews with gay male and female veterans, social historian Berube recounts the purges in the military into the Cold War era when homosexuality was officially equated with sin, crime and sickness. The book reveals that the first public challenge to the military’s policy came not from the gay-rights movement but from military psychiatrists who studied gay servicemen and women during World War II. This evenhanded study brings into sharp focus an important chapter in American social history.

About the author: Allan Ronald Bérubé (December 3, 1946 – December 11, 2007) was an American historian, activist,independent scholar, self-described “community-based” researcher and college drop-out, and award-winning author, best known for his research and writing about homosexual members of the American Armed Forces during World War II He also wrote essays about the intersection of class and race in gay culture, and about growing up in a poor, working class family, his French-Canadian roots, and about his experience of anti-AIDS activism.

Coming Out Under Fire earned Bérubé the Lambda Literary Award for outstanding Gay Men’s Nonfiction book of 1990 and was later adapted as a film in 1994, narrated by Salome Jens and Max Cole, with a screenplay by Bérubé and the film’s director, Arthur Dong. The film received a Peabody Award for excellence in documentary media in 1995. Bérubé received a MacArthur Fellowship (often called the “genius grant”) from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1996. He received a Rockefeller grant from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in 1994 to research a book on the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union, and he was working on this book at the time of his death. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Review by Gerry Burnie

If I were asked to design a definitive course on the history of Gays and Lesbians in North America, I would include three books  as required reading: Gay  American History, by  Jonathon Katz; From  the Closet to the Courtroom, by  Carlos Ball; and Coming out Under Fire, by  Allan Bérubé [Free Press, 1990]. Moreover, I think the students would thank me afterward  for choosing books that are authoritative, informative and relatively easy to  read.

For me personally, Allan Bérubé’s seminal work represents an eye-opener like few others I have read. Indeed, I was moved from profound sadness to outright rage when I learned the systematic
persecution that these innocent men and women had to endure in the service of their country. That, perhaps, is the greatest benefit that this retrospective can provide, for those who cannot
remember the past are condemned to repeat it
.

The following is a précis of Bérubé’s thesis, but it is by no means complete or in depth. To really appreciate the full story of coming out under fire I urge you to read the original.

***

When the  war clouds started to descend over Europe in the 1930s the United States  military did not exceed two hundred thousand soldiers, and so to overcome this Congress  passed the nation’s first peacetime conscription act. Consequently, conscripts began to fill the Army’s ranks in astonishing numbers (16 million in 1940-41).

With so many men available, the armed forces decided to exclude certain groups, including women, blacks, and—following  the advice of psychiatrists—homosexuals (although this term was not yet widely used).  Traditionally the military had  never officially excluded homosexuals, but in World War II a dramatic change occurred.  Seeing a chance to advance their prestige, influence, and legitimacy of their  profession, psychiatrists promoted screening as a means of reducing psychiatric casualties before they became military responsibilities.

In 1941, therefore, the Army issued a  directive which disqualified “homosexual proclivities” as a “psychopathic personality  disorder.”  This was in keeping with the  prevailing belief that homosexuality was a neurological disorder—i.e. the first  signs of a brain-disease caused by heredity, trauma, or bad habits such as  masturbation, drunkenness and drug addiction.

Moreover, the military encased this  idea in “characteristics that were considered inferior or “degenerative” by  virtue of their deviation from the generally white, middle-class, and
native-born norm.” (Location 536).

“The  framers of the Army’s interwar physical standards listed feminine  characteristics among the “stigmata of degeneration” that made a man unfit for  military service. Males with a “degenerative physique,” the regulation explained,  “may present the general body conformation of the opposite sex, with sloping  narrow shoulders, broad hips, excessive pectoral and public adipose [fat]  deposits, with lack of masculine hirsute [hair] and muscular markings.”” (Location 536).

Bérubé then goes on to explain, “The  reason for excluding these as psychopaths was that, like other men in this “wastebasket”  category, they were considered to be irresponsible troublemakers who were  unable to control their desires or learn from their mistakes and thus  threatened the other men.” (Location 568).

To make matters worse, this sort of quackery  was widely promulgated in training seminars for recruiters and physicians  throughout the United States, and even published in medical journals for wider  distribution.

On the other hand, because of women’s marginal status in the military prior to WWII, neither the Army nor the Navy had developed policies and procedures concerning lesbians. Therefore, women
recruits were never asked the homosexual question, and were therefore able to enter the military undetected.

After Pearl Harbor was bombed, however, the rules were relaxed to accommodate the demands of war, and the military was forced to accept and integrate most gay selectees. In fact, it was privately  acknowledged that gay men had become vital members of the armed forces. Moreover, the gay recruits found ways to fit in and even to form close and lasting relationships with “buddies.”

Sexual activity was at a minimum until the recruits learned the rules, and then discrete opportunities could be found where there was a will.

“Not all trainees who approached other men for sex were gay. Heterosexual recruits who had had the most sexual experience with women or who felt strong sex drives could initiate sex without being afraid that they were queer, especially if their partner was gay and played the “passive” role. Teenage recruits who were just fooling around with each other, especially if they had been drinking, found themselves unexpectedly becoming sexual. Some older soldiers with more sexual experience in the military taught younger men how to have sex without getting caught. On the other hand, recruits who knew they were gay before entering the service were sometimes the most reluctant to have sex.” (Location 1103).

Meanwhile, Army and Navy officials struggled with how to manage the homosexual behaviour, and several approaches were developed. When challenged from the outside, particularly by concerned
parents or clergy, their public stance was to condemn behaviour considered to be immoral in the wider culture, including  profanity, drunkenness, erotic pictures, extramarital sex, lesbianism, homosexuality, and prostitution. Within the organization, however, military officials took a more understanding approach—forced into it by the need to hang onto trained personnel.

Trainees usually learned on their own how to put up with one another’s differences in order to get through basic training. They also received pleas for tolerance from the war propaganda which
portrayed American soldiers as defending the ideals of democracy, equality, and freedom against the totalitarian Axis. But inspired more by necessity than idealism, male trainees responded to the demands of basic training by developing their own pragmatic ethic of tolerance: “I won’t bother you if you don’t bother me.”

One of the areas where blatant effeminacy was tolerated—even applauded—was in the “all-soldier variety show.” These began as a diversion, but soon became a popular form of frontline entertainment even under fire. These were all-male shows to entertain each other that almost always  featured female impersonation, and coincidentally provided a temporary refuge for gay males to let their hair down and entertain their fellows.

“The impulse to put on shows and perform in dresses generally came from the men themselves—soldiers without women, as well as gay men, had long traditions of spontaneously dressing up in women’s clothes. But during World War II, the military officials, pressured by GIs, their own morale personnel, and leaders in the civilian theatre world …found themselves not only tolerating makeshift drag but officially promoting female impersonation.” (Location 1677).

In 1941, strained by the demands of a massive war mobilization that included a large influx of gay soldiers, the military could no longer handle its homosexual discipline problems by sending all offenders to prison as required by the Articles of War.[1] Therefore, based on the belief that homosexuality was a mental illness, there was a concerted effort to discharge homosexuals without trial while retaining those whose services were deemed essential. However, this policy ran contrary to the common law that held homosexuality as “an infamous and unspeakable crime against nature,” and that the military had a responsibility “to prevent such crimes with severe punishment
and to protect the morals of the nation’s young people under their jurisdiction.”

Underlying all this was a sort of political upmanship among various factions of the military bureaucracy. For example, having sodomites released into the care of psychiatrists would greatly enhance the standing of psychiatry as a legitimate science, and for their part the generals resented the  interference of the legals in the Judge Advocate’s office. Therefore, the unfortunate men and women awaiting jusice were helplessly caught somewhere in the middle.

There was also the question of what sort of discharge would apply–i.e. honourable medical discharge or dishonourable? An honourable discharge, it was argued, might lead to homosexual activity or declaration in order to escape compulsory service. Dishonourable discharge (so-called “section eights” or “blue cards”), on the other hand, were generally used only for men who had been convicted of a crime and who had served their sentences. These had been used successfully to eliminate social misfits–alcoholics, chronic liars, drug addicts, men who antagonised everyone—but technically did not include homosexuals. In the end (1943), however, the military issued a directive that steered a compromise inasmuch as sodomy was still deemed a criminal offence, but it allowed for an exception where force or violence had not been used. These individuals would be examined by a board of officers “with the purpose of discharge under the provisions of Section Eight.

It was intended as a more humane way of dealing with “offenders” but, as gay men and women would soon find out, it was fraught with difficulties of its own.

As officers began to discharge homosexuals as undesirables, the gay GIs who were their targets had to learn how to defend themselves in psychiatrists’ offices, discharge hearing rooms, hospital wards, and in “queer stockades.” There they were interrogated about their sex lives, locked up, physically abused, and subjected to systematic humiliations in front of other soldiers.

“The discharge system could drag any GI whose homosexuality became known or even suspected into seemingly endless maze of unexpected humiliations and punishments. Some gay male and lesbian GIs first entered the maze when they voluntarily declared their homosexuality, fully expecting to be hospitalized
and discharged. But others, following the advice in basic training lectures to talk over their problems with a doctor, psychiatrist, or chaplain, were shocked when medical officers betrayed their confidences by reporting them for punitive action ad “self-confessed” homosexuals, or were disappointed and frustrated when more sympathetic psychiatrists could not help them at all. Caught during their processing for discharge in battles between friendly and hostile officers, they found themselves thrown around like footballs in a game over which they had no control.”
(Location 4442).

Nor were things to improve when they were returned home to civilian life. Gay veterans with “blue” or undesirable discharges where stripped of his service medals, rank, and uniform, then given a one-way ticket home where they had to report to their draft board to present their discharge papers. The stigma attached to these discharges was not an accident. Rather, it was intended to punish homosexuals and prevent malingering, and the requirement that the GI report to his draft board ensured that his community would find out the nature of his discharge. Therefore, they were forced to come out to their families and communities. Wherever blue-discharge veterans lived, employers, schools, insurance companies, veterans’ organizations, and other institutions could  use their bad discharge papers to discriminate against them.

One of the most vindictive punishments meted out to these veterans was the denial of GI benefits that included federally subsidized home loans; college loans with allowances for subsistence, tuition, and books; unemployment allowances; job training and placement programs; disability pensions and hospital care. Top officials at the Veterans Administration were responsible for this denial, contrary to Army policy and Congress, but nonetheless the VA refused to drop its anti-homosexual prohibition. Consequently, many blue-discharge veterans found it difficult (impossible) to find employment, and when they applied for unemployment insurance, or small
business loans, or college assistance, they were denied in a Catch-22 situation.

One of the side effects of this discrimination was that having survived fear and death on the battlefield, some gay combat veterans began to cast off the veil of secrecy that so seriously
constrained their lives. For them, “coming out” to family and friends was not nearly as terrifying as facing the enemy in battle. Moreover, the popular press began to take notice of the blue-ticket discharges, and their plight, and started to publish columns on the “Homosexual Minorities,” characterizing them as “anther minority which suffers from its position in society in somewhat the same way as the Jews and Negroes.”

Unfortunately, this period of ‘liberal’ attitude was short-lived, for in the late 1940s a preoccupation with conformity brought a fearful scapegoating of those who deviated from a narrow idea of the
nuclear family and the American way of life. However, you will have to read this most remarkable book to learn the outcome of this.

***

What I have included above only covers a small portion of this fascinating, sometimes heart rending, story. If you never read another history of this period, I urge you to read this one. Five Bees, and if I could give ten I would!


[1]
Under the Articles of War, the maximum penalties for Army enlisted men and
officers convicted of sodomy were five years confinement at hard labour,
forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and dishonourable discharge or dismissal.
Under the Articles for the Navy, the maximum penalties for enlisted men were
same but with ten years of confinement at hard labour.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 15,978

***

To order any of my books, click on the cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are now available in Kindle and Nook formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95 exclusive of tax where applicable.

       

Thanks for dropping by! Please come back soon.

November 11, 2013 Posted by | Coming out, Gay documentary, Gay Literature, Gay non-fiction, Historical period, Military history, Non-fiction | 3 Comments

Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad, by Alison Wearing

An engaging and unique memoir that will charm as well as entertain…

bee5

 

 

confessions of a fairy's daughterStory blurb: Alison Wearing led a largely carefree childhood until she learned, at the age of 12, that her family was a little more complex than she had realized. Sure her father had always been unusual compared to the other dads in the neighbourhood: he loved to bake croissants, wear silk pyjamas around the house, and skip down the street singing songs from Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. But when he came out of the closet in the 1970s, when homosexuality was still a cardinal taboo, it was a shock to everyone in the quiet community of Peterborough, Ontario—especially to his wife and three children.

Alison’s father was a professor of political science and amateur choral conductor, her mother was an accomplished pianist and marathon runner, and together they had fed the family a steady diet of arts, adventures, mishaps, normal frustrations and inexhaustible laughter. Yet despite these agreeable circumstances, Joe’s internal life was haunted by conflicting desires. As he began to explore and understand the truth about himself, he became determined to find a way to live both as a gay man and also a devoted father, something almost unheard of at the time. Through extraordinary excerpts from his own letters and journals from the years of his coming out, we read of Joe’s private struggle to make sense and beauty of his life, to take inspiration from an evolving society and become part of the vanguard of the gay revolution in Canada.
 
Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter is also the story of “coming out” as the daughter of a gay father. Already wrestling with an adolescent’s search for identity when her father came out of the closet, Alison promptly “went in,” concealing his sexual orientation from her friends and spinning extravagant stories about all of the “great straight things” they did together. Over time, Alison came to see that life with her father was surprisingly interesting and entertaining, even oddly inspiring, and in fact, there was nothing to hide.

About the author: Alison Wearing is the author of the internationally acclaimed travel memoir Honeymoon in Purdah – an Iranian journey and the writer/performer of two award-winning one-woman plays.

♣♣♣

Review by Gerry Burnie

One of the common bug-a-boos run up the flagpole by conservative Christians and other homophobic fear mongers is the so-called ‘risk’ to children that homosexuality and same-sex marriage allegedly represent. Everything from paedophilia to psychological maladjustment. The fact is, as demonstrated by Alison Wearing in her recent memoir-in four-parts, Confessions of a Fairy’s Daughter: Growing Up with a Gay Dad, [Knopf Canada , May 7, 2013], homophobia probably has a greater negative impact on the offspring of a gay parent than the sexual orientation ever could have.

Her engaging memoir is uniquely structured into four perspectives. Her early life in a somewhat avant-garde family, where the mother—a talented musician and marathoner—chose to reasonably follow her personal pursuits, while the father—a professor at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario—was quite happy to pick up the domestic side of things. Nonetheless, young Alison had no problem with this … Except for one rather disastrous birthday party, featuring a birthday fare of “Gruyère soufflé, waxed beans in tarragon butter, and crème brûlée,” which for a seven-year-old speaks for itself.

This part also included her father’s coming out, but because of the prevailing homophobic attitude of the  time (1980s) Alison goes into denial.

The second part is written by the father, and relies on a journal he maintained at the time; plus some newspaper clippings having to do with homosexuality. I personally appreciated this approach because it gave me a deeper insight into a complex situation than I would have gotten from the author’s single POV. It also provided a brief insight into the social mores of the era.

The third part is written by the mother. It is quite short, but charming, and it completes the main character’s perspectives.

Lastly, the fourth part is an update of how things are today.

I like autobiographies, biographies and memoirs, but I particularly like this one. Adding the other two points of view is a unique approach—to me, anyway—and it added so much to my understanding of an otherwise complex situation. Moreover, on a personal level, Peterborough is only a few miles from my original home town, and the 1980s was a transition period for me as well a gay society: from the dark ages of the ‘Bath House Raids’ to more modern liberalism.

For these reasons I recommend it most highly, but as always this is my opinion. Five bees.

♣♣♣

Viewers to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 56,184

♣♣♣

Interested in Canadian history? Want to know more? Then visit my new page:  In Praise of Canadian History.

It is a collection of little-known people, facts and events in Canadian history, and includes a bibliography of interesting Canadian books as well. Latest post:  John Damien: Too gay for Canadian Racing.

♣♣♣

If you would like to learn more about my other books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

      

            

♣♣♣

Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

Thanks for dropping by! I’ll have another novel ready for next week, same URL, so drop back t

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Canadian author, Coming out, Gay non-fiction, Memoir, Semi-autobiographical | Leave a comment

Men in Eden: William Drummond Stewart and Same-Sex Desire in the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade, by William Benemann

An easily-read, meticulously researched, and fascinating story of the not-so-straight-West.

bee5

Benemann_cover.inddStory blurb: The American West of the nineteenth century was a world of freedom and adventure for men of every stripe—not least also those who admired and desired other men. Among these sojourners was William Drummond Stewart, a flamboyant Scottish nobleman who found in American culture of the 1830s and 1840s a cultural milieu of openness in which men could pursue same-sex relationships. This book traces Stewart’s travels from his arrival in America in 1832 to his return to Murthly Castle in Perthshire, Scotland, with his French Canadian–Cree Indian companion, Antoine Clement, one of the most skilled hunters in the Rockies. Benemann chronicles Stewart’s friendships with such notables as Kit Carson, William Sublette, Marcus Whitman, and Jim Bridger. He describes the wild Renaissance-costume party held by Stewart and Clement upon their return to America—a journey that ended in scandal. Through Stewart’s letters and novels, Benemann shows that Stewart was one of many men drawn to the sexual freedom offered by the West. His book provides a tantalizing new perspective on the Rocky Mountain fur trade and the role of homosexuality in shaping the American West.

 ♣♣♣

Review by Gerry Burnie

 As a history buff I’m always on the lookout for new and heretofore unknown discoveries, and William Benemann has served up a dilly with his intriguing biography, Men in Eden: William Drummond Stewart and Same-Sex Desire in the Rocky Mountain Fur Trade [Bison Books, October 1, 2012].

 
men in eden - stewartWill
iam Stewart was a Scottish nobleman—19th Laird of Grantully and 7th Baronet of Murthly—with an adventurous spirit, and a larger than life personality. Being gay, and at odds with his older brother John (the 18th Laird), he hied himself off to North America where men were men; women were scarce; and not just a few of the men were open to a bit of manly sex.

 Sir William fit into this testosterone-dominated milieu rather well, being an expert rider and a better-than-average marksman, and as proof of this he was both liked and respected by such people as William Clark (of Lewis & Clark fame), and frontiersmen Kit Carson and Jim Bridger. He was also constantly surrounded by a retinue of young men in eden - clementmen, including a rakishly-handsome French Canadian Métis named Antoine Clement—undoubtedly Stewart’s lover—but if anyone noticed they either didn’t connect the possibility, or simply overlooked it.

 Altogether, Stewart spent approximately seven years in America, returning to Scotland only briefly between 1839 – 1841 (with Antoine Clement in tow) when his brother John died—making William the 19th Laird of Grantully. When he returned (with a trunk full of costumes), he arranged for an elaborate, invitation only, huntin g party. It was a modest affair with only thirty-or-so guests, as well as cooks, servants, doctors, lawyers and such, but whether this was a bit beyond what frontier America was willing to accept, or whether times were changing, a fast-running scandal preceded him back to civilization, and from there he hastily returned to Scotland.

 Obviously, this is merely a thumbnail-precis of the 384 pages of easily-read, meticulously researched, and fascinating story of the not-so-straight-West. My humble thanks to William Benemann for keeping this story alive, and for sharing it with us. Five Bees.

 ♣♣♣

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews –  47,719

 ♣♣♣

Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

 ♣♣♣

If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

       

Thanks for dropping by. I’ll spend the week searching for another great novel, so drop by next week.

April 1, 2013 Posted by | biography, Gay non-fiction, Non-fiction | 1 Comment

Out of the Blue: Confessions of an Unlikely Porn Star, by Blue Blake

Bookshelf copy

A witty and humorous romp through the gay porn industry –

bee5

out of the blue confessions - coverStory blurb: Out of the Blue is a hilarious autobiographical romp that details the life of porn star turned director/producer Blue Blake and his adventures in the skin trade. Blue has worked with every major star in the industry and won many major awards and honors, including induction into the Gay Porn Legend Hall of Fame.

Available in ebook format – 410 KB (so you can still download it in time for Christmas)

♣♣♣

Review by Gerry Burnie

I was looking around for something light and also inspirational to fit the season, and Out of the Blue: Confessions of an Unlikely Porn Star, the autobiography of Blue Blake [Running Press, 2009] was the surprising answer. I say “surprising” because one would hardly expect the adventures of a porn star to be either light or inspirational, but Blue Bake pulls it off with remarkable wit and humour.

Although he had a fairly rough childhood in Nottingham, England, an abusive father as well, he doesn’t dwell on it. Neither does he dwell on the usual coming to grips with his sexuality or coping with homophobia. Rather, he takes us on an erogenous romp through the commercial porn business, letting us in on the behind-the-scenes goings-on; including seducing self-identifying heterosexual hunks, and the love interests that develop between porn stars.

Blue Blake isn’t just a pretty face and tantalizing body, he is writer of considerable talent and charm. Five bees.

♣♣♣

Visitors count for Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 40,907

♣♣♣

Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

♣♣♣

Notice: Due to Amazon’s recent decision to  purge reviews it deems “questionable” from  its pages (without notice), I will no longer be posting  on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. Instead, I will post on Goodreads and Barnes and Noble. I ask you to patronize these sites as well.

♣♣♣

If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Merry Christmas to all! May you share it with family and friends, and in good health.

 

December 24, 2012 Posted by | Autobiography, Contemporary biography, Gay documentary, Gay non-fiction, Hollywood, Homoerotic, M/M love and adventure, Male bisexual, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth: How a Gay Child was Saved From Religion, by Scott Terry

A raw but optimistic story of human resilience – 

bee5

Cowboys, armaghedon, etc. - coverStory blurb: Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth: How a Gay Child Was Saved from Religion offers an illuminating glimpse into a child’s sequestered world of abuse, homophobia, and religious extremism. Scott Terry’s memoir is a compelling, poignant and occasionally humorous look into the Jehovah’s Witness faith — a religion that refers to itself as The Truth — and a brave account of Terry’s successful escape from a troubled past.

At the age of ten, Terry had embraced the Witnesses’ prediction that the world would come to an end in 1975 and was preparing for Armageddon. As an adolescent, he prayed for God to strip away his growing attraction to other young men. But, by adulthood, Terry found himself no longer believing in the promised apocalypse. Through a series of adventures and misadventures, he left the Witness religion behind and became a cowboy, riding bulls in the rodeo. He overcame the hurdles of parental abuse, religious extremism, and homophobia, and learned that Truth is a concept of honesty rather than false righteousness, a means to live a life openly, for Terry as a gay man.

About the author: In 2007, Scott Terry sent an excerpt from his yet-to-be published book, Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth, to the San Francisco Chronicle. An hour later, he received a freelance contract and a request for more, leading to many stories for the paper.

In his book, Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth, Terry has produced a gritty and poignant autobiography of an innocent boy escaping an abusive and fanatical childhood. Scott Terry was raised as a devout Jehovah’s Witness, and spent his childhood praying for Armageddon to come and asking God to heal him of his homosexual thoughts. By adulthood, he had escaped the Witness religion and no longer believed in an upcoming apocalypse. Indeed, as a gay man and a real cowboy, he was riding bulls in the rodeo, abandoning all faith in religion.

Scott writes for the Huffington Post, and also writes a blog for http://www.Freeminds.org, one of the largest ex-cult and ex-Witness websites. Scott Terry is an urban farmer, a watercolorist, an installation artist and a successful businessman. He lives in Northern California.

♠♠♠

Review by Gerry Burnie

When it comes to eating and reading, I am a compulsive. I generally decide what I want to eat at the last moment, and I choose what I want to read by a mood that overtakes me at the time. Last week, while I was preparing for this review, I decided I was in a biography mood; someone or something interesting with an off-beat story. Consequently, when I came across Cowboys, Armageddon, and The Truth: How a Gay Child was Saved From Religion by Scott Terry [Lethe Press, October 2012] it filled the bill very nicely.

It is the author’s own story of an adolescence dominated by a shrewish stepmother who took perverse satisfaction in psychologically abusing him, telling him he was unloved and unwanted, and at the same time filling his head with thoughts of Armageddon in his own lifetime. It was also a time when Scott began to notice his attraction to other boys, and the conflict this created in light of his parents’ homophobic beliefs and that of their Jehovah’s Witness religion.

To this point there is little unique about this story: An abused lad at the hands of a dominating mother; a semi-cult religion with a homophobic bent; and a conflicted emerging homosexuality. However, what is refreshing is the positive attitude Terry maintains throughout, and the lessons to be gained from it.

Going back to the story, the situation finally came to a head when Scott’s sister insisted on returning to her biological mother, and the stepmother forbade him to have any contact with her. Fortunately, Scott had other relatives who weren’t caught up in the Jehovah’s Witness religion, and who had genuine compassion for him. Using this support as a base, Scott  gained the strength to accept his sexuality and move on–eventually becoming a rodeo performer.

This is a raw story of bad parenting—which debunks the tired old adage that “mother knows best”—and also the destructive nature of some dogmatic religions. However, it is also an inspirational story of resilience, even at a young age, and the ability to overcome adversity. Five bees.

♠♠♠

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 38,962

♠♠♠

Notice to all those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

♠♠♠

Stop the Bull: Canadian history made boring…

bullpoohI had reason to go looking for a Canadian web site similar to Legends Of America, an excellent history resource with some real ‘meat’ to it—meaning, it is history made interesting. It also features some Canadian characters who have played a significant role in American history, i.e. Pearl HartBat Masterson, etc., for which there is hardly a mention in Canadian-based histories.
A veritable wasteland

 What I found was a depressing collection of thumbnail sketches, afterthoughts  to American frontier history, a roll call of stodgy Canadian/British statesmen (John A. Macdonald, etc.), and lesson plans so dry you could strike a match on them. More

♠♠♠

If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Thanks for dropping by. Just a little bit more than 1,000 visits to go to reach 40,000 visits–20,000 more than last year. Yay!!

 

 

 

 

December 3, 2012 Posted by | Autobiography, Coming out, Gay non-fiction, Non-fiction | 4 Comments

Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays, by Bernadette Barton

An interesting and informative study

In the Bible Belt, it’s common to see bumper stickers that claim One Man + One Woman = Marriage, church billboards that command one to “Get right with Jesus,” letters to the editor comparing gay marriage to marrying one’s dog, and nightly news about homophobic attacks from the Family Foundation. While some areas of the Unites States have made tremendous progress in securing rights for gay people, Bible Belt states lag behind. Not only do most Bible Belt gays lack domestic partner benefits, lesbians and gay men can still be fired from some places of employment in many regions of the Bible Belt for being a homosexual.

In Pray the Gay Away, Bernadette Barton argues that conventions of small town life, rules which govern Southern manners, and the power wielded by Christian institutions serve as a foundation for both passive and active homophobia in the Bible Belt. She explores how conservative Christian ideology reproduces homophobic attitudes and shares how Bible Belt gays negotiate these attitudes in their daily lives. Drawing on the remarkable stories of Bible Belt gays, Barton brings to the fore their thoughts, experiences and hard-won insights to explore the front lines of our national culture war over marriage, family, hate crimes, and equal rights. Pray the Gay Away illuminates their lives as both foot soldiers and casualties in the battle for gay rights.

Bernadette Barton (Ph.D. University of Kentucky 2000) is Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at Morehead State University. Her research and teaching interests include sexuality, gender, popular culture, religion, qualitative methods and the sex industry.

Bernadette’s scholarship explores the experiences of members of marginalized groups. She is most fascinated by issues of transformation and social justice, such as: what makes someone conscious of social inequality? What causes people to change oppressive attitudes and behaviors? How can we really see one another across vast differences of geography, gender, race, class and sexual identity? Over the past fourteen years, Bernadette has worked on two major research projects, each exploring issues of inequality, gender, identity and sexuality. The first is a study of exotic dancers, published by New York University Press titled, Stripped: Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers, and the second a study on religion and homosexuality in the Bible Belt titled, Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays.

♥♥♥

Review by Gerry Burnie

While Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays, by Bernadette Barton, [NYU Press, 2012] may not be for everyone, it is nonetheless a timely (and scary) read.

We (including us Canadians) have just come through what is arguably the nastiest presidential election campaign ever in U.S history, during which the fundamentalist Christians tried to set GBLT human rights back at least a half-century or more.

It is not to say that all Christians are homophobic, and there are plenty of homophobes who are Non-Christian, but almost invariably the Christian card is dragged out to condemn homosexuality for everything from the Great Flood (itself a myth) to Hurricane Sandy.

Sociologist, Bernadette Barton, is well qualified to tackle this subject, which she does so by going to the source—gays living in the so-called “Bible Belt.” What she finds is not particular new or surprising. Homophobia is a self-perpetuating attitude, generally planted by narrow-minded, uber-religious types, and carried forward from generation to generation by negative reinforcement. This accounts for broad-based consistency sufficient to identify a particular area as being homophobic.

From the recipients point of view, growing up gay in such a repressive atmosphere can be isolating and traumatic (sometimes physically), and it takes a Herculean amount of courage to come out under such hostile circumstances. None of this is particularly new, however, and so a ‘break-through’ study it is not.

Nonetheless, the writing is at a very high level, and Professor Barton’s insights are reliable and informative; therefore, I recommend Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gaysas a really interesting read. Four bees.

♥♥♥

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 37,793

♥♥♥

Notice to a:ll those who have requested a book review

Thank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.

Thanks again!

♥♥♥

If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Thanks for dropping by. I’m in St. Augustine, Florida, but through the marvel of the internet I can carry on. See you again next Monday.

November 19, 2012 Posted by | Gay non-fiction, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

Sailors and Sexual Identity: Crossing the Line Between “Straight” and “Gay” in the U.S. Navy, by Steven Zeeland

Gerry B’s Book Reviews’ Remembrance Day Tribute

 

Remembrance Day Facts

  • Remembrance Day was originally known as “Armistice Day”
  • In Canada it became Remembrance Day by Act of Parliament in 1931.
  • It is known to our neighbours and allies to the south as “Veteran’s Day”.
  • The poppy is the symbol that individuals use to show that they remember those who fought and died in the service of their country.
  • The idea of the poppy originated with the 1915 poem “In Flanders Field” by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Medical Officer in the First World War. His poem reflects his first hand account of what he witnessed while working from a dressing station on the bank of the Yser Canal.
  • An American woman, Moina Michael, was the first person known to have worn a poppy in remembrance.

♣♣♣


Story Blurb: In Sailors and Sexual Identity, author Steven Zeeland talks with young male sailors–both gay- and straight-identified–about ways in which their social and sexual lives have been shaped by their Navy careers.Despite massive media attention to the issue, there remains a gross disparity between the public perception of “gays in the military” and the sexual realities of military life. The conversations in this book reveal how known “gay” and “straight” men can and do get along in the sexually tense confines of barracks and shipboard life once they discover that the imagined boundary between them is not, in fact, a hard line.The stories recounted here in vivid detail call into question the imagined boundaries between gay and straight, homosexual and homosocial, and suggest a secret Pentagon motivation for the gay ban: to protect homoerotic military rituals, buddy love, and covert military homosexuality from the taint of sexual suspicion.Zeeland ‘s interviews explore many aspects of contemporary life in the Navy including: gay/straight friendship networks the sexual charge to the Navy/Marine Corps rivalry the reality behind sailors’reputations as sexual adventurers in port and at sea men ‘s differing interpretations of homoerotic military rituals and initiations sex and gender stereotypes associated with military job specialities how sailors view being seen as sex objectsEveryone interested in the issue of gays in the military, along with a general gay readership, gay veterans, and gay men for whom sailors represent a sexual ideal, will find Sailors and Sexual Identity an informative and entertaining read.

Available in hardcover and paperback formats, only – 338 pages

♣♣♣

Review by Gerry Burnie
Although Sailors and Sexual Identity: Crossing the Line Between “Straight” and “Gay” in the U.S. Navy by Steven Zeeland [Routledge, 1995] is somewhat outdated, the tales of male interaction and bonding, as well as sexual exploration and activity remain unchanged. Therefore, it is still a relevant read.

At the time of its writing, ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ was still the prevailing rule regarding the military, and although it was an improvement over the witch hunts that had preceded it [See: Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two, by Allan Bérubé] it was nonetheless a political compromise that left the whole question of sexuality in a sort of limbo. At times it was enforced, at other times it was used as an excuse to exit the service, but just as often it was simply ignored.

However, Sailors and Sexual Identity is not about DADT. Rather, it is, in the words of the author: “[A]…hope that an improved understanding of the sexual realities of military life will contribute to the discrediting of falsehoods and lies used to justify oppression of persons who self-identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and anyone who participates in consensual sexual activity with others of the same sex.”

To do this, Zeeland “met more than 200 sailors and marines and taped conversations with 30, and of that number, the transcripts of 13 make up this anthology.

Lacking all the requisite scientific controls, this is not a clinical study per se, nor has Zeeland represented it as such. Rather, he describes it as a collection of interviews documenting the lives—both sexual and military—of men in the service, and from whom he has learned. In some ways it is well he distanced himself from an academic study, for it would no doubt have been criticized for being unscientific, and otherwise stigmatized as a laborious read (which it is not).

Zeeland has yet another stated objective, however, and that is to show through empirical observation that the line between “straight” and “gay” is often an ambivalent one; that:

“[H]omosexual expression is a natural possibility for men who identify themselves as heterosexual, and that the unavailability of women is often not so much a cause of, but an excuse for, sexual feeling for another male.”

To me this is the most interesting aspect of Zeeland’s study. It has long been a suspicion of mine that the above statement is true (based in part on personal experience), but I wanted to see some evidence that would back this up. What I got from Zeeland’s study was a solid “maybe.” Most interviewees reported at least some experience with men who identified themselves as “straight,” and who staunchly held on to some stereotypical vestige of  their heterosexuality to ‘prove’ it—like refusing to kiss, or “bottom”—but nonetheless freely indulged in homosexual acts. However, because of the anecdotal nature of the study the question remains unresolved in my mind.

This is one of those books that will interest readers with a navy or marine background, or who enjoy reading about the experiences of others—like I do—but at $42 (paperback, new) it will not be for everyone. Three and one-half bees.

♣♣♣

Visitors count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 36,585

♣♣♣

Notice to all those who have requested a book reviewThank you for your interest, and my apologies for not responding to your request individually. I’m getting there, but the numbers have been overwhelming. Please extend your patience just a bit longer.Thanks again!

♣♣♣

We also remember those who gave up their loved ones to the service of others. Thank you!

♣♣♣

If you would like to learn more about any of my books, or to order copies, click on the specific cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are available in both Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price, $4.95.

      

Thanks for dropping by. Add a “like” of comment so that I know you’ve been here. See you next Monday.

November 5, 2012 Posted by | Coming out, Gay military, Gay non-fiction, Historical period, Homoerotic | Leave a comment

Park Dwellers, by Mal Tempo and Nathan Scott

An interesting idea, but otherwise it leaves a lot to be desired

Blurb: Public cruising across America remains the least discussed of all gay activities. Meeting in public parks is for many gay men perfect for twenty minutes of fantasy and fun. Interviewing dozens and dozens of men over three years, the authors compiled a series of profiles of park users and cruisers with a focus on sexual habits, strange sights, and their success in pursuing this unique American fantasy. Men have come to public parks, creating a secret society of gay cruisers thriving for centuries. These stories are true. If the tales seem familiar, you must remember that they have been told many times.”

Available in eBook format – 555 KB.

***

Review by Gerry Burnie

Park Dwellers by Mal Tempo and Nathan Scott [Long Time Ago Press, 2010] is an interesting idea, but otherwise it leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, the blurb suggests that this is a “series of profiles” based on interviews from “across America”, but it is, in fact, based on one park somewhere in United States, and consists primarily of observations that are neither in-depth, nor particularly unique—except for the idiosyncrasies of the individuals described.

Indeed, as a gay man it comes as no surprise that public parks are used for cruising, and also for furtive, impersonal sexual encounters, but what I would like to have known (from the interviews) is the psychology of park cruisers—i.e. not just the methodology. Is this their only form of socio-sexual activity, or is it merely one segment of it? And why?

Alas, for me Park Dwellersfalls short in just about every category I could have hoped for. It is too superficial to be a study, too shallow to provide any meaningful profiles, and worse, by not making clear that park cruisers are a miniscule part of GLBT society, it perpetuates the myth that gays are a ‘slutty’ lot with only one focus in life.

Journalistically, the syntax and writing are solid enough, but the overuse of clichés, metaphors and campy phrases gives it a gossipy overtone. This is also accentuated by the less-than-complimentary pseudonyms assigned to the various denizens, i.e. “Quasimodo,” “The Frog Prince,” and “Winnie the Poo-Poo.”  Moreover, although it is the responsibility of the publisher, the formatting truncates sentences and runs paragraphs together in a difficult-to-read manner.

As I have said above, Park Dwellersis an interesting idea, but it leaves a lot to be desired. Two Gerry Bees.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Book Reviews – 15,134

***

Gerry Burnie-Books
I’m excited–and that doesn’t happen very often at my age. However, my interview with Charlie Cochrane (“Cambridge Fellows Mystery Series”) is published today. Do drop around and share our thoughts. http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com/143455.html

***

I have added three, newly discovered vintage photographs to my Coming of Age on the Trail, Related Photos site. These are interesting photos from the 1890s era that illustrate various aspects of the story, along with a description. These photos are of interest in their own right. Check it out.

***

To order any of my books, click on the individual cover below. Two Irish Lads and Nor All Thy Tears are both available in Nook and Kindle formats. The publisher’s price is $4.95 (exclusive of taxes where applied).

     

Thanks for dropping by!!

October 23, 2011 Posted by | Gay non-fiction, Non-fiction | Leave a comment

Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. by Johathan Katz

October is GLBT History Month, and in commemoration of this occasion I offer what I consider to be the quintessential history of Gays and Lesbians in North America.

This book should be the Bible of not only the past, but also the present and the future—as in “we’ve prevailed in spite of all.”

Publisher’s blurb: Unique among books about Gay people, this pioneer work brings together for the first time a large group of historical chronicles of American Lesbian and Gay life, coupled with the heterosexual attitudes of the era. Intended for an audience of all sexual persuasions, these selections reflect a new, historical view of this once-silent invisible minority and a dramatic reappraisal of American life, from Alexander Hamilton’s love letters to John Laurens, to the forgotten autobiography and insane asylum records of a feminist transvestite of the 19th century, to lesbianism in the life of blues great Bessie Smith, and to the present in a 1976 report of the Gay liberation organization of American Indians.

About the author: Katz taught as an adjunct at Yale University, Eugene Lang College, and New York University, and was the convener of a faculty seminar at Princeton University. He is a founding member of the Gay Academic Union in 1973 and the National Writers Union in 1980. He was the initiator and is the director of OutHistory.org, a site devoted to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, (LGBTQ) and heterosexual history, that went online in September 2008, and is produced by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, an institute at the City University of New York Graduate Center, under a grant from the Arcus Foundation.

Katz received the Magnus Hirschfeld Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Sex Research from the German Society for Social-Scientific Sexuality Research in 1997. In 2003, he was given Yale University’s Brudner Prize, an annual honor recognizing scholarly contributions in the field of lesbian and gay studies. His papers are collected by the manuscript division of The Research Libraries of The New York Public Library.

Review by Gerry Burnie

We have been the silent minority, the silenced minority—invisible women, invisible men. Early on, the alleged enormity of our “sin” justified the denial of our existence, even our physical destruction” p1. So begins noted sexual historian, Professor Johnathan Katz, in his seminal “collection of turbulent chronicles,” Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. [Plume; Rev Sub edition (April 1, 1992)].

He then goes on to add to this lamentable observation:

During the four hundred years documented here, American homosexuals were condemned to death by chocking, burning, drowning; they were executed, jailed, pilloried, fined, court-martialed, prostituted, fired, framed, blackmailed, disinherited, declared insane, driven to insanity, to suicide, murder, and self-hate, witch-hunted, entrapped, stereotyped, mocked, insulted, isolated, pities, castigated and despised.(They were also castrated, lobotomized, shock-treated, and psychoanalyzed…) Homosexuals and their behavior were characterized by the terms “abomination,” “crime against nature,” “sin,” “monsters,” “fairies,” “bull dykes,” and “perverts.”p17.

Professor Katz then goes on to document every word of these in a 720-page, annotated thesis, which—quite astoundingly for such a scholarly work—remains immensely readable.

For example, there is the chronicle of the earliest known case of a homosexual being put to death in America, that of Frenchman Gonzalo Solís de Merás, murdered in St. Augustine, Florida [my winter home], in 1566.  Also, The execution of Richard Cornish for sodomy in Colonial America, 1624; and of William Plaine in 1646. There is also a record a Black man, Jan Ceoli, living on Manhattan Island, who was condemned to be “choked to death, and then burned to ashes.” In the same Dutch New Netherland Colony, Jan Quisthout Van Der Linde was sentenced to be “tied in a sack and cast into the river” for a homosexual rape.

An early report, 1824-26, identifies homosexuality in American prisons, and concerns “prostitution” of “juvenile delinquents” with older male prisoners.  Male prostitution is also prominently mentioned in a report, dating 1892, documenting the homosexual underworld in American cities. These reports also include descriptions of Black male homosexual transvestites, homosexual activity at steam baths, newspaper solicitations, and street life.

There are also early reports of a civil servant being discharged: a New York policeman, for making improper advances on other males while on duty (1846), and of a minister separated from the church for homosexual activity (1866). The clergyman was Horatio Alger.

In 1896, the family of a wealthy businessman, Henry Palmer, petitioned the court to have Palmer declared mentally incompetent on account of his homosexuality, and although a prominent doctor testified to his “absolute certainty of Palmer’s sanity,” the court found him “insane,” anyway.

Lesbians didn’t seem to fare any better, for in 1636 John Cotton made a proposal to the Massachusetts Bay Colony that homosexual relations between women be placed on par with male homosexuality as a capital offence. In 1656 the New Haven Colony passed a law prescribing the death penalty for lesbianism, as well as male homosexuality.

Professor Katz has also dedicated a significant portion of his scholarly work to Native Americans. One of the earliest reports, dated 1528-36, states:

During the time that I was thus among these people I saw a devilish thing, and it is that I saw one man married to another, and these are impotent, effeminate men [amarionados]and they go about dressed as women, and do women’s tasks, and shoot with a bow, and carry great burdens,…and they are huskier than the other men, and taller…”p430

Another report, dated 1673-77, reads:

I know not through what superstition some Illinois, as well as Nadouessi, while still young, assume the garb of women, and retain it throughout their lives. There is some mystery in this, for they never marry and glory in demeaning themselves to do everything that the women do. They go to war, however, but can use only clubs, and not bows and arrows, which are the weapons proper to men. They are present at all the juggleries, and at the solemn dances in honor of the Calumet; at these they sing, but not dance. They are summoned to their Councils and nothing can be decided without their advice. Finally, through their profession of leading an extraordinary life, they pass as Manitous,–That is to say, for Spirits,–or persons of consequence.p.433

Moreover, an 1889 report by Dr. A.B. Holder, describes “A Peculiar Sexual Perversion,” i.e.:

The word bō-teˊ I have chosen as being most familiar to me and not likely to convey a wrong impression, since I shall be the first, perhaps, to translate into English and define it. It is the word use by the Absaroke Indians of Montana, and literally mans “not man, no woman.”…

“The practice of the bote among civilized races is not unknown to specialists, but no name is suited to ears of polite, even though professional, has been given it. The practice is to produce the sexual orgasm by taking the male organ of the active party in the lips of the bote, the bote probably experiencing the orgasm at the same time. Of the latter supposition I have been able to satisfy, but I can in no other way account for the infatuation of the act.”

My comments

Among the monumental, literary works of history, Jonathon Katz can rightfully take his place. Or, as another reviewer has already put it, “Jonathan Katz would be sainted if he never wrote another word or produced another bit of research.”[1]

This documentary history is utterly astonishing for the amount of research it implies, the documented stories it tells, the humanity it describes, and for the easy-to-read journalism in which it is presented. Among the GLBT communities, this book should be the Bible of not only the past, but also the present and the future—as in “we’ve prevailed in spite of all.” Five Stars—plus.


[1] B. J. Wilson, Amazon.com.

News

Visitor count to Gerry B’s Boom Reviews – 14,047

***

Rewrites to Coming of Age on the Trail 129/177 pages.

***

To order any of my books, click on the individual covers below. Nor All Thy Tears and Two Irish Lads are now available in Kindle and Nook formats. Publisher’s price $4.95 (tax and exchange not included), but prices may vary from retailer to retailer.

     

Thanks for dropping by!!

October 2, 2011 Posted by | Gay documentary, Gay non-fiction, Non-fiction, Two spirits | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: