Number 156 Winter 2013 $9.95
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Issue 157 / Spring 2014
FAERIES GOING GLOBAL Submission Deadline: January 21, 2014 www.rfdmag.org/upload
What impact and role do Radical Faeries have on GLBT rights internationally? Radical Faeries now have Sanctuaries in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia. We have an established annual Gathering in Thailand, the first Gathering in New Zealand and first Sex Magic Workshop in France, and possibly the first Gathering in Argentina. Who are we as a global tribe? What does it mean to be a Radical Faerie in cultures that may not honor a of Western individualism? The UN has just announced a global campaign to bring GLBT rights human rights all over the globe, what is the Radical Faerie role as culture makers in supporting this initiative? It is still illegal in 76 countries to be GLBT, how do Faeries respond politically and culturally to this status quo? Please join us in sharing your experiences of being a Radical Faerie living outside North America. Or as you travel the globe what have you discovered that Radical Faeries have to offer other cultures and what have we to learn from other cultures? As the rate of change in the world expands exponentially and distances shrink around the world, what is the role of Radical Faeries as cultural radicals calling for greater freedom and what is our role in working towards safety and security for Queer Radicals currently suffering imprisonment, torture, extreme repression and death in many cultures and states around the planet?
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Regretful French Detour Vol 40 No 2 #156
Between the Lines
As we celebrate another series of wins for gay marriage in Illinois and Hawaii as well as the Federal ruling this past summer, we’re delving into what GLBTQ relationships mean. This issue reflects readers ideas on the topic via art, poems, and essays. We hope you enjoy the layers of how our readers decided to explore relationships by telling personal narratives, reflecting on cultural values, exploring types of relationships, as well as a piece exploring how pornography shapes our relationship to the people who produce and star in it. We also are thankful to Franklin Abbott for his interviews with two authors—Alysia Abbott and Manil Suri. Both authors appeared at the Decatur Book Festival recently. We hope you enjoy the interviews with such talented authors as well as savoring excerpts from their recent work. Sadly, part of the news for this issue is the loss of The Shawl. We’re hoping it isn’t so but mark its importance to many within the Radical Faerie tribe with sadness as we reflect on its role as one of the few common talismans of the Faerie community. Our thoughts go out to its former caretaker, Rosemary for Remembrance, as well as Dennis Melba’son’s partner, Dimid Hayes, as a piece of history is replaced merely with memory. We also want to invite our readers to respond to our piece on RFD’s presence at archives and libraries by considering helping with either donating missing issues or contributing to our fund to help scan and digitize back issues. Both are noble projects which we’ve been dreaming of making a reality for some time now. Thankfully, the Collective is finally able to consider both. Enjoy the issue and have a propitious Solstice and New Year!
—From the chilly climes of Vermont! The RFD Collective
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Submission Deadlines Spring–January 21, 2014 Summer–April 21, 2014 See inside covers for themes and specifics. For advertising, subscriptions, back issues and other information visit www.rfdmag.org
RFD is a reader-written journal for gay people which focuses on country living and encourages alternative lifestyles. We foster community building and networking, explore the diverse expressions of our sexuality, care for the environment, Radical Faerie consciousness, and nature-centered spirituality, and share experiences of our lives. RFD is produced by volunteers. We welcome your participation. The business and general production are coordinated by a collective. Features and entire issues are prepared by different groups in various places. RFD (ISSN# 0149-709X) is published quarterly for $25 a year by RFD Press, P.O. Box 302, Hadley MA 01035-0302. Postmaster: Send address changes to
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RFD, P.O. Box 302, Hadley MA 010350302 Non-profit tax exempt #621723644, a function of RFD Press with office of registration at 231 Ten Penny Rd., Woodbury, TN 37190. RFD Cover Price: $9.95. A regular subscription is the least expensive way to receive it four times a year. Copyright © 2012 RFD Press. The records required by Title 18 U.S.D. Section 2257 and associated with respect to this magazine (and all graphic material associated therewith on which this label appears) are kept by the custodian of records at the following location: RFD Press, 85 N Main St, Ste 200, White River Junction, VT 05001. Mail for our Brothers Behind Bars project should be sent to P.O. Box 68, Liberty TN 37095.
On the Covers Front: “Archer” by Rene Capone
Back: Photograph by artboydancing
Managing Editor: Bambi Gauthier Art Director: Matt Bucy Editor: Paul Wirhun
Artists in This Issue Rene Capone Front Cover, 7, 13, 15, 24, 31, 32-33 artboydancing
2, Back Cover
Dimid Hayes Faygele ben Miriam Marc Haberman
5 8, 9 10, 11
Cory Thorell & Colton Baumgartner
Amber Davis Toularentes
CONTENTS Letters to the Editor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 The Kernunnos Shawl is Lost and Gone Forever. . . . Rosemary for Remembrance. . . . . . . 5 Faerie Gathering in Austria. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mata Hari. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Queer Marriage’s Meaning Answered: A Look at Pioneer Activist and Family. . . . . . . . . . Pendra Wilson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Healthy Relationships With Tantra . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marc Haberman. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Poetry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Joe Arcangelini . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Ties That Bind . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Graphyte. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Keep In The Dance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tara. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Anniversary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bambi Gauthier. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Honeycomb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Feathers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Missed Connections. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Finger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Love Is My Religion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . James Benedict . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Art . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Vinton Rafe McCabe . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Poems. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Billy Malone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 October. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lindsey Drury. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Dangerous Trees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nadja Bederven. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 On Options. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kaš. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 Circling Around Faeries. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Hyperion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Myth. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nicole Amato. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Fragments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Luis Edgardo Muñoz . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 How To Be A Successful Gay Male. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Riley E. Zipper. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Secrets. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Patrina C. Jones. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 The Porn You Should Be Watching . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Roscoe Hudson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Relationships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Notre Dame des Arbres. . . . . . . . . . . 46 An Informal Report on the 2013 Decatur Book Festival. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Franklin Abbott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 Interview with Manil Suri . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Franklin Abbott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Excerpt from “The City of Devi”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Manil Suri. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Interview with Manil Suri . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Franklin Abbott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Poems. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Steve Abbott . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 Excerpt from “Fairyland”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Alysia Abbott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 The Religious Destiny of Our Tribe: Queer Gender-F**k Spirituality. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mushroom. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Lovers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nyk Robertson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Featherstone. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Shokti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
Photograph by artboydancing
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LETTERS & ANNOUNCEMENTS Correction to RFD Number 155, Fall 2013 issue Thanks for publishing my article, “Collecting SeedsCreating Community” (pp. 52-54). However, the photograph on p. 54 is not from that article and doesn’t relate to the Faerie gathering at Riversdale. It is from a different body of work, a documentary series looking at the summer gatherings at Autumn Farm, a gay naturist retreat in Takaka, at the northwestern tip of New Zealand’s South Island.
I submitted two articles at the same time and the Autumn Farm photograph was among the images accompanying the second article. Regards Mark/Alchemist Editor’s Note: Our apologies.
We’ve all squirrelled away a copy of RFD…Well so do a number of libraries and archives throughout the world Since RFD’s early days, it’s readers have cherished their copies of the magazine, as they often reflected their own lives or merely reflected an interest in a queer culture which was a bit different, often rural, attempting to be both radical and spiritual. Well in these many years some of your cherished copies of RFD have been collected by libraries and archives throughout the country and around the world. Some of these were donated by readers, others were purchased, and as RFD became more known to the academic world these archives often would purchase back issues from us. Well thanks to the efforts of us pack-rats keeping our little history alive in this way—close to fifty organizations have RFD in their collections. Sadly though only three of them have complete runs of the magazine. This is where we would love your help and support. RFD has some of the back issues which these organizations lack but not all. If you have old issues which you’d like to donate to our project to complete these collections, please have a look at our back issues page on our website, it shows which issues which we have sold out. These are often the very issues which these organizations lack. With your help we may be able to complete these sets for more folks to have access to. If you have back issues you would like to donate back to us, we’d greatly appreciate it. At this time 4
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we’re mostly looking for issues which we lack, but we will accept any back issues in good shape which you may no longer want or that you would like to see donated to archives. In the meanwhile, we’re also working to digitize all of our back issues and we’re exploring ways to make these available to our readers. It’s an expensive undertaking and again if you’re interested in helping in this project please consider donating money to help. Digitizing the entire run of RFD will cost close to three thousand dollars. Your support will help us make this long dreamed project a reality. We’ve set up a webpage on our site—www. rfdmag.org/archiveproject please check it out and consider making a donation. And to those folks who have already sent us your cherished back issues, thank you, thank you, thank you! If you are sending back issues to us, please send them to: RFD Press PO Box 302 Hadley, MA 01035-0302 USA If you want to send us a check to help with this project, please send it to the above address with “RFD Archive / Scan Project” in the memo. If you want to include a donation for this specifically when you renew, please just make a note with your renewal.
The Kernunnos Shawl Is Lost and Gone Forever— Would You Like to Recreate It? Contrary to what I wrote on p. 31 of issue 155 (Fall 2013), the Kernunnos Shawl, the one and only talisman I know of that belongs to all the Radical Faeries, is lost and gone forever! 2013 was going to be its most adventurous year of my stewardship, but it hasn’t turned out that way. It went to its first Billy Club gathering (the Billy Club was founded out of the Radical Faeries in 1988 by a collective of Northern California men who wanted more structure than the Faeries generally provided). It was planned to go its first European gathering—Sex Magick 101 at Folleterre, France. It was intended to go to its first gathering that I know of that would include female Faeries, namely, the Pendulum Gathering at the Wolf Creek Sanctuary in Oregon. And, it was going to go to the Breitenbush, OR, summer gathering. But, the Faerie (who shall remain nameless—he’s given himself enough grief about this already) who was taking the Shawl to Folleterre in June left it in its box on the luggage rack of a French train in the rush to get off and didn’t realize what he had done
until after the train was departing! He tried repeatedly to contact the SNCF, the French national railway system, about recovering it, all to no avail. As I write this, it’s late September, and he and I have given up hope of the Shawl’s being returned. As you may know, the Kernunnos Shawl was lost to us once before: It went missing in the U.S. Postal Service and was found about a year later in a Dead Letter Office by a San Francisco Faerie not long before it would have been discarded; but this loss is different: the SNCF’s workers are a disaffected lot, many of whom would just as happily discard a lost package as turn it in or try to return it across the Atlantic. So, I wonder whether there is any Radical Faerie reader who is an experienced crochet worker and might be interested in recreating the Kernunnos Shawl, probably in a different color yarn, either as a labor of love or, perhaps, for a negotiated payment. If you are such a Fae, please contact me ASAP at email@example.com. —Rosemary for Remembrance
GATHERINGS (for more info visit www.radfae.org) Summer Solstice Radical Faery Gathering, Faerieland, NSW, Australia, Dec 15-22, 2013 Blue Heron Gatherrette, Upstate NY, Dec 28-Jan 2, 2013-2014 (RSVP firstname.lastname@example.org) Asian Faerie Gathering in Thailand, Feb 7-16, 2014 Breitenbush Gathering, Detroit, OR, Feb 14-17, 2014 F7 Gatherette, Amber Fox, ON, Canada, Feb 14-17, 2014 Left: The Shawl, RFD#22, RFD Archives Right: Dennis Melba’son crocheting the Shawl, photo courtesy Dimid Hayes
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Faerie Gathering in Austria Dear RFD! “The Faerie Gathering in Austria was FANTASTIC … a rollercoaster of fun, dance, rhythm, love, erotism, talks, magic, soul ….!” In Austria this summer there were both a temporary and a new permanent manifestation of faerie love. Europe is about to be home to a second faerie sanctuary. eight years after the inauguration of Folleterre in the Vosges Mountains of north eastern France, came the Kissing Awake of Weinviertel Sanctuary, a new faerie home in Austria. Ceremonials to kiss awake the new land happened 15-16 August and were followed by a faerie trek west across the country to the Sound of Music territory of Salzburg where 63 faeries from 14 different countries (including Australia, Austria, Brazil, Czechia, England, Israel and USA) met for the first full 10 day Austrian Gathering. It was a bigger success than we could imagine! Many lives have definitely changed! Still the emotions roll over—but in the most positive way! We could show the whole (faerie) world what faerie spirit and faerie energy is and could be. I was only the one who gave so many wonderful faeries from all over the world the opportunity in the most unexpected but real nature to BE what they really are—people longing for the real magical spirit and making them appreciate to what faeries and human beings are possible to create if you let them step out of this mainstream mentality. The Indian God Ganesha showed me this image that you are a sexual person and maybe whenever I wake up at night I will have this image in my mind—to believe that the time of regretting anything in your life is over now. You never should regret anything that happened to you in your life. It all brought you to these ten days of love and respect and diversity. I really was kissed awake these ten days—starting two days before in the opening ceremony of the sanctuary in Austria. For me it was the “Sound of DIVER6
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SITY” Gathering—and I did not want any other gathering! It is so important that everybody on earth feels accepted—some faeries still have to work on this, but you have to give them time to accept this. 3 Maybe the most touching moments for me was the closing ceremony—very simple, but when the Music of Mozart—the overture of Don Giovanni started—the whole atmosphere + the whole gathering transformed again. I really could see in the eyes—that this was such a great moment in all the lives of the faeries who were in this circle when we all started to kiss and to light up the candles and to look into each other eyes: We directly went into heaven at this moment—it was unbelievable beautiful. This moment I wanted to create! This moment Mozart wanted to create! This was true entrance to Paradise. And looking deeply into the eyes of each faerie made me very calm and grateful. I really saw each heart at its most beautiful moment. There are no other words to describe that. Twenty-five hearts being one! Real living, real love, everybody touched. Life animating the whole. Faeries animating the whole. And when we blew out the candles we closed the gathering. It was so unreal that this Magic really happened and that it should end now. No, it will continue in our hearts— through our spirit and energy we will spread it out to the whole world—and it will manifest again in two years at this place and we all will come together again—sharing love, peace, hearts, problems and hope!—that this world is a better one—a faerie world!—because we all know that spirit, heartfulness + stillness unites us all—and the sound of faeries in faerie diversity—and we deeply and completely love and accept this! See the entire report: http://www.eurofaeries.eu/austria/gathering-2013/ —Mata Hari Right: “Two Boys” by Rene Capone
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Queer Marriage’s Meaning Answered: A Look at Pioneer Activist and Family Pendra Wilson, future director of “Pinko Fag Jew”
n Seattle 1971, Paul Barwick, and the then John Singer applied for a marriage license—media in tow. As expected their marriage was denied, but John would keep asking the county, “Why, Why, Why?” This is similar to what happened in the late 1950’s when a small group of courageous black children asked a segregated restaurant in Oklahoma to serve
them. The same question was, “Why not?” These black children weren’t putting their life on the line because they were dying to eat at Kalz Drugstore, but confronting the greater conformities of the time that denied their basic Human Rights. The same goes for Paul and John. They weren’t dying to get married either but were confronting society’s cherished homophobic beliefs. 8
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Paul Barwick and John Singer, who later changed his name to Faygele Ben Miriam, were using gay marriage to confront something bigger. Paul Barwick, the younger of the two, was 24. He was tall, dark, handsome and quiet. Paul had just returned from the Vietnam War and had become a state trooper. He had also just come out as a gay man. Paul was brought up in a traditional workingclass home. Out of the two-marriage activist; I think Paul Barwick had more to lose in heartbreak from his family and career. John Singer AKA Faygele, had come from a more tolerant family that taught him the importance of fighting for civil rights as a family value. Faygele, or Fags as I knew him, was a driven human rights activist. He was one of the many forgotten mothers (there are others) of the Radical Faeries and also a past contributor and editor of RFD. When Paul and Faygele applied for a marriage license it was in a time period that was dark and threatening. You could still be put into mental asylums or jailed; your children could be apprehended by the state. Gays were regularly beaten up, witch-hunted, blackmailed, fired from work, and even killed for being a suspected gay. For all the dangerous risks the benefits came in sex. Mind-boggling, taboo breaking, primal remapping, liberating glorious sex. It was political to have sex and lots of it. This was during a gay sex explosion before the plague. In Seattle gay activism was intersected by black power, radical feminism, and the anti-war movement. Just as women were looking beyond their socialized roles as mothers and wives in consciousness-raising groups, these men were seriously questioning their masculine roles. If they believed that Masculinity and War were one, then, they were decidedly, “Anti-War Men.” And that made them liberated from having to be the, “Top”, free from the masculine norm and the missionary. They were experimenting to find more pleasures. And sure Faygele celebrated in the parks
and glory holes but he was mostly an intimacy junkie. Faygele preferred his sex with intimacy: sex that supported and nurtured friendship and community. He was a Soul Mate to many. In 2000 Jan 1st, during the Millenniumâ€™s New Year Celebration, a time when most people were furiously over- booked with parties and family, the doctors gave Fags only 24-hours to live. In that same day, over 200 people visited him. Currently, some in the LGBT community mimic the biblical partnership with marriage, maybe because they have to. Sometimes in families, love is not free but like a union negotiating with the boss. Yes, some parents love their children unconditionally but others not so much. Queer children who still want to belong to not be locked out of their families have to negotiate, compromise and follow and support the image of their parents. Faygele had a feminist Mom. Meaning his Mom, acknowledge just how soul-crushing marriage could be for women in sexual and domestic servitude. Miriam, felt supported and happy in her own marriage with Fagâ€™s father but she held no romance for the troubled institution of marriage. Faygeleâ€™s progressive back-bone gave him the strength to have a bigger vision. I know that in 1971, when Paul Barwick and Fags went for their marriage license, Faygele had already married himself to a lifelong commitment to human rights: for Blacks in his country, for Palestinians, for women, for gays and for the end of discrimination in the workplace. He just needed to live longer to actualize his vows. w Pendra Wilson will be directing the film Pinko Fag Jew.
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Healthy Relationships With Tantra by Marc Haberman
ll our relationships are about our primary relationship with ourself. We truly grow when in relationships. Our relationships define our life. We have personal relationships with our pets, family, significant others and in business. To have balanced relationships and know what anchors us to what is important, that serves as a mirror as to who we are and where we are in our life Tantra is the most direct path to the spiritual awareness of healthy relationships that I have experienced. Tantra is an ancient spiritual path that offers great gifts to modern Westerners. Whether someone is seeking to develop a personal integration of spirituality and sexuality, bring some spark back into a marriage or relationship, opening blocks to feeling and enjoying sensuality, or healing from sexual traumas of the past, Tantra has much to offer. Making tantra the basis of every intimate relationship is the best way I know of to increase the passion both in and out of the bedroom; and to increase the bond between both partners. The depth of the relationship increases and the spiritual path of both partners is closer. I have known relationships that were saved because of the increased depth and commitment that tantra brought to the relationship. Sensuality also assists in relaxing and opening, as well as raising energy levels hence the popular term, “turned on”. This powerful energy can be developed and worked with or without sexual practices, with or without intercourse or genital contact. The traditional Tantra includes many solo practices, and this was always held to be a high yogic path. The individual work and non-sexual practices, termed “White Tantra” are adaptable to modern life, can be integrated into other spiritual paths, and do not require an individual to become a recluse or celibate yogi. Over the past 20 years, the element that has fueled the passion in my love life, and intimate relationships has been tantra. It starts with improving the intimacy 10 RFD 156 Winter 2013
with yourself, and in turn with others, because the harmonious blissful energy is picked up on by others. It has been at the core of my being as a man, a gay person, a teacher, healer, and lover. Tantric practices have given me the awareness to be more confident, intimate, and a loving spiritual person. Communication is the root of all relationships. Communication can create a relationship, good communication will build a relationship and lack of communication can cause a misunderstanding or an argument, which may lead to the end of a relationship. Your relationships will be nurtured if you can bring your patterns of communication to a higher level. And when you release your past patterns, you won’t have to attract that old lesson any longer. The reality is that sometimes long-term relationships begin to develop into more of a basic support system than a loving, growing, vital partnership. We begin to discount touch, care, clear communication, trust, truth telling and sensual and sexual activity. The daily grind runs our lives and relationships. Here are some simple keys for a good relationship: Work on the relationship—but not too hard. Make sacrifices. See the love around you. Be thankful. Address problems as they arise. Communicate well. Spend enough time together, but don’t overdo it. Develop a good sense of humor, laugh often. It is the surest way to attract the men you want in your life, bring more joy, and to more fully realize your potential in this lifetime. There is no disadvantage to practicing tantra, other than there are less existing partners, but many new men who are open to finding a more fulfilling way to integrate their life. Try it for yourself and see what I mean. w Marc Haberman, BA, does relationship consulting and tantric sessions. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 888-295-8500 at Intuitive Prosperity Life Coaching Photographs by Marc Haberman
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by Joe Arcangelini
after the sponge bath, when he was perched, naked, wobbly, almost precariously on the edge of a chair, now dry and dressed in fresh pajamas, the sickbed spread with clean sheets, blankets and crisp pillowcases – nothing wrinkled but us I had just gotten him tucked back in, he looked up at me standing beside the bed, a shadow of fear in the edge of his eyes, he said: “I guess this is the most domestic we’ve ever been.” then I crawled into bed beside him and it was never mentioned again.
you asked why i never say “i love you” -
Walking Out each time he has walked out a little bit less of him has returned now, there seems barely enough of him left to register against my skin
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because every time i came up behind you, when you were sitting on the couch, and kissed the top of your head, i was saying “i love you” and every time i let you have the more comfortable chair, i was saying “i love you” and every time i cooked a big meal for just the two of us i was saying “i love you” and every time i took your dog for a walk or threw her a ball or cleaned up after her, i was saying “i love you” because every time you drove up from The City, you were saying “i love you” and every time you baked a blackberry cobbler or cherry pie or chocolate cake, you were saying “i love you” and every time you brought the just right piece of furniture into the house you were saying “i love you” and every time you swept the floor or did the laundry or made the bed, you were saying “i love you” because, whenever we were together, the air seemed so filled with “i love you”s, it would seldom occur to me to say the words out loud until you would give voice and i would agree like it were the foregone conclusion it was and now, with this response rather than any other that could have been made, i am saying “i love you” again but it seems like it might be too late
“Boy Named Truth” by Rene Capone
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Ties That Bind By Graphyte
e lay naked, face down on the floor and winced as I pulled the hogtie tight. Soft white cotton rope wrapped each ankle several times, stretched up behind his back and attached to his wrists. I placed the final knot well out of reach of his grasping fingers. I knew from experience his skill in extricating himself from bonds I thought secure. “That should hold you,” I said and stepped back. He lay still for a few moments, his eyes closed. I admired again his movie star face with its strong jawline, dark lashes, black brows, sensuous mouth. He began to twist and turn. I watched him grimace as he rocked from side to side. He flexed fingers, strained to reach unseen knots. I’d let him struggle a good twenty-minutes or more. Then I’d bring out the whip, riding crop and other instruments of sensation. We were a good fit for each other; André loved being tied up and I often fantasized about putting handsome men in bondage. He literally taught me the ropes—how to tie them so they wouldn’t cut off his blood supply, where they would be fastened out of reach of his prying fingers. A few years earlier such a scenario unfolded only in my dreams. Now here I was living it. While André rolled about on the carpeted bedroom floor, I walked into the living room where Jasper sat reading a woodworker’s magazine. I kissed his balding forehead. Jasper didn’t go in for bondage-discipline/sado-masochism (BDSM) and wasn’t sexually attracted by André, though he welcomed him as a member of our family, a triad born of chance and intention. Each of us had come out relatively late in life. Jasper and I met at a dinner party hosted by a straight couple who wanted to prove to me I was not the only gay man in the Midwest. A few years later Jasper and I met André at a coming out support group in our state’s capital city. While André had remained single and closeted for 50-plus years, Jasper and I had each been in long-term traditional marriages and unaware of our own orientation; we each had three children, a house and dog. When we came out the support structures we’d known fell apart. We struck up a friendship, formed a mutual survival pact, found an apartment and signed a six-month lease. Ours was not a romantic relationship. We both were coming 14 RFD 156 Winter 2013
out of unions we once believed would last forever. We weren’t about to commit ourselves to anyone anytime soon. Jasper voiced the words, “I love you,” long before I was able or willing to reciprocate. I liked him, sure. I found him warm, engaging, endearing, passionate and compassionate. But love? I wasn’t willing to go there. Until I was and did. Slowly, reluctantly I opened my heart to love and discovered we were well matched, shared many values and experiences, appreciated each other’s sense of humor. We spent five years in open relationship as a committed pair before expanding our family to three. All my life I’d shut down my emotions and attractions so I was thrown for a loop by my reaction to the tall, dark, handsome stranger who appeared one night at our gay men’s monthly support group. As I came to know André better, I realized was falling in love with him. Jasper and I talked about my feelings for this new man. He encouraged me to follow my heart. André and I discussed the matter between ourselves and with Jasper. We three opted to form a triad. We lived 90 minutes apart and would continue to do so. We spent many weekends together, laughing, playing and loving. If Jasper and I were in some ways opposites— tall-short, impulsive-planned, shy-bold, thinkerdoer—André and I were clones: tall, timid, creative, introverted, artistic; plus, there was our shared interest in BDSM. Our threesome deepened over three years before our situation changed again. Jasper and and Nate clicked from the moment they met, soon began spending more and more time together. Jasper announced he wanted to build a family of four; Nate wasn’t so warm to the idea. He’d prefer having Jasper to himself. For six months André and I saw little of them. They spent every free moment off by themselves. Eventually Nate softened and we four engaged in periodic group activities. André and I talked about what we’d do if Jasper decided to build an exclusive relationship with Nate. I couldn’t envision André and me living together; André is a committed city boy and I’m country born and bred. Too, I’d learned many of our interests and affinities differed significantly. No, for the first time in my adult life I might be living long-term on my
own. With this realization I withdrew into myself, rolled up like an opossum into a ball for self-protection. As suddenly as they’d fallen together, Jasper and Nate fell apart. There were more differences between them than had first been apparent. They were not as compatible as they’d believed. Less than a year had elapsed since their first meeting. In the months and years after, Jasper and I grew closer. I’d faced the very real possibility of bidding him good-bye and realized all the more how much I valued his presence in my life. André dates the closing of our triad relationship to my father’s death. “That’s when I really saw you and Jasper pull away,” he says. “You focused on being a couple.” My father’s death drove home the reality of my own mortality. If my dad could die, so could I, so would I. What did I want to experience before then? To be married to the man I love. To say in the strongest symbolic and legally sanctioned terms my society affords, “I am devoted to you; I love you.” I proposed marriage. Canada’s Ontario province had recently legalized gay marriage. Would Jasper marry me there? Yes. And would I marry him, he asked. I would. André agreed to serve as best man at our wedding. He has since partnered with a fellow he met at the leather bar. Besides an interest in BDSM, they share a city house with two dogs. Jasper and I spend an evening with them once a month. We count them among our family of choice. I count myself fortunate to have loved and been loved. Coming late to my place at the LGBT table, I appreciate how very often heart connections with former gay lovers transcend changes in relation “Touch” by Rene Capone
ship. I didn’t know to expect this. But I was pretty much clueless all the way around. Find yourself a time machine, drop in on me in 1984 and ask about my relationship future; I’ll tell you I plan to spend many happy married years with my wife. Dial me up in 1994 and you’ll find I’ve just just come out, am feeling all alone and imagine it will always be thus.
Touch base ten years later and I’ll update you on our family of three. Ask me today about the future of relationships in the queer community and I’ll say, “May they be as fulfilling as the ones I’ve experienced. Blessed be. And blest be the tie that binds, that links gay hearts and souls across time, across change, across loves, against the odds, to joy. w RFD 156 Winter 2013 15
Keep in the Dance by Tara
don’t do relationships! More precisely, I have never entered into a deep, loving relationship with another guy and I’m very soon going to celebrate my 70th birthday! In many ways I’m very happy with this state of affairs. I enjoy my own company, live in a beautiful part of London in a very comfortable apartment and have my own garden. Having spent thirty plus years practising Buddhism and meditation, I have an active inner life, which sustains me well as I enter old-age. With the help of the Internet I have a full sex life, underpinned by a “sex buddy” relationship with a younger guy. This has been going on for four years but we both acknowledge it is not a relationship. The intimacy is curtailed. We like each other, but crucially the dominant factor is that we turn each other on. I have some of the best sex in my life with him, but feel no compunction to set up a more intimate, loving relationship, nor him with me. In many ways I’m very happy with my life, and do not want to change anything. And yet…despite this relative level of contentment and happiness, I have a suspicion, a strong suspicion, that there is something missing. Something not yet sampled! Why have I never entered a deep, loving relationship with another guy? I can hardly claim to turn my back on a loving relationship if I have never experienced one. Contented as I am with the status quo, there is a nagging doubt that maybe I am missing out on something much better. Maybe my magnificent independence is a default 16 RFD 156 Winter 2013
position for never having had the courage (or what ever else it might take) to enter into a deep, committed, loving, caring relationship with a significant other. This summer, there was a “Sex Magic” workshop being run at Folleterre, the beautiful Faerie Sanctuary in eastern France. This was the first time that this Harry Hay devised and inspired workshop was being offered in Europe. It has a long tradition in America and was lauded by those European Faeries who had sampled it. One of these Euro Faeries encouraged me to check out the website, where I found that ‘Sex Magic’ was about how to achieve real intimacy in one’s life. Its aim was to clear away the blocks that prevent real intimacy arising and appeared to offer an opportunity to explore any ‘blind spots’ that might be getting in the way. I signed up and in July of this year went to Folleterre, along with sixteen other guys to sample ‘Sex Magic’. It quickly became apparent that it wasn’t going to be the theoretical. The aim of the workshop was to actually achieve intimacy, openness and honesty right here and now. We set out to establish a ‘Sacred Space’ that would allow all sixteen of us to consciously give permission to have meaningful and genuine intimacy with each other in the course of the following week The work of the week was for each one of us to become conscious of the blocks that prevented us from doing this. It thus became Photo courtesy of the author
imperative that we sort out any block we had in femininity, softness and openness persisted. In the order to achieve our goal. Folleterre Community Week that followed, I revThe Heart Circle was the basis of the work, but elled in these feelings and decided to mark it with with one important difference; the three facilitaa ritual of my own making. With the help of some tors were at liberty to interact with whoever was the multi-talented Faeries around me, I devised the speaking. Their job was to probe when they thought most luscious feminine, erotic drag I would ever something needed to be explored. Issues were dare to wear. I’m not normally much interested opened up and raw feelings exposed and brought in drag (perhaps significantly!) so this was quite a into the Circle. In my case, there were two occasions departure. The result was fantastic! The creation when my contributions were explored. On both confronting me was an overtly feminine high-heeled occasions it was revealed that that I was harbouring sassy lady, which was challenging and exciting. The some anger and hurt. With the help of the facilitamulti-talented Faeries took some great pics and tors it was revealed that one of them put together a underneath the anger was beautiful short video. rage and fury, and that unIt’s nearly three months derneath that was fear. Fear since the ‘Sex Magic’ workof getting physically hurt, shop finished but the feelfear of being vulnerable, fear ings of openness, softness, The safety of the Circle of rejection, fear of taking receptivity and kindness made it possible to feel up too much space, fear of persist. A phrase or mantra the fear and terror, and asking for what I wanted, has entered my head which to begin to embrace it as etc, etc. It was a revelation I often repeat to myself: to see how much fear I carry “keep in the dance”. I say this I put down the habitual around and how this affects when I feel the fear and the defensive tendencies, I the way I relate to others. tendency to close up. I say became: more receptive, It became obvious that I this to remind myself to stay gentler, kinder and use anger to protect myself open, especially when the when feeling vulnerable. To prospect of intimacy offers approachable. have that anger witnessed itself. I remind myself that by members of the Circle I’m not responsible for the enabled me to acknowledge outcome of any encounter. it and to begin to embrace it. My sole responsibility is to This fear of being vulner‘stay open’ and to see where able and exposed goes way back to my childhood the dynamic between myself and the other guy leads where it was not possible to show a softer, gentler to. This removes the terrifying prospect of failure. I side of myself. It was a particularly hostile and just have to “keep in the dance” and let things take violent environment and I learned to protect myself their course. by being defensive and hostile myself. The safety I feel I am more open to a relationship than ever of the Circle made it possible to feel the fear and before. I do not have a proscribed idea what form terror, and to begin to embrace it as I put down that should take. I certainly do not covet the idea of the habitual defensive tendencies, I became: more “domestic bliss”. I can’t imagine that I would want to receptive, gentler, kinder and approachable. I felt share my home with anyone; I really love my own more feminine and I was able to let people in. The space and company. But ‘love works in mysterious immediate benefit was that I felt more love, warmth ways’ so I do not rule anything out. I can imagine and kindness and intimacy coming from the guys meeting someone; kindly intelligent, sensitive and around me and I was able to receive it. gorgeous, who feels as strongly for me as I do for him After the workshop these new found feelings of and we would embark on “the dance” together. w
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for my dearest Rob and thinking of Angele Myrer by Bambi in the swirl, the leaves fly in scant directions, fleeing some force other than the wind in his arms, the breeze is equally calm and forceful - the impressions of our breath simple sun is eating bright lemons & warming the sky with kisses in some bunkered room surrounded by a duvet blue light is upon his skin as he sleeps the ocean is a blue mother soaking up the sand and casting up lost children we collect them as smooth stones along the beach in hours the birds swarm, passing by the beach plums as they rot on the branches I collect salt in his kisses and I purify the crystals as I swallow the taste of nicotine in years the sand has fled into the sea - leaving strong walls to nowhere in our passions, in this embrace we build walls with our fingers with each current the land shifts and rustles the shrubby pines - they clack & shake in this reverberation, we’ve managed to cling to the salt earth of our love for five years the slow shift - the calm hand and our love returns with pockets full of stones and sand in our shoes to remind of time’s memory of love in Wellfleet’s windy mornings
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“Dunes” by Angela Myers, 1952. White line wood block print courtesy James R. Bakker Antiques
honeycomb by feathers
seven gods were weeping on the day my love was dreaming in the sun my love was streaming out the portals of my eyes seven queens were dancing in the evening tidal pools among anemones and starfish kissing tendrils in the night honey dripping from the combs of goddesses alive and singing sunlight from the coves and caverns distant on your shores the instant you release yourself is living in your future and the distance from your heart is ebbing as you learn to listen as you grow and as you glisten in the radiance of yore the radiance alive and streaming on your distant shores ever shall we dance this dance of neverending love among the stars among the shoals among the evening tidal pools ever shall we sing this song of never landing flight within the diamonds of our hearts within the lotus lives a jewel within the jewel lives the love, alive and streaming
on the day your gods were dreaming in the sun the queen of heaven dances, loving humankind honey dripping from a prism shining in the starlight giving rise to rhythmic pulses, now at last we have a sign: golden liquid flowing out her mouth and out her eyes in the kali yuga spinning in the mirror of our mind seven wheels were turning in the life my love was yearning in our sacred sisterâ€™s screaming for epiphanyâ€™s gleaming door tell my never landing sister hovering in yonder distance lately have you seen our lady dancing forevermore? among the living neon sculptures weaving liquid neon ruptures breathing livid fire in epiphany, this door? golden liquid pouring from her lips and from her eyes in this kali yuga whirling out the chaos of our time honey dripping from a prism shining in the starlight in the rhythm in the motion in the mirror of our mind.
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Missed Connections By Finger
To connect with another is to feel everything. * I once loved a jaw-droppingly gorgeous man who was filled with insecurities about his body. Even though he was twenty-five pounds overweight (which didn’t really show since he was so tall with a broad chest), he kept insisting, I’m too fat. Yet he had no qualms about showing off his body online. He rarely went to the gym even though he had a membership card. He had felt deeply scarred by the men who had abused him and thrown him away. He said, I’m not good at talking about my feelings, so therapists are out for me. Yet he shared a great deal about the goings-on in his life, some details of which made me cringe, via social media. The sheer perfection of his body made me feel insecure about my own. Could I ever be desirable to a man as hot as he? Could I feel that strong enough to show off my flat chest online? Could I have a relationship with someone local who lived more vicariously online than offline? No matter how I’d tried to convince him that he was indeed attractive and lovable, which his many fans affirmed each time he posted a new selfie, I had to stop hoping for love with him and settle for a platonic friendship. It would have been too frustrating to love someone who felt doomed to victimhood. Even though I have been deaf since eight months old, pity has never interested me. * We are so constantly judged critically and unfavorably by others that when we enter into a relationship, we want more than anything not to be judged. We are fully aware that we have many flaws; society makes sure that we know this central fact. Society says we shouldn’t feel so insecure about ourselves, and yet they are constantly ensuring that we remain insecure about ourselves. It is no wonder that so many of us feel like damaged goods. We want more than anything to be loved. When a man marries a faerie, it is a powerful statement far more than anyone may realize. It is a big fuck-you to society, whether it be gay or straight, who expects gay men to behave in a certain way. Who says they must wear matching tuxedos? Who says they must cut the wedding cake together? Who says they must follow the heteronormative Ameri20 RFD 156 Winter 2013
can Dream? The rights that come with legalized marriage are no doubt important for many reasons, but the statement of commitment is more powerful. It gives those of us who are true misfits hope that we too can be loved as we are, and not just good enough for hookups. A healthy relationship says: We are both different, so let’s communicate honestly here. We are different from other people, so we shouldn’t try to be like them. Let’s figure out what works for us, and for us only. A relationship, whether it is open or closed or poly or triad, is a powerful promise that love can be accepting and unconditional. * I was once in love with a handsome man who had a history of losing sexual interest the minute he’d fallen in love. He said: I’m usually the one who leaves, but I don’t want to do that to you. He said: Okay. I’m letting you in. He said: Let’s be boyfriends; it’s the right thing to do. He wanted to work overseas, and he thought we should marry there so I could live with him. But not once as my boyfriend did he say those three words to me. He was that terrified of uttering those three words. He couldn’t have missed how deeply I’d loved him. In the end, he forced me in his passiveaggressive way to break up with him. This way, if he wanted to, he could claim it was I who broke up with him. I felt a long bout of sadness and anger afterward, but in time I’ve come to feel a vast pity for him. A man so afraid of truly loving the man with whom he is having sex on a regular basis is a sad and unhappy creature indeed. This will be what I remember of him long after I’ve forgotten his face. He is already a ghost. * It all comes down to the way our hands speak to each other. At first our fingertips are alive with the new language of another man’s body in that intoxicating rush of discovery. The contours, the suppleness, the intensity is a different country. Love is suddenly a language with new dialects you hadn’t heard before. It is a joy to master such new idioms. The way we touch each other merely affirm the words floating in the air between us. Sometimes we feel as
if we’re getting drunk from the source of life itself when we look at each other for a long moment. It is such a glorious and astonishing feeling that, if we choose to remember in the darkest hours of our lives together, will sustain us when we question why anybody would want to stay together. The more a couple spends time together, the more memories they create together to be laughed about in the years ahead. Love becomes a scrapbook, scruffed-up, bruised, and yet cherished. * Friends have asked me if I still miss the man I lived with for fifteen years. In the beginning it was hard, yes, but not so much anymore. Yet there are certain things I still miss. Holding his hand while watching a movie on the giant TV screen. Going together to a party filled with literati and glitterati. Eating a scrumptious meal together in a restaurant. The hot sex we had together in our early years is a dim memory. I remember the other things a lot more. They represent a language different from the ecstatic discoveries we’d made about each other in our softly-lit bedroom; they have a more concrete shape, a stronger tactile feel. This memory means we did experience this together. That memory means we did love each other. And the rest, well—it’s a little painful to remember them all because it would hurt to think that we’d somehow failed each other. * It’s easy to know when a man has become less interested in you. He touches you less and less, and by then you’ve become a couple quite familiar, and perhaps occasionally annoyed, with each other’s quirks. The two of you will turn old and flavorless like many other couples walking beside each other on the street. Sometimes these couples converse with each other; mostly not. They do their talking late at night when they turn out the lights. Speaking with slowed-down breaths at close distance, silence has become their secret language. Knowing this gives me hope. How I long to hear again that language of love with another, for it sings so tenderly in the hearts of those long accustomed to each other, and how they can’t bear to be without each other! * To connect with another is to feel everything, but to stay together is to remember everything. w
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Photo by Cory Thorell and Colton Baumgartner
Love is My Religion by James Benedict
The urge to put another tattoo on my self, and yet another, comes on me like the urge to go out and cruise… so strong you feel almost choked beneath it… —Sam Steward
n the annals of body inscriptions motivational factors loom large. Telling the stories of various tattoos, the inscribed person invariably discloses salient aspects of his or her biography. Factored into their skin, narratives unfold as life events, for instance a declaration of love or a writ in memory of someone near and dear. Moreover, contingent episodes proliferate in these narratives, perhaps a night out on the town that for unfathomable reasons ends in a tattoo parlor, where a souvenir is imprinted on the body. Whether the motif is random or planned, it carries varying degrees of emotional charges. Until a quantitative study indicates otherwise, it seems fair to assume that love is the major motivational factor behind the impulse to get a tattoo. The frequency with which the names of lovers, parents, friends or pets occur on undraped bodies, points to an atavistic need to consolidate such bonds with a ritual tattoo, engraving the name of the beloved to counter the inevitable separations that await us all. Orientation towards the past grounds us in foundation narratives. However, tattoos that celebrate bygone bonds are not necessarily inspirational to new lovers. Waking up in the morning next to an acquaintance, who might become a partner, and discovering a catalogue of names of previous lovers inked into his skin, could be a turn-off. Imagining your name on the list of former conquests is not a flattering perspective, and other speculations might contribute to a downgrading of the newcomer from potential partner to one-nightstand-best-forgotten. Of course we all have pasts, but if we tell everything at once, our conversations become dull. When we first meet potential friends, lovers, and partners, unspoken agreements help us perform as semblances of blank slates. In most meetings such a persona or mask can be advantageous to both parties in a communicative situation. There is always competition against time and circumstance, and if we make selective disclosures of our biographies, we may succeed in creating advantageous communication that can lead to interesting meetings with friendship and partner potential. If conventional tattoos reveal too much about our
pasts, yet exercise an irresistible appeal as enchanting signs, one might attempt to find a middle way, a design that celebrates important bonds, while also remaining discreet. In the gym one such communicative solution approaches on a naked body walking out of the showers and opening a locker next to mine. The animated male physique sports a number of tattoos celebrating symbols of love, but no names are evident. Instead the heading LOVE IS MY RELIGION hovers on the sympathetic man’s chest. The umbrella statement creates a meta-discourse to human bondage which for contingent reasons may have developed corrosive edges. With this communicative strategy the young man declares his commitment to a primal impulse with a greater appeal than a list of ex-lovers. He thereby avoids the connotations of dying love with attending quarrels, and moves on to score another important tactical point: while few could appreciate a catalogue of former conquests, most would welcome a commitment to an archetypal principle of love. The tattooed man’s desired others would be able to reflect themselves in his mission statement and the love symbols on his skin. The diplomatic confession emphasizes the man’s experience, self-knowledge, and commitment to love. Instead of representing himself as a jaded lover with a string of failed relationships to his name, he appears as a potential mentor in the games of love, an aficionado prepared to share his profound knowledge of the pleasures developed in a relationship. Putting a competent spin on a trite subject, the tattoo presents the man as a pillow book, a page-turner whose potential disseminations can educate seeking souls in the classical narratives of the body. Enchanted by his professed proficiency as a source of love, young seekers would want to sign up for tantric instructions and master classes in his variations on the Kama Sutra, joining his list of star students and preferably imprinting their names on his skin. However, he wisely declines such invitations to be signposted, knowing that sensitive souls and precocious bodies attracted to his sensual prowess are preparing to arrive on his doorstep. Compromising his skin with a list of former lovers would in his religion be a major transgression, a faux pas that could jeopardize his future partnerships and transformations of significant others into independent erotic signs. w RFD 156 Winter 2013 23
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“Steal Your Crown” by Rene Capone
By Vinton Rafe McCabe
From the novel, Death In Venice, California, to be published by The Permanent Press in February, 2014
he detritus of their dinner—the slick, greasy burrito wrappers, blotted napkins and crumpled empty beer cans—lay strewn across the immaculate, deep pile carpet of the hotel suite. Jamison Frame felt the scratch of the boy’s scruff through the soft fabric of his own white cotton shirt, felt the heat of his exhalation, as the young man rested his heavy head against the older man’s chest. And Frame felt the sensations of his own body as well: his heartbeat, wild, erratic, the pains inside of him: physical mental emotional, the conflicting need to both pull the boy closer and push him away, the predominating desire to taste him. Slowly, the youth unwound his arms, drew back his touch, a promise seemingly offered, instead withheld. “Uh, Jimmy,” Chase said, “I need your help.” And, turning his lips against the flat of Frame’s chest as he slowly pushed himself upward, Chase lifted himself outward, upward, until he looked Frame in the eye. “Say you’ll help me, Jimmy,’’ the youth said as he fished first in the right pocket of his shorts and then in the left. “I want you to help me make art,” he said, gently biting his lower lip, making the word “art” sound somehow both vile and thrilling. He pulled something from his pants and handed it to Frame. The older man fumbled with the thing, not sure what it was or how to use it. Chase took it from him, pressed a button, flipped a small screen and showed him the video camera. He put it back into Frame’s hands. “Just look through here,” he said. As Jameson Frame held the camera up and looked into the viewfinder, trying to point the lens steadily at Chase, the boy stood up and walked into the bedroom. From the sitting room, Frame could see the lights go on, one, two three, and those on the cornices on the walls slowly flare up on their dimmer. The room was aglow as Frame walked into it. The boy was lying on the bed, with one foot lifted up to the ceiling, with the shoe he had just removed
bouncing lightly in his hands. He tossed the shoe to the floor, grabbed at the other and tossed it as well. His filthy feet looked a different color from the rest of his pale skin. Both feet bare, he rested his legs wide on the bed. Laughing, he made a snow angel in the deep pile of the coverlet, bunching the fabric around him in a swirl. “Come on, Jimmy. It’d be so great. I needed a place to tape this and then I remembered this room (his midnight eyes sparked as he said this) from the other night and it just seemed so right.” He bounced up on his hands and knees, face pointed at Frame. “Dude, you just got to say yes…” He rolled his eyes at the older man and sat back on his haunches, reaching his hands out, imploringly. Frame, feeling the moment of possibility recede with each second of silence on his part, blurted a sudden fervent “Yes!” And then, to the sound of the younger man’s laughter, he spoke once more. “I mean, I’ll do my best,” said Frame. “Jimmy, we’re gonna make some art!” the boy crowed. And he reached in his pants and brought out a fat hand rolled cigarette and a pack of matches, embossed with the crest of the hotel’s outdoor cafe, both of which came from a zip-locked sandwich bag in his pocket. Before Frame could protest, the boy said, “This comes first. It helps the art.” He struck a match to the cigarette and inhaled deeply. Frame, suddenly nervous that the smell of the thing would reach the hallway, quickly closed the bedroom door. Seeing this, the boy sputtered with laughter and issued a cloud of smoke that obscured his face. “Man, Jimmy. I mean, man!” he cried, snorting. Then he patted the floor next to him and said, “Come here.” Frame sat on the floor next to the boy, feeling achy enough throughout his body that he had no intention of refusing the smoke. He inhaled as deeply as he dared and found that he was able to hold the smoke down without choking. He continued to hold his breath and stared intently at his feet. Finally Chase said, “Breathe, Jimmy,” and the older man exhaled with a loud cough. He took another drag on the joint before returning it to Chase. “It doesn’t take much, Jimmy. You don’t have to RFD 156 Winter 2013 25
work so hard.” “I can remember doing this a hundred years ago,” Frame said, allowing his head to slide down the bed a bit to rest on the fleshy part of Chase’s arm. “Yeah?” said Chase with genuine surprise. He looked at the older man with something like respect. “Well, it’s a lot better now. You really only need a hit or two.” Chase said as Frame again took possession of the joint. “That’s it now.” Chase said as Frame inhaled deeply, the joint held between his thumb and index finger with his palm curled under. The boy took back the joint and let it rest on his lower lip as he got up, and searched for something he could use to snuff it out. He flattened it against the keycard that Frame had thrown on the dresser. Then he put the joint back into the baggy, and that back into his pants pocket. His shoulder support removed, Frame had fallen to the floor, where he laid on the thick carpet, curled on his side. From there, he watched Chase as he moved about the room, considering the flow of the muscles in his body to be something richly, tenderly miraculous. “You okay, Jimmy?” Chase asked the grinning man. “Fuck. I hope so.” And he squatted and lifted Frame’s dead weight, resting him against the bed again. He held the man’s face in his hands, stared into his eyes and shook the older man’s head again and again. Frame grinned at him and opened his mouth wide with a smile. “Fuck, Jimmy,” said Chase, laughing. “We better make us some art!” He got up and went into the sitting room, only to return moments later with Frame’s shiny laptop. He sat down on the floor again next to Frame, who, cunningly, brought his head once more slowly, slowly, down the side of the bed until his lips this time touched the meat of Chase’s arm. He kissed his bicep softly, hoping the boy would not pull away. Chase gave a vague wave in the air, as if a mosquito were annoying him. His fingers flew on the keyboard. His website appeared and he moved the cursor down the left side of the page, pointed to a link labeled “Secret Sanctuary” and pressed it. Another page appeared. At the top was a picture of Chase quite nude trussed up against a tree in the outdoors. His arms were tied up over his head. The position of his body suggested a saint, suffering. Peter. Sebastian. His disposition was of one brought to ecstasy through suffering. His long, heavy penis swayed between his legs. Frame read what he could of the words on the page without moving his head from Chase’s arm. “See, Jimmy, this is the part of the site that guys 26 RFD 156 Winter 2013
pay to belong to. And we stay in touch, you know? They email me and suggest some things and if I want to do it, I do, but after telling them what the price is. He moved the cursor over a button. “See, I take PayPal.” “So, you make art to order?” “Yeah, Jimmy, yeah. It’s all art to order. That’s what makes it special. It’s like a private conversation between the two of us. They tell me what he want to see and, if it feels right, if I like the guy, I show them. “Sometimes it’s like I can feel them watching.” He said quietly. “And sometimes I hold an auction with some of the stuff from my shoots. Props. Underwear. Long johns. And they get to say whether they want me to wash it first or not. It’s extra if I don’t.” The boy laughed. “So they tell me what they want me to do and, when the price gets high enough, I think about it… then I usually go ahead and do it, whatever.” “And tonight?” “Some of the Chasers wanted me to make a jerk off video and I thought it’d be great if I could make it with me in some place nice. And I thought about you and being in your bed and I wanted to make this art with you, Jimmy.” “That’s nice. I’m happy that you thought of me,” Frame said, strangely moved at the idea. “So, okay?” asked Chase. “Yeah,” said Frame, “Okay.” “Fuck, yeah,” said Chase, extending his hand for Frame to shake. When the older man took it, the younger pulled him into a tight embrace, smacking Frame’s back hard with his free hand. “Fuck,” said Frame, out of breath from the grip. “Yeah,” he sighed, melting into the embrace. Remembering the boy’s feet in the air, Frame said, “Well the first thing you really want to do is take a good hot shower, scrub yourself clean.” “Hey, great man, we’ll start in the shower,” said Chase as he walked to the bathroom, tossing first his shirt and then his shorts into the air behind him. When Frame got the camera up and running, Chase was already standing under a steady stream of water. “Keep an eye out it doesn’t get too hot,” Chase told him. “If there’s too much steam it will ruin the shot. So we want just enough. Keep the bathroom door open just a little and open and close it to control the steam. Frame looked at the boy. He stood in the shower quite perfectly, with his head and face tipped forward enough to keep his hair dry.
“Are you running yet?” “Yeah,” said Frame. “Go ahead.” As he attempted to follow the action with the camera, Chase lowered his white briefs and soaked them in the streaming water. He tugged the front of his briefs down to expose the base of his penis and a small mound of dark hair that flowed out from the trail of hair above. He stuck his hand down into his briefs, grasping himself, and looking directly into the camera. Frame kept the camera locked onto the boy’s crotch. “No, Jimmy,” said Chase angrily. He turned off the water and stepped out of the shower, letting his briefs snap back up into place. “Look, Jimmy, you have to tell a story with the camera.” He held out his hand for it and took the camera away from Frame. “You have to move it, let it run smooth against my skin,” he said, pointing the camera lens at his own leg and slowly pulling it up the length of it, filming each muscle as he slowly shifted them to best effect. “You just let it rest a bit on my dick, but then you have to move on. They want to see my face. They think they only want to see my cock, but they really want to see my face.” “You have to do some shots where you pull out and some where you push in,” he said, now moving the lens in toward his foot again until it rested in a tight shot. “You have to do all that so that I’ll have something to edit later. You can’t just stare at my cock the whole time. Where’s the art in that?” With that, Chase shoved the camera back into Frame’s hands and stepped back into the shower. This time, Frame started with Chase’s face; he focused the camera on the pout in his eyes that his lips soon copied. And the boy slowly, beautifully, pulled his head under the spray of the shower, keeping his face perfectly still and erect, then allowing his face to register first a quiet hunger and then a vague amusement. With each breath, the boy’s face shifted again, giving a new emotion, expressing an internalized sexual thrill. As his hands moved to the briefs once more, Frame instinctively moved the camera down across the wiry hair of the boy’s chest, to the mountain range of his abdominals appeared in tight focus. Again the boy played with himself, jostled his cock for the camera, exposed his balls. And Frame pictured there a cut to his face, to an expression of secret thrill and began to understand better the art of filmmaking. This segment done, Frame lost his shirt and pants
to the steam and pointed the camera again at the youth. Chase lowered his body slowly, keeping his legs long and muscular for the shot and then pulled off his briefs, wringing them out with a laugh, and hung them on the rod of the shower, while moving his body again under the rain of the shower, letting a thousand threads of water play down his body. He showed flank to the camera, and ass. He took Frame’s loofah down and soaped it with Frame’s goat milk soap and rubbed it hard across his skin. He covered his hair and face with suds and rinsed them away, spitting a fountain of water from his pink lips, which Frame caught in a beautiful close shot. At last, he turned off the water and stepped out of the shower and languorously dried himself with the hotel’s deeply plush bath sheet, bringing a pink glow to his porcelain skin. He gathered the towel loosely at his waist and looked at Frame. He made an “okay” sign with his fingers and said, “All right, Jimmy, let’s see what we got.” He took the camera and, walking into the bedroom once more, attached it with a cord from his shorts pocket to the laptop. He stood there, damp, towel at his waist, watching the video and tutting from time to time over the camera work. Frame stood behind him, unbearably close, inhaling him as he watched the screen. Chase set the computer down and turned to him. His lips smiled, his eyes hard in appraisal. After a second, the warmth returned to his face. “You did really well, Jimmy,” he finally said. “Man, I knew you could do it, and, dude, you sure as fuck did it.” He slapped Frame on the shoulder. “Now, we’re going to start with the camera in this room, aimed at the bathroom door, which is ajar. I’ll come out with the towel on, and drop it just as I pass the camera and you’re shooting me from behind. So make sure to play down enough to get my ass in the shot. Not tight on my ass, but my ass is the star of the shot. “Then we’re going to get me on the bed. I lean over it and climb up on one knee. That’s when you can get a great shot of my ass and my balls from behind. Then I’ll roll over onto my back and, now that we got all the preliminary stuff, we can get to the main event.” “Yeah?” asked Frame, dry-mouthed. “It’s a jerk-off video, dude. Just do what you did in the shower, it was great,” he said, hitching up the towel a bit. “Face and dick—that’s what they all want, RFD 156 Winter 2013 27
with long, slow crawls all over my body, like their hands were all over me. “And whatever you do, don’t miss my cum shot.” By the time he had finished with the recording, Jameson Frame, wobbly though he might be, was no longer ashamed of his own erection that shot forth from the opening in his boxers. He put the camera aside and looked at Chase, instead of squinting through the camera’s undersized viewfinder. The youth, who lay supine on the California king, said, “Don’t I get a towel? Dude, I need a towel.” And Frame went into the bathroom to fetch one, so that he might wipe the boy’s hand and dab away at the streaks of semen that covered his chest. “Did we miss any, Jimmy?” the boy asked, tucking his chin in as he pushed his head against the high pile of soft pillows, his dark hair fell perfectly into his eyes. The man approached him and saw and wiped the ejaculate from his groin and pubic hair with the tip of the towel. The young man stretched his arms and legs and squirmed in the sheets. Drops of cum continued to accumulate at the head of his penis. “Ooooohhh, I think I got your sheets all sticky, Jimmy. Is that a problem, that I got your sheets all sticky?” He inserted a finger into his mouth and pulled it out with a popping sound, slapping his hard stomach with his right hand and said, “Ahhhhhh, Jimmy, I feel so good.” Suddenly, he emitted a long, loud fart and laughed. “Oh, Jimmy, your poor sheets!” And the boy threw the top sheet up and off his body, so that it fluttered down again, covering the whole of him, from head to feet. As the cloth settled, Frame studied the shape of him as he rattled with laughter, his form a bas-relief map of desire. The wide shoulders, the carved chest, the penis still nearly erect, the legs long and lean, the huge feet, hands and head. His hands appeared again on the topside of the sheet and yanked it down over his mussed hair and his face, holding it tightly at the chin, like a frightened virgin. He looked at Frame as if seeing him for the first time. “Hey, Jimmy,” he said, hitting the word with a low note in his otherwise high pitched voice. “What about you?” Frame reached a hand up under his shirt and scratched his stomach and said nothing. 28 RFD 156 Winter 2013
“Come here,” said Chase. Frame went to the bed again and sat. From under the sheet, he could feel the curve of the boy’s body as it smoothed around him. “Do you want me to help you?” the youth asked. And his hand moved close to the erection that still stood out from between Frame’s legs. The young man hesitated and then, with just the light touch of the tips of his fingers he stroked the head of the older man’s penis. Frame shuddered and closed his eyes. “Does that feel good, Jimmy?” It did. His touch, this touch, this perfect, longedfor contact with the object of his love and lust rendered Jameson Frame quite speechless. He nodded. “What else do you want me to do, Jimmy?” Chase asked in a husky whisper. Frame opened his eyes to the rasp of the voice, hoping to see on his face a sign of desire. But the youth had closed his eyes and his face was a perfect mask of immaculate disinterest, his calm symmetrical features showing nothing. Frame said to Chase, “I think I will take a shower,” and went into the bathroom to leave the youth to do as he liked. Under cover of the hot steam, Frame pleasured himself, recalling all that he had seen through the lens of his camera and how Chase had played with him through it, revealing that which he wanted the reveal: the look on his face as the moment came in which he knew he could not hold back any longer, the arch of his back, the curl of his toes, the grunt, and the moan that accompanied his orgasm. The moment in which his beautiful face seemed ugly, when his heavy brow pushed down into his face and a guttural “Uh, uh, uuuhhhh,” caught in his throat. He’d loved how Chase’s face and neck turned quite red and the roughness with which he clutched his own organ. He loved the sweat on him, the scent of it and of his cum filling the room. He loved that he and he alone could smell it, could feel the stickiness of it as he wiped him gently with the towel. He loved the fact that he found it all quite beautiful as it unfolded, as the boy gave himself unstintingly to the camera. His beauty made the act one of supreme beauty. His slow build to an explosive orgasm captured for all time like an object caught in amber. This brief moment caught forever, when a boy at the peak of his youth and beauty shared the pleasures of his body in innocence and simplicity. They had, it seemed, made something rather like art. w
Poems by Billy Malone
9/15/2013 I’ve done all that before. You need to know, and yes, you do it all yourself too I know. It’s when they come hands up in musky waves and All over, praised are you in your naturalness No longer afeared of your insides, They see you inside out like you never have Taste rock and sea and see you then like me. Through mine own eyes have you you never regarded And without the breath stop brilliance of which accused Unseen from THIS* side of reflection. I have, though. *Orig: “THAT”
Stand there in the dew, Still, for about you Comes an evanescence. But plantar-praised Am I pushed Prostrated underfoot Braised among light Up, down, left, right Back, forth your eye alights Refracted into mine Though to you I look bland as night No remarkable features to discern And nothing here for you to learn. If blindness be your saving lord, Good, then, pass you by without a word.
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October By Lindsey Drury
My parents must’ve been good people, because when I realized I liked a girl I didn’t even hate myself. I didn’t pray at night that God would fill me with the estrogen he’d somehow forgotten, or a longing for testosterone that maybe I’d misplaced. All I longed for were her tits in my hands. I didn’t even care. Until it was her hand in my hand. I didn’t care until she told me she couldn’t handle the stares. In October, I saw a life with her. When everything was dying, we were trying to grow in a fermented soil. It was a red and rotting evening, yet we thrived. I swear we were chlorophyll to the brim in a time when only pumpkins smiled, and our wildest dreams came true that night we kissed. And then Holi came, and we sent a lantern into the mist. We knew we’d never get it back. Hands in pocket, rubbing thigh, goodbye ease. Our nights were never simple after that. Tease, tease, tease. Our clocks would almost strike midnight and then reverse and our love boat would capsize from the jolt. Pressure. The mess her bed was left in after we discovered each other, I won’t get into it. The mess is not the point it’s the pressure.
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It’s the pressure of ‘put your clothes back on’, so we don’t have to see each other for too long. Not long enough to realize what we’ve done. It’s the difference between ‘be quiet, your parents might wake up’, and ‘be quiet, your parents might never look at you the same’. Be quiet love, this mess will be a stain whether you’re crying or not. If you’re bleeding or not, these sheets will still run red. If one day you figure it all out, your brain will still pulse denial. And if it doesn’t, come to me, and I’ll remind you why it should. Passion wilts quickly between spread fingers, and pages of books. I mean I’ve seen a lot of words but done little reading some years. Even so, it always comes back to October, where shadows greet me and lanterns return. My hatchet is missing by now. My voice is shaking. Thank God for my parents. Or maybe I’d be making ends meet instead of poetry. It’s a funny thing how status affects clarity, and how static tingles at monotony. You promised me we’d be best friends forever. Thank God for my parents, and thank God for October.
Dangerous Trees By Nadja Bederven
the morning you came home from the psych ward, i smiled. you held me for the first time in months and the perspiration between these bodies soaked through sheets. when it thunders i run for the shelter of the most dangerous tree. thus far this has protected me.
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On Options by Kaš
ruising for sex online has never been easier. Or more obnoxious. As much as I would like to say I don’t have anything to do with quick encounter, fast-fuck internet solutions to horniness, I am definitely a victim. Nothing to be pitied for, but I find myself falling into the tropes of the douche who never answers back, or the guy who cancels last minute just because I don’t feel like going through the whole rigamarole once again. I used to pride myself on sticking to the plan, being honest and not too shallow. Unfortunately those ideals have gone out the window because when I am “looking” it tends to be driven by a purely self-indulgent, superficial desire to release. Cum. And then I also find myself on the other end, with the guy only ever responding after I have just wanked off or never ceasing even when I have hinted otherwise. I think it’s disgusting how much cruising manipulates our inherently superficial perspectives – symmetrical face, nice bod, big cock +++! - to try and forge ultimately meaningless connections in most cases. Not that we aren’t subjects to “first-impressions” in real life anyways. But it’s really taken to the next level when you can’t hear someone’s voice, watch their behavior, or understand how they think by being in their presence, physically. Nothing can compare to that interaction and the energy, vibes, chemistry involved in those moments. But the reason I keep going back is because it does fulfill some wild fetish I have. The in-n-out, quickie, one-stop-get-off, down-to-the-last-minute rush of a sexcapade I never get with my partner. Yes, I have been dating a beautiful, loving, generous man for almost two years now. And I don’t plan on moving on from it anytime soon. But, since sex to me is such a cathartic activity that translates directly to adult play, and a way to interact intimately with another being, I enjoy partaking in it with other individuals who are open to similar interpretations. I don’t consider it cheating because I am not particularly emotionally invested in my sex partners beyond the act itself. I don’t have sustained affairs. There is nothing really deep about the encounter. Sometimes they are friends, other times a new stranger. But every time they provide for a fresh experience that can be tricky, awkward, crazy or not. And it keeps my sex life with my partner stimulating 34 RFD 156 Winter 2013
and something I cannot wait to get back to. Having a healthily promiscuous lifestyle has taught me that sex isn’t everything, no matter how much of a horndog I am. Yeah, it’s fucking important, don’t get me wrong. And I do believe that intentionally intimate sex helps in the foundations of a strong relationship. However, it isn’t the glue. I do believe that if it boils down to sex as being the problematic issue in a partnership, then there wasn’t much else holding it together to begin with. Communication was off. Or something never really clicked, but the couple kept trucking on. Sex should not be the cornerstone, and I think most people would agree. But(t) sex is too much fun. Sweat, sounds, smells and the primal nature of man-to-man contact is hot. Also, something about adding anonymity into the mix makes it that much more risque, taboo, desirable. That’s precisely why online hookups work for me. I’m not trying to find another boyfriend. I am not trying to invest more than my dick in the situation. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In fact, if I can aid in the mutual pleasure of someone else getting off, then perhaps these meet-ups are actually making the gay community a more relaxed, less sexually frustrated place (high hopes...). I also don’t think it’s hurting my relationship by any means. I know we both search from time to time. And I don’t use it or go fuck other men around the clock. (To be honest, since I am vers and my partner is always the bottom, I like to look for tops to fill that void, literally.) But it’s nice to know I have the choice and that, although we tease and give each other a hard time about cruising, my partner and I are confident and secure enough in our relationship to let it happen. Why not? We have tried the whole threesome/orgy thing, which wasn’t bad, but our personal dynamic gets lost, and that’s what we enjoy about our personal sex. So most of the time we play separately. And maybe we will continue for a long time or maybe sometime it will just stop. We don’t know, nor do we worry about it. We let our curiosities, or fantasies, run their course. Hilariously, “don’t ask, don’t tell” is how we operate. We never pose questions, and there are never really any concerns. And we love each other more for the openness we have. So, as much as I hate how impersonal, emotionContinued on page 61
Circling Around Faeries by Hyperion
The heart is a tricky thing How do you touch it and not get blood on your hands? But if one is afraid of blood why bother? Not easy to say for one slouching back toward Vegetarianism Months -- years - decades, attempting community. Not easy for the product of dysfunctional family. Besides, what do most modern Americans know about community? Still, it’s something many of us want. Have we forgotten how? Is herding cats anything like herding primates? But then, I do know “herding” is starting off on the wrong foot, Especially for those on a deprogramming journey. I feel maybe I owe an apology. An apology to the Universe for taking myself too seriously. If you’re part of the Universe, you can partake. Sorry if I can get offended. Sorry if I haven’t always had the right drugs to dispense. Sorry for trying to exercise some quality control in my experience. Sorry about my sulfuric acid wit. Maybe it’s enough to just say “I love you”. Or as in the Ho’oponopono mantra, “I’m sorry, please forgive me, I Love You”. The mind can only take you so far into the Dance. Then you have to lose it. But then you’ll probably find yourself, like a dervish, dancing into some kind of a circle. Even if it’s that one that takes you birth to death to birth. As you sink into the Center of All Things. However, if it is a deliciously magic circle, (Keep an eye out for mushrooms!) And if you notice and really feel it, A flower opens inside. And it will break through to reveal A larger circle Ad infinitum. And if you know the Goddess Whose tides pull the blood from your heart, Or who might even look back at you from the mirror, Yo will know the words, “I am with thee always”. And “all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals”.
Page 32-33: “Passages” by Rene Capone
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by Nicole Amato
There is myth behind what you see, And how you watchYou could change the currents. Blue canâ€™t describe the strength of your hands Teasing the calm to a rush. A pulse ran through the water, Made waves from her breathing. Red describes her, you imagined, When you curled your fingers through the myth. From her chest spilled the ocean. A distance opened wider, shimmered, and sparkled. Your eyes, closing At the same moment Like wet paint, You made smudges and right angles.
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Fragments by Luis Edgardo Muñoz
“He conceived it in His mind, as if from outside, before it was created.” -Umberto Eco The Subset of the Moon and I Raised to an Infinite Power The mirror’s reflection Of a darker womb And the moon a cube Root of the stars Mighty Orion hunts Further into the sky Linger as one, wait. Now The endless glass began To crack for seven years. cmlxxxvii We could be nothing but patterns within A larger pattern, the night sky darkening And smelling of icy dust. Three ancient oaks Stand firm and stately in twenty mile an hour Gusts of warm wind. Am I happy? The moon Perched upon clouds, trash on an empty street, A pantomime which is almost perfect: An empty whiskey bottle is rolling In the wind, crossing slick mirror road And stopping. I almost heard the moon turn. Psilocybe Cubensis Meniscus These three blind eyes Return as remainder of the first Look he cast into her library Of colorless echoes. Higher, higher Still, this surface only a second, no A third surface, dark through cornea Thin as white light, a million eyes Passing by like frost crystal snowflakes Falling velvet to cement ground Sidewalk, a single word on velum Parchment paper, the passage palimpsest The dark defragmented, the dark, the dark… …my paperback copy is rainbeat and smelly And I cannot read in the dark, the dark… I’m Only Sleeping A light passes. By my window, the whole world Sleeps as well as I do, surely. When I am Awake I will be sure To discover the details of David Hume’s last night Here on Earth, for example: was the moon waning? Sleep
Deprivation cursed Archimedes and the Pythagoreans, Fibonacci, some Parallel universes. Hume died an atheist. He was never a pantheist. Go to sleep I will get me to a bed but where That bed shall be I do not know For I’ve not found a bed yet. A Drive, Light Rain, Sometime Between 1:61 and 3:14 a.m. I drove my truck Past your house But did not stop. I flicked a lit cigarette Out the door window Hoping to wake you. There’s a full moon Above your house. I drove my truck But did not stop. Both Homophobia and Selenophobia Converge on Apeirophobia The lonely desert is coming Dressed in a costume of brown sand and cold Monotone night, it is immanent. There is no one Here. What are you afraid of? I’m afraid of the moon Falling down to earth and crushing both The sky and my mind to nothing… …so, you are afraid Of nothing? Please wait, I’ve a secret to share: You and I are nothing But fragments of a spiral Fingerprint, her space eclipsed by A moon that is never full, craters drowned in light And we have nothing But each other. Then, there Will be time, An eternity To wait For now.
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How to Be a Successful Young Gay Male by Riley Zipper
e forced to go on shopping trips with twentysomething white females. Be expected to pick out coordinating outfits from acres of mismatched women’s clothing from Forever 21 for your “bitches.” Call your female friends “bitches”. But don’t mean it seriously because they’ll get pissed. Even though in your head you really think they are bitches because they’re forcing you to shop with them when all you really wanna do is go home and simultaneously masturbate and cry.
Make too many references to Sex and the City. You don’t even like that show that much. You’re totally a Carrie. Or are you Miranda? You don’t know because you don’t even like that show that much. Watch artsy independent gay films and complain about the lack of homosexual characters in mainstream American cinema to fellow members of the Gay-Straight Alliance on your college campus. They nod their heads in agreement as Lady Gaga plays 38 RFD 156 Winter 2013
softly in the background. Vow that if you ever make a film it will have a gay character as the protagonist. They nod their heads in agreement as the song changes to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin.” Everyone laughs at the irony. Check your Grindr profile. You live in a liberal college town so there are numerous men to choose from. You have a new message. Check it. Ew, he’s creepy-looking. And fat. Ignore his message and message other guys that look mildly attractive. Don’t get any responses. Chalk it up to bad Karma for not messaging the creepy guy back. You get a new text message. It’s that “straight” guy you’ve been sleeping with for the past few months that you insist you have no feelings for. “Wanna come over and watch Breaking Bad?” He says. You know this means he wants to fuck you. But you also really wanna watch the newest episode of Breaking Bad because you don’t get AMC in your dorm room. Plus, I mean, it’s sex. How can you pass that up? You arrive at his apartment. “Hey,” he says. “Hey,” you say back. You lean in to kiss him but he stops you. “Cameron’s in the kitchen, sorry.” “Let’s go to your room,” you say. You follow him to his room, saying hello to his roommate on the way. You reach his room. He locks the door quietly behind you. “You wanna watch it before or after?” He asks you. “Before.” You lie on his bed. He turns on the TV and lies next to you, but not touching you. He starts the episode. God this show is so fucking good. You try to cuddle with him, but he resists. He doesn’t really want to show you affection. Why do you like him so much? During commercial breaks you look around the room. There are photos of him and his girlfriend of four years. At the beach. At a baseball game. She visited last weekend. There’s a note on his desk from her. It says, “I love you Matty!” You call him Matthew. Matthew sounds better. That stupid bitch. The episode ends. It was incredible. You don’t really feel like having sex after watching it but you’re already here so you might as well. You have sex with him. It’s not as good as it used to be. When Photo courtesy of the author
he kisses you it doesn’t feel as real as it used to feel. He’s also gained a little weight. But you like how he’s a little chubby. You can’t explain why. You wanna tell him you love him but you don’t know why because there’s no reason why you should love him. Plus, you don’t love him anyway, right? No, you don’t. It’s late now. He turns on Sportscenter. You try to understand what they’re talking about but you really don’t give a shit. He won’t even lie on the bed with you now. Why doesn’t he ask you to just hang out? Take you on a date? You wanna ask him why. You don’t. You get up, give him a short kiss, and leave. You check your Grindr again on the bus. No new messages. Nobody likes you. You swear to yourself that after Breaking Bad is over you’re never gonna have sex with Matthew again. You’re gonna break it off and move on with your life. You insist you don’t care about him like he doesn’t care about you. Why doesn’t he care about you? You go to your room and get high. You cry during Love Actually. You masturbate during Boogie Nights. You write in your diary for a bit then go to bed. It’s morning. You go outside and see a guy and a girl holding hands. You resent them for being normal. What’s normal anyway? Not me, you think. You wonder if he’s cheating on his girlfriend with another guy like Matthew. You think about Matthew and his girlfriend holding hands. A lump forms in your throat. You shake your head to get the image out and think of a hot guy. You wonder why you’re expected to use the word “sassy” so much. In class you obligatorily compliment a girl on her handbag. She smiles and thanks you. You probably made her day. It wasn’t even that cute. It was gaudy. But you just wanted to feel liked for a moment. You walk around campus. Your ass looks really good in your new jeans. Your hair is in perfect position and your expensive designer sunglasses shield your eyes so you can check out guys without them noticing. You perform a sexuality analysis on every guy you pass. Straight. Straight. Straight. Gay, but ugly. Straight. Straight. Definitely gay. Back in your room, you masturbate and decide to write a little. You swear to yourself that you’re definitely gonna say something to that guy in your philosophy class that was eyeing you today. Monday. On Monday, you’re gonna do it. Your mom texts
you. “How was your day?” You insist that it actually means, “You’re a disappointment and I wish I never had you.” You text “Fine” and masturbate again. Your friend calls you and says she’s going to a party tonight and asks if you’ll go with her. You’d rather stay in and watch an Ingmar Bergman film, but you decide you’ll go. Maybe you’ll see some cute guys. At the party, you wash down a Xanax with some jungle juice that tastes like vodka, Mike’s Hard Strawberry Lemonade, and roofies. You hit on a couple straight guys that look a little curious but they aren’t biting. In a benzo and alcohol haze, you scan the room. You see that guy from your philosophy class. He looks over at you and you make eye contact. You wave. He comes over. Your heart beats fast. “Andrew!” He says, only barely slurring his words and putting his arm around you. He put his arm around you? Oh shit! You like that he called you Andrew and not Andy. “Trevor! It’s so good to see you!” You say, rubbing his back a little with your free hand. You think that was a dumb thing to say. “I’m glad I saw you here, Andrew, cause I’ve been wanting to ask you something.” “Oh yeah?” “Do you wanna go out with me sometime?” Your heart skips a beat. “Yeah! I’d love to,” you say, smiling and rubbing his back a little more. “Awesome! Do you wanna dance?” You remember that as a gay man you’re also expected to be a really good dancer. You’re only decent at best. But you don’t care. “Yeah! I love this song!” You really don’t love this song but you felt like that was a good thing to say. “You’re a good dancer!” you shout over the music He kisses you before you can finish “dancer”. He tastes like alcohol and strawberries. Your two favorite things. “Am I a good kisser too?” He says. “Yeah. The best.” w
RFD 156 Winter 2013 39
by Patrina C. Jones
Secrets persist Even though they Never really happen Behind closed doors. They can be heard. You see them even if Reached at the right Place at the right Time. Even when the Day bends the light Low enough to see in, Though dimmed, it Is possible to know, To feel what has never Been known to Anything or anyone But God. No such thing As a secret Because Secrets come From outside, From some idea Long known, lost Tales once told. They are In there, known, Waiting for the Elements to gain Courage. Waiting for the Signal.
40 RFD 156 Winter 2013
The Porn You Should Be Watching By Roscoe Hudson
he laptop I am using to write this essay belongs to the university I work for. It was assigned to me two years ago after I attained full-time employment status, and I am grateful for it because I couldn’t afford one like it on the modest salary I am paid. This computer, as school property, should be used only for institutional purposes (even using it to write this essay, technically, exceeds the scope of its intended purpose) and the administration will quickly fire any employee using one of its computers to visit objectionable websites. To avoid the university’s proscriptions, I have another laptop at home that I use to conduct more provocative Internet searches. To put it bluntly I have a porn laptop. Ten years old, two inches thick and slow as molasses in January, my porn laptop caught a virus two weeks ago, putting me on a porn hiatus, cut off from my usual licentious virtual romps and voyeuristic kicks. Luckily I own an extensive collection of skin flicks on DVD and VHS, not to mention pornographic novels, comic books and short story collections. My home is a veritable cornucopia of erotic art. I’ve been a fan of pornography since I was a small boy and stumbled upon a library of hardcore porn beneath my grandparents’ mattress: my grandfather’s private stash of glossy hardcore X-rated magazines, Swedish cartoons and clinical textbooks and pictorials with titles like Sex in a Marriage and The Complete Anal Sex Guide. Knowing what I know of my grandparents’ marriage, my grandfather’s debilitating alcoholism, my grandmother’s low-grade depression and the past out of which they emerged—impoverished blacks who migrated West from the Jim Crow South—it is highly unlikely though not improbable that my grandmother, a timid God-fearing woman who didn’t even know how to drive a car, participated in Granddaddy’s porn lust. This was his library, his assortment of naughty delights, and I can only assume he enjoyed them as I do, solitarily. If Granddaddy were alive today and had Internet access he’d probably go blind from viewing the overabundance of pornographic films and images available on the World Wide Web. Personally, I visit so many porn websites and have so many web accounts I can barely keep all of my passwords straight. Like finding and pairing the right wine with a good meal,
I go through a thoughtful process when I determine which video to select for jerk off sessions, browsing through an inventory spanning studio productions, basement budget gozno flicks, bareback porn, orgies, fetish/BDSM, amateur and all the hybrids subcategories included. This doesn’t even begin to address my straight porn preferences (I watch for the men, not the women.) I regard myself as a veritable sommelier of pornography. Aside from my endeavors in literary writing—essays, novels, poems and the like—I have a second writing career as an author of gay erotic fiction which I publish under a nom de plume. I began writing pornographic short stories two years ago. I really can’t determine exactly what the impetus for these writings was but I can guess. Several years ago in my MFA program a couple of peers were discussing Hogg by Samuel Delany in hushed tones during a break in our workshop. One of them suggested I order it from Amazon and read it. The copy she owned had been photocopied from another photocopy one of our instructors owned, actions which speak volumes about why this novel has for so long been confined to underground literary and artistic circles. Once I received the novel in the mail and read it I was aroused, repulsed, fascinated, awed, disgusted, and, frankly, a bit jealous of Delany’s talent. The novel chronicles with chilling detail the actions of Hogg, a truck driver and rapist for hire, and an eleven year old boy who willingly becomes Hogg’s concubine and accomplice as he and a group of bikers blaze a path of rape, assault, mayhem and destruction through an unnamed urban community. Though the subject matter is difficult to overcome— Hogg is not a novel for squeamish readers—I never realized pornography could be elevated to an artistic realm, that it was possible to merge grotesque scenes involving rape, pedophilia, incest, torture, and coprophilia with fluid writing and a strong message. And while my own pornographic literature doesn’t venture into Hogg’s extremes it does include graphic details of sexual intimacy between men which, believe it or not, isn’t easy to write. The success of fiction depends on a writer’s ability to achieve suspension of disbelief. When it comes to writing vivid, inventive descriptions of bodies and sex one must truly mine the depths of language, RFD 156 Winter 2013 41
experience and imagination to make those details believable, accurate and universal. In my porn fiction I strive to inform and entertain readers but no matter what I must always get them off. The best erotic fiction not only keeps readers turning pages, it makes their fingers sticky after they’ve put the book down. About eighteen months ago while perusing the offerings on Xvideos.com I happened upon a short animated video, one unlike any I had ever seen before. Its animation, color, and score were reminiscent of old Hanna-Barbara cartoons, early versions of The Flintstones, The Yogi Bear Show, Jonny Quest and The Huckleberry Hound Show. The video, alternatively titled Sophomores of ’64 and School Fantasy, spotlights the randy exploits of Coach Ben, a blond beefy-butt power bottom who lies on his back, gleefully spreads his hairy legs and offers his manpussy to three wiry high school students and a fellow faculty member in his office just off the boys locker room. The individual credited with making this video calls himself Animan. The sex in this as in all of Animan’s films is grounded in reality so that viewers can synesthetically experience what they see on screen, yet at a certain point the balance between reality and fantasy tips and the sex acts and scenarios defy plausibility. But that is what makes these cartoons so appealing: besides the enticing bodies and sex acts we see, we are also turned on by the fact that these improbable or impossible scenarios take place. Even live action pornography is limited by the corporeality of the real world. Animated porn, however, allows its creator to toss verisimilitude out the window. Viewers can still derive pleasure from what they see because while the characters may defy natural law they are still engaged in sex acts that take place in the real world. Most of us who create pornographic art maintain alternate lives and careers in the buttoned-up real world, and as such the maker of these cartoons calls himself Animan. Anyone interested in contacting him and ordering his films—which, for seven dollars a DVD are quite economical—will learn his name, but I will continue to protect his identity and refer to him as Animan in this essay. After finding Animan’s blog a year ago I decided to send him the following email: I’ve spent the entire weekend watching and rewatching all of your films on Gaytube. I stumbled upon School Fantasy on a porn site several months ago and was both entertained and aroused by Coach Ben’s nasty exploits. I’d been trying to find more of your films ever since and on Friday, to my great 42 RFD 156 Winter 2013
surprise, I found Twist Party online. It is my favorite of all your films, not only because of its orgasminducing, manic sex scenes that defy reality but also because of its retro setting, colorful animation and its take on sex. Your characters inhabit a world in which same-sex sex holds no stigma or shame and is devoid of political complications, and I think that’s what so many of your fans respond to. So much of gay porn is rough, mired in darkness and danger. Gay porn in 2012—populated by tattooed, steroid injected men who seem more concerned with looking good on camera and earning a paycheck— lacks the free spirited nature of your films. Each of your films exudes tremendous joy; watching them puts me in a very happy mood and a very horny mood. While 2012 porn stars busy themselves trying to be as gruff, aloof and masculine as possible, your characters, regardless of their size or station in life, delight in their sexuality and are genuinely secure in their masculinity. If all porn could be like your films I think there would be a distinct change in the . . . sexual attitudes of Western gay men. Animan was so flattered he decided to post the letter on his blog. From what I have surmised through our limited email chats and the tone of his blog posts, Animan strikes me as a man with a great deal of talent for drawing and animation who, like me, simply wants to create erotic art in his spare time. I know that in many of my erotic short stories I live out sexual fantasies that I cannot act upon in real life. I can only assume Animan is doing the same. Pornographic art is a labor of love in every sense. Writers, artists and sex workers who craft art that delves into the erotic possess a type of mettle peers outside the realm of eroticism can never know. Sex art amplifies the risk every artist assumes yet crafting it situates sex as the nexus for multiple cultural and political arguments to take place and strengthens non-porn artistic endeavors. Moralists scorn it and libertines champion it but between these opposing views the reality is pornography, when done well, is a legitimate form of art and should be taken seriously. Pornography serves as the only sexual outlet for untold numbers of individuals, especially gay men, closeted, single or married. Unlike straight men, who have more options and opportunities to fulfill their sexual desires, the number of men who engage in sex with other men is greatly limited, and if a gay man has a desire for a certain type of man or a certain fetish, his number of available partners diminishes further. Prudes, fanatics and moral crusaders that rail against pornography fail to understand this.
Loneliness and longing take many forms and are not always allayed by marriage, parenthood or close friendships. Moreover, individuals who have career aspirations or personal goals that for whatever reason they cannot achieve may experience dejection and unhappiness, and immure themselves in prisons of loneliness. This is especially true of artists who fail to actualize their dreams. Whether interim or long-term, pornography fills this void for both the creator and the spectator, enabling all involved to experience physical and psychological pleasure and satisfaction. Engagement with any form of art puts one in conversation with the artist. Moreover, gay men find brotherhood, acknowledgment and acceptance in pornography. Animan is welcoming us into his world and we are welcoming him into ours. In the creation and dissemination of his films, Animan transports us back to our childhood yet allows us to retain our adult minds and sexuality in the act of revising the cartoons of our youth for horny adult gay men. Though we view his cartoons with boyish glee we want to experience the manic bareback fucking that takes place in these films with charged carnality. Happening upon some of his cartoons on various porn sites on the Internet, a typical comment viewers make is, “I can’t believe I just jerked off to a cartoon.” Yet this isn’t at all unusual. Pornographic illustrations, drawings and cartoons predate live action porn films. Tom of Finland drawings, the most renowned gay erotica in history, remains the standard by which all gay pornographic art is judged. Beefcake magazines like Physique Pictorial and Young Physique provided an entire generation of gay men access to the gay male world during the 1950s and 1960s and supplied them an outlet to explore their sexuality. Even today cartoonists and photographers who specialize in gay pornography continue to fulfill the desires of countless men, and even some women. Animan’s films are unique, however, because they reflect the sexual desires and preferences of a single individual. Animan Studios, unlike Falcon Studios, Titan Media, Lucas Entertainment or Treasure Island Media, is a oneman operation in which the animator, illustrator, screenwriter, director, publicist and distributor are all Animan himself. This gives him carte blanche to do whatever he wishes. By watching his films, viewers take a journey into the fantasy life of one man, and what we see is a pleasure to behold. It is obvious that Animan has a penchant for middle-aged men who possess hefty, muscular physiques and large round buttocks, men with bodies one would expect to find in a bodybuilding magazine or a superhero
film. Just as Alfred Hitchcock transformed blonde actresses into icy, enigmatic goddesses, Animan ameliorates the muscle daddy from run-of-the-mill gay clone to wanton odalisque. The erect penis typically serves as the sight of gay eroticism but because of its exaggerated drawing, positioning and, obviously, because all the stars of his films are bottoms, the male buttocks functions as the center of erotic desire in Animan’s films. Indeed, the oversized muscle men in his films flaunt their bodacious rears and take great pride in their size and shape, but most of all they take pride in being bottoms. They enjoy bottoming and transmit this message to viewers by exhibiting unquestionably masculine traits while one man after another ruts inside of them. While his films impart many messages to viewers and accomplish several goals, they must be lauded for doing what live action gay porn seldom does: remove the guilt, shame and stigma associated with bottoming and allow men of all sizes, ages, races and expressions of gender to enjoy being penetrated without feeling powerless and inferior. The gem of Animan’s oeuvre has to be The Twist Party. Set in the early 1960s, the action unfolds at a groovy party in what appears to be the Hollywood Hills. Reminiscent of party scenes in Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Party, characters dressed in signature looks from the era shake, bounce and gyrate to snappy tunes, sip cocktails and eat from a lavish buffet. Spirits are high and the mood is festive. But the shindig gradually descends from a lively dance party to a drunken bacchanal that culminates in a chaotic, animalistic all-male orgy. The lead character, Bill, like all the stars of Animan’s films, becomes the locus of carnal pleasure and gets fucked by one man after another. A pumped-up Rock Hudson look-alike, Bill strips naked in the midst of the men’s drunken revelry then struts around the party, mimicking the movements of an sesasoned burlesque dancer, enticing all the men and heightening the already sexually charged atmosphere. And while none of the other men match him physically (adhering to a convention present throughout Animan’s films, the bottoms are muscular juggernauts while the tops, with some exceptions, are scrawny and boyish with enormous genitals) they dominate him the same way a pack of stray dogs would mount and inseminate a bitch in heat. Animan goes to great lengths to make sure each character in the film has his or her own style and appearance. Some of the men are tall, some short. Each has his own facial expressions, skin tone, muscularity or lack of it. The diversity of men Animan presents, from brawny to RFD 156 Winter 2013 43
fat, fit to scrawny, strikingly handsome to woefully unattractive, signifies his commitment to ensuring his films absorb the totality of gay male experience. Among the most notable motifs of the film is the presence of a beatnik dressed in a turtleneck and sporting a van dyke beard which gives him a Mephistophelian appearance. At three points in the film, alerting viewers to shifts in the plot, this character passes by in the foreground, his eyes closed, his fingers snapping along to music. His presence alerts viewers to the fact that so-called deviant acts are about to take place. When the orgy erupts each man is overcome with sexual arousal and acts upon it without shame or malice. Dissimilar from the sexual congress in many live action porn flicks, the orgy in The Twist Party is a celebration, not an act of warfare. Animan makes the internal cumshots visible, adding realism to the film while giving audiences the money shots they desire. Eventually every man at the party fucks every other man there, succumbing to alcohol-fueled debauchery while the women, confined to the perimeter of the room, look on, their eyes wide, their mouths agape, at a loss to comprehend what they are witnessing. Animan imagines a world where the male sex drive is so powerful and the bottoms are so alluring that all men regardless of their sexual orientation demolish inhibitions and societal barriers, yield to primal lust and delight in same-sex sex, leaving their wives and girlfriends stunned speechless. Animan’s need for an audience to view his films replicates in the films themselves. Often the participants in the sex act are being observed, as in School Fantasy’s sequel Coach Ben’s Big Beach Adventure where scores of women and men relaxing on a nude beach crowd around and watch, some expressing shock, others merely tsk-tsking, as blonde haired thick-bodied power bottom Coach Ben gets gangbanged by a succession of men. When two old ladies see what’s happening and alert the lifeguard to put a stop to it, he too joins in the action and “breeds” Coach Ben, signifying the dominant homophobic culture’s loss of power and authority. Same-sex sex as public spectacle not only violates cultural convention and rebels against heterosexism, it normalizes the act, propels it into the public sphere and forces society to gaze upon it, validate it, and accept it. In this regard, Animan’s cartoons are far more revolutionary than any Treasure Island Media fuck flick. Today’s gay porn lacks the breezy non-threatening appeal of Animan’s cartoons. Most gay porn stars, as I stated in my letter, exude a hypermasculine aura which, initially, thoroughly arouses 44 RFD 156 Winter 2013
the viewer. Yet prolonged engagement with these recklessly tattooed pumped up men reveals nihilistic tendencies—especially men in bareback porn, whose objective, one could argue, is swapping HIV back and forth to accelerate death—that sophisticated viewers may find difficult to overlook. With their chemically-enhanced muscles, over-inked bodies, wrathful stares and don’t-fuck-with-me attitudes, these models and the studios they work for have pulverized the playfulness and passion out of sex. The carefree spirit that once enlivened so many gay porn flicks is all but nonexistent in the new millennium, replaced by a grittiness that makes the flicks and the men who perform in them outlaws even in their own community. Instead of making their costars feel good, today’s porn stars seem hell bent on brutalizing them. While such actions are expected in rougher porn genres, studios that don’t specialize in fetish/BDSM have subtracted the pleasure from porn and replaced it with violent confrontation. No smiles, hugs, sensual kisses or caresses—today’s gay porn gets down to business quickly and often painfully. Perhaps, one could argue, the marked change in gay porn in the last decade reflects changes in gay culture. The fraternal ethos that for so long has unified gay men, particularly at the peak of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, has dispersed as class, generational and intercultural divisions among gay men have widened. As the LGBT community continues to advance its political aims, as more gay men come out of the closet and more gay couples marry and raise families, it seems we have begun to lose our common cultural and historical ties. We resemble straight society now more than we have at any other period in modern history. In one respect equality and acceptance by the dominant culture is exactly what we’ve wanted all along, yet I can’t help feeling that in our quest for inclusion we’ve sacrificed something essential about our community. The fact that many live action gay porn films have crossed into darker arenas of sexual expression which call for the participants to bring physical and psychological harm their costars or themselves signifies the community’s conflict over how gay and bisexual men will reconcile our double consciousness—the parts of ourselves that demand equality and the parts of ourselves that glory in our difference. The growing chasm in gay adult entertainment which pits condom-only studios against bareback studios has the potential to sabotage the collective aims of the entire LGBT community. Unfortunately, this nihilism has begun to spill out of the porn arena and into real life, as evidenced
by the growing number of A-list gay porn stars who have committed suicide, most recently Arpad Miklos, Wilfred Knight and Caleb Carter. Erik Rhodes, an exclusive star with Falcon Studios who died last year from a heart attack brought on by an overdose of steroid injections, chronicled his long struggle with depression on his blog. While fans consume their images, revel in their beauty and jerk off to the hot sex they have, we sometimes fail to realize that the porn stars we desire are real men subject to real life complications. Though stylized and hedonistic from the outside, porn is a hazardous profession. Porn stars place their physical and emotional health at great risk and make themselves vulnerable to disease, stalkers, and incarceration. They often endure financial instability, stormy romantic relationships, ostracization and public shame. Separating his public persona from his private life can be a lifelong struggle for a porn star. Pornographic images last in perpetuity: before they enter the adult entertainment industry, porn stars must come to terms with the fact that the sex acts they commit on film will be forever memorialized and remain the property of a studio that can distribute the films whenever it desires. Even if the studio they worked for shuts down the films remain. True porn fans like Granddaddy and I will always possess adult stars’ naked magazine spreads under our mattress, or, in my case, a VHS tape in my closet of former porn star turned singer Colton Ford going ass-to-ass on a double dong with Blake Harper. Adult film stars remain eternal prisoners of porn regardless where life takes them once they conclude their X-rated careers. Few porn stars, gay or straight, have successfully transitioned from porn to legitimate professions. Is it too far- fetched to conclude that the violence currently in vogue in gay porn is a manifestation of the stars’ rage, a way of lashing out an audience that consumes and discards them as they would a wad cum-smeared tissues? None of this, obviously, is a problem with the men in Animan’s cartoons. They need not trouble themselves with stage names, public personas, “cleaning out”, regular STD tests, stalkers, rent, bills, bench presses, squats, carbs or Viagra. They need not worry about how to transition from manly strict top to alluring versatile butch boy and maintain their status and cache in the adult entertainment industry. The non-porn world, rife with its boundaries, prejudices, assumptions, expectations and pronouncements, cannot infiltrate their territory; no concerns take their minds away from their work.
Even if an overly sensitive fan objects to bareback sex in one of Animan’s flicks dozens of other fans counter these protests with the obvious retort that the individuals performing these acts are cartoon characters, not flesh and blood men subject to disease and death. Animated porn provides its viewers the truly perfect sex scenario in that any hang-ups we have about the sex that takes place on screen is moot. It’s not real. And yet, men do object to some of Animan’s cartoons. No artist is without his critics. Animan has been taken to task for promoting bareback sex and pederasty (in all of his videos an older male seduces a much younger man and in some cases the boys are barely legal age). His two most controversial films, Carmen and Lex Stern, MD, feature scenes and scenarios that may make many viewers uneasy. At the end of Carmen (a fifteen minute animated gay porn rendering of the famed opera by Bizet), during a public sex scene inside a bullfighting arena filled with spectators, one of the participants receives anilingus from a bull, an act which horrified some viewers, me included. Yet Animan tests boundaries even further in Lex Stern, MD, a film that borrows from the wholesome domestic sitcoms of the 1950s. Like The Donna Reed Show, Leave It to Beaver and Father Knows Best, Lex Stern, MD involves a handsome, burly father, Lex, who stands as the emblem of white male patriarchy. With his wife and daughter away for the night, Lex is left alone in the company of his twinky college-aged son, Jess. It doesn’t take long before father and son wind up in bed together with Jess’s massive cock splitting his brawny dad’s eager ass open. They spend the rest of the day cavorting around the house naked, fucking in both the kitchen and the living room. Even the milkman and a voyeuristic teenage boy next door are allowed to join Lex and Jess in their sexual escapades. If artists have a duty to re-imagine the world, to test the boundaries of social acceptance and force individuals to conceive of the world in ways that allow more self-expression, awareness, redefinitions and inclusion, Animan successfully fulfills these aims. Whether viewers applaud his efforts or scorn them, he provides an outlet for connoisseurs of gay erotica while challenging the culture’s strict conservative ethos that declares all sex before marriage between a man and a woman immoral and abominable. Pornography is unique among all forms of artistic expression because its very existence opposes the ideology on which Western culture is founded. Animan, by design or by sheer accident, Continued on page 61 RFD 156 Winter 2013 45
Relationships by Notre Dame des Arbres
have long understood that in a good, balanced (or shold I say, balancing) relationship between two humans, there exist three entities, separate, but linked. Him, me, us. Like personas energing in the psyche, the needs and urgency of any one of these may manifest most strongly at times and be regarded and accepted. But each of the three need be respected. Understanding holds the key to that respect that contains and enfolds the volatility that is the power of love. It is the huge cement container for the nuclear fission of love. It was Paracelsus who wrote “Videre est intellegere est amore” (“to see is to understand, is to love”). Not so diferent from the New Age writings of Carlos Castenada who urged us to the discipline “of looking until we can finally see, of listening until we at last hear.” Late in life I read post-Newtonian physics, subatomic and chaos theory. If Newton got anything really “wrong” it was perhaps a failure to see that the position of the Observer is crucial…and better able to account for the multi-faceted nature of truth. This has made me reflect on the ups and downs of my own relationships. Initially a huge fan of the concept of “merging”, of the fusing of hearts, minds—bodies almost—of two separate beings. Fusing into something like “us”, greater than the sum of the individuals; lit-up, made irridescent by loving explodation, sharings, openess, vulnerability and humble, worshipping exploration. This in a sense remains, but it is a part of the narrative of my past—of younger love. The older I become, the more I accept that there’ll always be something unique about me, Notre Dame. However, marching alongside of this, also a deepening understanding that a vast past (literally an almost fathomless depth) of “me” that is composed of all my forebears, tribes, communities. This includes their traumas and joys, their genetic material- the building-blocks that was the technical handbook when I emerged from the womb. I’ve learned to respect and cherish that little part of unique individuality in its wider context. I do not feel threatened by the enormous shared hinterland which “I” inhabit. This has taught me to cherish and respect the same in a partner- his difference. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in essays Love and 46 RFD 156 Winter 2013
Other Difficulties “that partners should become guardians of each other’s solitude, thus in this way afford each other the greatest possible respect”. He was a great poet, but a funny, “difficult” man, but I get it, even if he makes his point in an extreme fashion in an extreme fashion that appears calculated or cold. The Landmark Trust gave some advice: “The secret of a good relationship is doing what you love doing and supporting your partner in what they love doing” (not THAT dissimilar from Rilke’s stance, though less literary!) I was originally going to write a long, intense article, but decided not to. The most important thing, I believe is to try, to learn as you go along and apply the lessons and remember that you need to work at it for it to succeed. This means both (or all*) of you working at it: “Every relationship should be at least basically emotionally reciprocated as opined my late brother, Robin. He died aged 35 in 1986 of AIDS was blessed in the last four years of his life by being in a relationship, by having a partner. It did not matter that I found his partner difficult, flakey, annoyingly absent when Robin was hospitalised- I was glad for my brother’s sake he had someone. It made him feel affirmed and validated. I can see however, the other negative side of that coin- that maybe many of us seek relationships and are less discriminating about who we have them with, or work less hard at them, simply out of the presumed social or peer pressure that one “should” have a partner. A great friend of mine who is also a faerie, Bloom, rightly gets annoyed when in the media after some tragic death the commentator says “he was a family man.” Bloom is (happily) single, but he insists he is also a family man—he has his mother and siblings and a huge family of choice acquired over a lifetime—his friends—whether faerie or close work colleagues. This raises the question of being “in relationship” with a group of people- like a single man maybe in a faerie Sanctuary. I used to beat myself up somewhat for not having a partner, a relationship since around the mid1990s, before I started to enlarge the sense of that word. I had a 14/15 year closeness to a “fuck buddy” and it dawned on me that there was much much more than the good sex between us over that period Continued on page 61
An Informal Report on the 2013 Decatur Book Festival by Franklin Abbott
fter saying goodbye to my Athens friends, Bill and Roger, who came over to attend the festival with me, I went back to bed. I was just plain tuckered out. The festival was up and down a couple of hills and it seemed that the next session I wanted to attend was always on the other side of the incline. It was much milder temp wise than it could have been but it was humid. Atlanta has been more humid this year than in its recorded history. The festival began for me on Friday night with dinner at The Iberian Pig with my novelist friend Manil Suri. Manil had eaten at the Pig when he was last in Atlanta and wanted to go back in search of a dish that combined pork belly and octopus. Both were still on the menu but separately this time. We had a long, lovely dinner and caught up on our lives for the four years since last we met. He had come to DBF to promote his new novel The City of Devi which is just out in paperback. It is the third book of a trilogy of novels he has written that explore life in India and the Hindu trinity of Vishnu, Shiva and (not Brahma but) Devi. The last novel is futuristic and follows the intersecting lives of three people caught in an invisible love triangle. He told me had a power point presentation for the next day’s event and to be prepared for special effects. Over desert at Leon’s Full Service he told me about his new novel project which will be about math. Manil is a math professor in Maryland and the new novel will bring together his literary talent and his love for numbers. Bill and Roger arrived the next morning and we set off to Decatur to hear Richard Blanco read poetry at the Presbyterian church. Blanco was the poet at Obama’s last inauguration who was notable because he is both Latino and gay. I was not particularly impressed by his reading at the inauguration but in person he was much more charming (and handsome) and he held his large audience in the palm of his hand. We would all have gladly stayed for more. Next was Manil’s presentation at the Marriott. We had both worried about the potential size of his audience but he had a large one and his presentation was lots of fun. His special effects and graphic presentation brought life to the story and characters of his novel. We went to lunch
with friends at Hola! afterwards where the food and conversation continued the good energy of the morning. I followed my friend Cal to hear Wayne Koestenbaum discuss his new book My 1980’s and Other Essays at Eddie’s Attic. Wayne is the lovechild of John Waters and Woody Allen (or maybe PeeWee Herman), smart, funny, cute, peculiar. His fortyfive minutes of fame were a delightful mix of droll humor and piercing insight. Back down the hill to the Marriott for my friends’ Eve Hoffman and Sal Brownfield’s presentation of their book of art and essay, A Celebration of Healing. Sal is a painter and Eve, a poet (and they are a couple in life as well as in art). Sal began a project of painting breast cancer survivors which culminated in twentyone large canvasses that are more like stained glass windows. They are luminous and what they illuminate is courage, damage and the will to live on. Eve’s poetic essays give us the stories behind the paintings. Two of Sal’s paintings framed them as they talked and read. These images and stories were intended to move us to deeper empathy and they did. I dried my eyes and walked back up the hill and across the courtyard, down the hill and up the hill again to the Decatur High School where my friend Megan Volpert was launching her new anthology This Assignment Is So Gay, a book of poems by LGBTIQ poets on the art of teaching. State Representative Karla Drenner, Georgia’s first out gay legislator, introduced Megan, saying the book had made her cry. Megan had assembled an interesting panel of her contributors to read their own and other poems. Sister Theresa Davis was there, her rambunctious self an exclamation point! Poets new to me, Pablo Miguel Martinez and Jee Leong Koh, added their names to my list of poets to pay attention to. I bought Koh’s Seven Studies For A Self Portrait after the signing and look forward to slowly taking it in. Sunday morning began with a breakfast interview with Alysia Abbott. Alysia’s memoir about her dad, Steve Abbott, has been garnering rave reviews since its publication this past Spring. Alysia was born in Atlanta. Her father Steve and her mother Barbara Binder were graduate students at Emory. Her dad was coming to terms with being gay when RFD 156 Winter 2013 47
her mother was killed in a car accident. He moved with the then two-year old Alysia to San Francisco to pursue a life as a poet. She describes their life together in her book Fairyland which takes us through the glory days of gay San Francisco to the days of doom that came with AIDS which ultimate claimed her dad. I met Alysia at her hotel and asked her what she wanted for breakfast and she said grits. We walked to Thumbs Up! where I knew grits were to be found and we put our name on the waiting list. The hostess asked for a name and I said Abbott. She then said it was okay if it really wasn’t our name and we replied simultaneously, “It is.” We are not closely related. Her Abbott’s are from Nebraska and are Catholic. My Abbott’s are from Alabama and are Protestant. But after an a good Southern breakfast and an hour and a half of talking about how our lives were connected I felt related. She was anxious about her presentation. She hadn’t been to Atlanta since 2000 and knew there would be people in her audience who knew her dad in some ways better than she. That might have been a problem had she been less genuine but it wasn’t. The problem that would be had yet to arise. I left Alysia at her hotel and scampered up the hill to hear my friend Robert Scherer and Jim Elledge talk about “outsider art.” Each had a book and a different slant on the subject. Robert had been “apprenticed” to the folk artist/eccentric extraordinaire, Howard Finster, when he was a young man and spoke of Finster’s influence on his life and art. His new book is, however, a book of fine art drawings all done in human blood. Robert told us how he had inadvertently cut himself one day and how his impulse as an artist was to use the blood he bled to draw. This has led him to create an extraordinary series of drawings documented in his book. Jim Elledge, who like Robert, teaches at Kennesaw State University, has written a book about the maligned and misperceived folk artist Henry Darger. Elledge dedicated years of research to uncover the abuse Darger suffered as a child inmate of the state as the source of his imagery. Alysia was up next back at the Marriott and I was tasked with her introduction. She arrived just in the nick of time but there were technical difficulties with her thumb drive and the computer system in the room. I don’t know the name of the young man who was providing tech support but in less than two minutes he pulled a rabbit out of his hat and the show went on as planned. With the help of photos of her dad, old news clippings, images of postcards he sent her and excerpts from the book, Alysia told 48 RFD 156 Winter 2013
the story of her father’s love, her role in his life and art and death and though there were no surprises for those of us who read the book or knew the story, her sincerity was palpable and her story resonated with all the love and loss her audience shared with her. Stories can change us, can break our hearts and in doing so deepen our human being. Alysia, like her radical parents, is truly an agent of change. Up the hill to the Old Courthouse for more poetry. Sadly the room was stuffy, noise from outside was intrusive, the acoustics were bad…I felt sorry for the poets who might have connected better in a more intimate space. I was also on the verge of being overwhelmed with words. Bill and Roger and I went to Colbeh, the Persian restaurant on the square to revive ourselves. We were simply unable to hear anything else. Good food revived us and we wandered among the booths in the light rain lying to ourselves about going to a five o’clock session on bonobos and atheism. Because it was overcast all the booths were in shadows. I looked into one and saw Congressman John Lewis who was there signing a graphic novel, The March, Part One with his co-authors. I regretted not going to his keynote on Friday night. Lewis is one of my heroes. I whispered to Roger, “John Lewis is signing his book.” The line was short, we each bought a book and had it signed. We each shook John Lewis’ hand and left with tears in our eyes. We walked down the hill to the Marriott and agreed we were too tired to wait for bonobos and atheism and went back home. Pals Cal and Dan who had wandered the festival with us joined us for an informal supper and debriefing. Had we been less tired we might have come up with a working definition of how and why poetry works but we didn’t. I confess, tired as I was, I had a hard time falling asleep. For every author I heard, there were there more I wanted to hear. All the same I fell asleep a lucky man having wandered the festival with my friends, toasted reunion with Manil Suri, eaten grits with Alysia Abbott and shook hands with John Lewis. And now with a sigh of relief I can post this to friends far and wide who delight, as I do in the the riches of the written word. P.S. Extra special thanks to Philip Rafshoon, Daren Wang and all the DBF staff and volunteers for an extraordinary weekend. w www.decaturbookfestival.com www.manilsuri.com www.alysiaabbott.com www.jeeleong.blogspot.com
Interview with Manil Suri by Franklin Abbott
Your novels form a trilogy that reinvents the Hindu trinity. Can you talk about that both as a novelist and a mathematician? Yes, that was a lot of subversive fun—breaking the patriarchy of the Hindu trinity (traditionally Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer). I decided it was time for some equal opportunity -time to replace Brahma by Devi, the mother goddess. Not only because she has so many more followers and temples than Brahma, but also because she truly represents creation—as well as destruction, which The City of Devi flirts with. Plus she’s the patron goddess for Mumbai, the subject of all three of my books (which form a trilogy on the past, present and future of the city). Besides, these three deities of Vishnu, Shiva and Devi form the perfect triangle, with all the attractions and couplings between them - so I was perhaps attracted to this concept as a mathematician. In your most recent novel, The City of Devi, you introduce one of the first major gay characters in modern Indian literature. Can you introduce RFD’s readers to Jaz and his partners in this triangle? Jaz would be the Vishnu character in the trinity - he’s full of energy, and is the one who’s always setting things into action. The perfect foil to Karun, who is more subdued and mysterious and withdrawn (much like Shiva) and Karun’s wife Sarita (representing the third, goddess node of the triangle). Somewhere towards the end of the novel, I realized this triangle actually has to coalesce into a single point, to represent how each of these components plays a role in the act of creation - and this is what I did, quite literally, with my characters. But before that, I had a lot of fun with the cockiness of Jaz, his irreverence and his constant pursuit of Photo by Nina Subin
pleasure. This is someone who lives for sex, and is completely uninhibited about it—it’s when he finds love that he gets into trouble. Let me add, though, that Sarita is no wilting wallflower—she sets out to find Karun with single-minded determination and in one scene actually has a mid-air laser fight with Jaz, Bollywood style, over their mutual love. It was quite exhilarating to sneak in such campy, over-thetop scenes while still adhering to the literary nature of the book—I decided I’d take the readers on this wild ride, completely different from my previous two novels. Your mother, who lived in India died earlier this year. She and your partner were the two most important people in your life and formed a triangle of sorts. Can you talk about how that was for you before her death and how things have changed since? Well, it’s been nothing like a similar triangle that occurs at one point in the book - when Jaz and Karun start living together in Delhi and the latter’s mother tries to break them up (the book is not autobiographical). Despite some hiccups after I came out to her over three decades ago, my mother was always very supportive. In fact, she got along very well with Larry and lived with us for about seven months in 2005, with the idea of settling down in the US (after my father passed away). However, she got thoroughly bored with the DC suburbs, staying at home day after day, with nowhere to go - she finally decided to move back to India. The important thing is that she was able to see first-hand how happy I was with my partner—an opportunity Karun’s mother never enjoyed. Which is just as well, since otherwise, there wouldn’t have been much of a story about what transpired between Karun and Jaz and Sarita. w
RFD 156 Winter 2013 49
Excerpt From The City Of Devi by Manil Suri
had not wanted to enlist my parents’ help in getting a flat, since I didn’t want them to know about Karun and me living together. But I needn’t have worried. When, after two weeks of filthy hotel rooms I finally gave in, my father readily swallowed the story I’d concocted about wanting to save money. “That physics student—I remember him. It’s good to have friends with such diverse interests.” He put me in touch with Mrs. Singh, a widowed friend of a colleague, who asked Karun and me to come directly to the Green Park flat she had for rent. She looked much younger than I’d expected – about fifty, perhaps. Although dressed in the observant white of a widow, I noticed her feet peeking out from under the cuffs of her salwaar astride exuberantly pink sandals. “I live right below, but you have your own private entrance. Mr. Singh had that installed just before he passed.” Her scrutiny alternated between Karun and me, as if trying to figure us out. “It’s only a one-bedroom, but it does have two beds.” She pointed them out—they looked as modest as the cots in Karun’s Bombay hostel. “I normally rent only to husband and wife couples – I had the mai pull them apart for you this morning and put the nightstand in between.” She locked gazes with me. “This is the way they should look when the mai comes in at ten every morning to clean.” “I’m not sure I understand.” “Look, Mr. Hassan. You’re telling me you and your friend want to save money. Fine. I didn’t ask, and I don’t care. You won’t find another Punjabi woman in all of Delhi who’s less inquisitive than Mrs. Singh. But I draw the line at gossip. I like my tenants to be quiet and clean. All I ask is you not give the mai any reason to start her tongue wagging.” She stared at each one of us in turn. “I can show you the kitchen if we’re agreed.” The flat rented for half my salary, so it didn’t look like we’d be saving much money for our purported weddings. “Plus, I’ll need a year’s rent in advance as deposit,” Mrs. Singh said. “Which is pretty standard for Delhi.” I had to SOS my father for help again— fortunately, he agreed to wire me the money. The next two years were the happiest in my life. I felt like the hero (sometimes the heroine) of one of 50 RFD 156 Winter 2013
the fairy tales I related to Karun every night. Swirling through flower-laden fields, galloping across magical plains—who cared if it was only Delhi’s congested lanes, as long as I had Karun by my side? We perfected the art of haggling, and learnt to tenderize even the toughest Delhi hen by marinating it in yoghurt overnight. We bought half the board games on the market, and several new accessories for my train set, indulging every whim our childhoods had denied. Rearranging the furniture for the mai each morning became a drag, so we learnt to squeeze together in the same bed. At night, we made love with barely a gasp or creak so as not to disturb Mrs. Singh. Her demeanor softened soon after we moved in. She helped us fill out the application for a phone line and figure out the electricity bill. She gave us cucumbers from her vines on the terrace, and remembered to wish us on both Muslim and Hindu holidays. Two months after we moved in, she sent up a large pot of chicken lentil soup when we both got the flu. Most endearing of all, she treated us as a couple – long before the shopkeepers downstairs fell into the habit from seeing us together so often. The bania advised us to start buying detergent in the family size to save money, the vegetable woman remembered I liked okra and Karun peas, the meatwalla saved us just enough chops for two persons to eat. The only thorn in our side was Mrs. Singh’s eighteen-year old son Harjeet. He scowled each time he encountered us on the steps, positioning his hefty frame to make it awkward to pass. He made raucously loud homophobic comments from the verandah when he got together with his Sikh friends. We stopped hanging out our clothes to dry on the terrace when gobs of dirt started mysteriously landing on them (underwear seemed especially vulnerable). He lifted weights in his turban and shorts on the landing outside our door on Sundays, so that he could mutter obscenities in case we accidentally glanced his way. Fortunately, we spent most of our time on weekends exploring the city. On one such expedition, we chanced upon an expansive shrubbery-filled park Continued on page 61
Interview with Alysia Abbott by Franklin Abbott
Your primary dyad growing up was with your gay dad, the late poet Steve Abbott. How has that shaped your subsequent relationships? Because of my intense relationship with my gay father and my growing up without a mother or sister, I’ve always felt more at ease in the company of men, especially mild-mannered, intellectual and/or arty men. I do have many women friends, and some who are very close to me, but on the whole I’ve had a harder time trusting intimacy with women. I think in these friendships, I tend to hold something back. It’s no doubt a holdover from my experience in high school, where I felt very insecure with my femininety and was also closeted about my father. My closest non-sexual relationship is with a gay man who’s my age. With him, I like to engage in playful banter and affectionate teasing I enjoyed with my dad. My father taught me to question authority, to not see my age or my gender as an impediment to voicing my opinion. This has helped me in my work relationships but has sometimes gotten me into trouble in my romantic relationships. Being raised without a mother, I never really learned the art of feminine “disguise,” the ego-stroking that some men need, and which can indirectly serve the needs of some women. My husband often tells me I can be too blunt and rough with him. He wants me to be “nicer” and I try but with my father I was always completely transparent, and never felt the need to alter my presentation to spare his feelings. That said, my husband does appreciate that I’m opinionated and enjoys it when I tease and challenge him. I could never be in a relationship with someone who didn’t want an equal in a partner. How has this influenced your relationship with your children, including your youngest child, a son who is autistic? Whenever I imagined myself with a child before I was married, I imagined myself with a child alone. I have no memory of my mother and my experience of the parent child relationship was always one on one. Photo courtesy Alysia Abbott
After my daughter’s birth, I quickly realized I had to negotiate the parenting space with my husband. I liked to take my daughter everywhere, and would travel around New York City with her strapped to my chest when she was a baby, but I had to honor that my husband and daughter needed to have their own private relationship, one that I might sometimes feel excluded from. I still spend a lot of alone time with her and I delight in her creativity and spark, as my dad seemed to delight in my child’s perspective. With my son it’s more complicated. I named him after my father, on some level hoping our relationship could help correct the pain of losing my dad. He was only a few months old when we noticed he was developmentally delayed. After several trips to several different neurologists he was diagnosed with autism at 18 months of age. At six, he’s still non-verbal, with a very limited range of expressive and receptive communication. He can sign that he wants to drink or eat, but I doubt he’ll ever have the intellectual capacity to learn about his grandfather and what kind of man he was. Today “Stephen” is his bureaucratic and medical name, the name we write on all of his forms, and “Finn,” his middle name is what we call him at home. My relationship with my father was both intellectual and physical. I spent a lot of time in his lap or holding his hand or riding his shoulders. My dad didn’t experience much affection within his own family so was always very affectionate with me. Though my son has a few favorite board books I’ll read him, our relationship is primarily physical. It’s hard to not know what’s going on in his mind. He can’t tell me what he wants for Christmas or even for dinner. He can’t tell me why he likes to chew up balloons or escape the house and cross the street. As a parent you want to feel you can understand your child and meet their needs. I felt I understand my father and that he could understand me, like no one else. But with Finn it’s not so easy. Nevertheless, I feel a very deep connection with him. w RFD 156 Winter 2013 51
Finn can’t yet mirror love in the way that my daughter can. He’s not capable of showing gratitude, generosity or remorse. When he comes over to me, to rock his head in my lap or knead my belly he doesn’t always meet my eyes. But I accept this as love from him. And we connect through touch. I give him
piggy-back rides down the stairs each morning and delight in the feel of his warm weight on my shoulders. I’ve come to accept the limitations of our intellectual relationship and love him for all that he is, and for all of the quirks that are uniquely Finn.
Poems of Steve Abbott Jacob’s Angel Seen at Cafe Flore
yet rare as power melded into good.
From Wrecked Hearts, Dancing Rock Press, San Francisco, 1978
So joyously I take the angel’s dare and wrestle with his eyes under the stare. Not his arm subdues me but his hair — the way he simply smiles and lets me care.
I think I see another angel there hovering over coffee as in prayer, his wings enfolded, shielding him from care. The sun falls harp-like freshening the air. In all the morning seems so crisp and clear that beauty’s magic now is understood -still, something troubles me, a monkish fear. If I could believe in innocence I would. The angel turns now, politely stares at me wondering why, perhaps, my Faith’s not free. I sit behind my table like a tree uprooted, looking down mysteriously. For certain trees like melancholy coasts hang bleak with burdens like the sea its ghosts and though fair angels promise to uplift, I can’t again accept such a risk. The angel pauses, seeing me amiss his mission not to force me but to sift out what is lustful in my boasts as diplomats read nuances in toasts. And so the angel watches peacefully my tortured wooden smiles, his glee distending metaphysically until I also laugh. Discovery! Wrenched, tossed, blown — it’s queer this sudden sharing flash in angelhood: as simple as relaxing over beer 52 RFD 156 Winter 2013
Walking This Abandoned Field Walking this abandoned field I am looking for something inside myself, an old shovel perhaps or some evidence of planted seed. I come upon a tree much like one I used to climb as a boy & lying down, my eyes roam over the frayed handband of evening sky. That is how I used to feel loving you. How sweet the air smelled then, like rain in Nebraska after a field was plowed. Now all I can see is this tree & the memory of how high we once climbed.
Excerpt from Fairyland by Alysia Abbott
ach day I arrived at the NYU Center in France, the first place I stopped was my mailbox. It was in this thin wooden slot, sandwiched between other mailboxes, that I found the source of my sustaining hope and joy. Arriving two, sometimes three times a week, Dad’s letters made me notorious in the program. No other student received so much mail, especially from a parent. My father’s letters always arrived in business envelopes, long and rectangular, deliciously heavy. I delighted in the mountain range of “A”s that crowded the front of the envelope: Steve Abbott, 545 Ashbury, Alysia Abbott. As I tore open the envelopes, the pages of ruled paper, edges frayed from being ripped out of my father’s spiral notebook, unfurled like Christmas wrapping in my lap. The gift inside this wrapping was the density of my father’s script, filling each narrow college rule: words, sentences, paragraphs, and pages—all for me! These words were written, I knew, to the rhythm of my father’s twitching foot. Deep in thought, he always wrote with his right leg crossed over his left, his notebook balanced on his right knee, his dangling right foot twitching from side to side as though it alone motored his prodigious mind. Even now, when I remember my father writing, I unconsciously throw my right leg over my left and mimic his twitching. It feels remarkably natural, this twitch. That right foot can get going with instinctual ease, but when I try to reverse the legs and twitch my left foot I can’t do it. There’s something in that right foot, something I like to imagine I inherited from him. With my yearly trips to my grandparents in Illinois, Dad and I had been writing to each other for years. But something changed that year in France. With both of us living on our own, thousands of miles apart, we relied on letters to be close. And in these letters we were no longer looking to the other as the cause, or solution, of our respective problems, but instead as a loving witness, a devoted and concerned audience.
Where Dad had described our needs mixing “like fire and oil” when I was a teenager living at home, in letters we felt free to confide crushes, test new ideas, and wrestle with disappointments and fears. I no longer criticized his boyfriends (or the boys he wished could be more than friends). If I didn’t have anything nice to say about another misbegotten crush (Alex, Jeremy, Myles, Olivier), I could easily keep those feelings to myself. I was no longer disappointed by Dad’s preoccupation with work, because I no longer looked to him as the source of my company and care. The ups and downs of his romantic adventures, his professional trials and economic woes, no longer crowded my living space. Because we sometimes had to wait two weeks for a response, each carefully composed letter became an act of faith, like a coin thrown into a well, along with a fervent secret wish. After writing, I hoped most to hear that echo, that confirmation that my wish would be heard and answered. Since I didn’t want to wait for Dad’s answer before writing to him again, I decided early on to write whenever I wanted. We wrote each other almost every other day, our letters like diary entries, especially Dad’s: Yesterday I was thinking you’re the only person I love. Others I’m only fond of from time to time. Sometimes I feel loved but oftentimes I feel that no one loves me, no one I ever want is attracted to me & that I’ve lost the capacity to love. I have to keep constant vigilance with myself so as not to fall in love w/ Alex. What he wants & needs is just my friendship. It’s Dad’s emotional availability that most strikes me. Making my way through the pages of his letters, I feel as if I’m settling into a bathtub full of warm water. Weightless and floating, at peace, I am caressed by the near constant expression of my father’s trust and attention. In this watery world I am that version of self that I knew before any other: daughter. And in this role I am loved as only a child RFD 156 Winter 2013 53
can be loved: wholly and without condition. With my father I felt no pressure to behave in any particular way. I could be trite, boring, selfish, petulant. I never felt there was anything I could do or say that would jeopardize his affection. This is the father I always wanted. This is the father that I miss the most. There are the many articles and essays he clipped for me from the local paper, about Paris’s Moreau museum or the latest research on why girls suffer low self-esteem. He writes one letter on the back of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Daddy.” “Certainly a different take on Daddy than you have—or is it?” he jokes before going into an analysis of why it works. “Plath’s genius in this poem is to invest very simple language (nursery rhyme & fairytale) with intense power & anger.” There are his own impromptu poems: The arms of the bookstore are full of postcards & tee-shirts. The coffee has triumphed. I got several letters today & read Yours (of Dec. 4) first. And there is the vividness of his San Francisco, which was also my San Francisco—his seeing a film noir series at the Roxie, picking up a biography of Baudelaire at the Adobe bookstore, or sipping on a mocha at the Macondo. Am sitting in Tassajara Café. Very cute guy sitting @ next table w/his friend or boyfriend, unfortunately. I assumed he was gay right off, before hearing them talk even—something about his delicate manner. Straight guys tend to be more aggressive, less refined, in their non-verbal behavior. Baseless stereotype? You be the judge. And then there is that version of me. I never liked my self as much as the self I saw reflected in my father’s eyes. He continued to delight in my letters, even with my incessant worrying, my silly self-pity: “Lauren spends money like it was nothing. Her mother was just here and bought her all these clothes. Everything Lauren wears looks so new!!!” Again and again he asks me questions. He entertains, instructs, and inspires, always working to build me up, up, up. I always enjoy reading your letters, even when you’re blue. When Henry Miller lived in Paris he always ate off friends. And Appollinaire was 54 RFD 156 Winter 2013
so poor he imagined the favorite meals of his childhood when he was hungry. Lynn Tillman says she was the poorest person she knew in NYC, even though she once worked for Malcolm Forbes. Money isn’t everything. I certainly value my friends & having time to write more. When I despaired over my confusion about what to do with my life, fearing that I’d already failed, Dad offered advice on ways to clarify my goals and then detailed how he met his own: I know you’re sensitive to all the expectations that your grandparents, the Weiksners, me, etc. have for you. And that’s an irritating bother to say the least. But how about this: make a list of what kind of life you want (don’t worry “can I do it, get it” whatever—just honestly list what you want regardless of whether it seems unrealistic or not). Then: prioritize. What do you think you really want most? What goals seem more realistic or doable to you? What steps would be needed to realize them? Is taking those steps something you enjoy? For me, for instance, I wanted to be a writer— a famous writer. (Now I don’t care so much about the “famous” part). The steps involved a) reading a lot to see what other writers are doing or have done b) writing & improving my writing and c) getting my writing out in the world—which meant taking risks & overcoming fear of judgment or ridicule at times. But this didn’t happen for me @ age 20—it didn’t really get started till I was 32 & afterwards. When I wrote him about Lauren’s growing friendship with another classmate in the program, and how their friendship made me jealous, he advised me to transcend these feelings, teaching me the precepts he’d learned in his Zen practice, yet never pushing me down a Buddhist path. Through meditation or reflection or whatever, find out how to go to that place in yourself that can observe without judging. If you feel jealous, or depressed, or guilty or whatever—just try to pay attention to how your body feels. Where does the physical feeling start? Does a tightness go up or down your stomach for instance. If you notice that you’re being critical of yourself—then try to observe yourself doing this without judging it as good or bad.
This observer self is the deepest part of you— deeper than your fearful self, guilty self, emotional self, or intellectual self. By observing what’s happening to your body when you go into these head states, you can learn little tricks to alter your body & mood. Like if you catch it early, try countering the negative physical feeling or emotion by doing something nurturing for yourself (exercise or pleasant bath, calling a friend, going to a movie, or whatever). Anyway, this is something I started doing at a time in my life when I was wracked by jealousy, loneliness, self-doubt, excessive self-criticism. And overall it worked.
of course, your sexual preference.
Until this chapter, I’ve relied on my father’s journals and published work to understand the nature of his creative passions, addictions, and relationships, but rereading these letters I feel him right here with me, like a beloved whispering in my ear—the way he ends with “Think of you always!” or draws on the back of an envelope in big block letters: “Believe In Yourself! Love Life! NEVER GIVE UP!” My father worked so hard to nurture me in these exchanges because he knew his time was limited— which is why the handwritten letters feel like such a gift now. Each is a unique artifact, pressed with the imprint of his pen on the paper. Each one has a different sign-off, with postscripts scribbled in the margins, the occasional cartoon to illustrate a point. These missives are all the more poignant for me now because I know that he was suffering from a fatal disease. He was the one facing his mortality and living in a community steeped in death. The week before I left for France, Issan Dorsey, Hartford Street’s abbot and Dad’s beloved spiritual teacher, died of AIDS. Despite the loss of his friends and countless acquaintances, Dad spent page after page attending to me in far-off Paris, especially when I worried over the idea of a life without him.
As for my health, you needn’t weep until I die. I mean I know you’ll die sometime soon too, everyone will, but I needn’t focus on that. You needn’t either. What you tell Theo about my health is up to you. I think the more honest you can be (esp. with those close to you) the happier one can be. Secretiveness = loneliness. You could tell him I have health problems w/o going into details—like I have retinitis & lung trouble or something. The girl in Femme Nikita doesn’t tell her boyfriend anything about her past, esp. that she’s an assassin—but he finds out anyway. And still loves her.
I asked Theo whether he thought it a good idea if you stay with me when you come to Paris. “I don’t know,” he answered, “you have 6 flights of stairs and your dad’s not that young anymore.” I started thinking about not having you around to give me your words of wisdom and unconditional love … I ended up going into the bathroom and weeping until I regained control. I didn’t feel like crying in front of Theo. That’s not to say we’re not close. In fact, I become more in love with him each day. I just don’t feel like going into the details of your maladie. And
When I wrote this letter in April 1991, Dad had just had a tube put into his chest so he could give himself infusions of gancyclovir, prescribed for the CMV retinitis stripping him of his vision. “I feel like both Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster,” he joked. But he was sad too. He wrote how he would never swim again, would never take a sauna again. But I, an oblivious twenty-year-old, didn’t respond to these reports or even consider the effect of these losses on his morale. Instead it was he who did the heavy lifting, the hard work of calming and distracting me from that terrible inevitable.
It was easy for me to minimize the decline of Dad’s health because his letters were still so full of humor: Odd, the more trouble my health is in, the better my spirits. I can hardly read or see to recognize anyone on the street so I make jokes about it, say it’s like being on an acid trip. What else can one do? In another letter: I’m getting fat since I stopped smoking. I did weigh an average of 145 lbs. now it’s a bit over 150. I can hardly squeeze into any of my jeans. But I’m going to keep all these smaller jeans cuz I may end up w/ wasting syndrome sometime & they’ll be baggy on me. (a little joke, hee hee). I didn’t respond to these reports beyond the occasional “Please be healthy” because I was reluctant to invest in them any more power than they already had. I also hoped that if I ignored this subplot in our story, it might recede and I could freely enjoy my Paris adventures unhindered. For the most part, this strategy worked. That is, until my father came to visit me in the summer of 1991. w RFD 156 Winter 2013 55
The Religious Destiny of Our Tribe: Queer Gender-F**k Spirituality by Mushroom
hen I was very young my parents taught me that our family were members of an exclusive club. As such we knew what was what! We knew what was good and knew what was bad. If we were nice, then, when our lives came to an end, the “very essence of who we were” would receive an invite to a fabulous party from a kindly old Father Christmas kind of a bloke. If not then we were toast! If we could follow a few simple rules then lifetime membership was assured. Fine and dandy until I discovered that I was ‘intrinsically disordered’— still ‘loved’ by the membership as a transgressor but acknowledged to be engaged in unacceptable practices and headed for the incinerator. My crime? I was a male lover of men. Sadly the faerie tale with the happy ending beyond the grave blew up in my face. The club waited patiently for me to do the honourable thing but I refused to crawl away in shame. Instead I rejected the whole non-sense of it all and signed up as a Five-Star member of the club which dedicated itself to affirming the ridiculousness of every tenet of that exclusive club. There was no ‘good’, no ‘bad’, no ‘very essence of who we are’, no kindly old bloke, no party, no incinerator! There was a scientific explanation for everything and anything considered to be inaccessible to scientific enquiry was simply decidedly dodgy. I managed for a few years until ‘the very essence of who I was’ began to feel ignored, neglected and undernourished. Unscientifically I identified this aspect of myself as my Spiritual Nature and set about looking at how to tend to its special needs. None of the popular exclusive clubs wanted to help me. I learned the technique of meditation and found that a state of mindfulness allowed some breathing space for what came next. I began to see that to fulfil my potential I needed to find ways of exploring and developing both my Spiritual Nature and my Queer Self in ways that had, until then, seemed impossible. I would need to manifest and become the religion I was seeking. And finally I learnt that my Spiritual Nature is in fact my Queer Self! I recently discovered that the word ‘religion’
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derives from the latin word ‘religare’ which means to bind. It is only fairly recently in the history of Wtestern religion, with its attacks on pagan earth respecting traditions, and its slaughter of cat-keeping witch-faggots that queers have been demonised by religious groups. As Faeries we know that enlightened ancient cultures could recognise their sexuality and gender– special members as ‘two spirit’ or ‘walkers between worlds’. They were simply respected for their giftedness. From the margins it is second nature to understand conflict and heal it. Ancient queer priestpriestesses were afforded sacred roles in the creation of tribal ritual, which served in the re-binding of the communal spirit with itself and the divine. So, my Fae Family! Let us all reclaim our ancient heritage as Queer Spirit Warriors! Let us joyously manifest Queer Genderfuck Spirituality! May the Faerie Church of Queer heal the wounds of our global village! A(wo)men w
Icon of Saints Peter and Paul
Gordon Binder A visual narrative about the course of relationships. These images derive from vignettes I’ve actually seen on streets, in parks and pubs and other places I frequent here in Washington’s Dupont Circle neighborhood, where I’ve lived for more than 40 years.
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by Nyk Robertson
1. One Night Wonder You were my one night wonder Leaving me breathless and satisfied But, wait, let me rephrase that Because you were never a one night anything Some nights I still wonder about you As I lay in my bed alone Feeling your arms wrapped around me like a straight jacket Your palm pressed against my ribs Reminding me not to fall apart 2. Fireflies You set up camp in that dark place within me That even I was too afraid to travel to Brought supplies to last longer Than I believed you could ever stay Released your fireflies Into the darkness As they fluttered around inside of me Brought stars to my night And light to my world Yet in the end they left me, just like you But not before leaving your burned image in my heart 3. Unanswered Questions Did you know you would leave me that day you promised you never would? If you could have known would you still have made me that promise? Did you picture your life without me when you told me you wanted to spend it with me? If you could take back the years we spent together would you add them to your life span? Did you think forever was a tangible thing you could wrap with a bow and give me for Christmas? If you could go to Sears and buy it would you pay full price or wait for it to go on clearance? Did you believe yourself when you told me how much you loved me? If you could love me completely would it make us whole? Did you mean the words as you spoke them from your lips and simply forgot them when your eyes left mine? If you could stare into my eyes again would you speak the words you know mean nothing? Did you see your life turning out this way, without me, with a new forever girl? If you could turn me into your forever girl, would you ask me if I wanted to be her? Did your heart break the day you told me forever was only three years long? If you could return our three year forever to Target and get your money back, would you let me trade it in for a new tie? Do you ever miss me at night when your lips dont speak my name? If you can see me in your dreams for a moment or two, will you speak my name and remind your lips what it feels like?
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4. What Could Have Been Your name lingers on my lips Like the passionate kiss We knew would come If we ever let ourselves go Your hair softly tickles The curve in my neck That holds your head And keeps it from falling into me Your eyes shine on my ceiling at night I wonder if you ever think of me Laying there next to him And imagine what could have been If we’d have been brave enough to say something Years ago If you’d have been weak enough to do something Without him If I’d have been strong enough to do something With him If the world would have been far enough away For us to fall Like the broken angels I know us both to be 5. The Taste of Whiskey on Your Breath The first night you dared to be alone with me, sit on my couch and pretend the tension wasn’t building so much pressure we knew we would explode soon if we didn’t release each others moans, you sipped Jack from a tea up The night you left me lying on my floor baron and alone after my first encounter of passion, intensity, complete submission to another human so your husband could wake to freshly brewed coffee you took shots of Jack straight The last night I gave you pleasure while I pushed all of my anger up into you when you moaned the caustic words “will you marry me” your husband and you lifted your glasses to your daughter and new son-in-law lifted your glass of Jack to them, to us 6. A Selfless Act I could tell you needed some saving as your big bro I felt it was my duty to be your sacrifice I let you take me to your bedroom where you could feel at home I gave you everything you had been praying for let you feel like you had some control of you own destiny Let this bond manifest in the closeness of our lips 7. I Love You I used to make you tell me you loved me while you were inside of me I thought if you could only go deep enough my heart could feel your touch
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Featherstone by Shokti
n enchanted castle in the Northern Lands of Albion, close to the wall built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian--who worshiped his male lover Antinous as a god and built statues to him all over the empire--has been the location for Winter faerie gatherings since 2005. For ten days this lovely castle will become a faerie hogwarts with rambling corridors and mysterious nooks, glittering dining and ball rooms, and roaring hearth fires. All set in a stunning landscape where the air is fresh and the nature spirits are friendly. In the year 2014 we will gather in March at the Spring Equinox, to make the transition from the earth time of Winter to the air and light of Spring. The watery inner time of Pisces gives way to the active, creative energy of fire as the sun reaches Aries - a chance for reflection as the dark season ends and an opportunity to raise empowering energy us for the time of light ahead. The castle can accommodate up to 100 people, but gathering numbers are usually around 50-60. We can be reached easily - nearest airport is Newcastle, from there itâ€™s a short
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train journey to Haltwhistle. We are hoping people will come for the whole 10 days if possible, or at least 5 if not, so that the group can build a fabulous solid sacred energy for our own healing and to offer to the world. Sleeping is in rooms or dorms, 3 to 12 beds. It can be cold (but all gatherers are invited to ask the goddess for a fine sunny start to spring) but rooms are heated, log fires are always burning in communal spaces, you should bring thermal undies and fur coats are good too. In a collaborative spirit of all who gather we will manifest heart circles, spring ceremonies, fantastic feasts, workshops, nature walks, visits to Hadrianâ€™s wall, a drag wardrobe, a love temple, a smokers temple, dance parties and much more ... and to move us into the spring energies: faerie fitness - mind body and soul, nothing will be left out! (also: if flying from North America, it can be much cheaper to book a flight to Dublin and a separate flight from Dublin to Newcastle. Also there is a bus from London to Newcastle for 15 euro. w
Roscoe Hudson, Continued from page 45 has positioned himself as an outlaw among outlaws by subverting established conventions: gay porn revolts against straight porn, bareback porn rebels against condom-only porn, muscular daddies as power bottoms and slender sons as aggressive tops flips the standard pairing in gay erotica. While live action porn will always have a place, Animan’s cartoons are definitely the porn gay men should be watching right now. Animated porn can no more substitute for live action porn than any pornographic film or image can replace sexual intimacy with a flesh and blood human being. Nevertheless, Animan’s films offer a jaunty alternative to the live action flicks. Whether viewers watch them for fun or sexual fulfillment, these cartoons won’t fail to put a smile on the face of every gay man’s inner boy while and stiffen his cock. w Notre Dame des Arbres, Continued from page 46 of time. I learned not to criticise myself for being able to hand him back to his partner after a night or so, thinking I was taking an easy path by not living with him. The truth is neither of us would have wished to live full-time with the other. We would have driven each other crazy, but nevertheless we were real friends, we told each other everything (maybe more than many partners do), we suported each other and had a genuine and deep affection (plus the sex just got better:-) Not bad for a nonrelationship! Lastly we can take all this too seriously, so may I end with this haiku? Two is company. One’s the loneliest number. Three is a menage.* w Kaš, Continued from page 34 less, and insensitive internet connections can be, that’s what I love about them too. I can be as direct or mysterious as I want through them. I can play a role or be myself. I am not trying to impress anyone beyond the scope of some erotic fascination. I get off on being able to negotiate different personalities and having fun no matter what person’s bedroom I am in. Yes, it is a psychosexual game that can be fun to play. And it can be equally, if not more, fun to turn it off, put it down and cuddle the Sunday away with the boyfriend. Maybe it’s just me, but it’s nice to have options. w
Manil Suri, continued from page 50 that bordered an enclave of foreign embassies. I instantly realized its potential as a shikari’s paradise. Sure enough, men loitered all around, standing near the gate, reclining on benches, leaning against trees. A central pathway over a suspended red and white rope bridge had the most action, with shikaris and their prey working the circuit as if modeling their wares on a fashion runway. On a whim, I took Karun by the arm and joined the men parading up the path to the bridge. A space immediately cleared all around us, as if in deference to our coupled state. I felt people’s curiosity, noticed them peering to catch a glimpse. Was there a measure of jealousy mixed in, resentment that we promenaded like royalty through their midst? Had I risked attracting their malediction, their evil eye, their nazar, by flaunting our good fortune in their face? Karun didn’t seem to notice the reactions – he blithely pointed to the trees, the gardens, the red and orange flowers. That evening, I finally uttered the phrase whirling around in my mind. I could no longer remember when the inkling had first arisen, when it had fledged and strengthened, when it had parsed together the words for its own articulation. An idea, an expression, antithetical to Jazter philosophy, one that blasphemed his Gita, his Koran, his Bible. Our stroll in the park had given it that final energy to break free, when I realized how lucky I felt to no longer be a shikari. I raised myself up on my arms when I felt it coming, so that I hovered over Karun, looking directly into his face. “I love you” – the words felt unfamiliar yet silky as they slid from the Jazter’s lips. For a moment, Karun didn’t respond, and I wondered if I’d overreached, overplayed my hand. Then he leaned up to kiss me. “I love you too,” he replied. w (reprinted with permission from WW Norton and Co.)
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ALL: A James Broughton Reader GAY SPIRIT: Myth & Meaning OUT SPOKEN: A Vito Russo Reader Reel One and Reel Two http://www.whitecranebooks.org/catalog.html Coming in 2014: A reissue of Witchcraft & The Gay Counterculture with previously unpublished materials from the original lecture series, Moon Lady Rising.
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Issue 158 / Summer 2014
LOST CULTURE Submission Deadline: April 21, 2014 www.rfdmag.org/upload
In April 1984 the Centers for Disease Control released official findings that the retrovirus HTLV-III, now commonly known as HIV was the cause of AIDS. In that time, the world has lost a great deal of people to the pandemic of the virus as well as social and political reaction / lack of reaction to both helping mediate the illness and work to find useful ways of promoting ways of preventing it's spread. As a community we witnessed a level of political inaction based on bias to the communities impacted by HIV while we rallied to help and nurture those in our midst impacted by both the virus and the community at-large's bias and fear. We're hoping to engage our readers in exploring some of the cultural accomplishments which came with facing HIV as well as considering the cultural losses which have left a void in our hearts. So we're encouraging people to consider ways of showing through art, photography, film stills and through writing how we engaged in responding to HIV and it's political impact as well as sharing work from people lost in those years whose work has been "lost." Many communities were and are impacted by HIV so encourage all of our readers to share this theme within the diverse community they are a part of to share those reflections with all of our readers.
Photo courtesy NAMES Project
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a reader created gay quarterly celebrating queer diversity
RFD Vol 40 No 2 #156 $9.95
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Published on Dec 21, 2013