Number 169 Spring 2017 $9.95
Issue 170 / Summer 2017
Submission Deadline: April 21, 2017 www.rfdmag.org/upload
In Faerieland we are one thing—fabulous, free, daring, loving. In the rest of the world, we are something else. Or are we? Feminist metaphysician Ana Roy once said we must “tell the truth in ways that can be heard.” What are our unique truths as faeries, how do those truths benefit the larger population and how do we share those truths in ways in which they can be heard? For the next issue, Helping Youth, we look forward to sharing stories of your work with youth. Helping Youth is dedicated to Charlie Murphy. In 1996, Charlie and Peggy Taylor founded a creativity-based youth development organization called the Power of Hope: Youth Empowerment Through the Arts. Ten years later again with Peggy Taylor and Ian Watson, Charlie formed
PYE Global: Partners for Youth Empowerment to further spread the international work. With over one million youth impacted to date and thirty organizational partners in fifteen countries on five continents, Charlie’s influence continues to grow and promises to flourish in years to come. Few of us are Charlie Murphys, but many of us have had a profound influence on youth in our work in the world. We are teachers, health practitioners, artists, social service workers, counselors, construction workers and every other occupation known. Tell us about your work, how your work intersects with the lives of youth, what you feel you have to share and what feedback you have received from youth about your influence on them.
Mask making workshop for NYC high school students with Gabriel Q. Photo by Covelo.
Redcliff Fountain Dahlia Vol 43 No 3 #169 Spring 2017
Between the Lines
What better way to snub our new government than to show our radical selves? In memorializing Mark Thompson, whose recent passing touched so many of us we attempt to show the rooted, spirited and spiritual side of lives in telling of our experiences with one of us. For those who didn’t know Mark Thompson, one should acquaint themselves with him through his books. He is a vital in keeping some of our dearest elders’ visions alive and retold, reshaped and made vital. Many of the pieces in this issue reflect a personal interaction with Mark from long time friends, lovers and even people Mark shepherded in the smallest of ways, an oft repeated narrative in the arc of his life. He touched RFD directly by championing its ragged determination to survive and thrive in an internet age and tell stories from aspects of the community often unheard from the mainstream gay press. Although he seldom wrote for RFD itself he often championed it—from his days at the Advocate when he did a feature about us —“RFD: a magazine from the heartland” in 1982 to his pushing for us to be awarded the Monette-Horwitz Award in 2010. From his interest in sharing our story with a wider audience to his promoting us being given much needed funds at a time of need, Mark always quietly did what he could for us. We are ever so grateful to him. In telling one’s man’s story we often tell of our own experience and we hope our readers will see their own accomplishments, travails and joys in these pages of tribute to one of our beloved friends. One thing clear is how much work needs to be done. Mark’s life was filled with work, adjustment and more work. One can see we will need to pick up that mantle in these difficult days ahead. We also include in this issue a commentary about community building with a report on workshops led by Starhawk in Tennessee. We hope this stirs up a dialog about how we build, move and carry forward empowering rather than enabling each and every one of us. We hope you enjoy the issue With hot love from a snowy Vermont. The RFD Collective
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Submission Deadlines Summer–April 21, 2017 Fall–July 21, 2017 See inside covers for themes and specifics.
RFD 169 Spring 2017
Front & Back: Still from the film, Devotions, by James Broughton and Joel Singer
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 RFD, P.O. Box 302, Hadley MA
On the Covers
01035-0302. Non-profit tax exempt #62-1723644, 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. First class mailed issues will be forwarded. Others will not. Send address changes to firstname.lastname@example.org or to our Hadley, MA address. Copyright © 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.
Managing Editor: Bambi Gauthier Assistant Editor: Daisy Shaver Art Director: Matt Bucy Special Thanks: Joey Cain, Covelo, Bo Young, and Cathy Toldi.
Visual Contributors Stephen Silha. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,30 MarkThompson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6, 42 Cathy Toldi. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8,15,27,31,60 Delores Deluce. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Don Shewey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Joey Cain. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Jerry the Faerie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Mary Ann Cherry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Rosemary for Remembrance. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Greg Day. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Keith Gemerek. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29,62 Don Bachardy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Bo Young. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32,34 Jay Sunlight Moonshadow. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35,37,38 Allen Page. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 James Broughton and Joel Singer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Wave . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52,53 Mark Christopher Harvey. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57 Mountaine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Mark Thompson with a photograph of James Broughton. Screen capture from Big Joy, directed by Stephen Silha.
CONTENTS Gathering Guide 2017. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Fellow Travellers (photo excerpts). . . . . . . . . . Mark Thompson.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Remembering Mark Thompson. . . . . . . . . . . . Trebor Healey. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Palm Springs Pool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cathy Toldi. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Desert Bound and You Are Gone. . . . . . . . . . . Covelo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Mark Thompson: “Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend”. . . . . . . . Don Shewey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 “I now send you on with loving remembrances and good wishes” . . . . . . . . Joey Cain. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Memories of Mark. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jim Van Buskirk. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Mark This Man, Mark My Friend, Mark This Life. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mary Ann Cherry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Remembering Mark Thompson: Elder, Mentor, Inspiration. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Raymond Rigoglioso. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Mark Thompson, Buzz Bense & the Sisters. . Rosemary for Remembrance. . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Mark Thompson Profile. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Toby Johnson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Clouds With Thrusts of Light. . . . . . . . . . . . . . William Stewart. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 Excerpts From an Interview by Mark Thompson with Arnie Kantrowitz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Mark Thompson, the Gay Spirit Messenger. . Keith Gemerek. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29 Stills and Quotes from Big Joy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Stephen Silha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 Visionary Words: Remembering Mark Thompson . . . . . . . . . Andrew Ramer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Gay Hero/Gay Friend. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Bo Young. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Dear Mark. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jason aka Jay Sunlight Moonshadow. . . . . 35 Ode to Big Joy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mark Thompson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Kindred Spirits, Kindred Souls. . . . . . . . . . . . . Cupcake. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Reflections of Mark From Images. . . . . . . . . . . Joel Singer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 What You Have Nurtured . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Leng L. Lim. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 A Faerie Who Left His Mark. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Notre Dame des Arbres . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 In Remembrance of My Faerie Brother Mark Thompson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Winston Wilde. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Untitled. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Michael Sajdak. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Standing Rock: An Interview with Wave. . . . . Interview by Bambi. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 Self publishing and me Or “Pride and prejudice?” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Qweaver. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Cultural Activism— Starhawk Visits Short Mountain. . . . . . . . . Mountaine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 Listen Without Prejudice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sergio Ortiz. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 Brian David Canivan 1966-2016. . . . . . . . . . . . Trixie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Atlantic Avenue, while Brian lies in a coma. . Trixie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
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Gathering Guide 2017
Thanks to www.radfae.org for their useful work which provides most of the information in our Annual Guide, merci beacoup and kisses to them. Work Weekend Transmission Gathering Wellness Weekend Imbolc Gathering Asian Faerie Gathering Healing Waters weekend Northwest Bundle Opening Breitenbush Gathering Queer Forestry Camp Realize CalComMen gathering Winter Spirit Camp Midwinter Visioning gathering MUSE: Queer Creatives Retreat Faerie Magic Gathering Healing Waters Weekend Journey to Elderhood: Aging with Intention & Passion Maple Sugaring Gathering Tantric Awakening Exploring Conscious Touch Writing from Real Life Get Cultured Tennessee Dance Convergence: LGBTQ Healers Conference Gay Men of Color Rebirth Gathering Heart Centered Touch Opening the Box: A Weekend with Mindful Gay Spring Community Week Live Life Fully - A Core Energetics Retreat Take a Breath. Remember Who You Are Spring Retreat Sex Magick 169 Workshop Beltane Gathering May Day Gathering Journey to Easter Beltane Gathering An Introduction to Shamanism Sixth Annual International Gay Coaches Conference Bayard Rustin Bootcamp for Community Organizing Radical Faerie Camp Utah Dance CalComMen Memorial Day Gathering Easton at the Edge of 17 Into the Woods Welcome Home Gathering Venez Savourer le Soleil (Soak Up the Sun) Wolf Creek Dance Kink Odyssey Nature=Nurture: Eco-skillshare Weekend Wellness Camp Where the Wild Queers Are 4
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13 - 15 Jan 14 - 16 Jan 27 - 29 Jan 28 Jan - 3 Feb 6 - 13 Feb 10 - 12 Feb 11 Feb 16 - 20 Feb 17 - 19 Feb 17 - 20 Feb 17 - 20 Feb 2 - 5 Mar 3 - 5 Mar 8 - 12 Mar 17 - 19 Mar 17 - 19 Mar 17 - 20 Mar 23 - 26 Mar 30 Mar - 2 Apr 30 Mar - 2 Apr 31 Mar - 2 Apr 5 - 9 Apr 7 - 9 Apr 7 - 9 Apr 10 - 17 Apr 13 - 16 Apr 13 - 16 Apr 14 - 21 Apr 20 - 23 Apr 20 - 23 Apr 21 - 23 Apr 22 - 29 Apr 22 Apr - 1 May 26 - 30 Apr 27 - 29 Apr 28 Apr - 2 May 5 - 7 May 11 - 14 May 12 - 14 May 19 - 22 May 19 - 21 May 26 - 29 May 26 - 29 May 26 - 29 May 26 - 29 May 2 - 4 Jun 7 - 11 Jun 8 - 11 Jun 9 - 11 Jun 14 - 18 Jun 16 - 18 Jun
Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Saratoga Springs, CA Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Glastonbury, United Kingdom Kah Yao Yai, Thailand Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Naraya, Camp Pigott, Snohomish WA Breitenbush, OR Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Camp Round Meadow, Angelus Oaks CA Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY The Billys, Saratoga Springs CA Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Gloucestershire, United Kingdom Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Blue Heron Farm, Dekalb Junction NY Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Naraya, Tennessee Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Drouwen, The Netherlands Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Folleterre, Ternuay-Melay-et-Saint-Hilaire, France Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Gay Spirit Visions, Highlands NC Asheville NC Folleterre, Ternuay-Melay-et-Saint-Hilaire, France The Billys, Saratoga Springs CA Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Squamish BC Naraya, Utah Camp Round Meadow, Angelus Oaks CA Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Faerie Camp Destiny, Grafton VT Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Naraya, Wolf Creek OR Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA
Visit the following links for further info on gatherings: radfae.org, danceforallpeople.com. faeriecampdestiny.org, gayspiritvisions.org. roundswell.institute, midwestmensfestival.com, calcommen.com, eastonmountain.org, faeriesexmagick.org. Faerie Tales Gathering Authentic Eros: Begin the Journey Summer Splash July 4th Gathering Fourth Queerly Gay Freedom Camp Queer Interdepence Gathering Sex Magick 169 Workshop Pan Gathering Faerie Sex Magick 269 Workshop Eros Spirit Camp 36th Annual MidWest Menâ€™s Festival Queer It Yourself Summer Community Week Queer Spirit Festival CalComMen Summer Camp Lammas Summer Gathering Summer Gay Spirit Camp Global Faerie Gathering Tantra 4 Gay Men Festival XRYSALIS Bear Your Soul Summer Camp Summer Gathering Transylvanian Gathering Global Afterglow Gathering Camp Nehirim Blue Heron Gathering Labor Day Gathering CalComMen Labor Day Gathering Q-Topia Sex Werk Gathering Transmission Gathering Queer Burner Decompression Authentic Eros: The Core Erotic Theme End of Summer Splash Austin Radical Faerie Gathering Tantric Awakening Tantrastic Gathering Fall Conference Heart Centered Touch 10th Annual Gay Menâ€™s Shamanic Retreat Self Care Is Sexy Retreat Fall Foliage Gathering Singles Retreat TRANS*cend Albion Faeries Gathering Celebrating Gay Manhood The Quest Halloween Halloween Gathering Lavender: LGBTQ Leadership Conference Celebrating Thanksgiving and Community Building Weekend
18 - 25 Jun 22 - 25 Jun 23 - 25 Jun 28 Jun - 4 Jul 30 Jun - 4 Jul 30 Jun 4 Jul 30 Jun - 4 Jul 1 - 8 Jul 5 - 10 Jul 15 - 22 Jul 17 - 23 Jul 18 - 27 Jul 21 - 24 Jul 24 - 29 Jul 26 - 30 Jul 28 - 30 Jul 28 Jul - 8 Aug 31 Jul - 9 Aug 31 Jul - 6 Aug 8 - 18 Aug 8 - 13 Aug 11 - 13 Aug 16 - 20 Aug 16 - 20 Aug 19 -26 Aug 20 - 27 Aug 23 - 27 Aug 28 Aug - 4 Sep 31 Aug - 4 Sep 1 - 4 Sep 1 - 4 Sep 1 - 4 Sep 1 - 4 Sep 5 - 10 Sep 7 - 10 Sep 8 - 10 Sep 14 - 17 Sep 14 - 17 Sep 16 - 23 Sep 21 - 24 Sep 21 - 24 Sep 22 - 24 Sep 29 Sep - 1 Oct 6 - 9 Oct 6 - 9 Oct 15 - 17 Oct 17 - 26 Oct 20 - 22 Oct 20 - 22 Oct 25 - 29 Oct 27 - 31 Oct 17 - 19 Nov
Folleterre, Ternuay-Melay-et-Saint-Hilaire, France Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY The Billys, Saratoga Springs CA Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Faerie Camp Destiny, Grafton VT Wolf Creek Sanctuary, OR Folleterre, Ternuay-Melay-et-Saint-Hilaire, France Folleterre, Ternuay-Melay-et-Saint-Hilaire, France Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Northeast KS Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Folleterre, Ternuay-Melay-et-Saint-Hilaire, France Wiltshire, United Kingdom Tortuga del Sol, Palm Springs CA Faerie Camp Destiny, Grafton VT Folleterre, Ternuay-Melay-et-Saint-Hilaire, France Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Featherstone, Northumberland, United Kingdom Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Breitenbush, OR Vale-Saliste-Sibiu, Romania Folleterre, Ternuay-Melay-et-Saint-Hilaire, France Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Blue Heron Farm, Dekalb Junction NY The Billys, Saratoga Springs CA Camp Round Meadow, Angelus Oaks CA Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Faerie Camp Destiny, Grafton VT Northern CA Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Wimberely TX Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Folleterre, Ternuay-Melay-et-Saint-Hilaire, France Gay Spirit Visions, Highlands NC Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Faerie Camp Destiny, Grafton VT Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Featherstone, Northumberland, United Kingdom Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY The Billys, Saratoga Springs CA Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA Groundswell Institute, Yorkville CA
22 - 26 Nov
Easton Mountain, Greenwich NY RFD 169 Spring 2017 5
Fellow Travellers Photos by Mark Thompson from his book.
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L to R, T to B: Essex Hemphill, Harry Hay, Robert Mapplethorpe, Paul Monette
Remembering Mark Thompson By Trebor Healey
ll goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, and to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.” Walt Whitman said that in “Song of Myself” and I’ve always felt comforted and even ecstatic when it ripples through my mind, which it does often, and did the day I heard Mark left us. Mark Thompson was a huge presence in my life. From the day I stumbled across Gay Spirit in a used bookstore on Castro Street as just a budding young homo who hadn’t so much as publicly read a poem – and only vaguely aware of such fabulous creatures as faeries - until my days of exile in Los Angeles where I’d had the good fortune, not only to finally meet one of my true heroes, but then to have the added blessing of becoming his friend, student, brother and colleague, Mark loomed large and loving in my life. We walked often along the river, where I received his sage writerly advice; we visited museums and looked behind the veils at the faggotry that infuses so much beauty; we read together; we argued side by side on literary panels for the liberation that is queer consciousness in a movement that has grown sleepy and bourgeois; and yes, we indulged in martinis with Mark’s lovely and giggling, storytelling life partner, Malcolm Boyd. And then Mark went onward and outward—a little sooner than I’d guessed he would. I didn’t have time to thank him and give him one last enormous hug, and a bon voyage. Ah, but there are other ways to do that. And so,
my dear friend and literary impresario extraordinaire, writer Richard May, and yours truly decided to find everyone who felt the same way and who might want to not just share our stories and our common good fortune in knowing him, but to also share Mark’s writing and his photography, both of which were an essential part of his life’s work. And so we organized a memorial reading. We didn’t find everyone, certainly, but what a crew of lovelies we did find (Justin Tanis, Jim Van Buskirk, Carol Queen, Will Roscoe, Wow, Ken White, Sister Merry Peter, Baruch PorrasHernandez, Andrew Ramer, Joey Cain, Ganymede, Brendan Cook, and Karen Sundheim), all eager to
gather memories and books and sing out for the love of Mark. We came together in late September at a new bookstore in the Castro called Dog Eared Books, which just happens to be on the same site where A Different Light once stood in those days when the gay bookstore was the community center and nexus of all things queer. And so it was a homecoming for all of us, returning to where it all began for Mark when as a young man he first came to San Francisco and threw
Most of the readers, from l to r: Justin Tanis, Trebor, Jim Van Buskirk, Carol Queen, Will Roscoe, Wow, Ken White, Sister Merry Peter, Baruch Porras-Hernandez, Andrew Ramer, Joey Cain, Ganymede, Rick May. (not pictured: Brendan Cook, Karen Sundheim)
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himself wholeheartedly and with great enthusiasm into the queer mix. As we laughed and read and shared our endless tales, a sweet sadness filled the air and I think I heard Mark giggle as a black leather wing, and then a faerie wing, brushed my hair and flittered for the briefest of moments in my peripheral vision. I knew then it wasn’t just fifty people in a bookstore, but a gathering much larger and more
infinite, all celebrating Mark and all he’s done for the movement—and in a resurrective way. For what is a bookstore in the Castro if not a rebirth of the word among the fae? And who is Mark now in all his vastness but the true and generous spirit and foundation of that? This wonderful man taught me in his own words to never “stop being curious about the myths and mysteries of same-sex attraction and love.”
Palm Springs Pool by Cathy Toldi
As I prepare to enter the heat of the garage to sort and box and label your archive, there is this ragged feeling, of loose ends, so much hidden treasure, and my anger and disbelief that we will not get to know the work of your later years.
Here at the very place of your death a wild desert wind roars through the palms, splashing ripples of light across the concrete, this little Shangri-La where you would ease and cool your browning body, entering now the freedom phase of your life: newly single, having finally escaped the L.A. basin. I wonder as I turn my heart towards the sounds of this place— the morning birds, the rustling leaves, the hum of the air conditioner— was this the sound-track as your consciousness slipped away? Did you know you were dying oh dearest Soul Brother? How I wish that you sailed off peacefully, you who had suffered enough, who worked so hard to transmute the blood of the wound into the nourishing elixir of the truth of the soul. 8
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Except that as the photos and articles flow through my hands I catch a glimmer of your trickster smile, “We are bridge-builders,” you said. “Resilient and resourceful, we will tend to the new life necessary for the future. We simply need to do our work.” Your steadfast commitment. Your refusal to let the fools take you down. “I’ll miss you so much!” you wrote, in one of so many treasured letters over our 47 years. “We’ll just have to extend the boundaries of our adventure together. The spirit stays the same. With sturdy love and faith— Mark.”
Photographs courtesy author.
Desert Bound and You Are Gone by Covelo
Tomorrow I head to your home in the desert an orphan in the new world of a pitiful America After all these years we had come so far to be trashed to dust by the hate of a Strongman I head to the desert to have sacred time with you and you are gone No Malcolm No Mark You loved as I did the great Episcopalian who said we were not alone as he ran with Jesus He was cool and progressive and uncommonly sweet with Martin in Selma and Dick Gregory at the Hungry I he sermonized and made us smile and spoke to the common yearning of we who walked between but did not understand
And then you came along And acknowledged the shamans among us the Cockettes and the Angels of Light our freak families breaking all barriers of what was right and proper creating and collectivizing and appropriating in all the best ways You recognized our importance and shared our lives with others who yearned and read your words And our visions became theirs and they made them their faerie own I miss you terribly and will love you always and will outlive the Strongman The love that dares now speak its name will endure In eternal gratitude Mark My California friend Fare Thee Well!
Left: Covelo, Maclom Boyd, Mark Thompson, Silver Lake, California, June 2010. Photo by Delores Deluce. Right: Mark Thompson, Stuart Timmons, Robert Croonquist, Lee Mentley, July 2010.
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Mark Thompson: “Hello, Darkness, My Old Friend” By Don Shewey
he Radical Faerie world will always be indebted to Mark Thompson for his skill and generosity in chronicling the emergence of this gay spiritual movement as a professional journalist and as an observer-participant. He attended the legendary first “Spiritual Conference for Radical Fairies” Labor Day weekend 1979 in the Arizona desert, convened by Harry Hay, Mitch Walker, and Don Kilhefner, and he wrote about it in Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning, his ground-breaking anthology of writings that linked contemporary gay liberation thought to previous generations of gay visionary writing by the likes of Walt Whitman, Edward Carpenter, and Gerald Heard. Few books ever published have had as big an impact on the gay world as Gay Spirit did. It emerged from and contributed to a hunger for deep exploration of gay people’s evolutionary purpose on the planet, and it spawned a small but important pocket of gay scholarship that manifest in essential titles such as Randy Conner’s Blossom of Bone and Walter L. Williams’ The Spirit and the Flesh. I must have met Mark right around the time that Gay Spirit was published (1987), when I was an ambitious young arts journalist in New York and he was cultural editor at The Advocate, which I’d been contributing to since sometime in the mid-‘70s. We met at a party celebrating The Advocate’s short-lived New York office—I was thrilled to meet Mark and Pat Califia, one of his star writers, that day—but we didn’t become close friends until the early 1990s. He helped engineer my single biggest journalistic triumph in 1991, the notorious “X-Rated Inter10 RFD 169 Spring 2017
view” with Madonna, which appeared at the time of Truth or Dare and a few years before the internet appeared. And I got to know him on a deeper level when I participated in a week-long retreat at Wildwood he conducted for the Body Electric School the summer of 1994 called “Dark Eros,” which explored conscious BDSM play, the subject of another landmark anthology Mark edited (Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice). Everything he did—as a writer, editor, community historian, teacher, ritual leader, mentor—Mark did with tremendous meticulousness, commitment, methodical thoroughness, passion, and high standards. Although he was in the middle stages of HIV disease, when the medication regimens were harsh and enervating, Mark poured his heart and soul into teaching “Dark Eros,” determined to impart the wisdom he’d collected on the subject even if it meant using up his last ounce of energy. He was not afraid to look darkness in the face—and laugh at it. The retreat culminated in a four-hour outdoor “ball dance” ritual with 15 men in painted faces and multiple piercings drumming and dancing, creating an ecstatic opening between this world and The Other World, a welcoming prayer to perpetuate the tribe of queer beings. In those years, many HIV+ artists and activists felt like they were living on borrowed time (to reference a book by Paul Monette, a good friend and colleague who benefitted from Mark’s encouragement and editorial savvy). Mark tackled book project after book project, never sure which would be the last,
Mark Thompson with Stan Mobley and Dave Macdonald at the Gay Spirit Visions Conference in North Carolina, 1993.
which is how he managed to create an impressive list of publications, including Gay Soul (a collection of interviews with gay wisdom teachers), Gay Body (a tender and honest spiritual/intellectual memoir), Long Road to Freedom (an anthology of writings from The Advocate), Advocate Days, the Fire in Moonlight: Stories from Radical Faeries 1975-2010, and more. In the mid-1990s, when he had branched out from journalism and activism to become a clinical psychologist, Mark was the target of an unsavory character assassination campaign conducted by acolytes of a cultish rival psychotherapist in Los Angeles that caused him considerable heartache. He bitterly joked that the logical followup to Gay Spirit, Gay Soul, and Gay Body would be Gay Shit –Volumes One through Ten! In the 1980s Mark teamed up with the legendary gay Episcopal priest Malcolm Boyd, and they became one of the power couples of the Los Angeles gay scene. It was a curious and yet perfect match, with a substantial age gap not unlike that of Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy (with whom they were great friends). Their personalities were complementary in sometime surprising ways: Mark was always available for substantial conversation especially on topics related to gay history and liberation theory and Jungian psychology, whereas twinkly-eyed Malcolm always relished sharing movie-world gossip and lore from Old Hollywood (before entering the priesthood he had a film production company with “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary Pickford). Mark spoke with a kind of even-tempered formality that you might associate with a Middle American schoolteacher (even though he grew up in California with his own wicked sense of humor and deeply kinky sexual practices). He had a habit that sometimes drove me crazy of repeating everything he’d ever said to me on a particular topic before adding on something new. I think this was partly his didactic style as a teacher and lecturer, but also he was a heavy drinker and like many drunks often forgot what he’d said before so would just go ahead and say it again. Yet for all his expertise as
a journalist and historian and minister of culture, he didn’t believe in sharing everything publicly. He thought some things should be kept inside and reserved for adepts only. It wasn’t elitism or fear on his part; he just thought it was important to cultivate your own understanding and not give away the gold too soon. Once he shared an old Hindu saying that Isherwood had passed on to him: “If you ever have any spiritual insight, guard it as you would the secret that your mother was a whore.”
Above: Mark with Don Shewey. Below: Mark Thompson circa 1991. Both photos at the Men & Masculinity conference in Tucson, AZ. Courtesy author.
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“I now send you on with loving remembrances and good wishes”
—Edward Carpenter to Walt Whitman
by Joey Cain
artini’s at Mark and Malcolm’s house at 5pm…what bliss! It was one of the lookedforward-to events on my yearly visits from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The two of them lived in a lovely LA bungalow that was surrounded by vegetation on a steep hillside in Silver Lake, and a visit with them was as esthetically and culturally revivifying as my pilgrimages to the sparkling museums that make LA such an oasis of discovery for me. Mark was a brilliant Radical Faerie comrade for many decades. We probably met in 1980 at the first gathering I went to but my first mostly solid remembrances of him was from when we were both naked satyrs in the staging of the Satyr Play Midas’ Touch two years later at a Gathering outside of San Diego. (Satyr plays were an ancient Greek form of tragicomedy, similar in spirit to the bawdy satire of burlesque. They featured choruses of satyrs, were based on Greek mythology, and were rife with mock drunkenness, brazen sexuality (including phallic props), pranks, sight gags, and general merriment.) At the Blossom of Bone Napa Gathering in 1993 we shared an in depth conversation about our passion for the early Gay liberationist, anarchist and poet Edward Carpenter. At that time you count on one hand Gay people who even knew who Carpenter was. To say Mark’s was an epic life is mild praise. I remember when I first heard he was an editor at The Advocate magazine. Well darlings, in the 1970’s the Advocate was about as petty bourgeois gay and assimilationist as you could get. And it had mostly lousy writing. But somehow Mark saw possibilities (and a paycheck) in the magazine and through his perseverance as a cultural writer and eventual Senior Editor managed to get the magazine to include 12 RFD 169 Spring 2017
segments of the LGBTQ community that had been denied presence in its pages. From there he went on to edit the great anthologies of our Gay and Radical Fairy spirit movement that brought many of our unique perspectives and discoveries about who we are as Gay men to a much wider audience. I didn’t always agree with some of Marks’ choices. His deep involvement with an abusive Gay Jungian psychotherapy cult was one such choice. However, I never doubted Mark’s integrity, sincerity and authenticity. When he left the cult they made him a target of their Scientology like tactics and for years would show up at his public speaking engagements to taunt and harass him. (gay Leah Remini, where are you?) And it did make his life difficult. But again, he persevered and continued to lend his encouragement and support to all sorts of writers and thinkers. Where we really became close was in our love and caring for Harry Hay and John Burnside while they were alive and, after their passing, in continuing to advocate for Harry’s legacy and recognition as the ground breaking thinker he was. Mark played a lead role in getting the pedestrian stairway next to Harry’s house in Silver Lake, where the 1950 meeting took place that formed the Mattachine Society (essentially the meeting that started the modern LGBT movement), designated the “Mattachine Steps” by the City of Los Angeles, complete with signage. Los Angeles will most certainly not be the same place for me. Our movement for a deeper understanding and exploration of Gay consciousness will need to figure out how to move forward without Marks’ loving kindness and incredible enthusiasm and support. I miss you Mark, good journey dear companion.
A friend, Malcom Boyd and Mark at Mattachine Steps, Los Angeles, CA. Right: Mark Thompson at Harry Hay Conference, New York City, 2012. Photos by Joey Cain.
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Memories of Mark by Jim Van Buskirk
don’t remember how or when or where I first met Mark Thompson. Was it in San Francisco or Los Angeles? Wait! It’s coming back to me: In the mid 1990s as I was developing what was to become the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center at the San Francisco Public Library, Adrian Brooks generously loaned me a copy of Mark’s newest book. Mark was coming to town and Adrian wanted to introduce us. Which title was it of Mark’s many books? I do remember that I got busy and didn’t get to it right away, which irritated Adrian. He asked for the book back and I don’t think his intended introduction happened. Or maybe it did. That was over twenty years ago and my memory is increasingly murky. All I know is that when we did finally meet I was immediately impressed with this smart, sweet, handsome man. Winsome, elfin and unassuming are a few of the words of description that come to
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mind. We bonded in a special way, that I now realize Mark likely did with others. We felt like brothers, cemented by the fact that we were exactly the same age, his birthday a mere ten days before mine. And this was before I was aware of Mark’s diverse areas of interest, his important contributions to various gay communities. Mark’s lack of self-importance was refreshing. As I was developing the Hormel Center, Mark’s illustrated documentary survey Long Road To Freedom: The Advocate History Of The Gay And Lesbian Movement was one of the first volumes I made sure to include in the collection. It had barely registered that this was the same Mark Thompson who edited the then-important gay news source that had been so influential in my coming out. The Harry Hay Papers was an important archival collection and the Hormel Center was being considered as its possible, permanent repository. Stuart
Mark in conversation with Phil Willkie at dinner during Harry Hay Conference, September 2012. Photo courtesy Jerry the Faerie.
Timmons, Joey Cain, Will Roscoe and others were instrumental in making the acquisition happen and I believe Mark was involved from afar. After Stuart’s devastating stroke, I was nervous about going to visit him. Mark invited me to lunch and to take me to visit Stuart. I will never forget Mark’s kindness and empathy. Another example of his generous spirit was when, despite his own time, health and writing commitments, he helped Jeanne Córdova shape her unwieldy manuscript into the Lammy award-winning When We Were Outlaws: a Memoir of Love and Revolution. In Los Angeles we met at events at the ONE Institute, where once I walked right past Mark, not recognizing his new, blond self. I teased him about having gone Hollywood. I remember one evening sitting with him and Malcolm on the party-perfect patio of Betty Berzon and Terry DeCrescenzo. Mark catered to Malcolm’s comfort, while encouraging him to recount stories about his early days with Mary Pickford. It was a special moment and I was impressed, again, with Mark’s sense of humor and his solicitude. Make no mistake: Mark was no saint. I also recall his catty, but never unkind, comments about various people and sundry topics. In conjunction with the publication of The Fire In Moonlight: Stories From The Radical Faeries, Mark made a special trip to San Francisco to participate on a panel in the library’s Koret Auditorium. What a delight it was to have the formal venue filled with fabulous faeries. Mark also generously participated in various other Hormel Center events and programs, often escorted by Joey. A selection of Mark’s powerful photographic series, entitled “Fellow Travelers,” were exhibited at San Francisco’s Eureka Valley-Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library as well as being included in Gay Soul, his extraordinary investigation of “the Heart of Gay Spirit and Nature.” I am honored to have met Harry Hay, James Broughton, and Malcolm Boyd, and to count Will Roscoe, Jim Saslow, and Andrew Ramer as friends. In my first edition copy of Gay Soul, Mark inscribed it, “For Jim, soul brother” on 22 October, 1996. About ten years later, when Katherine Forrest and I were co-editing Love, Castro Street: Reflections of San Francisco, we asked Mark to contribute a piece. He wholeheartedly obliged with “All the Way Home,” a poignant reminiscence of his early days in San Francisco. We placed his powerful piece second in the anthology to help set the tone. I was honored and moved to read an excerpt from “All the Way Home” at the tribute at Dog Eared Books organized Mark with Cathy Toldi in Central Park, New York City, late 1990s. Photo courtesy Cathy Toldi.
by Trebor Healey and Richard May on September 30, 2016. The last time I saw Mark was at Malcolm’s memorial, which I attended with Jim Mitulski and Terry DeCrescenzo. Mark looked dazed, pale and frail. Realizing he had just suffered an immense tragedy, I worried about his physical and emotional and psychic health. I made a point of emailing him from time to time to make sure he was okay. I was surprised when he moved to Palm Springs and glad to see that he seemed to be adjusting to his new life there. Los Angeles was likely too haunted. I was just about to send him birthday greetings when I received a mysterious two-word text from Jim Mitulski: “Mark Thompson”. Was Jim reading my mind or had something happened? As we soon learned, something unimaginably terrible had indeed happened. I still cannot fathom this world without Mark, though his presence continues to inspire me. I take comfort that Mark leaves a large and lasting legacy with his important writings, his powerful photographs, and the memories of those of us who knew and loved him.
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Mark This Man, Mark My Friend, Mark This Life by Mary Ann Cherry
ike many others, I am proud to have called Mark a friend. I am probably one of the newer friends that he and Malcolm made over the years, yet they always treated me like an old family friend. Their hospitality and many kindnesses were renowned. Mark was a pillar of journalistic integrity and he knew how to ask for excellence and depth without a feeling of being pried. In addition to his editorial expertise, both Mark and Malcolm agreed to be interviewed for the upcoming Morris Kight biography. Mark told me about his first encounter with Kight. In the mid1980s, the Advocate moved back to Los Angeles and settled into a large headquarters in the then TV Guide building on Hollywood Boulevard, across the street from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Mark’s office overlooked the roof of the Roosevelt Hotel. Mark recalled: “These were lavish offices and we had a big party for our opening. Vito Russo flew in from New York, the mayor’s office was there, it was a big deal, it was catered with a full bar, and several hundred people showed up dressed to the nines. I was standing in the doorway of my office with Vito and Malcolm and there was this big commotion coming from down the hallway. We looked at each other and wondered ‘who is this character galloping down the hallway?’ Well, it was Morris, first time I had ever seen him. He was saying ‘hello, hello,’ like he was the prince, holding out his hands, having people kiss, or touch, like he was some grand duke and he was sort of dressed like one. Malcolm said, ‘oh my God, I think that’s Morris Kight.’ “Morris came right up to me and said, ‘oh yes, you’re the wonderful new editor that everyone is talking about – hello, I’m Morris Kight.’ And I said, ‘it’s very nice to meet you sir, I’ve heard so much about you.’ Without another word, he strode into my office, like it was his office, and with a flurry he just walked around the desk and ka-plunked himself down into my chair, you could hear the seat squeaked hard, and he put his feet up on my desk
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and threw his arms back and leaned back like he owned the place. It took every ounce of self-control for Vito, Malcolm, and me to not burst out into gales of laughter.” I don’t remember the first time that I met Mark. I do remember the last time that I saw him. It was after Malcolm had passed and shortly before he moved to Palm Springs. He invited me to dinner at his favorite restaurant, Casita Del Campo in Silver Lake. As usual, the conversation covered a range of topics from top to bottom—from the personal to the professional, from actualities to objectives, a little solemn and some laughter. We were comfortable, open, and frank with each other. Mark expressed no interest to return to Los Angeles, “perhaps on a rare occasion.” After dinner, we waited for our cars in the parking lot and I knew that it would be a very long
before I saw Mark again. We professed our mutual wishes to stay in touch and he certainly wanted to be kept apprised of the Morris Kight biography and then we shared a few more laughs. I will always remember Mark as a gentleman. I am forever grateful to him for his strong guidance and sincere encouragement.
Malcom Boyd, Mark Thompson and Stuart Timmons. Photograph courtesy author.
Remembering Mark Thompson: Elder, Mentor, Inspiration by Raymond Rigoglioso
became acquainted with Mark Thompson at an his books. Even with the pull of a luminary such inopportune time: Not long before his beloved as Mark, the bookstore turned down the request, husband, the episcopal priest and LGBT rights pi- stating how their readers would have limited oneer Malcolm Boyd, died. Mark’s seminal books interest in books such as mine. on gay spirituality—the Gay Spirit, Gay Soul, and On the one hand, this response helped me not Gay Body trilogy—had a huge impact on me and take the rejections I had faced so personally. On the Gay Men of Wisdom work. the other, it was a sobering commentary about His influence as senior editor at The Advocate the current media environment and the state of for two decades, as author of multiple books, as a LGBT culture. photographer and a therapist, has been well docuI finally had the chance to meet Mark last mented elsewhere, so I will not try to replicate it. October, when he came to my book reading and Rather, I wish to share what workshop in Palm Springs. Mark gave to me. After my workshop, he took Toby Johnson, one of my me out to dinner. That eveWhen I planned my book’s editors, introduced ning changed the trajectory me to Mark at my request. of my life. trip to southern Mark graciously agreed to “Who are you, and why are California, I thought read a draft of Gay Men and you doing this?” he quizzed I would be promoting The New Way Forward and me, with a curiosity that my book. I had no provide a testimonial. Not conveyed his admiration, yet long after I mailed him the contained caution. “I drove idea I would receive book, Malcolm was rushed to out here from Los Angeles to a blessing from an the hospital. Mark remained support you, and to underelder—and that Mark in touch with me, and even stand who you are.” would pass me the at that difficult time, gave my I fumbled to answer him. book a glowing endorsement. (How does one answer questorch. For a while, it seemed tions such as those?). “I just Malcolm was improving. have to do it,” I said. “I was One day in February 2015, curious to understand gay while I was on a retreat creating the curricumen’s gifts. I feel absolutely compelled.” It seemed lum for Powerful U, I got a sudden sense that I spent the next four hours trying to explain mysomething had gone wrong. I wrote Mark asking self further. how Malcolm was doing. He wrote back shortly Over our dinner Mark regaled me with stories afterward saying my hunch was right: Malcolm of Malcolm, who had been a successful Hollywas dying, and they were preparing to disconnect wood actor before leaving that world to become a his life support. priest. He shared his own journey—the joys and I didn’t know Mark well enough to offer him pitfalls of advancing a set of ideas that were not much meaningful support after Malcolm died. I always appreciated. had not met him nor Malcolm in person. I gave “Your book is excellent,” he told me. “You have what condolences I could. And yet, even in Mark’s respected the elders and ancestors. You have ingrief, he maintained a correspondence with me, corporated our ideas generously. You are the one going so far as to apologize for not being able to in your generation who is now doing this work.” help me promote my book more. His words stunned me. When I planned my book tour to Los AngeThen he warned me of the challenges I will les, he contacted the bookstore in Silver Lake, face. “Don’t feel you have to do this forever,” he where he lived and gave readings for several of cautioned. “When you decide it is time to stop,”
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he said, “don’t think you have failed.” We ended that evening with him pointing out the moon and the pink glow over Palm Springs. He would be moving to Palm Springs, he told me, to start over. I expected I would see him on my next trip there. I didn’t know it would be the first and last time I saw him. When I planned my trip to southern California, I thought I would be promoting my book. I had no idea I would receive a blessing from an elder—and that Mark would pass me the torch. On the plane ride home I reflected on the
gravity of that moment. Until that point I hadn’t known what I would do after my book tour, but now I did: I would devote my full efforts to bringing about this vision. I would go forth with conviction and courage, knowing—really knowing this time—that I was on the right track. My time with Mark Thompson may have been brief, but he gave me one of the most profound gifts I have ever received. Rest in peace, Mark. May you and Malcolm be holding hands and smiling.
Mark Thompson, Buzz Bense & the Sisters by Rosemary for Remembrance
knew Mark and Buzz and I have known many of well at one of San Francisco’s better restaurants, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. My previreminisced about old times, and discussed curous lover John (who died of AIDS complications rent projects and plans for the future. His glowing in 1988) and I met Mark at the Spiritual Confersmile showed all through dinner. I arranged to ence for Radical Faeries in 1979. He has been a gay buy a large print of his photograph of the Mud FaSherpa for me, not in the sense of carrying my bageries from the Spiritual Conference, both because gage up the mountain, but as a it was the most outrageous thing guide to being a gay man with to happen there and because an awakened spirit. I’ve got my John shows up in the back He has been a gay autographed copies of almost of the group (he’s the man with Sherpa for me, all of his books, and I’ve read the frizzy hair). I see the photo not in the sense each at least twice. every day that I’m home and Though Mark grew up think of both John and Mark. I of carrying my in the Monterey Bay area miss them both. baggage up the and was a founding member I’d write about Buzz and mountain, but as of the Bay Area-wide Gay the Sisters also, but this issue a guide to being a Students Coalition at San is not the place for it, though Francisco State University, he I will mention just one thing gay man with an lived most of his life in Los about Buzz and me. He, along awakened spirit. Angeles. Since I live in San with others, as mentioned in Francisco, we long moved the issue 168, p. 63 article about in different Faerie Circles. him, founded the Coalition for Like Mark I am a longtime survivor of HIV disHealthy Sex in response to the continuing HIV ease—35½ years and counting. epidemic. I have been a member of the Getting to The last time I got to spend time with Mark Zero San Francisco Consortium for several years; was when he had a show of his very fine black it’s devoted to, by 2020, getting to zero new infecand white photographs at Buzz’s club Eros. I don’t tions, zero AIDS-related deaths, and zero HIV recall exactly when that was, but it was at least stigma—and we’re on track. five years ago. I invited him out to dinner. We ate
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Mark Thompson Profile By Toby Johnson
ark Thompson’s life and public identity have included many of the major themes in the decades from 1970 to 2015: sexual liberation, the rise of the gay press, gay history, Radical Faeries, post-religious spirituality, reconciliation of religion and homosexuality, long-term relationship, leathersex, Native American practice, AIDS, safesex education, gay psychotherapy, writing, editing and book publishing—all examples of gay culture creation. Thompson was Cultural Editor for The Advocate magazine; in that capacity he interviewed or wrote about most of the newsmakers in the post-Stonewall gay world through the mid-70s, ’80s and early ’90s. He has published some of these pieces in several collections. Thompson is an elegant and engaging writer; he weaves his personal biography into introductory and explanatory material that frames the content. These books show him as a serious, though playful, but always earnest and good-intentioned, proudly gay man seeking spiritual, cultural and human meaning for his experience. Photos of him included in the collections and on his website show him as a handsome young man, brown-haired, masculine, pretty, just a little fey and a little hippie, an “all-American boy.” He grew into a middle-aged man with good looks and solid body, gray hair and blue eyes that sometimes look green, and a gentle smile. His voice is refined and sweet, very polite, intelligent. He comes across as wellspoken, cultured and thoughtful. Thompson was born August 19, 1952; he grew up in the Northern California Monterey Bay area. As a fifteen-year-old, he worked at the Tantamount Theatre, an old movie house and puppet theater in Carmel run by two gay men, François Martin and John Ralph Geddis. From these two older men and their long relationship, he learned his first impressions of gay life and love. His maternal grandfather had been a newspaperman in Nebraska, and his mother had helped at the paper; maybe the ink was in his blood. In junior high, he started a little school newspaper. Then in high school he was editor of the Carmel High paper and then, in junior college, a reporter for the local paper, The Carmel Pine Cone. In 1973, he moved up to San Francisco to complete a degree in Journalism at S.F. State.
In March 1968, on a field trip to the City for a play at the Geary Theater near Union Square, he’d broken away from the group and set out on his own to explore Polk Street which he’d heard rumors about. In a men’s clothing store, he found a copy of a mimeographed newsletter very much like that little school paper from junior high; it was The Los Angeles Advocate. “Inner alarm bells were ringing all over,” he wrote of that moment. At S.F. State, he joined a gay student group, and soon with them started a newspaper called The Voice. In ’75, an issue of The Voice included an essay, “Finding Power,” by David B. Goodstein, the new millionaire owner of The Advocate who was about to set the magazine on an even more professional course than it had evolved since that newsletter in ’68. Mark had done extensive editing on the essay, and Goodstein called him to his office in San Mateo to thank him and to discuss the young man’s future plans. When Mark told him he was going on a trip to Europe after graduation, Goodstein invited him to submit a couple of pieces: an interview with David Hockney in Paris, a report on gay life in Amsterdam, and interviews with gay activists in Barcelona who were under siege from the Franco government—a task that involved intrigue and personal peril. It was the start of a new life as a reporter and a real-life activist. He was soon hired as Cultural Editor for The Advocate. This job made him a thought leader for gay America through some two decades. And because many of the essays and interviews he did for the magazine included spiritual and religious material, and have been collected in anthologies titled Gay Spirit: Myth & Meaning (1988) and Gay Soul: Finding the Heart of Gay Spirit and Nature With Sixteen Writers, Healers, Teachers, and Visionaries (1995), Mark Thompson became one of the creators and definers of a gay spirituality. “Gay Spirituality” seeks to answer such religiouslike questions as “Why am I gay?” “What does being gay tell us about ‘God’?” “What does gay consciousness suggest about how to treat one another and how to be good?” Serious questions and unserious: “How do you put on a ritual? (and can we wear drag?),” even “How does a gay person pray?”—all questions that include but transcend traditional RFD 169 Spring 2017 19
religious explanations of myth and meaning. Gay Spirit introduced many to Harry Hay, Gerald Heard, Edward Carpenter, even American poet Walt Whitman as the proto gay-shaman/prophet and to a spiritual/philosophical vision of homosexuality with essays by such thinkers as Judy Grahn, Michael Bronski, Dennis Altman, Will Roscoe and more. Gay Soul presented portraits and interviews with gurus and guides including Joseph Kramer, James Broughton, Andrew Harvey and Ram Dass. A third volume in this triology, a more personal autobiography, Gay Body: A Journey Through Shadow to Self (1997) fleshes out, as it were, the physical and sexual side of gay consciousness. Its ruminations arose during the hardest days of the AIDS crisis. In 1987, Thompson was diagnosed himself; he believes he’d been HIV-positive since ’80 or ’81. In 1994, his own gay brother, Kirk, died of AIDS, literally in Mark’s arms. Thompson became acutely aware of the questions for the spirit posed by the pleasure-seeking mortality of the gay body, yet always with clear sex-affirmative intention. In his physical and spiritual quest, he participated in the Native-American ceremony, The Sun Dance, which required real physical endurance and entailed real torture—with hooks in the skin of the chest that attached to the central axis pole round which the dancers circled. For Thompson, this was a ritual of transformation, initiation and completion of the human rites of passage into what he called, in Jungian-based lingo, immanence, a complete and final truthful reconciliation with the Self. As a gay man in the liberated ’70s, Thompson had had some experience of the leatherworld. His book Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics and Practice (1991) is a collection of essays, woven through with personal experience and self-reflection, that places this so misunderstood (even by its practitioners) phenomenon of consensual sadomasochism, “leathersex,” not just in a context of sexual athleticism, deliberate risk-taking and forced intensity—“Shadow stuff ”—but also of healing, psychological growth and spiritual awareness. Thompson concludes Gay Body with the wisdom that the final sacrifice by which the spiritual journey is finished for gay men must be to give up the woundedness itself that drove the journey, to transcend homosexuality and all the struggles attendant to it as pain and to let go of the past and to be happy.
n May 1, 1979, Thompson interviewed Harry Hay. The Mattachine Society founder complained about the “assimilationist” tendencies to 20 RFD 169 Spring 2017
make gays just another variation of patriarchal culture. He announced a gathering that coming Labor Day to organize an anti-assimilationist, gay “essentialist,” neo-pagan, enthusiastically sex-affirmative, new age spiritual counter to those tendencies. The article in The Advocate was a godsend in reaching a population of men who would come to call themselves Radical Faeries. Thompson attended the gathering himself. Thompson jokingly refers to himself as an Episco-pagan, for not only is he a major character in Radical Faerie/gay spirituality circles, he’s also an Episcopalian preacher’s wife. In 1984, he’d come down from San Francisco to interview Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy. He was also on a mission for David Goodstein to check out L.A. in preparation for relocating The Advocate there. Mark was staying at a gay motel that advertised with the magazine. When he got back from the interview, he found a message that a gay luminary, Malcolm Boyd, was staying at the same motel and that they should meet. That visit lasted three hours and would prove the start of a two-year courtship and a relationship that was going to last the rest of their lives. Thus long-term, stable love and being a role model for acceptance of gay relationship within the established church became another facet of Mark Thompson’s activist career. Boyd was a Hollywood producer in the ’40s associated with actress Mary Pickford. In 1951, he shifted identities and became an Episcopal priest. He was active as a clergyman within the American Civil Rights Movement and even was a “Freedom Rider” in 1961. His book of progressive Christian prayers and meditations, Are You Running With Me, Jesus (1965), was wildly influential. In 1977, Boyd acknowledged his homosexuality and wrote about this in Take Off the Masks (1978, White Crane Books 2008). In 2004, Mark and Malcolm’s twentyyear relationship was blessed by Bishop J. Jon Bruno and five other bishops at the Los Angeles Cathedral Center of St. Paul. Thompson and Boyd lived in the L.A. suburb of Silver Lake. Partly because of health and partly because of changes in management, in 1992 Thompson retired from The Advocate. His last job was to produce a coffee table-sized book Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of the Gay and Lesbian Movement (1994), with editor Michael Denneny for St. Martin’s Press. After leaving The Advocate in 1994, Thompson attended Antioch University and received a Master’s in Clinical Psychology. Over the next decade, he
worked in mental health services for gay and lesbian youth and for people living with AIDS—himself the wounded healer. During the height of the AIDS crisis, Thompson had volunteered in sex-affirmative AIDS and safesex education, even when such was daring, controversial and taboo-violating even within gay circles. Thompson is an accomplished photographer, having captured candid images of Faerie and other gay subcultures throughout his career and specifically portrait photos of major characters like Harry Hay and John Burnside, Isherwood and Bachardy, Essex Hemphill, Paul Monette. His photographs form the book and the traveling exhibition, sponsored by White Crane Institute, titled Fellow Travelers: Liberation Portraits. In the 2000s, Thompson joined with Bo Young of White Crane Books to produce The Fire in Moonlight: Stories from the Radical Faeries 1975-2010, to painstakingly revise and reedit Stuart Timmon’s The Trouble with Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement (for Harry’s 100th birthday), and to oversee release of the Vito Russo Reader: Out Spoken. The next White Crane project is an updated edition of Arthur Evans’s ground-breaking book Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture, which was based on
a series of lectures in San Francisco in 1973 that, arguably, initiated the idea of “gay spirituality.” Mark Thompson’s books, Gay Spirit, Gay Soul and Gay Body combine elements of gay history and mythology and New Age spirituality. They have changed gay cultural history. Thompson tells how he learned to pray in Advocate Days & Other Stories, a memoir published by Queer Mojo in 2009, as “lowering a bucket of conscious intent into my own deep well of faith and personal meaning. I wasn’t asking to be saved or to avoid suffering (because I believe prayer doesn’t quite work that way), but rather to be fully awakened with acceptance and grace to the challenges ahead.” Mark Thompson’s life, his writings and interviews, and especially his style of weaving his own life into the history fulfills that prayer and gives a model for us all for a gay spirit that transcends myth to discover and create meaning. This profile first appeared in Tangents, Vol. 5 No. 2, Fall 2014.
James Broughton, William Stewart, Toby Johnson. Photo courtesy author.
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Clouds With Thrusts of Light by William Stewart
s it happens, I don’t have to describe the circumstances of my first meeting with Mark Thompson, my beloved friend of thirty-six years. He did it himself, in his most personal book, Gay Body. We were introduced at a San Francisco reunion of folks who had been at the first “Spiritual Conference of Radical Fairies” in Arizona in the summer of 1979. I hadn’t been at the gathering, but I tagged along with friends to the follow-up event. I treasure Mark’s vignette of that evening, not only on account of its personal, sentimental relevance, but also because it reveals a bit of his complexity, which I witnessed in ever-increasing depth over the course of our friendship. In his words:
was in a storefront loft in the Mission district. A canopy of exotic fabrics hung over the dimly lit space, sheltering the men below who were languidly piled on dunes of oversized cushions. Gaily costumed and sweet in our glee, we were like Bedouin lords on laughing gas. I felt myself floating away in the scented twilight, as if on a cloud. Despite the intoxicating spell, I was aware of a certain ambivalence setting in. A week before, there had appeared in my mailbox a mysterious invitation, for the inaugural party of a new leathermen’s fraternity, and it had been burning a hole in my pocket ever since. 22 RFD 169 Spring 2017
Finally, something in me spoke: I had to get out of the room. Giving vent to the abandoned kid inside would not happen through comfort, but through risk. With great care and attention, I needed to be ripped apart. Once I pushed through the door onto Valencia Street, the stranglehold of suffocating emotion ceased. I went to my Volkswagen bug, opened the front hood, stripped off my drawstring pants, silk blouse, and t’ai chi slippers. Standing naked in the quiet alley, even for a minute, felt exhilarating. I was being remade by the moment. I stood motionless for another few seconds, then pulled on jeans, a leather jacket, and boots, got in the car, and drove off humming, transformed and ready for whatever fortune the night might still hold. That was Mark. As for me, I only knew that I had just met a very handsome and engaging young fae who was also a successful out gay journalist, and I wanted him in my life. To my great good fortune, I got be be an intimate of this generous and brilliant man, from our first date in 1980 until his death in 2016. Over the years, I came to see the reserves of strength and the hidden fears, the public achievements and private griefs, of a life that contained much richness, but also more hurt than anyone should have to endure, Photograph by Greg Day, 1983.
and more courage than I, for one, can fully fathom. I won’t dwell on Mark’s family story, since he has portrayed it in such painstaking detail in his own writing. When we became lovers, he was still marveling that he had achieved escape velocity from the toxic atmosphere of his parents’ disintegrating marriage, his mother’s mental breakdown, and the isolation of queer adolescence in the shadow of Carmel, California. There had been a handful of friends, and communion with nature, but he needed to get away—to more worldliness, more gayness, more life. San Francisco! That was the gravitational center to which he was irresistibly drawn. There, starting as a student journalist at San Francisco State, and then more explicitly when he became cultural editor of The Advocate, he created his first career. His unwavering focus: an ongoing exploration of his own tribe and its burgeoning, fomenting culture. He had the good fortune, for a brief moment in the mid-seventies, to acquire abundant experience and insight in tandem with the expansion of the Lesbian-Gay community. Almost immediately, he realized that his life’s work was to document that culture—and, mostly invisibly, working from behind the keyboard, he also helped shape it as well. Throughout his writing, there is a connecting thread. His underlying subject is queer consciousness, as manifested in any number of forms: the specific trajectories of individual queer lives; the evolution of queer politics and movements and grassroots activism; the self-empowerment of groups marginalized by the LGBT mainstream; and the realms of archetype and spirit, especially in their queerer configurations. This was his terrain, which he crisscrossed assiduously for the duration of his life. I was the one who went after him, and at first he received my courting with considerable reluctance. I was 30, he was 29. He was just out of a relationship that had left him feeling wary, and he wasn’t looking to partner again any time soon. I persisted, though, because I was deeply attracted: to his intelligence, to his wit, to his sophistication, to his depth, to his unabashed gay identity, to his professionalism, to his circle of connections, and, of course, to his looks—a sturdy blondish handsomeness that he attributed to his mother’s Nebraska pioneer forebears. For our first night out, Mark took me to to the San Francisco Art Institute in North Beach, to attend a birthday tribute to James Broughton, already his cherished mentor and friend. I remember Mark introducing me, James’s embrace, the opening of magic vistas, the window-mobile (James’s word)
of film and poetry and collaboration and intimate delight. The friendships that I forged with James and his beloved Joel Singer, with Will Roscoe and Bradley Rose and with many other faeries and kindred folk, were gifts that came to me through Mark, and I’m grateful for the pleasures and projects that I shared with them—the many dead, and the relatively few who remain. Gradually, Mark opened up to me about his sexuality. We’d agreed that we weren’t interested in monogamy, but still, he was awkward and diffident about his attraction to the psychosexual realm in its darker aspect. I sensed that he was fearing judgment, but my response was unequivocally affirming. I intuitively knew that I needed to encourage him without reservation. Our trust deepened, as Mark came to realize that I had no desire to limit his exploring, but on the contrary, wanted to support his unique path of individuation, wherever it might lead. Sadly, a shadow was already falling over that path, though we couldn’t foresee how wide it would spread. Indeed, Mark’s magic moment was already starting to end, even before it could be said to have truly begun. There may have been a near-perfect season, but soon enough there was the Briggs fight, and then the assassinations, and the trial, and the riots—and although gay San Francisco continued to party, it was clear that the course of liberation wasn’t going to be as smooth as we had hoped. Observing current events, and as always looking for corollaries in his own psyche, he unflinchingly named and “called out,” as we would say nowadays, the power of homophobia, external and internal, and its capacity for destroying lives. And then, AIDS happened. It’s graven on my memory, that late afternoon in the spring of 1981, when he told me about seeing a fellow-worker from The Advocate in the hospital, covered with KS lesions. “They’re calling it the gay cancer,” he said. We didn’t know what it meant, but we knew that it couldn’t be good. Confident in our heart connection, Mark and I agreed that our time as lovers was over in late 1982. Against the backdrop of AIDS and Reaganism and Mark’s deteriorating work situation, the breakup was gentle and matter-of-fact. We stopped sleeping together, but otherwise we were as close as before. Already when we met, Mark had begun to feel scapegoated at The Advocate. The paper’s publisher and owner, a petty tyrant who recognized a good target when he saw one, took advantage of Mark’s carefully hidden vulnerability, insisting on calling RFD 169 Spring 2017 23
him “arts editor” instead of Mark’s preferred “culdeath some thirty years later. Despite moments of tural editor,” and generally denigrating the second friction, they softened into one another, and their section, which of course included the infamous pink reciprocal love and commitment were never in pages (where people found each other before the doubt. That was a good thing, because other aspects internet). Once again, as in his growing-up years, he of Mark’s life were anything but easy. was experiencing unanticipated slings and arrows, a The harassment campaign directed against him is recurring pattern in his life. too distasteful to dwell on, but in essence, a couple On the home front, Mark had a year or two of of troubled people started projecting an imagined satisfaction in his relationship with Barry Cundiff, a “betrayal of the faeries” onto him, presumably sweet, unassuming man with a passion for intense because he’d achieved a modicum of public success. body sensation and kink. But the shadow of death The petty private humiliations and insulting public was omnipresent, and nothing was untouched. abuse they inflicted on him made his life miserable As if the epidemic weren’t enough, in 1984 the for something like a decade. Once again Mark expeAdvocate publisher announced that he was moving rienced underserved hostility, the product of others’ the paper to Los Angeles. With deep reluctance, unexamined shadow. Mark decided to keep the job, and to leave his beDid he bring this on himself? I don’t buy the loved Bay Area home. finger-pointing implication, but we both agreed As always, his antidote to suffering was work. that certain pathologies seek out certain kinds of In 1987 he published his first book, Gay Spirit, an “screens” onto which to smear their unresolved shit/ anthology focused on the script—and as self-doubtpsychic and spiritual asers, folks like Mark and me pects of queer experience. are subliminally recogIn his introduction, he nized by people in the grip The harassment campaign announces his overarching of these pathologies, and directed against him is too theme: that we queer folk are targeted because we distasteful to dwell on, have some special callwill eat the suffering they ing to bring to the world, inflict instead of respondbut in essence, a couple something that the world ing in kind. of troubled people started needs, which we ourselves Internalization cost projecting an imagined need to discover. That Mark a lot, especially in “betrayal of the faeries” quest, that poking-around combination with HIV/ for whatever its essence AIDS. He did his best, and onto him, presumably might be, never stopped his writing continued to because he’d achieved beckoning him, despite all rip open readers’ hearts a modicum of public the pain along the way. with its honesty and coursuccess. Over time, he made his age; but his health, his peace with Los Angeles. nerves, his stamina were His meeting with Malall precarious, and much of colm Boyd was certainly his energy was dedicated a turning point for him, as it was for Malcolm as to Malcolm, who needed a good deal of backstage well. At first he had misgivings about the attentions support. He fulfilled his duties as an Important of this well-known Episcopalian priest, thirty years Episcopal Spouse with grace, and I think he rather his senior, who was in fact something of a celebrity: enjoyed cavorting with bishops, but part of him alMr. Gay Episcopal U. S. A., columnist, bestselling ways looked forward to communing once more with author, and former associate of Dr. Martin Luther his own gods, naked in a tidepool, or in a sacred King, Jr. For Mark, who found religion in the tidegrove with needles in his chest. pools of the Monterey Peninsula and whose dearest There was no space for that, though, in his burintimates included multiply-pierced pagan sexdened life. Consider the combination: behind-theshamans, the idea of partnering with a mainstream scenes caregiving duties; severe health challenges Christian priest was a stretch indeed—but Malcolm related to HIV and medication side-effects; longpersisted, and Mark accepted Malcolm’s suit, and term erratic harassment and subsequent PTSD; loss together they bought a little house in Silverlake, of editorial support; inability to continue full-time where they made a happy home until Malcolm’s work and decision to go on disability with all of its 24 RFD 169 Spring 2017
financial constraints; ongoing responsibility for a certifiably crazy mother; more (thankfully, fewer) deaths of friends and acquaintances, even with a new generation of drugs; and, as the ubiquitous dark-grey background, an unimaginable burden of accumulated grief and loss. Small wonder that he felt moments of bitterness—the marvel of it is, not only did he (always) continue to write, but beyond that, he got himself a master’s degree in psychology and a therapist’s license, to help troubled queer youth and to add to his already extensive shamanic toolbag. This would have been something like his third, maybe fourth, career. Did I mention photography? As a journalist at a low-budget weekly tabloid, he was expected to photograph the subjects of his interviews himself, and thanks to his studies in film and darkroom technique, he was already a good photographer when he took the Advocate job. His
Photograph courtesy author.
skills grew more sophisticated with the years, and his photo portfolio with accompanying texts, Fellow Travelers, is a masterpiece which is luckily available in digital form, as well as in a numbered edition of original prints Writing, editing, photography, clinical psychology, and then, in 2010, a new book project. For a long time Mark had seen the need for an anthology by and about the Radical Faeries, a notion that started to acquire substance during his regular conversations with Bo Young of White Crane Books. The project seemed on track, but then things soured when an additional collaborator threatened to block publication unless his role in faerie history (and in the book’s creation) were given exaggerated prominence. Unwilling to concede, Mark and the publishers brought out The Fire in Moonlight in 2011. It was a triumph, but a shadowed one, with hostility from a previously supportive colleague leaving Mark shaky
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and hurt. The publication of The Fire in Moonlight wasn’t the only bright spot in those later years with Malcolm. Their renewal of vows and legal marriage, celebrated with all the pomp that the Episcopal Church could lay on, was another; and there were occasional honors for each of them, and martinis, and time with cherished friends, old and new, that offered respite from the exhaustion of living. Despite ongoing challenges, things were mostly stable until Malcolm’s health finally broke down as he turned ninety. A brutal year followed, with hospitalizations and confusion and re-infections and all the rest, until he died in February of 2015. The death was in some ways a relief, but it was also a devastating emotional blow, made harder by the responsibility of being the widow and executor of a well-known public figure. He was, I expect, very alone with his sorrow. But he devised a plan for moving forward, realistic and firm. He made the calculation: sell the house in Silverlake, buy a condo in Palm Springs, invest the balance, and live off the interest. His life would need to be very modest, but there would be enough, and his health needs would be adequately covered. He outlined the plan to me during his one visit to Groundswell, the community I helped co-found in Mendocino County north of San Francisco. It was a tender couple of nights and days that we shared then, his frailty heartbreaking but his spirit strong. Soon after his visit, he sold the house and all the effects, except for a small quantity of furniture and housewares, and a large number of books, to furnish the condo. His first months in Palm Springs were difficult, but then, fortune smiled. He switched to a new combination of HIV meds, and for the first time in many years, he felt good. He started to meet people, and Malcolm’s absence was finally okay. This was blessing enough, but the real miracle happened when, through the Black Leather Wings tribe, he was introduced to an intelligent, bighearted, and highly skilled kink practitioner, who was ready to meet him more than halfway. They hit it off. Their first date was evidently very, very good. My last phone call with Mark took place as he was preparing for their second get-together. I called because I had something important to tell him. Black Leather Wings was having their annual summer gathering at Groundswell, and I had participated in their central ritual, the hook pull. “I’m so proud of you!” said Mark when I called to tell him about it, as I knew he would. Then, the 26 RFD 169 Spring 2017
last words he spoke to me: “I’m sorry I can’t talk more now, but I have a date in an hour, and I need to douche.” Their second date happened, and Mark dropped dead a few days before their scheduled third. So, the existential question: was this a terrible time to die, or, on the contrary, a perfect one? Imagine: you’re finally on an upswing, after seemingly endless exhaustion and recurrent despair. Obviously, if you could be guaranteed twenty years on a plateau like that, you’d say yes to the offer—but life’s not like that, as Mark knew very well. So I like to think of it as good timing, as far as his own trajectory was concerned. The hole he left in his survivors’ hearts is big, but I see him joyous and free, gradually merging into the universal flow, leaving abundant blessings for anyone open to them. His work, of course, is his legacy. Re-examining his books, I’m struck anew by the unflinching honesty of his exploration, the depth with which he probes inherited trauma, dubious truisms, and emergent insights. His words seem as relevant today as when they were written twenty years ago:
he point is, gay men like myself have much tending of our psychic houses to do. We’re either dazed from sorting out fact from too much fiction, or are lost in the woods with no moral compass. Some live in denial, while others have abdicated caring altogether, riding along on the wrong bus. As deeply feeling men who have been robbed of feelings, we have no choice now but to know ourselves completely. Where is our joy? Our rage? Where are the stories and myths that will lead us back to where our true self lies? Asking these questions is the better act of survival.
n this era of alternative facts, Mark’s unceasing search for truth—not easy answers, but everdeeper questions—models a modern shaman’s path, which inspires and instructs me still. He led a profoundly examined life. The best tribute any of us can pay him is to do the same.
Mark with camera in Sierras. Photograph by Cathy Toldi.
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Excerpts From an Interview by Mark Thompson with Arnie Kantrowitz The following excerpt is from Mark Thompson’s conversation with author Arnie Kantrowitz, as published in Ron Suresha’s book, Bears on Bears: Interviews & Discussions (Bear Bones Books, 2009). Reprinted with permission. Mark: A major aspect of gay liberation is about resolving the wounds of growing up in a homophobic culture. That is a very important healing stage to go through, and sometimes we have to isolate ourselves to accomplish that. But the whole argument I’ve made about being gay is that our ultimate place is in the wider world, simply being our fabulous selves! It’s all about the individuation process. One of the ways I see the Bear culture being a healthy advancement is that it helps gay men find themselves as more fully-realized individuals. Arnie: Gay liberation and identity politics, as it came to be called afterward, is a very self-conscious undertaking. You are re-creating yourself, you are defining yourself, you are proclaiming yourself, you are very aware of your self, your image, your place in the world. Bears, in a certain way, are a progression from that. Yet in another way, Bear culture is still self-conscious, and I think what we’re talking about — finding your individual place in the world with your various identities intact — goes beyond that self-consciousness. You don’t have to walk a certain way, you don’t have to dress a certain way. You can be who you are, and it tends to transcend the identities of which you are composed, but you’re not denying those identities. Ron: Do you feel that what will evolve from the Bear subculture is a far greater level of acceptance and awareness? Arnie: Yes, and that’s pretty much why this is a stage and a necessary stage. Mark: Yes. I can see it as a stage — I would put as “the graying of the modern gay man.” Ron: Graying is moving from the colorful vigor of our naïve youth to the white hairs of mature experience and wisdom. As we learn to embrace the eldest and youngest members of our community, we more fully exemplify the spectrum of its constituency. Bears have typically always taken pride in their age diversity — the Bear brotherhood flag includes white as symbolic of the older “Polar bear,” for example. 28 RFD 169 Spring 2017
Mark: There is one thing I like about all these kinds of identifications, the Bears and the Faeries and all of that. Underneath, there is a very deep sense of humor. You’ve got to have a sense of humor to say, “Yeah, I’m a Bear!” or “I’m a faerie!” or “I’m a queen!” A good sense of humor is definitely one of the most important things a man or anybody can have in life. Arnie: Yes, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. I wish the Bear community all good luck, wherever it is heading. We can dissect it and deconstruct it and all of that, but it’s very important that during this stage of their, or our, evolution, to have a damn good time. Mark: When I mentioned to a friend that we were going to be doing this interview, he said, “Oh, well, you’re a Bear now.” I’ll accept that. Ron: It’s never too late to be initiated. Mark: I think it’s a fundamentally authentic place for a lot of gay men to be coming from at this particular point in our collective story. It speaks very well for gay men and our capacities to survive and to take good care of each other.
Mark Thompson, the Gay Spirit Messenger by Keith Gemerek
ark Thompson’s work had an impact on our lives. My first encounter with Mark was with his book Gay Spirit which was supporting the foundation of a dynamic faerie community in Brooklyn in the early 1990’s. Other books that were traded amongst the burgeoning tribe at that time were Wil Roscoe’s The Zuni Man-Woman, Arthur Evans’ Witchcraft and the Gay Counterculture Walter Williams’ The Spirit and The Flesh: Sexual Diversity in American Indian Culture, Michael Rumaker’s My First Satyrnalia, Larry Mitchell’s The Faggots and Their Friends Between Revolutions, Starhawk’s Spiral Dance and Judy Grahn’s Another Mother Tongue. But Gay Spirit – Myth and Meaning was an explosion in our gut. We felt that this book was about us personally at that moment, our soul and our bodies, and it validated our struggle while celebrating our self-discovery. For many of us, it was our introduction to Harry Hay, our faerie godfather. We cast our green frog camouflage and began to grow our princely wings in full view. Mark was the messenger and that message was revolutionary. There is a moment in John O’Leary’s video called “Keisha’s loft – FAGtasia 1992” (YouTube, still above) where he was shooting from the hip at the first of my Tired Old Drag photo shoot parties, and Delilah, who was being made up for his moment on the set, turned to speak directly to John and the camera: Delilah: You know the most important book that I forgot, for faeries? Gay Spirit.
Photographs courtesy author.
John: Oh, you know, Jay gave me a copy of that! Delilah: Oh cool! Did you look at it? John: Yeah. Delilah: ...like fabulous! How could I forget that one! And then we discovered others of Mark’s books, and his photography which was equally prolific and important, and historic! His masterful portraiture of revolutionary queers will only become more important through the years. In 2012 the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in New York held a four day conference called “Radically Gay: The Life and Visionary Legacy of Harry Hay”. It brought together scholars from all over the country and Europe, to make sure Harry Hay’s work had its rightful place in the scholarly canon. At the conference Mark presented a slide show and talk about his photographic legacy. It was a rare screening with the photographer present to talk about the work, much of which is outside of the mainstream, such as his ritual photos from Wolf Creek, and the very first gathering of Radical Faeries in the desert in 1979. That first gathering is spoken of in such reverential terms always as “where it all started”. Mark was a participant and documentarian from within. It was a difficult position and challenge, but he did it as if he was invisible and right up front. In 2008, when Mark published a photographic memoir called “Fellow Travelers”, I was lucky enough to order a copy. I sent Mark a note of thanks and congratulations. He was kind and responded with a generous note to a fellow faerie photographer, pictured above. RFD 169 Spring 2017 29
Stills and Quotes from Big Joy by Stephen Silha
ark was interviewed in 2010 for the awardwinning documentary BIG JOY: The Adventures of James Broughton. His interview, along with many others from the Big Joy Project, will appear
on the Georgia State University Library’s Digital Collections, and will be available for public use. See http://digitalcollections.library.gsu.edu/cdm/ref/ collection/bigjoy/id/5.
“I’m one of those people who believe that, particularly, we as gay men are of several genders, it’s not making a choice of either/ or, it’s both/and.”
“Every opportunity that I have to impart to questioning or doubting or sad young men, as I was at that time, I say—lighten up, love yourself, allow love to come in, to trickle into your soul—and know that you are capable of being loved just as you are.”
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Visionary Words: Remembering Mark Thompson by Andrew Ramer
eneath the glow of a single dim red bulb my father taught me about magic, about making things appear here that were there, appear here when there wasn’t anything here at all in the ruby darkness but a flash of light. Mark was that flash of light, and more. How many of us, readers and writers, artists and activists, knew him and were changed by him, or never knew him but were inspired, informed, and renewed by his words on paper and spoken, and how many of us were changed by his amazing images? Mark was an historian of our times, chronicling moments and memories, movements and marvels. Even though we weren’t in touch that often over the years, I miss him. We all do. Mark was generous and self-effacing, not odd perhaps in someone who was often behind a machine—typewriter, camera, computer. We tend to think about photographs as being about the subject presented—an object, person, place. But having grown up in a darkroom, my first curiosity upon looking at a picture isn’t, “What is it of?” or “Who is it of?” but a question about what isn’t there—“Who was behind the camera?” And the language we tend to use when speaking of photography is oddly violent—“I took his picture, I captured her image, I shot them,”
but Mark was a gentle soul, and his camera when pointed at you wasn’t a spying device or a weapon but something kind, tender, curious—a caress. As a writer, Mark was a marvel. Words flowed through him like water, and if he struggled over them, that never appeared in his final composition, whatever genre it was in—and he was adept at many. Gay Spirit changed my life and changed the lives of so many men I know. His ability to look out in that book, and then look deeply inward in Gay Body, is a rare gift. We first met at the Second Annual Gay Spirit Visions Conference, where he and Malcolm were speaking, and while some people of accomplishment enter a room before they arrive, and fill a room when they are there, never letting you forget who stands at the center, what I noticed from the first is that Mark wasn’t like that. Never shy about his accomplishments, he always made room for other people, enlivened other people, engaged, entertained, and brought out the best in other people. Mark was penman, photographer, priest, and what we call in Yiddish a mensch—a real person, a good person, a person of integrity and worth, of soul-worth. He is missed. And what he left behind blesses us all, as do the works of all good priests of Spirit.
Mark (left), 1969, high school newspaper editor, holding an award for excellence. “Cub reporter” and friend Cathy Toldi took the photograph. Paper faculty advisor is at left.
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Gay Hero/Gay Friend by Bo Young
here was and there continues to be an upwelling in me, a feeling that “I shouldn’t have to be writing this piece now.” And it is a fool’s errand. Mark Thompson was a hero to me. He wrote books I wished I could have written… Gay Body…Gay Soul…Gay Spirit. I don’t remember the order in which I read them, but I couldn’t read them fast enough or too often. He put into words what I believed to be truth about my love for men. They were the guidebooks of my early gay journey. They did nothing less than form my consciousness. They expressed my heart and head. They, and therefore Mark, will live in me until it is my time to go. Gay Soul, a collection of interviews, shined as a beacon from the bookshelves. I couldn’t recommend it often enough. As it happened, I was close to several people he profiled in that book and later came to know more of them as friends. I shouldn’t have been surprised that we connected so easily. We were Faeries, we were “magazine people” and we both thought that even in the age of on-line magazines it was important to continue producing documents of the LGBT culture. We shared the idea that the LGBT community was a community of people who were not only coming out as individuals, but were, as Dan Vera puts it “coming out of erasure” as a people. So the creation of tangible documents was increasingly important in an era of ephemeral electronic media. Everything is ephemeral, but paper can be cared for and will outlast digital. And even people. Mark and Malcolm were generous friends. As I struggled to keep White Crane a going concern, they were avid cheerleaders. I began to receive 32 RFD 169 Spring 2017
phone calls from Mark asking about the next issue and handwritten notes of encouragement from Malcolm. It is not really possible for me to write about Mark without also writing about Malcolm. Mark and I met because of his charismatic husband, Malcolm Boyd. While I was still in high school, I learned via Malcolm that I might not be the pariah I imagined I myself to be. Dan Vera and I interviewed the two of them in tandem for an issue of White Crane. Although we conducted the interview via email, our connection was immediate; it grew and grew easily and it was the beginning of a long distance phone relationship with both of them. And we collaborated on many projects from there. First, we decided that White Crane Books should publish an anthology of Malcolm’s writings, which were voluminous. The process of assembling the essays, jottings and columns only served to bring me closer to both of them. The many long phone calls, literally reading line after line, discussing how to group the essays, never felt like work. I looked forward to every call. We sponsored a touring show of Mark’s photography, Fellow Travelers, monumental black and white portraits of the gay men of Gay Soul. Again I was on the phone with Mark daily dealing with one detail or another. He flew to the opening reception we threw in New York and when Malcolm’s book was nominated for a Lammy I had the good fortune to fly to Los Angeles where they threw a little cocktail party in their sweet Silverlake cottage. We decided that we should reissue Mark’s books and another of Malcolm’s. Mark and I worked with Jeffrey Schwartz to produce a two-volume edition of
Mark Thompson at the Fellow Travellers exhibit. Photo courtesy author.
the collected writings of Vito Russo in a companion book, Out Spoken Reel One and Reel Two, for his documentary Vito! Our final collaboration was The Fire in Moonlight, a collection of writings and musings of the Radical Faeries. What I remember most fondly are the hundreds of ritual morning phone calls when we were working on a project. Really, the bulk of our friendship was phone-based. We would be on the phone for hours, day after day, until a project reached fruition. But it was like we lived around the corner from one another. One of us would place a phone call from New York to Los Angeles or the other way around. It would be noon in New York and 9:00 in Los Angeles — never “L.A.” with Mark, always “Los Angeles.” He loved his city and the fact that I had lived there and loved it also endeared me to him. I knew his show biz references — and Malcolm’s who before entering the priesthood had been president of Pickford-RogersBoyd, Mary Pickford’s radio and television production company— because I’d worked in “the business”. And we would start reading to one another. There was never a scintilla of disagreement between us. There were so many times when, on our own, one or the other of us would make a change in a manuscript and then run it by the other and we would be in complete accord. And it wasn’t just to avoid argument or discussion. There never was an argument and the discussions were always stimulating and moving. Frequent tangents ensued. I loved Mark because he liked a good piece of gossip and a giggle as much as the next. We had a mutual “friend”, an Evil Queen who had been my housemate in San Francisco and Los Angeles for Mark Thompson and Malcolm Boyd. Painting by Don Bachardy.
years back in the 70s, until we had a falling out, his typical M.O. He had written a nasty memoir and I had reviewed it on Amazon. I didn’t like how he had treated mutual friends and I didn’t like the book. Neither did Mark. The Queen was furious and demanded that I take it down. I refused. Mark called to tell me that the Queen had called him and said “It’s him or me”, demanding that Mark either get me to take down my review (it is to laugh to think anyone would think Mark would even consider such censorship) or that he shun me. If Mark didn’t comply he would banish Mark to his little mind’s Siberia. Mark told me, “How dare he?!” He had great integrity. And friends didn’t make friends make those kinds of choices. Of course we remained friends and had a good laugh, one of so many good laughs with Mark and with Malcolm.
lose track when I try to remember all the projects we worked on. We raised money for Stuart Timmons’ rehab after his debilitating stroke, yet another demonstration of Mark’s capacity for deep, rich and warm friendship. He called regularly to keep me posted on the progress of Rise Up and Shout! a performance-based mentoring project for LGBT youth. We spoke often of our health and of Malcolm’s health as people of a certain age do. There is an irony that he is survived by Stuart Timmons who, it must be said, thrives today in large part because of the tender care and vigilant protection provided by Mark Thompson. I haven’t the slightest doubt Stuart would echo that sentiment. Mark’s passing reminds me that I am at that stage of life where people starting falling away in the normal progression of things. Not like the ravaging times of the 80s and 90s and the Plague. This is the way life is supposed to happen. The wheel turns. RFD 169 Spring 2017 33
We grow older—if we’re lucky—and along the way we lose friends and family. Even so, Malcolm got to live until he was 93, thirty more years than Mark. Mark was two years younger than I! He didn’t die a violent death nor was he really sick at the end. A heart attack while swimming, I am told, drowning as a result. There was something sweetly courtly about Mark. I received a card in the mail from him barely a month before he died. Both he and Malcolm were inveterate “bread-and-butter note” writers. It was a beautiful “Thank You” card with an art nouveau pattern and with a generous donation for White Crane Institute and it said: Dear Bo, I saw the annual appeal for funds, so here is a donation (the best I can do right now!). You are a champion in my view, and I can’t thank you enough for everything good you do in the world. Love, Mark. And I thought, “I’ve got to give Mark a call and
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thank him and check in.” It still sits on my desk. I never had the chance. Correction: I never took the chance. I’d do that tomorrow. It is no less true for being a cliché, but the world is a poorer place for his loss; and certainly the LGBT community is diminished. This was a man of accomplishment with perspective and experience. Last year, when journalist Gwen Ifill died, David Brooks (of all people) wrote of her: “Now that Gwen is dead, who is the next best thing? There’s nobody. There are many great people who will follow her example. But nobody quite reminds you of Gwen.” That description resonated like a tuning fork. Now that Mark is dead who is the next best thing? There’s nobody. Many great people will follow his excellent example but nobody quite reminds you of Mark. Mark Thompson was my friend. I will miss him deeply.
Mark courtesy Bo Young.
Jason aka Jay Sunlight Moonshadow
ou deserve a great showering of appreciation for the legacy you have gifted this world. Although I know you’d feel quite uncomfortable with praise and adoration, but there are many who love you so. You had concerns about various voices within the community who were critical, confiding some of the unfortunate moments in your personal history that lingered as doubts and regrets. But such things are to be expected from a man who helped shape sense among a chaotic and tortured history. You stood alongside pioneers of gay liberation and were early champions of queer causes, figures justifiably accustomed with both profound reverence and harsh criticism. As your name implies, you have left a mark upon many people in your life from your writing, your activism, your body, and your spirit - whether it was good or bad depends upon the individual. I’d seen the tough act you could put on in public. I had friends who disliked you because you unleashed upon them a razor sharp edge, but I never felt such a sting. You weren’t perfect and I won’t put you on a pedestal, but I will count my blessings that I received a rather golden Mark whose memory I shall cherish throughout my life. I deeply thank you for sharing some of your splendid treasure of love, personal time and attention. So, please forgive me if I am still upset over your passing. I know that I, along with so many others, feel robbed. Death cheated us out of our expectations for several more years. Damn it, we were off to a good run there as friends in recent years and your role as a mentor with invaluable guidance is sorely missed. I was selfishly looking forward to gleaning so much more of it. You did your part to leave us with so many seeds of inspiration to cultivate, and there are indeed projects you had a hand in planting that are in still in the process of maturing. It will be more challenging
Jason, Joel Singer and Mark Thompson. Photo courtesy author.
without your physical presence, but hopefully we prove capable of bringing them to fruition with what you’ve imparted.
he main consolation in your untimely departure is knowing that you are once more at your beloved Malcolm’s side. But what I’d give to have all three of us sharing one more of our periodic cocktail hour get togethers. Those dozen or so get togethers were sublime moments and I soaked them up like the deliciously strong martinis you poured
out of the shaker. Two monumental icons of gay history sat across from each other in their leather armchairs sharing from their experiences and I got to sit upon the couch between, marveling at their presence feeling like the luckiest chap alive. I can’t help but cry thinking about what I miss. Our connection came at such a pivotal time and brought me renewed hope. I was feeling a bit aimless and uncertain about my future, approaching my forties feeling I had squandered my youth. You helped me to realize I was only just coming into my own as a man with time to make a difference from life’s lessons, and you expressed your joy at imparting your own life lessons to someone who could put RFD 169 Spring 2017 35
it to good use. You both knew how to simultaneously “butter me up” with a bit of encouragement while giving ample amounts of stern but steady “editorial advice” to focus and stay active. In return I found myself creating works of art that I knew you would greatly enjoy. You were quite knowledgable and certainly very opinionated about your art, so to please you was my benchmark of success! I didn’t realize it at the time, but that kind of mentorship was what I needed when we first met back in 2002. I was twenty-seven years old when I joined a monthly confab of “gay spiritual leaders” that you were part of. I was certainly not a leader, but I lucked out, being invited by a co-worker at the Los Angeles LGBT Center who thought I would be a good representative voice for my generation. There were no other men under the age of thirty-five in the casual group and they desired some fresh blood and perspective. I was still rather green from my rural Iowa roots, and quite naive back then as to your full legacy. It would take years to discover it, and each time I learned something new I was left in awe. My fondest memory from those monthly meetings was when I sat down at an empty spot on a sofa next to your dearest Malcolm. I had just completely shaved my head for the first time. Another member of the group looked over at the two of us and chuckled, commenting that the youngest and oldest member of the group looked like twins with their shiny white bald noggins. Then the group stopped meeting and life in fastpaced Los Angeles flew by. I’d see the two of you here and there at various social events with a few highlight moments during the following ten years. We’d exchange a few typical pleasantries, ever so briefly discussing our goings on, and then vanish back into our disparate worlds. Our relationships would transform in 2012. That’s when you accepted the invitation to a show I was performing called “Songs and Stories For Our Days.” It was a mix of inspirational story-telling and original a cappella songs I wrote based on shamanic experiences. It was a very un-Hollywood show, unabashedly sharing heart and soul with very little care for what is cool and a rather unpolished spectacle that invited people to use their imaginations. You both loved it. And our reunion seemed fated, for unbeknownst to me at the time, you had deep connections to the venue. I had become a sort of de facto maintenance man/custodian at a lovely little community center located above a bar in Silver Lake called Spirit Studio. In exchange for my services, I got to help friends produce all manner of 36 RFD 169 Spring 2017
events with little hassle. It was run by an Episcopalian church community that Malcolm of course had deep ties with - and your house was a mere block away! Location, location, location! This certainly made developing our friendship easier. Several months later you invited me to perform one of my spiritual songs to honor Malcolm at a Lamda Literary Event called “Outwrite! A Celebration of Los Angeles LGBT Literary Pioneers.” After wrestling over which song to sing, I realized that to truly celebrate Malcolm’s achievements as a writer meant I should sing a song based on his words, not mine. You handed me a copy of Malcolm’s seminal work and best-seller “Are You Running With Me, Jesus?” The collection of poetic prayers was perfect for turning into lyrics. It was the first time I took up the challenge of putting someone else’s words into a song, but you had faith in me and I didn’t want to let you down. I experienced a euphoria finishing the composition during a trip to NYC, lying underneath a flowering tree in Central Park’s Sheep Meadow as its white petals fell all around me like in a fairy tale. I carried that feeling into the dress rehearsal, but after delivering a clumsy rendition that went on too long, you took me aside and gave me some editorial advice to cut a minute of verse here and there. That helped sharpen it into a real song and I gave a performance I felt proud of. Ugh, I could use your editorial help on writing this tribute to you, Mark, but you’re not here! I was so looking forward to collaborating more with you Mark—we were on such a roll! After the Lamda event we were both delighted to discover I was planning to perform a piece based on James Broughton’s poetry. The producers of the documentary Big Joy sent out an open call for artists to present his works along with the film’s various premieres. I was already performing “Songs & Stories For Our Days” as part of the SF Radical Faerie festival Faetopia, and they were also hosting an evening in tribute to James Broughton after the Big Joy film premiere at the Castro Theatre. I mentioned this to you having no idea that you were such close friends with James and even a contributing force behind the film! You excitedly loaned me your collection of Broughton films on DVD and personal copy of his poetry book Ecstasies instructing me to do something from your personal favorite section the “Hymns to Hermes”. You were absolutely right, and those poems took possession of me in the weeks ahead. I had creatively orgasmic visions of James and Hermes visiting me in my sleep. I pieced together five poems into a set with a few simple per-
formance art elements inspired from visuals from Broughton’s film, Dreamwood, — not just because you told me it was one of your favorite films, but because it fit the poems so well. I read through my treatment of the piece for you and Malcolm during our cocktail hour. Your eyes moistened and filled with Broughton’s ecstasy once more, pleased beyond measure. You revealed many a story of your early years in San Francisco meeting Broughton at a reading and becoming fast friends with he and Joel. You sparkled discussing your younger days and Broughton experiences. You carried that glee with you as we reunited in San Francisco. You informed William, the program’s host and organizer that I had to be the last person to perform - not any number of the well-knowns offering forth their tributes, but unknown me from vacuous LA-LA Land. You had such faith in me to deliver. I was nervous as hell, hoping I would not let you, nor James, down. I put my nerves to use as fuel and did my best. I had only begun to understand that Radical Faeries hissed to show their appreciation and it sent chills up my spin to hear so much of it that evening. Perhaps it was the fact I was mostly memorized or maybe they like my use of props. I “sacrificed” a bird, pulling out strings of pearls for its guts and wrapped them all around me. I tore off its wings, Jason and Mark. Photo courtesy author.
then turned them inside out to reveal rainbow feathers and slipped them onto my ankles. Swinging my feet into the air I recited a poem as if being fucked by Hermes. That was great fun and became one of the most memorable evenings of my life. You continued to be there for me as advisor as I built the five poems into an entire hour-long show of Broughton poems. During a cocktail hour you casually mentioned “Oh, how I wish someone would take to the poetry of Paul Monette as seriously as you are treating James. His poetry is usually overlooked because his prose was so damn good.” You had to know I was listening, for a year later, when I was granted the opportunity to create a performance to celebrate the 30th anniversary of West Hollywood where Paul lived, I performed his poems with live music and dancers—all because of and truly for you. You were informative and insightful in regards to the Radical Faeries, a movement you of course were intimately involved with from the very beginning. Even though I walked for years in “faerie adjacent” organizations, up until the performance at Faetopia, I had very few dealings with “official” radical faerie events or even much of an awareness as to much of its history (once again showing my naiveté). I joined up with a new movement of faeries taking shape in Los Angeles. You provided context surrounding the RFD 169 Spring 2017 37
founding intentions and explained your personal take on the controversies of the original generation. You enlisted my help to gather others to work fixing up the bench and succulent plants at Harry Hay’s memorial and The Mattachine Steps. It was a duty you felt bound to uphold as an important part of honoring your commitment to a dear friend. I could tell you missed Harry greatly, in the way I miss you now. You told me to read the biography The Trouble With Harry Hay and then urged me to become friend’s with its author and historian Stuart Timmons. You had no expectations from that friendship, other than the hope that I might help see that more of the new generation of Radical Faeries would get to know him as well. Stuart suffered a stroke and almost died at age fifty, but was now living in an assisted living situation and bound to a wheelchair. It was awkward at first, but we eventually became close comrades after an opportunity presented itself to work closely with Stuart on completing his LGBTQ history walking tour of West Hollywood. Again, you offered some valuable advice, which I learned to respect and I ran with it aiming to honor you with my actions. And then you moved to Palm Springs to begin your final chapter there, because the house was feeling too empty without Malcolm. You shared your vulnerability and your humanity. Your health was a concern, as it frequently had been in recent years as you tried out a variety of new medications searching for one with the least amount of side-effects. We imagined though, you had another good decade to go and you made plans during that time to finish up a documentary about Malcolm and an intergen38 RFD 169 Spring 2017
erational gay letter exchange book project among many other things. You discovered many long lost objects during the packing process, performing a bit of show and tell, dazzling me once again with the depth and breadth of the history you lived. I was sad to see you move, because I knew our proximity during the past four years made a huge difference with our friendship. But I moved further westward anyway to live closer to work and the venue Spirit Studio was forced to relocate as well. Timing is everything. During our final cocktail hour in Silver Lake, you enjoyed meeting my boyfriend as he so enjoyed meeting you the icon and human. We looked forward to another get together in Palm Springs once you were settled. The first few months were challenging for you, but by summer you were feeling brighter and we made our plans for a reunion that would sadly not come to pass.
ell, here I am Mark, writing my first submission to RFD - something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and finally doing so because of you. It had to be you. Although you are not here in body, you are in spirit, and I still intend to consult you frequently and seek out your advice. Our work together is not finished and I still need your help and miss our friendship. Perhaps I’ll find what is needed in one of your books, from the recollection of a memory, or a visit from you in a dream. However that shall be, you left your loving Mark. Much love, Jason aka Jay Sunlight Moonshadow Mark, Jason and Malcom. Photo courtesy author.
Ode to Big Joy By Mark Thompson
COMING UNBUTTONED James Broughton
ne last big road trip before we went off to Many weeks went by as we selected other films college. It was a great thing to do, of course. for the festival, hunkered down in dark screening Some wild adventure before the dull sureties of rooms, attended to publicity and the myriad other adulthood. We were both fleeing unhappy situations details necessary for such an ambitious program. Fiat home; parents who were always at battle. There nally, the big night came. The campus theater was a was another big war raging at that time too, the one beautiful building of redwood and stone set among in Southeast Asia. Draft bait, both of us: college dramatically lit white oak trees. I helped usher the was not an optional choice but a deferment from a crowds as they arrived and then plopped down in crime neither one of us one of the last remainbelieved in or wanted ing seats in the back anything to do with. row just as the lights “Broughton writes with disarming frankness about his 80 years as Richard waswholeness.” a sensitive dimmed. an artist and as a human being seeking – Kirkus Reviews kid, straight as an arrow James was intro“He was probably the most flirtatious man I’ve ever met.” and of good Mormon duced with much – Pauline Kael, author of I Lost It at the Movies stock. I had known I fanfare and held the With as James Broughton’s was queer as apuckish kitehumor, audience spellbound COMING UNBUTTONED recalls his journey for yearsandbut feltschool, for the next half hour frommany early childhood military his muse (named Hermy) into I following could tell no one, not with poems and an avant-garde world of poets, artists, and filmmakers. groundbreaking films were even myHispal. Together, anecdotes about the championed by Jean Cocteau and Maya Deren, we were two odd peas in filmmaking life. He and he wrote poetry in company with Robert Duncan and Alan Watts. On these frank and wittysoon pages, he gives firsthand a pod, to be in witness oneto glistened with puckish life in the artistic underground from the 1940s into the ’90s as he van.culminating with his charm tinged by sage becomes an icon beaten-up of the gay counterculture, winter-years’ romance with Joel Singer, the love of his life. As we scrubbed and wisdom, moving the This Query Books edition contains a new Foreword by Mark saved during the months audience from laughThompson, author of Gay Spirit; and two never-before published, unexpurgated chapters. before our odyssey, we ter to serious listening ABOUT THE AUTHOR James Broughton (1913-1999) was a beloved also took preparatory within seconds. I was and seminal figure of the San Francisco Renaissance. His 1967 at and thedelighted junior colmore than enthralled. prizewinning filmclasses The Bed shocked audiences with COMING UNBUTTONED its playful and honest sexuality. lege in Monterey. I was I felt pierced through bound for San Francisco the heart. Here was James Broughton State the autumn after gaiety personified F O R E W O R D BY M A R K T H O M P S O N iReadQueryBooks.com our return. Richard was in its original sense, still undecided. One not as a cliché but as thing we had vitally in an authentic statecommon, though, was our love of movies. Watching ment about life. Then the lights were completely them and even making films ourselves—he behind extinguished and for the next forty-five minutes the the camera, me writing and directing our little epscreen was filled with wondrous sights and sounds. ics—was the glue that bound our friendship. I can’t pretend I understood all that the film We were both members of a local film society was conveying, but I knew it was a great work of art which every year organized a festival of new and that somehow spoke directly to that place where often avant-garde work. The semester before our words fail simply because in that realm they make departure it was announced that James Broughton, no sense. Image first, language after; thus does the a famous Bay Area poet and filmmaker, would be human soul perceive. Dreamwood concluded to the guest of honor. The festival highlight would be thunderous applause as James stepped back on the the world premiere of Dreamwood, a feature-length stage to take his bows. Sadly, I couldn’t hear his final phantasmagoria filled with lots of naked male flesh words, as I had to make a beeline for the reception and Jungian allegory. Naturally, my interest was table in the lobby, where I was assigned to dispense piqued. white wine and crackers.
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The party was a good one, everybody abuzz with excitement. Yes, I replied so many times I lost count, the evening was tremendous success, the festival never better. Every now and then I caught a glimpse of James across the crowded room, his laughter ringing out, face nicely framed by flowing white hair. Suddenly, near the end of the night, I got a bristly feeling that my interest was being returned. Slowly, and ever so painfully shy, I looked up from my station to be met by the unwavering gaze of James. With a steady smile he stepped across the room, parting the crowd like waves on the sand, and came right up to me. Without a word of introduction James reached out and took my head in his hands. Looking tenderly into my eyes, he bent over and planted a kiss on my cheek. With a sublime mixture of merriment and concern, James softly whispered, “Don’t worry, everything will be alright.” And then, with a giggle, he turned and disappeared back into the mass of people. I flushed red in the face and, in fact, even felt a little dizzy in the head. In one stupendous moment I had been seen—I mean really seen—and told that I was loved. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. The trajectory of my life felt not only blessed, but also changed. Influenced and altered in ways that would take me years to fully comprehend. But right then and there, I was mightily perplexed:
40 RFD 169 Spring 2017
never had I felt so singled out yet included in something beyond my wildest hopes. By now the crowd had thinned and with a wink and fluttery wave James departed too. Would I ever see this man again? This deliverer of divine news? How little could I know that night what lay in waiting just a short time, yet with many miles to go, past the suddenly redrawn limits of my awakened self. Six months later, Richard and I set forth on our journey, visiting all four corners of the continental United States and then taking a zigzag course through its middle. My relatives on the Nebraska prairie were dutifully called upon as were his in Salt Lake City. As I stood contemplating the enormous stone effigy of a seagull in front of the Mormon Temple, I knew it was time to go home. We had been fine fellow travelers along the way, but something shifted after we returned that late spring. Friendly still, but no longer the buddies we’d once been. Coming out of the closet with a glorious bang was my top priority. On my first night in San Francisco I went to The Stud, the hippest gay bar in the city, and got laid by a sailor who plucked me out of the throng. Soon after that I joined a gay group on campus, one of the first of its kind it in the nation, and plunged headlong into activism. As a student journalist, I was learning how to write about history
Mark Thompson, Michael David, Allen Page, David Cohen. August 2011 at Mark and Malcom’s house. Photograph courtesy Allen Page.
from the sidelines. As a newly minted queer person, I needed to make that history for myself. My love of film persisted through these explorations, however, and before long I was invited to work behind the scenes at the Cinemathequ, a weekly film program at the San Francisco Art Institute across town. A recent acquaintance was running the show there and he needed help printing posters and managing the house, tasks I was accomplished at doing. But one night I arrived late in a pouring rain, the steep sidewalks of Russian Hill now treacherously wet. As I tripped across the slick concrete toward the front door I was immediately stopped in my tracks by a melodious greeting. “Well, hello there young man. I believe we meet again.” It was James, who was a professor there. Steady as a lighthouse, and beaming as brightly as one despite the muck, his eyes twinkled beneath a jaunty beret. “See, didn’t I tell you everything was going to be okay?” he laughed. His smile was like a warming beacon. Soaked to the skin and cramped with tension, I blurted out in laughter that yes, I knew now for sure that everything was going to be just fine; perfect, in the “This is it” kind of way that only James could impart. From that night on our friendship grew and blossomed, until the day he died many years later. Over the decades, we witnessed many things about each other’s lives: divorces, death, and other departures, falling in love with soul mates and then marrying them too. Not long after our reunion James met a Canadian film student thirty-five years his junior and fell head over heels in rapture. Tall and handsome with a curly head of thick black hair, Joel Singer shared James’ bemused sensibility that the world is essentially a place made for delight. “Adventure—not predicament,” James always said. “You don’t live your life. Your life lives you.” The only real problem facing the couple was not their apparent age difference, but the fact that James was married with two teenage children and a house in the suburbs. What to do? James writes about what happened next in these inimitable lines from his poem “Wondrous the Merge.” Are you mad? I said. You are half my age Are you frightened of your fate? Said He …. At Beck’s Motel on the 7th of April we went to bed for three days disheveled the king size sheets never changed the Do Not Disturb ate only the fruits of discovery
drank semen and laughter and sweat …. I severed my responsibilities and bought a yellow mobile home in an unlikely neighborhood He moved in his toaster his camera and his eagerness to become My courier seed-carrier and consort …. Above all he brought the flying carpet that upholsters his boundless embrace Year after year he takes me soaring out to the ecstacies of the cosmos that await all beings in love One day we shall not bother to return Theirs was an enchanted romance, as magically writ as the constellations in heaven. They were an inspiration to all in the burgeoning Bay Area gay community and beyond, but especially to me. Maybe some day I too might find the kind of enduring love they so boldly embodied. That would eventually happen many years later, and to a wonderful man who was also thirty years older. Adventure not predicament, indeed. My teacher taught well, mainly as a living role model for a creatively rich and principled life. In his rousing “Hymns to Hermes,” a collection of poems celebrating erotic bliss, these lines by James stand out for me: What else is to be lived for but the harvesting of love? What else is to be loved for but the ripening of man? Under James’ watchful eye I too ripened in many ways: emotionally, intellectually, and physically. He may not have always agreed with all of my choices—especially my travels in the radical sex underground—but he knew I needed to cut my own path. He did not approve of disapproval, and most certainly not of prudery. “Don’t pass judgment. Pass judgment by,” was another of his often-repeated maxims. One night I suddenly realized that James had become my spiritual father. More than a friendly guide, he was now my mentor. I cried a bit with tears of relief. It represented stepping out of the dark and into the light of love, a kind of love I had never known before. A grandmother’s care or the affection of a classroom comrade is one thing, but this was profoundly different. He had given birth to RFD 169 Spring 2017 41
my gay spirit. On the day of my thirtieth birthday in 1982, James wrote a poem just for me. He carefully typed it out on a long parchment scroll and signed the document with a flourish in red ink. At the climax of a lively party, he read the poem with glowing gusto, the last lines of which are quoted here: O friend my trustable my other I my second self my ami amigo confidant my plum of a chum you will always be my fellow-feeling partner confederate of all my foolery For we are fellow voyagers on the follyship of fellows who are blessed with loving friends and friendly lovers What a trip! What a ship! The next decade was far from being as gilded as the previous era. For soon the pandemic of AIDS would begin its horrific march through the community, exacting enormous sacrifice of lives and sanity among those left standing. Although I had contracted
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the virus in the early days of its appearance, and well before anyone knew what to do about it, I somehow survived its calamitous slaughter. Bouts of illness and depression fell, but I managed to rebound time and again. James always sent messages of hope and encouragement. And as he grew older and had to deal with his own infirmities, I was determined to live for both of us. The calendar kept extending itself, and by 1995, promising new treatments for HIV had emerged at last. Now, if only there could be a miraculous pill for old age. James and I exchanged extensive correspondence during the three decades we knew each other: letters about literary matters or affairs of the heart, sweet thank-you notes, and pithy postcards from our respective travels. In one of his last missives he wrote: “I am preparing to ‘go gentle into the good night’ but it is a slow process. Like a butterfly out of the cocoon the spirit struggles to get free of the outworn and grown body it no longer needs or wants….Lavish love to you always, dear Mark.” He died not longer after, on May 17, 1999, at age 85, in Joel’s tender arms as the sun set over the Olympic Peninsula. I remembered a line James recited in one of his films; “I have the god in my mouth / I savor the taste on my tongue.” And suddenly I knew what he meant.
Mud ritual at the first Radical Faerie gathering in 1979. Photo by Mark Thompson.
Kindred Spirits, Kindred Souls by Cupcake
never met him. Though honestly I fantasized about it enough times that it feels to me like we did. They were for the most part fantasies about opulent and delicious dinner parties in some woodland mansion. Picture a giant oak table, with industrial candelabras welded together out of old car parts. A bevy of faggots and friends spilled down the lengths of the table, casually eating organic and locally grown fruit platters, while a Kaween in a parsley print frock stands on a chair and sings a ballad about the best deep throater she’s ever known and conversation peppers the air like poppers. Mark and I would catch each other eyes over the table, and I’d get up, trailing a train of tulle, to sit beside him and talk theory late into the night as the wax dripped onto the table, and finally the lights would burn out leaving nothing but our words, hanging in dark air. In truth they were fantasies that pale in comparison to the reality of faerie life but they were my first step into the world of the queer, of the rad fae, and I have Mark Thompson to thank for opening my mind up to the world of the possible. For making me even believe that there was a world out there that I could fit into, thrive within, a world I had not even dared to dream of. When I was in my early twenties and struggling to understand who I was, I found a copy of Gay Spirit, Gay Soul in Gays the Word, this fabulous little queer bookstore in Bloomsbury, London. I had up until this point in my life never really studied anything ‘gay’, and I was not practicing any form of spirituality with any amount of regularity. What I was, was lonely, and effectively straight. Sure I sucked a lot of D, but I lacked any real gay/queer community. So when I found this book, tucked away on a high shelf, next to a bunch of esoteric sounding gay theory books, I was more than intrigued. I was entranced. Even the title was a revolutionary act to me ‘Gay Spirit’ Raised as an atheist (with private and very shameful witch leanings) this phrase alone sparked something deep within.
So I opened the book, flipped to one of his articles and read: “Gay men continue to cling to the culturally endorsed concepts of masculinity and that they have not so much examined the Christian-patriarchal
tenets that bind our culture as [they] have tried to appear and buy into them.”1 And I had no real idea what that meant and frankly remember not caring a huge amount. But 1 Thompson, Mark “Gay Spirit Gay Soul” Quality Paperback Book Club, New York, ©2000 from The Evolution of a Faerie. pg. 293
Mark Thompson’s book, Gay Spirit Myth and Meaning, available from White Crane Books www.whitecranebooks.org.
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I did keep reading. I was hungering for something thought I wanted to be. Here in this photo was my about the gay spirit when several pages later I disdesired life staring back at me. It was real. There covered this passage: were worlds of gay men far different from the sleazy “One August, during a retreat to the mountains, bars and cruising spots I was desperately trying to I hiked several miles along the banks of a small, find community in. secluded stream. Eventually I found a desirable So I did what any reasonable person would do. I place, a natural bowl of white sand surrounded by bought the book. Went home, read it compulsively fallen trees and boulders of various sizes, creating until I was obsessed by it. Changed all my thoughts a further circle of protection, I ingested hallucinoabout who I was and realized I needed to spend genic plants brought with me and spent the rest of years doing this. Which meant I began researched the day listening to the rhythms of the forest. I sat in queer theory majors in London, and finally applied silence and then sang, rolled in the sandy dirt until to go back to get my Master in Research working on it completely covered me and then sat in the stream understanding how gay bars function as ritual/reliuntil [I was] washed clean… By dusk I was spread gious spaces within gay culture, specifically looking out on the earth, holding it, caressing it, thrusting at how drag queens function as ritual leaders in the against it…”2 largely secular world of gay culture. My entire proWhich more than his exploration of the ‘modern posal was mostly one long homage to Mark Thompgay identity’ spoke to me. Two son, as was much of the work I years before finding this book, would end up doing. I found myself on an almost And to celebrate having been deserted spit of an island in accepted to a Master program It all began in Indonesia. Altered on some magic I went and bought a ticket to a bookstore in mushrooms myself I found myself Burning Man. It was there, dancrolling in this surf, the sand and ing in the desert that four of the London, on a salt spray cracking around me like most beautiful creatures I have coldish spring diamonds. Bathed in the earth’s ever seen walked into my life and day when I glitter and light I jerked off into changed it. They were I’d later went looking for the sea, thrusting my body against learn Faeries, creatures I had the sand in the shallow surf, till I never met before, but now had nothing more orgasmed and let the beach bathe been obsessively reading about than something my body clean. Which was somefor months. They took me away to idly pass the thing I had told no one, ever. But that evening and brought me time. here, reading the words of Mark, into an adventure that has deeply I suddenly felt so less alone. As if changed my life. Suddenly the I had stumbled into a cultural and magic and the connection were ritual practice by mistake. The renot just with words on a page but occurrence of this ritual in both of our lives ignited with people. I woke up in that faerie camp, covered a belief that there perhaps was something real about in cum, and bathed nude in their shower that mornspirit, and magic, about gay identity and expression. ing. And as we washed our cum from our bodies So I kept flipping through the book searching for the man I had slept with that night looked to me answers to questions that were pouring from my and said “So what do you do. I study religion from gray matter and then I discovered it. A photo taken a queer perspective.” Just like that I was home. It all by Mark Thompson in the summer of 1979 at the began in a bookstore in London, on a coldish spring first Faerie gathering. It’s a dense circle of mostly day when I went looking for nothing more than muddy naked men pushing their bodies together, something to idly pass the time. hands loving draped across one another shoulders I am sad we will never have the chance to talk and backs. over dinner in some bacchanalian hall, but whenTHIS. This image was the representation of ever I am in faerie space, my soul always still sends everything that I wanted. Community, ritual, faema silent thank you for Mark Thompson, a man who ily, the earth, the promise of sex and the texture without even knowing me, transformed my life. of sweat. Fuck the whatever I was, or whatever I 2
Thompson, “Gay Spirit Gay Soul” pg. 298
44 RFD 169 Spring 2017
Reflections of Mark From Images by Joel Singer
Stills from Devotions (1983) by James Broughton and Joel Singer. “boys in the sand” was shot at Peter Hartman’s performance gallery 544 Natoma Street in San Francisco. The performers are Mark Thompson and myself. No small feat to get hardons with oiled cocks and bodies fully covered in sand. Oh to be in one’s thirties again! James and I collaborated with the many men who participated in the film and Mark told us he wanted to do a full body shave in front of the camera. “preparing to shave” - Mark steps out from behind the mask on the left. In front of Mark and the mask is a small bronze statue of the Indian god Shiva. “body shave” the entire sequence runs about a minute in the film. Here Mark lathers his body in preparation of shaving. In the late eighties I began a film that was never completed, Exposures, film portraits of mature gay men. I asked the fully nude participants to speak about experiences in their lives in which they were most exposed other than the experience of being nude in this film. They were limited to the three minutes running time of a roll of super 8mm film to tell their story. Mark was a subject as were Malcolm Boyd, James Broughton and several other men. The only thing I remember of Mark’s portrait was him talking about running naked through the artichoke fields with his younger brother near his hometown of Monterey California when he was a pubescent youth.
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What You Have Nurtured By: Leng L. Lim
ark Thompson and his spouse, the Rev. Malcolm Boyd (twenty nine years older than he), have been part of my life for twenty six years, which is half of my adult life, though when I first met them in 1991, being so out of place and out of sorts, I could not have called myself an adult man. They became brother and father to me, and helped me become one. That my biological family is now reconciled to me, is a gift of family they have twice given to me—first by becoming what I didn’t have, and then, in letting me see what I did have. My husband Home and I were one week short of coming out to celebrating Mark’s birthday in Palm Springs when the Facebook Messenger notice flashed on my screen announcing Mark’s death. Their passing, within eighteen months of each other, has been a chronic ache. In the summer of 2014, my husband Home Nguyen, Mark, and the film-maker Andy Thomas attended Malcolm Boyd’s conferment of an honorary doctorate for his work as a civil rights activist, prodigious writer, theologian and gay elder, at Episcopal Divinity School. We then hosted them to a dinner at the Harvard Club in Boston. Aware of how frail Malcolm had become, Home and I visited both Malcolm and Mark in their Hyperion home in Los Angeles in October. (Typically, Mark fussed by plating the salmon and crackers, so that Malcolm could hold court in the sunny patio Mark had renovated.) After that visit—the last time we were to see Malcolm in person—I wrote Mark this email, having woken up, restless, in the middle of the night. October 28, 2014 Dearest Mark, Thank you so much for making the time and space for Home and me to visit two weeks ago. It meant the world to us, and to me especially, to have had the opportunity to see Malcolm and you. Malcolm is the one that most immediately comes to mind as someone we might lose soon, though I am aware I make assumptions about your longevity that may be tenuous. You are not any less vital to me, though Malcolm’s age strikes a particular cord of vulnerability for me. One thing about getting older for me is contemplating losing older friends, and then, also knowing that I may be losing friends my age. The 46 RFD 169 Spring 2017
specter is neither awful nor frightening. It just makes me feel open, vulnerable, exposed, raw and tender. Malcolm’s presence in my life is simply that--a presence. We haven’t spent loads of time together, but his presence connects me to something courageous. The silver grasshopper you had given me eons ago sits here in my office. It has followed me over continents. I cannot now remember when you first gave it to me. Perhaps when I left Los Angeles for Harvard Business School? It followed me to San Francisco, and then to Singapore, and now it’s here. One day I shall give it away to someone else and bless him or her with it. Meanwhile, it reminds me of you and all that you do represent. What do you represent? I don’t have words for it. I only feel more courage knowing you’ve lived your life. There’s a patterning between us---as gay men, as seekers, as lovers of life. But beyond those categories, beyond the contours of your life story which I know through your books and through our time together, your being here, your being you…shall we use that ancient churchy word?…you are of succor to me. All succor from another is impermanent. We all die. Something you have known. And, as both of you said to us this last time, we make our peace with aloneness and loneliness. I am having a deep sense of this more and more. As a youth, there is loneliness this side of a relationship, so one seeks relationships. Now, I am seeing, there is loneliness and aloneness that other side of relationships. So, this is life on a wider canvass, this I am beginning to see. It is not despair I feel. That I felt as a youth when relationships were out of my reach. What I now feel about this loneliness and aloneness is something else. I sometimes wonder what I shall ever say if there was a movie about you. You are a samurai, trying your darn hardest under the most ill-omened of occasions, and you had to fight battles when you would rather have been singing and carousing. You turned to pen and whip into instruments for battle and for healing. I asked for your leather toys because I want to inherit something from you. The toys symbolize something for me. Part of that symbolism is our queer history. I hold that history both seriously and lightly. Seriously because it was paid for in lives and psyches. Lightly because nothing ought to define us,
lest even that which has liberated us also hinders us. I am aware that part of that inheritance is that there were men whose lives were cut short, whose skins those toys touched. I shall humbly ask all that is sacred; to help me help complete some of those loves. May what was not possible be possible now with other bodies. And beyond such solemn thoughts, I wish to have loads and loads of fun and laughter with them. I send you much love and gratitude. You looked so handsome, healthy and grounded this last time. It’s as if you had released something. In our remaining days, I pray for many more meals and teas and crumpets. Love, Leng
intern with the Rev. Malcolm Boyd at St. Augustine By-the-Sea in Santa Monica. At that time---in the midst of the AIDS crisis, in the midst of the Church’s deep ambivalence and even hostility towards gay and lesbian persons –an out gay priest meant the place was safe for someone like myself. I met Mark at a church event, even though so much of “churchy stuff ” was far from anything Mark thought relevant. Yet, Mark showed up. Yes, for Malcolm of course, who had started being “rehabilitated” by the institutional church after more than a decade of abandonment by it. But beyond spousal duty, Mark just shows up, whether he liked it or not. I had a sense that was who he was----showing up to be counted in odd and beautiful places, with his camera and pen, to record, to witness, to mirror He replied two days later with the following: back. From early on as a reporter for his high school paper in Carmel, to later as a writer for The AdvoDear Leng: Seldom in my life have I ever received cate, Mark was present, and in some instances, an such a beautifully written and heartfelt letter as the instigator, to the many moments of modern US gay one you sent me. I have history. read it several times by And Mark showed up now, and the meaning of for me. The question is, it deepens. Thank you for why? I did not initially pursue “seeing me” in this way, I did not initially this friendship. Although dear comrade. So much pursue this friendship. at twenty six, I needed focus is put on Malcolm Although at twenty six, an older friend (and in our relationship that I needed an older friend sometimes I feel a bit (and much more), I would much more), I would not like the invisible man. not have known that such have known that such a (No complaints, but just a supportive friendship as supportive friendship as saying that’s what it feels ours was possible. Or even ours was possible. Or even like sometimes). I treasure necessary. His California our decades-long friendStonewall Zen Leather necessary. ship which just seems to American liberalism was get better as the years go universes apart from my by. And, of course, I have repressed Charismatic similar feelings for your Christian hyper-rational sweet Home as well. I cherish you both! Singaporean upbringing. Of course, he understood Now, as for your request, please be expecting a the common struggle for self-acceptance and the small box within a week with 5 1/2 choice items in it. universal need for individuation. Yet this common This is a kind of “starter set” and there will be more human condition does not explain why he chose to come over time as I excavate from the various to become interested in me. After all, gay men—or nooks and crannies where things have been stored. for that matter, all human beings---walk around, I love this transmission. So you boys have some at some point, deeply hurt, humiliated, lonely and naughty fun if you are so inclined, or just keep them distraught, and yet do not make common cause. as mementos. It puts a smile on my face knowing But Mark did. they are now in upstate New York in a nunnery (of His question to me when we first met was: do all places!). Will be in touch again soon. you know how to be a gay man? Your devoted friend, Mark I now realize, he didn’t want me to answer the question, but to live it. I read Becoming a Man, by y friendship with Mark Thompson began his friend Paul Monette, then dying of AIDS. I atin 1991 when I first worked as a seminarian tended Harry Hay’s 80th birthday in 1992 at their
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home, but only later did I become interested in able to continue in ministry in the Church, Mark Hayâ€™s question: what is the purpose of being gay? and Malcolm held my fears and tears. Stop being The question can beget a kind of grandiosity, or else a victim, take responsibility for your life. I changed an unhinged pessimism. But if asked with the imagi- careers, found myself headed to business school and nation of the kind Walt Whitman tapped into, then now am in a thriving global career as a leadership we can see the outlines of our kind, from Gilgamesh consultant. and Enkidu, to Jonathan seeking after David, to the There are truths about ourselves we need to hear friendship around St. Aelred of Rievaulx, and to our but cannot bear to because of the fragility of our own endeavors and yearnings. egos, and only someone generous and sturdy enough Gay male desire, so vilified and shamed on the can break through our defenses. Stop dawdling, one hand by conventional society, or else reduced stop complaining about America, get your American by our own limitations and internalized hurts to the citizenships, vote and play both your parts in shaping purely transactional or digital, can also be the seed your community. On my turning fifty, their unusual of much more. While heterosexual coupling foradmonition was: make more money. wards the species by producing offspring, and so is Ever shrewd and loving, they were very good to regarded by all cultures and religions as an obvious me. and irrefutable good, by contrast, our gay desiring is They were also good to others, sponsoring the so apparently indulgent and superfluous. It can even publication of a book for someone, creating this or become narcissistic, as Mark early on suggested I that exhibition for the community, getting arrested take note. for civil disobedience, and always making the time But if we allow ourselves not to listen and talk. Others writing to be shamed by this put down, for this collection of essays will but instead look closely at our surely speak in greater detail of Friendships hearts and bodies, gay eros testithe efficacious lives of these two transform us, fies to the necessity of connecmen. becauseâ€Śwe open tion, contact, companionship I now know that Mark and and communion. That this vulMalcolm spent time discussour very selves nerability and deep connection ing Home and me, only because to be shaped by can happen between men, who Home and I now find ourselves another self. are almost everywhere socialized spending enormous amounts to do exactly the opposite, holds of time discussing others whom the promise of our gay meaning we care for. No one is required, as cultural and spiritual change agents. The persiscertainly not in this Americanized global culture of tence of our collective existence (despite genocidal throwaway lives, to show such superfluity in friendattacks), as well as the insistence of our passionate ship. (He cheekily sent a set of leather ankle cuffs bodies and hearts (despite suicidal shame), portend for me to buckle Home down to finish his doctoral loving as its own end, a good in itself. Being gay thesis!) Yet the need in our times is to indulge in such can become sacramental, which is to say, we can profligacy of heart: to show up, take an interest in become the outward incarnation of an inward grace. another, and let the adventure unfold. Friendships But we cannot be too consumed by sadness, anger, transform us, because as the Princeton philosopher regret or fear. (Which is also true for everyone.) Alexander Nehamas puts it, in friendship, we open I think of Walt Whitman, who is lost and disour very selves to be shaped by another self. solute until he starts nursing in his arms the dying I am more me, because of Mark. And the we that young men from the American Civil War. And here is now my marriage, my friendships, my commitis our dear Mark, writer, teacher, long-time AIDS ments, would also otherwise not have ripened. survivor, brother, activist, mentor, and friend, holdGo now dear Mark, into the Fire and the Source, ing in his arms his own wounds, as well as mine and into the arms of your beloved Malcolm, and and yours, and then growing that wounded love those of your earlier loves. Your good work is now into comradeship, community, citizenship, and done. I, and Home, and many others will now carry a communion. In my twenties and mired in my own strong shard of your light. And indeed, we are passignorance of myself, Mark encouraged me to seek ing it on. You gave me family, and now I share my a psychotherapist. Your most important work is to own with others. Thank you. Always, always, we are recover yourself. In my thirties, finding it untenin communion. 48 RFD 169 Spring 2017
A Faerie Who Left His Mark by Notre Dame des Arbres
was not much in touch with Mark the last five years, since he as co-editor with Don Kilhefner of the Faerie Reader Dancing in the Moonlight was corresponding with me. I invited him to Folleterre for ‘Back to the Roots’ Gathering a few years back in the capacity of a distinguished faerie elder who could share first-hand accounts of our origins as a faerie tribe. In—with great courtesy (always!)—regretfully declining, he cited his partner, Malcolm’s advancing age for a reason not to travel to Europe, but also some uncertainties about his own health. I reckon Mark was born in 1952, two years before me (judging by the numbers in his email ID) but his sero-conversion, maybe now over thirty years ago, did mean health worries in later life. But the only time I visited him in his home he was alert, committed, energetic and hospitable. I remember taking as much pleasure in being shown items in his treasured library as I had in sleeping in Joey Cain’s study/spare bedroom in San Francisco during Harry Hay’s Memorial Service at Glade (a treasure trove of early gay/queer and socialist writing). My visit to Mark in L.A., with Don Kilhefner, after the honour of addressing Don’s Medicine Circle, coincided with a planning meeting around mobilising gay youth (“Come Out and Shout”, I think it was). Both Don and Mark, noting a falling-off of numbers of younger faeries, gays and queers willing to commit to activism—it was they who were walking round streets posting fliers through doors. This
trend seems to me accelerating—I suppose because, for younger men and women, the internet is the main medium—online petitions rather than staffing the barricades. For me, Mark was a very fine example of those of us who responded to the hortatory epithet: “We are the people we have been waiting for!” Mark was a pioneer; one of those who stood up to be counted as Advocate editor and author of those seminal works that brought the attention of so many of us to the work going on in gay spirituality through the ideas and writings of significant figures in our wider community—not just his interviews, but Mark’s charting of his personal voyage also was landmark work. I have lost count of the number of copies of Gay Body, Spirit, Soul I have donated to libraries, given or lent to friends embarking on their voyage away from the mainstream of “commercial gay life”. It is fitting that his much older and wonderfully inspiring partner, Malcolm Boyd, pre-deceased Mark—though only just—in February of 2015, while Mark stayed with us until August of last year. Often I think of the pair of them alongside of Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy—both fine examples of accomplished and renowned gay men having enduring partnerships with men many years their junior, but who succeeded as figures of huge standing in their own right. May you enjoy an eternity of peaceful retirement from the stage, Mark, in our Malcolm’s good company.
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In Remembrance of My Faerie Brother Mark Thompson by Winston Wilde (as spoken at Mark’s memorial service at One Institute)
will miss Mark’s nipples. They were pierced and athletic, able to endure epic events. Mark and I had parallel lives until we met at UCLA in 1990. Prior to that, we both grew up in California, seaside natives of the Golden Poppy State. We both moved to San Francisco in the mid1970’s. And although we frequented the same dens of ill-repute—the Ramrod, the Slot, the Ambush, 8th and Howard, the Stud—it wasn’t until our days in Los Angeles that we began to know each other in a greater than Biblical way. Mark had a way of collecting elders and saints. James Broughton, the great American poet, nicknamed Mark, Ernest. Mark befriended early on the grand-daddy of the Radical Faerie movement, Harry Hay. Harry was an outsider. Mark saw the significance of the outsider and the value of queer folks of every hue. Mark embodied queer spirit. We also ran in parallel faerie circles. I hung out with Angelino natives living in the Haight, and Mark hung out with a more eclectic band of brothers in the Castro. The mid-70’s was a heady time for the nascent Radical Faerie movement. Gay male culture in California at that time was transitioning from long haired hippies making our own clothes and all being unique and quirky dancing in our own creative ways, into what would soon be called “the cloning of gay culture” where everyone was cutting their hair short, wearing 501 Levis and plaid flannel shirts, and line-dancing to disco at the I-Beam. This move to conformity helped fuel the Radical Faerie movement in California. The Radical Faeries founded their first sanctuaries at Short Mountain, Tennessee, and where Mark put his efforts in, at Wolf Creek, Oregon. Being a journalist, Mark was always an ardent supporter of RFD and other faerie zines. Being a photojournalist, Mark may well have the most important photographic collection of the history of Californian Radical Faeries. Radical Faeries cannot be described. As soon as you try to nail them down they shape-shift into something else. Traditionally speaking, a lot of faeries are queer men who identify as gender variant human beings, and who like to be dramatic and 50 RFD 169 Spring 2017
have fun. We often have a spiritual practice, and we also engage in random sacred ritual events, like blessings of parking meters. We are known to dress in both male and female clothing simultaneously. Radical Faeries are a musical people, and they like female pronouns. Sometimes they can’t agree on something and it takes hours to reach consensus, so, dinner is usually late. We have heart-circles where we talk with a talisman about what’s important and meaningful and from the heart. But things are different now in the faerie world. Now there are women faeries and transmen-faeries and furry-faeries and two-spirit faeries and heteroqueers. It’s a whole new world. It was much simpler back then. I brought a photograph of Mark’s for you all to see. This image is of faeries in a huddle after a mud ritual at a gathering in the Arizona desert in 1979. They appear mostly unified in this image. But a decade later an epic battle was brewing in Faerielandia, reminiscent of the Bhagavad Gita. It came to be known as the Leather-faeries and the CrunchyGranola-faeries. At least that’s what we leather-faeries called it. The CrunchyGranola faeries were vegetarians who promoted peace and lovingkindness, at all bloody costs. The leather faeries liked to BBQ and flog teddy bears roped to trees. CruchyGranola faeries liked to process their trauma and pain in endless conversations, while leather faeries processed their pain in more unique ways. CrunchyGranola faeries were judgy about leather-faeries, accusing us of perpetuating violence and dark energies, and this made the leather faeries feel attacked and victimized, regulated by the Granola Squad. At some point the elder Harry Hay said something like, Maybe it’s time for you kinky faeries to put on your black leather wings and go fly off to your own tribe. And that’s what happened. Mark was an original originator gangster of the now twenty-eight year old radical leather faerie tribe known as (thanks Harry) Black Leather Wings.
met Mark at UCLA in October 1990, and by June 1991 he had recruited my pervert self to Black Leather Wings, a mostly San Franciscan tribe. BLW
hosts a nine day summer camp with heart-circles and regular faerie stuff, but also with rituals such as The Ball Dance and the Kavadi. Anyone who had the pleasure of an anterior view of Mark with his shirt off probably noticed the eagle claw scars on his chest, the result of a ritual at BLW sometimes referred to as the Sundance or OHkeepah. But don’t worry, it’s not all serious ceremony at Black Leather Wings; there’s always plenty of playtime for mummification, water-boarding, and fun for the entire family. Sadomasochists still carry a lot of stigma in society today. But not as bad as back then. Mark and I came out into kink in the early 1970’s, when homosexuality was still a mental illness and a crime. Mark knew that the only research on sadomasochists were case studies by psychiatrists of a few fuckedup kinkster patients seeking help. To combat this demon of ignorance, Mark leaped across the ocean and pulled together a collection of stories from a diverse group of healthy kinksters, and he shaped their narratives into an anthology classic, LeatherFolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics and Practice. This leather Testament has helped thousands of people heal wounds, and to shape an identity which can soulfully flourish. In honor of Mark’s libidinous caprices, in the celebration of Mark’s naturist faerie self, in the traditions of speaking the bold truth, I would like to
share with you in memory of Mark, a special bond that he and I shared. We shared a special bond in ritual flogging. Ernest often warned, “There’s nothing worse than a jerk with a whip.” Flogging is not only a skillful craft, it’s a sacred art. Flogging is about an intense connection between two people sharing a tantric energy. This meaningful attachment can be greatly enhanced when the two parties switch at each level of flogger, at each successive endorphin plateau. Mark and I shared this divine gift. We did it for winter solstice at his fireplace on Hyperion. We did it at Wildwood and at Kenton Mine. But my all-time favorite ritual flogging with Mark was in central California. It was a harvest full moon that night, lighting up our witchcraft puja. Between two very old growth oak trees I had made a web of chain for comfort and support. We two boys together clinging were in black boots and black jockstraps, black leather gauntlets and faerie feathers here and there. We were on the third or fourth plateau, tripping out of our minds, vibrating to a different drum, and we looked into each other with a most uncommon profundity of soulful depth. We laughed full-bodied and fell into embrace. Then Mark earnestly shook me at the shoulders with a penetrating gaze, as if to implore me to, Remember this moment. So I do. So I will. And so it is.
Untitled I have seen the footage. An instrument plucked. Coupled, a distant mirror. Swooning in the hot air. In the ashes of a hundred corpses. Mars in the City of Light. Swooning in the instrument. In the hot ashes of a hundred corpses. Blown in from the window. Came facing the light.
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Standing Rock: An Interview with Wave interview by Bambi
s a friend of Wave (Rik Kapler) I was impressed when I heard he was packing up and heading from P-town to Standing Rock Reservation to work supporting the Water Protectors there. In these days of “click and like” politics I was inspired to hear someone was heading out into the actual world. Here are a few questions I posed to him as well as resources about Standing Rock and other resources for getting plugged in. Standing Rock came to media attention close to two years ago with protests by the tribe and then active encampments and demonstrations beginning in April 2016. When did you decide to head to the Dakotas to take part in these demonstrations? I immediately knew I was driving out Standing Rock Reservation after viewing the egregious attack on our Nation’s Indigenous People that aired on Democracy Now! early in September, but I wasn’t fully aware of this issue and video til midlate September. Within two weeks, I was on my way to North Dakota to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters. Everything about this situation is immoral. Sacred burial grounds desecrated by bulldozers. Security guards attacking people with dogs and pepper spray. The potential contamination of their water source which threatens thousands of residents on the Reservation. Profit over People. Environmental Racism. With close to eight thousand people living on the Standing Rock Reservation and close to six thousand people occupying the camps, what was life like at Oceti Sakowin? Can you give us an idea of what a typical day was like? 52 RFD 169 Spring 2017
Oceti Sakowin Camp, was the largest of four encampments to stop the pipeline. It was the primary ‘direct action’ camp because of its flat sizable-acreage, its proximity to the pipeline construction sites, and its easy access onto the county road in comparison to the Sacred Stone and Rosebud encampments on the Reservation. Hundreds of tribal nations converged at Oceti Sakowin. Newest arrivals found or created affinity groups to camp with or alongside of, to build unity and share resources. When a group arrived at camp, they’d find a time to formally introduce themselves at the Sacred Fire over the camp’s PA system; Sometimes in full regalia. Each morning before sunrise, between 100-1,000 campers gathered at the Sacred Fire for a morning
prayer, giving gratitude to The Great Spirit for this day. Sometimes, Chanupa (pipe-smoking) ceremonies directly followed morning prayers. Then, between 50-300 folks would procession down to the River for a ceremony that honors the Life-giving aspect of Water. Meetings, direct actions, and working in support roles filled out the day, interlaced with plenty of Ceremony, drumming, song, and prayer. Each day, Oceti Sakowin Camp had orientation meetings for new arrivals, direct action trainings, and Photographs courtesy Wave.
All-camp meetings that everyone was invited to, to hear updates from legal, media, medical, camp security, kitchen, and resource crews. Three times a day, ten camps dedicated themselves to cooking for the masses while ad hoc crews organized the sea of donated food, clothing, camping gear and hygiene products that kept flowing in. Water, propane, and wood resources were trucked in and distributed. Solar and wind technology and composting toilet developments became increasingly available on a larger scale. Everyone was asked to give several hours of labor for the overall camp, to accomplish goals. There were intentional circles about decolonization, sobriety, ending rape culture, holistic health, and skill sharing workshops for jobs like building traditional living-structures (teepees, wigwams, longhouses), hunting & butchering game, and winterization. Volunteers at the ART tent created wide banners for the frontline marchers which also helped to shield us, and went into production mode with a few silkscreen images that would ‘brand’ and
rippling out this epic Indigenous-lead Resistance. The silkscreens were attached to lightweight poles to carry and also offered to marchers to wear across our shirts or jackets as honorary badges which created solidarity. Sweat lodges (Inipi) were scheduled throughout the week. The PA system was active with speakers, song, stories, and announcements from 6 am til 11 pm. In the wee hours of the night, we could hear faint sounds of ceremonial drumming and singing in the air, happening somewhere. One of my favorite
medicines (or practice that feeds my soul) is the ‘call & response’ between lone warriors or camps, late at night with coyote, wolf, and owl yelping. I add a double-hoot to the endings of my ‘calls and responses’ to suggest Two-Spirit Camp. With the Standing Rock Sioux tribe working to protect the water quality for it’s people, it’s also been said close to 17 million people could be affected by contamination from Energy Transfer Partners pipeline if it were to leak, what was it like to act as a “water protector”? What things did you partake in to support the tribe’s goals of stopping the pipeline? I took the non-violent direct action training the second day that I was there and began going out on direct actions that same week. On a given day, there’d be three to four planned actions with various degrees of risk and outcomes. One morning, we cut through barb-wire fencing, walked four miles thru the desecrated land towards the construction site with 300 protectors to create a diversion so other protectors could sneak in to lock themselves down onto construction equipment, which in turn shut down the site for part of the day. The construction workers were union and drove-off when they saw us coming. Half of the protectors were arrested while the other 150 made our way out. Since I had a car, I felt it made more sense to not get arrested. I shuttled medics, media, and protectors between the camp and the frontline, and folks to the off-site locations for shower, respite, and internet service. Having my car was very useful. I made weekly trips into Bismarck (largest town in ND ...about 45 miles north) to pick-up mail, supplies, use the internet, do laundry, and make copies of documents that helped newcomers understand the values, context, and protocol of this camp—refer to www.peoplesmovementcenter.com. I took liberty to print hundreds of copies *on bright color paper* to liven-up and celebrate the content of these documents ...then laminated and posted copies at RFD 169 Spring 2017 53
strategic locations within the camp like the meeting halls, the resource board, sacred fire, volunteer table, major kitchens, media, and legal tents. I encouraged folks to take pictures of these documents and read them aloud at their campfires to help build solidarity. My car was of service to the camp in other ways, as well. I prefer using calm energy over frantic energy and being proactive rather than reactionary; this can change an outcome. Signage at the camp needed to be maintained and updated with so many campers coming and going with the weather as well. One day, someone told me to slow down while I was making my rounds. I decided to create two magnetic signs that I slapped on each side of the car that read: “DRIVE SLOW…Children at Play”.
I know how to be present in circle with patience, suspending the notion of time. Deep listening, not making assumptions, honoring the personal process, and speaking from the heart are some of the useful lessons that I learned in our faerie community.
I took on note-taking responsibilities at the All-Camp informational/update meetings to share at our daily meeting at the Two~Spirit LGBTQIR Camp, where I resided. I also created a role to help ‘Hold Space’ at the All-Camp meetings otherwise folks kept flowing into meeting hours after the meeting started ...extending a one-hour meeting to 3-4 hours. It entailed welcoming folks into the meeting dome, redirect people to the orientation meetings if they hadn’t been to one, and providing answers to questions that were already spoken aloud in the meeting. I also politely walked over to non-indigenous allies who conduct themselves differently than the way the facilitator asked, and offered them a printed copy and asked if we could check-in with each other after the meeting. 54 RFD 169 Spring 2017
An interesting aspect of this environmental action was the level of support from such diverse communities - veterans, environmentalists, Native peoples from all over the country, and of special interest to our readers was the large presence of Two Spirit people as well as LGBT allies. What was it like to be a gay ally in this way? It was important for me to remember that I was a visitor within a community and culture that I knew little about, and they were welcoming me to participate in their resistance. I was more interested in checking my white privilege and being a good ally to the Two Spirit Camp, than I was in fully expressing my Queerness in the Oceti Sakowin Camp. Initially, I didn’t wear a skirt or dress, color up my stache and beard, paint-up my nails or run around shirtless or naked. Since I am a butch sissy, I wasn’t being closeted, just intentional with the purpose of being there. Soon enough, I was being most of who “I am” less the nakedness and pot. With such large LGBT / Two Spirit numbers, what was it like to work within such a diverse community. How was your experience in the Radical Faeries useful in working with such a multifaceted queer community at Camp Oceti Sakowin? I know how to be present in circle with patience, suspending the notion of time. Deep listening, not making assumptions, honoring the personal process, and speaking from the heart are some of the useful lessons that I learned in our faerie community. There’s so much trauma for Two Spirit. I was humbled and deeply moved by their stories. Work to keep such a large community of demonstrators fed, cared for, and in harmony must have been a large undertaking. What tools did the tribe and the protest organizers use to create common goals and efficient operations? Oceti Sakowin Camp utilized the Lakota Seven Council Fire whereby each camp would provide a representative to a daily Council meeting to keep dialog open and succinct. The facilitators were eloquent with protocols while agreements were being worked out. Ceremonial and playful musical and dance engagements also keep us united. With close to six hundred people arrested at a cost of close to 24 million dollars to the taxpayers of North Dakota, what was your experience of how
protesters were treated? Where different groups treated differently? DAPL Security and ND State and County Officials used intimidation and aggressive tactics. Local media slanted the stories against us. Our Camp was under surveillance by aircraft. Our access to the internet was 85% compromised by spyware and jamming systems. Floodlights were installed and directed onto the our encampment. The County Sheriff â€™s Department and DAPL used militarized force with razor-wire fencing, pepper spray, sound grenades, rubber bullets, and water cannons on non-violent protectors. Indigenous People and those of Color were treated more aggressively, accused of resisting arrest, taken down to the ground
DAPL Security and ND State and County Officials used intimidation and aggressive tactics. Local media slanted the stories against us. Our Camp was under surveillance by aircraft. Our access to the internet was 85% compromised by spyware and jamming systems. Floodlights were installed and directed onto the our encampment.
after clubbing their calves, sometimes maced after the fact, and received more serious charges for the same action as whites arrestees. It was horrific. The No Dakota Access Pipeline (No DAPL) was a touchstone for many progressives going into the election, pushing President Obama to back away from allowing the pipeline under Lake Oahe. Eventually, the Army Corp of Engineers backtracked on their approval of the pipeline going under Lake Oahe and the protest was called down. How long were you at the protest? What are your thoughts about next steps for No DAPL and clean water protection? I went with the intention of staying three weeks and stayed for two months. I left on November 28th, after the majority of the winterization was
completed for the Two Spirit Camp. Many of us are being vigilant to keep the noDAPL efforts in our daily consciousness and sharing stories onand-off social media in circles. We continue to petition for clean renewable energies and calling for divestment from institutions that are funding this pipeline. Our Two Spirit (Nation) Camp is still there, and will be there til the end as we have taken leadership roles and bring about more comprehensive change for LGBTQIR issues, as well. What lessons did you learn from your experience at Standing Rock? What will you carry forward to your home town efforts to protect our environment? Among the lessons, I have learned to put Prayer into all actions (aka LOVE), and the importance of to be centered, alert, and steadfast. We sensed the discomfort that some officers had with the spiritual strength behind our actions. Many other areas of the country are being faced with pipelines for crude oil or natural gas, what resources can you recommend for folks interested in learning more about water and environmental protection? Standing Rock Reservation standwithstandingrock.net Oceti Sakowen Camp www.ocetisakowincamp.org Red Rising Magazine redrisingmagazine.ca Democracy Now! www.democracynow.org Clean Water Action www.cleanwateraction.org We want to thank you and many others for their commitment to clean water for all people. Is there anyone you met while at Standing Rock who deserves thanks and appreciation for furthering your understanding of the issue of clean water and rights for Native people? I was humbled by the generosity of Spirit, the courage and compassion, humor, resistance, resilience, and determination of our Native People and water protecting allies, alike. Candi Brings Plenty & Alma Rosa among many others. Two Spirit Funding Link https://fundly.com/water-is-life-wesupport-the-two-spirit-warriors RFD 169 Spring 2017 55
Self publishing and me Or “Pride and prejudice?” by Qweaver
ace me with drama faeries and I’m fierce. Confront me with mindless authority, I’m sturdy. Ask me to submit a book of poetry, my soul undefended, for judgement and I’m gone. I don’t think I’m unique in this. Every rejection slip (even imagined) scrapes another layer off self-esteem. Anyway, isn’t the desire to be published a variation on pride? But it’s not pride to want to share our creativity. Sharing creativity fosters connection, insight, community. To hell with modesty, we’ve got it, let’s flaunt it. So how? No longer are editors and professional readers, cloaked in invisible prejudices, arbiters of excellence. Writers can venture direct, boldly self-publish, which is how I have my first poetry collection, Touching You, out now. Here’s how I did it for any considering this path. First, assemble a rough cut of material, shuffle it about, see if a narrative emerges, a title. There’s a world of difference between publishing/reading individual poems and creating a collection. Ask yourself “why these poems?” It helped a lot being a performance poet, as I understand how my poems connect. Second, look around, get some idea of size, appearance, prices of poetry books. Third, grab that horn of plenty and shake out a smaller draft. Live with it. Walk it around. Share it. I benefited from extensive feedback from published poets throughout. Good preparation boosts confidence. Confidence I wasn’t birthing a vanity project but a book of quality material, people would buy. Which drags up money. Self-publishing, online or through a local press, means covering costs personally. The higher these are, the higher the cost you’ll have to swallow or pass on to buyers. I used blurb.co.uk as my online publisher. The site provides free bookcreation tools and prints to order, with volume discounts. Ordering as you go means no lump upfront payment. In addition, Blurb can set up agreements with retailers, like Amazon, to sell your book (be warned about the fearsome legal agreements), returning any profit to you. So, on with the show. Constructive feedback guided edits that released the real book inside. Like Sadie in Funny Girl, I wanted a “reflection of my love’s affection”. The sixty poem rough cut whittled
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down to twenty nine published. Choice of first and last poem was tricky. As the book emerged there was some in-poem editing. Be gentle when you get here. The magic can dissolve with too much handling. The layout stage was toughest. I wanted to do it myself as part of the creative process. Not being geeky, I underestimated how technical it would be. If you publish with an independent press, they handle this, greatly simplifying the effort involved but applying in-house rules. It’s a trade-off between cost, individuality and personal time. A full layout (using a free tool called Book Wright) with title pages, introduction, acknowledgements, index, probably took something over thirty hours of detailed work. In the midst of that battle, I realised my book had nothing to wear! Ah the blessings of faerie family. Brothersun a darling friend magicked the beautiful gown for Touching You. However you do it, plan how to get a cover design you have the right to use. Then came more techy tantrums figuring out how to set up the cover design to come out how I wanted it, back and front. Here’s the crucial learning. In our digital world it’s common to see what’s on screen as the final product, whereas it’s a step towards an actual holdin-the-hand, fresh-paper-smell book. Book Wright does include tools to preview work but these are not immediately obvious, nor intuitive. Getting any of these choices “wrong” could mean an accidental gem or a mess, needing time (and money) to amend. Like the best action movies, just when you think it’s over, the biggest, be-wigged baddie swaggers up. There’s no proof copy to check using Blurb. There’s a laborious process of online feedback, flagging “issues” requiring correction or explicit acceptance. Only after this, can you upload for printing and order that glorious first copy. And after all the struggles, it is glorious to hold the book, even more wonderful to see someone else holding it, touching souls through your words. Would I do it again? Yes and I’d recommend any writer follow the yellow brick road.
Touching you Around the sun we turn the forgotten motion Donâ€™t take a second for granted The needle only finds music when it remembers Dares to reach, set aside doubts, cautions. Reach through the entangled darkness Reach as does the first filament of a new shoot reach Reach, reach And when it touches discovers there nothing less than everything We join where we bleed We love where we touch our single soul
Photograph by Mark Christopher Harvey. Malcolm and Mark (center left) with friends at Sisters opening.
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Cultural Activism—Starhawk Visits Short Mountain by Mountaine
was many things to many people—and challenging to most everyone I know. Here around Short Mountain, the pain of the election and more was offset by one of the most hopeful events of the year when the great author / teacher Starhawk came to work with us in December. She was invited to lead workshop sessions based on her book The Empowerment Manual: A Guide to Collaborative Groups.” It was my great pleasure to help organize her visit, along with Lapis Luxxxury, Jesse Oliver, and others. In the book, Starhawk refers to “collaborative groups” as those that are non-hierarchical by design, in which the intent is for all participants to take responsibility for tasks they enjoy and in which they can shine. The book provides numerous exercises to help gain skills and to design guidelines and structures that maximize the likelihood of group and personal success. One chapter in The Empowerment Manual is on dealing with difficult people. Due to some recent experiences with that particular challenge, it felt important to address the underlying patterns behind it. Whenever residents give up and leave due to unresolved conflict, the pattern is likely to continue unless effective structures and boundaries are in place. A key reason we invited Starhawk was to help unravel this dilemma and find new ways to foster healthy and thorough communications. After an initial public event in Nashville, Starhawk settled into the Sanctuary, and for the next five days the community was immersed in deep process, with 2-3 sessions per day. After having spent Thanksgiving weekend with the water protectors at Standing Rock, and despite suffering from a cold and deep cough, she demonstrated amazing stamina 58 RFD 169 Spring 2017
and dedication to the work during her visit. It was delightful to see Starhawk arrive at workshop sessions with no notes, using her extensive experience and keen intuition to feel the group and allow the sessions to flow as needed. I’m sure she gave thought after each session to what would come next, but her process was amazingly seamless. Each day started with an opening ritual, casting a circle, but each day it was done differently. Each session included a presentation from her, with discussion, plus lots of participatory activities in pairs and other groupings. Here’s a brief overview of the workshops: Opening event—Welcome dinner and session “The mandala of healthy groups” in which she presented a structure for group process. On a circle: In the East (Air) Communications/ Accountability, in the South (Fire) Power, in the West (Water) Trust, in the North (Earth) Responsibility. The east/west and north/south axes are complementary, and all aspects together balance the whole. Day 1 Session 1—Communication. Text vs. subtext. Intent vs. impact. Day 1 Session 2—Feedback and critique. Empowering leadership. Day 1 Session 3—Potluck with live music, and presentations from Starhawk and another visiting author - Jordan Flaherty—hosted at Sassafras. Day 2 Session 1—Functioning mental health; dealing with grief and trauma. Setting boundaries for how/when sanctuary can be provided. Day 2 Session 2—Decision-making processes and “toolbox”; finding a personal anchor to visualize when needed; Ritual planning for the evening Day 2 Session 3—Collaborative Ritual (held in the kitchen!) with Spiral Dance Photograph courtesy author.
Day 3 Session 1—Fostering empowerment vs. power over others; Day 3 Session 2—Dealing with conflict. Practicing role-playing of several recent episodes of conflict, and discussing conflict-resolution tools. Day 3 Session 3—The weekly “family meeting” with Starhawk as a guest observer. Day 4 Session 1—The fivefold path of productive meetings: having the right people, container, process, facilitator, and agenda. Day 4 Session 2—Residents only. Day 5 Session 1—Residents and people living on the Sanctuary land only. Day 5 Session 2—Takeaways—issues needing ongoing work. Day 5 Session 3—Potluck and celebration. Day 3 Session 2 was challenging. After we acted out and processed some of the recent episodes which had led to conflict, the energy in the room was very heavy. Starhawk ended that session with a powerful technique that’s worth sharing here—she called it an “aura cleansing”. Each person gave and received three kinds of cleansing with a partner, using their hands about six inches from the body (with no physical contact). First was chopping—using the hands to break up stagnant energy, starting above the head and moving down the body. Then came gentle combing, again from top to bottom. And finally, fluffing. When the pairs were finished, everyone formed up into two lines and repeated the process in a “car wash”. From one end, one person at a time moved through the area between the lines, while the first third of those in the lines chopped, the middle third combed, and the final third fluffed. Then that person joined the end of one of the lines, and the next person came through. By the time everyone had received their “car wash”, the mood had shifted fully, and there was lots of laughter and many hugs. This was one of the most effective ways of clearing difficult emotions that I’ve ever experienced. The discussion of issues needing further work led to a plan for teams to meet and move forward. Some of these were: Conflict Mediation Council (a/k/a Conflict Coven)—this group has begun to meet and discuss how to share skills on conflict resolution techniques (such as restorative circles, non-violent communication, and mediation with advocates for the parties in conflict), and how to make them available in the community when needed. Neuro-diversity—fostering mental health, and offering resources for people who are struggling
with depression or other personal challenges Mountain Council—to seek common ground among diverse groups in the “faeborhood” around issues that are meaningful to all Entry/Exit—providing ways to welcome visitors, set them up with a “faerie godparent” to work with them, discover their intent for the visit, ask them to help financially if possible, and find ways to support their mental health. Personally for me, extra-special moments included these: Starhawk was eager to know up-front what kinds of issues were most challenging in the community. It was sweet to have the chance to fill her in on my perspective, knowing she would also get others’ perspectives, as her way of preparing for what we needed to gain most from her time with us. When I mentioned to her that some faeries are active in political demonstrations and others don’t feel called to that, she blew me away with a striking response, saying that as a community we are deeply engaged in “cultural activism”. That comment reminded me how our work providing safe space in faerie community is political by nature, whether it’s taken into the city streets or remains rooted in relative isolation on rural land. I was very impressed with Star’s willingness to say yes to offerings and suggestions. As a result, at the public event in Nashville, we chose an interview format; she’d speak for awhile or read a bit from one of her books, and then when she paused and glanced at me, I asked a leading question to help move her forward to another topic she wanted to touch on. And for the event at Sassafras, I offered to weave my clarinet improvisation into her reading of the “Declaration of the Four Sacred Things” from her life-changing novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, and without hesitation she said okay, even though we would not have a chance to rehearse. So it felt like a duet. The collaboration with her on these events and more gave me a huge boost in my own confidence as a presenter and performer. Co-creating with her was a pure delight! Starhawk’s visit was very meaningful for many, and I’m hopeful it will be remembered as a huge step in the current renaissance (as some are calling it) of the community. Thank you, Starhawk, for your generosity of spirit, your long-time affinity with faerie culture, your excellently-honed skills in writing and facilitation, and your dedication to fostering a more empowering world.
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Listen Without Prejudice It’s December and it snows with the voice of George Michael. The apartment is a giant bed where the hard parts of love are covered. The mattress in my bedroom is gutted. There are nights overflowing in the ashtrays. He clasps his hands and a bird appears on the wall. Look at this elephant walk, she laughs, and repeats. He rolls another cigarette and changes channels. God is spoken. Death. Beneath the sheets there are attentive knees. He reads stories with his blood on fire. She falls asleep just before she cries. It’s the voice of George Michael snowing. Clothes hang in the soul of the two. They look at each other as if they’ve just returned from a party. Time does not understand these things. For him they’re all animals. They all have lessons to learn. On a Friday, there’s a crack in the air. The back door is wide open. George Michael lies silent in a drawer. That’s how it had to be. He wonders why he no longer frequents certain places. And he’s suddenly still, especially when he hears tiny steps in the ceiling. He recalls the rushed tone of his words: Winter is December and it snows like his voice. —Sergio Ortiz
Mark in the kitchen, Silver Lake, late 90’s, “he always cooked up something special for our visits,” photograph by Cathy Toldi
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Brian David Canivan 1966-2016 As long as you look for a Buddha somewhere else, you’ll never see that your own mind is the Buddha. –Bodhidharma, a monk who flourished in the 5th-6th century.
wenty years ago, Brian Canivan stepped outside of time in the way that most of us measure it. Brian was driving a car on the Montauk Highway. The car skidded off the road and flipped over. While he was in a coma for weeks, we knew from psychics that his spirit was present and aware in the world. When Brian emerged, he was a being of the moment. However, his long term memory was intact. His love and his humor would be constant, but any anger he had been holding onto vanished. I first encountered Brian at a faerie circle, when they were monthly at LGBT Center in New York. I was struck by his vulnerability and his profession of fears, emotions that many of us still find hard to acknowledge and share in our community’s valorization of personal strength and self-possession. So Brian and I began a friendship. At that time of my life, I was known as the process queen, always seeking neatly tied up resolution. I remember Brian and I had a friendly spat once—I think about what movie we were going to see that night, or something equally inconsequential. I pushed for closure. Brian said, “Not everything needs to be
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resolved.” And he walked away. I was furious, but that lesson has stayed with me. Often, it’s wisest to just move on. Any memory of Brian needs to acknowledge the importance of his family in his life. He was very close to both his mother, MaryAnn Canivan-Paradise, his brother and sister-in-law Edward and Lynn Canivan, and his spouse, Frank Tramontano. His mother, MaryAnn, especially deserves to be honored. In the last years of Brian’s life, he was moved to be near her, and she took on arduous task of attending to his daily needs. How do you summarize a life so split between being in the world, and then being apart? Do the events and accomplishments of the first part matter more the the long stretch of just being that happened afterwards? When Bodhidharma gazed at the walls of a cave for nine years, nothing and everything happened. I could talk about Brian’s jobs, talents, adventures before the accident. But to honor Brian, I think it’s enough to be open to the power of a fleeting smile. –Trixie
Brian 1992. Photograph by Keith Gemerek.
Atlantic Avenue, while Brian lies in a coma I remember chasing each other around puddles at the Drag March, you in your bright blue sequinned mini, me in my copper-colored one, paired but not matching, a drop of rain and a penny, conducive in bound filaments, but referring to remain separate— a favorite chant and a flash of good luck. We rejoiced in our friendship— finally, a playmate! Moss now paints the stone that Halley chose. Ivy at the base catches damp snow. And I sit by the firepit of memory, the one that you made, while aquarium tubes drain the pressured sea around your brain. Your cowlick has been shaved. Your skull glistens transparent and violated. And I’m not sure you even recognized me when you opened your eyes—so blue, so wide— an ocean of confusion. But I know it was you rapping at my shutters that night. I didn’t know how to answer, and shut you out, my spirited independence always overruling your simple desire for company. Complication—that wall between connection, a mile-long train schedule set in 6-point type, and the one you need is always an hour away. Waiting to take a journey to your vacancy, I weep publically and scribble—another New York City train station crazy— but I don’t care, for once, what people think. This jar of cookies in my bag, and this poem, are offerings of hope and comfort, and a request for your return, Brian. —Trixie
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Issue 171 / Fall 2017
BRING US TO YOUR HAPPY PLACE Submission Deadline: July 21, 2017 www.rfdmag.org/upload
With all of the fracas going on postelection, the culture war seems to have upped the ante in terms of anxiety we’re all facing. With the daily grind of Trump tweets, alternative facts, erosion in our rights across the board not just as GLBT people but also people of color, women, differentlyabled people and people with nonChristian beliefs we need to resist but we also need to ground ourselves. With that in mind where do you find your queer happy place? Is it simply a time spent sipping tea and reading, a favorite walk in the woods, a meeting of fellow travelers against Trump, a retreat or gathering, a great sex date? We’re all needing to recharge for this tough road ahead. What helps recharge your batteries for battling for justice or merely undoing the anxiety that these times have imposed upon us. Tell us how your routine is helping shape your path not the larger events surrounding you. Another aspect of this is what has become a sanctuary for you to regroup—physical places, groups of people, simple tasks in your day, practices and prayers, and especially how do you then reconnect back to your day, to working for yourself and engaging in community with meaning and power for yourself and others. In these days of retrenchment to assert our rights how do your personal happy places include others? Or is a bit of solitude what’s best for you in the short term? In essence how do you find inner strength before taking on all the shit going on? Tell us how you plan to take action to care for yourself and others Let’s all breathe, relax, and shape our journey—hopefully together.
Sidney Justin Lambert at New Orleans Mardi Gras, 2007. Photograph by Matt Bucy
RFD Vol 43 No 3 #169 $9.95
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Published on Mar 21, 2017