Archive for October, 2020

This piece is airing worldwide this week on This Way Out (TWO), the syndicated LGBT radio show.  Click here to listen to the entire show.

(TWO is the first international LGBTQ radio news magazine.)

Robin Talley 

Harlequin Teen  


When I found the novel Pulp, by Robin Talley, in the audio books section of the electronic library service I use, I didn’t notice that the novel was published by Harlequin Teen as a young adult book until the very end. 

The book is that good. 

Sure, the book was intended for teens, but this older adult really enjoyed it too.   

Pulp, which has several narrators, telescopes queer history.  

Its contemporary queer female narrator is in her last year of high school. She ends up doing her senior project looking at the lesbian pulp novels of the 1950s through the eyes of a queer high schooler who lives in a multi-cultural world.  She also spends a lot of her time going to protest rallies in Washington D.C. where she lives. 

This present-day narrator, Abbie, is informed by her high school teacher and advisor – who just happens to a lesbian with her wedding picture prominently displayed in her office — that lesbians in the eighties researched, wrote about, and reclaimed the genre. Many were written by straight men – and, of course, the prurient was highlighted.  And even those written by lesbians usually had their endings changed to be tragic. 

But Abbie, our modern-day queer narrator, persists and says she wants to write about the fifties’ lesbian pulps from her own perspective. As she embarks on her endeavor, we are introduced to other characters and other narrators. 

Although the present-day narrator faces many concerns that are real – especially to young adults — I have to admit that the narrator who lives in the 1950s was more to my liking. The smoky bars of Greenwich Village and the secret lives they contained were reminiscent of the haunts of my youth. I did not come out in the fifties. But in the eighties when I did come out, there was plenty of overlap with the bar culture of the fifties. 

I also remember hearing older friends telling me how important it was to them to find the pulp novels when they were teens – which told the first stories they heard about women who were like them. 

When I finished reading Pulp by Robin Talley from Harlequin Teen, I was left with a sense of completion and hope.  Progress has been made in the world – despite that things seem to be going backwards – and the present-day narrator is just what my generation hoped for. 

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here

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Yesterday, my partner and I voted. We had a plan and stuck to it. We requested our ballets by mail, filled them in using black ink and then went to a nearby drop off center. We received our email notifications that evening that our ballots had been received and our votes recorded.

We’re in two categories of people who will be affected by this election — LGBTQ people and seniors. But we’re also compassionate human beings and voted for everything this platform stands for.

We both like Joe Biden and are extra excited about his choice of Kamala Harris as his running mate. Voting for a someone who has a woman of color on the ticket is long overdue.

Perhaps that is why my partner broke down in uncharacteristic sobs after she voted. “It was an emotional moment,” is all she said before commenting that she was sure she wasn’t the only one.

She wasn’t. Here are some of my favorite campaign signs.

To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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This morning, I helped with a Unitarian Universalist digital Service — honoring National Coming Out Day and being your authentic self.

The YouTube video of my talk is linked below. The complete text of my talk is below that.  The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

National Coming Out Day reflection by Janet MasonJanet Mason presents her reflection about National Coming Out Day, which includes a reading from her recently completed memoir The Lens of Eternity: Love Fro…youtu.be

Good morning 

Today is National Coming Out Day. I’ve been out for so long that it seems like second nature – like it shouldn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter, bu t it does matter. Coming Out day is a chance to remind others that we are different – different in ways that haven’t been easy — to say the least. When I came out in the early 1980s, I went through a period of inner turmoil. It’s hard when your insides don’t match your outsides and when you’re still trying to be like everyone else. Perhaps, that’s why I still maintain that pretending to be like everyone else is dangerous.  

I can see where all the Unitarian Universalist Principles pertain to coming out – particularly in a religious context. But the first UU Principle – The inherent worth and dignity of every person – is what pertains, in particular, to National Coming Out Day. We all have inherent worth and dignity – regardless of whoever we are. 

Homophobia is fueled by fear. To show you how I perceive fear working, and how everything is connected – particularly oppression — I am going to read from my recently completed memoir: The Lens of Eternity: Love from Two Pandemics. 

I was deeply disturbed by the news of racist violence, particularly when it was close to home. 

One day, I opened my email and learned that a Black trans woman was beaten in her home in Philadelphia. 

Thoughts about this ran through my mind during my yoga class, when the teacher (our own Jane Hulting) had us do our meditation at the end of our class that we now took remotely. 

Yoga helped immensely in my thoughts of the importance of forgiveness and being nonjudgmental. But as someone from a working-class background, I strongly believed that the death penalty (when warranted) in a legal court of law was the only thing that some of the people (or most) doing the racist violence would understand and that it does act as a deterrent. 

My anger made me feel momentarily better, but the news still made me shudder. I lay on the floor and reminded myself that I had courage and that I would still kiss my partner on the lips when we were outside the house — regardless of who was around including the “alt-right” young man who came to visit next door and gave us hostile looks. 

The Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia where we live is a very blue neighborhood but as fate would have it we live next to one of the three remaining houses on our block that sports a large American flag hanging out front on the porch – even when there isn’t a national holiday. Our backyards are the length of bowling alleys and the house next door with the American flag has an above ground pool in the back and they’ve continued to have their socially un-distanced pool parties on major holidays.  

I have a fear of large, potentially unruly, mobs of drunken white people, and so we’ve become accustomed to staying in the house during these events.  

Now, of course, everything is different – and we make ourselves extra scarce. But our neighbors’ behavior (the people are our age) was well-behaved compared to when the younger generation, including the “alt-right” young man, came to house sit. Everything is relative. The alt-right young man – I could tell by a bumper sticker on his pickup – wore American flag swimming trunks to the parties. My private nickname for him was fancy pants. 

We’ve had our issues with our American flag waving neighbors over the years (particularly the ones across the street who have since moved away) but it helps to have an oppositional nature. 

I couldn’t wait to wear my rainbow tee-shirt that had Kamala written on it — for Kamala Harris — and proudly take my walks. 

Fear is a result of racist violence. If it is allowed to go on — the violence and the resulting fear — then we would all feel obligated to act like we were just like everyone else.  Everyone is at least a little different. And to pretend otherwise is dangerous. 

As I lay on the floor, the gentle voice of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn washed over me as he rang his bell and talked: 

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment, he needs help.” 

I breathed in and sat with my conflicting emotions and meditated on Thich Nhat Hahn’s words: 

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment, he needs help.” 

As I meditated, I could feel the tensions between my mind and body and my conflicting feelings about the death penalty and forgiveness. I reminded myself that it was okay to have contradictory feelings.  I have always loved Walt Whitman’s poetry – especially when he wrote, “I am large, I contain multitudes.” 

As I laid on my mat, I wished that everyone could experience the words of Thich Nhat Hahn. I breathed in and out, wishing the roots of true happiness for everyone. 


To learn more about my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (published by Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon), click here.

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