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Archive for the ‘lgbtq book reviews’ Category

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.)

 

Is cruising a lost art?

There might be several answers to this question according to Alex Espinoza the author of the book Cruising, an intimate history of a radical pastime – a book about the experiences of gay men.

 

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When I first started reading this book, I explained gay male cruising to my partner, as a way of some men hooking up with random strangers for casual sex. I told her that the gay men might wait for hours for the right guy to come along – just as straight guys on a fishing expedition might wait for hours to land a fish. It was, as you probably can imagine, the kind of semi-hilarious conversation that lesbians might have about men.

But then I started reading the book and I have to admit I was fascinated. I learned a lot. The first thing that I learned was that cruising can have a cultural context.  On reflection, I realized that this shouldn’t have been a surprise. Everything has a cultural context. Growing up as a Mexican American, Espinoza’s first memories of “cruising” was his brothers and their friends dressing up to go out to pick up girls. As the author writes:

“It’s hard to trace exactly how the term became associated with anonymous sexual encounters in the gay community. People cruised in their cars. My brothers and their friends [quote] “cruised for chicks.” All of these involve, to some degree or other, the act of leisurely crossing and re-crossing the same place.  They involve the acts of seeing (and being seen), of pursuing (and being pursued). Yet, no one knows exactly when or how the phrase became synonymous with secret sexual encounters. We know the word has its origin in the Latin word crux, or cross.”

I learned about the history of the gay bar, in places called “molly houses” in London in the 1700s where men would meet, as Espinoza writes, “to stage drag shows, mingle and have sex.” It was, of course, at the time, a crime. Many were arrested. In one raid in 1726, Mother Claps – London’s most infamous molly house at the time – forty men were arrested. More than a few gay men resisted arrest – resistance that might have been overcome at the time, but which portended changes to come.

As he travels through history, Espinoza writes about the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and how it devastated the gay community and subsequently changed the behavior of many gay men.  He writes that the massive losses of the time caused many gay men to turn to long-term monogamous commitments. He also writes of the history of online chatrooms and the gay hook-up apps of the day.

He writes that, “An argument can be made that, because of its ability to pre-screen and its exclusionary practice, using apps like Grindr does not qualify as ‘cruising.’”

He also writes about the drawbacks of using poplar gay hookup apps in repressive countries:

“…while such apps have helped people connect, they have also become tools for authorities. In countries like Russia and Uganda – the latter known as the most dangerous place in the world to be gay — the act of modern-day cruising, with its digital paper tail, can be a death sentence.”

But Espinoza also writes that the act of cruising is eternal:

“We are doing something we know is illegal and subversive. The act itself becomes a protest, an uprising. Cruisers are renegade outlaws. And like all revolutionaries, we continue moving between the light and the dark, our lives forever tethered to one another.

As it always has been.”

 

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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“They” is a groundbreaker and I am sure that the author will agree with me that attempting to add new meaning to given bible stories is tantamount to heresy. I have no doubt that she will suffer repercussions from those who do not agree with her approach. Personally I found her story to not only be wonderfully written but charming and liberating to us who have lived in a binary world for too long.     — Amos Lassen, on THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books)

Beyond the Boundaries of Gender

Amos Lassen

I have always found it interesting how coincidences come together. For the last month I have been in a study group about the Hebrew Bible or what is commonly known as the Old Testament. We have been studying the women of the Bible and trying to raise their position in the written text so I suppose we could call this redefining gender in the holy books. It also happens that in a very week weeks the state of Massachusetts will have a referendum on gender rights and it seems that all of sudden gender has become important in our lives whereas ten years ago we would not have heard a peep about it. The third coincidence is that I received a copy of Janet Mason’s new book. “They” in which the Hebrew bible is the background for the story of Tamar that goes beyond the boundaries of gender. I believe it takes a strong person to tackle gender in literature these days and the impression that I got from reading Mason’s last book is that she is a person who can do so… and she did so, quite beautifully.

“They” is a groundbreaker and I am sure that the author will agree with me that attempting to add new meaning to given bible stories is tantamount to heresy. I have no doubt that she will suffer repercussions from those who do not agree with her approach. Personally I found her story to not only be wonderfully written but charming and liberating to us who have lived in a binary world for too long.

To read the review in its entirety, click here.

 

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