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Janet Mason is holding her book launch for her novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders (Adelaide Books New York/Lisbon — 2018) at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore on July 26, a Thursday evening, at 7 p.m.  The Big Blue Marble Bookstore is located at 551 Carpenter Lane, Philadelphia 19119.

Amazon THEY


Mason, who teaches at Temple University Center City and the Mt. Airy Learning Tree, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for a section of the novel.

Mason is also an award-winning creative writer, teacher, radio commentator, and blogger for The Huffington Post. She records commentary for This Way Out, the internationally-aired LGBTQ radio syndicate based in Los Angeles. Her book, Tea Leaves, a memoir of mothers and daughters, published by Bella Books in 2012, was chosen by the American Library Association for its 2013 Over the Rainbow List. Tea Leaves also received a Goldie Award. She is the author of three poetry books. Mason is a lay minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of The Restoration located on Stenton Avenue in East Mt. Airy.

From the back cover of THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders:

Janet Mason has a storyteller’s gift, weaving rich imagery with provocative twists to create a world where gender is as complex and fluid as the emotional bond between twins. With its Biblical, Pagan, fantastical and modernist roots, THEY is not easily categorized – and even harder to put down.

Susan Gore, PhD, Editor, Coming Out in Faith: Voices of LGBTQ Unitarian Universalists


To read an excerpt from THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders, click here.


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After hearing about the controversy on Samantha’s B’s Full Frontal, I decided to repost this blogpost featuring my poem, “The Cunt Sonnet.”  I originally wrote it in about 1992 when I attended The Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado.  It was so long ago that Allen Ginsberg, alive and well, was on the panel when the poem was read by the theatrical Bobbie Louise Hawkins.

I heard that the word cunt — as in that “feckless cunt” — is regularly used in Canada (where Samantha is from) and in Europe.  “Cunt” has a long and regal history.  (Obviously Samantha was upset by the news — and justifiable so.) Let’s give her another chance.  And let’s take back the word in the United States!

The cunts are coming, the cunts are coming!”


I heard that recently, on Face Book that there were some derogatory references going around containing the word “cunt.” Someone remembered my poem from the old days, “The Cunt Sonnet,” which I posted below. I came of age in a woman-affirming lesbian feminist community. No doubt that entered my thinking when I wrote “The Cunt Sonnet”. Now, more than a quarter of a century ago, I was at Naropa Institute for the summer in Boulder Colorado (when Allen Ginsberg was still there) when I was inspired to write the poem.  After one of the faculty members, the writer Bobbie Louise Hawkins, read it on the farewell panel, I took a bow as “the cunt who wrote it.” Indeed.  It is always time to reclaim the word “cunt” — perhaps now more than ever.



The Cunt Sonnet

The cathedral of my cunt is a real cunt-nundrum:
what and who it wants often I do not.vaginal art five calla lily
since the days of the cunt-iforms,
ancient Persia and Babylon,
this had been engraved in stone.
Still the English midwives,
those working class cunt-esses,
call a cunt a cunt.
Hark their cries in the dark night:
The cunts are coming!
The cunts are coming!
Join the cunt-ilinguists.
Scream it on the tastebuds of our common cunts
as they rise in my cunty swagger
for I am a cunting woman by day and by night
when those invited and not enter my dreams:
Cunts all, I embrace them warmly.
With my woman, cunt-ilingus is our pleasure boat
Sometimes slippery canoe or runaway yacht.
Each morning I hasten to salute:
My cunt-ry tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty.

by Janet Mason

first published in When I Was Straight, poems by Janet Mason from Insight To Riot Press (1995)


thanks to CA Conrad for encouraging me to submit to EOAGH, A Journal of the Arts

(CA may have been the guest editor at the time)



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

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Note: This piece is re-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.)

History is a messy business.

After all, it does involve human beings.

I have not thought this until now — specifically when I read the 2017 biography titled Oscar’s Ghost, The Battle for Oscar Wild’s Legacy by Laura Lee by Amberly Publishing in England.


Oscar Wilde

The book covers some new territory. It portrays the struggle for literary control over Wilde’s estate.

But the first one hundred and fifty pages or so were about the events of Wilde’s life — event that led up to the struggle over his writing by the two men in his life.

This was fortunate for me because (in full disclosure), I had not read any of the previous biographies about Wilde. Here’s the short version. Wilde was born in 1854 in Dublin, Ireland, went to college in England, married a woman as custom dictated, became a well-known writer, discovered he was gay, fell hopelessly in love with a younger man named Lord Alfred Douglas and went to jail for that love in 1895. He was then released from jail in 1897 and in 1900 died penniless.

It was interesting to read that the well-known line — “the love that dare not speak its name” — was a line of poetry written by Lord Alfred Douglas that was used in the court case against Oscar Wilde. It was equally fascinating to read that when Oscar spoke of his devotion to Lord Alfred Douglas (nicknamed Bosie) in the courtroom that the attendees of the trial applauded. This is proof that people (at least some of them) are always more enlightened than the laws that govern them.

Oscar was found guilty and went to jail. In prison, he wrote what is arguably his best work titled De Profundis (Latin for “from the depths”), a letter to Lord Alfred Douglas. We have this work because Oscar handed it to his good friend and literary executor Robert Ross who was also his occasional lover.

The long-essay did not portray Lord Alfred Douglas in a good light. After all, Douglas was the reason that Oscar had gone to jail and lost everything. Nevertheless after Oscar’s release from jail the two men reunited and for a short time lived in Naples. After Oscar died an untimely death from a rare disease in 1900, Lord Alfred Douglas learned of the existence of De Profundis and that it was written as a letter to him. Because of this, he considered it his personal property and went into a litigious rage.

The two men knew of Oscar’s involvement with each other and for a while they were good friends. The enmity that grew between them after Oscar’s death was unfortunate. But we do have Robert Ross to thank for establishing Oscar Wilde’s legacy.

In the conclusion, the author notes how fast things have changed:

“In March 2014, same sex marriage became legal in the UK. A little more than a year later it became the law of Oscar Wilde’s native Ireland. In January 2017, Wilde was posthumously pardoned, along with 50,000 other gay men who had been convicted under a law that no longer exists. It can only be hoped that we are finally entering an era when men who love men can, indeed, be dead to all sense of shame.”

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

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Following is a YouTube video of me reading from Catwalk a new novel that I am currently revising.  The same story — that of revisiting and revising Sodom and Gomorrah — is printed in my blogpost below the video.

Based on a fictional interpretation of the life of my maternal grandfather,  Catwalk opens in 1927 when Joseph leaves his wife and two daughters to find himself.  He is in love with his best friend Vince, but does the love that dare not speak its name exist in the 1920s?

It does – in speakeasies, honky tonks, in the back rows of silent film houses, the alleyways near Times Square, between sailors in Gulfport, Mississippi and in the Merchant Marine where Joseph and Vince enlisted at the beginning of the Great War. Still, Joseph is torn between being a “normal man”  (in the vernacular of the time) and a “degenerate.” He tells himself that he is not a “fairy.”  He just loves Vince. He day dreams about the two of them setting up house, and  having a life together.

But this son of a Southern Baptist deacon raised in Biloxi, finds himself constantly at odds with his own demons.  Catwalk is a tale of romantic adventure where historic settings come to life. This excerpt of Catwalk takes place when Joseph falls asleep on the beach in Biloxi Mississippi and dreams of a different world.




Joseph opened the car door and stepped out onto the shoulder of the road. He walked around the front of the car to the beach. He felt the sand sink under his shoes. Unsteadily, he put one foot in front of the other and walked to the water’s edge. He relieved himself and when he was done he staggered backwards and found himself sitting on dry white sand. He sat cross-legged and dug his right foot into the sand.  A clump of sand fell into his shoe. Joseph reached down and untied his shoe. He took it off and held the black leather shoe upside down. He emptied the sand onto the beach. He put the narrow toed shoe on again and tied the laces tightly. He ignored the grains of sand clinging to his pant legs. He tied his shoes. He felt the sand in his shoe again. Joseph started to reach for his shoe to empty it out again but let it go. What did it matter?
He stared up. Bright stars punctured black sky. Vince was out there somewhere.  Perhaps he was looking at the stars, too. Joseph wanted to stop thinking about Vince, but he couldn’t think of anything else. Joseph clutched his hand to his chest and rocked back and forth. He rarely cried. He didn’t even cry at his mother’s funeral. But now he was alone in the dark. He was drunk. He spent the day with a cadaver that looked like Vince. Joseph could still smell the acrid scent of the embalming fluid. Joseph looked to his left at the sand dunes and then to the right at the vaults and tombstones. He twisted around and stared back at a vault that was behind the tombstones at the top of the beach. The cross atop the vault shimmered.
Joseph was alone with the tiny white stone house of death that was waiting for him. A flash of inspiration came to him. The only way that he could escape his memories of Vince was to leave Biloxi. Vince’s presence was too strong here. The two of them had grown up here together as boys. They had run off together and joined the Merchant Marine when they were young men. As adults, they had talked about returning to Biloxi.
Joseph lay down on the sand and curled into a fetal position. The humid summer’s night air wrapped around him like a blanket. He shut his eyes and listened to waves wash over pebbles. His crossed his arms so that they made an X across his chest. The fingertips of his left hand burrowed into cool grains of damp sand. He fell asleep and dreamed that he was standing in the cemetery with a shovel.  He was digging into the sand — digging and digging.  A familiar voice called. It was deep and pleasant   But it was distant. Joseph had to find Vince. The voice brought back everything that he had ever loved. They had been boys together, sitting next to each other in church, swimming through the waves to a deserted isle where they could pretend they were shipwrecked sailors. Vince was a part of him.  His voice brought everything back: Vince being bullied when he was a boy; the scar that was left on his cheek when Joseph had defended him — the two of them becoming fast friends, boys growing to men. The first time they had made love was in the memories of sea foam. Even Joseph’s jealousies of Vince’s girlfriends seemed important now. He realized that this had been part of the love that formed him, before and after they had joined the Merchant Marine.  Their shared experience of being fathers was part of their love for each other, too.  Vince was at his happiest when he had become a father, twice over.  Joseph had been genuinely happy for him. He had almost been as happy when his own children were born.
Vince called to him in a deep, melodious voice that was separate from Joseph but part of him, too. The voice was louder with every shovel full of sand that Joseph dug up and flung over his shoulder. He began digging faster, faster. The voice still sounded like it was far away. He dug the hole so deep that he could no longer reach the bottom. Joseph thought he saw translucent arms reaching toward him from the hole. They were attached to broad shoulders, a barrel chest. Joseph saw Vince’s olive skinned face with the scar above his cheek.  His mouth was open. He was calling to Joseph. Joseph could see Vince’s chiseled face, but Vince looked like a ghost. Joseph hoped that Vince wasn’t dead.
Like a man dying of thirst, Joseph peered at the apparition. His eyes were that parched for a glimpse of Vince. Suddenly the apparition became filled with blinding light. Joseph stared into the light. He saw that it was a tall figure with wings the span of an Albatross.

angel in city
Joseph realized, as he stared into the light, that it was Vince disguised as an angel. Vince was one of the angels who came to visit Lot in Sodom. But instead of an angel disguised as a man, he was a man disguised as an angel. But it wasn’t one angel that visited Lot. There were two angels. Joseph knew that Vince was alone and lonely. He was searching for Joseph. Joseph could be the other angel. They would be together again. Together they had visited Sodom where the neighboring men from the town had knocked on Lot’s door, saying that they wanted to “know” the angels. But in his version of the story, the angels would leave together, arm in arm, rather than assisting God in burning down Sodom and Gomorrah.
They would leave together and fly off with their Albatross wings to a land in the clouds where two men could love each other. Their love would be bright and true.  Their love would be so strong that it could change everything, including a world that denied they existed.
Joseph only had to tell Vince that their love could change everything — that they could create a world that was so good it was brilliant.
If only Joseph could touch him. Joseph cast down his shovel and dove into the hole. When he reached the dazzling angel that was Vince, he fell right through him. It was as if he was plunging through flaming hoops at the circus.  Yet the flames did not burn or scorch him. The fire cleansed him. It was as if he were precious metal. He could feel the dross dropping away. His intent was purified.
The Bible said that Godly fire would consume the wicked, but not the righteous.
His love for Vince was righteous.
He fell through the light into the darkness.  As he entered the darkness, he knew that his love was as pure as the fire of God. Vince returned that love. They would be reunited.  Together they would spread the gospel of love.
Love was the energy that created the world.
The fire did not destroy him.  It fueled him.  He would find Vince. He had faith in the power of love. He would seek love, and he would be rewarded in this life and the next.
His joy would be fulfilled through Vince. This was his word.
Joseph tumbled heels over head through the long tunnel that he had dug.  The apparition of Vince and the blaze of the angel vanished.  But Joseph could hear Vince calling to him from far in the distance.
“Joseph. Joseph.”
Joseph kept falling through darkness.
“Joseph. Come closer. Closer.”
Joseph kept falling. He created a V with his arms behind him so that he could fly more smoothly with the wind rippling off his body. He was no longer falling. He was soaring downward.
Vince was somewhere in this tunnel.  Together, their love would illuminate the darkness.
Joseph kept soaring.  He was determined to find Vince — even if he had to plunge straight through to the other side of the earth.

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Several Sunday’s ago, I co-led a Unitarian Universalist service with Tim Styer (who is also the church’s moderator) and had Becky Birtha come and read her latest children’s book — Far Apart, Close in Heart (Being a Family When a Loved One Is Incarcerated (published by Albert Whitman & Company). The YouTube video of part of Becky’s reading is below. The service took place at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Ave. in Philadelphia.

For Tim Styer’s sermon on Martin Luther King, Jr., and Unitarian Universalism, click here.

For my reflection on visiting the memorial of Martin Luther King, Jr., in Atlanta, click here.



Beckys Book


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Note:  this review is being aired this week on the international LGBTQ radio syndicate This Way Out, headquartered in Los Angeles. To listen to the entire news wrap, click here.

rainbow leaf

leaf of love 2.jpg

A very interesting read that I picked up recently is Aunt Sookie & Me, the sordid tale of a scandalous southern belle by Michael Scott Garvin (2017; CreateSpace). This book is a Southern coming of age story about a young girl on the cusp of adolescence who lives with her riotously funny aunt in Savannah Georgia in 1968.  The main character has a secret and — because it makes the character and the plot more complex – I’ll tell you what that secret is.  Despite the fact that she declares that she is a girl, the narrator – Poppy – was born Samuel and on moving to Savannah from another small Southern town decided not to tell anyone … for a time … about her carefully guarded secret.

Aunt Sookie & Me is a novel about difference in the midst of the sameness. The aunt is eccentric, the mother who drops in now and then has more than her share of problems, and the ice cream man is gay. On a grand level, this novel  is about conformity – and how this often doesn’t work – especially for people who happen to be female.  It is also a novel about acceptance including, perhaps starting with, self-acceptance.  Ultimately, this extremely well-written novel is about love.  After reading it, I will never view any small southern town with the same eyes.

Not only does the novel contain some important history, it proves that yes, we do exist. And because of this, we make things more interesting.

This is Janet Mason with commentary of queer life and literature for This Way Out.


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On Sunday January 14th, I co-led a Unitarian Universalist service with Tim Styer  to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.  Tim is the moderator (president) of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Restoration on Stenton Avenue. He is a long-term Unitarian Universalist and was active in the civil rights movement. In his talk (titled “What would King do”) Tim touched on the important interconnections between the history of Unitarian Universalism and the radical and unpopular views of Dr. King in the last year of his life.

You can view Tim’s sermon on the YouTube video below or read his text below that.

(To read my reflection that I presented with Tim — where  talked about my sojourn to The King Center in Atlanta and read a small segment of my recently completed manuscript Art, a novel of revolution, love and marriage — click here.)

First Reading “Nonviolent protest must now mature to a new level to correspond to  heightened black impatience and stiffened white resistance. This higher level is mass civil disobedience. There must be more than a statement to the larger society, there must be a force that interrupts its functioning at some key point. That interruption must not, however, be clandestine or surreptitious. It must be open and, above all, conducted by large masses without violence. If the jails are filled to thwart it, its meaning will become even clearer.. From  the book Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero, by Vincent Harding. 


Reflection Behind me is a picture of Dr. Vincent Harding along with Rabbi Art Waskow , founder of the Shalom Center on Lincoln Drive. Rabbi Waskow will be here on March 11th. Also in this picture leaning over on the side is our own Sandy Fulton. This picture was taken at the Heschell King festival held the weekend of January 4 -5 , 2013 at Mishkan Shalom in Manayunk. The festival was co-sponsored by Restoration and I had the opportunity to be one of the planners. Friday night of the festival  Dr. Harding in his talk touched on the topic of what would King do if he were still alive then in 2013.   

Let’s look back at  where we were in 2013 which is not that long ago in terms of social and economic justice. Let me mention a few things out of many.  

A Washington Post study in 2013 pointed out that the Black vs White economic gap hadn’t budged in 50 years.  Michael Fleisher of the Post states that “Even as racial barriers have been toppled and the nation has grown wealthier and better educated,” Fleisher writes, “the economic disparities separating blacks and whites remain as wide as they were when marchers assembled on the Mall in 1963.” Notably in 2013  was the birth of the Black Lives Matter #blacklivesmatter with the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin. 2013 also was the year more attention was finally being given to the ongoing state sanctioned racist police violence against black lives.   

Incidentally these years thought by many were supposed to be the years of a post racial America because of having Barack Obama as our first Black president, but sadly we all know now how flawed that notion turned out to be. 

 Also in 2013 Americans started to take notice of  the scourge of mass incarceration and the holocaust it has created in black and brown communities throughout our nation and as Michelle Alexander named it in her book released in 2010, The New Jim Crow. 

Well, here we are in 2018 just five years later and not much has changed.  In fact it has gotten worse.  I believe that you all would agree with me that we could have never imagined in our wildest imaginations that we would be witnessing what we are today with an avowed racist, xenophobe, lying, plutocrat in the White house who has opened the door and given license to the worst of elements of racism, xenophobia, and  homophobia ever in the history of our country.  The Presidency of our first  black President Barack Obama has  along with White supremacy and patriarchy has given us a President who along with his Republican party  is determined to wipe out all the social, economic and environmental gains of the last 50 years. We are watching in abject horror as the civil and voting rights that were earned with black and white bodies including James Reeb a UU Minister who was murdered in Selma Alabama,  and that Dr. King fought for being ripped away. We are watching in horror as millions of people lose their healthcare including some in our congregation just so that wealthy people can get more wealthy.   

We are witnessing the “triple threat” of materialism, militarism, and racism,  as Dr. King stated in his what I believe was his most important speech and certainly his most controversial.  The speech Beyond Vietnam given at Riverside Baptist Church  on April 4th 1967 exactly a year to the day of his assassination  on April 4th 1968 and was written by Dr. Vincent Harding and I believe it signaled a change in Dr. King.  In fact that change was a factor in  King’s stock as a national figure and leader deteriorating precipitously  in his last year before he was gunned down in Memphis. “It wasn’t just KKK members or those in positions of power who disagreed with him or hated him”. As Cornel West explains in his book “The Radical King”, by the time of King’s death, most of the country didn’t like him. “There was intense FBI pressure, including attempts to make him commit suicide,” West reminds us. “The black civil rights leadership was trashing him. The white establishment had rejected him. The young black revolutionaries were dismissing him.” Over the course of his life, King was not a man who was loved by most; in fact, he was hated by a select few. He was an incredibly maligned man by the time he died. And yet we never talk about that and the reason why. I believe the reason why was that King had had enough by that day in 1967. With his beyond Vietnam speech he full throated went after white supremacism, unfettered capitalism and  the military industrial system in America supported by it  that was designed to kill and oppress mostly people of color around the globe.  

Martin Luther King who graduated from Crozer Theological seminary which is less than an hour away from here by car often stated that one of his favorite historical  Ministers was Theodore Parker. Parker a Unitarian Minister who was one of the most important and radical Ministers of his day. Parker was a Unitarian Transcendentalist minister who in 1855  was put on trial for inciting a riot for giving a sermon condemning the kidnapping of freed black slaves in the north. A well known abolitionist, and a member of the ​Secret Six​, who fostered any number of fugitives and in response to threats from pro-slavery northerners was known to keep a pistol in his pulpit. He was a supporter of John Brown. He was principal among those who gathered to prevent the arrest and return to slavery of ​Ellen and William Craft​. They succeeded, giving the Crafts time to flee abroad. Interestingly his defense was one of necessity, asserting justification due to the horror of slavery, even in the face of the notorious Fugitive Slave Law. The judge found a technicality to throw the case out of his court. The great reckoning was still some years away.  

The quote from Parker that King most often used  was whenever King was asked how long will it take for social justice, King would respond “Not long because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”. How long? Not long.  Parker’s quote was not as concise. He says “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice”.  Parker also said in response to his protest to the Mexican American war “But truth has a right of way everywhere, and will recover it at last, spite of the adverse possession of a political party”. While Parker was considered much more transgressive in his day than King was in his day, King I believe by April 4th 1967 started to incorporate some of the tactics of Parker which were not dissimilar to the tactics adopted by many of the burgeoning black power movement young turks like Stokely Carmichael.  According Harding; King insisted in 1967 that we look “beyond Vietnam.” Indeed, for our purposes, in our times, that may have been the most significant contribution of his speech, of the last years of his life—this public wrestling with the role of America in the world, this agonized calling of his “beloved nation” away from its destructive, inhumane choices, toward its own best truth. As King saw it, in our overseas relationships, our nation had chosen to be “on the wrong side of a world revolution.” And at home, “a nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” (Of course, King was simply the best known of many persons who were pressing that concern.)

By 1966 King had made an essentially religious commitment to the poor, and he was prepared to say: I choose to identify with the underprivileged. I choose to identify with the poor. I choose to give my life for the hungry. I choose to give my life for those who have been left out of the sunlight of opportunity. I choose to live for and with those who find themselves seeing life as a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign. This is the way I’m going. If it means suffering a little bit, I’m going that way. If it means sacrificing, I’m going that way. If it means dying for them, I’m going that way, because I heard a voice saying, “Do something for others.” 

I believe that King if he were alive today would be calling us to mass mobilization to counter the attacks from the white house, the courthouse and the house of representatives against our hard fought for liberties. He would be calling us to finally put an end to white supremacy and systems of patriarchy.  To mobilize and disrupt government and commerce to participate in mass civil protest and to fight this battle with love and commitment and help each other on the way.

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