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Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

 

Recently, I read with considerable consternation that suicide rates among LGBTQ youth are up — again.

Then I was targeted online with anti-LGBT citations from the New Testament. I was tempted to let this go — like most writers I have moved onto other topics — but then it occurred to me that there is a connection between anti-gay sentiment in the Bible and LGBTQ youth committing suicide.  Young people are being taught that they don’t matter — and the few anti-gay passages in the Bible are trickling into the bully culture of mainstream society.

My first thought was that citing the anti-gay passages from the Bible does not make one a Biblical expert.  In fact, the second citation was wrong.  The first citation from Romans (which Biblical scholars believe was written by the Apostle Paul who is believed to have been gay himself, unfortunately with no small amount of internalized homophobia) is one of the few (if not the only) references in the Bible to lesbianism. The citation reads, “women exchanged natural relations for those contrary to nature.”

To which I reply, “Good for them!”

It’s nice to know that some 2,000 years ago, same sex passion did exist and was important enough to have several mentions in the Bible.

There are plenty of references to men engaging in “unnatural” passions with each other. But what I noticed most when I read part of the Bible as research for my novel THEY, a biblical tale of secret genders is the intense misogyny.  By comparison, the anti-gay parts seemed to drop away.  It is after all — one (patriarchal ) history of the creation of the world. Some would say it is THE history of the world.  But there are plenty of creation myths. Then there is science.  The Bible just happens to be a very popular set of creation myths.

There are also, beyond a doubt, some absolutely beautiful passages in the Bible. So rather than throwing out the baby with the bath water, I have decided to claim the parts of the Bible that suit me.

 

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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Happy Valentines Day!

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I was delighted to find that this interview was posted.


Where are you from? How has our childhood influenced you as an author?

I grew up in Levittown, a working-class suburb of Philadelphia in the states. The place was a bastion of sameness and it was very difficult there being different, but I did survive and became a writer. I was the first in my family to attend college and you never heard of being a writer as a career aspiration. I always wrote stories – even as a child. I also read a lot – you could call me a bookworm and was tall and loved to climb trees — so I almost actually had my head in the clouds. I also got a very strong work ethic from my upbringing — which came in handy.

Where did you go to college and what was your major? What were your career aspirations then?

I went to Temple University in Philadelphia – the same university where I now teach creative writing. I majored in journalism and then worked in the field and then in something called “communications” that included marketing. I worked for nonprofits – one was providing “forever” homes for legally free foster children. In another job, I worked for a nonprofit that provided services to disabled people and to elderly people. Journalism and marketing are actually good backgrounds for a creative writer because I learned how to set and meet deadlines. I also developed a sense of how important marketing is. It’s very important to get your book in front of the potential reader.

I did my own creative writing – nights, weekends, days off — the entire time I was working.

 

To read the entire interview, click here.

 

 

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Saying goodbye to a friend is hard to do.  This afternoon I learned that Judith K. Witherow has died.  I knew she had multiple health issues and that she had been in the hospital for a long time and that it sounded very serious. Her long-time partner Sue Lanaerts was with her on January 27th when she died. Judith’s two living sons were also with her.

I felt very sad learning this news. The sadness was very heavy — a physical presence.  I was on the floor doing yoga when two thoughts came to me. The first was the thought that she is done with her suffering. The second thought was that she can still offer us her guidance.  Judith was very wise. We are lucky to have had her for as long as we did.  Still, it is hard to say goodbye.

Goodbye, Judith.

I am running this review of her book that I wrote four or so years ago when her book first came out. The review originally appeared in The Huffington Post.

 

I was  reminded of the quote from the late poet Muriel Rukeyser — ‘’What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open’’ — when I read  Judith K. Witherow’s collection of essays, Strong Enough To Bend, Twin Spirits Publishing, 2014.

In her collection of essays, Strong Enough To Bend, Judith K. Witherow describes herself as a “back up writer, one of many who stand in the background, providing the harmony and staging the recognition for those whose names are on the covers of the books or the mastheads of the publications.”  

She describes Strong Enough to Bend as her solo performance.  And what a performance it is.  I found that I could not put Strong Enough To Bend down — except for time to recollect how much the essays reminded me of friend’s lives and my own.

Native American lesbian and truth teller, Witherow starts her collection with essays on her background being raised poor in the northern Appalachian mountains.

“We never lived in a place that had screen doors or screens in the windows. This allowed everything, including snakes, to come and go at will. We learned at an early age to pound on the floor before getting out of bed.”

In the second section, Judith talks about how she came out with three sons that she gave birth to during a marriage to an abusive man.  Raising her sons in the 1970s a time when lesbians were losing their children to custody battles with ex-husbands, presented Judith with an ongoing dilemma of when to officially come out to her children. It’s not surprising that her three sons, who were raised by Judith and her long-term partner, Sue, knew that their mother was a lesbian far before she told them and were fiercely protective of their two mothers.  

She devotes another section of the book to her multiple health issues which stem, no doubt, from her poverty ridden childhood, and to her struggles with the medical establishment. In 1979, Judith was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  Judith’s health issues are numerous and it is clear that we are lucky to have her with us on this planet.  Hers is a voice that we were not meant to hear.

A strong feminist, Judith is a role model for valuing herself. In the 1996 U.S. presidential election, Judith was a write-in candidate prompted by her belief that she “was the best qualified of any of the candidates.”

Judith K. Witherow (second to right) with me (far right on the end) with Janet Aalfs on the left and Renée Bess. Judith, Janet and Renée were doing a reading at the Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia and I was hosting.

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When I first read the announcement of the Church of England saying that sex was okay only for married heterosexual couples and those in same sex couples — including clergy — are expected to abstain, I sucked in my breath.

I am a Unitarian Universalist with a root “religion” or practice of Buddhism. I was raised secular and Buddhism feels the most natural to me and I do have a practice, so I check that box.

Despite not expecting that much from the patriarchy, I keep expecting more from religion. Admittedly, I know very little about the Church of England apart from what I just searched on the internet. But I do know that it is Episcopalian. I have an English background and my forward thinking feminist mother thumbed her nose at this religion when she left, burned her bibles and became a card carrying atheist.

I expect lots of people will be leaving the Church of England after this announcement.

So, my first Buddhist prayer is for the children of people who stay in this religion, who come out (because you never know) and in some way internalize the message that they are less than. And sadly, these children may internalize self hatred in ways that cause harm to harm themselves. In the past, plenty of LGBTQ youth have taken their own lives.  But we live in a different world now and my hope is that being in that world helps these young people.

My second Buddhist prayer is for the people who stay in the church.  It is a Buddhist philosophy that the person who hurts others, hurts himself or herself. My hope is that the people who stay in this religion can change it so that it is not oppressive to others and to themselves.

My third Buddhist prayer is for the institution of this religion. This is a hard prayer because it’s easy to be angry and to say the Church of England deserves what it has coming. So it’s time for me to step back and to truly have compassion for the institution.

Like the government, religion is meant to serve the people (not the opposite). Religion is not meant to serve institutions — including churches and seminary schools. When religion does not serve people they are free to leave and form community elsewhere. This is why so many churches have gone out of business. So my hope for the religious institutions is that they understand this before it is too late.

I came to religion later in life. When I look back on my religious journey on the past five years or so,  I realize that I have been searching for the answer of what exactly religion is. This morning, with the help of the new minister — a smart young man who is a real natural — I realized the answer. Religion is designed for us to realize that everyone is sacred. This includes LGBTQ people, our families and our allies.

DCA0522F-70DE-4A90-9802-D500AEF27DFAReligion is captured spirituality and it is available to everyone.  So on my walk this afternoon, I thought and felt the words of Native American poet — and the U.S. poet laureate—

 

 

 

To pray, you open your whole self

To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon,

To one whole voice that is you.

…. “Eagle Poem” by Joy Harjo

 

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 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.)

When I began reading Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney (2019 Sibling Rivalry Press), I thought the poems of Karl Tierney might be tragic, but instead found them tragically funny – in a way that often makes the soul snicker. I thought the poetry might be tragic because they were brought to us by tragic circumstances.  The editor was friend and literary executor of the author Karl Tierney who in 1994 became sick with AIDs and took his own life in 1995 when he was 39-years old.  The editor, Jim Cory, is a noted poet and essayist in his own right.

Tierney never had a book published during his lifetime, but his poems were published in auspicious places such as the American Poetry Review and Exquisite Corpse.

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Karl Tierney as a poet also had his serious side. In the poem “Gertrude Stein to Alice B. Toklas,” he adopts Gertrude’s voice and writes in part of the poem:

 

Our car is …beautiful and blue

and we are beautiful and not blue

and we are fast driving

and do not feel a bit dangerous or dirty.

We have the radio on…

 

In his poems about gay life in San Francisco where he lived, Karl turned his keen poetic observations on life around him.  In “Adonis At The Swimming Pool,” Karl starts with:

“Who dances his thighs across the pool’s water,

spread on a mattress bloated from his breath.

Whose ripe-with-sun skin cuts through the spray

With the alingual grace of a kiss to my brow.”….

And ends with:

“Whose wet curls stroke the evening’s earliest gasp

into naughty tones and murmurs of lust.

Who would have me discussed in seedy cafés

and ruin me since I’m deaf to this hiss

behind the teeth in that insipid smile.”

From Tierney’s take on “lipstick lesbians,” MacDonna, and gay life in the Castro at a certain point in time, I found Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney (from Sibling Rivalry Press) to be a page-turner of a good read.

 

 

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: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders by Janet Mason

 

They a biblical tale of secret genders

 

A taut, gripping, deeply intriguing tale…

Mason reimagines the life of Tamar from the book of Genesis as she takes readers on a stunning journey, vividly evoking the world of Old Testament women and intersex individuals. Content and happily barren, Tamar occupies a far different world from other women in the society, living as a hermit in the desert with her pet camel. When her twin sister Tabitha, a widower and the daughter-in-law of Judah, becomes pregnant after seducing a shepherd, Tamar connives a cunning plan to save her from being burned alive at the stake for the crime of adultery. Tabitha gives birth to intersex twins: Perez and Zerah. Tamar becomes attached to the twins and follows their line of intersex twins.

Familiar passages from the Bible come alive as Tamar questions the validity of many stories and wonders about the unanswered questions in the Bible (Eve’s so-called birth from Adam’s rib, the gender identity of the Garden of Eden’s serpent, the reference to God as a man).

As in the Legends of the Jews, Tamar in the novel is also endowed with a prophetic gift which allows her to know the future of her descendants (later in life) before she takes rebirth as an intersex. Mason vividly brings the period alive with rich details and poignantly evokes the strong bonds the women form as a sect.

Mason’s narrative is fluid and her prose clear and elegant.

Excluded from the public sphere and silenced by men, the women in the book are forced to stay dependent on men. But the female protagonists (Tamar, Judith, the Mother) in the book are fiery, cunning characters who know their ways around the stronger sex, becoming a resonant symbol of womanly strength, love, and wisdom.

Mason’s depiction of the lives of the women (living with the fear of casting as witches and getting burned alive on stakes for minor transgressions and prohibited from learning to read and write among other) explores deep roots of misogyny and issues of gender inequality (which are still prevalent in many communities), striking an occasional melancholy tone.

Without reverting to religious jargon, Mason’s book narrates the passions and traditions of the early Israelites while her characters’ gender fluidity leaves readers to contemplate their perceptions of present-day members of LGBT community. A book that is sure to garner Mason plenty of fans.

 

Highly recommended to lovers of literary fiction!

 

They: A Biblical Tale of Secret Genders

by Janet Mason

Buy now

Pub date August 24, 2018

Adelaide Books Publishers

ISBN 9781949180244

Price $18.22 (USD) Paperback, $7.66 Kindle edition

 

THEY Scottie

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