Pederasty Is Part of Gay HistoryTo the Editor:
Perhaps if we’re “ransacking history” (Sept.-Oct. 2011) we might reclaim the one glaring truth about gay history that seems consistently lost in the last 25 years of so: any acknowledgment whatsoever that the primary form of homosexuality recorded over the last 2,500 years of history has been pederastic in nature.
Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate that The Gay & Lesbian Review goes further than other gay publications on this point. The issue touches on Catullus and Juventius, J. J. Winckelmann getting caught “withdrawing quickly from a young boy” by Casanova, and Henry David Thoreau’s agonized love poetry to an eleven-year-old Edmund Sewell. And in past issues, I’m always delighted in William A. Percy’s spirited letters to the editor. But is that really all there is?
As a pederast myself finishing a lengthy prison term for a pederastic relationship, it never ceases to amaze me how pederasty seems to have been scrubbed entirely from the blackboard in any discussion of gay history. This wasn’t always the case. Any perusing of gay literature, say, pre-hiv/aids, will clearly show a more realistic portrait. (See, for example, old Gay Sunshine Press editions.) But today our pederastic history has been sacrificed at the altar of cultural assimilation.
This began with the hiv/aids era, and a shocking illustration was nambla’s banishment, for the first time ever, from participation in the 1986 Christopher Street West Pride Parade in Los Angeles. Harry Hay was outraged by the ban and determined to enter the parade bearing a sandwich board declaring, “nambla walks with me.” This did not please parade organizers, who had Mr. Hay surrounded by mounted policemen, who threatened him with arrest unless he removed the offending sign. The father of the gay rights movement! Things just went downhill from there. It seems Anita Bryant was at least somewhat successful at causing the gay movement to doubt itself.
Today, I wish any burgeoning young gay person luck in finding any mention of pederasty whatsoever in publications like Out, XY, or The Advocate. Was eliminating our history really a fair price for adoption and gay marriage? Many who now find themselves within the cultural mainstream would think so. They wouldn’t even think twice about a review of a book titled Sex Panic and the Punitive State, which makes hardly any mention at all of pederasty, never mind that hundreds of civilly committed pederasts in the state of California now occupy space vacated by ordinary homosexuals in the 1950’s, 60’s, and 70’s.
So we’ll skip down the yellow brick road with our newly married spouses and adopted children, and we’ll live in a new era where our history isn’t quite so inconvenient as it once was. After all, who cares about history? It’s history, as the saying goes.
Trevor V. Duncan, Hobbs, NM
Why Ignore Existing Youth Organizations?
To the Editor:
In her “guest opinion” piece in the current [Nov.-Dec. 2011] issue, Susan B. Marine writes on the issue of preventing suicide among youths (“Prevent Suicide through Youth Empowerment”). However, she never mentions the many existing resources available to advance this goal, such as glsen and pflag. Instead, she considers—and questions—the effectiveness of the PR campaign known as “It Gets Better,” and goes on to offer the child abuse scandal in the Catholic Church as an example of an effective campaign. What about the GLBT centers that have counseling, the community legal resources, such as Lambda Legal, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the ACLU?
There’s no question but that we need to support gay youth, as some Metropolitan Community Churches do; and we need to pressure politicians and professional groups to change relevant laws and policies. But that is always the issue in our community—the constant reinvention of the wheel: why do so many people refuse to find even one organization they can support?
Billy Glover, Boissier City. LA
Author’s Addendum to Joe Gage Piece
To the Editor:
Regarding my “art memo” on Joe Gage in the Sept.-Oct. 2011 issue, in retrospect I feel that I did not do full justice to his more recent videos, those produced since his return to filmmaking in 2000, which could have been compared to his earlier work—my focus in the piece. Made from 1976 to 1982, the early films (Kansas City Trucking Co., El Paso Wrecking Corp., and LA Tool & Die) were certainly revolutionary, creating a new culture-critical genre of gay “art porn.” However, these were independent films intended for exhibition in a smattering of small (now defunct) gay movie houses. Like all young independent filmmakers, Gage had to scrape up funds to produce and distribute them.
Today, Gage keeps himself going by making porn for a more sophisticated niche within an existing market with limited interest in plot, dialog, or subtlety. (It is also a market that’s dying, given the plethora of free porn on the Internet.) In some of his best films (for example, Chainsaw and Slow Heat in a Texas Town), Gage strives to overcome these formal constraints, exploring intriguing and erotically explosive new ways to bring out the contradictions between mainstream society’s normative sexual roles and its characteristically suppressed realities.
Conrad Brewster, Kansas City, MO
The cover of the previous issue (Nov.-Dec. 2011) gave an incorrect first name for the author of the article, “The New Art Comes to Old Albion.” The author of the piece was James Polchin.
In the aforementioned article, due to an editorial mistake, the painting by Duncan Grant on page 18 was listed as Bathing. The actual name of the 1911 work is Bathers.
The article titled “Men in Briefs,” by Daniel Delis Hill, in the Nov.-Dec. 2011 issue includes a quotation that was misattributed. The passage on page 21 reads as follows: “a number of artists and admen of the day were homosexual, so it would not be unexpected for their affectional desires to have seeped into their ads.” The source was correctly given as the 2005 book Man Appeal: Advertising, Modernism, and Menswear, by Paul Jobling. However, Jobling was quoting here another source, namely David Boyce in a piece titled “Coded Desire in 1920’s Advertising,” which appeared in this very magazine, back when it was The Harvard Gay & Lesbian Review (Winter 2000, pp. 26-30).