Browsing: History Questions

March – April, 2006

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ON THE ELEVENTH NIGHT of February 1967, over 200 people from all walks of life-artists, teachers, factory workers, bankers, street cleaners, retired military men and women-filled the corner of Sunset and Sanborn in the heart of LA’s Silverlake district. Legal experts, clergymen, and local activists spoke on police brutality and homosexual rights while protestors waved signs demanding “No More Abuse of Our Rights and Dignity,” “Abolish Arbitrary Arrests,” and “Peace!” Across the street, nervous police clutched their batons while unmarked squad cars circled the protest like vultures.

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In Capote, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s masterful portrayal of author Truman Capote vividly conveys the weight of those burdens as part of director Bennett Miller’s cautionary tale of the pleasures and dangers of storytelling.

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For me, the relevant question is this: what is the real reason these figures, these masturbatory images, fascinate gay men so powerfully? And the fascination extends to gay men far beyond the demarcations of leather quarters, including even some who disdain more conventional pornography.

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Although Brokeback is too painful a movie to watch many times, the curious thing is it makes you want to fall in love again. Instead, one listens to the soundtrack, which alternates between the pastoral beauty of Gustavo Santaolalla’s theme on the guitar-so spare, so haunting-and the raucous, messy world of the bars, where Matthew Shepard met his killers. I’m not sure why Brokeback is so moving. But in the end I think it has something to do with its being what McMurtry called it: “a tragedy of emotional deprivation.” This is surely a universal experience, but at a certain point in life most gay men seem to conclude that it’s the particular fate of being gay.

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Editor’s Note: “Stonewall” has become one of those iconic events in history, like the storming of the Bastille or the bombing of Pearl Harbor, whose significance has little to do with the “facts on the ground,” as today’s journalists might call them. And while no one disputes the role of Stonewall as the symbolic start of the gay liberation movement, the event we still celebrate every year in June, the facts themselves are very much in dispute. Who actually began the riot in the Stonewall Inn one hot summer night in 1969, a bevy of angry drag queens or a stable of frisky young men? And what sustained the rioting for several days thereafter, a spontaneous outpouring from the community or serious political organizing behind the scenes? The following essay tries to address these questions by presenting without fear or favor the facts as they are known. …

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Susan Ackerman, a respected biblical scholar who currently chairs the religious studies department at Dartmouth College, brings to her study of the David and Gilgamesh narratives two important qualities: a knowledge of ancient languages that allows her to explore the emotional coloring and sexual associations of key words, and a thorough grounding in contemporary gender theory, which allows her to negotiate the essentialist-constructionist debate concerning the evolution of gay identity.

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IS IT POSSIBLE to talk about gay sex in the 1970’s without talking about hiv/aids in the 1980’s? Are we justified in presenting the 70’s as the decade in which gay men had anonymous sex in public parks, backrooms, and bathhouses, all under the guise of “gay liberation”? The release of a new documentary, Gay Sex in the 70s, raises these and other questions.

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… Savage has been partnered for ten years with his boyfriend Terry, with whom he adopted their son D.J., who’s now six years old. Savage recounted that tale in his award-winning memoir The Kid. His new book, The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Family, looks back over the evolution of his relationship and contemplates from various angles the topic that may be this decade’s most heated and divisive one. …

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While Lynch is a master storyteller and Sweet Creek’s good-versus-evil plot makes it a page turner, the characters are so vividly drawn as to overshadow the action of the book. So interesting are their inner lives that one suspects Lynch’s storylines are merely an excuse to delve into the human soul.

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