A memoir of life as a gay man in Cincinnati from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Winchester, a late-in-life author, intersperses this thin volume with repetitive musings about homosexuality, stating that it’s natural and that most people, masculine or feminine, have both hetero- and homosexual desires. Either way, homosexuals should be respected as “fully human,” even if they happen to choose poor lifestyles independent of their sexual orientation. At the heart of the book are the men who collected around Chad—a church musician, child molestation victim and promiscuous social butterfly. Some of these promiscuous men used female names and, in the days before AIDS was a concern, even paid each other, or heterosexually-identified men in need of cash, for loveless sex. The writing, although not flowery, is explicit with the crude language—characters are “screwed in the mouth,” “screwed in the anus,” or they’re “blowing numerous men”—although it’s not intended to arouse. In fact, Winchester’s slightly prudish opinion of his peers’ behavior is generally disapproving; he simultaneously seems to aim for an authentic though negative chronicle of gay life as he experienced it, while pushing for a humanistic, positive view of gays and lesbians as people. Winchester glosses over his own behavior in his writing, which is often founded on a facile moralization of sexuality. “The Mermaid and the Centaur”—his love poem to Chad that concludes the memoir—frames this book not as a social history, or even a cautionary tale, but rather as an extended, loving tribute to a frustrating yet beloved friend and partner.
A clumsy, heartfelt portrait of a lively, self-destructive subculture in the gay community and a charismatic individual who personified it.