An award-winning screenwriter’s journey from Texas Latter-day Saints roots to prominent LGBTQ activist.
At the center of this thought-provoking memoir, Black, who won an Academy Award for the screenplay for Milk, offers a heartfelt tribute to Anne, his courageously inspiring yet deeply religious and politically conservative mother. Anne was raised in an impoverished family of sharecroppers in Louisiana. After contracting polio at age 2, she suffered through years of therapy and painful surgeries, leaving her reliant on leg braces and crutches for the rest of her life. Despite these physical disadvantages, Anne went on to marry and eventually raise three children, primarily as a single mother, while building a successful career. After enduring two abusive marriages, she found sustaining love with her third husband. The author’s life story follows a parallel path of meeting obstacles through resiliency. Though he was a shy and awkward child, Anne’s examples of her strong willpower motivated Lance to reach his own challenging goals, ultimately inspiring the necessary confidence to come out to his family at age 21. Though mother and son often held firm to their conservative and liberal viewpoints, each recognized positive attributes inherent in either camp. Lance discovered common interests with some of his Texas relations, and Anne gained a more compassionate understanding of the LGBTQ community. “Our house should have been divided—North vs. South, red vs. blue, conservative vs. progressive, coasts vs. mountain or plains, or however you choose to name such tribes,” writes the author. “Instead, my mom and I fueled each other. Her oil lit my lamp, and eventually mine lit hers. The tools I learned to wield growing up in her conservative, Christian, Southern, military home were the same ones I’d used to wage battles that had taken me…to the front row of the United States Supreme Court to fight for LGBTQ equality.” Black provides a wholly engrossing account of how a mother and son evolved beyond their potentially divisive religious and political beliefs to uncover a source of strength and unity through their enduring bond.
A terrifically moving memoir of the myriad complexities of family dynamics.
A sharp memoir that explores gender, identity, and other complex, timely matters.
Even before considering the idea of binary gender identity as an illusion, this book would be difficult to categorize; it is an intriguing mixture of memoir, manifesto, arts criticism, and prose poem. The settings include Manhattan, Chicago, Tennessee, Seattle, and Berlin, with Iceland and Greenland on the horizon. Fleischmann (Syzygy, Beauty, 2012) offers different perspectives on one relationship that provides a focus, one that is “joined somewhere between the platonic and the erotic.” Even there—maybe especially there—distinctions, categories, and motivations prove difficult. “I was born in 1983,” writes Fleischmann, “and heard for the first decade of my life no mention of queerness outside of the context of hate and epidemic. As media representation and legal protections grew in the following years, so too did a queer cultural anxiety around political collapse, and a gnawing awareness that those protections were flimsy, insufficient at best….it seemed urgent that I resist the mainstreaming of queerness and sustain a more radical tradition, assimilation being a form of death.” As a teenager, the author recounts experiencing the feeling, “I’m hideous and I’m gay,” and how they made pilgrimages to New York and Chicago to explore the limitless possibilities of identity, subsequently discovering that there “are actually rural pockets…all over the country, of weird people…doing all sorts of odd things in places you wouldn’t expect.” Throughout the book, identity remains as fluid as gender, as the author investigates both in interesting ways. Providing a reference point across the text is the work of gay artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, whose art has inspired the author to interpret personal experience and response through the lens of queer relationships.
Both provocatively and evocatively written, the book illuminates the process of becoming.
A noted activist tells the inspiring story of he/r struggles discovering and living he/r lesbian intersex identity.
Until s/he was 20 years old, Viloria lived he/r life as a female (pronouns the author self-identifies with). But when a doctor said that the size of he/r clitoris “just [wasn’t] normal” and asked to run tests on he/r, Viloria began to question he/r identity. He/r femaleness had never been an issue at home; neither he/r mother nor he/r doctor father had ever discussed he/r physical differences and never allowed for any surgical alterations at birth. At the same time, however, he/r Catholic upbringing had made it difficult for Viloria to acknowledge to he/r parents that s/he was a lesbian. A move to San Francisco in 1990 propelled the author on a journey of sexual self-discovery that included relationships primarily with women and occasionally men. Five years later, and after reading a newspaper article on intersex people, s/he finally came to the realization that s/he, too, was intersex, or as s/he would say later on, a “hermaphrodyke.” Viloria began experimenting with he/r identity and, for a time, dressed and acted like a male before settling into a more consciously androgynous mode of self-presentation. S/he also became involved with intersex organizations, where s/he not only learned the vocabulary to articulate he/r identity, but also about the surgeries that deprived other hermaphrodites “the opportunity to explore who and what they were, from the beginning.” He/r awakening consciousness to the plight of intersex people drove he/r to shed all remaining vestiges of inhibition regarding he/r differences and become a passionate advocate of the intersex community. In he/r personal life, Viloria came to understand and eventually break self-destructive patterns that had kept he/r from the loving lesbian partnership s/he had always wanted for herself. Intelligent and courageous, the author’s book chronicles one intersex person’s path to wholeness, but it also affirms the right of all intersex and nonbinary people to receive dignity and respect.
A dignified tapestry of trailblazing pioneers who have contributed to the gay liberation movement.
Funk’s nonprofit OUTWORDS is an initiative dedicated to recording and preserving the stories and histories of LGBTQ revolutionaries. Among the dynamic voices featured in his empowering anthology are activists, leaders, and individual contributors who represent the struggle of LGBTQ people to be heard above the perennial din of intolerance, discrimination, and hate. Recognizing that many of the pioneers are baby boomers and that there will be “fewer of our elders around to interview,” the author briskly traveled across America arranging interviews for a volume he knew would “do justice to the long, complex journey that our community has traveled.” Split into 10 thematic sections, the collection begins with community-focused individuals like Emma Colquitt-Sayers, a Dallas-based organizer who overcame the ravages of a difficult childhood to emerge successful and immensely philanthropic. Other contributors include former Los Angeles nightclub owners Jewel Thais-Williams, whose Catch One bar was born during the sexual revolution, and Gene La Pietra, who consistently thwarted rampant anti-gay police brutality at his venues (he recalls one night when “the cops game in with billy clubs flying…helicopters, the whole nine yards…giving out commands just like Nazis”). Many of these diverse voices come from transgender activists, and others have legal, political, or performance backgrounds and media, military, and ministerial affiliations. “Pioneering protester” Dick Leitsch recalls rushing to the Stonewall Inn in June 1969 to witness the riots firsthand, and organizer Donna Red Wing’s posthumous profile reflects her lifelong dedication to humanitarian equality. Many of these stories are highly introspective and poignant—e.g., interviews with several longtime AIDS survivors and a few spirited octogenarians—while some are humorous, including that of drag queen Bradley Picklesimer’s trajectory from Chess King–wearing youth to Hollywood performance artist. To Funk, each voice is essential, and “if we hurry, we can record many more stories—and thank our pioneers in person.”
A significant educational and motivational tribute to dozens of social justice heroes.