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Women and Men in a Time

By Neil Miller

ISBN: 87113-304-0
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

In an attempt to determine the status of homosexuals outside big-city enclaves, Miller, a former editor of Boston's Gay Community News and staff writer for the Boston Phoenix, set off on a cross-country quest that included Selma, Ala.; Bismark, N.D.; and Dover, N.H. What resulted was a sometimes encouraging, sometimes shocking voyage of discovery. In 25 brief vignettes, Miller tells such stories as that of Rose Mary Denman, an ordained minister of the United Methodist Church who, when she publicly acknowledged she was a practicing lesbian, was called before an ecclesiastical court and charged with being a "self-avowed, practicing homoseuxal." Denman decided to challenge the church's policy on gay clergy; a jury decided that she should be merely "suspended," rather than expelled, from the church. Miller also interviews the gay mayor of Bunceton, Mo. (pop. 418). "Gene" Ulrich has been elected for several terms and has effected many changes in the farming community, enlisting the cooperation and support of the small black population and business leaders. His is an appealing story. And, as might be expected, Miller finds that AIDS has had an immense impact on gay life, even in the hinterlands. In an especially moving interview, he tells the story of S.F. policeman Bob Almstead, who suffers from the disease but still continues to carry out his police duties. There is also a description of a black gay church in Washington, D.C., headed by evangelist Dr. James S. Tinney. In a brief postscript to this segment, Miller reveals Tinney has died from complications of AIDS. Miller also incorporates some general findings into the personal narratives. He speculates, for example, that while minority gays find it particularly difficult to admit their sexual orientation to family members, there also is a concomitant effort among these groups to merge their cultural and sexual identities. A revealing and much-needed look at gay life across the country.