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Louie Crew
377 S. Harrison Street, 12D
East Orange, NJ 07018

Phone: 973-395-1068 h

Please sign the guestbook and

Louie & Ernest Clay-Crew
Married February 2, 1974


Electronic Natter

by H. M. Quean Lutibelle

a.k.a.  Brother Thorn-in-the-Flesh, William Werc, Louise Clay, Li Min Hua, Dr. Dungo and Louie Crew

© 1990, 2004 by Louie Crew


Louie  Crew  posted  these reflections first  over  several  months  on  GAYNET,  a  node of Bitnet, a network  for  electronic  mail  used  by academics worldwide. On November 13th, 1989 GAYNET  registered   272  addressees, some of them campus lesbigay  groups,  some  of  them   isolated  individuals.  During  October  and   November   1989 GAYNET users logged 2,065,415 bytes in messages.

See also: [Lutibelle's current natter] [Lutibelle's Natter in 2007] [Lutibelle's Natter in 2006] [Lutibelle's Natter in 2005] [Lutibelle's Natter in 2004] [Lutibelle's Natter in 2003] [Lutibelle's Natter in 2002] [Natter in 2000-2001] [Natter in 1998-1999] [Selected essays by Lutibelle]


To: Chandia, my favorite flamer:

Whatever did you write to the paper, sugar? GAYNET cut off my oxygen for Monday thru Wednesday, all because our computer center got a new sprinkler system. So I missed all those messages.

I need you to model rage tonight!

On my way to Integrity, I stopped off in Penn Station for a big mac. All of a sudden, two young boys, about 16, started saying in a screaming whisper, "That's a man. That's a man." The person in question, in a lovely red dress but slightly tattered wig and high black stockings, rushed with his tray to the far side of the room, and turned his back on all the commotion. "You need to shave a bit better! That's a man! That's a man! Why don't you buy a new wig! That's a man........"

This went on for at least 20 times. Most of the help behind the counter were in hysterics. Most of the customers were tired old people like me. The heckler and his side kick wore McDonald's clothing, but seemed off duty, not eating, but idling about.

Finally I had had enough. "Little boy," I said.

He was livid as he glared at me.

"Does McDonald's pay you to insult the customers!"

"Why, are you a faggot too!" he screamed.

This delighted the help even more.

"Would you like for me to call the police?" I responded.

"That's a man! That's a man!...." he continued with his litany.

The first person, apparently an assistant manager, called the people by name and said, laughing, "XXX come on now, leave." He kept looking back at the fellow in the red dress, who must have eaten his sandwich faster than a priest can say Mass when he has a hot date waiting for him in the choir room.

Finally the real manager came, I asked him for his name, but he would not give it to me. "That young boy has not grown up and for many minutes now he has been insulting customers. Do you pay him to do that?"

"He works somewhere else."

"So you allow him to sit here insulting customers wearing the costume of your company? Will I have to go for the police to get this to stop? What...."

By this time the entire restaurant was stony silent, and the offenders retreated out the door calling me a faggot once again. The manager still refused to give me his name. We shall find it out in the morning when I get all my networks plugged in.

When I walked out the door, I looked like any other fat old bald-headed man.

I can just hear my husband if I dare tell him about it. "Lordy mercy, chile, can't even get out the country more than a couple of months and you go acting like a country bumpkin. Don't you know in the city just to keep quiet and mind your own business?!"

He's right, of course. But I will never forget the kiss which the guy in the red dress threw to me as we boarded separate cars on the PATH train. It was better than all the candles and the incense and the glorious Bach as only a NYC organist can do it.

We queans must stick together, or our tiaras aren't worth a tinker's malediction.

Return to Table of Contents

To others heckled:

Subj: It's nearing exam time again....

I can tell because my first heckler in Newark called to tell my answering machine, "You still owe me for that blow job that I gave you on Broad Street, and if you don't pay up, I'm going to claw your balls off, you hear?!"

What's disappointing is that the caller is one of my favorite students, an hispanic female who has done quite well in the course.

She does not know that I have a gadget that tells me the number of those who call.

Well, at last I am a citizen of New Jersey. Some people mark their establishment when they register to vote, others when they change their auto insurance address, others when they get their first pay check, others when they join a new parish..... I know that I have arrived when the first heterosexual buzzard call arrives. At one time I had recorded enough of this rare species to make a long-playing record.

Here's another from about 1981 in Central Wisconsin:

When You Can't Do Your Algebra


Message that Anonymous Left
on my Answering Machine

Hey, Louie, I'm gonna kill you.
I listened to your program, you faggot.
I'm gonna beat your fucking face
     if I ever see you. You hear me!?
I ain't no fucking faggot.
I kick your junky fucking ass.

Sweet, isn't he. Pubes sprout on the strangest schedule.


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To: Anonymous and all Gay Children Who Have Focused on Suicide

I've delayed writing because I'm not sure that I should, certainly not sure that I am right in what I say.

Warning: Get a large salt shaker and sprinkle all over your CRT. More than a grain is required.

I'm glad you've gotten lots of electronic hugs after your second plea. I'll take you to lunch if you can show up here.

But I wonder whether you also need some other kind of support, a harder kind?

To the extent that the person remains rational and responsible (and that's difficult to determine), suicide seems to me the severest form of a disease that has long infested humanity in general, but disliked minorities even more -- namely, the dis-Ease called Self-Pity.

Believe me, I do speak with some authority on that generic term. Self-pity is the only vd any quean requires. Suicide is merely its most lethal manifestation.

And self-pity is a severe trap for the living too.

Take the version the alcoholic falls into. "Nobody likes me," she says. And then drinks to excess. "Yes, we do; we love you" say some of those nearby. "No, you just love your reputation for being good guys. You're nice to me only because you pity me. You do not really love me...."

It's an endless cycle.

"Oh, I'm the lowliest queer on the planet! Life has not treated me fairly and I have done a good job of adding to the mess I found myself in....."

Or, "You gaynetters don't really love me; you just feel sorry for me...."


I hope not.

I am not trained in psychology, only in friendship; so if you need psychological help, treat yourself to a professional. If you want a friend, find someone near you who will respect you enough to hold you to a higher standard than self-pity -- you, or/and your friend who wrote the paper.

One of the saddest things about self-pity is the enormous self-absorption it requires. I have a hard enough time nourishing my Self even when I respect my Self, and it works best when I get outside that self and into the lives of others.. I feel most nourished when I have not even remembered to take care of elementary details, like matching my socks, absorbed not in who I am or what people think of me, but in the intellects and imaginations of my students, in the book I am now reading, ......

I'm not saying that I don't occasionally fall into self-pity. Of course I do. That's the source of my authority about it. Sugar, it's not worth the bother. I remember a night years ago when the rednecks had just stoned our house for the third night in the row. The first two nights I had ignored them, thinking, "They're just adolescents with pubes starting to sprout and scared. They don't know what they're doing." But by the third night, I remembered that the Hitler Youth were just adolescents sprouting pubes too, and why am I here in Middle Georgia, unable to get a job somewhere else, so abused by my neighbors, ....

I snuggled up close to my husband and started crying, but he pushed me away.

"Boo hoo! Boo how! Boo WHO?" and "Ha, ha, ha!"

"What are you doing? Won't you comfort me?" I whined.

"Not tonight, baby. Where's the man I married? Quit worrying about those damn kids outside. They'll be there in every town and on every block when you and I are dead and gone. I don't feel like letting them control our bed tonight. You know how to make them stop throwing rocks. You know that you can quit going on tv and writing articles in the local papers. But do you want to? Thank god, no. So show some of the guts you're made of."

I slept like a baby after I found the healthier, more adult ways to get into his arms.

When we fall into self-pity, we think we're the only persons in the world who've ever had it unfair. How absurd! Especially if we're U.S. citizens. Most of the world is going to bed hungry tonight. Most Americans have not had anyone show them the power and pleasures of the intellect that you and your friend obviously know about, or you wouldn't be able to write so clearly. Slap yourself in the face to wake up to the enormous possibilities you're given, even quite unfairly.

Beware lest you come to like your pain. It does make you feel real. "I may be a bug. I may be a queer. But at least I hurt; I know I am real...."

Vomit again.

So many better ways abound to affirm your reality!

If you need a crying shoulder, I do have one of those too, and you can rock on my porch any afternoon. But sugar, I hope you can find your own inner strength so that when you sit with me, we can share and share alike.

Meanwhile, why not take yourself out of as many of the triggers for your self-pity as possible? Learn to laugh at yourself (schizophrenics never laugh at themselves, I'm told). Get enough rest. Don't overdo any dietary or other physical things that depress you. Learn to take itsy bitsy steps in controlling your own life. Then bigger steps as you can handle them. Associate with people who will nurture your strength, not just commiserate with your misery.

Enough natter, and not organized, I know. Perhaps I should have composed it all off line, with more polish, but I wanted to keep in touch with my unembellished candor.

Love, Luti

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To Everybody,

The H. M. Quean Lutibelle Off-the-Top-of-my-Bonnet Lesbigay IQ Test:

During Black History Week last year at Claflin, deep behind the Cotton Curtain, in Orangeburg, SC,--a UNCF institution--I asked my students, "Where is the Lorraine Motel?"

"There is no Lorraine Motel in Orangeburg," they chorused.

"In what city did Dr. King die?" I continued.

"In Atlanta, of course."

"What specific group of workers was he representing at the time?"

"Black people!" They also seemed to add the undertone in unison: "White man, we know all that!"

I continued. "Identify Fendi, Rolls, Louis V, Benz, Pierre Cardin,...." Most scored 100 on this part.

When I asked my Claflin students to write a paper on Buppies, most volunteered the strong conclusion that they wanted to be one. I detected neither irony nor ambivalence.

Perhaps you on GAYNET would like to try your hand at

  1. "The Good Gay Poet"
  2. Sappho
  3. Go Tell It On the Mountain
  4. Radcliffe Hall
  5. Hardwick
  6. "W. H."
  7. Duana Barnes
  8. A. B. Toklas
  9. Judy Grahn
  10. John Wieners
  11. "Queen James"
  12. Wolfenden
  13. arsenokoitoi
  14. Troy Perry
  15. Loving Her
  16. Mrs. Whitehouse
  17. Zami
  18. M. Hirschfield
  19. Lord Alfred Douglas
  20. "The Homosexual Symphony"
  21. Ellen Barrett
  22. Barbara Gittings
  23. Miriam Ben Shalom
  24. Night of the Long Knives
  25. a rainbow ribbon

But to derive a real quotient, compare your score above with your score on

Quean Lutibelle's Flippant Guppy I.Q. Test

  1. How do you spell the name of the car that sounds like Muzaratti?
  2. Name five designers of the world's most expensive clothes.
  3. Which Italian firm makes the most expensive leather goods?
  4. Name a vcr brand marketed by a company from each of the following countries: Germany, Japan, and Korea.
  5. Who's the Chair of the Republican Party?

I realize I'm supposed to make tests of equal length, but at 52, I'm out of my element with the Guppy Quiz. Can someone educate me, perhaps with a longer version, to expose my ignorance?

While you're doing so, please also tell me what's at stake for those who want to do well on the Guppy I.Q. Quiz.

James Baldwin warned, in Rap on Race, "The world is filled with brilliant people who are irrelevant." [Note: there is no comma in that sentence!]


Post Script: Those of you who think that I natter too much here are absolutely right.

Breathe freely, I am taking a vacation, albeit only for the weekend. To flee my computer, I shall retreat to Holy Cross Monastery, where I expect to devour a wonderful book, Looking on Darkness, an interracial novel by black South African Andre Brink. South Africa banned it until quite recently, in spite of high acclaim in the Times [London].

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To the guy looking for the man of his dreams:

When I say "straight-acting", I think of the stereotypical image of the 'all American, boy nextdoor jock type'. He has to have a base intelligence above that of the stereotypical jock, so he does not seem such a Neanderthal. Basically, cute face, muscular, but not overly, athletic is the word that comes to mind, and smooth, no rough features, this is what I look for appearance wise in a man.

Kevin, dear heart,

Is this a choice or merely the response that American companies have paid millions of dollars to get you to think you came up with all on your own?

I'm glad you place the base for his intelligence a bit above his jock strap. Keep working on that geography, and hope that the boy of your dreams works out his intelligence as rigorously as his cute biceps, which, if you're lucky, you'll live to enjoy when his lesser muscles have wrinkled and flabbed.


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To anyone else out there depressed about systemic racism:

Last week I attended a lovely tea hosted by a dear couple down the street to welcome yet another pair of lovers to our neighborhood. White gloves were optional so I lent mine to a younger friend, the way uncles should. The food was scrumptious and the company hospitable, so much so that several articulate guests had actually crossed the Hudson to come the fifteen miles to the West.

But I came home depressed. Newark is close to 90 percent black, but no blacks came to this party.

These people would never announce a prejudice. They're quite anxious to meet my black husband when he returns to the U.S. next year. They'd be the first to vote out Koch and vote in Dinkins, and to oppose the Republican homophobe prancing around trying to be our next governor.

It isn't that they don't know black gay people. Quietly on four different occasions with different people at the party, I mentioned the names of local gay black professional persons known to the people at the party, including a dean at my campus and one of the best reporters for our local paper, both of whom are frequent guests in my home.

But why is it that scores, nay hundreds, nay thousands of gay people segregate themselves from the beauty and diversity of world culture, staying only white people with white people? It seems sometimes that for most people the twentieth century has not even occurred yet.

I could not understand this when I grew up in segregated Alabama. I went to jail because I stood up to change that. And now entering what I had hoped would be the graceful years of my queandom, I find myself right back with segregation.

The most painful things I ever faced in founding Integrity had nothing to do with the hetero-hierarchy, but with the Atlanta chapter which refused to meet with me because of "that man" whom I had married. When our house was stoned, they were not there. When the birchite paper accused us of causing a tornado (I told the Atlanta Journal "That's queer power!"), the nice white lesbigays were not there. Year after year I sat alone or with one other person, an Aremenian, at the Integrity booth at diocesan convention, while the chapter stayed clutching prayer books at the cathedral coffee hour, tewubly (Elmer Fudge) embarrassed.....

I jump to add that the current incarnation of that chapter has none of those people, so I am told.

Can't we do something about the fierce racism in our community? If protecting my apartment and my neighborhood and my career and my ...... is all our revolution is about, stop the ferris wheel. I'm too old for that kind of ride, and too weary.

It hasn't always been this way in the lesbigay world. One of the first remarks I remember about lesbians and gays was my aunt's saying, "Oh her teacher was nice but turned out to be queer. That wouldn't be so bad cept you know how those are." "How?" I asked in pubescent tremor. "O, to find each other they have to mix with all sorts of people, across class, even across race. Pitiful...." pitiful? That's the first good news I had ever heard about these strange gurgles in my plumbing. Has lesbigay "liberation" replaced the blessing with a curse for most people, dooming us to the social idolatry of replicating ourselves?

A whiny lonely rebel in Yankee land, wishing my husband were here to hug.


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To others impatient with hetero dictators:

I weary of the reductiveness of straits. When I jog [i.e., do an aerobic waddle] down the streets, my neighbors never shout, "Writer!" though some of the shouters know that I publish. They never shout "Christian!" though some know that I try to accept the challenges of that "lifestyle." Nor do they ever shout "Professor!," though they know that I have taught for the last 32 years. No, those who shout always shout "Faggot!" as if they had just discovered it, when I long ago told everybody.

I suppose we must be patient with straits' intellectual deficiencies.

I had to remind my husband of that when he called from Hong Kong yesterday, quite frustrated. In a nightmare, he had died and had come back as a het living in the suburbs with 2 and one-half children who loved him only for his money, a wife who didn't love him at all, a girlfriend who was suing him for child support..... "When I awoke," my husband said, "I got down on my knees and prayed to Buddha, `pluuulease! if you ever reincarnate me, let me be a fly, let me be a roach, let me be the lowliest creature in your universe if need be, but whatever you do, don't reincarnate me as a heterosexual!'"


Lifestyle is a word which normally I eschew. People banter it around glibly, as if we choose fundamental identity with no more at stake than when we choose a new bra, jock strap or feather boa.


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To Stephen, during Thanksgiving, on grunting Lutheran bishops:

I'm feeling down this morning for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. Perhaps it's the holidays. Maybe it's the Lutheran bishops classing "homosexual genital behavior" along with adultery and promiscuity as conduct inappropriate for a clergyman. Maybe it's not having a husband...


Imagine a room full of Lutheran Bishops all cumming in the dark into the proper orifices, sans grunts and groans, saying only "We got it right, I think we got it right!"

Yes, depressing indeed. That's precisely the kind of deCAPitation that they have performed on us, cutting our penises off from the body and soul which sustain them.

Where is Samson when we need a bag full of them?!

Illigitimae non Carborundum [Don't let the bastards get you down!]

I send you a holy electronic kiss!


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To Shelby, on comparative oppressions:

One other thing. There's a gay man I know who claims he understands the plight of women and people of color etc. because he's gay. He says that he has therefore given up all the rights society has attributed him since he is a white male, and takes his place among the lowly masses. I have a real problem with this because no matter what he does, he'll still get 27 cents more than I will, and will get the respect a white male gets unless he wears a dress. (Which he often does.) How do the other wimmin here feel about this? And maybe some men of color? --shelby


Your white gay male friend has posed the social issues dramatically, but not very effectively, in my view. I prefer to battle for us all to be equally privileged, not to be equally lowly.

Living in socialist China, I respected the economic justice which the Chinese had achieved, but I grew especially weary of the emphasis "All should be equally poor." In socialist Norway, the emphasis is "All should be equally rich." The former attitude builds a spiteful and vindictive community; the latter fosters cooperation, sharing, support, energy....

As you point out, he hasn't really given up his privilege. Instead, he looks a bit silly, not for wearing a dress (what size is he? I need a new one, mammoth-sized, to wear around the house now that winter is here!), but for assuming that all by his lonesome he has solved a problem. Instead, he has cut himself off from a major source of power to solve the problem, namely privilege reinvested in collective action.

By making himself the center of attention, your friend naively suggests we solve problems by mere eccentricity, by isolated individual acts. What happens when bold individuals wear out? When collective efforts reform an institution and when an institution commits itself to solve a problem (take illiteracy, for example), change can be more substantial and more enduring. The institution builds buildings and hires staff who stay there to work on the problem, regardless of whether the staff is weary, until the problem disappears.

When my husband moved down from Atlanta to marry me in tiny Fort Valley, Georgia in 1974, I assumed that we would move into the apartment building in the black neighborhood. "Why?" he asked. When we carried each other over the threshold of the better apartment where I was already living, that neighborhood was no longer segregated. And to this day that block, and many others nearby, remain a stable middleclass integrated neighborhood, a decade after we moved away.

It was worth every rock our neighbors' children threw in the darkness of the night. Had we moved to the black neighborhood, any white folks who had bothered to notice would have smiled, knowing business continued as usual. When we encouraged others to join us there, our neighbors' world changed.

As for $wimmin/$men, I am pleased that my own discipline (composition) has seen one of the most dramatic increases in female/male ratio during the past decade.

A woman last year at our convention noted that women had increased their share of this field to about 87%. Males competing for these jobs have had it tougher than women, since most English Departments have earmarked composition posts as ways to reverse their historic injustice. Only the most exceptional males have stood much of chance, even as finalists. That's a toughness I embraced, and it certainly squeezed back often, particularly for the year at the peak of my productivity which I had to spend in marginal jobs outside academe. That's a small price to pay for a more just social order.

A negative side-effect of putting many women disproportionately into one subdiscipline has been that the literature people, still disproportionally male, have further devalued the work of the new cadres, recruited to "teach the masses to read and write." Most of these posts have opened as beginning positions, many not even as tenure-track; and compositionists, males and females alike, have found ourselves thrust back into an older sexism, "Bring on the nurses. The doctors need a night at the Country Club."

Women and men who hold the "prestigious" literary posts, often think that they hold them merely by virtue of their individual brilliance, not as a by-product of sexist forces in the market place. Persons paid the most contribute less energy and money to build the allegiances that could reform the mess. It is not in their self-interest to do so, they think.

Thanks for raising several troubling questions.


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To Gabriel:

Subj: I want a man, just like the man that married dear ole Dad

I've noticed gay men who lust after someone until they find out he's gay; then they see all the ways he's not straight-acting. I think something is wrong here. Gabriel

My husband is not much of a complainer so it's hard to get him to talk about any of the negative experiences he faced with the double jeopardy of growing up black and gay in the segregated South.

"Baby, won't you tell me about at least one time you a hard time about being gay?"

"Well, okay" he said.


"The boys told me I walked funny, like a girl, so all the way home, I practiced. I was staying w/ my aunt that summer, and she spotted me from her back porch.

`Boy, what you doin?!'

`Nothing, ma'am.'

`Why you walking that way?'

`I just walkin.'

`Chile, I seed you walk lots a times and you knows how to walk good, but what you doin just now ain't walkin.'

"Then she paused a long time, put her arms around me, and said,

"Boy, I think I know what's happnin. Those kids be teasing you. But don't you pay them no nevermind. Can't be walkin on nobody else legs! God give you your own two legs, and you walk well enough in your own way. I loves you. You hear?'"

Yes, Gabriel, there is "something wrong here"; and Ernest's aunt, with no formal education, has directed us right to it.

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To the strait woman who asks for us to advice about the boyfriend who has newly gone off to gay bars exploring his bisexuality:

You say: "I want a monogamous relationship."

Yet you also say:

What I have come to realize is that it doesn't matter whether someone is gay or bisexual or straight. What matters is that we all love.

Be careful. Bisexual D. H. Lawrence once suggested that we not use the term Love for a period of many years, so imprecise it has become.

Are you setting yourself up for martyrdom? Do you want the impossible, or do you want what, if possible, might actually be undesirable?

That is, do you want your boyfriend to give up all his homosexual longings just for you? Would you cage an eagle?

It sounds like he's not very clear about what he wants right now, and gracious goodness there are probably good reasons for that. But are you prepared to observe his wanderings from the sidelines? Do you want blow-by-blow reports? How long are you prepared to wait? and on what terms? And should you marry, will you be prepared for the resurrection of these interests when/if the two of you are parents?

You say that you're feeling more accepting of lesbigay crowds; enjoy that for the good that it can bring to you, not for the missionary value it may have for us. And be careful not to confuse your acceptance of lesbigay people with your need for clarity in your relationship with this one bisexual human being.

Good luck, to both of you.

I have tried to write this as if you were my daughter, not to be politically correct, but to give you advice that I suspect you may not want to hear. Now is not a time for giddy romance: love without justice is cheap, sentimentality (as Carter Heyward says). What will be just for you? What will be just for your boyfriend? Not just for next week or next year?


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To the butch number who complained about drag queans and small town fairies:

Why do you choose to identify drag queans only by what you regard as their evil or embarrassing registers?

Have you forgotten who started and sustained Stonewall?

Have you no respect for the courage of small town fairies, who generation after generation have bought most of the communities' organ pipe and stained glass, who have funded most of the communities' theatre and music, who have, more often than their strait and butcher peers, tended aging and infirm parents?......

Has it occurred to you that the guys in drag who turned you off may not have been at all interested in turning YOU on?

Must we always enjoy only homoSEXual registers? Why not homoSOCIAL ones? Drag and effeminacy is often used by gay men to disengage hormones, sugar.

I wish I had half the courage and the grace and the selflessness that I have seen come naturally to the few drag queans who have enriched my life.

And you don't have to be effeminate to put down people or to gossip. Have you been to a swaggering barbershop recently? Or to a locker room. I have never heard feminine persons, male or female, behave as trivially and as snidely as the crowds at any gym where I have pumped iron.

I certainly hope that we will not sit around and pool our ignorance. I don't like for nongays to speculate about what it must feel like to be like me; and I have no reason to suspect that a bunch of guys who have never worn drag, or at least profoundly wanted to, will come within a mile of describing the experience of those who do.

What usually happens instead is that the bull shooters become intoxicated with their own pique at what is alien. Wearing drag is decided NOT alien for those who do it regularly.

Is it too much to ask that those who want to speak about drag queans have the minimum decency of wearing a dress to class for one full day. You still won't know what it feels like to be a drag quean, but you might know a hell of a lot more about what it feels to be deprived of privileges you had taken for granted.

If you don't want to wear a dress (or male drag if you're lesbian), then at least have the decency to take such a person to dinner before you begin all these tedious and casual observations!

Incidentally, I have just come from listening to a dentist who won top awards nationally for his pioneering work with AIDS patients. Someone asked him why he became a dentist, and he said with no irony, "It lets me make more money than I was bringing in as a drag quean."


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To Anyone Interested in Discrimination Narratives:

Jeff Nickel, Co-President of the Boston University Lesbian and Gay Alliance, has a new article, "A Letter from Boston," in the newest CHRISTOPHER STREET (Issue #136), which arrived today. It begins:

For the past two consecutive years, incoming freshmen at Boston University heard some things they probably hadn't bargained for. In speeches given at the start of each year by the president of the students were told that homosexuality is abnormal, abhorrent, immoral. They were told that any sexual feelings they might have for those of their own gender......

BU flew me to Boston a year and a half ago as one of three finalists to head the Department of Basic Studies. Everything went very well and it seemed I had the job up to a certain moment. Then a committee member said, as if she really was innocent, or even a bit spaced out with all the paper before her: "You say on here that you co-edited College English for a special issue in November 1974. What was that about?"

"The Homosexual Imagination," I replied.

"What?" she asked. I couldn't tell whether she gasped, or just had a sudden cold.

"The Homosexual Imagination," I repeated.


(I couldn't believe the committee was so lazy as not to have looked up this detail or any of the dozens of others in the resume.)

Thank the goddess! Suppose I had gotten the job? I've been getting horror stories from lesbian friends at BU.

I'm going offline to read Jeff Nicel's article....

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Private to the lesbian student contemplating coming out to Mom and Dad:

You said you don't think it will come out well. Be careful.

I wish you joy in the new oxygen you seek, but try to control early doses of it so that they are manageable.

If possible, try to come out from a position of strength, not weakness. Never come out as an apology....."I know you won't like this but I have to tell you....."

Be prepared for the worst scenario, even if you don't expect it to happen. This is not an occasion when you want to say, "Here I am falling apart and you won't even take my bad news." If you consider it bad news, keep it to yourself until you have discovered good news in it.

Anticipate the other person's reaction. Respect their pain, but don't let it set your agenda. For many of us, this is the occasion when we finally cut the umbilical chord. Mamas sometimes don't like that; they prefer little girl to sister adult. But they'll enjoy their new freedom later. If they squirm, you don't have to squirm too.

Many family members are terribly worried about what the neighbors will think. Understand that feeling and recognize that about other issues in their behavior you probably have manifest similar concerns in the past. But don't honor that opinion; just respect it, as a weak and not so noble, but thoroughly human feeling. It should never set your agenda. Remind yourself, and them too, that it would be a travesty indeed to forget the much more urgent consideration out of such petty fear: they need to fear much more the kind of suffocation which they are putting on your identity, your personhood.

Most of us have argued with our parents, but few of us have educated them as this occasion calls on us to do. Good teachers always love even their most hostile students. I hope that you will be a good teacher for your parents; but even failing that, get your oxygen. This is the only life you're given. Live it well.

Sorry this all sounds glib. I'm pushing a tight schedule and need to go to bed so that I can get up at 5 to catch my plane to Costa Rica. I won't be back until Friday, but will try to respond as soon as I can log on again, maybe not until a week from tomorrow, since I return to a pile of exams which must be graded by the following Tuesday, and must attend two gay ordinations on the day after I return.

Peace, dear friend. Gentle lasting peace. Be strong.

Love, Luti

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To Damian, who reported Bob Hope's apology to the lesbigay community:

Damian, I share your rejoicing about Hope and hope.

Don't get giddy though. Hope did that only because activists confronted him when he made some gay jokes recently.

Repentance is so much prettier than guilt, isn't it.

All studies show that the one factor that most consistently correlates with acceptance of lesbigays is lesbigay openness. Almost everyone who affirms us says that some lesbigay friend first took the risk to come out.

She that hath ears to hear, let her hear. And hear carefully, thoughtfully. Know the score when you take these risks.

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To Doug, who wants HF's Torch Song to paint a prettier picture:

You will assign to lesbigay writers an impossible task if we must write the ideal script for you. You should write your own script. I hope that it will allow many long stretches less dramatic than an audience demands when life is compressed into a couple of hours.

Why look at HF's Torch Song Trilogy to see what life holds for you? Instead, you might look at it to discover the enormous courage which candor promises to enable in almost any scenario, even if you go to work for an insurance company or sell refrigerators wholesale to developers.

HF can't be you, nor your ideal, or mine. Thank goodness he doesn't try.

I remember the first time I saw Les Cage. Although it was after midnight on a dark street in Minneapolis, 1,000 miles from my home at the time, I sat there not laughing at any of the humor for almost half an hour, worrying, "God, I'm not like that, and what will the straits in the audience think?"

Of course I'm not like either main character in Les Cage. At that particular moment I was probably much closer to the police superintendent who is brilliantly exposed at the end of the film. Thank goodness my husband's laughter was contagious and I got on with the proper agenda for the evening, which was to enjoy the film.

Are we not under quite enough pressure as it is without taking on the blame for everything every other lesbigay in the world is or does?

If you demand that writers remake your world, you're stuck with the unattainable fantasies of Gordon Merrick and Patricia Nell Warren.

Unfortunately, you will have much company. Twelve or 13 years ago we polled the members of the lesbigay caucus of NCTE, asking them to name the lesbian or gay book which had most moved them. [NCTE = National Council of Teachers of English.] Front Runner led the male list. Whew!

Those same teachers daily scorn the taste of any student who prefers Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys to Mary Twain or Carson McCullers.

Thank the Goddess, Toni Morrison, Joe Beam, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Barbara Smith, Essex Hemphill, Ann Shockley, Audre Ward, Pat Parker, and other black writers have resisted the huge pressure on them to write propaganda that would make black always look good. Oh the terror should any of us ever become eternally trapped in the pages of Ebony or in the banal and unreal scripts of The Cosby Show. When Dr. Huckstable really practices medicine, when he tells Rudy (or whatever her name is; I've been blessed with no TV for about 6 years) about condoms and his son about clean needles, then and only then will he address the reality of the masses who push the show off the charts.

But then the masses will probably switch channels. I once watched a room full of black teenagers in a YMCA in the Oakland ghetto go ecstatic over Cosby, with almost nothing in their lives that resembled the make-believe on the screen.

Which poet was it who said, "Human beings can take only so much reality"?

It was MacLeash who said that the secret to life is to embrace ambivalence.

I guess what I am nervous about as I rethink your initial comments about HF and the main character of TST is that I fear you might opt for an illusion of "the good life" rather than work to make the best life that you can make out of the limited choices you (and the rest of us) are given.

I find myself saying, "Oh but sugar, save room for the serenity prayer, because as much as you try to shape your own destiny (and please do try, try, try), be prepared to love yourself when you do not realize or achieve all you want." You know, "God give me the will to change those things I can change, the grace to accept those things that I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference."

I think TST embodies that view of one man's gay life. In the far different circumstances of my own life, I would be quite pleased for a few weeks of embodying that serenity. It's damn difficult, and next to impossible if I chase after some prefabricated notion of what the good life is.

All those guys I grew up with 50 years ago in Alabama, especially those who have avoided the kind of scandal that I have lived out, those who have become the upstanding citizens of their community, the bankers, the proud parents........

Their grapes are good. When they have done so with fairness and grace, I applaud their contributions.... But trading places with them was never for me an option, only a death trap. And I've lived long enough to know that some of those who seemed to have had everything I had thought success was made of, have in fact enjoyed precious little of what Ernest and I have enjoyed as we have held each other through the night on the margins of the world.

I wish for you a good life, my friend, not someone else's dream, not even your own fantasies of success.

I don't believe a Mister Right exists. Or if he does, he must be the plain old mess that you and I love into being our Mister Right.

I don't believe Success exists. Or if it does, it must be the patience and love with which we assume responsibility for our bungling as thoroughly as we do for the 15 minutes we have to be famous.


(Gosh, what long natter. I must still be floating from the Demerol the doctor used when he performed minor surgery on my poop shoot yesterday. My, how we queans wear out! Be patient with me. I throw you an electronic kiss!)

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To Steve, who tweaked me reductively:

I wouldn't suppose that it ever occurred to you that hets frequently enjoy the same type of sexual pleasures? 69'ing really has nothing to do with gay, les, or het. --steve

And why wouldn't you suppose that it would occur to me? Do you take me for some kind of idiot?

By your logic, breathing has nothing to do with being a human being because after all, frogs do it too!

Sugar, you need to take a course in logic. I'll send you a copy of Emily Post for parallel reading if you like.

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To the gay guy who wants us to call ourselves queers and faggots:

We are free to name ourselves anyway we want. Absolutely!

Since I am pale peach and my husband is deep pecan, we have a full range of hateful terms from which to choose. And afterall, some of you have said, since they're terms that have been used against us, surely we have the right to use them ourselves. Maybe we can even take out some of their sting?

I remember an evening maybe 3 or 4 months after my husband and I united. It was after the honeymoon. We had argued about something minor, and when I wasn't getting my way, I shifted into a teasing register. When he held fast. I teased slightly harder, "Oh baby, you don't want to be a bi..h!"

He stopped speaking to me.

Now in my family we never used the Silent Treatment. I knew that I shouldn't have called him that name, so I apologized. Still he kept silent.

The next day he prepared a feast even though it was my night to cook. On the next, he did the house cleaning even when it was my turn. When I talked, he listened. I kept looking for sarcasm, but couldn't find any evidence. He's playing "Heap coals of fire," I thought. I began to feel very sorry for myself in this isolation. It he seemed terribly unfair, over just one word, that afterall, I had meant only half seriously...."

Four days later I was reading when he broke the silence.

"I love you, Louie, as I have never loved anyone else in my whole life; and I know that you love me. But I must love myself. If you ever speak to me like that again, I will have no choice but to leave you. Baby, please don't make me go."

Our relationship is still too young and too vulnerable to measure the efficacy of his remark, I admit. We've been together only 16 years.

As a linguist, I can assure you that words are not private property, however much we all try to privatize them. Perhaps the biggest lie our parents ever told us is "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." It's the other way round. Broken bones will mend faster than broken identities.

I realize that hateful words which others use about us BOND us when we use the words for ourselves. But, dear hearts, they bond us even better when we let just our enemies use them.

If you lust after these words, wouldn't you make a better use of your masochism by putting your life on the line for our community, not just for your private personal pleasure?: If you become the best professional person you can become and then re-invest all that Respectability fighting for our issues, I assure you that you will hear your fill of the f- and n- words. In that context, you will redeem them; they will become holy.

Maya Angelou, whose work I must sample at least once a month, once did a super performance with Richard Pryor (before his burns) in which they're lovers or spouses. She narrates as he takes several steps towards his own oblivion, and one of those is the first day he describes himself with the n-word. When he uses it, he finds an initial rush from it, and little suspects the license that he has given himself to think of himself less highly than he ought to think.

On my study door at home I have a sign which says, "The Good Fairy." A rather sweet man who came to repair my airconditioner, asked, "What does that mean?"

"I'm the one who puts a bright dime under your pillow when you lose a tooth," I replied.

"Oh." He muttered and went to work on my airconditioner. When it worked properly, he winked as he left.

Save this bright dime, and spend it for something special.


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To the smart person who asked why we want to get in Church in the first place:

I am very very curious as to why so many people are so concerned with being "recognized" or "respected" by organized religions. It makes no sense to me why people would want to take part in something with other people who think you are a sinner or going to hell or mentally ill or whatever.

I cannot speak for all members of the organization, but as the founder of Integrity I can assure you that I never have viewed "acceptance" as a high priority; nor do I participate in the Church primarily to be ministered to. Rather, to minister, to be the Church. I believe that Jesus said all that needs to be said about Respectability at Calvary. I prefer the soup kitchens, the AIDS homes, the shelters.........

At our NYC chapter tonight, a young priest told us about the world of Holy Apostles in Chelsea Manhattan, where is is assistant rector. They operate the largest soup kitchen in North America, possibly the largest in the world, with only 100 parishioners, a huge contingent of them gay. They have just undertaken to raise 1.2 million dollars for an AIDS house for the homeless, to be run a a home, not as an institution..... I remember 12 years ago meeting this guy when he was a freshman in college and he was wondering whether he would be allowed to be a gay priest....

Brooke Bushong, our chapter president, works at Covenant House, the largest support shelter for homeless youth in NYC. She says that between one-third and one-half of those who show up, are lesbian or gay. It's awfully cold out there tonight! One of the worst things about oppression is that it actually oppresses. As we worry about the real problems in our own lives, remember the sissies sleeping in the cold, strung out on this and that and the other, but mainly on the world's unlove.

I apologize for using a secular forum for commitments which I prefer to keep private. I just wanted to say that for me the focus is not what kind of respectability can the Church give me. I don't give a damn about that. For me, the focus is to find channels wherever I can find them to heal some of the wounds...... I admit that I am terribly embarrassed about being a faith person; it's about the only anti-intellectual register that I take seriously.

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To those concerned for Latino lesbigays: a travelogue:

On December 12, 1989, I documented "Student Racism in China and Wisconsin" at the 8th International Conference on Innovation in Higher Education, in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Weeks ahead, the Rt. Rev. J. Antonio Ramos encouraged me to contact The Rt. Rev. Cornelius J. Wilson, his successor as the Episcopal Bishop of Costa Rica, to try to dialogue about lesbigay Christian issues. I called Bishop Wilson, and he agreed to try to set up a meeting with interested clergy.

Before I left for San Jose, Father Henry Atkins encouraged me also to meet with Father Edmondo DeSuesa, the major Anglican theologian writing about Central America. Father Atkins visits San Jose regularly to build the close relationship between the Diocese of New Jersey and the Diocese of Costa Rica. Father Atkins also serves as Episcopal chaplain at Rutgers, where I work as a professor.

Bishop Wilson never got back in touch. I called when I arrived in San Jose. He hedged and seemed not to remember his agreement. All clergy of the diocese had assembled in the next room for a day-long meeting. When I asked to meet with them briefly, Bishop Wilson agreed to ask them and get back in touch.

After several hours waiting by the telephone, I called again. The clergy had voted not to see me. Bishop Wilson himself also refused to meet with me. I reminded him that I had come a great distance at considerable personal expense. Bishop Wilson told me to call the one priest who had agreed to talk with me.

Over breakfast the next morning, that priest, a straight man, reported that the clergy had not voted. Instead, Father DeSuesa had strongly objected to any meeting with me, adding that no one should dare meet with such a person alone either. The priests snickered on cue.

Over lunch, Father DeSuesa jested that academics are "soft" and allow "doctors" like that. Many laughed. One priest protested and walked out of the meeting--the priest whom the bishop earlier had asked me to contact.

Informed, I decided not to let the sun go down on my wrath, and complained to Father DeSuesa about his scorn. "I'm a writer, Father, and I would like to put a better ending to this story," I told him.

"Don't you threaten me!"

"I am not threatening you, Father. If I were threatening you I would put conditions. I am not. I will write about this whether or not you give a better ending."

"I will not be threatened. You write whatever you want to!"

"Father, I know who is in the ditch and who is the Good Samaritan, but who are you in this story?"

"I think I need to talk to you."

"Yes, I think you do. And I urge you to bring 20 protectors if you feel you need them."

Father DeSuesa treated me to a tour of his vicarage, alive with several hundred small children whose mothers worked. After coke, cakes, and other pleasantries, Father DeSuesa said that I should understand that Latin Americans routinely joke about gay people, and do not intend to offend. He apologized if his jokes had offended me from my USA point of view.

"Besides, my own doctor is gay," he insisted. "Do you think I would trust my body to someone if I disliked gay people?"

Father DeSuesa arranged for the Bishop Wilson to meet with me. Bishop Wilson also explained that in his culture men often joke about gays, and he insisted that he sees nothing evil about silence during such mockery. Bishop Wilson admitted that he had forgotten his initial pledge to me, but treated it as of no consequence.

"I have many gay friends," Bishop Wilson stressed. "I have even visited one of them dying of AIDS in Washington, DC. I approved one for ordination. An objector had scrawled `Homosexual' over the candidate's papers. We do not talk about these things freely in this culture."

Bishop Wilson insisted that the priest should never have told me Father DeSuesa's jokes.

I urged Bishop Wilson not to arrest the Good Samaritan merely because he had made Jews look bad. Bishop Wilson assured me that he would allow the offending priest to work out the rest of his contract, which ends in March.

Back home in New Jersey, Father Atkins has apologized for sending me into such abuse. He admits that he has often heard Father DeSuesa's crude humor at the expense of gay people, many of whom have come with money and good will for embattled Costa Rica.

I pointed out to both Father DeSuesa and Bishop Wilson that I did not bring a new issue to Costa Rica, that within my first hour in San Jose 15 men had propositioned me for unsafe sex as I sat in the bright warm park in front of the cathedral.

Nor are gay people the most numerous victims of the bullying. A staggering 60-70 percent of Costa Rica's adult women live as unwed mothers.

When I asked Bishop Wilson why that number steadily increases, he explained that young women come in droves to the city to try to find a better life and a good husband. There just are not enough good husbands to go around. The women get tricked. They should just stay back home.

"Do you think larger numbers will ever stay in the countryside?" I asked.

"No," the bishop sighed.

The Psalmist is wrong to divide the world neatly into "the godly" and "the ungodly." Although they have sat in the seat of the scornful, Father DeSuesa and Bishop Wilson are not ungodly, nor godly. Like me, they need redemption.

Father DeSuesa clearly and cogently exposes North Americans who bully Central Americans with dollars and guns. Oh that he might as cogently expose the machismo which keeps at risk all women of Costa Rica.

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To a gay republican:

I am personally offended by the way Democrats abuse the public's lack of knowledge about economics to their political advantage. Since economics is something I have devoted at least as much time to as being gay, I would have a great deal of difficulty voted for this party at the national level..... For a free market economist like myself the answer is clear. --Mark

Mark, for whom is your economy "free"? Surely not for my neighbors in Newark, who huddle in the shadow of Ms. Liberty, abandoned by white believers in "free economy." Not for those who work in the sweat shops of Asia under the yoke of unfair trade advantages which our "free economists" have imposed. Ditto most of the rest of the Third World.

If we petition our politicians for "rights," should not we have a wider understanding of "we/us/our/ours" than just the comfortable and upwardly mobile lesbigay professionals?

I'm not an anarchist: I believe in the more substantial changes that institutions, rather than mere individuals, can effect. But I don't share your disdain for anarchists. Many of them have helped keep me honest, have helped me get outside the narrow blinders of party allegiance. You paint the comic book picture of them as destroyers; that does not bear much resemblance to the anarchists I have known. Most of them have been passionate observers of the human community and uncompromising in their standards of truth from those who govern. It takes lots more work to be an anarchist than a card-carrying party member, just as the agnostic charts a tougher course than us believers or atheists.


And when he replied

As for your cheap rhetoric about who is our economy free for, I would have hoped that you know better than to suppose that I'm against helping the poor or homeless.

Why is my rhetoric cheap and yours dear, especially when you freely admit that you "don't know much about" anarchist yet presume still to call them "silly."

Actually, my "rhetoric," as you call it, is quite expensive. It would call upon all us privileged folks to share the privilege more equitably, worldwide.

If you're not opposed to "a safety net for the poor." What's the mesh on that net? Our nation's mesh on that net has changed radically in the Republican Reich. When I left for Asia in 1983, I had not seen any but the most isolated beggars on the streets of the USA, at least not since my boyhood in segregated Alabama. In China, one of the poorest countries in the world, I never saw a single beggar. But when I returned to the U.S.A. four years later, beggars had become more ubiquitous than even the new fleets of limousines.

You attack me with talk about the Democrats, but I have not even mentioned them. Instead, I asked you questions of a global perspective, a perspective from which few Americans, Republican or Democrat, seem willing to ask the political questions.

Questions about the minimum wage are questions about which bandaid to apply to the underclasses. How can we assure that there will be no underclasses, anywhere?

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To the messenger who wants us all to live only as homo sapiens:

Lose labels? Live in a world without adjectives?

You want me to be happy that my homo sapien is coming home from Hong Kong! Come on now! My black husband is coming home from Hong Kong and I'm gonna tell it on the mountain and over the hill and everywhere!


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