THE FIRE IN MOONLIGHT
Stories from the Radical Faeries
Edited by Mark Thompson
White Crane Wisdom Series
9781590213384, 309 Pages, $25.00
Mark Thompson’s latest anthology, The Fire in Moonlight (White Crane), is a collection of first person accounts of the Harry Hay-inspired Radical Faerie movement. Hay, a co-founder of the Mattachine Society, joined forces with Don Kilhefner and Mitch Walker to start the Faerie movement in order to add a spiritual dimension to the (often dry) nuts and bolts world of emerging gay politics.
Inspired in part by the writings of Edward Carpenter and the Calamus poems of Walt Whitman, Hay saw the homosexual as much more than a creature fighting for rights in a hostile society. The homosexual, according to Hay, was a multidimensional being with roots in the mythic, a sort of alien spirit with special healing gifts for the world.
As Stuart Timmons notes in his introductory essay, “The Making of a Tribe,” Hay once told a circle of 200 Faeries: “We Faeries need to stop saying, ‘My consciousness is better than your consciousness.’ That’s heterosexist. No one person, no one group, no one ideology has the answer. You need a spirit.”
Theologians may quibble with that relativist statement, insisting that if one truth is as good as another truth, then there’s no truth anywhere. One thing’s certain, however: You have to have spirit in order to “build.” For Hay, this meant constructing a homosexual spiritual dimension outside the world of conventional religion.
In a 1975 edition of RFD, Hay wrote: “To be a true homosexual, is to be put at odds with home, school and society….We are so other that we have to learn early how to protect our very survival.”
While this perspective may seem dated post-DADT, Hay was nonetheless insistent that a pronounced queerness was buried inside the homosexual’s “stubbornly perverse genes.” Hay’s vision of a monastic-like collective of queer men of all ages coming together in friendship circles for a process of “shedding the ugly green frog skin of hetero-imitation” started with the first Faerie Circle in Colorado in 1979.
Called “A Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries,” at that Labor Day event hundreds of men (the gatherings would later include women) participated in mud baths and neo-pagan, quasi-Native American rituals like circle hand holding, chanting, and taking turns speaking to the circle while holding a Talking Stick. Many of these ad hoc talks were spiked with references to Aliester Crowley as well as Hay’s own take on what it means to be “queer” and “other.”
In these free-love pre-AIDS gatherings there was ritualized group sex as well as individual couplings. As Timmons observes, “In selecting fairies as a role model for gays, [Hay] combined logic with inspiration to surpass the medieval Mattachines—to a pre-Christian time and beyond human limits.”
With its emphasis on aspects of Native American culture and worship of the earth, the early Faeries attracted gay men who had had enough of the dead end clone life in the urban gay ghetto.
At the second Spiritual Gathering for the Radical Faeries in 1980, in Estes National Forest above Boulder, Colorado, faerie names were adopted and the emphasis on paganism was enhanced. As contributor Carol Kleinmaier notes, besides a denial of spirit-body and male-female duality, Faerie spirituality “was sourced in… the celebration of sacred sexuality, Wicca, paganism and shamanic traditions.”
As one would expect, highly eclectic and a diverse range of spiritual references as well as divergent opinions about the Faerie experience mark these essays.
Allen Page, for instance, writes that during the first gathering he “asked the Goddess (which Goddess he doesn’t say) to show him why he needed to be there.” Meanwhile, “a young man shook a rattle and stands up in a speckled dress.” The philosophy was to embody masculine and feminine energies although one finds in many of these stories a distinct prejudice against patriarchy as well as an emphasis “to take the gifts of the Father back to the Mother.”
Philadelphian Chris Bartlett (The Lady Bartlett) notes:
I like cultures that use rituals to embody choice: the Amish Rumspringa when Amish teens, following a year of exposure to the outside world, choose to join the Amish community (be baptized) or are shunned. Another example is the bar/bat mitzvah when young Jews choose to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. The investiture of a priest in various religions is another moment of powerful choice. When participants in a culture choose to embrace that culture, they become full actors, as opposed to full recipients.
In Faerie circles, identification with the feminine is assumed. It would not be unusual, for instance, for the males in a circle to cry while listening to reports of the rape of a female friend of a member. Since Radical Faeries spanned all age categories, older men were respectfully called elders and were regarded as purveyors of wisdom, even if that “respect” ended at the bedroom door. Wisdom cannot compete with beauty when it comes to a good lay.
Just as in any local city bathhouse, the young are attracted to the young, as the older and less appealing find themselves casting about for a bone or having to spend their nights alone, Trappist monk-style.
Artwit, for instance, writes that at one gathering he got lucky three times so that his “usual depression at being alone while the slender twinks slept in pairs was less severe.” Highly critical of many in the Faerie community, Artwit states that “self righteous beliefs about food seem to be a hallmark of the Faeries. We used to joke in the kitchen about making ‘Cream of Vegan’ soup for our next meal.”
Artwit also writes about the Faerie Drag Wars.
The first two Gatherings had that old rustic-northwest-jeans-and-flannel flavor and here come these queens from California doing wigs and make-up. So a small culture war was started at the Gathering, with the hosts deciding not to send the Call to California next year. “[But] over the years, wigs and makeup won and overtook whatever Heart Circles there were.
For Artwit, the Faeries main problem was making social problems into personal ones.
“I have no desire to be a Faerie Mormon and make breakfast while the pretty ones sleep in and fuck,” he writes.
Editor Mark Thompson is to be commended for not editing out Artwit’s less than flattering reminiscences. The inclusion of such criticism is a tribute to the Faerie generosity of spirit, although there’s enough good stuff in this book to make Harry Hay proud.
As Berbiar (Jerry the Faerie) puts it, “We need queers who have radical askance alternative viewpoints to dominant cultural mores. May the Radical Faerie movement continue to play its role in providing a cauldron of change so needed in this ignorant and repressive world.”
The Smithsonian has a brilliant show titled Hide/Seek exploring sexual difference in modern portraiture. It is a stunning show and the companion book by the same name is worth every penny. The range of artists and the sheer quality of the art on display is a once in a lifetime kind of show and I encourage anyone within visiting distance of our Nation's Capital to pay a visit to the Smithsonian.
Because, of course, this privately funded exhibit is under attack by the radical religious right again, this time in the guise of The Catholic League, the self-appointed Taliban of Catholic faith. And what exactly has them so exercised? A video by gay artist David Wojnarwicz titled A Fire in My Belly, mourning the death of his lover. Apparently there is an image in this video of the crucified Jesus's body, covered with ants. Now...it's not the sado-masochistic image of a man nailed to a wooden cross that upsets Mr. Donahue. It's the ants. His comment is that the Smithsonian wouldn't show Mohammed covered in ants, but Jesus? That's OK.
Really? Is fundamentalist radical Islamism who you really want to get in bed with Bill? ... er, I mean associate with?
I digress. Herr Donahue goes on to -- predictably I suppose -- demand that Congress cease all funding for the Smithsonian because...and you can't make this stuff up...the regular Joe, the blue collar worker doesn't go to museums. I (Donahue) don't. They go to see WWF wrestling matches (really? all of them?) ...and we don't ask for tax-support for wrestling.
Where to begin?
To draw a parallel between wrestling...even legitimate wrestling, not even the comic book staged variety...and the Smithsonian is just so..what? Ignorant? Breathtakingly stupid? I'm sorry...it deserves a new word all its own: Goebbelsian (as in Joseph "tell-a-big-enough-lie-and-they'll-believe-you" Goebbels.) Just as a charitable explanation, one (wrestling) is a staged form of entertainment or sport. The other, (The Smithsonian) is an educational institution that preserves the culture and history of these United States. We fund one because it is in the interests of education. We don't fund the other because a) it makes a gazillion dollars on it's own, and b) it's stupid.
Oops. My bias slipped. Oh well. The Smithsonian, by the way, caved. Wojnarwicz's video has been taken down. But Herr Donahue is still demanding that funding for the museum be cut. If I could show it here, I would.
It is always almost chilling when The Roman Catholic Church (and let's not even begin with the pedophile scandal) cries about being "under attack," whines about "discrimination" ...while they attack and discriminate and murder at will.
This man William Donahue should not be taken seriously. And yet "fair and balanced" has him on every news broadcast, making a publicity stink in the interests of his bigotry.
It's hard not to consider "second amendment remedies", ya know?
Hide/Seek is one of the most important, most ground-breaking gay-and-Lesbian-friendly exhibits to appear in any museum anywhere in a long long time. That it is in The Smithsonian...our nation's own museum...is all the more important. If you can possibly make the journey to visit and support this exhibit (which, I repeat, is privately funded...no tax-payer money is even connected other than the fact that it is in a government-funded building.) This is a visual history of LGBT people in the most lyrical form. Our ancestors. Our history. Our sacred texts and prophets (I'm looking at you Walt!) The most valuable thing that can be stolen from a people is their history. That's what Herr Donahue is trying to do. Rewrite history. Erase us.
He is, fortunately, a dying breed of homophobic, sex-phobic, good-ol' boy bigot. He will fail. But not if we don't fight back. Go to this show. Buy the book. Know ...AND RESPECT...your history.
A 304-page catalog titled Hide/Seek Difference and Desire in American Portraiture has been authored by the exhibition co-curators, David C. Ward, National Portrait Gallery historian, and Jonathan Katz, director of the doctoral program in visual studies, State University of New York at Buffalo. The catalog will be published by Smithsonian Books and distributed by Random House; it will be on sale for $45. It is the perfect holiday gift for any gay person in your life. Maybe even you.
Stephen Wayne Foster is almost a Native Floridian. Though born in Virginia in 1943, he moved with his family to Miami a year later and grew up in Miami Shores. Foster studied at Miami-Dade College and the University of Miami, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in History. Now retired, Foster lives in an apartment in Coral Gables that he first occupied in 1975, having lived through almost a century of South Florida gay history and culture.
When Foster was 17-years old and in high school, he discovered gay history. "I came across Sir Richard Francis Burton's [in picture, left] translation of the Arabian Nights from 1880 which included a very long article about the history of homosexuality. But for many years I didn't know where else to look for it [gay history]. In 1969 I went to Washington, D.C. I went to a newsstand and bought a copy of GAY, the Jack Nichols publication. I took the issue home with me and read an article by Dick Leitsch of New York Mattachine about gay history in which he said that nobody was writing about gay history and that there was a need for this. So I felt that if anybody was going to do it I should do it."
"At that time I was still a student at the University of Miami. So I took a notebook and a pen and I went into the student library and saw thousands of books before me and I didn't even know where to begin. But on the very first day I came across a book written a century ago called The History and Development of the Moral Ideas by Edward Westermarck. And this contained a long essay about gay history and anthropology and it formed the structure for all of my research after that."
"My mother died in 1970 and I moved away from home. And my father died in 1973. At some point I developed a habit of going down every Saturday to the University of Miami and spending the whole day at the Library doing research. I also went to the public libraries, to the medical library, the law library, every important library in Dade County and collected a vast amount of information. Eventually I gathered notes from at least 5,000 books."
Though Foster realized that he was gay when he was 13, he did not come out til 1969 when he first met other gay people and discovered Miami's "gay beach" on 21st Street and Collins Avenue. That was a time when the Miami Beach police ("real bastards" in Foster's opinion) used the laws as excuses to raid gay bars and make gay folks' lives miserable in so many ways. For this and other reasons, it took time for Miami gays to get organized. When activist Frank Arango came down from New York in 1972, Foster remembers, he Awas dismayed to find that there was no political base so he had to create one. Word got out and we met at the house of Barry Spawn," another local activist. Out of this meeting was born the Gay Activists Alliance of Miami (GAA-Miami).
According to Foster, GAA-Miami met at Spawn's home for a while before moving to the Center for Dialog, an activist group connected with Miami's St. John Lutheran Church that Foster dubbed "the center for all radical activity in Miami." (Miami's MCC also met at that Church.) Its founders, all white men (except Arango), formed the Executive Committee: "The president of the group was Bob Barry. The Vice President was Barry Spawn, I was the Treasurer and Bob Basker [best remembered for his later work with the Dade County Coalition for Human Rights] was Secretary. Frank Arango helped us out but I don't think he had a position. And the reason that they gave me the position of Treasurer is because I had to take the money of the organization and put it in my own private banking account under my own name since I was the only person they trusted with the money," he says.
library. Foster approached the Rev. Don Olson, pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church, and "asked him if I could use the room on the second floor. Olson gave me the go-ahead. He put some shelving into a small room on the second floor of the Center for Dialog and I took my private collection of books and publications and put them there. But three weeks later he came to me and said that he was embarrassed if straight people might walk past the open door of the library and see that it contained gay material so he wanted me to keep the door shut. I felt very insulted by that and I took all the material and took it home. So the gay library was the first one that we had but it only lasted maybe three weeks." This was a year before Mark Silber founded the Stonewall Library.
In 1972 GAA-Miami filed a class action suit against Miami Beach that led to the overturn of that city's law against cross dressing. Foster contributed to this victory by providing GAA-Miami with incriminating information about the Miami Beach Police Department that he had collected. Later that year Foster and other GAA-Miami members joined other activists to protest both the Democratic and Republican conventions that were being held on Miami Beach. To accommodate all the protesters, the City of Miami Beach opened Flamingo Park and let the protesters camp there. "There was a special area off to one side in the Park that became the 'gay area,'" Foster adds, one that attracted its share of queer notables.
One of those notables who visited Flamingo Park was Dr. Frank Kameny, whom Foster had met previously through their mutual friend Bob Basker. Dr. Kameny came to Miami for the conventions and Foster joined
him on a tour of the Park. One of the colorful creatures Kameny encountered in the gay section was "a somewhat overweight gay teenage boy known as Corky. He was in the gay area of Flamingo Park and he was persuaded to put on some sort of outrageous costume, complete with feathers. And he paraded up and down and some tourists stopped by to take pictures of him. And all of a sudden Kameny showed up and said, 'Corky! What are you doing? You are giving homosexuality a bad name! Take off those feathers!' I thought that was priceless," he laughs.
Unfortunately, GAA-Miami did not long survive the 1972 conventions. As Foster recalls, "the thing that killed it was simply that people were showing up during the conventions and then when the conventions went away and the antiwar demonstrators went away and the whole thing died down and returned to normal then the people lost interest." Foster himself lost interest when he "got into an argument with a member of the Executive Committee and resigned. And I sent them their money that was in my account. And they took the money and sent out an emergency letter to all 250 people who were on their mailing list, asking them to show up for an emergency meeting so they can get the organization going again. And they [the EC] showed up at the meeting place and waited two hours and nobody showed up. Nobody!" By the end of 1973, GAA-Miami was history.
After Foster left GAA-Miami, he "was involved in the creation of a gay student group at the University of Miami," which was also short-lived. Unfortunately, in 1974 Foster developed a severe case of agoraphobia, which discouraged his participation in Miami's growing LGBT movement though of course he kept up with new developments. (Foster has since recovered from his agoraphobia.)
Foster's withdrawal from the political arena allowed him to return to his first love, gay history. By the late seventies, Foster had become a major contributor to the growing field of gay studies. Foster's "introduction as a gay historian" was an essay on Sir Richard Francis Burton. ["The Annotated Burton"] that appeared in the anthology The Gay Academic, edited by Louie Crew [ETC, 1978]. "At the same time I was helping Jonathan Ned Katz write his book Gay American History [Crowell, 1976]. I gave him very significant help." In his groundbreaking book, Katz gave credit to "Foster's inspired research assistance [which] led to the discovery of numbers of important documents." Through the years, Foster "helped many other gay scholars write their books. And my name is mentioned in at least thirty books, usually in the form of footnotes saying 'I wish to thank Stephen Foster for his help.' " Foster also contributed original essays and translations to the pioneer gay journal "Gay Sunshine."
Though Foster was never a member of the Gay Academic Union, he contributed to the GAU's periodical "The Cabirion," aka "Gay Books Bulletin" [1979-85]. Through the efforts of "Cabirion" editor Wayne Dynes, Foster contributed an article on gay communities for The Encyclopedia of Southern Culture [Edited by Charles Reagan Wilson and William Ferris, UNC, 1990]. Foster followed that achievement by writing, for the Dynes-edited Encyclopedia of Homosexuality [Garland, 1990], articles on such diverse topics as Adelswärd Fersen, Afghanistan, Sir Richard Burton, Ralph Chubb, Charles Fourier, Henry B. Fuller, Robert de Montesquieu, Pirates, Poetry, Travel and Exploration, Edward Perry Warren and Oscar Wilde. Though some of the other contributors to the Encyclopedia of Homosexuality used pseudonyms (which caused a bit of a controversy at that time), Foster is quick to assert that in this case, as "in all of my writing, I used my real name." All in all, Stephen Wayne Foster should be credited for some of the most notable contributions to our culture.
This is the second of a series of articles about the history of South Florida’s LGBT community. The first one was a personal account of the Miami bar scene in 1974. I invite other veterans of South Florida's LGBT community in the 1970s and 1980s to share their experiences with us. You may reach me at email@example.com.
Posted by Editors on Aug 16, 2010 at 09:50 AM in Ancestors, Arts, Books, Call for Submissions, Community, Culture, Elders, Friends, Gay Health, Gay History, Gay Wisdom, History, Homophobia, Jesse Monteagudo, Literature, Men, Politics, Religion, Right Wingers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
White Crane friend, advisor—and all round mensch—Malcolm Boyd, will give a concert reading of his prayer-poems accompanied by a jazz trio at the 2010 Sausalito International Film Festival on August 14. Musicians appearing with Boyd are guitarist Johnnie Valentino, composer Scott Page-Payter on keyboards and percussionist Marino Bambino.
Boyd's words are combined with musical themes by the late legendary jazz musician Vince Guaraldi. "The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi," a new film in which Boyd appears, will be screened at the festival. Over four weeks in 1966 a remarkable series of performances at the hungry i nightclub in San Francisco's North Beach captured the imagination of hip audiences and resonated around the world. Dick Gregory gave the stage to Guaraldi and Episcopal priest-author Boyd. Prayers, Beat poetry and jazz fused. Though covered by global media the performances were never recorded. Very few had an opportunity to experience this happening. Until now. The prayer-poems are from Boyd's bestselling classic "Are You Running with Me, Jesus?"
White Crane Books offers two other titles by Boyd Take Off The Masks, his classic spiritual biography and coming out story and A Prophet in His Own Land: The Malcolm Boyd Reader, collected writings from five decades.
Posted by Editors on Aug 02, 2010 at 06:07 PM in Arts, Bo Young, Community, Culture, Current Affairs, Elders, Entertainment, Fellow Travelers, Friends, Gay Health, Gay History, Gay Wisdom, History, Humor, Literature, Malcolm Boyd, Men, Music, Poetry, Politics, Radical Faerie, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Thompson, a member of the White Crane Advisory Board, and former editor at The Advocate, sent this wonderful news about historian Stuart Timmons:
Longtime friends of author and community activist Stuart Timmons gathered last week to celebrate his remarkable recovery from a major stroke two-and-a-half years ago. Timmons, 53, is still wheelchair bound, but is now fully mentally alert and with the ability to speak and move about with assistance. He is expecting a return to his research and writing about GLBT history and is especially delighted with the invitation to participate in Centennial celebrations honoring the life and work of gay movement founder Harry Hay.
A two-day conference at City University New York and a major exhibition at the San Francisco Public Library are in the planning stages, with other cities soon to be included. Stuart wrote the award-winning biography on the legendary gay rights leader, The Trouble With Harry Hay, in 1990. Harry Hay was born on Easter Sunday, April 7, 1912, in Worthing, England, although he lived many decades of his life in Los Angeles.
HRH Lee Mentley added:
Stuart is doing amazing well…, had a great lunch at “The Coffee Table” and he was alert with full memory correcting us on our history and although speaking slowly was participating in the conversation. Well on his way to full recovery! He spoke with Joey Cain on the phone and will be on the planning committee for the 100 Year Celebration for Harry Hay in San Francisco and New York City. It was a joy to be with him!
Many of you gave support for Stuart's recovery, so we wanted to let you know that it was money well spent. Stuart Timmons is a walking library of GLBT history and of Harry Hay and John Burnside in particular. We need him and we need his genius.
Pictured in the photo are: (left to right) Mark Thompson, Stuart Timmons, Robert Croonquist and HRH Lee Mentley.
Posted by Editors on Jul 25, 2010 at 11:46 AM in Ancestors, Arts, Bo Young, Books, Community, Culture, Current Affairs, Elders, Friends, Gay Health, Gay History, Gay Wisdom, Health, History, Literature, Malcolm Boyd, Men, Politics, Radical Faerie, White Crane Books | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Lawrence Brose is an experimental film artist and has created over thirty films since 1983. His films have been shown at international film festivals, museums, art galleries, and cinematheques in the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and South America. Brose’s most recent film, De Profundis has been greeted with critical acclaim and has been screened at more than eighty venues and festivals worldwide since its release. De Profundis is a 65-minute experimental film based on Oscar Wilde’s prison letter with an original score for the film by the American composer Frederic Rzewski. In 1989 he began a series of film collaborations with contemporary composers to explore the relationship between the moving image and music.
The issues here are fundamental: freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and artistic freedom. The case is precedent-setting, and will help determine whether anyone exercising their right to free speech can be criminalized merely for their ideas—a fundamental violation of the United States Constitution.
The case of Lawrence Brose is a prime example of the contemporary abuse of power by Homeland Security and the Justice Department. The charges brought against Brose essentially make engaging a difficult issue a criminal offense and recall the government’s tactics during the McCarthy trials of the 1950s. Like that infamous challenge to Democracy, this case questions how far the government can reach, unopposed, into artists’ studios, galleries, museums, and even our homes to silence free speech, thought, and inquiry.
Case For Support
Lawrence Brose is not a criminal, he is an artist, doing what artists do best: asking difficult questions about our life and times in order to illuminate a new perspective as we struggle to move forward as a culture. His experimental cinema has a distinguished track record of engaging issues that affect the gay community, such as AIDS and hostility from certain segments of the public. Facing problematical subjects is precisely the job that people like Brose carry out in our society – they explore unexamined dilemmas and present them for our contemplation. It is truly tragic to see him attacked with the blunt, and misguided legalistic weapon of pornography prosecution.
Lawrence Brose is working in a well-established tradition of image appropriation, drawing specifically on images of masculinity in home movies, old films, Gay erotica and documentaries. Brose collects found still images, which he then processes and re-processes to find more depth in the picture, producing complex layers of imagery that are highly conceptual and offer a poignant commentary on normative conventions of gender and sexuality. The final product is as abstract as the paintings of Willem de Kooning, and a seizure of source material entirely misrepresents the final outcome.
As experimental filmmakers Kenneth Anger and Andy Warhol before him, Brose’s work pushes the envelope to create space for new expression. For our society to remain open and vibrant, the answer is not to criminalize that space for investigation, but rather to welcome it into the marketplace of free ideas for examination.
The case against Lawrence Brose demonstrates an inappropriate application of laws intended to protect children, and in the process victimizes an experimental artist seeking to comment on societal woes. The fact that he is under indictment for using images made by others to examine the taboos that the laws are meant to prevent--is as overreaching as it is troubling. It is so far from the intent of the law, that it serves only to create a climate of fear. The result is censorship and a chilling effect on the free expression of all artists and all people. Censorship of this nature, and in all of its many forms, occupies a realm of self-righteous presumption that abjures complexity and results only in contradiction. It is very important that as individuals living in a democratic society, we contribute to and speak out openly in Brose’s defense, in essence defending our own lives and our fundamental rights to think, work, and create freely.
This website has been published by friends, colleagues and supporters of Lawrence Brose, an artist and arts curator who has recently been alleged to possess purportedly illicit digital images. One hundred of the listed images are film frames from his highly acclaimed film De Profundis, based on Oscar Wilde's prison writing. The purpose of the website is to attest to Lawrence’s innocence, to provide a forum for testimony on his behalf, and, importantly, to collect funds needed for his legal defense.
We are in the process of collecting testimony from individuals, many of whom are artists, academics and curators significant to the fields of art and culture.