The Lucknow 4: Gay Club Arrests in India

I’m shocked to read of the arrest of four gay men in India for simply meeting together for a picnic. Apparently, although no sex was involved, the police entrapped them and charged them with a violation of Section 377 of Indian Penal Code, punishable by 10 years to life imprisonment. The police apparently traced the guys through an online website.

One can only hope that this is the final straw that breaks the camel’s back to reform this antiquated law from the era of British colonialism so that gay people can take their place alongside the rest of humanity in India and around the globe.

Memory Lane: Interview with Allen Ginsberg (Between the Sheets)

This evening, I watched a documentary called Walt Whitman, part of the Voices and Visions series, directed by Jack Smithie, and copyrighted in 1988 by the New York Center for Visual History. The documentary includes numerous excerpts from interviews of Allen Ginsberg, including one snippet where he mentions a sexual lineage that connected him to Whitman through Neal Cassady, Gavin Arthur, and Edward Carpenter (a claim he also apparently made in a Gay Sunshine interview).

I had a flashback to the time I spent with Ginsberg in Cambridge, MA, in 1982, when he told me that I was part of an erotic lineage that connected me to Whitman through him and Carpenter and others I didn’t remember from that time. I now know much more clearly who Neal Cassady is, although Gavin Arthur remains a mystery. One result of a quick Google search identifies Arthur as ” a certain astrologer and San Francisco character, Gavin Arthur (grandson of president Chester A Arthur), who gave lectures at San Quentin while Neal was a prisoner.” Another entry reports that he studied astrology with Ronald Reagan before Reagan started his political career.

I had interviewed Ginsberg for Gay Community News in an issue published on August 21, 1982. The funny part of the interview was how we decided to end it in print, that is, with Ginsberg’s question to me about whether I was going to refer to the conditions of the interview in publication, my question to him about what he meant, and his reply that the interview was conducted when we were in bed together.

A month or so ago, I found a cassette tape containing the whole interview and listened to it for the first time in more than 20 years. I was surprised at how fresh and relevant Ginsberg’s words remained to me and to the current political situation in the U.S.

Perhaps an archive somewhere would be interested in the recording? If so, please contact me. Or perhaps I should just transcribe the whole thing and post it on this blog. The incomplete interview, as published in Gay Community News, is now apparently selling for $22 an issue on the web, so I guess I should scrounge around in the basement to see if I still have any copies, eh?

Bareback Mountain: The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Neighm

A friend on a private email list asked me why I thought “Bareback Mountain,” (if not available at the previous link, try “Bareback Mountain” instead) the parody of Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain” was funny, rather than an affront to the queer community. My answer:

While I thought Brokeback was an excellent film, it can be read in various ways by various audiences. One way to read the film is as a reinforcement of the “shocking” “lifestyle” of homosexuality and the inevitable destruction of those who are foolish enough to participate in it. I suspect that there are large segments of U.S. society that will walk away from Brokeback with that take on the film if they ever chance to see it. As other reviews have pointed out, it’s curious that the hetero sex is so much more openly filmed that the homo sex for example. Perhaps that’s why I felt profoundly depressed by the film.

The reason that the Bareback parody is funny is because it ridicules a reading of Brokeback in which homosexuality is as “shocking” and “deviant” as bestiality. It uses a similar meme of the cowboy (or shephard or whatever) so emotionally isolated he can only express his secret longings in physical isolation and in constant fear of discovery.

The shadow puppet sequences of physical intimacy are there because showing the actual act would be far too “disturbing” and “inappropriate”, unlike normative male-female sex. And the scenes of him turning away from his wife in bed (and presumably family as in Brokeback), his wife wielding the humungous dildo and recounting the visit from animal services, show just how dangerous such deviance can be to the traditional family structure.

I certainly don’t believe it’s the intent of the parody to compare homosexuality to bestiality in a serious way, but to tease out the themes of Brokeback that lead to a regressive and rather disturbing reading of it, unfortunately a reading that much of the movie-watching public may walk away with. The parody is, somewhat paradoxically, the kick in the butt that Brokeback needs for me to walk away from both films feeling integrated as a queer with a chance of living as a respected human being in a diverse and accepting society.

I won’t even begin to delve into the morality of such relations with animals… that’s a topic for another day.

Another person quoted on the list who saw the parody quipped that it explored “the Love that dare not speak its neighm.”

Heart Pillow

I hold a pillow to my heart to remind
me of the power of human touch.
I scratch my left big toe nail on the
inside of the arch of my right foot.

This astronaut pillow molds to my
flesh and I massage between my left
toes with the right side of my right foot.

What possible difference could freedom make?
The call of a thousand terns squawking in self-denial.
When does our spirit become saturated or
Is there empty spirit evermore?

Once Were Warriors

I saw the brutally violent film “Once Were Warriors” this evening. Made in New Zealand, the film chronicles the life of a Maori woman who leaves her tribal homeland for love. She picks the wrong guy, a violent drunk, who ends up beating her and neglecting their children. The film showcases some traditional Maori ceremonies and philosophies while taking on the issue of domestic abuse and the importance of countering it before it’s too late.