Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Flaunting it!: A decade of gay journalism from the Body politic : an anthology by Stan Persky

Flaunting it!: A decade of gay journalism from the Body politic : an anthology by Stan Persky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, a great book with lots of invaluable historical information about the city of Toronto and the fight for gay and lesbian equality.

The Body Politic ceased publication five years after this book was printed. It would be nice if there were a second volume of this book printed at that time, or a revised version to include newly written material, and perhaps to weed out a couple of the entries with less relevance. It's difficult to put together a book collecting a 10 year history without some time passing to see what will remain relevant to the community.

This book has a few things people in the modern age may want to skip, things no longer relevant to today's gay life or people looking for historical information. For example, 20 pages on the movie Cruising, 15 pages on whether women should be included in the gay movement, 5 pages on a book I've never heard of, things like this can be skimmed.

This being said, there are a ton of amazing articles you'll love to read in here. Anything by Jane Rule, she was amazing. Some articles that stood out for me:

- Getting Off by Andrew Britton. Details being arrested for having sex in a public park at Jarvis and Carlton, across the street from where I live. Remarkable for it's portrayal of police corruption, and how the fact that they were innocent never really seemed to matter.

- The Mirror of Violence by Michael Riordon. The book paints a vivid picture of homophobia and gay bashings as part of life in the city. This article details a few of those attacks and a self-defense class that sprung up as a result. In a practice attack, when someone confronts the author and calls him a faggot, he screams "No, no, not me!" and I teared up picturing it.

- There is a too long section on the word 'gay' and why homosexuals want to use it, but in the article Taking Over the House of Language by Mariana Valverde, she says "we will no longer tolerate being shunted off into a corner… along with… other victims of the medical profession's mania for classifying sexuality." I thought that was a neat concept. There's a lot of stuff like this, in amongst concepts that no longer seem relevant, nuggets of timeless truth.

- Letters by Jane Rule discusses what to do with the personal letters strangers have written her.

- The fantastic, and lengthy, Dreams Deferred: The Early American Homophile Movement by John D'Emilio has some great details. The article goes in to the early gay movements efforts to kill with kindness, organizing the collection of clothes and blood drives "to demonstrate that homosexuals were solid citizens." This led to people reporting on each other in the 1950's, something that would continue for at least the next 50 years, with only the holiest of holies being welcome to the gay cause. It talks of the movement writing in the 1950's, "No boy or girl, approaching the maelstrom of deviation, need make that crossing alone, afraid, and in the dark ever again." One hell of a mission statement.

- There is a fantastic section following Men Loving Boys Loving Men by Gerald Hannon, an article which couldn't be published today without backlash. The article itself is smart, exposing some of the media craziness surrounding the issue, mentioning that "Barbara Chisholm, project director of the Canadian Council on Children and Youth, has said that as many as fifty percent of girls now in training school may have been subjected to initial rape by their own fathers." I want to find this woman, Barbara Chisholm, and smack her. If you know her, let me know. She has a knuckle sandwich coming from me. Making up a static with the intent of terrifying people and using your position to scare people is unforgivable. And hello, 50%? It's also wrong. Why wasn't she the subject of backlash?
This article was followed by more ridiculousness crap, saying the Body Politic "has endorsed child molesting" (it hasn't - fuck you Marlowe Amber) and saying doing this will play into the hands of the haters. Like wearing leather plays into the hands of the haters. Like having a pride parade plays into the hands of the haters.
Jane Rule to the rescue in her article "Teaching Sexuality" saying "I am convinced that censoring serious discussion of unconventional sexual relationships does nothing to protect those who might be exploited." Bam! Closing with "Children are sexual, and it is up to us to take responsibility for their real education. They have been exploited and betrayed long enough by our silence."

- A too long section on lesbians vs. gay men is highlighted by Andrew Hodges' article Divided We Stand. There's a great paragraph on the differences both sides face.

- Why I write for The Body Politic by Jane Rule seems to be as relevant as when it was written. I saw echoes of the attitude people had who refused to support fab! Magazine, which recently folded in Toronto. "Though my priorities and the paper's aren't always the same, I have been better and more thoughtfully informed about what it is to be homosexual in this culture by The Body Politic than by any other paper."

- The book closes with the bathhouse raids, then recent news, and another highlight of reading the book now. In the article Raids, rage and bawdyhouses by Gerald Hannon, the events detailed still make my blood boil. I was at the tail end of this kind of wicked hypocrisacy and it was almost difficult to read. Hannon talks of a 7.5 million dollar operating budget in 1981 for the morality bureau. I loved the response, something I hadn't heard before, gays of the time wore buttons that said "NO MORE SHIT!" with the date of the raids on them. This fantastic example of grass roots activism in this long oppressed community made me proud to be a part of it, while reading this article and many others.

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