For the Love of a Fag

I have been reading My Guru and His Disciple by Christopher Isherwood, and in it, he’s just met Don Bachardy. Because I’ve read Christopher and His Kind and also seen the dear dear movie “Chris and Don” and read other stuff by and about Isherwood, I am incredibly moved reading about their early years, knowing that they stayed with each other until Isherwood’s death. This morning, as I was on the way to my pilates class, I was thinking about their age difference – 30 years – and how that could have posed such an obstacle but it didn’t. Then I said to myself, “Thank goodness they found each other!” at which point I completely teared up and had to blink furiously and take a deep breath in order to keep driving safely.
Isherwood is an inspiration to me for so many reasons – his honesty as a writer, his refusal to compromise himself or hide his sexuality, his spiritual quest, his love for his friends, his sense of humor (dry!), the way he engaged intellectually with friends and colleagues, and his generosity and devotion to Don. That Isherwood’s books exist, that Don is still painting, that there is a documentary about them – what a gift to me as I face the challenges of being queer and married and a writer. What a gift to the world!
Other fag stories that have touched and inspired me deeply include writing by Mark Merliss (I wrote him a mash note! He wrote back such a nice thank you!), Robert Rodi, David Valdez Greenwood, E.M. Forster, John Preston, mommywithapenis, David Henry Hwang, James Baldwin, Richard Rodriguez, Mark Doty, Michael Bronski, J.R. Ackerley, W.H. Auden, Quentin Crisp, Mattilda – and doesn’t the list go on? Yes, yes.
On my shelf is a book edited by Joan Nestle and John Preston called Sister and Brother: Lesbians & Gay Men Write About Their Lives Together. In the introduction, Joan Nestle talks about exchanging long letters with her gay friend, Carl, “giving each other the courage to explore queerness,” and John Preston talks about “the connections that seemed to linger just below consciousness”. John’s agent, Peter Ginsberg, and an editor, Susan Fox Rogers, had had a conversation, writes John, about “why the recent burst in lesbian and gay publishing didn’t reflect the reality of their lives; that most gay men and lesbians had, in fact, warm and often powerful relationships with one another”.
Rereading the introduction – read it yourselves, it’s pure gold! – I am in tears for the second time today. How I love John Preston for talking so forthrightly about how sexy he found Joan, and other lesbians in his past! As if lesbians don’t reciprocate in finding gay men totally hot! Our queer sexualities unite us, even if we don’t always want to fuck each other (although sometimes we do). How I love Joan Nestle for her courage and warmth and her truth speaking – and for her love of John, for cradling his head to her generous femme bosom in the book jacket photo. This book is a love story between them, paying homage to other love stories between other fags and dykes. Obviously it’s time for me to reread this book, and I will, I will, but I wonder: where is the conversation today? Where is my fag brother who weeps over the doomed love of Aimee and Jaguar and the long love of Del and Phyllis, rereads The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, is inspired by May Sarton and Audre Lord, loves Jackie Kay and Nalo Hopkinson and Isabel Miller, gets off on the erotica and smarts of Carol Queen and Laura Antoniou, cheers on the pioneering efforts of Tristan Taormino, Amber Hollibaugh, and Minnie Bruce Pratt and finds the strength to go on in a harsh and imperfect world after reading the novels of Sarah Waters where our queer history is so lovingly and thoroughly brought to life?
Joan and John edited their book in 1994. 17 years later, what twists and turns has the conversation taken? What are we saying — fags to dykes, dykes to fags — and how are we encouraging each other to be our own unique, queer, evolving selves in a very fast-moving, confusing, jittery, juddery world?
Where does our love stand now?

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Published in: on November 2, 2011 at 12:48 PM  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. This one was amazing, inspiring and a wonderful read!!! GREAT entry…thanks.


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