All the LGBT Books Around My House

Pride month ends today, and I still haven’t penned anything LGBTQ-related. Considering so much of my career has been in gay media, that seems wrong. But what to write? I’m pretty out of touch with queer politics and culture at the moment, so I guess I’ll just keep it simple: a cruise through lavender-tinged titles around my house.

Starting in my office, where I spend most of my time, the top row of a tall brown Ikea Billy bookshelf holds many homo-related hardbacks: Leo Lerman’s diaries, The Grand Surprise, abut Between Me and Life, Meryle Secrest’s biography of lesbian painter Romaine Brooks, which are next to the equally Sapphic Selected Letters of Willa Cather, which is pressed against The Days of Anna Madrigal. Theoretically the rest of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series should be up here, but those paperback copies are elsewhere.

On that same row you’ll find Tim Murphy’s Christadora, about the lives, loves and losses of people in the East Village apartment building of the same name, and Cathers’ collection of short stories, Obscure Destinies, which I’ve never read but hope to soon. Speaking of, I’m not sure where my copy of O Pioneers! moseyed off to; I do know My Antonia was abandoned on a Brooklyn stoop — I didn’t care for her. Meanwhile, a few titles over from Destinies, are three EM Forster tomes: his realist and oh-too-relevant political collection, Two Cheers for Democracy; the heart-breaking Maurice; and a collection of the English author’s short tales. (Howard’s End is elsewhere.)

Finally, off to the right, a recently acquired paperback of John Rechy’s raunchy Rushes lays on its side, appropriately removed and aptly aloof.

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Black Lesbians in the 1920s, a Quick Review

The great migration of American black people from the South to the North coincided with a general urbanization of America: a trend of people, all people, hightailing it from rural environs and decamping in concrete jungles. These mass movements led to all sorts of cross-cultural fusions and new freedoms of assembly, and this was especially true for LGBT people who now saw and met and loved other people like themselves. After years of thinking they were the only one, they found groups of like-minded friends.

These two trends — black migration and LGBT awakenings — are explored in Cookie Woolner’s recent Process piece, “’Have We a New Sex Problem Here?’ Black Queer Women in the Early Great Migration.” Here’s a snippet:

By the 1920s, black lady lovers had more places to meet one another than ever before, such as the popular entertainment industry, which encompassed segregated forms of black vaudeville, the spectacle of black musicals, and the rapidly expanding market for “race records”—later renamed “rhythm and blues.”

Popular performing women like Bessie Smith and Ethel Waters (pictured)  subtly hailed their audiences with veiled references to homosexuality and took advantage of the privacy and liminal space of touring life to enact same-sex relationships on the road.

Beyond the stage, black lady lovers were becoming newly visible on northern city streets.

It’s a fascinating look at a population often overlooked in black, female and queer histories and you should read it.

Egypt Continues Anti-LGBT Crackdown

Egypt, never the most friendly place for LGBT people, has been cracking down on them even harder as of late, specifically gay men.

From WaPo:

A crackdown on gay people in Egypt intensified over the weekend as security forces raided cafes in downtown Cairo and courts delivered harsh prison sentences, further driving the nation’s LGBT community underground.

More than 60 people have been arrested, said human rights activists…

Security forces have also detained people at their homes in the middle of the night and used apps and online chat rooms to entrap those perceived to be gay.

If only the White House would take a stand against such oppression. Oh, wait: the White House approves of such oppression. My bad!