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A Farewell to a great man

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Dear sex fans,

I realize this is a bit off topic for this blog, but I want to acknowledge the death of famed British neurologist and author, Oliver Sacks.

1993: Portrait of British-born neurologist and author Dr Oliver Sacks standing in the admittance driveway of Beth Abraham Hospital with his arms crossed over his chest, New York City. (Photo by Nancy R. Schiff/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

1993: Portrait of British-born neurologist and author Dr Oliver Sacks standing in the admittance driveway of Beth Abraham Hospital with his arms crossed over his chest, New York City.

In February, he wrote an op-ed in The New York Times revealing that he was in the late stages of terminal cancer, after earlier melanoma in his eye spread to his liver.

“It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me,” he wrote. “I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.”

Earlier this summer I read Dr Sacks’s memoir, On the Move.  I love it.  It’s an interesting memoir by a fascinating personality.  And while reading I discovered that we had a dear friend in common, Thom Gunn.  What a small world!  So I decided to send him a note.

Dear Dr Sacks,

I just finished reading your memoir, On The Move.  What an amazing life you’ve lived.on-the-move-by-oliver-sacks

Of all the marvelous things you’ve done and all the fascinating people you mentioned in your book nothing surprised me more than your close friendship with Thom Gunn.  I was a friend of Thom too and I lived directly across Cole Street from him.  I moved to the flat at 1207 Cole Street in 1979.  At the time I was working on my doctorate in clinical sexology at the Institute For The Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco.

I didn’t know Thom well at first.  However, I would regularly see him walking both in our neighborhood and elsewhere in town.  He was always in his leathers, rain or shine, and used to think to myself, “What a mensch!”

It finally dawned on me that he lived across the street from me.

Once he saw me in my roman collar.  (I was ordained a catholic priest in 1975 at the age of 25 in Oakland, CA.  I had come out to my local superiors; I was a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, before I was ordained.  Like I said, I was working on my doctorate to become a sex therapist and prepare for an upfront gay ministry.)  Thom smiled at me when he saw me; I blushed and told him what I just told you.  He was fascinated, but I also believe he thought I was a twit.  He probably was right.

I knew nothing about Thom other than he was my neighbor.  Then one day I was in a bookstore on Haight Street and there was a photo of Thom in the window advertising a reading.  That’s when I started asking around about him.  Despite his cult status within the gay community, he was the most unassuming person.  I was honored to have a personal connection with him.small_front

I finished my doctorate in 1981.  My dissertation, Gay Catholic Priests; A Study of Cognitive and Affective Dissonance was directed by Wardell Pomeroy.  A firestorm of media attention followed.  The media branded me as THE gay priest, as if.  I think Thom read about me in the New York Times because next time he saw me he clapped me on the back and said, “Well done.”

No sooner did I complete my doctorate, and because of the media attention my public coming out caused, the leadership of my religious community in Rome began a process of dismissal against me.  I was devastated and lost.  I was even getting death threats.  Thom was always so supportive and encouraging.

I fought the church for the next thirteen years in an effort to save my priesthood and ministry.  Alas, the writing was on the wall back in 1981 and it was only a matter of time till they had their way with me.  I wrote about the travail in a book that was published in 2011, Secrecy, Sophistry and Gay Sex In The Catholic Church: The Systematic Destruction of an Oblate Priest.

Thom was always so solicitous about my wellbeing.  He knew how difficult life had become for me.  And both of us found ourselves on the forefront of caring for friends who were dying of AIDS.  One of my landlords died in 1986.

Thom introduced my housemate and I to Augie Kleinzahler and his girlfriend, Caroline Lander, who lived only a few blocks from us in Cole Valley.  We all became great friends and copious amounts of strong drink were consumed.  I wonder, do you know Augie?

When Thom turned sixty I surprised him with a homemade German chocolate cake.  I told him he was the oldest person I knew.  This made him laugh and he called me a whippersnapper.

In 1992 the surviving landlord sold the Cole Street duplex and I and my housemate moved to Oak and Ashbury.  Sadly, I didn’t get to see Thom as much as before.  I move up here to Seattle in 1999 because I could no longer afford to live in SF.  I was deeply saddened to learn of Thom’s death in 2004.  He was such a great guy, what a marvelous soul.

Again, thank you for your memoir; it was grand getting to know you on a personal level.  I read The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat when it came out in the mid-eighties and loved it.  But I never guessed you and Thom knew each other or that you actually visited him when I lived across the street from him.  What a small world.  I wish I had known you back then.

Anyhow, thank you for the bringing me this unexpected flood of memories of Thom.  I wonder what he would have made of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision (Obergefell v. Hodges).  I contend that we got marriage equality only because we walked through AIDS first.  I think Thom would have agreed with me.

All the best,
richard

Richard Wagner, M.Div., Ph.D., ACS

To my astonishment, Oliver wrote back; I mean that literally, a handwritten note.  Apparently, he never used a computer.

Dear Dr. Wagner (can I say Richard?),                                                          6/60/15

I am greatly interested and greatly moved, by your letter — your courage in being honest and forthright, at a time and on a subject bound, sooner or later, to cause your ejection from the priesthood. In another few years perhaps, with Pope Francis at the helm, these last bastions of Catholic bigotry may have fallen.

I like to think of you as living across the street when I visited Thom, and glad to know that he appreciated you and your works. I still miss him deeply — there were not too many people with whim I could be entirely open — and I like to think that his ghost is pleased that my title came from his poem. (I find it a huge relief being open now to all and sundry {Oliver came out earlier this year} — I am so glad I completed my book before I became ill).

And what a liberation, an affirmation for us all that the Supreme Court voted as it did. I suspect that Ruth Bader Ginsberg, quite ill now, stayed on to ensure the 5/4 decision.

Thanks for your letter and my very best wishes,

Oliver

Oliver Sacks01     Oliver Sacks02

Click on this link to see a copy of Oliver Sacks’s note.

Thank you Dr Sacks and farewell!

I need a break

Hey sex fans,

I’m gonna take a little break.  It’s beastly hot here in the Emerald City, and I just don’t feel like working.  And since I’m the boss of this whole operation, I say screw it!  I’ll be back next week with more of my scintillating sex advice.  In the meantime, you won’t have to go without.  Use either the Search Function or the CATEGORY pull-down menu, in the sidebar to your right, and look for some cool and smutty shit.  And don’t forget there’s always the PODCAST ARCHIVE where you will find a variety of extraordinarily informative, enriching and entertaining shows — interesting interviews, enlightening Q&A and even some fun product reviews.

See ya at the beach.

at the beach

Pride 2015

Happy Gay Pride Month!

It’s time, once again, to post my annual pride posting.

In my lifetime I’ve witnessed a most remarkable change in societal attitudes toward those of us on the sexual fringe. One only needs to go back 50 years in time. I was 15 years old then and I knew I was queer. When I looked out on the world around me this is what I saw. Homosexuality was deemed a mental disorder by the nation’s psychiatric authorities, and gay sex was a crime in every state but Illinois. Federal workers could be fired merely for being gay.

Today, gays serve openly in the military, work as TV news anchors and federal judges, win elections as big-city mayors and members of Congress. Popular TV shows have gay protagonists.

And now the gay-rights movement may be on the cusp of momentous legal breakthroughs. Later this month, a Supreme Court ruling could lead to legalization of same-sex marriage throughout the whole country.

The transition over five decades has been far from smooth — replete with bitter protests, anti-gay violence, backlashes that inflicted many political setbacks, and AIDS. Unlike the civil rights movement and the women’s liberation movement, the campaign for gay rights unfolded without household-name leaders.

And yet, I sense that soon, if it hasn’t begun already, we will experience a backlash in the dominant culture. I don’t relish the idea, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it. And when it comes, as I think it will, it won’t smart nearly as much if we know our history. And we should also remember the immortal words of Martin Luther King, Jr. “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice.”

In honor of gay pride month, a little sex history lesson — The Stonewall Riots

The confrontations between demonstrators and police at The Stonewall Inn, a mafia owned bar in Greenwich Village NYC over the weekend of June 27-29, 1969 are usually cited as the beginning of the modern Lesbian/Gay liberation Movement. What might have been just another routine police raid onstonewall.jpg a bar patronized by homosexuals became the pivotal event that sparked the entire modern gay rights movement.

The Stonewall riots are now the stuff of myth. Many of the most commonly held beliefs are probably untrue. But here’s what we know for sure.

  • In 1969, it was illegal to operate any business catering to homosexuals in New York City — as it still is today in many places in the world. The standard procedure was for New York City’s finest to raid these establishments on a regular basis. They’d arrest a few of the most obvious ‘types’ harass the others and shake down the owners for money, then they’d let the bar open as usual by the next day.
  • Myth has it that the majority of the patrons at the Stonewall Inn were black and Hispanic drag queens. Actually, most of the patrons were probably young, college-age white guys lookin for a thrill and an evening out of the closet, along with the usual cadre of drag queens and hustlers. It was reasonably safe to socialize at the Stonewall Inn for them, because when it was raided the drag queens and bull-dykes were far more likely to be arrested then they were.
  • After midnight June 27-28, 1969, the New York Tactical Police Force called a raid on The Stonewall Inn at 55 Christopher Street in NYC. Many of the patrons who escaped the raid stood around to witness the police herding the “usual suspects” into the waiting paddywagons. There had recently been several scuffles where similar groups of people resisted arrest in both Los Angeles and New York.
  • Stonewall was unique because it was the first time gay people, as a group, realized that what threatened drag queens and bull-dykes threatened them all.
  • Many of the onlookers who took on the police that night weren’t even homosexual. Greenwich Village was home to many left-leaning young people who had cut their political teeth in the civil rights, anti-war and women’s lib movements.
  • As people tied to stop the arrests, the mêlée erupted. The police barricaded themselves inside the bar. The crowd outside attempted to burn it down. Eventually, police reinforcements arrived to disperse the crowd. But this just shattered the protesters into smaller groups that continued to mill around the streets of the village.
  • A larger crowd assembled outside the Stonewall the following night. This time young gay men and women came to protest the raids that were commonplace in the city. They held hands, kissed and formed a mock chorus line singing; “We are the Stonewall Girls/We wear our hair in curls/We have no underwear/We show our pubic hair.” Don’t ‘cha just love it?
  • Police successfully dispersed this group without incident. But the print media picked up the story. Articles appeared in the NY Post, Daily News and The Village Voice. Theses helped galvanize the community to rally and fight back.
  • Within a few days, representatives of the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis (two of the country’s first homophile rights groups) organized the city’s first ever “Gay Power” rally in Washington Square. Some give hundred protesters showed up; many of them gay and lesbians.

stonewall02.jpgThe riots led to calls for homosexual liberation. Fliers appeared with the message: “Do you think homosexuals are revolting? You bet your sweet ass we are!” And the rest, boys and girls, is as they say is history.

During the first year after Stonewall, a whole new generation of organizations emerged, many identifying themselves for the first time as “Gay.” This not only denoted sexual orientation, but a radical way to self-identify with a growing sense of open political activism. Older, more staid homophile groups soon began to make way for the more militant groups like the Gay Liberation Front.

The vast majority of these new activists were under thirty; dr dick’s generation, don’t cha know. We were new to political organizing and didn’t know that this was as ground-breaking as it was. Many groups formed on colleges campuses and in big cities around the world.

By the following summer, 1970, groups in at least eight American cities staged simultaneous events commemorating the Stonewall riots on the last Sunday in June. The events varied from a highly political march of three to five thousand in New York to a parade with floats for 1200 in Los Angeles. Seven thousand showed up in San Francisco.

Just In Time For Pride Month

LGBTQrstuv: Bisexuality & Transgender

with John Corvino

John Corvino

Spring Break Bitches!

We’ll all be on Spring Break till Wednesday 04/01/15.

springbreak

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