This is an email from The Digest, a newsletter by Prism & Pen.
by James Finn
Prism & Pen this week offers a mixture of joyful celebration and somber self reflection. Plus, Chandler Myer returns with a comedic tour de force as he revisits one of the funniest pieces we’ve ever published.
Laurence Best gives us an incredible story this week. I know “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry” is horrible cliché, but you really will. Don’t miss his latest memoir chapter!
Editor’s Picks —
In popular imagination, LGBTQ history begins with the 1969 Stonewall Riots, perhaps encouraged by 1950s movements that fomented a sense of rebellion in queer people. This idea is romantic and cool, but it’s almost entirely false. While Molly was searching for her mother’s lesbian friend, she encountered a thriving, almost forgotten queer world of the 1920s and 30s.
We know that, as in Berlin, gay culture flourished in the 1920s in New York City, the epicenter of the “Pansy Craze” and the accompanying “Sapphic Craze.” Eddie came of age at a time when gay and lesbian characters were featured in pulp novels, stage plays, radio songs and (before the Hays Code) in movies. Born on the cusp of the 20th century, she would have been just the right age to experience this flowering of gay culture in New York.
The same day I read a sad CBC article by an anonymous queer woman who feels compelled to live closeted in one of the world’s most progressive cities, a thoughtful reader asked me why I write so much about religion. This is my answer:
So instead of living out, I have slowly become accustomed to keeping my mouth shut and my head down. I’m back in the closet again, and I don’t have a clear memory of walking inside.
I’m not saying I think I NEED to be more out. I realize, just like that writer in Vancouver, that my practical fears are rational. I’m not imagining oppression, I’m living it.
What she taught me yesterday is that queer people in progressive cities face many of the same challenges rural queer people like me face.
KP calls this poetic essay “A creative trans awakening reflection.” I call it a must-read, a beautiful work of art that speaks powerful human truths as it demonstrates empathy in action.
Something wasn’t right. I knew that. They knew that. Still, I watched them struggle. I stayed silent because they wanted me to. No, that’s not true. I stayed silent because they needed me to. They weren’t ready. They weren’t safe. I would have my day when I would step forward and demand to be seen, heard, felt. I knew when that moment came, they would no longer be able to deny me …
Larry has been publishing his memoir on P&P for months. Halfway through, Readers Digest featured his compelling tale of growing up gay thinking he was straight. But today’s chapter! What happens when love-lightning strikes, when a man understands in one beautiful, terrible instant that his entire life is a lie? This chapter is a roller coaster of joy and despair. I’ve edited very carefully to ensure it stands on its own, so even if you’ve read nothing else of Larry’s work, please read this. You won’t regret it.
In truth, I wasn’t even sure his real name was Joey. In any case, I knew intellectually he cared nothing for me, that I was just another john, that it was only business and sex. I also understood rationally that this was going expensively nowhere. I could fly him all over the world and not get what I wanted… So, what was it I wanted?
“Just Joey,” I said to myself; “just to get lost in Joey forever because… I love him.”
Essays and Creative Non Fiction —
Seconds later, he strode naked into the room. He was holding a wooden tray at about waist height. On it was a breakfast offering, a carafe of coffee, one of freshly squeezed orange juice, and a plate of bagels, lox, and cream cheese. He was one of the more handsome, alluring, fit men I’ve ever been with, perhaps the most at that time. He stood midway toward the doors, facing me, his back to them.
Jenga is a game that players take turns removing one block at a time from a tower constructed of 54 blocks. Each block removed is then placed on top of the tower, creating a progressively more unstable structure.
I had no idea that when I discovered that I was transgender almost four years ago that I had started a game of Jenga with my life.
More and more LGBTQ people see asexuals, even asexuals who are not L, G, B, or T, as part of LGBTQ communities. Sometimes people who aren’t ace (I use ‘ace’ to refer to anyone under the asexual umbrella, including greyasexuals and demisexuals) add the letter ‘A’ and say it means ‘Asexual’ or ‘Ace’ and not ‘Allies.’
About that letter ‘A’…
I am old, queer and now finally, I am out. Growing up in the 70’s was difficult for me. I had a secret, a secret I swore I would take to the grave. I looked like a normal boy, but I wasn’t normal by any means. I have always thought I should have been born a girl. That cosmic oversight has guided my life. I had a normal enough life in between bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts.
I came out as soon as I figured out I wasn’t a freak.
My identity exists at the epicenter of the animosity between queer people and Christians. I am a queer Christian, and no — that is not an oxymoron. Growing up in a society founded on Anglican values means that despite not growing up in the church, I internalized a lot of the homophobia, ableism, and misogyny which have underpinned many of Australia’s laws and policies…
As I read on, my world began to crumble. Rage and anger took me first. Then came an obsession for fixing things up and starting all over. I was in my early 20s and I had all the rights for any kind of reaction. No one was around to give advice or even just listen.
My days turned into a continuum of chain-smoking and coffee-drinking; my appetite was gone. I wasn’t aware that I would see the light at the end of the tunnel in nearly three months.
Ten years ago, when I heard that my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio was poised to host the Gay Games, an event that occurs once every four years and had previously taken place in San Francisco, Sydney, Australia and Cologne, Germany, I was stunned. Cleveland –- really?
It looks like public school students in Iowa have their work cut out for them. On Tuesday, over 100 students walked out of junior and senior high schools in Winterset to support Lucas Kaufman, a teacher placed on administrative leave after he included a rainbow Pride flag in an introductory slide show to his 7th-grade class. When a student asked him why he included the flag in a slide featuring “things that describe me,” he replied that he’s bisexual.
Winterset Community School District Superintendent Justin Gross told the Des Moines Register that he placed Kaufmann on leave because of the slide show, but he refused to explain why.
About a year ago, I published the critically-acclaimed history (Mom said it was better than Stephen King) of the John Perkins Dancers, Do These Tights Make My Ass Look Big? I was the first and only person to undertake this monumental endeavor. Both people who read it have hinted they would like to see a follow-up piece documenting the final performance, “John Perkins at 75: Biting the Pillow Again.”
Now, you could be white and/or to the right of the sexual spectrum, but the homocons pretend everything is cake and ice cream and that there is no homophobia in America, not to mention they actively try to undermine efforts like the Equality Act, which does not hurt anyone. Gay and bisexual men have to wait a year after having sex with another man before donating blood (now three months because of Covid), but this mandate was based on HIV and AIDS prejudice, which ironically was another pandemic.
I always had an idea I was different from the other boys. I didn’t think other six-year-old boys sat on the toilet staring at Charles Atlas ads in comic books. (Why were there Charles Atlas ads in comic books?)
Spending the night at other’s homes was commonplace. I once had a kid over with whom I wanted to be affiliated because he was sporty (I wasn’t), and he was very cute. I thought hanging with him would make me appear more masculine. For the record, I was growing up in hyper-masculine West Texas.
I read recently that we are living the golden age of stupidity and I agree.
Gender dysphoria is a treatable medical condition. I wish the media would spend just a little more time sharing this truth instead of pandering to the sensational-hungry ignorance of the general population. Transgender people are being driven to suicide, being murdered, having their civil rights violated and their human dignity stripped away, all because this simple truth is buried under deliberate and unchallenged lies.
Then the moment that makes it all official, they kissed as husband and husband. My eyes involuntarily welled up. I immediately was fighting to regain control of my senses. What I was experiencing at that moment was pure joy and happiness.
After decades of my own failures and grief in relationships, I was so happy for the newlyweds. I was very grateful to be surrounded by people who love and support each other. Levi and Matthew give me hope …
“Mixed Orientation Marriages” (MOM) among evangelical Christians stand an opportunity to flourish or fail miserably. I was in a MOM for 41 years — separated only by my wife’s death by cancer. Additionally, I have mentored hundreds of evangelical men who possess same-sex attraction (SSA) and are married to a straight evangelical wife. Here is what I have learned. Trust me; it gets complicated!
“Just look at that child rapist!” they shouted. “He’s clearly a biological male!”
Why did a “gender critical” Twitter mob attack Jackson as they insulted transgender women in general and warned the public that trans women are sexual threats to children? I’ll talk about the misogyny and mendacity of their absurd claims in a moment.
If Jesus were here,
He would pump his chest and tell us, “Hey love, dear children of God. Love thyself and love thy neighbor.”
“There is no controversy or such thing as “political.” There is only one truth, the truth of God. In other words, love.”
“Stop the hatred towards other children. You are all but from the same source of light. Same parent. The same God we all know to love and respect.”
In my post-war deflation becoming Fiona lit the smallest of penny candles on a shelf inside me.
The flame was weak and the wick was made from a toothpick but thankfully it kept me company as I tapped my musings out on the old laptop in my garret.
I would record rises and falls, doubts and delights; now I had nothing left I could chew over my existence at my own pace and slowly allow myself to change it.
Easiest dog in the pile: Sterek. For those who live under a bridge and/or think it’s deep that they don’t pay attention to pop culture, or who don’t own a TV (seriously, burn in Hell), Sterek is a ship between werewolf Derek Hale (Tyler Hoechlin) and funny Stiles Stilinski (Dylan O’Brien) from the popular TV show Teen Wolf, …
Fiction Finds —
Am I smiling too little? Too much? Can anyone see my nerves? I hoped not, at least not beyond some socially acceptable awkwardness. Hoping that I wasn’t drawing any unwanted attention to myself, I made my way to my seat and looked at my program. We would open with communion, listen to a brief speech from our Lord Protectorate, and then have dinner.
Poetry Picks —
At the foot of the Temple’s last wall withstanding
the ages long tragedy sits two young women one
in paisley pashmina, silky to the touch, red gold the other
bothered by phantoms, refusing the pray, utterly lost
With pizza in their teeth and vodka on their breath they
reach out a hand to one another and sing an ancient limerick
kind of a prayer, kind of not, it’s hard to explain to someone …
after hours of hard work,
or right after
I have finished cleaning the kitchen,
the ghost of future me
manages to escape from my control.
She pictures herself
making two cups of tea
and then carrying them
to the living room
where, in all of her naiveté,
she still thinks …
That’s Prism & Pen this week, folks! We hope you join us for some reads, whether they be sad, joyful, or comedic. Writers! We still have a prompt running. What do have to say about love and grief?
See y’all next week!
Esther Spurrill-Jones, BFoundAPen, Zayn Singh, Ainsley L, Kathy Lee Tolleth, Brian Pelletier, Fred Shirley, Ikedi Oghenetega, neil chapman, David Wade Chambers, Artemis Shishir, alto, Sean Stephane Martin, Gabriela Penelope Carolus, Lois Shearing, b.henriques, Carl Rebeiro 🏳️🌈, Rodney Frazier, Simon, Carl Rebeiro, Brian Fehler, Deneishia Jacobpito, Chris Hedges, Kathy Lee Tolleth, Brian Pelletier, Alex David Bevan, Ikedi Oghenetega, David Wade Chambers, Sean Stephane Martin, Gabriela Penelope Carolus, Lois Shearing, Valentine Wiggin, b.henriques, Carl Rebeiro, Rodney Frazier, Simon Z. Brian Fehler, Cassie Brighter, Deneishia Jacobpito, James Patrick Nelson, Brigid Maloney, Gabriela, Presley Thomas, Evan McCoy, Loren Olson, Ken Wilson, Chandler Myer, NaNa’sworld, Arabelle J., Liam Heitmann-Ryce, Prickly Pam, Dawn McGrath, Jonathan | sex & theology, Tabitha Lowndes, Emma Nwosisi, Melissa Speed, Dr. Thomas J. West, Till Kaeslin, Dave Smurthwaite, Ellie Rebecca, Zoey Milford, Edris Quinn C., Dennett, Michael Constable, Jim Martens, Stephen Foster, Kravitz M. Kristen Nadel, William Kuhn, Denisa Bogdan, MSci, Rafaela Mempin, Tre L. Loadholt, theoaknotes, Rachel Brindell, Elle Fredine, Jess Darnell, Emma Holiday, Gabe Evaristo, Joshua Mackey, Steve Alexander, Stevie Wilkinson, Andy Killoran, Nick Bundarin, ElMehdi El Azhary, Bradley Wester, Stella Luna (they/she?), Chuy G. Gonzalez, MS, Aaron W. Marrs, Zada Kent, Tima Loku, Cam, The Transgender Therapist, Sean Bennett, Ty Bo Yule, Alessia Autumn, Allen R. Marquez, Spencer James, Mary-Ellen Maynard, Gaby Spadaro, Elena Joy Thurston, Mina Krane, Jason Masters, Jeff Harvey, Laurence Best, Don Stouder, J. S. Richards, Fiona Feng, Yvonne Borgquist, Sarah McManus MSc, Annabelle Rose, Laura Silverstein, LCSW, Kyla Sawyer, Ellen Caminiti, rowen maeve, Rafaela Mempin, Punch Drunk Cola, Jeff Poole, Mrs. Capricious, Justine L, Patsy Fergusson, John Westphalen, Curtis Harding, Phoenix Huber, Val Servino, Jadon-Maurice Forbes, Molly Martin, Henry Lee Butler, Grey Alexander Crawford, Les Campbell, Casira Copes, Niki Madore, Shachee Swadia, Chevanne Scordinsky, Reis Asher, Jahleel Wasser, Jaimie Brickey, Doody Richards, Patrick Paul, James Fox Jeffries, Alexander Petrovnia, Elaine D Walsh, ƒ Michael Wells, Jack Herlocker, Lindsay Soberano-Wilson, Don Orr Martin, Jackson Banks, Martin Friend, Coby Bronze, Cate Talley, Damian Delune, Emilly Olivares, Sree Jaya, Sogen Ohata, David Arias, Kayla Vokolek, G. L. Balend, Anthony Eichy Eichberger, Shanker Mahadev, Jenna McRae, Jay Rose Ana, Kevin M. Casin, Linda Caroll, Unzip It, Judy McCord, Eric Beach, Dr Jeff Livingston, Topher Bigelow, Christopher Kelly, Joseph Coco, Jordan Michael Becker, syys, Mike Rosebush, PhD, Eilís O’Keeffe, Meghan McKie, Rand Bishop, Ryan Doskocil, Jacob Green, JULIAN GRACIANO NUNEZ, Marcus Davensky, Rebecca Herz, Alexander Tan, X.S., Ken Scout, Kitty Whitemore, Ellison O., Ed Guzzo, KP_the_writer, Judah Leblang, Arthur Keith,