Pride weekend is just wrapping up here in NYC, and I’ve been really busy. Between helping organize an event that included a march and an anti-awards ceremony dedicated to “honoring” all the biggest jerks in the LGBTQ community (Dan Savage won a lot of awards) and attending various other events, I almost didn’t have time to come up with a queer-related blog post. But it’s 10 pm, and I still have time to sneak one in.
There are so many queer writers that I could never possibly do justice to the topic here. From Catullus to Langston Hughes, queerness is explicit or hinted at in tons of literary lives, and the work they created. The following post will honor just of few of the fabulous, lettered queers that reside on my bookshelves and in my heart.
- Rimbaud and Verlaine — hard to mention queerness without mentioning these two French poets from the 1800s. They had a tumultuous relationship with one another, despite Rimbaud being a teenager and Verlaine being married to a respectable, upper class woman. The scandalous affair resulted in Verlaine shooting Rimbaud, and Rimbaud writing the long, timeless, surreal poem A Season In Hell. If only all queer relationships ended with such great writing!
- Ginsberg and Burroughs — okay, maybe not fair to mention these two as one, since their writing is so different. But they were fellow members of “The Beat Generation,” and there is an old joke that goes, “Why were there no women in the Beat Generation? Because you had to sleep with Burroughs to get in.” Queerness plays a central theme in the writing of both of these guys, from Burrough’s novel “Queer” to Ginsberg’s “America” which ends with him “putting [his] queer shoulder to the wheel.”
- Jean Genet — Equal parts badass and queer (he spent much of his young life incarcerated and actually wrote his way out of a life sentence in prison), Jean Genet could be counted upon to spit out a damn near pornographic climax to a play, or insist on fucking with gender roles infinitely in the productions of his plays, to the discomfort of his audience. A gay man with gender analysis. What’s not to like?
- Gertrude Stein — Okay, I fucking hate Gertrude Stein’s writing. Hate it like I hate James Joyce’s. She actually attempts to destroy the noun in one of her books. Here, let me give you an example: A cushion has that cover. Supposing you do not like to change, supposing it is very clean that there is no change in appearance, supposing that there is regularity and a costume is that any the worse than an oyster and an exchange. Come to season that is there any extreme use in feather and cotton. Is there not much more joy in a table and more chairs and very likely roundness and a place to put them. I hate Gertrude Stein. But she’s a big ol’ queermo, and what she did with words is pretty revolutionary, even if I don’t like it.
- Walt Whitman — seriously, this guy makes it onto just about every list I write. Whitman loved people, no matter what gender, so enormously and ferociously. To quote one of his poems: My lovers suffocate me/ Crowding my lips, thick in the pores of my skin,/ Jostling me though streets and public halls, coming naked to me at night. Men, women, whatever. Walt loved them all.
And Edward Albee, and Sappho, and Amistead Maupin, and Truman Capote and Lorca….so many queers, such a short pride weekend.