BREAKING FREE – Gay Life Before the Plague

Recently I’ve come to see my aged self as a writer of history, as a witness to and reporter on ancient gay history before the Plague. I just wish folks would take time to read what I’m writing.

Gay life in the 50s, 60s, and 70s of last century has only been nominally covered in coming out novels, erotic tales, and a few historical studies, mostly about the pivotal Stonewall Riot in 1969. Now I’ve fortunately found a 2018 book “TINDERBOX—The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation” by Robert W. Fieseler, another pivotal event that played a role in my life in the early 70s.

My own eye-witness reports on gay life in those decades before the Plague appear in my series of autobiographical novels and memoirs. I started writing 35 years ago about an unconsciously gay adolescent in 1957, and right now I’m into the unusual life of a mature gay man in 1976. The 25 years in these volumes span a sea change in gay life, and I was right smack in the middle of it.

My writing (fiction, memoirs, non-fiction, poetry, and plays), is all (with one exception) posted for free download on this website, and I watch the history of downloads closely to see how often they might get read. Every hit is a cause for jubilation and gratification.

I truly rejoice when somebody deigns to look at my short story, “Traveling Men,” or my play, “The Special Case,” and I cheer brave readers along from one memoir chapter to the next. Some download the whole text, but others just take a chapter at a time, some naturally getting more readers by simple virtue of their titles, like “Getting Naked” or “Hotter Than the Dickens.”

My book most frequently downloaded is “MS. YVONNE, The Secret Life of My Mother”—maybe because she was a survivor of Hurricane Katrina.  (It includes my own childhood, so is marginally relevant to gay history of the 40s and early 50s.)

The erotic chapters mentioned above are in my first novel, “BAT IN A WHIRLWIND,” about that unconsciously gay adolescent in the late 50s. This book, which downloads maybe twenty times a year with chapters a few times a month, is a look into the Stone Age of gay history.

My own coming out story, “DIVINE DEBAUCH—Chronicles of a Dissolute Youth in the French Quarter,” is about a newly fledged faerie named Tommy carousing in sailor bars in the early 60s. This is the exception mentioned before. At the moment it’s only available from an online publisher. Its webpage gets hits on the link, but there’s been no indication of any sales for some years… Really too bad—it’s a fascinating look into the Mesolithic Age of gay history.

My first memoir, “THERE WAS A SHIP,” about that wild faerie getting coerced back into the closet as husband and father, is downloaded a few times a month, both as a whole and as chapters. Right now some brave soul is moving through it, having just finished “Double or Nothing” and picking up “Honeymoon.” A going-back-in story, it portrays the heavy hand of homophobic society on out gays in the Neolithic mid-60s.

My recently posted memoir, “LORD WIND,” has been looked at so far only as occasional chapters, not necessarily in logical order. The past couple weeks I’ve been amazed by the huge number of downloads of its “Prelude” (a summary of my closeted marriage in the later 60s), sometimes as many as six times a day! I hope this surge will lead to another for its first chapter “The Jaguar.” The tale of my second coming out in the gay Bronze and Iron Ages of early 70’s, be warned that “LORD WIND” contains many graphic sex scenes.

And now we come to my memoir-in-process, “GAY GEISHA,” about the gay Golden Age of the 70s in liberated (and glamorous) Washington DC. Its chapters are now being posted as completed, and to date we’re up to Chapter 12 “Shameless.” (The sex scenes here are mostly handled metaphorically but nonetheless quite graphically.) Washington DC was, of course, at the forefront of history in the exuberant 70s, and I just happened to be right in the gay middle of it.

I’m tentatively considering another volume of memoir set in the early 80s—to wind up my histories with those few Renaissance years before the coming of the Plague, a new chapter that brought much to culmination in my long gay life. A great deal has already been written about the Plague itself, and I fear any reportage on it by me would just be redundant.

As a writer of gay history, I feel like Herodotus who probably wrote his histories without concern for publishing royalties. His upper class family (like me in my privileged retirement), very likely didn’t have to worry about earning a living. Like him, I don’t want to deal with copyrights or selfish issues of intellectual property.

I just want folks to download my public domain work and read it—because I think I’ve got something rather important and special to say about ancient gay history. Anyone who can make a buck by disseminating my work is welcome to give it a shot. Naturally, I’d love to know about any such efforts, and respectful attribution would be nice….  

People, especially our younger folks, need to learn about how their ancestors’ generations broke free from the oppression of straight society. Maybe my scandalous tales can help today’s fortunate youth truly appreciate their precious freedom and liberty to be themselves.  

After all, there’s really no excuse not to read my histories—they’re free!

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