Trans Pride Tomorrow and Other News

The first-ever New England Transgender Pride March and Rally will be held tomorrow at 11 AM in our very own Northampton, Mass. From the TransPrideMarch website:

The event is organized by members of the trans and gender variant community, and their allies, with the intent of taking a visible and positive stand for transgender rights. The March and Rally is dedicated to diverse representation among organizers and participants. We seek to educate and build awareness of the movement against gender-based discrimination.

Come join MassEquality in gathering petition signatures urging our state legislators to support HB 1722, an amendment to the Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws that would add protections for gender identity and expression.

In other news:

*Kittredge Cherry’s groundbreaking book Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More was one of five Lambda Literary Awards nominees in the LGBT Arts and Culture category. See a video of her reading from the book and telling some of the artists’ stories here.

*Soulforce has made their popular pamphlet “What the Bible Says – And Doesn’t Say – About Homosexuality” available online for free. Some key insights from Rev. Mel White:

Even heroes of the Christian faith have changed their minds about the meaning of various biblical texts.

It took a blinding light and a voice from heaven to help the apostle Paul change his mind about certain Hebrew texts. A sheet lowered from the sky filled with all kinds of animals helped the apostle Peter gain new insights into Jewish law.

Jerry Falwell believed the Bible supported segregation in the church until a black shoeshine man asked him, “When will someone like me be allowed to become a member of your congregation?” Through those simple words, the Holy Spirit spoke new truth about the ancient biblical texts to the Rev. Falwell, and in obedience he ended segregation at Thomas Road Baptist Church.

Even when we believe the Scriptures are “infallible” or “without error,” it’s terribly dangerous to think that our understanding of every biblical text is also without error. We are human. We are fallible. And we can misunderstand and misinterpret these ancient words — with tragic results.


[The story of Sodom]…is not primarily about sex. It is primarily about God. Some people say the city of Sodom was destroyed because it was overrun by sexually obsessed homosexuals. In fact, the city of Sodom had been doomed to destruction long before. So what is this passage really about?

Jesus and five Old Testament prophets all speak of the sins that led to the destruction of Sodom — and not one of them mentions homosexuality. Even Billy Graham doesn’t mention homosexuality when he preaches on Sodom.

Listen to what Ezekiel 16:48-49 tell us: “This is the sin of Sodom; she and her suburbs had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not help or encourage the poor and needy. They were arrogant and this was abominable in God’s eyes.”…

Whatever teaching about sexuality you might get out of this passage, be sure to hear this central, primary truth about God as well. God has called us do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our Creator. Sodom was destroyed because its people didn’t take God seriously about caring for the poor, the hungry, the homeless, or the outcast.

But what does the story of Sodom say about homosexual orientation as we understand it today? Nothing.

It was common for soldiers, thieves, and bullies to rape a fallen enemy, asserting their victory by dehumanizing and demeaning the vanquished. This act of raping an enemy is about power and revenge, not about homosexuality or homosexual orientation. And it is still happening.

In August 1997, Abner Louima, a young black immigrant from Haiti, was assaulted by several police officers after he was arrested in Brooklyn. Officer Charles Schwarz held Louima down in a restroom at the precinct, while Officer Justin Volpe rammed a broken stick into Louima’s rectum. These two men and the three other officers involved in this incident and its cover-up were not gay. This was not a homosexual act. It was about power.

The sexual act that occurs in the story of Sodom is a gang rape — and homosexuals oppose gang rape as much as anyone. That’s why I believe the story of Sodom says a lot about God’s will for each of us, but nothing about homosexuality as we understand it today.


[Discussing 1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10] …To remind the churches in Corinth and Ephesus how God wants us to treat one another, Paul recites examples from the Jewish law first. Don’t kill one another. Don’t sleep with a person who is married to someone else. Don’t lie or cheat or steal. The list goes on to include admonitions against fornication, idolatry, whoremongering, perjury, drunkenness, revelry, and extortion. He also includes “malokois” and “arsenokoitai.”

Here’s where the confusion begins. What’s a malokois? What’s an arsenokoitai? Actually, those two Greek words have confused scholars to this very day. We’ll say more about them later, when we ask what the texts say about sex. But first let’s see what the texts say about God.

After quoting from the Jewish law, Paul reminds the Christians in Corinth that they are under a new law: the law of Jesus, a law of love that requires us to do more than just avoid murder, adultery, lying, cheating, and stealing. Paul tells them what God wants is not strict adherence to a list of laws, but a pure heart, a good conscience, and a faith that isn’t phony.

That’s the lesson we all need to learn from these texts. God doesn’t want us squabbling over who is “in” and who is “out.” God wants us to love one another. It’s God’s task to judge us. It is NOT our task to judge one another.

So what do these two texts say about homosexuality? Are gays and lesbians on that list of sinners in the Jewish law that Paul quotes to make an entirely different point?

Greek scholars say that in first century the Greek word malaokois probably meant “effeminate call boys.” The New Revised Standard Version says “male prostitutes.”

As for arsenokoitai, Greek scholars don’t know exactly what it means — and the fact that we don’t know is a big part of this tragic debate. Some scholars believe Paul was coining a name to refer to the customers of “the effeminate call boys.” We might call them “dirty old men.” Others translate the word as “sodomites,” but never explain what that means.

In 1958, for the first time in history, a person translating that mysterious Greek word into English decided it meant homosexuals, even though there is, in fact, no such word in Greek or Hebrew. But that translator made the decision for all of us that placed the word homosexual in the English-language Bible for the very first time.

In the past, people used Paul’s writings to support slavery, segregation, and apartheid. People still use Paul’s writings to oppress women and limit their role in the home, in church, and in society.

Now we have to ask ourselves, “Is it happening again?” Is a word in Greek that has no clear definition being used to reflect society’s prejudice and condemn God’s gay children?

We all need to look more closely at that mysterious Greek word arsenokoitai in its original context. I find most convincing the argument from history that Paul is condemning the married men who hired hairless young boys (malakois) for sexual pleasure just as they hired smooth-skinned young girls for that purpose.

Responsible homosexuals would join Paul in condemning anyone who uses children for sex, just as we would join anyone else in condemning the threatened gang rape in Sodom or the behavior of the sex-crazed priests and priestesses in Rome. So, once again, I am convinced that this passage says a lot about God, but nothing about homosexuality as we understand it today.

Read the whole piece here. The companion pamphlet “What the Science Says – And Doesn’t Say – About Homosexuality”, by Soulforce Executive Director Jeff Lutes, is also now available online.

My Story “Dinosaurs Divorce” Published on The Writing Site

My story “Dinosaurs Divorce”, an excerpt from one of my novels-in-progress, won an honorable mention in the 2007 Arthur Edelstein Prize for Short Fiction from The Writing Site, an online resource for fiction writers, and is now posted on their website. (For reasons that are not evident in this early chapter, this post is not actually a departure from our “Pride Month” theme…) Here’s the opener:

We were gypsies, we were grifters, we were untenured faculty. After I was born, my mother left her beloved Manhattan and we embarked on the wandering life of an adjunct poetry professor, which as you might expect is about as lucrative as it was in Chaucer’s day, adjusted for inflation. “And where are you from, Prudence?” Mrs. Litwin or Barone or Vasquez would chirp as I stood up before yet another elementary-school class, and I’d proudly recite, “New York and Cleveland and Durham and Lackawanna and…” I must have sounded like a train conductor.

I probably didn’t appreciate how little money Ada had. I thought we were traveling light because it was the cool thing to do. Freebird! Even her weird side jobs, I chalked up to research. Weren’t writers always supposed to be gathering life experience? (That excuse didn’t work too well when Freddy Herkimer and I cut fourth-grade math to sneak into the junior high sex-education class, however.) The most normal job my mother had was being a bank teller. She told me her hero T.S. Eliot had also worked in a bank. I was about seven then, so we must have been in North Carolina, and at first I thought she was talking about Eliot our pet parrot. He must have had an interesting life for a bird, but how could he process the deposit slips without any fingers? Ada thought this was really funny and told all the girls at the bank, which annoyed me, and annoyed her even more when they didn’t know who T.S. Eliot was. The next year we moved to Buffalo and she signed up to sell bootleg T-shirts at Goo Goo Dolls concerts.

When winter put an end to the concert season, Ada somehow managed to get a job in the university chem lab, although she knew nothing about science. The professor was this old Southern guy who was always licking his lips and smoothing his hair back. I think he liked her legs. I grew to associate the smells of acetone and lab gloves with my mother’s goodnight kiss and the stories she told me at bedtime.

Read the whole story here.

Carl Phillips: “The Point of the Lambs”

Carl Phillips is a professor of English and African and African-American Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. His poetry has received numerous honors including the Kingsley Tufts Award, an Academy of American Poets Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship. The poem below is reprinted by permission from his collection Quiver of Arrows: Selected Poems, 1986-2006.

The Point of the Lambs

The good lambs
in the yellow barn–the rest
housed in blue.

“the rest,” meaning those who
–the guide explained–inevitably
arrive suffering. For

some do,
he added.
Serious. This–like

a new lesson. As to
some among us, it was,
it seemed. The usual

stammer of heart the naive
tend to, in the face of what finally
is only the world. What

must it be, to pass
thus–clean, stripped–
through a life? What

reluctance the mind
shows on recognizing
that what it approaches

is, at last, the answer
to the very question it knows
now, but

too late,
oh better to never to have never
put forward. What I

mean is we moved

to the blue barn’s

weakness. We
looked in.
Three days, four days

old. Few expected to
finish the evening it was beginning to
be already. And the small

crowd of us
shifting forward, and–
in our shifting uniformly–it

being possible to see how between
us and any
field rendered by a sudden wind

single gesture–kowtow,
upheaval–there was
little difference. Some

took photographs; most
did a stranger thing: touched
briefly, without

distinction, whichever
person stood immediately in
front of, next to. Less

for support than
as remedy or proof or
maybe–given the lambs who,

besides dying, were as well
filthy (disease,
waste and, negotiating

the dwindling contract
between the two.
the flies everywhere)–

maybe the touching
concerned curbing the hand’s instinct
to follow the eye, to

confirm vision. Who can
say? I was there–yes–but
I myself touched no one.

Janet Aalfs: “Facing the Wall”

Janet Aalfs is a former Poet Laureate of Northampton and the director of Valley Women’s Martial Arts. Her poetry collection Reach was published by Perugia Press in 1999. The poem below is reprinted with permission from her chapbook Full Open (Orogeny Press, 1996).

Facing the Wall

1. Someone found a heart

on market street not human
there’s really no cause
for alarm though a naked heart
warm on the sidewalk on halloween
is upsetting but not as bad as if
it were the organ of a valuable life
we don’t mean
one of the seventeen women found
strewn along desert highways
you can’t question whores their stories
aren’t reliable their lives aren’t stable
the reason we haven’t found a suspect
yet is that we can’t
get a straight answer out of anyone
and no one really knows
a slut she’ll go with whatever man
will take her you can’t trust women
like that to die when they’re supposed to
with their clothes on at a legal address
we think we’ve discovered the eighteenth

2. I want to know why

the fbi is so good at tracking down
bank robbers twenty years later charging them
with attempt to overthrow the government and
if the killer were out to slaughter corporation
presidents they’d nab him before he stepped
into the first lobby but they can’t find
a guy who hits on women one after the next
leaves them stripped to the bone
returns to his car job tv neighbors
like whoever left the heart on market street
now floating pickled in a hospital jar
silent as the eighteenth woman tagged
in a numbered refrigerator drawer no name address
important as she ever was
I want to know how that heart
arrived at market street who cut it out
of what body I want the names of every
thrown-away life engraved on a shiny
black wall then no one will be able to stand
anywhere in the world and not face it

Melanie Braverman: “Tell” and “Fantasia”

Since 1997, independent poetry publisher Perugia Press has been supporting women at the beginning of their publishing career. Based here in Northampton, this proudly lesbian-owned press publishes one book a year through their poetry manuscript contest for a first or second book by a woman. Their books are handsomely designed and well-promoted. Below, reprinted with permission, are two poems from Melanie Braverman’s collection Red, which won their 2002 contest. Read more of her work here. Later this week, I’ll be reprinting a poem by another Perugia author, Janet Aalfs, from her chapbook Full Open (Orogeny Press, 1996).


Let’s talk
about sex, let’s talk about what
you like to do, or have
done to you, or do to
yourself while someone else
is watching, say
you like it in cars, while you’re
driving, maybe, his hands or her
mouth between your legs, or in
a basement, quiet except
for the sound of your
breathing, which is
faster, you
help it, you like
the way the air fits your skin like another
skin, the air and her breath or just
her breath, you can’t tell
anymore but you like
it, you do, you’re a little
scared even though you’ve done
this with him before, you’ve known
him for years, or maybe you
just met, at a bar, in the library, on
the street in the fog, walking
the pier at two A.M., admiring the boats, the birds
mostly, the aqua the red
beam from the light
house pulsing so you feel
your blood the way
it wants you to feel
it, you see
that man walking just
ahead of you, the woman
whose arms are swinging at, you
swear, the same
cadence as your own, my god, she
has an amazing ass, it’s round or
small, whatever
kind of ass you like that’s
it, moving in front
of you like a beacon, like
an offering, forget
every bad thing that ever
happened to you, forget
danger, have faith
in your own safety now, speed
up and tell
that man hello, he wants
you to, maybe
you like it at home, in your own
bed or at his house, the way someone
else’s sheets feel like little
revelations across your back when she lifts
your shirt off and you
finally lie
down, after all
that kissing, your faces
rife with it, his
and his rough
cheek or her
cheek smooth as sin there, her foreign
breath, or maybe she’s so
familiar her breath
has come
to smell
like your own, you’ve fallen into bed exhausted
with the one you love and still something
in you stirs, your body rises
now, as if sex with this
person has become
part of your dream
life, talk
about that, the mysterious, the absolute
way you fall in-
to or out
of yourself, toward
another, toward that orange
place where anything
can happen or will and know
like it.



One week before Halloween the heterosexual
men dressed as women haunt our streets, handbags
slung across their thick wrists like those
IV poles the chronically infirm are forced
to walk around with looking
eager, hopeful, necks rigid
as spars to keep their impeccably
coiffed wigs from falling like sails askew in the harbor’s
wind, tastefully
accessorized because for a week at least they don’t
want to be bankers and miscellaneous middle-
management professionals, they want
a life in which the only meal they have to show up
for is lunch, and after that shopping, or a game
of bridge or, better yet, hearts, they want
to sit for a week in the front
windows of our cafes eating triangular-
cut sandwiches, tipping and expecting
attentive service from the gay
men and lesbians who serve them. This year the heterosexual
men dressed as women appear
to have faith that we will not think less
of them as women if they, by day, forego their stringent four-
inch heels, we are seeing an upsurge
of Keds in feminine colors: fuchsia, tomato, baby
blue, spring
green, with pointy
elongated toes. Perhaps they have been following
some cultural timeline so that now
in their imitation they have entered the moment of women’s
liberation, not
the sixties, these men would never burn
their bras, they believe
in foundation garments the way they must, in their real
lives, believe
in the appropriateness of smaller
government; no, for them it is the early
seventies, when even upper-middle-class
ladies took off their aprons and began the daily
scandal of wearing
pants, not pantsuits or slacks but the heartier fabrics once
intended only for husbands–denim, corduroy, serge, pants
that did not zip up the side, or like straight-
jackets close up the small
of the back, an era in which these men themselves might have left
their wives who are walking toward us now in Beech
Forest, their husbands slightly behind them with gingham
kerchiefs covering their voluminous artificial hair, picking
their way gingerly down the leaf-strewn path
toward my girlfriend and me, who have been speaking
in low voices about our love, how once we found
each other it seemed wrong-headed to turn away,
even when it meant hurting others, and how
unwomanly that was, and what it could mean
to never be forgiven.