Transitioning

Need some beach reads this weekend to take you from summer to fall? Try a trans memoir and E. Lynn Harris’ parting potboiler

Nina-Here-Nor-There-author-CREDIT-Melinda-Bagatelos
BETWEEN TWO WORLDS | Krieger’s memoir tracks his passage from Nina to Nick.

Maybe you’ve always hated your nose, or your ears make you look like you’re part elephant. Or your lips are too pouty, your thighs too big, your arms too fat and you hate your butt.

You can change all of that, and then some.

But would you have the courage to alter the very things that define you to the rest of society?  In Nina Here nor There, you’ll see why one young man did.

When writer-blogger Nina Krieger landed in San Francisco’s Castro district, she felt welcomed. Her lesbian friends, the “A-gays,” folded her into their circle with parties. Old pals were glad to see Krieger, and she was glad to find an apartment with roommates she could tolerate. She even found a job that allowed her to continue writing.

But Krieger wasn’t happy. For years, she’d struggled with gender identity: She was not a lesbian, not exactly a woman … but she was, at least biologically. Being in the Castro gave her hope, though, and unwittingly, she had surrounded herself with people who could give her guidance: Greg, with his newly-flat chest and eagerness for life, was willing to share his experiences with surgery and testosterone shots; Jess, one of Krieger’s roommates, was transitioning and taught Krieger about “packing” and binding; Zippy, a long-time close friend, gave optimistic support.

“Before moving to the Castro, I’d thought becoming a man was as realistic as growing wings,” Krieger writes.

But living with her community gave Krieger the courage to try. Deciding that breasts were the worst part of who she was, Krieger bought minimizers and purchased the other body parts that she lacked. Little by little, she allowed her family careful peeks into the person she knew herself to be. She convinced herself that she belonged, yet she was uneasy. What exists between girl and boy? “I didn’t fully relate to either anymore,” Krieger writes.

Despite a fear of needles, unfazed by a list of realities, and heartbroken by a paternal lack of understanding, Krieger knew she had to find out.

Nina Here nor There is a bit of a conundrum. On one side, Krieger takes his readers by the hand, allowing us to see what he sees. As he explores the gender spectrum, we do, too. At the same time he’s seeing the blurred lines of woman and not-woman, we see it as well. The journey is a good one.

But by the time I got to the latter third of the book, I was good and ready for Nina to make up her mind. By then — just before the culmination of the story — Nina Here nor There becomes a struggle, both in content and story. And it’s with great relief that you’ll find what happens.

You have 24 hours in a day. Over 1,400 minutes, around 86,000 seconds, and you still can’t do everything you need to get done. Some days, you just want to clone yourself. With two of you, maybe you’d get finished. Double you, and you might actually get ahead.

Cobi Aiden Winslow just found his doppelganger in the last place he’d ever think to look. And in No One in the World, it might be the last thing he ever does.

Cobi always had whatever he wanted … except for one thing. From the moment he was adopted, he had maid service in a mansion in the best Chicago neighborhood. He had nice clothes, a law-school education, cars and antiques, but he didn’t have his father’s acceptance. Cobi was gay, and his father hated it.

But acceptance was never going to come. Cobi’s parents were killed in a plane crash, but not before telling him that he had a twin brother… somewhere. Absent a father’s love, a newfound brother was all Cobi could think about.

Sissy Winslow learned about the family business at her father’s elbow. She thought it would be hers someday, so when her parents’ will was read and her brother got half the shares, she was stunned. Cobi didn’t know a thing about Winslow Products. He was a lawyer, not a CEO. Worse yet, the will stipulated that Cobi had to be married to a woman by his 34th birthday or his share of the stocks would be sold. A takeover is imminent: Cobi turns 34 in less than a month and there is no woman on the horizon.

Quickly thinking, Sissy devises a plan to save the business. As she searches for a stylish, smart, society-worthy woman who can be bought, Cobi searches for his twin brother. But as he is finally reconnecting with a part of him he never knew about, he is also inviting trouble. Though he’s been successful in hiding it thus far, there was suddenly too many people who know he is gay. And that knowledge is going to cost him.

E. Lynn Harris has been gone two years now, and in his preface, co-author RM Johnson says that he and Harris collaborated on this novel before Harris’ death.  So is this book reminiscent of Harris’ other books, or…?

No-One-in-the-WorldNo One in the World is spicier than Harris fans might be used to. There’s an underlying feeling of threat that’s irresistible and though you might think you know what’s going to happen, you’d be wrong. There were times when I thought the story briefly got a little silly, but I did like how it unfolded overall and how there were surprises in the creases.

If you’re looking for something quick to take to the beach for a three-day weekend, you can’t go wrong with this. No One in the World will grab you in a second, and you’ll want to read it all day.

— Terri Schlichenmeyer

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 9, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Beach reads

Looking for good summer books with a gay twist? We’ve got you covered

Miguel’s Secret Journal by A.V. Zeppa
In this debut novel by recently out author A.V. Zeppa, a teacher of English and music at Hostos-Lincoln Academy in New York, the title character Miguel is a 15-year-old gay Latino living in a poor and violent section of the South Bronx. A gifted artist who is emotionally, physically and sexually abused, Miguel meets and falls in love with Gabriel, another gay student at school. As the boys’ relationship deepens, Gabriel lets Miguel in on a not-so-little secret that will change his life — and perhaps the course of humanity — forever. Miguel’s Secret Journal is the first in a planned series.

Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender by Nick Krieger
Author Nick Krieger’s eye-opening transgender memoir isn’t just about making the transition from woman to man, but about dismissing a binary way of life and blurring the lines between gender and identity. This story of self-discovery starts when lesbian travel writer Nina moves to San Francisco’s Castro District and meets a group of queer friends who modify their bodies and debunk traditional ideas of gender. Soon Nina begins masculinizing her own appearance — first by refusing to shave her legs and eventually opting for surgery to reduce and reform her chest. During this empowering journey, Nina transforms into Nick, a self-aware entity who’s content existing somewhere in the middle.

Rounding Third by Walter G. Meyer
In the eyes of his father, 17-year-old Rob Wardell is a failure. He doesn’t fit in at home, at school or on the baseball field where he warms the bench in a vain effort to appease his dad. But Rob’s outlook changes when he befriends the team’s new star pitcher, Josh Schlagel, and engages in an off-field relationship that leads to an outcome neither boy anticipates. Popular jock Josh has a secret ­(and the bruises to prove it)  and when all is revealed, Rob must step up to the plate to save his friend from a harrowing truth that he’s kept hidden for so long.

Games Frat Boys Play by Todd Gregory
In this sizzling follow-up to Every Frat Boy Wants It, Todd Gregory returns to California State University-Polk where boarding-school brat Jordy Valentine is starting his first semester. Immediately intrigued by Beta Kappa fraternity and enamored by its rush chair, Chad York, Valentine pursues the handsome Greek god only to be rejected. Scorned, the freshman devises a plan to physically transform himself in order to catch the eye of York and in the process is thrust into a world of illicit locker-room trysts and late-night encounters with other brothers.

The Road Home by Michael Thomas Ford
After a car accident incapacitates 40-year-old photographer Burke Crenshaw, he returns to his widowed father’s house to recuperate and receive temporary full-time care. As his dad embarks on a new relationship, the ailing Burke begins a quest of his own – to uncover a 125-year-old mystery hidden in a series of letters from a Civil War soldier to his fiancé. With the help of local librarian Sam Guffrey, Burke unexpectedly unlocks a past that forces him to confront his own — the choices he made, coming to terms with his mother’s death, repairing the relationship with his estranged father and ultimately how to live as a successful and confident gay man.

Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight by Loren A. Olson
Between 3 and 8 percent of the U.S. male population is gay, and prominent Midwestern psychiatrist Loren A. Olsen is among them. But the first 40 years of his life was built on a lie: After two decades of marriage to a loving and devoted wife, Olsen, a father and grandfather, accepted that he was romantically and sexually attracted to men. The result of his experience is this powerful tell-all that explores human sexuality — particularly that of mature men — and how to cope with coming out later in life.

Queer: The Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke
A sort of handbook for LGBT teens everywhere, authors Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke offer this comprehensive guide that includes sections on how to come out (and handle the repercussions), ways to deal with bigotry and homophobia, how to find likeminded friends, dating, sex and more. Often interjected with humor and personal anecdotes, this must-read also includes fascinating sidebars on queer history and a wealth of health, community, safety, political and reading resources that send a message more along the lines of “the best is yet to come” rather than just “it gets better.”

Mogul by Terrance Dean
Hot on the heels of the latest same-sex hip-hop scandal (NYC DJ Mister Cee was recently arrested for public lewdness: Receiving oral sex in a car from another man), Terrance Dean’s compelling page-turner follows Big A.T., who climbs the rungs of the music industry ladder with the help of powerful Larry “Pop” Singleton. Identifying A.T.’s potential to become a powerhouse producer, Pop introduces the rising star to Tickman, a Brooklyn lyricist with whom he begins a secret affair. But when scandalous photos of A.T. surface on the desk of a national news program — and land in the hands of his girlfriend, Jasmine — A.T. must decide whether to come clean or keep quiet for the sake of his career.

Hidden by Tomas Mournian
After enduring 11 months of abuse at Serenity Ridge, a gay-to-straight boot camp for “troubled” teens, Ahmed escapes to San Francisco where he finds an underground safehouse inhabited by seven other runaways. Now known as Ben, Ahmed find solace in his new life with these misfit strangers, who struggle to survive omnipresent angst, infighting and desires that threaten their secret society, while also struggling to remain below the radar of would-be captors until they’re legal adults. Publishers Weekly proclaimed that Tomas Mournian’s fiction debut will have readers “almost suffocating on the palpable sense of fear and claustrophobia that permeates this heartbreaking story.”

— Mikey Rox

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Q Cinema announces festival winners

Gun Hill Road, a drama about a Latino man coping with his child coming out as trans (above), won the best overall features award from Q Cinema. The Dallas Voice Audience Choice Award went to eCupid, a comedy about an online dating service run amok (below). The closing ceremony was held Sunday night at the Rose Marine Theater.

Other winners at Fort Worth’s 13th annual festival of gay and lesbian films include a dramedy about a gay guy navigating the cutthroat world of Hollywood, Going Down in LA-LA Land (best gay film), Trigger (best lesbian film), about the brief reunion of former girl bandmates, the Castro District AIDS film We Were Here (best documentary) and Judas Kiss, a drama about a man given a second chance to shape his life, which took the Shawn A. Moore Prizes for Best Feature Debut.

Short film winners include Bedfellows (dramatic short/men), Waiting for Goliath (comedy short/men), Slip Away (dramatic short/women) and Tools 4 Fools (comedic short.women).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

A Brief History of the Sisterhood

RETURN TO COVER STORY

• 1979: On Easter weekend three men in nun habits walk through San Francisco’s Castro District to protest problems in the gay community. Other manifestations take place later that year at a softball game, a nude beach and the annual Castro Street Fair. During the Labor Day weekend, the men attend the first International Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries in Arizona.

• 1980: The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence is officially formed and a Sister named Hysterectoria designs the first official habits, which are modeled after those worn by 14th century Belgian nuns. Engagement in more general social activism — such as the Three Mile Island protests — begins. The Sisters also begin campaigns to stop fundamentalist Christians from preaching anti-gay rhetoric in the Castro. In October, they hold their first benefit and net $1,500 to help gay Cuban refugees.

• 1981: The first international order of SPI is established in Sydney, Australia. In San Francisco, the Sisters organize the first-ever AIDS fundraiser, the Castro Dog Show.

• 1982: As a response to the AIDS crisis, Sisters Florence Nightmare and Roz Erection (who also happen to be nurses), help put together Play Fair!, a safer sex advice pamphlet that uses sex-positive language, and which the SPI distribute in the Castro community (that pamphlet is revised in 1999 as part of the SPI 20-year anniversary celebration).

• 1983: The Sisters hold the first AIDS candlelight vigil.

• 1984: After holding an exorcism of Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, the SPI are “disinvited” to the Republican National Convention in Dallas. They come to Texas anyway and perform a second exorcism of Falwell — and one for conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly — in Dealey Plaza.

• 1987: During a papal visit to San Francisco, the Sisters hold a mock exorcism of Pope John Paul II. For their efforts, they are placed on the Vatican’s Papal List of Heretics.

• 1994: The Sisters attend the Stonewall 25th anniversary celebration in NYC and lead the Drag March from Alphabet City to the Stonewall Inn.

• 1996: With more than 20 convents worldwide, the SPI are now a global force. They honor the loss of more than 30 sisters to AIDS (called Nuns of the Above) by creating four 24-foot-by-24-foot panels for Names Project Quilt, which they bring to Washington, D.C.

• 1999: The SPI celebrate their 20th anniversary with an International Conclave of Nuns and an exhibit entitled “A Consistory Conspiracy: Changing the Face of Activism.”

• 2000: During San Francisco Pride, the Sisters show support for the Californians for Same-Sex Marriage movement. They also hold another mock exorcism, this time of conservative talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

• 2001: In the wake of the 9-11 terror attacks, the Sisters hold a candlelight vigil to remember the gays and lesbians lost in the attacks.

• 2003: In a banner year for SPI fundraising, sisterly efforts bring in more than $100,000, with 80 percent returning to the community.

• 2008: The SPI are featured in Queer and Catholic, a book of collected essays, short stories and poems about LGBT life and Catholicism.

• 2009: The Sisters mark their 30th anniversary with “Nun World Order” celebrations in San Francisco’s Dolores Park.

—  John Wright

Lightning strikes again

Tim Seelig felt blessed to lead the chorale for 20 years. But he begins a new stage of his life and career outside Texas with his post at the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | jones@dallasvoice.com

Seelig-HS_WhiteTie_Vert
PICKING UP THE BATON  | After 24 years in Dallas, Tim Seelig leaves his Texas home to take over as artistic director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. But as excited as he is about the move, he’ll really miss eating good Tex-Mex. (Photo courtesy Shawn Northcutt)

Timothy Seelig is all about reinvention.

He’s done it almost too many times to count. The first, of course, was when, as a married adult with children active in the church, he came out of the closet and moved to Dallas to lead the Turtle Creek Chorale. For 20 years, he helped build it into one of the preeminent men’s choruses in the world. While there he became something of a musical entrepreneur, releasing albums, commissioning new works and teaching voice at SMU.

After he stepped down from the TCC four years ago, he continued to be active in Dallas life, as director of Art for Peace & Justice at the Cathedral of Hope and serving as the founding artistic director for a new mixed vocal ensemble, Resounding Harmony.

But the change this month is big even for him. He’s moving to California to assume the baton as artistic director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

“Wow,” he said just hours after inking the agreement. “I mean, the history of that chorus! Gosh.”

A month later, he’s fully packed and sharing a much smaller space in Dubose Triangle near the Castro District where his partner, Shawn Northcutt, has lived for 18 months while working a long-term contract with Apple. On Jan. 10 — his 60th birthday — he’ll lead his first rehearsal.

“It hasn’t soaked in at all,” he says. “We did not sell our loft [in Dallas] so I’ll come back a lot.”

It’s a major feather in a cap already plumed more than a peacock.

“I loved, loved my time in Dallas,” Seelig gushes. “At the end of my 20 years at the chorale, I felt if I never did anything more significant, I would have lived a life more gratifying that most. It was a life that was full. If I’d had the money, I could have rocked on a rocking chair. But to start back over is icing on the cake and an opportunity not many people get.”

“I could speak about Tim’s legacy, his accomplishments, his infectious personality or his energy,” says Jonathan Palant, who took over from Seelig as artistic director of the chorale.  “It was under Tim’s baton that our mission changed to include the four pillars against which the Turtle Creek Chorale measures everything today: to entertain, educate, unite and uplift. We wish him all the best!”
Seelig steps into a chorus with a storied history.

“In the GALA Choruses network, they are the grandfather,” he says. “In June of 1981, they were two years old and decided to take a national tour to spread the gospel of gays singing. It was a legendary tour — they went to Dallas, Minneapolis, Bismarck and planted the seeds of all these choruses. Many looked to SFGMC for their motivation 30 years ago.” The tour was even detailed in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.

With such a legacy, “anytime [the artistic director position] has come open, everybody considers it,” Seelig says. So last August, when the SFGMC announced that Kathleen McGuire (who led the group for 10 years) would be stepping down, Seelig jumped.

It was a bit of déjà vu for Seelig, who had considered the post a decade earlier, “but it was the year we were commissioning Sing for the Cure, and I couldn’t step away. But this time was different. I had to think long and hard, but it was a door I could not not walk through.” He was selected as one of the three finalists and got the job last month, just days before Resounding Harmony’s final concert of the season.

Still, leaving Dallas —  Seelig has lived only in Texas and comparatively brief stints in Europe and Oklahoma — was not an easy decision for him.

“I love my life in Dallas and Shawn has had a fabulous career. Life is happy and Resounding Harmony is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life.” His son and parents, who are elderly, are also local. But he knew it was the right move. His daughter lives in San Francisco; she had Seelig’s first grandchild prematurely, just days after Thanksgiving.

“The biggest factor of all was the birth of my granddaughter, Clara,” he says. “They’ve already picked out names for me and Shawn: Honey and Bubbles. I’m Bubbles. The fact I had conducted that chorus for four months a year-and-a-half ago gave me a real taste for the city, too, though living there will be different.

But I could see myself there.”

Still, there’s a lot he will miss.

“Leaving Resounding Harmony is really, really hard — they are doing just wonderfully. The board members are staying, I think they’ll do a wonderful job,” he says. “It was hard to leave SMU and my students and leave the cathedral as well. I was really enjoying working with Jo — I am a big Jo Hudson fan. But I’m not the kind who looks back. There’s no time for that. SFGMC is like jumping on a moving bullet train. Getting up to speed is incredible.

“And I can tell that fairly first hand, I will miss chicken fried steak and good Tex-Mex. And I’m gonna miss a lot of the musicmaking from the wonderful music community that Dallas has provided. It ‘s wonderful place to be gay and be a musician. Also, Dallas is wide open — if you can dream it up and raise the money, you can do it. I’m gonna miss that.”

There are also things that make him apprehensive about going to a new city — like, his bigger-than-life personality and cheeky turn-of-phrase.

“So far, they find my Texana adorable — they think it’s real cute, like saying y’all. I just hope that’s not gonna wear off,” he says.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas