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

More entries for your Foote fetish

We review two of the entries in the Foote Festival in the Voice this week — Uptown Players’ The Young Man from Atlanta and WaterTower Theatre’s The Traveling Lady, as well as a review several weeks back of Dallas Theater Center’s Dividing the Estate — but the fest continues with a number of productions coming soon. Some today!

WingSpan Theatre Co. and One Thirty Productions are doing four performances of their staged reading of The Carpetbagger’s Children today and Saturday, with two shows each: 1:30 p.m. matinees and 8 p.m. evening perfofoamnces. Performances take place at the Bath House Cultural Center.

Contemporary Theatre of Dallas opens The Trip to Bountiful, directed by Rene Moreno, tonight at the Greenville Center for the Arts off Lower Greenville Avenue.

Theatre 3 is in previews of its production of The Roads Home, a collection of one-acts. Official opening night is Monday.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Trying to understand the inconceivable

A friend’s suicide leaves a reporter with questions that can’t be answered and a pain that won’t diminish

If there is any criminal act that leaves the victim’s survivors more bewildered, frustrated and tormented than suicide, I can’t imagine what it could possibly be.

David-Webb
David Webb The Rare Reporter

Four months ago, I discovered one of my former college classmates and best friends of more than 40 years dead in his home, apparently by his own hand. The official ruling was suicide by a shot to the head with a handgun that I didn’t even know he owned.

I now understand that he bought the gun for protection several decades ago. The idea that my friend would even own a gun for protection seemed ludicrous to me because I couldn’t imagine anyone who was so loving, peaceful and gentle being capable of shooting anyone, let alone himself.

I’ve been told that some people buy guns for protection because they believe that the exhibition of one will scare an intruder away. That must have been what he was thinking.

I’ve finally decided to write about this because The Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow recently wrote a column noting that older white men are more likely to commit suicide than other groups of people. My friend fit in that category.

It is inconceivable to me that my friend — who as a young man had been beautiful, talented, athletic, affluent and charismatic — could ever succumb to such a fate. But if it could happen to him, I guess it could happen to anyone when they grow older.

My friend was a 61-year-old straight guy who had never been married, and his best friend was his elderly Jack Russell Terrier who was dying of old age. He became so depressed one time that he went to bed and was found later, nearly dead of starvation and dehydration.

As a young man, my friend was adored by both women and men. But when he grew older, the attention from everyone died away. He had trouble making dates and trying to form a relationship in his older years.

He also was experiencing devastating financial problems of which few people were aware.

My friend had suffered a similar depressive experience five years ago when his mother died of natural causes. But he seemingly had recovered enough to function for a few years before his death. But he apparently quit taking the medication that had brought him back to sanity in years past. He suffered a terrible relapse as a result.

My friend was admitted to a hospital’s intensive care unit and later transferred to a mental hospital. Although his family and many friends rallied around him with loving care, he just never made it back to where he had been. His beloved dog was put to sleep while he was hospitalized.

He was released from the hospital, but it was clear he was not well. He was registered for outpatient care but apparently could not face it.

Within two days, he was dead.

Many things come to my mind about this on a near-daily basis now. It is so unbelievable to me that he could shoot himself or anyone else that I sometimes have trouble believing it was really a suicide.

I think that’s what they call denial.

Logically, I know it was suicide, and I’m glad that he is free of the severe mental illness that he had apparently endured for a number of years.

Emotionally, I search for answers and often think, “What if?” I would never have left him alone for those two days had I known he was in such danger from himself.

The two lessons I believe that can be learned from this are that if someone has suffered a mental illness, they should never be left alone until it is ascertained they are again stable.

The other message is for the mentally ill who are considering suicide if they are able at that point of making logical decisions: The pain and suffering that will be wrought upon the surviving friends and family will result in a lifetime of utter agony for them.

A friend of mine whose mother went into her garage many years ago, started her car and died, said to me, “Your mind is going to be raw for a very long time.” And it is.

David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative press for more than two decades. He is a former Dallas Voice staff writer and editor. E-mail him at davidwaynewebb@yahoo.com.

—  Kevin Thomas

Point Foundation honors Tyler Clementi with scholarship named after him

The Point Foundation, an organization that provides scholarships for LGBT students, this week announced the creation of a new scholarship named after Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old gay Rutgers University student who committed suicide last fall after his roommate and another student secretly videotaped him having sex with another man and posted the video online.

Tyler Clementi

Clementi’s death, on Sept. 22, was one of a string of gay teen suicides that sparked a national conversation over anti-LGBT bullying and prompted a number of highly-visible campaigns against bullying.

According to a press release from The Point Foundation, the foundation created the scholarship “with the cooperation of Clementi’s parents, Joe and Jane, to honor his memory and to further the efforts to end the bullying that many LGBT youth face within education environments.” A statement attributed to Joe and Jane Clementi said: “Our son Tyler was a kind and gentle young man who enjoyed helping people. This scholarship will help college students and it will raise awareness of young people who are subject to abuse through malicious bullying — and so it will help people in Tyler’s memory.”

The Point Foundation has already set aside funds for the Tyler Clementi Scholarship, and will accept donations in his name from the public and current Point Foundation supporters. Donations can be made online at PointFoundation.org or by phone at 866-33-POINT.

—  admin

Jurors felt youth prison official was guilty but were swayed by ex-cop, lack of physical evidence

John Paul Hernandez

The Associated Press has an interesting follow-up about the trial of John Paul Hernandez, who was acquitted of charges that he sexually molested five inmates at the West Texas youth prison where he served as principal.

Basically, according to the AP, many jurors felt Hernandez was guilty, but they were persuaded by an ex-cop who raised questions about whether prosecutors had proven their case beyond a reasonable doubt, given that there was no physical evidence:

Nancy Gray told The Associated Press that the officer “did a lot of talking” about reasonable doubt to the eight who believed John Paul Hernandez was guilty when deliberations started.

“A lot of people changed their minds because he kept saying, pressing the point, that he had to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Gray, who was the last to agree to the not guilty verdicts. “I was the holdout, all the way through. It was hard. That’s why it was very emotional for me.” …

Gray said jurors “absolutely” would have thought differently had there been physical evidence. Prosecutors presented no DNA, no fingerprints and no hair samples to back up the former inmates’ stories, though the jury believed each man had testified truthfully about having been abused by Hernandez.

Gray said deliberations grew testy at times and she unloaded her sentiments on the other jurors.

She said she told them: “‘You know this bastard is guilty’ and I was bawling. These boys are going to live with this the rest of their lives. Maybe they’ve done some bad things, but they didn’t deserve what happened to them.”

The Odessa American reports that nine of the 12 jurors initially wanted to convict Hernandez. And the AP says the verdict left one of Hernandez’s alleged victims stunned:

“I can’t believe this happened,” the young man, now 26, said in an e-mailed statement through his attorney. “What Mr. Hernandez did to me ruined my life. I told the jury the truth, and now I’ll never be able to get over what happened. When I broke the law, I went to TYC. When he broke the law, there was no consequence.”

—  John Wright

FEEDBACK: Mexico safe if you use sense; Supporting James Nowlin for City Council

Mexico is safe if you use sense

Allan Turnipseed

Having just returned to Dallas in September 2010, after living almost three years in México City, I read with strong interest David Webb’s column, “A cautionary tale for LGBT travelers” (Dallas Voice, Feb. 4, 2011).

At first I took the commentary as cautionary; one needs to be vigilant whereever we live. Well, I took it that way until I got to the ending: “But hopefully it will be a strong reminder to all Americans that caution is more critical than ever when undertaking travel south of the border.”

With all the negative treatment México is getting in the U.S. press because of the drug wars, my only thought was, “Here is another negative murder story, one that doesn’t relate to the current problem.”

The whole time I lived in the largest city of the Americas, México City, I never felt danger when walking home late at night. I would often stroll along México City’s Paseo de la Refoma Avenue alone without ever any hesitation.

But I was always cautious. One has to be in any large mega city.

When returning to Dallas, I moved to Oak Lawn, three blocks behind where the old Tom Thumb used to be. Even before signing my lease I couldn’t help but remember when a young man was robbed and killed after having used an ATM machine on the corner of Throckmorton and Cedar Springs in 2007.

I also remembered I was moving close to the area where not too long ago a gentleman was shot and almost killed as he walked to his neighborhood bar.

So when I read, “that caution is more critical that ever when undertaking travel south of the border,” I just had to write and say not only “south of the border” but in Dallas, too. We have to be vigilant everywhere.

When I was living in México City, a city with 25 million people, I felt safe. But now that I am in Dallas, living in Oak Lawn, I don’t dare walk the three blocks to Kroger after dark.

I have deep sympathy for Allan Turnipseed, the former Dallas resident killed last month in Lake Chapala, and for his partner.

But from my perspective, Mr. Turnipseed didn’t just get too comfortable living in Lake Chapala, as columnist David Webb described it. Mr. Turnipseed also let his guard down.

He let two homeless teenagers into his surroundings — something I would never do in Dallas or in México.

Homeless and teenage males sound like a dangerous combination anywhere — especially in México, where poverty is so widespread.

But is México safe? Yes, if one uses caution and common sense.

Jesus Chairez, Dallas

Supporting James Nowlin for City Council

James Nowlin

I was so pleased to see your online article saying that James Nowlin is “in it to win it” in the Dallas City Council District 14 race (Instant Tea, Wednesday, Feb. 9).

Having a member of the LGBT community on our City Council who is qualified to serve is critical, and I’m excited that we have a candidate we can all get behind. As a community, the opportunity has come (once again) for us to support someone who knows our particular issues as well as the common concerns that all of the residents of District 14 have, regardless of sexual orientation.

These opportunities do not come frequently, and we don’t always win at the ballot box when they do. That is why it is crucial to make sure we do what we can to have a place at the table.

During her time on the council, Angela Hunt shifted her focus from representing District 14 to running a city-wide campaign. She made a name for herself (and polarized the district and the city) by taking controversial positions on the Trinity River toll road and the convention center hotel. Then, she cast the swing vote to raise property taxes.

Now, due to an obvious lack of preparation, she has decided not to run for mayor and to settle for holding on to the District 14 seat. I think the residents of District 14 deserve better than that.

I may be biased, but I believe Dallas has the most vital, diverse and strong LGBT community in the country, as evidenced by all that I have witnessed and participated in over more than 30 years living here.

It is very exciting news that James is following through on his commitment to service in District 14.

Craig McCartney, Dallas

Thank you so much for your article regarding James Nowlin and his intention to continue his ongoing efforts to win the Dallas City Council District 14 seat in May — despite the recent announcement by Councilwoman Angela Hunt that she will run for re-election to that seat.

I believe that James Nowlin will be an excellent representative for District 14 on the City Council. His commitment to the community has already been demonstrated by his considerable volunteer work with various organizations. James also demonstrated his leadership when he announced his intention to run for the City Council seat while Councilwoman Hunt vacillated between running to retain the District 14 seat, running for mayor or (ostensibly) pursuing some other career choice.

As a resident of District 14, I want my city councilperson to be someone who truly possesses a desire to serve the district — not an individual who looks at the seat as a “consolation prize” when her desire to be mayor was thwarted by individuals better prepared to run for the mayor’s seat than she.

I wholeheartedly support James Nowlin in his bid for this seat, and I encourage every reader of this newspaper to find out more about James and his hopes for District 14 and for the city of Dallas.

Eric D. Johnson, Dallas

—  John Wright

Another gay teen victim of bullying?

Lance Lundsten, taken from his Facebook page

Friends of gay teen Lance Lundsten of Miltona, Minn., are saying this week that they believe anti-gay bullying played a role in the 18-year-old’s suicide over the weekend, according to KSAX-TV‘s website.

Officials with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office have confirmed that they responded to an emergency call at Lundsten’s residence about 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, and that Lance Lundsten was then transported to Douglas County Hospital, where he later died. Sheriff’s department officials also confirmed that they believe the young man’s death was a suicide.

Lundsten’s friends at Jefferson High School have created a Facebook memorial page for the teen, and several people posting on the page have said that he was bullied because of his sexual orientation, and that they believe the bullying played a role in his suicide.

Another Jefferson High School student created a separate Facebook page — The Jefferson Anti-Bully Coalition — following Lundsten’s death. That page includes the following statement under the “Info” tab: “Here to stand up for everyone who needs defending. The school’s staff isn’t protecting us, it’s up to the students to help each other.”

The teen’s own Facebook page is here.

—  admin

Memoirs of an addict

Gay author Bill Clegg recalls his darkest days in his book ‘Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man’


Gregg Shapiro | Contributing Writer
lifestyle@dallasvoice.com

Gay author Bill Clegg
Bill Clegg

Bill Clegg, a young, gay and attractive New York literary agent with a boyfriend in the movie industry, details his struggle with the crack cocaine addiction that nearly killed him in the memoir Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man. Telling his story in unflinching detail, Clegg moves back and forth in the book from his childhood and the complicated relationship with his family to his exciting life in New York with partner “Noah,” with the momentum of a runaway train. Clegg discussed his work shortly before the publication of the book.

Dallas Voice: Living as we do in a post-James Frey memoir world, was that something you were concerned about when writing Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man?

Bill Clegg: Not at all. I didn’t think about James Frey’s book once (laughs) when I was writing this book. Part of that is that when I first started writing it, I wasn’t necessarily thinking of it as a book. It was initially a transcription of memories and it began while I was in rehab. When I arrived in rehab after that two-month period which resulted in a suicide attempt, I surfaced from that period sort of like somebody surfaces from a dream. So my memories—what I said, what I saw, what I felt—I had this feeling that those would evaporate in time, that I wouldn’t have access to them later, so I started writing them down in as much detail as I could. Part of the urgency around that was that so much of the period was confused for me. I thought that if I wrote everything down, as much as I could, I’d be able to make sense of it later and be able to distinguish the truth from the delusion once I had more distance from that period. The writing of it, initially, was as far away from imagining it as a book as it could possibly be. That experience of transcribing memories went on for a couple of years. At the point of which it occurred to me, several years later, that there might be something book-shape, book-length there, the issue of James Frey or other addiction memoirs didn’t come up mainly because I hadn’t read those memoirs. It started as an incredibly personal and private thing. I never thought outside of the demands of the project itself.

Why did you decide to keep it in the memoir format as opposed to the liberties you might have been afforded in a fictional format?

Because when other addicts and alcoholics have been candid about their experiences with me it gives me courage to be more candid and more honest. Being honest about where my addiction took me, I feel less shame around it and I feel relief. If my being candid about my experience inspires anyone else to be honest and open about what’s going on with them and in that way lifts the shame and torment of that in any way, then it’s worth it. Also, when I went back through what I had written, the hardest thing to reoccupy was how desperately lonely the experience was. Even in the period that preceded those two months, when I was, on the surface, successful and living a crowded life, I was desperately lonely because I had this secret. Through the years preceding my crack up, I tried to manage my use. I tried to have only two drinks at night, to come home at 2 in the morning as opposed to 10 in the morning, and I failed every time. That struggle was a very lonely, isolated one. It was loaded with shame. And nobody else knew, aside from my boyfriend, that I was a crack addict. I was convinced that if anybody found out that I would be banished from the life that I occupied. The whole experience was incredibly lonely. I thought I was the only person who struggled in the way that I did. I thought I was the only person who had a job like I did and was a crack addict. It all felt terribly singular.  So, if anybody recognizes themselves in my struggle and feels less lonely then they might be encouraged to step up and get help and be honest and not let it go where it went with me.

There is a sense that the book is more than just a memoir, that it is intended to be a tool to aid others.

That’s the reason it exists as a published document, to be useful. And I hope that it is.

The book has cinematic quality. If there was a movie, who would be right to play you in film?

Oh, God, I would never answer that question. Because to engage in a conversation about who would play me is also to engage in a conversation that glamorizes it. I would hope that the film would be respectful and with the same intent as the book. Shy of that I really don’t have an opinion about what it would be as a movie or not.

Being in the literary world, do you think it was inevitable that you would write a book, whether it was about this experience or something else?

No. I mean, there’s certainly a novel that I’ve been struggling with for over a decade, but I don’t think I’m going to torture the world by having it rear its head (laughs). What I would say about writing, and it’s what I do say to the writers that I work with, unless you have to do it, don’t do it. I think that should be the measure for all artistic endeavors. If you have to do it, do it. Otherwise, it’s not worth it. And I had to do this. It began in the earliest hours of my struggle to get sober and it never went away and it kept on returning as this urgent thing. At a certain point I stepped out of the way of it and let it happen. It was less of a choice to write it and absolutely a choice to make it public.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 3, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Will Phillips speaks at Pride parade

Will Phillips may be only 10 years old, but he is a young man with a lot of courage and a unique voice — and a lot of fans and supporters in his hometown of Fayetteville, Ark.

When it was first announced last week that Will had been named grand marshal of the Northwest Arkansas Gay Pride Parade, right-winger Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, claimed that it was “a form of child abuse” and suggested that Will had been “brainwashed” into supporting LGBT equality, and that he was doing nothing more than “parroting the nonsense he has been told by manipulative adults.”

Well, watch this video of Will speaking at the parade in Fayetteville, and it’s pretty obvious that he definitely has a mind of his own, and that he is perfectly capable of forming his own well-reasoned opinions.

—  admin