I had mentioned previously about coming out in a small town and what it was like. I didn’t have a lot of examples, as many young LGBTQ people don’t, to go by. I did have a bar that wasn’t too far away from where I lived and a city that at least had some sort of LGBTQ population. It was a struggle knowing that I was different but not fully understanding what it meant. By the time I had accepted it meant liking boys, I did everything I could to find information to digest to help me in my journey. I still have some of the books that I read, re-read, and dog eared for positive reinforcement. This post I am going to talk about a couple of them and before I start, I will mention that they are also a bit tongue in cheek kind of humor from earlier “gay times.”
The first one is “The Unofficial Gay MANual: Living the Lifestyle or at Least Appearing to” by Kevin Dilallo & Jack Krumholtz and was writing in 1994. Its written in kitsch style and bills itself as “a wild and witty guide to the tribal customs of the red-blooded American gay male.” It provides essays, multiple choice and true/false tests, sidebars and charts to help you navigate the new ways of gay-dom. If you wanted a bit more insight to how gaydar works, this book is a good place to start. Now some of the information is a bit dated, like the guide to going out in major cities. It does cover terms that have seemed to fall by the wayside and provide information about where things started from. It is also a good place for the basic beginning of gay history.
One of the lists in the book that amused me the most was the 16 CDs Every Gay Man Should Own. Mainly because many of them were in my collection long before I fully understood why. Now I hear the gasps of people wondering what exactly a CD is, so let me wax a little history on you. A CD was a piece of plastic that was smaller than a vinyl record and went into that little tray on a computer that many still think is a cup holder. Ok the description was a little vague since I mentioned a vinyl record and a computer, things many people don’t use anymore with the inventions of smartphones., but back to the list. These are songs or artists that spoke to the very soul of gay men. Singing about unrequited love or just providing a soundtrack to the fabulous lives we thought we were living. Without further ado, here is the list.
- Bronksi Beat, Age of Consent– they were an activist rock and dance group with an album that spoke against the age of consent laws.
- Patsy Cline, 12 Greatest Hits– Patsy was the Queen of dating the wrong man and writing songs about it, she was one of the first divas gay men flocked to
- Erasure, The Innocents– what else can you say, gay men singing about gay love.
- Ella Fitzgerald, The Rodgers and Hart Song Book, Vols I & II– probably the gayest of her works with renditions of “The Lady is a Tramp” and “You Took Advantage of Me”
- Judy Garland, Judy at Carnegie Hall– It’s Judy Fricking Garland, need I say more?
- Deborah Harry & Blondie, The Complete Picture– Talk about gay theme songs, “Call Me” and “I Want That Man.”
- Madonna, The Immaculate Collection– Sure, many a gay man consider her a goddess, and this was before Lady Gaga. She was the original blurring lines and pushing limits. This is probably the quintessential album for her, best of her career and I don’t care what you think.
- Neville Mariner, conducting Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Water Music– it is a touch on the classical side as the music itself was written 300 years ago. But does offer a soothing nature after a weekend bender.
- Bette Midler, The Divine Miss M– There are few divas like Bette, she got her start performing music in the baths in San Francisco. She has embraced warmly her gay following, offering her own style of camp and drag to the mix.
- Liza Minnelli, Liza with a “Z”– Another courtier of her gay following. Cabaret made her famous, but her marriage to Desi Arnaz, Jr definitely helped in keeping gay men’s attention on her.
- Original Broadway Cast, Gypsy– This is definitely a good gotta have Broadway classic without being to theater queenish. Lots of singable moments and even had Ethel Merman in the lead.
- Moodswings, Moodfood– more of a new age sound that keeps the air of a dance beat without all the techno pushing.
- The Pet Shop Boys, Discography: The Complete Singles Collection– The Pet Shops Boys were the transcendence of disco to the modern Club Kid. Their anthems gave a resurgence to a new flock of gay men.
- Renata Scotto, et al., Madam Butterfly– One opera that has lots of moving songs that ensnare even those who have never listened to opera before.
- Barbra Streisand, Just for The Record– “Well Hello, Gorgeous.” I am sure there will be at least one or two good songs that will be like buttah for you to listen to.
- Sylvester, GreatestHits: Non-Stop Dance Party– Sadly a musician that left us much too early. Gay artist that just made disco hip gyrating-ly fun. “Do You Wanna Funk” and “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real).” speak of body heat on the dance floor leading to hip thrusting fun afterwards.
That’s only one list this book offers, if you grew up in a small-town link me you missed out on hearing the lingo associated with our culture. In times past, it was use of certain words and phrases that helped distinguish us so that others knew they were “Friends of Dorothy.” My first time visiting a gay bar, I was assaulted with terms I had never heard before; gym bunny, clone, Mary, top and bottom, and hanky code, to name a few. It was liking visiting a foreign country. Thankfully, I found this book around the same time and helped me quickly learn a few so that I at least knew some of what was being discussed. Being fresh meat in the bar, I was quickly surrounded and asked questions I had never thought would be asked of someone you just met, this book helped a lot.
Then there was The Homo Handbook: Getting in Touch with Your Inner Homoby Judy Carter written in 1996 I found this book after having been out for a couple years, Judy Carter is a lesbian standup comic, so expect this book to be glib, fun, and with a fair bit of fun poking. This book offers exercises about topics that come up in our lives, from coming out to dealing with bigots. It is meant to be light hearted. Whereas the Unofficial Gay MANualtargeted gay men, The Homo Handbookis inclusive to lesbians and gay men. The first two sections are about coming out to others and yourself. How to navigate pitfalls and right ways to handle situation. The books ends with sections about activism, where to go, papers to read (if still available) and means to become an activist. Like the first book, there are exercises to look inward and help not to take yourself so seriously.
The larger portion of this book focusing on how to handle situations that may arise when you are coming out to people. It also covers when it may be or may not be a good time to out yourself. It is a nice light in the darkness, when times weren’t as easier as they are now. Even sections covering dating, so you can have meaningful dates and not just random encounters, unless that is your thing. Just ideas for looking for quality people and not the average user at a bar.
Neither book is a how-to manual, they are more fun ways to look at something you are over stressing. They are fun ways to navigate common problems that we all go through and to learn not to take yourself so seriously. Even though some topics may be dated, if you can find them, they are worth a read. If for nothing more than historical information for an age you may not be as familiar with. After all, every newbie LGBTQ person should learn our histories, it is what many of us died fighting for that has gotten us to where we are now. If you would like more information about the books, ISBN numbers and what not, feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy the read.