December 11th, 2013

andrew potter

Allan Bérubé (December 3, 1946 – December 11, 2007)

Allan Ronald Bérubé (December 3, 1946 – December 11, 2007) was an American historian, activist, independent scholar, self-described "community-based" researcher and college drop-out, and award-winning author, best known for his research and writing about homosexual members of the American Armed Forces during World War II. He also wrote essays about the intersection of class and race in gay culture, and about growing up in a poor, working class family, his French-Canadian roots, and about his experience of anti-AIDS activism.

Among Bérubé's published works was the 1990 book Coming Out Under Fire, which examined the stories of gay men and women in the U.S. military between 1941 and 1945. The book used interviews with gay veterans, government documents, and other sources to discuss the social and political issues that faced over 9,000 servicemen and women during World War II. The book earned Bérubé the Lambda Literary Award for outstanding Gay Men's Nonfiction book of 1990 and was later adapted as a film in 1994, narrated by Salome Jens and Max Cole, with a screenplay by Bérubé and the film's director, Arthur Dong. The film received a Peabody Award for excellence in documentary media in 1995. Bérubé received a MacArthur Fellowship (often called the "genius grant") from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in 1996. He received a Rockefeller grant from the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in 1994 to research a book on the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union, and he was working on this book at the time of his death.

Bérubé was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, and lived with his family in Monson, Massachusetts, and later in a trailer park near the waterfront in Bayonne, New Jersey. He lived for a time in Boston and for many years in San Francisco. He moved to New York City, and finally settled in Liberty, New York, where he died in 2007.

Allan Bérubé with John D'Emilio

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"I do my work now in the borderlands between social classes, between the university and the community, between heterosexual and homosexual, between educated speech and down-to-earth talk, between Franco-American and Québécois, between my family and the gay community."
"None of us can do our best work until we believe that the life of the mind really does belong to us."
Coming Out Under Fire, by Allan Berube is a non-fiction book, history, really, but so much of it reads like a good detective novel. For gays and lesbians this is just such a good, enlightening and yes, empowering story. It’s also very instructive, as Berube tells us about the coastal origins of what we know today as the American gay community. Today I watched a YouTube video of American soldiers in Afghanistan dancing together to a Lady Gaga song – it’s somehow comforting to know that queer soldiers were doing the equivalent all throughout WWII, and probably long before that! This book was also invaluable research for a WWII period movie script I wrote called “Me and Mamie O’Rourke.” --Jim Arnold
In Coming Out Under Fire, a super study of homosexuals who served in the American military during the Second World War, Allan Bérubé reports that the psychiatric establishment used an economic argument to convince the War Department of the need for psychiatric screenings. The government had spent more than $1 million caring for psychiatric casualties of World War I; in 1940, these victims still occupied more than half the beds in veteran's hospitals.
Unfortunately, as Bérubé explains, Sullivan and his colleagues "had carved out the territory on which others would build an antihomosexual barrier and the rationale for using it". Sullivan's belief in the relative insignificance of "sexual aberrations" in establishing mental illness was undermined as his plan was digested by the Washington bureaucracy. By the middle of 1941, the army and the Selective Service both included "homosexual proclivities" in their lists of disqualifying "deviations". --The Gay Metropolis: The Landmark History of Gay Life in America by Charles Kaiser
A final reason we have failed to see the gay subculture that existed before World War II is that it has been obscured by the dramatic growth of the gay subculture after the war. As the groundbreaking work of Allan Bérubé and John D'Emilio has shown, the war "created something of a nationwide coming out experience". By freeing men from the supervision of their families and small-town neighborhoods and placing them in a single-sex environment, military mobilization increased the chances that they would meet gay men and explore their homosexual interests. Many recruits saw the sort of gay life they could lead in large cities and chose to stay in those cities after the war. Some women who joined the military, as well as those on the homefront who shared housing and worked in defense industries with other women, had similar experiences. As a result, the war made it possible for gay bars and restaurants to proliferate and for many new gay social networks to form. --Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 by George Chauncey
Millions of young women and men, many of whom may never have heard the words "fairy", "invert", "homosexual", or "lesbian" and may not yet have discovered all aspects of their sexual desires, had enlisted. Being thrown together with so many different people of the same sex gave them an opportunity to understand their lives in new, radical ways. Bérubé weaves a broad, textured tapestry of the lives of same-sex desiring service members during the war. Many speak of erotic, affectional, and sexual relationships with their fellow enlistees. Some of these relationships began before the war and lasted for decades. Others occured during the war, ending when the partners reentered civilian life. Many were brief sexual encounters, similar to heterosexual liaisons on the home front. Many women and men enjoyed same-sex romantic and physical relationship during the war, but for the reminder of their lives engaged in different-sex relationships. --A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski
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andrew potter

Dammit! by Michele L. Montgomery

So I’m working my backlog (finally!) and this is another of those novels I had in my reading list for a long time. Coincidences wanted I read this one soon after a completely different plot but with the same tune, cute character meets knight in shining armor. Michael is a little nerd young gay man, completely unaware of how attractive he is to other men probably exactly for that reason, that he is unassuming; other men can react to him in different ways, wanting to own him like he is a pretty object to display or wanting to protect him. In Michael’s past there is the first type, Gregory, his future maybe has in store the second one, Cash. Even if there is hypothetically a mystery/thriller subplot, this is not actually that type of novel, cause the author pushes more on the satiric/cute factor, making all the adventures Michael undertakes more like comic sketches than really dangerous situation. Kudos to the author to have one specific characters turning from best friend to villain in a turn of event that had me quite surprised, it was the first time I was feeling good for a character that in the end was the worst enemy of the main character.

As soon as I finished this one, I remember the polemic it raised when it was released and I think the major mistake of who read this one, and didn’t like it, was the wrong expectation; as I said this is not a mystery/thriller novel, this is a satire of one. Do you want an example (that will not spoil the story)? In which mystery/thriller/romance novel the hero (knight in shining armor) while rescuing his beloved one stumbles on his feet giving time to the villain to almost killing the one to be rescued? That is what happened to Michael, threatened by Gregory, almost rescued by Cash, who isn’t able to prevent Gregory from stabbing Michael. If this was a real mystery/thriller, and I was in Michael’s shoes, I would have been very pissed with Cash.

Paperback: 238 pages
Publisher: Seventh Window Publications (August 3, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0984021590
ISBN-13: 978-0984021598
Amazon: Dammit!
Amazon Kindle: Dammit!


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