Travels in a Gay Nation | Portraits of LGBTQ Americans is Philip Gambone’s reminder of how far we’ve come since Stonewall and what we still need to do as gay Americans. Gambone devises a rich tapestry, without dogma, that celebrates the power of LGBTQ diversity.
We gays alone are the authorities on ourselves and our homosexuality, and others should listen to us.” So says Frank Kameny the gay civil rights pioneer who marched in front of the White House in the 60s and Gambone took Kameny’s his advice in and listened for two years, traversing the US interviewing 200 people, 40 of whom are profiled. It is a look at where we’ve been, where we are and where we need to go as a national community of diversity.
Gambone is an English professor at Boston University, his relaxed, unacademic prose style gets to the center of his subjects lives and their relations to the GLBT community. Some stories are high profile and often told- Congressman Barney Frank and comedian Kate Clinton, for instance, and media superstars like humorist David Sedaris. Mostly Gambone cameos lesser known artists, writers, academics, activists and professionals making a difference in their chosen fields.
Activist Christopher Barnhill, who was born HIV positive and is battling the rise of HIV/AIDS among young minority men as a coordinator of Metro TeenAIDS or Carl Siciliano who founded the Ali Forney Center in New York, where dozens of an estimated 600,000 per year rejected queer youth are saved from ending up homeless, on drugs, working the streets.
Filmmaker Arthur Dong talks about growing up gay as an Asian American, dropping out of school, finding his own path as a filmmaker and eventually making the groundbreaking documentary Coming Out Under Fire. Dean Spade, a trans man, grew up a welfare girl in the rural south and is the first professor to teach transgender law at Harvard, uses the interview to talk about some entrenched inequalities in the national gay civil rights movement itself.
Opera singers Beth Clayton (whose lover is soprano Patricia Racette) tells the author “I have been given a gift to own my lesbianism and my life through my art form.“ Writer Richard Rodriquez speaks to the importance of being distinct from the straight world. “I like the complications of it.” he tells us. Now there’s someone we need to hear.