Thursday, August 6, 2015

LGBT Revisionism and LGBT Careerism

There is a great deal of tongue clucking- and rightly so, over the new film "Stonewall." The reasons are many but center on the appropriation of the story of that pivotal night and the way in which Hollywood deforms the truth for commercial purposes. LGBTQI people are furious to see the tale told from the point of view of a white suburban male, and that a riot initiated by transgender women of color has seen them sidelined, while the history, and the honor, is colonized by gay white men.

In short: Truth is sanitized- revised to comport with a preset idea of how it was Way Back When. It is the same process by which the 60s are turned into an era of "peace love and flowers." The 60s did have an aspect of that idyllic ideal. I saw it. I was there. But the Summer of Love in 1967 was brief. And more to the point, the 60s was a decade in which great leaders were gunned down, (e.g., JFK, MLK, and RFK), and where heads were busted by cops and hardhats. Yet as seen through a rosy lens of hindsight, platitudes of "peace love and flowers" trump the hard-nosed reality of an era when the nation was being torn apart by a second civil war.

Not only as an activist, but as a writer, I'm familiar with the spite of Stalinist revisionists when it comes to upsetting cozy assumptions of a narrative they want enshrined. It makes sense: careers are built on 'owning' a socially approved angle on a profitable commodity, such as being a 60s radical, or vanguard 70s "gay liberationist." But the actuality of such eras is far different from the reductionist simplicities and certainties, which translate into easy acceptability at the expense of nuance.

In 2008, I published a memoir about my life in of San Francisco's "gay liberation" culture in which I was prominent as a poet and as the primary scriptwriter and star of the iconic free theater troupe, "the San Francisco Angels of Light." Shortly before official release, my book- FLIGHTS OF ANGELS- was scuttled by its publishers; put simply, they got me to pay for the publication, then abrogated the written contract, expecting me to pay more money in advance. I didn't. They retaliated by pulling the book. I don't mind and I don't regret it. Refusing to buckle to bullying is a simple matter of principle.

What happened next was revelatory. The book was hailed by many in the print media as a fascinating, no-holds barred tale of the 70s- the highs and the lows of a gorgeous and luminous vision, one which certainly existed. It was also a journey into the most idealistic and unusual underground in modern LGBT history- something which, at its best, was shining and radiant- a theater, which inspired Harvey Milk and gave utterance to the collective dreams of a people. But it would have been a rank lie to present the "Angels of Light" as pure flower children dancing in joy and innocence while creating beauty. Of course, that part is true... in part; and, where it existed, it existed in abundance.

But there was an underside of drug addiction, manipulation, sordid and psychotic depravity, which ran in tandem with the beauty, and which, ultimately, destroyed the group. Its locus was a drug dealer with a shrine to Hitler in her flat, one who opined, "Hitler failed. He didn't get enough Jews." It seems incredible that such a person could exist within a tribe or extended family of artists who worked for free for 12 years, to create free theater as a gift of love for their community. But such was the case.

Perhaps dichotomy is inevitable with great art? Perhaps there is always the light in striking contrast to dark? That which exalts in an existential battle with that which seeks to demolish and degrade? I don't know. I do know that, among a few shrill LGBT Stalinists, there was outrage that an insider- (me), would present the story of the "Angels of Light" and/or suggest that the cosmic force of gay light was counterbalanced and, indeed, ultimately demolished by centrifugal chaos and progressive damages as the 70s spun on to the threshold of AIDS and other forms of disintegration brought about, inevitably, by age and penury, the cost of addiction, and trying to sustain a dream despite a marginal existence.

The porno critic of a local newspaper took umbrage to my book. So did a self-anointed cultural critic who lived in SF during the first 6 years of the 70s but never did anything more engaged than having a walk on role in one "Angels" epic, a show, which I starred in and had the dominant role in scripting. Having stood by watching as the "gay revolution" took form, years later, he pronounced himself an expert. Now, along with the aforementioned porno critic- a friend of the Angel Dust dealer with a shrine to Hitler- he shared his outrage... in an anonymous review of the memoir, which was banned five times by amazon since it was so clearly the rant of an unbalanced observor.

My point isn't that hysterics masquerade as critics or that people with no actual knowledge of a scene present themselves as informed. My point is that any history requires honest accounting of what made an era great, as well as the human failings or mounting pressures, which combined to make it brief. It was true in the incandescent years of "the Angels of Light." Yet I saw inversion of truth in the two "critics" who attacked my book, which was a personal memoir, not a formal history.

Today, the film "Stonewall" panders to the commercial taste of a market, which wants historical testaments sanitized and doesn't mind shunting aside uncomfortable aspects which interfere with the Pablum of easily-digested maxims. The larger loss is that such a film repudiates complex- (dare I also say "thought provoking"?) paradoxes of how any outsiders work through their demons and psychological 'Shadow' as they progress towards maturity. And that robs the telling of greatness.

The trajectory of LGBT history was neither smooth nor easy. And the personal stories of those in the vanguard were often rocky. But how could it be otherwise? We're taking about people brought up to be self-hating and called 'sick.' Correcting that horrendous lie took years of concentrated effort by heroes, such as Frank Kameny. But I suggest that one hallmark of coming to the reality of wholeness and the appreciation of complex history is found in the willingness to face the diverse, contradictory and, sometimes, self-canceling aspects of our Past. That is how we grow. And keep evolving.

In the case of Stonewall- the event, not the film- we can now appreciate that it wasn't gay white men asserting a leading role; it was transgender women of color, such as Miss Major Griffin-Gracy. As such, the attempt by the film "Stonewall" to evade that fact not only deprives the picture of accuracy, it repeats the damage inflicted by a culture which wants history presented in bite-sized pieces instead of the often-difficult, painful and contradictory ways in which it actually occurred. But artistic value lies in facing facts as they are, not in how we'd like them to be in order to promote easy acceptance of ourselves, friends, or facile group-think. Or so say I.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Don Trump's hair for President

In an age where TV image counts for so much, I find myself so mesmerized by The Donald's hairpiece that I have a modest proposal, since I feel it might improve his standing with the public.

If The Donald would run with his own merkin as VP ,the public could rest assured that, in a worst case scenario, such as a terrorist-driven gale, if he blew his top, the nation wouldn't be shorn of his level-headed example. Indeed, with a single deft move- something easily accomplished, our President could recover. 

Put baldly, no President can be positive of his VP. Witness Joe Biden coming out, er, embracing, er, marriage equality even before President Obama had a firm grip on it. But if The Donald is his own VP, he can be sure of his backup. If so, he wouldn't have to worry about being exposed by himself any more than he already is. This would give him time to concentrate on winning back Miss America, or building a Trump Wall to keep out "illegal aliens," who might ruffle his hair.

In sum, let Don, brace himself for the unexpected winds, which beset all Presidencies. If so, with luck, not only he but the rest of us would be spared the embarrassment of being exposed by Fate.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Obama, ISIS, and the war of Ideas by Adrian Brooks

I love Obama but I think he's wrong when he says that the way to defeat ISIS is through "ideology." It's self-evident that ISIS members are the worst Muslims imaginable. Still, it is a mistake to imagine that they can be reasoned out of their beliefs or that their barbarism is something Western problem-solving can amend.

The Shia Sunni split in Islam dates to the 7th century. That schism is an internal matter. Each side claims the sacred mantle of the Prophet. Each bases its actions on its interpretation of the Koran. Given the contorted history following the end of the Ottoman Empire in WW1, and the meddling of the colonial powers, a tragic choreography is playing out.

I'm not claiming to have any answers. But ideologues who behead women or sell them as slaves or "wives" to their own troops won't substitute anything for their belief system or values. Waging holy war- Jihad, is seen as a sacred duty for 'the Faithful,' and, whatever we may think, the people in ISIS are, indeed, acting in accordance with their interpretation of what their religion requires. As such, while Obama's maturity is commendable, he's wrong about seeing this as a war of ideas. After all, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."

Thursday, July 2, 2015

"What Evan Wolfson and Marriage Equality Have Done For the People Who Despise Them"

At a moment when Marriage Equality has become national law, albeit by the slimmest of margins, (and, thank you Justice Kennedy),  LGBTQI folk and our allies would be moronic not to realize how harrowing this decision is for millions who don't share our belief in what is now deemed to be a Constitutionally guaranteed right. Revolted by their visualizations of what same-sex unions mean,
and haunted by unreal notions, including that we will soon agitate for the freedom to marry dogs, they spin their wheels in an effort to comprehend what has happened to a country they thought they understood as one explicitly defined by the Bible.

In fact, what "the father of marriage equality" Evan Wolfson and his colleague, Mark Solomon, (among others who worked at Freedom to Marry) have done is to make the nation stronger. Though our adversaries don't yet realize it, this transformation of consciousness will be perceived much in the same light as the 1919 law granting women the right to vote. Or the momentous Civil Rights- and Voting Rights- legislation, which LBJ passed, thereby enfranchising African Americans. Both advances were epochal; both had been met with stout resistance; in both cases,  the losing side bewailed the future of the United States, as previously received.

As previously received....

Therein lies their fallacy and the same blunder which opponents of Marriage Equality make today. For in these movements towards "a more perfect union" postulated by the Constitution, the Republic and its people make actual progress. In the process, of course, old givens are recycled; that which was known- a received wisdom, oftentimes never questioned- are subjected to new inquiry. It is the never-ending quality of regeneration at the heart of the American Experiment: our willingness to start over, to cast aside the unworthy or the unworkable and put our shoulders to the wheel in the service of a finer and more compassionate Whole. And this is the very essence of healthy democracy. 

One side doesn't have to degrade or shame the other for being tardy. As Lao Tze wrote 2500 years ago, "If one leads, another must follow."  It is the law of Nature; it's also human nature- to grow and stretch, expand and put aside the archaic in favor of what meets the reality of the Present.

This is where we are as a People: in the Present.

The gift which Evan Wolfson, Mark Solomon and their colleagues at Freedom to Marry bestowed upon the nation is to help harness a huge and still-expanding recognition of humanness. And human diversity. In its way, it is as stunning an achievement as the Emancipation Proclamation or the Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education. As a civil people, we have the right to expect leaders to lead; legislators to legislate; and courts to rule. This is the usually difficult, oftentimes infuriating, way in which our system plays out. That some will bridle is to be expected. But, in due course, they certainly will come to appreciate that what makes us truly strong isn't our weaponry. Our power- true power- lies in our character. Some may call it virtue. I do. But in leading us to this wider embrace of our own citizens, irrespective of superficial differences, the patriots who ushered this issue forward brought us into the moment, reminded us of whom, and what, we are and renewed our collective sense of Self.

They are heroes.

Monday, June 29, 2015


The great activist and feminist, Charlotte Bunch, who, among other accomplishments, successfully lobbied the United Nations to include women's issues as Human Rights issues, is interviewed in my anthology, THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY. I heard from her today, saying that she likes the book and is willing to offer it her support. What an honor to be endorsed by someone, who deserves to be on US postage stamps.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Adrian Brooks, Judy Shepard and "The Right Side of History"

I'm thrilled that, on this day, with Pride marches across the land- Human Rights heroine and activist Judy Shepard sent the following endorsement of my anthology, THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY:

“I am honored to be included among the many brave and committed individuals who have worked tirelessly through history in the fight for LGBTQ rights. The complex and diverse set of voices woven together by author Adrian Brooks in The Right Side of History inform what many may not know about the history of gay rights, and reveals stories and narratives that give us all a better understanding of the path of this battle for fundamental equality.” Judy Shepard, Co-Founder and President, The Matthew Shepard Foundation

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Marriage Equality...

We all know the battle for full LGBTQI equality isn't over but, with this historic ruling from the Supreme Court and the incredible endorsement by President Obama, we can grasp the fact that we've won a tremendous victory. It's no exaggeration to say we're on THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY, as my newly released anthology asserts. And while more tasks remain, this is time to celebrate. Millions lived in dread and pain without imagining such progress; we stand on their shoulders. They can't ever be forgotten. I know I join millions more sending thanks to Justice Kennedy for his part in this historic decision. Yet even in our moment of triumph, let's recommit to ensuring equal rights and equal legal protection for women, the poor, the aged, people of color, undocumented workers, students, the disabled and anyone else who feels the sting of bigotry or burden of economic injustice.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Author Adrian Brooks: The Matthew Shepherd Foundation

Today, when Marriage Equality has become national law, I'm especially moved to have my anthology THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY included and praised on the Facebook page of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. The organization founded by his parents seeks to replace hate with love and bigotry with understanding. I am proud that Judy Shepard consented to be interviewed for my book and honored to offer my services in whatever way/s I can to further their mission.

This is time for joy and celebration. Even so, as long as any LGBTQI person is subjected to brutality- be it psychological or physical- the work of the Matthew Shepard Foundation remains crucial and, potentially, life-saving. As such, while we take justifiable pride in the Supreme Court ruling, let's bear in mind the sacrifices, which led to this transformation, Matthew Shepard being one of those who fell on the way to the United States enshrining Human Rights in this astounding way.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Adrian Brooks: Who are the (Stalinist) LGBTQI Thought Police?!

This evening, I read something totally crazy. A bisexual female friend, who is in a loving relationship with a trans man, is apprehensive about attending Pride celebrations because gay men hog the atmosphere, and because many people- (I assume of various gender preferences)- cast slurs or aim criticism at others whom they perceive as not being 'gay enough,' according to their assumptions. Okay. That is beyond nuts. That's flat out weird. And I'm unafraid to say it since I was out before Stonewall, and was an activist before the LGBT Movement (or Gay Liberation) was even heard of.

Let's get this straight, if you'll pardon the pun: everyone should be accorded equal rights, equal respect; and attendees who call themselves sexually, spiritually or personally advanced who doesn't grasp this simple fact should go back to Square One and start again. I'm serious. This is like some African-American people thinking they they're "better" because their skin is more pale than some other African-American. Does anyone seriously believe that bisexuals or transgender folk or people who are sexually comfortable or fluid aren't standing with us if they attend Pride?! For anyone who does, I have news for you as a Civil Rights and anti-war activist in the mid-60s, who risked my life for both causes. And that's no exaggeration.

When I went to Woodstock, (which was in 1969, for any pc types who don't know), I saw lots of people- mainly men- who would have beaten the shit out of my friends and me a year earlier for protesting the Vietnam war. But- hey!- now that it was "hip" to supporting peace, there they were- sporting weird mutton-chop sideburns and swaggering around exuding macho righteousness. It was vulgar, just as coarse as anyone who claims to be aware trying to make others uncomfortable because they appear to be different.

THE WHOLE POINT is to be different; to be yourSELF; to be unique, Whole, not stereotyped, not castrated or controlled by the system, not desexed, dumbed down, or blunted by conformist pressure. Failing to celebrate others only means that you still define yourself by some applied value system. If so, it's based more on Ideas than heart, on theories than the reality of humanness in all its subtly, and that you're still unresolved about your own core Truth. So! stop being robotic. Look at others in terms of what you share. See the courage and humor and freedom expressed and celebrated instead of reincarnating some Puritanical anal retentive need to criticize or dismiss people who aren't the same as you.

I say all this as one who was out on the front lines, who understood- then and now (as millions of my generation said they did in the 60s before so many bailed after the Kent State killings), that what we were fighting for, marching for, committing to wasn't group-think or mind control but has, finally, become the ability to be distinctly individual and, yes, marry if we so choose, have children, if we so choose, and agitate for human rights and equal access to legal rights for all- regardless of superficial differences- until everyone is secure and free from the specter of being punished for authenticity.

Wake up and smell the coffee. If you endorse the LGBTQI Cause, it is not to be chipped away at, trivialized, or rendered soulless. If you can't manage that, you're in the wrong place, regardless of what gets you physically excited. Sex is the trivial part. But as the dynamic (bisexual) anarchist Emma Goldman is reputed to have said, "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

Author Adrian Brooks and The Matthew Shepard Foundation

I'm honored to announced that the Matthew Shepard Foundation plans to include my new anthology- THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY; 100 Years of LGBT radical activism- on their website and endorse it with an enthusiastic blurb, one to be featured on future editions.

Susan Burk, Director of the Laramie Project and a close friend of Judy Shepard, who generously granted me an interview writes: "The book is wonderful. Inspiring. Educational. Fabulous. Moving. All of those things. I'm learning SO much. "

(Note: That is not the actual blurb itself but I'm so pleased that I can't help sharing the news!)

It's profoundly moving to me to receive the support of The Matthew Shepard Foundation since I feel that, as long as LGBT youth are at risk of being bullied, hurt, tormented, killed or driven to suicide, the mission that Denis and Judy Shepard created in memory of their crucified son remains vitally important and worthy of support from everyone.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Author Adrian Brooks: From Philadelphia to San Francisco to India and Back Again.

Having been born and raised in Main Line/Rittenhouse Square Philadelphia when the East Coast's multi-tiered class system was still dominant, I've seen a lot of changes in 67 years. When I was a boy, no one questioned Authority. Then along came Martin Luther King (for whom I was a volunteer) and Vietnam, (which I protested very early on) and everything was turned upside down.

The 'up' wasn't only the high of belonging to a generation, which seemed committed to wide-scale social progress; it was drugs, in my case. The magical mystery LSD  tour led by the Beatles swept me through Woodstock to San Francisco in time for the last days of the hippie revolution, something which gelled perfectly with my Quaker sense of activism.

Throughout the early 70s, San Francisco seemed an "island in time" as gay liberation moved front and center. As a vanguard artist in that revolutionary culture, I still conceived of the country in terms of polarities of consciousness: the east coast vs the west coast. For me, idyllic California represented everything that I was trying to escape from. It was the new and organic vs. the old and stale.

But even long before Reaganomics "trickle down economics" hit, and AIDS descended, and high tech offered a wholly different vista of The Future, lines drawn geographically had blurred. In 1985, when I found out that I'm HIV+, I left the US and went to live in India. I'd been there twice for fairly long stretches. Now I spent 10 years boomeranging between Europe and Asia, concentrating on my spiritual development since I believed that I was going to die of "the gay plague."

But when protease inhibitors became available in 1995, I moved back to California to avail myself of the medication and to study with a spiritual teacher carrying on the lineage of Ramana Maharshi, the great saint of 20th century India, who lived most of his life in silence. Ten years had passed, years in which I'd accepted Death as natural. And I had grown.

But San Francisco had changed. The tiny city by the Bay was under intolerable pressure from the new world economic engine of Silicon Valley. My once defiantly Bohemian city was now vanishing. Oh, its beautiful landmarks remain, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge and splendid hills. But the character or nature of the place was undergoing irrevocable change.

Growing older, I've seen a great paradox: the upper middle or upper class life I'd tried to get away from in Philadelphia had transplanted itself to move West. Now California boasted its chic wineries and gentrification which translated into minorities being uprooted from San Francisco and forced out. So they left- unable to afford the skyrocketing rents. And "new people" moved in, sometimes apologetic and, aware, somehow, that they weren't the same sort who'd created such a storied place.

One of the most surreal features of this shift was to see the new similarities between east and west coasts. Some of the symbols of white privilege are different here. But there are many ways in which the unfortunate template is maintained or perpetuated. Meanwhile, to my surprise- perhaps I should say "shock" since I had believed that racism had been fairly successfully addressed decades ago, at least on an axiomatic moral level- the ugly beast returned. Or was exposed, just as mean-spirited and vicious as in the days of Jim Crow.

And so, I see a North/South divide again. A nation of police killings. A country, which, still fails to heed the lessons, which Dr. King taught us: that everything we do matters. That every choice has social and political consequences. Violence escalates. The beautiful green parks of San Francisco are going brown. They call it "the new green." But I can't help calling it tragic: the inevitable outgrowth of pollution and environmental ruin, which we (hippies) were protesting in the 60s.

When in India, I was forced to face the Hydra of my own ego and see the ways I create my universe. It's humbling to realize that absolutely no evasion will work; that we must face Truth "as is." Stripped bare, it's frightening, yet liberating, to realize that to acquire more means nothing if we're divorced from our own Self. And yet, even if we manage to center ourselves independent of the pressure to conform and move in lockstep and maintain "groupthink", there is still the reality all around us: a world out of order. A white society still plagued by delusions of Success and its own toxic racism.

Thus, I have gone from the east coast to the west, and then to the East and now back to the West. Strangely, I've seen the east come west as big money follows opportunity to golden California. In doing so, it obliterates the old sense of California being ahead, or out front of, the rest of the nation. After finding myself in India, I returned to see the browning hills of a once-green city; farmlands gone to dust; tinderbox forests burning every summer and no end in sight.

My journey returns me to a personal paradox: the need for peace within even at the risk of closing myself off to exterior upset. But that is what I wanted to get away from; it's why I came to California in 1971- not to shut down but to be open, more engaged. I was blessed. I fulfilled my personal destiny. Still, finding myself numbed by the murders in Charleston, I want to cocoon and tell myself: this can't be happening again. Surely, America must have realized some basic truth by now. Surely, we must have evolved past this sticking point, to be so hemmed in by race. No. Sadly, that is not so. And so I come around the far turn of my life in a different America where East came West, but one in which the North/South divide- socially and politically- still haunts us with the unfulfilled promises of a nation which bled so much so long ago.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Author Adrian Brooks, "Flights of Angels", and "The Right Side of History", book review by Amos Lassen

A lovely review by Amos Lassen, who writes the following:

"With his wonderful prose and writing style, Brooks takes us on an exploration of our history and we go back Edwardian America and to the beginning of the struggle for gay rights in America. Once again, we see how our history is just part of the larger history of civil rights and activism. I first met Adrian Brooks via his book “Flight of Angels” several years ago and I remember being awed by his prose. I am even more awed by this book because it is our story and we are all a part of it. This is a fascinating read that you will go back to time and time again."

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Craig Makler... since 1973

Since 1973, writer Adrian Brooks- born Craig Makler in Philadelphia in 1947, has been noteworthy in LGBT culture. From 1966-1972, he volunteered for Martin Luther King; attended the international Quaker school- Friends World Institute; and was in SOHO in NYC, where he knew Andy Warhol. From 1973-1980, Brooks was a poet, novelist and performer/script-writer for San Francisco's iconic free theater, the "Angels of Light", in addition to being a non-fiction writer, a spiritual teacher, activist for Human Rights and a world traveler.

One review of Brooks' theater memoir of his years in the Angels of Light- FLIGHTS OF ANGELS, is on Google. The article to which that (anonymous) reviewer refers- the piece written by John Karr, the porno film critic for San Francisco's "Bay Area Reporter"- can also be Googled. Still more reviews can be found on amazon, in addition to other reviews and Brooks' other published works.

Brooks' most recent book is THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY: 100 Years of LGBTQI Activism.  Published in June 2015 by Cleis Press, it includes a Foreword by Jonathan Katz- formerly the Head of Gay Studies at Yale and features contributions from: Judy Shepard, Barney Frank, Evan Wolfson, Charlotte Bunch, Rita Mae Brown, Julie Rhoad (Director of the Names Project); James Gilliam (California Head of the ACLU), and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, one of the transgender heroines of Stonewall, recently honored at the White House with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Adrian Brooks, Author list: THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY

The lineup of the new anthology in THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY- the past 100 year struggle of LGBTQI activists for Human Rights, just published by Cleis is extraordinary. See for yourself.

The Foreword is by Jonathan Katz, former Head of Gay Studies at Yale. The book itself is dedicated to: Bayard Rustin and Josephine Baker. The contributors, supporters, or contributing voices include (in order of appearance): Adrian Brooks, Hayden L. Mora, Eric A. Gordon, Patricia Nell Warren, Anahi Russo Garrido, Charlotte Bunch, Victoria A. Brownworth, Neeli Cherkovski, John d'Emilio, Jean-Claude Baker, Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, Paul Gabriel, Jeanne Cordova, Max Wolf Valerio, Jack C. Jackson Jr., Merle Woo, Julie Rohoad, Matt Ebert, Tiger Devore, Barney Frank, Brenda Knight, Sultan Shakir, James Gilliam, Evan Wolfson, Angela Dallara, Rita Mae Brown, Mark Segal, Father Daniel Berrigan, David Mixner.

Author Adrian Brooks and "Foreword This Week"

I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Howard Loxy for Foreword This Week. We spoke about my new anthology from Cleis Press: THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY. It includes many of the most out front LGBTQI leaders in the US as contributors, people such as: Barney Frank, Evan Wolfson, Charlotte Bunch, Miss Major Griffin-gracy, Rita Mae Brown, Judy Shephard and has a beautiful foreword by Jonathan Katz, former Head of Gay Studies at Yale. The essential theme is that LGBT people have always been in the forefront of the struggle for Human Rights in this nation and, as such, are true to its founding principles. Beyond the upcoming decision by the Supreme Court on marriage equality, there remain other, vital issues to be addressed: job security and bullying, for example. I'm pleased to have had the chance to speak with Howard Loxy and say that the interview is now online.

Adrian Brooks, Author, and Edie Windsor... Heroine

I'm thrilled to say that Edie Windsor- the heroine who pursued her case of marriage equality to the Supreme Court (and won), has invited me and my partner to be her guests in New York. I can't wait! I asked Edie if she'd like to do an event organized to celebrate THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY- my LGBTQI anthology. An activist friend- Tami Gold, the well known filmmaker has offered to set up a reading. Tami and I went to the same school in the 1960s: Friends World Institute- a Quaker school which became a college- was set up to create social revolutionaries.  It looks like it did a good job!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Author interview with The Matthew Shepard Foundation

Earlier this morning, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Greg Miraglia, one of the Directors of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. This was in conjunction with THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY, my newly released anthology, published by Cleis Press. The book contains my interview with Matthew's mother, Judy Shepard, and the interview with Greg relates to how we can draw attention to- and, hopefully, prevent- the appalling rate of LGBT teen suicide in this country.

The final edited interview will be about 25 minutes.  It will air on June 28 at 8PM on KRCB Radio.  Locally (which means the Bay Area), it’s at 91.1 and 90.9FM and streams worldwide at and   It will be available on-demand starting at 9PM that same day on and outbeatnews on iTunes.

Thank you.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Integrating the Past with Now

With my anthology due out in June, it's time for a proud announcement: I was born in 1947 to a family that was prominent in the Art World, and in Society. The Philadelphia Maklers are easily Googled.   My birth name- Craig Welsh Makler- was one, which opened doors "in all the right places" but, in 1973, when I realized that I was a creative artist, I wanted to be sure I wasn't given special treatment on the basis of where I came from. So I took other family names, rearranged them, and- voila!- Adrian Brooks was born. This wasn't a secret, just my way of trying to ensure that anything I earned, I earned fair and square. And if I failed, okay, I'd fail "on my own merit."

From the early 70s on, I had some successes as a published poet, performer and writer of fiction and non-fiction with four books out, so far, but the secure-making recognition I hoped for proved elusive. Now after 40+ arduous years, and having been everything from a designer to a marijuana farmer, it's finally clear that the new anthology- THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY- will prove a game changer. As such, it's time for me to accept the fact that I don't need to "earn my spurs" in quite the same way.

I owe this shift to my publisher, Brenda Knight at Cleis Press, but, also, to many other people who helped me along the way. And yet, it's a paradox that the one time my name was leaked-- Google it, please, it was from someone I'd known 40 years ago, a man who penned a vicious (anonymous) attack, thinking that he was outing me, instead of bringing me the peace that arises from knowing that one took the hard road out of choice. And somehow, made it work.

I feel fortunate to have survived 43 years of hard work, including 35 years of living with HIV-- (seroconverting in 1980, 15 years before there was effective medication) and having had the chance to be of service to the LGBT community, among other circles. What we have today as an identity is far, far different from the kind of community and revolutionary zeal that I knew as a revolutionary activist in the 60s and, from the early 70s on, as a radical creative artist. But the long road does lead forward; it integrates the Past with the sense of Now; it also brings in rewards for those who walk the walk.

Many of the finest people I knew fell to AIDS or their own demons. And it's undeniable that, with age, comes a certain rue: regret at what could not be sustained; at choices which were necessary, yet difficult; the cost of survival, which so often means refusing comfort or safe harbor or compromise. Seeing Bruce Jenner last night reminded me of how Life keeps on presenting us with new obstacles but, also, new chances to fuse who we were (and how others once saw us) with who we are today. And who we are still becoming.

Friday, April 3, 2015


My anthology on LGBT political activism dedicated to Josephine Baker and Bayard Rustin and with a Foreword by Jonathan Katz is coming in June from Cleis Press. It features 25 of the most compelling leaders, artists, and national spokespersons in the US today. Completely representative and diverse in every way, THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY covers the past 100 years of radical political activism and activists. Given the brave souls included- as contributors or as subjects, and all those who marched with us at every step of the way, the anthology, which was guided into being by publisher Brenda Knight, is a tribute to the best of the American spirit and to Human Rights. Soo... take THAT Indiana! As the slogan from the 60s goes: "The people united can never be defeated."

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Indiana's anti-gay law.

I don't see what all the fuss is about. So Indiana is giving people the right to decide not to serve gay people? Big deal. If I don't want to serve gays, I shouldn't have to. And if I don't want to serve blacks, I shouldn't have to. And if I don't want to serve women, I shouldn't have to. And if I don't want to serve Hispanics, I shouldn't have to. If I don't want to serve Jews, I shouldn't have to. And if I don't want to serve Catholics, I shouldn't have to. If I don't want to serve Mormons, I shouldn't have to. And if I don't want to serve Muslims, I shouldn't have to. And if I don't want to serve foreigners, I shouldn't have to. If I don't want to serve people with disabilities, I shouldn't have to. And if I don't want to serve the elderly, I shouldn't have to. And if I don't want to serve people who don't look good with their clothes off, I shouldn't have to. If I don't want to serve people who practice oral sex, I shouldn't have to. And if I don't want to serve people who make less than, say $100,000 a year, I shouldn't have to. If I don't want to serve people who are bald, I should have to. And if I don't want to serve people who don't believe that the USA is the greatest nation in the history of the world because it stands up for freedom and human rights, I shouldn't have to. Right?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

new project: the great art of the South

I'm so proud to say I've been invited to write a book about the great American self-taught artists of the South, who, not co-incidentally, are African-American. They include Thornton Dial and the Gee's Bend quilters, whose work has recently been acquired by the Met- (the Metropolitan Museum) in New York. The Met just accepted a bequest of 57 works. This book will pull together many of my lifelong loves: great art, racial progress, the bravery of pioneers who went out on a limb and did marvelous things, and underdogs who have triumphed over a system I know only too well, having grown up in it: the Art World Establishment. Coincidentally, three generations of my family have known Bill Arnett, who championed this cause and saw it through against all the odds. So... the path unfolds and I feel honored beyond measure to apply myself to this task. For those not aware of Thornton Dial or the Gee's Bend quilts, or others who are part of this hidden culture in America, which is the untold story of the greatest art in the US of the past 50 years, I urge you to go to Google and feast your eyes.

Friday, March 27, 2015

New novel finished!

A book about the devil tempting an artist- set in Paris and ranging from the top of Notre Dame to the catacombs beneath the city. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Big things, little things

Facing what I'll call a Big Bad Thing last week, I decided not to freak out. Instead, I stepped back, raised my sights, and made really major progress in another direction. The result? The potentially "bad thing" is far less important to me. And, paradoxically, the "big"- (in the Big Bad Thing), isn't so "big" at all. So I have the wonderful feeling of watching the cards play out with a sense of detachment-- whether it's called karma or inevitability. Or maybe it's just the difference between being caught up in worldly affairs vs. maintaining fidelity to my Self? Anyway, a lose/lose scenario turned into a win/win.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A wonderful chat with an old friend

Bill Arnett is the force of nature behind the discovery of the quilts of Gee's Bend and it's thanks to his championing of self-taught artists in the South that the world has become aware of Thornton Dial and others. They put the lie to a myth that African-Americans were only gifted at sports or music since their creative genius in painting and sculpture is one of the great unsung songs of 20th Century, and now 21st Century, fine art. I'm proud to know the Arnett family and glad to say that our paths have converged in the past and may do so again in the near future since I may write a book about this truly extraordinary sphere.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Countdown: two and a half months to go.

So pleased to say that my anthology from Cleis Press will be out in two and a half months. Amazing contributors include many of the brightest, and best-known, LGBT and Intersex folk in the country. The title is still embargoed because my last one (and cover image) somehow wound up on the cover of another book! Go figure. But ALL WILL BE REVEALED SOON. So... stay tuned.