Sunday, January 11, 2015

OUT/LOOK: National Lesbian & Gay Quarterly, Fall 1988

from the book log (1/6/89):

OUT/LOOK: National Lesbian & Gay Quarterly, Fall 1988

The cover story is about the art of Tom of Finland. I’ve been uncomfortable with pornography/erotica for a long time. Because it is so unrealistically idealized, I was distressed by Tom of Finland’s work. Yet if I’m going to be honest I must say that not only is he an accomplished artist, his drawings turn me on. I don’t look like any of the guys who populate his drawings and have no hope of looking like one of them at any future time. It bugs me that I’m turned on by these guys.

This was not my favorite issue of OUT/LOOK, but it did have some good stuff. A very good analysis by Steven Epstein of how our world view, our view of ourselves as a “gay community” or as “polymorphously perverse” reflects on the battle against AIDS. The gay community provides support and organization and enthusiasm and togetherness and seems to promote the perception of AIDS as a gay disease. [On the other hand t]he “it’s not who you are but what you do” [message] puts across safe sex and de-gays the disease while fragmenting the health efforts and hampering togetherness [for gay people].

Also a rundown on teen novels with gay characters/themes.

And the article which infuriated me the most: The pompous & self-righteous Petra Liljesfraund. Any gay person bolstering her case by asserting that the opposition’s concerns are “not based on incontrovertible scientific facts” has poked out her eyes with a stick. She may have some valid points to make about artificial insemination, but her arrogance and defensiveness lead me to doubt it.

OUT/LOOK was a national magazine that addressed the gay community and the issues we deal with in a thoughtful, serious way, less news-of-the-day, more history and theory, and little in the way of fashion spreads or gratuitous hunks. I guess Tom of Finland got in because he’s art and history.

I first saw the work of Tom of Finland in the gay bookstore A Different Light on Castro in San Francisco. As a long-time comics aficionado I recognized comics when I saw it. I’d been reading undergrounds like Zap and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, but Tom of Finland was of another order. Not druggy and wacky but precise, buffed, and strikingly sexual. Not that I couldn’t see that Tom of Finland had a sense of humor, but the gigantic cocks and the bound testicles, the hairless pneumatic muscles, the big boots and gleaming biker helmets, well, all that rather overwhelmed the funny. I still don’t own any Tom of Finland. Not even a postage stamp. I suppose “it bug[ged] me” to be turned on by Tom of Finland because he did not illustrate my ideal of an egalitarian gay community. The rape and bondage rankled. Or maybe just embarrassed. Maybe it was the old superego looking over the shoulder going, What are you looking at! You can’t even think that!

Clearly I hated the article by Petra Liljesfraund. She wrote about artificial insemination. But what did she say? I’m going to take a stab here. I’m guessing Liljesfraund made a case for the right of lesbian mothers to hide from any offspring the origins of donor sperm. Being as I think a person has a right to information about their genetic heritage, I was appalled. Judging by the quote, Liliesfraund claimed she was backed up by “incontrovertible scientific facts.” Considering the many crimes “science” has visited upon the gay community (aversion therapy! homosexuality as mental defect!) the thought that any member of the gay community would offer up science as “incontrovertibl[y]” backing her struck me as ahistorical and willfully naive.

update (4/26/15): Cleaning out a box of old papers I came across the issue of OUT/LOOK under discussion. I found the article by Petra Liljesfraund about the use of anonymous sperm donors, and want to quote from it the context for the line about “incontrovertible scientific facts”:

To say that children conceived through insemination have an inherent need to know the specific identity of their donors is simply opinion at this point. It is a moral claim based on norms of what we should do, in the way that statements such as “menstruating women should not swim” is a moral claim. It is not based on incontrovertible scientific facts.

[Please note the correction in OUT/LOOK Winter 1989: “We regret misspelling the name of the author of ‘Children Without Fathers: Handling the Anonymous Donor Question’ in the Fall 1988 issue. It’s Petra Liljestrand, not Liljesfraund.”]

I doubt I will keep this magazine, even now that I discover I have kept it so many years. One can’t keep everything.

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