I have been asking my gay friends to name “must reads” for anyone who wants to understand the modern gay world. I have read dozens of books, but now I’m getting into gay history with such authors as Edmund White, Andrew Holleran, Justin Spring, Armistead Maupin, and most recently Paul Monette.
Monette wrote Becoming A Man: Half A Life Story, a memoir of boyhood growing into a man who finally finds love. The journey to that love takes the entire book; only the final few pages give us any hope for Paul. It is a story of internal struggle and external posturing, trying to be what the world wants him to be. It is only when Monette realizes the fallacy of such expectations that he becomes capable of the love he so desperately wants. It is a familiar theme.
I’m finding so far that many gay men my age have a dark view of men. They lived through a terrible childhood, being told by the world in those innocent and tender years that they are at best “intrinsically disordered.” Ushered into a new era, they celebrated the years between 1969 and 1981 (Stonewall to HIV), which became a brief nirvana that crashed around them with countless funerals and bitter memories of lost hope. I wonder at any gay man’s ability to live through all of that and survive healthy and whole.
Monette’s memoir is bleak. Is it a template for most men of his era? I continue to read (currently a collection from the Violet Quill) and learn. If you have a recommendation for me, by all means let’s hear it.