Wednesday, June 04, 2008

LGBT authors laugh, cry and get honored at Lambda Literary Awards

Malcolm Boyd and Kittredge Cherry share a smile at the Lammy Awards.

[Note: Guest blogger Audrey Lockwood captures the excitement of the Lambda Literary Awards ceremony in the following personal account. The event was held May 29, 2008 in West Hollywood. More photos at end.]

Both Kitt and I loved every minute of the evening. Kitt was nominated for a prestigious "Lammy Award" that honors gay and lesbian authors. Her book Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ and More was one of five books chosen in the LGBT Arts and Culture category. Unfortunately, the book didn't win, but just being there was huge! (For the list of winners, click here.)

It was an incredible celebration. There’s a photo of the two of us posing proudly in front of the podium with the Lammy Logo on it. The nation's very best and brightest stood at that podium last night, and it was more than a dream come true to be there.

LGBT authors laugh, cry and get honored at Lambda Literary AwardsIt was fantastic to be in an auditorium with all the most famous and sacred gay and lesbian authors of all time! Magic was in the air last night. At the at the pre-awards reception, I went up to the bar and got a lovely glass of red wine...included in the ticket price surprisingly, and put a $5 tip on the counter. The gay barman's face lit up, and I smiled to myself as the other gay men put down $1 bills. Single handedly, I was going to put to rest the stereotype of the "cheap" lesbian tippers!!!

One of the great things about an LGBT awards event is that you’re presented with new problems. Like what do you do when a drag queen sits down two rows ahead of you and is blocking your view with a fabulous feather headdress? You gotta love it!

It was a room full of our peers, and the entire ceremony was a real vision of equality of men and women. Not the fake equality that men believe exists, but real. Kitt and I had been worried previously when we had seen almost all men listed as the entertainment. There was a little bit of "penis humor" as we call it, but not overdone and very muted. A lesbian comic troupe called "The Gay Mafia" performed a lesbian science fiction scene that was hysterical, and our sense of humor was for once not overshadowed by gay male obsessions.

So this evening was a chance to see what lesbians with power and stature are really like. Everyone was friendly and loving. We were amazed, no snobbishness, no standoffishness, and there was actually a lot of older lesbian and gay male representation there. Youth was there, but not taking over or being overly queeny. It was thoughtful people, quietly generous. No pornography, no sexual display, just the cream of the crop of gay and lesbian men and women of letters.

Nobody was competitive, and everyone was really happy to be honored even if they didn't win. All the local authors from the Lammy finalists’ reading in West Hollywood rooted for each other. We clapped and yelled when each of us was announced. None of them won, but we all were happy to see each other again. Lots of great authors got standing ovations.

There was a deeply moving "In Memoriam" slide show, which had all the authors who had died in the past 20 years -- 1988 to 2008, since it was the 20th anniversary of the Lammys. Everyone was holding back tears and trying to be dignified as all our heroines’ and heroes’ faces came up on the screen. I saw this on the program, but it took me a while to figure out the whole thing was about the past 20 years, not the last year. I knew almost every author who had died. I'd either read their books or met them in person, and I was wildly clapping for almost every picture of an author. Somehow, the very essence of that person came out to us on that giant white screen; it was as if they were all there in spirit with us. I was shocked to feel this, and hadn't experienced this since the dark days of the AIDS epidemic when all our friends were dying, and when Kitt got her ministry training doing funerals.

Even Valerie Solanas came on screen, and I think I was about the only one in the audience who clapped for her. (She was the radical feminist who wrote "Scum Manifesto" and who shot Andy Warhol). There were a lot of authors on the slide show, who I could tell few people in the audience had ever read or even knew about.

Was there a moment I will always remember? Well, one of the moments came as Charles Flowers, the executive director, got on stage. He was magic and gracious and kind; a great gay man of style and passion. You could see him struggling not to cry when he mentioned how he never cries at the Oscars for the "In Memoriam" section, but how he was crying over this. Suddenly the room was totally quiet... It was a stunned and sacred silence as we all honored our beloved dead. All of us know how hard it is to do that without crying. In a quiet moment of recognition, I realized I felt the same way. This was our people and our culture and our greatest heroes, and you could truly feel, instead of being the distanced outsiders indifferent to the straight world!

Another moment of this sacred silence came upon the room when Katherine V. Forrest presented a Pioneer award to Ann Bannon, who wrote lesbian novels in the 1950s, and whom every lesbian of a certain age has read and revered. Her famous lesbian character Beebo Brinker lives on as legend. Katherine was struck silent as well. People waited, she struggled not to cry, she reached down for a bottle of water and recovered enough to say that Ann Bannon’s books had saved her life.

Ann Bannon is this lovely women, probably in her 60s or 70s who had a fabulous smile that lit up the room. When we went up later with congratulations she seemed to know Kitt. One author always recognizes another I guess!

These silences that came upon the room were incredible; the deepest and most profound silence you have ever heard. This is what a lot of people experience in churches I think, but I always feel nothing in those patriarchal homophobic places. This was the sacred space of authors, and gay and lesbian letters are perhaps the oldest gay and lesbian tradition that lives on that we know. Each author has a lineage to look back upon, a sacred history. Everything else in gay life might be relatively new, but writing is our forte.

Another Pioneer award went to Malcolm Boyd, who is going to be 85 years old. He’s one of the grand old gay men of letters. He's also is a revered Episcopal priest. In his acceptance speech, he said how precious it was to be recognized and honored. You could see the depth of his feeling, the 85 year old who dared to be brave, when almost his entire generation lived in closeted silence. He risked everything to come out as a gay man. Other gay men of his generation lived in fake marriages, they never ever did anything to begin a gay culture, they sat on the sidelines of history, but he had not!

Afterward, elegant desserts were served. Cream puffs and strawberry tarts. Kitt found fresh squeezed orange juice. I had the best cup of coffee in the world!! Only decaf was served, I guess they wanted to protect the poor hyped up authors from getting further jazzed that night!

We made quite the distinguished lesbian couple in our elegant suits. Kitt was her gray-haired and gray-suited best, I had on my dark blue suit and lighter blue vest. Usually we never fuss over what we wear, but somehow, this evening, we spent time discussing what looked good. We had become distinguished as the years have gone by, and everyone came up to us to talk. I took a photo of one of the Pioneer award winners, Malcolm Boyd, who has always been generous and wonderful to Kitt. She had his writing in Equal Rites, a gay Christian anthology she wrote many years ago. So I got a photo of the two of them together. Privately, when he, Kitt and I were talking, Malcolm said how deeply he felt to be truly honored by his peers. Christopher Rice was lovely, and we all happily posed for pictures together. He is the new president of Lambda, and Katherine V. Forrest was the outgoing president. Katherine was one of the great lesbian writers and I love her classic lesbian novel Curious Wine. She was kind and generous and spent quite some time talking to both of us.

John Morgan Wilson, my absolute favorite gay mystery writer, came right over and boy was he surprised to discover that I was one of his biggest Los Angeles fans!! I could talk about all his books. He created Benjamin Justice, the very first gay male hero with HIV. He told the story of his life, and I asked him about certain favorite passages.

Since I was the devoted "reader" all the authors loved me! And I had read all their books, and knew what to say, and how to comment on gay literature in general. I always managed last night to effortlessly say the right thing at the right time with the right person. As a devoted reader and person who has supported Kitt's writing career since 1975, and whose parents were writers as well, this was a group of people and a profession I deeply understood.

Kitt and I felt that at last our peers are there for us, and we are a part of this. Kitt's little book that could, that emerged out of inspiration made it all the way to the top of the gay and lesbian list. She had arrived! No foundations or academic institutions funded this book, and I don't even think it will make a profit. It was a labor of true inspired love! Art That Dares luckily found a gay publisher. No one else would touch this book, and even the usual anti-Christian bias of the gay world did not prevent it from being honored. Wow!

The ceremony itself is now 20 years old. All of us have worked so hard in our movement, and when you get to celebrate with your special literary peers, well as they always say "words fail me."

It's hard to put into words just how amazed we were, and how proud we felt of our entire little lesbian and gay community. We especially appreciate all the hard work, millions of hours, and pure gay heroism that the Lambda Literary Foundation displayed in helping make this a reality.

The level of professional care and graciousness are unmatched in the gay and lesbian world. The two of us have planned and been in so many gay and lesbian events over the last 25 years or so, that we really appreciate greatness when we see it.

There is so much more to say about the Lammys and all the wonderful people who were there. The organization has moved to Los Angeles, and I hope that somehow I'll be able to support it or go to the places I most love -- the worlds of gay and lesbian writers, the true creators, preservers, and the celebrators of a unique group of people, who came to consciousness AS A PEOPLE in the mid-20th century. Those people are still alive with us, just as all those authors we remembered are alive in their art forever.

Authors are about vision, and we are all a people supremely ahead of our time. But we are also a people who can live so completely in the present moment, so -- thank you Lambda Literary Foundation for bringing this about. And welcome to Los Angeles, the brave new world! How lucky we are to have you in our back yard!!

Kittredge Cherry, left, and Audrey stand at the Lammy podium where the world's best GLBT authors spoke at the 20th annual awards ceremony.

After the Lammys were handed out, authors relaxing at the dessert reception include, from left, John Morgan Wilson, Christopher Rice and Kittredge Cherry. Katherine V. Forrest, left, greets Audrey and Kittredge Cherry at the Lammy reception.

Kittredge Cherry blogs at the Jesus in Love Blog and edits the Jesus in Love Newsletter on queer spirituality and the arts. She offers GLBT and progressive spiritual resources at

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