Salford Museum & Art Gallery … Five Gay Authors … Sir Lady Java


Salford Museum and Art Gallery

A small group of us gathered at Piccadilly Gardens Bus Station to take the short bus ride to Salford.

A pair of rainbow crossings greeted us on The Crescent leading from the bus stop to the Salford Museum. Salford Council opened the rainbow crossings about two years ago to celebrate LGBT+ Pride in the city.

The museum café was quite busy but we enjoyed soups, toasties and sandwiches before visiting the various galleries. The Victorian Gallery is packed with paintings and sculptures. The other galleries feature a changing programme of contemporary art exhibitions, but the highlight was Lark Hill Place. This is an atmospheric re-creation of a typical northern street during Victorian times.

Photos can be seen here.

Five gay authors whose stories show us how to age gracefully

With year-end “best of” lists coming out fast and furious over the final weeks of 2022, there are more notable LGBT+ writers to choose from than ever before. The year provided a remarkably broad and diverse number of authors with novels, history and poetry sharing points of view neglected in the past by publishing’s traditional gatekeepers.

In the early 1980s gay male writers were instrumental in centring gay themes in literature, inspiring later and diverse generations of authors to write about what they know and where they came from.

These new gay books from 2022 reflect on age, impermanence and the subjective quality of time:

James Hannaham – “Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta”

Hannaham, 54, is a visual artist as well as a writer. He studied art at Yale and creative writing at the Michener Center at the University of Texas. His debut novel from 2009, God Says No, was a Lambda Literary Award finalist, while his 2015 novel, Delicious Foods, won the PEN / Faulkner Award and Hurston / Wright Legacy Award. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband.

His latest work, the irreverent and heartbreaking Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta tells the story of the titular character, Carlotta Mercedes, over the course of a Fourth of July weekend in Brooklyn after she’s released from a men’s prison; 20 years earlier she’d gone into stir as a man.

As the years changed Carlotta, so too did the Brooklyn she once called home, where time is a prison all its own. “Carlotta remembered that people used the same term for coming home from prison and coming back from outer space,” Hannaham writes. “Re-entry.”

Andrew Holleran – “Kingdom of Sand”

Holleran, 78, is best known for Dancer from the Dance, published in 1978. His debut novel achieved cult status for its depiction of halcyon days and nights in New York’s discos and on the beaches of Fire Island in the years between Stonewall and the AIDS epidemic.

His latest novel, Kingdom of Sand, is a bookend to that story of young, reckless beauty. Now, aging while gay is another kind of reverie, and time is not fleeting but stretched, seemingly endless, something to be studied and admired. Alone in a house by a lake in Florida, Holleran’s narrator observes: “Now the drought had gone on so long that something unexpected had happened: the dry lake bed had become more beautiful than the lake.”

Harvey Fierstein – “I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir”

Every decade has a Harvey Fierstein cameo. In 1979 Gay Presses of New York published Fierstein’s play, Torch Song Trilogy. The actor made a name for himself in the 1980s starring in the show on Broadway as well as the film version, which he also wrote. In the ’90s, Fierstein made Mrs Doubtfire and in the 2000s, Fierstein sang and danced the character Edna Turnblad in the musical version of Hairspray on Broadway.

Stories of those productions and others fill his memoir, I Was Better Last Night, a meditation on the 70-year-old actor and writer’s place in the universe in general, and on Broadway and in Hollywood specifically. Of the latter, Fierstein never felt a good fit. Of the former, he was gobsmacked from the start by the smell of the grease paint and the roar of the crowd.

Torch Song came about because Fierstein found The Boys in the Band and A Taste of Honey, both gay breakthroughs in their time, burdened with self-loathing. His gay breakthrough would be written with joy.

David Sedaris – “Happy-Go-Lucky”

If you were lucky enough to discover David Sedaris in real time, when he read his Santaland Diaries in 1992, or you picked up his first collection of essays, Barrel Fever in 1994, or you were gifted Naked  in 1997, then you’ve probably stuck with the acerbic and self-deprecating author – and you probably look forward to reading the latest instalment of what’s become a long-running serial detailing his dysfunctional and perfectly normal American family, his long time and forever boyfriend Hugh, his own quirks and foibles and sexual proclivities, his slashing wit, his despair, his compassion.

The latest collection of essays, Happy-Go-Lucky, is just that. It follows an onslaught of output from the 65-year-old writer. He’s published seven books in the last five years alone, including two more essay collections, two diaries clocking in at 500 pages each, along with a visual compendium and an e-book.

Edmund White – “A Previous Life”

At 82, Edmund White is the éminence grise among gay literati. He’s best known for his The Joy of Gay Sex, written with Charles Silverstein in 1977, along with his trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels, A Boy’s Own StoryThe Beautiful Room Is Empty, and The Farewell Symphony.

In the 1980s, while White was in residence in France, where he learned he was HIV-positive, he wrote the definitive biography of French writer Jean Genet. In 2019, he received the National Book Award’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

Set primarily in 2050, A Previous Life flashes back and forward through a couple’s sexual histories, including a meta-meeting of the minds between one of the protagonists and an 80-year-old White himself, which ends with the author’s heart broken.

Sir Lady Java is a transgender pioneer who fought discrimination

Sir Lady Java was a pioneering transgender activist fighting against a Los Angeles law that restricted drag performance. Photo: Sir Lady Java

Sir Lady Java was a waitress, dancer, singer, comedian, and drag performer in the 1960s Los Angeles club scene. She delighted audiences with her stand up routines, go-go dancing gigs and performances with the likes of Sammy Davis Jr and Richard Pryor. She also was a pioneering transgender activist who fought against laws that restricted drag performance.

As a black gender non-conforming activist, she witnessed a point in history – the intersection of discriminatory law enforcement tactics targeting black communities as well as lesbian and gay communities in Los Angeles in the 1960s. These types of police campaigns also took place in numerous cities across the US.

Only a few years into Sir Lady Java’s career, police began attempting to shut down her shows specifically because she was an “impersonator.” In one of their first attempts, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) sent around 50 officers to arrest her under the “three-piece rule.” This rule stated that a person must be wearing at least three articles of clothing that corresponded to the sex they were assigned at birth, or they would be arrested for cross-dressing. Java thought quickly and pointed out her socks, wristwatch, and bow tie—which had all been deemed “male articles” by the LAPD—and avoided arrest. 

Rule #9

Passed in 1958, LA’s notorious ordinance Rule #9 said bar owners couldn’t hire anyone who performed as the opposite sex to the one they were assigned at birth.

Java was targeted because she was successful, and the idea was that shutting down the show of a top performer would cause all other impersonator performances to stop. By targeting trans and drag performers through the guise of “impersonator” performance, police also targeted establishments that were considered safe spaces for gay people.

The impacts of the law reached a fever pitch for her in 1967 during a run of performances at the Redd Foxx, a black-owned nightclub.

The club applied for a performance permit, but in October 1967, the Los Angeles Police Department denied the request.

After the permit was refused, she protested at the Redd Foxx, arguing for her right to work.

Historic protest, court case

Sir Lady Java made history because she was the first person to not only protest the law, but also challenge it.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sued the city on her behalf, but the court refused to hear the case because only bar or club owners could file a lawsuit.

The ACLU couldn’t find a bar owner willing to sue Los Angeles, and the case was dismissed, but her protest did raise awareness and visibility about the issue.

Two years later, the ordinance was overturned in a separate lawsuit.

With the law overturned, Sir Lady Java returned to the stage and continued performing in LA nightclubs in the 1970s and early 1980s.

ACT UP Los Angeles, “Sir Lady Java,” 1989. ACT UP Los Angeles picket sign collections,
ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries

Painted jars ready for World AIDS Day on 1 December

One thought on “Salford Museum & Art Gallery … Five Gay Authors … Sir Lady Java

  1. Hello Tony

    I have received my work roster for now until the end of December and it looks like I wont be able to attend any events until the New Year. If things change id love to attend again before the New Year and regularly there after. I’m also thinking of relocating to Manchester but that wont be for a while yet.

    If I don’t see you before or over Christmas please accept my best wishes to you and the rest of the guys.



    Sent from Mail for Windows


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