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Letter to Councilman LaBonge
Real People as Fictional Characters
Female Actors, Part Two
One Culture Hero Award
Adelante Gay Pride Gala
Best Work of Fiction?
Tom of Finland: Sexual Liberator or Enslaver
Lying Writers
Review of The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson
Promiscuous Thoughts
A Crime of the Heart
A Letter to Michael Silverblatt
"Have you no decency, sir?"
Political Incorrectness: Female Actors and Trojans
He Hugged Moms and Dads
What is a Girly Man?
Review of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
From Sunset Boulevard to Mulholland Drive
The Gay Mammies
A Writer Protests
Review of Beyond Paradise: The Life of Ramon Novarro
A Spirit Preserved in 'Amber'
The Supreme Court Case
Review of "Live from Golgotha: The Gospel According to Gore Vidal"
Review of "Lost Years: A Memoir 1945-1951" by Christopher Isherwood
Review of "Out For Good"
Review of "Hoyt Street: an Autobiography"
Review of "Sergei Eisenstein: A Life in Conflict"
Review of "Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation"
Review of "Whores for Gloria"
Muscles and Mascara
Review of "Blonde"
Brother Paul, Sister Jan, Brother Hinn, God and the Folks
Advice to the Next Generation
Sins of the Fathers
Beatin' Around the Bush

Cruise Not Gay! The Judge Has Spoken

The Horror, The Horror
LA--a Cliché?
Dominick, Mark & Orenthal
Holy Drag!
Ms. Hill & Mr. Tom
George, Jr.
Mrs. guy Ritchie 
Supreme Court 
Tom Cruise 
New Times Article 



TOM OF FINLAND: Sexual Liberator or Enslaver?

In the summer of 2005, I was contacted by the Tom of Finland Foundation about the possibility of my writing a brief Foreword for a collection of the gay artist Tom of Finland's drawings, an expensive, large-format book to be published this year by a prestigious German publisher, Taschen. I was baffled as to why I would be solicited since I have never publicly expressed admiration for, or even an opinion about, Finland's work, and I have written about the need to explore--not judge--certain gay charades of violence celebrated in his drawings. My "outlaw" status, I was told, would complement the book. I suspected, too, that it was felt that I might add a certain "literary respectability" and seriousness to the book, perhaps allowing the collection to be viewed as a chic, if exotic, coffee-table book rather than one relegated to a specialized group of core admirers.

     I met with the editor, a charming woman. It was agreed that I would write the Foreword on one condition: that I would be free to express my views. Agreed. When I went through copies of the drawings that were provided and that would be included in the collection, I became uneasy very soon. When I came upon one where a swastika predominated in the context of gay subjugation, I felt I could not write the kind of introduction that I assumed they expected. I did not want to contribute a Foreword that would harm their endeavor. Both the editor of the collection and the head of the Foundation were informed of my intent to withdraw. I was encouraged to proceed with the Foreword, even if controversial, and I did with the clear understanding that they might choose not to publish it. The editor admired the resultant essay and wanted to use it. The head of the foundation, a long time devotee of Finland, did not, nor did board members. The main focus of disagreement was my discussion of Nazi influences, some explicit, others suggested, in some drawings. The head of the foundation wrote me an instructive, courteous--and moving--defense of the views of his once mentor. My attitude remained unchanged. I had felt my Foreword would add interest, perhaps arouse discussion that would benefit it. Without bad feelings toward the people who had treated me respectfully, I withdrew the Foreword from consideration, and I am on good terms with those involved in the venture.

     I continue to believe that my Foreword addresses matters not generally explored, and, for that reason, is worthy of being read. That Foreword appears here as written. Following it, is a current postscript expanding my views.

Foreword to Tom of Finland Collection

June 15, 2005.

In view of current attitudes engendered by advances in gay liberation, how do Tom of Finland's wondrously popular figures emerge? In some areas, way ahead of their time.

     There is a laudable sexual democracy established within these drawings. A man "tops" in one and "bottoms" in another, mirror images, no prejudicial demarcation. Not here the reactionary growing fascination in gay circles with "straight men." Finland's men are all unquestionably gay, not here any "I'm-straight-dude" posturing, no "gay-for-pay" nonsense implied, no fake attraction to women, who are very few in this population.

     All the men involved are masculine, and commitedly gay, and they kiss hotly--and those are among Mr. Finland's best figures, the ones that suggest romance, the possibility that after the tumbles of rough sex, the men may pair off and share an exhausted sleep, holding each other.

     Gay sex is celebrated, proudly performed, never hidden in these drawings; these are all proud outlaws. A street, even a grocery store, becomes the site of an orgy as energetic as one occurring in a bar or in an enclosed forest. There is never a trace of shame in their activities in the protagonists of Finland's drawings.

     In their perfect handsome features, the faces of the men suggest a sensitivity beyond the exaggerated masculinity and the occasional sneers that at times seem about to turn into smiles--and, yes, these men do smile, staring longingly at each other. Not here, the distorted faces of too-often-pursued "rough trade."

     The cumulative effect of these drawings is of rampant fantasy, of gay theater, performance. The assertive uniforms are so powerful, so revered among Finland's legion of fans and leatherman, that they are capable of transforming--magically--even the most ordinary gay men into their fantasy image, the perfect heroes of Finland's drawings. They are thus empowered in their gay identity.

     What then so disturbs about these drawings? Bluntly put, it is the prevalence of Nazi imagery. At times it is overt, at times, and, most often, strongly implicit. The men depicted are all Aryan, quintessential "supermen," even those in roles of slaves. African-Americans are depicted in the latter years, but they are really darkened Aryans.


Original material by John Rechy appears frequently on these pages.

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