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Out of the Closets
Into Our Hearts


Jesse Monteagudo's Book Nook

Out of the Closets Into Our Hearts: Celebrating Our Gay/Lesbian Family Members; Edited by Laura Siegel and Nancy Lamkin Olson; Leyland Publications; 160 pages; $15.95.

Young people, we are told, should look to their families for support in times of trouble. Unfortunately, most gay people grow up in straight families who often share society's prejudices against them. Happily, every day more and more parents and other family members have learned to love and accept their queer children. Many of them become activists because they love their gay relatives and can not bear other people's hatred against those they love. For some of them, the spurt to action is a personal tragedy: a child falling victim to antigay violence; a son or grandson dying of AIDS-complications.

Out of the Closets Into Our Hearts is the first anthology that covers the whole spectrum of family life. Previous books about families of lesbians and gays were written from the standpoint of the parent, usually the mother.

Though both of this book's editors are the mothers of gay sons, the articles and essays in their book are written by fathers, brothers, sisters, grandparents, children and other family members as well as mothers. This book is also a milestone for Leyland Publications: After publishing scores of ground-breaking, provocative books by and about gay men, Out of the Closets Into Our Hearts is the first book by Leyland that deals with gay women as well as men.

"We have ... written this book as a gift to all gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans-gendered people," the editors note in their Introduction. "This anthology represents the voices of over 50 mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, children, nieces, nephews, and cousins". In six thematic sections, family members reveal the power of unconditional love. Some of them are celebrities, like Gene Shalit of TV's Critic's Corner, who writes "For the Love of Pete", his son. Others are well-known in the activist community, like Parents of Gays pioneer Jeanne Manford, who reminiscences about her late son, Morty. Out of the Closets Into Our Hearts features the voices of the old - like Margy Kleinerman, "The Kvelling Grandma" - and the young - like 8-year old Abby Lawton, who lives with "my mom and my other mom". Not every parent is as forthright as Mike Neubecker, who proudly sports a "GAY SON" license plate in honor of his son, Lee (see the cover). But many of them have gone that extra mile to help their loved ones as well as the rest of us.

A couple of stories are especially poignant. In "Heart of a Flower", Carole and Richard L. Fowler write about their son Scott, who died of AIDS complications, and of the miraculous flower that "bloomed in his honor" just before he died.

In "My Son Matt" Dennis Shepard speaks out, extensively, for the first time in print. Though reams of paper have been written about Matthew Shepard and his brutal murder, Mr. Shepard gives those events a fresh perspective. Like too many others, he learned what it's like to be a gay person in a homo-hating society from bitter experience.

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Related Sites:
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If there is a lesson to be learned from Out of the Closets Into Our Hearts it is that we need to come out to our loved ones. Studies reveal that people are more likely to be gay-friendly if they know and love someone gay, and the essays in this book prove it beyond a doubt. Out of the Closets Into Our Hearts is in itself a valuable tool in the coming out process. After you have "the talk" with your family members, give them a copy of this book. It will help in the process.

Out of the Closets Into Our Hearts can be purchased from your friendly bookstore or by mail directly from the publisher. Send a check or money order for $17.95 to Leyland Publications, P.O. Box 410690, San Francisco, CA 94141.
Pathways to Inner Peace: Life-Saving Processes for Healing Heart-Mind-Soul by Rev. James Webb; Prism Publishing Co.; 190 pages; $14.95.

The Reverend Jim Webb is an openly gay, Interfaith Minister. In Pathways to Inner Peace, Rev. Webb drew upon his experiences to create "a tool that can be used to help you find inner peace and your own spirituality." Though Pathways' teaching will benefit everyone, it "is especially relevant to Gay and Lesbian readers", Webb tells me, because "my personal difficulties forced me to devise the coping methods within Pathways so that I could help myself and minister to others. This process has proven to work exceptionally well. As a result, Pathways presents highly effective ways for Gays and Lesbians who may feel alienated from organized religions to recapture a sense of spirituality, inner peace, self-confidence and overall well-being."

David Zinn calls Pathways the "bible of self-healing", and he is right. From Rev. Webb's teachings, and a series of exercises that he details in his book, we learn to deal with the pain in our lives, the false ego and the dominant consciousness. Equally important, we rediscover the power of prayer ("Talking to GOD") and meditation ("Listening to GOD"). And we learn "the simple truth", primarily these essential truths:

1 GOD loves us completely and unconditionally. 2 The universe supports us completely and unconditionally. 3 We can love ourselves completely and unconditionally.

Life is a journey. Pathways to Inner Peace is a basic travel guide to this cosmic trip.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer who lives in South Florida with his domestic partner. He can be reached at jessemonteagudo@aol.com



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