Gloria Brame, Ph.D.

Why Our Sex History Matters: An Allen Ginsberg story

Filed By Gloria Brame, Ph.D. | December 31, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living
Tags: Allen Ginsberg, censorship, Gay Liberation, gay love, LGBT history, Peter Orlovsky, sex history

You know how I feel about sex history? I love it! Sex history is human history.

Because so much of LGBT/Queer/Leather sex history has been systematically destroyed and censored in the name of God and country, it feels particularly vital to preserve all we can of every photo, every painting, every document that proves that sexual diversity is and has always been normal.

These thoughts rose upon finding this infamous back issue of Evergreen featuring Allen Ginsberg and his then-wife and fellow beat poet, Peter Orlovsky, in 1970's most unforgettable cover photo.

Alanandpeter

In one of my other lives, i.e., the poetic one, I interviewed Allen. You can read the interview here

Actually, I interviewed Allen twice: once in the early 1990s and again after he'd been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Many ironies have accompanied the publication of my interview, which devoted considerable attention to the subject of censorship and its emotional tolls on society as a whole and artists in particular. The original magazine that commissioned it from me killed it because they balked at Allen's lefty politics. So the piece sat dormant in my files until a few years later when, while serving as an advisory editor at ELF magazine, the publisher hounded me into re-interviewing him and allowing ELF to run an updated version. The second interview was difficult because he was very ill by then, but ultimately Allen was so happy with it he selected it for an official anthology of his best interviews.

Allen died before the anthology was finalized. A few months later, I received a groveling, apologetic letter from the editor. The publishers had kicked my interview out of the anthology... because they balked at my sexual politics (BDSMer, libertine). Even though Allen and I talked about SM in the interview and he laughingly admitted he probably was a sadomasochist, the editors just didn't want a sadomasochist represented in this posthumous tome.

However, there's a final irony, and it's a happy one. Against all odds, the interview continues to be read widely. See, I posted the Ginsberg interview on my website in 1996, long before many poets even knew there was an Internet. When Allen died, the interview became a go-to resource. CNN linked to it from their obituary, as did the BBC. That credibility inspired various Ginsberg-related and Beat Poetry sites all over the Web to link up, bringing his condemnation of censorship to new readers every day. Sweet.


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Stuart Wilber | January 1, 2011 7:10 AM

I had forgotten about this wonderful photo of Ginsberg and Orlovsky. Thank you for posting it and for the reminder that we must not forget our history in this world where history is so often re-written and LGBT people are written out of it.

That's a fantastic story, and an interview well worth the click to read.

Several years ago, I saw a video where a Gay American was talking about "Gay culture." An angry African-American female reacted by saying: "Gays don't have a culture!" After calming down at such homophobic nonsense, I thought, "Gay culture exists and, for the most part, it's invisible. It doesn't mean that there isn't one. Matter of fact, it's a large and important part of what Gay culture always has been."