Sex. Sexuality. Sexual Assault. Harassment. Intentional or unintentional? Boys will be boys. Believe all women. She can’t consent if she’s drunk. He’s guilty of assault if his drunken clumsy seduction efforts worked or failed. A teenage boy whips out his willy in a locker room and lays it on a seated boys shoulder – is that “horse play” or sexual assault?

My head is spinning in this environment of abusers, accusers and alleged victims. Victim’s advocates say we should “believe everyone – almost no one lies about assault.” Alleged accuser defenders say “their brains aren’t fully formed they should be given latitude.”

Into this sexual taboo stew, we must remember that this is National Domestic Violence awareness month. It is yet another area that is fraught with emotions, subjective interpretations and agendas, both hidden and open. How are we to hold a discussion on all these difficult, emotionally charged issues? I believe we can only do so by being open to multiple viewpoints, and trying to relate them to our own lives.

Abuse, violence, sex and sexuality are complex, convoluted and mostly confusing to humans. Animals have it so much easier – there’s no free will. Kill or be killed. Procreate and move on. Humans are such complex creatures, and the variety of our experiences, expectations and aspirations add layers upon layers of emotion.

Add to this the murky area of intent. As we try to divine the intent behind actions, small and large, we can only rely upon our own experiences and intentions. Reading intent into someone else’s behavior is difficult, if not impossible, and usually we get it wrong.

As a gay man I have had more than my fair share of confused attempts at seducing someone, or being seduced. Most of the time I can’t figure out who is gay, and there are a number of women who refuse to believe that I am! As a playboy, I am no Cyrano De Bergerac. More like a modern day Diogenes endlessly searching for the truth in love, sex and romance. There’s this mythical “gaydar” that I’m supposed to have, that others claim to have with unerring accuracy – I call bs. People are too complex in their loves and lusts for something as simple and unerring as that.

Take Abraham Lincoln for example. Here’s a man who in some ways is the epitome of American Frontier Masculinity. He was married to Mary Todd Lincoln, had four sons and went down in history as one of our greatest Presidents.

Yet, he might have been in love with another man. His passionate letters to Joshua Speed, the lurid language, the insider comments that are all recorded in his letters speak to something beyond just a best drinking buddy.

The enticing possibility of Lincoln actually being in love with Speed is a central plot point of a new teen novel put out by my friend Lee Wind in his debut novel, “Queer as a Five Dollar Bill.” It tells the story of a young gay man in modern small town Oregon who discovers a secret – a secret that would rewrite history, and create a hero for all the young gay and lesbian teens who lack significant role models.

The genesis of this book for Wind, and how we met, was at a California Men’s Gathering years ago when the late Randy Harrison did a talk on the probability of Lincoln and Speed being lovers. Harrison maintained that the facts of their relationship lead any astute gay man to the conclusion that Lincoln and Speed were lovers. He pointed to the fact that the two men would often share a bed together while travelling and were long time bedmates/roommates. Lincoln wrote lovingly and adoringly of Speed’s physical beauty, most especially his thighs.

Wind took this possible relationship and spun a modern day tale of homophobia and coming out into a book that was too hot for traditional publishers to touch. The publishing establishment didn’t want to print a book that upended the conventional view of an American icon.

Faced with no way to get this insightful and influential book out to the public through traditional means, Wind (against my advice) decided to crowdfund the final production costs. I was highly skeptical and did my darnedest over ramen at Jinya on Main Street, to dissuade him from wasting his precious time with a crowdfunding campaign. But he is an award winning blogger with a large following and connections through his teen youth blog, “I’m Here. I’m Queer. What The Hell Do I Read?” at www.leewind.org.

In six days he and 182 funders reached his goal and I am proud to say that I was wrong. Wind used the proceeds to finish the production and distribution of “Queer as a Five Dollar Bill” which includes distributing over 800 copies to LGBTQ and Allied teens.

Reading this young adult novel one feels the angst and anguish Wyatt faced when disclosing world shattering information, both about Lincoln, and himself. This novel is one of the seminal books of this year, and will be for decades. It is the modern gay version of “Are you there god? It’s me Margaret”. It should be mandatory reading in history, government and English classes as a way to open minds, reduce homophobia, improve the self-esteem of LGBTQ teens and start dialogues about sex and sexuality in health classes.

I have five copies I’m giving away to the first five people to email me, here’s the catch you have to promise to then donate the book to a library, school or public, Santa Monica or Los Angeles, I don’t care. I just want the books to be sent out into the world. This story needs to be shared. It’s available today on Amazon.com in both print and Kindle version.

As progressive and educated as we are today, we still have huge difficulties talking about, exploring, and communicating love, lust and desire. In the 1850s I imagine it was just as difficult, confusing and hidden. We can never know truly what the intentions are of another person, and we will never be certain about the relationship of Lincoln and Speed, but we can at least start having the conversations to learn more, about sexuality, intentions, and unintended harms.

 

David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist.  He welcomes your questions and comments.  He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra

 

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