Has this been the best week ever for gay-bashing? The proposed federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage failed to pass the Senate—but a similar measure was overwhelmingly approved in Alabama. A prominent Senate Republican boasts that his family has never had "any kind of homosexual relationship." Conservative outrage forces Macy's to remove two mannequins from their gay Pride window display.
If you're one of the many gays attempting to navigate a sexual identity within the lager framework of church, family, business and social relationships, then you may enjoy This Place of Men. The author is Doug Cooper-Spencer, a Cincinnati-based lecturer, activist and freelance writer. The writer says the nucleus of his novel developed from a lecture series at the Cincinnati branch of the National Urban League.
"I'm always asked questions like, When did u become gay?, or, the question of nature vs. nurture," he tells Rod 2.0. "I realized, They, really don't know us. So, I wanted to write a novel that would delve more into the development of gay characters, and, explore the growth of a their relationship and lives."
This Place of Men centers around Otis and Terrell. As teenagers, they were best friends and eventually became lovers. (That's hot, no?) It was not to last. Terrell's father and the family's ambitious young pastor discovered their secret and broke the two apart. Just to add a touch of malice, the police were involved and Otis ended up paying a high price for their short affair. It's like a black gay Romeo and Juliet with a twist.
Fast forward 20 years. After years in prison and on the streets, Otis has become—what did our parents call them?—a ne'er-do-well. After many years in New York City, he returns to Ohio to confront his father, the minister and, hopefully, to find his first love. His mother knows that he is "that way" and she feels for him. "Ain't nobody in they right mind would choose such a life," she says. "Everybody hatin' them and all."
On the other side of town, Terrell leads a charmed life—great career and home, beautiful wife and kids, a well-respected member of the community. That ambitious pastor from his childhood? The good Reverend Abrams is now Bishop Abrams with a mega-church. Terrell has become one of his most trusted deacons. But there's a downside: Terrell is living in a gilded cage because both wifey and pastor know his secret and hold it over his head.
Trouble comes in the form of Stanton Thurmond, a rich, black businessman and church advisor. He is also closeted and has with designs on Terrell. "Stanton is actually a composite of some powerful black men here in Cincinnati," says Cooper-Spencer. "They live a non-gay public life ... " but, in private, are well-known to host "card parties" that offer for money and drugs to enterprising young men who want want to mess around.
This Place of Men offers an interesting example of conflict resolution. Otis confronts Terrell, who is trying to process his feelings after attending one these parties. There's a side story with Thurmond, the businessman, which will probably surprise most readers. This Place of Men is a bittersweet love story and Doug Cooper-Spencer has a mature, seasoned voice. It will probably be enjoyable to readers who tire of the usual "we're gay and fabulous" storylines.
This Place of Men (Amazon)
Previously:A Conversation with E. Lynn Harris (Rod 2.0) "We Don't Feel Welcome There" (Rod 2.0) Say a Little Prayer: ELH Interview (Rod 2.0) Rev Kev Interview (Rod 2.0) Gays and Black Church (Rod 2.0) Kirk Franklin on Gays (Rod 2.0) Black Church, Gay Parishoners (Rod 2.0) "I Wrote This Song" by Dayne Avery (Rod 2.0) Catching Up With ... Lee Hayes (Rod 2.0) A Deeper Blue: Passion Marks II (Rod 2.0) All in the Family (Rod 2.0) A "Gay Friendly" Voice (Rod 2.0)