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Gay Writing Celebration Salutes Aging, Honors Pioneers

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American culture is perceptibly aging. This was evident April 27 when West Hollywood celebrated Lambda Literary Foundations 25th annual benefit "A Celebration of LGBT Literary Pioneers." The evening was a smashing success, often touching beyond belief, and had standing room only.

Approaching my 90th birthday on June 8, I turned out to be the elder in this particular group. At the end of the evening I chatted with journalist Karen Ocamb when she interviwed me. "We all went through a lot of seemingly unecessary hell trying to live and work," I told her. "But we grew through that sufffering. I'm very grateful for it all. And now we represent absolutely incredible diversity. We are indeed all under one roof and we're letting a lot of healing happen. This night's celebration is a spiritual experience."

Lambda co-chair Mark Thompson explained to me how he patterned the West Hollywood celebration after the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. Honorees there do not speak themselves but listen (gratefully, I'm sure) to good things others say about them. "Our honors here show as much as tell," Thompson said. "We reflect through dramatic readings, song and film. We deal with the essence and impact of these iconic authors and the work they've produced."

The most deeply moving part of the evening for me was a "Memorial" video prepared by co-chair Terry DeCrescenzo. It fondly remembers fellow West Coast writers among us who made an immense contribution and have died. They include Paula Gunn Allen, Betty Berzon, Tee Corinne, Joseph Hansen, Gerald Heard, Christopher Isherwood, Jim Kepner, Dan Luckenbill, Del Martin, Paul Monette, James Carroll Pickett and Jean Swallow.

I believe remembering those among us who have died is something essential we can do. Everyone is aging. More and more are literally waking up to that truth. Certainly we can congratulate or encourage one another, offer support and friendship, stand ready with encouragement and quite literally, see our lives move from comradeship to memorial.

Five writers were honorees on April 27.

Lillian Faderman is a scholar best known for writing "Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America: (1991) and "Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present" (1981). She has held professorships at Cal State Fresno and UCLA.

Katherine V. Forrest is best known for her popular Kate Delafield mysteries, her "Daughters of a Coral Dawn: series of novels, and her tireless work as an editor of lesbian fiction anthologies. She is President Emeritus of the Lambda Literary Foundation.

John Rechy is best known f or his celebrated novel "City at Night" and the non-fiction book "The Sexual Outlaw." He is acknowleded as one of the LGBT most significant writers and he has lectured widely in addition to teaching.

Patricia Nell Warren has long been an inspiration to generations of fledgling writers. Her novel "The Front Runner" has received a global following. She is author, activist and journalist.

Gratefully, I was the fifth writer. I loved sharing this experience.