Monthly Archives: February 2020

Shameless Self-Promotion Corner

One of the projects I’ve been working on in my recent absence was the revision and re-release of my collection of short stories and essays, “Strawberries and Other Erotic Fruits.” I’m proud to say thanks to the talented Matt Bright at Inkspiral Design, my cover has been revamped, and the whole package looks wonderful. This collection was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Gay Erotica when it was released in 2012.

The cover blurb says:

If you like cream with your strawberries, prepare yourself for a double helping of satisfaction with this reissued and revised edition of Jerry L. Wheeler’s collection of short stories and essays. From the title story of a magical farmer with low-slung jeans and a very peculiar pair of scarecrows to a gypsy curse that brings out the bear in a former bottom, Wheeler’s demons and angels and lovers and cheaters blend erotica with Elvis, spider tattoos, harrowing commutes, lifelong loves, and cops eating donuts. Layer by layer, this confection will linger on your tongue—and elsewhere—for days.

“Great,” you say. “Do you have links?”

Do I have links? Get the paperback here and the Kindle ebook here.

Happy reading!



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Judge Me When I’m Wrong – Cheryl A. Head (Bywater Books)

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Soooo what have I been doing the past few months that I haven’t even appeared on my own blog? Well, recovering from a nasty breakup with my former publisher, Lethe Press, self-publishing my short story collection he put out of print, and reading for the Publishing Triangle’s Ferro-Grumley award for LGBTQI literature. We had over eighty–count ’em–eighty books to review, so that took up a tremendous amount of time. However, I’m back on as an even a keel as it gets for me, beginning the year’s reviews (albeit a scosh late) with one of my favorite lesbian mystery writers, Cheryl Head, and her latest Charlie Mack Motown Mystery.

As it does for every voter, jury duty comes to Charlie Mack–who can’t help but become involved in the trial she’s on. When she’s not on the watch for suspected jury tampering, she and Gil are also working a case that begins as an investigation of a college student accused of rape. When the supposed rapist comes out as gay, however, things take a different turn. And when the defendant gets wind of Charlie’s investigating the other jury members, things get dangerous in the courtroom as well.

You had me at ‘courtroom drama,’ because I’m old school and grew up on Perry Mason reruns–a sucker for relentless cross-examinations followed by angry and/or tearful confessions. And Head doesn’t fail to create great tension during those scenes. The exchanges are tough and terse and never get bogged down with extraneous stage directions. Head knows that the best writers gather their characters in a room and then butt out, letting them play off each other.

Interestingly, Head uses the post-climax lull to make a change in her cast of regular characters. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling it, but the move is savvy as hell because it promotes a great character who has been in the series from the beginning and says goodbye to another. Like one of my other favorite lesbian mystery writers, J.M. Redmann, Head is not afraid to shake things up to keep them fresh for herself as well as the reader.

Head is hitting her stride with this series, and it’s a treat to watch her work. I’m very much looking forward to the next one.


© 2020 Jerry L. Wheeler

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Bodies and Barriers: Queer Activists on Health – Adrian Shanker (Editor), Kate Kendell (Afterword), Rachel L. Levine (Foreword) (PM Press)

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Given the progress we’ve made toward LGBTQ+ equality, and the growth of queer visibility in mainstream politics and culture in the new millennium, surely our communities are enjoying a better quality of life, aren’t they?

AIDS prevention and treatment has reversed the rise of annual new HIV infections among gay and bisexual men. Transgender people, who once were served by a handful of providers in San Francisco or New York City, have access to trans-specific services in many areas of the country. Hospitals are implementing culturally competent practices and policies to earn coveted rankings in the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index. State laws have made harmful, coercive conversion therapies an ugly relic of the past.

That ought to have benefited our overall health and wellness, right?

The answer from queer educators on the front lines is new contexts have created new challenges, and many of the historical disparities within our communities are still in high need of amelioration, impacting transgender and rural and older and brown-skinned and HIV+ people. If you believe health care is a fundamental human right, which the authors of Bodies and Barriers rightfully argue that you should, we still have much to overcome in order to realize queer social justice. As black feminist civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer put it: “Nobody’s free until everyone’s free.”

I worked and occasionally researched and published on queer health issues for close to three decades, so I can say it’s always been up to us as queer people to study, document, write about, advocate, and create programs that respond to unserved needs in queer communities. The authors in Shanker’s collection of scholarly articles stand on the shoulders of pioneers like social worker Dr. Joyce Hunter and pediatrician Dr. Gary Remafedi whose research in the 1980s brought to light the terrifyingly vulnerable status of LGBTQ+ teenagers and established the first standards of care, just to name a few.

Thus, as a textbook on queer health written by queer researchers and professionals in the field, Bodies and Barriers is not new or unique in its approach. In fact, in positioning the collection as an effort to uplift queer activism, the editor and foreword author’s lack of regard for historical context is a missed opportunity that would have made an even stronger case for the necessity of marginalized communities to agitate and organize for change. Where would we be without the bravery of trans activists Jamison Greene and Leslie Feinberg, lesbian feminist Jackie Winnow, who used her personal battle with breast cancer to fight for lesbian-welcoming cancer care, Marsha Johnson who co-founded the Sylvia Rivera Project to protect and advocate for transgender people of color, and Larry Kramer and ACT-UP’s urgent social action in the early years of the AIDS crisis?

Still, what gives Bodies and Barriers exciting impact is the upfront self-identification of the authors, particularly those who share their personal experiences navigating health care as a queer person. Within the staid norms of academic research and publishing, that’s actually quite revolutionary. Shanker’s volume makes a convincing case that authorship matters in health scholarship. If you want to understand what’s going on in our communities as a health care provider, you need to check your privilege and listen to your patients’ voices and experiences.

The topics covered are comprehensive and grouped across the lifespan. Katharine Dalke, an intersex physician, speaks to the history of doctors making decisions about intersex bodies without considering the child and parents’ wishes and the power of intersex people organizing to create better, patient-centered practices. Transgender advocate Preston Heldibridle writes passionately about the lifesaving practice of binding for transmasculine and nonbinary people. Genderqueer public health researcher Kate Luxion discusses ongoing discrimination against LGBTQ+ patients in the area of family planning.

Throughout, the authors talk about the impact of encounters with health care providers, both good and bad. In writing about a public health campaign to educate men-who-have-sex-with-men about anal health, Shanker raises the need for greater “cultural humility” among non-queer primary physicians, an idea that surely resonates with many of us who have sat in examination rooms, withholding the realities of our sexual lives for fear of judgment.

On the other hand, parent advocate Alisa Bowman shares how profoundly her transgender son’s life changed when she found an LGBTQ health clinic for his care, and from the waiting room to the exam and consultation with physicians, her whole family felt welcomed and accepted.

The queer umbrella encompasses so many social locations, it would be impossible to include every one of our experiences in one text. But Shanker does quite well covering that landscape with articles that address geography (the ongoing challenges of isolation and stigma for rural lesbians), aging populations (how do we address caretaking for older LGBTQs lacking family support and outliving their chosen families?), and bisexuals and their mental health and reproductive health needs. Furthermore, there are articles that illuminate both the challenges and opportunities in our increasingly digital culture, such as Jackson Harrison-Quintana’s “Sex and safety in a digital age.”

This is a collection that will be validating to many queer readers and helpful and thought-provoking for all health care professionals.

Reviewed by Andrew J. Peters

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