On July 7, 1984, thirty years ago, in Bangor, Maine, Charles Howard was murdered by violent, homophobic boys. After his death, people who knew him found themselves rootless, without a clear way to move forward or a clear rationale for living, and without knowing who their friends were and who their enemies, in a world that was profoundly unsafe. I wrote Ceremonies, a novel inspired by what a community of gay people of Bangor, Maine, did during the summer of 1984, after our friend Charles Howard was murdered. It is composed of first-person accounts, and the book has the effect of a very intense conversation among people in crisis, who know themselves and each other well and don’t demand definitive resolution of the crisis they are in.

In Race Point Light a man who was born before World War II looked for a way he could feel himself to be one of us. From his childhood, he knew that he didn’t belong in his family or with his classmates, and all through his growing up, he looked for a way to live in which he could think well of himself. He refused to be a rebel, and always searched for a way to be that would allow him to be queer and also respected. He learned that his culture was never going to respect a gay person and that it was always going to demand acquiescence to its sexual rules. He finally rebelled. He divorced his wife, left a tenured position in the University, and moved to Boston, where he explored what it meant to come out and be in rebellion against his culture and what that said about his culture. Race Point Light is the story of one man’s coming to rebellion. Along the way way, it is a story that touches on most of the major events that happened in the US between 1939 and 2003. It is an intimate story, but it has an epic scope.

Adam in the Morning tells the story of one man’s perception of the Stonewall Riots in Sheridan Square, in late June 1969, the most important event in the last sixty-five years of the history of gay liberation. In the beginning, before anything was decided, three men and a woman gather around Bo Ravich, beginning an hour after Lt Pine started his raid on the Stonewall Inn. These people hated the cops who came into Sheridan Square with billyclubs and arrested everybody they could get into the paddywagons and bloodied everybody they couldn’t get into the wagons. Mitzi, a street kid, fifteen years old, who hasn’t had a home the three years they’ve known her is one of Bo’s gang, too, and they are concerned that her courage will take her too far, and she will be killed by the cops. None of these people have any difficulty being gay, but they know that they are in rebellion—and they hope that the Revolution, the thing that all radical leftists in the late sixties hoped for and tried to make happen, is beginning now. They ask themselves the questions they need answers to now—What is a gay man? What does a gay man do? Who do we fight along side? What does it mean, to fall in love? They read Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth, and they know that the oppressed man “finds his freedom in and through violence.” They talk, they have sex, they fight the cops, and they go home and have breakfast when it is all over for the day, and bind up their wounds, and talk and have sex again, and go to sleep. The book moves fast—intense conversations, battles in Sheridan Square against New York’s finest—and exhaustion is what they feel most, and at the end, they find that what they’ve done is good.

Today—July 7, 2014—is the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Charles Howard in Bangor, Maine. I have asked myself the question in these thirty years, if there is a simple plain statement that describes what I have been doing in my writing in these thirty years. One simple plain statement is this one:  All of my books are about gay people fighting back. And, as you will know, we’ve been incredibly successful, too. We did fight back, and we are successful today, in 2014, because we fought back in the nineteen-fifties and sixties and seventies and eighties and nineties. We fought, we weren’t nice.