A Monumental Challenge to GLBTQ Philadelphia

#MonumentLab #EqualityForum

Dear GLBTQ Philadelphia and Our Straight Allies:

I’m issuing you a challenge. Recently I learned about Monument Lab, a project in Philadelphia this spring seeking new ideas for public monuments throughout the city. Several information events are planned throughout May and June to take the pulse of what the city wants. I wrote to the organizers the other day and suggested a monument be made to recognize Philadelphia as the site of the first gay and lesbian civil right marches in the country, which began on July 4, 1965. Monument Lab responded, inviting me to attend their opening and to continue to talk with them about this possibility. 20150503-031346-11626763.jpgThis is where you come in. If we want Monument Lab to make this proposal a reality, we need to let them know in a strong way and use allies such as Equality Forum to press the issue. A monument to this important moment in history also helps build a case for Philadelphia being designated a UNESCO World Heritage City (another wonderful cause!) Below is the text of the letter I wrote to them making the case of why this memorial is important to all Philadelphians. I encourage you to come to one of the meetings listed on their website and to post your thoughts on Monument Lab’s Facebook page . Maybe you will join me at the opening reception, which is free and open to the public. Information is below. Let’s build a coalition. Let’s do this! –Kelly McQuain


Dear Monument Lab:

Your project sounds like a good one. If I were in a position to advocate for a monument to be added to Philadelphia, I’d vie for one commemorating the gay and lesbian civil rights marches outside Independence Hall that began on July 4, 1965. Here in Philadelphia, at the very spot where our country was forged, began a movement that this summer may finally bring nationwide marriage rights for gay and lesbian couples. 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the event.

This piece of history is not taught to tourists by the guides at Independence Park (I’ve asked), but it’s important because this rights struggle cuts across race, ethnicity, gender, age, and class. I find it sad people can no longer march in front of Independence Hall, even sadder that young people in their teens and twenties are growing up ignorant about things like the AIDS pandemic. I imagine the anniversary of the birth of the gay rights movement will be largely overlooked outside the gay community, but it shouldn’t be. That many straight people probably don’t think this fight is their fight too is exactly why we should have such a monument.

Kelly McQuain
Assoc. Professor of English
Community College of Philadelphia


Friday, May 8 5:30 – 7:00PM
Preview Talk and Party — Philadelphia Center for Architecture, 1218 Arch Street. A Conversation with Monument Lab Co-Curators Ken Lum, Paul Farber, and A. Will Brown, moderated by UPenn Professor Karen Beckman. Reception with Happy Hour refreshments to follow. Pre-registration encouraged: see Facebook https://www.facebook.com/events/552448511559825/


For more on Philadelphia’s historic  LGBTQ anniversary, click here.

Barbara Gittings at an Annual Reminder in 1966.

Activist Barbara Gittings across from Independence Hall on July 4, 1965.


The Queer South

An anthology that I have two poems in is out now! THE QUEER SOUTH debuts officially Sept. 17th, and has essays, poems and stories that put a face on queer southernly concerns for the 21st century. I’m happy to be sharing space with the likes of Dorothy Allison, Richard Blanco, Brad Richard, Seth Pennington, D. Gilson, Stephen Mills, Jeff Mann, Matthew Hittinger, Shane Allison, Ed Madden, and the crazy Del Shores. Not to mention a bunch of other wonderful people. My poems are about the problematic reconciliation of queer, Euro and Native American identities. Included are “Spirit Animal Chant” and “Brave”.QS_Cover

Big shout out to editor Douglas Ray and the masterminds at Sibling Rivalry Press for making this book come true.

Saints & Sinners Festival, New Orleans May 14-18

Join me at the Saints and Sinners Festival in New Orleans May 14-18. It’s the nation’s premiere literary festival for the LGBTQ community (and their friends!). Held in the French Quarter at the beautiful Hotel Monteleone, I’ve found it a valuable way to connect and network with writers from the US, Canada, and beyond. Felice Picano, Fay Jacobs, and Edmund White will all lead master classes, among many other readings, panels and workshops. If you’ve never been to the French Quarter, you are in for a treat–because that’s where it all takes place! For a 20% discount on registration right now use the code SAS2014. http://sasfest.org


Last chance: VELVET RODEO is available for discount pre-order price!


Today is the last day to order VELVET RODEO at the discount price of $7, including shipping.

“…What if you never meet
the person you are meant to be? The future
is a cocked gun –pretty, but peacock mean–
and you are devil’s paintbrush,
a blister of orange-red and velvet need…”

from the poem “Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers”, originally published in the journal Kestrel.


Hey, Friends–

My chapbook VELVET RODEO is available for pre-order at the discounted price of $7 from the fine folks at BLOOM, which includes free shipping if you act now. That’s less than a couple mocha grandes at Starbucks! In the coming weeks I’ll be doing some promotional readings for the chapbook in New York and Philadelphia, and if you know of any series that might want a reader in the coming months, drop me a private message. Order at: http://bloomliteraryjournal.org/shop/velvet-rodeo/

Velvet Rodeo is the recent winner of the Bloom Chapbook Prize, judged by poet C. Dale Young. The poems center on themes of travel, nature, outsider-ism and more, and are set in such places as West Virginia, the Virgin Islands, Mexico and Prague. The collection’s cover, above, features one of my recent paintings.

Here’s what the judge had to say about the collection: “‘The tongue I try to master / is a sticky one, forked and full of tricks,’ is the opening of a poem in Velvet Rodeo, and it becomes a point of return for the collection. These poems understand that to tell the truth, one must lie, play tricks, and even dare to say the unbelievable. Careful and exacting, these poems exact a price from a reader. They linger with you long after you have finished reading them.”


Book Covers & Stock Photos

I had deja vu recently when I saw the cover for Best Gay Romance 2014. Turns out the publisher is using a photo from the same photo shoot that was used for Men on Men–back in 2000! I had a story in Men on Men that year, along with the likes of JIm Grimsley and Brian Bouldrey. With all the photos in the world, it seems strange that a publisher would use one almost exactly the same. Compare, but if you want a fun read, my money is on Men on Men.



QFest Announces Winning Films

It was my privilege this year to serve on the Jury for QFest, Philadelphia’s 19th annual GLBTQ film festival. Along with two other judges, I was tasked with viewing the documentaries. All told, I ended up seeing about twenty films, the ones competing in our category as well as some of the feature films I mentioned in previous posts.

Our Jury for Best Documentary faced a particularly tough challenge this year, choosing among excellent films that dealt with such topics as marriage equality, gay and lesbian parenting, political change, aging in our community and surviving hate crimes. _All_ the films deserve praise, and the Jury hopes you will seek them out and learn from the wisdom and insight they offer. One of the films stood out in particular for its rich historic detail, its fine cinematography and its insight into how our understanding of equality has changed over the last sixty years. All of this embodied by the story of one woman’s life: that of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker. We were happy to award Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, the 2013 QFest Award for Best Documentary Film.


The full list of winners is below, courtesy of the QFest site at http://www.qfest.com/index.cfm .


BEST FEATURE: Free Fall, directed by Stephan Lacant
BEDOCUMENTARY: Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, directed by Pratibha Parmar
BEST SHORT (GAY): The Package, directed by Rafael Aidar
BEST SHORT (LESBIAN): The Kiss, directed by Filip Gieldon
FIRST TIME DIRECTOR (DOCUMENTARY): Marta Cunningham for Valentine Road
HONORABLE MENTION: Pamela Drynan for Where I Am

BEST DOCUMENTARY: The New Black, directed by Yoruba Richen
BEST FEATURE: Out In the Dark, directed by Michael Mayer
BEST COMEDY: Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf, directed by Anna Margarita Albelo
BEST SHORT: Spooners, directed by Bryan R. Horch
HONORABLE MENTION: The Rugby Player, directed by Scott Gracheff

QFest Update!

@QFest #gayfilm #QFest

20130719-173634.jpg Pictured: In the Name Of…

Seeing some fun movies at QFest over these hot, hot days, including a deeply symbolic Polish film called In the Name Of… about a Polish priest running a boy’s reformatory. Also saw a first-time director’s film called Love Will Tear Us Apart. It has a great soundtrack of French pop, including a French version of These Boots Were Made for Walking.

Documentary topics at QFest have ranged from a portrait of Gore Vidal to a pair of documentaries about the trials and tribulations of gay and lesbian couples creating families. Writer Robert Drake is featured in the moving Where I Am, about how he survived a brutal attack in Ireland in 1999 and was able to forgive his attackers. The New Black chronicled marriage equality politics in Maryland, while Breaking Through showcased cutting-edge queer politicians. The Invisible Men depicts the struggle of Muslim gays seeking asylum in Tel Aviv. More documentaries about Divine and Alice Walker are on my docket for the weekend. Check out the fabulous list of documentaries at http://www.qfest.com/2013-program.cfm?c=280.