She knows that many feminists criticize transwomen like her for transitioning to an essentialized and even sexist version of femininity — and she responds to the critique brilliantly, while acknowledging both its validity and its hurtfulness. In painstakingly and painfully constructing her new self, Ladin is fully aware of the societal conventions and privileges of which she makes use.
This is what made her famous, or infamous —a New York Post article outed her, and Yeshiva University, on page three.
Through the Door of Life
Particularly in the last section of the book, she describes a deeply personal relationship with a silent God, not the deity familiar from conventional religion but an echo of her fears and, even in its silence, a kind of comfort as well. To me, the honesty and vulnerability which Ladin shows in these portions of the book is inspiring. They are never preachy, never seeking to convince. Still, I wonder if readers with little patience for religion may find them frustrating. Her wife and children seem cruel, even as Ladin understands the damage she has done to them and paints them sympathetically.
Her kids are angry, sad, defiant.
It glares, though, especially as Ladin is able to become closer, post-transition, with her mother. I wanted more here, but perhaps the relationship is inexplicable even to Ladin herself. Kate Bornstein is more of a gender outlaw than is Joy Ladin. But there seems to be a poignancy, of which Ladin is exquisitely aware, that precisely because what Ladin wants is so normal, her efforts to obtain it are so fraught with pain.
March Name required. Email will not be published required. Reviewers praised West Side Story for its sociological boldness and for changing the face of the American musical theater, but they did not comment, at least publicly, on the gay subtext of character relationships or the homoeroticism of the dancing. Sixty years after its premiere in New York City, the musical deserves to be revisited, including the gay elements that tiptoe through the story along with an overall gay sensibility that shows up in the story, the lyrics, and the dancing.
The sexual proclivities of the four collaborators, far from being irrelevant, served as a rich source of creative inspiration. Robbins is credited by his collaborators with the original concept for the musical. Clift and Robbins were lovers for several years. The result was a scenario about two young people in love, one Jewish and one Catholic, which would take place during the celebrations of Passover and Easter.
The play would be called East Side Story. In , Robbins approached Arthur Laurents and Leonard Bernstein about creating a musical based on this concept. From its inception, the play was connected with intolerance and social barriers, subjects that resonated with the three men, all of whom were Jewish as well as gay or at least struggling with being gay. In , after a long hiatus, the project came back to life, but the story was radically recast to focus on racial rather than religious prejudice. Jerome Robbins agreed to be director as well as choreographer, and when Laurents recruited the virtually unknown year-old songwriter Stephen Sondheim to be co-lyricist with Bernstein, the creative team was complete.
Few figures in the history of Broadway musicals have engendered more controversy than Jerome Robbins. Tormented by inner conflicts related to his homosexuality, he routinely abused and humiliated the large cast of singers, actors, and dancers. At times he even berated his three collaborators in front of the production team. Robbins had a tumultuous life history. His left-wing politics made him a target for reactionary forces in the McCarthy era. The outcome damned Robbins eternally in the eyes of many in the entertainment industry: On May 5, , Robbins testified voluntarily before the House Un-American Activities Committee, giving the names of colleagues he said were communists.
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That Bernstein and Laurents were willing to give Robbins a second chance by working with him on West Side Story testifies to the deep bond among the three men. Robbins himself may have seen West Side Story , with its progressive social message, as a chance to redeem himself after his act of betrayal. The sensual dancing establishes the bonds of love among the gang members and radiates a distinctly homoerotic sexual energy.
While tyrannical with the company as a whole, he singled out the male lead, Larry Kert, for particular cruelty.
Robbins clearly knew Kert was gay when the role was cast, but at some point before the premiere his attitude towards his leading actor changed. Depressed by his abusive director, Larry Kert nevertheless went on to triumph on the Broadway stage as Tony.
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His full-bodied, lyric tenor voice is preserved on the original cast album. At the Tony Awards, Robbins was the only one of the four to be honored with a Tony Award for his work on the musical, winning in the category of choreography. His first play, Home of the Brave, premiered in New York in and won critical acclaim. Possibly a coincidence, probably not, but no matter: a decade after the play, I still had more than enough anger to fire the musical. In , when East Side Story became West Side Story and Laurents began writing in earnest, the author was grappling with prejudice on a daily basis due to his decision to move in with his lover, Tom Hatcher, a handsome, blond actor whom he had met in Hollywood.
Living as a male couple in the s meant the daily risk of harassment and professional ruin. The relationship between Riff, the leader of the Jets, and his best friend Tony is central to the plot. Riff has lived with Tony and his family for four years, and while Tony is drifting away from the Jets, Riff is determined to hold onto him. The erotic nature of the bond between Riff and Tony is conveyed in Act I, scene II in an exchange of internally rhyming phrases that is a pattern in their conversation.
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Womb to tomb! Viewing Tony as a bisexual man, in love with both Riff and Maria, intensifies the dramatic tension in the play and augments the theme of love that defies social norms.
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His killing of Bernardo is a crime of passion, a response to losing the man he has loved for so long. Tony is a tragic victim, and the real culprit is a culture defined by racism, homophobia, and macho violence. Anybodys is a teenage girl who dresses in the male uniform of the Jets, talks tough, fights effectively, and longs to join the gang. As the play progresses, Anybodys grows in stature.
If Anybodys were empowered by the Jets, she might have assisted Tony in his plan to leave New York with Maria, thus saving him from being murdered. Drawing upon his own experiences as a gay, Jewish man in the s, Laurents sends an emotionally resonant, socially subversive message in West Side Story.
The deaths of three major characters by the end, including the hero Tony with whom Arthur Laurents so strongly identifies, is a scathing commentary on the misguided traditions that ruin lives and destroy love. Of the four gay men who created West Side Story , Bernstein was a genuine celebrity of the era. Love and sexuality were as important to Bernstein as his passion for music.
He first acted on his sexual feelings for men in his youth, most likely during his years as a musical prodigy at Harvard University.
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In his early twenties he forged connections with luminaries in the classical music world such as Aaron Copland. He scored his first triumph in New York when he composed the music for the ballet Fancy Free , which was choreographed by Jerome Robbins, with whom Bernstein may have had an affair.
The fear of being destroyed professionally may have contributed to his decision to try to counter his homosexual nature by getting married to Felicia Montealegre, an actress. Be it noted that Bernstein was the only one of the four collaborators to be married. His sexual relationships with men did not end with his marriage, however. By the mids, the truth of his sexual nature had become apparent to Felicia, as indicated in a frank letter she wrote to her husband in the early years of their married life.