Ron Kearse is new in the world of published authors, but he’s accomplished something rare for any writer: he’s had three books published within one year. This Thursday, Ron’s second book in his trilogy will be launched, along with his beautiful book of photography Lost History, Vancouver street art in 1985, with text and photos by Ron Kearse.
Just Outside of Hope is the sequel to Road Without End, (the first in the series), and we can expect to find more tales of what it was to be gay in Canada in the late seventies and early eighties. “Everything you’ve heard about the 70s is true!” he laughs, and I can’t help but laugh with him. Images of bellbottoms and long hair, drugs and disco come swimming to mind. And I know all too well that this was a particularly decadent period in recent history (no matter what your sexual orientation was). “What made you want to write the books?” I ask. He tells me about the times when he took a look at all of the stories available, and he noticed that there were plenty of American and British novels to read – featuring gay characters by gay writers – but there was a decided absence of Canadian voices. For whatever reason, if you went looking for books on what it was to be gay in Canada, what you’d find was journalistic books filled with facts and figures… but lacking in human insight, and personal experience. Ron decided to change that.
He puts the time frame of the books into context for me, setting the scene for what he wrote and why he wrote it. He tells me how the sixties were a tumultuous time that birthed several very important, and generation defining, movements. Equal rights gave way to Women’s Liberation, which in turn gave way to Gay Rights, as each movement blossoming out of its predecessor. The world was changing quickly, and there was a good deal of resistance to it too. And then the party started. Disco took over, becoming the anthem for the newly liberated. “It was black music, women’s music, and gay music,” he says enthusiastically. Music to dance to, and to celebrate the ability to do what was previously forbidden: simply being, and being equal. The books start there, in that celebration, and take us through to the time just before AIDS was AIDS.
For Ron, the impact his books are having on men of his generation is one he expected: delight at being reminded of those golden, glory days. What he didn’t anticipate was the reaction that younger readers are having. For the young, it is a marvel to read about how in such a short period of time, being gay went from being a criminal act to the present day where we have same-sex marriage. For them, seeing their history put into context, in the familiar landscape of their own country, seems to be both awe-inspiring and humbling. Ron sat down to write gay fiction, (well, mostly fiction – a good deal of it is based on his own experiences), but he may have inadvertently become the best kind of historian – the kind that makes you feel the history you’re reading is a part of YOUR history.
Given that this interview was for this magazine, I asked him flat out how he felt his books contributed to sex positivity. His answer was quite simple, “Because of where they’re coming from and where they’re going.” He explained how the character goes through a time where it was never “okay” to be gay, through a time where being gay was just about sex, to arrive at a time where being gay is about his whole, integrated self. Readers are brought through the years where homosexuality was perceived as being solely about sex, and into the more modern awareness that it includes the romantic self as well as the sexual… that being gay is something you ARE, not something you DO.
I then put forward the question that might be interesting for those who follow the magazine, (given that Ron is one of the contributing writers at Sex Positive). I asked him, “Why write for the magazine?” “Because I believe in the magazine’s mission.” he replied. “Sex is such an expression of personal power, and there’s always somebody wanting to that away or lord over it. Religion, government, corporations – so many people would readily take that away, and use it, but you HAVE to celebrate it. And Sex Positive celebrates it, rightly so.”
Celebrate it… Ron’s got a point. He started off our conversation announcing that we should all live shamelessly, and he lit up several times during our candid talk, whenever disco came up in the discussion – and now I know why. Ron is still celebrating gaining the right to be seen and heard. He’s still dancing in the streets, like he did back in the late 70s, celebrating the fact that he’s here, and he’s gay, and it’s okay. And it makes me feel like dancing too.
Ron’s book launch, public reading, and book signing is on Thursday, May 22nd at 7pm,
at Little Sister’s Book and Art Emporium – 1238 Davie Street, Vancouver, BC.
Book a spot & pre-purchase signed copies.
Facebook event page.