Loving in Fear

August 1, 2003

The Hillsborough County Library has traditionally sponsored events for Black History Month and National Poetry Month. Such sponsorship has included out of town authors, flyers, articles in the library newsletter, organized by library staff, and press in major publications. "I fully support the library's programs." Says Bay area author and activist Steven Reigns. "What I don't support is the absence of out gay and lesbian writers. Not only have they been absent during Poetry Month or Black History Month, the library has completely neglected Gay & Lesbian History Month."

Reigns frustration prompted him to organize Loving in Fear, the first-ever gay literary event held at the downtown library. The concept, according to Reigns, is to honor the spectrum of the gay and lesbian experience in the written word.

When we stop holding hands in public places
When we change pronouns in the stories we tell to others
When we avoid questions of marriage
When we omit the names of the places we socialize
When personal photos do not adorn our desks at work
We are Loving in Fear

After his initial proposal requesting that the library sponsor a program was declined, Reigns took it upon himself to organize the event. A representative of the library was quoted as saying that programs are scheduled at the library two years in advance. Reigns finds this to be a poor excuse, "That might be their scheduling situation but why weren't they thinking about gays and lesbians in 2001?" Reigns' efforts paid off. On June 21, more than 100 attended Loving in Fear at the downtown Hillsborough County Library. Three authors presented readings from their works with Apple Love moderating. Tomes & Treasures was on hand, selling books with Equality Florida receiving a percentage of the proceeds.

Dr. Les Wright, editor of The Bear Book I and The Bear Book II. Dr. Wright spoke about "Bear" culture and how we define beauty. Wright is Associate Professor of Humanities at Mount Ida College and founded The Bear History Project in 1994. Reigns read some of his new poetry and selections from his first book Your Dead Body is My Welcome Mat. "The second poem was about my mother's abusive verbal revolt about her suspicions I might be gay." He said. "It is an embarrassingly personal poem but if we share our experiences we can reach a greater understanding and help others come out of the closets of abuse." Minnie Carey read from her chapbook Woman to Woman. A natural behind the microphone, Carey read "poems that express the love that I have had for the women in my life; whether as lovers or as friends." A leader in the African American community, Carey also read poems about the black experience and hopes that her expressions will enlighten and inspire those who are concern with social conditions.

Moderator Apple Love was pleased with the turnout "To see so many diverse individuals come out in the pouring rain really testifies to the necessity of events like this. Our voices are valuable and such a crowd really proves it." Videographer Melissa Walker donated her time to video and edit the event. "When I heard about the event, I really wanted to document it. As a straight female the importance of Loving in Fear isn't lost on me. This is historic and I felt it needed to be captured."

Reigns plans to meet with the library and make another appeal for library sponsorship. "The event took time and cost money that came out of my own pocket but it was all worth it to bring such an event to my community."