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Originally from Savannah, Georgia, I grew up Southern, Jewish, economically impoverished (after, when I was 11, my father died of cancer) and gay. By nine or ten, I knew I was attracted to boys. To escape the South’s violent homophobia, at 17, in 1965, after a painful year at the University of Georgia, I hitchhiked from Savannah to San Francisco—an adventure I recalled as being "like Mark Twain with drag queens.” I spent a year living on the street, sleeping between parked cars or in SRO hotels, doing any job I could, and loving the freedom of it. In August, of 1966, a month before my 19th birthday, I moved to New York. I quickly became involved with artists, writers, dancers, and poets, and in November of 1969, joined New York's groundbreaking Gay Liberation Front and the staff of Come Out!, the world's first gay liberation newspaper. I'd been writing gay poetry and stories for several years and was told no one would ever publish them. But the times were a-changing: I wrote poetry, stories, and news pieces, eventually becoming a leader on the paper when it was published out of my walk-up Hell's Kitchen apartment for the last 2 years of its existence. In those years, my work, often anthologized, was seen in The Gay Liberation Bookfrom Rolling Stone Press; The Male Muse, the world's first openly gay poetry anthology edited by Ian Young; Mouth of the Dragon, the first gay male poetry 'zine; Karla Jay and Allen Young's Out of the Closets, (still in print); and The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse, the first mainstream collection of queer poetry, edited by Stephen Coote. I have published twenty books and been a finalist six times in three categories for Lambda Literary Awards. In 1972, with two friends I started the Gay Men's Health Project Clinic, the first clinic for gay men on the East Coast, still surviving as New York’s Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. The Gay Men's Health Project Clinic, organized and run by the men who used it, rather than by doctors, became the model for many grass-roots health organizations in the gay community. With my poetry, I have collaborated with numerous composers, including the late Chris DeBlasio (“All the Way Through Evening,” a five-song cycle); Ricky Ian Gordon (“The Angel Voices of Men”); Fred Hersch (“Three Brass Songs”); Christopher Berg ("Five 'Russian' Lyrics”); Paula Kimper ("The Restless Yearning Towards My Self") and Scott Gendel (“What We Did Not Know”). I very much enjoy doing public readings, workshops, and performances. I live in the Riverdale section of “da Bronx,”but can travel anyplace with a passport or a dream.
Perry Brass is a pillar of queer literature, and gay self help. LGBT self help