Mark Thompson (August 19th, 1952 – August 11th, 2106) a pioneer and chronicler of gay men’s lives with particular focus on the phenomenon of gay male spiritualty, defined and given direction in part by the Radical Fairie movement, died this past week on the 11th of August. Mark was 63 and just a few days short of his birthday with plans to celebrate with friends in Palm Springs. Mark’s contributions to the Queer Revolution are legion and extensive. He was preceded in death by his long time partner Malcolm Boyd, the well-known gay activist and Episcopal priest who died in February of last year (2015).
Do check out Mark’s web site (link here) to get a flavor of his broad insights and talents.
I did not know Mark Thompson well having met him briefly only a couple of times dating back to that first Spiritual Conference for Radical Fairies in the Arizona desert. At that time Mark worked for the Advocate, a publication he was associated with for over 20 years culminating in 1994 with his editing Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of the Gay and Lesbian Movement (St. Martin’s Press).
I got to “know” Mark best through his trilogy on gay spirituality:
Gay Spirit: Myth and Meaning (Lethe Press-1987)
Gay Soul: Finding the Heart of Gay Spirit and Nature.(Harper San Francisco-1994)
Gay Body: A Journey Through Shadow to Self. (St Martin’s Press-1997)
Gay Soul in particular was a very loving and reinforcing work for me coming at the darkest time in the AIDS nightmare in my own life both professionally and personally. It was a time when in my darkest moments I was questioning the whole gay liberation movement and wondering what had we wrought here. These bouts of anguished questioning occurring most often late at night usually resolved themselves by morning with the returning sun but twinges did often linger. It was truly juice for my “soul” to read Mark’s conversations with 16 prominent gay men several of whom I had gotten to know.
Though I would not have self-identified as an atheist (were there any atheists working in AIDS Clinics in the 1980-90”s?) in 1994 as I do now I definitely found succor in these great gay mentors discussing Gay Soul. As I have re-perused some of Mark’s writings from Gay Soul in the past few days they remain soothing in spite of my own current skeptical views on many things spiritual. I find that Judy Grahn’s words from the back jacket of Gay Soul taken from her review of the book in the Advocate still resonate strongly for me: “What Thompson has given gay men in Gay Soul is an outpouring of much-needed love-from new kinds of “fathers”.
I’d close with a few lines by Mark Thompson from the introduction to Gay Soul:
“My soul is the repository of all that I feel: my appetites and my ambitions, sadness and joy. It is the place where inspiration germinates and from which vitality grows. It is also the place of perplexity and unfathomable fear. Above all, I sense that my soul is the inner arena in which life’s combustible opposites collide, creating dissonance and upheaval as well as new harmony and stasis. Somewhere in this great container of ceaseless death and rebirth lies, too, the mystery of my being gay.”
Mark Thompson. Los Angeles. Vernal Equinox, 1994.