One Gay American, by Dennis Milam Bensie
One Gay American (242 pages), is a memoir by theatrical wigmaker Dennis Milam Bensie about growing up gay in small-town America.
One Gay American was a finalist in the 2013 Indie Excellence Awards and 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
The Advocate voted Bensie’s first memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men, “One of the Best Overlooked Books of 2011.” The New York Journal of Books called Shorn: “Bracingly honest.” The Library Journal recommended it as “particularly topical in these days of bullying stories and gay teens committing suicide.” Shorn was also a finalist in the 2013 Indie Excellence Awards.
“Deeply poignant. I love how it traverses essential issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people of all ages. The story evokes clarification, encouragement and comfort for anyone who is curious to know what it was like to grow up LGBT in small-town America during the waning years of the twentieth century.”
—Daniel Nicoletta, photographer and activist who worked in Harvey Milk’s Castro Street camera during the LGBT Zeitgeist of the mid ’70s
“I was stunned by the raw honesty of Bensie’s first book, Shorn: Toys To Men. He doesn’t back down in his second memoir, One Gay American, either. His spin on small-town gay Americana is spot-on. One can’t help but admire how the author tells his heart-wrenching stories with his head held high. Bensie is hopeful and embraces America … even though the country hasn’t yet fully embraced sexual equality.”
—Tony Buff, Director of Fetish Production, Falcon /Raging Stallion Studios
“Dennis Milam Bensie’s One Gay American manages to be entertaining and engaging with no whining…. [His] frankness extends to the story of his failed marriage …. heartbreaking stuff. Bensie handles this with the assurance of a master storyteller, using uncomplicated prose to tell his rather complicated life. His details are well-chosen, but even more interesting is what he chooses not to reveal. Once the book takes off into Bensie’s gay adulthood, he declines to recite chapter and verse his dating difficulties (though they are touched upon to hilarious effect) and other bad decisions are never dwelt on. One Gay American is a beautifully well-rounded account of just that—one gay American and his journey toward happiness. I’ll wager you’ll find some of yourself in here. Read it and see.”
—Jerry Wheeler, Out in Print
Dennis Milam Bensie is One Gay American. Born in the 1960s and raised with traditional values in Robinson, Illinois, Bensie desperately wanted romance, a beautiful wedding, and a baby to carry on the family name. He denied his sexuality and married a woman at nineteen years old, but fantasized of weddings where he could be the bride. The newlyweds “adopted” a Cabbage Patch Doll and ironically witnessed a Cabbage Patch Doll wedding (a successful fundraiser staged by a local women’s club) where the dolls were granted the type of grand ceremony off-limits to gay couples.
In search of his identity as a gay man, Bensie divorced his wife and stumbled through missteps and lessons that still sting his generation: defending against bullies, “disappointing” his parents, and looking for love in gay bars, bath houses and restrooms. He helped his straight friends plan their dream weddings and mourned his gay friends dying of AIDS. Although true love has not yet come his way, Bensie has learned to love himself.
Bensie is the author of the much-lauded memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men, which recounts his battle with paraphilia. One Gay American tells the rest of his story and draws parallels to gay history, decade by decade, with newspaper headlines and quotations. Bensie is the gay neighbor that you either love or hate. Either way, he’s got a lot to say and says it with no apologies.
Says Bensie, “I never thought of myself as a gay activist, but I have been inspired in the last ten years by the gains made for the civil rights of the LGBT community. The media continues to open the closet door wider and wider: Will and Grace, Neil Patrick Harris, Chaz Bono, the Logo Network, Ellen DeGeneres, Glee, Ricky Martin, Johnny Weir. Diversity has become more celebrated in America, but there is still a long ways to go. I recently asked a Facebook friend who I went to high school with if things were any different for gay people in our small, Midwestern hometown. She claims the climate is better, but kids are still bullied for being queer. The media also reminds us that some gay kids are being pushed to take their own lives … just like I wanted to do thirty years ago. I wrote One Gay American for all the kids who may get confused and lost in the rhetoric of the anti-gay politics (especially this election year). Many of them will relate to my story. They must stay strong and keep building the LGBT legacy.”
Dennis Milam Bensie grew up in Robinson, Illinois where his interest in the arts began in high school participating in various community theatre productions. He holds a degree in Theater Costume Design from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and completed an apprenticeship in theatrical wig construction at Los Angeles Opera. His costume and wig design for Valley of the Dolls at Empty Space Theatre in Seattle garnered him a feature article in Entertainment Design Magazine and a Seattle Times Footlight Award for Best Design. Bensie was the Wardrobe and Wig Master at Intiman Theatre in Seattle for twenty seasons. Bensie is single and lives in Seattle with his three dogs. You can find him on the Web at www.dennismilambensie.com.
One Gay American is available e-book and paperback editions at select Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores as well as Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, and Amazon Japan. Bookstores and libraries can order through Ingram or Baker & Taylor or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Libraries can also order through Midwest Library Service or Follett Library Resources.
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