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Book Review: ‘One Gay American: A Memoir’ by Dennis Milam Bensie

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Once Gay American coverDennis Milam Bensie is One Gay American. The memoir is told within groups of years from the 60s until the present time, including events happening in the news focusing on the issues of his own life. This memoir is a coming-of-age story of Bensie’s life as a gay man. He was born in 1965 and was lucky enough to see the rise in acceptance of gay culture in America after the Stonewall riots.

Bensie grew up as America that was growing more aware of the LGBT community. Each chapter of the book begins with a few words about where America was with gay tolerance at the time.

You learn a lot about Bensie within the first few pages. You learn a lot about his relationship with his parents and what led to his father being disappointed with him.

Growing up in the 60s in Robinson, Illinois, all he wanted was to be loved and have a relationship with someone. Wanting a wedding and a child, Bensie set aside his sexual preference and married at the age of 19. However in this intense and profound memoir, you can sense the discontent within him at every turn.

In search of his identity as a gay man, Bensie divorces his wife and stumbles through missteps and lessons still stinging his generation: defending against bullies, “disappointing” his parents, and looking for love in gay bars, bathhouses and restrooms. Bensie helps his straight friends plan their dream weddings and mourns his gay friends dying of AIDS.

With the shift in LGBT civil rights, Bensie wanted to contribute. You can pick up how he felt telling his story would help others. The timing was right as One Gay American came out right before the 2012 election.

Coming out to his friends and family took courage but the reactions were varied. I am sure they were sometimes difficult to deal with as well.

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 has a lot to say and says it with no apologies.

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