E. Lynn Harris, a gay author of note, will always be a favorite of mine. His saddening, shocking and sudden death on this exact date – July 23, 2009 – only secured his stature in my mind. “Gone too soon” and “such a tragic loss” have become two phrases that many of his fans associate with his name. His readership crossed both cultural and racial boundaries that few imagined possible. Unfortunately, his demise has left an empty void in contemporary same gender loving male authors.
E. Lynn Harris (pictured above) admiration and appreciation was one of the very first common bonds that forged the close platonic friendship that exists between Jay and myself. We first met at a nude cocktail party just before Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration in January, 2009. One of the author’s paperback novels had been left in the booth where we were sitting and immediately initiated our conversation. Our friendship endures and we frequently re-read his novels and re-examine details we’ve overlooked previously.
Was E. Lynn Harris a “down-low” bare practitioner?
He publicly acknowledged being gay and proud. Was he also a naturist/nudist, too? If he had lived longer, would he have openly and proudly “owned” his nude preference?
Jay and I recently reviewed Harris’ “I Say A Little Prayer” 2006 novel. One of the very first comments that Jay shared with me was the observation that “…I’ve never noticed before his familiarity with nudity!” This remark left me utterly clueless – flabbergasted – so much so that I had to immediately return to the book – again!
The main character in this novel is Chauncey Greer. Harris refers to Chauncey’s first attendance at a clothes free social club for bisexual and gay men: “I didn’t wear underwear because the invite specified that no clothing could be worn once you entered the club.” The Back Door was the name of a group or event in Atlanta, Georgia, hosted by well-to-do Black men that prohibited the wearing of any clothing at their functions.
Although the entire event discussed in Chapter 6 was exclusively bare, Chauncey revealed no embarrassment or shame being naked. He observed the sexual freedom exhibited at the social gathering with no judgment on the participants even though he (Chauncey, the main character) did not engage in any type of sexual activity.
Throughout the novel, Harris writes of encounters the men attending The Back Door had with others they met at the social nudist event and acknowledged their recognition of one another from the party – again, free from any bias or negative consideration. Their shared bare practitioner experience was viewed as simply another normal or routine meeting, regardless of their nudity and sexuality.
In later chapters, Harris returns Chauncey to reflecting his comfort and relaxation in being bare while contemplating his relationships with his friends such a Skylar, Basil and Griffen. The nudity issue remained a complete nonissue as far as he was concerned.
Both Jay and I were so normalized by our own bare practitioner lives that this revelation was unimpressive and totally regular. In discussing this phenomenon, we wondered together if this was a subtle admission from E. Lynn Harris of his own personal comfort with being a bare practitioner.
Rest in peace, E. Lynn Harris!
Roger Poladopoulos/ReNude Pride
Author’s Note: The next post entry planned for here is Monday, July 26, 2021, and the proposed topic is: “Enough Nonsense!”