Camerado, I Give You My Hand:
Celebrating Jack Nichols
By Raj Ayyar
Allons! Whoever you are, come travel with me.
Travelling with me, you will find what never tires.
Allons! With power, liberty, defiance, gayety.
--Walt Whitman: Song of the Open Road.
When I arrived at SIU-Carbondale, IL in the ‘70’s, I was a dewy-eyed grad student-- an angry, yet nurturing challenger, constantly questioning my own and others’ presuppositions and taking strategic pot shots at cultural sacred cows.
A pivotal turning point in my endless browsing sessions at a local bookstore occurred, when I stumbled upon a slender Penguin volume entitled ‘Men’s Liberation’ by Jack Nichols. Little did I suspect the profoundly synchronistic nature of this discovery. I had no idea that the author would become one of my best friends in decades to come.
The book was an exciting read. Jack never bulldozed the reader into accepting fixed gender/sexual orientation definitions. Rather, ‘Men’s Liberation’ is a passionate invitation to rethink gender and sexuality in androgynous terms. The book invites comparison with June Singer’s masterful Jungian work ‘Androgyny’, Marc Feigen-Fasteau’s ‘The Male Machine’, and other important works of the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. that challenged the multiple separatisms of the period: the traditional overblown male/female, gay/straight binarisms of the hetero-patriarchal order, bifurcations and schisms within the LGBT movements, feminist separatism etc.