Young Man from the Provinces, Alan Helms

Alan Helms, Young Man from the Provinces, is the first gay morality tale I’ve ever read. Discovering myself in the pages, eloquently moved by the author, who describes his sometimes misspent youth and rise as a “golden boyman”, someone adored by his looks.  Alan Helms is the main character in this novel, chronicling gay society before Stonewall. A culture smilier to our own.

I found myself connected to the book in two ways. His childhood,  he lived and was raised by a father in the throws of alcoholism and a mother unable to deal with breaking away or finding independence from the abuse. That was the first. The second was the adoration of youth.

The novel parrelles many straight and similer stories, not just in the days before Stonewall. Re-telling his own personal journey through the gay experience. 

Young Man from the Provinces: A Gay Life Before Stonewall by Alan Helms

I was struck by the way Alan Helms documents his fear, as he grows up in his alcoholic family, how he tries to escape into his own life.

How the memoires’ plain and certain truth, mentions his shame and desparaging family. He clearly shows how addiction affects childhood. I saw my own family; my father was not addicted to alcohol, but to the paranormal and to the surreal. Just like Alan Helms, who’s father disappeared and spent money on alcohol instead of food. My father spent it on psychics and UFO workshops. He shares the arguments and the heartache.

I was touched by the author’s honesty.

The novels second theme focuses on body worship and our youth-centric gay society. Its value and how truly fleeting it is. How we prey and try to achieve perfection, once that perfection is achieved we are never quite satisfied. The author admits to the constant search of the physically perfect partner. How quickly it fly’s away. Alan Helms ties the desire to be loved and perfected to his early life, his manic search for anonymous sex.

I was hoping that Young Man from the Provinces would focus more on the society around the gay bars. How the world treated gay people at the time. After all, we’ve come a long way, yet are still second class citizens. Not simply the isolated world behind the locked doors of the gay speakeasy and its’ illicit parties.


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