Celebrating Queer History Month: I’m Not a Man

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Harold Norse in Union Square, San Francisco. Photo by Frances Mccann

I’m Not a Man

I’m not a man. I can’t earn a living, buy new things for my

family. I have acne and a small peter

I’m not a man. I don’t like football, boxing and cars.

I like to express my feelings. I even like to put an arm

around my friend’s shoulder.

I’m not a man. I won’t play the role assigned to me—the role

created by Madison Avenue, Playboy, Hollywood and Oliver Cromwell.

Television does not dictate my behavior. I am under 5 foot 4.

I’m not a man. Once when I shot a squirrel I swore that I would

never kill again. I gave up meat. The sight of blood makes me

sick. I like flowers.

I’m not a man. I went to prison resisting the draft. I do not

fight back when real men beat me up and call me queer. I dislike

violence.

I’m not a man. I have never raped a woman. I don’t hate blacks.

I do not get emotional when the flag is waved. I do not think

I should love America or leave it. I think I should laugh at it.

I’m not a man. I have never had the clap.

I’m not a man. Playboy is not my favorite magazine.

I’m not a man. I cry when I’m unhappy.

I’m not a man. I do not feel superior to women.

I’m not a man. I don’t wear a jockstrap.

I’m not a man. I write poetry.

I’m not a man. I meditate on peace and love.

I’m not a man. I don’t want to destroy you.

—Harold Norse, San Francisco 1972


Letter from Harold Norse to Jeff Nuttall 1966

Often categorized as a Beat writer, poet and memoirist Harold Norse created a body of work that used everyday language and images to explore and celebrate both the commonplace and the exotic. His poetry is lyrical and confessional, expressing homoerotic attractions and encounters not as novelty but as lived experience.

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