We Both Laughed in Pleasure: The Selected Diaries of Lou Sullivan

(Author) (Preface by)
& 2 more

Product Details

$21.95  $20.41
Nightboat Books
Publish Date
5.5 X 7.8 X 1.1 inches | 1.3 pounds
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About the Author

Louis G. Sullivan (b. Milwaukee, 1951; d. San Francisco, 1991) was a writer, activist, typesetter, trans historian and ground breaking queer activist. Sullivan began writing his life in diaries as an adolescent and continued until his death from AIDS complications. The first publicly gay trans man to medically transition, Lou meticulously journaled his experiences (romantic, lascivious, challenging, quotidian, poetic, political). Sullivan left 8.4 cubic feet of archival material from his life and studies to the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco, of which he was a founding member.

Ellis Martin works with digital derivatives in the interstice of art and archive. He holds a BA in Visual and Critical Studies from Mills College. His short films have screened at San Francisco Transgender Film Festival and Trans Stellar Film Festival.

Zach Ozma is a poet, potter, and social practice artist. In 2015, Ozma received a BFA in Community Arts from California College of the Arts in Oakland. He lives and works in Philadelphia and is the author of BLACK DOG DRINKING FROM AN OUTDOOR POOL (forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019).


"Given how many contemporary trans narratives are rooted in trauma, their choice to foreground trans pleasure and sensuality is celebratory, even radical."--Jeremy Lybarger, The New Yorker

"Sullivan's diaries, for example, are visual feasts."--Bay Area Reporter

"An important HIV/AIDS history as well as important as a gay and trans history."--Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"This is a great book by a great person...If I am perhaps too glowing in my praise of Lou, that's probably because I can't physically imagine myself without him."--Charlie Markbreiter Bookforum

"Lou is an open-book mystery, a man who built bridges of access, a gentle soul with whom I share similar demons"--Amos Mac, them

"It feels like a gift to be able to read such a complete and evocative record of a life spent in pursuit of joy"--Sasha Geffen, The Nation

"The strongest impetus for his transition is, as the book's title lets on, pleasure"--Crispin Long, SLATE

"His life and diary are committed to gay sex, seeing in it the embodiment of the challenge and passion of life at the margins."--Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué, Chicago Review

"Sullivan's diary entries are personal and political. They are recollections of many sexual escapades, but they also demonstrate his activist sensibility, that he was aware of his body and lifestyle as political issues, and of being in the throes of one of the largest gay scenes in the United States."--Caden Mark Gardner, Hyperallergic

"It's cathartic to read Lou's frank acknowledgement of the terror inherent in making one's own reality, while hoping against hope that the envisioned self might exist independently of one's efforts to manifest it."--Callum Angus, Lit Hub

"This Trans Day of Remembrance, if you're in need of a little joy, a little reconnection with life, a little reminder of how we can fight for our own happiness, this is a volume to pick up."--Henry Giardina, The Pride LA

"The writing is great, and, joyfully, aware of it's own skill. The entries collected deal with obsession, politics, bodies (the sex scenes are great), medicine, longing. Easily one of the best things I read this year."--Dustin Kurtz, The Millions

"Reading the diaries, I thought a lot about the ways in which Lou was both creating and disrupting contemporary trans narratives that demand we be singular and palatable in order to be legible, respectable, and have presence. Though not a memoir, I found his diaries full of anguish, desperation, and anxiety but also dripping with determination, exhilaration, and lightness. Lou has taught me how to better have and hold them all.--Spence Messih & Vincent Silk, Sydney Review of Books

"We Both Laughed In Pleasure brings to vivid life the many journals left behind by queer transcestor Lou Sullivan. This finely edited collection pulls out threads like gender self-determination, illicit queer sexual desire, and relationship woes that span his entire life. The volume reads like an open letter written for future queer trans people longing to understand their identities and experiences across time and space."-Chris Vargas

"Here is your chance to meet Lou Sullivan in his own words, as he experienced himself in the process of becoming. Zach Ozma and Ellis Martin have done a beautiful job curating passages that preserve all the voyeuristic pleasure of reading someone's diary--minus the boring minutiae of everyday life. The Lou who emerges is contemplative and bold, despairing and determined, promiscuous and romantic, and powerfully aroused by men wearing jewelry. Bring him home with you."--Julian Carter

"Lou Sullivan was a visionary, a leader, and clearly one of the most significant trans figures of the late 20th century. He had a rare capaciousness of mind and spirit: he savored complexity and the many facets of people, ideas, and practices. He was generous, courageous, and his own struggles opened up new worlds and forged pathways that others eagerly followed. He helped dismantle the rigid gate keeping of the gender clinics, pioneering new ways for trans folks to lead their own transitions. He was a voracious intellect: eagerly absorbing, producing, preserving, and disseminating trans knowledge. His most important legacy was FTM, the Bay Area group he founded in 1986 that revolutionized the social and medical terrains for trans men." --Gayle Rubin

"This collection of Lou Sullivan's journals, edited with great care by Martin and Ozma, details a profound personal metamorphosis alongside a political and cultural one. Lou's intimate writing reveals a fantastic voyage of a late 20th century trans explorer, pioneering his way from the hippie coffee houses that Lou came of age in, to the gay male diaspora of the Castro, to early trans liberation movements, AIDS activism and beyond. The intimate details of Lou's life shared in his journals lay bare just how human he was. Lou transgressed the limited thinking of his era, the restrictions of his body, and even a terminal diagnosis to leave a legacy of self-determination that resounds beyond the trans masculine community he sought to empower. This collection continues Lou's legacy of knowledge-sharing and brings a oft-overlooked pioneer into sharp focus."--Rhys Ernst