MONDAY

Surprisingly, the big questions of Tim Bergling’s Sissyphobia: Gay Men and Effeminate Behavior—why are some gay men so effeminate, and why is society so repulsed by them?—have not been done to death. So Bergling’s work can be viewed as an important early step. In Sissyphobia, the D.C.-area journalist illuminates the challenges faced by “femmes,” who risk ridicule from the heterosexual mainstream, and contempt and isolation from within the homosexual community. (Bergling’s anti-“sissy” interview subjects either explained that they didn’t want to be outed by associating with an obvious “fairy” or claimed that the prevalent stereotype of campy queens sets back the gay cause.) The TV-news producer is obviously adept at talking to people, but where his work fails is in its lack of interpretation. He quotes just two specialists on a subject that desperately requires academic expertise, leaving the important questions to be answered by hundreds of anonymous gay and straight men. With some scientific explanation, these opinions could provide important coloring to an abstract subject; instead, the lack of discussion prevents Bergling’s effort from accomplishing much of anything. Furthermore, the inclusion of a couple of wholly irrelevant chapters makes it hard to understand why the work was expanded from the format of a magazine feature, which is how the author first investigated the issue. But perhaps Bergling’s aim was less ambitious: “I just wanted to take a snapshot of some of the prevailing attitudes and opinions out there,” says the author in the afterword. Bergling appears at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 15, at Olsson’s Books and Records, 1307 19th St. NW. Free. (202) 785-1133. (Zack Phillips)