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Escaping God's Closet

The Revelations of a Queer Priest
Bernard Duncan Mayes

BUY Cloth · 301 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813920047 · $35.00 · Mar 2001
BUY Ebook · 301 pp. · ISBN 9780813934549 · $35.00 · Oct 2012

He survived a turbulent childhood in war-torn London, earned degrees with honors from Cambridge University, was ordained in the Church of England, became an Anglican worker-priest, and emigrated to the United States.

He has been a prolific broadcaster for the BBC, helped organize the Public Broadcasting System in America, was a founding chairman of National Public Radio, and became a senior management consultant for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

He designed and directed the first system of suicide and crisis counseling centers in California (a model for later centers nationwide) and helped found the Parsonage, an Episcopalian ministry on behalf of gay rights in the Castro section of San Francisco. And all the while, Bernard Duncan Mayes struggled to reconcile his views on sexuality—and his experience as a gay man—with his theological and cultural beliefs.

In an entirely honest and engaging voice, Mayes offers considerably more than autobiographical recollections of his life as priest, journalist, university teacher and administrator, and gay rights activist. Throughout Escaping God's Closet, Bernard Mayes recounts how social and doctrinal oppression posed fundamental challenges to his own belief system, but led him to revelations about sexuality, Christianity, and the nature of human existence itself.


Honest, forthright and written with a literary bent that does not sidestep the more difficult questions of sexuality, theology, sin and personal redemption, Mayes’s memoir is an important addition to the literature of gay liberation and religion as well as frank look into contemporary San Francisco’s gay history and mores.

Publishers Weekly

Bernard Mayes has led an unusual and exemplary life: He is part of the first generation of men who have used the means of civil society to affirm the validity of sexual desires, practices, and relationships between men, and on this topic he is thoughtful, eloquent, and at times very moving.

Richard Dellamora, author of Masculine Desire and Apocalyptic Overtures: Sexual Politics and the Sense of an Ending

This is a fascinating account of a cleric's serious re-examination of the beliefs with which he grew up and how, in the course of his complex and fascinating life, he came to challenge those views and eventually discard them.

John Fout, Bard College

About the Author(s): 

A gay rights activist, journalist, and dramatist, Bernard Duncan Mayes lives in Washington, D.C

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