Goodbye to Bill Brent (1960-2012)

Sometime over the weekend of August 18, 2012, writer and sex-positive activist Bill Brent left a suicide note and joined a heartbreaking elite: the small number of jumpers  who end their lives at the Golden Gate Bridge. He had resided in Hawai`i for the past several years after launching his writing career in the San Francisco of the 1990s and had just returned to the Bay Area in recent months. While he had been talking to longtime friends about getting involved with the community again and beginning to produce more events and publications, he had also been struggling with health issues and depression.

I have known Bill since meeting him at San Francisco Sex Information in 1989 and watched him launch a small sex-positive and literary empire. In the heyday of smart, quirky sexzines, Bill’s contribution to the genre was the fabulously diverse Black Sheets, and he launched Perverts Put Out, reportedly the longest-running reading series in San Francisco, initially in support of the ‘zine. (PPO is now maintained by Bill’s Black Sheets colleague Lori Selke and longtime reader Simon Sheppard and is held quarterly as a benefit for the Center for Sex & Culture.) A one-time use of the Queen of Heaven safer sex party mailing list became a several-year run of Black Sheets bi-/pansexual parties, and at about this time he also compiled a pansexual guidebook to sexuality community resources called The Black Book, which went through several editions in the 1990s. An early advocate of self-publishing, he developed his own company, Black Books, and also worked with other notable sexuality publishers like Cleis (which published his Ultimate Guide to Anal Sex for Men in 2002) and Cecilia Tan’s bisexual/science fiction-and-fantasy press Circlet, which released two volumes of Best Bisexual Erotica which Bill and I edited together. I once saw this indefatigable writer working on a story in the middle of the night by just the light from his computer keyboard.

Bill’s work appeared in multiple Best Of anthologies: Best American Erotica 1997, Best Gay Erotica 2002 and 2004, Best S/M Erotica, and many other collections of erotic writing and essays. Visit his blog www.litboy.com/ or his Authors Den page for more detail about his work and his life. A wonderful remembrance by our friend Thomas Roche is on his website. Obits are pending in the SF Weekly and the Bay Area Reporter, and a quick Internet search shows that many writers, in particular, have heard the news and are memorializing him on their blogs.

A public memorial to celebrate Bill’s life and work will be held on Wednesday, September 26, at the Center for Sex & Culture, 1349 Mission between 9th and 10th in San Francisco. Gather at 6, memorial at 7pm. All are welcome.

Bill is survived by members of his family of origin and by his most recent partner Puma, and by countless shocked and saddened colleagues in the LGBTQ/sex-positive writing and activist worlds, as well as his Black Sheets and BLW Radical Faerie communities. Good Vibrations salutes Bill’s memory and all the work he produced, authors he nurtured, and lives he linked. Rest In Peace, Top Boy.

Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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5 Responses

  1. Ann M. Soucy says:

    I just caught wind of this tragic news. I didn’t know Bill well but, certainly did know him as I/we attended and participated in many of the same events and traveled along some of the same paths. I feel so sad to hear that Bill felt so overwhelmed by depression and “life” that chose to leave this life. My heart goes out to his family of origin as well as everyone in our wonderful circle of caring and very dear friends. May he fly with the universal spirits. RIP Bill! Thank you for all you shared while you lived among us.

  2. Kim S. says:

    Buggerall! (and not in a good way). So sad that the joy and pleasure he brought to others didn’t sustain him through a rough patch. It was good to know him, a pity he’s gone.

  3. STEP says:

    Dude was a huge influence, both as a writer and a human being.What a loss and a damned shame…

  4. Julianne says:

    The info above re: The memorial of Bill Brent

    “A public memorial to celebrate Bill’s life and work will be held on Wednesday, September 26, at the Center for Sex & Culture Gather at 6, memorial at 7pm. All are welcome.”

    This seems to be in conflict of other posts stating that it is Sunday Sept 9th @6

    Want to attend yet am coming from out of town.. can someone confirm Date/Time??

    JuliannesEmail@aol.com