Keeping a Journal and Other Thoughts
By James Kent
26 May 2004
Note: James Kent, Affirmation's former director and Affinity
editor, is the editor of Ohana News, a newsletter that reaches some
270 of his friends. He regularly contributes to the Affirmation website
and helps maintain and expand Affirmation's AIDS Memorial.
"He who careth not from whence he
came, careth little wither he goeth."
My friend Jeff Reneau was a very faithful journal keeper. For him
it was almost an addiction to write down his thoughts every day. For
me, keeping a journal has been a constant battle. Even on my mission,
when I was "commanded” to keep a mission journal, it lasted only a
few months. Fortunately I faithfully wrote home every week (another
mission commandment) and those letters were saved, making it a record
of my life in 1980 and 1981.
In 1985, I asked a friend to be my journal keeper, and I wrote to
him every week. That lasted until I came out of the closet in 1988,
and he could not deal with those changes in my life. My friend Mark
Malcolm of Salt Lake City kept my journal for a year and a half, but
eventually I got lazy.
Then in 1993 I moved to Philadelphia. My nearest friends were in the
Metropolitan Washington DC Area. To deal with my loneliness and isolation,
I started Philly News. It was mailed out every other week to
about 30 people. As my circle of friends grew over the years, the readership
came up to 185 newsletters at an annual printing and mailing cost of
about $2,000 per year in 1998. Talk about an expensive hobby!
My job at the National Archives in Philadelphia was literally physically
and mentally killing me. So I made the decision in 1998, at the age
of 40, to return to the San Francisco Bay Area. To save on cost, I went
electronic to those who had computers. When I moved to Honolulu in 1999,
and started Ohana News, it went completely electronic.
My current readership is around 270 e-mail addresses. E-mails become
obsolete, people move on with their lives (or get ticked off at the
content of my newsletter) and asked to be removed from my e-mail list,
and people join the list. So some of you have received all 350 of
my newsletters, and some of you have received only the last few issues.
Many of my readers have recommended that I start up a website. I know that
some of you already have your own websites. Some of those are quite
well set up, with graphics, text, and links. I continually praise
Hugo Salinas, who building on the work of Henry Miller, continues
to produce a first class website for Affirmation. Thus far I have
been quite content to keep my newsletter closed to people I know or
have been introduced to. The text only format is still the only format
that I find works on all computer systems.
I am writing all this because a friend of mine asked me about starting a newsletter of his own. My friend John Barnes started a personal newsletter a few months after I started Philly News, and it evolved over the years into a very well done text and graphic work of art that he regularly posts to his website.
So whether you write in a book of remembrance or "my journal,” or write letters to a close friends, or start a personal newsletter, or create a personal website, you have my encouragement and support.
I am so grateful for my newsletter that allows me to keep in touch
with so many of my freinds, and allows my friends to keep in touch with each other.
I do my best not to censor, but sometimes I post warnings if the materials
could be interpreted as offensive. And I am sometimes forced
to edit because of length, or when someone makes a personal attack
on another one of my readers—no matter how justified that attack
I know there will be times when my newsletter can be very irritating
with graphic language (i.e., limericks), or take positions in sexual
morals, religion or politics that disagree with you own. It saddens
me that people choose to just disengage rather than sharing their
differences of opinion. I do my best not to take this kind of rejection
I constantly remind myself of the words of André Gide, "I would rather
be hated for what I am, than to be loved for what I am not.” There
is a corollary quote, "A person is better known for their enemies
than their friends.” A friend will forgive you of your faults. An
enemy will mirror their own faults in what they don't like in you.
Keeping a history helps me to remember names, dates, places. But more
importantly, it shows me where I've been and how I have developed
over the years. And if this history can survive past my own lifetime,
it can be of benefit to those who follow me. Should the future shine
bright and give total equality of opportunity to non-heterosexuals,
they can look back to a time when that was a journey of hope. Should
the struggle continue far into the future, they will know from the
past that they are not alone.