his lover

Bill Weintraub



Brett Averill
June 1982
Photo by Stanely Stellar

It's now been 20 years since I met my lover Brett Averill.

This is what Brett looked like the day we first met at a NYC karate school called SAFE.

Though he'd come, at my repeated urging, to do a story on a lesbian and gay self-defense class that I was promoting, I wasn't expecting anyone even remotely as handsome as Brett.

Brett was then the editor of the gay paper in NYC, and, long before we met, I admired and respected him deeply. The paper, the NY Native, was at the time, and due to Brett, without question the liveliest journal of ideas in America, and as a long-time gay activist, I was very aware of what a remarkable job Brett was doing in balancing the conflicting needs and demands of New York City's and the nation's quarrelsome and besieged lesbian and gay community while producing a paper of remarkable intellecutual depth.

For it was the age of Reagan and Falwell and the onslaught of AIDS, and we were everywhere under attack.

While straight politicians and institutions of both the right and left attempted to exploit the Gay community for their own gain, while mainstream publications alternately ignored and pilloried us, while violence, disease, and state-sanctioned persecution broke over us in waves, Brett had to rely on free-lance writers and part-time reporters who were pathetically underpaid (as was he) to accurately and fairly apprise us of the news, all the while fighting for the attention of a largely apathetic gay audience which was mired in self-hate.

It was a Herculean task, requiring, at its center, a person of both god-like strength and Apollonian clarity and calm.

That was Brett.

From his first year of high school, he had trained in journalism, and, long before he reached the Native, although then only in his twenty-third year, he was a professional. But there was a strength of character that Brett brought to the Native that no amount of training or experience could account for. He had an integrity and undeviating commitment to truth and fair play that were invaluable and irreplaceable, and it was those qualities, along with his intelligence and political acumen, that shone through every issue of the Native that he edited, and that brought me, week after week, long before I'd met him, to devour every page.

And yet, because of the very quality of the paper, which suggested many year's experience in journalism (of itself then quite rare in the gay press), I assumed, before meeting him, that Brett was in his 40s at least, and like most journalists, not very attractive.

I was wrong. He was both young -- just 24 -- and extraordinarily handsome.

A physical beauty, moreover, which reflected the moral, intellectual, and spiritual splendors within.

For Brett was the first and only person I've known whom I could call noble.

While by no means a prig, and indeed someone who enjoyed life to the utmost, he was consistently high-minded, and I simply never saw him do or heard him say anything mean or base.

That quality of sure moral purpose, along with his easy air of command, imparted to him a nobility and, under the circumstances, heroism that I've experienced elsewhere only in books -- it was as though he'd just gotten up from a seat at the Round Table or was about to embark with the Argonauts.

He was extraordinary.

We met, and though very attracted to each other, assumed that each had a boyfriend (which indeed we did), and so didn't see each other again until an accidental meeting in a Chelsea bar six months later propelled us into bed and into love.

And from that moment in October of 1982, we were never apart again.


This is my favorite picture of Brett.

We used to say, laughingly, that in our first year or so together we never saw each other soft.

And that's true.

We were blessed with an exceptionally strong physical attraction to each other which never wavered, and which Brett wrote about in The Year of Living Desperately and I wrote about in Hyacinthine Love.

Our mutual desire, though of course physical, transcended our physical forms.

All those qualities of strength and beauty that he brought to the relationship and that I sought to assimilate to myself in our passion went far beyond the flesh.

It could not be any other way with a being like Brett, nothing else would have been possible.

So that my love and admiration for Brett were so great that I used to say that I worshipped at the First Church of Brett.

And that too was true.

Worshipping at the First Church of Brett

Those two qualities of Brett -- nobility and sex -- are combined, without conflict, in this picture.

As they were in life.

I took the picture, and, years later, realized it was the quintessential Brett: completely unposed, just standing there, looking noble, with his dick out.

I don't know anyone else who could do that.

Now while I expect most people won't understand this, to me Brett's cock partook of his nobility.

Because the hero has an heroic cock.

So when we made love our phalluses -- those sacred symbols of our male creative power -- fought and wrestled as we did, they strove as manfully in the arena created by the meeting of our groins as did we in the world.

Until that all-consuming ecstatic moment when our fighting cocks became mating cocks, and, face to face, lips to lips, heart to heart, and cock to cock, we experienced phallic union, the most powerful and awesome form of the bond between men.

Bathed then in each other's cum, we lay silently still while about us, in microcosmic pools, our sperm lashed furiously together.

Everything, I thought, then and now, led to this, this meeting and merging of two equally noble beings who pass through rage to love.

Not surprisingly, Brett's cock is the only cock I remember -- I don't remember anyone else's.

But then I remember every aspect of making love with him -- the feel of his body against mine, the feel of his balls against mine, his soft grunts of pleasure as our cocks rubbed and ground together, the feel of our chest hair tangling, the sense of his legs intertwined with mine.

And exactly what his cock felt like against mine.

Exactly what our cocks felt like together.

God and Mortal

The statue known as the Apollo Found at Piraeus was created in 525 BCE.

Brett was created 2482 years later.

And he was just 24 when we met in 1982.

Eleven years later I asked Brett to get me a reproduction of the statue.

Because to me he was an avatar of Apollo.

So they belonged together.

As it happens, there's a surprising physical resemblance between the sculptor's ideal of Apollo and the reality of Brett.

I don't know why.



This picture was taken on Gay Pride Day 1988.

Brett liked it because it showed us, as we always were, happy together.

But when I look at it now I think, well, at least the Statue of Liberty is still there.

Both Brett and the people who died in the WTC were killed by fundamentalist hate, and we need to be clear that there's no difference among the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic varieties.

They're all deadly.

Of course Brett and I were well aware of that.

We were both activists, and our years in NY were spent in confrontation and conflict with politicians, policemen, publishers, preachers, and other thugs, some on the street, and some vertiginously high above the city in well-appointed but sterile offices.

So after Gay Pride each year we spent as much time on Fire Island as we could.

It was the one place where we were free to be men who loved each other.

And we were always happiest there.


But not long after we exchanged that Fire Island kiss, Brett was diagnosed with AIDS
and we moved to SF.

You can see the change in Brett's demeanour.

Never in denial about anything, including the disease, he acquired a certain fatalism.

Not that we didn't have good times, but death was never far from his thoughts:

I love you so very, very much, my darling Bill.

My heart leaps when I see you; in an instant you remove the vestiges of a bad day, a bad mood.

Magnetism draws me to you, and almost before I know it my arms are around you and I'm kissing your face while receiving your caresses.

I have treasured these years spent with you; if I die immediately upon writing this, it will be with a sense of deepest fulfillment, because I, Brett Averill, have loved, and been loved in turn, by you, Bill Weintraub.

Brett wrote those words in 1990, five years before he died.

He wasn't being melodramatic though -- it was just the reality of AIDS in those days that he could have died, or, more likely, become desperately ill and then died, literally at any moment.

That being the case, and since he wanted one, we got a dog.

I've written about her in Hadrian: A Memoir

She became a very important part of our lives, and these pictures I think suggest something of the elegiac tone of those last five years.

Of course "elegiac" romanticizes a period of gruesome disease and steady decay.

Yet when the illness didn't leave Brett wracked with pain and me with anxiety, there was a certain idyllic and elegiac feel to our lives.

After all those years of anger and activism in New York, living in retirement in a little cottage with our dog in San Francisco.

And too Brett bore his illness well. He didn't complain.

At least not unnecessarily.

He just said that he didn't want to die because he didn't want to be separated from me.

So he became even sweeter and more loving, and, without any outward show of religion, more spiritual. The bookshelf beside his side of the bed was lined with religious titles, and I knew that, faced with an inevitable parting, and while not talking about it, Brett was quietly putting his faith in a re-union in the life to come.

And so, under the pressures of the disease, and able to do increasingly little, Brett became more and more reclusive and spent more and more time in our garden with our dog.

Until he was too ill to do even that.


Hadrian died on June 22, 2001.

But by that time her master and my lover had been dead for six years.

This picture -- a last kiss on our last anniversary -- is deceptive.

The silhouette conceals Brett's enfeebled condition, his severe facial and bodily disfigurement, his emaciation and geriatric appearance.

For although he was just 37, he looked like he was in his 70s.

Though I have many photos from that era, I prefer to picture him as he was when he was still healthy.

But I remember everything.

Good times, bad times, and our enduring love.

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July 23, 1957
June 20, 1995

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