Showing posts with label Gay Cruising. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Cruising. Show all posts

March 15, 2020

Business As Usual For A Gay Cruise on 'Scarlet Lady'

Image result for scarlet lady cruise depart from Puerto Rico
 Virgin Cruise Ship Approaches Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

By Nico Lang
Nili Steiner saved up for almost a year to celebrate her 50th birthday on Atlantis, a cruise line popular with LGBTQ passengers. Steiner and her girlfriend were set to depart from San Juan, Puerto Rico, on March 21, where they would sail to the Caribbean islands of St. Martin, Bonaire and Curacao before heading back to Puerto Rico a week later. It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, and Steiner worked double overtime to put away every penny she could, with the tickets totaling $2,400.
“We are newly engaged, and so this was going to be our celebratory engagement cruise,” Steiner told NBC News. “She just got this fabulous new job, I just bought a house, and all these beautiful things are happening to us. It just meant so much for us to have this wonderful vacation.”
Virgin Voyages 'Scarlet Lady' Cruise Ship Arrives at Liverpool for Star-Studded Extravaganza
 Virgin Voyages' new cruise ship 'Scarlet Lady'
Virgin Voyages' new cruise ship 'Scarlet Lady' on Feb. 25, 2020 in Liverpool, England. The "Scarlet Lady" will be chartered for an Atlantis cruise that starts in May. Anthony Devlin / Getty Images for Virgin Voyages file

But Steiner and dozens of other customers may have to eat those costs after Atlantis declined to offer refunds to the vast majority of its passengers who no longer want to board the ship amid fears of an outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Luis Masters, the administrator of a Facebook page for passengers on the cruise, said “at least 50” customers have requested the company reimburse their fares after the U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory on Sunday warning Americans, particularly those with “underlying health conditions,” not to travel on cruise ships.
Masters, who was planning to go on the cruise with his husband, said Atlantis has advised passengers that they will not be refunding tickets “because the date for any type of cancellations has passed already.” The company, which charters its ships through Miami-based Celebrity Cruises, states on its website that passengers are unable to cancel tickets within 60 days of the departure date. The Puerto Rico cruise leaves in just over a week.
“It makes me feel not appreciated, like they don’t really care about their customers,” Masters told NBC News. “It feels like Atlantis is just looking out for the bottom line, their profits, and how much money they could lose.” 
Celebrity Cruises, on the other hand, has updated its policy to allow those scheduled to sail before August to change their sail date up to 48 hours in advance of their departure for a “Future Cruise Credit.” A number of cruise lines, including Viking, Avalon Waterways and Disney Cruise Line, have halted their serviceamid pandemic fears.
Following news that Disneyland would be shutting down for the remainder of the month and that sports leagues like the NBA, NHL and MLB were delaying or suspending their seasons, Atlantis sent an email on Thursday stating that the ship will sail as planned and only four groups of people would be offered reimbursement. These are individuals from outside the U.S. who are unable to get to San Juan because of travel restrictions; older people; those with a history of respiratory illnesses; and medical professionals who regularly meet with patients.
“We’re aware that many of you are concerned about COVID-19 and want to assure you that your health and safety are of paramount importance with both Celebrity and Atlantis,” the company said, adding that “there has not been a single case of COVID-19 onboard a Celebrity or Royal Caribbean ship, either passengers or crew.” 
Atlantis’ guidelines would leave Julian Sottovia unable to cancel his trip, which puts him in the position of having to choose between using the $3,000 tickets and his family’s health. Sottovia serves as a caregiver for his elderly mother, who is going through cancer treatments and has a history of respiratory illnesses. If he boards the Atlantis cruise next Saturday, he could risk exposing her to novel coronavirus when he returns from the cruise and potentially endanger her life. 
Even if his mother doesn’t contract the virus, Sottovia said that being forced to self-quarantine for two weeks after his trip — the recommended period for those potentially exposed to coronavirus — would further complicate her treatment.
“It was easy for me to arrange for one week of somebody filling in for me, but if I'm stuck in quarantine for 14 days, it would be very difficult,” he told NBC News.
Jim Cone, the vice president of marketing at Atlantis, pledged that the company would work with individuals who fall outside the four affected groups on “a case-by-case basis.”
“We have contacted most of these guests already, but if they fall into one of these groups, they should contact Atlantis directly to make the appropriate accommodations for them,” he said in a statement to the news site LGBTQ Nation, which was copied almost word-for-word from the email sent to customers. 
Sottovia had already attempted to call Atlantis and plead his case, but he said no one responded to his inquiries. “It was very hard to get through,” he said. “They would not answer the phone. I left I don’t know how many messages with them, and no one ever got back to you," he said of his experience.
Others said they are receiving extremely mixed messages from Atlantis regarding their cancellation policy. Steiner claimed a representative with Atlantis said that customers who were upset about not receiving refunds should have purchased travel insurance, which costs around 40 percent as much as the price of the actual ticket. 
A call to the customer service line of Travelex, the travel insurance company recommended by Atlantis, revealed that just one offered policy, the “Cancel for Any Reason” option, would potentially cover a pandemic or the fear of a pandemic. And even then, it would be at the discretion of the company’s “claims department” as to whether they’d reimburse any of the cost, with 75 percent being the maximum. 
Many believe the only solution is for Atlantis to suspend cruises for the foreseeable future. Diamond Princess, which is part of Carnival Corp., announced Thursday it was canceling all trips for the next two months after 700 people contracted the coronavirus aboard a February cruise, resulting in the deaths of seven people.
“Ultimately, this is a public safety concern,” said Masters, who noted that the Celebrity Summit ocean liner that Atlantis is chartering for the Puerto Rico trip has a capacity of 2,158 people and that the cruise is currently sold out. “It’s gone far beyond just people wanting money and their refunds back. They are completely overlooking the CDC, the World Health Organization and state governors asking folks not to congregate with more than 250 people.”
Washington state, for example, has banned gatherings of more than 250 people in several counties, and New York has prohibited most gatherings of more than 500 people. Several cities and states — including Maryland, Michigan, Ohio and Oregon — have even closed down schools amid COVID-19 fears.
The high volume of passengers on the ship is particularly hazardous for the LGBTQ people who will be sailing on it, as 100 advocacy groups and public health organizations noted in a Wednesday open letter that this population is “at particular risk for coronavirus disease.” Groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the National LGBT Cancer Network warn that the LGBTQ community has “higher rates of HIV and cancer, which means a greater number of us may have compromised immune systems, leaving us more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections.” 
Although Atlantis stated in its email to passengers that the company is “working very closely with appropriate agencies to assure the health and safety of all guests and crew members,” some questioned whether it would even be possible to take every precaution necessary to prevent an outbreak. According to reports, the coronavirus can survive in the air for up to three hours’ time and live on surfaces for several days.
“I understand they’re washing down surfaces,” Sottovia said. “But if they’re still planning to have dance parties and events, you’re going to be around people. You can’t purify the air. If you’re next to the person that has it, it’s just going to spread that way.”
As LGBTQ customers demand answers and accountability, Steiner added that Atlantis has a “responsibility” to keep its passengers safe from a virus that has already caused the confirmed deaths of at least 40 people in the U.S. and 5,000 worldwide. “If we are scared about a global pandemic of epic proportions, we should not be forced to go on this cruise because we don’t want to lose the money,” she said.

November 8, 2018

EX-Gay Therapist is Found Cruising Men for Sex

 As a licensed psychologist and clinical director of Horizon Psychological Services, Dr. Norman Goldwasser oversees a team of professionals in providing a broad range of mental health services, including individual and group psychotherapy, psychiatric support, and psychological evaluations. He was using the handle to pcik up men "HOTNHAIRY"

By Reynaldo Leanos, Jr. and Brooke Sopelsa

A Florida psychologist who has compared homosexuality to obsessive-compulsive disorder and claimed that he could change clients’ sexual orientation through therapy was found soliciting “hookups” on gay dating apps, according to LGBTQ nonprofit Truth Wins Out.
Norman Goldwasser, clinical director of Horizon Psychological Services in Miami Beach, Florida, allegedly used the screen name “hotnhairy72” to meet other men on Manhunt and Gay Bear Nation. The Manhunt profile, which has since been deleted, includes several nude images that appear to be of Goldwasser and lists a number of interests, including “dating,” “kissing,” “married men,” “massage” and a series of more explicit activities, according to screenshotsprovided to NBC News by Truth Wins Out.
Wayne Besen, the founder and executive director of Truth Wins Out and author of the 2003 book “Anything but Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth,” said his organization was alerted to Goldwasser’s alleged profile by someone who claimed to have been one of the licensed psychologist’s former “gay conversion therapy” patients.
Besen said after receiving the tip, he created a fake profile for “Brandon” to try to connect with Goldwasser directly. Goldwasser then allegedly offered to meet with “Brandon” at a Fort Lauderdale motel room. Besen eventually revealed that there was no "Brandon" and confronted Goldwasser about his promotion of "gay conversion therapy."
Besen said Goldwasser initially tried to deny it was him on the gay hookup apps, but eventually admitted they were his profiles.
“I promptly texted the Manhunt screenshot,” Besen said. “He then called me and confessed, begging for mercy.”
The number Besen said he used to communicate with Goldwasser is listed as belonging to Norman Goldwasser on several different websites, and when NBC News called the number, the voicemail greeting claims to be that of Norman Goldwasser of Horizon Psychological Services.
NBC News contacted Goldwasser by phone and email to inquire about his views on homosexuality, "gay conversion therapy" and his alleged gay dating profiles. He responded with an emailed statement Tuesday morning.
"The fact that this story and others have been brought to the public is incredibly painful but will become a catalyst for me seeking the right help for myself," Goldwasser stated in an email. "It is sad that despite the fact that I have been able to help many people over the years who have suffered from the effects of child sexual abuse and sexual addiction, I obviously was unable to help myself. There is no justification for my personal behavior and I deeply regret the pain I have caused people in my personal life." 
In a message posted to Truth Wins Out’s website, Besen explained that the organization “does not engage in the outing of people participating in ex-gay programs unless there is overwhelming hypocrisy, exchange of commerce, and the threat of harm to LGBT youth.” Goldwasser’s outing “passes all three tests,” the post stated.
“Goldwasser can’t claim his personal life is none of our business when trying to ‘cure’ LGBT people is his business,” Besen continued in the online message. “Here is a case where a charlatan is committing consumer fraud by misleading clients and adversely affecting their mental health.”
So-called gay conversion therapy, also known as "ex-gay therapy" or "reparative therapy," attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It has widely been discredited by medical and mental-health associations, including the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association. The American Psychiatric Association stated that the "potential risks" of this type of therapy "are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior, since therapist alignment with societal prejudices against homosexuality may reinforce self-hatred already experienced by the patient."
According to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, approximately 700,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults have undergone conversion therapy at some point in their lives, including about 350,000 who received this treatment as adolescents. Since 2012, 14 states and Washington, D.C., passed laws banning the practice for minors, according to the LGBTQ think tank Movement Advancement Project. 
Goldwasser, however, has been a proponent of this controversial practice for more than a decade. In 2006, he co-authored a paper titled “Holistic Therapy: A Comprehensive, Clinical Approach to the Treatment of SSA,” where SSA stands for same-sex attraction. In it, he pathologizes homosexuality, comparing it to obsessive-compulsive disorder.
In 2010, he wrote an article for conservative website Free Republic where he promoted the now-defunct organization Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH), which Quartz recently described as “the biggest Jewish gay ‘conversion therapy’ organization.”
profile on Psychology Today that claims to be Goldwasser states that he has “extensively worked with a variety of trauma-related challenges such as personality disorders, especially narcissism, OCD and other anxiety disorders, mood disorders, relationship difficulties, and unwanted bisexuality.”

November 7, 2017

A Gay Cruise is 50% yea! and 50% Hell

There are gay bars and parties, queer book clubs and beer busts, and then there are events that make the rest of gay culture look quaint: things like circuit parties and gay cruises, gatherings where thousands assemble to forsake sleep and health for days on end and really let themselves go. 
Often, these kinds of events transcend straight society; on an all-gay cruise, for example, patrons may feel a certain kind of freedom they wouldn't on shore, far from the social mores and pressures of heteronormative culture. It's that kind of freedom—and the more troubling elements of gay culture it reveals, too—that's highlighted by the documentary Dream Boat, which saw its US theatrical release on Friday.
Dream Boat follows five diverse gay men as they embark on a massive, unnamed gay cruise. The men hail from places both progressive (like Philippe, a disabled Frenchman who lost the ability to walk to a meningitis infection in his youth) and not (like Dipankar, a young man from India who speaks heart-wrenchingly about his hopes to find a lover and escape the intolerance of Indian society). 
Over seven days and nights, they attend massive dance parties on deck in painstakingly-curated outfits, get drunk, betray existential angst and depression, find friendship, and have surprisingly little sex. They question the limits and paths of their lives back home and face a number of prescient anxieties in gay culture at large: HIV stigma, body dysmorphia, coming out, discomfort with femininity. It's a film ruled by dissonance: On one hand, the accepting, otherworldly nature of a nearly wholly-gay gathering, and on the other, the kinds of internalized discrimination that gay culture brings.
I spoke with Tristan Ferland Milewski, Dream Boat's director, about what drove him to make a documentary about a gay cruise, the marathon filmmaking process on board the ship, and what larger questions his film brings up about modern gay culture.
VICE: What were you trying to capture, emotionally and narratively, going into the trip?
Milewski: I think it's always interesting to dive into a microcosm like this. It has its own codes and rules, but it always mirrors society at large in a way. I think in a way, a cruise like this represents a universal quest—we all want to live and love as we are. And as you see in the film, it's not so easy sometimes.
As long as the world is how it is, people will still need places where they can be themselves without fear and discrimination, and this is a boat, a place, where they can do that. But then again, of course, there might be new norms and new kinds of discrimination. It's an interesting tension to examine. 
For example, within our community, what do we do about our emphasis on masculinity? How do we treat ourselves as gay men? The question for everybody is, who do we want to be as gay men? So it's a bit about identity also. The film gets at these existential questions of life—and in the end, for all the protagonists, there was also a kind of catharsis. The film has very sad moments, but there's also an empowerment in the end.
What were some of those existential questions and tensions?
The quest for love and freedom, but then of course, the things we take from society and internalize—self-discrimination.
There's the performance of masculinity; I think many gay men have this experience, that their masculinity is questioned through being gay, and maybe you're denied your masculinity in a way you internalize. But of course, gender itself is performance. Which comes up quite nicely in the boat's Ladies' Night [a party on the trip where patrons dress in drag], which is the busiest, most joyful and free night of the trip. 
I thought it was important to show the other side of gay culture, too, to show really deep love. There are two amazing couples in the film that really went through a lot. It was important to show them and not just paint this tragic image of being gay. It's all about raising questions: where are we today, and who do we want to be? What potential do we have to turn gay culture into something empowering and positive? What surprised you during the trip?
I always find it incredible when you have these crazy parties, and you see the sun rising, and you see day and night, time and space melt together. And you can imagine that over seven days and nights of the cruise, going 24 hours a day, there's no sleep. Because you can't coordinate with anybody and say "Okay, let's meet tomorrow at 11." First of all, nobody knows what 11 o'clock is or where anybody is. You had to be constantly connected; we had two camera units and we had to stay connected to the protagonists we were following. It was a big revelation to me about how little sleep you can survive on.
What attracted you to the gay cruise in the first place?I think it's a bit like this family—the dream of a family, with the ups and downs that it has. The first time I'd been on this cruise in particular was the year before, but of course I'd been to that kind of event before. But I think that me, being privileged, coming from a place like Berlin, where you have this vast LGBTQIA world with lots of events, everything, and you can choose and see whatever you like. I think in other places there's not such a variety.
Many of the cruisers travelled far to get to the event, and to have this feeling and connection and freedom. It has a certain magic. But it also has downsides. It's a boat of dreams and a boat of disillusionment. And of course, there's this intensity—you go to your limit in so many ways, and your time there is so limited. There's big expectations, the pressure is high, and it's a completely exceptional situation, you're out of your daily life and only mingling with gay guys. Suddenly, these existential questions come up: where am I in my life now? How free am I in my real life? How are my relationships? How is my life going? And depending on the expectations you bring to the boat, you can fly or you can fall. It's very intense. 

August 19, 2017

Police in Some Localities Want to Fill Their Sex Offender Registries with Cruising Men

Intro:  I believe that every gay man should come out and get their sex through a relationship or downloading a computer application that allows them that. I also believe this nation was founded in secular believes (constitution does not even mention god) not on religion but freedom of and from religion, So I wish religions would stop telling lies about history and gays and churches wont discriminate against gays if they wanted to worship. Those are wishes that are just that, wishes or pipe dreams. Reality tells me these things are not going to happen on my lifetime therefore I want protection from anyone who is gay and for whatever reasons cannot come out or wont come out.  

Gays already deserve not to be chased by cops paid to keep gays and straights alike safe. Keeping straights from seeing gays or gays cruising does them no harm and it by itself does not attract crime. To have the cops chasing gay men which usually are closetted, bi sexual men living a straight life, do not deserve to be put in a sexual abuser registry for life because they cruised for sex. The registry was put in place to protect children, mainly from straight parents, relatives, friends and neighbors from sexually abusing them. Men cruising for men has nothing to do with children's safety or abuse. Jail was one way to pusnish gays for something they are by nature and some wether gay themselves or straights looking to pusnish gays would love to bring back and if not that any other tool they can use to punish this segment o society. Some even believe to control them, like if making people suffer control their births. Others think keeping gay men afraid keeps them from coming out are well aware that there is where their polical power is based, in their coming out.   [Adam]
Now to our news story:
Police set up hidden cameras in two known cruising areas for two months. The cameras also caught license plate numbers so the police could start making arrests. 
Sheriff William Snyder says police had to set up this sting because there are children at these locations, and of course every space needs to be set aside for children.
“My first concern when I heard about this behavior was for the safety of the families using that area,” Snyder said. His worries were confirmed by one close call recorded by the cameras.
“Right after one or two of these sexual encounters, a family uninvolved in any behavior happened to just walk by,” Snyder said.
I’m sure it isn’t agreeable for someone with kids to walk in on public sex, but that doesn’t make it a “safety” issue. Unless a gay guy stabbed one of the families, then we’re talking about unseemly behavior.
But when we’re talking about gay people having sex, straight people’s heads explode. Snyder didn’t even notice that there’s no direct connection between safety and accidentally seeing gay sex, it’s just that gay sex is terrible and disgusting so clearly people will be scarred for life if they see it.
The article also notes that this has been a cruising area for years now. If the worst “safety” issue is someone accidentally walking in, then maybe the issue isn’t really safety?
Moreover, if someone went there to beat up the queers, would those cruising feel comfortable calling police? If a group of people decided to mug the men, then would the police have been concerned about their safety? The adversarial approach to men who are looking for a little loving in all the wrong places only makes people less safe, but then it appears like only some people’s safety matters.
And if anyone was concerned with safety here, then maybe the local news wouldn’t have run the mugshots of those arrested as if this were 1976. The harassment that will generate alone is probably far more than anything these folks did to others. 
Safety issues aside, there is a real issue when it comes to sharing public space. Considering how public cruising areas have been set up in so many cities, and in so many countries, and for so long, it shows that there’s a real need for this sort of space and there are ways to manage the issues that brings up. If these specific areas were actually a problem because of the children (and not just in the “children could be anywhere” sense), then a uniformed officer could have been sent in.
The problem with that idea, though, is that it’s really too effective.
“The problem we have is because it’s so open, the people that are engaged in this behavior see us coming, so traditional law enforcement methods didn’t work.”
So the people cruising would leave if the police were there? How in the world is instantly stopping the targetted behavior proof that these methods don’t work? They could have sent uniformed officers in regularly for a few months instead of using spy equipment, and word would have spread to stop going to these specific areas. 
But then the goal is to arrest gay men and put fill up sex offender registries (because men who have sex with adults and go to secluded areas to do it clearly should not be allowed to live near schools or hold jobs). In that sense, Snyder has a point – hidden cameras result in more arrests.
And Snyder said here that the police are going to put cameras up in more areas to arrest more people as new cruising areas pop up.
I’m willing to buy that children might walk in on one specific cruising area if it’s poorly placed. But it strains credulity to hear that there is no area in the entire county that isn’t crawling with teeny-boppers. 
Public cruising generates some real problems that need to be addressed, but making arrests isn’t the answer. Set up a real alternative and most of the problem will be solved. The folks who go to cruising sites aren’t trying to cause problems.

November 14, 2015

Still, Gay Men Cruise hidden by the dark in Dante’s Inferno

 The PiersWVillage on the Hudson, NYC 1977
 Cruising—the gay male pastime of looking for sex with strangers, sometimes in semi-public places—usually keeps a low profile. But it’s having a moment in the art world: At the end of October, two photography books focused on cruising spots in New York City hit the shelves, inviting readers to become voyeurs. Alvin Baltrop’s The Piers documents the fabled heyday of cruising on Manhattan’s Hudson River piers in the 1970s and ’80s. Moving to the present, Thomas Roma’s In the Vale of Cashmere explores a faded cruising spot frequented primarily by men of color in Prospect Park. At a moment when gay bars, hook-up apps, and the bright light of straight tolerance are said to have eliminated the need for furtive trysts in hidden public spaces, these new monographs raise a question: Why do some gay men still search for each other in the shadows?
In The Piers, Alvin Baltrop captures New York’s semi-abandoned West Side waterfront in the decades just after Stonewall, where empty warehouses offered an alluring—albeit often dangerous—escape for men seeking sex with men. As Glenn O’Brien writes in his introduction, Baltrop’s blunt photographs capture the thrills and perils of a time when much of gay life was still “by necessity secret.” Many of the men portrayed in the series have come to the piers because they are “leading double lives.” Afraid to get caught bringing a man home, and unwilling to patronize gay bars, they turn to the rotting and crime-ravaged piers in part as a necessary evil—it’s either sex there, or sex nowhere.  

Alvin Baltrop. Courtesy of TF Editores.
But Baltrop doesn’t focus solely on the piers’ dark, desperate side. He also points to their strange beauty, depicting them as a sort of post-apocalyptic gay paradise. Sure, he documents a brutal murder scene—such violence was not uncommon. But he also illustrates how the piers served as a “poor man’s Fire Island,” referencing the famed gay Long Island enclave, “a place to sunbathe, socialize and cruise.” He offers portraits of beefy men, many of them likely quite out of the closet, chatting happily, sprawled out naked on beach towels, or gathering casually for group play.
Alvin Baltrop. Courtesy ofTF Editores.
Baltrop’s piers seem to offer something beyond a permissive space for gay sex. Looking at his intertwined subjects, I recall writer Hilton Als’ remarks regarding his own encounter with the piers. As a young man, Als recalls in “Notes on My Mother,” they helped him lay claim to a sense of romance that he had previously associated only with his mother, who left her home in Barbados in part to pursue a love affair: “I avoided explaining [to my mother] the impetus that propelled me to leave her home in Brooklyn for the piers on the West Side Highway. I avoided explaining that I had been motivated by the same desire and romantic greed that had propelled her to move from Barbados to New York. I avoided explaining that when I sat in parked cars with one man and then another, I felt closer to her experience of the world than I ever did in her actual presence.” In the hidden world of the piers, men like Als could find a sense of romantic adventure, immediacy—the thrill of exploring the unknown.
Alvin Baltrop. Courtesy ofTF Editores.
Perhaps the romantic allure of the unknown is what has allowed cruising spots to survive, at least to some extent, the sea changes that gay culture has undergone since the ’70s. That’s what Thomas Roma seems to suggest in his book In the Vale of CashmereCashmere comprises straightforward portraits of the men who still visit a cruising spot in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, introducing them alongside elliptical shots of the landscape they wander. Unlike Baltrop, Roma doesn’t capture sexual play, but he still manages to capture the desires of his portrait subjects. In their steady gazes, he finds their restlessness, their sensuality, their hunger for exploration. 
After seeing some of the images from Cashmere, a friend of mine sent a link to a cruising website, a sort of for gay cruising spots around the world. In the comments thread about Prospect Park, one reviewer complained that it had become dull. The age of Craigslist had made the place obsolete, he explained; he gave the spot a low rating. And yet here, within Cashmere’s pages, we find evidence that the embers of Prospect Park’s cruising scene still burn—that though the park may be quieter, it remains magnetic for solitary men in search of adventure. As G. Winston James writes in his introduction, Roma’s contemporary images evoke the “the uncontrollable trembling I sometimes felt as I entered the park awash in a mixture of anticipation and angst. The thudding of my heart that I experienced at moments, knowing that I was by myself under the night sky, but not at all alone.” Roma’s images hint that these thrills are still available for those willing to look.
Untitled (from the series “In the Vale of Cashmere”), 2011
Thomas Roma. Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery.
In marking two points on the trajectory of New York’s cruising culture—the apogee that preceded the AIDS crisis, and the current low plateau—Piers and Cashmere open a conversation about an aspect of gay culture that gays have trouble discussing openly, even among ourselves. Listen in on a conversation about cruising spots, and you’ll hear the speakers split up into two teams. Half of the boys say they’ve never been cruising because it’s dangerous, disgusting, and passé. The other half say they’ve been to so many cruising spots all over the world that they hit the parks as casually as they bar-hop. But once everyone has declared whether they think cruising is yucky or sexy, no one asks: What is cruising really about? What needs, beyond orgasm, does it satisfy? And why do openly gay men do it when there are so many other options?
After all, there are many reasons to stop having sex on the sly in public places. First, all that sneakiness suggests that there’s something wrong with gay sex, that it should be hidden. And then there’s something uncomfortable about out and proud men who make a fetishistic game of risky, secretive sex, while so many others engage in it only because they are closeted, afraid for their reputation or their lives. In his text Screwball Asses, Guy Hocquenghem puts it beautifully: “I know how many queers only have toilets in which to touch each other. It depresses me that those who have decided to come out of hiding continue to project their excitement in the miserable places that the system condescends to allow them.” It seems odd to choose illicit public sex when you have other options. And it feels somehow exploitive to be out and free, but take little tours to fuck the closeted in the only spaces where they can express themselves sexually.
Untitled (from the series “In the Vale of Cashmere”),2010
Thomas Roma. Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery.
There’s a more straightforward reason to abandon cruising spots, too: In my experience, they’re miserable places.
Every, summer, I find myself inexorably drawn to Upper Manhattan’s parks at night. Sometimes I’m just tagging along with a friend or a partner—but for the most part, I go alone, without letting anyone know where I’ve gone. When I leave the street and descend into a park, I feel my heart pound in anticipation, just as James describes in Cashmere. Like Als, I feel that I am laying claim to my own darkly romantic story. But then the electricity begins to dissipate. I pace the same paths for hours, slowly lowering my expectations in order to hook up with whatever’s available. I realize I’m bored. And the men, even when they are beautiful and plentiful, seem just as ambivalent about the situation as I do. Despite the heady stories one hears about the ’70s and ’80s, a night of cruising these days always ends feeling hollow, even pathetic. For most of us modern cruisers, sex has become banal—it has lost its capacity to surprise and delight. And so we move not like revelers, but like lost souls in some forgotten ring of Dante’s Inferno, condemned to go through the motions of desire without feeling its pleasures. 
And yet we still hit the parks. In a country where gay sex is legal, some of us still insist on grasping for it while hidden among the trees after dark. In a time when gay men gather publicly in droves, we gather secretly in furtive little groups. When I try to explain my participation in the phenomenon to friends or even myself, I blame the unremitting heartbreak following a four-year relationship; or the anxiety around intimacy that cripples both my sister and me; or an inexplicable desire for self-destruction.
But maybe that’s overly dramatic. Two summers ago, I ran into a gorgeous cruiser on my way to the park. He was singing a mournful gospel tune under his breath. Someone like him could have had any boy he wanted at a Chelsea bar, but there he was, trudging doggedly toward a well-known spot. Baffled, I asked what someone like him was doing here. 
He shrugged. “I have to work early tomorrow. This is easy.” “Thomas Roma: In the Vale of Cashmere” is on view at Steven Kasher Gallery, New York City, through Dec. 19, 2015.
by   Miz Cracker 
in    Slate
Miz Cracker is a writer and drag queen living and werking in Harlem, New York. A current listing of her shows and appearances can be found at

February 7, 2015

Gay Cruising in India


NEW DELHI — Observing gay cruising in India felt like high-stakes bird watching — the fluttering of something delicate and intense. On a Sunday night in mid-December, I visited Nehru Park with a gay rights activist; he agreed to accompany me but asked to remain nameless, in part because homosexuality is illegal in India.

The 85-acre park, in a wealthy area of the capital that hosts most of the capital’s embassies, was poorly lit, rambling, and quiet. The travel website Cruising Gays called the park, which is named after India’s first prime minister, the “grand dame” of New Delhi’s cruising places. “On Sunday evenings, the gardens are rocking with over a hundred men hanging around, waiting, looking and just checking out the scene,” claimed an undated post on the site. “If you are a novice and looking to meet other men, this is the place you should start with.” The technique, the activist told me, was simple. Stroll, keeping your head up, and make eye contact with men who walk by. If someone catches your eye and smiles, walk up and say hello.

The park was nearly empty. The activist pointed out one man and we walked behind him stealthily, but he disappeared into the darkness. We spotted another, ambling through a path about 40 feet away from us. Twenty-five million people live in the Indian capital — it’s the world’s second largest city — but all I could hear were our footsteps, illuminated by the light on my iPhone, and my overactive breath. As we neared, preparing to say hello, I noticed the man was wearing a jaunty cap, and a uniform. Stepping closer, I saw a gun on his belt. “That’s a policeman,” the activist said quietly. If he knew what we were doing there, he chose to ignore it. We quickly walked away.

In December 2013, India’s Supreme Court recriminalized homosexuality, overturning a 2009 ruling by the Delhi High Court that had legalized same-sex relations. “Carnal intercourse against the order of nature with man, woman or animal,” can now once again be punished with up to 10 years in prison, according to the law — Section 377 of the Indian penal code. Accurate statistics on the size of India’s LGBT community are hard to come by, but some 7-10 percent of India’s population could be affected by the law, estimates Arvind Narrain, one of the founders of the Indian research organization Alternative Law Forum.

The ruling, however, appears to have barely affected cruising. There’s no good measure on the extent of cruising in New Delhi, or in India as a whole, but mobile apps like Grindr and Scruff — and the meet-up site Planet Romeo — are gaining popularity. Grindr, probably the best-known gay hook-up app, has 69,823 average active monthly users in India, according to a company spokesperson. While that’s relatively low (roughly equal to the number of active users the app has in Boston) it’s growing healthily, the spokesperson said.

In the United States, cruising has been mostly supplanted by the Internet and apps that facilitate meet ups and hook ups. With the Internet “came online cruising and a way for gay men to connect with one another besides the newspapers and clubs,” Johnny Skandros, the founder of Scruff, said in an email. “In the United States, it changed chronologically. Technology overhauled bars and cruising spots,” Parmesh Shahani, a gay activist and author of the book Gay Bombay, told me. “But in India, these parallel cultures [are] existing simultaneously.”

The Nehru Park activist tells me that he now meets men mostly online. That night, we ate at a restaurant called Soda Bottle Opener Wala in Khan Market, a touristy area popular with foreigners. He pulled up Grindr, and his screen was filled with nearby men, and a healthy backlog of unread messages. “So many!” he said.He pulled up Grindr, and his screen was filled with nearby men, and a healthy backlog of unread messages. “So many!” he said. Especially for those in the middle and upper class, “there’s definitely been a huge transition from the physical space to the Internet space,” he added.

India is still more than two-thirds rural and overwhelmingly poor, however; the country’s average per capita income on a purchasing power parity basis was just $5,412 in 2013. And while cellphones are common, less than 10 percent of India’s 1.25 billion people have smartphones. “Everyone talks about India as a land of IT, where there’s lots of nerds around, but it’s still just a very thin veneer of the middle class” that lives in that world, says the journalist Ashok Row Kavi. Especially among the working class and the lower middle class, who make up the majority of India’s gay population, “the cruising culture is still very strong,” he told me.

* * *
In an industrial area of New Delhi, full of gaping, half-finished buildings and shops selling cricket equipment, I visited one of India’s only gay spas. I had read about it online — but at the requests of activists I spoke with, I won’t reveal identifying details about the place. For a roughly $20 dollars entry and massage fee — a price that put it out of reach for the majority of New Delhi’s gay population — the attendee manning the front desk led me to a small room where roughly eight male prostitutes sat and watched television. They were diverse, to account for customer’s tastes: muscular, skinny, short, tall — with skin colors ranging from olive to dark brown. One of the massage rooms featured a single bleary red light hanging from the ceiling, and little else.

Like many of the people I spoke to, Row Kavi had been to the spa — but he didn’t like it. “It was very tacky,” he told me. “There isn’t much talk, socializing, or chatting. No reasonable discourse. It’s a wham-bam-thank-you-man kind of place.”

Row Kavi has been to Nehru Park too, but it’s not his scene either. “You see upper middle class queens cruising the bylanes, quick checks and off you go,” he told me. “That’s fine, but it doesn’t end up with any sort of social interaction.” He prefers the park above the Palika Bazaar in Connaught Place, a busy shopping area. “I used to go there once a month,” he said. “It’s like a fraternity of sisters gossiping away.”

The activist from Nehru Park told me that he also used to like the Palika Bazaar area. “It was extremely thrilling,” he said over dinner. “The thrill is that you’re doing it knowing that it was slightly dangerous, and it’s kind of a chase…. It’s quite addictive.”“The thrill is that you’re doing it knowing that it was slightly dangerous, and it’s kind of a chase…. It’s quite addictive.”

But I found the space incredibly depressing. The first time I went was on a Monday afternoon. I didn’t see anyone cruising; the only people I came across were slack-mouthed hucksters, with the physical tightness that in the United States might mark a flyweight boxer; in India, it screams malnutrition.

* * *
India’s Congress Party, long the dominant political force in the country and home to Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, has been relatively liberal on the issue of gay rights. When the Supreme Court recriminalized homosexuality in 2013, Congress spoke out in favor for the rights of India’s LGBT community. Other minor parties, including the Communist Party of India, have also voiced support for gay rights.

But in May 2014, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led by Narendra Modi, won a resounding election victory. Many gay rights activists I spoke to said they didn’t vote for Modi’s party because of its social conservatism, but that they were in a wait-and-see mode: wary of the aftereffects of December 2013 ruling, but unwilling to speak out against the BJP because they didn’t want to force Modi to comment on homosexuality. Believed to be celibate, though previously married at a young age, Modi has been quiet on the issue. Homosexuality “is a matter for the courts, not the government,” M.J. Akbar, a spokesman for the BJP told me. “I don’t have any sense of what’s Modi’s view on homosexuality.

Still, the status quo is dangerous. Indian government data shows 587 people arrested under Section 377 from Jan.-Oct. 2014. But as some Indian states lack complete reports, the total is almost certainly higher. The problem, however, is persecution — not prosecution. Narrain describes it as a pyramid, with the hundreds of cases actually recorded at the top, and at the bottom, an uncountable number of cases where the law is used to blackmail, harass, and extort.

The activist whom I walked Nehru Park with became much less enthusiastic about cruising after cops caught him in a park several years ago. The inspector “was a nice guy and let me go,” he told me. He had been lucky. Friends of his had been beaten up, abused, and blackmailed. But the experience scared him. “It’s not quite pleasant,” the activist said. “I decided it wasn’t worth it.”

In December 2013, Rajnath Singh, then BJP president and now minister of home affairs, told reporters “Gay sex is not natural and we cannot support something which is unnatural.” Since then, some gay rights advocates have made the Hindu case for queerness. Devdutt Pattanaik, a popular Indian author, recently published a book called Shikhandi: And Other Tales They Don’t Tell You, which he describes as an “appreciation” of queerness in Indian mythology. Pattanaik sees references to queerness throughout Hindu mythology being ignored — from the male god Krishna braiding his hair as a woman to stories “of men who become women, and women who become men, of men who create children without women … and creatures who are neither this, nor that, but a little bit of both.” Hijra, India’s third gender — which encompasses transgender, eunuchs, and intersex — is legally recognized, although they are “ignored by the mainstream, often rejected by her own family, reduced to a joke in popular entertainment,” notes Pattanaik.

The book opens with an admonition appropriate for India, both today and in the colonial era: “Beware of a land where celibate men decide what is good sex.”“Beware of a land where celibate men decide what is good sex.” Celibacy runs through Indian political culture, and the country’s independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi, is also its most famous celibate. He found intercourse problematic, and would reportedly occasionally sleep naked next to attractive young women, to demonstrate his mastery over desire. But India’s Section 377 is a legacy of the British Raj. (Homosexuality in the United Kingdom was effectively criminalized until 1967.) In one of the earliest known usages of the law, in 1884, “the somewhat aptly named J. Straight was called upon to adjudicate whether a person who habitually wore women’s clothes and exhibited physical signs of having committed the offence had indeed committed the offence,” Narrain wrote in an essay. Police arresting men for “acting” gay still happens today, he told me. “If you perceive them to be L, G, B, or T, then you got them under this law,” he said.

And Bollywood, India’s hugely influential film industry, isn’t helping. “Making jokes at the expense of alternate sexual preferences is the norm in Bollywood,” said film critic Komal Nahta. There are a few openly gay Bollywood directors, but “no gay icons, no major Bollywood stars who have come out, no influential CEOs who have made their sexual orientation public,” the novelist Manil Suri wrote in a June 2013 essay in the literary magazine Granta.

For some, there is a joy in proclaiming one’s sexual identity. In The Man Who Would Be Queen, a collection of “autobiographical fictions” by the Indian author Hoshang Merchant, the narrator proclaims, “‘As everyone knows by now, I’m homosexual.’ To write this sentence to speak it publicly, which is a great liberation, is why I write.” But like many of the people associated with the Indian gay rights movement, Merchant has spent substantial time away from India. Suri’s essay is entitled “How to be Gay and Indian”; he lives in Maryland.

Back in India, gay culture remains mostly in the shadows. Later in my trip to New Delhi, I returned to the park above the Palika Bazaar, recommended by the activist from Nehru Park. It was the time of evening haze, and unlike the silence in Nehru Park, this well-kept lawn pulsated with the cacophony of car horns and tires screeching and loud and soft and angry and happy voices. There I saw a short man, with a clean, oversized gray hooded sweatshirt and a bit of a paunch. He walked around the space like it was his own, and then returned to the fence he had been leaning against, as dozens of men milled about the park, ignoring him. He smiled warmly, and then raised his eyebrows — as if trying to lead them to an overwhelming question.


Featured Posts

Staten Island and The US Looses One of Its Fighters to COVID-19 {Jim Smith}

                             Jim Smith helped organize Staten Island's first pride parade in 2005. He served as its...