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

May 17, 2016

Writer: "Gay Marriage is a colossal waste of time, a hopeless undertaking doomed for failure”


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In this posting you will find an attack at gay culture as perceive by the writer. Self examination and conclusion of how one self stands in comparison to criticism is a good healthy exercise, at least I believe so and that is why Im posting this article as it appeared monday night. I hope you will give me some input of how you feel about this posting. Thank you. Adam Gonzalez, Blog Publisher

The Supreme Court ruling on June 26, 2015, that legalized gay marriage in all 50 states was a landmark day in U.S. history. Yet I am at a deep and uncomfortable moral crossroad in my life over this decision.

I am gay, Jamaican, and a conservative Democrat who is deeply committed to marital equality for gays and lesbians. People of the same sex ought to have as much of a moral and legal right as their heterosexual counterparts to marry a person of their choice with whom they think they want to spend the rest of their lives.


It is a violation of individual rights for the state to discriminate against the marital choices of gays and lesbians. It thoroughly annihilates the unassailable value one has discovered—perhaps, after a lifetime of searching—in another person who undoubtedly contributes to the meaning and purpose of one’s life.

I also believe marriage between two men in our contemporary culture is a colossal waste of time, a hopeless undertaking doomed for failure, and, fundamentally, a naive endeavor profoundly at odds with the hypersexual, broken, and ethically bankrupt ethos and nature of gay male culture. I do not believe this because I think homosexuality is immoral. Sexual orientation per se is morally neutral. One should judge ethical status according to how one functions in a relationship rather than the sexual identity one holds.

Gay Culture’s Sexual Selfishness Damages People

The problem is that the entire milieu in which gay men’s moral and sexual socialization takes place is so deeply compromised, so bereft of sustainable meaning and protracted monogamous commitment, that marriage in the traditional sense (which is what I believe gay men are trying to achieve in their lives) will be impossible to realize.

The problem is that the entire milieu in which gay men’s moral and sexual socialization takes place is so deeply compromised.
If it is not impossible, then marriage between two men will forever change the fundamental nature of marriage. The majority of gay men, with their transparent and blatant preference for open relationships and polyamorous dalliances, will suffuse mainstream culture with “experiments in living” that will radically alter the sexual landscape of our culture.

People for whom an open relationship would have been unthinkable will view it cavalierly, as just another candidate for living a full and exciting life. The addictive “partying,” a.k.a. plenty of sex and drug use that is a constitutive feature of gay male culture, will only glamorize that feature of our culture and make it an eventual norm—rather than exception—of mainstream life.

We’re So Lonely We Want AIDS

Promiscuous sex and drug use are not exceptional or marginalized currents in gay culture. They are an omnipresent force in every register, crook, and cranny of the gay world. The new and disturbing “Poz Me” trend merging in gay culture needs to be nationally discussed. This culture consists in underground online sites where gay men who are HIV negative hook up with men who are not and beg to be “breeded” by HIV-positive men.

The new and disturbing ‘Poz Me’ trend merging in gay culture needs to be nationally discussed.
A compassionate and psychological reading of this phenomenon is not hard to understand. The worst of any sub-culture is always an exaggerated microcosm of the pathologies of the larger culture, largely because the former is always deprived of the material and social resources to combat the maladies of the latter.

Today, our culture has been described as the age of loneliness; one in which sustained intimacy and connectedness is absent and emotional isolation the norm for a growing majority of human lives. It is a desperate cry for intimacy and deep contact with another on the—literally— deepest form: an exchange of infected bodily fluids. It’s almost as if the non-HIV sexual participants are rebelling against the nomenclatures of ‘‘safe sex,” “protected sex,” and the question one is expected to ask potential partners before engaging in sex: “Are you clean?” Not only technology but also language itself is driving isolation and non-connectedness.

Mere Sex Can’t Satisfy

Until gay men forge a new moral contract that combats their disproportionate drug use, sexual promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, depression, and suicides, then gay culture will die—not by one apocalyptic blow but, rather, by bleeding to death upon thousands of tiny scratches. This death is predicated on a lethal and pathological form of individualism that afflicts gay men more than any other group. It’s the idea that “I am already whole. I am complete. I only need someone to complement me.”

Happy, self-confident, and complete people are not manically driven to pursue drug-infested bathhouses and underground parties.
This lie we tell ourselves drives us to seek validation, completion, and wholeness in very unhealthy ways. Happy, self-confident, and complete people are not manically driven to pursue drug-infested bathhouses and underground parties that are heartbreakingly meant to fulfill an obvious emptiness at the epicenter of such individuals” souls.

An important part of who we are and who we shall become is predicated on our shared and created experiences with each other. Our age of loneliness is driven by this illusion of completion. Human identity is not only forged in the crucibles of sexual intercourse, but also via a process of creative social intercourse in which our shared vulnerabilities and need for sustained intimacy commit us to reciprocal acts of nurturance in a sustained and authentic manner.

Marriage as an institution means the world to me, and not just because I come from a broken home in which my parents divorced when I was six years old. More importantly, I believe in the moral meaning of marriage.

Marriage is, above all, the pursuit of certain values—the highest values one can aspire to, such as love, friendship, commitment, raising a family, mutual responsibility, and deep companionship. Given the centrality, then, of valued persons in our lives, and given the psychological need to have them esteemed in the public sphere, we understand marriage as, among other things, an insignia of public approval of two people’s choices. The legal imprimatur of the state makes this union sacred.

Marriage Helps Make People Whole

Marriage is beyond mere legality. It is the nucleus in which regeneration, social validation, and affirmation take place. Those who would seek to deny same-sex couples this derivative right would exclude gays from being formal co-constructors of the very society of which they are a part and would decouple them from the highest value they hold that, on several accounts, is a constitutive feature of their personal and moral identities.

The worst members within a group should never be used as a normative standard of value by which to appraise and judge the merit of that group’s other, majority-forming members.
Legalizing gay marriage involves values respected in heterosexual relationships because heterosexuals are considered to possess a higher share in humanity than gays. Whether this is openly admitted or not by those who oppose gay marriage is irrelevant. It is the logical terminus of a thought process that starts with arbitrary reasons for why two people of the same sex cannot get married.

Prisoners, the mentally and physically handicapped, rapists, those who fail to care for their children, those unable to procreate, serial killers, the elderly, the asocial, the non-communicative, and those who participate in traditions of wife beating, philandering, and wife desertion are all accorded the right to marry. But at least some persons in this list are regarded as, at best, psychological aberrations who are incidental to the larger heterosexual marrying population and, at worst, social ballasts who, if we did not live in a civilized society would be a job for the sanitation department to dispose of. The worst members within a group should never be used as a normative standard of value by which to appraise and judge the merit of that group’s other, majority-forming members.

A Voracious Appetite for Sex Destroys Love

Short of a moral and radical revolution in gay culture—the milieu in which most gay men’s sexual and social socialization takes place today—the moral gay minority will have its hopes and aspirations for traditional marriage obliterated by larger cultural forces within contemporary nihilistic gay culture. Such a culture makes it very difficult to promote the moral meaning of marriage in the same way that a principled individualist would have any chance of success at promoting racial harmony and the respect for inter-marriage in a segregated and racist society saturated with miscegenation laws.

For homosexual relationships, the meaning of ‘committed’ or ‘monogamous’ means, for the most part, something radically different than in heterosexual marriage.
A few constitutive features of gay culture are endemic to and formative of the identities of the majority of men who belong to it and who thus suffuse it with its mores, norms, and ethos. First, the insatiable and voracious sexual promiscuity that functions not as rites of passage but an ongoing recreational activity that does not cease with marriage or long-term partnerships and that increases with age.

For homosexual relationships, the meaning of “committed” or “monogamous” means, for the most part, something radically different than in heterosexual marriage. In all the studies I looked at, 43 percent of all gay men in Western democracies claimed to have had more than 500 partners in their lifetime, and 28 percent claimed more than 1,000. The sexual peccadilloes of such men did not decrease markedly after marriage for the simple reason that 50 percent of all gay marriages in the United States begin as open relationships where men continue to have sex with other men on the side.

As a friend said to me at a dinner party a few months ago upon my playful admonition, after years of dating frantically and after I saw him making a pass for another man at the dinner table: “Don’t worry, my husband and I are in a gay relationship, which means we play on the side with other men.”

“And that is the new norm?” I asked.
“It’s always been that way, and should be,” he said, then proceeded to give me a good-natured lesson in how to proceed if I wanted to succeed at another long-term relationship after my painful break-up with my former partner of 13 years.

Biology Protects Heterosexuals, But Not Gay Men

Sexual promiscuity among gay men is an addiction that has little to do with conquering prey and liking the chase. At some point in a heterosexual man’s life, mindless and maniacal cruising for sex with women ceases and he begins, like women, the biological search for an ideal mate who will be a suitable mother to his future children.

This biological imperative pushes the sexes towards each other and tempers the maniacal drive for sex.
The unconscious criteria that evaluate a woman’s allure have much to do with her fitness for procreation. The criteria, for the majority of men who do not elect to be vocational bachelors, transcend breasts, buttocks, and hips. They include a swath of characteristics that include capacity for fidelity, loyalty, cooperativeness, trustworthiness, and sexual monogamy.

The same criteria hold for heterosexual women appraising their potential mates. Each wants not just hot sex and lasting passion but, more importantly, a mate who will sire healthy children. This biological imperative pushes the sexes towards each other and tempers—at least, for a while—the maniacal drive to seek anonymous and wide-ranging pleasures outside the hearth.

Marriage Won’t Fix Sexual Addictions

The unconscious political and somewhat empathic motivations of progressive heterosexuals who support gay marriage stem from, I believe, a drive to legitimize, tame, and conquer the gay sexual imagination. I say to such progressives: terminate the fantasy.

That most gay men are sexual addicts is reason enough to consider whether an over-coating of legalized gay marriages can ameliorate the underlying causal contributors.
Most gay men by nature of their sexual socialization within gay culture are moral secessionists; outlaws who will never capitulate to their own fantasies of being normal and just-like-everybody-else. Nor will they fulfill the hypocritical and unrealistic expectations of progressives who think they can, through institutional re-socialization via traditional marriage, mold gay men into a model of social and behavioral predictability.

The hyper-sexualized cultural milieu in which sexual socialization takes place for gay men is conducive to the unmistakable behavior most gay men commit or are prone to commit: sexual addiction. That most gay men are sexual addicts is reason enough to pause and consider whether a palliative over-coating of legalized gay marriages can ameliorate the underlying causal contributors to this unsustainable mode of being in the world.

For the progressive scribal class, gay marriage is not the granting of a constitutional human right, which I believe it is. But more: it is a sacred experiment that reinforces the nature of their moral identities. They are fighting for a worthy cause on two fronts. One is an unassailable legal and moral battle; the other is a serious experiment to broker and remedy the nihilistic orientation of gay culture and the nihilistic sensibilities of the men who are denizens of that world.

Gay Culture Aims to Destroy Marriage

While most gay men are like everyone else—good people with faults who are no more or no less prone to do good or bad things than the general heterosexual population—they do face an uphill battle that their heterosexual peers do not. The nihilistic nature of gay culture that caters predominantly to range of momentary fulfilment and trivializes the stupendous commitment required to hold one’s life in full consciousness at all times, its fetishization of sexual play and fantasy, hijacks gay men’s moral sensibilities to such a profound extent that it makes them functional nihilists of a particular type: ones—outside of the militant activists of Act Up—who assault the heteronormative identity of Western civilization.

I place the destruction of civilizational heteronormativity as a constitutive feature of gay male culture and of the men who are sexually and ethically socialized within its matrices.
Heteronormativity is the concept that human beings fall into distinct and complementary genders (man and woman) with natural roles in their respective lives. It postulates that heterosexuality has to be the norm, and that sexual and marital relations are most (or only) fitting between people of opposite sexes. For some critics, heteronormativity creates a “sex hierarchy” that grades sexual practices from morally good to bad sex.

Writing as a liberal, gay, moderate heteronormativist, I place the destruction of civilizational heteronormativity as a constitutive feature of gay male culture and of the men who are sexually and ethically socialized within its matrices. Again, sexual orientation is morally neutral. The orientation itself says nothing about the moral status of the individual.

Gay sex and heterosexual sex as “acts in themselves,” that is, apart from their wider value applications, are also morally neutral. Sex should be good sex whether it is gay sex or straight sex. Speaking metaphysically, however, gay sex as a lifelong activity even if practiced within the registers of legalized marriage has never been the norm historically and will never be the norm. More importantly, it can and should never be the norm because it abolishes the regenerative principle of biological procreation.

Gay Relationships Erode Necessary Social Ties

Heteronormativity is the normative standard of an objective sexual reality not because heterosexual sex is intrinsically more pleasurable than gay sex, but because it is the only regenerative means by which mores, norms, values, principles and, therefore, a rational civilization are possible. And a civilization is the only social milieu in which any human being can matriculate as human rather than as an animal or some social monstrosity.

Heteronormativity is the only regenerative means by which mores, norms, values, principles and, therefore, a rational civilization are possible.
If civilization were left exclusively in the hands of gay men and heterosexuals were eliminated from the earth, it is not only obvious that the species would die off—that is putatively obvious. What is less obvious is this: we would live in a state of moral ferality.

This is because the evolutionary basis for morality stems from an ethic of care, from which the procreative impulse, centered on care for the helpless young, stems. In a world in which moral imagination need not extend beyond one’s sexual pleasure to care of one’s progeny and theirs as well, one is dis-incentivized from creating a system of morality that speaks to preserving the species in perpetuity.

When one’s personal identity and rational self-interest are tied to the protection of one’s young and their offspring and one accepts that morality is a code of values that secures and preserves the foundations of human well-being, then one’s sexual identity is in some sense undoubtedly a pre-foundational precursor to a moral identity.

The evolutionary basis for morality stems from an ethic of care, from which the procreative impulse, centered on care for the helpless young, stems.
If the moral status of heterosexual sex versus gay sex were to be measured by the moral metric that underlies heteronormativity, then heterosexual sex would be morally superior to gay sex of any kind because—once more—it provides the foundational axis along which lies the mores, norms, and civilizational principles that secure the well-being and longevity of human flourishing and agency, and the social and moral conditions for an ethos of extended care.

The laws of heteronormativity are as invariant as the laws of nature. Exclusive homosexuality is, generatively speaking, incapable of producing the evolutionary stratagems from which morality is derived. Still, the moral hypocrisy is obvious, and the divide between lip service paid to principles and convictions and how one lives one’s life is deep.

Let’s Not Forget How Gay Culture Deflects Self-Examination

It is not hyperbolic to assert that many self-proclaimed white gay progressives in the spirit of a moral self-righteously occupied stance have declared war on the([their terms) “white heterosexist and heteronormative majority.” They do so in complete denial or willed self-ignorance of how they are part of a lifestyle pact that configures and demarcates the world in a far more racist manner than any Jim Crowe or pre-civil rights-era norm could.

Many self-proclaimed white gay progressives are part of a lifestyle pact that configures and demarcates the world in a far more racist manner than any Jim Crowe norm could.
Steeped in their own racial and ethnic idiolects, they luxuriate in a porcine and somnolent deception that allows them to eschew self-examination in favor of exposing other people’s alleged bigotry. Self-created moral popinjays who have been given a societal papal dispensation, they and the past victims of sexual bigotry are transformed into certified moral icons. As progressives who accept their moral culpability in historical oppression, they can redeem themselves (in their own eyes).

The degree of heterosexual guilt which is fast becoming a reality in the sexual identity politics of the United States grants gays a recomposed self that expresses itself as Gay Power. But this power paradoxically makes it harder to be authentically gay in America today. It confers a false sense of invulnerability that hides from most gays their sexual anxieties, inferiority, sexual shame, and—in spite of the growing trend towards greater tolerance—sexual diminishment, a diminishment that is reflexively denied by most gays who, for psychologically understandable reasons, are fearful of falling back into the cult of victimology.

Progressives, on the other hand, have increased their moral leverage by believing that it is their benevolent capacity for toleration rather than, say, the work of gay activists that have emancipated gays from political discrimination. But power, eventually, always divides by default and intention, or it unites through benign and malevolent coercion. In the case of gay or queer power, it trades on heterosexuals’ guilt and grants to gays a sense of unexamined and indiscriminate moral authority over heterosexuals.

I’m Gay, So Beyond Critique

Gay power is seemingly benign and without doubt utopianistic. Its holders seem to simply want for all gays the same rights and privileges that regular straight people have. Utopias that are the result of any form of identity politics—racial or sexual—are tribal.

Gays are immunized from the scrutiny of others and, as such, any outside or self-criticism is seen as a form of self-hatred, selling out, or engaging in bigotry.
Being gay is, in one sense, more difficult today than it was before this era of marital equality in that it seduces one into suspending a moral narrative about the behaviors of oneself and a significant number of individuals who belong to the gay community.

Legal victory has translated into moral self-righteousness. Gays are immunized from the scrutiny of others and, as such, any outside or self-criticism is seen as a form of self-hatred, selling out, or engaging in bigotry. But if gay culture is real—as I believe it is—and, if any culture’s norms, mores, and precepts cannot be immune from critical scrutiny given human fallibility, then they have to be subjected to rational inquiry.

If I described gay men as moral secessionists regarding traditional marriages, then the hyper-sexualization and sexual extremism that will bring about what I predict will not necessarily be backlash from progressives. Instead, the new ethic of sexual integration that we are experiencing in the United States that will expose the radically different nature of gay male sexuality to broad swaths of people will produce integration shock.

Their children will undergo a moral and sexual transformation that will leave them aghast.
It does not seem likely liberal progressives will want to reverse policy out of an atavistic fear of losing their deepest sense of the decorous nature of their sexual mores. But today’s progressives will have to contend with a new paradigm shift. Their children will undergo a moral and sexual transformation that will leave them aghast.

The sexual imagination of gay men will suffuse their children’s sexual imagination as gay sex pervades the mainstream sexual imagination, and populate it not with amazingly new sexual ways of functioning but will enjoin it to a degree of pure biological carnality that will decouple sex from—at least—the pretense of love.

We Need a New Moral Contract

But hope cannot be parasitic on chance and happenstance. Gay men who are exhausted by the cult of beauty, superficiality, drugs, and sexual ephemerality need to take up a new moral contract. This moral contract, I believe, will forge a new culture, in which a milieu of respect and authentic validation transcends the obsession with validating oneself and others via an appeal to sexual anatomy.

Gay men who are exhausted by the cult of beauty, superficiality, drugs, and sexual ephemerality need to take up a new moral contract.
It is unclear what the moral contract will look like. I believe that dissenting gay men who want a sustainable social and romantic life and the concomitant culture that will support it will make up the rules as they go along. Whatever those rules of engagement are, though, they seem unlikely to be authentic unless we admit that, despite the growing acceptance of homosexuality, the psychological trauma of growing up and still living in a world that is run predominantly by heterosexual men is still a deeply painful world to live in.

Without claiming to be victims, this open admission of shame, guilt, and pain will allow us to connect to each other and the world in a way that is healthy, sustainable, and deeply loving. This ethos, generated by a radical break with the culture as it stands, is the only way to foster a love for humanity and create a new world in which we feel at home—one we have co-created by suffusing it with an original, passionate, and authentic assemblage of who we are as moral creatures.

 by
Jason D. Hill, PhD, is honors distinguished professor of philosophy at De Paul University in Chicago. He is the author of three book: “Becoming a Cosmopolitan,” “ Beyond Blood Identities,” and "Civil Disobedience and the Politics of Identity." Originally published on The Federalist
Jason Hill

December 1, 2015

The Queen of war torn Luhansk Mikhail Koptev was good- until the Tanks Arrived



                                                                       
Koptev modelling at an Orchid show organised as part of the recent School of Kyiv art biennial. Image: Sasha Kurmaz
Even drinking on the street in Luhansk is dangerous. At any moment a military patrol could walk past and demand to see your documents. Being seen to be drunk, they say in these parts, is a good way to “end up in the cellar” of the rebel fighters, which at the very least means losing all your money — and perhaps something even worse. Offering blow-jobs to the brusque men of Luhansk, some of whom are dressed in army fatigues, isn’t the safest thing to do either. But fortunately on this particular Saturday those walking past were just a little frightened by Koptev’s come-ons. 

The self-taught fashion designer Mikhail Koptev really is the star of Luhansk. They know him in Brazil. He was a star long before the arrival of its other celebrities, the field commanders and the head of the Luhansk People’s Republic, Igor Plotnitsky. When he was 14, Koptev escaped from a monastery near Rostov in Russia, where he was sent to be educated at the age of seven. He returned to Luhansk, where he went to college to learn to be a shoemaker, throwing his heart and soul into fashion, his first love. When his family used to send him food parcels, he would pore over the pages of the foreign magazines that they used to wrap them in.

No-one who has seen the Orchid’s erotic show, live or online, will ever forget it
Koptev began working as a model at the local fashion house, Nuance. He modelled at army barracks and miners’ headquarters in and around Luhansk. He then became the commercial director of a theatre, before founding the Orchid, where shows thrilled with “absurd clothes, fantastical hairstyles, bizarre body art and hardcore erotica”. Soon the Orchid gained fame outside of Luhansk as well. Before the war, film crews from television channels in Moscow and Kiev often came to interview Koptev. On the Ukrainian version of the talk show Let Them Talk they debated whether his work was fashion or pornography. Vice sent an interviewer to visit him, who, in stunned admiration, declared Koptev to be the world’s finest trash designer.

No-one who has seen the Orchid’s erotic show, live or online, will ever forget it. Photographs from one of the performances have become an internet meme, bouncing from site to site with various sobriquets (one site published it in its “Shock of the day” section). Unattractive men and women – young girls and boys, old men and old women — strut across the room in odd costumes, displaying parts of themselves that usually stay covered. Naked flesh daubed with vulgar body art frolics in torn negligees made from fur, leather, plastic, old rags, horns, skulls, hub-caps, children’s toys and anything else you might find at a rubbish dump.  

                                                                             
Mikhail Koptev in his modelling days


Koptev’s creations shun all that is pure, harmonious, polite, peaceful, traditional. It is deranged trash art, which aims to defile the concept of beauty. Koptev believes that “art should provoke”; you want to run away from his creations – just as once in a club Fillip Kirkorov, a  well-known Russian pop star, once ran away from him, drunk and naked, and with horns made from tree branches on his head. 

“Oi!” Koptev bellows at another passer-by, his big jewelled hands wrapped around his cup of vodka. “Here’s to you! Here’s to you and your cock!” The passer-by hurries away.

“I have known Misha for 15 years”, says Tatyana Litman, who for the last 35 years has managed Luhansk’s largest cultural centre, where Koptev hosted the first performances of the Orchid. “First he asked me for a place to put his clothes. I was imagining suits and dresses, not heaps of garbage. Then he began to put on shows. He told me to come to see them, that there would be a surprise.”

Naked flesh daubed with vulgar body art frolicks in torn negligees made from fur, leather, plastic, old rags, horns, skulls, hub-caps and children’s toys
There was a surprise all right. Litman remembers her first Orchid show. “The hall was full. But as the show started, I was sat on a couch with my head in my hands, praying to God that my bosses wouldn’t come in. It was appalling: painted naked bodies; horns, tails and dead cat skins draped over little girls and boys. The audience went wild.” Despite Litman’s reaction, Koptev brought more erotic shows to her Stalinist-era theatre. She only showed him the door when a Russian TV channel did a feature on him, and she started to fear for her job.


Wild Orchid 3
Luhansk in 2015, after recent conflict. Image: Denis Boyarinov.
        
It's hard to imagine a worse place for erotic shows and provocative gay culture than Luhansk today. The town is pock-marked with bullet holes from snipers, and all its windows are shattered. I am talking with Tatyana Litman in a cafe on the street outside Luhansk’s trade union building, which has been taken over by the Federation of Trade Unions of the Luhansk People’s Republic. A list of contacts for the administration of the unrecognised republic hangs on the glass doors of the building, alongside an appeal by its Ministry of Emergency Situations for citizens not to walk on unfamiliar streets, where it is possible to tread on unexploded land mines.  

Everyone remaining in Luhansk, whose population is a quarter of what it used to be, has a story to tell about how they have survived. They are all similar to each other: gunfire like clockwork; hiding in basements; anxious, sleepless nights; Chinese whispers about gruesome rumours; long queues for water broken up by gunfire, and hauling heavy water buckets up flights of stairs; food shortages; batteries and candles becoming the most valuable currency; not being able to contact relatives outside Luhansk. Those who endured the blockade talk a lot about the material problems of war, but say nothing of loved ones and neighbours who died or were wounded — their heads try to block out the horrors that they have seen.

Now the town, still trying to recover from the war, is enjoying a poor but relatively peaceful life. The factories have stopped working, and electricity, water and mobile reception is still cut off, but a few cafes and restaurants have opened again. Their clients are predominantly armed men in mismatched camouflage gear. There is almost no shooting in Luhansk at the moment. It gets particularly quiet at 9pm, the start of the curfew, when people are scared to go outside in case they end up in the cellar, and are scared to drive anywhere in case their cars are hijacked.

In the town where LGBT activists once published a magazine and planned to organise a parade, and where there used to be gay discos every week, people can now only find each other on the internet
The separatist fighers have become Luhansk’s wealthiest class – a new military elite, whom people are afraid of. The girls of Luhansk dream of meeting a fighter from abroad, making him fall in love with her, marrying him and escaping with him as far away as possible. In the town’s main park, pensioners in their Sunday best dance the waltz as an orchestra plays, just like on Victory Day. Locals joke that pensioners are the town’s second wealthiest group of people, because since April they have started to receive their pensions again: about 2,000 roubles a month — barely enough to stay alive.

The day after our vodka-fuelled interview at the cultural centre, we are sitting on leather couches in Koptev’s small one-bedroom apartment on Kommunalnaya street. He has lived in this prefab box for the last 10 years. But in comparison with the poverty of the surroundings (the hallway doesn’t have any radiators – alcoholic neighbours sold them as scrap metal), it is an oasis of opulence: renovated, with an air-conditioner, a wardrobe with a sliding door, raspberry-coloured curtains, a brown leather sofa, Swarowski crystals coming unstuck from threadbare cushions, and on a bed-side table a book titled Strategies of Brilliant Men.

Wild OrchidMikhail Koptev. Image from Koptev’s archive
Over a glass of dessert wine, Koptev talks about how his good life came to an end as soon as the war started. Just as the cultural centre had battled until the bitter end to make people happy, so did his house of provocative fashion. “It was April 2014. We travelled to a show at a nightclub outside of Luhansk," says Koptev. "We got there through a shower of bullets. In May the TV channel Ukraina invited us to Kiev. For this trip I couldn’t get any models — they had all fled from Luhansk. I had to use my mother-in-law. I say ‘mother-in-law’: she’s my lover Fairycake’s mum. She knows all about us, so I call her my mother-in-law”.

“I still want to live — and to live in style. But when?”
For the last year Koptev has halted his tolerance-testing performances, no longer arranging shows and gay parties. As soon as the Luhansk People’s Republic came into being, it became obvious that those in control were set to persecute the LGBT community. First there were rumours that homosexuals would be shot on sight. Then a strict anti-gay law was discussed, and they even named the date when it would be passed. The gay people in the Luhansk region didn’t wait for the repression to start, they left for wherever they could: Rostov and Voronezh, Kiev and Crimea. Luhansk’s rainbow faded as the skies got darker: in the town where LGBT activists once published a magazine and planned to organise a parade, and where there used to be gay discos every week, people can now only find each other on the internet.

But a new kind of hero has emerged recently: the rebel fighter. “Fighters from Moscow are especially active on our dating sites,” explains Koptev. “They have no fear at all. They write things like, 'I’m the same as you and I want to try it.'"  

By the book
Education versus intolerance at Moscow’s new gender school
Joining the rebel fighters in Luhansk is easy; people do it out of desperation, as there are no jobs in the town. “My man gave them a couple of medical certificates and was admitted the same day. They didn’t even do any health checks,”  says Koptev. “And the guy has been an unemployed drunk, a junkie and a convict. He fits right in!”

Taking another sip of wine, Koptev starts telling me blood-curdling stories about the ordinary people of Luhansk having to face these armed men in strange uniforms. “Trust me man, everything is really scary here. To you it might look like I’m sat here on a leather sofa, so audacious and beautiful, wearing silk shirts… But anyone here with any money fucked off a long time ago. I keep asking myself: ‘Misha, you’re a girl who will turn 46 in August. How do you see your future? It’s always either been the USSR, the crazy 90s, the war, or the Luhansk People’s Republic.’ And I still want to live, and to live in style. But when?”

Suddenly he changes the subject: “Everyone thinks I’m a monster, but it’s not true. People classed as evil by this evil world may in fact be saints. And those considered to be saints often turn out to be evil.” Luhansk’s devil incarnate, dressed in a teddy-bear jacket, announces: “I think I’ve started talking shit.” He raises his glass again: “Let’s drink to you, mate!”

September 9, 2014

As We Become Regular Citizens Gay HangOuts become History



                                                                        
The notion that gay culture might be experiencing something of a decline is not a new one. Andrew Sullivan got there nine years ago. You've chronicled the decline of the gay bar here in Slate, and others have noted the increasing straightness of gay vacation spots. There's also a recent study that suggests fewer gay people aremoving to predominantly gay neighborhoods. All this is bad news for certain people—gay cruise directors, for instance, and real-estate agents with lots of listings in the gayborhood. But should the wider LGBTQ community really be spending time, energy, and emotional bandwidth on pleas to preserve gay spaces?
The preservationist impulse is an understandable one. Lesbians and gays are a tiny minority. Historically, we've been subject to stigma and oppression at the hands of a larger culture acting under the influence of the purity dictates of irrational ancient religions. Today, though, these religious prohibitions are holding far less sway over modern ideas and attitudes, and they were themselves something of an historical accident, a case of a fringe religious group (Christians) unexpectedly coming to dominate Western culture a thousand years ago. The two previous cultures to which Westerners owe the greatest cultural debt, those of Greece and Rome, didn’t find anything particularly wrong or abhorrent in homosexual activity. Although their ethic was nothing like our modern one, it is instructive to note that there is nothing natural or inevitable about moral or legal prohibitions of homosexuality.
As our culture evolves toward a more humane, accepting attitude toward gay people and their relationships, it makes sense to ask: Is there any place for a gay culture in this bright new future? After all, gay children are not born to gay parents, but rather discover their gay orientation later in life, often around puberty. This means that the first culture of every young gay person is that of their family and local community. In a world where young people are not met with rejection by their parents, where their communities welcome the discovery of their natural inclinations toward same sex relationships, it's hard to see what impetus there could possibly be to drive them to group together in the sort of larger communities of choice that have always been the crucible in which uniquely gay identities and larger gay cultures can be formed.
Those who suggest that we, as gays, will always need places of refuge show a failure of imagination at how bright our future can be. They assume that there must always be some stigma, some feeling of difference, or separateness, or loneliness, remaining after the work of the LGBTQ movement is accomplished. But why? After all, left-handedness was once associated with the devil, but there is no distinct left-handed subculture. Left-handed people have their shared annoyances, they even have pride, of a sort, in their supposed tendencies toward creativity and genius. But there are no left-handed bars or cruises.
Gays and lesbians are different from left-handers in one important way, which is that we must seek out and date each other (or bisexuals of our own gender). If Internet dating didn’t exist, this would probably be enough to make designated gay spaces a necessity. As it is, however, even this level of segregation has become unnecessary. Gays and lesbians should not be afraid of a future where we reclaim our birthright by integrating fully into the communities that give birth to us.
Dancing on the grave of gay culture,
Vanessa
Vanessa Vitiello Urquhart is a freelance writer who draws the web comic Tiny Butch Adventures.     slate.com
I know that the boomers will miss it but this is part of growing up. It’s about time that we start meeting other gays like everybody else. May be it wont be in church but there is always Best Buy and Walmart. As long as we have the internet we are free and we can meet anyone. We have to use the same tools we used when we brought a stranger home from a bar. Actually the net can be safer. You take steps for your security and don’t be a butt hole. Take it easy, use your hand. Having sexual aggression pent up is good. It makes you get out there and do things. You have to be smarter to meet a real person on the net but we were never stupid and that most come with the gene(s).
What you miss disco? Why don’t you give a party? Your party, your music.
There will be a bunch of us that will be left out. Alone when we want somebody, stuck with the wrong partner but afraid to let go and be alone, not knowing what’s behind door number two. All these things can be overcome but the world will belong to the smart ones and those that can see the vision. The guilt trip, the feeling different had to come to an end because we decided to end it. It could have gone forever because is been going on for ever but we decided we are far too human to be anything lower than that.

August 23, 2014

Early Gay Culture anticipated the Social Media and the Net as their little corner





He (David) grew up in a time and place—the Los Angeles suburbs of the 1980s—where LGBTQ culture was pretty much invisible in everyday life. The first out people I met were online. In fact, LGBTQ culture played a significant, though underreported, part in shaping the overall online culture. Since the early 1980s, there have been many LGBTQ spaces on the Net: newsgroups, bulletin board systems, or BBSs, mailing lists, social networks, chat rooms, and websites. But the very first LGBTQ Internet space, as far as I’ve been able to find, was the soc.motss newsgroup. And it hosted conversations that had never been seen before online—and that arguably remain in too short supply even today. (I’ll be frequently using “LGBTQ” as the best available catchall term, with the awareness that categories and nomenclature have gone through many evolutions since the early 1980s.)

 David Auerbach
DAVID AUERBACH
David Auerbach is a writer and software engineer based in New York. His website is http://davidauerba.ch. 

In 1983 programmer Steve Dyer started a discussion forum called net.motss (later soc.motss) on the Usenet newsgroup system. Built in 1980 atop pre-Internet networks such as ARPANET and BITNET, Usenet allowed for creation of hierarchical categories of interest groups (comp.lang.java.help, rec.arts.books, etc.) and public threaded discussions within each group, in much the same way forums and comments work today. The abbreviation “motss” stood for “members of the same sex,” an unflashy acronym that would make it less of a potential target for censorship. University of Colorado–Boulder professor Amy Goodloe, who went on to start many lesbian Usenet groups as well as found and run lesbian.org in 1995, calls soc.motss the first explicitly LGBTQ newsgroup—and possibly the first explicitly LGBTQ international space of any kind.

And it was a prominent space: By the early 1990s, motss member and software engineer Brian Reid estimated that about 3 percent of all Usenet readers were reading soc.motss, which was an audience of about 83,000 people. (For comparison, 8 percent were reading the perennially popular alt.sex.)

Dyer, who died in 2010, was a Unix hacker who worked at BBN before becoming a private consultant. In the very first motss post on Oct. 7, 1983, Dyer set out the newsgroup’s aims: “to foster discussion on a wide variety of topics, such as health problems, parenting, relationships, clearances, job security and many others.” Dyer stressed that the forum would provide “a supportive environment” for gay USENET members: “Net.motss is emphatically NOT a newsgroup for the discussion of whether homosexuality is good or bad, natural or unnatural. Nor is it a place where conduct unsuitable for the net will be allowed or condoned.”

140820_BIT_Dyer
Steve Dyer, founder of soc.motss.
Ken Rudolph, kenru.net/motss

According to engineer Nelson Minar, who was active on soc.motss in the early 1990s, newsgroups of the 1980s and ’90s tended to have a slower pace of discussion. A day could pass before someone replied to a thread, and responses were frequently closer to mini-essays than short comments. That sort of belles-lettristic group dialogue allowed for a deeply nuanced and intellectual discussion of gay and lesbian issues.

Because of its international reach, soc.motss was less suitable for negotiating hookups than regional BBSs were. (One of soc.motss’ first posts was a man asking how to meet other gays without drugs or alcohol being involved.) The posters ranged in age from late teens to middle age, and a self-reported census in 1993 showed a quarter of them to be women.

Inevitably, much discussion centered on coming out, how to come out, and how to cope with the consequences. Political issues—from the Supreme Court’s 1986 sodomy decision in Bowers v. Hardwick to Orson Scott Card’s anti-gay writings to the legacy of Harvey Milk—evoked passionate debate. This was an a era when George Bush was calling for mandatory nationwide AIDS testing and when, according to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, Ronald Reagan’s advisers felt that gays and drug users who contracted AIDS were “only getting what they justly deserve.” Online discussion became a necessary counter to AIDS hysteria and ignorance, where people could share their own stories and alternative news sources.

The geeky urge to classify resulted in the Bear Code—officially, the Natural Bears Classification System.
The motss community prized free expression. (Dyer summed up the predominant attitude when he recommended the transgressive trans writer Pat Califia: “[S]he states her positions unbowed by the neo-puritanical ravings of some members of the gay orthodoxy.”) Everything on Usenet was public and, early on, non-anonymous, since Usenet accounts were usually linked to a real identity associated with a university or corporation. So even posting to the group at all took a certain boldness and iconoclasm, personality traits that Minar correlates with the “dual minority” of being both queer and a computer nerd. Yet because all posts were public (and because newsreaders in the 1980s didn’t thread discussions, forcing you to browse through every post), many more people read than posted, so much of the impact of soc.motss was on a silent audience that never identified itself.

There were in-jokes, wryness, and sarcasm, as with motss member Steven Levine’s description of growing too old and bitter to go to bars:

Each day I grow older, and this brings age and experience to the gay community. ... Where once I was whory, I now am hoary. I, the gay community, pass from new to used to collectible to vintage to antique. ... Each day I grow fatter. This increases the size of the gay community, and makes us more of a force to be reckoned with. Within the soft folds of my expanding flesh I contain the history of all gay men.
Network engineer and motss contributor Max Meredith Vasilatos slammed attacks on homosexuality as “unnatural” by describing the human body as “a hack, a gigantic complex construction with outdated features (e.g., appendixes) left over, and new bugs perpetually cropping up as the synergy of the system changes.” Somewhat more highbrow was member Michelle Elliott’s pastiche of Greek comedy writer Aristophanes, “The Clods.” And fulfilling the obligatory quotient of Internet nerdiness, Gene Ward Smith applied Ramsey combinatorics to gay love: “In any group of six gay men, there must exist three all of whom would like to sleep with each other, or a group of three none of whom would like to sleep with each other (or both).” Smith suggested a party game with six people, and that the group of three be declared either a “love triangle” if they want to sleep with each other or a “moral minority” if not.

Some of that nerdiness spread beyond motss. The geeky urge to classify resulted in the Bear Code (officially, the Natural Bears Classification System), invented by Bob Donahue and Jeff Stoner in 1989 as an “incredibly-scientific system to describe bears and bear-like men.” Santa Claus’ classification, for instance, was “B8 d++ f? w++ k--?,” describing him as a big round (w++) daddy bear (d++) with a very bushy beard (B8) whom people guess to be averagely furry (f?) and not kinky at all (k--?). This format inspired the later Geek Code, which was ubiquitous in Unix profiles and email sigs in the 1990s—except instead of codes for weight and beard, the Geek Code offered opinions of Linux (l+++++ if you were Linux author Linus Torvalds) and Star Trek (t--- if you hated Star Trek). The origins of the Geek Code in the Bear Code were quickly forgotten.

Dyer wanted to prevent the group from becoming “a space for the ignoramuses’ perennial harangue about the evils of homosexuality.”
Some of the motss conversation brought acute and varied social criticism into the mix, as with Dana Bergen’s nuanced 1991 plea for understanding of—not agreement with—anti-porn and anti-BDSM feminists: “I think it’s almost impossible for men to understand, on a gut level, the extent to which sexual violence and the fear of it affects women’s lives. ... I would like men to have a bit more respect for these feelings.” In 1992 Jeff Shaumeyer wrote about being “barraged by heterocentrism,” about the pain of being stigmatized and shoved aside: “Why is it that one man calling another a faggot is the worst insult he can make? I shouldn’t take this personally?”

And some of it is just incredibly raw and heart-wrenching, like linguist Arnold Zwicky’s advice to a young man on breakups: “you’re poking your tongue in the sore in your mouth and savoring the pain. think very carefully about why you're hanging on to the idea that x, who you can’t have, is the only thing that can fulfill you. you know that’s not so, but you twist your body around on the sword anyway. why? do you think you’re such a shit that this is what you deserve?” Zwicky was 45 when he discovered soc.motss, and he said that it changed his life: “i found a gay community and also found friends, and their friends, and so on, so that my social world has been transformed.” Many members met up once a year for an event called motss.con, which still goes on today.

Because Net access was limited in the 1980s, Steve Dyer also provided accounts on his own machine, spdcc, to those who wouldn’t otherwise have access. Dyer moderated the group in attempts to prevent it from becoming, in his words, “a space for the ignoramuses’ perennial harangue about the evils of homosexuality, or for that matter, responses to the contrary.” His geeky bonhomie is on display in his Chaucer pastiche “The Dyer’s Tale,” where he tells of the anti-gay trolls that had set upon soc.motss:

[W]e want some succor now that hell is done.
Perhaps a poem of epic length in rhyme
will undo prose of hurt and spite. It’s time
we took our newsgroup back; seize what we’ve won.
...
Now every word of bigotry and hate
shall be drowned out as rhymes accumulate.
Many of the members of soc.motss were not typical of the larger LGBTQ culture of the time. One of them, writing in 1992 about his own coming-out experience, wrote, “I am generally not a gregarious person, and [coming out] was the culmination of introspection with the emotional support of a few close friends. … I panic at the thought of meeting strangers, and am met with disbelief. I claim to feel bereft of social skills, and they scoff. Will any of these people ever see what I think is the *real* me? With whom do I share enough trust to reveal part of the *real* me?”

Before the Internet became part of everyone’s life, it often served as a social refuge for people who felt too shy, too unaccepted, too intellectual, or simply too different for everyday culture. Ironically, they would be the pioneers of spaces that allowed for freer, more open self-expression. Minar feels that soc.motss was something rare, both then and now: “an intelligent place for discussion of gay issues with some sort of filter for thoughtfulness of the members. We were there to discuss opera and culture and Madonna, not to get laid.”

Many newsgroups were purely informational, useful for technical discussions or sharing of news or jokes or porn. But soc.motss was genuinely a new kind of community, a diverse set of people who felt at home and most like themselves on the Net, and who had discussions there that they couldn’t have anywhere else. Before Facebook preferred status updates to long posts and Twitter reduced the size of a rebuttal to 140 characters, soc.motss proved that online discourse was indeed compatible with open-mindedness, subtlety, and civility.

In 1983 programmer Steve Dyer started a discussion forum called net.motss (later soc.motss) on the Usenet newsgroup system. Built in 1980 atop pre-Internet networks such as ARPANET and BITNET, Usenet allowed for creation of hierarchical categories of interest groups (comp.lang.java.help, rec.arts.books, etc.) and public threaded discussions within each group, in much the same way forums and comments work today. The abbreviation “motss” stood for “members of the same sex,” an unflashy acronym that would make it less of a potential target for censorship. University of Colorado–Boulder professor Amy Goodloe, who went on to start many lesbian Usenet groups as well as found and run lesbian.org in 1995, calls soc.motss the first explicitly LGBTQ newsgroup—and possibly the first explicitly LGBTQ international space of any kind.

And it was a prominent space: By the early 1990s, motss member and software engineer Brian Reid estimated that about 3 percent of all Usenet readers were reading soc.motss, which was an audience of about 83,000 people. (For comparison, 8 percent were reading the perennially popular alt.sex.)

Dyer, who died in 2010, was a Unix hacker who worked at BBN before becoming a private consultant. In the very first motss post on Oct. 7, 1983, Dyer set out the newsgroup’s aims: “to foster discussion on a wide variety of topics, such as health problems, parenting, relationships, clearances, job security and many others.” Dyer stressed that the forum would provide “a supportive environment” for gay USENET members: “Net.motss is emphatically NOT a newsgroup for the discussion of whether homosexuality is good or bad, natural or unnatural. Nor is it a place where conduct unsuitable for the net will be allowed or condoned.”
According to engineer Nelson Minar, who was active on soc.motss in the early 1990s, newsgroups of the 1980s and ’90s tended to have a slower pace of discussion. A day could pass before someone replied to a thread, and responses were frequently closer to mini-essays than short comments. That sort of belles-lettristic group dialogue allowed for a deeply nuanced and intellectual discussion of gay and lesbian issues.

Because of its international reach, soc.motss was less suitable for negotiating hookups than regional BBSs were. (One of soc.motss’ first posts was a man asking how to meet other gays without drugs or alcohol being involved.) The posters ranged in age from late teens to middle age, and a self-reported census in 1993 showed a quarter of them to be women.

Inevitably, much discussion centered on coming out, how to come out, and how to cope with the consequences. Political issues—from the Supreme Court’s 1986 sodomy decision in Bowers v. Hardwick to Orson Scott Card’s anti-gay writings to the legacy of Harvey Milk—evoked passionate debate. This was an a era when George Bush was calling for mandatory nationwide AIDS testing and when, according to Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, Ronald Reagan’s advisers felt that gays and drug users who contracted AIDS were “only getting what they justly deserve.” Online discussion became a necessary counter to AIDS hysteria and ignorance, where people could share their own stories and alternative news sources.

The geeky urge to classify resulted in the Bear Code—officially, the Natural Bears Classification System.
The motss community prized free expression. (Dyer summed up the predominant attitude when he recommended the transgressive trans writer Pat Califia: “[S]he states her positions unbowed by the neo-puritanical ravings of some members of the gay orthodoxy.”) Everything on Usenet was public and, early on, non-anonymous, since Usenet accounts were usually linked to a real identity associated with a university or corporation. So even posting to the group at all took a certain boldness and iconoclasm, personality traits that Minar correlates with the “dual minority” of being both queer and a computer nerd. Yet because all posts were public (and because newsreaders in the 1980s didn’t thread discussions, forcing you to browse through every post), many more people read than posted, so much of the impact of soc.motss was on a silent audience that never identified itself.

There were in-jokes, wryness, and sarcasm, as with motss member Steven Levine’s description of growing too old and bitter to go to bars:

Each day I grow older, and this brings age and experience to the gay community. ... Where once I was whory, I now am hoary. I, the gay community, pass from new to used to collectible to vintage to antique. ... Each day I grow fatter. This increases the size of the gay community, and makes us more of a force to be reckoned with. Within the soft folds of my expanding flesh I contain the history of all gay men.
Network engineer and motss contributor Max Meredith Vasilatos slammed attacks on homosexuality as “unnatural” by describing the human body as “a hack, a gigantic complex construction with outdated features (e.g., appendixes) left over, and new bugs perpetually cropping up as the synergy of the system changes.” Somewhat more highbrow was member Michelle Elliott’s pastiche of Greek comedy writer Aristophanes, “The Clods.” And fulfilling the obligatory quotient of Internet nerdiness, Gene Ward Smith applied Ramsey combinatorics to gay love: “In any group of six gay men, there must exist three all of whom would like to sleep with each other, or a group of three none of whom would like to sleep with each other (or both).” Smith suggested a party game with six people, and that the group of three be declared either a “love triangle” if they want to sleep with each other or a “moral minority” if not.

Some of that nerdiness spread beyond motss. The geeky urge to classify resulted in the Bear Code (officially, the Natural Bears Classification System), invented by Bob Donahue and Jeff Stoner in 1989 as an “incredibly-scientific system to describe bears and bear-like men.” Santa Claus’ classification, for instance, was “B8 d++ f? w++ k--?,” describing him as a big round (w++) daddy bear (d++) with a very bushy beard (B8) whom people guess to be averagely furry (f?) and not kinky at all (k--?). This format inspired the later Geek Code, which was ubiquitous in Unix profiles and email sigs in the 1990s—except instead of codes for weight and beard, the Geek Code offered opinions of Linux (l+++++ if you were Linux author Linus Torvalds) and Star Trek (t--- if you hated Star Trek). The origins of the Geek Code in the Bear Code were quickly forgotten.

Dyer wanted to prevent the group from becoming “a space for the ignoramuses’ perennial harangue about the evils of homosexuality.”
Some of the motss conversation brought acute and varied social criticism into the mix, as with Dana Bergen’s nuanced 1991 plea for understanding of—not agreement with—anti-porn and anti-BDSM feminists: “I think it’s almost impossible for men to understand, on a gut level, the extent to which sexual violence and the fear of it affects women’s lives. ... I would like men to have a bit more respect for these feelings.” In 1992 Jeff Shaumeyer wrote about being “barraged by heterocentrism,” about the pain of being stigmatized and shoved aside: “Why is it that one man calling another a faggot is the worst insult he can make? I shouldn’t take this personally?”

And some of it is just incredibly raw and heart-wrenching, like linguist Arnold Zwicky’s advice to a young man on breakups: “you’re poking your tongue in the sore in your mouth and savoring the pain. think very carefully about why you're hanging on to the idea that x, who you can’t have, is the only thing that can fulfill you. you know that’s not so, but you twist your body around on the sword anyway. why? do you think you’re such a shit that this is what you deserve?” Zwicky was 45 when he discovered soc.motss, and he said that it changed his life: “i found a gay community and also found friends, and their friends, and so on, so that my social world has been transformed.” Many members met up once a year for an event called motss.con, which still goes on today.

Because Net access was limited in the 1980s, Steve Dyer also provided accounts on his own machine, spdcc, to those who wouldn’t otherwise have access. Dyer moderated the group in attempts to prevent it from becoming, in his words, “a space for the ignoramuses’ perennial harangue about the evils of homosexuality, or for that matter, responses to the contrary.” His geeky bonhomie is on display in his Chaucer pastiche “The Dyer’s Tale,” where he tells of the anti-gay trolls that had set upon soc.motss:

[W]e want some succor now that hell is done.
Perhaps a poem of epic length in rhyme
will undo prose of hurt and spite. It’s time
we took our newsgroup back; seize what we’ve won.
...
Now every word of bigotry and hate
shall be drowned out as rhymes accumulate.
Many of the members of soc.motss were not typical of the larger LGBTQ culture of the time. One of them, writing in 1992 about his own coming-out experience, wrote, “I am generally not a gregarious person, and [coming out] was the culmination of introspection with the emotional support of a few close friends. … I panic at the thought of meeting strangers, and am met with disbelief. I claim to feel bereft of social skills, and they scoff. Will any of these people ever see what I think is the *real* me? With whom do I share enough trust to reveal part of the *real* me?”

Before the Internet became part of everyone’s life, it often served as a social refuge for people who felt too shy, too unaccepted, too intellectual, or simply too different for everyday culture. Ironically, they would be the pioneers of spaces that allowed for freer, more open self-expression. Minar feels that soc.motss was something rare, both then and now: “an intelligent place for discussion of gay issues with some sort of filter for thoughtfulness of the members. We were there to discuss opera and culture and Madonna, not to get laid.”

Many newsgroups were purely informational, useful for technical discussions or sharing of news or jokes or porn. But soc.motss was genuinely a new kind of community, a diverse set of people who felt at home and most like themselves on the Net, and who had discussions there that they couldn’t have anywhere else. Before Facebook preferred status updates to long posts and Twitter reduced the size of a rebuttal to 140 characters, soc.motss proved that online discourse was indeed compatible with open-mindedness, subtlety, and civility.

June 26, 2014

VP Biden Encourages Gay Rights over Culture


                                                                         



Seeking to mobilize a global front against anti-gay violence and discrimination, Vice President Joe Biden declared Tuesday that protecting gay rights is a defining mark of a civilized nation and must trump national cultures and social traditions.
Biden told a gathering of U.S. and international gay rights advocates that President Barack Obama has directed that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender men and women around the world
"I don't care what your culture is," Biden told about 100 guests at the Naval Observatory's vice presidential mansion. "Inhumanity is inhumanity is inhumanity. Prejudice is prejudice is prejudice."
With anti-gay laws taking root in nearly 80 countries, Biden and other top White House officials met with religious, human rights and HIV health care advocates in a forum dedicated to promoting gay rights internationally.
Biden, who has emerged as a leading gay rights advocate within the Obama administration ever since he got ahead of Obama in declaring his support for gay marriage, said that across U.S government agencies officials have been instructed to make the promotion of gay rights abroad a priority.
Where countries fail to move toward protections of LGBT people, he warned, "there is a price to pay for being inhumane." Among those at the evening reception were leading gay rights activists and the ambassadors from Britain, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.
Earlier Tuesday, White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice cast the protection of gays from global discrimination, abuse and even death as one of the most challenging international human rights issue facing the United States. Biden called gay rights "the civil rights issue of our day."
"To achieve lasting global change, we need everyone's shoulder at the wheel," she said. "With more voices to enrich and amplify the message — the message that gay rights are straight-up human rights — we can open more minds."
Rice cautioned that the effort is difficult because laws limiting gay rights in some countries enjoy strong popular support. But she said cultural differences do not excuse human rights violations.
"Governments are responsible for protecting the rights of all citizens, and it is incumbent upon the state, and on each of us, to foster tolerance and to reverse the tide of discrimination," Rice said.
Last week, the U.S. imposed visa bans on Ugandan officials who are involved in corruption and are violating the rights of gay people and others. Uganda passed a law in February that strengthened criminal penalties for gay sex and made life sentences possible for those convicted of breaking the law.
During his trip to Africa last year, Obama, while in Senegal, urged African leaders to extend equal rights to gays and lesbians. Senegal's president, however, pushed back, saying his country "still isn't ready" to decriminalize homosexuality. Seven countries have laws imposing death sentences for gay sex and Brunei is on track to becoming the eighth one.
Tuesday's forum was the latest administrative attempt by Obama to promote gay and lesbian rights both in the United States and abroad. Obama successfully pushed to repeal the ban on gays serving openly in the military and his administration stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act years before the Supreme Court took it up.
Earlier this month, Obama announced he will sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Last week, it also granted new benefits to same-sex couples, including those who live in states where gay marriage is against the law.
By JIM KUHNHENN Associated Press

June 5, 2014

No Gay Bars, things look different! Has gay culture changed for good?



                                                                       

When Lary Abramson moved to San Francisco from Detroit in July 1960, police raids on gay bars were commonplace. Nightlife existed at the decree of morals cops who could be bought off, and patrons of gay establishments who didn't play along risked serious personal consequences. "The cops would usually come around midnight, so they'd turn on the lights and say, 'No dancing!'" Abramson says.
One defiant bar was the Tay-Bush, so named because it stood at the corner of Taylor and Bush. "It was raided," Abramson says, "and that was the raid where everybody's name got published in the paper. People lost their jobs. That's what led to the Tavern Guild," an organization of gay bar owners that was instrumental in the political awakening of LGBT San Francisco.
Almost 50 years later, the idea of "No Dancing" has taken on another meaning. The Deco Lounge,Esta Noche, KOK Bar, Marlena's, and others have closed their doors in the last few years. There's even an annotated Lost Gay Bars of San Francisco Google map. But the disappearance of gay bars is a widespread phenomenon. New York has lost several established bars in the past year; at the opposite end of the spectrum, Amarillo has shed two of its three (Whiskers and Sassy's). For every city in between, a cursory glance at Yelp reveals a similar pattern.
The 2009 raid on the Dallas Eaglenotwithstanding, these closures aren't stemming from a renewed wave of vice squad crackdowns, but a fundamental shift in gay culture. Greater acceptance of same-sex love, positive representations of LGBT characters in the media, and the ever-increasing number of openly gay people leading an ordinary existence have meant that LGBT Americans now have less reliance on the bars, clubs, and other places that served as hubs for the counterculture. There's no longer the same need for exclusively gay spaces in gay neighborhoods in gay-friendly cities.
What was once clandestine and illegal is now almost mainstream. Pushing this change is same-sex marriage, which came to California twice, but now benefits from majority support: The Public Religion Research Institutepublished a report in February noting that 59 percent of Californians support marriage equality. If a Prop. 8 redux were to come before the electorate, it likely wouldn't pass.
Beyond California, in May alone, same-sex marriage — or at least court orders to recognize same-sex marriages even if a state isn't yet obliged to perform them — has been visited upon purple states such as Ohio, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, and even infrared Utah. (The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is set to rule on that one, but the state must recognize marriages already performed.) There are of course many other thorny issues — employment and housing discrimination, violence, bullying, substance abuse, suicide — but the trends are clear. America is getting more inclusive. Consequently, there is less of an impetus than ever for LGBT people, particularly younger gay men, to flee their conservative hometowns in conservative states and, as Dan Savage once put it, skip toward Gomorrah.
So the gay experience in San Francisco is at a crossroads. Gay people are more "normal" here than arguably anywhere in else in America, but the institutions and spaces they've built in the last half-century or more are in a precarious position.
"It's hard to quantify, but it's there anecdotally," says Supervisor David Campos. "There is something real to the anxiety." The LGBT community faces threats of assimilation, displacement due to the explosive cost of living, and atomization in the face of handheld sex — all of them national trends, to be sure, but felt most acutely here. Gay rights and gay culture exist in tension, with the success of the former foreclosing in no small way upon the need for the latter. A culture premised on outsider status, on the lust for the forbidden, and rooted in peripheral neighborhoods, may not be able to survive fully intact when the forbidden becomes permissible and the periphery becomes the center. San Francisco is experiencing queer flight.
It feels condescending and fatalistic, if not simply rude, to say that Folsom Street is dead and that gay bars are dying. Sure, in absolute numbers, the number of gay bars citywide is a fraction of what it was at its peak. Since memories fade, raids and sudden closures were frequent, and the line between "gay bar" and "straight bar" has always been less than absolute, an accurate count is probably impossible, but 30 years ago, the number was in the dozens. And South of Market's "decline" is relative, as the lack of elbow room at any Sunday afternoon beer bust will tell you. The drag scene at the Stud is bursting with queens, particularly at "Some Thing" on Fridays. Leather Pride flags still adorn Market Street for the entirety of September, and in the Castro, although LGBT bookstore A Different Light shuttered, Trigger became Beaux, and Lime became Hi-Tops. The Eagle's abrupt 2011 closure came undone when it reopened last summer, and people still get as drunk there as ever. The owners didn’t even rip out the infamous trough urinal.
Restroom continuity or not, change is happening elsewhere. In 2013, a former old-school leather bar on Folsom called KOK — previously Chaps II, My Place, and Ramrod — became a cocktail bar called Driftwood. It's a kitschily decorated venue whose owner Chris Milstead describes it, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as "straight-friendly." Successful or not, an upscale spot with good lighting and $10 drinks that replaced a dank dungeon is going to ruffle feathers. Driftwood is, you might say, a "post-gay" bar, and it's not the only one.
Brass Tacks, which replaced the inimitable Marlena's in Hayes Valley, and Virgil's Sea Room (which took over straight dive Nap's III) are similar, in that they're either gay-owned, plurality-gay, or cater to a mixed crowd looking for a curated jukebox, campy décor, and non-exclusivity as the prevailing vibe. In this, they're following the lead of Wild Side West, the lesbian aerie in Bernal Heights that is one of only two watering holes for women-loving-women left in San Francisco, but that has welcomed all types for years. (The Lexington Club is unambiguously a lesbian bar.) Do post-gay bars arise because the business model of a gay bar is increasingly infeasible, or because the idea of a "gay bar for everyone" is now possible like never before?
Tom Temprano, aka DJ Carnita, is part-owner of Virgil's (as well as co-president of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club) and leans toward the latter. "We set out to be first and foremost a neighborhood bar that reflected what is happening in that part of the Mission: a lovely coexistence between the queer community and different facets of the straight community," he says.
Of course, this isn't because the world has grown more altruistic; it's because gay people are something of a coveted marketing demographic.
"If it wasn't for Madison Avenue smelling potential in our pink dollars, we wouldn't be so accepted by the mainstream," says DJ Bus Station John, who semi-jokingly refers to himself as San Francisco's "Godfather of Bathhouse Disco." Reluctant to divulge his real name, he's been a nightlife fixture for years at bars such as Aunt Charlie's and the Eagle, spinning deep cuts from before many of his fans were born. "Obviously something good's come of that, even though it's gross and cynical, but I really don't think that making life better for gay people was the goal in the beginning," he says. "They just saw lots of single men with supposedly disposable dollars to exploit, and it inadvertently turned into something better."
It does come at a cost, though. Young LGBT Americans are losing that connection to an outsider history backed by disco and hi-NRG. This is where Bus Station John sees his purpose: spinning records to keep the demimonde vital, thrilling, and slightly lurid. "My mission is a combination of two things: taking the survivors who made it through a plague on a trip down memory lane where we can enjoy the soundtrack of our youth, and then turning younger guys onto this great music who might otherwise never have known about it — whether or not they have the wherewithal to know that they even have a gay heritage, given how mainstream gay people are becoming," he says.
The ever-straighter, ever-wealthier, ever-whiter Mission is a good place to see this shift from the fringes to the mainstream. As artist, lesbian, and longtime Missionite Erin O'Neill remembers, there used to be "a number of seven-day-a-week clubs that were dyke-only. In 1984, the place to be was Valencia Street — just like now. 'Lesbianville,' it was sometimes referred to. As a young dyke I could spot the lesbians, dykes, and bi-girls, and there were a lot! I could still go to the fancy Clementina's or the raunchy Amelia's. ... Plus the pop-up clubs were super-fun: Klubstitute, Faster Pussycat, Female Trouble, Club Uranus, the Box. Now we're in this barren cultural zone. ... I feel like one of the last dykes standing."
Going further back, one hits upon the Bad Old Days, the bottommost layer of sediment beneath the foundation of every existing LGBT institution. This was gay life at the fringes. Lifelong San Franciscan and still-active drag queen Herman Nieves, 78, remembers getting arrested four times before the SFPD abandoned raids for good. (That happened in the wake of the 1979 White Night riots, when the gay community responded destructively to the lenient sentence given to formerSupervisor Dan White for the assassinations of Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.)
"They thought I was hustling because I was wearing tight pants, on Third and Market," Nieves says. "When we weren't legal, it was more fun. You were out doing something you weren't supposed to be doing, and you had to carry a sign on you saying, 'I'm a boy, I'm a man.' You had to have one piece of men's clothing on, so we used to roll socks and put them in our breasts. With rice."
For Nieves in the mid-1960s, the epicenter of gay nightlife was neither the Castro nor the Polk, it was the Tenderloin — and to some extent, even the Embarcadero, when the elevated freeway was still new. "Jack's Waterfront was the first gay bar I ever went to. It wasn't sailors, it was just fun.Edith Piaf was big in there, and a friend of mine painted all these can-can girls." As Betty White is to television, there since the very dawn of it, Nieves — who performed under the name "Herman" — is to San Francisco drag culture.
"The first Pride was in South of Market, and I was in it. We got eggs, stuff like that, thrown at us. I was sitting in the back of a Cadillac convertible in drag." Does he like Pride better these days, in all its egg-lessness? "No, it [is now] all of a sudden political. ... Put it back into a Mardi Gras-type thing. More fun, less politics. Young people are there to dance and have a good time."
Nieves thinks that the good times ended with AIDS. Bus Station John seconds that, considering the years between Stonewall and AIDS — 1969-1981 — to be the Golden Age. Indeed, those good/bad old days burn with an intense allure (particularly with the comforting hindsight that not every last gay person was condemned to die of AIDS or be shot by some right-wing paramilitary group): When William Friedkin's film Cruising came out in 1980, LGBT activists protested it en masse as a lurid faux-exposé that threatened to undo a decade of social progress. Now, the film is a cult hit.
Lary Abramson was a founding member of the Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights (BAPHR), the organization that in the early 1980s laid out the initial list of prevention methods for HIV and was instrumental in getting the federal government to recognize the epidemic. He sees the present era as a "denouement of gay people" in contrast to the lost paradise of the immediate pre-AIDS years: "In the late '70s, all hell broke loose. Sex was everywhere, Jesus! The big thing was after-hours parties. That all went away with AIDS."
Abramson fought the scourge from the very beginning, but believes that without the disease, the advances in gay rights simply would never have happened.
"In my belief, it was AIDS that made the problems for gays in general appear in the national and international news. We all said, 'If gays all had a "G" on their forehead and everybody realized who they were, there would be acceptance,'" he says. "You couldn't hide getting AIDS. And everybody discovered Uncle So-and-So and realized they were being discriminated against, and gradually the acceptance happened all over the country, in a period of about 10 years. People discovered that it wasn't just your hairdresser that was gay; it was your doctor, your lawyer, the contractor, the guys working on the streets."
With this acceptance began the slow mainstreaming of gay culture, a process now evident in film, professional sports, and television. Paradoxically, mainstream acceptance seems to have heightened interest in more deviant subcultures among some gays, especially men. The resurgence of San Francisco's drag culture and the city's BDSM/leather scene suggests that marginal communities can flourish even as gay culture is incorporated into mainstream American life. So while some queers lead lives increasingly indistinguishable from their straight neighbors, others grow queerer still.
Erik Will, chairman of the San Francisco Leatherman's Discussion Group, an educational nonprofit for the BDSM/leather community, believes this resurgence to be undeniable. Forums for "kinkier modes of play are huge now. The scene is much bigger than it was before. You can argue whether or not the Internet has been good or bad, but it's definitely made it more accessible," he says. As recently as three years ago, the group was "on life support. Most of the people in the room were on the steering committee. Now, even heavy-duty piercing stuff gets a huge turnout." This has prompted the group to seek larger venues as, on one occasion, an over-capacity crowd caught the attention of fire marshal.
Meeting like-minded sexual partners this way, or through fetish-oriented sites such as Recon, might not be quite as sexy and dangerous as memorizing the hanky code, but it sure is easier. In a sense, "decline" means only that what was once rare is now more common. It's the sense of living apart, of being different, that is fading, and that upsets people who saw beautiful things grow out of it.
Of course, the most salient issue in the survival of S.F. queer culture today isn't the rise and fall of kinks. It's the cost of living. More ink has been spilled on the subject of gentrification and its predilection for fancy toast than just about any other topic in 2010s San Francisco, but the facts do contradict the stereotype of the affluent gay.
Genrification "has impacted the LGBT community disproportionately," says Campos. "There are more evictions in the Castro than anywhere else, and it's second in the number of Ellis Act evictions after the Mission." (The 94114 ZIP code, according to the Board of Supervisors' legislative report, has a higher-than-average number of rent-controlled units, and also has seen a higher-than-average increase in property values.) "What I keep hearing from LGBT people that I speak to is that many of them, and their friends, have been pushed out. What I find is that there's a sentiment that 'We are losing this community that took so long for us to build.' A lot of the older gay men who came to the Castro in the '70s are one eviction away from being pushed out of San Francisco. There are gay men who survived the AIDS crisis, but who are not able to survive this affordability crisis."
Temprano believes that neighborhoods and institutions are being devitalized as well: "It's not like people haven't moved to New York and L.A. before. But it's the exodus of people who are doing amazing things in San Francisco but feel that they have to leave," he says. "Imagine if [drag performers] Heklina, Juanita More, and Peaches Christ felt that S.F. wasn't the place for them. ... Not coming in the first place is a different, almost sadder question. Oakland's a BART ride away, but damn, doesn't it suck to have those people not living with us here and having to commute in to create culture? San Francisco shouldn't give up hope on being San Francisco."
While it's subject to the same macroeconomic forces, the East Bay is luring away many queers. Artist Mike Ojeda jumped across the bay because "so much maneuvering was required in order to enjoy the simple things. The magic of walking in a neighborhood, or going to a park to explore, seemed to always be overshadowed by an influx of douchebaggery. San Francisco became super-straight, and the weirdoes I was so excited to see when I first moved there were gone. I made the decision to land in East Oakland, and often wonder why I hadn't done it sooner." There is also an exodus to Los Angeles and Chicago — a huge, cosmopolitan city that is cheap compared to San Francisco. (It's 28 percent cheaper, according to The New York Times, which is partly why Ojeda has since moved there.)
But gentrification is not a Bay Area-specific problem. Cities with historically large LGBT populations are increasingly the most sought after. Places like Seattle, Austin, Atlanta, Boston, and Washington, D.C., have seen dramatic population growth since 2000, in most cases after 50 years of stagnation or decline. More Americans want to live in cool cities than ever, but gay people would seem to need those cities and their gay ghettoes less and less.
While the bursting of the tech bubble and any subsequent real estate collapse would neither instantly undo everything nor transpire without creating major problems of its own, it might propel San Francisco in unforeseeable directions. Since the city's future seems to be one of ever-escalating wealth — the U.S. population increases by three million people a year, and there are still only so many pretty Victorians to compete over — it's possible that LGBT San Francisco may ossify into a heritage tourist destination first, and a place to live in second. That is, unless one is extremely wealthy.
Christopher Kingery, technology program manager at Airbnb — and a regular Airbnb host — sees the risk, and strives for stability in a neighborhood in flux. While short-term rentals have been associated with displacements and housing scarcity, Kingery remains in his home while hosting guests, and shepherds them around. "If you look on almost every corner, there's a high-rise that's going up," he says. "And they're not cheap. They're creating all this inventory, and it's creating an influx of people. I don't know who those people are going to be — but more than likely: straight, techy-y guys and gals. I think that'll change the face of the Castro a little bit, but they'll live here.
Still, Kingery is concerned about what the future might look like. "I don't want the culture to be consumed by this gentrification of the neighborhood, and I think that's what's happening," he says. "Folsom Street Fair used to be wild, and now people are pushing kids in strollers."
As the Haight is something of a museum of past Haight-ness, so too might the Castro and SoMa become places where LGBT people BART in for the Frameline film festival or Pink Saturday, or fly in for the Folsom Street Fair, before returning to wherever they make their homes, much like Catholics who only go to church on Christmas and Easter.
Abramson, the early AIDS doctor and a 50-year Castro resident, feels the parallel acutely: "It already started," he says. The rainbow crosswalk stripes, sidewalk widening, and Gay Walk of Fame are "to attract tourists. They're making it a draw. It's always been a draw for gay people, but they want all of the tourists to come in here."
But while Abramson is no fan of condos per se, he doesn't see the immediate neighborhood's gay character under assault. In his experience, the Castro "has always been about 50 percent gay. I know all my neighbors. They know I'm gay. There's lots of straights on my particular block. It's cute." San Francisco might become a giant B&B, a Palm Springs or Provincetown writ large. Or maybe even that's too optimistic. As Bus Station John laments, "Go to Polk Street now, on a weekend night. It's one of the cradles of gay San Francisco and it's as if it never existed."
Yet every large-scale cultural trend contains at least a nugget of its opposite. Same-sex marriage might turn out to be something of a boomlet, as the rush of seeing couples who've been together for 50 years marry wears off, and gay Millennials (and whatever generation comes after them) fall back into phase with the wider discontent with traditional institutions. Heterosexual marriage rates, except among the highly affluent, are falling, and once it becomes commonplace, gay marriage may follow.
As political homophobia falls away — and with more than 80 percent of Americans under 30 supporting marriage equality and gay adoption, there is evidence it will — new generations of gays might not be so inclined to follow the marriage script. And not everyone who lived through the bad old days is rushing to wed, either.
Abramson is somewhat dismissive of same-sex nuptials. "The only reason I can think of for gays to get married is tax purposes," he says. Monogamy is hardly the only path, either. Will is openly polyamorous — openly as in "out and proud," as well as "in an open poly relationship" — and Kingery has hosted "throuples" through Airbnb. Same-sex marriage might become normal without becoming the only norm.
Nearer-term, housing displacements might be approaching a high-water mark. Supervisor Campos' bill requiring landlords who evict tenants under the Ellis Act to pay the equivalent of two years of comparable rent became law on June 1, and State Sen. Mark Leno is pushing a bill that prohibits new landlords from Ellis Act-ing tenants until they've owned a building for five years.
For his part, Campos is optimistic. "I think there's a silver lining to how bad things have gotten, that it has pushed people to get involved in the issue of housing and affordability," he says. "It's not the typical activists — it's actually regular people. And that's when change happens."
For all the talk about the revolutionary potential of the late 1970s, it's easy to forget that Harvey Milk launched his political career on perhaps the most middlebrow issue of all: dog poop. Forty years on, the energy of LGBT activism is now shifting from gay marriage to trans rights. On housing rights and combating violence, there is still much work to do — but less and less need for windowless bars in which to get it done.
The political victories of gay culture have led to the decline of the institutions built to win the battles. To be equal does not mean you have to be the same, but having become equal, there is less need to be different. The Good/Bad Old Days are gone, but the Castro, like San Francisco, is still alive — and after all this time, it’s still full of dog poop.

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