Friday, February 29, 2008

Funding for Global Aids

Via the New York Times

Congress and the White House are preparing to ramp up spending on programs to combat AIDS and related diseases around the world while removing some of the ideological blinders that have long undermined the effort to slow the spread of the AIDS virus. It will be a welcome strengthening of a foreign aid program that was already one of the shining accomplishments of the Bush administration.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee this week approved a bipartisan compromise, crafted in negotiations between House leaders and the White House, that would authorize a hefty $50 billion over the next five years to support campaigns against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. This represents a huge increase over the $19 billion appropriated in the first five years of the program and a significant increase over the new funding requested by President Bush. The president had originally proposed $30 billion over five years, primarily to fight AIDS, whereas the new bill would authorize perhaps $37 billion to $41 billion to the AIDS struggle.

The administration’s program started small five years ago to meet a perceived emergency as the AIDS epidemic spread out of control. It has already provided drug treatment to almost 1.5 million men, women and children and supportive care to millions of others. The focus for the next five years will be on making some of the initial gains sustainable.

In one farsighted move, money will be used to train some 144,000 new health care workers over the next five years to care for people infected with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. That is at best a start on easing the severe shortage of health care workers in the developing world, which some estimates peg in the millions. Other donor nations will need to contribute to the training effort as well.

The most troublesome ideological constraint on the program — a requirement that one-third of the funds used for prevention services be spent on abstinence education — has been greatly eased. The bill calls for a balanced prevention program that would promote abstinence until marriage and fidelity thereafter, as well as condoms. It requires countries to report if abstinence and fidelity funding falls below a certain percentage, but it sets no firm percentage that has to be met.

The House is expected to pass the bill in the near future, and the Senate is considering its own version. Although some Republicans are grumbling over the amount of money proposed, it is important that Congress appropriate the full $50 billion if possible. Even that sum would almost certainly not provide universal access to treatment for all people infected with H.I.V., a goal that the major industrialized nations claim to be pursuing.

"Perceived emergency" (?!?!!?!?!?!?!)
So what were the last 27 years? A ride on the fucking carousel?!

Wonderful to hear that there will be more money and more training and, thank goodness, less abstinence only programs but of course republicans are "grumbling" over the amount of money spent, because after all, to them, this is still a "sex disease" only affecting homos and minorities, which in their wealthy white way-of-thinking is preventable for everyone!

To hear that this is a "perceived emergency" and the fact we're still debating over how much "abstinence" should play a part and because this is largely affecting Africa it all reeks of sexphobia, homophobia and general racism. This issue always has! 50 Billion is a great thing but only if used with realistic platforms of sex communication, sex education and prevention techniques.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Zombie Nightmares

Last night marked the 6th zombie nightmare I've had since finishing Max Brooks' World War Z: The Oral History of the Zombie War.

During the course of reading the book I had three nightmares all involving zombies taking over the world and me (and sometimes my friends) running from them. I finished the book sometime in December and since then I've had three additional dreams involving the same thing: Zombies, killing and survival. The most bizarre and probably macabre element of these dreams is that the zombies are increasingly getting harder to kill.

In my first and second zombie dreams killing the walking dead was simple, clean and easy (and even somewhat fun!) All it took was a mildly powerful blow to their head to decapitate them. Their flesh was soft and it was like throwing a spear through Jello. Of course, decapitation wasn't enough since you have to destroy the brain, but their skulls crushed easily under the stomp of my sneakers or boots. Done.

In my third dream, not only were there more zombies but their skin became harder to puncture. I remember during this dream kicking a zombie in the head and it not snapping off like it had in the other dreams. A streak of fear ran down my dream-spine and I realized then that they're getting stronger. This time it took 3 to 4 blows to the head (and possibly a round house kick) to snap their head off. This all happened in the East Village on 10th street but it was also like a desert too (kind of?)

My fourth dream is the one I remember most clearly and also sticks in my head as being the most graphic. I remember coming upon a female zombie who I tried smacking a few times with a lead pipe and nothing happened. I did however break enough of her bones to prevent her from walking and she became a "crawler" (in World War Z- zombies who only had half bodies were called crawlers.) From that point on I stood on her back while I grabbed her forehead from behind and, with a great deal of strength, proceeded to rip her head off. Unfortunately her spine came with it and her bones ripped from her flesh like two pieces of velco being separated. I remember this dream mostly because I could actually feel ripping this zombie woman apart. I felt the roughness of bone and the way it tore from her flesh. Needless to say I woke up with shudders and I have thought about it ever since.

My fifth dream was mostly about running. It was as if I accepted the fact that we, as a civilization, were lost within a zombie apocolypse and from this point on it was all about running. I don't remember killing any zombies but I do remember trying to run to the Hudson River for some reason.

Last night's dream, my 6th, was horrific and disturbing but for different reasons. I was in a military occupied safe zone where survivors were to go for shelter and medical needs. There was a rigorous screening process where medical examiners asked us to strip down and looked at our bodies for bite marks and other signs of infection. There was a person a few people ahead of me who happened to be hiding a bite mark, and right there, got a harpoon-weapon of sorts to the skull. No if, ands or buts! I was clear, and I knew I was, but I remember seeing my clothes in a pile on the floor and telling myself "whatever you do, do not lose your jeans or your sneakers." I quickly picked them up and at that moment lights started to fall from the ceiling and everything went black. I heard screaming and threw on my jeans and sneakers and picked up the first hard-hitting blunt object I could find (go figure- another lead pipe) and ran.

I ended up at another "safe house" but this one didn't seemed to be occupied by the government or military. It was more of a vigilante safe house and the doors were guarded by thug-looking older guys with machine guns. They asked me where I came from and I told them the "safe zone" which was under attack. They ushered me in quickly and quietly. I found a picnic table to sit at and two gentlemen approached me. They said, "hold on to your weapon, guy. The zombies might be out there but we've got our own animals in here. People have been known to get stabbed and even killed so just watch your back. We're all turning on each other." I understood what they meant and swiveled around on the picnic table so I could get a better look at my surroundings and grabbed my lead pipe tightly- just in time for.... alarm to go off.

Anyone know of a good shrink?

Annnnnyway, go to the Official World War Z website and take the survey to calculate your chances of survival.

And also check out the new trailer for George Romero's, the Super Granddaddy of Zombie films, newest release Diary of the Dead.

The Sanctity of Marriage

How about a ban on this?! From TV's reality/lie Detector game show, "Moment of Truth."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dodgeball: Season 2

The View Bar Vice Squad
Holding the "V" for Vice Squad and Victory
(L to R: Vin, Vanessa, BJ, me, Thom, Sergio, T)
Ladies and Gentleman, it's ON! The fierceness that was last year's first ever gay/gay-friendly coed dodgeball league, BigAppleDodgeball, is back and rowdier than ever. This season old players shake hands with over 40 new players and 4 brand new teams.

Yours truly is Captain of the new team The View Bar Vice Squad who, during our very first games last night, brought the shit-storm to Mama's house defeated both Manhunt and David Barton in total shut outs. With our right-off-the bat 6-0 lead, View Bar Vice Squad will rank as one of the leading teams and send a message to all the other ballers that we're a power-house force ready to reign supreme.

Teams are as follows: (names subject to change)

David Barton Gym
The Splash Bar: Splasholes
United Shipping Solutions
The Eagle: Spread Eagles
The Boy Butter: Ballers
Henrietta Hudson's: House of Pain Master Beat-Downs
The View Bar: Vice Squad

Ref Rick explaining rules to new comers: "No balls in the face!"

View Bar Vice Squad Captain Eric watching games and sizing up the competition

Players ready to go

Boy Butter Baller Steve Osada Charges the line and Paul Burke, league organizer, about to throw and ask "Who's your daddy?"

And of course, The Dodgeball tradition would not be complete without the Gym Bar hosted massive Flip Cub after-game bonanza.

The women of Dodgeball retracting their claws and being all "heeeeey" with one another

Friday, February 22, 2008

Wayne Hoffman Guest Blogs on "Staph, Bath and Beyond"

My friend, writer and activist, Wayne Hoffman was able to attend the NYC Community forum on MRSA, HIV and the talk of Bathhouse Closures last night at the LGBT Center. Because I couldn't be there and because he's a pro in this sort of thing I've let him guest blog. Here's what he has to say:

The Center’s community forum called “Staph, Bath and Beyond” on February 21 left me in a bit of a time warp, since it feels like just yesterday that I was sitting in the center for a community forum on HIV and bathhouse closures. (In reality, that forum was 13 years and about 40 pounds ago.)

The basics: There were about 150 people there, in my rough estimation, mostly (not all) men, mostly (not all) white, mostly (not all) 30s and older.

The trouble with the forum, despite its very catchy name, is that the two subjects it was trying to address are actually mostly separate, and require very different approaches and tones. That was evident last night.

Part I of the forum was about MRSA, the nasty drug-resistant staph infection that’s been making headlines lately – even being (incorrectly) called a new sexually-transmitted epidemic among gay men. Two speakers got up to offer some very useful information about MRSA. Dr. Gary Blick, a physician working in Connecticut, started by asking how many people in the audience had contracted MRSA. Answer: four. He went on to talk about how MRSA is nothing new at all; it’s been around for many years, occasionally showing prevalence in one community or another. About 5 years ago, he noted a surge in MRSA among his (gay male) HIV patients. And indeed, in some places, gay men have had higher prevalence of MRSA than other populations – but we’re not unique in this way. It is also prevalent sometimes among children. Or members of a sports team (the St. Louis Rams, for example). That’s because it’s easily spread by touch – not sex necessarily, but touch. Anyway, some key points:

  • “Drug resistant” doesn’t mean “untreatable.” There are plenty of drugs that can kill MRSA. Bactrim, tetracycline, or some more recent drugs.
  • ”Communicable” does not mean “sexually transmitted.” MRSA is not an STD – you don’t get it from semen, or from any particular sex act. You can get it from a sneeze, casual physical contact, touching a counter-top, sitting on a gym bench, getting a physical exam. So yes, you could get it from a sexual partner while you’re touching, but that’s also true of a cold or strep throat, and that doesn’t make those STDs.
As if to further prove that point, the second speaker was Dr. Melissa Marx [or Marks? Couldn’t find her name on the promotional material], from the Bureau of Communicable Diseases. She presented some early findings from research that the city’s health department has done on MRSA. (This is early info, but still useful.) Looking at MSM (men who have sex with men) who have MRSA and comparing them to a group of MSM who do not have MRSA, the research saw no increase in MRSA based on the number of sex partners the men had, whether they performed certain sex acts, whether they had sex in commercial sex venues, or whether they used drugs – except for crystal. They did find that that the men with MRSA were more likely to have used crystal, to have waited to shower/wash up after sex, and to have attended private sex parties (as opposed to sex clubs or bathhouses). [These last two items seem related to me, since parties taking place in non-permanent spaces are less likely to have showers and a lot of sinks and towels, and are more likely to have surfaces that multiple people share without wiping them down: benches, beds, slings, etc.] Remember, that doesn’t mean that these things cause MRSA, only that they seem to be a common factor among a number of men who have MRSA.

Both docs provided some simple tips for prevention: Wash your hands. Shower/wash up after sex. Don’t share towels or razors. Wipe down equipment – at a gym or a sex club or a bathhouse – after you use it, preferably with an alcohol wipe. And sit on your towel when you’re using that kind of equipment at the gym or a sex club. In short, use good hygiene. Everywhere.

Part I of the forum was quite calm. Good information, no hysteria, good questions, honest answers. Quite useful.

But the next part of the evening was quite different. You might recall the news last month that the NYC Dept. of Health was talking about closing down all bathhouses and sex venues in the city. This move is being considered allegedly because of an uptick in HIV infections among young MSMs in recent years, especially among men of color. (I’m not saying the uptick is only alleged – that uptick seems real and troubling – I’m saying the city’s motivation is only “alleged” to be connected to this situation. More on that below.)

Now, a lot of us in the audience had been through this before, in the 1980s and again in the 1990s. [Shameless plug: I co-edited a 1996 book about the 1990s crackdown on sex spaces, called Policing Public Sex: So we came with a personal history in this discussion, and there was a lot more emotion and energy in this second part of the forum. [Second shameless plug: I also wrote a 2006 novel about AIDS activism and the battles over bathhouse closures in NYC during the 1990s, called Hard.

Dr. Perry Halkitis, from NYU’s Center for Health Identity, began by presenting a series of points about why the city’s proposal to close sex spaces was counterproductive from an HIV-prevention standpoint. Some of his points: Closing sex spaces means we can’t test different types of interventions to effect change in how people have sex. The city’s current approach to sex spaces makes no distinction between safer sex and risky sex. (More on this below.) We need a new paradigm for HIV prevention that takes desire into account when we talk about risk. We need to talk about people, not just viruses, to make new models for prevention. Sex venues have cultural meaning for many gay men. Closures treat gay men as irresponsible vectors of disease, and focus on the risk-takers exclusively. Most of my novel comes out of very similar ideas, so Halkitis and I are very much on the same page here.

Then the fireworks began. Dr. Monica Sweeney, an assistant commissioner from the city’s Dept of Health, got up and announced quite plainly and clearly that she was there (unannounced, meaning she wasn’t on the posters for the event) to put the media rumors to rest: The DOH has no plans to close commercial sex venues, she said. Period.

Unfortunately, her very clear opening statement turned out to be, well, not quite true. Or, to put it another way, total BS. Upon questioning from the audience, the truth eventually emerged: that basically, the media rumors she was there to dispel were, in fact, completely accurate. The internal DOH memo that the media had reported on, laying out four possible policies under consideration at DOH regarding sex venues – including closing them altogether – was, in truth, exactly that: an internal memo laying out four possible policies the DOH is considering – including closures. So when Sweeney opened by saying that the DOH did not have plans to close commercial sex spaces, what she actually meant – as she later, finally, clarified after repeated questions from the audience – is that the DOH is indeed considering closing commercial sex spaces but they haven’t made that decision final yet. So, technically true, they don’t have any plans right now. But the plan is still being considered, and hasn’t been ruled out.

Now, you might think that the audience, having been through similar forums before regarding the DOH and public sex, had some serious questions for Sweeney. And you’re right. Some people thought the tone of some questioners was “hostile,” but as someone who’s been through these things before, I can say it was, for the most part, quite level-headed and civil. Questions were tough and skeptical, but only a few seemed rude or out of line.

One person pointed out that if the city was truly worried about young men in NYC (MSMs under 30 have seen their HIV infection rates climb 33% in the past 5 years – and those 13-19 have seen a 50% increase – while older men’s rates have continued to decline…and the numbers are particularly bad for young men of color), then it didn’t make any sense to target bathhouses, whose (largely older, whiter) patrons overwhelmingly fall into demographic groups whose HIV infection rates are not rising at all. One guy got up and asked how Sweeney could say they weren’t closing sex spaces when in fact they have recently closed the two main sex clubs in Manhattan (The Studio and El Mirage – although bathhouses and transient sex parties still exist). One person talked about a successful HIV testing program taking place at a bathhouse – a program that has even managed to reach younger men who cruise on the Internet, who come to the baths just for a free HIV test – and noted that without sex spaces, we’d have no way to reach these men at all. A promoter of a poz sex party talked about the value of sero-sorting and “breaking the cycle” of AIDS. Catherine Hanssens from the Center for HIV Law and Policy said that the first thing we must do if we care about prevention is revoke the regulation in the state’s sanitary code that prohibits safer sex (fucking with a condom, oral sex) in public venues. I think her point, that revoking this regulation is a non-negotiable first step for any discussion of HIV prevention in New York, is dead on. Until this regulation is removed, I think it’s futile to talk about any kind of realistic or nuanced prevention efforts in public spaces, because those spaces will always be threatened with closure, regardless of what they do or permit in their establishments. Get rid of that statute, and then we can talk about how to make these spaces safer – whether through more relevant DOH regulations, community-based interventions, organization-based informational campaigns, or campaigns for personal responsibility. (Remember, saying you oppose wholesale closure of all sex spaces – from jack-off clubs to baths to fetish parties -- is NOT the same as saying you want zero interventions or regulations or rules of any kind by anyone.) Exactly how to promote HIV prevention in sex spaces is, in itself, a contentious and interesting debate, but we really can’t get to that point until this ridiculous regulation gets the ax.

Anyway, the discussion got fairly heated here. And while Dr. Barbara Warren from the Center tried to keep things moving, there wasn’t enough time (since we’d spent an hour on a very informative, but, as I said, almost entirely separate discussion of MRSA) to finish properly. We heard briefly from Terry Evans from the Positive Health Project, but never got to hear from GMHC’s Sean Cahill, or the party promoters who were supposed to speak. And Catherine Hanssens only got to make her point in about 30 seconds. Plus, Sweeney left after taking a few questions, so she missed the rest of the discussion that she really needed to hear.

In a somewhat surreal moment, Warren started to wrap up by talking about some of the issues that had been discussed that evening, and she said something about how one person that night had gotten up to say that if he wanted to have unprotected anal sex with a hundred people then that was his right and we should keep the laws off his body. Unfortunately, nobody had said anything remotely of the sort. A cute, nerdy bear from the Radical Homosexual Agenda was sitting behind me and he took the words out of my mouth, shouting, “Who said that?! Nobody said that!” Alas, Warren, too, must have been having a flashback to an earlier forum a decade or two ago. (If, in fact, these words were ever uttered in such a stark fashion. I have my doubts. But that’s another story for another day.)

So what did we get out of all this? Well, first, even though the name wouldn’t have been as cute, this forum should have been split in two: One quite informative educational session on MRSA, and the other more of a community discussion, back and forth, about HIV and public sex, with more voices being heard, and the DOH actually sticking around for the whole thing.

And second: Despite Sweeney’s initial insistence that the media rumors about the DOH’s plans to close sex spaces are untrue, they are, in fact, completely accurate. The DOH has not decided to close sex spaces – they are also considering other options, including looking at other cities’ more successful models of prevention in public spaces, which would, again, require getting rid of our rotten sanitary code regulation. But the DOH has also not decided NOT to implement the closure option, despite the fact that such a move would be counterproductive from a prevention standpoint, according to most of the experts who were there last night. (Opposing closure doesn’t mean that you champion and romanticize these spaces and think they’re perfect and have no connection to health issues; we’re talking about HIV prevention here, and what the best approach to sex spaces is from a prevention standpoint. You can find 50 different models in 50 different cities that all have some measure of prevention success, without mandating wholesale closures.)

Crap, now I really do feel like it’s 1995 all over again. I’m going to go put on a Smashing Pumpkins CD and wait for Melrose Place to come on.

No Snow/Snow

11th Street
11th St. with Snow - before it turns over to rain- which it has already :(

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Email Inbox: My Story

I wouldn't be posting this if I didn't feel it was important to share or if I didn't feel it might help others in the same situation.

About a week or so ago I received an email in my inbox entitled: "My Story." I didn't recognize the email address or anything about the sender but upon opening it I knew immediately what is was going to be about. Below is a story of a young man struggling with the idea of coming out who has found my blog and reached out to me to be a sounding board and/or offer advice.

Of course, with his permission, and all names and locations changed, is his and our story:

Dear Eric,

It took me a lot of time and courage to finally send you an e-mail. My name is ---- and since a couple of months, I struggle with mixed and confused feelings. I hear you thinking why does someone e-mail me with his problems who I don’t even know? It is because you don’t know me, I wanted to tell you my story. I hope it isn’t too long, because I never told it to anyone. I want to apologize for my English in advance, because it is not always perfect.

For a couple of months, I have been reading your inputs on Bilerico. A couple of weeks ago, I came across your blog. I read it on one night. Now, I visit it almost daily to see what you are writing about. Your stories as an activist on Bilerico and as a person on your own blog are an enormous support and an inspiration for me, because I sometimes recognize myself in your stories. I want to tell my story to someone, because I don’t know what to do. No one knows I’m gay, no one even thinks it…

My name is ----, I’m 21 years old and I live in ------. When I was 12, I discovered I had feelings for boys. Innocent feelings I thought at first. When I saw a boy on the street I sometimes thought: he is good-looking. After years of doubt I started to think about the meaning of these feelings. Do I only find boys attractive or do I also fall in love with them?

The answer came on my 19th birthday. I started my studies. There was this boy in another class who was sometimes in our group to follow the same lessons. His name was -----. He was more than just cute. I fell in love with him. Each time we were in the same class, I was so nervous not to say something stupid to him so that I would look bad. One day, a good girlfriend of mine, who was also in my class, told me she fell in love with the same guy. Good friends as we were, she always asked me what to do so he would see her and he would also fall in love with her. She was too shy to tell him the truth. I was a great support for her, she told me but one day, she said to me I didn’t realize what was going through her. My heart was broken, I wanted to scream it out, that I do realize what she was feeling. The only difference between our feelings was that mine were impossible. For months I felt useless and depressed. I didn’t know what to do. When ------ wasn’t interested in me or my friend, I was really depressed and felt lonely all the time. Sometimes I thought: how would it be if I was dead tomorrow? Would people miss me? How would they remember me? My daily life was just an illusion.

My second year in college started. My feelings for men were stronger than ever. Girls were my best friends; boys were something unreachable because I was too shy. The only thing I did was looking for pictures of hot men on the Internet. When my girlfriend asked me to visit her MySpace, I made a profile my own just to look at her pictures. My profile didn’t have any photos or information; I just made it to see her pictures. Last summer I discovered that a lot of people had MySpace. Men, who also had feelings for other men. I wasn’t alone in this world. I surfed through many different profiles every day. Never ever, I dared to contact someone. I was too shy to put a picture of myself on the Internet, with “I’m gay” under it.

Now that I’m in my final year, my feelings have become more intense. All my life, I only had a few couple of good friends. I was bullied a lot, because I was really shy and quiet. Especially in my high school years I became very uncertain about myself. That’s why I’m now really glad I still have four wonderful friends, of which one is the best friend I will ever have. Her name is Lily. Unfortunately, I never found the courage to tell them who I really am, afraid to lose them.

Every day I take the bus to school as a normal guy. I make all of my assignments; I help everyone when it is necessary and try to be friendly to everyone. Last week, we played a game during class. Everyone had to write a note about each other how you feel about them. Most people find me a funny and helpful guy. That day, I cried whole night long. No one knows the truth about my true feelings. Everyone always says: -----, we have to find you a good-looking girlfriend… I never respond, because I don’t know what to say. No one even thinks that I’m gay. This thought is what makes it so hard to come out and tell everyone the truth. My parents are very conservative people and my best friend Lily is Catholic. I’m scared when I will tell them my true feelings; everyone would look different at me for the rest of my life.

I often feel depressed, because I can’t be who and what I’m. I often help people with their problems so that I wouldn’t think about mine. Last summer I worked for whole three months (while 23 days is the maximum according to the law) every single day in a store, just to have different thoughts on my mind. Last Christmas I worked on December 24th and 31st from 7 am till 5 pm, just not to feel lonely and depressed.

This is my story until today. I’m glad I could write it down, even if it is for someone who doesn’t know me. I’m completely lost with myself. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to scream on the streets “look at me I’m gay”. I just want to live a life of a normal guy. One side of me has had enough of living in a lie, the other side is too afraid of the truth. Even writing this e-mail cost me a few tears.

Here is my response: I told this person that I'm no professional, that I don't even consider myself to be an "activst." I just care and want my brothers to be healthy, happy and unapologetic. Pieces of this response were snipped for sake of keeping his identity private.

..You're not alone and you even seem to know this yourself. You may be surfing through Myspace and hitting upon men who identify as gay and think to yourself "oh how I wish I could be out like them!" But it is very important, if not most important that you realize everyone has a coming out story and not one of us planned that this would be our lives. That when we were growing up as innocent children it never occurred to us that at some point in our adult life would we have to "come out" and lead the life that follows. It just is- but we've all been there, we've all come out, and it just depends on how YOU choose to do so.

Coming out doesn't mean identifying with the gay community and coming doesn't mean wrapping yourself in a rainbow flag. Coming out doesn't even mean coming out to close friends or family. Coming out just means coming out to yourself, accepting who you are, the good and the bad and taking it from there.

It seems as though you've already accepted the fact that you're gay. That's great- that's a wonderful first step. You've reached out to me and vented your feelings and story to me (a gay man) which is another great step. The next step is exploring life at whatever speed you feel is best for you. This whole process, coming out and coming to terms with yourself is all about YOU. Never, ever, apologize for the way in which you choose to come out. This is about you and your feeling of comfort and security. If you find certain things to be overwhelming and stressful- so be it...Take some time, take some breaths, think about what it is you want to accomplish about your coming out and take it from there. I can't stress enough how much coming out is about YOU and YOU only. You don't have to answer to anybody but yourself. Take your time, do it at your own pace. You'll see sooner or later that it's not as difficult as you may now feel it is.

You're doing the right thing. It's ok for you to be experiencing fear and depression and loneliness. Coming out is a tremendous thing to overcome! Do not EVER sell yourself short. ALWAYS give yourself credit. If there is one thing I want you to feel- it is respect for yourself. You are entitled to a happy and healthy life and if that's what you want, then that is what you shall receive. Keep in mind that you are as important and as worthy as anybody else. You are not doing anything wrong and you are not bad in any way, whatsoever, no matter who says what!

You are going through something that some people will never experience in their life. And I cannot tell you how much this suffering will aid you in the future. It will build you with character and confidence. It may hurt now but it will be something you are going to be fortunate of in the future. In America we have a saying that goes, "What does not kill you, makes you stronger" and that statement rings very true to my experience coming out. I am so happy that I went through such terrifying pain of realizing I am gay at a young age because now I know I can handle most anything. I am prepared and ready to take on all the challenges life may throw at me because when i was just a young teen- I had already felt as though I had seen and experienced the worst. I am a strong man. In health, mind and soul because of this pain. Appreciate it, but also, defeat it.

Go slow. Go at your own pace. Remember, coming out is up to YOU and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. But I can assure you, once you come out, slowly but surely, you will feel better with each day and night that you live from now on. I say go meet that friend you've been chatting with on myspace. You don't have to meet him at a gay event or a club or a bar or anything like that. You can meet for coffee or a walk with no other agenda then talking and getting to know one another. Remember, (I going to say it again) this is about YOU and YOUR comfort, nothing more, nothing less. Do what makes you feel comfortable, happy, prideful and relaxed.

And I will ALWAYS be here if you ever need me- for anything. PLEASE do not hesitate to contact me in the future.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What to do when the Flu

After waking up at 1pm, I....

  • Tried to read further into this new book I bought called Dancing with Tina, by far the most brutal and explicit account of a gay man trapped within Crystal Meth addiction I've ever come across.
  • Updated my Facebook Profile. When I said I might be "over it" two posts down- um, apparently, I'm far from it.
  • Made soup- ate half the can- thought I was going to vomit.
  • Answered emails and IM'd with Josh Sparber
  • Spent way too much time cruising BigMuscleBear (NSFW) and after looking at so many swoonful men asked, if there are Shiites and Sunnis, why can't there be "swoonies?" Then I watched this Lazy Bear Weekend video and definitely plan on going this year.
  • Ate the rest of my soup- didn't think I was going to vomit- but I did sweat.
  • Waiting for Eric, The Roommate to come home so I can throw things at him while he peacefully tries to read The New Yorker.
I am however, totally feeling better.

Total Lunar Eclipse

So I've dodged the flu bullet all winter and yesterday it finally struck my core. I'm sick and running a fever and up-chucking left and right. I miss my Mommy.


There is a Total Lunar Eclipse tonight I'd thought I'd pimp out:

On Wednesday, February 20, 2008, beginning at 7:01 p.m. PST, the moon will move completely under the shadow of the Earth in a total lunar eclipse. The eclipse can be seen in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Hope for good weather because the next total lunar eclipse won't happen until December 2010.

The moon will be completely under Earth's shadow for about 50 minutes. During this time, the moon won't be completely obscured because of indirect light coming from the Earth's atmosphere. But the moon will appear to change colors from light gray to orange or deep red. The shade depends on the amount of dust and clouds in the Earth's atmosphere.

For you West Coasters the eclipse starts at 7:01PM, Mountain region 8:01, Central 9:01 and us amazing East Coasters 10:01.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Whole Facebook Thing

I signed up on Myspace several years ago when there just a few thousand members. Yes, I feel cooler than you- so don't worry about it. I enjoyed myspace and I'll admit to having become, at one point, a myspace-myspacer. Meaning I wrote code, embedded videos, changed my background and commented up and down on my friends pages with toilet humor, off-color remarks and the vicious sarcastic wit for which my generation has finessed and have now become utterly lost within.

But maybe a year ago, or so, Myspace started getting plagued with bugs and viruses. I'd sign in one day and realize over the weekend I was spamming people with free ringtone offers and dating websites. My friends would send comments which begged of me to "click here" and the next thing I knew I was spamming everyone's comment section with things that said, "Oh my god I can't believe you went to high school with HER?!." And the link to "her" was actually a virus. So annoying, really.

Facebook has been around as long as Myspace but when Facebook started it was this elitist who's-who social networking source for ONLY Ivy League going students. Just ask Eric The Roommate, Mr. UPENN himself, and he'll tell you all about it. Needless to say he looooooved it. But as Facebook started opening up to the general public I was hesitant about starting all over again and dealing with the tediousness of filling out yet another profile, adding my friends, searching for people I haven't seen in years, etc..I just wasn't up for it. Also Facebook didn't have any of the pizazz myspace did. It was a stark white page with a lot of text everywhere. However, Eric The Roommate hipped me to the idea that these days social networking sites are about efficency and applications and not animated gifs that twinkle at you. It's no longer about the forever lame "THaNkS 4 tHe ADd" commenting and more about the "play scrabbulous with me!" Facebook is taking the world by storm so I suppose he's right. But do I really care about what all my friends are doing at that exact moment or if my friend's vampire took 4 points away from my other freind's zombie? What?

In any case, I'm on Facebook. I haven't really set up a profile yet and may never really take it seriously because whether it's myspace or facebook, I think I'm over the whole thing anyway. So..poke this! But yes (shrug) I do like to play scrabbulous.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Way We Raise Our Gays

Here in America we accept that homosexuality exists but nobody wants to talk about it. If you're gay, it's a "figure it out for yourself" type of thing because there still, even in 2008, seems to be a fear that if you talk about homosexuality you might cause a younger person to be gay. Is anyone willing to admit that this silence might be damaging? Is this really how we want to raise our kids -- in a world of denial and make-believe where questions disappear if you ignore them?

For instance: Kids are coming out at younger and younger ages these days. However, in this country by the time a child has the ability to look, listen and learn they've already discovered how our nation treats and accepts those who are gay: not well. I am sure there are many parents out there who are supportive of their child and the lifestyles they lead- wonderful, but a far greater majority casually sling around the word fag, trickling down to kids on the playground, teach boys that to be a "man" you play sports, know what competition is and certainly don't cry. There is no room for sensitivity for the American male child.

We all know how the religious right and conservatives feel about homosexuality. That it's an indecent, immoral and sinful way to be or live. There's no room for fags in sports and if you are gay, you better keep your mouth shut about it! Hell, one of our stay at home moms just said, in response to gay-marriage, "This lifestyle is devastating to those in it and devastating to those around them. In every other area, we work to prevent unhealthy behavior, not sanction it with the force of law.”

Great- so let's apply this to the 12, 13, 14, or 15 year old kid who is realizing they have same-sex attraction. Not only do they have to battle themselves and the realization they are not like the majority of their peers but then they battle the idea of identity themselves. We have authority figures telling us that what we're feeling is wrong, bad and sinful. By the time this youth comes out and forms an identity he/she already has a tremendous amount of baggage when all the other youths are simply living their lives to no abandon.

If a child is particularly beaten down- by their church, their parents, their school or their peers when they come out the baggage is that much heavier. As they approach adulthood it would be common and understandable if they carry feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing and general depression. Is this what we want? All you Christians who believe you're speaking FOR Jesus- do you really think Jesus himself would want this? Whole populations of unhealthy, unhappy kids who go on to lead unhappy and unhealthy lives. This is not because we're gay. It's because YOU can't accept it. Wouldn't you suppose this world would be a better place if children were to feel comfortable with who they are and then approach adulthood in that way?

Then, while living adulthood, the gay male and female are regarded as having socially irresponsible lives. All we do is drink, drug, party and have sex, right? We've all heard the rhetoric before. But let's take a look at where gay men and women are allowed to exercise their freedom. There's certainly no public atmosphere where gays and lesbians can congregate out and open, instead there are only nightclubs, bars and other venues which mix booze with our much needed liberation and socialization. Is this OUR fault? Or is it a product of how this nation accepts and treats gay people? Out of sight, out of mind. The drinking age in this nation is 21. In order for a gay youth to meet, mingle and socialize legally he/she would have to wait until they are 21 in order to feel this liberation when their straight peers have been socializing in appropriate and healthy atmospheres all along.

Yes, of course there are organizations and non-profits everywhere allowing safe havens and healthy meeting areas but I'll be honest in saying that when I was a closeted gay teen trying to make my way through the halls of my high school and desperately awaiting the freedom that graduation would offer, going to my local community center to meet other gay and lesbian youths was about as appealing as going to a Hebrew school dance. Lame, cheesy and just not me. Is it any wonder that the Christopher St. kids are hanging on the street, outside of the bars and clubs and not in the "community center?"

If you're straight, religious and/or conservative and think that gay people or the gay community is a mess understand this is YOUR fault, your doing, your upbringing and not ours. We're just trying to be ourselves, getting through life just as you would- yet we have to lug YOUR baggage around as if it were our own. If you keep it up, certain trends are bound to continue, certain trends like...oh, let's just say High School Shootings.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

"A Union As Solid As Any"
By Artist: Michael F. Brown

Monday, February 11, 2008

Crocker Knows What's Up

You can file this up under "Bottled Up Angst."

So here's this Chris Crocker guy again. You remember him? You know, the "Leave Britney Alone" guy? The guy that it was so funny to laugh at for his effeminacy and his undying support for Britney Spears.

Well, I've always been a fan of Chris Crocker and this goes waaaay before the whole Britney thing. About the time of the hair flip skit. I think he's funny, outrageous, off-the-wall silly, campy, talented but most of all, I find him courageous. Yeah that's right- he's courageous. This kid who goes by the alias Chris Crocker lives/lived in the South and unfortunately was too effeminate to hide himself. So instead of throwing himself into being shy and staying out of the mainstream he thrust himself out there with a "you don't like it- fuck you" attitude, "I'm still going to be funny," and flaunted his creativity and personality.

Then you have all these people mocking him for who he is- bashing him for being none other than his true self. And then you have people- gay men, bi men, married men (who suck dick) who sit and and like to say, "It's your drag queens and your leather men and the fags who ruin the pride events, who take down the rest of the community with them, who make me feel ashamed to live as a gay man!" Well, you know what? You fucking cowards- fuck you. We need you like a hole in the head. The real men of this community stand up for who they are and what they believe in while empowering others to be just as healthy and honest as they are. So you want to bash someone like Crocker for being out there, for being queeny? Fine. But ask yourself, what kind of balls do you have?

Testify, Crocker

Back to Work


Friday, February 8, 2008

Happy Friday

The amazing view from my office: New York, New York baby!

Oh and By the Way....

I'm a 3. Eric, The Roommate complained he was 7ish lately. And you?

Mattachine Party

Last night was Julius' Bar Mattachine Party
Great night, Great party and oh were the people out.

Randy Jones (The Cowboy from Village People) and Madame

Acid Betty (left) and young drag protege (right)

Can't Even Deal

OMGSO over it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Three Shelves

I got out of work earlier than expected and Wayne wasn't available for another hour and a half. I headed out of my office, got on the subway and eventually jumped off at West 4th St. figuring I'll slum around the West Village until he gets home. The weather was unusually warm and a light drizzle would come and go as if Mother Nature herself could not decide upon her mood. The city is out. People are getting home, going to dinner and music plays out from the restaurants and onto the streets. I sucked the city in deeply through my nostrils and headed in an aimless direction into the depths of the West Village.

Call it instinct or a natural gravitational pull but I always find myself on some end of Christopher St. The streets narrow and the boutiques hip and artistic. Rainbow flags fly and neon signs blip and buzz. As Manhattan changes again and again it always seems as though this part of the city is, and always will be, quaint and unique. Narrow tree lined streets, old and gorgeous brownstones and a feeling of vibrant history rattling beneath the pavement.

In the distance I notice The Oscar Wilde Bookshop. Actually, I don't notice the little independent bookstore because it blends in with the rest of the buildings and boutiques but I notice the giant rainbow flag waving outside. Having been there before I know that's the calling card of the bookstore, letting everyone know that despite it's size, it's there. Colorful, loud and proud. It's the only queer focused bookstore in the city and one of the only few surviving independent bookstores that has yet to be gobbled up by the corporate book and music malls.

The inside is quiet and clean and you can always expect to hear some acoustic music playing. Dylan, Cat Stevens, Indigo Girls, Ani DiFranco... A smooth green carpet matches well to the light brown bookshelves filled with paper back and hard cover books. Dangling from many of the shelves are yellow tags alerting customers to staff picks and critic's choices. There are never more than 5 customers in the store at one time. Today there is only one. I'm happy I saw the store in the distance, it reminded me to pick up a copy of James Baldwin's "Giovanni's Room" for the first meeting of the book club I recently joined.

I wasn't able to grab the book right away because the section of fiction I needed to pull it from was being occupied by a seemingly frantic and excited young lady pulling out books left and right, top shelf, bottom shelf, flipping through the pages, reading backs, studying the price, compiling piles. I didn't mind waiting and looking at the new arrivals but I couldn't help but wonder what this girl needed or why her interest in so many books. I watched her for awhile. She was nearly out of breath. She would take a pick from the pile she created, study the cover, flip to the back and judge whether or not to put it back on the shelf. "What is she doing," I thought to myself. Judging from the level of stress I saw her putting herself through I could only suppose that whatever it was she needed carried great importance. "A research paper? A thesis?" I shrugged and continued to browse the selections.

Holding a book in the air and showing it to the cashier the young woman asked in a hard accent and broken English, "What about dis vone? Will I like dis vone?" The store clerk advised her there are others she would like more and left the counter to assist her search. As the store clerk approached, the young woman said, "There's just so much! Where I am from there are only three shelves...Just three..."

Upon hearing this my breath caught itself in my throat and my arm grew goosebumps. "Just three shelves," I said to myself. I understood immediately this girl's frantic search and how important it was to her. I waited until the store clerk escorted the girl to another section and grabbed my book off the wall of fiction, catered specifically, to me and my people. I looked around the room. This whole book store, for me. Everything from fiction to non-fiction, biography to auto-biography, gay to lesbian, bisexual to trans, fantasy and reality, porn to prude- everything is here and it's an entire store. Maybe just one store with this specific focus but any store in this city has more than just three shelves!

I hung around the bookstore checking out other sections keeping an eye and ear on the girl and the store clerk. I wanted to know where she was from, what country or place was she visiting from that only allowed her three shelves. I wasn't granted any of that information but hearing what I already heard was enough for me to wish her the best search possible. She stood in front of me paying for her books. Almost 100 dollars in total. A pile that would keep her busy for months, if not a year, and will be with her for a lifetime. Having a few extra dollars left over she asked the store clerk, "What rainbow things you have else?" "Well," the store clerk responded, "we don't have too much this time of year, more in the summer, but here take this bracelet." The young girl took the rainbow colored bracelet and slipped it over her hand and secured it over her wrist. "Oh tank you," she said overjoyed, placing her hand over the bracelet and smiling.

After she left I said to the store clerk, "Wow. Only three shelves, and here we have this entire bookstore. It just goes to show- despite the amount of work we still have have ahead of us, how much we already take for granted."
"Yes," the store clerk responded, frowning, "And I'm not even sure you can find more than three shelves in other places in this very country. I'm not sure if Montana, Idaho, Kansas or North Dakota offers much of a difference..."

I shook my head, realizing the impact of what the store clerk was saying. I thanked the sales clerk for the books and headed out of the store and into the West Village, onto the very street where 39 years ago a group of people stood up, said "we're not going to take this anymore" and have allowed the rainbow flags to fly, without apology, ever since.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Consume Your Culture

Urban Molecule is live! Writer/Editor/Thinker, Christopher De La Torre, has created a space where fellow writers, artists, photographers and thinkers can exhibit their talent and ask questions urging us to look at the world differently and feel something new. The site begs of us to simply, "consume your culture." Ask questions, share ideas, change perspectives. Urban Molecule promises to be a hub of creative depth, artistic and social networking and a source of unyielding wonderment and curiosity.

Consume. Your. Culture: write, create, blog, produce, photograph

From creator De La Torre:

"Until we ask them, questions are invisible, and progress goes nowhere. Think about molecules. They’re invisible, too, and as the basis of everything in the material world, molecules show us how important invisible can be. That’s why Urban Molecule’s mission is to find those invisible artists — the molecules — whose work makes us ask questions that matter. Urban Molecule is you.

I see Urban Molecule as a community waiting to happen. It's been conceived. Now it's in the oven. As of today it's mainly about unknown artists, but I'm hoping it will grow to include politics, philosophy and the life sciences. Answers are downplayed. This zine is all about questions. Sort of an incubator for new ideas. Open to everyone. A place where the words "smart" and "intellectual" don't have to be so scary. is the actual zine - a new issue with new content goes live every three months - while the "consume your culture" blog ( is a weekly, sometimes daily thing. THINKTANK, the UM Interview Series, is featured there the first and third Tuesday of every month, and we'll be hosting regular column writers as well. Readers are encouraged to leave comments. UM also has its own gallery at FLICKR -- photos from readings, conceptual art and contributor photoshoots. It's going to be fun.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


For those of you who don't know the Mattachine Society was the first official gay group in history. The first group met in Los Angeles on November 11, 1950. This is 19 years before Stonewall and 20 before the first gay pride March/Rally. Their focus was to,

"1. Unify homosexuals isolated from their own kind; 2. Educate homosexuals and heterosexuals toward an ethical homosexual culture paralleling the cultures of the Negro, Mexican and Jewish peoples; 3. Lead the more socially conscious homosexual to provide leadership to the whole mass of social deviates; and 4. Assist our people who are victimized daily as a result of our oppression."
Today, Julius' Bar in NYC is probably the least known gay bar on the island. Tucked away on a quiet corner in the West Village this bar doesn't attract the young, the hip or the latest in gay trends. But it has one remarkable history and the owner refuses to let this place be consumed by the ever-changing New York. With this in mind, John Cameron Mitchell (yes, Hedwig herself) and pals celebrate this bar and how far we've come with a new night in the old establishment.
"Thank Julius' for Gay Bars. Literally."
PJ DeBoy, John Cameron Mitchell, and Julius' invite you to...


Julius' is one of the oldest bars in NYC, dating back to 1867. It was named Julius' after Prohibition and still retains its gorgeous '50's charcoal decor. Why hasn't the space been converted into a Ralph Lauren outlet like every other mom-and-pop in the West Village? Because the owner of the building recognizes it as a landmark.
A little-known but important milestone in gay history took place there, one that paved the way for the Stonewall Rebellion. On April 21, 1966, (three years to the day after John's birthday ironically. Or not.) the Mattachine Society staged the first civil rights "sip-in". At the time, it was illegal to serve alcohol to "known homosexuals." A group of immaculately-suited men bellied up to Julius' bar and declared, "We are homosexuals and we demand to be served." (a line immortalized by Justin Bond most nights.) Fred MacDarrah captured the historic moment on the slice of celluloid featured on our flyer. (If you look closely you'll recognize key activist Paul Dawson.)

Knowing our crew, Thursday February 7th (9pm on) will likely be known as the first "gulp-in". So put on your high-heeled sneakers, put your toupee on your head and march on down to Julius' for some turntable action by John Cameron "Dear Tic" Mitchell, Amber Martin and PJ DeBoy, spinning hits for queer ears from bygone years. There might just be some special guests who hail from the fateful night!

Oh, did I mention the amazing burgers and cheap drinks?

Calling All Gay Brothers- not bro's, or even brah's

My friend (and neighbor) Cody Lyon writes on the continuing research of whether homosexuality is genetic, biological, environmental, a combo of all three, or simply- a "choice." Although I believe science helps in the understanding of everything, I know I didn't consciously choose anything but am damn happy to be me, regardless.

Over the years, there have been countless theories and studies seeking to find some sort of biological or genetic factor that might play a role in determining sexual orientation. Debate over the validity of such studies and how they might impact the gay community in its quest for acceptance and greater equality has gone on for nearly just as long.

Some proponents of this sort of research hope the results reveal a scientifically conclusive genetic component in homosexuality whereby the hope is that social conservatives and other groups, especially those who call sexual orientation a "choice" might temper or silence some of their criticisms.

Dr. Alan Sanders is one of the researchers working on this cutting-edge--and highly controversial--issue. Sanders is looking for gay brothers--the blood kind, not the "girlfriend" kind.

"We’ve been aiming to get about a thousand pairs of gay brothers," said Dr. Alan Sanders, the lead researcher of an ongoing study at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare Research Institute near Chicago. So far, they’ve recruited about 700 pairs. Parents as well as heterosexual brothers, with the exception of identical twins, are also being recruited for the study, which expects to release findings at the end of this year.

"We’re trying to use genetics as a tool to better understand the development of sexual orientation," said Sanders noting that he and his team of researchers are just as interested in how genetics contribute to someone being straight as well as being gay.

The Not So Golden Ticket

An opinion on the dwindling idea that we might see a Clinton-Obama, Obama-Clinton ticket.

After Thursday’s Democratic debate, CNN’s Carol Costello said there were “heart palpitations” and “ripples of joy” in the glittery Kodak Theater audience at the idea of a Hillary-Obama or Obama-Hillary ticket, after he was gallant with her and she laughed gaily with him.

How could Hollywood not fall in love with Hollywood’s favorite plot? After lots of sparking and sparring, the couple falls into each other’s arms in the last scene.

The would-be matchmakers didn’t seem to know that in Hollywood, couples who have chemistry on screen often don’t like each other off screen, and ones who are involved off screen often don’t have any chemistry on screen.

And so it is with Barack and Hillary. Thursday night was not the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Just a beautiful, dare we say, fairy tale.

Polling Place

Me voting with Eric The Roommate this morning.

Monday, February 4, 2008


I'm ecstatic to be alive during a time when the first woman and black man run for president and make American history. Tomorrow I will join my fellow citizens and vote toward the future of this nation. I am a fan of Clinton and I am a fan of Obama and I think either would make a great President. So, who will get my vote?

  • I have been alive for 26 years- 19 of those years have been lived with a Bush or Clinton in office.
  • This nation is divided. Republicans vs. Democrats. Many who oppose Clinton seem to simply hate her. I don't know why this is, but if she were elected, that hatred would remain, further keeping us, as a nation, divided. You're right. You're wrong. We're tired.
  • Clinton has White House experience. Obama does not. I'm okay with the idea of someone fresh taking office. I like the idea of out with the old, in with the new.
  • Clinton knows what to do on day one. Obama has a vision.
I don't need Clinton's experience to pave the way for Obama to take office in four years. I'm ready for him and change and a new energy, now.

Go Obama. Yes, we can.

Friday, February 1, 2008

NYC Freeze

The wonderful group that is Improv Everywhere executes another sociopathic prank in New York by freezing within the rush-rush crowd of Grand Central Station. Participants were to freeze for 5 minutes at the exact same time. Fantastic!