Thursday, May 29, 2008

Self Destruction and Meth: An Ongoing Problem

Hell I've even said it a few times myself, or maybe just hoped it, "Yeah I don't hear much about Meth anymore. The message is definitely out there so I guess people are finally listening."

I say this despite having lived in LA for two years which taught me that more people are casually using Meth than I thought. I say this despite the fact that I've seen a few friends continue to "recreationally" use even after losing a friend- or friends- in some way or another to Meth. I say this despite the fact that a close friend of mine tried to persuade me that there's doing Meth and than there's doing Meth. To me, doing Meth and doing Meth has always been same thing since nobody begins using Crystal Meth with the hopes they will become an addict.

So why are we still using meth? The answer has to be deeper- it has to go beyond wanting to feel good, or wanting to party or wanting to be uninhibited during sex. There has got to be something within our core, something strong enough that causes us to disregard all the warning signs, all the cautionary tales, and all that we've heard, seen, felt or whomever we've lost. So what it is it then? Can anybody say? Because the truth of the matter is: we all know meth is a terrible, toxic drug yet people who work in the Crystal Meth prevention world haven't seen any decrease in the number of people seeking help from it.

The NY GLBT Center recently held a forum entitled: "Meth Movie Night: Is the Meth/Sex/HIV Problem Over for Gay Men in New York?" and according to the article in Gay City News, "judging by the the comments from the audience and panelists, the answer was an unambiguous no."

Forum: Meth Still a Problem

Speaking at a town hall meeting, filmmaker Jay Corcoran asked, "Why are gay men of all different types and ages still self destructing?"
Corcoran, whose 2007 documentary "Rock Bottom" followed seven gay men as they struggled with crystal meth, was addressing the roughly 50 people who turned out on May 20 at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center.

"What I couldn't believe is that after everything we have gone through as gay men is that really nothing has changed since the '80s," he said. "It filled me with rage. It made me want to pick up my camera."

With an audience filled with former meth users, others who are recovering from sexually compulsive behavior, and some who are dealing with both, much of the two-hour event was taken up with men discussing their personal struggles with meth or sex and their efforts to end behaviors they are uncomfortable with.

The event was titled "Meth Movie Night: Is the Meth/Sex/HIV Problem Over for Gay Men in New York?" and, judging by the comments from the audience and panelists, the answer was an unambiguous no.

Opening the evening, Dr. Frank Spinelli, a physician in private practice, described four of his patients who were dealing with meth. Some were occasional users and others were what he called "functional addicts."

Addiction specialists from the Community Center, the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), the Addiction Institute of New York, and the AIDS group Positive Health Project (PHP) also spoke.

These groups offer harm reduction programs, which aid users in abating the negative effects of drug use without requiring that participants stop using, or abstinence programs in which users stop using. Some, like the Community Center, offer both.

Gay men who use drugs tend to use more than one and that makes the work of these groups more complicated. For many gay men who drink or use drugs, their sex and social lives are entwined with their drinking and drugging.

"Some men are quizzical how are they going to meet other men if they give up drinking or using drugs," said Chris Cochrane, GMHC's coordinator of prevention services for gay men and men who have sex with men.

The groups also work in an environment in which public funding for such services is increasingly being cut and some Americans, gay and straight, favor law enforcement approaches to drug problems.

"I'm astounded by the lack of resources that are out there," said Terry Evans, PHP's public health outreach coordinator. "We are also dealing with a public climate that believes that certain people are not worth it."

Antonio Ruberto, a crystal meth prevention counselor at the Center, said, "There is a dire need for additional money and resources."

While he has not seen a reduction in the numbers of gay men seeking help for meth, Joseph Ruggiero, assistant clinical director at the Addiction Institute, thought the various anti-crystal campaigns have had an impact.

"I feel like, as a community, people have a better sense of what is happening around crystal meth," he said. "The word is certainly out there more than it was before and that word has been strong and very controversial."

The evening's most heated moment came when Robert Brandon Sandor, producer of the sex party Brandon's Poz Party, said the problem was HIV not crystal meth.

"I guess crystal meth is going to be the flavor of the month tonight," he said. "I can look you all in the eye and say you're wrong."

Sandor, whose party caters to gay men who are HIV-positive, is a proponent of serosorting, or the practice of organizing sex partners by their HIV status. His comments were not well received in a room filled with former meth users and those still battling against the drug.
As audacious and bold as Robert Brandon Sandor's comment was, I have to say I can't help but think he might be onto something. Until reading this article, until seeing that quote I never put the two together- that crystal meth lends a hand in helping us forget, at least temporarily, that we live in a time of the incurable sexually transmitted disease, HIV. Maybe that's what it is? Maybe it is just that which pushes us beyond the warnings, dangers and examples and into using meth with a shrug, or a smile, or a sigh, or a slam. Who is to say? Who is to argue him?

Is it so far-fetched to think those who choose to use meth, despite the ubiquitous dangers, do so because it helps us forget who we are, the time we live in, the risks associated with sex and helps us become the uninhibited, sexually charged, sexually relaxed, sexually empowered people we so yearn to be?

Below a clip from Mr. Jay Corcoran's film: Rock Bottom

Big Apple Dodgeball in Time Out New York

Time Out New York's May 29th- June 4th 2008 issue:

Enduring ACT UP: Watching the ACT UP Oral History Project

Talk about a sit-in!

Deb Levine went back to school 4 years ago to get her PhD in Performance Studies. Now for her dissertation she is writing on ACT UP specifically focusing on how people took care of each other back in day of demonstrations and devastation. Levine's main focus is on "the ways in which those relationships became an ethical and political practice -- a topic that is not often foregrounded in other histories of the organization."

As part of her research Levine is watching the entire Act Up Oral History Project from start to finish which will take 10hours every day for 17 days. The kick-off begins on Friday May 30th and goes through Sunday June 15th. The screenings begin at 10AM every morning and will end around 10PM every evening. Visit Levine's blogsite for details or peep the info below.

I will definitely be stopping by for many of these interviews. I strongly recommend stopping by and watching the interviews with Deb and whomever else might be sitting-in with her. If you're a young person or someone interested in who and what this whole ACT UP thing is, I urge you to attend some screenings.

Complete Schedule of interviews and screenings here on Deb's Blog.
Official ACT UP Oral History Website

Details are below including a letter from Deb Levine:

As part of my research I have been watching the interviews recorded by the ACT
UP Oral History Project. Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard have most generously
made the archive accessible to me for the past few years, but every time I watch
a tape, I have an overpowering urge to turn to someone next to me and debate
many of the points made, add information to the story or just get someone else's
reaction. It feels wrong to watch this archive by myself and then try and get
in touch with some of you to discuss your interviews.

Please watch this archive with me. I will begin on May 30, 2008 at 10 am, and
watch each interview, in order, everyday, for approximately 12 hours each day,
until I have seen everyone recorded to date. Stay as long as you'd like. See
yourself, watch someone else, come alone or bring as many people as you desire.
Invite others, invite strangers. Forward this invitation to anyone you think
would like to attend (especially people who are ACT UP-curious) and post it on
the internet. Come often. Keep me company. Bring food and drink. Bring
anything you have in your archives that you think I should see or read (don't
leave originals with me – but I will take a copy of anything you think is
important). I want to hear your comments– this is a chance to respond to the
archive. I will have a computer available so you can jot down your thoughts on a
blog set up for these screenings.

Each day's series of screenings will begin at 10am and end around 10 pm for
seventeen days, from May 30th to June 15th in Manhattan at NYU, 721 Broadway,
6th floor in the Performance Studies department. You can check the Enduring ACT
UP blog: for the approximate time and day of a
particular interview. Plan to attend specific interviews about or just come and
randomly watch with me if you have some free time. Everyone is welcome. To get
to the 6th floor, enter the building in the lobby and show the guard a picture
identification. If you have any questions, please contact me at
debra.levine@nyu.ed. I look forward to watching with you.


Deb Levine

Reciting Vows

My friend Jay Blotcher whom I plan to see The Cockettes with on Monday hipped me to the these three wowing queer perspectives on same sex marriage issue. Articles are from The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Alternet & Bilerico Project.

Activists: Something Lost In Fight for Gay Marriage
By Michael Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 31, 2004; Page A03

NEW YORK -- Some days, as he watches gay men button their tuxes and lesbians slip into wedding gowns, gay rights activist William Dobbs feels like screaming.

"Some gay activist in California called for mass civil disobedience until we get the right to marry," Dobbs said, his voice growing louder. "God! What could be more dreary?"

Dobbs has marched on the front lines of the gay liberation movement for three decades, and has not a closeted bone in his body. He has been arrested and spat on. But he never imagined his battles for sexual liberation would shore up the most conservative of social institutions: marriage.

"Our movement has become about lusting for weddings and lavender picket fences," he said. "It's so embarrassing -- I feel like turning in my gay card."

The gay rights activists and theorists and feminists who critique the campaign from the left are the voices less often heard in the battle over gay marriage. These critics are not opposed to gay marriage -- none would deny the emotional tug of marriage for tens of thousands of gay couples. But they are mortified at the fate of a revolution pasteurized. They wonder what happened to championing sexual freedom and universal health care, and upending patriarchy?

As the gay revolution moves from leather bars and ACT UP sit-ins to the
marriage registry at Bed Bath & Beyond, the middle-class makeover can be disorienting. Jim Eigo, a radical gay rights activist, framed the dilemma a few years back: "What's the use of being queer if you can't be different?"

James Wagner, 63, a bearded, retired insurance executive and longtime gay rights activist, rode the subway from his apartment in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan down to City Hall a week back to wave a placard at a rally for gay marriage. He watched couples yearning to exchange vows, and he was undeniably moved -- and deeply uneasy.

"I thought to myself: 'This is right. This should be their right to express their love as they like,' " Wagner said from his apartment, which he shares with his partner of 12 years. "But marriage is the way that government exerts social control. I'm uncomfortable supporting it. I'm interested in cha
nging society, not assimilation."

Against such arguments, however, falls the weight of political reality.

When the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in favor of gay marriage, and President Bush voiced support for a proposed constitutional amendment barring such marriages, the battle lines joined. As rank-and-file gay couples descended by the thousands on city halls in San Francisco; New Pa
ltz, N.Y.; and Portland, Ore., to take their marriage vows and toss bouquets into the air, the leaders could trot into the chapel after them -- or get out of their way.

"There is the shock of finding ourselves arguing for something that the gay revolution was an attack on," said the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tony Kushner, whose play "Homebody/Kab
ul" is being performed in the District. "But enfranchisement of citizens is an enormous part of what we struggled for when we took to the streets 35 years ago."

Richard Goldstein, an executive editor of the Village Voice, has a partner of 24 years. Like many of his out-of-the-closet-and-into-the-streets 1960s contemporaries, he ha
rbors no deep desire to get hitched. But he insists that this should be his decision, not the government's.

"A lot of gay people grew up wanting middle-class lives, including marriage and children," Goldstein said. "They had to make a painful choice to acknowledge being gay and letting go all those hopes and desires. Now they realize they can have it all and that's very moving to watch."

The gay liberation movement came of age in the late 1960s as gay men and lesbians protested police brutality and the raids on their bars and public baths. Its ethos of sexual freedom and experimentation transformed a culture. The revolution's second act came in the 1980s, when AIDS descended.
Militants formed ACT UP and their demands for more research and affordable medications led to support of universal health care and expanded legal rights.

But as doors opened, gays with more conservative cultural politics and desires stepped through. This is an old radical narrative. Left-wing labor organizers in the 1930s watched three decades later as unionized workers marched in support of the Vietnam War. Aging black liberationists watch the ascension of such conservatives as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

"It's the tension between the liberationists and the assimilationists," said Alisa Solomon, a professor at New York's Baruch College and writer for the Village Voice. "Our side made it possible for more conservative gays to come out of the closet, and when they did they brought a more conservative politics and culture to our movement."

Solomon, like many gay rights activists, argues for redefining all marriages -- homosexual, heterosexual -- as civil unions. This would provide the legal protections that come with marriage, from health care to taxes to adoption, without the emotional and cultural freight. "The queer marriage movement needs a divestment campaign," Solomon wrote in the Village Voice. "The only way we will win is if the state's author
ity to pronounce is stripped from the ministers, rabbis, imams and priests."

But other ACT UP veterans argue for seizing the day. Jay Blotcher, who once served as the group's spokesman, drove from his Upstate New York home to New Paltz to marry his partner. He says gay rights activists should stop worrying and take credit for forcing the cultural opening that led to gay marriage.

"We'll breathe new life into marriage -- God knows it needs rejuvenation," he said. "We're here for the queer makeover."

For now, however, the gay establishment has taken a Hallmark Cards approac
h to the marriage campaign, framing it in middle-class terms. The Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund's "Freedom to Marry" guide advises that gays are "very much like everyone else. They grow up, fall in love, form families . . . they mow their laws, shop for groceries."

Dobbs said he reads this stuff and thinks: What a yawn.

He leafed through the photos of the gay marriages these past weeks. There wasn't a nose-pierced, pink-haired, breast-tattooed transgressive transgender queen to be seen. He has a nightmare vision of what the future holds.

"We're going to just put the photo of our spouse on our desk at the law fi
rm and represent some Fortune 500 corporation," Dobbs said. "We're not going to threaten to rearrange your finances or change your world in any way. That's not my gay movement."

The day we tied the knot, three years ago, City Hall was crowded with brides and grooms waiting their turn in the municipal chapel. But we, two grooms, were there for a domestic partnership, and our only officiant was the brusque woman who took our money. I called us “as married as gays can be in New York,” and at the time, it was true. Later, I recount our vague nuptials for a friend. “So basically,” she replied, “it’s like getting a parking permit.” Well, yes. But now things are looking better here—thanks to the California Supreme Court.

Although New York’s top court, the Court of Appeals, ruled against same-sex marriages in 2006, three months ago, an appellate court in western New York said that New York State must respect valid marriages performed elsewhere. On May 6, the Court of Appeals let that ruling stand, meaning current law says that while I can’t get married in New York, if I get married someplace else, it’s binding here. Canada, Spain, Belgium, and Holland will all let me get married, except that other than Canada, those countries require residency for a marriage to be valid. And Massachusetts quickly tightened its 2004 welcome policy, dredging up an old law stating that if you can’t get married legally in your state, you can’t do it in theirs. It’s a great little trick: New York will honor my Spanish, Belgian, Dutch, or Bostonian wedding, but Spain, Belgium, Holland, and Boston will only let me be legally married if I live there, not in New York. But California has no residency requirement. I can live here, get married there, and still have it count when I land at JFK.

This will mean more travel for Jay Blotcher. He and his partner, Brook Garrett, got a domestic partnership at City Hall in 2000. Then they were civilly united on a hillside in Vermont during the foliage season that year—a step up from the grotty City Hall registration but carrying no weight on this side of Lake Champlain. Their last wedding was in New Paltz, where their participation in Mayor Jason West’s mass-marriage event of 2004 got them on CNN but no more formally wed. “It’s a marriage marathon,” says Blotcher. “And California is next.” Blotcher and Garrett are planning a trip to Santa Monica for sometime after June 14, when the California ruling takes effect.

But Alan Van Capelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, is still going to wait for a legal New York wedding, which he thinks could happen within a year. “It’s terrific they’re doing it in California,” Van Capelle says. “But I love this state so much, I think it owes me a marriage license.”

I’m with him. And a parking permit would be nice, too.

Why One Queer Person Is Not Celebrating California's Historic Gay Marriage Decision
By Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, AlterNet
Posted on May 28, 2008, Printed on May 28, 2008

Editor's Note: To read a different take on the California Supreme Court decision, read Greta Christina's story, Why I Fought for the Right to Say 'I Do'.

Though I am a queer person living in San Francisco, I will not be celebrating the California Supreme Court decision overturning the ban on same-sex marriage. Nor will I join those who say, "I would never choose to get married, but I think everyone should have the right." Sorry, honey -- marriage is depressing, period. That means gay marriage, too. And here's why.

Gay marriage does nothing to address fundamental problems of inequality. What is needed is universal access to basic necessities like housing, health care, food, and the benefits now obtained through citizenship (like the right to stay in this country). Legalized gay marriage means only that certain people in a specific type of long-term, monogamous relationship sanctioned by a state contract might be able to access benefits. While marriage could confer inclusion under a spouse's health-care policy, it does nothing to provide such a policy. Marriage might ensure hospital visitation rights, but not for anyone without a spouse. Marriage may allow for inheritance rights between spouses, but what if there is nothing to inherit?

For a long time, queers have married straight friends for citizenship or health care, but this has never been enshrined as "progress." The majority of queers -- single or coupled (but not desiring marriage), monogamous or polyamorous, jobless or marginally employed -- would remain excluded from the much-touted benefits of legalized gay marriage.

And let's not forget the history of marriage as a legal method for keeping property within specific dynasties (property that originally included women and slaves). In fact, marriage still exists as a central venue for spousal and child abuse -- there's a reason divorce is so popular, and suicide attempts among queer teens so prevalent. If social change is on the agenda, then the privileges associated with marriage need to be challenged, not embraced.

In fact, the push for gay marriage has shifted advocacy away from essential services like HIV education, AIDS health care, drug treatment, domestic violence prevention, and homeless care -- all crucial needs for far more queers than marriage could ever be. And this pattern will undoubtedly continue, as millions of dollars will be spent fighting an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment proposed for the November ballot, at a time when social services are being scrapped across the country, and especially in California.

The spectacle around gay marriage draws attention away from critical issues -- like ending U.S. wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, stopping massive Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids across the country, and challenging the never-ending assault on anyone living outside of conventional norms.

While many straight people are reaping the benefits of gay liberation and discovering new ways of loving, lusting for and caring for one another, the gay marriage movement is busy fighting for a 1950s model of white-picket fence "we're just like you" normalcy. And that's no reason to celebrate.

Editor's Note: For an opposing viewpoint, check out Greta Christina's article "Why I Fought for the Right to Say 'I Do'".

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is most recently the editor of an expanded second edition of That's Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation (Soft Skull Press)

Nice Rims

Alex (aka Bellie Go-Lightly) of the famous Butch and Bellie (two posts down) have a little event planned for June 3rd.

"The Rims," their bike team, are having a fabulous benefit show to raise money for the Breaking the Cycle, an AIDS ride to benefit the LGBT center of New York's HIV/AIDS services.

The evening includes Glenn Marla as host, Phoebe and the Air Force, Butch & Bellie (with Kaylamodda Olive.)
Wilde Turkey and Burlesque! They are also working on a Fugazi covers album which they intend to sell (also to raise money for the Center).

Come on out and support The Rims. You won't believe this show, honestly. It's everything you're looking for in a Lower East Side Summer night.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Day There Was No News

There's something peaceful yet severely haunting about the piece of media below:
Entitled "The Day There Was No News"

Butch & Bellie

Conor and Alex of Butch and Bellie
Last night Eric The Roommate and I went to Glasslands in Brooklyn to hear our friends Conor and Alex perform as their alter egos in the gay rap duo, Butch & Bellie. Butch & Bellie is what happens when two white gay kids from the suburbs spend an entire childhood listening to the Beastie Boys and Run DMC and end up following in their mentor's footsteps.

From the duo's official myspace page:
We are an extremely talented homosexual rap duo - raised in the oppressive suburban enclaves in close proximity to the metropolitan areas known as BALTIMORE and BOSTON. Y'all hear that Alliteration (read: I took prep school vocabulary classes) BL-BL-BL-BL-BL-BL-BL-BLUCK!!!!!! BUTCH & BELLIE. Mad Clever. Mad Gay. HAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!
They're unapologetic, incredibly lewd, campy but most of just good plain musical fun. The show is a hoot! You must ch-ch-check it out. Take a look at the lyrics below. How could you not have fun?

"...Not your average faggots.
Chelsea aint our thing.
We're educated Holly-rated not afraid to sing.
Down with Carrie Bradshaw, yeah it's true,
but you treat us like a Stanford
and you'll end up black and blue.."
(above: Butch & Bellie with guest star Heidi HO in green and their drag fly-girl.)

War On, Sex Over?

3,000 of the 30,000 wounded troops in Iraq are left missing their limbs. Yet often times the detachment doesn't end there. Many wounded vets suffer long term damage, both physically and psychologically, because they are uncomfortable or unable to perform how they used to in the bedroom. Whether they are capable or incapable of sex there are hardly any resources out there that allow individuals or couples to discuss sexual matters openly thus preventing them from finding options which will return them to sexual fulfillment they once had. Now, that's changing, and good for them, because if anyone deserves a great lay- it's those out there that caught in this war.

From AM New York:

WASHINGTON - When B.J. Jackson lost both his legs to an Iraq war injury, his doctors talked about a lot of things, but they didn't mention how it might affect his sex life.

Jackson's less-bashful wife brought it up. But even then the couple didn't get the answers they sought.

Jackson and his wife, Abby, say it's time to get the issue out in the open in both military medical settings and at home. And they got a lot of agreement at a conference Wednesday, billed as the first of its kind, that focused on wounded troops and intimacy with their partners -- in the bedroom and outside it.


Said one soldier, "My feeling is the sooner it's discussed and the more it's discussed, the more chance of having less arguments, less confusion, less frustration," he said in an interview. "The more you communicate among yourselves the better off you'll be, instead of well, 'I'm mad, so I'm just going to roll over."

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hoffman & Leven

No we're not a law firm- but hey, we do talk about gay activism!

The poster I mention is from an art collective called "fierce pussy" who is
"a collective comprised of a group of queer women committed to creating public art and performing direct action around issues of lesbian identity and visibility. fierce pussy was composed of a fluid and often-shifting cadre of dykes. Core members included Pam Brandt, Nancy Brooks Brody, Joy Episalla, Alison Froling, Zoe Leonard, Suzanne Wright, and Carrie Yamaoka. Adamantly low-tech, fast and low-budget, fierce pussy relied on modest resources: old typewriters, found photographs, their own baby pictures, and whatever material they could get donated. Much of the work was produced using the equipment at their day jobs. Emerging during a decade steeped in the AIDS crisis, activism, and queer identity politics, fierce pussy brought lesbian identity directly out into the streets in a manner characterized by the urgency of those years."

The work and art of fierce pussy is on exhibition now at Printed Matter.

To find out more info on Wayne Hoffman click the link.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Weekend Blogging

Eric, the roommate and I have been enjoying a heavy rotation of Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Airplane over the Sea and were listening to that as we sipped Jameson and caught up on the week behind us before parting ways to our respective Friday nights.

It had stopped raining by the time I made it back outside. The air was sticky and the street smelled of a fresh humid shower, bleachy and refreshing. I walked to the L train to take it across town but a block away I saw the glint of yellow in the "Do Not Cross" tape which was pulled tightly across the subway's entrance. The train wasn't running for some reason and I sighed while opening my wallet and begrudgingly putting my hand in the air to hail a cab.

Hell's Kitchen is kind of a pain in the ass to get to from the East Village. There's no direct route and I always, somehow, even when I aim to take a train, find myself taking a cab whenever I go there. "It's just faster I tell myself," yet it never really feels that way and I always have to tolerate Sue Simmons and the News 4 New York people giving me the latest in news, weather and sports. Alas, I flicked off the pesky frustrations with the excitement that the night was the annual Gay Blogger Meet-up (GB5.) I had been following the details of the event via JMG and Father Tony for a few weeks and I was looking forward to catching up with the Blogcrew and putting some new faces to some old and well respected reads.

I arrived at HK Lounge around 9:40 and eagerly greeted the bouncer with the secret GB5 password I'd had been waiting to utter all week. I love using passwords or secret lingo at bars. It makes you feel undercover-ish or that you know something everyone else doesn't. Once I was at The Cock and the password was Spunky Brewster and another time at Snaxxx it was Doodie Kaka. At HK the bouncer just looked at me with no expression and ushered me along.

I've never been to HK Lounge before but I had been reading about it in the rags lately and was looking forward to checking it off my list. The place is your typical Hell's Kitchen gay bar, white formica everywhere, white-cubed lounge tables, white sofas, white candles but with that exposed wood look, making the place seem like the gayest log cabin ever yet in a good way (?)

I'm greeted quickly by the always joyful and energetic Little David who welcomes me in and sticks a name tag in my hand so all us bloggers can identify ourselves in the case we don't know what one another looks like. It's always an interesting experience to put a face with a blog. There's a nice sense of in meeting people in reality who you've known so long virtually.

I bumped into Father Tony trying to put on my name tag and he broke from his current hug huddle to offer me a warm embrace and his outgoing self. We go to the bar to get a drink and I see JMG and Aaron and SuperDaddy and CircleInASquare and Stash along with some new faces like Mike, Tater, Tony and Homer - who I've been wanting to meet for awhile now so I could talk the majesty of Tucson with someone. The GB5 password entitled us to free well drinks and cheap beers. Thus, the topics we spend much of our days blogging about were anything but the topic. I did manage to have one Clinton/Obama conversation with Aaron though and I was able to briefly live vicariously in Tucson through Homer's stories of living in my beloved desert town. The night was a great success and I left looking forward to meeting up with everyone again the following day in Central Park.

The weather reports were fickle all week but Saturday proved to be a gorgeous day. In the whole blogger weekend the Central Park meet up held the most allure because it was outside, in central park and promised that sense of spring tranquility. The enormity of Central Park can only be realized by actually stepping foot in it but I managed to find the roller disco with only a few pushes of the skate board. There, just feet away from the famed Central Park Roller Disco stood what has come to be known as Bear Hill, the meeting spot for bear-clans and their blogger friends. JMG, Little David, Homer, Aaron and Atari Age were there already laying on blankets and soaking up the cozy sun while sitting in portable chairs were new bloggers with new blogs for me to investigate. Stories were passed around as were cookies and a frisbee and before long there were damn near 30 of us gay bloggers talking of our blogs and current events, life and our latest happenings. The cookies came in a box wrapped with old bakery string and in a case of neotony and gay men proving a symbiotic relationship Aaron started a round of Cat's Cradle while Homer tried to go back in time and remember the moves. They got stuck around the 5th move or so and Mike and I gave it a whirl. Not to rub it in anyone's face but the moves of Cat's Craddle aren't too distant for me and Mike and I were able to get to the 6th or 7th move before being completely stumped and losing interest.

Since the neotony was flowing and the day so nice I thought it a perfect opportunity to pull out the new jump ropes and jump with the guys. Father Tony helped me spin the ropes and like gays to a disco ball there was immediate interest. Right away Mike was throwing himself in and Little David went as far as taking his shoes off to become part of the action. After a solid ten minutes of jumping - or what I call "enough cardio for the weekend" we all took a break and threw our bodies to the earth. The day went on we all enjoyed more conversation, more stories and more mingling, digital walls were erased, hands were shaking and there were 30 of us, all sharing a slice of a hill in the sun in the city.

Big thanks to Father Tony for throwing this. It was nice to meet you all.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Blog Nights & Dance Parades

I've been working like a dog all week which is why tonight's Gay Blogger Meetup 5 and tomorrow's NYC Dance Parade is going to come in really handy. Thompkins Square Park- 4PM is where the parade culminates into a park-wide dance party. Come shake it like a salt-shaker!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

2 Down, 48 to Go

California just lifted the ban on gay marriage!

In a monumental victory for the gay rights movement, the California Supreme Court overturned a voter-approved ban on gay marriage Thursday in a ruling that paves the way for allowing same-sex couples in the nation's biggest state to tie the knot.
Congratulations California. This is fantastic!

If you're a Californian couple wanting to get married. Go right on ahead! Spread the love and equality! This is my 300th post and I am overjoyed I get to celebrate it with this post!

From Tony Kushner's Angels in America:
"The world only spins forward. We will be citizens. The time has come."

Yeah, Whatever.

The View Bar Vice Squad's team medal from Dodgeball's End O' Season Party last night.
However, if you say the childhood chant of: "First is the worst, Second is the best and Third is the one with the hairy chest..." Than I'll take 2nd and 3rd without a problem! W00t!

I'm still not really that upset, because- I mean, even in the face of loss look how fierce we are:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oh Joy!

Oh Happy Day!
My new Double Dutch Jump Ropes just arrived!!

Someone crank UP Lil Mama's Lip Gloss cus this shit is on allllllll summer!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Dodgeball: And The Champions Are....

Boy Butter Ballers?!?!?!

Yes, that's correct ladies and gentleman. The triumphant View Bar Vice Squad, who kept a 1st place lead all season, lost the championship game to the Boy Butter Ballers in a 2-1 defeat.

The loss was a sucker-punch in the gut for View Bar Vice Squad but we remain strong knowing we played a fun, kick-ass and well organized season. We organized, we communicated and we most certainly executed. However, the title must go to someone and that someone is the Boy Butter Ballers. Bravo Ballers, you played a hell of game!
The View Bar Vice Squad: Sporting the V for Vice Squad and/or a two for second place
(L2R: Sergio, Danny, BJ, Owen, Vin, Eric, Vanessa, T, *missing Thom)
I love you all so much!- we RAAAAAGED! Season 3? Bring it!

Vanessa revving up the team

Vice Squad sizing up the competition (L2R: Vanessa, T, BJ, Serg)

Team Huddle


Owen asking, "Watcha got?"

And of course, it wouldn't be BIG APPLE DODGEBALL if flip-cup didn't follow:

Well, if I lose at Dodgeball I know I can always win at Flip Cup

Then there's the "Losers-have-to-take-their-shirts-off" Flip Cup (rowdy!)

Thanks to all players for a wonderful season!
Season 3 sign-up soon!


Moanday: A haiku

Weekend was great, now
Back to work. Everyone up
in my grill like whoa.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Reader Writes

After my Sirius Out Q Radio interview with Signoreli, a reader writes:

I've had AIDS for 17 years - the world has changed radically within that span. When it first appeared that an epidemic was looming, the gay community regarded it as yet another form of homophobia, bigotry and exclusion - it took quite some time for it to become 'real.' But by then, we'd all been touched - branded, eviscerated. The horrifying 'I told you so' shock settled into numbness as we took turns on deathbed watch, the toll mounting. A sense of futility permeated my life, but there was always a task at hand (another appointment to keep) to keep me on some sort of pathway. Me, at 28, strolling thru the nightmare, trying so hard to glimpse a deeper understanding of it all.

There is no long and short of it. AIDS has been institutionalized, turned into an ancillary commodity of the pharmaceutical industry. There is no road back from here. Sorry for the bad news, but we had a window in which to exercise prevention, enough for proof-of-concept, and it was a staggering success. As profound and unprecedented as the communal changing of gears may have been, the crucial momentum has been spent.

I now find myself identifying with wignut extraordinare and Obama nemesis Reverend Wright: the government may not have engineered the virus outright, but to stand by or actively oppose educational efforts that could have stemmed the spread is every bit as evil. He's deliberately adopted the shrill end of the message, forcing it upon the current campaign discussion volume cranked full-blast and has been vilified for it - but his wisdom that the only way to be heard above the manufactured distraction is to scream 'Fire!' in a crowded theatre is on-point. Just as I would do, given media proximity and a pulpit. Just as we did in ACT-UP. There is no message more crucial than sexual responsibility. Yet, is it an issue that can be! placed before the public? Madison Avenue clearly thinks not. My gut will always tell me that I have a moral obligation to force faces to the issue, but my brain clearly sees that tact as diplomatic disaster.

In my opinion (yes, I'm going to qualify) the biggest mistake in prevention was to approach prevention as a marketing problem. You can sell soap, but you can't sell depth of awareness. You can't sell involvement. Television and the media no longer confer any sort of credibility, but rather the opposite: mainstream media trivializes everything it touches. Another war, another three letter acronym - another commercial. Yawn. All you can do it push it away. Engaging in this sort of competition may have short term benefits if you can grab enough eyeballs, but good luck holding them in a world so filled with glittering commodities. I would encourage you to discard the methods of the past; everyone's picked up the modules of ! marketing to self-brand their image upon the world without any seeming awareness of the falseness of it all. (The myspace dilemma.)

So - cynical, heartbroken. Yes I admit it but I still want to find a way to be >relevant.< I think that building community is the task before us. TV and the media are relics of a society that didn't work out all that well. It's time to take it to the soil, start at ground zero, focus on finding ways to permit and encourage personal involvement. The message of prevention is always there (the requisite background of subliminal fear and loathing well established) but rather than exploiting or fetishizing it, invite the fear to confront the light of day. How? How to involve strength, clarity, purpose? Authenticity is a key component in cultivating a model for prevention. Recognition of heart and spirit, of a benevolent humanity that can only fall like rain on a culture so long lost in the desert. Connection is another element - my premise is that all humans seek community and it's hard-wired into our biology. Primates are social - politics are a perversion of that basic need. Channel the biologic imperative.

As far as the generational divide, don't give that myth any power. AIDS is primarily a disease of isolation, pushing you farther away the longer you survive. The oldies don't even talk to one another - much less the young. It's an artifact, not an intent. But, given the chance, whole universes of compassion and understanding are there awaiting release. I've seen death up close, and it is very personal - that's why seeing it on TV is so repellent.
This is something worth chewing on for a long while. I appreciate having received this letter and I thank the author tremendously for his input.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I'm Not Out. But, You Know, They Know...

Yes, we've all heard it many, many times before. "I'm not out to my parents but they know." Or- "Yeah, they know but we don't talk about it."

Listen, ok. I get it. I really do. Not everyone is blessed with liberal open-minded parents who don't have a problem with homosexuality and/or have the ability to accept the fact that their son or daughter is gay. I also understand that to realize or accept that one's son or daughter is gay is a huge and life changing event for a parent. But for a modern gay person to withhold these very simple and basic details of their life from their parents only closets the child further and prevents the parent from truly getting to know their child for who they really are. If a parent is homophobic or judgmental or believes the stereotypes about gay people than not coming out only perpetuates the parent to carry on with these beliefs.

I have a friend who has been gay since we were in college. He hasn't brought a girlfriend home since he was at most, 20 years old. His parents are southern, religious conservatives who have preconceived Christian views as to what and who gay people are. My friend is now approaching thirty and has had a committed boyfriend for over two years. However, my friend is not out to either of his parents and he continually uses the excuse, "they know, they have to, but we don't talk about it," and thus he lives the existence with his parents with this huge pink elephant in the room. I beg him, "how much longer are you going to continue doing this? What way is this to have a relationship? Yeah it will be a blow to them at first but coming out will only let them to get to know who you are- who you really are, and further, it will challenge and potentially break their views on gay people and homosexuality!" To this, as always, he shrugs and changes the conversation.

Now I certainly wouldn't stress this to him if he had desperate financial connections to his parents, if they were drunks, violent or gun owners. But they're not- they're simple people living in simple America and he's an adult with the power to take ownership over his life and change his parents' perspective. Why, in this day and age are we so afraid to be real with our parents?

Of course there are reasons to remain closeted. If you live under your parents' roof or finances and risk being cut off or thrown out- then by all means, stay in the closet. Never put yourself in harm's way just to come out but if you're an adult living a full-on gay life and your parents "know but kinda don't know" then come the fuck out of the closet and put an end to this nonsense. You're not only hurting yourself and your relationship with your parents but, moreover, you're hurting the gay community as a whole by not changing the way your parents think. To be able to change even one uneducated or homophobic mind is so utterly and completely necessary. Education and change of opinion only spreads to positive outcomes.

In talking with gay men in their 20's, 30's, 40's and up I've often heard the excuse, "Why do my parents need to know? They don't need to know about my sex life." Or- "My brother and his wife don't talk about their sex life, why should I?" Well, at least your parents know your brother HAS a wife!

Here's the thing- this isn't about your sex life. I'm not asking you to say, "Gosh Mom you won't believe the guy I had sex with last night, what a stud-monster!" What I am asking is that you talk about your life, what you do, who your friends are, what your hobbies are because all of them include you and your gay friends. It is essential that uncomfortable parents realize and understand entirely that your life is just the same as theirs (although probably a lot more fun and exciting.) Ask yourself, what benefits do you have by remaining in the closet to your parents? If you're afraid coming out to your parents will hurt your relationship ask what relationship you're currently having? Is having a status quo relationship where you repeatedly sputter out the "life's good- work's good" mantra than you never had much of a relationship from the start.

Grab your courage. Grab your voice. Deal with the fact that the gasps might come out, that the fork and knife might drop and clatter on the plates, but understand that by this Thanksgiving or next or the Thanksgiving years from now, your parents will know the child they are sitting next to at the table.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wednesday Wake Up Call

A little "Let me think about it" by Ida Corr and Fredde Le Grand
Quite possibly this summer's "Umbrella"

Conversations with a Cop

My latest gig is located in the West Village by Houston and Varick St. I stepped out of the deli where I get my lunch and noticed a tremendous gathering of cops- I asked:

Me: What's going on? Is there going to be a protest?
Cop: Yeah.
Me: For what?
Cop: The Sean Bell Trail
Me: Oh really? Right here?!
Cop: Right here...(Agitated) Anything else you want to know?
Me: No, I guess that's it. But I suppose you shouldn't shoot anybody.
Cop: Move it, buddy.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Dodgeball: Premonitions

The View Bar Vice Squad: Aaaaand Kick (ass)
(L2R: Tom, Serg, Vanessa, BJ, Eric, Vin, Danny, T, Owen)
Two posts down I blockquoted Sergio's premonition in which he dreamt the View Bar Vice Squad dominating the Boy Butter Ballers with a 6-o win. Well, dreams do come true as we murdered the 2nd place, hard hitting, big catching Butter Ballers in a full-on shut out! What?!!
Tsssss...dat's what I thought.

The View Bar Vice Squad AKA Sub-Woofers AKA Team Fierce! is walking into the championship games next week with the first place ranking we've had alllll MF'ing season long. That's a team!

Owen and me about to charge the line.
(Look at the gays hugging in the back- haaaaaaay!)

Team Eaglicious
First place team last season (my team)
- last place team this season(not my team).

The Splasholes doing a "hands in"

League Organizer: The amazing- Paul Burke

Mike of MasterBeat Downs showing his post game sass

Poppie (left) and Will of The United Shipping Big Packages showing dodgeball love

Post Game Flip Cup fraternizing

UPDATE: Final Standings Below

View Bar Vice Squad 10 20 15 5 45 15 45 75
Henrietta Hudson 6 20 14 6 39 21 42 65
Boy Butter Ballers 5 20 13 7 34 26 39 57
WooManhunt 9 20 12 8 34 26 36 57
Slim Gyms 8 20 12 8 30 30 36 50
Splashholes 2 20 10 10 34 26 30 57
MasterBeatdowns 7 20 10 10 32 28 30 53
David Barton Spartans 1 20 7 13 24 36 21 40
United Shipping Big Packages 3 20 5 15 18 42 15 30
Eaglicious 4 20 2 18 10 50 6 17

Edge New York on Gay Bloggers

My neighbrah Cody Lyon put together this piece on gay bloggers for Edge New York.

The blogosphere has expanded in popularity - and influence - in recent years with a variety of news, activism and even entertainment sites. The Web site "Best Gay Blogs" currently lists roughly 2,000 active gay blogs from around the world. And around 100 of these are in New York.

"[A successfully gay blog] is really about building a unique community of like-minded individuals to share thoughts, passions and dreams," Best Gay Blogs managing editor Chad Williams said.
The article pimps out and discusses Lady Bunny's Blog, The Blogfather- Joe.My.God., Blabbeando who blogs underreported stories of LGBT issues regarding Latinos and Latin America itself, The Empire State Pride Agenda blog and lastly, yours truly.

Ch-ch-Check it out! and you can peep Cody Lyon's blog here too.

Gosh- gays and blogs are becoming as common as gays and Madonna albums!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Dodgeball: Slaughterhouse

The View Bar Vice Squad AKA Team Fierce AKA Sub Woofers AKA Team #1
(L2R: Vin hiking up the shorts, Thom ready for annihilation, Vanessa decked in blood red, Eric Balls of Fury, T screeching Terror-dactyl)

Tonight the 70+ players of New York's Gay/Gay Friendly Big Apple Dodgeball league enters the playoffs. Only four teams will make it to next week's championship games. The View bar Vice Squad has made this standing already and tonight we will be one step closer to city-wide ball throwing, slick moving, team-working victory! Bring it!

Come party with the whole league tonight at View Bar for flip cup and rowdy obnoxious behavior. Festivities begin around 9PM.

UPDATE: This just in from our team mailing list written by Sergio who had a premonition about our winning tonight:

"OMG, you guys! I just thought of something that will totally, like, make you freak out! Now, I'm not sure this is 100% reliable because I'm only 25% psychic (on my mother's side), but I totally had a dream last night that predicted our domination! I was on the street where I grew up, trying to get into my car, but this big, playful dog was forcing his way into my car. I didn't ask him for comment but I suspect the dog would have said, "woof." A dream like this before a big dodgeball night for us has me reaching for the Thorazine!

Anyway, I don't think we need it spelled out any clearer--My dream clearly indicates we're going to win big tonight. Let's go for 6-0.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Siriusly on OutQ

Somehow the media monster that is Joe.My.God was able to receive my Sirius OutQ interview with Michaelangelo Signoreli before I could so I'll just recap here before I get the file myself.

First off, the Sirius offices are modernly designed aesthetic powerhouse! The whole look of the place is like Superman's Fortress of Solitude but instead of speaking into crystals you speak into microphones. The whole place is glass and carpet and nice wood and it's got all those elements you think something of the future would have. In short - it's a swanky place.

So I get on the show and Signoreli introduces me as a filmmaker, activist, blah blah and then we get into the discussion of my PSA and the story behind it. As I've said before- The PSA was never really meant to be a "Public Service Announcement" it was more just a piece of media I wanted to make about the reality of modern gay sex and getting tested. And, to repeat again, in the conceptualization, writing and directing of the piece never did it cross my mind that this would later be regarded as a "fear campaign" or that I was "using fear to send a message." All I was doing was translating a specific piece of my realistic experience to film- that's all. Yeah it's a scary subject but so is going to the dentist but we all got to do it.

Going forward I told the story of how I shopped the piece around to non-profits and they were all "We can't work with you because you make in fear campaigns..." And I was all, "Ummm..? What? Are? You? Talking? About?" Shrug- whatever. Which lead me to the discussion of viral videoing and the power of You Tube.

The best thing about Youtube, especially regarding gay media is the fact that we can do whatever the hell we want with simplicity of do-it-yourself filming and uploading. We no longer have to ask permission of anyone, go through the bureaucracies of finding distribution and most importantly we don't have to use straight people or straight tactics to get at the core of gay issues. This idea is incredibly exciting and it isn't until now that a filmmaker has complete freedom over their piece or message. Talk about empowerment!

Signoreli then asked about the communication gap between older and younger gay men. I explained the case as I see it. There's a non-communicating back to back stand off where the older generation who suffered through Stonewall and the utter devastation of the Aids Crisis perceive the younger generation as, more or less, taking it all for granted. The older generation says, "you don't respect us" while the younger generations says, "you don't understand us" and nothing is getting done in between. Having been to many activist and group meetings between the spectrum of AIDS to Crystal Meth it's always this resentful shoving match and when the meeting is over people either shrug or roll their eyes or sometimes both.

There is a sentiment that young people don't care, they don't want to be involved, that we know that safe sex exists but we choose not to use condoms and I feel as though that's a misconception. I DO think young people want to be involved, want to be active and want to be a part of things it's just that activism needs to evolve with the times. What I hit upon in the interview is that if a group like Imporv Everywhere can get 300 or so young people to freeze in Grand Central Station than that's proof that young people are willing to get out there and it's just a matter of combining activism with creativity which might just do the trick. Recently 3000 or so people gathered in Union Square to hold a silent rave. 3000 people! Do you know who easily you can turn something like that into an action? Activism still has tremendous room to exist it's just a matter of finding a way to put a creative and modern spin on it.

Signoreli and I then talked about other campaigns that receive the brandishing of fear mongering. Most specifically we discussed the campaign HIV is No Picnic which depicts men who suffer from Lypo dystrophy, crix belly, diarrhea, etc... People feel as though this campaign stigmatizes people living with HIV and only focuses on the negative impacts while not including the tremendous number of people living with HIV who don't show symptoms and/or are completely healthy. My response to that is- go ahead and throw those healthy people into the campaign - it will only illuminate the utter unpredictability of this virus. Some people are healthy, and healthy for a long time if not their whole lives, and other people aren't so healthy. What's wrong with talking about this? What's wrong with shining light on this?

Time ran out really quickly and both Signoreli and I agreed we were just hitting the tip of the iceberg but hopefully he'll have me on again. I've got much more to discuss like: the importance of younger men having the influence of the older perspective, of how knowing and learning about the AIDS crisis of the 80's and the government's slow response might make young people stronger, more self respecting and encourage them to feel responsibility of taking care of one another, how this nation accepts homosexuality yet does not condone it and the trickle down effect that has on gay men's mental health....

All to come.

I'll post the interview as soon as I get it. (Ahem, JMG.) And here's the Piece/PSA I made so you can have a look-see for yourself.

Happy Friday and Rage On: