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The Gay Blade

26th September 2008

Advice to a Young Gay Man

Posted by: Michael Stevens

There used to be a fashion in the 17th century to write manuals of advice for young men. Often they were framed as letters from a father to his son. I was wondering what sort of advice I’d give today to a young man coming out into the glamorous glittering world of gay Auckland.

Because, of course, when I was a young man, venturing out into homoland, there really wasn’t anything in the way of examples or models except for Hudson & Halls or Mr Humphries on “Are You Being Served” - and as much as I appreciate them now, at the time I just didn’t want to be anything like them.

However, I did start my sex life at the tender age of 15, in the public toilets in the Otahuhu car park. And I just kept going back, there and to other bogs around town. Doing the milk run as we called it. Albert Park, High St, Durham Lane, Customs St and back.

There was no Rainbow Youth to go to - all the advice I got was from men who wanted my sweet young body. Some of them were remarkably kind. Others were not. And I still remember being taken home in the middle of the day by one guy who turned his wedding picture beside the bed face down before we got into it. I guess I was about 16 by then.

But what advice would I give to young gay man in his teens coming out today? It’s such a different world.

I think first and foremost, I’d advise him to try and find fuck-buddies close to his own age. There are  so many nasty sharks swimming out in the water. It’s easy to be impressed by someone who has a bit of money, a nice flat and a car, maybe access to some fun drugs as well. But he will most likely be just using you for your sweet tender body. So sticking to around your own age at first is not bad. You’ll also hear from others who the players are, who the sick creeps are, and who is nice.

Make friends. Not just fuck-buddies, but real friends. People you can count on. People who will help you when you drink too much, who will either get you home or ring up your folks with a convincing story. I am still friends with guys I met on the scene here in Auckland back in the 70s and early 80s. Having good friends you’ve known for decades is one of the best things life can give you. It adds a texture to your life that you can’t get anywhere else.

Trust the love your family has for you. Your parents have known you all your life. They probably already have a good idea if you’re gay or not. They’re not dumb. I’m not saying you have to rush out and tell them straight off - but give them a little credit. They love you and want you to be happy.

I can still remember ringing my parents when I was 18 after (breaking all my own rules here) getting picked up by a sexy guy in his 30s who had a nice car and house. I rang them after midnight, apologised and said I was too drunk to get home but I’d be back in the morning and was crashing at a friend’s house. They thought I’d been very mature.

Drugs: You’ll probably end up doing some no matter what I say. Just don’t do too many all at once - it gets messy ! And always make sure you have a friend around who knows what you’ve taken. And keep your phone charged and close by. If it has a needle or a broken light bulb attached - don’t.

Dance ! God, when I think back as to how much I loved to dance when I was in my teens and 20s. I could dance for hours - now, more a happy memory.

Do I advise you to trust or to be suspicious? Frankly, there are so many lying shits in the world, gay or straight, that you won’t be able to avoid them whatever you do. And it sucks to go through life being suspicious of everyone you meet. So I guess I’d advise you to listen to your gut instinct. And take a chance - trust people more often than not, but if you start to feel a little uncomfortable, if you start to hear a little voice in your head going”Hmm, I’m not sure…” then listen to it and move on.

Be polite. I don’t mean you need to bring out your Nanna manners - but it always pays to be nice to people around you. Listen to what they say. Show a little respect. It’s the old story - treat them as you’d like to be treated.

Pay your share of the bill. If money is tight, either don’t go out, or tell people first that you’re broke so everyone knows where they stand. Don’t wait till the bill arrives to do the Aussie haka as you pat your pockets looking for cash.

Look after your body. It is where you live. It can give you the most intense wonderful pleasure. If you treat it badly it can treat you badly back, and that ain’t fun. So be good to yourself. Get some exercise - trust me, that youthful muscle tone will go suddenly if you don’t. And please - don’t get HIV. Condoms and lube! Always !There are so many guys out there who have it who won’t tell you. Look after your self.

Be as honest as you can. Sometimes, a little deceit is better than sticking to the truth. But never lie in a way that will really hurt someone else.

Fall in love. God, your youth is the best time ever to do that. But try and do it with someone who’s falling for you too. The pain of one-sided love is no fun. But if you both can ride the wave,  just go for it.

Above all enjoy it. It really is a wonderful life, and being gay lets you experience parts of it your straight brothers and sisters will never know. You will come to see life from so many different angles and meet so many great people along the way. Enjoy it. Love yourself.

→ 12 CommentsTags: General

11th September 2008

Shake hands? Or go on a date?

Posted by: Michael Stevens

There’s a joke that for gay men, having sex is like shaking hands. It’s just what we do, you know, it’s how we  say hi to a stranger. And there’s an element of truth to it, after all,  as gay men we are defined to some extent by what we do with each other with out clothes off. Or at least flies open. And it’s often said that nzdating should really be called nzfucking, cause that’s how we treat it.

And I’m not complaining about this. Casual sex is one of our great treats.

But what about dating? Why don’t we seem to do that in this country?  I was talking about this with an American friend recently, and he claimed that over there it’s actually quite normal to go out and have a meal, maybe a coffee or a drink, and not fall into bed straight away. From what he said, they sometimes even do that two or three times before they do fall into bed.(OK, not always, and maybe not so much in NY). And I was also talking with another friend, who is, sexy, and smart, runs his own business, and he said to me “Why can’t I meet a partner?” He can get laid ok, but meeting someone to actually spend time with and that you can introduce to your family? That seems way harder for us gay guys as a group.

So why don’t we date?  I think this is an interesting concept. Imagine, getting to know someone a little bit before getting your rocks off? Wouldn’t that be an interesting and novel experience?

And you know, I think there is something to be said for it. Without the total focus going on getting laid, maybe we’d actually get to develop friendships and find out if we really liked the other guy. For some reason, it often seems harder to do that after you’ve fucked I find. It often seems that sex first equals friends, or acquaintances after, or even less. How many guys have you had sex with that you’ve never called again, or can’t remember their names when you see them out next?We seem to have this sexual culture built around the chase, the hunt, getting it, then leaving. I wonder howgood this is for us as a group.

One of the things that strikes me  when I talk to young gay guys, in their teens as they are coming out, is that they so often say they want a boyfriend. I’ve perhaps gone on about this before. But it’s such a common desire. A boyfriend. A mate. Someone to hang out with, to go out with, and yes, to fuck with too, but they really seem to show a desire to have a steady mate in their lives.  And I think that’s something that most of us can identify with too.

And I think that what our gay world does, with its emphasis on sex as a way of saying hello stranger, it makes it so much harder actually  for young guys to date without the pressure of sex. We have such a sex centred culture in the gay male world that we miss out on some of the emotional side of things, the intimacy, the getting to know each other, the friendship and trust - all things that I think you need to make a relationship successful.

I suspect this part of our long legacy of having to live a life in the shadows. We were illegal and persecuted for so long, that we tended to take our pleasures on the run as it were. Gay male culture has set up certain patterns and these are hard to shake off, even now. I’m not against recreational just-fro-the-hell-of-it sex. Hell, if you’ve read any of my previous posts you’ll know that.

But maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if we tried every now and then to actually date. To go and sit down, to talk, to get to know each other. Why not save shaking hands for really shaking hands at least some of the time, and spend the time to get to know each other a bit better before jumping into the sack.  Treating the other person like an adult,a fellow human being, with needs and hopes and fears, instead of just a piece of meat to consume, I think it might lead to some interesting developments, and, let’s face it, some more grown up forms of interaction. You’re highly unlikely to want to spend the rest of your life with someone just because he’s a great fuck - right?

Perhaps we might all be surprised at the outcome.

→ 13 CommentsTags: General

28th August 2008

Sticky Keyboards

Posted by: Michael Stevens

You are of course reading this online. Which is where I, and many of us, spend an increasing amount of our time now. In fact, I spend way too much time here. Apart from reading my favourite blogs, overseas newspapers, local ones, & checking youtube, there’s Facebook to update and play on, (stop buying all my pets! You know who you are!) Livejournal for a slightly different set of friends around the world, gaynz, and of course, all those fantastic gay sex dating sites. And have you checked out luriddigs.com!?!? And think how much poorer our lives would be without access to lolcats?

Not to mention the more legitimate uses, such as doing academic research through databases. And I should make it clear I’m really writing about the world I know, gay men online, not the other segments of the queer world.

Even though I had net access at uni, my introduction to the online world really began in 2001 and I went online at home, when kind friends passed on their old PC to me. I was hooked. One-handed typing had its attractions, but I don’t know why, I no longer find cyber interesting.

gay .com, or as other friends called it, gay.dum was my main social site at first. And I met quite a few hot men there, quite a few good men, and sometimes they even were combined. Also met some two-faced lying bastards but hey … that’s another blog. I’d sit down and chat, in the old days before photos and so on were easily available (the net was steam-powered back then) . Just chat for ages to all sorts of people all over the place.

Hours slipped past - not for nothing is the net called a timesink. It is easy to watch it all just disappear in a day. In fact at times it seemed that talking online was better than talking in real time. Now that’s odd when you think about it.

Here in NZ it seems to me that men looking to hook up with guys for whatever reason, have taken to the net with a passion. I leave nzdating on in the background nearly every time I log on, and gaydar too (not at work boss, honest…) . More often it’s just to swap messages with friends than to do the deed it seems, but hey, you never know your luck. Planetromeo is great too, but used too little here to be much fun. In fact I’ve been registered on so many different sites I’ve forgotten a good number of them now. every now and then I get an email from some site I joined ages ago and forgot about, but I can rarely be bothered to go back to them. If they didn’t grab me in the first few weeks, they’re not going to now.

But what happens to us and our social lives when we interact so much on line? There has been a lot of talk about how the net has changed, some say almost killed, gay society. Bars and clubs certainly seem to find it harder to keep a crowd. And sex. Well, why go and pay a sauna or fuck-club when you can place your order online? I order my pizza online, why not my fucks as well?

The downside to it is that all the convenience of online life tends to isolate us even more. Instead of meeting mates in bars, or of striking up conversations with strangers, whose preferences we don’t know, instead of learning those social skills, such as how to confidently talk to a stranger in a bar or club, we now automatically filter out all sorts of social interaction.
In the past you didn’t necessarily know what that guy you were eyeing up in the bar was into. Were you in his age-range? Were you his type? Into the same things sexually? You had to actually communicate with each other and figure these things out, and this also meant you got to talk to and meet a wider range of guys. Now, when we go online, we can typically see exactly what the other guy is into, and whether or not we fall into his set of ideal parameters. Instead of talking to a stranger, or perhaps a friend of a friend, and discovering some common ground, negotiating our lust and possible love, we now see exactly what is and isn’t desired.

Hairiness/height/ethnicity/age/weight/role/ - it’s all there on the screen in front of you.

We filter, they filter, and people get excluded. And the exclusion is not just sexual, it’s social as well. And this is not, I suspect, a good thing for our gay world. Where we used to physically congregate, we now sit in our homes alone and chat.

I love the net, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see it end. But I guess it’s like all technologies, good and bad. And the social consequences for groups like gay men have yet to be fully worked out.

→ 5 CommentsTags: General

14th August 2008

Hi, My Name’s Michael & I’m A Diseased Pariah

Posted by: Michael Stevens

Well, it happened again. Met a guy online, chatted a bit, figured out that the filthy, perverted, friendly things we enjoyed would complement each other’s need for perversion and filth nicely. Agreed to safe sex, naturally. Met up in a neutral space so we could each back out with dignity if the reality didn’t quite match up to what life online had conjured up. We both fitted our descriptions and agreed we still wanted to do filthy things to each other.

Then I told him I was HIV+.

Fear, confusion, doubt and… “Look”, I said, “if it makes you uncomfortable then hey, let’s forget it - no point trying to pretend.” He was grateful for the chance I gave him and he left.

I didn’t have to tell him - and I don’t always tell everyone I get naked with. That’s why we do safe sex guys - so we won’t catch it or pass it on. In fact, I can remember about 7 or 8 years ago at a bar being told off by a guy for telling him my HIV status - as he said “We’re all supposed to look after each other and ourselves - if you have it or not isn’t an issue if we use rubbers” (or words to that effect). And that was part of the original basis of safe sex, this idea that we should all look after each other, and using rubber meant you could still be a filthy slutty sex-pig and stay safe from either getting it or giving it.

But guys today don’t seem to have that understanding, or so it seems to me. There seems to be an assumption that those who have HIV have a duty to disclose and according to some guys we shouldn’t even consider having sex.

FYI - Legally, in this country, we don’t have to tell anyone, so long as we keep our partners safe.

The thing is, when you meet someone either online or in a venue, and you agree to safe sex, then why the hell does finding out that the other guy is poz make such a difference? Don’t men believe that safe sex works? Or do they really hope to be able to rip off the rubbers halfway through in the heat of the moment? Or do we in fact remind them of the possibility that they too may have it, but they just don’t want to face that: That safe-sex something these guys only pay lip service to, and they are in fact being confronted with the fear that by their other actions they might already have exposed themselves to HIV? I think that is the case for many guys.

I sort of understand, but then, I don’t. We know condoms work at stopping transmission of HIV. Fact. And after all we gay men invented safe sex as a way to keep on enjoying ourselves and stay safe at the same time. We were practical that way - we didn’t want to have to give up all the fun and freedom we’d fought so hard to win.

And let’s face it, it can get pretty bruising to the ego to get knocked back this way. I’m pretty used to how guys can react, so I think it doesn’t affect me a much as others I know, but it still isn’t much fun I have to say. I used to just include it on my on line profiles so I could avoid having to go through it all, but that just seemed to be the kiss of death (ha!) so now I wait till we meet and then decide whether or not I feel like I need to say anything.

But you know, it really shouldn’t be an issue, if we just follow the steps we all know about. I suspect it’s more of an issue here in NZ than in other countries with larger gay populations. Fewer guys around today have actually had anything to do with HIV and there is probably more of a sense of fear and mystery - and HIV does bring sex and death together in a particularly volatile way.

Luckily for me, not everyone reacts this way. There are still hot sexy men who don’t miss a beat when I tell them and keep on being filthy friendly perverts as we step out of our clothes.

→ 14 CommentsTags: General

30th July 2008

Hold Your Nose and Vote

Posted by: Michael Stevens

They’re having an election this year, in case you hadn’t noticed. God what a dismal set of options we have before us. As a gay man, there seems to be an expectation that my vote will automatically go to Labour. Indeed, I’ve even been told that I have a duty to vote Labour because they’ve done so much for us. Sorry - that logic doesn’t work for me. My dear old Dad used to insist that  we all had a duty to vote for National as they’d done so much for us, and it’s true, as members of the Eastern Suburbs mercantile bourgeoisie, they had. But I didn’t buy that logic then I don’t buy it now. It’s my vote and I decide how it gets used.

Labour? They seem desperate to stay in power, and willing to do just about anything to do so. But so tired, so arrogant, (witness their indignant howls when the Auditor General demonstrated they’d broken the law) and so out of touch. Plus I don’t recall seeing the EFA on the list of promised policies before the last election, when I did vote for them. If they’d had that on the list I wouldn’t have. Their constant spiteful attacks on John Key for being successful just don’t do it for me either. I know whoever was in power would have cosied up to China, but I find that country as morally bankrupt as apartheid era South Africa. But Labour won’t mention a word on those issues. And really when was the last time anyone in the Labour Party actually laboured?

National? Moving so fast to the centre they’re nearly indistinguishable from Labour on social policies. Economically neo-liberal still (no thanks!) and not really sure how far they can be trusted to do what they say. And look at their front bench - Night of the Living Dead! Lockwood Smith! Maurice Williamson! Toni Ryall! Ugh…

In some ways it seems to me there is almost an absence of politics between the two main parties. There are very few real defining issues that separate them, certainly on social issues. And they are both economically very dry.

Greens? Lovely people, I admit, and honest and reliable, which are attributes not to be dismissed lightly in politics. But I don’t sign up to cults these days, and the Greens’ perpetual battered spouse role to Labour (witness their hand wringing angst every time Labour does the dirty on them, yet they keep coming back for more, because they know, deep down, that really, one day Labour will show how much they love them and let them sit at the big table). I suspect I wouldn’t really want to live in the world the Greens want to bring about: I’ve tried the hippy communal thing and it just isn’t me.

Maori Party? Too homophobic for me - Tariana didn’t support Civil Unions, and again, I don’t sign up for cults. I also don’t go along with the trend that says “Indigenous culture = automatically wonderful”. Indigenous culture is just indigenous culture: it has its pluses and minuses like anything. And I’m not Maori.

NZ First? You’re joking, right?

I know, it’s easy to be cynical, to be dismissive of hardworking good people. And I know people in a number of the parties who are all those things. Sometimes I think if we could get rid of the parties and just vote for the best people… but no, that wouldn’t work either.

Voting often involves going for the least bad option, it certainly does this time round.

I have moved away from my radical Marxist/anarchist ( I was indecisive - sue me) youth where I wanted a revolution that would change the world. More experience of the world, travel, study, and education has taught me that revolutions are nasty, do not achieve what they set out to, and end up fucking up a huge range of people. Except for the few who stay in power at the top.

In some ways it is naive of me to hope for anything really good to come out of any political system. Politics is about the exercise of power, and this always involves making some better off and others worse off. I know I don’t want to be in the worse off group. Who does? But if I am anything I suppose I am a Human Rights hawk, a proud supporter of the best parts of the Western Enlightenment Tradition.

What about the economy? I’d say the global economy is a dog and New Zealand is flea on its back - we go where it goes, and as everything has become more and more globalised, our Government has less and less power to really affect any changes in it. And if we fall off the dog won’t even notice.

It’s all very uninspiring - the parties are all next to hopeless, but I’ll still vote. Because if I don’t I can’t complain. And whoever gets in, you can be sure, I’ll complain.

→ 9 CommentsTags: General

16th July 2008

Conoisseurship: The Fruit of Experience

Posted by: Michael Stevens

I was talking a bit about types of men we find sexy with a friend the other day. I don’t know if I have one anymore.  

When I was younger I used to have a type, or types, of men that I found attractive. I am old enough to remember being young with men who had long hippy hair and untamed beards, dressed in flares and wearing love beads, smelling of patchouli and were sweet and gentle and passionate. In my early 20s, they were in their early to mid twenties (28 seemed so old, 30 ancient) slim, trim, but not covered in muscles - I don’t think the uber-developed gym-body was around in those days when I think about it. I have always liked a hairy chest, I have to say.  And for some reason, a man’s back has always been a major turn on for me. Some backs are like warm ivory shields, and tracing the muscles and lines of them as I lie entwined is still something I enjoy. Legs too, I’ve always been a leg man. I can remember deliberately standing at the bottom of the stairs at school to watch the other boys going up in their shorts, and admiring their calves and thighs.

 As I got older, and more experienced, I got into different scenes.

The whole leather scene was a big turn on for me in my early 20s, living in Australia and the USA. The men in it seemed so confident, so sexy, so potent and also always seemed to be having so much fun. The clone look of the late 70s and early 80s was powerfully attractive too. Plaid shirt, short moustache, short hair. Overtly, calmly, celebratorily masculine - a move away from that earier hippy style for sure.

Then things shifted - I moved away from the centres of the gay world  to the edges of Europe, lived in Turkey for 8 years. The men there were different again. The men often looked like clones, but they weren’t - that was their natural style. The short hair, moustache, jeans and leather jacket was just the ordinary working uniform of so many men in Turkey. Very odd to have to rearrange all your assumptions about what it meant to be a man. And also to realise that the man in the tea house with his hand on your knee wasn’t trying to pick youup - it was just the normal way for men to be physical with each other. But it did contribute a bit to a slight erotic haze.

Ethnicity, skin colour, has never been a huge issue for me. I think I’ve always been fascinated by difference, turned on by the way a Maori, Chinese or Indian skin looks when its excited, but just as turned on by pallid north Europeans or olive-skinned Mediterranean types. Red heads with that pale freckled skin - so beautiful.

Now, I don’t care really all that much - hairy, smooth, tall short, skinny, chubby, bald, long hair, fair, dark. As I was chatting to my friend, I said this to him, how now it can be something as simple as the lines of muscle in a man’s forearm, the shape of his hand, or the way he smiles, the shape of his beard or the smootheness of his skin or a certain way of moving, that can grab my erotic interest.

He turned to me and said “You know, you have to have been a real slut to get to that point.”

→ 1 CommentTags: General

27th June 2008

Memory, Loss, and Memory

Posted by: Michael Stevens

The tragic death of Dr Matt Wildbore last week as well as the imminent publication of Dr Chris Brickell’s new book “Mates and Lovers” made me think of a few things.

One thought that I keep returning to is the way our history, individual and collective, is so fragile.

For many younger men in Auckland, Matt Wildbore is not a name they’d know. For me, and I guess for my generation, he was a symbol of compassion, of care, of fun, of bravery and support through the worst days of the plague. He was vocal, he was courageous, he cared. The effort he put in, and also the efforts of many others, through those dark days when all you could expect after an HIV+ diagnosis was to get sicker and sicker and die, usually terribly, perhaps in your own shit, emaciated, blind, demented, unable to recognise those around your bed who loved you, it seems that history, that part of our culture, has been lost to some extent.

It’s as if the generation coming straight after a terrible war had no idea of the struggles their parents had been through. Tragedy is now ephemeral.

Before, the stories of a culture’s suffering and bravery, generosity and struggle, all formed part of the collective memory, something that could be referred to, something that was passed down from generation to generation. The essentially fragile, tenuous nature of gay culture and community makes this hard enough in the first place, but given that so many who did fight so bravely, who nursed, fed, wiped the arses of and cleaned up the vomit of their friends, lovers, or even strangers, or quietly looked after them as they descended into AIDS related dementia - these stories are now, it seems to me, largely gone, and certainly I think unknown by many younger gay men. They just don’t know what it was like. And that is maybe a good thing. But somehow it seems sad to me too that the struggles and amazing bravery displayed in the face of such terror and hostility are so quickly slipping from our collective consciousness.

But then the work of Dr Brickell gives me heart. He has undertaken meticulous scholarship to find out the hidden history of gay men in New Zealand from the 19th Century on. He has taken active steps to recover our past. If we are to ever really have a gay community, if it is possible, then understanding where we come from, our whakapapa, our heritage, our past, is essential. Knowing that men in the 1860s or 1920s looked to other men for love, for sex, for joy and for support, just as we do, is a tremendously important thing for us all to take on board.

The stoic in me remembers the words of Emperor Marcus Aurelius - “So many who were remembered already forgotten, and those who remembered them long gone” and it is true - the world is full of unsung or forgotten histories and biographies that are filled with acts of love, bravery, sacrfice, joy and tragedy that have been forgotten and blown as dust to the wind.

But I want to remember - and I want young gay men coming up to remember too. I want you to know where we came from, what we went through, because it matters, because without all this we wouldn’t be here today, and so you know a bit of what we had to do to get here, to this place where you are able to live in a level of social acceptance that seemed impossible to even imagine for me 30 years ago.

Remember. Remember all of it - the good and the bad, the extraordinary and the banal. It is part of us all, part of who we are and how we all got here.

Celebrate your life, love it, enjoy it, embrace it. But remember.

→ 3 CommentsTags: General

8th June 2008

How Strange Life Gets

Posted by: Michael Stevens

A good friend, who at 44 is a couple of years younger than me, had a heart attack the other week (henceforth known as HAM -Heart Attack Man). Given that he smokes like a chimney, and in his drinking makes me look (at times) like a Salvation Army officer, perhaps it’s not surprising. Worrying, as I am very fond of him, but maybe not so surprising.

Another friend, also younger than me, but only by a few weeks, has been living with a nasty cancer diagnosis (henceforth known as CB - Cancer Boy) for the last 2 months.

Both of these guys, myself and another friend (let’s call him the 4th), were sitting chatting the other night on K Rd. CB and HAM were sort of swapping notes, while both were smoking still (I can be smug as I haven’t had a ciggie in weeks and weeks now) joking a little, when I asked the 4th if was ok, and he assured me he was, and he asked me if I was ok, and I said “I’m fine thanks, just fine” or words to that effect.

There was a slight sort of pause, then I said, “Well, apart from the AIDS thingy”.

And that’s the weird thing. My AIDS diagnosis really is such a small part of my life now. Just a “thingy” I have to deal with.

I received the news in 1988, 20 years ago now. As one Dr in London told me, “You’ve probably got about 2 years or so left, why not go home to New Zealand and be with those you love” - “Get Ready To Die” is what she meant. I neither came home then nor died. Another Dr here in Auckland gave me a year to live in 1995, when I was very, very sick and pretty well living in Ward 9C or Herne Bay House. Again, unless something very major has happened and I missed it and you have all been humouring me, I haven’t died yet.

Instead, here I am, middle-aged, worrying about my weight and waistline, wondering why I no longer seem to want to stay up dancing till dawn , wishing I had a good man in my life (applications for this post may be left in the comments section below)  and trying to get a career going.

And getting seriously worried about the health of my younger friends with non-HIV related problems. Everyone use to be worried about me, and the rest of us poz people. Now I worry about my friends, and not for HIV stuff.

It is all rather disorienting you see, as I spent a lot of time and effort getting ready to die. I was determined to die well, to have “a good death” and had even chosen the music (several times in fact, always totally different) for the whole thing. I did Buddhist meditation, I went through Kubler-Ross workshops, I beat phone books to shreds with  garden hoses (long story), I studied death in Western Society, hell I even lecture at University on it! And yet, I still have to pay the rent, find something to eat, and remember to put the rubbish out. I’m still here. The world is still turning. And dear and good friends are coping with their own health problems that could well see them pop their clogs before I do at this rate.

I’m not complaining mind you. But this Friday night sitting on K Rd, it really brought it home to me. For most of us with HIV, if you do what your Dr tells you, take your meds properly and take reasonable care of yourself, well, we’re likely to be around a fair while. Long enough to worry about friends with cancer or coronary problems.

Who’d have thunk it?

→ 6 CommentsTags: General

12th May 2008

Question for you

Posted by: Michael Stevens

Here’s a question for you: Do all immigrants to New Zealand, or any country, share the same issues? I mean, do a multi-millionaire French immigrant and his American wife settling in Marlborough and running a vineyard have that much in common with an IT peon from Shanghai in Wellington? How much does either one share with a Samoan wife joining her husband and his family here in South Auckland? They all have to adjust, they all come from somewhere else, they’ll all feel a bit different here, for a while at least, but their social and material conditions are vastly different, and this will affect how they adjust to life here.

I ask because from among the mailing lists I’m on, I received one the other day that had this acronym -  GLITTFAB = gay, lesbian, intersex, transgender, takataapui, fafa’afine, asexual, and bisexual. What an assortment! And why on earth are we all grouped together? That’s what I don’t get. As a gay man, I think I do share a few interests with lesbians.  We get to wear a few of the same labels and get some of the same shit thrown at us by wider society. But otherwise, my dyke friends and I often see things differently, where they mainly come at political issues from a feminist perspective, and I don’t nearly as much.

Thinking of my ACT supporting gay male friends who base their politics in libertarianism, they just want all and any regulations regarding adult sexual behaviour removed. But they sure as hell don’t share my lefty feminist influenced ideas on sexuality. And they take more drugs than I do. Which they also want deregulated.In fact they want pretty much everything deregulated.

Transgender? It’s not the same thing as gay – nothing like it in fact. It’s an entirely different issue. Whether FTM or MTF, they’re not gay men or lesbians. They aren’t same-sex attracted and I honestly don’t see what interests we share. And some of the MTFs I’ve met just seem like  heterosexual men in a dress.  They cling to old pre-Feminist ways of being “a lady”, some stay on with their wives, and some I can think of even beat their wives up still, but  then claim they’re oppressed.  It’s not the same sort of oppression though, is it

Intersex – well, I accept that the issues facing those born intersex are real and serious, but don’t really speak to or impinge on my life as a bumboy I’d have to say. They occupy a difficult place in society, and I’m supportive of them, but do we really belong in the same group? I don’t think so

Asexuals? Please! Fucking and who and how we fuck is one of the key characteristics that sets us fags apart – asexuality doesn’t really speak to this side of life at all. Just don’t have sex – is that really that hard? Does it need a civil rights based political liberation movement behind it as gay rights did? Really? When was the last time someone leant out a car window and screamed “Asexual pervert!” or they got denied a job or a flat because they aren’t into sex? On a subjective level, I’m sure it matters to them, but I have to say not so much to me.

I know some Maori gay men who entirely reject the label takataapui, and find Maoritanga completely irrelevant to their lives, they relate to the world and themselves as gay men first, and I know others who rate being Maori first, and put their sexuality down as a minor issue.

For some reason we’re all expected to be adequately addressed by being in this grouping. Doesn’t work for me. (apologies to Mr Herkt)

It’s not that I’m blind to the difficulties or oppression that others who are outside the sexual norms of society  have, far from it. But to lump us all together as one, as this seems to do, is starting from a false premise: to me it’s saying that just because we fall outside the bounds of heteronormativity we all have a shared set of political, material, social or cultural issues. I don’t think so. And to some extent it is defining ourselves by heteronormative terms.

I blame the academic rubbish heap known as Queer Theory for this. Theresa de Lauretis is usually credited with coming up with the term “Queer Theory” in a 1989 (I think) paper. I don’t think that where it has gone now is necessarily where she envisioned it going, but that’s by the by – academic theories often get picked up and run away with by all sorts.

Yes, there are many ways of being sexual (or even asexual) humans outside the restrictive norms of mainstream society. But just because we’re not sitting in the majority doesn’t mean that we all share common interests either. This grouping moves from biological categories (intersex) to arguably more socially constructed ones (gay & lesbian, though the nature/nurture debate on that still isn’t closed by any means)  and one only made possible via modern medical technology (transgender). We can all be labelled “queer” but I think that masks more than it reveals. And by doing that it silences some.

In New Zealand today, the oppression that used to rule over so many of us has lessened considerably, especially if you’re a gay man or a lesbian. And we got those rights through concerted political effort made over decades.

Am I unsympathetic or politically unsupportive of the rights of intersex or transgender people? No,  not at all – but do we all fit into the same category? I think not.We’re just as varied, just as diverse in where we sit in society as the group of immigrants I listed above. As they are, we’re from minorities within a larger society, but some of us are going to be able to settle in with far greater ease than others.

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1st May 2008

The Sexual Revolution & My Part In It

Posted by: Michael Stevens

mineshaft.jpg When I started fucking around in my teens, it was all about fun. Sex and fun. Fun and sex. I remember when I was about 18 (1979) , being told by a guy at a Gay Liberation at Auckland Uni that as no one could pregnant or hurt, I should go out and fuck my brains out, or words to that effect. After all, I was told, the worst that could happen was syphillis, and you could get that treated, or if you were really unlucky, herpes, and that could be managed. Looking back, he may have had ulterior motives…

Tell a horny 18 year old to go and have sex! Doh! Of course I took his advice.

Fuck for freedom! We were political sexual guerrillas, or so we thought. We really believed that by overturning the opressive norms of heterosexual monogamy and creating our own new way of sexually ‘being’ we were going to shake the bourgoise patriarchal edifice. Right, that worked…

So for me, and I think for a lot of men at that time, sexual freedom was a central part of who we were as out proud gay men. No more hiding in the shadows. No more “being discreet” about it. We wanted to fuck - and we did. Of course, Auckland always seemed a pretty limited arena. So, as so many others did, as soon as possible I headed off for Australia - I made it to the opening night of Steamworks in Melbourne. Later I was in the USA, at the tender age of 24, being as friendly as I could, wherever I could.

San Francisco seemed sort of the home to being gay in one way, sexy, fun, but still a bit hippyish, people talked astrology, but New York loomed large as a fuck-fest: sex, drugs, hard, fast.
stmarks-postcard.jpg

By the time I got there, of course, things had quietened down a bit from the excesses (revolutionary excesses though) of the 70s. AIDS was being felt, though, as I discovered, not really being talked about.

I remember one night in The Anvil, a leather bar on the West Side, this guy taking me out into the lobby and giving me a hit of cocaine, from a little silver spoon around his neck (and wearing a spoon round your neck that must have been dated even then - so 70s!) and he told me “Before you go home with anyone, just give em a hug, and try and get your hands into their armpits, and , ya know, if their glands are swollen, don’t go home with him.” That was the first safe sex ed I can remember.

But the Mineshaft was still going, a legendary place. The spiritual home of all subsequent fuckclubs. It’s not that it was the first, I think the Caldron in SF was open before it, but it was somehow something special. There was no sign marking it - you had to know where to go to find it. Just a door with a light over it in the meat-packing district. Up a staircase, check whatever clothes you wanted, or the guy on the door thought were not in keeping, (and they had a pretty strict dress code) and in you went.

It was dark, of course, a bar upstairs and another down. A pool table by the upstairs bar. Once I saw a guy stretched out there, naked, pinned down to the felt with surgical needles. He seemed to be happy. I heard that when they first opened, the barman actually had a real mechanics greasegun filled with engine grease that he’d lube guys up with, until a couple of medical patrons pointed out this wasn’t the best idea.

It was a space that was, on its best nights, utterly wild, Dionysian, no barriers, full of everything you could imagine and more. Quite a sight for a 24 year-old Auckland boy I can tell you. Coke, speed, acid, amyl, random pills people gave you. Cocks, arses, fingers, fists, a guy with crisco on his feet which could only mean one thing - foot fucking.

But with my new leather jeans, a white t I fitted in fine, and was fairly popular. Well, as popular as I wanted to be, which depended on the night. The image, more than just image, the ethos, the entire idea behind this sort of sex and sexual performance, was masculine, exaggerated, hyper-masculinity. It was a spcae to ‘be’ a man in a different way - a place for men. A place for men to be with other men in particular ways.

It never really got going before midnight as I recall, and went on till 6 at least. But the windows were all blacked out so you never knew if the sun had come up.

Slings, chains, mazes, bathtubs, all the stuff that now is ordinary and part of any fuck-club, then it had a real edge. Once I was sitting down at the downstairs bar, having a beer and a breath, and there was a guy on the stool next to me. I sort of looked at him again, through my haze, and saw he had a tube running from his dick. At his feet he had a guy, tied and bound, blindfolded, with the tube from his dick ending in this guy’s mouth - taped of course, so he couldn’t get away. he just sat there and drank beer and recycled it.

There were some moments of real tenderness too, real meeting, that sense of intimacy that only comes after you’ve been deep inside each other, pushed each other’s nerves quite a way, that requires trust, and care, loving a stranger that you know you’ll most likely never see again.

And after it had closed, the St Marks baths were open. A cab ride over to the Village, and you could keep going.
So this was the gay culture we’d created, born out of the political dreams of the 60s, into the hedonistic 70s, and dragging itself through into the 80s.

And you know, I have to say, it was a lot of fun.

Just a shame about that little virus that had made its way into our world.

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