National Library of New Zealand
Harvested by the National Library of New Zealand on: Apr 14 2010 at 9:23:56 GMT
Search boxes and external links may not function. Having trouble viewing this page? Click here
Close Minimize Help
Wayback Machine
GayNZ Logo & Link
Wednesday 14 April 2010

SEARCH



The Gay Blade

5th November 2009

Coming out all over again…

Posted by: Michael Stevens

One of the most successful tactics of the Gay Liberation Movement back in the 70s was the emphasis they placed on “Coming Out” as a political statement.

blog-lockedheart.jpgThe logic was that if every gay man and lesbian came out and admitted who they were, the general public would see so many queers everywhere that they’d appreciate we were just a normal part of the population. If our real numbers were revealed, we’d be stronger. I remember reading somewhere a piece from back then where this activist said he wished every homo would turn purple overnight, so we could all be seen.

Coming out did work. It took brave people at the start, but over time it become more and more ordinary, and now it is hard to imagine a world where it doesn’t happen, in the West anyway. By making ourselves visible, instead of quietly hiding away, we made ourselves part of the landscape. It was a very clever political move. Even now, unfortunately, there are queers in New Zealand and elsewhere in the world who are still too scared to admit they are attracted to the same sex. People in Sports, Politics, Business, the Art, on TV and everywhere else in our world who, in spite of all we’ve gained, even in liberal homo-friendly NZ, are terrified that someone will find out that they are somehow “different” and have to hide  this part of their personality.

I have to say I find it weird that people today find it hard to come out as gay, but if you’re in professional sports, trying to make a career on TV, being same-sex attracted is still seen as a weakness. Of course, if they all came out, well, it wouldn’t be seen in the same way: That is the basic argument for Coming Out as an act - it makes us visible and normal.

But it can’t be denied, it still takes courage to come out as gay. Those people these days who don’t come out,  I do tend to think of as just a little bit cowardly, but I understand their cowardice.  One friend recently recalled the fear and terror of it all and referred to coming out  as “stomach-churning”, and I know what he means. It is opening yourself up and taking on an identity that is stigmatised, looked-down on, and saying, “Hey, I’m just as good as you!” when a number of people still think that we are sick, sinners or just evil.

But in reality we are just as good, or bad, or ordinary, as anyone else, gay, straight, queer, whatever word you want to use.

I wonder how well it could work for making HIV seem less fearful and more normal. I wonder how it would be if every HIV+ person came out, so everyone around could see that we are just normal people going about our lives. I’m not suggesting right now that every HIV+ person tell all to the world: It takes time and preparation and support before you can do that, and some people will never get to that point. But more of us could I’m sure.

One night back in the 90s at Volt (long gone alas) I was chatting with a guy, and said to him “I guess you should know I’m HIV+” and he said to me “You really don’t need to tell me that, in fact, you shouldn’t tell people. We should all just assume everyone is HIV+ and always play safe. “

That has always been the basis of the “Use a condom every time” message. We just don’t know for sure who has it or who doesn’t. And that message used to be very strong in our world. This was all just after the new drugs came out, and things were starting to turn around for us, but there was still a strong communal knowledge of how bad things can get with HIV, so many of us had seen friends get so sick, and then die.

But that safe sex message has remained the same. And it does make sense still. We don’t tell people “If you smoke 5 cigarettes a day you’ll be ok”. Even though people continue to smoke, we still don’t encourage them to risk a few, we tell, with damn good evidence, that the best thing they can do is stop completely. And of course, realistically, we all know that these messages won’t be blindly followed. So even though, you might be fine risking it having unsafe sex  9 out of 10 times, you might also have been exposed to HIV each of those 10 times you didn’t use condoms. It’s a brutally simple message, but one that is still factually true.

But I think one thing that has changed a lot is that now people who think they’re HIV negative are placing a far greater responsibility of those of us who have the virus to tell them. It used to be all of us together - now it’s seen more and more as the HIV positive person’s job.  With the numbers of people living with the virus here in NZ going up all the time, living well and not looking as though anything is wrong, and fewer and fewer of us dying, in fact the opportunity to be exposed to HIV has increased significantly.

The other advantage from that old way of behaving was that it didn’t stigmatise HIV+ people as much. The burden was shared, and that was a good thing.

Today, if you’re a fit, healthy looking gym-bunny who just happens to have HIV, as so many are, there is now I think even more fear and stigma about admitting it to others. And that’s a shame.  It used to be Poz and Neg together, not , as we often seem now, in two differing camps where the HIV Negative think the HIV Positive should shoulder all the responsibility.

Because having HIV is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a virus in our blood. It’s not a moral judgement.  But the weight of social judgement and stigma, not least from the gay world, is such that most people with HIV feel a need to hide it, so as to avoid the pain of rejection, pity and ostracism. And this leads to more invisibility, more fear and shame felt by those living with the virus.

But  maybe if you knew just how many of us are out there, perhaps you’d think differently.

→ 8 CommentsTags: General

22nd October 2009

Life & Literature

Posted by: Michael Stevens

I read a lot. So I go to bookshops a lot, and love spending time and money in them. bookslog.jpg

If you’re ever stuck on what to give me for a present, book-vouchers are perfect. But I have to admit that it took me a while to figure out that Unity Books here in Auckland had moved their gay literature section to another part of the store. On reflection, this surprised me: not that they’d moved it, but that it took me so long to notice.

Time was I couldn’t wait to get my hands on any books that dealt with gay life. Fiction, poetry, biography, research, theory, whatever, they just seemed so important and so necessary to me. When I first enrolled at University, one of the first things I did was find out where all the gay books were kept in the library. I used to have that catalogue number memorised. The first time I went up there I remember looking at the books, pulling a few off the shelves, and looking down the aisle to see a guy with his cock hanging out, using the gay section as a cruising area. Now there is shelf after shelf of work on gay/lesbian/queer stuff and I barely bother to give it a glance, and I haven’t noticed any hot undergrads hanging out cruising there either.

The old OUT! office in High St (very near to where Unity is now in fact) was my first source of gay literature. I still have some of the books I got there. Felice Picano’s poetry The Deformity Lover and a few others. I wish I’d kept hold of my copy of the first edition of The Joy of Gay Sex though. That office was a strange place. They had porn under the counter, and serious literature on the stands. I bought works put out by the Gay Sunshine Press from SF, which I still treasure, because I do treasure books.

At one time, anything written to do with being gay was seemed esential to me. I read, and by reading heard of other books I should read. By reading I learnt what it was to be a gay man.  Giovanni’s Room made me cry. Dancer From the Dance made me want to live in New York, dance, fuck and take lots of drugs. Faggots made me re-evaluate that, temporarily. I loved Rita-Mae Brown’s work, and others from that era. Books helped me learn about how gay men lived in other places, gave me models for what to expect, how to dress, how to behave, what drugs did, styles of sex, all of that. They gave me an education, when one was hard to find locally, and showed me that I belonged to a much bigger more exciting world than 1979 Auckland.

Now there are hundreds of books, by many different authors available. And yet I feel little compunction to follow the latest trends in gay fiction or poetry. It just doesn’t seem to matter to me any longer. Yet once it was central to me discovering who I was and how to negotiate the world. Perhaps internet dating sites fill that function now? I can’t help thinking that they can’t do it quite as well, but technology is always socially transformative.

I suspect that here we can see the effects of the normalisation of queerness. As we have won our rights to live as couples in the suburbs, adopt babies or bring them into the world with surrogates, or adopt unwanted puppies instead, and generally join the hegemonic world of day-to-day dullness that straights inhabit and so many of us now seem to crave, I suspect our literature (if it is indeed “ours” any more) has become less interesting, less challenging. We’ve moved from being a group of people demanding social change based on strong political analyses to suburban conformists shaping arguments on the premise that “Hey, I pay taxes too”. We’re in the system, not trying to change it.

Our communities have suffered as well. Once HIV/AIDS was a central part of who we were, at least for gay men anyhow, but today interest in this has nearly disappeared too. The communities that fought for better treatment of those of us living with HIV have largely dissipated. Instead of HIV and the welfare of HIV+ men and the care of us all being the central unifying issue for gay men, it has become of marginal interest for most, even when they become infected. A bored “Whatever, take the pills” seems to be the response to HIV today in the gay world, here in NZ at least.

So we’ve made spectacular gains in some areas. We can have our relaitonships officially recognised. We can’t lose a job for being gay. We can fuck legally just like straights, at 16. We can take our pills, and manage our HIV pretty well for most of us.

But what unites us? What holds us together as a group now? And do I care? Maybe not so much, which is why I didn’t notice they’d moved the gay books. And I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or not.

→ 5 CommentsTags: General

25th September 2009

Sweet Ass Bro ! (R18)

Posted by: Michael Stevens

.

.

The following article has been  classified R18 by the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

It has been restricted to persons over the age of 18 years of age.

If you are over the age of 18 and wish to read this article please scroll down.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I think I was 16 the first time I was rimmed.  It was an utterly mind-blowing experience.  Nothing I had ever heard or thought about had prepared me for the fact that my arsehole could be so exquisitely, delightfully, sexily sensitive.  The tongue working away down there, in that most forbidden of areas, the waves of pleasure sweeping over me, and then even more shocking to my youthful mind, his tongue actually going up inside me! A man’s tongue up my arsehole ! Feeling so good ! Taboos broken left, right and centre. Shock, but no horror - shock and delight. A pleasure which continues to this day I might add.

Of course, at 16 I had such a sweet arse too. Pert, firm, ripe, all those good things.  It stayed that way pretty well through to my late 20s I guess. These days, well,  it has given in to gravity a bit. But I still admire a good arse on another guy. Sometimes those cheeks just call out.  And if you want to freak a straight boy out, tell him he’s got a cute arse.

A big part of it is, of course, the fact that our anus is such forbidden territory when we are growing up, and even for most adults. It is, understandably, associated with dirt, with our shit. We are taught to be ashamed of our arses and our arseholes. The idea that they are a source of pleasure undermines such training. And the arse itself was often the site of punishment - I’m showing my age but at school we got caned on our arses, another way to mark it as a place of taboos and bad things.

When you think about it, all the organs that give us sexual pleasure are excretory. You piss through your penis, women menstruate through their vagina, we eat food, breathe and vomit through our mouths, and yes, we shit through our arses.  Yet the idea of talking about it openly is anathema to so many, especially in the straight world. I think gay men as a whole are much more at ease when talking about our arses. even those who don’t go in for fucking still are living in a world where it’s normal and so they’re exposed to the ideas around it. And it seems more guys in NZ are learning to douche properly, which is a very good thing indeed. Accidents are not enjoyable, but occasionally come with the territory it has to be admitted.

We men are all being reminded now to be aware of our prostates, and it’s a good thing that we are. Anal health is important, and gay men should be the ones who are most in touch with any changes in our prostates. No-one wants prostate cancer, and we should all be able to be aware of any changes going on there before we need to see a Dr. And taking care of your arse’s health also involves thinking of good lube, of being aware of how relaxed or not you are. There is a huge range of anal toys out there, but don’t forget, the colon is about as strong as wet tissue, and lined with blood vessels, so take care up there.

Let’s face it - the arsehole is a source of great, deep and intense pleasure. Especially for men, because we have a prostate. That is the joy of getting fucked for guys, well, part of it. The way another’s cock stimulates the prostate,  it intensifies so many of the rest of our sexual feelings, just sends the body, or mine anyhow, into some sort of sensory overdrive. Yes, I love being fucked. I love my arsehole and all it can do for me. I’m a homo: arse-fucking is one of the things that defines what we do in bed. The great erotic tragedy of HIV is the way we now have to protect ourselves in this most intimate and delightful of acts.  I still mourn that loss of spontaneity that we had before safe-sex, as much as I support the message and need for rubbers now.

It is amazing though, how the idea of anal sex  scares so many straight people. And why, as I mentioned above, telling a straight guy he’s a got a hot arse will freak him out so much. Part of that reaction comes from the idea of associating the arsehole with shit and dirt. But an equally important part of their reaction comes from the idea of a man becoming “unmanned” - by getting penetrated, and enjoying it, we are certainly not fulfilling the dominant cultural model of men as conquerors, inserting our cocks into women. We are, in the straight mind anyhow, somehow becoming women by doing this and enjoying it. But I don’t see it that way. I don’t think it makes me any less of a man because I enjoy it up my jacksie. I’m just a lot more in touch with the pleasure I can get from my physical home, more than most straight people, that’s for sure. I know my body better, and know how to give and get pleasure from it, and how to do the same for other men as well.

I know that some straights are into arseplay as well, but for them it’s more of a fetish it seems, something extra. To me, and I guess I uneasily stand along President Clinton here, sex isn’t really sex unless it involves one of getting into the other. The rest, however much fun it is, is just the buildup. I’ve never been one of those guys who just lives for blowjobs - for me they are a starter, something before the main course.

So let’s enjoy our anuses, our arseholes. Let’s take some pride in being uphill gardeners. But let’s do it with care for each other. Love your ass and it’ll love you back.

And the way to this man’s heart is not through his stomach, I’m telling you.

→ 14 CommentsTags: General

16th September 2009

That’s so Jewish?

Posted by: Michael Stevens

That’s so Jewish!? Yeah, well I wouldn’t say that or even think it, because it’s offensive.

In New Zealand, why hasn’t “That’s so Maori” as a term taken off?  Or “That’s so Samoan”? In the States, why haven’t for example,  “That’s so Black” or “That’s so Latino” to equal  “That’s so lame” become popular? Does anyone in the UK go “That’s so Paki!” ? Maybe because people would find those terms just a little offensive and you’d get your head kicked in if you tried it?

So why do more and more people think it’s fine to say “That’s so gay!”? I’ve heard the argument that “gay” used this way has nothing to do with me as a gay man - but that’s deceitful self-serving bullshit. It does, and it’s oppressive and insulting. What people do, when they use the word in this way, is take a word that is associated with a minority group in society, a group that has regularly and continues to be targetted, beaten up, murdered and have their basic rights denied, and then use it “jokingly” as a term for lame or poor quality. Well, fuck you.

It does seem most popular among younger people. Ah, young people these days. But not among all young people, some I know consciously avoid it. Some think it’s fun to be offensive a bit, and push the boundaries. Do they go and make Auschwitz jokes to their Jewish friends I wonder? Or would that be going too far? Probably.

But it’s ok to make fun of gays, and then claim you’re not, because, well, we don’t count.  The simple fact that they don’t make use of terms such as ”Jewish” or “Black” in the same way shows just where we rank as a group. If we object, if we complain,  we’re being kill-joys, we’re not seeing the joke, no sense of humour, not moving with the times. Yeah, right. Those were the approaches used years ago to justify racial jokes and other forms of subtle, snide oppression. They were seen for what they were then - why is it so hard to see them for what they are now?

This use of the term gay as an insult shows minds that have no political awareness. They have never fought for anything in their lives, except for Daddy to pay their bills usually. With no understanding of the political fights that have gone before, of the sacrifices made and hard work that it took to get us to this point, they feel free to trample over us, and then claim they didn’t. Hypocrisy, ignorance, laziness and a sense of entitlement reek from those who use these words so blithely.

I’ve been told I have “no right” to censure their free speech. I disagree. I have every right, and will express it. They tend to think, when they do think, that they are entitled to say and do anything they like, so long as no one says or does anything that hurts them. Their own pompous outrage when criticised or mocked is often comical to see. Perhaps it comes from years of schooling where they’ve always been told how special they are, and how clever, even when most of them are, in fact, decidely average.

What about the argument that we “stole” gay in the first place? Actually, it had a history in slang for quite a while meaning queers and those on the edge of society for quite a while before Gay Liberation took it over in the 60s. And there was a clear political reason behind our use of it, just as there was a clear political reason behind the use of “Black” rather than “Negro” or “Coloured” in the same era.

We were, in fact, reclaiming words that had been used to attack us, words used to put us down and keep us in our place.

I do not, and will not accept that using “Gay” to mean stupid or lame is acceptable. I am a gay man. We didn’t spend years fighting for the few rights we now have to have it all subverted and be put back in our place by this casual form of linguistic insult.

Words matter. Words are powerful. Words can hurt, and words do have a political and social message attached to them.

→ 10 CommentsTags: General

28th August 2009

Bimbos and Bodies

Posted by: Michael Stevens

A friend gave me some back issues of gay mags the other day. DNA, Attitude, Gay News etc.

magazine.jpgAll were choc-full of images of beautiful men. Men who obviously spend hours every day in the gym and live on wheatgrass juice, tuna and rice  - I know, I know, they’re models, but even so, they’re held up to us as the image of what a gay man is supposed to be. These images are powerful, and their common-place use to depict gay men tells us something about our world, and I’m not sure I like it. And really, let’s face it, these guys are our equivalent of busty blonde bimbos for straight guys. Hasn’t Gay Liberation been a great thing? Baby, we’ve come such a long way…

So many muscles and such sharp definition that the split in their abs starts to look like a vagina, a friend noted. Ridiculously slim waists. And, with one exception, no body hair. So even though they’re supposedly what gay men aspire to be like, if we’re not already there, they actually look more like perpetual teenagers, stuck in early pubescence forever. They don’t look all that masculine to me. I’m not immune to the charms of youth and beauty, but this sort of airbrushed perfection (and let’s face it: these shots will have been enhanced) leaves me cold.

And what is wrong with body hair? On the one hand we have people prattling on about “nature” and “being Green” and then they rip their hair off with wax and look totally unnatural. Did you know you can buy “green” hair removal products? Why? Yes, I am hirsute. So I do have a personal axe to grind on this one. I like my body hair. And I like hairy men, I think they can be very sexy. And yes, so can men with very little body hair and all the gradations in between. I just don’t get this desire to pretend that men don’t have chest hair, hair around our cocks and balls, hair on our stomachs ( I just love following a treasure trail down ) facial hair, even… hair on our shoulders and backs! I just can’t measure a guy’s hotness by his hairiness, or lack of it, which is the image the magazines keep pushing.

As I look at the ads for the next dance-party, or the photos used on most gay websites, it gets harder and harder to find a piece of body hair, or a body that doesn’t make Michaelangelo’s David look flabby. Look back at some older porn or erotica and well over half the guys that were thought sexy in the 50s, 60s and 70s just wouldn’t make it today. Instead we’ve somehow ended up with this hyper-muscular baby-bottom smooth twenty-something as our icon, and I’m not quite sure how it happened.

I’m old enough (here we go again…”The good old days”) to remember when the gay media contained a level of self-critical reflection and political awareness that didn’t simply centre on our right to imitate straights by getting married and having kids. I know, I know, consumption is everywhere and we’ve been swallowed up by it. These gay mags tell us about how to spend money to fit into certain social groups. And they all assume we have a disposable income, live in the city, are under 30 (or idealise youth) and are happy uncritically taking part in a political system that is, actually when you peel back the veils, not exactly on our side. We’ve had to fight hard and long for the rights we’ve gained, they weren’t simply a gift by a benign system, and now we’ve been swallowed up by it. Yeah, I’m on a kind of a doom and gloom kick.

These images might be pretty, they might be hot, they might handsome, but what they also do is exclude a lot of us. Look around a gay bar or club, and the number who fit that images is way smaller than those who do. But the number of people trying to fit it and not making it is often quite high. And it just looks a little sad and a little wrong when some guy in his mid 50s is trying to look like a 29 year-old and not pulling it off (err, the look I mean, you dirty-minded filth).

What those of us who don’t fit into these dominant advertising-driven models of gay bimbos get told is we’re not quite up there, not as good, not worth as much. “Here is an image of what a gay man is supposed to be if he wants to be successful and loved” these ads say. “Ooops, you don’t fit, so you’re not going to succeed”, is the hidden message here.

So remind me now, who else has to put up with relentless Body-Fascisim, pressure to look ”right”  and bimbos in ads showing them up all the time? Oh yeah, straight women. That’s what we fought for, isn’t it, to be just like them.

→ 11 CommentsTags: General

18th August 2009

Michael Stevens: Sexual Consultant?

Posted by: Michael Stevens

I was at Urge again the other night and noticed a poster from The Basement. for those who don’t know, The Basement is a sex-club. Anyway, the poster read something like “Thursday Night is Fetish Night at The Basement”.

I looked at it and knew I wouldn’t go. I just don’t think I have any fetishes these days.

I used to. The feel and smell of leather used to be a fetish. Hairy chests used to be a fetish. B&D and role-playing used to be a fetish. Actually, without boasting, there are few things that men can do to each other sexually I haven’t tried, and only a few of those I haven’t really enjoyed at some stage in my life. Not that they were all fetishes I guess. But now, I just don’t seem to have any. I know guys who just about cream their pants when they see a guy in the right sports kit. For some it will only be Adidas, never Nike or any other brand. Others are just into sports-kit in general. Other guys get all hot and bothered over tatts, or facial hair, or cigars. And some fetishes we just won’t mention in public…

When I was 24 and living in NY, The Mineshaft, the grand-daddy of all gay sex clubs was still open. The things I saw there, the things I did, the things I was! Happy memories. Couldn’t be bothered now.

No particular item of clothing or set of actions, no childhood memory or adult-inspired one gives me that sudden tingle and automatic sexual rush that fetishes do. I feel a little deprived. After all, I used to have them.

Is it just middle age? Well, I know guys older than me who are happily playing and exploring their fetishes still. Some quite a bit older than me - lucky bastards. Am I just blase? Jaded? Maybe I am. I listen to other people describing their fantasies and fetishes and mentally tick them off in my head, and then get the “Can I be bothered?” reaction. Not a good sign when an exotic night of sex seems like too much work.

And there are so many wannabes, who don’t have the experience but they have the fantasy. A friend of mine once hooked up with a guy on line, and this was back before broad band when pics online were a rarity, who seemed experienced and into the wild and kinky side of extreme leather and role-play my mate likes. My friend was all dressed up ready, and opened the door to see this plump, blonde-bouffant, pink cashmere cardigan wearing 50-something all a quiver on his doorstep, saying “I’ve never actually done this before”. My friend slammed the door in his face. never lie about your experience to a serious fetish-player.

A few years ago, chatting online, as one does, and this guy got in touch, saying he was training to be a hooker and needed some guys to practice on. Seriously. he was interested in me because I was both HIV+ ( something he needed to feel happy working with) and (b) experienced in fetishes. So I volunteered, after all, he was very hot. Beautiful sexy body etc. I thought to myself “Could this be a new line of employment : Michael Stevens, Consultant to Hustlers”. It wold make a great business  card, but I haven’t put it on my CV. By blogging it have I just put it on my CV?

The session wasn’t that great, again, in spite of my years of experience, it just didn’t click for me, nor for him I think. He was a really nice guy though - I ran into him on the dancefloor at Urge a few years later and he reminded me of the whole episode. He hadn’t gone on with the career change, figured out it wasn’t for him after all.

It’s not that I don’t think about sex - I do. And I have it as well. And enjoy it - a lot. I look at hot guys on the bus, as I walk aorund town, in bars and clubs, everywhere, of course. Bring on summer and scantily clad sweaty men - wait - is that a fetish? But I can’t see myself heading down to The Basement for Fetish Night any time soon. For those who do, I hope you enjoy it!

But what a shame I can’t turn this into a career path. All those years of experience, so much to offer, so much to teach, maybe I should get the cards printed after all.

→ No CommentsTags: General

6th August 2009

Mating Rituals

Posted by: Michael Stevens

Why is it that so many wonderful men that I know are single? And, for that matter, why am I ? Not that I am necessarily all that wonderful.

Is it the pool of men around? I mean, I have so many friends in Auckland, but I can’t see myself falling for them, not when we’ve been mates for so long. And then you look on-line and see, well, all sorts of guys, some, let’s admit it, seem just a bit sad and desperate, or wildly unrealistic. Guys who post entire shopping lists of desired characteristics on their profiles are not going to be my choice. I mean, how could you ever live up to it?

A few weeks ago an 18 year old messaged me on NZD and asked if I wanted to do cam-sex with him. I mean, really - 18!? Do his parents know what he’s getting up to in his bedroom at night when they think he’s studying? Shit - imagine if they walked in just as we were reaching the point of the whole thing. But most parents of teenage gay men have no idea what their sons are up to, let’s face it.

I pointed out the age difference (nearly 30 years) and said no thanks, he didn’t even look like he shaved yet, and he replied “Hey, I’m horny and it’s just cam-sex mate.”

Somehow I didn’t find that flattering. Though I guess he must have found me attractive if he wanted me to jerk off on cam with him. An idea that I must say I really don’t find erotic. I know some guys get off on cyber-sex, or cam-sex, but for me - nope, it doesn’t float my boat.

So if not online, well, what about out on the town? The thing is, Auckland is just too small: it often seems that we all know each other, or at least, have heard about each other.

Every now and then I think “Maybe if I got in better shape, worked out, lost the gut etc… or changed my hair… got my eyes lasered… ” but would that make that much difference? I might get more roots, but I don’t think it’d get me true love, or even a semblance of it.

If all the gay men from NZ who’ve moved away came back to Auckland, just imagine what that would do to our social world. We’d be the gayest little city in the world if all those kiwi fags who moved away to live in a big city came back, if they all left SF, LA, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, NY, Sydney and Melbourne, and came back here, just think! Or just dream - I guess they did leave for a reason. It is small here, and the pool is limited.

But even though there is this pool of smart, sexy, desirable, employed gay men out there, why are so many of us single? I guess part of is habit. As I get older it seems more and more difficult to imagine combining my life with someone else’s - difficult but not impossible (to any future husbands who read that and got put off please note the “not impossible” bit). I mean, I have all the furniture I need, I have somewhere to live, I have my routines - do I want to risk unbalancing all that for another guy? Well, yes, to some extent, I do. Because sharing life, love and all the day-to-day hassles it brings with someone else is fun and rewarding. I know, I’ve done it before, and I expect I’ll do it again before I die.

Till then I ‘ll keep looking around at all my eligible smart, sexy single friends, and wonder why they’re like that, and why I’m like this, but hey, life is basically good, right? I can wait. I’m happy.

→ 2 CommentsTags: General

24th July 2009

Elegy

Posted by: Michael Stevens

Mike, Glenn, Alan, Peter, Alan, Andrew, Chris, David: I used to have a list somewhere of all the names of the men I know who’d died. Then it got too long. And now I can’t remember everyone I knew who died of AIDS. I hope their families still do, but it is over 20 years now since many of them sickened and died. Even to their brothers and sisters they will be turning into misty memories, the sadness and grief now all but worn away over time, as they look at old photos and remember the good times. I suppose this is what it is like after a war. Twenty years on who wanted to hear talk of the trenches of WW1 and their horrors, or who in the 1960s really cared about the agony and brilliance of the Battle of Britain pilots? Who cares today about the veterans of the first Gulf War? But in all of these, families were destroyed. Young loved men in the prime of their lives disappeared into some distant land or city, and returned, if at all, either plague-wracked and waiting to die or already dead, to the fear and grief of their families.

I remember that the first support group I went to at Body Positive had two facilitators: One died three weeks after the group started. “This is what will happen to us all” was the silent thought around the group. But I know at least three of us are still alive, if not more.

At least in a war, the dead are honoured. But for us, our dead were not so welcomed, not initially. The fear of contagion surrounding even a corpse was strong. To have to admit to friends that a son who’d got sick and died jad had AIDS was shameful. Shame, guilt, ostracism, doubt and fear: HIV is marked with all of these in ways that other diseases are not. And if you nursed people through those days, watched them sicken and waste away, become demented, forget who you were even though you’d been spending hours every day with them, this was heartbreaking. It seemed a whole generation of beautiful young men were cursed, and we all wondered when our turn would come, because why should we escape?

Today, it is all so different, in a medical sense anyhow. For most of us, if you take your pills and do what your Dr says, you will be ok. Medically ok that is. But those deep currents of shame and anguish linger and are strong. Grown men still weep in fear and at their folly in getting infected. Even though they know in a rational sense that they will most likely not follow the same trajectory as we did back in the early days, still that sense of fear, of shame and of guilt is there, still strong, perhaps even stronger. After all, that little voice inside your head says “They knew the risks!” And it’s true, they did know what they were doing, and even so, in spite of all the safe-sex campaigns they’d been in, in spite of all the condoms they’d thrown off floats in parades, in spite of having manned AIDS hotlines, even they got it eventually, and they cannot help but ask themselves “Why? How?”

They will not die in the same way as all those men did 20 years ago. Blind, demented and lying in their own shit. They will be able to lead fairly normal lives. Travel. Have relationships. Have sex. Maybe even have kids. All this is possible now for those of us with HIV. But still, the shock is there, the trauma, the agony.

And for those of us old enough to remember the really bad days, for me anyhow, there is that sense of “Why did we have to go through all that horror?” along with a feeling that, in some ways, that is when in fact we were most alive, most useful, most worthy as human beings. We were in there, at times up to our elbows, dealing with sickness and death and grief on an almost daily basis. It was horrible, debilitating and sorrowful, and yet it felt for many of us as though we were doing the most valuable and important things that could be done.

And who remembers that now? Did it all happen? Did it matter? This generation today – they have no idea. And why should they, in fact, I want to protect them from it, but still I resent their blithe ways and their lack of understanding, their lack of history.

But then, go through small-town NZ and look. You will see them there, small memorials from WW1 or WW2; in my school chapel we even had a memorial for the Boer War dead. Think of the heartbreak every one of those deaths caused, the devastation and distress on receiving that letter or telegram, knowing that son was never coming home. And now, who remembers the person behind those names? Who recalls their laugh, what made them special. All gone, generations ago. And so will all this be gone too. Who will remember them, with their good points and flaws? Who will recall how they were loved?

→ 1 CommentTags: General

15th July 2009

God Save the Queens!

Posted by: Michael Stevens

It’s easier to hide an elephant in your armpit than a queen in a crowd” : apparently a popular saying in Constantinople in the 10th Century or so.

emmett.jpgOK, so I’m fudgeing the date a bit, but the friend who told me this was a Byzantine historian from Athens, and a big old sodomite to boot, so I believe him. I’ve always loved the saying. It’s not always the most popular observation, but the queen does seem to be a pretty unviersal human type, and one we can recognise whether you’re in the streets of Moscow, Cairo, Beijing or Dunedin. I swear that in Jerusalem a few years ago I saw two screaming mincing queens dressed up as Orthodox Jewish women, wigs, head-scarves and all.They seemed to be having a great time, though causing some level of puzzlement to those around them.

 Queens are powerful, and that’s how I use the word queen, not in a disparaging way, but they are strong. Think of Quentin Crisp. Think of Philippe, Duc d’Orleans in 17th Century France, and according to Saint-Simon “the silliest woman at Court” yet a soldier who won huge admiraiton for his courage on the battlefield, even if apparently he was prone to run shrieking when there was a thunderstorm.Edmund White in his biographical novel “The Farewell Symphony” notes the change that went on in the gay world in the 60s as the Gym Body moved in and the old queen style moved out - “Gay boys who just ten years earlier had hissed together over cocktails, skinny in black pegged pants and cologne soaked pale blue angora sweaters, and had disputed Callas vs. Tebaldi now lumbered like innocent kindergartners in snowsuits of rosy inflated flesh…” But really, when you think of it, we don’t call them “Muscle Marys” for nothing now, do we? And as we’ve just passed the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in NY, it’s worth remembering it was led to a large extent by the queens who lived in the area and used the bar.So we are we now so quick to disown our royal pedigree? Why are queens so out now, and why do people claim (and puh - leez! it so often is just a claim) to be “straight -acting” or “discreet”. What’s wrong with being In-Your-face? Why is there so often the unease in the gay world around the obviously and effeminately gay male? They did, to a large extent, pave the way for us, yet now we seem ashamed of them as we try and sink into decent, dull, suburban, gym-toned obscurity.

You don’t have to be a rabid screecher, you don’t have to do drag, or wear makeup to be a queen. You can have a great body from the gym, a moustache, a deep voice and a hairy chest and be one too. Some of the campest queens I’ve known were some of the most aggressive tops I’ve come across too. The stereotypes just don’t apply. I suppose it’s the attitude. The confidence, the “Don’t-Fuck-With-Me” to your enemies and the warm, loyal friendship (if sometimes expressed behind a veil of rapier like sarcasm) to those you love.

Queens are subversive and threatening. They pose a challenge and don’t fit neatly into the current nice boringly beige model of gayness we live with. Queens, just by their existence, ask us “Do you really believe this shit they are peddling? Is this what we fought for? Is this what being a fag is really about? ” Their bullshit detectors are flawless, and their hearts are deep.

And if they have airs and graces at times, well darling, don’t forget, life in a palace changes one.

→ 2 CommentsTags: General

1st July 2009

Why Isn’t Life More Like Porn ?

Posted by: Michael Stevens

Well, it’s probably a good thing it isn’t, or nothing would get done, but the thought came to me as I was sitting here waiting for the plumbers to arrive.

blog_basic_plumbing.jpg
If life were like porn, the plumbers would be hot, maybe one in his 40s, dark and hairy, strong but a little gut going on there, one in his 20s, friendly, eager and smooth, both wearing overalls undone down to the crotch cause of the heat, and that are somehow constantly threatening to fall off and reveal that big hard tool that all plumbers always walk around with. After fiddling with their tools and a couple of subtle comments and some serious eye contact, well, it’d all be on. But would your loo ever get fixed? After you’d all had so much fun together, would it even be possible to say “The tap over the laundry sink is dripping too” - bit of a come-down really.
Just think of all the trades that’d be so much more interesting if they were just like in the pornos: electricians, pizza delivery boys, mechanics, and we all know about the Police and what they like to do when they stop a car with a single man in it. That is if everything I’ve ever watched on TVs in gay bars and clubs is true, and why would TV lie to me?

Of course, if it were true, the Army, Navy and Air Force, Police and all manual trades would be known for being filled with homos, in the same way that people now joke about interior designers or hairdressers. It could be fun -  “Oh, David”, in a knowing but butch tone “He’s a Police Officer now” with a pregnant pause after allowing everyone to know exactly what this meant.

But so much sex would get tiring all the time. And irritating as well. I mean, what if you just wanted a new power-point put in? There are times when no matter how hunky the sparky that arrives on the doorstep in his shorts and tool belt that you’d just think “Oh come on - I’ve got to meet my mum in half an hour!” The thrill of the erotic Policeman could dull over time too. What if you really were only doing 45 kmh in a 50 k zone, and actually you had to get home to feed the dogs? He’s already got the cuffs out and his truncheon is ready and you’re just like… “What? Sex with a big hunky sexy cop again! Not now!”

Of course, some of these guys in real life are hot, but then, so are some hairdressers, interior designers and dental-hygenists - we just don’t give them the same sexy labels. Or has someone made porn about dental-hygenists that I haven’t heard of yet? Because if so I’d love to see it. Though the idea is slightly disturbing. “No, I just want my gums looked at!”

But, then again, if we could turn it off and on at will, the supply of living porn, well, that could work. But that, like all porn, is just a fantasy - aint’ never going to happen. And life isn’t like porn, for which I’m glad.

And the plumbers arrived, were perfectly nice and efficient, and I wouldn’t have wanted to do either of them.

→ 3 CommentsTags: General