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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Velvet Mafia

It had to happen I guess, it's been building up for a while. And now that ex NZAF Chair Alastair Cameron has been appointed the Leader of the Opposition's Head of Staff, it comes out.

Yes, the Great Gay Conspiracy, the Velvet Mafia, the Homintern. Over cocktails or lattes, quietly chatting in gyms, passing coded messages by the songs DJs play, we push deeper into the social order.

It's all nothing but a front for the deeper penetration of NZ's public life by filthy god-hating Sodomites and the headlong dive of NZ's standards led by their short-haired radical-feminist family-hating Sapphist mates.

The nut-case blogs are at it already - but I don't want to link to them and boost their pageviews.

The fact that Grant Robertson, Labour's openly gay Deputy Leader, is a friend of Cameron's, is seen by some as definitive proof of this godless plot.

Yeah, because in a city like Wellington (well, it's really a big town, not a city) gay men with a strong interest in Labour politics happen to be friends is a surprise how? I know gay men who are active in right-wing politics too, but they don't seem to carry the same level of scrutiny.

It's not a surprise though, and it's the sort of smear we've had before. In some ways we're in good company. In the past Freemasons (no, not the band), Jews, and Communists have all been targetted in the same way - evil, suspicious outsiders who can pass themselves off as "one of us" but really they're out to get us! That's how the conspiracy theorists think.

That was the drive behind the loathsome anti-Jewish Dreyfus Affair in France, behind McCarthyism in the US in the 50s, and homosexuals always get caught up in these things. We were seen as a "security risk", open to blackmail, easy to bribe, and a backdoor for the enemy. Don't forget, we were locked up by the Nazis and the Soviets just the same way the Jews were.

Make no mistake - these comments are nothing but old, deep-rooted homophobia coming out. It really is amazing the amount of power that people ascribe to us. You'd have to think if that were true we'd be in a much better position than we are at the moment - we must be running one of the most inefficient and poorly led conspiracies of all time.

We haven't even improved the national standard of interior decoration yet!

It's true - there are gay networks. Just as there are networks of lawyers, networks of Grammar and Kings' Old Boys and networks of farmers. Humans have a tendency to cluster together with people who share similar views and interests. It's actually a good idea, it means a group can organise and get its voice heard, which is kind of what politics and democracy is about.

I say good luck to Alastair Cameron. He'll need it. Even though I'm a natural Labourite, David Shearer hasn't impressed me yet,  and I can't see him leading the party to victory. Maybe the Velvet Mafia will be able to change all that though. Heh heh heh (Ooops did I say that out loud?)


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Running Around With Handbags...

How much does being sexually different from the mainstream world really give us in common? It's something I've thought about before, and it raised its head again the other day after Andreas Derleth, Mr Gay World 2012, said he wanted to change the image of " gay men running around with handbags".

He didn't mean we should ditch Gucci for Prada.

It reminded me of the equally dumb and homophobic comments made by Mike Puru a few months ago that he doesn't want to walk his little dogs in public and be seen as a stereotypical gay man.

But it's a fact that can't be ignored - an awful lot of gay men just want to live "normal" lives in the suburbs with their partners, they don't want to be associated with the more flamboyant and socially non-conformist sides of gay culture as it has grown.



For them, the old stereotype of a gay man as a mincing nelly queen, interested in opera, interior-decorating and gossip, is something they simply cannot identify with. They want to be "men" and fit in with their straight mates. They don't want to be different.

Their position assumes that this is better, this is "correct" way to be a gay man and that being a not-so-butch homo is a bad thing. I understand their desire to be accepted, I really do, but no matter how "straight-acting" and handbag-free they become, a taste for cock up your arse or down your throat is never really going to be seen as truly butch by your straight mates and colleagues.

Gay men can fit in with the mainstream more than any other group of queers though, and hold onto a lot of the power and privilege that goes with being a man in our world. And that is just what a lot of gay men want - they see no need to change the system, they just want to fit into it and get on with life. The "Gay Community" is less central to their lives, or even totally irrelevant.

I'd argue they don't understand either the history of gay oppression and Gay Liberation, or just how we actually got to the position of relative social freedom we now have. It wasn't from fitting in and dumping the handbags. But that was then, and the world has changed hugely. Gay men have choices that a generation ago would have seemed impossible.

And there is no doubt that gay men have done the best out of the movement for sexual liberation and rights. If you're elsewhere on the spectrum of sexual difference, of being "Queer" things aren't as rosy.

The great promise of the "Queer" movement of the late 80s and 90s was to bring that whole collection of letters (LGBTTIF)  that makes such an alphabet soup under one umbrella, to say we are all sharing in the same oppression and have the same interests.

It hasn't really worked out that way though, and it never really held water outside the world of university theorists as far as I can make out. A happily Civil-Unioned white gay lawyer in Remuera just isn't going to have that much in common with a Samoan MTF trans-person. The assumption that sexual difference, that "queerness" unites us all doesn't hold up.

But when someone gets a title like "Mr Gay World" I do expect more of him. I do expect him to realise that in fact a hell of a lot of young gay guys get bullied, get driven to self-harm and suicide because they don't fit in, because they are not butch, because they are in fact, close to the old "handbag carrier" stereotype. And not just young gay guys, all queer youth. Maybe he spoke without thinking, I don't want to spoil his joy in his title, but I hope he reconsiders.

Otherwise he becomes part of the problem, he excludes those who don't or can't fit in. And that's not what I thought this competition and title were about.





Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Does My Dick Look Big in This?

You know you can buy underwear now that will make your whole package, cock and balls,  look bigger? And undies that will also "shape" your arse to give it that porn-star bubble-butt look.

I always wonder what happens if you meet some guy and then go home and have to take them off and the truth is revealed. Hell, even before then, what if you're hugging and kissing and groping and he puts his hand down your pants? I know if I met a man wearing them that way I'd feel a mix of amusement and puzzlement.And sorry if he'd be that insecure.  Not exactly sexy.

And while most of us would agree that a big cock or a nicely-rounded butt is fun, they're pretty irrelevant to the general quality of life. 

But we gay men are bombarded with pressure about how we should look. The quest for the perfect six-pack, perfect pecs, big-guns, cum-gutters, goes on. And on and on and on.



And I do understand it - these guys can look very fucking hot. For me the physical side of being gay is about loving and desiring the masculine, so yeah, of course I get it. The expectation seems to be that every gay man must either look this way or desire men who do, or that's the impression I get when I look at the ads in gay media and on gay fuck-sites (puhleez - they're not "dating" sites). And that can be an impossible goal for some.

I know guys who have done all the hard hours in the gym, have beautifully defined bodies, but still can't find a partner to love, and some say they find it hard to even get laid - guys without the same level of physical beauty feel too scared to approach them. But how perfect do you have to be?

I admit, I'm a bad homo in this regard. I have joined gyms at different times, but I just get so fucking bored in them. At 50, I have a gut, hey - I like good food and booze too much - I don't have a body that any advertiser would use to sell unless it's a before and after fitness-programme. And I guess we'd only get the before shots done.

For me part of it was school. PE for me was a time of utter humiliation and shame - the PE master was a bastard who seemed to delight in tormenting me and the other boys like me. So I have never really felt that comfortable with my body and with sport in general I guess. And I was able to coast through my 20s without too much to worry about.

I do know other gay men who had the same sort of experiences at school but have found going to gyms as adults really empowering - and I admire them for that - it just doesn't seem to work that way for me.

Getting the perfect body becomes this thing that we worship and turn into a fetish. It does have an upside of course, it's good for your health, a lot of guys like the way they think it helps free them from the older "femme" stereotypes of gay men. There's no doubt it gives a lot of guys a real and valuable boost to their self-image. 

I guess the thing is, the paradox of it, is that so many gay men already have real problems with self-esteem, issues with how we look and who and what we are, so if we find we can't conform to this stereotype that is so relentlessly shoved down our throats, once again we end up with gay men feeling excluded...by other gay men.

It's often hard enough dealing with the straight world, so feeling like you don't belong in the gay world too because of your looks is a double-whammy really. And it does seem pretty superficial too, basing your attraction purely on the physical. Superficial, but not of course limited to homo-world. Yeah I do know that. 

Who's in and who's out? Who has the body, the cock, and who doesn't? It's great to look hot, to be ripped, to spend hours in the gym each day if that makes you happy - but it's only one way of being gay. It'd be nice to think that after all the bullying and social exclusion gay guys typically go through we have learnt not to treat our own that way.




Thursday, March 29, 2012

Transitions...

After getting diagnosed with HIV in 1988, I spent most of the 1990s getting ready to die. I was so weak I couldn't get out of bed, down to just over 50 kgs at one point, miserable, angry and sick so often, bouncing between hospital and Herne Bay House, until the new drugs came along and I started to get better. But a lot of my time and energy was built around being HIV+, around medicine and illness, and the idea of death. 

Even with the new meds though, and the gradual improvement to my health, I always had this sense in the back of my mind that it would all fall apart, that the meds would stop working and I'd go back to that time where my death seemed so close and obvious.

And even now I still find it hard to trust the future, to imagine I have one. But logically I know that I do, and realistically the meds will keep working for me if I keep taking them correctly.

I've been thinking about all this lately as I try and re-shape my life and search for a career - again.

Physically I am in pretty good health - a bit porky maybe, not as fit as I'd like, but that's not unusual for most guys in their 50s. Like nearly all of us long-term HIV people, I get tired, really tired, so fast and so easily. It's not surprising I guess - after all I am on intensive daily chemo-therapy to control the virus - living with medication like this means you pay a price, but it's still better than the alternative.

Emotionally though I think the toll has been great. HIV has shaped my life in ways I wouldn't have chosen - I've adjusted and worked to make the most of it where I can, but that's not been easy. 

I have suffered depression at different times, again, something very common in HIV+ people, I've been suicidal at times in the past, again, not that unusual for those of living with the virus, and have found so often that guys see the virus before they see me, it feels hard to form a relationship or find a lover.

I also feel like it wiped out my 30s and early 40s.  That's a big chunk of my life to have lost to the virus.When the new drugs first came through I was taking 47 pills a day, my entire life and what I could do, where I could be, was built around my medication. At least 15 years of my life was totally dictated and dominated by HIV, sickness, pills and the thought of death. That's a lot to live with.

And HIV is different. On the one had you could say it's now "just a manageable chronic illness, like diabetes" - that's the line we hear all the time. And technically it's true.

On the other hand, I can't think of a medical condition that carries the same level of stigma and fear. Even today. Even from people you'd think would know better, like health professionals, or gay men. And I do understand -  that to some extent - HIV brings death and sex together, and that's a really explosive combination. HIV frightens people in a totally illogical way.

Generally speaking, most people know next to nothing about HIV or living with it, and run old stereotypes and images through their minds when they think of it. It's hard for those of us with it, which is why so many poz people keep their HIV status to themselves. People just don't understand, and it's not our job to educate everyone we meet about it. 

It just feels like a paradox, that I've been lucky enough to come through this terrible plague, that I nearly died, and here I am, 50,  unsure what to do with my life or where to direct it.

I'm not complaining, I'm glad I'm alive, trust me. And I know so many wonderful guys who died, who were just not as lucky as I was, so whenever I start feeling too sorry for myself about all this I remember that at least I'm still here.

But no matter how much better things are for my body, it's still tough, it still takes work. It's taught me a lot, and I think the overall experience of it has made me both kinder and harder. Kinder as in more compassionate and empathetic, but also tougher, harder, as in "Don't waste my time with bullshit!" 

It's taught me to be more assertive I guess. I speak as I find, and if that offends some I don't really care. I don't feel some Christ-like need to shower everyone with love - some people are shit and I'm happy to call them on it.

Sometimes I daydream about what my life would have been like without it - whether I'd have returned to NZ or not, what else I would have done. But that's not reality, and being as intimately acquainted with death as I have been has made me very clear on the need to stay in tough with the real.

Everything changes, I know, nothing is certain but death and taxes, yadda yadda yadda. But living with HIV is different. It does go on having an effect long after the worst aspects of the physical side are gone. 

But we keep going.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Growing Old Disgracefully

Turning 50 seems to have changed my online audience in a way I hadn't imagined.

Suddenly I find 20 year-olds sending me lust-filled messages online - I guess I can now officially be put in the "Daddy" category. And I also get guys in their 60s getting in touch - I suppose I seem close enough in age that they feel more comfortable approaching me than they do a 30 year-old.

It's been interesting, and some fun as well, and even though their skin is lovely at that age, 20 is just too young for me, it feels creepy somehow. 25 and up I can cope with. And I've had some wonderful hot times with men in their 60s too.

Gay men and age though - we don't deal with it that well I reckon.


We talk about "the gay community" a lot, but one thing about successful communities is they have links over generations, the older members pass down their experiences and knowledge to the younger ones, and we don't seem very good at that, we're not good at giving time, space and respect to older gay men, and that really weakens us as a community I reckon. 


I remember when I was first out and about in my late teens, and guys in their 20s seemed so mature and onto it. Shit - some of them had even been to Sydney! You have no idea how exotic that seemed to me when I was 17. I think I've always been attracted to guys around their mid-30s, and that's continued over my life. At first I was attracted to guys older than me, now I'm attracted to guys younger than me, but they're still the same age - it's me that's changed.



There are times when flicking through an online profile I see that "No old guys!" line, or "No-one over 45" and it hurts a bit. Being rejected, being eliminated from consideration really, just because of age seems nasty to me. But the online world is a harsh one.

There's such pressure out there in society in general to stay young and fabulous, and it's hugely amplified in homoland. You don't see many ads for bars and clubs, still our main social spaces,  featuring older men. I was chatting to a visiting American the other night at the Urge Leather Night, he had a good body, white hair and a white beard,  and I asked him if he always travelled with his leathers.

"Oh yes" he said "Otherwise I'm invisible, I'm 62, I'm too old for most, but in leather I still get attention and to talk to guys and break through the age barrier."

I hadn't thought of it that way, but I saw his point. Age, authority and leather all have some interesting crossovers.

Even though so many older gay men did so much to get us where we are, the mainstream gay world doesn't value them, purely because of their age and looks. They are discarded, ignored, seen as embarrassing if they go out to a bar or a club. And that's a shame, because one day, unless you get hit by a bus, it's highly likely you'll be old, wrinkly and with more hair coming out of your ears than on your head. But we're not that great at putting ourselves in others' shoes.

Maybe it's the population issue again - NZ is so small to start with, and so many guys have moved overseas - the gay population is tiny really, so perhaps we're less diverse in our outlooks.

Another friend who is younger than me, in his early 40s, a bear,  just came back from SF and said how he was amazed to get so much attention there from younger guys, something he doesn't get so here. The whole "Bear" thing is much bigger and more popular overseas, and it does seem to offer more opportunities for a wide variety of types - let's face it - as wonderful as this country is in many ways, it's quite provincial and uptight too, even in the gay world.

It's not just about fucking either, it's about love too. It's not unusual to hear people making snide, nasty remarks about couples who have a big age gap, as though there is some expectation that if you're 25 there is something wrong with you if your lover is 55, it's the same sort of double-standard we see in the straight world. An older man can have a young girlfriend and people are able to believe they really love each other, but if it's an older woman with a younger man, people often show their nasty side.

I don't understand why there is that need to judge someone or their choice of a partner because of age. Love is love, and you can never tell when it's going to strike but some guys react as though a big age difference is something obscene. I know couples where there is between 20 and 30 years age difference, and they seem just the same as other couples I know - they laugh, they bitch, they fight, they have fun, they pay the bills, they just get on with life and they love each other. I don't see the issue.

One thing I do know - I'm not getting any younger - and I'm glad I've found a few new fans as I mature.






Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Who Do You Tell?

Gay men fuck differently.

We do.

No matter how many prissy or self-hating homos there are who don't like to talk about it, as a total group, gay men have much more sex, and many more sexual partners, than straight people. It's a fairly clear and simple fact, and it has no moral value whatsoever. If you like to fuck with strangers 10 times in a week, that's cool, and if you have only ever had sex with your partner in the last 10 years, that's equally cool.

But overall, even gay men in loving long-term relationships have more sex than straight guys. Whether you're 20 or 50, this is the case. And we typically don't place the same value on sex as straights do. It's just a bit of fun with someone who's sexy and up for it.

That's a pretty hard fact to get across to straights though.

And I think it's even harder for straight women to get than straight guys. For a woman, sex has the possibility of creating a new life as well as the joys of the physical side of making love.

I've been thinking about this since the ruling that came out this week, that by not disclosing his HIV status to his female partner, a straight HIV+ guy had removed her informed consent, and had effectively violated her sexually - even though she did not acquire HIV from the sex.

And now the Dominion-Post in Wellington has come out with an editorial saying those of who have HIV simply have to disclose each and every time.

An an HIV+ gay man, I think I understand where they're coming from, but I totally disagree.

For one thing, it takes two to tango, and if you want to fuck around in the floating world of gay male sex, you need to take responsibility for your own well-being and health. So it's up to each and everyone of us to set the boundaries, and to insist on safe-sex if you want to stay HIV negative.

A lot of gay sex happens in fuck-clubs or through online hookups - conversation is often not a key part to these encounters. If you're getting all hot and horny with a guy in a fuck-club, there's often not that much chat. The same goes with online hookups. And if you both make sure you're using rubbers and having safe sex, in fact you don't need to discuss it all - using rubbers and lube correctly works.

In fact most HIV+ guys are highly aware and careful to make sure they do nothing to infect their sexual partners. You are far more likely to get HIV from a guy who doesn't know he is carrying it than from someone who is positive and taking their medication. With so many HIV+ guys around who don't know they have it, how can you reasonably rely on disclosure to keep anyone HIV Negative?

So disclosure doesn't actually protect anyone, it has no practical health benefit - it just stigmatises HIV+ people even more. And we don't need that.

If it really bugs you that much, you could simply ask - I can't see the point of lying, I'm not ashamed of being HIV+, it's just a virus in my blood. But a lot of guys have suffered terrible discrimination, and that is not ok - I totally understand why they don't want to disclose - and there is no need to.

Will you tell me if you have Hep C? Syphilis? What if I go to bed with you because I think you're a millionaire, and you turn out to be on the dole - have you taken my informed consent away by lying to me?

It's still not clear what the legal implications of this ruling will be. At the moment, the law has said as long as an HIV+ person takes all reasonable precautions, we do not have to disclose. It's only having unsafe sex, putting a sexual partner at risk of catching the virus, that is seen as criminal. This new ruling might change that - let's see.

But the mainstream reaction, as seen in that editorial, will be based in how straights think about sex and fucking, not how our culture practices it, and that could be very bad for us indeed.

And remember - every guy who is HIV positive today was once HIV negative - and with very few exceptions that is because they chose not to have safe sex. If you want to stay HIV negative, you know what to do - and it doesn't involve blaming those of us who have the virus.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Bears Go Wild!

We gay men have always had to make our own communities. In the past we did it as a way to protect ourselves from a world that hated and persecuted us. Now we do it based out of our strength.

So we've just had the third BearNZ Week, and it was a lot of fun. A big vote of thanks to the guys at Urge for running such a great event again. They make it look so effortless, but it takes a lot of work to get this week running so well.

There were guys from the UK, the USA, Australia, and of course lots of locals and out-of-towners.

I didn't go to everything, but I really enjoyed the events I made it to, and met some cool guys along the way.

I went to Bear Drag, but didn't run - I made that mistake last year, when I stupidly said to Alan from Urge, "I will if you will" and quicksmart he said "You're on!" Embarassing photos followed, I learnt my lesson, and was happy as a supporter this year.

Mr Urge Bear was packed as usual, great fun, and kudos to all the guys who entered, and a big congratulations to David Morris from Wellington for winning the title.
(Pic above lifted from the wonderful LOLCubz)

The Tri-Nations Dance was great, somewhere between 300 -400 guys I guess, all hot, sweaty and mostly shirtless, and a wide age range of men.

I really value having men-only events; it is just good to be able to relax and be ourselves. There are rumours that this year the security guards weren't quite as intrusive or alert as last year, and certain dark corners saw acts of wanton debauchery, but if you put hundreds of hot sweaty near-naked men together, well what do you expect?

And on Sunday, they held the closing bbq at a private home - at least 40 guys showing up and chilling out in Grant and Brian's garden, relaxing and winding down after the week. No tickets, no wristbands, just an honesty box by the bar, delicious food brought with raffle proceeds, guys of all shapes and sizes chatting and just hanging out.

And for me it showed the good side about the bear world. It is relaxed, friendly, welcoming, and non-judgemental. You don't have to be beefy and hairy to take part. You don't need to spend 7 days a week in the gym, or grow a beard, or do anything special really. It is a very inclusive and supportive group of men to be with, and I am really glad of that.

The debates about "community" and just what it is raise their heads every now and then here, and there isn't an easy answer to it, but Bear Week shows that this community is strong. But we wouldn't be without all the work that the guys from Urge and others put in. You do need events, you do need things that give people a reason to come together, and they provide that, but they do it so well because they are so tied into the wider gay world here.

And changing tack just a little, this is my fear around the proposed idea for an Auckland Pride Festival with a parade again. Unless it has deep roots into all the various queer communities here, it won't work. It will just be a beige, bland piece of Auckland City marketing - "Look, we tick the "diversity' box!"

I have an idea of just how much planning and work went into getting Bear Week up and running, everyone involved had full-time jobs elsewhere and working their arses off, often for free, so to get a full two-week festival going is going to be an immense challenge. It won't happen without hundreds of volunteers, and I really wonder if they can find them. Given the huge problems and bankrupticies and acts of embezzlement and bastardry we've seen associated with previous big gay events, like Hero here, and Mardi Gras in Sydney to name just two.

But Bear Week worked beautifully - it is  raltively short, targetted, relaxed and fun.

Thanks so much guys, and I'm looking forward to next year.