Open Letter to Barebackers, Bug Chasers, and You Who Don’t Care

Dear Barebackers, Bug Chasers, and You Who Don’t Care,

I’m all for freedom, so my first thought is to tell you, “Go for it, find your own way through this life. Do whatever you like as long as you aren’t hurting others.” I would never sic the law on you for consensual adult activities like fucking without a condom or using crystal meth because I believe in your personal liberty.

Our culture has caused problems for every one of us in one way or another. Growing up with a constant stream of abuse and discrimination against queer people — whether or not directed specifically at any one of us — takes its toll on all of us. Some struggle to have pride because we didn’t have it before. Some become macho men to counter the stereotype that fags are sissies. And some assimilate into queer consumer culture claiming that we no longer face discrimination so we no longer have to fight for our rights.

I was a big drug user. It started in high school as a way to find acceptance, to hang around hot guys among the stoner crowd and to avoid dealing with my attractions to them. Fortunately for me, my drugs of choice weren’t really addictive. I didn’t get trapped in a box of using and needing to use more until my body started to waste away. But some of my friends got addicted and more likely will.

I fucked a lot too. In college, we had a club where you had to have sex with two other members at the same time to join. Fortunately for me, my sex of choice wasn’t really risky. I prefer being a top, so once AIDS came around, it was fairly easy to avoid getting fucked without a condom. But some of my friends fucked unsafely a lot and more likely will.

In the earlier days of the disease, I stood by helplessly as my friend Richard, who had AIDS, lost his mind and lost control of his body, screaming incoherently as they dragged him off to the hospital where he went to die.

Even with the drugs available today, friends who have HIV often have to pop pills multiple times every day, fighting off the side effects of the meds. Some face troublesome health complications and others just don’t make it because they get drug-resistant strains of the disease or decide not to seek conventional treatment until it’s too late.

I stood by helplessly as my friend Todd got hooked on meth. Looking for love in the raver crowd, he did what everyone else wanted him to do until his body shrank, his face grew gaunt, and he got nervous ticks and twitches. He couldn’t concentrate on anything anymore and, as he says, the drug became “an evil necessity” so that he couldn’t have sex or function at all without it. He got HIV while he was high. And reaching rock bottom with an overdose, he’s actually one of the luckier ones who had the resources to get into a rehab clinic and try to clean himself up.

When I go the bars, the sex clubs, or the chat rooms online, I see lots of guys cruising for bareback sex and pnp (party ‘n play), using drugs for sex. I read that the rates of younger and older queer guys getting HIV are going up. Then, we have the higher rates of suicide, especially among queer youth.

I’m writing to you because I care and it’s tearing me up inside to watch you and live among you.

I want to live in a place where we have faced the odds stacked against us and responded by connecting and taking care of each other, living fulfilling lives in a supportive community.

I want to live in a place where we have exorcised the personal demons of low self-esteem and self-destruction — whatever the combination of internal struggle or external abuse that caused them — and responded by taking care of ourselves so we can live fulfilling lives in a supportive community.

It seems like most everyone is at a loss for how to prevent these problems.

My intuition is that it starts with caring.

Caring enough to see the people inside the bodies in the cars and walking down the street. Caring enough to tell people it’s totally fine to be queer in this crazy homophobic era. Caring enough to love people with the color of their skin and the cultures they come from. Caring enough to love people of the gender we don’t necessarily want to fuck. Caring enough to love people in whatever place they come from enough to offer a helping hand when we can and when it helps, rather than hinders, the situation. Caring enough to take action for constructive social change. Caring enough to discuss drug use and sex practices with our friends. Caring enough to choose not to pass HIV on to others.

And most important, caring enough about ourselves to get to a place beyond low self-esteem, drug abuse, unsafe sex, and self-destruction to a place of heightened self-esteem, hot sex that affirms life, and friendships that form a community of support that strengthens us all.

Vivek Out, Cob Maybe In?

I’m very excited by the possibility that Cob may move in to 304 Winfield Street to fill the vacancy left by Vivek when he moves to Washington, DC, for a job.

Cob has wonderful ideas about fresh-baked bread, organic gardening, and other ways to help out around the house while he is pursuing his study of music and memory techniques, such as memory palaces.

I think he would bring wonderful gifts to our home, as well as to me personally.

He currently estimates a better than half chance he will move in, although he’s also considering a possible situation in Portland, Maine, and he told me to go ahead and advertise the room in case he isn’t able to move here.

Yesterday, I called Grammy (Ruth Bloomfield) to wish her a happy birthday. She tells me she is getting blind and deaf, but otherwise is in reasonable health. She praised her children (my mother Anita and my uncle Mark) and especially her husband (Grampy aka Alexander Bloomfield) for taking such good care of her. She asked me to come visit again soon, which I definitely should try to do somehow, although I haven’t been in traveling mode lately.

Today is Virginia Davidson’s birthday, so I have to remember to call her as well to arrange for some kind of get-together. I love the hermaphrodite mask she recently gave me, which I have hung in the stairwell mask gallery at my place. It extends the collection of miniature hermaphrodite sculptures she has given me in the past.

Ararat, Weather Underground, and Gangs of New York

I’ve seen a few films recently: Ararat, Weather Underground, and Gangs of New York.

Ararat, directed by Atom Egoyan, is an excellent portrayal of the post-genocide experience of ethnic Armenians almost entirely eliminated from Eastern Turkey. Egoyan uses the device of a film-maker with family ties to an Armenian historian and lecturer to bring the film a dramatic sense both personal and community-oriented. The scenes with the retiring customs officer strain crebility a bit, although the excellent cinematography makes up for that.

I went to see Weather Underground at the Castro Theater with my friend Steve S. We both were shocked by the number of bombings undertaken by the radical activist group in the early to mid-70s. The film helped me to understand better the political context of the era with activists torn between non-violent action and what they for a brief historical moment deludedly thought would be a more effective violent action against all white Americans culpable for the system that produced the war. After three of their number died in Greenwich Village townhouse while trying to devise a bomb, the group continued the use of bombs for purposes of property destruction, but was extremely careful not to cause harm to persons in exploding the bombs at locations like police headquarters, the U.S. Capitol building, the White House, and other targets. I was surprised I hadn’t heard about more of the bombings. I recognized one of the Weather Underground as a lesbian or “bi” women released fairly recently from jail. One of the Weather Underground was still in jail on a life sentence for later actions with a Black Liberation Army group that resulted in two deaths. Most of the Weather Underground, who managed to stay underground, undetected by police or FBI for many years, eventually surrendered to the authorities and, ironically, had charges dropped against them due to the evidence of heavy-handed and illegal police intimidation tactics used against them in their criminal investigations. Some of them were ashamed to talk about parts of what they had done, yet nearly all of them still held on to a sense of revolutionary struggle for social and political change.

Finally, the Gangs of New York was a portrayal of gang rivalry between those native-born to the U.S. and the Irish immigrants of the Civil War period. It is a story of family, gang violence, and revenge, with a little love interest thrown in. Leonardo di Caprio plays the part of the Irish son following in his Da’s footsteps well, as does Daniel Day Lewis in the role of the native gang capo. Those who avoid violent films might want to give this one a miss: it has lots of bloody hand-to-hand combat.