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Double lives/deadly lies?
August 1, 2003 8:04 PM   Subscribe

Long, interesting article in the NYT Sunday Magazine (reg. req'd, apologies) about a putatively "underground" community of black men who have sex with other men and who do not self-identify as gay.

There's more than a few problems with the piece. The reportage has a kind of breathless/clueless tone to it - like when the author identifies the phrase "on the DL" as originating in a 1990's TLC song (!) - and a pseudoanthropological, National Geographic stink of imputed Otherness hangs over the whole enterprise, but I found it compelling anyway. If nothing else, it's an introduction to a entire new subculture I had always assumed the existence of, but never seen. (I particularly liked the NYT piece's excursion to a low-rent thug-life amateur pr0n operation. Gibson was right: the street does indeed find its own uses for technology.)
posted by adamgreenfield (54 comments total)

 
written while waiting an interminable amount of time for the NYT to send me my password, but I'm familiar with the phenomenon

I've never understood why race has anything to do with the phenomenon of men having sex with other men. Many differently colored men who don't self-identify as gay do this all the time, and say "NO FEMS, NO WOMEN, NO QUEENS - ONLY MASCULINE MEN". The only difference is the addition of the letters DL or the words "down low," the dialect used, and certain archetypes or "looks".

I've always been extremely frustrated about this, because my own experience (admittedly biased, if for no other reason than I self-identify as gay, ie I choose to use that word rather than choose not to use the word, even though sexual mechanics are the same between the two groups of people) is that the numbers of men who have sex with other men on a fairly regular basis that do not in any way and probably won't in any way ever self-identify as gay or even bisexual is ... well, it's a lot vaster than the percentages bandied about since the 1940s.

If this phenomenon is going to be studied at any sort of level one can understand, doesn't it make sense to keep it simple and first start with looking at it as a male phenomenon, rather than a insert color here male phenomenon? I ask this in all curiosity, if there's any anthro/socio Mefites out there who'd care to respond ... is it truly difficult when making studies of humans like this to separate race from the ways people express themselves sexually?

It's been my experience that this phenomenon has never been about rejecting one's homosexuality (or one's homosexual "side") by refusing to use the word gay, it's a rejection, utterly, of gay culture as seen, usually, as being excessively campy and feminine and ... way too outspoken about what gets done with one's naughty bits.

The flip side of this phenomenon, of course, is David Beckham.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:50 PM on August 1, 2003


Watch out, Adam. Perigee is not going to like this thread.
posted by divrsional at 10:16 PM on August 1, 2003


I just think of those characters in Last Exit to Brooklyn, who had those queens fawn over them and compete for their attention. I don't think the story SAID the guys were gay. They just had their way with the queens and that was that.
posted by RubberHen at 10:21 PM on August 1, 2003


One aspect I've pondered (and voiced on Plastic, to thunderous silence) is the prospect that otherwise exclusively or primarily straight black men who are incarcerated may have homosexual experiences, forced or voluntary, while serving their terms, then revert to exclusive or near-exclusive hetero behavior on release to the general population. I speculated on whether the overrepresentation of black men in the US prison population could thus be a vehicle for incubating and transmitting AIDS among the black community generally.

Am I nuts, or a racist troll, or do I just need to stop thinking so much?
posted by alumshubby at 10:58 PM on August 1, 2003


Reminds me slightly of a play I worked on called 'Porcelain'. It dealt with a young Asian man who killed his white English lover after the young man was scorned. It deals specifically with "cottaging", a practice of having sex in public restrooms.

Now let me tell you, it was one messed up play.
posted by Be'lal at 11:06 PM on August 1, 2003


Oh my, people making videos with video cameras!? That's so facinating, so Street us in the 'burbs would never have thought of that.

And pornographic movies no less?
posted by delmoi at 11:35 PM on August 1, 2003


like when the author identifies the phrase "on the DL" as originating in a 1990's TLC song (!)

The author doesn't say the phrase originated with TLC or R. Kelly but was popularized by them, i.e. brought to whites. Not the same thing.

It is a very interesting article, thanks for posting it.
posted by McBain at 11:58 PM on August 1, 2003


delmoi:

Come on, streetthugz isn't amateur pr0n the way the burbs do it, and you know it. Did you even look at it? It has, hands down, the lowest production values of any video I've ever seen - the least enthusiasm on the part of the talent, the absolute least effort to create context or mise en scene.

Pr0n is almost never "just pictures of people fucking." It always, in my experience, encodes its audience's aspirations and identifications. The site described by the article, which I subsequently went to see, fascinated me because either (a) it couldn't be bothered to, because genuinely "raw," or (b) it's a deliberate imposture of rawness.

I'd believe the former if there appeared to be any passion or sexual heat involved. That there isn't tells me it's being produced to meet someone's ideaz of raw. Which is always interesting.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:27 AM on August 2, 2003


WolfDaddy: Race as such has nothing to do with the phenomenon of men having sex with other men as such, but a lot of factors in the situation of men who have sex with other men have to do with race. Different cultural groups channel that behaviour in different ways, DL is one of them. One of the things that struck me when I read the article is that there is another explanation for the vocal rejection of "feminine-ness" you see all the time, namely that someone who identifies with DL is someone who happens to fancy butch-ness more than queen-ness, which should be a personal preference worthy of respect. It seems to me that the rejection of gay culture as being excessively campy etc. is a valid thing, also for men who have sex with men: a lot of them happen to not enjoy camp queeny explicitness.

I'm not any kind of academic, but it seems to me that if I want to study gayness, I should separate out race, class, gender, nationality and a raft of other stuff; and concordantly for any other specific study. These people though: they're actual people, their experience is determined by their race, their class, their gender, their culture, and the fact that they like to have sex with other men who happen to look masculine.

So I'd like to know what exactly is so frustrating to you about the fact that a lot of men who have sex with men don't name their identity by the same name that you do? If "identity" is something so mightily personal and significant, shouldn't we pay attention to, and respect the way someone self-identifies, instead of having a limited set of options handy from which one will be assigned if some condition you've determined is satisfied?

alumshubby: don't stop thinking until your head Really Hurts. Otherwise: well maybe, but how are we going to check this, and what are we going to do about it? On second thought: keep thinking but think about things you can do something about? Or something, who am I to give advice on that account...

Nice post, adam!
posted by disso at 6:25 AM on August 2, 2003


when self-identifying is based on the same outmoded stereotypes that are used to paint us as bad, weird, or "other" there's a problem, I think...many people have internalized all the negative stuff about gay people their whole life and find it difficult to see that you can live your life as you want, without being either a drag queen, or flamboyant or any other stereotype we used to see exclusively in media (thankfully that's changing now)

Also, many guys on the DL actually do identify as gay...something that doesn't make for a good story, i guess...and when there's an America Online chat room for anything, it can't really be called "underground."

The Times, along with most other media, love to "examine" how "other" people live their lives, and if there's danger (aids in this case), more to the good. feh
posted by amberglow at 7:53 AM on August 2, 2003


and a pseudoanthropological, National Geographic stink of imputed Otherness hangs over the whole enterprise

The Times, along with most other media, love to "examine" how "other" people live their lives


There are all sorts of problems with the Times, and all other media for that matter, but I'm having a hard time understanding this one. The alternative is for it not to cover anyone but its target demographic; is that what you'd prefer? Or is the idea that only DL black non-identifying gays should be allowed to write about DL black non-identifying gays (and lesbian mothers about lesbian mothers, illiterate Kazakh sheepherders about illiterate Kazakh sheepherders, nuclear physicists about nuclear physicists, &c)?
posted by languagehat at 8:19 AM on August 2, 2003


The first time I had heard about this was around 2 years ago in Essence magazine. It was a short article, but it included an interesting, although arguable, statistic -
a survey by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta found that nearly a quarter of Black HIV-positive men who had sex with men consider themselves heterosexual.

I just found that incredibly odd, I don't know.
posted by bradth27 at 8:39 AM on August 2, 2003


There's an AOL chatroom for everything. Including "I am an evil carrot", or "Reagan in diapers", whatever that's about.

There are the regular chatrooms, then the user created ones. Those are underground as a lot of aol users don't know they exist.
posted by nyxxxx at 8:45 AM on August 2, 2003


languagehat: Why do you think the Times is covering this story?

I would venture that all of these stories about various subcultures aren't published to inform or educate but to entertain (and shock or titillate). What do we learn from this story? Is it news? How is it serving the readers of the Times?

They all follow the same pattern...a reporter goes slumming in one way or another, or undercover, and reports on how the strange denizens of various groups or subcultures behave and think, the denizens not being composed of the readership of the newspaper, magazine, or television program. It's a tired pattern, at least to me, whether it's about guys on the DL, beauty pageant contestants, or white supremacists.

(that said, i don't know what alternative form they might take, or whether it's just the form and tone of them that's off, to me)
posted by amberglow at 9:02 AM on August 2, 2003


So I'd like to know what exactly is so frustrating to you about the fact that a lot of men who have sex with men don't name their identity by the same name that you do?

I guess the most frustrating aspect about the identity question of one actually living in this life, is that all of the black men I know who are on the DL ... all of them ... are married and most have children. It *is* very underground for them, and the double life being led is led so very successfully it allows them to let themselves believe they have no obligation to tell anyone what they're doing, and in many cases they don't even allow themselves to know, once the sex is done with and they're back at the dinner table.

This level of denial is damaging not to just the person on the DL himself, but to his family, to men in general, and to those younger men who have damn few elder leaders to tell them to stop barebacking and taking so many drugs. It's not that these men, these people who could be considered a resource as an elder, don't exist. It's that they choose not to exist. Most of the men I know on the DL (or similar lifestyle) are an age comparable to mine--mid 30s to mid 40s. This generation is one that is too old not to remember the initial phases of the AIDS crisis in the 80s and the hysterical paranoia it caused, but usually too young to have been affected by it, ie, they didn't contract HIV either because they were too young or they were too closeted. While AIDS back then forced many many people out of the closet, they usually lived in metropolitan areas, and their coming out was a militant process, something quite distasteful and scary to many not living in big cities.

Now, 20 years later, many men who might have come out then have discovered a way to have their cake and eat it too: have a wife and kids and a 'normal' and 'accepted' family life, and also have lots of sex with perceived little consequence with many different partners who happen to be male. There's so many things going on here amongst so many men that would never call themselves gay (or again, even bisexual) that I feel whatever problems that may exist as a result need to be looked at as being just male problems or phenomena. While we embrace--to an extent--the fluidity of female sexuality, the equally fluid sexuality of men is often rejected or just flat-out denied. It makes me self-critical, critical of gay culture that rejects these men as much as these men reject gay culture and wondering about a lot of kids, some of whom might be queer themselves, and where they are getting their leadership when many of the people that might be their role models are living a life of deception and denial no different than that lived by many men 50 years ago.

It's very difficult for me to ask questions like this--I too often get thunderous silence as alumshubby mentioned. They're dangerous to ask of people actually in the DL or similar life because it attacks (or is perceived to attack) the very delicate structure of their double lifestyle and the denial they may have built up around it. It's difficult to be critical of the gay culture that dismisses the DL or similar life as simply 'being in denial' (which then makes it easy for the mainstream gay culture to deny that there's anything that could be perceived worthy of rejection within itself) because right now it's just not cool to be critical of anything that's "gay". Studying stuff like this as a manifestation of just male sexuality would seem, to me, to bypass all that stuff. But I'm no academic either, so perhaps not.

Because of the same factors I mentioned about the AIDS crisis previously, I've always spent more time amongst straight males than gay ones (labels self-applied). It's made me an outsider to a lot of mainstream gay culture, but it's made me an insider to the lives that many straight men lead, and a surprisingly large percentage of those men are doing a lot of things that the ones who willingly call themselves queer are doing. As I get older, and my base of experience grows, I feel a false division amongst men has been created, one that no one really wants to admit exists. I wish there were some way we could drop this foolish binary labeling system of 'gay' vs. 'straight' and realize that most people can't be labeled so simply. This labeling system can, and has, prevented men from fully embracing their own sexuality, and can, and has, make it difficult, even deadly, to accept the different sexualities of other males. So many go underground, and this now seems to be leading to risky behaviors that jeopardize not only any one particular man in question, but his family, his racial brethren, and his male brethren. This is why I express my frustration.
posted by WolfDaddy at 9:42 AM on August 2, 2003


languagehat: Why do you think the Times is covering this story?

Um, because the link is to the NYT Sunday Magazine?

that said, i don't know what alternative form they might take

Yes, well, that was my point, wasn't it? If your response to a situation where they didn't cover, say, the black gay community would be "They're ignoring the black gay community," and your response to their covering it is "all of these stories about various subcultures aren't published to inform or educate but to entertain (and shock or titillate)," what exactly are they supposed to do?
posted by languagehat at 10:31 AM on August 2, 2003


WolfDadddy: I wish there were some way we could drop this foolish binary labeling system of 'gay' vs. 'straight' and realize that most people can't be labeled so simply.

Amen. I have always been of the opinion that human sexuality is on a continuum, with a million shades of grey between that which is seen as "hetero/straight" and "homo/gay." And those definitions have most certainly changed over time and place as well. Read some Catullus and you can quickly see that ancient Romans had very different values than we do today.

That said, we live in a time of deadly STDs and, at least in America, a veneer of Puritan-ish values which don't seem to allow for much variation within the stereotypes. Often makes for a combustible mix.

Interesting post Adam, thanks!
posted by gen at 10:33 AM on August 2, 2003


"There's an AOL chatroom for everything. Including .."Reagan in diapers", whatever that's about."

Current events?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:38 AM on August 2, 2003


WolfDaddy: Thunderous applause. Nicely put.

There are so many insidious ways in which gay culture ghettoizes itself, and the failure to establish and grow a tradition of and healthy respect for mentors and wisdom is the most harmful. I find myself listening to many young gay men who haven't got a clue how to feel comfortable with themselves. And of course there are plenty of times when I resent the role myself. No one did it for me, and most gay men refuse to acknowledge there's even a problem there. Instead, just a few ribald jokes about being a Daddy, as though being gay is strictly about sex.

It's easy to be straight and white and watch Will and Grace and think all is right in the liberal nirvana we're so proud of. But there's a lot of work to do before people stop suffering simply because some men like sex with men.
posted by divrsional at 10:49 AM on August 2, 2003


The Times does cover the black gay community and the impact of aids on that community, including many news stories on just the behaviors written on here. They've been covering it for ages, actually. There are no facts in this story that haven't already been covered by the Times, as well as many other publications.

What is gained or lost by the reader and the newspaper (and magazines and Dateline-type shows) in covering subcultural group/behaviors with the same template? What messages are we being sent about the groups profiled in this way?
posted by amberglow at 11:09 AM on August 2, 2003


My surprise is that it took the NYT this long to get to the story. I mean, it was a sub-plot on ER (complete with hetero identification, the DL tag, the HIV scare...) over a year and a half ago. Further, examining their "ripped from the headlines" Law & Order routine, NBC still seems to have a turnaround of at least a year on a current-event-becomes-plotline for their big-production shows.

When Dr. John Carter's experience begins to look politically progressive...
posted by pineapple at 11:32 AM on August 2, 2003


What ever happened to the movement around using the word "queer" in a more global sense?

What I mean is, at one time the word was being bandied about as more of a description of a particular mindset about sexuality in general, rather than being simply a description of same-gender sexuality.

In other words, I could describle my self as a "queer breeder" meaning that, while I am hetro, I still recognize my own or my male partner's potential to be attracted to someone of my own gender, or that I'm open to sexual practices beyond the "missionary postion, lights out, with a legally sanctioned (spouse) opposite-sex partner". I haven't heard much about this in recent years - opinions?
posted by echolalia67 at 12:18 PM on August 2, 2003


I still recognize my own or my male partner's potential to be attracted to someone of my own gender

...that is supposed to say "of my own or of his own gender"

Must drink more coffee
posted by echolalia67 at 12:46 PM on August 2, 2003


Wow. Keep asking those questions, and thanks for sharing all that, WolfDaddy.

One other thing that really sticks with me from the article is how Jigga self-identifies as "freaky". Such a kind of self-invented identity seems very useful to me -- if only because it seems to keep one out of the rut and stigmatization that conventional (like straight, gay, etc.) identities carry. And when your identity is truly your own invention, no part has to be denied. And denial is ultimately the thing that causes the harm here, on all the counts you mention.
posted by disso at 4:32 PM on August 2, 2003


WolfDaddy et al: Thx.

I'm still - a - thinking.
posted by dash_slot- at 6:01 PM on August 2, 2003


echolalia - I'm sorry, but "queer breeder" is as offensive a cop-out as "political lesbian" was during my college years.

As a "queer breeder," you risk NOTHING, give up none of your own privileges, and yet you wish to wrap yourself in the mantle of outlaw cool, like some latter day Norman Mailer? I'm sorry, I ain't buying it - and I'm a Kinsey zero.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:10 PM on August 2, 2003


(Point of clarification: a "political lesbian," in the late-1980s Northeast, was a woman/womyn/womon who slept with men exclsuively but wished to identify with her lesbian sisters, and claim their particular oppression for her own.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:13 PM on August 2, 2003


This strikes me as a perfectly natural phenomenon, since I believe that the majority of homosexual men do not fit the stereotype mainstream society has saddled us with in order to make us more 'identifiable' and therefore less of a threat. However, this is nothing new or even restricted to black men. Look at the whole Bear community, or even to different cultures. Being gay means being attracted to other men; it doesn't mean being neat, thin, white, tasteful, campy, flamboyant, fabulous, effeminate, or any of the other things most people assume about us, and I can see why these guys want to get out from underneath that crushing blanket of assumptions. I would suspect that the majority of gay men have similar feelings to some degree or another.

Have said that, however, I still don't think it's right to keep one's family in the dark about it.
posted by Poagao at 8:19 PM on August 2, 2003


I still don't think it's right to keep one's family in the dark about it

Well yeah, that'd be neat, Poagao. We should all live in families that don't care where we put our penises; or in familiies that we trust not to care. You'd be amazed how few of us do, though.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:22 PM on August 2, 2003


adamgreenfield: you risk NOTHING, give up none of your own privileges, and yet you wish to wrap yourself in the mantle of outlaw cool

I was, if you were to actually read what I said, referring to a movement that seemed to be happening around 1995. Hence the phrase, "In other words, I could describe...". Not "I do...", or "I am...", I could, as in "I might..." or "If I were to, for example..." Get off your fucking high horse already.

As someone who has been very open about having a mental illness since graduating from high school (almost 20 years ago), I've risked lots, given up plenty of privileges, and have my own wacky, heavily medicated, brand of outllaw cool. I don't need to co-opt anyone elses struggles, my own life's hard enough as it is.

Whatever it is that keeps someone in the closet, however you might define that closet, kills their soul inch by inch. I'd happily tolerate anyone who identified themselves as"Queer Breeders" (however annoying you might find them) if their existence makes even just one person feel safe enough to come out. As this article has pointed out, these DLs have girlfriends, wives, and children; people who could be hurt or even killed by the secrets these men keep. If more hetros cheerfuly owned up to the one or two "gay genes" they possessed , then maybe these guys wouldn't feel so stigmatized by words like "gay" or "queer".
posted by echolalia67 at 9:57 PM on August 2, 2003


It's not "my" fucking high horse. I'm just letting you know that there will be folks who *surely* do not appreciate your appropriation of the term, and, FWIW, I think they have a point.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:52 PM on August 2, 2003


Again, I did not appropriate the term...I didn't even come up with it! I saw the term used frequently in personal ads and asked someone about it, that's the explaination I received. All I'm doing is commenting on a phenomna I observed and found interesting, using myself as a theoretical example. Jebus!

That sort of snotty, "more politically aware and sensitive than thou" attitude is counterproductive to any sort of reasonable discussion, especially when the topic of the story revolves to a large extent around personal definitions of sexual orientation. It's reminicent to me of the crap I hear from the fuzzy peruvian sweater-wearing, self-proclaimed male feminist, collectivist-anarchist jerks I had to wade through in college - yeah, I had to deal with them too, so save me the lecture.
posted by echolalia67 at 11:23 PM on August 2, 2003


Okay, getting beyond the bitch-fest, the article has me bouncing around in my head the pros and cons of creating or choosing a label for ones own sexual identity.

On one hand, Wolfdaddy makes a good point when he says" I wish there were some way we could drop this foolish binary labeling system of 'gay' vs. 'straight' and realize that most people can't be labeled so simply."

At the same time, there seems to be some magical thinking going on with the men in the article. They sleep with men, some exclusively even, but by calling themselves "DL" instead of "Gay" or "Bisexual", they seem to be trying to avoid having to deal with the harsher realities of sleeping with other men, like having to practice safe sex. The line of reasoning seems to be that gay men get AIDS, but I'm not gay, I'm DL. The guys I mess around with are also DL. We're not gay, we don't have sex with guys who are gay, so we're not at risk. Scary.

It's one thing to create a label for your sexuality in order to acknowledge all of it's nuances, it's quite another to use a label to distance yourself from the potential consequences of your sexual behavior.
posted by echolalia67 at 11:55 PM on August 2, 2003


Whoa, whoa, whoa, adamgreenfield, I don't mind and I'm a perfect Kinsey six. As long as anyone can understand what's it like to be in the closet about just about anything; as long as someone can have empathy for the romantic and physical feelings one person can have for another without getting radioactive over the genders of those involved, they're welcome on my bus and can sit where they like. Plenty of my straight friends have risked a lot to be friends or business associates with me: disapproval of their own family, friends, and business associates, "gay by association" charges, all kinds of things. Part of whatever gay pride I may have is the pride I have in many of my straight friends for doing something just as difficult as coming out of the closet: standing up for a friend in the face of near universal ridicule and hatred, publicly demonstrating how much that friendship or business association means to them.

The Times also's got an op-ed piece by Harvey Fierstein that I found interesting in light of the article you provided. "The culture of disease" is an interesting way to think about things.

echolalia, I believe the first thing that needs to be done is take expression of male sexuality out of the realm of the juvenile. Sniggering at the word "Viagra" is juvenile. Assumptions of immortality or "it can't happen to me (I'm married!)" are juvenile. Beavis and Butthead "huh-huh'ing" when nearly any male makes a remark about their sexuality is juvenile. Endless fascination with artificial beauty and endless youth is juvenile. Homophobia is juvenile. The only way many men can seem to safely express their sexuality is to act like a fourteen year old. There's some growing up that needs to be done. I think that if that's done, the question of what to label one's self will no longer be such a burning one.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:13 AM on August 3, 2003


The subject does not suffer from lack of analysis.

(WolfDaddy's distress, elaborated into twenty pages.)
(Except that a case is made for the usefulness of sexual taxonomies:
[...]we also wish to recoup sexual classificatory systems as necessary, even useful--if ever-shifting and contingent--frameworks for understanding the intentional realities and individual experiences of sexual minorities.)


Cultural discourse and social movements that attempt to legitimize gay and lesbian identifies, most commonly through the procurement of civil rights, reinscribe normative taxonomic structures that can operate only through the articulation of an excluded other.

Future efforts to portray the lives of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, queers, transgendered individuals, and others (including, by the way, heterosexuals) must address the various forces, desires, and inevitable contradictions that shape human development in all its vital contexts. Unpacking taxonomy and "regimes of the normal" is the necessary starting place for this project, but where critique ends, further social investigation must begin.
-- Culture, sexual lifeways, and developmental subjectivities: rethinking sexual taxonomies: Author/s: Andrew J. Hostetler, Gilbert H. Herdt

posted by Opus Dark at 2:30 AM on August 3, 2003


adamgreenfield, it sure sounded like your fucking high horse. If it's not, I suggest you get off it posthaste and return it to its proper owner. You've been well and truly slapped down.
posted by languagehat at 7:16 AM on August 3, 2003


geez people, adam had a legitimate point. Queerness has had its moment of cool, and plenty of college kids have experimented, especially women - the whole "hasbian" (or "LUG" - lesbian until graduation) phenomenon is a hot issue. In a way it's indicative of wider acceptance, but in another way it leads to - well, stuff like Gigli. So the "queer breeder" thing may come off as an attempt to be part of the culture in a superficial sort of way. But, that's always part of things becoming mainstream. No doubt there are plenty of people who would identify as queer breeders who are deeply aware and involved, but then those few who are just following a fashion trend will make everyone look bad.

The "straight but not narrow" t-shirts at pride parades always seem cool. "queer breeder" would probably confuse me a bit - is that a gay person who's had children? A straight person who's into fetish or something? I dunno, I don't really like "breeder" for hetero to start with, since child rearing isn't determined by orientation...
posted by mdn at 8:12 AM on August 3, 2003


I still don't think it's right to keep one's family in the dark about it

Well yeah, that'd be neat, Poagao. We should all live in families that don't care where we put our penises; or in familiies that we trust not to care. You'd be amazed how few of us do, though.


To clarify, I was referring to women these guys marry, and the children they have, not their parents, etc.
posted by Poagao at 8:20 AM on August 3, 2003


geez people, adam had a legitimate point.

Yes he did, though he expressed it awfully emphatically and with a disturbing air of self-satisfaction. You'd think, though, that after echolalia67's honest and moving comment, he'd have had the grace to retreat a bit and say "Well, I may have been a bit too self-righteous, and I shouldn't have made my remarks so personal..." Instead, he just says "I'm just letting you know that there will be folks who *surely* do not appreciate your appropriation of the term, and, FWIW, I think they have a point." Well, FWIW, "they" can probably speak for themselves if they have points to make; I suspect they will choose some more deserving target than echolalia67 for their wrath.
posted by languagehat at 8:30 AM on August 3, 2003


interesting how this reads so very differently from the DL article.
posted by amberglow at 8:55 AM on August 3, 2003


You'd think, though, that after echolalia67's honest and moving comment,

that's the trouble with this medium - or maybe just with communication in general: that comment just struck me as defensive & unnecessarily angry. But rereading it, I see what you mean (although that first paragraph could've been toned down...)

anyway. onwards!
posted by mdn at 9:15 AM on August 3, 2003


languagehat, you know what? Get off my case. I'm tired of your scolding, and as far as I'm concerned you have little right to refer to high horses.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:45 AM on August 3, 2003


Poagao, now I understand.

I agree that the female partners, in particular, are being ill-used. But this is an ethical mess that requires more strength of character to get out of than many people have, I think.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:35 PM on August 3, 2003


adamgreenfield: Sure thing! You're right, and echolalia67, WolfDaddy, and I are all full of shit. Carry on.
posted by languagehat at 4:54 PM on August 3, 2003


Now that is just unnecessary. It's a mischaracterization of anything I've said, and you know it. Worse, it's escalatory. What got into you? It's like someone else has been posting with the languagehat login for the last few weeks.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:43 PM on August 3, 2003


mdn: the post seemed angry because I was angry. Adam compared me to Norman Mailer. I am sooo much prettier than Norm, damn it.

But seriously, I was a bit pissed off. I wanted to talk about a sexual identity I heard bounced around and Adam took it upon himself to chastise me. The patronizing tone of his reply made me see red. Frankly, I'm still a little pissed. I think he was being pretty fucking arrogant.

msn and Adam went off on LUG, hasbian, political lesbian, whatever you want to call them and I'm in a mood to start picking at that particular bone. This is a predominantly college campus phenomena right? And what is the primary demographic of college campuses? 17 - 25 year olds. When do most people start questioning their identity? Teens to mid-twenties. Give these women a break! When you're 18 isn't it kind of your job to push the boundaries a bit, challenge everything you ever assumed about yourself and the world?

Also, you might not like to hear this, but a lot of 18 - 25 year old guys are dicks. I remember at 18 or 19, the thought occasionally crossing my mind that maybe the reason that I was such a failure at successfully hooking up with guys was because I might actually be a lesbian(the possibility that my male cohorts were a bit immature and unintentionally callous never occurred to me). And guess what- the same thought seemed to have crossed the mind of quite a few of my women friends at that time, too. Throw in a couple of Womans Studies classes and it's not suprising that some women identify as lesbians in college only to find out that later on in life they aren't really gay at all.

Also, a few women in their 30s and 40s find themselves falling in love with another woman, despite having been happily identified as hetro up until then. So what, they were affecting the hetrosexual lifestyle just to be part of the in-crowd? Some might have been in denial, sure, but for others it isn't that cut and dry.

Here's a shocking idea - sexual identity is rather fluid for many people. People don't always fall in love with the type of person they're normally attracted to. And you know what? I'm in no position to judge...and neither are you.
posted by echolalia67 at 8:41 PM on August 3, 2003


and mdn, the "straight but not narrow" t-shirts make me squirm. They seem a bit on the self congratulatory side. I wish there was a better term to describe being a gay friendly heterosexuals.
posted by echolalia67 at 8:55 PM on August 3, 2003


Now that is just unnecessary.

Funny, that's how I felt about "I'm tired of your scolding, and as far as I'm concerned you have little right to refer to high horses." (And I also felt you hadn't been yourself lately.) But what the hell, it's late and we're both tired. Let's call the whole thing off. We basically respect each other, and this is exactly why I try to stay out of political threads. Pax, eh?
posted by languagehat at 9:03 PM on August 3, 2003


... they aren't really gay at all.

An interesting idea, echolalia. First, because if I understand you right, you actually think that no one is "really" gay - or really straight, either. Second, there are a lot of gay people with a heavy investment in notions of fixed sexuality identification, because this counters the beliefs of those wacky Christians who think being gay is a choice that you can repent of.

Personally, I like to think of my sex life as a statistical distribution with a lot of clusters in it :-)
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 9:12 PM on August 3, 2003


I wish there was a better term to describe being a gay friendly heterosexuals.

I wish there enough of them that we didn't need a term.

This article in Salon.com is pretty well-written and sums up a lot of my feelings on the issue of being gay:

"What women (and, now, the gay men on "Queer Eye") often do to their men -- clean them up, domesticate them, clothe them properly, groom them, tame them -- is exactly what bears resist. Go to the Dug-Out at the edge of the West Side highway in New York on a Sunday afternoon, and you'll find a den of cheerful, frisky, thick and hairy guys, all enjoying a few beers and their own gender....Straight people love their gay people flaming, or easily cordoned off from the straight experience. Bears reveal how increasingly difficult this is. "
posted by Poagao at 11:47 PM on August 3, 2003


Pax indeed, with my thanks.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:23 AM on August 4, 2003


i_am_joe's_spleen:because if I understand you right, you actually think that no one is "really" gay - or really straight, either.

Close...I think that they're many people who are hard Kinsey 6s or 1s, but there may be a little wiggle room for everyone else in the middle. Factors like social conventions, whether or not you're in a co-ed or single gender enviornment, positive/negative experiences, etc might be more of a determining factor for some people than being hard wired one way or another. I think sexual orientation is on a much wider continum that can be accounted for by the Kinsey scale.
posted by echolalia67 at 3:34 PM on August 4, 2003


there're, not they're...god, my spelling sucks lately.
posted by echolalia67 at 3:35 PM on August 4, 2003


Give these women a break!

relax, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with it. Pretty much everyone I knew in college had some kind of experimental moment, and I can think of at least three women (whom I respect / appreciate) who currently identify as straight but at one time identified fully as lesbian. Many others, myself included, did and still do consider themselves bisexual. One bisexual friend has ended up in a same sex marriage (obv not official, but they had a ceremony) and all of us had at least one long term same sex relationship. I absolutely agree that sexuality can be fluid and dynamic.

However, I also think people are prone to trends and that the majority of people who were so happy to experiment in the early nineties would not have thought of it in the early seventies. That doesn't mean it isn't real, but it does mean that it's kind of a different experience from someone who has felt different and even dirty /sinful all their life, who would have had to face this whenever they were born.

I think sexual orientation is on a much wider continum that can be accounted for by the Kinsey scale.

what does this mean? If it's a continuum, then the kinsey scale represents it. If you think there should be more numbers, just make use of the decimal system (think of it 0 to 60).

I can certainly see an argument that it isn't a continuum at all though - the 2 dimensional representation of sexuality, of our deepest urges and emotions, seems pretty simplistic. Still, it isn't useless.
posted by mdn at 4:31 PM on August 4, 2003


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