Pornstalgia

Recently, Dr Spo (the dear?) directed me to get in touch with The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections. He said that TBDHSR wanted to make me an honorary board member (?!) and that furthermore that they did not know how to contact me (??). Of course, it was a ruse. Instead of an honorary board seat I received a stern talking-to. How embarrassing was it that I post less frequently than Harry Hamid (may he rest in peace) and didn’t I understand the terms of the contract I signed and when I finally decide to post I go around making baseless accusations of my readership how very dare do I have I no shame and also I have few enough readers as it is so I had better start posting some quality content if I am interested in maintaining ownership of all my fingers and toes. You know the spiel. We have all been there.

Admittedly, the Board wasn’t wrong. I haven’t felt much like blogging lately. Truth be told, I have not felt like doing much of anything. I don’t want to get out of bed, which has done wonders for my employability. I don’t want to cook or clean or attend to other grownup chores, which has done wonders for my living conditions. Even checking poor Steven’s blog forty times a day so I can leave snarky comments is draining. Blogging seems beyond the realm of possibility, and blogging something engaging seems farther still.

Perhaps I should be concerned, but I can’t be bothered. Lacking the budget for healthier coping strategies (therapy, opioids) I have turned to my usual bad habits: cheap carbohydrates, spider solitaire, and wasting hours on the Internet. I have been spending more time than is healthy looking at educational films on the Internet, which makes no sense given that I have lots of educational films downloaded on my computer already. Maybe this is Grindr for ugly unloveable people? Instead of experiencing the thrill of hunting down eligible bachelors in the real world, I keep looking on the Internet for educational materials that will give my brain the dopamine rush it craves. Maybe the next video is the one? Or the next? Or the next? That perfect educational experience must be out there somewhere, right? Well, probably not, because I am a perverted freak who is unskilled at Internet searches, so the signal to noise ratio is pretty bad. But once in a while the slot machine pays off (so to speak), so I keep pulling the lever (so to speak). Such is the nature of intermittent reward.

And boy howdy, was I jolted by a couple of finds recently. The jolts were ones of recognition — not of having viewed the films before (which is common) and not because I recognised real-life people in the films (which has happened once) but because the films in question answered questions I have been harboring for decades.

You see, it has not always been this easy to download full-length, on-demand educational videos on the Internet. You are all too young to remember this, but once upon a time watching educational films was a real ordeal. You would have to go to some dingy video store, where the videocassettes (videocassetes!) were not even rewound sometimes, or worse, you had to go to a MOVIE THEATRE in some dingier part of town, and watch your educational material in a dark room full of heavy-breathing strangers. Such movie theatres had their risks so in those antediluvian days many of us consumed educational materials in the form of still images. Often the best you could find were thumbnails, but if you got lucky (again with the hunting instinct) you might find some lowish-resolution images. Hard drive space was precious in those days, but I still managed to accumulate a collection of these educational images — first on floppy disks (so to speak), and later on the hard drive of the second computer I owned for myself.

One set of images concerned a strange party held in a basement or a rec room. At this party a number of scantily-clad people appeared to be enjoying each other’s company. Picture one of poor Steven’s nudist gatherings, except populated by straight, horny senior citizens who do not understand that nudity is about liberation and not sex. In one image eight people are standing around exploring each other’s anatomy with their hands and mouths. One woman is sitting back on a stool as one person — male? female? nonbinary? — explores her nether regions with some fingers, while another golden brown balding man kisses her on the lips. Another woman is standing with her eyes closed, each of her hands grasping appendages, as her neighbours kindly engage in a breast examination. It is not clear that everybody is having fun, but they certainly seem engaged in their task.

Another image features the golden brown man staring into the distance as a woman cuddles him from behind, reaching around to offer certain (presumably shaved?) body parts some tactile attention. This image always stuck with me, as did the entire situation. What was this party? Was it real, or staged? Did senior citizens really enjoy each other’s company like this?

A different set of images was clearly staged for video production. I knew this because some of the pictures were labelled “Videograb 1” and “Videograb 2”. Also one of the images was the cover of the video cassette, labelled “Oldies Spritz Parade”. In this series of images, two older gentlemen (one clean shaven, one with a bushy gray beard) dressed in pyjamas paid tribute to a nubile young woman standing between them. In other images, the nubile young woman handled various appendages of her elderly friends.

I think you know how this story ends. As I wallowed in my own self-indulgent self pity, clicking around on unsatisfying video after unsatisfying video, what do I stumble across other than educational films documenting the events from those still images so many years ago? I knew that some video of the nubile young woman and her two friends must exist somewhere, but I did not anticipate seeing it. I was even more surprised to find video evidence of the rec room party.

The two films were both unsurprising and deeply surprising. The production values were typical of these kinds of educational films, with terrible music and the participants uttering the requisite grunts and moans. But I found other aspects of both films astonishing.

The first surprise was that film of the rec room party existed. That should have resolved the issue of whether the event was staged. Much of the film’s cinematography was typical of the genre, with the usual close-up shots and participants positioned so that certain anatomical features were prominently on display. However, by the end of the video I still had my doubts, because some of the people (in particular one couple) were not senior citizens at all — they were much younger. Was this terrible casting for an educational film targeted at aficionados of senior citizens, or was this a genuine party where a wide variety of people had been filmed?

A second surprise was an erotic shock concerning the golden brown man. Apparently he suffers from imperfect eyesight, because in some of the educational film’s scenes (but not in the still images) he is wearing glasses. As it is objectively true that glasses make people sexier (especially when those people peer over their glasses at you) this added a depth to the plotline I had not expected.

Reading glasses aside, a third surprise is although the rec room party participants seemed to be enjoying themselves, the video was not as educational for me as I was expecting. This was true of both films, actually. Would have I reacted differently if I had been exposed to these videos at a similar age when I found the still images? The image of golden brown man staring into the distance has long been highly charged for me. I cannot tell whether exposure to the video would have made that better or worse, and I cannot tell whether my standards have changed as educational materials have become more accessible on the Internet.

The other video also held its own surprises. For one thing, the fellow with the bushy gray beard seemed genuinely befuddled about how to behave in the presence of a nubile young woman. Several times the aforementioned woman positioned bushy gray beard’s hands to get him involved in the festivities. There is no question that these kinds of nonverbal communication practices are important when interacting with other people, but it is rare to see this in educational films.

Another surprise was how much attention the two gentlemen paid to the pleasure of their nubile young friend. Most of the video consisted of the men caressing and nuzzling and sucking on various anatomical features of their ladyfriend. That seems highly unusual to me. In most educational films of this genre (older men, younger women), the woman desperately focuses on the man’s satisfaction, at the expense of her own enjoyment. Other than fondling, little time was spent on the appendages of the gentlemen. There was one brief scene of oral attention to an appendage, but it did not last long. I do not know why I should have been surprised at this, but usually I expect a usual tiresome trajectory of perfunctory attention to the ladyfriend followed by slobbering oral attention to the men, quickly followed by penetration in unnatural body orientations. The pattern in this film was significantly different, and I am not sure why.

Since encountering these two films, I have been somewhat hesitant to explore the Internet further. Who knows what else I will find? Neither of these discoveries was awful, but why should I expect my luck to hold?

No, of course I am not going to link to either the images or the videos here. I have my good Henley Street name to consider, and these images and videos will not affect you in the same ways they did me. For one thing you are not perverted freaks, but more importantly you don’t have the decades of history I have had with these images, and thus they won’t have the same emotional resonance. Finally, there are innocents who occasionally visit this blog (Willym, Maddie), and it would be unethical to warp their minds by exposing them to such material. You will have to be content with these verbal descriptions, and I will have to go hide my head in shame forevermore for even writing about this. What the hell was I thinking?

Crucified

Okay, fess up. The following video ended up on my hard drive, and I want to know which one of you put it there.

I know it was one of you because music videos don’t end up on my hard drive unless one of you posts a video to your blog. My computer is too old and slow to play Youtube, so at that point I have no option but to download your video to watch later. Well, now it’s later and now I want an explanation and possibly an apology.

Homosexual Holy Day

People think that Halloween is the holiest holiday in the LGBTQ+ calendar, but this is not correct. Today is the holiest day, and I almost missed it. Today is National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day, which according to Life Site News was founded in 1995 by ex-gay advocate Michael Johnston. (Ordinarily I would point backgrounder links at Wikipedia, but in this case both of these topics are MYSTERIOUSLY ABSENT.)

National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day celebrates former homosexuals. Finding official pages about the holiday is difficult because they are also MYSTERIOUSLY ABSENT from my search results, but according to third party reports Coming Out of Homosexuality Day honors the changed lives of thousands of men and women who formerly identified themselves as gay. Once upon a time people of alternative sexualities had little vocabulary to describe themselves. Even lesbians called themselves “gay”. Now, thanks to decades of LGBTQ+ activism, we have a rainbow of labels to plaster on ourselves, from “twinks” to “demisexuals” to the ever popular “heteroflexible”. We are no longer limited to putting ourselves in the stifling box of “gay”.

But Coming Out of Homosexuality Day has a more serious purpose. Do you know of people who are struggling with their homosexuality? There are many resources on the internet you can point them to. Exodus has rebranded itself as Changed Movement, a “community of friends who once identified as LGBTQ+”. You can take a Journey into Manhood on the Brothers Road (formerly known as “peoplecanchange.org”). Then of course there is Focus on the Family, which has a phenomenal Frequently Asked Questions section, which you should all read even if you are not struggling with same sex attraction (hi Deedles!).

Honestly, the Frequently Asked Questions page makes for fascinating reading. If your mind has been poisoned by the liberal sex radical Dan Savage, this is the perfect antidote. Savage frequently counsels callers who struggle with visiting their religious parents over the (straight people) holidays, but have you ever considered the other side? The advice from the anti-Savage is both what I was expecting, and not what I was expecting at all.

The ex-gay movement gets a bad rap these days. For example, the aforementioned Michael Johnston got into trouble when it was revealed he was having unprotected hookups with men (and possibly infecting men with HIV in the process). Any number of ex-gay leaders subsequently dropped out of the movement and turned homosexual again. But I have more than a little sympathy for it, and not just because I am a self-loathing homosexual. I’m not on board for the Jesus stuff (more’s the pity), but I honestly think that more than a few of the advocates most involved in the movement acted out of love, not hate. I listened to a series of interviews with former Exodus leader Alan Chambers. There is no question that Exodus and its brethren have caused harm to many, many people. There is no question that some people in the movement were (and are) cynical fundraisers preying on people’s ignorance and fears. But from listening to Chambers’s interviews, and from associated with some mild homophobes in my own social circles, I do not feel our demonization of them is accurate. (I also feel that if bisexuals exist they have a lot to answer for, but that is neither here nor there.)

Furthermore I think that the techniques they use to lure self-loathing homosexuals work because they reflect some of the actual struggles gay people face. Furthermore, I think that gays inflict some of these struggles on each other (Grindr, anyone?). None of us want to admit this (victim blaming!) but I see evidence of it all over the blogosphere.

Although National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day is not widely remembered, I think it is important. It is important to understand what people thought and felt in the bad old days when stores did not festoon themselves with Pride flags. It is important to understand the humanity of those who went through the ex-gay movement and those who cling to it still. History repeats itself, and we have new targets now (transpeople, drug addicts, sex workers), and when the liberal media shoves this stuff down the memory hole then we lose something important.

So Happy Coming Out of Homosexuality Day, everyone. I hope you have a joyful celebration, and you don’t let the spectre of National Coming Out Day* tomorrow hang over you too heavily. (But Steven should still come out to his high school friend and his uncle whether he wants to or not.)

* Oh look. National Coming Out Day is on Wikipedia. How mysterious.

HIV Non-Disclosure

If the title was not trigger warning enough, be aware that this is one of those “alienate the rest of my readers” posts.

Recently, I listened to Episode 643 of the Savage Lovecast, Dan Savage’s situational ethics podcast. One call in particular made me more furious than usual, and I am still trying to understand why. In the spirit of free association I am going to type things out and see whether I can find any clarity.

The call in question was from a transwoman sex worker. She had a sugar daddy who was offering to take her on a trip (a boat cruise?). She had not told the sugar daddy (or presumably her other clients) about her HIV+ status, and wanted Dan’s blessing for this. She claimed to have an undetectable viral load, and since undetectable equals untransmissable, she reasoned (or “reasoned”) that this was none of her sugar daddy’s business, and besides if he knew maybe he would not be her sugar daddy any more. Dan gave the sex worker his blessing on ethical grounds, but cautioned that legally there might be laws (oh so regressive laws!) that mandated disclosure from HIV-positive people to their sex partners. Dan said that if the caller did not want her sugar daddy seeing her pills, she should not go on the trip.

The caller was pretty flippant. She rhetorically asked whether she was the future for not disclosing. She was pretty clear that she was happy not to disclose to her partners, and she was pretty clear that she did not want to lose business on account of her status. Hearing that made me very, very angry. To be fair, I was already angry, but this call made me angrier in ways that other calls (including the previous call, which was also about HIV disclosure) did not. Let’s explore why, starting with the most phobic reasons.

Am I just being HIV-phobic? Sure. There is an element of that at play. Intellectually I know that undetectable is untransmissible. I also know that it is safer for somebody to be on HIV meds than sleeping with somebody whose status is unknown and who is not on PrEP (aka HIV meds). But even though my intellectual comfort with HIV has improved over the years (particularly since 1996), I don’t think that emotional gutpunch will ever go away. Maybe it would if I was in an intimate relationship with somebody who was poz. Maybe not. I have a lot of debilitating and sometimes irrational phobias, and HIV is one of them.

If some hypothetical universe where somebody was willing to sleep with me, I would be pretty ticked off being in that sugar daddy’s position. That is not limited to HIV. If somebody had syphilis or chlamydia or even herpes, I would want to know, so that I could be the one making the decision of sleeping with that person, as opposed to having that decision made for me. I feel very strongly about this, and it is probably a large source of my anger.

So there is an emotional gut-punch of HIV-phobia, but I do not think that explains everything. Let’s turn to the next accusation. Am I just being transphobic? Am I reacting so poorly to this call because the caller is a transwoman?

My answer to this is maybe. Certainly other people (in particular some trans activists) would label me as transphobic, because I do not adhere to every ideological stance taken by (some? most?) trans activists. I do not, however, think that I am more transphobic than the median LGBTQ+ person. I won’t pull the “some of my best friends are trans!” nonsense on you (it is not as if I have friends) but I do know and occasionally interact with at least a dozen trans people through my activities with local LGBTQ+ groups. I am not trans and do not claim to know what being trans is like, but I broadly support the rights of trans people to exist and live with safety. But I am sure it is possible that I reacted poorly because this caller was a transwoman as opposed to a gay man or cis woman sex worker.

Am I just being anti-sex-worker? Maybe. There is definitely an element of my reaction that is related to the caller being a sex worker, but that has more to do with trust and less to do with her profession. I believe that uncoerced prostitution should be legal, but that people should have good choices available to them so they do not have to become sex workers unless they really want to. But overall I do not see that much difference between being a sex worker and being a regular worker. They are both forms of prostitution, in my view.

I think there is more going on here, though. The first thing has to do with what being ethical means. My personal definition (which I am sure I have unconsciously stolen from some famous philosopher) is that ethics is the tension between individual and group benefit. When I do something for my own benefit at the expense of broader society, then I am (usually? always?) acting unethically. In that light, I see two ways in which this caller is clearly acting unethically, and neither has to do with HIV-transmission directly.

The first way in which this seems unethical is the same way in which staying in the closet is unethical. By being out of the closet straight people see us and become more used to having LGBTQ+ people around, and thus they are less likely to be phobic to us or about us. In some sense, we have gay marriage because Lynn Lynne Mary Cheney came out to her dad, and because George W Bush enjoyed watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Having said that, although remaining closeted does some passive harm to our fellow LGBTQ+ people (by not paving the way) it is difficult for me to argue that it does active harm, provided that we are not acting in homophobic ways ourselves to fit in. I consider not coming out a venial sin, not a mortal one.

In the same way, this caller is missing an opportunity to reduce HIV stigma in the world by not coming out as HIV positive. That part is a venial sin. But there is something about her situation that feels more serious. The caller is staying in the HIV-positive closet not only to avoid stigma, but to financially benefit from this lack of disclosure. That seems more serious to me. The caller wants to have as much business as possible, and is unwilling to disclose any information that might reduce that business, regardless of whether those reasons are rational or not.

Say this sugar daddy (or the caller’s other clients) is comfortable with the idea of hiring an HIV-positive sex worker. Then there is no harm done if the caller comes out. Say the sugar daddy is not comfortable with this, and like me feels a gut emotional reaction to HIV. Then what? Then this caller is definitely doing harm to broader society, because when this guy finds out it will affect not only her business, but the business of other sex workers as well.

That brings up trust, which I think is the biggest ethics violation here. The caller is not disclosing her HIV status because she has a financial incentive to hide it. In doing so, she undermines trust in all sex workers. (To be fair, this is a problem with all of capitalism, which is why the smoothest transactions happen between partners that already know and trust each other, and the most frictionful ones happen between strangers.)

But she also undermines her own trust. She knows that her sugar daddy would prefer to be aware of his sugar baby’s HIV status, but she does not want to lose the business. Otherwise she would not have called at all. So she is deceitful for her own benefit. Why should we believe she is trustworthy in every other way? When she says that she is undetectable and therefore untransmissible, why should we believe that? What other things is this caller willing to lie about to secure her business? The flippant way in which she dismisses this deceit makes me want to not trust her at all.

The analogy that comes to mind is when people have affairs (another activity that Dan Savage almost always blesses, on the basis of increasingly flimsy “what-if” scenarios). The damage when someone has an affair is not usually the sex. Usually it is the loss of trust from that person’s spouse. How do you recalibrate to know the ways in which this person is or is not trustworthy?

Maybe I do not like this caller because she is HIV positive, or because she is trans, or because she is a sex-worker. I definitely do not like this caller because she has demonstrated herself to be untrustworthy, and I would feel very very betrayed if I was her client. Maybe that is just my internalized hatred speaking, and this really is about transness or HIV status or career choice. But based on how I have reacted when straight, non-sexworker men of unknown HIV status have ripped me off, I have my doubts.

Biokids

While we are on the topic of Labor Day, let’s talk about babies. In particular, let’s talk about fatherhood. Nobody wants to speak frankly about gay men and kids, and I think that is a problem.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want kids myself, and never have. I went so far as to get The Snip as added protection against accidents (as if I had to worry about accidents, or indeed anybody wanting to touch my penis ever). Admittedly, I am a freak, but there are also lots of successful, well-adjusted gays who don’t want kids: CB, Travel Penguin, Blobby, Sassybear, and probably many others.

Having said that, there are gay men who want children. Poor Steven has expressed regret at not having kids, and John Gray has (wistfully?) commented that he would make a good dad. The standard prescription for this is to make like Dan Savage or the couple from Jesus has Two Daddies and adopt. That is fine if it works for you, but there are men — even gay men! — who for whatever reason want their own biological children. This may be irrational but I think this urge lives underneath our rational thought. Our genes want to propagate themselves, and those whims are difficult to resist.

So if you are a gay man who wants to have biological children, what do you do? If you are rich, maybe you can pay to rent somebody’s womb, find an egg donor, and then have a baby carried to term for you. You can then rip the infant from its mother and raise it as your own, which raises no ethical concerns whatsoever.

What if you are not rich? Then life gets trickier… or does it? After all, many gay (and to be fair, bi) men in the blogosphere have fathered biological children: Two Lives from If I Do the Right Thing, BearToast Joe, Buddy Bear from One Step at a Time, and of course Michael54 from My Secret Journey. Although it seems Michael54 has a tough relationship with one of his kids, for the most part this group of bloggers has been grateful for their children. Of course, all of these bloggers have something else in common: they married women. Some of them married women accepting that they had homosexual attractions, and some of them married in the hopes that straight marriage would cure them.

I feel this is a problem. Is the best gays can do to marry women, have kids, and then lead lives as openly gay/bi men later on? Is it okay that gay men who hate themselves and desperately want to be straight get rewarded with biological children, and gays who come out early enough in life that they don’t get straight married have no options other than renting a womb?

The lesbians have figured this out, possibly because wombs tend to be more prevalent in the lesbian population. Lesbians watch some educational movie on the miracle of birth, decide that they want to be moms, and then hit the Internet or male-order catalogues for a vial of sperm and a turkey baster. Before you know it, Heather has two mommies. But it seems way more complicated for same-sex couples with no wombs between them.

Andrew Solomon, the aforementioned author of Far From the Tree, offers a glimmer of hope. He has a complicated, multiple-state web of biological children, where he and his partner had some lesbian friends carry their kids to term, and in return he and his partner provided sperm for those lesbians. Maybe this is not that different from renting a womb, but it feels more egalitarian somehow. To some extent it reinforces heteronormativity, though: it turns out the homophobes were right, and you really do need Tab A to fit into Slot B if you want babies.

I don’t have a clear answer for this. I do think it is a difficult truth that we should acknowledge, especially as kids come out of the closet earlier and earlier. Some of those queer kids are going to want kids of their own, and it is not clear to me what ethical ways there are to deal with that.

Mind! It is not as if the straights have everything figured out either. Nobody wants to acknowledge that women are more fertile (and maybe have healthier babies) when they are quite young, in their late teens or through their twenties. Biologically this makes sense, but socio-economically we have decided this is a bad idea, because (surprise!) straight couples want financial and life stability before having kids, and that often means that women get to have careers. Thus we end up with Facebook and Apple offering to freeze eggs for their female employees, so they can put in 80 hour weeks at their Silicon Valley jobs while worrying less about their biological clocks. Too bad freezing eggs is expensive. What do the rest of the straight people do, now that we expect kids to go to school until age 25-30 and then wait another 10 years to get out of precarious employment?

Also, can we please outlaw two parent households? I won’t go so far as to call two parent households child abuse outright, but I am tempted. Children need way more than two parents, as far as I can tell. In the Good Old Days there would be grandparents and spinster aunts and confirmed bachelor uncles to help take care of the kids. But now we obsess over the nuclear family as being the platonic ideal of a “correct” family, and I feel it is doing children a lot of harm. The nuclear family may be economically convenient for capitalism but it’s no way to raise a family.

Food Blogging

What could this be?

Oh look. A juicy, fresh, locally-grown* heirloom tomato, picked ripe off the vine a few hours earlier at a hippie organic farm.

So tasty!

Let us all be grateful we have access to such tomatoes during the summer. Imagine how horrid it would be to live in a place where no such tomatoes were available? Where the best you could do is get tomatoes shipped to you from hundreds of miles away, picked green and ripened (or should I say “ripened”) with ethylene gas? How would one bear it?

*Astute Spo-fans will observe that the adjective “home-grown” is missing from this list. It appears that I will harvest zero tomatoes from the three seedlings I planted this year. Why do I even bother? Remember, folks: gardening is a valuable and in-demand skill, well worth mentioning on your Grindr profile.

Lurkopolis Pride

As previously threatened I did end up going out of town, and it did coincide with Lurkopolis Pride. Attending Pride had not been the focus of the trip, but I interacted with the festival in two ways.

First, I inadvertently ran into the Dyke March. I was trying to get to downtown Lurkopolis, and the road got very busy very quickly. What could I do? I stopped and watched the march. First there were scary dykes on motorcycles, and then there were scarier dykes on bicycles, and then there were some marchers advocating assorted left-wing and sex-radical causes. I have never been much of a parade person, but this march felt different from a typical parade. Maybe it is the war drumming that changes the tone? Certainly the march seemed to be as much a political demonstration as a celebration.

Secondly, I later spent a couple of hours intentionally wandering through the festivities. It was busy! Also corporate, and you know my feelings about that. I saw a lot of ridiculous faux-allyship from assorted brands, but the one that sticks out in my mind was a misappropriation of Froot Loops to somehow become a sugar-laden artificially-colored gay symbol.

Mostly I wandered through the boothing area. Again, there were lots of corporations hawking their wares, but there were more grassroots groups as well. I was interested to see that members of my ethnic background (which is not exactly known for being queer-positive) were attempting to put together a support group. More power to them, I guess.

The nudists were also out, which was moderately jarring (the nudists tend to stay under cover during Lurkville pride) but overall it was fine. I attempted not to gawk (after all, nudism is about freedom and body acceptance, not sex), but I will note that a couple of the participants could have been straight out of that line drawing of secondary sex characteristics, except for the cockrings. It did occur to me that this was the first time in over fifteen years that I had seen another adult’s genitals in the flesh. Having seen educational materials on the Internet, I knew what adult genitals looked like, so maybe it should not be surprising that naked grownups turned out to be no big deal? Later that afternoon I saw a bearish couple get out of an Uber, and honestly that was more titillating. (One of the fellows was wearing tight, shiny booty shorts.)

There was one group that was desperately and loudly trying to raise funds for gay refugees. They probably harshed a few people’s mellows, but it was probably good that they were there. There are many places in the world where corporations refuse to associate their toucan mascots with queerness.

I saw some good T-shirt slogans over the weekend, but oddly enough few of them were at the Pride festival itself. Somebody at the festival was wearing a “More Fats, More Femmes” T-shirt that was endearing, but it was not until I was in the suburbs that I saw a fellow wearing a shirt that read “PWR BTTM”. I also saw a jogger wearing an “Anti Running Running Club” shirt that I thought was cute.

As I was heading out of Lurkopolis I saw some of the parade floats being trucked in for the parade. Boy howdy am I glad I got out of town in time.

Was it worth taking time during my Lurkopolis trip to attend Pride? I guess? I had never been to a big-city Pride before. Now I have attended once, so I can say that I have done it. Having said that, the trip would have been worthwhile if I had missed Pride completely.

Mostly I felt out of place. I was not festooned in rainbows, which probably hurt. Despite all of the community groups on display, I did not feel there is a place for people like me. I have little reason to feel much pride in anything I have done, especially on the LGBTQ+ front. Much of the time I feel the queer community would be better off without me, and attending Lurkopolis Pride did little to dissuade those feelings.

Then and Now

Then

“Homosexuality is unnatural. Men and women were meant to come together to have children. Homosexuals are promiscuous and spread disease — do you think AIDS was an accident? The homosexual lifestyle is worldly and hedonistic, in pursuit of shallow pleasure, but in the end gays end up unhappy and unfulfilled. Homosexual impulse is always prompted by an inner sense of emptiness. Homosexuals cannot be allowed in our classrooms. They will convert our children to their homosexual lifestyles. As a mother, I know that homosexuals cannot biologically reproduce children; therefore, they must recruit our children. I do not wish harm on homosexuals — and I know some homosexuals personally — but I cannot support their deviant lifestyles. Homosexuals are out to destroy families and the institution of marriage. If homosexuals are allowed to marry, what comes next? People marrying their dogs? Children need a mother and a father to grow up. Why would you jeopardize the well being of children by allowing gays to adopt?”

Now

“Yes, you’re gay. Good for you. Nobody cares. Do you have to keep bringing it up? It’s so boring. People are people — I don’t see gay, straight, whatever. Why do you have to keep pushing your sexuality in our faces? Straight people don’t go around announcing their sexuality all the time. They don’t need a big parade. They don’t fly their flags everywhere, and they don’t complain to City Hall when it refuses to devote their entire month to their so-called celebrations. Why do you make such a fuss? Being gay is not a personality. Do you really have to dress like that? Do you have to act like that? I know you are desperate to draw attention to yourself, but it is embarrassing to us respectable gays.”

“Don’t you understand that we can’t let those people into our country because they don’t respect gay rights? They want you gays dead, and would just as quickly throw you off a building as say hello to you. They are not enlightened the way we are.”

Corporate Pride

A few days ago I went to the mall. Boy was that a mistake. Not only are impoverished homosexuals prohibited in shopping malls, but now I am going to write the entry that finally at long last will alienate the rest of my readership. What I saw in that mall was supposed to be inspiring, but it made me real angry.

The stores had all decided that this was Rainbow Month. They festooned their displays with full-color posters and platitudes about Diversity! Celebration! Equality! Love being Love! and of course Pride! Pride! Pride!

I was supposed to be heartened by this. I was supposed to be glad that we went from being the enemy to being celebrated by retail outlets. I think the vast majority of these companies don’t care one bit about us. We all know exactly why they turned June into Rainbow Month. Do I need to spell it out for you? Fine. D-I-S-P-O-S-A-B-L-E I-N-C-O-M-E. The companies think that if they represent us they’ll get our pink dollars. And we fall for it again and again. The worst part is that I am no better than anyone else. Put a g-ddamn bear paw on something and I’ll be drooling with consumerist lust. Advertise a product with some woofy spokesperson and I’ll buy whatever is being sold. But just because I am gullible does not make this practice ethical.

Marketing to gullible queers is one thing. Doing so under the pretense of allyship is something else. If some corporation is going to claim that love is love and that it is proud to support diversity, said corporation had better be damn well prepared to back those claims up. In 2019 Lurkistan, the gays are beloved and Pride is cool, so it is the easiest thing in the world to market your allyship — and you appeal to those progressive straights who want to show they love the gays too! Where were you in 1989 Lurkistan, when gays were still dying of AIDS because drug cocktails had not been invented yet? Were you supportive allies then? Were you providing healthcare for your sick employees? Were you tending to their hospice needs? Or were you firing them as soon as you found out they were gay, because you had an image to maintain and a reputation to protect? Where was your pride then?

How about in the early 2000s, when gay marriage had not been legalized yet? Were you providing same-sex health and insurance benefits to the partners of your gay employees? Or were you arguing that offering same-sex benefits were too expensive and too complicated? Were you festooning your stores with rainbows and pride displays? Or were you too apprehensive about scaring off the straights?

Okay, fine. I am being totally unreasonable. Corporations have gone on a learning journey just like the rest of us, and now they are much more understanding and tolerant of sexual and gender diversity than they once were. Are they supporting their employees as they transition, by funding hormones and surgeries via insurance benefits? For that matter, are they even supporting their trans customers by insisting on gender-neutral bathrooms in those aforementioned malls?

Okay, maybe supporting trans people is too difficult. How about poly people? Does any employer anywhere support benefits for complicated families with several primary partners? If one member of a triad gets sick, can that person depend on the benefits provided by one of their partners’ employer? No? That would be too expensive? Too complicated? Too prone to abuse? Where have I heard those arguments before?

Okay, let’s forget about those weird poly people. How about those regular old gays and lesbians, the kind you are proud to support? How about those gays and lesbians that are persecuted in foreign countries, including some of the foreign countries in which you do business? Aren’t a bunch of those t-shirts you sell manufactured in Bangladesh? As of this writing, LBGTQ+ rights in Bangladesh are not good. How about that wonderfully soft Egyptian cotton? How are gay rights there? Oh, but you couldn’t advocate and pressure local governments on LGBTQ+ issues. That would be colonialist in a way that regulatory capture for your financial interests would not.

Okay, improving the conditions in an entire country seems difficult. You do know that some of those Bangladeshis who sew your fancy t-shirts are themselves gay, right? Are you doing anything to make sure they are safe from persecution? What’s that? They aren’t actual employees of your company? You have no jurisdiction on how they are treated? That’s just too bad.

Funny, isn’t it. Any time supporting gay rights or being an ally would cost you money or require some political courage, you shy away. You have all kinds of nice lip service for the affluent gays who have money to spend, but are you willing to put your principles where your mouth is? Do you even put up your pretty rainbow displays in the Southern United States just as you do in progressive Lurkistan? (The majority of you are multinational, after all.) If you are not willing to do these things, then maybe you really aren’t an ally. Maybe the next time we become stigmatized or unprofitable, you’ll throw us under the bus too.

And that, Virginia, is why impoverished homosexuals are not permitted in shopping malls.

(Of course, dear readers, your favorite shopping establishment is a true ally which does things properly. Right? If you asked these questions of that establishment, surely it would pass with flying colors. Right? Right?)

Sympathy for the Devil

In a recent comment, Debra (the dear! [1]) exhorted me to “not go over to Satan”. As is usually the case with Debra, this was wise and insightful advice. Unfortunately, it is not easy advice to follow. The Prince of Temptation has done a real number on me. I mean, just look at him:

Satan on a cruise

With that broad chest and manicured goatee, he would fit right in on Fearsome’s blog:

Satan portrait
Cuddly Beard

As you know, I am not much of a Christian. Everything I know about Satan comes from the documentary South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut. (Incidentally, this is also where I learned everything I know aboot Canada.) Although it was released in 1999, the documentary has aged well. In the film, Satan has recently gotten into a same-sex relationship with Saddam Hussein, but already the relationship is rocky.

Saddam and Satan

Being from 1999, you might think that the filmmakers would portray Satan and Saddam’s relationship as a great big joke, and although there are jokey elements, the issues that Satan and Saddam face are not that different from any straight relationship where one partner is a tone-deaf, emotionally abusive jerk:

Kenny asks Satan what is wrongSaddam doesn't nurture Satan's emotionsSaddam just wants sex and can't learn to communicate

The thing is, Satan just wants the same thing every gay on Grindr is looking for: love and companionship with someone who understands them and appreciates them for who they are inside. But I have some news for you, Satan: Saddam isn’t that guy. He is not good enough for you.¬† You’re gorgeous, and you have a job, and you have that deep resonant voice that would fit right in with a Gwaenysgor choir. You can do so much better than Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti.

Girl, I know you have baggage. We all have baggage. Sure, Jesus doesn’t like you. Join the club. Sure, a lot of people don’t like your career. The thing is, every society has unpleasant tasks necessary¬† in order to keep it functioning, and we should celebrate you — not disparage you — for being willing to get your hands dirty and do what needs doing. Sure, you are the embodiment of evil and sin in the world, but does that mean you don’t deserve love? That it is okay for that Saddam to mistreat you and diminish your self-worth?

I don’t care that you skip leg day. I think you are gorgeous, and although I am no catch I would like to think I would make a better boyfriend for you than that Saddam. I would listen to you go on about whatever book you are reading. We could stay up and cuddle instead of just having sex. Admittedly, my immortal soul is a pretty steep price to be in a relationship, but am sure we could work something out.

Oh, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t be a better boyfriend than Saddam Hussein. If anything I am more controlling and less mature than him. At least Saddam was good in bed, and he managed the affairs of an entire country for decades. Meanwhile I can’t pull myself together enough to get to the grocery store before it closes. Come to think of it, I suck at both nurturing emotions and at communicating effectively. Debra is completely right. I am not boyfriend material for anybody, and I should keep well enough away. I have hurt more than enough people for one lifetime, and you deserve better.

But don’t give up hope, little horn. Somewhere out there there’s a boyfriend who is kind and supportive waiting for you, and I hope that you and he will cross paths sooner rather than later.

Satan looking up

[1] Yes, as we recently learned, this expression is not intended to be entirely complimentary. I do not care; we should never let facts spoil a good catchphrase. All of you (well, most of you) are dears, and you will just have to deal with it.