Analysis

Sometimes the Internet is strange. I mistyped the URL to my blog the other day and my browser did a web search instead. It found this page, which is mystifying. Someone (maybe Sixpence? Maybe David Naylor?) is analysing Sixpence’s blog for word density, links, and other SEO (search-engine optimization) metrics.

I always assumed Sixpence was popular because he was stunningly attractive and because he blogged about interior decoration, but compelling content isn’t worth anything if it doesn’t hit eyeballs, so it appears Mr. Notthewiser might be taking a more systematic approach to cultivating brand loyalty. One does not become as popular as he is organically.

This is yet another disappointment of the blogging world. When blogs started we were told that we could all express ourselves and find an audience for our thoughts. We weren’t told that when hundreds of thousands of other voices are also blogging, it takes real work and dedication to stand out from the crowd. The Long Tail is real, and most of us are at the end of it unless we are willing to devote enormous amounts of energy to tweeting and primping ourselves for Instagram and chasing brand sponsorships and interacting with our fans. No shade to the superstar bloggers like Maddie and Debra and John Gray and Sixpence who put in that kind of effort, but I am of that entitled generation that wants results without being willing to put in the effort. I learned a long time ago that I would never be popular in the blogosphere, but I’m still bitter about it.

Independent of viral popularity, we are all supposed to be cultivating our personal brands for success in life. This is particularly important on LinkedIn. We are supposed to be inspirational and positive and not crazy, demonstrating to others that we are effective teammates with hale enterpreneurial spirits. At the same time, we are supposed to “be ourselves”. Whatever. As someone who struggles with homosexuality I long ago learned that there are aspects of onesself we do not share with others, lest there be Consequences. There are many aspects of my self and my personality that others would find reprehensible if they knew, and thus are better kept locked inside. That is not limited to homosexuality, of course; those of us who are mentally ill are allowed to talk about such things so long as we have successfully triumphed over such, but those of us who continue to struggle had best sit down and pull those bootstraps. All those employers who boast about diversity and non-discriminatory hiring practices get real quiet if you are upfront about being mentally ill (or worse, a Poor) when applying to their jobs. (Oops. There I go leaking identities again.)

The unfortunate part is the the compartmentalization is imperfect, and if we are not careful aspects of our Shadows leak into the daylight (see: Catholic priests who join the Church to escape their homosexuality). Maybe it is best to live like Jimmy and scrub our social media posts shortly after publishing them, so we can delay the inevitable social scandal and cancellation a little longer.

Infidelity and Penises

So.

So…

So I guess I have a confession to make. I probably should have told you before, but I didn’t want to ruin Christmas for everyone. But now the holiday is over and I guess it is time to come clean.

I… haven’t been… completely faithful to you. Fine. I cheated, okay? I snuck around behind your back and visited other social media.

No, I’m not talking about the blog written under my government name. That barely counts! Nearly nobody reads it, for one thing; it basically exists as a repository of self-incriminating confessions prospective employers can Google when looking for reasons not to hire me. And that blog is completely different than my presence here, except you can immediately tell the same person writes it, and sometimes the topics overlap in embarrassing ways. But more importantly, we both knew the deal when we got into this. So that’s not it.

But… that wasn’t the only one, or even the latest one. And I know that when I started this I wrote that things were going to be different this time, and that I was going to make things work out, but I guess I didn’t. I screwed up again.

Why? Why? Who knows why? Yes, it’s true that we’ve been together in this corner of the blogosphere for over a decade, and it’s true that one can fall into a routine after a while. It’s not right to take one’s social media for granted, but it happens sometimes. That doesn’t mean I don’t care! I mean, I probably don’t care, but it’s not because I’ve been lurking here for over a decade. I still find you interesting. I still read your posts, and sometimes I leave snarky comments. But it’s true that sometimes the eye wanders, especially in times of stress. And when Jimmy described how much fun he was having on Gay Twitter, I let my self control slip. (That’s not to blame Jimmy; I accept full responsibility for screwing up.) Exercising a series of bad judgments, I clicked around and ended up on Gay Mastodon.

I was just looking around, okay? I was just curious to see what was out there. But yes, I found a server (which you do not want to click if you are at work), and I started reading. No, of course I don’t have an account! Of course I am not posting!! I made that mistake here, and just look what happened. Never again. Never, ever again.

Sweet baby Jesus. I didn’t mean to tell you all this. I just wanted to blog about penises. Because I learned something while betraying your trust, and I thought you should know.

You know how over the years I have incessantly, unrelentingly hounded you to post scantily-clad blogger selfies? It was kind of a joke, but some of you graciously indulged me, although most of you have been understandably reticent. I never intended to pressure you unduly, although I screwed that up too, as Dr Spo can attest. As with so many of my predatory behaviors, the thrill is in the pursuit more than accomplishing the goal.

As it turns out, there are other communities where the participants are much more eager to post scantily-clad blogger selfies. Frequently, those selfies are less than scantily-clad.

Let’s be clear. I have been on the Internet a long time. I am no stranger to the things one finds there. I have not kept an exact count, but over the decades I estimate I have the human penis represented photographically over a dozen times. Although I have no direct intimate experience of other people’s penises, I am sure they are great. But… penises aren’t that interesting to look at. Probably this is just another expression of my broken sexuality, but given the choice between a hirsute fellow displaying his penis and a hirsute fellow wearing trousers, I think I prefer the latter. Penises are fun to hint at, but when it comes to blogger selfies I think being scantily-clad matters. There is a reason Salome dances with seven veils.

But I think the most shocking disclosure is that even though there are many selfies featuring fellows who on paper ought to push my sexual buttons, they are mostly… not interesting? That the people on the Mastodon server I find most compelling are the ones who microblog about things other than lust and sex? What in the name of our Lord and Savior is up with that?

But that’s not the greatest contradiction. The greatest contradiction is that somehow you heavily (some would say overly) clothed posters of text and memes are somehow incredibly engaging and attractive, and the ones on Mastodon flashing their fleshly assets like bulldogs in heat are often less so. What is up with that? Is it just that blogging attracts the most beautiful people? That’s my best hypothesis so far.

I guess what I am trying to say is that you are all stunningly attractive, and that my wandering eye has messed up everything. So now what?

The other site was just a dalliance. I don’t want to get involved. I wasn’t kidding about avoiding heartbreak in my last entry. If I dump you for that site then I’ll start to get emotionally attached to people there too, and then bad things will happen to some of them, and then it is heartbreak all over again. Thanks, but I’d rather not.

I could pull a Newt Gingrich and unilaterally declare our relationship open. In public we paste on smiles and pretend nothing is wrong, and I keep sneaking around, and I try to look away and not seethe with jealousy if you have a Facebook or a Tiktok or a Reddit on the side. That’s how open relationships work, right?

I’ll say this much: trying to follow multiple social media simultaneously is exhausting. Never mind the web of lies and deceit one has to maintain while cheating. Even when everything is above board, it’s so time consuming. Who has the energy for that? I don’t. Clearly, one social media would have to be the primary, and it would probably be you.

But if there is one thing hundreds of years of patriarchial Biblically-inspired marriages have taught us, it is that open relationships cannot work. The honorable thing for me to do would be to admit that I have once again ruined everything, and to disappear so that you have space to heal and find somebody who isn’t unfaithful garbage. That would be the honorable thing, but I haven’t exactly exhibited a lot of honor lately.

One Present

Well, it’s that time of year again. Debra (the dear!) reminded us that it is time to start our Christmas shopping. As I never tire of proclaiming, I am not Christian, so in principle Christmas does not apply to me. But Mammon demands His sacrifices too, and if I don’t feign caring for others by getting them presents they might see me for what I am, and then where will I be? So here is another rerun, except that I have eaten too much oatmeal and not enough pats of butter, and am in no condition to be blogging. Also, I predict this will be a less nice entry than usual. Reader discretion is advised. (Update: Boy howdy was this entry a mistake.)

Fortunately, Debra not only reminds us of our duties, but offers up practical solutions. When Travel Penguin (the dear!) asked his readers for their wishes, Debra’s answer was straightforward: another year of good health. If I had the power, that is the one wish I would have for all of you.

But of course I don’t have the power to do any more than wish. Although arguably less catastrophic than 2021, 2022 was a pretty bad year. Too many bloggers had to deal with serious health issues this year: Willym, RJ, Cookie (no weepies!), and probably others who are not coming to mind immediately. Lots of bloggers had people close to them get sick or die. Mr Peenee comes to mind here; his friend Special Agent Fred is sick and now Peenee is trying to raise funds so his friend can pay bills. America!

None of this should come as a surprise. None of us are getting younger, and as we age we are more likely to get sick. Certainly that has been my experience offline. My inner four-year-old is pretty unhappy, though. Reading blogs was supposed to be my entertainment! I was trying to escape from the dire reality of existence, and boy howdy it backfired hard. Sometimes I think I should have taken up macramé. I am not even sure what macramé is, but I would have been spared the curse of human connection if I had adopted it (unless, of course, I made the mistake of joining a fiber arts group).

Wow I am callous and self-centred. People whose blogs I have been creeping for years are suffering, and I am sitting here moaning about myself? Yes, I guess that is exactly the case.

I am not angry at people for getting sick. I just want people to be healthy, and feel upset when they are not. Intellectually I know that people suffer, but I don’t want the bloggers I read to be in that group.

Moreover I feel helpless. I am an outsider, lurking in other people’s lives, and at best I leave snarky, often hurtful comments in their blogs. In principle I can contribute some money when there are fundraisers, but for stupid reasons that is awkward. So then what? I leave unhelpful socially-awkward comments on their blogs? I disappear like the rest of their fair-weather friends? There are not good answers here. If I was willing to develop enough emotional intelligence to be genuinely supportive, then that would be a different story. But it is not.

(My inner four-year-old would like to remind you that reading blogs was supposed to be fun, and if I wanted the heartbreak of loss I could have cultivated relationships in real life.)

Thus, my Christmas wish for you: I wish that you could all be healthy and well. Then we could all sidestep these painful situations. Alas, that is not how reality works. Merry Christmas.

P.S. In fairness, I suppose I should note that not everything in 2022 was bad news, although even many of the good news stories involved pain. Blobby hurt his foot, but recovered . Similarly Michael54 was in treatment for prostate cancer, but his treatment appears to have worked. Dr Spo was in danger of losing health insurance, but pulled something together. Sassybear recovered enough from his gut issues that he was able to say goodbye to Roger. I guess Maddie got a new job too, which is good news. Also CB played the lead in his Christmas play, and Travel Penguin and WickedHamster paid Mitchell and San Geraldo a visit.

Has the Salvation Army Changed Its Heart?

In yesterday’s entry Dr Spo (the dear!) mentioned feeling bad about walking past Salvation Army kettles without dropping coins, on the basis that he “remember[s] folks telling me they do mean things to my sorts so no pennies for them until I can clear up if this is true or not.” Like an idiot, this sent me down a rabbit hole, which turned into an embarrassing comment that was really a blog post in disguise. Because WordPress only allows a single link in a comment before classifying it as spam, I thought I would reconstitute that embarrassing comment here with links.

Then I discovered that I have already blogged about Sally Ann back in 2017. Furthermore that post already stated much of what I was going to say. Oh the pain. If there’s one thing Spo-fans don’t need, it’s a rerun.

Is there anything worth adding since that post? Maybe. It’s 2022 now, not 2017, and as we know institutions can change. Clearly the Salvation Army has changed its tune since the 1990s. You will see that Sally Ann now has an entire page dedicated to convincing us that they are an LGBTQ-friendly organization that offers services to all and does not discriminate against its employees. It contains videotaped testimonials from LGBTQ+ people dutifully saying they were worried about discrimination, but found the Salvation Army to be loving and supportive. Hooray! Debate over, right?

Well, maybe. The website makes a lot of assertions about how affirming the organization is now, but (as I noted in point four of my last entry) they make no admissions that they were ever discriminatory in any way. It is particularly galling for them to write “The Salvation Army is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Employer, and we provide the same benefits to all of our employees” when it is clearly documented that in 1998 they opposed same-sex benefits in San Francisco, and in 2004 they were accused of the same in New York.

One of their slick testimonial videos asserts that it is “blatantly not true” that they “lobby against anti-discrimination laws”. Yet in 2001 they were caught trying to convince the George W Bush government to grant them an exemption to the obligation to grant same-sex benefits. The Salvation Army might argue that this wasn’t “lobbying” in the strictest sense of the term, but that is splitting hairs. They were trying to convince the government to change rules in their favor. They might be arguing that they don’t do that kind of thing any more, but there is zero admission that they engaged in such practices in the past. This is brandwashing, and it makes me trust them less, not more.

They have been taking their brandwashing to the streets by handing out cards asserting that they serve LGBTQ+ without discrimination. But as the linked article notes, many people continue to mistrust them, and I feel this erasure of history has something to do with that.

Current Initiatives

In interview after interview, they make a lot of noise about a dorm they have set up in Las Vegas for transgender people. But the very article they link from their page about the shelter says:

If there is a case where The Salvation Army has one female and one male who are transgender at the same time, Hollon says the organization has a partnership with local hotels and can put one of them up for the evening.

“But we usually only have one or two at a time,” he says.

So out of a whopping nine beds only one or two have been occupied at a time. (And you had better not being nonbinary, because otherwise how can they classify you as a “male transgender” or “female transgender”?)

Look. Having a trans-specific shelter is some progress. Having partnerships with hotels is not necessarily bad. But this specific example does not inspire confidence, and the fact that it is used so prominently as a talking point is worrying.

Way back in the bad old days the Sally Ann was accused of making people pray to receive meals. That tweet is from 2017, of course, and it is five years later. I am very curious that this still goes on. There was one quotation from a transwoman named Kellen Stahl in this article that claims otherwise:

“Even though they are a Christian organization, you are free to find your own faith and belief system however you wish to believe. I don’t belong to any organized religion; I am spiritual rather than religious, and they honor that fully.

Let’s hope that is the case. (Let’s also note that Stahl is featured in a Sally Ann marketing video.)

The question of whether proselytization is allowed/encouraged is a big deal to me. Despite being a Poor I have not eaten at a Sally Ann soup kitchen (there is not one nearby), but if I did I expect there would be less religiosity than I might expect in the Bible Belt.

Church Doctrine

We can think of the Salvation Army as both a church and as a service organization. It is clear to me that the service organization wants to avoid perceptions that it is anti-LGBTQ+ in any way. Meanwhile, the church side holds views that are questionable at best.

As far I can tell the church publishes (some) doctrine in the form of positional statements. In 2012 they got in trouble because somebody discovered their positional statements on homosexuality. The organization quickly scrubbed those positional statements from their websites, so they are not easy to find now, but I was able to track down the following. They show some interesting progressions through the years:

  • archive.org has copies from 1996 and 2000, which seem pretty similar except for the pleasing lavender font.
  • There is a PDF from 2007 kicking around, which includes statements on the family as well.
  • A blogpost from April 2012 by a Christian blogger reproduces some of the text .

Looking at these statements, it is clear that the church (a) understands that adhering to these doctrines causes harm to gay people, (b) does not advocate discrimination against gay people even though they are sinners, and (c) mandates celibacy and self-restraint for those not in closed mixed-sex marriages.

Since the positional statements were taken down spokessoldiers from the Church maintained that they do not consider homosexual orientation a sin. That is interesting weasel-wording. As the 2000 copy of the statement reads:

The Army regards the origins of a homosexual orientation as a mystery and does not regard a homosexual disposition as blameworthy in itself or rectifiable at will. Nevertheless, whilst we are not responsible for what we are, we are accountable for what we do; and homosexual conduct, like heterosexual conduct, is controllable and may be morally evaluated therefore in the light of scriptural teaching.

In other words, homosexual orientation is not a sin, but acting upon it is.

But that is ancient history! What about the present? What about the world since 2017? I was not able to find smoking guns, but I found clues. In its positional statement on suicide prevention we see the following paragraph:

There are also certain groups of people who are at particular risk of suicidal behaviour. These include those with a past history of attempted suicide, those with alcohol and other substance dependencies, young males, the elderly, the bereaved, indigenous groups, those with sexual identity conflicts, migrants, those living in rural areas, those in prison custody, and those with debilitating physical illness.

Note the language here: “those with sexual identity conflicts”. What does this mean? Does it mean that homosexuals secure in their sexual identity are not at higher risk of suicide? (This 2021 study of LGB adults would suggest otherwise, presuming adults are more likely to be secure in their sexual identity than teens.) Does it mean that the Salvation Army doesn’t want to use the common phrase LGBTQ (or some variation) in its positional statements? Or does it imply that the church views most or all LGBTQ+ as having intrinsic sexual identity conflicts?

Sixpence will be relieved to know the church also has a positional statement on pornography. This contains another interesting statement:

Pornography can foster the belief that anything at all is permissible in a sexual relationship so long as it is consensual; this is a view to which The Salvation Army does not subscribe.

So what consensual acts does the Salvation Army subscribe to? Are they just talking about straight people consensually having sex despite not being married? Or is there a hint of something else?

On the other hand, the positional paper on human trafficking acknowledges that trans people exist:

The majority of those trafficked for sex are women and girls. However, boys, men and transgendered people should not be forgotten. They often remain hidden, not wishing to speak out about their shame and humiliation but are equally in need of assistance.

It may be worth noting that the positional paper on human trafficking was adopted in 2020, while the one on suicide prevention is from 2009.

Testimonials

I spent some time looking for personal experiences from those who had used Salvation Army services. The evidence was mixed, and some of it may be trolling. I looked for relatively recent testimonials, although the stories themselves may predate 2017. Obviously this is not a comprehensive collection of stories.

One user reported a friend who had a shockingly bad experience seeking shelter:

A friend of mine got kicked out of her digs and went to one of their homeless shelters, booked in, got a bed and left their stuff. Had to go out and come back later because of the time. Came back later and they wouldn’t let her in because she was “dressed like a prostitute” (she wasn’t) so she slept rough without rough her stuff because they wouldn’t giver it back. Even worse was when we all went down to get her stuff it wasn’t there because they’d confiscated it and we’re selling it in their shop so we had to buy it all back.

but another claimed that the Sally Ann helped their relatives:

Huh… up in Canada they helped my trans godson and my gay sister. Guess maybe the exception

Some employees/volunteers for the organization weighed in. This one claims she was discriminated against for being atheist:

I worked there without realizing this and the manager (i forget what military name she went by, I know it was below major because that was the regional managers title) seemed to be fine for a while and then almost like she figured out I was a gay atheist [because I spoke to other coworkers] she started treating me like shit until I told her to fuck herself and quit.

Ps I did not know that it was “Jesus saves” salvation “we actually consider ourselves a military” army.

Manual labor for minimum wage and from what I saw they treated the community service members and beneficiaries like they were sub human.

One person reported mixed experiences: good at the thrift store and bad at the church:

I used to work at their charity shop. Though slightly different from the church. Most of the volunteers were required to work there to claim unemployment benefits. Funnily enough most of the best workers were gay.

I don’t know the extent of how anti-gay they are. But we had a gay guy who used to go to their church, I say used to because they excluded him after he came out which was disappointing as he was the nicest guy you could meet.

I used to be pleased that I worked there because they did do a lot of good for the community. I don’t think it’s as simple as they are good or bad. I would like to think that the good they did outweighs the bad. And I certainly wouldn’t look down on anyone that donated to them.

Another person reported good experiences while volunteering:

I used to volunteer in the Salvation Army for my work experience and everyone was welcoming me and some of them know that I’m bi and they accept me.

In the church when I was volunteering there were a leaflet about lgbt+ domestic violence so idrk about other people experienced with the Salvation Army but mine hasn’t really been negative ngl.

And a bell ringer had some mixed feelings:

Bell ringer here.

I just want to apologize on behalf of the Salvation Army. I’m not going to make excuses or say that anything you’ve said is false, because I myself have witnessed some pretty ignorant things be said at church. It’s a struggle to be Christian when I also want to support the lgbtq+ community.

I will say that I personally interact with the SA because where I live they are the only church feeding the homeless daily. And these services are for anyone. I can’t speak to what other people associated with the SA have said or done because it’s a massive organization. Some people are very loving and open-minded, while others are pretty ignorant and hurtful. And I apologize for that.

If you don’t want to donate to the SA, I totally understand. But my worst fear is that someone will think that I don’t support them because I’m out there ringing a bell.

Who cares?

I think “who cares?” is a legitimate question to ask.

My feeling is that the Salvation Army is a very large and very powerful organization, and as such it is worth holding the organization to account. There is a reason it has changed its tune about homosexuality, and that reason is public pressure. It would not be handing out “We support LGBTQ+ people!” cards if it did not feel the pressure.

I think it is unambiguous that the Salvation Army (like many other religious institutions) has had a dark past. It bothers me that it is trying to brandwash that past without acknowledging its role in harming the LGBTQ+ community. But dismissing it out of hand because of its past does not work either, because then other organizations will fill the void and some of them will commit similar injustices. If organizations change and we do not reward their improvements, then why bother with advocacy campaigns at all?

My own feeling is that the church has not shifted much, although to protect its financial interests it has moderated its public messaging. My guess is that the service organization has improved. That seems relevant.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have worked for a nonprofit that grew from religious roots, and workers on the ground were for the most part tolerant. (Often it was my fellow Poors who were bigoted.) Unlike most of you I have not been deeply scarred by religion; many of the religious people I have worked with have been thoughtful and kind, and I wish I was more like them.

I also feel that the Salvation Army is a very strange charity. Firstly, it is a church that pretends it is a charity. Secondly, from what I have read it operates its services under contract to muncipalities (this is what the 1998 and 2004 controversies were about). There is something messed-up about that.

There is some Salvation Army presence in my area, but there are many other social service organizations too. Maybe when I am homeless I will get some firsthand experience of their shelter system and how obnoxious it actually is. As it stands I probably will continue patronizing Sally Ann thrift stores. Being a miserly git I rarely give any donations to anyone, but I am not sure I would feel morally conflicted about dropping change in a Sally Ann kettle. You may reach other conclusions.

Conversations of Desire

I am writing this in a public square. It is Saturday night and post-secondary school has just started, so there are swarms of young people out partying. I am sitting on a bench hoping nobody will beat me up and that I won’t catch COVID. A few benches away some young men were discussing young women they found attractive. It reminded me of yet another missed milestone in my life.

I am aware that people (particularly young people) engage in such conversations, but I have never actively participated in one. Back in the Cambrian era when I attended high school, a few people attempted such, and I had nothing to contribute. Once somebody asked me what kind of women I liked, and I could not articulate anything — not because I was trying to hide anything, but because I did not have a rating system in my head. When I was seventeen or so, I was asked whether I had ever fallen in love. I hadn’t, and I received a look of disbelief in response. “It should have happened by now?” my associate asked incredulously.

Clearly such feelings intensified among my peers as I entered university. I had a job (can you imagine?) on campus, and my coworkers would frequently admire the wildlife. Occasionally I would serve a tall, conventionally attractive young woman, and my coworkers would express astonishment that I wasn’t drooling. By this time I suffered occasional unwholesome thoughts about my Numeric Computation professor, but this conversation never came up.

With the advent of political correctness and increased co-ed workplaces, I am sure such conversations have migrated away from the workplace and to private friend groups.

During my one and only intimate relationship two decades ago, the topic of sexual attraction did come up. My ladyfriend at the time knew that I was intrinsically disordered before we became A Couple, but aside from assurances of her attractiveness, the only other crush I remember admitting was Salman Rushdie. (Let’s just say that Midnight’s Children resonated deeply with me.) In retrospect, that particular crush was as ill-advised as my relationship, which crashed and burned in ways I regret to this day.

A few years ago I had an acquaintance with whom I would occasionally walk. I had no serious intentions of being more than a conversation and walking partner with her, but she may have been misreading my intentions. The subject of sex and relationships came up, and I admitted that although I might be interested in maintaining a small number of sex partners, I had no desire whatsoever to ride the relationship escalator. Shortly after that she stopped returning my emails, and although that conversation was probably not the primary reason she dropped communications, it may have been a contributing factor.

Other than that? Nothing, really. Over the years I have attended a few groups at the Lurkville LGBTQ+ centre, and although the topic of sexuality has come up I have never participated in a discussion of sexual preferences. Once in a while others have disclosed their sexual histories, and others have remarked on people they find attractive on TV shows, but I have not made such disclosures and I probably won’t. I can’t think of a conversation when others discussed real people they found attractive in the same way the young men this evening were.

Admittedly, I have used this blog as a confessional, and from time to time I leave lecherous comments in your blogs. Although it is uniformly true that you are all handsome and/or pretty, much of the time these comments are intended to be more playful than serious. Even if such comments were serious, blog interactions feel qualitatively different than in-person dishing sessions. My guess is that such sessions are a common rite of passage for many people, but I was too oblivious in my younger years to participate in such, and am too antisocial now. I can imagine that it is therapeutic to admit one’s crushes in a peer group, but I guess I’ll never know.

Burden on Society

This entry isn’t really about sex, and thus does not belong on this blog, but since it concerns this corner of the blogosphere here we go. It does involve me being intrinsically disordered though, so maybe it is not completely out of place.

As I have declared several times before, I am a Poor. This has a lot to do with my employment status, or lack thereof. Thus far this year I have had paid work for a grand total of two (2) days, which is not exactly paying the bills.

In addition to being frequently unemployed, I am fairly unemployable. It is not difficult to see why this might be the case, especially for those of you on whose blogs I leave comments. Up to now I have bounced around and made enough money to keep going. But those gravy days have come to an end, and now I either have to find something that can pay the bills in these inflationary times or I have to make plans for when my savings run out.

Here’s the problem: working seems awful, and as the months drag on I feel less and less able to tolerate it. In addition to my own basket of mental barriers and brokenness around this issue, you folks are not helping. I have been observing how the residents of this corner of the blogosphere like their jobs, and it is disheartening.

I can think of two bloggers who currently enjoy their work: John Michael (who recently started a new position) and Maddie (ditto). CB also started a new job but I don’t know whether he likes it. Maybe Dr Spo tolerates his job, but he is upset that he will never be able to retire.

The rest of you? Many of you (Travel Penguin, Sassybear, Michael54) are explicitly counting the days until you retire. Several others (Jennifer from Sparrow Tree Journal, Robzilla, Jon from Delargo Towers) seem trapped and unhappy in jobs or job environments they dislike. John Gray is planning to leave hospice work and retrain as a counsellor. A few of you don’t talk about your jobs much, but when you do it is usually in the context of stress and drama. I do not know how Blobby feels about his job in general, but the last few months have seemed rough for him.

Then of course there are the retired people, who uniformly LOOOOOVE being retired. They get to take art classes and travel and observe the buskers trying to scratch out a living on the streets below them. That’s fine, I guess: they worked hard and put in their time, and now they get their reward. Being a Poor, retirement is not in the cards for me, unless you consider being unemployed for months on end a form of retirement. But it is clear to me that none of the retired would go back to work unless they were forced to.

I mean, it is not as if anybody is explicitly telling me that working for a living is awful and that I should just give up and become homeless. My unwillingness or inability to get work is squarely on my shoulders, and should not be influenced by what I read in other people’s blogs. But it certainly feels hopeless more days than not.

Pox

As usual, this is all my fault.

Although I am not exactly happy about it, over the years I have been growing more resigned to accepting of the prospects for my sex life. Lots of people (even ugly people! even serial killers! even Republican senators!) manage to have sex with other people occasionally, but it does not look as if this is in the cards for me. I mean, there are options, but they are out of reach. It is possible that I could score if I promised to pay money and wear a paper bag over my head, but that would require more disposable income than I have. If I had that kind of dosh I should be paying for therapy, not carnal indulgences.

Then, of course, there is my paranoia. The rest of the world may be over HIV as thoroughly as it is over COVID, but I’m not.

But I was a fool. Perhaps, I foolishly thought, I could at least hope for some close contact? A few hugs, perhaps? Maybe if I promised to wear two paper bags over my head? It is not as if I need much company from other human beings. For the most part, I don’t even like other human beings! But even misanthropes crave touch sometimes, and the prospect of a lifetime of untouchability gets disheartening. So I held out hope. What a fool I am.

You know what happened next. God The Divine Feminine A collection of random genetic mutations subject to selection pressures decided to teach me a lesson. So now we have monkeypox outbreak, and hundreds of men who have sex with men are suffering from painful, sometimes disfiguring cases of the pox. Way to go, me.

Monkeypox is not an STI, and it is not limited to men who have sex with men, but that is how it is spreading, and it’s growing fast. After two years of COVID restrictions people are tired and want to party. And now monkeypox has come by, and it is feeling like another plague.

I am definitely worried about catching monkeypox, but I do not know that this is even my worst worry. My worst worry is that monkeypox will develop a reputation as a gay plague, and then it will start spreading to the straights, and then the straights freak out and then Ron Desantis rounds us up and sends us to quarantine camps. Idiots like the one Huntley and Sixpence documented are not helping.

I am being hyperbolic, of course. Desantis won’t be president until 2024, and until then he only can round us up if we are in Florida (sorry, Jimmy). Unless monkeypox becomes endemic in the gay population, this particular plague should be done and forgotten by then. Furthermore, I am fully aware that now we are bored of COVID the media machine has found another target for our anxieties. But at the rate this virus is spreading, I remain worried.

Dan Savage is recommending that we all moderate our sexual activity for a while, so that this monkeypox outbreak has no place to go. I don’t think that is going to work any better than “two weeks to flatten the curve” did: in order for it to be effective we need to act in collective solidarity, and we are clearly not willing to do that. I have been reading some collected posts about the early days of AIDS (see here ) and the similarities are disheartening. Certainly the way that some people defied public health and deliberately patronized bath houses knowing they had AIDS makes me queasy, even though I can sympathise with some of the underlying emotions. I hope we have learned since then, but I am not confident of this, and I worry we haven’t. I worry the straights will look at us and conclude that we learned nothing from HIV, and therefore are irredeemable.

Thankfully, there is a vaccine that probably works? So maybe there is some hope we vaccinate ourselves out of this mess. Given the poor vaccine distribution thus far, I am somewhat gloomy about this, but we can hope that public health learned something from COVID. (Har har.)

It is not clear to me how quickly public opinion could flip against us. Certainly there has been an anti-LGBTQ+ backlash for a long time, but I genuinely thought that most people (even most people in red states) tolerated gays now. Certainly corporations seem to love the gays, especially the respectable ones with good incomes. How many instances does it take for straights to get infected with monkeypox before public opinion flips? We all thought that we were safe from being used as a wedge issue (thanks for taking over, trans people!) but in these tumultuous times who knows what will happen?

And, of course, it is my fault. Sorry everybody. I hope the consequences are not too dire.

Boy Next Door

The Skanks paid me a visit over the weekend. They told me to write this entry and have not stopped harassing me about it since, so against my better judgment I am giving in. It is a good thing Gay Pride month is over, because there is a lot for me to be ashamed of.

Despite what you may have heard, I am not yet homeless. (That is not the shameful part). In fact, I have lived in the same place for several years. (That is also not the shameful part.) The area is not considered the nice part of town (how could it be when I live there?) but the homeowners, renters, Poors and Destitutes who frequent the area coexist, and although there is sometimes loud drama from drug addicts and those frequenting the nearby soup kitchen, I do not consider it overly unsafe.

On my street I have some neighbors, and this is where the trouble begins. The place where I rent a room is beside a multi-unit dwelling fronted by a barber shop. Several of the apartment dwellers have lived there for years, and in particular one burly, bald, middle-aged goateed fellow lives on the second floor walkup. Sure enough, he has caught my eye for years, and thus the shame begins.

I do not know much about him. I believe I know his name, and he has a job that has some strange hours — he leaves at one or two in the morning, returns in the afternoon or evening, and then (I guess) sleeps the rest of the day until he has to work again. I rarely see him. Sometimes if I am sitting on the front porch at one or two in the morning I will see him leave for work. (I will neither confirm nor deny deliberately sitting on the front porch at one or two in the morning for lecherous purposes.) During the seventeen months of winter Lurkville suffers each year, I sometimes see him shovelling snow when I am shovelling snow. Once or twice we have said hello to each other. (I will neither confirm nor deny subsequently requiring long showers to purge my mind of unclean thoughts.) Once or twice he has worn a sleeveless shirt, and I saw that he has a tattoo on his shoulder — I think it is a depiction of a playing card. He used to drive a tiny Smartcar to work, but I guess it broke down because now he drives a small SUV. Some time ago I saw a small teddy bear sitting on his dashboard. The teddy bear was clad in a Harley-Davidson T-shirt, confirming that he is unambiguously straight.

Mostly I am embarrassed at sneaking lecherous glances at my neighbor, but really I should feel a lot more shame. The Bible’s position on this is clear, as  both Exodus 20:17 and Deuteronomy 5:21 illustrate (emphasis mine):

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

But even from a secular perspective, my dissolute behavior is an abomination. I know hardly anything about my poor neighbor and yet I objectify him, thus contributing to rape culture. Straight men are fearful to walk outside alone because of people like me.

Some might argue that straight men harbor similar fantasies about “the girl next door,” and although that is unfortunate (and often goes too far into outright harassment), I suppose that in a society without arranged marriages some of this behavior must be tolerated if we are to propagate the species. But I have no such excuse. Honestly I am like the dog that chases cars; I would have no idea what to do if I caught one.

At this point some of the bad influences in my comments section might encourage me to “strike up a conversation” or “get to know him better” or other such predatory behavior. While couched in platonic language (“you can just be friends”) I am as aware of the tropes from educational videos and fantasy stories as the rest of you. It is important to note that such tropes are fictional, not real life. There is some valid criticism that despite living here for years I do not know my neighbors, but such efforts at community building should be engaged with a pure heart.

In addition to my neighbor being straight and completely uninterested in my existence (I am a Poor, after all), he also is not around much any more. For much of the week his SUV is absent from the driveway, suggesting that he has a different place to spend the evenings. Maybe he has a place to crash closer to his work, or maybe he has found a girlfriend and stays at her place during the week. I would like to think so, anyways. It seems that he has a difficult life even without people like me creeping on him, and I would like him to be well.

There, Skanks. Satisfied now?

Pride Uniform

I have skipped Lurkville Pride the past couple of years. But like a fool, I wandered through the celebrations again. That feeling of alienation I complained about has just intensified. Plus there were crowds, and few people were wearing masks and I am a scaredy-cat who does not feel comfortable in crowds even outdoors, so I skedaddled away right quick.

It was just as well. I felt out of place and I looked out of place. Nobody wants the Poors crashing their parties, and I was underdressed. I did not have a T-shirt with a clever slogan. I was not festooned in rainbow accessories — not even a cheap rainbow lei. The latest trend appears to be people wearing their flags as capes (I suppose these people never watched The Incredibles?). Thanks to a meme Sassybear posted I took a quick crash course on pride flags, so I was able to recognise some of the memberships. There were lots of trans flags, of course, but also lots of nonbinary and a surprising number of ace flags too. I did not wear a flag — it is not as if grouchy old incels get a flag (or do they?) — and I doubt I would have been welcomed into the Big Gay Tent if I had.

If nothing else, my wander through Lurkville Pride taught me something: there is a uniform one wears during Pride, and it is a social faux pas not to wear it. I don’t even own rainbow pasties, never mind a full outfit. That’s my fault, of course, and even as a Poor I have enough disposable income to address this. It is also clear that this is some kind of internalized homophobia (“Why does everybody have to be so flamboyant?? Can’t we just be normal?” as if I am in any way normal), and I am already a spectacle in other ways, so doffing rainbow gear and looking even more ridiculous should be no issue. The question is whether I want to bother, and the answer is probably negative. If I want to participate in social gatherings I have to follow social norms, and if I am not willing to do that then I have to stop bellyaching.

Memorials for Anne Marie

About one year ago today (I think May 27), this corner of the blogosphere lost one of its prominent members. Anne Marie in Philly (aka Warrior Queen aka Carebear aka AM aka Anne Marie Gunther) died suddenly. Usually “died suddenly” is a polite euphemism for “committed suicide”, but I doubt that was the case here. I am not sure of the cause of death, and it is none of my business, but Anne Marie had been suffering poor health in the months leading up to her death, and my suspicion is that they led to a medical emergency.

Anne Marie was known for her political opinions, knitting, surviving cancer, surviving a bad first marriage, fierce loyalty to her ingroup, appreciation of hirsute ginger men, allyship to the LGBTQ+ community, and dainty ladylike demeanor. In addition to being a prolific commenter she had her own blog at From My Brain to My Mouth. Her sudden death shocked the community. Tributes to her rolled in. I have compiled the ones I know of in this post. No doubt I have missed several; if you know of others feel free to add them in the comments (but be aware that WordPress marks any comment with multiple links as spam, so you may want to put at most one link per comment).

Memorials are a funny thing. Some people get many memorials. Others get none. Memoraials tend to fade over time. I expect a few people will post about Anne Marie on this anniversary, but I expect that fewer will commemorate her next year. Four years from now many of our blogs will probably be defunct. Nine years from now I worry some of these bloggers will also be defunct (although I hope this is not the case). There is a platitude that says that Anne Marie is not gone so long as she is remembered, but that just delays the inevitable. We all fade away, and life goes on for those left behind. This is an artifact documenting that, at one point, Anne Marie was remembered.

This listing is not in any particular order, other than Todd’s entry.

Memorials Soon After Anne Marie Died

Todd at arteejee: Saturday Morning Post: To My Dearest Friend

John at Going Gently: Anne Marie

Ron at Retired in Delaware: Anne Marie of Philly Warrior Queen

1st Man at Two Men and a Little Farm: The Loss of Anne Marie in Philly

Dave at Riding On: Eternal

Maddie at A Day with the Mistress Borghese: Into the Fabulon

Urspo at Spo-Reflections: Threnody for a Warrior Queen

Bob at I Should Be Laughing: Goodbye My Friend

Debra at She Who Seeks: “Saturday Night Protest Party”

Jay at WickedHamster: Sadness

David at The Adventures of Travel Penguin: Sunday Sadness and Five Lessons

Jennifer at Sparrow Tree Journal: Saturday stuff

Sixpence at (Lo) Imprescindible: She Hated Nazis

Michael at My Secret Journey: I Have No Words for This, But I’ll Try

Sean at Idle Eyes and A Dormy: A smaller world and Mournings are hard

JM at Open a Window: So Shines A Good Deed

Robzilla at I Hit Midlife, Is This My Crisis?: A Saturday Night Wake/Dance Party

Mr Shife at Confessions of a Dumb, White Guy: Random Acts of Shifeness – June Updates

Fearsome and Shawn at Fearsome Beard wrote many tributes over the year. Some are here and some are in the next section.

On JoeMyGod, there were several comment threads memorializing Anne Marie. I know of two, but there are probably others: Overnight Open Thread 1, Overnight Open Thread 2

Reminders of Anne Marie

Throughout the year circumstances or belongings prompted several people to remember Anne Marie. Here is a selection of their posts:

Fearsome and Shawn posted about Anne Marie several times:

Uptonking at Wonderland Burlesque remembered Anne Marie several times as he reviewed alternative recordings of pop songs: Who Did It Better? Swayin’ To The Music (Slow Dancing), Who Did It Better? The Loco-motion

Sixpence dedicated his post Mayor Pete to Anne Marie.

Dr Spo received a posthumous birthday card: Curious things about the house #73

Michael reread one of Anne Marie’s old comments: Three Months Later.

Arteejee Memorials

Of course, this corner of the blogosphere did not just lose Anne Marie. Her husband Todd (aka RTG aka arteejee) died on Jan 25. Todd’s sister-in-law announced his death in the comments of his blog. He was also in poor health, suffered a fall, and then his heart gave out.

There were fewer memorials to Todd, and it is unfair to include them here as opposed to their own post, but that’s the way it goes.

Maddie from A Day With the Mistress Borghese: Arteejee

Sean from Idle Eyes and a Dormy: Unmotivated but moving along

Urspo from Spo-reflections: Spo-reflections on a Saturday Shingles Shot

Respect

Let’s close with some music videos, in the spirit of Saturday Night Dance/Protest Parties.

Although Anne Marie loved much of the music from the 1970s, she disliked ABBA. This has turned into a bit of an in-joke amongst those who remember her. I appreciate the joke but I feel that forever associating Anne Marie with ABBA is unfair. She liked all kinds of music, and if she happened to exercise improper taste with respect to a famous disco group, then so what? There was a lot of other music to choose from.

RTG posted “Time” by the Alan Parsons Symphonic Project a couple of times following Anne Marie’s death. I have been listening to it a lot this year.

Anne Marie posted Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” in one of her final dance parties. It wasn’t 70s disco but reflects how many in the community felt about her: