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.

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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.

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.”

Unpride

Oh look. It’s Debbie Downer with another whinefest. What tedious opinion will she share with the world today? Well, it’s June, so I guess that makes this the obligatory Pride entry.

Everybody seems to be taking Pride especially seriously this year, probably because of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Although I have some problems with the narrative behind those riots (namely: violent resistance is an effective way to earn political credibility), overall I am glad that people are commemorating the event and taking Pride seriously. I genuinely want each and every one of you to get out there and have a lot of fun. But speaking only for myself, I’m just not feeling it this year. I don’t have very much to be proud of, and I increasingly feel there is no place for me in the LBGTQ+ community.

Although I am still doing some behind-the-scenes volunteering for the Lurkville LGBTQ+ center, the truth is that I am not very involved any more. The reading group I was involved with ran its course, which means that (a) I don’t go down to the center much any more and (b) I am reading a lot less LGBTQ+ literature than I used to. I also participated in an exercise group (yes, really), but that is now a shadow of its former self. The obvious solution to this would be to get more involved, but I don’t, partially because those groups that interest me conflict with other commitments. If this was poor Steven’s blog I would be leaving some acid-tongued comment about how he was making excuses, and I would be correct.

I did attend a second social gathering for LGBTQ+ people a couple of times, but I felt super out-of-place there. For one thing I am too socially awkward to do well in the presence of others, and for another I was at least a decade older than anybody else. I definitely came across as the unwelcome, creepy fat old guy, so I stopped attending.

Up until recently I had not experienced the dreaded “too old to be gay” feeling that so many others write about, but it has hit me hard over the past couple of years. It seems many (if not most) of the LGBTQ+ events locally are either implicitly or explicitly for the kids, and those that aren’t are for lesbians. And since I am cisgendered and more conservative than I like to admit, I am now classified as an oppressor, enforcing heteronormative privilege and the patriarchy. For all of our talk of diversity, there is not much room for people like me under the umbrella.

Having said that, I did go to Lurkville Pride for a bit. The event was rained out, but even before that I was feeling out of place. Admittedly, I skipped the “march” that was to happen the next day, so that is my fault. I also went to a second Pride event in the nearby municipality of Lurkton, but I got there late and only caught the tail end of the festivities. Again, I felt pretty out of place.

I will be taking a multi-day out-of-town trip to the big city of Lurkopolis this summer. I had not realized it at first, but I will be visiting during Lurkopolis Pride celebrations. Honestly the prospect fills me with more dread than excitement. Lurkopolis will be busier than usual and more expensive than usual. If I get a few spare hours during the trip I might wander through the festive areas but I am not sure I will enjoy them. Mostly I am grateful that I will have left town before the big Lurkopolis parade, because that is going to be a zoo (and will probably be co-opted by an activist group anyways). It is not good news that I am so apprehensive about being around the big celebration. Shouldn’t I want to be around my people?

This is probably all just projection on my part. Although none of the areas of my life are currently in crisis (knock on plastic), they have been uniformly disappointing. The only topics I have been able to consistently discuss with others have been my lack of employment and my dismay at the current state of politics, not my pathetic love life. But truth be told I am increasingly unhappy about being lonely. Even as I am grateful I do not have a sex partner, my body wants to be touched. I don’t think I have ever been the object of another person’s desire, even when I was in a relationship. To my knowledge I have never been hit upon, and nobody has ever flirted with me. (One caveat: back when I was younger and thinner, some people apparently made comments about my butt. However, those comments were not made in my presence, and I learned about them secondhand.)

I ought to be grateful for all that (maybe not the butt comments) but it gets hard to take sometimes, and it is not getting easier as I get older.

Whine, whine, whine. Scooter boys and Argentinians, Europe shed the blood of the Indians. And here I sit in the land of plenty, crying about my own virginity.

Be sure not to end up like me. Go out and celebrate. Happy Pride, everyone.

Mayor Pete

I probably should not write this entry, but I realized that (a) repressing it is not working, and (b) if I am going to alienate my entire readership* then I might as well do it in one blow. So here goes.

In this corner of the blogosphere, there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, otherwise known as “Mayor Pete”. Many people have been posting inspirational video interviews and praising him as a hopeful candidate. People went nuts when he formally announced his presidency.

But along with the Mayor Pete wave comes the Mayor Pete backlash, and not every corner of the Internet is as enthusiastic about Buttigieg as this corner is. Another place I lurk heavily supports Elizabeth Warren, and somewhere in there I ran across a critique of Mayor Pete — in particular a critique of his character and his campaign, based upon the pre-presidential-run book he wrote. (Apparently one of the qualifications for running for President in the United States of America is authoring (or “authoring”) an inspirational autobiography.) In order to protect your innocent enthusiasm I won’t link the piece here. Instead I’ll put a link at the end of this screed, long after you have stopped reading.

I wish I could say that I stayed strong after reading this attack piece, but you know me better than that. I was swayed. The piece throws a lot of criticisms at the wall — many from a far left perspective — but some of them stick, and I have been swayed. I have suspicions now. In particular, I am wary that once again we are being manipulated, and that once again we are going to be disappointed.

I want to believe, y’know? I am tired of being cynical and hopeless about politics. I admire the faith that the system isn’t rigged, that we can somehow elect leaders who will govern with wisdom and won’t be in the pockets of our lobbyists. I read all of you celebrating and wish I could join the party. But I wish I could be Christian, too, and that isn’t happening either.

I am also upset that any time I see something hopeful, along comes a wave of criticism to sow the seeds of doubt. This is a deliberate strategy used by political opponents to foster indecision and inaction — and it totally works on me. But once you see the patterns they cannot be unseen. So here are a few words of caution about Mayor Pete. Some of these ideas are taken from the attack piece, and some of them have come to mind since.

As most of you know, I have exactly no business writing about any of this. I don’t get to choose the Democratic nominee for president any more than you do — less, even, given that I am Lurkistani, not American. However, we do not have a president in Lurkistan, so we adopt yours, and follow American politics closely. Also many of the blogs I read come from the Greatest Country on Earth ™, so I get a big dose of American politics there too. I may not have qualifications, but I have opinions.

Blowing the Filter Bubble

Why am I seeing so much about Mayor Pete? Should I believe that this is a grassroots movement that sprung up from nowhere? I am getting my Mayor Pete fix from your blogs. What are your sources? Are you searching them out yourself? Or are they being curated for you?

In this world of “personalized recommendations” I do not trust that there really is a grassroots. Somebody seeds these videos that go viral. It is in somebody’s interest to get these videos to our eyeballs. Who is engineering this? What do they have to gain from it? Are their interests in alignment with our own?

Although it does not pertain to this situation directly, there is a good (if slimy) book that illustrates how easily we are manipulated, called Trust Me I’m Lying, by Ryan Holiday. (And how did I come across this book, hrm?) The premise of the book is that news organizations are desperate for stories, so big media companies republish stories from smaller ones. But the smaller ones are also hungry, so the farther down you go the easier it is to feed the story you want to a small news source. If the story is juicy enough, it gets fed up the media chain until your friends of friends see it, who post it on their blog or Twitstream or wall, and then it hits our eyeballs.

Nobody tries to get to our eyeballs more than political campaigns. Mayor Pete seemed to come out of nowhere. According to his mythology, one day he was minding his business as the mayor of South Bend and the next he was getting booked on late night talk shows. I don’t think that is an accident. Given that he has both run for DNC chair and written the mandatory presidential autobiography, I also am disinclined to believe the mythology.

So why are we hearing about Mayor Pete? Why are we talking about him and not, say, Wayne Messam, who is also a mayor, also young, also inspirational? Why are we not talking about Juli├ín Castro, who was also a mayor, is also young, and served with Barack Obama? Is this a meritocracy — the superiority of Mayor Pete bubbling to the top of our consciousnesses? Or is something else going on here?

As a somewhat-relevant sidenote, why do we feel that Kamala Harris is scary and shrill? Why do we feel that Bernie Sanders is too old now? He certainly is not cool the way he was in 2016. Why did we feel as if we needed to hold our noses and vote for Hillary instead of supporting her enthusiastically? There are a lot of narratives floating around, and it is surprising how quickly they come to mind. Where do these impressions come from? Are we doing the research ourselves and drawing our own conclusions? Or are they being fed to us?

Comparing Candidates

I have read some people supporting Mayor Pete with statements like “all the other candidates made me feel uneasy, but Mayor Pete really speaks to me.” I am glad the rest of you have been getting comprehensive information about the Democratic nominees. I haven’t. In fact, I did not know who most of the other nominees were before researching this blog post, and I probably can’t name half of them now.

This is a real problem. In fact, it is multiple real problems. Let’s for the moment assume that there are not frontrunner candidates and also-rans, and let’s also assume it was somehow our job to identify the best candidate to support in a nomination. You don’t go about that by being fed a steady stream of media about one candidate in particular. You do that by comparing candidates, which pretty much no politician wants you to do.

How does one actually compare candidates? Debates can work, although debates are highly orchestrated. In municipal politics questionnaires can sometimes be useful. I spent a little bit of time looking for some presidential candidate comparisons, and ran into a New York Times questionnaire about climate change. If you have any articles left (or know how to get around the NYT article limits) then it might be worth a look. The last question of the questionnaire is about nuclear power — a contentious issue on the left. The responses to that question are especially telling, but overall one gets a clearer sense of which candidates have insights into these topics, which are willing to say whatever they think we want to hear, and which are not willing to address certain questions at all. I feel Mayor Pete’s responses to many of these questions are illuminating.

How many side-by-side comparisons of these candidates have you done? If you have not done many, are you still willing to declare fealty to a particular candidate?

Now let’s talk about frontrunners, because here in the real world there really is no point in comparing all of the 17 (or 18? or more? Wikipedia says over 200?) candidates as if they all have an equal chance of the nomination. Some of the candidates are well-entrenched and some are upstarts like Mayor Pete. For a while those candidates will be in the running and we will all support our favorites and we will fight among each other, because there is nothing more a Democrat likes more than infighting. And then somebody (hint: probably somebody with money, and with entrenched support within the Democratic Party) will win. Then what? Are you prepared to hold your nose and vote for that candidate?

Do we think that Mayor Pete could surge in popularity the way Bernie did in 2016? If so, do you think he would be the establishment-supported candidate? It looks as if superdelegates are less of a thing but I am sure that the powers that be in the Democratic Party will find other ways to ensure the party doesn’t get too democratic. I do not have an answer as to whether Mayor Pete could be the establishment candidate, and that in itself is disconcerting.

The Gay Thing

This is a blog about sexual perversion, so let’s talk about the gay thing. In particular, let’s talk about the familiar refrain, “It’s not just that Mayor Pete is gay!”

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Mayor Pete is allowed to live his life however he sees fit. He is not obligated to be a sex radical. If he chose to wait until age 33 to come out as gay then who am I to criticize him? Maybe these tearjerking stories about how he was in denial about himself for so many years are actually true. I am not one of those who demands that Mayor Pete be more of a sex radical.

However, that does not let him off the hook and it does not let us off the hook.

When you think to yourself, “It’s not just that Mayor Pete is gay!” do you actually mean it? Pretend that Pete Buttigieg was a nice, white, cisgendered man who went to a good university, served in the military and was married to a nice woman named Chastity who had a kickass Twitter account. Look deep in your heart. Would you be as enthusiastic about Mayor Pete if he was another straight white charismatic politician like Tim Ryan? Really? Okay then.

Even though Mayor Pete’s sexuality is not biasing your perception of him in any way, consider how much he is playing it up during this campaign. Watch that video where he declares his nomination again. He gushes about his husband and about marriage equality a lot. Do you think that is an accident? Do you think his heartfelt story about coming out during a mayoral campaign because he didn’t want to be single anymore was an accident? Hint: he is cultivating an image, and he is doing so deliberately. Do you ever notice how he relates his brave story about coming out during a mayoral campaign and receiving a majority of the vote, but does not acknowledge South Bend as a university town? Sure, that university is a Catholic institution, but even Catholic university towns skew liberal — especially in 2011. Instead his narrative is being a poor gay mayor in an Indiana city that was once built on heavy industries that left town, as if he was in the Trumpiest of Trump Country. None of this is an accident.

How is a white, male, cisgendered, highly-educated, relatively wealthy politician supposed to stand out in a world where black people and even women are allowed to run for President? Would it not be convenient for the aforementioned white male to have some other characteristic that would allow him to stand out?

And isn’t it fortunate that Mayor Pete is just gay enough to make liberals feel good about themselves while being so inoffensive that he doesn’t scare away those who are more socially conservative? Again, I am not criticizing Mayor Pete’s sexual choices, but aren’t they convenient? Presumably he was completely celibate before deciding to come out as gay and look for a husband. Mayor Pete never gets edgier about his sexuality than joking about the app he used to find said husband. And is it not darling (and suspiciously heteronormative) that Chasten adopted Buttigieg’s last name? Mayor Pete really is the living embodiment of the notion that gay people are exactly like straight people except for the people they choose to love.

I do not know the extent to which Mayor Pete organized his life such that his gayness would be so picture-perfect. But I highly suspect that he has cultivated this image of being gay and inoffensive very, very carefully. And honestly, I am tired of gayness being used as political leverage.

Look. I am glad that gays are cool now. It is much better for politicians to be using their gayness as an asset, as opposed to the bad old days when Anita Bryant said we should not be allowed to teach in schools, or Mike Huckabee wondered why we were not quarantined to prevent spreading AIDS to straight people, or the Mormon and Catholic churches insisted that we were intent on destroying the institution of marriage**. It is nice that gay people are the heroes and not the villains now, but homosexuality is still being used for political ends.

Claiming that Mayor Pete is leveraging his sexual identity for political gain is not the same as claiming he should remain in the closet, or that he should never mention his sexuality, or whatever. It is possible to simultaneously be a gay politician and not make it a central part of your narrative, if you so choose.

I have one more thing to say about homosexuality and politics: it is our responsibility as gay people to avoid giving politicians a free pass because they are gay. Just because a politician is gay does not mean that said politician will be effective. Debra recently elected a leader who is rumoured to be gay, but that does not imply that I agree with anything that leader stands for or does. Although not a politician directly, lawyer Roy Cohn was a gay political figure who was heavily involved in the McCarthy anti-communist witch hunts. Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was openly gay and openly anti-Muslim. All too often those of us (gay and straight) who think of ourselves as enlightened are willing to give politicians a pass based on their homosexuality, and I do not feel this is justified.

Anti-qualifications

What is up with our fixation on electing people who have special stories? Why are we so opposed to nominees for President of the United States having relevant qualifications for the job?

I am not diminishing the importance of city mayors. For the most part, I feel that running a city (even a relatively small city like South Bend) is a complicated matter, and I think many mayors do an admirable job. However, municipal politics is different than state or federal politics, and for some reason we think it is okay that Mayor Pete has no legislative experience at the federal level.

I mean, President of the United States seems like a pretty difficult job too, but I think it is difficult in different ways than being mayor of a small city. Should we not have some expectations that the presidential nominees have some knowledge of how federal (or at least state) politics work?

Buttigieg is not, of course, alone in this. We all know what happened in 2016, and the qualifications for office that presidential nominee possessed. But (and here’s where I lose the rest of my readership, if I have any left) it is not as if Barack Obama was well-qualified to be president either. His legislative experience consisted of half a term as a Senator, which is something but not a lot. Frankly, I feel that Obama’s lack of experience as a federal politician showed, and that it hurt him.

I am not claiming that one needs to be Vice-President of the United States in order to be qualified for President (sorry, Joe Biden). I am not claiming you need to be in your 60s or 70s. But is it so unreasonable to expect a term or two in the Senate or House of Representatives? Being a state governor also seems like a good qualification. Is serving in Afghanistan and then becoming mayor of a small city for eight years enough? Even if you want to smash/reform the system, surely you should understand how the system works?

Trump

Speaking of Trump, why are we all so certain he is going to lose in 2020? Most of you are too young to remember this, but way back in 2004 we had an unpopular president named George W. Bush, and a decently qualified candidate in John Kerry. There was no way that Kerry could have lost the election against such an unpopular incumbent, right?.

The End

There is no chance you read this far. I didn’t read this far. I furiously unsubscribed from this blog several sections ago.

Look. I hope you’re right. It would be fantastic if Mayor Pete was the real deal, and won the nomination, and somehow beat Trump in 2020, and was the smart, well-spoken president who is going to solve all our problems. Oh wait. Where have we heard that before? One of the reasons we all fell in love with Obama was because he was a blank slate. We all projected our hopes and wishes for the presidency onto him, and — surprise! — he turned out not to meet those expectations. In a similar way, I feel we are projecting our hopes onto Mayor Pete. I worry we are being fooled again. So hate me if you want (yes, I know you already do), and hold on to your enthusiasm and hope, but also do your homework. Please don’t be fooled again?

If after reading these 3000 words you want to read thousands more, here is a link to that attack piece that I mentioned at the top: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2019/03/all-about-pete.

  • I guess JP is British, so would not be as repulsed by this entry as the rest of you. But if I throw in some grudging respect for the Extinction Rebellion movement then he should be covered too. I’ll alienate Kato by forgetting that Australia exists.

** I’m still working on that last one.

Anal Sex

Two entries ago, Mistress Maddie (the dear!) left a comment about “barely enjoying anal sex”, which got me thinking.

It seems that lots of different demographics are obsessed about anal sex. The stories about teen girls using God’s Loophole as a way to preserve their virginity while having sex with their boyfriends is probably apocryphal, there is anecdotal evidence that at least some straight people consider anal sex as “not counting” in terms of preserving one’s virginity.

On the other hand, straight men appear to be strongly interested in having anal sex with their wives and girlfriends, as if their wives and girlfriends do not have sufficient orifices in which they can insert their penises already. I get the sense that straight guys see (penetrative) anal sex as a form of conquest. Maybe this is aprocryphal too? Porn sites would seem to disagree.

And then there are the gays. Anal sex seems to be such a priority in this culture that we identify as “tops”, “bottoms”, and “versatiles” according to our preferences in anal sex. Not all practicing homosexuals engage in anal sex, but many consider oral to be much more casual, to the extent that getting a blowjob does not count as “cheating”. [citation needed] My impression (which may be inaccurate) is that we consider anal sex “real sex” in the same way that straights consider penis-vagina sex “real sex”.

I am much less confident in these conclusions than I was when I started putting together this entry, but it struck me how differently these three demographics treat anal sex. In the first case it is a way to preserve one’s virginity. In the second it is a sex act that goes above and beyond “normal sex”. And in the third it seems to be what defines “normal sex” for gay men.

It is also strange that so many straight guys think homosexuality is gross because gay men are perceived as having lots of icky anal sex, when many of those same straight guys think of anal sex with their wives and girlfriends to be great achievements.

Reconsidering PrEP

After my mini-meltdown last entry, I did some additional looking into PrEP in general and weekend PrEP in particular. I also reread the thread that freaked me out.

It turns out that Weekend PrEP is a thing. In the literature it is refered to as “intermittent PrEP”. You take two pills before hitting Grindr, then a single pill 24- and 48-hours after. According to two studies (which go by the acronyms PROUD and IPERGAY) this reduces transmission rates significantly (by 85% or so). Furthermore most of the gays in the study were able to adhere to the regimen. So I guess the world is safe for barebacking, if you can afford the drug costs. These are only two studies, and the Centre for Disease Control does not advocate Weekend PrEP, but there is evidence that it works.

Those advocating bareback sex with PrEP (or, as I like to call them, the PrEPers) bring up a number of other points that have merit:

  • Assume PrEP works. Then it does not matter whether other people are lying or not. You can’t say the same for condoms (you may not want to click that link at work. Or ever). Taking PrEP prevents you from getting HIV and prevents you from transmitting it regardless of who your partners are.

  • Old trolls like us might worry about another epidemic, but there is no actual reason to expect that one will occur. If you think that, then you probably also believe that we deserved AIDS because we were promiscuous.

  • It is true that PrEP does not prevent any infection other than HIV, but we prehistoric Marys have no reason to be smug, because nearly all of the other STIs that matter (syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, HPV) are transmissible via oral sex, and exactly nobody uses condoms for oral sex.

  • In order to get a Truvada prescription you supposedly need to be tested for STIs every three months. That keeps the population safer than a bunch of gays who live in denial about their statuses.

  • Taking PrEP intermittently helps people tolerate the side effects better.

  • If we ancient queens are so worried about drug resistance for Weekend PrEP why aren’t we similarly worried about regular PrEP? Regular PrEP is a pre-emptive drug, the same way that antibiotic dish soaps are. And we all know what the overuse of antibiotics has led to.

  • PrEP is expensive. Intermittant PrEP is presumably safer, so more people might adhere to it, so maybe the community as a whole will be safer. (Fun fact: without insurance, a daily Truvada prescription would cost me more than my average monthly income in 2018.)

It should surprise nobody that I still feel anxious about this:

  • We are putting a lot of trust that Truvada will continue to work. One of the big problems with HIV is that it mutates so quickly. A condom will stop a new strain of HIV that mutates. Can we say the same for Truvada? (Fun fact: on paper, the reason gays are not permitted to donate blood is because in 1996 there was a strain of HIV (HIV-1 Type O) which was not detectable by testing at the time.)

  • No, there probably won’t be another plague. But if there is, then sex (particularly unprotected sex) with multiple concurrent partners is the best way for that infection to spread. This is why AIDS hit gay men so hard in the 1980s, and why it hit certain countries in Africa so hard later on.

  • It is probably true that if you are the one on PrEP then you are safer than if you are not. But you must be very very careful about trusting that somebody else is on PrEP to keep you safe. If that person is actually on PrEP, then hooray. If not, you are at greater risk than you would be using condoms.

Maybe none of these are my real concern. My real concern is TRUST. There is something that feels deeply untrustworthy about hookup culture, and I have to presume that anybody who would be willing to sleep with me is also sleeping with other people. Can I trust that person? How does that trust level change when the norm in gay culture shifts from using condoms to routine barebacking?

Personally I am too much of a hypochondriac nellie to trust anybody. (Honestly, I suspect that there are so many of us in the gay-o-sphere that I wonder how anybody has sex at all.) But hookup culture makes me super-anxious, and the way we have collectively decided that barebacking is okay now increases that anxiety even more. A lifetime of unhappy celibacy it is, then.

The Last Straw

That’s it. I’m done. It’s time to tear up my gay card, return the toaster oven, cancel the monthly subscription of Homosexual Lifestyle magazine, purge my appointments from the Gay Agenda. My status as a homosexual (never mind a practicing homosexual) has always been tenuous, and it is time to throw in the towel. I don’t want to be in this club any more.

You see, I was innocently researching the Internet for information about Three’s Company when I ran across this bulletin board thread (which is pretty NSFW if you click any of the outgoing links):

https://www.datalounge.com/thread/22296869-millennial-guys-barebacking

To spare you the trauma of reading the thread, let me summarize: a bunch of gays are asserting that barebacking is now the norm in hookup culture, because we have PrEP now and who cares about the other diseases? Apparently, guys who refuse to bareback get a lot fewer hookups. Welcome to our post-AIDS world.

Stop the train. I’m getting off (and I never asked to be on this ride anyways). I mean: what the hell? Is this what poor Steven has to deal with in finding Grindr hookups? I had presumed John Gray was just being prudish when he expressed reservations about PrEP, but nope: the Stupidest Timeline has come to pass. Or maybe I am just a bitter old queen, spouting my bigoted sex-negative views like your racist aunt during Thanksgiving dinner. It’s difficult to tell sometimes.

Some of the commenters in that thread must also be bitter old queens, because at least a few of them echoed the horror of the 1980s, and a few smart gays pointed out that not that many people actually are on PReP, so some of the guys who claim they are must be lying. That makes me feel worse, not better.

I have complained about being defined by HIV a bunch on this blog, and I guess this is more evidence of that. I came of age at the wrong time, when having sex with anyone even once was inviting a death sentence. Had I come of age twenty years earlier or twenty years later probably I would be barebacking too. But I didn’t, and I am not, so goodbye homosexuality and good riddance. I’ll take those anti-gay pills. I’ll do seances to get therapy from the ghost of Joseph Nicolosi. I’ll learn to appreciate sportsball and learn to speak in monosyllabic grunts. I have no desire to be straight, but at least the straights don’t have to deal with this nonsense, and the asexuals don’t want me in their club. Alternatively, maybe it is time to enroll in a Catholic seminary. They don’t need to worry about this nonsense either.

Edit: “Weekend PrEP”?! Aaaaah! AAAAAAH! AAAAAAHHHHH!!!!! Are you people not familiar with evolutionary pressures!? I recognise that HIV is a virus, but have you never heard of antibiotic resistance??? Aaaaaaah!!!

Gay Voice Followup

In the comments of the last post, Kato (the dear!) brought up a good point: the “gay acccent” in her city was not that different from the inner city accent. I have noticed this too: often young men (not all metrosexual) seem to adopt vocal mannerisms from the gay accent, to the point where it is difficult to distinguish the gays from the straights. Maybe the accent really is culturally developed, and not intrinsic. But then where did I pick it up? Reruns of Three’s Company?

Certainly mainstream accents have drifted over the years. Listen to newscasts from the 1970s or 1950s and you can clearly tell that our vocal inflections have drifted.

Deedles (the dear!) also brought up a good point: the perception that there is a “black accent.” Ever the maladroit, I countered that I did believe there was a mainstream black accent, and that furthermore I was adept at distinguishing it. Then I listend to this podcast and realized that I am just racist.