Sunday, August 21, 2011


During the summer months, while I'm home in Indiana, one of my only refuges from the toils of the retirement home and the routine boredom of being at home is my friend Helena. It should be noted that Helena is still without a driver's license, making it my responsibility to be her personal chauffer—this is my favorite thing about summertime. Actually, a lot of my friends at home are still not legally allowed to sit behind the wheel (they're just late bloomers is all), but Helena's house is always the last stop I make because we have a tendency to sit in her driveway for hours and talk about nearly everything. (Actually, we usually only talk about the people in our town, Cher, and gay rights—but really, what more is there to talk about?) During one of these late-night discussions on life, Helena asked me what I thought about "allies;" the "A" in the LGBTQIA acronym which designates those people who do not take a queer identity but support those who do. At the time, I didn't have much an answer for her, but the topic has been rolling around in my head for a while, and I think I now have an appropriate answer built up.
On a personal level, I think allies are a necessary part of the gay community. If we didn't have allies, we wouldn't have as much force in society as we currently do; we wouldn't have "safe places" in our schools and communities—basically, in my opinion, the gay community is heavily endorsed by allies. If you don't believe me, let's take a look at current hate crime laws.
In 1964, the United States government passed the original Federal Civil Rights Law, which prosecuted anyone who "willingly injures, intimidates or interferes with another force because of [their] race, color, religion or natural origin." Since this act was passed in a time when homosexuality was still seen as a mental illness (until 1972), the act was obviously not catered to the protection of gays and lesbians. This fact was overlooked until 2009, when President Obama passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (simply referred to as the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, or HCPA because I like acronyms). This act expanded the previous hate crime laws to encompass protection of people attacked because of their "actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability."
This act was spurred by Matthew Shepard, an openly gay man in Laramie, Wyoming who was brutally beaten by two men and strung up on a fence with chicken wire and left to die (he was found and taken to a hospital that morning, but never woke from his coma and died a few days later),  and James Byrd, Jr., a black man in Jasper, Texas who was dragged down a two mile dirt road chained to the back of a pickup truck and wrapped in a tarp until his body was found by state authorities a few days later. The HCPA is often more heavily attributed to the killing of Matthew Shepard because Shepard became a martyr of the gay community, receiving long-term press, while Byrd's murder was rather quickly forgotten. Though Shpard's death is usually earmarked as the "reason" for the new, gay-friendly hate crime prevention laws, the gay community, nor any group of self-identified "allies" had a hand in the passing of the act. The act was simply an addendum tacked onto the National Defense Authorization Act (for the Fiscal Year of 2010), almost as an afterthought, as if the government just said, "we should probably do something about that Shepard kid and the Byrd boy." Whatever it was the prompted them, I'm glad they acted on it.
This is what informs my opinion on allies—the government officials that formed the HCPA did not assert themselves as allies; they didn't have a "gay agenda." The same goes for President Obama, who passed the act; the president has made it clear that he has no gay agenda. However, because of these non-ally-identified people, the gay community now has one of the strongest safety nets we could ask for; though these laws don't guaruntee the prevention of hate crimes, they do ensure that those who commit hate crimes will have a punishment cruel enough to match the crime (as is the American fashion).
Allies don't have to identify themselves as allies—in fact, I get a little annoyed by girls who chronically throw themselves at the gay community proclaiming their love for all the gays. I don't need that kind of endorsement to my sexuality. What I want is a friend, like Helena, who doesn't mind talking about gay rights, who understands, accepts, and supports my sexuality, and who will defend me, when necessary, against the ignorance of homophobes. What I also want is a friend who can go through a conversation without throwing my sexuality back in my face—I know what I am, there's no need to remind me.
I think that allies are a vital resource to the gay community. I also think that some allies can be a little too outspoken about their place in the gay community, but then again it's often the outspoken ones who get their points across faster. But, in my "perfect world," allies do not have to wear their "A" loud and proud, in fact I would almost prefer that they didn't. I like to think that anyone short of condemning the gays to an eternity in hell is, in some way, an ally. I don't expect every one of these people to sign a registry, or start an email list, or even join their local GSA. I think people who accept the gay community for what it is are doing enough by just being themselves; accepting, understanding, and friendly; no "A" required.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Desperation Dot Com

     If you want to see where class and courtesy goes to die, and you happen to be single, I recommend you join a dating site—I’ve done it on three separate occasions, and am still happily single. I have also discovered exactly what kind of people I absolutely can’t stand. Whenever I leave a dating site and they ask for my satisfaction level with the site on a scale from one to ten, I usually give them an eight or nine, for teaching me what kind of chronic douche bags I should be watching out for in real life.
  What I’ve learned most from my dating site experiences is that dating sites, like any other website with “users,” is just as much a social networking platform as facebook. Users get their own little plot of the internet, and are allowed to customize it to their liking—dating sites always allow varying amounts of pictures, along with privacy settings so you may choose who you want seeing which pictures. You often get several spaces to write about yourself, your hobbies, or your job. In most cases, guys like to write about what they’re looking for in their trysts. Most sites even have side panels which allow you to see who’s visited your page and when. If any of your visitors pique your interest, you can then choose to send them messages, “winks” (the equivalent of “poking” on facebook. Coincidentally, I think “poking” is just as appropriate on a dating site). If things start going really well, you can even start IMing with someone. However, with the added ingredient that these sites cater specifically to gay men, the intentions of these social networkers aren’t always as innocent as the rockers of myspace or the hipsters of tumblr.
  Throughout my experience on dating sites, I have been offered money for sex enough times that I might start calling myself an amateur prostitute—I have been asked for, and given out, enough pictures of my nether regions that I feel like I’m already in business. I’ve been solicited by men as old as, or even than, my father, and boys who, by their profile pictures, are definitely not eighteen. Preferring to avoid banging to the rhythm of an oxygen tank or the possibility of going to jail, I usually politely ignore the messages from these men. Choosing instead the safe dating pool of guys between the ages of nineteen and thirty, I have met some real gems. I’ve met up with guys who assume buying me a cup of coffee will get me into bed with them. I’ve met guys who think my buying them a cup of coffee means I’ll also buy them lunch, dinner, or a box of condoms they don’t necessarily want to use with me. All this makes me beg one question: what the fuck happened to seduction?
  By seduction, I don’t mean writing out, in email form, every little thing you want to do to me with your (often more-disappointing-than-it-looks) piece of manhood. It doesn’t mean saying “I wanna fuck you so hard, baby,” over dessert nor does it mean grabbing my ass while opening the car door for me (although I must admit, that is a really sly move). I want to be seduced by intellect—by a guy with not just a charming smile, but also a charming personality. I want to be seduced by more than creatively taken pictures of their junk (sometimes I wonder how guys get the camera angles they do—who takes those pictures for them?).
  Don’t misunderstand me; though few and far between, I have met nice men. I have met the guys who buy my overpriced latte and don’t even think to grab my ass as I’m getting in the car. I’ve had guys invite me back to their apartments and, instead of asking if I’d like to go to their bedroom, ask if I’d like some coffee (yes please!). I regularly chat with men from countries not even remotely near the U.S; one man in Spain chats with me in Spanish on a regular basis, allowing me not only to keep up my language skills, but to learn more dirty phrases than ever before! Another man in Iceland is trying to help me learn Icelandic, a language I’ve been in love with for awhile. Although I can barely even spell my own name, he’s kind enough to keep trying, sending me the URLs of a couple really cool language websites.
  At this point, I am once again on a dating site. It’s become a sort of addiction, a sort of how-many-old-men-will-offer-me-money-this-week kind of challenge. When I really ask myself why I always end up back on a dating site, I get two answers; the sociologist in me says that, now that I’m twenty, I’m immersed into a society where everyone around me is coupling and, eventually going to marry, so I’m trying to give into the pressure and do the same thing. The English major in me says I’m just a hopeless romantic. I think they’re both right. Part of me keeps frequenting the online dating scene because I see everyone else around me in a relationship or about to start one, and I think, why don’t I have one? I should be good enough. Another part of me frequents the internet not because of entitlement to love, but because I want the lovey-dovey grotesqueries of love that my friends are currently experiencing.
  For now, though, it’s just politely ignoring messages from men old enough to be Hugh Hefner’s dad and trying to keep my cool. Maybe, eventually, I’ll find a guy my age who asks about my interests before my favored position in bed. Maybe I’ll really surprise myself and find a guy the old fashioned way—in public! Until then, I’ll keep learning raunchy Spanish and cruising embarrassing pictures of guys who go to my college (they think they’re being “discreet,” but they’re not), and that will be fun enough. I’ve learned some of my best lessons on love and dating from the men on these sites, and I’m sure I’ll learn a couple more.