The Allure Of Steroids

Last week I put together a piece about gay men using steroids/testosterone/etc. and interviewed three men who are either currently on a cycle or have recently been on one.  Their frankness about their reasons and results was enlightening to me and spurred an exploration of steroid use in the larger community around me as well as gave me pause to reflect on my own feelings on enhancing.

As soon as I posted about steroids on my Facebook page, I had a half-dozen friends contact me with concerns:  “Are you considering doing them?” “You don’t need them, you’re beautiful the way you are!” “We’ve all been tempted, but it’s just not worth the risk!” “Are you sure you want to be so open about posting about steroids on your profile?!”  The alarming responses made me realize how much of a stigma steroid use has to the general public…and how some friends are REALLY against using them.  I empathize with these sentiments of “natural and safe are good enough”, but at the same time I realize how much I approve and love a big muscular man.  Do the ends justify the means?

Then I started having friends come to me to share about their own steroid use.  I was stunned by the number of people who have enhanced at some point–young guys wanting more bulk, middle-aged guys finally achieving their long-sought muscle status, older guys juicing up to counterbalance the loss of muscle mass and testosterone that naturally comes with age.  And all of them spoke of their enhancing as a way to improve their look and status within society, often as a reaction to being a fat/skinny/awkward teenager.  They told me about improved confidence, more attention from men, feeling invincible, incredible orgasms, and mostly safely navigating potential side effects and dangers.  Fuck it sounded great!

Suddenly this magical method of becoming a superman seemed so alluring and possible.  My biggest issue was safety and with all my new contacts surely I could find ways to get quality products and keep the risk to a minimum.  Yes, such power could be mine!  I could be a titan of masculinity–a thick, sexual warrior roaring with passion and virility!  All will love me and despair!

And then in that moment of delusional muscle-lust I realized that the pursuit of such a goal was short-sighted and in conflict with my core values.  I felt like Galadriel from Lord of the Rings when she resists the One Ring (zoom ahead to 1:45 for the specific moment) or Luke Skywalker from Star Wars when he throws down his lightsaber after being offered rule of the galaxy via the Dark Side (fast forward to 4:30).  Such power and beauty come at too high a price–in the words of my friend Tony, the surrender to the “image obsessed, body dysmorphic shame culture prevalent in urban gay life.”

I’m no expert about steroids, but I know they can be harmful especially when procured from the usual disreputable ways and used excessively over time.  And even if they were completely safe and didn’t risk heart, liver, and brain damage, the emphasis on obtaining an unrealistic body is harmful to our psyches, our relationships, and our community.  It’s an overindulgence that’s rewarded because we live in a vicious society ruled by desire, shame, and loneliness.  An amazing body would be fun and hot, but it wouldn’t make me a better man, friend, or partner.

Of course we are all on our own journeys in life and I can only decide for myself what’s best.  And even as I write this I know that some of the men I lust after are on enhancements, so how do I navigate my feelings for them?  By desiring them and complimenting them am I enabling harmful behavior?  I’m really not sure, but I hope that as we live and play together as gay men, we can be kind to each other and encourage one another to be the best men we can be without all the emphasis on needing to be supermen.

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Posted in Observations/Lessons, Queer Community | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Becoming Superhuman: Gay Men On Steroids

The ambient noise of clinking weights and occasional grunting fills the gym as dozens of men press and push and sweat.  Two guys next to me with comic book bodies are discussing what cycle of steroids they are on right now while casually groping their own ample pecs and shoulders.  I look around and wonder how many other guys in the gym are juicing.

The use of steroids, testosterone, and other things you inject or swallow seems pretty prevalent in urban gay culture.  I was rather naive about it all until friends around me started talking openly about their usage and then I quickly realized more people than I thought have used some form of enhancement at some point in their lives.  It’s no wonder that men turn to these chemical methods when we live in an image-obsessed culture that demands and rewards thick hot bodies with perfect abs.

I certainly appreciate the results of enhancing chemicals when I drool after some ripped daddy strolling down the street, but at the same time this “artificial” bulking rubs me the wrong way and I feel conflicted about what would be acceptable for myself.  I workout a fair amount, but there’s no way I can compete with men who use steroids.  Thus part of me is frustrated and jealous (and now I finally understand how some guys get the amazing bodies they have).  Another part of me wants to be all idealistic and believe that having a super hunky body isn’t that important and the real measure of a man is in found in his heart and his actions.  But still, I’m curious and since this is something in our community it would be great to explore the topic more.

I started by talking to 3 men who either have used or are currently using some form of enhancement.  I asked them about their experiences, results, thoughts, and insights on cycling.

What motivated you to start your first cycle?

Chris: My motivation came through friends’ positive experiences and wanting to see how I could manipulate my body somewhat without threat to my long-term health. I basically wanted to see how ripped I could get.

Vincent: I have numerous factors which led me to do my first cycle, but I think the biggest factor was truly my own insecurity to how I look.  After 5 years of working out hard I had already transformed my body to a certain point, but wanted to push it to the next level.  I went into doing the cycle fully aware of my own insecurities and knowing that doing a cycle wouldn’t necessarily change them.

Hector: I have worked out consistently for more than a decade.  Over the last year, I decided to really focus on adding mass.  Prior to trying steroids, I had successfully put on 15 pounds of lean muscle, but then I hit a plateau.  I was eating right, lifting heavy and getting plenty of sleep, but I had stopped growing.  I considered steroids at that point to push me past my plateau, but not seriously.  I started talking to the bigger guys at my gym and slowly realized that all of them, without exception, had done at least one cycle and many were regular users.  I felt more than a little jaded.  One of my goals is to eventually compete in a physique competition (not necessarily bodybuilding as I don’t want to be abnormally huge), and I was fairly surprised to learn that most of those guys use some form of steroids as well.  As I push through my thirties, I have begun to realize that the window of time to have the body I really want is fleeting.  I tried steroids because I thought they would help me get there faster.

What are/were your goals?

Chris: My first two cycles were both pretty amazing and met my goals. I gained a lot of strength at the gym, built lean muscle mass, and lost body fat.  The third cycle wasn’t as good as I believe the fat burner wasn’t as potent. Thus I only gained muscle/strength but didn’t lose any fat. My workouts were also super intense as one of the things I was taking gives you pumps and a certain kind of energy that’s great for the gym. My sex drive and orgasms were also through the roof (and they were already good to begin with). I perceived that I got far more attention from hotter guys and tried to take advantage of that. Friends, family, co-workers and strangers noticed the difference and I could honestly tell them it was mostly about having crazy workouts and good eating habits. I felt like the cycle was really just a boost to take it to a level that probably wouldn’t have been possible without them. It also quite honestly improved my self-confidence not only about my body but in general.

Vincent: Honestly, I had no idea of what results I would ultimately see, but I am happy with the progress after 10 weeks on.

Hector:  I want to look like a beefy underwear model.  I want to look in the mirror and see that my hard work has paid off.  I want my body to be more impressive than the bodies around me.  What have I achieved?  I’m happy with my muscularity, finally.  For the first time in my life I consider myself an athlete.  I feel confident.  It’s completely fair to say that I’m compensating for poor body image (I was a fat teenager), but it feels good.  I didn’t actually gain much weight on them, only about 10 pounds.  I had done more with diet.  What they did do was turn my good physique into a great one in terms of muscle size and shape.

Side effects?

Chris: I countered the relatively mild potential side effects by taking supplements for cholesterol, liver, and joints. The main potential side effect of any oral anabolic is liver damage. I did notice a little more joint issues than normal and on the last cycle I bruised easily. The bruises would also stick around for long periods. Overall these were mild and I never considered cutting the cycle short.  I can confirm that a few months after one cycle all of my blood work was perfectly normal.

Vincent: I’ve been lucky and haven’t been plagued with too many side effects – and overdrive in my sex drive (which was already high) and some ball shrinkage (but since I already had a large set of balls, they aren’t completely gone – like I know in some people this happens).  Other than that, I’ve been pretty unaware of any side effects.

Hector: There were both positive and negative side effects.  First, the positive: testosterone made me feel great.  Actually, that’s an understatement.  It made me feel incredible.  There’s a physiological reason for this as it’s the hormone responsible for making men feel like men.  I felt strong, happy and more horny than I’d been since I was a teenager.  Looking in the mirror and seeing that underwear model physique was also pretty wonderful for my disposition.  The negative: everything you’ve heard about steroids and acne is true.  They don’t inherently cause acne, but they do cause your sebaceous glands to produce more oil which can lead to more clogged pores.  I broke out badly on my back, face and chest and several months later am still struggling to clear up.  This was pretty demoralizing as I had built this awesome musculature, but felt ashamed to show it off.  Second, my balls shrank. A lot.  Since your body doesn’t need to make its own sex hormones, they shut down.  It was totally cosmetic and they came back once I was off my cycle, but it was embarrassing to have such an obvious marker of steroid use.  I did not experience any of the behavioral side effects that people talk about and personally think that “roid rage” is more an excuse for guys who are aggressive jerks to begin with to act out.

Would you do another cycle in the future?  What are your long-term goals?

Chris: It’s likely I’ll get the urge to do them again. I think like many things it can become somewhat addictive… not physically but psychologically… like wanting to see how far I can push it without causing myself harm. Part of me wants to try injectable testosterone once just to do it but I have more concerns about negative impacts of that even though I know the results will be more significant.

Vincent: Well, I’m just about to finish my 12 week cycle and looking forward to the next cycle, which will have to wait for another 12 weeks.  12 weeks on, 12 weeks off.  I have to say that I don’t have a long time plan or goal, but I do want to push this to see how far I can take it.  I’m 40, so not sure how big a change I would ultimately see, I also am trying to keep my dosage on the lower end of things.  But I do look forward to adding more muscle and definition.  And just cause I’m cycling off, I plan on continuing to push as hard in the gym, as I always did.

Hector: I don’t intend to become a long-term steroid user.  I’ve read enough of the medical literature to know that it’s too difficult on your liver, kidneys and heart to use long-term without significant risk.  I will probably use them again, however, as short-term use in reasonable dosage has been shown to be relatively safe.

Thoughts/insights you’d share with friends considering cycling?

Chris: To me the key about anabolics or anything else I put in my body is taking the time and effort to do a LOT of research and know exactly what you are doing. I spent a ton of time researching what was out there, what effects/benefits each thing had, what recommended combinations and doses were, what good/legit sources are, etc. I would never purposely do something that I legitimately thought would cause me grave harm in the short-term or contribute largely to long-term health problems.  It is important with anabolics to understand what they are doing to your body internally even if there are no outward effects and being sure you are counteracting those things through supplements or PCT (post-cycle therapy).  I’m 95% confident that nothing I did caused me any ongoing physical issues and the fact is I’ve maintained a better body than I started with even off-cycle.

Vincent: I would recommend reading the piece by David Mason on his blog.  He’s pretty open about his steroid usage.  I also toyed with the idea of doing a cycle forever and it wasn’t something I took lightly.  I did my research and came up with something that worked for me.

Hector: I would only recommend steroids to a friend if he was already extremely serious about his body (e.g., worked out consistently for several years, ate a solid diet) and if I felt he was smart enough to learn about them.  No one hands you a pamphlet on drug interactions, risks or dosage when you do steroids.  You have to seek out the information from multiple sources and try to separate medical fact from bro-science.  This is daunting as most of the information in forums on the internet is crap.  I would also not recommend them to anyone not willing to accept the potential legal ramifications of getting caught buying/possessing them.  Unless you have a very supportive physician who will write a prescription, you’re going to be buying them on the black market through dealers and shady foreign websites.  You often don’t know if what you’re getting is legitimate, effective or even sterile enough to put into your body.  They are a Schedule III Controlled Substance under federal law.

This concludes the first part of my exploration.  In my next entry I’ll talk more about my own personal thoughts and experiences after hearing these guys’ stories.

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“WOOF”

Woof: the ubiquitous and obligatory expression of interest and affection found in gay culture, most commonly in the scruffy/furry/beefy/muscley subsection of Fagdom.  Written out or verbally communicated, “woof” is a common way to affectionately and succinctly say, “Oh I like you!”

We’ve all heard it and many of us have use the term, but few of us know where or why WOOF entered the gay lexicon.  Entire apps have dedicated functions to allow users to woof at other men, yet some guys don’t find the term endearing or attractive.

Here’s an amusing video from MISTER (the online meeting tool formally known as DADDYHUNT) that explores the use of “woof” in the Bear community.

I agree that “woof” isn’t really something a real live bear would say.  But then again making an authentic bear noise is about hard as making an authentic Wookie howl (oh how I wish I could!) so we have to settle on something the human tongue and vocal chords can form.  I find the term fun and primal as any good sexual communication should be and take a well-meaning “woof” as a compliment (especially if it’s uttered from the beard-framed mouth of a handsome man).

What do you folks think about the use of “woof”?  Anyone know the origins of this term?  Answer the survey so we can all get a kick out of stats later.

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Hey Gays, Stop Hating Your Body

I just walked out of a restaurant in Chelsea screaming.  I’m pretty sure I flipped over the table as well, but the blinding rage makes my memory a bit fuzzy.  The last thing I remember is two skinny gays lamenting how fat they are for eating a meal today and their big upcoming Fire Island trip where they plan to do nothing but sunbathe and obsess over Adrian who may still be with Sean but has been Facebooking Stephen a lot recently (notice these are males in their 20s/30s, not girls in their teens).

I went into this restaurant for a quick post-gym bite and was seated at a communal table with these guys who did nothing but drain all the hope and life out of me while they chattered on about waistlines, wrinkle creams (they can’t be older than 32!), working out, and boy drama.  Boy drama.  Here’s a little tip, fellas: stop dating boys and start dating men and all that boy drama will probably go away.

While most of these topics are pretty standard for gays in NYC, the breaking point came when they snidely insulted a beefy middle-aged guy who sat at the end of our shared table.  Upon hearing the man’s order of a burger and fries, these two little queens joked about his age and weight in a very distasteful and NOT DISCREET way and I decided I had had enough of their bullshit.  I hulked-out, smashed, clobbered, and went roaring out of the restaurant.  OK, actually I just slapped my menu down and said, “Hey queens, enough already.  You’re being very rude and pathetic.  Grow the fuck up” and then I left fuming (to write this piece).

Later I read this fascinating blog, Why The Gays Hate Their Bodies, and felt like a voice of reason was needed to pierce the shroud of shallow idiocy that’s running rampant in our faggy land.  Or at least I just want to express my frustration and annoyance at how awful human beings can be to each other and themselves…and reaffirm what’s really important in life.

Hot body does not equal hot sex
From my personal research, I’ve found that men with hulking muscles and perfect abs are sometimes super boring and lame in bed.  They spend more time trying to see themselves in the mirror than they do looking aggressively into your eyes and their level of creativity and effort has been stunted due to their privileged lives as beautiful people.  Great sex comes from great human connection and if someone is too caught up in their own outward beauty and fluctuating levels of insecurity to really connect with you, then you’re really just going through the motions until you finish.

Stop comparing yourself to others
This is the one of the most destructive things you can do to yourself.  Assess yourself only in the context of your own life and remember you have your own special set of criteria.  Porn stars and personal trainers/bar tenders are not the scale by which anyone should measure their masculine beauty and worth.  Comparing yourself to your friends and partners can also be detrimental to your feelings of self-worth, so while you can appreciate and lust after all these people, remember to be real and kind when you look back at yourself.

Be healthy and happy
Just because I’m saying you aint got to be He-Man in order to be happy doesn’t mean you can find solace in the bottom of a KFC bucket.  Being a healthy human being who eats well and exercises your wonderful, amazing body will result in feeling good, having energy, and maximizing enjoyment out of life.  Just be realistic about your goals and results.

Get fucking real
Most of us are smart enough to look deep down and realize what’s really important in life.  Stopping to ask this question often is a great way to keep your life flourishing and results in having very little regret and bitterness at the end of it.  Seriously, go ask a really old person what they wish they would have done more in life and I bet he/she won’t say “diet and crunches”.

So there you go crazy faggots, take a deep breath and reflect on yourself and your place in the universe.  Let us be kind to ourselves and to others around us and take heart in the fact that there are more than enough of us floozies around so chances are you’ll never be (sexually) alone.

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Fear the Queer

It’s been a rough week for the gays/great week for posting outraged posts to Facebook.  Long time homo-nemesis Chick-Fil-A is back in the news for hating fags with their president declaring, “We are very much supportive of the family–the biblical definition of the family unit.”  This statement saddens me because it means President Chick-4-Brains has probably never really appreciated an episode of Full House and thus he’s missed out on a crucial part of the 90s.  Also it means his corporation is still an official hater and the boycott against them still stands.

Joining the hate parade alongside the fast food joint is the always charitable Salvation Army that thinks all fags should die and the Boy Scouts of America who after a 2-year review process are re-affirming their anti-gay stance (two years of debate and reflection and they are still a bunch of scared bigots). Besides being old fashioned homophobes, these organizations all share one thing in common: the love and scripture of Jesus Christ.

As I read through the headlines and stories, I’m struck by how these organizations–that are dedicated to creating greater good through home goods, wilderness skills, and honey mustard-covered waffle fries–are also so stubborn in their hate.  It’s mind-numbingly frustrating that with all the progress blossoming around them, they continue to want to be on the wrong side of morality and history (WWJD, seriously).  Is religious power so compelling that organizations will risk the wrath of the enlightened population/drops in their profits just to make a point?  What are they thinking?

To answer this, I look back over my life and remember when I was a stubborn Christian zealot chaining myself to the ground due to fear of floating off into the chaotic world.  From birth until about age 22, I went to church every Sunday and was deeply involved in the Christian community, scriptures, and beliefs.  The world is a scary place and I used God as my shield through all things–especially issues that were new and challenging.  Religion is great–it gives you all the answers and even a cover-all for all the un-answerables  (“have faith, dear child, and trust in God…”).

So as a young man exploring the big dark world full of evils, I was able to quickly and efficiently classify everything as either godly or sinful…and then make sure to fill my life with only “godly” things and run away from everything “sinful.”  As you can imagine for someone who was honestly investigating humanity around him this method quickly became unfulfilling and increasingly filled with philosophical conflicts.  The Christians have great heart a lot of the time, but their faith has to be strict in order for the religion to work.  As soon as I explored outside the lines, I found new truths and joy, but my faith crumbled.

And what emotion does someone feel when their foundational faith crumbles?  Fear.  And anger is almost always the result of fear.  And as Yoda would say, “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate…hate leads to the dark side of the chicken sandwich” (paraphrased).  So Chick-Fil-A, Salvation Army, and the Boy Scouts are all hateful, angry, but ultimately they are AFRAID.

Breaking the issue down like this suddenly makes me feel less frustration towards the people who hate me and instead more pity.  They’re afraid of what will happen if the social rules of sex and relationships are changed.  I get it–it is scary… once long ago I agreed that homos were a lost and confused people and the idea of men marrying men challenged every fairy tale story I had ever read.  But of course as soon as you get to know a couple queers and you see how charmingly normal they are, you realize that beliefs can change.

Ironically enlightenment takes faith to achieve–faith in yourself and in others.  The blind faith of Christians demands trust in the unknown and puts all the responsibility of result on God.  The real faith of a human being asks for trust in yourself and gives you ownership of the change–whether that’s within you or in those around you.

Fear is a terrible way to live.  And I believe the opposite of fear is love…and I think love is one of those things Christians are always talking about.  I wonder if they’ll ever figure that out.

 

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The Many Screaming Heads of HIV

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about HIV.

I’ve heard the stories of watching loved ones waste away in hospital beds as their partners stood by helplessly. I’ve seen the tears men cry when they talk about the last time they held their boyfriend’s hand or the last time they cuddle close together before the end. I’ve felt the sadness and the shock of what HIV did to the gay community in the decades before I ever came out.

HIV is the terrible disease that killed tens of thousands of gay men and loomed over our community like an immense shadow of death. This is the disease to fear and fight against, least we repeat the horrors of the past.

I’ve also heard the stories of strong healthy men beaming with life despite their infection.  I’ve seen muscular bodies and smiling faces living lives seemingly unaffected as a result of being positive.  I’ve felt the confidence for better treatments and the hope for a cure.

HIV is the manageable condition that is almost commonplace in the world around me. HIV is something to be aware and cautious of, but it should never stop someone from having sex or prevent them from living a full life.

And sometimes HIV is a tiny echo somewhere in the back of my mind as I’m overcome by desire and hunger…and sometimes HIV is so real and scary that I feel so guilty for ever letting my guard down for a moment.

I was too young to experience the death plague, but I’m old enough to know the history and experience the lasting ripples.  I’m educated enough to know how to protect myself, but reckless enough to sometimes think I’m immune.  And all the messages, feelings, memories, and hopes merge together in me and I’m not sure if I should be uptight or chilled out about this disease–especially when new cases of  HIV are on the rise in NYC.

A friend and doctor who specializes in HIV shared over Facebook this week that he recently diagnosed an 18, 19, 21, and 23 year with acute HIV infections.  He said none of them had used condoms with any of their sexual partners.  I find this shocking and it makes me wonder what the hell young people are thinking.

To answer this, one of the replies to the post is: “Here is what is happening to our younger generation. They don’t see HIV as a threat. Its very literally “marketed” as a manageable disease in everything.. from Advocate to gay.com to local publications. Sexy models are used to promote whatever new medication and the life is great and grand. So our younger generation doesn’t ‘care.’ I had a conversation with a kid in his early twenties who said to me…”if I get it, I take a pill and besides…there will be a cure before I die.  My recent experience has been that they are educated on how HIV is transmitted….they just have a completely lax attitude on getting it.”

Another person responded with: “I’m from the generation that should have known better when people died daily. Yet, I was just as guilty of that sort of behavior before being diagnosed myself. It’s a hard lesson to learn.”

I agree that the general attitude nowadays is that HIV isn’t such a big threat and the risk of infection is low…and even if you do get infected life won’t be that much different–maybe even better because you won’t have to worry anymore.  I asked another gay man who lived through the AIDS crisis what he thinks about this and he said, “People don’t realize that there are lots of complications with being positive.  You can get boxed in–stuck–at a job because you’re not sure if your next job will have insurance that covers your meds.  Besides that, the meds are expensive and health care costs keep going up and having to rely on pills for life is not an ideal way to live.”

There’s a lot tied up in HIV–it may just be a disease, but the social and historical components surrounding it make it so much more.  We’re told we need to lose the stigma against positive people, but then told we have to be responsible citizens and stop the spread of HIV.  This makes me feel like I should look at Positives as irresponsible people…so how can I not stigmatize them?  Did they fuck up?  Should I not be like them?  But it’s okay to be like them because they can still be healthy and happy?  Who am I fighting against here?  The people or the disease?  Are Positives more sexually free than me?  Am I jealous?  There are so many fundraisers for HIV that is makes me feel like I’m not part of some popular club.  Is that crazy?   Oye!

The more I think about all this, the more I realize how overwhelming all the messages about HIV are to the average gay man.  We’re told it was once the ultimate killer, but now it’s totally fine.  We’re told to use protection, but don’t make a big deal out of it and stigmatize anyone.  You have to be safe!  But the risk is low.  Unless it’s not!  But even then you’ll be fine.  Or maybe not!

So what is one to do?  Well, as with any complicated issue a good strategy is to take things back to the basics:  Awareness, testing, protection…and keeping it all in perspective.  My journey with this continues.

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Rainbow Wedding

A year after New York State cleared the fags for nuptials, the summer of 2012 is turning out to be the Summer of Gay Weddings (not as terrifying as Summer of the Shark back to 2001, but nearly as dramatic for the conservatives).  Since June I’ve attended 3 weddings in the flesh and 3 via the wizardry of Facebook photo albums and all of them have involved 2 loving men smiling in fancy dress before a crowd of family and friends.  It’s been a beautiful and moving experience to see my kinky friends tying the knot (not literally, for once) and one that reminds me of the years immediately following college when a slew of my Christian friends were all getting married.  Having these two distinctive parts of my life resemble each other in any way is surprising and even confusing.

Now of course I’m a big supporter of marriage equality and have worked in the past to raise awareness and passion for the cause.  Having equal rights is foundational for being an accepted member of society and I’m so happy to see change gradually coming to America and the world (despite little hiccups in places like Iran and North Carolina).  But just because I support and believe in everyone having the right to marry doesn’t mean I myself want to or feel the need to marry.  I even think marriage is a bad idea for some.

Marriage is the perfect union between two imperfect parts.  The institution is deeply rooted in our society and psyche and carries the power (myth) of being the ultimate union with your one true match for eternal happiness, stability, and fulfillment.  This tale is told to us in countless ways and to a large degree it’s a lie and a very unrealistic way for 2 humans to live.  I don’t believe that marriage=happiness or that single=unfulfilled life and I know sometimes person+person=disaster.  I also thought being gay meant being cool and free from the rules of society and that I’d never have to settle down and conform ;).

Until recently I never really considered marriage to be an option for me, so I didn’t gave it much thought.  But now after seeing so many of the gay men in my life get hitched, it’s a concept that’s more real…and something that other couples can casually ask my partner and I about over lunch.

Friend: “So what about you guys?  Planning to get married?”
Us: (said together in union) “Uhhhh…uhhh…well…youknow…uhhh…”

I love my partner and I’m committed to him in very real and deep ways.  But our views on relationships and sex are far from the standard model and I don’t see why we would ever need to officially be joined together by the state (beyond the legal and financial benefits…).  I feel like hammering us into a marriage mold would diminish us as individuals and end up backfiring later.  Does this mean I don’t love him enough to put a ring on it?  No, it means I love him enough to be a realistic human being with him and myself.

Marriage is fine and marriage is good.  I’m totally thrilled to come to your wedding and smile and cry when you kiss.  And I want marriage equality because I want to live in a country that’s enlightened enough to recognize me.  But marriage isn’t for everyone and shouldn’t be the measure of a couple’s success and commitment. The ways in which people connect are far more numerous and profound than can be measured be how many gowns and bouquets are bought and thrown.  And a person can be single his/her whole life and still know tremendous amounts of love and loyalty.

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How Boycotting Accomplishes Nothing Except Giving Me My Power Back

Drag queens who know my pain (see their music video below)

I’m boycotting Chick-Fil-A to take a stand against their anti-gay actions.  I’m refusing to eat their delicious chicken sandwiches and lovely golden waffle fries as a form of protest.  The ~$40 I would spend there a year is $40 less to fuel the hate machine.  I know Chick-fil-A doesn’t feel the impact of my refusal, but I sure do.

I was in the Atlanta airport a little while ago with my partner when I learned about the need to boycott.  We were in the south for a connecting flight and once off the plane I quickly scanned a map for the nearest in-airport chicken samich station.  I was so excited to eat this familiar food that in recent years had gained the status of the “only fast food I’ll eat” (Chipotle doesn’t count, right?)…and then my partner told me, “We’re not eating that.  They give money to ignorant bigots.”  Instantly I became vegan.

Not really, but I was so upset to hear the story.  And I knew I couldn’t give any more money to a company that helps crush equality.

Now of course it can be hard to precisely direct my protest at a corporation when there are layers of intention mixed up with their financial donations. But really the point isn’t to bring down the chicken fast food joint (obviously my little protest isn’t going to make a difference to their profits in the slightest).  The point is about giving me a voice to say, “Hey, there’s something wrong here and I want others to know! I will speak out when I see injustice” and in speaking out I get back some of the power that was taken from me when teachers, pastors, and parents told me that I’m a perversion of humanity. Chick-Fil-A isn’t the enemy, but they’ve made themselves a target by supporting groups who hate homosexuals. And taking my own small action against them makes me feel stronger and more able to continue the work of creating an equal world.

So screw you Chick-fil-A.  Maybe you’ll wise up eventually and realize that supporting people will be much better for you in the long run.  Target has been changing their ways and is now even producing a line of LGBT pride shirts (gasp!).  The future is inclusive and full of queers…lots of strong, happy queers who love themselves more than anyone can hate them.

Now enjoy a fabulous song by 3 beautiful women:

Posted in Queer Community | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Interviewing Mr. Eagle (2012)

Photo by Clecio Lora

A.C. Demidont, Mr. Eagle 2012, is a 38-year old HIV Medicine physician here in NYC.  He’s an active member of the HIV medicine community in both New York and Philadelphia and has a passion for working in the field.

While recovering from a ball stretcher injury (his nuts were HUGE), I sat down with A.C. in his Hell’s Kitchen apartment to get an overview of who is and what he’s doing as a titleholder.

What are your hanky colors?
Well, anybody who knows me knows that.  Navy blue on the right is my primary hanky color; baby blue on the right, yellow on the right, mustard on the right—everything is on the right.  Everything is on the right, every tattoo, every piece of artwork on my body is on the right.  It defines me as who I am.  I use to have the hunter green on the right, but I think I’m getting a little old for that now.

What are some of your favorite pieces of gear?
My favorite on me is my red leather jockstrap with a zip in front.  When I wear it, people are surprised at how great my ass is.  And yes, there are some people in New York who haven’t seen my ass.  Another favorite is my leather surgical mask I got at the Leather Man.  It’s very dark and what I wore to the Black Party this year.

Why did you decide to run for Mr. Eagle?
Because I thought it would be a perfect combination of the things I’m interested in right now.  Mr. Eagle is a very good platform for being able to change things in the leather community and change things in the larger gay community.  I really believe in the HIV prevention messages I’m trying to put out in the world today and being Mr. Eagle gives me a greater ability to spread this message.  Plus I have a lot of gear and the Eagle is basically the only place I go out in the city, so it’s a great combination.

What is your message?
My message about HIV prevention is, if you’re not going to use condoms, figure out some other way to prevent yourself from getting HIV.  And there are other ways to do that.  Many medical professionals don’t discuss with patients all the other ways to prevent HIV infection.  The CDC has had guidelines for using anti-retrovirals to prevent HIV for over a year now and many gay men don’t know anything about these methods.  Doctors tell men to use condoms and a lot of men are saying “I’m not going to use condoms”, so there needs to be something else.  I’m not promoting barebacking and I know condoms are effective, but here in NYC men are having unprotected sex—between 2009 and 2010, the percentage of HIV infections in Manhattan went from 49% in gay men to 53%.  And it’s gone up the past 2 years.  Clearly there needs to be an alternative way to prevent HIV infections—and this is a proven method to do that.

How has your year been so far?
It’s awesome, basically.  A bit hectic and busy, but great.  People see I’m from New York and they get excited…and that’s a bit weird cause I’m not use to that kind of attention.  It’s certainly changed my sex life a lot, I can tell you that.  The events have been great and all the other Mr. Eagles before me have been very helpful…the Eagle itself has been very helpful.  I’ve had some amazing experiences and it feels great to be doing some good work for the community and for the Ali Forney Center.

How are you feeling about IML next month?
I’m feeling pretty excited about it, maybe a little nervous too.  I feel like I’m bringing my own unique perspective to the event and I have some great things going on in the community.  I’m also excited to spend more time with the other titleholders and get to know them more.  The sense of togetherness between the titleholders is great and everyone is super friendly with each other.  Everyone has stuff going on around the country and it’s great to see all that the leather community is doing for charities.  It makes me proud to be a part of that family.

What are your thoughts about the future of the leather community?
I think it’s great how many young people are coming out to bars and events these days.  I love to see all the young guys in their sports gear and representing their own fetishes.  As time goes by, Leather changes—it’s all a variation on a theme and that theme is “Leather isn’t mainstream”…so the specifics of that change over time.  Guys can express who that are and what they want and that’s hot.

Dr. Eagle is in!
Photo by Aldefino Corino

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Befriending Leathermen

I randomly came across this piece about the NYC Eagle and wanted to share with all of you.  Made in 2007 (the year Rick held the title of Mr. Eagle), the short documentary explores New York’s leather bar and is guided by gear fashion expert, Christophe, Mr Eagle 2006.  The filmmaker is a super awkward nerd, but also a good journalist who experiences and examines the Eagle with an open mind (and I know deep down inside he is thrilled by the explicit overtones of the scene).

Seeing nerdy journalist guy put on gear and a ball-stretcher, get a haircut from Jake the Barber, and dare to enter the upstairs bathroom (where naughty things have been known to happen) is heartwarming and adorable.  I also love that this little piece of the Eagle is preserved on film and shows how welcoming leathermen can be to those curious about our ways.

Watch and enjoy!

Posted in The Eagle | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments