A Rainbow of Gay Relationships Supported by Tech and Touch

Recently, Out.com published an article that discussed gay male culture’s move from meeting each other in bars to meeting each other online, at personals and social media sites. This paradigm shift must be properly understood and not underestimated. The author, Gross, makes some thoughtful points, one being that gay men were actually building a viable culture when AIDS slammed us, but that we have now become more isolated from each other as a result of our technologically-enmeshed lives.

A longtime, close friend and member of my family of creation moved away from San Francisco for five years and returned in 2006. He observed that nearly everything about meeting men had changed in that period, including the ubiquitousness of mobile phones, email, messaging instead of voice calls, not easily finding men in his desired age group, the difficulty of finding social groups for fraternizing, and the challenge in finding men with whom he can meet for coffee, a drink, or a date.

I am 55 and have been out for 31 years. Coming out as a gay man and as a sexual person at 24 was simultaneous, as I was brought up in the strict Calvinist Deep South culture that not only repressed sex, but viewed homosexuality as a shameful, sinful, diseased, and criminal matter. It was truly the “love that dare not speak its name”. Gay men of my generation were among the first hit by AIDS. This means that there are fewer available men of my own age for relationships, socializing, or for mentoring other men into gay male culture. One consequence is that there are striking differences between my generation and 20- and 30-somethings, in how we understand our sexuality and culture, one being that many younger men appear to prefer assimilation into the larger society. In this regard, the assimilation vs liberation positions that LGBT activists took in the 60s, 70s, and 80s has been largely resolved in favor of an emergent assimilationist position.

Same-sex marriage has made major inroads into the mentality of mainstream America and the West and the newly married want to associate with other couples, which is a reasonable desire. Given the enormous resources being poured into same-sex marriage rights and the recent victories in California, Massachusetts, and elsewhere, it may soon be that the new perverts in our society will be those of us who are single gay men. We may be viewed as “less-than” because same-sex married have chosen the institution of marriage located within the larger society, which is de facto assimilation. Some of us have a larger vision: demand that society recognize and support single people and our contributions. One of our gifts to humanity is a broad variety of consensual, loving relationships that do not neatly fall into a one-to-one marriage model. Society would do well to validate consensual adult relationships in whatever form they are constituted. Gay people would do well to remember that we are still the engine and heart of the creative class, especially when it comes to creating relationships of meaning, love, and functionality.

When I exited and then burnt down the closet in 1978, I recognized it for the repressive identity foreclosure that it represented. I was embraced by men of different ages that lovingly mentored me in the ways of sex with other men, the ways of meeting men, and the ferocious beauty, diversity, and astonishing creativity of gay male culture. Women of all kinds were friends, teachers, and mentors into the broader world of feminism, humanism, and liberation in my personal journey. I am forever grateful to them and value and respect their special gifts. I hold this time of my life with joyful love and profound respect, as I was taught by my sisters, brothers, and others about self-worth, self-beauty, the need to love myself, and to be loving toward others who are different.

Now, many of my friends and family in their 30s and 40s. Younger guys have many friendships in which affection is freely expressed, sexually couple at will, and are online for work and play: so am I and there is an obvious irony that I am referencing Gross’s article. Maybe it is safer and easier to be online than to confront climate change, a homophobic society, massive social inequity, a failed American government of four decades, a crappy economy, an uncertain job market, a global village filled with people who loathe what the USA has become, etc., ad infinitum nauseum?

Many younger and older friends place diminished emphasis on age, perhaps because it is the relationship that is critical and valued, not the laugh lines or the number of years on one’s driver’s license: this is fabulous! When I moved to San Francisco in the mid-80s, I discovered BBSs (bulletin board services), which were modem-accessed. These were the precursors of social websites and led to friendships and family of creation members that are still going strong, many relationships now lasting over 25 years. The delight of meeting men with whom I had communicated by text and phone was genuine. The social networks fostered by these early adopter BBSs mirrored those that emerged from bars and other venues. However, our social ethics are lagging in how we use these technologies, especially given the rapid transformation of all human communication, relationships, and societies, though we do appear to be catching up. Consider that we are using texting and social tools to procure and sustain jobs and networking, to arrange social meetings, and a not-surprising appearance of tech-free days in many people’s lives.

Gross has a valid observation that gay male culture appears lacking our historically unique sense of community, because we can be oddly isolated through a preoccupation with the joy of sex, to the loss of building and nourishing loving relationships of all kinds. For example, sit in any coffeehouse or cafe and observe how many people are using laptops or smart devices, instead of chatting with each other. Both LGBTs and others commonly fail to recognize how globally stressed is our community due to pervasive and longstanding effects of AIDS and post-AIDS bigotry, as well as because of rampant homophobia. Also, consider that men are biologically predisposed to be horny buggers, that the sheer quantity and variety of online connections can and do birth relationships with depth and meaning, and that our community is also working to healthfully incorporate these changes.

It is important to have friends of all kinds and to value seeing, touching, and talking with others. Nothing replaces the value of personal contact for any of us and to properly value the priceless gifts of touch and human presence is to affirm our essential humanity.


This is the second week of a new daily series on News Junkie Post known as the Progressive Unity Project. Every day, there will be a new article published from the perspective of the environment/ecosystem, labor/unions, LGBT, immigration reform, science, legalization of marijuana, or secularity.

James Lovette-Black is a post-doctoral scholar and activist with professional experience spanning over three decades in health care. Growing up gay in the Deep South, he moved to Chicago in the early 70s and vibrant San Francisco has been his home since 1986. One of the original founders of ACT UP San Francisco and the Lavender Greens, his activism includes anti-apartheid work, anti-nuclear work, and environmental activism. James was in the non-violent civil disobedience blockade of the US Supreme Court after the Bowers v. Hardwick decision and has worked for pro-choice issues, as well as diligently working to dispel ageist biases and for single-payer, universal health care for all Americans. He has practiced the “religion of kindness” for nearly 30 years, as expressed through the Celtic Reconstructionist Tradition of Wicca. His worldview is optimistic and he considers himself a proud American and a planetary citizen.

An early adopter, he has had a web presence since 1994, and is an avid Apple “fan boy”, as well as a critical observer of the human-technology experience. James writes for Jimboland Jots and Bright Wellness.  James online: Twitter Digg

Editor’s Note: Please follow The News Junkie Post on Twitter.


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