owensutkowskiOwen Sutkowski will officially kick off his campaign for Charlotte City Council on May 28. He might just be Charlotte’s first openly gay man on a ballot for city election.

But a couple Q-Notes readers say a man named Robert Sheets ran as an openly gay man on the ballot in 1989. In the 1990s, an open lesbian ran as a write-in candidate.

FOX Charlotte reports that the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections doesn’t keep records as far back as 1989, so they weren’t able to confirm. My job today: a search through the newspaper’s archives. It is a painstaking task; something I’m not looking forward to. But duty calls.

What is truly amazing, though, is that Sutkowski is also the youngest candidate for city election ever. At only 26, he’s embarking on a run to defeat a Democratic incumbent and win a seat on council for the largest city in the Carolinas.

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This is the fifth and final installment of the five-week commentary series, “Fessing Up: exploring the dirty little secrets of the gay community.” The purpose of the series, will be to open community discussion with frank and honest thoughts and debate. Ignoring problems that exist inside our community and among some of our LGBT siblings is dangerous. In order to make our community better, stronger and more equal, we have to begin taking responsibility and speaking out when our own community, personal and social health is threatened.

Although the series will deal specifically with gay and bisexual men, as well as men who have sex with men (MSM), it will contain possible truths and discussion for the whole LGBT community.

We know that issues like substance abuse, promiscuity, unsafe sex, HIV/AIDS and STD infection rates and unattainable ideals of male beauty have an impact on the sexual, social, legal, physical and psychological health of the LGBT community, but we have utterly failed at having open and frank conversation about how we can address these issues, support our LGBT brothers and sisters and make our entire community more healthy and more equal.

This week’s installment, “Gay men and ideals of beauty,” is written by Devon Hunter, a North Carolina-based artist, thinker and exotic dancer. Read more from Devon at his personal blog, www.DevonHunter.info.

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The Greek ideal goes deeper than appearances alone: Although our ideals in Western civilization about male beauty are heavily influenced by Greek imagery, it should be remembered that the Classical Athenians prized excellence, and viewed external attractiveness as only one aspect of it.

As Socrates said, it is best to get specialized information from a specialist. He meant that you should get opinions about armor from armorers, war from soldiers, philosophy from philosophers, and beauty from lovers. And who would know and love male beauty better than gay men? Straight chicks are getting better about demanding something more polished from their fellas, but ultimately it is men who truly appreciate maleness and all its labyrinthine complexities. I would venture to guess that almost every man (and especially every gay man) is struggling with his own Minotaur, and that is precisely what makes us such fascinating caricatures of ourselves.

I have seen surveys that compare the priorities for male beauty as defined by men and women. Men often focus on strength, physical feats, and ripped up abs. Women tend to prefer dominant attitudes, confidence, and a more normalized body composition (as opposed to a lean, visible musculature). Very different perspectives on what makes a man attractive. Even amongst men at the superficial level, most straight men prefer bulk, and most gay men prefer definition. Given what I’ve experienced of men (straight, bi, and gay), it seems many would like their muscles to be honed to resemble the very armor that Socrates might have sent them to Pistias to have melded to their torsos. Armor in Classical times often looked like metal skin covering carved-from-marble perfection. And how not? Men, as much as women, use beauty for various purposes. But the idealized “Greek God” torso is as much a defensive tactic as it is a lure or bait.

Beauty, and the pursuit of it, can be inspirational, but it is also the fuel for many destructive fires. Beauty can be dangerous. In fact, very often danger itself is exactly what defines beauty (or at least that which is desirable in some way). We gay men very often burn with desire to possess beauty, both our own and that of others. We seek to become a physical ideal so that we can reasonably expect to obtain more of it. The desire-rejection cycle is powerful: We all desire, we all reject, we all complain about not being able to get the ones we want (while being pestered by the ones we don’t). Everyone is a 10 looking for a 12, and we’ve forgotten that 5 is average (and that most of us are therefore a 5 or 6, and that expecting an 8, much less a 10, is generally a recipe for disappointment).

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This is the fourth installment of the five-week commentary series, “Fessing Up: exploring the dirty little secrets of the gay community.” The purpose of the series, will be to open community discussion with frank and honest thoughts and debate. Ignoring problems that exist inside our community and among some of our LGBT siblings is dangerous. In order to make our community better, stronger and more equal, we have to begin taking responsibility and speaking out when our own community, personal and social health is threatened.

Although the series will deal specifically with gay and bisexual men, as well as men who have sex with men (MSM), it will contain possible truths and discussion for the whole LGBT community.

We know that issues like substance abuse, promiscuity, unsafe sex, HIV/AIDS and STD infection rates and unattainable ideals of male beauty have an impact on the sexual, social, legal, physical and psychological health of the LGBT community, but we have utterly failed at having open and frank conversation about how we can address these issues, support our LGBT brothers and sisters and make our entire community more healthy and more equal.

This week’s installment, “The Magnetic Divide and Viral Apartheid,” is written by Todd Heywood, a Michigan-based journalist, blogger and LGBT advocate. Read more from Todd at his personal blog, The Conversation Starts Here.

Not all queer men are equal — even in the confines of our self-imposed ghettos. Being gay and out is one thing; but being gay, HIV+ and out, that is an automatic move to isolation from the queer ghetto. With HIV being a more controllable illness, the question arises, why now? Why the viral apartheid and how do we address it?

In July of 2007, I was diagnosed with HIV. It was, to put it mildly, an earth shattering moment in my life. I had fallen in love with and cared for a man who had HIV when I first came out. I was there for him until he died in July 1996, having “failed” the newly released cocktails. At the time my partner was diagnosed, there was a level of awareness and connection about HIV that seems to have disappeared. At that time, HIV activism was interwoven into the very fabric of LGBT activism. The annual Pride march was preceded by a reading of the names of those lost to the HIV epidemic, and those names, placed on brightly colored ribbons lead the march. It was an honoring of the dead, and a promise to the future that we would not forget.

But then, with the miracle that were the cocktails, this began to change. We saw the fish bowls of condoms and literature about HIV disappear from gay bars. HIV itself, once talked of openly because even the most casually connected member of the LGBT community could count at least one death among associates, stopped being noted. A new reality set in — the reality of silence.

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Fessing Up: HIV/AIDS

This is the third installment of the five-week commentary series, “Fessing Up: exploring the dirty little secrets of the gay community.” The purpose of the series, will be to open community discussion with frank and honest thoughts and debate. Ignoring problems that exist inside our community and among some of our LGBT siblings is dangerous. In order to make our community better, stronger and more equal, we have to begin taking responsibility and speaking out when our own community, personal and social health is threatened.

Although the series will deal specifically with gay and bisexual men, as well as men who have sex with men (MSM), it will contain possible truths and discussion for the whole LGBT community.

We know that issues like substance abuse, promiscuity, unsafe sex, HIV/AIDS and STD infection rates and unattainable ideals of male beauty have an impact on the sexual, social, legal, physical and psychological health of the LGBT community, but we have utterly failed at having open and frank conversation about how we can address these issues, support our LGBT brothers and sisters and make our entire community more healthy and more equal.

The statistics are scary. In places like Washington, D.C., the facts and figures take on new meaning, as more and more people contract HIV and are left to live with the disease, the cultural and institutional stigma and health disparities.

Like many epidemics, HIV/AIDS has hit minorities the hardest. In the 1980s, the disease hit gay men and intravenous drug users. There’s no doubt many of the men and women first affected by the AIDS crisis were either minorities or poor; perhaps they were both.

In 2009, the face of HIV/AIDS has changed drastically. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 49 percent of all people living with an HIV/AIDS diagnosis in 2005 were African-American. Among black men with HIV, 48 percent had contracted the disease through male-to-male sexual contact; 22 percent through heterosexual contact. Among black women with HIV, almost three-quarters had contracted the disease through heterosexual contact.

Nationwide, male-to-male sexual contact accounts for half of all HIV/AIDS transmissions. Among men who have sex with men, 50 percent are white and 32 percent are black.

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