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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Fessing Up: Promiscuity & Unsafe Sex

This is the second 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.

Last week, a commenter at Pam’s House Blend – where I cross-posted a portion of the first installment in this series – took issue with my plans to address promiscuity and unsafe sex, saying “do-gooder Christians” who “think they are activists” shouldn’t have a part in the conversation.

He said, “Frankly I think promiscuity in males is good and healthy and I don’t want people to be pressured to conform to “christian morality” just because some christians are willing to teach that being gay isn’t a sin – but promiscuity is.”

First, it is this kind of thinking – the misguided presumption that gays can’t also be Christian and also speak out on LGBT rights – that is damaging to discussions like these. Second, I think the Pam’s House Blend commenter is going to be slightly surprised by my opinions.

What is this installment in the “Fessing Up” commentary series about? Well, it is not about gay promiscuity. It is, instead, about promiscuity and unsafe sex.

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Fessing Up: Substance abuse

This is the first installment of the five-week commentary series, “Fessing Up: exploring the dirty little secrets of the gay community.” The purpose of the series, announced last week, 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.

In bars and clubs, online hook-up sites and gayborhoods across America, there’s a hidden – and sometimes not so hidden – social epidemic running through the gay community. Meth and alcohol are our poisons of choice, and they are harming and killing members of our community at an alarming rate.

If there is one thing the gay community doesn’t do well it is introspection. We all know there’s a serious drug and alcohol abuse problem but many of us either aren’t aware or just don’t talk about it. I’d venture to say that substance abuse is among three topics the gay community finds anathema; the others being promiscuity and unsafe sex.

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In the coming weeks, InterstateQ.com will publish a five-week, in-depth commentary series, “Fessing Up: exploring the ‘dirty little secrets’ of the gay community.”

fessingupsmallbannerThe purpose of the series, written by me and other contributors, 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.

The five-week series won’t deal specifically with HIV/AIDS, but each of its five subject areas will have a lot to do with the crisis. In a way, each of the subject areas offer us a chance to move forward on the goal of ending the out-of-control HIV/AIDS crisis:

  1. Substance abuse in the gay community
  2. Promiscuity and unsafe sex in the gay community
  3. HIV and STD infection rates
  4. The social and sexual disenfranchisement and stigmatization of HIV+ gay, bi and MSM men
  5. Ideals of gay masculinity and beauty

We know that increased risks of drug and alcohol abuse in the LGBT community contributes to promiscuity, unsafe sex and increased risks of contracting HIV and other STDs; that many gay, bi and MSM men are having a lot of sex, but doing so unsafely and with high risk; and that HIV and STD infection rates have skyrocketed, and will continue to skyrocket, inside the MSM community. We know that HIV+ gay, bi and MSM men are being cast to the side, despite the fact that many of the HIV- men doing the stigmatization are engaging in some of the very same risky behaviors that might well mean they will contract the disease. Finally, we know that nearly god-like ideals of male beauty and masculinity can leave a debilitating scar on gay, bi and MSM self-esteem, body image and self-worth.

And, while we know that all of these issues have an impact on the sexual, social, legal, physical and psychological health of the LGBT community, 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.

Look for the first of the five-week series in a few days.