Sunday, June 28, 2009

Gay Pride 2009




Saturday, June 20, 2009

Leather Life -- Gay and Not Gay

I'm not into the leather scene as such -- although I enjoy the macho atmosphere of most leather bars -- but in honor of this weekend's Folsom East Leather Pride fair in New York, I'm posting an article I did last summer for The New York Blade [it's no longer available in the paper's archives, unfortunately]:


by Bill Schoell

Last June 22nd 2008 a Leather Pride Fair took over the far west end of 11th avenue and was well-attended despite the afternoon downpour. This coming August 15th t0 17th the New Jersey Convention Center in Edison, New Jersey will play host to Floating World, a leather/S&M/ kink/ alternative-sexuality gathering hosted by over 32 groups who expect nearly 1000 attendees. There will be a host of classes, workshops, and parties dedicated to everything from “pony play” to “whips” to the old reliable bondage and discipline. [Registration for the event is now closed.]

How many of the Floating World attendees will be gay or lesbian? “Hard to say,” Dan, one of the organizers of the event, told The Blade, “as we don't ask and many people come for many reasons. Someone may be here for Pony Play and we would never know if they're gay or straight, just Pony - Or M/s [Master/slave] or bondage. And we really don't care. Still, I would guess about 20% or so. But then, how do you measure transpersons? Or bi people, or poly? We just take everyone as they come and try to make them as comfortable as possible.” [For the record, “Pony Play” does not refer to bestiality, but to role-playing where one participant pretends to be a horse or pony and another pretends to be a trainer or rider etc.]

Still, events like Floating World make it clear that the leather/s&m/fetish scene – which many people have always seen as being somehow exclusively or predominantly gay – is something separate and distinct, pansexual in nature. Likewise, gay people, traditionally looked upon as strange sexual outlaws, have been seen by straights (and many gays) as somehow “kinkier” than heterosexuals. Or at least more open-minded about outre sexual practices. But some erotic activities practiced by alternative sex groups may make standard gay sex seem blase in comparison, as well as raise the eyebrows even of the most sophisticated members of the LGBT community.

Why has the leather scene long been considered a sub-culture of the gay community? In every large city gay men in their leather regalia can be seen heading towards the local Eagle or Ramrod. Because there are no equivalent heterosexual leather bars (although there have been underground s&m clubs), people have come to the erroneous conclusion that the leather/s&m/kink scene is strictly a gay phenomenon. Nothing could be further from the truth. For instance, The Eulenspiegal Society is a New York-based S&M group that caters largely to straights.

“Since there are other groups in NYC dedicated to gay-males and lesbians, TES tends to get bisexuals and heterosexuals as members,” Susan Wright of TES told The Blade. (Wright is also a spokesperson for the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom.) According to Wright, “It's true that there are more gay leather bars - there aren't any het BDSM bars because you can't play in the same space as liquor is sold. BDSM clubs that allow playing are non-alcoholic, and these clubs cater to gays as well as hets and bi's on different nights under different promoters. Gay men don't play in the leather bars - they go there to meet other gay men. Very similar are the many swing clubs around the U.S. that meet at bars where the members socialize, and then if they want to play they leave to go to another location.”

She adds that “The large majority of the 500 BDSM social and educational groups in America are pansexual and tend to have bisexuals and heterosexuals as members.” Gays and Lesbians account for only 20% of the scene.

It’s also true that many homosexual leather people identify more with the leather scene – or the particular fetish scene they belong to – than they do with the gay community. Asked if leather people resented the fact that leather/s&m was not included in “LGBT,” Tip, the President of New York’s Iron Guard BC [Brotherhood Club] felt the need to deny the very premise. He told The Blade: “As one of the many fetish groups, the Leather community feels more comfortable with Leather Men and Women – we all share a similar code of behavior, tradition, kink, and protocols [that is] not shared by the entire LGBT community.” As for the misapprehension that all leather men are gay he said “Don’t let the Hell’s Angels hear you speculating they are mostly gay ” (But one could certainly speculate if there are gay Hell’s Angels )

Being part of the leather scene can simply mean one has a fetish for leather outfits or “it can signal a vast ocean of sensual opportunities,” according to Tip. These not only include BDSM but puppy-play, water sports and fist-fucking, which “was practiced in India long before there was any s/m associations.” Tip feels that “‘real’ leather bars no longer exist in NYC. ..While I can never get my fill of leathered eye candy,” he says, “leather men aren’t known for their trimmed, svelte and/or buffed bodies. Today it seems there’s more of a leather-for-fashion fetish than leather men.” (It should be noted that while some leather men are non-svelte bears, most bears are not into the leather scene.)

When it comes to women in the leather scene, what comes to most people’s minds are stereotypical whip-wielding dominatrixes who are straight and have a male heterosexual clientele. In fact, there are many lesbians who are into leather, s&m and fetish play. New York’s Lesbian Sex Mafia is only one of several groups for gay and other women who are into the scene. Others are Tribe/New Jersey Leatherdykes and Dyke Uniform Corps.

Fearful of discrimination for practices that others outside the scene might find childish at best or repellant at worst, Leather people – regardless of orientation – seem to be more closeted and secretive than gays. [Neither the board of Lesbian Sex Mafia nor Gay Male S/M Activists, also based in New York, responded to The Blade’s request for an interview.] Perhaps the secrecy is part of the appeal of the scene.

Tip of the Iron Guard says “I believe Lucille Ball is credited with saying ‘There are some doors better left unopened.’ Leather men have opened them. [They] see the world, even the ‘regular’ gay community, through a different pair of glasses.

“We know things, play with sensations, excite eroticism that vanilla sex doesn’t even dream of.”

Originally published in The New York Blade 2008.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Coming Out with Codicils

Okay, so I was at my favorite watering hole one night when American Idol came on. [I'm not a fan of the show.] I'd heard one of the front runners was gay and I asked someone to point him out to me when he came on. Naturally, he turned out to be the one male contestant I would never fuck [and I'm sure he'd feel the same way]. Adam Lambert is nice looking in that "queeny" sort of way --not that there's anything wrong with that -- but why is it when celebrities or pseudo-celebrities or people famous for five minutes come out a.) you can sort of already tell that they're gay because they ring all the stereotype buttons and b.) if they're guys they have to have the whole teased hair, lip gloss kind of thing going on. If you knew how many gay men I know who are nothing like that ...

Of course the teased hair/lip gloss business is as much -- if not more -- theatrical than it is gay. I mean, we have to remember Gene Simmons of the rock group Kiss in his outrageous make up and he, presumably, is straight. [Why is it that so many hetero lover boys are well, repulsive -- you know, Charlie Sheen almost turns my stomach. It's not even their looks so much as a certain oily factor ... anyway, I digress.]

Some things never change. Lambert was interviewed on 20/20 -- not exactly a hard news program -- and they made a big fuckin' deal out of something he said late in the program. They even announced that Lambert was going to say something surprising. The presumably straight and nerdy male interviewer was practically smacking his lips over this announcement.

No, it wasn't that Lambert was gay, which he confirmed to 20/20 as he had to Rolling Stone in his interview there. No it was that Lambert, although not bisexual, wasn't opposed to -- gosh -- a little pussy. He claimed he made out with women when he'd had a few drinks [no surprise there] and that someday he might go all the way. "Who will be the lucky woman?" he wondered.

Give me a break! Lambert seems like a nice guy, but when he goes to bed with a woman it will be an act of lesbianism. I could be wrong, but I suspect he's a bottom -- nothing wrong with that -- so if he isn't interested in fucking guys he's going to be a big disappointment with whatever starstruck can-I-borrow-your-lip gloss gal he decides to hit the sheets with.

But there's a bigger question here. Who put Lambert up to this business and why did 20/20 have to make such a big deal of it. It was as if they were saying "Sure, he's a fag, but he's part normal, he might fuck a woman someday." What is this shit?

If Lambert made his remarks on his own it's due to his need to seem like a "regular guy," after all, to America. [Hint, Adam: Lose the shiny lip gloss.] But I suspect it may have been his advisers or business manager or agent. After all, many of his fans are young straight women. They might not buy his records or stay fans of his if they come to the conclusion that he's a hopeless, total fag. [To be fair, Lambert may have had nothing to do with the assholes at 20/20 playing up this part of the interview as if it were the most important thing Lambert had to say. Still ... ]

So again we have someone coming out, saying they're comfortable with their sexuality.

But if they're so comfortable -- why the hetero codicil?

You sometimes wish some people would just stay in the closet.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Playing Gay

A while ago I wrote about the gay characters on the CBS soap As The World Turns. While there are lesbian couples on two other soap operas, this was the only show to have a gay male couple, although there are rumors that The Young and the Restless, the highest-rated CBS soap, is planning to introduce same.

It's interesting how different actors react to learning that their characters are going to be -- or turn out to be -- gay.

Yani Gellman, who plays Hispanic -- and openly gay -- lawyer Rafe Torres on the show, just seemed pleased to have an interesting part that might be beefed up in the future.

On the other hand, Chris Engen (pictured), who plays Adam on the same show, threw a hissy fit when he found out what was in his character's future and walked off the set.

And the show.

What makes it really crazy is that it has been suggested that Adam isn't really going to turn out to be gay or bi, but that he comes on to and/or smooches Rafe Torres as a way of manipulating him.

Now this creates problems already, but before we get to that, one has to ask, did Engen, a 29-year-old actor on a popular show, throw away a gig like that (when, let's face it, most "actors" are waiting on tables) just because he didn't want to kiss a guy on camera for an acting job?

Maybe it was more than that. Maybe the rather sociopathic Adam would go so far as to sleep with the guy. [Which would suggest he was at least bi and in denial, if not gay].

I'm not crazy with the idea of Adam, who has turned out to be a very nasty, almost psychotic character -- I mean, trying to "gas light" [drive crazy] a pregnant woman who has been nothing but kind to him -- turning out to be gay. But at least Rafe seems like a decent fellow, although again I'm not crazy about him being treated like an easily manipulated weakling. The rumor mill has it that Rafe will actually be caught between evil Adam and a more likable and rational gay male character.


But as for Chris Engen. Some fans have come to his defense, saying perhaps he just didn't want to play a "stereotypically evil bisexual," but that does not appear to be the case. Engen made a statement on his MySpace page, which makes it clear -- reading between the lines or not -- that it is his distaste with the whole gay thing -- kissing a guy and all -- that had him stupidly ripping up his contract. Many straight fans left messages of support, lauding him for his bravery and convictions [i.e. homophobic attitudes].

As expected, Engen denies that he is homophobic, stating that he has "homosexual friends."

"Homosexual" friends instead of "gay friends." Isn't that sort of like saying he has "colored friends" instead of "black friends." When straight [or at least straight-identified] people use homosexual in that way, it usually doesn't mean that they're very gay-friendly.

Engen also mentions that his leaving the show has a lot to do with the fact that he is the single father of a young son.

What? Does he think the boy will somehow be corrupted if his father plays a gay (or ersatz-gay) role?

Not homophobic, sure.

Of course Engen claims he hadn't liked the direction the character was going in for quite some time, even though -- as others have noted -- most actors chomp at the bit for a chance to play an evil, attention-getting role on a popular show. He only walked off the soap when he found out Adam would be kissing Rafe.

Engen was not bad as Adam, but it was not hard to replace him, either. Two hours after he walked off the show the producers had signed another actor for the role.

I can understand how some straight actors might be a bit uncomfortable playing a gay role, and can understand they'd rather do love scenes with women. And all the inevitable questions about their sexuality might get tiresome. And they don't want to be thought of as closet cases and so on and so on. But for Pete's sake it's still just a role. It's not as if they're working in a gay bar.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, but one thing's for sure.

When you go out to dinner in a few months Chris Engen may be your waiter.

Or he might wind up a bartender.

In a gay bar. [You know how straight guys always think gay men are great tippers.]
UPDATE [6/18/09]: Last week the show had Adam dressing up in drag a la Psycho and trying to scare the shit out of the pregnant Ashley, who fell down the stairs and had a miscarriage. I'm so hoping they don't make this character gay.