Otherstream at 20: 1996

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13 January 2016 will be the twentieth anniversary of the site that became Otherstream. In a rather egotistical observance of that anniverasry, I’m focusing on one year per day in the twenty days leading up to the anniversary, linking to some favorite and important (or just inane and disposable) posts from each year. Today, we start with 1996.

Otherstream did not start as a journal/blog site–or even one named “Otherstream.” Planet SOMA was more of a static site with information about San Francisco neighborhoods, some dirty pictures, rants about annoying aspects of faggotry, and some biographical info about me. It was the early days of the web and frankly, any presence at all was was still much more than 99% of people had in that pre-Wordpress, pre-Facebook era when most people didn’t even know what a website was. i didn’t start doing personal updates till several months in.

Aside from the birth of the website, 1996 was pretty pivotal in other ways as well. It marked the end of traditional full-time employment for the next six years, the end of the car I moved to San Francisco with, and several interesting road trips. It was really the beginning of a new era for me.

August

September

October

November

December

Not perfect. Just forgiven.

Thirty years ago, I was working part time as a DJ in a gay bar. I enjoyed it because I was very into music and I was especially happy about getting to play something other than the miserable disco schlock that is mandatory in 99.25% of all American gay bars.

One night, several heterosexual friends came by to hear me. Two of these friends were a couple (of the male-female variety, obviously). At some point during the evening, they kissed. And that finally pushed my boss over the edge. He was already offended by their very presence in the place and when they had the audacity to engage in a very tame public display of affection, he came up to the booth to tell me he thought they should leave.

I was appalled that a fairly sophisticated gay man would not ultimately realize the irony and hypocrisy involved in his actions. Ethically, I felt that I could no longer work for him.

So I quit.

That very night.

You see, that’s what you do when you face such moral outrage that you can no longer justify doing your job.

And that’s what Kim Davis needs to learn. She needs to do the job she swore an oath that she would do. Or she needs to quit. Right now.

For her to continue accepting her salary amounts to theft and misappropriation of public funds. For her to continue refusing to do her job amounts to criminal misconduct. Her beliefs don’t matter one infinitesimal damn. She’s free to believe whatever she likes. She is not, however, free to continue collecting her salary while not doing her job.

A lot has been written today about the hypocrisy of “sanctity of marriage” claims being made by a woman who has been married four times and divorced three, and who seems never to have cared very much whether or not her children were fathered by her husband at the time. It’s a fair criticism, but one that her supporters feel is a moot point since her sins happened before she was “washed in the blood” (or in the Holy Windex). Too many conservative Christians use the “not perfect, just forgiven” excuse as a way of refusing to take responsibility for any of their own actions, which is particularly ironic in that so many of these same conservatives very much stress the concept of personal responsibility in others.

But even being the biggest hypocrite on the face of the earth would not disqualify Kim Davis from keeping her job–although her double (triple? quadruple?) standard does make her a pretty wretched human being.

What disqualifies Kim Davis from keeping her job is the fact that she refuses to do it.

From the archives

i’ve been thinking about instituting a feature here to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the website, in which I would link back to favorite posts from the past two decades. I was even thinking of developing my own Twitter hashtag and encouraging my seven readers to post their own favorites. But every time I get ready to start, it seems a little pretentious and self-involved so I stopped myself.

That said, last week’s backtrack inspired me, so here’s another one.

I think this post, of which I was reminded when a friend posted this on Facebook,  still holds up pretty well too. I do like that the author of the Guardian piece stated specifically that “it certainly isn’t positioning monogamous people as more blindly traditional or less emotionally evolved than you.” That’s always been one of the things that irritated me most about proponents of polyamory, in much the same way that it galls me when anyone has the audacity to try to create universally applicable rules or definitions for any relationships other than their own.

I really don’t think this requires a hashtag, though I do have another social media-inspired backtrack post in mind about how not liking “gay events” does not necessarily equate to “internalized homophobia.” But I don’t have the attention span for that tonight. Besides, my traditional Sunday night soup was extra good. I used Italian sausage. I may have to have more now.

Hooking up

Two thoughts upon reading this article:

  1. Joel Simkhai seems like a completely vapid little wanker, with whom I would never want to have dinner or a conversation. I imagine he would most likely prefer to skip any potential encounter with me as well. I’m really okay with that.
  2. Given Grindr as one’s only hookup option, celibacy starts looking really attractive.

To start, let’s make it clear that I have no problem with hookups. That would be pretty hypocritical on my part given that it used to be one of my primary hobbies. I also don’t have a problem with meeting people online. I met many of my best friends, random sex partners, and even my ex-husband online. But I met most of those people because of words not in spite of them.

I’m just not ready to be a product that can be ordered from a database, I guess, and my hesitation is only partly due to my fear that no one would choose me.

The wedding march

Understanding as I do that the rush toward same-sex marriage is the single most important issue facing American homosexuals today–far more important than, say, fighting AIDS or ending the employment and housing discrimination that is legal in a surprisingly high proportion of US cities and states–I will once again ask a question that I think I’ve asked before: Why is government in the “marriage” business at all?

Would it not be much simpler for cities and states to sanction and register only civic partnerships–consensual agreements that address the legal rights and responsibilities of the partners involved, regardless of their sex or sexual orientation? Once registered, the partners would then be free to engage (or not) in whatever religious, spiritual,or cultural ceremonies they might choose, completely separate from the legal proceedings? This would seem to address many of the issues on both sides. All couples would be treated equally in the eyes of the law, there would be no question of the government “redefining marriage”, and churches would be free to confer religious rites to whomever they chose.

The civil partnership would, again, address all the legal issues currently involved in marriage, such as child support, estate issues, survivor benefits, healthcare issues, and taxation. The religious ceremony, if invoked, would cover spiritual issues only and have no legal authority. And no church would be forced to perform such a ceremony in violation of its beliefs, just as churches are not currently compelled to bless the unions of people outside the faith, divorcees, etc.

Unfortunately, it won’t happen. Why not?

Mainly because most of the folks who insist they have “no problem with gay rights” are by and large (maybe even unconsciously) lying when they say that their only concern is the use of the term “marriage”. My gut feeling is that they very specifically want a legal definition that separates heterosexual partnerships from any other type, regardless of what they say or what either is called. Opponents of same-sex marriage who stress that it is an institution defined by their own version of “God” are terrified that people of different faiths will begin to assert that their own beliefs actually permit same-sex marriage and would begin calling their own services “marriage”. This would be unacceptable to a certain population even if the religious ceremony carried no legal weight whatsoever.

If marriage is indeed a spiritual institution that should only be defined by the church or the culture, why not let it be just that? Everyone wins: Government institutions are freed from the constraints of discrimination that is clearly unconstitutional, and churches retain control of an institution they consider holy. The legal aspect “lives” where it should as does the spiritual aspect.

Too bad it’s just too logical ever to fly here…

Situational asexuality

Interesting (it a bit smarmy) piece on the strange twilight world of the asexual amid all this week’s stories about World Pride–which is what they’re calling it in Canada this year and may be calling it everywhere else too, for all I know or care.

I’ve been “asexual” for quite some time now, not because it’s my natural orientation but through a series of circumstances that have made it the easiest option for a variety of reasons. Initially, it was about the depression thing combined with the fact that I’d more or less just been dumped…and as a result wasn’t exactly overflowing with self esteem at the time. In my younger days, I would probably have reacted to this by becoming more sex-obsessed, but the middle-aged version of me recognized his limitations. And frankly, I just wasn’t that interested at the time. I most certainly didn’t want another relationship, and I’d sort of gotten out of the habit of casual sex too.

I’m pretty much past all that now and might be inclined toward debauchery if it weren’t so much fucking work–or of it weren’t so much work fucking. (Sorry, it was too obvious not to go there.) Given my age and size, I’m not an unattractive man, really, but I’m not the sort who turns a lot of heads when he walks into a room either. Sad as it may seem, pudgy librarians approaching fifty are just not a really hot commodity around here. Fifteen years ago, I may have a certain sexual presence that attracted attention, but nine years of marriage and even more years of reduced testosterone production have tempered that considerably. They’ve also made me much more nervous about STDs and allowing strange men into my house.

So while I probably could get laid, it would involve a great deal of effort than it used to. And that’s more effort, it turns out, than I seem to want to put into the process. I’m still not interested in a relationship; my identity does not depend on that. I was single most of my adult life, so I know how.  And hookups just sort of work differently now than they did before the turn of the century (I was dying for an excuse to say “before the turn of the century”). I don’t want to cruise using an app. I’m pretty tech-savvy–I work in the IT department ferchrissakes–but that’s just not how I do it.

Then there’s that whole issue of the fact that someone who is interested in me is very often someone in whom I have no interest at all. It’s much harder to feign interest at my age too…both from a physical perspective and from the “I don’t need to be bothered with this bullshit” perspective.

So I call my current condition “situational asexuality” mainly because it sounds better than “celibate due to lack of initiative”, which is how I described it last week.

If it changes soon, I’ll let you know. Maybe with pictures.

Farewell…and good riddance?

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The biggest, oldest queer bar in Greensboro is closing.

Literally. As I type.

It’s been here, under various names and owners, for nearly thirty-five years. I haven’t set foot in the damned place in over twenty. But I’m here tonight for the farewell as a favor to a friend. Hated the place in 1984. Hate it even more now. Enough said. I won’t miss it. Big “one size fits all” queer dance clubs like this are from another time, and I’m really okay with being on the back end of that scene.

Non-surprises:

  • Crappy music.
  • Annoying drag show.
  • The realization that no one I still know (or would ever hope to meet) can be found in a big queer dance club in Greensboro NC.

Worst Saturday night ever. Or at least since 1984 or so…

God may hate but I just don’t care

Fred Phelps was an evil man…and a sick one. Talking about dancing on his grave and celebrating at his funeral, though, puts people at pretty much the same level as Fred and his followers. That’s not of the higher levels.

I would be lying if I said I mourned his passing; I’m pretty certain the world actually IS a better place without Fred Phelps. The only charitable thing I can say about the man is that he did a lot of important (if unintentional) work toward equality for the people he hated most. Mainly, though, he was just a bitter, miserable old man who made it his business to spread around his misery as effectively as possible.

I do, however, like to think that I can conduct myself with more dignity and respect for humanity than Phelps or his family ever have. They probably don’t deserve that much consideration, but behaving better than the Phelps clan would in a similar situation requires almost no effort at all.

Which is precisely the amount I’m willing to put into it…

Ten years after

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Ten years ago this weekend, four thousand same-sex couples in San Francisco engaged in what could best be termed as mass civil disobedience. We realized we were making history on some level, but we may have underestimated the impact. I think we all pretty much knew that our weddings would not stand up to the inevitable court challenge but we may not have recognized that we were on the lading edge of what would become a national trend. Ten years later, same-sex marriage is legal in more than one third of the fifty states and is recognized in various ways in several other states. The United States has seen a dramatic shift in public opinion on the issue, and in many ways the conversation began in earnest on Valentine’s Day Weekend, 2004.

Now (as then) I do not see same-sex marriage as the top issue facing homosexuals in America. The fact that employment and housing discrimination are still legal in most of the county remains a far more pressing problem. But marriage is an issue that has facilitated the discussion and has helped to mold public opinion on the issue of equality in all areas. The same-sex marriage debate has made us re-think our own opinions on marriage in general–and made many of us wonder if it is an appropriate option at all. My own take has pretty much always been that I would prefer that government not be involved in marriage at all and that individuals be permitted to enter into whatever sort of consensual familial arrangements and contracts they wish. But I feel strongly that if marriage is an option with benefits for heterosexual couples, it must also be available to homosexual couples.

What a difference ten years can make…