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Survivors of 1980s AIDS crisis reveal what happened to them

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In Honor of World AIDS Day

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From the role of lesbians to the vanishing of whole neighborhoods, real LGBTI people share their experiences

by Joe Morgan

Survivors of the 1980s AIDS crisis have shared accounts of their experiences.

As the UK celebrates LGBT History Month, users of Reddit revealed what it was like to be living in what felt like a constant state of tragedy.

Real LGBTI people remember the confusion, the lack of information, the lack of support from the government because of the suffering from the virus known only at the time as GRID (gay-related immune deficiency).

‘I’m a 62-year-old gay man. I thankfully made it through the epidemic that started in the early 80s and went right through the mid-90’s. You ask what it was like? I don’t know if I can even begin to tell you how many ways AIDS has affected my life, even though I never caught the virus,’ one user said.

‘By the early 80s, I had what I would consider a really large circle of friends and acquaintances and once the epidemic really started to hit, it was not uncommon to find out three, four or more people you knew had died each month. We set up informal and formal support groups to look after our friends who took sick. Feeding them when they would eat. Changing them. Washing them. Acting as go-between with families who “were concerned” about their sons, nephews, brothers, etc., but wouldn’t lend a hand to help because AIDS was, you know, icky.

‘After they passed, there were memorial services to plan with no real time to grieve because when one passed, you were needed somewhere else to begin the process all over again.

‘I kept a memory book/photo album of everyone I knew that died of AIDS. It’s quite large to say the least. Who were these guys? These were the people I had planned to grow old with. They were the family I had created and wanted to spend the rest of my life with as long as humanly possible but by the time I was in my late 40s, every one of them was gone except for two dear friends of mine.

‘All we have left of those days are each other, our memories and pictures. I hope that statement doesn’t come off as pitiful though. I am fit, active, healthy and you know what? I enjoy every single day of my life. I enjoy it because most of my friends can’t. In my own personal way, I want to honor their lives by living and enjoying mine.’

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Another user said: ‘It was flat out scary. every guy you met was like a possible time bomb. especially the early period when we knew very little about it – didn’t know if you could get it by kissing, by holding hands…

‘Then lots of your friends or friends of friends get sick and sicker and then die. And you never ever quit being really really fucking pissed off about the whole thing. I’m alive today due to sheer randomness.’

And another said: ‘If you were living in the Castro in San Francisco, everyone in the neighborhood was gay… So it wasn’t just your friends that were dying, it was your whole neighborhood. One day your mailman would be replaced, the next day that flower shop was gone… You wouldn’t be invited to the funeral, so it was just like people were disappearing.’

‘It was madness. It was terribly cruel,’ another Redditor said. ‘It was inexplicable and unexplained, for a very long time. Research was underfunded, and in many cases large institutions and public figures rooted for it to be happening. People died suddenly of unexplainable things. Toe fungus! Tongue thrush! Rashes. Eyes welling up with blood. Horrible shit.

‘Everyone knew it was hitting gay men, nobody knew what it was. They called it the gay cancer. People were very superstitious. I had handfuls of groceries and man lectured me on not pressing the elevator buttons with my nose because I could catch AIDS from it. Yes. That happened.’

A lesbian of the era said: ‘While I was not ‘at risk’ (per se, we know more these days), we all lost many good friends. It is true that there is a somewhat mystifying (to me) separatist attitude between some gay men and lesbians, especially back then, this tragic time really brought us together.

‘Sitting at the bedside of a terminally ill friend, and just holding their hand when everyone else was just terrified, was a gift I was one of those willing to give.

‘No one should die alone, and no one should be in the hospital on their death beds with family calling to say “this was gods punishment”. My friends and I, men and women, acted as a protective layer for ill friends, and companion to mutual friends juggling the same, difficult reality of trying to be there, and be strong when we were losing our family right and left. Difficult times, that should never be forgotten.’

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Another Redditor paid tribute to the role of lesbians, calling them ‘every bit as heroic as soldiers on the front lines of any war’.

‘These women walked directly into the fire and through it, and they did not have to. And that they did it even as some of the gay men they took care of treated them with bitchiness, scorn, and contempt.

‘It was, at the time, not at all unusual for gay men to snicker as the bull dyke walked into the bar with her overalls and flannels and fades. Much of the time, it was casual ribbing which they took in stride. But it could also be laced with acid, especially when lesbians began gravitating toward a bar that had until then catered largely to men.

‘When the AIDS crisis struck, it would be many of these same women who would go straight from their jobs during the day to acting as caregivers at night. Because most of them lacked medical degrees, they were generally relegated to the most unpleasant tasks: wiping up puke and shit, cleaning up houses and apartments neglected for weeks and months. But not being directly responsible for medical care also made them the most convenient targets for the devastating anger and rage these men felt – many who’d been abandoned by their own family and friends.

‘These women walked directly into the fire. They came to the aid of gay men even when it was unclear how easily the virus could be transmitted. Transmission via needlestick was still a concern, so they often wore two or three layers of latex gloves to protect themselves, but more than once I saw them, in their haste and frustration, dispense with the gloves so that they could check for fevers, or hold a hand that hung listlessly from the edge of a bed whose sheets they had just laundered.

‘They provided aid, comfort, and medical care to men withering away in hospices, men who’d already lost their lovers and friends to the disease and spent their last months in agony. They’d been abandoned by their own families, and were it not for lesbians – many if not most of them volunteers – they would have suffered alone. And when there was nothing more medicine could do for them and their lungs began to fill with fluid, it was often these same women who’d be left to administer enough morphine to release them, given to them by the doctor who had left the room and would return 15 minutes later to sign the certificate (a common practice at the time).

‘I knew a woman around that time who’d had at one point been making bank in construction. But at the outset of the AIDS crisis she had abandoned her career to pursue nursing instead, and was close to her degree when we were hanging out. She was a big, hearty drinker, and fortunately so was I. We’d been utterly thrashed at a bar once when someone whispered a fairly benign but nonetheless unwelcoming comment about her. Middle fingers were exchanged, and afterwards, furious and indignant, I asked her, Why do you do it? Why did you abandon a career to take care of these assholes who still won’t pay you any respect?

‘She cut me a surprisingly severe look, held it and said, “Honey, because no one else is going to do it.” I remember feeling ashamed after that, because my fury and indignation weren’t going to clean blood and puke off the floor; it wasn’t going to do the shit that needed to get done.

‘HIV killed my friends, took my lover from me, and tore up my life. During that time, I did what I could. But nothing I did then or have ever been called to do in my life puts me anywhere near the example set by the lesbians I knew in the 80s and 90s. I’ve felt obligated to remember what they did, and to make sure other people remember it too.’

Complete Article HERE!

One Of The Willie Worrisome

Name: lup92
Gender: Male
Age: 15
Location: England
I’m 15 and masturbate often but have had no form of sex although my girlfriend wants to start. However my penis and scrotum have extremely small lumps all over. I also have a purple red large lump on the rim of my bellend. What do I do? Should I start? Or do I risk giving something to my girlfriend?

A quick note before we begin. I’m a Ph.D. kind of doctor. not MD type of doctor. You know that, right? While I know my way around the human body, I never offer medical advice of any sort. And, just so you know, no self-respecting physician, MD kind of doctor, is gonna offer you medical advice online either without seeing you in person first. Which, if you ask me, is a real good thing.

teen intimacy

Here’s the thing about lumps and bumps and discolorations of the skin anywhere on your body, especially on your precious willie, pup. They are signs that all is not well. Do us all a big favor and have your johnson looked at by a physician. Your health is nothing to fool around with. Everything you describe could be completely harmless, but you don’t want to take the chance that it isn’t, right? And here’s a tip: don’t do it for your girlfriend. DO IT FOR YOU! It’s your dick, you gotta lean how to take care of it. And there’s no time like the present to start properly lookin’ after it.

willy_worryJust so you know, I’m not suggesting that your have a STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection). I mean, how could you? You’ve only been wanking, right? Still, if you’re concerned enough to write to me about it, you should take yourself in for a look-see. Since you are underage, you’ll probably need one of your parents to arrange the appointment. But if you are typical teenager, you’ll probably be embarrassed to discuss this with your parents. Still, there’s no getting around this. I think your parents will be proud of you for being proactive about your health and wellbeing. Besides, there’s nothing to be ashamed about.

Another option is to contact a sex-positive resource near you. Check out the folks at FPA. Surely they’ll have a resource for you.

Please take care of this ASAP.

There is one more thing. And I’m gonna be as blunt as I know how. If you think you’re old enough to fuck, you’re old enough to know all about condoms and how to use them. If ya don’t, you’re just a dumb kid who may function like a grown-up, but doesn’t know how to behave like one. And I don’t want to believe that about you.

What it is with young people (old people too) who are still fuckin’ clueless about unprotected sex in this day and age? I have nothing against younger people being sexual. That pretty much is to be expected. But I am totally opposed to kids having kids! Like I said, if you’re old enough to swing it around, you’re old enough to know how to swing it responsibly.

Good luck

Tricks Of The Trade – Part 2

Today I continue the series I started on Monday.  You will remember from Monday that a friend of mine, who is writing a book about male sexuality for women, asked me if I could be her go-to-guy for a bunch of questions she had about pleasuring a man which she wants to include in her book. I think it is only fair that you, my loyal audience, should get this information before anyone else does.

PORN SECRETS

What are some porn industry secrets to keeping men harder longer while shooting a film? I assume they use editing tricks (like repeating the same shots over and over), Viagra (or other ED drugs). Do they still use fluffers? What else?

Yes, editing, lots and lots of editing!

But nowadays, it’s “better living though chemistry!” No, fluffers are no longer necessary. Pity!

Loads of guys use CAVERJECT.  This will give a guy 8 hours of wood, regardless what he is doing. He could watch his mother get hit by a train and he would still have a boner. As you can imagine, this has nothing to do with being aroused, it’s simply a matter of circulatory mechanics. It’s just one more thing that’s faked in the industry.

For the rest of us mere mortals, I always suggest the use of a cockring. Be sure to check out my tutorial: Cockring Crash Course HERE!

SEX GUILT

I will be discussing sex guilt and its repercussions. As a former Catholic priest, we’re sure you’ve dealt with your fair share of sex guilt either in yourself, your penitents, or your current sex therapy clients.

Yep, in all three!guilt-and-shame

What are some reasons behind sex guilt?

The truth is, there is very little sex related guilt without the accompanying shame. In my opinion, the shame comes first. Someone or some institution instills the sense of shame for the behavior; the individual experiences guilt when he/she engages in the shamed behavior. And, mind you, this stigmatized behavior could be anything from masturbation or eating pork.

How does sex guilt manifest itself?

In many different ways. It’s such a personal experience. For most people guilt reinforces and internalizes the shame that was engendered by someone or some institution outside of the person. (See my comment above.) A common response to sex guilt is hiding, suppressing thoughts and feelings, denying thoughts and feelings, avoiding triggers, or just shutting down. Others punish themselves, which can engender a vicious cycle self-hatred.

However, the most pernicious form of guilt actually reinforces the behavior. Here’s how that works. I do something I’m ashamed of; I feel a deep sense of guilt; then I punish myself for my transgression. This in turn makes the behavior all that more seductively attractive to me, which makes me do the behavior again, all so that I can punish myself again. And, as you can see, the punishment, not the pleasure, becomes the reward. It’s all really very insidious.

How can one overcome their guilt about sex acts?

One starts by unraveling the system that instilled the shame in the first place. One goes back to the source of the shame — church, parents, etc. He/she tries to understand the reason why the shaming was done — protect the sanctity of the body, a means of controlling human urges, etc. Then one demythologizes the shaming. Without shame there’s little to no guilt.

Have you heard these statements and how would you respond to someone who is dealing with these specific issues:
1. A women who go down on a guy is a whore.

I would help the individual see that statements like this are made by people who don’t believe that women should enjoy sex; they shouldn’t be active participants. Sex is for procreation, not pleasure. There’s only one way to have sex—particularly for women—they should be unengaged and passive receptacles, nothing more.cordially invited

2. Men who go down on women are unmanly.

I would help the individual see that this kind of statement is made by people who are trapped in a perverse sex-role stereotype. I mean, who gets to determine what is manly and what isn’t? The one who makes this determination wins the debate, right? Each individual ought to get to decide what is manly, womanly. There is no artificial norm.

3. Anal sex (between straight people) is wrong/dirty/gay.

I would help the individual try to take apart that statement. Wrong? Does that mean there’s a right way? Who gets to determine that? Dirty? Are some parts of the body more wholesome than others? Whose prejudices are at work here? Gay? Why must we demonize this particular class of people? Where do the phobic reactions to same sex behaviors come from? Are they legitimate things to be feared, or are they culturally induced? If they are culturally induced, what was the original motivation? See my response to your question: How can one overcome their guilt about sex acts?

4. The lady/whore complex that straight men may entertain.

Someone set up this dichotomy long before any particular modern straight man bought into it. Who set it up? And why did they set it up? At who’s expense? Who’s sexuality do they fear? Does preserving the male privilege have anything to do with it?

5. Pornography is evil/degrading/terrifying/wrong.

Again, why evil? That’s a throwback to an outmoded cosmology, right? And even if someone decided there is dirty magazinessuch a thing as evil, who gets to decide what evil is? What was evil 100 years ago, or in a different culture, may not be considered evil today, or in another culture. This suggests to me that “evil” is not a universal, but culturally determined. Again, who gets to determine that? And whose prejudices are at work when the determinations are being made? Degrading? Sure, porn can be degrading, but so can working at Walmart! If it is consensual and free of coercion, can it be degrading? And if porn is degrading why is it that we are not as concerned about all the other things that degrade human kind? Terrifying? I think comb-overs are terrifying. Wrong? (See evil above.)

ANAL SEX

Some people argue that the anus can suffer damage and begin to leak with too much anal penetration. Is there any biological basis behind this? Or is it just another “myth”?

Sure, one can injure him/herself with irresponsible penetrations of any orifice. But what is “too much” penetration, anyhow?

Any butt pirate, from the rank amateur to the power bottom, knows the importance of keeping their pelvic musculature in tiptop, no pun intended, shape. This is where Kegel exercises come in handy. Strong and toned PC muscles (pubococcygeus muscle) will allow you to enjoy ass fucking for a lifetime without the heartbreak of springing a leak.

PART 1 of this series HERE!   PART 3 of this series HERE!

Fear, Rage And Lust, A Volatile Concoction

It’s not often that I receive a message from someone that chills me to the bone. But what you are about to read does precisely that. Sadly, my correspondent chooses to remain anonymous, so I can’t address him directly or personally. But, with a little luck, this very unhappy person will return to my site and find the heartfelt response I’ve prepared for him. If not, I fear the worst will happen.

 

I was raised to believe that fornication would ruin my future marriage, and I believed it. But as time went on, and had trouble attracting women since I had social phobia, I noticed that no one else was waiting until marriage. I felt angry, as if I had been betrayed and left behind. As I get older, the possibility of finding a “pure” woman my age dwindles (I’m almost 30 now). I’m still a virgin myself, and fear having sex with a woman my age because she might judge my inexperience and clumsiness. I also fear that she would compare me with other men. I’m now an atheist, and I know these doctrines are wrong, but I can’t stop feeling jealous and depressed knowing that women my age have all loved other men by now, and I’ll probably never be anyone’s first. Is there treatment for this? Or even a name for this condition?

My friend, thank you for reaching out to me. I only wish you had done so in a way that I could communicate directly and personally to you. I will do my level best to be as kind as I can while I address your many-layered problem. But if I wind up being sharp with you, it’s only because I believe the situation demands that I not soft-pedal my advice to you. So here goes.ShameHands

You, sir, are in critical condition! Yes, there is a treatment for what you have and yes, there’s also the name for what you have. You suffer from acute misogyny. And my treatment recommendations are as follows.

You need to be in the care of a skilled professional, one who understands both your religious background and your current sexual malaise. I could be that person for you, but I won’t take on that responsibility through an anonymous exchange like what we’re doing here. Be a man, stand up, identify yourself, and own your shit. This will be your first step toward healing the rift you have between what you desire and what makes you angry and ashamed.

I can’t help but make the comparison between your message to me and those chilling videos made by the UC Santa Barbara shooter before he went on his rampage some weeks ago. Like you, he was motivated by his intense misogyny and his sense of entitlement to sex. And it scares the bejesus out of me that I have you within reach, all lustful and enraged, yet I am unable to help you personally.

RageI want to first address your religious upbringing. And I think I’m qualified to do this because I was a Catholic priest for 20 years, many years ago. As you now can see for yourself you were duped. The fundamentalism you were fed as a youngster has made you into a bit of a monster. It has made you sick with rage and lust and it has also made you as vengeful as the God of the Hebrew Testament. Surely you can see that nothing good can come from this volatile combination.

I call your condition misogyny because your lust and rage is directed toward woman. Somehow you got it in your head that you are entitled to some pussy and that pussy had better be virginal pussy to boot. And if you don’t get what you think is rightfully yours, because this is the birthright of all men, there is gonna be hell to pay.

Listen up, buckaroo; you are not entitled to anything sexual, no one is. You are particularly not entitled to pussy. And plank_in_eyewhoever told you that you are or suggested that you have something coming to you simply because you’re swinging some pipe between your legs is as big a fool as you are for believing that shit. I’m also pretty certain that you got this message right along with your religious indoctrination, which makes it all the more insidious. The curious thing is, I can’t tell if your fundamentalism is Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. And, in the end, I don’t suppose it make much difference. But I am willing to wager every cent I have that it is one of those three. I say that because monotheistic fundamentalism is at its core, misogynistic. The acolytes of the male god of these three traditions have enshrined the male privilege and women have been paying the price for that bullshit for millennia. It has got to stop!

When men, like you, get it in your head that one woman in particular, or all women in general, have deprived you of what is rightly yours, you know someone is gonna get hurt and hurt badly. Curiously, you don’t take yourself to task for your social phobia and awkwardness even though you acknowledge that these are precisely the things that get in the way of you making yourself attractive to the women you desire. Rather, it is somehow the fault of women because they won’t look beyond your loutishness to see the sweet guy beneath your caustic exterior. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be a man.

perception-of-fundamentalismI’m sure glad you identified how fear and bitterness has crippled you. You are afraid that women will judge your inexperience and clumsiness and compare you with their other lovers. Welcome to the real world, my friend. We all make judgments; we all make comparisons. Just look at all the judgments you are making about women. Shame on you for trying to point out the speck in someone else’s eye while you have a plank in your own.

Instead of humbling yourself and asking for the help you need to overcome your social and sexual awkwardness, you project hate and show absolutely no compassion toward the very women who are in the ideal position to help you. What does that say about you?

This lethal concoction of hate, shame, fear, and a sense of sexual inadequacy is what perpetuate the rape culture that plagues our society. You sir, are the problem! And until you acknowledge the fact that you are the agent of your own frustration, and get your shit together, all the women around you should be afraid for their virtue as well as their life.

Another telltale sign of this facacta religious fundamentalism that has poisoned your psyche is your preoccupation with the virginity of your perspective mate. So you want someone “pure,” a woman unsullied by another man, huh? Well then here’s a tip. That kind of purity, if there is indeed such at thing, is reserved for someone equally pure; and I don’t mean sexually inexperienced. You should be pure of heart. And there is nothing pure about your heart. Your rage, shame, and lust defile you and make you base. You are, to use religious language, unclean.Love-Lust

It never ceases to amaze me that people, like you, think sex sullies a person. And yet you crave the very sex that will make you and your prospective partner impure. Believe me when I tell you this; even if you enter a marriage with a virgin, as a virgin, just like religious fundamentalists prescribe, you will come away from your first sexual encounter feeling as defiled as you know your wife will be. That’s because your sexuality is based in shame. Your vocabulary betrays you. No wonder even religious fundamentalist women keep their distance from you. You are like a suicide bomber’s vest, ready to detonate.

One more thing, you are definitely not an atheist. And no amount of you saying that you are will make it so. What you are is a disgruntled religious fundamentalist. I mean I completely understand why you are livid. You’ve been consistently lied to about sex and you never learned anything about love. Besides atheists don’t need any more angry doctrinaire lugheads, like you. They have plenty of those already. In fact, it’s often difficult to tell religious fundamentalists apart from atheistic fundamentalists these days. Everyone is so fuckin’ pissed off all the time.

misogynyHere’s my prescription for getting better. Start working with someone who will help you shed the terrors of your religious upbringing and who will show you the way to embrace a more caring and loving God? I think we both know that you will always be a theist; luckily you get to decide what kind of god will be your god.

Start working with someone who will help you heal the rift you have between what you desire and what makes you angry and ashamed. This will make you a happier person, a better person too. You will, in time, learn that sexuality is gift, not a weapon and certainly not an entitlement. You might even learn how to approach women as your equal, to honor them, not denigrate them. And if you give this therapy the time and effort it deserves you will no longer be jealous and depressed. And hell, you might even get laid.

Good luck

Pesky Pronouns

Name: Lynn
Gender: Female
Age: 19
Location: Eugene, OR
I have a friend who is driving me (us) crazy. She is my age and we’ve been best friends since grade school. Last year I came out to her as a lesbian and she was very supportive and loving. This year it’s her turn. She cut her hair really short and now only wears men’s clothes. Thing is, she’s not gay, or lesbian. In fact, she doesn’t have a boyfriend or a girlfriend. As far as I know she’s still a virgin. She told me that she’s gender queer. I was like, OK cool. Then she changed her name and wanted all her friends to call her by her new gender-neutral name. I was like, OK cool. Now she wants us to use gender-neutral pronouns—they, their, and them when referring to “her.” This just sounds dumb. I want to be loving and supportive of her, like she was for me, but I don’t understand what’s going on. It’s like this whole thing is an act, like she is trying to see how much attention she can get. A lot of our friends have just given up on her, but I don’t want to do that. At the same time it’s like she’s mocking our trans friends who have real gender concerns. Am I being a dick for not wanting to go along with this?

Curious word choice there, young lesbian Lynn. Are you being a dick? Hell, I don’t know. What I can say for certain is, if we were being totally politically correct, we wouldn’t use euphemisms for our genitals in a derogatory way, right? Luckily, I’m not the least bit PC as you will discover from my comments below.gender-fuck

The question you raise in your email is a thorny one and I’m not sure I know how to respond. Gender is the new hot button issue and it is rapidly becoming the litmus test for PC crowd. As you suggest, it sometimes looks as though some folks are just trying to get attention or see how much the traffic will bear.

I’m going to be pretty self-referential in my response because I feel like I’ve been here before. Let me explain.

When I was about your age and into my early 20’s the modern gay lib movement here in the US was just finding its footing. Stonewall had just happened and those of us on the sexual fringe were tying to come up with a new vocabulary with which to talk about ourselves. No one I knew liked the term homosexual for obvious reasons. Some of us, myself included, preferred the term, homophile. The difference being one was about loving, the other was about sex. That term didn’t catch on, but “gay” sure did. I was fine with that, even though it wasn’t my first choice. As I began to take a closer look at my sexual orientation and identity, I became a bit more radical; gay just didn’t cut it anymore. I began to embrace the term “queer.”

look!When I was a boy, the term queer, often directed at me because I wasn’t like the other boys, was hate-filled and hurtful. It stung and I was ashamed. By my mid 20’s, however, I was no longer ashamed. In fact, I was full of a new found fervor that was connected to my new found identity as a sexual outlaw. I know for certain that my radicalness was a little off-putting to some people, even people who wanted to love and support me.

After I passed through my militancy stage, I continued to use the term queer to describe myself as a way of showing the world that I had reclaimed and detoxified the word that once brought me shame. It became my own personal badge of honor.  Maybe you’ve had a similar ark in your coming out, Lynn.

The curious thing is I’ve lived long enough to see the term I fought so hard to reclaim morph yet again. Nowadays, when someone self-identifies as queer, more often than not, it has to do with gender; it no longer has a strong sexual connotation. I feel a little bummed about this because one of my favorite words has been coopted by another group of people.  But that’s the nature of language, right?Gender-Outlaws6

Over the decades since I first began to struggle with who I was and how I would talk about myself to others, I’ve seen numerous fracturing of the solidarity we sexual outlaws might have had. There was a virulent strain of lesbian separatism that cropped up in the mid 70’s. But most of that has dissipated since. And there was the radicalism that came with HIV/AIDS, which turned quiet, unassuming, cocktail sipping homos into fearless street fighters. That too has played itself out. In fact, now that marriage equality is all the rage, some of us old queers are asking if it’s still possible to be a sexual outlaw by just being gay. I fear not. Apparently, gender benders are the new sexual outlaws. OK, my time has past; I get it. I have no hard feelings, but I do have a wistfulness for days gone by.

It’s also been my experience that some of us, and I include my younger self in this category, have an uncanny ability to alienate loads of people with our politics. That can be a good thing, but radicalism can, and often does, alienate those who would naturally be our allies as well as some of those who struggle next to us. There’s nothing more devastating to a popular movement than having a bunch of edgier-than-thou folks setting themselves up as the thought police. When this happens, as it always does, it suggests to me that we are more interested in making a point than making a connection. This is a particularly acute problem for the newly liberated crowd, often found on college campuses. They are flush with indignation as they discover that life is not fair. They tend to use the scattergun approach when doling out their fury regardless if those around them are deserved of their wrath or not.

fuck genderThe current incarnation of the gender liberation movement suffers from a lot of the excesses that other liberation movements have experienced before it—intolerance and dogmatism among them. The thing is, gender-fuck has a long history and an honored place in sexual politics. However, in the past, this has mostly expressed itself in street theater. Nowadays, there is precious little humor among the new gender warriors, and very few of these zealots can laugh at themselves. That tells me we’re all in for a very rough ride ahead.

I know how important a shift in vocabulary is to making the dominant culture see its oppression, but the pronoun thing is just awkward. For one thing, there’s no agreement on what pronouns to use for those who are rallying for gender neutrality. Some people militate for they, their, and them. Others want the even more extreme “ze,” pronounced as the letter zee. And “hir,” pronounced here. As in, “Ze went to the store and bought hirself an ice cream cone.” Well, if you wanna do that to the language go right ahead, but I refuse!

Besides, are we just supposed to use these twisted pronouns when the gender warrior is in our company, or are we to alter our vocabulary even when they aren’t around? Try using they, their, and them when referring to someone who isn’t present. Confusion will reign.gender neutral pronouns

Lynn, I don’t know your friend so I can hardly make a call on whether your friend is being authentic, disingenuous, or histrionic. But I don’t think you should beat yourself up if you draw the line at a pronoun shift. If your friend takes offense, as well your friend might, you could always compromise and use no pronouns ever in relation to your friend. Simply use your friend’s chosen name each time a pronoun might serve you better. In time, this will surely get exhausting for both you and your friend. But maybe this exercise will help your friend see that you are not the enemy and maybe your friend will then cut you a little slack.

Good luck

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