Surfing on the web lately I've seen that ad space on many gay-themed sites has been dominated by a really effective "protect yourself"-ish campaign from Harlem United Community AIDS Center. Although Harlem United's page has a pretty mellow (okay, maybe a little lame) site that seems designed for easily intimiated old people, the landing page for the ad campaign ( has a wholly Manhunt-esque vibe that talks explicitly and quite colloquially about sex and sexually transmitted infections.

See below the cut for some examples (NSFW):

- HIV Loves Tops
- Tom, Dick & Harry
- Top, Bottom, Vers

(All of the banners are also viewable on the Man-Find site. If your browser has Flash installed, you should be able to open these files directly through your your browser.)

I really applaud the Community Center for not only having the guts to really do something much more explicit than their other, more innocuous web presence in order to reach certain gay subcommunities...but also for rectifying some heresay about the spread of HIV. Most sex-ed campaigns will just advise "be safe!". I feel like those campaigns, for some groups of people, have kind of lost their effectiveness. Where gay identity has divided into many, many subcommunities, the simple "be safe" is not as effective -- certain subgroups of gays have justified unsafe practices because they might identify with a subgroup they think is not at risk. Take a look at the "HIV Loves Tops" ad above -- just because research shows that tops can catch some STI's less frequently than bottoms does not mean that they shouldn't practice safe sex.

I also think that it's really quite great that dating/sex web sites for gay people are now really becoming public spaces. It used to be that sites like Manhunt and were used because they were good places for closeted people to hook up without too much risk that they would be exposed. Not so much the case anymore. I'm all for creating safe spaces for people who are closeted to work through their issues, but when it comes to sex and safe sexual practice, I just can't see from a social policy perspective how an environment like that is really good for mental and bodily health.

The explosion of acceptable dating sites for straight people -- and particularly's advertising campaign that paints their service as not just a site for relationships but also quite explicitly for sex) -- makes a list of individuals' online images and actions more of a public commodity with each passing day. People have to recognize that almost all of their online activity, with a little work, can be exposed. I think that his exposure can create more opportunities to educate people for the better, like with the AIDS Center's ad campaign.

I understand that exposing communities to a critical public eye can allow all sorts of bad things to happen when the public doesn't like you, but maybe I'm optimistically naive in thinking that this could be really good.

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It surprises me to still hear gay men talk about HIV and say things like, “but you don’t look positive”, or “you don’t look sick”, or my personal favorite, “Oh, I can usually tell just by looking if someone has it or not”. We probably all have our own preconceived notion about what the ‘typical’ HIV-positive person looks like. Before becoming positive myself, the mental picture I naively painted tended to be an older, mustachioed gay man, very skinny, wearing mostly leather, and involved in the types of drugs and sexual adventure that I was too scared to consider. Oh, and don’t forget about the poppers… my HIV-positive mental-man was a total popper fiend.

In all seriousness, a trained physician that specializes in treatment of HIV/AIDS can sometimes spot signs of opportunistic infections, drug therapy side-affects, or other conditions such as wasting in advanced cases of the illness. But most gay men don’t have this training and most HIV-positive men do not have any outward appearance that would indicate infection, even to the trained professional. HIV-positive folks can be very young, very old, and every age in-between. They come from every race, religion and ethnic background. And most of the HIV-positive gay men I speak with appear completely healthy.

A common misconception, especially among younger gay men, is to think that HIV is mostly a disease of older gay men, using statistics that indicate a higher infection rate among older gay men to give them a false sense of security when dating other young gay men. In terms of absolute total numbers that statistic is indeed true (the longer you live, the more chance of being exposed), but that should not give anyone a false sense of security. This statistic from the CDC should encourage younger readers to challenge this dangerous assumption:

“In the 13-to-24-year-old group, the average annual increase was 12 percent (newly diagnosed with HIV infection), compared with a 1 percent decline in 25-to-44-year-olds, and a 3 percent rise in gay men 45 and older.”

The article also implies that younger gay men have not had an opportunity to witness the serious consequences of HIV/AIDS. Most did not grow up seeing friends waste away and die around them, like those living in gay communities in the 1980s.

HIV should not be viewed as just another nuisance condition that can be easily treated by simply popping a pill. It’s not necessarily the death-sentence it was just 15 years ago, but it’s not a walk in the park either. It can be emotionally devastating, extremely expensive to treat and future progression of the disease, even with the fabulous new medications, is indefinite and full of potential health issues.

How could that sweet, innocent looking 18 year old boy possibly be HIV-positive? Well, maybe he’s not the complete virgin you think he is. In fact, maybe he’s the pass-around-party-bottom, just off the plane from a party week in Palm Springs, and just can’t get enough cock. He hasn’t ever been tested, so as he gazes at you with those big doe eyes and bats those long lashes at you, he’ll say with complete confidence, “I’m negative”.

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(Cross-posted in part from The Mongoose Chronicles. Possible spoilers inside.)

Over at my place today, I'm discussing Star Trek the film, and to what extent it lives up to expectations, where they exist.

I focus on the character Uhura, played by Zoe Saldana, of whom I was glad to see the following: she was a top cadet; she was assertive and didn't feel cowed by her relationship with Spock into being shoved aside in the interest of propriety; we were told exactly what she did on the ship instead of her just seeming like a random ensign with a receptionist's headset (the original Uhura was a communications officer before being promoted to Lt. Comm. and then Commander, but somehow, in those early episodes, she seemed like an intergalactic receptionist to me. Her presence was, of course, nonetheless important for the visibility of black actors and reinforcement of black culture in the 1960s - reasons that extended beyond the confines of the story) and she got to use those skills in saving the galaxy and all that.

Here's what I wasn't so thrilled about: she was a role, not a character. Uhura, I felt, had one dimension. She was to be the woman in the film who was not maternal, and was to represent another part of womanness: the fearless, educated, unimpressed-by-random-flattery type of woman. And she did all that; that is, she stood, in one dimension, as that. But she did so without having her character well developed. She was really a paper tiger; and I didn't actually mind her stripping down scene and the fact that she wore miniskirts. I felt it was real. Women high-achiever types are also sexual and attractive: that's fine. In fact, that's great. But at the end of it all, she was really just Spock's girlfriend, wasn't she? And that worked well for Spock's character - it made him seem reachable and helped make us care about him. But Uhura as an individual fairly disappeared into yet another woman who, like Kirk's and Spock's mothers, was just rooting for a man to survive. And I get the impression that any individuality we saw was all about Zoe Saldana: about her great screen presence as an actor, and not so much about the dialogue, depth and direction given to the character that had been envisioned as Uhura.

Thank goodness for Roddenberry's initial creation that we even have this fairly strong character - even if she is more caricature that character - at all. The first significant woman character we see, Kirk's mother, is giving birth to the eventual saviour of humanity; indeed this seems the point of her rescue. And the other main woman character is Spock's mother, who carries the shame of having given birth to a half-breed, and appears in cloak and shadow, also later having to be rescued, and then perishing. The women in the Star Trek film, then, are, in the main, supporters of and overshadowed by heroic men. And one can only hope that in any movie sequels from this point, they become unstuck from this predictable and wholly unimpressive dynamic.

Afro-diosa joins us from The Mongoose Chronicles.

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I <3 iTunes!!!


Snaps to iTunes for getting it together.

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It took me a good amount of time for me to gather my thoughts on how to continue this series on sexual racism in the gay community. This is the second post in a series of undetermined length of posts on my personal journey attempting to navigate the circuitous politics of race and attraction in the gay community. Read part I here. Without further ado, here's part II:

It is New Year's Eve in New York City, and "new" is definitely the word du jour. It's a night of many firsts: My first New Year's in the City; my first New Year's with friends and not family; my first New Year's drunk. My roommate has dragged me to a party being thrown by his rich boyfriend and his equal parts loud, drunk, and obnoxious friends. The Bridge and Tunnel crowd pack the SoHo brownstone to the brim as they clamor for more alcohol at the open bar. Not even the disdainfully privileged surroundings of Yuppie excess could quell this feeling of anticipation and excitement at the prospect of a new year, a page turned, a fresh slate. As I said my farewells to 2008, I bade adieu to the Bush Administration, to my life as a student, to unemployment, and... to the last link in my long chain of relationships with Rice Queens.

2009 promised to be a year full of opportunity, driven by my personal mandate to initiate the Sticky Revolution: an act of radical anti-racism by rejecting colonialism and supporting my community of fellow Gay Asian men through deliberate valorization of a de-valued and disenfranchised group. Asians dating Asians - the quintessential "f- you" to Euro-centric beauty standards and fetishists. We don't need your validation, mainstream gay culture. We are a self-sustaining nation of queer Asian fierceness! And we don't need nor want your approval.

Filled with the vigor imbued by my quest for racial justice, I set out to find my partner-in-crime, my brother-in-arms, my comrade, my fellow radical queer Asian freedom fighter. I ditch the SoHo party and made my way to one of my regular haunts, a gay bar in Hell's Kitchen. Into the mouth of the lions' den, I thought to myself as I flashed my ID to the bouncer. Not five minutes into wading through this very standard gay bar for the young, the white, and the restless, I found myself deflecting the attention of two bar regulars. White, skinny, and pretty; the pair always seems to be there when I show up. Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum always insist on greeting me with a high pitched "Clarence!" Clarence, I eventually discovered, is their Asian roommate to whom I allegedly bear a resemblance. Clearly, we are the same person, interchangeable, and therefor it is completely acceptable to call us by the same name.

Undeterred, I made my way to the dance floor. Sweaty and numbingly loud, I started moving to the music, trying to lose myself in it. Having devoted a good portion of my college career to dance, I have always viewed the act as a profoundly cathartic experience. What better place to excise my past self than the heart of the malfeasance? Then, like some cheesy scene in one of those insufferable dance flicks, our eyes meet through the crowd.

He is tall, handsome, and most importantly, Asian. With a strange sense of fate, the crowd parts allowing us to meet. No words are spoken at first, we just dance. (Yes, I am aware of how corny this is... stay with me, I promise it's worth it.) I eventually get his name (Tim), and his number. We dance for a while before parting. I leave the bar that night filled with pride. I have taken the first steps in my Sticky Revolution.

Fast forward a month, and Tim and I have been dating for a few weeks. He's a former soldier, Filipino-American from Upstate New York. He grew up and army brat and followed in his father's footsteps in joining the army. He served for several years in Korea and elsewhere before receiving an injury which disqualified him from service. Discharged honorably, he found himself in New York City, sleeping on a friend's couch and trying to make ends meet with a job bar bussing. He's funny, refreshingly different from me, and on top of it all, he's quite the looker. Almost too good looking. I don't believe my luck! I'm by no means top-tier in the looks department, so bagging the hot Asian-American army-vet-turned-artist seems all too perfect. My Sticky Revolution had started off without a hitch! Or so I thought...

It's late and we're on one of our usual dates: a bar crawl. He likes to dance and easily becomes bored, so I constantly find myself hopping from one club to the next, in pursuit of that increasingly evasive good vibe. The date hasn't gone particularly well. It's the first time we've gone out with my friends, and he's been distant all night. Disappearing for ten, fifteen minutes at a time, chatting up other guys in front of me, acting very dismissive of my presence; I'm taken aback by the change in his character. My friend who joined us earlier in the night informs me that he's trying to make me jealous and want him more: ensuring that I know that being with him is a privilege, not a right. I'm in a sour mood and he can tell. As we sit in the cab on the way to our next destination he asks me a question on a topic I have been dreading: race.

"So, what kind of guys do you usually go for?" comes the thinly veiled inquisition on my racial preferences. Heck, I've used that line when I try and sniff out fetishists. Isn't it enough that I'm clearly into you?! I think to myself.

"Oh, you know... I don't know, I don't really have a type. It's more about a guy's personality that I'm attracted to." I respond, attempting to dodge the question.

He presses further, "No, but you've gotta have a type. Tell me about your exes. I don't know anything about them."

Who is this guy? Exes are the last thing I want to be talking about. "Well..." I pause, considering how to bring up my problematic dating history, "My type is kind of all over the place. I've dated a lot of different kinds of guys." I can tell by the look in his eyes this is an unsatisfactory answer, "I used to date a lot of rice queens, but I'm kind of done with white guys for now."

As the words leave my mouth, I want to stuff them back inside.

"Oh, so is that what this is about?" He asks almost with a snicker, as if he knows that he's caught me in some kind of trap. "Are you just going to go back to white guys after you're done with me?"

I can hardly believe this is happening. The same paranoia I felt when dating white men, was being aimed squarely back at me. What could I say? In some way, yes, I sought out Tim because of his race. It proved to be an important quality in my search for a relationship free from racial tension and power imbalance. I had never been with an Asian guy, and it was an experience I had avoided for too long. I have always viewed having a healthy attraction to Asian men was a way for me to personally find beauty in myself; but it was far from the most defining part of his identity I was attracted to. I thought that I was doing something good: radically resisting a racist society by celebrating what the hegemonic culture discards and abhors. But with the tables suddenly turned, had I become everything that drove me to this point?

Moreover, is this part of the self-hatred that has been ingrained in our Asian American minds? The idea of dating another Asian guy seems to require some cognitive leap, some justification, for seeking out a relationship with an Asian man. Do white people have this dilemma when approached with prospective partner of the same race? Do white people question whether their white partner's desires for them is motivated by race?

This would be the last time I would see Tim. To this day I wonder what spurred his comments. I had never mentioned his race while we dated. Nor had I discussed my personal divorce from the colonial schema of the rice queen. Was he responding to some unspoken offense I had committed? Had he dated Asian men before me? Was this uncharted territory for him as well? I can't help but wonder if perhaps we were both more alike than either of us realized. Driven apart by our mutual suspicions.

to be continued...?

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Kids in our Hood

I think a lot about how kids interact with the world. They've certainly got a lot to deal with -- not only with regard to (re)fashioning their identities along society's pretty intense and panoptically-imposed rules about gender and sexuality, but they have to do all of this while integrating in schools. I think that kids, in some way, understand that these educational institutions are where they will be, in more ways than one, stratified and sorted into adulthood.

I've been reading some research lately about single sex schools, and it's really very interesting. I'm not at all opposed to single sex schools; I think that they may in some ways be a very, very productive space for certain students. I'm also starting to think, with regard to boys and boys' education, that they may be a curious kind of answer to some of the most dismantling aspects of hegemonic masculinity plaguing Western society. Here's why:

When boys are educated with girls in the same school I think that gender issues become much more difficult to identify and address. While teachers can do a great deal to manage gender disparities in the classroom, to identify bad hegemonically masculine behaviors and rectify issues, I think that hegemonically masculine behaviors often manifest de facto -- the teacher can't hear every conversation and manage every interaction students have. In (certain) single sex schools, I think that the fact that they are all boys allows teachers to teach and discipline as if they are all masculine individuals, naturally subject to the rugged and turbulent rules of a potentially violent masculinity. Teachers might be more strict with boys in certain ways; they might run them til' they're tired outside, they might integrate stories about sports and athletics into curriculum. In doing so, they play to the rules of hegemonically masculine behaviors, and because of that might actually achieve great success in schooling. When kids are raised at a young age to idealize hegemonic masculine ideals, they respond to schooling methods aimed at boys with those identities.

So a) I can't really prove any of this, but maybe it would be a fun research project some day. But b) I notice, from talking with parents with young kids, that boys by the age of 4 are much quieter than girls. Parents are confused as to why their sons inexplicably become anxious or unsociable, and try to explain the curious difference through biological naturals. I think it could be something more than that. I think it's a sign of boys struggling to refashion themselves into boys, into boys that become men.

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