“What a piece of work is man” Hamlet asserts in a sentiment newly vivified by the musical Hair. “How noble in reason.” Surely the phrase refers not only to mankind as a whole, but also to the individual. Complicated though we may be, gay men are certainly a “piece of work.” Contradicted by society, yet mainstreamed into something akin to an ethnic group; lumped together with lbq and t, yet stereotyped as party boy horndogs; seen by anthropologists as uniquely able to serve the greater good, but banned from military service , adoption, marriage and in some countries still simply outlawed – the place of the contemporary gay male seems to be no more certain than before 1969’s Stonewall Riot. Visible, yes …perhaps. But how noble in reason are the after-hours gatherings and online hookup? There is much more to being gay, or bi or straight!
Unlike true “ethnic groups,” most gay boys do not grow up with gay parents. There are no traditional cultural standards that the rest of the family share. A gay boy is alone in his experience – except for other gay men. We learn from each other – sometimes happily, sometimes the hard way – but we learn. Where once we had to lurk in questionable places to find one another, our “culture” has learned to look online for connections. So it has become easy to find gay sex and porn on the internet, but where is that community of truly adult men, sharing and co-operating to forge a healthy gay society? Where does a young “queer boi” go for reliable information, advice and true friendship?
For the Boy Who Was Me
I remember being 13 – hell, lots younger than that – and being full of questions about sexuality and trying to understand my own feelings. It wasn’t easy to sort out when my father informed me that “oral” meant “talking about it” and referred to gay people as being “bent.” Even among supposedly liberal Peace Corps folks it seemed there was still a love that dared not speak its name. The only role model in the mass media was Jodie Dallas of Soap, so I desperately looked for answers in the advice columns of my father’s Penthouse magazines or grandfather’s books like Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask – which assured me that all gay men were cross dressers. Furthermore, you could tell a man was gay because he would watch your lips when you talked instead of looking you in the eye.
Well, I thought, not me! What I was, was… well, I just didn’t know! The word “bisexual” did not even exist for me until high school. The concept of gay love, as in real and meaningful same-sex relationships, practically had to be force fed. It seems no amount of globe trekking can completely erase strong Midwestern roots.
As it turned out, I did fit in to the gay world. If only I had seen the FAQ “I’m gay, now what?” when I was a teen. Men4Men.com® is for that boy, seeking to find his place in our strange “ethnic group.”
For Ira and Josh
Thank God for the freedom of adulthood! Once away from High School and family my own pre-electronic social network grew and at 18 I found two wonderful gay friends. One was twice my age at 36, the other was twice his age at 72. Josh and Ira spent their youthful years in 1970s Castro and 1940s New York City respectively. Their perspectives on life, love and sex were nourishing to my hungry spirit. Josh spoke of a land and time where gay men were brazen, prideful and ran the show. Ira assured me that despite the crazy people in the world everything was going to be all right. This advice helped greatly as life began to heap on challenges perhaps unique to gay men in the 1980s. So it is in their honor that Men4Men.com® carries forth a tradition of social cohesion.
My freshman year I had the dubious distinction of being in love with the first poor boy to fall to HIV at my college. At first the school administrators told me not to speak with anyone about it. I thought I was going to die and there was no place to turn for help! But that gave way and in 1987 I helped to organize the first press conference in the State of Florida to address AIDS, attended by Barney Frank, and helped to set up education programs for all USF students. The phrase Silence=Death emerged at that time, and it can be interpreted in many ways.
So many voices have been silenced. An entire generation of role models and other resources have been lost, and Men4Men.com® is also a response to that missing component of our culture.
Sadly, it seems that coming out and “mainstreaming” has not been enough to create a healthy gay norm. The media glorifies youth and sex and a party lifestyle that is more fitting with the 90s than current economic and social conditions. For many of us there is a disconnect so egregious that it becomes unbearable. Although he survived everything else, the prospects for a well-off and handsome spirit named Bart seemed overwhelming as he became older and grew away from the supposed “ideal.” In the end he took his own life, a tragedy that might have been averted if there had been a place where he could find support and community. Men4Men.com® is for men like Bart who are looking for more community as we age and change.
For Clayton & Milaine
In rural Michigan a young gay boy was having a bad day prompting his teacher to ask “What’s wrong?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
“It’s about your boyfriend, isn’t it?” Much to Clayton’s surprise, the teacher did understand! “You know,” she continued, “my oldest son is gay, and he has been in a relationship for over twenty years. So I am sure, whatever it is, you can work it out.” Her words helped the young man through his troubles, but later she said “I wish there was a web site I could send him to where he could learn about being gay from people in the community – a safe place that is not just about sex and hook-ups.” Men4Men.com® is just such a place, dedicated to Clayton, his teacher and men and women of all ages who struggle to find their place in a confusing and often unfriendly world. It’s also dedicated to those teachers, family (like my own Mom) and others who want to help their loved ones through their struggles.
Men4Men.com® started out as a BBS chat room back in 1992 and the domain name was registered for the BBS operator “Topher.” With the web came much better chat and email, and it looked like Gay.com and other sites would fill the void. Meanwhile, Topher moved away and the domain name Men4Men.com® fell into my lap where it has been held in trust all these years. While it may take the sophistication of a cave man to make money with smut, that easy route was simply not the right one. Now it is time to use the domain to the greatest potential, and so Men4Men.com® is a place for gay men of all ages to communicate, share and grow a healthy community.
Most of all, Men4Men.com® is for you, dear reader. We hope you will find answers to the questions that you have about sex, relationships, society and your own body and mind. We invite you to share your own thoughts about our articles and essays and help each other to grow and contribute to our queer “ethnic” group.
What kinds of things should Men4Men.com® focus on? That is partially up to you. We welcome bloggers and writers to share their views of the gay world: places, people, ideas and experiences. We welcome you to join the community and engage in an adult discourse – intercourse in its’ highest meaning. Your experiences and your perspectives are important and may just be the words another man needs to hear. Join the conversation at Men4Men.com® and be a part of the community today!
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