Gay Net: Widening the Rift?
Because of their large populations, big cities tend to polarize communities. This is especially true of the gay and lesbian community, rallied around desire for one's own sex and its social and political implications. If left-handed, Native American, two-spirit women who play tennis really turn you on, there's a support group for you somewhere. (No phone calls, please.) Organizations like New York City's Gay and Lesbian Community Center combat this drift by providing an umbrella organization for an increasingly diverse constituency: What do we call it now? Gay-Lesbian-Bisexual-Transgendered-Questioning-Transparent-Curious-Hip-Unleaded?No such diaspora exists on the Net. A few Web sites are produced by a number of grassroots organizations coming together; more often, they're created either by individuals looking for others like themselves, or by Netsharks that smell cyber chum. Links between Web sites create the illusion of community, though they're more like address books or people pointing each other out at a party.There are many fracture points among queers, not the least of which are race, class, and gender. The more subcategories of identity become of paramount importance to the individual, the more the trend shows itself on the Web and the closer we get to a day when we're all posting to our own personal home pages and putting the world on read-only.Two Web sites directed primarily toward gay men, both operating out of Southern California, exemplify the way utopian visions of race, class, and gender on the Internet can actually widen the rift between queer tribes.The Homie Pages of BLK, a publication chronically on hiatus due to lack of funds, greet you with a satin background straight out of a malt liquor ad, behind an upper-torso shot. Even so, the content that awaits is super-responsive to the basic needs of gays and lesbians of color. You probably won't see its listings of GB organizations and events worldwide anyplace else, including everything from Nigeria's "Gentlemen Alliance" to London's "Light Skinned and Mixed Race Black Lesbian Group." (I wonder if they have their own Web site.) Its equally international club listings have a rating system based on negritude -- **** equals All black, *** for Mostly black, ** means Significantly black, * is Somewhat black -- that would come in handy if applied in other ways: to movies, perhaps, or individuals.The copious props to organizations and news of interest to gay Af-Ams all seem better organized and better written than the magazine that spawned the Web site. And they don't fall into the common mainstreaming trap of taking the sex out of homosexuality. After all, a large portion of the gay media's profits come from porn and phone-sex lines. Though compartmentalized in pages called "Black Men and Women Unplugged," BLK's site nevertheless devotes pages to "Andre's Zone," a place for pictures and contact info for the magazine's private dancer/mascot/'ho, Andre Bolla. They also run a list of recommended porno movies, some with politically questionable titles: Mocha Madness, Sweaty Menz in the Shower, and -- she's not making this shit up -- Big Watermelon.The most charming and, I daresay, loose element of the BLK Web site (aside from Andre Bolla) is its media critic cum nightlife reporter DeWan, whose Negro meets Musto impression, "On the Go With DeWan" finds him reading Little Richard -- as "Miss Richard" -- in one paragraph and describing his friend's birthday parties the next. In a tirade against "white themes" in parties and films like White Squall, he coins a phrase I can't wait to steal: "Those spoiled white boys and their whiny problems are enough to make you seasick; drown, puppies, drown!"Attracting the canines in question is the mission of Club Extreme, an exclusive network of "masculine gay men" in Southern California. Set your pointer and the Club Extreme manifesto appears, along with photos suggesting the ideals of its membership: white gay Dubermenschen with zero body fat, in pastoral yet erotic poses that suggest the Greco-Roman roots of Western civilization itself. "You are a modern Renaissance man," the text reads. "You love being a man -- and just doing guy things."At the helm of this project is someone who calls himself "Jack Danger," who has created this virtual men's club as a "positive alternative to the bar and club scene." As he states: "I am not a political activist. You will not see me waving flags, marching and chanting." The letters in his "in box" tell tales of shot-putters who don't want to give up their beers with the guys but feel alienated and lonely, and men who want to live a more "normal lifestyle."Whereas BLK emerged as a forum for a racial and political identity, Club Extreme was founded out of disdain for an existing community, the frustration of the closet, and adherence to conservative constructions of masculinity. The identification with macho -- and the corresponding need to exclude the feminine -- is no different than in heterosexuality; if anything, it may be worse in gay society, which can disregard women entirely. This exclusionary impulse cancels out the possibility of a link with BLK online. What can self-respecting pomo afro homos say to "straight-acting" gay men who feel as if they've been cast into a sea of nelly queens? Drown, puppies, drown.Club Extreme http://www.primenet.com/**Tdanger/indexn.htmlBLKhttp://www.blk.com/blk/