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November 14, 2011

I Bid Thee, Adieu! (And My Greatest Hits)
FILED UNDER: "Trevor's Work"
TAGS: bloggingHIV / AIDSpublic healthsocial justice
By Trevor

As is almost certainly apparent to everyone, I have stopped blogging here. There are a number of reasons for it, but mostly boil down to me not having much more to say about gay men's health. Yes, there continue to be fucked up things happening out there, like SFWeekly's recent "coverage" of bareback sex parties in San Francisco (someone really needs to fire that "reporter"). But c'mon. You know what I'm going to say. I know what I'm going to say. It's all song and dance at this point.

Quite simply, my interests have moved away from public health and towards social justice. I no longer believe at heart in promoting public health. So much of that work has been co-opted by moral behavioralists who believe the solution to HIV is to pathologize, scold, rinse and repeat. There are still those out there who believe in linking disease to inequality, poverty, homophobia, and larger, more structural and social factors. But they are the minority. They don't get funded. Yes, CDC and other organizations put up with listening to them -- and occasionally cite concepts developed by them (fundamental causes, for instance). But the DEBI machine just keeps on pushing forward, despite countless reasons to abandon that funding structure -- the least of which is that it is entirely patronizing and utterly ridiculous. Who actually follows DEBIs they way they say they do? They don't. But they report that they did to get the money. The researchers get their faulty "evidence" to back up the untenable claims of their "intervention," and the CBOs get their money. It's disgusting. There's no other word for it.

I believe public health is not the only end out there worth fighting for. We lose sight of that sometimes, I think, when we get caught up in HIV work. We don't even have to look outside of HIV to find injustice worth making a muck about. HIV-positive people are being thrown in jail left and right in this country under laws that were passed mostly in the 1980s to allegedly promote disclosure. There has been a surge of interest in repealing and/or amending these statutes to prevent their further abuse (see examples here, here, here), and this work is far more exciting and interesting to me than squabbling over whether gay men deserve to be trusted to make informed decisions about risk.

This is where my work will continue. Perhaps one day I may blog again on that issue or another, but not now. I'm in my fifth year here at Michigan, working on my dissertation on how Michigan public officials enforce the state's HIV disclosure law. I'm thrilled about where this work is taking me. I'm happy to continue answering questions by e-mail, but this blog will in the coming weeks be archived and the comments system will be dismantled (though previously posted comments will remain).

Happy trails! It's been a glorious few years here on the blog. I'll miss it. Thanks for reading. Thanks for helping me to think through so many issues I've posted about.

In honor of this final goodbye, here's a look back at some of my favorite pieces over the years. Ah, memories! So many good times. And some bad ones too!

From 2005:

Rehnquist Hospitalized, Bush to Take Over World (July 14)

I am a Political Scientist. What the hell does that mean? (July 28)

My FIRST Day as a Graduate Student (August 26)

Online Racial Power Disparities (August 28)

Why I Left the NC Fellows Program (September 8)

The Surreal Life, San Fran Style (October 16)

Creating Change Conference '05 (November 14)

From 2006:

Misogyny and Gay Men (January 22)

"Against Health" Conference (October 13)

Frustrated with San Francisco (October 29)

The Death of Fiscally Conservative Repubs, and the Rise of Libertarian Dems (October 30)

Feminist/Queer/Man: Dialoguing on Gender

From 2007:

LGBTI Health Summit - Philadelphia (March 17)

Beyond Identity Politics? (May 19)

Toronto = Fabulous (October 7)

Longtime Companion, Early AIDS Movies, and Mentorship (October 25)

What I'm Thankful For, 2007 (November 20)

Questions of Trans-Inclusion and Identity (December 3)

A Lovely Time in Mexico! (December 17)

From 2008:

Creating Change '08: Mourning / Celebration (February 10)

Making it Work: Mobilizing Gay and Lesbian Identities in the 21st Century (February 12)

Where's the Pleasure in Gay Sex? (February 16)

On the Staph Debate and the Swiss AIDS Study (February 17)

Barebacking and XTube: A Window Into Our Sex Lives (February 22)

Gay Men's Health Leadership Academy: Day 1 / Day 2 / Day 3 (March 22-24)

Gay.com Conversations on Race: Part One / Part Two (April 1-2)

HIV Prevention Politics in Detroit (April 17)

The Gayest Podcast in Michigan - Episode 2a: Troy Wood (June 23)

Juanita More's 2008 PRIDE Party Extravaganza (June 30)

The Gayest Podcast in Michigan - Episode 2b: Troy Wood, Ctd. (July 4)


Gaycation '08 Photo Album (July 28)

Hooking Up (July 31)

Racial Diversity on Manhunt, Adam4Adam: San Francisco Edition (August 6)

Racial Diversity on Manhunt, Adam4Adam: Atlanta Edition (August 8)

Racial Diversity on Manhunt, Adam4Adam: NYC Edition (August 10)

The LAST Trannyshack EVER (August 13)

Me on "Getting it on with Bonnie" (August 21)

Dating Economics (September 13)

Three Fags in a Boat (October 12)

What is Sexual Health? (October 19)

Outrage! NC DJ Arrested for Having Unprotected Sex (October 23)

Resist "Lazy Structuralism": HIV Prevention as Case Study (October 27)

"BlacksOnBoys": The Construction of Black Masculinity (Vs. White Femininity) in Gay Porn (November 30)

Working Out, or, "What happens to twinks when they hit 25?" (December 8)

Positional Identity on Manhunt, Adam4Adam: SF Edition (December 18)

From 2009:

Positional Identity on Manhunt, Adam4Adam: NYC Edition (February 3)

Me and Loretta Devine!!!! (February 10)

Eric Leven's Recent Barebacking Video: "Why are we..." (March 3)

How Do I Trust Again?: Love, Betrayal, and Moving On (March 17)

Why are Hate Crimes Worse Than Other Crimes? (April 1)

What's New in Gay Sex?: "Natural" (April 11)

Recuperating "Heteronormativity": It's Not *Just* About Heterosexuals! (April 20)

Christina Aguilera Fans Crashed My Blog (May 10)

To Everyone Who Is Demanding Lambert Come Out... (May 28)

Hookups are not meaningless (And other thoughts on sex) (May 29)

From 2010:

Does Justice = Loving Yourself? Thoughts From the Forum on Black Gay Men (Feb 1)

What does it mean to call something "problematic"? (Feb 2)

Can "uncertainty" help us to better explain "sexual risk"? (Feb 14)

Why do sorority girls come to gay bars? (April 9)

The anatomy of a claim: "Having older sex partners increases HIV risk for young gay men" (April 12)

Frameline 34: "We were here: Voices from the AIDS years in San Francisco" (June 22)

Queering HIV prevention: An interview with Kane Race (July 12)

Analysis of NYC's wrong-headed HIV ad, and a call for accountability (Dec 14)

And there you have it. Six years of material, all boiled down to a few dozen "greatest hits." It's been swell, y'all!



PERMALINK | Posted at 1:36 PM | Post a Comment (0)

March 30, 2011

Un centro de rehabilitación para homosexuales en Puebla... ¿por que no?
FILED UNDER: "From the other side of the border"
TAGS: españolhomofobiajuventud
By Nolberto González

A pocos meses de haber tomado posesión de la dirección del Instituto Poblano de la Juventud, Guillermo Almazán Smith quien niega formar parte del yunque (organización de ultraderecha con una postura muy firme contra el aborto legal y seguro, la distribución de métodos anticonceptivos a la juventud, la diversidad sexual y la educación sexual integral y laica) afirmó que estudiaría la posibilidad de abrir un centro de rehabilitación para homosexuales, como el que Sandoval Íñiguez promueve en Guadalajara, Jalisco.Sin importar lo que la misma organización mundial de la Salud pudiera decir al respecto.

Lo importante es ver que estos centros son concebidos desde la óptica que opera el Courage Latino, organizando seminarios y talleres para fomentar habilidades y herramientas en terapias de Re-orientación sexual para psiquiatras y psicólogos (quienes en estas situaciones no deberían llamarse profesionales de la salud)

Es importante voltear a lo que sucede fuera de la ciudad de México, la zona de confort de muchas personas para refugiarse en el argumento insensible de "México ya cambió". La situación es complicada a dos horas de distancia como lo está Puebla, a unos minutos en el tráfico en el Estado de México, con esto no quiero decir que no existan problemas en la ciudad de México referentes al ejercicio de derechos sexuales y reproductivos, sólo menciono que debe recalcarse que la diferencia es indescriptible.

En Puebla no existe una ley contra la discriminación, hay candados para despenalizar el aborto, hay mujeres siendo procesadas por abortar sin importar los motivos en los que sucedió, hay muchos crímenes de odio por homofobia etiquetados como crímenes pasionales, la juventud es criminalizada y las personas no heteroxuales son detenidas u hostigadas por "faltas a la moral" al demostrar sus afectos en las calles. El trabajo es mucho y es más difícil cuando las personas en el poder no trabajan para sus ciudadanos, sino para sus propios prejuicios.

PERMALINK | Posted at 2:51 PM | Post a Comment (0)

A rehab center for gay people in Puebla, why not?
TAGS: HomophobiaJuventudMexicoPueblaspanishyouth
By Nolberto González

That's what the director of the Puebla's Youth Institute (instituto poblano de la juventud) said in an interview when he was asked about the chance to create a "rehab center" for people in "sexual attraction situation to same sex persons" (excuse my english, it's not my first language)

Guillermo Almazán Smith said he would study the idea of creating a center like the one promoted in Guadalajara, Jalisco (another ultra-conservative location in México) by the catholic cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez, impulsed also by organizations like courage latino who organizes seminars with the aim to develop skills in psychologist and other mental heatlh professionals (who shouldn't be named that way been in courses like that) in sexual re-orientation therapy.

In the other hand, the director Guillermo Almazán himself, denied being part of an ultraconservative organization named "el yunque", organization who stands against safe abortion, youth acces to contraception methods and sexual education out of any religious values. and he also said he would be able to work with all the groups and all the people including the LGBTTT organizations. Definitively we're in front of what will be a long and hard period of this new government who took posession of the power in the beggining of this year, in February.

We have a lot of work to do as organizations out of the government, we have to still fight for a law against discrimination who doesn't exist in Puebla, we're only a couple of hours of Mexico city but the reality is completely different; there's no gay marriage here, there's no anti-discrimination deppartments in the government, we still have a lot of hate crimes because of homophobia and homophobic people working for the people in high places with huge responsibilities and no care for all the people they are supposed to work for..

the link fot he note is here in spanish,


I'll keep you all guys informed, and i'm sorry about being out of here for so long.. never again!

PERMALINK | Posted at 1:13 PM | Post a Comment (0)

December 14, 2010

Analysis of NYC's Wrong-Headed HIV Ad, and a Call for Accountability
TAGS: HIVNew York Citypublic healthsocial marketingyoung gay men
By Trevor

A flurry of commentary has exploded this past week online over New York City's Health Department's recent HIV prevention PSA. The ad -- complete with CSI:Miami voice-over -- has been criticized for its stigmatizing messages and for its use of fear to promote prevention. Click any of the links to see it, or expand the thumbnail to see (GRAPHIC!) stills from the ad below:


I know that many gay men's health advocates (myself included) have had visceral, angry responses to this ad. Those responses are absolutely valid and deserved. This ad is repugnant and clearly provokes an emotional response. I'll give my own version of this at the end of this article.

But for just a second, I want to try and cool off a bit and evaluate the various arguments that have been made for and against the advertisement in terms of health behavior and the use of fear in HIV prevention. I'm not going to discuss the claims made in the ad about anal cancer and various medical outcomes -- I'm not familiar enough with those literatures to be able to comment effectively. But I do want to talk about what seems to be the crux of most conversations about this ad: Whether using fear is an effective prevention strategy.

I'll begin here with the kinds of arguments I've heard in favor of the ad, and then get to the meat of why these arguments -- well intentioned as they may be -- are not backed by sound evidence. If you're interesting in reading more about this subject, you might start with a recently published review of the scientific literature, "The Role of Fear in HIV Prevention" (PDF).

Argument 1: Young Gay Men Aren't Scared Anymore

Response: Perhaps - and We Should be Thankful It's So!: Younger gay men may well be less fearful of HIV, though the evidence to support that assertion is shaky. What we know is that most HIV-negative gay men are already scared to some degree of HIV infection -- but perhaps its not to a threshold satisfying to a different generation that lived through a time when treatment was not available, and when HIV was indeed a terminal illness. It is of course thankfully not a terminal illness for those who have access to medication anymore. As a so-called "younger" gay man myself, I want to take a moment and explain why it's not acceptable to be mad at young gay men for not being terrified of contracting HIV. The implication here is that you wish our friends were still dying so we'd be a bit more scared. I'm glad my friends are alive. I'm thankful that my HIV-positive mentors, colleagues, friends, tricks, teachers, and past lovers have access to ARV treatment that keeps them alive and healthy. And doesn't it make intuitive sense that a terminal illness would be scarier than a chronic disease? We know this from research in the risk sciences! HIV as a chronic disease is less scary than HIV as a terminal illness. Obviously. And we should be absolutely thankful that this is the case.

Argument 2: Using Fear is a Necessary Tool to Induce Behavior Change

Response: Evidence Shows Fear Doesn't Change Behavior: Underlying this argument is the notion that fear will in fact result in behavior change. But what we know is that fear campaigns are only persuasive to men who are ALREADY using condoms. Fear is not effective at encouraging men not using condoms -- presumably the population this ad is intended to impact -- to start using them. Moreover, research has shown that fear is especially ineffective at persuading young gay men, and only tends to persuade older gay men. So again we have evidence to conclude that this argument is ill-founded.

Argument 3: Fear is the Only Way to Change Behavior:

Response: Culturally Sensitive, Relatable Approaches Actually Work There are many different ways to communicate effectively about HIV risk: inducing the fear of God is not the only option. I don't have time to relay to you all of the things that work in prevention, but I do want to highlight one that is useful in rebutting arguments in favor of this ad. Research has shown that prevention works best when its approach is relevant and culturally sensitive. There are a litany of studies to back this claim up. Gay men have friends who are HIV-positive, and their bones aren't shattering before our eyes and their asses don't resemble something from the SAW franchise. The images included in this ad are just not relatable -- they're the opposite. Prevention should take the community's experiences as a starting point, rather than forcing down our throats some horrifying alternate reality that just doesn't exist in our lives.

Conclusion: We Need to be Angry and NYC DPH Must be Accountable! The ad's tactics are clearly not based on what we know about effective and useful HIV prevention. But this is just the rational, evidence-based response. Now that I've gotten that sensible approach out of the way, let me add a few more strongly colored words based on my experience and a more emotive analysis.

As a gay men's health advocate, I have to say that this ad is incredibly socially irresponsible and, as such, should be retracted immediately with apology. It is precisely this noxious brand of HIV prevention spear-headed by well-meaning but ultimately ineffective and potentially destructive public health officials who are willing to smear our names on the way to health promotion that make so many gay men like myself resent their work.

Let me be clear: Such antagonizing (which they write off as provoking "dialogue") alienates the communities you intend to work with, and it will have ill-intended, longterm consequences. Gay men have a collective memory that bears the burden of nasty campaigns like this one -- we won't forget, as much as we'd like to! Moreover, bad memories aren't the only outcome in question here: Homophobia, HIV stigma, and sexual shame are all direct outputs of stigmatizing campaigns like this one. If this ad doesn't come down with apology, I will do whatever I can to defund and shame your health department's HIV prevention efforts, and other health departments who continue to make ineffective, socially reprehensible prevention messages.

NYC's Health Department must be held accountable for this reprehensible ad. Where were the community partners in its development? Who approved the ad? How was it developed in the first place? Was there internal dissent over its release, as there has been recently in other NYC DPH efforts? These questions must be answered, and gay men everywhere have the right to ask them. This campaign may well have been made in New York, but it was disseminated internationally. We demand answers! We demand accountability!

If you're as outraged as I am about this ad, and wish yo share that outrage with the people responsible for it, you can contact:

Nichole Melendez
Administrative Assistant to Dr. Monica Sweeney, Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control at the NYC Health Department

PERMALINK | Posted at 2:14 PM | Post a Comment (1)

October 13, 2010

David Malebranche's "Dear Oprah" RE: HIV Sensationalism
TAGS: Black gay menDavid MalebrancheOprah
By Trevor


Lifelube has an incredible open letter to Oprah from the inimitable David Malebranche in response to her recent show on a woman who sued her ex-husband for $12 million after she contracted HIV from him. Malebranche asks, "Have you learned nothing since the JL King disaster in 2004?" (which prompted a national panic about the "down low" and Black male sexuality generally):

The acidic taste of bile that coated the back of my throat as I heard her story was in response to the superficial and sensationalistic manner in which you handled the topic, and how it was apparent that you and your staff have learned absolutely nothing in the 6 years since you originally interviewed J.L. King on your "Down Low" episode in 2004.

Yes, you can claim that for this updated version of your "Down Low" show, you actually included the fact that publically "heterosexual" White men and men of other races are equally capable of having secretive homosexual affairs as their Black counterparts. And yes, this new version of J.L. King who again opportunistically sashayed onto your stage to promote himself now uses the word "gay" to describe his sexual identity (partly as a consequence of the fame and fortune he attained from appearing on your show). However, everything else about the show remained stuck in a metaphorical time warp in which Black women are portrayed as simple victims with no personal responsibility or accountability when it comes to their sexual behavior, and Black men are projected as nothing more than predatory liars, cheaters and "mosquito-like" vectors of disease when it comes to HIV.

I felt like I was like watching a train wreck or an car accident about to happen: it was so awful that despite wanting to turn it off, I found myself transfixed and could not bring myself to pick up the remote or change the channel. From the ominous background music and blurred images on the screen when discussing Black men being intimate with one another (God forbid!), to your declaration that reading your guest's husband's sexually explicit emails and messages on gay websites "blew your mind," the way in which your show was staged did nothing to forward the conversation on the current facts or the social context that currently drives secretive same sex behavior among Black men and the current HIV racial disparity in the United States. Instead, what came across was a clear, fear-mongering and hyperbolic message: "Black women, look out for your husbands, they could be lying and cheating on you with other men and putting you at risk for HIV." It was bad enough that 6 years ago, after your original "Down Low" show, you single-handedly launched a major media and cultural hysteria where Black women across the country were now searching for signs of how they could tell if their men were "on the Down Low" through stereotypical signs and ridiculously offensive generalizations about how homosexual men think and act. Your show also helped J.L. King and other self-proclaimed "HIV experts" make a lot of money off this capitalistic, fear-based industry to promote their books, movies and narcissistic products on the so-called "Down Low." It did nothing, however, but open new wounds and put salt in the old scars caused by centuries of sexual exploitation and calculated pathologizing of Black bodies in the United States and internationally. The way you and your staff have handled this topic has done nothing but widen the already irreparable rifts between Black men and women, as well as between Black heterosexual and non-heterosexual peoples."

You just gotta read the rest. It's incredible.

PERMALINK | Posted at 8:42 AM | Post a Comment (0)

October 1, 2010

In Solidarity with Chris Armstrong
TAGS: bloggingbullyingCNNconservativesfree speechhomophobiaMichiganUniversity of Michigan
By Max

Graphic designed by Michigan's Spectrum Center in the wake of the Armstrong attacks

Hate speech, here we go again... If the USA moves fast in terms of modern technologies, I am afraid the same cannot be said about sex and social justice. Quite the contrary: a few days ago, we had to face the failure of the repeal of this ridiculous, anachronistic policy - Don't Ask, Don't Tell - and only after a massive response from the CNN story on Shirvell do we now finally have word this morning that Shirvell has *finally* been suspended (but not fired!) by his boss the Attorney General, who went on CNN to defend Shirvell's right to free speech. This guy spends hours of his spare time blogging against the MSA president, Chris Armstrong, and has recourse to the most offensive, insulting, threatening words to justify his hateful obsession, stating it is nothing but a political campaign and that his homophobia is somewhat sponsored by the freedom of speech.

Since Armstrong became the MSA president, he became an obsession of a rather peculiar kind for Andrew Shirvell, who started observing his target in the most disturbing way, including gossiping about Armstrong's friends and physically approaching his private home. It would be pathetic and maybe laughable if we were not worried about Shirvell's behavior, but at this point, his obsession cannot be taken as only political and shows evidence of stalking and harassment. Of course freedom of speech is an undisputable principle in the USA, and queers out there really know the price to pay to enjoy and maintain the freedom of speech, so the question is not to turn Shirvell into the victim of some sort of queer intifada because we expect the Attorney General to spank him, but rather to understand that the freedom of speech cannot be abused to promote a hateful rhetoric (against queers, or Jews, or Afro-Americans, or... the list is much too long), precisely because the goals of any hateful speech is to silence a targeted individual or community.

Using the freedom of speech to ultimately challenge other people's agency cannot be socially constructive. We should not address the issue of banning hate speech as a matter of censorship, but rather as a way of understanding the practice of the freedom of speech from a collective, social point of view. (I believe, like so many queers after Oscar Wilde, that only works of art should have this possibility to be disconnected from ethics and politics, precisely because the realm of aesthetics is not grounded on the quest for goodness, but the quest for beauty.) The point is not to censor but to learn how to feel and phrase one's emotions and values. That's when the concept of respect becomes crucial in terms of articulating the freedom of speech with the art of living together in the same, yet extremely diversified, nation (it's horrible I feel like I am preaching right now...).

One of my fears, in this painful story raised by Shirvell's threatening obsession with Armstrong, is the hypothesis that Shirvell could be one of us. The history of homophobia is full of examples of self hatred, closeted homosexuals who not only cannot come out but spend their energy hating shameless queers out there. Remember J. Edgar Hoover, president of the FBI during the years of McCarthyism, who made sure to include queers in the hunt witch? He put so much energy in breaking the lives of homosexual American citizens, and yet, he was over the rainbow even if he had constructed a special hell for people sharing his own sexuality. What is better for us: a straight homophobic guy or a closeted, self hating queen? This is just a horrible alternative. Let's say that we still believe in the possibility to have a society with friendly straight people and no more self hatred among queers because of homophobia. Clearly, the fight is not over.

As a University of Michigan graduate student, I feel it is important to declare my solidarity with Chris. As they have been saying on campus: Elected by us, respected by us. In solidarity with our chosen Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong.

PERMALINK | Posted at 6:56 AM | Post a Comment (0)

September 23, 2010

Newman as Masculine Anti-Hero in "Cool Hand Luke" (1967)
FILED UNDER: "Pop Culture"
TAGS: Film studiesHollywoodmasculinityPaul Newman
By Max


That's what I call a movie sensation: watching Cool Hand Luke, an American classic movie, starring Paul Newman in one of - if not his - best roles, left me all wet and impressed on my couch. The plot in itself is pretty simple: our hero, soon to be called "Cool hand Luke," is sentenced to two years in prison because he was caught dead drunk while cutting the heads off parking meters in his small town. He is sent in a sunny prison camp, somewhere in Georgia, surrounded by hot, topless thugs of all kinds, and working like a slave under the eyes of a sadistic captain - big brother is watching you. In this context, oscillating between gay porn ambiance and concentration camp, Luke gains respect from his mates by the aura of his personality and a series of escapes: after his third escapade, he is finally killed by cops while having a conversation with God in a desolate church.

Luke is not just a social outcast, but he incarnates, well before Edward Scissorhands, a tormented, beautiful prince fallen on earth, lost and confused among the rules and norms of his peers. The symbolic gesture of cutting the heads off parking meters shows his resistance to the logics of discipline and capitalism: but more than a rebel, Luke stands out as an existentialist subject who takes the radical freedom to question the basis of the society he lives in, starting with the faith in God, the duty of obey and fear cops, and the quest for money. Prophet without a revelation, seducer without sexual activity, he only rules with the devastating charm of his smile and the paradoxical strength of his skepticism. In his confrontation with either God ("I guess you're a hard case, too") or the captain ("I wish you'd stop being so nice with me"), just like when he plays poker with his fellows, he expresses the wit of the weak, and makes some point out of his nothingness. In this case, including his tragic end, he reminds us of another enigmatic figure of resistance, Melville's Bartleby.

Luke is a hero of a strange kind: an anti-hero. Although his masculinity is blatant and overwhelming, he does not fit the classic standards of manliness. At the beginning of his stay in the camp, his independence and irony make him engage in a fight against the leader of prisoners, Dragline. The spectator expects him to knock out Dragline out of bravery and violence, but actually Dragline beats the hell out of him: the surprise comes from the fact that Luke, in spite of his inferiority, keeps standing up over and over, receiving more blows and approaching the edge of a black out or a mortal injury. Reluctant to surrender, he impresses so much Dragline by his resistance that, finally, it is Dragline who stops beating him and gets out of the ring. Luke's masculinity is not so much about beating other people than it is about taking it in without fainting - some sort of power bottom, indeed. After this episode, Dragline loves Luke and calls him his baby until his sacrifice for him at the end of the movie.

Women do not matter for Luke, it is pretty clear in an amazing scene of the movie when prisoners leer at a woman washing her car in a very erotic way. All the prisoners enjoy this exhibitionist show and are just about to jerk off in their pants. Only Luke remains quiet and comments that she's pretending to look innocent, but that she is actually enjoying every minute of her performance. Likewise, during his second escape from the camp, Luke sends Dragline a magazine in which he appears on a page surrounded by two beautiful women. When he is caught by the cops and brought back to prison, the prisoners are all excited about asking him about these girls, but he tells me the picture was a phony, he only sent it to please them.

Eventually, only one woman matters to Luke, and it is after her death he starts running away from his prison and takes one step further in his opposition to discipline and punishment: this woman is his mother, Arletta, played by Jo Van Fleet. What we have here is maybe a failure to communicate between Luke and Big Brother, but no failure in terms of compassion and emotions: by the end of the movie, Cool hand Luke acquires a charisma that survives him and blesses the audience with a confusing sensation of grace. A masterpiece, indeed.

Here's a taste -- the famous car wash scene:

PERMALINK | Posted at 8:24 AM | Post a Comment (0)

September 21, 2010

Study: Majority of US Gay Men Support Criminal HIV Disclosure Laws
TAGS: HIVHIV-positiveresearch
By Trevor

From AIDSMap:

Two-thirds of US gay men believe that it should be illegal for an HIV-positive man to have unprotected anal sex without disclosure, investigators report in the October edition of AIDS Care.

"Believing that it should be illegal was associated with HIV-negative or unknown status, less education, having a non-gay sexual orientation, living in a state that was perceived as hostile towards GLBT persons, reporting fewer UAI [unprotected anal intercourse] partners...and feeling greater responsibility", write the authors.


The overwhelming majority (70%) of HIV-negative and untested men (69%) supported legal sanctions, but only 38% of HIV-positive men endorsed criminalisation. "These differences most likely reflect a shift in orientation toward criminal statues on HIV transmission following seroconversion", comment the investigators.

Men with the lowest educational achievements were most likely to support criminalisation (75%), and those with a degree least likely (58%).

Over three-quarters of men who did not identify as gay or bisexual supported criminalisation compared to 63% of those who had some form of gay identity.

In addition, those who were least comfortable with their sexual orientation were most likely to endorse criminalisation.

The full text of the actual study can be downloaded for free here.

PERMALINK | Posted at 8:21 AM | Post a Comment (1)

New York's "The Saint" Opening Night - 1980
FILED UNDER: "Gay Men's Health & Culture"
TAGS: clubbinggay male cultureLGBT historyNew York City
By Trevor

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of "The Saint" in New York City 30 year ago yesterday, The Saint at Large is releasing a series of videos documenting the club. Fascinating, wonderful stuff. Check it out!

Via Joe.My.God.

PERMALINK | Posted at 8:04 AM | Post a Comment (0)

September 13, 2010

TVFTB: "What's your funniest hook-up story?" (Ep#15)
FILED UNDER: "The View from the Bottom"
TAGS: Bottom identitygay menHIV / AIDSHIV-positivepositional identityThe View from the Bottom
By Trevor

Scott and Maxime visit the coast of Michigan in this new installment of "The View From the Bottom," the show featuring two bottomless bottoms dishing about gay men's health, sexuality, and culture. In this episode, the bottoms talk about wanting to be HIV-positive, whether they can feel it when someone cums in their ass, if sex in big cities is better than sex elsewhere, the great things about public sex, and much much more! As always, e-mail your questions for the next episode!

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Sex and Drama in Algiers: A Review of Moknèche's Viva Laldjérie
FILED UNDER: "Queer Cinema"
TAGS: Francegay menLGBT Cinemasex work
By Max


There are many amazing scenes in Nadir Moknèche's second movie, Viva Laldjérie. I guess my favorite would be the one where Goucem, a 27 year old single lady, has wild sex with a sexy jock she picked up in a nightclub in Algiers. As both of them are on fire and not interested in anything than a hookup, they go some underground place used by queers for their own pleasures. While Goucem and her partner fuck fiercely in this open space, they are being observed by Samir, a sexy guy who had been following Goucem for a while, and by Yacine, the gay son of Goucem's regular sugar daddy, Aniss. This scene offers a dizzy combination of voyeurism, cruising, and impersonal intimacy based on the confused dynamics of burning desires and clair obscure identities.

It all happens in the capital of Algeria, in 2003, when the country is trying to recover from the terror of the 1990s, but is still struggling with the corruptive authority of dictatorship and the rise of an oppressive Islamization of the nation. In such a difficult context, not much space is left for individualism and diversity, and yet Viva Laldjérie focuses on the lives of anonymous characters, three women and one gay men, who all fight with courage and dignity in order to express themselves against any norms, including when the price to pay is likely to become a social outcast or to end up assassinated. Yacine tries to be as openly gay as possible, but he is either beaten up by closeted Arabic men who become aggressive after sex or harassed by the police who do not tolerate any explicit homosexual identity.

In the end, Yacine wants to escape Algeria and go to France in order to live his sexuality without fearing for his life. Goucem is still single at 27 and she is not a virgin any longer, plus her married sugar daddy finally leaves his wife, but only to marry another of his mistresses. Goucem's situation as a straight woman with no children and no husband pushes her toward the edge, just like her neighbor Fifi who finally decided to work as a prostitute in order to maintain an agency of her own.

For a camp audience, the most beloved, dramatic character remains Goucem's mother, La Papicha, who used to work as a cabaret artist at Le Copacabana, a cabaret that had to be closed in the 1990 under the threat of religious terrorism. More fabulous than ever as 50 year old drama queen - absolutely worthy of some Almodovar divas - she refuses to beg for a French visa, teaches a little girl how to dance and bemuse men, and dreams of buying Le Copacabana in order to open it again.

Subtle, brave, oscillating between camp and pudor, Viva Laldjérie pays an emotional tribute to those who face infamy and pressure with the unexpected strength and beauty of sexual and gender mavericks. Thanks to them, and to directors such as Nadir Moknèche, there is space for hope, solidarity, and a better understanding of a nation in the making.

And good news: You can watch the entire movie via Hulu now!

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September 8, 2010

More Bogus Reporting on HIV, Young Gay Men
FILED UNDER: "Fucked Up Bullshit"
TAGS: gay bashinggay men's healthjournalismresearch
By Trevor

You'd think the media had feasted itself silly on the notion that young gay men's reckless behaviors were fueling the HIV epidemic. And then I stumbled on this article from the UK Guardian this week -- with the explosive headline, "Young gay men fueling HIV epidemic, study warns." Irresponsbile and fear-mongering mainstream media garbage at its worst. THe picture accompanying the article -- featuring scantily clad, non-white men sweating profusely while gyrating on the dancefloor -- is just the icing on the cake. Or should I say, the shit-streak on the toilet.

But of course, this alarming headline bears no relation to what the research actually found. Timothy at Box Turtle Bulletin breaks it down for us:

The conclusions from this study were that there are two distinct methods of HIV transmission in Belgium and that these two populations have little overcross. Young gay men who become infected get the virus from other local young gay men while Africans and other non-gay patients came to be infected through travel or migrated to Belgium with the virus.

* * What this study did not find was that "white gay men take greater HIV risk". The study told us almost nothing whatsoever about whether "white gay men" or "gay men of color" take greater risk, because the study had few gay men of color. Belgium is not known for its racial diversity (racism in Belgium is defined in terms of Dutch v. French speaking people). Nearly all of Belgium is white, so nearly all gay Belgians who seroconvert were also white.

* Nor did it find a rampant disregard for safer sex among gay Belgians. A rough calculation suggests that only about 4% of gay Belgian men are living with HIV, a rate a third that of the US. In fact, it would appear that a small subset of young gay Belgians were behaving irresponsibly (perhaps specific social circles) and were consequently infected with a number of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

* Nor does the research of transmission rates and methods in Belgium tell us much about rates and methods in the rest of Europe and especially the rest of the West. This was a local study involving one Belgian city, not "Europe and the UK" or anywhere else for that matter.

This is why it is so critical for us to keep a close eye on media reports relating to gay men's lives. The media gets it not just wrong, but maliciously erroneous. Shame on not just The Guardian for smearing the queers, but also the dozens of other publications that picked up this non-sense angle and ran with it (which includes gay media, like Pink News). Daniel Reeders has an excellent post on the local Australian debates over this noxious misinformation. It's nothing short of scientifically-veiled gay bashing.

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September 2, 2010

some abuse from the conservatives.
FILED UNDER: "From the other side of the border"
TAGS: Mexicosexual health
By Nolberto González


I'm still working on the translation of what happens in the word youth conference.. this is only a sample about the several aggressions against the Youth Coalition for Education and Sexual Health...

hope to translate my note soon.

by the way the note we made says:

"In church did they teach you is good to urinate in public places?

we dislike your little present"

(Someone urinated our stand)

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Sobre la conferencia mundial de Juventud 2010
FILED UNDER: "From the other side of the border"
TAGS: HIVMexicosexual health
By Nolberto González

La conferencia mundial de juventud se llevó a cabo en un ambiente tenso, de homofobia, de militantes conservadores, de voces jóvenes de muchas partes del mundo alzando la voz entre quienes obviamente había muchas personas progresistas de varias partes del país y del mundo.

Llegué el domingo con la noticia de que la alianza internacional de juventudes, una organización católica, sesionaba en el domo de la feria a unos cuantos pasos del Polyforum en donde se realizó la conferencia mundial de juventud, y que además realizó con camisetas blancas una marcha antiaborto, (cabe recordar que en León hay mujeres encarceladas, de las cuales una de ellas, ni se ha comprobado si realmente estaba embarazada). El lunes, primer día de actividades se registraron agresiones contra jóvenes de la Coalición de Jóvenes por la Educación y la Salud Sexual (COJESS) en el momento en que trataron de entrar al Polyforum. Los y las jóvenes de la COJESS éramos fácilmente ubicados por nuestras camisetas rojas con leyendas sobre diversidad sexual, educación sexual, aborto seguro y derechos sexuales y reproductivos.

Para el martes existía un notable acoso por parte de las personas de derecha que entraban a todas las sesiones posibles sobre derechos humanos, sexuales y salud reproductiva, y que interrumpían a los y las ponentes en cada momento en el que se tocaban temas como aborto, educación sexual y derechos de las mujeres argumentando que el condón no es efectivo y que el único método que funciona es la abstinencia, que tenemos derecho a tener los hijos que queramos así sean veinte y que en nuestras casas deben hablarnos de sexualidad y jamás en las escuelas o en otros escenarios, repartieron panfletos sobre la amenaza de la equidad de géneros en la sociedad y se postraron con pancartas fuera del Polyforum que decían "Salud reproductiva o libertinaje disfrasado" (así, con faltas de ortografía) y "La ideología de género degenera a la sociedad", personas de estos grupos conservadores realizaron también acciones de sabotaje ante varias actividades de la COJESS (Coalición de Jóvenes por la Educación y la Salud Sexual), al irrumpir y descalificar el discurso científico y laico en el tema de salud sexual y reproductiva durante un taller facilitado por Jessica Reyes Sánchez de Salud Integral Para la Mujer SIPAM A.C. en colaboración con Alexis Hernández de Decidir, Coalición de Jóvenes por la Ciudadanía Sexual; al robar materiales informativos de las organizaciones MEXFAM A.C. y Equidad de Género A.C./Ddeser, así como lo muestran también las agresiones a lo compañeros Daniel Serrano y Juan Carlos Mendoza documentadas en varios periódicos, producto de la homofobia.

Muchos y muchas nos preguntamos el porqué un evento internacional de estas ambiciones y dimensiones se lleva cabo en una ciudad como León Guanajuato (donde mucha gente me trató bien, siempre y cuando no perteneciera a un grupo religioso con instrucciones específicas) Al inicio esta conferencia sería llevada a cabo en la ciudad de México, pero pareciera que el ambiente de izquierda que supone reina en la ciudad de México y la notable diferencia en cuanto a legislaciones comparada con otros estados de la república pudiera no ser conveniente para este resurgimiento de la derecha.

Al final de cuentas, las voces menos representadas fueron de las y los jóvenes, el foro de ONGs pareciera no haber sido tan exitoso y contundente por una tremenda falta de transparencia en el proceso que debiera ser un constante monitoreo a los objetivos de desarrollo del milenio entre los que se incluyen erradicar la pobreza y el hambre, combatir el VIH/Sida, el paludismo y otras enfermedades, promover la igualdad de géneros, mejorar la salud matera.etc.

En lo personal parte de mi corazón creció un poco más en León, me enfrenté a situaciones que afianzaron mi compromiso así como el de muchas y muchos compañeros de lucha y defensa de derechos de las y los jóvenes; una promesa de viajar a Aguascalientes, a Guadalajara, ir mas seguido al defe y hasta caerle a los Estados Unidos, el aprender que hacer ante provocaciones que incitan a la violencia (y que no necesariamente implican pedirle paciencia a papá Dios) Lamento la tardanza pero una experiencia así arda un poco en asimilarse.


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August 6, 2010

FILED UNDER: "Pop Culture"
TAGS: CherChristina AguileraHollywood
By Trevor

The trailer a few thousand queens have been getting their panties twisted in a knot waiting for!

Cher topping Xtina for two hours? Sounds like a dream!

PERMALINK | Posted at 3:45 PM | Post a Comment (2)

Fag Beat of the Week: "Ice Cream Truck"
FILED UNDER: "Pop Culture"
TAGS: Cazwellgay male culturegay menmusicmusic videos
By Trevor

Just what you needed to get you through the Friday afternoon slump!

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August 2, 2010

TVFTB: "What's the best lube for anal sex?" (Ep#14)
By Trevor

The latest and greatest "The View From the Bottom" is now live! Jackson and I filmed this new piece while on gaycation on the Connecticut Coast. How very East Coast yuppie of us! In this episode, we dish on boyfriends who don't like to give head, dating another bottom, rectal microbicides, having HPV warts removed, and more! Enjoy!

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July 29, 2010

Please Help: Google Stop Ads to My Site, Need Donations
FILED UNDER: "Trevor's Work"
TAGS: bloggingGoogle
By Trevor

As you may have noticed recently, I have removed Google advertising from my site. This was not of my own accord -- Google disabled ads to my site, calling it "pornography" and thus a violation of their terms of agreement. There was no possibility for appeal. Once the decision was made, it was final, I was told after asking for an explanation.

This of course destroys my only revenue stream for this blog. Google ads didn't bring in huge sums of money, but they did bring in just enough to cover my hosting bill. I now face having to pay my that bill out of my own pocket, which as a graduate student is a tall order.

I'm writing this entry today to seek your assistance. Since I began blogging in 2005, I've managed to keep this site afloat through funds of my own and ad revenue on the side. But since then the site has grown tremendously to over 10,000 monthly readers, and alongside that my hosting bill has quadrupled in just the past two years. Google ad revenue grew alongside that bill, but now that I cannot rely on that funding source I must look to you for help.

I want to continue this crazy idea of a project -- but I just can't afford the hosting bills on my own. I think this blog is a resource for folks out there who are interested in sex, gay men's health and HIV/AIDS. That's why I keep working on it. There are surprisingly few resources out there like it. Here you can find "The View From the Bottom," interviews with scholars in the field, and a heaping pile of gay analysis of the issues of the day. Trevorade doesn't just serve up "curated news" in the style of most blogs out there -- we generate original content that you can't find anywhere else.

And that is why I'm presently looking to you, our readers, to help us continue that mission of providing frank, incisive gay analysis on issues that matter to you. Donations of any size are welcome and wanted, from $5 to $50. I know that there are folks out there who want to see this blog continue for years to come, and it is to those readers that I am now asking for help. Everyone who donates has my gratitude, and if you include your shipping address when you do I'll be sending along a real, live thank you note. In the mail! (I know, so 20th century.) Thanks for reading. And thanks for helping.



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July 12, 2010

Queering HIV Prevention: An Interview with Kane Race
By Trevor

kane_race.jpgThere are scant few thinkers out there publishing critically productive work in the field of HIV prevention and public health more broadly. I have long been a fan and avid consumer of Australian Kane Race's scholarship. His analyses of HIV prevention, drug policies, and public health more broadly are beautifully incisive and incredibly helpful for anyone invested in thinking critically about these complicated issues. He is a master of explicating the taken-for-granted, and making you see what before was obscured. In his latest book, Pleasure Consuming Medicine, he continues to advance his concept of "counterpublic health" -- a concept built on the work of feminist and queer scholars invested in understanding oppositional public spheres. I had the pleasure of interviewing Kane recently for this blog, and I'm thrilled to share his thoughts here. We talk about public health, HIV prevention, and his challenging concept that aims to shake up our conventional understandings of these complex phenomenon.

Question: In both published essays and your recent book, Pleasure Consuming Medicine, you've advanced a concept you term "counterpublic health" - a concept that of course borrows from Michael Warner and other scholars' work on the concept of "counterpublics." Can you talk a bit about that original "counterpublics" concept, and how you came up with the idea to adapt it to your critical work on health?

A counterpublic has a critical or oppositional relation to the public. It's a term that queer and feminist scholars are using to refer to collective contexts of discussion, debate and performance in which we forge oppositional interpretations of our identities, interests and desires. The term is useful because it references the venues, media and forms of circulation which help constitute a sense of collective political agency. It also points to the exclusions and ideological dimensions of the public sphere proper - and hence the necessity of developing alternative spaces in which critical understandings and strategies can emerge.

"To refer to these fields of public health as counterpublic health is, first of all, to register the disastrous impact of these mainstream ideological investments on the health and life chances of the groups thus stigmatized - queers, sex workers, drug users. It is to critique moralized notions of 'the public,' and think about how they affect our work."

For me the term is immediately useful for thinking about those areas of public health where mainstream investment in a moral ideology compromises the ability to respond effectively to public health needs. HIV prevention is an obvious example. Drug education and policy is another. In both of these fields we have a situation where political investment in a particular idea of public membership (e.g. family values, a drug-free nation, etc.) thwarts rational responses to public health. Ideological investment in these figures consistently obstructs efforts to conduct education (for example queer-friendly, sex-positive HIV prevention education) and institute services (such as needle and syringe exchange provision) which are known to be effective in improving the life chances of affected groups. To refer to these fields of public health as counterpublic health is, first of all, to register the disastrous impact of these mainstream ideological investments on the health and life chances of the groups thus stigmatized - queers, sex workers, drug users. It is to critique moralized notions of "the public", and think about how they affect our work.

The concept of counterpublics is also useful because it pushes us to think about the collective contexts and modalities through which alternative strategies develop. So much health work and health education today advocates individual solutions to public health problems. But if we think about the early response to HIV/AIDS, it is quite clear that much of its success depended upon creating a shared horizon of concern about the threat, as well as specific contexts of collective self-activity. Nancy Fraser talks about the journals, bookstores, conferences, conventions, festivals, lectures, educational programs, and events which make up what she calls a feminist counterpublic. I began to picture the multiple public contexts that people have activated and engaged in order to undertake HIV education and prevention - the media, working groups, drag shows, conferences, blogs, sex venues, erotic performances, public forums, dance parties, research centres, internet sites, phone-lines, bars and service organizations. These spaces of collective activity have been crucial for the undertaking of HIV prevention. They've enabled us to transform our bodies, practices, and pleasures without denying or eliminating them. In order to develop reflexive contexts around stigmatized practices like gay sex and illicit drug use, it has been necessary to create public or semi-public forums for the acknowledgment, discussion and remodeling of these practices. In his work on counterpublics, Michael Warner also draws attention to the discourse pragmatics of different spheres of public address and performance, and this opens up an important set of questions for people engaged in HIV education and prevention. Questions like, how does this particular format/venue/event engage bodies, and what possibilities does this open up for collective reflexivity about certain risks and/or practices?

Question: How is this concept of "counterpublic health" useful in your own work, and how do you hope others will take it up?

I think it helps define a broad field of public health practice and understand the conditions in which certain public health initiatives operate. This field is characterized by a tension between public morality and what I like to call practical ethics of public health. One of the first lessons of health promotion, for example, is that education works best when it is couched in terms of the values, vernacular and practices of the group in question. But when it comes to HIV prevention or drug harm reduction, this necessarily involves an acknowledgement of practices that are difficult to acknowledge (without scandal at least) in the conventional public sphere - practices like gay sex or substance use. Paradoxically, public morality makes those initiatives which are most likely to connect with the relevant groups in effective ways most at risk of political intervention.

"The concept could be used to describe any public health work that discovers that it is necessary, as part of its project, to challenge hegemonic ideas of average personhood and create new collective contexts for the airing of otherwise stigmatized practices."

The scenario is familiar. An educational campaign or service which is explicit about drug use or gay sex gets picked up by a tabloid newspaper. Moral outrage ensues and the story dominates talkback radio for a couple of hours. The minister's office panics and condemns the organization that produced the resource. It's a constant possibility. And it is very damaging because it compromises the ability of health promotion practitioners to engage people at the level of their concrete embodied practices.
Counterpublic theory is useful here because it understands this dynamic as a product, in part, of the mass media's mode of address: the presumption of the reader as a member of an imaginary national family unit that is white, heterosexual and drug-free. This is the ideal with which we are encouraged to identify our deepest interests at the hands of this form of address. But it's a fiction, in the sense that it is based on untested presumptions about the average reader or listener or voter. So while many readers may not actually organize their lives in this way, this image of the public takes on a forceful reality which counterpublic health practitioners must contend with all the time. Counterpublic theory provides a useful handle on these dynamics and encourages us to think about the constraints and possibilities inherent in different scenes of circulation and modes of address - and develop new ones. The concept could be used to describe any public health work that discovers that it is necessary, as part of its project, to challenge hegemonic ideas of average personhood and create new collective contexts for the airing of otherwise stigmatized practices.

Question: I met you back in 2006 for the first time at the "Against Health" conference here at Michigan. Should we be against health? Does the concept of "counterpublic health" help answer that question?

One of the things that conference did well was highlight the use and abuse of the term health. Health is tricky like that: it's just as likely to evoke moral criteria as practical criteria around wellbeing. But "morality" does not always amount to healthiness, and frequently moralism has distinctly unhealthy effects. I think it's unfortunate that, because the term is so frequently abused, many of us find ourselves in a situation where we start believing that we are, indeed, "against health". To be sure, health is only one concern among many, and it is not always the most pressing one. But I agree with the conference organisers that our efforts to live longer, happier, more pleasurable lives would be greatly enhanced by bringing some critical force to bear on the ways in which the term 'health' is exploited to pursue other agendas. Counterpublic health may be a useful concept here, because it describes the situation of doing public health work in a context where hegemonic ideals of sexuality, personhood and citizenship are loaded against you. I don't think we are or should be against health, but frequently queers are constituted in precisely that way.

Question: There is a long history of both collaboration and tension between public health practitioners and HIV activists. They've been the best of friends and the worst of enemies at times. I wonder how you see that relationship evolving today, both in Australia where you work and more globally?

I think that today most HIV activists work within the frameworks and institutions of public health, and they do some very good and very important work there. Certainly this is the case in Australia. But I wonder how well the discourses and paradigms of public health are able register the importance of critical sex education, which has been a crucial component of the community response to HIV/AIDS. I think we need more than the professional frameworks of public health are able to offer if we are to sustain effective forms of HIV prevention. We need to promote literacy and reflexivity around sexual practice, and this is not necessarily something that public health specialists are particularly well trained to do, or that is easy to register within the professional frameworks of the field. Sexual practice is infinitely more complex than is recognized in public discourse, and the risks it gives rise to are often disguised or distorted by our desire to identify with normative forms. There's a critical literacy around sex, health and stigma that has developed within communities responding to HIV/AIDS that is worth sharing with people who are new to gay life. I don't know how you argue for a critical focus on heteronormativity as part of HIV education within official institutions of public health, but I think that's an important dimension of our work.

"How do we equip people to think flexibly and creatively and astutely about their sexual practice and intimate lives? What forms of pedagogy can be developed to this effect?"

In some ways, the concept of counterpublic health is my response to this situation. It is designed to conjure a critical "outside" to given institutions of public health while recognizing that most of our HIV activist talent is now fully immersed within these institutions. I want the concept to signal the practice of connecting with subcultural knowledge and queer critique, and to convey the importance of keeping that connection alive. How do we equip people to think flexibly and creatively and astutely about their sexual practice and intimate lives? What forms of pedagogy can be developed to this effect? I think these are crucial questions.

Question: In one of your forthcoming articles, you talk about the "risk of HIV prevention." Can you talk a bit about what you mean by that?

I use that phrase in my paper "Engaging in a Culture of Barebacking: Gay Men and the Risk of HIV Prevention", which first came out in 2007 and is being reprinted this year in HIV Treatment and Prevention Technologies in International Perspective, edited by Mark Davis and Corinne Squire. The article is concerned with the way risk is measured in the prevention sciences, and the effects of the mismatch between gay men's HIV prevention practices "on the ground" and what's identified as risk within the science. Barebacking is the case in point. I was amazed to discover that most of the initial articulations of barebacking in the US media from 1995 were made by HIV positive men, speaking about unprotected sex with other HIV positive men. There's no risk of newly infecting an HIV-negative individual with HIV in these circumstances. And in fact this strategy is even promoted today in some US contexts as serosorting. But these men were denounced as deliberate risk-takers at the time because they were talking about breaching the condom code. In the moral panic that ensued, the concerns around HIV prevention that were actually informing the practice got lost. I'm interested in the extent to which mainstream behavioural science was complicit in this process.

"In failing to attend to the cultural categories and practices according to which gay men are organising their sex lives, behavioural science misses innovative HIV prevention practices and mislabels them as risk."

The risk of HIV prevention which the title refers to is the risk that, in failing to attend to the cultural categories and practices according to which gay men are organising their sex lives, behavioural science misses innovative HIV prevention practices and mislabels them as risk. This promotes an image of gay men as intentional risk takers, irrespective of the precautions and conditions that actually animate their sexual practice. I think this is what has happened in the case of barebacking, and the effect has been to produce unprotected sex without condoms as a thrilling transgression of public health norms. When in fact it needn't be, and in some contexts it is actually quite safe.

More broadly, I think there is a related risk that current practices of HIV prevention, including social scientific practices, can't quite grasp the relationality of liminal practices like sex and drugs, and end up reifying the idea of the rational choice-making individual as the subject of these practices. Sometimes we overemphasize the intentionality of sexual actors, when it seems to me that part of the appeal of sex and drug practices, at least on some occasions, is a certain losing sight of the self. I think there's something important about the focus on relationality and liminality in these approaches that needs further elaboration. We need to develop better ways of accounting for sex and risk which take this dimension of erotic experience into account, without pathologizing it. I'm hoping that grappling with this problem may produce some new and better ways of doing practice-focused sexuality research. But this is an ongoing project.

Question: What do you think needs to change about the way public health approaches HIV prevention?

Well, that's a difficult question to answer, because public health approaches HIV prevention differently in different contexts. But I think this would be one area. We need knowledge practices that are better attuned to the cultural categories according to which people are organising their sex lives and which are better able to account for the relationality and variability of sexual practice. Sexual practices, drug practices and prevention practices change - in the context of new technologies, new environments, and new circumstances. I think HIV prevention needs to keep in touch with these changes if it wants to remain relevant and responsive to those groups that are most at risk. There is a lot of emphasis in the international field today on determining the predictability of interventions. I think this emphasis is misguided, given what we know about historical and cultural change. Instead we need research methods and pedagogies that promote both individual and public responsiveness to the unpredictable situations that inevitably emerge.

"I think sex education needs to be a central part of HIV prevention education, and it needs to go beyond biological descriptions of anatomy and risk to provide opportunities for reflection on the dynamics of specific sexual contexts and relations if it wants to equip people to protect themselves and each other effectively."

I've talked about the need for critical sex education as a feature of HIV prevention programs. There is a great deal of resistance to this internationally. Indeed, one of the drivers of official enthusiasm for very expensive trials of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis around the world at the moment seems to be the promise PREP holds out of avoiding difficult public discussions around sexual practice, drug use, and gendered relations. I think sex education needs to be a central part of HIV prevention education, and it needs to go beyond biological descriptions of anatomy and risk to provide opportunities for reflection on the dynamics of specific sexual contexts and relations if it wants to equip people to protect themselves and each other effectively. The same could be said for drug education. We need a less moralizing approach to drug education and service delivery that de-pathologizes people's desire for pleasure and proceeds pragmatically from that point.

I also believe that public health needs to resist current trends towards criminalizing HIV transmission. Sex is a relational practice. It takes place between two or more people. In criminalizing HIV transmission and non-disclosure of status, the criminal law produces a sense of HIV-positive individuals as exclusively responsible for HIV infection, and this in turn promotes a false sense of security and protection for HIV-negative individuals. So while one may well find willful or reckless transmission ethically troubling, there is a technical and practical question here about whether criminalization is an effective way to promote public health (not to mention a shared response to HIV). There is already a wealth of knowledge in the field about the negative public health effects of punitive strategies. Punitive strategies constitute individuals as stigmatized subjects; make them less likely to access services; promote evasiveness and disavowal; and reduce people's capacity to care for themselves. They also promote a climate of distrust, suspicion, hostility and fear - the very opposite of an enabling environment for public health. I believe public health needs to continue to insist on HIV prevention as part of its ambit, and not a matter for the criminal code.

Question: Many scholars today have trouble with the notion of social change, in part because both the foundation for advocating for that change and the notions of "progress" and "justice" have been so thoroughly challenged and at the very least made slippery. And yet, of course, many of us got involved in academia with some hope of our scholarship actually making some kind of impact on the world around us. How do you approach this problem?

Hmm. I think social change is already happening - sometimes very rapidly, sometimes quite slowly, always with complex implications - and the challenge is to work out how it is happening, and intervene in ways that you think will be productive. We have a habit in the HIV field of separating the concept of "science" from "intervention", but as someone who has been involved in the HIV field in various ways for almost 15 years now, I am utterly convinced that knowledge practices matter: they are performative - which is to say they are intimately involved in the production of certain realities over others. I've seen this happen. Science is intervention, whether we like it or not. So for me your question is a qualitative question. That is to say, if scholarship is already having an impact on the world around us, then what sort of impact is it having and how could things be improved?

"To me, to articulate and teach critical theories of sexuality is to develop one counterpublic space among others."

And for me this raises methodological questions. I'm attracted to fields like cultural studies because they provide models of embodied scholarship and a context for reflecting on practices of embodied scholarship which I find more promising, politically and ethically, than research methods which require you to cloak your subjectivity at the door as a condition of entry. I find it bizarre for example that we have so many people working in the HIV field (and also the drugs field) who are participants in affected communities but who are blocked if not actively discouraged by the professional or scientific frames within which they work from reflecting, as part of their work, on their experience in any structured or sustained or critically informed way. We need to be producing spaces and contexts for this to happen! In the mainstream field, it now seems as though "research" and "community" are conceived as entirely distinct domains, the first completely disembodied, the second increasingly tokenistic. We should refuse this binary. We need participants of affected communities to be engaged in critical reflection and research about the conditions and details of their experience, and for the knowledge they produce through this process to be taken seriously as part of policy debate. For the past couple of years I have been putting most of my energies into developing a large undergraduate course in sexualities here at the University of Sydney. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a student begin to pick up the tools of queer studies and cultural theory and start to use them to understand their world and their experience of it. I think the new generation of sexuality researchers will be critically astute, engaged with social policy, and produce work that is both conceptually innovative and empirically informed, and grounded in their experience of the world. Certainly, these are attributes I hope to foster in my teaching.

To me, to articulate and teach critical theories of sexuality is to develop one counterpublic space among others. And many need to be developed. Like other cultural researchers, I try to work at various interfaces and engage with multiple publics - some academic, some pedagogical, some policy-related, some popular, some subcultural - where the aim is to participate in debate and develop new ways of understanding, and therefore acting upon, experience. It's true that academic work has a quite specific field of circulation, but it connects to many others. One would hope that by identifying and giving weight to certain under-articulated or hidden forms of experience, new spaces for thought and practice - and new possibilities of responsiveness - open up.

PERMALINK | Posted at 11:58 AM | Post a Comment (4)

June 25, 2010

Frameline 34: "The Adults in the Room"
FILED UNDER: "Queer Cinema"
TAGS: Framelineintergenerational intimacyLGBT Cinema
By Trevor

Director: Andy Blubaugh
Trevor's Rating: 5 / 5 Stars



My luck at Frameline just never seems to end this year. I've laughed. I've cried. And now with the addition of The Adults in the Room, I've had to think. Hard. This is hands down the most creative, challenging, and fascinating film I've seen this year at Frameline -- and perhaps ever. I know, I know -- that's a bit of a strong statement, but it reflects my love for this film. It is nothing short of incredible.

To say that this film deals with controversial subject matter is an understatement. Sex between people classified as minors and those classified as adults is perhaps one of the most heavily policed sexual boundaries. Maybe only incest is regarded with more disdain. Young people are not supposed to be sexual, and when they are with their peers it causes anxiety. When they have sex with people older than them, it causes outright panic.

This film cannot be easily classified. It is part documentary, part feature. Part fiction, part true story. It takes everything you expect about a film and throws it out the window. As such, telling you about it here is something of a challenge. But here goes.

When director Andy Blubaugh was 15, he had an intimate relationship with the father of his classmate. In The Adults in the Room, we get to see Andy grappling with the memory of this relationship. We see him meeting with friends to discuss making the film, his conflicted emotions about the relationship, and his angst over how to represent his lover without painting him as either totally innocent or guilty, so to speak. We see him auditioning actors to play both his younger self and his older lover, and the real discomfort that these actors experience when they realize they're expected to make out on screen. We see him discussing the "character" Andy's motivations with friends and teachers. We even get to see Andy in the classroom, teaching students about film-making (which reads as documentary, but is actually reenacted for the film by volunteers).

Alongside these self-reflexive and incredibly insightful vignettes into the filmmaking process and into Andy's brain, we get pieces of the finished narrative product. The actor cast as the younger Andy was in fact 16, and does in fact make out with his costar. He's pretty incredible and does a great job of conveying conflicted youth on screen. As the director noted during the Q&A, there is a difference between a 20 year-old playing a teenager and an actual 16 year-old on screen. Teenage angst is just about impossible to recreate without seeming farcical or overplayed.

What I especially love about these feature segments is that, because of the inclusion of the documentary-esque portions, the reconstructed artificiality of this story becomes apparent. Often times we take more seriously stories that are based on true stories, but of course what we remember is not actually what happened. It is our reconstructed, reformulated memory of those events. Because we get to see real-life Andy typing and editing the script for the scenes in the feature segments, it becomes impossible for the viewer to consume the story as if it were actually "reality." This of course should not be a way of discrediting the representation of that reality. Indeed, reconstructed memories are how we make sense of our lives and create our identities. They form the foundation of the decisions we make today -- of who we are as people.

I can't also applaud more loudly Andy's carefulness in dealing with this subject matter. He never claims to have the answer, to exculpate his lover or intergenerational relationships generally. He has his experience, and he sticks to it. This is a difficult decision when dealing with an experience that is caught up in such a web of sticky political issues. Representing that experience without making dramatic claims about its political rights and wrongs is no easy task. Put another way, he sticks to what he knows best. What that allows as a viewer is to leave the film asking the political questions, which is exactly what I did. Because he did not give us easy answers, my friends and I were still talking about that film two hours later.

I could keep writing about all the things I loved about the film, but I'd wind up taking away the pleasure that you will undoubtedly have in watching it yourself. I desperately hope this film gets distributed. You need to see it. And I can't wait to see it again! You can follow the film's progress on their website.

Here's a trailer:

PERMALINK | Posted at 3:19 PM | Post a Comment (0)


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