Friday, February 26, 2010

Safe sex, gay banking and all that hooplah

Last week, a new reader sent me the following email:

Dear GB,

I've only started to read your blog over the past few days so apologies if you've already answered this; I'm a twenty-year-old from Manchester.

I don't condemn your activities at all (in fact, I'd say they're probably the most healthiest [mentally] that any couple should have); however I do still wonder about how you tackle (pardon the ... er ... pun) the issue of safe sex, HIV etc?

I presume in sauna-type circumstances condoms are unlikely to be drawn from between the pursuers butt cheeks.

Do you get regular testings?

Feel free to post this on the site, but I'd appreciate if you left it anonymous.

Kind Regards,

The title of the email was "Safe sex, gay banking and all that hooplah" which I thought was a great title, so I've borrowed it for this posting!

Since I became a blogger, I have done a few postings about HIV and safe sex, for example here and here and here. None the less, the last posting on this subject was well over a year ago, so I thought that it would be worth airing the issues again because it's an important subject.

Anyone who asks the kind of questions that this reader is asking presumably knows the basic rule, namely that one should avoid getting the other guy's cum in one's orifices. Hence one should use condoms, so that when the other guy cums, his cum stays in the condom to be thrown away later.

I like the reader's idea that in a gay sauna, a guy with tight butt cheeks could keep a condom held there, in case he needed it :-). In reality, condoms are usually available in gay saunas. At the very least, condoms are often found in the lockers where one leaves one's clothes. However, I've also been in saunas where condoms are available in the private cubicles, which has the advantage that they don't need to carried around. Additionally, rather than needing to rely on keeping one's buttocks clenched, I can recall that in one sauna that I've been to there was a tiny pouch attached to the locker key. The pouch was intended to carry a condom and lube, and since one has to carry the key anyway, carrying the condom too was no extra hassle.

It's actually been a while since I visited a gay sauna. I think the last time was probably just before Christmas 2008, when I had a bit of time to kill before meeting lapsed blogger HBH for a Christmas meal at Oxo Tower in the evening. So after work, I went to relax at Pleasuredrome, because it's less than ten minutes walk from there to Oxo Tower. It had also been quite a while since my previous visit, so while I was getting changed, I was amused to see that they'd introduced a system to try and help guys find the right kind of partner. Some posters in the changing rooms explained the system:
Can't find what you're looking for? Let us help you cruise! Pleasuredome Cruising Bands. Is he Arthur, Martha, or piggy in the middle?
and on the poster where three designs of cruising bands. The 'Arthurs' were meant to carry a light blue cruising band, the 'Marthas' were meant to carry a yellow cruising band, and for the 'piggies in the middle' there were bands with blue and yellow stripes! I don't remember seeing many guys using the bands though, so I'm not sure it caught on.

Another thing that the reader mentions is HIV testing. I blogged about one of my visits to a sexual health clinic back in 2005. I definitely think it's good to get regular checkups, and the more guys that one meets for fun, the more regular I think the checkups should be. Which reminds me, it's been just over two years since my last visit so I'm definitely going to make an appointment at my local clinic in the very near future!

Do any other readers have any thoughts that could help this young reader?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Old friends

"So how was your evening?" asks the black taxi driver, once I've told him where I want to go. His accent is immediately recognisable. He's Chinese.

"I just had supper with an old school friend who I hadn't seen for more than 25 years!" I reply.

"Amazing," says the cabbie, "did you just meet him again in the street?"

"It was through facebook actually! I suddenly got a friend invite from this guy who I used to be friends with when I was 11 years old :-). I wouldn't have recognised him if I'd just seen him in the street."

Seeing him smiling at me the mirror, I realise that this is quite an unusual situation.

"You're Chinese aren't you?" I ask, changing the subject.

"Yes, why?"

"I don't think I've ever had a Chinese black taxi driver before. And I take a lot of taxis!"

"There are a few of us around :-)."

"So are you from Hong Kong?"

"Yes, originally," he replies, "but I live over here now. Of course, I've still got family back in Hong Kong."

We chat briefly about London and Hong Kong but soon, perhaps because we're getting on quite well, he asks me another question.

"So are you married?"

"No, but I've got a boyfriend :-)," I answer casually, "and actually, he's Asian!"

He seems slightly surprised and excited by my answer, and soon we're chatting about gay life in London.

"Do you ever go out?" he asks, rather cryptically.

"You mean to gay venues? Yes sometimes! We went to Heaven last year :-). But we don't need to go cruising, so when we go out we don't usually feel the need to go to gay places!"

"Actually, my brother is gay," he says finally, explaining his interest. "He asks me what the gay places are like over here."

"Well I think that London is quite a good place to be gay :-)."

"So why didn't you take your boyfriend to meet you old friend tonight?"

"Well, after 25 years I wasn't sure whether we'd still get on with each other!"

"And did you?"

"Yes, mostly, although we don't have very much in common any more. And he smokes :-(. I hardly know anyone who still smokes these days. But it was interesting that he thought I hadn't changed much. I'm not sure whether after 25 years that's a good thing or not, I mean, I'd like to think that experience has made me a better person than I was when I was 11! Anyway, has anything like that ever happened to you, meeting up with a very long lost friend?"

"Not yet," replies the cabbie, "but maybe it will. I joined facebook recently!"

We continue chatting casually for the rest of the journey, but soon we're back at my house and I'm paying the fare.

Later it occurs to me that suddenly meeting up with old friends like this won't happen to the generation of my nephew and niece, because as long as facebook is around, they'll all be permanently connected with their school friends. My nephew already has over 700 facebook friends and he's still at school!

Perhaps it'll be better like that, because if your old friends are always available online, one won't suddenly feel the need to meet up with any of them again. In my case, although it was absolutely fascinating, it was also slightly difficult because we'd grown apart a lot.

Do any other readers have any similar experiences, meeting up with old friends after 25+ years?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Don’t ask … ahh … too late!

A few days ago, I received the email below from a American Iraq war veteran who's in his mid 20's. The email is about the American military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, which prohibits discourages gay men and women from serving in the American armed forces. That policy is likely to be in the news in the coming months, because it looks like the current law might finally be repealed this year.

In most of the rest of the Western world, this issue has already been dealt with. The Dutch lifted their ban on gays in the military in 1974, Australia and Canada followed in 1992, although it wasn't until 2000 that the UK caught up. The only EU member where gays are still prohibited in the military is Greece, which is slightly bizarre because gay soldiers were common in ancient Greece!

The guy who sent me the email has actually written a book about his experiences in Iraq. Looking at his web site and the description of his book, as far as I can tell he's straight. None the less, he's comes out strongly in favour of repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, as he explains below:

My name is Michael Anthony. I am an Iraq war veteran and having spent six years in the Army, at the age of twenty-three, I have spent more than a quarter of my life in service to the United States. I have four older brothers and an older sister, all of whom have been in the military: Air Force, Marines and Army. My father and both my grandfathers were in the military.

Hailing originally for a small sheltered town just south of Boston Massachusetts, I say this in all earnestness: the only gay people I know have all been in the military. This is not a joke or some talking point, it's literal. Generals, Commanders and Civilians can talk all they want, but the fact of the matter is, the only gay friends I've had have all been in the military, in fact, my only experience of gay people (outside of the military) is when I once watched and episode of the TV show Will and Grace (it was kind of funny).

For the policy known as DADT, there is one thing people often forget. People forget that the policy doesn’t preclude gay people from entering the military it just precludes them from talking about their homosexuality. In short, someone can be gay in the military; they just can't talk about being gay in the military.

If people are already in the military and gay—from my former unit alone I know close to a dozen—what is it that people are afraid will happen with the repeal of DADT? Are people afraid that the day after DADT is rescinded; gay soldiers are going to walk in wearing a feather boa and buttless fatigues? The uniform policy will still be in effect so we can cross that option out. Are people afraid that it's going to hurt troop morale? The military suicide rate is at a thirty year high having consistently risen for the past five years, with eighteen veterans killing themselves everyday (according to the Veteran's Association) so it seems like it can't get any worse.

With everything said, there is a negative aspect to repealing DADT. Having been in the military all my adult years, my peer group is filled with Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Several of these war veterans having done two or three tours, have sworn that they will never go back to Iraq or Afghanistan. Upon further questioning on how they plan to get out deployment if called, their answer is simple: "don't ask, don't tell," expounding further, they say that if they're called up, they will simply kiss a member of the same sex—in front of their commander. So how is repealing DADT going to affect the military? The answer is simple. My friends who jokingly suggested using DADT as a way to get out of a deployment are now stuck going to Iraq or Afghanistan!

Monday, February 15, 2010

East Africa

"I'm not racist," says my friend, "after all, I've got an African boyfriend. But I do think that their culture is a bit screwed up. For example, I can think of six different Swahili words for arse fucking!"

Both myself and boyfriend T burst out laughing. We've come out to dinner with an old friend of mine who lives in Africa for part of the year, and it's quite interesting listening to what he has to say.

"But in English there are quite a few words for arse fucking as well," I point out, "Anal sex, buggery, rear entry, and so on."

"I suppose so," answers my friend, "but in Africa, in the villages near my house, they completely obsessed with it. A rumour started recently that there was a vampire in the area, and everyone went mad. It's not blood sucking that they're worried about. They all believe that vampires will put you into a trance and then fuck you up the arse!"

"You're joking surely?" I reply, slightly shocked, "and these people really believe it?"

"Absolutely they do! But there's a way to prevent a vampire from fucking your arse. You have to go to sleep on your hands and knees, with your naked arse stuck up in the air. Any vampire that sees that will be sure that it's a trick, to try and catch him, so he'll leave you alone! When the vampire rumour started recently, there were all these people wandering around looking tired and with sore limbs, from where they'd been trying to sleep with their arse in the air."

"Does this mean that they're all obsessed with the idea of gay sex too?" I ask.

"It's a taboo subject, but in reality there's a lot of it going on."


"Well, typically the men don't get married until their late 20's. But a lot of the young women don't like sex before marriage, because they don't want to have babies out of wedlock, and they don't trust their men to use condoms. So in their early 20's, some of the guys will basically fuck each other."

"It would be interesting to visit you there sometime," says boyfriend T, fascinated by what he's been hearing.

"Well you're both more than welcome :-)," replies my friend enthusiastically, "but if you end up one morning in a trance and with a sore bottom, don't say that I didn't warn you!"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Email from a reader who lives in a developing country

A few days ago, a reader sent me the email which I've posted below. I also saw the film Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire recently. Both that film and this reader's email made me realise how lucky I am.

Hi GB,

First of all, a heartfelt "Thank you" for your blog. For middle-aged gay men like me residing on the other side of the world, your blog and that of many others serve as a reminder that it is indeed possible to have a real life beyond the shores. A life lived in a way that I can only dream of – without bigotry, constraints, duplicity, or prejudice.

I live in a Third World country. You may not have heard of my country and it does not matter; we are simply one of the many dozens of inconsequential sovereignties in the United Nations. It is unfortunate that one cannot choose where he is born. If we could, I have no doubt that everyone would have picked a First World country to be born in. I've never been out of the country myself (except once, too many years ago, as a last-minute "just because" replacement when a close friend to went to Singapore). My passport has since expired without any additional immigration stamp.

It is very hard for guys like me to travel overseas. With a low salary, I am having trouble making the most basic needs meet. In a society where "who you know" counts most, men without the "dynamic" connections are consigned to the most menial of tasks. Twiddling thumbs, pushing paper, watching grass grow, seat warming, and pencil sharpening remain in the exclusive domains of Pay Grade 3 and above. Single men and women who do not have the right connections seek those who have. It pretty much sets them for life. When your wife's second cousin's husband's uncle holds a high government position, it pays to name him as a work reference even though you have never met him. Just don't forget his birthday and Christmas gifts. A much closeted unmarried gay man in the midst of a life crisis? I thank all my patron saints and lucky stars I even have a decent job.

I have seen many of my countrymen who have been able to travel overseas. Most of them return with an attitude that I like to call as being pseudo-Western. I call them that because, in their travels, they pick up the bugs and germs responsible for the Western attitude of nonchalance, detachment, or indifference. Unwarranted generalization? So, sue me.

Call it my "colonial mentality" but I have yet to encounter a Western guy (real or pseudo) who will meet with a Third World gay man and genuinely accord him with esteem, homage, and high regard. I am aware that these traits are not to be taken so lightly, may take time, and have to be earned, like honesty and sincerity, but, when one comes into a game with the odds stacked against him, he has to work extra hard and vigilantly to even merit the attention that might be languorously granted to him.

I dislike it how most people (gay pseudo-Westerners especially) take for granted the ease and liberty by which they can readily travel. We of the common lot, however, go through all sorts of trials and tribulations in search of the potent visa. It is no wonder that there are many of us who knowingly and even actively participate in nefarious scams, schemes, and swindles in order to procure the much revered entry visa. Blessed are those with ten-year multiple entry visas.

I also dislike it how these pseudo-Westerners who, upon their return from their overseas jaunts, show off with contempt and disdain. Setting aside the manner by which they acquired their visas, they attempt to dazzle us mere locals with their glitzy blings, counterfeit Louis Vuittons, lurid photos, and flamboyant stories of their forged credit card funded sprees. Crime pays top dollars, you see; the meek and the honest happily settle for loose change.

Compounding all these internal furies is my inability to be the real me. The real me as being a gay man. I'm gay, yes. Am I happy? You have got to be kidding. Feeling proud? Are you out of your mind? Contented? Get out of here! Ever had a fulfilling relationship? Yes, with my pet turtles. Have friends? Too many. All with their own closets to carry and as clueless as me.

In a draining effort for some gratifying male company, I find myself furtively trawling Internet ads for guys, bi or gay, local or expat, white/black/brown/red/yellow, living or visiting my country and, importantly, seeking "fun". No strings, even.

I have had very little success in that regard. After all, 98.7% of these men want young men only. Who wants a man well past his "use by" date? Further tainted by the fact that we are well-known for fleecing gullible tourists, what chance did I have? I was quite lucky with the 1.3% because all the young men will have been snatched already, or live in a remote island, or the guy is simply too horny to care.

On the rare occasions that I get to be intimate with another man, I relish every moment spent with him. Once, many moons ago, when I was in the arms of a generous mature Scot, I remember wishing that time would stop and the world be still so that this extraordinary feeling of being "loved" will not end. I also remember thinking that the arms around me were to embrace and hold me, not strangle me. I did not care that he was almost old enough to be my father. (Sorry, but I just could not resist adding this: Speaking of fathers, my own dear father was not meant to be. Sperm donors will have had achieved nobler estates and carried out worthier causes.)

So far, all my male/male intimacies have been fleeting and temporary. As much as I'd like to form a stable relationship with most of my sexdates, I know it is just not possible, given the environment I'm in. I'd sell my soul to Devil in exchange for a continuing companionship with someone I'm really fond of but I think the Devil easily realizes he'll be getting a bad deal. Truth be told, I am seething with jealousy and incensed with envy when I read about successful and enduring gay partnerships, especially an East and West union. A mainly internal resentment, I agree, and, most will say, with dubious rationalization.

If being gay is a "choice", then I must have been really stupid. It is so not easy to be happy and gay and live a half-decent life in the bottom third of the Third World. However, having said this, I suppose I should consider myself very lucky I wasn't born in Mongolia.... or Zimbabwe.... or in places where they use minced cat meat in steamed Chinese buns.

Enough of this "woe is me" rant. In spite of (or maybe because of) this, I still hold some hope for my own future. No matter how faint the glimmer may be. It feels like the dying embers of a neglected bonfire... but, still, a burning fire nevertheless.

I look forward to a future where I can be where I want to be, holding hands with the man who will sail with me, through calm waters and rough seas... That dream may be so distant, unattainable, well beyond my reach but this is what is keeping me alive. Life is too high a value to give up without a fight.

"Bulls**t! Get real!" Did I hear you say? Yes, that is clichéd and passé. But what does one do in the face of adversity? I simply refuse to concede defeat. Not if I can help it.

By the way, I am 42. Does it make me a lot more pathetic? I know most will say I'm just angry. Maybe. But the only time I was irrefutably angry was when the dog chewed my Best of Playgirl. All 128 pages of it. I'm glad RSPCA has no office here.

As for readers who may have the irresistible urge to put in their two cents' worth: Please do not hold back. Sock it to me. I enjoy rejection and spite with my breakfast. With spoonfuls of second-class sugar to make the swallowing more palatable. Charity? Don't bother: the Salvation Army is three doors away from me. The Sisters of Mercy only a block away. Contempt? Water off a duck's back.

Many thanks for your patience in reading this rancorous diatribe. Life must go on for every one of us in this planet.

Take care and look after yourself. And more power to you, GB, and all your loved ones – past, present, and future.

I sincerely hope that you will keep your blog ongoing.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Nature or nurture?

Just over a week ago, I went to a lecture titled "Nature, nurture or neither?" which was given by a geneticist. In this context, 'nature' means that a particular characteristic is determined only by someone’s genes, and 'nurture' means that a particular characteristic is determined only by someone’s environment.

Although the subject of gay genes didn't come up, similar questions about other characteristics did. For example, the question of whether particular genes relate to crime was mentioned. The lecturer was quite clear that it existed, namely the genes on the Y-chromosome, because being a criminal is very strongly correlated with being male! However, the lecturer was also equally clear about something else.

"It's almost never nurture or nature that gives rise to a particular characteristic," he said, "because it's pretty much always both!"

I think that makes a lot of sense. There's more gay action in all male environments, such as in prisons, or on board ships before women were allowed to be sailors. The environment definitely seems to affect the way that guys behave in those examples.

But another thing I've noticed is that a lot of gay men that I know were brought up in a very female environments, or come from families where the mother has a much stronger character than the father. My parents got divorced when I was around 10 years old, and after that, me and my sister were brought up by my mother. So I lived in a house with two females and no other males. Boyfriend T, ex-boyfriend P and ex-boyfriend S can also all tell stories which about how their childhood was dominated by females. It may be that we'd have ended up being straight if we'd been brought up in male environments, but because of something in our genes, being brought up in a female environment conditioned us to be gay. I don't know whether anyone can test this theory, but there's one thing that I'm sure about. Whatever the reason, by the time I was old enough to be interested in boys, I definitely didn't have any choice in the matter!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Happy Birthday to this blog!

Today, it's exactly five years since I did my first post. A lot has changed for me since then, particularly in my private life. Five years ago I was living with the guy that I now refer to as ex-boyfriend S. But we split up back in 2008 and now I'm living with boyfriend T. The guy P that I blogged about in my first post became boyfriend P for a while, but we ended up splitting up at the start of 2009.

Since I started this blog I've done 722 posts. I've almost always managed to do a post once very 4 days, if not much more frequently as the chart below shows :-). As part of this blog, I've also become an occasional agony uncle. I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to keep it all up, but without doubt, I've got no regrets about having become a blogger!

Monday, February 01, 2010


A couple of days ago, a reader left a comment asking whether I
"... really talk in [my] characteristically euphemistic way when [I'm] with friends, or is it purely for the benefit of the delicate flowers that are [my] faithful blog readers?"
The truth of the matter is that I myself have a nervous disposition, so talking euphemistically is as much for my benefit as anyone else :-).

Given that I'm easily shocked, imagine my distress yesterday when when we go to visit some friends, and are confronted by the mobile billboard shown in the photo on the right. That bill board is openly advertising heterosexual infidelity! Back in 2005, I mentioned the web site that the bill board is promoting, so its been around for a few years now. None the less, surely this is sign of the lax morality which is slowly infiltrating our society at all levels :-(. The fact that it doesn't seem to cater for gay men is little consolation!