March 11, 2011

"I’m sad... They’re already talking online, so they don’t need a club."

So said "event organizer" Darwin Bebo, quoted in this article about the obsolescence of "social groups" for gay people.
The tug of war between the virtual and physical worlds is happening in every strata of society, but in the gay community the shift has been especially poignant and with significant implications. Social groups helped start the gay civil rights movement, and in recent decades they have raised millions of dollars for causes like same-sex marriage and the battle against H.I.V./AIDS....

The roots of many gay and lesbian social groups date to when homosexuality was a crime and gatherings were illegal.

“Social groups and networks founded the G.L.B.T. community as early as the 1950s,” said Paul Boneberg, executive director of the GLBT Historical Society. “It represented an ability to find each other.”
I wonder how the gay rights movement would have unfolded if the internet had been available all along. I imagine that gay people would have remained more physically dispersed if they could have found each other and formed relationships on a much more decentralized level. I'm guessing there would have been far less intertwining of gay rights issues and liberal/left politics. The core rights have to do with individual expression in the private sphere. These would have been won without forming large groups that meet in person.

The linked article ends with a second quote from Boneberg: "I don’t see the transition as a weakening of the community." Life on the internet is different. It's weaker in some ways and stronger in others. The "event organizer" is sad. People who used terms like "community" are equivocal. But I'm sure there are plenty of people who don't want to be organized and don't feel like they're in a community just because they have a particular sexual preference. The internet makes you stronger, if you're inclined toward individualism.

If the internet had been around all along, then, many private persons would have created satisfying lives for themselves, and some expressive, individualistic voices would have gained immense influence. And the amassers of groups would have had a lot less to do.

More sex. More speech. Less community organizing.

45 comments:

Alex said...

More gay sex = Titus ecstatic right?

Rose said...

"More sex. More speech. Less community organizing."

I like your thinking!

E.M. Davis said...

"More sex. Less speech. Less community organizing."

There, fixed.

Bob_R said...

I think that there will always be a huge incentive for young gay people to move to places where there is a critical mass of potential partners. Heck, heterosexuals leave small towns to find interesting partners. Even when attitudes improve much more than they have now, a small town will be a lonely place to be young and homosexual.

Leo Ladenson said...

The love that dared not speak its name now won't shut up.

Ann Althouse said...

". Even when attitudes improve much more than they have now, a small town will be a lonely place to be young and homosexual."

Yeah, a really small town, but what if there is a medium-sized city within a 20-minute drive and you can use internet dating to find the other gay people in your area. Also, if you do relocate, you might choose a city in your region rather than thinking you have to go to San Francisco or New York.

Ann Althouse said...

"The love that dared not speak its name now won't shut up."

Well, in part because political movements have to keep going on to new issues after the basic rights are won. Note the women's movement, etc.

I'm saying that the basic rights would be won and people would concentrate on individual goals and speaking for expression rather than keeping groups aggregated for political power.

Freeman Hunt said...

This probably applies to all kinds of things. As time goes on, I don't think it would be surprising to find that other things, for example intellectual capital, become less physically concentrated.

virgil xenophon said...

LOL, My Man Leo!!

Trapper Townshend said...

I question whether making it easier for people to find sexual partners really quickly and conveniently will lead to "more speech."

former law student said...

If the internet had been around all along

The first Internet gay discussion forum, net.motss*, began in 1983. Its popularity rose with the spread of computers with modems, and fell as web-based forums took over.

*Members Of The Same Sex. Group is currently known as soc.motss, on Usenet.

But connecting over the internet has always led to IRL meetings and gatherings. As an example, here's the text from one of the earliest archived (1990) messages of ba.motss:

I went to the g/l Amdahl employees lunch group today. A nice group of
people. If there are other Amdahl employees out there who don't know about
us, and want to get on the mailing list, please send me a note on amail.

shoutingthomas said...

Yeah, a really small town, but what if there is a medium-sized city within a 20-minute drive and you can use internet dating to find the other gay people in your area. Also, if you do relocate, you might choose a city in your region rather than thinking you have to go to San Francisco or New York.

Herein finally, the admission that gays haven't been running off to San Francisco or New York because the yokels are hanging them from trees in the small towns.

They've been running to San Francisco and New York for the clubs and the orgies.

And to form their own exclusive groups that then become intolerant of everybody outside their group.

You can see this in the lunacy of Madison (or in Woodstock where I live). The runaways form their runaway communities and promptly become as intolerant and insular as the people in the towns towns they escaped, just with a new improved dogma. Heresy to the leftist norm in Madison or Woodstock is regarded as treason.

The fantasy tale that gays were subject to oppression... it was made up to get around the AIDS epidemic. Tens of thousands of gay men killed themselves with their own sexual behavior.

The myth of gay oppression transferred the guilt to hetero men. It turned out that it wasn't gays' own sexual behavior that threatened their lives... it was hetero men!

Thus, gays are just like blacks in the Jim Crow south... victims of the awful white, hetero men!

Thanks for finally admitting the truth, Althouse. Gay men weren't running from the heartland to escape oppression. They wanted to get laid, go to orgies and form their own insular, intolerant communities.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Unless you're a white, hetero man.

Joan said...

This probably applies to all kinds of things.

Yes. I've been facilitating a thyroid cancer support group for years, and we've seen drastic drops in attendance over the last year even though we know the number of diagnoses of thyroid cancer is increasing every year. Our attendance is so low that we're thinking about suspending the group meetings altogether and just providing phone and email support. I've benefited from online resources but this kind of {hug} can't hold a candle to real thing, and that's what you can get when you're meeting people face-to-face.

There's a good middle ground somewhere, where online communication is balanced by real world interaction.

Julius said...

I'm guessing there would have been far less intertwining of gay rights issues and liberal/left politics.

Listen, Professor, the conservatives and those on the right can have the votes of gay people whenever they want them. They can bust the whole intertwining of gay rights and Leftism in an afternoon.

How?

Stop demonizing gay people and make an honest pitch for their votes on the basis of fiscal conservatism and small government. Explicitly disclaim the legacy of Jerry Falwell.

Gay people want to be left alone to pursue happiness just like other Americans. Let them do so!

But the conservative establishment seems to have an irresistible need to demonize gays, to heap every problem that America suffers from on their hirsute, pear-shaped backs. Why? It's stupid and counterproductive. Still, conservatives choose to go down this path, and they are the only ones to blame when gay people, by and large, choose to side with the Left.

former law student said...

Herein finally, the admission that gays haven't been running off to San Francisco or New York because the yokels are hanging them from trees in the small towns.

Ann Althouse is gay?!? *head spins*

People move to where there's a critical mass of their people. Gays move to San Francisco where they can live openly. Techies move to Silicon Valley because that's where the other techies are, along with the vulture capitalists. Old people move to Sun City or whatever. Gamblers move to Las Vegas.

The Crack Emcee said...

As someone who doesn't see himself as having a "community" the internet has been great for connecting with others. I respect the gay people I meet online, using their sex the same way my race is used - as a source for ribbing - but not for exclusion. Nobody needs to organize anything:

We're doing it ourselves.

ricpic said...

When will the boy king address and SOLVE the bullying homos crisis?! Of course first he'd have to determine whether homos being bullied or homos bullying straights is the bigger crisis. 'Tis a puzzlement.

shoutingthomas said...

People move to where there's a critical mass of their people. Gays move to San Francisco where they can live openly. Techies move to Silicon Valley because that's where the other techies are, along with the vulture capitalists. Old people move to Sun City or whatever. Gamblers move to Las Vegas.

And, so, how are we disagreeing?

The myth of the gay rights movement was that gays were being savagely abused in the heartland, and that was the reason they were fleeing to San Francisco and New York.

I'm thanking Althouse for finally, after all these years of political lies, telling the truth.

shoutingthomas said...

Jesus, what a fucking lie.

Conservatives don't support gay marriage. Other than that, what have you got?

So, we're back to the logic of the spoiled brat protesters in Wisconsin.

Give us everything we want, right now, or we're going to throw a tantrum!

shoutingthomas said...

But the conservative establishment seems to have an irresistible need to demonize gays, to heap every problem that America suffers from on their hirsute, pear-shaped backs. Why? It's stupid and counterproductive. Still, conservatives choose to go down this path, and they are the only ones to blame when gay people, by and large, choose to side with the Left.Jesus, what a fucking lie.

Conservatives don't support gay marriage. Other than that, what have you got?

So, we're back to the logic of the spoiled brat protesters in Wisconsin.

Give us everything we want, right now, or we're going to throw a tantrum!

Left out the quote the first time. Sorry.

Julius said...

@shoutingthomas-

Jerry Falwell in 2001, maybe?

Things like that are long-lasting and create permanent revulsion. You need to explicitly disclaim them, not just assume that no one cares anymore.

btw... Which Woodstock do you live in? NY or IL?

shoutingthomas said...

I live in Woodstock, NY.

Nice try with the Falwell stuff.

Then you need to disclaim the lunatic Boys in the Band nonsense, a ridiculous propaganda movie than shifted the blame for the AIDS epidemic away from the behavior of gay men, and somehow placed the blame on President Reagan.

You're attempt to place gays in the position of persecuted martyrs is absurd.

It has, I admit, been a successful political tactic, so I can see why you would want to keep using it.

The issue of why this tactic has been so successful is another question altogether.

shoutingthomas said...

And, Julius, I lived in San Francisco and New York City during the AIDS epidemic.

Fuck off with the propaganda.

I witnessed the behavior of gay men that led to their deaths by the tens of thousands. People are entitled to kill themselves with orgies and degenerate behavior. I'll give you that.

The behavior of gay men during that era was far worse than is widely known.

I used to be on your side. Witnessing the self-destruction of tens of thousands of gay men had a dramatic effect on my outlook.

Traditional Christian theology about the behavior of gay men was probably folkloric wisdom about health. I would bet the AIDS epidemic is not the first time in history that gay men have gone down that path.

You can sell the revisionist history to some other sucker. I was there.

Julius said...

@shoutingthomas-

Well, my dear neighbor, I don't think it is absurd because it is my experience that this is why many gay people refuse to vote Republican. It is not an effective Leftist trick, as you seem to say, so much as it is simply something that holds back people who would really like to support conservatives from actually doing so.

If conservatives had more effective leadership, that leadership would see this too, and would make the choice to explicitly disclaim the social conservative agenda in favor of fiscal conservatism and a small-government philosophy. It would be a Big Tent for the 2010s.

Republicans can have across-the-board electoral victories, or they can pander to their social conservative elements, but not both. They need to choose. They haven't chosen yet.

Meanwhile, gay people end up uninspired, and on the Left by default.

shoutingthomas said...

Meanwhile, gay people end up uninspired, and on the Left by default.

Since I've lived for 35 years in NYC and Woodstock, I know better.

I have many gay friends who are conservatives and vote Republican.

They don't tell you, and they probably don't hang out with you because the vocal gay community with ostracize them if they do.

Like liberals do with Clarence Thomas, who refuses to do the right thing as a black man.

Julius said...

I have many gay friends who are conservatives and vote Republican.

I see that as an example of what can happen on larger scale, not as some exceptional phenomena.

Coketown said...

I'm gay and have been a member of a few gay social networking websites. Ironically, the proliferation of online social apparatuses has been to diminish the gay identity. For me, it was a lot easier coming to terms with being gay when I didn't have to identify with the gay social establishment. From the first underground homosexual 'clubs' the primary focus was mobilizing energy to normalize and legalize homosexuality. It therefore became an overtly political (which is to say progressive) movement. Like race and gender, sexual orientation is less about the fact of being gay and more about identifying with a certain set of politics.

It was much easier accepting my sexuality when I realized that being gay didn't entail a necessary adoption of progressive ethics and politics, didn't demand that a yield to the prototypical effeminate facade most self-identified gay men adopt, and meant I could care more about sports and church than the next HIV/AIDS fundraising gala.

Moving the social structure online has been a great advance for gay people, but I get the sense from many gay rights activists that rather than being another tool to mobilize gays it's more of an insidious invention that is weakening gay identity.

Carol said...

"You can sell the revisionist history to some other sucker. I was there."

So was Randy Shilts, who reported at length on this behavior, before dying of AIDS himself. His own witness is good enough for me, and he can't really be called a homophobe. But I suppose he is written off as "self loathing."

woof said...

There's a good documentary,Gay Sex in the 70s

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0455953/

And there's Larry Krammer's Faggots which, pre AIDS, documented very dangerous behavior.

Julius said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julius said...

I realize that the Jerry Falwell issue is a little over-the-top.

How about DOMA, though? Why can't we have a federalist approach on gay marriage instead of this one-size-fits-all solution?

Allowing states to define marriage individually is not the same as condoning reckless, irresponsible sexual behavior. It will not lead to another AIDS epidemic or anything like that, not in this day and age.

Same thing with medical marijuana-- what is so wrong with a federalist approach?

Same thing with all of the social conservative agenda. Republicans should get out of that whole business, especially at a national level.

Sophia said...

"I imagine that gay people would have remained more physically dispersed if they could have found each other and formed relationships on a much more decentralized level. I'm guessing there would have been far less intertwining of gay rights issues and liberal/left politics. "

Typical deluded female observation about "gay people."

First of all, Ann, "gay people" don't exist: there are "gay men" and "lesbians." Or "gay women," if you will.

Their behavior is as different as night and day. Or rather, as men and women.

Nothing would have stopped gay men from banging each other's asses 24/7. If a killing virus didn't, why would the option of texting have removed that impetus?

As far as gays and left politics, again, you exhibit the delusion of the typical mainstream Republicrat. The only way you can the public to accept the utter unnaturalness of gay sex is by using all the levers of the US Government (USG). This means leftism.

Ultimately Ann, your wing of the Republicrat party is as hopeless as the Democrats.

Leo Ladenson said...

The love that dared not speak its name now won't shut up.


That saying is attributed variously to Midge Decter and Robertson Davies, among others, but I've actually traced it to director Mike Nichols in that long past year of 1965.

The gheys have been hectoring us for that long.

Phil 3:14 said...

Small towns and gay men

deborah said...

"Nothing would have stopped gay men from banging each other's asses 24/7. If a killing virus didn't, why would the option of texting have removed that impetus?"

I've heard there's a web site where anonoymous meetings between gay men can be arranged.

Sophia, is there a type of lesbian that has serial wham-bam-thank-you-ma'ams? How is the cervical wart situation being talked about?

Sophia said...

I've heard there's a web site where anonoymous meetings between gay men can be arranged.

Really? And I've got a hot tip on two gay male florists in San Francisco!! Who'da thunk??

Re lesbians and cervical warts, I wouldn't know, not my area of expertise. But I have heard that despite media characterizations, lesbians are actually quite promiscuous with men, usually gay men (who will experiment with anything, including an ugh, woman), and have higher rates of STDs than straight women.

Counterintuitive but true.

deborah said...

"lesbians are actually quite promiscuous with men, usually gay men (who will experiment with anything..."

Well, that's surprising. Thanks for the reply.

former law student said...

didn't demand that a yield to the prototypical effeminate facade most self-identified gay men adopt

Huh? Even in San Francisco, the odds of running into a queeny guy are small. Waiters and the occasional department store salesman. None of the gay guys I ever worked with or knew socially.

Coketown said...

@FLS: Give me a fucking break. And excuse the language. Have you been to a gay bar? Gay district? Gay pride march? Anything with a large concentration (and theoretically representative sample) of homosexuals? Would you consider the vast majority of those people paragons of masculinity?

Take your anecdotal evidence and shove it.

Ralph L said...

Paul Boneberg, executive director of the GLBT Historical Society
Whose male ancestor apparently fucked an entire city without using the internet.

To paraphrase Andy Warhol, in the future, you'll only have to be close to someone for 15 minutes.

Some of us have already got it done to 10.

Ralph L said...

How about DOMA, though? Why can't we have a federalist approach on gay marriage instead of this one-size-fits-all solution?
DOMA is the federalist approach, even if it conflicts with the full faith and credit clause. Some states can have gay marriage, gay divorces, and bitter gay custody battles, and others can choose not to.

former law student said...

DOMA is the federalist approach

Huh? DOMA shits all over states' traditional power to regulate marriage.

Where in the Constitution is the Federal government empowered to overrule the states regarding marriage?

Have you been to a gay bar? Gay district? Gay pride march?

I've known dozens of gays over the years. My wife works with one gay guy who makes Gary Cooper look like a sissy.

dick said...

I for one wish that we had had an internet a lot earlier. Would have allowed a way to meet without getting drunk in bars or going to places with back rooms. Would probably had been a whole lot less clone-dressing going on. Really how many men in the city would choose on their own to wear flannel shirts, engineer boots, full leather costumes, moustaches, etc. How many would really choose on their own to spend their weekends and holidays in bars. How many would think that the only way to have a good time was to get high on ecstasy or cocaine while dancing in clubs to music that you normally would not even allow in the door.

With the internet I can see that the whole gay issue would not have become so dominant in politics and that therefore gays would be able to be conservative without losing all their friends (and that is common with gay conservatives). The other thing I think would have happened would have been that gays could live a life that was not centered on their sexual inclination. You could make decisions on the basis of other things than your sex life. That would be great.

Ralph L said...

fls, I don't know what you're thinking of, but I was talking about Clinton's Defense of Marriage Act, under which states don't have to recognize SSMs from other states.

J. said...

"I've known dozens of gays over the years. My wife works with one gay guy who makes Gary Cooper look like a sissy."

Who do you think invented the phrase "str8t acting"? What does it mean?

Egads, under the normally spelled "straight acting" there are 203 THOUSAND results.

"Really how many men in the city would choose on their own to wear flannel shirts, engineer boots, full leather costumes, moustaches, etc. How many would really choose on their own to spend their weekends and holidays in bars. How many would think that the only way to have a good time was to get high on ecstasy or cocaine while dancing in clubs to music that you normally would not even allow in the door."

Every gay guy I have ever known has chosen, of his own volition, not because other modes of socialization were NOT available, to do one of the above.

Do you honestly think that if the internet were available, the above form of gay socializing would NOT have happened?

Why, in the internet age, are 50% of new HIV infections gay men?

Don't ask me to supply cite, google CDC yourselves.