Tuesday, March 05, 2019


So much of the news (and our fate) is about coalitions, categories, and community that I spend time thinking about them as much in the abstract as I can manage, though there is plenty of concrete evidence of their constituents out there.  Through my life time one of the most interesting has been the history of "gays" -- men (specifically) who prefer other men as objects of arousal.  You'll notice I don't say "sex."  There are many kinds of relationship and despite American advertising, they are not all about fucking.  Advertising treats humans like livestock, trying to drive them, brand them, and treat them all the same until they are "killed" one way or another.  But gay men are as various as any other group.  They differ even over something as overwhelming as HIV-AIDS.

HIV-AIDS seemed at first to be connected to sin until people calmed down and thought about viruses.  It turns out it was not that monkeys had climbed down from the trees and become people, but that monkeys had been shot out of trees for food and the viruses they carried killed humans.  It was sort of like Europe crossing into America, bringing all sorts of nasty things like smallpox.  It's possible that HIV-AIDS were simply mystery deaths.  HIV travels in body fluids, no matter their source or nature.  It might be in blood packaged in plastic sacks for transfusions or in mother's milk or in semen.  It's just chemical code based on 4 molecules with a certain arrangement.

When I first began to read and think about the "category" of homosexual men, called "gay," they seemed like one sort of exuberant, defiant, physically invested sort of person.  But then I began to realize how very many different kinds of people had historically, internationally, and still presently live under that umbrella whether they admit it or not.  The kernel of the group is now called MSM, "Men who have Sex with Men."  Some have sex with women, some are fathers, some are religious, some are pedophiles, some are combat veterans or prison graduates.  Some are artists and some are academics -- you get the idea.

Stigmatizing and hiding MSM increases the monetary value of sexwork, makes accusers think twice because the disapproval will rub off on them as well and be hard to explain, draws a line around who's in and who's out, and generally adds an element that is very powerful.  Dynamics about STD's (technically, HIV is not just an "sex transmitted" virus it's NOT an STD.)  pick up a lot of interpretation and management from WWII VD cautions in a time of combat and invasion.  HIV-AIDS is a universal virus.

Revealing known but historically hidden dimensions of sexual interaction have uncovered such propositions as that the Lewis and Clark expedition returned home infected with STD's except for Clark.  (Raises the question why?)  Lewis probably died of tertiary syphillis.  The diseases are clearly evidence of sexual interaction along the way, which to some people is very wicked and to others is proof of virility.  

So this is the way I've been thinking about HIV-AIDS and sexworkers and contagion and social attitudes towards viruses and so on.  I bring this to the problem of how to understand boys whose only way of making money is to sell their bodies various ways, mixing violence and drugs with sex.  The first thing I've become convinced of is that it's important to just leave the whole issue of sex out of it.  Go for the human, boy by boy.

After listening and reading for a couple of decades (not everyone because a lot of stuff is just static -- only a dugout) what strikes me most is that boys of every nation and economy (even the rich) are vulnerable but also have enormous reserves of potential, partly because even under the worst and most deforming circumstances, they grow.  They get bigger, smarter, stronger and more resourceful all the time, maybe by tiny increments and sometimes dying before they get very far along.  

One of the most dynamic potentials for change is showing these boys how to help each other.  They already do it by spontaneously pair-bonding.  Call it love if you want to, but close relationship is basic to human existence.  (There is considerable scientific description about how this works and how irrepressible it is.)

More difficult is the international formation of social structures, circles of people who know each other and who can reach out or even provide resources.  This was once the work of churches, governments and trade unions, but now may be NGO's like Doctors Without Borders.  Specifically HIV positive groups have formed, like "LetsKickASSoregon.org", which is in Portland, Oregon, first meeting in the Rose Garden of Peninsula Park, where my playmates and I used to play.  Generous and humorous, this modern group is people -- due to being tough, lucky, or maybe signing up for unpleasant med regimes back in the beginning -- have outlived every prediction and have had to rethink their lives.  Auxiliary groups are forming.  

Then there's the internet.  It's important that it plays on pocket-friendly gizmos without being plugged into a wall.  It counts that it will take photos, almost as much as cameras.  It's part of the working of safe houses where boys share space.

For some boys learning domestic routines is a whole new adventure.  Due to derelict original homes, barely enough to keep a child alive esp. if you add violence, no one ever had Clean-Up Day.  There was no dishwasher.  These boys learn to do the wash (stacks of blue jeans), scrub the bathroom, toss a big California salad or manage an outdoor grill, plan a grocery run, which no adult in their life had ever done.  Each little task is a chance to have a success and every little success builds towards the future.  It's not all poetry and masterpieces.  It's possible to feel good about sweeping the floor

These things are organic developments unfolding naturally.  Just being real.  What makes it possible is all the hard work that has been done to legitimize "gay" and every other sincere variation on whom one loves and what one does about it, plus more hard work to understand HIV-AIDS and the onerous burden of fighting the politics and emotional chaos.  It's clear that what we are struggling with is not Satan, but families that are volcanic with hatred and toxic with control.  No need for fancy expensive therapy --you can start tonight by sitting down with YouTube and dialing up advice.

In the background, heroes are discovering how to "cure" HIV-AIDS.  You get ready by curing something much harder:  families.

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