AIDS at 25: Barebackin in DC

Bill Weintraub

Bill Weintraub

AIDS at 25: Barebackin in DC


There was a loooooong piece today in the Washington Post about a peer-support group for HIV poz guys in DC:

DC Gay Group Battles 'AIDS Fatigue'

At 25, the Epidemic Presents a New Set of Complications

By Jose Antonio Vargas

Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The poz guys profiled in the article are, on the whole, very young.

They're 22, 32, 33, 37 -- all infected long since anal was identified as the vector.

National and local health-care officials say they fear gay men have "gotten collectively numb" about the epidemic. Some gay rights groups, the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay Men's Health Crisis among them, say a generational gulf has emerged.

All the while, the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that "men who have sex with men" account for the largest proportion of new HIV diagnoses in the United States.

There are some men who get biohazard-symbol tattoos -- on their biceps, arms, calves -- to signal that they're positive. There are those addicted to crystal meth (a.k.a. Tina), which can lead to "partying and playing" (a.k.a. PNP), which often leads to unprotected sex. There are those who join groups for gay men such as DC Poz, where being poz, as in HIV-positive, is the only membership requirement. When Henderson joined the group three years ago, it had 30 members. Word spread. By fall 2004 there were 175. Now there are more than 460.

And then there are those like Josh [, who's 22], who fall somewhere in the midst of all that. He doesn't have a tattoo, he's not at all into Tina, and he isn't sure whether he'll stay with DC Poz[, the support group]. He got infected because he had unprotected sex. And he's still having unprotected sex.

[emphases throughout are mine]

The culprit, as usual, according to AIDS activists, is our repressive right-wing government:

Says Marsha Martin, head of the District's AIDS office: "The truth is the urgency of the HIV prevention messages we've been sending -- safe sex only! use a condom! -- has worn off. And if you think about the political and social climate we've been in and we're still in, what message is that sending to gay men? 'No, you can't get married as gay couples.' 'No, you can't be openly gay in the military.' 'No, you don't have equal rights.' Those things produce a lack of self-esteem, a kind of self-loathing, and in that environment is HIV."

Yet in Canada, as we just reported, in which gays CAN get MARRIED, and ARE in the MILITARY, and DO have EQUAL RIGHTS, HIV prevalence among MSM is UP 16%.


I don't think, Marsha, you can blame this on George.

Any more than we can blame it all on Ronald Reagan.

These men are getting infected through ANAL PENETRATION.


There's no mystery here.


In real estate, it's location.

In HIV, it's risk behavior.

Risk behavior, risk behavior, risk behavior.

And the risk behavior among gay men is anal penetration.

Absent anal, NONE of the men profiled in that article would be poz.


Adds Bruce Weiss, executive director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League, a Capitol Hill-based organization: "The gay community has fought long and hard not to be solely defined by sex. But we have a situation where, as a community, we're not having a frank dialogue about what people are doing in their bedrooms, while they're online, when they're out in bars or wherever meeting people. It's almost as if we've gone into the closet about AIDS."

That's true Bruce, but that closet is an ANAL closet.

It's musty, it's smelly, it's full of shit.



Sometimes as early as 7 am, when he gets up, or as late as 1:30 am, when he's about to go to bed, Josh [22 year old who's poz] signs on to Manhunt dot net.

His life revolves around the Internet. It was on America Online, while chatting in one of the "Men4Men" rooms, where he confirmed to himself that he's gay. He's made friends on Gay dot com. And in the past year, his social life has mostly centered on Manhunt, an online hookup site. It can be a brutal place, full of rejection: "Sorry, I'm only into white guys." But with the right photographs (including sexually explicit ones), the right time ("on a lunch break?") and the right location ("I'm in Capitol Hill"), you're guaranteed sex.

So: Josh was acculturated into gay male culture -- that is, analism -- ON THE NET.

On AOL of all places.

Like most kids now, he learned about being "gay" -- which means doing ANAL -- on the NET.

For months, the headline of Josh's Manhunt profile read "22yo BB." "BB" translates to "bareback," or unprotected sex. He recently changed the headline, though the message is still clear: Unprotected sex is okay. Members of Manhunt are asked to reveal their HIV status by checking "positive" or "negative" or "ask me" in their profiles. Under HIV status, Josh's profile reads "ask me." But Josh says most men still don't ask.

The Manhunt website ALLOWS guys to specify BAREBACK.



What about Bruce Weiss and Marsha Martin -- she who blames George Bush and the religious right for everything -- what are they doing about websites like that?

Is Manhunt run by the Republican National Committee?

Is it financed by Jerry Falwell or Focus on the Family?

Let's get real.

That's a GAY site which makes money off of GAY MEN MURDERING EACH OTHER.

That's the truth.

They don't want to restrict guys like Josh cause they don't want to lose the traffic.

They're driven by one thing and one thing only: the almighty dollar.

Not only do we not allow anal, we don't allow promiscuity of any sort in Frot Club.

We don't even allow the use of the word "hookup."

And we don't allow racism.

Yet I get letters from "safer-sex counselors" saying I should be put in jail.

What does the community care about?

What is it protecting?

[Josh] is a wisp of a man, with smooth, tanned skin and oil-dark eyes, representing his racially mixed background. He is an only child, reared mostly by his mother. He was teased a lot while growing up, Josh says, and he dropped out in ninth grade and got his GED. Kids called him "faggot," so he tried to stay out of their way. The more he felt alone, the more he chatted online, he says.


As commonly happens under heterosexualization, Josh self-isolated and self-defined.

Late one night last November, Josh, at home in Sterling, was chatting with a guy from the U Street corridor. He doesn't remember his name, just that he was "29 or 30 years old," looked racially mixed, lived in a "nice condo."

So, Josh says, he went to his place and had sex. He was lonely. He didn't use a condom.

"You're closer to someone without it," says Josh, who spoke on the condition that only his first name be used. He's never had a boyfriend. "I try to date, but it doesn't work out," he says.

"You're closer to someone without it," says Josh.

That's right -- those are the key issues: sensitivity and intimacy.

Sex with a condom destroys both.

Absent abstinence, the ONLY answer is SEX -- REAL SEX -- which DOES NOT REQUIRE A CONDOM.


FROT is real sex -- genital-genital sex -- which does not require a condom.

Intimacy and sensation galore.

Yet AIDS Inc., with all its millions and tens of millions and hundreds of millions, will not talk about it.

Why not?

Maybe, just maybe, because Frot is too male.

Too Masculine.

Too Manly.

It was during that November encounter that he believes he was infected.

"I thought maybe I'd get gonorrhea or I'd get herpes or something like that," he says. " . . . I just never thought I'd get HIV."

How could he not think about the risk? "It crossed my mind, I guess," Josh says. "But I just didn't think about it."

Does he worry about infecting others?

Says Josh, "I am careful who I bareback with."

Give us a break, Josh.


Why should he?

The guy who infected him didn't care.

Manhunt doesn't care.

No one TRULY cares.

And Josh knows it.

I wonder if a prosecutor in DC or Maryland or wherever will track down Josh and ask him, more forcefully than did our intrepid reporter, the name of the man who infected him.

Because that man should be jailed.

He recklessly and knowingly gave a 21-year-old HIV.

Maybe if we started jailing these assholes in some numbers -- they'd stop what they're doing.

When do you think Marsha and Bruce will back prosecution for those who knowingly spread HIV?

When hell freezes over?

That's a good bet.

Yet remember that a recent court decision in California said that if you THINK you MIGHT have HIV -- based upon your sexual history -- that alone is enough to demonstrate negligence.

The courts are beginning to get it.

The gay community refuses to get it.


The courts get it because the courts do NOT have a vested interest in defending ANAL.

The gay leadership does.

You know, DC is full of lawyers.

Maybe Josh should talk to one of them.

Because, he says, the guy had "a nice condo."

That means he has assets.

That means he can be sued.

If he'd wrecked Josh's car, he'd be liable.

Instead, he's wrecked Josh's life, and NO ONE, most certainly NO ONE in the gay community, seems interested in finding him and holding him responsible.

Why not?

Because doing that would require that the community actually look at the damage done by anal and promiscuity.

And that the community and the leadership does not want to do.

Henderson [the 32 year old leader of] of DC Poz remembers that it was on Feb. 20, 2003, a Thursday, about 3 p.m. The doctor was saying that the results had come back positive and Henderson remembers replying no, that can't be. He was 29.

"I was [expletive] off that I didn't protect myself," he says.

Though he called himself "Mr. Latex" years ago, Henderson admits that he didn't always use a condom. Unprotected sex is "the forbidden fruit," he says. When he contracted the virus, neither he nor the guy he was dating ever said anything about HIV. Each had assumed the other was negative.

"People can say that it's my fault. And it is, they're totally right, 100 percent accurate," Henderson says. "Was it my fault that I didn't use condoms? Yes. Why are people still smoking? Why are people putting 10 spoons of sugar in their coffee? Can I let my HIV status affect my life now? No."

What utter bullshit.

And it's supported by the AIDS establishment.

Accidents happen, don't worry about how, you need to get on with your life.

Henderson is responsible.

No one else.

And he's the leader of this group.

Indeed, according to the article, Henderson is also the youth director (!!!) at the Metropolitan Community Church -- that's a "gay-friendly" church -- and has been youth director there for five years.

During which time, he admits, he didn't always use a condom.

What sort of a role model is he?

The answer is plain: an analist role model.

It's been three years since Harvey Fierstein complained that there were too many role models like Henderson drifting around the community.

It's been almost three years since my op-ed in the Washington DC Blade pointed out that there are other role models.

If the community wants to notice them.

Where are the profiles -- in the Washington Blade or the Washington Post for that matter -- of MEN who don't do anal?

Who are happy and healthy because they don't do anal?

The Washington Post is also where J-M Andriote's article -- I used to write about AIDS, now I have AIDS, but I won't say how I got it -- appeared.

A young or not-so-young person reading the Post will assume that if you're gay, you do anal, and chances are very good that you'll get HIV.

That night, Josh is signed on to Manhunt.

"I was down because the fact I am poz," he writes, explaining why he missed the [Gay Pride] festival. "I have always gone to Pride and enjoyed it, but this year was different. I see lots of cute guys, but I know they are neg, so I get depressed."

It's 1:25 a.m.

How bout it guys?

Where you going to spend your money this month?

A membership on gay dot com?

Some more anal porn?

A daily latte?

How long are you going to let people like Marsha and Bruce -- and Henderson -- run your lives?


Are you aware that chances are very good that on some level those people are contemptuous of you?

That they think you're immature and incomplete because you don't do anal?

And that they don't trust your Masculinity?

They think it's a pose -- an act.

Are you aware of what those people actually think of you?

I hope so bro.

I really do.


Bill Weintraub

© All material Copyright 2006 by Bill Weintraub. All rights reserved.

Greg Milliken

Re: AIDS at 25: Barebackin in DC


As a resident of D.C., I can attest to how difficult it is to find a date in this city.

My leading theory is that it's because of the rampant effeminacy and its accompanied butch counterpart.

Effeminate guys are too sensitive to get along with real masculine guys.

And "butch" pigs are only interested in using effeminate guys for getting off.

Where does that leave those of us who actually want a real masculine bond with another guy?

Well, we can become an effeminate bottom and get used,

Or we can become a butch pig and use other guys,

Or we can wait it out hoping to find that rare 1 in a million guy who is actually worth talking to.

My guess is most guys don't bother with the last one.

In this city, it's all about making sure everyone else likes you. I think that's a side effect of having a bunch of politicians that run the country nearby. I guess people think they will be liked more if they let other guys use them. I've heard from all kinds of people from other parts of the country that D.C. has more "bottoms" than just about anywhere.

Coincidentally (or not) it also has one of the highest HIV rates.

About barebacking:

I've been following the craigslist M4M section for the past couple months.

I noticed back then that there were few posts explicitly stating a preference for barebacking.

But in recent weeks, the number of posts with BB in the title has gone up.

As has the number of people looking for "anonymous walk-in" scenes.

I wonder if in ten years the gay community is going to look back and say, "Remember when gay sex was about fucking a complete stranger without even knowing his name or what he looks like?"

Or if they'll say, "Remember when we used to use condoms to try to avoid HIV instead of just getting it over with?"

The next ten years is going to be different than the previous ten. Those getting infected now may well survive 20 or more years after infection. They will be around to talk about this stuff and still appear perfectly healthy. That wasn't the case before. Anyone who got HIV the first ten years of the pandemic died.

Is gay sex going to go from being about anal to being about anonymimity? Is HIV going to go from a lethal virus to a genetic characteristic of homosexuality? Are homosexuals just going to stop questioning why it is that heterosexuals live twice as long as them and don't have to take a chronic drug for their condition? Is homosexuality going to become, not a mental illness, but a physical one?

I guess only time will tell.

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