Tag Archives: lesbian

In Defense of Zack Rosen

Freedom to Marry is a non-profit that works to “win” the fight for marriage equality across the nation. By this they do not mean dismantling the institution of marriage because it creates a privileged class of coupled people, who get tax incentives and visitors from non-blood relative in hospitals. They mean to spread marriage to gay men and lesbians. A conservative cause, but a cause none-the-less. (I might critique marriage and liberal politics later – as for now I will move onto the current situation.)

Freedom to Marry had a contest to grant three scholarships to attend Netroots Nation, a conference aimed at discussing how technology can be used to change politics. DC’s own Zack Rosen entered the contest and was one of the finalist. Rosen plans to use this opportunity to make connections and enhance his website The New Gay. Ten finalists… three spots… how to win? Well, Zack promises to post a picture of himself naked if he wins.

He won and posted nude photos. He wrote in his post:

“1. Gay men’s bodies aren’t shameful things.
2. Gay sex is natural and pretty damn fun.
3. No one ever won equal rights by keeping their oppressors comfortable.”

Of course, people are upset. Enter Zack Ford, one of the other winners and his blog post.

After detailing Rosen’s tactics, Ford comments, “he knew lots of gay men would do anything to see an erect penis, he offered an erect penis, and he got the votes.” I think this is a bit facile. Rosen’s tactics are not built off of the depravity of gay men, as Ford would have us believe. Instead his tactics were creative, interesting, and innocent. The naked body is not something sacred. I think Rosen is putting sexuality and politics together in an interesting way. We often separate the two to the point that it becomes scandalous when politicians have sex and the gay movement’s been desexualized. Instead of showing us some lame image of some white guy in a tie, he showed us his nude body with a paper-plate in front of his cock.  Why should I not take someone who I’ve seen naked seriously? Gay men, such as myself, did not vote for Rosen because of the potential to see his cock (the internet is full of cock and no offense to Rosen, but cock’s look pretty much the same). I voted for Zack because he offers an alternative viewpoint and is not afraid of using queer politics. He offered an image of someone who wanted to get married that did not scream “assimilation.”

Next Ford writes, “More importantly, I think what he did was disrespectful to the other finalists, disrespectful to the organizations funding the scholarship, and disrespectful to the cause for marriage equality.” How? Does nudity offend these people? Yes, Rosen tactic’s work different, but he used an angle to spread a message. He got me, a guy who does not care about marriage to go to a website for same-sex marriage. Mission accomplished?

Ford then brings up the “ick factor.” The ick factor is heterosexist culture’s inability to digest the fact that GLBT folk have sex. He argues that we should avoid playing into the ick factor because it will diminish our ability to gain same-sex marriage. Is this the only cause? I’d like to think that changing the minds of heterosexists is much more important than gaining tax incentives or being more privileged than single people. The grossness of our sex is why we are abject. I teach and have students who freak out when two men kiss in a film. Same-sex marriage will not change this. People will still be gay bashed for holding hands. I’d rather confront people with the ick factor than pretend marriage will make people think that same-sex and transgender desire is not gross.

In the end, Ford makes a long and quite puritanical rant against promiscuity. Who is his ally in this crusade against promiscuity? A “teabagger.” Not the best of allies in the fight for rights. Ford is making the argument that Andrew Sullivan makes in Virtually Normal. Sullivan argues gay men are normal and that straight culture will accept us and validate us, once we show them how normal we are. This is assimilation. The price of being “normal” is rejecting people from the GLBT community who are not straight-acting, not monogamous, differently abled, transgender, transsexual, bisexual, economically disadvantaged, and/or a racial/ethnic minority.

This represents what I cannot stand about the GL movement. The prize is marriage. Only Marriage. Nothing else matters. The ends justify the means.

I’ll end with a quote from someone I usually disagree with, but she makes a point that extends into the current state of GLBT politics.

“Feminism is dying here because so many women who say they are feminists are collaborators and cowards”- Andrea Dworkin


Filed under queer

To Tea or Not to Tea?

Last night on a queer studies listserv, a discussion on public sex in bathrooms began. I was enraged by a comment by Joelle, who is a fellow BGSUer. Not only was this comment anti-sex, it also made little sense. How does looking for sex in a bathroom reinforce gender binaries and male privilege? I defend cruising for multiple reasons. I and several other people in the discussion voiced these reasons, but I’ll summarize them here for you. First, bathrooms serve as a place for marginalized and emerging GLBTQ people to experience same-sex or non-heteronormative desire. Policing bathrooms for sex is a class issue. People have cannot afford to patronize gay bars or clubs are left with no other option. Despite years of Ellen and Will & Grace, a man cannot hit on a man in public without fear. Secondly, our view of ourselves as public people is quite juvenile. We cannot stand to see a couple intensely kissing in public. (Heterosexual people are allowed juvenile sexuality, while everyone else is denied one.) These people are told to get a room and so on. Our nation denies children sexuality, so sexuality is one thing that makes us adults. For us to deny this aspect of ourselves is to allow ourselves to be “infantile citizens” (see Lauren Berlant’s Queen of American Goes to Washington City), children who cannot manage ourselves and therefore must have our lives controlled for us.

The anti-cruising argument is simply part of a growing conservative movement that clings to archaic notions of family. To deny sexuality in public is to deny non-heterosexual people access to the public and adulthood.

I am in support of unsexed bathrooms. Everyone needs to eliminate bodily waste and people should not have to face harassment to do so. When discussing this topic with women, they become uncomfortable. They worry about violence against them in this space, which is segmented off from other public spaces. This concern needs to be recognized within the larger transgender struggle for some-thing resembling a false notion of equality.

Below is a segment of the conversation- last names have been removed

P.S. I hate when people use the “postmodern” as a way to show access to equality. I not only doubt they we are completely postmodern, but see postmodern aesthetics as a way to hide socio-economic hierarchies. That conversation is for another day.



I have no doubt cruising has a long history in men’s restrooms, but the practice needs to be critiqued from both a radical feminist and trans/gender perspective. Men’s sexual cruising culture is one of the things that facilitates oppression against women and trans people. While rabid gay transphobes like Barney Frank continually raise the specter of trans women using women’s restrooms and locker rooms to oppose trans civil rights, the practice of cruising in men’s restrooms goes un-critiqued and un-marked. Further, if you do raise a critique you may be accused of “homophobia” or being “anti-sex.”  The gender binary division of public restrooms functions, among other things, to preserve a privileged cis-male cruising sexual culture. It does this by furthering the notion that women need to be shielded from sexual threat by men in patriarchy. In postmodern culture, there are many other places adult men and other genders can go to engage in consensual sexual activity besides PUBLIC restrooms where others who are not interested in seeing nor being approached for such activity must frequent in order to relieve themselves. It is possible to be pro-sex and still critique public sexual cruising because of the way in which it perpetuates rigid gender divisions, privileges cis-male sexuality and contributes to the oppression of trans women through displacing legitimate concerns about public male sexuality to the shoulders of trans women who are being demonized (and denied civil rights) for simply trying to use restrooms without being harassed.


Michael: (This is me)

While I see your point, I also see the argument used by proponents of
“Family Values,” who argue that they cannot escape the public spaces
(streets, malls, classrooms) where same-sex desire is being shoved in
their face. Following your argument it seems that same-sex desire is
fine, just as long as it is out of the public —  “In postmodern

culture, there are many other places adult men and other genders can

go to engage in consensual sexual activity…” I think you raise valid
points, but the similarities between the two should raise concern, no?



I suspect tearoom sex could be read in three additional ways:

1.  As an artifact of having to find sexual expression and opportunity outside the public/outside gaze in a heterosexist society.
2.  A fetish which insites notion of risk, randomness, anonmymity
3.  A challenge to the hetero/homo divide since tearoom sex may involved men who identify as “hetero” except when the opportunity to go homo presents itself in a tearoom encounter.



…and may I add that the attraction to public sex is by no means exclusively of queers nor its practice circunscribed to members of the same sex/gender.  however when it is, it is disproportionaltely censored. i have seen at least two movies with different gendered couples having sex on airplane bathrooms (seems to be a pretty common fantasy) and, of course, sex on elevators (as mick jagger’s song confirms). however we are less critical of these heteros displays of public sex…. au contrare, these acts add to the attractiveness of the movie or song… and let’s not talk about the different treatment the police gives to public sex depending on whether the actors are of the same or different sex. at least here in puerto rico



is there some practical way to stop tea rooms?

i seriously doubt it.

before i would imagine restricting it, i would want some good information on
who what where when and how.

otherwise it’s speculation, trial by accusation.

my guess is, never having engaged in tea rooms, is that most participants
are focused on their own individual concerns and don’t feel particularly
entitled but more likely threatened. as i say. speculation.

i don’t think any gender identity can ever be socially included until all
are. it’s not as they say a zero sum game. tolerance is tolerance inclusive
of all possible alternatives. discourse communities are created by
recognizing the excluded. it’s a conundrum not easily resolved.



I don’t do that kind of cruising any more–bad knees, etc.–but I would hate to
see the end of tea rooms. It isn’t just because there is nowhere else to go. It
is because that is the place where something happens that can’t happen
elsewhere, no matter how many bathhouses or sex clubs there are.
And then there are those parks on a nice summer night.
I have a chapter on stranger sex in my book queersexlife but I’m not sure
reading about it will explain why some of us need to do it.

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Filed under queer, Space/Place