In Defense of Grindr
To the Editor:
It’s great to see a Marxist analysis of gay life in the Review [“Grindr’s Lonely Crowd,” September-October 2014 issue]. Unfortunately, Fox’s comment reminds me of the lingering puritanism in Marxism, and the recourse to abstract language, which is particularly unhelpful when one is talking about intimate life.
His starting point is just wrong: he states that identifying as gay “means that you engage in a particular set of sexual activities.” That may describe someone called homosexual or, in AIDS language, MSM, but being gay suggests a conscious identity based on homosexual desires—which means you could be a celibate gay (as is the claim of some priests) or, alternatively, you could engage in all sorts of homosexual acts and reject any gay identity. The further claim, that Grindr undermines gay community, would be far more persuasive if Fox wrote out of personal experience or referred to the now quite extensive research that is based on talking with guys who use the Internet to hook up.
Okay, I am one of those guys—and I am currently involved with a guy whom I met through Grindr. One of my closest friends is also someone I met on-line; his reaction was that thanks to sex apps, he now knows many of his neighbors. I know activists who use the apps to tell their sex buddies about political rallies, and many guys use them as much for social connections as for sexual ones. (Look at the chat rooms on Gaydar as evidence, though admittedly they’re not as used as much in the U.S. as in Australia and the U.K.)
Yes, ours is an “ephemeral” community, but it is held together by far more than sex. Indeed, as I argued in my last book, The End of the Homosexual?, what’s striking is that community institutions have survived, sometimes in different forms, despite huge shifts in social attitudes and on-line possibilities for hook-ups. Events like the various gay games, the strength of gay religious groups, business associations, publications like this one, gay political organizations, et al. attest to this. Even while G/L bookshops are collapsing (as are other bookstores), there is a growing on-line presence of queer life that goes far beyond just wanting quick sex.
I too yearn, in principle, for “the liberatory force of self-abolition”—hence the reference to a gay liberation utopianism in the title of my last book. But in practice I recognize that in the search for meaning and belonging a site like Grindr may be a lot more fun than the slowly disappearing world of hidden bars and toilets. Unlike Fox, I accept that Grindr’s founder Joel Simkhai is doing what the Gay Activists Alliance did forty years ago when it organized dance parties at the Firehouse in New York. Now, however, everyone can join in.
La Trobe University, Australia
Title Disparaged an Estimable Man
To the Editor:
Regarding the title of a piece in the July-August issue, “More Adventures of a Gay Roué,” anyone who knew Claude Fredericks—or, for that matter, anyone who has read any of his long journal—can attest to the fact that in no way can he even remotely be described as “roué.” Gentle and courteous to every sentient being, Claude lived a most ordered—and virtuous—long life. Yes, he pursued life—and art—passionately, but in a self-disciplined and thoughtful way; in fact, The Journal of Claude Fredericks is nothing if not a document of this pursuit over the course of more than eighty years.
The review that you published will, I hope, speak for itself, but the decision of the GLR to change the review’s original title, “An Examined Life: The Journal of Claude Fredericks,” to one with such a salacious headline (without even consulting the its author) is bewildering. I am deeply offended to see my dear and beautiful—and so recently dead—husband described in such a way.
Marc Harrington, Director, The Claude
Fredericks Foundation, Pawlet, VT
Editor’s Note: Must confess my exposure to the word “roué” is mostly through crossword puzzles (the Times, of course), where it seems to have acquired the sense of “seducer” or, at worst, “playboy.” But the word apparently connotes a lecherous old man, making my use of it quite infelicitous indeed, as the diaries under review describe the author’s amorous adventures while a young student at Harvard. Mea culpa! — RS
CA Marriages Not Annulled in ’08!
To the Editor:
Regarding the film The Case Against 8, Ziyad Saadi writes [in the September-October 2014 issue]: “The film’s subjects are all skeptical about Prop 8’s chance of success, so it comes as quite a shock to them when the referendum passes and their marriages are annulled.”
Not so! My husband Kurt and I are among the 18,000+ couples who married during “the window,” and those marriages were never annulled! There may have been some talk toward that end, but if the couples involved (or, worse yet, their attorneys) believed that their “window” marriages were ever annulled, then they were quite mistaken.
Now, what might have happened is that the plaintiff in question was informed by the powers-that-be that her 2004 marriage (from the “Winter of Love” in San Francisco) had been invalidated. There were about 4,000 of those, and they were indeed overturned. One reason why Kurt and I married in 2008 was that California couples wanted to make it as difficult as possible for the state to overturn the large number of marriages that took place. So, even when the state stopped issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples after the November 2008 referendum, they never went back and invalidated those marriages.
Paul D. Cain,
The First Gay Movie on TV
To the Editor:
Back in the May-June issue, a review of the movie Dallas Buyers Club (titled “Close Encounters of the Unexpected Kind”) claimed that An Early Frost (1985) was the first prime-time TV show to feature gay leads. This is off by a long shot. In 1972 there was a made-for-TV movie called That Certain Summer with Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen as lovers, which preceded An Early Frost by well over a decade.
Ken Furtado, Phoenix