Many Gay Men Seeking To Alter Image

SAN FRANCISCO – Meet the new players in the great American debate about values: Ryan, a 25-year-old newlywed, who is helping other men find husbands; Doug, 50, who is helping gay men in San Francisco create their ideal community; and Chris, 36, whose pursuit of happiness has switched from chasing hotties to seeking down-home enlightenment.
They and others across the country are engaging gay men in conversations about their goals and values and challenging the sense of who gay men are and what makes their community.
“A bunch of us went around the city for eight or nine months talking to as many people as we could, asking them what issues are important, what they think of life as gay men, what they think of San Francisco,” said Doug Sebesta, who worked in public health and HIV services before he and a few other men started the San Francisco Gay Men’s Community Initiative in June 2004. “We kept hearing the same thing over and over again – basically, that San Francisco (is lacking).”
Sebesta said that as the community emerges from the AIDS epidemic, some gay men in San Francisco have found broken pieces of what used to be. But many have told him it is difficult to meet other gay men outside of sexual encounters or to connect on an emotional or friendship level.
“Over and above, people were saying they really have this longing for a sense of community,” he said.
The initiative group has gathered men to talk and hosted forums on topics like the segregation of HIV-positive from HIV-negative gay men. It offers meetings for older men, younger men, men of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, and men who want to work on building community with all kinds of people.
As these men discuss modern gay life, they confront what a New York City writer sees as the dominant message gay men have received about themselves after coming out.
Author Christopher Lee Nutter said the message was: “You need to be young, you need to be sexually powerful and you need to be fabulous.”
His book “The Way Out,” chronicles his life as he transitions to a spiritually focused thinker from a bartender and player on the New York scene.
“Gay men are standing in the middle of a tornado, with the pope and the president on one side telling them one thing and ‘Will & Grace’ and ‘Queer Eye’ telling them another thing and the gay culture telling them another set of issues,” Nutter said. “I think that very tornado is what has directed a lot of men to say, ‘OK, who … am I going to believe?’ “
Ryan Norbauer, who lives in Massachusetts, said his experience seeking a lover led him to Web sites and personal ads that were more about sex than personality.
“That’s not what being gay is about,” he said. “Being gay is about loving men, and love is not the most pervasive thing on those publications or Web sites.”
Unsatisfied, he created his own dating Web site,
Norbauer said gay men in the 1960s and ’70s were responding to their exclusion by heterosexual culture, “rejecting that which we could not have, the hetero-normative American family values,” he said.
“It has made sense that we developed a very sexually focused culture, but I feel like the time for that is over in many ways.”
from KNOX News

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