ELI SANDERS: Wow! What an amazing piece you wrote in this week's Stranger ["The Immoral Minority," June 5]. Thank you so much for taking on the "no-guilt-no-blame" orthodoxy which is condemning so many gay men to death here in Seattle.
My one argument is that you didn't take on the main vectors for spreading HIV, which are the bathhouses. As Gabriel Rotello wrote in his book, these are conduits which allow HIV and other STDs to spread far faster than they would otherwise. But that can be another story.
SEH, via e-mail
ELI SANDERS: It's high time that a critical look be taken at organizations that exist but contribute very little if any substantive or concrete action toward the social problems they were formed to mitigate. Of course, this city excels at mediocrity and reaching a communal level of general acceptance, but hardly ever deals with the substantive issues. Perhaps a few pokes with a sharp investigative stick, as illustrated in this article, might get the constipated mindset of this city moving.
Tom B., via e-mail
ELI SANDERS: I am a pretty popular young gay man in the Seattle Capitol Hill community and I plan on making as many people I know read your article as possible. I also plan on doing some more in-depth research into the current practices of Gay City. Maybe we should take a look at actually how they are spending these donations.
Alan M., via e-mail
STRANGER: Eli Sanders should be congratulated on writing a very difficult piece. Any community that really wants to call itself a community and survive has to ask itself hard questions. Like: How do we best confront the fact that some in the gay community have priorities which, for whatever reason--abuse, discrimination, hooked on drugs, sensation-seeking in a humdrum world, or even immorality--endanger their own, and our community's, health far beyond its numbers?
Tony Deal, New York, NY
STRANGER: I want to congratulate Mr. Sanders for excellent journalism. While his article has some rough edges, and his moral posturing sometimes feels a bit heavy-handed (we get the point), I found the content refreshingly honest and original.
Sexual health strategies that worked in the '80s, when HIV/AIDS was a new phenomenon, are no longer effective. I think it's clear that the gay community needs new public awareness campaign strategies that graphically confront gay men with the consequences of making bad sexual choices. We can still celebrate sex in our own, special gay way, but we need to stop pretending that advising and instructing one another to be safe, honest, and responsible is somehow homophobic.
Andrew Roth, via e-mail
STRANGER: Kudos for bringing up the need to forthrightly promulgate values; brickbats for simplistically thinking disclosure is the answer to preventing HIV's spread; and brickbats for therefore stigmatizing the HIV-positive.
There DOES need to be more forthright, value-laden community-agency messages on behavior. And yes, a community has to be built on communicated values--as the article pointed out. THAT is the definition of civilization.
But why do you focus on disclosure of HIV status? In the hope that the HIV-negative can fuck unsafely?! Disclosure of HIV status makes no sense among sexually active people because there is no such thing as a "negative" sexually active person. By definition, being sexually active means you do NOT sit out four months after you tested, taking no high risks, then test again. Ergo, when someone sexually active "honestly discloses, 'I am negative,'" all he is really saying is, "This test months back (before 12 blowjobs, three fucks in New York, and three here) said I was negative"--and he blithely acts on that info to do things he would NOT do if he said he was positive.
Also, if the HIV-positive disclose, doesn't THAT reinforce reliance on a later disclosure that someone is negative? Otherwise why do you want to know? To fuck unsafely!
Stressing disclosure will do another thing too: It will unjustly and unwisely stigmatize and demonize the HIV-positive, as your article demonstrates. "Surely infection rates would not be so high if 'they' only disclosed their status no matter what." "Let's put them in jail for exposing others, not disclosing, etc." Bullshit: Infections are high cuz people don't use condoms, the HIV-positive AND the HIV-negative. Disclosure is not the answer, personal responsibility is.
Lastly, sheesh Stranger, why do you have such a hard-on for AIDS service organizations but let Public Health and government off the hook? You think mistrust of Public Health stems from the '80s? It was in the mid-'90s that Public Health:
(a) sought to pass laws making it easier to prosecute the unintentional exposure to HIV--even with a condom--than prosecute a murder by pointblank shooting someone.
(b) mandated that Public Health case managers--the folks the HIV-positive rely on to keep them alive--immediately turn over all their records to the PROSECUTORS whenever they "thought" someone was "behaving badly."
(c) down in Tacoma was going to home-visit the HIV-positive every three months, and ask questions about where they hung out, who they had sex with, etc.
And today, the Department of Health is moving to make it easier to put the HIV-positive in prison for "behaving badly" in their august opinion.
These are merely some instances of countless occasions when either discrimination or sheer bureaucratic ass-covering has driven Washington State public health policies. Join us in the '90s, Stranger....
Kelly Scott, Member and former Vice Chair, Washington State Governor's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, former Public Policy Director NW AIDS Foundation
ELI SANDERS RESPONDS: Promoting disclosure is incredibly important if we want to prevent the spread of HIV, and the reason to focus on disclosure is so that all gay men--both the HIV-positive and HIV-negative among us--can fuck safely. You are simply wrong in saying that disclosure makes no sense among sexually active people. To begin with, your definition of a sexually active gay man falls into the self-defeating trap of equating being gay with being highly promiscuous and highly unsafe sexually. Many of us are neither highly promiscuous nor highly unsafe--and those of us with any brains certainly don't get 12 blowjobs, fuck multiple guys in different cities without condoms, and still claim to know we are negative. Until the new rapid HIV test becomes more widely available, the solution to the time-lag problem in HIV testing is simply to acknowledge it ("I was tested four months ago and was negative then...") and let your partner make an informed choice. Finally, expecting HIV-positive people to disclose their status does not stigmatize them. It treats them as members of a community that cares about its health and its future, and as moral beings with a responsibility to consider the consequences of their actions--in other words, the same way everyone should be treated.
STRANGER: Regarding Samuel Chesneau's article "The Monkees Get Massive" [The Truth, May 22]: We appreciate your support, although there were three things we would like to clarify: (1) We acknowledge the confusion that may exist between TURF! and Massive. We do have overlap in dancers, and as a result the two entities inevitably influence one another. The dancers in TURF! are in TURF! as individual artists who collaborate with the artistic director, who also presents the main ideas for the pieces to the company and co-creates the work with the company members. It is also important to note that TURF! has featured dancers in the past, and will continue to in the future, from several different crews, as well as modern dancers with a completely different movement background. (2) Our largest sponsor for the Apollo has been the Seattle Theatre Group, in addition to support from Washington Mutual and Noc On Wood Records. (3) TURF! will return to the Apollo in October (not August) for a second-round performance in New York.
For more information, go to www.turf-arts.com.
TURF!, via e-mail