Monday, December 12, 2011

Response to the Letter From Will Travis

In seeking an online reference to the letter Will Travis recently wrote to Xtra!, expressing his opinion (and mine) that inspired my post titled "On the Tenth Anniversary of Aaron Webster's Murder," published last Friday, I found the following comment from Thomas, who lives in Vancouver.

I share this with you because of its honesty, and because it says a great deal about the place some gay men find themselves.  On the one hand, I deplore cruising in public places for sex--I've never done it, no matter how desperate I was to feel the warmth of another human being near me, and I would never consider doing it, because I believe I have more respect for myself than that. On the other hand, who knows what one could find oneself doing under specific circumstances? Never say never...

From the point of view of these men, I see the function cruising fulfills, even understanding its necessity, and how they are driven to do it.  Thus, it's difficult for me to pass judgement on them, when I recognize they not only feel disenfranchised from society in general (as many gay men do), but also from the gay male community.  Feeling largely disenfranchised from the gay male community over the years, I get cruising and anonymous sex with men in parks, or at least a part of me does.  But, in my heart, I know it's not the route to go, and I hope for so much better for us.

If I sound conflicted about cruising, it's because I am.  I can't presume to understand all the many reasons why one gay man cruises public parks for sex while another doesn't.  But I believe Thomas's letter is telling and insightful, giving us a better understanding of a segment of our community, and challenging us to be more inclusive of our own--no matter where they fall on the scale of being cute or pretty or handsome or youthful or muscular or hairy or well-endowed or whatever the case may be.

As I write this, it occurs to me that, as gay men, we want to be accepted by society.  But so much a part of that is first accepting ourselves and each other.  It's easy to criticize many straight people for their judgements and bigotry and discrimination against us, but comments like Thomas's must force us to take a hard look at ourselves, ask whether or not we're doing the very same thing to our brothers, and, if we are, what we're prepared to do about it.    

For the purpose of clarity, I've edited the comment in question.  If you wish to read it in its original form, please click here.

Will Travis's judgements pertaining to park cruisers omits compassion and understanding.  

What we're really dealing with in Stanley Park's cruising area are an assortment of lonely, depressed, damaged, abused, and forgotten souls who are desperate for human touch.  ...There are souls in this world who have suffered unimaginable pain, abuse, and experiences that have impaired their ability to socialize, respond to, and perceive people and the world around them in a healthy, logical way.  There is a need for these men to connect.  In many cases, it's all that keeps them alive.  

For these men, the local gay scene is an abusive, judging, socially bankrupt wreck beyond anything words can describe.  The gay community has a way of rolling out cruelty and bigotry surpassing anything that straights could ever deliver.  

Men have been cruising parks in cities around the world for thousands of years, and nothing is ever going to change that. Even in the Middle East, where they face a death sentence for seeking each other, they still take that risk.  

An evolved city accepts the reality of human nature and sexuality, and takes a discrete approach. What two people do in a place where there's a reasonable expectation of privacy is their own business.  Sending police to harass and call cruisers 'sex predators' is pitiful.  A predator is someone who victimizes, plunders, and destroys for their own personal gain.  

In my ten years of cruising, I've met some very tortured souls, that I was only too happy to hold...


  1. That's lovely. And I worry that if we condemn those who go to parks for that reason, we're no better than the conservatives (or even men with baseball bats) who believe they should be judge and jury of what is "acceptable." Excusing in any way those who harass or beat gay men makes me think of the same treatment women have gotten over the years, the "she was asking for it" defense in rape cases, for example. Whether we're talking about a gay man cruising, or a woman walking through that park in revealing clothes, both should be protected and not subject to harassment based on someone else's "moral" judgment.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Sarah.

    After I read your words, I started to write down a number of thoughts, which I hope will develop into a post over the next few days.

    I like your middle-of-the-road position on this, and reading Thomas's comment certainly helped me to see there are two sides to every story (which I sometimes lose sight of).

    That said, I think we'll have to agree to disagree on a few points.

    I don't look at a woman dressing provocatively and walking through a park, and a man removing most or all of his clothes to have sex in that park, as the same thing. To be sure, neither one deserves anything bad happening; however, in the case of the woman, she's not necessarily looking for sex, while the man definitely is.

    The second point is, "someone's" moral judgement isn't what makes the man having sex in that park wrong. What does is the law, which states that his conduct is illegal. So, as I suggest in this piece, part of me understands why some gay men behave as they do, while another part of me wants more for him.

    Many thanks again for your ongoing interest in what I write. I appreciate it.

  3. Just to be difficult, I guess I'd ask why it's illegal? I mean, I know it is, but why? For thousands of years, people had sex in close proximity, because we lived in close proximity. I just think as a society we've become numb to violence, but are squeamish about sex, which seems so odd. Thousands can go see that appalling WWE wrestling stuff, but if two of those guys stopped fighting and started having sex on stage, they'd be arrested. I know this is way off topic, but I just think our concerns and priorities are a bit out of whack these days...

  4. You're not difficult at all, Sarah. I like deep, thought-provoking discussions. Bring it on.

    And on this point, you have me. I completely agree (always have) that, if the most brutal forms of violence are socially acceptable to see or watch (I don't agree, by the way), then sex shouldn't be an issue. Absolutely.

    In fact, I'd far rather see something sexy than something violent. Chris and I usually refrain from watching movies with violence. It's just not how I want to spend my time anymore. (You hear that, Hollywood.)

    If I had a choice between seeing sex or violence, sex would always win. But, of course, there's the whole issue of getting aroused while watching sex. We wouldn't want that to happen, would we?

    Great comment. Thanks for sharing it, Sarah. It's going to take a lot more than that for you to be difficult.

  5. Sheesh, I'll just have to try harder, I guess.... :)

    No, I don't watch gory/violent movies either (absolutely cannot watch war movies), but I love suspense and being scared in a fun way....just to be truly, completely off topic!!

  6. Thanks for your comment, Sarah.

    I'm at the public library today (had to get out of the house), working on the post I mentioned in my first comment to you above. Let's see what I come up with.