Getting to Know You

In the blogging stage of the information age, there's no reason to not know what the GLBT community is all about.

Since 1872, citizens of London have gathered at Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park each Sunday to sound off about whatever issue is eating at them. Such Speaker's Corners, or something similar, also exist in Australia, Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, the Netherlands, and Singapore. It is from these public forums for citizens that we get the phrase "Get off your soapbox", as old crates for transporting soap were frequently used as speaker's stages.

I'm rather fond of the idea of a soapbox located on a street corner where anyone can climb up and get his or her point of view out in the open. If such a place existed in my hometown, I have no doubt I would have vented there once or twice.

Knowing how opinionated I can be, a colleague at work offered up an alternative: my very own blog, the 21st century's version of the Speaker's Corner. Blogs offer a place where anyone with even the slightest modicum of computing intelligence can rant, rave, whine, pontificate, or giggle about the greatest or most trivial of life's events. My response to my well-intentioned colleague, however, was that the last thing I needed was one more thing to do. I'm lucky if I get this column in on deadline, and I only have to write it once a month.

Plenty others have taken up the mantle of blog-master, though, among them a considerable number of GLBT individuals. Their blogs serve more purpose than to allow members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered communities to sound off; they unite the communities, educate both straight and gay, and provide solace to those GLBT individuals who feel alone and isolated from those like them.

According to the article "Why we Blog" in the journal Communications of the ACM (Association of Computing Machinery), there are five primary reasons people chose to start a blog:

1. To provide a chronicle of one's own life, an online diary of sorts

2. To express one's opinions and editorialize

3. To have an place for emotional release

4. To engage in the practice of writing as a means of idea expression; and

5. To create a forum for like-minded individuals

(Nardi, Bonnie A.; Schiano, Diane J.; Gumbrecht, Michelle; and Swartz, Luke. December 2004)

As the writers of the article acknowledge, there are other reasons to blog, but most homespun blogs fit well into one of these categories (this excludes so-called "blogs" posted by companies with the purpose of promoting a line of products or commercial websites, often pornographic in nature). Karsh, a self-described 26-year-old "writer, artist, musician, mathematician, E-media hotshot, blasphemous hater" and webmaster of "bgb.com10" (Black Gay Blogger), ponders why he and others blog:

So why do you blog? This question came to me around a quarter after nine this morning while awakening to Judge Mablean's latest homespun advice/verdict. Before this site was nothing more than a twinkle in my eye, I had doubts about whether or not I could even write this…

Blogging is different. You write and you write and wonder if someone feels the same way you do. You wonder what the big whoop is about a blog that you find yourself coming back to read daily. Is it all heartfelt, or are they just blogging to post something and see themselves in type?...

So why do I blog? I do it because everyone has a story to tell and someone will always be around to listen…if you're lucky.

Karsh is correct in that there are countless stories to be told -- some more interesting than others. In terms of the GLBT community, these stories represent who we are - some of us are interesting, some of us are not.

Perhaps the best-known gay blogger is Perez Hilton, who gossip-oriented blog is the web equivalent of The National Enquirer. Those familiar with his site find him either hip and clever or egotistical and cruel. Since I fall into the latter category, I'll focus attention on blogs that present the community in a better light.

There is no denying that one of the most prevalent form of blogs is the "eye-candy" blog, which features pornography or pics and videos of good-looking men or women. Attention isn't really going to be given to these blogs, either, except to point out the humorous nature of porn blogs that also feature commentary on current issues. They always contain such insightful commentary as "Today, I'd like to focus on how the G8 conference has put Angela Merkel in the forefront as a world leader to be reckoned with, but first this amateur video of a college jock jerking off…".

For those more serious about learning about world events or news stories which specifically affect GLBT persons, several blogs are a better choice. Pam's House Blend, run by Pam Spaulding, is one of the best for world news, presented with a definite editorial viewpoint, while Gay News Blog presents a more neutral perspective of issues affecting gays and lesbians.

For business news, readers can check out Gay Market News, which focuses on how forces in the market place affect and are affected by gays and lesbians. Stories featured on the site highlight such things as workplace diversity and a gay marketing masterclass being taught at the London World Travel Market, one of the marketing industry's largest conferences. Queercents offers practical personal advice for financial saving and investing for members of the GLBT world, under the banner, "We're Here, We're Queer, and We're Not Going Shopping without Coupons".

Considering the attacks on gays by the religious right, it's not surprising that several gay bloggers are attacking back. Among those is Patrick Seamus' QueerVisions, which aims, among other objectives, to "honor those gay and lesbian people who were, and still are, tormented by the ignorant and ostracized by their own loved ones for simply being different from them.

Here, too, I wish to honor my journey out of the darkness of religiously-inspired homophobia, both external and internal." SlimDave420 also spotlights religious attitudes in his blog,

Backward Spiral. Dave, a middle-aged real-estate administrator, is up-front concerning his view of religion: "Religions are pre-scientific theories that provide believers with explanations for the many puzzling features of the world around them. Religion is a spin-off from the hard-wired, modular cognitive inference systems characteristic of our species."

The majority of blogs are more personal than those previously mentioned, however. It is these blogs which provide the greatest service to society, as they portray GLBT individuals outside the parameters of popular stereotypes. They show the ill-informed homophobe that gay and lesbian individuals have the same worries, concerns, and joys as every one else. Moreover, they help those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered find a source of inspiration and camaraderie.

After I wrote about my unwavering commitment to my partner following his diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (he's in remission, by the way!), I was shocked at how many straight people told me that they had always been supportive of gays, but never realized a gay relationship could have the depth of emotion and love that they shared with their opposite-gender spouse. Gay blogs help get that message out. One can't help but be moved reading the last year of A Maverick's Odyssey, as blogger Mike describes the death of his father and then his mother less than one week later, and how the love and support of his partner Pablo helped him through this hellish ordeal.

Similarly, gay blogs dispel the erroneous notion that gays and lesbians can't be effective parents. Mombian is run by Dana Rudolph, an Oxford Masters graduate and former Merrill Lynch executive who is now a stay-at-home mom and blogger. Her site focuses on "lifestyle" tips for lesbian mothers. For men, there is Guy Dads, about "two Jewish gay dads, their six children, and life on the town." After their respective divorces, the men found one another, got married, and created a new life with their "Brady Bunch" brood (although custody is shared with the mothers).

On a similar journey is Nate, blogmaster of Tales of a Bi 'MWM'. Newly single, Nate is trying to juggle parenthood, a separation, and friendship with his ex. Lara Blake is also undergoing a transition, from male identity to female. A pre-operation transsexual, Lara's blog reveals how she is handling the multiple decisions that come with gender reassignment.

What is important about all of these blogs is that they don't come with a big banner reading, "Look at me. I have an alternative sexual orientation." These bloggers discuss finding, changing, and losing jobs, as well as going to the theater, having dinner with friends, cleaning up after the kids, losing family members, and getting stuck in traffic. They talk about favorite tv shows and least favorite foods. They share the joy of falling in life and the pain of breaking up. These blogs are about life and lives that do not differ much from yours or mine or anyone else who gets up everyday and tries to put it all together so that he or she can make it to tomorrow and next week and next year.

What distinguishes the blogs mentioned here is that they identify as part of their identity a homosexual, bisexual, or transgendered element. In the article "The Digital Queer: Weblogs and Internet Identity" in Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, author Julie Rak discusses how bloggers make a conscious decision to identify themselves as gay or lesbian, even if the content of the blog contains no reference to sex or sexual identity. Rak concludes that:

…the rhetoric of blogging, with its focus on experience as the link between online and offline worlds and its tendency to demarcate a grey area between public events and private identity, works to produce gay identity and the scene of its writing as an experience of the absolute in everyday life.

Representative of this idea are the blogs Exoteric 3 and Grumpy Old Bookman. Doug, blogmaster of "Exoteric", writes about his passion for Plato, Aristotle, and Nietzsche, while "Bookman's" Michael Allen provides insightful reviews of contemporary literature and offers commentary on the sad state of grammatical correctness. Neither off these blogs reveal much about the lives of the bloggers or their sexual preferences, yet both can be found through a search for gay blogs and are listed on the Gay Blog Directory.

To learn more about creating a GLBT blog, check out the Gay Bloggers site. The site offers valuable tips on how to blog and provides an interesting community for all bloggers, gay or straight. (Also check out the Gay Bloggers' webmaster's personal site, Zeitzeuge. To learn more about GLBT individuals, though, check out a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered blog.

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