Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Gap Between the Generations, Going Away Now

For many years, there has been a distinct social distance between the youngest gay men and the middle-aged and older gay men.  I see this changing, and will describe the changes that I'm observing as the head of a large group of gay men.

Speaking as a man who has lost a lot of important people in my life due to AIDS, I'm clearly messed up.

For years, I felt like a pterodactyl surrounded by small furry mammals that I couldn't relate to. My head was firmly rotated 180 degrees around, and I lived my life looking into the past. Many of the men that I knew who had also survived our holocaust were living their lives as if they were already laying six feet under, waiting for somebody to throw some dirt on top of them.

NONE of these things are appealing to younger gay men - Who wants to be around such a dreary crowd?

I'm a super-extrovert who has hosted many super-large neighborhood parties, so I'm fully aware of how many homes around San Diego contain middle-aged gay men who simply stopped going out any more. They stay in their nicely-landscaped isolation-chambers in suburbia, and they don't participate any more. You can easily walk past a man on the street and have no clue that he is an incredibly valuable person to know, and so he passes out of your life, and everyone else's, too.

And so it has continued for too many years. There's not much demand for mature gay men these days.  Not many people say "Ya know what? We need a lot more OLDER GAY MEN around here!"

I say that we do. I'm quite insistent, in fact.

When men are at our very best, we are excellent friends, nurturers, protectors, decision-makers, mentors, leaders and role-models. If a man has earned some wisdom along with the miles on his odometer, he has a lot to offer younger men... and no, not just as sexual objects on either side. I'm a firm believer in intergenerational sex. I've been at it my whole adult life. I also don't think that it's the main point of what men can offer each other.

When I came out as a gay man in the late 1970's, I was fortunate to be invited to a series of big, festive house-parties in San Diego's North County.  It seems that a large number of the avocado/macadamia ranches up in the hills by Old Highway 395 were owned by long-term male couples who had been together 39, 42, 48, even 53 years.  Up to that point, I had never even imagined that male couples could stay together that long - None of the young guys I knew had made it past a few months.

These much-older men never once made a sexual pass at me… In fact, they competed with each other to be affectionate uncles, and answered every one of my questions with complete honesty.  I was smart enough to listen to their advice, and it made a much better man of me. I made up my mind to aim for lasting relationships as well, and I have succeeded. Dennis and I are coming up on 21 years together soon, and I can easily see us staying together forever.

In the past few years, I've noticed some changes in our culture, and I'm very happy to point them out.

- Our leaders are calming down. In the last few decades, the survivors of the epidemic were clawing at each other in unresolved despair and Survivor's Guilt, and not much forward action was occurring while everybody worked through their anguish. Now, we're working together like never before.

- Gay men are starved for brotherhood, and are willing to work for it. Frankly, we hit bottom a while ago. The Internet has trivialized our intercommunications to the point where we have internalized bad attitudes about gay males being purely about sex/external appearance and nothing else. It's a whole bunch of killing messages; unless you look like a heavily-Photoshopped porn model, you're not worthy of desire, respect or love. If you have to lie on your profile in order to gain attention, you are a failure forever. Maybe next lifetime. On and on. Now that we've had it up to the eyebrows with shallowness, we're ready for the real thing again. Being Tribal is easy when everybody wants it as badly as you do.

In the last nine months, I've observed that a lot of younger guys are 1) showing up at our events, and 2) coming back again and again. I assert that a small number of younger gay men (like myself, thirty years ago), are eager to learn some life-lessons the easy way. Why fall into pitfalls that can be avoided when a simple, real mentoring friendship with somebody older, wiser, publicly-respected and (at long last) fully-visible, is now an available option?

As time goes by, I predict that the trend toward intergenerational friendships is going to accelerate. Our local events are growing in size, friendship and unification of spirit, and any sensitive, thinking and self-aware gay man should be pretty darned pleased with his life-prospects at this point.

I think the men who made it through the flames are growing away from our self-imposed exile, and that's damn attractive to many younger men who have been eager for us to come back again and take our place among them again. They need older, wise and experienced men to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, so that they can stand on our shoulders!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

For years, all the work you've done seemed for naught, but you never let the dream go. I'm really impressed with everything you're doing
and that you've found the right 'formula' that seems to have brought out folks again. Great job, Tony.

That means a lot to me, coming from you, Mark. 

I wish that you had been at Sunday's cigar event.  It was as if there were dozens of copies of YOU in a big crowd... Those men were secure, comfortable, satisfied and serene, surrounded by equals that they trusted and liked on a deep level. 

Nobody was an outsider, unless their shyness prevented them from merging with the group. That's a temporary condition, though, in most cases. 

The thought that occurred to me, as I looked over the crowd, was that these men had nearly all been shy newbies such a short time ago, and now they had what their hearts desired:

A Tribe. And a secure place in it. 

Running the group involves:

- Deep thinking, which I then share with friends so that I can hone the newest concepts. 

- "Social Grease"; having meals, coffees or conversations with team-members. This allows us to find our level of cooperation and mutual trust. Planning is important at this point, but not as important as the bonding. 

- Making plans, and getting the news out. The two parts are pretty much simultaneous. By the time we get to the point of publicity, the concept is complete, and just needs to be written down and sent out. 

That's it. No money spent (other than for the website hosting and domain name).  I'm really strict about that. I spent waaaay too much of the household finances on public work in the past, and won't do that again. 

The group is blossoming so beautifully because the people involved always keep our word. That credibility is not common in The Age of Internet Flakes, and it sets us apart. Word of mouth from satisfied men to their buddies is doing the rest. I know this for a fact, since I talk to all of the newbies at each event. 

Plus, to be honest, FMSD is built upon a REALLY BIG DREAM. Our distinctive premise is exciting and attention-grabbing. It's like watching a circus high-wire act... You can't tear your eyes away. Risk and surprise are built-in, because new growth only comes from taking chances. 

There are plans coming up that I can't express in words yet - it's all just information-gathering and open possibilities at this point. I'm pondering BIG events that will still be around and successful, decades from now. 

All that I consciously know is that when the time is right, our Tribe will arrive and fill the space available, men will be high on the endorphins of communal joy, and everybody will go home satisfied afterward. 

The scale of any event is not as important as the harmony and the long-term credibility we've built up. I still want new, big, annual events for San Diego, though. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Identifying the Problems, Part One

In order to build a solid, growing and exciting future for our community that builds new traditions and encourages new leaders to step forward, we have to take stock of the past, before any other work gets started.
Speaking as a gay leatherman who has been through the flames, our community is terribly wounded. We were hit the hardest and the earliest when AIDS struck so many of us down.
In the 1970's, gay leathermen were on the rise - We were bold, we were visible, we were iconic in the larger community's eyes, and we were part of a gay-rights movement that was on an endlessly-rising trend. Anita Bryant and John Briggs were on the run, and the bigots were scrambling to try and hold us back, but failing. The newest civil-rights movement had arrived. Gay men were pissed-off, unstoppable and unapologetic. We were gathering together in major cities, moving away from Squaw's Ass, Idaho and Chicken Leg, Arkansas.
We were finally having as much sex as we wanted, in the ways that we had always wanted. Leather bars and bathhouses were big money-makers, because every major city now had them. We now had ways to build a stock of kinky wisdom that would endure, rather than being hidden away and lost when isolated individuals died. Many men were writing books that were finally reaching a mass audience (rather than being banned or burned), building a consensus of shared desire. We had the largest gathering of wise, experienced kinky gay men in the history of the planet, and we did a lot of connecting, sexually, socially and politically.
We had a tradition of mentoring between the generations, and we had protocols and a distinct, focused subculture. We had to develop these things, because the older men among us still carried fears from their youth that involved imprisonment, electroshock "therapy" and much worse if they had been caught indulging in their hearts' desires. We HAD to take care of each other, because nobody else cared about our well-being.
More later...

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Current Project

Back in June 2010, my good buddy BootsSD Jeff organized some of the men on Recon by creating a one-time "Leather Night" at the Eagle in San Diego.  It was a wonderful success:
Jeff gave me permission to keep the ball rolling, so I gathered the men's emails and created a new group called FetishMenSanDiego. As of today, Saturday, January 29, 2011, there are 692 followers via our various social networks and huge email list. We've hosted dozens of events, and have always kept our word.
The best kind of solid, dependable, big-hearted men have gathered at the heart of the club to help run events, and make future plans. New leaders are rising among us, nurtured by a climate of acceptance and brotherhood.
Our events are getting larger and larger, and word is getting around, all over the world.
We're a new-style thing - a "Smart Mob", rather than a traditional-style affinity-group.  This means that we stay flexible, have zero overhead, and focus exclusively on building a better Tribe.
We don't use any paperwork at all, ever - We add members using a smartphone-friendly web-page that allows anyone inside or outside the group to add new members instantly and easily, anywhere.
I'll be explaining a lot more about all of this as time goes by, but I write best when I'm responding to feedback and questions. That's what gets me going!

What's My Angle?

So, what qualifies me to talk about building community?  Well, I've had some success at it over the last few decades. I've always been a "Nuclear Powered Julie the Cruise Director" personality type - Technically speaking, I'm an ENFP on the Myers-Briggs test. In fact, I peg the needle on all parts of being an ENFP, which means that organizing events, building teams, spotting rising talent among us, and creating new breakthroughs is as easy for me as breathing.
It ain't bragging if it's true.
As it says in my bio, I have hosted hundreds and hundreds of events, and always for the sheer joy of seeing large crowds of happy and satisfied people. I get my payback when I see everybody on the same happy vibe - I get high on the endorphins of communal joy.
I also have the nature of a non-religious preacher - when I write, I'm building a message that many people can internalize and use as a way for everyone to attain goals together.
I'm really good at creating memes - Otherwise known as "idea viruses".  For example - The concept of "Leather Pride" celebrations originated in San Diego when I created the very first one. Now, we have annual Leather Pride celebrations worldwide.
There's a lot more, but I'm sure that it will all become apparent as time goes by and I dig deeper and explain the context behind some of my ideas.

Older Men in the Community

I'm so excited to find you guys. I'm from Chicago. Lots of pervs there. Not so many here. Is there a good population of dudes closer to my age? I find a lot of older guys in San Diego. No offense to older guys, it'd just be nice to find somebody closer to my age…

My current operating theories as to why so many older guys are so visible are:

- 1. because we're more accustomed to meeting in large groups socially. We remember it from the old days when the bars and traditional leathermen's organizations were the ONLY ways to meet other kinky men.

- 2. The vast majority of twisted men only take ownership of their desires when they hit Mid-Life Crisis, right around age 39-44. Until then, they keep trying to "fit in" with the rest of the men around them. Very few men are able to get in touch with their Inner Pervert before the. I was one, and so are you - You're "precocious"!

We have plenty of men of all age-groups from 18-87. More are joining constantly. Come on out and develop some friendships, and they'll get you connected with your heart's desires.

Getting the Ball Rolling

I've decided to start sharing my thoughts about building community among gay fetishmen. I've been writing for many years on a personal, one-to-one level, but lately, there have been a lot of requests for a more permanent archive of my ideas.
I have decided to turn this into an ongoing discussion for all caring people to share their viewpoints. My first few posts are just my way of getting the conversation started by introducing myself.
I have no degrees, I have no real authority compared to many others.  I'm opinionated and a a little of me goes a long way. However, I have ideas that seem to be working well, and I have a natural ability to "step way back" and view the bigger picture, and then explain what I've observed in a way that seems to resonate with many people.
At some point, I plan to structure my writings, but that day may never come. For now, I plan to just write, and let the ideas issue forth as they show up. I respond well to questions and feedback, so please feel free to contact me, either here in the comments, or via email at FETISHMENSANDIEGO AT GMAIL DOT COM.