Beneath all the smoke, mirrors, and rhetoric from either Mitch Katz's office of wanting to play parent to adult men, or ACT UP/S.F.'s reasoning for more intimacy, there lie constitutional rights that are being violated and totally ignored. These are the rights of freedom of speech, to organize, and of expression without interference from government.
I don't appreciate Katz, the CDC, Robert Perez (Stop AIDS Project), Gustavo Suarez (SFAF), or Dana Van Gorder being the health fairies and dictating to me my rights as a human being. This includes being able to make love with someone behind closed doors at a bathhouse.
This is not a "sideshow" as Suarez would like your readers to believe, and the bathhouse issue is just as important and real as any other issue that is out there. And I don't appreciate being relegated to the background just because Suarez's heart isn't big enough to accept the bathhouse issue as being an important part of the whole gay community.
The concern of unprotected sex is a valid one for those who share that opinion. What it comes down to is quite simple: If consenting adults wish to express their feelings of love between one another in a bathhouse setting, with or without a condom, that is their business and strictly between them. Who am I, we, you to put our foot in the doorjamb with a flashlight and say otherwise? I just don't understand this invasion of privacy and dictatorship within San Francisco's gay community.
I question what is behind Katz, Perez, and Suarez's notion that locked doors will increase the rate of HIV infections, especially since there is no scientific proof. If this were true, why is there no correlation between HIV infections and baths in other major cities? Could it be that all three gentlemen receive federal funds from the government to run the Health Department, Stop AIDS Project, and San Francisco AIDS Foundation? If true, is keeping the baths closed a condition for receiving federally funded dollars from the various government organizations and/or pharmaceutical companies?
As a consenting adult, I deserve the right to make my own decisions and share intimacy behind closed doors at a bathhouse within my home city of San Francisco without the interference of the Health Department, SFAF, or Stop AIDS Project looking over my shoulder.
Politics and Public Health
Joel Engardio's report on the current effort to reopen "traditional bathhouses" in San Francisco ("Private Places") misrepresents an important fact: The 1984 court order did not actually close gay bathhouses; rather it eliminated patron privacy by requiring the removal of doors from cubicles and periodic monitoring of patron behavior for conformity with AIDS Foundation guidelines. Rather than operate under these restrictions, most bathhouses closed except the Mission District's 21st Street Baths, which remained open until 1987.
It's now clear the court order was more about politics than public health. Current data indicate the rate of seroconversion peaked in 1982, but the fallout from depriving gay men of privacy in bathhouses continued into 1986 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided against the privacy rights of homosexuals in Bowers vs. Hardwick. Ironically, although the Georgia law which enabled that decision has been struck down, the S.F. Health Department's AIDS office keeps Bowers vs. Hardwick alive in San Francisco.
As long as San Francisco alone continues to deprive gay men of privacy rights in bathhouses, it is not bathhouse advocates who are providing the sideshow, but rather the city Health Department and its aides in nonprofits. If the AIDS Foundation's Gustavo Suarez can't see the difference between having sex behind a locked door vs. a dark corner, he should trade his job for one with an openly homophobic, right-wing foundation.
Ever Seen a Sheriff Pedal Backward?
Your usually accurate and award-winning writer George Cothran incorrectly stated that I offered to endorse attorney Sean Connolly should he elect to oppose District Attorney Terence Hallinan ("The Problem With Grampa Politics," Cothran, April 28).
While I have high regard for Sean, his background, and his legal skills, I was not asked to, nor did I offer, to endorse him.
I fully expect Hallinan to be re-elected this year, and I support his re-election. Whether one likes Hallinan personally, or likes his political style, the fact is that Hallinan has introduced progressive changes in the Office of the District Attorney. He has supported drug treatment in lieu of incarceration; he has sponsored Mentor Court for minor drug offenders; he has supported expanded pretrial release options for nonviolent offenders; he continues to support the decriminalization of prostitution; and he refuses to resort to the type of criminal justice demagoguery that so often is heard coming from a county district attorney's office.
All in all, I believe Hallinan has brought a fresh perspective to the Office of the District Attorney and has instituted criminal justice policies worthy of re-election.
Editor's note: SF Weekly stands by Cothran's report.
Your article on Mike Neel ("Road to Redemption," April 28) is a small masterpiece. It's an eloquent portrait of a person, a sport, and a whole culture (or counterculture). The national and local cycling mags are so bad that every word you publish about the sport is appreciated. It's a pleasure to see a feature story so well done.
Jeez, a Guy Makes One Mistake
I was very interested in Helen Gao's article "Coming Clean" (Bay View, April 7), because I believe global warming is happening, and I believe companies should act responsibly regarding the environment.
But I choose not to believe her source, Stanford professor Stephen Schneider. It wasn't long ago (maybe 15 years) that Schneider was warning of the threat of a global ice age. From an ice age to global warming in just 15 years? No thanks.
Now, Schneider may have studied this issue for a long time, but his strong proclamations don't hold water with me. I don't need him to tell me that the Earth is warming. All I have to do is go outside for that.
It seems to me there are two long-running fallacies upheld within the gay community, and your otherwise informative article on gay Latinos seems to have fallen straight into them both ("You Can't Be Gay -- You're Latino!," April 14).
The first favorite underlying belief that no one seems to question is that men who have sex with men should just accept that they're gay. Having lived in several different countries, clearly the majority of men having homosexual relations in this world (I would venture to say at least 80 percent) have absolutely nothing whatsoever in common with the 20 percent minority who call themselves the Gay Community, most of whom live in developed countries.
The fact is most of them get by quite happily with ambiguous friendships, masculine camaraderie, furtive tumbles, athletic cuddles, etc. Those whom I've known have absolutely no lessons to take from what I consider a gay community that I find quite frankly intolerant at the least or sexually conservative at best (try having sex with a woman as a gay man and see how much support you get from fellow gays). Also, as a lovely Moroccan man said to me one day when I told him the "gazelle" I was going back home to was a man and not a woman, "Oh stop that, that's for rich people." Maybe there are economic realities we just can't comprehend.
Fallacy No. 2 is about the warm, welcoming San Francisco gay community. As a recent migrant myself, I simply don't see gay people going out of their way to help other gay people feel better in the Land of Oz. It's not all bad, don't get me wrong. The gay community is very good for at least three things: business, sex, and epidemiological data.
I still remember being laughed at by two gay men in a shop when I asked how to get to Castro, and being asked if I was really gay another time because my clothes are not up with local fashion. If being a "member" of this nebulous thing we call "community" means dressing alike, fucking alike, thinking alike, and talking alike, then count me out. I didn't do all this fighting to be boxed into something as small as that.
Maybe it's time we gay people sat down together and decided just what it is we want to do together to make gay life more pleasant. As ironical as it may seem, my guess is that one of the top priorities would involve some way to combat loneliness and lack of intimacy.