Thursday, July 30, 2009

Can one be non-heterosexual and religious? by Kyle Phoenix

 I've been really lucky to have been several religions growing up---I think I'm on my fifth or sixth religion and I love them all and others I'm just learning about. I'm often amazed that people take as didactic truth a text that people wandering around a desert 4000 years ago needed for law and order as the best script for our lives now. But that's just the Bible, there are many other holy thoughts in books all over the world. I am often amazed that people of African descent can only talk about Judeo Christianity and don't know the origin of Coptic Christianity---which predates Jesus by 4000 years and used the sign of the cross 4000 years before crucifixions---which happened on stakes not crosses. Constantine ordered his kingdom to Christianity and his viziers to pick a prophet from history (300 years after Christ) and if you didn't convert from worshiping the Sun and get baptized, you were killed. Funnily enough, Constantine died un-baptized still worshiping the sun!

Cheikh Diop, the African Origins of Civilization and Stolen Legacy by James are excellent books on religion and Christianity and brown folk. I'm often amazed that people want religion or churches to so artfully include them and then run to movies like Superman Returns where there was only one Black man in a crowd scene or most of television lines ups of shows. I think that sexuality is sacred and God intended all of creation though not everything is answered
I also think the creator of the Andromeda galaxy really isn't that concerned with the morality of my crotch and yet is infinitely invested in my existence. We're beyond ants, we're microbes in the universe passing around judgment and flecks of paper that wouldn't survive a strong wind. I've found that once I understood that I can look upon something without having to be offended or in agreement with it, people and ideology alike, I started understanding and liking not only other humans better but also myself. We say we love ourselves but does that include a condom every time  Does that include telling the truth? Not sniggerring at the joke at "faggots" when surrounded by others? We want religion to be free of hypocrisy and destruction and yet we, the living religion of life, are riddled with it. Religion won't change in our view until we change how we view religion. It's guidelines, and like some kids on the short yellow bus, some humans need it everyday in every way to know what to do because it simplifies life. Or provides answers to a complicated existence. And some people don't. We should be more courageous to treat religion as an option we can engage in rather than a damnation. I often find those who condemn it the most, haven't really read it, checked out the history, looked at why it exists.

Thank you,

Kyle Phoenix

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Is Sex Too Dangerous in the CIty? by Kyle Phoenix

Is Sex Too Dangerous in the City?
I like sex.

I even have a playlist on my Ipod with all of my get me in the mood, sexy songs for when I am preparing the house to host my special someone for some scheduled special time. I've been pretty lucky in that I'm a natural dater. I LIKE dating and meeting new people and having a great meal and engaging in a new potential relationship. I've also been on the earth for over 30 years and had a healthy handful of sexual liaisons ("hookups"/one night stands). I have found though that the word date when it concerns MSM (men who have sex with men) is often incorrectly synonomous with sex or having sex. This often puts me in the place to decide or discuss with what the nature and extent of our relating will be. And never far from these occasionally comical, sometimes graphic, often insightful dialogues is the soundtrack of my sexuality: Safe Sex or Not (the remixes)

Frankly, sex is dangerous. Relax, don't do it when you want to do it.

First let's start with diseases. I've worked at several non-profits so I've been enmeshed day in and day out in not only the statistical data but up close and personal with people who have had or still have every STD from AIDS to Zipper Lesions. And honestly, it's frightening on one hand and I don't obsess about it on the other. Before say 2002 I always practiced safe sex from about the late 80's because I thought it was "the thing that was done". After 2002 I actively started working and volunteering at agencies and meeting people and seeing the ramifications of unsafe sex.

I have only had unsafe sex once, like a virgin.

I lost my virginity with a young lady in my teens (she wasn't a virgin) and there wasn't a condom in sight (though her little brother watched us from a darkened corner...a whole other blog). But in my "adult" sexual years---about 20 so far, I've never had unsafe sex. There have been two occasions where men have grabbed my penis in an effort to blindly insert it into themselves and I stopped them. And one relationship where a partner offered (because of the complexity of condoms, lube, positioning, re-stimulation) that we didn't have to continue practicing safe sex. In the two encounters I stopped them and was horrified that we'd touched THAT close. And in the relationship, I refused to penetrate him without a condom (and if we're being brutally honest here---it was the moment I decided that our relationship wouldn't last because i saw "death" in his eyes. The willingness to have sex with me, still a stranger after only a short time of being together or someone willing to give me whatever he might have as he admitted he'd had unprotected sex before.)

No one fuck is worth my immune system.

It's not just the concept of unsafe sex but for me, the concept of contracting a disease that alters the freedom of my life. To give blood, to parent children, to fight off the common cold. But I live in Manhattan, what sometimes feels like the epicenter of not just alternative (gay, bi, queer, etc.) sexualities but also a sort of cosmopolitan laissez faire attitude about sex and sexuality. There are advertised barebacking sex parties where one would be thrown out for even taking out a condom. If one casually meets someone, based upon their race and financial status and age, the likelihood of having an STD suddenly becomes a huge part of the calculation. Unfortunately young men of color under 30 are rapidly increasing in HIV rates in NYC and they are mostly hitting on those similar to them: men my color!

Do you really want to hurt me?

I have to consider if a partner (even a casual one) is not only carrying an STD but to some degree pathogically (in my opinion) oblivious to the danger their body could present to mine. I've lead workshops and had discussions with men who report that if a man doesn't suggest a condom they don't use them or won't suggest it themselves. And I counter back with: isn't there a point where I am responsible for my fellow human beings? Even if they aren't being responsible? Would I allow someone to jump in front of a train in front of me? I have pulled back a child not my own from crossing in traffic too soon and I wouldn't have lost a strand of hair had they tumbled into traffic.

But maybe it goes deeper than sex or Fresh Direct.

Do men hate themselves so much they're willing to kill and die with/for sex? Am I the sane minority in an insane growing majority? Having been STD free for all of my sexual activity lifetime I'm sort of pre-disposed to keep it that way. And while I have had "fun" and relationship sex that wasn't always vanilla---my wild side and the new wild side are as impossible, and if forced near as far apart as Monica Lewinski and Hillary Clinton at a dinner party. And yet I am often solicited for sex, unsafe sex, really unsafe sex so often that I am starting to feel like a public service health professional in my own bedroom. I am so avidly safe sex that I often proudly tell people how Trojan Magnum XL condoms are on sale at FreshDirect (an online grocery delivery service) and the silly giggle I get from ordering them in bulk and their delivery next to the spicy arribata sauce. I am a safe sex convert; I simply don't consider sex without condoms....or dental dams.....or the new female condom (which when a man is using it, in my experience turned into a slippery scientific/biological mess that i felt at one point had me injuring my partner---yes, another blog.)

I did some research in my workshops, with my coworkers, from the PSAs at my various jobs and my own independent research into why people practice unsafe sex. There are testimonies of it feeling better, of being allergic to latex (I have several brands of condoms on hand just in case---yes, I'm starting to sound obsessive to even myself), of considering HIV a fallacy, of the inevitability of catching , of a sense of invulnerability, of a sense of being able to tell who is and isn't carrying an STD, of being in love, of God protecting them, of not caring, of already being infected and on and on. I can tell you that the CDC is pretty clear that prevention/safe sex programs don't work as effectively as they would hope but they continue mandating, sponsoring and supporting them in the hopes of those on the fence being swayed. Essentially they've started to manage the affliction because there is no cure: you're either someone who makes it a priority or someone who doesn't. That sounds fatalistic and judgmental but I can tell you, having been in the trenches with men in frank workshops---it's 150% true.

If there's a hell below, do we all have to go?

I've stood in front of a group, some HIV+, their lives kicked through the gutter physically, financially and emotionally by it and they've blithely talked about repeating the behavior. Now you might think they have nothing left to "lose" but in that same group are men who aren't positive, who then chime in that they're going to "try" to practice safe sex but admit not being able to commit 100% to that. And I, the facillitator, personally Mr. Happy Condom and professionally at that moment tied to the Party Line of pushing, cajholing, encouraging safe sex peak over my professional demeanor in terror. Why? These are seemingly sane, educated, capable, from somewhat to extremely attractive men who if I didn't have my professional rules of conduct, I might be involved with sexually---and maybe in a "quantum mechanics an atom can occupy two points in space" kind of way---in my personal life, I am.

The HIV Conspiracy (spooky X-Files soundtrack)
I'm going to entertain one of the conspiracy theories I've heard: that HIV/AIDS was bioengineered to infect and kill off homosexuals, people of color and most importantly, Africa. Let's say that's true. There would have been a psychological design behind that conspiracy---give it to people with distorted identity issues who would develop not only self-destructive tendencies but other-destructive tendencies from the racism and poverty and social alienation and ostracism they've experienced. By doing so---we're now thinning the herd, cleaning house---in fact the target might not even be specifically to eliminate races/sexuality---it might be to eliminate those who for some psychological reason don't, won't or can't practice safe sex: the undereducated, the poor, the unstable, the careless, the often considered waste and drain on the mass society. With approximately 40 to 50 million people worldwide infected that's a small percentage of the 6.7 billion people on the planet. Say a vaccine won't be released for another ten years, run some compounding calculations and what---maybe 100 million? 200 million? A billion folks could be cleared off by HIV and related illnesses if the disease isn't cured in fifty years. Think of the land, the resources, the space it would leave the rest of us.

A conspiracy works out but then what's the individual's excuse for knowingly passing on a disease that will wreak havoc and make another human being a pariah? Have people gotten to the point now where we time delay raping another human being so they wake up in a month, a season, a year irrevocably changed?

Shiny, Happy people?

I will tell you that standing with friends or clients or strangers who discuss not caring if they infect another or not be insistent of safe sex, infected or not, I suddenly considered my comraderie to them, my brotherhood, my community identification, my allegiance, my willingness to let them stay in my life long enough to be around my children. Harsh, yes. But if you passively harm/kill (slowly) another human in pleasure, what might you do to me and mine in rage or greed? Has sex in the city become so dangerous that a condom is no longer a shield but a legal long-term weapon against inconsiderate predators?

Food for Thought and Thought for Food,
Kyle Phoenix