By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Let's stop being so down on others who have gone to extremes and try to have a little compassion and understanding as to why they have gone there. After all, the very people the author trashes are struggling with a life-threatening illness.
West Hollywood, California
I am writing to commend Guy Trebay for the article "Babes in Boyland." Gay people do themselves a grave injustice even using phrases such as "str8 acting" especially since the fact is that if you are having sex with another man, you are not straight acting. Mr. Trebay has great insight into what is really going on in a sea of gay people who don't seem to have a clue. How can you expect equality when you are not offering it yourself. Discrimination is no better when you do it among yourselves. As a matter of fact it is worse when it is a reflection of oneself!
There is a sizable minority of Pines-goers, like myself, who look and act nothing like the roid-raving male impersonators Guy Trebay describes. Our Pines experience, while quite gay, does not involve pumping iron, popping steroids, or whatever it is they do. Our time on "The Island" is spent cooking exotic dishes at a friend's fabulous home, swimming in the delicious sea, and leaping off the second-floor balcony into the pool while lip-synching to Air Supply. Perhaps our only real link to the walking, talking cartoon queens Trebay writes about is our mild excitement over the diva remixes at the tired local disco and the fact that we buy our mesclun where everybody else does. I personally cringe at the uniform, boorish appearance and behavior of these "men" who work so hard to look like boys. I think it's sad that people inevitably think they represent "the gay community." There are much more interesting people, young and old, who frequent the Pines. You just have to take a closer look.
As always, Guy Trebay is amusing, prescient, and thought-provoking. As a longtime visitor to the Pines, a former Advocatestaff member, and an ardent pec admirer, I disagree, however, with the implication that this is a new phenomenon. Andrew Holleran had it right years ago in Dancer From the Dance, when Sutherland said on the Pines beach that once everyone has seen his tits, they can all go home and get ready for the pink-and- green party that night. Life, even in the age of AIDS, goes on.
Mark D. Owen
Wayne, New Jersey
Driving Miss Gay-sy
Regarding Guy Trebay's "Babes in Boyland": I guess I missed a ramp on the highway to enlightenment, but I did not think that the effects of liberation, gay and otherwise, would bring us to this cul-de-sac of superficiality and narcissism. Hasn't our culture encountered this already in the damaging apotheosis of female pulchritude? Had this article been written about a straight phenomenon, I don't think the author would have been so accepting.
Guy Trebay is partially accurate in his assessment of the influence of AIDS on the idea of the masculine-as-physically-ideal male. My research for a chapter on "Masculinity in the Age of AIDS: HIV Seropositive Gay Men and the Buff Agenda," in an anthology on gay masculinities to be published next year, suggests that the overemphasis on physicality during the 1980s and 1990s has been in some ways related to the wasting and deterioration faced by HIV-positive men and more recently to side effects caused by combination therapy. Reactions to the epidemic have been to look strong and "masculine," since HIV-positive men feared that if they did not look this way, they would be labeled as having AIDS. Soon this "look" was adopted by negative men too.
However, despite the genealogy at the start of his piece ("the clone begat the Polo queen . . .), Trebay is shortsighted to give the amount of emphasis he does to the phenomenon of steroid use by HIV-positive men. The roots of the movement took hold in the 1950s when some gay men staked their claim to masculinity a construct that had been reserved, and in some ways is still reserved, for the heterosexual community by taking on appearances that were "butch" and "buff."
The phenomenon has existed throughout the last few decades and perhaps has been accelerated in the last 15 to 20 years because of the AIDS epidemic. The epidemic was more of a catalyst in forcing men to define their masculinities in this manner than the simple cause of it.
Dr. Perry N. Halkitis
Department of Applied Psychology
New York University
I remember a friend in college fretting over his weight because he did not want gay men in bars to think he had AIDS. That was about six years ago. He quickly changed his diet, reduced his stress, and gained enough weight to not look frail. Half a decade later, he is again mindful of not being too built because he does not want gay men in bars to think he has AIDS. Suddenly, hypermasculinity, not frailty, has become a reactive goal for gay men not infected with HIV. The pretty pastels in Guy Trebay's "Babes in Boyland" might be an insight into the vicissitudes of gay culture in the age of AIDS, but in reality the new generation of gay men do not want to be hulks. The normalcy we seek lies between the sunken cheeks and bloated chests.