Editor's Note: Steve Weinstein's article "Partying Like It's 1979: Gay Revelers Herald the Return of Spring—and Sex" (April 2) generated an unusual amount of mail. Some of the letters and a response by Weinstein follow.

I agree with Steve Weinstein, who, in his review of the Black Party, concludes with a quote from the book The Trouble With Normal by Michael Warner, that "when you strip away all sense of shame, you get the essence of human dignity." But I'm old enough to have watched half of my friends die of AIDS while our government did nothing. And since it's 2002, and not 1979, I'm not sure what "human dignity" has to do with OD'ing on drugs and fucking without condoms on the dancefloor at Roseland. Don't get me wrong. I like leather, sweaty sex, good dance music, and getting high as much as the next gay guy. But with the rate of new HIV infection among gay men on the rise, and government attention focused on anthrax, not AIDS, maybe a healthy dose of shame is in order for people whose "spiritual" rites include giving each other HIV. Things were bad enough in 1985 when we were dying and didn't know why. In 2002, I don't have much patience for guys who get infected and should've known better. Those gay men at the Black Party and elsewhere who value themselves and their brothers enough to protect each other from HIV infection form the real community based on the essence of human dignity. By romanticizing a culture in which unsafe sex and drug abuse are not only "chic" and acceptable but carefully planned out, Weinstein confuses "exuberance" with flat-out stupidity.

Andrew Miller

Steve Weinstein's article "Partying Like It's 1979" disgusts me. His generally uncritical portrayal of the self-destructive and dangerous activity by the partygoers reads like a confirmation of the very worst stereotypes of gay men (e.g., "According to a doctor who was volunteering at the party, there were 10 fallouts altogether—a remarkably low number for such a large all-night event—and this was the only person who needed serious medical attention").

Mr. Weinstein, other people will need serious medical attention, namely the participants who become infected with STDs or AIDS from their "spiritual" sexual activity. This letter comes from someone who is supportive of gay rights and generally on the left with regard to social issues. However, I do not absolve party participants of any responsibility for their dangerous behavior, and I don't think Mr. Weinstein should either.

Ben Seigel
Madison, Wisconsin

In "Partying Like It's 1979," Steve Weinstein writes: ". . . the word most people here use to summarize this ball is 'spiritual.' " Of course, Weinstein quotes just two men at the Black Party, who happened to support his view that it is a spiritual exercise as opposed to a form of glorious nihilism.

The Black Party is a business. Its operator, like [gay nightlife guide] HX and, apparently, the Voice, is going to pretend that the mix of unsafe sex and drugs is not driving the resurgent HIV epidemic among gay men in America because to warn gay men about this would spoil the party, wouldn't it? And spoiling the party is bad for the bottom line.

Duncan Osborne

In reference to Steve Weinstein's article on the "Black Party": Is there any particular reason the author has chosen to focus on the "spirituality" of an event that is, apparently, focused on flesh and blood? The author has confused energy with spirit, behavior with ritual, and drug use with freedom. The text of this article suggests that the "Black Party" allows one the freedom to celebrate a seasonal rite of sexual expression. The subtext argues that the "Black Party" allows one to use drugs to get the energy to have unsafe sex all night long.

I would like to ask the author if he suggested to even one reveler that he use a condom. I can only guess from the writing that, instead, he mingled, he was entertained, he probably had the sense not to have sex with anyone there, and that he lost his train of thought between the front door and the coat check. There is no evidence in the article, however, that the author was able to connect with any "spirituality."

Gary Dokter II

If only our community could apply the kind of money, time, energy, numbers, and commitment we do at events like the Black Party to our own civil rights movement. Partying and "spirituality" through self-destruction seem to be more important than fundamental issues like AIDS, adoption, marriage, gays in the military, inheritance, visitation, and even the right for us to exist in America. But we sure are "fun."

Clint Page Henderson
San Francisco, California

Steve Weinstein's article was rather disturbing to me. I am not referring to the gay lifestyle; I am offended by his use of the words "neo-druids" to describe the people who attend the "Black Party" and "druidic" to describe the event itself. Druids (Celtic spiritual leaders) did not go into the forest and have anal sex, "rim," or anything of the sort. Mr. Weinstein's connection of these people with the Celtic religion is disgusting. Perhaps in France some ancient Celts practiced homosexuality, but more often gays were drowned in the bogs. I am growing increasingly impatient with those who practice "alternative" lifestyles trying to re-create my ancestral religion in their image.

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