LGBT Rights, Climbing Companies, and Skydiving Sock Monkeys!

Stilts!

Stilts!

It’s been an epic last few days for us United States of Americans. Our Supreme Court decided to kick discrimination to the curb, Water Stone Outdoors released  the most epic HomoClimbtastic convention promo video ever (evarrrrr!) and we have more sponsors and bigger gear than we’ve had before.

You’ve probably heard enough about the Supreme Court. What you haven’t heard enough of us is about Water Stone Outdoors, which has produced the most epic promo video ever:

I can’t help but enjoy the photos, which are just as fun:

It appears that there are two parades, a prop plane, a skydiving sock monkey, and enough badassery to make me jealously wonder if the creation of the promo video for the convention is yet more ostentatious than the convention itself, heretofore something I thought unpossible. We had a drag queen with stilts, and they brought in stilts AND A SKYDIVING SOCK MONKEY AND PROP PLANE.

We will not be able to compete with this, because, for the foreseeable future, HomoClimbtastic does not own a plane. Apparently you can ride the plane if you contact Wild Blue Adventure Company, although I don’t know how you convince them to let you put on a sockmonkey suit and jump out of it in midair. Though clearly, it can be negotiated.

We also have a great many sponsors this year, and I get to announce which climbing equipment companies loves you the most (well, we can’t say for sure, because we haven’t opened the Trango box yet) but BlueWater Ropes operating out of my wonderful home state of Georgia sent us TWO climbing ropes, as did STERLING ROPE COMPANY, which is not based out of Georgia, but I suppose I can forgive them for that, because I like Maine.

Who's got ropes? You got ropes.

Who’s got ropes? You got ropes. BlueWater made you ropes.

Sterling is based out of Maine, so I'm beginning to suspect a little east coast pride going on here.

Sterling is based out of Maine, so I’m beginning to suspect a little east coast pride going on here.

So if you need a rope, attend the Saturday night HomoClimbtastic auction at Cantrell’s in Fayetteville, West Virginia on July 20, 2013 and buy one while you enjoy drinks! Climb with it the following day!

ClimbTech is sponsoring and sending an actual live climbing human, Ann Raber, along with unknown quantities of swag.

In case you wanted to know who's donating the permadraws for the projects you can't finish.

In case you wanted to know who’s donating the permadraws for the projects I can’t finish.

ClimbTech is out of Austin, Texas. Will any platinum sponsors appear to redeem the west coast?

What’s that? Why it’s… FREE SHAMMIES FROM CALIFORNIA. Evolv is sending us more gift certificates for any damn pair of shoes you want to use them for, which basically means, “you better get some shammies or Alex Rowland will not respect you.”

I just blew mine out last week, after having the shoe repair guy bring them back from the dead twice, because I was so insistent on wearing the shoe that finally allowed a heel hook that I sized three sizes down and endured pain for two weeks that rivaled that time I got a hole in my intestinal lining. Now that the shoes are irrevocably dead, I’m going to have to break in another pair.

Given what I endured to break these in, I will not countenance anyone's complaints about the pain of high heels, or climbing shoes which do not facilitate edging with my 180 pounds of hot man meat.

The Evolv Shamans. Given what I endured to break these in, I will not countenance anyone’s complaints about the pain of high heels, or climbing shoes which do not facilitate edging with my 180 pounds of hot man meat.

We have more sponsors, but I am going to do a second post about them shortly (we’re still opening boxes).

What I want to cover now is that climbing companies sponsoring us is a big deal. I’ve harped on this already, but we still live in a country where same-sex marriage is not recognized in 37 states, and companies can sponsor a lot of other things instead. It’s a recognition that we have a long way to go and they’re willing to cut into the profit margin to help.

Or, in some cases, organize an entire West Virginia town.

Trailer for Documentary About HomoClimbtastic

The trailer for Brian Spiegel’s upcoming documentary about HomoClimbtastic:

Brian Spiegel raised $10,000+ via KickStarter and brought a big ole’ film crew to West Virginia to shoot us climbing last year. I have ants in my pants waiting to see the full thing. Brian keeps saying something about “color correction,” which I know from my older brother Ben, owner of Yonder Blue Films (yes, we are all entrepreneurs) to be some kind of horribly onerous thing that cinematographers put off until after they’ve done their taxes, reorganized their sock drawer, and scraped dried leaky egg remains off the bottom of the fridge. But I have faith Brian will overcome! Someone send the man some abrasive sponges.

Sponsor the HomoClimbtastic 2013 Auction!

The HC Dictators have voted on how to distribute the proceeds for this year’s auction, and they will be distributed as follows!

Let's preserve our heritage. Actually, let's not, that thing looks like it could kill someone. Get rid of it now before it lays eggs! Support NRAC!

Let’s preserve our heritage. Actually, let’s not, that thing looks like it could kill someone. Get rid of it now before it lays eggs! Support NRAC!

65% to the American Alpine Club, to help in their construction of the New River Gorge campground

20% to NRAC, to support all the fixed gear replacement and access issues they deal with in the New River Gorge area

15% to HomoClimbtastic, because, well, we want our own freakin’ PA system for once!

So far we’ve operated HC without a budget for years, but that system is buckling under the weight of the volume of people we serve and the scope of the events. But that’s just 15% of the money. The bulk of it is going to the American Alpine Club to build their awesome new climber’s campground.

And more money is going to NRAC to replace all those shiny pretty bolt hangers, or rather, the ones that are no longer shiny and pretty, or were originally made of cut up pieces of Porter’s bed frame.

Buuuuuuut we also have a supercool donation option for the auction–if you want to sponsor the event and have the proceeds from the gear you contribute to be sent to ANOTHER climbing charity–Southeastern Climber’s Coalition, Access Fund, etc.–you can do so, and we’ll send the check to them instead. So you can sponsor whoever you want to!

And no matter how you want the proceeds donated, we’ll write up an awesome-o description of what you’re sending. With any pictures you send along. So you get some attention for your gear, and it goes to a good cause. Huzzah!

All you have to do is ship what you want to donate to Water Stone Outdoors, Attention: HomoClimbtastic.

Water Stone Outdoors
Attention: HomoClimbtastic
101 Wiseman Ave
Fayetteville, WV 25840

Phone number: (304) 574-2425

You’ll also want to e-mail Lisa Hummel at lhummel@americanalpineclub.org with photo(s)/links, and especially important, an inventory of everything you’re sending, so that we can return to you an accounting of what we received, what it sold for, and where the money was sent.

So go for it! Promote inclusive climbing, climbing access, safe climbing equipment, and get publicity to boot!

DATE AND LOCATION OF THE AUCTION:

Saturday night, July 20, 2013, Cantrell’s Pub (the restaurant/bar at Cantrell’s Ultimate Rafting), Fayetteville, WV. Exact hour to be determined and announced later. Open to the public!

Rock and Rave: I meet Chris Sharma, the directors of the Access Fund, and me and Mikey talk Hurricane Ivan

So I was talking with my boyfriend Craig a few hours ago, and I said,

“I’m going to this climbing fundraiser tonight, and you should know that Chris Sharma is going to be there, and he’s on my list of celebrities that I’m allowed to sleep with.”

“Is he gay?”

“No. But if it turns out that him and his wife want to get stoned and do some freaky shit in a van in the parking lot, I’m gonna just roll with it.”

“Who else is on this list?”

“Timothy Olyphant. We each get a total of six.”

So I drove over to the climbing gym and got in the Chris Sharma autograph line. I told him that I wrote for humorous climbing blog and would need a humorous pose for the photo, and showed him the classic HomoClimbtastic “Tiger Pose”, which he did his best to emulate:

rowland sharma

Sharma goes rawr.

I didn’t muster up the courage to ask him if him and his wife wanted to go get stoned in the back and do some freaky shit in a van in the parking lot, but maybe it was because it was too early for me to be escorted out of the building by security, or maybe because I just wasn’t really horny enough to be obnoxious since me and Craig had just finished acting out my jock strap fantasy like two hours ago.

I also met Brady Robinson, the Executive Director of the Access Fund, and Zachary Lesch-Huie, AF’s Southeast Regional Director. I had talked with Brady a few days prior about the Valentine’s Day marketing that I had flamed on the blog earlier this week and for which AF later apologized.

Naturally, no one is immune from Tiger Pose, so we did a Tiger Pose photo as well:

Alex Rowland, Brady Robinson, Zachary Lesch-Huie

Alex Rowland, Brady Robinson, Zachary Lesch-Huie

We were all in agreement that the best way forward to smooth over the whole heterosexist AF sticker brouhaha from earlier in the week was for HomoClimbtastic to take the Access Fund vector file, and rework it, as HC members suggested, so that the text would remain “I Love You Man (Platonically of Course)” but the image behind it would be of two men in a passionate, homosexual embrace, and that we could sell the new stickers as an Access Fund benefit. Because when it comes to marketing risks, it’s go big or go home. So you can look forward to a special new Access Fund sticker design, come July, assuming Jon Kerwin knows how to use Illustrator. Now there’s something for your climbing helmet!

Also it turned out that Zachary was at the 2012 HC auction and had no idea who I was, despite me emceeing part of it, but he did remember Porsche Ferrari, although to be fair, I’m probably less memorable than Porsche Ferrari.

Porsche Ferrari, spotted at REI in the down jackets department

Porsche Ferrari, spotted at REI in the down jackets department

He also remembered Jamie Logan, and Brady commented that he saw her send a 5.13b in the gym the other day. Jamie Logan is also more memorable, half because of the 5.13s, half because of inventing the modern aid hook, maybe also for being more personable.

There was some lawyer talk about how Summersville Lake needs an ingress/egress easement but that’s boring.

* * *

I also saw Mikey of Dead Point Magazine. Tiger Pose!

Mikey, me

Mikey, me

We discussed the fact that recently me and Mikey have been at the epicenter of online mega climbing drama. Me, for shaming the Access Fund, and Mikey, for shaming Ivan Greene.

“Basically,” he said, “everyone wants to give you shit for stirring the pot, but it’s aggravating, because they never, ever recommend an alternative. It’s easier for them to just sit back, witness something bad happening, not do anything, and then critique the people who actually try to put a stop to it.”

It’s like my entire life, in one paragraph!

“I guess the whole thing turns on,” I asked, “because this is what I saw some people commenting online, what attempts had people actually made to get him to stop? Before you published the video?”

“People had confronted him about it, and he always just denied it. And then he was supposedly working a problem with a guy, neither of them could do the problem, although the other guy was close, and then the other guy came back and found the problem had obviously been chipped to make it easier. And then some people staked Ivan out with a video camera for like five hours and shot the video of him chipping. Who knows how much of that is true, we just got the video, which pretty clearly shows him chipping. And we are a news magazine about climbing, so we’re not just going to trash it, and it’s on public property, so it would have been silly to blur his face out.”

“So basically we’re the gadflies of the climbing world.”

“Basically.”

I asked my paralegal if he had ever met or seen this Ivan character.

“He’s your basic attention-whore semi-pro climber. He always travels with a posse of New York models.”

“So basically me, except for the semi-pro part.”

“Or the models.”

“At least I’m not a chipper.”

And then I ran into Jessa from Petzl, who said she wanted to help sponsor the next HomoClimbtastic auction. So, huzzah, Petzl gear sponsorship for this year!

And that was the Rock and Rave. There was beer there, but nobody around to drive me home so I couldn’t get trashed and climb.

The Access Fund Part Dos: TROLLS AFOOT!

As a descendant of a confederate soldier, my efforts to redeem the stars and bars keep getting foiled by eight year olds.

As a descendant of a confederate soldier, my efforts to redeem the stars and bars keep getting foiled by eight year olds.

Today the Access Fund kyboshed and apologized for the Valentine’s day campaign thing we criticized yesterday, which we’re happy about. This post was written afterward.

Some years back I helped start a local lgbt climbing group, and we were tossing around names, and we arrived at the word “Dyno’mos” (haha!) but needed something a little catchier that said we were southern, so we named it the “Dixie Dyno’mos.”

A couple years later, when the clubs ranks possessed more than four, a couple black people pointed out that while “Dixie” might just be an equivalent of the word “south” for us white people, for everyone else it carried around a lot of baggage, of the white hood, cross burning in the yard kind.

I asked my mother about it.

“Mom, does the word “dixie” have racist connotations to you?”

“What are you, an idiot?”

So, we changed the name. Seeing a black person at the climbing gym was like seeing a black person in Sweden, so we figured we shouldn’t make the situation any worse. Although changing the name was a pain (logo gone, DNS name gone, flyers redone, etc.) I was happy we could do it quietly and maybe kind of pretend it was just making the name more efficient, rather than removing the evidence that I was a dumbass.

At the same time, it was remarkably easy—change the name, problem solved!

This is why it would be incredibly hypocritical of me to rake the Access Fund over the coals for an ad that stepped into potential homophobic territory. And if using the word “Dixie” was the worst thing I had ever done in my life (or the least prejudiced thing I had ever said), I would shoot myself now, because it would be maybe the only point in my life since age five that I was confident I wasn’t going straight to hell. Maybe age three. I was precocious.

I suppose I could have stood my ground, defended the etymology of the word “Dixie,” trotted out all of the non-racist examples and interpretations, and in generally had a crybaby whine fest, buuuuuuut I knew better. People of color didn’t want that shit thrown in their face every time they went climbing. As confident as I could have made myself that I was using a non-racist iteration of the word “Dixie,” the end result was obvious: keep using it, fewer people of color in the club. Also I know how ridiculous you sound when you want to go on a tangent about how minorities complain too much about people being sexist/racist/whatever, as every white person should know who’s ever been a passenger in a car with only white men in it.

Quote from driving lesson: "When I see a ****** ***** driving a Volvo on a cell phone, I get the hell away."

Quote from driving lesson: “When I see a ****** ***** driving a Volvo on a cell phone, I get the hell away.”

Plus as a writer, I knew better. Writers are responsible for ambiguity. Whatever connotations words have that can be reasonably interpreted, the writer eats it. As a lawyer, I knew better. When there’s an ambiguity in a contract, you know who automatically loses? The writer. If you don’t want the unintended meaning to carry the day, you have to be precise with your language, and there ain’t a fuck in fucksville you can do about it.

You can still be funny, and precise. I just used the phrase “fuck in fucksville.” No ambiguity there!

So the Access Fund, which kyboshed the valentine’s day sticker me and others criticized, basically did what I did, fix the problem and be done with it, no 10 million dollar donation to some gay rights group necessary.

The response to the change generated a barrage of complaints from Facebookers (although countered by another barrage of defenders) who, it seems, are REALLY REALLY SENSITIVE about other people being sensitive.

For the most part, the complaints were… stupid. They often time came from a good place, e.g. “I know all the Access Fund people and I know they’re not a bunch of gay-hating bigots” but really just didn’t even come close to the point I was making. As I’ve said… over and over again, you don’t have to be a bigot to do this stuff. I was not lighting crosses on fire when I named the Dixie Dyno’mos. The remaining facebook comments fall similarly to logic, but I’m not going to cover each of them (though it appears others are) because I only have so much time, energy, and desire, and if my life’s goal was educating trolls on the internet, I would go lecture people in the jailbait forum on Reddit. They need it more than you do. (Did you know the second most commonly searched Google term to find Reddit is “jailbait”? With the first term being “Reddit”? This is why we think straight people are a bunch of child molesters and perverts.)

The real irony of it is this: THIS IS NOT A BIG DEAL TO US. I was casually pointing out something kind of obnoxious that is no more obnoxious that anything I do on a weekly basis. What the resulting Facebook fountain of bile proved is that there are a lot of Access Fund page-people who have what I can only call an almost inexplicable, very deep seated sense of rage redirected from parts unknown. Occasionally, we get those people in HomoClimbtastic, and you know what we do with them? People who get absurdly angry over criticism, and go on a crazed spree of rationalization and defensiveness just so they don’t have to admit anyone has legitimately questioned their actions or worldview? We label them as “crazy” and we don’t let them belay us.

It doesn’t really even have much to do with whatever the criticism was, or how much fault you did or didn’t have, just that you are having some kind of weird panic attack about cams at the bottom of Cat in the Hat and we don’t want to see what kind of hot mess you are when we’re on the sharp end three pitches up. Don’t want none, won’t have none. Belay partnering is about love, and we want the kind of belay partner that promises to fix their shit when they give us a hard catch, rather than goes into a drama spiral about how it’s really our fault and why are we so sensitive and this is AMERICA and you have the RIGHT to give a bad belay goddamnit!

Internet trolls are one gigantic squeaky wheel, and seeing as how I’ve been plagued with them for years, I know it can be difficult to discern the reasonable critiques when they are sometimes lost in a crowd of people whose feces have fused them to their own lazyboy recliners and they have all the time in the world to throw online monkey shit at everyone else.

So… why am I taking time out of my day to answer them now?

Brian Spiegel interviewed me when making his documentary about HomoClimbtastic, and he asked if there was anyone who hated the organization, or its goals, and I said something like the following:

“I’m not here for them. I’ve heard other HC leaders answer this question, and I know they notice and address the people who question our existence, or oppose us in some way or another, and… I don’t even see them. Maybe there’s people giving us weird looks, but I don’t even notice. Our members have been dealing with this shit their entire lives. Why should my focus be on enriching the people who bullied others? My only goal when I’m here is the people here” I pointed behind me, “right now. I don’t care about those other people. I know that HC has brought a lot of change outside of the impact it has had on the people inside of it, but as far as I’m concerned, if HC makes some straight person more comfortable with us, that’s just collateral damage.”

Thus, I want to make something crystal clear to you, if you’re not a minority frustrated with the culture in the climbing world (and virtually everywhere else): I don’t care. I’m not here to educate you. It ain’t my job. If you want to pay my hourly rate, I’ll do everything but give you a blowjob. If you’re hot, maybe give you a blowjob. Otherwise, you’re on your own. I wrote this, as I write my other posts, to vindicate and liberate us. Us being the people who didn’t win the privilege game. If you came here looking for an answer to your endless 128 character blurbs of what I’m sure you consider a well thought-out counter, you came to the wrong place. I don’t care about you, because when you do the math, the people who are actually in the minority are… you. The fact that you bubble with white hot rage over the changes around you is, I think, really an expression of your frustration that most mature people in charge don’t agree with you, which is why things aren’t going your way. If that weren’t the reason, it would be because we gays are actually capable of forcing the Access Fund to do our bidding, through some kind of Illuminati-esque connection we have where we are able to force everyone to do our bidding even though we only make up maybe 5% of the population. The Access Fund is an independent organization and was completely capable of telling us to fuck off. I know, because HomoClimbtastic does it all the time, including with U.S. Senators. Watch:

Dear Rick Santorum:

We hate you. Go fuck yourself.

Sincerely,

HomoClimbtastic

P.S. fuck off

In other words, what power do we have over you other than the fact that most people simply don’t agree with you? Hence this terribly politically correct world we live in? To oh so bitterly appropriate the sentiment you’ve expressed so far, and co-opt a phrase from WoW…

Go QQ some more. Kthx.

One troll actually threatened to, dare I say it, NOT respond if I countered his criticism. In my ideal world, he never would have opened his mouth-hole, but it does provide an insight into the troll mind-set: for them, getting flamed is a reward and you should appreciate it, and thus getting ignored actually carries weight as a threat. Hence their constant insult of “you just want attention” because, in troll crazy land, everyone dies without it, and only the best troll wins.

In my ideal world, they’re just not there. I only get three responses to a post and they all say “I heart you!” Add that small dose of positive feedback to getting my ass pounded by Craig, and I’m happy as a clam.

You'd be happy too.

You’d be happy too.

Meanwhile, for the people that are still here, I’m sad that anytime we question these things, we have to suffer a barrage of miserable people. If it makes you feel any better, they are sexless trolls and nobody loves them and that’s why they are that way. (I’m pretty sure that’s what the nanny tells the cute little white girl in “The Help” after the you-is-kind part. Editing room floor.) Come climbing with us instead. We care about the people we climb with, and we wouldn’t dismiss and derail their concerns with “stop complaining and go climbing! I’m sure you can trust me to care about your safety after I just rhetorically smacked you across the face with a catfish.” You deserve to climb with someone who cares about you, all of you, and who sees what makes you different and how to interact with those differences in mind as an opportunity for growth, and not a threat.

Anyway, we’ve already let it go, because we all know we’ve been there, and that our lives are not one big uninterrupted stream of never doing anything wrong, and we don’t want to be on the receiving end of a grudge when it’s our turn to fuck up something tomorrow. To be anything else would make us trolls. And if nothing else, we created a situation during which Climb2Core said something warranted a “teachable moment,” a level of civility RedRiverClimbing.com likely has not heretofore seen. I think that counts for something.

The Access Fund: Caught in politically correct hell, or ign’ant heteronormativity?

Given that I am the designer of the HC logo, which, as you may have noticed, is humping goats, you might suspect, correctly, that I am sensitive to the plight of those who might get caught up in a kind of “politically correct hell” in a world where everyone’s offended by something. As Amanda Marcotte wrote in regard to Nike’s “Gold Digger” t-shirt, a shirt which was attacked by some, shall we say, not so in-touch feminists:

One of Nike's Olympic shirts.

One of Nike’s Olympics shirts.

“The fact of the matter is that if you get any group of people together, some of them will have been at the end of the line when they were handing out senses of humor.”

The Nike t-shirt was an ironic turnabout on the meaning of “gold digger”; in the context of the Olympics, the terribly obvious meaning of the joke was that women were pursuing gold medals in athletics.

Given how obviously simple Nike’s irony was, you can imagine how much shit you get when your jokes are more complex and trample on much more nerve rattling issues.

I am also sensitive to getting booed down because, as people, we are simply not born knowing how or why things are offensive, because unless we’re a member of every distinguishable identity in the entire world, we’re not going to walk into the room knowing how not to be offensive. Is anyone born knowing that “Deaf” has a capital “d” and “blind” is spelled lowercase? Of course not. We learn most of these things by screwing them up and having someone else, hopefully, take the time out of their day to tell us how to do it in the future.

It also will not, or should not, for the reason I just stated, incite white hot rage. We judge these matters more based on what percentage of the population “know better.” There’s a much stronger sense of <facepalm> when Pat Robertson asks his black co-host, “is macaroni and cheese a black thing?” Does it incite rage? No. Is it hilarious? Yes. Is he in on it? No.

Ignorance is just that: ignorance. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t make you evil, it doesn’t mean you intended ill against blind, Deaf, macaroni and cheese-eating black people. You just seem out-of-touch, and pardon us if maybe we laugh at you. Plenty of other things can send us into the white-hot-rage zone, e.g. everything else Pat Robertson has ever said.

So with all that framework set up, take a look at the Access Fund’s valentine’s day sticker:

The Access Fund's Valentine's Day Sticker

The Access Fund’s Valentine’s Day Sticker

In smallish letters, italicized and in parentheses, it says, “Platonically, of course.”

That “platonically, of course” spawned an accompanying comment thread of critics and defenders, and a response from the Access Fund itself:

accessfundfacebookcomments

Christy’s full comment: I tend to think “I love you, man” is dude-bro-ish enough without adding the equivalent of “no homo” parenthetically below the statement. This statement is insidiously homophobic whether or not it was intentionally homophobic. There is, of course, nothing wrong with platonic love, as stated above, but the reason folks are so afraid of possibly having their intentions misunderstood by someone outside the relationship (because presumably, those within the relationship know what it is and isn’t) is that they don’t want to be mistaken for a homo.

So, let’s take a look at this through our “Nike t-shirt” lens, shall we? When you break the joke down, what does it mean?

Well, when I read it, I see two guys (and in the case of the other sticker, two girls) expressing that they love each other, and the humor of the joke turns on the climbing partners not being misunderstood to be gay. In other words, it’s funny because they’re making it crystal clear that they are not people like me.

Oh fuck.

There could be a parallel universe where the interpretation applies to all climbing partners (thus inclusive of the platonic boy-girl ones), but you’d have to ignore the fact that this is treading a very worn-down joke made many times before, that absolutely no one would find the other interpretation even remotely humorous, and that the only two stickers are boy-boy and girl-girl. Sorry Access Fund, but I see your explanation, and I raise you the reality that you’re re-imagining history. And the present. (Please don’t screw this up further by creating a boy-girl sticker.)

Now, I know that we all love the Access Fund, and we don’t want to think they can ever do any wrong, but let me just put it as straight to you as I can: we don’t like this joke. We encounter it on a very frequent basis. It wasn’t funny the first time. We know that it’s very funny to straight people, because you don’t want to be mistaken for gay, and thus joking about not wanting to be mistaken for gay is funny to you, but it’s very not funny for us.

Even if you follow the joke up with (as it often is) a “not that there’s anything wrong with being gay,” it doesn’t take the edge off, because even if the message isn’t that you personally would be ok with getting mistaken for gay, you’re still casually grinding salt into the wound that it’s something most straight people are afraid of, probably because the risks of it still include massive social alienation and murder. It was a jailable offense when I was in college, and it’s now illegal for me to get married, so… maybe my emotions on this subject are still a little raw.

Does this go any distance to explain to you why we DON’T want this sticker showing up in climbing gyms and on crag guard rails and climber car bumpers the world over, constantly reminding us that people don’t want to be mistaken for us, because heavens, maybe they would have to confront part of the alienation you get from ACTUALLY BEING US?

Access Fund answers with a rote “no offense intended” non-response response. The sine qua non of being ignorant is that you didn’t intend anything. You were ignorant–of course you didn’t intend it to be offensive.

The only thing you can do, at that point, is attempt to defend some alternative interpretation (say, if I were utterly off-base, as the Nike t-shirt critics were) or give an actual apology, which would go something like, “It was not intended to be offensive, but after looking at it, we realize that it actually IS offensive,” and if you’re feeling really charitable, explain why. You know what’s not intended to be offensive? Black-face. You know what is offensive? Black-face.

Quick lesson on apologies:

Do: “Sorry I did something offensive.”

Don’t: “Sorry you were offended.”

Otherwise, digging your heels in screws everyone over–it makes gay people and their allies look like over-sensitive assholes, and it forces everyone loyal to the Access Fund (which has provided many reasons to be loyal, by being a wonderful organization in so many other respects) to defend you even when you’re in the wrong, and in this case, jump on the “screw you hyper-sensitive gay people” bandwagon. And buy even MORE stickers, and give us even MORE reproductions of this tired, never funny in the first place joke.

Finding gay community in a world of alcoholics

When I’m bored and horny and browsing gay internet profiles, nothing is a bigger groaner than the phrase, “not into the scene.”

I much prefer “no blacks, asians, or femmes” because I can at least have fun when they message me.

Me: “I’m actually black.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Ur photos don’t look like that.”

“It’s just the lighting.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Rlly?”

What I don’t understand is that they never buy it when I claim to be Asian. Anyway, I present this anecdote to you partly to make a point, and partly as an aside to say that the queeny blasians among you aren’t missing out. I’m pretty sure if you shake those guys’ heads, you can hear things rattling, but I’ve never let them come close enough.

Me: Probably not black.

Me: Probably not black.

But I’ve gotten myself distracted. I really hate all this “not into the scene” business, because I like the scene. I like drag shows. I have literally, as in actually, not metaphorically, seen hundreds of drag shows. When I visit a foreign city, I am more excited about seeing new drag queens than I am about large structures hundreds of years old. “Sure they can sculpt marble, but sculpting eight layers of MAC foundation? That’s art.”

This long-winded intro is necessary because otherwise I’d get lumped in with all the whiny-faces on OK Cupid if I just wrote another rant summarily saying “I’m better than you cause all y’all are a bunch of fucking alcoholics.”

* * *

I remember a time (college) when me and my friends went to a party and we had a few cups of hunch punch on Saturday night and danced around and “wooo!” or shot pool with three PBR’s because the drinking budget was $6. A few people, once detached from the rails of high school and a nuclear family, descended into oblivion, but for most, drinking to the point of vomiting was fodder for a story you weren’t planning to relive.

Keep your alcohol intake limited by sharing with friends. But do it in style with a fishbowl.

Keep your alcohol intake limited by sharing with friends. Do it in style with a fishbowl!

Now, things are different. People don’t vomit, not because they’re drinking less, but because they’re drinking more, a lot more, a lot more frequently, to the point that their tolerance allows them to kick back four, five, however many cocktails, and not remember the details the next day, and wash, rinse, repeat, at least two (four?) nights of the week, ad infinitum.

And THIS is Friday/Saturday night. The zenith of the gay career is getting abs at Lah Fitness, blacking out at a gay bar, going to parties with other young rich professionals, and maintenancing a zillion tenuous “friendships” like someone who feeds fish they don’t care about but can’t approach the finality of flushing. Throw in some shirtless photos on Lake Lanier and a few modeling shoots and you’ve made it! Go reward yourself with some coke.

The thing is, if people actually enjoyed this, I would be all for it. I would defend it in much the same way I defend legalizing pot. I enjoy getting drunk. I like sitting around playing video games for eight hours. I like doing a bad job singing.

But our collective relationship with alcohol has turned from an enjoyment of chocolate cake to something more like those morbidly obese people who get gastric bypass surgery and then suck microwaved Nutella through a straw. Or in this case, where going out used to be fun and an opportunity to have strange conversations with interesting new people, it’s turned into running into (redacted) totally shitfaced at Blake’s and pointing at me and shouting, “JARRETT’S ONLY TALKING TO YOU CAUSE YER CUTE OTherWISE HE WOULDN’T BE TALKING TO YOU.”

Jarrett: “If I were you, I would have punched him in the face.”

Me: “I save my amazing comeuppances for people who will remember them. Also I never think of them on the spot, I just come up with them later, and blog about them as if I actually said them.”

* * *

To some extent, it’s easy to say, “well if you don’t like us, then leave!” But I’m not saying I don’t like you. If I didn’t like you, I would have left already, and there are plenty of Facebook defriendings to prove it. There’s a whole world of reasons I didn’t leave before. Our legacy is built on hiding in bars because we had to, finding somewhere remote and dark was a necessity, upended by the occasional police raid–and our resistance to that trespass into what was once our only domain lives on, worldwide, notably in the date of Pride parades. To throw all that away, and swear off bars or anything reminiscent thereof, because we can’t drink without blacking out, would be throwing the baby out with the bathtub moonshine.

This is the delicate line I have fought to walk from the very beginning with HomoClimbtastic. It was meant to eschew the notion that as queer people we could only find community in the dark, but at every turn, I took a rhetorical cleaver to anyone suggesting that HC was proof that we weren’t stereotypes. It was proof that we were free, to carry on the culture we had built from centuries of oppression, and to cut away the baggage that came with it.

At times, what is baggage is a hard line to draw. But this time, it isn’t. We have a serious problem. People joke about their livers, like it’s funny, but it’s not. I see people I’ve known since college now look like they got run over by a truck, and using botox, aspirin regimens, two week diets, and marathon-running as though these could caulk over the cracks. I take several month sabbaticals from the Atlanta scene for work or climbing, and when I come back, I’m always surprised that someone I haven’t seen in a while looks… terrible. Whenever I go to the climbing campgrounds, I become accustomed to the climbers who take care of their bodies, and accustomed to what being in your thirties, forties, fifties should look like, and then I return to Atlanta, and the LA Fitness, where despite the ten million crunches, most of the people look like complete shit. Maybe this is why gay people are afraid of getting older–because in this mostly alcoholic enclave, it can certainly look terrifying.

Perhaps I’m only saying that as an appeal to everyone’s shallow sensibilities to discourage the excessive drinking… but that’s not really a good justification. The good justification is that you’re not actually enjoying your life. And you should. We fought too hard not to.

So this is my appeal: be the HomoClimbtastic you want to see in the world. You can create a social space where you do something else. Where you can carry on with your flamingly flaming self without the headaches and the vomiting.

Sometimes despite only one chocotini you still end up vomiting for several days because of the giardia you picked up elsewhere.

Sometimes despite only one chocotini you still end up vomiting for several days because of the giardia you picked up elsewhere. At least Rio was there to make fun of me.

* * *

And unfortunately, we have few venues to have this conversation–all of the weekly gay mags and rags and newspapers get most of their advertising budgets from booze companies and bars, and they get pilloried when they ever dare step on the toes of their sponsors. The articles about our pervasive alcoholism, and the jokey non-chalance with which we approach it, have to thus be sanitized to a patronizing pablum of obvious “don’t drink and drive” and “seek treatment if you need help” because bar owners can’t face that their current economic model depends on customers funneling their lives down a drain.

Normally, I’m all for the free market, but some Atlanta bar owners’ atrocious bullying to keep themselves the centerpiece of Atlanta Pride leaves me without sympathy. Summary, if you don’t read the link, after the Atlanta Pride organizer (literally one person, in charge of an event attended by, oh, a million people), didn’t personally visit one bar owner to request a donation, the bar owner made the totally-not-intended-to-be-ironic proclamation at a public hearing, “I am sorry, but hearing that it is too hard to contact 21 bars? A postcard? You send a postcard to an unimportant relative.” If I was present at that meeting, I would have shouted, “Do you know who I am?” and laughed heartily, but sadly, I was out of town, and again, I probably wouldn’t have thought of it on the spot and just would have blogged about it as if I actually had.

Anyway, since the HC blog has no advertisers, I can be more frank than the more established outlets are allowed to be. If you’re drinking three or more stiff cocktails, YOU are one of the people with a problem. By the end, you’re boring, or annoying, or an asshole, and either nobody’s willing to tell you, or your friends are likewise too drunk to notice, and the claim that you had a great time last night is a dull rationalization because it’s hard to face that despite the cost, you didn’t have that good a time. And yes, a lot of you are you are my friends, and I care about you deeply, but when you’re not sober, frequently I want to shiv you.

To the rest of you, I say: you are not alone. HomoClimbtastic began as five people–and it would be an awful, awful, awful (awful!) thing if I had drank too much to remember what happened after returning from that bar in Charleston–those are the memories my memory care experts at the nursing home will be reciting to me as I proceed into dementia. (“Tell me again about the part with the bubble wrap!”)

I may not remember my children's names, but I'll remember this.

I may not remember my children’s names, but I’ll remember this.

That group of five ended up burning a swath several hundred people wide of people who found community in what makes them happy, carrying the legacies that brought us together and escaping the traps that hold us collectively down–and it’s impossible not to see that one of the most notable traps, and one that people have consistently expressed their happiness in leaving behind in regard to HC, is the massive amounts of binging  seen elsewhere.

Outside of HC, and for the rest of our community, leaving that behind is an obvious future. I’m just anxious to see it sooner than later.