Feb 11, 2008

Stonewall, AIDS, and the Internet

I think that there are three paramount moments that have affected the lives of gay and bisexual men in the last century. First is the Stonewall Riots in 1969. Second is the emergence of the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s. Last is the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web in the 1990s.

The Stonewall Riots were the first violent and large-scale protests between queer people and people in authority. Prior to the riots, New York City policemen had been regularly harassing gay and transgender people and raiding their bars and clubs. On June 28, 1969, Policemen did one of their usual raids at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village and in the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, those arrested decided enough is enough and resisted the law enforcers. Violence ensued and the protests continued over the course of several days. This event resulted in the birth of the modern LGBT rights movement, marked by political activism and pride consciousness. Today, queer people all over the world celebrate June as the Pride Month and in Manila, this is celebrated in the annual White Party in Malate in the weekend nearest to June 28.

AIDS, of course, has dealt a huge blow to sub-Saharan Africa and also against gay populations in the Western world. The sexual revolution that became widespread during the 60s and 70s (and on which the LGBT rights movement rode on) was drastically tempered by the rise of the "gay disease" in the eighties. AIDS has claimed an estimated 25 million lives to date with 38 million more living with HIV. To drum up consciousness, World AIDS Day is celebrated every December 1st and the local LGBT community celebrates this in the annual Pride March during the first week of December.

More than LGBT rights and AIDS, I think it was the Internet/WWW that profoundly affected the vast majority of gay and bisexual people all over the world. Majority of us queer guys are in the closet and would not openly support LGBT rights and most of us are healthy and, through proper education and safe sex practices, have avoided the AIDS plague. So I argue that it was the arrival of cyberspace that had the most impact. The anonymous nature of the Internet has liberated millions of gay and bisexual people from the homophobia of the society at large. Never before in history has there been a safe and widespread venue for gay people to seek kindred souls and realize that they are not alone and that they need not suffer in silence. Chat rooms, web forums, and blogs are filed with the hidden lives and stories of queer men.

My life as a gay guy in Manila is shaped in a large part by the Internet. The first gay person I met was through IRC. Most of my closest gay friends I have met online. And the Web remains to be my single biggest resource for information for living my "other" life. So, I created this blog as my way of contributing to that vast resource. I hope that through my writing, other gay and bisexual guys can learn and enjoy the queer life without necessarily outing oneself.

My name is Vince and this is Discreet Manila. Welcome to our world.


Anonymous wrote on March 4, 2008 at 12:50 AM:

The metaverse! I didn't know that term is used outside of MMORPGs. (When I saw the tag I thought it was about computer online games. lol)

Have to agree that the internet has been really helpful to a lot of people who are still trying to find their place in the sun. As with anything though, and sometimes even more so, it is prone to abuse.

Welcome to our world indeed!

Vince wrote on March 4, 2008 at 7:58 AM:

Hi, Tony! I was actually using "meta" in the sense of "about this site" like metadata. I'm not a gamer but I guess metaverse functions the same way. :-)

And I agree that there's a lot of potential for abuse (such as people stealing G4M pics and passing them off as their own, hehehe). But by and large, I think it has been a more positive effect.