Should We Panic About the Deadly Strain of Meningitis Hitting the Gay Community?
Last December, my friend Michael stopped me before we left his apartment in Paris. He was moving back to Brooklyn the following week and had received an urgent message from his friend who lived there: some gay men had died from a new strain of meningitis, a nasty bug that invades your brain and spinal cord and causes headaches, neck stiffness, bouts of vomiting, and, occasionally, death. In San Francisco, the government waswarning gay men to get vaccinated if they planned to travel to New York City, especially Brooklyn.
We weren’t too worried—this wasn’t the 80s, when the authorities turned a blind eye to the AIDS epidemic and dismissed it as a “gay disease.” If the New York City Department of Health knew there was a potentially deadly plague sweeping the city, they’d surely shoot the bugger in the butt before it grew into a gay-killing monster.
Months later, the monster is still alive. Four more men have fallen ill in New York City, bringing the number of infections to 22 and death toll to seven since 2010, and similar cases have appeared in West Hollywood, California. Just last Saturday, Brett Shaad, a 33-year-old lawyer, died of meningitis after slipping into a coma—he’s one of 13 men in LA who’ve been killed by the disease in the past 15 months. (It’s unknown how many of these men were gay.)
Why Are All These Gays Taking Grindr Photos at a Holocaust Memorial Site? We Spoke with the Guys Behind the Website Grindr Remembers
VICE: How did you guys start this site?
Lewkowicz: It wasn’t started with an idea. It was actually pretty spontaneous; I saw this one picture and I sent it to Ariel. Then we started exchanging more and more pictures and wherever we went, we found a gallery of photos that we just couldn’t keep to ourselves. It was just too outrageous. We had a lot of fun making this blog, and then it started rolling over the internet and getting more and more pictures.
When did it become so popular?
Ashbel: Only a few days ago. Before it was just friends of ours who would send it to friends of theirs, and we just got pictures that way. I think someone on Twitter found it. I believe it was related to International Holocaust Day. It’s quite old, though. It’s really old news.
Lewkowicz: When it reached the mainstream media and the backlash came, Grindr changed their stance on the site.
Ashbel: There’s a righteous backlash not only from mainstream sources, but the gay community as well.
Lewkowicz: I think it’s really bullshit. I don’t see it.
Ashbel: I don’t think the pictures are problematic. It’s a prudish approach to assume that anything that has to do with sex is immediately disrespectful or obscene. I just think it’s really sad that people are so old-fashioned.
Helping the Malaysian Government Find Gay Dudes on Grindr
The Malaysian government has a throbbing, vein-popping hard-on for gay guys. In fact, they’re so concerned about the homosexual population’s “rampant” activities that they’ve sent 66 “effeminate boys” to be straightened out in the most macho, testosterone-driven pastime known to man: paintballing. Better that, I suppose, than the other prospect for gay men in a country where homosexuality is illegal: a prison sentence or the totally un-homoerotic punishment of being bare-bottom caned in public by another guy.
Besides the government’s foolproof scheme of sending a bunch of gay teenagers to spend time with each other in an effort to make them not gay, the education minister has also just published a handy guide on how to “spot a gay.” That guide suggests looking out for stuff like a “Muscular body and a fondness for showing off the body,” “A fondness for V-neck T-shirts,” “A tendency to carry large handbags,” and (shocker) “An inclination to be attracted to men”—so the general public of Malaysia can join in, too.
I spoke to Jerome Kugan of Malaysian LGBT rights group Seksualiti Merdeka to find out how many homophobic vigilante citizens are following the guide and rounding up hordes of muscular men in V-neck T-shirts.
VICE: Hi Jerome. So, is anyone actually taking this guide seriously in Malaysia?
Jerome Kugan: Discussions about sexuality are still very taboo in mainstream Malaysian society, even though we’ve always had our fair share of sexual diversity. Most Malaysians don’t really want to face the issue because it’s quite personal, but this absurd guide, whether it’s taken seriously or not, is part of a growing movement within the conservative right that sees LGBTs as deprived of moralistic and religious values.
Are you concerned that, if this going to be the norm, Malaysia’s next generation is going to be raised as homophobes?
Yeah, that’s definitely a major concern. We at Seksualiti Merdeka feel like the government is practically giving people a licence to perpetrate acts of vigilante bullying against innocent Malaysian LGBTs. Also, the majority of Malaysians are Muslim, so the influential local religious bodies already view being gay as a symptom of moral degradation, like a social sickness that needs to be rehabilitated. A lot of religious Malaysians buy into that idea, but as long as there are voices of resistance, I think there’s still hope.
Is there a particular reason it’s been brought up again like this?
Some of us think that the government is fuelling anti-LGBT sentiments to turn it into a moral and political scapegoat issue. There’s an upcoming general election, so they’re trying to link the issue with other parties as some kind of smear campaign.
Wow, that sucks. Lastly, settle this for me: Every single gay guy in Malaysia wears a V-neck the whole time, right?
[Laughs] No, but they are quite popular in chic urban enclaves. I have a few in my closet, but I reckon, after this official guide, they’re going to get a whole lot more popular.
How Grindr Can Get You Everything You Need (Except Butt Sex)
One of the greatest things smart phones have done for the swinging gay lifestyle is picking up the old school bathhouse and dropping it in the pocket of every homosexual with an iPhone and a libido—which is to say, every homosexual. Yes, Grindr (and its imitators like Scruff, Mister, and other macho-sounding apps that haven’t even been invented yet) is a way for gays to get laid whenever they want, so long as other people within a one-mile radius have their phones on. It uses fancy GPS technology to locate queers on the prowl close to you and track their distance from your current location (0 feet away means he’s actually inside you right now).
But there is more to life than getting laid (well, kinda). There is also stuff! And drugs! And favors! All of these things are possible to score on Grindr if you know a few simple tricks. Here are some good ones I learned from a few of my friends.
According to Sean, an expert in using Grindr to get all sorts of things other than head, getting things out of people is a lot easier when you’re outside the city. “In New York, all the conversations are very sexual,” he says, which is good if all you’re looking for is some slap and tickle. “Even when you come to New Jersey, people are a little more chatty here.” Once you get them talking, that’s when you reel them in and milk them (surprisingly not a sexual reference here) for all they’re worth, and it appears hospitality isn’t an urban virtue.
RELY ON THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
When Steve’s job sent him to Denmark for a year, he was not only all alone, but stuck with a washing machine whose knobs and buttons he couldn’t decipher, thanks to their being labeled by Vikings. “I found the closest guy who was acceptably cute and chatted him up. ‘I’m new to the neighborhood. Strange question—how the hell do I work this thing?’” Steve sent the guy a photo (of the washer, not his dick), and his mark happened to have the same machine. He came by a short while later to show this dirty boy how to get clean.
CASE THE JOINT
The longer you talk to someone, the more information you can get out of them, giving you a better idea of what you can scam from them. Sean’s boyfriend was chatting up a boy on the phone who mentioned he was moving. Sean and his boyfriend had just moved too, and needed some furniture. Next thing you know they had scored themselves a dining room table and chairs for $70. Even if it’s IKEA and breaks in a year, that’s a whole lot longer than a BJ will last you.
Stalking out a gay bar, buying expensive drinks, and putting in facetime with a real person just to find a fuck buddy is a lot of work. This is exactly why Grindr exists; it’s a smartphone app that enables you to skip the old-fashioned way of getting things done and get to the only part of the night you really care about. It’s not a complete cakewalk though and if you respond to a potential conquest the wrong way you could end up half-naked on your bed with blue balls as you weep ever so softy into your pillow. So to help you learn how to do things the right way I’ve created a simple style guide that will ensure your Grindr love life is nothing but an absolute success—the occasional trip to the doctor’s office for antibiotics notwithstanding.
Category: Vanilla Eye Candy
Experience Level: Novice
The first thing you’ll notice about this guy is that he’s boringly wholesome and most likely looking to settle down. More often than not he’ll be Canadian or from the Midwest and will spook so easily you’ll have to start things off slow with some simple conversation that feigns his interests in film and literature. You must at all costs avoid saying anything about your peens rubbing up against each other. If for some reason you can’t control yourself try using some cheesy euphemism from the 1950’s like “big guy” or “one-eyed monster,” the type of names that might have been used by one of his childhood bible camp counselors. Before you invite him over to your place, make sure your living quarters are spotless; the whole point is to try to hide the fact that you’re a dog and this is probably your hundredth Grindr fuck. And whatever you do, don’t forget to clear your computer cache and history, lest you accidentally pull up that twink porn you watched earlier as you try to navigate the search bar for “mood music.”