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2016 Tony Awards Air on Same Day as Homophobic Attack in Orlando (June 12, 2016)

 

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Who could have imagined that the highlight of the Broadway season, the gay Super Bowl, would be held on the same day as the nation's deadliest attack against America's LGBT population?  Yet it did on June 12, 2016.  Before the opening of the telecast, master of ceremonies James Corden soberly, yet compassionately, addressed viewers at home with his back to those attending the awards ceremony.  With his brief commemoration completed, the coronation of Hamilton began.  During the telecast, comments about the slaughter of 49 patrons at Orlando's gay club, Pulse, were made by Lin Manuel-Miranda, Jessica Lange, Frank Langella and Barbra Streisand (yes, Babs made her first appearance in 50 years).  And everyone was sporting a silver ribbon on their lapel or gown in a show of solidarity for the city of Orlando.

 

Of course, in this day and age of 24/7 news, the coverage of the attack was continuous and unnerving.  This was in stark contrast to the indifference shown more than 40 years earlier after the previous deadliest attack against gays, in June 1973, when 32 patrons of the New Orleans bar Upstairs Lounge died in an arson fire.  Sadly, hate continues in the present day, but this time it was publicized worldwide rather than ignored.      

 

NOW, ON WITH THE SHOW!

The lovable James Corden was wonderful - and such a relief from the silliness of last year's hosts, Alan Cumming and Kristen Chenoweth.  (Actually, Corden's love of Broadway is similar to that of another former host, Hugh Jackman.)  The introduction of Corden at the top of the show was genius, replicating the rap patter of Hamilton and sung by cast members.  It poked fun at Corden being relatively unknown.  One excerpt:

CBS said, "This collision of theater and television needs a risk taker, it needs a rule breaker, it needs a troublemaker, a mover and a shaker - It needs that chubby dude from 'Into the Woods' who played the baker."    

 

Jame corden dancing tony awards  

 

PROUD PAPA

Lin-Manuel Miranda had plenty of opportunities to beam as Hamilton won 11 Tony's.  The widespread acclaim the show has received is no doubt the biggest reason the telecast's rating was the highest in 15 years.

 

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Lin-manuel-tonys

Proud

 

CALLING THE FASHION POLICE!

There's always one and this year it was Cate Blanchett, resplendent in raccoon-eye makeup and an "outfit" that looked like it was made from a sweatshirt and leather harness.

 

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80+ NEVER LOOKED BETTER

At 83, the vibrant Chita Rivera introduced the In Memoriam tribute, a list she's not likely to appear on for many years.

 

Chita rivera 2016 tony awards

 

A COMEDIC TRIBUTE TO "LAW & ORDER"

There was a hilarious routine about various Broadway actors who may be better known for their roles on Law & Order than on Broadway (ending with six roles by Fiddler's Danny Burstein).

 

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Billy Porter ("Shuffle Along")

 

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Daveed Diggs ("Hamilton")

 

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Danny Burstein ("Fiddler on the Roof")

 

SKEWERING TRUMP

There were three swipes at Donald Trump.  In applauding the diversity of the Tony nominees, Corden said that Donald Trump had threatened to build a wall around the theater; Nathan Lane said he learned about the great importance of winning awards at Trump University; then, near the end of the show, in a real slap at him, there was a little routine about a show about Trump coming to Broadway in the fall titled "House of Moron".

 

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HEY, HAVEN'T I SEEN THAT DRESS BEFORE?

 

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Renee Elise Goldsberry, 2016 Tony Winner

 

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Alicia Vikander, 2016 Oscar Winner

 

UNDERSTATED CHARM

I found myself enchanted by the number, If You Knew My Story, from Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's nominated show Bright StarThe song had a countrified charm, and the stage setting's soft blue hues brought to mind a water color.

 

Bright.star

 

BECAUSE OUTRAGEOUS TICKET PRICES DON'T RAISE ENOUGH REVENUE 

New York senator Charles Schumer was applauded for passing legislation providing tax breaks for Broadway.  The cynical question in my mind - does that mean ticket prices will go down?

 

Charles.schumer 

 

CUTE, HORNY BOYS IN KNICKERS

The number from Spring Awakening had the cutest display of boys in knickers since the Tony ceremony from a few years ago that featured a number from Newsies.

 

Springawakening

 

EMILIO RUINED THE SURPRISE

In introducing a number from Get on Your Feet, Emilio Estefan spoiled a surprise when he mentioned that wife Gloria wasn't at the podium with him because she was appearing in the number.  I loved the two little boys dancing the rumba while playing maracas; the Ricky Martin-esque lead also got my attention.  One of the songs in the medley was Estefan's remake of Turn the Beat Around, but for me only Vicki Sue Robinson's original version will do.

 

Getonyourfeet  

 

THE REVIVAL THAT WON'T DIE

There was a special shout-out for the 20th anniversary of the revival of Chicago, but I found it odd that no mention was made of its original run 40 years ago.

 

Chicago

 

LOVE HIM, LOVE HIM, LOVE HIM!

Lin-Manuel Miranda gave a powerful, emotional acceptance speech upon accepting his Tony for Best Score.  The most memorable, emphatic line alluded to the day's tragedy in Orlando: "Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside" .

 

Lin_manuel miranda tony awards 

 

THE LIGHTS OF BROADWAY ARE SO BRIGHT SHE'S GOTTA WEAR SHADES

 

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Anna Wintour, as always, showed up wearing sunglasses.  And, again, she went home without a Tony.

 

DIVERSITY, THY NAME IS THE TONYS

 

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The night's much-touted "diversity" included presenter Daniel Dae Kim, starring in "The King & I"

 

THRILLED JUST TO BE NOMINATED

 

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Jane Krakowski ("She Loves Me")
 
Jonathan.groff
Jonathan Groff ("Hamilton")
 
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Brandon Victor Dixon ("Shuffle Along")
 
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Michelle Williams ("Blackbird")

 

PAYING TRIBUTE TO CLASSIC BROADWAY

During commercial breaks cast members of the nominated musicals would rush outside and do a quick verse from a classic Broadway show, for all of 10-15 seconds.  The giddy energy brought to mind young kids putting on a show, a la Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.

 

Lin-manuel_miranda.beacon theater
At the end of the song from "Rent" sung by the cast of "Hamilton" it was amusing to hear Lin-Manuel Miranda doing light shilling for CBS, shouting, "The Tonys, only on CBS!"

 

LOVE THOSE CROWD SHOTS!

 

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Something must have been going on in the cheap seats ...

 

TWO MORE "HAMILTON" FANS

 

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The president and first lady briefly talked about, what else?, "Hamilton", offering an anecdote about seeing a version of the show in its embryonic stage at the White House a number of years ago.

 

"SHUFFLING" PAST 11:00

Unlike the Oscars, the Tonys have a reputation for ending on time, but this year the telecast went until 11:15.  Perhaps it would have ended at 11:00 if it weren't for the need for presenters to say the official title of Shuffle Along ("Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed").  Because it received ten Tony nominations it was mentioned throughout the night.

 

Shuffling.along

 

THEN ... AND NOW, THE GREATEST CITY IN THE WORLD!

If your DVR stopped recording at 11:00, you missed the uplifting closing few minutes, featuring a number from, no surprise, "Hamilton",  with lyrics that were so very apt on this day:

Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now ... we just happen to be in the greatest city in the world - in the greatest city in the world! 

 

Hamilton_2016tonyawards

 

Here are reviews of previous Tony Awards:

2015 Tony Awards

2014 Tony Awards

2013 Tony Awards

 


HIV Versus CTE: Reflecting On a Double Standard In Compassion

CTE When AIDS was running rampant through the gay male population during the 1980s, the sentiment of the general public and government officials was largely one of "blame the victim" when it came to providing help or attention to those stricken.  "Why spend tax-payers dollars to help individuals who brought the disease on themselves?"; "They deserve what they got"; and "It's God's divine retribution for their immorality" were some of the common, uncaring responses.  Thirty years later I find myself thinking of those homophobic responses when reading about CTE, the degenerative neurological condition some players in the NFL have developed after years of sustaining concussions during games.  Because the affliction affects the world of football, which is arguably the national religion of the US, this condition has generated considerable attention - and compassion.  In contrast to the contempt gay men with AIDS encountered, few with CTE are pilloried for "getting what they deserve".  And, of course, no one would think of pointing fingers at the parents of players who enthusiastically supported their sons' activities since childhood.  I'm not suggesting these players should be shunned or not treated, it's just sobering to witness the contrast in the responses - pariahs vs. fallen heroes.  


The Wide Chasm in Worldwide Acceptance of Homosexuality

Gay.execution Twogrooms.oncakeWith the addition of the United States, one out of eight persons worldwide now live in countries where same-sex marriage is legal (accounting for more than 900 million of the world's 7.1 billion population).  The countries where it is legal are largely in Europe, North America and South America (two outliers are South Africa and New Zealand).  This has all happened in just the past 15 years.  However, resistance to homosexuals is still frighteningly widespread as 2.8 billion people live in countries where homosexuality is outlawed.  These virulently homophobic nations are found throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia and comprise nearly 40% of the world's population. 

 

Supremecourtdecision.samesexmarriageSo while there may be comfort in the fact that nations with anti-gay laws are thousands of miles away, and that same-sex marriage is sweeping the Western world, the fact is there are still plenty of Americans who would like laws here that outlaw the practice of homosexuality (as they salivate at the prospect of living under a theocracy).  So, despite celebrations over the Supreme Court's pro-gay decision, vigilance is still advised.

 

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Nations Where Homosexuality is Illegal (courtesy of 76crimes.com)

New York Mets Embroiled In Another Gay Controversy

 

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Earlier this week (in March 2015) New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy let it be known that he "disagrees" with the gay lifestyle.  This isn't the first time the Mets have been thrust into the glare of controversy over the subject of homosexuality.  In 1999 Atlanta Braves relief pitcher John Rocker made homophobic comments about New Yorkers in an interview in Sports Illustrated.  He confided that he'd never want to play for a New York team because of his experience riding the 7 subway to Shea Stadium, where he found himself sitting next to "some queer with AIDS, a dude next to him who just got out of jail for the fourth time, next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids."  Then in 2002 catcher Mike Piazza called a press conference to dispel rumors that he was gay.  This happened shortly after Mets manager Bobby Valentine said in a magazine interview that he expected a player to come out shortly (we're still waiting).

 

Murphy's comments came after the Mets hired Billy Bean, a ballplayer from the 1990s who's now openly gay, as Major League Baseball's first "ambassador of inclusion".   Specifically, here is what Murphy said:

 

Danielmurphy.mets

 

As I see it, saying that he disagrees with the lifestyle of individuals created by God strongly suggests Murphy questions God's wisdom.  Hardly a trait of someone described as "devout" - unenlightened would be a better descriptor.  I suppose he also "disagrees" with the "lifestyle" of pork eaters; those who mix meat and dairy (e.g., eating a cheeseburger); have sex with a menstruating woman; work on the Sabbath; or who aren't circumcised - all activities proscribed in the Bible.  This brings to mind some of conservative bishops who have voiced dissent over Pope Francis's messages of inclusion.  Since the pope is the conduit of God, shouldn't these apostates be banished?  I'm also reminded of the homophobic teammate in the Broadway drama Take Me Out from the early 2000s.

 

Takemeout

 

I'd like to know what in particular Murphy finds so "disagreeable" about the gay "lifestyle".  Is it singing show tunes, having a love of the arts, dancing ability, our witty repartee and bon mots, possessing good taste?  Perhaps it's the courage to live one's life as it was meant to be and not cower in fear or shame?  Or is Murphy's message an attempt to conceal his own homoerotic desires?  After all, Christians who are in the public eye expressing righteous indignation as a way to provide cover for their own desires have become a cliche. 

 

Although I respect Murphy for saying what he believes I'm a bit disappointed that Billy Bean (pictured below), was so accommodating to him.  (He says he'd like to have further discussions with Murphy in the hopes of "enlightening" him - that reads like a premise for a porn movie to me!)  However, chances are Mets management asked Bean to respond in a conciliatory fashion since they'd rather alienate gay fans than their Christian fan base, which is probably far larger, especially in cities such as Atlanta, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Houston.  But give the Mets credit for hiring Bean in the first place.

 

Billy.bean.newyork.mets 

 

 


Anti-Gay Violence Addressed in Video for Hozier's Hit Song "Take Me to Church"

Hozier.take.me.to.churchI immediately liked the song Take Me to Church when I stumbled upon it on iTunes in October 2014, but it wasn't until three months later that I became aware of the song's video (brought to my attention by an interview in Entertainment Weekly with the song's vocalist/composer, who goes by his last name, Hozier).  The video tells the story of two gay men in the bloom of young love, perhaps experiencing their first same-sex relationship.  This tenderness is then juxtaposed with a group of young men in hoods, masks and clubs coming for them.  At its conclusion the video strongly suggests a horrific ending at the hands of the gang.  As I watched I was expecting/hoping that rescue of some sort would come, but it didn't, leaving me shaken.  Watching this video once was enough (thru October 2018 its had close to 240 million views on You Tube).

 

This video brought to mind the songs Smalltown Boy by Bronski Beat from 1984 and Rod Stewart's The Killing of Georgie from 1976.  However, while the lyrics of both these songs communicated what the songs were about, a listener of Take Me to Church who hasn't seen the video wouldn't associate the song with homophobia or anti-gay violence (and the singer mentions his girlfriend).  Despite its deeply anti-religion message, I couldn't grasp the connection with anti-gay violence since the thugs who hunt down the gay couple don't appear to have a link to religion; they seem more like nihilists than devout churchgoers.

 

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Despite being greatly troubled by the video I still think Take Me to Church is a wonderfully powerful song.  (And Hozier's been recognized for his craftsmanship with a Grammy nomination for Best Song.)

 

 


Pondering the Treatment Link Between ADHD & Homosexuality

Ritalin AdderallIn an opinion piece that ran in the "Sunday Review" section of the New York Times on Nov. 3, Richard A. Friedman, professor of clinical psychiatry/director of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College wrote that he was in favor of not treating ADHD with prescription medications like Ritalin or Adderall.  He argued that many of the children diagnosed with hyperactive disorder are naturally hard-wired for excitement or novelty seeking and aren't getting sufficient stimulation at school or home.  He posited that these kids aren't defective; rather, they just happen to possess behavioral traits that don't match the expectations of contemporary culture.  Long ago their hyperactivity would have given them a distinct advantage in societies that prized hunting and constant physical activity. 
  

 

ElectroshocktherapyThe Times article continued that nearly 11% of kids between the ages of 4 and 17 are now diagnosed with hyperactivity disorder at some point in their lives.  This got me thinking about how medical solutions were also once sought to treat homosexuality.  Fortunately there were medical professionals similar to professor Friedman who came to our defense, claiming that just because homosexuals didn't conform to the norms of society didn't mean they were defective.  In other words, even if it wasn't very prevalent, homosexuality is a naturally occurring phenomenon.  And their outlier status was the reason some societies held homosexual individuals in high regard, anointing them as healers or shamans.

 

Ritalin2Although stories abound about homosexuals undergoing lobotomies, electroshock, even castration, these widespread medical solutions weren't instituted.  With hyperactive children, however, it's a different story since they're too young to push back if their parents decide to go the pharmaceutical route.  Parents who don't want their children running around uncontrolled brings to mind those individuals, even today, who frown on sashaying, flamboyant homosexuals.

 

 

 

 

 


Nighttime in the Middle East: Wall-to-Wall, Horny Young Men

Middleeasternmen2With women in many parts of the Arab World largely barred from venturing outside once the sun goes down (and they're not very welcome in the light of day either), the streets at night are teeming with men.  And, believe me, they aren't spending all of their time studying the Koran, talking politics or plotting ways to cause mayhem in the West.  With the vast majority of them young, unmarried and horny, thoughts of sex are likely never far from their mind.  Since women aren't around to satisfy their carnal desires, what recourse do they have?   

 

Women.in.burkasConsidering how virulently homophobic Muslim society is, it's comical that their religious leaders (or local chapter of the Taliban) have created an environment, similar to prison, in which homosexual sex is one of the only viable options available for single men seeking "release."  Similar to "Don't ask, don't tell," furtive gay sex goes on behind closed doors (the Muslim "DL"), but come daylight and homosexuality is condemned.  And woe to anyone who's openly gay in the light of day - that is an abomination met with severe punishment, even death.  (Note to Western gays: Muslim men on their knees with their butts in the air during the daytime are praying.)

 

Muslims.praying
Assuming the "receptive" position, five times a day.

 

Larry.craig Ted.haggard However, a similar dysfunctional dynamic holds sway here in the good ol' USA with the Religious Right.  The more vehemently some of them condemn homosexuality, chances are it's a smokescreen to hide their true nature and clandestine same-sex assignations.  (Larry Craig and Ted Haggard, left, are two shining examples).  Or, perhaps they're just angry that others are living the life they desire.  And, oh, do they love to talk about homosexual sex (hello, Rick Santorum!)  400 years after it was written by Shakespeare, the famous line from Hamlet still rings very true in both the Middle East and the West:  "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."


   

 


Homophobic Front Page Article Runs in New York Times (December 17, 1963)

 

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Imagine that you were gay and living in New York in December 1963.  Like the rest of the country you were undoubtedly still recovering from the shock of President Kennedy's assassination a few weeks earlier.  Perhaps the Christmas holiday would lift your spirits somewhat.  Then on the morning of Dec. 17, 1963 you picked up the New York Times and saw a lengthy news story on Page One with the headline, "Growth of Overt Homosexuality in City Provokes Wide Concern".  Quite a dispiriting way to start your day. 

 

The article, which began, "The problem of homosexuality in New York ...", was wide-ranging in scope, covering legal issues; opinions from psychiatrists; observations about habits, night life and occupations of gay men as well as the neighborhoods they congregated in.  Words such as "problem", "degenerates", "inverts", "disease" were sprinkled throughout.  (Perhaps the song "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" from The Sound of Music was inspired by the "problem" of homosexuality that psychiatrists were trying to solve.)  However, the article also served, unwittingly, as a course in Homosexuality 101 for isolated homosexuals or those just coming to terms with their same-sex attractions. 

 

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Here are some of my favorite, jaw-dropping passages (some are paraphrased).

  • Sexual inverts have colonized three areas of the City: Greenwich Village, the Upper East Side from the upper 40s through the 70s, and the Upper West Side.
  • Dregs of the invert world congregate around Eighth Avenue and 42nd St.
  • They have their favored clothing suppliers, who specialize in the tight slacks, short-cut coats and fastidious furnishing favored by many, but by no means all, male homosexuals.
  • The word "gay" has been appropriated as the adjective for homosexual.  A homosexual probably derives secret amusement from innocent employment of the word in its original meaning by "straight" - that is, heterosexual - speakers.
  • In summer, the New York homosexual can find vacation spots frequented by his kind - notably parts of Fire Island, a section of the beach at Jacob Riis Park, and many others.

 

Gayguys_1960s

 

  • In some areas of the East Side "middle class" homosexuals lead outward lives that are prosperous and even gay in the original sense.  By contrast, homosexuals who live in the Upper West Side are of a less prosperous class who drift through boarding houses.
  • The tendency of high-fashion designers to produce styles that minimize or suppress womanly curves isn't an expression of homosexual hostility toward women, but rather an expression of fear.
  • 1962's "Psychoanalytic Study of Male Homosexuals" recommended that a constructive, supportive, warmly related father precludes the possibility of a homosexual son.  He acts as a neutralizing, protective agent should the mother make seductive or close-binding attempts.   

 

And yet, despite the less then positive depiction of New York City's gay residents, a number of positive observations were made:

  • No attempt is made, the police commissioner said, to enforce the theoretical ban on private homosexual conduct between consenting adults.
  • Parental concern over homosexual offenses involving minors is probably excessive, according to most psychiatrists and public officials - no more common than molesters of girls.  Prevailing psychiatric opinion is that a single homosexual encounter would be unlikely to turn a young man toward homosexuality, unless a predisposition already existed in the individual.
  • From homosexual subjects he had treated, Dr. Abram Kardiner noted that it was easier and less risky for a homosexual man to find a paramour than it was 25 years earlier.
  • Dr. Bieber believes that wiping out negative attitudes would contribute to healing homosexuality rather than creating it.
  • In a study of 300 homosexual men, 97% told freelance writer Randolfe Wicker that they would not change even if change were easy.

 

The full article can found here.

 

 

 


Anita Bryant's Anti-Gay Crusade Turns Back Gay Rights in Florida (June 7, 1977)

Anitabryant_newsweek Anita Bryant made her name as a singer of easy listening music (Paper Roses was her big hit), but she was probably most famous as the spokesperson for the Florida Orange Growers Association (she sang the National Anthem at the 1969 Super Bowl in Miami).  However, she became notorious in 1977 when she spearheaded a campaign that was successful in getting voters to repeal a law protecting gay residents of Dade County from job and housing discrimination.  This contentious referendum, which took place on June 7, received national attention. 

 

I'll never forget reading the following passage from an article in TIME Magazine reporting on the heated campaign:

Bryant told one interviewer that God does not like homosexuals because "the male homosexual eats another man's sperm.  Sperm is the most concentrated form of blood.  The homosexual is eating life".  During a debate with Gay Rights Activist Bob Kunst she startled the audience by breaking into a stirring rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic. 

 

Although a stinging blow to the gay community, it was the first time gay men and lesbians actively fought to keep their rights.  And the following year, led by Harvey Milk, gays in California successfully fought back the Briggs Initiative, a proposed law that would have banned gay men and lesbians from being teachers in the state. 

 

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Oprah Winfrey Gets the Low Down on the "Down Low" (April 16, 2004)

Down_low_oprah The phrase "on the down low", or the DL, refers to men of color who, while not identifying themselves as being gay, have furtive sex with other men.  This urban slang was picked up by the media at the turn of the 21st century and it picked up steam a few years later with articles in TIME, The Village Voice and the New York Times Magazine.  Then Oprah introduced it to her viewers during an episode of her show that aired on April 14, 2004.  

 

 

Downlow.hip-hopOf course, while the DL may be a black construct, men with wives and girlfriends who sneak off to have sex with other men is hardly limited to blacks.  It's been explained that the term was coined because of an aversion many black men have to being labeled as gay.  (Based on the black men I've known, it's quite a generalization.)  Apparently, in the minds of these men, having sex with a man isn't the same thing as being gay, which they equate with being effeminate.  (I wonder if a similar term has been coined in Arabic for Muslim men?)   

 

 

Grindr_logo Today, thanks to online chat rooms and the iPad app Grindr, sneaking off for a quickie has never been easier or more tempting.  (Fooling around in the steam room at the gym is so 20th century.)  Because of these new means of communication, wives and girlfriends would surely be freaked if they knew the extent to which husbands and boyfriends play around with other men before work, during lunch and after work.  

 

  

Gay_newyork_george_chauncey However, it's hardly a new phenomenon.  In the book Gay Manhattan, which talks of gay life in the first half of the 20th century, author George Chauncey revealed that it wasn't uncommon for a straight blue collar guy to have a gay acquaintance on the side to get him off (without reciprocation) whenever their wives weren't able to provide for all their sexual needs.