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Thursday, September 4, 2008

GAY DISCUSSION GROUP FEELS UNSAFE

For many years, Gays - mostly seniors - have met on Monday nights to discuss current topics in the Gay Mens Discussion Group at the Gay Center in Hillcrest. About 25-30 usually attend regularly.

After one session in August, I chatted with a young man in his 20's who had been sitting next to me. It turned out that he was a law student. Inasmuch as I hold a law degree, I knew that I could be helpful to him.

But at least one member took serious offense, apparently thinking - quite incorrectly - that I was "hitting" on him. He complained.

The discussion group has a strict policy of confidentiality, which forbids participants from identifying others by name outside the group. But, when the complainant went online to voice his objections, his identity and issues became public knowledge.

I had sensed for some time that several in the group were uncomfortable for unknown reasons (jealousy, another suggested) that (1) I am a pioneer of the Gay Lib Movement and (2) I socialize with sailors from the super-secret Naval Sonar School on weekends.

Discussion participant Michael Martinez hit me on both issues in an e-mail sent to all the group (I was subsequently deleted from sending messages on that Yahoo group service).

"I tried to free the new guy (law student), but you should have felt the negative energy coming from our fonder (sic) of the gay rights movement. Yes, it is my hope that this Long Established Older member (cleverly spelling out my first name) see this and will think twice or only do this at his navy (sic) bar."

Another member, Jeff, added: "I agree with Michael..."

With that kind of overt hostility from regular members of the Monday Night Gay Men's Discussion Group, I decided those meetings were not a safe place for me.

Although I've participated for years, I don't go anymore.

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