Prompted by the
violent murder of
a soldier believed
to be gay. Vice
President Al Gore
said he would seek
to overturn the
ban on openly gay
falling in line with
a host of other
passion and sexual
tension of Simone
through in the hip
new work of this
bold, lesbian poet
a collection of
ALL THE NEWS FOR YOUR LIFE. AND YOUR STYLE.
DECEMBER 17, 1999
new kids on the net
A crop of 'virtual' gay rights groups are clamoring for attention, but
should it take more than 'dot-com' to earn legitimacy?
by PAIGE P.ARVIN
No members, no budget, no full-time staff,
not a single office or meeting.
A flurry of on-line activist groups have
come on the scene in the last year, and many
are garnering attention inside and outside
the gay community. But does is "dot-com" or
"dot-org" by itself a substitute for a constituency, bylaws and the other traditional
measures of an organization's legitimacy?
In a recent controversy involving whether
America Online was discriminating against
gay users, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance
Against Defamation and National Gay
Lobby.Org were referenced side-by-side in
many mainstream and gay press news
accounts, with both groups treated as equals.
GLAAD, founded in 1985, has 15,000
members, an annual budget of $3.7 million,
and offices in six U.S. cities.
National Gay Lobby.Org was founded earlier
this year, claims a thousand members, no annual budget and is solely Intemet-based.
While gay orgiinl-zations of all sizes, shapes
and causes have co-existed for decades, the
Internet has spawned a slew of new group
names, raising questions about organization
accountability, credibility and what exactly it
means to be a "gay rights group."
Online activist Michael Romanello, who co-
founded National Gay Lobby.Org and recently
took on America Online and called for a boycott
The fact that just about anyone with a
mouse and a modem can think up a name,
put up a web-site and create a gay rights
"organization" presents ups and downs,
according to some gay activists.
The good, the bad
and the Net
"It's a good thing and a bad thing,"
observed Internet activist John Aravosis, himself a part of this growing "virtual" activism.
"In a sense, I think the Internet will make
you better .known by name. ... It makes you
become an organization, It's very odd, people do perceive me as a gay organization,"
said Aravosis, the president and sole staff
member of Wired Strategies, his on-line
advocacy consulting business.
Aravosis has earned this perception primarily by taking a stand on issues of interest
to gays, including AOL's policies; posting
information on his web-site; and, as he has
emerged as an on-line source, speaking with
the press when contacted. He doesn't hide
the fact that for now, he's a one-man show.
But reporters don't always ask, either.
Not all aspiring gay rights activists and
groups are totally Internet-based. But the
Net can often level the playing field for those
seeking publicity, creating a realm where one
person sitting in front of a computer can
maintain a web-site and churn out press
releases as effectively as a large national
organization like Human Rights Campaign.
"1 think it's a good thing. Our movement
is big enough to accommodate all who wish
to participate," said HRC spokesman David
Smith. "Everybody who wishes to be politically active should be, and can be, in whatever form they choose."
Smith deflected the question of whether
media references to such groups can be misleading to many, including gay men and lesbians.
"This is a democratic country, and nobody
should be denied access to the mainstream
mcdi.i to get their viewpoints across," Smith
said. "It's up to the journalist to determine a
point of view and whether that point of view
is represented by a constituency or not.
Often, the gay press will quote a person who
has a constituency of one just to put a contrary view out there."
> Continued on Page 10
Non- Profit: No
Board of director*: No
cal meetings: No
We bin e: None
-d ol directory No
Members: 69 signed pledge
Physical meelings: No
ju«r *■—— •*"•»*—«
Board of directors: Yes
Members: About 1140
Physical meetings: Mo
Board of din
Members: Aboul IS.000
Budget: S3 7 million
Physical meetings: Yes
Non-PrOfrt: Not yet
d of directors: Not yet
s: list-serve of 1200
Physical meetings: No
Physical meeting*: No
Jon-Profit: No. for profit
Board ol directors: No
Physical meetings: No
A weapon of
Park rangers in San Antonio
have arrested more than 500
men on sex charges in two
years, sometimes releasing their
arrest records to employers and
the media, prompting an outcry from local gay activists
by GIP PLASTER
Once every 36 hours for the last two years, on average,
park rangers arrest a man on misdemeanor sex charges
in one of San Antonio's dozens of city parks.
Authorities say the men are hunting for sex in public
places, flashing their groins and groping what, most
often, rums out to be an undercover park ranger in the
midst of a covert sting to rid the parks of men seeking sex
with other men.
More than 500 men have been arrested during a two-
year operation by a team of undercover park rangers, city
officials and gay activists said.
Some gay leaders are crying foul, accusing the city -and
its park system of targeting only gay men and entrapping
them in the newest demonstration of the region's longtime hostility toward gay men and women.
"It's like a weapon of homophobia they're wielding
here in San ./-Vntonio," said Michael McGowan, director
of the city's Gay and Lesbian Community Center. "We're
really pissed about this. We're angry."
The high number of arrests prompted McGowan and
the community center last week to take the unusual step
of issuing a press release warning gay men planning to
travel to San Antonio to rethink their trip, y
The center also accuses the citv of entrapment and of
arresting men simply for being gay.
The community center issued the stronglv-worded
travel warning after attempts to negotiate with the parks
department failed, McGowan .said.
'Unwilling to negotiate'
City of San aAntonio Parks and Recreation Department
officials met with community center representatives in
early November and admitted that they send park
rangers wearing plain clothes to more than 20 of the
city's parks specifically to make arrests based on indecent exposure and other related offenses.
"I had the distinct feeling that [the community center]
thought we were doing this as a moral issue," said Don
>- Continued on Page 13