How to be Gay

January 8, 2008 at 11:57 am 4 comments

The University of Michigan is taking the gay recruitment thing to a whole other level with its class How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation. The class is taught by David M. Halperin author of What Do Gay Men Want?: An Essay on Sex, Risk and Subjectivity.

Just because you happen to be a gay man doesn’t mean that you don’t have to learn how to become one. Gay men do some of that learning on their own, but often we learn how to be gay from others, either because we look to them for instruction or because they simply tell us what they think we need to know, whether we ask for their advice or not.

This course will examine the general topic of the role that initiation plays in the formation of gay male identity. We will approach it from three angles: (1) as a sub-cultural practice — subtle, complex, and difficult to theorize — which a small but significant body of work in queer studies has begun to explore; (2) as a theme in gay male writing; and (3) as a class project, since the course itself will constitute an experiment in the very process of initiation that it hopes to understand.

Where was this kind of class when I was a baby gay?

The Future of Anal Sex
10 Books Every Gay Boy Should Read
Gay Men, Sex and HIV
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Gay Men’s Health
Who Says Young Gay Men are Shallow?


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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. CB  |  January 10, 2008 at 11:14 pm

    I think this is absolutely ridicuous. When I came out no one showed me. Books to read are Alan Medingers Growth to Manhood. Andy Comiskey’s Strength in Weakness, Dennis Jernigan’s GIANTKILLER.
    And the best one ever, The Holy Bible

  • 2. Michael Crawford  |  January 11, 2008 at 5:02 am

    Are you saying that you are a self-made gay and haven’t learned anything from other gay men about what it means to be gay? Stop kidding yourself.

    Just as straight people learn how to be straight from observing, listening to and aping other straight people, the same holds true for gay people.

    The only reason this course is is controversial to some is that it is talking openly about what it means to be a gay men in a way that does not present us as being diseased, psychologically unstable or child predators. Academic inquiries into the initiation rituals of different cultures have been considered legitimate pursuits for years and this is no different.

  • 3. You Know How I Know I’m Gay? « Bloggernista  |  January 14, 2008 at 9:11 am

    […] about an absurd offer from the editor of an unnamed publication to write an article about the How to Be Gay course at the University of Michigan. Besides requesting the homo equivalent of a shuck and jive “humor” piece, the editor […]

  • 4. the zak  |  January 26, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    > by David M. Halperin
    > What Do Gay Men Want?
    excerpt at

    > Unprotected sex cannot enable the
    > transmission of HIV unless it takes place
    > between an infected and an uninfected
    > partner, and even then the exact degree of
    > risk involved depends on the specific
    > sexual acts performed and a complex array
    > of secondary factors.^24

    we’d have to test them all to find that out,
    would we? you can say that, but the only way
    is to test the entire group.

    > In any case, what does seem to be clear is
    > that only a fairly small minority of
    > self-identified gay men in the
    > industrialized world currently put
    > themselves at significant risk of
    > contracting HIV/AIDS in their sexual
    > practices^25

    the only way to know that is to add a
    question to that survey about what it is that
    they do. which would be another kind of
    test. what is it that you have done in your
    sexual experience. and you have to hope you
    get the truth from them.

    regarding footnote
    > ^24
    > On the various factors that determine
    > exactly how likely any particular act of
    > sex is to transmit HIV, see the studies
    > citied
    > by Gregory Tomso,
    > “Bug Chasing, Barebacking, and
    > the Risks of Care”
    > Literature and Medicine 23.1 (Spring 2004):
    > pages 88-111, esp. 109 n. 13.
    > These are the very sorts of factors that
    > often enter into gay men’s calculations
    > of risk.

    footnote indicates that i could almost become
    a professor coming up with this stuff
    on the fly.

    regarding footnote
    > ^25
    > See
    > Paul Van de Ven,
    > Patrick Rawstorne,
    > June Crawford, and
    > Susan Kippax,
    > “Increasing Proportions of Australian Gay
    > and Homosexually Active Men Engage in
    > Unprotected Anal Intercourse with Regular
    > and with Casual Partners”
    > AIDS Care 14.3 (2002): pages 335-41,
    > cautioning that “we avoid describing these
    > upturns in UAIR [unprotected anal
    > intercourse with regular partners] as
    > increases in sexual risk practice per se”
    > (page 339) and emphasizing that “the
    > majority of Australian gay and homosexually
    > active men have no unprotected anal
    > intercourse during a defined interval”
    > (page 340).
    > Similarly
    > Barry D. Adam,
    > Winston Husbands,
    > James Murray, and
    > John Maxwell,
    > “AIDS Optimism, Condom Fatigue, or
    > Self-Esteem? Explaining Unsafe Sex
    > Among Gay and Bisexual Men”
    > Journal of Sex Research 42.3 (August 2005):
    > pages 238-48,
    > note that “74.7% of MSM [men who have sex
    > with men] in the Toronto area report using
    > only safe sex practices with casual
    > partners in the past 3 months, and
    > 54.9% report having only safe sex with
    > regular partners” (page 240), citing the
    > Ontario Men’s Survey.
    > Somewhat higher figures for risky sex are
    > reported by
    > Beryl A. Koblin,
    > Margaret A. Chesney,
    > Marla J. Husnik,
    > Sam Bozeman, et al.
    > “High-Risk Behaviors among Men Who Have
    > Sex with Men in 6 US Cities:
    > Baseline Data from the EXPLORE Study”
    > American Journal of Public Health 93.6
    > (June 2003): pages 926-32
    > but the data are hard to assess because, as
    > the authors acknowledge, they deliberately
    > recruited “a large cohort of high-risk MSM”
    > (page 930) for reasons unrelated to our
    > concerns here and because they did not
    > assess the extent to which sexual behavior
    > took place in a context of
    > “negotiated safety” (page 931).
    > (For the original and authoritative
    > definition of “negotiated safety”
    > see note 50, below.)
    > For more detailed information about the
    > percentage of HIV negative gay men who
    > take significant risks in their sexual
    > practices, see note 40 below.

    if they’re telling the truth of course. only
    if they’re telling the truth. only if

    i wonder if those men are carefully counting
    every single incident or could they be
    fudging a few cases.

    it’s like this classic thing men like to say
    they had a few more sexual partners and
    women like to say less than they actually did.

    i have heard people lie about their sexual
    experience. i don’t know if that’s true but
    i have heard that.

    do they really have a representative sample
    of the homosexual population?

    what percentage of the population
    is actually gay?
    if you’re an evangelical christian it’s very few.
    if you’re a very demonstrative gay it’s more.
    and if you look at what’s happened to people
    in the political arena you have to question
    how many gay people are there?
    except for the men who had interactions with
    them who would have put craig, foley and
    haggard in that category?
    how many in congress?
    how many in the republican party?


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