These 14 photos tell a story of life post „don’t ask, don’t tell.“

Before „don’t ask, don’t tell“ was officially repealed for gay, lesbian, and bisexual military personnel in 2011, a photo of a male Marine in drag could have landed him in hot water. Today, we can celebrate the diversity of those brave enough to take up the call to serve in the military, while living the life most authentic to them.

Last November, photographer Devin Mitchell unveiled a photo series documenting the lives of service members. Since then, Mitchell has photographed even more veterans for The Veteran Vision Project. The images spotlight veterans, occasionally revealing the stark contrast between their lives in and out of uniform. 

„One photo that really speaks to me the most is the picture depicting Joshua Zitting and his husband Patrick Lehmann,“ Mitchell Mic last November. „It reminds me of how unfair it is that this man can serve while enjoying all of this constitutional rights as an American, while other men and women similar to him cannot in other parts of the country, due in part to recent decisions such as the one made by circuit judge Jeffrey Sutton [who upheld same-sex marriage bans in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee]. Judges like him are blind in my eyes. Maybe pictures like this will help him see better.“ 

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual military personnel had been serving our country for decades without receiving equal protection, while transgender troops are still prohibited from serving openly. While, as many speculate, marriage equality may be the law of the land come this June, there is still plenty of work to be done to truly accept and integrate all LGBT service members. Mitchell says he hopes this photo series will put a face to the LGBT people who tirelessly serve our country.

„As a gay man, I can relate to what is still the oppressive stigma of homosexuality. Legislation is just the beginning of a long sociological process to acceptance,“ Mitchell tells The Advocate. „The subjects featured in this project might be an example of such development in our communities. Images such as these would have been unprecedented before December 2010. Perhaps a century from now history students will look back and commemorate the turn of the tide.“

The Advocate exclusively obtained 14 more photos from Mitchell’s series that show LGBT military personnel after the dismantling of the „don’t ask, don’t tell“ policy.

10 Intimate Photographs of World War II Soldiers in the Buff

The fleet is inMy Buddy: World War II Laid Bare (Taschen Books), an astounding collection assembled by the excellent smut historian Dian Hanson. We see, in this chunky Taschen volume, hundreds of nameless men photographed in groups, nude or nearly so, by fellow soldiers, sailors, corpsmen, and airmen.

Two obvious questions, neither of which has an obvious answer, leap to mind immediately. Were these photos (at least the unposed ones, of which there are many) surreptitiously made? And just how aware were the photographers and subjects that these pictures are extremely homoerotic?

Well, chances are they weren’t creep shots. Some (like the pyramid pose below) were certainly set up for the picture. As for the candid nudity, there are too many of these pictures out there in the world for them to have been made on the sneak, and a World War II soldier who carried a camera (and quite a few did; there’s a lot of downtime in a war zone, in between the scenes of mayhem) wouldn’t have been able to hide it easily. Moreover, we forget — and are reminded by an essay in the book by a World War II Marine named Scotty Bowers — about the physical closeness that these fighting men lived with. There’s no privacy in a foxhole; showers were rare and often communal, and toilets were open-hole latrines. If you served on the field of combat, you saw other men naked a lot more than you might today, even if you go to the gym after work. As Bowers points out, practical jokes that many of us would now consider invasive — slipping a hand down someone’s pants to tweak his penis, say — were within the realm of just-boys-being-boys high jinks. “Just grab-ass,” they’d say.

Well, chances are they weren’t creep shots. Some (like the pyramid pose below) were certainly set up for the picture. As for the candid nudity, there are too many of these pictures out there in the world for them to have been made on the sneak, and a World War II soldier who carried a camera (and quite a few did; there’s a lot of downtime in a war zone, in between the scenes of mayhem) wouldn’t have been able to hide it easily. Moreover, we forget — and are reminded by an essay in the book by a World War II Marine named Scotty Bowers — about the physical closeness that these fighting men lived with. There’s no privacy in a foxhole; showers were rare and often communal, and toilets were open-hole latrines. If you served on the field of combat, you saw other men naked a lot more than you might today, even if you go to the gym after work. As Bowers points out, practical jokes that many of us would now consider invasive — slipping a hand down someone’s pants to tweak his penis, say — were within the realm of just-boys-being-boys high jinks. “Just grab-ass,” they’d say.

Even outside the service, men of that era probably saw each other naked more than we realize. A soldier from a Kansas farm had spent his youth skinny-dipping in the local pond with his friends; plenty of outhouses, and even some school bathroom stalls, had more than one seat; city high-school kids showered in an open room with nozzles along the wall, sans curtains or dividers, daily after gym class. Tenement kids slept three and four to a bed. Most kids — especially poor kids, but everyone — had far less of a sense of physical privacy than we do.

It would literally never occur to a lot of these guys that their photos give off sexual heat. To them, sex was for men and women, end of story, and God knows there are no women in these pictures. But of course a significant number of these guys found themselves at least partway up the Kinsey scale, and had experienced in some way sex with other men, whether just a fleeting encounter or something more permanent. (There are well-documented stories of gay soldiers in the U.S. armed forces going back to George Washington’s armythe Newport sex scandal of 1919 occurred two full decades before this era.) I think it’s fair to say that most of these pictures were made without the least thought of their sexiness, but that the camera’s eye — as in so many things — reveals something true not only about the subject but about the photographer as well.

It would literally never occur to a lot of these guys that their photos give off sexual heat. To them, sex was for men and women, end of story, and God knows there are no women in these pictures. But of course a significant number of these guys found themselves at least partway up the Kinsey scale, and had experienced in some way sex with other men, whether just a fleeting encounter or something more permanent. (There are well-documented stories of gay soldiers in the U.S. armed forces going back to George Washington’s armythe Newport sex scandal of 1919 occurred two full decades before this era.) I think it’s fair to say that most of these pictures were made without the least thought of their sexiness, but that the camera’s eye — as in so many things — reveals something true not only about the subject but about the photographer as well.

The photos, Hanson points out, typically appear in collections of more conventional pictures, and there are only one or two in an album’s worth. Nobody would try to get away with skulking around, snapping these photos every time the guys stripped down — but one? Sure. That funny skinny-dipping photo would just be a punctuation mark, tucked into the album of memories that got assembled back home in ’46. (Nearly all these pictures are anonymous, grabbed from estate sales and eBay and the like.) No, this was — at least on the surface — foxhole of the type we hear about from soldiers going back thousands of years. As Hanson notes in her essay, when you start a week with 30 men and end it with 15, those survivors have shared something incredibly intense. Military culture fosters that kind of intense relationship deliberately, because it’s about the only thing that makes the inhuman work of fighting even remotely tolerable, and has the mysterious power of making ordinary souls capable of heroism when the time comes. When the guys in your unit matter more than anything, you’ll do what you need to do to get them out alive.

We’re conditioned to an uncomplicated image of the heroic soldier, in formerly crisp, now rumpled uniform, toughing it out. That these guys were not cardboard but human — that they goofed around, smacked each other on the butt now and then, maybe even sized up each other’s dicks at the swimming hole on a Pacific island — reveals merely that they were ordinary, often crude, sometimes ridiculous teenagers. That’s okay, too. We don’t have to exalt them at every moment to remember that they won the war.

We’re conditioned to an uncomplicated image of the heroic soldier, in formerly crisp, now rumpled uniform, toughing it out. That these guys were not cardboard but human — that they goofed around, smacked each other on the butt now and then, maybe even sized up each other’s dicks at the swimming hole on a Pacific island — reveals merely that they were ordinary, often crude, sometimes ridiculous teenagers. That’s okay, too. We don’t have to exalt them at every moment to remember that they won the war.

10 Intimate Photographs of World War II Soldiers in the Buff

Straight Guys (2014)

„Straight-Guy Porn” is a wildly popular subgenre of online amateur pornography that features supposedly heterosexual men having sex with other men for a gay male audience. Why do some gay men prefer to watch sex between two heterosexual men? Where does this desire come from? Is it innate or is it learned? And why would men who identify as straight choose to perform in gay porn? Straight Guys follows filmmaker Daniel Laurin on his journey to answer these questions and reconcile his own relationship to this type of pornography. Daniel speaks to porn historians, porn theorists, porn producers and the performers themselves.

Straight Guys is a lighthearted look at a very real and pressing set of questions. As children and teenagers get more and more of their information from the Internet, pornography has become an increasingly prevalent source of sexual education. It is an even more influential resource for gay/bisexual/questioning teens, who have very few examples of gay sexuality in mainstream media. This film uses Straight-Guy Porn as an entry point into deeper questions about gay desire in a very straight world.

This film was my thesis for my Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Media at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada.

Straight Guys (2014)

Straight Guys Trailer

Trailer for „Straight Guys,“ a short documentary about straight performers in gay pornography.

“Straight-Guy Porn” is a wildly popular subgenre of online amateur pornography that features supposedly heterosexual men having sex with other men for a gay male audience. Why do some gay men prefer to watch sex between two heterosexual men? Where does this desire come from? Is it innate or is it learned? And why would men who identify as straight choose to perform in gay porn? Straight Guys follows filmmaker Daniel Laurin on his journey to answer these questions and reconcile his own relationship to this type of pornography. Daniel speaks to porn historians, porn theorists, porn producers and the performers themselves.

Straight Guys is a lighthearted look at a very real and pressing set of questions. As children and teenagers get more and more of their information from the Internet, pornography has become an increasingly prevalent source of sexual education. It is an even more influential resource for gay/bisexual/questioning teens, who have very few examples of gay sexuality in mainstream media. This film uses Straight-Guy Porn as an entry point into deeper questions about gay desire in a very straight world.

Footage courtesy ChaosMen, CockyBoys and NakedSword.“I Really Wanted You“ performed by Pansy Division, courtesy of the band.

Straight Guys Trailer

Proving you’re gay to the Turkish army

“They asked me when I first had anal intercourse, oral sex, what sort of toys I played with as a child.“

Ahmet, a young man in his 20s, told officials he was gay at the first opportunity after he was called up, as he and other conscripts underwent a health check.

„They asked me if I liked football, whether I wore woman’s clothes or used woman’s perfume,“ he says.

“I had a few days‘ beard and I am a masculine guy – they told me I didn’t look like a normal gay man.“

He was then asked to provide a picture of himself dressed as a woman.

“I refused this request,“ he says. “But I made them another offer, which they accepted.“ Instead he gave them a photograph of himself kissing another man.

Ahmet hopes this will give him what he needs – a „pink certificate“, which will declare him homosexual and therefore exempt from military service.

Over the years, gay life has been becoming more visible in Turkey’s big cities. Cafes and clubs with an openly gay clientele have been opening in Istanbul, and last summer’s gay pride march – unique in the Muslim world – was the largest ever.

But while there are no specific laws against homosexuality in Turkey, openly gay men are not welcome in the army. At the same time, they have to „prove“ their homosexuality in order to avoid military service.

Gokhan, conscripted in the late 1990s, very quickly realised that he was not made for the army.

As a gay man he was also afraid of being bullied, and after little more than a week he plucked up the courage to declare his sexual orientation to his commander.

“They asked me if I had any photographs.“ Gokhan says, “And I did.“

He had gone prepared with explicit photographs of himself having sex with another man, having heard that it would be impossible to get out of military service without them.

“The face must be visible,“ says Gokhan. “And the photos must show you as the passive partner.“

The photographs satisfied the military doctors. Gokhan was handed his pink certificate and exempted from military service. But it was a terrible experience, he says,

“And it’s still terrible. Because somebody holds those photographs. They can show them at my village, to my parents, my relatives.“

Gay men say the precise nature of the evidence demanded depends on the whim of the military doctor or commander. Sometimes, instead of photographs, doctors rely on a „personality test“.

The Turkish army refused BBC requests for an interview, but a retired general, Armagan Kuloglu, agreed to comment.

Openly gay men in the army would cause „disciplinary problems“, he says, and would be impractical creating the need for „separate facilities, separate dormitories, showers, training areas“.

He says that if a gay man keeps his sexuality secret, he can serve – an echo of the US military’s recently dropped Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

„But when someone comes out and says he is gay, then the army needs to make sure that he is truly gay, and not simply lying to evade his mandatory duty to serve in the military.“

The social stigma associated with homosexuality in Turkey is such that outside the young and urbanised circles in big cities like Istanbul and Ankara, it is hard to imagine a man declaring that he’s gay when he’s not.

However, the possibility causes the military a lot of anxiety.

„Doctors are coming under immense pressure from their commanders to diagnose homosexuality, and they obey, even though there really are no diagnostic tools to determine sexual orientation,“ says one psychiatrist who formerly worked at a military hospital.

“It is medically impossible, and not at all ethical.“

On Gokhan’s pink certificate, his status reads: “psychosexual disorder“. And next to that, in brackets, “homosexuality“.

Turkey’s military hospitals still define homosexuality as an illness, taking a 1968 version of a document by the American Psychiatric Association as their guide.

Some people in Turkey say with resentment that gay men are actually lucky, as at least they have one possible route out of military service – they don’t have to spend months in the barracks, or face the possibility of being deployed to fight against Kurdish militants.

It is not uncommon for employers in Turkey to question job applicants about their military service – and a pink certificate can mean a job rejection.

One of Gokhan’s employers found out about it not by asking Gokhan himself but by asking the army.

After that, he says, he was bullied. His co-workers made derogatory comments as he walked past, others refused to talk to him.

“But I am not ashamed. It is not my shame,“ he says.

Ahmet is still waiting for his case to be resolved. The army has postponed its decision on his pink certificate for another year.

Ahmet thinks it is because he refused to appear before them in woman’s clothes. And he doesn’t know what to expect when he appears in front of them again.

Could he not just do his military service and keep his homosexuality a secret? “No,“ says Ahmet, firmly.

“I am against the whole military system. If I have to fulfil a duty for this nation, they should give me a non-military choice.“

Proving you're gay to the Turkish army

6Lines Get Blurred When You Send A Bunch Of Young Guys To A War Zone

In war movies, American soldiers usually look like 30-somethings who spend all of their downtime at the gym.

But many American soldiers are in fact kids fresh out of high school:

That’s what the military prefers; they’re at the peak of physical fitness, and they’ve spent their whole lives following orders at school and home. The only downside is that, like every 19-year-old in history, they’re usually not emotionally mature at all. That’s how you end up with comrades playing „gay chicken,“ as Roger, a former marine who fought in Iraq, told us. „Who can do the gayest thing?“

Wouldn’t that technically be gay rooster? But whatever. The point is that it’s not a game isolated to one eccentric unit. Chuck, a nine-year Marine veteran, went into more detail. „I saw marines being forced to show [their] penis to other marines. Some marines being forced to touch penises. People putting their balls or penis on another person’s face.“

Shenanigans like that are what you’re going to see when you take thousands of hormonal young men, separate them from women, and put them under extreme stress. „In 2004 … I think I saw three women. And you can only beat off to the same porn DVD so many times … it’s not like we had WiFi in the barracks.“ Internet porn access wasn’t the first priority in the early days of the occupation of Iraq, because the government was busy screwing up other things. So Roger and his comrades had a lot of steam to, uh, blow off. „There [were] some strange fucking outlets … when all you want to do is drink and fuck in a dry country where there’s no women.“

Those outlets included endless jokes about the alleged flaming gayness of someone, because no matter how society’s view of homosexuality changes, teenagers are going to make gay jokes until the end of time. And these particular teenagers are isolated and completely dependent on a tiny group of their fellow immature teens for support. „A lot of times you don’t realize you’re crossing a line … you’re in a place where those 60 guys are [all you have]. There’s no one else to turn to … I know quite a few guys [where] something happened with somebody that maybe was a little too far.“

In Roger’s case, things went too far. „[I was] pinned in a porta john. No one was around when it happened, and it absolutely was not a case of ‚gay chicken.'“ Roger was raped by an officer who „wanted to exert some control for whatever reason. I don’t understand it.“ And here’s where all of the weird homoerotic horseplay factors in: Any complaint about an incident like this can be written off as „Boys will be boys.“

Roger reported the abuse to his staff sergeant, but as you may have guessed by the fact that this article exists, it didn’t go well. „[They said], ‚You’re a corporal and a big bad Marine, and you didn’t do anything to stop it. You liked it, you stupid faggot.'“ Oh great, so six-foot-tall, 205-pound men can get the „They didn’t fight the attacker, so they must have wanted it“ shut-down, too. Hooray for equality.

Before there was Grindr…

Wikipedia defines “cruising” as “walking or driving about a locality in search of a sex partner, usually of the anonymous, casual, one-time variety.” 

This is a fair definition, but some guys would define cruising more loosely: a basic sex hunt, not something you specifically set out to do but rather something you are always doing. We do it on the subway and in the office and anywhere a handsome gentleman might lift his shirt to wipe sweat off his forehead. In our minds, we lift his shirt the rest of the way and tug on the brim of his trousers with our teeth. 

If you make eye contact with him and discover (wordlessly and without complete certainty) that you are both interested, then voila! You’ve cruised. Now all you have to do is work up the courage to talk to him, give him your number, or nod to the exit. The following hookup may happen in your apartment, in a public restroom, or in the alley out back. Wherever you choose, you are engaging in an art that gay and bi men have been perfecting for decades. 

Check out these 24 classic cruising zones, some of which yielded better results in years past and many that are still used today. Happy hunting!

Above: Alex lurking in a park

My name is Alexander Cheves, and I am known by friends in the kink and leather community as Beastly. I am a sex-positive writer and blogger. The views in this slideshow do not reflect those of The Advocate and are based solely on my own experiences. As with everything I write, the intent of this piece is to break down the stigmas surrounding the sex lives of gay men.

Those who are sensitive regarding frank discussions about sex are invited to click elsewhere, but consider this: If you are outraged by content that addresses sex openly and honestly, I invite you to examine this outrage and ask yourself whether it should instead be directed at those who oppress us by policing our sexuality.

For all others, enjoy the slideshow. And feel free to leave your own suggestions for sex and dating topics in the comments.

1. Bathhouses

Before anyone tries to convince you that bathhouses are no fun — that they are filled with creepy onlookers and tweaked-out drug addicts — go to one. Go to Steamworks in Chicago or Berkeley, Club Dallas, or any of the Flex spas across the country. If you are a kink pig looking for slings over saunas, find your nearest Slammer. If these are not options in your city, plan a trip. Big cities like Los Angeles and New York have bathhouses that, depending on the night, may have better crowds than the national chains — North Hollywood Spa, Tampa Men’s Club, Denver Swim Club. 

The Everard Baths in New York City was the most written-about bathhouse in history until it closed in 1986 at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Everard was open for almost 100 years and was visited by such gay luminaries as Gore Vidal and Truman Capote. Today, New York is filled with cruising grounds, but its number of bathhouses has noticeably dwindled. 

There are several reasons for this. Yes, AIDS was a devastating hit, one that made us fear the sexual spaces we used to roam. But other social changes contributed. The closet drew many men to bathhouses where they could cruise freely before returning home to their wives. For them, bathhouses were a necessity — spaces frequented out of need and desire. Gay life has changed since then. 

I have heard some younger gay men — guys closer to my age — say they would never set foot in a bathhouse “because they are filled with old guys.” Let’s face a fact: This is often true. Many of the bathhouses I’ve been to are filled with older men, but this fact neither diminishes the fun to be had in them or takes away from their experience. Let go of your needless ageism and try something new. 

There is something great about being naked in a gay space. Bathhouses are a dichotomy. hey are both erotic and comfortable, foreign and familiar. If you’ve never been to one and are ready to take the plunge, check out my article “10 Tips For Your First Trip To The Bathhouse” on

2. Public Parks

City parks were once the cruising grounds for gay men. In New York in the 1970s, public parks where places where you could not only find a hot guy but bang him in the bushes too. 

Parks are harder to cruise today. Police patrolling has amped up, and there are obvious safety risks to cruising parks at night. 

3. Beaches

Antonio Da Silva has a thing for public cruising. The Portuguese director makes short films that blur the lines between documentary and pornography, art and voyeurism — which means his films are great. His 13-minute explicit film Beach 19 peeks in on the activities at a popular gay beach in Portugal. 

While a trip to Portugal or Limanakia Beach in Greece (another famous gay beach) sounds awesome, outdoor cruising and nature sex can be found in the United States too. Baker Beach in San Francisco, Black’s Beach in San Diego, Maui’s Little Beach, and of course Fire Island Pines, a historic gay dreamland, are still fun places to visit. And while you might not be able to have sex on the beach itself (at least not in the daylight), you can still find a partner to take home. A note on the Pines: Few guys get naked on the beach itself, but many wander to the little “anything goes” coastal forest nearby. 

I must here give a word of caution. Public sex always invites the risk of getting caught by someone other than a voyeur or hot participant. Law enforcement, unsuspecting passersby, and happy children can stumble by. While this risk is totally part of the fun, getting caught can land you in jail. 

The Advocate is not responsible for your incarceration should you choose to participate in “public lewdness” — a funny term invented by lawmakers that we must take seriously. You will find the term “public lewdness” on warnings posted in gay-heavy gyms (“Any public lewdness in the steam room will result in immediate termination of membership and possible legal action”) and cruising hotspots where a manager has caught wind of what’s been going on. In most cases it means anal or oral sex — flashing your junk in areas that are not clothing-optional is called “indecent exposure.” 

4. Piers

A cursory history of gay New York must include the West Side piers — a gay landmark that, for many gay men in the ’70s, was the epicenter of the art and sex movement that happened between Stonewall and the onset of the AIDS epidemic. The piers weren’t much to look at — a series of decaying wood and steel structures jutting into the Hudson River from Christopher Street up to Chelsea — but their location as well as their storied nightly sex spots solidified their place as the most famous gay cruising site in the United States. Take a pilgrimage to see them — it will be bittersweet, considering how many died during the plague years — but save the public cruising for one of New York’s many gay nightclubs. 

Above image: Shelley Seccombe, „Sunbathing on the Edge, Pier 52“ (1977), contemporary archival digital print, source:

5. Gay Bars

Like all other parts of gay culture, gay bars have changed. Many of their playrooms have been converted into well-lit lounges or additional bar space — a fact that makes me die a little. And (you guessed it) hookup apps have all but gutted these spaces of the crowds that used to flock them. But the quintessential gay bar — that tawdry dive with a rainbow flag in the window and a glory hole in the bathroom — is important, because long before chat rooms and mobile apps, gay bars were some of our original cruising zones. Sexual overtones aside, gay bars were places where we could meet, organize, let loose, and foster community.

I haven’t figured out the formula of what makes a gay bar stay open, but I imagine there are many factors: hot bartenders, hot crowds, and the seemingly unavoidable threat of getting priced out. I almost never go to nongay bars, because I give my dollars to spaces that exist for me. Keep our sanctuaries alive! 

6. Discothèques

The birthplace of gay circuit parties, underground discothèques were where gay men danced in the ’70s — and have not stopped since. 

But first, a clarification: “discothèque” is a term rarely used in the United States anymore — most people simply say “club” or “dance club” — but you can still find self-identified discothèques in Europe. 

The beauty of dancing in a room full of gay men (and typically getting high with them) is something I can hardly describe. When I have those nights, I feel part of a gay tradition that started in the pre-AIDS sex reverie, survived a plague, and is still alive today. 

Different scholars, homos, club kids, and gay partiers will argue when dance clubs really came into being, but their significance in gay culture (and gay cruising) is undeniable. Their bathrooms have long been homes to cruising and gay sex. 

10. Gayborhood Streets

If New York’s Christopher Street taught us anything, it is that a street in a gay part of town is the ultimate cruising ground. I applaud the guys who make hookups happen simply from exchanging glances with the men they pass on the sidewalk. Doing so takes game, body-reading skills, improvisation, and guts. I have not mastered the art of street cruising, but I have felt that heightened tension when walking down a sidewalk in a gayborhood — the Castro in San Francisco, the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood — and knowing that I am in cruise territory. The eyes are on you.

11. Gyms

Second to circuit parties, gyms are some of the most erotic places in the world. A place where sweaty guys work out in minimal clothing, strip in front of each other, take showers, and sometimes sit together in a steam room is going to be a gay cruise zone — how could it be anything else?

Some gyms will have a stronger cruising vibe than others, depending on the neighborhood. Gayborhood gyms are almost asking for public sex, while gyms in smaller towns and conservative communities might be higher risk. In general, though, you are bound to face some repercussion if you get caught by a staff member. 

12. Coffee Shops

Many people, myself included, like to people-watch at coffee shops. Coffee shops are places where you can retreat from the bustle of life, read a book, do some work on the computer, and sip your overpriced lavender mocha. A good coffee shop has a feeling of de-stress and coziness. And since I love being around men — their presence automatically makes me feel comfortable, like being in a locker room — I love coffee shops in gay neighborhoods. Cruising comes naturally to these places, since people-watching and cruising are basically the same thing, and what better way to lick the foam off your lips than having someone lick it off for you?

13. Bookstores

My parents suspected I was gay years before I even knew what “gay” meant — maybe all that finger-painting and borrowing my mom’s eyebrow pencil gave something away — and they installed a parental blocker on our Internet that blocked absolutely everything. The blocker restricted sites according to keywords. “Gay,” I later learned, was one of them. 

Internet porn was never an option, so I didn’t grow up missing it. When we went shopping, my parents would leave me in Barnes & Noble for hours while they went with my sister to try on jeans. Parents, if you don’t want your kids to be gay, do not leave them alone in a bookstore. 

Barnes & Noble is a treasure trove of homosexuality. I discovered the seminal book by Charles Silverstein and Edmund White in the LGBT section when I was 10. And the magazines! Unzipped, Attitude, and The Advocate were my first signs of gay life; the first proof I had that others were out there. When I stumbled across , a collection of erotic male photography by David E. Armstrong, my life was changed forever. I grabbed the book and ran to the restroom. I sat in a stall for an hour, turning the pages slowly, trembling. 

Several years later, when I was able to drive to bookstores by myself, I was again sitting in the bathroom of Barnes & Noble, probably looking through a copy of Unzipped magazine, when the guy in the stall next to me said, “Hey…you okay, dude?” And that was the first time I had public sex. 

Bookstores are pits of sin. Visit them as often as you can. Literacy is important. 

15. Cafés and local gay-owned businesses

Gay-owned businesses are not always cruising zones, but LGBT people tend to feel comfortable in them and patronize them, so you are more likely to find an guy who is down-to-fuck in, say, your local gay-owned ice cream shop than Ben & Jerry’s. 

We support these businesses because we assume their workers have workplace protections and/or same-sex partner benefits, and we assume that their environments, if they cater to the public, are at least LGBT-friendly. This is why your local gay-owned café is probably a cruising zone. Maybe it is located in a gayborhood, or maybe it is the one business in your conservative town where you can be yourself. Visit often, be friends with the people who work there, and keep an eye peeled — ready and restless guys are around every corner. 

16. Barbershops

I knew my barber was a keeper the first time I sat in his chair: “I want a typical gay haircut. Zero on the sides.”

“Say no more,” he said. Unlike all the straight barbers I have had in the past, my barber is a 6-foot-tall sweetheart who knows exactly what haircuts gay men are wearing these days (undercuts, fauxhawks, pompadours, high-and-tights). But what he did not know is that his shop is total cruising zone. That is, until I filled him in. 

“Dude, every gay man in town gets haircuts from you,” I said one day while he was trimming my ear line, “and since I can’t move my head, I am literally forced to look at all the guys waiting. I’m practically on display.” 

Many barbershops are cruising zones, especially if they have gay-heavy clientele. As we wait, we are watching men being groomed, knowing that at some point we will be up there, turned and swiveled for the guys to inspect from every angle.

17. Waiting Rooms

Following the logic of the barbershop, any waiting room can be a cruising zone. The waiting area for the health clinic at the Los Angeles LGBT Center was a total cruise fest. You can feel the cruising vibes as soon as you walk in and sign your name — always wear something sexy when you go get blood work done. 

I have never been to a gay AA or CMA (crystal meth) meeting, but I have heard from friends who attend them that these groups are notorious eye wars. The erotic vibe is heightened, they say, from the fact that you’re in a room full of gay men who already know something personal about you. This makes sense to me because I have attended a few HIV support groups, especially after I first tested positive, and the cruising vibes were strong. 

In these cases, however, I am not sure “cruising” is the correct word. People come together and need each other when they are in difficult places, and sometimes sex is part of that. In my lowest moments, I have cruised for sex simply because I needed to be around someone else or forget my problems for a little bit. There is something important about this type of cruising, because while it might not be totally healthy, it is totally human. 

19. Craigslist

Craigslist was launched out of San Francisco in 1995. Almost immediately, people began posting personal ads for sex services, companionship, kink, and to satisfy every fetish you can imagine, from sitting on cakes to voyeurism to some considerably darker fare (minors, cannibalism, you name it). Craigslist changed the game for men seeking men. 

Sites catering exclusively to gay dating and personals came later. launched in 1996, Manhunt in 2001, and Adam4Adam in 2005. Gay sex sites came with them — (colloquially shortened to BBRT by users) and are still my favorites. Gay cruising had found its home on the web, and suddenly we needed to spend more time in front of our computers. 

20. Grindr

In 2009, the fabric of gay life changed again. In the future, we will look back at a massive turning in gay culture — when gay hookup apps, which locate other users through the geolocation devices in your smartphone, hit the market. Joel Simkhai launched Grindr, with its distinct orange skull/hockey mask icon, on March 25. 

In 2012, Grindr had 4 million users in 192 countries across the globe, with 1.1 million users online every day. Based in the United States, the app reported usage as far away as Iraq, Israel, and Kazakhstan. Those numbers have doubtlessly increased today. 

Any mention of Grindr in 2016 will inevitably result in some eye rolls. Tiresome arguments between guys who hate hookup apps and guys who love them continue to rage across gay media outlets. Some say Grindr and other apps have destroyed gay life. Others say they have simply redefined it. Regardless which side you fall on, hookup apps are here to stay. 

I think the success of hookup apps was fairly foreseeable. If you give gay men an effortless way to hunt for sex on-the-go, everywhere they go, all the time, they are going to go for it. We have always have been doing this — Grindr simply made cruising easier. 

21. Scruff

I have to admit my bias here — I’m a Scruff guy. Scruff was launched in 2010, the year after Grindr hit the app store. Scruff is an app that essentially does the same Grindr does, but with different features (unlimited profile text, more in-app search tools) and, some would argue, catered to a slightly different user base. In 2015, Scruff reported 8 million users worldwide. 

I like Scruff’s unlimited profile text — goodness knows I’m long-winded — along with the app’s attention to minority demographics within the gay community like leather guys and HIV-positive guys (both groups I fall into). Read my article about Scruff’s inclusion of PrEP in its list of safe sex practices, which were included in the launch of Scruff 5 last year. 

Today, there are dozens of gay dating apps in addition to these two: Daddyhunt, GROWLr, Jack’d, Hornet, Mr. X, and many others all trying to get in on the action. Take your pick.

23. Circuit Parties

Real Bad. Magnitude. Papa Party. Black Party (The Saint At Large). White Party Miami (the whole week of it). White Party Palm Springs. Black & Blue in Montreal. Purple Party in Dallas. Winter Party Miami. Gay Days Orlando. The Pines Party on Fire Island. Southern Decadence. Fireball. The list goes on, and on, and on. All over the world, from Tel Aviv to Rio de Janeiro, gay circuit parties have turned modern gay life into something global and glamorous — and expensive.

Cruise culture has changed — no doubt about that. Some guys say cruising is dead, simply because it is harder to cruise for sex in public now. Train stations, parks, and public restrooms have more security personnel and fewer cruising patrons — particularly when many guys can just sit at home and hookup on Scruff. 

Cruise culture is alive, but it has been monetized. Circuit parties, which are essentially massive cruising fests, are beautiful, expensive things that cater to gay men with enough disposable income to afford tickets and travel (and clothes, and drugs, and hotel rooms, and harnesses, and all the many other costs that inevitably factor in). 

My impulse is to wag my finger at an industry that caters to the rich — but I also love circuit parties. Why? Because they are evidence that “free love” is back and gay men are celebrating their sex lives again. After the devastation of the AIDS epidemic and after generations of gay men seeing their lifestyles portrayed in ugly ways, the feeling of being in a warehouse filled with gay men celebrating themselves and their sex is radical and life-changing. It is a feeling I think every gay man should experience. 

24. Backrooms

I saved the best for last. The proverbial “playroom,” “dark room,” or “backroom” is a lights-off, “anything goes” space typically used for sex and drugs, and were once common features of gay establishments. 

If you’ve ever been in a gay dance club or leather bar and wondered what that dark hallway across from the bathrooms is used for, this is it. Backrooms are relics of an earlier time, when managers and owners generously created a space where their patrons could do what they needed to do with each other and looked the other way — or perhaps joined in. But gay bars today are now flocked with bridesmaids and visited by health inspectors and must struggle to stay afloat in a world where hookup apps have hurt their business, meaning backrooms have all but disappeared. 

Backrooms are useful when you’re a little fucked up and the guy you’ve been dancing with and rubbing on the dance floor decides to take matters into his own hands. It is true that you don’t really cruise in the backroom. You cruise on the dance floor — backrooms are where the cruising takes you. 

I love backrooms and see them along with public cruising as part of the same picture, one that composes a big part of our history as gay men. Regardless of your views on sex, cruising defined our world at one point. It was how we met each other, how we fell in love, and constituted the whole of our sex lives years before apps and websites would take out all the guesswork (and, for many, all the fun as well). 

Be on the lookout for a cruising zone near you. One is closer than you think.

Magazine spread above from Life, June 26, 1964, photographed by Bill Eppridge.

No Big News Here Gay Britons Serve in Military With Little Fuss

The officer, a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force, felt he had no choice. So he stood up in front of his squad of 30 to 40 people.

„I said, ‚Right, I’ve got something to tell you,‘ “ he said. “ ‚I believe that for us to be able to work closely together and have faith in each other, we have to be honest and open and frank. And it has to be a two-way process, and it starts with me baring my soul. You may have heard some rumors, and yes, I have a long-term partner who is a he, not a she.‘ „

Far from causing problems, he said, he found that coming out to his troops actually increased the unit’s strength and cohesion. He had felt uneasy keeping the secret „that their boss was a poof,“ as he put it, from people he worked with so closely.

Since the British military began allowing homosexuals to serve in the armed forces in 2000, none of its fears — about harassment, discord, blackmail, bullying or an erosion of unit cohesion or military effectiveness — have come to pass, according to the Ministry of Defense, current and former members of the services and academics specializing in the military. The biggest news about the policy, they say, is that there is no news. It has for the most part become a nonissue.

The Ministry of Defense does not compile figures on how many gay men and lesbians are openly serving, and it says that the number of people who have come out publicly in the past seven years is still relatively low. But it is clearly proud of how smoothly homosexuals have been integrated and is trying to make life easier for them.

„What we’re hoping to do is to, over a period of time, reinforce the message that people who are gay, lesbian and the like are welcomed in the armed forces and we don’t discriminate against them in any way,“ a Defense Ministry official said in an interview, speaking on condition of anonymity in accordance with the ministry’s practice.

Nonetheless, the issue is extremely delicate now. The military does not want to be seen bragging about the success of its policy when the issue can still cause so much anguished debate in the United States. This is particularly true in light of tensions between the allies after a British coroner ruled in March that a British soldier who died four years ago was unlawfully killed by an American pilot.

For this article, the Defense Ministry refused to give permission for any member of the forces to be interviewed, either on or off the record. Those who spoke did so before the ministry made its position clear.

„We’re not looking to have quotes taken out of context in a way to imply that we’re trying to influence the debate in the United States,“ the British official said. „There are some sensitivities over the timing of this. We have had communications from our counterparts in the United States, and they have asked us questions about how we’ve handled it and how it’s gone on the ground. There does seem to be some debate going on over how long the current policy will be sustainable.“

The debate in the United States was rekindled in March when Gen. Peter Pace, who as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the country’s top-ranking military official, told The Chicago Tribune that he believed that homosexuality was immoral.

In January, Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, who until his retirement in 1997 held the same post in the Clinton years, when the Pentagon adopted its „don’t ask, don’t tell“ policy, said in an Op-Ed article in The New York Times that he now believed that the military was ready to accept gay men and lesbians. A military already stretched thin, he said, „must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.“

At least 24 countries — many of them allies of the United States, and some of them members of the coalition forces fighting alongside Americans — now allow gay soldiers to serve openly in their armed forces.

It is hard to avoid comparing the British and American systems, gay soldiers in the British forces say.

One major, an openly gay liaison officer in the British Territorial Army, told of an exchange he had in the southern Iraq city of Basra with an American staff sergeant, far from home and eager to confide.

„He privately let me know he was gay,“ the major said in an interview. „Not in a romantic way, but in a matter-of-fact way. He found it difficult, because he clearly had a whole part of his private life that he had to keep separate and distinct and couldn’t discuss with people. He was in his mid-30s, with no girlfriend and no wife, and he had to use all these white lies.“

Some Britons said they could not understand why the United States had not changed its policy.

„I find it strange, coming from the land of the free and freedom of speech and democracy, given the changes in the world attitude,“ said the gay squadron leader, who recently returned from Afghanistan. „It’s just not the issue it used to be.“

Until its policy changed, the British military had deep misgivings about allowing homosexuals to serve openly in its armed forces. But it had no choice. It was forced to by a European court, which ruled that its policy of excluding homosexuals violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

„There was a lot of apprehension among some senior personnel that there would be an increase in things like bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation, and some of them were almost predicting that the world was going to come to an end,“ the Defense Ministry official said.

Similar concerns were raised when, bowing to national antidiscrimination laws, the military began allowing gay personnel who had registered for civil partnerships to live in military housing with their same-sex partners. „But all the problems the services thought were going to come to pass really haven’t materialized,“ the official said.

To the extent it becomes an issue, it is usually within the context of the relentlessly rough give-and-take that characterizes military life, particularly at the lower ranks, said Nathaniel Frank, a researcher at the Michael D. Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who has studied the British experience.

„The military is a proving ground, and the first thing people do is find your weakness and exploit it,“ Mr. Frank said in an e-mail interview. „If you’re gay, that’s your weakness, and guys will latch on to that. But frequently this is no more significant a weakness than any other based on your accent, body type, race, religion, etc.“

The British military actively recruits gay men and lesbians and punishes any instance of intolerance or bullying. The Royal Navy advertises for recruits in gay magazines and has allowed gay sailors to hold civil partnership ceremonies on board ships and, last summer, to march in full naval uniform at a gay pride rally in London. (British Army and Royal Air Force personnel could march but had to wear civilian clothes.)

Speaking at a conference sponsored by the gay advocacy group Stonewall last year, Vice Adm. Adrian Johns, the second sea lord, said that homosexuals had always served in the military but in the past had had to do it secretly.

„That’s an unhealthy way to be, to try and keep a secret life in the armed services,“ said Admiral Johns, who as the Royal Navy’s principal personnel officer is responsible for about 39,000 sailors. His speech was titled „Reaping the Rewards of a Gay-Friendly Workplace.“

„Those individuals need nurturing, so that they give of their best and are, in turn, rewarded for their effort,“ he said of the Royal Navy’s gay men and lesbians. „Nurture includes the freedom to be themselves. Our mission is to break down barriers of discrimination, prejudice, fear and misunderstanding.“

Once the news is out there, the gay Royal Air Force squadron leader said, the issue gets subsumed by the job at hand and by the relentless immediacy of war.

At one point, his squad was working with a British Army unit. „I wouldn’t go into a briefing room and face them and say, ‚By the way, I’m gay,‘ “ he said of his British Army counterparts. „Frankly, I don’t think they were worried, because we were all focused on doing a very, very hard job.“

He recalled something his commander had said, when advising him to come out to his squad:

„The boss said, ‚I think you will be surprised that in this day and age it will be a complete anticlimax, because as far as I’m concerned, homosexuals in the military are yesterday’s news.‘ „

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