I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since I was first approached by Magnet to help moderate their monthly book club. In that time, we’ve read fantastic fiction and non-fiction spanning generations, from queer classics by Gore Vidal and Andrew Holleran to contemporary favorites by John Waters and Patti Smith.
I’m incredibly grateful to Magnet — a men’s health center in the Castro — for aiming beyond their conventional role, picking up where A Different Light left off and being supportive of creating a literary community in the neighborhood. Huge thanks are also in order to the SF AIDS Foundation, the Huffington Post, the SF Bay Guardian, Queerty, Lambda Literary, LitSeen, Accidental Bear and Dorothy’s Closet for all their support.
In 2012 we decided to raise the bar by reaching out to local queer authors and inviting them to participate. These photos were taken by Alex Bernardin at our our first meeting with the author of We the Animals, Justin Torres, whom I interviewed beforehand for SFBG.com. In February, we will welcome Kemble Scott, author of SoMa. And in March, we’ll host K.M. Soehnlein, author of The World of Normal Boys.
The Castro Courier featured our book club on the front page of their February issue. Here is the complete, unedited interview I did with writer Lisa Gunther:
What inspired you to start a book club?
The Castro – so that it doesn’t turn into a neighborhood of crowded bars, tacky 2-4-1 sunglass stores and over-priced soup shops.
Why do you think the Magnet is a good venue for a book club?
Because Magnet has done a great job of making a community centered around the arts and self-improvement. If there were a similar community space for every bar in the Castro that hasn’t passed a sanitary inspection, imagine the culture we could create.
Was it a challenge to get together? How did you reach out to the authors?
Getting together was not a challenge. Every person I talked to was excited to join. There was definitely a need for an event like this. I used to be the events coordinator at A Different Light bookstore, which originally partnered with Magnet to do this book club so I had met a lot of queer authors over the years. Justin Torres I met at the Lambda Literary writer’s retreat.
Special anniversary gift: a multimedia reading of the first post ever on Confessions of a Boy Toy, “Cross the Bridge Once You Get There,” originally published on Valentine’s Day 2009.
Following the closure of DList (the gay MySpace) and the subsequent launch of Ragap (a gay Argentinian alternative to Twitter), I was approached by Tom Avendaño of El Pais (Madrid’s daily newspaper) to comment on whether there’s a need to have social networks specifically designed for gay men. You can read the Spanish article here, and right below you can read the entire unedited interview in English. Is it fair to say that gays invented social networks? Were hook-up sites like Gaydar the basis for current mainstream social networks? I wouldn’t say gays created social networks. I think every niche group and minority has the need to meet like-minded individuals. For Facebook it started with college students. Gay men did make a great community out of the early AOL M4M chatrooms that eventually evolved into the full-blown media company, PlanetOut (once owner of The Advocate and Gay.com). Argentina has just created a Twitter for gays. Thoughts? There already is a Twitter for gays. It’s called Twitter. What’s great about social networks is that you can find your village and make it as small or big as possible. I don’t see the sense to segregate our communities to other more specific networks, unless you are still closeted. What is it about social networks that attracts the gay community? Beyond the need to get laid with sites like Manhunt and Grindr, gay men are immediately attracted to new online social networks like Instagram out of need to connect with other gay men. Not everyone lives in San Francisco or Madrid. And for the eye candy, of course. Why do you think the heterosexual demographic never embraced social networking? The heterosexual community has embraced social networking and oftentimes for similar reasons. There are plenty of scandalously-clad straight girls on Twitter and insecure, self-deprecating straight guys on Tumblr. What are the main social networks for gays now that DList’s shutdown? The best gay-specific social network out there right now is GayCities.com. You can find gay hotspots in over 200 cities all over the world and the locals who frequent them. It’s great for jet-setters looking for that insider experience. I like it because It’s a very useful service. Even though gays have hit the mainstream with Facebook and Twitter there are still experiences and events that are catered specifically to gays and lesbians. And without them, how vibrant would gay life be? Like watching the Superbowl without Madonna at half-time. I have also been playing with Thingbox out of the UK, it’s probably the closest to DList but with a better design and way more user-friendly. What have been the main social networks for gays throughout history? Throughout the decades, younger gays have adopted new networks of their own. From Manhunt to Grindr, from Gay.com to GayCities.com, from Facebook to Path, from Tumblr to Instagram. I definitely see a big shift towards mobile apps. BOY TOYS TALK BACK: Are you conducting research or writing an article about technology, social media and the gay community? Get in touch with me. I give good sound bites.